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Archive for August, 2010


Aug 15

In Equipment, Seminars & Workshops at 5:56pm


Heading north. Following the, uh, light:-) Actually, it’s great weather up there now in Iceland, and heading for my first visit to a country that has been on the bucket list for a long time. You can check out the specifics here.

It’ll be fun. I’m always jazzed by a new place, and will be pushing hard to find some crazy stuff to shoot. Another cool wrinkle–I’m on the beta team for the new Pocket Wizard Mini’s and Flexes for the Nikon CLS system. This is an interesting door to open, for sure. Line of sight issues can bedevil TTL shooters, and if we can push the envelope with TTL radio, well, that envelope just got a helluva lot larger.


So we make the great Northern trek. Drew and I have our sturdy skiff loaded, have said our prayers to Odin, donned horned helmets, buckled on broadswords, and, with following winds and fair seas, we should be pulling into Reykjavik in time for Friday night’s lecture.

If things don’t go well, and we are engulfed by the seas, I figure it’s okay, cause we got TTL radio. Instead of Mayday! Mayday! we’ll be signalling, “Minus Three! Minus Three!” I’m sure the Coast Guard will be intrigued enough to figure it out.


I’ve got a bunch of them, so figure the class will help me sort it out as well. I’ll be doing demos and see where this new signal takes us. As always, experimenting.

We’ve certainly come a long ways since Nikon introduced on board slave eyes back in the SB-26.


More tk…

My Friend, Donald

Aug 11

In Friends at 7:54am


Happily, I was in Donald’s company last week in Santa Fe, when a storm came up. Wind was rattling through the old penitentiary, speaking in tongues, maybe in the voices of those who died so viciously there. I looked outside, and looked at the sky. Then I went looking for Donald.

Donald and I go back a ways now. I think the reason I’ve been able to knock off the occasional good frame of him is that I like him so damn much. To say he is wise and decent is to understate the case. He is a soulful, a twinkly eyed water witcher of the human spirit. He finds what is good in people.

He recognizes the flip side, too. We had a hoot sitting and talking last week. He arched his brows as he mentioned a couple of posing experiences he had lately, referring to one shooter we had mutual knowledge of as “as bull headed pain in the ass.” Ah, Donald. Not only wise, but to the point. Photogs need to remember they make an impression, and it’s a lasting one.

I’ve seen him weather his own storms. He is a cancer survivor, and a few years back, he kept coming to class, posing for the workshops, without his wonderful swatch of white hair. That danger receded, and his hair grew back, and blessedly, he kept working for the workshops. And when he comes to class, he comes to class. He brings his own clothes rack, and array of boots that would stock your average western apparel store, multiple hats, dusters, overcoats, and ties. He is always early.

And, he knows more about lighting than your average Joe. I’ve seen him coach a workshop participant. “You’re gonna wanna lower that light.” He’s invariably right.

We shot this together in a matter of minutes, again, ’cause we know and trust each other. We jumped up in a pickup bed to get some elevation. I told Mike Sakas, who was working with me to help him up, even though I knew that was fruitless. Donald jumped into the back of the pickup easier than I did, that’s for sure. Help? Not in his vocabulary, unless he’s offering that to others.

Shot it with a D3X, 24-70mm lens, and a Quadra pack and head, jacked into a small strip light soft box. Maxed the Quadra to give me about f22, so I could drag shutter to about an eighth or so. Hoping the wind might whip his hair into a frenzy, which it did. The wind almost whipped poor Michael away, trying desperately to position the light. See below, shot by Garrett Garms.


With my course assistants Michael, Meghan, and Sakas coaching me, I pushed and pulled this a touch in post. (Mongo push slider! Mongo like!) They were great. I felt like a person in a self help workshop, being coached to overcome some debilitating malady or fear. “You can do it Joe! Just use the slider! You can walk! Walk to me Joe!”

Donald don’t really need much pushing and pulling. He is comfortable in his own skin, and that’s the way I’ve always shot him. He loves his honey, and takes her out on the dance floor every week. He told me at one point, “Joe, we really complicated our lives this past year. We learned a new dance step.”

He also said to me once, “Joe, the day they put me down, all the music in the world’s gonna stop.”

Here’s to the music playing for a long time…..more tk….

Asian Tour 2011

Aug 9

In Tours at 7:31am

This past January, our good friend and great shooter, Louis Pang, invited us to come across the world to Malaysia and shed some small flash light on their country.  We had great talent, cool locations, and an incredibly enthusiastic group of shooters.


After rockin’ and rollin’ through last year, we’ve decided to make the trip again, but this time, on a much larger scale.  We’ll be spending the entire month of January 2011 teaching workshops and conducting seminars in four different Asian locales: Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.  All the info can be found by clicking here, at this wonderful site Mr. Pang and his team have put together. Super cool thing–my wife Annie will be teaching a piece of the tour as well, a beginner class, designed to get folks out of the gate with their DSLR. It’s a class designed to build skills, and confidence behind the lens. She knows digital systems backwards and forwards, and really covers all the bases for the person who is just getting used to this newly acquired digital picture machine.

The tour culminates in Kuala Lumpur, where we’ll be part of a huge event called Creative Asia.  Louis, Annie, Dane Sanders, Michael Greenberg, Manny Librodo, and I will be putting on a multi-day photo conference with a ton of cool events planned.. workshops, open discussions, shootouts, etc.


Social media maniacs, never fear, we’ll be blogging, tweeting, and status updating the whole time, along with the occasional smoke signal.


Check out the official Facebook and Twitter feeds for the tour, to keep up to date on all we’re planning.

More tk…


Aug 6

In history, Stories at 7:26am

In the midst of all this stuff about flash, digital, and color, harking back to available light…

Got a call not too long ago from Carly Simon’s folks. We worked together once, long time ago. I was still a pup, basically, shooting for People Magazine, and just starting my journeys for LIFE. The idea of working for Geographic was still just a glimmer, unobtainable, in the distance, a photographic mirage.

So when the call came, I was like, she remembers me??? Huh? Turns out, of course, I was not the memorable one, but one of my pictures, even after all this time, is among her favorites of her and her kids.


Sarah (Sally Maria) and Ben, her kids with James Taylor. Geez, talk about the deep end of the genetic pool. Good looking family, yes?

I was nervous as hell meeting her. Trying to be all things, funny, charming, light her well, figure it out, fill 6 pages, shoot a color cover and a B&W inside feature in about a day. Deep breath.

She made it simple by being so gracious and lovely. My personal favorite is below. By the window, with a book.


Easy going available light, Tri-x at 400. You could get a lot done, shooting this way.


And have some fun doing it.



We had a great time up on Martha’s Vineyard. Still remember it fondly, all these years later. Carly’s been promoting some new work lately, checkout her website. Or, join her team.


Lovely lady with a big smile and an even bigger voice…..more tk….

The Sounds of Silence….

Aug 4

In Rambling, Rants at 7:30am

Just flew Frontier Airlines for the first time. They did a good job. Counter agent was very nice and didn’t even give me the evil eye when I approached laden with 8 pieces to check and just me traveling. Everything was pretty smooth, though, as is typical of every airline, a little tight in coach. I was working on my laptop, and the guy in front of me decided to recline suddenly. I think I might have broken a rib. It’s really, really hard to type when you have to lift your stomach off your keyboard to get to the keys.


So Frontier’s cool, though it is, as their jaunty slogan suggests, a different kind of animal. Rustic is perhaps a good way to put it. I half expected the flight attendants to be wearing red plaid shirts and suspenders. Their free snacks were decidedly on the natural foods, chex-mex side of things. When I passed the flight deck I thought I heard the pilot and co-pilot humming bars from “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m Okay.”

The real trouble with flying a crunchy airline out of a crunchy city is that you might end up sitting near someone who just visited the Pacific Northwest and had a life altering, body scrubbing, soul searching, colon cleansing experience. Such was my fate to sit close-by to someone who had done just that.

Fresh from the salubrious, pine tinged air of the great outdoors, this particularly exuberant, thoroughly pleasant wacko had just been ensconsed at some ashram type of retreat where no conversation was allowed. Yep. Couldn’t speak a word for over, like 48 hours. Silent. Non-verbal. Not a peep.

And my wasn’t she the little pent up bundle of conversation! Holy shit. I was listening (it wasn’t a choice) from a couple rows of seats away in the waiting area, straining my eyes to see if I could see the aisle and seat number on her ticket. I kept thinking about   Airplane! and those folks who offed themselves rather than listen to another word about George Zip.

Oh my. Evidently, the place was really beautiful, and the experience of utter silence so profoundly soothing that, like a magpie on speed, she just chattered on about it to anyone in earshot, leaving any sense of the irony of it all bobbing in the wake of the twin Evinrudes of her lips.

Evidently the  deep, nearly spiritual connection with silence didn’t take. She was a one person cocktail party, basically supplying both ends of the conversation as people desperately tried to appear otherwise engaged. It’s tough, though, attempting to appear compelled by reading the type on the air sickness bag.

It’s okay. Another day in the skies.  A baby started screaming, and the steam went out of any talking in our section. Lord what a wonderful noise.

More tk….