14 December, 2008

Now with Battle Damage!

When I was little, battle damage was something cool. Tanks could be crushed and magically spring back into shape, scars would appear with hot water only to heal when the water dried. They were rough and tumble and could and did survive anything. I don’t think battle damage is so cool now. The scars of war are very real and much more than physical and they can’t be fixed with the push of a button or a dry cloth. I feel for those that currently carry those scars and I admire those that put themselves in harm’s way and risk those scars so that the rest of us don’t have to.

"Battle Damaged" Part of Heroes & Villains: Series 1.

24 November, 2008

See the World With New Eyes

That was the slogan of this year’s STARZ Denver Film Festival and I think it is especially appropriate for anyone who enjoys taking pictures. We are so often busy just trying to make it from morning to night that there is nothing else that we can do or take in. In a small way, this motto has been my motto for every event that I shoot. Most, if not all of the events I shoot, are very much public events and everyone and their mother has a camera there. So, the biggest challenge I have is knowing that every picture possible will be taken and I have to make sure my pictures stand out; how do I make sure my pictures are something that everyone’s mother didn’t just take. So I guess this is where my “vision” comes in.

Anywho, back to the festival. This was the second year I was able to volunteer as a photographer for the festival and it was an absolute blast. Everyone I met was incredible and had so much to talk about. I didn’t have any time to see films, but being able to sit in on nearly every question and answer session was well worth it. Hearing producer Zach Kranzler talk about No Subtitles Necessary, seeing how much director Bob Celestino enjoyed speaking about his film Yonkers Joe, talking with Bill Pullman about the Ellie Caulkins Opera house and seeing his look of amazement when he finally took it all in, all wonderful moments. My personal favorite had to be listening to cinematographer Wally Pfister talk about running around a junk yard following around Al Pacino while Christopher Nolan and the rest of the crew hid behind piles of dirt and junk. Leave it to me to find the best memory from one of the “behind the scenes” guys, but it certainly is a new way to see. So take a look around at the daily with new eyes and you’ll find something amazing. (PS for more check out my website. Yep, shameless plug.)

Saturday at the Movies where children have the opportunity to walk the Red Carpet.

Producer Zach Kranzler discusses his film No Subtitles Necessary

Bill Pullman on stage during an interview/question and answer session before he received the 2008 Casavetes Ward

Again, Bill Pullman.

Perhaps my favorite of the 10 day event. A fitting close to the film festival. For those that can't tell, it's a podium.

09 November, 2008

Apparently I have vision

If you’ll recall, I’m not a big fan of taking architectural photos. Turns out I’m rather impatient, which doesn’t explain at all how I can work on pretty much all of the toy shots. It’s weird. Anyhow, I was asked to take a look at Denver and see what I see. Well, even after explaining that I’m not an architectural photographer, it was settled upon that it didn’t matter. I was being given this task because “they” had faith in my skills as a photographer and they knew I had my own vision and that’s what they were looking for. Kinda humbling, as well as kinda scary. Still, I trekked out and these are some of the initial shots. I was pretty lucky that morning that there was a parade on its way: it meant I could lay in the street with less fear of being run over or arrested. You'll notice that there is only one in color. There is a very simple reason for that. I like it. We are rapidly approaching Holga season and I wasn't expecting a great amount of color, but as I did the post processing on this one, it simple worked.

30 October, 2008

Happy Halloween! Time to carve your seams!

I know you were expecting a nice shiny shot of some fantasticaly plastic do-dad. Hey, so was I, but alas, it was not to be. I'm a little behind. But on the upside, you get to see me go full force nerd.

By now you've probably heard about a little upgrade called Photoshop CS4. You may also have seen their content aware scaling (there are plenty of Youtube videos out there in case you haven't). I'll admit, when I saw it, I wasn't terribly impressed. Being more of a photojournalist than I like to admit, I didn't see any real application to it. It really screws with the old adage of capturing in camera. But, being the dork I am I became more interested in how it worked.

I once learned that elevators worked because giants used to push the building down or pull it up and the elevator stayed in the same place. Content aware scaling doesn't work like that. In the simplest terms, it literally removes (or adds) a "pathway" or "seam" of pixels from parallel edges (top/bottom, left right). Through this method, "seam carving" is able to rescale an image without distorting the content. What's even more impressive that it is able to do it in a non-uniform manner. Taking the seams in a uniform manner likely wouldn't generate too many artifacts, but the insertion would likely create essentially a poorly cloned portion of the image.

In short, the science behind the application is pretty impressive. I don't know if Adobe is using the same algorithms as is demonstrated here, but it can't be too far off. I'm sure they've upped the effeciency. I mean, it's what they do. So, to all of my computer science friends: you should consider applying to Adobe. I'm not just looking to score some free swag (stuff we all get), I'm looking out for you!

Anyhow, after seeing that little explanation, the whole application made more sense for use on webpages. And I suppose that it would apply to a lot of advertising projects. My only concern, remember that I haven't actually tried it yet, is how much artifacting is visible on a print resolution image that magazines, catalogs, etc would use. I'm sure it's minimal and results in little additional retouching, but if I don't ask the questions, I will not get a gold star.

And to close out, I did download and read the journal paper, but I also picked up The Ting Tings on vinyl. So far I'm liking it and I think it will grow on me, but it's not one that I would have rushed out to get. But who can say no to records on sale? Yep, I am surprisingly analog.

08 October, 2008

Full of Hot Air

Everyone loves hot air balloons. As a crass generalization, I’d say it’s pretty good considering the smiles that pop up when people see them. I mean, who doesn’t love hearing the roar of the burners, seeing the sky filled with every color imaginable, and who doesn’t tremble in fear when a cathedral swoops down on you like a bird of prey or the Dark Lord of the Sith is breathing heavily through his mouth?

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is probably the most photographed event in the world, and with over 600 balloons launching, who’s going to argue. This event is also, perhaps, the only event that gets cancelled or postponed on a regular basis. I was able to attend for three days and two of the six events were cancelled or postponed due to weather. It’s frustrating considering my schedule, but not unexpected. I’ve attended the Balloon Fiesta every year until probably my freshman year in college. It’s one of those things that you see so many times, it kind of loses the magic. Except, for the balloon fiesta, it sort of doesn’t. You didn’t have to attend the actual field events to enjoy it. All you had to do was look out of your window and there they were. The frustrating part is when you realize you’re stuck inside while it’s going on.

While in town, I also had the opportunity to check out the Sandia Peak Tramway, the world’s longest aerial tramway. I’d never gotten around to it while I lived in Albuquerque. It’s just one of those things. In the winter, it’s great because it provides direct access to the ski slope, and the rest of the year, it’ opens up the mountain to hikers and mountain bikers. Unfortunately, no balloons were up by the time I started ascending, which again was expected as I was heading up early afternoon.

Old town Albuquerque is always a blast to visit. Being the nerd that I am, this is where I hung out growing up. Besides being the old historic city plaza, this is where the art, history, natural history, and museums are located and the zoo is not far off. The rain made for some interesting challenges, but the ristras (made with actual chili you pozers!) always cheers you up.

01 October, 2008

Sitting Around is Work

Over the past few days I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Jeff Goldberg, of Esto on architectural shots of the University of Colorado at Denver’s new-ish Medical Library. I wasn’t assisting, but was actually an extra in order to give the shots more of a feeling of use than space. I, along with several others, sat around, walked up and down stairs, and “pinballed” around the lobby in order to make the library look busier than usual.

Now, I am not really a fan of architectural photography (or at least the process. The outcome however, I find amazing), mostly because I can be rather impatient and waiting for the sun to move to the right spot or a cloud to get out of the way, would essentially drive me crazy (which I have heard is in walking distance of where I am now). As I was saying, I am not a fan, but because of the conditions that those photographers have to deal with, I highly respect them and what they are capable of. The really good ones do absolutely fabulous work, taking these spaces and literally giving them a life of their own.

Anyway, it was interesting talking with Jeff about his background and experiences as a photographer as well as how his workflow normally goes. Such as how extras were not originally planned for this shoot. Well, it turns out that the library is very spacious and finding people just hanging around the library is rather impossible, so extras were required. It was also very interesting in seeing how Jeff directed us as extras. One thing I saw him do, which I think works when working with any model, is setting a point of reference. Many times, Jeff would first have us look at the camera, then from that position, he would have us move, either towards or way or to “our left” or “our right.” I think learning how to direct people is one of the more difficult and subtler tasks that a photographer has to learn and it is a task that can’t easily be taught.

I was also glad to find out that the library had emergency plans in every room, from potential hazardous material spills to hostage situations. They are very prepared.

I’ll let you know when Jeff’s photos are online and you can look for the little blur that is me.

Also, if you get a moment, check out the work of Leo Derks. The guy is amazing.

27 September, 2008

Over Achiever

Check this out! I’m totally an over achiever! Here are a few of my favorites from the recent expansion of my Heroes & Villains series. I did these in the style of Richard Avedon (check out the American West Series specifically). “Why?” you ask, bewildered. For fun. His portraits on white can’t help but draw you in and the technique works so well! (Also, the my brother always ended up with the hero figures, so I ended up with all of the villains in the He-Man line up, which I was ok with. The villains were so much more fun.) I was actually a little worried that because of the issue of scale, that these portraits wouldn’t be as strong as I imagined in my head. I’m glad my imaginings finally live up to real life.

And now for the interactive part of our show! In the last post, I was asked how long each of these takes, along with time for set up and how many pictures I take. Let’s Tarantino it and begin at the end.

Sorry to be blunt, and a bit of a jerk, but I take as many pictures as necessary to get it right. For every shot, I have a mock up in my head of how I want it to look. I should right these down so I don’t fly from the seat of my pants so much, but I know what it should look like in the end. Sometimes it takes one shot, sometimes it takes 100, but I do what is necessary to make it look like what I imagine. Also, I don’t just stop when it looks like what I think it should look like. I mix things up, try new angles, move lights, flags, and scrims. It lets me explore the options and discover shots that are potentially better than what imagine (event shooting is different, and we can talk about that later if you like).

As for time for set up, that time varies between each shot as each shot requires its own set of details and carries its own set of problems. And in actuality, a lot of the time the set-up is very fluid and changes as the shoot goes on. For example, initial set up of the “Even Here” took about 5 minutes. I laid out a white sheet of foam core and dusted it with flour and put Snow Serpent on it and then framed my shot. Once that was set, the shoot itself probably took about 2 to 3 hours as I adjusted snow drifts, angles, depth of field, etc.

This leads into how long a shot takes quite nicely. Just like the number, it takes as long as necessary to get the vision in my head. I try and capture as much in frame in possible. Digital compositing, retouching, color correction are done on an as needed basis and again vary on each shot. Today’s shots took about 20 minutes in post to do all ten shots, of which I’ve only posted 3 so you don't get confused. I’ve done others where it takes 2 days or more to get one image just right.

So, just like the trip to granma’s house, “We’ll get there when we get there.” The key is knowing what you want to see when you are done. It allows you to better prepare for your shot and lets you be more creative because you’ll get to your initial idea faster, giving you more time (especially in this deadline driven world) to play around and experiment without sacrificing the goal.

So, now we know how we got here. Good thing Tarantino was around to help us out. Also, check out the fancy new label cloud. Now, with the click of a button, you can look up all posts relating to things such as pie, which I guess I have not actually posted anything on.

20 September, 2008


Told ya, WsMD (Weapon's of Mario Destruction). These guys actually weren't that bad, I mean figuring out the timing of the numerous incarnations of the Hammer Bros was way worse. Anyhoo, the shooting was actually rather intricate. Light falling on large objects is easy. Light on a small object is far more complex because of the scale: what you thought was a hard source is suddenly a soft source because of the fall off (or lack of). Regardless, I'm pretty happy with the way these turned out. It's a little different than you'd expect from the characters, but at the same time it feels very fitting. Additionally, I really love the way the light brings out emotion and character in each of the figures. Along a similar note, you should check out the Iron Giant. I really enjoyed it. Also, it relates to today's post. I swear. Relatively often, but I'm trying to cut back.

Bullet Bill


16 September, 2008


You may recall that I am some sort of ninja. With that in mind, I ended up at an Obama rally today at the Colorado School of Mines. I actually was volunteering (I ended up doing line management, telling people where to go, making sure people had tickets, and such) and happened to only have my trusty point and click with me. Still, I got some ok photos of the Barack-Star himself.

Does it get any better than this?! Kung-Fu Panda!

Notice they did not have the score board lit up.

So I had a friend comment on how he was glad to see this particular shot, not because it was by any means good (it's not, by the way) but because it did something he hadn't seen in all of the other media from the event. This one particular image showed a sense of place, something which I feel is very important in any event documentary coverage. This type of image becomes much more important for the "locals" than anybody else because the Senator at a podium in front of a blue curtain could have been taken anywhere. A sense of place grounds us and reminds us that this is what is happening. I'm glad I could be of service.

Not content with simply accepting the same photos everyone else was taking, I took one for myself. For a quick hit, I’m happy with it. It focuses on what I enjoy doing the most (next to photography), volunteering (though volunteering to do photography is pretty much like a massive sugar rush). I do wish the zip-up and safety pin were a little more defined, and maybe I’ll try reshooting it if I find the time. And I haven’t forgotten, photos of W’sMD to come (WMD’s is grammatically incorrect as "Destructions" doesn’t make much sense).

06 September, 2008

Tiny Xerox Boxes

And here you thought I wouldn’t make it, when in fact I thought I wouldn’t make it. This particular image has been in progress for well over three months. Why? Mostly because, as it turns out, photography for fun is not the only thing I do, as well as the whole “I have to build an office building?!” Who knew that you could get tiny marble flooring? Anywho, feast your eyes upon “Another day,” as in “Another day at the office.” War is business and that is a sad fact. We were warned about the military-industrial complex by President Eisenhower, and unfortunately it was unavoidable. I mean, sure we probably could have limited it and its influence, but I doubt there’s really anything anybody could do about it. Well, here is yet another post that is quite the downer. Unfortunately, it looks like the next toy shot will yet again deal with those rascally weapons of war. Until next time, true believers!

23 August, 2008

A Nice Cold One on a Hot Day

Right on schedule, here is a new toy shot. Finally able to get back on track (for the most part) with the Heroes and Villains, Series 1. And thankfully, I’ve still managing to keep it simple. Once again, David Levinthal was the inspiration for the shot, his Hitler Moves East series especially. This one was fun to do and i think I even felt cooler as I was working on it (we've had record breaking highs around here lately). The only problem, besides making a horrible mess,was that I had trouble finding a suitable title, and then I realized what it’s really all about. I mean, I really wanted to shoot this figure because I liked the tremendous amount of detail, not because I felt there was some greater meaning. But just like all of the other shots in the series, it seems that the meaning is there, which is nice. So, this one is a bit of a nod to the extent that wars, and violence will go, such that they will go “even here,” the ends of the earth (though in actuality, because the earth is a spheroid, it’s surface doesn’t actually have an end. You have to consider moving perpendicular to the surface, which takes you out into space and where the atmosphere disappears, then you can consider that the "end of the earth" because it is truly a point when the earth ceases to be.). I admire those that are willing and able to confront such extreme conditions, but it’s also sad to know that there isn’t a place that is or will be free of violence.

"Even Here"

11 August, 2008

Large Scale Service

I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph for Circle K International’s Large Scale Service Project this past week in Denver. A collegiate service leadership organization, Circle K International volunteered with the Salvation Army, both at their main warehouse as well as several of their thrift stores. They also helped the Denver Rescue Mission stuff back to school backpacks for kids, build a carnival, and build a sand box big enough to fit a boat in. Well, maybe a small boat, but it was pretty awesome. The biggest challenge was not in the shooting, as since I’ve been involved with this organization for quite some time, but in the editing. There were so many great pictures, so many great moments, that it was incredibly difficult to whittle it down to the very best. I think I’ve done it here, but check out my website just in case.

27 July, 2008

Colorado Dragonboat Festival

Another great time at the Dragonboat Festival. With any luck, next year I won't be photographing because I'll be on a team. Time to practice my rowing!

19 July, 2008

Round 2 and a 1/2 and Offending Sensibilities

So I was able to get the final piece of Round 2 completed and am happy to present my “Materia Campaign” featuring Square-Enix PlayArts figures. As I said, I was going with something simple and I really liked how these turned out. I may go into toy fashion photography. Interpret that in any way you see fit. As a side note, for those of you that did not obsessively play Final Fantasy VII, the colors match respective magic that is mentioned in the text. The text turned out to be the more challenging thing, as I don’t usually need to worry about copy when I shoot, let alone the typography. I’m mostly happy with the font, I just wish I had a font that had a little more weight to it.

As for Round 3, I’ve opted to post it through this link. Why? Well, there is the possibility that this image may offend some sensibilities. I mean, I don’t know what the sensibility of my one reader is, she’s pretty cool, so I don’t think it will, but what should happen if some unassuming individual stumbles across it and is quite offended? I may get a stern talking to, and we all know how unpleasant that is. So, the only way you can see it is if you make an effort to look at it. Yep, suddenly my blog is fully interactive. That’s high tech my friends.

So, there you go. If you want to check it out, you go click. Click away.

Oh yeah, no toy shots for the next couple of weeks. I've got some events coming up, so we'll see exactly how rusty I am.

05 July, 2008

Round 2

Round 2 is not a failure. Technically its a forfeit. Sort of. Here's the story:

I have a tendency to make things very complicated. Just look at ALL of my toy shots. So for this round, I figured I'd follow in the footsteps of notable toy photographer David Levinthal and keep things simple. (Even though my favorite series of his is Hitler Moves East, which has a fair amount of production involved). With that in mind, I wanted to cerate a nice, simple, graphic type of shot. So I did. It was all right, nothing that couldn't be easily repeated. I had mixed feelings about it. Well, I began the post production on it and everything just fell into place. So I shot a second toy and now that I knew what I was doing, was even more excited about the shoot. I say more excited because at times I feel I lack the artistic vision to really do simple pieces. Am I over compensating by making things grand? Quite possible. Am I just sitting in a comfort zone, knowing that I can make up for part of the design of a shot with knick knacks and the right props? Could be. So this was really a good exercise for me and it was successful. Successful enough to feel that this can only really be realized as a triptych, or larger. Right now, I only have two and it feels incomplete. So instead of rushing and posting the two I have, I'm going to wait. I still need to get a hold of the third subject, which has proven quite difficult. I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to find the piece I need, but will it be in time to finish out Round 3? Only time will tell. So tune in next week (or thereabouts), same Bat-Time, same Bat Channel!

30 June, 2008

Cherry Blossomy Goodness

This weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph at the Cherry Blossom Festival held at the Denver Buddhist Temple. This was an absolute delight to photograph because of the vibrant colors, smiling faces, and wonderful music, food, and a gorgeous day.

Amanda Igaki, Miss Asian American, Colorado 2008, was on hand to perform some hula. As for "why hula?" many Japanese immigrants went to Hawaii.

21 June, 2008

Round one, and the winner is...

It’s been a busy day, but I didn’t forget.

Presenting: Nigel Zoomie by Kid Robot in "Make 'em feel fast."

and Orr of the Bamboo Zoo from Kid Robot in "Under the Bed."

So after shooting Nigel in the rain, laying in a puddle getting soaked, and laying on a very warm and burning stretch of road, I found that I liked the feel of the first shot better. Still, I don’t think it’s one of my better shots, but it is certainly a visual reference now for how a shot like this can be done, as well as shows me what I can do to make it better.

The same goes for our friend Orr here. I don’t think it’s my best work, but it has a good feel to it. A draft as it were. You can decide which ones you like better, but for me, I’m leaning more toward Nigel, even with all of its faults.

I also photographed at the Clear Creek History Park Summer Solstice Music Festival and will throw some of those up in a little bit. I’ve got two weeks to crank out a new toy shot and I don’t even know what I’m doing yet.

Oh yeah, to answer the title, I think it goes to the other guy. I could have done better. Looks like I fell out of the tree, but the grass is soft and maybe in these next two weeks I’ll end up on the branch covered with cherries.

14 June, 2008

One of " " days, not “those”

Today has been a day. I dare not say that it was one of “those” days on the basis that “those” days are never good days, until long after and the day is seen through a bit of wisdom learned on another of “those” days. Today, regardless of what I may say in times hence, has been a very good day.

To begin, it began literally at the beginning: a midnight reading of the first few installments of James Robinson’s epic Starman. Now, if you haven’t picked up a comic book since you were but a wee lad, or since the dawn of never, I feel you are missing out. Every day, we immerse ourselves in worlds not our own, from the fictional lives of friends we don’t know to the heroic deeds done on a screen that we could never fit in our house, and of course, ever always to the places that can only be described adequately with the printed word. There are three comic books that I have vehemently recommended as being those, from my experience, that elevate the funny books to classics.

The first: Neil Gaiman’s the Sandman. I picked up this book near the end of its run, and quickly returned to the beginning as soon as I could. Gaiman crafted not just a world, but a universe of possibility, literally a dream. It was not only an epic tale, but there is such intricacy, the comic book could be the only form to do it justice.

The second: Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. Pick it up. It will change the way you look at people in capes swooping in to save the day.

The third: The Long Halloween, by Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb. The detective story. The film noir. The one where everything you need to solve the case is there and if you read it as comic, you still enjoy it. But if you truly enjoy it, taking in every panel, every line, every shadow, you will truly read it.

And now that there is a definitive collection, I have a fourth: Starman by James Robinson. Robinson is a storyteller and this is an epic, but not in the sense of bright costumes and gaudy villains. This story is finely crafted gem and more than anything, it is a story about the characters. Most of the time, superhero books are all about the time spent in soaring through the air, looking for adventure. This is that at times, but more importantly, it is about the everyday life of a man who happens to be a hero.

So that brought me to one in the morning and blissful sleep.

The second beginning was a little rougher. Up early and out the door before breakfast, mostly because the internet always seems a little crisper in the wee hours of the morn. Regardless, I was off volunteering for 53rd Annual Show put on by the Art Directors club of Denver. I wasn’t judging. They brought in masters for that. I was a grunt, and I don’t mind. I had the opportunity to see how judging goes, how work that must have taken hours of blood, sweat, and toil to create, in the blink of an eye, is passed over for another piece. I also got to see how quick over 500 entries can be whittled down to a fifth or less of that number by simply counting beans (a cup is placed by each piece and the judges are handed beans and should a cup go beanless, it sadly goes). As it turns out, as it always seems, I get singled out as the grunt that can logistically run all manner of dread machine (computer, for those who are fond of such namesakes) and I ended up cycling all of the media entires. In short, I went through loading an assortment of media on about 20 computer, be it radio adds, slideshows, video commercials, websites, etc. The judges would then go computer to computer viewing the material passing out beans as if they were the gods of beans. When they were done on a computer, I cleared the beanless and loaded the next and so the cycle went.

I haven’t had a rally good focused volunteer opportunity like that in while. The one that stands out the most, though it was far from recent, was working with Circle K International to convert rooms into libraries for headstart programs. Very few opportunities have had that focus and resulted in such a sense of satisfaction at its conclusion.

Well the day didn’t end there. From there it was off to Golden for the Wild West Auto Round Up. I didn’t go because I am particularly fond of auto shows, but because I have a Zoomie that needs shooting. It felt good to be out shooting at an event, though technically I was shooting product while I was there. The challenge didn’t come from getting the angle I need. I’ve shot enough toys to know how to get that. The challenge was in not burning myself as I lay on the exceedingly hot asphalt. Just so you know, the first Zoomies shot, I got rained on and spent the day shooting lying in puddles of water (there’s potential in those shots, though I feel today’s fit the subject better).

With the shoot done, it was time to spend the remainder of the evening sprawled out with Starman (I don’t curl with good books. I find it uncomfortable) and vinyl playing in the background. I very good end by any definition. Now, I think I shall truly close up the night with a classic root beer float ( the adorable cashier today tried to convince me that I need chocolate ice cream to truly make a root beer float. I argued the classics of the old ways, and I imagine in her eyes, resigned myself to an inferior root beer concoction).

13 June, 2008

Surprise and Delight Yourself

For some people, Friday the 13th has always been a day to be wary of. I have to say that I have had a fantastic day. Today I had the opportunity to meet the wonderful Howard Schatz. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, it doesn’t matter. You’ve probably seen his underwater work.

He is an amazing photographer and there are a ton of things that I took away from his presentation that I will try to keep in mind as I try and grow my own photography. First, do it to surprise and delight yourself. We all start in photography because we love it, but somewhere along the way, we realize we need to make money and pay bills and suddenly it becomes a job. So shoot for money, but spend time and do something for yourself. Along with that, he used the metaphor that everything we do is like climbing the creative tree. Sometimes we crawl out on a rotten branch and we fall down. But thankfully the ground is soft and we’re encouraged to climb the tree again, and just maybe this time, there will be a cherry on every inch of that branch. This is something that I know from experience. Not every idea works out. So what? You’ll get another idea, or even the failure of that one idea will lead to a hundred new ideas. You just gotta keep climbing.

So the last thing that I was both inspired by and at the same time a little bitter about was when he said that "work brings work." I wasn't bitter that this is true, that the more I shoot, the more I have to show, the more opportunities that I will open. I was bitter that it was Howard Schatz was the one saying it. I shouldn't be, but when he says it, he has the time and the resources to, as I like to put it "go nuts." I'm still in the stereotypical "starving artist" position where it cost me more money to work than doing the work. Don't get me wrong. I love what I'm doing, and when I'm shooting toys, I feel like a kid in a candy store, but because I'm still starting out, I'm more worried about keeping food in my fridge and roof over my head than shooting to surprise myself. It's that reason why I've instituted the toybox challenge. I need to work on stuff that interests me, that literally keeps me sane ( though we've already the discussion on that).

So the night has been great. This may go down as the best Friday the 13th ever (I haven't seen any of the movies, so I can't make a witty comment about #4) and I know this is simple wisdom, but how often are we reminded of the little things? So get out there and surprise yourself, and live on Ramen for a little while. It'll be worth it.

P.S. I haven’t forgotten. I’ve still got a week left to get two shots done.

07 June, 2008

The Toybox Challenge

I never had a real toy box growing up. Sure, I had a cardboard box large enough to hide in and it happened to have a toys in it, but it was never what one would call a “toy box” in the traditional sense. I still don’t have a toy box, a couple of shoe boxes and some postal boxes filled with toys, spray paint, and other accellerants maybe, but nothing that truly says “toy box.” That’s probably not going to change, but the Toybox Challenge will still be the Toybox Challenge. “Why?” you read silently to yourself. Well, because that will be the concept.

Lately I have been busy with other commitments and haven’t been able to shoot as much as I would like. Being primarily an event shooter also means that my schedule is really reliant on somebody else’s schedule. Also, my Heroes and Villains toy shoots have been slow going because of the amount of preproduction that seems to continually increase and the latest shot went through a concept change in the last couple of days.

So in order to keep my trigger finger itchy, I will figuratively be “reaching into the toy box” and pulling out something random and unexpected to shoot. I say figurative because as I mentioned I don’t have a toy box, but also as a part of this I want the shoots to push my creativity. Why random toys? For starters, I shoot a very small subset of product. Secondly, I don’t want to know what I’m shooting until I have to shoot it. If I walk into a toy shop and just look around, I’ll pick something that interests me, which at the same time will influence what I’m shooting and how I do it. Yes, it’s still creative, but does it really push the boundaries of what I’m able to do? Maybe, maybe not. So the next question is how do I make this into a challenge, especially in selecting my subjects?

Today I went to Twist & Shout because I know they carry vinyl collector figurines that come in blind packaging (they also have an excellent selection of vinyl records. I nearly walked out with six Sinatra albums). For those of you that collect baseball cards, it’s the exact same concept: you don’t know what’s coming in the box. This is only a first step solution, because even though I don’t know what toy I’ll be shooting, I was still able to choose styles that I found interesting (Zoomies and Bamboo Zoo, respectively). We’ll work out all of the kinks out later, but for now I think I’m ready for the challenge to begin. What’s the challenge in shooting toys, even randomly? Well, I’m glad I asked. If you’ve seen some of my earlier toy shots, I don’t shoot them as straight product. I shoot them with more of an editorial style, trying to capture what makes these toys whatever they are. You do that with all photography, using the camera to show who and what your subject is all about and not just the subject.

So I guess we should have some guidelines:

Prescript the first: as much as possible, get a random toy.

Prescript the second: Shoot it within two weeks.

Two weeks?! Hey, I’m doing this for fun and making it stressful would be not fun. And I figure that that’s a good enough time frame that I’ll keep on top of it.

So here it is, Toybox Challenge: Round one:
Subject: Zoomies and Bamboo Zoo (shouldn’t have gotten two)
Start date: June 7, 2008
End date: June 21, 2008

So that’s the challenge. Let the madness begin.

(If you happen to come across something, let me know. If I can get my hands on it, I’ll shoot it. Let’s see what hi-jinks we can get into.)

22 May, 2008

A rather long, non-interactive post

It should not come as a surprise, but most, if not all, of the time, I have no clue what I am doing. Just ask any of the Megan’s (in any of their incarnations). Well, if you’ve checked out my website (plug), I started out in the field of engineering (I wanted to make Muppets). Well, after plenty of that, I didn’t feel fulfilled, like “this is what I was meant to be doing.” So, picking up what I love to do, I took a swing at the whole art thing, and sometimes it doesn’t feel right either. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I feel more fulfilled than I ever did doing the old engineering, but we are all filled with the same such insecurities. I know what this sounds like, like I went from one end of the spectrum to the other. It’s certainly the response I get when I tell people my beginnings and where I am now. Turns out they are not so far from each other after all.

Tonight I had the opportunity to meet Dale Herigstad, the creative director at Schematic. He spoke mostly about new media and immersive technology and its design, but the thing I personally took the most from his talk was at how closely the technology is linked to the art. The development of an immersive environment that allows complete interactivity is not only a challenge for the illustrators and graphic designers, but those implementing those designs. It was funny, actually because there’s stuff that I learned as an engineering student that came up during the talk that most of those present had no idea about, including RFID and concurrent engineering. It wasn’t funny that they didn’t know, but that I felt more comfortable in that overlapping region between art and science. Who knows, maybe that’s where I need to be. I recently started reading Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing and what I’ve gotten through is very intriguing. I mean it starts with physics, and not Newtonian physics. It’s seriously exciting. Another book which I have long been a fan of is Origami: From Angelfish to Zen. It re-emphasizes how much science is inherent it art. See for yourself: unfold a paper crane and you’ll see the lines and angles and the patterns (I’ve been told I’m attracted to patterns). Really, it leads to fractals, which are undeniably cool.

Well, anyway, back to the immersive technology…Dale discussed two fantastic technologies that have been implemented, even if they are not yet available to the general public. First one: gesture motion. Imagine surfing the web or browsing enhanced content television with a simple wave of the hand. Yep, it’s freaking cool. The next one (not to be confused with the A Perfect Circle album) : controlling stuff with your mind. Yep, change the channel, play video games, turn up the volume, just by thinking about it. Many in the audience quickly jumped to essentially “pop up adds,” where you’re thinking about pie while watching a movie, then the interactive content pops up with recipes for a nice key lime or maps you directions to the nearest 24-hour pie shop. Apparently, I’m still not on the same brainwave, as I thought of the potential for applications with quadriplegics or amputees. Not to make myself look like a saint, but I also thought of cyborgs.

That was something that floated around the back of my mind throughout the entire presentation. Increasingly, we are immersing ourselves in technology and information. Eventually, there will be no need to even leave the house when you can virtually visit anywhere on the planet, have food delivered to you just by thinking about it, and so on and so forth. I remember seeing something like that and it looked like a pretty horrible existence. I’m with everyone who said the Matrix was awesome, but we are increasingly stepping toward a future that further distances us from not only interaction with nature, but interaction with each other. For example, instead of getting together with my friends to talk about these thoughts, I’m sitting in front of a computer, blogging about it.

So, aside from the philosophical meanderings, I ended the evening with a trip to Noodles and Company for some dinner, and as soon as I finish this post, I’m going to watch Minority Report because it has the immersive interactivity gesture model as a special effect.

18 May, 2008

Years Pass Uneventfully By

So another year has passed, but I would hardly say that they have been uneventful. It started with things that one wouldn’t call events as they happened, but certainly turned into them in their happening and stories are still told, though not often. The first such happening: taking a 4x5 camera and a studio/location lighting kit out to work on some interior architecture shots. Imagine me, with several very large cases, only one of which had wheels, two of which had to be lung over the shoulders, and one with an uncomfortable little handle, trundling down the street over to the bus stop. Everyone kept asking me if I was in a band.

Some events, were actually events, such as the Vedros show, if you recall, was fantastic, especially in building the box around the idea. It was great to learn that you can’t just think out of the box, but think without a box. Let the ideas flow freely and unrestrained, and when you are happy and ready to move forward, build the box to suit the idea, to allow it to become what it was meant to be. There was also the Jay Kinghorn and Jay Dickman show and book signing, which was not only a wonderful opportunity to meet two wonderful and knowledge people in my field, but to have a friend mention to these masters that my own work is up to snuff (she actually made it sound much more impressive, but I still think my work needs a bit more polish). Then there was meeting Martha Madigan, a wonderful woman with a vision all her own, and seeing her work in person, not behind glass or on a page.

And then of course there were THE events: the decision to follow the decisive moment, to capture life as it happens, and the realization that that’s what I’ve been doing all along. From photographing for Angels in Action, Circle K International, the Astor House Museum, Relay for Life, Golden Kiwanis, Thomas the Tank Engine, Race for the Cure, March for Babies, Romeo and Juliet, Guys and Dolls, K9’s for the Cure, Engineering Days, Dragon Boats, and the Chinese New Year, it has been a very eventful year.

So what’s next? What will be happening this coming year? Maybe I’ll learn the steel drum and join a band. Maybe I’ll get a drivers license (yep, don’t have one, haven’t needed one, thinking that I should have one just in case). What events will I be at? What moments will I capture? In short, I don’t know, but isn’t that the point? Sometimes the destination is a surprise to the destined.

Well another year older and none the wiser, but I did manage to burn through 1-power supply, 1-video card, 1- 500G hard drive, numerous recordable CDs and DVDs (Ha! Burn!), and surprisingly enough, I’ve still got fuel in a cigarette lighter I bought just about 4 years ago (I don’t smoke, but on occasion, I need to: shrink heat shrink tubing, light incense, set dinosaurs on fire, attempt to plastically deform small sheets of plexiglass (bend them, but I like saying “plastically deform” and I ended up throwing it in the oven. It looks nice.).

Oh by the way, you should definitely check out Anabret. They have been one of my favorite bands for years now (the Coming Night is one of my all time favorite songs) and their music has always given me inspiration, Years Pass Uneventfully By in particular and not just for this post.

Here’s to another trip around the sun. I’m making waffles.

06 May, 2008

I Can Never Think of a Clever Title, Let Alone One Representative of the Following Post.

So it looks like I was right and have new pictures up, in just about a week. It's like I'm posting regularly. Whodathunkit?

So here is my favorite shot off of this months Holga.

And here is March of Dimes March for Babies, which was once called Walk America. There was a really good turn out, and thankfully it didn't start snowing until immediately after the event ended. Yep, we had a Colorado Ice Cream sandwhich that week. Both the day before and the day after were quite nice, warm and sunny.

Here is the story wall, about those helped by March of Dimes and what still needs to be done.

This is the shot I knew I wanted, though I hadn't quite imagined the dog giving me the stink eye. I felt this was an important shot because March of Dimes holds this event all around the country. I wanted there to be some shot that specifically identified it as being the one in Denver. The Bear isn't exactly the Denver Art Museum, but it's at least iconic.

30 April, 2008

Everywhere and All the Time

I had the wonderful opportunity today to see the exhibit On the Road: Photography of the Soviet Empire. I don't often have the opportunity to see many exhibits, but this one was remarkable. Growing up, as was probably the case with many, though to a much greater extent, the Soviet Union was "the Enemy" and any reference, whether in word or image, made it seem like a very unpleasant place. Semon Fridlyand, the sole artist of this exhibition, showed exactly how much the Soviet Union was like western world. It sounds odd to say that because why wouldn't things be the same there as they were here. I don't feel his work can be considered "propaganda," though I'm sure in some ways that is what it was. (In case you were wondering, I don't consider Norman Rockwell's work as propaganda either, though if you think about it, hasn't it been used in that way at times?) His work is about life and if anything, it is a remarkable example of the "decisive moment," of which I am so fond of. If there is one piece that was exhibited that I would consider my favorite, it would be the image of the crew of a battleship, gathered beneath the massive navel guns, tower silhouetted behind them, and a spot light shining down on a sailor playing the violin (or perhaps a fiddle). At once it showed these men as being men, while maintaining a sense of an industrial nation poised for a war waiting in the wings. I apologize for not being able to proved the image for you, but in some ways maybe that is better. It was one of the images featured in the book "On the Road in the Soviet Empire - Semyon Fridlyand Photographs" and I am disappointed in its reproduction. The reproduction was quite a bit darker than the print, and by that I mean the blacks were much "blacker." This not only sharpened the image by an increase in contrast, but made the tower disappear against the night sky. The atmosphere of the image had changed. Did the meaning change? Maybe not. But for me the image felt wrong. Still, if you have the chance to see the exhibition, I highly recommend it. I caught it on the tail end of the show, so maybe you'll just check out the book.

In other news, while I was out and about, we had gorgeous spring weather, which led me to pull out the ol' Holga and some color film. I'm hoping to getting around to develop the film later this week, and getting some picture up probably next. Also, March of Dimes went well. I want to make sure that they get the pictures before I start showing them around, so maybe those will go up sometime next week as well.

And finally, I bought some wood glue today. I didn't have any and it turns out I needed some. Nice how that works out. Why wood glue, you say? Well, I'm propping a new toy shot and I'm having to construct more of it than all the others. That one will not likely debut within the next week, but who knows?

Ok, so this is the final bit. While out at the exhibit, I had lunch at Jerusalem's, a great little Mediterranean restaurant near the gallery. I hadn't eaten there in just about four years and was very excited to see it, since I had no clue were it was since I did not drive there (I still don't drive, but that's another story, that is apparently very short) . I remembered the food being great, so throwing caution to the wind, I pretty much ordered the first thing I saw on the menu ( the Chicken Shawarmah) and it was delicious. Four years gone and the food is still the best. On the Road may no longer be exhibited, but definitely stop here for some great food!

22 April, 2008

The never ending fight against dingos

So, I'm participating the March for Babies (Walk America) this weekend. This is the big fundraiser for the March of Dimes. I'm actually volunteering to photograph the event for the March of Dimes chapter, but I have friends on a team that needs a little extra support, so I joined their team and proceeded to harass all of my friends.

On the plus side, I didn't really send out any of the premade donation emails that many of these fund raisers use. The funny thing is that my entire "marketing package," for lack of a better term, is based solely on the sitcom Seinfeld. There was an episode where Jerry and Elaine are at a party, and at some point, Elaine, completely bored with this woman's talk about her baby, responds by saying "Maybe a dingo ate your baby."

March of Dimes doesn't exactly raise funds to fight dingos, but much of it goes towards making sure babies are born healthy.

Still, if you feel like fighting dingos, lets do this.

"We all have our own personal dingos to fight"

17 April, 2008

Pentagram: Home of the Creative Arts

Attended a wonderful presentation by Michael Gericke of Pentagram. The unique vision that comes out of this world renowned organization is, to say the least, remarkable. What struck me the most was how simple their most innovative designs were. When I say “simple,” I don’t want it to sound like these designs are not strong. Their work is some of the strongest, most memorable designs I have seen. I really don’t have much else to say on the matter. Their work is something you definitely need to see yourself.

07 April, 2008

E-ventful weekend at E-Days

E-Days (E is for Engineering) was this past weekend at the Colorado School of Mines. It has been perhaps one of the most fun and most arduous shoots I have done. Not only did I get to practice numerous techniques, many of which I rarely use, I got a free t-shirt. Pretty cool. So here's the quick bits:

Fireworks: I can't focus in the dark. Especially when distracted by shiny objects.

Ore Cart Pull - Traditional march from the school (or Perkins diner, whichever is closer) to the Capitol Building for proclamations. Seven miles loaded with camera gear. Luckily I travel lite.

Steel Bridge competition - Kind of like a weight lifting competition...for bridges.

Concerts - I'm no Amy Hobbs (under the music link), but I think I did OK.

And this is only a fraction of the weekend. If you'd like to check out some more, head over to my website. Yep, that was a plug with no shame.