Monday, May 4, 2009


Over the past couple of months I've noticed Chinua Achebe's novel Things Fall Apart cropping up every time I go into a bookstore. Achebe is a Nigerian novelist and poet who wrote Things Fall Apart back in 1958. It is now considered to be just about the most widely read and popular book in African literature - certainly over the last half century.

The plot weaves together the dual stories of one man's tragic fall from power, grace and, eventually, life with the greater story of the collapse of the tribal culture and tradition under the weight of aggressive, European influence and law brought by missionaries to Nigeria.

Okonkwo is a man haunted by the memory of his father, a man considered a failure in the male dominated culture of the Ibo people in Umuofia, a clan of villages in Nigeria. Okonkwo's father didn't work, had no wealth and lived his life playing the flute and sponging off others. He died alone in the forest. Okonkwo fears, more than anything else, being compared in any way to his father. In his quest he shows great strength in battle and in wrestling and he rules his family and wives as he believes a patriarch should - without showing love or affection.


My dear friend Yomi A. Michaels played the role of Okonkwo in a touring version of the stage adaptation of Things Fall Apart by Biyi Bandele. He was fortunate enough to travel to the land of his parents, Nigeria, to perform in Lagos. His parents were both Yoruba which meant that he had his own internal conflicts in portraying an Ibo man. Yomi also had the honour of meeting Achebe himself in Nigeria - a meeting that deeply moved him. As Yomi wrote on the BBC World Services "My Century" in 1999,

"Nigerians view Chinua Achebe with immense pride - particularly the Ibo people, of course, but Nigeria as a whole feels great pride that he was born a Nigerian."

After Things Fall Apart, Yomi went on to play the role of King Baabu written by another Nigerian literary great Wole Soyinka. Soyinka was born into a Yoruba family in 1934 and studied in Nigeria and then the University of Leeds, England, Yomi's home town. Soyinka won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, the first African to be awarded the prize. Yomi always felt a strong connection to Soyinka and referred to him, affectionately, as 'the Prof'.


Yomi A. Michaels, in red, takes the curtain as King Baabu in Lesotho. (pic. M.Kheleli)

Yomi died, suddenly, in March of 2006, in London, at the age of 41. The last time I saw him was in London in February of 2006. Since I'd moved to Paris we had seen less of each other but we stayed in touch and he'd been out to visit. We always connected when I returned to London on business. That final time we celebrated my upcoming move to California. We plotted cross country road trips. We talked about meeting in New York and going to see his beloved Yankees play at Yankee Stadium. We walked through Soho - our area - on the way back to my hotel. We stopped outside of the Apple store on Regent Street and he wanted to take a picture of me to commemorate my new job and the move to Apple headquarters.

It's funny how extraordinary things happen on very ordinary days. I was home one day when I took a call from someone I'd only spoken to a couple of times before. She told me that Yomi was dead. I traveled back to England to attend the funeral and give a eulogy. His family asked me if I could pull anything of interest - writings, pictures and such - from his laptop and digital camera. The very last picture on his digital camera was the one he'd took of me outside the Apple Store. I felt like I could see his ghost in the reflected flash from his camera.


So, tonight, I was in a bookstore and saw, again, a copy of Things Fall Apart. I picked it up and looked at it and thought of my friend. I replaced it on the shelf and continued looking. The next book I picked up was 'Off Mike' by Michael Krasny, the host of KQED's Forum and someone I enjoy listening to on NPR. The book fell open in my hands at page 170. Which just happened to be the page where Krasny talks of interviewing Wole Soyinka, the author of King Baabu and the man my friend always referred to as 'the Prof'.

I bought both books.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Barren Month

I managed to go all the way through April without posting. Nothing. Not one single post. I guess I felt disinclined for some reason. It's not like nothing happened. I ended March and slipped gracefully into April while at the Palm Springs Photo Festival, the brainchild of one Mr Jeff Dunas. The Festival celebrates the spirit of fine art photography, mostly, with a little photojournalism thrown in too. It's a nice way to welcome the spring with temperatures in Palm Springs being up in the 80's by this time of the year.


Photographer, photography historian and founder of the Palm Springs Photo Festival, Jeff Dunas, at the Korakia Pensione. April 2009.


A tree silhouette reflection in the pool


Me shooting me in the gloriously orange bathrooms of the Annenberg Theater, Palm Springs, CA

I returned from the Festival with an extra creative spring in my step and set about riding my bike, finally. I bought a couple of pairs of shorts. I bought a helmet. And I started riding. I started slow, riding out for the first time on April 5th. I covered five and a half miles at a staggeringly slow 12.7mph average (back in the day I was covering a 10 mile time trial in about 22 mins, averaging about 27mph). This first time out I barely made it through the 5 miles.


I went flying with a friend of mine in Monterey a couple of times... First time out, flying down the coast over Bixby Bridge, Point Sur lighthouse and Big Sur. Second time out we crossed Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz and up to Pescadero before being turned back by the enormous fog bank over the coast heading north towards Half Moon Bay and San Francisco.


Cessna 172, Monterey Airport, CA

I shot my first Major League Soccer game (San Jose v LA Galaxy, 1-1, Oakland Coliseum).


I had a great time driving around San Francisco with an awesome photographer called Jeremy Cowart who just happened to be passing through on the Britney Spears 'Circus' tour.


By the end of the month I'd ridden over a hundred miles - actually 117 and my final ride of the month was a 'blistering' 10 mile ride covered in 36mins at an average speed of 16.5mph. Not a bad progression in a month. The riding feels good, the bike feels good and my body has a righteous ache.

So, as I said, I've done a bunch of things, I've been out and about. I've ridden like a crazy beast and watched many games in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. I also started teaching a small photo class at work.

But I just didn't feel like writing about it...


Sunday, March 22, 2009

For those about to board...

... we salute you. This entry is dedicated to all of the colleagues with whom I have sat and discussed one of the traveler's perennial problems: hotels. Before I begin I must, if I may, place one disclaimer. For all of my friends who bunk down in cockroach infested bunks in war zones and under mosquito nets in jungles all over the world, this entry is not for you. It's for the pasty, pampered, powdered-ass corporate business travelers. Like me.

First of all, the inspiration for this post. I'm on the road. Right now I'm in St. Petersburg, Florida and I'm in a regular business hotel. Last week I was in New York City staying in an up market 'boutique' style hotel. I noticed, when I arrived at this hotel that I was almost embarrassingly happy to be here. This post is an attempt to explain that odd fact and, finally, to put into words all of those conversations I've had with fellow road warriors about designing the perfect business hotel. This one is for you, F-Troop.

First of all, this is a nice idea but not wholly necessary. It's a power socket in the bedside lamp. So that if you want to work in bed and plug in your laptop you don't have to yank the bed away from the wall and thrust your hand down into places that you really don't want to think about for too long. Just to get some juice.


It used to be, just a few short years ago, that the amount of cables and power supplies I carried was nothing short of staggering. I staggered through airports and staggered into hotels carrying all this stuff. These days most of my stuff is 'bus-powered', that is to say, it takes it's power from being plugged into my laptop. Here are three Firewire 400 hard drives and one Firewire 800 hard drive plugged in. The Lexar card reader is also Firewire 800 and plugs straight into the back of the G-Tech drive. All neat so far.


So with that being said the shortage of power sockets in hotel rooms is rarely an issue these days although this idea is neat. The two power sockets I do need (laptop and camera battery charger) are both built into the lamp stand. Again, no fiddling on the floor under the desk just begging for the cleaner to come in, see you and lead to you being cited as the reason for her quitting the profession. Notice, also, the ethernet. Ah yes, the internets. A critical part of everyones life these days. Here's a tip if you're building a hotel; make it easy, make it everywhere and make it free. Charging me 20 bucks for 24 hours of internet is like charging me for the water in the taps. I like having the option of a wire, it allows me to create my own wireless network in the room if the wireless signal ain't up to much.


So here it is all plugged in.


And yes, even this little doodad is synced and charged directly so I only need the USB cable and no charger.


So what else? Well the rest is rather basic but amazingly arsed up by a great deal of hotels. Give me a comfortable clean bed with sheets that feel like they might have been made sometime within the years I've been alive on this planet. Pillows that feel like they are stuffed with the packing material you can eat don't work either. And don't put 58 other assorted items on the bed. I can't tell you how many times I've had to spend 10 minutes placing bolsters and fluffy embroidered carefully on to the floor just so that I can get into bed. Actually they usually get flung across the room in a bizarre 'padded cell' parody of a Rolling Stones style hotel room trashing. I also don't want those odd Scandinavian style make-it-yourself beds. One last thing; no recognisable bodily fluid stains. Please. For the love all that is good, I don't want to see that.


Hot water. It seems so basic. It is. It's one of the three essentials I'm paying you for... bed, hot water and a crapper. It's what I need.


Shower pressure. Seriously, the hotel room I stayed in last week was right beneath the water tower on the roof and had zero water pressure. It had a funky trendy 'rainhead' which kinda drizzled on me which was fine for an overall misting but I really need some kinda hot high pressure hose for a decent scrub down. They also had one of the hand held shower heads that you pull off the wall to wash those, er, tricky to reach areas. If you turned it upside down the water simply stopped. What do you want me to do with that? Use it as a loofah?


Give me some space around the sink. I don't have much but I'd like to be able to put it down without having to balance things.


These are the basics. Now let's have a gander at some really nice things to have that really aren't difficult. A decent iron and ironing board. The key word is decent. I don't need to brand a sheep, I need to occasionally press a shirt. And spend the extra two bucks fifty to buy the irons that you can put water in...


A coffee machine. Anyone that knows me knows that I really don't like to be up in the mornings. I certainly don't want to have to talk to someone. Having to talk to someone before I've had coffee is almost painful. Having to make my first conversation be my ordering of coffee is going to make the rest of the day just seem Sisyphean. So put a small coffee machine in the room. I'm not asking for beans that have passed through a small animal and been sifted from their stools. Farmer brothers will do at a pinch. And, yes, I know that Farmer Brothers tastes like it's been passed by someone but you catch my drift.


A fridge. I know you might put your fridge in there. It's full of tempting goodies that seem value for money when it's 2am and you really feel like a bottle of water. But I'm really not going to respect myself in the morning when I've been taken advantage of by paying 10 bucks for a bottle. For those of you out there that make signs saying, 'please don't put your own stuff in the fridge', what's wrong with you? What possible damage can happen? Give me a fridge. If I'm staying somewhere for a few nights I'm going to want some basics from the store. I need somewhere to put them. I'm not going to put them in a bag of ice and hang 'em out of the window. We've moved on since then.


Working air conditioning. My least green requirement but when I'm on the road and working anywhere up to eighteen hours a day someone had better let me sleep the remaining 6 or else I'm going to get cranky. Can you tell? A hot room is my fastest way to hotel room misery.


That's about it really. Some other things which are nice are things like an in-house guest laundry room. Awesome. Serves two functions; gets your clothes clean without needing a mortgage AND makes you realise that you aren't that hot shit and that you do put your pants on one leg at a time like anyone else. Oh and this bit is green... have you seen the elaborate packing from the hotel dry cleaning service? Silly and unnecessary.

Inexpensive and easy valet parking is nice too. The hotel in NY last week charged 50/day which, actually, is not bad for Manhattan but at the very least give me in and out privileges. They wanted to charge me 50 each time I brought it out. Imagine that. Two trips out and you're on for 150 for that day's parking. Obscene. Breakfast too, make it nice, easy and quick. I frequently skip the buffet in hotels that charge 22 bucks for it. Because even a fat biffa like me can't do 22 dollars worth of damage to a breakfast buffet.

A couple of other niceties. Lay on the odd decent sunset, it's always appreciated by the weary traveler.


And when I shut the curtains make it look like this.


To this end, the Courtyard Marriott is pretty much the perfect hotel. All of the above pictures were taken there. Decent room rate. Valet is thruppence ha'penny with in and outs, internet is free and the breakfast is 9.50 all you can eat. And, yes, I can do that much damage to a breakfast buffet.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bike In Time

There's a photo, in my parents photo album, of a smiling, no-spectacles me. I must be around 6 or 7, maybe 8 or 9 and I'm in the back garden at the house I grew up in in Nottingham, England. I'm crouched down at the top of the steps and I have my arms around Lucky, our much beloved one-eyed dog. It's obviously summer (wasn't it always summer?) as I'm wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts. In the background the lawn is dry and brown as I remember it and on that lawn, out of focus, is a bicycle lying on it's side where I'd clearly left it in a hurry to hug the dog.


Lucky and me, circa 1975. Scan courtesy of my dad. Thanks dad.

That bike was the first bike I really remember having. It was an old black-painted Phillips steel framed bike with 3-speed Sturmey Archer gears. It weighed probably more than I did. If I remember rightly it was also the bike I brought down on my head, in the shed, one fateful day around 1970. I split my head open and needed hospital treatment to stitch it all back together again. When I was tall enough to ride it, I loved that bike. It was old, it was heavy, it had straight 'bars and only three gears but I rode it constantly. In the summers my brother and I would 'speedway' it around the back garden. No wonder the grass was all brown.

Not long after that my older brother got his first 'real' bike; a gleaming blue Carlton Continental 10-Speed - old school 10, as in 5 at the back, 2 in front. It was a work of art. I have no idea how much it cost or how we could afford it but it was a beauty. My brother was in 'high school' at the time so I think he was riding to school and back every day. I remember that it was built in Worksop, just up the road from Nottingham.

When I went to the 'big school' I remember that the 'hot' bike at that time was the Raleigh Europa, next down was the Arena, which looked a little like my brother's Carlton. I owned an Arena for a while, bought second hand. I seem to remember that I bought a no name bike off some boy at school. A few months after I got it it was stolen from the side of the house. I'm pretty sure it was a liquid commodity.

I remember that, eventually, I got a really nice Peugeot road bike. I tricked it out a bit and it was my first 'serious' bike. I rode that bike thousands and thousands of miles and became terrifically interested in my own cycling and with the pro cycling scene.


'Big' Miguel Indurain taking his lap of honor at the Tour de France, Paris, 1991(or2)

One day, in a spectacular bit of smartassness, I fell off the bike. I came home after a long Saturday ride of, in those days, about 80 miles. I changed into some regular shorts and a sweatshirt and went for a cool down ride. I rode up our insane hill and, cresting the hill, my cap flew off. I jammed on the brakes, turned on a dime, scooted back, unclipped my foot from the clipless pedals, stuck my foot into my hat as I rode past and kicked it up into the air. I caught the hat, plunked it on top of my head, clipped back in, hammered the brakes and turned on a dime again. Except this time I missed it and went crashing to the ground. Blood came trickling down my leg from a wound on the front of my knee. I rode off to kinda loosen it up and ride off the pain. But the blood wouldn't stop running out. So I rode down to the hospital where some of my friends were student nurses and stayed in the nurses quarters. My friend Tammy patched me up and we sat and chatted for a while over a cup of tea. When I came out of her room my bike was gone.

Once I got home I did the math and figured out that I was earning enough money and riding enough miles to warrant doing the riding thing properly. I took the plunge and bought my first and, so far, only 'expensive' bike. It was hand made by Dave Marsh of Rotherham out of Reynolds 753 tubing. It had Campagnolo kit throughout and I had him put on a special edition Rolls saddle on to match the red/white paint job. A bang up beautiful job.

I had to wait a couple of weeks for the bike to get made and then I arranged, with Dave, to meet him at the local track night to take delivery of the bike. I'll never forget that Wednesday night. He took the bike out of the back of his car, fitted the bars and the saddle and then fitted me up for it. Then I clipped in and rode away down the track for a couple of hundred yards. I'll never forget the sound the hand made wheels made as the spokes settled into place. It was the single most wonderful biking moment I'd had up to that point.

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Lance, Champs Elysées, Tour de France, 2003.

From that point on I rode like an insane crazy beast, eventually clocking up regular 400 mile weeks - I'd ride a century on a Saturday, then another on the Sunday, then a 60, then an 80 and a couple of 30's. I was probably in the best shape of my life. In one season my I broke all of my skating personal bests and by a considerable margin. This period lasted until I was 24. In the first skating meet of the new season, in Peterborough, I fell in a 500m race. I slid, ankle first into the barrier matting and heard something let go. I'd broken my ankle. By the time I was able to skate again it was the end of the season. I was running out of money and sold my bike to buy a less expensive Trek Aluminum bike - one that I never liked, it was early days for aluminum frames and I just didn't get on with it. At about the same time I lost my job and had to move to a different city. They had no skating team and whilst I rode a bit on the Trek I never really got back into it. I still followed pro riding with a passion. That interest followed me in my move to London and then to Paris where I was lucky enough to see several Tours and then photograph a couple of World Cup Cycle races. But I didn't ride any more.


Lance, Prolog, Tour de France, 2004.

So lets fast forward to now and its eighteen years since I gave up 'real' cycling. I'm 42 and I weigh 240. It's time to start again. I've been trying to figure out what bike to get - and the technology has moved on considerably. I decided that I wanted a straightforward, simple bike. One that I'll ride. One that doesn't need endless maintenance. I'm going to ride in my garage on a trainer for a few weeks while I make myself physically less embarrassing. After that I hope to start riding to work and back a few days a week. If I can do that for a year and I'm STILL riding, well, then I'll think about dumping down some dough for a serious road bike again.

So what did I plump for? I plumped for a Raleigh Rush Hour. It's a flip-flop i.e. the rear hub has a fixed sprocket one side and a freewheel the other. I'm going to ride the freewheel for a while to build up some baseline fitness, then alternate into the fixie side to regain some level of 'souplesse' in my legs and my pedaling action. Once I'm out on the roads I have very flat terrain nearby so I'll make the most of the simplicity of the bike on rides to work and occasional shots to the store etc.

Of course as soon as you mention your intentions about anything all of the experts crawl out of the woodwork to tell you where you are going wrong - whether you want to know or not. They'll tell you that don't want to get that, you ought to get this. They'll tell you their riding credentials and how many bikes they've had and how many years they've been riding. Sometimes people even make assumptions based on their own life stories instead of yours. And it's all great. I mean, I appreciate immensely some of the help I've had in the past week or so and I appreciate people giving their time. I know I could have gone for a road bike... or a commuter... or an urban. I could go with a hip brand like Surly or Swobo. I could go for a hip mainstream brand like Kona or Specialized. But I'm going for the Rush Hour by Raleigh. Why?

Back in the late 1800's a chap called Frank Bowden bought a bike by Messrs. Woodhead, Angois and Ellis. They made about three bikes a week in their little workshop. Bowden bought the business and three years later, with production increasing, he moved the company to a new building. He also renamed the company Raleigh to commemorate it's start on Raleigh Street in the city of Nottingham, my home town. The business became enormous and they became one of the most famous bike makers in the world. In the 1950's Tube Investments created the British Bicycle Company by merging a bunch of companies. They then acquired Raleigh. Then Carlton cycles. They also owned Phillips, remember them from the beginning of this story? By the time the 1960's came around TI also owned Brooks (saddles), Sturmey-Archer (gears) and Reynolds (makers of the tubing used to make bikes). In Nottingham the Raleigh factory was a landmark - people will still call the junction 'Raleigh Island' even thought the factory was knocked down years ago.

Todays Raleigh bears only the name in common with the Raleigh of old but in it's symbolism lies my home town's history and the history of me on a bike. Along that timeline lies so many memories and so many miles. In the letters of the name lie the face-pressed-against-the-bike-store-window aspirations of the boy and the pride of the Raleigh riding teenager. So what better way to restart my love affair with bikes than to ride a simple steel-framed black-painted bike with the Raleigh logo? Because, you see, there is more to riding than what is 'right'. There is more to cycling than having the right kit or the right brand. Much more than fitting in with those riders who ride road, or those who courier or those who scream down mountains on bike that look like they might have a motor attached. It's can be much more than a lifestyle choice. In fact, sometimes, it's not a choice you make but a choice that makes itself.

Sometimes you need to light the right fires in your soul to reconnect with something that sits deep inside of you and your history. Sometimes you know, that if that spark takes, then the fire will burn bright and it will burn strong. I'm hoping that my single-speed Raleigh will do exactly that. I can't wait to ride it.


Raleigh Rush Hour 09, picture courtesy of Raleigh USA.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Changes In Life

Thinking in 'the moment' and 'living in the present' are things we value highly, phrases brought down from on high by buddhist teachings and espoused by people who teach everything from business studies to wedding photography workshops. I'm currently reading a book all about the concept of time and our relationship to it. It's a fascinating and absorbing read.

It leads me to a place that I've often found myself. I find it very hard to connect the me that I am today with the me that I was before. So the me that lives in California seems quite distant to the me that lived in Paris. The me that lived in Paris was disconnected from the me that lived in London. And all of them are utterly disconnected from the me that was born and grew up in Nottingham. One of the oddest things about connecting with old school friends on Facebook is trying to figure out the thread that binds us from twenty five years ago. And it's not always easy. Old school nicknames are not something I've heard through all of these lifetimes.

There is a certain joy and wonder in that other worldliness too though. I remember, early in my time in Paris and I was on the Friday night 'roller'. This is the craziest thing in the world, where thousands and thousands of roller bladers take to the streets of Paris every Friday night. They ride a different route each week, they organise it themselves and they now even get help from a rollerblade mounted division of the Paris police force. This was my first ever ride out with them and we ploughed around the streets of Paris that were closed in a rolling road block just for us. We started on up a hill which seemed to go on for miles, rounded a corner, then another and came out in front of... the Arc de Triomphe. We then took a left and started riding down the Champs Elysées. So here I was, riding in a group of maybe 8000 roller bladers, on a Friday night, riding down one of the most famous streets in the world. Closed for everyone except us. It was an amazing moment of the present connecting through to the past and elevating that moment into something altogether wonderful.

I have similar moments here in California. The little boy from Basford, Nottingham. Living in California, working in Silicon Valley. When I moved here I wanted to buy a convertible. I just did. It's the first time I've lived in a place where the climate allows me to have the roof off a car day after day. So I bought an inexpensive two seater and I LOVE driving it. I pull out of my garage and let the roof down...


Often times the sky is blue and the sun feels good in my face. Right now the cherry blossom is popping out all over and everything looks fresh and rather beautiful.

On the route to work, when I was a teenager, I took the bus along Valley Road in Nottingham. I passed under road signs for familiar districts like Beeston and Radford. At the moment I hop on the 101 freeway, which, if I were to continue straight on for 400 miles would dump me into Los Angeles. If I were to hop off at the next junction and take the 101 northbound it would lead me up through San Francisco onto the rugged northern California coastline, into Oregon. It would then traverse the entire western edge of Oregon and into Washington state where the road would round the Olympic National Park and deposit me into Olympia, WA. And I would still be on the 101 freeway, 1128 miles later. So, not even counting the southbound part to LA and San Diego, the 101 is 300 miles longer than the famed 'Lands End to John O'Groats' drive in the UK. Scale in this country is awesome in the truest sense of the word.

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Doesn't matter how stressful life gets and, given the global economic meltdown, it is pretty stressful, if we look hard enough there are things to wonder at. We just have to learn how to see them, in the moment in which we live them.

Normal programming will resume soon...

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Different Way of Seeing

It's been an odd year. Hunkered down is probably the best way to put it. Between February and October of last year I was on the road for about 150 nights. This year, so far, one. One night on the road. There's not particularly any reason for it, it's just the way the chips are falling this year so far. Hand in hand with the lack of travel is a decline in the opportunities to shoot.

Last week I went to Vegas. Three words: hate the place. Always have. I can do about a maximum of three days in the place then I'm ready to poke my eyes out and scrape my tongue with a hedgehog. Anyway, this ain't no city review. All y'all that love the place, have at it, it's all yours.

So, over the past few weeks a friend of mine, Chase, has been posting iPhone pictures to his Twitter feed. I've been fascinated with what he's been doing with his images. Totally at the opposite end of the technological spectrum from his normal gear but with every bit the same passion, eye and flair as everything the man does. So I was sitting on the plane waiting to depart for Las Vegas and I took a picture of the rain and the wet plane out of the window. Using the Camerabag app I was able to turn it into a little mini Polaroid then, using the iPhone Facebook app I could caption it and upload it to my Facebook account. And I was hooked. After that I couldn't stop taking pics and posting them.

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There is something gloriously simple with this. With the iPhone and Camerabag there is no 'quality' of image with which to concern yourself. There isn't any decision to be taken about glass or the characteristics of a certain lens. It is what it is.

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The Green Glow of the MGM Grand

The image that you take is distilled down to it's purest elements: color, light and shade. The other factor that comes into play is that the format is square. Square is a format I've always loved. The first medium format camera I shot with was a Bronica square format camera. After that I got a smoking deal on a Hasselblad 500 and shot hundreds and hundreds of rolls of FP4 and Velvia on that thing... I still have it. It still sits near my desk.

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Blue skies, fluffy clouds and palm trees

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Light fitting, The Signature Hotel

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My little piggy

I think the creative mind needs to break off and head off in a different direction once in a while, see things in a different way. Sometimes it's good to strip things down, take away the details of the technology and break everything down to the bare essentials. Sometimes it feels good to be so free, to take one, maybe two shots, get it in the bag and post. Done. (I won't be selling the other gear just yet).

Images all shot on the iPhone v1, processed in camera with Camerabag, watermark added with Aperture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009



So we're almost half way through January. Already. Good grief time flies by. Since my final post of 2008 I've been home, then working up in the city and now I'm home, sick. Yes. Sick. Some sort of chest infection that's make me cough up a lung.

Nothing much to say... just wanted to post this picture of a chipped candle holder. Looked so nice in the light.

Shot on the D3 with an old Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 micro... over dinner at the Grand Pu Bah in SF last week.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: Final Edition

December 31st and I'm sitting looking out across the Pacific ocean. It's an arbitrary day, in the grand scheme of things, but a day full of import for many. The last day of our calendar year. It's a day to look back on our accomplishments, travels, people met, people lost, chances taken, chances missed. Hopefully your mental, spiritual and physical balance sheet is in the black.

I feel like maybe it's always the same but this year has felt intense on many levels - professionally, personally and physically. I've traveled extensively with six trips to Canada, two to England and France and one each to China and the Netherlands. On top of that I've been all over the US from Seattle to Miami, San Diego to Boston and many points in between. I've had some super highs and some crushing lows. The year started out with the economic world on fire and ended with that same world in ashes. The new year is on the horizon and no one knows how this is all going to work out. Are we going to keep ploughing into the ground and digging a bigger hole? Will the markets turn around and start to build some strength on the basis of some firm foundations? Right now I have a job, another two years on my visa and a busy year in front of me but, as we all know, that could end in a heartbeat.

Resolutions? Keep on keeping on... keep on working at my photography, try and discover new things, new ways to look at things, new ways to show. I have some some projects to finish, some to start and, generally, tighten the belt and hold on for the ride.


The end of the year brought an interesting celestial phenomenon. A couple of nights ago, as the sun set over the Pacific, the thinnest sliver of moon appeared in the western skies. The moon was barely two and a half days old. Above it, in the darkening blue skies, sat Venus, herself in a half phase. Below all, down in the fading fires of the sunset sat Jupiter and below that, Mercury.


We had lunch outside of Medusa's, here in Cambria, a couple of days ago. We sat out facing out on to the road and ate our soft tacos. The sun felt good on my face and for the first time in weeks I felt myself starting to relax. The motion had stopped for a few minutes, the pain in my root canal tooth had gone and the sneezing that I've been doing the last week had ceased. I felt good. Really good. It was almost like I'd forgotten what that really felt like. As my mind wandered I thought of Sandy Colton, a man I first met two years ago. I met him at the Eddie Adams Workshop in 2006, again in 2007 and again in 2008. Sandy started out in the US Air Force as a writer and photographer for the military newspaper Stars & Stripes. He then worked for the Associated Press as a photographer and editor amongst other things. He is also the father of Jay and Jimmy Colton - Jay a former associate picture editor for Time magazine and Jimmy the picture editor of Sports Illustrated. He was also a devoted member of the Eddie Adams Workshop family from it's inauguration onwards. He was 'heavy' of 'heavies'. I can't say that I knew him but I could see his influence. I felt the regard in which he was held by all that did know him and, as I sat there in the sun, thinking about how good it felt I thought about Sandy and his family.

Sandy passed away on Christmas Day at his home in upstate New York at the age of 83. I thought about Jimmy's introduction speech at Barnstorm back in October, about the way he'd talked about his dad, honoring his achievements and his strength. Sandy got a standing ovation that night. People that knew him well tell me that no one fought for the photographer more than Sandy. I know that ill health took a heavy toll over the past few years but he always attended the workshop, always paid his respects at the memorial. I hope he's sitting back, somewhere, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Aeroplanes Under Grey Skies

Made the 250 mile round trip to a local(ish) air museum today. Decided I'd go out there with e medium format camera and hope for some interesting clouds. Sadly the interesting clouds that I drove under for most of the journey turned to plate grey by the time I arrived.

The shot below looks like one of those monochromes with some color retained (as Steve says, the 'red dress' effect) but it's actually all color. A natural metal finish North American F-100C Super Sabre under flat grey skies. In fact this particular aircraft was the first production F-100C but, in fact, it never made it into Air Force service. It was used Edwards AFB with NACA (the forerunner of NASA) then moved to Ames at Moffett Field then to San Jose airport for the San Jose State University. Once they were done with it it was loaned to Castle Museum. It's current paint job shows an aeroplane from the 531st Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing basd at Misawa AB, Japan.

Shot on Leaf Aptus 75, processed in Aperture with a little help from Nik plug-ins.


This shot is monochrome. A Lockheed P-80B Shooting Star, the first type of fighter jet in the US Air Force. This one is painted in the markings of Lt. Russell Brown who is credited with the first ever jet-to-jet 'kill' on November 8, 1950 over Korea.


Thought I'd add in a third. A McDonnell F-101B Voodoo. An astounding plane that first flew in 1954. It's twin -engined grunt could take it up to Mach 1.7 and it set a number of speed and point-to-point records. Some F-101B's saw service with the Air National Guard until 1982 - a remarkable service record.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Medium Format

Gotta love it. Mamiya 645AFDII, Leaf Aptus 75, Profoto Acute 4D driven by Acute 2R pack. Images processed in Aperture with a little help from Nik Sharpener. Shot in our garage. Model? J, obviously...

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Black and White Aeroplanes

I've been playing around and reprocessing a bunch of files for 'the book' using Nik's incredible plug-ins for Aperture.

This is an A-4 Skyhawk, known in the trade as a 'Scooter'. One of the most successful US Navy and Marine Corps aircraft of all time. It first flew in 1954, entered service in 1956 and didn't finally leave USN service until 2003 - an astounding 47 years in service. It flew under the flags of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Israel, Kuwait, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The aircraft below is an A-4C on display at the Flying Leatherneck Museum at MCAS Miramar, San Diego, California. It was entered into service with the US Navy in April 1961. It went to VA-192, the 'Golden Dragons' in 1971. It then went to the Marine Corps Reserve, eventually ending up at MCAS El Toro.



Wednesday, December 3, 2008


As a minor follow up to my towing story... I was chatting with the guy who towed me to the garage today. He was talking about people who don't give roadside emergency teams space on the freeway. He said, 'every issue of Tow Times has some guy who got crushed to death at the side of the road'.

Wait a second... Tow Times? Sure enough... I mean, why wouldn't there be? I'm glad that they have their own magazine.

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