Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Copyrights be Damned

So when a good friend of yours asks for a Christmas card picture, what do you do? Well, if your friend happens to be over seven-feet tall, bald and covered with tattoos, your first response probably isn't going to be, "Let's recreate the poster for American Beauty." But that's what we decided to do.

Over the course of two afternoons we made the main shots, then I composited a bunch of rose petals into the background. After some more Photoshop work, Mike found himself floating through Kevin Spacey's midlife-dreams.

Now, to see if one of my printing companies will be able to make this up as a Christmas card. Hee-hee!

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

This Sunday makes one month with Kasey, our goofy English Shepherd. It's funny the changes that occur with a rescue dog. The first week and a half were like living with Lassie. This was a dog that was quiet, polite, wanted nothing more than to be petted and get a good meal.

As the days went on, and she became more comfortable with us and started to understand that we weren't going to drop her off in the middle of a field somewhere, she became bolder. Her actual personality began to surface.

Most of it is good. She's wonderful with people. Last week I brought her in to the church to see Suzette. At the same time a group of physically challenged individuals were finishing up their meeting, most of whom were using motorized wheelchairs. Kasey was amazing. She sat quietly while they approached. She even scooted forward so they could pat her on the head. Sometimes that patting was not so gentle, but Kasey was happy as could be.

This is the behavior that makes me think, "Gee, maybe she could be a therapy dog."

Then we take her on a walk and the Wild Child comes out.

It's obvious that she was never socialized to other dogs and animals, and that for a good amount of time she had to hunt for her own food. She doesn't know how to greet other dogs, and given half a chance she will sniff her way through a patch of grass in order to eat a worm or a snail.

But she's getting it. Slowly, with the help of wonderful trainers and a whole lot of effort on our part, she's starting to see that there's a big, wide world of fun out there. A world that if she is calm and behaves she can experience in full. All we have to do is take the time to introduce this world - and the proper manners for approaching it - to her slowly, one step at a time.

And while we do, she's more than welcome to crash on our bed. She's not going anywhere.

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's only fun if you don't have to live there

I was taking a walk after lunch along the waterfront, when I came across this old tree house. It was tucked in the back of a junkyard, next to the studio I was working in.

Aside from it's deeply forboding appearance, it made me wonder what it would be like to have to sleep in a makeshift house, high up in the three.

Would the wind blow through at night, sending in the rain along every crack in every board? Is there a sense of safety, perched above the rest of the world? Is it possible to be comfortable, when your world is reduced to the few scraps you can pull together to shelter yourself from the cold?

As a kid, I always wanted a tree house. Now, seeing this, I have to think twice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

You are so beautiful.....To me.....

To Jesi and Mark:

You may not know it, but your generosity tonight was very important to Suzette and I. We all know the economy is bad, but lately it has been very bad for both of us. Our chances of going out and seeing our friends have been few and far between.

Because of your generosity, you gave us a night out without worry. What an amazing gift that is.

Thank you both so much.

All our love,

- Zech and Suzette

Our Tax Dollars At Work

I wasn't sure what was happening when I heard the groan of a cherry-picker outside my bedroom window at 8:30 am. I certainly didn't expect to see a rough-and-ready young man in red shirt and suspenders changing our old street lights for new energy-efficient LED lights.

But there he was. They say the new lights will use 35% of the electricity of the old lights. Which I hope is true.

However it works out, it was an up-close and personal look at one of the people who keeps us warm and visible.

Viva electricidad!

Friday, October 29, 2010

There's you, there's me. Let's do this thing!

Hats off to Jesi and Marc!

I've known both of you longer than you've ve been together, and yet I am still proud as punch that you managed to hook up.

May you always listen to each other. May you cook when the other is tired. May you always find a new way to entertain the other, even when that entertainment consistests of the somebody trying to limbo just a little bit lower......

But mostly: My you always be in love.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Signs of the Season - Part 2

The wind comes off the waterfront like a dark knife, cutting even deeper through our clothes than the rain. While the big ships grind their way through Elliot Bay, the rest of us pull inward, hiding from the elements.

We know the cold. We know the wind, the relentless gray. We know the mist that drags the sky down to the ground, until it sits over us as a funeral cowl.

Wind, rain, sleet, fog: These are the things that define fall in the northwest.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Patches, Still No Pirates

Over the past three weeks, my grandfather has had cataract surgery on both eyes. So far, the difference has been striking. What used to be yellowish-gray is white again. Signs have words. People are more than indistinct blobs.

For someone who has spent most of their life making images, this is a very special thing, and I for one am very glad that we have the technology to do things like this.

Still, I think the patches would look better if they were made of black leather with a strap to keep them in place. Arr, matey!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Meet Kasey!

This is Kasey, a two-year old Australian Shepard mix, and the newest addition to the Johnson clan.

We rescued Kasey from the Seattle Humane Society. Like so many dogs brought to the pound, we have very little information on where she was before, other than the fact that she was brought in pregnant and severely underweight.

After weening her little brood (and subsequently being spayed), she was brought out into the adoption area, where we met her literally the second she was available.

From the moment I looked into the inquisitive brown eyes and felt her calm, curious nature, I knew this was the dog we were looking for.

Though it's been less than 12 hours since we've had her, she's already wormed her way into our hearts. She's incredibly quiet, happy to go in the car, very gentle with everybody (and animals) she meets, and all in all seems to be the perfect dog. This is not hyperbole, Suzette and I have spent most of today looking at each other and saying, "I've never had a dog like this."

There seems to be only two downsides to Kasey. One is that she sheds, and sheds a LOT. Thank goodness for the nice worker at PetSmart who turned us on to the FURminator, which is going to be a godsend for dealing with her long coat.

The only other issue? She seems to be camera shy.

That is going to change.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Signs of the Season - Part 1

When you come across a flatbed full of Halloween paraphernalia, it can only mean that October is in full swing and that fall is here.

Seeing these made me remember the times when my mom would take my sister and myself through the streets of Wallingford, going from house to house until we could barely lift our candy-laden plastic pumpkins.

I miss those times. I often think how much fun it would be to dress up as Batman, then traipse around the neighborhood begging for treats.

Now days, I fear I wouldn't get any treats, only jail time.


Monday, October 11, 2010

The Accoutrements of Beauty

Let's take a moment to think beyond "end use," to that very first impulse behind the urge to buy. What makes you want to purchase something? To give your money in return for a specific product, yes. But why that product? Why that moment to give away something you've worked hard for?

Often the answer is easy. Because it is necessary for survival: food; mortgage or rent; gas and electric bills so you can stay warm.

But why do we pay for stupid things? Products that nobody actually needs to live, but which may or may not inject a measure of satisfaction into one's daily life.

Pendelton makes a cologne. An artist creates an atomizer out of a dead sea urchin. They are both ways of making ourselves smell better. But why? This isn't the 18th century, when taking a bath was something you did on your wedding day, and rarely before or after. Indoor plumbing has made personal hygiene quick and easy.

Simply put, we want these products because somebody told us we want these products.

And isn't it amazing what happens when somebody tells us to do it? We start to feel an urge; a tingle; a deep-seated unrest that will not -- can not -- be filled until we possess the object in question.

That is why we buy these things, and it is the same reason why humans do so much of what we do.

Because somebody tells us we should.

And on that note: You should all hire me for your product pictures immediately. If you don't, that tingle you feel in the base of your skull will just get worse. Trust me.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Two Pies, No Waiting

Fall has blustered its way into the Pacific Northwest and that means only one thing. Pies!

My wife made two pies today, an amazing apple pie with the last of the apples from our yard, and a killer Shepard's Pie recipe by Gordon Ramsey.

A nice glass of hot chocolate, a good book, and some pie. That's what fall is about.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wallingford Traffic Circle

I am perfectly fine in having something "art-y" and fun be a centerpiece of a nearby traffic circle, but I'm honestly not sure what to make of this.

An old-school desk and chair left in the dirt? Why?

Is the whole point for it to sit in place, letting ivy and morning glory cover the furniture, eventually rotting to become a physical representation of the loss of public schools in Seattle?

Or did somebody get lazy and just dump some old furniture and skip town?

Monday, September 27, 2010

What's for Dinner?

In our case it happens to be pork tenderloin with an Indian-inspired spice rub, poblano peppers (for a tomatillo salsa) and fresh corn grilled in the husk.

Who's hungry?

A Brief Recital

I had my first recital today - on any instrument - since I was 15? 16? Earlier? Later? I have no idea. But it was certainly the first time I have played any music for people other than my friends and family since 98% Chimp broke up all those years ago.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how it went. I played two Estudios by Fernando Sor: (Op. 6, No. 1, and Op. 35, No. 22.) While I flubbed a few notes here and there - my inner metronome revs up anytime I get in front of an audience- I did feel that lovely spark that only live performance can bring you, a spark I haven't felt in a long, long time.

Nerves are a strange thing. Even though I'm more than happy to direct highly paid models through a day of tough location shooting without worrying much beyond when lunch is going to arrive, put me in front of a dozen beginning guitar students and tell me to play a couple of hundred-year-old guitar studies, and I start shaking like a leaf.

Still, it felt great to be performing again. And not just to say, "I'm sorry, Your Honor...."

Huge mega-thanks to Rosewood Guitar, and especially Jason Williams, my patient instructor, for not only hosting a lovely venue for us beginning guitarists, but for keeping classical guitar alive and vibrant in Seattle. They really do kick ass.

Photo (c) 2010 Suzette Johnson

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ghosts of Pioneer Square

There used to be so much life in Seattle's Pioneer Square. The crowds jumping from club to club, trying to catch all the great bands. Places to eat. Places to buy a cheap book, then kick back with an espresso and a self-satisfied smile. Pioneer Square was always a little dirty, but it was fun.

Now days things are changing. Stores which anchored the streets for decades are leaving. The clubs have become dangerous. You can still get something to eat, but there are far less choices, and the ones that are left just aren't very good.

There is so much history here, epochs of boom and bust, that one day it will rebuild itself and become the funky, gritty heart of a great city that it should be. Let's hope that happens soon, before we're left with nothing but the ghosts of what was.

Friday, September 24, 2010

These Are Some Serious Stones

I'm a bread-snob. I know that.

Lately, however, I've realized that every time a piping hot loaf comes off of my baking stones, I'm doing something more important than getting a wild-yeast fix. I'm saving money: cold, hard cash that can be used for such frivolities as gas for the car, or the electric bill. The little things.

What you see here are the stones I cook those cheap-but-oh-so-tasty loaves on. Simple, unglazed quarry tiles I bought six years ago at the Home Depot for fifty-cents each. They are a bit scorched....Okay, they are a lot scorched, but they are actually very clean and are so well tempered that they make bread that can only be described as having "awesome character".

[Here is some simple math: I usually buy my flour in 5-pound bags. (9 times out of 10, it's King Aurthur flour.) Depending on what is on sale at that moment, they cost anywhere $4 to $5.50 per bag. On average I get six to eight loaves out of each bag, including the extra flour needed to feed my starter. That means I'm paying anywhere from $0.50 to $0.91 per loaf, which kicks the average local grocery store's price of $3 per loaf in the butt.]

I'm going to buy a new set of tiles soon. Not because these aren't doing their job, but because I need pretty tiles to use as backgrounds for the bread book.

Still, these rough and tumble stones can sure turn out some beautiful bread. Like this:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Marmite....It's Not Just For Dinner

Marmite was a complete blast of a dog.

He knew we were just dog-sitting, but was more than happy to let us boss him around.

And at the end of the day, as Suzette and I think about getting a new dog, we both realize that no matter what dog comes into our lives, we're ready.

I just hope that the dog is ready for us.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Deep Inside Bread

Bread happens.

The Bread Book is happening.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Accept the Ghost Pepper

It's the Naga Jolokia pepper, also called the Ghost Pepper, the hottest pepper in the world!

Or is it?

Yes. It is.

On the Scoville raiting (a rating based on the amount of capsaicin, the primary chemical involved in making a pepper "hot"), tobasco sauce comes in at a moderate 3,500. Habeneros light it up at approximately 250,000. And the Naga Jolokia?

A little over one million Scovillle Heat Units.

I didn't even want to touch them with gloves on.

But I love the fact that some crazy S.O.B. is growing them, and about a million other types of peppers, too.

Thanks to Seattle Tilth for even existing, and here's to anybody who's crazy enough to try and grow something amazing wherever they may live.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Summer That Was - Part 1

When the thermometer hits 95 F, and water in the lake is reading 72 F, that is the time to jump.

This summer in the Pacific Northwest was short and brutally hot, but we managed to get some partying in. For example, this picture of Suzette jumping into Lake Retreat, WA.

"Ja Vole!", baby.

The Monkey is Watching You

It's true. There's always a monkey watching you. Is the monkey in the camera that tourist is holding? Is it the one strapped to the stoplight above your car? Is your monkey deep within yourself?

Find your monkey. Love your monkey.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

We planted. We picked. We ate.

We have a good sized garden in our new place. This is just a small sampling of what we pulled out. Potatoes for the next three months and some monster heads of red cabbage. And one lonely onion.

Next year, oh, boy, are we going to go wild on that garden.

Mmm....Real food......

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Great Family Vacation

It's hard to beat time spent with family and friends in a beautiful natural setting. Here is young Zack getting his first fishing lessons from his father David. It's a pretty cool moment, and I'm glad I was there.

You can see lots more Ross Lake, WA pictures here, on my Flickr site.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

You Never Know

One of my photo instructors once said, “You never know how important a picture will be. That simple snapshot you took on the way out could mean the world the somebody.”

That point was driven home recently. I wish it hadn't.

George Shangrow was an icon in the Seattle classical music scene. Director of Orchestra Seattle and The Seattle Chamber Singers, faculty member of the Seattle Conservatory of Music, musical director of of the University Christian Church, and host of a weekly classical radio program, “Live by George.” I personally knew George for over ten years, and held him in awe. I've played piano for most of my life, but knew that he could beat me in a piano playing contest with both hands tied behind his back. (He had a very talented nose, too.) But it was his personality that kept people coming back. He had a big laugh and a quick with that brought everybody closer, made them work just a little harder, enjoy the music just a little bit more.

Three weeks ago I was asked to photograph an event at the University Christian Church where George was conducting the choir. My focus was on the even itself, but I managed to get a couple of quick grab shots of George at the piano.

Less than a week later he was gone, taken much too early in a car crash.

I always wanted to do a grand portrait of George. Black and white, him sitting at the piano, his wild conductor hair carefully back-lit, the choir at attention behind him. I would imagine shooting it with my 4x5, taking hours before hand to perfectly light every detail. He was the type of personality that demanded no less.

But I'm glad I did turn the camera towards him that afternoon. It was the last time he conducted the UCC choir, and one of the last pictures of this talented man ever taken.

I wish the picture was better, but you never know.

I'll miss you George.

The memorial service for George Shangrow will be held on August 22 at 2:00 pm at the University Christian Church, 4731 15th Avenue NE.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Something New

Let's see. About a year ago I wrote a short but impassioned post about how I was a sucky blogger and was going to try really, really hard to post more . . .
but I didn't.

I didn't write anything for over a year. And I don't really have a good excuse. There have been lots of fun things going on. Great shoots. I moved. I've been hiking all over. Took up a (sort of) new instrument. You know, life.

But I've also paid the price for not being more connected, for not showing all the stupid (and the few not-so-stupid) things I do.

Photography is a funny business. After you've been in it a couple of years, you look around and realize that everybody around you is a great photographer. They all know the gear, the programs, how to set up lights and deal with make-up and craft services and producers and art directors. They all know how to do the job.

So when it comes down to hiring, it really comes down to how much they like you.

By nature I'm a pretty quiet guy. (For those of you reading this who know me, stop laughing. I can hear your cackles from my office.) I'm polite. I make the occasional witty bon mot. But by and large I like to focus on the job, do it with a smile and get out.

But there's a lot more to the job then that, and over this past year I forgot just how important it is.

Still, there's always room for something new, something completely off the beaten track. A new chance to reconnect, to deconstruct, to rebuild. So that's why the new look. And the renewed commitment to stay in touch.

But it's still the same ol' me.

Enjoy this recent picture taken at Ross Lake, WA. It's pretty.