Thursday, January 27, 2011

More Meetings With Remarkable Men

It's been one of those weeks when everything works... everything! Creative juices are flowing, work I am very excited about and very proud to have made has been produced.

Things got off to a great start on monday with the privilege of working with Willie Kahaiali'i (better known around these parts as "Uncle Willie K."), master guitar virtuoso, walking music encyclopedia and an artist that has my vote as being Hawaii's preeminent entertainer. Willie, along with his wife Debbie, band members Kris Thomas (drums) & Jerry Beyers (bass), art director Sae, assistant producer Ashley all converged on a predetermined location Monday morning to produce media kits and promotional images for a couple of Willie's various projects. You can plan, scout, produce... organize every detail in advance. Then, sometimes magic happens and sometimes it doesn't. Magic happened. I so wish I could post a couple of my favorites from the edit here, but Willie hasn't seen them yet and it wouldn't feel quite right to put them up before he's had a chance make his selects. In due time...

An upgrade from Adobe Photoshop® CS2 to CS5 took place back in mid-December. What a difference! Much improved controls in Adobe Camera Raw processing has opened up an entirely new palette to work with. I've not even had time to explore all the new turd polishing filters, etc. in the software yet. ACR is so much better that 99% of my post work can be done there alone. Standouts are the much improved noise reduction controls, and the "clarity" controls. 

Yesterday afternoon & early evening was spent completing an assignment to make editorial portraits of America's newest Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winning author, self-made arborist, protector of endangered palms, avid gardener and fierce intellect W.S. Merwin

Meeting us at his garden gate, Mr. Merwin, his thick shock of white hair glowing in the afternoon sunlight and a shy smile upon his lips, guided us briefly down an overgrown path thru some of the exotic palms trees he's planted from seed on his "estate", pointing to one... then another, describing each one's native region, peculiar growth and propagation methods before leading us to a cozy little chalet he built himself, nestled deep within the verdant jungle he has created. 

Once settled in on his cozy, sheltered lanai, surrounded by his current stacks of reading material, I began setting up camera, tripod as he sat at the small table and began to talk... quietly, thoughtfully... his views on our current President, the state of our nation & the world, Blake, Shakespeare's Hamlet, his opportunity to speak & read at the Presidential Inaugural, his house in France, literary criticism, his recent shoot with Jill Greenberg for O Magazine.... so many topics covered in a few short hours. He would pause briefly from time to time, generously taking little directions from me as I snapped away. 

Today, back at the studio editing workstation, I was blown away by the gentle, thoughtful, organic portraits captured while in his presence. Again... wishing I could post some favorites here, but must wait for the images to be published by the commissioning publication. I can, however, post a few images I made with the new iPhone on the way to the meeting and after completing the "formal" round of portraiture. Here's a few from the afternoon...

William's Books

Self Portrait

Roadside Jetsom

Entering The Jungle

Monday, January 24, 2011

On Location - Mission Accomplished

Assistant Barry Stands In For Lighting Check

A very successful shoot today, all very hush, hush....

Great location, marvelous light, cool talent all come together, resulting in images better than those conjured in my mind's eye... Now lots of stuff to finish up in post. 

Results will be published soon...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Overwhelmed With Nostalgia- The Loss of "Craft" & the Rise of Instant Gratification & Immediacy

"I'm not a luddite. I have no problem with digital" - Photographer Richard Nicholson
"A print took two hours.. so at the best, we could do 16 prints a day. And that was a long day, it was probably like 10-12 hours" - UK Master Printer Roy Snell

Yesterday's Guardian UK  online edition featured a story & video in their Art & Design section titled "The Dying Art of the Photographic Darkroom". The story covers artist Richard Nicholson's project where he sets out to photograph & document on video the last remaining working darkrooms in London. Principally featured is photographer and master printer Roy Snell, a master who's work I have admired for many years. 

I still have my darkroom, still use it. The smell of fixer... watching in the dim glow of the safelight as the silver nitrate emulsion begins to produce the image projected from the enlarger a few seconds previously. The careful evaluation of the wet print, determining how to make it better, how to separate tones & shades of grey, black & white, where and how long to dodge & burn. Finally, after many repetitions, arriving at a satisfactory rendering of the image held in my mind's eye. 

My Enlarger/Printing Booth
For almost twenty years, I operated the only commercial black & white lab on this island. Many of Maui's up & coming photographers spent time working long hours in the dark with me, developing & contact printing film, printing enlargements. Our days would start with assessing the quantities of film to be developed each morning and the print orders to be fulfilled, mixing & tempering chemicals for film, cleaning print trays and filling them with freshly mixed developer, stop bath & fix. Five days a week, eight hours each day we would stand in the dark, close quarters, hands wet, stacks of prints moving thru one chemical bath to the next as film reels washed in the gurgling agitation wash tube. Sean, Doug, Kyle, Bella and the rest of you... thanks for helping to keep things going back in the day.

Anyway, I'm feeling nostalgic after seeing this video... and just a bit guilty that I don't spend as much time in the darkroom these days. I too have embraced the digital workflow. There's still a bunch of bricks and boxes of film in the studio freezer. Time to thaw a few, pull out the time-worn Hassie & Sinar and get back in there.

You can find the whole article at the UK Guardian site here. You can read more about Richard Nicholson's project "Analog", currently on exhibition at London's Riflemaker Gallery in London Here. Thanks to Prison Photography blog for bringing the story & video to my attention.

Now here's the video, embedded here with permission from the Guardian UK.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An Eloquent & Timely Rant

" With the advent of digital technology, and the past two decade long corporate push to crush photographer's copyright trade practices, the model is broken and will surely die soon, unless photographers unify & fight back. That's as likely as herding the proverbial cats... still it's a shocking thing to see photographers slitting their own throats. That's partly due to ignorance and fear - young shooters are not taught the value of copyright and existing trade practices and say yes to whatever terms they are offered just to break in - and older shooters say yes to bad terms out of a very real need not to starve to death. I get it.... "      
                                                       -Photographer Doug Menuez/ No Copyright=The Borg

Beginning of the ultimate demise of the industry or a just-in-time call to arms? Doug Menuez, brilliant Bay Area based photographer has been in this industry for years, sees our livelyhood slowly being eaten away by corporate pressures, ignorance, fear and, one I'll add for the record... Laziness. He shares his thoughts on the matter on his blog: Doug Menuez 2.0: Go Fast, Don't Crash. Please take the time to read his timely rant, in it's entirety, HERE

Monday, January 17, 2011

On Assignment

The new year has so far begun with a bang, in a very literal sense and with no intent of pun towards recent events in Arizona... let's keep this local, shall we?

First, there was the lovely evening weather of December 31, clear, warm & still after much rain early in the day & week, giving carte blanche to island residents to break out & ignite their assembled fireworks arsenals. Prior to that, there had been massive thunderstorms rocking the house and sending jagged bolts of electricity across the sky. With the clearing storm, revelry began around 9:00pm, slowly building to crescendo levels around midnight. No reports of brush fires, roofs set ablaze or other accidental pyrotechnics due to the damp conditions.  The loss of Max last summer, mortally afraid of loud noises of any sort, meant I was free for the first time in years to join in. Armed with a couple of bricks of "flower" shower explosives left behind by friends a few years ago, the gravel driveway was converted into marvel of colored sparks and small explosions but I quickly grew bored and handed off the remaining fireworks to my neighbor's daughter to set off under parental supervision. They did... !

On the business front, things have been even better. The last couple of weeks of last year and the first of this year saw very good art sales during my weekly artist resort sittings. May the trend continue...

Finished up last year with a great architectural project, a new restaurant concept/design at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. A previous blog entry detailed the extremely unfortunate weather we were forced to contend with during the project's production days. Add to that the frantic completing of the final construction punch list, all being done around us as we worked, in order to get the restaurant open by December 27th. There would be little to no chance to get back in to shoot more once the opening took place. We were fortunate enough to have drier conditions each afternoon & evening of shooting... even a bit (just a bit) of color in those steely grey skies at the sunset hour. Mission accomplished. Here's a handful of edited images from the new restaurant, Japengo, at the Hyatt in Kaanapali. Credit for the impeccable design, blending of marvelous textures & wild fabrics, intricate lighting scheme goes to the talented team at Island Design Center, located here in Wailuku.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Platon Goes To Burma

Video of portrait master Platon (so brilliant he only needs one name) describing his recent trip to photograph dissident Aung San Suu Kyi for Time. 

Thanks to photographer/photo blogger Andrew Hetherington at What's The Jackanory? for the find.

Location Scout

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Out With The Old, In With The New....

"It's been a long December and there's reason to believe maybe this one will be better than the last...." Counting Crows/ Long December

It's over... 2010. You were the year that never should have been. Filled with uncertainty, anxiety & austerity, you were a bitch 2010. I'm not going to miss you. Nope, not one little bit.  Good riddance!

That's not completely fair. The year was a rough one for most of us, true enough... at least the first ten & a half months of it. Decent work was hard to come by, money was tight, anxiety about the situation at an all time high...

What did we learn in 2010? Speaking for myself only, I learned that while you can't always get what you want, you often can get what you need. In the past year and the last half of the one before that, I learned that lack of commissioned work opens doors to creativity on a new level, allows for opportunities for self-expression & image making that, perhaps, would be more difficult had I been completely occupied with assignment work. I learned to trust myself... to trust my instincts. 2010 was, in many ways, a most productive one in terms of making personal work. Whether driven by boredom, fear, whatever... for the first time in years I actually found myself forced to rely on personal direction when it comes to image making. 2010 also provided the opportunity to get that work in front of potential art buyers... and that seems to be working out rather nicely. 

So, for all of your wretchedness, 2010... you may have actually done me a huge favor. 

The week has been a busy one. Final editing & retouching of the previous week's resort architectural assignment finally concluded to my satisfaction, a new marketing campaign for a housing development begun, sales, packing & shipping of sold art work finalized, proposals for several potential new campaign assignments completed & submitted, pre-production & scouting for two assignments next week, gift grabbing... cooking, christmas festivities & time with friends & family all crammed into the limited space of the last seven days. Highlights of the week were the traditional Christmas feast with my Maui family,
Dave Murray, wife T & daughter T. Dave's birthday also falls just a few days before Christmas so celebrations are always two-fold with the Murray clan.

Dave in the backyard

Blowing out the birthday candles
Another annual tradition I have come to love is the Cioppino gathering at M's with friends from the honor roll. Cioppino was awesome, conversation lively and again, time to spend with my first photography teacher & irrepressible artist, Darrel Orwig.

Darrel holds court
Darrel's sketchbook from a recent mainland trip

And speaking of artists, another of my favorites and long standing member of the honor roll is neighbor-sculptor Tom Faught, busily working in his massive industrial complex of a studio for the past few weeks getting ready for the group show to open at the MACC's Shaeffer International Gallery next week on the 8th. Spent several evenings this week in the company of the wonderful artists and lunatics that gather frequently at Tom's during the cocktail hour. The holidays are for spending time with those you love and these folks I love a lot!

Tom Faught

New work in progress

Other developments during the final week of the year... a request from a photo-editor and a major Auckland, NZ newspaper to stalk and paparazzi-ize New Zealand's Prime Minister, reportedly sunning himself on our beaches this week. Request denied.

Controversial editorial & fine art photographer Jill Greenberg is coming in for a couple of days next week to photograph pulitzer prize winning poet and Maui resident W.S. Merwin for a future edition of Oprah's magazine. I wonder if she'll make him cry too? We got a call from a producer about assisting for the job but had to pass as I'm already booked for the scheduled day for the shoot.

Final sunset sky of the year

Now a new year begins, full & ripe with promise. In 2010 we lost some dear friends, made some new ones. We put aside fear & loathing and made work for our eyes only, we survived... And there's reason the believe maybe this year will be better than the last. Many thanks & love go out to all of you that helped make getting through 2010 tolerable. 

Happy New Year to you & yours from CTL!