Friday, December 24, 2010

Wynn's First Holiday Photo

Wynn was only 10 months old when I shot this photo for our Christmas card. He couldn't walk or stand on his own yet. The toy truck not only fit the theme but it gave Wynn something to climb up on. This is the developmental phase between crawling and walking, called creeping.

The toy truck was given  to Wynn by one of my clients. It had belonged to her son. We passed it along to Dae, the son of my good friend Peter, who lives in Maine.

I was still shooting film in those days, in this case 120 color negative film in a Hasselblad  with a 150 lens. The lighting was simple, two lights on the background and a medium softbox and some white reflectors on Wynn. The hardest part of the shoot was wiping up the drool from the seamless.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ghost of Christmas Future at Home

After a particularly difficult assignment with Ebenezer Scrooge,  The Ghost of Christmas Future, also know as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, relaxes with a hot cup of coco and awaits Christmas Day.

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery. It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. ... It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black."

To see the cemetery scene in which GCF shows Scrooge his grave site, click here.

Ghost of Christmas Future played by Wynn Geary.

Inspired by "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens

Saturday, December 11, 2010

My First Paid Photography Gig

I've kept this to myself for many years, now, I feel the need to get it off my chest. What better time to come clean than just before the holidays and the start of a new year? My very first paid photography gig was photographing children with Santa Claus.Yes, that's right, don't make me say it again.

I had just graduated from high school and got a job as a salesman at Malloy's Cameracade in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I was a good salesman, real good, I had Nikon F2's, Canon AE-1's and Minolta SRT's flying off the shelves. I enjoyed the job and was told by my boss that I had a future with the company if I wanted. I thanked him, but told him I wanted to be a photographer and I planned on going to art school.

One day, just after Thanksgiving, The Manager of Foodland came in to the store and asked my boss to recommend someone to take photographs of kids with Santa. He recommended me. The job paid $50. Not having any real negotiating skills at the time I accepted his offer. Remember this was the late 70's, by today's standards that'd be about $5,000.

That was then, today he would have just posted the job on Craigslist, offering no money but saying things like,  "It would be a great addition to your portfolio" or "Wonderful opportunity to network with parents who could hire you to photograph their children during other special occasions."What a difference a few decades can make.

I shot the job, got a check. Not only was I paid but I also got face time with the "Big Man" himself,  I even sat on his lap and told him what I wanted for Christmas. I have a picture to prove it but it's for my eyes only. Santa did not disappoint, that year I found a  Canon FTB under the tree on Christmas morning.

Happy Holidays to all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Immigrant Family, Ellis Island

One of my first assignments in an advanced Photoshop class was to make a composite in which one person appeared in the image multiple times. The assignment was called "Bring in the Clones." We had studied the work of Henry Peach Robinson, one of the most prominent art photographers of his day. His first and the most famous composite picture, "Fading Away" (1858) was both popular and fashionably morbid. He was a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites and was influenced by the aesthetic views of John Ruskin.

I began the assignment by going through my archive to find a background on which to assemble a composite. The Idea to create a portrait of my ancestors as immigrants, came to me when I found an image of the Registry Room, on Ellis Island. I had taken the photo a few years before, while on a family trip to New York City.

My wife Lori, our son Wynn and I, dug through our wardrobes to find vintage looking clothing. Lori and I had it easy, once we were dressed we just had to sit back and look stoic. Wynn, on the other hand, had to change three times and each time invent a different persona.

Back then, there was no "One and Done" philosophy, couples had many children to help with the daily chores and there were no child labor laws. The more children you had the greater the family income. Infant mortality was much higher then as well.

Final image is a composite of four photographs, The registry room, the triangle composition of Myself, Lori & eldest Wynn, then Wynn with glasses and bow tie, and last but not least, Wynn as his own sister, which I'll bet comes up in a therapy session, or two, at some point in the future. I'm sure my parenting skills will be called into question. Whether or not I'm around to defend myself, and my art, remains to be seen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Preservation Jazz Hall, New Orleans

While digging through my collection of photo cd's I came across this image from a family vacation in New Orleans. Of course this was before Katrina. I  consider myself fortunate to have experienced the city the way it was before the storm. I had been to New Orleans before but I was on a job and only had time for lunch and a brief stroll through the French Quarter before catching a flight back home.

You can't go to New Orleans and not visit Presentation Jazz Hall. You'll want to take pictures but flash photography during a performance is frowned upon. The ambient light level is very low, great for setting the mood but lousy for photographs. Even with my ISO set at 1600 and an f/2.8 aperture, my shutter speed was only 1/6th of a second. Naturally, I was concerned with camera shake. I didn't have a tripod  but even if I had, there was no way I would have set it up as the place was packed. All I could do was use the "spray & pray" technique. Set the drive to high and fire off multiple volleys until the buffer is full. With this method, typically the first and last frames are blurry but at least one frame in the middle is sharp. I learned this technique from Seth Resnick while attending D-65's, Workflow not Workslow Workshop.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Krishan Klein Of Trojan Cycles

As part of an on going personal project on unusual small business owners I photographed Krishan Klein of Trojan Cycles. Krishan was the only subject in the project I had not know previously. He is a good friend of one of my son’s teachers, Jason. Knowing I was into vintage motorcycles Jason suggested I contact Krishan and that maybe I would want to photograph him with some of his bikes.

Krishnan, a.k.a. Scrap Ninja, buys old and crashed motorcycles then restores them from the ground up. Oddly enough Krishan buys the bikes here in the U.S. then ships them to Japan where he rebuilds them. He sells them in Japan as well because he can get more money for them there than here in the states. One reason is that although many of the bikes he rebuilds where originally from Japanese manufactures like Honda, and Yamaha, the larger bikes where built exclusively for the American market. Krishan has dual citizenship as his wife lives in Japan.

Krishan’s shop was crowed so I decided to photograph him in the alleyway in front of the shop. It was early afternoon and the sun was high in the cloudless sky. I knew I’d need to over power the sun so I pulled out the 2000 watt second power pack and two, 1000 watt second packs, all Dyna-Lite. We had settled on photographing him with a 70’s vintage Harley Davidson, as that was of the more complete bikes in the shop. Of course it was nearly all black.  The little bit of color on the bike was miscellaneous parts plated with real gold, and a painting of Zeus and a Centaur on the Gas tank, “Lovely!” Should have shot a close-up.

I set up two 4x6 Chimera, softboxes side by side, directly in front of the bike, and connected both heads to the 2000ws pack. The wind picked up and the softboxes began to spin around and despite have a sand bag on each stand I was afraid they would tip over in the next strong gust of wind. I asked Krishan if he had anything heavy I could hang from the stands. He returned with several disc break rotors that I attached to the stands with bunji cords. The stands didn’t blow over but the softboxes were still turning from side to side in the wind. I used A clamps to join the two boxes in middle and tied off the outer end of the softboxes to nearby garage door handles using nylon strapping I use to secure equipment to my rolling cart. I told Krishan, “Only a fool would set up two large softboxes in a windy alley way, but that was just the kind of fool I was.”

I wanted two very strong rim lights, on Krishan, to separate him from the brick wall. I placed a gridded head on either side moving the stands right up against the wall. I feathered the light so not only did it define Krishan’s, left and right side but I let a little light spill on to the dark brick as well.

The final touch was wetting the concrete with several buckets of water from a nearby spigot to give it that, “Just after a rain look and pick up some reflection of the bike in the water. Something I learned while assisting Eugene Mopsik on Mack Truck shoots.

I stood between the two large softboxes poking the lens between the narrow slit between the two, and made my exposures.

The most important lesson I will take away from this project is to seize the opportunities that present themselves, to turn impulses into action and try out new things on self-assignments and not wait to try them out on real job.

Click on Krishan's photo to visit his site. Sure would be nice to own of his creations!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Larry Bodine Conservations


I have know Larry Bodine of Larry Bodine Conservations for a number of years. I met Larry while photographing antique furniture for a local dealer. Larry would clean each piece and make repairs as necessary before I photographed it. I had photographed at Larry’s shop before. The Dealer wanted me to photograph Larry and his two employees working on furniture only he wanted close up shots showing only hands using tools. I did grab a few shots for myself but my primary concern was getting the images my client needed. Once again this project was the catalyst to me taking the photos of Larry that I wanted to make. I went so far as to photograph him not in the workshop but in the attic instead.

My approach to the shot in the attic was more traditional than the first two shoots with a couple of twists. The main light on Larry was an overhead clamp light with a 100-watt bulb that was already in place. I just tilted up a bit to light his face. I liked the abrupt fall off of the light but the rest of the scene needed fill. I set up a Dyna Lite pack and single head in a three by four foot softbox. I covered the head with a Full CTO gel to match the color balance of the worklight and placed the light directly behind me for a soft on axis fill I new that the light source was large enough that even though I was standing directly in front of the softbox enough light would still fill in around my subject. I also opted for double diffusion by hanging a white, translucent, shower curtain in front of the soft box. I metered for the work light only and adjusted the power of the fill light by looking at the display on the camera while shot.  Larry was looking directly into the camera for most of the shots but I liked the one in which he was looking away, almost as if he was lost in thought.

Larry was happy to receive some new photos of himself as he is finally having a web site built to promote his business. He realizes that the younger generation is using the Internet to find the services they need.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Amazing Animals Alive!

                              Click on image for a larger view.

Since we’re on the subject of composites here’s another one. The background image was shot at The Fayette County Fair in western Pennsylvania.  I grew up near there and going to the Fair was an annual ritual of summer.

I felt the need to re-connect with family members in that part of the state so I planned a visit that would coincide with the dates of the Fair. Aside from me revisiting my youth, I wanted Wynn to get a feel for a rural county fair.
Aside from the carnival with its sideshows and enough rides to make you barf your corndog, there are pig races, tractor pulls, truck pulls, motocross racing and a rodeo depending on what night of the week you decide to go. There’s also a pavilion for musical acts, we heard The Clarks, a solid rock n’ roll band from Pittsburgh. You can listen to cuts from their new album “Restless Days” on their website. I’m listening to them now as I write this.  My favorite song so far is “Midnight Rose.” Of course, you can download them on iTunes.

I originally wanted to photograph my neighbor John dressed as a carnie barker but couldn’t pull the costume together in time so I used Wynn.  I photographed him on a white background late in the evening when the sun was low in the sky to match the light of the sideshow image. I placed a white reflector on Wynn’s left side for some fill. I used the double high pass again, plus added noise for that comic book look.  Just something I need to get out of my system but I do like it on this image.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fortune Cookie

Click on the image for larger view.

One of the assignments for my digital illustration class was to complete a series of images based on the verse from fortune cookie. Apparently the instructor and her husband ate a lot of Chinese. She passed around a hat full of fortunes and each student picked one. Mine read “You will always be Successful in your professional career. “

I could have photographed myself holding a camera with a long lens or in a studio surrounded by lights, soft boxes and umbrellas, like “Here I am, Joe Photographer,” but that seemed narcissistic and amateurish.

I opted for irony instead. Given the state of the economy, why not take the fortune and turn it around? What would I be doing if I weren’t a commercial photographer?  A Volvo mechanic!

The inspection on my car was about to expire so I took it to Dennis Auto in Kensington.  Dennis Auto specializes in repairs on Volvos and I have been going there for over 20 years, so it was not a problem when I pulled out my Canon G9 and tripod and started taking photographs around the shop.

I chose to do the series as composites. After selecting a frame I liked from the shop (in this case, the car on the lift) I photographed myself in front of a white backdrop set up in by backyard. I opted for natural light because I didn’t want to set up lights.

After making a mask around my figure I dropped it into the shop photo. I downsized my figure with the transform tool and refined the edges with a black brush on a mask.  I added two layers of high pass one vivid light, one hard light to make it grungy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Bultaco M10, Sherpa T

I had the opportunity to photograph a piece of motorcycling history, a 1967, Bultaco, Sherpa T, owned by Allen Gracey. I met Allen at an MAVT sponsored trials event in Toughkenamin, PA. It was my first time competing in a trials event. Allen guided me to each section, explained the rules and gave me tips, but above all, he gave me encouragement. I did not place but I was pleased just to finish. I completed all four loops of the seven-section course.

Built in Spain by Francisco Bulto, the M10 ended the sixty-year reign of British, 4 strokes in the sport of observed trials. It’s popularity helped to spread the sport from England to the rest of Europe and the United States.

Unusual for the time, the Sherpa T was powered by a 244cc two stroke, engine with dual flywheels and a radial head mounted on a Rickman designed frame.

Aside from the machine its self, much of the success of the M10 was due to the fact that Bulto signed Sammy Miller to compete for him. In the first two years, Miller took 1st place in 58 of 80 events he entered.

I photographed the bike in Allen’s garage. I rolled the bike onto a white seamless and boomed two 4x6 foot Chimera softboxes over it. Each box had a Dyna-Lite 4040 head inside. Each head was connected to a 1000 pack at full power.

To me motorcycles are more than machines, they are functional art, thrilling and exhilerating sculpture.

Click here to see my Triumph, Thruxton photo.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Street after the Snow Storm Panoramic

Panoramic of my street the morning after the first of two major snowstorms to hit the Northeast in 2010. The first storm was greeted with excitement and wonder. It was a day off from work, a day off from school. All was right with the world, Climate Change hadn't totally upset Nature's balance, at least not in Philadelphia. The second storm was not as welcome.

Two frames stitched together using photomerge in Photoshop.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magritte goes to the Drive-In

More fun with Photoshop composites. Inspired by Renee Magritte's "Time Transfixed,"which I saw years ago, at The Art Institute of Chicago. Four separate images, the Screen and lawn, a sky, the locomotive, the smoke. I added the locomotive shadow manually.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Focus Philadelphia Opening Reception. Tonight!

My portrait of Ninja, Rick, "Ryuama"(Dragon Mountain)Henderson of the Triple Cities Martial Arts Academy of Upstate New York, made it into the show.

Rick is a licensed Art of Combat trainer, holds six world titles in Kata and Sparring and is current World Heavy Weight Sparring Champion. Despite the fact he could knock you out in the blink of an eye, Rick is the kindest and most gentle person, I have ever met. Full disclosure, he's my brother-in-law!

Thursday, January 21st, 2010, 7PM
The University of The Arts
Hamilton Hall
320 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102

This years judges were Paul Runyon, John Saal, Zoey Sless-Kitain, and Jill Waterman.

This years sponsors: The Camera Shop, Brilliant Studio, Philly Creative Guide, Philadelphia Photographics, Modern Postcard, Wacom, Power Plant Productions and Yards Brewing Company.

See you there!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Homage to Magritte

The final assignment for my advanced Photoshop class, was to choose a Surrealist then produce three images in their style.

I’ve long been a fan of Rene Magritte so deciding who, was not an issue, the problem was which of his themes could I translate into pixels after a semester exploring selection tools, layers, masking and blending modes?

I went with his man in the bowler hat theme, like the man featured in Magritte’s most famous painting “Son of Man” but rather than obscuring the face with an object, like a green apple, I removed it entirely. Add a simple blue sky with cloud background and the crow for some added interest and I had the first of my three final images.

While Adobe Photoshop has made compositing easier, photomontage is not new. Oscar Gustav Rejlander, considered to be the father of art photography, created "Two Ways of Life" in 1857 by combining more than 30 negatives. Henry Peach Robinson's "Fading Away" was created in 1858 by compositing together 5 separate negatives. 

For me the downside to photo compositing is file management and storage. I find it harder to delete images now as there may be some element in even the most mundane image that can later be incorporated into a composite. The crow in the above image is a good example, extracted from a mediocre beach scene captured while on vacation in California. I also find myself shooting more walls, clouds, textured surfaces, sunsets and landscapes that can be used as backgrounds for future composites.