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High Wattage

Clint Watts is the real deal. An expert on the Russian government and its strategy and tactics in the digital age. He is someone you are just as likely to see testifying on the Hill in Washington or as a counter-terrorism analyst on MSNBC. He was one of the first to sound the alarm on Russia’s worldwide meddling in elections and on social media.

Clint is currently the Robert A. Fox Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute. His background includes having served as a U.S. Army infantry officer, a FBI Special Agent on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and as the Executive Officer of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

I photographed him Jersey City, N.J. for Communiqué magazine.

Clint Watts. Jersey City, NJ. September, 2017.

Clint lives in Jersey City and preferred to be photographed there so that set the vicinity of the project. On the shoot day my assistant, Ivan, and I arrived about a two hours before Clint’s call time. This gave us time to scout, pick a final location, and setup.

I have shot a number of video and still sessions in Jersey City. The area of the city near the waterfront is one of my favorites for its light, the buildings, and the light rail train which passes through. It is also one block from the waterfront and I knew that between those four things something would work out.

The day was perfect, a bit chilly and windy, but quite beautiful.

Sunrise, Jersey City waterfront. Jersey City, NJ. September, 2017.

Jersey City is directly across from lower Manhattan. Because of Clint’s work on terrorism I knew that a visual reference to Ground Zero would work well for a portrait. Scouting that day though, I felt the waterfront would be a bit too flat visually. Clint, a railing, the river, Manhattan didn’t have a lot of depth in terms of graphics. Also, once Clint arrived the sun would be backlighting him and would be too close to him.

I moved on to the light rail area, it has a trolley’esque feel, but it was a bit overpowering. So, I opted for the buildings one block in from the water. I love their vibe and Clint’s vibe meshed right in. This view allowed me to include the new World Trade Center in the photo and keep that connection.

My Canon 1DX Mark II ready to go. Pocket Wizard for the flash and cable for tethering to Capture One. Jersey City, NJ. September, 2017.

For portrait projects I prefer to use prime lenses relying on the 50mm f/1.2L the most but also using the 85mm f/1.2L, the 35mm f/1.4L, and the 24mm f/1.4L II. For lighting, Ivan and I were on the street with no permit so one light needed to suffice and it had to be battery powered. I used one of my Profoto AcuteB 600r’s with a Chimera Small Softbox (24″ x 36″). The final image was with the 35mm f/1.4L at f/2.8 to throw the background out of focus and keep the attention on Clint.

Assistant Ivan Guzman helps set up the Profoto battery powered strobe. Jersey City, NJ. September, 2017.

Here’s the photo as it ran in the magazine:

Clint Watts, Communiqué magazine. Fall, 2017 issue.