Shooting Doug – Heart of a NY Photographer

harmonica-dougA slim, Barret-wearing man huffs and puffs away on his harmonica. As the soulful sounds echo throughout the acoustically perfect stairwell, you can feel the passion emote from him. No, this isn’t the scene from a cool jazz documentary about a soulful musician. Instead, it’s what will most likely be the opening scene for the short film/promo video we’re producing for commercial and editorial photographer Doug Menuez. The harmonica player is Doug himself.

Doug Menuez has been a professional photographer for the better part of three decades. He tells the story of when he first picked up a camera at the age of ten and got yelled at by his dad for wasting a whole roll of film on shots of the branches of the tree in their backyard. From stories about the “scary” hey-days of New York in the 70s when drug addicts roamed the city and wreaked havoc, to the conflict between art and commerce, Doug has so many stories to share about his life and career as a New York photographer.

Last Friday I shared about the experience of shooting a portion of Doug’s documentary about New York immigrants. This is a follow up post. I had already learned much about Doug from my interview with him. But there’s something about seeing the man in his element, New York City, camera in hand. Here’s a small snippet from the raw footage we shot in the living room of his Manhattan apartment. Doug is talking about what it’s like being a photographer in a city of 100,000 photographers. (Shot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 85mm 1.2 L).


For you fellow filmmakers and video producers shooting with the Canon 5D, I wanted to share some learnings. Thanks to my friend Jason Groupp (a well-known wedding and lifestyle photographer in New York), I was able to borrow the Canon 85mm 1.2 L lens. The bokeh on this baby is absolutely delicious! I’ve heard a number of photogs say it’s their favorite lens. I can see why. It makes for a great lens when interviewing a subject. Particularly if you’re in a tight space. The one main caveat is that the depth of field on this lens is extremely shallow. Too much movement forward or backward by your subject can lead to them moving in and out of focus. Also, it can be difficult focusing mainly because the view screen is so small. If you’re able to use an external monitor, I’d highly recommend it. “Reverie” director Vincent Laforet has a good article on his blog about using an external monitor.