Sunday, February 25, 2007

Nicki & Kate back in November...and editing thoughts

I've been editing some photos for the kids section of the new website. It's fun even though there are a lot of images to go through. The toughest part of this type of editing is actually just starting, because you know it's going to take some time.

But the results are worth it, often in ways you never expect (like finding this image of Nicki & Kate from our trip to Washington state in November).

The best part about editing your photos months after they've been shot, is that you often find little gems that you may have missed during the first editing session (when the memory of the actual experience of capturing the photos is still fresh in mind).

It's one of the reasons I'm a photo digital pack-rat. I save all my images -- good, bad, indifferent -- because you never know how an image will strike you down the road.

I was editing images for a portfolio a few years ago, and went back to some contact sheets I had made on an earlier project documenting the Amish that I had shot ten years before. I found an image that I was shocked that I didn't see and then select when I initially edited the shoot. Having the contacts and the original negative allowed me to make a selection that I had "seen" on a subconscious level when I shot but hadn't made the conscious decision that it was a keeper until 10 years after the fact.

My friend Dan Milnor reminded me this past week about a book by David Hurn called: On Being a Photographer. And specifically the section in the book where Hurn writes about the value of contact sheets and why you should save them (and review them).

This little gem should be on every photographer's book shelf. He shares wisdom acquired in decades of working in the industry as a photographer and also teaching at a school in Wales. (You can also see more of his work on the magnum site:

Saving your contact sheets is like saving your photographic "notes" if you will. From these you can trace your growth as a photographer by looking at the contact sheets.

This means carving out time for reflection--which is difficult--as we often seem to be hurling head first into whatever is the next project.

In the digital realm keeping contact sheets is possible though it's slightly different. Now there aren't 36 images to one sheet of paper, but I still think that keeping the outtakes as well as the keepers can be a valuable tool to helping one grow as a photographer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Scott Hiltzik CD

I recently heard from Scot Hiltzik, a pianist whom we met while documenting Diane & Steve's wedding in Santa Barbara. Scott is producing a new CD called Last Day Home and he wanted to know if he could secure usage rights for a photograph I made of him playing at the wedding for the CD.


Here's the design done by Laura Jennings.

I love the high contrast look to the image. I can't wait to hear the CD -- Scott gave us a CD of his own musical compositions for babies -- Kate has fallen asleep to that music virtually every night for a year. I think Scott's music is the most played on the iTunes list!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Marlee's Birthday Bash

We had a great time this afternoon attending Jeff & Nicole's first birthday party for their daughter Marlee. The weather was nice though brisk, and they had a bounce house set up for the kids and great food for all. Thanks you guys for inviting us.

The first photo is a detail view of Marlee wearing her little Cindy-Lou-Who hair goody...very sweet...and image number two is made as Marlee enjoys some birthday cake.

We also saw Nicole's cousin Lyndsay who took such great care of Kate over the summer as her part-time nanny. It was great seeing her and her family too.

Here's a link to a slideshow from the day, clickhere

Birthday Party Weekend

This is "One Year Old Birthday Weekend" here in Ladera. Saturday was Jillian's birthday party and today is Marlee's, so Little Miss Kate is dressing up for the occasions. I was home working yesterday (on the website images) and today I'll sneak out to visit the party (and take some photographs).

These images were from yesterday, before the party, after Kate climbed up and into a patio chair...I couldn't pass up the moment -- for the record, I didn't encourage her to do a Macauley Culkin (Home Alone) pose in the first one.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

First Pitch Panorama

As a kid growing up under a canopy of muddy gray Wisconsin winter skies, I'd look for signs of spring. Anything.

Valentines Day would be one sign that spring would soon arrive, and occasionally you'd see a robin or a cardinal that got a jump on spring and came back north just a little early or perhaps spy a lone blade of grass that somehow pushed through the snow.

Another sure sign was spring training and especially the mid February ritual of major league baseball pitchers and catchers reporting to camp.

This week they did that again, so it's official -- spring is almost here.

This photo is another image pulled from the vault and it's from the actual first pitch thrown in the Arizona Diamondbacks home opener on March 31, 1998 at what was then called Bank One Ballpark.

Growing up cheering for the Cubs and later the Brewers I was jazzed that Jerry Colangelo was bringing a major league baseball team to Phoenix in the mid 90s. The Republic even sent me down to Palm Beach for the team meetings when the franchise was awarded in 1996. It was huge front page news for the town that was just dying to be considered a big-league city.

Even though the stadium looks like an aircraft hanger from the outside, the inside has some cool touches and an intimate feel that reminded me of the old time stadiums like Wrigley Field in Chicago, where fans could actually see the players and get a feeling for the game.

It was such a departure from the mega, multi-use stadiums built in the 70s in Philadelphia (the Vet), or in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers), or Cincinnati (Riverfront Stadium) which were circular, oversized and played on (ugh) AstroTurf. Thank God they're all gone.

But the BOB, as it was affectionally called, was so unlike that, even down to the natural grass field (quite a feat if you've ever spent a summer in Phoenix).

As the two year wait for opening day was almost over and about a couple of months out, I reserved a Fuji G617 panorama camera that shoots medium format film. The actual image size is 6 cm x 17 cm and so the quality is simply superb.

I had envisioned an image that captured the first pitch and would be historical and grand -- it demanded the panorama.

I kept thinking back to images burned into my brain since childhood that I had seen of milestones in baseball, like the first night game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati back in the 30s and Bill Mazeroski rounding home as the Pirates won the Series, Yogi Berra leaping into Whitey Ford's arms after the perfect game, and thought that ideally this image would be black and white, or better yet, a sepia image to further give it that sense of timelessness.

Shooting color negative film, I kind of hedged my bet. While I had envisioned the sepia in the final presentation, an editor at the paper may want to run it in full color.

My goal was for the paper to run the image horizontally on the back page of the sports page the day after the game as a pin up poster. And thankfully, it didn't.

Of course, at the time I was crushed. The planning and the hopes for a really cool and historical presentation had been for naught, or so I thought.

But a funny thing happened. The paper's marketing department (a separate branch from editorial), though, had heard of this image and took it and ran.

They secured all the required releases from every player on the field in the starting lineups, in order to make what would turn out to be a promotional poster.

It was like a dream, the mock up that I had made on a inexpensive scanner and an epson printer was followed to a T, including font selections (Copperplate, an old foundry font, was used at the stadium which also gave it that sense of old world feeling and that's why I selected it for the title).

When I first saw the final printing, my jaw dropped.

Nothing in the years I had been in journalism had exceeded my expectations -- until now. The printing was flawless.

It became an instant best-seller in the team shops and a framed copy of it hangs in the studio today...a reminder that sometimes the best laid plans not only go astray they turn out for the best.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sabrina & John Engagement Portraits

These are just three of my favorites from the portrait session of Sabrina & John on a rather blustery day this past Saturday in Laguna Beach.

Even though the third image isn't the classic smiling face on John, I really love the look of the shot.

Thanks you guys -- looking forward to April!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Our Beachcomber

Yesterday Nicki, Kate and I headed for Laguna with Sabrina and John, whose wedding I'll be photographing in April.

Despite the rather blustery weather, we all had a fine time...I'll post some pics from the engagement photo session a bit later but I wanted to share this pic of Kate so the grannies can get a view of her.

She was behind me clapping and dancing -- which got John and Sabrina to smile for the camera (though they were doing fine).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Saddle Bronc Riders

This image has been in my vault for several years. It was made over the July 4th weekend in 1991 in Prescott, Arizona.

I had only been in the state for a year and everything about it was still very new to me (by then I had gotten over the first thing about the wild west that had thrown me briefly -- that was the sign at The Republic advising me to "Please check my handgun with the security desk").

I had heard about this rodeo -- which claims to be the world's oldest rodeo -- and decided to go up to Prescott (about 100 miles from Phoenix and nearly a mile high elevation) to check it out.

It was truly quite visual and I found these saddle bronc riders stretching their saddles in the dirt before they competed.
I was struck by the beauty of the colors of the dirt and their clothes, the texture of the building and the rich blue sky made all the more glorious by shooting Velvia transperency film. The combination of all the elements create an almost painterly feel to the scene even though it was shot in the early afternoon (not typically the best time to shoot).

The image was published in The Arizona Republic, but was also printed by US News & World Report.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Harrison Ford Enshrined

Another find for "The Vault".

This was from a DC assignment when I was on contract for Sygma, the French agency, in the summer of 1989. (Sygma was one of the agencies that mostly served the magazines like Time, Newsweek and others that was subsequently sold to Corbis).

I was really looking forward to this little assignment, even though it was a fairly typical DC photo op.

Harrison Ford, of Indiana Jones fame and probably one of the most bankable movie stars of the last 25 years, was going to be on hand at the Smithsonian American History Museum as his signature fedora, leather jacket and whip from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" were going to be enshrined in the museum.

I had been a huge Harrison Ford fan since 1977 when I first saw him on the screen in the first (and still best, sorry) Star Wars installment. He had really started to gain some notice, though, in American Graffiti in 1973, though I hadn't seen him in that yet.

But the reason I was so keen to see him was that he and I were connected (though I was nearly a generation later) to a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of Wisconsin called Ripon College.

Ford was a Philosophy major at Ripon. In fact there's a very cryptic Ripon reference to a favorite Philosophy prof at Ripon -- William Tyree -- during the classroom scene in Raiders.

He was also the member of a fraternity on campus (back then, the early 60s, probably around 800 students) along with the three time Grammy Award winning jazz singer Al Jarreau and Richard Threlkeld who would go on to a distinguished career reporting for CBS TV during the heyday of broadcast journalism.

It still strikes me as astounding that three men from this one little place, and the same fraternity would all go on to such notable careers.

In my sophomore year at Ripon my work-study job was as student assistant for the secretary to the Dean of Men at the School. Dean David Harris had been an administrator at the school for nearly 30 years and had known Ford when he was a student.

In his office, dwarfed by shelves of textbooks amid the smell of old books mixed with years of pipe tobacco smoke, Dean Harris would rock back on his leather desk chair. Between patting the tobacco and then trying to light it, he would tell me stories of "Harry" as he called him.

Harry Ford isn't really acting, he would say between puffs. The way he is on screen is, in many ways, the way he is in real life. Ford, he told me, had found his calling in the theater groups at Ripon and it gave him a direction in his life.

When that department (it was literally in a house that was on campus) burned down in a fire in the first semester of his senior year, Ford was absolutely devastated. The thing that had given him hope was now suddenly gone. He would never graduate from the school.

Obviously the story eventually had a happy ending for Ford, who subsequently left for California to pursue his dreams. For me, a kid from a small town in central Wisconsin, hearing about someone who actually made it in the real world following his dreams was inspiring enough.

I would read later about Ford and his commitment to his craft and how he would always try to bring something special, even to a smaller role.

After landing a studio contract in the 60s and playing small television roles (including a role as a butler in an old Rod Serling's Night Gallery show) I understand he almost packed it in for a career as a carpenter. I heard that he would rather do carpentry than not be allowed to really spread his wings as an actor. Lucas found him for Graffiti and then again worked with in Star Wars. The rest, as they say, is history.

At the Smithsonian, Ford seemed to quietly enjoy the occasion and he bantered with the Director of the Museum. He picked up his "Indy" hat and placed it on his head much like he did in the movie.

And then he did something surprising.

He playfully pulled the hat down on his head, bending his ears and made a goofy face. It was a spontaneous moment at an event that typically is so predicatable from an actor that surprised me in his playfulness.

And just as quickly as he was whisked into the press conference he was ushered out.

Damn. I wanted to just have 2 seconds of his time to say hello from a Ripon Alum and to let him know that I'm sure Dean Harris (who by then had passed away) would be so very proud.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Editing for "The Vault"

I've been spending some time in the past couple weeks reviewing some images from my previous life as a newspaper photographer. I'll put some of these images on my new website (which should be live very soon) in a special section that I'm going to call "The Vault".

This is one of the photos that I rediscovered.

It is an image I made in 1988 right after the first George Bush (41) was elected president. He stands here with President Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Governor's Island just outside of Manhattan -- the Twin Towers are gleaming in the sunlight. The Berlin Wall was still standing, but political change was imminent across Eastern Europe and what was then the Soviet empire.

I was in the traveling press pool photographing this event (at the time I was the Chicago Tribune's staff photographer based in DC) and while I was making the image, I sensed that it had all the elements for the classic and historic photo op.

I love the way the wind blows President Bush's jacket, and President Gorbachev's gleeful smile.

Ironically, this photograph was made on December 7 (the 47th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor). And now, it is all the more striking since the Twin Towers are no longer here after the 9-11 attacks.