Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This here garden ain't big enough for the both of us.

Open on orchestra playing theme from "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly'

This here garden ain't big enough for the both of us.
Flea-bitten vagrants like you aren't welcome here in the 'Cliffs (That's Briarcliff Manor for you slowpoke cowpokes.)

Fella, you look like you got a short supply of guts. But yer carapace is pretty thick. So why don't you just hop on outta here 'fore someone gets hurt.
This is my land; I settled here, raised my family here, and dad gum it, I'm probably gonna die here, and no bushwackin', hornswagglin' croaker is gonna ruin that for me.

(cue the vultures... and the hummingbirds)

Well, then it's a standoff. So let's settle this
(Jeez...Lately it seems that every ticked-off garden punk would hop, fly, crawl or slither into town to stare me down.)

20 paces them I'm gonna start shootin'

1...2...3...4...5...6... (CLICK)

Hey, you said 20...yer a cheat and a liar

Nope. I'm a photographer

Oh yeah, well I'll be back. I'm needed elsewhere now. Wherever outlaw gardeners rule the backyard, wherever innocent ladybugs and damsel flys are afraid to for their very lives, wherever a beetle cannot live in simple dignity, wherever an aphid cries out for justice. And I'm bringing my kinfolk for reinforcements (Note my clever use of foreshadowing.)

Fine. Now hop on Outta here 'fore I sic Stella on yer sorry green ass.

Cue the tumbleweeds (arg...damn weeds!!!)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another day, another woman for whom cotton candy is a hairstyle rather than a carnival treat

Essential gear for photographers #84 (what the big boys don't tell you)

Much attention among G+'s photographic elite has been devoted to camera brands, preferred lenses for varying situations, travel back packs, memory cards and tripods.

So, in addition to having my 5D Mark II body with Canon's superb 600mm f/4L IS USM telephoto, my Gitzo Tripod and my Kata Grizzly bag filled with breath mints, lens cloths, filters galore and many, many SanDisk Extreme Pro memory cards, I am considering (based on a recent trip and encounter with a male lowland gorilla who clearly didn't like my flirting with his women-folk) doing a whole discussion on adult diapers. 

And I have it on record from several accomplished street photographers and respected photojournalists that when finished shooting a celebratory event like, say, the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade here in New York City, that once you have secured a prime seat at the pub for the ongoing documentation and celebration, that said adult diapers also come in handy (wouldn't want to lose a prime seat at the bar, would we now?) 

Of course, if you are shooting hummingbirds or butterflies, please ignore this upcoming post. (Hmmm, note to self: think about post on herbal teas and incense)

Another day, another deeply troubling issue needing immediate attention added to the pile of deeply troubling issues needing immediate attention in the newest country in the world.

Another day, another deeply troubling issue needing immediate attention added to the pile of deeply troubling issues needing immediate attention in the newest country in the world.

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting a most charming, gracious and humble man from Juba in South Sudan here in New York to "listen, learn, shake many hands and glean the full promises from the empty ones."

The Republic of South Sudan is the newest country in the world and I have become quite enamored with this "little country that could" especially as I read all the myriad issues surrounding this tiny troubled country. 

The emails that Magbula sends me are fascinating as the issues range from dividing oil fields and teaching the new national anthem to all citizens to developing a postal system and establishing a football team for London in 2012. The less fascinating and more horrifying are the continuing border skirmishes, the near total lack of an infrastructure and abject poverty.
I couldn't help but look back to my impromptu portrait session with my new friend...a tribal elder whose life has been spent caring for his people and whose countenance on this day reflects that of an entire nation.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Meerkat Melodrama

Meerkats love melodrama.
When photographing meerkats, make sure you have a TV (Ideally, a giant plasma screen) handy. Turns out they love to watch movies. But not just any movies, mind you. Oh no. Turns out they are hopeless romantics. Betcha didn't know that, didya?
In fact, when you see them all grouped up in the wild looking into the distance, they are in fact looking for signs of Drew Barrymore, Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson or Jennifer Aniston.
Side note: This grouping of meerkats is usually called a gang, mob or clan if you're a devotee of National Geographic, Discovery or Animal Planet but I prefer "girl's night out" and am waiting for Lifetime to do a series "The real housewives of Botswana"...ahhh, but I digress. 
Back to the shoot... 
Fortunately, being the worldly and sensitive guy I am, I had a large collection of romantic comedies in studio perfect for my afternoon session with this lovely creature whose real name was Suma but who I nicknamed Sally (after the title character in...yup... "When Harry met Sally")

So we watched scenes from:
"He's just not that into you"
"The Wedding Singer"
"Pretty Woman"
"27 Dresses"
"Maid in Manhattan" 
"Pretty in Pink"
"50 First Dates"
Note: " I totally drew the line at "Sex in the City" (sorry SJP. Would rather drink bourbon with Matthew rather than cosmos with you)

At this point, the folks assembled in my studio had gone through 2 boxes of kleenex, 3 pints of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, a box of chocolate covered cherries and 3 bottles of white zinfandel. I on the other hand was trying not to hurl and focusing on Suma/Sally.

At the end of the day, I filled a 16mb card and everyone hugged. Ahh, catharsis.

For those of you taking copious notes on working with animals, know that this shot was taken during Meg Ryan's famous scene in "When Harry met Sally." No, not the scene in the deli; meerkats find loud orgasms startling and makes them seek shelter (much like some of my lesser-male friends...if you're reading this, you know who you are.) 
No, this was taken when Sally was placing her order in the restaurant earlier in the movie. (Turns out meerkats are picky eaters, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

When shooting a leopard in studio...

When shooting a leopard in studio, I highly recommend having an assistant who looks tastier than this case standing well off to camera left. 
*Bonus points if they look like a boar, wildebeest or wild goat. 
**Extra bonus points if they sound like one of them. 
***However, no points if they smell like one of them. In fact, take off 2 points for that. 

Of course, making sure the leopard is well fed in advance helps. And has at least 2 handlers who are not interns or new to the job. 
*If one or both of them look like baboons or warthogs, even better.

And if you really want to get them to cooperate, don't impersonate Tweety Bird saying "I tawt I taw a puddy tat...I did, I did.." (See previous post) 

Coming soon: How to win a staring contest with a Silverback Gorilla without making a monkey out of yourself. Also, when they offer to arm wrestle, politely decline.
Growing up, I was fascinated by impressionists. Rich Little, Frank Caliendo...even Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Spacey. So it's no surprise that I decided to try my hand ...err, voice at it. 

For this shot, I started with Jack Nicholson asYogi bear: ("Hey Boo-Boo. Uh...oh sh*t, you're not f**kin' Boo-Boo...")

Moved on to Elmer Fudd: ("Be vewy, vewy qwiet, I'm hunting walrus. Heheheheheheh...")

Then did my best Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle: ("You lookin' at me? You lookin' at me? You lookin' at me? Then who the hell else are you lookin' at... you lookin' at me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the f**k do you think you're lookin' at? Oh yeah? OK..."

But it was only when I did my spot-on impersonation of Drew Barrymore doing a baby seal, that I got this guy's attention.

Thank you, St Lawrence Island. Thank you very much (Elvis)
Don't forget to tip your penguins.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What we reach for. What we hope for.

Some people reach for the stars
Some grasp at straws
Others stretch for gold rings.
This couple reaches for each other. 
And after 78 years of marriage (he's 102, she's 96), 
they seem to have latched on to something magnificent.

What will you reach for today?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Another day, another boy sowing seeds that have been in his family for generations.

"So Steve (Estban, for the official record.) are you gonna follow in your father's footsteps?"
(Steve's father is Manny, renowned grower of the most fabulous and varied heirloom tomatoes in all of New York)

"Yes and no. Tomatoes make my family a good living. But I can do more. Tomatoes are for the present. Seeds are the future.
[Photographer's note: Here today, gazpacho tomorrow]
My father taught me that each generation should take from the last generation and make it better."

"And you actually listened?" (Note to self: send Drew to hang out with Manny and Steve next weekend)

"Of course...He expects it form me. So I will be studying agriculture. I hope to go to Yale, Cornell or Texas A&M next year... 
(We then talked about germination, hybridization, applied seed biology and biotechnologies.)
...and then I will make my father proud as he made his father proud."

I said to Steve "do you have any idea how proud your father would be right now if he were here?"


Then Steve answered "He doesn't need to be here. He knows...and you will tell him anyway, right?"


"Steve, with your permission, I'll be telling more than him."

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another day, another life changing smile.

Was preparing for a bear of a day and feeling a bit overwhelmed when I literally ran into this happy fellow with the totally infectious smile. He was walking around lower Manhattan busy looking up at all the buildings and taking in the sights and sounds (that most of us take for granted) with the biggest grin. He apologized and I said "Why? your smile just turned my day around." Turns out Kwame has been here for all of three days after arriving from Ghana. He was so happy to be here and couldn't wait to start work tomorrow for his uncle with whom he is staying with the goal of bringing the rest of his family over. 
He said "They will not believe how wonderful it is here and how happy they will be"
I said "so c'mon, let's show them."


And remember (because it really does need repeating): The bigger the smile you give, the bigger the smile you get.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I see twin towers everywhere.

I see twin towers everywhere.

For the past ten years, 
I see them everywhere I look,
In the elderly couple standing side by side 
taking comfort in their closeness. 
In the pencils I keep sharpened on my desk 
and quickly straighten should they begin leaning.
In the ladders I see propped against houses.
In the popsicle my daughter eats on a humid August day
In the various edifices that I used to (and want to) marvel at as see them
(but now feel a sense of dread.)

I see twin towers everywhere
And I am reminded
of epic heroism
of tragic, unfounded loss
Of what hatred can do to a city, a nation, a world
Of what those of us who lost friends, family, colleagues are experiencing today 
(Or whenever the number 11 shows itself...on Restaurant checks or calendars or bridges...)
And unfortunately, that is all that comes today and whenever I see a twin tower.

I'm sad.
So very, very sad.

Another day, another gallon of glitter and several flocks of feathers all for naught

She sauntered off the stage, crossed one long, slender, oh-so-shapely clown-shoed foot in front of the other and lit a bubblegum cigarette. Her eyes were the color of shadows reflecting off balloon animals. Her perfume smelled like kettle corn and would linger in my memory like the damn theme from "The Banana Splits." (One banana, two banana, three banana, four...) The look in her eyes spelled "trouble" and then they spelled "ukulele..."

Another day, another stud out cruising chicks on the boardwalk

This is Saul. He's 84. And he was out the other day looking for ladies on the boardwalk in Venice Beach, CA (one of the best places in the U.S. to people watch, IMHO) 
"I do it everyday. Powerwalk down the boardwalk and show off a little. I used to do pushups off the benches up until I was 79 and my shoulder gave out. When I see someone I like, I move in for a little conversation and then see if she wants to go for a Danish and some coffee."

"Does it work"

"Every day"

Seriously, Saul?

"Yup. I can have any woman over 65 I want. You wouldn't believe how many offers for dinner I get. I haven't cooked for myself in years. And the sex...

"Huh...the sex? IT works"

"Like a metal detector. You wanna watch?"

(Oh god...) ""

"C'mon, you got your fancy camera and this nice little dark spot all set up. You could probably make some money. I'll buy some prints..."


Another day, another guy making at least one woman swoon.

"Great hat, Samuel. Where'd you get it?"
"My wife gave it to me the other day."
"She thinks you're foxy, huh?"
"When we met 60 years ago she did. (Pause) Now I think she uses it as a reminder."


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The bigger the smile you give, the bigger the smile you get

I have found the one woman in all the world who actually likes having her picture taken.

(I know, I know...this is a broad over-generalization) There are actually 72 women in all the world and they are secretly being escorted to an undisclosed location for re-programming.

The beauty of this is I didn't have to say one word. Except "thank you" after the dozens and dozens of images I felt compelled to take as she mugged for me.
So anyone who fears approaching people for impromptu street portraiture, come up to suburn Westchester just north of Manhattan and Susan will ease you right into it.
And we'll send you home with some fresh picked produce from her stand at my local Farmer's Market.

Fresh inspiration served daily.