These two people live far away from me, but somehow distance doesn’t separate us. I’m from Georgia originally. Will and I were in our first band together. We went to high school together. So when I heard that Will and Jenn got engaged I was beside myself with happiness. Will was one of my groomsmen just 4 short years ago, before I even started shooting weddings. I wouldn’t have missed this one for the world. It was a grand evening catching up with old friends and making some new ones.
I traveled light on this one and although I brought an umbrella and a softbox, I was unable to use them due to the wind and lack of proper sand bags or assistant. So it was all about bounce flash, or fill flash and for this I used and promptly lost my beloved Rogue Flashbender. Ill definitely be buying another one of those. So I ended up shooting the whole thing without modifiers, something I haven’t done for about two years. All shots are with either 10-22 or 70-200IS II and Canon7D. I did get to shoot two bodies, I usually shoot one. I thought it would be too cumbersome, but it turned out to be quite convenient and I didn’t miss fumbling around and changing lenses, that’s for sure. Glendalough Manor turned out to be one of the most accommodating, photographer-friendly venues I’ve ever worked< I can't to shoot again in Georgia, I'd love for it to be there again. In a shocking coincidence, Winslow Thomas, an old buddy from my days at the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, turned out to be the officiant. I've been in California since 1998, but I return to shoot this wedding and I ran into two old friends in a town of millions. What are the chances?
It felt amazing to catch up with old friends, take some photos and visit the state I grew up in. As I flew West, I must have been polluting the heartland with contrails of nostalgia. Click here for the full set of high resolution images.
It was a beautiful day, one I won't forget.
Today, the Burning Man Organization will announce its new policies regarding tickets to this year’s event. Growth, permit concerns and an aging ticket system has taken its toll and has caused, what many burners see as a huge disaster. Many of the amazing and mind-blowing art and projects that makes Burning Man what it is each year are threatened, because theme camps and project teams have received only about 25% of the tickets they need to complete their projects.
There’s a lot of debate out there right now and a lot of people who are devastated. I get it. I’ve only been once and there hasn’t been a day since I got back that I haven’t thought about its effect on me on how I can re-arrange my life to fit Black Rock City into it. Should Burning Man move to a private location? Should we use non-transferable tickets? Many questions remain unanswered. I’m not sure what will or should happen, but I do know that we can all find ourselves back there again. I have hope that this will create a better Black Rock City and that we can all be together again.
It is speculated that later today, they will announce a plan to place the tickets in the hands of those who have the know-how, resources and experience to make Burning Man amazing. I don’t consider myself on of those people, but I still hold hope that I’ll make it back. There’s still Burning Man’s STEP program, which is supposed to help facilitate a secure exchange of tickets at face value amongst burners. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Hopefully, today will be another step towards a better event and you can bet your ass there’s thousands of people holding their breath right now.
Last year, the planets finally aligned and I was privileged enough to make it to the playa. For years, I made excuses or had my head in other places, so I never made the trip. When I finally did, it was everything I hoped. It changed me forever.
Thank you citizens of Black Rock City, from DPW all the way to the Sparkle Ponies. Whatever happens today, I hope to see you at home and good luck with tickets!
I will never forget the time I spent in the desert with 50,000 of my closest friends sharing ideas, living with wild abandon and being astounded by each other. It shook me up and poured me over some ice.
Every day since, I’ve been trying to hold on to what I learned there. I left some of my prejudice and judgement out there on the playa, gasping for air and I thought I didn’t bring any. I don’t know how long its going to last, but I see things differently. It’s easier to be in the moment and its easier to open up to people. Those were two things I thought I was good at. I know now that I do not know how to give.
I can hardly describe the feelings I had over the course of that week and I won’t even try to. I will say that my heart and my brain are different now and I want to stay this way. I want to hold on to that Its-A-Wonderful-Life feeling that I have right now and I want to carve in stone the truce I’ve made with everyone in the world, good or bad. Its easy to write it all off as some giant desert art party, but it is a very special place on the border between personal freedom and the law where people treat each other with more respect and empathy than I’ve ever seen. People are more real, less diluted.
They say it’s the 4th largest city in Nevada (for a week). They say its the most educated city in the world. I’ve been to a thousand cities and it is impossible to compare Black Rock City to any of them. It’s more a feeling than a place.
Black Rock City is now my favorite city. I had too much fun to take the time and really take careful photos, a mistake I won’t repeat next year. I was perfectly content at the time to just be in such a wonderful place with such amazingly talented and creative people. I was told not to shoot at all, but thats just crazy talk.
I normally shoot digital, but I decided just before we left to shoot film and I wasn’t even really prepared, I just grabbed the stuff I had lying around. I did however acquire an instant camera that I fell in love with.
Now, I’m find myself shopping for toyhaulers, golf carts and scissor-lifts, planning my future around how I’m going to make it back and how I can apply what I learned there to my everyday life. I miss the playa more and more everyday, but one of the lessons of Burning Man is live in the moment, so I’m off to be with my lovely wife. Hopefully, I’ll see you there next year.
I was waiting for my wife Heather to get home from Dallas when I decided to run up to Griffith Observatory to take a few shots. As usual, the view was great, but not so usual, the view was very clear. Isn’t the universe awesome? Jupiter has been good to me this year. Canon 7D 10-22mm 30″ f20 ISO 800.
I took this photo of Jupiter back in August:
Have you ever met a couple with a smiling, quiet confidence, as if they know some secret you don’t? Jamie & David have that mysterious and cool connection. We spent an afternoon with them taking photos and exploring Apollo Park.
We give a free engagement session with every wedding that we book. It allows us a chance to break the ice and get to the know the bride and groom. The better we know them, the better they know us and the more comfortable they feel. In the end, the photos show it. We brought a cooler with some food and drinks and had everything waiting set up on a table to loosen the mood from photo-shoot to picnic and we ended up having a great day. Rare birds buzzed around while we hung out in a park on a beautiful day making art, how could that go better?
[Skip the next two paragraphs if you don't like techno-jargon about photo-geekness, I won't be offended.]
We shot this over about two hours in natural light with a diffuser until fill flash was necessary, then when the light was right, we used two flashes with umbrellas as key light and fill light balanced with the night sky and the afterglow of the setting Sun for a backdrop. With the wind around here, my gear would have escaped like Mary Poppins if it weren’t for Jonathan Redman and Sigifredo Castenada who were nice enough to come along and man the light stands. Many thanks. I had a light stand blow over at a wedding with 20 pounds of weight on it ( I need more sandbags).
Images taken with a Canon EOS 7D + 50mm 1.4 or 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5). We used one large 40-something inch Westcott shoot-through umbrella on a Matthews reversable light stand + Jonathan for the key light and some off -brand cheapo light stand + Sigi for the rim light from amazon. The Matthews stand is awesome, when I make the jump to C-stands, I’ll have to buy Matthews. I’ve also been using the California Sunbounce Sun-Sniper strap, which I have to mention because it makes wearing a camera feel great.
There were a few things that I wanted to try that we didn’t get a chance to because time got away from me. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when you’re having fun and things are going well. I was in the zone. In the end, I feel like we got some great captures and every time I do this, I realize more and more that this is definitely what I need to be doing right now. Love is the most important thing in the world and I am happy to be out there photographing it. It beats birds and mountains hands down. I feel lucky to have people out there that choose us for their photos and as long as they keep coming, we’ll keep shooting.
On the way to scout a location for a couple’s shoot, I drove by an amazing field of poppies. Where I live, that isn’t uncommon, but this one had a herd of about a thousand sheep not too far away complete with shepherd. I couldn’t resist the impulse to stop and record this amazing sight. California’s State Flower flourishes nowhere else in the world like it does here in Lancaster, Ca. For most of the year, the Mojave desert here is barren, brown and desolate. When Spring rolls around, sometimes it looks like the rolling green hills of Ireland only laden with caution orange. I stopped to speak to the man who was tending his sheep very near one of the thickest patches of orange poppy quilt I had ever seen.
It turns out, even though I mistakenly asked him what his number was, his name is Efrain. He tends about 5,000 sheep in the Antelope Valley each spring and took the time to hang out with me for a while and try to bridge a language barrier. He seemed to like the photos I was taking as they played back on my camera’s screen. I’m not sure, but I think he asked me for prints of the images and I tried to communicate with him that I would bring him a few in the next day or two.
His dog, Frederique, was tending the flock during our meet and for a moment gave me a heart attack when I noticed the sheep spilled out on to the road blocking a car for a moment. I felt sure I had caused it all and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I have a huge responsibility as a photographer to not put people in danger. Sometimes people see cameras and they automatically get distracted and play to the camera and lose their surroundings. I need to mind my location, I need to keep my wits about me; lens choice, ISO, aperture and shutter speed be damned.
All in all it was a good encounter and I feel like I made a friend. As I left to scout the location, I thought how noble it is to carry out such a simple life in Los Angeles County, where many live a life of decadence and waste. I thought about how good I have it and how this guy’s job was too rough for me. I thought about my promise to return and I looked forward to meeting Efrain and Frederique again.
He was probably my best subject. This may be my best work all year just due to him.
For a slide show of these images, click here.
Heather and I took the majestic highway 395 North to Bishop to take in the changing color and too much good bread from Eric Schatt’s Bakkery. A few friends who shall remain nameless once made the five hour journey just for bread and turned back and headed straight home.
Fall in California is elusive for Angelenos or those in the Southern and desert regions. Some might argue that autumn and spring simply don’t exist in the Southwest. For a few lucky Californians, fall is an explosion of weather, color and trout.
In spite of having the most comfortable bed ever in history, we woke up reluctantly each morning hoping to catch just the right light. We headed to 3 separte alpine lakes: Lake Sabrina, North Lake and then South Lake on the following day. Each location was packed with hopeful anglers and a smattering of photographers here and there. We even ran into a group called the Nikonians, who happened to be on the same picture-taking circuit that we were. Heather and I sported the only Canons around and tried to represent as best we could.
On the way, home we stopped at all of the photo-ops we could including the Volcanic Table Lands, and Fossil Falls. We also took a turn towards nearby marshy Klondike Lake to get better shots of CalTech’s Owens Valley Radio Observatory.
Our last stop would be Manzanar, the site of an American concentration camp. Japanese-Americans, some born in the U.S. and having no connection to Japan, were given a week to liquidate their belongings and get to the train station whem Japan declared war on the United States. This visit shook me like I knew it would. I was ashamed at what we were capable of. It was a sad chapter in history, taking place in a harsh but beautiful climate that attracted the likes of Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. It also attracted two A-10 Warthog attack planes and an F-16, I couldn’t help but think of my brother, the a-10 pilot, and if that could be him up there tumbling around through the clouds at 500 miles an hour.
The Canon 7D still seems to be meeting every one of my expectations. Even my biggest issue, no assignable AEB button, has now been overcome simply by editing a Camera User Setting. There are still many things I need to get used to on this camera body, but I am loving the feel and the results. I honestly believe that my best work is ahead of me and thats in no small part due to my new acquisition.
I’m going to leave this one short and sweet. Thanks for reading and I hope you come back next time.
I’m in a kind of photographic ecstasy at the moment. As some of you may already know, I’ve just upgraded to the new Canon EOS 7D DSLR. I love my old Sony DSC V-3, but I won’t be looking back. I’m in a whole new ball game. I’ve traded in a fine 7 megapixel Honda for a 18 megapixel, 8FPS, 12,800ISO Acura. I chose this camera for its claimed low-light capabilities, its image quality and customizability (is that a word?) and I am very pleased so far. This camera responds very quickly to adverse focus situations and is pretty hard to stump. I have no doubt that this thing will give me years of images and I look forward to putting it to the test. Heather and I are now equipped better than ever to record this awesome experiment called Earth and we are beaming with anticipation of future gigs. Let us know if we can help you capture your special event.
In local news, the City of Lancaster is stepping up their game lately; if you read my post about the Arbor Lofts, then you may already know that the city is trying to renovate downtown into a 21st century foot-traffic people friendly district. Part of that process included shutting down Lancaster Boulevard and holding a go cart race called the Streets of Lancaster Grand Prix, and I don’t mean the ones you used to ride when you were a kid. These machines go 100 mph and corner like a tron light cycle and are very loud. Heather and I remarked that this was the first time we were happy that we got denied for the Arbor Lofts, if only because we wouldn’t want to wake up to the sound of 100 carts a top speed (apparently we make too much for the low subsidized rent, which we could not afford). An event like this in America wouldn’t be complete with a ton of fried food and beer sold from trailers and stands and we were not disappointed to find bacon-wrapped hot dogs right next to the beer garden. The crew headed out to see what we could find.
The first day, we missed the qualifying races and showed up right before the car show. We would later return Sunday for the main event which was likely a good idea. Saturday’s car show made for a much better setting to get acquainted with the 7D, which did not disappoint. The light was diminishing quickly, but I wanted to test the camera’s higher ISO’s. The auto exposure bracket function worked beautifully for handheld HDR’s because the 8 frames per second helped eliminate whatever movement occurred. I’ve been wanting to shoot a car show for quite sometime and the setting was rewarding. Everyone likes cars. There were thousands of man-hours represented in the work that the crowd inspected from an amazing maroon Ford panel van to a jet black gloss perfect ’51 Chevrolet.
The feel and build quality of the 7D make you take it seriously. It’s nice to own a camera with a learning curve. It has a bottom and didn’t take me long to at least explore all of the possibilities and in some cases, employ them. You pay for settings when you buy a digital camera and this one has a setting for aaaaalmost everything that you can think of. What’s impressive is how easy it is to get to those settings. That said, my one disappointment is that of all the customizable buttons on the camera, mappable to many functions, not one can be set to start auto-exposure bracketing. This seems like an oversight to me, especially when HDR (high dynamic range imaging) is rapidly becoming so popular. The autofocus is the best of any camera I’ve used and handled carts coming straight for the camera on the straight aways moving at what seemed like 70 or 80 mph. Most images were simply in focus when I used AI Servo mode with zone AF and AF point expansion.
The light was fading and the band was setting up so, I turned my focus to putting the new camera through its concert-capturing capabilities. I promoted concerts for a few years and have played bass in more bands than I care to admit, so concerts hold a special place in my heart; I’ve seen over 300. Unfortunately, the photography bug hit me late in relation to the concert part of my life so, I feel like I have a lot of making up to do. Bullfrog Blues gave me a chance to do just that.
A friend from the music scene and colleague just happened to be performing that night making it even more synchronous and enjoyable. The light was better than some of the clubs around here but still bad enough to put the Canon to the test. Small concert lighting is always terrible. The wings of the stage were hardly lit and essentially turned a five piece band into a trio. Luckily, this band knew how to find their light and did so for their various solos. It was a pleasure to shoot this band and they were good, too. Soon thereafter, we slipped away to recharge our physical and actual batteries for our return for the main event the next morning.
Our buddy Jonathon was able to join us to bring the video the next day and as always, it was good to have him along. We managed to find great places to shoot, slipping past a few fences. I think that the cameras actually get us places we aren’t technically supposed to be. I really believe that a uniform and an attitude can get you just about anywhere. We definitely wear some amount of false confidence to go with the subterfuge and that can go along way. In reality, we should have contacted the event coordinator 6 weeks ahead of time to obtain a press pass. Lesson learned.
There was a quality of the light that I’m trying harder to understand. There are definitely times of the day where images just turn out to be too harsh. So far, based on my own observations, you’re better of getting the sun closer to perpendicular to your subject. Obviously low angles of incidence are going to get you more shadows, which is bad, but I think there is more to it. I definitely like the hour before and after sunset, I believe the “golden hour” is the hour following sunset, but I like the minutes just before. People turn out a little orange, but there’s a romantic feel to the light I cant seem to replicate anywhere else. The second day had the harsh light that’s difficult to overcome.
We seemed to arrive amidst all of the action. Carts were buzzing by like some hypersonic lawnmower caravan, cutting the grass before it could grow another micron. There were about 5 races, progressing from young teenagers to middle aged. During the first few races, it was surprising to see how young some of the drivers were; their fireproof gear made them look more experienced and bad-ass that we expected them to be older. A resounding thud signaled the first visible crash where a kid went flying into the barrier with enough force to immediately create a rescue scene out of the bystanders nearby. Turns out just the guy’s standing was the only thing harmed.
I was very surprised about how non “carty” it was; these guys are wearing fireproof clothing, carbon fiber rib protectors and a million sponsor patches. At speeds of 100 mph, they speed down straight aways with the gas tank between their legs, relying on rubber stick to save them from the awfully stationary barrier at the turn. There were all the elements of a NASCAR race or a day at the drag strip: testosterone flowing, hours of blood sweat and tears, the smell of melted rubber and gas and the technicolor break-up of the crowd with a million wants and dreams of every kind, nursing children with greasy food and soda. Cotton candy, bacon wrapped hotdogs and carbon monoxide. America. People are beautiful, I love the things they do to entertain themselves and destroy the monotone drone of work and sleep. I take pictures.
At the end of the day, I was much more familiar with my new language, Canonese. If there’s any one out there looking for technical information on the Canon EOS 7D, I suggest DPReview or Imaging Resource, my opinion is one of an amateur and I’m easily amused. That said, this machine really performs. Aside from a few small omissions, like a button mapped for AEB, this camera has exceeded my expectations. I haven’t even scratched the surface of the 7d’s video mojo, but I’m giddy just thinking about it. This also means that there are a million new expensive devices I need to flesh out my new system like the TC80 remote control with intervalometer for timelapses. I can’t wait to stop timelapsing manually. The shots below represent some of my best frames with the new beast so let me know what you think. There are a few HDR’s in the gallery, but other than that, the shots are jpegs straight out of the camera with no processing. I’m taking a little bit of a gamble spending all sorts of money on gear, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t matter. Great work has been done with modest gear and I respect that, but I’m sick of that crap, for once, I have a tank to drive a nail.
We have been very, very slack in our hiking lately. Its really shameful. Last Sunday, we tried to find our way back. We normally scoff at 10 and 12 mile hikes as with thousands of feet of elevation change; last weekend, we barely topped 2 miles.
This isn’t for lack of trying. The Station Fire, according to the media has laid waste to 160,000 acres of our playground, the Angeles National Forest which is essentially the San Gabriel Mountains. From where we are, the burn doesn’t look so dramatic, so we are anxious to get up there to survey the damage. We decided to grab our favorite hiking guides and our maps and head as far in as we could get before we were stopped. We didn’t get very far. We did see some burned out post-apoctalyptic landscapes in the distance, but nothing that anyone living in Southern California for a while hasn’t seen before. Fires are a part of life here just like earthquakes and avocados.
We didn’t expect the roads to be closed here. We continued around the northernmost range of the San Gabriels in hopes to find our way up a fire road for a peak. All roads into the forest were blocked and it looked serious. We continued to drive East to the Devil’s Punchbowl, a natural sincline that we have hiked more often than any other local site. The fire was one entire range away, so we figured we would at least head out to the Devil’s Chair, one of our favorite spots. The geology around these rock formations is dramatic and exiting. Everywhere you look there is evidence of fault activity. The San Andreas runs directly underfoot here and makes for some lovely desert terrain.
When we arrive at our home trail, so to speak, we throw on our packs and walk to the nature center as we always do, only to be greeted with a sign that informed us that, ” ALL TRAILS CLOSED.” Damn. We walk inside and inquire as to when our playground, the Mojave Desert’s backyard oasis, my church will re-open and the 5d Mark II wielding attendant stated that it was up to the U.S. Forest Service and there was no possible way to know when they’d open it again. “It could be a day, it could be months.” We started to speculate hopefully that it could’nt have burned everything. The trails here must be closed because they don’t have the personnel for a search and rescue operation, right? The map of the burn read like a laundry list of our favorite mountains and hiking trails. They always have a rattlesnake, an owl or a tarantula along with other flora and fauna for the public. There was a Boy Scout group there, taunting the rattler who sound like he couldn’t possibly rattle any faster or louder to get his point across. Ruth, the barn owl, was there as she was last time so we said hello.
We retreated to the valley floor and away from the San Gabriels, leaving the USFS to its work.