A friend of mine in the studio, a few years ago, a little manipulated (the image, not her). We struggled for a long while to do “straight” shots of her for use elsewhere, but this — along with a couple of others from the same shoot that I also manipulated a bit — is by far my fave. It’s a pity it wasn’t useful for the purposes she had in mind, though.
This was a new experience for me — using a long lens to take photos of (very) fast-moving subjects. I work in an office near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and the Blue Angels do their annual Fleet Week Thing basically right in front of us there. We have an open third floor balcony overlooking the Bay, which is just the ticket for this sort of thing, so I brought along my old Nikon D300 and the 70-200mm VR II lens, and hoped for the best…. I’ve watched the airshow from this balcony several times over the years, and I’ve actually had a bit of training as an aerobatics pilot, so you’d think that I’d have a good idea of what I was doing, or that I’d have done this sort of photography before, but no. I made a lot of beginner’s errors. Like getting the autofocus settings wrong, or inadvertently setting the shutter speed too low (how could I have done that?!), or simply not anticipating the various movements of the planes (and panning badly even when I was mentally tracking what was about to happen). And I could really have done with an even longer lens at times, […]
Everyone who’s driven from LA to Las Vegas knows where Zzyzx is, right? You can’t miss the mysterious exit sign on the freeway heading for Baker, and eventually everyone stops or detours at least some distance down the dirt track there (well, almost everyone). And like everyone else, I’ve been there and done that (a bunch of times), and have the pix to prove it. Just like everyone else. So I wasn’t really looking to take another photo of the place when I visited it (again) with a friend of mine earlier this year. And in any case, the light was poor — all those high clouds washing out the wintry light and making for a bunch of missed opportunities. And then my friend stepped out briefly onto the playa (wearing a green scarf on her head because she’d left her hat in the car)…. It’s a striking image — that small black vertical figure striding purposefully away from you on and into a harshly-textured, mostly-horizontal, and almost monochromatic landscape. I didn’t take a lot of other photos that day.
I’m not much good at the social realism / street photography thing, mostly because I don’t feel comfortable aestheticising other people’s suffering (in other words, I’m no Diane Arbus or Weegee, and I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to be). But I’d been living in London a few years by the time I took this shot (1987?), and I’d seen these two guys around a lot on Hungerford Bridge over the previous year or so, begging from the tourists and the theatre-goers crossing the river. The guy on the right (“Jimmy”) had been chatting with me for a few minutes this particular day about Ireland and Australia and how he’d ended up begging (a long story I’ve told elsewhere) when he saw my camera (which is usually well-hidden; I’m not one of those people who stroll about with camera gear hanging off them or stuffed into camera bags, etc.). He made me take this picture of them so that “the workers in Australia know what Thatcherism is really like”. I’m always nervous about taking photos like this, but I did it anyway; so far this is the only real example I have. I never saw “Jimmy” again; the man on […]
One of the first digital mashup (or manipulated) images I ever did, dating from maybe 2000, when I was first starting to use a digital camera (I’d been using Photoshop for years, so I wasn’t a stranger to digital photography as such). I’ve always been fascinated by human bodies and landscapes (for me bodies are landscapes in ways I won’t explain here…), and it all came together for me around this time when I started playing with images like this in Photoshop. Within a year or two I’d started productively feeding an entire obsession…. Both images must have been taken on my old Kodak DC290, meaning the full size of the original images probably wasn’t much larger than the full size image you get here. The two images are pretty straightforward on their own — a friend of mine in my studio, blurred when the flash failed to fire, and a rather dull image of Bakersfield from somewhere on the Rosedale Highway.
I’ve told this story before, in more detail, but here it is again… Short form: I drive to Yosemite to take nice Ansel Adams-ish photos of beautiful landscapes with my medium format camera, and the only thing I return with that I actually like is this … a dead car in a big Central Valley rain puddle. Story of my photographic life, really (and the start of an unintentional series of “dead car” photos). The longer version: Sometime in the early 1990’s I took my new(ish) camera — a large Pentax 6×7 medium format film camera perfect for landscapes — up to Yosemite, mostly because I wanted to see if I could do something like those omnipresent Ansel Adams images you see everywhere in California, and because I also wanted to see if I could get the beautiful stretch of the Merced that runs through the valley beside Highway 140 from to El Portal to Mariposa. It’s one of those great California river canyon drives that I love so much — like the Walker and the American rivers, you drive right next to rushing water, something almost unknown in Australia, and you’re surrounded by subtly-dramatic high sloping canyon walls, here usually mostly grass- or […]
A friend of mine in my Oakland studio a few years ago. I have this obsession with the weird shapes and textures of packaging materials and items, and I typically get my “models” (I never actually use models, just friends and acquaintances) to take something up from my collection and play with it while I take warmup photos. This time I decided to make them the whole point of a few images, and encouraged my friend to use it like a mask, with a surface texture and angularity that contrasted really nicely with her body and skin. I like the result… And yes, there are more mask photos, hence the pretentious sounding “Mask 1” — I just couldn’t think of a suitable name.
The Hygenic (sic) Dog Food Co. factory, West Berkeley (“Health Food For Dogs”, as it (still) says on the side of the building). I took this photo with an old Pentax 67 medium format film camera more than two decades ago; the building’s still there now, looking much the same, but surrounded by creeping gentrification. I always wanted to buy the building and turn it into a cafe and bookshop (with a studio upstairs), but I never had the money back when Emeryville and West Berkeley were cheap, and now I don’t have a hope in hell of owning anything in either place.
You see the strangest things in America when you’re just driving through — or at least they’re strange if you’re some sort of Anglo-Australian like me, anyway. I took this one last year on my way up US 395 from Barstow, California, to Bishop, California (two poles of my Californian desert experience). Guns are one of those subjects foreigners (even a foreigner like me who is necessarily gun-savvy as a result of working on rural properties in an earlier life) learn never to bring up or discuss in America; the differences between sensibilities on guns is just too great in most cases. But they’re such a part of life here I barely blanch any more when I see something like this.
Given my mild rant about Instagram I thought I’d post this Instagram I took last year of fog on San Francisco’s The Embarcadero as an example of what I like about Instagram. And that’s all I’ll say about it for now.