Moving to Squarespace

I have been delinquent in my blog, and woeful with my website. So here I sit, after months (literally) of staring at the blinking cursor. I'll start here with a couple recent shots of Albuquerque food trucks that I shot for Trend Magazine.  

Más—Tapas y Vino


Another New Mexican culinary luminary with roots in Santa Fe has come down i25 to have a go in the Duke City. Joining the likes of Mark Kiffin (Compound/Zacatecas) and Erin Wade (Vinaigrette), chef James Campbell Caruso brought his 5-time James Beard nominated pedigree to Albuquerque late last year and opened Más—Tapas y Vino in the historic Hotel Andaluz in the downtown area. “I’ve always been intrigued by Albuquerque and the opportunities there, so when Erin and Mark’s restaurants were received with such enthusiasm there I started thinking more seriously about extending into the market,” says Caruso. “When the Andaluz opportunity presented itself it was an easy decision for me, and now almost 3 months in I am really happy to be a part of the great culinary scene in Albuquerque as well as Santa Fe.”

The pairing of Caruso's Iberian flavors with the Spanish sensibilities that the name ‘Andaluz’ implies are an epiphany, leaving one to wonder why the connection wasn't made sooner. Be that as it may, those of us that hanker for a taste of Caruso's La Boca and Taberna without the two-hour round trip to Santa Fe and back can now rejoice.

A minor remodel linking the bar more intimately to the former Lucia dining room has added a decidedly more vibrant flow to the restaurant, creating a lively, less formal dining experience. Like La Boca and Taberna, the menu at Más puts a modern spin on the traditional tapa, expressing Caruso’s emphasis on locally-sourced ingredients. This dedication to sustainability provides another natural fit: the Hotel Andaluz is the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotel in New Mexico. The rating, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council to provide standards for environmentally sustainable construction is extremely prestigious and shows a serious commitment to sustainability by the property owners.

For what it’s worth, I recommend the Paella ($28), which is not a tapa really but IS very Spanish, and the grilled artichoke w/ spanish goat cheese and mint ($12)—so much so that I photographed them for the world to see (above). According to James, the most popular tapa right now is the grilled new mexico flatiron steak w/ smoky sea salt caramel ($14). Finally, those that remember El Farol can harken back to the good old days with the smoked salmon nachos w/ mint aioli & pickled red onions on crispy wontons ($12) that James made famous when he was there many years ago.

Edible Santa Fe, Portraits

I've already gushed about how much I enjoy love shooting environmental portraits. This assignment, which came to me by way of Edible Santa Fe Magazine, reinforced the sentiment. The excellent story, co-written by Kate Manchester, Nissa Patterson, Beverly Post, and Andrea Feucht, spoke of people in our community that are carrying the torch of local-sourcing for the cuisine we enjoy in our favorite restaurants. These people are chefs, restaurant owners, farmers, and produce brokers, and they are adding to the quality and sustainability of our culinary lives. My goal is always to enhance the information being presented with images that bring the reader closer to the subject at hand.

Santa Fean Portraits

I relish most of the work I do as a photographer, but there is nothing I like to photograph more than environmental portraits. There is something very gratifying about pulling up to a shoot with a bit of background information and then working with the subject to find the space and setting that they feel best represents them and figuring out how to light it. As luck would have it, over the past few months I've been commissioned by the Santa Fean for almost twenty portraits.

When assignments of this size come in, my first steps are logistical: mapping out a timeline based on people's schedules and trying to keep in mind the movement of the sun. I always ask the subjects what time of day their gallery/restaurant/studio/etc looks best, which way their favorite rooms face, where the windows are, and so on. Such preparation is crucial for me for all of the obvious reasons, but also because it helps build some rapport with the subject, letting them know that I care enough to bring out their best. More often than not, I think it helps them to put their best foot forward as well, something that I find makes a big difference. The images below represent somewhere around half of the overarching shot list of local luminaries. Subjects include gallery owners, restauranteurs, artists and other folks with a profound presence in the local community. While these photos are from a few different assignments, many of them can be seen the way they were published, with accompanying text by clicking here and navigating to pages 31-41.

*The Walt Willey photo on page 39 was not taken by me

Sunrise Bank Building

During a shoot a month or so ago I met the folks that manage the beautiful old building that is home to Sunrise Bank in the heart downtown Albuquerque. Having made a mental note, I knew what location I wanted to try when local model Georgia Bevard got in touch with me a few weeks later. Georgia is very talented, full of ideas and positive energy. Lucky for me, she brought along her boyfriend Josh, who I convinced to help me hold an SB800 as a boom shot though a Lumiquest Softbox LTP. Up to this point this had been an impulse buy that sat on a shelf in my office. Pretty happy I made myself use it this time.

We started out in the empty 8th floor while the sun was going down, then made our way to the roof. I mainly used my 24mm 2.8 to try and get more of the amazing view in the frame, though I broke out the 50mm 1.4 and an 85mm 1.4 as well.

Amy & Robert

I'll never forget this wedding. There was a guerilla spirit to the occasion as our group of 7 took over the tram and then Sandia Peak and made it our own before anyone could stop us. I don't know the rules about weddings up there, but I'm sure that we broke a few.

The assignment was different in many ways than the weddings of 200+ people that I've documented over the years, but the excitement of the bride, the careful planning and logistical scrambling, and the over arching joy were all just as much a part of this celebration as any wedding I've photographed. The setting was a sunny, crisp late spring day. Ultra bright as we started, the light got more and more beautiful as the day went on and I was able to put away my speedlights. Amy got cupcakes from Cake Fetish to commemorate the day, and had gorgeous flowers. Her dress was beautiful, and she and Robert projected an air of contentedness that made my job easy. Kudos to the bride for bearing temperatures in the 30s, and high winds, all without a single complaint. Congrats you two!

CFV Solar Testing

In April of last year, CFV Solar Test Laboratory opened out near Mesa Del Sol, south of the airport. They perform safety, performance and reliability testing of PV modules, and, lucky for me, they value the quality of their marketing and company image. They hired me to come out to the facility for a couple of days to photograph their facility and the people that work there. At first look I was sort of worried, but when I toured the facility with does-it-all manager Christine Rhoderick and owner Martin Plass I noticed hints at great imagery lurking within the testing equipment at the facility. 
     The people were rewarding to photograph. A combination of fun and purpose courses through the company, the kind of feeling I associate with employees being treated fairly and taking pride in what they are doing and employers valuing their staff and making careful choices about compatibility and competence during the hiring process. Contented people doing something they care about shine in front of the camera. On the flip side,  I've done corporate shoots at companies with unhappy employees, and no amount of photoshop can keep it from coming through. We did standard studio-type shots using a two speedlite setup through PLMs. I then followed around the staff and photographed them where they spent the bulk of their day for an environmental portrait. 
     I've been lucky to be part of the growing solar industry in New Mexico, having photographed two locally-based installers and, now, CFV. Maybe not what I'd considered a niche when I set out years ago, but certainly one I'll claim now. 

The Experience of Exhibiting

Each of the photos below was intended to be in my first real exhibition of my photography. The theme is loose: photos of New Mexico. A couple were taken on assignment for New Mexico Magazine, a couple (monks) for a Sony CD cover, a few commissioned for clients, and some were made as my family and I explored New Mexico together. Three of the images below (horizontal monks/flowers/tree) didn't work in print (see below if you're interested), but were meant for the show so I'm including them here anyway. If you haven't made it by Satellite Café yet, the show is up until March 6th. Thanks to them for reaching out to me for this project. 

I don't print my photos much. The process brings out an obsessive savage inside me that tries to drag me into a rabbit hole of color correcting, paper/monitor profiling, file sizing, etc. from which I may never emerge. For that reason I typically deliver an online gallery to clients that they can print via top shelf printer Bay Photo (by way of my Smug Mug service) out of San Francisco, or (with Magazines and the like) I Dropbox the files and let them profile them to suit the printers they work with. But when the Satellite Café invited me to show my work there, I had to let the savage come out.

It took me a week to figure out the format I would use in the space. It's a huge brick wall, so I had to have really big prints. I grew up in a museum and watched the paralysis that can happen between archivists, artists and installers, so I don't like putting stuff behind glass or using frames/matting/special paper/inks—ad nauseam. I just want it out there on it's own. Simple. Clean. Easy.

I looked into 'thin wrap' options offered by the big boy printers (Millers, Bay Photo, etc). The products are beautiful, stunningly so. They're simple, printed on metal, mounted via a box on the back. They were perfect. Except... they would cost me $500/print at the sizes I wanted. I am a relatively successful photographer, but I'm not Chase Jarvis. I can't drop over $5k for a show at a local cafe. That's a new D800 and a 2.8 mid-range zoom. And part of me always wants to work with local companies (except when it comes to camera stores, but that's another story).

I remembered talking to local photog Kyle Zimmerman about printing really big, and that she had pointed me to a local sign company, so I did some tests with them.  A couple of my favorites were unusable, but the others worked surprisingly well. Shadow detail was horribly rendered, but even-toned light or dark images held up well. For $50/print I decided this was the way to go, so I took another couple days finding images with those qualities and tied together a loose theme about living in this amazing state that I have called home (on and off) for over 35 years now. The signs were printed and mounted on 3/8" hard plastic Sintra. I would use heavy-duty red outdoor mounting tape from home depot (good up to 5 LBS it says) and we'd be good to go.

Not so much.

The day after the manager and I spent 2 hours putting up the show, 4 of the prints had fallen down. Luckily they didn't hurt anyone. The next step was having a very handy friend help me design a system that involved creating a box frame and something to attach it to the wall. It took hours to re-install the prints on the brick wall, but by around 10:30 on the second night we were done. I don't know how many people have seen the show—my phone hasn't been ringing off the hook with print orders—but the anxiety and cost of putting it together were well worth it. I've accomplished a system to exhibit my work big that is affordable and sets up in a simple, clean style. Next time will be easier.

Visiting Taos

I trekked up to Taos a couple months back to photograph subjects for an article in the March 2012 issue of New Mexico Magazine. I rolled into town and went straight to the new Taos Ale House where owner Jesse Cook introduced me to his delicious IPA while we shot. From there I headed to the comfy La Posada de Taos for the night, and woke up to a breakfast that included delicious Red Chile Scones and Piñon Blue Corn Waffles. Sated, I met up with fine art photographer Lenny Foster at his studio. Over coffee we talked about our different approaches to our trade, and I managed to get him to put on the wings that he uses in his inspiring work. From there I made my way to Lily's in the Garden of San Jose where I was presented with an amazing Tulip garden and antique woodwork, along with some delicious Red Roibos tea and a wonderful scone. I arrived at El Camino Cantina around 2pm and worked on their cocktails, decor and the BBQ red-chile beef brisket tacos. I love my job. My last stop was at Casa Los Cordovas, a new restaurant owned by Taos mayor Darren Cordova. I met the mayor and photographed him in between shots of their impressive cuisine, including the bacon-wrapped prawns and calamari. On the way out I got a photo of my favorite tree in the world.

Covering Santa Fe for New Mexico Magazine

I love my job. It was a dream of mine during college to be a journalist, but at that time in my life I thought I'd be telling stories with my words. It started out that way. In 1996, fresh out of UCSD, I founded a bi-monthly culinary independent publication called La Cocinita and wrote the majority of the articles for the first few issues. It wasn't long, though, before I was delegating the writing and focusing on photographs to accompany the articles. Well, that and selling advertising. More than 15 years later, after a complete career change, move, and move back, I find myself once again in the kitchens and dining rooms of New Mexican restaurants with a camera, and it many ways it feels like I never left.

For this New Mexico Magazine assignment I was asked to provide images to go with a story by writer Liz Lake that involved three restaurants in Santa Fe brining a renewed vitality to town. The restaurants were The Palace, the lowrider-themed Tia's Cocina in the new Hotel Chimayó and the Agave Lounge in the Eldorado Hotel. I photographed signature dishes, including the decadent Chimayó hot dog (Tia's) and the Tuscan Shrimp (Palace), and some drinks like The Envy (Agave). I also did portraits of widely acclaimed chefs Esteban Garcia (Tia's) and Joseph Wrede (Palace), both of whom I'd worked with in my past life.

I was in Santa Fe all day for this assignment, and broke out a good bit of lighting for people and drinks, a tripod for the interiors and my trusted reflectors for the food. I hope you've all had a chance to see the article in February 2012 issue of New Mexico Magazine.

Andaluz Hotel Rooms

I have gotten to know this downtown hotel really well over the last year or so. This 2-day assignment gave me a glimpse into the care that management takes with each room layout, and the detailed thought that makes each different room appeal to the wide range of clients that make the Andaluz their temporary home when they visit Albuquerque, as well as locals looking to get away without going away. Some rooms are intimate and decadent, some are set up perfectly to conduct business from. The challenge was to express this meticulous planning by way of my images in a way that would resonate with potential clients.

I spent many hours with Company B's Chris Bart, who flew in for the shoot as a creative director and brought much-needed vision to the project. I found myself looking at interiors differently than I had before, exploring lighting strategies in each room and identifying sweet spots that resided there. I used blended exposures to capture the distinct lighting choices in each room, and broke out speedlights to help bring out details. Using a 20mm lens in most cases, I worked hard to render rooms without contortion by taking extra time with setup and tweaking lines true in post.

Fashion: Sheri Ray

Fashion photography is not something I seek out. Until recently, any work I did with models was more a way for me to experiment with lighting and work on my chops than something to make ends meet or feed my starving inner artist. The more time I spend with a camera, though, the more I change my mind about things. Or open it. Though on-location work continues to be my wheelhouse – and I'm more likely to take cheesy landscapes, pictures of my kids, or photos of bugs for fun – I'm looking at renting a studio space downtown so I am able to offer more options to the people that choose me for their photography.

The collaboration below, with lovely local model Sheri Ray, ended up in this space. It is nice to have a model with which I have the time, in a controlled environment, to experiment with techniques I'd never dream of on assignments where the subjects are busy and the settings unpredictable or evolving.

Sheri Ray and I (along with local photographer Jennifer Garrett and make-up artist Mack Weaver) started out at the Anodyne downtown where I tried using 3 speedlights and some HDR on backgrounds to get a gritty look. We moved to a window for a few shots and then packed up and walked across the street to the studio, where 2 alien bees and a seamless backdrop awaited us.

Sukhmani Nob Hill

I was brought on to photograph the grand opening reception at Nob Hill's newest jewelry+ store,  Sukhmani.The store evokes the calm centeredness of Eastern philosophy and is owned by the brother/sister team of Sat Bachan Anthony and Sat Gurumukh Khalsa – themselves lifelong devotees of the Sikh religion.

A few days after the reception I came back to capture a sampling of the items and the general feel of the glorious space. The shot list emphasized exquisite one-of-a-kind designer jewelry, but also included sculptures, furniture, body care products, and a couple of amazing paintings by local artist Harimandir Kaur Khalsa. The space itself was also a subject. I am very happy to have this interesting new option in Nob Hill, an Albuquerque district that gets more dynamic by the day. Be sure to stop in. 

New Mexico Magazine: Gallup, New Mexico

I was contacted by New Mexico Magazine a while back to photograph artists and trading companies in Gallup, NM for their November 2011 issue. It was my first contact with the publication, and after wanting to shoot for them for a long time I was elated! One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was also writing a part of the article. The process of stoking the slumbering writer in me was two things: agonizing and exhilarating. I struggled to put the story together, and worried that I was going to make it hard for the publication to ever hire me again. But I was also surprised at how much I enjoyed getting back to something I had once devoted so much time to. I may not become a regular paid writer anytime soon, but it was really interesting to be photographing things I knew I would later be writing about, and at times this influenced my frame dramatically. For those that are interested, you can find a copy of New Mexico magazine right now all over the state. 

The assignment stood out for many reasons: the photogenic town itself, the pleasant surprise with which I came away from Gallup, reawakening as a writer, the company of the people that I came to photograph and ended up spending time with. I enjoyed the quiet, but at times spectacular, drive from Albuquerque — perhaps most of all, though, I am thrilled to be working with the folks at New Mexico Magazine, who show a clear commitment to delivering a quality of editorial content and coverage that our state deserves yet sorely lacks (at least in my opinion). I'm ready for the next assignment!

The photos below include the famous El Rancho Hotel's outside and lobby, the Touchin family in front of their Church Rock home, well regarded work by potter Gerald Pinto, the amazing rug room of Tanner's Indian Arts, bracelets on display at Silver Dust Trading Company, Jimmy Paywa and his famous Zuni bread, Virginia Yazzie-Ballinger modeling one of her world-renowned velveteen dresses (and later at the sewing machine), a vendor at Earl's restaurant, and an example of Bisbee turquoise, which I'm told is the most expensive in the world at over $1,000/carat. 

Vernon's Hidden Valley Steakhouse

My business model for restaurant photography is evolving. I no longer simply head in at the right time of day with a reflector and look for the best window light to photograph a delicious plate of food near. There are more people to photograph now, often in environments with little or no natural light. I bring speedlights and diffusers to help with that. And lately, an emphasis is being placed on spaces. Sometimes I need more lighting for this as well, but I've been increasingly leaning more toward a tripod and long, often blended, exposures.

At Vernon's I arrived late one evening and took care of the food photos with waning evening natural light and reflectors. Then we moved on to actor/model Jackamoe Buzzell, who is the perfect mobster face of Vernon's. I used a couple of SB700s and my beloved Photek Softlighters for his portraits as well as those of executive chef Craig Murphy.

Vernon's is a very dark, quiet and beautiful space with a speakeasy theme. Everything has been thought out by the ownership, from the lighting to the construction, decor and furniture. I tried to honor this by drawing out the details of each space as much as possible. Architectural lines, wall art, lighting subtleties and colors, furniture choices, etc... The key, in my mind, was to preserve the dark, private environment at Vernon's (not just lighting everything up), yet provide a rich array of details for the eye to soak up. Hopefully this comes across in the resulting images.

Sarah + Dan

I had the honor to photograph the wedding of two wonderful folks on September 10th. One thing that made this wedding stand out for me was the emphasis the bride and groom put on the photographs. They set aside 3 hours between the ceremony and the reception for the bridal party, myself and Jennifer Garrett (who was on board as a second shooter) to travel to the foothills and then down to the botanical gardens. Sarah trekked a mile in her heels to get the Japanese gardens! There were at least 4 generations on hand to celebrate the day and a 'photo booth' at the reception. A highlight of the evening came when a bridesmaid spiked the bridal bouquet she'd just caught like a wide receiver that had brought in the winning touchdown.

Café Pasqual's in Santa Fe

I recently photographed Pasqual's for an upcoming issue of Edible Santa Fe. This assignment stood out for many reasons, but mainly because this is my favorite restaurant in New Mexico. It's a big statement, I know. The red chile here is unmatched, which is saying something in this neck of the woods, and the coffee at Pasqual's is Europe good. Photo subjects below include chef/owner Katherine Kagel, Smoked Trout Hash (my favorite dish), and the sublime Carta de Musica Salad, which comes with fresh local figs, prosciutto and an amazing buffalo mozzarella. 

Emily & Dustin Wedding at the Andaluz

A lot of photographers choose not to photograph weddings. I am not one of them. To me, weddings offer many of the same opportunities that an inspiring editorial assignment can. The day unfolds in unexpected ways and we are there to use the benefit of a trained eye and an evolving skill set to document the event in a professional and creative way. This wedding, at the beautiful Andaluz Hotel, was a bevy of opportunity. Emily was a sublime bride with a radiant smile, and Dustin was as emotional and open a groom as I've worked with. The guests and family were a very photogenic group and the venue, which I've been lucky to work in often over the years, is a photographer's playground of nooks, crannies, compelling backlighting, and outdoor cityscapes. At the end of the night Emily and Dustin collected themselves to perform an original song together that brought most in attendance to tears. It was a wonderful night to be a photographer.

Pulte Homes

I've had enough assignments from homebuilders, hotels and apartments over the last couple of years that I have developed an approach I am finally getting comfortable with. Initially I tried to light interiors with strobes, but I've come to believe that a tripod and bracketed exposures—and the occasional pano stitching—are the key to this kind of work. I still bring lights, but I rarely take them out anymore. This shoot from Pulte was timed well for the exteriors, and the interiors benefited from the late light as well, but blending exposures really helps to bring the details of the model homes forward in my opinion. I used some of Nik Software's HDR tools, but more and more find myself turning to Pangea Software's Bracketeer. All that said, the less I worry about the light the more I can find the angles that work best, which is the key to getting dramatic results in my opinion. I also have to say that I am a huge fan of PTlens for cleaning up lines and helping distortion from my 20mm 2.8.

Back at the Andaluz Hotel

I have worked in every nook and cranny of this downtown hotel. This time I was brought in to photograph a couple of feature rooms, the library and the reception area of the hotel. I brought strobes but ended up sticking with my tripod and some careful exposure merging. I'm a big fan of Bracketeer and used a fair amount of stitching for tighter spaces.