“I’m Tellin’ You” Music Video

When my friend Justin Spicer (aka Too Young Too Understand) asked me to collaborate with him on the video for his new single, “I’m Tellin’ You,” I was more than happy to comply. His idea was to create a music video as a sophisticated slide show of still images, and coincidentally, I’d just been reading and pondering about how to do exactly that.

Justin’s music is…oh, how to categorize it? World-music influenced indie-pop?? I dunno…and he might be just as loathe to pigeon-hole it. Regardless, the lyrics have a poignant sincerity that comes only from personal experience, and likewise, Justin’s rough “script” for the video came from a definite autobiographical place that he knew would resonate with me.

We shot several thousand frames over at least half a dozen separate shoots, whittled them down to the hero shots, I did post-production on the still images, and then Justin did all the editing in Final Cut.

Take a look, and let me know what you think!

Fall Fashions for Denver Life Magazine

A couple weeks ago I shot my first layout for Denver Life Magazine, at beautiful Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado. It should be hitting the stands any day now…I can’t wait to see what they chose for the cover!

The art director and I decided on a desaturated, sepia-ish color palette. One of our inspirations for this was the movie Letters From Iwo Jima, which was filmed in a faded cinematographic style…like looking through old photos found in an attic. Our rendering was a little bit different, but nonetheless captured a bit of that faded timelessness. A pragmatic reason we decided to go in that direction was that the saturated summery colors of our location—the bright green fields of grass, the wildflowers—weren’t quite “fall” looking enough. Some deft tweaking in Photoshop took care of that quite nicely.

Rock Star Ron

This is a shot of my buddy Ron O’Hare, who runs a publishing company, Rockit Werks. One day we were shooting some photos for a series of black and white fine art postcards we’ll be coming out with soon, and I asked Ron to sit in for a few impromptu portraits. (After all, the models can’t have all the fun!)

The post-production was intended to be reminiscent of one of my favorite pre-digital darkroom techniques, involving bleaching and toning the print as it comes out of the fixer, giving it a gritty, high-contrast look. The end result reminds me a little bit of that famous Albert Watson shot of Keith Richards.

Vote for me in PDN’s “The Look” Contest

I just entered this image into PDN’s new photo contest: “The Look – Where Fashion Meets Art” and I’d love your help.

The judges are all big cheeses in the photo industry…and I have to impress them on the merits of my work alone to win the Grand Prize: an expense-paid shoot at prestigious Milk Studios in New York City.

But if I get enough votes, I can win People’s Choice! And then I get…um….I dunno…a gold star or something.

Click this link NOW! It’ll just take you a few seconds, and the deadline is a few days away…


Grey Sunshine

A handbag company, Grey Sunshine, asked me to shoot a bunch of photos for their new marketing materials. Our location was the scenic Sylvan Dale Ranch in Estes Park, Colorado.

Along with photos of the bags by themselves, and toted by the model, I shot a bunch of atmospheric “place studies” that featured nothing but the environment and the light that pervaded it. These are some of my favorites.

It’s not until just this very moment, as I see these three images together in this post, that I recognize—besides the light—another commonality they share: an almost (but how could it be?) haphazard division of the frame by chaotic diagonal lines, that gives these images a dynamic quality alongside the tranquil feeling they convey.

And no, not quite haphazard.  I see with such automatic deliberateness that composition is second nature to me, even when it’s intentionally done in an off-the-cuff manner. And that’s exactly how I wanted these shots to look…unaffected…offering up for the viewer a chance to fall in love with a beautiful place, one casual glimpse at a time.

Jewelry Shoot

smIMG_9240smIMG_9320_bwTake a look at these excerpts from a shoot I did for a jewelry designer.

These shots were done in the lobby of the Jet Hotel in downtown Denver, using nothing but the lush natural light that flows through the sheer white drapes over the giant windows…the kind of light you just can’t get out of a can.

I’d actually brought a slew of lights, reflectors, the whole kit and caboodle…and I didn’t use any of it. The light in that big room was so amazing…why mess with perfection?

smIMG_9080The models were pretty good, too. All amateurs, they were friends of the client, roped in for the day just to help out. Sometimes (well…frequently) I like shooting non-models…they can bring a fresh and authentic look that paradoxically comes from not knowing what they are doing.

Autumn Teneyl Catalog Shoot

VikaHere are a few shots from my recent shoot for Autumn Teneyl, a Colorado designer based in the little mountain town of Pagosa Springs. This was my second shoot for them.

IMG_1809We were fortunate to have at our disposal the awesomely appointed space at Cluster Studios, which happens to be quite conveniently owned by my roommate. Their cyclorama was painted chroma-key green and it wasn’t feasible to repaint it in time for the shoot…so even though I was using a seamless paper background, I had to block off all the green with white flats to prevent any zombie-tone color casts appearing on the models’ skin or clothes.

IMG_3548One cool amenity we had on the shoot was a 52-inch high-definition television surrounded by couches, which I could plug my laptop directly into, so we could all review the images right away and in comfort.

IMG_2943While I tweaked the lighting, I pulled Nicole (in the pink dress on the right) away from the makeup chair to stand in for test shots, and I gotta tell you, she loved seeing herself so large in a rumpled sweatshirt and her hair in curlers.

Oh, and I can’t forget the other cool amenity, which was the blasting PA speaker setup…which again, I plugged directly into my laptop with my 40,000-song iTunes collection. I love being able to play whatever a model likes to shoot to! And it’s all my music, so I’m cool with whatever she chooses….

Musings in the guise of advice

Today I received an e-mail from a photography student at the Art Institute of Colorado…as a class assignment, he was to ask three simple questions of a working professional photographer.

I love answering these kinds of things, since (although I’ve never held a formal teaching position) I’ve always believed I learn the most by sharing what I’ve already learned with others.

Here’s his letter:

Hello Jeff,

My name is Jason Rowe and I’m a Photography student at The Art
Institute of Colorado.

For a class assignment, I was instructed to find a working professional in my field. Next, I was to ask them the following questions:

1. What is your favorite part of your job?
2. What is the most challenging part of your job?
3. What is one piece of advice you would give a photography student?

I realize you are busy and would really appreciate if you could take
a minute to help me complete this assignment.

If you are too busy, I understand and thank you for taking the time
to read this email.

Thanks again and Best Regards,

Jason Rowe
The Art Institute of Colorado

And my response:

Hi Jason,

You bet, I’m happy to help you with your assignment….  I’m going to answer in a little bit more general fashion, since I always find it so hard to come up with one “favorite” LOL

One of the things I like the most about my job is the variety….I’m not a cubicle kind of guy, and I get to do something different every day.   Some of it sucks…after all, I wear a lot of hats….similar to most small-business owners, I’m not just the photographer…I’m also the accountant, marketing director, and janitor.   But it’s worth it anyway….    Because, what I might like even more than the aforementioned variety is the simple satisfaction that I’m getting paid to do what I like….no, not just what I “like”, but something that comes from my soul.

The most challenging part of my job…..hmmmm, I’ll tell you two things again.  My first answer would have to be handling the business “chores”…..bookkeeping, scheduling, organizing, etc.    As a predominantly right-brained person, those critical tasks are easy to screw up or lay aside… I have to constantly remind myself that they are ***important*** and that many shitty photographers who are great business people succeed, but never the other way around.     My other answer to that question is simply that photography is its own challenge….there are always opportunities to learn and grow in my art. Being a good photographer (for anyone, as my theory goes) is directly tied to how you view and interact with the world…and therein lies room for constant growth not just as a photographer but as a human being.

That kind of segues into advice….I’ll tell it to you like the Greeks: Know Thyself.    Why do you want to be a photographer??  What is it about yourself (not just you as a surface individual, this dude who happens to be named Jason…but YOU, your innermost SELF) that you can bring out in your photography that will make it such a unique expression that it can be found nowhere else in the world, rather than a commodity to be sought at the lowest price?

This is something I ask myself every day, because this self-reflection is critical to developing and maintaining your visual style.   Your style is never a set of techniques…that makes you simply a technician with skills that are easy to replace.  Your style is how you express your unique viewpoint…your vision.  IMHO, this idea is critical *especially* today, when technology is putting picture-taking ability into everyone’s hands, greatly devaluing purely technical photography and the skills of button-pushing and exposure-making.   It’s easy to know a lot about equipment, and Photoshop….but it’s much more valuable to understand how to use those tools to communicate in a way that uniquely resonates with others.

Feel free to get back to me if you want me to explain further or have any other questions… Good luck, in general, and with your assignment!

Best Regards,

Jeff Navarro

Postage Stamps and Dental Floss

redbikinilayoutsmimg_8218A swimwear company in Barcelona sent me some bikinis to shoot, and perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how small the package was…the three swimsuits inside were barely more substantial than postage stamps and dental floss. Obviously, I’d need to find a model less on the, shall we say, zaftig end of the spectrum…

Petite redhead princess Michelle Irene was just what I needed…like all of my favorite models, she has multiple personas rolled into one. I first photographed Michelle last summer, shooting a wonderful series of nudes (which I should post, shouldn’t I?). With not an inhibited bone in her body, her attitude morphs continually from coquettish to bitchy to vulnerable to seductive, like a Swiss-army knife of feminine charms.

smimg_8287This is in fact, the first shoot to happen in my new studio! My able assistant, model/photographer/painter Sara Ford, did the hair and makeup. We took full opportunity to stretch creatively, especially towards the end, when we smimg_8022got crazy with lighting and props.

One of my favorite lighting techniques is to mix various types of light sources…continuous with strobe, tungsten with daylight, etc. Some of the images in the black bikini use this mixed lighting idea. Check the shot here, where she’s standing and grabbing her head…there’s a strobe in a large soft box coming in from the left, and a fluorescent bulb in a 12″ reflector on the other side.