The Realist // Stephen Cefalo - Cool Local Businesses

Last week I jumped back into the Cool Local Business Owners series and got things started off right with one of the coolest and most talented guys I know. Steve Cefalo is a painter, but that word doesn't really do it justice. He's not just a guy who paints good pictures, he's like an alien from another planet with superior abilities that landed here on Earth just to demonstrate to us humans what is truly possible with paint and canvas. 

I stopped by his Argenta studio last week to hang out for a bit and chow down on a Big Bacon Classic while he worked on one of his current projects. It was really interesting to talk with him about light from a painters perspective. As a painter, he can really create whatever light he sees in his head, but for him - as a realist - his light must be believable, and he lays it down masterfully. 

I set up a few lights in his small studio as he worked and shot a few photographs of him in his element. Here's a few of my favorites. 

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

With the limited amount of room for my big clunky gear in his studio, I basically had just enough room to set up a big octabank (high to camera left in this photo) and I made use of one of his studio lights for the rim light, which had a nice orange color tone, and it complimented his style nicely.

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

I love these two portraits (above) - especially the one on the right with the skeleton peeking over his shoulder.

My favorite from the whole shoot is this last one (below). For this shot I changed out my big octabank for a small gridded strip box and pushed it as far left as I could without knocking over various paintings and books stacked on the wall. I moved his big orange studio light around to the right, pointing both at the back of his head and the painting on the easel, and dragged the shutter just barely to give the light a small amount of influence. I also placed a small speedlight on the wall behind the easel and aimed it at the amazing minotaur self-portrait on the wall in the background, just to show that it's there. I also had to sneak the skeleton in there a bit closer. 

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

Stephen Cefalo in his studio in North Little Rock, Arkansas. February 2014. Photo credit: Jacob Slaton

It was really cool photographing a guy who knows so much about light and posing. He was more self aware (in a good way) than anyone else I've ever photographed. He knew exactly how and where the light was hitting him and he gave me the exact expressions I was looking for every time. His painting style is dark, emotional, moody, and even somewhat disturbing, and working in his studio made it really easy to motivate that style for these images.

Double big thanks to Steve for letting me crash his studio for awhile! It was super cool getting to see some of his works-in-progress and to just watch him do his thing for a while. If you're interested in painting and realism, check out his website here. I guarantee it will completely blow your mind. All of his paintings are for sale and he is available for commission. You should also follow him on Instagram, where he has over 10,000 followers. Awesome. 

Thanks for reading! Next up in the Cool Local Business Owners series: White Goat in the Heights, Georgia James Creative, Waffle Wagon, and hopefully Hillcrest Artisan Meats! If you know of a cool local business owner that I need to feature on here, submit a nomination anywhere you can find me online!

ReCreation Studios // Camille and Danny - Cool Local Businesses

When I originally started this series, I posted to my Facebook page asking for suggestions for businesses to feature and ReCreation Studios kept coming up over and over again. It was one of the few businesses I hadn't heard of before, so I did a quick search to see what they were all about and I contacted Camille as soon as I saw her hanging peacefully from a bright blue silk fabric attached to the ceiling in her studio. 

When I arrived for the shoot I met Camille and her boyfriend Danny and immediately felt at home with them. They are both extremely chill people and the studio just feels like a cool place to hang around. I obviously wanted to get some action shots of her demonstrating some of the things they do at the studio, but once I saw her style I quickly started thinking of portrait ideas for her. 

For the first shot, I set up my six foot softbox and basically just told them to do something cool. Before they got into their floor workout, I snapped a quick shot of Camille just to test the light and it turned out pretty awesome. I didn't expect to end up using it in the post but here it is. I love the banal, simple, normal, everyday-ness of it. She has that total peacefulness about her and that raw childlike innocence. Also the color tones just kill me in this shot. I love it. 


Immediately after that shot her and Danny got into this crazy pose, which I call "Super Baby" because I do a really un-graceful version of it with my kids, but which also probably has some other really cool sounding name that I don't know like "Flying Egret." As soon as they landed in the pose I quickly moved my softbox around to the opposite side and snapped a few frames. I had to bring up the shadows quite a bit in post but I think it turned out cool. Again - I love the peaceful expressions I got from these two. They look so relaxed. 


After the floor workout I asked Camille to show me a little bit of the silk aerial stuff. Honestly this part was hard to shoot because she kept moving and spinning and my light was rarely in the right spot when she landed in a cool position. For these shots I used a shoot-through umbrella on a nine foot light stand and shot on the top of a six foot ladder to stay on her eye level. We ended up with a good set of images from this, but the one I kept going back to was this one. So chill. I love it. Camille reminded me of Tinkerbell from the movie Hook - just flying around in her tiny lantern all by herself. 


For the last two shots I really wanted to feature Camille's style and try to capture her essence, if at all possible. Since I only met her that day I can't confidently say that this represents who she is and her unique spirit, but it might be pretty close. I also wanted to feature her relationship with Danny, which seems to be part of the charm of their whole business. From the moment I walked in she and Danny were constantly nuzzling each other and holding hands, but not in a "get-a-room" kind of way - it was endearing, actually. Here's two shots of them, which I think are my favorites from the whole day.


That last shot reminds me of what James Taylor and Carly Simon were probably like back in 1972. So full of love and excitement and potential. 

You should totally check out ReCreation Studios if you're interested in a different kind of workout, or activity, or hobby, or maybe even as an alternative to yoga. They have classes all week long and they offer something for everybody. Their studio is located on north Main Street in Little Rock directly across the street from The Rep.  

The whole point of this series on cool local business owners is to find people doing what they love pursuing something big and Camille and Danny at ReCreation Studios are doing exactly that. So cool to see stuff like this popping up in Little Rock. If you have any suggestions for other cool local businesses to feature hit me up in the comments and let me know!

Thanks again to Danny and Camille for making me feel at home and for letting me barge in and take over their studio to do these pictures! I wish you guys all the best in all your endeavors!

Also, I just realized I've done three posts in this series and all three have been on Main Street. Good job, Main Street. 

Next up, Electric Heart Tattoo, Nomad Skate Shop, and White Goat in the Heights.  


Loblolly Creamery // The Soda Fountain - Cool Local Businesses

So if you live in Little Rock you're probably well aware that the city is experiencing some really cool growth in the way of new businesses and just general coolness. One of the places that has seen the biggest transformation in the past few years is the (now) lovely South Main Street, also known as SoMa, thanks to one of those surprisingly well timed and even more surprisingly effective city government campaigns to put a new face on an old area by simply nicknaming it. 

One of the first few businesses to see the potential of South Main was the Green Corner Store, which is now right in the heart of the coolness of SoMa. I had originally set up this shoot with Shelley Green, who owns the store, and I had planned on shooting both her and the fine folks that run The Soda Fountain and Loblolly Creamery, which are both located inside the walls of the Green Corner Store. 

On the day of the shoot, I arrived to find out that Shelley was out sick (bummer) but the Soda Fountain / Loblolly crew (Sally, Rachel, and Dan) were there and more than ready to knock out some awesome pictures. For the first shot, I set up my 60 inch softbox low and to camera left and had Sally stand behind the soda fountain and make up a nice colorful drink while Rachel held a reflector off to camera right to bounce some light back onto Sally's face and also to highlight the soda fountain a bit more. 


For the edit on these shots, I used VSCO film to give the images that classic look of being shot on film rather than digital. I rarely use VSCO film for these types of shots but I thought it worked in this case since the concept of a soda fountain already has that  nostalgic 1950s feel to it. Sidenote: Since I was shooting directly into a mirror (behind Sally) I had to basically hide behind Sally's reflection and I had to keep my lights well off to the side to keep from bouncing light where I didn't want it.

Next I did a few shots of Rachel, Sally, and Dan all together, each enjoying some tasty treat they offer to their customers. For this shot I kept my big softbox up and raised it up pretty high - maybe 6 feet or so - so the light would reach Dan in the back. I also pushed the light pretty far back so each of my three subjects would land in an even zone of light with little falloff from one edge to the next. You know, inverse square law stuff. I also put a strobe with a reflector directly on the floor in the back of the store to light up the ceiling and the space behind them. 


The stuff they sell in this store is super cool and the owners and staff are just as awesome. I just love this new-ish push of cool young people making this city awesome and chasing their dreams, and that's why I'm doing this series on cool local business owners. Thanks again to Sally, Rachel, and Dan at Loblolly Creamery / The Soda Fountain! You guys rule and you did an awesome job in front of the camera!  Thanks for letting me barge in and take over for a while! 

Folks, if you haven't checked out the Green Corner Store and gotten a soda and a cone at Loblolly, you really are missing out. It just feels good to be in there. Reminds me of my Mawmaw a little bit. Thanks again guys!  


Next up in the Cool Local Business Owners series: Re-Creation Studios, Nomad Skate Shop, White Goat, and Electric Heart Tattoo. Stay tuned. I'm having lots of fun with this. 

South on Main // Matt & Amy Bell - Little Rock Restauranteurs

I had the awesome chance to photograph Matt & Amy Bell this week as part of my portrait series featuring cool local business owners doing awesome things in central Arkansas. Matt and Amy have taken over the old Juanita's space on south Main Street in Little Rock and they are in the process of renovations to relaunch the space as a new restaurant called South on Main

For this portrait series, I wanted to meet some cool people and learn more about whats going on in Little Rock as well as promote those new-ish businesses that people are taking big chances on. As a business owner myself, I understand how fun and risky and exciting it can be to start something new and I always like to do anything I can to help people chase down their dreams and make them a reality. Little Rock has become such a cool place in just the last two or three years and this portrait series is my way of setting out to discover its hidden gems and help the city continue to thrive and grow. 

When I arrived at the South on Main location I was immediately drawn to this awesome circular couch thing in the front entryway and knew pretty quickly that my shot would be anchored by that piece. The front windows were covered in paper held up by painters tape and I asked Matt if we could take the paper down to let the natural light from the street flood the space. As soon as the paper came down, everything came together for the shot. Here's the first one: 


The key light comes from the window in this shot and the rim light comes from a bare speedlight I hid behind the South on Main sign and pointed directly at the backs of Matt & Amy's heads. I also used an Alien Bee 800 with a translucent umbrella and the modeling lamp on (i.e. not popping) to light the sign and the floor in front of it. I dragged my shutter to bring up the  background and the modeling lamp exposure. I got lucky here because the color temperature of the modeling lamp was almost a perfect match for the sunlight coming in from the huge skylight over the bar at the top left. Once I had the lights dialed in I just had to wait for the right expression from Matt & Amy.


For the second shot I had a different plan in mind but this one came together nicely and ended up being a stronger shot than the one I had originally planned. I kept Amy on the couch in basically the same position as the one above and asked Matt to come stand behind her. I wanted a vertically oriented shot with the BAR sign framed in behind them. 

My light setup was exactly the same for this shot because I wanted it to pair well with the first shot but have a different feel. I've always been inspired (strangely enough) by ads and posters for weird reality shows on the Discovery Channel and the History Channel and I tried to get close to that with this shot. I love their expressions in this photo. Amy's eyebrow is just deadly. With a little bit of dramatic lighting and some help from your subjects you can really strike a nice tone. Nice job Matt & Amy. 
So those are the two shots I came up with for Matt & Amy Bell of South on Main restaurant in Little Rock - two people who are now officially certified as cool local business owners in my book. I can't wait for this place to open. After hearing about it from Amy and seeing it for myself I can easily say that this place is going to be a huge success. And with Matt's reputation as a chef it seems like a home run waiting to happen. Looking forward to it guys!
If you have a suggestion for another cool local business to feature hit me up in the comments and let's make it happen! I've already got a solid list built up but I could always use more!