Jon Stars – The Pool

The Image

Jon Stars

Jon’s pool, Vineland, NJ

Time / Date:
12:00pm, July 24, 2013

The Technical

Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: EF35mm f1.4L USM
Alien Bee ABR800 Ring Light

Camera Settings:
Shutter Speed: 1/180
Aperture: f/13
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 35mm

The Story


I’ve been spending the last few years trying to find my vision while taking on editorial assignments. I’m sort of obsessed with getting something “perfect” and then throwing a stick in the front wheel and letting it all go to hell. Photography is such a technical art, and though I appreciate the accuracy of it all, I’m more interested in creating an image that’s emotionally engaging. I like images that pull you in and then push you around inside the frame.

This was a spur of the moment shoot without much planning at all–a product of boredom and 100º+ summer days. I had a model test scheduled for later that day at Jon Corsiglia’s (my assistant) studio. I always end up getting to the studio hours before the call time so we can test lighting concepts, relax, and watch stupid youtube videos. While we were most likely watching old skate videos I was blabbing to Jon about how I wanted to make new work that was simple yet dynamic at the same time, and that got our hamster wheels spinning. I ended up getting stuck on the idea of a subject splattered against the background.

The Scene:

I’m not sure how we brought the pool into the equation, but my guess is that it was really hot and we subconsciously wanted to swim. His pool is a gorgeous blue, and is tucked back behind his house in it’s own little oasis. It was steaming hot that day and you could almost feel the pool water evaporating when we were walking around looking for the best spot to shoot it.


I had an entire studio worth of equipment but, like always, I opted for a simple speed light set-up. I shot a few test frames and realized my 580ex wasn’t going to be effective fighting the sun. I knew I still wanted that poppy on-camera flash look so I brought out the clunky ABR 800 and some extension cords. That thing is a beast!

Making the Shot:

I knew I wanted to use some basic color-blocking so I told Jon to throw on a plain black t-shirt, black pants, and his black vans. We didn’t want to shoot anything that could be confused with a portrait so I ended up making him wear my Ray-Ban’s for anonymity’s sake. I’m a big fan of shooting with a 35mm lens because of how natural it looks. It doesn’t add or subtract–it’s real life. I don’t think it even crossed my mind to use a different lens. I didn’t want to include anything but the pool and Jon, so I knew it was going to be an overhead shot. I hate ladders, so naturally I had to push the ladder right up to the edge of pool as I stood on the top rung with my camera and a brick of electricity. I had Jon stand right next to the ladder and pretty much back flop into the pool. On the first try he smacked so hard that I wasn’t sure I was going to get another try out of him. His back was completely red, but he shook it off and gave me another 5 tries.

Editing & Processing:

I got the image I wanted on the 4th take. I knew I was going to be stealing some of the water and a foot from a different image so I brought them both into Photoshop and started hacking them together. I’m not a fan of compositing and I’d much rather get the shot in camera, but I knew I only had a few frames before Jon’s hair would be too soaked and his back too red. Once I had the image pieced together I got to work on the colors. I stay pretty simple with 2 curves layers and try to maintain natural colors but with a little extra punch. I wanted the image to really grab you so I boosted the cyan tones from the pool with a hue/sat layer.

Looking Back:

I’m really happy we spent that hour making this happen. It’s one of those pictures that stands well on its own but still describes what my work is about.


I think it’s great to work with people that are ready and willing to try new things. Surround yourself with creative people that like to do random things and you’ll find opportunities to make images you never thought to take. You are the average of your surroundings. That, and be safe on ladders!


The way things are always in motion in one way or another is really interesting. Photographically, I’m a big fan of what Day 19, Tim Barber, Cass Bird, Bryan Sheffield, and Magdalena Wosinska are doing. It’s really cool to see people creating commercially viable imagery while still maintaining their artistic roots.



About the Photographer

I’m a 25 year old photographer living outside of Philadelphia PA. I started taking pictures of friends riding BMX bikes when I was 17 and I’ve been chasing strange light and fun situations ever since.

Instagram: @xjonstars

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