The Yosemite

It took me a while to get there, but I finally made it to Yosemite National Park this summer as part of my June/July trip. In spite of being my first visit in person, this part of my trip meant a lot to me on a couple of levels. Not only is it such a beautiful place, but the whole reason this blog exists probably traces back to some photos of Yosemite and the photographer who took them.

The Classic Tunnel View of Yosemite Valley

In the summer of 2002 I’m walking in downtown Charleston, SC. If you’ve not visited the city I can describe it at that time of year, along with most of the southeast, using two words: hot and humid. When I travel I’ve try to walk around a city when possible. You gain a feel of a city on foot you can never find from a car or taxi. Public transit can give some of the feel, but places just feel more alive to me when viewed at a walking pace.

Mt. Watkins in Mirror Lake

After a lengthy day of seeing some city sites, I’d left the area known as the Battery and begun walking back toward my hotel near the center of downtown. Most of the day I’d barely noticed the heat as I’d been moving and near enough the coast for the breezes to hide some of its power. After moving away from the breezes and into the streets the heat quickly became uncomfortable. While taking a short break in a park to enjoy some shade, I spotted a museum and figured a little time inside would get me out of heat and sun for a little while.

The museum’s main exhibit was a collection of Ansel Adams artwork.

Rainy Morning from the Valley

It’s not that I didn’t have an interest in photography before. In fact I’d bought a very early digital camera when high quality meant 640 x 480 resolution. For that trip I’d just upgraded to a newer model. Don’t remember the specifics, but I remember taking plenty of photos on a memory card with a size measured in megabytes. I’m pretty sure my Canon 6D creates single raw images larger than the memory card I used in that camera for that day’s photos.

Half Dome from Mirror Lake

Something changed in the way I looked at photos there. Well past the time I’d cooled off from the heat, I continued circling the room looking at every image multiple times. I’m not the first person to get captivated by his work, but the way I looked at photography shifted. It would take several years before I’d start mixing people into my work, but there’s a clear line I can trace from that moment through every shoot I’ve done.

So going to Yosemite was more than just a change to experience one of the most beautiful places on earth and hike some amazing trails. It was a chance to visit the places where some of the first photos that really grabbed my attention were taken. Those were photos that part of me at first wondered, “How were they taken?” Later that became, “How could I take photos like that?” That led to, well today. I had the chance to stay in the valley four days and three nights before moving on to elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains, time to enjoy some of the wonders of the park. Here are a few landscapes from those days. There will be more to come from Yosemite in future posts.

What Happens in Vegas – Ends up on this Blog

I’ve posted about summer my trip plan a few times and now that trip has come and gone. From mid June through early July I made a trip to the American Southwest and California (is any part of California considered part of the southwest?) totaling a few hours short of three weeks away from home. I spent nights in campgrounds, cabins, hotels, and motels. It was a trip of contrasts with days spent without cell service or Internet (or electricity) and days in the heart of San Francisco. I’ve much to post of the trip from models, animals, and landscapes. Those will be coming over the next weeks mixed in as I catch up on some work from before the trip not yet shared. I’ll start the trip photos here at the start of the trip in the desert city of Las Vegas.

I’d gone Vegas for work and taken the time and proximity to lead into the rest of the trip. In my original plan I would spend a few more days after the work portion completed before continuing with my trip. I’d not known or counted on the Electronic Daisy Carnival being in town that same weekend. I’d originally booked a nice room on the Strip for the work portion of my trip with no issues. By the time I tried to extend the stay for the extra few days I found rooms scarce and those available greatly overpriced. Surprising since I’ve always found hotel rooms the one thing not overpriced in Las Vegas. Not in this case as 400,000 people fill up even this city of hotels. In the end I would take only a single extra day in the city and squeeze in a short side trip to one of my favorite cities, Phoenix, but that will be another update. I did find a reasonably priced hotel near the strip for the extra night though even that was a bit of a mistake as I’d meant to book a hotel near the airport instead.Wonderhussy-2014-06-2

I actually have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Las Vegas. I hate the “come here and do the stuff you wouldn’t dare to do back home” message pushed there now. The city seems to sell the idea that in Las Vegas you can let go, have fun, and enjoy yourself in Vegas, but do so without losing your reputation back home. Hypocrisy is one of my pet peeves and Vegas seems to build a vision out of it. Even more so though the whole city just has an element of greed running through it. I’ve nothing wrong with a city thriving off tourism, but something about the get rich quick version in Vegas feels cheaper. From the slot machines in airport terminals greeting you upon arrival to the cost of just about everything you need from transportation to meals, Vegas feels like it constantly wants to get into my pants – specifically to my wallet.


That said I do enjoy a few days in Las Vegas before it starts to wear on me. It’s a fun place to go out with co-workers and/or friends and bond a bit. I could probably walk and people watch on the Strip at any time and enjoy it for the simple amusement if nothing else. People letting themselves go for perhaps the only time make interesting entertainment. And given I tend to have the habit of not caring much about what other people think, it does feel nice to be in a place where no one else cares either. A contradiction I admit, but that I think it reveals Las Vegas’s appeal and distraction. It’s a city that straddles both the fantasies and realities of youth and age, wealth and poverty, crowds and loneliness, sex and strangers, love and loneliness, and hard work and luck.

While in Las Vegas my work related schedule ruled out shoots most days. A few discussed for the few free moments didn’t come to pass. With only about thirty-six hours between the end of those work commitments and my flight out of the city, I had little time to shoot. One shoot my next to last night in town fell through at the last minute leaving with a night alone in the city I enjoyed walking the strip, catching a show that I’d not seen, and talking with strangers in a hotel bar until early in the morning. The only shoot I ended up with in Las Vegas came with Wonderhussy, a model who I’d worked with my previous trip to Las Vegas. We’d worked outdoors then and had the same plan now.


We began by heading out of the city into the desert to a wonderful abandoned building and the source of the photos scattered through this entry. All went well for a until we had unexpected visitors in a couple of young men. Whether they saw the admittedly cool building and wanted to check it out or the naked lady and wanted to check her out I don’t know. They left shortly after causing no problems and we continued shooting. About the time we were beginning to wrap came a first for me, the arrival of a law enforcement official. We were polite and very non-threatening (I can turn on the Southern very thick when I wish to and few things sound less threatening than a thick Southern Drawl). He gave us a bit of a lecture, but truthfully was pretty cool about it. We agreed to move along and did so. As I noted we were about done anyway so we got some nice work before leaving.

To that point I’d only once had any issue during a shoot, a ranger showing up during a shoot with nothing more revealing than a bikini. I’m pretty careful about shooting locations so this is the first time I’d ever had an issue and it was probably just bad luck. At the time I figured the earlier unexpected visitors had called someone or had shared the story with someone that had. I now wonder if we just had the bad luck to run into extra patrols around thanks to the previously mentioned EDC. The combination of young, inexperienced, and under the influence of something (probably a good description of most of those in town for EDC) can end badly in the desert summer and I wouldn’t expect if patrols were out in greater than normal numbers for that very reason.


After that unplanned encounter ended happily we decided to head to my hotel and finish the shoot instead of to the second outdoor spot. Truth is I felt if I tried shooting anything outdoors at that point my head wouldn’t be in it and results would show that. We arrived back at the hotel to a number of interestingly attired people on their way to EDC and the strong smell of a certain burned plant in the halls. If I plan to shoot at the hotel I usually try to find a place that helps that. The place I was staying that night was chosen mostly because it was available and not too expensive, not for shooting. Still, there is a fun challenge of shooting in a place you hadn’t planned and seeing what you can do. I’m pretty happy with the results and will post some of those later. Photos scattered through this post from the location.

Wonderhussy also keeps a rather funny blog where she also describes the shoot in this post.

Menaced Nikki Lee Young

The first of a number of photos that I’ll be posting from a May shoot with Nikki Lee Young. We’d originally planned to shoot outdoors that day, but the weather didn’t cooperate. That left us a lot of time and the chance to work on a number of concepts during the shoot. We got a number of interesting and diverse things from the day. These first are doing a bit of a sinister and ghostly take on damsel in distress genre photos.




Candle Shoot with Scarlett

From a May shoot with Scarlett. I was in a stretch where I was playing with candles as lighting during many of my shoots. Here’s probably my favorite of the traditional black and white lit by candles that I did. I had a nice flooring with some texture to it that I brought out for these and also like the way the candles highlighted the pits in the material.


Also something unique in mixing in ambient light with the candle light. I like the color effect of these photos and it’s something I think that I’ll play with more in the future.


Thoughts at the End of a Trip

It’s been a hectic few weeks. I’m writing this post in the wee hours of the morning while sitting in the airport in San Francisco waiting for my flight home. It’s been almost three weeks since I last saw my home so it has been a very long trip, the longest continuous time I’ve been away from home in my life. The trip mixed work, vacation, and of course, several shoots.

In the last month I’ve visited Las Vegas, Phoenix, the High Sierras of California, Central California, and the area around San Francisco Bay. After last summer’s trip went so poorly I had more than a little trepidation about this one, but really it’s hard to imagine it going much better. In a state in a severe drought I found rain twice, once to good effect and once less so. It held a visit to a spot with a lot of personal meaning to me, my first interruption by police during a shoot, meeting some new faces, and working with a few friends I’d not seen in a while. I even took some time to play pure tourist, which in my case means not carrying around the camera for the day.

Overall I’ve enjoyed the trip more than I could have hoped. Not everything went according to plan, but those were minor inconveniences and didn’t dampen the trip as a while. There’s lots of photos to come and stories to share coming soon.