Where: Lake Forest, CA
Photographers know that dramatic weather makes for more interesting pictures. As Jay Maisel says, “I’m from New York, I don’t trust any air that I can’t see”.
On a scout for a video shoot a few years ago in the suburbs of Los Angeles we experienced something quite unusual in Southern California, clouds. Make that Old Testament looking clouds.
Because its relatively rare to have interesting weather is sunny LA, when it happens, it’s a major and embarrassing news story. But I ignore how people are reacting to the weather and go looking for images.
It was end of day, light was streaming through breaks in the dramatic sky, and I was quite upset at being in the modern and boring looking burbs of Orange County. With only minutes of light left, I looked around and found a nice incident angle on a parking lot light.
Depending on one’s perspective this image can be seen as a religious symbol, or maybe it’s just a parking lot light against a biblical looking sky.
Where: Tijuana, Mexico
Young people from San Diego used to head to TJ on the weekends.
I don’t recall why these four teenagers were lined up, but I loved the diversity of body types and standing styles.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
I was walking to a meeting at Epson Hanbai (Hanbai means sales and Epson Hanbai is the sales office for Japan vs manufacturing in Hirooka).
On my walk I came across a fire station where the fireman were lined-up outside as part of a drill.
At this particular angle I was able to show 4 distinct waistlines.
Where: Detroit, MI
I’ve been on yet another multi-segment trip.
My current trip started in Toronto for the ProFusion show, then to the office in Long Beach for meetings, then to Seattle for a broadcast with Anne Geddes and finally to PhotoPlus + Expo in New York City.
For those that think being on the road is incredibly exciting, this image I took while changing planes in Detroit, captures what its really like on long trips and a yearning to simply get back home.
Where: Munich Germany
It was in a snapshot situation in a famous place (Marienplatz).
I looked for ways to be more creative than to take a snap that I would never look at again.
When I saw a woman taking a snapshot with a modern device, I found my creative approach to an historical landmark.
Where: O’Hare Airport, Chicago
I’m in Chicago about 20 times a year but it’s often for less than an hour. As I approach 2 Million Miles with United Airlines one gets to know United’s hub at O’Hare.
While my fellow United Premier flyers think they know O’Hare, they often miss the beauty of the windows.
Many of the windows in the United terminal have geometric spaced stripes of diffused glass between clear glass. When the light is right, and I’m not sprinting to a connecting flight, I look for patterns these lines can cast onto interior walls or in this case, the outline of an employee leaning against the glass.
Where: Toronto, Canada
On a recent Sunday I was prepping for a video shoot in my Toronto hotel room. I was trying to concentrate but kept hearing annoying noises with an odd Doppler Effect.
My room had a small balcony and when I looked down I saw a long parade. I couldn’t tell if it was a parade of law enforcement people representing the Provinces of Canada or fire departments from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) but it didn’t matter, as the uniforms, motion and geometry had the potential for some interesting images.
I angled my camera horizontal vs composing for a more natural vertical. This created more impact and an interesting sense of confusion that reminded me of something from a Woody Allen movie or an Escher drawing. I could have easily cloned out the sewer cover but it helped give a sense of place and dimension.
Cle Elum, WA
I was producing a video with my good friend Marc Vanocur of Shout Softly featuring Corinne Alavekios.
Corinne is located near Cle Elum/Rosyln which is in the heart of the Cascade Mountains. Many will recognize the area from the television series Northern Exposure.
After we were done taping I went for a drive through town. After 45 minutes I didn’t get out of the car because I saw the remnants of Northern Exposure vs something more Dano like. So I plugged Sea-Tac into the GPS and headed West.
It’s a beautiful drive but no real Dano pictures until I saw an abandoned barn. I got off at the next exit and located the the barn. The best shots were macros of exposed nails with a narrow depth of field to knock foregrounds and the Cascade Mountains out of focus.
To save money on flights to attend Photokina, I flew into Munich before heading to Cologne the next day.
When I checked into my hotel I saw a typical stand one would find anywhere in the world with pamphlets on local attractions and restaurants.
I normally avoid local tourist stuff but since it was my first time in Munich, the information on the stand was quite useful for finding the Viktualienmarkt and the famous Rathaus-Glockenspiel in Marienplatz. Then I was momentarily stunned when a saw a brochure for Tours of Dachau. I certainly knew about Dachau but I just did not know how to react to a tour of such a place and decided to walk to the City Center instead.
It’s always a joy with camera in hand being in a new place with a different culture and hearing a different language. I walked seemingly everywhere and even succumbed to taking some snapshots, but I kept thinking about that Dachau tour.
The jet lag was kicking in so I headed back to the hotel and looked into the Dachau tour for the next morning. But the tours would not finish in time for me to catch my flight to Cologne, so I figured out how to take an early train to the town of Dachau and then a bus to the Concentration Camp Memorial Site.
I was surprised when I walked out of the train station in Dachau to find a charming town only 16 kilometers north of Munich. There was a hotel, restaurants, gallery, etc. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did not expect to see a nice place so close to where there there used to be so much horror. The bus to the site goes through beautiful tree-lined streets and I was surprised again when we reached the memorial site in a just a few minutes. I assumed it would be in a more remote and desolate location.
I didn’t make many photographs as it was such an emotional place. It just did not seem right to photograph the crematorium, the bunker and the barracks. But at the end of the original camp there are several religious memorials. The photograph I did make that day was at the entrance to the Jewish Memorial but looking back from the Memorial towards the grey skies over the original Concentration Camp. The bleak weather and bird helped capture what I was experiencing.
Where: Boston, MA
Sometimes I just see stuff and wonder…
Where: Brooklyn, NY
RGB color theory (it’s really a fact but for some reason it’s called a theory) states that complementary colors are those of an additive and subtractive color that are 180 degrees from each other on the color wheel. Thus the complementary colors are Red/Cyan, Green/Magenta, Blue/Yellow.
Complementary colors in a projected system can create white or neutral density e.g. they cancel each other out. But when I see them as non-projected light, they often vibrate.
I had just left Steve McCurry’s printing studio and saw a yellow taxi against a blue wall and thought, COMPLEMENTARY! The ad for the Blue Man Group both reinforced the color theory and also gave life to the composition.
Where: Cologne, Germany
With Photokina starting in a few weeks, I was reminded of an image I shot in one of the cafeterias at the Koelnmesse a few years ago.
The foreground is a silhouette of a chair back. The chair is in front of a wall with small holes allowing one to see through to the other side.
What I found intriguing was the shadow being cast on the wall from another table with a flower. If you look long enough, the image becomes more interesting and quite confusing as the brain tries to determine if the shadow of the flower is coming from behind camera, or coming from the other side of the wall.
Where: Miami Beach, FL
I was staying near the airport in Miami but had several hours before my flight.
It was early morning and the sun was starting to stream over South Florida, so I grabbed a cab and headed to South Beach. I was hoping to capture all those amazing colors on Ocean Drive but soon it clouded over and things starting looking dull.
Then about a mile from South Beach we came to a dead stop. Turns out that many of the streets were closed due to a Marathon. A police officer said that we would likely be able to pass in 15 minutes which was so frustrating that I thought about finding my way back to the airport.
I was taught to loathe clichés and for some unexplained reason I couldn’t get one of the worst clichés out of my head, “When life gives you lemons make lemonade”. So now I was frustrated in being blocked from South Beach, the dull light and a cliché that I couldn’t stop thinking about. So I acted on that cliché and due to the low light, experimented with slow shutter speeds and camera moves.
I experienced guilt when I liked what I was seeing on the LCD and soon realized in this lighting, getting stuck turned out to be a great thing. By adding noise and saturation in post, I was able to enhance the blurs and create a sense of pointillism.
East Hampton, NY
While the Hamptons are best known as a playground for the rich, there is a deep connection to struggling modern artists.
I was very fortunate to have known Arnold Newman. As a teenager his work fueled my earliest interests in photography. When Arnold presented me with a signed print of Igor Stravinsky at the Piano inscribed, “To my friend Dano” I not only felt incredible gratitude to receive one of the industry’s most iconic images, but a feeling that I was somehow connected to Arnold’s amazing world of Long Island artists.
Arnold set out to be a painter but when money became tight during the depression, he discontinued his studies and found work as a photographer. But he maintained connections to the world of modern art and told me stories of how friends in Cape Cod and Long Island would trade works or sell art to each other for small amounts of money. Arnold swapped work with struggling artists such as Mondrian! I distinctly remember Arnold telling me that one of his friends offered to sell him a painting for $300. That friend was Jackson Pollack. While that painting today is worth Millions, Arnold told me,”$300 was a lot of money back then”. So while Arnold declined the offer, he was able to photograph Pollack at his studio in East Hampton.
That studio, which is a very modest and poorly lit barn, celebrates the work of Pollack by leaving the floor in the same state as it was upon Pollack’s death. Visitors put on special slippers to avoid scuffing what is in many ways an archeological dig of modern art. It not only connects the visitor with Pollack, but with the Hampton artists’ community which included DeKooning, Motherwell and Rothko. It helped me reconnect with my old friend Arnold Newman and what it must have been like during that amazing period of creativity.
Where: Las Vegas, NV
I was in Las Vegas for yet another trade show or event. Frankly I can’t remember, but as usual I woke up at dawn due to jet lag.
I remember it was winter with temperatures in the low 60s, which is balmy for any Easterner in January or February.
While several around the hotel were wearing sweaters, I could tell this lone person reading the paper on the hotel’s fake beach, had to have been from Boston or New York. He was likely reading about a snow storm back home.
Where: Vista, CA
I was driving back to LA after meetings in San Diego and took a different route to avoid traffic (and in hope that I might find something of interest to photograph)
As I was making my way back to the 405, I came across an abandoned drive-in-theatre. I liked the incongruity of a dramatic daylight sky with the screen meant for the evening. It seemed an appropriate memorial for a bygone era.
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Between Meeting: After WPPI
When I have free time during trade show season in Las Vegas, I head Downtown vs The Strip. It’s just more interesting photographically.
The reflection of an old fashioned downtown hotel in a passing bus created a more graphic scene due to the distortion. And the person waiting for the bus, added an element of place.
Where: Chicago, IL
Between Meeting: After Graph Expo
It was raining pretty hard when I left McCormick Place a couple of years ago. Getting a cab was difficult so with umbrella in hand, I decided to walk back to my hotel in the loop.
We lived in Chicago for many years and I remembered how streets and addresses are based on an elegant grid system.
This put me in a mood to look for geometric, grid-like shapes. It was a good thing that I had something to focus on, as that walk was a lot longer than I expected.
While I was capturing this image of a person waiting for a bus near the Illinois Center, I was reminded that I had to do a SWOT analysis that night. SWOT is a basic marketing tool used to assess Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, thus the acronym. SWOT charts are usually depicted as quadrants. But at this particular time, I was dealing with more opportunities and threats and that influenced my compositional placement, along with the rule of thirds.
Where: Penfield NY
Between Meeting: Fourth of July
Being married to a British National makes the 4th of July an interesting day, “If ya know what I mean”.
I like to photograph the parades and look for the patriotic, as well as the not so patriotic, to keep things copacetic on the home front.
Where: New Orleans, LA
Between Meeting: After Video Shoot
I started a new position this past week.
In some ways this image symbolizes a clean start.
But it’s really about the insight I’ve learned from so many amazing photographers regarding gesture, contrast, light, color, texture and mood in the early morning after Mardi Gras.
Where: London, England
Between Meeting: On Vacation
We were on vacation a few years ago visiting the O2 in London.
I saw this great backlit scene where I could make some striking silhouettes and recruited our two kids to pose. It would be fair to say they didn’t have any choice…
While I was directing their position between the horizontal and vertical lines, I heard a polite voice in a British accent say, “So sorry”. Just out of frame left, I saw a man trying to get out of the picture. I was able to quickly zoom out and capture his run going out of frame right, which added a distinctive 3rd Fibonacci element to the composition.
Where: London, England
Between Meeting: On Vacation
I was in London two weeks ago and on my way to the airport.
I bought a ticket at the Notting Hill Gate Tube Stop. From Notting Hill I could get off at Paddington and from there, jump on the Heathrow Express to the airport.
There’s a section at the end of the platform where some daylight could be found, so the quality of light is more humane vs the incandescent dull, normally found in The Underground.
As I looked across the tracks at passengers headed in the opposite direction, I could not help but see the humor in the Notting Hill Gate sign that was partially obscured and said “NOTTIN”
Everyone on the platform looked deflated and dispationate. It was almost as if with a British accent, “NOTTIN” was pronounced, “Nuthin” in keeping with how everybody looked.
Where: Portland, ME
Between Meeting: Morning of Video Shoot
There are two Portlands with a sizable population in the United States. Portland Oregon is the better known city with one of the best mottos out there, “Keep Portland Wierd“.
The lesser known big Portland is Portland Maine. It’s the largest city in the State but most only know the airport and rental car lot from which to head to the more famous Maine Coastline.
I was very excited to have a few free hours in the early morning to explore the city vs shooting another lighthouse. The alarm went off at 6:00am and I quickly threw back the curtains to check out the view from my hotel room. I was disappointed that the hotel had to install a temporary frosted window for some kind of repair, since all I saw was diffused light and no details like that of a bathroom window. But then I saw a faint blurry object move across the window and realized we were big time fogged in.
When confronted with this type of weather in the past I’d just go back to sleep, but now I see it as a great opportunity to create images with mood. So I bolted out of the hotel.
One block away I saw three people walking down the sidewalk. I waited for the right gesture and made the simple but impactful image. This could have been shot in Portland or New York or Beijing but it doesn’t matter. When its foggy I put my focus on the fog, and not what’s fogged in.
Where: Teston, Kent, England
Between Meeting: On Vacation
I’m on a working vacation right now in England or as they say in the UK, “Holiday”.
Big news here is the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) could become less “United” with Scotland soon to vote on Devolution.
So in future we might have to call-out specific regions of the former UK and with that, I was reminded of this image shot on holiday in the village of Teston, County Kent, England.
Teston is a small Medway River town and every year they have a kite festival. Kite festivals are a big deal in England (Not sure about Scotland) and with a mix of blue skies and puffy clouds, it’s easy to succumb to postcard pictures. By getting on my back and shooting up at the person flying multiple kites, I was able to capture a portrait without a face letting the hat convey this person’s personality.
Where: Rental Car Lot at LAX
Between Meeting: Heading to the Office
When I landed at LAX it was raining. Not a big deal, except in LA where it’s a major news event.
The local news stations send reporters to various parts of the city and later that night “Storm Watch” is broadcasted to the Southland letting those watching know that it, drum-roll please, rained.
These reports often consume 20% of the broadcast with rain amounts that wouldn’t keep this New Yorker off a golf course.
Knowing how Angelenos panic when it rains, I decided to make a soothing image. When I was choosing a car in the rental car lot I came across rainwater beading on the top of a sunroof. At the right angle and when going macro, the green tint of the sunroof glass made these beaded raindrops look like polished stones.