Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tripods: Love them or Hate them

Over my career in photography, I've had approximately 30 different tripods and 7 different monopods. But today, I'd like to talk about tripods. I have always exclusively used Gitzo or Manfrotto. The simple fact of the matter is that they have never failed. There have been some bizarre situations for example this comes to mind-  I was on an assignment for Jacques Cousteau, photographing the whales mating in Scammon's Lagoon. We were taken out to a key that was approximately 200 yards long and 20 yards wide. We were shooting with 400s and 600mm lenses. The slight miscalculation is that we were dropped off at low tide. As the day progressed, the tide came in. The two Gitzos saved our cameras and long glass. The water came up to the second leg. Salt water and sand are not good for anything photographic. When we returned to shore, they were washed in fresh water and continued to work fine for the balance of the month we were there. When we returned to New York, they did require new bushings and grease. I still have that tripod today. It is 35 years old.

Ten years later, on a major advertising shoot for Saatchi &  Saatchi, the tripod was elevated all the way up, including the center post. A ladder was needed to for me to be  eye level to the viewfinder. I was using a 800mm lens. I needed the focal length for the creative director's vision and also to remove the extremely ugly background. Tripods - you've got to love 'em! When do you hate them? The reality is, when you carry a tripod all day long and do not use it, this is not a good thing. A reasonable tripod takes up as much space as 3 lenses. Or, a camera, lens, and a strobe. It can also slow you down at a time where you want to be as mobile as possible. But what happens when you don't take that tripod? Invariably, you come across a situation where you say "Oh god, what have I done"? I think I've come up with a great solution. Well, not really me, but Manfrotto. I've recently purchased a Manfrotto 190CXPro3 tripod, and a 701HDV Manfrotto head. The tripod is unbelievably small and light and the head, even though relatively inexpensive, works extremely well for moderate DSLR video shooting. I've pushed past the envelope of weight, and it's worked great with a 70-200mm f/2.8.

Tripods, love them or hate them? When you need them, you've got to love them!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Lens Shades: You better love them!

It's not uncommon, back in the day, for a Mitchell camera or a Panavision camera to have a 20-thousand-dollar mat box. In reality, what the hell is a mat box? Filter holder? No, it's really a lens shade. Today, some of them are pretty damn expensive, but let's start with the simple one. Why would you spend $2,500 for a 70-200mm lens and not put the bloody shade on it? My God, look at the front element! The light is going to hit from every angle, and it's going to degrade the image! Flare, ghosting, blown-out, all sorts of bad stuff. This is going to make the $2,500 lens look like a Coca-Cola bottle. Use the right lens shade all the time! If you're using a filter, take the shade off and have a hand-held flag or gobo, call it what you wish maybe a hat, a piece of cardboard. Anything that will throw a shadow over the front element of the lens or filter to make the photographs better- a lot better. Some of the most inexpensive and simple tricks will make your pictures into a photograph.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

$200 Studio Table for $14.95

My partner JoAnne came in one day with this silly little table and with my miserable attitude, I poo-pooed it. I thought to myself, "What a dumb table!" JoAnne took it out to the lake, spent the summer and the fall sipping her white wine at sunset and then the table appeared back in the studio when the snow came. One day, I needed to do a fine art photo for my dear friend Ko for his new boutique gallery in Hong Kong. I looked over, saw the silly little table, put the small Dynalite underneath it, illuminated the heavy vase from the bottom, and added one silver reflector- wa-la! Pretty good photo. We don't work for the table company, we don't work for Wal-Mart, but yesterday morning I went out and bought 5 of them. Figured the students could use them. Because of the texture of the glass, I think some very dynamic photos could be made with a steaming cup of coffee all the way to a new $100 bill, shooting it backlit.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Bill Eppridge

When pros sit around and start talking about other photographers, invariably the name Bill Eppridge comes up. He truly is a photographer for all times. He's young enough and strong enough to be vital today and old enough to be considered one of the all-time season greats. Many of his photographs are as powerful and important as they were 50 years ago. Anything that Bill has set his mind to do, he's done it and he's done it to absolute excellence. There's going to be an opening of a retrospective of his work this Sunday, May 1 from 2-4pm at the Fairfield museum. I strongly recommended anyone in the area of 10 states consider going. RVSP to or call 203-259-1598. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lights Out. No, Really, Lights Out!

Well, one of my favorite TV series has just been canceled. Okay, maybe it's my favorite because I was in it as an extra. There's that ego again. You gotta keep it in check. Holt McCallany, attended one of Lou Dibella's Broadway Boxing shows at B.B. King's, so I thought I'd introduce Holt to John Duddy, which I did. Last night, on the final episode of Lights Out, there was Duddy with Holt with three speaking parts. Boy, did I feel foolish! Obviously John worked a different day than I did on the film, and by the way, he was great. Sorry to hear it was canceled, but I guess it's a ratings business thing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Andreas the Giant

     When I was in my twenties, thirties, and maybe forties, I found it difficult or maybe challenging to genuinely appreciate other photographer's work. I don't know if that's a lack of confidence in my own work, or if it's an overactive ego, or maybe I'm just not that smart. To be quite frank, I really don't know. But on April 3rd, I had an opportunity to stop by the Hasted Kraeutler gallery, and much to my surprise I had an opportunity to see some amazing photography. Andreas Gefeller really nailed it. He calls it the "Japanese Series". My god, that made it even more powerful. If it's one thing I've learned from my asian brothers and sisters, it's simplicity in design is extremely powerful stuff. This young photographer blew my doors off. My partner JoAnne was equally impressed, and my dear friend Dennis Wheeler loved it. He leaves you mesmerized with simple, clean, elegant lines. He takes obscene clutter and simplifies it to a point of beauty. As I was leaving the gallery, I walked over, grabbed his hand, embraced him, and told him how much I loved the work.  If it was 30 years ago, I may have grumbled, grinded my teeth, and mumbled under my breath, "I wish I took that damn photo!" Andreas, I take my beret off to you. Great work.
                                                                                                    ©Andreas Gefeller

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dennis Wheeler, Artist in Residence

     About a year ago, I had an opportunity to sit down with the powers that be at one of the greatest Maritime companies- The Oceania Cruises. We discussed the art program on board the ships and we agreed to become part of their art enhancement programs. The first thing I did is I called my dear friend Dennis Wheeler who has work in the permanent collection in the Museum of Modern Art, and I asked him to be an artist in residence at one of the new super liners. He said he'd have to think about it, and approximately five seconds later he said okay. No one will ever say Dennis drags his feet. His beautiful wife Kathi, former Director of Marketing of Departures Magazine. A dynamic figure in the world of travel and business. Dennis came into New York on his first voyage and we joined him for dinner on the ship. Dennis being Dennis, before dinner we went to five art galleries in the meat packing district of New York City. And we had an extremely light liquid lunch. I like to call it a salad. Four ounces of Kettle One vodka, three onions, three olives, a twist of lemon- looks like a salad to me! A good time was had by all. Returning to the ship, Kathi ran into one of her culinary favorites, Jacque Pepin. And an absolutely fabulous dinner followed. Life's good. To all the ships at sea, I'm signing off.

John is Gone

     2 years ago, a dear friend said I have to blog. To be honest, it was not big on my radar. It's not uncommon for me to put in 12 to 14 hour days and sometimes more. Working 2 weeks straight is not uncommon. So, blogging is one more obligation. Not easy. I started blogging and someone told me it should only be professional and about photography and not personal. There are a lot of rules out there that I don't quite get. And considering I'm not big into authority and following hard protocol, I pretty much do what I want and say what I want and let the preverbal hit where it hits.  I don't go out of my way to offend anyone. It's all good. Which brings me to today's blog. I have a friend by the  name of John Terraciano. And I called him around 9:30 this morning just to say hello. I received his voicemail and it seemed just a little strange. Something was not right. So, I called one of his close friends Hector Vazquez and left a message.  Hector called me back 20 minutes later to inform me that John passed away at midnight this morning. We got together at Christmas, he was as healthy as a horse, great smile, great personality, great wife, Miraim, and an extremely generous giving individual. I don't ever remember hearing the "no" word in his vocabulary. He was always there for you and never expected anything but a thank-you. He came to one of my openings and he brought a beautiful Christmas cactus, which I've always treasured.  Hey, John, I'm sorry I didn't have a chance to say goodbye. Damn, I'm gonna miss you. But who knows, maybe I'll see you on the other side sooner than anybody knows. I guess that's the way it works, huh? Here today, gone tomorrow. On a lighter note, it's my niece's birthday. So, Happy Birthday. Joe D signing off.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Two Irishmen and an Italian

James Moore and John Duddy got together with their good friend Lou Dibella at B.B. King's the other night. The two great Irish boxers were there to support Seanie Monaghan, who won a unanimous decision. A good time was had by all.

©MMXI Joe DiMaggio

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 25, 1911, The 100 Years Ago

As some of you may or may not know, I was born and raised in Greenwich Village, New York, bouncing between 63 Carmine Street and 101 St. Luke's Place. It was the DiMaggio's side of the family and the Pennino side of the family. It wasn't until 5 years ago that I discovered my grandmother and her sister worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. She was 16 years old and her sister was 14. On March 25 1911, the most devastating industrial disaster. Both my grandmother and my aunt made it out safely. 146 women and children did not make it out. As a photographer, every time I photograph my grandmother, there was something that was deep and troubling in her eyes. She had a beautiful smile, but that smile was always accompanied by the troubled eyes. I love my grandmother. It was unnerving to me. I never knew what she went through. She must have been terrified her whole life by that ordeal. 

"The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911, was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city of New York and resulted in the fourth highest loss of life from an industrial accident in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers, who either died from the fire or jumped to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Jewish and Italian immigrant women aged sixteen to twenty-three;[1][2][3] the oldest victim was 48, the youngest were two fourteen-year-old girls.[4] Many of the workers could not escape the burning building because the managers had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits. People jumped from the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. The fire led to legislation requiring improved factorysafety standards and helped spur the growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which fought for better working conditions for sweatshop workers." 

Gil Clancy - A True Gentlemen May 30 1922- March 31, 2011

Somewhere around 1969 I went to my father and asked him how I could get in touch with Jerry Quarry.  My father laughed and said, "you have to be kidding Gil Clancy of course." I asked if he knew Gil and he said, "know him? - we went to NYU  together and worked at the P.A.L."  

Gil Clancy was the first trainer to allow me first access to a training camp which was Jerry Quarry's camp.  Suffice to say, it was one helluva education. I know I tend to use cliches. Sorry but they don't make them like him anymore. He was a great athlete and trainer. His absolute honesty prevailed. He never took advantage of any boxer and was a true gentleman. The boxing brotherhood has lost another Hall of Famer.  Talk about irony, you can't make this stuff up. April 1, 1961 My grandfather took me to the first Emile Griffith "Benny Kid Paret" Fight in Madison Square Garden.  Yes, to all to all the ships at sea, that was half a century ago.