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Dan in Real Life

One of the great and terrible things about being a newspaper photographer is the idea that you never know what your day is going to bring.

Sometimes it brings access to cool and interesting people. Sometimes a call from an editor can send you straight into f/64 mode, as far as the pucker factor is concerned. Sometimes it is both.

That's exactly what happened to Austin American-Statesman photographer Jay Janner last year while out on an assignment. He got a call that another shoot had been added to his day -- to go photograph a local photographer named Dan Winters.

Yeah, that Dan Winters...

So, how would you react to being served up with a no-notice assignment to photograph one of the most successful portraitists working today?

Janner appears to have done just fine. And he says the fact that there was no notice probably helped him to not freak out. But I for one woulda been sweating bullets while walking up Winters' driveway.

Janner says he photographed Winters in his studio complex, which includes three small buildings. He was working on a prop in his shop, and gave Janner full run of the place.

At first, Janner was concerned that the photo booth, which subsequently was used on the back cover of Winters' book, was too obvious a choice. But then Winters said he had never been shot with the booth as a backdrop.

Bingo. Now for the light.

How do you even begin to set up light for Dan Winters?

That would be like cooking dinner for Julia Child. Or emasculating someone in front of Simon Cowell.

Janner went into classic mode -- lighting Dan Winters, Dan Winters style. He built the on-axis fill first, with a medium softbox behind the camera, and then used a snooted key at camera right for shape. A third flash (supplied by Winters) lit the booth from the inside.

Winters was gracious and easy-going the whole time, according to Janner -- and even offered two tidbits of help. One, he suggested Janner tweak the composition to better use the red curtain as a framing device.

Second, Winters had an assistant use his hand to cut (gobo) the key light from wrapping all of the way around Winters' camera-right shoulder. That little touch makes a big difference in the final shot, and was a nice nugget for Janner to walk away with.

Particulars on the light, because someone will ask: Dyna-Light (1000ws) packs on the O-A fill and key lights, and Winters' Elinchrom Ranger, slaved, inside the booth.

You can see more of Janner's work on his blog. And if you want more Dan Winters, there is a video interview here.


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