MeWe & Me (Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles.)

1/30 sec at f/8 ISO-200 90mm

We have all captured an amazing or very interesting photo of something. Of course, photography like beauty is very subjective and your interesting photo might not appeal to everyone. For the most part what makes an interesting image capture is one that tells a story in some way form or fashion. Often that story has a very interesting backstory and that will be the topic of this post.

The backstory is always there and in today’s social media it is often overlooked and in fact kind of “not cool” to post. I myself am guilty as charged when it comes to what I post on my Instagram. Nearly everyone of my posts will have what I believe to be an interesting photo followed by a quote of some sort. The quote of course is in someway related to the context of the image. Why do I do this? I’m not really sure but, it just kind of became part of the norm for my IG. I do of course credit anyone associated with the photo such as models or makeup artist and then of course hashtags. Sadly, I rarely tell the backstory when posting to IG. It seemed when I first started to get followers most people would acknowledge the photo with a push of the heart and move on. The only actual comments would come from someone who was involved in the photo, that usually being the model.

It just seemed to me (and maybe I’m wrong) that at least for IG viewers it was more about zipping through their feed and mostly paying attention to the photos… if it is cool it gets a heart and if it doesn’t catch their eye, they just keep swiping up. I kind of get it, I mean today we are inundated with images, I myself being 56 years old look at more photos in one day than I could have ever imaged 20 years ago. When I think about it, it is actually mind numbing and after a while I just get bored swiping up on my IG feed. But I still love photography and I like looking at something interesting.

Often, I will force myself to “slow down” and look more closely at images. If it is a pointless selfie I just move on. However, pretty much anything other than a selfie I will take a moment to really look at the image and many times I think “what is the backstory” to this photo? I look in the description and most times find nothing. Sometimes the post will have a location tag and that offers a little information but I’m still left wondering.

Post to my blog: If I am writing a general blog post I always include at least one photo. after all my blog is about photography. However, the post may be about a general topic of let’s say for example traveling so I will post a very generic travel photo. But, when I do this, I will at least put the camera settings (shutter speed, F/ stop, ISO & focal length) in the photo description. It gives a tiny backstory to the photo. With that said; most of my blog posts are written about the photos and the post itself tell the story of what, when, where and the why about the photos attached to the post. Again, it is a photography blog and what would be the sense of just posting photos without talking about them? But that seems to be the norm with most social media… posting with no real context. Imagine if you picked up Time Magazine or an issue of Rolling Stone and all it had was photos with no descriptions or articles. So, for me seeing photos on social media often leaves me with more questions than answers lol.

New social media: I recently created a profile on MeWe.com and started checking out the various groups. I joined a photography group that was open to photographers of all levels from amateur to professional. So here again I find myself scrolling through photos (mostly amateur) and while some of the photos are interesting on their own because the photo tells a story, I find that other photos might be more interesting if there was some sort of a description or context.

1/80 sec at f/8 ISO 200 55mm

They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so let’s look at this photo of this man holding a small boy. With no description we are left with… a man holding a boy. One could assume the boy is his child and we see palm leaves, a boat and two chairs in the background. It would be like a slow boat to China trying to find 1000 words from this photo.

1/250 sec at f/3.5 ISO 640 18mm

So, let me also include a photo of the same man walking along this building. This photo is a little more interesting because it has more objects in the photo and we see the whole body of the man. Certainly, with this photo we could come up with a little bit more of a story about this man. However, we are still miles away from knowing the true context of what the photo is really about. And now let me put a little backstory to the images and see if it makes them just a little more interesting.

The man is from Myanmar, he is the only permanent resident and a tiny island in the Gulf of Thailand. The boy is his son who was born on the island. His wife gave birth to the boy on the island with only the help of her husband. The boy has never played with other children and does not speak, although he can speak. In the first image I asked the man if he could pose with his son so I could take a nice photo of him. His wife didn’t want to be photographed. I returned to the island two years later and gave him a print of this photo. It was at this time I captured the second photo. The building in the second image is the house where the three of them live. The opposite side of the island has a few small seasonal resorts however, he resides as a caretaker for a private piece of land on the backside of the island. Maybe I’m jaded because I was there, I captured the photos and I met the man, his wife & son. But still, I think the photos are more interesting with a little bit of context and a backstory.

Back to MeWe: The photography group I joined has a 3 photos per day posting limit and I think that is very fair. As I scroll though the photos I will sometimes stop and ask questions about a photo and every time I will get a reply with info that puts the photo into a better perspective. Most people hare happy to tell you something about their photos but for some reason are reluctant to write at least a short description for the photo.

Conclusion: I get it… without dispute there are some photos that need no description. There are iconic photos (mostly journalistic) that that tell a story just by looking at the content of the image. This is often the talent of the great photographer and… speaking of great (iconic) photographers, look at Joe McNally’s Instagram. Every photo posted has a great description of what you are looking at. Whether it is a description of the lighting technique or a story about the person in the image the viewer comes away with a knowing of what they just looked at. So I will leave at that and say thanks for reading and have a great day.

Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand (…everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood…)

On my 2019 trip to Thailand I had a chance to capture some video of a pig roast in a local village. Although the video is not of professional quality it does show a very interesting way to roast a whole pig and I really thought the process from beginning to end was interesting & amazing.

So, this blog post will actually appear in two places, it will be posted to my photography blog and it will also be on my BBQ blog. I am a professional barbeque chef going into my 24th year of business and I have been a working photographer for about 10 years as well.

Let me first give you the setup of this story and before you click on the video, I will tell you it is not a short video. Personally, I don’t like short videos when it comes to something like this, I want to see everything that is going on… or at least as much as possible. Today we live in a world of short attention spans and instant gratification however I’m an old school dinosaur and my video is a bit longer.

Thai Pig Roast

I am married to a wonderful Thai lady and I promised her before we were married that every year, she would travel back to Thailand to be with family and friends. Myself, I try to go as often as my budget will allow, usually every other year. Sadly, it had been three years since I had been to Thailand. So, I decided 2019 was a “must do” year for Thailand and I would stay for the full 30 days of my visa. I spent 11 on Kho Kood (island) and then I traveled by pickup truck from the boat dock at Trat all the way to Ban Kamin (village) in the Kalasin Province. It was an epic trip and took a lot longer than planned due to poor planning on my wife’s part and too much stopping along the way. But we had fun.

So, after an epic 26 hours without sleep I arrived in the village around 8:00am on November 30, 2019. My Thai family was extremely excited of me coming to visit and that I would be staying for two weeks. I love my Thai family so much, they are all just the most awesome, kind and caring people, I truly am blessed to have them all in my life.

After arriving in the morning and meeting with some family members I put my things in my room and started to unpack camera gear. Quickly, I ran out of energy and tried to sleep a little. It is very hard for me to sleep when the sun is up, even if I am tired. So, I just gave up on the quest to sleep and started drinking coffee in hopes to some how salvage the day and be a bit productive. I don’t speak very much Thai although I usually understand what is going on around me. I was staying at my sister-in-law’s house although my wife’s little house is just around the corner. We could not stay at our house because the toilet was not working (due to lack of use).

I walked outside about 10:30am and Mi had just arrived back from Kalasin City (about 20 minutes away) with a small pig. I first thought it would-be put-on ice for cooking later… I was dead wrong because he went right to work preparing this pig for roasting and to eat later that night. It was at this time I realized that they (the family) were planning a big meal in honor of my arrival and I was really taken back by this. I have been part of this family for ten years now and it seems like the love only grows stronger every year.

So, when I see the pig, I ran quickly to grab a camera, I had several cameras with me from small to large, from simple to complex. I wished I had known there was going to be this pig roast and I would have certainly been more prepared. I really would have liked to shot the scenes on the Blackmagic 6K camera. But, the Blackmagic 6K takes time to setup and assemble sadly, I had broken down the setup to make it easier to travel. Being tired when I first arrived, I figured I would assemble the Blackmagic the next day when my mind was fresh. So, I was left with the DJI Osmo Action camera. I had never owned and action camera and I kind of thought “it might be a good time” to buy one seeing’s as how I would be traveling to Thailand and all.  So, out the door I go to the side of the house where they are preparing the pig, all the while I am not even thinking about how they will cook the pig. Well, that question was soon answered when I seen Mi start to prepare a spot right there in the dirt next to the driveway. Instead of asking questions I just stood off to the side and watched everything that was going on. I started to record video of anything that I thought would be an important step in what he was doing. I might also mention Mi works at the University in Kalasin City. It is an agricultural University and he takes care of the livestock in the Swine division. Needless to say “this guy knows all things about pigs.”

He was a “man with a plan” and I could tell this was not his first time roasting a pig. Actually, I had heard and seen pictures of him roasting pigs and my wife had said that someday they would cook a pig while I was in the village… and today was that day. Mi had already prepared some sort of a marinade of sorts. I could tell be the smell it had garlic and lemon grass in it but, I also knew there was so much more. He used a strainer to separate the mushy herbs from the liquid. Mi soon recruited his teenage son and another young male family member to help with injecting the marinade while he moved on to preparing the cooking location. After marinade injecting was done everybody was working on constructing the roasting oven. I found this to be quite interesting. It was nothing more that a rectangle box made from corrugated tin roofing. It looked very odd and make-shift but, not all that unfamiliar. I had actually seen something very similar here in the USA about 30 years ago when I had attended a pig roast at a local Rod & Gun club here in Hunterdon County New Jersey.

(side story) It was really kind of funny because I go (as a customer) to this local public pig roast that was a yearly event at the local Rod & Gun Club and there were three old timers cooking three pigs, each was cooking his pig a different way and all three pigs were huge about 200 lbs. One old guy had constructed a little “hut” of sorts, made from tin roofing. The coals were directly on the ground and the pig had been cooking since the day before. He would remove a few pieces of the tin and hack away at the meat until he seen bloody meat, then he would replace the tin and keep cooking. This all took place about four years before I started my own pig roasting business and I always used this memory as a benchmark of “how not to cook a pig.” Ironically enough earlier this year that Rod & Gun Club hired my business to do their yearly pig roast. The old timers are long since gone and it was time to move on to a better way of cooking pigs.

Now back to Thailand… He I see Mi is constructing a similar tin roof cooker but somehow, I just know this tin roof oven is going to work just fine. First off, the pig is a lot smaller and I know Mi has done this many times. Once it was finished, I could see the dynamics of how it would work. It was a box with heat in the bottom, a lid to keep the heat in and the pig would be rotated above the heat source. And the heat source would be hardwood charcoal. It doesn’t really take a lot of fire to cook a pig if the oven is closed, too much heat the pig will cook too quick on the outside and not be done on the inside. So, soon the oven was finished and the pig was cooking. The pig actually went on the fire at 12:45pm and I knew it would several hours of slow cooking. Now my eyes were getting heavy and the heat of the day plus the lack of sleep were all taking their toll on my body, it was time to get some much-needed rest. I found my way to the little “couch” as they called it. Actually, it was a small “loveseat” but in this Thai village they were calling it a couch. I knew when nightfall came my wife would prepare Thai pillows on the floor as an actual bed but for now, I had to make this loveseat work. Impossible? Nothing is impossible when you have been awake for 30+ hours. I slept on the loveseat for 4 hours, a small fan on the floor blowing a gentle breeze my way and when I awoke, I was a new man. It was the best 4 hours of sleep and somehow, I found that little loveseat to be very comfortable.

November days are short, I wake about 5:00pm and it is dark already. I can hear lots of voices coming from the back of the house and I slowly make my way back there. As I step out, I see lots of food being prepared… what a relief because this means I have not really missed any of the fun. And how about that pig?… I already had my camera in hand as I walked towards the pig. Nobody was around, everybody was in the back of the house so I just stood there and looked at the tin roof oven. The aroma coming from the roasting pig was amazing, the garlic and lemon grass… as they say in Thai sap sap.

Around 6:00pm the lid came ff the pig. It was done and it looked so good. But it had to wait because we were waiting for other family members to arrive. Not everybody had the day off work and the ones we were waiting for are some of my most favorites people to be with. Soon everyone was there and it was time to eat. Eating with my Thai family is a joy beyond compare to anything I would do in the USA. First of all everyone sits and eats together, this reminds me of my childhood when my family would all sit and eat dinner together… it seems like a dream when I think about how different times were here in the USA when most all families spent time together on a daily basis. With my Thai family it is still that way, we are all together and there is always lots of talking and the mood is always good.

Oh, and that pig… It was cooked to perfection. The taste was out of this world. The skin wasn’t super crispy but it was editable. The meat was over the top delicious, I couldn’t stop eating it and that is really saying something because, while I cook pigs for a living, I rarely eat a lot of pork. I will eat from the pigs I cook at a party but, it is usually just a few little pieces. With Mi’s pig I could have just kept eating… and made a pig of myself lol.

So, there you have it a pig roast in my honor, I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family in Thailand, I love them all so much.

Thai Pig Roast in Ban Kamin Thailand from Lenzwizard on Vimeo.

Love at 1/2000 of a second in the land of smiles.

This is probably one of my most favorite photos of my current trip to Thailand. Actually it could be one of my most favorite Thai photos of all time. Like all photos there’s a back story and this one is very heartwarming.

The backstory starts with me first telling you how wonderfully treated Americans are here in Thailand. Now of course when you’re in the tourist area everyone is treated nice because… you’re in a tourist area of course. However once I venture out into heartland of the country the smiles and the hospitality are amazing.

I spent the day traveling with family far away from the village, about a two-hour Journey. We were going to see a few different locations where I could fly my drone and capture some wonderful photography. For the first half of the journey I rode in the front seat of the pickup truck taking in all the sights along the way. But as we got ready to turn around and head back I decided to ride in the back of the pickup truck. Riding in the back of the pickup truck allows me to take in the sights but at the same time it allows me to capture a lot of nice candid photos as we’re traveling.

This sounds like fun and actually it is a lot of fun but as a photographer it’s not the easiest thing to do. As a photographer we just want to be able to steady our camera and get a nice shot. riding in the back of a pickup truck is not smooth by any means. The camera settings are very important most of all the shutter speed. You want to be able to capture a photo in an instant. So while riding in the back of the truck I usually keep my shutter speed set to a constant 1/2000 of a second. Even still the photos are not going to be perfect however you are going to capture that moment instantly.

So for this photo I’m riding in the back of the truck and the backstory is how attentive some people are at what is happening around them. Sure I’m the photographer and I’m constantly turning my head to see what’s going on around me. I’m riding down the road I don’t know exactly how fast we’re going and if you’re the passerby you’re not going to see me until the truck has gone by and you look in the back of the truck.

So as I’m whizzing by this roadside market area, this lady looks up and in a Split Second she sees me and she gets a huge smile on her face and gives me the okay sign. I only captured one frame before she was out of sight. But in that one frame I caught the heartwarming happiness and the huge smile of somebody who is happy to have their photo taken. Think about it, in just that Split Second she looks up and identifies a Caucasian guy sitting in the back of a truck with a camera. And that expression on her face truly is the feeling that I feel just about everywhere I travel in this wonderful country called Thailand. For many of my friends I know you will never feel the joy of coming to this land of Many Wonders and smiles. And for those of my friends who have already been here many of them often overlooked the true beauty of this country and the people within it. There’s so much that I could say about the feeling that I get when I travel through this country. Someday I know I will complete my Photography book about Thailand, I started the project several years ago and the biggest problem I have is deciding which photos to include in the book. However I do believe I have found the cover photo for the book. My only regret is that I would never be able to find this lady and thank her for her wonderful smile.

Many people come to Thailand and take photos of all the beautiful temples and other scenery. I have to say I like those photos to but, the most important photos to me are the faces of the people and their everyday life.

Note: I still yet have to go through my GPS log to identify the location where this was taken.

1920s Flapper Girl (Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers.)

Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/3.2 ISO 320 160mm. Hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Style, Dress & gloves from Unique Vintage Makeup by Ambre Baxter

My latest photography project has many layers to it. It started out as a straightforward project themed around the stereotypical 1920s Flapper Girl. Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers. I really don’t know where or how the idea it started; but I think it was when I was looking at some old silent film footage and seeing women dressed in the cloche hats and stockings rolled at the top.

In the past I had read much about the women of the roaring twenties. Although it was way before my time, the one thing I always remembered about it was that it was a “time of big change” for our country and women were part of that change. The 19th amendment to the constitution ratified on August 18, 1920 gave women a right to vote. This certainly was a time of change and the “Flapper” came to life. Flappers were already on the rise and there is also much debate as to where the term flapper was born and to what it actually meant. Wikipedia describes Flappers as such; Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.[1] Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.”

So as I do with all my projects I started off with hours of research and reading, and to some this may seem boring however for me it serves a purpose. It gives me time to relax and read (I love research reading) and while reading it gives me ideas and also helps me solidify my thoughts of a specific look. It also helps me find what looks I don’t want to do. For example I did not want to go with a Gatsby style look. At first I did want the Gatsby look and then as I researched I realized the look would be rather generic at this point do to the movie being out a few years back and… well I just wanted a different look and feel. I think the biggest obstacle was wardrobe. While there is so many websites that offer so called 1920s style dresses, they are not at all 1920s style. Any moron can Google 1920 era images of women and easily see that the wardrobe offered today that is listed as Flapper style is hardly that. Hats were the hardest to find. Finding a hat that actually looked like a true 1920s style is practically impossible if you want “just an everyday” hat. Fancy hats were easier to find. Subsequently I had to compromise; I used three hats and one turban. The turban looked authentic and while two of the hats looked amazing they still were not authentic to the time period. Shoes were easy to find, that was not a problem.

I chose to go with a “day dress” look rather than the evening or party attire of that period. In the beginning I was going to shoot two looks with one model. I then thought; why not add another model and shoot one look on each. As for dresses I found Unique Vintage, a website that had dresses that fit the budget and they really looked pretty close to 20s era dresses. Although the fabric would be different it would not a big deal at all.

As for models; Kallie was my first choice because she is new and I wanted to give her camera time. But when I thought of Smithville Mansion as the location and I also thought of Nicole Gallagher. She is the one who first introduced me to the location and she is perfect for the shoot. Her posing is awesome and she has a rounder face (as opposed to angular) that was classic to the Flapper look. Flapper makeup techniques purposely made their face appear rounder as opposed to most current makeup techniques that give an angular look. So I used both Nicole Gallagher and Kallie Pyatt. This worked perfect because of the hot weather I was able to shoot each model separately without the heat & humidity killing the look. It damn near killed me, but the models did fine.

Kallie Pyatt 1/125 sec at f/6.3 ISO 640 155mm Makeup by Ambre Baxter, dress by Unique Vintage, hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Vintage

For a makeup artist I reconnected with Ambre Baxter and she was amazing. Doing makeup on location in the heat is truly a challenge. However both models looked amazing and again not 100% true to the period, but good enough.

Project goals: This project had several layers to it as I had stated at the opening of this post. First was to create a Flapper Girl look, using day dresses. I wanted the looks to be as if she was a 1920s girl out and about in the daytime. Kallie’s look was a little more reserved than Nicole’s look and neither girl looked as if they were heading to the party or jazz club.

Second goal was to shoot a good portion of this shoot on 35mm film. As of this writing I still have not received my 35mm scans, but I’m hoping for the best. I used CineStill 50 Daylight in two cameras, a Canon EOS 650 film body with an f/1.4 50mm prime and a Pentax Spotmatic with a f/1.4 50mm prime. I also used Ilford Delta 100 (B&W) with a Canon EOS 650 mounted with an f/1.8 85mm prime. I have had the film just waiting for a project and this was the project.

Third goal was that I always wanted to shoot Nicole at Smithville Park because our very first test shoot was supposed to be at that park. However the day we went to shoot there was a huge event taking place and we couldn’t even get close to the park, let alone into the park. We opted for a second location and went on with the shoot. However Smithville Park is a place that is very near & dear to Nicole for personal reasons and I always said to myself “someday we’ll shoot there.” And now we did.

Fourth goal was to give Kallie more camera time. She is new and she is advancing I see her getting better with each shoot. She fun and easy to work with so why not.

Fifth goal was I needed a new cover photo for my business Facebook page and as crazy as it sounds I take cover photos very seriously. Your cover photo and profile photo are your first impressions when a newcomer first visits your page. “First impressions are lasting ones” as they say (whoever they are lol).

Sixth goal was to get at least one portfolio quality image out of this shoot and I can safely say this was accomplished.

In closing I would like to say the shoot could have been better… it can always be better, but I’m very happy with what I did get from it.

I will write another post when I receive my scans and I discuss shooting with film and the techniques I used.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

 

 

 

Morning Smile ( Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.)

1/1000 sec at f/2.8 ISO 320 140mm

 

Ok so “street photography” is supposed to be for the most part an unmediated chance encounter.

While it borders on being “candid” there is still a difference. And for those who may not know; no you do not have to be in the street while capturing street style photography.

So let me talk about these two photos because they both are at the top of my all-time favorite street style shots.

I have blogged before about the morning in 2012 when I created a project where I would stand in the village street at the busiest time of the morning and I photographed everything that passed by or that came within 3 meters of me.

It was a lot of fun and I captured some real interesting images. Now first let me say that while most photographers will show their “street style” photography in black & white and I love my black & whites. However I have always had the mindset that because

Thailand is one of those places in the world that is so vibrant in color I personally feel I need to show the color. For street I try to refrain from using “saturation” but sometimes I will break that rule too.

1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 90mm

Ok so I love this image for mainly one reason and it is her smile. Her smile is so “in the moment” and natural. I did not know her nor did I think she was actually seeing me.

It is kind of hard to miss a big white guy standing in the middle of the street with a full frame camera and a 70-200mm lens.

With that said; many of the people who passed me by that morning never even looked my way, and again I was no more than 3 meters away.

So while I was shooting the burst of about 3 to 4 shots I remember seeing her smile in the view finder and I instantly thought “unusable” I’ll have to delete them because most times when people know your taking their photo… well it just doesn’t look natural.

But this was different because she was not moving slow and as she was approaching I was face away from her shooting something that had just went by. When I turned I had the camera already up and in position, essentially the total time was like 3-5 seconds.

So for her to see me and crack such a beautiful smile (and a peace sign) so quickly while her front passenger is more than clueless just adds to the excitement of these images. Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.

While the images are a little soft on focus the content more than makes up for the lack of sharpness, this is the case with many great street style shots.

 

So for those of you who know me personally and hear me talk about the village my wife is from… well this is a typical morning scene right outside our front door.

 

 

Freedom of Creativity (Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”)

By The Sea

I have never before created an image that drew so much criticism and also at the same time was liked by so many others. This is a two element composite that I created in the very beginning of 2017. Actually the image of the model was captured on the last day of 2016 in a studio. Many times when shooting a model session I will have some sort of prop that I will pull out at the very end of the shoot, sort of a surprise. In the past I have used fake hand grenades, fake cigars, and gas masks ect… On this day I had a feathered headdress that closely resembles the kind of headdresses worn by the indigenous tribes of the North American Plains or as many would call them today “Native Americans.” The headdress was purchased online from a dealer in Indonesia where the headdress is made. The headdress is fabricated from duck feathers and either painted or dyed with various colors for decoration. The rest of the material is mostly cheap felt, string, thread and plastic beads. I was actually quite disappointed when I received the headdress because the feathers were rather narrow and distorted due to the painting or dying process. For this reason I did not use it right away and I was looking for a better one. I soon lost interest and the prop was packed away. I then relocated and the prop was in storage for most of the year. I came across the headdress while sifting through my props and model wardrobe and thought “I might as well use it” after all I did pay $60 for this thing. So I brought it to the shoot, pulled it out at the very end, asked the model if she wanted to wear it and she (like me) though it would be nice and rather “Avant Garde” with the juxtaposition of the fitness attire she had on. After all I did know while shooting her on a gray background I would clip her out and use another outdoor background thus creating a “Photoshop composite” as I am so known for doing.

Why? I liked it. It was creative decision based on the look and color of the feathers and the overall feel it would bring to the image. In my years as a photographer I have designed and created my own headdress for models to wear as well as purchasing pre-made items. I have seen headdresses made from everything possible (or so it seems).  Just the other day I saw a headdress with biplanes in it. One was the plane of the famous Eddie Rickenbacker and the other Baron Von Richthofen or as many know him “The Red Baron.” I thought it to be rather funny and odd all at the same time. Some headdresses I do not get at all, such as ram horns, dead sticks, plastic garbage bags ect… But “hey” beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art, fashion and beauty are all “subjective” so while I may look at a model with sticks and deer antlers as a headpiece and think it is idiotic, others could find it artistic.

Now I am fully aware that no matter what I write in the following sentences will be justifiable in the minds of some people. I might add that I am not looking to justify anything nor am I trying to win over the opinion of a naysayer. All I am saying is “there is (in my opinion) no way possible that a model and a photographer standing in a studio and deciding to place a feathered headdress on one’s head and photographing it could bring harm to anyone”… period. The model is dressed in current day fitness attire that in no way depicts her and as a Native American. Upon close examination the headdress craftsmanship shows no possible comparison to the craftsmanship of a “Plains Native” war bonnet. Other than shape and color there is very little that could be comparable between a headdress of a Native American and the headdress that is in my image. There is nothing about the way that my image was created nor in the way the image is being presented that could be contrived as someone or anybody trying to demean or disparage indigenous people of North America who whore feathered headdresses. Now with that said there are still people whom are highly offended and for several reasons. The first thing that comes to my mind is “some people just like to be offended.” There’s no two ways to look at that, they just like being offended, its life. Then there are those who are offended because they have a vested interest.  I know that sounds rather idiotic, but it is true as true can be.

Most of us have experienced bullies growing up, every class had one or more. And if it wasn’t in the class room, it was at the park or on the school bus or somewhere in our life. You didn’t have to provoke a bully, just the mere fact that you woke up that morning and now standing in close range you were going to feel the wrath of the bully. Be it physical or verbal you were going to feel the wrath. Myself personally I felt the wrath of a few bullies and I found that the biggest way to combat a bully was to fight back. But not to fight back it the way the bully fought against me, in some cases just ignoring the bully was good enough. However most effective was a flat-out “take’em out quickly and as mercilessly as possible. It could be done verbally or physically, whatever way worked best. Now cut to forty years later we are to play patty-cakes and give blue ribbons and have an after party at Panera Bread or Starbucks. Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”

So what happened on social media? Ok here is the time line of my image. It was initially created a few days after the photo shoot. I sat on it for about a week as I made various changes to the overall color and sharpness. I made test prints and used it as an image to compare different print method. Then after about two weeks it was posted to my blog. There was very little reaction. It had been keyworded with headdress, fitness, feathered and so on. Then after a few months I decided to put the image on Instagram. It was received very well, but no more than other images of comparable quality. Then it received the first comment “this is the dumbest pic I’ve ever seen.” The man was a Native American and I waited about 12 hours and asked back “what is it about the image that you do not like? His answer said “well thank you for asking, as a native it is always disappointing to see models wearing headdresses thereby the stereotype continues, women don’t wear them, it’s disrespectful to us, but people continue to misuse our culture, thanks again for asking, most people don’t care to ask.”  I did not reply and left it at that. Then there were people hash tagging it and those I deleted. The random hash tagger is the modern-day bully whom you really can do nothing about.

While I do understand a little bit of what this gentleman is saying when it comes to native women not wearing headdresses, so I guess to him it would be like me seeing a man wearing a dress. I get that and I can live with that. But this whole “stereotype” thing is a bunch of crap. I literally have no idea what so ever of what stereotype I am keeping alive and how I am misusing anyone’s culture. So I set off and a three-day research binge to try and find what I was doing wrong and how my actions could have brought harm upon this man or anyone else. Yes for three days I spent every free moment reading and researching how the Native Americans feel and their current position in society today.

Here are my findings:

Nearly every single article I could find written on the subject of downtrodden Native Americans was on blogs, and very few were on actual creditable news sites. The articles posted to these blogs were very scathing and dramatic. While most of the facts were correct about the history of the settlers pushing out the indigenous people, the articles are clearly written to be used as “click bait” and it was easy to see why. Every single one of these blog sites were filled with pop up after pop up as well as every pixel of extra space taken up by affiliate advertisements. Essentially these were all “pay per click” sites that generate revenue each time the site is clicked upon. Are they “Fake News?” No I didn’t really see anything fake about them; however they clearly have an agenda to write articles that are jaded to drawing the reader to a predetermined conclusion rather than letting the reader draw their own conclusion.

So now I leave the blogs and head off to message boards where there is no “pay per click” and it is just everyday people talking about everyday stuff. I find that about 75% of the Native Americans who I actually questioned did not care at all about my image or any other involving non-native people wearing a feathered headdress. In fact one man said that the only people who are going to be offended are people who have something to gain by being offended. And I think he’s right. The other 25% really didn’t have bad things to say, they just thought it best to not offend anybody about anything. So let me get that right… you’re not really offended by the feathered headdress being worn by a model… but I still shouldn’t do it. Ok.

So after all the research and questioning, still no one can tell me what stereotype I am keeping alive or how what I have done has brought (or will bring) harm or doom to an indigenous person/s. My conclusion is that the biggest criers are the writers who are posting to “pay-per-click” sites. This is actually the case with a lot of social topics today. While the world is now bogged down with this increasing blight of “Fake News” we are also being bogged down with one-sided dramatic opinions that are being contrived as “facts” and it is all in the name of pay-per-click advertising. For all I know the blogs that I visited may have not been run by Native Americans at all, there really is no way to know. After all you yourself could write a post on any topic, make it as dramatic as possible and post it to your pay per click site and start making money.

For now my image will remain online. People are free to comment although they have to keep comments realistic and on topic.

Bored Senseless (But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress…)

1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm

So I am often asked many questions about a photo after I post it or someone sees it when I’m showing a slide show. If it is a slide show the comment starts with “whoa can you go back to that photo” but there are many other questions that follow, such as; “where was this shot, how did you get this shot” and many more. Many times people who were with me at the time I captured the image ask the same questions. And when they find out it was captured while they were there perplexes them because they have no memory of me taking the photograph nor do they remember the subject in the photograph. Case in point is this image of the man bushing the bicycle in the streets of the village Hua Ngua, Kalasin Province, Thailand. My wife was there however she has no recollection of me capturing the image.

So the back story is I was bored senseless as many a husband is while waiting for your wife to shop. The day started with me going somewhere to have fun with photography, traveling to local temples and other places just to have fun shooting. But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress in a small village mattress shop. Of course I had the camera in hand and I just stood along the side of the street shooting whatever went by. It was that easy. Main thing is “always have your cameras with you and ready.” Now that does not mean to walk around bothering people with a camera, in this case I had the camera in the vehicle and because I was bored out of my wits I grabbed the camera in hopes of shooting something… anything. I was at a mattress shop and that was about as exciting and as fun as a heart attack. Matter-of-fact I started by saying to myself that “there has to be something interesting to shoot in the mattress shop… there wasn’t… I tried. Now if I cannot get at least one interesting shot then I think it’s fair to say… well I think you can see by now how bored I was. Bored enough to photograph a farmer pushing a bicycle carrying what looks like weeds up a street. However it is an interesting photo or at least I think so. At I think it is least interesting enough to put in my book of street photography from Thailand.

Now for all the camera geeks the technical info; Shot on a Canon 6D with a 24-105mm f/4L 1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm. Edited in Photoshop CC 2017 using a “multiply” layer on top of a normal layer, converted to a smart object, shadows brightened with a camera raw filter and then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 adding Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and then back to Lightroom for a small amount of sharpening and watermark applied. Output to JEPG.

 

 

Creative Fun (Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls.)

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

I guess I’m kind of forced to talk about this image due to the amount of feedback I received from it soon after it hit Instagram. I do not have a massive amount of followers but I do have some really cool and interesting followers. I have several professional photographers from various parts of the world who hail from different genres and styles, from fashion to fine art to commercial print. Then I have followers who are in the entertainment industry in Hollywood & NYC. With that said… I also have a lot of cool everyday people from all walks of life who see my images and I see theirs too.

For this image I received four direct (private) messages asking how did you take the image and what filter did you use? One question was from a young lady who is a singer, song writer in Hollywood and the others were from photographers in the UK and Russia.

First I want to say this is just a fun image and is not mean to be a portfolio quality photo. However what comes into play here that makes the image stand out are a few different, but really not so different things. So let’s look a little deeper and I’ll talk about what was going on and how the image came to be.

First and foremost is the subject, my beautiful niece Alyssa and I were walking the dogs at the lake up the street from my house and I had the camera… I always have the camera.

Second and I think most important element here is the camera… no not a $20,000 Hasselblad, not even a flagship Nikon or Canon. The camera I used is my (new to me) Canon EOS-M3. What made this image achievable is the fact that I was able to capture the photo from an angle and perspective that would not be possible looking through a viewfinder. Unless of course I was to kneel down next to or in front of the subject and ask her to stop and pose. In this image I had been walking next to her as I captured video and when I had the clip I wanted I quickly switched to Av (aperture priority) and had previously set the camera to ISO 100 and f/11. So given the extreme back lighting from the sun over her shoulder I instantly flicked the “flash release” to allow the tiny on camera flash to give some much-needed “fill flash.” Without the fill flash Alyssa would be nothing more than a dark shadow. Also know the f/11 setting helped create the “star” effect coming from the sun. And of course the sun flare is because the camera is looking into the sun. Then there is the “wide angle” factor; shooting close to the subject at 18mm (wide zoom) makes things look a little “off.” Her extended arm and distortion on her lower torso is not very noticeable, but enough to give a creative effect.

So the big thing here is that I composed the image from the screen on the back of the camera and not a viewfinder (the M3 does not come with a view finder). The screen articulates and I was able to hold the camera low, but still angle the screen up toward me. I am actually very familiar with this technique because my old 2005-06 Canon A640 point & shoot had an articulating screen and I loved, loved, loved that camera for just that reason. And I must note that this is one of the three main reasons I purchased the M3. The articulating screen screams creativity… so why doesn’t an EOS-5D Mark IV or the EOS-1D X Mark II have articulating screens? Here is the secret… ready for it… Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls. These are people or beings that have not a creative molecule in their being. While they can make something that can auto focus and face detect and face track within milliseconds they could never understand creativity. So they rely on the outside world to tell them what creativity is and how to incorporate it into a product. The have stopped putting articulating screens in cheaper cameras because they want you to but the more expensive camera and I get that part of the equation… it’s about $$$. Even the geekiest of geeks wants to make money. “But let’s not make our $4000+ plus cameras with creative features like articulating screens because that would make us look like we have common sense.” And everybody knows geeks, nerds and troll have no common sense. Right!

Ok so after that rant we come to;

The third thing and that is the edit. So it is a little tweaking in Lightroom, about all of 30 seconds and then it’s off to Photoshop for about 2 minutes and I use a Nik Color Efex Pro 3 filter recipe that was created by me (yay me, I’m not a geek I can create). Also there is the use of Photoshop blending modes; in this case “multiply” was used. Then back to Lightroom and whala… done.

So in conclusion the real game changer is the camera with the articulating screen. It did not have to be the Canon M3, it could be any camera with a pop out screen. It allowed me to capture the “up angle” perspective and the candid expression all at the same time without stopping to pose the subject. And last, but not least… No you’re not gonna get this image with your iPhone. Sure you could capture the image with a phone camera, but it would be the same as using any other camera with a view finder. So put your iPhone away you little Apple worm and go get a real camera.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

 

The Sinister Clown At ESP (I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth.)

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

It’s autumn, the smell of fallen leaves fill the cool morning air, pumpkins & corn stalks decorate doorways and porches… apple pie and ginger snap cookies all add up to Halloween is coming soon.

So as Halloween draws near, so does my self-imposed deadline for having completed the edits for the “Sinister Clown” project shoot. Here we see a third edit that I have just completed and I’m very happy with it. This particular image also has a sub-edit where I have cropped in extremely close. If you have followed my blog over the years you know I have a passion for close up “in your face” edits. However usually they are images of a beautiful female face and sometimes a male too, even dogs. But today’s image is that of “Sinister Clown.” And speaking of “Sinister Clown” I wish I had a name for him… yes the clown is a male character although there is a beautiful female playing the role behind all that amazing makeup. If anyone has an idea for a name please contact me.

So for this edit; the cropped version came about because I wanted to showcase Jade’s talent up close and “in your face” and the second reason (as previously mentioned) I love tight cropped face shots. However the full size version of this edit I wanted to put my clown in a decrepit, disgusting, smelly setting. Now of course you can’t “smell” an image on a screen, but I wanted that feel to come through in the edit. So I literally spent hours and days sifting through stock images that could be used for a background. All the while I am going from photo to photo I keep telling myself “you have the image you’re looking for” but I just did not know what. Let me clarify; while I am looking through stock images with my eyes and mind focused on a computer screen, another part of my mind is working diligently sifting through places I have been over the last few years, then of course there is that third part of my mind that thinks of over-throwing the world, sexy women, money and so-on. Funny how much can get done with only two brain cells, but the inside of my mind can be almost as scary as this clown lol.

After days of this… it hits me. Cell block 5 (1829 Creator: John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary.) Yes Cell Block 5 is a disgusting mess. Visitors to Eastern States Penitentiary are not allowed to enter into cell block 5. When you stand at the locked gate and look down the cell block, you get a true feeling of the horror that once was ESP in its hay-day. The place looks frozen in time, like an old closet that hasn’t been opened in 200 years, it smells like a grave. The smell is because (no joke) the place has been untouched for decades and has a smell of dirt, cob webs, mold and rotting wood.

While doing a photo shoot there in June of 2015 with Nicole I had stuck my camera inside the gate and captured some really decent images. I have edited one as a cover photo for the Reckless Pixel Facebook page (but is no longer in use). So this was the background that would work perfect for this edit. Not to mention the irony that Nicole is the clown and the background image comes from another shoot she did with me over a year ago.

Now I feel I need to explain that in the beginning I had envisioned this clown being scary, but in an organic sort of way and not in a generic “blood & gore” kind of way. In the first making of the movie “IT” which was actually a TV mini-series the clown Pennywise was never really seen devouring the little children of Derry. It was implied that the clown ate the arms of children… after all it was a movie made for TV. So I wanted my clown to have that same vibe. I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth. So instead of putting gore props in the images with the clown I would rather put the clown in an evil setting. Now with all that said the average viewer of the image is never gonna know the significance of the background and I’m ok with that. Most of all I’m happy that the background is one of my own images and not a stock image.

I will have more edits of the Sinister Clown up in a day or so and there will be a video blog post too. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Autumn Fun (…the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air…)

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan is new, but a fast learner. We had a great outdoor shoot in Stockton, NJ along the Delaware River. It was a beautiful autumn day and while the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air that added to our mood. The Prallsville Mill adds such a great backdrop to any photo shoot, be it wedding, engagement or model. On a weekday there is always a few people walking or riding bikes and of course they will stop and look and that just adds to the fun. We’ll see more edits from this shoot in the coming days.