September 9, 2014

Photo Essay: Ray's Truck

I found a few rolls of 35mm film recently and had them developed and scanned. They were exposed seven years ago with reflections of my family on Ray Day. Ray Day is a family holiday when we celebrate my grandfather's birthday (His name is Ray Cox.) While at his home in Water Valley, Mississippi on this particular holiday, I photographed items that reminded me of him. The next five images are just a few shots from those rolls.

August 12, 2012

Perseids Meteor Shower 08/11/2012

Last night, a few friends and I drove just outside of the city to watch the Perseid meteor showers.  It was a stunning sight.  We drove East on I-60 about 15 miles away from Mesa in the Superstition Mountains and found a road that led into Tanto National Forest.  We parked, pulled out our lawn chairs and movie candy and sat a spell watching the astral show.  We counted 70 meteors last night between 9 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.  For the first time in my life, I saw the Milky Way.  I am smitten for the Milky Way.  It is quite beautiful.

If you are reading this today, Sunday, August 12, it is not too late to see this shower with your own eyes.  In fact, tonight is supposed to be the best night to view.  Here is the run down:

  • The best time for seeing the Perseid meteor shower is between midnight and pre-dawn when the sky is the darkest.
  • Look towards the Eastern sky.
  • The entire globe should be able to see the show, because the Earth is passing through a cloud of dust and debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle and does so around the same time every year.
  • Get far away from city lights for the best view.
For more details, visit NASA and watch this video.

Here are a few shots from last night:

May 7, 2012


(Update: May 8, 2012 - I asked my mother to be my editor for this post.  She made a few corrections and added a few details I did not know about.  Her additions are in blue.)

My grandfather is turning 87 this month.  Our family calls him "papaw" and "daddy."  He is my last living grandparent.  He is an amazing man.  That's not opinion.  That is fact.

He has led an amazing life spurred on by curiosity, ingenuity and discipline.  During WWII he worked on airplanes.  While in the military, he attended school hoping to become a professional photographer but abandoned the dream because of the war and a shortage of film.  He never lost his love of photography and snapped many award-quality shots that still excite him as he relates the moment.  After the war, he moved back to Water Valley, Mississippi and married my grandmother ("memaw").  The two of them started a large family having five children; one each year for five years of which my mother is the youngest.

Among the many stories papaw takes pride in telling is how he was the first person in Water Valley to have a role of color film developed, and their family was the first in Water Valley to own a color television set.  In addition to his full time work as a sewing machine mechanic at a local pants factory and later a door-to-door insurance salesman, he operated Cox Sewing service.  He loved selling sewing machines and had a passion for repairing them.  He has an inventor's heart and made many tools whenever he couldn't find one that served his purposes.  Today, he has about 100 screw drivers of varying sizes that he hand-made.  He loves to create and work with his hands.  Most recently, he built his own bed frame using a tree that his brother planted in his back yard nearly a half century ago.  The head board has a space for books.

He doesn't build much in his shop anymore.  It's difficult for him to remember the tasks he starts.  He gets confused easily.  He has a lot of great stories to share but has a hard time telling them, struggling to find and speak the words.  He starts one story and half way through will change to a totally different story.  It's hard to watch him deteriorate like this.  It's hard because he has always been a strong man in my perspective.  He is still strong-willed, but not physically strong like he used to be.

Last summer, I made a visit to Water Valley to visit papaw and the Cox family.  I took my Yashica 635 and two rolls of film (one color, one black & white).  Here are a few shots from that trip.

He designed and built a recycling bin for tin cans and placed it in his yard to help raise money for local churches doing missionary work in Nicaragua and South Africa.  He started the ministry in memory of his wife after she died in 1998.  Town folk still stop by his house to drop off cans in his bin.  About two years ago, he had to sell his truck dirt cheap to a new owner with the promise that they would continue the tradition of taking the cans to be recycled and donations would be made to missionary work.  He designed the bin with a prop on the front that makes it easier to reach over the bin.

Papaw's birthday is fast approaching, and we will continue the tradition of celebrating "Ray Day" when all his children and grandchildren gather to make the day extra special for him.  --  Linda Smith

April 27, 2012

Film Love

I love to work with film.  A shame I waited so long to pick use it again.  Its been nearly a year since I last worked with medium format.  It makes me slow down.  Makes me compose more, study more, observe more.

Feelings of anticipation are similar to the wait for Christmas morning by a child.  It begins when you pull the finished roll out of the back of the camera and grows when that cartridge of moments is dropped off at the print lab.  Days later you pick up the scanned images and rush home to view them on screen.  Christmas morning becomes old hat after a certain age.  This never gets old.

This slowing down helps in the learning process.  I noticed a couple problem areas that keep creeping up in my work:
(1) I cut off people's hands.  I've been doing this because I thought the face was the morst important part of a portrait.  I want the viewers focus to be there because the face tells the story without speaking.  But an art director pointed out to me recently that the hands tell the story, too.  This is true.  We carry so much of our character in the texture of our hands like the lines on our face.  If it enhances the story, it should be left in.  If not, then get closer.

(2) The key to shooting good black and white photography is a keen observation of highlights and shadows.  Open shade offers opportunity for a gradual transition from highlight to shadow that can be dramatic and help show subtle expressions.  Placing a subject with dark skin or clothes in front of a bright background is tricky.  The exposure required for a bright background can throw off an accurate reading for the foreground.  This is where some of the trial-and-error experience is helpful.  It can also take attention away from the subject (not good).  That's not to imply it can't be done well.  Erica McDonald does it very well.  So does Elliott Erwitt.

Here are a few of my film scans that taught me the above.  Overall, I like these photos but I want to see more hands.  HANDS!

April 17, 2012

DanceSport Challenge

DanceSport, or more commonly known as ballroom dancing in the US, is considered an olympic athletic sport.  This weekend marked the seventh all-amateur dance competition for the Phoenix chapter of USA Dance.  Here are a few favorite shots from the DanceSport Challenge this past Saturday.  



April 16, 2012

Brad & April - Adult Playground

This semester in my photojournalism class I've been working on a project that looks at dance in the Phoenix area.  Here is one of the videos I created for the course.  Enjoy.

April 14, 2012

NEW Loves - April

  • James Morrison
  • Bountiful Baskets - buy local, eat better.  Win win!
  • Lavender
  • The Digital Naturalist
  • Stone-ground, whole wheat pastry flour
  • Homegrown Media - Did I mention I am part-owner in a new media company?  No?  Details to come.  :)
  • Making time-lapse videos
  • The Photographer's Emphemeris app for iPhone
  • MiLapse app (for double-check'n my time-lapse math)

Neavoux Duo

My goodness we have so much to catch up on.  I've been away for waaaaay too long.  I have much to show you and tell you about the past nine months or so.  That makes it sound like I had a baby, but that is not the case.  I did produce, shoot and edit my first documentary along with two other ASU students.  It was kind of like having a baby, watching it grow up and then graduate high school all within the span of four months.  No kidding!  The stress and emotional turmoil were intense by the end of 2011.  But it was worth every drop of sweat and nerve racking minute.  We made a story I'm very proud of, and I will share that with you as soon as its uploaded to the omniscient land of the internet.

In the mean time, here are a few shots from a multi-media project I've been working for my final semester of university classes.  These were taken at Arthur Murray dance studio in Mesa during their "Neavoux Duo" party earlier this evening.  The name is an alteration of a French term and is used here to describe the focus of this party: dance couples.  These were a few of my favorite moments from the evening.

Body:  Canon 5d Mark II
Lens:  16-35mm, f2.8L
Lighting:  Available light from tungsten lamps overhead
Settings:  ISO 6400, 1/125 @ f2.8

August 11, 2011

Movie To-Do List:

1.  The Tree of Life
2.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2
3.  The Help
4.  The Debt

Dava Woodrow Castro

Bridal Portraits for Dava Woodrow
Location:  The Wright House @ 636 W University Dr, Mesa Arizona
When:  June 30, 2011  -  1 to 3 p.m.

This location offered plenty of available light indoors from floor to ceiling windows.  I added my own lighting in some cases to help brighten up a room.  You can see one of my set ups in the last photo and Brad demonstrating the Kilroy drawing.  In other situations the strobes provided the majority of the light seen in the photos.   The first five images were made using only available light.  A majority of these shots were taken using the 70-200mm f2.8L and my plastic fantastic 50mm f1.8 lens.  When a wide shot was required, I used the 17-40mm f4L.  Lighting created in various combinations using:  Norman power packs and heads, a v-flat, a 6X6' scrim and the sun.

I brought more gear than was necessary out of fear of not having enough.  That just meant we had more effects to play with, but the trade off was time.  At the end of the day we used six different locations all on the same property.  Not a bad outcome for two hours of shooting.  I did get a variety of shots thanks to the Wright House and a patient bride.  But there were so many more great looking areas around that property that we could have used if it were not for moving equipment from point A to point B.  My main goal was to experiment with v-flats.  So goal = accomplished.  The results were pleasing, but 20/20 hindsight reminded me that "less is more."