Monday, April 30, 2007

The Littlest Cowgirl

Living in the southwest, equine sport and competition is commonplace here. This includes the annual Scottsdale Arabian Show- where all manner of enthusiasts, young and old are encouraged to compete.

As I sat blankly observing the holding pen near the entrance of the main arena, the kids on their arabians lined up for the western pleasure competition I watched a very serious young lady line up with her colleagues.

Her horse was decked to the nines in fine silver traditional western tack. Both rider and horse matched stunningly. As the girl, no more than ten years old, rode her horse into the arena to compete, they moved as one. Graceful and confident, the two danced a ballet of trust and precision.

I have no idea how they placed that day. The stream of ribbon winners each day exceeded the hundreds. I do know that they did themselves and horsemanship proud... a picture of friendship and beauty.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Congratulations Chelsea and Darin!

Chelsea and Darin were married mid day on Friday at the Mesa Temple. It was a beautiful (if slightly warmish) day- perfect for a wedding. Their family threw a beautiful and intimate reception that evening. The bride and groom played/sang a beautiful song together and then were whisked away in a horse drawn carriage. Beautiful.

(Note: Family members- if I did not get your email to send you a link to the preview gallery, please email or call me using the contact page- I will gladly send you a link to the full preview (100+ images to start you off). )

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to photograph my first (of hopefully many) LDS temple weddings this weekend. I have to say right off the bat that I much prefer LDS weddings to any other type I have worked on to date.

I would like to get a few more under my belt because I think that maybe I would like to specialize in them. Any couples want to volunteer?

I think the reason I like it so much is because the Mesa Temple campus is gorgeous and its really fun to see all of the excitement when the couple comes out! Its great to see families with such a close bond and there is something very heartfelt and sacred about this kind of a religious union. In addition to this fact, Temple weddings have always been kind of special to me because Kirk's side of the family is Mormon.

In addition to the beauty of it all and the family ties- I seet something I found slightly odd. A lot of photographers offer temple rates as high and even higher than conventional weddings!!! I was shocked to see such highway robbery. After hearing my step brother and law and his wife paid nearly a thousand dollars for photographs they did not get for nearly half a year I was appalled! Even worse still, is that a lot of these couples are young, just getting on their feet- so asking them to spend so much for what amounts to just a couple of hours of photography certainly is not helping them. YES, great photographs of your wedding day are incredibly important, but you should not have to go into debt or eat ramen noodles for a month for them. I feel that as a photographic professional, I can offer great services for these couples at prices they can handle.

So, a great day, a WONDERFUL couple, and some great ideas for affordable temple packages.

All in all a great wedding! We had a great time...engagement photos to the end of the reception Chelsea and Darin were a blast!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Pitter Patter of Little Claws

Thats how you find them. You hear them rustle through the underbrush, thoroughly unafraid of you. The move back and fourth, searching for food, sunning themselves and enjoying life as a lizard.

This time of year however, you find them often in pairs, common as pigeons are in a city, anywhere where wild habitat has been left alone. You see, May is baby Spiny Desert Lizard season.

Their coloration seems to vary wildly from individual to individual, each animal completely unique. Where there is one you will always find more close by, and they certainly are not camera shy.

This male sunned himself on his rock for several minutes, occasionally shifting or posing differently, carelessly watching us watch him. Occasionally he would scurry down from his post to pluck an insect from the ground below.

When another lizard comes within view, he puffs himself up big and does push ups. Almost instantly we hear the pitter patter of little claws and the intruder scurries away- the king of the rock is victorious again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Portrait of a Toddler

Apparently, a youngster in any species is prone to pouting. Perhaps this is something we as humans learned from our ape ancestors. Maybe its just something we all do when we are not exactly getting our way.One year old Kasih was born at the Phoenix Zoo last year. In all of the time I have spent observing her, she seems to be a pugnacious and precocious "child". Even when she was only a few months old, she would try to push her limits and explore- yet always found mom reaching out for her when she ventured a few feet away.

Even today, it seems nothing has changed. As she attempts to independently conquer the enrichment obstacles placed within her habitat, mom is right behind watching her every move and pulling her back when she has ventured too far.

You can clearly see the disappointment in her young face.

Like a toddler who learns to walk and attempts to escape mom to go exploring, Kasih makes her displeasure known.

Attentive mother soon goes back to watching carefully from underneath her palm frond. After all, who could say no to a pout like that?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Arizonan Allergies

When my family moved here from Connecticut a little more than a decade ago, we were told by multiple doctors that our allergies would just up and disappear due to the local flora being so vastly different than our current selection. They could not have been more wrong.

Since moving here, I have developed worse seasonal allergies than ever (almost everyone here has them, so maybe everyone notices less?) and sever asthma from living in a literal dust/smog bowl due to the mountains surrounding the valley.

On the plus side, the allergies out here are seasonal. And with the stuffy nose and itchy eyes comes some beautiful flowering plants and a considerably softer side of the desert. There is a ton of pollen being produced, creating the next generation of local plant life. The ground is yellow in some places from all of the fallen golden dust. Petals are covered in the stuff, and it is happily carried around by all manner of creatures.

As of late I have produced dozens of images of pollen covered bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other creatures. Dressed in their new found golden hues, they are the catalysts for this whole plant reproduction thing.

I try not to think of it that way. After all, who really wants to think they feel cruddy due to plant sex?

Monday, April 23, 2007

A Double Life

Glossy black, the butterfly changes direction and a flash of blue and orange hits my lens. It comes to rest of an overhang nearby. Tiny delicate scales reflect and refract light back in a jewel like display of color.

Insects are some of the most interesting creatures on earth, yet we as viewers have very mixed feelings about them. Some like them, others are completely awed by them- dedicating their lives to their study. Still more are repulsed by them, and afraid of what is alien like and unfamiliar.

Because of their cultural popularity, butterflies have been mostly exempted from the negative feelings. They still have six legs, antenna, and strange mouth parts. They still hatch from eggs, and at one time in their lives were worm like pests, quickly destroying plants in dense populations. Even their similar nocturnal cousins- moths- are generally disliked save for a few special species.

Lets face it, butterflies are accepted for one iconic quality- their beautiful wings.

They come in every size, shape and color- from every continent excepting Antarctica. They are beautiful and unusual on close inspection. Strange eyes, bizarre straw like mouth parts, and uniquely shaped scale covered wings make them very different close up.

They have religious, social and cultural and sometimes personal meaning. Butterflies are an international icon of spring.

Lets face it, thats a lot to ask of a little insect whose entire life purpose is to live a very short while and then produce the next generation before leaving this world.

Butterflies seem to lead a double life. On on hand they are insects. On the other, they are the friendly and beautiful representation of the insect world- not really seen by the layman as insects at all.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Curvebill and the Cactus

"I wonder if the spines hurt his feet when he perches like that", I wondered aloud to no one. Very few people want to go for a walk with me and my camera more than a handful of times. Even fewer people have the patience to sit and wait and watch the way I like to. As I watched the curve billed thrasher perched precariously on the spiny cactus in front of me, I was awed by the adaptation of his species and their ruggedness. I certainly would not want to step on cactus spines in such a way.

Of all of the desert wildlife, the curve billed thrasher is perhaps the most grossly under appreciated. They are a common site and of a relatively dull hue and stature. You see them in urban, suburban, rural and wild terrain- masters of adaptation.

Plainly colored excepting their golden eyes, these birds do not call much attention to most...but if you see one, watch for a while. You can almost visualize their thought process. They are incredibly intelligent. I have seen them adapt to living with people with ease, and I have watched them share homes with other birds in the biological apartment complex that is desert plant life.

According to the Audubon Society, they have been threatened by severe habitat loss as of late. It comes as news to me, it seems they thrive beautifully out here. Commonly I find the local specimens gathering nesting materials, and gently caring for eggs and young.

I sit, still, mindlessly observing this avian marvel. With a quick flick of the wing he is airborne, no doubt off to find something more interesting to do than watch a girl with a camera staring at him. "Beautiful", I exclaim under my breath- again for no one else to hear.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Walkway to the End of the Earth

As the waves crashed in and the sun reflected strongly off of the golden hued sand, I remembered why I fell in love with this place. There is something to be said for finding peace. For once in my life I had found that. I could breathe in and be content to contemplate everything and nothing all at once.
As surfers frolicked in the chilly winter Pacific ocean, I let the water wash over my feet and the bottoms of my jeans. I meandered up and down the beach, Kirk reluctantly tagging along behind me, responsibly toting the shoes I had discarded almost a quarter mile back in favor of the free feeling of sand beneath my toes.

After spending a good deal too long looking at the seascape and observing birds, crabs, and all manner of seaweed, Kirk demanded I start the trek back. I reluctantly agreed and proceeded to leisurely lug back to where we had started to take the stairs and then the steep hill back to where the car was parked. My stroll was so leisurely in fact, that when I saw the ominous steps that headed distinctly away from the sand, I just kept walking. A few hundred yards away stands Scripps Pier. The pier dips deeply into a huge underwater canyon, and the University of California makes good use of it.

I stood beneath it contemplating this most unusual view of this commonplace shore staple. I found myself looking down a long hallway- a path way to the end of the earth. As I toyed with the fantasy of grabbing scuba gear and seeing for myself just how deep the water was at the end of the pier and what strange creatures were sitting just feet away from unsuspecting surfers, Kirks impatient calls penetrated my thought process.

As I trekked up the steep hill back to the car, sand stubbornly clinging to my feet and pant legs, I let my mind wander.

The pier was as I perceived it to be. Sure, its a valuable research station. And a giant, and a surf hazard, marvel of modern engineering, landmark and even a hallway to the unknown. The world ends and another begins at the end of that Pier.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Where Is The Rest of It?

A question I am regularly asked by car enthusiasts and automotive publication editors alike who view my portfolio. My very favorite father in law is included in this list of motor heads who constantly admonishes me for selecting a small detail to focus on rather than the big picture. "Can't you take a picture of the WHOLE car?"

Short answer? Yes, of course I can. In fact, sometimes I do. The long answer?

There is (surprisingly enough) a method to my madness. So, when I am not on assignment for a commercial or private client who is paying me to capture their vision, I do it my way.

I love the small details. The reflection in the chrome...the curves and lines, the small flecks in the paint or the perfect badges. We see the whole car every day. It looks like every other one of its make, model and year does or did. How often do we look at the little details.

Sometimes my favorite vintage and exotic subjects are unfortunately sitting in a less than photogenic location at the time of capture. Sure, if you want to spend an, you, my camera and your Ferrari/corvette/vintage rod/geo metro (kidding!) we can go somewhere beautifully scenic, with the best lighting to bring out the beauty of the accomplishment that is your car. I will give you prints until you are blue in the face for your willingness to share the opportunity. But lets face it, this is not always practical and in this urban sprawl, we could drive for two hours before finding a suitable location- and then we would have to clean the car up in the field or extensively retouch the bugs off the windshield.

The other reason that I shoot automotive subjects that are non assignment in the way I do is because its mine. This is the unique way I see your car. It just is. I am not looking at the engine, the horsepower or even necessarily the history (though I enjoy all of those aspects too) of the vehicle. True, the design and engineering is a marvel of modern- or as the case may be not so modern technology. Its impressive. However, the small details are just as if not more impressive. The shape of the tail lights, the way the hood reflects light, the little bits and pieces are marvels in their own right. The care that went into creating these little details is the thread that I feel holds the automotive world together.

Maybe my approach is unusual. Some feel my styling with automotive shots is too specific for broad use.

If I can get one person to entertain an entirely new way of looking at a beautiful car- it will have been worth it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

YARRR!!! Congratulations Amanda and Scott!!!

What an amazing couple (and the coolest family and friends ever!). Kirk, Sarah and I had the pleasure of offering photography (and m.a. services) for the most unique wedding I have ever seen.

Congrats guys! That was the coolest pirate wedding ever! Jack Sparrow would have been proud (then asked for more rum). Thank you for letting us be a part of your special day!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Small Wonders

Its the little things in life that so often seem to go unnoticed. Small wonders, created only for those who take the time to observe them. While others may just pass by, beauty seemingly invisible, I choose to take notice.Due to the more than lovely weather as of late, I have taken to leisurely garden strolls, often in the company of friends. On this particular day, as my companions goofed off and skipped down the trail, I noticed a bit of soft pink out of the corner of my eye.

There is a lot of pink in the desert right now. With so many native plants blooming, its not uncommon to find in in the cactus and wildflowers that grace the local desert landscape.

This caught my eye however, because of its tiny unassuming stature. Growing below a thick bush, a tiny cactus had been flowering, completely unnoticed by the majority of passers by.
The plant itself was about as big around as my thumb and not much longer....the bloom was equally minuscule- but perfect.

As I lay on the ground with my camera to get a shot, I don't think my companions even glanced back...they knew I would catch up...I always do. Because of this tiny cactus flower, my experience was changed that day- different from the experiences of the others who had walked the same trail before me.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

A Little Bit of Faith in a Big City

Sometime back, Kirk and I took a Sunday evening and just went exploring in downtown Phoenix. This is a fun and relatively easy thing to do and no one seems to mind much at all. In the very heart of town, there is an old Catholic basilica.

Surrounded by the Civic Center, the local paper's headquarters and all manner of hustle and bustle, it sits serenely on what I am relatively sure is the ONLY piece of grass in the entire downtown area. Its bells ring to tell the hour, but otherwise everything is still. Not so much as a pigeon graces its structure.

Now don't get me wrong, this place is not deserted. I have seen more than one wedding party dance down its steps, and people often gather in the sanctuary or garden complete with saintly statues.

But at the moment, it was ours and ours alone.

The basilica is a staple of downtown. A reminder of the less hurried side of life, so few of the busy business people who power walk past it every day remember to consider. In this huge capitol of commerce and capitalism, this old church remains, a beacon on what we are all really chasing after- peace, happiness, love and light.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hovering Gems- The BroadBilled Hummingbird

I am fortunate enough to live in the southwest. Needless to say with almost a dozen species of humming bird common locally, its obvious the Sonoran Desert is the hummingbird capitol of the United States. The beautiful broadbilled hummingbird is no exception and is often found locally.Easily distinguished by its crimson red beak- which is specially adapted for extracting nectar from local flowers, this bird is quickly recognized by even the newest birder.
Males are exquisitely royal in appearance, cloaked in tiny feathers refracting sapphire and emerald colored light. They appear almost metallic.

The best quality about these tiny birds however, is that they are seemingly unaware of their tiny stature. These birds curiously approach people in a way that would make you certain they are fearless. They duel in the air like winged swordsmen over territory and mates.

Hummingbirds are one of my favorite wildlife subjects, as evidenced by my galleries. I nearly always hear their tinny, raspy call before I see the animal itself. Something about the way they float on even the stillest air is entrancing- their movements precise and unpredictable.

I do not think I could ever select a favorite species. Each native species of hummingbird that I have had the chance to observe is incredibly unique, and quite beautiful. Truly feathered jewels, I am so glad to have them around to add some color to the desert landscape.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Beauty Is In The Eye (Feather) of The Beholder

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I have a thing for peacocks. A good friend who owns several pairs of the birds provided me with hundreds of the colorful tail plumes to use in my wedding even. Make no mistake, these creatures are something I really do treasure.

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This statement could be amended with "with the exception of peacocks". They are they icon of beauty and pride. Their iridescent sheen, uniquely shaped plumes and unreal colors have earned them their title.

Their feathers are instantly recognizable but few actually realize what the incredible eye feathers are used for. For a peahen, they are irresistible. The male will turn towards the female and spread out his tail, aim her direction, and shake these feathers is a short swift vibrating motion. The feathers rubbing against each other sound like wind through the trees and the hen quickly becomes mesmerized by the peacocks display.

Imagine how odd the dating scene would be if people worked the same way.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Bees Knees

You are going to see a lot of nature images from me this spring. Sorry, but you just are. Since we have a membership to the botanical gardens, everything is doing its one week a year bloom thing, and the weather is only going to be bearable for another couple weeks I feel it is justified.

Easter Kirk and I decided that it would be a nice day to gather with some old friends and some new ones at the desert botanical gardens and enjoy a morning stroll, some nice weather and all the beauty spring has to offer.

About 3/4 of the flowering cactus species in the garden were blooming and it was a lovely morning. We lucked out in the wildlife department, and since over half the group was photographically inclined, this was in no way a bad thing. We observed dozens of quail, hummingbirds, thrashers, phainopeplas, lizards, snakes, and more.

My favorite thing of all however, were the uniquely shaped, brightly colored cactus flowers. Bonus? The majority of the blooms contained bees seemingly gleefully rolling through the pollen. They pay no mind to my lens, and continue about their business.

To some, this ruins a good botanical image. Not for me. If I didn't want him there, I could have removed him in post processing or just waited for him to leave before shooting my shot. My point of view however, is that this bee is vital to the life of the plant and responsible for the beautiful flowers I enjoy so much.

Its amusing to see people run from them, cower and squeal at the hint of a bee buzzing anywhere near them. If they took a moment to think about the creature and what it actually does, that fear and revulsion may turn to a keen interest and understanding.

For now, I welcome the small insect "blemish" into my botanical images. It reminds me to appreciate just how that flower came to be.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Pink Lady

It was a pink car- and I do mean PINK. My little sister and Barbie herself would have been proud. The car every little girl imagines while playing pretend and dress up! The paint was metallic and smooth with a opalescent effect. Under the rain water it seemed to be pure liquid. Each inch of chrome smooth and slick, trim all in place...she was flawless.Clean new whitewalls and a spotless white rag top- this car was a ladies dream. The queen of Cadillacs. While I normally won't photograph a car in the process of being rained on, this one was one of the few cars that was a staggering exception.

I will admit, I hate to see a clean let alone vintage car rained on. Some of them however, seem to glow on a gloomy day. Every now and again I find one like that...where the rain droplets almost enhance the look of the car- reinforcing its personality. Usually such cars are spotted at Barrett Jackson- not in a parking lot.

I took a small set of images of this car. Out of all of them, I have to admit, this was not my favorite. However this image shows what makes a Cadillac of this caliber oh so recognizable. Show me a little fin, baby! All fin, all personality, all lady.

Infrared Fun

I have to admit, I sometimes have more fun with less than conventional use of techniques. By looking at my site, it should be obvious to you that I favor the use of vibrant color to the drama of black and white (though both have their place). However, when setting up an image in monochrome, I find that the infrared style of editing can be very strong.

Its not to say that color infrared does not have its uses, it absolutely does...but something about this technique gives me a bit more pop in my black and white.

As I am taking full advantage of spring and booking quite a lot of shoots as well as art projects of my own, expect to see a bit more of this. Its different, and when this technique is paired with others, the results can be powerful.

I like this image because it reminds me of one of those Japanese paintings, delicately brushed on to silk. In reality, it was a starling sitting in a tree about 15 feet in front of me- covered in yellow blooms that have been the cause of my allergies as of late. I will gladly sneeze for opportunities to play with images like this.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Where There is Life....

Where there is life, there is often more life. Within one of the largest, oldest saguaros I have ever seen, a small platform at the joining of two arms grew. Over the years it seems, this platform has collected the dirt and dust that regularly takes to the air in the desert.

In this dust and dirt, another life begins to take form. A smaller cactus, found close to the ground in the rest of the park, is seen growing- thriving even- in this unlikely environment. A single pink flower begins to bloom on the cactus. The saguaro seems not to mind.

Relationships such as this unlikely one, when found in nature make you stop. You are almost forced to sit silently and observe the natural cooperation of the organisms involved. There is something very beautiful and sacred about little miniature miracles like this. Ultimately it affects nothing outside of its participants, yet it has a profound impact on observers.

As I sat observing the intricacies of the relationship, I couldn't help but smile. Something about it was open, honest and completely unassuming. Amazing.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dog Humor

Our last trip to Flagstaff was an odd and rather sad one. As a family, it was time to clean out Kirk's grandfather's large custom home in Forest Highlands. Its residents , most recently consisting of Grandpa himself and the ever loveable ancient Akita Mikey had long since moved on and it was time.

It was a rain soaked weekend, which seemed oddly appropriate. Most of the sadness had washed away in the couple of years since Grandpa's passing and now what was left was a strange sense of duty about sorting and dividing the home, which was just as he had left it.

Lilly, Kirk's aunt Brooks soft coated wheaton terrier, rolled playfully on the wet bricks that paved the way to the threshold. She would have none of this somber mood. While the rest of us went and sorted through receipts, photographs and other odd pieces of paper generations older than any of us- Lilly took the high ground and played around the spacious property. She seemed to smile and laugh as she milled about, oblivious to the task that befell the rest of us.

There is a special property in animals. They seem to be able to sense the mood of a situation and modify their behaviors accordingly. Lilly seems to have skipped out the day God was handing out this special sense. Oops.

Overall, the weekend brightened eventually. After finding and discussing family history in a make-shift living room floor family reunion (not that we don't do that several times a year) we managed to find what is arguably the most prized possession of all- a photo of Brook, mid twenties, creatively clad in a lilac colored leotard, headband and leg warmers - posed precariously in front of a startlingly phallic cactus. We were later told she had been auditioning to be a jazzercise instructor.

After we had blown up to an 8x10 at the local Walgreen's and framed it for posterity (Brook has two young tween daughters who were delighted) we decided that maybe the dog was right. There was certainly something there worth rolling over and laughing about.