No more batteries, Curtis!

John Dziekan, like so many photojournalists today, has switched business focus as markets have changed. We were so intrigued at the photograph of the artist Francis Joseph Gagnepain IV and “Curtis, the robot” that we asked Joe to provide some details. Here they are, in his own words…

I started at the Chicago Tribune at the age of 18, while still in college,  and had great opportunities doing all types of photography.

I always enjoyed working with lighting, in the studio and on location.  I became a PockeWizard user very early and am still using my first 16-channel set along w/ my “Plus” set constantly.  I left the Tribune in June of 2007 after 34 years as a staff photojournalist and now have my own freelance business.

I first met Francis Joseph Gagnepain IV years ago, while photographing him for the Tribune.  I called him a couple of months ago and suggested making a portrait of him, “to capture the true Joe”. The shot was done is Joe’s studio which is a 120 year old limestone building.  Joe wanted to be photographed with “Curtis”, a robot he was completing at the time.  I decided to use my strobe packs and heads for more power and control. I really like having modeling lights so I can see how the light is affecting the scene. I ended up using 2 packs, 5 heads, and one Speedlite for the shoot. Each pack had a PW receiver and I had the PW transmitter on camera. Using extension cords wouldn’t have worked because of the distances and the fact that the roof had some leaks, causing pools of water around the studio. And, PW’s work so great and make my life so much easier, I use them at every opportunity.

I made about 50 frames (mostly to get the sparks “just right”), and checked them on my MacBook Pro.  I was very happy with the take, and so was Joe. 


©John Dziekan

©John Dziekan



Curtis just kept asking for more batteries (grin).

Alycia Alvarez Video: What kind of photographer makes wild noises?

Actually, there are two kinds. One photographs animals. One photographs babies. Riverview, FL-based Alycia Alvarez is in the latter category. And, to say the least, she is really hitting her stride. As she points out in her blog she photographs “rattles to rings” i.e. babies to seniors to weddings. At the recent WPPI, Alycia used the new MiniTT1 and some Profoto ComPact R units to capture the warmth, smiles and cuteness of babies. See how she does it and ask yourself, “can you make noises like that?”

Head over to to see her gearbox, some bird’s-eye views of the lighting and quotes from Alycia.