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
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
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
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 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
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.
Where: New York, NY
Between Meeting: After IPC Annual Lunch
A few years ago I attended the annual International Photographic Council’s lunch at the United Nations.
My flight out of LaGuardia wasn’t until after 10pm which allowed me to look for pictures during golden hour.
Normally I head to my old stomping grounds in Chelsea, Tribeca or Soho. This area of The City was my old sales territory and the very heart of the Photo District.
But since I was on the East Side in a tony-neighborhood, I decided to stay out of my comfort zone and headed up to Central Park. It was frustrating at first looking at classic scenes of joggers, people out for a walk and the well-heeled having a late afternoon picnic. How boring…
One of the things I love about New York are the extremes between urban congestion and open spaces. With some basic camera techniques forcing flare and using selective focus for the best bokeh, I was able to make this picture look like a classic scene from the Adirondacks, vs its actual location where 4 million people could be found in a 4 mile radius.
Where: North Hollywood, CA
Between Meeting: Stopped For Coffee
Most Starbucks in North America have the same physical layout. There is a certain comfort in knowing that wherever I go, I know where the half and half can be found.
Almost all Starbucks with windows facing the street have semi-transparent blinds that are lowered to block the setting or rising sun. When I find myself in a Starbucks and those inside are wincing due to the sun, I make sure I’m ready for some potentially great backlit stuff.
When the blind was lowered at this Starbucks in my native San Fernando Valley, the diffused but still semi-specular light, illuminated the short cropped hair of a woman reminding me of a total eclipse.
Where: San Diego, CA
Between Meeting: Before Meeting with Prospective Ad Agency
We were visiting several Ad Agencies and listening to their pitches.
One Agency was based in San Diego. Instead of driving down from LA for the meeting, I spent the night in San Diego giving me the early morning to shoot in the Gas Light Quarter.
When I saw this broken street lamp I simply found the right angle for it to point at the moon.
Where: Kent, England
Between Meeting: On Vacation
My wife is from Kent in Southeast England and we often go there on holiday. Kent is known as the Garden of England, and on this trip I was determined to make garden pictures.
But while visiting Leeds Castle,I saw my opportunity to shoot green growing stuff in the Castle’s Maze. I thought there might be an interesting perspective from the tower in the center of the maze and headed that way. 20 minutes later I was still trying to find the center. 30 minutes later I was still trying to find the center and 40 minutes later wondered how my kids who were waving to me from the tower in the center were able to find it. But eventually (50 minutes later) I made it.
I saw my shot but had to wait for the right head to pass through the scene, in the right light. English weather is ever-changing and I would follow the perfect head as it made its way into the perfect spot only to have a cloud intercede and flatten out the scene. It’s easy to give up in this kind of situation but since I was not looking forward to making my way back out, I just monitored the sky and waited for the right person.
I saw a man in a red hat bobbing his way through the maze and it reminded me of the red raincoat from Don’t Look Now (It must have been the jet lag). He was making his way to the right spot, the sun came out, and I made two exposures before the clouds returned.
Where: Atlanta Airport Hotel
Between Meeting: After Photoshop World
I was trying to get home early after Photoshop World last week, but no seats were available on the last flight out of Atlanta. So I checked into an airport hotel for the first flight out the next morning.
While airport hotels are usually where the action isn’t, great light is great light and for about 45 minutes, it was great.
Shafts of light were streaming across the congruent floors in the open plan interior. I found the best angle and waited for someone to walk across one of the floors to create a striking silhouette. I waited and waited and nothing, nobody. I was feeling a bit down and about to bail when a friendly young woman walking to the elevator, which was behind me, smiled and asked what I was doing. I told her about the amazing light and that I was waiting for someone to walk by for a silhouette with no success. She immediately volunteered and I remember saying, “Really!” She asked where she should go and I directed her to the 3rd floor for the best angle since we were on the 5th floor. It would have been awkward for me to yell across the building to move toward the window so I used arm and hand signals until she was in the best spot. After making the exposures I quickly went to the 3rd floor to show her the results on the camera’s LCD. She was thrilled, I was delighted, and I gave her my business card asking her to email me so I could send her the image with my thanks.
The light was still great, so I headed outside and saw an interesting film noir-ish scene via the backlit cars in the parking lot. Due to the extreme contrast ratio I was doing a bracket of exposures when I heard, “What are you doing, I’m calling Security”. Unlike the woman inside who was incredibly helpful, this hotel employee was, shall we say, the opposite. I told her I was just taking pictures of the light on the cars, and within 20 seconds a hotel Security Agent was all over me like a cheap suit. “Who are you, this is private property” as if I was working for Vladimir Putin and plotting the annexation of the parking lot in the name of Mother Russia to complement the take over of Crimea. Or maybe I was unaware that if one parks their car in the hotel’s lot, that the vehicle’s title and registration is forfeited to the hotel…
After I gave the agent my name, room number etc. I remember thinking he was probably doing what he thought was right. And when he did his report and saw that I’m at the highest level of this hotel chain’s membership rewards program, that maybe he should have been a little friendlier and think in terms of customer service first, like my new friend inside the building. I learned the women who posed for me was in a training program for Delta Airlines where customer service is mission critical. After exchanging emails with her it was clear Delta Airlines both spotted a wonderful person to represent them, and in their training program, likely reinforced how small things can go a long way to building customer loyalty.
Maybe the hotel should send its employees, to the same customer training programs of which its guests are enrolled.
Where: Las Vegas, NV
Between Meeting: During Photoshop World
Right after the Expo closed I took a walk by the wave pool at Mandalay Bay. I saw several tourists with cameras shooting the artificial waves by the fake beach and knew, there would be a great shot if I looked in the opposite direction of the obvious.
These unused beach chairs were stacked in a corner and I simply dragged them out of the shadows about 10 feet, and angled them so the light raked left to right.
In color the chairs have a golden glow, but a quick conversion to black-and-white brought out the simple elegance of these mundane objects.
Where: San Pedro, CA
Between Meeting: Heading Back to the Office
This is the negative space composition I was working before I noticed the nuns to my left.
Great light, clean, simple but it just needed something. Fortunately some kids started to shoot hoops and I chose an angle where they would be out of frame.
While they were taking their shots, I found my shot.
Where: Tokyo, Japan
Between Meeting: Morning Before Meetings at Headquarters
I was pacing around my 20th floor room thinking about what to do before my 8:30am train to Matsumoto. Then at dawn, I looked out the window and saw a sea of people slowly moving in the Shinjuku Central Park.
When I got to the park I found about 100 elderly people doing exercises to recorded music. It was summer so many were wearing white exercise outfits but I was drawn to this man who was wearing a simple white t-shirt. When there is a large group of people it’s easy to want to show everybody. But by taking a low angle to remove distracting elements, I was able to create a simple and visually interesting connection with this one person.
Where: New York, NY
Between Meeting: Outside My Hotel During Photo Plus Expo
While the metal fencing protected pedestrians, the area in the morning was on the shadow side of the street and as a result, looked very pedestrian. But when I returned to my hotel after the show, the last light of the day illuminated the metal giving it a warm 3D glow.
Right before sunset I noticed a shaft of light hitting people as they walked by. I waited for a person with the perfect height to walk by and light up his or her face. At least 50 people passed through the scene and the shaft of light was either hitting their hair or their neck. To complicate things, the shaft of light was moving as the sun was setting and trucks would go by and intermittently block the light. Finally, the right person walked by at the right time and it reminded me of that great scene in the Blues Brothers when John Belushi is lit up and James Brown preaches, “Do you see the light!” 30 seconds later the light was gone.