70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor VR

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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My Paparazzi

mypapi_0001Who are all these people? lol. Looks like… hmm. Maybe, maybe not. Who’s to say? A bunch from the Nikon days.

Women 102, Haters Zero

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Time for some writing, huh? This is one of my personal favorites from back in the day when I was covering the WNBA for my friend Sports Page Mike D’Avino. First published in 2009, it feels just right for a Throwback Thursday on 50.lux. (And my buddy Harold the TV cameraman is NOT a hater! He always looks like that!)

Women 102, Haters Zero

By Donald Barnat: SPM Associate Women’s Basketball Editor

Posted Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thirty-six years ago, a tennis match, hyped to the point where it became a cultural phenomena, drew a Super Bowl-sized primetime television audience estimated to be near 48 million.

The fascination surrounding The Battle of the Sexes was due to the fact that it pitted 55-year-old Robert Larimore Riggs, decades past being the world’s number one male tennis player but squarely in his prime as a crass and offensive self-promotion machine, against 29-year-old Billie Jean King, a woman who would methodically and mercilessly take the tired air out of Bobby Riggs’s lungs and remove it as well from the tired notion that never could a female, even one of the world’s most elite tennis players, beat even an adequate male counterpart.

The event, which took place at the Astrodome in Houston, brought in 30, 472 paying spectators — at the time the largest crowd ever to attend a tennis match. Play was preceded by a star-studded champagne reception and the entire affair had the air of an ancient gladiator-era spectacle as much as it did that of a modern professional sporting event.

Riggs was wheeled onto the court in a rickshaw that was drawn by five scantily clad women. King’s mode of transportation was no less ridiculous; she was borne by bare-chested male carrier-slaves on a golden divan, while men in the pricy front row seats held up signs printed with sexist taunts.

That was 36 years ago. This past Wednesday evening the WNBA sanctioned its own Battle of the Sexes, even boldly lifting that infamously iconic event title and emblazing it word-for-word across the front of the league’s website.

The WNBA, it seems, with its hopes for a brighter future stifled precariously in the economic doldrums of the present, had decided that, at least for one night, the time was ripe for some old-school hype.

It didn’t work, of course. No one save the most devoted of the league’s fans even noticed.

It was a half-hearted, almost tongue-in-cheek effort in terms of promotion, which was to be expected. The WNBA is, after all, an actual professional sports league, still closely attached to the NBA, heretofore stodgy, respectable in its own eyes, with scores of co-owners, investors and sponsors, many of whom would likely not be amused by an embarrassing and desperate marketing spectacle.

Too bad.

So there was no setting of the table of expectations with a media blitz brought to you by charismatic figures like Bobby Riggs. And, unlike the nationwide anticipation and exploitive spectacle that preceded American sport’s first modern Battle of the Sexes, even devoted followers of womens’ basketball seemed to be caught off guard by the last-minute announcement of the game on the league’s normally staid and altogether corporate-careful website.

The contest was clearly there on the WNBA preseason schedule, but that pretty much was the extent of the promotion prior to game day.

The facts are pretty straightforward. The WNBA’s Chicago Sky, a team that finished last season with 12 wins and 22 losses, a team that only 25% of the league’s GMs pick to even make the playoffs in 2009, was matched against the E-League All-Stars, a not-ready-for-primetime collection of singers, rappers, actors, comedians, all hailing from a basketball league made up of entertainers with real athletic skills and prowess where, it is said, real basketball is played in real games in a real league by, you guessed it, real men — most in their 20s and 30s and decades younger than Bobby Riggs was when he met his match back in 1973.

Whether a solitary soul tuned into the game or not, or whether or not (as of this writing it seems NOT) a single article would be written or published on the game itself, this contest, played as part of the Sky’s preseason schedule and according to league rules, was nevertheless a watershed moment for the WNBA, for women’s basketball, and for women’s sports as a whole.

Beset from its very beginnings by claims that any YMCA league team made up of lawyers and accountants, any rec-league team of ex-high school players, any junior high school boys team, in fact, any passable team at all of well-conditioned males who play basketball together regularly would surely wipe the floor with the best the women’s game has to offer, the WNBA is one American sports league with 12 long years worth of scores to settle.

The reality of what happened in the game itself can be described in a number of different ways. The score tells the story of emasculation in hard numbers. Chicago Sky 102, E-League All-Stars 55.

Another way of looking at it, and a personal favorite, is that guys with names like Tank and Flex got a beat down by players named Brooke and Kristi.

The guys played rough, and, as a result, their opponents often ended up splayed out on the hardwood. But the pro ballers gracefully picked themselves up, glided by their male opponents and not completely unlike what Billie Jean did to Bobby Riggs, the sleek and skilled females played circles around the brawny and befuddled men.

Overall the losers seemed to be good sports about their drubbing, taking their medicine, well, like men.

As of right now, no one is rubbing anyone’s noses in the dirt with taunts of I-told-you-so’s. But it’s hard to imagine that the WNBA’s decision-makers, newly emboldened and willing now, it seems, to embark on more flamboyant paths to recognition and profitability, could not see the potential in what just happened right before their eyes.

Both Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King turned down offers to stage a rematch of their epically hyped battle and for both of them it was probably the right decision. Nobody really wanted to see a young woman beat an old man, all over again.

But the WNBA has never been remotely associated with anything that was even effectively hyped. It looks like they’re really trying now and they would be wise to dabble with the idea of staging and this time actively promoting another Battle of the Sexes.

And if they can just convince the men of the E-League All-Stars to show up once again to play them, they’ll have nothing to lose.

Nikon at the Playboy Mansion

Reblogging this one from June of last year.

50'Lux

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…

View original post 481 more words

Larva in (re)Pose

This young lady should teach workshops to models on the art of posing. Yes. Larva is her name. Click on the ‘Nudes’ categories link beside the title for more of her astounding work. Mine? Meh. 😉

Cheerleaders: A Love Story

When I first started shooting women’s basketball, the instructions from my boss at the publication were to not just bring back action shots from the floor, but shots of fans, cheerleaders, the band, etc. Everything and anything that would capture the atmosphere in the arena.

But he made it pretty clear that what he really wanted was cheerleader shots. That should be perfectly understandable; it’s an online publication, he needs traffic just as much as any other online publication does. And pretty girls equal heavy traffic.

No better place on Earth than to fulfill our need for click bait than the campus of USC, where the cheerleaders are icons of youth, beauty, energy, and style. I’ve seen a lot of cheerleaders, but USC’s “Song Girls” (that’s right, they don’t even call them cheerleaders) are in a class all their own.

But these fabulous ladies strut their stuff at Rose Bowl games played on New Years Day which decide the national championship of college football. (Or they did back then, anyway.) There can’t be any question that sitting on the baseline during sparsely attended women’s basketball games would be on the other end of the spectrum for the Song Girls in terms of the excitement and exposure they enjoy as USC’s finest.

So, in that first season, when a pasty middle-aged male pointed his long lens in their direction as they dutifully performed their Song Girl responsibilities at women’s basketball games, more than once I came away with looks like this.

Beautiful, yes. But I pride myself on being able to read people’s faces and maybe, hopefully, photograph what they might be feeling or thinking at the instant I trip the shutter. This was not good.

Where’s the famous USC ‘V’ for Victory sign? This seems to be teetering dangerously into ‘Hit the Road Jack’ territory and I’m just glad the razor thin depth of field on this shot only captured the scornful glare of Song Girl number one. I don’t know that my ego could have survived all three of them giving me that look.

Okay, I’ve had my fun with this shot. It was just an instant, it wasn’t planned, I know that. But I don’t think the looks being given to me here are at all misleading. After all, I was there before and after this shot was taken. I kind of know.

But I persevered, as a man with a camera is sometimes known to do. I continued to work the baselines of USC and other schools and accumulated my share of pretty good cheerleader shots to go along with hundreds of, I hope, pretty good basketball shots.

It was probably in the third season when I had prints made of some digital images and, just to see how colors in these lighting environments transferred to print, I threw in to the order a handful of the better cheerleader shots.

Well, I really liked the way the cheerleader shots looked from USC. The lighting in the Galen Center is fantastic. Colors were gorgeous, the subjects were stunning.

And far from the somewhat violated look I got from the ladies in the image above, the Song Girls had gotten used to me and went about their business and I went about mine. The images I took of cheerleaders became very good.

So I decided that I should share the prints of the images I took of them with USC’s Song Girls. I put about a half dozen in an envelope, including the image at the very top and the two below, and, I think, it was at halftime one afternoon that I handed them off to the sports information director for women’s sports at USC, who shall remain nameless because she’s a wonderful lady and we subsequently become pals and I don’t want to drag her into any of this.

At that point, however, she really didn’t know me and when I said I had some cheerleader shots that I really liked she kind of gave me a look and muttered something about not being interested in pictures of cheerleaders. But I handed her the envelope anyway and asked her to pass them along to whomever is in charge of the Song Girls.

Never heard another word about my cheerleading pictures. As I said, the SID and I became pals as I continued to shoot USC basketball for the next couple of years. USC even presented one of my shots, blown up large, to a graduating senior. That was a tremendous honor. The SID told me once to keep doing what I was doing, calling it a ‘fine art’ style of baseline shooting. Oh yes, that SID was a pal o’ mine.

But here’s the punch line. Starting maybe the next season, and for the rest of my two or so years shooting USC, I literally could not point my camera at the USC cheerleaders (or majorettes even) without finding them already looking at me. Smiling broadly. I would notice them looking at me as I sat there doing absolutely nothing. It was all so obvious. I told my significant other about it, she agreed it was happening and we would laugh about it.

The USC Song Girls were now very willing subjects for me. Too willing. It was hard to get the spontaneity, the far off looks in someone’s eyes that you only get in truly candid moments. It was no longer sports journalism; it was something else, and the pictures were never quite the same.

And, of course, I LOVED every minute of it.

Anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, as my mom used to say. And I’m not going to be humble regarding the images. I think these shots are almost iconically wonderful images of the USC Song Girls, caught candidly doing what they so cheerfully do for the University of Southern California.

Hope you like them as much as the subjects seemed to.