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Life Before Photoshop

Life Before Photoshop: Alpha Romeo Shoot

Look ma, no Photoshop.

Look ma, no Photoshop.


Every time I write one of these posts it takes me way, way back to the days when Adobe was the name of a style of house in the Southwest part of the US.

The good old days when you had to do everything in the camera, and as a result got the occasional ulcer for doing it. Yes, those do-da days where it took just one screw-up and you became persona non grata at not just the agency you were shooting for, but if that Art Director that picked you went to another agency, and they often did, your name went with them. That’s just the chance you took because the money was so good. In those days car shooters (the good ones) were getting $5000.00 per shot (plus all expenses) and up, and that day sometimes meant one shot at sunrise and one at sunset.

In my online classes with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, we work on incorporating the Elements of Visual Design into their photography. We also work on getting as much in the camera before the shutter is clicked so that my fellow photographers can become better photographers, not better computer artists.

That’s not to say that I don’t use Photoshop because I do with just about every photo; not to do anything except minor tweaking. For me, getting it in the camera is a great challenge, and as a result I fell good that I’m a good shooter that relies on my eye and imagination, not Histograms, blinking lights, and that insidious bane of existence that’s called…HDR!!!.

In the above photo, the Art director and I choose The Bonneville Salt Flats for the location because of the simplicity, the great light, and all that wonderful texture.

It may look like a simple set-up but I can tell you that it was anything but simple. The car company that brought the new-never been seen before Alpha Romeo got their huge van and trailer stuck and after hours of trying and a twenty foot hole, we were able to rent a back hoe to get the tractor out that got stuck trying to get the trailer out in the first place…what a mess!!! This took a day. Then, we had to fill in this giant crater so it looked like it never happened…another day of expenses.

Simple set-up????????

Simple set-up????????

The placement of the car was extremely important since as a prototype it came without a motor and had to be manually placed (by hands) to get the right angle of the light. When seconds counted, there wasn’t enough time to move it again (and keep those tire tracks out of the shot. To do this I used my Sunpath readings and my Morin 2000 hand bearing compass to get it at the exact angle to eliminate unwanted hotspots and glare, and the shadow that was important as well. I knew that the shot had to be taken right before the full sun was visible on the horizon. After that the car was subject to those elements that couldn’t be taken out since any thought of post-processing was years away.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2105 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me sometime. I still have a few spots in my next “Springtime” workshop to be in Lisbon, Portugal next May 21st.  July 26th will be my 27th year at the Maine Media workshop…the granddaddy of them all. I’ve always picked this week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. It offers a completely different set of photo ops: color, motion, people, energy, light, and design. A great way to break up photos of the beautiful coastline, fishing villages and lighthouses that Maine is known for.

Keep those photos and questions coming into: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll send you a video critique.


Life Before Photoshop: Hawaii

Look ma, no Photoshop  I teach a four week online class with the PPSOP, and I also  conduct my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops around the planet. What’s the single thread that connects all my fellow photographers to one another? It’s the fact that the vast majority began their love for this creative institution after the advent of the digital camera. Virtually every month , I  try to educate these students of mine that you don’t need Lightroom  or Photoshop to make good photos. I’m not saying there not great tools, just that you don’t need them to make a good photo.

I recently had a student ask me if I bracketed my photos and combined them in HDR to get the “correct exposure”. This is a clear sign that validates my thinking. First of all, she had been told that there was a correct exposure….What????? First of all there’s no such thing as a correct exposure. every picture I’ve ever taken had a different “correct exposure”. How can there be a universal correct exposure? Beat’s the hell out of me. I guess it’s just another one of those things that lie just above my pay grade.

My exposures are based on what I’m feeling at the point of creation. It has solely to do with the message I want to send to the viewer. Bright and sunny, or dark and dramatic…it just all depends…doesn’t it????

Second, I’ve been shooting for forty-four years and most of that was when you bracketed and choose the best exposure. There was no other way to do it; at least when I was shooting color. HDR was the initials of a girl I went out with!!!


In the above photo, I was shooting a project for United Airlines. One of the toughest assignments I’ve ever had. Five weeks in Hawaii shooting pretty much whatever I wanted..oh the horror!!!

We were invited to take some photos of a popular Luau at the hotel we were staying at. My assistant was standing right next to me giving me readings from my Minolta One-Degree spot meter. Yes, it actually reads just one degree of reflected light at a time. I want to know everything about the light and when it changes. It’s why I never use the meter in my Mark III after crossing over to the digital world. It’s just not as accurate as I want it.

A new reading every few seconds.

A new reading every few seconds.

I wanted to maintain the aperture, so my assistant kept yelling out the changes in shutter speeds., until it was too dark to show the fire-eater and the environment around him, and too slow to stop the action. I was able to achieve this on one piece of film, and one exposure.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. I have two openings left in my next “springtime” workshop in Portugal.Next July 26th I’ll be back at the Maine Media Workshop for my 27th year. a fantastic place full of energy and lot of photographers on the campus to share your experience with. I always pick this same week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. A different set of photo opts: people watching and portraiture, color, light, and design.

I have one spot left for my “Autumn in Provence” workshop to be next October 21st. We’ll be shooting during the Fall foliage. In April of 2016, in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours, I’ll be leading a group to the coastal cities of North and Central Viet Nam. You’ll see and take pictures of subject matter you would only see in magazines like National Geographic.

Keep those photos and questions coming in to: AskJoeB@gmail.com


Life Before Photoshop: Asics Tennis Shoes.

Look ma, no Photoshop!!!

Look ma, no Photoshop!!!

For those out there that have been following these posts, I hope you’re enjoying them as much as I did when I was taking them…way back when Adobe was a type of house in the southwest part of the country.

It was never in question whether I could solve the clients problem or not. If I took on the project, then there could be only one ending…a happy one where everyone lived happily ever after. If there wasn’t a happy ending, you never worked for that advertising agency again. you became Persona non grata. If the art director went to another agency, and it happened all the time, your name went with him.

There wasn’t anything to help you in those days in the form pf post processing. Hell, in the early days there weren’t even computers….just me and my Kodachrome 25.

I teach an online class with the PPSOP, and I also conduct my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops around the planet. In both cases, my fellow photographers are not allowed to use any post processing. Everything they submit has to be right out of the camera. I want people to become better photographers, not better computer artists or digital technicians. don’t get me wrong. I’m not some old guy that can’t flow with the times; quite the contrary. I use CS5 to some degree  on just about every image I take..why not? Having said that, i like the challenge of getting it in one exposure, in the camera. To me, that’s what being a good shooter is all about.

The above photo was part of a advertising campaign for Asics Tennis Shoes. This ,particular shoe was worn by members of the Woman’s Olympic Volleyball team, and the client wanted a shot that was full of action while showing the shoe.

I created a way to make it look as if she was jumping for a ball by building a frame that could support her weight. To get it without the use of electronic flash just wasn’t going to work. We built a harness that had a large bungee cord attached to the top. We could pull her down, let go, and it would spring back with her with it. I used a shutter speed that was slow enough to record the ambient light in the gym, and a synch delay that would fire the large strobe in the soft box at the end of the exposure instead of the beginning. This is what creates the slight blur and feeling of motion. When we pulled her down and let go she sprang back up we would click the shutter at that moment.

Right before i started to shoot, we wafted some fog juice to add to the drama.

The production photo.

The production photo.

Since it was before digital, I could only get an idea of what I was getting by taking a Polaroid before the actual shot. After that I would bracket all over the reading my meter gave me. If it wasn’t right on the money, I had nothing to help make it right. Back then, it was just the way it was, and if you didn’t think you could pull it off, you just didn’t do it.

I never turned these kinds of assignments down. I loved the challenge of solving the problem, and never thought I couldn’t do it.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and watch for my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come enjoy Portugal, my next Springtime Workshop next May. I still have a couple of spaces left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar. A country full of rich photo opportunities, and offers a lifetime of memorably experiences. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com and receive a video critique.



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