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.)