We were pleased to be able to ask seven questions of Falcon the other day- a longtime friend of Induro, and a founding member of NyghtFalcon (there they are below, on the road). This interview’s a long one, so I won’t blather on too much up here. Without further ado, we go into the nyght…
1. Tell me about your photography business- it seems you and your partners shoot a wide range of subjects. When did you start your business, and who are your major clients?
Yes, we do shoot a wide range of subjects – and that is intentional. Before NyghtFalcon was founded in January of 2003, I did extensive research into the photography industry and learned a number of things:
a. The day of the one person firm was drawing to a close as was the day of the mega-studio in which everyone was narrowly specialized and the cost of supporting a huge infrastructure had already become difficult to support. Both ends of that spectrum generally focused on one discipline within the industry. We decided to do the opposite – shoot everything and shoot it equally well. This has protected us against rapid changes in a specific niche. We simply adjust the mix of our business as the economy and the market change.
b. Seven years ago the film versus digital debate was still raging. Our research indicated that film would lose so we decided to just go digital. The ability to turn work quickly would be important, I thought, as the world went increasingly digital, and film required too much time and was expensive. We also discovered that using digital cameras made it easier for us to approach the business differently. We focused on building a work flow that addressed the requirements of photography in general. As we moved into different markets, we applied what we learned in one market segment to others.
c. We also knew that if we were not going to have a traditional studio we would need to build a global digital network. We did just that and we did it without spending more than $30 a month for internet access. We are very good at leveraging other people’s technology and adding intellectual capital to it. For example, we have a global email system that includes client management, corporate calendar, calendar sharing and so on, and it costs us nothing.
d. Lastly, many of the companies we talked to suggested that they didn’t like the fact that even within a studio, every photographer had his or her own style. This made completion of assignments dependent upon the availability of a single photographer. We chose to do it the other way around. We all share a common style and unless you really know us individually, you will never know who created which image. This way, clients don’t have to worry about who will show up and about inconsistencies of style and we gain a competitive edge.
We built a business model that reflects these four points. Our business model stresses the good of the team, a common style, the ability to do world class work for any client regardless of industry, any where and at any time under any and all conditions. Our corporate culture was designed to reinforce that.
I should also note that we have been shooting RAW since March, 2003. We were also among the first to master film emulation. In effect, we can take a digital photo and make it look just like any one of more than 100 films.
Major clients include Royal Caribbean Lines, Carnival Cruise Lines, Explorers Club International, Polo Ralph Lauren. We have also shot important events like the Kentucky Derby (three years running), The Wyndham Classic (formerly the Chrysler Classic) and other professional sporting events.
2. What is some of the commercial work you’ve made of which you are especially proud? If you can, share an image or two and tell us the process behind it.
We are especially proud of the work we have done in the Caribbean for the cruise lines. Personally, I am most proud of the work we did for a local chocolate company. We found and rented the house where we did the shoot, hired the model, designed the sets and the lighting, wrote the project plan, did the art direction and styling, and then executed accordingly.
For Royal Caribbean, we flew into Honduras, discovered the air line we were supposed to fly to Roatan was grounded and more or less had to figure it out from there on our own. We worked for two days, fourteen hours a day. We photographed the ship coming in, people disembarking, jewelry and other merchandise being sold, took candid photos of people shopping and then photographed the port at night. It was intense but we are trained to do those types of assignments.
That assignment was done by our most seasoned team – JD Milazzo and me. Like all our teams, we work well together and are quite good at anticipating what needs to be done. I should mention that we were unable to leave because the air line was still grounded. We booked on another carrier but could not leave till 24 hours later. We used the time, as we always do, to build our portfolio. Our ability to “run and shoot” has earned us the distinction of being the Special Ops of photography.
The Loco for Coco shoot – the local chocolate company – was entirely different. We met with the client several times over the month before the shoot. We wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page and that nothing would be left to change. We even did a mock shoot to make sure we had the lighting down. We knew we would be using three rooms in the house and we wanted to make sure that we were able to move the lights quickly from room to room. On the day of the shoot we arrived two hours before the client, set up the lights, reviewed the plan one more time and then executed it flawlessly. The client was amazed at what we were able to get for them and they have become a great source of referrals.
3. It looks like your team travels quite a bit. Where have your photographic adventures taken you? Have you had any dream assignments?
Since NyghtFalcon was founded, we have worked throughout most of the US, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Zürich, Basel, Lucerne, Grand Turk, Honduras….. the list goes on.
Sometimes we get more than we bargain for. Case in point, we were on our way to Bryce Canyon in the dead of February and got as far as Cedar City, Utah, when we realized that the rental car would never make it through the icy mountain pass. It was touch and go but we managed to get out of the pass alive and unhurt. On the way back, we found two fascinating places – Silver Reef and Wells Fargo. Wells Fargo was a stage coach stop in the 19th century and eventually, in the early 20th century, it was abandoned. Some of the buildings have been restored. We got there at sunset. It was stunning.
Silver Reef is a mile or two away from there. We saw a sign for a “colonial cemetery” and took off to find it. Quite typical for us. On the way to the cemetery we found Silver Reef – the only silver mine in North America where silver was mind from sandstone. It is abandoned now with a small sign that makes it easy to miss. It was fascinating to study it and photograph it. Just down the dirt road from there we found the cemetery on the knoll of a hill. Almost all the graves were marked with a simple wooden cross that bore the words “Unknown”.
I think I speak for all of us when I say that as much as we enjoy places like Paris, it is the Silver Reefs of the world that bring us the most excitement and enjoyment. Imagine standing next to an abandoned silver mine that only a few people who live near by and we know about. Incredible.
4. What do you value in your tripod? Do you have any favorite Induro models? Have any in particular enabled you to get a shot you would have had trouble with otherwise? Have they stood the test of time?
In no order of importance, I value over all weight, ease of use, and flexibility. In the past we have used Gitzo but we were not pleased. They were very heavy and they had a composite bushing around the center shaft that frequently broke. We also kept losing feet and they were expensive to replace. The Induro tripods are very light and yet very rugged. They are small enough to fit in our company issue duffle bags so that we don’t have to pay extra when we fly and they attach to our ThinkTank camera bags easily.
To me the best feature is the one turn to lock or unlock the legs. This enables us to quickly adjust the height or angle so we can move to the next shot with little delay. When we are in places like Vegas or Paris doing architecture at nyght or shooting candids the ability to setup, adjust and move the tripod is absolutely critical. We have found the Induro tripods to be ideal for our “run and shoot” brand of photography. They have handled what we have done to them remarkably well. The trip to Honduras last month was brutal but the Induro tripods survived unscathed.
5. Tell us a little bit about the seminars you run. Have they been successful?
We didn’t start out doing seminars. It was a market we decided to enter a year ago. We train all our photographers ourselves and a number of photographers – amateur, semi-professional and professional – had asked if we could teach them various subjects. Since we were doing it any way, we decided to open the classes to other people. It has been wildly successful.
6. What’s the work of which you’re most proud, and what does ’09/10 have in store for you?
As much as I have accomplished personally over the past six years, I am most prod of the team we have built. Considering all the ego problems one expects when dealing with award winning artists, we rarely have ego problems. We share ideas, critique each other’s work, and stand beside one another whenever the going gets touch and it often does.
7. And finally- why the name Nyght Falcon, how did that come about?
When we founded the company, we wanted a name that would easily be remembered, that would be different, and distinctive, and easy to brand. Before turning pro, virtually all my photography was done at nyght so it seemed natural to include that in the name.
When I was in high school, I was given the name, Falcon. I was very shy and given to listening while a debate raged, and then, at precisely the right moment, like a bird of prey, I would attack. So, I was given the nick name, Falcon. A few years later, when I went to college, the genetic eye disease from which I suffer began to take hold of my eyes and I began to stay up all night and except for going to class, I slept during the day. My room mate started calling me, “Nyght Falcon”. I chose to spell nyght with a “Y” to reflect the Gothic edge our work has. Initially, we used NyghtFalcon Photography. In the second year it became simply NyghtFalcon to further stress the difference between who we are and what we do and other photographers.
We prefer to refer to ourselves as La Maison de NyghtFalcon – the House of NyghtFalcon – because our business model is like that of a fashion house and because we want to constantly remind ourselves that what we are building is bigger and more important than any one of us.
Experience more Nyghtfalcon, here.