Thursday, December 16, 2010

Apples with apples

"Interesting Advertising" is the topic of this image and I have been a big fan of the iPad to show my work to clients. It is a big game changer in a small package. The image tried to translate that into a surreal setting (a downtown P-patch with the models wearing vintage dresses).
A quick run to the grocery store provided several pounds of apples...
Rachel and Lucianne were the models! Ari was my assistant. Jewelry from Rent the Runway.
Retouching: Janko Williams

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Lady of the Lake: Using the Parabolic Light Modifier

I shot this image last Summer, the black dress was especially made by fashion designer Isaiah Whitmore (you can see some of his work on Ink Magazine). I wanted to continue with the same
cinematic look that I have been working with for some time, but apply it to a different setting, where the focus is the dress rather then the characters. Oh..some call it fashion..but whatever. This time the nod is to Arthurian legends of old, Vivianne of the lake was strong, beautiful..and a bit dark. So there you go. Tiffany Parente did the styling, MUA and hair..and stepped in to be a wonderful model for the shoot. Danny and Ari were great assistants! Oh the light scheme... just fill from the 7' Alien Bees silver reflector with the diffuser on. The AB1600 was probably firing at full power as it was a bright sunny day. f7.1, 1/125, ISO100.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Horse. On Camera Flash.

I was day hiking on the Appennini mountains last September, when I met this small horse who was quietly grazing on the ridge I was walking on. The early morning light was beautiful and still low on the horizon, and I decided to take an image. I had my trusty canon G10, but that was to get something better than just a happy snap? Think Fabio, think. Not that the horse was in any hurry but... I decided to go for a simple crosslight scheme with the sun, similar to what a lot of sport magazines do for their covers. The photographer often uses an on camera ring flash and one or two rim lights from behind the subject, depending on where the sun is. It gives that 3D feel to the image.

So I had the Sun behind the horse to camera right, underexposed until I got the sky and the landscape right (ISO 80, f4.0, 1/500th/sec) and bumped up the on camera flash (which I almost never use) until I got a good fill. I did not have an extra light to the left but I noticed that from one angle some direct sunlight hit the back of the horse..on my side. Bingo!
Not quite rim light, but it frames the horse's body quite well and it makes the image work.
Try covering it with your thumb and see how the image loses impact?
I did the color post processing at home, plus some trickery with contrast.

Sometimes you need to work with what you got.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Models: Ian, Chelsey, Chloe.
Stylist: Tiffany Parente Connors & Elizabeth Lodowski
MUA & Hair: Tiffany Parente Connors
Props: PJ Hummel and Sabine Foster.

"Stranded", a nod to "Paper Moon" and perhaps to some old Fellini movies took a couple of months of planning (props, vintage clothing, a few items from Anthropologie) but only 45 minutes to shoot. We were on our way to Odessa, WA when I stumbled onto the perfect location. It was getting dark and we "got the image" just before a rain shower poured on the set. A quick affair. Thanks to Laurie Clark and Danny Connors for assisting! Usual lighting scheme: large diffused softbox, next to camera, smaller strobe on Softlighter at camera left.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Space Queens of Skull Mountain

This the first image from the desert shoot. Inspired by B sci-fi movies of the 60ies we laid our scene in a dried lake bed, overshadowed by huge rock formations. Why are the queens battling on a strange planet? Who's winning? The weather set the mood as it was blustery and it drizzled all day. I forgot how much tulle we used but there was a lot. Make up and hair was complex and it took more than an hour. The inside of the truck was covered in mud, the sand (salt? radioactive waste? We did not ask) was covered in bullet cases of different (large) calibers and broken bottles of beer. Ah Eastern Washington. Having said that it was really a lot of fun to shoot "Space" and a great example of team work.

The light set up is a bit different from my usual. The 7' silver softbox (powered by an Einstein unit from Alien Bees) is next to camera, but there are two handheld speedlites behind our hero to the left and to the right, lighting the white cloud and adding some nice highlights. f7.1 1/200sec to darken the cloudy sky. Lens: a Tamron 16-35 f2.8, which turned out to be surprisingly sharp and it is becoming my lens of choice.

Fiona Pepe (of the Castaways and awesome photographer herself) styled the models costumes (some are from the UW theatre archive). Tiffany Parente Connors did hair and MUA and styled the models (C & C and I) on set. Laurie Clark assisted. Danny, sorry I had to erase you, you were awesome.

Done for the day? Not. We jumped on our spaceships and we headed further east....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

East bound and down...(the trailer, courtesy of Ian Obermuller and Jerry Reed))

Central Washington from Ian Obermüller on Vimeo.

"Governato drives, Obermuller shoots" is the other title of this fun video taken with a handheld, window open, wind slapped, rain soaked Canon G10. A little more than a week ago a small group of photographers, including the world famous Laurie Clark, Chloe Scheffe and myself headed to Eastern Washington with a posse of artists & models, friends, assistants, stylists and a (diesel) truck full of props, costumes, equipment and food. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. There were dry lake beds, mud, tree stumps, swarms of mosquitoes, gale force winds, a pink flamingo on stilts, large fire extinguishers, tumble weed, old country songs on the radio and several shoots a day over a long week end and 670 miles of dusty roads.

Stay tuned for the images!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Of Wabi Sabi, film and The Five Obstructions.

Sunny Facer, my gloriously talented photo friend and I have challenged
each other to a photo duel. We are not as crazy as Lars Von Trier (a movie director who likes to inflict crazy projects on his willing subjects)..but close.

We had to take each other portrait in our own favorite style. The
subject got to choose the location. Sunny picked her almost empty
apartment (she is moving). I shot these two portraits with a very
simple set up: window light, a bit of fill from a speedlite mounted
inside a large softliter and some white sheets. The fun part was in
the editing where I get to play with Lightroom and Photoshop to get
that "old look" that I like.

Which comes to the second part of this post. Film? No thanks. Why?
It might seem contradictory as my photography often has a vintage/film/old camera/cheap lens look.

Mostly because I find film never gives me the amount of control on how
exactly 'imperfect' my images should look. Let's call it Wabi Sabi, which is an old concept in art. Yes often a bit of softness, vignetting, is exactly what the doctor ordered for an image,
but it should not be an excuse for sloppy images or for being passive in the creative process. Oh there I said it.

However, these days I have been playing a lot with my iPhone and some cool apps as "Camera Bag" (which simulates a number of specific film
looks) and "Plastic Bullet" (which adds some crazy artificial light leaks and coloring to your images). I would argue that it is art with creative control.

But that is for my next post.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Mad Scientist and the Automata

This image continues my series of editorial 'fairy tales' images. What is a mad scientist doing in the wilderness at sunset? Why is he holding a steel heart? Why is she split in three pieces? Is that a leather skull cap? (yes).

Dr Calamari and Achropelia are a fixture of the Seattle art scene. They worked for many years with Circus Contraption and often perform at Moisture Festival and the Triple Door. I was very excited to shoot an image of their current act (named Automata). As usual recently the process involved some marsh walking, although no snakes were spotted. Jason and Evelyn are old friends and super professional. They loaded their Contraption on a car, drove to the location, got their make up on and performed for the camera. There is no major Photoshop trick in the image apart from some playing with the color palette. So yes, Acrophelia was really split in three pieces. Or so I was told.

You can contact them here:

I ended liking the shots with the simplest set up, an handheld Canon Speedlite shot through a diffuser high on camera left. This made the scene crosslit, as the sun was setting to camera right. I shot wide angle and had a small window of time when speedlite (at 1/2 power) and sun light evenly matched.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

What would a mermaid do?

What do you do when it is raining cats and dogs, there is no way to do the shoot you had planned and you have a team of 10 people huddled in a small log cabin? Enter the awesome Lara Paxton, who often swings from a trapeze/anchor in a fantastic mermaid costume. What to do? Better...what would a mermaid do? After some brainstorming and a run to the nearest grocery store we came out with this concept. The framed
seashell is a nice touch. I think Melissa came up with it. Shot with a simple speedlite and a diffuser hold by the assistant high at camera left. MUA and hair Amanda Johnson. I call it my 'unwanted child', but I learned to like this image and it is now part of my portfolio to show to the creative types. The second image is just for fun and it shows our fairy tales trio while relaxing..hi Chance and Kristin!

Monday, June 7, 2010

There comes an iPad. Take a look!

I have a new iPad ready page to show my work.

Unless you have been living in a cave you probably know that photographers have been talking endlessly (and often smartly) about what the iPad will do for the industry. I got one recently, mostly to show my portfolio to clients. The iPad is certainly lighter than my printed one. I have been experimenting with different solutions, namely using iPhoto galleries and by importing the pdf version of my printed portfolio, which I can show with iBooks or GoodReader.

Also, and perhaps more importantly, I want to make sure that clients and ADs will be able to see my work from their little shiny new toys in a consistent and pleasant way. My current web site is neat, but does not allow the viewer much flexibility or control.
Enters my new iPad ready gallery. It is simple, has a great design, it is easy to upgrade and you can navigate by tapping on each image (and left and right on the big pop up ones). If you give it a go, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Lumberjack and the Ballerina

This is one more image from the Port Townsend trip. It features Chance, Kristin and the mysterious magical box. This image was shot in bright sunlight using two Alien Bees packs, their large parabolic umbrella and a softliter. It took..well about 8 minutes, but a lot more in planning the setting costumes and props (the box and the crazy paper flowers..and axe). I like the old Diorama effect, which comes mostly from shooting with strobes and daylight, and some photoshop adjusting with curves and local contrast. Many people asked me if any subject/item/rock/flower was added in post...but nope. It was all there.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Splendor in the Grass

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...

(William Wordsworth, "Ode: Intimations of Immortality").

I am obviously on a literary artsy streak. This image was part of a week long editorial that I shot in Port Townsend, WA, loosely based on fairy tales imagery. Not quite shooting " John Huston's African Queen", but the talent and crew had to walk through marshes and tall grass, fight mosquitoes, small snakes and the customers of Fat Smitty's bar. Singer and dancer Kristin "Finn" Von Claret, and Chance Koehnen modeled. I had scouted the location in February, and by this time the old tall grass was being replaced by new green offshoots. The cloudy weather created a nice atmosphere.

We shot at noon, but I had brought the big guns to overcome sunlight. a Profoto 7B pack, two heads, a sofliter II (as fill) and to camera left the giant umbrella+diffuser from Alien Bees (which worked flawlessly). The sun was to the right. Shot at f14, 1/160th, ISO 100 and using the 16-35mm Canon lens that I really like. Having a decent amount of watts/sec helped.

The post production editing was somewhat laborious to get the grading right. In order: reduce contrast/desaturate/add gradient masks to the sky and grass close to the fill light/minor retouching of the talent/re-adding contrast were needed/curves/adding a blue-yellow palette later and masking it appropriately. Final adjustments in Lightroom.

I will make a large print tomorrow!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Of Fairy Tales: The last Sparkle brings the Darkness.

I spent the last week shooting and editorial project loosely inspired by fairy tales and the environmental portrait style often seen in Vanity Fair. The subjects are a number of interesting people from the Seattle area, models, performers and photographers. They wore beautiful costumes (courtesy of the UW Theatre Archive), had their hair done and generally had fun and one of them also shoot a side project (see it here) using the same set up and helped me with the styling! This project often involved having a team of almost ten people trudging through the marshes in the Olympic Peninsula, nearby Port Townsend, WA. These images are the first I edited. They were taken with a 16-35mm lens and a large octabank and a medium softliter mounted on two profoto heads (next to camera and to camera left respectively). I underexposed the ambient by one full stop, reduced the contrast in post and then re-added it selectively where needed. Color shift to taste... I really liked they way it came out and the way it captures the magic of sunset. There will be more in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moth House. Shooting Behind the Wings with Chloe Scheffe

Moth House. Shooting Behind the Wings with Chloe Scheffe from Fabio Governato on Vimeo.

Are Photography and Video converging? Video is certainly a great tool to show how things were done.
My friend and excellent photographer Chloe "Flaremaster" Scheffe did a shoot for Moth House, a jewelry designer and borrowed my studio and lights for the occasion. I filmed the whole event with a Canon 7D and 24-70 Canon lens and edited in Final Cut Pro. Tiffany Parente Connors was the hairstylist/make up artist and Chelsey Scheffe modelled. You can see Moth House jelwely and the images from the shoot at My photography web site is and Chloe's is And yes we both muse on photo and design stuff... Chloe at Chloe made a short backstage video too..which one is the Director's cut?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Convergence of video and photography: Stop Motion with Strobes.

It's not What You Think from Fabio Governato on Vimeo.

What kind of videos should a photographer make? I feel that where I can have a distinct voice is in product and beauty shots were controlled slow motion allows the viewer a more immersive experience of the product or the look that is being showcased. This is the kind of motion equivalent to holding something in your hand or to the small movements that we have during a normal conversation with another person. These videos should be able to convey a mood, without having to tell a whole story. I envision them to be short, maybe one minute or umm, commercials...but prettier.

So this week I finally finished the test project of what I hope will be the first of a series. I had recently finished a shoot that involved a set of blue glass bottles and I wanted to add a bit of motion to it, so I reproduced the set up. The camera is set on a motorized dolly and it is shooting at 8 frames per second. I am using Alien Bees strobes and some software to control the small amount of flicker in post (Profoto Pro8 next time? Einstein Alien Bees?) . The images are cropped and graded in Lightroom and the video was composed together with Final Cut Pro at 24fps. There is some trickery here and there that I will detail more in future posts. I am interested in this approach instead of shooting directly in video as I can have more control (and light output) with the strobes instead of using tungsten or HMI continous ones and better quality for the individual frames. The motion came out really smooth, so run it a couple of times if it plays jerky at first..

And.. I went to see Jonsi (of icelandic band Sigur Ros). It was a great concert and inspired me with the soundtrack.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the road again.

Last week I got to shoot the Team Group Health Cycling Team. It's one of the largest "women only" cycling teams in the Pacific North West. They where practicing racing techniques on a closed course. Not for the faint hearted..but it was a fun opportunity to shoot a fast paced
sport event. I went for a "hard lights" look,that is often used on the cover of cycling magazines. I asked my trusted friends David and Judd for help. We took to the road an Elinchrom Ranger pack with a Ranger head and two Alien Bees B800 and set up camp on a straight stretch of warm asphalt.

To overcome the bright sunlight (the metadata says 1120AM) The Ranger is firing at 3/4 power to camera left, one B800 is to camera right (max power!) and another one is right behind camera and about 7 feet high, firing into a Softliter II (again at max power, no diffuser panel). The lights are converging to the spot where the leading cyclist is and the cyclists just a few feet behind are mostly illuminated by ambient light. As the Alien Bees had some trouble keeping up with the ambient light I had to push the shutter speed to ....1/500th of second (ISO 100, f9.0, 24 mm) to darken the sky. Coupled with my trusted Canon 7D the Alien Bees wireless triggers worked great and the loss of flashs light in the lower part of the frame is not visible (in the studio, where the flash 'd be the only light source you can sync up to 1/200th before banding becomes annoying). If I'd do it again I would bring the Alien Bees High Output reflector and get another stop of light from the Bees, but we managed.

In fact, I am quite happy with the final result, it captures the energy of the day! Plus the backstage reminds me..of Doctor Who for some reason...mmm maybe Judd's green sunglasses?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Strobes tests: Alien Bees against Elinchrom. Lumopro against Canon 580x II.

Today I happen to have handy a bunch of different flashes I always wanted to compare. Yes. Which one is more powerful, and by how much? The best way to show this is to use a light meter, put it at ten feet from the flash set at full power and measure what people call the "Guide Number". Basically the required aperture to illuminate a subject as medium gray. This is a useful number for undiffused strobes as for them it turns that:

Guide Number = aperture x distance = constant.

So if we measured f4 at 10 feet, the guide number GN is 40, which means that at 5 feet we will achieve the same exposure at f8 (closer, brighter, and so we can use a narrower aperture).
The higher the GN, the more powerful the flash. This of course at the same ISO.

So here are the numbers, I used ISO100 in all cases. Packs and flashes were all at full power.

Elinchrom Ranger S head with standard reflector + "A" Ranger RX pack. GN 250 $2100
Elinchrom Ranger Ring Flash + "A" Ranger RX GN 220 $1500+$1700
Alien Bees B800 +standard reflector GN 130 $280
Alien Bees B400 + standard reflector GN 90 $225
Canon 580ex II (zoom 80/28mm) GN 130/90 $440
QFlash+standard cone GN 110 $1080
Lumopro GN zoom 85/28mm GN 90/71 $120
Canon 580x II + Coco Ring Flash GN 35 $440+$80

Btw, I have found another test here on Flickr. Results are similar.

So what have I learned?

1) more expensive flashes have more power and the area where they are able to light uniformly is *much* larger (and rounder!) than with the cheaper speedlites (see the image). But greater power comes with a price (and greater responsibilities, but that is another story).
2) The Canon 580x II is good! More powerful than the LumoPro and the QFlash, but *only* if you use the zoom feature. Read the manual..or pay $300 extra bucks compared to the LumoPro, which is a lot easier to use (see and extended review)...mmm.
3) The Canon+ the Coco Ring flash performs well, but the output is not that great, unless you are in studio. The zoom factor makes no difference with the Coco attached.
4) The QFlash is weak sauce for the price $1080 (head+pack)
4) The Speedlites are a tad cooler than the Elinchroms.
5) The Ranger pack has two outputs: A and B. A is 1+2/3 stops brighter.
6) the ABees Long throw reflector increases output by 1 stop! (from the Flickr Strobist group test)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Softlighter II portraits.

Judson and I were asked to give a quick demonstration of the Softliter II (the one Annie Leibovitz uses) for portraits. This set up used a Softliter sl-5000 (the mid sized one) and a profoto head for the top portraits (Hey Paige!) , and a Canon 580x II for the bottom one (Mister Plax Photo trying to get the perfect Rembrandt...). Strobe was high on camera left and bounced on a white board to camera right. We used a 5D Mark II with 24-70 f2.8 USM Canon lens. You can see the Softliter reflected on the window...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Heavy Metal Shoes. Shiny Background. First test with the Canon 7D

I needed a second image of the patent black boots I photographed some weeks ago, so I went for a different, more metallic style. This time I shoot from above (camera was rigged on a boom). Lights: Diffused top flood, two strip lights very (very) low on the table to give edge to the shoes. And a small softbox from below. The difference? I used a metallic, sheer textile over a plexiglass as the surface on which the shoes lay down. The image on the left uses a similar set up, but adds a blue/yellow color palette and the top light is harder.
Small trick: I used a few small plexiglass cubes to angle the shoes the way I wanted. I used photoshop layers to increase the contrast on the background and usual details clean up.
Shot at ISO 100, f11, 1/125th. 35mm, with a Canon 7D.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's a bird! It's chocolate? ... It's books!

My art director (Hi Chelsey!) likes to pick up the camera and needed a cool image of books for a conceptual poster (I think this is how designers 'd call it). So we fussed together with the lighting scheme for a bit, which turned out to be two large softboxes on top of the books and with a little space in between to place the camera, looking down on the table. There you go. Artsy. Shot with a Canon G10, which I really like for those quick.and.dirty.yet.professional jobs.

Check Chelsey Scheffe awesome work here.