Monday, April 25, 2016

Mother and Daughter Photos in Virginia

I have known Susan and her mom, Becky for a very long time... maybe over 30 years. Susan was my sister's friend and I tried to keep those 2 out of trouble...let's just leave it at that.  Here is a photo of me and Susan in the 1980s. I had found a wig and was trying to do my best Bon Jovi impression.

Embarrassing? It was not as bad as my early 90's mullet.
The current Susan is to shown to the below, and I think she has aged pretty well.

I try to get back to Virginia a couple of times a year, and my mother asked me to take portraits of Susan and Becky when I was there. I was glad to do it so we met at a local park that I had not seen before. I never know what a new location will offer so I got there early to find the best spots available. Luckily, there was a grove of trees and covered picnic tables. It would have to do since the rest was soccer fields. You can kinda see the location behind us. The lovely lady next to me is my own Momma.

These were important photos to take because I knew how terrible a year Becky had endured with a cancer diagnosis and painful treatments. These were to celebrate the relationship that mother and daughter have. Even if they want to strangle each other at times, they still love each other greatly.

Becky is a trooper putting up with the stagnant stuffy Virginia heat for our photo session.

Yes, they ladies wanted to show off their cool sunglasses.

 The sun was certainly bright, but nobody melted.

I hope that these photos will bring them memories of good times.

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Halloween Wedding in the Theme of Pokémon

I know what you might be thinking? What in the world do costumes, Halloween, a wedding and a popular game named Pokémon have to do with the ceremony of matrimony? My answer is "who cares?".  I think that people should be able to do whatever floats their boat on their wedding day.

I had to research Pokémon and here is all you need to know from the Pokémon Wiki: "Pokémon is a multi-media franchise that's owned and developed by the major Japanese games manufacturer, Nintendo. It is second only to the company's Mario Brothers franchise in terms of profitability — making it the world's second most lucrative video game franchise. Pokémon gets its fan base hooked on creature collection — to complete what's called the Pokédex — in order to achieve various goals and to improve their combat abilities. The franchise exists as several video games, a trading card game, televised anime, manga, and theatrical films."

Pokémon Characters
A corporate client of mine asked if I was interested in shooting her son's wedding and then told me about the theme of the event. I actually looked at the calendar to make sure that April Fool's Day had not snuck up on me.  She was dead serious though so I told her that I would get back to her with an answer.

You see, I gave up shooting weddings a while back. I tell people that they are like surviving a 10 hour battle without food, water and with dwindling ammunition. My opinion is that wedding photography is some of the most demanding shooting (outside of a war zone). The pressure is high to get the photos and you do not get a second chance. You have to be on your game and stay there. God help you if anything goes wrong like your bride eating a handful of Xanax and washing it down with a couple of bottles of wine. That is a true story and the reason I got out of weddings. No thank you.

Regardless of my self-imposed wedding retirement, this was one of my favorite clients, and she needed a favor. I decided to help her and see what kind of wackiness might transpire given the ingredients that she described to me over the phone.

The location was going to be a driveway at her home and it was going to happen on Halloween day. I have shot weddings in driveways before. It can be a challenge to make it look like the wedding is not happening where you park your cars at night. Luckily, there was a valley of Fall foliage behind the chosen location, which is better than seeing neighbors' houses.

The other issue was the time of day. It was going to be at 1 o'clock when the sun can potentially be harsh and unflattering causing deep shadows and contrasty images. Of course, there are ways to counteract this, but it gets more difficult in a fluid situation and a wedding party of 14 people. On the day of the event, the wedding gods blessed me with diffused cloud cover, which is like using a giant overhead soft box... in layman terms, perfect lighting for weddings.

We decided to make the group photos before the event to get them out of the way. I think this is great because it is time to party after the ceremony. I generally don't think guests like waiting around while the wedding party is being photographed so this solves that issue immediately.

Here are the ladies. I should point out that the clothes they wore were "inspired by Pokémon", not actual character costumes. This is provides more variety and room for personalization than the matching uniforms that many wedding parties wear. 

Here are the men. These guys cracked me up. The big hands are obvious but did you notice the medieval style cod piece? It's there and I cannot show the other photos... ha ha.

I used my trusty Einstein flashes and a giant umbrella to push fill light into the portraits. Technically, I was shooting into the sun so I was lighting the shadows to make them more even with the lighter background.

 The setting was a tiny nook in the front yard. I tried to create the illusion that we were  not surrounded by houses and cars. I am not showing the other groups I photographed, but there were many.

The procession to the ceremony was a great time to grab less formal photos of the wedding party.

The flower girl was dressed as Pikachu, the most famous Pokémon character.

The ceremony was short and sweet. The couple read a passage from a favorite book that was beautiful. It was all over in a flash.

Afterwards, guests moved inside for cake and food. If the front yard was tight, inside was even tighter once  each room was filled wall to wall with people.

I grabbed the couple for a few more outdoor photos when they were not tending to their guests. These ended up being my favorite photos.

Because they were in untraditional wedding attire, I approached their portraits as character studies.

That took the portraits out of the context of a wedding and to me become more mysterious. 

They defy explanation and I like that about them. The world needs more mystery in it and I hope people wonder "what is the story here?"

I enjoyed meeting the wedding couple and their friends. They were some of the coolest young people that I have met who marched to the beat of their own drums. That individuality in itself should be  celebrated in our homogenized world. This is one wedding that the participants nor I will forget.

And, just to see how many themes we could stuff into one wedding, we got light saber photos. This ended up being the coolest theme wedding that I have shot to date. I wish Harry and Devon a long happy life together.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Putting Together a Wicked 3-D Puzzle Mask

Sometimes contractors break things while getting the job done. Don't get me started on hired workers because there are more mediocre ones than good ones out there. 

This particular contractor broke an irreplaceable clay mask while banging on the outside of the house. He hit the walls so hard that he made several masks and a painting fall off the wall. A simple warning could have prevented the destruction of this rare and wonderful clay mask, probably from a South Pacific native tribe. Below is what it looked like before.

The moment I saw it smashed to smithereens, knew that I would never find another one like it. The contractor compensated me for the damage and I boxed up the shards for the future. I did not want to just dump it in the trash. I suppose my childhood dream of being an archeologist would be put to the test by trying to reassemble it.  Putting a 3-D puzzle back together with missing parts was quite the challenge. The results were a bit Frankenstein-like, but it was better than nothing. Too bad that I did not realize that the gorilla glue would leave yellow lines. I guess that I will have to give up the dream of being like Indiana Jones or get a lot better at assembling puzzles.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Photographing an Amazing 3 Story Tall Lobby Sculpture

In my opinion, most artwork is better seen with one's own eyes, especially 3-dimensional sculptures. Photographs may not do the original justice since the nature of a photo is to turn the 3-dimensional object into a 2-dimensional "flat" abstraction.  

The choices that a photographer makes when capturing the sculpture (such as viewing angle) are "baked into the photograph". The viewer can only interpret what the photographer chose to show. Enjoying sculptures in person with our own senses, making our own visual discoveries and forming our own opinions will always be the best way to enjoy this type of artwork (at least until virtual reality is indistinguishable from the real world).

On the other hand, photography can be used to enhance sculptures by creating a version of the artwork that is not possible to see in person. A photographer documenting sculptures always takes a risk of adding a layer of his own aesthetic that may not be in line with what the creator of the artwork intended. 

This concern was in the back of my mind when I was asked to photograph an amazing art installation in a client's lobby. The artwork is permanently attached to the building via a massive hanging system tied into a skylight. I have no idea whether the artist designed it just for the space or if it is something that she has done in other locations.

A client installed this wire and mirrored hexagon sculpture that descends from their skylight three stories above down to the first floor entrance. 

The hexagons are suspended at regular intervals creating planes of color and pattern in all directions.

Less than half of the installation is shown in the image below. It fits into the spiral staircase perfectly.

By using flashes, I was able to control the mood of the photo. While my photos make it looks like dusk outside, it was really midday. I could also control the direction of projected shadows adding another layer of dimension to the work. The regular office lighting does not have this effect.

This is simply beautiful. 

One of my favorite views was looking up at the links of disks. I did not see a single repeated design.

The view from the top of the staircase reveals reflections of color patterns since all the tiles are mirrored on top. It is similar to looking through a giant shifting kaleidoscope.

I took advantage of the spiral staircase to frame the amazing installation. I imagined some sort of futuristic warp drive in action as I looked at the suspended facets of color.

I believe that the impact of the sculpture is stronger because of where it was installed. 

The top of the sculpture seems to come to a point, though this is just an illusion created by the staggered starting points of the hexagon columns.

The red wires play their own part bringing streaks of color into negative spaces around the tiles.

A slight change in perspective shows the fit into the architecture.

By sharing so many views, I am trying to show that this sculpture will offer infinite pleasure and a new experience each time it is encountered.

The sculpture can appear solid or airy depending on whether you are viewing the edges or the tops and bottoms of the hexagons. I would love to have something this cool in my dream home. 

I do have one question though... how do you dust something like this?



Pae White is a multimedia artist known for reinterpreting familiar encounters and ordinary items—like animals, books, advertisements, shopping bags, and plants—and revealing what she calls the "artfulness" of the natural and the everyday. She employs ornate craftsmanship along with inventive materials to create objects and installations that transcend traditional boundaries between art and design. Learn more about Pae White here.