Andrew Paquette | Photographer

Four Fine Automobiles

A couple weeks ago, I did something different and fun. I hopped into a brand-new Alfa Romeo and drove around Albany in it. I could have done the same in a Mazerati but the idea of driving such an expensive car around made me nervous, so I opted for the Alfa instead.

The reason I was driving the car had to do with a photo shoot I was asked to participate in. A few nights earlier, Geoff Arbuckle of Elevation10k ( called me up with the request. They hoped I could help out on a car shoot that needed very high resolution images. This meant having me come up as a digital tech with my 101 megapixel Phase One camera. It sounded like fun, so I agreed.

They were worried about rain ruining the shoot, so they had several rain days planned. As it happened, it rained on all three days. They didn’t have the time to wait though, and their weather radar showed a gap in the clouds that might be big enough to get the shots. With that information they gave me the call to drive up, and I did, through pouring rain. Halfway up to Albany, I pulled over and called Geoff. “Is this rain going to be a problem?” I asked. “It’s not raining here”, he answered. I kept driving for another hour, raining all the way. And then, maybe five minutes before arriving at the shoot location, the rain stopped.

The shoot location was a parking garage with a view of several iconic Albany buildings. I drove up to the roof, remembering as I did that I hadn’t driven in a parking garage more than twice since 2006. Luckily the garage was nearly empty. I was the first to arrive. 

A few minutes later, Tanner, an assistant for the shoot showed up, followed by Geoff and the photographer for the shoot, James Pickett (Instagram: @jameshpickett). With the team assembled, Tanner drove us to an Alfa Romea/Mazerati dealership about ten or fifteen minutes away. There, we met the client, and the cars we would photograph: two Mazeratis and two Alfa Romeos. Someone held out the keys to all four cars for me to choose my ride but I just said, “give me the least expensive one.” It would be cool to drive a Mazerati but I hadn’t driven a sports car since Epic Games’ president and founder Tim Sweeney let me drive his Lotus in 1994. I was handed the key (a fob actually) for an Alfa Romeo.

I didn’t know the streets of Albany at all, so I followed Geoff back to the garage. At one point I had to hit the gas to catch up to him. Holy cow did that car have muscle! It felt like I was driving a rocket for the couple of seconds it took to catch up. It was easy to see why people enjoyed driving cars like these.

Back at the garage, we reparked all of the cars so that none of them would be in the shot, sports cars included. This was so that we could get a clean background plate that could be used if needed later. However, James wanted dusk or evening light, so we didn’t do much for about a half hour while we waited for the light to change. I set up the camera and tethered it to Elevation 10k’s laptop, but that didn’t take long and once it was set up, we just chatted about photography until the light was right.

When the sun finally hit the right position, James took about ten background shots in about five minutes and was done. Then, we had to get the cars out and park them correctly for the composition. This took more time than I expected because of all the fine adjustments that had to be made so that each car was in the right place and at the right angle to the camera. The real work came next. James wanted the headlights to be on but he was shooting with a narrow aperture (he started at f/14, but went down to  f/8 or f/9). This meant a long exposure. Depending on the f-stop, the exposures were between 10 and 30 seconds each. Because of the way the Phase One records the images, a ten second exposure takes twenty seconds to record, and a thirty second exposure takes a minute. There were two effects from these long exposures. The first is that there were bright glares from the headlights that obliterated details in the image, and the second was that we had to wait a long time before getting feedback on the shot.

James worked out that it was not a good idea to leave the lights on for the entire exposure. Instead, he timed how long it took for them to turn off by themselves after the doors were locked, then created a schedule where the car that took the longest to turn off its lights had its doors locked first, followed by the car with the next longest time, and so on. This took some coordination between Geoff and the client, who controlled the door locks, James, who walked around the cars popping a handheld ProFoto flash unit, and me, who managed the camera. The goal was for the car doors to be locked, then wait until moments before the headlights turned off and I would initiate the exposure, the headlights would turn off, and then James added some light to the scene with three or four strategic pops of his flash. After that we had to wait what seemed like ages for the exposure to be complete and shipped over to the laptop where we could see it.
It took some trial and error but eventually we got the timing right. Next, we had to do it all over again for each car lit independently of the rest, as backup in case retouching was needed.
Geoff said the shoot would last from about 6-10PM, and that is just about exactly what happened. I had to get home, so someone else drove “my” Alfa back to the dealership.
This morning, Geoff sent me a copy of the image and permission to use it in a blog post, so here it is, and my explanation for why I was out of town that Thursday night.

Jersey Girls

I have been thinking of doing a beauty shoot ever since makeup artist Laura Shoemaker suggested it last November. I love taking close up head shots and I also liked the idea of working in a studio for a change. I like shooting outdoors but the idea of not having to haul around a couple hundred pounds of lighting gear has its appeal. The problem was that I want my online portfolio to stay focused on sportswear.
To make the shoot match the rest of the content on my website, I decided to have the models wear sportswear. After I bought some tennis, running, and golf tops, I had the idea of using cycling jerseys. I couldn’t find any locally, so I bought them online from Cycology and Competitive Cycling. They were a bit pricey, so I only got four. Now I wish I had bought more because they are beautiful. The jerseys won’t fit me or my wife, so my daughter will get them now that the shoot is over.

Laura found our two models, Bora Fona, an actress from New York, and Kennah Shoemaker, her daughter and serious science student. We shot everything in my home office and our small pool deck. When Laura and I originally discussed the shoot, I had wanted to shoot one shot on the deck, the rest inside. The reason was that I wanted to get one long exposure at dusk to capture the rich colors of evening. I still wanted to do that, so we did, and as a result I have one shot that doesn’t quite match the others, all taken inside. The price for that shot are at least three mosquito bites that still hurt several days later.

Michael Yalamas, who assisted on the Vanderbilt shoot, also assisted for this one. It was great to see him again, and to have the benefit of his able assistance. We also had Felicia from the Marlene Webber salon for hair, and Arbuckle Creative to shoot the video.

What I wanted to do with the shoot was to get smooth motion without sacrificing sharp no-blur focus on the face. I also wanted bright, saturated colors. To do it, I lit a backdrop with the modeling lights of my two ProFoto B1 units, covered them with gels, and used an 800 w/s Broncolor Siros L as my keylight. Coupled with a slow exposure, the ProFoto units lit the model’s silhouette, and the Broncolor froze the portions of the model that faced the camera.

Below are some images from the shoot.

And here is the video:

Parkour with Innate Movement

Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of shooting eight parkour athletes from the Innate Movement gym in Kingston, NY. 

When I was a kid growing up in San Jose, California, I thought “parkour” referred to a set of calisthenic exercises performed outdoors along a predefined course, usually a jogging track. This was because there were two such tracks in San Jose that I knew of. I did not know that “parkour” was the jaw-droppingly awesome sport featured in the opening minutes of the James Bond movie “Casino Royale” starring Daniel Craig. In that film, there is an amazing sequence where an evil but very fit bad guy is chased through a building site by James Bond. He leaps over buildings, climbs up sheer walls, dives through tiny apertures, balances on narrow beams, and in short, behaves like a superhero. I enjoyed the sequence but wasn’t aware that it represented parkour, a new urban sport that was becoming very popular. I found out what it was during a conversation with a student, Bulent Camdere, who explained it to me. “Parkour”, I should note, is also called “freerunning”. For this post, I will call it parkour.

Bulent is a member of the Rotterdam-based parkour troupe “Friends Crw” (“Crw” spelling intentional). I’ve shot them three times and had a great time on each occasion. The Friends Crw group are all dedicated athletes. They have an excellent, positive attitude, and are dedicated professionals. More than that, they are fun to work with. Thanks to those interactions, I looked forward to the shoot this Saturday, and any others that might crop up in the future. Parkour is a particularly photogenic sport, and I love shooting it when the opportunity arises.

We did the Innate Movement shoot at a huge abandoned industrial park. Parts of it were totally demolished, others were in the process of being demolished or were clearly waiting their turn to be destroyed. This left us with a huge, totally flat concrete pad. Around the edges were structures that we avoided. In between, there were large rain puddles, occasional rusty girders sticking straight out of the ground, and just enough architectural features to do a few parkour tricks.

Back when I used to go on location to make plein air paintings in the mountains of California and Arizona, I would set up my easel and go into “the zone” for the rest of the day while I made one or more paintings. To me, it felt like maybe fifteen or thirty minutes had passed. Actually, I normally spent between six and eight hours. I didn’t eat during that time and stayed focused on each stroke as it was applied to the canvas. I experience photography the same way. I got to the site, set up my equipment, and then it was over and I was driving home. Where did the time go? Here are a few of the shots made that day.

Geoff Arbuckle took video of the shoot. I assembled it over the last couple of days into a behind the scenes (BTS) video. You can see it below:

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