Sunday, December 21, 2008

19 years and 9 months. The End!

Walking out for the last time! 19 years and 9 months.

This is my last post from the Tribune. I'm done! Photographer Ralph Freso took this picture Thursday December 18, 2008 as I walked out the front door for the last time. I look at this picture with mixed emotion. I don't know if I look tired or I just feel tired! Either way I'm glad it is finally over. The Tribunes business solutions are not mine and nether are the problems. I wish them well. I have given all I can and now I must move on and let go.

Ironically the name of my blog is Transformations. Wow! Who new it would be a word that describes my life. A terrifically talented man Andy Sawyer who is a former Tribune photographer himself used that word when describing some of my personal work. I loved the analogy and it stuck. Kudos to you Andy, I always new your a genius!

Moving forward! This part of my story hasn't been written yet. I am excited about my future. It is time to shed the old skin.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

East Valley Tribune update

Things are winding down for me at the Tribune. I have passed the proverbial torch to Mr. Webb, now chief photographer. I am no longer going to work as an editor or manager. I am finishing out my time by taking my remaining vacation days until the transition date of January 2.

It is surreal to know it is finally over and the anxiety will wane away soon. Now the work begins for a new career and a renewed happiness.

Wow! This has been a long and hard thing to go through. I must say thank you to all my friends who have said incredibly nice things to me recently. I love you all and appreciate the friendship I have with you. I am truly a blessed man.

All kinds of parties and reunions this past week. It has been wonderful. I saw reporters and former friends that I worked with 20 years ago. Just amazing. We have this journalism thing in common that brings us together. What a resource we need to have gatherings more often. It felt good.

Enough for know I will be back soon.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Tempe Arts Festival

Jenn wearing a paper hat from the kids craft corner.

Passing through the light.

Cowboy shopper!

Bird in a hand.

Walking past the walking mural.

This Pitt Bull just stood there holding his collar in his mouth.

From Hooters Mill Ave and 5th Street.

The police and fire department bagpipe crew.

This is the most fun I have had in a long time photographing. Just shooting without a care one.

I spent the day in downtown Tempe with my wife and a friend enjoying the art, food, people and perfect weather.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ironman last week

Back lit dirt during sunset created this saturated yellow scene.

These athletes have already swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles now they have
a 26.2 mile run ahead of them. It is a long grueling day for most of these athletes. Some won't finish until midnight.

A female Pro Imke Schiersh from Frankfurt, Germany passes by.
She finished in 9:53 for 9th place women pro division.

My wife Lorie passes by on her second loop of
the 26.2 mile run cource

Runner runs into shaft of light.

Lorie Armstrong looks good on the third loop of the bike course.

View of competitors on bike course Rio Salado Parkway near Mill Ave.

Cyclist leave the transition area entering the bike course.

Men professional triathletes finish the swim and run to the transition to bike.

Wetsuit strippers peel wetsuits off swimmers as they exit the water.

2,300 athletes begin the day with a deep water standing start.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's for you

Sister in law on the phone Lake Havasu City.

The road to Havasu


Kofa Cafe

wind mill

Understanding the sublime to the ridiculous


the hug

Mert and Herman act like they own the coach!

brothers and sisters tour the coach

Trying to understand what I am doing and why I'm doing it isn't crystal clear even in my own mind. While, I enter a new phase of my life, I am trying to develop a vision that reveals life as I see it.

This time my intent is to work intellectually without interruption from outside influences. It is creative independence. A liberation from institutional norms and burdens.

In a sense these are stand alone feature photographs. But, it is also anti-peak action. It is the dance of life in its transitional movements and moments. Perhaps it's quit rather than in you face. It may not be the quick read where a schooled photographer might say "nice".

I'm trying to develop a continued heightened sense for the sublime. I think, I have always been attracted to it, it's just difficult to identify and capture. To see it isn't an unintentional accident. It is a skill set that requires experience. Sometimes it takes maturity to evolve!

Does the image translate to the viewer? Is it a snap shot or an out take that is over looked? Is it misunderstood or is it just a bad photograph? Whether or not it translates in my work is a continuing challenge.

These are some recent pics from Thanksgiving in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

They are actually the motor coach tour and the event surrounding the actual departure of family.

Sublime: adjective: used to denote the extreme or unparalleled nature of a person's attitude or behavior / excellence, grandeur, or beauty as to inspire great admiration or awe

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ironman Finisher 2nd place age group

Lorie and our family

Lorie finished 2nd in her age group.

It has been a very exciting weekend for the Armstrong family. My wife Lorie is a Triathlete for those of you that don't know. She just concluded her 4th Ford Ironman Triathlon this weekend in Tempe. She placed 2nd in her age group. The time difference from first to third was about 3 minutes. That is a close race considering it is over 140 mile course. The full Ironman course is a 140.6 mile race. It is a race that is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a marathon 26.2 mile run all back to back to back.

She had a great race! She was ether in first or second place for almost 138 miles when a women from Canada passed her with 2 miles to go. Her finishing time qualified her a spot to compete in the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii next April. WOW! That's my girl.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sorry, I haven't posted in a while. As you can imagine, I have been thinking about my future. I have been busy reading as much as I can about the freelance commercial photography business. I have to tell you the bar is really high and there are a lot of very talented accomplished photographers in the Valley.

I totally believe, I am capable of achieving great new heights in my life. I just have to be commit and be totally convinced that this is the right road to go down. I am continuing to move forward learning as much as I can with the help of some very good friends. One thing is certain this will not be an easy road by any means.

On another note. It is beginning to be clearer and clearer to me that my old job was and still is the quintessential dead end job.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall Color

Photo by Tom Boggan / My family

I haven't posted in a while. Sorry about that, I have been a little off the track lately. I took a trip with the family to West Fork in Oak Creek Canyon last weekend. West Fork is on fire. Wonderfully beautiful. I ran into a former photography stringer Emily P. and later Tribune staff photographer Tom Boggan. It was fun to see these folks away from the city. It helps put things in perspective and reminded me we are all on the journey together. He took a great family picture for me that we will probably be used as our Christmas card this year. Thank you, Tom

Monday, October 13, 2008

Passing of a companion

This is Cody our 12 year old Labrador Retriever relaxing in his favorite spot in the back yard! Sadly Cody died from what the veterinarian believed was a stroke Wednesday night. The vet and I decided to end his suffering Thursday Oct. 9th. He was loved by my family and will be dearly missed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tribune Cuts 142 Jobs

I found out Monday I would be laid off January 1, 2009. I have worked at the Tribune Newspaper for 19 years and 9 months.

I am one of 142 people laid off at the East Valley Tribune Newspaper. That is 40 percent of our entire company and this is our 4th round of layoffs since Jan. 1, 2008.

If there is a silver lining at least we were notified in advance. Our last day is January 1, 2009 and then we will begin to receive our severance package.

I worked as a photographer for 15 years then was called upon to work the assignment desk. After a year or so, I was promoted to Director of Photography. At its peak, I managed 12 people. It has been a great ride and yes I'm sad it is over but I will move forward to new and greater challenges.

It is clear that some people have strong opinions on the newspaper industry and I respect that right.

This is mine!

I am proud of what I have done in this industry. It has provided a stable
environment for my wife and kids. My sons grew with their father having one job in one town. Is this how I envisioned the end? Of course not! I never thought I would be the stereotypical statistic, 55 years old and unemployed after a lifetime in one occupation.

I have had the opportunity to see and experience life with an all access pass. I have photographed a World Series, a Super Bowl, Presidential visits, the saddest and greatest moments in life and everything in between. I have done stories on people who needed help and I have made a difference to people I have touched.

I made a difference not because of me but because I worked for the
Newspaper. I am passionate man who is committed to humanity and this profession. I was given this privilege for 20 years to serve the people of our communities. I truly believe, I did the best I could.

Sure I can tell you all the bad things about this industry. They are true! I have said this job is like "loving a women that doesn't love you back". That is a fact, not some bullshit I made up.

I hope to continue my life in Photography in one aspect or another. This has been my life and there has to be a place in this society that can benefit from my experience. I just need time to figure it out.

To those of you who have called and sent emails in support of me. You never really know if you have left a mark in life but this event has illustrated to me "you reap what you sow". I truly appreciate all the kind words. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sidecar Patriot

Saw this guy on my way to work. Looks like a home made sidecar and an interesting costume.

Dramatic Sunset

Summer storm boils over the Boulder Mountains, Idaho.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sen. Barry Goldwater Portrait

See portraits on my web site,

This is the late Senator Barry Goldwater. This photograph is currently housed in the National Archives of the Smithsonian Institutions, National Portrait Gallery Washington, D.C. It is featured prominently as the closing photograph to the HBO documentary film Mr. Conservative and has been published in several publications including Arizona Highways. This is the last formal portrait of the Senator prior to his death in 1998.

This is how I made the portrait. I posed him in a profile because his face is so defined by the strength of his bone structure. I have seen him with the bulldog cane prior to the shoot so I asked him to sit with it. That cane is definitive Goldwater that also mimicked his own caricature in the portrait. It was a must for this portrait.

The image was made using an 8 X 10 inch Deardorff view camera with a 360 mm Rodenstock lens and Fuji Provia film. The photograph was taken in the living room of his Phoenix home.

I was given 20 minutes with the Senator, so I had to do some pre-visualization and have all may lights and camera already set up in my truck before I got there. I had 2 assistants to insure things happened efficiently.

This is a three light set up using a Comet 2400-watt power supply. The backlight is high above illuminating the flagstone wall. I used a spot grid on the light to control the spill and added a 1/2 CTO to warm it up. The main light is off to the extreme right using a medium Wafer soft box with a 1/3 CTO inside the box to warm the light. I wanted to rim light him giving the illusion of window light. The third light is just to me left side shooting through scrims to give a little fill. The shadow side of his face is 1 stop darker than the main light.

The 360 mm lens is also called a 15inch lens. This is important when figuring bellows factors. In this case my bellows was racked out to 18 inches. This gave me a 1/3stop bellows factor. This means to get the proper exposure, I had to open the lens 1/3 of a stop due to light fall off inside the bellows. I wanted an f-stop of 22 to give me the depth of field I wanted which was about 1 1/4 inches at this distance. Instead of opening the lens I added power to my lights. My highlight meter reading was F-22 1/3 so my final exposure was 125 @ f-22. Remember this is all hand held metering; there is no chimping with an 8 X 10.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Marshall Trimble Portrait

This portrait of Marshall Trimble was made outside his Paradise Valley home at 2pm in the afternoon. I wanted to create the illusion of a warm sunset with him looking off into beautiful light. This is how I did it.

First, I had to use large scrims overhead to block out the harsh sunlight that was falling on the entrance to his home. The purpose of the scrims is to be in control of the light. Afternoon sunlight in the Valley is way to harsh with extreme contrast. Once I had blocked out the sun, I then moved on to create the light I wanted for the portrait.

I used a Comet 2400 watts power supply with 2 strobe heads. One head was placed behind the wall to illuminate the patio that was in deep shade. I wanted the light to be soft to give it a natural look. I used a medium soft box with a full CTO gel inside the box to warm the light. The second strobe head was the main light source that would illuminate Marshall in the entryway. I used a medium soft box off to the right with a ½ CTO gel inside the box also to warm the light.

The camera was a large format 8 X 10 Deardorff with a 360mm Rodenstock lens. The shutter speed was a 60th of a second with an aperture of f-22. The film was Fuji Provia

Lost Boy Sudan Refugee

Sometimes when photographing people you just need to get close. Look into the face, and the eyes see the texture of the skin. It is an important photograph to the story. It also reveals who this person is on a personal level.

I shot this using a single light set up. One Norman 200B off to one side with an umbrella outside in open shade.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Environmental Portraits

Many times during my career, I have been sent to photograph someone for a story. I went to homes, hotels, restaurant, empty fields, offices, construction sites you name it and I have done the environmental portrait (EP) a thousand times.

I want to illustrate two ways of doing something. By putting forth the effort you will get professional results and your portraits will endure the test of time.

The first set is with Hugh Downs and former Chandler Mayor Coy Payne (verticals). With both assignments they were expecting me and I was without a reporter. Downs was photographed in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Phoenix and Payne was at his home. In both cases, I decided to set up one light.

I used a Norman 200 B with a small soft box 32" X 24". The reason I chose to use my light was the available light was terrible in 3 of the 4 locations. Sometimes you have to think how is this going to reproduce in print. I elected to use my lights. With Hugh Downs the Ritz Carlton management objected to me photographing in a common area so I had to work fast before they kicked me out. Downs is a TV pro and very good in front of the camera so he gave me several poses that were excellent and the shoot went very fast.

With Coy Payne, we talked to for quit a while. I was hoping to get a moment of reflection since the story was about his personal history. I asked him questions that would force him to think back and bingo I eventually got the contemplative moment. In both images the tonal quality is excellent and they reproduced well.

The second set (horizontals) is with Rev. Howard Rice Interim President of Cook College Theological School Tempe, Arizona on the left and a former retired admiral on the right (sorry his caption did not stick to the original file). With both of these assignments, I was with a reporter. The portraits are taken during the interview process. The Reverend is window light and the admiral is light with my single Norman 200 B and soft box.

In both of these images I worked with a good reporter who asked questions that revealed deep thought from these intellectuals. What they all have in common is the classic pose one by practiced TV celebrity and the others by virtue of thoughtful story telling.

In all of the photos the environment was not important to the story. It was totally about the men not the place. If the environment was important to the story, I would have approached the portrait from a different mind set.

I hope this information is helpful to those who read this blog and could use a little help with portraits.

Tip: The closer the light is the softer it is. The farther away it is the harsher it is.

Tip: Off camera strobe photography 101 / if the light meter says your strobe output is f-11. It remains f-11 if your shooting at a 15th of a second or 500th of a second. The f-11 reading is a constant and it does not change. The only way to change it, is to physically move the light closer or farther away, or increase or decrease the power output.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Monsoon Storms

I saw lightning last night to the North and South of the Valley. It has been a while since I've photographed a decent storm. The cell to the North dissipated quickly, so I headed south also to find storms moving away from me. Since the lightning sucked, I tried to make a couple of frames anyway. In an attempt to make the shot a little more interesting I decided to jump into the frame. I think it helped the overall image but what I realized, is that I'm balder than I thought.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Photo by Tom Boggan

Tribune staff photographer Paul O'Neill and I walked to Subway today when we began a conversation that lead to a LOL Quote of the Day.

I said, Paul I know enough to have opinions about a lot of things. I also don't know shit about a lot of things. I guess that makes me full-of-shit half the time.

Paul said, Brad, I think that makes you an expert.

Six inch meatball please!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Just my opinion.

At newspapers today it’s about revenue and finding the bottom line. Generally, I think the people on the top are great with numbers but that's all they can wrap their head around. For the most part, I don't think they are conceptual thinkers. You know, see the forest through the tree if you will.

I read a blog by a former LA Times reporter William Lobdell, Scroll down to "42 things I know". He made 42 points about his views of the newspaper business and it wows. He made a point about Google and Yahoo that I agree with and I would like to take it a step further. One person’s comment proves my point. He said, he was a small business owner who spends his advertising money with Google for key wording and it has tripled his business.

Lobdell said papers should team up with Yahoo or Google.

If I were Google, I would be thinking what could you offer me? News content? News content is readily available and free.

If a giant like Google made a concerted effort to take over and dominate Internet advertising, I believe they could, without to much effort. The revenue loses for newspapers would continue to decline much as they are with classified advertising going to craigslist.

Imagine newspapers having to pay Google for advertising. Similar to what they already do with wire services.

Newspapers put advertising on their home pages. Jumping, giggling annoying ads that people hate and avoid like the plague. It doesn’t work folks. Gee, maybe a new way would be refreshing. Remember the old day's when mom would say; I buy the paper for the coupons. Direct people to an interactive individual page where there are printable coupons and other bonus advertising campaigns where people can "save money". Get the crap that does not work off the home page!

Like Lobdell said the people on top are slow to respond to the changing times. I don't know what goes on in the big guys office but I would agree from where I sit. It seems things move at a snail's pace. I hope they wake up before its to late. It seems print media companies are desperately trying to save the print product while innovative thinkers are thinking of ways to grow their business on the Internet. Two years ago we had the "web first" initiative at our paper. That lasted 8 months. Due to sinking revenue and declining circulation we're back to the print first initiative. OMG!

If advertisers go to Google and classifieds continue to go to Greg's List where does that leave newspapers revenue growth? Subscribers? Ops! We let them go when we decided to give the paper away for free in hopes of generating new print advertisers.

I know this sounds crazy but it could happen. Lobdell's commenter who is an advertiser is already giving his money to a system that works.

Monday, July 28, 2008

National Day of the Cowboy

Last weekend was National Day of the Cowboy. With all good intention Lorie, our sons dog Nixon, and I went to Sedona, Az..
We were to check out the western festivities. About 6 miles from Sedona we ran into stand still traffic. After 40 minutes and only going 2 and half miles we started to think this is going to suck big time. So I feel like shit because this was my idea when Lorie leans over and said, you won't break my heart if we turn around and do something else. Thank God, that was my out. We turned around and headed back to I-17 and headed North. We thought about Flagstaff, but we didn't fell like being in the car all day. Stoneman Lake exit was a mile up the road and that looked fine to use. So the day was spent sitting around letting the dog run and enjoying beautiful scenery, Oh and we did drive by some people on horseback that satisfy out National Day of the Cowboy requirement. All ends well!