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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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

People Say The Strangest Things

Finally got out of the office about 6:30 tonight and walked down to the parking garage under the office. I chatted with my boss on the way out then walked over to my car. I put the pack in the back and got in. Turned the key, engine turned. Nothing. Tried again. And again. And again. Nothing. Dead car.

Went back up to my office and cracked out the AAA card. The nice guy from the two company showed up within about fifteen minutes, tried to start the car. Nothing. So he put it up on the tow truck and we headed out for my home. The guy was great - quick, efficient and friendly. But people do decide to say the strangest things. His first real conversation with me, as we drove, started with the following sentence:

"You know, my first fatality pick up was a car like yours, a guy up on skyline, going too fast, straight into a tree like this... "

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Passage of Time

When I moved from London to Paris I left behind a lot of stuff in storage. I also had some stuff back at my parents house. When I relocated to the US in spring 2006 I took the opportunity to get the stuff from my parents and put it with my storage stuff in London. Then, when the relo people picked up my London stuff, it all came to the US with me. Buried, deep, deep down in the London shipment was a box and in that box was hundreds and hundreds of 'snappy snaps snapshots'. Essentially the story of my life.

I haven't seen a lot of these pictures for 10 or so years. It's really quite a trip to go back in time and see the things you did and the person you were. The changes are invisible day to day but breathtaking when viewed at a distance of twenty years. So, over the course of the coming months I'm going to be trawling through my box of memories.

Back in the late 1980's I was a skater. In fact I raced. Something called Short Track. That's the kind of speed skating you see Apolo Anton Ohno doing, indoors, tight track all elbows and frantic speed. I became a speed skater because I'd been a skater since I was about 10 years old. I loved it. I skated, at one time, almost every night of the week. My parents were happy that I was getting exercise in a safe environment and I loved skating like a beast. Me and my mates used to scoot around the ice, weaving in and out, jumping through gaps, going backwards, you name it. And, of course, there were girls. To me, at 15 or 16, they were utterly unattainable. And then, finally, it clicked and I met a girl. At the Nottingham Ice Stadium. She was a skater too. She was cute as a button and I was smitten. It wasn't to last, I caught her, making out with a mate of mine. At the Nottingham Ice Stadium.

Around that time I wasn't racing but I did take part in the 'sports' section of a Friday night down at the Stadium. The sports section allowed those beyond beginner to go nuts for a few minutes - skating fast as you wanted - sometimes in a circle, occasionally in a dazzlingly dangerous figure-eight (wonder if that is even legal now). During the sports we used to barrel jumping too. We'd get some gallon cans out on the ice, skate like lunatics and try to jump over them. It was insane. Then we found out that there was an official Barrel Jumping sport in Canada. It even had a world championships! We formed a team and became the Great Britain Barrel Jumping team. We arranged to go compete in Canada and France. For some reason (I think I'd broken something) I couldn't jump... so I became a referee. Before I knew it I'd refereed several world championships indoors and out, mens and womens.

This picture is me as Chief Official at the Outdoor World Barrel Jumping Championships in Ottawa, Canada around 1989.


We had a blast on these trips, especially the trips to Canada which were my first trips to North America. The picture below is me as a young 20-something riding a Skidoo for the first time. Shortly after this picture was taken my buddy took a turn to drive and drove us through a barbed wire fence. He needed stitches. I needed a new ski jacket and gloves.


I had hair. I was a lot thinner. I was pretty fit. I was traveling the world and becoming addicted to it.

Good times.