For the past few years Paso Robles has been my second home. On our last visit there I wanted to do a quick lifestyle shoot in wine country. I'm currently in love with these. Thanks so much to my beautiful model Mallory! So glad we finally got to work together.
It's the end of Spring so that means that it's Palm Springs Photo Festival time again! So much happened that my post is a little later than normal. I worked with the incomparable Keith Carter this year, there was a wolf, lots of beautiful models, portfolio reviews, late night lectures and parties, and, it makes me emotional even to type this, the last talk given by Mary Ellen Mark.
Mary Ellen gave a moving talk on Wednesday night of the festival. She showed a greatest hits slideshow of her work which was powerful and moving. I've been a huge fan for a long time, but this is only the second time I've gotten to see her speak in public. The crowd gave her a well-deserved roaring standing ovation when she finished. She was clearly ill, and her heroic efforts to continue to teach her workshop, speak on a panel, and then stay up to 10pm to give the late night evening presentation were truly admirable. This was a woman who cared passionately about her craft and about the field of photography. She was a trailblazer for women photographers and she will be missed.
Onto a much lighter topic, the workshop with Keith! Often times workshop instructors are great artists, but they're not great at teaching. With Keith there was the magical combination of him being both an exquisite image maker AND an articulate teacher. He had many helpful creative exercises, showed work by interesting photographers that I had never heard of, and he had thoughtful insights about everyones work.
We started the week with a little class time at the Korakia Pensione in the morning of day one. Then moved onto a mini shooting session at a hip private home in Palm Springs, followed by a critique of attendee work, and finally a quick trip to the thrift store to pick up props for the rest of the week.
Day 2 we went to the spectacular Blue Ranch, an in-city horse ranch in the middle of Palm Springs. We had three lovely models, a couple of horses, and a wolf (!!!) to photograph and work with as subjects. Although I was there to assist with the organizational part of the festival, with scenery like this I had to make some images of my own--especially since Canon loaned me a 5d Mark iii plus the AWESOME 85mm 1.2! I want it! It was very hard to give back that lens and I've been pining for it ever since.
Day 3 we went out to Indian Canyon. In all of my years going out to Palm Springs with the festival it was my first time at Indian Canyon. It's like this little oasis just a few miles out of town with groves of palms and a trickling stream running through it. It was very cool and I will be back! We had a big group this year (see below) but the last few years I've gotten very lucky with low maintenance attendees which makes my job so much easier!
The festival is a very intimate experience and there are workshops are going on all around the Korakia Hotel. I got a sneak peek at Ian Ruhter's wet plate workshop in action using his massive camera. Such a cool process to watch! Also, look at that focus on the 85 1.2, daaaaamn!
The week is filled with long, sometimes challenging days with little sleep and a fair amount of stressful moments. It's also probably my favorite week of the year. That is in no small part thanks to the many great friends that I have because of the festival. I am grateful every year they come back and we get to hang out in the desert together. I get to see their careers grow and our bonds of friendship are renewed each spring. It's a very special thing.
Until next year...
While I was up on the Central Coast shooting for some magazines I produced and shot a "girls wine weekend" concept for Stocksy. My models were my longtime friend Becca and some of her girlfriends-- Mindy, Stacie, Caitlin, and Stephanie. We bopped around a few Central Coast wineries and got to drink some fantastic wine. What's more fun than a beautiful, sunny day, drinking wine with fun girls and making some photos?
As a photographer you are always creating work a season or two ahead of when the images will be used. Thus Christmas shoots in July and romantic Valentine's themed shoots are scheduled for November. Famously Sports Illustrated models often have to brave frigid temperatures in bikinis to get that summertime look in the off season. Luckily for this shoot, my models Brittany, Bia, and Amy and I had the great fortune to "endure" a 72 degree February day at the beach. It's rough.
The girls and I along with my trusty assistant Justin went out to Santa Monica for a fun "girls day at the beach" themed shoot. The models were great and we had a lot of fun running around an almost empty So Cal beach. You can see more images at my Stocksy page and even license them if you'd like. Thanks so much to Amy, Bia and Brittany for having so much energy and making the shoot a blast!
I had the good fortune to be in Paso Robles on assignment when Domenique contacted me wanting to do a shoot. Domenique and I had previously worked together to shoot an athletic/sportswear inspired shoot in Paso Robles and she is a rock star, so of course we made it happen. We tried out a couple of different concepts and played around with wardrobe and scenery. The light was spectacular, and Domenique's skin was luminescent. Here's some of my favorites from that day.
New season, new work at Edible SLO. I was super stoked to have some of my harvest photos published in a photo essay for the magazine.
I also shot a story on some local businesses in the area including Komplete Kombucha, based in San Luis Obispo and Villacana Winery's RE:find Distillery in Paso Robles.
Years ago I had a friend that brewed her own kombucha and it was terrible. Bitter, acrid, and way to powdery and green tasting. I was pleasantly surprised that I really liked the brew made by Komplete Kombucha. I tried their ginger flavor and their hibiscus, and both were fantastic. They made me a kombucha convert overnight. The company is made up of three young and ambitious entrepreneurs and I see big things in their future.
RE:find Distillery and Spirits is owned and operated by the truly lovely Monica and Alex Villacana. They make vodka, gin, rye whiskey, and limoncello from the first press grape juice that comes from their own Villacana Winery during the winemaking process. With two businesses to run, Monica and Alex are very busy people but on the day that I photographed them I found them to be energized and very sweet and hospitable. They showed me around the distillery and tasting room and we chatted about the various projects they have in the works. When the shoot was over they very generously gave me a bottle of my choosing to take home. I went with the gin because there are few things better on a hot summer day than a gin and tonic. Wow, was I impressed. My boyfriend Justin proclaimed that it was even better than Hendrick's, which as all gin lovers know is the peak of gin perfection. You can find RE:find products at cool bars and liquor stores everywhere, including my neighborhood Oaks Gourmet in Franklin Village in Hollywood!
I had the opportunity to shoot portraits of Sunni Mullinax, the newly elected President of the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce to go along with a press release announcement of her appointment. She is fantastic, and I know she'll be a great ambassador to the Paso Robles community!
In the midst of packing for the move down south and finishing up client work, I wanted to take a moment to do a quick shoot with an awesome local model, Domenique Terry. One of the professional creeds of photography that I try to abide by is ABS: always be shooting. It's nice to do some personal work and keep focused on the bigger picture of growing as an artist and not just getting caught up in creating client prescribed imagery.
The sun was fading fast so we just shot for 30 minutes or so. I love the autumnal light and how luminous her skin looks as the sun dipped below the horizon. I'm leaving California soon, but when I return I know I'll be calling on Domenique to do another shoot together!
Over the past few years I've fully fallen in love with Paso Robles. Combining that with my love of food and wine, being asked to shoot for the PRWCA was a really cool honor for me. Here are some images that will be used in the 2014 "Grow Wild" campaign to promote the Paso Robles wine region.
A big part of the campaign focuses on Paso's sustainable practices including use of animals to abate weeds, fertilize the soil, and promote a holistic farming practices. Tablas Creek Winery was nice enough to let the animals loose in the vineyard for us even though the grapes were still on the vines. Perhaps a bottle or two worth of grapes were sacrificed to the animals for the cause, but hopefully the images were worth it!
We also shot in the barrel room at Robert Hall Winery. The size of the cellar always shocks me and it's a challenge to photograph in such a cavernous space. The barrels go on for days and the smell of oak and fermentation is heavenly. Not a bad place to work for the day.
Last Friday the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce held its inaugural Farm to Fork Progressive Food and Wine Tour. The tour was a multi-location food and wine extravaganza of some of the best things the area has to offer. Proceeds benefit a scholarship fund for local high-schoolers. I donated some of my images to be used for promotion of the event and they were nice enough to invite me along for the day. At right is the brochure for the event with some of my work. It was a delightful, hot, whirlwind day (filled with lots of cool swag), here are a few of the highlights...
A breakfast of bacon wrapped fig strata, quinoa with apples, roasted rosemary potatoes and chimichuri at the Pioneer Museum was the way the group of 100-plus people were welcomed to the tour. We then boarded buses and headed off to our first stop, Windrose Farm in Creston. Once there we were treated with chipotle and heirloom tomato bloody mary's made with a local grape-based Re:Fined vodka. In my book it doesn't get much better than this. Then, bloody marys in hand, we were given a tour of the farm by owner Barbara Spencer. Windrose is an organic, bio-dynamic marvel, growing more than 40 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, apples, squash, peppers, and almost anything else one can imagine. After the tour the group sat down for a tomato tasting and some lemonade, then on to our next stop...almost.
I won't get into the details, but there were some bus issues that caused some very uncomfortable time in the sun. Luckily there was a bottle of water in my goodie bag and my bloody mary was still in effect. Once a new bus arrived to take us to our next stop we were in business again. The second stop, Windfall Farm, was the apex of the tour. A cooking demonstration by cookbook author Brigit Binns while sitting on bales of hay and sipping J Lohr Viogner was just what I needed after the bus debacle. Even better, we all got a copy of the cookbook which I've been eyeing in local shops for weeks.
Binns demoed the food which we were to be served later, a pear and fennel salad and a braised short rib with creamy polenta, yum! The wine continued to flow as we moved onto communal tables for lunch. I moved on to some Petit Syrah to pair with my short rib and stopped to stroll through the spectacular foaling barn near where lunch was being served. The group was mostly women and I had a very diverse, interesting bunch of ladies at my table. After lunch it was time to grab a bottle of J Lohr's premium Hilltop Cabernet, and proceed to our final stop, Pasolivo for a little something sweet.
A tour of the olive orchard, followed by an olive oil tasting were a nice way to round out the day. I enjoyed some local Leo Leo strawberry gelato in the shade, and the tour was complete. Such a fun day surrounded by people who are doing truly impressive things with their resources. I am so proud to have become a part of the Paso Robles food and wine community over the past couple of years and it brings joy to see good, hard working people thrive.
The lovely Esther Flink and I enjoyed bopping around several Central Coast vineyards last week during our sunset shoot. Esther is a Toronto transplant to the area and she brought to the shoot the professionalism and charm of a seasoned model. We had a great time racing around the country-side looking to capture the last bits of light. Here's a small sampling of images from our shoot.
I finally got a moment to photograph my lovely friend Shelby Garland. I was honored to be the first photographer to do a shoot with her. I knew she would be a natural and I'm sure she has a bright future ahead of her if she chooses to pursue modeling. We went down to the beach in Ventura, California and shot at the pier, Surfer's Point, and Marina Park. The cloudy sky made for one large soft-box which is great for portraiture. Shelby looks beautiful and I'm sure we will work together again soon!
I had a fun day shooting Lauren and Kylee Klay last week. They are both really goofy and natural in front of the camera. We shot several different set-ups involving a modern, technology filled morning. Apparently we were having so much fun that Basil (the chicken) decided to escape and join us. After her daring escape we let her model for a few photos.
Thanks to the awesome Krystal Davis for doing makeup for the shoot. You can find more information about Krystal's work here...
The girls looked fresh and lovely. Don't all women look like that when they get out of bed in the morning?
Thanks ladies, I look forward to working with you again soon!
The Avila Valley Barn is one of the most awesome places I know. It's kind of like an old-timey East Coast farm stand that has the benefit of being in California, where they can grow produce and flowers year-round. There is a huge variety of animals from dozens of chickens running around to alpacas, and emu. The models especially bonded with the goats, who were eating dried leaves right out of their hands.
Both of the models were fantastic. It was my first time working with Kylee and Eric, but they dove right in and got into the spirit of the shoot. Only in California can you enjoy ice cream in the wintertime!
I have been working on a personal project on the California Central Coast wine grape harvest for the past few weeks. It's a work in progress and I am still waking up before dawn, pulling on my boots, heading out to some of the best vineyards in the area, and photographing the harvest. I vacillated between waiting until the project was completed, and releasing it in parts. I decided that it was best to give you small portions at a time. This is mainly because there are way too many images that I love to only show a final 10-20 once the edit was completed. Also, it allows you, the viewer, to see the evolution of the project and how things change over time. These images were shot at Fe Ciega Vineyard, located in the Santa Rita Hills area of California, and Laetitia Vineyard, located in Arroyo Grande.
Anyone who is familiar with Paso Robles, California probably knows two basic things about it: they make great wine in Paso, and it gets really, really hot there. Unfortunately me and the team got a a big dose of the heat during our shoot last week. Clocking in at about 105 degrees, it was a warm one. Everyone was a good sport and we kept the water super cold in ice and we hung out by the lake as much as possible.
Thanks so much to everyone involved!
Linsey Milligan, Christina Diaz, Lindsey Hunt, Rob Martin, and Joseph Garcia.
Model Christina Diaz is not only lovely, but the California surfer girl is also quite the academic. An aerospace engineering student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, she clearly has a bright future ahead of her. We shot at Margo Dodd Tide Pools in Shell Beach, California on a beautiful summer afternoon. Rebecca Means was a fantastic assistant and the day was lots of fun. Chosing to shoot at high tide left all parties soaked as we waded thigh-high through the water, trying to keep the gear dry. Note to self: check the tide schedule before booking a beach shoot!
During a shoot for Def Jam artist J-12, Lauren and I snuck off and did a couple of really quick test shots before we wrapped up. More images from the shoot to follow later. Thanks Lauren!
On Thursday, May 3rd Levi's held their Community Day In-Action where Levi's employees throughout the world participated in various projects that helped benefit their communities. I had the opportunity to shoot at the Levi's headquarters in San Francisco where they were building bikes that were given to the local YMCA, sorting thousands of articles of clothing to be donated to Goodwill, and sewing canvas bike bags for kids, and many other altruistic endeavors.
Later in the day, after the good deeds were completed, Levi's hosted a picnic lunch for the employees who volunteered to help out with the various projects. The rain rolled through, but it didn't dampen the mood of the crowd which was treated to the sounds of Bay Area band Buxter Hoot'n.
To find out more about Levi's Community Day and their efforts to be good corporate citizens, click here.
Also the band Buxter Hoot'n was fantastic. Check them out at their website:
Singer, song-writer, musician, Matt Zeltzer was photographed in Pismo Beach, California.
Zeltzer is a fantastic bluesy, rock and roll musician who has just released his second album Desert Tortoise. You can check out some of his music by clicking here. Sit back, grab a glass of bourbon, and enjoy.