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


More dancers – more movement

Test shoot - Dance - Natalie

Early this week we brought back a hip hop dancer that we have photographed in the past.  Staying in the outdoor studio and keeping the huge silks for our lighting, we moved around to get a more natural blue sky background.  A little less studio feel, a little more natural – while still using beautiful big light sources.

Bob and I got to talking yesterday about this work – why dancers, why flying?  It seems like he is drawn to this as a more pure form of the motion portraits he sees us doing in our fitness work.  The dance images are still about photographing people, still a portrait, and the motion is still fitness.  But working with these dancers, the project feels more like a study of form and movement.

This Oakland based dance teacher is great to work with and we hope to collaborate with her more.  Using the blue sky felt more authentic and true to her as a performer.  Here are a few from the shoot.  We will keep putting these on Instagram and Twitter, so please check our feeds.

Enjoy.  – Kala

Test shoot - Dance - NatalieTest shoot - Dance - NatalieTest shoot - Dance - Natalie Test shoot - Dance - Natalie Test shoot - Dance - Natalie


Days in the snow


I flew in from Minneapolis this week after photographing another MPS-IV patient for BioMarin. In addition to testing my snow driving skills (reminding me of my days Boston days) I had the opportunity to meet another inspiring dude and make great pictures. I even had time to stop in at Preston Kelly and have a quick lunch with the folks there. One thing that I noticed about being in such a northern state is the days are so much shorter than I’m used to and the light fades much more quickly once the sun starts going down. Here are a few pics to share with you guys from my short trip. Enjoy!

Advertising photography on location in Minneapolis by San Francisco Advertising photographer Robert HouserFullSizeRender Advertising photography on location in Minneapolis by San Francisco Advertising photographer Robert Houser

Homeward Bound


We are wrapping up the year here at the studio. In the midst of cleaning hard drives, fixing gear, and tying up all the loose ends before I head home I can’t help but be overwhelmed with thankfulness for these past few months. I feel lucky to work with talented and inspiring people on a day to day basis.  Since moving back out to California I have learned and experienced so much. Im excited to see what the new year holds for me personally and for the Studio, there are great things on the horizon. Im equally excited to spend the holidays with my family and be back in the peach state.

Wishing everyone a safe and joy filled Holiday Season.

I’ll leave ya’ll with a few behind the scenes pictures from shoots this year. Cheers!image2

Cambridge Biomarketing

Cambridge Biomarketing

Fun in the Midwest


We are back in the studio this week after traveling quite a bit of traveling for BioMarin. At the beginning of this month we took off to the Midwest to photograph a couple of amazing people with the rare disease called MPS-IV. The warm welcome into these people’s homes and spending time getting to know them is something that will stick with us for a while. It was incredibly rewarding to see into their lives and capture them as people, not as patients. Our First stop was Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Upon stepping into the airport we quickly realized that we had arrived at the peak of quail hunting season. We were greeted with a huge sign that read, “Welcome Hunters.” Being immersed in hunting culture from childhood, I had to get a selfie with some orange. blogThe “shoot”went well. We had an amazing crew and walked away with some great images.BioMarin - MPS VI patient - Kendra TITLE

Next Stop: Fort Scott, Kansas. We got to explore acres of farmland and lose a few games of CLUE to our host and his siblings. The Farm was beautiful, we found a rad barn to photograph. It was so inspiring we had to go antiquing after the shoot and picked up a few things for The Ranch. Houser_141106_0116


Rad Barn: To see more pictures check out the Instagram.Houser_141106_0259

BioMarin - MPS VI patient - HoldenAll in all the Midwest treated us very well. We can’t wait to share from Bob’s recent trip to New York with this project. More to come.