What I'm doing. Where I've been. What I saw. And why I shot it.


Monday, October 25, 2010

in which she really does shoot sheep

If you've poked through my She Shots Sheep Shots portfolio, or seen my book Shear Spirit, you know I am smitten with the woolly. So you know I was happy last week in upstate NY for a personal project, where I bartered bed &  breakfast for photographing on Gansvoort Farm, a grass fed sheep & cattle farm.
Two days later, in Athol Massachusetts on a magazine assignment to The Farm School. Sheep, locavore food, communal harvest. Farming's a lot of work, but shooting it? That's my kind of labor.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

take me out to an upgrade

When I get a call from a university alumni magazine, I  never know what I might be photographing.  Celebrities, brilliant scientists, explorers, authors, could be any kind of subject. Unlike consumer mags these days, I often see images run full page, in spreads and as photo essays. How much do I love these clients? Much.

That's how I found myself photographing a Vintage Fantasy Baseball League game in bucolic Sandy Hook, CT. The shoot was fun, the subjects passionate about their slightly eccentric hobby,  the editor and designer are happy. 
Custom replica 1860's baseball gear for the game
My MVP wasn't on the field though. It's my upgrade to a faster newer computer and Aperture 3.0. Mostly the Aperture 3.0 I forgot that image processing didn't have to be a teeth grinding, computer-freezing annoyance.  Suddenly working on images is fun again. When I got finished processing the big TIFFs for the magazine, I changed the files to look all faded and vintagey, as you see here. For funs. Because I felt like it. It's not that I'm using their presets for vintage (although I think they have one, it's just not that look I wanted).  But I have more speed and the new adjustment and filtering tools in Aperture. Home run. Score! And, lots of other sports metaphors.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


One of three images I'm exhibiting & donating to the Arts Council of Greater New Haven fundraiser, Somewhat Off the Wall. I like supporting local arts organizations. Used to be I'd spend a whole day or so in the darkrooom making just the right prints for this annual event.
But this image was made simply. I'm not even going to talk about how simply.  I was feeling guilty about how little processing & fussing went on. Then I thought, maybe it's not the time in front of the monitor today but the years getting ready to see this moment.
Oooooooooh. Only Zoltar knows.

Monday, July 12, 2010

on saying YES

A few years ago I read a life changing interview.  It was, improbably, an interview with Tina Fey about switching from being a writer to a performer.  What it really was about, was letting yourself go and saying yes to opportunities, no matter how odd or challenging or curious they appear when presented. Since then, my photography, my business and my life are a lot more fun.
So when a neighbor asked if I wanted to drop by and photograph her chickens in their new hats, there was only one way to answer: Hell yes!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

mixed feelings

fiesta flags, San Antonio
 San Antonio TX street, fiesta April 2010
There's a point where you realize that a good image is a good image, and a mediocre one isn't going to become a good image.  You can (in the olden days) tone, burn, hand color, or lift the emulsion & transfer it to watercolor paper. Nuh-uh, it's just not going to become a good image.
Or you can (nowadays), photoshop the bejeepzis out of it: liquify, sketchify, desaturate to black & white, watercolorize- and , yeah, same result.

So that brings me, guiltily,  to my beloved Hipstamatic app. I can't stop shooting this. I admit, it's a gimmick.  I instantly mimic the artsy plastic cameras with light leaks, and the polaroid transfers and the emulsion lifts from the past.  No yucky chemicals or complete darkness or time wasted working up the process. 

 San Antonio TX, wall at Titos,  April 2010
Truth is, making an imitation arty piece most times only looks like imitation art.
But it sure is fun to keep trying.

Monday, April 5, 2010

H2 Ohhhhhhhhhh

So, a magazine asked me to photograph an accomplished MIT hydrogeologist, preferably in some water.  I thought-bingo!- those crazy monsoon rains battering us last week were so in my favor.
MIT professor Charles Harvey , hydrogeologist, at great meadows national Wildlife Refuge
you have to keep in mind the water is cold. very cold. he should be wincing.

My subject suggested we go out to the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, where a walkway normally crosses a  full open pond. Except, the pond is so full, it has taken over the parking lot.
Ok, what care we?  It's water.  We are there for water. We wade in. First on the rocks, then straight in.
MIT professor Charles Harvey , hydrogeologist, at great meadows national Wildlife Refuge Our subject puts on waders, I'd asked him to go waist deep, he's game. My asst and I roll up our jeans and follow to stay close, on the edge of where the scientist steps down to chest level.  Fabulous! Sun, blue sky, good natured professor.  We take out  strobes and shoot some fill, handing them back & forth above the water. Joking, heh heh about electrocuting the marine life if we fumble  and the HV pack goes  into the pond. But we really don't need the juice. The gold reflector is perfect.
Seeing as I like a low angle,  I squat down, just grazing the water.  I hear a splash.  Right near my pocket. My compact flash card wallet, taking a dive 2 feet down.  Nooooooooo!  Filled with 10 compact flash cards.

No lost images from this shoot , they were all in the camera on a large card but, still, that's a lot of sodden gigs.0410FamVar_400 Having an MIT hydrogeologist (dude knows water) advise me to soak them in rubbing alcohol and then seal them in a bag with dry rice was, if not reassuring, at least a plan.

And it took my mind off this fella, who first joined us on a rock.
And then hissing at us, in the water.

Moral of the story: if you have an asst who is over 6 feet tall carrying a secure bag for you into water, place the compact flash wallet in his care. Also: watch out for snakes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

a little imperfection is good for the soul

 on a shoot for the new Random House book project in VT last week

You know you're taking photography seriously when you first want to control the light, instead of having the light control you. *  I started my professional photo life in the days of exposing finicky chromes, so I got very very good at controlling light. Good enough that the Photo District News
wrote about me & my lighting. No highlights without details! Flag that flare!
Last year I noticed enjoying my visceral reaction to blownout sky and skin without pores. And then an art director asked me to shoot a project with intentional lens refractions floating over the subjects-and used it full page. Astoundingly, the earth continued to spin on its axis .  I had some fun breaking the rules.

So for 2010 I'm letting the imperfect exposure creep into my work in a serious way. Any thoughts?

* if you're amongst those yearning to learn to control light, Strobist is an excellent place to start, if you haven't popped by there already.

Friday, January 15, 2010

the view from the other end

When Real Simple said they were sending a photographer to shoot me with my family, at home, I felt like I was falling down the rabbit hole. It's just the kind of magazine assignment or commercial shoot I usually get. I've been her a zillion times. But I've never been them.

So, yeah, every cliche response I've heard  from subjects flew out of my mouth:
"Oh! Our house isn't , um, magazine worthy."
"Do I have time to lose 10 pounds?"
"I'm having, like, a bad hair week"

At least I didn't go for  "heh,heh,  I might break your camera". 

The photographer, Sam Contis, was sweet, and arrived right on time, shooting 4x5 film, available light. Cool. She did the scouting walk-through, you know, when you seem to be making small talk with the subjects but you're actually sizing up their space while also trying to gauge their personality and style, and any physical issues to work around.  I could hear what was running through her brain, I swear it.

She posed us in a spot we don't usually gather, I know I do that to people all the time.  Only this time I felt the weirdness. Truly, it's odd, you're in your own space, but in a new way.

Love the image. It looks just like us. And, I learned a lot from the experience. I'm taking it along now everywhere I go.