Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eliot is an Idiot

Do you know what this is?

Well, I didn't know what it was. That doesn't prove I'm an idiot.

I had just walked into the offices of Proclaim Promotions in Concord, and I figured these little gizmos were some promotional item - something for visitors to play with while they waited. That round thingy and the sets of plastic tabs were just hanging out on the counter, right?

So, I picked up one (see above image) and thought, "Cool - a toy!." Or did I think "Groovy - a toy?" or "Sweet - a toy?"

So I touched one of the metal disks (so nicely glued to the colorful tabs) to the top or the doohicky. I jumped when the big ugly thing started beeping (well, it had been pretty until it started beeping, which coincided with its descent into uglitude). I think that proves I'm an idiot: Why did I stupidly assume that these attractive playthings were toys, and not, say, part of a nuclear deterrent system? My nuclears were deterred, that's for sure!

Obviously the beeping and mechanical hoo-hah stopped, or I wouldn't be alive today to write this.

It turns out that by touching the red tab to Metallic Circle I was clocking some employee out - these playthings are actually a 22nd century time clock! Who knew?

The eight-foot-tall security guard came running, "Who did you clock in our out??"

(Right, like I'm going to say, "Don't you mean 'whom'?"

"Sorry, I'm just a photographer."

"Well, clock that person back in, or back out. Just undo whatever you did, idiot."

Okay, I made the eight-foot-tall person up. It was just the nice woman working behind the counter, and she was very nice about it, and she did NOT call me an idiot, at least not that I could hear.

By the way, Bill, the owner of Proclaim Promotions, and the owner of those things on the counter, is a really nice guy. The happy, relaxed employees show that Bill has created a good workplace.

Eliot is a Genius

Yesterday, Monday, I had a shoot out in Concord - about a freeway exit or so from where I bought my computer, actually. I was to photograph the owner of Proclaim Promotions:

This may look like a simple shot, unless you know the environment: Proclaim's large format ink-jet printers are jammed into an area of the warehouse that is protected from dust from above and sides. Interior dividers (just out of sight above subject's head) cut the ceiling area into four sections, so that light from one section does not spread into the next section.

The tight space precluded me from using one light in each section, and I also needed to be able to set up quickly for varied shots: printers, interior work area, external area, conference room. I could not be wasting the owner's time moving and setting up my lighting gear.

The ambient light (fluorescents) were way too dim and poorly placed to get both a good image of Proclaim Promotion's owner Bill Welland with the wide format printers.

Instead I used two battery-powered, light-weight flashes on light-duty light stands. As usual, I used a wireless remote attached to the camera to set off the flashes.

Notice that he is lit from the side, giving a more three-dimensional quality to his face. That light was positioned to light two sections of the ceiling to create the good portrait lighting. The area behind him was lit by a flash out just out of picture range, set below the partition height. It was aimed across the room so that the both printers behind the subject would be lit. Since these are the printers that produce Proclaim's most important products, the printers' importance demands that they be well lit. Given the baffles, low ceiling and tight quarters, it took some finesse to get the little light to cover the background so evenly.

My client, BizX in Seattle selected five images for their web page and monthly magazine.

More interesting than the technical details, and far more interesting than a straightforward business portrait for a mainstream-style company magazine, was how it felt to be at Proclaim Promotions.

Every employee I met there was not just "nice," but happy, relaxed, easy-going. I made a huge faux-pas (to be discussed in another post) and they still were nice to me. One of their computer guys was generous with his time, explaining technical details that fascinated me.

As I told Bill, I know he is a good boss because everyone I met there was friendly, happy and polite.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Engagement Session at UC Berkeley

While JR is building my new computer at Fry's, and the CEO of Renaissance Gift Baskets is waiting at my office, I am dropping off my car at Oceanworks on Tenth Street in Berkeley.

Angus, the owner, is my guy, or, rather, The Guy, at Oceanworks. He is Berkeley's most loved mechanic, and his specialty is Japanese cars. I drive a Toyota flavored car, the year and VIN of which Angus specified before I went out car-shopping (ask me about it).

Special Note: NEVER buy a car at Toyota of Berkeley. Go to the Toyota dealership by the Jelly Belly factory - Fairfield Toyota. I hope I can blog about the awful service at Berkeley Toyota someday. The underlying principle is that they can sell poorly serviced, i.e., crappy, used cars and Toyota can't do anything about it.

Angus and I went to Willard Junior High (on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley) together. He remembers me carrying my camera around school. So, we can reminisce a little about Ms. Prisk, our French teacher, and other jr. high school stuff. Do they still make Junior High schools, or does everyone go to "middle school" now? My kids went to middle school. What school did you go to - middle or junior high?

What a pleasure it was, then, when a bride-to-be, Janet called to book me for her wedding. "Angus told me to call you," she said. Eventually she told me that Angus was her fiancé.

There's a bit difference between, "Angus told me to call," and "Angus and I are getting married - please photograph our wedding." She definitely meant the latter. They were very pleased that I was available on their date for their Berkeley wedding on the UC Campus.

I love to hang out and chat. But the most intimate way that I connect with my fellow humans is with the camera. More accurately - as much as I wish that I could have dozens of close, intimate friends, I don't have the time nor psyche to be hail-fellow-well-met-best-friends-for-life to everyone who enriches my life. I love to hang out at Oceanworks and chat with Angus. But to take his picture, to engage in a photographic excursion with him and his fiancée is far more intimate, at least for me it is.

That is why I feel so comfortable totally integrating my photography and my life: when I am taking pictures of people, they are becoming, for the moment, intimate friends of mine.

Although most of my brides contact me via the contact form on my website, I would always opt for a phone conversation than email correspondence.

So, we have a happy Angus & Janet, we have a happy Toyota (mine) and a happy me (Eliot).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Customer Service: JR at Fry's in Concord

A big Thank You to JR - head of service - at Fry's in Concord, California.

One of my computers crashed on Monday. (At first I thought it was an earthquake or that a car had hit the house. Nope, just my C: drive crashing.)

I thought it was no big deal because I have several other computers, and all my client data is backed up both on external drives and DVDs. However, I hadn't backed up the system, so I couldn't restore it - I've learned my lesson.

At Fry's I bought a floor model of a pre-built Fry's computer. I set it up in my office, fired it up, and on a scale of 1 to 10, it didn't work very well.

I drove back out to Fry's (half an hour each way, at least) where JR, the head of service, immediately saw that I had a lemon and set a full refund in motion.

And, he took me by the hand, and I speak metaphorically here, as the store was closing, and picked out the components for a screaming fast (again with the metaphor) computer.

If you have ever met JR, you will never forget him! He is like the most likable character you would ever want to meet in a movie: He's expressive, fast on the uptake, knowledgeable, and eager to be on the customer's side when Corporate isn't. I told him, "When you get married, I'm going to photograph your wedding!"

In my mind, he rescued Fry's reputation: Fry's is not a soulless clot of dissipated losers posing as sales reps, but an oasis in the wilderness of contemporary American merchandising.

1) THANK YOU to JR at Concord, CA, Fry's
2) I'm gonna have a durn-fast (sorry for the technical jargon) computer
3) If I ever make a movie, I'm going to make sure that there is a JR character in it to help our hero.

CONTEST: Correctly Identify This Guy, Win a Prize

The first reader to go to my Contact Page and send me a message with the name of this subject will win either an 8x10 of this image or a free portrait session in Berkeley, CA. Alternatively, you can email me: .

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

ISES - Wedding and Party Vendors Unite

I am a member of ISES - International Society of Edible Scones.

No, International Special Event Society.

The Northern California Chapter held a Gala at Treasure Island (the person-made island attached to the naturally-made island Yerba Buena, which yields, via tunnel, to the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge) last night - July 24, 2007.

Some of the Bay Area's great caterers provided the food:
Taste Catering
Elaine Bell Catering
Paula LeDuc Fine Catering
Betty Zlatchin Catering
Melon's Catering
Patrick David's Catering
Jane Hammond Events and
Catered Too

Living in the Bay Area, I could easily be a foodie. But I'm really happiest with a chicken burrito and a diet coke. On the other hand, I recently had some meals at Andersen Pea Soup in Buellton, and I found it close to inedible. Yet, the place is very popular. McDonalds hasn't gone out of business (yet) due to the sudden upsurge in American's devotion to fine cuisine.

I'm still a sucker for a hot-carmel sundae - as long as the carmel is home-made. The canned stuff will not do.

I'm not a fan of long posts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Home Sweet Chocolate

I drove back home - too far to walk - today. It was overcast all the way up 101 (from Buellton) until I got to Berkeley. It wasn't too long until sunset, and the sun was indeed shining on the usually fogged-in Berkeley.
I couldn't wait to get into the office.
My office was, until the digital age, a darkroom. Now it's a chocolate room.
For the past few months I have been photographing chocolate for Renaissance Gift Baskets. Their web site isn't up yet, but once it is, I'll let you know where it is.
In the meantime, here is just one of hundreds of photos of chocolates that I have created in the past eight months:

My office barely has room for walking as it is still filled with chocolates and gift baskets. Fortunately for Rene Bien, the CEO of Renaissance Gift Baskets, I have had my fill of chocolate, and I'm not eating up the gifts between shoots anymore

From the Archives: Outdoor portrait of a child

No, this is not my daughter. This is an image from a fun portrait session I had with a couple who found me on the internet. We used my favorite location, and this image is just one of dozens of touching moments.

Wedding PJ (PhotoJournalism)

Another Wedding Photo from the '07 Archives

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Listening to Robert Greenberg! A Bagatelle?

Having a long car trip coming up (to Buellton!) I went to the library, resuscitated by library card (it had gone flat and stiff from lack of use) and browsed the "Books on CD" section.

I checked out A CD set about Haydn by Robert Greenberg.

Go online and buy a copy now! Or, go the library route. Robert is terrific! He's funny, engaging, a twenty-first century guy giving us his take on the eighteenth century. Robert is just totally delightful.

Education-wise: He includes lots of information that gives context (I love context!) to the events in the composer's life. He includes samples of music that influenced Haydn, and even includes a recipe for Haydn's favorite strudel.

(I made up the part about the recipe.)

Here is something that, despite growing up the son of a musician and brother of a musician I did not know until I learned it from Greenberg's tape: A Nocturne was, originally, a piece of music performed during an evening, open-air concert (or serenade) in Vienna in the eighteenth century. According to Greenberg, these musical events, often featuring compositions in the Italian style, were very popular in Haydn's time. As a young man, before he was the masterful composer he eventually became, he wrote and performed in some of these well attended musical soirees.

I had grown up in a rich musical environment. Our everyday vocabulary included such terms as sonata, crescendo, glissando, atonal, da capo, cadenza, recitative, allegro, spicatto and so on.

I didn't need to be told that Bach had never written a string quartet. I learned early that some "classical" music was written for dancing, e.g., gigue, sarabande, some for rich patrons, e.g., Brandenberg Concerti and that Beethoven (not Rasumovsky) wrote the Rasumovsky Quartets. But, I never knew the context, the back-story, of the nocturne or notturno.

From Greenberg I learned that this popular evening entertainment created a demand for easy-listening music centuries ago in Vienna. So, that explains why there are so many nocturnes in our listening repertoire now-a-days! I now infer the Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ("A Little Night Music" or "A Little Serenade") or Serenade for strings in G Major, K525, was composed with one of these Viennese evenings in mind.

By the way, Nocturnes or Serenades of this sort were written for entertainment, for easy listening, which explains why they are so accessible. That Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is popular even today, 220 years after it was written: Mozart intended that it have broad appeal.

Could anyone tell me, now, what is a bagatelle?

Wedding Photographer Trapped in Buellton?

Buellton? It's a few miles from Lompoc. And, it's just a few minutes from Solvang.

I'm here in sort-of-southern California (about twenty minutes from Santa Barbara) attending a quarterly meeting of the Professional Photographers of California. I have my car, so I'm not really trapped. But, we had meetings today until 10:00 PM, and Monday's meeting is at 9:00 AM - so there's not much time to plan and execute activities beyond hanging in my hot motel room. (It's hot because I refuse to turn on the AC - global warming and all.)

I figured I'd have some quality time during this trip to spend with my computer, and that I could use that time to work on the blog. As I packed for the trip I had to choose between shooting new photos for the blog or limiting myself to existing images. Since I knew the scenery would be flying by at around 65 MPH, I opted to pack along with the computer a hard drive of archived images. I would pick some favorites to post.

This is a picture of Khela taken on her wedding day. I had been inspired by another photographer a week before, whose images often featured the bride's lashes showing clearly by placing them (via camera position) over the cheek.

You can see their engagement session online: Engagememnt Photos

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Free Weekend

After two weekends of weddings, I get to take this on off - almost. I have to zip down south on 101 to attend a Professional Photographers of California meeting for a day or two.

So, because I don't have any shoots this weekend, I get to stay up late, hang out with my wife - whose name is, by the way, Annie Khuner:

I also get to hang out with our dog, Isabelle. Isabelle: A Photographer's Daschund

I spent today (Friday) working on a wedding album for Maren and Nick. As much as I love their wedding images - and I really like Maren and Nick too - I forgot to put their images up on my new site.

Here is an altar shot of Maren.

Below is a photo of Khela getting for her wedding at Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite.

Every hard drive - and I have almost a dozen - in my systems has an /image folder, which is divided up into portraits and weddings. Any photos that don't fall into that category just sit in the /image folder.

To "keep in touch" with what images were on my computer, I checked out a wedding folder and found this photo. I brightened up the flowers a little, but other than that it's as shot - no retouching, no cropping.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Campanile, UC Berkeley

The Sunday wedding was on the UC Berkeley Campus at The Faculty Club. The Campanile has always been a favorite of mine.

I have been using the polarizing lately to darken the sky and deepen the green of foliage

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday Morning - Upload to the Max

This photographer spends Sunday Morning uploading thirty gigs of photos from Saturday's wedding.

While the files were copied from my CF cards to my 400g external drive, I selected a wedding image from a few years ago. This was taken at Stanford. These arches are a favorite of photographers.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Highway One north to Jenner - A Day Trip

On Friday, July 13, 07, Casey Cheung and I took a day trip north on Highway one - starting at his digs out in the Avenues - I love that phrase "Out in the Avenues."

In San Francisco, the west side has numbered Avenues running North/South. These are the Avenues.

The numbered Streets are in the South of Market Area, i.e., downtownish.

Our first stop was at Muir Beach:

I'm so excited about today - Saturday 7/11! I have a fun wedding on the UC Berkeley campus - at the Faculty Club.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

7/7/07 Wedding Photography

Hanna and Keith got married on 07/07/07. It was a long drive from Berkeley to Almaden (south end of San Jose). I had such a good time that I hung around for an extra hour taking pictures.

I caught this moment late in the afternoon at the reception.