The Photography of Business

With the rapidly-changing landscape of digital photography, it’s easier than ever to get a good shot.  And it will be easier tomorrow.  So as more people consider making a living with their cameras, I’m sure lots of them will be interested in the business of photography.  At least they should.  They’ll go online and read Chase Jarvis  and David Hobby and Joe McNally and Vincent LaForet and all the successful shooters and try to weed through and find tips and tricks to “make it” in the photo biz.  I did the same thing.  But today, I’m much more interested in the photography of business.

In 2010, Infor sent me on a 10-city tour to photograph their actual customers in real work situations.  Very little staging, small strobes (if any), non-disruptive shots.  The first two here were shot in Houston at Alpa Precision Machine Works, where Alberto Gonzales and his team manufacture small metal parts for the oil and gas industry.  That’s Alberto in the middle there.  Very kind man and obvious natural leader, seeing how much his employees enjoy working for him at Alpa.

We moved across town to Cook Compression, who’s main product is the Moppet valve, used specifically in the natural gas industry.  Great people there at Cook, also, and big thanks to Cindy Cease for all her help and hospitality while we were there.  I gained a new respect for Houston while on this shoot.

Next, we flew up to Seattle to photograph Ampac Flexibles (formerly known at Mohawk Northern Plastics).  They manufacture plastics bags, mostly for the frozen vegetable business, with a process known as “blown film extrusion.” Paul Nemecheck (pictured there in one of his warehouses) has been with Ampac for over 20 years and knows every square inch of their incredible operation.  He’s a terrific guy and incredible host (he even climbed up on top of a train car for me.)

Our next stop was in London (after flying around Iceland and its volcanic ash cloud), where we stayed a couple of days shooting in the business district.  We hopped on a train and headed out west to Bath and Chippenham, where Herman Miller’s international headquarters are (also one of their manufacturing facilities and logistics/distribution centers.)  I absolutely loved England and everyone I met there.  Kevin Hall was an incredible host and gave us complete access to everywhere we needed to go.

A couple of weeks after we got back to the States, we left the country again for Toronto.  Specifically, Aurigen, which is a reinsurance company and another Infor customer.  This shoot was a challenge.  We’d been shooting mostly manufacturing facilities, and the work being done there at Aurigen was mostly on the phone and on computers.  More mind than muscle, for sure, but with lots of help from my overqualified assistant Jim Walters (I should be assisting him), we got the shots.

The next stop landed us just northeast of Manhattan in Chestnut Ridge, NJ, at LeCroy Corporation, who manufactures oscilloscopes.  Another challenge, since most of the work is done inside, under flourescents, on-screen.  But Kathy Woods and the rest of the team there made our job easy.

We stayed in Manhattan and got some good shots of the business between the work (commuters, people walking around downtown, Wall Street, Grand Central, etc.)  Even saw Russell Brand in his underwear (they were filming “Arthur.”) …More to come…

A thousand words

Never again will I have to explain what it is I like about downtown Austin.

The real spirit of Christmas

Now that my kids are 6 and 4, I’ve begun to try to sell them on the very real fact that giving really is better than getting.  I’m reminded of this all the time, but especially around Christmas.  This belief may not hold true for some of you, and it certainly doesn’t for a six year-old with a bunch of friends who talk about nothing but what they’ve got and what they’re getting.  I get it.  I used to be one.  But, I suppose the older I get, the more this matters.  My father, pictured here a couple of years ago with my daughter, embodies the spirit of giving more than anyone I know.

We’ve all got issues with family, and lots of times those issues get in the way of spending holiday time together.  My family is definitely not immune to such issues, but we get by okay.  But this Christmas, I realized one special trait about my father.  He is a giver.

For the last few holidays (Thanksgiving and/or Christmas), my wife and I have had problems traveling to my hometown to celebrate with my side of the family.  Her side of the family gathers for Christmas, but Thanksgiving isn’t as big a deal.  Both are big deals on my side.  Coat and tie, silver and linen, waiters, the whole Southern bit.  It’s a show more than anything else, but it’s a family ritual, and its meaning and lineage have been burned into me so much that I now crave it.  Nothing against Luby’s, but if I never have to dig those disgusting side dishes out of cardboard containers again, I’ll be just fine.

Last Christmas, when we couldn’t make it to Thanksgiving, my father told me to “stay in Austin with your family this Christmas.  The kids will get to wake up and open their gifts at home, and y’all can come see us sometime after New Year’s, when things sort of quiet down.”  We did just that, and it was the best Christmas I can remember.  Watching my kids make cookies for Santa, fake being nice to each other, want to go to bed at 5pm on Christmas Eve and waking up at 2am and begging for three hours to go out to the living room and me finally caving and trying to video the whole thing on two hours’ sleep.  It was all more than I’d hoped for.

This year, we stayed home for Thanksgiving and are doing the same for Christmas.  My father again advised me to “stay there with your family,” and it was only today that I realized that his gift to me of “stay with your family instead of packing them up and driving nine hours and repacking and driving back and all that” is the greatest gift I can receive at this point in my life.  He is giving me the gift of irreplaceable moments with my own children, instead of a bunch of guilt about not being there with him and my mother.

And for that, I’ll forever be grateful.  My parents have given me far more than I ever deserve.  Support, material things, love, good advice, guidance and understanding.  I’ll never be able to repay them, and even if they read this, they’ll never know how much I cherish, value and appreciate their gifts.

It’s Christmas Eve, and while my kids climb all over me as I write this (and cook the turkey and assemble toys and mediate tantrums and everything else that goes along with parenthood), I wish you nothing less than what I’ve been given.  I have one wish this cold winter night, and it’s that my kids will one day think of me, just for a second, like I think of my parents right now.

Merry Christmas.

Bentgrass in Texas

sky_creek_ranch_2009I told you about Stephen Best and his crew at Sky Creek Ranch Golf Club in Keller.  Here’s a shot of the plush spread of bentgrass, just yesterday.  In July.  In Texas.  Remarkable.

Lensbaby Muse

lensbaby1Here’s a test from this new little toy I got today.  Pretty cool, the selective focus.  Since I’m shooting a wedding pretty soon, I might mount this thing on my backup.  Peas sat down and read some books for me while I clicked.


cordillera_hole16Last year while I was shooting around Cordillera Ranch, I felt like I couldn’t get the perfect shot of the 16th hole.  I still haven’t.  It’s an amazing par-3.  Tough, beautiful, and unlike any other hole out there.  I’ve only shot a few frames with something else in the picture, and this is one of them.  Looking back, I think if I’m asked to shoot it again, I’m going to take a model.  The golf cart and the guy about to hit his bunker shot really show how big this hole is.  Without them, it’d be tough to tell how deep that canyon really is.