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Make a Wish…

I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older its more difficult to recognize and appreciate some of those smaller things in life that we shouldn’t overlook.

Enter my son Aidan. Aidan at 5 years of age is already what I call a  “life poet.” My definition of a life poet is simple, someone who lives in the moment, and seriously pulls joy and wonder into seemingly mundane things. Hence, the image of this dandelion.

Aidan cannot pass a flower without smelling it, he cannot look at clouds without telling me what animal he sees, and he cannot, he absolutely cannot pass a dandelion without picking it, and blowing its seeds into the air and making a wish. This has rubbed off on me… When I see one, I don’t see a “weed” begging for some Roundup… I see a “wish maker”, I see his brown eyes intently focused, and his brain furiously thinking about the right wish he wants to make. He always closes his eyes tightly, then opens, puffs his cheeks and tries his hardest to ensure every seed takes off. Makes me giggle just thinking about it.

So, I’ve taken to photographing dandelions when I find them… in various states of disarray. This lucky guy was in Bodega Bay, California embedded in a concrete walkway, it had lost the top half of its seeds, probably blew away in a strong wind, or perhaps another little boy wandered by, made his own wish, and then blew a gusty breath to send its delicate parts adrift into the air, hoping a secret wish would come true.

Bodega Bay Harbor

This was a quick 5 frame snap made with an HDR in mind. Started playing with the image (almost like I always do… while I so enjoy shooting, the techie/geek in me really loves messing around in post-production).

Why HDR? Its debatable really… I found the glitter on the water to be blowing out a bit in one frame, so I bracketed thinking I would get everything compresses real nice.

Why Black and White? No other reason than I liked it better than the color version. Used NIK’s Silver Efex Pro to switch it over to B&W. Its simply awesome.

That was it. “Nancy” is the name of the boat… so if you know anyone named that, they might really enjoy the image 🙂

The Tree Continued…

Not sure which composition I like better… yesterdays or todays. What I do know is I love this scene…

I like the wide view of the vines, slightly curved on this sweeping hill and the movement the clouds in the sky suggest is happening… I like the dark rich blue framed by the whote puffy clouds, and yet there is a hint of grey… coming rain maybe… I like how the sun was brighter on the right of the frame than the left.

Not sure which one you like better? The vertical or the landscape… I guess it comes down to personal taste.

Thinking about doing this shot on canvas for The Gallery. Think the texture would really enhance the finished product.


I’ve Been Dreaming of a Tree… and Napa delivered!

The past few years I have been haunted by a tree. I’ve had a vision of a tree, silhouetted, at the top of a hill against an amazing, dramatic sky… Everywhere I go, I look for this shot. It’s driven me to drive up roads in Vermont, down Valley’s in the Southwest… and I’ve searched and searched.

I had the pleasure of shooting with Richard Small a photographer from Santa Rosa (who I met and shot with in Moab last year) again last week. While we were visiting a vineyard in Napa Valley, Richard mentioned some rolling hills… and a tree. I don’t think he finished his sentence before I was in my car, peeling up dust and heading down the road. Pulling off to the side of the road and walking the area a bit, I knew I had a magic moment. While it mihgt not be the tree shot of my dreams, it would surely stoke the fires… The vines ran directly toward the tree and the sky was changing rapidly as clouds came and went across a vivid deep blue sky.

I ended up shooting over a hundred images of this scene. Vertical, landscape, zoomed in, zoomed out. I walked tot he left, to the right, up the hill a bit, and across the street to stand on a bluff. I knew I had to capture this scene in a bunch of different ways. This is the first of many finishes, and I love it… It hasn’t satiated the “tree dream” but I can rest, and pause, and look at this one, knowing its a very special shot.


Russell Brown, WineMaster

Had the distinct pleasure of meeting Russell Brown during the DLWS Napa adventure. For those of you not familiar with Russell, he’s the Senior Creative Director at Adobe Systems and is heavily involved in the graphic design and development arena. He is also a total blast to photograph. Russell came prepared to get into “character.” He asked a couple of us to shoot him in the vineyard we were visiting… So I broke out a flash and a Lumiquest LTP softbox (a McNally favorite) and went to TTL town.

Russell is just plan awesome to have in front of the lens. He lends drama where there is none, and very quickly transforms himself from “mad” scientist to elder winemaster with ease. For this portrait I wanted to bring out the drama in the clouds building behind him, as well as include enough of the vineyard “environment” to show where he was and paint a “story” around the image.

I call this the “Wine Spectator” cover shot. 🙂 Enjoy.

An instant favorite of mine…

Been a rough few days here in Santa Rosa. Constant rain, punctured by heavy downpours. NOT so good for a landscape photographer…

Luckily, we haven’t been hanging out in the local bar whining about the weather. We had an opportunity yesterday to visit a few classic and hot rod car locations which, believe it or not, was helped by the rain. Wet pavement creates reflections and mood… which we had plenty of.

We hit two locations Fred Stokes, and Vern Tardel’s locations. These two guys have devoted their lives to restoring classic and hot rod cars. Now I am the furthest thing from being a gearhead, my brother Jon got all the mechanical genes (thankfully I have him in the family!) but being around these awesome machines was simply amazing. Their color, their shape, their forms, made the lens beg for more.

At Vern’s place, he took this old car out in the drizzle, parked it in his vineyard and left it to us to shoot. Got low with a 14-24mm lens, and shot a 7 frame HDR image. Why HDR? Well, the sky was pretty blown out… grey, grey and more grey. I knew the HDR process would bring out the drama in the clouds and add another dimension to this photo.

After finishing it using Color Efex Pro 3’s filters (used a bunch) I just fell in love with the image. Has a World War II feel to it… as if a bunch of soldiers had left their vehicle to go look for bad guys… One of my favorite things about a great photograph is inventing a backstory to what’s been captured… I think emotionally, it connects us to a photo.

Can’t wait to print this one big. Has alot of character in it… which is why it became an instant favorite of mine…



Was supposed to head back out to another coastal shoot tonight, but instead a steady pouring rain descended on Napa. So instead we went in search of rolling hills, covered in vines, maybe some mist as well. Sorta accomplished the mission, for awhile, the rain was coming down so hard that water was literally spilling off my lens hood (had the old shower cap front he hotel on the body, always carry one, hey, ya never know)

With the rain falling the way it was, I knew this would be perfect for a black and white conversion… felt it would better fit the mood of the moment…

Bodega Bay

This is the spot where Hitchcock’s The Birds was filmed… Nestled along the coast of the Valley Bodega Bay greeted us this am. I struggled a little bit on composition as it was a bit rough going at first… light was a little flat, and looking for a foreground subject proved a bit more difficult then I expected.

These little patches of wildflowers kept catching my eye and I worked them for almost a solid 45 minutes. Was hoping to get down and do some motion of the waves crashing against the rocks, but I stuck with this scene until I had exhausted it. Not sure I love it, honestly… but it captures the essence of this spot…

Baker Beach Sunset

I owe my good friend Dave Alfaro a mighty big thank you for pointing me to this location- Baker Beach. Located not to far from the base of the Golden Gate Bridge on the City side of the Bay. Headed there for sunset… was a bit worried as the sky was bald blue all day, and the sky had no drama. Arriving before the sunset, things began to fall into place, as a bank of wispy clouds and another lower set moved in, which provided some great reflective light in the sky.


Obviously the range of light dictated this image to be an HDR. I’ve pretty much adopted this technique shooting sunsets and sunsrises where I include the sun itself… otherwise the metering in camera focuses on that (blows it out) and everything else loses its detail.