August 29, 2013

The Swarm

Yesterday I met my friend Olga on the Upper West Side to shoot a few photos she needed for some possible modeling gig. We walked over to West End Ave., took some simple head shots, and then over to the Boat Basin to shoot a few body shots (see last image). There's a beautiful old stone hallway leading into the Basin, which houses a restaurant called the Boat Basin Cafe. Thinking it would open later than 4:00 pm, we started shooting. Minutes later, patrons started showing up, looking a bit bewildered as to what we were doing. Olga standing there in a skimpy bikini, me clicking away, barking out orders. We ignored them, the light was great and we got what she needed. Afterwards we went into the bar and had a beer. A little later we stopped at 72nd Street across from the Dakota and sat on a bench to talk before catching the train. Olga looked up to see a large swarm of mosquitoes descending on us, barely visible against the darkening sky. I popped up my flash on my trusty point-and-shoot and snapped in the general direction of the swarm. I clicked off a few frames and we quickly walked over to a bench across the path to avoid massive blood loss. 

Once home I discovered some oddly sharp detail in my random shots of the bugs. Looking closely, they almost look like little astronauts floating in space like the ones you see from the space shuttle. Okay, that's a stretch, but I was sort of amazed that I even got anything snapping randomly up at the sky. I did get some strange looks from tourists sitting nearby. 

 click to enlarge

 Sunset CPW

August 28, 2013

Rusty Homage to Pollock

Having never been a big fan of Jackson Pollock's splatter paintings, I couldn't help but compare this rust I found forming on a steel plate on 7th Ave. yesterday to one of Pollock's pieces. After opening the shots on my Mac, however, I found I actually liked the look of the rust much better. The steel had a deep beautiful bluish patina. Perhaps had he not killed himself while driving drunk, he might have stumbled across this very same steel plate in the road and been inspired. Though in actuality, he'd be just over a hundred years old about now... hey, it's possible. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

People often ask me if I'll ever have a show of my photographs. I found this quote by Bresson that perfectly sums up my feelings after I've taken a photo. Though unlike Henri, I still love the "subject of photography" very much.

August 27, 2013

The Fair

Once again, for the fourth year, I made the pilgrimage to the Perry County fair in rural Pennsylvania. It's quite the production, complete with a tractor parade, and various 4-H livestock competitions, including rabbits, sheep, pigs, goats and various bovine varieties. There were eating contests, a horseshoe competition, Miss Perry County pageant (I missed that), lots of rickety rides, a trapeze act, and displays of heaters, solar panels, cutlery as well as taxidermy all in the same building. As well as a plethora of the usual heart clogging "carnival delights": funnel cakes, whoopie pies, cotton candy, deep-fried Oreos, mountains of ice cream, hot dogs, burgers, fries, fried potato swirls slathered in bacon and cheese (basically a pile of potato chips pretending to be nachos). I was very good, only splurging on a single hot fudge sundae. For dinner one night I found some chicken soft tacos...the healthiest thing available.  

It was a very nice slice of Americana. I'd guess 75% of the attendees were farmers. Everyone was very polite and well mannered. Unfortunately I did notice that nearly all of the teen-aged girls I saw were dressed rather provocatively. Short shorts, push-up bras and more makeup than I would have expected. I also noticed a very high rate of teen pregnancy or parenthood. A large percentage of girls around 18 had at least one baby on their hip... I was shocked actually. Either that's what everybody does and it's accepted as the norm, or they have some serious sex-ed issues that need to be addressed. Other than that I found the Perry County Fair to be a wonderful escape from the rat race of New York City. Not to mention the ride there was beautiful and basically traffic free. My wonderful friends Nemo and Carol were kind enough to let my friend and I stay (unannounced) after we were unable to find a hotel room within 100 miles due to car show, a gymnastics meet and a gathering of Radio Controlled Car enthusiasts (who are these people?). Perhaps better hotel planning next time. The Niemanns treated us to a great dinner and a soft, warm place to sleep. So appreciated. 

 Men and their tractors

 Toss a ring around a knife and it's yours. I saw one group of boys walk away with 12 knives.

 Corn field at dusk bordering fair.

Tired farmers

Happy pigs. Night before the auction. Little do they know what's in store for them in the following week.

  Newport, Pa., at night.

Early morning drive back to city.

August 18, 2013

Seriously? This Is Precisely Why Smartphones Are Stupid

Today I met my wonderful friend Rebecca in Central Park. It being a beautiful day, we strolled from Columbus Circle up to the Sheep Meadow, where we sat down on the rocks on the southwest corner. (Rebecca hates sitting in the grass unless she has a towel or blanket. Arachnophobia I presume.) 

Anyway, about 12 feet in front of us was a couple in their mid-twenties. At least, from their body language, I assumed they were a couple. After watching them for a few minutes, I noticed that they had hardly said a word to each other and that they were both on their smartphones. Every once in awhile they would lean into each other to share something on their screens, but I barely heard a word from either of them. 

After about 45 minutes, the girl put down her phone and the guy rolled over on his side resting his right arm on her stomach (3rd pic below). But, oddly enough, he balanced the phone against his ear. The brief communication deprivation on her part ended in about 4 minutes, when she suddenly heard a noise or felt a vibration, driving her back up on her elbows to see what she was missing. After checking (last pic), she rolled onto her stomach, where he rested his arm on her back, but again, never taking his eyes off his screen. After an hour and a half they got up, collected their belongings and walked away. I might have heard three sentences the whole time they were lying there. Is this the current status for dating? Is this how younger people spend time together? Is this progress? Is being tethered to a device the new norm? 

I have an iPhone sitting on my desk given to me by a friend who was upgrading over a month ago. So far I refuse to activate it for these exact reasons--distraction and addiction. My friend Nemo (another addict) says, "Just turn off all the features. Use it as a phone." Where I reply, "But I already have a phone that accepts and makes calls and can send a simple text. So why bother?"  EVERY single person I know, without exception, uses their smartphone to an annoying extreme. They're all addicted. They check it for directions, eBay prices, texts, emails, movie times. One close friend recently wrecked his brand new car and later admitted he had been texting. People who love their phones always say the same thing, "Get used to it. This IS the future." If this is true, I find the future a very sad place. Take a girl to Central Park and not say a word? Each content to sit there checking their phones for outside information? Such bullshit. Turn the piece of shit off and talk to one another. For shit's sake. 

Do we REALLY need to be THAT connected? Yes, it's possible to get a smartphone and only use it as a phone. But realistically, nobody does. And I'm sure if I get one, I'll become a tethered robot like all of my other robot friends. 

This imbecile never took his eyes off of his phone once during his visit to Central Park...lovely. He obviously had no interest in the beautiful day, the birds, the green grass, the blue sky, or his chubby little girlfriend. What could possibly be that entertaining or interesting? Let me guess--some sort of sporting event. Another mindless activity to occupy the pathetic, non-creative brains of the masses. And now all these dopes have smartphones to keep them updated on every point scored. Holy shit!

August 10, 2013


Thursday I did another shoot with 20/20 magazine. I decided to steer away from a standard "strobe" type lighting setup. It's much easier to throw up a big softbox or octabank, leaving it in one place and blast away. This time I used a few hotlights with my camera on a tripod, shooting at very slow shutter speeds. I was moving the lights around constantly to accentuate certain details on the glasses. The backgrounds were an old piece of gray felt I bought at a thrift store for a few dollars, and a simple piece of black fabric. I experimented with very shallow depth of field and strong backlight. It has a much more dramatic feel (to me) than one broad soft light. It was a perfect day with a beautiful studio and a great crew. I could do this every day and be perfectly content.

Tuesday was a bit different. I was shooting at Josie Natori's studio on 33rd and Madison. WWD likes simple clean lighting. One light setup and a good model. Easy shooting. Shooting lingerie and loungewear is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.