Friday, July 22, 2016

How I Learned Photography, I'll Give You a Hint (Naked Girls) NSFW

Before you go any further, I want to give you fair warning: If you feel that reading this frank and saucy blog post might ruin your image of me, then by all means, close this page now. Also, the photos featured in this blog post are by no means pornographic, they are, however, adult and erotic in nature, featuring a slight bit of nudity and are not safe for work NSFW. That being said, this was a different time in my life. A time of great adventure and risk. A time of discovery and self-discovery and it was the beginnings of my photographic experience, a journey that I am still on...

The year was 1999 and the internet was in it's infancy. Most people were still using dial-up services such as AOL and speeds were slow. At that time I was a tennis professional in La Quinta, California. It was a good living and a good life. I was married, with a beautiful, young wife. My friend Randy was designing web sites as a hobby. Late one summer evening, he proposed that we get into the adult internet business together, with my wife as our model, me as the photographer and him as the web designer.

I knew nothing of photography, didn't even own a camera. Not knowing where to start, I simply went to my local Wal-mart and picked up something cheap, I don't remember the brand, only that it sported a whopping 2.1 megapixels. The pictures it took were horrible, low resolution and grainy. My lack of any photography know-how didn't help the situation either but fortunately for us, quality didn't matter that much. It was the subject matter that nullified the need for much quality. Naked girls.

Needless to say, my pictures were amateurish at best, and that's being generous. My only saving grace was that what we were selling was "amateur" niche content. So the more amateur-looking the photos, the better. Whenever anyone critiqued my images I could always just say that I was going for an amateur look. It was an easy out. But I knew I had to improve my photographic skills if I was to make a go of being a professional photographer in any capacity. It wasn't but a year or two after our start in the business that I began receiving job offers to produce content for other companies. I found myself smack in the middle of the internet porn gold rush and I was ready to cash in.

After quickly, and I do mean quickly, realizing that even in the year 1999, a 2.1 megapixel camera just wasn't going to cut it, I went out and "upgraded" to a 5 megapixel camera made by Casio. It featured a fixed lens with variable focal length and at the time I think it cost upwards of $1200 USD. But I was still shooting almost exclusively in Auto Mode because I didn't know shit. I was just crazy-lost in the euphoria of the fact that I was making a good living taking photos of naked girls and selling them in a variety of ways on the internet.

Eventually, I began to become sort of self aware of the importance of light and shadows, and now that I was getting paid to shoot, I had to upgrade my gear. For amateur style adult content, you could get away with using cheap halogen lights and other DIY methods for lighting your photo shoots, but eventually I had to open up the check book and buy some decent lights and a decent camera.

I settled on a Nikon D70, I think it was 10 megapixels and cost over $1000 new. It was pretty much an entry level DSLR, but with some professional capabilities, in any event, it was a good platform for me to learn on. As for lighting, I used mostly static lighting for video, but did sport a cheap external strobe set and thanks to my friend Kevin (a former professional photographer himself) I started to learn how to shoot in full manual mode with strobe lighting.

If you do something long enough, eventually, you'll develop some level of aptitude. After 8 years in the business I felt pretty confident with my skills. I was commanding a daily rate of $500 for shoots, which was decent. I also had my own studio in downtown Los Angeles. It was a spacious (2300 Sq. Ft.) and pricey loft on the 6th floor of a high rise building located on Spring St. and 6th. It served as my photography and video production studio, the headquarters for my internet business and I also brought in more revenue by renting it out to other content producers.

Women are earths most beautiful creature and there's nothing wrong with admiring that beauty, which by default means, there's nothing wrong with capturing that beauty, unless it's exploitative. I had reached a point, after 8 years in the business, that there was just no more challenge and I no longer wanted to be part of the machine that was the adult entertainment business.

But all of this was a long time ago. I'm a soldier now, and as for my photography, I find great pleasure in capturing all the other beauty the world has to offer. A sunrise or sunset is just as beautiful to behold as a vagina and it's a far greater challenge to capture natures beauty than it is to take photos of naked women. I also find great reward in capturing a smile or the simplicity of everyday life. This blog post is a much a testimony as it is just a story about how I learned to take photos. But as I mentioned in my book, the secret to success in life, at least for me, is to find a mountain worth climbing, make your ascent one step at a time, and when you reach the peak, look across the valley in front of you, and find another mountain to climb.

My first "real" camera, a Nikon D70.

This was a common scene at an "amateur" porn photo shoot. The models would usually connect via email and agree to meet for a girl/girl shoot. Most of the amateur models at that time were not doing hardcore shoots with men, if they did it was usually with their husbands or boyfriends.

After a while, it became natural to get more creative with my angles. Also, I discovered that what could be sexy and arousing was something you didn't see, or couldn't see, AKA implied nudity, although, this model was fully nude. Hehe.

This was shot on the fire escape outside my studio loft in downtown Los Angeles, 2003.

One of my early shots. As you can see, the style was very amateurish.

Karina was one of the first, real professional models that I worked with, she was originally from Finland. We became business partners and I designed and managed her web site and shot all her content.


Silhouette of Devon Michaels, a well known adult star and fitness model. Shot in the hallway of my loft studio.

On the set in 2004 with Karina. As you can see, I was still using halogen work lights for my lighting. So embarrassing now that I look back on it. I think I used a car sun screen as a reflector on this shoot. Haha.

This was from a photo shoot for a music company.

Here's a shot taken by my friend Kevin, you can clearly see the difference when a professional photographer gets behind the lens. This shot uses external strobe lighting along with a Canon EOS 1DS. Kevin was a seasoned professional and it shows in his amazing images.

Kevin really helped raise my photographic IQ, a lot. Model: Carolyn Reese.

On the set, between shoots with Carolyn Reese.

Model: Courtney James. (We fell in love and got married but we didn't even make it a year before we filed for divorce.)

Model: Shawna Lenee

Model: Savannah Gold

Model: Riley Evans

Savannah Gold

Model: Trina Michaels

I was young and had a full head of hair. 

Model: Holly Wellin

Model: Shawna Lenee

From naked girls in California to military photos along the Korean DMZ. Crazy right?

Monday, July 11, 2016

35mm Panoramic Images with the Mamiya 7 Medium Format Film Camera

Mamiya 7 Medium Format Film Camera

The Mamiya 7 is widely considered one of the finest medium format film cameras ever made, but a lot of photographers might not be aware that this fantastic camera can also shoot 35mm film with the optional panoramic adapter. 

Panoramic images are images that feature wide horizontal angles of view (see the sample images below). Numerous modern digital cameras have the ability to capture panoramic images via software combined with the action of the user "panning" across the scene to be captured. However, with film cameras, capturing panoramic images require cameras designed specifically for this task. Cameras such as the Hasselblad X-Pan and Fuji TX-1 are just a couple of specialized panoramic film cameras.

The trick is that the area of the film exposed needs to be wide enough to capture the wide angle of view which is the hallmark of panoramic images. The Mamiya 7, being a medium format camera, has quite a large area (medium format) which is exposed to the film, with the addition of a special adapter, this area is constricted, so that 35mm film can be used to capture a panorama.

As you can see in the image above, the adapter exposes a wide angle of the focal plane to the film and is able to capture a panoramic image in the long, rectangular shape of the adapter.

The 3 images below are taken from my very first roll of 35mm film that I loaded into my Mamiya 7 utilizing the panoramic adapter. This really allows for a great deal creative opportunities and capturing fields of view that would otherwise be impossible with a film camera. 

I recently purchased an Epson V600 scanner, which is a big deal because it's actually difficult to find photo labs that will scan panoramic images. 

I look forward to shooting more rolls of 35mm panoramic images with my Mamiya 7 and you can rest assured that I'll share the photos with you!

35mm film panoramic, sample images

Coffee shop menu

Cheonggyecheon Stream, Downtown Seoul, South Korea.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Women's Professional Tennis in El Paso

The game of tennis has a special place in my heart, having influenced much of the course of my life (I enjoyed a 12 year career as a tennis professional), I still have a special bond with it. So when I saw a freeway billboard advertising a women's professional tennis tournament here in El Paso, well, I knew immediately that I would have to go and photograph it.

I've still got my racquets, but haven't played any tennis in more than 3 years, I remedied this situation almost immediately by befriending the staff at the Tennis West Sports and Tennis Club in West El Paso. In addition to enjoying some wonderful tennis, I also got to spend a few hours hitting the ball myself. I still have the strokes, but lack timing and, I am terribly out of shape. But my love for the game is still there, and I hope to play on a regular basis again.

The event was a 25,000 dollar prize money, USTA Pro Circuit Tournament that brought out some extremely talented players.

Enjoy the photos!