Felix Kunze: Gold Medals and Holy Grails.

Just a beautifully composed shot by Felix Kunze using Nikon's "Holy Grail"

 

We recently had a chance to catch up with our friend, celebrity portraiture photographer Felix Kunze. This was no small feat as someone who’s highly in demand like Felix is a globetrotter by necessity. He might be found in New York assisting Annie Leibovitz with her work one day and in Europe shooting a fashion campaign for Danish fashion brand Atelier Bogelund-Jensen the next.

Felix recently returned to the UK where he covered the London 2012 Olympics this past summer. Though he was “in the throes of London Fashion week madness”, he was gracious enough to make some time to chat. As always Felix was good for an interesting story (or three.) He told us about some very interesting work he did for the cover story of Nikon Magazine. The two stars of the story were Double Olympic Gold Medalist rower, Pete Reed and Nikon’s 13mm f5.6 lens aka The Holy Grail. Here’s Felix in his own words :

On a cold November morning in 2012, I attempted something that arguably no-one had ever done before.

I was given an assignment to photograph a portraiture session with an extremely wide-angle and rare lens; Nikon’s 13mm f/5.6 rectilinear marvel, often dubbed the ‘Holy Grail of lens design’.In simple terms, this is a wide-angle lens that has almost no distortion, a problem that most wide lenses suffer from. The distortion can cause a kind of warped feeling, as if things in the edge of the image are stretched. This $30,000 behemoth employs some glass to counteract this effect. It is designed for architectural photography and has wide applications in landscape. Proving difficult and expensive to manufacture, only about 350 of them were ever sold. The lens is no longer in production.

It’s unusual to shoot portraiture with a lens such as this, it requires me to be very very close to the subject, not made any easier by my decision to shoot part of the editorial on the rushing river Thames after heavy rain.

We chose to base our shoot in rowing because the long lines of oars, boats and the riverbank would demonstrate the capabilities of the lens.

Double Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Reed (Beijing 2008 & London 2012 in the Coxless Four) was kind enough to undertake this crazy task with us. Pete is a keen photographer himself and was an absolute sport despite the low temperatures and challenging conditions.

It was definitely an unusual shoot – Felix’s full thoughts are expressed in the full article found in the latest issue of Nikon Owner Magazine. Below is the behind the scenes video you can click to watch:

Behind the scenes with Felix Kunze shooting for Nikon Magazine

What’s New at Silber Studios

Eiffel Tower at Dusk
How do you capture images of something as iconic as the Eiffel Tower without turning it into a total cliche? Exploring around with my camera, I found this view of the base, set off against the fading light of dusk, pretty intriguing. As a tip, it’s always a good idea to experiment with angles and heights to find your unique view. BTW, we printed this as a special edition, custom framed and rather handsome on the wall. If you’re interested to know how this might look on one of your walls, let us know.     
Help Us Launch our New Photography Series
Please take two minutes for a survey on photography. Your input will help us when we take our new series to sponsors so we can get out and shoot all those talented photographers sharing their insight and tips. This new series will be edgier and more behind- the-scenes, so you can see exactly how they work their magic.  Stay tuned and meanwhile you can catch  our previous shows here.   

Video Production

We’ve been very busy helping a variety of companies tell their stories in an engaging and compelling way. As a recent example, Bebe au Lait, a wonderful company right here in Los Gatos,  asked us to craft some videos about their products for—you guessed itmoms and babies. Have a look at this one we just produced for them. The video was based on an interview with the co-owner and mom discussing the product she designed.

You’ve heard me talk about why we like to start with a strong interview. It comes across as a conversation between two people because that’s exactly what it is. No one has to face the camera alone and try to remember lines and somehow sound natural. It’s really just my conversation with them, to which we add other shots illustrating what’s being discussed. BTW, for tips on video production, you can grab our free ebook here.   
And hey, if you’d like a free consultation about how to tell your story visually, click here.

Have I Told you Lately That I love…
…to hear from you? I really do love your feedback, questions, requests or whatever’s on your mind. The easiest way to get in touch is to simply hit reply to this email or click here. If you’d like to have a conversation just let me know too…

Nikon will be back in March

In the fourth offical update on the situation in Thailand, Nikon has declared that everything should be back to normal by March of next year. The recent announcement of a new flash was definitely a good sign, and this shows that things are improving, however slowly. By Nikon’s own account, the factory has been completely pumped clean of water, and now they’re focusing on restoring the infrastructure.

Nikon already has limited production going underway at partner factories, with some DSLRs and lenses shipping out from November 30th. They hope to have some factory operations from January, and expect everything to be back up to full speed by March of 2012. This follows reports of Nikon also gearing up some operations in Japan to pick up numbers, and Sony resuming production of the previously haulted SLT and NEX cameras.

[image by noppatjak]

 

(via PopPhoto

 

24 hours of Flickr photos, printed.

Over 6 billion photos have been uploaded to Flickr since it’s launch in February of 2004. It sounds like a lot and it is, but compared to Facebook it’s nothing. Supposedly facebook gets around 6 billion photos per month. In order to put things into perspective, Erik Kessels decided to print every photo that was uploaded within a 24 hour period to Flickr. Got any opinions about it?

Stopping by Steve Jobs’ Home in Palo Alto

Chalks memories of steve jobsRemembering Steve Jobs, his home Palo Alto

Even though we knew his stepping down from CEO last Summer was a foreshadowing of what might be looming, I wasn’t prepared for the news on Tuesday. When I heard that he was gone a wave of sadness hit me.  True it wasn’t a sudden and jarring slap like John Lennon’s death, but it hit hard nonetheless.

Steve was our generation’s grand wizard, transforming otherwise mundane objects into fun, creative and empowering machines. For those of us in the visual arts, he helped us open doors that might otherwise have remain locked.

flowers in front of Steve Job's home

Flowers in front of Steve’s home

We know he was no saint, but dang  he somehow managed to get it right so often that we could set our clocks by his next cool release.

I stopped by his house yesterday and was surprised to see that so many people had managed to find it, how so?  I walked around quietly and appropriately getting images with my iPhone. It was a calm and orderly gathering, but clearly not just the locals who knew where he lived. In fact when I went back today to get some more images with my 5D Mark II, one of the plain clothes police, asked me what lens I was using I replied that it was a 24-70, f 2.8 and we talked about cameras for a bit. When I asked him how how these people had found his house, he replied, “we don’t know, it’s not on the web, but they’ve come from all over the world as far as Hong Kong and Russia.”

 

woman taking an iPhone photo at steve jobs home

I’ve always been amazed at how accessible and open his home is, on the corner of a quiet street in Palo Alto. Far, far from a billionaire’s secluded compound. In fact, we’ve often seen him around Palo Alto, at restaurants, on the street and even the old fashioned Peninsula Creamery.  I’m sure his refusal to wall himself off from the very people  he was able to touch with Apple’s cool stuff, allowed him to stay in touch with us– and with his wizardry somehow know what we wanted next.

apple logos at Steve Job's house

 

an apple on steve job's fence

We’ll miss Steve, he made a huge  difference. He’s given us new age tools to work our craft, to listen and share and get work done in a new cool way. He became part of our culture, a like a Beatle of high tech leaving us with tons of cool memories and phrases like this for all artists to remember: “Real artists ship” — meaning you gotta get your work out there,  better yet get it sold and shipped off! Annie Leibovitz, Picasso, Ansel Adams — they certainly shipped!

Steve Job's Home in Palo Alto

Goodbye for now Steve, we’ll remember you with every click, touch and most importantly, every piece of art you  have helped us to ship.

Spencer Tunick Dead Sea

 

Spencer Tunick has put a whole lot of life in the Dead Sea. The photographer, famous for his mass photo shoots of nude people, has collected over 1,000 naked swimmers for his latest project.

Hundreds of Israelis dressed in their birthday suits gathered on the banks of the Dead Sea — the lowest spot on Earth — to be part of Tunick’s massive photo shoot this weekend, which is partly an effort to bring recognition to the salty landmark ahead of a vote on the Seven Wonders of the World in November.

Scientists believe the sea, which lies between Jordan and Israel, could dry up by 2050 unless urgent steps are taken.

But the only steps heard so far were those of 1,200 nude swimmers as they splashed into the water, arranging themselves into what Tunick called the Naked Sea project.

It is the latest installation from a photographer known worldwide for his massive gatherings of nude people, including shoots of naked women in New York’s Grand Central Station, 2,000 nude soccer fans in Vienna and a record-setting 18,000 people in Mexico City.

For Tunick, the shoots are often indicators of how tolerant a nation is.

“In some places the work is a little bit more controversial, and then in other places the works are accepted as a litmus test for how free a country is, or how open a country is, and how full of rights a country is,” he said during a pre-shoot press briefing.

To see more of Spencer’s work, head over to his website. But be forewarned: by sheer numbers alone, this is probably the most nudity you will ever see in one place.

Nicolas Cage Is A Vampire, Says Antique Photo Collector

Nicolas Cage, the vampire

The image in question was taken by G.B. Smith, a photographer of Confederate POWs.

Critics who describe Nicolas Cage’s acting as stiff and bloodless don’t know how close they are to the truth.

An antique photograph collector says he has discovered a Civil War-era image of Cage, and argues that the Oscar-winning actor is a vampire who has been alive for hundreds of years.

“Personally, I believe it’s him and that he is some sort of walking undead/vampire, et cetera, who quickens/reinvents himself once every 75 years or so,” says the owner, Jack Mord. “150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host.”

Mord, who is selling the image on Ebay for a hefty tag of $1 million, says the photo is completely authentic.

“Any serious potential buyer will be allowed to have a photo expert of their choice examine the original photograph before any money changes hands,” Mord writes on the sale page.

Wait a second, you’re probably asking. If Cage is really immortal and has the ability to live for centuries without growing older, how is it that he’s aged so visibly over the last ten years?

“My theory,” explains Mord, “is that he allows himself to age to a certain point, maybe 70, 80 or so, then the actor ‘Nicolas Cage’ will ‘die’… but in reality, the undead vampire ‘Nicolas Cage’ will have rejuvenated himself and appeared in some other part of the world, young again, and ready to start all over.

“From time to time somebody might mention to him that he bears a slight resemblance to the young version that dead American actor, whose name they can’t recall, but eventually, those occurrences will stop altogether.”

Cage, meanwhile, has yet to offer up an argument to the world that he is not an undead bloodsucker. Considering his performances in recent films, that might be easier said than done.

 

Tyler Shields is at it again. The celebrity photographer, famous for dumping a bucket of blood on Lindsay Lohan and photographing her with a gun to her head, has recruited Glee star Heather Morris for his latest court with controversy: a shoot he calls “Bruised Up Barbie.”

Shields posted images of Morris on his website that depict the actress battered, beaten and black-eyed. In one photo she is shown drinking water from a flat iron, and in another her wrists are bound by the electrical appliance. The series of photos has prompted criticism from those who say the shocktographer is glamorizing violence against women.

Rita Smith, executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Denver, told E! News, “I don’t know if Tyler is aware but I’m quite sure there are plenty of women who have been abused by these kinds of household appliances and children as well being hit with electrical cords. I’m not sure what the purpose is other than shock value.”

Shields, however, says that was not his intention.

“In no way were we promoting domestic violence,” he told E! News. “We wanted to do a bruised-up Barbie shoot and that’s exactly what we did!” Shields explained further to Us Weekly, “Our shoot poses a lot of questions, but just like in real life, Heather is definitely not a victim. More like a really liberated woman.”

This is not Shields’ first run-in with charges of decorating abuse. His aforementioned shoot with Lohan showed the famously self-destructive actress mimicking suicide, and a quick tour of Shields’ website now reveals a more recent image of Lohan holding a knife to her throat. That’s next to a photograph of a topless woman standing next to a cab while a tuxedoed man points an assault rifle at her head.

So what do you think? Do you find artistic merit in Shields’ work? Do his photographs provoke more than just shock and controversy, or do they merely glamorize domestic violence?

A drawing by painter Peter Paul Reubens, allegedly based on da Vinci's The Battle of Anghiari.

 

Dave Yoder wants to photograph a Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece. But there’s just one little problem… no one has seen it in 500 years.

The Battle of Anghiari, often referred to as “The Lost Leonardo,” has been missing from the Hall of Five Hundred (Salone dei Cinquecento) in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy, for half a millennium. But now Yoder thinks he knows where the world’s most famous unseen painting is hiding, and he wants to build a special camera to see it.

Yoder, on assignment for National Geographic, is trying to raise over a quarter of a million dollars in order to build a camera that is capable of peering through a wall-sized fresco by painter Giorgio Vasari, where many art historians believe da Vinci’s work is waiting.

Da Vinci is thought to have begun work on the painting in 1505 but apparently abandoned it after experiencing problems with the paint. The work then sat in the Hall for over a decade, admired by all who saw it. However, in the mid-16th century the Hall was expanded and da Vinci’s magnificent painting vanished.

Now, Yoder, continuing the work of Florentine art historian Maurizio Seracini who in the 1970s discovered clues to da Vinci’s work hidden in the Vasari fresco, has teamed up with a nuclear physicist to create a gamma ray camera capable of peering through the Hall’s brick wall and photographing da Vinci’s lost painting.

While much of the project is being sponsored by National Geographic, Yoder still has to raise a lot of money to build his super camera. To contribute to the rediscovery of da Vinci’s masterpiece (with a tax-deductible donation), head to KickStarter.

Company D soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, known as "The Old Guard," photograph headstones with smartphones at Arlington National Cemetery, Aug. 30, 2011, to help reconcile burial records. U.S. Army photo by J.D. Leipold.

 

America’s most hallowed cemetery is trying to update its records, and it’s turning soldiers into photographers to do it.

The mission to reorganize the database of Arlington National Cemetery is employing the efforts of about 100 soldiers and volunteer students, armed only with iPhones, to photograph headstones and account for every single person interred at the famous military burial ground.

Over the course of several months this summer, members of the Cemetery’s Old Guard will photograph all 219,619 grave sites and the front of 43,096 cremated remains in the columbariam. That includes the 726 new burials since the project began. Dubbed Task Force Christman after Pvt. William Henry Christman, a Pennsylvania native and Civil War soldier who was the first person buried at Arlington, the project is partly in response to a scandal last year in which it was discovered that many of the graves were mismarked.

The project is conducted at night in order to avoid the summer heat (and to respect the 30 or so funerals held there every day). Photographers originally traversed the grounds in full Army uniforms, but it was determined later that the photos turned out better when there was no reflection from the soldiers’ stark white suits.

For many of the grave sites, the photographers are forced to get creative.

“President Taft’s marker is really tall,” said Army Capt. Nate Peterson, whose Company D has accomplished much of the work, “and they wanted to make sure they got a nice head-on shot, so one of the guys put another guy on his shoulders, backed up and took the picture.”

In the end, the project has given many of the soldiers-turned-photographers a chance to think about the importance of documenting the final resting place of so many heroes.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling looking at all of those who have come before me, wondering what they did in their careers,” said Army Pfc. Chris Bodell. “Looking at the graves, taking pictures to help document the people who fought in the Civil War and those who have died in the current conflicts — this is all so much bigger than just myself.”

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