"No Longer A One Horse Town"

It was exactly this time last year, I was hanging out on West End at Birmingham’s Mounted Patrol barn documenting the stable of exquisite equine public servants housed there and cared for by some of the city’s finest police officers.  

I have always been a lover of animals, in general, and horses, in particular.  So, when Laura Buchanan asked if would be interested, I tried to sound cool, but I may have accidentally yelped a little.  

Anyway, it was an unseasonably cold day, crazy cold actually.  But, the warmth of these officers, tending to their “patrol vehicles” was a tenderness I didn’t expect to find.  Each officer is paired with a particular horse.  This is not by random selection.  The personalities and temperaments are matched up in such a way that they fit together so naturally that deep bonds are formed between officer and animal.  So deep, in fact, that these policemen come in to stroke and provide treats for their charge even on off days.  

I was surprised and charmed by the whole experience.  And proud, even.  Proud because I get to live in a city that fosters this mutually beneficial, tender, loving relationship between man and beast in a unique partnership to protect and serve it’s people.

Anyway, these are just some straight up, documentary images.  Nothing fancy.  But, I think they are beautiful. Mostly, because horses are stunning creatures. Ridiculously stunning creatures.

You may wonder, “why”? Why would the city of Birmingham, Alabama police department go to all the trouble and expense to acquire, train and maintain a barn full of horses these days when they could be toodling around the city on high tech modes of transportation, like seguays and glossy Crown Vics. I did.  Julie Keith explains it all beautifully in this article:

 http://www.al.com/bhammag/index.ssf/features/no_longer_a_one-horse_town.html

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"If you are going to REBEL, you may as well look good doing it"

For the latest fashion shoot for B-Metro mag, I was inspired by the fearless ones who swim passionately against the tide in the deep and murky waters of life.  My stylist supreme, Mary Beth Wetzel, chose edgey leathers with metallic studs and zippers and fabrics in contrasting black and white. Um, Perfect. Lindsay Garret worked the faces with her typically deft hand.  Her vision for the Rebel was to push in both directions, hard.  On Hannah, she laid down thick, bold wisps of liner and painted in perfect blood red lips for a call me gorgeous or I’ll kick your ass with my 6 inch spike-heeled boots look.  On Sophie, the look was a scrubbed too clean to care face that said, I double dare you to cover up a single one of these fabulous freckles. YES!  Right on trend, Mary Jane Clements twirled the tresses in a similar study of extremes.  Sophie was perfectly tussled and frizzed like she had been on the back of a motorcycle all night.  Meanwhile Hannah’s hair was worked into a sculpture of calculated disarray.  Sides shaven close, while the top pieces jutted and flopped in controlled chaos. Hell yeah.

Shout out to my incomparable crew:  My go to, number one, ace in the hole First, Andi Rice, assisted by Lee Shook, the audiovore, worked hard and smart through the night, maintaining that good vibe I love so well.  Producer, Tony Rodio was on point with the set pieces he snagged.  That fabulous motorcycle and the incredible convertible sure were fun to glint some light off and added the right rebel flair to the shots.

Thanks to Real People Model Mgmt for providing the great talent. Ellis Oswalt and Sophie Olszak.  Also shown is independent Hannah Wallace.

Lesson learned from this round;  Shooting at night is hard!  If this seems like stating the obvious, you are way smarter than I am.  For some reason I forgot to anticipate just how dark it gets on lonely, off the beaten path roads in the middle of the night. Note to self:  Next time, bring a generator and a flood light so you and the crew can see what you are doing!

See the what our bad ass Art Director,  Robin Colter did with the spread here:

http://b-metro.com/the-fashion-rebelista/12675/

All Hale Buster!!!!!  
Long before the the first season of Arrested D, I used to run around with the inimitable Tony Hale.  He was living in Birmingham, attending Samford U.  We would write skits, and bust guts together.  One of my favorite memories was his first birthday after discovering a severe wheat allergy.  I surprised him with a homemade wheat free chocolate cake.  He was flabbergasted that such a thing existed and ran around like an escaped mental patient telling anyone who would listen about the miraculous thing.  Bear in mind, this was 20 years ago, before siliacs disease and gluten-free and whole Foods became household words in the South. 
Anyway, I got to spend some time with my old buddy recently. I had made his very first acting headshots years ago.  This time we wanted to make some fresh publicity shots to coincide with the release of some feature films opening this Summer.  (Including an A/D movie…..YES!) He agreed to punk my daughter Gabby’s boyfriend, whose nickname is “Baby Buster, due to his obsession with the character.  We had deliberately concealed the fact of our friendship in hopes that such a day might present itself.  We were beyond gratified when Tony barged in on the unsuspecting victim, shouting “Where is Baby Buster????”  The look on Andrew’s face was some intense mix of disbelief, shock and glee, all awash in crimson flush. Perfect.
  Tony Hale remains the exact same, warm-hearted, generous, lovable goofball that he was back in the day.  The only thing that has changed really is the way people respond to him.  It was hilarious to cavort around town with him and see the dawn of realization on the faces of the barista or the fellah sitting a few tables over.  I can’t imagine what that must be like.  And, I can’t imagine how all of that constant fuss wouldn’t go to a person’s head.  I guess that is just one more remarkable thing about Mr. Tony Hale.  
How can you not love this guy??????

All Hale Buster!!!!!  


Long before the the first season of Arrested D, I used to run around with the inimitable Tony Hale.  He was living in Birmingham, attending Samford U.  We would write skits, and bust guts together.  One of my favorite memories was his first birthday after discovering a severe wheat allergy.  I surprised him with a homemade wheat free chocolate cake.  He was flabbergasted that such a thing existed and ran around like an escaped mental patient telling anyone who would listen about the miraculous thing.  Bear in mind, this was 20 years ago, before siliacs disease and gluten-free and whole Foods became household words in the South. 

Anyway, I got to spend some time with my old buddy recently. I had made his very first acting headshots years ago.  This time we wanted to make some fresh publicity shots to coincide with the release of some feature films opening this Summer.  (Including an A/D movie…..YES!) He agreed to punk my daughter Gabby’s boyfriend, whose nickname is “Baby Buster, due to his obsession with the character.  We had deliberately concealed the fact of our friendship in hopes that such a day might present itself.  We were beyond gratified when Tony barged in on the unsuspecting victim, shouting “Where is Baby Buster????”  The look on Andrew’s face was some intense mix of disbelief, shock and glee, all awash in crimson flush. Perfect.

  Tony Hale remains the exact same, warm-hearted, generous, lovable goofball that he was back in the day.  The only thing that has changed really is the way people respond to him.  It was hilarious to cavort around town with him and see the dawn of realization on the faces of the barista or the fellah sitting a few tables over.  I can’t imagine what that must be like.  And, I can’t imagine how all of that constant fuss wouldn’t go to a person’s head.  I guess that is just one more remarkable thing about Mr. Tony Hale.  

How can you not love this guy??????

OLD TIMERS.

These images are from a B-Metro spread that featured some long time residents of the city sharing their experience and impressions of Birmingham, AL from way back when.  It was a gift to spend time with them.  I have found that although I still embrace a gorgeous fashion shoot with impossibly beautiful people, more and more I relish the experience of photographing the very young and the very old.  These human book-ends of life inspire me in similar ways.  They both seem so rooted in the present moment.  Kids are rarely preoccupied with what is around the corner.  They are fully engaged and absorbed in the here and now.  I have found the same to be true of my older friends. It seems, they are never rushing off to the next thing.  All those years have taught them the foolishness of the tyranny of the urgent and the profundity of the most basic things. 

The present moment is all any of us really have.  I have to constantly remind myself of that. 

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" THE SOUTH IS THE NEW BLACK, Y’all! "

Recently, I had the privelege of collaborating with the supremely talented and refreshingly irreverant, Libbie Summers.  The task before us was to create a sweeping photo feature for SOUTH magazine, based in Savannah, GA, that celebrates film, fashion and food.  After several brainstorming sessions and innumerable gut busting laughs, we settled on this idea;

"A sweeping, epic photo feature showcasing fashion and food on the set of an imagined film. The film takes its inspiration from the cinematic classic "Out of Africa" based on the memoirs of Barrones Karen Von Blixen.  The story is relocated in time and space from the African Savanna in 1913 and placed in Savanna, GA a full century later. She has inherited the family plantation home and hopes to turn it into something that will generate income for her, with minimal investment.  He is a craftsman, crossing the country, doing odd jobs to fund his traveling adventures.  

The tension between RAW and REFINED carries through each scene.  The juxtaposition of the male and female leads, their respective styles and life experience reflect this contrast.
He is a rugged naturalist. His education is the result of first-hand experience, not books. He seeks durable, functional and practical objects.  She is drawn to the lovely, the intricate, the luxury of objects and adornments.  She is an academic.  
The set is a Southern vineyard.  Muscadine. 
The scenes will showcase him teaching her to live off the land, repair things, be self-sufficient.  She, in turn, will share her love of literature and beauty.
The narrative will cover the span of a day, to showcase the lifestyle and meals throughout a day.”
Billy Reid provided the fashions for him.  Brooke Atwood used a combination of pieces from her own new line and vintage for her.
credits:
Concept: Libbie Summers and Liesa Cole
Photography by: Liesa Cole
Writer/Producer/Art Director: Libbie Summers
Photography Producer: Tony Rodio
Fashion Stylist: Brooke Atwood
Hair and Makeup: Jules De Jesus of Dollface by Jules
Models: Derek Devere Tarver and Katlyn Lamont both courtesy of Rise Model Management 

See the on-line version of the magazine here:
AWESOME behind the scenes video, edited by John and Katie Gaiser!

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Underwater tests prove tricky little exercises. Results are hard to predict.  Here is what I learned from the experience:

1) the more water between your lens and your subject, the blurrier the image.  Shoot wide angle and get as close as possible.

2) light cannot travel very far through water.  Keep it close to the action close to the surface for best results.

3) I used the waterproof bag because it required minimal investment.  One tradeoff is that it is almost impossible to adjust the camera settings once it is sealed inside.  

4) If you use studio strobes, do not plug them into the wall outlet.  Anyone tripping over the stand or a gust of wind in the wrong direction can cause everyone in the pool to be zapped to death.  Instead use a portable battery and lots of sandbags.  Safety first!  Water and electricity do not play nicely together. (this may elicit an audible “duh”, but, I had to say it)

5)  It is difficult to focus under water.  Best to stabilize yourself and your subject so that you aren’t both drifting and continually requiring re-focus.

6) Shoot ALOT of frames.  Most will be unusable due to focus, too much water, weird distortions from the wide angle and movement, and the like.

7) Avoid uncomfortably cold water.  This is no fun for you or your subject.  The pool we shot in was FRIGID. Brrrrrrrrrrrr. And Brrrrrrrrrrr.

8) Take a deep breath and have fun!

tumblrbot said: WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL BETTER WHEN YOU ARE IN A BAD MOOD?

Going for a run with my dog.  Endorphins=happy.

Or doing a ridiculous and random surprise.  Like making a bouquet of balloon flowers and leaving it anonymously at an elderly neighbor’s door.

You?

Behind the scenes with Barbie and Ken in 3-d:

 

   When I saw the fun, super-saturated fashion trends for this spring, it occurred to me that the designers might have taken a cue from Barbie and Ken’s closet.  With that in mind, I thought why not go on location to Barbie’s Dream house for a fashion shoot?  I remembered the bold colors and patterns of the playhouse interiors from my childhood. It would be the perfect setting to showcase the latest trends.  Then, to add a playful twist, I decided to add an element of 3-d.

To pull it off, we shot real, live Barbies and Kens on a white sweep in the studio.  We had to simulate the pose so that when they were cut out and placed in Barbie and Ken’s world, seated on a toy chair or lounging poolside, it looked convincing. I know my partner, Tony Rodio is a total whiz at technical retouching and could handle the challenge.  No problemo.

The 3-D component posed challenges as well.  First, we wanted the images to look good with or without the special glasses.  As you know, if the entire image were in 3-d, it would be a bit of a blurry mess when viewed normally.

The solution we came up with was to determine specific elements in each scene to render in 3-d.  This would give depth and a playful spin to the story without being problematic.  I am not sure if this has ever been accomplished before.  If it has, I am not aware.  Again, I was so confident that Tony could pull this feat off, I proceeded with confidence.

So, the exteriors, pool and rooms of the vintage Dream House were shot separately for the backgrounds and environments.  The models were all shot on white.  Some props and furniture were also shot separately.  The elements on white were carefully cut out and stripped into the miniature backgrounds to form composites.  Then the various 3-d elements were cut out and manipulated in a complex process to render left and right eye perspectives with red and cyan channels to create the illusion of 3-d with the special viewing glasses included in the magazine.

I am so fortunate to be able to work with such a talented and supportive array of individuals who make it possible to not only think outside the box, but to execute. Here a few specifc shout outs;

Of course, Tony Rodio was indispensible.  But, also, our photo stylist Mary Beth Wetzel.  From the first pre-production meeting she totally understood the concept and direction.  She was able to think like Barbie and Ken when she pulled all the fun clothes, accessories and props that contributed so much to the overall effect of the images.   And her enthusiasm was playful and infectious.  Art Director, Robin Richeson Colter did a spectacular job with the layout, per usual.  Angela Layman King not only modeled herself, but got all the other models faces camera ready as well.

And, of course, all of this would be a daydream without a fantastic publication like B-Metro willing and able to figure out how to include a pair of 3-d glasses with every issue and showcase such a spread in full technicolor style. So, here is to you, Joe O’Donnell, publisher extraordinaire. I raise my hot pink, plastic martini glass to you.  Your support made the whole party possible.

Meet Paulina.  Her Dads, Ched and Mark, commissioned me recently to make portraits of their adopted brood that also includes a massive bull mastif (massimo) and a cuddly former fighting Pitt. (Bubbles!)   What a pleasure to meet them all.  I was intrigued to learn that Ched is an avid collector of female photographers, including Jill Greenberg, who inspired the style of this series. 

Meet Paulina.  Her Dads, Ched and Mark, commissioned me recently to make portraits of their adopted brood that also includes a massive bull mastif (massimo) and a cuddly former fighting Pitt. (Bubbles!)   What a pleasure to meet them all.  I was intrigued to learn that Ched is an avid collector of female photographers, including Jill Greenberg, who inspired the style of this series. 

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Needles don’t scare me anymore!
Shooting an acupuncture story recently, I got to experience the procedure for the first time. As a needle-phobe, I was skiddish to say the least.  But, in the skilled hands of Dr. Margot Walbert, I felt only a slight zingy sensation, followed by euphoria. 
Tony was uncharacteristically relaxed after “modeling” for the shoot……Thanks Dr. Walbert!

Needles don’t scare me anymore!

Shooting an acupuncture story recently, I got to experience the procedure for the first time. As a needle-phobe, I was skiddish to say the least.  But, in the skilled hands of Dr. Margot Walbert, I felt only a slight zingy sensation, followed by euphoria. 

Tony was uncharacteristically relaxed after “modeling” for the shoot……Thanks Dr. Walbert!