I take pictures. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

Behind The Scenes

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Behind The Scenes: Here is a campaign I shot a while ago for a small hospital in Savannah. Models were all selected from Atlanta and we shot for two days in Savannah with 4 Generations of women -- no men! As always they were "pretend family" -- not really related. I sure learned so much just listening to women talk for two days with no male models. It was like The View -- all talking at once. How do you women do that?

 

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The "educational" part of why I am sharing this is the stock photography value! Three & four generations of family as model-released lifestyle images are very valuable. The ad shot of the four women cuddling is not the biggest seller --- best stock image is the women on the porch with iced tea talking. Does that not say "Southern Living" -- on the porch sharing time with iced tea? It outsells all the other images. The client usually gets a time period to use the images (in this case 6 months) and then I send it out for stock. Almost always makes more money on the back end of assignments then the actual fee for the shooting. That is what is nice about stock photography.

 

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Then, of course, there is the traditional crew shot we usually take at the end of shoot.... with my assistant Alan, the make-up artist, stylist, art director, models, etc acting weird. We do have fun in this business.

Standing on a Cliff

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Trying to get my mind past the Paris tragedy. I have had four great trips in September, October & so far in November this year. One was with my BTO Group Adventure to Iceland and I have shown several of those previously -- especially the wonderful Northern Lights we all witnessed. Then I have had three separate long flights to shoots in Tokyo, then back in Asia again to Hong Kong and am now in Buenos Aires. I hope all of you will continue to travel this planet even with the scares from ISIS, etc. I also hope the things I mentioned in my last post about taking radical Islam much more seriously and vetting Muslims coming into the USA get started in our government and in the rest of the world.

 

But back to my trips: Here is another grand waterfall image from our circling the wonderful country of Iceland. The two people on the cliff --- I was glad one wore red! -- give a perspective of size of these falls. I always try to do that in my shots when possible to show size comparisons. Hope you like this Iceland image.

 

So now from far away in Buenos Aires, I send warmth to all of you. I have been shooting the sexy Tango dancers and also Gaucho cowboys in this exciting area. And the food has been some of the best ever -- Argentina steaks that you can cut with a fork! Enjoy...

 

Welcome Back Berlin

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Today is an important anniversary in Europe. November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall came down. And it was special to me.

 

I was in England then, converting 6000 copies of a VHS movie I had directed & produced in the USA. I went to England to covert to PAL versions that would sell in Europe to play in their TVs. It was cheaper to go to Europe to have those copies made from the USA NTSC version than it was to do it in the USA, and have them later shipped to Europe. And I was almost finished with the many copies at a recording studio in London. 

 

When I heard the Wall was coming down that week, I had to fly over and join in the celebration. I had been shot at (with guns) years before as a grad student in East Berlin near the Wall. I must have been photographing (back then) near some black market "deal" somewhere and they chased me while shooting. I dashed into a Youth Hostel for safety and never did find out why I was a target. But that was another story. Needless to say, I was rather scared at the time!

 

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So I came back to the Wall and celebrated in 1989. I watched as many East & West German citizens chipped away -- like this man did --- as the world watched with joy. I even chipped pieces off the Wall myself (and it was tough to do) for my family members. I also made the words FREE out of a menu and stood with some German students, spelling out what was on all of our minds. That picture is also here, along with the man chipping at the Wall. 

 

Later, when I got home, I wrote a magazine story called "Welcome Back Berlin". I converted all the images to B&W and it was well received. I seemed to have had more time back then to write many magazine stories in the 80's & 90's. Where did the time go in my days?

 

So, enjoy this special day in history today.

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Shoot and Make Mistakes

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I have not thought or looked at theses two images in years & years. They are from my early portfolios, when I was a young photographer showing my portfolios and looking for assignments. I think many people think that professional photographers started out with perfect portfolios & pictures and that is far from the truth. I, and all my peers, made many mistakes! Here is an early slip-up.. I'll tell you the mistake a little lower in this post.

 

I took these images of a girlfriend, out in the woods "picking flowers". At that time I used a filter and smeared a very thin coat of vasoline circularly around the filter (not the lens!) to give it that dreamy, soft look. Perhaps I went a little overboard, I may add looking back!

 

I showed these two images for several years in my big tear-sheet portfolios to possible fashion clients .... surprisingly I even received a lot of assignments from those primitive leather portfolios. Go figure!! But they are really not very good as I look at them now. So I guess what I want to say is that ALL of us started somewhere roughly and -- hopefully -- got better!

 

The biggest mistake on these pictures very few people even noticed, but I cringe now at my stupidity. I have my lovely. sensuous lady out in the woods picking flowers --- well, where does she find sprayed red carnations in the woods?? I also used daisies for props on that shoot, but I should never have used those red carnations. Daisies do grow wild, not red carnations. I know I used the red flowers because of her red ribbon in her hat, but I wasn't real aware of mistakes then. Perhaps Brooke's beauty had me not thinking clearly -- very possible indeed!

 

The moral of this whole post for everyone -- go out and shoot, go out and be creative! You will make mistakes, but we all did. The secret is to get better and develop your own style -- then perhaps you can do this career and have a heck of a lot of fun in the process! Get out there & shoot....

“Give Away A Picture When Traveling”

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A Travel Hint For Photographers: For many years I traveled with a Polaroid camera and films to give local people a photo of themselves. I can not begin to tell you how they LOVED the picture, and how it "broke the ice" in communicating. In some countries like Nepal, they had never had a photo of themselves before. I looked like I stepped off a space ship when they saw their own face slowly appearing on the developing picture --- it was an absolute WOW moment for them. I would bet that many of them still have that little Polaroid hanging in their huts or homes.

 

Polaroid went out of business, so I have stopped traveling with that camera. But now Fuji has a small printer and photo paper that you can carry and give to locals. In Europe, you can get their email address (some even in undeveloped countries) and send them an attachment when you get home. But it is even better to give remote villages a photo to keep and cherish.

 

This older man in Ethiopia proudly displays his picture in a remote village in the Lower Omo Valley. Terre Arrigoni, my travel buddy, brought her Fuji camera and it was a major hit. She gave them to Maasai tribes in Kenya & Tanzania, along with Ethiopia. After we gave them pictures, we were allowed unlimited access to their villages and into their lives. 

 

So, if you have trouble approaching locals, start with a "Polaroid" type picture and watch the change in the village people's behavior. You will never have a shortage of willing models after that!

Think Outside the Box

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You may well enjoy this story. A panoramic image that I created several years ago in our studio of 5 continents of my pictures. One day I decided to make these collages for possible international clients to use for any of their "world-wide" advertising campaigns. I simply took images of photos of my travel "icon" sites -- in England, Greece, France, India, Australia, USA and Egypt -- and turned them into silhouettes against a bright sky. I also did it with a deep blue sky and even added another version of a large sunset behind, and then created a whole separate series of just USA Attractions -- St Louis Arch, Statue of Liberty, Seattle Space Needle, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. Then I, as always, send them out to my many stock agencies for them to market for stock sales. My job; create the images. Their job: find the markets for the images. 

 

This series of creations have done quite well. AT&T bought this particular one a couple of years ago for quite a large 5-figure sale for their International Calling campaign that ran in a full page ad in USA Today for several months -- well worth all my efforts, just in that one sale. And I like the way it symbolizes our planet as a feel of Earth's major travel sites. As soon as a viewer looks at this bright color image in an ad, it registers a WORLD WIDE feel without copy to say that, whatever the advertiser is marketing.

 

This can be a tip for other photographers --- think ahead and think "out of the box" with your images to have them published. It is indeed fun -- not to mention quite lucrative -- to see your images used and published creatively from ideas that you had in your head originally. I spend a lot of time in my life now trying to help others think of ways to make their photography more creative and more able to be published. It brings me great joy to hear of others having some success stories from perhaps a spark that I instilled in them in a lecture, or one of my books, or even a Facebook post. Our individual responsibility in life is to "pass it on" somewhat, and I hope that I can do that from time to time. I take that responsibility quite seriously now in my daily life.

 

Keep shooting creatively!

Gentle Soul

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Another wonderful face that I met in a foreign country because I had a camera in my hand. I saw this wonderful older man in Guatemala and really loved his full of character face --- the lines and weathered look are a result of many years of hard work in the fields. But again, how could I --or any of you --- meet and talk to him easily without a camera?

Because I had a camera, I slowly walked up and he understood that I wanted to meet him and photograph him. My Spanish is limited, but we understood each other as we talked and shot pictures. As I showed him the images in the back of my camera, he warmed up more and more to me.

I can tell all of you that if you approach local people in ANY country, chances are very good you can communicate with your camera. It works most of the time, but there is one other very important part. Don't forget to approach gently and with a smile. A smile is understood in any language! And your camera will make it so much easier to break down any barriers.

My hope for all of you is to enjoy this wonderful planet with your camera. Your camera will "break the ice" to approach a stranger, and you will communicate and learn so much about people and other cultures. Happy shooting!

Amish Country

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Today, let me talk about something that really is a by-product of being a photographer. I am a tall person ... that could be very intimidating to many people, especially strangers. How can any of us -- tall or not -- simply walk up to local people while traveling and talk without them fearing the encounter?

I make a living traveling with my cameras, documenting people and places in over 180 countries. . But let's say that I worked at something else, but still loved to travel and meet people & see new places. As a tall person, or put yourself into that situation, HOW could I (or you) ever walk up to someone in another country or city and meet them and communicate without some justification for reaching out to them? It is not easy to do even in the easiest of situations.

What I really am saying is that the camera ALLOWS me wonderful freedom .... it allows me and gives me a REASON to approach strangers, show them an image and find out more about them. If I ever approached them without the camera, it would be awkward and they probably would feel to see if they still had their wallet!  
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So I can tell you and everyone .... allow your camera to be a calling card to allow you to mingle, meet strangers and travel the world meeting locals! That is one of the BEST side effects I can tell you about taking pictures --- professionally or not!

To illustrate that fact, look at this cute little old lady tending her sunflower garden with a watering can. I was driving around Amish country in Ohio last summer and spotted her in her yard. I turned the car around, and approached her with my cameras & tripod. Again.... how could I ever walk all the way up her driveway and not have her fear me if I had no camera and just wanted to talk?? She was wonderful and I learned she was an 89-year old Great Grandmother, had 7 children and just had the greatest smile! I photographed her, shot stock video clips of her watering her flowers, had her sign a model-release, and later sent her a picture & a thank you note. That is the GREATEST part of traveling with a camera!

I repeat --- isn't traveling with a camera wonderful??!! I hope perhaps I allowed you to see a new reason and ability to love taking pictures today!

Golden Triangle Skyline

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Keeping on the Pittsburgh theme, here is another shot of my birthplace city from Mt Washington. As I said before, I am proud of this great city and it has one of the best skylines in the world inside the Three Rivers at the Golden Triangle. Several of these downtown skyscrapers are over 80 stories tall.

See how great it looks at night! It is also called the City of Bridges. Terrific at the Blue Hour of twilight!

My Beautiful Hometown

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Born in Pittsburgh, my Pirates got knocked out of Wild Card last night. Bummer. But I also like the Cubs, so I do hope they win it all. Their fans deserve it! Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908, I believe.

Back to my hometown, Pittsburgh. It has one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, settled between three rivers at the Golden Triangle downtown. Taken from beautiful Mt Washington and it shows the reply cool incline cars that go up the mountain.

A truly grand city! I will forever be proud that it is my hometown. Enjoy....

Unique Iceland

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Another of the many turf churches we saw all over Iceland. This one is called Hofskirkja in the town of Hof, in North Iceland.

I just love visualizing what it was like going to and staying warm in tiny churches in isolated villages of Iceland so very long ago.