Long time client and marketing guru Adrienne Parker has been an abundant supplier of fun advertising projects. Quite a few of the pieces I have shot for her have ended up in my portfolio, and this series is no exception. What made this assignment so special was witnessing the sunrise at the Santa Cruz coastline.
Of course, to make a sunrise shoot happen you need to get there BEFORE the sun comes up for all the prep work. And considering it’s a one hour drive and the sun comes up early this time of year, and it takes an hour to load the van, it does mean that the alarm goes off at 3:30 in the morning. That’s the part of location shoots that are not so glamorous.
Lauren Smith is a another long time collaborator. He was the on set art director on this shoot. We have become friends over the years so now working together on a shoot is more like getting together with a good buddy than just working on a job.
Once we captured some great shots with long shadows, it was time to move onto some other beach shots. Our brave subject, Joe Buckalew, had both the patience and willingness to wade into the cold morning surf, only to find himself rolling in the sand a short while later. What a trouper!
Since a decades long compadre of mine is a Santa Cruz surf fixture, I asked him to join us on the shoot to offer his expertise on the best surf, times, beaches and the like. You can see Dane Hansen (in the blue and black wet suit), offering his expert advice to Joe and me.
I have to admit, there are times when the art directors can start to get a little demanding. When that happens you just have to let them know it is time to back off and let me do my job. OK, that’s not what was really happening here, but it sure does look that way. Lauren is a great guy and we always work well together.
Special shout out and warm thanks to long time friend and Aptos resident, John Scanlon.
John showed up to the shoot and took most of the wonderful set shots. Great to have you with us, John. Next time try to find a way to put yourself in a shot or two.
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It has been a while since I put in an update on some of the elevators we have visited over the last year. From Las Vegas and Hover Dam to local grocery stores. When ever we travel somewhere, Matthew needs to ride and video the elevators. As a family, (Matthew Adi and I), have gotten to the point where we all enjoy the little side trips. It’s interesting how autism can lead you down strange roads that can actually draw you closer together as a family. So even though these little ventures are not commercial projects, they are a big part of my life that I like to share.
Here is a very large series of elevators from many of our adventures: ELEVATORS
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This Cocoa Jeans project was another opportunity to “Pay It Forward” and have some fun in the process. Working with the students at the German International School of Silicon Valley, and with the help of the wonderful marketing team at Cocoa Jeans, we produced a cool location fashion series geared towards young teens.
The German School is comprised mainly of children from German families who have transferred over to a new job in Silicon Valley. Their education always includes an internship at a local business. For three years I have been asked to sponsor students and bring them into the business and out in the field. It ends up being a great learning experience for everyone, myself included.
Since this a team project with the students, they actually compose the shots. I might do an original placement and of course choose the gear, but they act as the art directors creating the composition of the shots and mood of the series.
It’s the hope of the German School that getting their students directly involved in professional projects will allow them to see first hand if their choice of careers will actually be the right one for them. But of course any of the students who work on a location shoot end up enjoying the project and think it’s the perfect career for them.
The students at the German school are often pretty new to the Silicon Valley and the United States. Needless to say, they had a super fun time going on location and spending the day in a great environment.
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Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk
No that’s not Popeye. We were interjecting a little humor into some ads for technology firm, Riverbed. Most ads for technology companies read like a datasheet. Some detailed technobabble or sales propaganda. These ads, created by Art Director Mike Connor, were meant to stop the viewer while being a little more fun, and kind of realistic on how people feel when they make the switch to a working system. It’s nice when the client can allow for some creative freedom on set. Better yet when it turns into a usable piece.
Walking the models through what is coming up next is important. IMHO. It’s too difficult to just throw them into the set without a little description of what we are looking for ahead of time. I like to walk them through the process. Especially when the look is outside their normal expressions. This model is more used to looking glamorous and pretty in front of the camera. But that’s not the look we were going for. But she worked with us well and came off great in front of the lens.
You can see here this was not the usually glamorous portfolio piece she was probably hoping for. Instead we really wanted the hyper detailed look. Which shows off the every freckle and pore, and just about ever thing else you typically try to hide.
Getting unique expressions out of a model can be a challenge. Models are not actors. And in this case, we were working with “Real People” talent. Building a rapport is always the key. Then it’s not a matter of asking a non-pro to give you the right expression, but rather getting into their personality to bring the expression out in a realistic fashion. I think what I did here was ask him if he was interested in going on a date. Or something like that……
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Every year the APA in San Francisco, ( American Photographic Artists), hosts a very special event where 6 well respected judges select 100 images from the personal work of top Bay Area commercial photographers. Another 100 images are chosen to to be exhibited in an on-line gallery. Submission for the show can run as many as 1200 pieces. To be in either of the final groups is quite an honor. In years past I have always be lucky enough to be in the hung show.
This year I only submitted two images, but was still grateful to have one of them selected for the on-line gallery.
If you would like to know more about the show, check out this link: http://sf.apanational.org/events/
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Having studios in both San Francisco and Silicon Valley, it’s pretty typical to work with new start-up companies of all types. It’s always exciting to be on the front lines in the creation of new companies and new products. In many cases, the products have not been officially announced so they can not be shown or promoted on my own website. But this little device from SolTrackr is not only innovative, it is already making some great moves in the marketplace.
We produced a variety of studio shots. This one shows off the small chip in the window…the brainchild of the device which senses the amount of UV light the wearer is being exposed to during the day.
Start-ups often have to pull in from whatever resources they can manage, to create the bold presence needed to compete. For example, this beautiful model was actually part of the marketing team for the company. A nice manicure on the company dime, equally nice lighting, and we were go to go.
This is a perfect type of product shoot for me because it combines the need for great studio still shots (with the challenge of creative lighting techniques), and shooting outside with models in action.
Want to know more about SolTrackr: https://soltrackr.com/
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Yum. The tasty side of commercial shoots.
Below are some images from a location project we shot at a flavorful Ale House in Half Moon Bay known as the San Benito House. It’s also well known as a colorful Bed and Breakfast place. I first became familiar with the San Benito House quite a few years ago when I needed a hide away to write some poetry and do some inner reflection. The San Benito House was perfect because it is so close to several great areas for contemplative walks on the beach. As well as the comfortable rooms an idyllic small coastal town.
Recently, (which is years after my frequent jaunts there), a good friend of mine was working on their website and needed some great new photo’s. I discovered the new owners were actually great clients of mine from other projects. Now I can even more enthusiastically recommend the place to anyone who is looking for a unique escape, or just some hardy food and drinks.
You can tell when you first walk into the pub, that it’s got an enticing atmosphere for eating and drinking. I mean who doesn’t love to get into a stare down with a rams head after shooting a few tequilas?
Yes, I did get pretty stuffed trying out all of the wonderful meals. And yes, I did have to try them all. How can anyone resist when they place such edible, freshly cooked treats right in front of you? Besides, there were times that the food arrangements were just not perfect, so a new plate needed to be prepared. I couldn’t let that food go to waste. Could I?
While we there, we did some beer shots. Well, allow me to rephrase that: we took some photo’s of beer. They have a large selection of beers on tap. The shots we did were more along the lines of whiskey and tequila.
Great place. Go for an afternoon or evening when you can. Tell them Mel the photographer sent you. They’ll probably laugh and say, “so?” But next time I go in there I can say they owe me a beer for sending people their way.
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Earlier this year I was approached by the good folks at BANG.. That’s: Bay Area News Group. BANG are the publishers of such noted newspapers as Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Oakland Tribune.
BANG wanted to develop some banner ads to promote their AdTaxi division. The ads were simple and fun. the keys is, they worked. The best part of working on this project was shooting with Erika Brown and Olga Mitina. Two wonderful woman who know how to make a project run smoothly and ingenuously.
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Editorial projects of any type can be a fun experience because of the increased creative latitude. There is rarely an art director or designer on set. A little pre-production discussion on what the main feeling should be…and then I am set free.
This project was for Norman Winarsky’s new book release. As vice president of Ventures at SRI International and former co-founder and board member of Siri, he is a man of great wisdom and knowledge. He is particularly interested in creating, building and sustaining breakthough ventures. Which he can speak about as comfortably as a sport fan talks about last Sunday’s game.
This is one of the great perks of shooting editorial portraits, the opportunity to meet impressive people like Norman.
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It’s kind of fun to show a little behind the scenes look of the location sets. There is a lot of effort put out, and sometimes it can get a little hectic. Which may run counter to a shoot where the final image reflects a peaceful, comfortable looking shot of a family relaxing in front of the TV. It’s not always as glamorous as people think. But when you are working with professionals, it is always worth the effort.
Perfect example of how UNglamorous a location set can be sometimes. Make-up artist Jan Lenhardt wanted to set-up in the kitchen to be closer to the action and see the type of lighting we were using while she was applying make-up.
Isn’t this what your house looks like? Large lighting panels set up in the room. Furniture spread out everywhere. Cords running across the floor. Extra teenager just laying on the couch doing nothing but reading her iphone. OK, maybe that last one.
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In all the years I have been shooting as a professional commercial and advertising photographer, and all the photographs that have made the covers of editorial publications, it is still pretty cool to see a new image displayed in the airport magazine stands as I walk by.
Plus, this is the first time I have had an image on the cover of Popular Science, a publication that the nerd in me has always loved to read. So I have to admit I did enjoy seeing that particular display of magazines at the newsstand.
We really got a lot of fantastic images from this one day shoot.
See the gallery here: 3D Car Gallery.
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Finally I get to share some work where I had a great opportunity to give back to the educational community AND allowed me to create some great images for the portfolio. It’s always energizing to work with models and stylists for fashion pieces. And lifestyle work is enjoyable because it is LIFE, that is styled…
When an advertising agency associate, Tim Hendrick, contacted me about shooting some lifestyle images for a new fashion company called Loyal Army, he had me intrigued. Especially as he stated that it was all part of an educational team project working with students at San Jose State. This meant that there would be assistance from excited energetic minds. Of course there is also a certain sense of reward when you feel like you are giving back to the younger creative community in some way. In addition to the student involvement, the main contact at Loyal Army was someone I was familiar with and I knew of her great talent in working with people and starting new companies.
There was a little concern about turning over some of the key elements of production to the students, but that is exactly where their energy and excitement proved to be most valuable. They jumped in with both feet and accomplished all tasks like true pros.
There were a couple of days of location scouting. I believe that great locations can tell stories on their own, so I requested that we find some really crazy spot to shoot. I think the scouts saw that sign and figured, “this must be the spot”. And it was, because we took several changes from this LOCO spot.
Train stations always make for great backgrounds. I usually try to break out the long lens, just to impress the clients. I am actually shooting the real shot from a GoPro hidden in the lens shade. The truth is, I love this lens for this type of work. It puts the background totally out of focus, leaving a sense of location, while allowing the viewer to focus in on the model and products
This is where I do my best to convince people that a professional model can change clothes in the bustling city streets.
No problem. Then I pray that nothing bad happens.
So ladies, what did you think of your first fashion shoot? All in all we had a great time shooting over a couple days. The images have made a needed addition to my portfolio, and I wish Loyal Army the best of luck on this new branding.
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For this shoot where the talented designers at Web Enertia came up with a fun and unique branding concept for Virtual Instruments. No, they don’t make race cars, or motorcycles, or anything close to that. But they do make instrumentation that will speed up your computer’s performance.
Virtual was about to announce their IPO with great fanfare. But before that happened they wanted to get people excited about the new products and solutions. So I was contacted to help develop this fun little project.
We shot a variety of angles in the studio, which we had lots of fun doing.
Admittedly, the most fun came later. When we took the model, (who was actually one of the clients from Virtual), and just fooled around.
Playing around is part of the creative process. It elevates stress and helps make everyone feel more comfortable, friendly, grounded. And in this case he can even use the shoots for his on line dating profile. OK, maybe not.
The real Ad. Worth the effort. Good job WebEnertia.
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There are exciting times in my career when I am given the incredible opportunity shoot exceptionally cool things. Like the first 3D printed car, the Blade.
Zero to 60 in 2.5 seconds. That’s what they tell me. Sadly, they didn’t let me drive it. But I did get to shoot some amazing photo’s of it.
Only 1400 pounds. Crazy light. Crazy fast. Crazy cool.
It’s already been shown all over the world. But before they toured it to the awed spectators, they needed some phenomenal shots. So thanks to Donna Michaels at Neon Scoop, I was given this very envious project.
If you want to read more about the car, check out this TIME magazine article: http://time.com/3939488/3d-printed-supercar-blade-divergent-san-francisco/
Sleek and beautiful. Called the BLADE.
Angle from the rear. Got it’s own special storage garage.
This was shot looking through the window of the playroom next door to the garage. Nice mural on the wall. And that IS a streak of sunlight coming through a window and across the playroom wall. Nice luck on that one.
Look how nice the car stands out on the lawn. Wouldn’t mind this thing in my own yard. Of course, I wouldn’t mind it if this WAS my yard. And my garage. And my car.
This is Kevin Czinger. CEO and co-founder of Coda Automotive. Proudly sitting in his latest venture.
The other guys at Divergent Microfactories.
Some guys have all the fun. Here is Kevin with his wife, showing off his super strength.
Kevin, explaining other details to our young model.
Seriously, I want this to be my car.
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Working with kids is always fun and exciting. It requires that I put myself in a much different place than when working with adult models or shooting portraits of CEO’s. I need to get in touch with the child in myself. That’s ok with me. It helps me to feel alive and young again. Certainly, having an autistic son has given me insight into how differently each child’s mind works. So getting an instant read on the personality of each child I am shooting and than catering to that unique personality, requires an energy shift.
Sometimes, when no one is looking, I walk out of the room and make certain movements with my body to spike the intensity in my own perceptiveness. Most of the time it works. When it doesn’t, I try to find another way, until I finally reach that level where I can communicate with the kids and pull out of them what we are looking for for the shot.
At the end of the day, I need a drink, or go for a workout, or take a nap. Or all of the above. But it certainly does make for a fun day.
We got countless great shots form this shoot. This was a good one for the website.
There is no such thing as a successful shoot without a great crew. Jan Lehnhardt is a wonderful Make-Up artist. We have been working together for years. She has a way of working with make-up and hair that makes it look natural, which was perfect for this shoot.
Other important assistance was at work in the kitchen, making certain we had quality food for the shots. As well as for the models and crew to eat.
Another great image for the website and internet marketing
Getting back to my Still Life roots.
Instead of strobes, (which I might normally use for still shoots), I worked with Flolight LED and Fluorescent lighting. I wanted everything to look as natural as possible. When working with flash, especially with daylight coming in through large windows, you can capture a double image, or a ghost blur. But when working with a continuous light source, you won’t get the problem. The lighting will look more natural. Even for still life shots. I am lucky to have a great working relationship with the manufacture of these lights.
Just a couple of the final Still Life shots for Netflix.
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One of the most enjoyable aspects being a commercial photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, is being given access to the inner sanctums of many of the most innovative companies in the world. Countless times throughout the years I have been brought in to photograph product prototypes months, even years, in advance of their release. In many cases the countless iterations are never viewed by the general public. So many of the coolest stages of development are only seen by a select few.
SRI International is where legions of these innovations begin. It is the foundry, the birthplace of an extensive number of other high tech companies and products. Because of the needed secrecy, I am often asked to sign NDA’s. Hence, I am not always allowed to show multitude of the shots taken. But these few images give a small taste of the exciting inventions with which this wonderful team of people gets to play.
#1 No, this is not Wall-E. Nor his cousin Johnny 5. Although, it certainly appears that J5 was somehow an inspiration. This little guy has been named “Taurus”. And he was designed for urban bomb squad units. Outfitted with cameras, he can help a bomb squad examine, and hopefully disarm a bomb. All while allowing the team to stay at a safe distance.
#2 – Johnny 5’s micro grips can manipulate the finest wires. This is a perfect example of why I keep some of my older lenses around. The Nikon 105mm macro has always been a great lens. But most shooters today probably wouldn’t know how to use it because it is purely manual.
#3 – Johnny 5, (Taurus), at home. Is seen here working to dismantle bomb parts. The dexterity of the robot is truly amazing.
#4 – The full size Taurus robot. Complete with cameras and track system. All remotely controlled. I don’t want to mess with this guy.
#5 – A little underwater robotics. To scare the scuba divers, I guess.
#6 – Guts of a walking robot. The SRI Team is building a life-size walking robot to enter into a robot competition.
#7 – The future grip of the walking robot. Quite a tight handshake.
#8 – Just a few of the young, fun, exciting people behind the robots. This is one aspect that I was not expecting. In all honestly, I had a preconceived notion that these inventors would all be mature in years. I assumed they would be wise, but certainly not energetic, hip and socially active. Boy was I wrong. Everyone I met at SRI was enthused about their jobs, their projects, their futures. They made me feel energized too. And part of a wonderful, innovative team.
OK ,it’s true, this is not a Robot. It’s an Super Suit!. It is made to help the wearer carry up to 300% more gear. Pretty amazing stuff really. We also shot the Super Suit while on location at SRI, I really wanted to try it on.
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Just one of the beautiful locations on the California coast that is a short day trip from where I live.
Sure wish there was more time in each day, each week, each life, to do the things that we really enjoy doing. Like visiting beautiful spots such as this.
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