Eric Soderquist - SLO Life Magazine

blog post (3 of 7) The latest issue of SLO Life Magazine just came out, and it features a few photos that I took of Eric Soderquist, a local artist and surfer (it also includes many wonderful images from photographer Chris Burkard, who shoots surf both locally and in some of the most inhospitable places a person could conceive of getting in the water).

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You can see Eric's work on his website, here:

Lesley Santos Dierks - SLO Life Magazine

Lesley Santos Dierks 2 Lesley is the CEO of Spokes, a San Luis Obispo organization that provides management training and other resources to local non profits, to help them succeed and better serve the community. I photographed Lesley in her home for the cover of the latest issue of SLO Life Magazine, which just came out at the beginning of December. This was the first set of images that I've delivered to the magazine that was entirely shot on film. I always carry my digital gear for backup on these shoots, and usually deliver at least some images from the digital rig, since it allows me to move faster and get some coverage that my Hasselblad isn't fast enough to keep up with; however, for this shoot Lesley so patient that I was able to get full coverage on a single roll of 220 film - just 24 frames!

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Thanks, as usual, to Richard Photo Lab for handling my film marvelously.

Why Film? And Why Medium Format?

For every cover of SLO Life that I shoot, Tom (the editor of the magazine) asks me to write a couple short paragraphs about the portrait session. The first time Tom included this small write-up in the magazine was when I started shooting the covers using my old analog Hasselblad, rather than my digital gear. As a result, when writing these pieces, I've often discussed the process of shooting film, thinking that it may be interesting to older readers who remember being limited to a mere 36 exposures per roll, or to younger readers who've grown up accustomed to the instant feedback of digital photography. What I haven't written about is why I choose to shoot film. The answer is simple but can easily get complicated... I shoot film so that I can shoot medium format.

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I'll spare you the plodding explanation of different film/sensor formats. There's plenty of that kind of thing on the web already, and trust me when I say that most of it is tremendously boring. Pretty much all you need to know is that most digital camera sensors are small, but medium format film is big. Is there bigger film than medium format? Oh yeah. Are there also bigger digital sensors? Yup. But if we're limiting ourselves cameras that you can carry around relatively easily, and can afford to buy without a taking out second mortgage, the formula holds true: film = big, digital sensors = small.

Why does that matter? Physics.

The bigger your film plane - whether it's a digital sensor or a piece of chemical emulsion - the faster things go from sharp where the camera is focused to blurry where it's not. Have you noticed how, when you take a picture with your cellphone or a compact camera, pretty much everything is in focus, whether it's close to the lens or in the background? That's because the sensor is tiny. Sometimes you want to have everything in focus, but sometimes you don't. Bigger digital cameras with bigger sensors than your cellphone let you make this choice to a degree, but with medium formal film, the focus falls off from sharp to blurry very fast. In these portraits of Eric Meyer, my camera is focused on Eric's eyes, and you can see that they're tack-sharp, along with his nose and mouth, which are all about the same distance from the camera as his eyes. But even just a tiny bit further from the lens the focus falls off, and things get softer and softer as they recede into the background.

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When I look at these pictures, I really lock in on Eric's eyes and his expression, because they're super sharp. Anything that might be distracting is quite soft, so it doesn't pull attention away from the center of his face. For me, the effect that I get using medium format film for a close headshot like this evokes a sense of sitting across from a person, having an intimate conversation with them. That sense of intimacy is a critical part of why these pictures work for me, and why I enjoy working with medium format film.

Stephanie Burchiel - SLO Life Magazine

Stephanie Burchiel 2 The cover of the August/September SLO Life Magazine is Stephanie Burchiel. Stephanie has been offering her vegan soups at farmer's markets throughout San Luis Obispo County for almost six years, and just released a cookbook featuring her recipes through Farmer's Market Publishing. She also almost never stops smiling.

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Stephanie and I met at her parent's ranch, deep in the coastal hills above Cayucos, so that we could take advantage of the ranch's wooded scenery for some of the images. As usual, the images for the magazine were shot on Portra 160 film with my Hasselblad, and processed at Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles.

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Bill Ostrander - SLO Life Magazine

Bill Ostrander 1 Bill Ostrander is the director of the 2014 Citizens' Congress, a national gathering of legislators, academics, and advocacy groups working to combat the influence of money in politics. Bill was featured in this month's SLO Life Magazine, and the images above and below are a couple that I especially liked from our cover shoot.

The cover session was shot on Portra 160 film in my Hasselblad, and processed at Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles.


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Bill is also a rancher, growing hay and raising cattle on his ranch in the hills above Los Osos Valley, and was generous enough to show me around his ranch for a few outdoor images.

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Terri Kurczewski - SLO Life Magazine

Terri Kurczewski 1 Most regular folks don't necessarily enjoy the process of being photographed. Terri Kurczewski is no exception, but it was her turn to grace the cover of this April's SLO Life, and it was my pleasure to meet her and photograph her for the magazine. Terri runs the Child Development Resource Center of the Central Coast (CRDC) as well as the Sm(ART) Studio, a community art studio, gallery, and classroom that benefits the CRDC.

Terri and I worked through a number of different scenarios, to see what might work best in the magazine, including some images of her in the Sm(ART) Studio, an outdoor setting with a small studio backdrop behind her head, and even an off-the-wall idea where glitter was raining down on her from above. But in the end, my favorite were these simple portraits on white, shot for the magazine cover. The final image that ran on the cover  was made with one of my digital cameras, but these frames - from the two rolls of film that I ran through my Hasselblad that afternoon and developed at Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles -  are my favorites.

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Dan Berkeland - SLO Life Magazine

Dan Blog 1 Usually I make these blog posts after the latest issue of SLO Life hits the stands as a way of sharing some of my personal favorite images that, for one reason or another, didn't make it into the magazine. Recently, I'm more and more confident shooting and submitting fewer, [I hope] stronger images.  For me and for the magazine, that's great news. The negative side, for the blog anyway, is that most of the images I select make print. Those two portraits of local baker Dan Berkeland up top are outtakes, but other than them, I think most of the rest of the images that I'm proudest of were featured in the issue. The only added value that I can offer here is a little backstory...

Dan invited me to come over to the bakery to see him in action - he would walk me through the whole process of preparing the baguettes that he and his team make for 16 local restaurants. The "catch" was that he wanted me to be there at 7:00 in the morning, because, as he promised, "the morning light coming into the bakery is incredible." I'm not usually out of bed by then, but I wouldn't be much of a photographer if I weren't willing to roll out early to chase a lead on some nice light. Thank goodness Dan wasn't messing around, because I might have been grumpy, otherwise.

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The details of the rest of my time with Dan, including the making of the image that made the cover, was already documented pretty thoroughly in the issue. A big thanks to Dan for this time and willingness to entertain even the craziest of my ideas, and to Richard Photo Lab in Los Angeles, who processes all of my film. Since all of the above images are from my digital cameras, I'll close with one from the cover session, shot on Kodak Portra 160 film in my clunky old Hasselblad, and processed at Richard Photo Lab. Cheers!

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SLO Makerspace - San Luis Obispo

SLO Makerspace The SLO Makerspace is a new collaborate workshop in San Luis Obispo. Brittany and I have been  project that Brittany and I have been working to help the Makerspace launch over the last several months, and we're having our first open house today, so it seemed like a good opportunity to share the series of portraits that I made of the SLO Makerspace Board of Directors. They needed something crisp, clean, and consistent for the Makerspace website, and it was a fun challenge to come up with a little bit of a concept for each board member, without over-propping, or falling too deep into cliché. I'm pleased enough with the result that I added the portraits to the list of projects on my portfolio site, so if you're interested, click over and view all of the images there.

Naomi Neilson Howard - SLO Life Magazine

The most recent issue of SLO Life Magazine hit mailboxes at the beginning of this month with one of my images on the cover (and a few more inside). I'm a little shy about this kind of stuff, but Tom, SLO Life's publisher, wrote another nice piece about my work on the cover, wherein I prove that I'm better at taking a picture than talking about the process. Naomi 1

This month's cover is of Naomi Neilson Howard, founder and CEO of Native Trails. Native Trails sells sustainable kitchen and bath products made by local artisans and craftspeople. Tom wanted another clean, white background image for the cover, as well as some images of Naomi in her beautiful yard (unsurprisingly decorated with beautiful locally-made furnishings from her Native Trails). We shot the cover images on color film, but we were planning to run the cover in black and white (the color film I usually use - Kodak's Portra 160 - takes black and white conversion particularly well). Since that image is already out there, I thought I'd share one of the other frames, in the original color.

The rest of the images were made in Naomi's back yard with her two kids running around - more of a run-and-gun process than the more controlled environmental of the portable studio.

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As with last issue, Richard Photo Lab in LA did a fantastic job processing my film. They're an absolute pleasure to work with, and do amazing work. I had a couple projects in the works for 2014 that I'm super-excited to share, and look forward to processing with RPL. Until then!

Botso Korisheli - SLO Life Magazine

BotsoKorisheli_1 Once again, the latest issue of SLO Life Magazine is out, and I'm very proud to have some of my images featured. In this issue it's a very special honor for two reasons - first, Tom (SLO Life's tireless publisher) included a very nice piece about my work on the cover photograph, which was a special experience for me, as I'll get into in more detail in a bit; second, the issue also include an image by local surf legend Chris Burkard, who is an amazing photographer. It's a massive honor to have my work published in the same magazine as his.

The subject of the current issue's Meet Your Neighbor segment is a really special person: Georgian-born pianist, sculptor, music teacher, and all-around amazing man, Botso Korisheli. Botso was trained as a classical pianist as a young boy, lost his father at 14 due to his opposition to Stalin's oppression of Georgia, dug ditches and then served as a translator during World War II, and eventually emigrated to the United States to pursue his first love of music. He's lived and taught music in Morro Bay for almost 60 years in a home that he built by hand. There has even been a documentary made about his life. With a life like Botso's, it seemed appropriate to take an analog approach to making his portrait for the cover of the magazine.



I want to thank Richard Photo Lab in LA for doing a really astounding job processing the film from this shoot. It was my first time using them, and I couldn't be more pleased that I trusted them with this film. Here's an image of Botso with one of the Polaroids that we made while we were setting up for the shoot:


As a testament to how patient and accommodating Botso is, after I thought we had finished, he invited me to sit in on a lesson he had scheduled with local concert pianist Marian Drandell Gilbert. She's incredibly talented, and it was my very great pleasure to watch, photograph, and best of all, listen to Botso working with Marian on several pieces for an upcoming recital. A photographer who I greatly admire talks about his camera being a passport to meet people and have experiences that he wouldn't otherwise have access to, and for me that has been especially true this month, meeting Botso, and being allowed to watch and listen to him working with one of his star students. It's a pretty hard job, but I guess somebody has to do it.

(Lucky me.)


Tina Swithin - SLO Life Magazine

When I blog about my photos in a new issue of SLO Life Magazine I usually try to post different images from the session than the ones that ran in the magazine, but this month's cover was one of my favorite images that I've made so far this year. TinaSwithin 2

Tina Swithin was a blast to shoot with - I showed up with a bunch of crazy potential ideas, and she was game to try any of them. She told me that she's "not really a hat person," but I think I've got pretty solid proof that she's mistaken. (Author's note: Tina eventually seemed to come around to my way of thinking on this one - she's going to be using the cover image for her media kit, as well.)

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Rick Stollmeyer - SLO Life Magazine

Rick Stollmeyer SLOLife 1 The latest issue of SLO Life Magazine just hit the stands, featuring my cover of Rick Stollmeyer, CEO of MindBody. The interview gets into the nitty gritty, but Rick started MindBody with a friend in his garage in 2001, and has turned it into one of San Luis Obispo's biggest (and coolest!) employers, not to mention one of the fastest-growing companies in the country. Suffice it to say that it was a real pleasure and a great opportunity to photograph Rick for the magazine.

These are a few of my favorite images from my time with Rick. If you're interested, you can check out the photos that ran on the cover and inset over on my Tumblr.

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Sonja Polk - SLO Life Magazine

Sonja Polk SLOLife 3 In March I had the pleasure of photographing Sonja Polk for the April/May issue of SLO Life Magazine. Sonja is a SLO local and loves the downtown atmosphere, so she suggested that we shoot by San Luis Creek, one of her favorite places in the city, and in my opinion, one of downtown San Luis Obispo's unsung treasures. Sonja was a super trooper, meeting me at 6:45 in the morning, before her work shift teaching at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, to take advantage of the morning light in the creek bed. These are some of my favorite outtakes from our early morning shoot, but if you don't get SLO Life (why don't you get SLO Life?), I've posted a quick image of the cover and one of the interior spreads on my Tumblr.

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Steve Kragenbrink - SLO Life Magazine

I had a really fun session last month with my new friend Steve Kragenbrink, who works with Woods Humane Society in San Luis Obispo. Steve is a great guy, and the latest issue of SLO Life Magazine has a wonderful profile on him, his family, and his work. It's a great story, and absolutely worth your time. You can see a quick image of the cover over on my Tumblr. Steve Kragenbrink 2

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Woods Humane Society is a local non-profit animal adoption shelter, so it's no surprise that Steve and the other folks who work there really love the animals that they care for. I wanted to show that one of our images, so we shot some portraits of Steve with Diesel, one of Woods' dogs, in their agility room. There's an old, true saying about shooting with kids and dogs (don't do it!), but Diesel was super-chill for the camera, despite a demanding photographer. for me, the the best part is this whole story is that when I checked in with Steve recently, he told me that Diesel was recently adopted by a local family! I think that it's pretty clear from this last photo that the family that took Diesel home made a great choice.

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Lisa Leonard - SLO Life Magazine

In November I photographed local designer Lisa Leonard in her San Luis Obispo studio for the recent issue of SLO Life Magazine. Assignments for SLO Life are always a lot of fun, because there's a really specific component to the assignment, as well as an open-ended one. The specific bit is to get a nice, straightforward portrait of the subject for the magazine's regular "Meet your Neighbor" segment. That means finding (or making) a clean background and some flattering light for the subject, and then getting them comfortable enough with having a camera up in their face that the final picture makes you - the viewer - feel like you're part of the conversation. That last bit can be the biggest challenge of the shoot, but for this issue, it was a snap - Lisa is outgoing and happy, and comfortable in front of the camera from doing of all of the personal style and family photos that she posts on her blog.

Once I know I have that portrait nailed, I always try to get something "for myself." Usually , that means a variation on the portrait that reflects something more personal about the subject, or my impressions of them from our conversation. With Lisa's busy schedule and limited time on the day of the shoot, we kept the same setup that we used for her first portrait, but moved out for a wider shot that showed off her style that day, and a little space in the frame for her to play with.

The open-ended part of an assignment for SLO Life is the story-telling component. In this case, that means extra photos that tell a little more about what Lisa does at work, and provide some context for how her business relates to the community.

Adam Stowe - SLO Life Magazine

Just before I ran off to Scotland on vacation last month (more on that later), I met up with Adam Stowe, general manager of the San Luis Obispo Blues Baseball Club.  We were shooting at Sinsheimer Stadium for an upcoming profile of Adam and his work with the Blues in SLO Life Magazine. Adam is a great guy who really puts his heart and soul into the local baseball team. The magazine just hit mailboxes last week, so be sure to check it out.

You can also see a bit of the current issue, including the cover image, on my Tumblr.

Kimberly Walker - SLO Life Magazine

Earlier this month I met with local entrepreneur Kimberly Walker and Tom from SLO Life Magazine to shoot some images for a profile of Kimberly to be featured in the semi-monthly magazine. The latest issue, featuring a couple of the photos that we made, just came out this week, and I wanted to share of few more of my favorite images from the shoot that didn't make press.

You can also see the current issue, with the featured images, over on my Tumblr.