August 26, 2005

Logo-free and Happy

There's been some question as to what or who I shot before I went to the hospital last week. I give you Alex Dawson, my yoga teacher, friend and soon-to-be resident of Los Angeles. She wanted a headshot or portrait (it's the same thing to me) for her future West coast endeavors and I was happy to assist. The broken wrist thing took a back seat for a while. Priorities.

As designer, people always asked me to design their business cards and company logos. As a photographer I am always asked if I shoot headshots and weddings. And I'll tell you right now, that is a much better set of questions than the former. Every chance to make pictures should be embraced. Every time that camera is in my hand I am challenged to make a good photograph. It makes me smile to have the camera wrapped around my wrist and gripped in my hand. It's like the batteries in the camera give me energy too.

Last Saturday I went to a party but due to my injuries, I didn't bring my camera. I socialized just fine but when my friend Mike pulled out his Canon A95, I was psyched. I asked him if I could borrow it and he was more than happy to lend it to me. I got the thing shooting in my Night style and there were a few folks providing just the right content. Staten Island folks never let me down. I can't wait to see those shots.

So that's that, a random, disjointed, boring post.

Take pictures.

August 23, 2005

Singlehanded Night

Just when you thought it was all going to be self-portraits and bedridden lameness I've spiced things up. Don't worry Mom, I didn't go out last night. I've been editing. I added ten new Night shots to my website and I thought I'd use my blog to announce their arrival.

And I did it all with one hand. ;-)

Take pictures.

August 22, 2005

Don't Wait

I'm not much of a waiting room guy. I don't like the idea of sitting around waiting for something to happen. I'd rather go make something happen instead of reading Highlights Magazine (which I did for about 5 minutes).

I got to the ambulatory care unit at 1 PM as instructed but had to wait for almost two hours before all the fun started. I wandered around the halls and looked at the tacky gifts available in the gift shop. I kept my eyes open for potential photos and sure enough there was one staring me in the face. Some hospital advertising photo was just asking for me to play. I couldn't bring my camera in the OR but I could pretend.

Always on the lookout for mundane shots, I was struck by two doors just outside the waiting room and within 20 feet of each other. They seemed perfectly contradictory since you had to pass the one on the right to get to the one on the left. Adding to the wackiness, I got reprimanded for taking the shot on the left by some crazy lady. She kept repeating that I was doing "bad things" by taking pictures of the door and by doing so I was "coming to this country and bringing it down." Go figure.

Bored with waiting and even a little annoyed that my 30 minute wait had now stretched to almost two hours, I egged the crazy lady on a bit just to see what would come of it. She essentially thought I was a terrorist casing the Hospital for Special Surgery and that my plan was to "take it down." She was sufficiently loud that a nurse had to come see what the deal was. Ironically, I got in trouble for having a camera. Such is the photographer's bane.

(Thank you to all the folks sending me well wishes. I am truly grateful. The exquisite pain that is now coursing through my forearm is made more tolerable by all the good vibrations coming my way).

Take pictures, take refuge and if you must, take Vicodin.

Nice Hair Net

I'm not a big self-portrait guy but the hospital folks were a little freaked out by me and my Nikon so I promised them to keep it focused on myself. Add to that I couldn't take my camera into the OR so all I got to take was this lovely shot just as I donned my hospital gowns. It's a shame really, because when they shaved all the hair off my wrist all I wanted to do is make a photo.

Surgery-wise, I'm feeling pretty good. I can't feel anything below my bicep. No nausea and no real pain. I guess that's on the way. We'll see. It's only been a few hours.

Take pictures if you can.

August 19, 2005

X-Ray Vision

Well, that's it for my picture taking for a while. I've got a broken wrist, surgery on Monday, a screwed up elbow on my camera hand that prevents me from lifting the camera to my face and no health insurance. For the extra curious, here is the X-Ray of my wrist.

Lest anyone think I'm soft, within fifteen minutes of breaking my damn hand, I was shooting a portrait session for three hours. Only after my shoot did I go to the hospital.

Pain is temporary, bones heal, take pictures.

August 18, 2005

Calendar Boy

News arrived in my inbox this morning that I've been chosen to shoot the first-ever Coyote Ugly Calendar. I am honored and excited to have this opportunity and challenged to make photographs that exceed expectations. Twelve women have been selected by Lil, the owner of Coyote Ugly, some of whom I know from my past shooting in New Orleans and the East Village.

There was some nervousness on my part as to whether or not I'd get the job despite being an inside favorite. Money, of course, played a part. Rather than get into it, let's just say I presented realistic numbers and they were understandably large. Photography gets expensive fast. Thankfully, it all worked out and I'm headed to New Orleans September 8th for a week of pre-production and shooting.

Take pictures.

August 16, 2005

Two Portraits

I shot for AOL the past two days thus added to my collection of musicians. In both cases I was duly impressed by both the musicianship and down-to-earth nature of the two guys I shot. The notion that famous people are somehow consistently rude or difficult simply hasn't proven to be true. There's no fodder for the gossip rags here.

Photographically, I am given a fair amount of autonomy when I shoot these folks. What I lack is time and resources so I pride myself on making the best of any given situation and have no trouble taking a few risks and experimenting with my light. AOL doesn't pay well enough for me to stress about any client relationship. These are my photos. AOL simply gives me someone famous to shoot and I deliver. Yesterday, it was Brad Paisley. A nice simple collection of anvil cases and a soft-light was all it took to make a simple shot of the man. I think the little stuff in the left foreground gives it a nice touch. It seems a little less formal and contrived even though it was all intentional. They should be happy.

This morning I was introduced to James Blunt, a talented newcomer whose voice and story are equally inspiring. I had set up a little light experiment to shoot the guy when AOL called me out of the blue and asked me to take him outside for a portrait. They specifically wanted me to "make a great shot on the street," and I felt a little like a comedian who'd just been asked to be funny. I may have my talents but great shots just don't arrive upon request. The instructions continued with a specific request to "shoot him against the brick wall." Sure enough, that's what I did. As I framed this one, I facetiously thought, too bad they didn't specify compositional requirements.

I am all for doing what the client wants but something was amiss today. I have a feeling things are stirring within the AOL monstrosity and my style is on the block.

Take pictures for yourself and your clients.

Recent Photography News

The Gaurdian writes about the state of contemporary photography with an opening that touches on some nice points about our digital era.

The Asbury Park Press editorializes about the perceived threat of photography. I bet one could find an article like this every day. Silly homeland.

One of my local tabloids has a story about the rise in popularity of maternity portraits. My friend Aviva predicted this one.

And all the way in India they are writing about the phasing out of 35mm cameras. I sometimes wonder if 35mm isn't the 12" vinyl of our day. I have a hunch it's going to be around for a long time to come, just in the hands of specialists. So be it.

And I got an email about a VII seminar in New York. Here are the details. Nice photos too. ;-)

Take pictures.

August 14, 2005

Streetstudio Failure

The saying, "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry" has never been more true. One gust of uptown wind took Streetstudio III out before I even started shooting today. It snapped one length of my lovely shock-corded support without mercy. It seems my new lighter, faster version isn't up to the slightest climatic challenges. Undaunted, the plan is to try again with my heavier version two later in the week.

Take Pictures.

Streetstudio New York Otra Vez

So later today, Sunday, I am going to be shooting with the Streetstudio on Broadway and 137th Street in Manhattan. My permit has been approved so I'll be on the East side of the street just south of the subway entrance. I'm reluctant to even announce my intentions for fear of skewing my results so I'll leave the exact time up in the air. It'll be daytime.

I was up in that neighborhood last week and I was sufficiently inspired to get back to shooting my own city. It's a Dominican wonderland up there and the faces were wonderful. I've recruited a friend's 15 year old son who speaks Spanish in case my own fails me though I think he's more excited about possibly getting girl's phone numbers from the release forms. Ah, to be 15 again.

Wanna know a little secret? This is the first time I've shot on the New York streets since the 000 project at the turn of the millennium. While most people think that project is still going on here in the city, due in large part to having never modified streetstudio.com in over 5 years, Stephan and I haven't done a thing together since the year 2000. Heck, we don't even talk to each other. As he leads his mysterious life, I lead mine. Regardless, we look forward to the day when our collective effort is published. Hopefully in our lifetimes.

Take pictures.

August 13, 2005

One-Armed Candid

I used to hold out my little Olympus Stylus Epic all the time. It was a great little wide angle film camera that I recommended to all my friends back in the day. People used to think I was nuts making pictures of myself without looking through the little viewfinder. I'd stretch my arm out and people were so conditioned that they'd offer to take my camera and take the picture. A look of astonishment would come to their faces as I declined their offer and snapped the shot for myself. With our picture taking measured in rolls of film, we all used to be more conservative. Some of us anyway. The thought of possibly screwing up a shot was just plain wasteful.

Today, I chuckle whenever I see people doing those one-armed shots of themselves and then chimping their way to a good one. No one is so quick to assist anymore as we've adapted to the phenomena of widespread self-portraiture. We all understand that that outstretched arm isn't asking for help.

Really what we need is to get the camera manufacturers to make more wide-angle point-and-shoot cameras. Forget the 5X digital zoom silliness, give us a pocket digital camera with a 24mm lens. How fun would that be?

Take pictures of yourself.

August 12, 2005

Mundane Berlin II

I'm still poking around my Berlin sightseeing shots and found that I had made similar shots of two different monuments in the city. I'm not sure this is the most successful pairing but in my efforts to post more often, I'm sharing them nevertheless. To give a little insight into my cropping for these, I can't shoot in a square format with my 35mm camera but I still envision the square. The radical crop, in this case the left side of each image, was done in the camera. The right sides were done in Photoshop.

Not being a big advocate of cropped images, I feel like this is a fair approach. In college, I always printed my photos with a black border negative carrier and that sensibility is still a big influence in my photography. The major compositional decisions are to be made in the camera. Post-production simply concludes and compliments the original vision.

Take pictures, crop with intention.

August 10, 2005

More Banks for the Buck

One of the unexpected results of shooting celebrities is that on occasion you read about them in the news. Today was one of those days. Apparently Young Buck (left) and Lloyd Banks were not demonstrating their best street-smarts Monday night and found themselves in the clink for illegal possession of a firearm. I don't know how long this article will remain available but here is the synopsis from E! online.

Take pictures, not prisoners.

Mundane Berlin

Switching gears a little, I got my RAID thing up and running and started dealing with lots of photos that have been on the back burner. I remember taking photos in Berlin that I thought could be part of my mundane city series and put this diptych together a few minutes ago. I should have poked around Amsterdam with a similarly dedicated eye.

For those keeping track of my gear, I bought Nikon's 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens on impulse at Adorama yesterday. That place is deadly. I had a problem with my 16mm lens and went in there to ask some questions. Then all of sudden I'd racked up 1455.42 more frequent flier miles. Of course I can return it within seven days if I don't like it but that's unlikely to happen.

Take pictures and use credit wisely.

August 08, 2005

Flashers

Ok, as promised, I found a shot that combines my intended flash with someone else's point-n-shoot flash. There are so many issues to be talked about here but since I've been up for the past thirty-one hours shooting this darn stuff, I'm not going to elaborate or deviate from the photographs.

Let's just all spend a little time looking at all the little "happy accidents" that a pseudo multiple exposure gives us. From the little faces on the left to the nice accent light on the woman's belly, this shot has lots going on. Some may argue with my beliefs but unpredictability is definitely part of this game.

Take pictures, you may get lucky.

August 06, 2005

Seeing Vertical

I don't shoot vertically for my personal stuff very often. My whole website is laid out to privilege uncropped horizontal 35mm images so I rarely, if ever, show Night photos that sneak into my camera as verticals. But here on my blog, thankfully, I can post just about anything.

I took this one last night. It's a fairly inebriated Italian tourist posing for a photo that his friend out of frame is taking. That orange light on the woman licking his head is from another camera's auto-focus assist. When you shoot with long exposures as I do, you have be wary of other people's flashes as they can conflict with your own, giving you an often annoying double exposure. With this shot, the orange light worked well for me. It also gave me a little notice that another flash was imminent and I could cover my lens. Maybe tomorrow or the next day I can find one of those double exposures that worked. I think I saw one in my editing.

Take pictures vertically if you must.

August 05, 2005

Following Up

I mentioned that I'd been playing with my images in the last post so to follow up, here's an example of what I've been doing. This is a streetstudio portrait from Berlin that shows the basic adjusted image on the left and the "Claysterized" version on the right. I think I like the one one on the right a whole lot more but the question for me is two-fold. Do the adjustments betray reality enough to be unethical and is it too Photoshopped?

These people are posing for me without expectation but would they appreciate the levels to which I can bring their appearance through a little digital wizardry? My hope is that it will be well received. For now, I will not adjust all the portraits but it's a safe bet that my favorites are going to see some transformation. That said, I need to tread the thin line between too much affectation and cliche photoshop work and consistent elegant manipulation. I am not an advocate of Photoshop for Photoshop's sake. I think of my time in front of the computer as time in a digital darkroom. I bring the same simple sensibilities that I once brought into the dark. I think I am making adjustment akin to the choices of emulsion and paper not much more. You be the judge. I'm eager to hear thoughts.

Take pictures.

August 03, 2005

Playing with the Streetstudio

The whole reason I was in Europe the past weeks was to attend a wedding. The woman who assisted me when I was Amsterdam last November with my Streetstudio got married and she wanted me to bring the thing back to make portraits during the wedding reception. I was more than happy to oblige.

Today I was just looking over a few of the images and found these two pictures of sisters that seemed to go well together. The past few days I've been thinking about playing with my streetstudio portraits a little more. Maybe doing some more intense photoshop work to bring some additional consistency. I've been playing with a set of actions that washes some of the color from the skin but gives them a really nice mood and softness. We'll see.

Just some thoughts.

Take pictures and play with them.

Streetstudio Berlin

I broke out Streetstudio version 3 in Berlin last week. Made with custom-made tent pole technology and welded corner pieces, the new studio fits easily into my backpack and sets up in about 10 minutes. It was harder finding a place with decent foot traffic in Berlin than it was to get the studio organized. For those who don't know what the Streetstudio is, check out the description from the New York project. I'm pretty committed to taking the thing with me on every trip I take from now on so stay tuned for lots more photos down the line. Some day soon I'm going to get to my Southeast Asia images too.

As I rode my bicycle around Berlin, I stumbled upon a place that had both good light and a nice flow of folks that I later learned were a mix of East and West Berliners. It was about 200 yards from one of the remaining stretches of the Wall known today as the East Side Gallery. All the images were made in about 3 hours from about 10 AM until 1 PM on a Wednesday. You can see them all here. And remember, these are pictures of everyone I photographed, not necessarily my favorites or the best. I promise one high-res photo to everyone who poses. They use the number under their photo to let me know who they are and I send it off.

Finally, I'd like to thank Iris, Bernd and Winnie, my three German-speaking helpers for assisting me in my efforts.

Take pictures.