Archive for March 2007

As I decide what subjects to write about in my blog, from time to time I may write about some models in particular that I’ve enjoyed working with and have gotten good results with. I’ve already written about Rhowena. Now I’d like to write about Carlotta.

Like Rhowena, I had seen and admired many photos of Carly on-line and had hoped to work with her one day. That day came in June of last year. I’d read that she was planning to attend a friend’s wedding in Las Vegas that month, and as I was hoping to visit family in Vegas around then, I decided to go the weekend that Carly would be there.

Unlike some other models who might balk at getting up early, she had no problem meeting me at 5:30 am. It wasn’t as early as it sounds, as it was already light at that hour, so getting some sunrise photos was unfortunately out of the question. We rode out to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, to a spot where I had worked with Rhowena three years earlier.

I wasn’t too concerned about duplicating images, as Carlotta and Rhowena are two unique people and each had their own way of working. As you can see from the images here, I think the results turned out pretty well. As a matter of fact, four of the five most popular images on my Deviant Art page (and five of the top seven) are from this session. I’d like to think that my skills as a photographer have something to do with it, but with a model as beautiful as Carlotta, I really can’t be sure!

Carlotta on Model Mayhem:

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The photograph you see here (above) may be the best photo that I’ve ever made. At the very least, it’s the only one to have won first prize in a major international photo competition. People have even asked me if the image has been digitally manipulated – but it hasn’t.

What you’re seeing is a place in Iceland called the Blue Lagoon. I’ve been there twice, both times in 1995. It’s located not too far from Keflavik airport, on the Reykjanes peninsula. It’s also right next to the Svartsengi geothermal power plant – and it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t. Iceland is a volcanic place, and the power plant works by processing hot water from underground, which is then poured out next to it. Coming from underground, the water has a high mineral content. Those minerals seal off the pores in the lava that compose the peninsula and the water pools rather than being absorbed immediately.

The Blue Lagoon has become a popular place to take a dip as the water is warm (even hot in places) and as the minerals in it are said to be good for treating people with skin conditions. Photographically, of course, it’s provides a great juxtaposition between people at leisure and heavy industry.

My first visit there was in May 1995 on a five day trip to Iceland. I had recently purchased my Pentax 67 system and wanted to give it a short tryout before taking a longer trip to Europe in the summer. The second visit was that very summer, as I flew to (or from?) Copenhagen on Icelandair and made a short trip there during the stopover at Keflavik. I was shooting color transparency film back then as I was more interested in doing stock photography. (I’ll write more about that another time.) As my filing system was still very rudimentary, I don’t know if these photos here were made on the first or second trip – or a combination of both!

As for the photo competition, I had attended some workshops in Santa Fe in 1997 and so was put on their mailing list. One of the items I received was for the 1998 Assignment: Earth photo competition, sponsored by the Santa Fe Center for Visual Arts and open to photographers worldwide. I basically thought to myself “Why the heck not?” and sent in three color 8x10’s of Scandinavia. It was something I did very casually, with no expectation of any success. What a surprise then to get a phone call from Santa Fe telling me that the Blue Lagoon photo I submitted had won First Prize in the Color/Amateur category (by unanimous decision of all three jurors, no less!).

Naturally, my head probably doubled in size from hearing this, but there were also some prizes to go with it: 40 rolls of Kodak slide film and, essentially, free tuition to a workshop at Santa Fe. I had been planning to go back to Santa Fe in the summer of 1998 to study with Elizabeth Opalenik and could have used the prize to cover that workshop. However, Joyce Tenneson was scheduled to be at Santa Fe the following week, so I ended up taking that one, too. Both workshops dealt with nude figure photography, so I think I gained a lot by being able to stay for both.

As for the photo itself, a number of people have asked me if it was digitally manipulated, but (as I’ve said above) it wasn't. I think photography is in a pretty sad state, to be honest with you, when someone creates an image with some vision and it’s then assumed to have been doctored up somehow with digital trickery. I guess these people may think that creative vision is something done only sitting in front of a computer monitor rather than looking into a viewfinder, which is where I think it should be.

The Blue Lagoon is a fascinating place and has been photographed many times by many people. However, I still believe that my award winning photo is the best that I’ve seen of it (though I do admit to a certain bias!).

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I recently sent in my Epson 4490 flatbed scanner for repair and yesterday I got it back. For some time now, it would make a nasty grinding sound when scanning reflective (i.e. paper) items. Lately though, it was giving me black lines through my images when scanning medium format film. (This is the reason why I bought it a year ago – because the old one was doing this – and now the new one was doing it, too! At least it was still under warrantee.)

I checked out the reflective scanning last night and it was fine. Tonight I decided to try it with film and post the results here if they were acceptable. You’re seeing the images now, so I guess you can figure out the results.

These three photos were made in November 1995, less than three months into my ‘career’ as an art nude photographer. It was a one day, invitation only workshop at a Victorian era house in Troy, New York. The instructor was a woman named Elizabeth Opalenik, who I was to study with several times again and whose opinion I still value today. It was also my first time working with the nude at a non-studio interior location, so for that alone it was interesting to me.

The photo on top, I must admit, is a ‘poached’ image, as that particular model, Jojo, was working with another photographer who was photographing her from straight on. I was in the next room and saw this view. I liked it, so I put the telephoto lens on my Pentax 67 (so as not to get too close and interfere) and prayed that she would not move. Luckily, she didn’t, and I made this image. I have always liked it because of the background and her grande dame attitude.

The second image was made quite differently – the bathroom Sheila and I were in was so small that I was forced to use my wide angle lens and back up to the wall as much as I could. I think the mirror helped to add a sense of greater space and depth, and I find a sense of mystery in her reflected eyes, as well.

The last image is of Gabrielle, a model I had worked with twice before. I remember telling her that I wanted her to feel like she was acting out a scene, revisiting her childhood. She responded by saying that she was a model, not an actress! Still, she was a very good model, and I think there’s a sense of innocence here despite her nudity – maybe looking back to a simpler time in her life – or perhaps the nudity is a sign that she’s outgrown those days.

Another thing I remember is that, after I hadn’t gotten my copies of the model releases, I called up Elizabeth to ask where they were. She apologized and told me the envelope with them had fallen on the floor and was chewed up by her dog – or, in other words, “the dog ate my model release!” (I received them shortly thereafter, and if anyone wishes to take a workshop, Elizabeth is a very good person to have as a mentor. She is also finally publishing a book of her work. Her website is

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I guess that every photographer who’s worked with models for a number of years has some of those muses who just stand out above the rest. For me, one such model was a lovely girl from Scotland named Rhowena.

I had seen and admired photos of Rhowena on the web, and when I read that she was planning to visit New York, I contacted her to try to set something up. Unfortunately, on the day that she was to arrive in NYC, I received an e-mail from her saying that her trip had been cancelled for various reasons.

Luckily, I would have another chance. Some months later, in winter 2003, she planned another trip to New York to work with me and another photographer, Dale, who admired her, as well. As Dale had a house in upstate New York in which to photograph and I had no location, we decided to work at his place. I picked up Rhowena at Kennedy Airport, and then she and I rode up to Dale’s place, where we took turns photographing her that weekend.

Rhowena proved to be a superlative model, possessing the three things that I think make a good model: physical beauty; the inate ability to move and pose; and ease of working with. I’ve worked with few other models who had these qualities the way she did. Other than that, I will let the accompanying photos speak for themselves.

Fortunately, I would have the chance to work with her again that year and in 2004. It turns out that she was going to Las Vegas with her boyfriend (a pro poker player) at the same time that I was there to visit family. Sometimes things just work out that way, and I made some more quality images with her in the Nevada desert. (I’ll write about those another time.)

On the other hand, one must take the good with the bad. That same boyfriend who brought her to Las Vegas ended up marrying her, after which she retired from modeling. Even another model who worked with her wrote to me that Rhowena’s retirement was a great loss to the modeling world. Oh, well – I guess if she’s happy then we should all be happy, too. I’m just grateful that I got to work with her as much as I did.

By the way, Rhowena won $25,000 last year in a televised poker tournament for amateurs in Las Vegas. I guess modeling isn’t the only thing she’s good at!
On another note, I saw that someone checked out my blog yesterday from the city of Tehran in the Islamic Republic of Iran. He (she?) linked to it from Stephen Haynes art nude website. I thought that people over there weren't supposed to look at such things - so perhaps there is hope for the world, after all.

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Okay, everybody, it’s that time of year again. The time to be green for a day. Yes, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and here in New York we’ve got the biggest St. Patty’s Day parade in the world. (From what I understand, the celebrations over in Ireland are actually rather understated.)

This makes me think of the time, back in 2001, when I photographed the parade on assignment for a magazine called Photovision (now sadly out of business), writing a review of a new camera, the Maxxum 7 by Minolta (also sadly out of the camera business).

At the time I had a Press Card issued by the New York Police Department, so that allowed me to photograph the parade without being stuck on the sidewalk behind the barricades. It was great fun and I really enjoyed it, talking with people in the crowd as if I were somebody important, being able to walk freely up and down the parade route, standing and talking with the cops on duty, etc.

Of course, having that freedom gave me the chance to get more good photos than I could have otherwise. For such events, I usually try to photograph three main subjects: 1) cute kids; 2) pretty girls; and 3) men with interesting beards and moustaches. I present to you one of each.

As expected, there were no nudes to be seen. It was rather chilly for that and besides, I think the parade organizers would have objected. So, to keep in the spirit of celebrating things Irish, here’s a photo of my friend Ida Mae – proud member an Irish-American family. She is, of course, looking her most saintly and angelic.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

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I used to work with a fellow named Jules. For several years, on the 15th day of March, I would go over to him and tell him to be careful, as that day had historically been a bad one for people named Julie.

Tomorrow is March 15. Beware the Ides of March.

Yes, tomorrow will be the 2,051st anniversary of the assassination of Julius Caesar, Dictator of Rome. (Well, it would be if we were still using the Julian calendar – so let's pretend.) Now, the Romans of yore were known for doing things that today many people would likely not look upon favorably. You know, things like despotism, invading and enslaving other lands, crucifixion, Bob Guccione’s film “Caligula,” gladiatorial games, throwing people to the lions, etc.

However, they did do some worthwhile things. One of them: they sure knew how to build. To commemorate the glory that was Roman architecture, I’m posting photos that I made in 1990 of the interior (above) and exterior (left) of the Pantheon in Rome – the finest Roman building to survive from those ancient times. It’s a magnificent place, crowned on top by a beautiful dome seen here with the Oculus (“eye”) in the middle to let in air and light. (And rain, too. I’ve always wondered how long it takes to mop the place up after a downpour.) As you can see, it also makes for a great lightpath.

For those not interested in Roman buildings, I’m presenting the photo on the right to commemorate the glory that is Italian women. (A different type of architecture, so to speak?) After all, Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Gina Lollobrigida are just as much a part of Italian culture as any old building – and let’s not forget Laura Antonelli!

This particular photo was made at a workshop in Tuscany in 1998. I even think it has a kind of ancient Roman feel to it, perhaps because of the fabric and the formal pose. You might think that the fabric was carefully placed into position, but it wasn’t. I had planned to do so, but first I casually tossed it into the air and it just happened to land the way you’re seeing it now! It was absolutely perfect and didn’t need to be moved at all. (By the way, that same piece of fabric is in one of my closets now and accompanies me on most photo shoots to this day.)

The photo looks like it was made in a studio with this lighting, but it wasn’t, either. The location was an old farmhouse somewhere in the Tuscan countryside, and what’s illuminating her is pure 100% late day Tuscan sunlight. I can’t imagine being able to do any better in a studio – or anyplace else, for that matter!

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Over the last few decades, the increase in technical sophistication of photo gear has jumped by leaps and bounds. From manual-everything cameras, we went from semi-auto exposure to full auto exposure, then on to autofocus, followed by lenses that limit camera shake, etc. Then came the digital camera, which now has a function or a button to do just about everything a photographer would need except wiping his/her bottom when he/she needs to take care of business behind a bush out in the woods.

These latest cameras really simplify the work a photographer has to do, so with this in mind, and wanting to keep up with the latest technological trends, I decided to get myself a new camera last summer – and so I did.

I bought a Holga.

Yes, my answer to the digital age was to buy a $20 piece of plastic junk from China. After all, what could be simpler and easier than looking through the plastic viewfinder and pressing that plastic button? I’m not about to give up using my primary cameras - a Pentax 67 and a Fuji 6x7 rangefinder – but the Holga is just plain fun to use.

The first photo here (above) is one I took of Rachel at a workshop on Prince Edward Island, Canada, last August. I was standing over Rachel, pointing down at her lying on the ground (you can see my shoe at the upper right), so there really is no definite ‘up’ or ‘down’ direction here. I decided on this orientation as she appears to be caressing a giant fish with her head in its mouth.

The second photo (left) is of another model at the same workshop. I decided to tilt the camera by about 45 degrees to make a more dynamic composition. I think the rough edges you get with the Holga just enhance the down and dirty nature of the image.

Finally, a photo I like to think of us “Machine Gun Sukumar.” Sukumar is a scientist and photographer from India, now living in upstate New York, who attended the workshop. This was actually the first photo I’d made with my new wondercam, and he got into the spirit of things by pretending(?) to want to gun me down. The neckstrap of his camera even looks like a bandolier.

The Holga is also great for making multiple exposures (even if you didn’t plan them to be that way!), but those images will have to wait for another day. I’ve not used the Holga since that week in August (I haven’t taken any photos since then due to my foot surgery) but I’m thinking of getting out with it to start a series of photos of New York City - the place where I live but rarely photograph.

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Last month was a pretty good one for me photographically, even though I didn’t take a single photo. (I underwent foot surgery in October and haven’t actually made any serious photos since last August.) The good news is that I saw two of my photos printed in photography magazines.

The first one that I saw is this image of Alison (above) published in the French magazine PHOTO. The magazine has its Concours Amateurs (amateurs contest) every year, claiming to receive over 50,000 photo submissions but printing only a few hundred. This is the fifth time since 1999 that it’s printed one of my images. I had heard from someone in Europe that one of my photos had been included, but I didn’t know which one and had to wait for the magazine to hit North American newsstands before I could find out. (Congratulations, too, to my friend Dave Levingston for the publication of one of his photos.)

Regarding the photo itself, it was made on the rocky coastline of the Scottish Highlands in 2004. I was visiting my friend Alex Ingram (see his link to the right) and Alison was kind enough to ride up from her home in London to join us. Alex had made many wonderful photos of Alison and I had been waiting for the chance to work with her. Thankfully it came about this time. Alison’s a very intelligent girl but has a rather offbeat character (I like to describe her as a “goofball”) and she is absolutely fabulous to work with. I hope that I’ll get the chance to do so again, though I’ve heard that she’s working at a studio in London now and has cut back on her modeling. If I don’t, I’m happy to have worked with her for the short time that I did.

The next photo that I saw published is this image made at the Zenko-ji Buddhist temple in Nagano, Japan. It was published in The Photo Review as part of its annual photo contest issue, too. While it doesn’t have the huge international distribution of a magazine like PHOTO, it is nonetheless a very highly respected publication in fine art photography circles. I had actually been sending in photos to the contest for several years but with no luck. I had only submitted nudes, so I decided to try something different and sent in some photos of Japan instead. It worked! (As the majority of photos selected in this competition fall into the category of “social documentary,” I consider it an uphill battle with any of the photos that I like to make.)

This photo was also made in 2004. It’s a close-up of the foot of a large guardian figure standing in front of Zenko-ji. A lot of my photos, like this one, have shallow depth of field. This is caused by the combination of a big handheld camera and the need for a fast enough shutter speed, resulting in the use of a wide aperture and the shallow depth of field that goes with it. While forced to do so out of necessity, I think it also gives my images a certain look that I rather enjoy.

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Hi, everyone. I just returned home tonight from a trip out west visiting family for the weekend. Seeing the Rocky Mountains from the air Friday night, illuminated by moonlight, was an eerie and spooky experience. Seeing New York City tonight, illuminated by thousands upon thousands of lights, was in its own way equally awe inspiring.


Now back to my photography. As I mentioned in my last entry, I mostly photograph fine art nudes and travel images, so I thought I’d post an early personal favorite from each of those subject.

From the mid-60’s image I put up last time, fast forward in time about 15 years and move several thousand miles east across the great expanse of the Atlantic. In 1980, I made my first trip away from home on my own, beginning with a week in London. Like many others, the Tower of London was one of my top destinations, and here you see a group of guards, red coats and black furry hats all, on the march.

While not perfect technically or even compositionally – I think I was hurrying along trying to keep up with them - I have always liked this one. Why? Well, maybe the unintentional pan-and-blur look it has appeals to me, but what I really like is the way that the second guard from the left has his leg up in an awkward position. I just get a kick out of it (pun definitely not intended!). Now that I look at it, they all seem to have their legs that way, but this fellow, with some breathing room behind him, just stands out. I guess it also showed me the power of photography and how it could capture a split-second in time, the results of which are always unpredictable. The photo was made on Kokachrome 64 slide film, and boy did it make red colors pop.

Now move forward another 15 years to 1995 and back to New York state. I began photographing nudes at a workshop in Woodstock, New York, in August of that year. The previous year, I had completed four years of going to business school at night (including summers) because I felt doing so would give me a better chance of finding a new job. (Ha!) Now that I had completed what I felt I needed to do, it was time for me to do what I actually wanted to do – and that was photography. I had come across the Center for Photography at Woodstock and its workshop programs in the fall of 1994, so I decided to sign up for a nude figure workshop the following summer.

The photo I’m posting was from my first nude photo session on the first day. The model, Gabrielle, sits and looks off to the side, leaning forward. It was the eighth frame of film on my first roll of film and I consider it to be my first nude keeper, so it has always held a special place with me.

Still, I wonder how much credit I can take for its success. After all, I didn’t choose the location and didn’t pose the model. The two other photographers with me had photographed nudes before, so I left those things to them. All I did was push the button on my Pentax when I thought I saw something that looked interesting, as I did for this image. On the other hand, recognizing what will or will not make a good image is a skill that is crucial to being a good photographer, so perhaps I should give myself a little credit. The difference between my travel photography and my nude work, as I have written elsewhere, is that with nudes I can alter the scene by changing the model’s position and pose. I didn’t do that here, so it was just my photographic eye at work.


Now that I’ve laid the groundwork for my photography by starting with some early images, I’ll post some more recent work next time. Stay tuned.

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“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep………

“And God said, ”Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good.”

Light. A form of electromagnetic radiation traveling about 186,282 miles per second. That’s pretty strong stuff. Without it, as the Bible says, the world was void and without form. Without it, we who call ourselves photographers would have nothing to write with. We would be, so to speak, out of work.

I decided to start my blog with the quote from the Book of Genesis because I had decided to title my first entry, “In The Beginning.” As this is going to be a blog primarily about my photographic life, I’ve decided to start at the beginning with one of my earliest images. With that title, the biblical quotation came to mind, so I decided to use it in order to pay tribute to that wonderful friend of ours – the thing that we call ‘light.’

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Like many people, I’ve got a bunch of old photos stashed away in a proverbial shoebox. (It’s not the same as keeping them hermetically sealed and kept on the porch of Funk & Wagnall’s since noon today, but you get the idea.) This is the repository for the photos I took when I was a kid and a teenager, before I really became “serious” about photography.

From that box I’ve chosen the photo seen here. I made it when I was a kid on the boardwalk at Coney Island, close to where I grew up, sometime in the mid-1960s. The subject is an amusement park called Astroland, with the huge astronaut who stood on the boardwalk for a while on the right (he made his exit ages ago) and the still present Wonder Wheel on the left. I’ve also been always intrigued by the cowboy flying through the air on the horse in front of the wheel – is he real or just a replica of sorts?

Anyway, I tend to think of this as one of my first ‘good’ photos (well, good compared to the others I took at the time) and it still brings back a sense of nostalgia every time I look at it – but how could I know back then just how important photography would be to me?

(Ironically, while I’m writing about my beginnings in photography, the end is in sight for Astroland. After decades as a mainstay on the Coney Island boardwalk, its days are numbered, having been recently bought by a real estate developer who plans to put up condos and an indoor, year-round entertainment center. At least the Cyclone, on adjacent city-owned land, will stay. I hope that somehow the Wonder Wheel will, too.)

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As for the future of this blog, time will tell. I primarily photograph art nude and travel images, so the majority of the photos I post here and write about will be from those two genres, though I may toss in a few different things if I see fit. I’m not a pro so I don’t photograph every week or even every month, but I’ll try to put something up here once or twice a week with images both old and new. I look forward to doing this and I hope that you’ll enjoy the journey with me.

Thanks for stopping by.


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