Saturday, September 29, 2007

Little boxes, little boxes...

Ok, I'm a bit of a Johnny-come-lately with a lot of pop culture since we have really lame cable (thanks Charter) and I don't watch a lot TV to begin with. However, through the magic of Netflix, Laura and I have recently discovered Weeds, a show about a widowed suburban mother supporting her family by guessed it...weed.

It has grown on us immensely, so to speak. I think irregardless of your stance on marijuana, it's such a great social commentary on suburban life. The sameness of the landscape, the people, the SUVs, etc., You've heard it all before. Give it a try. You might like it :)

At the very least, watch it for the intro song. The whole first season, the intro song is sung by Malvina Reynolds. After the first season, different artists (Ozomatli, Elvis Costello, Death Cab for Cutie, Randy Newman, Kinky, Billy Bob Thorton, etc.,) do their own take on the song. The lyrics are so simple but sum up suburbia so well.

The song was supposedly inspired by a suburban development in Pennsylvania called "Levittown." Here is a scan of the original rules and regulations of residents.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Typewriter Woman...

I had an interesting assignment today. I photographed a woman whose typewriter repair business was forced to move from a store front to her garage (after her rent was raised exponentially due to new development...familiar story).

Over 20 years ago, she purchased the business from her husband whom she divorced. He thought that she wouldn't last two months, much less two decades. It was a real touching story about perserverance and quiet determination.

I wanted to photograph her with some lights to give the editors an option for a slicker contrastier photo, but also a softer and more sentimental portrait. For the former I set up an old typewriter on the desk and had her lean against it. I shot a few wide shots, showing more of the garage, but decided to get in closer and use the typewriter to draw the viewer in. For the second look, I found a large window and positioned her next to it to get some good light and asked her to hold a smaller typewriter. It was perfect. Nice and symmetrical. I loved the shape of her hands on the keys so I took a quick detail shot of it.

It's always these little windows into people's lives that I love about photography.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Walking through Soundwalk...

Soundwalk is an annual art event in downtown Long Beach. It's where sound artists gather to amaze and bewilder an unsuspecting public. For many, sound as artistic medium is hard for them to wrap their head around (as if abstract impressionism wasn't strange enough).

A clever site-specific piece...

If you hit him they play a sound...

Some pieces were playful and thought provoking, others were obviously involved in a dialgoue with art crit. and weren't as accessible.

Hmmm...strange but in a good way...

Yes, I concur...

Overall, it was an enjoyable event. There was supposedly a bicycle bell orchestra, which I didn't see or hear. I'm glad that people still came out in strong numbers despite the threat of rain.

Artists place onions in their eyes and cry on instruments...sounds like something I had to do in Catholic school..

A giant music box made of many tiny music boxes! Delightful!

Art you can touch...

There is no spoon....

Marcus and Marcus...

I was assigned to shoot a father/son portrait the other day for the District. It was a football playing combo. Marcus Turner (former Bruin and NFL player) and his son Marcus Turner Jr., a highschool football player at Cabrillo Highschool in Long Beach. Marcus (the elder) happens to be the coach at Cabrillo and is coaching his own son (the junior).

I came a little early to shoot some shots of the practice as supporting images to the story. The highschool I went to didn't have a football team so it was all new to me, so all I had of knowledge of football practice was from the movies. Usually, there is some new student (an outsider with a heart of gold) that is trying to fit in and gain respect from his weary teammates. Unfortunately, there was no such human drama to be witnessed at this practice. Just lots of running.

After the practice, I had to chase down Marcus and Marcus for the portrait. I could sense they were all ready to go home but I had to squeeze a bit of time from them to get some shots for the story. I tried a few of them casually walking down the field (father and son exchanging pleasantries and worldly advice) but knew I also wanted a nicely lit portrait that popped (in event of a cover story).

I quickly ushered them to the end of the field where my lighting gear was and threw up a strobe and an umbrella. Problem was, since it was still relatively bright out, I couldn't get enough light through the umbrella. So I tossed the umbrella and shot it with the bare flash, angling it down to get some nice shape on their faces and using the sun as a rim light.

All in all, not bad for a ten minute shoot.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Long Beach Museum of Art or attack of the 6 foot orange baby

Just a few out takes from an assignment on the Long Beach Museum of Art. Yes, Long Beach has a museum. Several, in fact! It was a nice clear day so I didn't bring any flash gear. Just my backpack with a body and two lenses.

The building is actually a little tricky to photograph. I rode by at two different times of day and both times the sun was directly behind the building, casting a shadow on the front of the building. It's difficult to balance the really bright sky and the face of the building that's in shade. I tried to get a little creative and used the rim lighting on the front gate for some spark.

The interior is like any other musuem. Nice open spaces to appreciate art. This couple was friendly enough to let me photograph their art perusal.

Who knows what you'll find inside! Perhaps even a 6 foot tall orange baby!

The outside dining area of the musuem is a nice place to relax. I've always loved the yellow umbrellas and how they form a bright pattern. Here I was playing with relating the bottoms of the glasses to the umbrellas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bike Tour 2007 Photo Mania!!!

I finally put up a gallery of some of my favorites from the trip. I had to sift through many many gigs of images. I don't have the time to write captions for everything, so here's a rough description of the images...

-1st set of images are of us on the train...the ride from Union Station in Los Angeles to Union Station in Portland, OR was 32 hours...we spent most of it in the observation car (the one with the big windows) taking pictures of the scenery and ourselves for posterity...

-after the train...we arrive in Portland and camp in the backyard of our hostel (tent city as they call it)...then we spend the next few days exploring town and going to Tour de' Fat, the bike and beer festival put on by New Belgium Brewery...

-the crazy girls in pink are part of a bike/dance troupe called the Sprockettes...

-the series of images with the peace flag was some sort of demonstration that we stumbled on to while in Portland...we were riding around and heard the sound of syncopated drumming and it led us to this group of people riding/swimming across the river...strange....

-the rest of the pics are of the actual ride...I'm not much of a landscape photographer so I shot just a lot of the small minutia of the trip...camping, eating (yum, the food was great), camp chores....we got rained on the first few days and after that it cleared up beautifully...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If I lived in Springfield....

Playing around with Simpsonizeme here I am as a Simpson character..

But it has a really good "personality"...

This bike is the equivalent of your friend that when you try to set them up, you use choice descriptive phrases like "really smart", "has a good heart," "great personality, "practical" and "owns and doesn't rent."

I introduce to you...Uglycycle (the name is still pending...SurlinGary, GaryCycle, The Big Ugly Dummy are other names in the running).

As some of you may know, I went on a recent tour and removed my Xtracycle from my Trek 520. That was a beautiful combination. The classic touring frame of the 520 with leather highlights (brown Brooks...shellaced bar shifters) married to the functional bliss of the Xtracycle. It said, "Yes, I am a working cargo bike, but I like to have tea and small cucumber sandwiches for lunch."

When I removed the Xtracycle, I was quickly on the search for a donor body. The first and only option that presented itself was an old Gary Fisher Hoo Koo E Roo (who the hell named that thing?). It was an ok body. Sorta on the low end with Shimano STX (sounds like a metal band don't it?) components and craptacular wheels.

I began the transition in earnest but hit a number of problems. For one, my Xtracycle was spec'd for 700C wheels and I was putting it on a mountain bike with 26 inch wheels. This meant I would be running two different wheel sizes, 700c in the rear and 26 in the front. So I built a nice rear wheel (36h, Salsa Delgado Cross Rim, XT hub).

Another problem I ran into was there was some strange brazing on the chainstays that held some strange metal thing, whose function is only known to Gary Fisher. This made mounting the Xtracycle difficult. I eventually had to take a dremel to the frame and cut them out.

As if that wasn't enough, I very much dislike suspension forks for the road. They look piggish and Mad Maxish when they need not be. So I tossed the suspension fork and bought a Surly fork that was corrected for suspension. That also required getting a new headset.

I also wasn't fond of the straight handle bar so I bought a Soma Sparrow bar. The brakes were also a mess. The bike was built specifically with canti's in mind, so the braze-ons on the rear led the rear brake cable down the center of the frame. Well, I was using V-brakes and an Xtracycle and the braze-on was throwing everything out of whack. So I had to work around it with some creativity and no less than three hose-clamps so I could get proper tension to get the rear brake to work.

So now, the bike is more or less complete. It's still very rough looking. I haven't cut the steerer tube on the fork since I haven't settled on a height yet. It certainly is functional. Not the prettiest bike on the block but it will carry all I need for my assignments.

In building this monstrosity I tested out several bits of gear that may be of interest to others, so I'll write a short review of each.

Falcon Friction Shifters
These have to be the cheapest shifters money can buy ($10). No frills. You clamp them on to your bars with a screw and that's it. However, they amazingly do something that no $300 Campagnolo Record carbon fiber brifter will let you do. You can use the shifters with everything from a 5spd to a 10spd cluster. You can also trim the derailleurs so there's no chain rub. You can also use them with any combination of drivetrain parts (Campy cassette, Shimano rear problem...SRAM derailleur, Shimano Chainrings, Campy front problem...etc.,) Practically maintainence and adjustment free. Yes, they're ugly as sin but uber-functional. The next equivalent of these would be to get a set of Paul Thumbies ($50) and some Shimano 9spd bar ends ($70).

Soma Sparrow Bar
I settled on these bars after trying out quite a few. Nitto Moustache bars, On-One Midge bars and the Origin 8 Mary bars have a similar shape but are waaaay to wide (unless you like to pretend you're paragliding down the bike lane). I wanted a bar that was similar to the old school 3spd touring/porteur bars but without the width. Amazingly, the folks at Soma have somehow tapped into my subconscious desires and created this bar. It's lightish..not chrome..and is probably more of niche market thing, but it does it's job well. The hand position is a lot more ergonomic for me compared to risers/flat bars. I can get good leverage on climbs. Most importantly, they're narrow, so you don't feel like you're steering a boat and you can still crouch and get into a semi-aero position.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some ink in Long Beach Magzine

I was finally able to track down a copy of Long Beach Magazine to read the little blurb on me. The story is positive and good but it didn't have any pictures. I submitted some sample work which I would hope they would run as an inset and a self-portrait. A little bit of a bummer. I was hoping I'd get a nice shot of my bike in the story.

If you're in town, grab a copy (it has the owners of George's Greek Deli...awesome place btw...on the cover).

Friday, September 14, 2007

Another quick session....

Today was busy...had a 10am headshot shoot...client meeting...and then had to swap out my gear and load my stands and lights for a portrait assignment....I can't complain. It feels good to be busy. I just wish every day was this full of business. It's been a bit tough getting the gears rolling again since the bike tour and I took quite a bit of a financial hit for those three weeks. I was spending money and I wasn't bringing any in. Not that we were dining on caviar, but buying all the equipment for the trip during the last few months put a dent in the finances. C'est la vie.

This is a portrait of the two owners of The Gaslamp, a restaurant in Long Beach that has been threatened by the new development around it. The city seems to be trying to find things wrong to shut it down. They narrowly managed to retain their dancing license in this week's city council meeting, but their problems seem to be far from over.

Lighting for each was a single umbrella. For the shot outside, I had my foot on the base of the lightstand to keep it from being blown away.

Portrait in the Park....

Past client, Art Tabuenca was in town from San Luis Obispo and we met up to do some quick headshots in time for the launch of one of his new products. He's the CEO of Blue Marble, a firm that specializes in socially responsible investing. If you've got dough you want to invest and want a portfolio that is guilt free, he's the man to talk to.

We shot it at a Bixby park and walked around looking for the right combination of grass and trees. It was a little tricky to get a clean background because everywhere there are parked cars and people milling about. I brought a step ladder with me on the Xtracycle to give me some height so I could fill the background with grass instead of someone's F-150.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Portraits of things that don't move...

Hired to do some architectural photography today. It was a nice day to be out and about so I took the long way to the locations and spun it nice and slow. I don't usually take photos of buildings but it was still fun and relaxing. There was no pressure to make small talk with the building to try to get it to smile :)

The assignment was actually really meditative. I walked around the properties and just looked for where the light was good. I played with the shapes and repeating patterns, trying to make something visually interesting.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beautiful Albums....

I've started offering albums to my clients and the first one came in this week and it looks great! The printing is nice and is printed on 100# paper. The black and white images are neutral with a slight warm tone which works great for portraits.

The most fun (and time consuming part) was creating the layouts. I try to tell a story with juxtaposition of the images. Each page is suppose to speak to each other, either as a continuation of a theme or as a counterpoint to the previous image...


This was an assignment for the District (out this grab it while it's hot!). It's about a record store that caters to the DJ crowd that is closing down to lack of business. Apparently, records (like film) are also feeling the digital hurt.

The job was in Cerritos so I had a nice 30 mile ride ahead of me for the day. I arrived at the address that was on a directory listing to be greeted by an empty store front. The people next door told me that they moved a few years ago to another location about 5 miles away.

I find it on my Crackberry and peddle there. I was suppose to meet one of the co-owners for a portrait but he was a no show, so I did the best I could. I stuck around for an hour taking some snaps of customers browsing through records, but I wanted something more dramatic.

So I asked DJ Flip, one of the employees, if he would sit for a quick portrait. I set up an umbrella by a few crates of records. Flip had to sit crosslegged on the ground so I could get him the right height against the records. I pulled in tight though so you can't tell that he's just sitting on the floor. At the last minute he grabbed a beanie that said Crossfade and that was the perfect touch!