“I know him” – A page from the diary of Photographer Dominic Lee, Priory Studios on shooting Michael Flatley for “Out of Your Tree 2”
One of the annoying things about looking for Celebrities to photograph is when people say “I know him”. Then when you do meet the Celebrity and mention the contact name, you get this blank look which tells you that your contact was talking shite and at best they probably only bumped into each other by accident in a crowded pub.
Michael Flatley was no exception; I’ve lost count of the number of people who said “I know him”. Eventually I did meet someone who clearly had a direct line to Michael and so I wrote saying:- Joe Bloggs tells me you would make a good subject for my next book about people’s hobbies. And the friends name usually makes the difference between your request and the thousands of other requests that Celebrities get to assist every charitable event which ever takes place.
I was delighted when Michael replied and gave me a few dates which suited him. His hobby is collecting Antique Flutes and he invited me to do the photo in his home in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.
I have been to LA a few times and have a good photographer friend there, Tony Maddox.
Tony, his wife Betsy & son Roman put me up for a few days and also supplied reflectors, tripod etc so all I needed was my camera. Tony featured in my first book, his hobby – singing in the church choir. Apart from running a busy photographic studio, Tony still sings and his band “The Tony Maddox Band” is a must see if you are ever in LA.
Tony Maddox's LA Studio
The Tony Maddox Band
Tony also kindly assisted me on the shoot with Michael.
An interior photo of Michael Flatley could be anywhere so I knew this one must have Michael’s Beverly Hills home in the background which I rightly anticipated would be quite distinguishable.
Tony and I received an exceptionally warm welcome from Michael which made us completely relaxed about the photo shoot; I quickly located a spot in his garden and did a few practice shots of Tony while Michael prepared some refreshments for us. The shoot only took about 10 minutes, seems crazy to go from Dublin to LA for a 10 min photo shoot but I’ve never been one for making an ordeal of taking a photo.
Tony Maddox Practice Shot
Michael then asked us to join him for lunch and I then took a few private shots of him with his lovely wife Niamh & their delightful baby Michael St James.
Someone later asked me what I thought of Michael Flatley and I replied “that man has a warm soul”, I’ve never said that about anyone before and it sums up in one line how impressed I was by him and it also makes me realise what a great job I have which presents me with opportunities to meet such wonderful people.
The shot is taken on a Nikon D700 with Nikkor 24-120mm lens, 200 ISO, using reflectors and a tiny blip of flash bounced off the built-in reflector on the Nikon SB900 which helps to balance the exposure between Michael’s portrait with the bright building in the background.
The photo for the text page in the book is a shot of some of Michael’s collection of Antique Flutes which I took in the music room of his Irish home at Castlehyde in Fermoy, Co, Cork. I realised that curtains in his Irish home were a similar colour to the wall of his LA home and that this would help the two pages blend together. I used the same Nikon camera & lens, using available light only.
Michael Flatley Page in Out Of Your Tree 2
Next day I took a trip to The J Paul Getty Museum in LA, this is the most breathtaking museum building I have ever visited, never mind the vast collection of treasures it houses. Including an exhibition by photographer Paul Outerbridge who in the 1930s (70+ years ago) was doing work in the darkroom which would put today’s skilled Photoshop experts to shame.
J Paul Getty Museum
All proceeds from the book entitled Out of Your Tree 2 go to The Irish Cancer Society
Available for €15 + postage from www.cancer.ie or Priory Studios