Thursday, August 28, 2008

Completely Off Topic...

... at least off the topic of photography, that is.

I am a music fan. My tastes have always run more in the medians and shoulders, of contemporary music than the middle of the road. Even today, I hold a special place in my heart for what is described as "progressive" or "prog" music... that genre of self-indugent, pompous, pretentious and overblown fusion of orchestral & rock. During my teens and early twenties, I lived in Washington, D.C. and was introduced to the music of european bands like Genesis, Gentle Giant, PFM, Henry Cow...

In 1977, I was introduced to D.C. area residents and legendary U.S. prog proponents Happy the Man. Many were the evenings that my friend Izzy & I would spend time at the band's Reston, Va. rehearsal & band home. During those years, I became friends with HTM Guitarist Stanley Whitaker. Though I haven't seen or spoken with Stan since I moved away from the area, I have followed his career with HTM, Ten Jinn, the HTM reunion, his solo career with wife LeeAnne and is latest projects with former HTM bandmate Frank Wyatt  "Pedal Giant Animals" which morphed into the most current project "Obivion Sun".

I just got word that Stan was diagnosed earlier this summer with a rare form of cancer and has undergone two surgeries so far to remove a large growth in his neck and the lymph nodes surrounding it. So far things are looking upbeat and Stan is now undergoing radiation 5 days a week to further improve his long-term prognosis.

Unfortunately, the disease and subsequent treatment have left Stan unable to work for the near-term. It has also left him with a huge pile of medical bills. Composing adventurous, critically acclaimed yet commercially unviable music has never been a road to riches by any stretch of the imagination. So... if you're feeling charitable and have a couple of extra dollars left at the end of this month or next, here's someone that could put it to use. Stan can be reached at:

Below is a live performance clip via YouTube of a recent Oblivion Sun performance in Northern Virginia.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New Stuff-Some Old Stuff Too...

Could it be that thirty years have passed already since David Byrne (Talking Heads) and Brian Eno (Everybody) combined their talents to release the aural masterpiece "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts"? Yes indeed, this record... yes-record for all you youngsters reading this... I still have a vinyl copy... predated electronic sampling by using Eno's tape looping mechanisms back in the days of analog record making. Take heart music fans, they're at it again with a brand new release titled "Everything That Happens" and you can check it out here. There's samples of the release, one free song download and links to various versions of the record with and without video and links to the artists sites also.

New galleries added to my website here. I've added a gallery for still life images and one for black & white work. I'm still working on getting new images into these newly added galleries, buy there's quite a few new ones already uploaded and available for viewing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Morning's Musings...

I'm back after a lovely, restful weekend and ready to seize the day.
First of all, I want to finish up my review of contact list subscription services for creatives. In my last blog entry on the subject (here), I had just finished the test trial of the AdBase service.
Before I proceed, in the interest of full disclosure and even handedness in these reviews, I feel I must emphasize that my findings are purely subjective regarding the two list services reviewed here. Both reviews are based on very limited testing during a short, free-trial period offered by both services. In my attempt to gauge both services and their accuracy and inclusiveness, I conducted highly targeted searches of each data base. Each targeted search was aimed at well known companies and/or potential art buyers both locally & internationally. 
I will come back briefly to the AdBase service momentarily. Since I have already offered a subjective opinion of that service, let's move quickly on to Agency Access. This service is comparable, maybe just slightly more expensive than the AdBase service previously tested. Agency Access also provides contacts in their data base for both North America & Europe. Agency Access also offers a free trial period. I signed up for the trial last Wednesday, I was contacted by email by Dan Caruso, a promotional consultant for Agency Access and given a password to activate my trial period.
My first impressions (and again, I stress that these are subjective opinions based on very limited use of both systems) are that Agency Access was slightly less intuitive to navigate. My first targeted search was for Print Advertising Agencies in Hawaii. Most of the big players were listed in this database. Again, LCA, one of the largest agencies in the state, though listed, provided only one contact for a principal (name on the door) creative director.
As my target audience, promotionally speaking,  is to be large hotel & resort chains... I next conducted a search for two of the largest, best branded international chains. Both were completely absent from the data base. I attempted my search for these chains several ways, yielding no results for either. At this point, I called Dan Caruso by telephone to see if I had somehow erred in my search for these two large resort chains. Mr. Caruso conducted his own search and confirmed that, indeed, neither were included in the Agency Access data base. At this point. I concluded my trial use of Agency Access.
For each of these services I tested, both had significant omissions that I found troubling. Both times, I alerted my contact person at both services to these omissions. Only AdBase responded with any concern regarding their omissions. In fact, AdBase responded by saying that they had immediately set their research staff on to the task of correcting the mentioned omissions and updating the data base. Agency Access' only response was that the mentioned omissions were indeed missing from the data base.
While both services claim to be constantly verifying and updating their contact data base, it was only AdBase that has followed up with me numerous times regarding the omissions that I reported. So far, I have received no follow-up or additional contact from Agency Access.
Prior to the trial of AdBase, as I wrote before, I was contacted by a representative who gave me a free phone consult and online-demo via screen share to insure that I could quickly acclimate myself to their search, list-making and email promo services. Agency Access, in turn, simply provided a password via email and then turned me loose in their system.

Both services cover contacts in North America (US & Canada). Agency Access' data base also includes Europe. Neither service provides contacts in Asia, although the representative of AdBase did provide me information for a UK based list service that does provide contact lists in Asia. Both services, at full subscription rate, will run you around $1100usd/year (give or take) during the discounted promotional offer that expires at the end of August. Both services provide click-thru data for email promotions along with several template designs for creating those promos. Both services also offer a way to create & print mailing labels for direct mail promos.

After conducting my test of both services, I am leaning heavily towards AdBase. They have been the most insistent that my user experience be satisfactory, they have been the only service to initiate contact with me, to promise to correct obvious exclusions and provide follow-up. They have also been insistent that should I continue to find omissions, that I can contact the research department (at no additional fee) and have them report back with updates to those omissions which I have the option of either using privately in my own list creation or making available to all subscribers to the service. In addition, AdBase offers "points" to users for every company those users submit corrections for. One point/per correction. Once 10 points are collected, AdBase rewards the user with a $25 Amazon gift certificate as a token of their appreciation.

For those of you considering subscribing to a contact list service such as AdBase or Agency Access, I encourage you to sign up for their trial services yourself and arrive at your own conclusions. And... remember, both services offer a $200 discount of their annual subscriptions through the end of August.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Galungan!

On the predominantly Hindu island of Bali, Indonesia, today is Galungan... the holiest of holy days in the 210 Pawukon (Balinese cycle of days) calendar. Galungan is celebrated in commemoration of victory of Dharma (virtue) over Adharma (evil). Galungan is the time when man celebrates the triumph of the balinese struggle to subdue the evil influences of the six internal enemies (sad ripu), kama (lust), loba (greed), krodha (anger), mada (drunkeness), moha (confusion) and matsarya (envy).

Galungan is a time when the deified ancestral spirits return to earth, resting for a time in shrines contained within the ancestral temples found in all Balinese home & family compounds. During the day, offerings are made to these ancestral spirits in the family temples and at the central village temples throughout Bali as well. Special foods are prepared to be enjoyed by the Gods and by the family members, most returning home to the villages of their birth for at least part of the day, even if they live or work in other parts of the island.

Galungan is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit the Island of the Gods. Every village, every street and almost every household gate is festively decorated with long curved bamboo poles, ornately decorated with woven palm fronds, brightly colored bunting and other accessories. These poles are know as penjor and are a symbol of prosperity and are used as a sign of respect to God for all of his blessings. Penjor will almost always be decorated with bits of food... sweet potato, banana, coconut and assorted crispy treats made from fried sticky rice.

During the day of Galungan, the Balinese return to their ancestral homes to share with friends and family, pay respects to God and their deified ancestors, always dressed in their ceremonial finest. During this holiday, the grace and beauty of the Balinese is most apparent... a splendid pageant of elegance, reverence, solidarity and unearthly beauty.

Granted, this post has nothing to do with the business of photography, but it does allow me yet another opportunity to drag our some of my photographs from many trips to the island during the last twenty years and to share in the celebration, from a great distance, with my Balinese family and friends around the island, several of which I know drop in from time to time to read the blog.

Pictured below is a photograph taken during Galungan festivities in the sublimely picturesque village of Penglipuran, high in the mountains of the Bangli Regency. Women of the village are seen passing through the elaborately carved gates of the central village temple after praying, making their offerings and receiveing holy water from the temple's priest.

Villagers leave the temple, parading down the "main street" of Penglipuran, past the orderly arranged compounds flanking both sides of the path and underneath a canopy of ornately decorated penjor.

During Galungan, in every village, a parade of Barong will pass by every family compound and home, dispensing the blessings of the Barong to the villagers while accepting their offerings and prayers.

After visiting and praying at the temple in Penglipuran, it's off to the ancestral home of my Balinese family in Klungklung. Below are a niece and nephews of my Balinese brother, Ida Bagus Adi. The entire family was on hand to enjoy a grand feast and to reinvigorate family ties that are essential to the communal social structure of the island.

To all of my friends & family in Bali, I wish you  Selamat Hari Raya Galungan (Happy Galungan).

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MIA (Missing in Action) & a Cure For the Mid-August Doldrums

It's been a week since I've found time to make an entry here at the blog. My apologies to regular CTL readers... sometimes life just gets in the way. The real story... at least the one I'm sticking to, is that I've been quite busy. Last weeks two day shoot at the Maui Prince Resort consumed well over a week of my time with pre-production, casting scouting, meetings with PRINCEcipals , coordination, propping, shoot days, prop returns and pre-production, editing, digital post, archiving, disc burning and delivery.  The good news is that the final edit was delivered today and the resulting images were met with great enthusiasm. Whew!

Which brings me to the team that made it all possible. Besides the outstanding, friendly and helpful staff and management (imagine 8-10 Department Heads gathered on the beach at 5am to arrange lounge chairs and set up umbrellas), there was my team of highly skilled and talented professionals who all contributed in many ways to making the shoot most successful. First on the list is my every faithful, if somewhat grumpy first assistant Joe Dalessandro, a talented photographer in his own right... Joe has worked steadily with me for over two years and now intuitively knows the things required to get the job done.  Joe has learned how I like things lit and can set-up even the most complex strobe and hot lighting schemes with very little direction from me. I know the old adage that "no one is irreplaceable", but in many ways, especially on the big assignments, I've come to really depend upon him. Joe had some help on this one... Barry Frankel jumped in to lend a hand and to begin learning the assistant's craft. A fine job he did, too. Thanks Joe and Barry.

And... in the stylist's corner... the always even tempered, unbelievably resourceful and extraordinarily gifted Amos Kotomori. Amos flew in for three days from Honolulu to lend his skills to the project. Amos is a stylist's stylist, equally at home preparing food, props, wardrobe, set design, hair, make-up, and almost always doubling as a producer/art director. Amos took a mundanely appointed suite and turned it into a stunningly cozy room among his other creative tasks during the shoot. A big mahalo to Amos for all of his contibutions.

Finally, models Nikita Shipman (Maui) and Todd Sells (Oahu) stepped in to play the parts of blushing bride & groom and happy vacation couple on holiday. These two endured bloodthirsty mosquitos, 5am make-up/wardrobe calls, multiple location & wardrobe changes... always looking fresh and wonderful. You can hardly aim a camera at either of these two talented individuals without amazing results.  So... to Nikita & Todd, I also offer a sincere mahalo for joining the team and lending their skills to excellent results.

And now we are truly into the dog days of summer. Late august is traditionally a slow time in most industries. End of summer vacations when agency people are away on holiday means the phones around the studio ring a little less often until the school year starts and everyone starts to gear up for autumn. So... what to do with all that time? Here's a few suggestions:

Work on developing your next marketing campaign, direct mail piece(s) or email blast.

Shoot personal projects that have been kicking around in the back of your brain that you've never quite gotten around to.

Clean your studio, desk or office (on my list of things to do this week)

Update your contact data base.

And speaking of contact databases, two of the largest companies offering contact lists to creatives (photographers, illustrators, designers, art directors, etc.) are having a sale with pretty good discounts at the moment and both are offering a free, limited time trial of their systems. Agency Access and AdBase are both offering as much as $200 off of their subscription services. You can sign up for a free trial by clicking on the "free trial" button on each of their home pages. Today I signed up for the AdBase trial and got a telephone walk-thru and shared desktop presentation from representative Sarah Habib. Both of these services maintain extensive nationwide & Canadian databases of art buyer contacts of ad agency creatives,  editorial art buyers, corporate in-house art buyers, etc. Using one of these services gives you access to thousands of art buyers that just may be looking for you. In addition, their services allow you to compile highly targeted lists, create & print mailing labels and create email promos that can be tracked by how many recipients actually click and open them.

I spent a little time playing with AdBase today and think it is very intuitive and easy to use, fairly comprehensive, though I was disappointed to find that when I made a targeted search for advertising agencies in Hawaii, the state's largest, Laird Christianson Advertising, was no where to be found. I found this to be a little disappointing, along with the fact that the areas covered in their data base did not include Asia in any way. The fact that LCA was not in the data base makes me wonder about the overall accuracy of the contact list in general. Later this week (once the studio and office are cleaned), I plan on test driving the Agency Access service and see if it's any more accurate. I'll report back my findings once I've spent a little time with it.

At any rate, both are worth looking into if your interested in expanding your marketing efforts outside Hawaii. Both services discount offers are good until the end of august.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Paula Lerner & Afghanistan

A while back, I posted an blog entry listing photographers who have given me inspiration over the years. One of those photographers was Boston based photojournalist Paula Lerner. Paula's work in some of the globe's most troubled hotspots has been featured in numerous publications around the world. Her images from Rwanda during the ethnic cleansing crisis in the early 90's were amazing, not to mention heart-wrenching.

I had the privilege of meeting and working with Paula many years ago when she was on island to visit her friend and my former mentor Steve Minkowski. Immediately upon my first introduction to her, I knew this woman was a force to be reckoned with.

Paula has been spending a great deal of time in Afghanistan in recent years and this morning I received an email from her alerting me to a TV program on Afghan women which will air  tonite on an Afghan TV network but is available for viewing via the internet. Here is Paula's email letter and the details if you would like to tune in:

For those who are interested, on Monday August 11th Afghan Noor TV will

feature an interview and discussion conducted by Durrana Nejat Rahimi,

host of the program "Afghans in America." Ms. Rahimi interviewed me for

an hour for her show, during which time we talked about the situation

of women in Afghanistan, showed two multimedia features about women in

Afghanistan, and discussed my work in that country as a photojournalist

and multimedia producer. The show will air on Monday evening at 11 p.m.

Eastern time/8 p.m. Pacific time (and 8:30 a.m. the morning of Tuesday,

Aug. 12th Kabul/Kandahar time). For those of you who get Noor TV via

satellite, simply tune in to Noor TV at the above mentioned hour.

If you don't subscribe to the satellite feed but would still like to

see the show, it is viewable live on the internet by going to . You will need to create a registration with

your email address and a password, but it is free. Once you have

registered and logged on, click on LIVE TV on the right side of the

home page. This will pop up a GLWiz Player screen. Click on Afghan TV

Channels on the upper right hand tab of the player, and scroll down to

Noor TV. You will be able to watch the broadcast live on the internet,

and can view it full screen if you wish.

There is a brief introduction by Durrana in Dari, but the interview was

conducted entirely in English.

Kindly pass this message on to anyone who may be interested.

Warm regards,

Paula Lerner

Friday, August 8, 2008

New Tears & Other Musings on a Friday Afternoon

New editorial tear sheet from Hana Hou Magazine. Full page, great color reproduction, page design by Kunio Hayashi.
Tear Sheet from a luxury home development campaign. This one is also in Hana Hou. Design by InfoGrafik/Honolulu.

Location scouting for next week's Prince Resort shoot occupied most of my day yesterday, taking time out to meet with several of the resort executives to make sure that coordination of things we will need the hotel to provide, clean, remove or provide access to is all taken care of. During the scout, I managed to capture some very nice vignettes of the property that could be potentially used as design elements in the final print collateral pieces.

Today, finishing the shot list/schedule and emailing copies to all involved parties, making arrangements for our stylist extrodinaire, Amos Kotomori, to fly in the day before, coordinating with the hired talent for wardrobe fittings, frantic emailing back & forth between my rep about the potential Tokyo assignment (it's looking good... the client has seen my website and has asked to see more samples), scanning more interior space images that he can forward them to the client and a nice lunch with one of the Art Hash Harrier gals filled the day nicely.

One last note and then I'm outta here... 

I just became aware of a new photo equipment rental house in Honolulu. They have a great selection of Profoto lighting gear, HMI lighting, lots of grip gear and a 4000sq. ft. rental studio available to both local and visiting photographers. So, any of you out there planning a trip to Hawaii for assignment or stock use, here's a great resource for you:

Foton Hawaii

OK... the week's almost over and I'm looking forward to the weekend. Don't forget the 35mm Magazine launch party and photography exhibit this Saturday (tomorrow) night at the Haiku Town Center, 810 Kokomo Road in Haiku. The shindig starts at 7pm. There will be food and drink along with entertainment by DJ Pio and Gretchen (vocalist from the Island Rumours Band). Admission is $5.  See you there.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Land of the Rising Sun

Not much new and exciting going on around here since the last entry. I've spent most of this week doing preproduction work for next week's two day advertising campaign shoot for the Maui Prince Resort, applying with the State Film Office for permits to shoot on the beach, booking flights for talent & stylists and tomorrow will be largely spent scouting the various locations I plan to shoot, checking the morning & afternoon light at each spot & making some scouting shots to further ensure a smooth flow of the entire production once talent and crew are assembled on site for the shoot days.

Out of the blue, my rep calls from New York this morning with details of a potential week long resort shoot in Tokyo. I don't hear from him often (his market is primarily mainland & east coast), but when he does call, it usually with a pretty good assignment & good pay (at least before he takes his cut). The project's scope involves architectural images, room & facility interiors & lifestyle images. The potential client even has gone so far as the send us sample images of the look they hope to achieve, all of it right in there with my recent website update. Let's keep our fingers crossed that he reels this fish in!

I know it's a long shot, but  if there are any readers out there that could recommend talented, professional and english fluent assistants in Tokyo as well as any rental houses that could supply strobes & hot lights, I'd be forever in your debt. You can contact me thru my website.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Photo News Update

The third and latest edition of 35mm Magazine is out now. The magazine's publisher, Cynthia Pegolo, & staff will be hosting a launch party and photography exhibit in celebration this Saturday night at the newly remodeled Haiku Town Center. Coinciding with the launch of the latest issue, 35mm magazine's website has a brand spankin' new redesign and features new galleries of work from the contributors to this issue. If that's not enough... 35mm Magazine has also announced a Call for Entries. Documentary photographers, photo journalists and travel photographers are encouraged to submit up to to 6 images for publication consideration in future issues. Nice going Cindy... see you Saturday night.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a photographer on assignment at the Beijing Olympics? Here's your chance to get a behind the scenes glimpse at what goes on by logging onto Popular Photography & American Photo Magazine's latest blog: Behind the Lens at the Beijing Olympics. Blogger Zach Honig presents everything you need to know to cover the games or to watch from home. Sports Photographer Vincent Laforet is off to cover the games for Newsweek and his new blog (just launched last week) will feature tech tips and journals from the games as well as other musings. (Thank APE & Jackanory for the heads up.)

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has just released the new 7th edition of the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography. You can order it online here. ASMP members can purchase this business bible at a discounted rate.

And... last but not least, new website update in progress for me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Livin' Large

Yesterday afternoon and evening's efforts were to capture portfolio images of a luxury beachfront home on Maui's north shore for a friend and architect who's office is upstairs in the same building as my studio. As I was shooting, the family who resides there... former residents of the stomping grounds of my youth back in Baltimore, Maryland, chatted me up about the sad losing streak this season of the Baltimore Orioles. They also laid out a fabulous spread of cold roast chicken, fresh greek salad, nachos with bean & cheese dip... the works. I thank them for their generosity and for making me feel quite at home with that thick Baltimore accent (think trash-film director John Waters).

Above is one of the final images from the session... a very nice "blue story". 

While work seems to be coming in steadily... maybe a little slower than normal, but high quality and more profitable assignments for more upscale advertisers (I think they may be the only ones able to afford to continue advertising at the moment), I'm feeling the need for a more portable location lighting kit. I've spent the last couple of months researching several manufacturer's options for battery powered strobe lighting kits... White Lightning, Hensel Porty's, Broncolor, Elinchron, and the one I think I have finally settled on, the Profoto 7b. The Profoto systems have a vast array of light shaping and modification tools in their line up. They also have nothing but rave reviews on all the forums and user boards I have researched. The downside is the cost of this system... a 1200ws power pack, 2 heads, a 5' octabank, spare battery & charger, and a couple of additional modifiers are going to run somewhere between $7k & $8k.


This morning I called three different large photographic supply houses, gave them my want list and now await their quotes. Currently, I am invested heavily in old, well-used, extremely reliable Norman power packs, heads and modifiers. They have served me well but I have been wanting to upgrade to a more controllable system for a while now. Norman has closed up shop now, so it is impossible to add new products from their line to my current arsenal. And... with an eye to spending more and more time in Asia in the very near future, the flexibility to the international dual voltage systems make more and more sense when considering the purchase of new lighting equipment.  The 7b pack and heads system seems like a logical upgrade in that regard and smart, if pricey entry into the Profoto line of equipment. We'll see what the quotes look like on monday morning and whether or not I will bite the bullet and place the order.

Anyone out there wanna buy some very ugly but excellent working condition Norman gear? I've got 2 P2000 packs, 1 1250 pack, 6 heads (one of them has a fan blower), pan reflectors, snoots, soft box speed rings, 2 200B's with battery upgrades & charger? Email me if you're interested.