photography

Nikon at the Playboy Mansion

To mark the passing of Hugh Hefner I’m reposting this from years gone by. RIP Hef. Lord knows you’d need some rest by now. 😉

So let me tell you the story.

I get a call from a BET producer on a Friday night asking if I can go shoot an event for her at the Playboy Mansion the next night. It might come as a surprise to most people but the Playboy Mansion is the site of innumerable charity functions. I’d been up there before. Swam in the grotto pool. Blah blah blah.

But never, slow my rapidly beating heart, had I ever been there with a camera and a press credential.

So of course, I say yes! The problem, however, is that at that time in my life my health was absolutely miserable. So when the next day dawned blisteringly hot, I was both sick and apprehensive.

To get to these things at the Playboy Mansion you have to shuttle over. Actually they’re full-sized buses and you usually depart from a giant multi-level parking garage somewhere else on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was the case when I had my significant and dubious girlfriend of over three decades drop me off at the parking garage.

And I was still feeling very bad. And it was hot as Hades. I gave her strict instructions to be ‘on call’ cell phone on because I knew there’d be a long wait in a smothering parking garage and that I’d probably bail even before the first bus departed.

That was at 5:00 pm west coast time. Girlfriend didn’t hear from me again until near 1:00 am, when she found me lying on the sidewalk where she left me, drenched in sweat, with an absolutely stupid semi-permanent smile plastered on my half-crocked visage.

Yes. I was there a LONG time. I went through three or four different types of event photography all in one night. Red carpet. Long lens daylight candids. Available lowlight shooting. Standard event flash photography with the SB-800 and the 24-70 f2.8 Nikkor.

Lot of great stories. Met a lot of great people, believe it or not.

A pair of young female reporters for an online publication that covers charity events hooked up with me on the bus over. I guess this is when you know you’re getting old and harmless as a guy and maybe just a little pathetic. One of the girls was LOVELY. For a lot of the evening she carried my heavy camera back pack around for me. Are you kidding me? Nice girl, definitely not from L.A.

At one point in the dusky part of the early evening, after sundown but when there’s still some light in the air, and of course there’s plenty of lighting at the event, a heavily geared up Canon shooter came up to me while I was shooting with the 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor. This is in the early days of the D3. He was very irritated with me for some reason and he says, “You know you’re not getting anything with that lens in this light?”

That was right around the time the picture at the top of this post was taken. And this one.

I’m linking to a Flickr slideshow of the images that ended up being used not by BET but another publication. They might appear a little soft in the slideshow as they are only 800x on the long end. It’s the entire gallery of ‘safe’ images.

But I’m also including below a definitevly NSFW slideshow of images that have never been seen by anyone but myself. These are of body-painted girls and when I say NSFW I really mean it! These are not your father’s body-painted naked girls here.

It’s the Playboy Mansion. What’d you expect?

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What We’re Talking About When We Talk About Light

Apologies to Raymond Carver. Reposted from the early days of 50lux.com

Leica M9, 35mm f/1.4 SUMMILUX-M ASPH FLE

I think of the best stuff when I’m half asleep. It’s called hypnagogia and I’ve got a bad case of it. I’m not alone, apparently, as a New York Times article pointed out late last year and as Wikipedia establishes as encyclopedic fact.

Many other artists, writers, scientists and inventors — including Beethoven, Richard Wagner, Walter Scott, Salvador Dalí, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and Isaac Newton — have credited hypnagogia and related states with enhancing their creativity.

I’m intending to capture some of these fantastic creative thought processes that trot through my mind when I’m half asleep for the purpose of bringing them back alive and showing them to the world here on 50lux.com. It won’t be easy. Not many things are when you’re half asleep. Nature of the beast. More on all this later. But let’s start off with an example from today.

There’s nothing more annoying than some snobby-sounding photographer going on about Light. I chase after the Light. I live for the Light! I’m always out looking for the Light. I’m a Light chasing stalker of the Light.

Light, that fickle temptress, has taken out a restraining order on me!

You know the type. Butterflies and rainbows all around them. They shoot Leica but, of course, they could do just as well, maybe better, with a piece of cardboard and a tiny hole punched in it for a lens.

Never mind too the 14-year old future supermodels that seem to prance through lush meadows all around them, stopping only for the occasional extreme closeup on the sun-speckled perfection surrounding bee-stung lips.

What does any of that matter?, the light snob would say. It’s all about the Light!

Okay, let’s go there. Because as annoying as these people are, they just might be on to something. Pictures might lie, but not that much when it comes to the role of light making a great picture.

First let me say that my goal here, because I want to help myself to be a better photographer, is to learn along with anyone who happens to be reading this blog. So that some day, some glorious sunshiny day, we might all be just as annoying to others as these people are now to us.

It is important to have goals. Let’s get to work on achieving them.

Leica M9, 40mm 1.4 Voigtlander Nokton

Think of the world not as a place made up of things or solid objects to be photographed, but instead as a place where light exists.

You see what I’m talking about when I’m talking about half-asleep thoughts? Thank you and good night, ladies and gentlemen. Let me repeat it.

Think of the world not as a place made up of things or solid objects to be photographed, but instead as a place where light exists.

Because light in an infinite number of variations certainly does exist in this world. It shines down upon, through, wraps around, bounces off, backlights, highlights, dapples, washes over, peeks through, reflects off of, illuminates, obscures, virtually everything in this world and all of that enters into our consciousness, or DOESN’T, which is what we’re trying to correct here, through our eyes and through our lenses onto the plane of film or sensor we’re using to capture it all for posterity.

Light has so many different colors and shapes and effects upon whatever it touches or is near that it’s far beyond the scope of this blog post to even go into any of that. And it’s not important for the ideas that I’m trying to solidify in my own creative mind to try to address any of it at this time.

This post here on 50lux.com is more about what we all can maybe derive or benefit from in the form of an internal tweaking of our perspectives on light as it exists all around us and in our photography.

The important thing to keep in mind about light is that it can be as easily photographed, and as easily sought out as a subject to be photographed as a flower, a snow-capped mountain, a beautiful woman, or anything else that people almost instinctively point their cameras at before hitting the shutter release.

As you probably remember, like me, from reading it somewhere, whenever you take a picture, you really are only photographing reflected light anyway. Why not make a concerted effort on light’s behalf?

So now try it! Go out and, instead of looking to photograph mere things, solid or liquid objects of the Earth, as an ongoing exercise for your photographic eye and mind look past all that stuff and look only for light, wherever and in whatever form that you find it. Take pictures of that light. Make pictures from it.

Leica M9, 50mm f2 Summicron-M

If you’ve ever asked yourself or anyone else what’s the best way to radically change how you see as a photographer, then this is what I would suggest. Stop looking for and at everything around you as subject-objects, and instead allow yourself to look for and see only light.

Forever?, you might be asking. No. And then again, YES! Absolutely. Because we are talking about change here and hopefully permanent change. Some of us are always looking to change or open up our vision as photographers.

For now I suggest maybe working without your camera and going through your day looking past objects and people that you would normally focus your attention on and trying to see only the light and thinking about what you’re seeing wherever you do find light.

One of the first things you will discover is how incredibly easy this all is. You’ll be surprised. The change will be immediate. Your nose, as a photographer, will start to rise up into the uppity upper air involuntarily as you yourself become yet another annoying light snob. Phrases like I seek light wherever I can find it will roll off your tongue with the same highbrow snobbery of Grace Kelly in a 1950s Hitchcock film.

Go for the light and don’t come back empty handed!

Leica M9, 40mm 1.4 Voigtlander Nokton

Help The Los Angeles Center of Photography Improve Kids’ Lives! 

Photo by Julia Dean

The Los Angeles Center of Photography has applied for a $100,000 grant to help teach LA’s Boys & Girls Clubs photography. To win the grant requires votes from friends of both photography and kids!

More from the LACP:

There are 51 proposals in our category and right now, we’re in 20th place. We must be in the top 10 for a chance to win. (The committee selects the winner from the top 10.) Our proposal outlines a yearlong photography program in LA’s Boys & Girls Clubs. The grant is meant for non-profits with projects that will help create a better LA, now and in the future. VOTING ends on November 3.

PLEASE VOTE!!! It will take only five minutes. Here is how to do it:

1. Go to: http://www.LA2050.org

2. Hit the hot pink tab that reads VOTE IN THE MYLA2050 GRANTS CHALLENGE

3. Choose a Submission Category (Our proposal is under CREATE)

4. Now you have to sign up. Signing up is easy. See the top right corner of the LA2050 home page, where it reads, “Join.”

5. Then find our project (you will see a picture of me in a classroom with the Boys & Girls Club kids) and VOTE for LACP’s proposal!

6. You will then get an email confirming your vote. (This may take up to an hour to get this, so don’t fret.) You have to click on the link in this email to confirm your vote.

More on the proposal from Julia Dean:

About our proposal: I set up the curriculum and began our one-year program at the Variety Boys & Girls Club in Boyle Heights on Jan. 14, 2015. I teach every Wednesday afternoon. We have completed the basic, portraiture and street shooting class so far. The documentary class began last week. The plan is for each boys & girls club to document their own community and exhibit the work at LACP. Our first exhibit — from the Variety Boys & Girls Club — will take place in February 2016. There are 26 clubs in LA County. We hope to implement our program in all of them, once we raise enough money.

Source: Help Us Improve Kids’ Lives. Please Vote for LACP!

Throwback Thursday AGAIN! — Fashion’s Night Out 2011 in Beverly Hills

Getting back to some Leica photography. The date has been announced for the annual Fashion’s Night Out 2012 and it is September 6th.

Sooo… this entry today here at 50lux.com has a triple purpose.

First, I would like to give Leica and other lowlight shooters a heads-up to the coming FNO extravaganza, Vogue Magazine’s world-wide phenomena and to let you all know that this very impressive event is probably coming to a city somewhere near you.

It’s an incredible opportunity to get out and photograph great style and beauty and all in the vibrant colors and exact low-light conditions where our super-fast Leica glass really shows its stuff.

Second, of course, I want to showcase my own humble efforts in that regard from last year. All the images you see here were shot on film, with my trusty M7. Mostly with a Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5 mounted, but there’s more than a few with the Leica 35mm Summicron 2.0 ASPH. Also shot mostly Kodak 800 Ultramax film but I also put a couple of rolls of TMAX 32oo through the M7 which I will post in a few days.

But now, and thirdly, I’m also going to turn my attention to a gentle constructive review of the event itself with the hope that this critique will find whomever might be in the organizing group planning this year’s festivities in Beverly Hills, where the FNO event I attended took place. You’ll get an idea of why I would want to get this into their hands if you read on.

Okay, right up front I should say that my attending last year’s Fashion’s Night Out in Beverly Hills event was for the sole purpose of shooting some frames of fast film with some even faster Leica and Zeiss glass mounted on my M7.

But I’m a critical sort. So in between trying to catch some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in my camera’s viewfinder, I did manage to cast a critical eye towards the event itself.

First, I think it’s a great idea. I’m a photographer. I love beauty and fashion. I have no connection, however, with the beauty or fashion industry as a photographer, or in any other way except as a admiring male who doesn’t leer from behind a camera.

Much. Come on, I am perfectly capable of taking a great picture of a beautiful woman without leering. In theory.

Anyway, I didn’t attend the event in 2010 so I have no reference point to compare 2011 with the previous year. But I was surprised at how little there was actually going on at this event on the very premier boulevard of shopping and fashion: Rodeo of Beverly Hills.

Leica M7, Zeiss 50mm Sonnar 1.5

Not to be overly critical, but I expected many small continuous fashion shows outside of some of the major trendy stores. A little more effort from the big fashion houses. An appreciable media presence. A few big names.

Pretty much nothing like that here. There was a set up for a fashion show, so maybe I was late. Got there at 8:00 and the event was scheduled till 10:00. Stores were pretty much an indoor thing, just like any other day. Except this was night.

There was a makeover area which was certainly busy. A street portrait artist working in charcoal, I believe. Food was supplied by a handful of not very interesting food trucks. People were lounging on the curb eating.

At one or two of the stores, there was an actual doorman allowing entry to only, I supposed, an invited few. Nice touch there as some pretty fancy Beverly Hills wives were turned away. Ouch. I have pictures of that.

I’m sorry, BH. I just think this is a great idea that should be done with a little more attention to class and detail and results. The number of people in attendance clearly demonstrated that there is an appetite for this type of event right there on Rodeo Drive.

Come on, Beverly Hills, you can do much MUCH better than this.

That said, please enjoy the pictures.

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Leica M7, Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5, Kodak Ultra 800

LEICA M7, 35mm Summicron-M 2.0 ASPH

Leica M7, 35mm Sumicron 2.0 ASPH

Leica M7, Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5

Click on these last two shots for larger versions.

Leica M7, Zeiss 50mm Sonnar f1.5

Pictures: Do you take them or make them?

Leica M9, Voigtlander 40mm f1.4 Nokton

THE REBLOGGING CONTINUES UNABATED! This from a few years ago.

Honestly, I’m not sure there’s two opposing camps out there. I think the way it usually goes is some poor unsuspecting chap says he likes to take pictures… and then, invariably, someone wearing a much more expensive watch says he doesn’t take pictures, he makes them.

Ah-HAH!

Then the first guy smiles and shrugs and says yes, of course, and then looks at his feet. The party’s over for him. He doesn’t even know what the other guy is talking about.

Make pictures? What does that even mean? What’s the difference between taking a picture and making one? Are they really two different things? How come I don’t know this?

The reason he might not know it is because there are so many instances in life where others hang onto information as if it’s a proprietary asset. Or, just as likely a theory, as long as I’m casting aspersions, they can’t really explain it themselves even if they wanted to because they themselves don’t know.

Ansel said it. That should be good enough for everyone. Right?

The truth is, making and taking a picture are really two different things. What the annoying snobby person (a recurring character on this blog) may not know is that, believe it or not, both are important approaches to photographing and it’s important to know the difference and to be able to execute on either at your discretion as a fairly decent photographer.

Simply put, you MAKE a picture when your eye selects a subject or scene and you can envision how you want that picture to appear in a photographic image and then you set about the business of positioning yourself and your camera, deciding areas under your control such as the aperture and how it will effect depth of field, for instance, as well as principles of composition or how you might use exposure, the balance of light and shadow, and an almost infinite number of other variables that will allow you to achieve the image that you’re envisioning as an end result.

Almost everything is riding on you. Your desired outcome will come about to your satisfaction only if you can execute and control the many decisions and results that represent your own vision for the image.

It’s an important basic concept to be aware of as a photographer and you can cement the processes involved in making images as opposed to taking them into your mind by repeated practice or application. After you’ve ‘made’ a half dozen great images of things as banal as the folds and polka dots on your shower curtain you’ll understand the concept of making an image as opposed to taking one.

But as you have probably already figured out, this is just one approach or thought process of photography and there certainly are countless instances where great photographers producing iconic images were not and are not engaging in anything approaching such a carefully thought-out creative process in the capturing of their images.

In fact, and apologies to Ansel Adams, I would suggest the vast majority of photography’s most famous, memorable, or iconic images were not made in the sense that they were envisioned, preconceived, thought about, prepared or set up for, or any of the many actions that a creative photographer might go through in an effort to make an image.

This is probably best explained with a picture, which is, the last time I bothered to check, still not really worth a thousand words.

Sao Paulo, Brazil. 2006. Women’s World Championship of Basketball.

Team USA has just lost a game in international competition for the first time in 14 years. Since international amateur athletic bodies that govern things like world championships and the Olympics changed the rules that prohibited professional athletes from participating, allowing for the creation of ‘dream teams’ made up of the best professional players in a given sport, the United States had dominated the world in women’s basketball.

But the scrappy (and photogenic) team from Russia found a way to do what no one believed even possible; literally beat the Americans at their own game.

So a bunch of baseline photographers are under the far basket after the historic loss. Some of us, the Americans I’m guessing, are shocked and more than a little bit angry. We all came a long way to shoot the United States winning a world championship.

We’re all looking around in confusion and as the Russian post-game celebration extends beyond a polite 30 seconds or so, it seemed that most of us had gotten all the shots we needed of this sacrilegious demonstration and we’d gone back to mostly arguing about who screwed the pooch harder, the US players or coaches.

After a while, in any group or pool of photographers covering an event, there’s this group-think that seems to occur. We all know what we’re there to get, and I think some of us can get a little self conscious if we’re the last photographer still grinding away at our shutter’s life expectancy at eight frames per second shooting at essentially the same scene. You don’t really want to be that guy. What is that clown doing? You mean you haven’t gotten one in focus YET?

But then I saw something. Something was added to the scene. Instinctively I raised my Nikon D3 with the 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor VR mounted and took this shot.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor VR

I will tell you without question that it is my firm opinion that if women’s basketball and the exploits of our US national team in international ball were a big deal in this country, as big of a deal as say, NBA basketball is in America, then this image would have been an iconic capture.

It’s Diana Taurasi, then and probably now the best women’s player in the world, dejectedly walking by as the ecstatic Russians carry on the celebration of their incredible upset of a team made up of the best professional and amateur women ballers our country could produce. Something that hadn’t happened, as I pointed out earlier, in 14 years.

I know you could argue that I somehow made that image, and that’s fine. My mind recognized the opportunity and blah, blah, blah. Yes, I was prepared to shoot that moment. But we’re all as photographers in a constant state of preparation.

The truth is, I took that shot. And the further truth is, I seek to take shots a lot more than I set out to make shots.

I wrote this article because I think I understand the difference between the two and can explain it. I also wrote it because I’d like to change as a photographer. I can take shots. I’m very good at it and I want to continue taking them whenever the opportunity arises.

But I want to spend a lot more time in the future of my photography making images. This blog entry will be, I hope, a major step forward for me to focus my attention onto an approach to photography that I’ve often neglected.

You don’t really know something, it is said, unless you can explain it to others. And I sincerely hope this piece is as helpful to me as it might be to anyone reading it.

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P.S Here’s another women’s basketball shot that this time I apparently, in spite of myself, somehow managed to make.

P.P.S. This article was originally published here on 50lux.com June 10th, 2012. I could (and probably should) just reblog these old articles, but they don’t display quite the way I would like them to so I don’t. I guess I don’t quite see the harm in doing it this way.

Nikon D3, 24-70mm f2.8 Nikkor

Photographers who refuse to abandon film

IMG_0986

donald barnat 50lux.com

VIA THE BBC:

Film photography was supposed to have been killed off by the digital era – but a committed band of enthusiasts refuse to abandon the traditional camera. Stephen Dowling finds out why for some, film never went out of fashion.

Photographer Patrick Joust spends a great deal of time on the streets of his native Baltimore, drawn to capture both the city’s residents during the day and the lamp-lit solitude at night. He does all of this on film.

“It’s the medium that works best for the kind of work I want to do,” says Joust, who often lugs three cameras around the streets, loaded with different kinds of film.

“These old cameras can disarm people and can be the starting point for some great portraits. There’s something more friendly about film cameras, even quaint, and I try and make that work for me.”

via The photographers who refuse to abandon traditional film cameras – BBC News.