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annie leibovitz lights game of thrones on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

If one thing can bring me out of lighting guessing retirement, its Game of Thrones. Well, not just G.O.T., but Annie shooting the cast for the fourth season (which, by the way, I just finished and is freaking amazing!!). This image, in particular, is dripping with nuance. Look how the members of House Lannister and Baratheon are positioned–no accident. Cersei in the foreground with Jaime tucked neatly behind her. Joffrey, although king, small and almost in the background. Tyrion is off the side, never quite a true part of the family. Tywin also sits smugly off to the side where he can pull strings without drawing unwanted attention. And Brienne looks on from afar, as close as she will ever get to Jaime.

Thrones drama aside, Annie delivers a gorgeous and strong image lit by only 1 light and a cooperatively clouded sun. And yes, I’m a G.O.T. nerd.

Camera: Medium format with 80mm lens set on a tripod 16 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: I believe Annie goes back to one of her recent favorite lighting setups here. The key light is a single Photek Softlighter at f11, handheld by an assistant, high and 8 feet to camera right. The diffused skylight fills in the shot at f5.6 (-2 stops).

Comments: While on a green juice break, Annie got Peter Dinklage talking about the upcoming season and who would inevitably be killed off. He wouldn’t give specifics, but said that 2 people at today’s shoot wouldn’t be around for next year’s. Annie tried to tickle it out of him but found Peter isn’t very ticklish.

annie leibovitz photo lighting of lady gaga on guess the lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz shot

ted sabarese lighting diagram of annie leibovitz shot

copyright, Annie Leibovitz.

Thanks to everyone who responded to the poll on the GTL facebook page. Annie was the hands-down winner of readers’ choice for my next guess. So, as you’ve requested, here’s a cool shot by Annie featuring Lady Gaga for the December, 2009 edition of Vogue.

As would be expected, Annie’s interpretation of the childhood Hansel and Gretel story rocks with drama and a high fashion sensibility. This image reenacts the scene where the two children turn the table on the witch and throw her into the oven. Having Gaga and model phenom Lily Cole on hand certainly doesn’t hurt.

I’m also guessing this image was not all shot together, in-camera. I don’t see how Annie could have achieved the vibrant red light on the oven and ground while keeping the models lit mostly white. I think the camera was locked off with Gaga being shot by herself, then the two models shot separately. 6 lights were used in total and the final image was composited in post.

Camera: DSLR with 50mm lens set on a tripod 15 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 400.

Lighting: The key light on Gaga is a Photek Softlighter at f16 (+1 stop), handheld by an assistant, high and 6 feet to camera right. It has been removed in post. A large octabank with a red gel at f8 1/2 (-1/2 stop) is set directly behind camera. This fills in Gaga and gives the red hue to the front of the oven and ground. A gridded magnum reflector with a full CTO gel at f22 (+2 stops) is behind her on the floor of the oven, aimed slightly upward. This adds the yellowish highlights to Gaga’s hair.

In the second setup, a medium octabank at f5.6 (-2 stops) is set high and 10 feet to camera left, providing fill on Lily’s back. Another medium octabank at f8 (-1 stop) is set similarly to camera right for fill on the man. The same large octabank with a red gel at f8 (-1 stop) is set just behind camera. A small, Profoto striplight with barn doors at f22 (+2 stops) is boomed directly above the models and aimed downwards, creating the areas of high contrast on their shirts, faces and legs. I’m guessing the red on the man’s hair has been accentuated in post. Probably lots of the red has actually been accentuated. Finally, the same gridded magnum reflector with a full CTO gel at f22 (+2 stops) sits on the oven floor and creates the yellow highlights on the man’s face. The final image is a composite of the two shots.

Comments: Lady Gaga thought it would be totally rad if she literally set herself on fire for the shot. But the level-headed Leibovitz (who ordinarily has a penchant for “reality” too) convinced her that sometimes “figurative” is just as good as “literal.” Especially when dealing with flames.

Mert & Marcus photo lighting of Adele for Vogue on Guess the Lighting

ted sabarese lighting diagram of mert & marcus adele vogue

copyright, Mert & Marcus.

Thanks to everyone who sent in (and continues to send) pics of their pooches. Now back to the lighting guessing.

It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like or don’t like. I don’t think anyone can disagree that Adele has an angelic voice unlike any other. A voice that can seduce you one second, then grab you by the shoulders and shake you silly the next. The more interviews I see, the more I really like her. She has a refreshing honesty and self-deprecating sense of humor not found in many megastars. It’s unbelievable that her career was nearly ended by necessary throat surgery. Our collective ears rejoice that it was not.

Mert & Marcus’ drop-dead gorgeous and dramatic story for the March 2012 US Vogue couldn’t be more fitting of Adele and her voice. The photographic duo combine unbelievable styling, propping and lighting to create an image I’m sure Adele’s mum has taped to her fridge. They certainly nailed it. And with a combo of 4 hot lights and strobes.

This image was suggested by Joel Bedford. Thanks, Joel.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 70mm lens set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/60, f11, ISO 50.

Lighting: For starters, I want to acknowledge there’s quite a bit of retouching in this shot. But I don’t believe it affects the light sources. The key light (if you can call it that) is a 2.5k Arri fresnel HMI at f16 (+1 stop) placed 8 feet to camera right and 6 feet above Adele’s head with narrow focus. It’s aimed directly at her face and hits very little else. A similar Arri fresnel at f16 (+1 stop) sits low, 12 feet to camera right nearly perpendicular to the couch and aimed slightly upward. This light illuminates the branches of baby’s breath, purple fabric, her hand and dress. A gridded, medium strip light at f11 with a full CT blue gel is boomed in above Adele and aimed at the back wall. It has also been flagged to stop light from spilling onto her. A Profoto XL white umbrella at f4 (-3 stops) is set high and directly behind camera to provide a hint of fill.

Comments: During the little downtime she had between shots, Adele battled Alec Baldwin (he’s a big fan) in a Words with Friends game. She first made him promise that he wasn’t currently on an airplane of any sort, though.

f. scott schafer lights larry david on guess the lighting

Ted Sabarese photo lighting diagram of Schafer's shot of Larry David

copyright, F. Scott Schafer.

Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld and now the star of his own show, is a funny man. He’s self-deprecating. He’s annoying. His social skills are lacking and his mouth knows no filter. I remember first seeing this image for the 2010 season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and immediately snorting out the orange juice I was drinking. It sums up the show perfectly, instantly and as hysterically as it should.

F. Scott Schafer seems equally as funny, at least visually speaking (I’ve never met him and can’t vouch for his joke repertoire). The majority of his work is provocative celebrity portraiture. It’s usually witty as hell, with intricate lighting, and this image is no exception. I’m guessing this delightful studio shot was created with precisely 5 lights and the use of a rented mini-trampoline.

Camera: DSLR with 50mm lens, set on a tripod 12 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a medium octabank at f11 1/2 (+1/2 stop) boomed in from camera left and positioned above and slightly behind Larry. A medium strip light at f11 sits just out of frame to camera left by the couch to help highlight him. A medium octabank at f8 (-1 stop) is twelve feet to camera left while another at f8 is twelve feet to camera right. The lights help to fill the background, although the heavy vignette was created in Photoshop. A large octabank at f5.6 (-2 stops) is positioned high and directly behind camera to provide fill on Larry and the couch. As much as Larry hoped to shoot the exasperated psychologist in-camera, Schafer wasn’t able to find a suitable model willing to hang by his neck for an extended period of time. He was shot separately, bouncing on a mini-tramp, with the medium strip as the key light and the large octabank as fill.

Comments: As you can imagine, Larry isn’t exactly the type to sit quietly throughout the shoot day. He spent a good portion of it bouncing ideas off F. Scott and the crew for another, “better” (his words) concept for the poster. When the makeup artist’s assistant mentioned the honey badger, Larry’s eyes lit up and he hopped from the couch and called for a team meeting. “Can we get a honey badger in here?” he asked. “But it’s gotta be a crazy, nastyass one. And let’s get a bee hive, a jackal and two cobras. And let’s see if we can get Randall in here, too. Let’s get his agent on the phone.”

After two minutes of utter silence with Larry looking from person to person without any reaction, he said, “okay, okay. I see I’m alone on this one. Not the first time. That’s okay. I’ll just go back to the couch now. Can I get a Fresca first, though, please?”

 

martin schoeller photo lighting of christian bale on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of schoeller on guess the lighting

copyright, Martin Schoeller.

As a GTL fan recently brought to my attention, Martin Schoeller was left off Professional Photographer Magazine’s “100 Most Influential Photographers of All Time” list. Which is a grievous travesty (so much so I’ve called my local congressman. And actually registered on PP‘s website to log an official complaint). From his “close-up” series to his vast canon of celebrity portraiture, Martin demonstrates technical mastery, powerful framing and wonderfully subtle humor seen by few other photographers. He’s kinda the man. So in deference to this man so wrongfully snubbed by a silly list, I’ve decided to guess his lighting to open the week.

Back in 2009, soon after the release of The Dark Knight, Martin was asked to shoot Christian Bale for Esquire UK. Some very cool, close-up portraits were also published, but this shot of a sharply dressed jetty fisherman made me giggle outright. The attention to details like the old-school tackle box, multiple poles and a large flock of seagulls (I’m guessing his assistants had bags full of french fries to keep their attention) is amazing. Martin pulled this off with two lights and the strategically positioned sun.

Camera: Medium format, 160 ASA film, with 90mm lens set on a tripod 14 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f8, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f8, positioned 5 feet to camera right, a bit above head hight and aimed directly at Christian’s face. The grid keeps the light from falling off too much onto his upper body and legs. Another gridded, white beauty dish at f5.6 (-1 stop) sits 8 feet to camera left and is similarly aimed at his face. This light gives us the fill on his face but allows his body to go dark. The sun, though not nearly at magic hour, is low in the sky at f11 1/2 (+1 1/2 stops) to camera right and well behind Christian. Martin has a 6×6 frame with a silk positioned to camera right in order to soften the highlights on Christian’s face and suit (notice how strong the highlights are on some of the birds’ heads that were not diffused by the silk).

Comments: Not having much saltwater fishing experience himself, but a big fan of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, Christian was excited for this setup. In between film changes, he practiced his casting into the surf and worked the lure further and further out each time. At one point, he unintentionally and inadvertently hooked something. The something turned out to be a 425 pound Blue Marlin that pulled him off the rocks, into the ocean. Waist-deep, he fought the fish for nearly two hours before finally battling it to the beach and beating out the previous local Blue Marlin record by 45 pounds. To celebrate, Christian treated the entire crew, as well as the medium-sized crowd that had gathered, to tequila gimlets at a nearby bar.

eric ogden's photo lighting of cormac mccarthy on guess the lighting

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of eric ogden's shot

copyright, Eric Ogden.

You may have read/heard of/seen the movies All the Pretty Horses and No Country for Old Men. The books were written by Cormac McCarthy – a southern, literary phenom (and Pulitzer Prize winner) who has been compared to Faulkner and Melville, but maybe better. The probability is high that you haven’t heard of his earlier work, though. Titles like Suttree, Blood Meridian, Child of God and Outer Dark. Critically acclaimed novels that had absolutely no commercial success. When I was introduced to these works years ago, they rocked my world. In a good way. I have been one of McCarthy’s biggest fans ever since.

Now know that Cormac is a strange guy. Other than writing about topics like sibling incest, necrophilia and Indian scalp bounty hunting, he is famous for how little we’ve seen or heard from him. He’s a J.D. Salinger-level recluse. In his entire life, he’s given just three interviews and I don’t believe had ever sat for a formal portrait until this 2007 shot by Eric Ogden for Time Magazine.

Why did Cormac wait until then? Not sure, exactly. But the reason for this shot was his collaboration with the Coen brothers on the Academy Award-winning  No Country. I was excited to see that Time chose Eric for this story. His photo lighting is dramatic, powerful and portrays Cormac as the bad-ass he is (well, at least in my mind). This shot was created with 3 lights and the soundtrack to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on continuous loop.

Camera: Medium format, 400 ASA film, with 90mm lens, set on a tripod 9 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f11, ISO 400.

Lighting: Though seemingly straightforward, the layered lighting has some delicate nuance. The key light is a standard 7-inch, gridded reflector at f16 1/2 (+1 1/2 stops) 8 feet to camera left, slightly behind Cormac and just above his head. This light creates the strong facial highlights and draws the viewer’s eye directly there. The fill light is a large softbox at f5.6 (-1 stop) high and directly behind camera. A small, gridded softbox at f11 is boomed in from camera left directly above Cormac’s head, acting as a hair light.

Comments: After a lengthy kale frittata discussion on the correct ratio of egg to heavy cream (nope, not whole milk), Cormac engaged Eric in an impromptu staring contest. The two of stood just feet apart, for what some say was near 8 minutes, before Eric finally yelled “uncle” and blinked. At which point Cormac continued staring, cracked his knuckles and began to sing Prince’s When Doves Cry.

Art Streiber's photo lighting of Seth Rogen on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of seth rogen on guess the lighting

carey grant in north by northwest cropduster scene on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Art Streiber.

If you haven’t seen Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, get yourself a Netflix account and block out tomorrow night for some old time movie watching (two bowls of popcorn should do the trick). The crop duster scene is riveting. And demonstrates that, in 1959, a master director like Hitchcock could create an action scene comparable to anything possible today. Without the need for those really expensive computer graphics.

On a side note, that’s one sexy mutha of a suit, Cary.

But I digress. On to the lighting. Art Streiber was tapped in 2008 to help shoot Vanity Fair’s 14th annual “Hollywood” issue, an homage to Hitchcock featuring recreations of 11 of his most iconic scenes. Art was assigned this shot (one of my favorites of his) and nailed each and every detail of the original. Right down to having Seth Rogen’s replica suit recreated by the same tailor of the original (oh, and yes, that’s also a real biplane, shot in-camera). Art used 2 lights and some early morning westerly sun to create this jealousy-inducing image.

Camera: DSLR, with 85mm f1.2 lens.(revised due to sync-speed comment below from Matt) Medium format, digital, with 150mm lens. Set on a tripod mounted to the back of a flatbed truck. Shot at 1/1000 1/800, f16, ISO 200.

Lighting: This shot’s lighting challenge was to balance the fill flash on the front of Seth’s body with the strong sunlight to camera left. Art uses two generators on the truck to power the two, 2400 watt packs. Two magnum reflectors at f11 (-1 stop) are staggered on one c-stand and set high, just to camera left. The sun is directly to camera left of Seth at f32 (+2 stops) and lends those gorgeous highlights.

Comments: Seth is not – by profession, hobby or genetics – a runner kind of guy. He’s a hilarious actor and that’s where he excels. To ensure Seth gave it his 110% and sprinted away from the plane on every take, Art hired a local dog trainer. She brought three, male Rottweilers, none of which were overly fond of runners, to set. Without any leashes.

nadav kander's photo lighting of brad pitt on guess the lighting blog

Ted Sabarese photography lighting diagram of Nadav Kander

copyright, Nadav Kander.

Back in August of 2011, New York Magazine hired Nadav to shoot both Brad and Jonah Hill. The reason? A little film called Moneyball, the true story of Oakland A’s general manager Bill Beane who used quantitative analysis and computers to build a winning team and fight huge payroll inequities. The film almost didn’t make it to screen (to learn why, go here). It took nearly 10 years, 3 directors and 3 producers to complete, with Brad jumping on board in 2007 and seeing the film through.

Nadav managed to shoot this compelling portrait in 1 day, in 1 studio but with 5 lights.

Camera: Medium format, digital, with 80mm lens. Set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/125, f8.5, ISO 100.

Lighting: The key light is a gridded, white beauty dish at f11 (+ 1/2 stop) set high and 10 feet to camera left. Nadav was careful to position it precisely, keeping both of Brad’s eyes in the light. No fill light was used to ensure the strong contrast between light and shadow, which is pretty freakin’ killer. Behind v-flats (black side out) two white umbrellas attached to a c-stand at f8 (- 1/2 stop) were set behind brad to camera left and right. This creates the perfectly flat background. Now, quite a bit of post work was required to get this final look, but that’s a whole different blog.

Comments: It’s well-documented how Brad goodheartedly, yet relentlessly, pranked Jonah during filming. Let’s see. There was the giant, male genitalia placed on the back of his car before Jonah drove home on the freeway. Brad also shrink-wrapped Jonah’s golf cart bright pink (yes, movie stars get their own cart to cruise around the sets).

So for this shoot, Jonah decided he’d get a little payback, conspiring with Nadav and stylist Cheryl Konteh. When Brad arrived at the studio, they brought him through his wardrobe for the first shot: Black leather thong and matching tube top. Brad’s jaw dropped to the floor, but being a good sport and bowing to Nadav’s expertise, he took the outfit and changed in the dressing room. When Brad walked on to set donning his leather, Jonah jumped out, took a pic with his iPhone and yelled, “this is so going on my Facebook page, man. I mean, I think it is. Unless you don’t want me too. Okay, I’m deleting it now. Sorry, Brad.”

Albert Watson's photo lighting of Steve Jobs on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese lighting diagram of steve jobs on guess the lighting blog

copyright, Albert Watson.

Steve Jobs was the man. In so many way. But he granted very few interviews and photo ops, apparently due to camera shyness and being uncomfortable in the public eye. With Steve’s passing, Albert Watson’s 2006 portrait catapulted to fame overnight. It became the defining image of the intense genius behind Apple’s rebirth. Originally color, the now b&w shot says what Steve knew all along: I’m going to revolutionize so much more than just computers. The image was created with three strobes.

Camera: Arca-Swiss F-Line Misura with 150mm Schneider lens and Kodak Portra 160nc 4×5 film, set on a tripod 8 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f32, ISO 100.

Lighting: Albert is certainly old-school and this set-up is nothing shocking. The key light is a white umbrella at f32, high and six feet to camera left. Two umbrellas at f16 1/2 (-1 stop) are placed behind Steve to the left and right. They evenly light the background and remove any shadow there.

Comments: Before getting underway, Steve and Albert jabbered about computers, iPods and the future of the music industry. Still a fan of analog (cameras, records, etc.), Albert was still skeptical of keeping his entire music library on a tiny, electronic device. He did, however, think it would be cool to someday have a phone that would play music, keep appointments and help him track the sun’s trajectory during the day.

Nick Knight's photo lighting of Lady Gaga on guess the lighting blog

ted sabarese photo lighting diagram of lady gaga for guess the lighting blog

Nick Knight multi-camera setup

copyright, Nick Knight.

Nick Knight may be fashion photography’s Andy Warhol. He pushes his work conceptually, technically and stylistically. Usually in a $3000 suit. This outtake from i-D Magazine’s 30th birthday cover shoot with Lady Gaga, though, lands on the tamer side of Nick-ness. Straightforward black and white. Yet still quite beautiful in its simplicity. This image of the Lady (and two lucky photo assistants) was created with three strobes.

That’s a bonus shot of Mr. Knight with one of his crazy camera setups (not used here). The man’s a dashing, mad genius.

Camera: Hasselblad H2 with 100mm lens and Phase One p65+ back, set on tripod 10 feet back. Shot at 1/250, f8, ISO 50.

Lighting: It’s not easy keeping up with Gaga’s on-camera antics, so Nick shot at 1/250 and had an assistant hand-hold a head to even have a chance. The key light is a Magnum reflector at f8 1/2 (+ 1/2 stops) held by the assistant at head height, six feet to camera right. Two large softboxes to the right and left of the white seamless at f5.6 (-1 stop) light the background.

Comments: This particular day, the lovely Lady was feeling feline. Specifically, like a Norwegian Forest Cat since this breed followed the Vikings around the world on their ships. “I could totally see myself kicking ass with the Vikings,” she told Nick “but as a cat. I would be the cat no other cat would want to ever meet. Unless they had a death wish. I’d take all of their nine lives in one vicious wave of my paw, cut of their ears as a prize and mark my territory before leaving. Yeah, I’m totally a Norwegian Forest Cat today, Nick.”