Saturday, July 13, 2019

Sunny Side Up

The camera led me to sit down and begin writing a blog.

These two creative outlets, disciplines, whathaveyou, further lead me to begin writing screenplays. 

Nearly two years ago, someone bought us a gift certificate for Blue Apron. This reignited my passion for cooking. Today, for the most part, we use Plated but still incorporate Blue Apron from time to time. Beyond that, I've even started making my own dishes. A couple weeks ago I made my first batch of homemade potato gnocchi--it was dynamite; Gnocchi Pomodoro.

The Point?

It's all connected: CREATIVITY

Or better, STORYTELLING BY ANY MEANS AVAILABLE. 

Or still better, Frank Costello, played by Jack Nicholson in The Departed, quoted John Lennon saying, "Lennon said, "I'm an artist, give me a fucking tuba, I'll get you something out of it.""

The more I express myself as an artist, the more that quote hits home. It feels good.

BUT

Today isn't a light-a-fire-under-your-ass type of post. Nah. Not today. Let's pivot, sorta. 

We will bring it back to the culinary side of things. It will be a stretch but I'll drop a pointer some way or another. 

Or not. Let's see.

Besides my Yoshihiro Mizu Yaki blue high carbon steel Damascus Kiritsuke and Nakiri (Japanese steel), I'd have to say that the old set of well seasoned, well maintained cast iron skillets are my best tools in the kitchen. 

I use the cast iron for EVERYTHING, even eggs. And let me iterate, as long as a cast-iron skillet, no matter how old, is well seasoned and well maintained, it will outperform any Teflon pan any day of the week. Well, not any day, because that Teflon will be awesome for a while but it will certainly wear off over time. Cast iron is what it is; cast iron. Copper will be next in my arsenal but for the time being, love the old iron. 

As for Japanese steel? Better than I could've ever imagined. Now, even more than the cast-iron, the high carbon steel needs even more TLC but you get used to that over time. 

Speaking of eggs. 

As long as I could remember, I've been a fan of a perfectly cooked Sunny Side Up egg. Maybe it's because I remember my grandfather eating them so frequently before he went to work in the mornings that I would spend the night my grandparents' home. 

Shit. Probably the mid-1980s that I'm reflecting upon. 

They had a small rowhome at which time I thought was as big as any home I'd ever been in. Maybe the ceiling to floor mirrored wall behind the plastic-covered couch really made the space feel gigantic. Or maybe it was because I was so young and small. 

Their linoleum kitchen table jutted out from the wall, separating the kitchen from the dining room. Think a linoleum counter but at low table height.  

My grandfather used to sit at the end of that table. He would sit as he'd prep is area; carefully straightening his silverware and setting up his day's medications by a glass of tomato juice. 

Once his wife, my grandmother, would serve up his eggs, he would then douse them with salt and so much black pepper that you have a hard time identifying the dish. The tomato juice would get the same treatment. 

I digress. 

Come to think of it, maybe that's why I dig peppers so much too. Especially black pepper. 

Eggs. 

Even better than a couple of Sunny Side Up Eggs is a pair of greasy spoon Sunny Side Up Eggs with a side of Scrapple and Hash Browns. I know. Zero need for any of that capitalization but I did it anyway. 

However, therein lies a problem. 

I'm not homophobic, androcentric, egotistic or, wait, maybe that last one but otherwise, I'm as free-spirited and as liberal as one can be. 

Sidebar:: My wife and I were at a party, at our friends' mansion. Yep. It was a mansion. Old. In Gladwyne. Main Line. More dough than Beverly Hills. I shit you not. After we were given a tour of the grounds my buddy told us that that particular party gets pretty crazy and that most, if not all guests end up naked in the pool, hot tub, and everywhere for that matter. I couldn't believe it until I myself was one of those naked people. Granted, a lot of Anejo tequila helped coax the clothing from my body but nevertheless, I was pretty goddamn free-spirited that day. 

Having said that, for some fucked up reason, I cannot bring myself to order Sunny Side Up Eggs because it sounds a little too, eh, I don't know, you know what I mean?

Fucked up, right? 

So while cooking Sunny Side Up at home, at any diner I evolved to request Over Easy

It works. 

Speaking of Diners.

I got a little long-winded here today and wanted to tie in another part to this story but I'll save it for a part two. 

NERD FILE::

The photo herein. Have you noticed I like to use fancy words? Today's photo was straight outta iPhone. Well. Not straight. 

I used the iPhone XS Max and a lot of filter through The Gram before posting it back in here. In hindsight, way too much Clarity. Maybe it looks ok on mobile devices but on this MBP it's a bit harsh on the eyes. My sensitive eyes anyway. 

SUMMARIZATION::

Shit. didn't even realize that in just a few days this blog will be 9 years old!!! Fuck a duck. I guess part two of this miniseries will be sooner than later. Unless I hold it off to do an anniversary post. Ah. That blows. I'll blend it somehow without being too sappy. 

Peace. 

Until next time...

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Thanksgiving Leftovers :: Year 8

Damn. Eight years of this shit. The Thanksgiving Leftovers post is one that, among some of the other repeats, I look forward to sharing with you. While this blog has steered away from primarily the nuts and bolts of photographic technique and photography gear and more toward a guide to living a more creative lifestyle, the Thanksgiving Leftovers gives everyone a taste of something they enjoy.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Editorial Photography :: THE ORIGINAL BURKE & PAYNE PHILA BARBER CO, LLC In Association With BARBER EVO Magazine

























PROLEGOMENON

That's a mouthful of a title now, isn't it?

Without any delay, why not start the post in total disarray? They usually end up that way anyhow so now's as good a time as ever.

Those who manage to keep up with the postings lately will notice a shift. Shit. The last one some would consider downright dark. One day you're reading about beautiful bokeh and then, POW, I kick you in the devil's highway with some serial killer shit.

And today I bring it back with an editorial photoshoot. It's how it's done around here. What can I say?

FOREWORD...AFTERWORD

So I've been trying to take some time away from the social media as of recently. That doesn't mean I haven't been busy. The notion these days is that the busier you are the more content you would then share on the social networks.

There's the camp that believes that the I'm-the-busiest-hardest-working-person-ever posts are bullshit. And there are the other camps that, well, just don't engage with social media whatsoever; touting they are the truest to busy--so busy that there's no time for such petty behavior.

My opinion? There's a lot of gray areas.

There are times that I'm a posting fool. Fucking Hootsuite-ing it out for weeks at a time in a single sitting. Now that's busyness in its own right.

Other times, like lately, I'm quiet as a mouse, hardly even opening Facebook or Instagram, let alone posting any shit.

Ok, that can be for a multitude of reasons. One biggie could be that my iPhone camera has been busted for quite some time. Hey. Today I will open and activate my new XS Max. Super stoked.

But while I may not be snapping and sharing in hopes of stirring up new clients, the behind the scene situation is much different. For instance, a ton of writing happening. Yup, storytelling by any means possible these days.

Let's not forget the dadapreneur part. Harper's 3.5 years on our planet now and Emma 10 months now. So while the work comes in, the time able to share is often limited.

So I'm here to say today, no worries, I'm still here...and there are terabytes of data on my hard drives that are begging for your attention.

Besides, the qualifying leads I get from certain social media outlets are not much better, sometimes worse, than that of even Craigslist. Yup. I said it. I own that shit. People are ashamed to admit using Craigslist. Sure, I get my fair share of creepers but like with anything, you gotta weed the garden to help that garden grow.

The Pareto Principle people!

Wow. How'm I gonna bring this back to barber shops and editorial work?

HERE GOES SOMETHING!

The project :: As if you missed the post's title and the related opening sentence, the shoot is for a digital and print publication, BARBER EVO magazine. There are two shops being featured in the issue, Burke & Payne Barber Co. and Barber on 24th. Both are owned by Michael Burke. I'll get to him in a moment. Anyway, as I had the opportunity to shoot at both locations, I was going to commingle the photographs herein today. But they are so very different, the two shops, the vibes, that I decided to split them up into two posts.

AN HONOR AND A PRIVILEGE


I met Michael Burke back when I was slinging drinks at Roosevelt's Pub on 23rd and Walnut Streets, in Philadelphia. Boy, the people I've met there over the years. Everyone from rapper DMX and his father and local artist, Joe Barker to, I forget if it was the grandson or great-grandson of John Jacob Astor. I shit you not. Number one, it was a big Wharton hangout and two, he paid with his Black Card. Fucking Warby Parker was thought up over those guys having lagers at the bar. They lived upstairs. Don't get me wrong, I met some real pieces of shit too. If anyone knows the name Bruce Mays then you know what I'm talking about. Yup, old New York tycoon money, scam artists and everything in between. And once in a while, some lasting relationships are birthed from these meetings.

Michael Burke had a friend that was a waiter at the pub; nicknamed "Radio." Hey, we weren't the nicest cats around. While waiting for his buddy to finish his shift, we'd throw spit while he'd have a beer at the bar.

At that time Burke was barbering at a place called Domenick's, just a few blocks away, on 20th and Manning Streets, just below Locust.

It's funny, to this day, there are still a few photographs that I recall seeing that I will never forget and that have done their part in inspiring me to follow my creative soul. While it was long before I picked up a DSLR, I recall sitting in the waiting area at Domenick's, patiently anticipating my turn in Michael's chair.

[Good thing I'm splitting this up. Had no idea I'd take this route. I don't outline in advance...ever.]


So I was flipping through Men's Health magazine when I noticed hanging up on the wall, between some ten-speed racing bicycle frames and a beautiful black and white of a gorgeous naked female body, a gallery-sized framed color photograph of Michael Burke, in action. It was an editorial styled photograph of Burke dressed in black pants and a black shirt. It was a profile shot. His knees were cocked like a boxer, center ring, ready to throw his jab, jab, right hook combination. He was hyperfocused, with scissors in one hand and comb in the other. The client was leaned back and super relaxed.

I was called to the chair. It was my first time getting a cut by Burke. He strapped some paper do-dad around my neck and then draped the cape over my head and torso and secured it accordingly. As barbershops go, there's often a ton of arbitrary chitchat. As a newbie in Michael's chair, the pressure was on to bring up something obvious (I kid). So it was the photograph that I would bring into question.

Michael explained to me that it was not planned, that a passerby took the photograph without his even knowing. That photograph had even won a competition of sorts.

Fucking love that photograph.

FAST FORWARD ABOUT 15 YEARS


I'm standing in two of the most renowned barber shops in Philadelphia, conceived, owned and operated by barber and entrepreneur, Michael Burke, Burke & Payne Barber Co. and Barber on 24th (to be shown in next post), commissioned to shoot them for Barber EVO magazine.

Ain't life cool?

[NOTE :: While Michael was out of town for the weekend of shooting and you don't get to see him in in the photos, if you look at the above photo, there's a picture on the wall of a man in black and woman in a red shirt. That's Michael and his wife Tanya.]

GETTING TO WORK

Prior to shooting, I was given access to both shops. I'm a grown man and it still feels awesome when trusted with something like keys and alarm codes to a business for access any time I like.

And I took full advantage of any time I'd like. I wanted to show up super early, hours before opening, to not only get a feel for what the ambient environment will be like but also to ease into the situation with coffee and lots of frames of the empty shop; lots of entire room shots and tight detail shots.

The ambient for each would be tricky. Working in cities, you have to battle the buildings for the sunlight and/or shade. The windows of Burke and Payne face North and East. Those of Barber on 24th face South and East. In the case of both shops, that didn't mean shit.

As the day progressed and clients would arrive, there wouldn't be time or space to be dicking around with light stands and strobes and whatnot.

Luckily, when it comes to photography, my Nikon D5, that's my Suzy Greenberg, is a Weapon of Mass Destruction and one badass motherfucker.

Stay tuned for part 2, when we get into some real nerd-like shit. You know, gear, f-stops and all that good stuff.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

DNA Testing Ruined Everything

And I'm not talking about 23 and Me or Ancestry. Those are pretty cool actually. Gotta do one myself because according to my mother's recent results, about 5% of my DNA is from a country in The Middle East. Although I don't know which country exactly. Pretty cool. And all my life I thought I was just your standard run-of-the-mill American with European ancestry. No wonder why my Shakshuka is so bangin'.

I digress.

No. The DNA testing that is or should be the pivotal constant of today's discussion is that of the forensic kind.

You know. Dexter type shit.

DNA testing is otherwise known as DNA profiling or DNA analysis or DNA fingerprinting.

What did it ruin and how? 

Speaking of pivotal, let's pivot. Say pivot 10 times. Starts to sound funny, doesn't it?

In the good ole days these United States of America were chock full of wonderful charismatic and clever serial killers. Serial killers that would often earn, and rightfully so, mythical statuses.

  • David Berkowitz 
  • John Wayne Gacy 
  • Jeffrey Dahmer 
  • Ted Bundy
  • The Zodiac Killer (never caught)
  • and many more.
These names cause your amygdala to fire off more neurotransmitters than dudes firing off ejaculate at an IVF clinic's BOGO open house. 

Or do you like better...

These names cause your amygdala to fire off more neurotransmitters than Rocco Siffredi firing off ejaculate at a naked bare-knuckle brawl. 

Point is, they're all less than human and what they've done cause us to have real visceral reactions even by simply seeing their names. 

The thing is, these dudes are not only psychopathic, sociopathic or whatever the proper clinical term may be, but they're narcissistic too. And that, my friends, is a dangerous combo.

While first satisfying their appetite for death, they, on some equally primary or at least a secondary level, consciously or not, are in it for the eternal "glory."

And they've all but disappeared...

...or haven't they?

Yup. Along comes DNA testing.

Before long, many would be serial killers, copycats, and other criminals across the board become wise to the fact that, like it or not, EVERYONE GETS CAUGHT.

But the prison industry is thriving. How? I account that for the fact that a large portion of humans are purely fucking idiots. Oh. I've observed this first hand. There are A LOT of really stupid people in the world. It's jaw-dropping actually. I'm not knocking on those that have committed crimes due to addiction and desperation. They don't belong in the standard prison system anyway. But that's for another discussion.

I digress.

So this DNA testing comes along and there seems or seemed to be a direct correlation that these classic serial killer profiles begin to fade to extinction.

But they didn't. They mutated.

Stephen Paddock. Eh. Not quite as recognizable as, say, a Jeffery Dahmer, right? But Paddock was the maniac who shot and killed 59 people at that Vegas music festival.

The serial killer is alive and well. Only now they satisfy their thirsts with mass murder in very short time frames versus the former which were executed over vast time frames.

DNA analysis people.

Paddock and other jerk offs like him aren't in the idot sample of humanity. No. He and others know they're gonna get caught but need to kill anyway. So they do it big and fast. As for going down in infamy with the big names like Son of Sam, well that's a gamble.

So let's think abstractly.

Take DNA fingerprinting off the table.

And let's pull addiction back into the discussion.

Doesn't matter. Take your pick. Heroin. Booze. Food. What have you. We will call that variable X.

Now we have to get all mathematical so now let's call the addict Z.

The addiction itself will = A and time will = T.

Usage will =

Availability = V

A(X)÷T∞ = U(0) «-»  V≥X+T

     Z      

WTF?!

Some Will Hunting shit, right? It may actually work. My brain is weird like that. Or it may be jibberish. But it makes sense to me.

Summarized?

Bob the Atty likes to responsibly have one 18-year-old single malt after dinner every evening, at home. One Monday evening, Bob's wife says she's tired of his ways and said the Glenlivet is no longer allowed in their home. Bob pours the beautiful Scotch down the drain in the kitchen sink. On Friday at 6PM Bob races out of the office and over to The Capital Grille, where he has a perfectly marbled Delmonico steak with his colleagues. After dinner, he heads over to the bar where he polishes of enough 12-year-old Balvenie Doublewoods that the bartender eventually flags him. Bob then wakes up the next morning in a jail cell with a DUI and a whole lot of explaining to do to his wife.

In a nutshell, that's what that crazy formula says.

Back to Paddock. And Paddock is just a name that came up first in my Google search for data for this article. You are free to pick any similar wet fart juice skid mark for context. Actually, to make it less targeted and personalized, let's just do that. We have a dude who shot down and killed some 300 random people at a gun show. His name, before he offed himself in a cowardly fashion, was Wet Fart Juice Skid Mark. Probably Norwegian with a name like that. Let's shorten it to Skid Mark.

Turns out Skid Mark was a partner in a large investment firm; not an idiot.

Now, put this Norwegian, Skid Mark, into the Delorean and back to 1980, six years before DNA testing was ever used for a criminal investigation.

Is it possible or dare I say, likely, that Skid Mark would have, instead of killing 300 in a matter of 5 minutes, killed, say, 30 over the course of 5 years?

Appalling to think about and half of you probably want to knock my block off but let me remind you, this is purely a hypothetical discussion; ABSTRACT THINKING.

Unfortunately, the world has its share of Skid Marks. And until the PreCrime division is up and running and the Precogs are floating in a tank, predicting murder, then the world is gonna have some Skid Marks for the foreseeable future.

As for our Norwegian friend, has DNA testing become his and others', Single Malt Scotch down the drain?

Or... I could be wrong.

PEOPLE...

I swear this article was supposed to be super short and so much easier to comprehend. But, as per usual, it did not. My original hypothesis really could have been a Tweet and then I go and write some lunacy like this. Oh well. Hope you enjoyed..... Oh Shit! Almost forgot...

THE NERD FILE ::

On the fly, I grabbed my Nikon D5, my workhorse, my Suzy Greenberg.  The D5, being the beast that she is, ain't the best choice for handheld selfies but I made it work.

Yes, that is my mouth BUT I ain't that gross and YES my tongue is that short. I'll get back to this stuff in a sec.

So I wanted to light pretty evenly, softly and direct. I quickly mounted a Yongnuo speedlight to the hotshoe and turned the head to face backward. I stood in front of a white door and held the camera at arm's length with a 24-70 2.8 at 70mm. The strobe would bounce off of the large white door and become a large soft source of light. I back focused with my index finger and fired with my thumb. Pretty awkward but it worked.

Off the top of my head, I think I was at 1/125 (randomly),  f/22 (not randomly) and ISO 100 (also not randomly).

As for my grill?

I wanted to go for a graphic look. Graphic, as in diagrammatic, not explicit.

First of all, There was more of my head in frame that I wanted. No worries. Enough data in the RAW  file (NEF) that I could push to Scale up to 150 and crop in even tighter.

To get that graphic feel, I took down the Saturation and crushed the Contrast, Blacks, Clarity and Dehaze sliders.

Normally my mouth looked a lot less interesting and my coffee stained teeth, a lot more yellow.

To remedy that, I pained a mask on the denticles and took down the Yellow and even more Saturation in that defined area.

Lastly, I shopped the bits of the everything bagel that were lodged between my incisors with the Healing brush.

Everything was done in the Adobe Camera RAW editor.

Oh. That tongue.

Tongue-tied (Ankyloglossia) since birth. Never knew it until both of my daughters had to have procedures for theirs shortly after birth. Luckily I never had any speech issues. In fact, I've been told I sound like an old-school news broadcaster. I don't think so but I've been told.


Until next time...



Saturday, June 16, 2018

DADAPRENEUR :: Observations, Opinions, Objections and Obsessions of (Vol. 4, POP QUIZ HOT SHOT)

Pop quiz hot shot ::

You’re a dadapreneur, juggling the crazy world of creative storytelling with a camera and a keyboard and two daughters to boo; a 3 year old and a 5 month old.

[Mine are Harper Thomas and Emma Elizabeth respectfully. If you have boys or a mix or hermaphroditic (probably way out of PC vogue) the story will still work.]

Your wife’s been back to her gig for a couple months now.

That well oiled machine that took so long to grease up, once had its fair share of sand thrown into it when that first baby came along a few years prior. After surgical removal of each grain and a new lube, the machine begins to smoothly churn away, once again. And just before you realize it, BAM, the stork drops another basket at your front doorstep.

It’s a beautiful spring day, Friday, to be specific. The clock nears quitting time for most of the East coast. Your checklist of your day’s professional agenda is bare. The real struggles of parenting this week have overtaken all of your personal liberties.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Fear of a Black Planet, er um, Headshot



Hey, I’ve done much worse with titles. Nearly a decade ago I had a two part series named, “HOW TO SHOOT A BLACK MAN,” parts one and two…

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How To Write A Screenplay in 40 Days !!!



FOREWORD

Prepare yourself for an abstract literary journey that is this post. Ok, that’s just a fancy way of saying that what you’re about to engage in may be a bit scatterbrained. Nevertheless, priceless nukes of intel are going to be fired your way. Excuse any false Emergency Alerts that may blow up your phones.

Without further ado…