Archive for October, 2011

Several months ago, I was minding my own business and nursing a torn left bicep muscle suffered when Chauncie decided to chase a cat and squirrel at the same moment — the moment for me being unguarded as I was glibly chatting with a neighbor.


Chauncie is a 70 lb mixed-breed — a mix between a drool bucket and love sponge! Weak she is not. It is not uncommon for passing school boys and girls to say, “Gee mister, you have a neat dog, but it looks kind of scary!”

When Facebook suggested friends in my area, A Valley of Vitality Wellness Studio came up, and I immediately thought, “now that is exactly what I need — more vitality!” And my arm could use some treatment too. So I called Amanda.

Amanda Barnett is the force behind the Valley of Vitality Wellness Center. An R.N. and nationally-certified massage therapist, she knows what she is doing. And the introductory special doesn’t hurt either. During our small-talk she found out about my love of photography. I interrupted her, “I know what you want — a Web Commercial.” “How did you know?” she asked. I am sure that I said something stupid like, “doesn’t everyone?” But that conversation led to what for me is a growing respect for this professional, and I can’t say enough about her knowledge and skill. She has helped to neutralize the effects of Chauncie on my arms.

A Valley of Vitality Wellness Studio

Today I went over to the studio to get some pick-up shots for the web commercial. Amanda has expanded the facility with additional services like far-infrared (FIR) sauna. While I was there, I made several images of the rooms including the ones above and below.

Therapy Room 1

And still more:

Far-infrared Suana

And another therapy room (Amanda’s business sense has enabled her to expand the business recently):

One of several therapy rooms

Highly recommend!


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St. Alice of Chattahoochee
It will have been almost five years now since I received an email from my friend and acting coach Rod Menzies with a general invitation to come see Alice Johnson Boher in a solo performance called “St. Alice of Chattahoochee.”  I joke around that I don’t get out much. And the joke is, it’s mostly true. I didn’t know what to expect – but I decided to go, even though the traffic in LA doesn’t exactly motivate one to go out at any time unless it is a matter of life and death.

Well, I could have died laughing that night. I don’t think I have ever quite seen (or heard of) a comedienne like Alice Johnson. Rod directed this one-woman show that was at-once touching, embarrassing (in a good way), raucous, physical and poignant .  It was the first time since Phantom of the Opera that I had contemplated coming back for the next performance. I left the theater thinking to myself, “what a lucky guy Rod is to be able to work with people like Alice Johnson.”

Alice Johnson Boher and Rod Menzies

On Points and Arcs
Rod and I see each other only occasionally since I have moved to Arizona. But my foray into HDSLR video production seems to draw us back together. I do the video mostly on behalf of charitable organizations in Arizona. But if we are both in LA at the same time, we like to have breakfast at Nick’s Coffee Shop & Deli on Pico near La Cienega on a weekday morning to catch up.

It was at that last breakfast that I was telling Rod how moved I was to watch him coach Elisa Donovan the day before her read of her upcoming solo-performance called “Sweet Dreams,” which is based on the death of her father.  Like any outsider, I am woefully unaware and unappreciative of the work and skills that are required for a successful performance.  This is not practically true – but it feels that way sometimes.  I watched silently as Rod listened to Elisa’s read.  He had a calm but focused attention that was registering on not only every word, but on the “arc,” of the story.  She paused … he would ask about one word.  She would immediately understand the obvious and subtle implications for the performance, mark-up the script and continue reading.  It was a delight to watch. The next day I was lucky to be asked to film the read.

Elisa Donovan

So at breakfast I told him that I would love to be able to film such a session.  He got a strange look on his face and said, “Well, Alice is coming over in about an hour.  I’ll call her and see how she would feel about it.  I am sure she won’t mind.  That’s the kind of person she is.”

“You don’t mean “Saint” Alice, do you?” (I could feel the grip of destiny on my shoulder).

“Yes, didn’t you see her first play?  Well,  she’s working on another one and I am going to meet with her to discuss it.”

I reminded Rod, “Of course I saw it– twice!”

I just shut my mouth and was glad that I had a Westcott Spiderlite TD5 in the car.  I set up at Rod’s place.

Alice arrived and I became a fly-on-the-wall for the next 90 minutes – camera ‘rolling.’  I am hoping that Rod will have some snippets of this session on his web site soon, and I can hardly wait to see what Alice comes up with next.

Growing up in Hollywood should have numbed me by now — but I am still such a fan of people like Alice and Rod!

Post Script:

Here is a “snippet” from Alice & Rod’s session. Enjoy being the fly-on-the-wall!

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Sam. A friend in deed.
I never get tired of still photography sessions. In the following collage, I am lucky enough to have made images with two loving sisters who took the time out of their drive to a friend’s wedding to sit for me.

My friend, Sam hosted us at his home in Los Angeles. We spent 30 minutes making images before the girls had to move on – but the time was so well-spent. I had every intention of using Sam’s immaculate gardens to frame the images. But as we chatted while waiting for the girls to arrive, I couldn’t help noticing the elegant simplicity of Sam’s house. Indoors, it was peaceful, and there were framed windows with wispy, white laces and deep green fabrics. And the master bedroom was airy and done in woods and chenille. In every room, light was coming from two directions — almost as if they had be designed with portraiture in mind.

The interior of the house was too much for me to ignore. I asked Sam if he would mind if we shot indoors and he agreed, but not before joking about how the price of the photography permit would escalate accordingly. (I hope he was joking). I believe any thoughts that he had of charging me quickly were forgotten when he saw the ladies walking up to his front door.

When Christine and Vivian arrived, I immediately put Vivian in a wooden chair I pulled from the dining room to the front room picture window and began to shoot. To ‘sweeten’ the picture window images, I used a Quantum Q Flash aimed through a diffuser, and a Canon Speedlite on 1/64 power behind the model. For the balance of the shots, I either went with natural light or natural light and a Monte silver reflector by FJ Westcott.

“Billy, please make find-a-husband pictures.”
Shortly after we began, Vivian said something like, “these pictures, I hope will be good enough for us to find good husbands!” Christine chimed in, “Yes, Billy. Make us our ‘find-a-husband’ pictures.” So I said, “not a problem,” and positioned each one successively in front of the master bedroom window and invited each to look out the window between the layers of chiffon as if by doing so would cause that future person to suddenly appear.

I just love how rich the images look. After the shoot, surprisingly a little tired from working so quickly, I took Sam for an early dinner as a small token of my thanks for being able to use his wonderful home to make the images.

Had the sisters not been on their way to the wedding, we could have spent several hours and a host of wardrobe changes before exhausting ourselves and the space.

A couple of weeks before, I had photographed Christine at the 9-11 remembrance at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. The images are at the end of the collage.

The results:

I hope you like what we made.

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