Jay P. Morgan details some of his latest quirky photo shoots, from concept to capture, with his Tamron lenses.
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By Jenn Gidman
Images By Jay P. Morgan
For more than two decades, Jay P. Morgan has been a commercial photographer and film director in the Southern California area, coming up with artistic, creative, and sometimes bizarre stills and video for an impressive client roster that includes Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Disney, and McDonald's, among others. He also runs The Slanted Lens website, which offers photography tutorials, tips, and photo tours. He's renowned for imagery that incorporate fantastical sets with cinematic lighting, all of which is enhanced by the digital editing skills of his wife, Julene.
On Jay P.'s camera whether he's shooting photos or film: his roster of Tamron lenses, including the SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2, SP 70-200mm F/2.8 VC G2, SP 35mm F/1.8 VC, and SP 45mm F/1.8 VC. Here, Jay P. explains some recent sessions he's done with these lenses, from concept to final shutter press.
24-70mm at 56mm, F/7.1, 1/160th sec., ISO 320
For a recent round of publicity stills for the cast of Fuller House (a spinoff of the '90s sitcom Full House), Jay P. started things off with a session with Juan Pablo Di Pace, who plays Fernando on the show. "Rudolph Valentino has always been one of Juan Pablo's cinematic heroes, so I wanted to go for that look of a '20s silent film, so I knew ahead of time I was going to convert this to black and white," Jay P. explains.
Jay P. adorned the outdoor set with walls, trees, and shrubs from a local rental house called Green Set, and he paid a local woman $150 to use her horse for a few hours. He even found a prop that looked like a Hollywood camera from that era. Di Pace's fellow model was Ariana Savalas, the daughter of the late Telly Savalas. "Ariana is a cabaret singer and had the perfect look for this type of image," Jay P. says.
To prep the pair for their photo shoot, which he took with the Tamron 24-70mm, they talked about the old-movie feel they were going for with Jay P. and looked at stills from some classics. "We knew we wanted it to be big and a little overdone—dramatic, like in the movies," Jay P. says. "I didn't have to direct them too much. It was mostly setting up little scenarios for them to act out, such as, 'OK, Juan Pablo, you've got the girl, now just look out into the distance and show me your determination."
Jay P. set the couple up so the sun was going down on the camera's left side. "I like to shoot into the shadows and use the sunlight that's there as rimlight, which you can see on her hair and on the horse," he says. "I had a battery-powered moonlight on her face as a key light, and I used a large softbox to open up the light."
As for the horse, Jay P. directs the viewer's eye to the bottom of the reins, where a slight bump is visible. "That's the hat of the horse trainer," Jay P. says. "She had to hold the reins because the horse wasn't being super-cooperative."
70-200mm at 77mm, F/8, 1/50th sec., ISO 320
Jay P. went sci-fi for a shoot for Rosco LED lighting. "You can use this strip of LEDs anywhere," he explains. "Inside Miranda's astronaut helmet, we put a strip of these lights up top, and then a strip along the bottom. I set her against a dark-gray background, with a blue rimlight on the left and a red rimlight on the right. I also had a smoke machine with staging fluid that dissipates quickly—you get a quick burst of fog, but it doesn't clog the room like some other machines do."
To cap off the effect of the image, Jay P. wanted to incorporate some kind of creature into the photo. "I was thinking the tentacle of an octopus," he laughs. "All I could find was a T. rex, though, so that's what we used—the tail of this T. rex. I took this photo with the 70-200mm lens."
35mm, F/5.6, 1/60th sec., ISO 100
A local junkyard served as the backdrop for Jay P.'s image of two "warrior princesses." "I set it up kind of like The Road Warrior, with a whole apocalyptic feel to it," he says. "We put a flame bar in the car behind my models. It was an old car, so the guys running the salvage yard didn't care what we did with it. As the flame bar went off, though, the car caught on fire. It was a little hard to get it out, but we did it."
Jay P. took the shot with his Tamron 35mm prime lens, crouching down low and shooting up at the models. And it wasn't hard to keep them in character. "When you get people in this kind of costuming, the attitude comes with it," he says. "It wasn't hard to keep them in this mode. All I had to do was occasionally direct them by having them lean back or look off in a certain direction."
After a bunch of photos taken earlier in the day, the group set up for their evening shoot. "We took this photo just after dark," Jay P. says. "I had a large octagon on the left side as my key light, with a rimlight on the camera's right side. I also used an umbrella for fill to open up the shadows."
70-200mm at 85mm, F/4, 1/2000th sec., ISO 400
Sometimes, Jay P. stays even more local for his shoots—including in his own backyard. "We were doing a video for the Slanted Lens YouTube channel to show off the skills of our makeup person, Teri Groves," he says. "We took this photo of a woman 'dancing' on water in our swimming pool. We brought in plants from Green Set and Home Depot and covered up the diving board in back of our model. It's not the first time I've used my pool: One time Julene came out to ask why our picnic table was in the pool—I needed to place a big rock on it for an image I had in mind."
The model was seated on a seat-like metal structure placed in the water, with a pole that went straight down behind her left foot and the leg that's bent. "Her wings are also attached to the seat behind her," Jay P. explains. "So she's able to pull off that toe point and not touch the water and achieve that reflection. Julene retouched that supporting structure out of the photo."
Jay P. took this photo with the Tamron 45mm lens, right as the sun was going down, leaving the sky luminous. "We had three smoke machines going, one on the right, one on the left, and then one in the front going through what's called a 'chill box,' so the fog coming out of the machine sinks down to the grass," he says. "We had a huge 5-foot softbox above her to provide that glow above her head, and a battery-powered monolight to open up the shadows. I also had a small rimlight, too, since smoke looks better with rimlight—you can see it on camera right."
24-70mm at 24mm, F/5, 1/60th sec., ISO 320
For one of the workshops he conducted, Jay P. took his students to an old-time village in Salt Lake City, complete with historical interpreters dressed up as characters from the 1800s. "One of those characters was a blacksmith, and this photo I took of him with the 24-70 turned out to be one of my favorites," he says.
Jay P. set up his smoke machine, as well as a strobe on camera left, and a 24-inch octagonal softbox with a grid on it to confine the light. "I wanted him to convey a sense of strength in this image, so I told him to hold his tools and stare straight into the camera," he says. "I wanted to convey a sense of who he (or his character, rather) really is. I also wanted to make sure I got the flame in the furnace in the shot, to add to the atmosphere of where we were for a true environmental portrait."
24-70mm at 70mm, F/9, 1/200th sec., ISO 100
For an Alice in Wonderland–themed image, Julene got creative with heavy crepe paper on the set. "We were doing this shoot for the Slanted Lens YouTube channel on taking pictures at sunset with strobe," Jay P. Morgan says. "Julene made all of the flowers out of this paper she bought from a company back East. I wanted them towering over the head of 'Alice.' We also used a smoke machine, again with a chill box, and rented the mushrooms from Green Set. Luckily, I have a few patches of green grass in my yard, so that's where we set up."
Jay P.'s lighting setup included a battery-powered moonlight, two softboxes (one parabolic and one octagonal), and light gels. "We set it up right as the sun was going down, so that actually is the sun you see behind Alice," he says. "It was a little frustrating, because the app I use to tell me where the sun is going to be positioned at a particular time kept changing the location. I had already nailed all of the flowers into place, so I had to slightly reposition myself to get both Alice and the sun where I wanted them to be."
24-70mm at 29mm, F/8, 1/100th sec., ISO 200
Circling back to the Fuller House cast, Jay P. also did a shoot for publicity stills with cast member Jodie Sweetin, who plays Stephanie Tanner. The concept started off as a frazzled housewife, but it grew organically on set into something much more interesting. "We did all different versions of this theme, including with her a little more stressed and frenzied, and even one version where she was decked out in a cocktail dress," Jay P. says. "But this 'I own this, I love my life' look evolved as we were shooting and experimenting, and it became the one that best seemed to represent what we were going for: a crossover between vintage and modern, a new kind of woman with a new kind of look."
The original color palette was different, with Sweetin wearing a salmon-colored apron, but Julene soon switched it out for a more retro feel. "Julene changed the apron to a bright red, and we matched it to the red bowl and spatula, as well as the red bracelet Jodi was wearing," Jay P. says. "That, along with the black dress, was a terrific contrast to the bright white of the rest of the kitchen."
Although there was natural light, Jay P. set up a strobe to open everything up and add a bit more light into the room. There was also a strobe positioned just outside the kitchen window, hitting the side of the cupboard to emulate sunlight. And there was a light set up in the hood of the stove. What wasn't real light: the fire, which they added in later to the image. The water shooting up in the sink was also enhanced by bringing in spray from another shot.
The rest of the manufactured chaos was more or less authentic, however. Jay P. put a snow machine that produces what looks like soap suds in the dishwasher, and Julene premade a bunch of spaghetti that she placed on wax paper on the floor (she then cut the wax paper away so you could only see the spaghetti). What really sold the photo, though, was Sweetin herself. "She was so into experimenting and playing with whatever instruction I offered," Jay P. says. "She gave it her all."
To see more of Jay P. Morgan's work, go to www.jaypmorgan.com.
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