Archive for 'Events':

An Impossible Birthday :: Impossible Project 8×10 :: Hey. I’m 40.

December 10, 2012 | Events Family
Impossible Project 8x10

impossible project 8x10

You ever get the feeling you have to shake it all up? Ever long for something you haven’t done in years and years? Ever get intrigued by something and you have to figure out a way to try it? Ever get tired of the DSLR? Does winter hit and you go looking for some sort of creative defibrillator?

I never feel this way. Ever. And that’s a total lie.

It’s winter time. I’m off social media and nearly done with all of my commitments for the year.  I’ll be head deep in shooting new work until the spring. It’s going to be a kick ass winter. It will be filled with frustration. It’s already started. The Polaroid processor I bought to use this film died after 3 whole sheets of film. That sucks but 3 sheets worked. I’m excited. It’s like someone building a rocket for the first time. They launch it. It fires. It starts to go up in the sky then it blows up. They could be upset that the rocket blew up or they could be happy that the dang thing even left the ground. I’m going to try to stay on the positive side of things. Jason Groupp gave me an 8×10 camera. Well, he loaned it to me. Good luck getting it back Jason! I shot a sheet of Impossibly expensive film in it. I guesstimated my bellows extension. I listened to the shutter speed and figured it was about a stop off. I made my adjustments and I got a photo. The processor may have blown up but it got off the ground!

Additional news… I’m older. I turned the corner last week and I’m now 40 years old. I’m over the hill. Maybe this Impossible Project stuff is my midlife crisis. I’m ok with that. Wouldn’t mind an old Porsche 911 SC though as a crisis purchase. Don’t think I didn’t look at those recently. So, in light of wanting a Porsche, this IP film at $190 a box (10 sheets) is a bargain! My wife, Meg, should be happy about that.

I’m happy with her. She threw me the greatest surprise birthday party in the history of surprise parties. This past Friday started off normally until our house was broken into. Some asshole smashed in a window downstairs and stole an xbox then went upstairs and stole a guitar and an effects pedal. I called the cops. Collected serial numbers and all that. I said expletives. I cursed out my dog for not chewing off an arm or something of the burglar. All of this before we were having my birthday party at our house on Saturday. My awesome father in law came by and boarded up the window and we went on with our day. 

It was a rare Friday night where all the kids were out of the house spending the night with various other family members and friends. Meg was going out for drinks with a friend. This gave me an evening to head to the new studio space and work on getting that place up and running. Once all the kids were deposited at other households I went to the lab. That’s what we call the new studio space down the street in Kirkwood. I started hanging some silks and my studio manager called me in a panic. She had stopped by the main studio to get something and discovered a pipe had burst and the studio was flooding. OMG! My house was broken into and now THIS? 

I rushed over to the studio taking inventory of everything that would be directly on the floor. I didn’t know where the main cut off valve was and I don’t have one of those tools to cut it off. It’s 7:30pm on a Friday. Who’s that plumber that advertises on the radio? I hear the jingle in my head but can’t remember the name. I bust through the door of the studio wondering why the overhead lights aren’t on. The place is flooding!!! Well, here’s why the lights weren’t on. 

That’s Meg in the spotlight. Playing our NOT stolen guitar in our NOT flooding studio. I walk into the studio and Meg is serenading me. A massive amount of relief washed over me as I began to realize that the studio was not flooding, and, most likely, there’s probably some people hiding back behind the big silks. I think I just walked in on a surprise party. There was also a keg of Wells Bombardier in the kitchen (Thank you Jeremy Hall!). I poured myself a beer. I turned off the overhead lights realizing I had just killed the ambience as I barreled through the front door. Meg transitioned into the happy birthday song and droves of friends and family and colleagues and clients poured out from every nook and cranny in the place. It was overwhelming. Later in the evening Meg started a video of folks who sent in their well wishes. I can’t thank everyone enough who was part of her ploy. I wish I could share the video but a few folks asked us not to because they went all out on some of them. That’s fine. I now possess bribe material on them. :)

At one point I thought the house break in was all part of this. Nope. That really happened. I may owe my dog an apology.  She may have kept the burglar out of the upstairs after all. We went late into the night and started again the next day being Cary Norton, Dave Jackson, and Dan Depew were in town for the fun. Spent Saturday night nerding out on cameras and lights and melting Polaroid processors along with Kevin Abeyta and Erik Dixon.



Again, thanks to everyone who was a part of my 40th party. I’ll never be able to top that Meg. But at some point… I’ll try. :)



It Might Get Bright #01 :: Medium Format Night

April 20, 2012 | Events

IMGB#01 :: Friday, May 11th :: Doors open @ 7:00pm – till :: 125 New Street Decatur, GA 30030 :: free.99

–> All 100 tickets are claimed. Click here to get on the wait list. <–

Details after the jump…


ATL :: Critique Night This Saturday

February 13, 2012 | Events

Meg and I are hosting our first ever live critique night at our new studio in Decatur. A few years ago we started doing critiques online. You can see our 14 episodes on

Now that we are in the new space we are going to start doing these as a live event. We don’t want to make this a drab academic experience so here’s the deal. Bring a chair and the drink of your choice and show up at our studio this Saturday, February 18th at 7pm. Drop your beer in the cooler and drop your web site / flickr page / thumb drive / etc in the critique box. Meg and I will start randomly pulling sites or thumb drives out of the box and giving critique.

Our critique is not the stuffy, bokeh magnifying, type of critique. It’s as if you came over to our place, pulled up a chair, grabbed a beer, and we just honestly talked about your work. Oh wait, that is exactly what we are going to do. :)

Here are the rules ::

1. You can’t take it personally. Even if we laugh at your photos. We are here first and foremost to help and that means we aren’t going to just hand out pats on the back and pump up your self esteem. Honest critique is needed by all of us in order to grow. It is always my goal to point out strengths and weakness. I will always let you know my strengths and weakness as well as a critic of work. We all have to grow. None of us have this all figured out. Just remember that.

2. You can’t explain your work until after the critique. You could show a mediocre photograph and then tell us the saddest story in the world about the photograph and suddenly we want to like the photograph. A picture stands on it’s own or it doesn’t. Let your work speak for itself. We can have a discussion about your work after we’ve had our say first.

3. You aren’t guaranteed a critique. We have no idea how many folks are going to show up. That’s why it is a bring your own chair sort of event. If 10 people show up then we’ll get to all of you. If 100 people show up, well, you know that would be impossible. Sitting in on the critique is always a good learning experience though. You don’t have to put something in the box to attend. You can rubberneck if you want. :)

4. Bring a chair. Our floor is concrete so you might want to grab a folding chair from home. :)

How it will work ::

We’ll have a projection up for everyone to see the work and we’ll just start picking sites and going through them. I speak to the work as a working photographer. Meg speaks to the work as a member of the general public. She could not care any less about lenses, f-stops, softboxes, etc. She’ll tell you how she “feels” about your work. Whether she would want to hire you or not. If she laughs at your work (when one is not supposed to laugh at it) take note of that right away. Others are doing the same. We don’t filter ourselves here too much, if at all.

We will be recording this for the blog. Some have asked if we would do a live stream but dealing with this live is a pain and something I’d rather not deal with. We’ll screen capture the critiques and post it later.

Open call to Photo Editors, Art Directors, Creative Directors, and Art Buyers ::

This is going to be a regular event at our studio. If your job is that of looking at photography everyday we’d love to have you be a guest critic. Anytime we have a guest in for critique then my work goes in the box as well! If you dish it out you have to be able to take it as well.

We’re looking forward to this because instead of dropping critiques on people and then getting follow up via email that no one sees, you’ll have the chance to ask questions and have a conversation about the work in person. It’s also going to silence the haters who say that we’d never say the things we do to someone’s face. Oh yes. Yes we will. :) It’s going to be fun. We’ll all have some laughs and get to the heart of the matter of growing as photographers. It’s going to be good. I hope you can make it.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments.





The Studio Is Open :: Upcoming Events

January 30, 2012 | Events News


Our new studio is officially open! We had a great opening party this past weekend. Big thanks to everyone who came out. Was Cousin Dan not the most amazing show you’ve seen this year? Thanks to Ben Helfin as well for spinning his amazing collection of vinyl.

Now that we are officially open I wanted to let you know that we’ll be having regular events here in the new space.

The first event will be a live critique night February 18th at 7pm. Bring a chair, a beer, a box of tissues, and your work. We’ll have everyone throw their web site / flickr page / thumb drive / etc in a hat and Meg and I will randomly start pulling them out for live critique. We will be screen capturing this for the blog. It’s going to be a good time. We promise not to leave you hanging. I think doing this live instead of at our dining room table will bring the level of critique and conversation up. Critique nights will be a BYoB and BYoChair kind of event as there’s no telling how many will show up. Think of it like a night at the Laser Show at Stone Mountain just completely different.

In addition to critique nights we’ll be having a series of events with guest photographers and shooting/lighting hands on demos. I’ve moved to the Phase One system and I’ve talked to them and the good folks at Capture Integration about doing a medium format night of shooting here at the studio. We’ll set up lights, cameras, subjects, etc and you’re welcome to join us for a night of pitchers and pictures.

All events will be announced via Twitter / Facebook / G+ and our mailing list. Sign up on our mailing list here. Expect to see something happening here every four to six weeks as the schedule allows. All events will be open to the general public and will be free of charge to attend. If you have an idea for an event you’d like to see or a guest you’d like to hear drop it in the comments below.

Upcoming blog posts – Why I had to move to a bigger space (with more photos) and why I moved to medium format.



Hit Me With Your Questions Now :: creativeLIVE This Weekend

Alright folks, we are just a few days away from the next creativeLIVE three day class. It starts this Friday and it is called “The Foundations of a Working Photographer.”

I’ve been teaching workshops for about four years now and I’ve met hundreds and hundreds of photographers. I would venture to say that most photographers entering the industry today are self taught. You read blogs, watch DVDs, go to workshops, attend conferences, read books, and do a lot of trial and error. We all do that. We are all learning and growing and trying to move forward but from my experience working with a lot of emerging photographers these days I see a number of holes in a lot of people’s foundations. There are a number of missing ingredients and this weekend’s class is designed to identify those weak areas in the industry and fill them in with knowledge and practical advice.

The goal you should have for yourself is to be able to walk into an environment, size up your subject, your shooting conditions, and your camera bag and formulate a plan quickly, efficiently, and with a smile on your face. Before you ever open your camera bag you should already know which lens you are going to need. You should have an idea of where your subject needs to be, what your background will be, and what you are going to have to do to the light. It’s like the matrix. You have to see the code.

This Friday we start with the basics of cameras and lenses and knowing your subject. Can you run your camera blindfolded? Do you know it? I mean KNOW it? I mean KNOW KNOW KNOW  your camera. When you walk in a room do you know which lens you need and why you need it? When you are ready for a new lens do you know EXACTLY which lens you have to purchase next and EXACTLY why  you need and do you know EXACTLY what it will do and what it won’t do for you? Are you nailing your exposures? Do you know how far your in camera meter is off? Can you identify 18% grey quickly? Do you know that aperture is only a SMALL part that determines depth of field? It isn’t the only thing that determines that and sometimes it’s the LEAST significant part of the depth of field equation.

Do you know your subject? Do you know how to best light them and best photograph them? Do you know how to keep them happy while you are freaking out in your brain about the shoot? When it all goes to hell can you keep them engaged, keep the shoot going, and make it the best experience they’ve had in front of a camera? That’s all on Friday.

Saturday starts of with light. Available light, flash, strobe, mixing the two, etc, etc. Get rid of the plastic cocktail cup on your flash and grow as a photographer. It’s all about light. It always has been and always will be. We are going to be shooting a lot on Saturday. Working with light, working with our gear, working with our subjects, and taking lots and lots of technical questions via the creativeLIVE chat room, twitter, etc. I’m going to end the day with my take on Jeremy Cowart’s 90 minute portfolio. I’ll have a few subjects to work with and I’m going to try to create as many different looks and photos with whatever I have to work with in whatever environment I have to shoot in. We’ll be taking breaks from shooting to talk about the creative process, getting rid of fear, and moving forward when you don’t have it all figured out.

Sunday will be a recap on the technical and then it’s on to business and balance. If you are trying to do this for a living or would like to then  you need to know how to position yourself in your market, how to price for your services, how to research the industry around you, and how to find a way to stand out from the crowd. If you begin to find success with any of this you may just find your personal life going down in flames. Photography will take everything from you if you let it. Sunday we will be ending the day with my love, Meghan, and I having a transparent conversation about work and life and family and the issues we face trying to keep it all together with a business and four kids aged 12 and under.

There are going to be times I get on a soapbox. There will be times I say things that aren’t a lot of fun to hear. This isn’t going to be all double rainbows and fluffy kittens. This is a hard damn job and there are some people who just aren’t cut out for it. Photography calls many but chooses few. I know what it’s like to find success in this field but it wasn’t until I was an utter failure in everything. I sucked as a photographer. I sucked as a business person. I sucked as a family man. I’ve seen the mess that this can become and it sucks. I’m going to do all I can to help you avoid some of this and hopefully increase your odds at being one of those who are called and chosen. I promise to leave you on Sunday with plenty to be thinking about and plenty to be working on. I’m going to also free you up from some of the stress you may be feeling about some things. Like, forget about branding. It really doesn’t matter for you right now. Go get a cheap blog and don’t spend a dime on a logo. Huh? Really? Yep. Go rock $50 portrait sessions like it’s nobody’s business… because it’s nobody’s business. :) You’ll see.

It’s going to be like flying a kite in a hurricane and it’s going to be a blast!

Do you have any initial questions right now? Things you really, really, really want to see covered? Drop them in the comments below. We will also be taking questions Friday, Saturday, and Sunday via the chat room and twitter. It’s free to watch all weekend and they will be rebroadcasting over night for those of you on other parts of the globe.

Get all the details and times here.


PS – I might get into my new personal project that I’m working on. A few of the images are above. If you know what project I’m speaking of don’t mention it in the comments. :)

Anatomy of a Shootout :: GPP 2011 with Joey L

I can never speak highly enough about Gulf Photo Plus in Dubai. It is a week long photography education event filled with some of the greatest teachers I’ve met. It’s small. It’s intimate. It’s in Dubai. It’s a pain to get there from here (US) but it’s so worth it. I’ve had the honor of teaching there for the past three years and I swear, at some point, I hope I can just go and attend as a student.

We had another shootout to end the week this year and it was a showdown between myself and photographer extraordinaire Joey L. I had no idea what the subject would be but I had an idea for a shot when I was walking into the auditorium. I had Dan pre-stage some gear in the back that would be ready when I called for it but I forgot all about that when Hakam walked on stage. I’ve never seen Tanoura dancing and I was in shock. He was so smiley and intense. The voice of Borat was ringing in my ears. Suddenly the whole plan I had was thrown out the window and I had to come up with something else.

To see what this post is all about you can watch a video of the event here…

My first thought was “slow shutter speed = motion blur”. I was going to go there first but then I thought that would be expected. Joey was the first to shoot and that was the route he went so I was glad I changed my mind. Eventually it is where Heisler went as well. I was down the hall in a separate room while he was shooting so when I walked in the door I had no idea who the subject was or what Joey had shot.

Always the one who is thinking about logistics I figured this guy was lured into doing this with the promise of some free photos so I damn well better get a portrait of him. If we both went for “art” shots he would never have gotten anything he would be happy with most likely.

I figured I would somehow work a portrait + detail shot into a diptych and call it a day. Thanks to the language barrier, my stress level, the fact I just walked in from teaching a location shooting class, the time limit, following Joey, and world effing class photographer, Gregory Heisler, busting my chop every step of the way, I ditched the diptych idea because I wasn’t really getting the portrait part of him that I wanted and I was already losing a lot of time. My mind was melting down pretty quickly on this one.

Then I thought that maybe I would get a “performance portrait.”

When I got the  shot above I felt that at least I had gotten enough for him but I still needed my shot.

When I had Hakam start dancing I still had no clue where I was going to go with this. I was running out of time and had to do something. I had talked so much smack to Joey leading up to it I had to find something interesting so my mind went to “detail shot”. As he started dancing and I put a lens on him I saw his hands and I saw a horizontal frame and I focused in on that. I went vertical a few times but those images looked pretty boring. As that dress, or whatever it is, started to fly out I really saw a horizontal image and worked that till I got it. Finding his timing was the hardest part. Spraying and praying was not going to get the job done. It rarely does.

While I was editing I like this image…

I just about went with that one as my shot but I also liked seeing both hands in this one…

I like the hands and his neck so I picked that. Being Heisler was now stealing the show with his shot and I was having to deal with editing on Joey’s POS Macbook Air, I had a few extra minutes to get online, find a Polaroid frame in a google image search and present my shot on the screen in a Polaroid frame as a dig to Joey’s performance the year before as can be seen in this video…

Greg ended the evening really well. I loved his shot the most. Actually, I was looking over his shoulder while he was editing and there were a few other frames I liked even more.

The moral of the story is this…

A) You have to be ready to drop an idea and find a new one. Then drop that one too.

B) The real winner of these shootouts is always the audience even though I’m clearly the winner in any such event. ;p

C) Gregory Heisler is the man.

D) Joey L can eat sand. :)

E) Forgo buying that 85mm 1.2, buy a used 85mm 1.8 instead, and spend the money to go to Dubai next year and hang out for a week at an amazing conference. Seriously. That’s what I would do.

Cheers, Zack

My Next creativeLIVE Class :: Things You Need To Know

I’m really excited about the next creativeLIVE weekend I’ll be teaching. I’ll be teaching April 29th, 30th, and May 1st. If you aren’t familiar with creativeLIVE the deal goes down like this. You can tune in and watch it live… for free! If you like it and want to see it again, you can buy the download. If you think it’s crap then you never have to pay a dime for it. Broke and can’t afford anything, then take the weekend off and grab a notebook.

The first class I taught was all about studio lighting. This class is going to be based more around a theme than one specific aspect of shooting. It’s built off of a talk I give called “Stuff you need to know to be a photographer”. That’s a one hour talk that I’m turning into a three day class. It’s almost a top 10 things you need to know kind of class but it won’t suck like most top 10 photography lists do.

So many of you have requested a class about business. Many requested natural light. Plenty of you want strobe + ambient. All of you want more “client interaction” and posing guidelines. Each of these could be a weekend class but I only have one weekend this year I can do a CL event so I’m going to open a fire hydrant on you and get a number of things covered. The creativeLIVE crew is already telling me to plan on staying within X hours of teaching each day and, well, they should know better than that. If you aren’t going to purchase the download then you better pull up a comfy chair to the computer cause it’s gonna be on like Donkey Kong that weekend.

I’m going to start with the basics and move into intermediate and advanced concepts and techniques.

Here is a rough outline of how the weekend is going to go down… (Note that live shooting will be a large part of each day)

Friday ::

#1 – Know Your Camera

  • Aperture / Shutter Speed / ISO
  • Camera skills
  • Considerations when purchasing new cameras

#2 – Know Your Glass

  • Lens selection is one of the most important things you do as a photographer
  • Aperture isn’t the only thing that effects depth of field
  • Perspective expansion & compression

#3 – Know Your Subject

  • Subject interaction and direction
  • Knowing the needs of your subjects
  • Contributing your own vision to a project

Saturday ::

#4 – Know Your Light

  • Available light, continuous light, small strobes, big strobes
  • Creating moods

#5 – Know Your Limits

  • Working within the limits of the gear you own
  • Pushing the limits of your gear

#6 – Creativity

  • Most people can see. Few have vision
  • Making the most out of a little
  • Simple exercises to expand your creativity

#7 – Vision & Style

  • Your photography and your business both require it

- Zack’s take on Jeremy Cowart’s 90 minute portfolio

Sunday ::

#8 – Courage

  • Fear of gear, clients, business, marketing, other’s opinions will kill you
  • Live critique

#9 – Business & Marketing

  • How I did it wrong
  • How I’m learning to do it correctly
  • Pricing
  • Branding sucks. Don’t worry about it right now.
  • Stop being shy

#10 – Service & Balance

  • A transparent Q&A session with Zack and his wife Meghan on how photography, business, and family are both a blessing and a curse.

NOTE :: As of the initial posting of this information, creativeLIVE does not have this listed on their site yet. I’m working on getting my stuff to them and they are working on getting that stuff on their site so please sit tight and give them a day or so to get all the crap they are waiting for from me on to their site. You’ll then be able to sign up in advance for the free weekend and I’m sure they’ll have some sort of pre-sale on the download.

I think Meg needs to finish off Sunday evening with playing a few songs for all of us and we’ll all sit back, listen to her music, and have a beer. What do you think?

So that’s the basic run down of the weekend. Some of the order/titles/etc may change around depending on the logistics making this happen. Want to be part of the live studio audience? There are very few spots (like 4 to 6) so follow the directions in the video above and send your video our way.

Have questions? Want to see something covered that you don’t see in the list above? Hit me in the comments.



NYC :: And The Winner Is :: I'm not so happy about this. :)

November 1, 2010 | Events GOYA

And the winner of our NYC shoot-out last week is… Jason Groupp.

NOT only did he whoop me on single image votes but he also won most votes overall for his five images against mine. He won 1,451 votes against my 1,242 votes. His single best image won with 867 votes. I came in second place with 509 votes with this image…

In the original post Jason’s photos were 1, 3, 4, 7, & 9. Mine were 2, 5, 6, 8, 10.

It’s always fun to go out and shoot with another photographer you admire and respect. It’s even more fun to go out and shoot with a photographer you admire and respect and make it a competition. Then it is interesting to see how the public views the outcome of the images when it goes to a vote. The big take away from this is… None of y’all know great photography when you see it!!!  :) I’m just kidding.

Jason… Congratulations. Enjoy your sucksess for the next year. Maybe you should even start placing “Photographer of the year” in your bio and on your website. Know this… I’m coming back next year to this light fight as Iniogo Montoya…

We’ll have the BTS video that Jason’s crew shot online this week AS WELL as a post about the “light saber” I was using for this shoot-out. There’s a new modifier in town and it’s pretty awesome. But evidently not awesome enough for me to win this shoot-out. :)

Cheers, Zack

NYC Shoot-out :: Me vs. Jason Groupp :: Vote!

October 27, 2010 | Events GOYA

Today my good friend and collegue, Jason Groupp, and I had a shoot-out in the streets of NYC. We have been talking smack for two weeks about this on Twitter and we now have the results of our bravado.

******* Voting is now closed. Results here. *******

Click “more” to see the rest of the original post and photos…

Here is how it worked. Jason booked Amanda and Sean to be our subjects. Jason set up the first shot and he had five frames to execute it. Then I had to use the same location and execute a shot in five frames. I then chose the next location, shot five frames, and then Jason would shoot five frames. We piggy backed like that for six locations. At the sixth and final location I challenged Jason to tape his LCD screen. I did the same. We had five frames to shoot, with lights, without meters, and no chimping. It was a blast!

We have now picked our top five images and you are going to vote on who won best image of the shoot-out. This will be like a presidential election. One image will be the top photo of the day and then we will tally the votes of each image and see who received more total votes than the other and they will be crowed “President of Light” or something stupid. I have a feeling this might just be an annual thing. :)

So here are the images. Vote at the bottom of the page. Voting will continue through PhotoPlus this weekend and we will announce the results at the first of next week along with a behind the scenes video of the shoot and some of our out takes.

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Vote For Your Favorite Photo free polls

Thanks for voting!

Cheers, Zack

We All Live In A…

June 30, 2010 | Events Family News • Workshop

We all live in a big a$$ yellow bus. We are on the road with our OneLight Family Tour!

We are currently in Asheville, NC. As soon as we wrap up the OneLight here tonight we drive all night to DC. With the exception of Pittsburgh we are having mixers in each city and we would love for you to come out and catch some live music, win gift cards from B&H, OneLight DVDs, and network within your local photographic community. The mixers are free and open to the public. Here is where we will be…

7/1 :: Washington DC

7/6 :: Cincinnati, OH

7/8 :: Indianapolis, IN

7/11 :: Chicago, IL

7/13 :: Saint Louis, MO

7/15 :: Nashville, TN

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all of the details as to places and times in these cities. Hope to meet you soon!

Cheers, Zack

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