Victoria Carranza - San Luis Obispo

Carranza (1 of 2) Victoria Carranza is the Chief Business Development Officer at One Cool Earth, a SLO-area nonprofit that supports outdoor education, neighborhood gardens and community tree plantings. I met Victoria through Rory Aronson, who I photographed last month. When Rory told me about Victoria's work with One Cool Earth I was interested in meeting her, but when he told me about Victoria's other current project, I knew for sure that she'd make a great photographic subject - Victoria and her husband-to-be Brian are building a Tiny Home.

Tiny Homes are small houses sized to fit on a trailer. That means they're usually not more than about 8 1/2 feet wide and 20 feet long. With housing continuing to get more and more expensive in San Luis Obispo, it's easy to see the appeal of something small, simple, and affordable. Victoria and Brian are building their Tiny Home in Nipomo, where her family has made some space for them to work. However, building their Tiny Home on a trailer means that, when it's finished, home can be just about wherever they'd like it to be.

While we were working on these photographs, Victoria walked me through their home-in-progress, and talked about the process of getting rid of the years of accumulated "stuff" that won't fit in their new home, and coming to terms with the fact that most of that stuff isn't really necessary in the first place. She even said that she's bonded with her grandmother over it, since her grandmother is going through the same process of simplification in her golden years.

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Rory Aronson - San Luis Obispo

Aronson (2 of 2) I've known Rory Aronson for quite a while - originally through SLO Op Climbing (our local community bouldering gym), and later through his involvement with the Board of Directors of the SLO MakerSpace. Rory has a way of getting himself involved in community-based, sometimes somewhat counter-cultural projects. His current project is FarmBot, an open source, web controlled farming machine designed to optimize small-scale urban farming and empower more people to start growing their own food. Using technology to manage farming isn't a new idea, but so far it's been limited mostly to large-scale, industrial agriculture. The rest of us work mostly with hand trowels and kneepads, learning when to sow our seeds, water our sprouts, and harvest our food from books, blogs, and homemade YouTube videos. Rory's goal with FarmBot is to bring the same kinds of precision tools used by big business to small scale home gardeners.

To learn more about FarmBot, which will be having a Kickstarter to raise funds in the near future, check out Rory's FarmBot website , as well as the FarmBot Wiki that Rory developed to organize documentation, schematics, assembly guides, troubleshooting tips, and all kinds of other info for the FarmBot project.

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Both of these images were made on medium format film (Portra 160) using my Hasselblad V-series camera. The film was processed by the wonderful Richard Photo Lab in Valencia, CA.

Bill Ostrander - San Luis Obispo

Ostrander (1 of 2) A couple years ago I photographed Bill Ostrander for SLO Life Magazine. At the time, Bill was preparing for the Citizen's Congress 2014, a national gathering of legislators, scholars, and public advocacy groups to combat the influence of money in American politics. Bill runs Citizen's Congress, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating corruption in politics, and now, continuing in this work, Bill is running for Congress in the 24th Congressional District, which includes all of San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County. I photographed Bill at his ranch in the Los Osos Valley.

Ostrander (2 of 2)

We made these images on medium format film using my Hasselblad. The film was processed by Richard Photo Lab in Valencia, CA.

Weston - Buchanan Dam, Texas

Weston (1 of 3) I photographed Weston this summer at Brittany's family reunion in Central Texas. It was well over 100 degrees most days, and the worst part was that the humidity felt way over 100%, but that didn't seem to bother the kids much at all. Weston is smart and outgoing, and I had been thinking that he would be a great portrait subject; when I found Brittany chopping this watermelon up into big, juicy slices for lunch, these photos seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, even if they push the boundary of what might fairly be called an "homage" to Richard Avedon.

Weston (2 of 3)

Weston (3 of 3)

Clint Slaughter - San Luis Obispo

Clint Slaughter (1 of 2) I first photographed Clint Slaughter in early 2014 for the SLO MakerSpace. Clint's a friend, and was one of the first people I thought of when I started working on a new independent portrait project about especially interesting members of the San Luis Obispo community. Clint is the driving force behind the SLO MakerSpace, and serves on the MakerSpace Board of Directors as Chief Executive Officer. The MakerSpace is a collaborative machine, wood, electronics, and textile shop where community members come to work on all kinds of projects, take classes, and network with other local makers. As if that wasn't enough, Clint is also an emergency physician at French Hospital in San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande Hospital.

(Yes, he's "Dr. Slaughter." And no, I could not have made that up.)

Clint Slaughter (2 of 2)

Both of these photographs of Clint were made at the MakerSpace on medium format film using my Hasselblad. The film was processed by the always brilliant Richard Photo Lab in Valencia, CA.

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: www.ericsoderquist.com.

And Now My Dad is a Cowboy

For Christmas this year my dad asked for an "old-timey picture" of himself. With his horse. And maybe his gun. blog post (2 of 3)

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We shot these on my Hasselblad, using three or four rolls of various expired films that I'd collected. I'm pretty pleased with the results, and I have prints shipping out to him this week, so hopefulyl he will be as well (even if they are much delayed from Christmas).

One interesting result was the last roll we shot - an almost twenty-year-old roll of [I think] Russian 3200 film. I thought I had another roll in the freezer that I could check the label on, but alas, I appear to have lost my "metadata." I had no idea if the film would even come out, but I used it in the dying light, exposed it at about 800 ISO, assuming that in the best case it probably would have degraded somewhat, and boy was I right. Even at 800, it was super underexposed, with results that only the hippest of Instagram filters could replicate.

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Bersbach Holiday Card, 2014

ChrisBritXmas Brittany and I have been making a bit of a tradition out of crafting an over-the-top holiday card for our friends and family (and of course, everyone who read this post!). This year's card is an idea that we came up with right after shooting our card from last year, but it still barely came together in time. Like last year, the actual photography was a little fast and loose, which necessitated more postproduction than I prefer (although any postproduction is more than I prefer). I knew I would have to blend two frames to get the right expressions from each of us, so I was shooting locked-down on a tripod, but I ended up using three or four more frames to re-balance the interior overhead lamp, clean up an errant reflection on my Dalek schematic, and spruce up (zing!) some of the holiday baubles around the window.

Oh, and that gorgeous night sky is 97% artificial, but at this point, who's counting?

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and cheers to an excellent 2015!

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.

My Dad, the Welder

My dad is a welder by trade, and a super handy guy. When I was a kid, he would ask me to give him a hand fixing and building stuff around the house, from simple things like holding a flashlight for him while he worked on an engine, to complex skills like plumbing my treehouse (yeah, I had running water in my treehouse!). Unfortunately, I was always a lot more interested in playing Nintendo than I was in helping, and didn't pick up many of the skills that he tried to pass on to me. The good news is that, in the age of Google and instructional YouTube videos, I'm mostly able to scrape by when something simple around the house needs fixing. But when it comes to welding, the skill that my dad built his career on, I'm almost totally inexperienced, and maybe also a little bit terrified of burning the hell out of myself with molten steel. Dad (1 of 4)

Dad (2 of 4)

Thankfully, when I needed to build a metal gate and a handrail for our sideward, my dad offered to come down to Arroyo Grande to help. I doubt that he would have guessed the payment for his help was going to be a portrait session.

(In the interest of full disclosure, he also got his own room with a super comfortable bed to sleep in, some pretty tasty meals, and at least a few beers.)

Dad (3 of 4)

Dad (4 of 4)

I'm really happy that I took the time to photograph my dad while he was visiting. Originally, I wanted to document him in his "work" clothes, since that's how I remember him from when I was a kid, but I'm glad that we also made some images of him in his street clothes. (Yes, the hat is a regular accessory.)

I guess it's a little morbid to acknowledge, but there'll be a time when my dad won't be able to come down and help me muddle my way through a project. As much as I'd prefer not to think about that time, when it does come I bet I'll be especially glad to have these images then.

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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Eric Meyer (4 of 4)

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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Stephanie Burchiel 4

Pi Day - Santa Maria

Pi Day 1 On March 14 my friends Eric and Claire hosted a Pi Day party to celebrate everybody's favorite mathematical constant. We all baked pies, because who doesn't love puns and dessert? Eric and Claire's ranch is full of fantastic little "sets," so I brought my Hasselblad to photograph each of us with our pies. These are some of my favorites from that day.

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Pi Day 2

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.

 

Bill Ostrander 2

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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This Is a Post About Pencils

pencils 1 Over the past few years, in tiny fits and starts, I've been working on a portfolio of still life compositions (still 90% a work in progress). I must have bought these #2 pencils in 2011 or 2012, thinking that they might make an interesting visual arrangement. It took me the better part of two years to get around to photographing them, and even though I'm not sure how interesting the end result is, it was inexplicably satisfying to create a backdrop with exactly the "right" tone of blue, and then to measure and space everything out in order to make a picture of... some pencils lined up just so.

The more I shoot, and the more I review the images I've shot, the more I am coming to understand that a lot of my interest in photography stems from a strong desire to organizing things visually. Functional OCD is my special sauce.

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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.