2011 Platinum Photographer of the Year

This is pretty wild, but after double checking to verify that the judges didn't confuse me for somebody else named Dan I'm excited to share the news with you! If you're a regular on the blog, you might remember that back in February my entries in the Professional Photographers of Iowa print competition won every category that was submitted. After the state competition I sent my prints on to a regional competition, and then onto the Professional Photographer's of America's International Photographic Competition where my images competed against the best work from 22,000 photographers in 54 countries.  I'm very shocked (and a little giddy) to find out that I did rather well...I was named a 2011 Platinum Photographer of the Year. What the heck does that mean? Here's part of the press release from PPA: The level of the award is determined by how many of the photographer's four entries receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. McClanahan was named a Platinum Medalist, meaning that three of his four merited images entered the PPA Loan Collection. In 2011 he was one of only 32 Platinum Medalists worldwide.

"These photographers have reached a prestigious achievement," states Dennis Craft, PPA's Photographic Exhibition Committee Chairman. 'The consistent quality required to earn the title of Platinum Medalist in one of the world's most celebrated photography competitions certainly bodes well for their clients, too!"

I must give a HUGE thanks to our clients and our friends that put up with our craziness and allow us to create images like these. What we do wouldn't be possible with out you and you truly are the reason we love our job!   My winning entries were as follows:

"Never Trust A Woman"- This image is a top 10 finisher and will duke it out for a 1st place Grand Imaging Award at Imaging USA in February. This print is also nominated for a Kodak Gallery Elite Award, which will also be announced at Imaging USA.

"Heidi & Neal" - engagement album selected for the Loan Collection. Here's one spread from the album:

"Jill& John" - wedding album selected for the Loan Collection. Here's one spread from the album:

"All American Slam" - merited image:   (GO STATE!)

-Dan

 

How We Did It: 2011-2012 ISU Men's Basketball Poster

This Spring we had the great pleasure of working with The Meyocks Group and Iowa State Athletics on the ISU Men's Bball poster. As ISU alumni and Cyclone fans, we get extra excited about projects like this. The poster concept was to have the team charging the court with confidence. There's been a lot of anticipation for this season and it's finally time for the new team to take the spotlight and show what they're made of. The photoshoot took place at the Sukup Basketball Complex where the team practices. The facility had a nice I-State logo at center court that they wanted in the shot. We wanted to use the same edgy lighting that we've used for previous ISU basketball images, which is a very precise and controlled look, but this time we had to apply that look to a large group of players. We decided to use 4 Einstein strobes with standard 7" cans (2 in front, 2 in back) backed as far away as we could get them from the players. The increased distance between the lights and the players causes the light to fall off more gradually and creates an even spray that casts a consistent look across the entire group. Here's a diagram of the setup:

 

The two lights behind the players were at full power, and the two in front were one stop below full power. That way the players would be given a defining edge light that visually separates them from the background. This gives the illusion that they're actually taking the court at a real game and being lit from all sides as they would in a stadium. It also looks pretty darn bad ass. Here's a test shot of Alex and Kari (who is the Meyocks Group mastermind that did the poster design):

It was necessary to pre-light the frame because we knew we would get precious little time with the players when they showed up and we would have to execute the shot swiftly. You can see from the test shot that the practice space isn't very big and you can plainly see the wall behind our lovely subjects. There was no way around this due to space constraints, so in the final image the players had to be masked and the background was burned away in Photoshop to remove distraction from the players and to cause the space appear much larger (i.e. Hilton Coliseum). But in the test shot you can see that Alex and Kari have nice even edge lights from head to toe, which makes the masking process much easier because it defines the subject and separates them from the background. Also the front lights are giving their reflections more definition and capturing a good tonal range of shadows and highlights (which is clutch for making jerseys look three dimensional in the final image). We wanted a low camera angle for the final image to give the players a powerful appearance but we had to be careful not to lose any of the faces of the players in the back row. Here's the finished image with Kari's awesome design:

It's pretty standard to photograph an alternate image for these types of things so the client has a variety of images to use for marketing and promotion throughout the season. For our alternate image the goal was to shoot something epic, but very different from the first shot. Due to time constraints we couldn't change setups or locations, so we used the lights we already had set up and shot the image on the fly in the middle of the gym. I laid on my back with a 15mm and had the players huddle around me, which I'm sure they thought was crazy at the time. Here's the out-of-camera shot:

To take the image from interesting to epic, the players were masked again and the signature ISU sky was dropped in overhead. Now it looks like, after charging the court in the first image, ISU dominated the game so hard it caused you to pass out on the floor. But they're nice enough to come check and see if you're ok:

Hopefully you enjoy having a look at what goes in to creating an image like this. We had a lot of fun working with Meyocks and ISU and hope to do it again soon. ISU released a limited number of the posters last weekend so I'm guessing they'll be widely distributed soon for your wall-hanging pleasure.

GO CLONES!

Clarke Billboards

The series of photographs we shot for Clarke University last year has been turned in to a series of billboards on display in the Dubuque, IA area. This is the largest our images have ever been printed, and it's pretty darn exciting. Also we just received breaking news that Clarke received a Gold Circle of Excellence Award from CASE (Council for the Support and Advancement of Education) for the Clarke Culture Book (what these images were originally photographed for). 57 other universities were vying for the top spot and only one Gold Circle of Excellence was awarded, so it's a pretty huge deal! Congrats to Clarke and the amazing marketing department on this well-deserved honor! Anyhow, I was in Dubuque recently and had the chance to see a couple of the billboards  in person and snapped phone pics:

Here are the designs of all 5 billboards:undefined

 

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Lastly, I recently spent 3 days at Clarke photographing all-new material for their marketing campaign and I think it's safe to say that it's going to rock. Hard. I'm anxious to share the new material with you as soon as I'm allowed, so keep tabs on the blog!

Iowa State WBB

We had the privilege of photographing Kelsey Bolte for the ISU Women's Basketball poster was recently released: They're being distributed all over town, so make sure you snag a copy! Also be sure and grab the Men's Bball poster featuring a killer photo of new head coach (and personal childhood hero) Fred Hoiberg. It was photographed by our good friend Dan Brouillette. We have season tickets to Men's and Women's and will be attending several of the games, so make sure you say hello if you see us!

Drake University Athletics

We recently teamed up with Drake University to shoot some of their athletics posters for the coming year. This first shot is a limited edition poster handed out at the Iowa State Fair to build hype for the coming Mens and Womens basketball season (Drake has a very strong basketball program). We came up with this fun composition to showcase star players from each team while accommodating the height differences of the male and female players: The second poster is the 2010 schedule for all of Drake's Fall sports. We wanted to convey a sense of team unity and incorporate a strong sense of Des Moines (hence the background). The tricky part was striking the perfect balance between making the athletes look friendly and tough at the same time. We love how it turned out:

We'll be working again with Drake later this season to photograph their official basketball poster and can't wait! P.S. All of the typography on the posters was done by Shelly Mootz, graphic designer for Drake and all around groovy gal!

Clarke University Culture Book

A few months ago I got to photograph an Incredibly Rad commercial project for Clarke University. The concept was the brainchild of the gentlemen at Sean Murphy Design (who handled the design and art direction). The copy writing was done by Rob Lombardi, a very talented former classmate of mine - we worked together on the Computer Head project in college. Also mad props to Trisha, Jamie and Mike from Clarke for all the help and for being such cool people (and for the coffee). Our photoshoot took place over 2 days in Dubuque, IA, with 5 shots each day. Each shot took a couple hours to set up and shoot. A giant rusty fan, cooking oil and a slew of small children are just a few of the props that were implemented to pull-off each image concept.  Each shot tells the story of a current Clarke student - the positive impact their Clarke experience has had on them and the difference they're making in the world. Our goal was to create a piece that stood out against the trend of boring sameness currently saturating the majority of university promo pieces. I think we nailed it. Imagine the following layouts printed HUGE and sent to prospective students: the Clarke Culture Book. It kind of makes me want to be a high school senior just so I can go to Clarke and hang with all these cool cats again.

Side Note: Make sure you check out Rob Shots on our facebook page for a very hilarious behind the scenes series of Rob standing in for every shot as a test-dummy :)

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Lastly, here are a couple set-up shots I found to show all you photo geeks the teamwork and details that went into these shots:

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HOW WE DID IT: Craig Brackins Poster

Quick update for all the Cyclone Fanatics coming to the blog: Since this whole post is about photography from a technical and artistic standpoint, I wanted to share with you my personal experience working with Craig. Craig Brackins was super fun to work with. He cracked jokes and was a good sport about me making him “dunk with ferocity” over and over until I got my shot. I was seriously surprised and pleased with his humility and attitude. He may be a beast on the court, but he’s a gentleman off the court, which makes me proud to be a Cyclone fan! We recently worked with The Meyocks Group to photograph a special edition poster of Iowa State basketball star Craig Brackins as a treat for season ticket holders on Friday’s game (DEC 11) against Iowa. If you’re going to the game, grab as many copies as you can! I just got my hands on a couple copies and it looks SWEET!: Full deets on how we created the image after the jump This is one of those images that will turn the heads of ISU fans, but the average person will have no idea how much work went into it. Heck the average person wouldn’t care how much work went into it. But for photographers, this is the type of images that makes you scratch your head and want to know how the heck it was done. So photographers, this post is for you! Merry Christmas! Prior to the shoot I was given a very rough concept to work from so I could do a little pre-planning. Here’s my starting point: I knew from limited experience (I shot a BBall game at Hilton in college) that the built-in overhead lighting at Hilton is terrible (for photography) and that I would want to light the poster artificially to “idealize” it a little bit. I arrived about 30 minutes before Craig so I had a little time to find my frame and test my lighting because I knew time with Craig would be limited (it was “media day” for the BBall team and they had a ton of other shoots and interviews to do that afternoon). For starters, I put my camera on a tripod to find my angle for the photo. Here’s a straight-out-of-camera test shot: The test shot turned out like I thought it would – pretty ugly. I shot a bunch of bracketed photos on my tripod with intentions to merge them later and create an HDR Hilton (which would “pop” more and blend better with the lighting I wanted to use). Then I had a few minutes left to test my lighting. I used 2 AB800′s with extension chords graciously lent to me by some Hilton employees to create a dramatic cross light. I used a beauty dish for front fill and a strip box for highlight: I would have LOVED to have some high end Pro Foto’s or Broncolor strobes and a MKIII to just shoot this sucker at 12fps in one take, but I was limited to my alien bees and Canon 5d (both have very slow recycle times) so I had to shoot this bad boy the hard way: lighting each individual frame one at a time. When all was said and done I think it was a blessing in disguise that I had to do it the hard way because Craig ended up looking extra cool all the way through the sequence (because I had multiple images to choose from for each “Craig”).

Since I already shot my background I didn’t have to worry about blending my strobes with the ambient, I just needed to light my subject for maximum coolness (you can see there were other photographers and media people already setting up their gear in the background by this point). The blending would come later – with hours of grueling photoshop work It was crucial that I had my lighting set up before Craig arrived due to his tight schedule. When he got there the only thing I had to tweak was raising my stands a good couple feet (because he’s a good couple feet taller than my incredibly-good-looking test subject!). Here’s an out-of-camera Craig shot: I shot the whole sequence from a tripod to make the post processing easier (because our deadline was pretty tight). I had Craig go through the sequence step by step until we were happy with every part of it. Alex moved the lights in-between every frame to make sure the crispness of the light was consistent throughout. Once we were done, we cut out each piece of the sequence and layered it together in photoshop. Here’s a rough screenshot: Once all the cutting out was finished (Shout out to Andrea Dalhberg for all the help with that part!), I blended everything together with dodging/burning, contrast and sharpening (you know, all that digital enhancement nonsense that kids are using these days!) to make it really jump off the screen for the final composite: Overall I’m very happy with how it turned out. Craig’s jersey is blown out in a few areas but I wasn’t able to fix that without messing up the overall feel of the image. White jersey + dark skinned basketball superstar = blown out jersey, but I can deal with that. This project stretched me creatively and technically and I’m stoked to start cranking out some similar commercial work this winter!

We’re skipping town to shoot a wedding for some extremely cool friend of ours and won’t be able to attend the game. If you’re going, please take some cell phone pictures of the masses of people hoarding our poster and send them to us! Better yet, get your hands on some extra copies and give them to us! We would seriously love to have some (you know, to like…give to our parents to show them what we do for our “job” and reassure them that all the money they spent on our college tuition is finally starting to pay off!)