Portraits With Comedian Nate Bargatze

Sink or Swim

My two goals in 2018 were to be nationally recognized for a fine art photograph and to take a portrait of someone that’s nationally recognized. Kodak reached out last year and promoted this photograph to their community… checked that box. But I couldn’t close the deal on a portrait session with a celebrity or public figure.

Nate Bargatze has been a favorite comedian of mine for a few years now. I approached him last year during one of his trips to Huntsville, AL for a show at Stand Up Live. All seemed like it would work out for a quick portrait session in ‘18 but busy people stay busy and it fell through.

This year Nate just so happen to be rolling back through Stand Up Live around my wife’s birthday. Easy win to see Nate and nab a solid date night. I wasn’t even going to bring it up but I have people in my life that want me to be successful. My wife and her best friend set up a 4 way communication between me and Nate and before I knew it Nate and I were meeting for a quick photo session.

I have less than 24 hours to figure out how to pull this off that would be respectful of Nate’s time and give me the shots I wanted. I have Kodak Ektachrome loaded in the Leica but did not want to shoot portraits with that. I wasn’t use to it yet and had only developed one roll prior. I wasn’t confident using that film stock for a portrait, yet. So instead of winding the roll early, I would just use the Canon ELAN for the portraits and load it up with Ilford HP5. I call my pal Kyle on the drive to the shoot and tell him my struggle and not wanting to waste the Ektachrome. Kyle immediately said “NO, you have a Leica. Shoot with the DAMN Leica”! So, I did just that! I shot a few portraits with the Ektachrome (which I love) and then loaded the HP5.

Behind the scenes captured by  Morgan Knight .

Behind the scenes captured by Morgan Knight.

I couldn’t be more amped on the results with the short amount of planning. The morning started out so freaking cold and I had no indoor location to shoot. I called the Hotel Nate was staying at to see if I could use a small section of a downstairs room for less than an hour… zero response, which wasn’t shocking but I had to try. So… next best option… the parking garage outside of the complex. Not creepy at all right… LOL! I accepted the challenge and since this was a completely personal shoot I went with it.

I get to the location about 45 minute early to set up and ask my pal Morgan Knight if she could make it out to assist. I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off is she wasn’t there. BIG round of applause for her being randomly available.

We get the light set then I walk over to the hotel to meet Nate. He’s super chill and understanding of the location situation. We walk back to the second level of the parking deck and start the session.

Checked my light settings for the iso100 Ektachrome and click away. I pull off about 4 frames then decide that was enough… time for HP5. Wind up the Ektachrome, hand that roll off to Morgan, she hands me the HP5. I load it quickly then change my light setting to match the iso400 change. All is set, I get Nate back into position, frame and CLICK… nothing coming out of the lights. I change my transmitter, reset the lights, then get Nate back into position… CLICK… NOTHING AGAIN! Nate’s now awkwardly silent and I’m going through my mental check list on what could be happening. Fortunately Morgan picks up on this and starts some simple dialog that helps break the tension (life saver!!). All appears to be working perfectly on the transmitter, my battery is fine on the Leica… then I look down at my shutter dial… it’s at 1/500, not the 1/50 it needs to be at…

Ok… back to shooting. I only click a total of 28 frames and do my best to make this experience as fun and quick as possible. I finish up and let Nate know he killed it; “That’s it? Wow, thanks for making that easy”, which made me feel proud that I accomplished what I set out to do.

All in all it was a great experience and made me exercise all my knowledge to date on portrait photography. I’m in love with the results but also feel like there’s more I could have captured. But I guess that’s the drive that keeps me going.

Thanks for following along. Make sure to check out Nate Bargatze’s new Netflix Special. Guaranteed laughs will happen.