Lloyd was my first “musician” portrait.  When my friend Therese told asked me if I’d shoot some portraits of her blues musician friend “Lucky” Lloyd, I was thrilled.  Doing CD covers was definitely on my want-to-do list, and here was a charming, very photogenic man to get me started.  As fortune would have it, Therese’s ex runs a sound studio and that’s where we shot the series.  I was going for something VERY low key, and it was during this shoot that I realized how drawn I am to very dark images.  At this point I still did not have any studio lights whatsoever, so I was completely dependent on ambient and natural light.

Outdoors produced some nice images, but much brighter than I had in mind.  Then we went indoors and I was not getting anything I loved there either.  I suddenly saw a diffused shaft of light spilling from the door onto the arm of a sofa, and that’s where I took this shot.

It is EXACTLY what I had in mind.

Trying to make sense of the enormity of my assignment and get a handle on how to approach it, we spent my first weekend in the Preserve just driving around, turning onto any dirt road that caught our fancy.  Many became dead ends, just led back to the main road, or deteriorated to the point of being non-navigational .

Just a few hundred yards further, this became one of the latter, blocked by a tree which had fallen across the entire berm. The ruts ran along the top of the ridge, which was elevated about 10 feet from the surroundings, and the sides were just too steep to navigate.  To turn around, we had to drive in reverse on these tracks to a spot wide enough for a 475-point turn…   Through it all, there was not another soul in sight; the silence was stunning. Occasionally, a bird would tweet, or a lizard would rustle a bush, and the sound would startle us. It was magical standing in the warm, afternoon sun, in this vast, silent wilderness.

We were trying to get to those distant spikes on the left, called Castle Peaks, which will certainly be one of our destinations on a future visit.

Today I drove just under 500 miles..  It is just before 8 pm, writing from my hotel room, struggling to stay awake.  It is the first day of my Mojave adventure, and all indications are that it is going to be amazing.   But the preserve is also incredibly far, and the distances in the park itself are daunting.  Thus, I may have to revisit my original idea of numerous short visits in favor of just a few longer stays.

This is more of a reconnoiter than truly a photo expedition, as until today, I had no idea what I would be facing, other than 1.6 million acres of desert.  Mojave is the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 (after Death Valley and Yellowstone), and for the most part, full of nothing.  To find and photograph its natural beauty is a daunting, but welcome, task. Thus, half the trip is being spent working out logistics, including meeting up with Linda, my park ranger connection, and the other in trying to find the Fine Art angle of the emptiness.

I may be so blessed as to have found that angle today – the very first visit –  though I will have to wait until I get home to see the pictures, as I have foreseen every conceivable issue save a card reader that’s kaput. So instead of posting something from the my first visit to  park, I will share the first image of the day, taken with my cellphone during lunch. I do believe it augers well for this, or some as yet unknown Adventure:

Image

One of the many lessons I have learned about photography is that you don’t always get what you want. And that’s not always a bad thing.

On this particular day, my photo-buddy Jason and I set out to take some “concept” pictures of The Dominator shipwreck on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. To get to it, we had to negotiate about a mile-and-a-half of shoreline covered in boulders the size of small buses and VW bugs, and eventually coming up against this sheer vertical cliff.  Despite our vigilant eye, neither of us had seen anything vaguely shipwreck-like anywhere on the way, although there was a wonderful old rusted bicycle we both photographed.  Jason decided to brave the rocky cliff to see if there was wreckage on the other side, but I was done rock-climbing and I decided to stay put on this ledge at the foot of the cliff, with waves crashing just below me, mulling over the futility of our little expedition.  It was during that wait that I sat back in contemplation and realized how fortunate I was to be surrounded by such exquisite scenery, and I snapped this picture.

On August 25, 2011, this image was chosen for LA Photo of the Day!!

My session with Mel Gorham and her Isabella was a pivotal one in my photography career.  It was during this session that I recognized my nascent skills, and realized that if I could visualize it, I could make it happen.

I had a very specific image in my mind which I wanted to capture with these two wonderful ladies.  I brought ALL my gear with me, even my two 9 ft backdrops.  It was also my first time working with a hair/make-up artist – the brilliant and highly accomplished Sugano, who has become my patron saint.  We planned on 5 different looks for Mel, which we did over the course of five hours – my longest session ever.  Isabella thought the strobes were evil and barked protectively every time they flashed.  It was a very loud session…

This was the second set-up of the day, and although Isabella was still pretty leery of the strobes, she had settled down into a quieter protective mode.  When she started leaning on Mel, my heart started racing because I could see that my vision was about to become reality. Having Isabella actually sit on the ottoman was a fortuitous, unexpected bonus. “Great Dames” was my first image to be published on 1x – a highly regarded photography website – and has become my most popular image to date.

Although technically not MY photography, here is a blast from my past!!  Many years and several careers ago, I wrote, produced, and starred in a Spanish-language pilot for a show called Oye Juana! (Hey, Joan!).  My friends Richard Yñiguez and Sal Pleitez were my team, who directed and ran camera, respectively

Though it received a lot of attention, like most projects it went nowhere.  One of the many ideas I had was to create a “family” for Juana, which could eventually be used in one way or another both on-line and on-air.  At the time I had virtually nothing to do with photography, other than vacation shots whenever I traveled.  I knew nothing about Photoshop and its powerful mysteries.

Sal photographed me in my various characters (even grandma in the background) – splendidly created by Cindy Calderete – and merged them into this composite.  When I saw it I thought it was a miracle, and could never have imagined that I’d be doing that (and more) just a few years later. Sadly, we could not find the source files, and this very low resolution image is all that remains of the family.

This is officially my very first “formal” pet portrait, although the idea for it came up after I’d arranged a shoot with Carl Hunter – The Chicken Man (a post on him to follow), but was shot before that shoot.  Carl was both my chick supplier and wrangler, and the model is Victor, my sweetie’s nephew.

Carl arrived with a small, covered crate, from which teeny peeping sounds emerged.  It was precious.  Victor was… apprehensive. But game.  We tried a couple of set-ups, first using just one of the two chicks.  That’s when I discovered that when they are separated, the adorable chirping turns into a car alarm.  This image captured the little puffball between blasts, which is why he looks so peaceful.  I’m afraid Victor lost some hearing that day.

In June of 2010, I did some headshots for the very lovely and incredibly talented Caryn West – a friend from Tango who is a brilliant actor and teacher.  At the end of the session, her very old and arthritic dog joined us, and Caryn asked if I would please take some shots with her and her best friend, as she was concerned he was not long for this world.

The poor pooch had set himself down at her feet, and it was quite clear that he wasn’t going to get up anytime soon.  I took a couple of shots of her sitting in a chair, next to him, but they felt distant, and rather sad  I then got the idea to have her get down on the floor with him.  In that instant, with the two of them sharing such an intimate moment with me, I realized that I wanted to do more of this sort of photography.  A LOT more.  What has become my “signature” niche began with this humble image.

Jonesy is still with us.

I feel sort of bad for my little blog.  It’s been sitting here quietly, unattended, while my life has gone into overdrive.  However, I’m of the mind that everything happens as it ought to, so in some way, the sabbatical was meant to be. But several very exciting things have been happening recently, making it clear that this was the time to enact a resurrection.  And here we are.

The first big thing is my quickly approaching first solo show!!  Yes, May 26th is  opening night at the Torre del Reloj gallery in Polanco, Mexico City.  This stunning gallery in one of the city’s premier arts neighborhoods is two stories, all dedicated to MOI!  Well, “moi’s” photographs.  I even have a PR lady who has managed to get me some sponsorships, and is working on reviews, interviews, additional venues, etc.  More about this in the weeks to come.

Also, just yesterday I received truly exciting news: I’ve been selected as the artist for the artist in residence program at the Mojave Preserve, under the auspices of the National Park Service. I attended a seminar about this last October, and knew from the moment I got the flyer for the event that they were going to choose me. Call it manifesting, divine intervention, ESP, mind control – I had never been so certain about anything in my life.  So when I got the letter confirming what I already “knew”, it did freak me out a little!

Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be making several trips to the park, staying overnight for several nights at a time, and hopefully capturing not only it’s natural beauty, but also some of that ineffable something that makes for great photography.

Almost every time I go dancing, I am reminded of how the mind craves stillness.  In the absence of turbulence, peace reigns.  When peace reigns, collaboration thrives.  In tango, the process if surrender is discussed endlessly; what it is, what it means, how to achieve it.  To get there, we have to stop thinking of steps; stop anticipating moves;  release the hold our ego has to exist independently of the other.

When I embrace my partner, Johanna ceases to exist, and a shape-shifter takes her place; a being that absorbs my partner’s energetic expression in order to complete his thoughts and motions.  I am filled by him and the music, and he in turn is filled by my bliss.

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