I had the opportunity to use my photos in two recent print projects for my clients. In both cases my clients asked me to take photos specifically for their brochures, so the design process had to start even before I made the photos so I could be sure the shots would be appropriate. I have to admit that I get a huge thrill out of combining my two loves, graphic design and photography, to make a product that my clients appreciate (and pay for!).
My work for Braking the Cycle has special meaning for me. For the past six years I’ve participated in the three-day, 275-mile AIDS ride to raise funds and awareness for the HIV/AIDS services of the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan. The first year I volunteered on the crew. The next four years I participated as a rider. Last year I volunteered to photograph the event (click here to read my post on Braking the Cycle 2009). Knowing the event so well helped inform the photography, as did having designed the promotional materials from the beginning for Global Impact Productions, the producers of the event.
The brochure has a similar design to previous brochures (the interior of the brochure is pictured above), so I knew it would rely heavily on headshots paired with testimonials, and one big money shot that needed a lot of sky above it for superimposing the text. So during the ride I made as many close-up portraits as I could, especially when riders still had their helmets on. It rained the first day and a half, so I didn’t try for any money shots then, though I had no way of knowing if there would be an opportunity since I can’t trust weather forecasts, and I had no idea what was coming up on the route ahead. The route changes every few years, and this is the first time we were going from Boston to New York.
But luck favored me at lunch on the second day. The ride stopped at a beach on the Connecticut coast, and there was a boardwalk overlooking Long Island Sound not far from the picnic grounds where everyone was lunching and resting. I scouted the location and announced to the crowd that I’d be waiting on the boardwalk for anyone who wanted to have their picture taken with their bicycle. A great mix of people showed up, and I fired off many shots, thinking that one of them would be the money shot for the brochure. The sky had started to clear after a rainy morning, but it was still overcast, perfect for a shot like this where I wanted no harsh shadows. However, the overcast sky was not perfect for the positive feeling I wanted to convey about the ride. You can see the original shot in my previous post about the event. A few weeks ago I was in Asbury Park, and the sky was clear with a few wisps of clouds, so I pointed my camera in the same direction at about the same time of day and made some photos to replace the sky in the original.
Then the hard part started. I needed to silhouette the riders and foreground so I could replace the sky in the background and have them integrate naturally. Working around the spokes, the intricate parts of the bicycles, the shrubs, and people’s hair proved to be a nightmare. So I did something I thought I’d never do. I subcontracted the job of masking the image to a company in India for processing overnight and for dirt cheap. I had heard of these services from other photographers, and they all reported mixed results. Well, I got what I paid for, as my results were mixed, too. Luckily, they did an amazing job around the spokes and bicycle parts. Their performance was poor around the hair and shrubs, but I was able to fix that easily (though not too quickly, it’s a lot of work to do it well).
I’m pleased with the results, and I hope the brochure works better than ever to promote next September’s ride. For more information on Braking the Cycle, visit www.brakingcycle.org (where you’ll see a lot more of my photos). I hope you’ll get involved as a rider, volunteer, or donor.
The second project is an annual brochure for Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims day camp in Brooklyn Heights. Once again, the design for this brochure was set many years ago, and we simply update it each year. The photos used to come from snapshots offered by church members, some of whom are professional photographers. But as there was never a comprehensive photo shoot planned in order to get shots with good advertising value, we were always lacking for that one great shot for the cover, or interior shots that gave a comprehensive feel for everything the camp is about.
So the church’s communication director brought me in to photograph a few hours of a day at camp last summer. What a pleasure that was! I wish I could have gone to a camp like this when I was a kid. The children were terrific subjects, sometimes intrigued by me and my camera, but most often not conscious of me as they were in their own worlds of play. I find photographing children one of the greatest challenges. They’re constantly moving targets, and I admit that I don’t understand them very well, so my photographic exploration of them in trying to figure them out leads to interesting images. I find them to be more creative thinkers than most adults I know, and I try to feed off that creative spirit.
For more information about Plymouth Day Camp, visit www.plymouthchurch.org/camp.