Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Light Over the 80

Light over the 80

I had a busy weekend -- went to a bachelorette party in Santa Cruz, and then took B to Napa for Easter. On the way up, it started raining. Fortunately, the clouds broke a little as we headed up the 80, and then a little light peaked through. I reached for the camera, and tried as best as I could to shoot around B (who was driving), and managed to get this. It's not technically perfect (there's a little shake from all the scrambling around), but the light really sings here.

I used this as my class assignment this week for "light as the subject", and was pretty happy with it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011



While this picture indelibly brands me as a nerd (which probably comes as no surprise), I also (no, really) think it actually works as an image. No cropping or anything either -- but I found myself looking at it about a half dozen times today, puzzled myself at why I felt like it worked.

Improbably, I still think it does.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Miracle on Powell Street

Miracle on Powell Street

Right after I shot "We Are Legend", I saw this guy walking down Powell street, and I chased after him. "Excuse me", I said, "I'd love to take your portrait since you just have one of those faces..." He interrupted me and answered, "Of course I do, I'm Santa Claus!"

That took a minute to set in, since when I saw him, I thought of precisely two things:

  • Santa Claus
  • Dumbledore

He went on to explain that his name was John Toomey, and he had been Macy's Santa for 20 years before they gave him the boot in an (imho) pretty gross display of Corporate Dumb. He said he had a new, more lucrative gig as Santa for Lefty O'Doul's, so it had all worked out well in the end.

John was an amazing performer -- the moment the camera came out, he only got more like Santa. On cue, the wind kicked up, and he cracked a big smile as he waved.

Awesome moment, and one of my favorite portraits from last week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We Are Legend

We Are Legend

My assignment this week for my portrait class was to go up to a random stranger and ask to take their portrait. I was walking along by Powell (by that touristy pizza joint), and saw this group hanging out. You know how you can tell a group of people in a crowd is a group? All those subtle signals, and something just different about the geometry of how they're together?

Well, these guys had it in spades. And sure enough, when I asked to take their picture, they didn't require any direction at all -- the shot just happened.

I take so few group photos I'm happy with (read, none), that I was really happy to snag this one.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Days of our Lives

Days of Our Life

Saw this while I was in a cab in the city, and I immediately asked the driver to pull over. Unfortunately, the woman picked herself up right after that, dusted herself off, then walked away.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Death of Sleep

The Death of Sleep

I've been taken more portraits lately, preparing a bit for the Art 227 class at Stanford I enrolled in this spring and that just started. The first assignment was "self portraits", so I set to work.

I have a condition called sleep apnea, which means that my airways close when I fall asleep at night. My case is really severe -- I actually "stop breathing" dozens of times a night, and with it comes a lot of subtle, awful symptoms that can be very hard to diagnose (I assumed I was just stressed, or getting old). I was fortunate enough to be diagnosed by a doctor at work, and my immediately awful scores on sleep tests resulted in me getting a machine and a mask I have to sleep with every night.

The good news is, I've never had a more dramatic medical treatment in my life -- using it was like feeling 'awake' for the first time in years. The bad news is, I'm kind of pushing a certain Darth Vader vibe at night as I have this machine stinting open my breathing passages with forced air sucked in from the room. And of course, some mornings I wake up and the thing that keeps me from suffocating at night has wrapped its tubes around my neck.

My inspiration for this piece was this shot by Richard Avedon, which shows Andy Warhol after his surgery. It's gorgeous B&W (being Avedon), but it's this picture of the results of a medical procedure that has left someone vulnerable, but also more than a little alienated from the norm (which was already Warhol, I guess).

I wanted to capture this vibe in my portrait, which I think I got at least a little glimmer of.

I brought my softbox into the bedroom for this shot, and had it angled down and really close to my face (like I imagined a surgical or dental light would be positioned -- though I really needed a boom). The camera I put on my lightest tripod, which I had to position on my chest and fire with a cable release. A lot of work, but I'm pretty happy (well, and unnerved) by the result.