Sunday, December 28, 2008

A view from one of my most favorite spots on the planet

Before I lived in LA I was introduced to the Southwestern part of the country with a short stint in Las Vegas.  My folks were transferred there while I was in college and after graduation I went there to start the job searching.  

I quickly fell in love with the desert.  And the mountains.  I loved the huge expanses and the many colors of the year.  One of my favorite spots still is Red Rock Canyon west of Las Vegas in the Spring Mountain Range.  Of course now its only a few minutes drive from the edge of the city compared to back in the early 80's when it was a half hour drive across open desert.  Fortunately the Canyon is in a National Forest and protected National Monument now so it will never be built up and will remain wide open.  

December 26 I had the pleasure of doing something I have not done in years.  Drive the scenic loop around the canyon and just enjoy the vistas.  This time around I had the added treat of watching a snow squall line pass from Mount Potosi across the southern reaches of the canyon.  What drama in the sky.  I had to capture that storm and photo'd it from several areas in the canyon until I got just the shot I wanted.  I love the drama of the sky and how HDR and tone mapping could bring about the feel of an one Dutch masters painting of a sky in a photo based image.  

The scene was shot bracketed +/- 2 stops from average with the HDR file generation done with Photomatix.  The same program was used for the tone mapping.  The final image was then post processed with Virtual Photographer for that old timey Kodachrome feel.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back from a Holiday Road Trip to LV

Check it out, I was getting ready to upload onto flickr some raw pics from a short shoot I did in Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas yesterday.  There to greet me was the flickr greeting in another language.  I got a chuckle outta this one...its lolspeak as in one of my favorite silly blogs "I can haz cheezburger".  Enjoy the greeting.  Gimme a little more time to sort through the shoot and do something with my favorites of the day.

Friday, December 19, 2008 the attention hate the thieves

What you see here is my flickr stats.  Love the attention and views per image are wonderful on the business side.  I'm suspect of huge increases on any given day if I didn't do anything in particular to drive traffic to my flickr sets.

On the left of this chart is the spike from the 2010 Mustang Launch and the LA Auto Show in the latter half of November.  Entirely expected as I blogged it on metblogs and linked to my flickr for the images themselves.  Added bonus is that those looking at the cars took the time to look at my flickr sets sorted to my various artistic explorations.  Its all good.

The spike on the right side of the chart is maddening.  Why?  ITs all images of the 2010 Camaro.  GM should be pleased that this car is generating some attention, lord knows they need some excitement in their showrooms.  

What is bad is all those hits also involved the theft of my images.  Yes, I found out people are swiping my copyrighted images and using for wallpapers and who knows what else without permission (or being paid for them).  With the exception of a couple images, most never were more than journalistic recording of the car so I really never intended them for sale.  What irks me is the just linking to and swiping them with out asking.  So...the Camaro set is now down to "friends and family" view as the saleable ones are among those being swiped.  Trust me on this should I see any show up in some poster showroom there will be hell to pay.

Thieves.  Eventually they will get theirs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This just cracked me up...

I have to give credit where it is due.  Fellow blogger here in the SGV put up a link regarding Beany and Cecil on her face book page.   It jogged my memory of the show and the one thing I remembered most was the stoooooooooopid song the dragon, cecil sang "R-A-G-G-M-O-P-P".  It cracked me up then and it did again.  I can't find the exact episode, but this one is very good none the less.  You get the point.  Join me in being a kid once again.  

Beany and Cecil: Ragg Mopp

I gots me a logo, a really cool professional logo

As the resident carnut-gearhead-lover of all things with 4 wheels, rubber and chrome over at Metblogs they decided rather than dissuade me from doing more on cars make me the defacto car guy, or at least LA car-guy.  I am totally jazzed and humbled that they thought enough of my stuff to give me this privilege.  The logo frazGOES itself is kinda neat and a fun play on my screen name and what one does in a car.  

To that end Lucinda Michelle our city captain hooked me up with her significant other Seth Dowling for the log design.  The results are awesome.  Seth does all sorts of very slick graphics but he Blogs as well at Unventure.  If you want to talk to him about your own logo and graphics contact him directly at .

Back to the logos themselves.  Both are similar.  The lower has a little smoke and flame action on the "fraz" part whereas the top its all flames only at the "o" or tire.  Upper or lower which is your fave?

Of course at the end of the day what I get out of the deal is more photo ops with cars and a chance to annoy the metblogs readers one keystroke at a time.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Been a little busy but here goes...

This pic is the subject of a post I did for metblogs.  In short LA has such a gorgeous long summer fall and winter are compressed into a few weeks starting sometime around Thanksgiving, and thankfully, done with by the end of March.  As a result our autumn blends right with Christmas and few notice the fall color and focus on the yard art etc., for the holidays.  It didn't however skip my notice.

This image was shot 3 frames bracketed with photomatix generating the HDR file, as well as the tonemapping. The final image was post processed in Virtual Photographer to replicate the over saturated colors found on the old 'chromes printed on cibachrome print material

Sunday, November 30, 2008

As a pastafarian, I approve.

Little I can add.  His noodly appendage nudged some common sense back in the bible belt.  I like it.  No offense found here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Charity Art Sale 11/29/08 12PM-6PM

Sometimes life makes some interesting twists.  I got invited to attend the Charity Art Event sponsored by the ARA Project.  ARA Project is a non-profit group working with an Armenian Charity to bring relief and aid to the neediest children in the rural areas of Armenia .  All the artists are donating 25% of their sales to the charity.  Yes, that means 25% of your purchase is tax deductible while benefitting some children and decorating your walls.

 The Charity Art Sale is a one day only event, and certainly a nice distraction from the malls.  It will take place at the Villa del Sol dʼOro in Sierra Madre.  There will be wine, cheese, live music and of course a lot of great art for sale.  There will also be a silent auction and I will have a piece in that with all the proceeds then going directly to the charity.

I'm glad to have the chance to participate as this fits in with my goal of donating a piece a month this year to charitable groups for their fund raising purposes.  I may not be rich but can support their cause with these donations.  I haven't decided yet which piece will be used, I may give them the Arched Walkway for the silent auction. 

Now here comes the bizarre twist in a 6 degrees of separation sort of way.  I signed on long before I found out that Wine of the Month Club here in Monrovia is the primary sponsor of the event.  WotMC is owned by Paul Kalemkiarian.  My Uncle Dan VanDorpe did the engineering and design work for Paulʼs Father-in-laws trash recycling plant many years ago.  How is that for paths re-crossing on new lines!

Villa del Sol d'Oro is located at 200 N Michillinda Ave, Sierra Madre.  They do have a suggested donation of $20 at the door and I can't tell you how hard they'll strong arm you for it on the way in.

All the details you could want are on the attached oversized postcard above that does get bigger with a click.

Hope to see you all, if you can help out on the silent auction that would be great, if not we certainly can tip a few glasses of wine and chat away real time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

LA Auto Show was my second home this week

Dang what a busy week its been.  The LA Auto Show keep me busy this week, that good kinda busy exhausted in a good way kind of week.  Monday it was the Mustang Reveal Party down in SaMo.  What a terrific freaking car that is.  Not one for the masses, but one for those who don't need the capacity of a small bus, like to DRIVE a car instead of just aim it down the road.  But that is another topic for another blog.

Wed/Thurs was "Press Days" at the LA Auto Show.  That is the day that the automakers get their 20 minutes or so to put their best dog and pony show on for the media and 'splain why their cars are the next big thing to ignite a soft market.  Some hit bullseyes, other leave me flat.
What I have learned is soak in the cars, talk to the engineers who built the damn thing and then learn how good it really is.  

An interesting development came to the LA Auto Show last year and that was the naming of the "Green Car of the Year".   The Press got to drive the cars, which was me too.  I'll save you all the blather and sent you directly to my Metblogs post for the deets.  Suffice it to say I walked away with the present and future of the "green" car.

The photo here is also the lead on the Metblogs post I did.  The Volkswagen Jetta TDI won the "Green Car of the Year" for 2008.  With it comes a lot of media attention followed closely by advertising hype.  VW should be proud as they did what no one expected in the US...made a very clean diesel, one that rivals a hybrid without all the complexity.  Very nice car to drive. 

For hours after the award was made journalists were lined up to interview the VW folks or just tell the VW Story.  In the image here a journalist from Germany was there yammering away about the wonders of the car (my guess as I don't speak German).  It struck me right then in there that the LA Auto Show is now a world class show.  A huge improvement over 3 years ago when it was still pretty much a dealers lot set up with strange customs to add to the dealer mark up and left over concept cars from the prior years Detroit Show.  This year the LA Show just rocked, 17 world premiere's were here, 22 North American premieres rounded out the show.

Anyway, the image of the Jetta TDI under the German limelight is a bracketed shot.  I used Photomatix to post process into an HDR file which in turn was tone mapped to make the car the "star".  The final image was washed with virtual photographer for some color correction and a return to some true black so the image popped.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What I did last night...2010 Mustang Premier Party

I'm off very shorty to the first day of the LA Auto Show media days...yes, they recognize me as legitimate media and gimme a full pass.

This years LA Auto Show is so cram packed with world premieres and other events that the good folks at Ford didn't have enough time to premiere all of their new cars.  The solution was to hold a party in SaMo to reveal them all.  I have tons of  raw pics on Flickr.  I'll get around to doing my arty stuff after the weekend is over.  

Until then enjoy the videos from my little digicam of the Falken Racer drifting and the drive on of the new 'stangs.  Great cars, Ford is going to do well with them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I think Lincoln has a home run with the 2010 MKZ

Actually I think they have a knock it out of the park home run with the MKZ.  And for kicks and giggles while they were running the bases they kicked the ES350 squarely in the crotch then knocked the G35 into the dirt for good measure as well.   I just wish I could show you all the pics and give you the details right now.

I got to sit in it and take a bajillion pictures of the car today.  Ford made us promise to abide by an embargo until 12:01AM on 11/19 for this little sneak peak and chance to talk with the entire design and engineering team behind this car.  It is an amazing car.  You'll have to watch for my post going live exactly at 12:01Am, and shortly thereafter the pics will be in the 2010 MKZ on my flickrset for the MKZ page.  Yes, I'm abiding by the embargo, I won't burn anyone that treats me this well.

Also...while there I confirmed that the 2010 Mustang Reveal party is taking place on 11/18 AND that car is going to be nothing short of amazing as well.  I even wrangled out a ride with a pro-drifting driver in the 2010 GT.  Now if I can figure out how to video it all as well as get some pics.  

Oy the next week and half leading into the LA Auto Show is going to be fun!  Thanks Ford.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Still strolling down the Orton Path

In a business park behind the Orange Curtain I spotted some new landscaping going in.  When I got close I was pleased to discover that it was small Magnolia trees going into the parking lot.  Imagine my surprise when I found there were actually blooms on the tree and here it is November!

This blossom was only beginning to open and it looked more like the gaping maw of some old dragon or "spice worm" rather than what would soon be a beautiful Magnolia Blossom.

This was shot in "open shade" which meant it had an overall blue cast.  I worked from the RAW file adjusting color balance and exposure.   I then used layers of increased saturation and blur to overlay recreating the old "Orton effect" that used to be done with silver based 'chrome films.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Lario Trail Bicyclists

The Lario Trail Park in Azusa is right on the San Gabriel River Bike Path.  You can ride that path nearly 30 miles from the mouth of Azusa Canyon all the way to Long Beach and the ocean.  Pretty nifty and if I had knees that worked again I would be doing it.  Until then I usally use this as a spot for hikes where I can shoot and just enjoy the quiet of the river.  That is providing the river is "on" at the moment either by the magic of nature or help of the Corp of Engineers that control the flow from dams up stream.

The image is an HDR image.  I bracketed the exposures +/- 2 stops and used Photomatix to generate the HDR files.  The same program was used for the file tonemapping then Virtual Photographer was brought in for final image adjustments.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

wide angle perspective distortion...

...and pretty cars make for a fun Saturday afternoon!

"If it has balls or wheels it means trouble" is the phrase I've seen on a few bumper snickers over the years. For me its wheels, add lots of chrome then I'm in at the expense of common sense. Its how I'm wired, can't help it and don't want to change it.  This weekend was close to nirvana when the 18th Annual Monrovia Hot Rod and Custom Car show hit town.

Which lens one chooses can greatly affect the final image and how angles and distance are compressed or exaggerated.  Understanding how focal length affects the final image is one more tool in the bag for a photographer who wants to do more than simply record the world around him.

A wide angle lens is a way to make things look bigger through elongation of the subject.  The also make for very pronounced convergence of lines.  This good for buildings looking up, head on, well they look like the are tilting to the center.  The ultra-wide makes it even more pronounced.  The photographers angle of view and the lens you can emphasise and exaggerate the perspective is probably one of the most important tools one needs to understand as you control your image results.

American cars of the from the mid 50's to early 70's in particular were all about lower, longer and wider.  The ultra-wide lens will emphasise the the width up close and really exaggerate the length.  The car didn't change, the lens changed how the angles were viewed by altering the perspective or horizon point where the angles converge. 

All three of these cars were shot with a Canon 20-35mm lens at the 20mm setting.   This allowed me to make them appear much longer and broader than they would have been with a "normal" 50mm lens.  Even the old Chevy looks longer and more streamlined than it really is. 

The tech bits for those of you who care.  The final images are HDR images generated from 3 raw files bracketed +/- 2 stops.  They were done mapped for detail enhancement and run through virtual photographer to clean up some haze and purify the colors.

Enjoy the cars a 1949 Chevy Sedan, 1960 Cadillac Convertible and 1961 Ford Thunderbird.  You will need to click the image to get to a larger size as they are "clipped" to fit the columns. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

What is "Virtual Photographer"?

Cafe Observer of the  Cafe Pasadena blog asked me that question on a recent post.  The easy answer is that Virtual Photographer is a free download from OptikVerve Labs that is an easy plug-in for Adobe's Photoshop CS.

The reality is that it is much more than a simple plug in.  It comes with pre-sets that for sure do a nice job of layering in other effects that one could generate in the lab back in the days of dip-n-dunk with silver based materials.

What it does very well is allow you to start with your basic raw file and use a variety of fine tuning tools to mimic just about any silver based material you would like.  It does a most excellent job of removing atmospheric haze which I use quite liberally. 

The old silver based films, in particular the various 'chromes, or transparency films as they were also known recorded what was seen through the viewfinder.  Kodachrome had nice saturation, tended to like the warm tones best and had the widest contrast arrange around.  Next in line would have been the Ektachromes heritage films.  They tended to record blue better and in particular with shadows had a much stronger blue cast.  Ektachromes had a narrower contrast range which made for very dark shadows with little detail.  Fujichrome had a much stronger saturation than Ektachromes, more pronounced color separation and a slightly broader contrast range.   It gave the photographer a lot of latitude in choosing film depending on the final image result one wanted.

Even the silver based print material had a lot of variety in how it handled saturation, color separation, purity and contrast.  With all those factors there was a lot of variables you could work with to determine how the final image appeared to a viewer.

Along came the digital age and digital imaging.  Although the recent image sensors are getting better with all the variables, for many, including me, they still lack the warmth and feel of the silver based materials.  Virtual Photographer brings the ability to fine tune the image to have the quality and feel of the silver based materials.  

The images here for the example were taken with a Casio Exilim camera with a 10.1 megapixel sensor.  There are nominal controls on the camera, raw is not an option in terms of shooting.  The final image is a jpeg and there is some compression even when you have it set for largest file and most detail possible.  The sensor data is a good representation of the scene, certainly not an objectionable image.

For the unaltered jpeg all that was done is re-size it to fit here.  That unaltered jpeg was used for the variations.
I'm fond of Kodachromes for a lot of reasons then tend to be warm toned and not as prone to overly blue shifts in shadows.  The had very good saturation and color separation.  They also have excellent stability so the images remains unchanged as it ages.
The other chromes out there, Fuji in particular had very good saturation and color separation.  Fuji's tended to do a better job of not shifting towards blue in the shadows than Ektachrome.  I also liked those films printed on Cibachrome as the colors were very strongly saturated and had a marked increase in saturation and contrast that allowed for very pure black shadows.  That characteristic was objectionable to some, but I was fond of it when I wanted dramatic scenes.
That is Virtual Photographer in the shortest way I can explain it.  Go get your own copy.  Its free, what have you got to lose other than a few electrons?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

keeping in the spirit of the season

This weekend was busy, not sports but auto show and the parents in town from Las Vegas.  The 18th Annual Monrovia Hot Rod and Custom show was on Saturday.  I can appreciate the customs and all the work that went into them, however the decidedly low brow aesthetics and unpolished presentations of the Hot Rods I seem to gravitate to more.  I love their use of chrome as that is the shine on the cars, the old matted paint seems to serve as the backdrop for those delicious bits of chrome. 

I've also decided that I like use of Orton a lot on the chrome bits.  The process makes the chrome richer and chromier helping it to pop even more from the blacks or washed out bits of a scene.

This image was post processed from the raw images with a bump in saturation for the blur layer.  Once it was all taken down to 8bit I ran it through virtual photographer to remove some of the cyan haze from the sky reflections and saved it as a jpeg.   A larger version can be found on my flickr page.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I found my cool place

I almost missed my anniversary.  Not the big one, but an important one to me none the less.

October 15, 1985 I loaded my stuff into my car left Phoenix for LA.  It was an adventure, the need to find a cool place and Phoenix certainly was not it for me.  One of my best friends moved to LA right after we graduated from college.  Our visits in LA were always a lot more fun than when she came to visit me in Phx or LV.  When the job stagnated it was clear it was time to make the jump.  I needed a cool place and LA was it.

23 years later I sit back and think, wow what a journey it has been.  LA is the kind of city you need an entire life time to explore and you will still be missing something.  I didn't think at the time I'd be here this long, flash forward and I still am living the adventure.  That is the reality of LA that makes it so different.  IT is vibrant, alive and always something new starting here to explore.  That is the reason I won't be leaving LA , yes folks you are stuck with me a bit longer.

I'm in a nostalgic mood tonight.  It started with hearing an 80's song and digging through the old cd's.  This one reminded me of those long drives at night between here in where ever I lived as it was one of the tapes I always popped in to make the miles fly by (and with an enforced 55 limit you needed all the help you can get).

I saw Sparks a few times after I moved here.  They were quite the deal back then, guess they still are since they showed up on youtube.  Enjoy. I certainly enjoyed the memory jog and marvelling that I am in LA, my "cool place" still after all these years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

giving is good

Sometimes its just good to share your art and give it to someone who will appreciate it.  You can get the full story on metblogs.  The short version is East Valley Community Health Center, a local non-profit in the area reached out to the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts to see if they could get some art on their walls.  They did, two from me, including this one shot in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  

My appeal to any artists here who'd like to add some art to the walls of the East Valley Community Health Center contact Mila Arroyo, Public Policy Director at 626-919-4333 ext221.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm baaaack....

A couple of weeks ago Darleene Powells of Darleeneisms blog fame dropped me a note on facebook about the AAJA Trivia Bowl that was this Friday night a couple of weeks ago.  I posted  the details on the super secret metblogs Author's Forums to see if there was interest.  There was.  As I was busy with show prep jozjozjoz took care of getting things rolling for a team LA Metblogs.  Lucinda Michele Knapp our every faithful metblogs block captain for LA took over for Lucinda and voila we had a team.  

3 didn't make it but we still forged on.  End result, this motley group of first timers at the AAJA Triva Bowl came in #16, and what killed us was not knowing a single one of the 10 sport questions raised in the final round.  Not bad, we didn't get the coveted Rice Bowl (not kidding that is what they named the trophy), but at least we didn't get the bottom feeders "Box-o-Ramen".

I think we may do this again next year.

Now...I won't ID the metblog team, you figure them out for yourselves.  Photo is by Seth Dowling one of our team members who offered to grabbed the pic for us.

So this ends the silence of the last week.  I had to take the break as the Celebrate the Arts event just drained me.  Too pooped to photo or blog.  Sad state of affairs indeed.

To give you an idea what it was like check out the clip that Will Campbell grabbed from Ed Padgett.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm just a little jazzed....I got front window

I'm jazzed, it wasn't by some grand design I got front window...but I did and I'm not complaining. The location is totally accidental and placement was alphabetical order. Pays to be a "Z" sometimes doesn't it? (Thats me on the far right, 2nd from the top - an abandoned rail car).

The show I'm in is the take all comers, worldwide pool of contributors for the "Snap to Grid" show at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art in the DTLA Arts District. Tonight was the opening reception for the show that will run through the end of the month. I put up a short post this morning on LA Metblogs. Cool show if you want to see the many directions people are exploring with digital art I highly recommend stopping in. Its free and there is cheap parking right around the corner so you don't have to tip-toe through bums to get to the show.

Snap to Grid runs now through November 1, 2008

Just a little reminder the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts is holding its 45th Annual Celebrate the Arts event in the Monrovia Community Center. It is located just off Myrtle at 118 W Palm Avenue in Monrovia's historic Old Town section.

Also, Saturday night is a new facet to the Celebrate the Arts. We are having a Reception and handing out out some awards to some great people in town who contribute to the arts here. First is the "Renaissance Award" going to Kathie Reece who owns the Aztec Hotel and has supported MAFA over the years including donating her lobby and two street front stores in the hotel for Gallery space featuring MAFA artists. Also James Farmer a MHS is getting an award for his 38 years of teach art and inspiring artists.

The reception has a donation of $25 per person, which is tax deductible as MAFA is a 501(c) non-profit. With that you get to see the art while nibbling away at goodies and sipping wine (do tip the wine-tenders as they are donating their services and wares). You'll get some music, meet some artists and a chance to bid on some reserved pieces of art in a silent auction donated by artists for this event.

Oh yeah, come see me too - I'm the feature artist at this years event. Not sure what it gets me other than some publicity, but free is still better than a kick in the pants. Hope to see you!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Accidental meander and stuff

I accidentally started a new series of exploration.  I do it without thinking about it.  Often.  Then suddenly one day, out of no where it seems I see a group of related images suddenly coalescing before my very eyes.  Dang, another path to meander down further.  As if I don't explore enough as it is.  

I've blathered on in the past how I love the surreal effects you can get out of posting processing bracketed images with High Dynamic Range.  HDR is a method I go back to constantly as it gives me total control of the gray scale and how elements appear through manipulation of the micro contrast, saturation and a host of other tools in Photomatix.  Yup, still digging it and love the paths it opens up.

Monday was a school holiday and we packed it up and headed over to the CA Science Center near USC in Downtown LA.   One of the floors was dedicated entirely to biology and how things work.  Giggles and chortles of the youngest aside, there were some interesting and informative dioramas.  Museums love those things, I do to for other reasons it turns out.  I shot away the one of the guy in the diner that was part of the digestion explanation.  I post processed it. 

The frames I shot were both startling and compelling and I couldn't get them right easily. "Right" as in color was off, too far off to do what I wanted due to all of the various artificial lights, some with filters no less illuminating the scene.  When it was all said and done I was happy with the results.

It wasn't until I posted them in flickr I realized that I had a new series in the making.  I don't even know what to call it.  Without thinking some done a few weeks ago were done with a purposeful cold-war-nostalgic-surreal-frozen-in-a-nuke flash.  I now have 5 images, 3 with human forms in a frozen moment, totally unreal in a surreal environment.  It clicked.  I need to explore this more.  Dummies in Dioramas frozen in an atomic flash.  Interesting...

But what to name it?  "Atomic Cafe" has been taken, though that is as good an explanation of what sort of set they could fall into.  Anyone want to toss out a name for the set?  HDR Humans has been taken, and this doesn't qualify as my subjects aren't human, only human in form.

Of course this got me thinking about what Miss Havisham wrote in her blog regarding when enough is enough in a painting.  I commented on her post and she commented back: "Thank you, Frazgo. What is your take on when to know something is done?  It’s so much easier with cooking."  If I knew the answer Miss H I'd tell you.  If I knew the answer I'd either be a rich man or a fool for sharing with everyone free of cost.  

In the digital world it is pretty easy to eliminate steps that don't work and revert to a starting place.  In painting its different as removing rarely can be done.  I think understanding when the piece says what you want it to say is the first step in recognising when something is done.  Tasting with your eyes to see if it is done is very personal so I don't think there is a pat answer.

Enjoy the two pieces from the yet un-named set.  I call them "Donuts" and "Wired Diner Man".

ps...this weekend is the MAFA Celebrate the Arts, a fine art event, here in Monrovia at the north end of Old Town, in the Monrovia Community Center.  Its free Sat/Sun 10-6.  I'll be inside, pay me a visit if you have the time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Every now and then I just like reading my various friends blogs.  I met Julia over a year ago at LA Metblogs.  She has her own blog, "Julia's Mexico City".  Today she ran one of those silly MEME thingy's called the 3r's.  Her post was funny.  Here are the questions and my answers (and snarky comments on the side.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car):  Snuffy Grand Marquis 

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Rocky Road Tennies (gonna be iced quick with that one down in the 'hood).

3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal): Yellow Dog (what, I'm chicken?)

4. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (middle name, city where you were born): Joseph Larium (not gonna make it with that handle now will I?)

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name): Zgofr (frazgo is way better) 

6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Red Wine (wasn't that a lyric in a 80's song?)

7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers): Frank Frank (Actually you can go back several generations and have nothing but that choice, it ends with me though.)

8. STRIPPER NAME ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):Kuros Velvet Crunch (not going there!)

9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Rasche Riverside (not feeling the love on that one.)

10. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Summer Rose (do I have to be a tranny for that one?)

11. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Cherry Shorts (wasn't that a character in Fritz the Cat?)

12. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Cereal Mimosa (that one will get me far won't it?)

There you go, 12 inane instructions with equally ridiculous answers.  Can you do better?

woooot over 100K views on flickr!

My flickr accounts does get a lot of daily activity.  Sometimes huge spikes after something fun like a day in the Bullitt will cause a big spike when the raw images are posted.  I have not a single answer to what it all means, but consistently over 200 views a day I know someone is paying attention to what I am up to.   Looking at the numbers the media event images tend to get more hits.  Oddly so does the pics of my MRI films of my knee from a while back. Go figure.

The more important number to look at is the views and favorited items in my arty sets.  It is silent feedback on what works for viewers.  To that end I know if I am striking a cord somewhere and use that info to help me determine what images get a simple matting and others go the whole 9 yards and framed for shows.

The danger is in letting stats interfere with meandering down artistic paths to explore.  So far it hasn't discouraged me from exploring anything, but strengthened the resolve to explore what interests me.  I guess being a statistician has its merits even though it is dangerously close to cube dwelling activities.  

Regardless you can follow my daily photo-blogging, raw image samplings and final works on my Flickr.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bullitt and San Gabriel Mountains - perfect mix

If you follow my antics and rounds you show know that a I blog about all sorts of stuff.  I love adventures, add in cars and it gets to be even better.

This weeks addition to the old experience bucket is a day long drive in a Mustang Bullitt.  Long story short.  In July I got to spend sometime in a 2010 Camaro.  I was impressed and said when it launches the base Mustang will be a gelding in comparison.  Ford didn't appreciate it.  They dropped me a note and let me know I was probably a little harsh and offered up a GT500 to prove the Mustang still has it.  No GT500's exist right now but they had a Bullitt.  They asked if I would settle for that.  HELL YESSSSS!!!!  Full story on what I think about the Bullitt will be up on metblogs later today.

The image was shot up on the Angeles Crest.  I can tell you that the Bullitt was made for that highway.  No stress, no fuss, no constant shifting, just pick a gear and carve up the curves on the twisties.  Lawdy be...if I could get rid of the Dad car I'd opt for the Bullitt.

Anyway what better way to illustrate a surreal day than HDR?  I shot this frame overlooking downtown LA from up on the crest bracketed +/- 2 stops from average.  Photomatix was used for the HDR file generation and tonemapping.  The final image was run through virtual photographer to heighten the saturation a bit more.  

Enjoy the image.  Do click it for a slightly bigger version...and note you can even see downtown in the fog.  More images in my flickr Bullitt set.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Little revelations about myself when I least expect it

In the middle of show prep and then trying to update my profile(s) and set up a showroom on "Saatchi Online" I had a little revelation.  The old Dutch Masters were known for their brilliant skies and atmospheric drama, I just hadn't paid attention to how much it influenced what I have been doing of late.  No matter what area I explore that tends to be the common theme. Imagine that, who'da thunk that would be the pervasive item in all that I have done.  

Me and rules never were good friends.  The little discovery about myself came about when I looked at the body of work being put up on the Saatchi Online Saleroom.  Nearly everything in the last year=and-a-half has included some sort of sky drama regardless if it is done in HDR, Orton, Watercolor or a straight up photos.  

Enoy the image shot deep in the woods in Montana D'Oro State Park near San Luis Obispo this last spring.
Back to work.  Long day ahead.  With luck I can get to my website too before the Oct Show. 

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A little teaser for the October Show

I suppose I could call this roses two ways. You can't see it here, but I've done the printing on two different papers. One on an archival matte paper, the other on wet watercolor paper.

I don't think it matters as much the paper as if the image was well composed with a good use of light and color. In this case the image was post processed from RAW in the Orton style. It works regardless of the final presentation. The wet watercolor though diffuses more and definitely meanders more into the soft impressionists mode than anything else. The watercolor paper version will be a one-of-artists-proof kinda image. Once it is gone it is gone and could never be duplicated again given the uncontrollable effects of ink on wet paper.

The rose is a David Austin English Rose called "Golden Celebration" from my garden.

See you at the Celebrate the Arts show October 11&12 here in Monrovia.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

MAFA Celebrate the Arts Press Release

I'll only put up press releases here that a)involve me and b) will be shameless self promotion.  Since I am the "featured artist" at the coming Celebrate the Arts show with MAFA and mentioned all over the place in the press release this one will qualify.

The Monrovia Association of Fine Arts, formerly known as the Monrovia Arts Festival Association presents the 45th Annual CELEBRATE THE ARTS, a weekend festival of Fine Arts on October 11th and 12th, 2008; 10:00am – 6:00pm Saturday and Sunday at a new location; the Monrovia Community Center, 119 W. Palm Avenue in Monrovia (right across the street from the old location at Library Park which is currently closed for construction). This event promises to provide fun and entertainment for the whole family and anyone interested in all aspects of the arts. Local oil painters, photographers, sculptors and watercolor artists from Monrovia and surrounding communities bring their artwork to share and display during a two-day festival sure to delight families and children alike.

This year’s Featured Artist is landscape and nature photographer, Frank Zgonc, a MAFA Executive Board Member and past president of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts who has been diligently working to promote the arts in the local community of Monrovia and surrounding areas for many years. Frank Zgonc is a photographer who prefers to consider his art as painting with the tools created for personal digital computers and yet presenting his work in a medium more reflective of traditional watercolor images. His process of printing photographic images on wet watercolor paper produces impressionistic images that enhance the communication of his philosophy, embodies emotions and provides the viewer with a sense of place; “Life is about exploring, art is telling the world what we found”, he states.The watercolor photography is only one area he explores. The digital art in particular has been a significant focus for him in the last year. With this technical skill, Frank intends to go more surreal and impressionistic in the future, obtaining some of his inspiration from his travels in Europe where Frank Zgonc is a listed artist at the Saatchi Gallery in London. Frank Zgonc has continued to expand his exploration of artistic mediums in the technical realm by producing a valuable source of community and pertinent artistic information expressed through his blog: and he is also a writer with the Metroblogging team where one may follow his escapades at Enjoy a visit to Frank Zgonc’s website at

Additionally, some of the artists exhibiting work at the Monrovia Community Center and or providing demonstrations include some of the following well-known and continuing supporters of the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts: Photographers Doug Gordon, Stephen Coleman, John Houseman and Ginger Van Hook. A variety of watercolor artists include, Betty Glass, Horst Albers, Setsuko Okubo, and Elaine G. Smith. Oil Painters include Roz Newson and Luke Van Hook. Glass artists Christina Hughes, as well as others will be displayed as well as acrylic artist George Schopeck, collage artist Millie Havens, and ceramist Sal Perez.  New artists coming on board are yet to be announced and the event is rallying the whole community to come out to Monrovia Community Center to CELEBRATE THE ARTS!

Monrovia Association of Fine Arts is a nonprofit (501c) corporation with a mission to promote the arts in the local communities. The mission statement is “To enhance the lives of those within our community through interaction with the arts and to increase the opportunities for our children through art education.” Local art is featured in a variety of MAFA supported venues such as the PAINT N PLAY FINE ARTS GALLERY located at (418 South Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia), FOCUS ONE FINE ARTS GALLERY (404 East Huntington Drive, Monrovia), THE AZTEC ART GALLERY (305 West Foothill Blvd., Monrovia), as well as the latest gallery to have joined the art milieu, Route 66 Art Gallery located at 301 W. Foothill Blvd., beside the Aztec Hotel in Monrovia. Art is also displayed on the walls of the popular gourmet sandwich and coffee shop (under new management) at THE MONROVIA COFFEE COMPANY (425 Myrtle Avenue, Monrovia), as well as the very young up and coming artists venue: KIDSART located at (128 East Lemon, Monrovia). California Wine and Cheese, located at 115 W. Foothill Blvd is another special artist venue  and A number of supporting vendors who continue to create an inviting and nurturing environment for the artists and their arts exist all over the Monrovia community.

There you go.  Shameless self-promotion at its best.  I look pretty good in print.  Now come enjoy the show, visit with me and buy something!

Monday, September 15, 2008

"The more you reason the less you create."

Or as another friend of mine put it "plan it too much and you are Martha Stewart". That's not a good thing. The quote in the headline is from one of my favorite writers Raymond Chandler".

Today was one of those days that went sideways early and I just rode with it. I went back down the Orton rode and dug a few pics out of hibernation on the back up drive and decided to work them in that vein. More of them on my flickr Orton set. I think this image is begging to be printed on wet watercolor paper to take it one step further into the impressionists world.

If you want the technical details on how to make them dig around here a few entries back. I've now had a full day, am lazy and ready to kick back.

Enjoy "Fisherman, Bishop Creek" one of 6 I did today.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Icons and stuff

Nothing screams LA or So Cal in general quite like the Palm Tree. Miami tries to use it, but they keep having hurricanes blow them away.

I have a love hate relationship with them. They do bring drama to a skyline. They do symbolize the old Hollywood of myth and romanticism. Unfortunately when a frond decides to fall they can do some serious damage when they hit something. Rats love them for nesting at the top. They make great torches when a bottle rocket hits them igniting all the dried stuff.

As always this was shot RAW, 3 bracketed frames. Photomatix was used for the HDR file generation and tone mapping. The final wash for the unnatural saturation of the old cibachrome stuff was done with the help of Virtual Photographer.

Am in full prep mode. Processing images then printing. Soon is framing and matting time...ugga.

Don't forget, mark your calenders for the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts Celebrate the Arts on October 11 & 12. At the community center across from the Library Park in Old Town Monrovia on Palm Avenue. I'll have a lot of what you have seen the last few weeks at the show.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Man vs Nature, Biege vs color and stuff

A theme I revert to from time to time is Man vs Nature. Recently we were up in Oxnard for a Basketball Tournament and I had some spare time to wander about Rio Mesa HS campus where the tournament took place. I struck me for the first time that so many schools are boring beige and lifeless. The only color and vibrancy comes from nature surrounding the school.

What was bothersome comes from a blog I read recently from this individual who is very left of liberal. She was on a roll about schools housing children. I disagreed, "housing" implies that parents turn their kids over to the school district for warehousing and brainwashing (the comment wasn't published even though I was neither profane or rude, just disagreed). I believe schools are our partners in educating our kids, it is still the parents job to instill the values they believe are needed for them to be productive thinking adults. This warehousing and beige world bothered me. The brilliant lone green tree seemed to strike that contrast between Man, nature, home and school.

This image was shot bracketed 2 stops +/- from average. The RAW files were put through Photomatix HDR file generation. The image was then tone mapped and run through virtual photographer for that saturated other-worldly color you can only get on Cibachrome.

Enjoy "Color in a Beige World".

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tone mapping to the rescue

I'm a full tonal range kinda guy. Yes, I do like lots of contrast, but recording a scene you are left to the limitations of your recording device. Digital sensors have improved tremendously over the years, but the process of converting to jpeg and then converting to a monitor a lot of that range is lost. Working from an uncompressed, all the detail there RAW file is the best way to start processing an image. NEARLY everything in the scene is there, it just needs to be coaxed out.

Tone mapping to the rescue. This program allows you to plot the parameters of your image so the range can be displayed on whatever medium you are using. Most common...your monitor and printer ranges.

For this image the jpeg displayed the pool inky black with a total lack of detail on the water. The white lily was just that blown out white lacking any detail. As I planned on working the final display image in the orton style I knew it even had its limitations. Primarily the process makes the shadows extremely dark and fuzzing up the highlight details while increasing saturation. Not a bad thing but you have to control them.

The RAW image here was opened with "camera settings". The tonal range was mapped to to have a lot of highlight and shadow detail. Micro contrast and detail settings were kept to max so I would have a realistic image and detail to work with.

The orton style proceeded with the base image being duplicated into a new background layer. That layer was given the equivalent of a one stop exposure increase then blurred at a 25 pixel range. I used the "color burn" option for the blending of the layers and they were merged. Once that was done I used virtual photographer to emphasize the color contrasts similar to the old Fuji 'chromes printed on Cibachrome printing material

This image will appear tonight, framed and ready to go at the final Monrovia Art Walk tonight. You can see it (and me) out in front of the Paint n Play Art Studio and Gallery from 6:30-9:30PM.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monrovia Art Walk 8/30 6:30-9:30PM

A little blatant self promotion. I'll be in front of the Paint N Play Art Studio and Gallery at 415 S Myrtle Ave, Monrovia CA. Can't miss me, usually and the louder more jovial one. It will be photographers night so Stephen Coleman, Joseph Davis and Doug Gordon will all be present in front of PnP. Stop in and visit if you have nothing better to do. Better yet, buy something!

Now for the Art. These are my 4 favs from the rejuvenation visit to the Getty Villa in Malibu (Pacific Palisades area of LA) on Thursday. The Getty Villa is where they keep their antiquities. They have a lot of things you can shoot as well as rotating special exihibits that you can only view and then get raped at the book store buying the book of the images.

These images were all shot HDR. Since the antiquities are already otherwordly I opted to keep these on the edge of real. Two are of the regular exhibition rooms, one the old arched entry before the remodel, and the other in the cafeteria. The latter is titled "Add children and use loudly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cars, People and 'nother slip in the adventure bucket

I'm a pretty optimistic person most of the time. Rather than a bucket list of things I want to accomplish, I have a list of cool stuff I've managed to do. My adventure bucket keeps growing and its nice to see. Each adventure I learn something new, experience something new.

Tuesday I got invited to Ford's 2009 Media Ride and Drive for the LA area. Odd..they call it LA but actually I had to venture behind the OC to attend. All very interesting, more so in the talks about the cars coming our way and their new Sync system. Of course it allows me to get into more situations to photo stuff I normally don't get to do. I got this invite through a post I did regarding the 2010 Chevy Camaro on LA Metblogs. Of course this adventure appears as a post on LA Metblogs titled "Ford Takes LA Beaches and aims for a little more".

The images here are of the 2009 Ford Focus Coupe that is just now going on sale and of the 2009 Lincoln MKS that went on sale in July. The images themselves were taken during the pre-drive discussions with the PR Guys.

I shot them bracketed knowing that the people moving would be out of register and that would add to the surreal illustrative image I wanted in the end.

After the HDR file is generated I used photomatix tone mapping to adjust the contrast range, micro-contrast and the final blending to better isolate some items while allowing others to blend into the background more. That final file was then given the final post process in Virtual Photographer to bring back some contrast and saturation to further move it from the real to surreal in the final image.

I like the final images. The cars were the subject of the day and how the media attending interacted with them was more entertaining.

Monday, August 25, 2008 don't redo a monet nor classic movies

Stop the Remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

And you don't redo a classic like Rocky Horry Picture Show.

Honest...I must have seen it 50 times in college. WE can't deprive future generations of college students of the originals insanity. All together now...

"Its just a jump to the left
and a step to the right
with your hands on your hips
you bring your knees in tight
but its the pelving thrust that really drives me insane,
Let's Do the Time Warp Again!"

Sigh...why can't we let a few things just mellow with age?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I'm digging my little adventures...

I have to admit I'm having a pretty interesting set of adventures once I decided to quit being a cube dweller and follow the path of greatest curiosity. This weeks adventure was a ride along with the Pasadena PD. It was very interesting, definitely a lot more action than I had expected. The full story is on LA Metblogs.

While shooting photos I had a hard time deciding where i wanted to go with the images. I certainly didn't want straight documenting, that is what the newspaper is for and the real crime scene guys.

I'm at the point now all of my images are shot raw with the intention of fine tuning exposure or generating HDR files in the post processing. With this image once I got the highlights and shadows in control I still wanted that dark almost film noire sorta colorized Raymond Chandler old timey detective feeling. Coop has been working on a series of images that are half toned and I decided to take that direction on the final image as well.

The end result: "Late Evening Arrest".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Morning Coffee

This morning I headed out for some coffee and a meeting with a person interested in running for local city council. That gave me a nice time to be down in Old Town Monrovia and just enjoy the quaintness of it all before the day heated up to a full broil. I spotted this mom type with her stroller enjoying the morning sun and a hot cup of coffee.

I composed the shot and went about my business. By itself it was OK, the post processing is the key to bring about an Orton image. I like the ability to control more elements like contrast, saturation and fuzziness in the digital realm.

A little technical stuff. The camera I shot this with was a point-n-squirt Casio Exilim that I have discussed here. The drawback to the camera is that it does not have a raw mode so I have to start with a jpeg that unfortunately does have some compression. At least with 10.1 mega pixels there is still ample to work with.

Start with your basic image file. Open it with CS2, then duplicate the image. Close the original file that way you don't alter it while working all your magic. Let the duplicate be the guinea pig.

With the new file go to image-adjustments and chose the brightness/ contrast option. As I prefer to have some detail in the shadows I up the brightness by 10-15 points, then I drop the contrast down about 5-10 points to bring back some of the highlight details.

I go to layers and chose "duplicate layer". From there I go into image-adjustments and chose brightness/contrast option again. I move the brightness to 25-35 points to mimic a one f-stop overexposure. The contrast is increased this time 10-20 points. I go back to adjustments, variations and use the saturation control. Setting at mid-point and add saturation in steps until the dept of color is just under the point I want in the final image. (Recall that the original image was lightened and flattened that did reduce your saturation a bit).

The layer then is given blur. Go to filters-blur-Gaussian blur. Pic a blur range of 15-25.

The next step is to blend the duplicate and the new layer (which is the background). Go to your layers box and use the blending tool. For this file I used the "multiply" option. I kept the opacity and fill at 100%. Note you do have several blending options as well as the ability to fine tune it by adjusting the opacity and fill levels.

The final image file then has the layers merged and run through Virtual Photographer to clean up the atmospheric haze as well as bring in some clarity to the tonal range. I opt to go for color and saturation settings that mimic the false color of fujichromes. (False as in they tended to do much better saturation with brilliant greens and blues without muddying the red tones, not entirely natural representation but certainly one that was pleasing to view).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

When HDR and Orton Collide

Orton alone tends to completly blow out highlight and black out the shadow. Doing an HDR first allows you to control the extremes first then when you run through an orton process you still have a good tonal range while still having the orton surrealness preserved.

This was shot bracketed +/- 2 stops then those raw files were processed into an HDR file with photomatix. Then the same program was used for tone mapping. The final image was given some color balancing then run through virtual photographer to give it the false saturation of a fujichrome transparency silver based film.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dioramas and the surreal capbilities of HDR

Museums love their diorama's recreating some era in history more than elementary school teachers do at California history lessons when they require a Mission be built.

They are always too neat and clean versions of how things were. Key period elements are usually neatly in place. Sometimes they go as far as to include paintings or photo's in the "windows" to give that added bit of "realism". It is very surreal, certainly more imaginary like the world of Wally and the Beaver than it ever was back in the day.

This week I ventured out to the Autry National Center and Western Heritage Museum in LA's Griffith Park. After checking out the newer rotating exhibits I took a meander through the permanent exhibits. To my surprise it was more than just the wild wild west, it included discussions and diorama's documenting how the western states developed right up to the post war era. Key feature was the Mrs See's home where her kitchen and den were recreated. Very clean and sterile, more romantic memory than it probably looked in real life, but interesting none the less.

It begged for a surreal rupture in the time warp. HDR helped me get there.

Once an HDR file is generated with photomatix you can use the tone mapping portion to take that file and adjust how your highlights/shadows are blended to preserve detail. Do you want more or less micro contrast? More or less luminosity to the entire image? How about blending between the two, coarse or fine? In the end you have a lot of control over the final images real or surreal qualities. Of course I gave the final image a post processing cleaning with Virtual Photographer to enhance those qualities.

Enjoy "Davy Crockett Bedroom" and "Mrs See's Kitchen".

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sometimes leaving it alone is best

I have to admit sometimes the tool used and the final image is just enough. I love this little image.

I used my trusty che-ez snap camera. Think of it as the Diana toy camera for the digital age. A plastic lens with pour optical qualities, very low .3mega pixels (yes POINT 3, or 1/3 megapixel) yielding very low res, uncontrolled contrast and saturation. It gives you these great little pics that are impressionistic by their nature. Not a damn thing needs to be done to them to enjoy them. You know how I loved the impressionists.
A fair warning about the che-ez if you want one. The bundled CD may not always be compatible with what is actually on the camera. You at times have to dig around the web for drivers that do work. They have a life of maybe a year or so, about 1000 pictures before the rechargeable battery craps out. I think I am on my 5th one since I found it in 2002 or so.
The camera I believe is out of production at this point. It can be found by googling it for usually under $20.
Full story behind the pic on LA Metblogs.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

rose hips...let them ripen

Rose hips from the rose "rosa hansa", a rose with a lot of wild rose parentage. It repeat blooms. It smells of cloves and spices. It rewards you with big red ripe hips if you let them go. What to do with hips?
make jelly out of them
make jams out of them
make a tea out of them
let them stay and become food for the winter song birds.

Friday, August 01, 2008

fauxtography...the art of the unreal

I didn't coin the phrase, one of my favorite writers did. His name is Will Campbell and you can find him on metblogs as well as on his own blog [sic]. He actually is owner and creator of the "fauxtography" flickr group. Anyone can join. Its a home for those photos that are faked and we aren't ashamed to admit it.

I was working the image and not happy with the sky as it completely blew out and lost all detail. I used the cloud tool, gradient tool and added a sky that is completely fake. I did it on purpose. It was fooling around looking to just work on that skill set. It is what it is and in the group pool.

Anyway, it has a name, it has a home. Fauxtography.