Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Few The Proud The Marines

Today marks the 234 Birthday of the United States Marine Corps! Happy Birthday Marines.

Semper Fi

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Salvatore Totino

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

Over the past year I have been shooting quite a few ads for Clairmont Camera. They have all been part of an ongoing campaign for Clairmont that showcases various Cinematographers in "testimonial" type ads. Our latest Director of Photography was Salvatore Totino. Salvatore has an incredible list of projects as a Cinematographer that include Angels & Demons, Frost/Nixon, The Da Vinci Code, and Cinderella Man.
We had been trying to coordinate with Sal for some time to set up a shoot day but because of everyones hectic work schedulale it looked like it might never happen.

I was sitting in the back row of a friends graduation at the American Film Institute. Clint Eastwood was giving a great speech about being a creative in this business when I got a call on my cell phone from Salvatore Totino. I am so Hollywood! A Hollywood legend and total man's man in front of me and one of the most sought after Cinematographers in the Biz on my phone. Good thing I had it on vibrate, not that it mattered much, there were tons of people on their phones throughout the ceremony. A few didn't have the courtesy to turn off their ringers! What nerve! I wanted to go fantasized that Clint would go over and slap them upside the.....I digress. Anyway I got up and went far enough away to speak to Sal and still be close enough to see my friend get his diploma. Congrats LMB!

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

The ad had a deadline that was just days away and Clairmont thought it was too late to pull this off. "No!" I shrieked, "we can do this". "When will we have another chance with Sal?" I asked. Could be never I reasoned. It was time to seize the moment. Alright short story is we met a few days later at the Clairmont basement my kickass studio. We were under a super tight deadline and had to have selects chosen on set and printer ready art by the next morning. We set up a pretty basic lighting set up against a white seamless.

The kick ass HMI hot lights and Parabolic reflectors were provided by B2PRO in LA. Tristan Fitzpatrick from B2PRO arranged for us to have an awesome lighting package sent over at short notice and he sent along an amazing Gaffer named Tyson Smyer to keep us Profoto goons from looking like knuckle heads with the HMIs. I have to admit that on the Cinematographer ads I am always a little curious to see what the subject has to say about my lighting set ups. I secretly hope that they show up with a crew of twenty Grips and Gaffers and Electricians and a couple of semi-tractors full of gear and light the whole thing so I can show up and act like a rockstar. Hey, this is Hollywood, the land of dreams!

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard
Not this time I guess, Sal showed up with his assistant and no one else. No entourage, no production trucks no dream teams and the best part no attitude! Well so far I haven't had any complaints or critiques from the DPs which means I must be doing something right, or they are just too nervous about being in front of the camera instead of behind it and they don't notice it. I am going with the first answer.

I shot tethered to the camera cart with a huge monitor(monitor rotation is killer) for editing on the spot. Sal and I took a look after shooting a couple of frames. Sal understood what I was trying to do right away and he was on board. What a great guy Sal is. Laid back and cool. Next time some home cooked Italian food would be nice. (big hint)

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

Sal and I both like images that are a little more Avant Garde. He has quite a few music videos that he shot including artists like U2, R.E.M. and Radio Head to name a few. They are all very creative and visually interesting. His videos were one reason that I was excited to work with him.

Cinemaphotographer Salvatore Totino photographed by Scott Shepard

I shot most of the images of Sal with Canon's 90mm tilt and shift lens. I love the effect it gives when it is used for portraits. Tyson had brought enough grip and lighting to shoot a major set but we ended up only using one or two main lights.

B2PRO lighting 44 Umbrella

My new favorite light is the little B2PRO 44 umbrella. It's an umbrella that can take HMI, Tungsten, or strobe heads. The killer part is that it's focusable. The head pushes in and out of the umbrella allowing you total control over the quality of the light. The light quality is insane. It is beautiful on skin and it falls off quickly but smoothly. The shoot went quick. It took us longer to set up than it did to shoot Sal. It only took a few minutes to edit down the selects and soon we had the final. After that Sal sat down for an off set interview with Mardrie Mullen from Clairmont and I had another coffee.

I want to thank Sal first off for making time in his busy schedule to shoot with us. Curtis who was assisting with this shoot was top notch as usual and is always fun to have on set. He is like a big sick twisted teddy bear Jarhead and he can carry more than a pack mule. My beautiful Producer Laurie for taking care of everything that I hate doing, behind the scenes and after the job is over, when the hard part(office work) begins. A special mention goes to Tyson from B2PRO who is a model of professionalism. Every time I thought of something and turned around Tyson had it set up and was ready to go. B2PRO is a one stop shop for any production needs in Los Angeles or NYC. They can handle everything from supplying lighting equipment to full blown production staffing needs and anything in between. Tristan Fitzpatrick (323.960.2424) is a gigantic resource in this industry and he is constantly trying to improve awareness and production skills with seminars and demos for new products and techniques. Check out their event calendar! Last but not least I want to thank Mardrie for giving me the opportunity to work with some of the industry's brightest Cinematographers and let me have the room to be creative. Mardrie understands very well the benefits and value of great images and art direction in advertising, especially in a creatively fueled business like film making.

Peter Lee skate boarding. Photographed by Scott Shepard

In case you're wondering, that guy on the skateboard is Peter Lee. Pete is a talented Camera Assistant and surfing buddy who I challenged to bomb down the parking structure through a machine generated smoke cloud on my longboard. Nice one Pete! That makes only two people that I know of who have bombed the basement at Clairmont Camera.

P.S. If you have done it, leave me a comment.

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Monday, August 10, 2009


Meet Frankie.  He's a little fella who I had the pleasure of meeting in Meru while we waited for some of the women to return from their wood hauling trip to the forest.

Frankie is about ten or so years old although his eyes made him look much older.  He was the first out a group of kids who had the courage to walk up to me.  I had my camera slung over my shoulder while I was leaning up against the truck.  Frankie's only English was to proudly proclaim his name and ask me mine.  For some reason Kenyan people have a hard time saying Scott.  They try to say it over and over but it just comes out sounding like "Schlott".  "How about Shep", I asked. "Shep" he said perfectly.  From then on out I was to be known as "Shep" across Kenya.  "Hey, whatever" I said, "I've been a Shep since birth".  My father was a Shep, as well as all my brothers and I'm sure my two girls will be also.
Frankie followed me around for a while copying my every move.  It was like playing "stop copying me" with my kids!  Frankie led me over to a brightly covered wall down from where we were stopped and pointed at it and said "picta".  He wanted me to take his picture.  Up until I raised my camera to my eye Frankie was all smiles and laughing every time we looked at each other.  Now his demeanor changed completely. He was very focused and he didn't need any direction.  He knew how he wanted to be portrayed.  I took only two frames and they are identical.  I showed Frankie the image on the back of my Canon and he was very pleased and he looked up at me and nodded and then he just walked away.  The few minutes we stood there the other kids were giggling and pushing each other and it didn't faze Frankie in the least.  After the other kids saw Frankie's picture they started howling and laughing and patting him on the back.  King Frankie walked down the road away from me with his head held high and a trail of his subjects in tow.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

It's not a choice, but a necessity.

A young woman with a child on her back, collects firewood to use for cooking fuel. She will then walk many kilometers back to her village only to return later in the day to do it again.

The beginning of a pile of firewood that this young woman will carry on her back along with a child, to her home in her village a great distance away.

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Here is a quick post to hopefully put in perspective the size of the wood bundles these women were carrying. Now keep in mind that I am 6'1 and 220 pounds. Look at how little the women in the group shot are and how big the loads are. Some of these loads are equal to or more than the body weight of the woman shouldering them. Very humbling in my opinion!


                                                                      Images copyright Rodney Rascona

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

A little town called Meru

While not as exotic as the South Pacific and not as romantic as Paris, Meru is not without its charm. Take for instance the availability of goat meat, a local diet staple routinely served as a meal. If you like dark gray, tough, and dry meat, then you my friends have come to paradise! There is also an abundant supply of bottled water which I can't drink enough of. You see it's winter here in Africa and the local people are all bundled up in jackets and beanies. The problem is it's like a hundred degrees in the sun and I am roasting. Oh and the water bottles...well you have to check the bottom to make sure they weren't drilled and refilled with regular old hook worm infested tap water. I say tap if you're lucky, because it might just come from the spring where the camels and goats go to drink and use the potty.

The primary reason for our visit to Meru was to photograph women who carry wood. In Kenya the women work so very hard at taking care of their families. They feed the kids, cook, raise the kids, make babies, do the house work and chop wood to say the least. Oh and they also walk for miles in each direction to the forest where, with a machete, they chop up enough wood to break a Marines back and carry it back to town to sell. Sit down because what I am about to tell you will stun you....they do this twice a day and they earn 100 Kenyan shillings a load! Your not shocked? 100 KS is about a dollar thirty in US currency. I bet you are now. I tried to pick up one of those bundles and I just about had a heart attack. They tie these loads to their back with braided rope or twine. I wanted to carry one of these loads to see what it was like but I chickened out because I wasn't sure I would make it.

These women were real troopers. Rod and I walked with them out into the forest to document their experience. Once we stepped off the road all of the eleven women laid down and started to pray. Apparently they were praying for safety. Hmmmn....not hours before we had just seen the biggest elephant I had ever seen on the side of the road eating. Black Mambas, scorpions, spiders, lions and tigers and bears oh my...oh my...oh my god what are we doing here.

After they were finished chopping the wood they loaded up their backs like beasts of burden and began the long trek home. They laughed and sang and talked the whole way. For less than the cost of a Tall Latte at Starbucks these women labor all day to try and feed their families. All in all it was a very humbling experience that I won't soon forget. Next time one of my kids complains about their allowance I'm going to load them up with some campfire wood and make them work a bit.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009


"Do you have all of your shots and is your passport current?" is what spit out of my cell phone late that afternoon. Rodney Rascona had just asked me, two day before the scheduled departure, if I wanted to accompany him on a humanitarian project to Kenya, Africa.

I was hot and tired and was a little taken aback when the large Kenyan in a suit with the obvious bulge under his jacket asked me if I was a soldier and what was I was doing in Africa. I told him I wasn't a soldier (come on, that's not lying, I'm a Marine) and he put his hand on my shoulder and laughed and said "I bet the little Iraqi children were scared of you". Two more pleasant encounters with some local security, one two hour visa line, two lost equipment cases, 10 seconds through an empty customs area, and I was met by Rodney and his driver.

We arrived at the Fairview Hotel late in the evening and Rod said that I shouldn't worry because the Israeli embassy was across the street and the security was exceptionally tight and that they had these cool thing two keep truck bombs from making their way down the street. Oh good I thought, now I can get some restful sleep. The fairview is a great hotel with a wonderful and gracious staff that went to every length to make us feel comfortable. That comfort was short lived. Two days later we were on the road and off to our first location, the town of Meru. Two things I learned right away were that I like African beer and the power only shuts off when you need it.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009


For the next few weeks I will be in
Northern Kenya providing photography in
support of a humanitarian effort


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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Speed Dating the movie. Women

John Blas(NCS Creative), a long time friend and a very creative Ad guy , called me up a while back to tell me there was someone he thought I should meet. John thought that I'd be a perfect match, both creatively and personally, with La Monde the Producer. If you are a fan of Mad Men on AMC then you will recognize La Monde Byrd. In addition to being a talented actor, La Monde is also a Producer. La Monde and his producing partner, Mekita Faiye, had just finished shooting a project titled Speed Dating. John, La Monde, Mekita, and myself got together and talked about what direction to take the campaign.

We met at my Hollywood office (Starbucks) and I spent some time getting to know La Monde and Mekita (pronounced like the power tool). I sat there and drank my little cappuccino while the three of them came up with some amazing and creative ideas that we would later capture in the studio. I had a hard time keeping up with them but I do vaguely remember (caffeine buzz) learning one great Hollywood insider secret. If you say an idea at least three times, you can rightfully claim it, and the shower of praise it brings you, as your own (Thanks to LMB)!

Scott Shepard Photography of a blidfolded women

Medita faiye in a dress with a drink

The concept was simple and elegant. We shot everyone in the same format and the same anonymous crop. The lighting was a large beauty dish with two gridded strobes for edge. There were a couple of bare heads on the white seamless and a reflector or two here and there with some flags and 4x4s to boot. Aside from the power outage in the building that shut us down for a few minuets, the day went great. It was a very long day to be sure. We had a huge talent list and just as large of a shot list.

Man in a black suit by Scott Shepard Photography

The job was a great success. We captured a ton of awesome images that were singularly unique and yet able to remain true to the campaign's intent. A job like this takes a huge talent pool. While having vision and leadership, is a plus, an assignment like this could not be completed without the help of the entire crew. From makeup and styling to the actors and models all the way down to the building security (who held the answer to the power problem). Oh and before I forget, big thanks to my beautiful producer for getting us bags and bags of killer soft tacos. La Monde, Curtis and myself devoured them like it was our last meal.

Women with big breasts for Speed Dating movie by Scott Shepard Photography

old man for movie poster by Scott Shepard Photography

Speed dating movie poster by Scott Shepard Photography

Speed Dating movie poster by Scott Shepard Photography

Like an old reliable Swiss watch, John has done it again with his impeccable sense of design and balance. They are simple in concept yet laser sharp in execution.

It has been a pleasure to get to know La Monde. It turns out he smokes the occasional cigar and has a sip of scotch every now and then. John was right, we are a perfect match.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

What's new around here.

It has been a while since any new posts around here. I would love for you to believe that I haven't posted lately because of the last post. You see, it was written by a guest blogger named Randy Fullmer. I really like the way he wrote his post and I REALLY didn't want to have to follow with one of my own.

Blogging is painful for me. I would rather be creating images or surfing or playing with my kids. There is just no easy way to create a blog that continually shows content that is relevant and interesting(unless Randy is writing it). Oh well, time to get to it! We have been pretty busy here the last couple of months with a great assortment of projects. I photographed more Directors of Photography for Clairmont Camera, shot some DPs in Canada, shot a great print campaign for the film Speed Dating, and have started a super secret fine art project involving veterans of the Iraq War(more on that later). So please check back often, subscribe to the RSS feed or add me to your Google Reader and watch for the new posts coming shortly.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guest Blogger Randall Fullmer

Wyn Guitars, Randall Rullmer

I recently had Scott do a couple of photo shoots for my bass guitar company, Wyn Guitars. I was to the moon with the results and thought I'd blog my experience so others can get a sense of what a total pleasure and fantastic creative photographer Scott Shepard is.

Wyn guitars, Randall Fullmer
I started building guitars at the age of 12 and after an amazing life as an animator and producer at Walt Disney Feature Animation, over the past 20 years, I decided to get back to full time guitar building as a profession. (Wyn Guitars is born out of my middle name Wyn taken from a cool old Welsh uncle of mine. He had the music in him and I have to think that's where what ever musical talent I have came from!)

exotic wood, Randall Fullmer, Wyn Guitars

So I'm having the time of my life busily building bass guitars out of exotic African and Central American hardwoods. Woods with intense beauty and amazing tone properties. I am currently in the final stages of putting together a website. It quickly became apparent to me that if people from all over the planet were going to be interested in my basses, I better have very accurate and lets face it, delicious artful photographs of my guitars.

hand tools, Randall Fullmer, Wyn guitars

A good friend of mine from Disney, John Blas, a talented illustrator and marketing guru told me he knew just the guy. Scott Shepard. John had known Scott since high school and said you're just never going to find a better photographer and a nicer guy. You bet I said!!

workshop, Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

So initially Scott came to my shop to shoot my tools and processes, work in progress guitars, and to capture my working environment. It was a comical shoot. While I was busy explaining to Scott all of these very mundane ideas I had about what to shoot, I noticed him sort of wandering off and clicking his camera at very different things. I wasn't even sure what he was doing half the time. I started thinking I'd lost control of the shoot. Come on, I worked at the Walt Disney Company, I know how to do a shoot!! Was I going to get what I wanted?

drill press, Wyn guitars, randall Fullmer, exotic wood

Well Scott would eventually shoot every thing I asked for, but when the photos came back from Scott I really had to laugh out loud. All of the really interesting shots came from Scott's eye and his curiosity in my shop. From his "seeing" things that went right past me. I realized that when I just shut up and let him capture what his eye saw, he made me look like a genius!! And that lady's and gentlemen is my admission that I apparently do not know how to run a photo shoot!!

depth dial, Wyn Guitars, Randall fullmer, shop

Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

We spent the day shooting perhaps 200 images. Scott was able to get to far more than I imagined he would. With his lighting and computer equipment in addition to his camera and multiple quality lenses, Scott was a one man wrecking crew, a flurry of activity. Really stunning what we got that day. My first thought was that I can't really have anyone come over to my shop, because it really isn't half as interesting as it looks like in these shots. But another fun gift grew out of this shoot. I found myself enjoying my shop and the lighting in my shop (I have six skylights) much more than I had before the shoot. It was really that I had to see my shop through Scott's eyes to realize what a special place it is. Pretty remarkable!
Wyn Guitars, exotic wood, Randall Fullmer

Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

So I am clearly leading a charmed life. A mutual friend recently put me together with the great and famed bassist Jimmy Haslip of the Yellow Jackets and numerous inspirational jazz , rock and fusion groups. He came to my house, tried out one of my latest prototype basses and loved it. So the next thing I knew, we were collaborating on building Jimmy a 6 string left handed bass out of the most exotic woods I had ever used. Wildly flamed Cocobolo Rosewood and African Wenge among others. He found an amazing shape of a rose as part of the grain pattern in some of the wood I showed him (I think we're picking up a fairly clear pattern here that everyone else sees amazing things that I seem to miss. Hmmmm).

Jimmy haslip,Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

Jimmy has a lovely daughter named Rose. Gabriela Rose to be exact and he decided that he wanted that naturally occurring rose shape to be front and center on the guitar along with her name engraved accross the front. "Yes Mr. Haslip!!" What a fun moment that was. It immediately personalized the bass for him and for me. Months later, after many visits and I must say great ideas from Jimmy, I was completing the bass. I started having those pangs of trepidation. I was going to send my baby out into the world with Jimmy Haslip. A thrill to be sure, but man I had worked so hard on this guitar, I better really document it well.

Yes, Scott immediately came to mind. A second shoot was all about this one guitar. I learned so much that day about photography and filtered lighting and photoshop to get exactly what one was looking for. And Scott served me the greatest home made Cappuccinos and treats while we pondered our various results. How good can life be really? We worked hard, had incredible fun, and I walked out of the session with photos that were so clear, artful, well composed and appealing.

Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

So now I'm back to worrying if anyone sees the bass in person, will it not add up to these amazing photographs? Do I worry too much? I think I do, but all I can say is that when ever I show them to friends and people in the luthier trade, the first thing out of their mouths is what fantastic photographs these are. Not what a great guitar this is, just how great the photographs are. Which brings me to my warning and conclusion. Scott Shepard Photography will ruin your life. What ever you have photographed will look so good that the original item will shrink by comparison. Your life will be reduced to showing fantastic photos!!!

Wyn guitars, Randall Fullmer

I keep that bass in hiding now so as not to reveal how it really looks!! (Actually Jimmy Halip just toured Denmark and Sweden with the bass and will be recording and touring with it all year.) But my ability to take Scott's photographs and show them to prospective buyers of my basses will really increase my ability to succeed.

Wyn Guitars, Randall Fullmer

Scott is also a world class nice guy. The creative process for me always goes best when there is a fun easy way about it. The fact that if you don't like his cappuccinos, he becomes an intolerable screamer can be managed if you know it's coming!!

Randall Wyn Fullmer

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