I’m incredibly honored to have once again been given the opportunity to work with Nikon Japan on another project—this time, for the absolutely stunning Nikon AF-S105mm f/1.4E ED.


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/4000th)

First and foremost, this shoot was so much fun to be a part of, and I attribute it’s success in large part to an amazing creative director and crew.  Having a CD who puts their full faith in you to produce a great set of photos as well as an amazing support crew is priceless.

Instead of shooting tight studio portraits with minimal backgrounds (which I cant wait to use this lens for), we opted for a handful of locations around my neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, as we needed to show off the versatility of this lens and push it as much as possible.


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/4000th)

Even when there’s a bit of a production on a shoot, I really strive to shoot as loosely as possible. For a shoot like this, that meant a handful of formalized portraits, but more than anything, tons of loose lifestyle work.


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/1600th)

Tracking and locking focus at f/1.4 isn’t typically an easy thing to do.  With that said, I really wanted to use this lens exactly as I would on a normal portrait assignment, and it really shined where I needed it to.  I shot three models over three days, and the speed of focus and level of sharpness far surpassed my expectations.


(Nikon D810, ISO 200, f/1.4, 1/250th)

Fast glass can be a lifesaver, and f/1.4 is a beautiful thing.  When used right, shallow depth of field can make an otherwise ordinary or even cluttered scene into something breathtaking.  The bokeh this lens produces is just that, and when you combine it with the compression of a 105mm lens, it really brings this lens to a whole new level.


(Nikon D810, ISO 320, f/1.4, 1/100th)

This lens really sets a new professional standard for portrait photography, and I’m so excited to have it in my bag.

If you’re a portrait photographer, I can almost guarantee you that this will be your new favorite lens, so go check it out for yourself, and I’d love to hear what you think.

A huge thanks goes out to my crew for all their hard work on this job!:

Client: Nikon Japan/Worldwide

Creative Director: Soichi Hayashi

Talent: Ebony Obsidian, Matthew Bentley & Emily Stockdale

Photo Assistant: Adam Wamsley

Styling: Kody Pangburn & James Huggins

Hair/Makeup: Christina Nicole

As a quick note, I know a lot of you reading this are interested in this lens, and for that reason none of these photos have had any major editing, and there’s been absolutely no retouching.

Here’s a handful of images shot for the campaign, and if you have any questions, drop a comment below and i’ll do my best to get right back to you.




(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/4000th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 1600, f/1.4, 1/160th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/250th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/3200th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 200, f/1.4, 1/400th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 64, f/1.4, 1/200th)


(Nikon D810, ISO 1000, f/1.4, 1/80th)


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Portrait of blue pianist and preservationist, Ethan Leinwand, shot at the The Manhattan Inn, in Brooklyn, NY on July 23, 2014. (Photo by Drew Gurian)

Although I grew up just outside of the city in northern New Jersey, until about two years ago, I had never actually lived in the city.  Sure, I’ve spent tons of time here over the years, but I really enjoy being able to consider myself a New Yorker for the first time in my life.

I moved here for a few reasons.  It’s one of the largest markets in the world, which means that there’s always room to grow and evolve as a photographer.  I’m surrounded by tons of other creatives who inspire me, and I’m now right in the middle of this thriving community.  Being here also enables me to be around these friends more, meet tons of new people, and sooner or later, it will lead to new work.

Part of being in the midst of this very social scene includes finding a great local bar. Back in January, I was introduced to The Manhattan Inn, which has quickly become one of my favorite bar/restaurants.  Several nights a week, they have someone playing piano in the back room, and I absolutely love the atmosphere.

One performer in particular, Ethan Leinwand, used to play there every Friday and Saturday night.  His self-described style as a preservationist/blues/boogie-woogie player was the perfect fit for this place, and I went to see him play anytime I was in the city on a weekend.  His vintage look was seamless with the music he played, and I knew I needed to photograph him.

We exchanged cards, and after a few months or trying to align schedules, we finally made it happen last year.


The room itself was really dark, and the only ambient light was the hard sun hitting the piano from the skylight.  If I exposed for that highlight, I knew the rest of the room would go almost completely black, and the showing the atmosphere was really important to me.

When the ambient light isn’t working in our favor, we can either dial it out completely, or modify the light to make it usable.  Since I tend to try and light in as natural of a way as possible, I picked the latter, and instead of totally covering the skylight, I turned it into a soft fill light with a shoot through Umbrella Shallow Translucent M.  If I had a ladder with me, I probably would have gaffed a bed sheet to the entire skylight, but a c-stand and umbrella got me by just fine. Sometimes a set needs to look pristine (ie- when a client is present), and sometimes it looks like a battle scene.  All that really matters is what the final photo looks like, and nobody needs to know how much improvisation is done on the fly to make a photo happen.

I lit Ethan with a Profoto B1 and a Softbox RFi 1×3′.  I used this particular strip softbox to make sure I had enough control on the light, as to not overlight or blow out the white piano.

Portrait of blue pianist and preservationist, Ethan Leinwand, shot at the The Manhattan Inn, in Brooklyn, NY on July 23, 2014. (Photo by Drew Gurian)

Even once the skylight was diffused, the difference in exposure between the foreground and background were still far too much.  Once I dialed in my main light for Ethan, I added a second light to bring just a bit of detail into the background.  Based on the warm nature of the scene, I added a 1/4 cut of CTO (color temperature orange) to warm up the flash a bit, and blend it in as seamlessly as possible.

The last element which helped to softly blend the scene together was a hazer, which was hidden behind the piano, and aimed towards the back corner.  Fog machines pump out really thick white smoke that can be tough to control.  Hazers, on the other hand, are much more natural looking and can be a beautiful element in a photo- especially in a case like this, where I’m trying to emulate a smoky bar.

I set up, shot and broke down in about two hours, and kept it simple enough that I could work on my own to make it happen.  Ethan is such a great guy, and I’m really happy to be able to provide him with photos for his own promotional use.

More than a personal shoot, opportunities like this let me connect with my community through my work, and it’s a win-win all around.

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