Dubai :: Day 04

March 7, 2012 | Misc. Photos

Late on my blog… Taught a studio lighting class today (yesterday). That reflective stuff on the floor is portable tile board that’s about to hit the market by our main man Peter Hurley. Stuff is awesome. I’ll let you know when he starts shipping it.


X-Pro1 works like a champ with a Pocket Wizard attached. I use a mini on it. A Plus II is as big as the camera. (almost)


This was sniped just using the modeling lights of the softbox as a student was shooting.


The set up…


The shot.


It was a fun class. Again, that stuff Hurley is making is awesome. You can see it all bokeh’ed out there in the background.


If you’re sitting there thinking how lucky I am to be able to sit around a group of people like this every night this week you are 110% correct. I can not even begin to express how young and inexperienced I find myself to be when I hear the stories of these masters. I’m just a kid at the table still staring at the starting line. If you look up to me or if you think I’m “up there” in the industry, let me virtually put my arm around your shoulder and point to some of these guys and let you know how absolutely far of a journey you and I have still have to go.

Sitting there last night, completely sleep deprived, yet hanging on the words of those around me… I started thinking of the cult of personality in our industry. We place these young blog stars on a pedestal as the apex of success. I understand that I can be placed in that realm. I was thinking of this last night and realized what a sham it all is. THE masters of our craft that are still creating work in this world are names you probably haven’t heard of. They aren’t even on twitter or they have a fraction of followers some of us have. No one reads or comments on their blogs. They are so far up the damn mountain they don’t have a signal back to the rest of us. Their stories, their work, their experience, the philosophy transcends all of us.

This is in contrast to yet another revolution some photographer is trying to start. A number of you have DM’ed me the link to that video. OMG. You sit with guys like Heisler, Hobby, McNally, and Burnett and then watch this dumb ass “new revolution in photography” and realize what a farce that idea is.

I woke up this morning to the sad news that we lost Paula Lerner to breast cancer. Paula has done more for this industry then a whole panel of “blog stars” have. I had the pleasure of meeting her while I was still in school. She was one of the founding members of EP. On the subject of day rates and contracts she taught me the theory of “If you’re going to get screwed on a job AT LEAST KNOW you are getting screwed on that job.” She provided us a very strong set of shoulders that we now stand upon. RIP Paula.

You know why these folks are masters? Because they’ve put everything into it and kept their eyes on the goal even when in complete darkness in their life. They weren’t trying to start a revolution. They were, and are, chasing the light. The image. That one fleeting fraction of a second for that one image that brings them joy and brings them the next job.

You want to start a “revolution” in photography, yeah. Whatever. You’re not. None of us are. Shut up and go shoot pictures.

I’m still sleep deprived. I’m pointing my finger out to the horizon. The goal we all have is somewhere beyond that.



PS – All X-Pro1 shots.


  • Brian Hirschy said on March 7, 2012

    I think I know where I’ll be next year come this time.

    Know you guys are having a blast, Zack.


  • David Iliyn said on March 7, 2012

    Hope you come back to portland!!!!

  • Takki said on March 7, 2012

    Thanks Zack, your words are always an inspiration. Wish I could be there for the Gulfphotoplus. Looks like you can handle a few more women there ( : Wishing you and your students many inspirational moments, Greetings from Takki – the lightfinder from Germany ( :

  • almostinfamous said on March 7, 2012

    This blog post is awesome :)

    I am also saving up for next year’s GPP, hope you’re there. Wish I could have met you in India this year, but again – that may have to wait 😀

  • Simon Grosset said on March 7, 2012

    Oh how true! Just because you can shout loudest on the web doesn’t mean you’re a great photographer! Photographers should be judged by their photos, not by their blogs! (And I do follow a lot of photographers blogs, including yours, Zack!)

  • Jordan said on March 7, 2012

    Speak up, eh? Well, if we’re gonna have an honest conversation, let’s have an honest conversation. I attended PhotoPlus Expo this past October for the fourth consecutive year, took on a full course load of seminars. In the past years, I’ve seen your workshop twice, McNally about four or five different times, and the same for the folks at VII Photo, Jim Nachtwey, Peter Read Miller, seriously amazing people. 2011, though, was different. It was almost too much. In fact, I swore I’d never go back. It was contrasted by those I shall not name, flavors of the week, if you will, against the greats, such as Doug Kirkland. I chased after Doug all week long, a sort of, “May you be covered in the dust of your rabbi” kind of thing. What dust, what humility, could I pick up in learning more about his nearly fifty year career?

    So many people produce shit, and sell it all day long. I, too, am guilty of this from time to time. The mainstream folks just regurgitate and discuss grandiose ideas, but what do they actually do? What longevity do they have? So what if their Google page rank is a 7/10? I’m 26, and can only hope that in fifty more years, if I get that far, I can look back at my passion and maybe say I’ve accomplished something. Most of the real masters don’t have a blog. They’re usually not on twitter, and they sure as hell don’t have a (PR) agency carrying them. They don’t care about sponsorships, not motivated by awards, or waste the day counting pixels. They often do work at newspapers, from big and quite small, a part of the day to day grind, for years on end. They do photograph personal projects all the time, because that’s what they believe in. They do carry their camera on them nearly all the time, and photograph from their hearts. They eat, breath, love this stuff. They live in their own community, largely ignorant of the rest of the “pop” photo world, and push limits in communicating, in creating, in truly carrying their craft forward. And it’s damn humbling.

    And often, they are not on tour at some bull shit, drunken convention in the desert where everyone learns to copy one another and present awards to themselves. I’ve spent so much time trying to put my work in front of those pop “photogs” and even editors… for what? It’s almost embarrassing! Time better spent developing a project, a story, chasing light, a message, meeting and connecting with everyday people who have a story to tell…

    Ironically, the person who gave me the most time at PhotoPlus to really make eye contact, actually listen, and talk, well, other than you in 2010, was Kirkland. I believe he understands the future of this craft by looking at it through the past. And that’s even more daunting. Elliott Erwitt, Diane Arbus, Walker Evans, W. Eugene Smith, Bresson… Damn it, Zack… “What a sham it all can be.” I need to go photograph something…

  • Mike said on March 7, 2012

    What new video are you referring to? I’m always looking for the next revolution… :)

  • Harrogate Wedding Photographer said on March 7, 2012

    Great words Zack, it’s kind of touched upon in your Transform video too. A kind of realisation that trying to please Twitter followers or get within a clique of photographers isn’t the way to gain recognition. Shooting great work week in and week out is. Don’t get hung up on what the latest tiltshift fashion is. Shoot what you want to and learn as you go along.

    Great post and great comment from Jordan. How about you have the next Gulf Plus Photo closer to England eh? 😉

  • Frog said on March 7, 2012

    What a sham it all can be … INDEED … He is NOT “making” that tile board … he is only brokering the deal thru 3rd party suppliers, more than likely Chinese suppliers which put Americans outta work … hit the local lumber/home improvement store and save the $$$ for better camera and lenses, which will let you REALLY compete in the industry … It’s spin like this that puts the SHAM in the fotog industry … rank this right up there with the BS jarvis & bunting try to spin … predators praying on budding fotogs …

  • Zack said on March 7, 2012

    @Frog – First off… you have inside info on this? Really? Second, have you ever tried to get tile board in Manhattan? And get it up several flights of stairs? Peter needed another solution, found it (In America BTW) and said if he could use it others could as well. It’s really awesome. It has real purpose. I myself can borrow a friend’s truck and hit the Home Depot a few miles from my house but I can’t find this stuff anywhere in Dubai. Been looking for it for four years. And guess what, Hurley found it and I can carry it with me in a freaking stand case. So I invite you to STFU on that front. :)


  • Adam said on March 7, 2012

    Loving the light on the second portrait: Looks fairly simple, but care to share?

  • michael anthonymurphy said on March 7, 2012

    well done sir, well done

    what you said about these guys is so true. it got me to thinking, i must be on that super high level as well since my blog traffic is nothing compared to some. i’m so damn good that people don’t even know me. what a relief, i was starting to doubt myself.

    keep up the awesome work and i look forward to more…

  • Amanda Reseburg said on March 7, 2012

    Your can tell me the truth Zack.
    In that last picture, all of the masters are sitting around watching that “video” and having themselves a really good laugh.


    ; )

  • Zack said on March 7, 2012

    Amanda – Nope. Looking at photos from the early 1900’s learning how it was lit.

  • Brian Powell said on March 7, 2012

    Another revolution!? I’m still in debt from Jesh De Rox’s ‘Beloved’ masterpiece 😛

  • DAVID MAKKERS said on March 7, 2012

    Great commentary and right on time. The simple set up produced great images. Safe travels.

  • Stuart Sipahigil said on March 7, 2012

    Here’s the thing, guys (and gals). Fair or not, as photographers we will all eventually be judged by our work. You can create work that takes advantage of the latest technique or the style of the moment… or you can try to make work that will last. This requires that we understand what came before us and why, what’s happening now and why, and using that to figure out what we can contribute in our own way. We need to stop pretending that today’s “gurus” are anything close to the folks who made a difference in this art and craft and begin to learn from those who did.

    The cold, hard truth is that most of us will not be remembered in either case, not like David Burnett or Joe McNally, and especially not like Cartier-Bresson or Walker Evans. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to make the best contribution we can, but if we ever hope to do so, we have to go a lot deeper than “Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It.”

  • James Pratt said on March 7, 2012

    Well said about the masters. There are a lot of really great photographers out working and not blogging. I regularly read magazines and always look at the picture credits, and very few of the really awesome stuff is shot by photogs we read about on the blogosphere. I DO appreciate your blog and your modesty. Great job.

  • Greg Foster said on March 7, 2012

    Wise words, Zack. I saw a link to this post on facebook and clicked over as I am interested in the Fuji cameras, and wound up reading something far more insightful.

  • Simon Lanciault said on March 7, 2012

    First time I post on your blog ! >>

    Even if you think you may not belong beside these “masters” in the family portrait…you do for many reasons ! Up for the portable tileboard. I’ve been using something with similar specs and results for a couple of months and just love it. It solved a lot of “mobility” issues compared to classic board.

  • Chad Belinfanti said on March 7, 2012

    Amazing commentary… Love your blog for it’s honesty. Keep up the good work and your humble self-analysis is refreshing. Keep the posts coming!

  • christian said on March 7, 2012

    Heisler is rocking mad 2012 hipster steez!

  • Pétur Þór said on March 7, 2012

    Hey Zack.

    About that portable tile board. Are we going to have to wait long for those or are they just around the corner?


  • Todd said on March 7, 2012

    I haven’t blogged in over a year. It was just more noise, more static increasing the difficulty to hear what truly matters in the world. I want to be about more than noise.

    Though I still look up to you and many others in the industry, I no longer want to be any of you. Rather, I want to be with you, bringing sight to this blind world. I want to shed light on the dark places. I want to expose the things in our world that are truly important.

    We are given our talents for a reason. We are meant to make a difference. The following is the sort of thing I want my craft, my life, to be about. This sort of thing deserves our attention. Find the time to watch it. Then, maybe we’ll meet in the streets in April! – #KONY2012 #stopKRONY

  • Cameron Clark said on March 7, 2012

    I agree 100%. Photographers can get caught up in the worshiping of others’ work. Shut up and shoot your own good photos. Actually, make your photos great. Maybe we can all focus on having good relationships with the people we photograph, the good old fashion way. That is what makes a great photographer– the connection.

  • Joshua Smith said on March 7, 2012

    Your passion and industry insight–and humility–are THE reasons I follow you. Can’t get enuf.

  • Jen said on March 7, 2012

    Very humbling. I think we all have someone who humbles us. Keep pointin’, pontificatin’ and postin’ Zack.

  • Christy said on March 7, 2012

    awesome post as usual!

  • Mars said on March 7, 2012

    Thx for sharing zack and thank you sir for always
    Giving a sh!t in replying to your followers.

    Btw, giving the fact that the xpro is small would
    A sb400 be suitable as a fill flash on the camera?
    Just sayin’


  • VeryGlamorousWeddingPhotogBFF said on March 7, 2012

    Next time, can you please touch on all the bullsh*t workshop stars?

    Like the fashion workshop stars that have never published an editorial in a major fashion mag or shot a single campaign?

    Hilarious that the public knows these people but have never heard of Nick Knight or David Bailey or even freaking Avedon for that matter.

  • HeroFoto said on March 7, 2012

    on the classic lighting shots, try this: Hollywood Portraits – Classic Shots & How to Take Them

  • Iain said on March 7, 2012

    Thud… (back to earth).
    Think I must be sleep deprived too, cos reading this… I teared up a little.
    Once again, thank you Zack for keepin it real.

  • Chrisos said on March 7, 2012

    Zack, you always seem to know how, when and what to say. Thank you for a valuable and informative post, your words have struck deep thoughts for me that I have to think about. Thank you.

    Ps. I’ll be waiting patiently for your review of this wonderful little camera, it looks amazing so far.

  • Frog said on March 7, 2012

    STFU??? Really???

    Zack, I have mucho respect for you friend, but lately you’ve been sloggin UP the elitist path … you may not see it, but I lurk enough to see the changes since the days of OneLight … so hurley MAKES these tile boards? yeah, right … hurley, like jarvis & bunting and plenty of others, claim someone else’s thunder as their own … and the elitist spin bloggers give them is totally unwarranted … I stand by my original statement: predators praying on budding fotogs …

    thanks … :)

  • Zack said on March 8, 2012

    @Frog – Of course Peter is not opening a plastics factory. Who is? Yes, there are predators selling shit to us all the time. Some people do come along, find a solution to something, and offer it up and it actually works. I, for one, am glad to have this material because I couldn’t find it anywhere else. Just because someone introduces something to photographers does not mean they are immediately lumped in with predators. I know Peter personally and he’s an outstanding guy. I get crap photo gear sent to me all the time hoping I will talk about it and I don’t. I email these folks back and tell them there products are crap and I’d never use it.

    I can’t see where I’m slogging up the elitist path. I do what I do and it’s the same stuff I’ve been doing. I am growing. I am progressing. I am trying to reach higher and higher up my own path in photography. Just because I’m not shooting with a crap DSLR and so forth doesn’t make me an elitist. Growth, I think, is a good thing. Growth is what I want. And while I grow I want to remain the same core person I am. I know far too many photographer’s trying to become “names” in the industry. They are working so hard to position themselves and associate with the right people so they can grow in followers, get platform speaking requests, etc. etc. etc. It disgusts me.

    How do you see me heading down this path?


  • Jean Luc said on March 8, 2012

    Hi Zack,

    Do you mind naming the photographers in the picture for those of us who can’t recognize them by their face? I recognize Heisler and Hobby, but not the others. Thanks, JL.

  • Kathy Meidell said on March 8, 2012

    Zach, you’re fresh air in an elbow-to-elbow crowded room.

    Happy to see you so inspired.

  • craig said on March 8, 2012

    Looks like the X Pro 1 is a very substantial piece of kit! Just curious as per the sync speed? Your comments and tutorials offered here are interesting and inspiring. Thank you for the effort.

    Have you tried the double exposure feature?

  • Brian Rodgers Jr. said on March 8, 2012


    Great shots man :) How are you liking the new Einsteins?!

  • Oliver said on March 8, 2012

    Reading your blog feels like a conversation over beers. Thanks for the honesty. Good work and a good life is all about authenticity, and it’s not as easy to hit that mark as I thought. The trick must be to see it in others and keep reaching for it in yourself and not get caught up in the rest.

  • Zack said on March 8, 2012

    @Oliver – I’m leaning over the table and clinking my pint of beer with yours. Well said.


  • DJ Paine said on March 8, 2012

    Zack – best blog post of yours in AGES. Love it. More like this one.

  • MattyJ said on March 8, 2012

    Zack I know you have always been a fan of the bigger sensors over the “crop” ones so what makes the Fiji so good that your thinking of it taking the place of your 5d?

  • Zack said on March 8, 2012

    @MattyJ – What makes me a fan is how dang small these little cameras are yet the image quality is on par with a DSLR. To have two cameras on your shoulders all day long and not think twice about them is amazing. They aren’t DSLR’s but they are damn, damn, damn close.


  • Erin Scott said on March 8, 2012

    Thank you so much for this, Zack. I had the honor of speaking with Paula Lerner about a year ago at a small gathering, and her insights were priceless. Her willingness to share wisdom with a youngin like me was totally humbling, and changed my perspective about what we do.

  • phillip said on March 8, 2012

    info on portable tile board?

  • Zack said on March 8, 2012

    @Phillip – As stated above in the post, I’ll post when it starts shipping.


  • Louis Blythe said on March 9, 2012

    Epic! Thanks for the wise words!

    I need to go back to school!

  • MattyJ said on March 9, 2012

    Thanks Zack For replying, I’ll have to have a look at the xpro1 for my next camera once i can justify the upgrade to a better camera with skill not my wallet.


  • Brad C said on March 9, 2012


    Zack, of course you’re an elitist. How do you not see it?

    You have the nerve to outline your thought process and workflow on paid shoots on this blog for free, and at the same time you don’t even have ads!

    You and Meghan host a free event for photographers at your own studio – while paying a babysitter – and dispense free advice and prizes!!?!

    Of course, you had your elitist arse served back to you on a plate at the photo critique by the guy from Tennessee who showed up your Phase with that high ISO self portait. Priceless. And thanks to him, I will never look at a bird sitting on a branch in the same way.

    Thanks for doing what you do, and making it available for those not doing it to see.

  • Eric Cullen said on March 10, 2012

    Well I’m confused.
    Who are the young blog stars that you are having a dig at and how are they different to the people you are with now? McNally has a blog. Is the portable tile board the revolution?

    I learnt years ago rightly or wrongly to just be myself. It irks me when I read in photography magazines editors pulling to pieces some young hopeful amateur photographers picture. Then you turn overleaf and see a master photography committing the same mistakes, but that is okay.Mosts contain nothing more than associate links to a product.

    Most blogs are

  • Zack said on March 10, 2012

    @Eric – I’m not calling anyone out by name. Did that once on Twitter only because it was absurd what they were doing. You hang out long enough in the photo industry and you can see the cult of personality and how many people are trying to follow, emulate, copy, and reproduce what others are doing. You also see people who barely know what they are doing being held up as the apex of success. It’s the same in any industry really. I just need to remind myself and others that we need to find our own path and that takes years to do.

    Portable tile board will never ever ever ever ever be a revolution and I won’t ever ever ever say that it is.


  • Eric Cullen said on March 10, 2012

    Thank you Zack for the honest reply.
    The internet is a mind field for hopeful photographers like myself.
    One day after having a gut full of the tantrums on DP Review I went to Google in desperation and typed in “Fine art Black and White photography” I came across a Cole Thompson. He seems honest and doesn’t care really what others think of his work,and doesn’t set himself up to be a messiah either.

    Nice pictures by the way with the new Fuji.

  • Bobbo said on March 10, 2012

    I’m going to have to call you out then Zack for supporting the FroKnowsPhoto guy who is a barely-average (if that) photographer with zero technical skill and a meh portfolio, yet holds himself out as an expert to clueless beginners in order to push t-shirts and merchandise.

    Honestly, have you never seen a bigger douche:

  • Simon Lanciault said on March 13, 2012

    @Portable Tile Board questions : I am using something really similar to what is now called portable tileboard since it’s now a photography product…. before being a Hurley product, this thing was called 0.30 Acrylic 4×8 panel. Everybody can find this in the backlit advertisement industry. I’ve been using this for months now… and it rolls up nicely and easily –same stuff. Here is a picture taken on white seamless with the stuff on the floor…

    Email me if you have questions

  • Ramiro said on March 13, 2012

    I’d love that portable tile board, ‘cuz right now, for some of my shoots I have to take the seats off my suburban and load 2 or 3 of those up…they are a pain to haul around. If I only shot in a studio, it wouldn’t be a huge deal, but since I take stuff on locations with some good frequency, a tile board I can load up in a stand bag, I’ll be all over that.

    Zack, thanx for all you do to contribute to those of us who look up to you and help us keep our “impressionable” heads from being tossed to and fro by the next “revolution”. Many blessings my friend!

  • Angelo said on March 13, 2012

    Amen to that!

  • kristi hedberg said on March 19, 2012

    I got tears in my eyes, just looking at this image, and completely feeling what you were feeling via your effortlessly elegant writing. There is so much talent in this world, it is often staggering…..

  • Headshot photographer said on March 20, 2012

    Great update, Zack.

  • User said on April 3, 2012

    The portable tile board is coming in about 3 weeks. You can see it here:

    Does anyone have any idea what it’s made of?

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