Home    About Me    RSS Feed   

Archive for February, 2009


Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Before I became a photographer, I was a rock climber. It was my life. I traveled around the country in search of the ultimate climbs and even to France where I lived for a few months. To this day I never feel as home as I do in the mountains. Although I don’t do much climbing anymore, it still defines who I am.

My photographic career actually began with me photographing my friends as they attempted some of the best and hardest climbs in the world. Often I lived in a tent or in a house with a dozen other climbers. Looking back, those moments were some of the most blissful in my life. Today, when I show up in Camp 4 in Yosemite or traipse through the oddly rounded boulders of Joshua Tree, I may not know a soul, but I still feel as though feel surrounded by long-lost friends.

In years past, when I’d aim my camera towards climbers, I’d focus on the steep rock and physical beauty of the scene. These days, I’m more interested in the people. It’s what I call the other side of climbing. Even though I don’t climb much anymore, I’m still a climber through-and-through. It’s part of my essence and my language. This album of images tries to capture that.

The following images are presented in the context of the printed book in which they appear.

The guy on the left is John Bachar. The impact he’s had on my life is indescribable. He was at one time the undisputed best rock climber in the world. In college, I had posters of him climbing - without rope - vertical granite walls that I only dreamed of. Awhile back, the sport changed and John went in his own direction. Still he remains an icon.

Which is why it’s fitting that I placed his portrait next John Long’s, another giant in the world of climbing. (The first one day ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan ranks as one of his great achievements.) I first ran into him when I was just starting to climb. My partner had taken a long fall to the ground - screaming the entire way down. Fortunately he was mostly ok, though shaking and babbling.

Largo - as John Long is known - came over to see if he was okay. Jeff, my climbing partner, still scared from his experience quickly perked up at the sight of this climbing legend. Jeff mumbledĀ  something about this being the end of his climbing career. Largo responded in his trademark booming voice, ” Ho man! Don’t give up the sport!”

Those words still ring in my ears whenever giving up begins to feel like an option.

These two fellows are brothers, Alex and Thomas Huber. Understanding what great climbers do is difficult for nonclimbers to even comprehend. These two climbed the 4,000 feet of vertical to overhanging rock of El Capitan in Yosemite in two hours and 45 minutes. To put this in perspective, it takes most people about four hours just to hike that distance. Imagine climbing a 4,000 foot ladder with most of the rungs missing (and death the certain consequence of screwing up) and you’ll have an idea of the stamina and fearlessness required for the feat.

For those interested in the technical details, the portraits were all shot with my 4×5 view camera using a 150mm lens. The film I used was Polaroid Type 55 - now discontinued. The borders you see are inherent in the film - they’re not some digital effect. With a 4×5, there’s no ability to focus when shooting. I instruct he subject, who’s about two feet from the camera, to stay absolutely still while I load film, close the lens and snap the shutter. The focus is so shallow that any slight move will ruin the image.

Still, there’s a look to the images that can’t be duplicated with anything else. The Polaroid produces a negative which I scan and then print from the digital file. The other images were either shot with my 1d MII or my 5D.

John Mireles

Fashion in the Park

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

In the midst of all my getting ready for WPPI in Vegas, we spent the afternoon in Balboa Park for a little fashion shoot. We tested out the eyelashes that Jeffrey created - he did the hair and makeup - for another shoot that he’s doing.

I liked all the lines and tones of this scene. When I set the shot up, the back wall was lit up by the sun. By the time we started shooting, a cloud rolled in and softened up the light.

I’ve shot a few wedding ceremonies at this spot. Usually, they’re in front of the well, not on top of it. This one’s my favorite…

Jennifer, the model, was freezing at this point. I suggested that she put on 30 lbs. Guess that’s not really an option…


I’m Doing Mentoring Sessions at WPPI!

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

Have questions about improving your business? Wondering about your pricing? Need feedback on your photography? Trying to figure out your marketing? Well, here’s your chance to get some one-on-one feedback from yours truly. I’ll be doing two 30 minute mentoring sessions each day before the trade show opens on Feb 17 and 18. I’d love to meet you and help you out with your burning photography questions!

I’ll be at WPPI in Las Vegas with my www.PhotographersToolkit.com booth where I’ll be selling the world-famous Lookbook (more on that in future posts). I’m looking forward to to meeting some folks from out in blogland. Because I get a lot of questions that I don’t have time to answer during the show, I figured I’d set up some mentoring sessions during non-show hours.

I’ve set this up as a fundraiser for my old high school, St. Paul High. It’s a parochial school in a working class suburb of Los Angeles that I support however I can. (I’m the photographer for career day.) Each of the four sessions is set up as an auction on Ebay; all the proceeds from the auctions will go to the school.

For more details and signup info, here’s the link to the site that I’ve set up: WPPI Mentoring Website

See you in Vegas!