Who Doesn’t Love a Sale?

I must admit that when I stumble into an unannounced 75% Off Sale at Dillard’s in Prescott, AZ that I cannot resist the urge to shop a little.  It was last year – at the end of winter that I found the Italian wool car coat and the long sleeve, travel guide orange shirt.

It was only this year when I wore that orange shirt that I began to appreciate how much much of bargain the comfortable, linen/cotton blend truly was.  So I decided to wear it out to dinner.

Guess Who’s Shirt is Coming to Dinner!

I do a lot of pro bono photography and videography work for local Yavapai College.  It’s my way of contributing to Yavapai County.  And in so doing, I have become quite fond of the people with whom I work there.  So when I was invited to dinner with a few of my foundation and marketing friends, I was thrilled to go.

It’s funny how you go through life relatively self-absorbed and believing that the rest of the world sees you just the way that you see yourself.  What an illusion that is on many levels!  But even believing that this is illusion, I was surprised when I arrived at dinner to a chorus of voices saying:

“OMG — we were WRONG — he isn’t wearing black!  Bill, that color looks good on you, you should wear more color!”

I made a perfunctory joke like:

“Everything else was clean!”

I thought that my stale attempt at humor would put an end to attentions focused in my direction and I was therefore surprised when the subject resurfaced an hour later at the dinner table:

HOSTESS (Melinda)

“That really is a good color for you!  How come you don’t wear more color?”


We always thought that he wore black because it made him look thinner!”


“It’s not working!”

Ignoring the sage wisdom that I received from aging producer Leo Taub at my first job at the ‘Old Actor’s Home’ in LA:

“Someday – when you are older, you will learn that it is enough just to say that you like it!”

I proceeded to concoct (what I thought to be) a clever response:

“I can’t imagine a professional photographer not wearing black!”

Turning to my friend, Kim, I continued to be passive/aggressive:

“If I wore a shirt like yours at a portrait session, you would see a candy cane in the subjects eyes!  The eyes will reflect whatever is in front of them and it will appear on the image.  Everyone laughs when I cover myself up in black!  I have even seen portraits where the photographer appears in the subject eyes picking his nose!  Furthermore, this orange shirt in some cases would reflect back into the image and skew the white balance!”

As I noticed Melinda’s eyes start to glaze, I thought to myself,

“I seems like they are reluctantly buying this B.S.!”

I Don’t Need No Stinking Advice!

The next day I had a portrait session scheduled with Kristy!  I felt the pangs of guilt over going too far in my technical explanation of wardrobe at dinner.  So I took the orange shirt out of the dryer and decided to wear it during Kristy’s photo session, thereby ignoring my own tutorial.  ‘What could possibly go wrong?’

When I was developing the images, I saw it.  ‘What is that interesting quality in her eyes?’  I zoomed in closer … closer.

Yep — no mistaking that orange linen shirt:

Two orange sleeves of the photographer’s shirt

I could perhaps strive harder to remember that the three most common words of advice given to actors as they attempt to become successful in Hollywood are:

“Just be yourself!”


It’s been almost a year since Samara asked me to photograph her intimate Malibu Beach wedding.  I don’t often have the urge to head out West, but at times like these, braving the traffic is worth it!  Congratulations Troy and Samara!

Wedding Photographer Blues

I at once chuckle and flinch when I see someone else’s wedding images of the bridal party where some of the people are looking in the direction of a guest with a point-and-click camera and the rest who aren’t blinking or adjusting themselves are looking in the general direction of the wedding photographer with quizzical expressions.  Professional photographers have a number of ways to preclude this from happening, which I will not bore you with now.

I don’t usually shoot weddings — I really can’t say why — I love them.  I must be getting lazy.  Mostly I enjoy photographing people who hate to be photographed.  The late master, Monte Zucker taught me how to be at ease in most shooting situations, so I love being able to delight someone who mistakenly thought that the only way to get a great image was for me to sneak up and shoot before being noticed.


Portrait Anxiety

When creating a portrait, often family members, friends or partners will insist on being present.  Most professional photographers that I know will impart the sage wisdom of the auto mechanic’s creed to the client prior to the session:

I doesn’t matter — the loved one is going to contribute to creating the image with the best of intentions if not the worst of results.


An Evening of Outdoor Photography with Kolten

But last night, I had a great time with Kolten, his family and the family dog.  Kolten wanted to create some images for his high school graduation announcements.

I had talked with Kolten prior to the shoot and asked him what he wanted to do.  He hesitated, so I prompted him:

  • “Is there, for example a special place within 50 miles where you really feel like yourself?
  • Or are there special things that have deep meaning for you that you would like to be in the images?
  • And what time of day would appeal to you?”

Kolten said he would think about it and then contacted me a couple of days later with the specifics:

“I would like to be photographed at night on a street or alley – you know, something urban.  I’ll bring three changes of clothes.  May I bring an animal?”

I loved it!  I knew that I would be shooting in pitch black, freezing December Prescott AZ conditions.  I would most-likely need at least three radio-controlled strobes – probably shooting in manual mode.  So I staged the equipment prior to the shoot so that Kolten would not have to wait around in 32F weather (not that he would mind).

With my sister assisting, we made some fun images including this one:


We were nearing the end of the session and as we walked chatting to the third shooting location, we passed through an arched portico into an inner courtyard of a re-purposed church that is said by some to be haunted.

Think of Something Happy !!

I asked Kolten, “If you don’t mind, I would like to do something with this passageway … are you up for it?”

I positioned the strobes, got the tripod situated at the entrance of the portico and asked him to ‘make peace with’ the iron gate.  I was just about to shoot when I heard someone call advice from inside the courtyard that I recognized as his Mother’s voice:

“Think of something happy!!”

My heart sank a little, but I took the shot below anyway:


As Kolten heard his Mom’s prescription, his shoulders collapsed, his smile waned and he bent at the waist as if he had been cold-cocked.  I rarely see the principles about which I am writing so quickly demonstrated – although I have seen much worse!

I walked through the portico and pretended to chide the perpetrator:

“When I was his age, most things that I thought made me happy turned out to be failed experiments that led to shame on some level.  If you don’t mind, my I try?”

I thought of Jesh De Rox and the Beloved Movement of experiential photography:

“Kolten, did you have to do anything to get that Letterman’s Jacket other than just show up?”

“Well, Yeah!”

“So there was some play or decision that you made on the field that makes you feel proud?”


Walking back to the camera I offered, “That’s the guy we are photographing!”


The Swagger of a Letterman


I like the difference in the  images so much that it makes me think of something happy!



Technical Details:

ISO 400

f 5.6

1/180 Focal Length 35mm

Main Light: Canon Speed light, guide number 160, 1/8 power, light modifier by Bruce Dorn/FJ Westcott, distance to subject ~ 6ft

Backlight: Quantum Q Flash, 150 Ws Light Modifier by Quantum Instruments, 1/16 power, distance to subject ~9ft

Accent Light:  Metz Strobe, guide number ~150, 1/2 power, oblique angle, distance to subject ~25ft.

Radio slaves by PocketWizard



In the Middle of a Perfect Day

After having a great lunch in lovely, historic downtown Clarkdale, AZ,  four of us left the restaurant and headed for the car to make the winding trip home to Prescott through Jerome.

Our spirits were high — and got higher when we saw our energetic waitress follow us through the front door seemingly to come after us.  (Most men on seeing this immediately believe that the waitress has suddenly realized the caliber of person she has just served and has decided to speed after him to learn his many hard-earned secrets!)

Things Turn Toward the South

Our spirits were mildly dashed when she raised up an object and innocently asked,

“Did one of you drop this?”

“Did one of you drop this?”

A Swift Resolution

Our obvious answer was delivered in unison:


I Guess We All Get Older!

Further Signs of the Aging (Maturation) Process

I guess that I first became aware of what men go through as they age many years ago on the job in a large engineering firm.  Joe, an engineering manager was an overly-wonderful man who showed his age before he spent his years.  He knew this, and used to pull out a picture of himself taken in Italy during World War II in his white Navy uniform.

Looking at the picture, it would appear that in his youth, Joe was vibrant–with a luster of confidence bordering on bravado.  Now, he was portly, balding and over-worked to the point of exhaustion.  He would often repeat:

“I am still that guy in the Navy uniform.  I don’t feel any different now than I did then!  My friends say to me,

‘Joe, what happened to you?  You used to look like a Greek god!  Now you look like that guy who married Jackie Kennedy!'”

Sisterly Advice

I can see now how easy it would be to forget that at some point in time, a man maturing will appear more like an uncle than a perspective lover, because I now feel the same way that Joe did.

Fortunately, while I was in the perspective lover/uncle transition period, my younger sister whispered in my ear as I was joking with a check-out girl at a pharmacy:

“… psst …Billy, you’re not 25 anymore!  You are INVISIBLE to this girl!  Don’t be a perv!”

I could develop a complex by taking some of my sister’s advice, but in this case, I heeded her sage wisdom and have attempted to control the urge to be cute with waitresses and baristas.  In the long run, it seems to bring peace of mind.

” …. And Just Where Did You Meet Her?”

There are, in my opinion, two great ways to distinguish a professional photographer on an assignment from an amateur (or as we joke, a faux-tographer).

Flash-on-camera = faux-tographer

No assistant = faux-tographer

Most of the professional photographers that I know are eager to teach photography or mentor their assistants.  I wish that I had found my mentors, Monte Zucker, Hanson Fong and Lisa Evans earlier in life.  But there it is!

So, at a recent event that I was covering at the local senior center, I went out-of-my-way to offer the assistant’s gig to the daughter of a good friend who is interested in all things media.  She is a natural at lighting.  I guess that I could have done the job alone, but I thought the experience would be valuable for her.

I can’t tell you how many times that I was asked:

“And just WHERE did you meet HER?”

My recent assistant — “…. and just WHERE did you meet HER?”

Of course, I presume that the comments were inspired by her engaging personality, youth, beauty, lighting techniques and nothing more.  The comments most certainly did not reflect on me in any way!

But, (that being uttered), I guess we all get older!

“You Mean It’s Not ‘All About Me’?”

Somehow, Brian Wilson‘s lyrics make more sense to me as I get older.  Whenever I start to monopolize a conversation, I begin to hear some of those lyrics plus some other quotes from my working days.  A couple of favorites come to mind:

“Well, I guess I should’ve kept my mouth shut when I started to brag about my car ….”

Brian Wilson, Don’t Worry, Baby


“So … that’s your take on it — is it, Bill?”

-Unnamed executive

Weed-Whackers Unite!

“Captain, there be weeds here!”

But, I guess it still doesn’t stop me from pontificating at times.  And this morning, I found myself wondering if I should’ve kept my mouth shut when I started to talk about … weed-whacking.

I love my friend, Susan.  Her husband, Mike and I can have a conversation about just about anything — including weed-whacking!

You see, here in Arizona after the monsoon season is in full swing, we take our weed-whacking a bit seriously.  Suddenly, the streets are lined with wildflowers and weeds.  And just as suddenly last week, all conversations  turned to the disposition of weeds:

My neighbor:

“Well, I’d better go borrow-back my weed-whacker from the fire station … I should really  get rid of these weeds before they go to seed.  I may be a little late already!”

Mike (anticipatory expression waning):

“Oh, you only have an electric weed-whacker?  I need to borrow a gas-powered one.”

Sears Salesman:

“Oh, you have the bump-fed electric one?  And it works for you???”

My other neighbor:

(The whirring of a powerful weed-whacker 50 yards in the distance).


Before moving to Arizona, I had no idea that there were so many choices and decisions concerning this whacking business.  I am just a simple city-boy.  To get the job done right, one must consider a number of inter-related options, including but not limited to:

  • Electric, Battery or Gasoline-Powered;
  • String Gauge;
  • Bump or automatic string feed;
  • etc, etc etc.


A Case of Whacker-Envy

I have to admit that after hearing the familiar whirring sound next door earlier this week, I had looked on the resulting absence of weeds with envy.  And, I was further humbled when I compared my neighbor’s whacker to my own.

His was clearly bigger — much bigger!  Just look at that fat red string — clearly more stout than my consumer-grade blue!  And his results were equally more handsome!

A Bit of Perspective?

All of what I have just told you,  I was sharing with Mike when Susan without solicitation and unexpectedly interjected under her breath into the conversation the quote in the title of this blog entry:

“Just listen to  what your life has come to!”

Of course, an emergency room nurse might well take that point of view with impunity, I consoled myself.

Upon Some Cogent Reflection

And  — who knows — I might think longer and deeper about the implications and merits of Susan’s observations on the state of my life … but I really need to whack my weeds before they go to seed!

‘Susan’ at Breakfast


Now, some months later, I must be an experienced [weed] whacker, because I am so confident that I cannot hesitate to volunteer to help out anywhere.  Here, three whackers survey their recent accomplishments with pride:

Weed whackers surveying their ample accomplishments

(I wish that I could say more about the boots being an Arizona fashion statement, but no need to reenforce the obvious).

Traveling with My Sainted Mother

At 85, it’s getting harder to get Mother out of the house without curb-to-curb service.  She’s pretty spry, but I am learning that as we get older, the specter of a fall  is never too far.

I like to stop at Banning on the way from California to Arizona to get something at Starbucks.  I think that store is one of my favorites in the chain; the space is inviting and the baristas aren’t texting like they do in LA.

This is true, if you can make it into the store, which is ‘guarded’ by a sloping curb that runs from the handicap parking to the back door.  Stepping up to the back door is easy if you know what foot will hit the edge of the curb first, as the height for each foot will be different.  Add to that the sprinkler runoff from the manicured landscaping and the motor oil from the adjacent parking space and you have a brew for a possible disaster.

I let go of Mother for an instant to open the door for her – turned around to help her up the curb just in time to see her hurling toward me like Supergirl.  She hit the curb with her shins before I could do anything about it.

She recounts the incident as an aside at a breakfast chat during a week that I spent introducing her to Arizona country living:

Drinks Taste Better When They Are Complimentary (I Reckon)

I guess she was lucky to end up with skinned knees and some lost pride.  Starbucks was magnanimous and sent mother 5 coupons for complimentary beverages to assuage any lingering misgivings that she may have had about returning, which were enough to treat her family — if she didn’t get a drink for herself.

For the rest of the visit, she preferred to have me make her tea at home.


It wasn’t all skinned shins and tea.  Mother found time to play with the dog:

and to do her imitation of Debbie Reynolds‘ role with Albert Brooks in the 1996 feature film, Mother.