28 May 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


"When I first became interested in photography, I thought it was the whole cheese. My idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don't give a hoot in hell about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself."
-Edward Steichen

The Good:
I was out hiking trails to scout out locations for my London Andrews shoot. Far and wide, I traveled, traversing the ends of the Valley. I drove back out to the Mormon Well Road, that I mentioned in a recent entry, to check out one spot that I was curious about. Then I drove back down into and back out of Las Vegas near the town of Blue Diamond and did some more trails. While scouting this one spot, I came across a neat and interesting family who were enjoying a nice Sunday late afternoon hike into the canyons. We met and talked and I ended up staying with them for the duration of my hike.

I enjoyed the company of Scott, his wife Tiffani, Regina, and their kids and it made for a very interesting rest of the day. Its always good to meet new people that you gell with and have pleasant conversation. We were only missing the wine. I enjoyed their kids who agonized on the feasibility of domesticating tadpoles, and we had fun. Scott found some wildlife that I was able to take a few shots of and we found several great spots to shoot. I think I'd like to come out here more often and explore these canyons more fully. I know I'll be bringing models out here all summer. I sincerely hope hook up with Scott, Tiffani, and Regina often.

The Bad:
Well, my London Andrews shoot had to be canceled. I found out when I got home from the scout hike that something important came up and London couldn't make it. Talk about bummer. Its not every day you get to shoot a London Andrews. I first discovered her a month ago and then to get contacted by her to arrange a shoot was more than I could have asked for. It would have been a most excellent shoot, I think. Several in my group expressed the same disappointments, as she's not just the typical model you shoot whenever you feel like it. Disappointments are a factor of life and in this line of work you've got to come to terms with things like this happening. Its a cost of doing business. If you can't handle that, its better to go shoot butterflies and babies. Yeah, it would have been a most excellent shoot. But alas, like weaving ropes of sand, some notions must be turned over in the earth.

The Ugly:
A friend invited me out to walk the strip Monday night. I brouht my girlfriend along. We met up at the Bellagio, but since Angel and I hadn't eaten, we elected to do the Harley Davidson Restaurant just a little ways to the south of the Bellagio. I know it was Memorial Day weekend and could expect lots of people, but I was amazed at the degredation of the Strip. Trash was everywhere along the streets but the trash cans were piled up and overflowing. We passed several sites as such and it was simply disgusting to see the city streets covered with trash and smut. I REALLY do not appreciate the peddler who stand on the corners shoving prostitution trading cards in your face. You have to actually build up a tolerance before you can walk by with out taking anything. If its your first time on the Strip, you'll end up with pocketfulls of smut cards wondering how you got them.

Then as we approached the restaurant, there's a guy RIGHT OUTSIDE the entrance way, puking his guts up. Again and again, this guy is just heaving right on the decorative landscape just outside the friggin' door. Now mind you, its not even late yet. Its only about 7:30pm and he's just standing there with no seemingly destination on his mind. This is just what you want to see right before you sit down to a meal. My friend who's 10 year old son accompanied us, had a difficult time putting it out of his mind. I just could not believe what I was seeing.

23 May 2008

Joe's Speedlight Tree

"Portraiture of Dana"

While checking out my usual inventory of blog sites, I made my way down to the Strobist. Maybe you know this blog. If not, you should. Anyway, this lighting setup got my attention, which was a construction by Joe McNally ( <-Joe's blog) while shooting in Dubai. Its an unusual cluster of 7 SB-800s triggered to fire as one flash positioned on one mount. I could not fathom a reason to ever need something this gaudy, but I guess that shows what I know. After checking out a video he created to document the event and then looking at the results, I guess he knew what he was doing. Somehow, I think Dave Rudin is looking at this and freaking out. "All the natural light in the desert and this guy has a gaggle of SB-800s in one vantage point." ...at least, I am guessing that's what he might be saying.

I was not really sure this was necessary, but then again, I guess HE thought it was necessary and that's what counts. I know I have been in situations before that called for some quick improvisations of scrap material or a complicated rigging of my current resources that might rival an ACME rocket and boulder concoction by Wyle E. Coyote to caputure the Roadrunner. But I guess I was not the only one to cock my head sideways at Joe's setup. The next day, there was an post on the Strobist that detailed a quoted comment left by a reader which was derogatory and aimed at Mr. McNally. Afterwhich, an explanation is given as to why all Joe needed to create a Speedlight tree. You can READ IT IN FULL yourself, but here is the quote:

"Joe McNally is a great photographer and I respect his work, however that collection of strobes is absurd. Was that really necessary? Personally, I think this was an elaborate hoax to see how stupid most strobist readers really are." - Anonymous Strobist commentor

How rude? Right? He insults Joe and most of us Strobist readers. If you can't see the vid clip below, just click on Joe's name above to see his blog and scroll down til you see it.

21 May 2008

Here comes the heat


“I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting.” - Harry Callahan

It was 108 degrees here in Vegas just a few days ago. Its cooled off a bit, but the the thought of the coming scorcher days ahead makes me wonder how it will affect my ability to shoot. At the beginning of last summer, I arrived in Las Vegas and was amazed at the heat. I'm from Texas. I can recall the temperature dancing around 120. I remember watching the news and hearing about the number of visitors to the state who would succumb to the heat via heat exhaustion, or heat stroke. I remember playing basketball or riding bikes in the noon day sun and thinking nothing of it. Vegas heat is nothing like Texas heat.

"Yeah, but its a DRY heat".... Well, there may be something to that saying. This low humidity heat is like oven heat. Set your oven on 450. Wait 15 minutes and open it up. Stick your head in. That's akin to Vegas heat. My challenge is being able to find locations to shoot for my Las Vegas Art Models Group. All the water and springs are drying up, but there are still interesting places and locations to shoot in without water. The trick is getting a secluded place that doesn't have many visitors, is easy to get to, AND doesn't become unbearably uncomfortable to the model or other photographers. Hiking miles and miles into a location isn't fun for the photogs that attend my workshop. Being naked for 3 hours in the sun isn't cool for my models. Solution: Get the hell out of Las Vegas.

Am I moving? No, not yet anyway. What I mean is to head up north to shoot. I was out scouting locations with a group member in Mt. Charleston. There can be a 20 degree difference in temperature in the mountains. Again, finding a secluded spot is the primary concern. As everyone is trying to get out of the heat, they head to the mountains. Also, hiking up a mountain to the location may be a challenge. My friend and I headed down the 40-some odd mile Mormon Well Road located not far from Mt. Charleston. You can't do that road in a regular car. You have to be in something with some clearance. We explored that road up in between the mountains, but its an arduous drive. The road seemed to shake and vibrate my guts loose and that was at a maximum speed of 20 miles an hour for about 2 and a half hours. At one point, we stopped so I could get a picture. My camera didn't work. Talk about your heart sinking. I was despondent for the rest of the ride. Fortunately, it was just the CF card door was shaken open. WHEW! Otherwise that would have sucked.

Right now, I am trying to put together a workshop with the glorious London Andrews. She'll be here in Vegas next week and if I can get a few photogs to participate in a workshop, I can make enough to pay her. She'd be the first professional model to be featured in our workshop. I primarily want to use local talent, but 4 to 6 times a year, I'd like to give my workshop attendees experience with a professional. I am especially intrigued by the traveling models. I've had several of my models ask how girls travel the nation from gig to gig and be successful doing this full time. I think that would be good to know as well. Its got to make for a great story and I can't wait to hear London's. I just hope to be able to do this workshop. It's kind of a last minute thing that we've put together. Somehow or another, I've got to make it happen.
I came across this funny Sesame Street video with William Wegman's weimaraners Batty and Bettina. Batty poses as a model. If you can't see the video below, > click here <

14 May 2008

The Classics

"The Cradle"

"Life is like a good black and white photograph, there's black, there's white, and lots of shades in between." -Karl Heiner

Some time ago, I made mention that I wanted to take some time to watch some old classics. This was brought on by a Nevada Public Radio segment in which Dustin Hoffman was interviewed for the 40th anniversary of “The Graduate” from 1967, which effectively put him on the Hollywood map. I had actually never seen the movie and it made me realize how many classics I had never seen despite my love of movies. As a kid, I never wanted to watch old movies preferring the blood, gore, violence, and sex of the modern era of film. But then over the last decade or so, I’ve noticed a decline in the quality of film. Oh sure, there are always the blockbuster franchises that come out and the sequels of other popular films, but everything seemed to be a remake. Originality was lost.

The same was happening with television as well. Much has gravitated toward the reality genre, but sometimes browsing the channels late at night, I’d catch an old sitcom, or drama series. Maybe I’ve grown up since then, but I have been able to appreciate good TV. Sometimes its just funny watching shows from back then and noting the dress styles or the politically correct way of addressing an issue that wouldn’t even get a second look today, such as teen pregnancy or drugs in school. These issues, while remaining important, are not the tender subjects they once were. School shootings are much more of a factor now. I can recall seeing an episode of Sesame Street from way back in the day. Kids were being followed playing in a local city dump using old refuse for play things. That kind of stuff would never fly today!

A few days ago, I watched The Graduate and Casablanca. These films don’t need my review by any sort of the suggestion, but Ben, in The Graduate, would have been considered a stalker if he were casing a school and following a young girl around campus. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but Casablanca was brilliant to me. I especially enjoyed the lighting. Nothing is lit very brightly and the shadow play is much like I try to do with my photography now. The B&Ws are still a fave of mine and the low key, sometimes soft imagery was especially to my liking. I now know where some of these famous quotes come from: "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world, she walks into mine.", as well as some that were misquotes, “Play it again, Sam”. According to IMDb trivia, that line was never in the movie, but was misquoted from Bogart’s actual line, "You played it for her, you can play it for me. Play it!". Ingrid Bergman also has a line that’s close: "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By". So I am wondering what classic I’ll watch next…maybe The Maltese Falcon, Lawrence of Arabia, Citizen Cane, A Streetcar Named Desire, or maybe To Kill a Mockingbird? Suggestions?

12 May 2008

What I did for Mother's Day

"Nude Under the Mountain"

Another successful Art Nude Photography Workshop for the records: Lessa was a gem. The day was beautiful. My location was grand. And I was amongst friends. What more could a facilitator ask. In the same general area as the last photo event, I chose a few areas that caught my eye from the last event that we skipped over. For a shoot on Mother's Day, I had a decent turn-out for this event. I didn't expect many, but as I have mentioned before, the smaller group tends to be more beneficial than the larger group. Despite being out of doors, some of the areas I chose were tight fits, closed in by either rocks, cacti, or trees.

Lessa turns out to be an excellent model who is very comfortable with her body. With her background in dance and theater, she's proved as creative as I might have expected from someone of her experience. The combination of her marvelous curves, her long hair, and her expressive charisma, allows for a broad range of ideas to explore. I am sooo looking forward to a few independent photo sessions to see what else I can come up with. Normally, I don't get to shoot much on my own events, but this time I was able to work in a few shots. I didn't get as many prime shots as I might have wished for, but my angles were still okay. Independent shoots with her will allow me to really explore my ideas with her collaboration.

The group that came out to shoot really bonded. You'd have thought we were all wearing Dr. Scholls Gellin' insoles. I know I was gellin'. Do you hear what I'm tellin'. Cuz I can start yellin' like a felon sellin' melon on a hot summer day if you don't understand me. This felt more like friends getting together and chillin' on a Sunday afternoon, which might have actually been the case had Felix brought some beer. In fact, to make up for it, we are planning a nude photo BBQ over at Felix's place next month. Several of them got to go out to eat Mexican after the shoot, but I didn't get to join as I got a call from the Security monitoring service that the alarm at my home was blasting. Thankfully, there was no cause for alarm. I think the dogs triggered the alarm somehow. We've got 3 large boxers weighing close to 70 pounds each running amuk in the house while no one's home.

And so with all this fun, its only fitting I leave you with this really funny video. If you can't see it below, just >click here<.

06 May 2008

Allow Me to Introduce... Lessa

"Photography, not soft gutless painting, is best equipped to bore into the spirit of today." - Edward Weston

I was very fortunate to be able to come across a woman like Lessa. I knew right off the bat that she was someone I wanted to work with and in no short time, I promised her a spot for my next workshop weeks ago prior to even finalizing a booking for her. With her background in dance and theater, I hope to produce many photographic projects with her in my viewfinder. As I have mentioned several times before, attitude is the biggest thing I key on and I love her's.

Her reasons for wanting to do this were more of a purist's ideals. Money was not the motivator behind her desire to pose for artistic nudes and I genuinely felt honored that she chose to collaborate with me in order to reach her goals, as there are a web full of advertisements of photographers who are seeking nude models. I hold my next art nude photo workshop this Sunday afternoon on the 11th and Lessa was hired for the job. Although its Mother's Day, I still have a few photogs in my group who want this so I'll hold a session. Lessa is a very interesting person and I hope to explore more elements of her creative expressions. Man, who knew Weston has such emotion for painting??

04 May 2008

Another Successful Drawing Event

This past Friday was a very eventful figure drawing session that was one of the best yet. Again, held in the World Market Center, we had 6 artists who drew (charcoal and digital) and sculpted a male nude model, afterwhich we broke for food, drinks, and socializing. This event was held in honor of Steve Litvak, the featured Artist of the Month and more than a hundred people turned out for his art exhibit. The figure drawing was an add-on to this occasion for the benefit of the special invited guests who consisted of furniture buyers, designers, suppliers, and hospitality executives. The main goal is to bring in these guests to see the new exhibits of the Beverly Showroom who makes luxurious custom designed furniture for commercial and high-end residential use.

It was my job to facilitate the drawing session which brings in several curious visitors and gives the special invites a chance to see some of the local artists at work. I put out a call to artists from my Las Vegas Art Models Group as well as to the colleges and art community. Its quite an effort to get people to come out and participate, but I'm starting to finally get the word out. I was looking to fill the room with at least 20 artists, but I think I am going to cut back to half that. The smaller groups work better the same way they do for my art nude photo workshops. I'd rather take a invite up to 10 of the best artists to this event and give them a chance to perform in front of influential guests who appreciate and support local art.

Although no work sold on the spot, two of my members on Friday ended up with contacts for future commissioned pieces. We are also making arrangements to have these two artists featured as an Artists of the Month to help showcase local talent. For the next event, I plan to bring in the media to cover this story. Its still a growing concept and pretty soon, I can assure you this will be one of the more sought after events in Las Vegas. This was a lot of fun and its a great opportunity to make the right connections and get some exposure. I'll make this happen.