Kevin Zacher has been documenting snowboarding since a lot of you were in diapers. Some of Transworld’s most iconic images came from his camera. And when it comes to shooting portraits you’d be hard-pressed to find a more talented photog. Kevin knows how to capture those subtleties of human expression that make photos not just memorable, but inexplicably intriguing. Here’s what he had to say about shooting Janna at the Pink Motel. Aspiring photogs read up, you could learn a thing or two.
Why’d you choose the Pink Motel to shoot Janna at?
Seemed like a good fit. She’s very unassuming and has a cool retro/rockabilly flair to her. I think it’s the tattoos. But, she definitely can be a beautiful girl, so I chose the Pink Motel. Plus I wanted to say I skated that famed pool.
How’s that pool to skate?
It was a mess. But I rolled around it. Kindney pool. Mellow main trannies. Sorta tight in the corners, but super fun.
What impresses you most about Janna? As a snowboarder? And just as a person?
I honestly don’t know enough about her snowboarding. I know she has been around for a long time, that she is one of the best, has been through hell and lived to tell about it. As a person, I know as much. But the time I spent with her, she was an absolute sweetheart and totally easy to work with. She had no attitude or insecurities. She just did what she was told and was so cool about it. I have to say so many pro athletes are so insecure and so image driven that it gets in the way. She was calm, cool and collected. She also seems to know what she wants and who she is.
How much preparation goes into day of shooting like this one?
Some prep. We had to pay for the location. Just planning. Dates changed with Janna’s schedule. It was tough because she was on crutches, but we obviously didn’t want them in the pictures. There were some more active things I would have liked to do to get her moving and smiling and such. We just couldn’t. We had just one assistant and one make up person. No stylist. Janna brought her own clothes and her own little entourage.
What kind of lighting did you use during the shoot?
A mix of one strobe head with a beauty dish and some natural light. I also did some balancing of the strobe with the sun, but using the sun as the key light and the strobe as this cinematic fill, slung super high. There was a lot of great shots that won’t get run.
What were the challenges of shooting at the Pink Motel?
None really. Not the best of neighborhoods. Some shady people coming and going. I wouldn’t have run around in the grass barefoot. Put it that way.
What makes it a great place to shoot?
It’s vibe. The color. It’s mid century. So you feel like you’re put into a Back to the Future movie. The Diner is fully intact. It doesn’t operate, but it could. Great location.
What are some rules to live by when trying to shoot portraits?
Be confident, make a connection, be prepared and know what you want to do. Try to do something outside the box. Keep shooting and don’t let up till it’s a wrap. Don’t use strobe just to use strobe. It should be additive, not the emotion. Emotion comes from your subject.