Here's the second image library I shot late last year for Humana with the help of Skystorm. It was for their medicare division. While the first was a three day shoot in and around Orlando this one lasted two days and had us flying to Georgia for a change of scenery. This was a fun one because the locations were beautiful and it really shows in the images.
Huge thanks to Brittany Lutz and the team at Studio Now for trusting me with this. Thanks to Rob "five minutes left" Micai, the calmest and tallest producer I know. Rocky Frazin did a great job keeping everyone alive. Wally Argueta knows his lights and is a great stand-in. Marjorie Robinson did the makeup. Jennifer Beverly made the people look pretty and Dhruv Patel made the places look pretty. And I bow down in thanks to Ben Travers, the only photo assistant who can read my mind.
Usually my year ends rather quietly. Budgets are spent, people are gearing up for the holidays and everyone is preparing for next year. Last year was a different story for me though. I got a call from Skystorm Productions asking if I'd like to shoot a couple image libraries for Humana, the third largest health insurance company in the United States. The first library was for their small business division. A few discussions later and the dates were booked.
This job had a quick turnaround on image delivery. It was a lot of work and several long days but we had a great crew to help pull it off.
Huge thanks to Brittany Lutz and the team at Studio Now for trusting me with this. Thanks to Rob "five minutes left" Micai, the calmest and tallest producer I know. Rocky Frazin did a great job keeping everyone alive. Wally Argueta knows his lights and is a great stand-in. Marjorie Robinson did the makeup. Jennifer Beverly made the people look pretty and Dhruv Patel made the places look pretty. Thanks to David Lawrence for making sure I was always hydrated. And I bow down in thanks to Ben Travers, the only photo assistant who can read my mind.
Keep an eye out for the next post where I talk about the second library we shot
You can’t deny people are awesome. Who doesn’t like sitting down with good friends to ask them interesting, insightful, and funny questions? That’s what 11 Questions is for. I’ll be featuring some friends I look up to as well as people within the community I’ve always wanted to get to know. Let’s get started!
I can't remember how Dana and I first met but I'm sure it involved food in some capacity. Dana is head chief at The Dinner Party Project. TDPP puts eight strangers around a table and lets the fancy food, libations, and good conversation flow. My first experience at TDPP was a memorable one. I met some great people and have even worked with one of them on several photo projects. It didn't hurt that Chef Tony Adams was fixing the meal that night. One thing I love about Dana is she's a hustler. She's started several fun and interesting events in Orlando, all of which have added to the vibrancy of the city. I can't wait to see what's next for her.
Who do you look up to?
Anyone that has survived tragedy and still has a great outlook on life. Syrian Refugees, Holocaust survivors, women who have lost children at childbirth, etc. I love movies like Unbroken and Life is Beautiful, where these humans refuse to let horrific circumstances change their outlook on life. It makes my banal problems, like having too many emails to answer, pale in comparison. Perseverance is such an incredible human trait. I wish I had more of it.
Do you have a favorite book or album?
I am constantly reading. I wish there were more time in my life for reading. I would love to read two books at once, but I haven't been able to figure out how to do that just yet. I am currently reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. East of Eden is one of my favorite books of all time. The theme of redemption is something I always want to keep in the forefront of my mind. I am a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables. Her whimsy and ability to see & celebrate the Beauty of Life is so thrilling. I love a good spy novel or murder mystery or anything John Grisham. I am also a fan of Love Does and anything that Donald Miller writes. I also adore Shauna Neiquist's books about the connection we have to food and how sharing food around a table connects us as humans. Brené Brown brings it on the topics of shame and vulnerability. I could go on forever. This answer is way too long anyway.
Favorite place to eat in Orlando?
Not possible. I LOVE too many places around town. There is so much incredible food in Orlando. However, if you haven't had a Black Bean Arepa from Arepas & More off of Bumby, then you aren't really living.
If you could mate two different species of animals what would they be?
Good Lord, I would love to see a cross between an elephant and a butterfly. Little tini elephants flying around on delicate Butterfly wings. It would be an incredible paradox: Heavy & Light.
What gives you inspiration?
Kindness and Sacrifice. It's hard not to respond with a visceral reaction of how people treat you. I love when people respond in a different Spirit, looking beyond the emotion and choose kindness instead. Also selfless sacrifice always blows me away.
If you had a chance to live in a different decade, what decade would you choose?
The first thing that comes to mind is 0-10 years. I am so curious as to what life was like for Adam and Eve. They had no one else around.....and then they had their kids, but other than that the world was barren. I would love to be a fly on the wall for that time period. Like what do you talk about?
What in your personal life has influenced you to choose your career?
People. Duh. I wanted to get to know them better. Plus I LOVE food. I really wish I could be a non technical food taster. I live for the magic that happens around the table.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
A day of rest every week. Honestly I get overwhelmed sometimes. If I don't take a real rest / break, I start to become a little unglued. I am a real fan of naps, Netflix, the ocean, and reading. I am totally boring in real life.
Is there anything you haven't done yet that you feel compelled to achieve in the future?
I'd love to be a mother. I think nothing can replace that kind of love for another human being.
What are your other interests?
I'd love to get into painting. That is one of my next outlets for myself. Also Estate Saleing. I have this obsession of looking through other people's homes and finding cool old things. Plus tennis. I am not that great, but I love to play and I love to watch.
What rejuvenates you?
Other than my day of rest each week, being around Beauty rejuvenates me. I LIVE to travel. Nothing is like wandering around another country w no agenda. I wish I would make more $$ and find the time to do it. There is so much incredible Beauty out there to be seen and experienced. Being surrounded by nature and feeling so small, in the scheme of things, is a really good feeling. I love the beauty of flowers, gorgeous clothing, laughter of children, road trips, really good hearted people, eating my heart out, and a solid cocktail. Oh, also a really good Dance Party!
On a separate note you won't be seeing any Americans featured on 11 Questions for a while. I'm currently based in Ethiopia and hope to continue it here. The questions may be a little different but hopefully it will be the same format.
Big thanks to Nicki Bulgewicz on makeup and Jasmine Lopez on hair.
I now live in Africa. Specifically Ethiopia. Big change, I know. No, I didn't run away. Nor am I looking for any buried treasure. I'll be sure to share the details soon. It's pretty exciting.
I really love working with UCF's magazine Pegasus. They always give me interesting stories that are close to my heart (like this one last year). This time around they wanted me to photograph Richard Lapchick. Not only is Richard the director of the DeVos Sport Business Management School at UCF but he's an extremely kind and gracious man. He allowed me all the time I needed to photograph him, talked with me enthusiastically about basketball, chuckled at my stupid jokes and allowed us to rearrange his whole office for the photo. I think the article does his legacy justice so make sure you give it a read.
Bisk has been around for years but since '95 they have worked heavily with universities & private companies to put their educational resources online. I recently worked with them to create an image library for Florida Institute of Technology. The shot list was pretty adventurous and the days were packed but we came away with a good selection of images. I'm pretty proud of this project. And since shooting it I've been approached by several brands seeking to create an image library. Doing these kinds of jobs is fun because they involve a lot of talented people. You really form a bond with the people on set.
Like I said in my last post, my parents used to take us on road trips during the summer. One of our destinations was Washington D.C. Even at a young age I was enamored with D.C. I love American history so it makes sense. The city is filled with things to do, many of them free, and has some of the best ethnic food around (a favorite for my wife and I). Here are some of my favorite shots from a recent trip there.
When I was a child my parents used to take us on long road trips over the summer in our minivan. I've got fond memories of those times. We visited South Florida, the Smokey Mountains, the Midwest and more. On one trip we were able to stop at The Grand Canyon and Carlsbad Caverns. I remember looking down into the Grand Canyon with big-eyed wonder (that sucker is deep!). It's still a life goal of mine to hike to the bottom to camp out, hunt elk with my bear hands and frolic shirtless in the Colorado River.
Fortunately my wife and I had the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon last year. We planned to be out there in the evening so we could watch the sunset. As our drive there progressed so did an impending thunderstorm. By the time we got to our look-out point it was pouring buckets. To say I was bummed would be an understatement. I really wanted my wife to experience the joy I had when visiting my first time.
Interestingly enough, as the storm rolled through the skies opened up and a glorious and complete double rainbow emerged in its wake. An elderly gentlemen with a camera next to me excitedly exclaimed, "I've been waiting for this all my life!" My wife leaned over and remarked, "Heck...it's my first time."
I took a break from looking at this masterpiece in the sky to look around. Every single person was bathed in a beautiful orange hue as they stared in awe towards the heavens. No one was on their cell phone, children weren't fighting and you could feel a calm descend upon that place. For one moment everything seemed right with the world. Beauty does that to people.
Several months back I received a friendly email from Meghan Benson at The Wall Street Journal Magazine. Architect and designer Joseph Dirand was reimagining Miami Beach's famous Surf Club. Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and even Winston Churchill were all guests back in the day. To say it's a Miami institution would be an understatement.
Meghan wanted a portrait of Joseph as well as some details from the hotel. This was right up my alley so my assistant and I hopped in the car for the 3.5 hour drive south from Orlando.
Little did we know the hotel was a shell of what it was supposed to be at the time. Hurricane Matthew had just swept through South Florida and set construction back two weeks. It wasn't easy but we were able to squeeze out some images that I feel show the beauty of the hotel. I'm particularly fond the the emerald green accents found throughout the hotel. Enjoy!
When I got a call from Ron Boucher, the CD at UCF, asking if I would be interested in doing a portrait series on the connection between UCF and the Pulse shooting in Orlando I immediately said yes. A lot has been said about the shooting, much of it more eloquently than I can do justice.
I've lived in Orlando all my life. Not long ago I wanted to escape this town. I thought it had nothing to offer. I was always annoyed with its ties to tourism, its transitory population and The Mouse. As the years passed I began to see an alternate identity emerge and it started to grow on me. Now we've got a great food culture, several great universities that invest in the community and many more opportunities for artists of all kinds to thrive. Now it feels like a place I'm proud to call my home.
Someone attacked my home. They attacked my people. To be honest I don't think I really processed it all until this shoot. At times photography feels like a job. This time it felt like therapy. I mentioned to my assistant on the day of the job how comforting and kind so many of the subjects were. There were a couple people who I just wanted to hug. And it wasn't that I wanted to comfort them. I wanted them to comfort me! Their presence was so soft, kind and motherly.
I'm thankful for the people pictured here. They gave themselves to the service of others. They made themselves less to make my home a better place.
You can read the article as it appeared in Pegasus Magazine here.
A few months back I had the opportunity to photograph Deryl Snyder for Utah State University's alumni magazine. Deryl is a really smart guy (did I mention he has a PhD?) who works with aerodynamics and computers and things that cost more than I can imagine. The magazine wanted me to get some photographs of him in his office.
Often times these settings aren't the most ideal for taking photos. Apparently people don't design buildings thinking, "I wonder how we can make this place look good for portraits?" Being in these settings lets me flex my creative muscle. Surely anyone can create a great picture in a beautiful place, but can you create a great picture in a space filled with cubicles? Challenge accepted!
When shooting assignments like this I strive for two things. First, I get the images I believe the client wants. We've usually talked about the concept and direction beforehand which allows me to execute this fairly easily. Once I've gotten those, and if time permits, I try and grab a few frames which are more quirky. After all, images that lead you to ask more questions are more interesting than ones that answer questions (BOOM! How's that for wisdom).
There are a lot of hidden stories in the still image. Rarely do they house one narrative. This is a chance for me to tell you about those stories.
Curiosity is something I treasure and a quality I love to encourage in others.
I love shooting film, particularly when it's medium format. There is something special about the medium. For me it's not the color or the nostalgia. It's the pace I find comforting, a pace that is more in line with the way in which I want to live, particularly in our Facechat Snapbook times. Film forces me to slow down, to think about each and every swing of the shutter. I arrange the frame with intentionality. I think through my actions. And this is not the only thing that is attracts me to it. I have noticed time and time again people appreciate being photographed with medium format film. I can not count the number of people who have been curious to know how this boxy, mechanical contraption works. Often times I will let them look through the viewfinder and teach them a little about it. Usually more questions follow, which I am excited to answer. Curiosity is something I treasure and a quality I love to encourage in others. This curiosity usually leads to an eagerness to have ones photo taken. I do not think of it as a manipulative practice, though one could take it to that extreme. I feel it is more of a collaborative practice.
Every year I try and make it out to Bike Week in Daytona Beach, FL, which is where this photo was taken. Having lived in Florida all my life I was always aware of Bike Week but it was my attendance at a photo program in college in Daytona that really got me interested in it. Bike Week is an odd gathering. It is slightly off the radar of the general population but it draws a wide variety of people. Lawyers and construction workers, northerners and southerners, soccer moms and vagabonds. The potential for great pictures is endless.
Film forces me to slow down, to think about each and every swing of the shutter.
Out of the corner of my eye I spotted this woman sitting on a curb down a side street. In this packed environment it was surprising to see she was the only one there. As I approached her I remember thinking she looked tired but content. I loved the monochromatic colors of her surrounds and how well they contrasted with her outfit and the curb. Your eye immediately lands on her and slowly drifts to the right, along the curb, to the sandbag. The sandbag mimics her posture (or maybe she mimics the sandbag?). Her posture is so flippant. It says, "I'm tired, I'm sweaty and I don't really care," as a smirk creeps up from her mouth. There is something so oddly comical and touching about it.
I approached this woman and asked if I could take her photograph. She said a simple "yes," I stepped back, took two or three frames, said my thanks and walked away. There are times when photography is a wrestling match. Where you fight with your self and the constraints of time and the medium to make something which speaks to you and the viewer. This was not one of those times. Although it only took a matter of minutes to make this picture it is one I am very proud of.
There are a lot of hidden stories in the still image. Rarely do they house one narrative. This is a chance for me to tell you about those stories.
When I was in my early 20s I took a journey to Manila, Philippines to shoot a couple of photo stories. At the time the best dSLR I could afford was a Canon 20d and even then I could only afford to buy one body. Knowing I would need 2 camera bodies (1 for backup) I decided to shoot 35mm film while there. It made things a little more complicated but in hindsight it was a good decision. I did have to fight with TSA on multiple occasions in order to to make sure they didn't scan my film. But having a 2nd body proved necessary as my main camera broke while shooting. The broken one had autofocus so I had to resort to shooting manual focus the remainder of the trip, something I hadn't done in years. Needless to say, to be safe I took multiple pictures of each scene when possible.
I want to show the reality of their situation. It's obviously not pretty. But at the same time I want to give them dignity by showing their strengths, ingenuity and kindness.
One of the stories I covered was about the residents of Smokey Mountain. Smokey Mountain is home to thousands of people. It's also a garbage dump. The families here live off refuse. They eat from it, recycle it and turn it into charcoal for the city. Shooting stories like this are difficult because they take a lot of mental and emotional effort on my part. I want to show the reality of their situation. It's obviously not pretty. But at the same time I want to give them dignity by showing their strengths, ingenuity and kindness.
I don't remember how I stumbled upon this scene. I think a resident may have flagged me down to check it out. As I swept back the curtain to enter their makeshift tent my eyes were filled with darkness as I waited for them to adjust to their new surroundings. At first it looked like a simple game of BINGO. Four women were silent as the sounds of chatter and children danced outside, concentrating on a game they were obviously taking very seriously. As I surveyed the scene I spotted the casket. I'm not used to seeing death displayed so prominently so it was a bit shocking. The last time I saw an open casket was at my grandmothers wake and I barely remember it.
Later I asked someone about this. I couldn't figure out what was going on in that small room for the life of me. They explained most people in Smokey Mountain couldn't afford to bury their loved ones. The family would invite everyone to come and spend money on games, karaoke, drinking, and other activities as a way to raise money for the burial.
Four women were silent as the sounds of chatter and children danced outside, concentrating on a game they were obviously taking very seriously.
There are several small details in this photo that draw me to it. The cross over the casket that has been cropped to look like it's upside down. It's as if God is sad with the situation and the state of humanity. You have a young boy (peering over the shoulder of someone on the very left of the frame), the two young women, the oldest women nearest the casket, and the deceased in the casket. They show the passage of time. Does this scene show what's in store for the young boys future? The ornate and beautiful candle stick holders flanking the casket that were most likely found in the dump. Just as I dress in my nicest suit to honor the dead when I go to a funeral they do the same here by the presence of these candlestick holders. Notice how the table full of BINGO pages parallels the casket? Is this all just a game? Or do we enjoy our time here because we know there's more than death? And I love the movement in their arms. I can hear the BINGO pieces being laid down.
Last year I shot some images of a '95 Acura NSX and its owner for APEX magazine. APEX wanted some nice environmental shots of the car and its owner. It was really fun getting to shoot a car, something I haven't done before. Kudos to the creative team for trusting me to deliver.
Recently I was hired by WestJet Magazine to shoot some travel images showing off all Orlando has to offer. The list of places they wanted photographed was pretty great and being from Orlando I was able to add a few locations that weren't on their radar. Here's the spread as well as some of my favorites from the shoot. Really pleased how these all turned out!
I love to travel. Thankfully I do a lot of it for my job and occasionally my wife gets to come along for the adventure. Despite having traveled to several countries we’ve never had the opportunity to see Europe. That changed late last year. We both had a great time visiting museums, sledding in the Swiss Alps, and biking though Amsterdam. Here are some pictures from our trip. I’ve included some that aren’t on my website. Hope you enjoy them!
And a time lapse of the Swiss Alps from our hotel room
In the middle of last year I was approached by (add)ventures to photograph some pharmaceutical & health care images for CVS. After doing some research I was pretty pumped to be shooting for CVS. In 2014 they gave up over $2 billion in revenue by dropping all tobacco products from their stores. What's crazier is they didn't do it because the public was pressuring them to. They did it because the company's leaders didn't feel tobacco was in line with their mission to help customers on their path to health.
Every year CVS hands out an award within the company to the best pharmacist called the Paragon award. Photographing for CVS was easy and (add)ventures liked the photos so much they asked me to photograph some more people a few months later. Here are some of my favorites.
Be sure you check out the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd post in this series.
This is probably the question I got asked the most by industry folks. How did you get it to blow up? Obviously the first piece of advice is to have something that's good (hope that doesn't come off as conceited). Beyond that I think there are a couple reasons this film had the legs it did.
First, and I didn't realize it until after it started picking up steam, Mr. Gold is a very sharable film. It's about a local celebrity barely anyone knows a thing about. Thousands of people know who Mr. Gold is. On top of that the film is an uplifting/feel good piece. There isn't a lot you can argue with in the film. It's not divisive. You end up rooting for Jose in the end. I think it's natural that people want to share these kinds of stories, especially nowadays.
While those things are important I knew they wouldn't be enough to give Mr. Gold the kind of reach I wanted it to have. After reading a really good blog post on how to promote your short film I sat down and sketched out a marketing plan. I have a cousin who's a great writer and I asked him to write up a press release. I pulled frames from the film so bloggers/publications would have pictures if they wanted to run the piece. I spent days researching people, companies, and websites who may want to see the film.
After doing all this I put my plan into motion early on a Monday morning. I chose Monday because I wanted the film to pick up steam throughout the week and knew things would pretty much die out over the weekend, making it harder for the film to pick up steam again. So on a Monday morning I sent out an ungodly amount of tweets to website curators, bloggers, publications, etc. Here's an example of the tweet I sent:
Understanding that blogs want your content I emailed to tell them about the story in hopes they would want to feature it. I also sent them the press release and the pictures in case they wanted to use them as well. I also reached to local news and radio stations, the newspaper, and websites who have previously featured my work. All in all I reached out to over 100 people over several days.
One of my main goals was to get the film featured on Short of the Week and/or Vimeo Staff Picks, knowing one of these would propel the films reach. Short of the Week liked my film but ultimately decided not to run it because they felt it was too short for their audience and they wanted to know more about Jose (fair enough). Vimeo Staff Picks did pick it up and from that point on people started reaching out to me offering distribution (which I turned down) and wanting to know more about Jose.
Going the film festival route hadn't crossed my mind. It wasn't until after the dust settled that I thought festivals could be a good idea, the film had obviously struck a cord with people. I entered about 20 festivals and so far have been a featured selection in 4 as well as winning a Gold Addy award (they're like the Oscars for the advertising world). I'm still waiting to hear back from several film festivals.
Our local public radio station did a piece on Mr. Gold.
And I was on the news!
I cleared a whole week out of my schedule so I could focus solely on promoting the film. It was a lot of work but the result was worth it. For my next film I hope to do some of the promotion and possibly hire someone to help with the task.
I'm pretty excited with how this all turned out. Since it's completion I've received several offers from ad agencies about doing some work for them. We'll see what comes next...
I've covered the concept and the process of shooting Mr. Gold in two previous posts. This time I'll tackle the post production side. About three quarters of the way through filming I had an idea of how I wanted this to look. I knew I wanted to introduce Jose in a very mysterious way at the beginning. Showing close ups of his outfit would work really well. Plus this adds some mystery which causes people to keep watching (very important because of our short attention spans). I also knew that I wanted to keep it under 5 minutes. I would have loved to make it a little longer, maybe 10-15 minutes, but I knew this would work well as a web video. From what I've learned anything over 5 minutes on the web gets drastically lower view counts (there are exceptions, like niche markets and if you get featured on a very popular site). Making it shorter would cater to more people.
The first thing I had to do was buy some editing software. After some research I settled on Final Cut X. I know some of you are probably gasping for air but hear me out. I've never edited anything before this so I didn't have the need for an editing program. I wanted something I could learn quickly so I could get this sucker out to the masses. From what I read X was very user friendly. Yes, everyone using 7 hated it because they couldn't import their old projects (I would be pissed at this too!). But I didn't have any old projects. I was starting from scratch so X would work fine for me.
Ok, now for the editing. I'm not going to lie...it was hard. Really hard. Telling the story wasn't the hard part. Understanding the program and all it's intricacies was hard. It's one thing to know how you want something to look. It's another thing to know how to get it that way. After purchasing a Ripple Training series it became a lot easier.
There were a few things I set out to accomplish while editing. After sifting through the interview I knew it would be a good idea to highlight his background. I really thought the prison photos were great. They were a harsh reminder of his background and I thought the one of him in front of the painted backdrop was funny (I have a weird sense of humor). At one point I looked into filming in a prison but there were too many hurdles to jump through.
It was a windy day when Matt and I were filming high-speed. I had Matt grab a shot of Jose's coat waving in the wind. During editing this became a crucial shot. I used it at 2:36 and it's where the story climaxes. The shot reminds me of a superhero's cape flapping in the wind. I placed it where I did, when the music becomes more engaging and amidst him telling his most memorable story, because I knew it would further drive his story home.
You'll notice that I tried to put more of the personality type shots (him dancing, waving, etc.) near the end. If these were placed at the beginning I feel they wouldn't have meshed well with the story of his background. I think that would be my biggest piece of advice to someone editing, and it's pretty simple. Probably one that doesn't need to be told. But I'll tell it anyway, make sure your dialogue, music, and visuals match. Peppy music and a sad story just don't go well together. That being said all rules are meant to be broken.
The footage after the credits was too good to pass up. I tried to put it in the body of the film but couldn't find a place where it flowed smoothly. The irony of it is subtle but great. His gold teeth represented his past life (something he talked about in our interviews but didn't get included in the film) and getting them removed represented a new chapter for him. The irony is how well they work with his job. I mean, come on! You're named Mr. Gold and you have gold teeth but you get them removed to shed the old you! It's movie making gold (get it?)!
Seriously though, it was a very moving thing to witness. The smile on Jose's face was a mile wide and he couldn't stop saying, "Woah!" for 30 minutes. The owners of Diamond Exchange found a dentistry practice to donate their services, which made it even more touching.
A good buddy of mine named Kyle Cox scored the piece. At first I wanted some subtle ambient music (think Explosions in the Sky). Kyle did some research and was really inspired by the urban nature of the film and by the score for the move Drive. He had this once piece of music laying around and thought it would be the perfect fit. I'll have to admit it took me a few days to warm up to. The music wasn't bad it just wasn't what I had in my head. But after sitting on it for a bit I was convinced. I think the score really helps set Mr. Gold apart from other shorts because it doesn't sound like them. It's different and catches your attention. Also, Jose's voice doesn't fluctuate much when he talks. The music brings some energy that another score might have lacked.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments and I'll make sure to answer them.
Up Next - Part IV: The Promotion