31 July, 2008

Bagazine: Get Em While Their Hot!

You know those people you meet from time to time who just carry a certain creative charm? Those people who leave you looking at your own life and saying to yourself, "Geez, I haven't done anything yet." These people are in a constant state of creation, making objects that fuel the fires of the rest of us.

Well, Johnny Brewton is one of those characters. The owner and operator of Xray Book Company, Johnny is always up to something.

And luckily for the rest of us, he has emerged from his recent artistic sequester with a new edition of the famed "Bagazine," or magazine in a bag.

"Bagazine 3" the recent release, is a collection of art which includes photographs, drawings, writing, illustration, and the list goes on and on.

You never know who or what will end up in these creations, but the result is well worth the wait.

Names like Billy Childish, Silas Hite, Skillet Marimba, Sexton Ming, Zach Plague and Mister "X," are just a few included in this recent edition.

My wife has this odd tendency of getting the mail when we get in the car to go somewhere, so by the end of the day our mail is scattered all over the car, blown out the windows, etc. I always yell to her, "Leave it in the box!!!!" when I see her angling that way.
Yesterday I watched as she grabbed an armful of stuff out of the box, and one package was larger than the rest. "Hmmm, Bagazine," she uttered under her breath, tossing it back into the mailbox.
"NOOOOO," I yelled. "Bring that one along!!

This is what I mean, you just gotta see this thing.

Now the Bagazine is only one small cog in the wheel of the Brewton world, and I recommend to all of you to check out his work, his life, his site and his creations.

The Bagazine is limited to 100 SIGNED COPIES, and these babies are collected by some of the most significant collection houses in the United States.

Stop surfing the celebrity news on Yahoo and get on the horn to Xray to put your order in! These things will NOT last long.

Xray and Bagazine, as well as Brewton himself, represent everything that is right with the creative world. Pioneering people building work BY HAND, following a creative light only visible to a chosen few.

29 July, 2008

Le Tremor

Yes I felt the earthquake.

Was just sitting here minding my own business when I heard it coming. It was a good shake, kept rolling and rolling. My pictures moved, a few things clinked here and there.

But, it wasn't that big of a deal. Certainly not a MAJOR quake.

However, the local media is already out of control. I turned on the tube, right after, to get a bead on the epicenter and magnitude, which I did. It was 5.6, then 5.8 and now back to 5.4.

I just went back to tube, three hours later, and it is as if we were invaded by an alien species.

All networks have live chopper views....of....of....NOTHING. Highways, buildings, trees, cars, concrete, mini-marts, smog, etc, etc. They are showing absolutely NOTHING. And showing it LIVE.

They are interviewing ANYONE who will stop and talk, which is a gr

eat way to get in touch with a demographic of folks you might not know existed.

"Where were you Elroy when this baby hit?"

"I was out driving around, endlessly, didn't feel a thing."

"How about you Mary Sue?"

"I was under my desk, praying for God to save me."

"We interrupt this broadcast to mention that Days of Our Lives will not be see at the regular time due to the onslaught of earthquake coverage."

Oh ya, and the phone system is a mess. Might want to sort this one out guys. They actually said, "Hey, don't call anyone so that the emergency lines can remain open."

That is like telling someone to drive to the Grand Canyon, and then not look. It ain't gonna happen.

What happens when the REAL one hits? You think people are not going to call out? In? Around? So much for the emergency lines.

Like when you are on the plane the flight crew comes on and says, "Ya, Bob and Sally in row 31 have a tight connection, can everyone stay seated until they get off." That lasts for about 1.5 seconds before the aisle is filled with commuters.

I'm afraid to go back to the TV, so I won't.

This event reminded me of my first time to California, Northridge, to cover the quake aftermath.
I had my two Nikons and a bag of film, no particular place to go, or stay, but was with another photographer who helped me out.

I was somewhat clueless...no surprise...and took a few silly chances for pictures that were not good to begin with. And, I felt my first aftershock.

Here is to postponing "The Big One" as long as possible. And to no injuring in this current affair.

26 July, 2008

More Towards Mom

Okay, now we are trending more towards the middle. I think these are easier to read, and perhaps have more uses. I like the word perhaps. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Perhaps I'll shoot more next time. Perhaps less. I think English when I hear this work. Don't know why exactly. Perhaps it was the fish and chips I had last night.

25 July, 2008

Look what happens.

When I photograph kids the pictures reflect several things. First, the time I have. There is no substitute for time and access. The more time, typically, the better the images. Second, the images will reflect who the images were made for. Stock? The wall? The parents? The grandparents? Me? All will produce different images.
So, most of the time, I shoot images for others, and then images for me. The images for me might not ever see the light of day, but for me, they are the most important.
These images satisfy an inner need to explore and continue to try to push around the mud in my brain. The mud, from time to get, begins to dry out, sometimes due to doing too much "commercial" work, or work that perhaps might not satisfy the drive to explore. The mud begins to dry out, to get stiff, and if you are not careful, completely dries out and you are left with only memories of your "true" path.

When I worked in Los Angeles, years ago, for a major photography company, I can't tell you how many successful, miserable photographers I met. I would enter the studio, see big shoots in production, get to know the photographers, then make repeat visits when I had something that might help them in their pursuit. A LOT of photographers were shooting all the time, but no longer enjoyed the process, and had lost track of their original vision. After getting to know them, they would sneak over to a side drawer, take a look around, then pull out a small portfolio of "personal" work.

"This is what I REALLY want to do," they would say, then reveal, typically, a fantastic body of work.

This is what I'm yapping about. I always found this sad, but it doesn't have to be. I think all that is needed is just a taste of the old way, the original vision and they could be right back on track. Some of them did, and are today working almost entirely in their new/original vision.

I think if you let this die, this desire, your career will begin to decline. You might work but the real goal will slip away.

There is something odd about us photogs. This inner desire is strong and you have to continue to feed it, regardless of what the industry, the magazines, or ever-popular seminars tell you.

You have to do what you need to do. Find the balance. It is, for me, a constant struggle, and one that will challenge everything you have been taught.

So, I thought I would include a few "me" pictures from a recent shoot.

22 July, 2008

Just in Time

Yep, you know me. I'm a deadline guy, so on that note, here are two images from the 4th of July celebration I was at.

Wait......................................sorry.......................bored myself to sleep there for a minute.

18 July, 2008

Photo Book Friday

No, this isn't a new theme I'm embarking on, but it just happens to be Friday and I looked across and saw this book.

Voyages by Raymond Depardon

In short, a great book.

Now its gonna hurt to look at this thing because Mr. Depardon has lived a real life. Actually, I think he has lived several lives, all interesting, and made images all along the way.

The book is so simple and so good. It makes you want to just sit and look and wonder what was going on. The book is timeless.

I think for anyone wanting to get into photography who has a passion for travel and documentary this is a great place to start.

Technology Update

Getting hooked up to the power supply.

Okay, it is official. My body gives off an odd electromagnetic field that turns most technology into mush. I think, personally, this is just bad karma. Could be angst.
Whatever the reason, I'm in the middle of yet another losing battle. Its funny ha ha.

I have three main computers. My main,main computer, will only work if it starts from being off. If you put it to sleep, then wake it and try to open an image, it could take a minute to open up. It is like the entire machine is in slow motion. So, I have to shut it off then start it up again.

Speaking of sleep, my other, other, main, main computer won't sleep at all. It needs to either be on or off, nothing in between. And, the fan cuts on and off, rapidly and loudly, like a jet, forcing me to shut if off.

And now my other main, main, computer, my laptop, has the mysterious screen flicker problem. Again. This is after it died the first time from cracked hard drive.

So, I don't really have any computers that work. Well, they kinda work. But not really.

And to add insult to injury, my Blackberry just erased my entire calendar, and now erases off the computer anything I input in the phone. Did I pay extra for this feature?

And my TV remote doesn't work anymore. I only get four channels anyway, but now I have to perform power yoga hand moves to get a few of the buttons to work.

Again, I think all this is my fault. Somehow I did something, or said something to someone who controls all this and now I am paying the price.

But it gets worse. I'm thinking of buying a new iphone. I know, I know, I deserve no pity. I'm actually not buying this phone, I'm only going to think about it because I know I would destroy that as well.

Here's to a Friday of no crashes in your world.

And don't touch me, I'm jinxed.

PS: Thank you to the fantastic nurse who shot this photo.

17 July, 2008

The List to End All Lists

Recently, I was told about a “top-ten list” which was published in one of the photo-magazines, a list detailing the best wedding photographers in the world.

I did not see this list or this magazine, but through the grapevine, I heard that there were many people who were somewhat upset by the photographers who ended up on this grand list.

My response to hearing this was laughter. Not laughter in a twisted way, just laughter in a pity way, laughing at anyone who was caught up in this current trend of list making or list reading.

First of all, if you haven’t noticed, it seems that every magazine is now making “list” issues at an alarming rate. But why you ask?

Well, the reason for all the lists is that our collective attention span is getting shorter and shorter. There was a study done recently regarding how we humans take in information in the technology age.

Due to our copious time spent on the internet, we are now taking in far more information than ever before, so much so that our brains, in some cases, have relearned how we process this information.

Anyone having trouble reading a book? This is one of the new signs that your brain might be having difficulty dealing with anything longer than the brief, pamphlet, or…..web story! Pick up a copy of The Atlantic. Their average article feels like War & Peace.

So, now we have the “list.”

For the magazines, these are a piece of cake. They require almost no text, can be about anything and require only tiny photographs, leaving room for more ad space dollars.

And, most importantly, they satisfy our need for the short, the simple, the easy, the fast.

In my opinion, they are a constant reminder of where we are headed, a world of fast-twitch journalism.

How about “Top Ten Places To Live,” the list you pray your hometown NEVER ends up on.

One of my favorites is the “Most Important People” list. I never tire of this one.

So back to the wedding photographer list.

When I hear about something like this, my response typically has nothing to do with the names on the list. My thoughts go straight to who created the list and why.

How old is this person? How long have they been in the industry? How long have they been a photographer? I don’t mean how long they have owned a camera. I mean how long have they actually been a photographer? How long have they been shooting weddings?
Or, was it a committee that chose?

Personally, I don’t’ think you can make a list like this unless you are on the inside of what you are listing about. I think most of the time, the people making these lists, have very little knowledge of what they are listing about.

I think this is the squeaky wheel syndrome. And hey, let’s not knock the squeaky wheel system, these lists, I think, are proof of how well this system works.

Someone said that this wedding list didn’t have any European photographers on it. I’m not sure if that is true, but my question was, “How about Latin American photographers? African? Asian?

Perhaps it would have been better to name this list, “The Top Ten American Wedding Photographers.” Or, “The Top Ten Wedding Photographers That This Author Knows About.”

The “World” title suggests a little bit too much ego.

Several of the best wedding photographers I know are complete unknowns. They don’t advertise, and they don’t tell people anything about what they are doing. They just shoot great pictures.

I can’t imagine them ever ending up on a list.

Lastly, for those who are upset over this list. Don’t’ worry about it. I shot weddings for several years and I never had a client mention anything about a list, ever, at any time. If this list was in a photo-magazine, I don’t think most brides are going to see it.

Here is some advice. Make you own list and put it on your homepage. “Top Ten Reasons to Hire Me,” list.

1-I’m cool.
2-I’m great looking.
3-I’m really funny.
4-I have a cool car.
5-Your mom will love me.
6-I’m exotic.
7-I workout
8-I wear all black.
9-I use the word “amazing” in every sentence.
10-I’m all about image.

Now, these are MY top ten. I’m not suggesting you use these! Make your own!! I already copyrighted this list and patented it as well. So don’t even think of using it. The t-shirts are being made right now. And the DVD. And I’m teaching a workshop regarding the list.

Good luck.

Are you positive?

Are you positive?

Ricco just busted at the tour with a new version of EPO, called CERA. What a surprise.

People were asking, “Wow, who is this guy?” ‘Where did he come from?”

Well, perhaps he was at the pharmacy.

I know they will test the B sample, etc, etc, but it sure smells bad once again.

He was the ONE rider this year riding with flash and style. Oh well.

Post Fair Carnage

This is what my desk looked like this morning after a night at the fair.

Pig Races
Mexican Wrestling
Beer (2)
Mountain of BBQ
Chocolate Ice Cream covered in Oreo
Chocolate Banana with sprinkles

Feeling ill.

16 July, 2008

Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physicalllllll!

Okay, not sure what all this means, but it was described to me as a "super test result."

cholesterol 155

Some other cholesterol thingy 40

LDL(no idea either) 97

prostate something or other 0.23

blood sugar 86

resting heart(already posted) 57

blood pressure(already posted) 110/80


Gee, what a surprise?

Camera, film, paper, light, photography. There, just to keep this post on theme and satisfy the mob.

The Tour de France has, once again, found itself in the midst of a "doping problem." I'm shocked. Really. Just can't believe it.

I mean I thought after twenty seven years of doping issues that THIS would be the year of a perfectly clean tour. Okay, maybe not.

Actually, I miss the full scale doping of past years, where at least the tour had riders that rode with passion. This year, when recently asked who I thought was going to win, I suddenly got the taste of...of...nothing in my mouth. This is not to say that this year's race is filled with bad bike riders. Not even close, these guys are gamers, and can ride a bike well beyond what the average, mortal man could ever achieve.

However, they lack panache. I don't want a "ride the wheel of the guy in front" rider. I want someone to attack, someone that says, "I'm taking this thing, and I'm gonna stomp the rest of you in the process."

And the doping. I actually don't mind it that much. I think it has been an integral part of the sport for the past twenty five years, and I sure enjoyed that product, much more so than the "cleaned up" version we are seeing today. The riders are looking for an edge, and in some cases just a boost to even compete at this level. Most of these guys suffering for a month have no chance of winning, they are just looking to finish, to lend support, and many of them are using anything they can to make it through. This I understand.

What I have no patience for is the team around them, the management who continues to act as if they are in the dark about their own riders. "Gee, our rider failed an EPO test, I'm shocked." "We are outraged." "We want the B-sample tested." "Excuse me, which way to the airport."

Everyone KNOWS what is going on and they just think they won't get caught. Pretend class ended in third grade.

What I also have no patience for is the bias shown toward certain riders from certain countries. Now the mainstream media posse seems to think this is just hype, but I think this year's tour is a perfect example. You have riders, from Europe, who have been implicated in things like Operation Puerto who are STILL riding in the tour. Some of the European riders, and their teams and cycling bodies, are treated differently. Plain and simple.

Now we have our second Spanish rider to test positive and only now are the "powers that be" saying, "Well, I guess the Spanish didn't get the memo."

Come on. I think the memo was perhaps written in invisible ink. And it is not just the Spanish riders, they just happen to be the example of the moment.

My guess is that a significant portion of the riders are still doping. I think you have clean riders, who you can normally see toward the back of the pack, or blowing up in the mountain stages. I feel bad for these riders, who have dedicated their lives to this wonderful sport, only to be left riding with one arm tied behind their back. Or, being passed by a rider with three arms, which I would guess is a GREAT way to spot a doped rider.

Is there anyway that someone can stand up and yell, "Do Over?"

I do think that regardless of what is happening, this is truly one of the great sporting events in our world, and the degree is difficulty, doped or not doped, is beyond comprehension. They say that the Iditarod is the last great race on Earth, but I beg to differ.

14 July, 2008



Then, the tape rolls. Act normal. What is that?

Is it a tape? A hard drive? Do you have the cable?

How is the sound?

Why am I sweating?

Don't say, "Um."

How is the light?

Is my shirt as wrinkled as I think it is?

Why is this so difficult?

Am I worthy?

12 July, 2008


By the way, this just in.

Resting heart rate: 57
Blood pressure: 110/80

Friends and Point & Shoot cont.

Man, I'm so glad I wrote this last post, by far the most feedback I have EVER had. Text messages, emails and calls, from all over the place with photographers chiming in about several things.

First, I was correct in my opinion, at least in their opinion...

And, I did leave out a few high-end point and shoots from the film era. Leica did, and still does, make really good film point and shoots.

Many photogs checked in with total frustration, asking why nobody had brought something like this to the market. One spoke about a camera that was sweeping NYC like a flu-bug, but then said, "And, I've used it and it just doesn't do what I need it to do."

Another said, "If you saved one point and shoot from being born it was worth it."

And a LOT of people called to describe their list of purchased and returned P&S cameras.

However, I wanted to clarify one thing. And this is very important. I don't like these cameras because they are not doing what I need them to do, not yet anyway. The idea that we photogs have in our minds about what these cameras SHOULD be able to do, is just not a reality at the moment. There is no Leica P&S style camera around that will actually work for doing a PROJECT.

These cameras are fine for many things, and again, I think the most important point is that they allow the consumer to make pictures all the time, to catalog their lives, their travels, etc, and for things like this, they are a grand tool(With having said that, how these same consumers are archiving this mess is another story, but one that is critically important and needs to be told. (A later post.). I've heard a lot of people say, "I love my point and shoot," and anytime I hear that I think, "Awesome, keep shooting, enjoy it, have fun, keep exploring."

But what these cameras are not is a high-end documentary tool, but sometimes they are marketed to be. In fact, one person emailed me a link to a photographer who is using p&s cameras for his work, but I have to say, it really looked like point and shoot work. I referenced this in my previous post. Even reading the link about this person, there were so many things he was doing I would never put up with to use a particular camera. I think this person is a super-solid photographer, but their past work seemed stronger than the current set of pictures. Their current work appears to be about deconstructed images, on camera flash and quirky, minimalistic moments, which is virtually the only style of picture you get with a point and shoot. Gone are the great light, layered, gritty pictures capturing fleeting moments, which are nearly impossible to catch on a point and shoot. Just my opinion.

I think the point and shoot phenomenon amid the professional world is based solely on two things. One, desire. We all really WANT a camera like this, so it is easy to look at the current crop and think they they might work. Two, being sick and tired of leaving for a trip, or project, with two, large cameras, lenses, laptop, drives, cables, etc, etc. IF you are in the digital world then you know what I mean. How many photographers have said to me, "I get on a plane with more digital equipment than photography equipment." In short, I can tell by looking at your photos. Sorry, but it's true.

If I had a dollar for every photographer that said to me, "I don't want to carry this stuff, I just want to go light and small." In short, if the digital world is so great, or the film world was so bad, then why don't we have the basic stuff we did fifteen years ago?

THIS is the reality. So, now we wait.

11 July, 2008

Friends don't let friends buy a digi point & shoot!

Okay, I’m breaking my cardinal rule of blogging and I’m going to post about a piece of equipment. There, I said it.

Today’s topic is the all powerful “digital point and shoot camera.” Now, at this point in time, most human beings on the planet seem to have one, two, ten of these things, and continue to buy them at an alarming rate.

For the camera companies this is a great thing, and for the consumer this is great because it seems to be one of the reasons why the general public is so excited about photography once again, a wonderful thing.

Now here is my problem. I think that all of these cameras are total junk.

Is that clear enough? I know this opinion is in the minority, like most of my photography opinions, but this one needed to be posted because of the sheer number of photographers who approach me, excited about buying one of these things only to approach me again, a few weeks later, cursing and explaining their return of the unsatisfactory product.

Okay, let me clarify.

If you are not a working photographer and are making what I call “happy snaps,” vacation pics, kids in pool, etc, or straight to web images, then this style of camera is probably fine. These point and shoots are small, stylish looking and are very easy to use. Or, if you love shooting small, mpeg video files I think these small cameras work well, and are far easier to use, and store, than a “real” video cam.

And on yet another side note, a friend recently said he had a seen a report that 70% of people using digital cameras did not know how to get the images out of the camera. Couple this with the fact that somewhere around 95% of all digital photographs are never printed and I can see why people “love their digital point and shoot.” Shoot, leave images on camera, erase, shoot again. This makes perfect sense to me.

However, if you are an advanced amateur or a pro and are looking for something “light” to carry on the side to compensate for your larger body, DO NOT BOTHER BUYING A DIGITAL POINT AND SHOOT. I think this is the biggest scam in the game at the moment.

Let us look back in our short photo-history.

A decade ago, long after the film point and shoot arrived on the planet, many of the camera companies made a somewhat secret batch of point and shoots that were targeted at the advanced amateur and the professional photographer. Nikon(35ti), Olympus(Stylus Epic), Ricoh(GR-1), Minolta, Contax(T3), Yashica(T4), etc.

These cameras were fitted with fixed lenses in the 28mm to 35mm range, many were 2.8 aperture and were high end stuff. Many of them would allow you to manually set aperture, etc. They were awesome cameras and a select group of pros began to use them for all kinds of things, including many editorial spreads. And several of these photographers, very famous ones in fact, are still using them today!!

Super small, super light, super simple and super sharp, these babies were the crux of what point and shoots were all about, or what point and shoots could be!

Enter the digital era.

Again the camera companies are trying, kinda, to make a higher-end point and shoot, but so far, nobody has come close to making a camera a tenth as good as the high-end film point and shoot. Now based on my photography history you might think I would not care about this, but my stance is quite the opposite.

I have been asking for a high-end, digital point and shoot for a decade. Fixed lens, full-frame real viewfinder, no shutter lag, RAW format. Ten years, I have been suggesting this, begging for this.

In essence what the pro is looking for is a smaller, simpler LEICA rangefinder type camera that shoots full-frame, doesn’t lag, provides RAW and either has a fixed lens or small interchangeable lenses. AKA, Contax G2, Leica M, etc.

So usher in the new wave of “pro” digital point and shoots, and once again, we are left hopelessly in the dark, groping our way around with junk cameras. Shutter lag, no viewfinder, or a viewfinder that is so small and blocked by the preview screen it feels like you are trying to compose through the eye of a needle. And since when did photographers make pictures with the camera at arms length???? Oh, let me continue….bad skin color, blocky images, no RAW capability, etc, etc, This is now considered great equipment? Huh?

These cameras might look nice, and you might really want them to work the way you are hoping they will work, but they don’t, and consequently, I have been bombarded by photographers complaining about their point and shoot cameras. (I’m lucky I guess.)

There are a few pros who are using digital point and shoot type cameras, but let me be the first to offer my opinion…it looks like you are using a point and shoot. Sorry, but it’s true. Why is everything in focus? Your depth of field starts at your lens hood and ends somewhere near Topeka. Also, why are all your images converted to black and white? Could it be…..bad color? Embalmed skin tone? Just a guess on my part! And when did your on camera flash suddenly become hip and okay as a primary light source? The question I have for these folks is, “Do you want your archive to be a bunch of tiny jpegs?”

I think at this point we are several generations away from anything, from anyone, who will actually make a camera like this. I don’t think this is a major camera company product, and I think it will only come from one of the smaller brands, which is more interested in the niche project or in a certain segment of the market. I also think that this camera will buck the horrendously wasteful trend of ultra-high turnover in the point and shoot market. Point and shoots are updated, it seems, about every eight minutes, and this high-end digital would be a camera that could last say….gasp….two years?? Three perhaps? Is that too much to ask? We simply cannot continue to use the amount of raw materials to introduce new equipment at such a rate. Totally unsustainable in my mind.

Could this new camera be labeled, the “green rangefinder?” No, probably not. Stupid thought, sorry.

Most consumers never even knew about the high-end film point and shoots, BUT, I think the consumer would be jazzed about a high-end digital point and shoot, and I think when the powers that be realize this, you will finally see a product.

Personally, I can’t wait. I think it would be a grand entry into the photography world, and I think, especially in the fields of documentary, photojournalism, street shooting, etc, you would see a quality level of images we have not yet seen in the digital era.

I realize I'm an oddball. I carry around a 35mm, rangefinder, film camera and shoot mostly black and white negative. This is my daily model. I would gladly trade immediate images for something that will last and look the way I need it to look.

And before you write me about a current model that is “really great” don’t even bother. I’ve seen them all.

09 July, 2008

One of the Worst Photos of Me Ever

So, it takes a special guy to wear a hat like this. But, it is even more special to pair the hat with those stylish glasses. The fish just puts the entire photo over the top.

Taken in Canada eh, way up north way, in the Territories I believe. Fishing with pops, back when we used to do this type of thing.

The fact that my dad took this picture is remarkable in itself as he was not a huge fan of photography. In fact, he was the king of turning up with a roll of film, out of nowhere, and demanding it be processed as soon as possible. Then, we get the prints back and they were of multiple Christmas mornings, etc. The same roll in the camera for several years, but for some reason, after waiting two, three years, with the same roll in the camera, he suddenly needed to see the prints as soon as possible.

He would spend at least eight seconds reviewing the prints and say, "These are terrible."

After he died we found an very strange, Russian camera in his car, buried in the center console. Nobody else in the family had ever seen it, and I personally have never even seen a camera like this. It was empty. Why he had it is still a mystery.

Maybe I should phone Moscow?

Anyway, back to this beauty of a snap. A perfect picture. Splendid. A portfolio image for sure.

08 July, 2008

Signs of Second Quarter Growth

Okay, all this photo stuff is grand, and yes this blog is mainly about photo-related items, but, but, but, I had to share with you the green success of my mini-garden plot.

My ground planted seeds did not fair well, as the local soil is very clay-laden Earth, which does not lend to great seedling growth.

Oh, as you can see, I added a camera to keep us on theme and to give you a sense of scale.

For those of you who know what they are doing when it comes to gardening, I admit, I know next to nothing. I planted "wrong" at the "wrong time," and probably too close together, but I'm still beaming when I peer out my office window and see these babies heading onward and upward.

Spinach and tomato. Stay tuned for jalapeno and cilantro.

07 July, 2008

Cool Blog

Hey, check this out, a cool blog written by a very interesting guy.

Melcher System

A Fundraiser Turned Doc Project

So a friend emailed and asked if my wife and I would photograph an event she was putting together to benefit an organization offering to support to a village in Zimbabwe. So, being she is a good friend, I said fantastic. And, I wanted to see their organization first hand. One of my current goals is to find work with NGO's. You might think this would be easy, but it really isn't.

On a sidenote:
Several months ago I was in LA at a gathering of NGO's based in Latin America. There was someone there who is a coordinator for NGO operations in the region, and someone made an introduction for me. "You are a photographer?" she asked. "Yes, I am," I said.
"I take advantage of photographers all week long," she said laughing. Now this was a slight surprise to me, and when I inquired she said, "Well, photographers think that NGO, or nonprofit, means we don't make money, so they always donate their services for free." I'm a believer in sustainable relationships, so for me, I want to work with NGO's but I can't do it for free. It doesn't make that much sense. If you go out of business, how can you help support anyone?

Back to our movie, already in progress...

Okay, what do you do? Let me guess...shoot digital, burn a disc? Sound about right? I just couldn't get myself to do it. For me, when I work this way, it is extremely difficult to get excited about what I'm photographing. The mystery is gone, as are the highlights, and I cant' bring myself to just "burn a disc," a method of work that is destroying our industry, at least in part, in my opinion. Clients can see and feel this detachment with your work, and consequently, they know you if you are willing to turn and burn something you will, chances are, also "cut them a break" on the price.

So, I shot a rangefinder with black and white film, and treated this event like I was working on a documentary. This is really fun because nobody pays any attention to you, and you can drift in and out of the crowd without people saying to themselves, "Here is the photographer."

There were other photographers there so I was not worried about "covering the bases" a painful way of working when you are trying to make something different because while you are "covering the bases" you are missing other images that might be better.

Now, the other photographers were using digital bodies, zooms and flash. I was using a rangefinder, one lens and no flash. The odds are that the other photographers images would be viewed as being "more useful" because they are straightforward. But, I try to always stress that I'm not the guy you want if you are looking for straightforward or "basic" stuff. This is not to say the other photographers are not making good pictures, quite the contrary, they probably are, but I'm looking to make something that is mine and in the tradition of what I have done in the past, or perhaps to describe it in another way, my style of image.

I try to rationalize it this way. Am I a content provider or a photographer? Why would someone ask me to shoot something? Because I happen to own cameras or because I can provide them with something that can't get elsewhere?

Why would Vanity Fair hire Larry Fink to shoot a party? Does he shoot traditional party pictures? Not by a long shot, but he will make pictures that will appeal to an entirely different demographic of people, and will be able to make pictures that will introduce that event to people who would have otherwise not been interested.

Also, this event is about an African NGO. How many projects like this are running right now, asking for donations, showing imagery, etc? The last thing in the world I would want to do is provide something expected, something that doesn't make someone stop, look and listen.

We all suffer from image fatigue, and when it comes to this subject matter we REALLY suffer from image fatigue, so you have to try and make something will transcend what people associate with this type of event, project, etc.

Luckily, for me, my friend is really into photography and lets me do what I think I should do. And, perhaps most importantly, for me, this way of working is FUN! REALLY FUN!

So, here is just a small sampling of the images. If you don't like them you can't post! You must agree to like them and sign a contract stating so. And, pay a fee. A small fee. And, I own the copyright to your signature, forever, in any way I deem fit. In the entire universe. And yes, I have a personal vendetta against shadow detail.

PS: I'm still sick which is why I'm taking the time to write any of this. I have loads more on the way. I'm miserable.

05 July, 2008

Bike Commuting While Working At Home?

So I ride up and the neighbor girl, who happens to be five, takes one look at me, gives me the once over and asks, "When you are going to get a real bike?"

Okay, so I got punked by a five-year-old. Luckily, I have thick skin. I tried to convince her of my bikes unique and savage coolness, but she didn't buy it.

So I have always loved bikes. I raced BMX for a while when I was younger, but racing was never my thing. I just love to ride. It can really be any kind of bike. Cruiser, racer, road, dirt, cross, tour, and yes, small wheel folder, just about anything will do.

I've been using my bike to run errands for some time, but over the past few months I realized I wanted to take it a step further. My bike, at the time, was setup more as a road bike as my primary use was 10-50 mile road rides, both riding solo and also with a friend or two here and there.

Equipped as a road bike I found that running errands, picking up, dropping off, shopping, etc, was doable but not easy. And, when you consider that this area, Orange County, is not really designed a bike-friendly zone, it made me start to wonder what I could do to enhance my "commuting" experience.

Oh, wait, I forgot to mention, I work out of my house. So, I'm not really "commuting" anyway, I'm just pretending to commute.

Days start like this:

1-coffee(the best and most important part of the day)
2-work,(mainly business, emails, maybe some editing, etc.)
3-Shoot (If I have something booked.)
4-Think back to how great my coffee was.
5-Make list of all errands I need to undertake(bank, lab, grocery, library,meetings)
6-Run errands in car.
7-work(more computer, emails, promos, etc)
8-shoot(If I have a shoot)
9-yell at my computer or other failed technology
10-Realize that coffee might help and reflect on morning cup.
11-dinner and stunned amazement that another day has passed.
12-sleep, dream of owning coffee plantation.

Okay, so this is pretty routine. Now, imagine replacing the 6th step with "run errands on bike," and now you have an updated version of my daily battleplan.

The attached photos are of my trusty steed and the new upgrades which have allowed me to turn this peaceful commuter in an errand running super machine.

Yes, it isn't a "normal" bike. Don't laugh. Yes, it has small wheels. Don't laugh.

This bike might look funny, but it rides just like a normal bike, better in some ways. I've owned this thing for about three years, and for much of this time, this has been my only bike. I now have a used mountain bike, which I got in a trade, but I still ride this bike the majority of the time.

And now, it is a really practical bike for my needs.

So, what is it? It's a New World Tourist, folding bike, made by Bike Friday out of Oregon, and is without a doubt, the best bike I have ever had.

Drop bars, cycle computer, triple chain ring, Terry saddle, etc, just normal stuff, but this baby happens to fold up into a small, black case and can be checked at the airport with no baggage or bike fees. Then, once at your destination, unpacked and ridden away to your favorite hideaway, or coffee plantation.

I've also got fenders on the way, so it will even be BETTER looking. Oh, and the bright yellow bags on the rear, the , Ortlieb Back Rollers.

So now I am "commuting" to my home office. In a way. I guess. But more importantly, running the bulk of my errands on this, instead of the car.

Now, most people think I'm doing this because of gas prices, which would be a good reason, but it was not what prompted me to do this in the first place. What prompted me was the computer, and the excessive amount of time I have to spend in front of the thing. I think many of us photographers have voluntarily donated our lives to these machines, and came to the realization I no longer wanted to do this. You can see the physical shape of many photographers begin to take on the look of someone who sits in front of the monitor for days at a time. Whithered arms, rounded backs, bloodshot eyes with failing vision, rapidly expanding girth lines, etc. It ain't pretty!

So, now I break up the day by doing my errands on the bike, and in the process spend less time on the computer, and when I AM on the computer, I am far more focused. I do what I need to do and thats it. I'm gone.

Now, funny things have happened. And let me remind those who don't live in Orange County that this place is not a great place to bike commute. There are a few bike lanes, but things are really spread out, cars are okay with riders, not great, and the air quality is sub-par to put it lightly.

At first, I wasn't sure how my clients or other people would respond. In short, people seem to love the fact I'm using my bike to get around, even when I show up at their house soaked in sweat and dripping on their new wood floors. This is, of course, after their kids stop laughing at my bike.

And speaking of gas prices...it is great to put gas in the car roughly twice a month, at the most. So I drive a Prius, you know, the Toyota Hybrid car that Americans are rapidly learning to love. It costs about $40 to fill up, if the tank is really empty. So, $40.

The bike I had, so I'm not counting that cost. The new 1.5 inch tires were about $40, so there goes one tank, and the panniers, after my gift card at REI, were about $75, so there goes two more tanks.

What I'm getting at is ROI, return on investment and how quickly I will be saving money using this system.

On a sidenote, the reason I'm writing this post is only because I'm sick, a cold/flu/sickness, that is neither a cold nor flu, but the condition I get from getting sick from ocean water. Since living in California I have probably had this five times, so I know the specific feeling I get from polluted ocean water. What a great feeling. The only time I don't feel terrible is during and shortly after my morning coffee.

Okay, back to the numbers. So, let's say I get 400 miles per tank in the city. So, after 1200 miles I'm saving money by riding this bike, after this initial investment.

The bike also doesn't need insurance, tune-ups, oil, etc, so the cost is even greater.

I would love nothing more than to not have to have a car, but with my current job, I'm stuck. And, we are hopelessly behind in terms of public transportation, and the sad fact is that I will never get to enjoy mass transit in the US, in my lifetime. It's too late.

Geez, I'm sounding really old and perhaps a little crotchety. I kinda like it.

So, if you want to be ultra-cool like me, pick up the phone and call the helpful folks up Oregon way and get yourself a funny looking bike.

Oh, and just to keep this post about photography, to stay on theme here, these are really putrid photos. I took them myself. The PERFECT use for digital photography.
I love slightly blurry, noisy frames with bad color. Can someone help me? Isn't there a pill I can take? Or, another new software to cure my problems?

03 July, 2008

The Big One

The older sister. A new guitar. A cat. Window light.