Portraits: Dion Giolito

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Dion Giolito has always been an enigma to me.

Physically large (quite tall), seemingly socially aloof—something he seems to wear with honor—and immensely talented when it comes to anything having to do with tobacco. While I was in Nicaragua earlier in the year, I found out that Giolito was in Estelí and on a lark, asked to see if I could come by and visit with him. Not expecting much, I was surprised when he invited me to visit him while he checked on some of the tobacco that makes up his blends, to which I quickly replied in the affirmative.

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The next day, we spent about four hours traveling around and seeing different parts of his organization. We would walk through a room full of bales of tobacco, and he would pick a bale seemingly at random, cut it open, pull out a leaf, then roll a small cigar and smoke it right on the spot. He would then roll one for me so that I could taste what he was talking about as he discussed the tobacco.

It was an amazing experience to be so close to someone who loves and respect tobacco that much, but what struck me as I was watching him was just how comfortable he was in that environment. As I was looking around for some cool light or background to shoot a portrait, I realized that instead, I wanted to catch him doing what he loves most, more of an environmental portrait. So, the next time he started rolling up a cigar from one of the bales, I photographed exactly as he was, and the below is the result.

Dion Giolito Illusione Cigars

For you photographers, here are the technical details. This photograph was taken with a Canon 1DMkIII using a 24 f/1.4 lens wide open at f/1.4. The shutter speed was 1/50th of a second at ISO 800. There was no flash used. The ambient light was combination of florescent, from above, and natural, from a large open bay door to the left where Dion is standing. The photo was photographed in RAW format (.CR2) and converted in Adobe Photoshop CS6.

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Brooks Whittington
About the author

I have been smoking cigars for over eight years. A documentary wedding photographer by trade, I spent seven years as a photojournalist for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I started the cigar blog SmokingStogie in 2008 after realizing that there was a need for a cigar blog with better photographs and more in-depth information about each release. SmokingStogie quickly became one of the more influential cigar blogs on the internet, known for reviewing preproduction, prerelease, rare, extremely hard-to-find and expensive cigars. I am a co-founder of halfwheel and now serve as an editor for halfwheel.

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