Flashback to Ecstasy

Flashback – years ago I had the opportunity to photograph Alexander Shulgin and his lab for a Swiss magazine.  It was quite an experience.  People are often asking to see the images of the lab, so I thought I’d post them here.  This is Sasha, as he is known, posing with his wife in their kitchen.

Portrait of S. Shulgin, the inventor of MDMA (the drug known as Ecstasy), taken in his home with his wife for an editorial magazine.

Check out the images of the lab here






This week at the outdoor studio, the team focused on expanding the lifestyle and fitness portfolios. It’s been pretty busy around the ranch lately so to stop and take some shots of Winston for JE Models was refreshing. Almost everything that we’ve been doing lately has been prep for Bob’s trip to LA next week. We’ve been updating social media and online portfolios, mailing pamphlets and somehow finding time to shoot small projects in-between. We have a fun shoot coming up that involves more surfers at Stinson Beach – we were rained out this week. Stay tuned here and to our Instagram for more surf related photos to come.

Test shoot - surferTest shoot - surferTest shoot - surferTest shoot - surferTest shoot - surfer

Personal work: Dancers


I am working this week on a new print portfolio to accompany me to LA later this month.  The portfolio is being printed on a beautiful Hannemuhle paper like my Facing Chemo portfolio, but this one is focused on my personal project on dancers.  Working on the composition of these images for the InDesign layout, I did a lot of tweaking today.  Here’s a preview:

Clouds in Northern California

Ballet dancers in flight


welcome Morgan

This week we welcome Morgan to the studio. She is joining us as an intern while in school at the University of San Francisco majoring in advertising. In the few days that she has been with us, she’s already done a great job organizing our social media sites and we look forward to improving all our hash-tagging under her guidance.  Her official title: Social media czar.  We are excited to see what she can bring to the marketing and social media team in the studio.

Test shoot - Morgan

something tangible

IMG_5228Back in the film days, photographers were able to hold what we created; we loaded film; we cut processed rolls; we edited on a light table with our hands.  Even if we weren’t printing negative, we could still hold our final product, our chromes.  Now, we shoot digitally; we edit in front of a computer; we retouch and save files to various drives.  We send images to the ether-like cloud, and we deliver our final product via ftp.  Our art lives as data that we will never see – series’ of ones and zeros hidden in aluminum enclosures. We cannot touch our images any more than we can taste them or hear them.

In this new reality I find myself drawn to making things – things I can touch.  I used to find myself gardening before shoots – I saw it as a zen thing, a means to focusing.  But more recently, I find myself leaving the studio with a determined plan to make, to build, to create.  We had a new table top in the studio that needed legs.  So, after planing off years of white paint from rotten fence posts in the pasture, I uncovered beautiful fifty year-old old-growth redwood 4×4’s.  They went perfectly with the reclaimed table top.  I then went straight into building another desk from reclaimed 2×12 Douglas Fir joists that we found in the barn.  Sitting above welded steel legs, the refinished and joined beams make for a beautiful additional work space.  This weekend I made two trays from the wood of a friend’s old shed that I had helped him tear down.  Wood geek alert:  After sanding off some of the old red paint, I re-aged the old redwood by painting it first with black tea and then the next day painted on a vinegar solution that had been sitting overnight in a jar with 20 rusted nails.  Within a few hours, the freshly sanded wood returned to a weathered gray – almost too much, so I re-sanded some parts again.

So why the projects?  Two of my photographer colleagues build cabinetry, others paint; one assistant of mine has hand built a custom dark room to go back to the film and printing days.  Look at Blurb – photobooks being printed by the thousands.  Some are being made to show clients, to be sure, but some, simply to hold – printed to be tangible.

I think that with all the digitization of our work, we have a yearning to hold something in our hands.  As artists, we want to be able to touch something and say, I made that. Are you a photographer or digital artist who does some tangible creative work on the side? If so, please leave a comment on what you do.


Original rotted redwood posts – put in the ground in the 60’s



4×4 redwood posts planed to 3.5×3.5 and given a new life.


Prepping for the last coat of urethane.



My finished tray from an old rotting, falling down shed.


Editorial portrait shoot

I love having the opportunity to shoot editorially, especially portraiture.  With only 25 minutes with our subject, I wanted everything in place, scouted and roughly scripted.  We aimed for 5 set ups with no specific art direction, which I love, because it means I get to play.

When asked at workshops, I always describe my approach to editorial portraiture as a visual conversation.  Throughout each shot, each set up, my goal is to never stop the conversation with the subject – I want them to feel like they are going for a walk, a conversation, and once in a while we stop and make images.  Walking from one location to the next, I have everything pre-arranged; my assistant and I know exactly how we will shoot each image, so we can follow the plan like a rehearsed play.  But, it always changes – either the light will change, or the conversation with the subject will turn my attention to something different in one of our sets.

This week, the change was this great food truck.  It was on the way from one shot to the next, I could see immediately that the light was great, and I could tell he was game.  We went for it.  I love the relaxed fresh feel of the resulting shot.  Only problem with the shoot was that the line grew at the food truck just as we finished the shot, so no lunch.  We Instagram‘d one of these earlier this week but here are some more.


Portriat of Ron Gill

Portriat of Ron GillPortriat of Ron GillPortriat of Ron Gill