Archive for July, 2012

  • Salton Sea Images/Recap

    A couple of months ago I went with my friend, Crafty, to the Salton Sea.  I took my trusty Mamiya RZ67 film camera as I think there are certain locations that are just better shot on film than with a digital camera.  I loaded up the camera with 2 rolls of Ilford Delta Pro 100 B&W film to capture the gritty, earthy and solemn feel of the Salton Sea.  Again, if you don't know the tragic story of the Salton Sea then please check out this page HERE.

    My Mamiya RZ67 film camera

    Don't get me wrong, I think I could have made some great images with my Nikon DSLR but I truly believe that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate the look of B&W film from a digital shot.  Yes, Nik Software's SILVER EFEX PRO 2 is an amazing piece of software that comes pretty damn close to emulating a true B&W film look.  Also, Vincent Versace has some great tips for converting digital images through the ACME Educational website.  But, if you were to ask most photographers I think you will find the vast majority will tell you that nothing you can do in Photoshop can compare to the final image you get from using your favorite B&W film. Crafty and I spent several hours driving around and looking for the best locations for shooting.  One of the first places I wanted to see was Salvation Mountain.  A devoutly religious, Christian man created this "mountain" over 25 years ago as an art project.  He was only going to stay one week but has since made it his home.  Unfortunately, the creator, Leonard Knight, suffers from dementia and has been placed in a long term care facility and is no longer on site.  I was hoping to meet the man who dedicated his life to this project but took solace in knowing we could see the project at least.  There are plans to keep this project alive and hopefully there will be enough paint, sweat and volunteers who can keep his vision alive long after he is gone.  While I am not a deeply religious person, I do respect any artist who has dedicated his/her life to their passion.  Knowing Mr. Knight wasn't around I wanted to create an image that signified his passion and desire.  I asked Crafty to pose for me here, put the Red 25A filter on the lens to completely darken the sky and made the image below (Yes, the starlight/God's light was added in Photoshop as that was what I was thinking about when I made this image).

    Redeemed by Salvation Mountain.

    Another place I wanted to visit is the old Red Hill Marina.  This used to be a thriving marina but now there is nothing left but busted up concrete, rocks, hills and dead Tilapia.  While walking around here I noticed these lone trees sitting in the dried up area that used to be part of the Salton Sea (the sea levels are diminishing year after year).   I found this sad and wanted to make an image of this tree.  This tree and marina reminded me of everything that used to be thriving and vibrant with the sea.  But if you look closely you can still see some large bird nests in the limbs and that actually gave me hope that this beautiful area can, once again, be alive with tourists, homes, people and life (Editorial note: But I am sure if a lot of people start coming back to this area again then I am sure they will figure out a way to screw it up. - Now I am stepping down off soapbox). 🙂

    A lone tree at the Salton Sea.

    When we wrapped up walking around the Red Hill Marina we found this little driving trail leading us to another side of the area.  Being the explorers that we are, we wanted to see what was on the other side.  After following the path we came to (what appeared to be) an abandoned trailer park/RV area.  There was a posted sign stating that no cars were able to drive past this marked area without permission.  So I got out of the car and started walking around yelling for someone or anyone to come out.  After about 15 minutes of walking around and asking if anyone was around we decided to drive past the marked area, park the car and get out and walk toward the Salton Sea to explore possible shoots.  Around 20 minutes into our walk we notice a car coming from the area we had just left.  The vehicle was coming toward us and I knew we were in trouble.  As the old Chevy Blazer approached and stopped, this diminutive man of 70+ years steps out of the vehicle and starts to inquire as to why we were there, what we were doing, didn't we read the signs, etc.  It felt like an interrogation.  However, after about 10 minutes of talking and letting the caretaker of the property (if you saw this area you would scratch your head wondering why there was a "caretaker" of the area) introduced himself as J.J. and started telling us stories about the area, his life as a Marine and his passion for living at the Salton Sea!  He showed us the arsenal he had in the back of his vehicle in case he needed to use it on us.  One of the items he pulled out was a Samurai sword and I knew I had to get a shot.  Here's the image I made of J.J.

    The Salton Sea Samurai

    This man is so proud of this area and where he lives he took Crafty and me around the Sea to show us some of the best locations that only locals know about.  I also promised J.J. that I would print the image I made of him and get it to him.  As a side note, I did return to the area about 10 days later with my lovely wife, Lisa, and handed J.J. a 16x20 print of this shot.  J.J. also pulled out part of his arsenal of firearms and let Crafty take target practice.  You can see that below. Lastly, if you are wondering why there are only three images from my shoot, I have to admit that I discovered a massive light leak with the camera.  The bad part of shooting film is that you don't know about the dreaded "Light Leak" until you develop your negatives.  Now while some people like the light leak effect I don't particularly care for it.  I had to trash many of the images because the leak directly affected the area I wanted to have the viewer focus on.  But the leak has since been repaired and I am looking forward to going back to the Salton Sea for more images.  In case you don't know what a light leak is then here is an example.

    More to come,


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  • My documentary being featured on NPR!

    Hey all, I just wanted to send a quick note  about my work on the documentary "Leftovers" is being featured on national radio on Monday.  NPR's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook will not only feature me and my work on the documentary but will also feature Enid Borden who is the president of Meals on Wheels Association of America.  I got the call this morning to be featured and talk about my film that began production over a year and a half ago.  For those of you who don't know the story then please check out to learn about the story, my journey, the millions of senior citizens going hungry in America and the great people who are trying to end Senior Hunger in America. This is a tremendous honor and hopefully this will generate more and more buzz for the film.  Even though it's still in post production hopefully more and more national media attention will help speed up the post production process and the movie can then get out to the theaters as it is scheduled to do.  Making this movie has been one of the most trying, rewarding, frustrating and eye opening experiences of my life and it was well worth the journey.  Make sure you tune into NPR on Monday and listen to "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook.  Here are the details of the broadcast...
    • Monday, July 30, 2012
    • NRP Radio - check your local stations
    • 11am EST - Noon EST
    • Listen online at
    • Listen online at Sirius/XM radio Channel 122.
    Let me know how I did... 🙂

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  • Now this is how to shoot wedding announcements!

    Here's something I never thought I would create that would end up as a wedding announcement.  If you know me, you know I don't shoot weddings but have the utmost respect for those who do.  This post is about creating something, knowing your clients and being able to adapt to situations that present themselves on location.  It's also about creating a rapport with your client's and earning their trust so you can get creative and make something memorable. While on my trip to NorCal to do some shooting for a winery and a new clothing designer, I contacted an old friend and someone I have worked with before to see if she would want to work together again.  Her name is Amanda Craven and I love working with her.  Sometimes you find those models who are willing to do whatever needed and have some fun working together.  When I have worked with Amanda in the past, we have just started shooting and before we both knew it several hours had passed and we walk away with some great images.  What I also like about Amanda is that I can throw several ideas her way and she is amenable to almost anything I suggest.  In fact, here's an image I created with Amanda a couple of years ago.

    This image was created in 2010 with the wonderful Amanda Craven in my studio in Northern California.

    This image is a composite.  I shot her in a studio and then placed her onto this background image I had, changed the lighting around a bit and made an image of an otherwise pleasant, sweet person into a menacing, pouncing monster wearing shorts and a shiny white shirt.  The idea behind the shot was to put someone who looks harmless into a position of power and fear.  Amanda is a sweet, nice, honest and sincere person and I thought having her in this pose/image is a complete opposite take on her (as I know her - some people may think this is spot on.) When I revisited her on this particular trip we wanted to do something that Amanda normally doesn't shoot.  Amanda is a beautiful person who has a lot of sexy images (did I mention she has A LOT of sexy images of herself) and I wanted to make some images that show the nice, sweet and interesting Amanda I have been able to get to know.  With that in mind we created some different and thoughtful images of Amanda like this one below. And, another image of here like this one here as well. But, after a while I realized that we have taken this image/look as far as we could go and I wanted something more interesting for her.  With her fiancee´present and at this great location, I thought it would be fun to get her fiancee´, Mark Davis, into the mix.  While looking around I noticed that Mark could hide in the weeds while Amanda stood on the rocks.  BTW, I loved these rocks and wanted to incorporate them into as many shots as possible.  While they are pretty to look at they are treacherous to stand on and I applaud Amanda for posing on these rocks in heels and barefoot.  So we had the water, rocks, sky and weeds and I thought this would be a great place to make a creepy image with Mark hiding in the weeds.  Once I had the idea I started to assemble the lights and position them around to get the shot.   Here's the final image... I used three lights on this shoot.  One was placed behind Amanda (camera right), the second was placed camera left to illuminate Amanda's face and Mark's right side.  The last light had a grid on it and was placed in the weeds and pointed directly back at Mark's face, chest and hand.  The lights and modifiers used are as follows:
    • 2 Elinchrom RX/AS 1100  (Full Power)
    • 1 Elinchrom Quadra 400 (Full Power)
    • 2 Paul C. Buff PLM White Shoot Through Umbrellas
    • 1 Elinchrom 8" Reflector with 30˚Grid
    They loved this final image and are considering using it for their wedding announcements.  Again, this is why I love working with Amanda and think these will make the most entertaining and memorable wedding announcements.

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