One day of my California excursion was spent in San Francisco. I had spent some time in the city while I was growing up and it was fun to return and see some places that I hadn’t seen for years. One of my first stops was Union Square, at the heart of the shopping district. This bustling one block area has always been a great place to see people doing all kinds of activities. The constant flow of locals and tourists makes for some great street photography. This type of work is both fun and very difficult. People are moving quickly. You don’t have much time to think about what you are seeing – you just have to react. You find yourself shooting more images than you might like to, but it seems to be the only way to get an interesting picture. Then there are the people that stop whatever interesting thing they are doing when they see you bring your camera up and frame them. Their responses usually range from disapproval to a big fake cheesy smile. Sometimes you can get them to go back to what they are doing, but most of the time it is an opportunity lost. It feels great, however, when you get wonderful images of folks who either ignored you or didn’t even see you as they were going about daily life.
A childhood friend and his son joined me in San Francisco that evening. We drove out to the most western point in the city. Lands End is just north of the historic Cliff House and sits high above the Pacific Ocean overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The day had turned gray and windy, but we were still hoping for some kind of sunset to finish the day. We climbed down through the rocks and past the ice plants to get as close to the waves as possible. Even though it was April, the wind was cold; but the pictures were just too good to pass up. The three of us stood bravely as the wind buffeted us and the sand stung our faces. I was very grateful that I had a lens cloth because the spray kept landing on my lens. We all got some great pictures including a couple where you could see the light through the clouds. We were so cold you could hear our teeth chattering over the wind, but that didn’t deter us. It was only as the light faded that we decided to hike out before it got too dark.
In addition to working on pictures from California and other jobs, I recently had the chance to spend two days with Peter Hurley from New York City. Peter is a headshot photographer. He is sought after by many performers (actors, models, etc.) on both coasts. He spent two days teaching me the art of the headshot. I always thought that the term “headshot” and “portrait” were one in the same – maybe just a little more zoomed in. About 10 minutes into our discussion, I found out just how wrong I was. Even though many of the same rules apply to both techniques, they are used very differently. Portraits tell a larger story. A photographer taking a portrait is trying to convey an entire story about that person and the location and the person’s clothes say a lot about what is meaningful to them.
Headshots focus only on the head and a little bit of the shoulders. A photographer taking a headshot is trying to convey only the emotion of that person in a single instance. Actors often have several headshots done – each capturing a different emotion or tone (i.e. serious, comedic, sad, corporate, whimsical, etc.). Then depending on the part they are trying to get, they will send to casting the appropriate headshot to show they can play that character.
The process began with watching Peter shoot 3 people, all of whom had never done this before. The science or technical part of this process lasted about 5 minutes and then it was down to learning about the art of doing this. I was excited but unsure as I moved my camera into the same spot Peter had occupied just seconds before. I had some idea about how to do this but the task was a little daunting. We would shoot 10 different people over the course of the next 22 hours. I thought that I was good with people and would be able to get them to respond in a specific way. However, I found out that when you point the lens at them and they are under the bright lights, it is much more difficult to get them loosened up. Now I was going to have to do that over and over with each person in a very short period of time. At the end, I gave Peter a very tired hug. I had spent 29 hours with him over two days; I was wiped out and had 1200 pictures to work my way through. It was all worth it. I am so excited to have this new tool in my box. The skills I learned will help me make better images every time I have a person in my viewfinder – not just when I am taking headshots.
One of the truisms about landscape photography is you will get your best light during sunrise and sunset. One detail that is often left out is that you have to have an interesting subject and a sky that can hold it’s own. In a video by renowned landscape photographer Peter Lik, he complains about the lack of clouds in the morning sky. I thought that he had to be kidding since the sky was a beautiful clear blue. I have since learned what he meant and how disappointing it is when you have only a very limited time in certain beautiful places. A clear sunny day with a “chamber of commerce” blue sky can be very boring to look at in a photograph. The morning after my trip to visit Antica up the side of the valley, I decided that I would see what the valley floor had to offer. As I left the hotel and my eyes adapted to the dark, all I could see was stars (no clouds)! Disappointed, I knew that I would have to find someplace where there was more to see than just the hills and vines. I remembered a tree-lined road up the valley a short distance that might just fit the bill. As I drove out into the middle of the valley, I was already thinking that since the trees still had no leaves, they would offer some interesting “frames” for the landscapes that I wanted to create. As the sun rose, I was greeted by a cold cloudless morning and the sprinklers and wind machines running across the valley. As the morning progressed, the sun caught some of the higher clouds. This was better than nothing. Suddenly, I was greeted by the sound of a large propane burner over the noise of the wind machines. I looked up. I was both surprised and overjoyed to see a hot air balloon lifting out of Yountville. This morning may not be a complete loss yet! I waited to see the direction the wind would carry them. As I stood and watched, they hit the winds above the tree line and the drifted right toward me! I was then treated to a 45 minute private airshow as the balloons launched and headed south down the valley. When I was younger and lived in the area, this was my favorite thing about the weekends. Being startled awake by the burners, getting to watch them fly over the house and listening to the folks in the basket talk. Now, here in the present, I was so happy to have the morning saved by some old friends who I would never meet.
While I was photographing the butchers at The Fatted Calf, I was approached by Kim Wiss. She is the chef at the Antica winery in the Napa Valley. She and some of the other staff from the winery were there pouring some of the wines they produce for The Fatted Calf patrons. She asked what kind of photography I did. When I answered that I was capturing various types of images to round out my portfolio, she related a sight she had seen that morning at the winery. They had been running the sprinkler system to help prevent the new buds from freezing during the night. The idea behind it is that the water absorbs the freezing temperatures encasing the buds and actually protecting them from freezing. Her description of the ice hanging from the vines sparkling in the morning light was glorious. As I have been learning in this business, if you don’t ask for access you will not get it. When I asked if I could try to shoot this, Kim was kind enough to offer to meet me at the vineyard the next morning to let me in so I could take pictures.
I arrived just after sunrise and was greeted by a cold, but unfortunately not freezing, morning with clear skies. The general manager had arrived by then and allowed me to roam the property. While I didn’t get any of the ice shots I had hoped for, I did get some of the valley and vineyard in the morning light. When Kim arrived she was surprised to see me already hard at work. She apologized for the lack of ice, but said that she had something to make up for it and took me back to the cave system that is right behind the winery. Kim made a great assistant, turning on lights and opening some of the outside doors to help me maximize the available light. When I had finished shooting the barrels, she took me to a part of the caves where they were storing some 2001 wine that had never been released. I made a couple of frames of the wall of bottles that were all dusty and growing something on the corks. She gave me a bottle to bring home to remember my trip. We took it back to her kitchen at the winery and I made some more frames since the bottle appeared so unique with the substance on it. Unfortunately, I had other appointments to keep, so I didn’t get much time to work all of the angles that I would have liked to.
I can’t thank the staff at Antica enough for being so kind and letting me barge in and then run off. They have some great wines. I highly recommend you seek them out at your local wine merchant. If you are in Napa, the staff gives a fabulous tour. In addition, the grounds are a great place to spend some time and enjoy some of Chef Kim’s wonderful food.
I am finally getting to the end of my first cut on 1850 pictures captured during that time. I was very fortunate to get to spend time all around the San Francisco Bay Area. With the help of some friends and family, I got to see some very pretty and interesting places. I am trying very hard to find my photographic “voice” or style. My goal for this trip was not to shoot the one million and first picture of the Golden Gate Bridge with the fog rolling over her, but to find small plates of the bigger picture. I also challenged myself not to be shy about asking people if I could photograph them. This led to two sets of pictures that I am proud of for different reasons. Over the coming weeks I will be putting up different groups of pictures from the different things I experienced.
This first group of images is from a first class butcher (Charcuterie) named the Fatted Calf in the Ox Bow Market in Napa CA. On the first Thursday of each month, they do a gathering where a local winery provides wine and they give samples of the products they sell. They also provide one of the most interesting floorshows in town. On this day they were brining in half pigs and showing folks how to do some primal butchering. This was followed by creating some of the most mouth-watering porchetta, a traditional Italian roast pork, I have ever tasted. Watching these masters taking the pig apart so skillfully was a joy to watch. In these pictures, I wanted to show how powerful yet dexterous the butchers hands had to be. For a full look at this group of pictures please visit our Photography page and look for Fatted Calf.
If you find yourself in Napa this is a great place to stop and pick up some great picnic stuff. The people behind the counter understand service and food. You will leave happy having tried some old favorites and some new treats. http://fattedcalf.com/
This past weekend I had the chance to spend some time in a couple of great places.
I spent most of Saturday at the Dallas Zoo. I had not been to this zoo since 1989 when it had fallen on hard times and the city was doing all it could do to keep it alive. I was so unhappy that I said that I would never return. The zoo is now private and has transformed it self into a show case and a great place to spend part of your day. Make sure to check the web site for program times and make an effort to see the staff work with the lions.
We then moved south west down to Fossil Rim Wildlife Park. We were able to get reservations in the safari camp where you stay in “wall tents” with a/c and full bathrooms. All of the tents overlook a watering hole so you get to watch as the animals come down to drink and graze. We had a great dinner in camp at the main building looked after by a great staff. The wide porch with chairs and tables is a great place to enjoy the evening sounds and relax.
The next morning we rose and had breakfast after taking some sunrise shots. We were then treated to a behind the scenes tour of the facility by our guide Bob. He did a great job of allowing us to see as much as we could and get to feed some of the critters as we moved through the park. They use modified vans with bench seats so you can move about and see some great animals. I have included a few pictures in our photography section, but if you would like to see more then please visit us at http://fr8dogmedia.smugmug.com/.
The Frontiers of Flight Museum played host to some of the aircraft from the “Wings of Freedom” tour this weekend in Dallas. We had the honor to get close to 3 beautiful fixed wing and one helicopter. I was very happy to see the number of people who turned out to help support these flying museums. They are beautifully restored and a joy to explore. They were giving rides in all of them during the day but the Huey was flying folks around during the entire morning. To see the full sized images go to the Photography tab.
A crewman gets the B-17 “Nine-O-Nine” ready for flight.
A young man makes sure his parents are watching the UH-1 “Huey” come to a low hover.
The only TP-51C still flying and giving instruction!
I finally got around to working of some pictures from a very fun event that I went to at Fair Park Coliseum – the roller derby. I used to watch it as a kid on TV but had never had the chance to attend. A friend of ours said that they have a league here in Dallas and have bouts starting soon. We picked the season opener on 25 Feb for my first experience. I was able to buy a ticket to sit on the floor and got to sit right in the front row. They have a great group of fans and you get to be very close to the action. It is flat track derby and it is an all woman’s league, but it is still enjoyable. They do a great job of getting the crowd involved and the after party was fun too! If you want to see some more pictures here is a link.
And here is a link to the leagues site also:
I spent a great morning at Dallas Fair Park in the company of folks enjoying the Color Run. I went with the intention of just getting some random action shots but was surprised to find a number of people who wanted their picture made. I have yet to start editing the photos and getting them ready to post. When I get the first adjustments made, I will post them at:
Once there, you can download any of the pictures you would like. You can also have printed copies made and mailed directly to your home by the printers. If you have any questions or special requests please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just posted some new pictures taken during a training event for the Lone Star Puppy Raisers. They spend two days having the puppies evaluated by the Field Representative from Guide Dogs for the Blind who they are raising the dog for. They went to the Galleria Mall in Dallas and worked on distractions and being handled by other raisers. They also went to uptown Dallas at night where they rode the trolley and were exposed to traffic and walking along the busy streets.
We just posted some pictures that were captured at the Garland Power and Light Compnay’s power plant. It was a fun day getting to meet all of the staff at the plant. The are a proud group of men and woman who play a very important part in keeping the city up and running. One of our guides was responsible for maintaining on part of the plant. He didn’t like how plain everything was, so he wanted to change that. After asking permission to use a different color he was told no. After some negotiation the design was was approved.
This video explains pledge packages for the new Greg Reichel album to start in late March 2012. For more information, please visit www.GregReichelMusic.com/supportgreg.
We have just finished a new video for the St. Philip’s pre-school. The school wanted to explain to new and prospective parents what different parts of the preschool experience were like. They came to use with a basic script and some ideas for specific shots that they wanted included. It took a couple of days of shooting; we didn’t interrupt the events, to get the footage the customer wanted. The school had someone who they wanted to perform the audio track that we recorded in our portable audio studio. FR8Dog Media is working with the school to provide a series of videos to help parents understand what the school experience will be for the kids.
Hello to all the great people that we met at the Creekview High School basketball tournamet today. This is the beginning of a project for the booster club that will lead to a calender. Please check back during the season as we add new pictures. We are also including many other schools that are such great competitors.
If you would like to buy downloads or prints please paste http://fr8dogmedia.smugmug.com/Other/Creek-View-Basketball/20515149_thC9TS into your browser and you will have access to all of our pictues that you can crop and adjust how you would like.
We have almost 900 pictures from tonights game so please be patiant while we get them uploaded.
If you want special attention for a picture that needs some help please email Ted from the contact page with the picture number and what you need done.
Thanks to everyone and we look forward to a great season.