Monday, December 16, 2013

500,000+ flickr views

And I did it all without porn!
Well no girly porn at least.  Lots of car porn as that is mostly what I have shot of late.  Los Angeles Auto Show press days (2 days worth), 2015 Mustang Reveal and a Ford Open House all made for lots of photo ops with cars and it drove the traffic to me.

2013 L.A. Auto Show
2015 Mustang Reveal
Ford Open House

Of course in all of that there was a lot of  blogging in all of that, mostly on SoCalAutoBlog and on  Speaking of, I broke 1000 posts a short while back.  Not sure where I am right now but it was an important goal for me and I did it.
In the end I do a lot of fun and more creative stuff, but not always with my art in mind.  Life gets in the way of passions and there are only so many hours in a day.  Maybe 2014 I should resolve to spend more time on art than commercial and photojournalism?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Road Trip fantasy

Interesting challenge was given to us in the post a day challenge.  Road Trip Fantasy with a cast, linked too of course.  Many of my choices are dead and so long so they don't have SM or URLs to link too.  But I have quite a few interests and a cast I've always wanted to have on a road trip so here goes.

Envision a nice RV like my folks had so we all can take turns driving and sitting around the table kibitizing.

First up.  Mario Batali.  I like him for a variety of reasons, being a great chef is part of it but he's also an excellent teacher, loved his old show "Malto Mario".  He's also one of the hosts on ABC's "The Chew" which my wife and I tivo and catch up on so I know he's both entertaining and engaging.  A must to moderate the group I have put together.

Cars. What a passion that is.  I'd love to have Alan Mulally the head of Ford on board along with drifter Ken Block.  Between the two I'd learn a lot about the future of cars and performance cars.  To round it out my absolute favorite writer editor, Jean Jennings.

Laughter, I love lots of it.  I'd toss in Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and author PJ O'Rourke.  They would be the icing on my cake.

Of course I'd shoot it all.  With DSLR and flipcam...for one of my "blair witch project" YouTube videos.

That my friends would be my ultimate fantasy road trip.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

falling off the grid

And it can't happen fast enough

Yes. Those are solar panels.  Yes,  Those are installed on my roof.  34 total generating some 11KW peak during the course of a bright summer day.

I didn't do it or environmental reasons. I did it to keep as much green as possible in my wallet.

Seriously, this year has been a wild one for us SCE customers.  We got hit with a huge rate increase and rate restructure that if you run much more than a 'fridge you are going to go into tier 4 at 34-freakin'-cents per kilowatt hour.  July, August and September fully 2/3 of my power bill was in tier 4, and I did it without trying.  Actually short of turning off the air we tested our mettle with much higher than usual temps in an effort to trim the bill but it didn't make much of a dent.  Solar was the answer as we can get our juice for a bit over half of what those turds at SCE charge.

If you want details or a referral to the company I went with drop me a note.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How to shoot food in the wild*

*and not be an obnoxious pest to those around you
In the early 'oughts there was a photo sharing program, social media in its infancy if you will, that had a lower case "t" as its logo. I was an early adapter and for the life of me I just don't remember its name.  When they went out of business I got everything copied that I had shared on a DVD. 2 of them...most of it came from a low res cell phone and/or my Che-ez snap .2 megapixel toy camera.  It was fun and the lessons learned with those tools and food I took with me as I advanced through an iPhone.

Food photography, especially in a restaurant I was doing long before the foodies started and actually ruined it in a lot of places.  What?  Haven't you seen those pretentious snots with portable mini-lights and tripods for their cameras yet, wait you will.  Worse is the obnoxious bright flashes.  Seriously, its a pain and ruins it for the rest of us.  Like me that started doing it before the turn of the century before those dreadful hipsters and instagram showed up.

Why do I do it? Lots of reasons, primary is like to get cheffy and try and recreate the memorable meals just as I had them in some 5 star joint in 'Vegas or L.A.  Its a rolling recipe book of ideas and that picture brings back everything so I can recreate.  Also I do my own plates and later blog it over at frazgo feasting making it possible for my followers to recreate my recipes to a "T".  The cell phone, especially in its infancy was such a primitive tool that it lent a wonderful impressionistic capture that adds to the romance of the dish.  Lastly, this vast library is used for blogging all over the place and those of my food will be used in a "bloggers cook book" something that I've been toiling on for a while.

Enough of why I do it, how about some tips to do it up right.

  • Turn the Flash OFF Seriously its an annoyance to other diners and it doesn't add anything to your final image.  It actually degrades the results but washing out too much, no modeling and certainly no depth of saturation.  Rest your arms on the edge of the table to steady yourself for the long exposure. 
  • Rotate the Plate  Its all got a good angle, rotate a bit so you get the best angle of you meal. That wink of tomato or cheese says a lot about the time the chef put into composing the plate.
  • Photo at the Pass Through  Yes, ask if you can photo your plate in the kitchen before it goes out, you'd be surprised how many places will actually accommodate you.
  • Get Up Close and Personal  Really fill the frame with the plate or the entree.  Make it big and important.  A nice table setting, well do that before food arrives if you must.  
  • Clean up the Plate  Give it a quick once over and move any stray items. Mop up any unusual drips, or turn the plate to hide them.  A messy plate will turn off the viewers.
These are pretty self explanatory.  Shooting food isn't some bit magical bag of tricks, yes commercial photographers are guilty of it.  Back in my early years I was guilty of it until I realized that the restaurant I was shooting spent a lot of time already choosing props, adjusting lighting etc., so why bother reinventing the wheel. Fresh out of college at SIU-C I had the pleasure of freelancing the restaurants for Las Vegan Magazine and learned to do just that after a couple of exhausting location shoots. Take advantage of what they provided and work with it.  Your results will show it. Your results will be better for it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

So, what do you want out of me?

Seriously, I've been running this blog since spring of 2007.  I was even in the running for most valuable blogger in 2011 for KCBS here in Los Angeles.  I'm full of ideas and things to share. What to share and when is my question  to myself.  Do I just meander and post what interests me, do a series on a topic too big for a single post. You tell me.  Really, tell me what you want and I'll work at providing it.

This image is of Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierras from a few years back.  Its a simple shot of late fall that was tone mapped and then run through a plug in, virtual photographer to be precise, to give it the old timey post card look.  The unmolested image was nice, the final product was nicer and evokes a moment of nostalgia.

Monday, October 14, 2013

DSLR and night photography, or can we cut the noise?

Back in the High School and College I did a not of night photography.  Love it. Loved star trails and moonlit landscapes.  Armed with a tripod I was all over the Ozarks and Southern Illinois at night taking pictures.

Not so much since I got the DSLR. Dabbled in it, but got turned off by the noise that long exposures bring to the table. Add in a high ISO and the noise takes over and it begins to look like a pointillists painting, not a photograph.  Not that I find it objectionable, but sometimes I want a crisp clean black and no noise.

Now the current dilemma.  In a scant 6 weeks Comet Ison which I've been geeking out over since early this year is going to be at peak viewing.  Yes, I can capture an awesome sunrise, sunset and even a moon rise.  Capturing a comet, even one as "bright as the moon" will have challenges at dawn as I don't want a lot of noise.

Google will help. Any other ideas on where to go for help on this one?  I figure I have a month to get the info, practice and nail it for a pre-dawn road trip and excursion out to Joshua Tree or similar for best comet viewing and photo-ing.

This image is one I captured of a moon rise from the San Gabriel River near Azusa several summers ago.  It was just at dusk and didn't need a tripod or having to worry about excessive noise.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Celebrate the Arts...the MUSD students in action

As promised earlier, the video went live on YouTube after it was uploaded and processed.  I don't understand all the steps and widgets involved once they have the video, but it went into a queue with others that took a while to get it processed.  Hint, if you watch it in YouTube you will get a high definition option where you can really see the details.

The event was fun.  MUSD and Monrovia is blessed with some really talented youths.  They will only get better.

Complete and updated Celebrate the Arts set is up on flickr now.

Celebrate the at 11

or maybe a bit later...
It all depends on how fast YouTube gets the upload done and processed.  I'm already at the max bandwidth that Champion/Altrionet offers in my area but I need fast upload.  Video was done by 8AM...upload is 2/3 done 2 hours later.

This weekend is the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts Celebrate the Arts.  Its a juried Fine Art Festival that I have been involved with for 10 years now.  9 of it I organized the whole shebang, this year due to stuff I couldn't do it, let alone have a display space for my images there.  Maybe next year.

New to this years show was live demonstrations of art by MUSD students from Monrovia High School and Canyon Oaks High School.  I don't have the video to share, yet, but I will post it when its ready.  In the mean time this teaser from flickr should get your appetite whetted.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Its all about the quality of light

I've said it before, I love the quality of light here in sunny So Cal in late summer into early fall, then again in the Spring. The sun sits low on the horizon longer in the morning casting a warm glow over everything.  Even mid-day the longer warmer shadows are a blessing.

This shot was captured in the spring right after the trees leafed out in the early morning hours in Monrovia Canyon right above my house.  I love the sun glowing through the trees, the warm glow to the hills in the back ground and the crisp blue sky.  (Yes, we gt those in sunny So Cal too).

This image was shot bracketed +/- two stops and normal and combined with photmatix for a final HDR image to preserve the shadow detail as well as highlight detail  It was blended for a realistic view not surreal.  Some images just beg to be real.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Well, sugar, flickr is changing again

I like flickr for a lot of reasons. Its a daily photo blog at times for me, at others I share works in progress and dumbed down final versions of my art.  I'm not freebie there, costs me a bit a year to have the unlimited view and upload "pro account". In the end its worth it for the exposure.

I liked the changes of late to the home page.  Nice clean spot to put in a banner.  Nice clean layout grid for your images.  Easy to get to sets and collections.

I'm not thrilled with the new uploader.  Its fine for a couple of images, but a royal pain in the arse when you have a few dozen to over a hundred images to upload as the interface is way too cumbersome for adding titles and such. Every edit stops the uploading process which adds in some cases hours to the process. The classic uploader worked much better in this situation.  Uploads were as fast as your modem allowed, the edit to title etc was done on their main frame and done in minutes.  Not so much fun now.

Today the announced a change to the photo view page.  Not sure I like it, or dislike it.  Having the image grid on the right is a nice touch.  Makes it easy to snag a specific image to view instead of scrolling through.  Having stats on the right is nice as well.  Getting to larger images for linking into posts doesn't look to be as easy as before.  sugar.

Sorry for the rant, with them down so much the last few days and changes always underfoot, not always for the benefit of the pro user I kinda get discouraged and angry.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Kids: down to their level and up close and personal

Works for puppy dogs too...

Seriously nothing makes me more bat shit crazy than pictures, even family snaps, of kids taken from above looking down at them and across the room.  What's that all about?  A close second is spending hours trying to get them to smile...seriously what is wrong with odd picture of them sleeping or in a pensive moment, they have plenty of that so let those expressions shine too.

Shooting kids and pets are quite similar.  Drop down to their level, play with them even a little to get their attention to something other than the camera.  Rattle keys or scrunch wrinkled paper to give them something to stare at for a second will also help distract them from the camera.  Its all about getting them to act naturally and capture it at their level.

Capturing kids 101.  Enjoy the pics of my grandchild "Tyler"

Sunday, September 29, 2013

iPhone Photo Safari with Snapcious

I play this fun game called Snapcious.  Its an iPhone app only for now. The
game is really fun.  You submit mission ideas and other players rank them and the top rated ones become missions for you to fulfill. What is a mission, well they are photo ideas for you to fulfill with images you capture with your iPhone.  Those images are voted on by other players and you gain points with wins...points that eventually get you additional rank and perks within the game.

It launched the first of the year and I was one of the early adapters. Its actually a good tool to keep you thinking about the images you create.

Saturday, 9/28/13 was the first ever Snapcious iPhone Safari and we players met in downtown Los Angeles in the Grand Central Market and proceeded to walk the city and shoot what we saw, posting as we went sharing with other players what we were seeing, documenting and hopefully gave them an idea of the fun we were having as a group.

Piggy backing off of last weeks post, it applies for photo shoots of cities too.  Get up close for  the details and you will wind up with a diverse documentation of your subject.  I shot a variety in my little tour of DTLA with the Snapcious group.  They are all on flickr in my iPhone Safari set.
A few of my favorite detail shots from my meander in downtown LA...

Mack Reed one of he creators of Snapcious gave us all a quick tour of the iPhone camera.  I thought I knew it all, I was wrong.  I learned how to spot meter with the thing and get perfect exposures now in adverse lighting conditions.  To do it is stupid easy.  Put your phone in grid view. Tap the area of the grid you want perfectly exposed...the backlit face, the sun setting in the sky and the phone does the rest.

My only gripe with the iPhone really has to do with the iOS7 update from this week.  It makes a battery pig worse.  I started the safari with 100% battery and ended it barely 3 hours later with 20% and dire need of a charge. If I'm going to survive the LA Auto Show next month I am going to need a heavy duty external battery to keep me going while I blog on the fly and tweet out the goodies I find.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Get up close and personal

 It applies to a lot of things, with cars you pick up the details that the overview only alludes to.  With landscapes you get details of the flora and fauna that is lost in the grandiose soak it all image. With flowers you pick up the erotic from the mundane blossom.

Yup, the pic above is me.  One of only a few known to exist, especially me doing what I do best, photographing cars.  Its also me practicing what I preach, move in close for details and fill the frame with them.  In this case I was shooting the hood ornament on this classic Packard.  What a car, but look a the attention to detail in it.  Lots of art deco details that are lost in the wide shot of the entire car.  The following image is what I got from that shot.  Thanks to my friend Stephen Coleman who captured me doing what I love.

Sunday, September 15, 2013 to shoot 'em in the wild

Cars can be, but shouldn't be a challenge.  Picking the right lens helps if you are DSLR enabled, adjusting zoom if you use a point and squirt.. I shot pretty exclusively with a wide angle Canon 20-35mm for this purpose with the 70-200 zoom reserved for the detail shots.  Why this combo? A variety.

Cars benefit from the exaggerated perspective that only a while angle lens can bring to the table. With a point and squirt you have zoom ratios, move in close and zoom out to get the same effect.  It makes it all look longer and wider emphasising the lines.  The wider angle view also enables you to shoot in crowds without having to back off and wait for  a break in traffic to get your shot.

Depth of Field.  I've talked about it in the past in prior posts.  In short the greater the lens the greater the depth of field, or area of focus you get an any given aperture (f-stop to us old schoolers).  At 20mm my wide angle lens is pretty all encompassing focus which you need when up close and personal with a car.  The shot of the Thunderbird at the lead to this post if shot from a distance to fill the frame would have not only compressed the car to make it look short and squat but would have run the risk of having the front corner in focus with the rear out of focus.  Not a good thing when you are shooting something this big.

Get down low and up close and personal.  That means drop down to one knee, bend over or do what it takes so your camera is level to slight above the fender peaks.  It will yield a dramatic image every time showcasing the lines and curves that some designer spent hours at some point drawing out.

Anecdotally yesterday I was at the 23rd Annual Street Rods Forever car show here in Monrovia.  There was an old dude (isn't that the kettle calling the pot black) who had a DSLR on a tripod.  With a moderate length lens.  He would go from car to car and set himself up for his shots, not unlike what I did here, but at a distance of maybe 10 feet and would sit on a stool crabbing at people to get out of his way.  How rude, gives photographers a bad name.  In a crowd you gotta be mobile and as unobtrusive as possible.

Don't be afraid to take multiple shots of the same car from different angles and perspectives.  Don't be afraid to deviate from straight on.  Stand up tall, shoot with the camera tilted to fill the frame, this view can add a feeling of movement and power to the car.  Try to get from behind as well for pictures, its not always possible because of parking or thats where the owner stashed his chairs and cooler to sit out the show, but try.

Take several shots of the car, not just the big picture with the whole machine.  Zoom in for details.  Those details are what add character to a car. Either it was done by the designer back in the day when it was just a dream or by some customizer who thought it would add something to the character of the car.  Could be the logo in pot metal, the arc on a fin or wheel well or a sticker added by the gear head at the end.  Its a signature piece that makes up the whole.  Those details also make interesting images.  Those details were sweat at the design stage, show them off now.

I rarely shoot a car head on unless its part of a series of images to illustrate the entire car.  Often I grab 3 shots with only 1 at the head on level.  I find the images that illustrate the dimensionality of the car as a sculptural piece are much more effective.  Varying angles and frame just add to the story of the car and goes beyond mere documenting what it looked like.  

My only gripe here is that owners of hot rods in particular, but nicely restored car owners do it too, is that so much was put into the mechanics of the car they want to show off the engine.  To do that they show the car with the hood up!  Nice for detail pics of the engine, but that gaping maw sure ruins the looks of an otherwise nicely sculpted machine.  You can ask them to drop the hood and some may do just that, others will look at you like you are speaking in tongue.

The big tip here is to shoot lots from a variety of angles so your photo sets tell a story of the car(s) you chose to focus on.  Even if you are taking a couple of some generally interesting cars using these tips you will have stand out images that are different than simply cataloging what you saw.  At yesterdays show there were over 200 cars there, I shot maybe 3 in depth as outlined above, the rest that got my eye, about a 3rd of them I took a couple of shots varying perspective and angle so I would have enough to remember the basics. 

Enjoy these images, they do get larger if you click on them.  If you want to see them in their jpeg large from you can check out the entire set on flickr.  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Life instuctions

I play an online game called Snapcious.  Its played with your iPhone or Andoid with the Snapcious App.  Its pretty simple to play.  Winning is about bragging rights and not much more.  You open the app, search the missions  and shoot, post and you are done.  It even gives you the option to post to other social media sights like facebook, twitter, flickr, pinterest etc.,.

One of the missions this week is "life instructions".  I thought about doing something cheeky, then opted to go with verbalizing my thoughts and snapping a pic of the screen.  There you go, my 5 points to having a happy life.

Ont the topic of life, been busy of late.  Did a commercial shoot for a realtor friend of mine who was in a bind.  Was quite pleased with the results.  I did flash and natural light, the latter is far more artsy in my not so humble...  The link to see what they chose HERE.  A sample of my favorites :

I've also been busy with SoCalAutoBlog and of late.  Both keep me busy with adventures and photo ops.  I mean cars and Los Angeles does it get much better for adventures?

I also did a fun commercial shoot for a website that a friend of mine is doing the marketing work for its new web site.  Citadel Exploration is the companies name.  My mission was to make oil wells look pretty.  I did quite well. The shoot encompassed 2 days of shooting.  The first was a complete and utter wash out, literally as it poured buckets on us.  Who knew it rained heavy in SoCal in spring!  The camera got really wet and I wound up having to shoot the second day all in manual mode as the metering somehow lost its ability to control shutter speed. least I knew how to go old school exposure calculating from ASA (now we call it ISO but that's a whole different story) the shutter/f-stop calculations for zone and pulled it all off.

The big bonus in this?  Well I got a new camera.  An EOS 60D that I'm just now getting the hang of using in manual mode.  The old EOS 20D is gonna get fixed then be a spare/backup as it still produces stunning images at 8 mega pixels which is more than enough for real estate and commercial shoots that will be web based.  Big stuff..the 60D will rule as it can go easily 4 FEET by 6 FEET!

The commercial stuff is fun and it pays the bills...the art stuff nourishes the soul.  Its all good, now I need to go create some art.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Laguna Beach's Sawdust Festival

Us artists are really an interesting breed.  We love to create art and show off our art.  We like to sell it even more.  But sheesh, take a picture and they come unglued.  As if a photo can even replace the real deal.  I don't get it, but then again I'm not in the no-photo mindset. This placard or similar WAS ALL OVER THE PLACE at the Sawdust Festival in Laguna Beach yesterday.

I'd have some pics of the niftiness that is the Sawdust Festival but honestly its not worth ruffling feathers to make a point.

What is the Sawdust Festival?  ITs a gathering of 200 artists that live in Laguna Beach, and only from there that sell their art from tiny, often 4X6 spaces within a square block area.  They charge admission.  ITS hugely popular and traffic in and out of Laguna Canyon is a challenge.  I'd suggest a xanax before you make the drive but you really need your wits about you with that traffic.

Parking is a bigger challenge, lots charge as much as $20 for a part day close to the event.  There are some cheaper lots, $7day, and metered parking 25cents/10 minutes around the Sawdust Festival.  Generally the cheaper the rate the farther you have to hike to get there.

Buy your tickets online and save yourself the hassle of a line there.  Its not free, but if you can't spare $7.25 a head I know you can't afford the art in there that can costs in the thousands of dollars.

Once in its sensory overload.  Its all quality art and fine crafts.  Not a piece of crap in the place.  Prices start from uber affordable note cards at a couple of bucks each to the aforementioned thousands for original paintings, sculptures and furniture.  I even walked away with ideas for future art projects so it was an afternoon well spent.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Palm Springs Art Museum...gem in the desert

If you follow my other blogs, you know that my time of late has been devoted to commercial stuff punctuated with a lot of family emergencies that have really interfered with my fine art pursuits and blogging in general.  It hasn't stopped me from getting out and enjoying art and doing some fun stuff.

On the 12th the lovely Mrs and I celebrated our 24th Anniversary and we did it without kids for a few days R and R in Palm Springs and the desert.  Love it out there.  We go every year, and not always alone, but always have a wonderful time.

This trip we paid a visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum as we've heard its a really nice place and they had a Picasso and impressionists exhibit.  The latter as you recall influences some of my arty stuff at times.  The exhibit was small, but beautifully curated and focused.  Even had one of his minotaur line drawings that I remembered from my college Art History days...that's going back a while.

They also have a very lively set of permanent collections that they rotate about.  A must see is the sculpture gardens off either the cafeteria or side exhibit hall on the lower levels. Its surprising and awe inspiring.  Some  are bold with color, others are bold with line and form only to carry them.  The blown glass "boulders" among the cactus are just plain fun.

We visited the main campus of the Palm Springs Art Museum.  In digging through their web I learned that they also have a secondary campus located in Palm Desert only a few miles away.  When we next visit the area we will hit the  Palm Desert venue to see what they have new and different.

More pics of our visit from the areas photography were allowed can be found on Flickr in my Palm Springs Art Museum set.

Deets: Palm Springs Art Museum  101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs CA 92262

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Lovin' the iPhone panorama feature

Click to embiggen and get the full picture.  Its pretty amazing, not the image but the tool to capture.

The iPhone panoramic feature is pretty awesome tool.  You simply select it from the options bar, and rotate smoothly, keeping the arrow on the line and you get a seamless panoramic image.  Just like this.  None of that sloppy image blending from photoshop, this is really a wonderful tool.  I use it often.

I've done a few others, but this is my favorite image so far.  Love the desert sunsets.  Loved better how the iPhone program seamlessly addressed the changing exposure from where the sun was setting to the already darkening horizon.  Yummy.