Cirque Noir

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Anita Wolf at the Cirque Noir. For one reason or another the circus made a lasting impression on my childhood memory. I think it was mostly due to Sunday nights spent watching the Wonderful World of Disney where Mickey Mouse, Dumbo and Toby Tyler were all planted firmly in my young brain.

 

By Popular Demand

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I have never been popular or in demand except by people who wanted to sell me something. It seems like the question I get asked most often is, “Will you be my friend… for a few dollars?” Usually the offer of “friendship” ends up being for many dollars. Come and join the party. You can’t miss this and it only costs $$$. Where else can you get this sort of inspiration (and friendship) for less? Well, it turns out you can get it just about anywhere. Inspiration and friendship are available all around you at no cost. The tricky part is choosing friends and inspiration wisely and then acting on it instead of constantly looking for more of the same.

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Don’t be scared… just do it. Don’t expect instant success either. Just keep doing it and growing. The simple act of doing something will teach you much more than all the endless hours of watching someone else explain what will become obvious as soon as you start doing things yourself. Instruction is fine but at some point you have to put into practice what you have been taught. You may think you are not ready but you can never be completely ready. Things just don’t work that way.

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The act of creating something is good for the spirit and you shouldn’t necessarily have to pay someone else for the privilege of doing it. Yes, cameras, art supplies and fabric are expensive but there are ways around that as well. Find yourself a real friend who doesn’t demand payment for their company and share costs and resources. You can often borrow things you need, you just have to summon the courage to ask. Most of the time people will be more than willing to help you out or even join in the fun. Now get moving.

 

Tossing, Turning And Talking In My Sleep

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The sun sets, the moon rises, the world keeps spinning around. People keep having the same problems and making the same mistakes. It helps to have clear vision and to look at things from the correct perspective. When we are young we gladly take risks and try new things without much thought but after living for a good while and miraculously dodging many things that would do us great harm, we get a little more cautious and actually worry about things beyond our control. The funny thing is that whatever finally does us in will be something completely unexpected. We spend all our time worrying about the wrong things and ignoring those that will actually harm us. I’ve got no solution, just do the best you can and don’t be foolish. Look around, pay attention, take sound advice but be wary of people trying to sell you something. Dream big and sleep well.

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Back to photography… This  is a photo shoot that started out based on some ideas from Helmut Newton’s “Polaroids.”  It ended having more in common withWilliam Eggleston (at least to my way of thinking). Like most people I never really knew much about the photographers behind many iconic images and because of the way images are presented in the media we often keep seeing the same few “famous” images over and over. Digging deeper has great rewards.

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I did a lot of experimenting on this shoot, in part because the models and conditions did not fit my original concept as well as I would have liked. In this image I have switched from brutal glaring midday sun to slightly less brutal dusk.

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In this shot I switched the color of the small fur rug and extended it on the left side. I like vertical stripes so I added an alternating blue  overlay to the fence. There is also some texture thrown in to add depth. This image was shot in the shade of the fence so it was a bit easier to darken it down even with my puny 150w strobe… Steve was shooting next to me and my strobe was causing his to fire in sync. Steve’s is on the right with a beauty dish and mine is towards the left with a 7″ reflector. I’ll take an occasional happy accident when I find  one. Steve was not as happy when he discovered that I had been draining his batter pack all day.

 

Save The Last Dance For Me

Save The Last Dance For Me

This is a sampling of photographs I made for the “Crazy Couture” photo shoot in Peoria, Illinois.  These were shot in an old warehouse near the riverfront using an inexpensive studio strobe in a large parabolic umbrella with a diffuser. The fill light is simply ambient light from the large windows. On the shots by the steel door I added a gelled Nikon SB800 as an accent.  The most valuable piece of gear I had with me was a borrowed step stool and my assistant who loaned me the step stool. It was around 40 degrees in the warehouse, tougher on models than photographers. No access to power except in the one working bathroom. All our gear works from battery power and the windows provided plenty of cloudy day diffused light to work by.

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We found several interesting props on the floor where we were working and put them to good use. This was a relatively short shoot of about four hours but our up and back driving time was around six hours making for a pretty long day.

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I was testing the lighting on this frame but I like the mood and body language. Amy has a cool and natural grace that makes her a pleasure to photograph.

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A Small Tea Party… Une Petit Partie de Thé

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The holidays are over and the New Year is in full swing. Gone are the shopping excursions, gift wrapping and inevitable trips to exchange things for other things that probably won’t be remembered by the next round of holidays. Last year was full of triumphs, disappointments and far too many would-be internet philosophers. In fact 2012 could be called the year of the would-be, could-be everything. The land is littered with self proclaimed experts and to make matters worse the actual experts (people who actually get paid to tell us this stuff) are often no better than the amateurs. So I’m not going to tell you what or how you should do things, I’ll confine myself to showing you what I do and you can decide for yourself if it has any value or not. As Brian DeMint says, “Hey I never said I was any good.”

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So last weekend I invited a few friends over to play a little dress-up and make believe. We had a several silly ideas to use as starting points. One was based on the idea of an imaginary Tea Party based on something Caroline said about warm tea being a cure all for just about everything. It was a very cold day so we took photographs in the basement, which was also very cold. Steve brought his LensBaby portrait lens and took some really cool blurry photos that inspired me to try recreating the same look using photo editing software.

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The best way to get a serious photograph is to have someone do something silly first. It’s a sort of photographic warm up and gets everyone working together and feeling comfortable in front of the camera.

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We started with the idea of recreating a 1920s prohibition speak-easy where the patrons go to have some fun without revealing their identities. After hours of drinking and partying they get sleepy and imagine themselves attending a child’s pretend tea party. The tea party moves ahead in time to a more surrealistic version with tasty treats and warm tea that makes them forget their everyday lives and reveals their inner performers.

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