Shooting The Writers

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“The concept is simple: about six to 10 writers come together at night in a bar and read their work. They get in front of a mic, read for a few, sit down, finish their drink. It’s like all the other readings you’ve been to, right? Not exactly. We’re talking crime. Noir. Pulp. Hardboiled. Violent. Twisted. Bukowski, Cain, O’Connor are revered. If you go to a reading, you’re going to hear bad words. There’s going to be blood. Things are going to get dark. You might be offended.”

So writes Jen Conley earlier this week in a Los Angeles Review Of Books essay A Roomful of Half-Bagged, Semi-Literate Knuckle Draggers. (Read the whole essay – the title refers to the people attending, not the writers!)

Jen, a Brick, New Jersey, home girl and Seventh-Grade teacher/editor at Shotgun Honey, writes a brilliant essay about what, exactly, Noir At The Bar is. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that non-writer me has been involved in two of these literary events. Late last year, I helped Jen find a spot, The Saint in Asbury Park, to host NJ’s very first FIRST N@TB (shorthand) to help promote the book we were both in, Trouble In The Heartland. I photographed that event at The Saint, as well as the more recent one in late May in New Brunswick. So, thank’s to Jen’s efforts, NJ now has two N@TB’s under their belt.

In her LA Review of Books essay, Jen writes “Noir At The Bar is full of writers who have made it, are in the processing of making it, or maybe aren’t there yet.”

And so it is. I’ve seen all three sides of that coin in the two I’ve been part of. And that’s cool. We love hearing a reading from the guy/gal toiling it out, night after night, after the kids and partner has gone to bed, as much as we love to hear from that cat that just got signed or who has a healthy literary pedigree. It’s all good.

She also notes how different Noir At The Bars do different things – some show movie clips, some have actors doing dramatic readings. What the first two NJ Noir At The Bars have had are…me shooting photos. And putting together this video….and this one.

So, maybe photography is the unique thing at NJ N@TB’s. I’ll take that! Prior to the very latest Noir At the Bar New Jersey, I sent a note to the participating writers saying I’d love to shoot headshots of them beforehand. TFP (Time For Portfolio) basically. I don’t charge them, but a) I can put their headshots in my portfolio, and b) they can use said headshots however they wish. It’s a Win-Win for both of us.

Four of the writers took me up on my offer:

1) Jen herself!

2) Joe Samuel Starnes. I first met Joe last December when he read at our very first N@TB NJ. His new book, Red Dirt, recently dropped and it’s goooood. Honestly, if you’re looking for a good summer read, pick this one up.

3) Kevin Catalano, a writer making his way in the world today. He’s a teacher, one of those guys digging out of the 9-to-5 and getting it done when he can. His agent is shopping is novel around now. Much luck to KC.

4) S.A. Solomon, a very established New York crime fiction writer and fan of New Jersey. Suzanne and I have “known” each for a year or two online, but this was the first time we met.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time and wanted to work quick. It was a warm, muggy NJ night in New Brunswick. I wanted to shoot on-the-street portraits, probably black & white. I was armed with my 24-105 mm, and my f/4 70-300 mm lens. As an afterthought, I threw in Canon’s basic “Nifty Fifty” f/1.8 lens in my bag too.

Glad I did.

We set up on the corner, just a few steps from Tumulty’s Pub, where the readings were taking place. I worked quick and fast, no auxiliary light, just natural light and my lenses. Let people walk through the scene if need be. Just by turning my subjects 180 degrees gave me a different look, a different background.

I did fall in love with a brick wall, though. Especially with the 50 mm. Just gave me nice color and drop off. As I told Kevin, I was trying to keep it somewhat wide so that, if social media were to be incorporated with the shot, he could have room on the frame to use as a “quote card” – quote/line from book on the left, and him on the right. I think it helps to think ahead for your client. Never know.

I would have loved to shoot more of the writers and done a whole montage, but the timing just didn’t work for everyone. Still, this was a good exercise for me. I had to work quick, adapt to changing light, see what I could create and fix in a short period of time and a small area tow work with. I think I delivered some good shots.

And those who bleed and sweat it onto the page…well, they have something they can use too.

(c)Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | 2015

Putting The Biscuit In The Basket For Research

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The NHL Hockey Stanley Cup Finals are in full swing, and many a-player on the Chicago Blackhawks or Tampa Bay Lightening are dreaming of heading to the barn, snapping off a wrister and lighting the lamp (or putting the biscuit in the basket).

I know, right? It’s pushing 90 degrees and yet the hockey season is still going on. It does seem like it goes on forever, but hey, if you’re a fan, that’s the best thing.

I’m a sort-of fan. I’ve been to a few games (as bad as the NFL is in person, hockey is great.) I watch some games, but still don’t really understand it, to the chagrin of my Canadian brother-in-law and nephew. But I respect the sport and feel the players are some of the best physically-conditioned athletes out there.

Back in April, I got an up-close look at hockey. I shot an ventt that I never had before – a hockey tournament that my company runs to raise money and awareness about concussions, and how to play this hard-hitting sport safely.

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The 32nd Annual Johnson & Johnson International Hockey Tournament event kicked off April 18 in Philadelphia and raised funds for the American/Canadian Spinal Research Organizations and StopConcussions Foundation. This year’s event includes 26 J&J-based teams and 370 players from Canada, Russia, Switzerland and the U.S. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, where I should stand, what I should do…but it was a fun experience and a great education, photographic and otherwise.

As with any event, I shot entire-to-detail, wanting to capture it all.

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The event culminated with a charity game against former NHL’ers and the teams that raised the most money for the tournament. This is one of those “must get” shots – you gotta get the ceremonial drop of the puck!

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In all, it was a great weekend. Everyone had a good time for a good cause – the teams raised more than $200,000 for neuroscience research.

My gear for this included my Canon 50D with my 24-105 mm lens. I also rented a Canon 7D body, a Canon 70-200 f2.8 mm, as well as a Canon 15mm f/2.8 fish-eye lens, which I thought would be fun to play around with. all from Borrow Lenses. I also, at times, used my little Canon S110 point-and-shoot now and then.

It was a good learning experience for me. I got some of the shots I wanted, but unfortunately missed some too. Live, learn, get better, right?

Oh, the other shot you have to get when shooting hockey? The Zamboni machine.

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Can’t put the biscuit in the basket without smooth ice, right?

(c)Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | 2015

JSP Visual Week In Review 06 | 13 | 15

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The calendar doesn’t technically say it yet, but it’s feeling like summer around these part. It was a week of typical Jersey heat and humidity during the day, but breezy nights.

Last Sunday, we spent a family day down in Asbury Park. Ice cream, of course. At my job, we hit a big milestone with the project I’m working on, so the foot can come off the accelerator just a bit. The kids are rapidly approaching the of their school year (Monday for the boys, Thursday for the girl). Last evening, we spent a night out under the stars with the kids and some friends, watching a movie and making s’mores. Today is the last t-ball game, and end-of-season awards activities. Time to get our summer haircuts this weekend.

A week of stops and starts. Time keeps rolling.
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This Week’s Links

* What I’m reading.

* Good read: The Greatest Bullfight Ever

* RIP Vincent Musetto, who wrote one of the greatest headlines of all time.

* Behind the most iconic Michael Jordan photos.

* The best 20 minutes I spent this week? Watching these Daniel Milnor videos on AYP.

* Capturing music and madness with the Fuji-XT10

* “Don’t let education get in the way of your learning.” ~ Vince Lombardi

(c)Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | 2015

Decisive and Transforming

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Earlier this week, the NY Times Lens blog posted Magnum Chooses the Decisive, and Transforming, Photo. The piece starts out by asking “Why do photographers get attached to a particular image from their archives? Is it the image itself or the moment leading up to it? Was it the effort to obtain it? Did the photo capture a historic moment or a turning point in the photographer’s life? Or was it simply about discovering new gear?”

All very interesting questions. After I read it, on my drives too and from work, I contemplated this in light of my own work. Now, I’m late to the photography game. Only been shooting, and learning, for roughly eight or nine years. I obviously don’t have the body of work like a Magnum photographer.

But I still thought back, and looked through, a number of my images to see which one I would say was my decisive and transforming image. I landed on the one above.

I shot it on January 1, 2010, during the Sons of Ireland Polar Bear Plunge in Asbury Park. Used my Canon 50D with a 17-85mm lens. I like it for a few reasons: The movement, the action (certainly decisive, I guess), that I got AP’s Convention Hall in the background. It all came together.

And I guess I consider it “transforming” because, and I say this very humbly, those associated with the SOI Polar Bear Plunge, call it “iconic.” They use it on banners and other advertising needs. They may put it on a t-shirt one year. For them, this image illustrates their event.

I’m proud of that. And while technically this was a “spray-and-pray” shot (I held the camera low and fired away, not really sure what I would get), it transformed the way I shoot this event. I don’t always look through the viewfinder to get great action shots of the plungers now. But I know where I SHOULD be looking and where my camera SHOULD be pointing. I learned from this shot.

Frankly, I probably haven’t even shot my most decisive and transforming image yet. And that’s a good thing – it’s still out there.

But for now, this is it.

What is yours? Drop me a link to it in the comments section below.

(c)Mark Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | 2015

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