Sunday, April 25, 2010

26 Blocks

This is Pastor Vermon Pierre of the Roosevelt Community Church. I photographed the Pastor for a project I’m involved in called 26 Blocks. For complete information on the project go to

It’s a project where 26 of the Valley’s top professional photographers were paired with 26 of the Valleys best writers. There’s a sculpture involved and a team of people behind the scenes who helped put it together. Phoenix writer, Joey Robert Parks is the individual who created the project.

Each photographer os paired with a writer and we were given a block in downtown Phoenix to document. There are 26 preselected blocks in downtown Phoenix we are documenting. The ssignment was to be fulfilled by us from April 1, through April 31, 2010.

I was paired with novelist Betty Webb. Betty and I worked together at the Tribune Newspaper many years ago. It was good to work with her once again.

We were given block C. That's roughly Roosevelt and 1st street in Phoenix. There’s a church on the corner so Betty and I decided the Roosevelt Community Church would be our focus.

We had total creative liberty to do what ever we wanted. The only rules were no more than 4 pictures and no more than 500 words.

At the end of the project, the photographers are given a canvas 24” by 36”. All images are to go on one canvas. My final project has three different pictures on it. I can’t reveal what my final piece looks like but Pastor Vermon is one element of it.

Corporate sponsor Artisan Colour, is doing all the printing for the project. We were invited to an open house last week to tour the facility. It’s an incredible facility that has transitioned from film to digital very well.

During the party they had a large monitor set-up with a scrolling video of everyone's work. The variety of work is unique to each person and absolutely stunning.

There will be a 26 Blocks Gallery Exhibit and Opening May 7th at the After Hours Gallery in Phoenix.

This is a great exhibit so please come if you’re in the area.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photo Mission Feb. 2008

Alabama Hills, California

Death Valley, California

Death Valley, California

My wife Lorie, was out of town visiting family in California so I decided to grab the camera, the dog and go for a photo trip. I took my sleeping bag in case we weren’t coming back that night.

My intention was to go to Flagstaff, which is about two and half hours away but I impulsively decided to go to Death Valley, California instead. I started the trip late in the afternoon so the dog and I ended up sleeping in the car at a truck stop north of Las Vegas. We woke up early in the morning to find Cody's water dish frozen solid. We had a quick breakfast and continued to Death Valley.

We weren’t far from the park, so I was thinking lets start by going to Zabriskie Point. I remembered Ansel Adams made a famous picture of the area that I would love to have made myself. It’s early light everything is looking really cool. I read all the signs, payed the park entry fee and I'm very close. I arrive, but to my surprise I’m a little aprehensive. Is this the place, I thought? There is a huge parking lot with tour buses and what seems to be hundreds of people. I parked and walked about twenty feet with Cody and there's a huge sign saying “NO DOGS” not even a leashed dog was permissible. I apologized to Cody and put him back into the car. Fortunately, it was winter so he was fine with the windows cracked. I fallowed the blacktop walkway which is the size of a small road for a couple hundred yards to the vista point. OMG! This is the place were Ansel Adams made his picture. I took it all in and looked out into Death Valley. Then, I began to look around to see the hundreds of people with happy snap camera’s clicking away like it’s a spring brake bikini contest.

As my chest began to pound, I asked myself do I or don’t I. I think for a moment and I make my decision! There's know way in hell I’m hauling an 8 X 10 inch view camera up here and setting it up in front of all these tourist. I swung my digital camera from around my neck and took a few happy snaps. I stayed there for about 10 minutes, then walked back to my car grumbling as more tour buses arrived.

I drove around for a while and went to another vista point called Dantes View to find even more people. After leaving there, I found a dirt road that went into an area called Twenty Mule Train Canyon. I spent most of the day in that area with Cody taking pictures. It was a beautiful day but it was like being on Mars. One of the strangest places I'd ever seen.

Once I left Death Valley, I decide to go to Lone Pine, California which is even further from home. I was chasing yet another Ansel Adams iconic landscape. The Alabama Hills with Mt. Whitney in the background. On the eastern slope of the Sierra Mountains the landscape is littered with hug boulders. It’s an oddly haunting landscape.

Hoping for less people and better photographic access Cody and I got a cheap room in a local motel. The next morning we got up early and turned the corner from the motel to a magnificent view of the Sierra’s. WOW! This is totally cool. I made a few turns and there’s no one anywhere. It seemed we had the entire place to ourselves. I found some cool spots and we spent most of the morning shooting and exploring. My only regret was there were no clouds. Clear blue sky. I wish, I had the storm clouds that so many other photographers have had but that's luck and it wasn’t with me on this trip. Maybe someday, I'll be able to return and spend a little more time in the area.

We left Lone Pine around 1pm and drove straight home. Cody and I got home around 10pm.

What did I learn? It seems to me that Ansel Adams didn’t wonder to far off the beaten path to make his iconic images and when visiting these parks it's amazing how many people are there.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Crested Saguaro

This is one of my favorite images. It’s a photograph of a Crested Saguaro near the Salt River Recreation Area in the Tonto National Forest.

I made this picture with a Holga camera using Ilford HP5 black and white film rated at ISO 320. The Holga is a $25.00 dollar plastic camera. To most camera buffs the Holga is classified as a toy camera . The classic look of a Holga is the soft focus caused by the plastic lens, unpredictable light leaks and vignetting. My Holga, does fairly well with minimal light leaks. To some that might spoil the fun.

Some photographers use Holga Camera’s exclusively as an artistic tool for expressive work.

I always develop my black and white film by hand in my make shift bathroom / darkroom. If my memory serves me correctly, I developed the film in PMK Pyro which has become my developer of choice for the past 5 years.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A new beginning

Recently, I voiced some frustration about the content of my blog with my friend and fellow blogger Heidi Huber Heidi is a very successful wedding photographer who has carved a niche with her documentary wedding style. After listening to me, Heidi gave me some constructive advices. She said, your blog needs to be more about what makes you unique. Show what you’re passionate about. Yes, you do editorial photojournalism but that’s your work. Show the other side of you.

I thought about it for a while and I have to agree. There is another side of me that has always gotten lost in my professional photography. Since my introduction into photography by my father, it’s foundations were cemented by Phoenix College Professor Allen Dutton (retired) Dutton, is a large format fine art / documentary photographer. He taught the fine art of exquisite photography. He introduced his students to portfolios of photographers who he new at the time. He taught us how to appreciate the content and subtle qualities of print making and the negative.

As a result of his influence, I have always had this quiet interest in large format landscape and portrait photography. In 1989, I bought my first large format view camera a used 8 X 10 Deardorff. It took me a few more years to get a couple of lenses but I was off and running quietly all by myself. When my newspaper photography job got to me, I would load up the gear and take a drive into the desert.

My drives were to clear my head of the fast paced burn out world of newspaper work. I call these trips photo missions. It’s a rediscovery of photography on it’s purest level. It didn’t matter if I photographed a shot-up discarded stove or a Saguaro cactus. The purpose was more about the process and not as much about the result.

If it’s always about making the next Moonrise over Hernandez by Ansel Adams I would never leave the house. We can always hope for the best but the elements have to come together at that precise time and when it does I’m usually not there.

So about Transformations the blog. From this day forward, I will be posting images that have relevance to me. Large format, medium format, Polaroids, 35 mm chrome and a few digital images. Most of my large format work is black and white. I will talk about the process and how I made the photographs. The reading might become a little technical and boring but again that's what I do.

I recently got an interesting Polaroid camera called a Polaroid 600SE This is a very cool old camera. I hope to be making some interesting pictures with it soon. I tested the camera this week and had some success. All the functions seems to work. I had a few issues but that is what makes Polaroid unpredictable and fun. The images are posted above.

So there you go. I hope you stick around.