Washington Post Magazine: Greg Glassman Cover

photographed by Andy Batt

It’s a good day when the photo editor from the Washington Post Magazine calls to ask me to create a COVER IMAGE for the publication. Crossfit founder Greg Glassman works in Portland. The Post wanted a punchy, vibrant image to accompany a story about Greg taking on “big soda”. This is Greg’s campaign to get soda completely out of the school system.

My instinct was to pitch a “reverse Godzilla” idea. I’d have Greg standing in ‘Soda City’ as a heroic giant, ignoring the attacks from soda tanks and soda planes. It was a ‘punchy’ metaphor, nothing subtle about it, but it felt fun and eye catching.

I remember watching Godzilla and King Kong movies on after-school TV.

In monster movies, I sometimes rooted for the people. It was their city being attacked and their friends that were being stomped on, but secretly, I was always were rooting for the monster.

My editor green lit my idea right away, so we went directly to the store to buy hundreds and hundreds of cans and bottles of soda. We spent nearly $750 in pop.

I wanted to avoid CGI, and to have some rough spots where the boxes were worn. Imperfections in the materials and build techniques are very wabi sabi.

I decided an very ‘real’ look to our set—Not sloppy, just hand made. I intentionally left the fishing line on the pop fighters, the flare on the boxes, and the ‘dents’ in the 12 pack boxes from the cans—all of that stuff added some needed grit to the image.

On the day of the shoot, Greg decided he didn’t want to leave his office.

It was the day of the shoot, and we had everything nailed to the floor, lit, and ready to shoot. About 30 minutes before our shoot was to start, we got word that Greg had decided that he wouldn’t break away from his office across the river. We were, however, invited to come over to his place and get our shot. A very very fast scramble ensued!

We quickly documented the camera placement, distances, angles, and lighting direction, packed the Xterra and whipped across the river. We built a mobile studio in Greg’s driveway, and recreated our lighting and camera setup on the fly, so that I could composite the portrait with our studio shot.

Shooting Greg Glassman in his driveway in NE Portland
Shooting in Greg Glassman’s driveway in NE Portland

I’m pleased with the result—it’s solid idea that comes together nicely, and there’s nothing obvious about the composite. It’s punchy, striking and eye catching. Mission accomplished.

-andy batt

J-Names: Always fun, always crazy, and always reaching for newer and bigger ideas

group shot of comedians in a mechanics garage

Photographed and directed by Andy Batt

That’s every shoot with improv supergroup J-Names, and that’s why I always say yes. From concepting to execution, there’s always a ton of creativity and collaboration going into every moment. The goal is to entertain & engage, and to do so at the highest status we can achieve. It’s a great exercise in doing more with less, letting the story be the focus, and keeping a keen eye on production value.

“What would happen if everyone in the scene is an undercover agent?”

The goal was to create a layered story—our vignette takes place in a mechanics garage. The first layer is garage business—customers, salesman, mechanic, and management. Layer two is nobody is who they seem to be—there’s a level of suspicious behavior going on with every character. The third Layer reveals that every character is an undercover agents from competing spook shops, intent on busting the nefarious business at hand—which, of course, is all cover stories.

Part of the creative work is establishing a look. For J-Names, this meant building on our previous shoot, and continuing with our established cinematic blue world. Blue wardrobe, blue lights, blue walls, blue lifts, and using neutrals as our complimentary palette—silvers, grays and whites—this all pushed the visuals into a specific place, to heighten the story.

“The goal was to have both a killer set of photographs and a dynamic video bumper that would family together…”

The driver for the video portion was to create a faux “one shot” combined with a faux “bullet time” — in other words, the video was going to feel like the camera never stops moving, and the ‘action’ of the talent was going to feel frozen. The faux part came from 1 part moving the camera into blocking objects—made famous by Alfred Hitchcock—allowing me to stop and start the take, and 1 part having the actors freeze in position. With the ability to stop and start a take, we could slowly progress the story. I spent a week creating a flowchart for the camera actions and the actor actions, so on set we could literally fly through the shots.

Add in a handheld Ronin camera stabilizer, shooting 60FPS and ample use of speed ramping in DaVinci Resolve and whammo, we have successfully created a killer low budget/high production value video! [more nerd details at the bottom]

“I really busted my ass on filming the video. It was shot in under an hour as a piggyback on my stills production. “

Lighting for shooting both stills and motion was key—having enough punch in the lighting to pull a fast shutter speed and decent ƒ-stop for the stills camera; this also worked to our advantage for the motion capture since over-cranked footage + fast shutter means a light hungry camera.

The goal was to have both a killer set of photographs and a dynamic video bumper that would family together and deliver the story to the audience. Memorable, dynamic, puzzling, quirky — these were all keywords that we wanted to deliver, so that J-Names would have killer marketing materials for posters, social media and festival promotions.

As always, I carved out some extra time to create single portraits of the cast.

Nerd stuff: 
Director: Andy Batt
Producer: Therese Gietler
DP: Dustin Tolman
Grip & Gaffer: Galvin Collins
Wardrobe: Becca Therkelsen
Hair/MU: Janet Price
Shot with our in-house Canon C300M2, over-cranked to 60FPS, 2K capture, Canon 35mm AF lensing, mounted to a Ronin gimbal.
Lit with a combination of Gemini LED panels, Lowell Celebs, Kobold HMI, + smoke FX (supplied by Kai Shelton)
Edited/Colored by Andy Batt: in DaVinci Color Resolve 15

Esperanza Spalding

photographed by Andy Batt – October 2018

This is project that took a few years of scheduling and relationship building—but in October I was finally able to get Esperanza into the studio for an incredible portrait session. She’d been touring for a new album, but was going to be in Portland to visit friends and to be part of a gala night for Bienestar, an amazing non-profit that creates housing and opportunity for Portland’s latino community. The event was “An Evening of Esperanza”, with a performance & silent auction. I was asked to create 2 portraits of Esperanza, one to be auctioned and one to be printed and placed in the “goodie bag” the VIP ticket holders would get.

Esperanza’s back catalog is an incredibly diverse range of her music. I listened as I did a bunch of creative sessions, using mind-mapping techniques, sketching and allowing my mind to wander. I began to have a glimpse of an idea—I wasn’t sure what it was exactly, or where it would lead, but I decided to follow it.

I ended up building a tiny tiny setwall box, and painted it with metallic silver paint—I wanted to create a compressed space to put a big personality—to create some visual tension and allow for her to express a physicality with movement or pressure. I used a very specialized lighting technique to create a hard, defined circle of light—I felt that the clean geometry of a circle would make a connection with her.

And because I’m me, I also wanted to create a classic B&W seated portrait, beautifully and simply lit. Something similar to the way I photographed Senator Jeff Merkley.

It was a great session—Esperanza gave me a generous amount of time, and enjoyed the experience; she’s a wonderful collaborator. I look forward to our next project together.

-andy batt

A shout out to Pro Photo Supply – who generously sponsored the printing of the framed auction print and the gift bag portraits! Get your printing (and cameras and media and lights and all the good stuff) at PPS!