Sirens of the Deep mermaid camp at Weeki Wachee Springs, one of Florida’s oldest roadside attractions, is the only mermaid camp run by the legendary mermaids of Weeki Wachee. The 538-acre state park located 45 miles north of Tampa has been home to “live mermaid shows” since 1947. Participants spend two days learning to swim with a tail, pose in front of the underwater theater and execute the Bent-Knee Dolphin, a reverse somersault that requires a deep arch and the ability to blow water out of your nose. For many, becoming a mermaid is fulfillment of a life’s dream. I was lucky enough to photograph camp for American Airlines inflight magazine American Way. David Doubilet I’m not but I accepted the challenge and arrived at the 72 degree springs with an Aquatech underwater housing in hand. One very sunburned back later I had my “sea legs” and made some fun images that captured the excitement and wonder of what it feels like to strap on a tail and become a mermaid.
The Tampa Bay area has always been a popular tourist destination, thanks to the weather, beaches and theme parks. Now, it’s also really building a reputation as a region for quality food and craft beer, as well. We’ve had a ton of craft breweries open up in the last couple of years, and the dining scene has also come into its own, with a number of area chefs adopting the “locavore” and “farm-to-table” philosophies, and some even being nominated for prestigious James Beard awards.
I’m not a food photographer by trade, but recently I produced a few projects for two of the Bay area’s biggest tourism organizations, both focusing on food and drink.
One of the projects, with visitflorida.com, highlighted Tampa restaurant Rooster & The Till, and how its head chef, Ferrell Alvarez, sources as many ingredients as he possibly can from local farms. I captured Alvarez and his team in their kitchen as they prepared some of their innovative dishes. There are folks who do that, and only that, for a living; for me, it was a different kind of shoot, and it was fun to adapt to it while staying true to my own style and process at the same time.
The other job was for Visit Tampa Bay. We visited four popular Tampa craft breweries — Cigar City, Angry Chair, Coppertail Brewing and Six Ten Brewing — where I photographed not only the beers, but also the brewers themselves. This shoot offered several different approaches, from lighting the different beers to bring out their natural colors to capturing the brewers in a way that expressed their individual personalities and their “natural habitat.”
I’m happy to get opportunities to mix things up and was able to tackle subjects I normally don’t do, pull it off (and have a great time doing it), and share some the specific, special flavors and culture of Tampa Bay at the same time.
In late 2015, I had the opportunity to take on a big project working with the Westshore Alliance, a not-for-profit organization made up of industry and community leaders dedicated to the development and promotion of Tampa’s Westshore Business District. Downtown isn’t the only part of Tampa that’s redefining itself for a new style of urban living and experiencing vibrant new growth as a result—ranging over 10 square miles from Tampa International Airport (where I do a lot of work myself) and Rocky Point to the north to Kennedy Boulevard to the south, and from Himes Avenue west to the bay, the Westshore area has everything from luxury hotels, condos and modern office complexes to beaches, green space, shopping and great restaurants.
It’s a contemporary urban core all its own, and with its 400-company membership, the Westshore Alliance wants not only to share the district’s many features and benefits, but also to help shape its future as an attractive destination and home for traditional businesses, the emerging creative class, and families young and old alike.
I worked with the Alliance for 8 days shooting collateral for brochures, web content and various other media. Given such a large and diverse area, we covered multiple locations in order to best convey everything the district has to offer.Read More
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to work with Profoto’s B1 off-camera lights and I was instantly hooked. They’re able to catch action in a way most strobes aren’t capable because they take advantage of my Nikon’s (and Canon’s) hypersonic technology. I’ve used them inside, outside, and even mounted to my car, and they’re amazing for capturing fast motion. They’re compact, portable, you’re not tethered to a power source and they’re also compatible with all of Profoto’s light-shaping tools, too.
The B1s use Hypersync technology which allows the lights to sync at any shutter speed. Most lights only work up to 1/250th of a second, but these will work through a DSLR’s entire range, so you’re able to catch sports images or any other fast action, essentially in broad daylight. Using Profoto’s Air transmitter on my D810 also allows me to tweak power settings from my camera without having to ask an assistant to touch the head.
The images of athletes flying through the air were produced for a branding campaign for IMG Academy in Sarasota. We shot those on location, and the goal was to capture these athletes in the most dynamic, authentic and vibrant way possible. I used a three-light setup (as you can see in some of the background shots), and it gave us the freedom to not be limited by shutter speed. I photographed them in action, in real time, without having to do some of the things you sometimes have to resort to with sports photography, like staging shots and having subjects “hold” poses.
Chris Snipes, Capture Integration’s Sales Manager for Florida, hooked me up with my B1’s earlier this year when they were virtually impossible to get hold of. Chris was able to get a set to me in time for my cover shoot with Brooks Koepka in May. We had several setups to shoot and I was able to make shots on the fly using the TTL system shooting at 1/2000th. I was able to make images that were virtually impossible to create before the B1’s incorporated hypersync.
The B1’s with the Profoto Air TTL system have exceeded my expectations, and have opened up a world of new and more efficient options for shooting. I would definitely recommend that anyone who does a lot of fast-action stuff look into them.
“Are you sure you won’t hit me?” I asked Brooks as he lined up a drive from the tee box on Golf courses gold coast and Old Bay Golf Club’s ninth hole in Palm Beach. “Trust me,” he quipped. Two seconds later, the ball was past my head and flying well over 400 yards straight down the fairway. He turned and flashed a big grin. Brooks Koepka, a Top 20-ranked young gun on the PGA Tour and homegrown Florida guy from Wellington, is the owner of an absolutely monster drive, and the subject of a cover story for Sports Illustrated’s Golf Magazine.
It’s been a long time since I’ve spent time at Disney in Orlando. As a parent I would go out of my way to avoid the Orlando theme parks at any costs because of the lines and stifling heat. Wired hired me to tell the story of how Disney is changing the theme-park experience one rubber band at a time. I spoke to Wired writer Cliff Kuang and he assured me Disney’s new Magicband technology was a game changer. I spent the day walking the park with Disney’s marketing staff and even got to experience lunch at Be Our Guest where your meal magically appears via the RFID tracker in the Magicband. Disney has pumped $1 billion into the Magicband technology while at the same time making every parent’s life a little easier with fast pass integration and cueing for virtual lines in the air conditioning. Disney hasn’t totally eliminated lines but they’ve sure made it a lot easier to visit the Magic Kingdom.
I am a gear whore. There, I said it. I’ve owned every brand of camera you can think of – Hasselblad, Canon, Leica, Mamiya, Rolleiflex, the list is endless. I’ve gone down the medium format digital rabbit hole more times than I’d like to admit and always came back to a DSLR. I’ve always been searching for a camera that could stack up against a Hassy 503CW and I tried to shove just about every digital back you can buy on one. I finally gave up and invested in Canon and a Pentax 645D. The Pentax was slow but made beautiful images and the Canon just worked. I’d shoot a little with both cameras on assignments but I never got into a groove with the Pentax and the Canon was, well, boring. I was ready to upgrade to the Pentax 645Z but I wasn’t excited about dropping $8k on a camera that I might use 50% of the time. The Pentax Z is about 75% of the way there with no tethering support and no real leaf shutter lenses. I mean sure, there’s the old manual LS lenses but who wants to manually cock a shutter after every exposure – I might as well be shooting 4×5.
I was cruising Instagram and I saw a photo of a Nikon D800 on location and a very dim light bulb went off over my head. What about Nikon? A wave of nostalgia washed over me. My first real camera was a Nikon 2020 – a truly awful camera but it led to me buying an FE2 which was an awesome camera. I went on to own 8008’s and F4’s and all of this amazing AIS glass. My first newspaper job was a Nikon shop and I bought an F5 and had access to all sorts of exotic glass. There was a switch to Canon in the late 90’s and then to Leica and then back to Nikon when I worked at MSNBC but by then we were shooting D1’s and I was starting to see DSLR’s as simply a tool and nothing to get excited about. And then I jumped into medium format with both feet and invested in Hasselblads and to this day there is no camera that gets me more excited than a 503CW with an 80mm but I digress. In November I remembered that I know some guys at Nikon. I reached out to Brien Aho and Andy Dunaway who I met years ago as a black-team member at the Eddie Adams workshop and asked if they could hook me up with a D800e to test out. Andy did one better, he had NPS send me a box full of gear: a D810, 58mm, 35mm and a 24-120. I had read some glowing reviews about the sensor in the D800e being a game changer but I refused to believe it could be as good as medium format digital. I wondered if the D810 could replace both my Canons and the Pentax and produce medium format-like sharp images with the ease of use of a DSLR. I’m happy to report that yes, the D810 is amazing and unlike any camera I’ve ever used. The images are just as sharp as the P45+ I owned and definitely as nice as the Pentax images. The Nikon lenses are also gorgeous with the 58mm being my favorite. The D810 also effortlessly tethers in Capture One and Lightroom and even works with an Eyefi card for quickly checking images on an iPad. The AF is first class and the menu system is logically laid out – something that drove me crazy about Canon.
My first shoot with the D810 was with pro golfer Camillo Villegas for Golf Digest. I had my Canons standing by just in case but never touched them. The D810 AF is amazing. I was shooting Camillo from the back of a moving vehicle while he rode his bike behind the car. The images looked like they could have been shot with a medium format rig – sharp, lots of latitude and the colors were awesome. I was sold.
Even though I was shooting into the sun I was able to pull the blue sky and clouds out in post and there was no need to sharpen the image. A week later I wrote a check to Nikon and with that I was officially a Nikon shooter again.
I’ve done several commercial shoots since the new year with the D810 and it’s been flawless to work with. I’m always amazed at how accurate the AF is with fast moving subject. I spent 2 days shooting athletes flying through the air for IMG Academy and the art director couldn’t believe how great the images looked.
The D810 also excels at high-ISO’s. It used to be that I wouldn’t go north of ISO 800 but with the Nikon I feel comfortable shooting as high as 2000 for commercial work. In January I worked with Team Detroit on a series of print ads for Ford Motor Co. Most of what I shot was lit with practical or reflected light.
Or a mix of available with strobe. It’s awesome to have the confidence walking into any location and knowing you’ve got a camera that can handle whatever lousy light you find yourself in.
I’m stoked with the decision to take the plunge back into shooting Nikon. I’ve recently picked up an 85 f1.8 G which has become my go-to portrait lens. I’ve also begun shooting video with the D810 and it’s extremely easy to use. It doesn’t have the quirks that other DSLR’s seem to have and it features a monitor port for headphones and not only 60p but also 50p. One other thing about shooting Nikon is the support of NPS. No gold/ silver membership tiers. No $500/ year for a few repair vouchers and expedited service. Just pro support that rocks. I dropped my 24-120 lens recently and shipped it off to NPS and had it back in a week. I also recently requested a loaner D4s for a shoot and 2 days later it was in my hands. NPS is truly first rate.
Last year IMG Academy, the largest sports academy in the United States, tapped me to produce a library of images to promote their sports programs. IMG Academy is a private training institute that attracts high school, college and professional athletes from around the world and they were looking for a way to create a wide array of images that were authentic to their athletes and the programs they offer. Working along side art director Vanessa Correa, we set out to capture many of their student athletes in action across the sprawling IMG campus. The images are being used in social media, admissions guides, print advertising, mailers and a brand activation display greeting flyers at the Sarasota International Airport. Several of the images created for this campaign won Gold ADDY’s in the South East region.
To see more of Bob’s award-winning sports work check out his portfolio.
Earlier this year I had the amazing opportunity to document brain surgery for Smithsonian magazine. It’s not often that I get an assignment to do purely reportage work and I always jump at the chance when the opportunity presents itself. I traveled to Shands hospital in Gainesville at the University of Florida to capture Dr Kelley Foote and Dr Michael Okun performing surgery to quiet a patient’s tremors. After donning scrubs I was ushered into the operating room where I met patient Rodney Haning who was being prepped for surgery. Haning was surprisingly calm for someone who was about to have a probe inserted into his brain. Over the next 4 hours I watched Okun and Foote work with a team of residents to drill into Haning’s skull and insert electrodes into his brain. Incredibly Haning was awake the entire time in order to test the effectiveness of the electrodes to quiet his tremors. At several points during the surgery I was able to speak to Haning. I watched as Dr Okun dialed in the electric current to Hanings brain and his tremors simply disappeared. The surgery is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to science fiction come to life.
See the full LED Glasses review here!
Dr Foote and Dr Okun presented to Ted X at UF explaining how the surgery works
I recently spent the day with Ohio State Buckeye Carlos Hyde in Miami photographing his workout in preparation for the NFL draft. The former Ohio State tailback pulled his left hamstring during the NFL combine and is working with Miami-based trainer Mark Megna now that he’s recovered. The full story on Hyde’s workout is online at SI.com.
Click here to see the list with 5 top sports betting sites of this year.