This past April, I drove from North Carolina to Kansas to pick up my mother and move her to Michigan to take care of my father. It would have been exciting if my father’s health wasn’t so poor, because my mother hated living in Kansas. It’s a desolate place where there isn’t much to do. My mom doesn’t have many hobbies, but she likes to play bingo and the nearest place to play was a half an hour away and she had to rely on friends to take her because she had no car.
I’ve been there numerous times to visit her over the past decade, but I hated going. Really, there’s nothing to do. There’s maybe two stores in town – a grocery store and a pizza store – and only the pizza store had VHS tapes to rent. Yes, VHS. And some DVDs, but their selection was very small and I’d mostly seen everything they had to offer. And most of the time, the store was closed – either seasonally or in transition of ownership; I didn’t care to know why, I wasn’t staying.
But there’s a weird thing about towns like this – they’re ripe for photo and video opportunities. I could shoot thousands of fantastic things out there if I had the time. Of course, you have to be careful; there are many people there that grow weed or make meth and they don’t like it when photographers start taking photos of their homes – as I learned. If I didn’t have a business card on me showing my website, I may have been in trouble.
Below are some photos I took while I was there in April and a short video I made to remember the town by. Most likely, since my mom moved, I’ll never be going back.
I just spent the weekend in Atlanta. Had a great time hobnobbing with the locals while watching the exciting Falcon/Seahawk’s game. Being a Detroit Lions fan, I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting in a bar watching the Lions win a playoff game. And I’ve had 16 years of opportunities to do so. How sad. What was I talking about? Oh yeah…..
I also had some time to look for photo opportunities and there were many. The graffiti in Atlanta was great. I wish I had more time to spend there. I haven’t finished editing my set yet, but here’s a little preview of what’s to come:
I recently made a short film for a local film festival here in Greensboro, North Carolina called the Fruitcake Film Festival. My friend Mickey approached me and said we hadn’t done a claymation in a while and he was right, so we decided to do it for the festival.
The festival does have several restrictions: all videos have to be either 10 seconds, 30 seconds or 60 seconds (not including credits), they all have to be family friendly and have a holiday theme.
I came up with a couple of ideas and this was the one Mickey and I liked the best. I called my talented friend Marie Stone van Vuuren to help us, because she’s been wanting to work with me on a claymation for a long time. She then incorporated her friend Sheila Duell to help and the four of us got to work.
Of all the short films I’ve done up to this point, I feel like this was the least amount of work I put in. It’s nice when you have a talented crew. I just told them what I was looking for and that was it. Marie built, selected and placed almost everything you see in the video. Sheila painted the wall to make it look like a real wall instead of the cardboard it actually was, and she hung the paintings and Mickey did what he does best: animate. I just came over, built the Santa Claus, lit the scene and shot it.
Here are some stills of production:
This is the room before it’s lit.
After lighting. I wanted it to feel like midnight and lit by the moonlight.
Mickey fixing Santa’s hat.
Mickey swapping eye balls to make Santa look like he’s blinking. Oh yeah, Marie made the beard. I don’t think I could’ve done one that well.
Last Monday, Jeremy Messersmith stopped by our house to perform for his Supper Club Tour. We had some great food, great wine, made some new friends and had a great time. Oh yeah, and he played some music.
The first thing he did was give us a nice gift for us offering our home for the tour.
Apparently, he’s a mushroom hunter. I verified that he knew what he was doing (I’d hate to die from eating a poisonous mushroom. I’d rather die from spontaneous combustion). He assured me that he did, but I’m still waiting to hear news from a killing spree by mushroom toting musician. If I don’t hear anything soon, I’ll take a nibble.
He was also gracious enough to sign my albums and take a few photos.
My girlfriend* took this photo, hence the soft focus..
I’m happy that I got some new photos for the portfolio:
I recently got a 100mm macro lens and have had a blast playing with it. It was one of my very first “wants”, but with my filmmaking needs, it kept getting pushed back on the list. I finally made the purchase.
I have no idea what I’m doing and it’s very difficult to get subjects in focus, but I’m enjoying the challenge. Thankfully, my years of shooting at 1.4f have conditioned me for getting the focus right. Most of the time. After just one day of shooting, I realized I want to get even closer to the action so I purchased a 1.4x extender from Canon. I’m looking forward to many years of shooting with this.
The one thing I’ve noticed is that it’s hard finding good information about how to shoot macro and/or getting closer to the subject. If anyone has any tips they’d like to share, please do.
I want to get into portrait photography, but I just don’t like the results. I think it may be the studio setting where no one can relax and it feels more like a business than for fun. Whenever I’m out and about, I see perfect portrait opportunities, but I’m always too shy to ask someone to take their picture. I don’t like when my space is invaded and I don’t want to invade other’s. I may just have to say screw it and go for it, because there is immense pleasure from getting that perfect photo. And recently while I was shooting a short film for my friend Jason Pierce, I took a snapshot of actor Phillip Ward while he was waiting for me to get my camera ready. It was a complete accident as I was taking the photo to check the histogram, but when I got home I knew I had lucked out. Now if I could only get this kind of result every time.
Go to this page and you’ll see it looks very similar to the grand prize winner’s photo. A happy accident.
Lately, I’ve focused my attention to building a new website. Somewhere I could host all of my interests on one page. The blog will stay here, because I like all the exposure I get with other WordPressians, but it will also be on my homepage.
Years ago, I found the perfect website Neon Sky. It has a clean look, easy to navigate, quick loading times and looks great on the iPad. But it’s too expensive for my budget. It runs around $600 a year and that’s just too much for me. I don’t get the amount of clients I need to afford the website.
Another site that I love, but is out of my price range is APhotoFolio. Again, it has all the great features of Neon Sky, including an app for the iPad, but it’s too expensive at a $1000 setup fee and $17 a month.
So a couple of weeks ago, I decided to just do WordPress and I built two different sites; one for my photography and one for my film-making. And I linked them all on my homepage (which is now defunct). And wouldn’t you know it, just a couple of days later I found the perfect site: Virb.
With a little tweaking, you can get Virb to look every bit as good as Neon Sky and APhotoFolio, but it only costs $10 a month. The only thing that isn’t as good with Virb is that your photos aren’t protected from downloading like they are with Neon Sky and APhotoFolio (the reality is if your work is out there, then it’s available to be stolen. I’ve watched Stephen van Vuuren create IMAX sized images from four mega-pixel NASA photos for his film in a basement movie Outside In, so anyone that knows how to screen grab can print their own artwork at any size they want). The best thing about Virb is the ease in which you can build pages. It’s far superior to WordPress, which is super easy itself, so that says a lot.
Anyways, this post is supposed to be more about me and not so much about Virb, but I love the site so I recommend checking it out. And check out mine as well. And if you could, buy something! It’s cheap, great art. Thanks.