Friday, January 30, 2009


It's always nice to get people in the paper that normally wouldn't. For this shoot, meant to go with a story about the city expanding its Master Plan to include more bike trails and support for bicyclists, my editor Kyle Jorrey asked me to get a nice photo of a family riding together, or perhaps someone on one of the existing bike trails. Unfortunately, the trails were pretty empty and it was quite windy. 

So I stopped by Corriganville, a popular location for mountain biking. It has miles of great trails, an old wash, good hill climbs, and lots of easy, flat areas for families to ride around. 
Instead of families riding slow and taking it easy... 

These guys were fun to shoot. Although it wasn't what we originally envisioned for the spot, the photos are relevant to the article, and some people who wouldn't normally get any coverage ended up on the front page. So all's well that ends well. 

On another note, I'd really like to run these photos larger, and I'm thinking about opening up a flickr account so I can do that rather than hosting them through blogger. The accounts are cheap... but I'm still thinking. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Today the local fire department set off a controlled burn at the Reagan Library to reduce the surrounding brush for the upcoming fire season. Nothing like a fire to make you stink all day. I might just do some swimming at the YMCA today (I haven't exercised in so long...) to reduce the stench!

This is a preview for shots that will be in this week's paper - it's a photo I wouldn't put in for publication because it doesn't show the action, but it's one of those shots I have a soft spot for - super wide and visually nice with good color and contrast.

Having shot a few assignments with the MkII now, I am extremely impressed with the ergonomics of the camera. I barely feel the weight. It's superbly balanced and everything is in the right place. I'm still bothered by the two-handed operation for setting aperture, iso, etc, especially for the upper LCD screen, but I can learn to live with it. But I just love that shutter - so quick and the sound is gorgeous. I'm a sucker for a pretty shutter. I only wish it was as quiet and pretty as my old Yashica TLR!

Last Week's Favorites

These are all shots I put in for publication, some ran and some didn't.

This was for an event at the Camarillo Ranch House, a historic landmark in the area. Adolfo Camarillo was a majority landowner in the area and the founder of the city. He was also the founder of the Camarillo White Horses, a rare breed of pure white horses (not albinos), which are still bred today by some of his descendents.
The colt is a six-month-old Camarillo White Horse, named Xamarillo. (Best guesses for the originator of the Camarillo name was Don Xamarillo, a member of Cortez' original Spanish exploration party.) The colt is a direct descendent of Adolfo Camarillo's own white horse, Sultan, the founding stallion of the breed.
The little girl is a great-great-granddaughter of Adolfo Camarillo, and the woman in red is also a descendent. The historic house can be seen in the background. A lot of history in one shot!

These two shots are from one of my favorite annual assignments, the Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration at the area's only baptist church, Simi Second Missionary Baptist. The congregation members are such wonderful, sweet people and the church service is always more like a party.
This year's celebration was especially poignant because the next day, Barack Hussein Obama would be sworn in as president.

And here are two from a PTA Reflections art show award ceremony. I think I succeded in turning a very everyday, conference-room, grip-and-grin event into a few photos that are fun and interesting. That was the idea, anyway. The third shot is my favorite.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Conejo Valley Wild Art

This was just a shot I grabbed at Cheseboro Park in Agoura Hills a few weeks ago, on a nice morning when we needed some wild art. I didn't put it in since the paper filled up before we needed the photos I had shot, but it is quite pretty. Nothing special, really, just some old oaks and a bench. Nice sky. Rolling hills.

Here's a shot I've been meaning to put up for a while now. This is an occasion when having a stand or tripod on which I could have mounted my flash would have been just killer. It's also an example of how much I've learned even in the few weeks since I shot this. Now, I would shoot it very differently. I would pull the background down a half stop or so, strobe with a cord from the upper left or perhaps give her a little side/back lighting. This is just plain old on-camera, with an omnibounce. But now I am prepared.
The "500" is because this is the 500th game she has coached at Newbury Park High School. Yes, the 500th game. She's been there over 30 years, if I remember correctly. Talk about a legacy. Arranging the basketballs like that was an idea from my sports editor, and I liked it. Again, nothing fancy, but more visually interesting than a standard headshot.

New Kit

The Mark IIN arrived yesterday and I spent a large portion of last night learning the features - mainly deciphering the button symbols, but I'm definitely impressed. 
The construction is much sturdier and while the camera is large, it's not bulky or awkward. Very comfortable. Grips are in the right place. That big prism is a dream. Shutter button feels sturdier and more durable. I love that the eyepiece keeps my face farther off the LCD - on cold nights I won't be worried about condensation on those menu buttons anymore. 
With the extra weight I'll be using the monopod much more often, and the two-handed menu operation is a little bothersome - but the increased speed and tough construction are spectacular. I was expecting the shutter to be quieter, but instead it's louder - won't be any better for shooting funerals or concerts. The good news is that the sound is much beefier. I can see why it's rated for 200,000 cycles. 
Should be a perfect workhorse. 

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bounce Flash

I took a page out of Gary's book (A Little News) to shoot this two weeks ago, in the Rio Mesa gym. It was just a simple basketball practice with one featured player, and normally I would just throw a 580 on the camera and bang out a few action shots, but I've really been trying to improve my lighting. The shots are decent now, but my lighting is technically awful. So I took his advice to bounce off the ceiling in small gyms (Rio Mesa's is TINY with a pure white ceiling) and I think it turned out well. I don't know why this didn't occur to me before. I suppose it was just lack of inspiration.

I only shot about 30 frames - a super quick shoot - and these were the nicest of the bunch. I'm still learning. But I do like these. Neat trick, Gary. Thanks!

The Arrival

The 1D Mark II N is here... or rather, at my house. Joe got it from the mailman this morning, and the battery is charging up as we speak. I snagged the 17-40 from Canoga Camera last week, and it couldn't be nicer. So I should have the new kit up and running by tomorrow morning, at the latest.

I'll have a working hot shoe again! And less noise in the high ISOs. Thanks to all that is holy.

Water Polo Under Stormy Skies

Shot some water polo last week just before the rain started. Two shots ran, but the group shot was cropped horizontally and ran in b&w. I was disappointed - I like the vertical so, so much better. Camarillo practicing at the rival school, Rio Mesa High, since cam doesn't have a pool.

Also - happy inauguration day! What an incredible time to be alive. I'm especially encouraged by Obama's actions in this first week. We didn't send a photog out for the moment of inauguration - and though I watched it alone, by the end of his speech I was rather glad to be sharing such an emotional moment with just my cat Max.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Flory Academy of Science and Technology ifth-grader Aleksey Terry gives a moving rendition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech at the school's annual assembly on Thursday morning.


I was disappointed to see that we didn't have enough space this week to run my favorite shots with this story about a Russian boy who recites the MLK "I Have a Dream" speech. Here's the story link:

And here's the Decisive Moment shot. Following his speech, as teachers and parents wiped tears from their faces, the boy walked to the back of the audience to greet his neighbor, Christine Lute, who came specifically to hear him give the speech. What a moment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shelter Love

This is Denise, a head honcho over at the Camarillo Animal Shelter, with a Boxer a few weeks ago. She picks the Pet of the Week animals, and when I go over to shoot, it's always so much fun. I've never met a dog that didn't absolutely love Denise. It's clear that although it's not a no-kill shelter, the staff just adore the dogs, cats, bunnies, birds, goats, horses, even chickens that arrive daily.

Here's a teaser shot for a soccer story we'll be running this week. I really liked the shot, but it wasn't right for the space on the page. The kid on the right is the focus of the feature, Thousand Oaks High School varsity player Nathan Jasperse.

Monday, January 12, 2009

1/87th Scale Ice Cream

...and everything else, too!
I shot this HO-scale model train layout at the Santa Susana Railroad Depot & Museum around Christmas. They're expanding the layout and thinking of even setting up another, connected layout in the next room. The idea is to represent an entire train ride from Los Angeles to San Francisco.
The engineer in these photos is Amos. Each engineer brings their own engine to the layout, and sometimes cars as well. If they don't have cars, they can use the "club cars" that live on the layout. There are train yards, where each engineer picks up and drops off cars, working versions of the hammer-shaped oil rigs that dot our local mountains, buildings and farms... the detail is incredible.
It's definitely a place I would love to visit again soon.

This was definitely a situation where I might have got better results by bouncing flash off the low ceiling, but I just didn't think of it. Ah well, I'll remember next time. These were all shot at ISO1600 and are a little too noisy and color-shifty for my taste.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Hard Part

The hard part is not winning the awards, although don't get me wrong that is definitely A hard part. The hard part is making an interesting photo every time you lift the camera to your eye.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Hello, beautiful.

This is the Canon EOS-1D Mark II N, birthed in 2005 and soon to be the replacement for my old, tired, beat-up 20D. A Christmas present from my generous mother. We're not loaded, so it won't be a new one, but a nice ebay model with low actuations should do nicely.

I'm still debating the lens to pair with the new body, since my workhorse EF-S 17-85 won't mount to the EF body. I want to stay as wide but there are not really any EF lenses that give me the coverage of the 17-85, which is actually a classic 28-135 with the 20D's 1.6 conversion factor. The Mark II has a 1.3 factor, so the closest I can get to that same spread is the 24-70 (a 31-91 with conversion factor) or 17-40 if I want to stay wide, but that means I would be relying on the cheapo EF 70-300 a lot more... ugh.

Anyway, I'm still thinking.

Thought I should add this shot, captured by my longtime friend and talented photographer Jon Gordon, at an event last month we were both shooting. He sent me this email along with it:

Dear Friends,

I am distressed to find that there are no depths to which paparazzi will go to get photos of celebrities, now even lurking in cemeteries. I captured a photo of this unscrupulous photographer the other day, and will be forwarding it to the proper authorities. Please let me know if you can identify this nefarious character.

With a heavy heart,

Jon Gordon

Looks like nefarious characters like me better find new places to shoot!

Surfing in December

Last week, I went out to shoot a local middle school surfing club from Thousand Oaks at a beach in Port Hueneme. They started at 7 am, and was scheduled to arrive at 8 am. In late December.
I asked Joe to write down the directions while I got dressed and ready to leave. He wrote, "Take Lewis road to Surfside Drive. Turn left. Park in pay parking lot. Look for frozen children on left side of pier."
He wasn't far off. It was ridiculously cold at the beach, but the kids were all suited up in their neoprene and already out in the surf. I tried to use the gorgeous morning light to my advantage and not get too many cliche surfing shots. It was a crystal clear day and we could see all the way out to the channel islands. The water was beautiful, the sky had just a few clouds and contrails, and the waves were small but pretty.

Holiday Photos

This year I really made an effort to get something different in my holiday photos, and focus on people. I didn't end up getting any good Christmas light shots, or caroling or anything, but I did get a good variety and I think I ended up with a decent collection. Most of these didn't run, but often the ones that don't get in print are my favorites.

First, a trip to the mall Santa. This guy has been playing Santa at the Janss Mall for 21 years now. Most of the families that come to take photos with him have long stories about all the past years' photos. Parents lean over to whisper, "Sarah was afraid you wouldn't recognize her anymore with her new braces," and he leans back, grins his big Santa grin and replies, "Of course I do! How could I forget such a pretty face?"

This little guy was all but buried in Santa's huge coat and furry sleeves. He had a long list (you can see it covers both sides of the page) !

The Giving Tree moved back to the newly remodeled Oaks Mall this year, and the volunteers who run it returned too. I love that the actual tree looks exactly like the one on the poster.

The award-winning Los Robles Master Chorale performed their holiday program. Choirs are always fun to shoot, since each singer has a different expression. I was hoping for a little more ordered shot, with all the faces clearly visible, but this was the best I could manage.

For the first time this year I shot a Toys for the Needy pickup, around the 23rd of December I beleive, and it was such fun. I'm determined to learn fluent Spanish this year. I think it's ridiculous that I live in a place where freeway offramps are named "Reyes Adobe" and "Avenida De Los Arboles" but I can't understand what these families were saying. I had no way to chat with them and make them less nervous around my camera.
Still, it was such an (unexpectedly) joyous atmosphere. Think more Holiday Fiesta than Toys for Needy Families. Everyone was drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate, huddling close against the freezing wind, laughing and chatting. Children weaved between the adults, chasing each other and playing with their new toys.

A living nativity, of course, this one put on by a Catholic youth group in Camarillo.

And the very first community menorah lighting in Moorpark. They had stunt bike riders doing tricks (and jumping over Jewish leaders!) which made for some really nice expressions on these little boys.