Nikon D3

Ten Years Ago: Beverly Hills Hotel Holiday Party 2008

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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Remembering Ali

Ali was my idol growing up in the 1960s. He gave me the confidence to be who I am. And to fight, something I had to do a lot of as a kid.

I met him after the Oscars show in 1997 the night the film When We Were Kings won an Academy Award. My mom and I stood across the street from Mortons in a large crowd. Before getting into his limo, Ali crossed the street to the crowd. He wasn’t in good shape even then. When he got to us I embraced him and told him he was my biggest hero as a youth. I then asked him to shake hands with my mom. She stuck out her hand and he brushed it aside and stooped down and gave her a warm hug. We both were in tears. Much love to Ali. He will live forever.

I had a video camera that night. I recorded Ali and George Foreman from across the street in West Hollywood. I had taken my mother to a spot near an Oscar after-party just to give her a thrill. I had no idea that Ali would be there.

When Ali came across the street I continued to record him but when he got close I just let the camera drop. I only have audio of our encounter on tape somewhere. I call him ‘champ.’ I remember my mother is sobbing. She tells Ali, We always loved you. 

A decade later I was in Phoenix, AZ. photographing a WNBA playoff game. It was an exciting night anyway. One of those unfortunately rare magic evenings in the WNBA. Incredible playoff atmosphere. I’m on the baseline. Suddenly there’s a roar from the crowd in the U.S. Airways Arena. Muhammad Ali and his wife are in the building. They are on the big screen. I look up and I’m just taken away. An already incredible evening has just gone through the roof.

I look around to see where he is. Where is this person who has meant so much to me in my life? How lucky I am to have crossed paths with him yet again. I look up to my wife (then girlfriend) in the stands. She points behind me. I turn completely around on the floor and there he was, sitting no more than six feet behind me. All I could do at that moment was raise my camera.

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Weekend Forecast: More May Gray in L.A.

More old Nikon street photography. Not as old as most of the stuff from last week. These were from the Nikon DSLR days. D70, D2Hs, my favorite, the almost disposable (I had two) D80, the mighty D3, and the D700. Oh, and in there somewhere was a D200. 😉

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.

And as usual, someone watching me… repost!

The image above is mine. The words are William Klein’s but I can certainly identify with them . He says this in an amazing contact sheet analysis film I’ve included below.

Everyone with an interest in photography should watch it and should look on YouTube for other contact sheet discussions by photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Josef Koudelka.

As always, thank you for looking.

Minimalist Mondays : Voyeurism

“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”

Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.

The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

The Three Graces

One of the more controversial posts I’ve ever made… because of the title. Oh well. Reblog!!!

50'Lux

triplets at night_barnat1600I took this shot about five years ago and have never really shown it to anyone. I think the reason for that is that I never thought I could adequately explain how amazing it is to me. I guess I’ve felt it needed explaining and I guess I’m finally in the mood now to try.

No part of the West LA area is really that bad. But this is nearly as gritty a corner on the Westside as there is. It’s directly underneath the intersection of the 405 and 10 freeways, which is to say, the junction of the two busiest roadways in the United States of America. There are homeless people camped out under the overpasses and exit ramps. It was fairly late in the evening. The feel there at that hour is probably worse than the reality. Or vice versa. Who really knows?

I travel by that way innumerable…

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More Long Forgotten But Not Gone Pictures

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.

Cali-fk’n-fornia, Man – Reposted Yet Again!

This is a very different picture of people in a car than probably anything else I’ve ever captured. In many ways.

When I saw it and shot it, I didn’t really expect that it would have the glow that popped up on my D3’s LCD. But sometimes light and a piece of glass like the legendary 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D combine to create something that goes beyond what we could reasonably hope for when we snap that shutter.

It is of a place and of a people. California, and Cali-fuckin’-fornians. There they are. I got them and I’ve brought them here to show you all. Like pretty animals in a zoo. Only in this case it’s an old T-Bird, but whatever.

That’s the stereotype right there. Straight blond hair that’s sun and saltwater bleached to go with that classic black California license plate. But of course!

You know they’re a handsome family. Well to do. You don’t eccentrically teeter around Los Angeles in a glorious old 60s tanker sporting the original paint job that YOU know looks way cooler than any redo ever could unless you have the wherewithal to maintain that level of quirk. And quirk it is.

The irony is how rarely these kinds of California residents pop up into a person’s field of view in Los Angeles. The truth about LA is there are more brown-haired, brown-eyed, brown-skinned people here than there are stereotypical California blondes. But that’s for another conversation.

In amongst the Lexuses and Hundais and preppy BMW drivers, here are the quintessential eccentric Southern Californians.

Grandpa looks like Lex Barker from the Tarzan movies. The girls look like Kate Moss. They were eating Goji berries in the Amazon rainforest 20 years before the rest of the world even heard of them. They have a cliff house in Malibu Canyon and mom had an affair with the Dalai Llama.

I’m kidding of course! I don’t know these people!!! Have a nice Tuesday!

I’m Dreaming of Another Time of Year

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We’ve been happy for a change this August. The weather. Now it’s finally blown up in our faces and Los Angeles is doing its convincing yearly imitation of the surface of Venus. I found this shot from about five years ago. It’s of the Cajon Pass at the base of the Sierra Nevadas. December. Snow on the mountain tops and in streaks down the sides.

This was shot through the window on our way to Vegas for Christmas.

I like to roll the window down just a crack and hear the wind whistling in while we speed on our way. The sound and the cold keeps me awake and reminds me of when I was a kid and you couldn’t escape that noise coming from the ill-fitting side vent windows. Remember those? Hope not.

When you stop to fill your tank and grab a Coke out on the high desert, the cold wind pushes you around like the insignificant thing you are. And I fucking love it.

Style Recollections

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Some women and their personal styles are timeless. Simple and sharp like the young lady above. Some are more complicated. 😉 These are all from the Nikon days.

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CVS Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco Products

Not a lot to say here. Just my tribute to the decision by CVS to stop profiting from the sale of this most dangerous of product lines at their pharmacies. All Nikon shots. Deep in the L.A. street.

This guy has good form. Feet shoulder length apart. Arms loose at his sides. Get it, buddy!

No, really. What are friends for?

So glad I never had kids.

I read somewhere that every great photo, and I’m not suggesting the above photo is great, but that it is said that there’s something just a little weird about every great photo. That’s all I’m saying. 😉

Ditto.

Okay, at least he’s not hovering over my lunch. Yet.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican

Is It Okay to Photograph Children in the Street?

Good lighting and exposures are very important. Color and proper focus are both critical. That’s all. lol. Okay, just kidding. But you didn’t REALLY think I wasn’t going to make a defense of street photographers taking pictures of kids who aren’t theirs, did you?

I originally published this about a year and a half ago and it met great controversy when I posted a link to it over on DPReview. Some people threatened my physical well being. Or at least it seemed that way to me.

In the interim, the state of California actually implemented a law last year preventing celebrity hounding paparazzi (not judging, I’ve sold many celebrity images via a celebrity photo agency and some of them were surreptitiously taken) from taking images of the children of, you guessed it, celebrities.

First, let me say that I’m just a little appalled that celebrities have the power to win the passage of special laws that benefit only them. That you can trot a couple of lovely weeping actresses like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner out in front of the state legislature and get a law protecting only their children is kind of an outrageous proposition.

But I was also relieved to find out that it did only apply to them and their children. Sort of a dichotomy I guess you could call it. I’d thought of ranting and raving against the passage of the law and hounding the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to refuse to sign off on it but, honestly, on the one hand, I’m not supportive of the idea that children of celebrities should be targeted by a stalking paparazzi. That is unacceptable.

But had that law included ALL photographers, and made anyone taking images of children in a street photography situation law breakers for doing so I would have been even more outraged. There is a price of celebrity and that price should be paid by celebrities and not free citizens doing what photographers have had free license to do since the advent of photography.

Anyway. Here it is. I can only give you my answer to the question of whether or not it’s okay to take pictures of other people’s children, in public, with no permission from anyone. It is the answer that I’ve come up with that applies to me. Every single person reading this has to come up with an answer that works for them and please don’t take anything I’m writing here as legal advise or even suggestions as to what you should or should not be doing with your cameras or with your lives.

The only immutable law, I would suggest, is that you’d better be taking pictures of kids for good reasons and with the best intentions. And there are many and you have a right to those reasons and intentions. (as far as I’m concerned. Not necessarily according to the law or customs where you happen to be located. Or not. See what I mean? Me neither.)

Children tell stories, with their expressions, their body language and gestures, in an unfiltered and psychologically complicated way that adults very often don’t. And you have a right to grab those stories and record them on film or a digital camera sensor when and wherever you find them. (But don’t hold me to that statement as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and it is not legal advice or guidance.)

The image at the top here is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of information in this shot. You have what would appear to any resident of Los Angeles to be visitors from somewhere else. It is summer and probably this is their vacation together. It is a family with three lovely daughters sporting matching outfits.

Their parents obviously take great pride in their brood here and it appears that two of the girls might be twins. The third, standing off to the right, seems a year or so younger than her sisters. That she’s wearing the same outfit nevertheless seems to indicate this family feels a desire or need for a certain degree of family conformity. I’m not passing judgment. I would probably be looking for three of everything myself if they were my children.

Mom looks like she’s ready to take a picture herself which further indicates to me that this moment, here on an icky sticky Santa Monica sidewalk, represents some holiday memory that must be preserved forever. Seems like they may have just gotten out of their rental car.

But kids are scary scary things and a set of three like this would give me nightmares if I was their father. You have three beautiful daughters, you dress them alike to show how much pride you have in your family. But then there’s the one with the broken arm to remind you how delicate and fragile your precious family is and how precarious and elusive will be your grasp on their lives for the rest of your own.

The second shot is a collection of three individuals connected by something technically invisible, meaning you can’t see a wire or a string or a discharge of energy like a lightening bolt or anything like that, but that is there nevertheless and is probably stronger than just about any physical connection could be. Love and adoration and maybe, again, family, sisterhood; this time it looks like a loving grandparent.

I like to say that I take pictures of things that a lot of photographers don’t typically set out to photograph. Things that are happening inside a subject’s head that are maybe very subtly represented by other things happening on the outside of their head or in their gesture or posture or physical relationship or interaction with other people in the photograph.

This picture is an example of what I mean by that.

Broadway: The Hard Way

Time to revisit some of my better efforts that were posted before anyone knew this place was here. Hope you all enjoy them and thanks to smilingtoad and Vincent Bolly for reminding me of this by liking to all these many months later.

50'Lux

About ten years ago we had some family come out for a week or so. On their last day here we needed to run them down to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles because, adventurers that they are, they were taking a train out of town. Okay.

So to get there, we decided that we’d take them up Broadway, something we did once or twice a month on our way to Chinatown for some Sam Woo’s Barbecue Restaurant, probably the best Chinese I’d ever eaten up till that time.

Anyway, Broadway, is a trip all its own. And this busy hot Saturday was busier and hotter than most days we’d taken the drive. This is a part of L.A. that doesn’t look like L.A. at all. It looks like New York City, but in another era, certainly in another century. It is the home of a historic commercial and theater…

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The Three Graces

triplets at night_barnat1600I took this shot about five years ago and have never really shown it to anyone. I think the reason for that is that I never thought I could adequately explain how amazing it is to me. I guess I’ve felt it needed explaining and I guess I’m finally in the mood now to try.

No part of the West LA area is really that bad. But this is nearly as gritty a corner on the Westside as there is. It’s directly underneath the intersection of the 405 and 10 freeways, which is to say, the junction of the two busiest roadways in the United States of America. There are homeless people camped out under the overpasses and exit ramps. It was fairly late in the evening. The feel there at that hour is probably worse than the reality. Or vice versa. Who really knows?

I travel by that way innumerable times a year. At any hour, but especially late in the evening, the very LAST thing you would expect to find there is three truly lovely sisters, possibly triplets, on bicycles, cooling their jets waiting for the light to change. Trust me, you just don’t see this in LA at that hour. In most of Los Angeles, they kind of roll up the sidewalks. That’s a common complaint of people from New York and elsewhere who have moved to LA from cities with a more active night life.

I’m a man. The car was being driven by my lady of 38 years. We both were like, DID YOU SEE THAT? And then she asks, Did you GET it? I don’t know how I got it. The green light was with us and we never even slowed down going through the intersection. I probably was pre-focused to some degree and the amazing Nikon D3 sang the song. I put the camera to my face, framed the ladies and slammed down the shutter release. It just happened. It’s one of those moments that makes me so happy that I had a camera, not to create some work of art or anything like that, but just to capture the natural beauty I witnessed there at the grimy and otherwise unsightly corner of Sawtelle and Pico Blvds that night.

Alone, a younger man, I would have probably slammed on the brakes and went down the line asking for their hands in marriage. Because these sisters are not afraid of the dark or probably anything else. I thought maybe there was someone filming them, like a reality show or something. Truly gutsy young ladies. And reason #90454 I’m glad I never had children.