Palm Springs Photo Festival, 2017

In early May, Deb Kmetz and I attended the Palm Springs Photo Festival in California. It offered us a chance to not only participate in many different conference events, but also the opportunity to photograph unique landscapes, very different from those near our homes in New Jersey.

Arriving on the Saturday before, we got up early the next morning, although not too difficult since our bodies were still on New Jersey Time, to photograph sunrise at the Salton Sea. It is a beautiful but odd place that led to many terrific images.

I attended a workshop with Greg Gorman, a photographer of celebrities and art nudes. His instruction and critiques were terrific. Even in the short period we were together I believe we all learned quite a bit. Deb studied with Brooke Shaden, another of the fantastic presenters who were all so giving of their time.

The week ended for us with a trip to Joshua Tree National Park, another for sunrise. This is a location where everywhere you go the view is different, and also beautiful. In the end we spent about 12 hours in and around the park. Before leaving for the flight home we also visited a local botanical garden where I made my first hummingbird photographs, a subject that is a passion for Deb, and took a ride on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which offers another unique experience.

I have added a gallery to the main part of this site with many more photographs of all parts of the trip.

An Unusual Exhibit Opportunity

Last Autumn, the employee cafeteria where I work was rebuilt. When it opened the dining room was full of beautiful abstract art. The artist, Mariyah Sultan, is a part-time employee of the company and is also responsible to curate future exhibits in the space. The first of these is a photography group show of work by employees. After a period of working out what work and sizes would be accepted, those of us participating will be delivering photographs this week. I will have two pieces in the exhibit.

The first is an abstract composition of a doorway of an old, currently abandoned, building at Sandy Hook, NJ, made in May, 2016. We decided it actually worked better cropped and rotated and will be presented 11"X17", plus the frame which the company will provide.

The second is part of a series I am working on of body elements of models with incense smoke. This one, of Erica Jay was made in June, 2016. It had been her suggestion to use incense smoke some months earlier, so I finally had the opportunity work on this with her. This image, presented 16"X20", again plus the frame, was one of the last of that session. This is a size I can not print at home, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the image works at that scale.

I am excited for this opportunity. If they decide to have an opening, to which I can invite people, I'll post about that.

Some Old Ideas Return

Note that some images below contain nudity and are NSFW.

As 2016 seems to rush by, I have been collaborating with a number of models I've worked with before. This has me revisiting some ideas I started playing with before in addition to continuing on my portrait studies.

After experimenting with candle smoke in January, I wondered how it would work against the bodies of my subjects. Erica Jay, a model and friend, suggested trying smoke from incense since it was longer lasting and has no open flame. It also leaves the studio smelling great. As you can see in the images above it has been interesting. The lighting is the trick and is still evolving, so stay tuned for more.

I also have always been interested in silhouettes. With some better tools, and more experience, I decided to give them a try again. The above, click through to see them all, are a few examples of recent attempts.

With many more sessions booked in the next few months, I look forward for more of these and whatever else comes into my head.

An Interesting Session of Portraits

Note that some images in the post and video link below might be considered Not Safe For Work (NSFW).

On Friday, August 28, I had the pleasure of doing my second session with Deanna Deadly. She is a wonderfully versatile model and performer. Prior to the session I told her that I wanted to try to do three things, natural light portraits with minimal makeup, additions to the black dress series, and some photographs with distressed makeup.

We began making photographs and worked through the first two concepts. These were fairly basic and ideas I had done with many others, well within our comfort zones. I had her do some more extreme, artistic makeup and made some photographs in that then asked her to change it so it looked messy. It wasn't easy getting it to look right but I feel she figured it out well. We again started to make pictures using light and lenses that distorted her face further and with some incredible goth music playing. Her performance abilities kicked in and she displayed very dark and strong emotions. Some of it could have been quite frightening if we weren't having so much fun creating this mood. It was somewhat uncomfortable making and editing this series. I wasn't sure that I should even share the work, that people might misunderstand the intent and what we were trying to create. I realize that I had to show these and hope it leads to some useful discussion.

Part of the reason I decided to share this was a video posted on the Maine Media Workshops' Vimeo page. The interview with Connie Imboden, the amazing instructor from the first Maine Media class I attended in 2013, contains some discussion about her fantastic work and the dark mood in many recent photographs. It is worth watching to hear her thoughts on creativity and intuitive seeing.

To see all of the photographs above, click on the right or left side of the displayed image and it will scroll.

Another Summer Class at the Maine Media Workshops

For the third year, I participated in a class at the Maine Media Workshops, in Rockport, Maine. This year's session was "The Portrait as Doorway to Creativity" with Sean Kernan. He came to photography from the theater and uses many interesting exercises to open creativity and interpersonal skills.

We had the opportunity to photograph fellow students, professional models, and a stranger of our choosing. The above image is of Michaela, the Sous Chef in the campus kitchen, my "stranger". She has a wonderful story and I feel thrilled to have had the opportunity to be the first this summer to photograph her. The ten of us in the class worked well together and were open and honest on comments on the work we produced. 

Since back I've been continuing my study of portraiture, something I hope to do even more.

To see all of the photographs above, click on the right or left side of the displayed image and it will scroll.

Upcoming Exhibits

I have had the honor of having a few photographs accepted into two local area exhibits.

Hanging now through November 14 in the Transformations Gallery at the Old Franklin School in Metuchen is Inspirational Women in History. This exhibit is an interesting mix of media and styles with images of women who inspire each artist. Each of us included a statement about our work and subjects. There will be a reception on October 11, 1:00 pm until 4:00 pm.

On view from August 27 through September 15 at the Barron Arts Center in Woodbridge is The Figure, A Look at our Ever Varied Humanity. This exhibit shows work by a variety of artists, again in many media, of the human figure. The reception will be August 27 from 7:00 pm until 9:00 pm.


Portraits are, in and of themselves, a unique art form. Prior to the mid-1800's, when the photographic portrait became practical, they had to be painted. Multiple, long sessions were required, with the subject sitting still, to capture their likeness. Although photography made the process easier and shorter, quality portraiture is still not easy to achieve. 

I have done some portrait sessions and don't feel that they resulted in my best work. As part of my art photography, I will do some portraiture of the models I hire. Recently, a couple of these really excited me.

In March, Erica Jay was the model for a portrait lighting session I did for some of the members of the St. Veronica's Guild, a photography group that meets at Metuchen's St. Luke's Church. Prior to that we did a private session that resulted in a portrait I submitted to a group project on Facebook. At the Metuchen Junebug ArtFest last night, a woman walked by and told me she was able to feel the emotion Erica put forth. I was a bit surprised and pleased that this image could bring out that kind of feeling.

This next one, of Inna, was made near the end of another private session. She had been traveling and worked with me before heading home. The clothing had been worn as part of my Black Dress series. I had her pose on this sofa and, as I usually do, used my one Westcott Ice Light, to illuminate her. When I processed this I was immediately drawn in, again to the feeling of the moment.

One final note, there is much software advertised that will "improve" portraits. I'm not a fan of retouching, and certainly not skin smoothing. I'm not saying these don't have a place, but I limit my retouching to temporary elements like scratches and other temporary blemishes. Anything permanent, stays!

I'll be back on the sidewalk for Junebug again on June 26 and will be wandering around photographing the events of the evenings on June 1 and 19.