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Life Before photoshop: Microsoft/Leader Of The Pack

Look ma, no Photoshop!

Life before Photoshop is one of my favorite categories to write about. It was a time way back when I shot film and everything had to be accomplished in the camera. There was no computer to save your butt, so my fellow photographers and I had to rely on our own imagination and wit. That’s not counting a very good knowledge of every shutter speed and aperture combinations possible and how they reacted to one another.

In order to get a certain “look” that the Art Director wanted, we played around with different color film stock and pushed and pulled the film to get the desired effect. We depended on camera bracketing (manually bracketing) to get the right mixture, and there wasn’t a display on the back of the camera to see what we were getting.

Pretty scary? It was scary because if you screwed up, you were through with that advertising agency. You became “Persona non grata”. In other words, you were not welcome at their Christmas parties anymore. What’s even worse, if any agency team member on your shoot went to another agency your name went with them, and your reputation went downhill faster than the plague spread over Europe. Of course that’s besides how you personally felt if that happened. In my case, it would feel terrible. For me it’s always been great or bad with nothing in between, and it never mattered or matters what anyone else thought or thinks.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, I encourage my students to not use Photoshop during the time they’re with me. Why? Because the more you create in the camera, the better you’ll become as a photographer. It’s definitely a challenge, but the end will definitely justify the means.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being able to use CS5 to help fix something I couldn’t get right before I clicked the shutter. If at the moment right before I pull the trigger I see something I can’t correct, then the solution becomes part of my thought process that I know to work on later, and I’m perfectly happy with that. Truth be told, I wish I had it in the good old days!!!

In the above photo, I was shooting an ad for the agency that handled Microsoft. The Art Director wanted me to shoot a photo that would say that their client was a “Leader of the pack”. I came up with different scenarios and he liked the idea of a biker winning a bike race. After scouting several locations, based on the sunset readings from my Sunpath readings and Morin 2000 hand bearing compass, we choose the Velodrome in LA. He also said that he wanted a grainy and gritty look to it with a feel of movement. Btw, the movement came from tshooting at various shutter speeds.

Back then, my film of choice after Kodachrome went away was Fuji Velvia 100.  I decided to re rate the ASA ( now referred to as ISO) from 100 to 800 which meant pushing the film three stops. This would make the film become grainy. After trying it out, I showed the look to the Art Director for final approval. He liked it so off we went to LA.

As I told you, there was no Photoshop available to create what I wanted in the computer, so we had to do it in the camera. I had a company build a platform that would attach to a motorcycle and act like a sidecar. I choose a BMW because it uses a drive shaft instead of a chain and would be as smooth as a car.I had a walki-talki with a headset and voice activated mike to communicate with the bikers that also has walki-talki’s strapped to their belt. I also had my first assistant sitting right next to be constantly giving me readings on the faces and sky with my Minolta One Degree Spot Meter. To make the camera more stable, I attached a small gyro to the bottom  of the camera.

A production shot.

Not only did the final photo make the agency and the client happy, not to mention making the Art director look really good, but the best part was that it was soooooo much fun from the idea first popping into my mind to the pre-production, to the final shoot. Far better than the way they would do it now, as in shooting the Velodrome in one shot, then using a blue screen for the bikes and CGI to put it all together in the computer.

Really, how much fun would that be?????????

Visit mt website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my 2013 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot pictures in the camera with me sometime.

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


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    { 4 comments… add one }
    • Gary Thursby March 2, 2013, 1:02 pm

      Hi Joe!
      Wow that is a big production and must have been a lot of fun to be a part of. It just goes to show photography is a lot more than buying a fancy camera and pushing the button. So much to learn, study and practice. I have just one question on the picture above. Would it not have been better if the rider in front was the yellow jersey cyclist or the red jersey with yellow helmet? Yellow and red being advancing colors and blue being a receding color maybe could have given the lead cyclist a little more pop in the image?

      • Joe March 4, 2013, 10:32 am


        We had each rider come up and be in the lead. This is the one that fit the Art director’s requirement as far as spacing. That was the main thing…the right amount of distance between the man in the lead and “The rest of the pack”. To me, the color is secondary, and as far as what color to use you’re idea is a little esoteric. The fact that he’s far out in front makes him “pop”. There’s no doubt that he’s the center of interest. not only visually but in the text of the ad for Microsoft…he’s leading the pack.


    • Joe March 10, 2013, 12:16 pm

      Thanks for the comments!!!


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