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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Blogger Glyn Dewis said...

What a great, atmospheric photography; Winters actually looks quite intimidating but then I guess that's exactly how shooting him would have felt at first, but by all accounts from what you say David, he was a total gent.

Great post and thanks for the lighting info.


ps> I guess 'intimidating' would have been having Joe mcNally sat camera left on the 'mike' huh ;o)

March 31, 2010 2:39 PM  
Blogger Eric Doggett said...

Love Dan, and I love Austin. Go hometown team! :)

March 31, 2010 2:44 PM  
Blogger Sean McCormack said...

I can only imagine who nerve wrecking that must've been. The final shot is wonderful..
And the note about what Dan was up to prior to the shoot is even more telling about the effort he puts into creating his look.

March 31, 2010 3:24 PM  
Blogger Ogalthorpe said...

Definitely a huge gulp factor in that one.

I'd love a call like that tho. I mean it would freak me the hell out but Dan seems like a quite a gracious man. I just wonder what I could do with it.

March 31, 2010 3:37 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Great post.

Just wanted to point out a small typo

"...had an assistant use his had to cut (gobo) the key light from wrapping..."

I had to read it a few times to see that I think you meant "hand"

Thought I'd save confusion for any future readers :)


March 31, 2010 4:06 PM  
Blogger David said...

Thanks, Brandon. I have been a typo machine today... (Fixed.)

March 31, 2010 4:08 PM  
Blogger Huck said...

Thanks for the introduction to a hometown shooter's blog.

March 31, 2010 4:37 PM  
Blogger Iden Pierce Ford said...

Just wanted to say, unrelated to this article, how amazing I thought your idea and execution of your shootout with papparazi was in the "Gulf Shoot Out".
Glad I was able to see it and hope you come to Toronto some day

March 31, 2010 5:30 PM  
Blogger mstrubbe said...

The lighting is so subtle, and so strong. The detail of placing a light inside the booth is quite effective. It only peeps out from the curtain two small places, but it's an element that boosts the richness of the photo.

March 31, 2010 5:58 PM  
Blogger Brence said...

...that would have been an intimidating assignment to pick up at such short notice! But I guess not having the time to fret about it would be good.

March 31, 2010 6:39 PM  
Blogger John said...

How cool! I would definitely be squeamish about shooting Mr. Winters, but what a cool assignment!!! From everything I've heard about him (and my own meager correspondence) he seems to be a very humble and gracious guy and also very open with his techniques.

Just to spend a few minutes with the guy would be a huge thrill ...and get a lesson too, unbelievable.

March 31, 2010 8:31 PM  
Blogger scott macdonald said...

One of my favorite live music photographers shooting a portrait of one of my favorite portrait photographers! Amazing.

March 31, 2010 8:38 PM  
Blogger Eric Schmiedl said...

Wait a minute... the key from the right is a very soft light. How can you cut that with something as small as a hand, or snoot it?

Something ain't right here...

April 01, 2010 2:09 AM  
Blogger Pathofparadox said...

Crazy how a quick link from you causes other people's websites to come under denial-of-service sized attacks...

...I'll be sure to give you a heads up when I finish my Zenfolio page!

I mean... JEEZ!!!

April 01, 2010 5:48 AM  
Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Is there pp on this or maybe an orange gel? Somethig 'old fashioned' about the look. I really love it

April 01, 2010 9:52 AM  
Blogger Vince Edward said...

That's a pretty cool story. By most accounts I've seen, Dan Winters is a pretty easy going and gracious dude. A while back on Flickr people were trying to deconstruct the lighting on one of his portraits when someone suggested just sending an email and asking. Sure enough, Winters wrote back.

April 01, 2010 9:55 AM  
Blogger sam said...

A little off subject but you might be interested in this. Talk about off camera lighting.

April 01, 2010 11:53 AM  
Blogger Kevin Halliburton said...

LOL! f/64 pucker factor. Tears man... brought me to tears.

April 01, 2010 2:09 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

"f/64 mode, as far as the pucker factor is concerned." - should we start calling this the S stop?

April 02, 2010 3:14 PM  
Blogger - Steve P. said...

I showcased Dan's work to my photography students at the beginning of the semester and just last week talked about De Vinci's framing of Christ in the Last Supper. Seeing "ancient" design concepts still apply makes old school feel cool!

April 02, 2010 9:27 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

David, I'm having trouble with that key light also.

The shadows on his shirt and face are kinda hard (small-ish light source) but he casts no corresponding shadow on the background? The only one I can see is soft (big light source).

Just when you think you have this stuff worked out... frustrating.

April 03, 2010 7:45 PM  

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