Paste your Bing Webmaster Tools verification code here
Competition Season with C-CAP

Competition Season with C-CAP

Every spring since 2009 I’ve been working with the Chicago team at C-CAP (Careers Through Culinary Arts Program) to cover the their competition season events.  After so many years, it still proves to be one of the highlights of the spring for me in that I get to see all of the familiar faces and am continually impressed with their students’ commitment to developing their skills in the kitchen.

C-CAP has been around since 1990 and is the idea of cookbook author Richard Grausman, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris,  who was teaching Home Economics classes in New York with a focus on home cooked meals.  The school system he worked in was in the inner-city with many of the students being underserved and consequently their college prospects and job skills were at a minimum.  To address this, Grausman founded C-CAP with the intention of providing the culinary and career skills needed for a future in the hospitality industry.

Over 25 years later, C-CAP operates culinary skills programs in several public school systems throughout the country including Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.  The program goes beyond offering skills in the kitchen.  A few of the benefits they offer in addition to job training are paid internships, college advising, donations to classrooms, career guidance and a whole ton of scholarships to some of the best culinary programs throughout the country.

 

A few highlights from this years’ benefit included the silent auction, a sampling of deliciousness prepared by the C-CAP students and admittedly my favorite part, the dancing.  

 

 

I do think I am a bad-ass in the kitchen and can whip up some delicious vittles but these students humble me.  For the competition, they have a timeline of 2 hours to pull together a main course and a dessert of crepes with homemade chocolate sauce and strawberry garnish. All while being observed by several top chefs in Chicago who serve as the judges for the competition and having me with my cameras consistently invading their space.  And still, they pull it off.   

 

 

When I first stared covering the C-CAP events years ago, the awards breakfast, specifically when the scholarships were presented, always made me incredibly sappy and needless to say, it is a challenge to shoot through the tears.  I have learned to keep it together over the past few years but still am always so impressed with the encouragement and opportunities that C-CAP brings to their students.  

 

 

Each year, C-CAP serves over 17,000 public school students across the nation and has raised over $50,000,000 (yes, that’s million) in scholarships since it’s founding.  They also place the majority of their students into internships that are paid.  To that I say…Bravo!  Their alumni have gone on to become Sommeliers, Executive Chefs at some of the countries’ finest hotels and resorts and have been featured on the Food Networks’ Chopped and Top Chef.  

From the Founder to the President, Chicago’s Coordinator Nicola who may have the best laugh ever, to the teachers who work tirelessly for their students and of course the students themselves who completely commit to the program and a promising future.  C-CAP is a fine tuned machine with a whole lot of heart. 

Spring Marketing Campaign | Portraits for COD

Spring Marketing Campaign | Portraits for COD

It has been way too long since I’ve had a chance to swing by the blog to do some updates.  Lucky me, I was asked by a client to do some traveling to various cities south and east of Chicago to shoot corporate lifestyle in the last months of 2016 so that kept me super busy though December (fill you in on those travels on a blurb to come). By the time I came up for a little air, I needed some time to binge on Netflix and check off some novels on my Good Reads list.  But now it’s time to get to it.

The last thing I shot prior to this travel assignment was for the College of DuPage, which is the largest community college in the state.  I’ve been working regularly with their marketing and communications team for the last 2 years or so and am always happy to get their call.  The assignments normally revolve around a series of environmental portraits of students who have made the most of their time at COD and then we catch them doing what they do.  We’ve worked in the computer labs, architecture classrooms, welding facilities, professional kitchens, hospitals and local fire departments.  Incorporating the students’ work space into the shots helps to tell their success stories more than a standard headshot and a few lines of text. 

It’s always a pleasure to meet with the students and talk to them about their plans, especially those who are returning to school in hopes of making a career change as I can relate.  After years of working at a staffing agency, I decided it was time to try to do my own thing and I thought photography would be a challenge and continually keep my interest.  I was enrolled at Columbia College in Chicago for a few studio lighting classes, learned as much as I could and started assisting around town.  Getting myself back into school was the first step in making the big change and kudos to anyone who takes those same chances.

Chicago-Portrait-Photographer

Here we are working in the nursing lab at Elmhurst Memorial Hospital.  Every day, every location, every subject looks a little different than the one that came before it which definitely keeps us on our toes. This project took us from the COD campus in Glen Ellyn to Elmhurst Hospital, over to Old Orchard Mall where we were treated to a fantastic lunch at Roka Akor and back to the campus library.   Looking forward to more of these kind of assignments in 2017 for sure.

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Convergint Technologies

Corporate Lifestyle Photography for Convergint Technologies

We had several shoots over the past week and my favorite was a corporate lifestyle assignment for SSI Magazine featuring Convergint Technologies, a Chicago-based security firm that designs, installs and services life safety systems for commercial properties.  The plan was to do a cover photo for the magazines’ upcoming issue of the three top executives as well as several interior shots that featured day-in-the life portraits and lifestyle images featuring the employees doing what they do best.

I love assignments like this because every scenario is very different, our timeline for this assignment required us to move quickly and every scenario we were working in, from the outdoor shot to the warehouse, required us to play around with the lighting quite a bit which for me with the time constraint is a fun challenge.

Invalid Displayed Gallery

There was an opportunity to use just about every light in our arsenal along with each modifier and a variety of lenses, including the 70-200mm which I love for the compression effect and the 85mm prime which when shooting wide open produces a beautifully soft background.

Even better, the executives and staff at Convergint were a pleasure to work with.  Gotta love people with a great sense of humor who decorate their office with silkscreens of the characters from Caddy Shack and whose corporate mascot is Bill Murrays’ nemesis in the movie.  As an added bonus maybe as much for me as for them, they asked us to incorporate their life-size stuffed gopher in the shots which we did happily.

Invalid Displayed Gallery

It’s a beautiful thing when everything goes smoothly and we have the chance to work with incredibly fun people who are also fantastic collaborators.  A big shout out to Marie and Tony who wrangled staff members, brought us lunch even though we were prepared to work right through and kept us smiling with plenty of humor and a few quotable moments.

And of course, hats off to this guy whose homework assignment is to watch Caddy Shack as he’s never seen it before. Something is missing from life when you haven’t had the chance to appreciate Rodney Dangerfield and Bill Murray in the same sitting.

Invalid Displayed Gallery

Corporate Lifestyle Photography | Integrity Payment Systems

Corporate Lifestyle Photography | Integrity Payment Systems

There is a lot of planning that goes in to a corporate lifestyle photography shoot.  When I received an inquiry from Integrity Payment Systems regarding a two-day location assignment just west of Chicago, the brainstorming began.

Claire, the Marketing Director was working closely with the design team to rollout a new website to replace the one that had been running as it heavily relied on stock photography and was becoming obsolete.  The plan was to design a more interactive and people-centric site that emphasized the role of the team behind the company, from the CEO to the customer service representatives.

By incorporating custom, corporate lifestyle photography, IPS would have the chance to show their clients not only who they are working with but how they work and the end result of their unique approach, thereby helping the company to stand out in an incredibly competitive market.

We would be concentrating on doing environmental portraits of the companies’ Principals in a variety of locations around the office as well as a few scenarios in the board room, customer service and fulfillment departments in order to paint a broad picture of the inner working of IPS.

A few things I have learned in doing assignments like this that requires us to move our lighting from one location to another is to always be prepared with external battery packs, remote controls for the lighting and always use at least two Assistants.  First, when we are working with a tight schedule, the last thing we need to be doing is hunting for power outlets or messing with extension cords.  A great remedy for this is the Paul C. Buff Vagabond Extreme which recycles the Einstein lights just as quickly as being connected to a wall outlet and they can last us through the day.  We always have 2 Extremes with us along with a Vagabond Mini to make sure the laptop has enough juice as shooting tethered to Lightroom drains the laptop battery incredibly quickly.

Chicago-Corporate-Photographers

Another gear game changer for me has been the Cybersync Commander.  Rather than directing my Assistants to adjust the lighting, I can do this all from the camera, controlling up to 16 lights and all of their functions with this powerful, little tool.  This has saved so much time especially when our lighting is positioned higher on the stands.  Rather than having to lower the stand and put it back into position, I can control that channel while behind the camera.

You might think this leaves the Assistants with so much less to do but there are so many moving parts on our corporate lifestyle shoot that the more hands you have, the better.  Typically, I have an Assistant driving the laptop, checking focus and framing while the Second Assistant monitors the lighting to make sure all is working as it should.  Just another bit of insurance.

Over the two days on location, we managed to complete shooting scenarios in more than 12 locations and pulled off close to 20 individual, environmental portraits.  Not bad for two days of work and most importantly, our client was really pleased.

On Assignment: Commercial Photography for Cox Automotive

On Assignment: Commercial Photography for Cox Automotive

It’s a rare occasion when I head off to a commercial assignment without several cases of lighting gear and my Assistants in tow.  But when Cox Automotive asked me to head out to the Mannheim Auto Auction just south of Chicago to shoot their facilities, they were looking for a more editorial photography feel that comes with available light and I was all in.

Manheim is the highest volume operator of wholesale auto auctions in the world with 130 locations in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Cox Enterprises purchased Mannheim in 1968 and also owns a majority share of Auto Trader which is one of the world’s leading providers of online and print automotive consumer information.

 (Click on an image for a larger preview)

Invalid Displayed Gallery

The plan was to focus on different areas within the facility that focus on preparing cars that have just been sold in the auction for consumer use.  From under the hood inspections to brake repairs and detailing, Cox Auto covers it all.

From a lighting standpoint, I got lucky.  The facility was in a huge warehouse with plenty of windows to pull in a good amount of daylight and though the lighting was primarily fluorescents, between the daylight balancing and the white walls, any interference from the typical muddy green cast of the fluorescents was cancelled out.

 (Click on an image for a larger preview)

Invalid Displayed Gallery

To simulate the look that the creative team was going for in post-production, I applied some desaturation and bumped up the details using a few filters found in the Photoshop plug-in offered by Topaz Labs called Topaz Adjust which is worth checking out.  There are so many options from color casts to alternative film processing filters that you could easily spend an excess amount of time playing around with each image.

I’ll be looking forward to the next round with Cox Automotive when I’ll be heading to Indianapolis and Cincinnati to produce more editorial photography with a focus on the Auction floor.

Corporate Event Photography for Combined Insurance in Chicago

Corporate Event Photography for Combined Insurance in Chicago

This past week, I had the chance to work with Combined Insurance doing their event photography as they celebrated the second year in a row voted as the United States’ most friendly employer of military personnel.  They had selected to stage the event at one of the most visited attractions in the city, The Chicago Cultural Center in the Grand Army of the Republic Hall.  With representatives from Combined Insurance, state and local government as well as military personnel, the hall made for a wonderful background of marble and arched windows to host the ceremony in.

Combined Insurance is the only Illinois-based company to be ranked number one on the Top 100 list, and 2016 marks the second consecutive year that the company finished in first place on the list of Military Friendly Employers. Competition for inclusion on the Top 100 list is strong, as more than 5,000 eligible companies with military recruitment programs are considered every year.