I never really got all the fuss over Halloween personally. I understand why kids get so excited about it… the joy and the excitement of not only loving Spiderman, Zorro, firemen or anything in between, but actually having the opportunity of being that, even just for a day. In the past few years though, it’s become yet another thing adults have ruined. Kim and I went to a store a few weeks ago and there were twice as many costumes for adults than children.
I’ll save the rants for the professionals, like Lewis Black who’s rant on this holiday sums up my exact thoughts.
So we decided to keep Halloween for the kids… and the pumpkins were cut up, cupcakes were made and iced and a “scarey movie” was shown on Grandpa’s new giant TV. All the while, of course, I played with my new lens.
Some one once said that to me about one of my photos, however I won’t say who it was or what photo. I walked into her cubical and looked over her shoulder to see what she was talking about.
“Where?” I asked. “I don’t see one.”
“You’re telling me you don’t think she’s weird for doing what she’s doing?”
I took a long look at the image on her screen. “No, I think she’s happy.”
In hind site, maybe she was right. But, maybe the person in the photo was happy being a freak. Or, perhaps the person criticizing the image was the freak. Perhaps we’ll all freaks in our own little way.
I don’t seek out people who are being freaky, maybe they find me, lol. Rather I am attracted to those who have a lust for life and are caught in the moment of happiness.
Jack Kerouac wrote “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”
Maybe the freaks, the mad ones, are easier to find. They’ re not the ones slummin on the couch after work watching endless reruns of Seinfeld and drinking and smoking their miserable day away. They are the ones who are out in the streets, in a parade, lost in the music of a powerful band, or just being their own freaky self out in the fresh air and sunshine.
It really doesn’t matter which one you are after all, all that matters is that you’re happy with your choice and that you’re living the life you choose. I’ve quoted the philosophy of Fred before – “have fun, be free” and I still feel those four words are a powerful statement. I’ve just finally re-entered the work force after a year of unemployed hell and I’m already starting to be tripped up by the trappings of a real job. My cameras been untouched for a week now and my newest postings are of unfinished photos from weeks ago.
However, I’m gonna try. I’m gonna find new ways to slip out of the shackle and grasp the moments slipping by me. I know what kind of freak I want to be and I’m gonna strive to make sure I’m never again morphed into something or someone I’m not. I did that once and it wasn’t fun
So as I’ll stop writing this on my blackberry on the way across the George Washington Bridge to work and turn it over to some photos of happiness … Or maybe freaks.
A year ago, I blogged.
I remember feeling that day, as I wrote, the desire to hone my HDR skills, and to grow as an artist, so I thought I’d look back and see what the year has brought.
I’ve spent quite a few hours studying the work of the great masters Jason St. Peter, Lincoln Palmer, EasyPix, the genius Andy Hornby and the HDR magician Louis Trocciola. I’ve made notes of their techniques, the way they frame their shots, and their subject matter. I’ve exchanged emails with them, chatted, and picked their brains on the subject. I’ve learned little bits from all of them and added them into my skills. I bought what I consider to be the best HDR program on the market, Dynamic HDR by Mediachance, which in my opinion blows Photomatix out of the water. Coupled with Lightroom (which is the rock that my photography software is built on) and Photoshop, I’ve created a strong arsenal of HDR tools. My Nikon D90, which ironically, I prefer without the bracketing feature, delivers the images I take with unmatched clarity and color.
But there’s still something needed for a perfect HDR shot. I wish I could tell you what it is, but part of me feels that I’m still searching for it. Sure, I see it occasionally. The way a tree looks next to the path in the snow, or the way another path disappears into the autumn trees. A ship sitting in a river, docked along side a pier, my kids playing in the church steps or Rob delivering a power chord as he jams along with The Midnite All-Stars. I can’t even describe what it is a see, but as occasionally, when I look through my lens, I see the world in layers of light and color.
It doesn’t always work, and sometimes I make some pretty crappy HDRs, and those never see the light of day, my ratio is getting better and better.
That’s what I’ve done in the past year, lets see what happens in the next one…
Here are some of my favorite HDRs from the past 365 days…
Saturday was German-American Day in New York City, and the heart of the entire event was the parade down Fifth Ave. Germans, German-Americans and anyone else with a hankering for beer and wiener schnitzel stood along the parade route watching the festivities and waiting for Oktoberfest in Central Park to kick off afterwards.
Moose & Wilbur were there, doing sound for the event. I had my own gig that morning, and after packing up, I headed up to meet them. I told them I’d come by to help pack up, but I also realized the perfect advantage I’d have standing next to the grandstand. I grabbed coffee for us all, and made my way into the restricted area. As the parade approached us, I made my way right next to the announcing platform. I stood next to the barricade, ready to shoot. As I raised my camera, I felt a hand on my shoulder, and some one say “Excuse me.” I turned and there was a parade official standing there, looking a bit puzzled. I really wasn’t looking forward to getting grilled about who I was or why I was inside the VIP area, but I knew the fact I was with the sound company would get me out of trouble. They wouldn’t like I wasn’t taking photos, but I could at least keep my spot. The German man looked at me and shook his head. Finally he spoke.
“Did you not get your press pass?” He asked. “We really screwed this up this year, they all went out Friday and no one got them.” He reached into his pocket and in one swift motion, hung a “2009 German-American Steuben Parade” press pass around my neck. Nearly stammering, I stuttered out, “Thanks, no, I didn’t get it.” I nodded, and then took the big step. The step which separates the boys from the men, the step which separates the cool kids from the dorks.
I stepped off the curb, and into Fifth Ave.
My feet were all ready on the double yellow line when I looked back. The German who had given me the pass had moved on, and I could see Moose at the soundboard. He saw me, and his face lit up. He laughed and grabbed Wilbur, pointing at me. I held up my pass to show him & Moose smiled big, and then waved me on, his way of saying “You’re in the river now kid, you better start swimming.”
So, I swam. Before me, I could see the first marching band and the Grand Marshall approaching. I lifted my camera, look through the lens and caught them dead on. For the rest of the day, group after group, band after band, float after float passed me, or I passed them. I walked all along the street shooting them. They stopped and posed for me, I thanked them, and they continued on. I was able to move around the sun, beating the light that sometime ruins shots, and I found the best places on the street to shoot from. I used position, and placement to my advantage because I was able to go where I wanted… I had a press pass dammit.
I didn’t get back to the truck until after the last float had passed, and I had wandered through the crowd taking some last candids. I threw my camera in the bag and started packing up the gear. Moose and Wilbur joked about how the big press guy took time out of his schedule to help out. As we were rolling down the tailgate Moose asked how the shots came out. I told him I didn’t know.
“I do.” He said. “Incredible as usual.”
That’s what Fred says at the end of every conversation. She says it in her one of a kind accent with an inflection that shows you that it’s not a forced comment, rather her accepted mission statement. If you’ve ever met Fred, you know this already though.
It’s pretty hard to have fun and be free. The pressures of daily life, your responsibilities, and the desire for a paycheck seem to hold you back most times. Then of course there’s the opinion of others which we tend to let steer our decisions. That, at times, is the biggest anchor around our neck.
But, as Poppy reminded me the other day, “It’s ok to compromise on issues. It’s not ok to compromise on Who You Are” In fact, be proud of who you are.
For the past two years, I’ve attended New York City’s annual Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Pride Parade. I don’t think a stronger display of pride and accomplishment could be found anywhere than along 5th Avenue on this Sunday in June. As I watched and photographed the participants, the sheer joy shown through their faces. They were so happy, so free. This past year, I left the parade route and walked through the city to get to the street festival being held in SoHo. It was hot out, in fact hot as hell, and as typically happens on a day like this in NYC, a wild thunderstorm broke out, raining like it was the apocalypse for thirty minutes, then returning to clear skies as quickly as it came. As I took shelter from the rain under an awning, I thought of the wild and beautiful costumes back at the parade route and I realized many of them would be wrecked in the storm. I felt sad because of the time and the work that went into them, but I realized that nothing could damper the feelings of those who wore them. Even with ruined make up or soaked feathers, the joy and pride that I saw before the rain would still be there.
I’ve been packing my apartment this week, getting ready to move, and finding things that I had forgotten I had. I came across a pile of DVDs, all unlabeled, and checked the contents before tossing them. Most was garbage, but one was a back up of photos that I had done before I lost a hard drive. Among them were the shots I took at the 2007 Pride Parade. Happy to have them again, I backed them up, so I wouldn’t loose them a second time. I went back to packing, and eventually looked up at my wall, covered with 8x10s of some of my work. I considered taking them down, wrapping them up, and getting them ready to move as well, but I’m here for a few more days, and that would leave me here staring at bare walls. More than that though, they’re not just photos I took, they’re photos I’m most proud of.
I think I’ll take them down last.
Go off now… go do something… and if you’re not sure what do, and how to do it, call Fred. She’ll tell you.
Here are some of the shots I took at the 2007 & 2008 NYC Gay, Lesbian & Transgender Parades.
Slide show of the images of the 2008 Parade can be found Here
Slide show of the images of the 2008 Parade can be found Here
I never wanted to sing. Actually I never really wanted to be anyone in the band. Being in front of a crowd for any amount of time turns my knees to jelly and makes me wish for a mystical cloak of invisibility. My best friend asked me to be his best man and from day one I dreaded the speech I had to give.Even today, I don’t really remembered what I said, I just remembered I wanted nothing more to hand that mic to someone else and get a Jack ‘n’ Coke.
Even early on, I was drawn to the spotlight however. Not really the spotlight itself though, but to the edge of it. My natural curiosity brought me to that line, never over it. I always wanted to see what was going, watching it all, imprinting it into my memory.
And now I have a camera, makes it easier I guess. Well, in some ways. The great thing about spotlights is they tend to make if difficult for the person in the spotlight to see what everyone else is doing. Now it’s up to me to slowly sneak my way to the back of the crowd and take the shot that totally captures their spirit without them knowing it.
Growing up, my mom was always the one with the camera. I get whatever talent I have from her. But mom was always part of the party, she was always laughing with us, not being the social introvert I’ve grown into. We always goofed around on holidays and Mom’s slogan was “do that again!!” so she could take a photo. Someone, usually my sister would call out “And act candid!!”
Of course there is no way to “Act candid.” Furthermore, there is no way to tell a complete stranger to pretend he/she doesn’t know his/her photo is being taken. So, when I see someone I really want to capture, I linger, make myself disappear and try to take a shot I’m pleased with.
Here are some I’ve been pleased with… in no order…
Mike and Shea
There’s more, but that’s enough for today. I’d say something stupid like see you around, but I guess the point of this is that you don’t see me, that I see you, and I see you being you.
I was sitting in Laguardia Airport, which I really believe holds the record for the most boring airport on planet Earth. I think a one room shack in the middle of the Philippines would have more to do. There was a bar I had spent some time in, but the necessity of catching this flight kept me now glued to the gate. I sat there on the floor near the closest outlet and goofed off on my laptop, at least I had Wi-Fi.
I noticed a boy and his mother approach from the side. She was young, I actually wouldn’t have been surprised to find out she was his older sister. What first caught my attention though was the fact that he was in his pajamas, Pirate Of The Caribbean PJs in fact. After that, I noticed the IV and colostomy bag.
They sat in the corner, and she produced two small robot toys from her bag for him. He played with them on the open chairs between us as I closed up my laptop to prepare to eventually get on my plane. After a few moments I noticed he was watching me.
“Hello.” I said to him.
“Hi.” He responded. “Are you going to Florida too?”
“No, I’m going to Atlanta, and then to Dallas.” He picked up his robot toys and moved closer.
“I have to go to Florida to see another doctor.” He told me. “Do you want to play robots?”
“I only have a few moments, but sure.” I took the robot he offered me and for a few minutes were first explored the top of my suitcase the he suddenly turned on me and threw my robot off the suitcase which suffered a horrible fall to the terminal floor, screaming in panic the whole way. The Boy In The Pirate Pjs laughed, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed so did his mother. An announcement that the boarding process of our flight had begun rang out, so I told the little boy I had to go. He smiled, picked up his robots in one hand and the IV and colostomy bag that trailed behind him in the other and walked over to where his mother sat. She greeted him with a big smile. I finished collecting my things, and before I stood, I pulled out my camera. As he climbed up on a chair and looked out the window, I took a shot. I heard them announce my flight again so I stuffed the camera in my bag and got on the line.
As the line began to move, I watched the two of them. She now cradled him in her lap and tickled him. He laughed and tried to catch a necklace she wore. I silently wished them a safe trip as I boarded my plane.
I walked through Union Square one late summer afternoon and I came across a man who had a table set up by the steps at the southern end of the park. He had a sign that said “50 Cent Flowers” and he had buckets on the table filled with them.
I came a bit closer and noticed that the flowers weren’t real flowers at all, rather fake ones, made from material and wire. They were all very delicate and I watched from a distance as he sold a few. Finally I approached them and took a closer look.
He noticed my camera and asked if I was a proffesional, and I chuckled and told him no, just enjoying a hobby. He chuckled back and said “Me too.”
I bought 4 flowers and then asked him if he minded if I took pictures of his flowers. He smiled and nodded and I took some, but when I looked at them later, I realized that none of the images I had captured of his exquisite creations were as delicate as the man himself tending to his hobby.