Shooting dancers at Mama's Sauce: industrial space + natural light


Shooting dancers at Mama's Sauce: industrial space + natural light

About 10 months into a year of weekend side-projects (just for kicks and learning experiences) we had a shoot scheduled with two incredible dancers. We wanted to experiment with movement and natural interior light—but where to shoot? Orlando isn't exactly filled with high-ceilinged industrial spaces (or so we thought.)

We brainstormed for a few minutes, and remembered that local print shop Mama's Sauce had plans to move into a big empty warehouse west of College Park. They were still in the process of building out at the time, and we'd seen a few Instagrams of local businesses like Rifle Paper Co. and Barnlight Electric using the space to shoot. Our hopes were high.

Luckily for us, the good people at Mama's Sauce are as nice as it gets. When we walked in that morning, the space was even better than expected. The concrete floors and exposed rafters are just dreamy. Gorgeous light filters in softly through the old windows. 

Megan and Michelina leapt across the unforgiving concrete for several hours like complete champs. Our friend Wendi Stark helped with hair and makeup. 

A huge thanks to Mama's Sauce for the opportunity to shoot in this space before it's filled with massive printing presses. We hope the two dozen donuts showed our gratitude on some small level.

Behind the scenes: Jim laying around doing nothing while Michelina does magical things.

Behind the scenes: Jim laying around doing nothing while Michelina does magical things.

Michelina Wingerter  HMUA: Wendi Stark

Michelina Wingerter 

HMUA: Wendi Stark

Megan Boetto  HMUA: Wendi Stark

Megan Boetto 

HMUA: Wendi Stark


Our studio is a time machine (a shoot inspired by 1940's Hollywood glamour portraits)


Our studio is a time machine (a shoot inspired by 1940's Hollywood glamour portraits)

Setting up 24 self-assigned collaborative shoots in one year has pushed us to get creative with locations, concepts, and lighting. Especially with only about 4.5 non-sweaty months to shoot outdoors in Florida.

While brainstorming ideas for Woody and Chris, we were inspired by 1940's and 50's actor portraits– the style of shots George Hurrell took of Bette Davis in 1939, or of Joan Collins taken by Cornel Lucas in 1952. These photographers mastered Hollywood glamour photography, capturing their subjects in such a dramatic light that at times the photographs themselves were the cause of an actor's success.

About 70 years later, we spent an afternoon in our studio focusing on capturing the drama and glamour of silver screen portraits. Like all of our experimental shoots, there were moments of "That's not quite right..." and of "That's it! Don't move. We finally got it." Here's a look at the process, and the moments where we properly achieved the look we were working toward.


Florida Polytechnic University: Another Calatrava Masterpiece


Florida Polytechnic University: Another Calatrava Masterpiece

A week before Florida Polytechnic University opened for classes in the fall semester of 2014, Macbeth Photo was invited by the general contractor on the project to spend three days photographing this incredible building.

Designed by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, it is not just a beautiful structure, but also an engineering marvel.  

The 162,000 sq. ft. Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building, the signature element of the Lakeland, FL campus that is clearly visible from I-4, is topped by a 250-foot long skylight shading system with 94 louvered arms that raise and lower to track the sun.  This means that the direct sunlight is effectively blocked, leaving the glass roof open to the indirect sky light all day.

Macbeth Photo worked closely with the team from Skanska USA, and the representative from Atlantic Industrial Technolgies who controlled the louvers for us during our shoot. Three days of pre-dawn to after-dusk shooting resulted in hundreds of still images, as well as the time lapse video above.



An Evening With Jay Maisel


An Evening With Jay Maisel


The staff of MacbethPhoto is in New York at the moment, filling up our brains with knowledge and inspiration at PhotoPlus Expo, an annual photography convention hosted by PDN Magazine at the Javits Center in Manhattan.

There is all the usual convention stuff here.

There is a giant, enormous (crowded) expo hall filled with vendors large and small, showing off the latest gadgets, software and services that until 5 minutes ago you didn't know existed, and now you can't live without.

There are seminars from sunrise to dinner time, in which photographers who have been in the business a few years longer than you explain (some of) their secrets for success, tricks they've learned, mistakes they've made, and generally reassure you that you're mostly doing it right, but you're not charging enough for it. 

There are the long lines for the Starbucks, and the questionable choices for a quick meal between classes. 

Then, at the end of each day, there's a presentation by a noted photographer. Generally it's not a "how-to", but more of a story-telling session about a lifetime of experience, which reminds you that you are still new at this, and you pretty much don't know anything about anything.


Such was the case last night, when Hillery and I spent 90 minutes listening to the great Jay Maisel share some of his favorite images from his 60-year career, from early black-and-white film assignments to personal projects shot this summer.

He showed hundreds of images, and each one had a story. It was fascinating to hear him recall specific details of a conversation with a Nigerian fruit vendor 30 years ago, negotiating in order to get the shot he wanted. He did a 21-year retrospective on his daughter, from before birth to college. He showed a very moving series of portraits of people at The World Trade Center site, two weeks after 9/11. He shared his experiences, his mistakes, his lucky breaks. 

I jotted down some of the nuggets that stood out to me, as things I should pay attention to, from someone who's been doing this job a whole lot longer than I have.  

I hope some of these resonate with you the way they did with me.



Selected Quotes by Jay Maisel, speaking at PhotoPlus Expo, Oct. 30, 2014, Javits Center, New York

Shape is the enemy of color.

You are responsible for every square millimeter of the image, both the figure and the ground.

Every picture should have a trigger.

The eyes are not in charge. The brain is in charge.

The lightest thing in the image is where the eye will go first.

We are programmed to see photos as if light always comes from above.

Color is an insidious, mean-spirited, lying sonofabitch. It will fool you every time. 

Three words how you can be a better photographer:  "move your ass."

It's ok to lie to get what you want, but it's best to start with the truth.

Don't become a one-trick pony. Try the opposite sometimes.

I saw an image and HAD to take it. I was compelled to take it. I couldn't help but take it.

Never plan to shoot it later. SHOOT IT NOW. Because later it will be different.

I don't light them. Nature lights them. You just have to look. And when you see them, they are yours forever.

Things are happening all day long. You can't just shoot during 2 hours of golden light each day.

If I have a budget, the first thing I think is "Where can I get a helicopter?"

We were driving somewhere, and I pulled over to go to the john. As I'm getting out of the van, I grabbed my camera. My assistant said "You're going to the bathroom, what the hell do you need the camera for?" I said "Grasshopper, have I taught you nothing?"

I miss 99 out of 100 shots I try to get. I've been doing this 60 years. I have more bad photos than all of you combined.

Everything has gesture. Gesture doesn't necessarily mean action.

I have no idea why he did that. These are the gifts you get from people, and you have to be ready to accept these gifts. 

Things don't just happen very often. But when they do, sometime you have to work like a sonofabitch to get the shot.

The one thing I try to is make the picture my own. 

Near the pyramids at Giza:  "Why does nobody shoot from here?"   "Because it's a firing range."   "And why are we not worried?"   "Because they don't start for another 20 minutes."

I realized that the 85 pictures on the wall [at an exhibit of his favorite work] had something in common: I was a terrified when I took each of them, because I wanted it so badly, and I was afraid something would change before I captured it. 

I like to shoot through things. I think the interest is multiplied when you put things in front of your subject.

It ain't over till you give up.

I like photographing old walls with peeling paint. These colors have gotten to know each other. They're like an old married couple.

"Look at the light!"   "It's not falling on anything."   "I'll wait."

The act of photographing is as important as the finished photograph.

Sometimes you get a shot you didn't plan to get. Don't be hampered by your intention.


Thanks, Jay, for sharing some of your wit and wisdom with us.