The Real China

Shanghi, China



Shanghai Gardens

On my first trip to China we were walking through the Yuuan Market.



It’s a lively area of shops where the art of haggling is on full throttle and the area is filled with real people, and only a few tourists.



I was struck by this woman because of her expressive face and the history she surely experienced from the rise of Mao Tse-tung, to the dreaded Cultural Revolution, to China’s resurgence as the world’s second largest economy.



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Game Face

Where: Miami, FL



Calle Ocho Stare


There’s a park in Little Havana where elderly Cuban Americans play “lively” open air games of dominoes.



Lots of noise, yelling, gestures. In short my kind of place. On a recent visit I challenged myself to find something that illustrated the action without showing the action.



The reflection from the white domino board lit up this players glasses and the awning used to block the sun contributed to the overall design.



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Pacific Bus Stop

Where: Shanghai, China




Bus Stare



After a long flight from San Fransisco we arrived at our hotel during the last remnants of daylight.



Right in front of the hotel was a bus stop and I simple photographed people through the windows of buses in the last minutes before sunset.



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Farewell Mr. King

Where: Miami via Reseda California





On August 5, I received an email from Jeff Sedlik, “Warren is dying and he is asking for you.”



Jeff and I are alumni of the renowned Reseda High School Photography Program, run for decades by the legendary Warren King.



During Warren’s tenure Reseda High was considered by many to be one of the best high school photography programs in the country and spawned a remarkable number of careers in professional photography. Images from Reseda High alumni such as Ron Contarsy, David Radler, Jeff Sedlik, Jay Silverman, Gil Smith, Jeff Widener are recognized today by millions around the world.



I was in Manhattan when I received the email from Jeff and immediately thought of my first trip to Manhattan in 1976. I was fortunate to have just won the Scholastic Magazine Grand Prize as the Best High School Photographer in North America. Warren brought me to Manhattan to accept the award (image below) and view my portfolio in the then Kodak Gallery on 43rd and 6th (now the International Center of Photography Museum). I was 17, it was my first exhibition, and this Valley Boy from Reseda caught the bug for New York City which turned out to play an important role in my career.



Warren and Dano 1976

I was able to reach Warren by phone and told him I would come to see him. I was on a long business trip and could only hope that he would still be with us by the time I made it to California. I did make it to the King’s house to visit with Warren in hospice care.



While sitting with Warren I looked around the room that was filled with amazing prints from his students, prints of his own wonderful images, numerous awards and even a signed Karsh of Winston Churchill, but the most poignant object for me was a paperweight on the coffee table. The paperweight was composed of the capital letters KISS. KISS was often called out in class by Warren and stood for, “Keep it Simple Stupid”. It was and continues to be the compositional foundation of any successful Reseda graduate’s work because the most memorable images are those that tell a compelling story with singular impact. It’s the reason Warren loved the image above of the mop, simple elegance of an everyday object. Now its easy to say KISS, but quite difficult to pull it off. The term is attributed to the head aeronautical designer of the Lockheed’s Skunk Works that produced some of the most sophisticated aircraft ever to fly. And the concept is cited in this Forbes article by Amy Rees Anderson which starts with the quote by C.W Cernan, “Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple” and Anderson then speaks not about design but to business with, “Too often, people over-complicate things in business in an attempt to display their intelligence…” Warren’s introduction to KISS continues to empower me in situations well beyond photography.



Because of Warren’s reputation, the Reseda High Program attracted many of the most promising photo students in Southern California. It was quite competitive and it would be fair to say there were some boisterous personalities. One way Warren managed this environment where egos would sometimes get out of control was to simply point to a sign in his office which said, “Don’t Tell Me How Good You Are, Show Me”.



I distinctly remember taking my dripping darkroom tray with what I thought was an amazing print for Warren’s approval and being told to dodge this, burn that, e.g. reprint it.  And then reprint it again. And then on the third attempt watch him point to the sign which of course meant, reprint. But that process to me was never destructive and only nurturing, it turned me into the photographer and printmaker I am today.



Warren also exposed us to amazing photographers and photographs that few at the high school level would have known. He would show the works of Eddie Adams, William Albert Allard, Richard Avedon, Paul Caponigro, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Yousef Karsh, Brian Lanker, Jay Maisel, Arnold Newman, Joe Rosenthal, Pete Turner and many more. I only mention these few names as I have been fortunate to have met them and in some cases the honor to work with them. Seeing great works of photography at an early age fueled my passion for photography.



I remember in my first year at Brooks Institute where the drop out rate was close to 50% seeing fellow students bellowing that they could not handle the pressure of the assignments and deadlines were totally insane. Those that eventually dropped out never saw Warren’s sign or had to deal with the challenging assignments Warren would give us in High School like, “Create a photograph of a loved one but that person cannot be visible, critique will be on Friday.” Many of my fellow students in college were not exposed to the great works of photography as I was by Warren, and it has been all of this which reinforced all that is creatively possible and sustained me through tough times.



Today I oversee and print many of the images at Epson professional photography trade shows. Amongst my Epson colleagues I have, at times, a semi-annoying reputation for being a perfectionist and making multiple prints until I’m happy. That level of perfection is also in play with just about every form of marketing communication of which I’m involved from video to advertising. But what my colleagues don’t know is this zeal is not to make me happy, but what was drilled into me by Warren with the goal of getting that understated, but so critical subtle nod of approval vs being directed to that damn sign!



I am fortunate to have the trust of many of the greatest photographers in our industry. These photographers have seen how I work, due to my training at Reseda, and as a result they have confidence that their work and their reputations are in the best hands. There is an old adage amongst professional photographers that you’re only as good as your last job. For me I feel that I’m only as good as my weakest print, video or ad. On a daily basis I act on what Anonymous is credited with saying, though I suspect it was really coined by Warren that, “Excellence is the difference between what I do and what I’m capable of.”



As I learned of Warren’s passing I closed my eyes and went back in time. I could almost smell the fixer and see the double door entrance to the color lab, the dichroic enlargers and the accompanying color analyzers and timers, the light trap into the black and white darkroom, the studio lighting in the back of the classroom, the drum dryer to the left, the small room in the front for loading film to the right, and off to the side Warren’s office which was a converted closet and above his typewriter, that infamous sign. This was more home for me than my real home and Warren was more a father to me than my own.



It was in this small section of an average school, in a nondescript part of the San Fernando Valley that my mentor propelled me into a career working with the greatest photographers, a career that has literally, taken me around the world.



And in keeping with what Warren taught, moving forward there will be fewer words, more pictures, striving for excellence and most importantly, I’ll be keeping it simple.



Posted in Between Meetings

Speak for Yourself

Where: Portland, OR






Ran into the Urban Idiotarod on my way to the Portland Airport.




Not much to say other than some images speak for themselves.



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Doing Time

Where: Anaheim, CA




Tennis Bars


I recently attended a meeting at the Disneyland Conference Center. While the meeting turned out to be a bit Mickey Mouse, on the way back to the office I was able to make a decent picture.




This might seem like an inmate behind bars, but it’s a tennis player wearing white and the stripes are created by the blue tarp wrapped around the chain link fence surrounding the court. I simply shot through the tarp and used selective focus to emphasize the player.





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Steam Bath

Where: Miami Beach, FL




Lonely South Beach


After meetings in Boca Raton last week I decided to spend an extra day in Miami before heading to LA. If I flew home from Boca I would only have half a day to take a shower and mow the lawn before heading back to the airport. And this way I could spend time at great places like South Beach and Calle Ocho.




I’ve been to Florida in the summer before and was prepared for the heat and humidity, but this time the temperature humidity index was close to 110 and fit only for gators.




Because of the heat, the beach at South Beach was relatively quiet. It seemed the only way this lone sunbather could escape the searing heat, was to seek shelter in the “refreshing” 84 degree F water with red highlights reflecting the above angry sky.



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Where: New York, NY





I was in The City recently to present an award at the PDN Photo Annual.



The view from my hotel was of an uninspiring building, so I turned 90 degrees left to get caught up on email.



After 20 minutes I felt a sense of heat hitting the right side of my face and knew it had to be light coming in through the window. The light was the incident reflection of the metallic ventilation shaft from that pedestrian looking building across the street.



By underexposing I was able to knock down the boring bricks and bring out all the texture of the metal resulting an interesting shape resembling the number one.



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My Emerald City

Where: Seattle, WA



Green on GreenSeattle is one of my favorite cities but I’m often conflicted because like nearby Vancouver, it’s so clean and nice and beautiful.



Just not conducive for the pictures I like to make.



When my colleagues and I learned we had a 20 minute wait for a table at Dukes Chowder House, I took the opportunity to look around in the waning light.



Walking around Lake Union there were yachts and wooden boats and picturesque skylines straight out of Postcard Central. I never took off the lens cap. On my way back to the restaurant I saw this monochromatic and geometric scene that turned into my version of the Emerald City.




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Where: Hermosa Beach, CA



Torso Rain



While some go to the beach to photograph surfers or those classic sunsets off the pier, I tend to look in the opposite direction.



When the light is right, the outdoor showers designed to wash away sand, are seemingly custom-built for abstract photographs.



With a high shutter speed, I was able to stop the action of this shower creating a sense of etched needles against the silhouetted person.



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Apple Bottom

Where: Rochester, NY



Apple Bottom



My wife loves the Rochester Public Market and one Saturday morning I tagged along.




And of course I started to see pictures vs helping with the shopping.








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Holey Holiday

Where: Carson, CA





I see this flag, which is adhered to the side of an oil refinery, on my monthly drives from the office to LAX.



I’ve always been intrigued by the holes which are designed for airflow to keep the flag pinned to the building. On this 4th of July, I can’t help but see the connection between these holes and the disfunctionality of today’s Congress.




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Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Where: Cocoa Beach, FL



CocoaI was at Infocomm last week for meetings related to my 3LCD responsibilities.



It’s always interesting going to non-photo trade shows where I can learn about different technologies and markets. There’s a level of freedom for me at these shows where I’m not known and can visit the facilities without receiving a standup mid-stream sponsorship pitch. If ya know what I mean…



But Infocomm does have a connection to the photographic world as it was held in the same location as several photo trade shows, the dreaded Orlando. Followers know my disdain for this antiseptic locale with no pictures. But there was one more geographic insult, Orlando in June.



Heat, Humidity, Tourists, No Culture, and No Pictures. About as bad as it gets for me.



With 4 hours to kill before my hotel room was available, my fight or flight survival reflexes were activated and I fled to the Space Coast. My limbic system was driving my need to find cooler temperatures but while driving my right brain was saying, “Nice move, the beach at noon in a Soltice month. Guess you were out sick that first day of lighting in Photo 101″.



My limbic system prevailed. And while the temps on the beach felt 20 degrees F cooler, the light was straight overhead and uuuuuugly. I was about to give up when I saw some colorful beach umbrellas. The closer I got to the umbrellas I realized that they were looking better than they were due to the polarization of my sunglasses. That prompted me to look for reflections in sunglasses. A woman near the umbrellas was kinda enough to place her sunglasses on the top of her head and move left/right so I could find the best angle of reflection. In doing so, I was able to transform the ugly light into something more palatable and could not help but think of Cousin Itt.






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Exit Stage Right

Where: Las Vegas



Blue Hunchback


Another trade show in Las Vegas.



After show hours, I took a cab downtown just east of the Fremont Street Experience.



It’s in this part of Dodge where I like to experience the real Las Vegas.

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Cinco de Junio

Where: Los Angeles, CA




Air BoyToday is the 5th of June which reminded me of an image from a month earlier on 5th of May better known as, Cinco de Mayo.



In high school, I would take a two hour bus ride downtown for Cinco De Mayo events which centered in and around Broadway in my native Los Angeles.



Fast forward a few decades and instead of the bus, I was able to travel in greater luxury via a rental car and parked not far from the Bradbury Building just off Broadway.



As I made my way from Grand Central Market towards City Hall I was surrounded by thousands of people. In these situations, I always think of Jay Maisel’s advise to focus on singular subjects vs the larger tapestry and found that subject on the shoulders of his father.



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Burning Metal

Where: Los Angeles, CA



Hot Metal


Forest fire?








Photo micrograph?




Electron micrograph?




It’s just the fuselage of a jet at LAX, reflecting the sunrise.



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Off to The Races

Where: Los Alamitos, CA




Oh Yea

When in LA for meetings at the office, I often stay at a hotel next to the Los Alamitos Horserace Track.



One Sunday afternoon I decided to walk over and see if there were any interesting pictures inside, as I had been smelling “interesting” things for years outside.



I learned that most of the actual racing takes place in the evenings and during the day, people sit inside and and place bets via monitors of tracks around the country.



No horses, no winning jockeys draped in colorful flowers, just people slumped over tables with betting sheets under the nauseating glow of fluorescent lights.



I was able to salvage my $2 entry fee by capturing this silhouette which is really a reflection of two people talking outside the Track’s dreary coffee shop. The inexpensive glass distorted the reflecting palm trees which added interest and put focus on the punters.



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Stop on Red

Where: New York City



Red Light



I was in New York last week working on a very exciting project.




While I was walking back to my hotel in Tribeca from the studio where we were shooting, I saw this interesting triad of shapes.




By waiting for the red light and getting my position just right, I could not help but think Chris Christie was glaring at me from the other end of the Tunnel.



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Play Ball

Where: Los Angeles, CA



Flat Wall


I often find myself driving up and down La Brea Ave. from the 10 to visit photographers in Hollywood.




One of the buildings on La Brea houses an indoor baseball batting cage. I was curious what the inside of the building looked like as I had only seen the baseball jerseys painted on the outside wall from numerous rental cars.



But this shot of a boy who was more curious than me, as to how one can hit baseballs inside a building in the heart of LA, proved to be the more interesting view.




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Orange Picking

Where: San Diego CA



Orange Cable Car


I was in San Diego to avoid Carmageddon.




Not sure why, but I decided to visit the famous San Diego Zoo.




Within a few minutes I was no longer looking at the animals, but at the cable car that runs above the animals.

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Shine On

Where: Los Angeles, CA






Our son had an audition recently to attend the renowned classical guitar program at the USC Thornton School of Music. While we live in Upstate New York, as a native Valley Boy I was thrilled that he may be headed back to my home town.



As we were planning the trip to USC, I carved out time in our schedule to show him my favorite places in LA from Venice Beach to the Original Tommy’s. But he told me he really wanted to spend as much time as possible at USC and anything related to it’s music program.



I was kinda disappointed. I wanted to brag a bit about LA and take him to places few in LA even know of, but quickly realized this was a very good sign. For those who move to LA from the East Coast it can be tempting to ease into a more relaxed lifestyle, lose focus and chill-out a bit too much. I knew at that moment that our son was dedicated to the instrument he loves and would not be looking for every chance to sneak out and hit Zuma.



Fortunately during our visit there would be an opportunity to attend a concert by a USC Orchestra at Disney Hall. Well at least I could show him Disney Hall!



It was mid-day when we arrived at the Hall and in LA that often means bright and sunny. While all were reaching for sunglasses due to the reflections off that amazing building, I remembered this photograph I made right before the Hall opened. It was 2003 and I had a free hour before one of those classic meetings. I remember driving around my old hangouts like Angels Flight and the Triforium when I saw Disney Hall for the first time. I was stunned by the way it stood out from the Downtown LA I knew as a kid.



While walking around the structure looking for the best angles I remember being hit up by two panhandlers and a hooker. This was par for the Downtown LA I knew as a teenager. I also remember my retina feeling a bit burned-in because the metal was intensely reflective.



A few years after the Hall opened, it was decided that the metal was indeed too reflective and the high gloss was buffed out. While there are many images of Disney Hall, it’s no longer possible to experience what I captured because the exterior has a different reflective nature. And as Downtown LA itself has a different nature with a rejuvenated sense of place, there were no encounters with the before-mentioned, usual suspects.



The pressure is now on as we just learned that our son will be attending USC this Fall. So since the school is not far from Disney Hall, I have to reflect on how to make a better, but less reflective picture.



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I Really Needed a P

Where: New York City



Yellow P copy I was on my way to the New York Photo Salon in Tribeca when the sun peaked out from the clouds.



It was towards end of the day and the metal of this pre-war building started to glow.



I waited for the right person, wearing the right clothes, with the right gesture to come out through the revolving door. But nothing. That door seemed like it was on lock down, but soon the perfect person walked by in front of the door vs coming through it. To my delight he stopped and waited for a bus.



When I saw the letter P on his hat was a similar hue as the glowing metal, I moved my position just a bit so that the P was in the the middle of a dark rectangle within the revolving door.



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Yea Right

Somewhere USA






I don’t remember where I shot this.



But I do recall thinking, that something wasn’t quite right.

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Stain, What Stain

Where: New York City



Blue Stain



While walking through the Garment District, I saw a person with an interesting gesture.



It’s as though he was drawing attention away from a shirt pocket mishap.




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What’s That Guy Doing?

Where: Long Beach, CA





I was driving into the office and saw a car wash on PCH that was beautifully lit in the morning light




Several people were likely wondering why I parked my car and then walked into where the cars were actually being washed. But they couldn’t see the interesting abstract shapes I was seeing of an automated brush with soap passing over a door handle on a white car.

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