New clients often ask me what my style of photography is and I typically say that I shoot a hybrid of modern and traditional portraits with a nice helping of photojournalism. That statement is true, but it’s not necessarily a style as much as it’s a laundry list of what I can shoot; not what I love to shoot.
If I were to honestly describe my style, here’s what I’d say. I love photographing people in natural light with the setting sun bathing them in its golden rays. I strive to capture emotions that are neither stiff nor posed and I do everything in my power to translate the inner essence of the subject onto digital film. Finally, I want the subject to see the photo and say, “Damn, I look awesome.”
I don’t typically do much editorial work, and when I do, it’s some of my most challenging assignments. It’s not unusual for the subject to be located in a miserable environment, have very little time to be photographed, and there’s hardly any time to bond with the subject. Basically, you have a few minutes to capture a photo that is hopefully good enough and photo editors usually pick your least favorite photo to put on the cover.
This was not the case with my photo shoot with IUG Business Solutions CEO Edward Ip, who I had the pleasure to photograph for my favorite publication, VSR Magazine, last month. I’ve been friends with Ed for a while and respect the man more than you know. To call Ed a little eccentric, however, is an understatement. The man lives by the seat of his pants and I can’t say I wasn’t a little nervous when we hadn’t settled on a location until an hour before the shoot. When I got to his office, he was finishing a hot shave and I prayed that he wouldn’t accidentally nick an artery.
After a few short words, we headed up to the roof with VSR Publisher Albert Guffanti and Ed’s handlers and started scoping out the situation. We were 20 minutes from sunset and the sky was heavily overcast, so my dream shot of him in front of the sunset wasn’t going to happen. Ed suggested we shoot him in front of the Brooklyn skyline, which is the usual plan of attack, but the the view was pretty far in the distance and the light was all over the place. We took a few safe shots (and a lot of unsafe shots) to kill some time. I loved the downtown view, so I asked Ed to get close the ledge. He decided to actually climb out to the side of the building, hold onto the ledge and just balance off the side of the building for a few seconds while I grabbed a few frames. I was scared to death that a bird would crap on him and he would plunge to his death. Ed then offered to climb to the upper part of the roof and stand in front of the Freedom Tower. I told him that he was crazy, but he was already scrambling up the ladder. The shot was okay, but we just couldn’t get enough light on him from the lower level and I couldn’t scale the side of the building with the camera in my hand. I’m just not that ninja.
As he climbed down the ladder, the sun peaked through the clouds. I grabbed my D4 with a 70–200 lens and called out to him. He stared ahead, then at me and I grabbed two frames before the sun went away for good. The final result is the cover photo. I’ve done a lot of work that I’ve been proud of in my life, but this is hands down my favorite non-wedding image. I just couldn’t have asked for a perfect moment. A big thanks to Ed Ip for risking life and limb and Albert Guffanti for serving as the perfect lighting assistant and boss.