2014: The Photo Asylum Year In Review

As 2014 comes to a close, I can't help but pause for a moment, take a deep breath, and reflect. Phew! Looking back, it's safe to say that 2014 was a unique year, and not because as a freelance artist, that's always the nature of the beast for me.

Nope, that's not it at all...

Rather, my path this past twelve months became somewhat uncharted territory because it marked the first time in over a decade (maybe longer!) I've been able to work full time at being a photo artist, commercial shooter, and filmmaker. This was the year I finally returned to having a career! And for that I thank my family and friends every day. I can do what I love to do again, and do it all the time...

So, with my accomplishments naturally on the rise due to my favorable circumstances, let's take a look at the highlights of what I managed to produce in 2014, when finally given the chance:

39th Mount Dora Art Festival - Walk Through Animation Video
When filmmaking resources, equipment, and subjects are scarce, animation makes a wonderful substitute. Even before I had enough gear to shoot full HD video, I could easily use still features on my DSLR cameras to create motion footage using time lapse and stop-motion techniques. Shooting one frame at a time, then stitching the sequences together in post-process editing. In lieu of actual commercial video clients, a lot of my motion projects this past year were animations.

This short was created by literally strapping a camera to my chest, setting it to expose one frame-per-second, and slowly walking all around the 39th Mount Dora Arts Festival during the first weekend in February. Add an HDR treatment and a music bed, and there you go!

The final footage is far from perfect, but considering this was my first try at the technique and I did it in one take, with no reshoots, I'm happy with the results. And I learned a tremendous amount to help me with future attempts using this technique.

Kareen Rashelle's Fairy Tale Photo Shoot - Behind The Scenes Video
Friend and fellow photographer Kareen Rashelle scheduled a Fairy Tale Photo Shoot this past spring with model Lisa Fuhr, and it seemed to me like the perfect opportunity to film a behind-the-scenes video for her. She agreed. Considering I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and no experience shooting a full-day video production, it was kind of crazy. But a wonderful experience...

And while I was under no real pressure to actually produce anything substantial, it was a chance to create and perfect my video production workflow, including storyboarding my shots and using all my video equipment: fluid tripod heads, camera cranes, pan sliders, and hand held shoulder rigs. Oh, and recording dual audio with my boom microphone and digital recorder system. All the motion and sound tools and skills I will need going forward.

Yep, there were a lot of mistakes. A lot of out-of-focus footage. A lot of camera shake. A lot of outtakes! But all-in-all, every bit a success. And the work did not stop at the end of the shooting day. Nope. I got to experience the, a'hem...fun of all that post-production and editing involves. Having dozens of pieces of footage just waiting to be assembled into something cohesive. Not to mention creating an entire music bed from scratch...

The video teaser released this summer is below. But we're not done yet. Kareen and I shot again this past November, and my final video is still in the works. Look for it in 2015.

Gallery - Vintage Camera Portraits
Online print sales of my older artwork were decent in 2014. One completely new direction my gallery work has taken this past year came from my decision to create Vintage Camera Portraits. This will eventually lead to a whole series of digital abstract still lifes, but for now I've started with really interesting old film cameras shot using a light tent, then cleaned up in photoshop (some with an added reflection) and the final images made to look very retro.

It's a really nice change of pace from anything of mine that involves shooting people (and that would include most of my work). I find it very relaxing to spend time editing my artwork alone at a computer, and this series is the perfect start to what will hopefully be a large collection of gallery images.

A pc screen shot showing some of my Vintage Camera Portrait series

A pc screen shot showing some of my Vintage Camera Portrait series

Gallery Exhibition - 2014 American Institute of Architects Expo Chicago
I was very fortunate to have a couple of really nice exhibition opportunities for my work in 2014. This was one of them. Earlier in the year, the American Society of Media Photographers put out a call for architectural photos from members to be shown as part of an ASMP exhibit at the 2014 AIA Expo in Chicago in June. My photo of Chicago's famous Rookery Staircase, shot during one of my trips there in 2003 (top middle, below), was accepted. A pleasure and a privilege to be included with such a strong group of photographers and images.

Time Lapse Video
Of course, I continued to shoot time lapse footage in 2014. Summer evenings here in Florida were perfect for scouting and setting up to shoot various locations around Lake County. It's usually time consuming, but the end results are fun. Much of my footage is fairly uneventful and will be used for stock or transitions in longer, more traditional videos. This one, however, I am particularly proud of. The futuristic and industrial-looking rooftop of the Tavares Florida Parking Garage shot at dusk. A lot of work for just a few seconds of final screen footage, but very cool to watch. You can expect this to be part of a longer video in the future.

ArtCenter South Florida 30th Anniversary Exhibition
My other showcase gallery show in 2014 was being part of ArtCenter South Florida's 30th Anniversary Exhibition at their Lincoln Road studios on Miami Beach. I had a photo studio in the Art Center from 1986 through 1997, with many many wondeful memories there, and as an alum was eligible to submit some pieces for this show.

I choose six sequential images from my Biscaya's Falling series (see below) depicting the 1987 demolition of the historic South Beach hotel. They were accepted.

The show opened on November 19th, and thankfully, I was able to make it down to Miami for the ArtCenter's Birthday Celebration November 22nd. It was a wonderful event that included spending time with dear old friends, making some new ones, and a whole lot of in between. Old memories and new ones colliding at warp speed. BTW, the show is still up at 924 Lincoln Road and continues through February 1, 2015.

Senior Photo Shoots and Wedding Shoots - Oh my!
Sometimes my photography is about semantics, especially when it comes to labeling how I create art and make money in this business. And while I am always professing that I do not shoot family portraits or weddings, or anything of that nature, I am almost always willing to take on what I would call a commissioned portrait for someone, if it feels right. Philosophically, to me there's a difference.

So yes, I did this a bit in 2014. I think these expceptions prove my rule. When friend Sherry Means approached me about photographing some senior shots for her beautiful daughter Hannah, of course I said yes.

Even though my fashion ideas were on the back burner for most of the year, I still treated my portraits, especially when it involves attractive women, the exact same way as I arrange a fashion shoot. I work with the client to style the looks a precise way, use professional hair and makeup artists (hair and makeup for Hannah's shoot was provided by Kristin Moulton), and scout locations to insure the scenery and light match the emotion and beauty of the subject.

Eustis, Florida High School senior Hannah Means in Eustis (left) and New Smyrna Beach (right).

Eustis, Florida High School senior Hannah Means in Eustis (left) and New Smyrna Beach (right).

Well, If you thought that senior portraits went against the grain for me, I also shot a wedding this past year! A wedding! Something I had sworn I would never do again. But James Bond taught me to never say never, and again a good friend, this time Maria (soon to be) Tuso approached me with a request for some very laid-back photos at a very laid-back home wedding, and the vibe was right, so I took the job...

And while a wonderful time was had by all, it was a powerful reminder that weddings were a market I have no immediate plans of being a part of... ;)

Friend Maria and lucky guy Larry tie the knot, and yes...I took pictures!

Friend Maria and lucky guy Larry tie the knot, and yes...I took pictures!

Miami - Wynwood
While my exhibiting with the ArtCenter South Florida in 2014 was a nice addition to my resumé and a warm experience, a major benefit was it gave me a wonderful reason to travel to Miami again. It's been five years since my last visit, and I specifically made it a point this time to check out and explore the Wynwood Arts District.

Wynwood is a former garment district, away from the beach and north of downtown. It's home to an amazing array of art galleries, restaurants, bars, and retail stores, as well as a tremendous collection of industrial street art on the walls and buildings throughout the neighborhood.

For me, ArtCenter South Florida represents my past, and Wynwood most defintely my future. I'll share my goals for 2015 in another post soon, but suffice to say, one of my main priorities in the coming year is to have my art shown and repped by a Wynwood gallery. I also cannot wait to begin work on fashion, music, and other assorted visual projects using the wild style graffiti of the district as a background.

I was so eager to investigate the look and vibe of the area, I spent one of my afternoons down there shooting with friend Jeff Selker's skateboarding son Tyler immersed in the artwork on the streets.

This from a series of time lapses, videos, and stills shot in Wynwood, Miami with skateboarder Tyler...

This from a series of time lapses, videos, and stills shot in Wynwood, Miami with skateboarder Tyler...

POSH Hair Salon and Makeup Studio - One Year Anniversary Celebration
I would be very remiss if I did not include this small, but significant party to my list of important accomplishments of 2014. The POSH Studio in Tavares, Florida, is owned and operated by friend Kristin Moulton, a makeup artist (and now hair stylist as well) whom I first had the pleasure of working with on a photo shoot (that eventually led to creating an award-winning cover for me and my team) for Lake & Sumter Style Magazine back in 2006.

A lot has happened since then, and we've taken very different paths, but 2014 finally saw us reconnect (see my senior shoot above). Her growth as an artist and busniess woman has been remarkable, and even with all the work and responsibilites that she now has, she still has expressed the desire to work with me on the side and be a part of my creative projects. Trust me, this is a team member I want to have for my photo and video shoots!

So, being invited and taking part in her studio's Anniversary party was very symbolic to me. It signified my support for her. Also the anticipation of exciting collaberations ahead with some very talented artists on the same wavelength when it comes to edgy, concept fashion and music shoots. Look for much of her work in my work in the coming year.

Talented hair and makeup artist Kristin Moulton (foreground blonde) plays Ringmaster at her POSH Anniversary party!

Talented hair and makeup artist Kristin Moulton (foreground blonde) plays Ringmaster at her POSH Anniversary party!

Misc - Magazine Staff Photographer
This is neither here nor there, but in 2014 I was offered the position of Staff Photographer at a regional magazine. It's the third time that's happened to me since I've moved up to Central Florida. Good money, too! More than I've ever made in one year.

For better or worse, I turned down this offer like I did the other two...

At the risk of sounding crazy, as with both of the previous two offers, I realized I simply do not have the time or ability to be away from my home out shooting on a full-time basis, which is what this type of job requires. The direction of my career I feel the most passionate about does not involve being completely consumed with shooting lifestyle stories and having no time whatsoever for anything else.

At my age, my career goals are more important than the extra money. That being said, of course the offer was very flattering...

Well, there you have it
A lot of ground covered, but then again, as I said in the opening, a lot of things accomplished in a full year of working!

I cannot express how thankful I am to all of you who have shown such unwavering support this past year. As I faced many challeneges throughout 2014 (including health and financial), often times it was this foundation of good will and support that motivated me to continue: to reach for higher goals, improve and add to my skills, network and reach out to many talented individuals to be a part of what I'm trying to accomplish. And it's obvious that effort is finally paying dividends. So thanks again! And check back here often to see what successes lie ahead in 2015!

As always, your comments and suggestions are more than welcome.