New Liberia Images

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

I added a couple of new images to the Liberia section of my website.  Check em out.


2011 PDN Faces

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Awards, Editorial Work, Personal Work

The 2011 PDN Faces issue is out, and Plants Vs. Zombies is a winner in the Celebrity/Editorial Portraits category.  My Liberia series also won, under the Environmental Portraiture category.  Last year, my portrait of Annie Leibovitz was the feature image in PDN Faces.  It’s a thrill to have my work included in the contest again.  Last July through April of this year felt like I was going at 200 mph non stop, and it’s nice to be able to slow down a little bit in the summer and reflect back on the work I have done this past year.  It is even more satisfying to have that work recognized by the various contests I have won recently.  Now it’s time to get busy again.  Lots to do and look forward to.  The new Keatley office project, the 2011 Christmas photo, some new video projects, and hopefully more fun work as well.  I just finished a short video about my experience in Liberia this past January, and I will post it shortly (tonight).  I think you will like it.

Side note: Co-founder of PopCap Games, John Vechey (pictured above) trumped my award just a little when PopCap was acquired by Electronic Arts for $1.3 billion,  just days after the PDN award became public.  Congrats John.  Dolla dolla bills, y’all.  I like to think the awards for this picture is what pushed EA to pull the trigger.  Not that I am surprised, because just days after I photographed TechCrunch founder and CEO Michael Arrington in his home, TechCrunch was purchased by AOL for $30 million.  You seeing a pattern here?  I can’t legally promise companies will throw millions of dollars at you after I take your picture, but…  Hey, that could make a great promo.

The list of this years Faces winners is on the official contest website.  I haven’t had a chance to see the issue in person yet, but I am looking forward to sitting down with it.


John Keatley The Woodsman

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Videos

I was asked to create a bio video several weeks back, and I immediately knew I didn’t want to do another interview-type video.  Don’t get me wrong, interviews are great and have their place, but this felt like a great opportunity to do something creative and show people a side of me often only expressed through my images of other people.  I think this short film is a good glimpse into my personality and how I think about life and work.  Sometimes words just aren’t enough, at least for us visual types.  So think of this as a creative bio/promo, rather than a literal account of my work and life.  I hope you enjoy it.

I posted several of production stills if you want a behind the scenes look at this video also.

John Keatley and Oliver

John Keatley // Writer, Producer keatleyphoto.com
Eric Becker // Director weareshouting.com
Brandon and Les Hilliard // Director, Editor, Writer, Producer braindancers.com
Rodrigo Valenzuela // Director of Photography weareshouting.com
Ian Goode // Graphics giganticsquid.com
Ryan Dunleavey // Motion
Michelle Chappron // Hair and Makeup michellechappron.com

Music by Björn Olsson bjornolssonmusic.com


Now For Something Completely Different

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog, Personal Work

Surprised to see something other than stylized portraits?  From the beginning, the goal with this ongoing personal series was to create something completely different from my portrait work.  Last fall, I decided I wanted to push myself to create something outside of my comfort zone.  I would prefer to let these images stand on their own without adding a story or context to them, but I also realize it is important to talk about one’s work.  If not the meaning, at least the process.  I have attempted to explain these to a few close friends, and the best explanation I have come up with so far is that this good idea evolved from several really bad ideas.  What this means is I began with an idea and talked about it for a little while and really wrestled with the concept and how it would read.  The first few concepts never really sat right with me, but thinking and talking about them with others eventually led to what you see here.  Even after I began shooting, the concept continued to evolve.  I worked with a great post production studio called Gigantic Squid, and collaborated with Ian Goode on the final look and feel of everything.  This really has been an experiment and exploration of a different type of photography.  As much as I pulled away from my portrait work in this process, I came to realize just how important the human element is to me in my work.  I learned how to respond to what I was shooting and adapted my approach as the images came to life.  That is not something I get to experience when working on an ad campaign which has to be planned out completely before shooting.  So far, this project has taken me across Washington and Northern California, and I am planning a couple more out of state trips in the months to come.  I have learned so much from this experience and I am excited to see how this continues to evolve and shape me as an artist.


Merry Christmas From The Keatleys And A Yeti

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Keatley Christmas, Personal Work

2010 Keatley Christmas photo.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Finally, a normal holiday picture from the Keatley’s, right?  I’ll admit last years holiday photo was a little strange, what with the accident and everything.  But the show must go on.  This year we have a couple of new introductions.  Our daughter Isla, and our yeti who is holding her.  We did look into more “traditional” forms of childcare, but everything is so expensive these days.

I had a lot of fun planning this shoot out.  I have been thinking about it, and planning for about 5 months, so seeing it finally come to life like this is a mix of pure excitement and a little relief.  Although, I am already starting to think about next year.  I just can’t help myself.  It’s a blessing and a curse.   I just think it will be so awesome to look back 10, 15, or 20 years from now and see all of the different holiday photos we have taken.  Not to mention, how many 6-month-olds get to say they had their picture taken with a yeti?  Isla is either going to think we are the coolest parents ever, or she won’t be able to get far enough away from us when she is older.  I’m hoping for the first, but only time will tell.

This has been a wonderful year for me, and I am very grateful for all of your continued support and interest in my work.  Thank you for reading my blog, and for coming out to hear me speak on occasion.  That is definitely something I hope to do more of this next year.  The next blog post you see from me will probably be me announcing my new website which I am very excited to share.  As much as I like my current one, and it was selected in the 2010 PDN Annual, I feel like there is always room for improvement.  Stay tuned.


On A Personal Note

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

Isla Keatley.  Photo by John Keatley.

Just finished up a nice two weeks off work with my wife and our new baby girl, Isla.  She is our first child, and for those of you with kids, I think it goes without saying how incredible it is to be a part of new life.  We are having a lot of fun, and from what I hear, it only gets better.  Thought we would try to get her started early with costumes so she will be ready for her first annual Keatley Christmas picture this year.  It’s actually just a blue monster bath towel, but it’s a start.

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Merry Keatley Christmas

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Keatley Christmas, Personal Work

Awkward Keatley Christmas Portrait.  Ugly Christmas sweaters.

Now before you go freaking out sending cards and flowers, you should know Oliver and I are doing much better after the sledding accident.  It was unfortunate timing, one day before our 2009 Keatley office Christmas photo, but the show must go on!  We were lucky to walk away with only a few broken bones, a concussion and some mild dizziness.  The snowman however, did not fare so well.

Please allow me to introduce you to the Keatley team.  On the left is our bookkeeper Nichelle.  Now you have a face to put with the name next time you receive an invoice from her.  I am in the wheelchair, and on the right is our intern Allison.  Oh, and Oliver is on Allison’s lap.   He is the night janitor.  No job goes unrecognized around here.

Every time I look at this picture, it makes me laugh.  I like that, and it is a good reminder for me to continue making images that make me happy.  I decided after this shoot to make it a goal to get hired to shoot a ridiculous holiday portrait like this.  I know there may not be a big market for this kind of thing, but when someone wants it done right, I have full confidence my phone will ring.  I just hope my arm will be fully healed by then.  (Here) are the Christmas pictures I did last year.  The plan at this point is to make this a yearly tradition.

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope this puts you in the holiday spirit, and gives you a good laugh.

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Lighting Technique: The Grid Reflector

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Lighting Technique, Personal Work

Josh Hornbeck

My assignment was to create a portrait of writer/director Josh Hornbeck, and our meeting place was an old theater he worked in at the time.  There were no constraints or specific requirements, so I was able to “do my thing” and respond to what inspired me.  In the theater, I didn’t see anything interesting to me, so I took a look at the lower level of the building.  Once downstairs, I walked into a dark dingy room, and I knew right away I was in the the place I wanted to use for the location.  The room felt like an interrogation room rather than a theater, but it was perfect.  A lamp hung just slightly off to one side, and it seemed to hold a story on it’s own.  I was fascinated by it.

Right from the beginning I had an idea of how I would light this picture, and I was pretty sure it would involve two lights.  For the sake of time, I set up both lights right away, but I didn’t turn them on yet.  I knew I wanted the lamp in the shot, and I also wanted the lamp to be on.  For this to happen, the light bulb would dictate the exposure of the picture.   If my exposure was not long enough, the lamp could appear to be off, or very dim.   If the exposure was too long, the lamp would be blown out and there would be no detail.  The image below is my exposure for the light bulb without any strobes.  1/40 at f/10.0 on ISO 100.


Key Light:
For the key light I used a 7” grid reflector with a 10 degree grid.  This gives a focused beam of light with very little spread.  The narrow grid also helps keep your key light from lighting up unwanted areas of the frame.  I experimented with several different positions for the key light until I decided on the one in this image.  I love the light falloff from grids.  It is like dropping a pebble into a smooth pond.  The greatest disturbance is at the point of impact on the water and as the ripples move out in a circle they gradually fade.  It is the same with a grid reflector.  The light is the brightest at the center, and it  fades as it moves away from the center.  If you position a grid reflector just right, you can use the light spread (dimmer light away from the center) to light closer objects without blowing them out.  For example, the white lamp above Josh.  If I were to use just a regular reflector on a strobe without a grid from the same position, the white lamp would be completely blown out on the right side because it is closer to the light source than the subject.  The grid allowed me to direct the light at my subjects face so the exact center was on his face.  This is the brightest spot of the light, and the light begins to decrease in power quickly as it spreads.  Although the lamp is closer to the key light than the subject, they are both getting the same amount of light.

Once the key was set, I had some definition on the lamp, both on the inside from the light bulb, and on the outer right side from the key light.  I also had my subject lit, but the shadows were still a little too deep.

Fill Light:
I already created the shadows I wanted with the key light, but I needed to use a fill light to add some detail to some of the shadows.  What I did not want to do was add new shadows.  The entire left side of the room (camera left, not pictured) was a white wall, just like the background.  Because I wanted a soft and subtle fill, I decided to bounce the strobe with a 7 inch reflector off of the white wall.   Think of the wall as a large softbox you don’t have to set up or tear down.  Depending on how close you place the strobe to the wall, you can increase or decrease the size of the light source.  I experimented with the light and tried a few different angles to get the right look.  The first few angles I tried caused the left side of the image to be too bright.  Eventually I angled the head so it was pointing more behind me than toward the subject.  I lost a lot of light by doing this, but it gave me just enough light to gently fill in some of the dark areas not touched by the key.

Here is a list of the equipment I used to create this shot along with links to the product pages:
Camera: Canon DSLR
Lights: Elinchrom Ranger Battery Pack and Head x2
Light Modifiers: Elinchrom 7” grid reflector
10 degree grid
Elinchrom 7” reflector

Thanks for reading!  Feel free to start a discussion or ask questions in the comments.

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Follow Me On Twitter

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News, Personal Work

John Keatley self portrait - Brushing Teeth

Rubbing alcohol looks like mouth wash this early in the morning.  Trying to get the taste out!
6:35 AM Sep 23rd from web

John Keatley self portrait - Heading Out

Trying to get out the door for a photo shoot.  Phone won’t stop ringing…
11:18 AM Sep 23rd from phone

John Keatley self portrait - Brushing Oliver

Brushing Oliver in the backyard.  80 degrees in Seattle!
5:01 PM Sep 23rd from web

I have been a bit slow in joining the Twitter community.  But with good reason.  Reading is fine and all, but who wants to read about what I am doing when you could see what I am doing.  You following me?  So I thought, why just write about what I am doing at random moments throughout my day, when I could break out my lights and take a really cool picture of what I am doing several times a day.  Sure there are some obvious obstacles to pulling this off smoothly, but it can be done.  I really think this is going to catch on soon.  Show the world what you are doing right now, in 140 dpi or less.  Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best ones.

It is probably going to take me a couple of weeks to raise the capital and develop a website to support this new idea, but in the meantime I did join Twitter.  My name is johnkeatley, and at the very least, I will be Tweeting each time a new blog post goes live.

So if Twitter is how you like to stay informed, you can now follow me at http://twitter.com/johnkeatley.
And (here) is the RSS Feed to my Tweets.

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Bus and Ida May

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work

Buster Brown

Ida May

Bus By The Barn

Bus and Ida May are good family friends of ours, and they live on a farm near Seattle.  Their farm used to be even larger than it is now, but there is now a major highway, several off ramps, businesses and condos where the cows used to graze.  Every summer for the past several years, my wife Nichelle and I have enjoyed homemade desserts with them on their back porch made from ingredients picked just several yards away.  After spending time with them one evening, I felt compelled to photograph them.  To make things as comfortable as possible, I set up in their back yard, while friends and family came over for dinner.  A good  amount of my studio work is actually done on location like this.  Not necessarily on a farm, but in a place that my subject feels most comfortable.  In this case, it was a farm.  Not to mention, I would choose to work outside on a warm summer evening instead of in a studio any time given the choice.

I have a photography show opening in a few weeks, and the headshots of Bus and Ida May will be two of the 12 or so images on display.  I will have more information about the show shortly, and after I wrap up a few large projects, I will be able to get back to a more regular blog schedule.  Thanks for taking a look, and I hope you are enjoying what is left of summer.