Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Day Family Portrait

Here's a family portrait taken in our backyard on Christmas day. As you can see, we had no snow. Maybe next year.

For many years, Lori and I, and then Wynn, spent Christmas with Lori's family in Scranton but in an effort to take the strain off of Lori's Parents, we began hosting Christmas at our house.

By default I've become the Salamida Family documentarian. Not only did I want to record the gathering but I wanted to keep myself sharp at a time when assignment work slows.

That's me, far left, and my wife Lori. Continuing left, in the back row, My brother-in-law Rick, his son Evan and his wife Susan (Lori's sister.) Far right is our son Wynn, holding our new cat, Pantalaimon, "Pan" for short. Seated in the front row are the Matriarch and Patriarch of the Salamida Clan, Mary and Marty. Absent from the photo are John Salamida (he lives in Colorado) and Chris Salamida, (lives in Pittsburgh) who were celebrating the day with their families.

I used two 2000 Dyna Lite packs, one head each, into 3x4 softboxes, one on either side of the camera. To keep the lights from blowing over in the wind I attached the power packs to the stands with ball bungees, to act as ballast, then tied two cords to each softbox and staked them into the ground with tent stakes. I mounted the camera on a tripod and used the self timer so I could into the shot as well.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Santa Clause Conquers the Martians

This 1964 film is on every worst film ever made list but, in my opinion it's the best of the worst. There are only a few films I consider must see's at Christmas time: It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

Synopsis: Martian kids don't have any fun. Martian leader sees Santa Claus on television and decides that's what Martian kids need. Rather than find their own Santa, Martians come to Earth to steal ours? That's all I'm gonna tell you, the rest you have to see to believe.

Wynn and I will be watching it together this evening at 9:00 as it's on local Public TV station WHYY TV 12.

EDIT: Bad news. I heard promos for the movie on WHYY radio but they had gotten the time wrong. Instead of Santa Claus vs. the Martians, Bill Moyers Journal was on. Don't get me wrong, I love Bill Moyers, we need more journalists like him but I was disappointed. The good news was that while unpacking the tree trimmings I found Santa Claus Conquers the Martians on DVD!. I had forgotten I had bought it at Target last year, for a buck. It's in the Public Domain and can be downloaded from the internet here or watch it here on Hulu.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ignorance & Want. The Movie!

So much work went into producing the Ignorance & want still photo, I thought why not shoot some video as well. I used the family Canon Mini DV camera. The audio was pretty bad so I decided to use titles like in the silent film days. The projector sound was added later in iMovie. Aside from converting to black and white, I also added grain and scratches to give it a retro look.

You may not recognize my neighbor John, Playing the part of Scrooge, but he was the face of Jacob Marley in the doorknocker. My son Wynn, played the part of Ignorance (wasn't much of a stretch) and his class mate Celeste, played Want (as in, "I want to get this makeup off and get back into some real clothes!") My brother-in-law, Rick played the part of The Ghost of Christmas Present.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Hitler rants about D3x

Sorry to interrupt the holiday postings but this video is going to get around and I wanted to jump on it while it's still fresh.

As a Canon user, I have no say in when Nikon can introduce a new camera but perhaps Santa Claus does. Maybe Santa has a closet full of Nikon glass. Perhaps he wasn't so impressed with the D90 especially after demoing a Canon 5D mark II. Maybe Santa put the thumbscrews to Nikon to release the D3X in time for Christmas, but who's idea was the $8000.00 price tag?

Thanks to Mel Brookes and "The Producers" Adolf Hitler and humor need not be mutually exclusive. All together now,"Spring time.... for Hitler.....and Germany!"

While I do feel only professional photographers will grasp the full impact of this video, anyone who has bought a new camera only to realize it's outdated by the time you figure out how to attach the neck strap, will feel The Furh's frustration.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ignorance & Want

Here’s my holiday card from 2006, again, inspired by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol. I received comments like,”That’s a Christmas card?”Looks more like a Halloween card! “and “People just aren’t gonna get it.”

I realized some people might not get it at first, but if they happen to catch any one of the movie versions, read the book, or see the live play, there might be that “Aha!”moment, when they remember the card and “get it.” So not only will there be the initial viewing but also remembering of the image, doubling its impact. I do know that at least one person revisited the book to gain a better understanding.

As for the Halloween card comment, it is a ghost story after all.

Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe,' but I see
something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding
from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw.'

'It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,' was
the Spirit's sorrowful reply. 'Look here.'

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children;
wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt
down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

'Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling,
wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where
graceful youth should have filled their features out, and
touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled
hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and
pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat
enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No
change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any
grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has
monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him
in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but
the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie
of such enormous magnitude.

'Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more.

'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon
them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.
This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both,
and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy,
for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the
writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out
its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye.
Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse.
And abide the end.'

'Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge.

'Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him
for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses.'"
- A Christmas Carol, Stave 3: The Second of the Three Spirits

Thanks to Celeste for playing the part of Want and to her mother Toni for bring her to the studio. Thanks to my brother-in-law Rick for Playing the Ghost of Christmas Present. Present as in, right now, not Presents!

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marley's Ghost in the Doorknocker

In keeping with the Dickens,” A Christmas Carol” theme, here is my card from last year. It’s the ghost of Jacob Marley appearing in Scrooge’s doorknocker. Jacob Marley was Scrooge’s business partner and like Scrooge, he too put profit above all else. This visage in the doorknocker is the first hint that for Scrooge, this would be no ordinary night.

Marley's face. It was not in impenetrable shadow
as the other objects in the yard were, but had a
dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark
cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked
at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly
spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The
hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air;
and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly
motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it
horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the
face and beyond its control, rather than a part or
its own expression."
- A Christmas Carol, Stave 1: Marley's Ghost

Thanks to my neighbor John for posing as Jacob Marley. He's a home inspector by trade. You can find his web site here. We tried a few shots with a wig and spectacles, as in the text but they made combinding the two images more difficult so I decided not to clone them in. I bought the lions head doorknocker on e bay and mounted it on an old door I found in our basement. I drug the door onto the deck and photographed it in open shade and filled the shadow side with a sheet of foam core. John was photographed in front of a piece of black cloth and lit from his right, with a single Cometlite head with bare reflector. A foamcore reflector was used to fill the shadow on his left. In Photoshop, I lowered the color temperture to turn the images blue, simulating night time. After opening both images I used the clone tool at 50% to superimpose John's face over the doorknocker.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

The Turkey Fetcher

We've all seen them, the holiday cards featuring a recent photo of the family or perhaps, just the kids. The ones where they wear matching sweaters or pose with Santa at the Mall. I like to try to push the envelope a bit and challenge myself to come up with something a little more interesting. For this years holiday card, I once again found inspiration in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

The morning after his ghostly visitations Scrooge wakes up, reformed but confused and disoriented. He runs over to his window and sees a boy passing by on the street below. Scrooge throws open the window and calls down to him.

"'What's to-day.' cried Scrooge, calling downward to a
boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look
about him.

'Eh.' returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

'What's to-day, my fine fellow.' said Scrooge.

'To-day.' replied the boy. 'Why, Christmas Day.'

'It's Christmas Day.' said Scrooge to himself. 'I
haven't missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night.
They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of
course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow.'

'Hallo.' returned the boy.

'Do you know the Poulterer's, in the next street but one,
at the corner.' Scrooge inquired.

'I should hope I did,' replied the lad.

'An intelligent boy.' said Scrooge. 'A remarkable boy.
Do you know whether they've sold the prize Turkey that
was hanging up there -- Not the little prize Turkey: the
big one.'

'What, the one as big as me.' returned the boy.

'What a delightful boy.' said Scrooge. 'It's a pleasure
to talk to him. Yes, my buck.'

'It's hanging there now,' replied the boy.

'Is it.' said Scrooge. 'Go and buy it.'

'Walk-er.' exclaimed the boy.

'No, no,' said Scrooge, 'I am in earnest. Go and buy
it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the
direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and
I'll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than
five minutes and I'll give you half-a-crown.'

The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand
at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

'I'll send it to Bon Cratchit's.' whispered Scrooge,
rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. 'He shan't
know who sends it. It's twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe
Miller never made such a joke as sending it to Bob's
will be.'"
- A Christmas Carol, Stave 5: The End of It

Many thanks to Tony Hughes for agreeing to be the Poulterer. I knew he would fit the part perfectly. Tony is the Science Specialist at The Miquon School so we've know each other for nearly nine years. Tony brought his own costume including the holly for his hat. Tony and his wife Lynn are gifted singers, songwriters and musician and this is one of the costumes he wears when they perform around the holidays.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wynn, as Edward Scissorhands

It’s hard to believe the Tim Burton film, Edward Scissorhands was released nearly two decades ago. I guess that’s an indication of a true classic.

I was flipping through the channels one evening, trying to find something both Wynn and I could watch when I stumbled on Tim Burton’s,” Edward Scissorhands.” Not long into the movie Wynn said, “Dad, I know what I want to be for Halloween!”

While I was glad he had decided on a costume, a decision that seems to get more difficult each year, I also felt some trepidation. We had always preferred to make Wynn’s costumes rather than buy them off the shelf and it was usually me that had to pull them together.

After the movie, I did a Google Image search for Edward Scissorhands. As I expected, I found quite a few stills from the movie. I also found images of everyday people, who had attempted the same transformation, some better than others. The basic get up would require; a black leather jacket, black pants, black boots, and lots of belts with big buckles. Make up would consist of lots of hair gel, and some white, black, and red face paint.

The most important aspect of the costume, the scissorhands, where sourced at the local, fly by night, Halloween shop. I found a jacket and multiple belts at the Salvation Army and luckily, his boots from last years “Igor”costume still fit. Thanks to my Hair Stylist Chrissy, for the super strong “Disrupt” hair gel.

I lit Wynn with one bare Lumedyne head fired by a Pocket Wizard. I dragged the shutter to burn in the background. I would have loved to have placed another light, right behind him, to accentuate his hair but Wynn was too anxious to go "Trick or Treating," to wait for me to set up another light.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dirck Halstead at University of the Arts

While Dirck Halstead has photographed more Time Magazine covers than any other photographer, he may be best know for his image of President Clinton and Monica Lewinski embracing.

Dirck wasn’t the only photographer covering the event, but he was the only photographer shooting film. At the time the relationship between the President and Ms. Lewinski, was not known. In an effort to save space on their hard drives, the digital shooters deleted anything that did not seem newsworthy at the time.

After the story broke, a headshot of Monica, wearing a red beret, appeared in the media. Dirck thought her face looked familiar. He hired a researcher to go through the thousands of transparencies from the event. On the third day of searching she found it. There was only one frame, but it was perfect.

Dirck’s Presentation was an ASMP Philadelphia event and was held in the Levitt Auditorium at The University of the Arts. His presentation contained images of the Vietnam War, and his years of covering the White House from Richard Nixon to to Bill Clinton.

In 1997 Dirck started The Digital Journalist, an online, journalism magazine. Dirck realized the massive changes that where about to take place as a result of the World Wide Web. In 2000 he started the Platypus Workshops to teach photojournalists how to shoot HD video for television.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

"Goodbye Flint"

Our cat "Flint" passed away last week. He was five years old. Wynn named him after one of the players on Harry Potter's Quidditch team.

Flint was a real sweetheart, loveable and gregarious. He was well know in the neighborhood and loved meeting people passing by, as long as they weren't walking a dog! He attracted much attention due to his girth. Flint weighed in at nearly 30 pounds and more than once was mistaken for a pregnant female.

Flint loved to eat and would fall asleep with his head in his food dish. Once, I watched in amazement as he carried a can of the turtle's shrimp pellets, down the stairway from the second floor and into the kitchen, then drop it in his dish. If he had had opposable thumbs, we would have been in real trouble.

Flint was extremely intelligent. Wynn's cousins had accidentally released their hamster in our house and after much searching, couldn't find him. While holding the hamster's cage in front of Flint's nose, I asked him, "where's Teddy?" Flint walked over to the piano and began pacing back and forth. Everyone said I was crazy when I told them Flint knew where Teddy was. Sure enough, later that evening, the little rodent dropped out of the piano. Luckily for Teddy, I heard the little thud as he hit the floor and gathered him up before flint did.

The photo above was taken just before Christmas a few years ago. We had just returned home from The Miquon School's , Winter assembly, hence Wynn's Rudolph nose. I was testing out a Profoto ringflash I had rented from Calumet Photo. We plaster the neighborhood with this image after Flint had been M.I.A. for two days. The mailman rang our doorbell to tell us he had seen that cat up a tree over on Lemonte street. Sure enough it was flint, he was fine but very hungry!

He will be missed.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Vanity Fur

This mock magazine cover was shot for The Mainline Animal Rescue. It is a parody of the December 1979 cover of Rolling Stone which featured Bette Midler. She had just starred in The Rose, a film loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin.

The concept and tag lines were from the mind of Bill Smith, founder of The Mainline Animal Rescue. Had he not set his sites on helping animals in need, he surely could have been a successful copywriter for advertising or public relations. Bill is never at a loss for great ideas to promote his cause. When he starts brainstorming better bring an umbrella!

Thanks to Mayr Budny of notsoldseparately for her skillful photoshop work multiplying our rose petals.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Merry-Go-Gound, Kennywood Park

This post is a few months late. The merry-go-round video was meant to be a Father's Day post. We had spent the day at Kennywood Park, just outside of Pittsburgh. Wynn and I, and my wife Lori, met up with her brother, Chris and his kids, to spend the day at the Park.

I didn't want to carry one of my SLR cameras around the park all day long and I didn't want to take it with me on the rides. I thought I'd just borrow Lori's little Canon Powershot, when something caught my eye. Not only did it take great stills but it has a video mode as well.

When I mentioned that I might want to use her camera, Lori protested, saying, "I don't want you filling up my memory card and draining my battery shooting video." She did have a point. Chris offered me his camera another Canon Powershot, similar to Lori's. The night before we went to the park, he told me to remind him to charge the battery but we both forgot. When we got to the park I had to find an outlet in the pavilion where we ate lunch, to charge the battery. By the time we were finished eating, it wasn't fully charged so I decided to leave it there and come back for it after we had gone on a few rides. Two roller coaster rides later I returned to find the little green l.e.d. on the charger glowing bright green. Finally, the battery was fully charged!

I met up with the others at the merry-go-round, which was perfect fodder for a video snipplet! I raised the camera and began shooting as the merry-go-round started to spin. 25 seconds later,"MEMORY CARD FULL" flashed in red across the LCD screen. Chris had not downloaded the images from his one and only memory card and my video had used up the remaining space. I knew when I was licked. The saving grace was that I like the one shot I did get.

We got home late that evening and left early the next day to drive back to Philadelphia so I did not have time to download the video before we left. I had to wait for Chris to download it then burn it to a cd and hand deliver it when we met up again at Hershey Park.

There you have it, A Labor Day post instead of Father's Day post. Better late than never!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

East Coast Waterworks, Hersheypark

Is it just me or does this scene remind anyone else of the board game Mousetrap? It’s the East Coast Water Works on the Boardwalk, at Hersheypark. That’s Hershey as in Hershey’s Chocolate Bars, Hershey Kisses, Reese’s Cups, Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers candy.

In contrast to factory towns of the time, Milton S. Hershey established the park to provide a pleasant environment for his workers and residents of Hershey. The park opened in 1907 with a baseball game on a new athletic field. The park was an ideal spot for picnicking, boating, and canoeing.

A pavilion was built and served as a stage for plays and vaudeville productions. In 1908, an amphitheater, said to have been the most acoustically perfect building of the time, was constructed. In 1912, a carousel built by William H. Dentzel of Philadelphia, costing $15,000 was added to the park. Other additions included bowling alleys, tennis courts, a scenic railroad, a zoo, and even a photography gallery. With 1920’s came the addition of a roller coaster, a Ferris wheel, The Aeroplane and the Skooter.

Fast forward to 2008 the park has expanded to over 110 acres and more than 60 rides and attractions. There are 11 roller coasters including the Super Duper Luper, the first looping roller coaster on the east coast. The Sidewinder, which not only contains three inversions but in the middle, reverses direction and repeats each loop backwards. The Storm Runner, launches riders from 0 to 72mph in 2 seconds, then up a 150 ft top hat followed by multiple inversions. The Farenheit is in a five way tie for coaster with the greatest angle of decent, at over 90 degrees. The Farenheit was the first ever rollercoaster to gather hype through a viral marketing campaign started by a posting on

Despite having lived in Pennsylvania for most of my life I had never been to Hersheypark. Wynn’s cousin Sylvan lives in Pittsburgh and was coming to visit us for a week. We chose the park as a half way point to meet up with my brother-in-law, Chris and his two other kids Forrest and Sage. We would spend the day at the park then Chris, Forrest and Sage would drive back to Pittsburgh and we’d return to Philly with Sylvan.

Hersheypark was not quite as I had imagined it. I expected something a bit more, "Old World" from an amusement park tucked away in the middle of Pennsylvania farm country. In my opinion, while the rides were exhilarating, they just weren’t worth the 45 minute to two hour wait in line. In all fairness, we were there on a Sunday in the middle of August. When leaving the line for the Farenheit a woman entering asked “What’s wrong, are you afraid?”I replied, “The only thing I fear is that line!”

The experience was anything but relaxing. I think I might have enjoyed Milton Hershey’s park of the last century more. Maybe I’m just getting old.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

TTV Photography

Many photographers collect old cameras, myself included. I find them at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. I once bought an entire box full of them at a Salvation Army. I display my favorites on shelves in our dining room. From time to time I load one with film and take photographs with it, just to be reminded of what photography was like pre-digital, pre-auto exposure, pre-auto focus, pre just about everything we expect from a modern camera.

One evening while surfing Flickr, I stumbled across an interesting collection of images made by photographers utilizing vintage cameras, but not in the usual way. Rather than capturing the latent image, the vintage camera served onlt as the host, to a parasitic, macro lensed, digital camera.

Through the viewfinder photography, or TTV for short, is photographing any subject through the viewfinder of any camera with another camera. The viewing camera is most often a vintage TTR (twin lens reflex) from the 50’s or 60’s, like the Ciroflex or Duaflex. A digital camera with a macro or close focusing lens is used to record the image framed in TTR viewfinder.

To prevent stray light from making reflections in the viewfinder and to increase contrast , a long box usually made of cardboard is taped over the top of the TLR and the lens of the digital camera is inserted in the top of the box. The inside of the box should be painted flat black to prevent stray light from bouncing around inside. While it is possible to hold the viewing camera with your left hand and your digital camera with right, most TTV photographers devise some type of rig to hold it all together.

What makes these images appealing is just how different they look in comparison to photographs taken with a digital camera. In my opinion, digital has homogenized modern photography. First of all, TTL viewfinders are square, some have rounded corners. Some have grid lines or cross hairs and most have specks of dust, heaviest in the corners, making a cool vignette. Pin cushion distortion is prevalant, as the manufacturer spared the expense of correcting for distortion, in the viewing lens.

Check out other TTV images and discussions, including D.I.Y. TTV rigs @

If you've been following my blog from the beginning you may recognize the top two images as Gus's old Dodge!

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Wynn on his vintage TY80

The basics of Internal combustion are simple, if an engine has fuel and a spark, it should run, so when Wynn's 1975 TY 80 refused to start, The first thing I did was check for gas in the tank. There was plenty of fuel so I ruled that out, leaving the electrical system the likely culprit. I removed the plug from the cylinder, stuck it back into the cap and grounded it on the cylinder head. When I jab at the kickstarter, a bright, blue-white spark should snap between the electrodes of the plug. I kicked it over but no spark. Was the problem as simple as a bad plug which could be easily and cheaply, be replaced or was it something more complex?

I remembered a trick my father had taught me. While repairing a lawnmower he called me over and asked me to hold the sparkplug wire. Not knowing about such things at the time, I obliged. Dad yanked on the starter cord and I recoiled as an electrical jolt ran from the wire, into my fingers and up my arm. Dad thought it was pretty funny and after a while, so did I. Some time later, while working on a rototiller my father called me over, again, to hold the sparkplug wire. I'm not sure if he had forgotten about pulling that trick on me before or if he didn't remember which of his three sons had fallen for it before, but I walked over and took hold of the wire. We were both smiling as he pulled the starter cord.

Back to the present and troubleshooting Wynn's bike. I removed the plug and remembering Dad, stuck my little finger in the cap and jabbed at the kick lever again. This time there was no jolt, not even a tickle.This confirmed there was indeed a problem in the electrical system. It could be the coil, the points, the condenser, a short or a broken wire.

As a teenager, I had learned to do many motorcycle repairs out of necessity. The bike shop was far away and I could barely afford the parts let alone the labor. If I wanted to ride, I had to fix it myself. I'd order parts from the shop by telephone (rotary) and had them delivered C.O.D. via U.P.S. I could install chains, sprockets, tires, cables, pistons and rings. If it was just a matter of removing the worn or broken part and bolting on a new part, I could handle it. My Achilles heel was, and continues to be the electrical system. If a new sparkplug doesn't fix it, I'm stuck. Time to find a bike shop.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Megan & Melissa, Pinhole photograph

During his long summer vacation, we enroll our son Wynn, in several, week long camps. They're usually nature study or soccer camps. We’re careful not to over do it, leaving at least a week between camps for unstructured leisure time at home. We urge him to do some math or reading or to practice playing the piano or his new electric guitar. He usually complies but after a while we find him on the couch watching Sponge Bob or the home and garden channel.

Remembering that I had an empty 5 gallon ice cream drum in the basement, I asked him if he wanted to do some pinhole photography. His response was an enthusiastic, “Yes.” I had taught pinhole photography at his school as part of the aftercare program and he was involved but he had to share me with several other kids, now it would just be him and me.

We cut a hole in the container and spray painted the inside flat black. We cut a small square from an aluminum cooking pan then bored a tiny hole in it using a pin like a tailor or seamstress would use. I sanded the opening with some emery paper to remove any burrs. We taped the aluminum square behind the hole inside the container. Next we attached a piece of black gaffer tape on the outside over the opening to act as a shutter. Lastly, we taped an 8.5 x 11 sheet of photo paper inside the cylindrical container opposite the pinhole. I sent Wynn off to make an exposure while I cleared out the long neglected darkroom and mixed fresh chemicals.

When Wynn enter the darkroom, he removed the paper from the container and placed it in the developing tray. To our mutual surprise, his first paper negative was perfect. It had good exposure and was very sharp. It also had a bit of distortion due to the curved film plane. All in all, it was a very nice pinhole image. Wynn told me that making pinhole photographs was a lot more fun than watching television. He wanted to try it again. I had plenty of paper left over from the pre digital days, so I told told him to use as much as he wanted. After helping him with his first exposure, he was able to go out and shoot on his own and I was able to get back to work in my office.

Wynn spent the entire afternoon outside, taking photographs. He even walked with me to the barbershop, so he could make an image in the park on our way home. When the shop owner asked, “What’s in the can?” Wynn was silent, and then another patron said, “I bet it’s a snake!” Wynn then explained that he was making photographs with it. From the look on their faces it would probably have been better to let them think there was a snake inside and just leave it at that.

Later in the afternoon one of Wynn’s friend’s Meagan and her friend Melissa were curious as to what Wynn was doing. He explained he was making pinhole photographs and asked if he could take their picture. They posed for the 90 second exposure then followed him into the darkroom to watch, as he processed the paper negative. After washing and drying the negative he made a contact print for each of them.

I use a paper cutter to crop my negatives but this edge treatment was Wynn's idea.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

One Bad Apple

I purchased my first laptop back in 2003. I was just beginning the transition from film to digital and needed a companion for my Canon D30 while on location. I ordered a 12in G4 iBook from MacMall. It was a little anemic, with a 733 processor, 386mb ram, and a 20 gig hard drive but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because I wasn’t sure digital photography was going to take off!

Back then, when on assignment, I shot mostly 2 1/4 transparency film and shot Polaroids to test lighting. After I felt I had what I needed on film I’d switch to the D30 and shoot a few frames. Not only would I have something to look at immediately but I would also have backup should something go wrong at the photo lab. And things went wrong more often than I care to remember.

After a mysterious shortage of Polaroid film at the local photo stores, I appreciated digital even more. The D30 could tether to the iBook and I could view an instant digiroid!

I began to shoot more digital and less film. Things were fine until I bought two Canon 20D’s, started shooting in RAW and processing the files in Photoshop CS. The little iBook choked. I replaced it with a G4 Powerbook with a faster processor more memory a bigger hard drive.

The iBook was re-assigned to the kitchen countertop. It was perfectly suited for light duty and it took up so little space. We’d check the weather, movie listings and show times and listened to music thru Harmon Kardon, Sound Sticks. Our son used it to do research for his homework assignments or to play games as we prepared breakfast or dinner.

A few days ago, the iBook refused to power up. I called my tech guy Robert, ( everyone should have a Robert) for an over the phone diagnostic. We tried several procedures to no avail and the iBook was pronounced dead. No great loss, I thought. It had served us well. Then, I remembered, both my wife’s and my son’s photos where on that computer! Despite the fact that I had lectured them about the importance of backing stuff up and had bought them a little external drive, they hadn’t backed anything up since our vacation last summer!

Robert said he’d be willing to take the hard drive out, which with this machine, is no easy task. Hopefully we will be able to retrieve it’s contents, most importantly, the photos.

Moral of the story: BACK UP YOUR FILES !

As a professional photographer, the long term survival of my digital images is a major concern. In another post I’ll go into detail as to how I go about making sure I have images when I get home after a shoot and well into the future.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Part ll

As usual, I woke up early the next morning. I assumed, no one had pressed the red button, or if they had, Nova Scotia had been spared. I got dressed and grabbed my camera to go out and do some shooting. I knew I’d have a few hours before Lori and Chris were up and ready to go out for breakfast.

Despite gray skies and heavy fog, I set off on my bicycle back toward town. On the way to the motel, the night before, I had noticed a side road that looked liked it would lead to the coast where I would surely find some photographic fodder. I was not disappointed. The road led to a harbor of weather beaten buildings and derelict boats. For these subjects, the less than ideal weather, worked in my favor, adding a sense of foreboding and mystery.

As the sun rose in the sky, the fog began to lift. Satisfied with the images I had made, I was ready to head back to the motel. The great thing about touring on a bicycle is that you can stop the moment something catches your eye, like orange fisherman’s gloves hanging from a clothes line. As I was taking the shot from the side of the road, a woman appeared at the screen door, looking a little puzzled. I lowered my camera and pointed to the gloves. She stuck her head out the door, looked at the clothesline, nodded in acknowledgment and went back inside.

I stopped once more to photograph two men laying fish out to dry and two other men talking next to a forklift. While the people I meet were gracious they all seemed a bit melancholy.

Later, while having breakfast at a restaurant we learned that four teenagers, two boys and two girls, had been swept out to sea the night before. The couples had climbed out onto the rocks at Forchu lighthouse to watch the waves during the height of the storm. All four were from Yarmouth and had just graduated from high school.

Being a small town, the tragedy struck Yarmouth hard. Much of the population was related in some way to one of victims or had known at least one of them. Suddenly, we felt out of place, vacationing in a town in mourning. We decided to return to Bar Harbor on the next ferry. From there we would head North to Acadia National Park.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Fisherman's Gloves, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia

Let’s delve into the archive once again. Like any photographer that’s been shooting for a quarter of a century, I have a lot of photos, and as the cliché goes, “Every picture tells a story.”

One summer, while visiting my friend Pete, in Maine, my wife Lori, Brother-in-Law, Chris and I, decided to drive to Bar Harbor, and take the Blue Nose Ferry over to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The name Blue Nose comes from the nickname for people from Nova Scotia because they eat so many blueberries. The term also means: a person who advocates a rigorous moral code. The Original Blue Nose was a Schooner built in 1921 as a racing ship but when it wasn’t racing it worked as a fishing vessel, gathering scallops and other seafood.

We parked our car in Bar Harbor and rode our bicycles into the cavernous belly of the ferry. Once on board, we where told by a crewmember to tie up our bikes securely, a hurricane was coming up the coast.

As we made our way across the ocean, the weather continued to worsen. Increasing winds made for spectacular waves and sheets of sideways rain. We had not considered the possibility of a hurricane when we planned our excursion. Spending the night in a tent was out of the question.

After landing in Yarmouth, we unloaded quickly, donned our rain gear, and rode to the Visitor’s center hoping to find lodging for the night. After several phone calls we were able to book a room in a motel not far outside of town. We set off on our bicycles, arriving at the motel just before dark.

Once safely in our room, we turned on the television. A special news bulletin had pre-empted the regular programming. There had been a Coup in the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev was missing! My first thought was, “Who has control of the Button?” You know, The big red button that will initiate WWIII bringing about a nuclear Armageddon? “Damn, I can’t even go on vacation without the world blowing up!”

There was nothing I could do about the situation. I turned off the t.v. and crawled into my sleeping bag. If the world was going to end, let it end while I’m asleep!

To be continued……

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bernard Katz Glass

I got a call from Bernard’s wife and business manager, Katie. She said they were looking for a photographer to photograph her husband’s glasswork. The photographer they had been using had taken a full time position and was no longer available. She asked if I had ever photographed glass. I answered honestly, “No, I hadn’t,” and added that the majority of my work involved photographing people. To my surprise, she asked if I’d like to try. I said, “Sure.” We set up a meeting to look at past marketing materials, the new pieces to be photographed and to meet Bernard in person.

After seeing the actual pieces, previous photographs, and then discussing in detail what Bernard was looking for, we both felt confident enough to begin shooting the next day. The shoot went well and I’ve been back several times to photograph new pieces. Bernard introduced me to several other glass artists and now I shoot for them as well.

Click here to visit to Bernard's website.

Photographing Bernard’s pieces involved a considerable amount of equipment and set up. We started with a 4x8 sheet of plexiglass on sawhorses and a Photek black fabric backdrop.

I used Chimera strip lights on each side of the plexi and a boomed strip light overhead. I placed a gridspot on the background and a boomed snoot, over the plexi, projected a pool of light behind each piece. Another head was fitted with a gridspot and placed on a stand so it could be moved around to accent certain parts of each piece. I used 4 Dyna-Lite 1000 packs with 2040 and 4040 fan cooled heads.

The camera was mounted on a tripod and tethered to my Mac laptop. White foamcore was used to fill shadows and black foamcore blocked stray light from striking my lens.

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Friday, June 20, 2008


Oogy was only four months old when he was tied to a stake and used as bait for a Pit Bull trained for dog fighting. His jaw was crushed and the left side of his face was torn off, including his ear. Afterward, he was thrown in a cage and left to bleed to death.

Shortly after Oogy’s ordeal, acting on a tip, police raided the facility. They found Oogy and rushed him to Ardmore Animal Hospital where Dr. James Bianco stopped the bleeding and stitched him up, saving his life.

After weeks of rehabilitation and foster care, a family adopted Oogy. They gave him his name because in his original state, he was just plain “Ugly.” Not feeling ugly to be a suitable name they settled on Oogy.

First thought to be a Pit or pit-mix, it became apparent on his first follow up visit, that at 70 pounds, Oogy wasn’t a Pit Bull he’s actually a Dogo Argentina. Dogos were bred to hunt mountain lions in “You guessed it,” Argentina.

While Oogy’s life had been saved, and he now had a loving family, he needed further surgery to deal with complications from his injuries. As the dog grew the scar tissue spread. He could no longer close his left eye and it wept constantly. His lip was pulled up and back. Dr. Bianco rebuilt Oogy’s face. He removed the scar tissue and grafted the skin until only a hairline scar remained. When the owners went to pay the bill Dr. Bianco told them Oogy was a no-pay.

I was asked to photograph Oogy by The Mainline Animal Rescue to help raise awareness on the horrors of dog fighting.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Philadelphia International Bike Race; Part 2

Let me start off with errors and omissions concerning my last post. Seems like there was a major bank sponsor for The Philadelphia International Bike Race. Since I do not bank there and they did not hire me to shoot it , let’s just say it was a big bank. Secondly, the photo in my previous post was from the woman’s Liberty Classic, run concurrently with the men’s race but a few laps shorter. Now, with a clear conscience, I will continue.

At 9:00 am, my wife, son and I, walked the five block to “The Wall” and staked out our usual shady spot, on a bend, that allowed us a good view of the riders as they began their ascent.

We caught the men riders on their first lap and about 10 minutes later the women, as their race started after the men. My wife and son stayed for two laps then headed down to Main Street to do some shopping between laps. I stayed where I was, knowing that if I moved chances were someone would take my spot. I shot several laps until the sun moved and all my shade was gone. The temperature was over 90 degrees with humidity to match. I was getting uncomfortable, I can’t even imagine how the riders felt.

I walked two blocks to my friend Neil’s house to join the party and meet up with my wife and son. I took photos of his friends and their kids for Neil’s photo album that chronicles 15 years of his bike race party. My way of thanking Neil for inviting us yet again.

After 156 miles in 6 hours, 14 minutes, Matti Breschel of Denmark, won the sprint across the finish line in the closest race ever for this event.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Philadelphia International Bike Race

There are two days a year I’d would be rather be in Philadelphia than anywhere else. The first is New Year’s Day. While many people watch football on television while nursing hangovers, we Philadelphians make our way downtown to watch the Mummer’s Parade. The Mummer’s Parade is a day long procession of String Bands in elaborate costumes and magnificent floats, kind of like a one day Mardi-Gras.

The other day I look forward to, is the first Sunday in June (tomorrow) when Philadelphia hosts the top cycling teams from around the world.

The race, now in its 24th year, was always named after a big bank but mergers and losses in the mortage sector, have left this years race without a major sponsor. The race is now simply called The Philadelphia International Bike Race.

In the early years I photographed the race for the original local sponsor. I had a press pass, transportation around the course and I was paid well. That bank is long gone. Now it’s a family outing with my wife and son. I take a camera but without access to the course it’s hard to get good shots of the racers. The constant changes in helmets and cycling attire emblazed with ever changing corporate logos date the images, giving them a short life span for a stock file. I've let go of the angst, shoot what I can and just try to have fun.

Our friend Neil lives in Manayunk, only one block from the infamous Wall. Each year he opens up his house and patio for a bike race party. We use to live on the same street so it’s good to see some of our old neighbors again, some we only see once a year at Neil’s party.

We socialize, drink beer and eat burgers from the grill until we hear the helicopters overheard, telling us it’s time to stroll over to The Wall to watch the riders’ arduous accent. Then back for another beer or another burger and watch the race on T.V. until we hear the helicopters again.

If you plan on visiting Philadelphia to watch the race get here the day before or take public transportation. Septa’s R6 Norristown train will drop you off right at foot of the Wall. It will get crowded, very crowded, especially after Noon. If you have a car, park it! Do not even try to drive anywhere near the race course! Take public or better yet ride a bike!

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Save Polaroid!

In February of this year Polaroid announced they would cease production of instant film, closing two plants and laying off 150 employees. No doubt in reaction to decreased sales, as digital has become the new instant photography. While Polaroid does produce point and shoot digital cameras, there is virtually nothing that distinguishes them from others on the market. The company is turning its attention to consumer electronics such as televisions, digital frames, printers and scanners.

The announcement sent Polaroid film lovers scurrying to buy up as much stock as possible. Others took action by starting web sites to circulate petitions hoping to convince Polaroid to license the instant film process to another film manufacturer. Fuji and Ilford being the most likely candidates. For information on what you can do to help save this art form as well as learn about the history of Polaroid and it’s creator Edwin Land, visit Save Polaroid.

I used an SX70 to create the image of the motorcycle engine. After taking a photo I would fold up the camera and lay the photo on it’s leather surface. I then used the wooden end of small paintbrush to rub the emulsion around until it looked more like a painting than a photograph. I liked to use this camera in the summer when it was hot, as the emulsion stayed pliable longer.

With its sharp, focusable lens, through the lens viewing, automatic exposure and folding design, the SX70 was the pinnacle of Polaroid cameras. Another interesting fact is that the batteries for the camera are in the film pack. While later in production SX70’s were made of plastic but the original version was chrome and real leather.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Magic Mirrors

My son Wynn, came home from school one day and asked if I would help him make his costume for the school play. I told him ”Sure,” and asked him “What are you suppose to be?” “A magic mirror” he replied, then added “I have to be able to dance in it too!” I told him ”Okay, let me think about this for a while.”

My first thought was to glue aluminum foil to some foam core board and cut out a hole for his face. Then I remembered the foam building insulation I had seen at Home Depot that already had silver foil attached on one side. I remembered it because I thought it would make good reflectors for photography.

I had a 4’x8’sheet of the 3/4 in. pink foam insulation. I had bought it to make mountains for Wynn’s train layout. I’d use the thicker foam for the frame. It was cheap, lightweight and cutting, gluing and painting was easy. We also had a foam cutter (much like a soldering iron with a shaped wire) that I could use to cut scrollwork into the frame.

Wynn was very excited about his mirror and told his teacher, Pat, about it. Later, I get a call, “Hi, this is Pat, Wynn told us all about his mirror.” She then told me that Wynn was one of three Magic Mirrors and wanted to know if I would mind making two more! Of course, I agreed.

The play was called Character Matters, a musical featuring F.T.A.C. (The Fairy Tale Advisory Council) where fairy tale characters would tell their story and get advice on how the situation should have been handled. Of course the Magic Mirrors where from Snow White. Their dilemma was, should they tell the Evil Queen that she was no longer the fairest of them all, or should they lie, to avoid upsetting the Queen and possibly getting smashed? We all know how that story ended.

The Play is one of many offered by Bad Wolf Press who specializes in musical plays for kindergarten to ninth grade, as a way to bring music, theater and art into the classroom. Many thanks to Ron Fink of Bad wolf Press for permission to use the material in my blog and on YouTube.

For the photographer’s: I used two small strobes, a Nikon sb24 and a Vivitar 285. One strobe was mounted high on each of two center tent poles that where on either side of the stage. Both strobes were set to manual at full power and bounced backwards into the sloping top of the white tent. The result was soft even light over the entire stage and enough power to allow me to shoot at ISO 200 at f/2.8. Quantum battery packs where attached to each strobe for quick recycling. Pocket Wizard radio receivers fired the strobes. Wynn is the mirror on the right.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sky Glider, Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Here’s one from the archive. Taken at sunset at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. My wife’s best friend from college, Pooz, had moved to California after graduation. They stayed in touch via telephone, emails and exchanged gifts on birthdays and for the holidays. It’s one of those rare friendships that survive both time and distance. My best friend Peter and his family also moved to California so when it was time to plan our summer vacation, it was not hard to pick a destination. We’d spend the first week visiting Pete and his family near Los Angeles, then head north along the coast to visit Pooz. We spent one day with Pooz and her partner, Brent, riding the rides and strolling the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. Pooz, had told our son Wynn, we were going to a lecture on global warming, and though he was okay with that, he was pleasantly surprised when he realized we were going to the boardwalk instead. So was I. It was a vacation after all.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

This Bud's For You!

One of my clients, a snow removal and landscaping company, wanted to update their capabilities brochure and website to show potential clients that they were equipped to service large accounts like corporate parks, malls and bank branches.

The first shot was of the two owners and all nineteen employees positioned around a small Kubota snowplow. In the back we had positioned several front-end loaders and large trucks mounted with plows. In the far background was a giant canopy covering a mountain of salt. I used two Dyna-lite 2000 packs with two bare heads each, to light the group. A Honda generator powered each pack.

The next shot was of a line of eight white pickup trucks mounted with red snow plows. I shot them from above while standing in a cage, chained to a forklift. I used a zoom lens to compress the line of trucks. By not showing the beginning or the end of the line it appeared as if the line of trucks continued on forever.

The third shot (shown above) is my favorite. The Yellow cylindrical tanks are used to store liquid deicer. The deicer is a byproduct of beer brewing and is sourced from the local Budweiser plant.

There were three tanks on the left side and two tanks on the right. The view down the middle of the tanks was not very photogenic. There were old plows, a leafless tree and a cyclone fence all bathed in harsh afternoon light. By moving the camera to the right I blocked the unsightly background with the edge of the foreground tank. As with the line of trucks, if you could not see the edge of the last tank, the viewer might imagine there were more tanks than there actually where.

The tank on the right was being hit by a shaft of bright sunlight and would have distracted the viewer from what I wanted to be the center of interest, the worker. I had a high lift brought over and the bucket was raised. A tarp was hung from the bucket to block the sunlight.

To enhance the asphalt we wet it down with ten gallons of water, as if it had just rained. All of the light in the scene was coming from above and not all that interesting. I set up a Lumedyne battery pack with one bare head to the right and slightly behind the subject to simulate sunlight coming in from the side. Pocket Wizards fired the flash. The light struck the side of the models face. The yellow tank acted as a reflector and filled the shadow side nicely. The restricted area of coverage by the flash helped to draw attention to the subject, who was relatively small in the frame. Underexposing the ambient by 1 and 1/2 stops heightened the affect.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day

In case you had forgotten , I just thought I’d remind you that today is World Wide Pinhole Photography Day. If you ask me, Hallmark is really missing out on this one. Each year, on the last Sunday in April, Pinheads around the globe make photographs with lensless cameras and upload their best shot to the official W.P.P.D online gallery. It is not a contest, there is no judging and no prize money. There are no predatory rights grabs either like so many photography contests these days. They ask only for the right to include your image in the gallery. Be sure to read the terms and conditions before submitting anything to a contest. They should claim only limited rights and then only to the winning entries, not all entries. Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day was created to promote and celebrate the art of pinhole photography.

The weather here in Philadelphia was lousy, heavy clouds and cold, so I thought I’d just take some quick pinhole images of Gus’s old Dodge and upload one to the gallery. Then I remembered the carnival was still in town, the whirling rides, lights on at dusk, would be perfect pinhole fodder. After crossing several chores off of my wife’s honey-do list, I sealed my fate by asking my son if he wanted to go back to the carnival.

After parking the car. I handed Wynn a twenty dollar bill and we parted company, him off to buy ride tickets and me to make pinhole images. I walked around and took photos with a Canon 20D, fitted with a D.I.Y. pinhole body cap, mounted on a Bogen tripod. I had been shooting for about an hour when I heard “Sir, excuse me Sir” from behind me. I know I’m in trouble when someone calls me “Sir.” I was being followed by two Rent-a-Cops, one male and one female. The male cop told me the owner didn’t want me taking any more photos of the carnival. My mind raced as I tried to think up a clever defense. I needed something like the closing remarks of Alan Shore (James Spader) in L.A. Law, but all I could up with would have sounded more like something Denny Crane (William Shatner) would blurt out. Not wanting to make a scene, I said “Okay, folded up the tripod and walked out of the carnival. To tell the truth I really wasn’t sure what my rights were in that situation, or the carnival owner’s rights or the rights of the church who owned the property. There were plenty of other people taking photographs with point and shoots but by using a tripod (necessary for all but the most impressionistic pinhole photos) I stuck out. Maybe it's time for a high resolution, compact camera like the Canon G9.

I was down but not out. I retreated to the sidewalk. A public side walk, where I knew I had a right to shoot from. I set the camera and tripod down and looked up the street as if waiting for a ride. With one eye on the Rent-a-Cops, I pointed my camera at the twirling Zipper and pressed the shutter, turning away for the 15 second exposure. I glanced at the LCD screen and saw I had cut off the top of the ride. I recomposed and press the shutter again. Fifteen seconds later I looked down at the LCD screen on the back of the camera and I could see, I had it. I found my son, bought him some French fries and we headed for the car.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Evil Clowns

It’s that time of year again. The days are getting warmer. The trees are growing back their leaves, the grass is green and flowers are blooming everywhere. Spring is definitely here! And so is the local carnival. My son Wynn, now eleven, looks forward to it all year long. We never miss it and some years we even go twice. It’s not a big carnival, and the rides aren’t that spectacular but it’s our carnival. While I enjoy watching my son have a good time at the carnival, my motivation for taking him is not completely altruistic. I like to go there to take photographs. I try to be inconspicuous by taking only one camera and one lens, the 70-200 2.8. With this lens I can photograph colorful details of the rides and games. I can photograph people from a distance to capture them acting naturally rather than mugging for the camera. I take enough shots that at some point most of my subjects realize I’m photographing them. I smile and give them a little wave, most smile back, then continue with what they doing before they noticed they were being photographed. Once in while, someone will ask if I’m with a newspaper. I tell them I'm photographing for myself, it's a hobby. While it's not the whole truth, It is the truth. My favorite question is “Hey, am I going to be on TV?” I think it’s funny when someone confuses a still camera for a broadcast quality video camera but I guess those lines are blurring more everyday. I photographed the “Evil Clowns” last year. We’re going tomorrow night so I'll post some new carnival images in a couple of days. If you’re going, don’t forget to check your local newspaper for the two dollars off a wristband coupon. It will pay for the 1/2 gallon of gasoline you’ll need to get there and back home again!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Triumph Thruxton

I sell myself as a people photographer specializing in location work, so what am I doing showing a photograph of a motorcycle in the studio? Well, let me explain.

I do photography for The John Alexander Gallery of Chestnut Hill. They specialize in Twentieth Century British handcrafted furniture and decorative arts. I photograph, tables, chairs, cabinets, lamps, umbrella stands, coat racks, dressers, bookcases, mirrors and so on. There are no personalities to deal with so for a few times a year, it’s a welcome change of pace.

A few weeks ago I received a call from John saying they had just received a new shipment and he wanted to know what my schedule was like over the next couple of weeks. We settled on a date and I agreed to meet him at his warehouse. I arrived early to hang the background and set up the lighting before John’s arrival, when we would go over the pieces to be photographed.

After spending about an hour setting up the background, lighting camera and computer, John walks in the door swinging a helmet by his side. “Addison, would you like to see my new toy!” he says, with a broad smile. “I followed him outside.

Sitting in the driveway was a new Triumph Thruxton 900. Named after the famous English racecourse where Triumph had set numerous endurance records in the 60’s. With it’s rear mounted footpegs and clip on handlebars, the Thruxton is a modern day reincarnation of the classic café racers of yesteryear.

John asked me if I wanted to take it for a spin. I was Tempted but I told him “no thanks, I didn’t want to ride it, I wanted to photograph it!” It only had sixteen miles showing on the odometer and I wanted to photograph it while it was still in showroom condition. Next time he offers to let me take it for a ride I'll have a different reply.

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Thursday, April 3, 2008

Richard Power Hoffman

I attended Richard Power Hoffman’s Time Lapse Filmmaking Workshop at Scribe Video Center here in Philadelphia.

After completion of his feature film Invisible Mountains, which took him eight years to complete, Richard wanted to find a way to tell his stories that didn’t involve a crew, expensive equipment, and a cast. Using one inexpensive, yet high resolution still camera, Richard perfected his technique and began making time-lapse films comprised solely of still frames.

Fridays at the Farm: A 19 minute film comprised of nearly 20,000 still frames taken during the growing season at a local community supported organic farm.

Prayer for Philadelphia: A 3 minute film comprised of 5000 still frames, Grand prize winner of the Great Expectations 2007, Hopes and Fears film competition.

Media, PA: A 3 minute, 5000 frame piece, 2nd place winner of Ikea’s, Hometown Make Over Contest winning a $5,000 gift certificate for nine business’s in Media.

Seeds of Spring: A test of different techniques for an upcoming children’s film about the growing cycle of a tomato on a farm. Shot in Full Dome format. To be projected onto planetarium domes! Sounds a lot more exiting than the 16mm, black and white, films we use to watch in grade school back in the stone age, Oh yeah, does anyone Remember Attack of the Killer Tomatoes? Sorry, I digress.

In 1998 Richard started Coyopa Productions in Media, PA visit his website to read reviews, and view trailers.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SB2, Judy Hermann

On Saturday morning, Judy Hermann of Hermann + Starke, started off the general session with her first presentation “Setting the Stage” an overview of the founding principles behind strictly Business 2. Judy credits much of her success today, to what she learned by attending Strictly Business 1, over a decade ago.

Later, she gave her “Digital Essentials” presentation discussing the digital tools every photographer should know and use.

“Managing Change,” was Judy’s third presentation. Like many professions, photographers are caught up in an onslaught of new technology combined with paradigm shifts in the industry and the culture at large. Judy offers advice on how to not just manage change but how to use it to your advantage. To give you an idea how she looks at the issue, her chapter in the SB2 booklet is entitled, “The Sky is Falling, Grab your Camera!” It’s one of those “Turn that Frown Upside Down” kinds of talks that may leave you feeling a little better about your career choice.

After six years as ASMP President, Judy Hermann will be stepping down at the end of March, having served the maximum, two consecutive 3-year terms. Judy will assume the chairmanship of the ASMP Governance Committee and Todd Joyce will step up as President, providing there is no bloody Coup d’etat or preemptive strike from another organization . Thank you Judy for your service, from a card carrying member.

I just uploaded 110 jpegs from SB2, Philadelphia to my Flickr page.

Check out this teaser to see what is in store for you at SB2

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

SB2, Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua

I first became aware of Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua from her posts on several of the photo related internet forums that drop into my inbox on a daily basis. I didn't know who she was but found myself flagging her posts and returning to them again and again when contemplating how best to market my services as a commercial photographer.

"It was just swell," meeting her in person. You know, like meeting a radio D.J. you’ve listened to for a long time, all mystery is removed. Questions like; "How tall are they?" "How do they do their hair?" "What kind of clothes do they like to wear?" are put to rest. With this post I hope I’ll succeed in sparing you all that unnecessary and non productive anxiety , should you meet Leslie in Chicago. It will free you up to just listen to the good stuff she's throwing at you.

Leslie spoke about print portfolios (why you still need them,) mailers, mailing lists, email marketing, and more. Basically, a roadmap to getting your marketing plan together, seeing it through, and moving your business to another level, even in these challenging times. She even outlines a seven-step program to get you on the right track.

Though nothing beats a one-on-one consult( Chicago, Friday, gotta register, $75) you can go to Leslie’s website, Burns Auto Parts (her grandfather sold auto parts) read the articles and listen to her monthly podcast, Creative Lube. If you still prefer pulp you can get her book Business Basics for the Successful Commercial Photographer ( or, How to Use your Left Brain Too.)

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Monday, March 17, 2008

SB2, John Harrington

Despite appearances this is not a supermodel, sporting the latest in men’s fashion, it's Washington, D.C. based John Harrington presenting at SB2, Philadelphia. Sorry, couldn’t help myself, to me, it looks like a runway shot.

John’s presentation is entitled, Critical Tools for Your Photography Business. Not tools as in, a monkey wrench and a hammer, but tools like, invoices, estimates, contracts and releases. Often referred to as the paper trail, not to be confuse with the Oregon Trail, The Appalachian Trail or the Cimmaron Trail. John also stressed the importance of registering your images with the copyright office and walked us through the process.

John is the author of “Best Business Practices for Photographers,” and is considered my many to be a must have reference book for the professional photographer.

John will be presenting in Chicago, and will also be doing one-on-one consultations on getting your paperwork together. You need to register for the consultations. A 1/2 hour consultation is $75.00.

Click on the title to get more info on SB2, Chicago.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

SB2, Joyce Tenneson

Saturday evening’s keynote speaker was Joyce Tenneson. Members of the audience were given a sneak peak at her upcoming book, A Life in Photography, featuring images taken over a 40 year time span, from 1968 to 2008. Voted one of the top ten most influential women in the history of photography by readers of American Photo Magazine. I’ll try and guess who the other 9 might be, not necessarily in order, just as they pop into my head. Feel free to comment on my selections or to add your own using the comment link at the bottom of this post.
  1. Margaret Bourke White
  2. Diane Arbus
  3. Imogen Cunningham
  4. Annie Lebovitz
  5. Cindy Sherman
  6. Mary Ellen Mark
On Sunday, Julia Larson Saperstein asked me, (the epitome of machismo,) If I felt the men in the audience had the same reaction to Joyce’s work as the women. While, once in a while, in the company of a woman, or a child, I find it advantageous to “Get in touch with my feminine side,” I had to answer, “No, I don’t think we did.” Our loss.

Joyce had copies of several of her books with her in Philadelphia and was available for a book signing after the keynote. If the response in Chicago is anything like it was in Philadelphia, you'll want to get in line early!

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SB2, Blake Discher

Blake Discher, Firefly Studios, is a corporate, editorial and advertising photographer based in Detroit. Blake gave a presentation on pricing and negotiating, conducted a workshop on optimizing your web site and gave private web site consultations. You must sign up for any of the private consultations and a half hour session is $75.

Blake’s personable with a great sense of humor, which makes for a friendly, non-intimidating one-on-one, critique of your site and your work. Okay, Maybe he does look a bit like Nosferatu in this image, and his nickname is Black Discher, but trust me, he's cool. I would have signed up for his consultation but I knew I’d be too busy shooting!

In the image above, Blake explains how he priced an image for use on billboards using Hindsight’s Photo Price Guide.

Catch him Chicago if you can!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Strictly Business 2, Philadelphia

I received an invitation from ASMP, Executive Director, Eugene Mopsik, to be the “Photographer of Record,” for the Philadelphia Strictly Business 2 conference. The third stop, on its four city tour.

As an ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) member and photographer in Philadelphia, I had planned on going anyway. I accepted his offer not just because it came from the Director, but because the request came from my long time friend and mentor.

Over twenty years ago, new to Philadelphia and fresh out of art school, Eugene took me on as his assistant. Gene taught me the ropes, sharing with me every aspect of the business. Of course he urged me to join ASMP. I have no doubt I would not be where I am today had I not been fortunate enough to have made his acquaintance.

Having known Gene for so many years, I can say without hesitation, I could not imagine a better person at the helm of the nation's largest professional photographers organization.

Strictly Business 2 will make one more stop in Chicago, April 11-13. Whether you’re just getting into the photography business or you’re an old salt, I highly recommend attending. You don’t need to be an ASMP member but I’d be surprised if you didn’t leave the conference with an application in your bag!

More on SB2 as time permits.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008

What The Duck

Anxious to get some feedback, I asked my wife Lori, if she would like to take a look at my new blog. After pointing out a few typos, she told me her impression was that it was a little too dark. She said the posts about "Shrimp" were a bummer and that I should try to lighten it up a bit. Well, how about a comic strip? What The Duck is from the mind of Aaron Johnson and features a camera toting duck as he interacts with subjects, clients and photographer wannabes.

The strip is published online. Click on What The Duck in my link section to see the latest strip, or to dive into the complete archive. You can also purchase a wide variety of What The Duck merchandise such as shirts, caps, mugs, mousepads, calenders, greeting cards, hardback book and much, much more. You can even download wallpaper or a Mac OS X desktop widget.

There, don't you feel better already!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"Shrimp" #2

Here's Shrimp being held by Melanie, one of the vets that was caring for him.

I've always liked photographing people in hallways. Using a telephoto lens not only provides a flattering perspective for portraits but in this case, compresses the hallway and turns the door frames into geometric lines that frame my subjects. The telephoto, with it's limited depth of field, allowed me to have both Shrimp and Melanie in focus against a soft background.

For this shot I used a similar lighting set up as the one of Shrimp on the exam table. A Canon 580 speedlight into a silver umbrella, mounted on a stand and placed high and to the right of my subjects. The wall to Melanie's right provided just the right amount of fill. To separate Melanie from the background, a second Canon speedlight was mounted on a stand and placed about 10 feet behind her and pointed directly at her back. I zoomed the flash head to the 105mm setting and added a Lumiquest snoot to focus the light on Melanie and keep it off of the walls. Both flashes were fired by an on camera Canon STE2 infrared transmitter. I had to bump the ISO up to 400 to get the f/5.6 ( Shrimp & Melanie in focus) and the 1/60th (I can hand hold this) shutter speed and allow the ambient light to provide detail in the hallway.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Shrimp" #1

I received a call from Bill Smith at Mainline Animal Rescue. A puppymill had just surrendered a dog to them and he wanted me to document the animal’s condition. He asked me to meet him at
Metropolitan Veterinary Associates where he had taken the dog for treatment.

Bill nicknamed the dog “Shrimp” because he was small, pink and more resembled a crustacean than a canine. He was so emaciated and had lost so much fur, that it was hard to determine just what kind of dog he really was. Shrimp was malnourished, dehydrated, had ulcers in his eyes, mange, parasites and splayed feet from standing on the chicken wire floor in the rabbit hutch that had been his home. Shrimp was surrendered because he was not a good breeder, problem was, at some point he had been neutered!

Shrimp was weak and in need of immediate treatment so I had to work quickly. For the image of Shrimp on the exam table, the main light was a Canon 580EX speedlight mounted on a stand and shot into a silver umbrella at camera right. For fill I mounted a Canon 540Ex on a stand and bounced it off the low white ceiling. Both flashes were set on the ETTL automatic exposure setting. The 580 was set as master and the 540 was set to slave. Both speedlights were fired by an on-camera, Canon, STE2 infrared transmitter.

This combination works well indoors when both flashes can see the infrared signal from the transmitter and allows using multiple off camera flashes in automatic mode. I used a Canon 20D with a 28-70, 2.8 lens. I set the ISO to 100 and exposure dial to manual. I chose 1/60 of a second to burn in the background as there was some daylight coming in from a window just out of frame. I chose 5.6 as the aperture, to insure I had sufficient depth of field for Shrimp to be in focus but allow the bars of the pen in the background to go soft.

To see what you can do to help prevent this kind of abuse visit