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


They Serve Also…

I believe Winston Churchill once said that “They serve also, who stand and wait”.  He meant that those who stayed home and waited for the return of soldiers from WWII were also serving their country.

Well, photography is not a war (usually) but there is a lot of standing, waiting, supporting and patience involved.

I’m talking about my wife and companion who is often with me when I am taking photographs.  The photograph here was taken on our vacation over the week of the last Fourth of July.  Together we explored and photographed many spectacular sights in Utah’s Arches National Monument.

To take this photograph in particular, we had to be up well before dawn to strike camp and drive to to the park hours before the sun was up (it’s almost impossible to camp in Arches in the summer – you have to reserve months in advance).  Then we went to the location I had scouted out days before to wait for the light.

I spend a lot of time waiting for the light.  I stand by my tripod looking at what the sun is doing as it rises (or sets).  I think about the shadows and the colors and wait for that one second when everything just works together perfectly.  Then I’ll take a photo and then wait some more for the next perfect instant to appear.  I’ll be completely engrossed in this for hours at a time.  My patient wife waits quietly for me while I wait quietly for the light.  Then we move on to the next location.

Not the way I suspect most people like to spend their vacations.

So without my patient and kind companion this photograph (and many others like it) would not exist.  I am fortunate beyond all measure to have such a willing and uncomplaining companion.  Of course it has rewards for both of us.  Together we have spent quiet time, thoroughly immersed in beauty, for hours.  Hopefully you can see that in this image.

If you’d like to hang your very own copy of this beautiful panoramic in you home or at your office, you can find it here.

Revisiting Double Arch

I’m just getting started processing the 1400+ images I came back with from Utah after my 4th of July trip.  On the trip, my love and I spent the nights camped along the Colorado River near Moab, Utah.  The mornings and evenings we spent in Arches National Monument.  We spent four days that way before moving on to Emery County to visit the old family farm and my Mother.

I’ve wanted to get back to Arches for well over a decade.  The last time I was in Arches my exploration of photography was still in its infancy.  I had managed to buy my first more-or-less serious digital camera (with a whopping 3 megapixels!) and felt I was ready for big-time success shooting in the park.

While at Double Arch in the Monument, I spent quite a bit of time climbing around looking for the right spot to shoot and taking mediocre photo after photo.  I did take one that I thought (at the time) was pretty good.  It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had sunscreen on the lens and part of the image was fuzzy.  The whole thing turned into an exercise in frustration.

I still have a print of that photo in my library.  When I printed it, I thought it was an OK image (or at least the best I had taken) if you could ignore sunscreen smudge.  Now I just cringe and try to see it as an example of how far I’ve come.

In any event, on this trip it was important to me to shoot Double Arch at a number of different times of day and under different conditions with the hope of having at least some success while learning how to really photograph the arch.  Hence, I have quite a few photos of Double Arch I’m still working through.  In the mean time I wanted to share one from the set that I’ve finished so far.

In this case, I used HDR to compensate for the fact that the Arch was very backlit at the time I was shooting—not ideal conditions by any means.  The HDR technique made it possible for me to get this starburst image as the sun went down behind the arch.  I could not have realistically taken the photo in any other way—the dynamic range of the scene was just too wide for a camera to capture.

Comparing this image to the print I have from over a decade ago, I feel like I haven’t completely wasted my time.

If you like this version, check it out on my website.  You can order a print of your own here.

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.

Almost Worth It

Every now and then, I get a day or two off from the day job.  When that happens I get out a map, look for a place I’ve never been before and go there.

For the Memorial Day holiday I had Monday off for a three day weekend; long enough for an in-state road trip.  So I got out my map and realized the only place left in Arizona that I’ve never visited was Bisbee in the South East part of the state.

I made grand plans – the town itself is quaint and packed with historic buildings and architecture.  The surrounding area has any number of interesting and picturesque back roads and 4 wheel drive trails.  I planned a number of side expeditions for photography and exploration.

I serviced my Jeep, settled my love into the seat beside me and filled the back with 4-wheeling, hiking and camera gear.  We rolled down the highway, top down, blasted by the hot Arizona wind at 80 miles per hour and without a care in the world.

Two hours later, pulling into Bisbee I stopped and began to back into a parking spot.  A loud and rather final-sounding clunk came from the rear of the Jeep.  I changed my mind about backing up and tried pulling forward and was rewarded with loud, agonizing grinding noises.

Long story short– there wasn’t an open shop within a hundred miles we could get the jeep’s brakes looked at.  Every place was closed for the holiday and even AAA premium service couldn’t really help get us back home in time for work on Tuesday.

So, we left the Jeep parked and stayed in town for the next couple days.  No adventuring in the outback– just walking, exploring quirky art galleries and experimenting with small desert town cuisine.

However, as we walked around what proved to be an historic but also quaint and quirky Arizona town, I saw sights that held potential for evening architectural photography.  That evening, as the sun set, I set up my tripod and captured the image featured above.

To me this photo is reminiscent of a scene from a John Steinbeck novel.   You almost can’t tell it wasn’t taken 100 years ago except for the fact that it’s in color.

We drove the jeep home on Monday, serenaded all the way by a constant, painful grinding noise. This photo almost makes the trip and the $1000 in repairs to my Jeep worthwhile.  Almost.

Why not help me make the trip worth it in spite of the Jeep repairs?  Why not purchase a beautiful print of this photo from me here?  Think of it as a charitable act.

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.

New Seminar: A Taste of Wine and Photography

I’m holding another evening of wine and photography at my studio. Check out the workshop announcement for details…

The Blue Hour at Skysong

If you follow my photography much at all you know that evening and night architecture shots are among my favorite.

There’s an Arizona State University research and technology center a few blocks from my home called Skysong. When Skysong was being built, community meetings showed the new campus buildings featuring a huge canopy (or giant spider as some of the local residents called it). Most of the people from my neighborhood hated it. Most still do.

Personally I am of mixed emotions. I’m glad to see South Scottsdale getting new developments with architectural significance. I’m not sure putting up a mammoth shade structure that dominates the campus around it really qualifies but it’s an attractive landmark – at least at night.

In any event, here’s a photograph from under the Skysong canopy shot during the blue hour. I love the colors in this photo – it’s what I strive for when shooting evening photographs.

How to use On Line Images and Not Get Sued

Years ago I quit counting the number of times I’ve found one of my images stolen and used on line, violating my copyright.  It sucks.  I put time, effort and money into making my photos.  I have a legal and ethical right to control their use and profit from them.  But instead of sending me a couple bucks to use one of my images people persist in just taking them.

Anyway, here’s a nice succinct article about how to use on line images without violating copyrights.


Silly Mountain or only Mildly Amusing?

As always, sunsets are something of a cliché but they can be very pretty.  This one is definitely a cliché Arizona sunset but I think it is pretty.

The photo is taken looking East (kind of  hard to take a sunset picture looking west) towards Phoenix from Silly Mountain State Park.

I noticed that the name of the road the park is on is now something other than Silly Mountain (I forget exactly what).  I guess the state isn’t amused by the name “Silly Mountain”.

Anyway, I know the photo looks like it’s an HDR but it’s not an HDR. In order to get the sky and the foreground balanced in exposure I did a two-image composite. That is, I shot a photograph with the sky properly exposed (which left the foreground dark) and then a second with the foreground properly exposed (which left the sky blown out). This was done on a tripod to make sure both images were perfectly aligned.

Then, I used Photoshop to composite the two images. I started with the sky picture as the background image, brought in the foreground picture as a layer and then masked out the foreground picture’s over-exposed sky.

When shooting something like a sunset with a very bright region and a very dark region a photographer will often have to do some sort of this kind of trickery. That’s because your eye is an amazing thing–It can see detail across somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 or 13 stops (a stop is a measurement of the intensity of light)  of light.  This is also known as dynamic range.  Unlike your eye, a camera can only make out detail in 6 or 7 stops of dynamic range.  That means to faithfully reproduce a scene the photographer has to find a way to capture more dynamic range than is possible in a single exposure or they have to find a way to compress the dynamic range of the scene down to something the camera is capable of capturing.

That’s why HDR is becoming so popular. It lets you capture more stops of light by taking multiple images. This image also uses this trick but not so extensively and only using two exposures.

The old school solution would have been to use a graduated neutral density filter.  This kind of filter allows you to block out some of the light from part of the picture (the bright sky, for example). That reduces the total dynamic range of the scene because the high intensity light is reduced in intensity.  That helps balance the exposure. The drawback with this solution is that you don’t capture more dynamic range–you lose some of the light. I prefer methods that capture more dynamic range.

Photo Book: The Unforgiving Season

I just published my first fine art photobook, “The Unforgiving Season”.  The book features images taken on the family farm where I grew up.  It’s a rumination on getting older using Winter as a metaphor. View it here:


International Hoop Dance Contest at Heard Museum

The Phoenix Heard Museum is a great center of Native American culture. We are fortunate to have it here.

Every year the Heard hosts the International Hoop Dance Contest. It’s quite an experience to see if you ever have the opportunity.

This year was the first in many since I’ve been back to the Hoop Dance Contest and it’s the first year I took any serious photographs. This post has a slide show of some of the images I liked best from the more than 1000 photos I took (it was a long day). Hope they give you a little taste of what the Hoop Dance Contest is like.

Not having been back for about a decade, I did notice that there have been some changes. I noticed there were a lot more women contestants. In fact, I don’t remember any female contestants in past years but maybe my memory is faulty. Even if women danced in the contest in the past, surely the current crop of contestants are very skilled by comparison.

I think there are a lot more child contestants now as well. I also think that the kids are much more serious about it than in the past. I think the fact that so many youngsters are starting to study hoop dance from a young age is increasing the general skill level of the contestants as a whole.

In any event, I don’t think I’ll wait another decade to go back. Maybe next year with a bigger memory card for my camera.

Aloha and Mahalo Hawaii

My last several posts have been about photographs I took on my trip to Hawaii in January.  I could probably go on posting photos from that trip for a year.  There’s just so many that I like.

Instead, I’m just going to make this final post about Hawaii featuring a slide show of two sunset photos from the trip as a way to say Aloha to Hawaii.  It’s time to start posting other new work I’ve taken since then so this is me saying mahalo to Hawaii for a wonderful visit and an opportunity to take some great photos.

The first photo is the sunset from 10,000 feet on Haleakala Crater, Maui.  The second photo is a sunset over the island of Lanai seen from Maui’s Kaanapali beach.

You can find these sunset photos and order prints if you like in my on-line store here and here.


The Unexpected Hawaii

I suppose it’s natural when one thinks of Hawaii to think about tropical beaches, Hula dancers and perhaps tropical jungles. One thing I didn’t think about prior to going was the tops of the volcanoes.

When we arrived at the Haleakala Crater at 10000 feet above sea level, I was confronted with a completely unexpected landscape. At that altitude, it’s cold and windy–hardly tropical. The landscape isn’t the lush rain forests you find several thousand feet below but something more like the Mars rovers encounter.

I spent a lot of time shooting around the crater and I have a lot of photos I’m very pleased with. I’m only sharing this one on my blog but you should check out some of the others in my on-line portfolio here. The colors and ruggedness of the landscape is truly out of this world.

I also did a few as black and whites that you’ll have to see to believe.

Hopefully you’ll find one that speaks to you — if you do, feel free to order a print.

The Light of the Real Hawaii

As a photographer, you get to a point where you are very conscious of subtle variations in light. Experience a place deeply, as you will if you are looking at it with a photographer’s eye, and you will know it in a way that others never will. A lot of that deep experience is related to the quality of the light in that place.

I really believe that if you could transport me to Los Angeles I could, with no other frame of reference except the light, tell you that I was in LA. Similarly, I could tell Los Angeles from San Diego or Seattle just from the light. As Pacific coastal cities, you’d think they’d all be the same but I have experienced the subtle differences in the light in each place.

As I travelled the Road to Hana on Maui I likewise became acquainted with the texture, feel and weight of the light. It’s very different from the light along the North East coast of Maui where we were staying. This light felt cinematic to me, like something from a Steve Spielberg movie. No wonder so many movies and television programs are filmed in Hawaii.

Here’s another waterfall photo from along the Road to Hana that I think illustrates this quality of the light. Capturing the light was a challenge but I think I was successful and, as a result, produced a successful photograph.

If you like the cinematic quality of the light in this photograph, you can order a print of your very own here.