Monday, July 28, 2008

In the woods, downtown

Occasionally we fantasize about moving to a place where the outdoors is closer and the snow guaranteed. But the truth is that Washington has amazing access to all sorts of outdoors possibilities. Take Mather Gorge in Great Falls Park - just 10-15 minutes from the Beltway, but it offers a spectacular vista, challenging hiking, some mountain biking, Olympic-class kayaking, and lots and lots of rock-climbing.

So when a magazine this month asked for a cover shoot of two staffers who work for a nonprofit that deals with conservation issues, it made sense to do it somewhere other than the nonprofit's Crystal City offices. Rachel, one of my two subjects, mentioned the group is involved with deforestation, and said she lives in Dupont Circle, right by the heart of downtown DC.

Bingo - that's also a couple of blocks from Rock Creek Park, a giant green swath of national parkland that cuts through DC. A short walk and she and her colleague Vinnie had left the city and were seated on a log in a lovely piece of woods. The trail was a little steep for Rachel's platform shoes, but the photos looked great.

Now, if we could just do something about the lack of snow around here...

Update: Outside magazine's August issues lists its picks of "The 20 Best Towns in America." Coming in at #1: Washington, DC. I wonder who "outed" us?

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Justin Quinnell, the pinhole guy

I just got a call from Justin Quinnell, a British photographer. Justin is perhaps the world's most creative expert on pinhole photography, a super-simple type of imaging that uses no "real" cameras and no lenses - just a dark hollow object with a hole at one end and a piece of light-sensitive material at the other. Through the years Justin has fashioned pinhole cameras out of wheeled trash bins (which he then took around on a bus) and others small enough to place in his mouth (see his photo of his dentist, right).

Now some movie makers have contacted Justin for help making a movie that features a character who's interested in pinholes. Justin provided them with information, props, and images, and will be listed as ‘Pinhole Photography Consultant’ when "The Brothers Bloom" is released in fall. Rian Johnson, the writer-producer, says seeing Justin's photos on the web was part of the inspiration for using the concept in his movie.

A publicity still from the movie shows one of the actresses with a pinhole camera made out of a watermelon. Justin says he's not too sure about that himself, though he has been interested in "edible cameras." "I'm not really a watermelon type. I'm more of a pumpkin guy, or a butternut squash." Definitely, Justin.


Thursday, July 10, 2008


It's nice to work on lighting when it's not really critical. Some photographers, like mad scientists, experiment on their family members. (Ok, I've certainly done that, see for instance the bicycle photo in "Graduation.") Others use their friends.

But in Washington, we have a whole different category of unwitting subjects available for tests: People speaking at press conferences.

Earlier this week I was finishing photographing some furniture for a long-time and much-valued client when I got a call to shoot a press conference with Chris Cox, chairman of the SEC. (A long-time and valued subject.) I had lighting gear with me, and thought, "Why not?" Such events at the SEC are usually held in a weirdly shaped, dimly lit corner of their basement meeting rooms. I added just three lights, and suddenly everything looked much better.