Separation clarity

So, I've been in the process of going through image after image, culling and narrowing down my portrait and wedding portfolios as I prepare to launch the long-overdue in the next few weeks. I won't lie. There have been moments, as I've started to go cross-eyed from staring at photo after photo after photo, that I've mused "It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if I just 'accidentally' lost all the photos on my hard drives and started from scratch, would it?" It can grow wearisome, cycling through past work, trying to decide what best represents you, while functioning as your own worst critic.
And then I stumbled across this image of my friend Megan, shot more than two years ago in a fire-blackened Southern California canyon. I somehow completely bypassed this image while editing back then, and last night saw it with new eyes. A horizontal crop, a few minor adjustments, and I sat at my desk feeling better about a lot of things.

I'm finding it sometimes takes that distance, that time away from things, to provide clarity and freshness to get back on track with more vigor than we had before, when perhaps we were muddling along attempting to keep up a flagging energy. I've been feeling that a lot over the last few months, reminded that sometimes we simply need to step back, take a deep breath (literally or figuratively) and take stock of things. And just maybe, that's all it takes to find our way. I know that sounds terribly reductive, and really has nothing to do with this photo, but it's the truth.
What do you need to step back from?

Looking back on all of this

I was prepared to wax eloquent about the past year, about its challenges, its highs and lows. About how for all the hard moments there have been moments of joy. About how it's been a stretching experience. About how I'm not quite there yet, but I'm closer.
But you know what? This is about the images. So sit back and engage with some of my favorite images from the past 12 months (which, you'll notice is weighted heavily toward portrait work with essentially no news work, as opposed to last year's retrospective).


(My good friend, old co-worker and roomie, and great web designer Adam, of whose beard-growing prowess I'm supremely jealous.)

(One of many colorful characters in Washington, D.C.'s 2011 St. Patrick's Day parade.)

(I couldn't have asked for a better backdrop than this one on the D.C. waterfront.)

(If the sun's out, I'll always look for a way to backlight. And it never fails to make me giddy.)

(Another portrait of Channapha, an amazing cook and CEO of Legacies of War.)

(This shoot was, outside of Facebook, the first time I'd met Crystal, but we had a super relaxed and fun time walking around Eastern Market in D.C. and creating images.)

(From a headshot session Los Angeles.)

(Sometimes the old-school Hollywood look you have in your mind's eye and what you do with the camera delightfully collide.)

(If had to actually produce a favorite photos list of reasonable length, this would be on the short list.)

(Joseph is a great friend, fine musician and all-around good dude to have in front of the camera when a happy accident like this happens.)

(Sometimes, the best place to shoot for a hair and makeup portfolio is a dingy, dimly-lit back alley.)

(Or, somewhere like that.)

(My friend and former co-worker, Fran, is a great photographer and also at ease in front of the camera.)

(Another happy accident, that occurred while I was finding the light. I found it.)

(In addition to having a camera-friendly face — are you paying attention casting directors? — Scott is an all-around good dude.)

(This was the first time I'd met Michelle, who had apparently not had the greatest experience with photographers in the past, but we had a relaxed blast shooting together.)

And, capping off this section, six of my favorite images I created this month with my friend Sarah, who's supremely photogenic and ridiculously comfortable in front of a camera.)


(Shooting Sheridan and Jade's outdoor wedding was one of the last things I shot before leaving California for Washington earlier this year. It was a pleasure.)

Two months later, I documented Mario and Rachel's beautiful and all-out celebratory Malibu wedding...

Four photos that don't fit in other categories

(Joseph makes an appearance again, busting out some spacey, rockin' tones with his band A Concrete Mess.)

(The agony and the ecstasy in downtown Seattle.)

These next two... Frankly, it's pretty challenging to take a bad photo of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. I mean, look at it.

The token "the iPhone is amazing" section

But in all seriousness, having an iPhone has breathed a bit of fresh air into my shooting this year. The absolute ease of always having with me a compact and powerful imaging tool cannot be understated, whether I'm using it as a visual notepad for future shoots, using it as a discreet street photography camera, or just being able to capture candid moments without carrying around a bulky SLR. (My most-used photo apps, in case you're wondering, are Hipstamatic, Instagram, and Camera+ in conjunction with a few editing apps.)

(Early morning reflections at the port of Edmonds, WA.)

(I probably waited a good 15 minutes for this shot at Dallas-Ft. Worth Airport.)

(Conversely, I nearly missed this shot at Newark Int'l. Airport.)

(A rainy moment in Dupont Circle, D.C.)

(Downtown Seattle, as seen from lower Queen Anne.)

(Taking in the awesome, powerful view of Mt. Saint Helens.)

(Another moment I nearly missed along the waterfront in Edmonds, WA, as this couple stopped moving just long enough for me to pull out my phone.)

(Downtown Seattle)

That last image is from somewhere along Interstate 5 in Northern California, taken as I left behind my home of the past decade-plus and headed for WA. As I head into a new year still marked by certain uncertainty, it's an apt image.
And with that, I bid you a happy new year. When you get right down to it, the new year is just a changing of the calendar, but it's still a good time to look back, reflect, and look ahead and make the most of each new day.

New lens and neo-noir.

In addition to seeing some much-missed friends while in Southern California last week, an absolute highlight was getting to shoot with my friend Sarah, who has a knack for looking effortlessly in home in front of a camera. It was a rollicking good time of messing with lighting, gritty backgrounds and moody expressions (and putting my new 50mm to use).

This next photo? An absolutely happy accident. It's a little soft, but still...after an accident like this, I can pack up and go home.

Nerd note on this one: Backlit with a Canon 580, fill light provided by an iPhone 4.

The day after.

It's the day after an all-day wedding shoot (see previous post). What do I do? Relax by the pool? WRONG! Gear up and shoot more awesome images. I had a great time working with some of my favorite people on Sunday night, capturing images for hair-and-makeup rock stars Lola and Lovy. Here's a few I picked out today.

As a side note, Michelle felt a bit apprehensive before the shoot. I don't know what kind of experiences she's had with photographers in the past, but by the end of the night I was thrilled to hear what's become my favorite compliment from clients (aside from "great photos!"), that she felt really relaxed.

This next image is another in a series of happy accidents in my journey as an artist. I simply asked Scott to stand there while I tested the lighting. What I wound up with was an image I love. (Note to self: consider a collection titled "Perfect Mistakes.")

And finally, an image of Sarah, one of my favorite people to photograph. She's got killer eyes (which, of course, you can't see in this image) and makes posing seem so effortless.

Small Steps

Last Saturday, I had a great time shooting some promotional photos for Starting Small Fitness, my friend Stacey's foray into personal training. It's always a welcome challenge shooting something a little different than the usual (In this case, fitness photos). It was also a fun exercise (pun not entirely intended) in using off-camera flash to counteract the harsh early afternoon sunlight.

A great way to pump up (ok, that pun really wasn't intended) action shots is to use a slow shutter speed with your flash set to rear-curtain. That way you get motion blur, but still with your subject in focus.

Positive negatives

While digital is my primary form of image capture, I still like to shoot film every now and then. In a society saturated by immediate results, there's something satisfying about capturing an image and having to wait to see the results.
All of these images were shot on a Vivitar V2000 with either a 28mm or 50mm lens. In both cases, the film was pushed, resulting in the graininess. Pushing film can yield some interesting tones. In this case, most of these images had a slight reddish tint. Some of the images have some dust spots. I wasn't going for technical perfection. I knew what I wanted to achieve, and I feel I met that goal.
This first one was Kodak Gold 400, pushed to 1000. I made slight levels adjustments in Lightroom, but otherwise this is straight out of the camera. I love the bokeh on the Vivitar when it's wide open.

This one was from the same roll, but I converted it to B/W in Lightroom. Reflected in the windows of the new LAPD headquarters is the classic Los Angeles City Hall.

This was a film capture from shooting a set of images for my friend Perla (see that post here). Again, pretty much straight out of the camera.

Bare branches in wintry northwestern New Jersey. Kodak Gold 200 pushed to 1600.

Manhattan's Flatiron building, also Kodak 200 pushed to 1600.

Empire State of mind

New York City. Hot or cold, it's one of my favorite cities. On Jan. 4, it was bitterly cold. Still, it was a great day to wander city streets, see the awesome Flatiron Building up close and shoot some wintry portraits with my friend Perla.

This first shot of the Flatiron was a happy accident. A bit overexposed, and a wicked sun flare. Doesn't matter. All the things "wrong" with this image make it for me.

I'm still working on my freelensing technique. It's lo-fi and it's fun. This was shot on the High Line, an old elevated subway track near the Meatpacking District that's been converted into a landscaped walkway. Lots of greenery and places to sit, and great views of the waterfront.

One of the things I love about shooting in cities is the way you find light where you don't expect it. This shaft of afternoon light was like a pillar of warmth down in the cold, shady canyons of lower Manhattan.

The High Line runs right under the Standard Hotel, which makes for a nice, modern backdrop. Add a little off-camera flash, a little angling and a model who's willing to take off her coat on a 30-degree day, and you've got a recipe for success.

When it comes to post-processing, I try to keep things simple. This image is an example of that. Most of the magic was seeing some great, golden light reflecting off buildings and finding the right place to use it.

They take parking very seriously in New York, as the sign indicates.

Sometimes you need to back your subject into a corner. Literally. I couldn't have asked for a better contrasting background.

Speaking of contrast, it makes for great background detail. It's even better when it plays off one of the colors your subject is wearing.

Think you need a tripod to take good photos? Not always. This is a shot at 1/10 of a second, handheld. It was simply a matter of finding something against which to brace myself (in this case a fire hydrant) and stilling myself. There's a nice bit of blur in the foot and vehicle traffic, but the hotel sign is still in focus.

2010 Retrospect — Part 2

Here we go. It was tough narrowing down some of my favorite images of the year. Every shoot brings something special. Everyone brings something good to the table. Here's a little bit of the goodness.

Wendy hired me to shoot some professional headshots, but this is hands down my favorite image from the session. It's candid, relaxed and smile-inducing.

I love the classic, vintage vibe of this image of Katie. Nice soft lighting; good expression. And despite the simple background and good lighting, it wasn't shot in a studio. It was shot in the decaying, weather-beaten shell of a house on the shores of the Salton Sea. The light was courtesy of a hole in the roof.

A more candid moment from a family session I did earlier this year. Proof that good portraits don't always require people look at the camera.

I met these two couples at a charity photoshoot in Malibu. I only had about 15 minutes with each of them, but it was enough time to create some warm, romantic images.

A chance moment after a baptism.

The next few images are from the wedding of my friends Teague and Jenni, last spring at an almond grove in Moorpark. It was a great day from start to finish. Simple, romantic and a fantastic celebration.

This pretty much sums up the reception.

I enlisted my friend Sarah to help me test out a new lens. It was also good practice in looking for easily missed good backdrops.

I had an absolutely fantastic engagement session with Jordan and Jess as we walked around Fort Tejon and the Tejon Ranch property north of Los Angeles. The hills are peppered with majestic old oak trees.

In September I traveled to Washington, D.C. to help my friend Christine shoot a wedding. There were lots of great moments to be captured, among them this chance moment between Emily and her flower girl, and Emily and Scott sharing a kiss in a veritable cathedral of greenery.

Sheridan, Jade and I had a fantastic time exploring Descanso Gardens near Pasadena and creating some awesome engagement images. We had a great time, and I'm looking forward to their vintage-themed wedding.

At yet another charity photoshoot, I met engaged couple Tim and Tara and had just a few moments to capture some images. This was one of my favorites.

I've been doing a lot of freelens shooting lately, and this is one of more favorable results, captured during a shoot with Perla in downtown Los Angeles. It didn't hurt to have plenty of light bouncing off mirrored office buildings.

I've shot engagements, weddings, families, newborns ... but this was the first time I was hired to photograph a group of roommates. We got plenty of great images, but I love the classic, "band photo" look of this one.

Blogged just a couple days ago, this is from a series of portraits I did for my stylist friend Josh. Using the mirror as a framing device, I wanted to capture and image that said "vision."

In addition to shooting photos of Josh, I also did some photos for the homepage of his new website. For this image of Chad, I went with more of a high-key lighting feel. A bit of a change from my normal style, but I like the results.

Capping off this blog of epic length are two images from a recent shoot I did for my friends' hair and makeup portfolios.

So that's it, 2010 in review. Thanks for reading! If nothing else, come back in 12 months for more greatness.

the light in things

A few weeks ago, after much talk and planning, I spent a long and awesome day shooting images for the portfolios of my friends Lola and Rebecca, who do makeup and hair, respectively. Both are great artists in their own right. Much thanks goes to Diana, Cheryl and Danielle for modeling. You ladies were naturals in front of the camera. Here's a few of my personal favorites from the day. I'll talk about some of the lighting on some images below.

About the image below: Like the previous image, this was shot while it was dark outside. I put a halogen worklight (a very versatile tool for about $10) outside my front door, casting some nice shadows on Diana and the wall. Warming the image up in Lightroom approximated the feel of late-day sunlight.

This next image is an example in second glances. It was a throw-away image, way too underexposed. But a little time spent on it, and it has a gritty, film feel that I love.

Again with the worklight, gaffer-taped to a stand outside the front door. Add to that fill light from a six-headed Target living room lamp, and freelensing for a tilt-shift effect.

More lamp lighting. Don't underestimate the tools at hand. I broke down a cardboard box to make some snoots, gaffer-taped them to the lamp heads to better direct light. And yes, more freelensing.

Last but not least, Rebecca was game to do a little modeling as well, after a long day of doing hair.

Probably one of my favorite images from the day.

Hair: Rebecca Lovy
Makeup: Paola Perdido
Models: Diana Hereld, Cheryl Collins, Danielle Broome

One for another

It was tough picking just one image from Sunday's shoot to post as a teaser. For several hours, I had a blast working on portfolio images for my friends Lola and Rebecca, who do makeup and hair, respectively. There's lots of great images to work on, but they're taking a backseat to a few other projects I'm working on. Expect more goodness soon.

Model: Danielle Broome
Makeup: Lola Perdido
Hair: Rebecca Lovy

Action needs an audience.

Having joined the ranks of the unemployed, now more than ever is the time to step up my photography game. I'm currently looking at a lot of possibilities in the journalism field, and also doing what I can to get my portfolio out here. I figured it was worth posting a portfolio that spotlights my photojournalistic work. So, here it is. (click image for larger view)