For many photographers, taking portraits of celebrities, athletes, and government officials seems like the pinnacle of a successful business. Sometimes, however, those jobs require an insane amount of work, risk, and safety precautions to pull off the shot. In today's Story Time With Monte Isom, we look at how Gregory Heisler captured Time's Man of the Year cover with NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The year was 2001 and Time had selected Mayor Giuliani as their Man of the Year recipient for his work in Manhattan during and after the horrible terrorist attacks on September 11th. The main hero shot needed to show the mayor standing above New York City with the ruins of the World Trade Center in the background. Heisler and his team, in which Isom was the main assistant, picked the top of the Rockefeller Center after scouting dozens of rooftop locations in the city.
As Isom describes in the video above, the observation deck on the Top of the Rock had not been opened yet to the public and none of the security features had been added to the building's 68-plus story rooftop viewing deck. During the scheduled week the shoot was planned to take place, the winds and rain from a series of bad storms made the shooting location less than ideal for a dignitary let alone the actual mayor of New York City. Isom and the rest of Heisler's team decided to build a standing platform to not only help support Giuliani but to also remove any feeling of vertigo that one might feel standing on the edge of a 70-story building. You can see the test shot Heisler took of Isom alongside the final portrait of Giuliani below.
If the shooting location wasn't stressful enough, Heisler wanted to capture both the mayor and the recently destroyed site of the World Trade Center in sharp focus. One might think you could simply set your camera's aperture to f/22 to render everything in your scene sharp and in focus but to make the situation even more difficult, the photograph was planned to take place at dusk where ambient exposures could possibly run for seconds if not minutes.
To solve this problem with exposure times and depth of field requirements, Heisler decided to shoot the entire session on 8x10 film. By using a bellows system which ultimately acts like an extreme tilt-shift lens, Heisler was able to change the depth of field so that it ran parallel with the lens instead of perpendicular. This created an insanely shallow depth of field that allowed both Giuliani to be in focus along with the Empire State Building and the former spot of the Twin Towers. If you are curious about how this photograph was lit, I highly recommend the video below where Heisler explains exactly where and how he placed his Profoto lights to create a realistic and compelling scene for Giuliani to stand.
If you enjoyed this episode of "Story Time With Monte," be sure to check out all the videos from this series on our YouTube Playlist and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for even more photography related videos. If you are an aspiring commercial and editorial photographer who wants to learn all the secrets to making the most money possible, check out Monte Isom's "Making Real Money" tutorial where he shares everything he has learned about the business of photography. You can can check out the trailer for this educational series below.
Bonus: As a reader of Fstoppers, use the discount code "save10fs" to save 10% off the purchase of this full video tutorial.