Shots and Thoughts

Photos and comments as I explore my passion for photography. Written to and for myself as a journal to track major moments and minor observations as I continue to evolve my art. 

Crow Boy

A book we read to our son a lot was "Crow Boy", it is somehow still on my mind. The crows are large and loud in Japan and can be annoying if they dig into trash and make a big mess. But I am drawn to them somehow.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

I have been looking at the cool and intense photo book by Masahisa Fukase called "Solitude of Ravens". Fukase has an interesting back story and tragic ending, but the "Ravens" book is pretty awesome as he took thousands of shots over several years and then worked them into a deeper piece of art that let him explore some pretty raw emotions. The project also had a tech angle of creatively lighting the birds in flight. Many good on-line reviews of his work.

Pro tip: The crows fly right before dawn here in Kyoto, that means about 4:30am.......

High-Key Photo Set

It feels like a high-key photo set is coming together, a fun break from some of my darker images. Actually the new images have lots of black in them, but even more bright white.

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: It takes some patience and courage to let the creative process work. The key for me is to keep shooting and let the story develop, then fill in the blanks. Next big step will be printing the top 100+ images, but that will be down the road.

Why Take Photographs?

There are a lot of reasons to take photos: fun, art, travel, family, etc. But one of the foundations is making and preserving memories, moments that can't be recreated.

Monterey CA | 2017

Monterey CA | 2017

Sophia and Zahid here in a special moment, a milestone on many levels.

Pro tip: When shooting these "event" opportunities, take a ton of shots including the 3 classic cinematic views: wide shot to set the stage, close up and real real close.

Next Long Term Project: Gojo

As I get ready to release the "4am | Japan" project with the printed book, gallery show and print sales, a new long project starts: Gojo

Actually Gojo is just the working name, I am sure several names will surface as I go through the editing process. I am starting the project some clear intentions to help frame the effort:

Shooting for 36+ days, defined with a minimum of 500 shots per day. A full day for me is often close to 1000 shots (two batteries!). Most of these days will be in the summer, so longer days but also super humid and hot in Japan. So a target of 18,000 shots, from this I hope to get 180 really strong images for the project. Half of them should be intimate portraits. Tight edit brings this down to 34-55 images that work together as a visual poem.

Ideally I want half of the time/images to be what shows up as I shoot (contextual/environmental) and the other half intimate portraits of people I meet. Photos that make an emotional connection with the viewer often come from the photographer having an emotional connection with the subject. So for this project it comes down to meeting people, getting close and connected. If the goal is 36+ days of shooting and 50% of the shots are from this people connection, that means every day I need to make a strong relationship as I shoot. Maybe 36+ people/couples that get 100 shots each? These specific shots will shape the narrative of the project in the editing process.

Geographically it will be centered in a 10 block area of Kyoto, near where the  Kamo river intersects with Gojo dori street in Kyoto, Japan. I am sure other locations will arise but the starting point will be here. I will have additional days in Tokyo, always good for portrait work.

Shooting in black and white, with post processing using the same feel through out. I will try to use more flash this time as I dig the look and feel. I also bought a 2TB drive to keep the project all on one Lightroom library, and yes I am backing this up.

Using 28mm lenses for the project, camera bodies will be Leica Q, Leica Monochrome and Fuji XT2. Same lens essentially for the entire project. Minimal cropping. More layered shots is a sub goal.

For this project will shoot even more in portrait view with the balance in landscape view. Maybe 40% portrait view as I can see this as a strong set of photos, maybe even a sub project. A book or zine with just vertical shots is easy to layout.

Will shoot aggressively and not worry about editing or story line till closer to the end. As I get into the late fall and winter I will be back in California, good time for building out the project. It is good to have one or two additional trips to fill out the story as required.

There are also a set of cool B/W winter photos I would like to capture, let's see if the timing could work out. I see them in my mind now.

Finally it is important for me to work this every day on my shooting schedule, a real challenge mentally, emotionally and even physically but this commitment and discipline is what gives me the best chance of letting the images appear. The shooting days are blocked out on the calendar now. Definitely more of a marathon vs a sprint. But that works to my grinding style...

Kyoto | 2017

Kyoto | 2017

Pro tip: This level of intention, thought and commitment works for me to help frame this long term project. Then inside these metrics I am free to work on the content, the art, the feelings and the flow of the final deliverables. A tip of the hat to Matt Black and Jacob Sobol for their mentorship in this "all in" approach. With this framework I can let go of the process and just be in the flow everyday.

Film, Maybe....

Elysia was kind enough to model for me as I wanted to try some portrait style shots with film.

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Pleasantly surprised that 95% of these shots came out OK. It was starting to rain and thus got dark early so most shot wide open at ISO 400. Technically they seem OK and carry that film vibe.

Pro tip: I am still on the fence for shooting film vs digital. I read this week where the emotional side of a photo can come via the post processing and this is where film has a real look. But it is also like shooting JPEGs, very little post processing can be done on the image. The flow is also different in shooting with film. Still on the fence if I should do a film project. Hmmm....

It's the second shot

A fun day in San Jose Japantown today with the Nikkei Matsuri festival. Weather was perfect, we had no timetable just relaxes and laid back.

San Jose Nikkei Matsuri | 2017

San Jose Nikkei Matsuri | 2017

But I always try to turn around and see if there is some other shot to be had. Here is the next shot of the shadows from the above image.

San Jose Nikkei Matsuri | 2017

San Jose Nikkei Matsuri | 2017

Pro tip: Sometimes it is the second shot that counts!

More Than Head Shots

Ruben joined me in the San Jose Japantown Studios to get an updated classic head shot, but stayed for more creative and fun portraits. He left with a broad range of images to use for the next several years. A fun session, great to collaborate with other creatives.

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

San Jose Japantown Studios | 2017

Pro tip: These shots still need post processing work, a fun day together, more to come. Pushing the creative edges in photography keeps it all fresh.

Location Portraits

I shot the musical directors at LG High School as they needed updated images for the annual programs.

Los Gatos | 2017

Los Gatos | 2017

Pro tip: The battery pack with Elinchrom lights make on site photos pretty easy. Fuji 56mm is a super nice portrait set up, shot on the XT2.

Color is Cool

I have been focused on B/W images for my street photography, but last week in LA everything in my vision was full of color. Not only the society and culture but also the light was bright and beautiful.

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

Pro tip: I dig these color shots but not sure where they fit in my portfolio. My IG feed is pretty clean with B/W, FB has lost its appeal to me, maybe just here for now?

Intention

Part of my approach for street photography is have have some clear intent when I go out to shoot. When in LA I had a chance for a few days of shooting and specifically looking for how shadows and light play together, with a strong geometic design held together with a human element.

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

LA | 2017

Pro tip: Intention gives focus on what to look for when shooting street, but I also need to be open to what shows up, not to get pulled into tunnel vision. Intention of emotion would be interesting to pursue, along with these strong style images.

Jewelry?

A fun executive photo session with Mary Margaret last week. With 40+ years of experience in the health care field, she had a unique viewpoint on where are today and what the future could hold for an aging population.

San Jose | Japantown Studios

San Jose | Japantown Studios

Pro tip: Generally I suggest clients minimize jewelry as it distracts from the overall image. Here I think it works just great. Marty Margaret showed us a photo with a top NFL celebrity where she wore this necklace, great smile on both of them. It still makes her happy and it shows in the image. Love it!

Epson P800

Printing has now become part of my photography process. It helps me with shooting, editing, story telling, etc. Once I started printing regularly it had an immediate impact. Along with the simple joy of holding a creative product.

San Jose | Japantown Studios, 2017

San Jose | Japantown Studios, 2017

Pro tip: Love this new Epson 800, it has worked flawlessly and the quality of the printer is surprisingly good. Keep a stock of paper and print away!

500th Client!

As I sent out the proofs for my last client photo shoot I saw it was number 500! Wow 500 clients sessions all different, all fun and I am still learning from each one. With most of my business being referrals I want to thank all of my clients for their support over these last few years. More to come!

2017 | San Jose Japantown Studios

2017 | San Jose Japantown Studios

Pro tip: Always keep it fresh, new style shots along with my classic head shots keep both clients and I happy.

Marcus

Marcus stopped by the San Jose Japantown Studio this week to help tweak a set up as I have a new style commercial shoot later this month.

Marcus is a friend but also a great Bay Area photographer with super portraits, family and wedding photos. Not surprising as he is full of life and personality, check his work here.

Pro tip: Check all of this prior to the day of the shoot to work out the details. When the client comes in I want to be 100% connected with no set up nor technical worries.

Portra 400 Film is Fun!

Just back from Japan where I picked up my Leica M3 which was in for servicing. Shot Portra 400 with the 50mm and love the colors and shooting experience. Hard to put into words but maybe I should do entire project just with color film?

Tokoname | 2017

Tokoname | 2017

No need for filters as the color and look is pretty cool. Film also has a different shooting feel and vibe. For me best with daytime shots, out door shots and not fast paced street shots (although there are great shooters that do all of that and more with film). Maybe pick one subject and do a mini portfolio.

Pro tip: I am mainly shooting B/W with digital, I think color is the way forward for me with film.

SF Magnum Workshop with Matt Black

Update: A nice feature of a "4am | Japan" photo over on the Magnum Photo site, thanks Matt! 

Last weekend I spent two days in a Magnum Photo workshop focused on long term projects. About 36 photographers attended in SF and we had five main instructors: Matt Black, Shannon Simon, Leo Jung, Jacqueline Bates and Judy Walgren.

Matt is a well known and respected photographer (Time Magazine Instagram Photographer of the Year 2014) who is from the central valley in California. He is on a path documenting his immediate environment often including the migration of farm workers from Mexico to California and back. This has lead to a much bigger project "Geography of Poverty" where he has crossed the USA four times telling the local stories of families below the official poverty line. He is a deep guy and really committed to the narrative. Take a moment and check him out here.

Did I say committed? His trips last between 2 weeks and 2+ months, often going back multiple times. When you think, ALL IN, this is it.

Lauren Heinz from Magnum NYC was the workshop leader and organizer, the event held at SF Camerwork on Market Street. Excellent job keeping the class on schedule and the space was large, well lit and perfect for this kind of event. Lauren is working on other education classes for Magnum as they rollout new workshops.

Shannon Simon, Director of the Americas and Content Director, Magnum Photos started off the sessions discussing her view of long term projects, with a good dialouge on the operational realities of getting a project completed and published. 

Matt was up next and took us though some of his portfolio as he discussed finding an authentic project and his thoughts on publishing directly to the viewers through social media.

After lunch Leo Jung and Jacqueline Bates from The California Weekend Magazine gave us a glimpse into the work and focus it took to get a new magazine published. Super cool as they have made photography and design key elements in the story telling. Check it out here.

The day ended with Judy Walgren, most recently from the SF Chronicle and now with SF start up ViewFind. She shared her career path and what it has taken to adapt as a photographer over these last 30 years. Super valuable when you think about the future and long term projects. More about ViewFind here.

We also got to participate in two 1x1 portfolio reviews on day two, I brought 20 large prints from the "4am | Japan" project. Also nice to sit in on another dozen reviews, always good to see new work in combination with top flight feedback.

"4am | Tokyo"

"4am | Tokyo"

First 1x1 review was with Shannon and she had asked the "why" question, resulting in a good discussion of where I am headed. She had some good insights on publishing and encouraged me to send in the book when completed. Overall she liked the project and work. She also asked what is the next project, tougher to answer.

Second review was with Matt which was also very positive. He comes from a reportage background but appreciated my "poetic" fictional project. He had some good comments about distance in my shooting and adding a few more personal touches.

Another blog post soon with specific comments and class notes. A great investment in time and my preparation helped the reviewers see my scope and focus of my project. And of course pleasing when top flight professionals dig your work.

Pro tip: With long term projects, good constructive feedback is invaluable as it is inevitable the work evolves through the shooting, editing and publishing process.

Executive Portraits

Brad joined Vanessa (@pfox35) and I at the Japantown Studio this week and we got new executive portraits for him. A delight to work with, smart guy with ambitions short and long term.

Japantown Studios | 2017

Japantown Studios | 2017

We got a good range of looks, from casual to coat and tie. White background, grey background, studio lighting, natural light, new passport shot, etc. All good, all part of my top shelf offering.

Japantown Studios | 2017

Japantown Studios | 2017

And every guy deserves a few cool shots too! Fun with these dramatic black and white looks, really a crossover to my personal work.

Pro Tip: Bring a range of wardrobe, it really helps on these portraits. Brad was open to coaching and it showed in our final shots together. Shooting tethered makes all this happen easily. And the Black Magic Tee Shirt did its job!

Leica SF Gallery Reception

Leica SF had a fun gallery reception on Friday Jan 27 for an exhibit featuring prints by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Arguably the best known early photographer using a Leica set up, also a co founder of the Mangnum Photo Agency. Most photographers have enjoyed at some point in their career.

Pro tip: I meet my friend Faran there and between the two of us we knew a lot of the people, maybe 300+ attended. The photos were all 16x20 then matted and framed, priced between $25K-$30K, maybe viewed as a steal in 50 years?

PhotoFairs San Francisco

I had a chance to attend the inaugural PhotoFair San Francisco on Friday January 27 at Fort Mason. Many prominent photo galleries were represented from NYC, London, Shanghai, Beiing, etc. It looked like the focus was to match beuatiful (expensive) work with private client art buyers. As a bonus I ran into a dear friend Debra Reabock, so sweet to meet again.

SF | 2017

SF | 2017

The size of the exhibit was impressive.

SF | 2017

SF | 2017

Pro tip: I have been focused lately on the world of PUBLISHING and this is one of many examples. Bigger is usually better. Top notch print. Beautiful frame and matte. Thinking through as a final product. These prints were interesting as each was a stand alone piece of art, different from my book sequencing approach. Photos that stand on their own. Full circle! Also the artist statement plays a role to connect the work with the intent and backstory, maybe resulting in an emotional attachment for the viewer.

Kids and Pets

Kids and pets are so fun to photograph, but can be a challenge. Rob and Max came over to the studio today and we had a great time, a delight to work with.

San Jose | Japantown Studio 2017

San Jose | Japantown Studio 2017

Pro tip: We shot on a white and grey backdrop and then went outside for another set up. Good to get a range of looks!