Posts in Category: People

The Proposal

One of the nice things about being a photographer is that sometimes you get to be present to record nice moments in people’s lives.
Recently a friend asked me if I would be there to take photographs when he surprised his girlfriend with a proposal. I don’t do this sort of thing (or weddings or stuff like that) as a business but sometimes I’ll do it for a close friend and in this case I was honored.
So here is a selection of photos that illustrate the story of the proposal. I hope you’ll join me in wishing all the best to the happy couple.

Homage to Flaming June

Someone who means a great deal to me loves the painting “Flaming June” by Frederick Lord Leighton (1830-1896).  Here’s the original painting:


I always wanted to do a photographic homage to the painting in honor of that special someone.  At the time I had hoped to use her as the model, making it something special we would share.

At the time that I first started thinking about it, I didn’t have the skills or the tools to do justice to the painting.  After time went by I gained the skills and tools I felt I needed.  Sadly, during the time of waiting as so often happens, the special person with whom I wanted to make the photograph with ceased to be part of my life.

Even so, it was a challenge I wanted to take on and a concept I really liked.  So with that motivation and out of love, longing and heartache I hired a model and proceeded.

This is the resulting image.  I feel like it does homage to the painting without copying it.  In particular, this image is constructed using conventions from photography that you probably wouldn’t see in a painting.  Also, there are differences in textures and lighting that I was not able to address so I used my own creativity in those areas.

This turned out to be much harder than I expected.  I’ve seen other photographic homages to classic paintings (and to this one as well) that succeed to varying degrees.  I think mine succeeded but perhaps not as fully as I had hoped.  I’m not sure I would want to regularly do interpretations of classical paintings as some photographers do.  In this case I was motivated in a way that would not normally apply so this may be the only time that I do something like that.

Model credit: Chelsea Claire


I Just Want to Rock and Roll All Night

I have always looked up to the iconic rock and roll photographers of the 60s, 70s and 80s. Artists like Jim Marshall, Pennie Smith and Bob Gruen defined a generation of rock photographers and a style that still defines the genre. Even if you don’t know who they are, you know their photographs.
These photogs had unprecedented access and, unlike current artists, had the respect and trust of the musicians. They shot concerts, backstage, on the road – basically everywhere. Often they became friends of the band and partied with them or even hung out with their families. This access made for iconic photos that define the Rock and Roll era and documented it’s history.
As in so many other things in photography, this type of access and the ability to make such iconic photographs has largely passed away. Today musicians (or more accurately their managers and labels) control access to musicians and even copyrights to images taken back stage or at concerts.  Hanging with the band otherwise is virtually unheard of.
Recently controversy swirled around Taylor Swift when she stood up to Apple on behalf of recording artists while at the same time exploiting photographers. The photography community called her a hypocrite (Here’s an article on the subject).  The controversy illustrates how the music industry has “managed” rock and roll photography nearly to death.
Consequently it’s almost impossible to get the kind of access required to shoot iconic rock images like those from previous eras. Or at least it is for famous bands with recording contracts.
Fortunately there are still local venues hosting local artists where anyone can shoot photos. I’ll often go to a local outdoor concert or a show at a local club and spend a little time living out the fantasy of being the Jim Marshall of Scottsdale, Arizona.
Here I’ve posted a sampling of shots I took at a recent outdoor concert in Scottsdale. It’s a local band called Georgia Chrome.  My intent was to capture photos in the style of the famous rock and roll photographers of the 60s and 70s.

Li with Balloons

I have posted previously about how I have been working to evolve my personal style in both my landscape photography and my studio work.

Here’s another example of my evolving style in studio work. This image is different from what I normally have done in the past in that I’m trying to evoke a mood and let the image tell a story.

One of the ways in which this image is different from what I might have shot a year or two ago is in the use of props to set a stage and create a narrative. Another is in the processing where I have used intentionally desaturated colors and a surrealistic backdrop (composited in) to set a specific mood.

I hope the image instills you with a certain moodiness and the general drift of a story.

In any event, I feel this image is an excellent example of where I want to go with my studio work. It’s certainly a new and significant addition to my portfolio.

The Theory of Evolution 2

In my previous post I described how I have made a conscious effort to evolve my personal style away from where I was going until about a year ago. I felt my photographic style was too influenced by my stock photography work.

Here is an example of how I have approached evolving my style in the studio. In previous shoots I would have started with a lighting plan, set up all the lights and metered to get the exposure values I wanted. Then I would have tweaked things once the model was positioned.

For this shoot, I started with no lights. Once I had the model positioned, I added a light directly above the model. Why? Just because I don’t normally do that.

Then, I started placing other lights and looking at the effect that was developing. It wasn’t completely random—I had an idea of what I wanted to accomplish but it was very general. It was more along the lines of looking for dimensionality, contrast, perhaps a mood. It wasn’t specific in the way my work has been in the past.

The result is something beyond what I originally envisioned and nothing like what I would have shot two years ago.  I think it’s much more sophisticated and evolved.

The work takes longer this way but I think it’s worth it.

The Theory of Evolution

When I first started getting serious about my photography I kept thinking about how to create my personal style. I’d try one thing thinking that would become my style but then I’d go off in a completely different direction some other time.

Over time, I did develop a personal style. I knew it was a personal style because I could look at a collection of my pictures and see that they were all taken by the same person.

Its evolution wasn’t a conscious thing. It just evolved naturally after I’d taken something like 10,000 photos. So when it comes to a personal photography style that was my theory of evolution — shoot a lot of pictures and it’ll just happen.

In any event, I came to realize after some time that my need to shoot stock photos to make money was influencing the evolution of my style. All my photos, stock or not, had a commercial, stocky look: bright and even lighting, bright and saturated colors. These were becoming my trademark. It wasn’t what I wanted.

I wanted more mood in my images. I wanted my images to have more of a fine art feel to them.

About a year and a half ago I decided to intentionally get away from shooting quite so much stock photography.   I set out to see if I could develop a different “feel” to my images. A new, more intentional and directed theory of evolution.

I think I’ve been successful. I’ve created a number of images in the last year or so that I consider the best work I’ve done. Best of all,
it doesn’t look commercial in the way stock photos do.

Now I’m focusing on using light more creatively. This applies in my landscapes as well as in the studio. The above image is an example from my studio work. I’ve returned to to the studio with a more experimental approach and I think it’s starting to take off.

The bodyscape image above is made with a view to creating a strong graphical statement rather than a portrait. I hope you like it. I’ll post some more from my studio work at another time so you can follow along as I explore my new theory of evolution.