Friday, October 8, 2010

Some Girls, a Slide Show

Just an experiment...

Create your own video slideshow at

Just wanted to see how to embed a video on the blog, and this was free, from Animoto.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


With all the upset of the last couple of months, I didn't write about one of the oddest events of my current 40th high school reunion. That's an odd concept, a bunch of people who, largely, haven't seen each other since the last reunion, 10 years ago and some not since the one 20 years ago. Now, I'm in a better place than I was 20 years ago, and so's Heather. Although that latter isn't an issue, she didn't go to the same school that I did... But it's still hard for me to get my head around the preposterous idea that I've been out of high school for 4o years! Yeesh!
So, anyway, we show up at the "Pre-Reunion" at Kiminsky's in Poway ( a nice little BBQ spot, the Friday before Labor Day. The place was crowded, already, with a bunch of middle aged folks milling about in a side dining room, one of whom I recognized. That would be Clyde Simpson, former starting defensive tackle for the 1969 Poway Titan football team (3-6 record, if I recall...) Not because I'd seen him since the 20th in 1980, but because he still looks the same! Not something that can be said for the overwhelming majority of the populace. Then, there was Dave Thompson, backup quarterback for the same team, and my favorite warm up partner before games, throwing the ball back and forth on the sidelines. Bill O'Sullivan, who put the festivities together, an outside linebacker like me, was enjoyable to catch up with, as was Dave Winter, the starter at quarterback. Like the saying goes, the older I get, the better I was. Same goes for a lot of the ex-jocks there. Some stories were swapped, lies were told, and memories dug up, turned over and reburied. It was fun, but it was weird, too.
One thing I really noticed is these people are much SHORTER than I remember. Now, I know I've lost an inch or two in vertical measurement over the last 40 years, but I remember some of these people, like Clyde and David, as having a couple of inches on me. Not anymore... And the girls? Wow, yeah, really? 5'1" or so? Really? I remember 5'6" or better... Ah, well, memory is a tricky thing...
I'm pretty happy with our stage in life, our own business, one that's relatively successful, and we're doing what we want to do. Now, Heather figured things would be a pissing contest, my career is better'n' yours, that sort of thing. That turned out to have a twist on it. It became "I'm retired, you aren't!" Wow, again. Well, I'm not retiring anytime soon, so, ya'll have fun in Mexico. Then, with further conversation, some "retirements" turned into unemployment/forced retirement. Yeah, you're living off of your retirement accounts, but you weren't exactly planning on starting drawing down those accounts when you were 58, were you? Well, I guess I can't talk, the tattered remnants of our retirement money went into starting this business, and I wasn't planning on taking this on full time until next year, not two years ago, so Plan A didn't work out for us, either. It's funny, too, how many people are self employed amongst that number, many of them in the same boat that we are. Had a job, started a side business for fun and play money, lost the job, now the fun business has to support the whole enchilada. It's not fun, when it becomes a necessity.
We had to miss the main reunion party/dinner on Saturday night, we had a wedding to shoot, but went to the Sunday picnic to hang out with the old folks some more. A few more people were there than were at Kaminsky's, some I wanted to see, so that worked out. One of the disappointments were the number of people I wanted to see who weren't there, like Rich Plunkett, my best friend in high school, now living in Pennsylvania, a couple of old girlfriends, who are now out of state, too. (divorced, too, and remarried...) But, Jackie Grey was there, and that was nice. Had a crush on her for years, and then we got to be pretty good friends after college. She used to work at North Coast Tarpaulin, where I got all the covers for all of my cars, over the years, until the closed up shop a while back. Now she's doing ceramics and selling them. One more hobby turned day job...
Another sobering thing was the number of people who weren't there because they had died over the last 40 years. Having just lost my oldest best friend, Nick Musulman, in May, that was a bit shaking. His death slapped me with my own mortality, but then the number of my former classmates who were no longer with us kind of had mortality picking up a baseball bat and pummeling me with it. You never think of yourself as vulnerable, although, if confronted, you will acknowledge that you fall somewhat short of immortal. Yeah, you're gonna die, just not in the near future. Don't count on that, buckaroo...make sure that what you're doing is what you want people to remember you doing, and make sure the people you're doing it with are the ones you want to do it with. I've re-established some old friendships that I'd let go fallow, and worked at strengthening the ones I have. I feel that's the best testimonial to those who went before me, and went before their time. I'm also trying to get new ones going with old acquaintances, like Patty Briscoe, who's a photographer, too, and with Clyde. We'll see.
Like Mickey Mantle said, "If I knew I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself," I feel like, I knew I was going to live this long, I just didn't realize how much maintenance I was going to take to get here, much less beyond. One more thing to start working on, seriously.
Ah, well, enough of this, I'm starting to feel old. And, God knows, that's not where I want to go, not now, not ever. I'm no Peter Pan, who never grew up, but I'm no Methuselah, either! G'night, yall!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weston has passed on...

He was our rock...

He was a hero...

He was a clown...

He was a family man... (Weston and his girl, Tessa)

And Cover Boy.

Our most amazing Dalmatian, Weston, has moved on. He was an anchor for this family. We're pretty devastated. I've taken it far harder than I had any reason to expect.
Weston was a member of our family for 14 years. 14 years that are pretty undescribable. It sounds silly, but Heather and I, and Shadowcatcher Imagery, would not be who we are, had he not chosen us as his people. He was our anger management counselor, dispute arbitor, class clown and photo model. He was Shadowcatcher Imagery's office manager, making sure we took time off, remembered to quit work to eat, sleep, play.
He helped Heather through some of her very toughest times, she literally would not be doing what she does without him showing her how. One time, Heather was taking photos of him in a Dalmatian Halloween mask. She couldn't get the light right to show his eyes through the eye holes of the mask. He huffed, stood up, turned around and pointed his face at the light, in precisely the right place to get the the lighting correct! He knew that it felt like when Heather had it right, and found that the studio and in her heart.
He was an old soul, but pretty new at being a dog. If you threw him a ball, he'd try to catch it with his paws, not his mouth. He'd try to investigate everything. If you were hurt, he'd have to check it out. (Tears are rolling down my face as I write this next part.) He loved food, but he especially loved dairy products. He'd wait, every morning, for me to finish my bowl of cereal, so he could have the left over milk. Sometimes, he'd be upstairs, and not know I'd eaten. When he came down, he looked at the bowl on the floor, like it had appeared by magic. It killed me this morning, when I set the bowl aside but he didn't come in for it... He could hear you peal a banana from the other room, and knew he was going to get that last little bit at the bottom end.
He hated to have anything disturb his wa, a Japanese term for harmony, peace and balance. If I spoke too sharply, even to the football game on TV, he'd jump up in the chair or couch and press the side of his snout against my mouth, as if to say, "SHHHH!" He also disliked profanity, if any one dropped the "F" bomb, he'd jump up on them and try to lick their face, tail wagging furiously. He wanted everybody to be happy and calm.
All of these things started to change a couple of years ago. He had a cancerous tumor removed then, and the lethargy that had resulted from his illness lifted, for a while. But, then he stopped jumping up on the couch, and had to be lifted, at least his back legs. We always took him to McDonalds for an ice cream cone on his birthday, but this year, and the last couple, we had to lift him up into the Durango. This year, he didn't even want to sit up and look out the window as we drove. He was having trouble getting outside to do his business, sometimes waiting until too late and having an accident. Then he started to have trouble just getting up out of his bed in the office, even to come in to get the "magic bowl." When we left the house for hours at a time to work a wedding, we'd worry that he'd not be there when we got home. One night, after a wedding, we came home to find him fallen down and trapped under the dining room table. Who knows how long he'd been stuck there. The last few weeks, we had to lift him out of bed, carry him down the stairs and outside, and he cried, quietly, in pain all the time. We knew, then, it was time to let him go, but we selfishly couldn't bring ourselves to do so, until the last few days. He just laid in his bed in the office, not even wanting to move. It was time...
It's hard to put down here all the things he did that made him such a part of our lives. Things like bumping his head on tables, because the concept of "up" was a tad foreign to him. Hunting for cats out the car window, not out of malice, just purely for fun. How he knew someone was going to Starbucks, even though we were careful not to mention the name, and how irritated he was when that someone returned without any whipped cream for him. How he'd want to be part of any photoshoot that was going on, sometimes just walking in and setting down in front of the camera and the lights. How he wanted to dominate the agility field, and whined every time we passed the site. How he responded to the applause, wherever he went. He loved attention, but was free in giving it out, too.
To say that he'll be missed would be to say he's gone, but he's always going to be in our hearts, forever.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Friend and her Baby, Alisa and Alex

Wow, how time flies! I shot these more than 5 years ago, and never did anything with them. With starting up our wedding photography business, keeping it going and growing and a plethora of other lame excuses, these just sat on my hard drive, untouched. Alisa contacted me the other day, asking what I ever did with them. She might have been prompted by her daughter, Alex, starting kindergarten… Kindergarten… When I shot these, Alex could barely hold her head up. Now, she’s starting school… To take this long to deliver a project is inexcusable, but there it is. That being said, there are a lot of images that I’m rather proud of, and I’d like to share some of them.

This is the first image we took. Off to a pretty good start. Alisa and I worked together a lot as photographer and model, so she knew from the beginning what to do. Alex...well, Alex is a little cutie, just like her mom, but, after all, this is her first time in front of a camera!

Alisa always had this "look" she'd give me, and the camera, when we worked together. A little dip of the head, a little knowing look in her eyes. It was, and is, very effective.
I feel like this one conveys the feeling of peace and tranquility that Alisa felt as a mom.

And that "look" again, this time with a smile. I hope that Alex continues on to be the strong, centered woman that her mother has become.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fashion On Broadway!

Recently, I was invited to shoot a fashion show at On Broadway by my friend, Lilli Garcia. It's a little out of the usual for my photography, even though I did shoot Fashion Week in Escondido for Studio 158 the last couple of years. It was a fun night, and I met a couple cool new models...

This is one of the models I made connections with, Yulia. She really knows how to work a runway!

Little bit of a booty shake! Seems to have impressed one guy, anyway!

Yulia, again, workin' those abs!

I don't know this girl's name, but she sure knew where the cameras were!

Yulia again, and another photog. I've worked with Eddie at a couple of weddings, he does video.
All in all, a cool evening and event. I'll probably be doing more of them, in the future...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Car GM Shouldn't Have Stopped Building...

One of the things I do is take photos for a car dealership’s website, Paradise Chevrolet Cadillac in Temecula. It’s pretty fun, I get to sample a wide variety of cars. Some of them are pretty mundane, like the Chevy delivery van I shot a couple of months ago, but some of them are pretty hot, like the bright metallic orange ‘Vette from last week.
But one of them really stuck out in my mind a couple of weeks ago, partly because it’s a huge example of what might have been. What might have been, if the American economy hadn’t bottomed out a couple of years ago, what might have been if the American auto companies hadn’t so thoroughly lost sight of what made them great, and, most tearingly, what might have been if the American public hadn’t equally lost faith, justifiably, in those American auto companies, particularly General Motors. That car is pictured below, the late, lamented Pontiac G8. It came in three iterations, the base G8, with a certainly adequate 256hp V6, the GT, in the photos, with a 361hp small block V8 and a late introduction, the 415hp V8 GXP. The latter was compared, favorably, to the previous generation BMW M5 by several frontline auto publications.

It was a funny synchronicity that I was working with both the G8 and a Dodge Charger R/T on the same day, since the two cars were aimed at similar customers. They were even the same color, inside and out, white over black!
Now the Charger has been a huge sales success for Mopar, from the day of its introduction to the present day, selling nearly 100,000 copies each year, until the recession year of 2009, when it still managed to sell 60,000. It’s big, it’s fast, and it looks very much the part of the Great American Muscle Car.
The Pontiac, though, was an entirely different matter. Introduced just as the economic meltdown commenced, coupled with skyrocketing fuel costs, in 2008, it sold just 13,000 units its first year, barely a good month for the Charger, and only 30,000 units total for the two years it was in production. It was a victim not only of a downward spiraling economy matched by upward spiraling gas prices, but also GM’s loss of interest in maintaining the Pontiac brand and the public’s absolute loss of interest in any of GM’s products, other than Cadillac and Corvette. The car also seems to be aimed at a different customer than the Dodge. Built in Australia, it exudes a distinct European vibe, rather than being purely and unmistakably American, like the Dodge. As can be seen in the photos, it’s slightly smaller, looks a little more, ahem, delicate and not nearly as muscular. Its seats are more firm, the seating position is lower and the instrument panel is very evocative of the German brands.

The Pontiac, while very attractive, doesn’t have the muscularity of the Dodge. The flared fenders and side vent/repeater lights are very European in style, as is the front splitter. The only nod to its American brand are the fake hood scoops, harking back to the GTO of the ‘60s. It even has a slight kink in the rear side window, a la BMW.

The split grille and canted headlights evoke BMW in a big way, with the fender flares making it look like an M type from that manufacturer.

The steering wheel is distinctly American, but the seats could come from any mid level German car. They are not particularly supportive, however, but very adjustable.

The engine cover styling could come directly from an Audi S5. As motors go, the 361hp engine is very stout, moving the nearly 4000lb car quite briskly. The engine note, however, isn't that classic V8 rumble, sounding somewhere between a V6 bark and a flat crank Ferrari V8 wail. Not bad, just not what is expected.

The Charger, in contrast, looks much bigger, although it’s only 4 inches longer than the G8, overall.

Far more menacing, from this angle, than the slightly effete Pontiac. Seeing this looming in your rearview would encourage an immediate move to the right…

Very American design for the interior, and considerably lower quality materials than the Pontiac. Seats are very supportive, however, but a little less firm than the G8’s. The Alcantara seat centers help keep the driver’s and passenger’s derrieres firmly situated.

The Dodge's engine room. A very slight Mercedes look to the engine cover, but, overall not as styled as the Pontiac's space. While it gives away some 20 hp to the G8, it still moves in an authoritive manner, and sounds more like a classic American v8, with a deep throated rumble, even at idle.
Overall, although I like the Charger, the Pontiac G8 appeals to me more. Admittedly, I'm rather Eurocentric when it comes to cars, but the G8 seems to me to be put together better than the Dodge, its materials are of a higher quality and its styling, while derivative in its European flair, is a little fresher. It also seems more lightfooted, cornering more precisely with more feedback from the steering. Throttle response seems a bit more brisk, too.
So, given that it's a big car with obvious Euro influences, and never sold nearly as well as its rivals, why do I think it's a car that GM should still build? Well it's this. American tastes are changing, becoming more like those of the rest of the world. Ford, for instance, is realizing that they have marvelous cars being sold in other parts of the world that would sell well here. Americans, since they've become customers of companies that don't sell that classic American car, are more willing to look at cars from American manufacturers that also aren't classically American. The next generation Charger looks to be a bit more sleek than its predecessor, and with the Italian sensibilities of Chrysler's new owners, Fiat, there very well may be a change in the look of the whole line. Lord knows, it couldn't get any worse than it did under German ownership, or the way it was adrift under Cereberus. Sure, the Charger and Chrysler 300 were built under Mercedes guidance, but so were the Caliber and second generation Durango, the latter of which should serve as a case point in merchandise design classes on how to kill a viable brand.
The G8 was well built, well designed and had very good performance. Additionally, with all that performance, it was relatively economical. A comparison of the G8 GT, with its 361hp V8 to the Audi S5, with a 368hp V8, is telling. The Pontiac, selling for about $30,000, had similar accelleration and handling numbers, but got 26mpg highway, compared to barely 20 for the Audi. I think that, given people's increased faith in GM's survival, and increased interest in their products, the G8, or a similar car under another badge, would be a viable product.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The First Shadowcatcher Imagery Photo Safari!

Last week, I went out with our lovely and talented Shadowcatcher Assistants on a little photo safari. We all wanted to get a little shooting time in that didn't involve having to do things other people want us to. Also, I wanted to introduce our newest assistant to Canon cameras, since she shoots with Olympus gear. I also wanted to give us all time to just have fun and get better acquainted away from the hustle of weddings and studio shoots. I think we really succeeded in that, and I know we really had fun!

Our newest assistant, Cindy, cradling one of our Canon cameras. She's used to shooting with her Olympus E-510, so this was an opportunity for her to get familiar with the controls and ergonomics of Canon DSLRs. She caught on really quickly, but I expected her to. She's an incredibly talented photographer, even though she's just a relative newbie to photography.

This is another of our assistants, Theresia. We were having fun, getting "Arty" around these roots. Cindy set up this shot, and I just said, "Theresia, over here!" to get this one. Cindy's is much better composed, really.
Theresia is leaving us, temporarily, the end of August, to go to England to complete her Master's in Photography at the University of South Lancastershire. We'll miss her a lot around Shadowcatcher Imagery. She's not only a very talented photographer, but she's become Heather's right hand girl in the studio, for Boudoir and Glamour shoots. But she's promised to come back to us in a year, when she's done with England!

Just a portrait of Cindy, looking regal...

Theresia, languid on a railing.

A shot of Cindy that Theresia set up.

A shot of Theresia getting the shot of Cindy... T is going to hate me for putting this one up, but I couldn't resist! After all, people have to see what we go through to "get the shot," don't they?

Cindy, getting artistic with Theresia. These roots in Balboa Park have endless possibilities!

Gotta check the results!

This is our third assistant, Veronica. She was camera shy all day, I had to sneak this one late in the session. She's also an incredibly talented photographer in her own right, with a degree in Photography from Arizona State. Later, I caught her lying down under that bush with the white flowers, shooting up through one of the blooms with the light behind. Can't wait to see how that one came out...

Last shot of the night, Cindy was nice enough to take a break from being a photographer to act as a model for me, too.
So, all in all, we had a great time, learned some new stuff, and got to know each other a little better. We're going to do more of these little jaunts over the next couple of months, and I'll have some of their work to post, too. So stay tuned!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dominic Musulman November 13, 1952 to May 31, 2010

56 years. I'd known Nick for 56 years. 56 years, 10 days, to be more precise. We met on my first birthday, which would have been May 21, 1954. I've known him longer than I've known anyone else, and longer than even his brothers and sisters. And, this morning, he died. At his desk, at work, but alone on a holiday. He'd come in to meet with a client, and only expected to be at work for a little time.
It's impossible to explain the impact Nick had on my life. He was "Uncle Nick" to my daughter, friend and confidant to my wife. He was the big brother I never had, as an only child. I often reminded him that he was older than I, by a rollicking six months. He got me through some of the toughest times I had in college, introduced me to a lot of obscure music, and, through conversations late at night and early in the morning, helped form my thoughts. Without him, I don't know who I'd be.
Too, we helped him through some, but not nearly all, of the tough times in his life. I talked him into coming back to California after a stint on the East Coast. He slept on our couch, babysat our daughter, changed her diapers in the wee hours of the morning, so we could get some much needed sleep.
Nick had the ability to make all around him comfortable, feeling like they'd known him for years. I have a photo of him and another friend, Jay Wiestling, sitting on recliners on the tailgate of a moving truck, beers in hand, laughing at some long forgotten joke. He and Jay had just met, but got along as if they'd grown up together. Nick was like that. All of my closest friends who met him remember him vividly, and all have at least one story to tell about being around him.
He hated to disappoint. If anything, I think this led to him disappearing from time to time. He would commit to being someplace, or promise to call, or some such thing. When he was prevented from doing so, he'd drop from sight, only to reappear sometime later. Sometimes in an entirely different place. He "had the bear in him," as my wife says. The need to wander, to explore, to not repeat an experience. I sometimes think he was born in the wrong era. He needed to be in a time where men lived closer to the earth, when having a "job" wasn't necessary to earn a living. He'd have been an itinerate handyman, or wandering peddlar or something that would bring him into contact with a wide variety of people and experiences. Staying in one place was foreign to him for many years.
Recently, he'd married, for the second time, and had his first child, a daughter he called his "little miracle." He seemed to have found the place and time in which he wanted to be. We just wish he'd stayed a little longer...
He will be missed. This gives Memorial day a whole new meaning to me and mine.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It's Tough Being Me, Part II

At least that's what a friend of mine said, while he was picking up the disc of shots I did of his black Ducati. That was because, right then, he saw all three of the above models came out from getting their hair and makeup done so we could work with them at Cruisin' Grand in Escondido. Heather and I thought it would be fun to have four models out on the loose with a bunch of classic American Hot Rods, Muscle Cars and other classics. One of the girls we had originally enlisted, Erica, fell and broke her leg two days before the adventure, so we soldiered on with the three ladies you see in the photo, from left to right, Melissa, Nicole and Alyssa. The car is a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biaritz Convertible, an awesome piece of American luxury, owned by our friends, Dan and Eileen. By the way, Erica was seriously bummed, but not seriously hurt. We're going to do another one of these Cruisin' Grand shoots when she's better.

Here's Nicole and Melissa, strolling down Grand Avenue from Studio 158, where the stylists did a great job of getting our three girls ready!

Melissa with a 1956 Chevrolet 210. We just had to photograph her with this car, her tube top and the car matched so well! By the way, my Dad had one exactly like this, back then, even the same color.

Nicole with her dream car, a red 1967 Mustang. I met Nicole last year at Fashion Week Escondido, where she was a runway model. This is the first time I've had an opportunity to work with her one on one, and you can bet it won't be the last! She was great!

Here's Alyssa and Nicole with a street mime. I just couldn't resist...and neither could they!

Alyssa with a '56 Chevy BelAir Convertible. Her Fables by Barrie Romper was the perfect match for the red and white classic!

They've got legs! Melissa and Alyssa, looking like an ad for tires in a '50s Hot Rod magazine!

No, she's not in trouble... she's just posing with a '30s California Highway Patrol car. Cool, huh?

Back at the Cadillac, Nicole in the driver's seat!

And Alyssa out front of the Caddy as the sun goes down.
It was a really great day, and I got to work with three incredible, and beautiful, models. Melissa, I've worked with a lot, and we really connect. Nicole, I'd met before, but, like I said, it's the first time we've really worked together. She's bright, open and fun, and we'll be shooting again in the near future. Alyssa worked mostly with Heather this day, but I really enjoyed the time we spent working with each other, and we're all planning another shoot, maybe more fashion/pinup oriented, next time.
Like my friend said, "It's tough being me!"

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Shoot with Another Old Friend

A while back, I had another great shoot with an old friend, Brooke. Her last name is the same as mine, Middleton, thus we sometimes refer to each other as "cuz!" She's a fun one to work with, and up for just about anything. We once did a shoot in a salt encrusted abandoned trailer out at the Salton Sea. We got some memorable images from that day, I promise.

She can get truly dramatic, if needed. She really got into working with this guitar, too.

A girl like this, pinup becomes inevitable. And green with red hair is just as de rigeur.

Everbody loves this pose, both models and photographers. Everybody wants to either do it or photograph it!
I also, later, did a shoot with Brooke and her adorable son, Dallas. I'll have images from that up in a week or so, so stay tuned!