A Pair of Zacks Beats a Full House

Zack Berlat and Zack Bagdon use light and composition to give impact to their work

June 02, 2022
Dale Goodwin ('86)

Gonzaga Video Producer Zack Bagdon (’16) imagined himself as the next SportsCenter anchor sitting alongside Spokane-product Neil Everett on ESPN. Senior Photographer and Multimedia Specialist Zack Berlat (’11) loved photography, but he thought graphic design might be a more marketable pursuit.

By his own admission, Bagdon found out quickly that he wasn’t good on camera. Berlat tried graphic design but didn’t enjoy it.

Now, the two Zacks are making pictures and video productions to capture the life and times at Gonzaga, and it would be hard to imagine two more productive souls.

Berlat got his start as a student working under former staff photographer Rajah Bose in Marketing & Communications. He returned in 2016 to replace his mentor. Bagdon spent five years grooming his craft, working with Corner Booth Media before joining his alma mater in 2021.

What people see is their finished product. What is key, they say, is their planning and preparation for every shoot.

If the shoot is on location, advance scouting is required. “When I’m scouting a location by
myself, looking at different angles and sightlines to see light and backgrounds, I get some weird looks,” says Bagdon. “But you have to put in the effort to make your images just right.”

“And after you’ve got the particulars down on the site, you have to plan what equipment will be needed,” Berlat explains. “The worst is trying to roll a wagon full of equipment across campus in the snow, including a computer, cables, lights and stands, tripods and several lenses and camera bodies.”

Bagdon adds: “You learn over time that there’s a decent chance there will be a location complication, and you add more to the cart, like an extra light, tripod, lens and duct tape – in case you need to jury-rig something you hadn’t planned for.”

Shooting presents obstacles for these two craftsmen and storytellers, as well.

“Shooting an event and trying to be unobtrusive can appear to be kind of creepy,” Bagdon
says. “You’re in the shadows, finding places to shoot where people won’t see you and you can capture authentic moments. Once people see the camera, they stop what they’re doing and look right at you.”

But sometimes the only way to get the shot you need is to assert yourself, Berlat explains. “If I have to interrupt to get the best picture, I read the room and I can do that quickly.
Shooting Jesuit funerals is difficult. I feel like I have a thousand eyes on me, but I know I’m there to document the event for the entire university community.”

Post-production work can be the most tedious for this dynamic duo. Bagdon shot 10 hours of video covering commencement activities and events in May. “The amount of time required to offload that footage is exhausting. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I mark the timeline for start and end of every clip that might make the final product.”

Bagdon calls his three-minute commencement recap video his signature piece, so far. “Graduation is the super bowl of our work in higher education. That’s why we’re here. It’s our students’ big moment. I really worked to think through the style of shots, music and speakers’ clips to capture this poignant moment for them. This is the jumping off point for the rest of their lives.”

Berlat’s “gateway photo” is of English Professor Tod Marshall when he was named Washington state poet laureate. “It defined a new direction for me,” he says. “Creative portraiture is my favorite. I scouted locations and thought a library would be suitable to shoot a poet laureate. I liked the reflection in the glass tabletop. The lattice wall and glass cubes created a rich setting. I lit one side with warm orange tones and accented that with cooler tones on the other side coming from behind Marshall. I think it worked well.” (see photo)

Favorite part of the job for each?

For Bagdon, it’s talking with such a diverse spectrum of people and listening to their stories. For Berlat, it’s discovering things about Gonzaga he never knew before.

For both, composition and lighting are key to their work success.

Berlat says his work at Gonzaga is different from a lot of other enterprises where a photographer concentrates on one area. Here, it’s not just portrait photography, but journalistic, event, jewelry, commercial and aerial photography, as well. He has a pilot’s license from the FAA to fly and shoot from a drone.

Bagdon finds that people are always intrigued by his equipment, “and to be honest, I’m a gear-head. We have thousands of dollars worth of equipment, but sometimes you don’t have the right piece and you have to rig something new.”

Adds Berlat: “And Zack and I might have more selfies than any Instagram influencer because we’re always testing lighting and backdrops to make the best images.”

The deck is stacked well here at Gonzaga. Zacks are a winning hand.
Gonzaga Video Producer Zack Bagdon (’16) imagined himself as the next SportsCenter anchor sitting alongside Spokane-product Neil Everett on ESPN. Senior Photographer and Multimedia Specialist Zack Berlat (’11) loved photography, but he thought graphic design might be a more marketable pursuit.

By his own admission, Bagdon found out quickly that he wasn’t good on camera. Berlat tried graphic design but didn’t enjoy it.

Now, the two Zacks are making pictures and video productions to capture the life and times at Gonzaga, and it would be hard to imagine two more productive souls.

Berlat got his start as a student working under former staff photographer Rajah Bose in Marketing & Communications. He returned in 2016 to replace his mentor. Bagdon spent five years grooming his craft, working with Corner Booth Media before joining his alma mater in 2021.

What people see is their finished product. What is key, they say, is their planning and preparation for every shoot.

If the shoot is on location, advance scouting is required. “When I’m scouting a location by
myself, looking at different angles and sightlines to see light and backgrounds, I get some weird looks,” says Bagdon. “But you have to put in the effort to make your images just right.”

“And after you’ve got the particulars down on the site, you have to plan what equipment will be needed,” Berlat explains. “The worst is trying to roll a wagon full of equipment across campus in the snow, including a computer, cables, lights and stands, tripods and several lenses and camera bodies.”

Bagdon adds: “You learn over time that there’s a decent chance there will be a location complication, and you add more to the cart, like an extra light, tripod, lens and duct tape – in case you need to jury-rig something you hadn’t planned for.”

Shooting presents obstacles for these two craftsmen and storytellers, as well.

“Shooting an event and trying to be unobtrusive can appear to be kind of creepy,” Bagdon
says. “You’re in the shadows, finding places to shoot where people won’t see you and you can capture authentic moments. Once people see the camera, they stop what they’re doing and look right at you.”

But sometimes the only way to get the shot you need is to assert yourself, Berlat explains. “If I have to interrupt to get the best picture, I read the room and I can do that quickly.
Shooting Jesuit funerals is difficult. I feel like I have a thousand eyes on me, but I know I’m there to document the event for the entire university community.”

Post-production work can be the most tedious for this dynamic duo. Bagdon shot 10 hours of video covering commencement activities and events in May. “The amount of time required to offload that footage is exhausting. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait. I mark the timeline for start and end of every clip that might make the final product.”

Bagdon calls his three-minute commencement recap video his signature piece, so far. “Graduation is the super bowl of our work in higher education. That’s why we’re here. It’s our students’ big moment. I really worked to think through the style of shots, music and speakers’ clips to capture this poignant moment for them. This is the jumping off point for the rest of their lives.”

Berlat’s “gateway photo” is of English Professor Tod Marshall when he was named Washington state poet laureate. “It defined a new direction for me,” he says. “Creative portraiture is my favorite. I scouted locations and thought a library would be suitable to shoot a poet laureate. I liked the reflection in the glass tabletop. The lattice wall and glass cubes created a rich setting. I lit one side with warm orange tones and accented that with cooler tones on the other side coming from behind Marshall. I think it worked well.” (see photo)

Favorite part of the job for each?

For Bagdon, it’s talking with such a diverse spectrum of people and listening to their stories. For Berlat, it’s discovering things about Gonzaga he never knew before.

For both, composition and lighting are key to their work success.

Berlat says his work at Gonzaga is different from a lot of other enterprises where a photographer concentrates on one area. Here, it’s not just portrait photography, but journalistic, event, jewelry, commercial and aerial photography, as well. He has a pilot’s license from the FAA to fly and shoot from a drone.

Bagdon finds that people are always intrigued by his equipment, “and to be honest, I’m a gear-head. We have thousands of dollars worth of equipment, but sometimes you don’t have the right piece and you have to rig something new.”

Adds Berlat: “And Zack and I might have more selfies than any Instagram influencer because we’re always testing lighting and backdrops to make the best images.”

The deck is stacked well here at Gonzaga. Zacks are a winning hand.

See galleries of images by Berlat.
View the Gonzaga-zay-ah video by Bagdon for Jimmy Fallon.