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hoebbel_120In the former Fall Creek Cinema building there is a combination studio/theater space that is ideal for photographers and videographers.  Ithaca photographer Thomas Hoebbel says the studio is ideal for photo and video shoots.  Hoebbel offers a range of services for businesses, performing arts, and individuals.  While he says most of his shoots are on location, the studio suits his needs for portrait photography and video sessions.

"I really love working with lots and lots of different people," Hoebbel  says.  "Every time I have a new job I have a new relationship and a new friendship.  Fulfilling or exceeding their needs and expectations is a joy.  Knowing what they are looking for visually and being able to deliver that and have them love my work makes me happy."

Those jobs range from weddings, bar mitzvahs, parties, and portraits to corporate photography and short videos designed for the Web.  He does theater photography, and his work has graced programs from local theaters.  He has also worked on feature films.  He started offering corporate videos a few years ago with the idea that it would become a major percentage of his business, perhaps, five years later.  Last year in particular, the video piece of his business soared.

For a lot of photographers the busy seasons follow weddings, sports seasons, and other seasonal events, with portrait and holiday prints filling the slow times.  Hoebbel says that video work has more than filled those times, and filled his schedule even during the economic downturn.  He says this is because Web based videos are less costly and more effective in conveying a client's message than print media, radio or television.

"In 2008 it took me some time to convince people that video and other ways are good ways to present themselves on the Web," he says.  "This year they are coming to me, wanting comprehensive video packages for different presentations, for their Web sites, for grant proposals and fundraisers.  Over the past year it's really mushroomed to at least 50% of my business.  In the last couple of months -- traditional photography has always slowed down for me in November and December.  But the video has been almost non-stop."

hoebbel_400Thomas Hoebbel

Hoebbel grew up in Lockport, NY, where he got his first camera when he was eight, a Kodak Instamatic.  While in high school he saw an a commercial for a Cannon AE1 camera, and that convinced him that he wanted one and wanted to take pictures for a living.  His cousin had that model, and he was impressed with the work she was doing.  After graduating from Hobart College he got one of his own, and went to work as a newspaper photographer and freelance photographer while he did graduate work at the University of Connecticut. 

When they were both done with their graduate work Hoebbel and his wife Holly Adams decided they wanted to move.  They picked five cities they thought would be ideal for them and their two children.  Each had features the two found attractive, such as a vital arts and theater scene, a strong cultural center, and proximity to their families.  Ithaca won on that last point, and they relocated here.  He took a job at Cornell University's photography department, working on public relations shoots.  He worked there for five or six years, doing freelance work as time allowed.

"In 2001 I decided I was ready to hang up my shingle and get out there and do full time freelance photography, and I am happy that I did," he says.  "It was in 2008 that I expanded into video as well.  I saw the advent of YouTube and faster Internet speeds so that people could actually watch video on the Web.  I decided I wanted to be at the front side of that curve making videos for clients who wanted to make videos to post on their Web sites for marketing purposes or whatever their needs were."

That has worked out very well.  While he says he never wants to give up still photography, working in video has opened new channels of creativity and collaboration.

"With video I find I even have more artistic freedom," Hoebbel says.  "I am not only oftentimes deciding the lighting angle in the shop, but even what the next  piece is going to be.  When you tell a story with video you have to tell the whole story, whereas with still photography it's often accompanying a piece, or at least there is a caption to fill in the story.  With video I have to know the story from the beginning to middle to end, and I have to fill in with all the elements I need to tell that story."

Most of the work that he does is about five minutes long, suitable for the Internet.  But he has also worked as Director of Photography (DP) on two independent feature films so far.  The first was 'Waiting On Alfie, which was shot in Ithaca in 1995.  A few years ago he was DP and editor for  'Take That,' for Terry King, a filmmaker in Buffalo a couple of years ago.  That film premiered last November.

Hoebbel is working with King on a new project called 'April's Fool' that will be shot in Ithaca and Buffalo.  The film is already cast and the Ithaca shoot will take place in the Fall Creek studio this month.  Fittingly, the film is about a photographer who hires a woman named April.

Hoebbel counts Cayuga Medical Center, Cornell University, TC3, and many local small businesses among his clients.  Capturing just that right moment or scene that perfectly tells a client's story is a large part of what Hoebbel loves about his work.

"Why I do what I do and continue to love it is that moment when I look in the camera and I see the image that tells the story I want to tell," he says.  "It's very different between still and video.  With video it unfolds in front of you.  When it happens you can feel it happening.  My passion is when I see that exact moment and be able to present it to my client."

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