Mac's Truck - Key West Florida, Scala

Mac’s Truck

Bell at the Zen Hideout

The Zen Bell

I still like film but it is a major pain.  The upside if film is it slows you down.   With 36 frames you tend to think the shot through and frame it better before you press the shutter.   I had gone to my hideout in Key West where I catch my breath.  I brought the Nikon F100 film camera to shoot the Scala. Not exactly the brightest move in such a colorful town. I was so beat I could only see in black and white. Mac’s truck is down by the docks.   It’s been there for years.   The bell is behind the room at my hideout.  I was trying to slow myself down so I used film to force me to think the shot through and not just blast away with a digital camera.  I was playing around with Scala which is a black and white slide film that had been in my freezer for a few years.  I think only one place in L.A. processes it.   I think you can still buy Scala and a pre-paid- processing mailer envelope at B&H photo in New York that includes a scan of the slides.  If you look close a the bell shot you can see all the processing crud that is on the slide.

I like film.  It has it’s own character.  When you get to understand it it changes your thinking and how you see.    And again, it slows you down because every time you push the shutter it costs you a half a buck.  I would shoot more if I had an E-6 lab down the street that would process and sleeve.



Pickup Truck painterly look

Pickup Truck – painting

I was at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops. Arthur Meyerson was teaching.  Arthur is a great photographer from Houston Texas.   It was raining in Santa Fe that day.  Our usual workshop schedule was to break for lunch then go out and shoot after lunch. As I was waiting in the lunch line I looked out the window and saw the photo posted above.  Since I had my camera on me I began to photograph through the window.  Rule #1  carry a camera if you want to take pictures.  I think people were thinking I was nuts.  This is one of my favorite shots ever. It is not photoshop, it is water on window.    It was my French painter on acid period.





Florida Sunset with Palm Tree

Palm Tree at Sunset

Palm Frond through a screen door

Palm Frond through a screen door

Palm Frond Close up grainy look

Palm Frond Grainy


Palm Tree Shadow on Old Metal Wall

Palm Tree Shadow on Old Metal Wall

Palmetto Frond

Palmetto frond

Jay Maisel tells a story about working on a photograph in front of him only to have his wife suggesting he turn around.   There was a far better photograph behind him.  The point of this is becoming aware of what is in front, behind, up and down, under and over.   Where IS the photographic viewpoint that is special to you.  Just pulling your camera up fast and blasting away is not exactly Zen vision.   My photographs of Florida palm trees were taken over time.   Each photograph provides a different viewpoint.   The quality of light has a lot to do with perspective and feel.



Large Florida Panther and Beautiful Girl

Large Florida Panther Held by a Beautiful Girl

Florida Panther and Beautiful Woman

Florida Panther and Beautiful Woman



Jay Maisel is, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest living photographer.  I am honored to know him.   Jay is a fantastic teacher, a wonderful person, has a great sense of humor and shares major tips on becoming a good photographer in his workshops  The photographs I have posted are to a large degree due to his teachings.   One of the main things (I think this is rule #2) Jay speaks to is “going out empty”.  This means going out with your camera with no preconceived ideas or concepts.  Just being free to allow what is in your field of vision (in front, behind, above and below) to ignite something inside of you, to investigate and follow the story.

I set out one morning just letting whim guide me.   I drove from central Florida (Ocala) to the west coast of Southern Florida just before the Everglades.  A small zoo popped up on the radar that was about the endangered Florida panther.  I stopped and took some photographs through the cages.  The crusty old owner comes out of the office/house and asks for a donation.  No problem a donation for a good cause.  We strike up a conversation and he starts telling me about this woman who keeps a full grown panther in her house.  He gives me her phone number.  I call her and she, for a price and a few prints, is wiling to pose with the “cat”.

We met at her house the following day.  I walk in the front door and there is this “cat” the size of a large dog on the couch looking directly in my eyes.   I can feel him questioning my interaction with the woman -am I perceived as a threat-? .   CHECK PLEASE!   While the girl was very good looking and I knew I wanted her in the shot with the cat, I forced my mind to be neutral about all guy / girl things… if you get my drift.  Everything is fine, I’m a punk, couldn’t hurt a fly, I have 4 kids, don’t rip my throat out… PLEASE! please!

I know this cat could take me out in thirty seconds or less.  Dead, toast, end of story.  The girl and I talk about the “cat” and about the ideas I have for the photograph.  I end up with her in a red bathing suit with the cat on a leash (yea like that matters) sitting on a local dock.   Using a 180mm tele to keep my distance, I managed to photograph the panther and the girl including the vertical for a magazine.  Even with the cat on a leash I was worried the entire time.   We worked around sunset and you can see the color balance change or I used a polarizer… This was exciting, unexpected (going out empty) and I was glad to get the @#!* away from the cat. Meow.




Woman with mask and hat

The Beautiful Outlaw


The eye of a woman with black mask and black hat

Menacing Outlaw


Colors evoke emotion.  The advertising companies know the colors that evoke those emotions.  Here is an example.  A headshot of a model, the same headshot, very close to the same expression but the color of her hat and bandana are totally different. I could have had her eye expression more angry.  I should have asked her hold old she was or what did she think of her x-husband and just held the shutter down.
Obviously these are set-up or planned photographs.  I picked out her as a model including her hat and bandana.   What started this was a visit to a used clothing store in Santa Fe.  She owned it.  I could have spent a week and a bunch of money there making not taking photographs.  Model release is really important here.




Albuquerque Ballon Festival

Hot Air Ballon

Every year there is a hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque.   There is color galore! Photographers eye candy.  As the sun comes up the pilots start to inflate the balloons.  The beautiful early morning light that lasts just a short time, the mad action of inflating the huge balloons and the color of the hot air balloons is an opportunity to get some really great photographs.  You need to be fast!  The light is only magic for a short time and in less than thirty minutes most of them will be over your head.   However, with a little pre-planning and some greased palms you might be able to hop into the basket of one of these and get even more images.   To me this was the iconic image of the morning. There were many more to be had.



Good light will help anything look good. This shot was done at sunset with a model running back and forth in front of me.  I took lots of shots. I was a little late to the party so by the time she got sweaty enough to look like she was really working out, the sun had gone down and the idiot photographer (me) left his flash in the car.  No fill light. So it was in silhouette shot. . . ahhhh!

So know when the sunrise or sunset will happen. If you can afford it I HIGHLY advise hiring a model and try some setup shots.  You need to plan this and know what your trying to get.   It is also fun to pick out bright cloths for her/him and dress her/him for specific concepts you might have.  Stock agencies love simple concept shots with room for copy.  You need a model and sometimes a location release if the location is recognizable.    The release MUST be exchanged with money or something tangible to really be legit.   Don’t take advantage…. be fair.



For a long time I was in charge of my four ~carpet commandos~ children.  There was always some problem… some sad song like;  “Dad !!! Geoff put ketchup in my ear”  At some point I changed my name to the Cheerio Roundup King. At some point I visualized a concept I call “I have heard all the sad songs”.  I saw the image in my head and started putting pieces on the board.   I hired an old friend (I have quite a few old friends) bought an old violin, shredded the hair on the bow and found a tux at a used clothing store.   Black background, strobe with a grid, signed model release, some acting direction for my friend and the check to pay for his day.   I learned a lot.

For a decade now I have listened to photographers and their stories about slipping shoulder straps. Cameras and lenses bouncing off the floor, falling off into the bay, in short driving them nuts. About 98% of photographers who use the UPstrap love it. I am happy I can help.



horse with rider blur motion


This photo technique is called dragging the shutter.  It intentionally blurs the image giving it a feel of motion.  Panning the camera while dragging or slowing the shutter speed also has the benefit of blurring the background.  This brings the focus of attention to the foreground – in this case the horse and rider.    If you want to get real fancy, dragging the shutter and panning while blowing a flash with either front or rear curtain can really be a bunch of fun.   HOWEVER, shooting a flash at a horse can cause a serious amount of trouble and a seriously pissed off rider if the horse is not “flash friendly” and comes totally unglued.  In the right situation even the sight of a camera will freak a horse.    A thoroughbred (with blinders) at the finish of and after a race is usually acclimated to a flash. It is part of their training. Besides the horse is usually so exhausted you could hit him with a brick and not have him freak.

Lastly. . . .punchy colors like RED help.