Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The (New York) Time is Now

Picked up the NYT to catch up on some news last night, which I've actually been reading on my iphone since we cancelled our Sunday subscription.  I still wonder if I will pay for it once they start charging for the online version.  (Btw, why no photo credits or captions on the iphone version?)

On the front page:  Subway bombing in Moscow.  Horrible.  Not what I want to read about.  Moving down the page, a depressing article about how photographers are struggling.  Not really news to me.  Further down, an editor from House and Garden slides into a life of despair, emptiness and compulsive eating after she is laid off.  (image above by Tanyth Berkeley.)  Ok, head to sports for something lighter.  The lucrative bubble of professional golf has burst, thanks to Tiger's romantic exploits.  Even golf is in a state of turmoil.


This morning, I met a guy whose life was changed forever by a rock.  A rock that fell off a cliff, hit him on the head, and nearly killed him.   That rock was destined for his skull, and it changed him forever.  He quit his job as a real estate broker and focused instead on leaving a legacy.  He now works to inspire others to live in the moment, and create positive change in the world.

Went back to the NYT this morning, and read about a new supercollider that was fired up on Tuesday.  It's the biggest, fastest, most expensive collider in the world, and physicists are pee-in-their-pants excited about the secrets it may unlock.  I love when scientists get really excited:

Photo by Fabrice Coffrini.

Physicist Micheal Barnett says, “We are on this planet and in this universe a short time. The dreams of a lifetime are waiting, and hopefully not much longer.” 


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Museum Visit: The Prado

I visited the Prado 15 years ago with my sister, and have wanted to return since.  I think it might be my favorite museum I've ever been to, with the Guggenheim Bilbao a close second.

The level of craftsmanship here is MIND BLOWING: paintings that took 20 years to complete.  Handcarved wood frames the size of a city bus.  Not to mention the painters' exquisite understanding of composition and light.  Any photographer can learn a ton from the work of Velasquez, El Greco, Titian, Rubens, and Goya.  These guys had it down cold.

I loved these works by Velazquez not just for their mastery, but for the subjects.  He was like an 18th century Diane Arbus, finding the strange ones on the fringe of society.  Who doesn't like obese naked midgets with metal hair and moustaches?

Apparently this work by V is the most popular work in the Prado.  I love the composition, and all the negative space he included:

Also, lots of paintings of important people on horses.  I thought these were especially cool -- seeing how they paint the muscle tone and hair on the horse, and how the clothes are insanely reflective and intricately embroidered.  What a pain the ass to paint!  I would love to make a photo that looks like this:

Since my last visit, I read Robert Hughes' biography of Francisco Goya.  Goya had an extraordinary life as an artist, painting mainly for Spanish royalty, and doing it long enough that he eventually got ballsy enough to paint people (kings! queens!) as he saw them, not how they saw themselves.  Check out this goofy bastard:

And check out how modern this composition is.  Dude was waaaaay ahead of his time:

Goya lived to be 82 years old, which was quite an achievement in the 18th century.  Although toward the end of his life, he suffered from mental illness, nervous breakdowns, and eventually went deaf, possibly from the lead in the pigments that he worked with for 68+ years.  Let's hope that Photoshop doesn't have the same effect.

Goya's paintings grew darker and more sinister as his attitude and health deteriorated.  But this resulted in some of the most intensely beautiful paintings ever done, and in some ways gave birth to the expressionist movement.

Ok this is a dark subject, but it's still colorful.  Look at his killer (sorry) use of light here:

But it gets way darker from here, as Goya slowly goes insane and deaf.  Nothing like a scene from an 18th century insane asylum to cheer you up:

Or how about Saturn devouring his son?  Good times!

And finally, this terrifying masterpiece, which will be forever burned into my poor brain:

Goya's Black Paintings are tucked away in the back of the Prado, in a beautiful gallery with soft light and black trim throughout.  It is hands down the most powerful art space I've ever seen.  Here is a shot of the above painting before the guard busted me:

Ok, this is a long post.  Now I need to get back to work slowly driving myself insane as I continue my lifelong pursuit of photographic truth.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Finally had a sec to put together some work from the Slipstream Sports shoot in Calpe, Spain.  Photog friend Justin Walker was nice enough to leave sunny Brooklyn in January and join me for a week of making cycling pics, and consuming copious amounts of ham and coffee.

This was my first training camp with a pro cycling team.  I wasn't prepared for the size of the operation, and the rock star status that these guys enjoy outside the US.  Physiologists, massage therapists, nutrition experts, directors, riders, staff, mechanics, drivers, it all adds up to a huge, expensive production that somehow travels the world from race to race, like a well oiled machine (bicycle?)

The first few days were spent in the conference room of our hotel, shooting portraits of the whole crew.  The beachfront location with floor to ceiling glass was pretty nice.  If I ever have a beachfront studio, this is how I'll do it:

After a few wet days, we got out to shoot some action -- so we loaded up the Peugeot minivan with our 7B's and hit the road.  The first day was a time trial, so we were able to shoot a few locations as they did multiple laps on the same route.  Here is my fave from that day:

These guys were hammering close to 40mph, and I was able to freeze them at 1/2500 sec using the offset sync made possible by new pocket wizard mini TT1, my new favorite gizmo for shooting action.

The next day we headed up into the hills for a race simulation.  By the time the team arrived at our spot, they had broken up into small groups, but I love the dry, desolate feel of the landscape.  Also shot with 7B's and high speed sync:

Later in the camp, we did a group shot with the riders standing on the beach in Calpe.  They have this crazy rock formation that looks like Devil's Tower, but it's right on the water.  This was shot right at dusk with a softbox for a little fill:

But a funny thing happened with this shot.  After I returned to the states, but before I'd even begun work on this shot, I ran into a friend of mine at the bar.  After I told him I'd just been in Calpe making pics with the Slipstream guys, he said that he'd already seen the images online.  This was confusing to me, since the images were still on my CF card.  

The next day I did some digging, and discovered that some guy was shooting over my shoulder the whole time.  He probably posted the pics online the same day.  It's funny how things are happening more and more in real time these days.

After we wrapped at the camp, Justin and I hit the road for some photo exploration, en route to Madrid.  There are these cool looking bulls scattered across the countryside, and we pulled over to shoot a few:

Then we headed to Madrid for a trip to the Prado, which was mind blowing (more on that later), and a night out on the town.  All the buildings and cafes in Madrid are ancient and beautiful and have more character than your average american watering hole.   Each one is worthy of an entire shoot, from the people behind the bar, to the food they serve, to the patina on the floors and walls:

This place not only serves ham, but serves beer out of a tap shaped like a ham:

5am cafe con leche on the way to the airport:

Buenos dias España, gracias por su hospitalidad.....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

old cars, old ads, new awesomeness

There is a gold mine of old car ads over at Old Car Brochures.  I love shitty old American cars, and now I get to love all the shitty old ads too.  

There is something so honest about these ads.  They're simply not pretending to be anything else.  They really just want to sell you a car, plain and simple.  How much fun did some copywriter have coming up with the lines "husky drum brakes" and "Luster Gard?"  How much fun did the AD have putting those people on the balcony for the apres ski scene or getting a woman to gaze longingly at an AMC Pacer?  

It's all so contrived, and so awesome. 

I'd love to know who shot these.  And I'd really love to see a behind the scenes from the Pinto shoot.  I can only imagine the size of the moustaches on that set. 

Thanks to Scott at ISO50 for the find.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

yet more handmade goodness

It seems like the whole handmade movement has suddenly launched into warp speed.  Like this piece below from Nobody Beats the Drum. I love the juxtaposition between the mechanical music, symmetrical forms, and the inherent imperfections of something made by hand.  You just can't fake it.  Yet.

Crank up the headphones and watch in fullscreen to fully appreciate the craftsmanship:

It goes to show that if you have a LOT of time and a clear creative vision, then you don't need a lot of money and a fancy camera or computer to make something really awesome.

Thanks to my neighbors at Cypher 13 / Joyengine for the find....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Anvil: The Story of Epic Creative Fortitude

Finally watched Anvil! The Story of Anvil, an unfathomable story about two (Jewish! Canadian!) guys that spend 30+ years trying to make it as a metal band.  They are respected by all their peers, many of whom have gone on to sell millions of albums.  But since Anvil's start in the 1980's, success has inexplicably eluded them.  At the start of the film, lead singer Steve "Lips" Kudlow is still working a crap job delivering school lunches to pay the bills. 

This film goes way beyond music and metal.  It's about having a strong creative vision, and following through.  It's also about luck and circumstance, and the undeniable roles they play in tipping one's career towards explosive success or epic failure.  It's about not listening to the market, and doing what feels right. 

Lips talks about selling out as being the "Fuel of Failure."  Which is something that we are all faced with as creative professionals -- to what degree will we compromise our creative vision in order to sell it? 

Anvil stuck to their guns, way, way, way longer than most people do, and ultimately it paid off.  Now they have the best of all worlds -- doing what they love and getting paid.  Let's just hope that appearing on Conan O'Brien and cameos in Michel Gondry films doesn't go to their (metal) heads.