Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Boob Tube

About 4 years ago my wife and I decided to leave the world of TV watching.  We bestowed the 42 inch flat screen upon a family member and embarked on a journey that eventually was very telling.

All of a sudden we had time.  A lot of it.  We read, we played games, we had conversations, and we listened to music.  A lot of music.  Pandora became our best friend.  It played nearly every waking hour from our family computer in the den.  Eventually, as our daughters grew a little older, we began to download movies and television programs for them to watch.

So much is available online.  From the likes of purple dinosaurs and worlds built with letters to adventure movies and documentaries about the ocean, we had plenty to watch.  But the goal, we felt, was still in tact.  We controlled what was being watched and when.  Our family found, eventually, that we didn't really care that much about sitting for hours and staring at a box.

We made it nearly 4 years without television and cable and 150 channels and local news and, well, you get the idea.  Now fast forward to present day and you'll find, again, a television in our den.  At first it was greeted with reluctance.  But we've softened our views now, and we are again enjoying movies and the occasional PBS special on a 32 inch monitor connected to the world via the internet (Apple TV) and a modern day set of rabbit ears. 

I have to say that the past four years have been awesome without television. We learned to live without it and our lives were better because we turned to other, richer ways to spend our time. Now that Lauren and I have introduced a TV back into our lives, we have discovered that we really don't turn it on. I did watch the weather the other morning and the kids watch a PBS show some mornings, but otherwise it's just sitting there. 

I encourage anyone who reads this to try a week without TV. It's a nice thing to do and I promise, you won't miss it. During your week of no TV, take a look at this article: http://www.csun.edu/science/health/docs/tv&health.html. You'll be blown away.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The New Age of Picture Taking

It seems that there are now just as many photographers on the planet as there are cell phone users.  And I'm stoked by it.

These days, you will find a camera in the hands of nearly every man, woman, and child.  The number of photographs being taken must be in the millions.  And for me that transfers to the real joy of creating an image.

Thousands of people each day photograph life.  Sometimes the photographs represent great joy and sometimes, unfortunately, great sorrow.  But still, images are being created and these images form a bond between us.  As humans we see that our lives are very similar because of these images.  And if we take a moment to think about that, maybe these feelings of likeness will create an atmosphere of kindness.

For me and my family, we turn to the iPhone and a couple of our favorite photography apps.  Once the shots are taken we all pick our favorite filters and off the images go to the world wide web.  We're sharing our lives more and more these days.  From a run down the beach to words painted on a hotel room wall, we are recording life.  What a joy.

These are just a few of the hundreds of images we took just in the past week.  Enjoy having a look and please please please get out there and take photos.  Life is happening.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Process

From the very beginning of my journey through the world of commercial photography, I’ve preached one thing: production at the start brings you the image you hope for at the end. Let’s produce a job the right way from the very beginning and I guarantee everyone will be happy. A recent client took this to heart. I think you’ll agree, as they have, that there’s no trading great production.

The following set of images takes you through a bit of the process. The first image is from my website. It’s the reason I was chosen for the job. The second image is a test, keeping in mind the criteria set by the client. And finally, the last few images are from the shoot.It’s all about the process. From start to finish, the most important thing in mind was great imagery.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Charlotte School of Law Viewbook

As a commercial and advertising photographer, I most often create photographs that fit into a much larger puzzle of imagery for my clients. It's always nice when I have an opportunity to work with a great organization and art director to capture all of the images for an entire product line, a whole website, or a complete piece of collateral.

Just recently, I had an opportunity to do just that. I was asked to capture images for a new admissions book. The outcome of that shoot landed in my inbox a few days ago: the final PDF version of a printed Admissions Viewbook for the Charlotte School of Law. It is a great feeling to see a piece that is well designed and image-driven, especially when all the images are ones that I shot. I'm proud of this work and thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating it.

With about a dozen students standing by on shoot day, we were able to put together scenarios that made sense and made great photographs. We rolled from one scene to another using minimal lighting and just the right gear and camera angles. I'm really happy with the outcome. And I'm really happy to have had the opportunity to work with a killer art director.
Have a look.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A day in the Apple Orchard

It's apple season in the North Carolina Mountains. It's also a great time to hit the higher altitudes for a little relief from the heat and for a preview of what the weather will be like for the next few months. Cooler temperatures and lower humidity are just around the corner!

Along with great weather, you'll find two of my favorite things in the mountains - apples and home grown music. Put the two together and now you're talking about a perfect weekend. That's exactly what my girls and I did this past weekend.

Two hours from Charlotte and five minutes off the Blue Ridge Parkway, I find bliss. The apple trees and the music halls are absolutely full. So, take a drive, pick an apple, and listen to fine music.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nice Surprises

Almost every time I hit the road on assignment, I find something that calls out to me "Photograph me." It can be something that has nothing to do with the assignment and very often it has to do with a life lesson.

On one very recent trip to South Carolina to photograph farmers, I was taken by the number of businesses closed and abandoned. With growth to blame, a large number of hotels, gas stations, and restaurants have been forgotten. Among the many I passed, I had an opportunity to stop and photograph just one. Looking back on the trip I wonder what it might have been like to live in the 60's. Traveling the back roads at a gentle pace, stopping occasionally to refuel or to grab a bite must have been very exciting.

In today's world we seem to want things quicker. We want more for less and we want it now. As parents my wife and I have discussed many times how we might make our children's lives more meaningful. One thing we agree on and that we sometimes have control over, is pace. So, let's all make a deliberate choice and sometimes take the slow road. I feel certain, we as a human race will find more gratification and more peace on the slower road.

It's probably too late for an entire generation of these old businesses and the buildings they occupied but it's not too late for us. So, get off the Interstate and take a path that, given the chance, I'm sure you'll love.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Skyline: Charlotte, NC

I remember the very first skyline I shot about 25 years ago. It was a summer night, hot but clear. I was a student in Atlanta, GA at The Art Institute and I was looking for the ultimate spot to catch the city known as The Big Peach. Hotlanta.

After a couple of hours of driving around, I finally found THE spot. A bridge just out of downtown with the interstate running beneath. It seemed like a perfect place. On the night in question there were about 20 other photographers standing by tripods. The bridge was famous for catching the right shot.

I jockeyed for position. Set my tripod in place and put my new 35mm FM2 on top of it. That night I must have shot 4 rolls of film (Remember film). It was gorgeous and somewhat reminiscent of a recent attempt here in Charlotte.

Same sort of night - hot, but thankfully clear. My position: a bridge just out of the city with an interstate running beneath. Among a few of the obvious differences, such as I'm 25 years older, on this night I was alone on THE bridge. Oh, and I shot not with my trusty FM2, but with a Hasselblad outfitted with a 40 megapixel back tethered to a laptop.

Though many things have changed, one thing remains the same, a gorgeous shot of a skyline can always excite.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Caring for My Soul

The days - if we let them - will get away from us. Before we know it, we will have given them to things that really don't matter much. We'll give them to worry, to stress, to pain, to boredom, or to waiting. Freely, we just give our time away.

Beside my desk, or bed, or favorite chair, or even in the car, I try to keep something close to me that helps me remember the importance of time. These things can be photos, notes that I've written, or a book.

One of my favorite books, given to me long ago by a friend, is a book of hours. It's a simple set of pages separated into days of the week and then into specific hours of each day. I've had the book 10 years now and haven't started or finished it. My practice is to pick up the book when I think about it and turn to the page that represents the day and time best. Today, I picked up the book and turned to Monday, Noon. There I found a piece written by John Burroughs.
An excerpt that means a lot to me:

Nature-love as Emerson knew it, and as Wordsworth knew it, and as any of the choicer spirits of our time have known it, has distinctly a religious value. It does not come to a man or a woman who is wholly absorbed in selfish or worldly or material ends. Except ye become in a measure as little children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of Nature - as Audubon entered it, as Thoreau entered it, as Bryant and Amiel entered it, and as all those enter it who make it a resource in their lives and an instrument of their culture.

John Burroughs, American (1837-1921)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Open House

It has been one hell of a month. Not only has it been business as usual with work and family, but I've had to add to my list preparing the house for an open house and showing.

I've moved thousands of pounds of river rock and mulch, planted a number of trees and bushes, painted in and out, stained concrete, pressure washed, etc. You get the idea. It's been grueling.

BUT, it has really paid off. The open house went incredibly well. The biggest comment: "How on Earth could you and your family ever move out of such a spectacular home?"

The truth is, it's home and we love it, but we have projects to do, places to go, things to see. So change is necessary.

The most rewarding part of the open house evening for me and my wife was welcoming into our home many lovers of mid-century modern architecture. Among them was Alan Ingram, the original architect of our home. What an incredible pleasure it was to see his reactions to all of the updates, especially the 1500 square foot addition designed by Bruce Berberick. Bruce and Alan got along famously. Alan loved Bruce's addition to "his" creation.

Below is an email from Alan I received after the showing. Thanks Alan and thanks Bruce. AND thanks Shonn for being our Realtor.

The soiree held last night by Mr. and Mrs. Mike Carroll, owners of ‘the Mann House' in Charlotte was an outstanding success. Some 50-60 guests attended and toured the house, a mid-century modern tri-level.

The house was designed by Alan Ingram, and has a beautiful studio for Mike Carroll’s very professional photography practice, designed by architect Bruce Berberick. Striking as the house is, it serves as a display platform for the beautiful furnishings selected by the owners.

This is one you really should visit. I was knocked over by the sensitive design of the interiors and careful placement of
objets d’art.

Alan Ingram

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What inspires you?

This nation has been suffering some fairly bad times for a couple years now. Not only in the financial markets, but also environmentally. We've seen earthquakes, floods, and now an ocean bleeding hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil a day.

When will it stop? When will we just be able to take a breath? For goodness sake, my 3 year old wants to know if she'll be able to swim in the ocean this summer. She wants to know why the oil is in the Gulf.

It breaks my heart to listen to the reports each day. It's one of the reasons my wife and I long ago rid our house of cable and TV. We get all the news we need from reports via the internet or the newspapers. Even that is overload at times.

Back to my title for this entry - with all of this bad news, how do we keep going? Why do we keep going? For me there are so many reasons that I keep hope close to me. These are the same reasons I get up each day and have a cup of coffee and try my best to do my bit to make this life meaningful. It's not a simple time but my reasons are simple:

Friday, May 28, 2010

House 4 Sale

For the last month, I've spent every spare second getting my family's house ready to put on the market. I've got one thing to say, much respect for Realtors.

I've been a painter, a builder, a lawn mowing nut, a garage organizing wild man. You get the idea. If I have learned anything it's this: live in your house the way you want it from the very first day.

With this said, my wife and I, along with our daughters, live in one of the coolest houses I've ever seen. We're thankful we've had the experience and time to get to know mid-century architecture and the lifestyle that goes along with it. When we bought the house 4 years ago, all of our family and friends said the same thing, "This house is so you." I guess it is. We've had a blast here.

But, it's time to move on and we're so excited that somebody - the right buyer - will decide to take over where we're leaving off. We've created a vibe here that permeates through you and brings on relaxation and the desire to drink a martini, or mojito, or a great big robust red wine, or for me, a hop-injected beer.

Part of readying the house for the market has included photographing the structure and the rooms inside. I have a new respect for architecture shooters. It's something I do once in a while, but for the folks that do it day in and day out, you rock.

Check out some of my selects. And if you're a mid-century lover, come buy my house.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Day in the Foothills

My love for mountain biking was rejuvenated just recently while on assignment for Mountain Bike Magazine. I can remember a time that mountain biking and trail riding were pretty much the center of my life. Lunch breaks were spent on local single tracks dialing in technique. Vacations were scheduled around weekend long trail rides. And if I spent a dime it was for a new jersey or bike part.

I'm not sure why my passion for such a killer sport eventually waned. Perhaps work got in the way, maybe the transition to having a young family gave me less time for play, or maybe, like anything, I just needed a break.

Well, my break is over. It's time for my next epic ride. I can't wait to sling a little mud. See you on the trail. Until then, please enjoy a few shots from the assignment.

Friday, April 16, 2010

AIGA 20X20

How does design affect me on a daily basis? What do I see as items of design? What are the things in my life that create a vision for my work, and how do I let that permeate my world?

These are all questions that I asked myself while developing a slide show for a recent AIGA event. Along with several other presenters from our local design and advertising community, I was invited to present a series of images related to design that speak to me. My presentation would consist of 20 slides that would remain on the screen for 20 seconds. What a great idea. I have to admit, though, that it was an idea that at first terrified me.

When it comes to public speaking, so many people have the same thought: NO WAY. It’s an understandable response. I admit it was my first reaction. But after deeper consideration and a little prompting from the event organizer, I was IN! Thankfully so.

As I thought about my presentation it came to me that I’m touched by design from the first moment that I wake. From the alarm clock beside my bed to the chair that I finally fall into at the end of the day, each item in my series demonstrates design in my life. Below are my 20 slides. It’s a grouping of images that somehow spells out my daily interactions with design. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

32 Portraits in 2 Days

A few months ago, I was asked to help with the re-branding of a web site for a local financial group. I was told that I'd be photographing up to 32 advisers and support people from a local firm. I was also told that each image really needed to be exceptional and different. "We want personality", the AE emphasized.

Okay, normal people in front of a camera with sort of a time limit. Something different. Something exciting. These images needed to stand out. NO PROBLEM.

With my wonderful producer, Rosemary, we set out to put together the perfect scenario. We needed a few things: A space in the firm's office large enough for backgrounds and lighting, time, a stylist, assistants, and the freedom to work with each subject until we got it.

Can you believe we got it all? And, to boot, these normal people were anything but normal. Each one, perfect. Gorgeous and handsome. Great clothes.

Best of all I was able to work with an AD and AE and agency producer that let me do my job. The team from LKM rocked. Thank you so much. Let's do it again soon.