A couple weeks ago I made my way out to New York City for a few days of big-city inspiration. No real agenda, which was a change from most of my trips there. I was tagging along with my lovely partner Shelly while she attended the 99% conference (another great source for inspiration). So, with no true expectations, I packed a suitcase and head east.
Things pan out nicely once we arrive. I find that my pal Chase Jarvis is there for the conference and my very close friend Eric is breezing through town to oversee a [very cool] Target project at Grand Central Station. Always special to run into good friends while traveling. Of course, dinner and drinks were had.
I like to walk in big cities. I feel it’s the only real way to connect with the vibe. I’m only estimating, but I’m sure I logged nearly 20 miles on foot over four days. Of course I carried cameras along the way.
I passed by street artist JR’s Inside Out Project taking shape in Time Square. This is a fantastic project with its roots in the 2011 TED conference. If you are not familiar with the work JR does, take a few minutes to watch his 2011 TED Prize talk. Yes, art can change the world.
Of course while in Time Square it’s inevitable to run across all manner of people trying to grab their 15 minutes. Singing naked cowgirls, body painted, uh, fairies(?), and a handful of fuzzy characters (that are likely not employed by the studios that own rights to the likeness).
NYC remains one of the most inspiring American cities I visit. It just never disappoints.
All photos © Gary Allard / GaryAllard.com
It took me long enough. I’ve lived in San Diego for nearly twenty years now and it was just a couple of weeks ago that I made the trip out to the Salton Sea. I know I’m late to the party. Many previous photographers had the chance to document the history and now long-gone structures from the landscape before me. It was still a very worthy trip and I was able to document my version of the region’s sinister beauty.
We arrived at the north shore mid morning under a mix of milky clouds and blue skies. The air was still with a briny aromatic edge. The seashore was silent, the way the desert can be deafeningly quiet. Save for the many varieties of water foul, no one made much of a sound.
After leaving the North Shore area, we travel the 30 plus miles south to a little town called Niland – home to Slab City and the world renown Salvation Mountain (made recently popular by an appearance in Into the Wild). Yet another place I’d never been and has been photographed to the brink of oblivion. I can’t quite describe how oddly fascinating this place is. The stories, myths, and plain weirdness are legendary. It’s all Dr. Suess and Wizard of Oz built out of wood and adobe and painted with hundreds of gallons of paint (much of it likely lead-based). This is the work of Leonard Knight and his lifelong passion for God and the Holy Bible. I am not a religious person but I couldn’t help but feel inspired by Knight’s commitment here.
And, if you want to volunteer to be the “innkeeper” and help maintain Salvation Mountain over the summer, that position is open – Airstream living quarters included.
All photos © 2013 Gary Allard
Once in a while I find some oddball photos in my camera. Misfires from fumbling fingers. Happens to everyone. It’s rare that I get 30 at once. That’s what I found on my Lumix GX1 when uploading the card recently.
It was Fat Tuesday downtown and I was mingling with creatives at the Float bar in the Hard Rock Hotel. I’d been shooting off the roof down into the Mardi Gras action then slung my little camera to my shoulder. Now I was mingling like a champ, cocktail in one hand with my the other oh-so-casually hooked around my camera strap – snugly against the shutter button – click, click, clicking away at all manner of random stuff.
So with a Bob Ross attitude I decided instead of trashing the files, I’d see what I could do with them. That “Happy accidents” thing. Above are a few of the originals. Below is what I did by mashing them together and messing with some layer masks. Nothing too tricky but a fun diversion nonetheless.
Cheers, and happy Friday!
All photos © Gary Allard / GaryAllard.com
Travel and photography go hand in hand. No matter the level of photographer you are, chances are good you’ll want to document those golden moments when on vacation or visiting new places on the map. Whether you’re sharing them on Instagram, posting to Flickr or just showing your friends and family on the iPad, it all starts with the capture.
I’ve traveled all over this wonderful globe and I can guarantee I’ve had a camera on my side nearly 100% of my waking hours. My last trip to Europe in December found me walking around the Netherlands with no less than 4 cameras (and formats) hanging on my body, my bag pushing 12 pounds. That has changed. I now travel light. And I can also edit light and share more images on the fly.
To shoot exclusively in RAW format used to mean a lengthy editing process: capture, convert, edit, adjust, export, etc. Now I travel with an iPad, my Lumix GX1, a camera adapter kit, and a few crucial editing apps. It has saved me over 10 pounds of gear. Literally. No more MacBook, no more DSLR body and lenses, no more giant camera bags. Here are the details:
- Micro 4/3 Camera kit: With the popularity and amazing quality of the newer micro 4/3 platform, I don’t know why anyone would not own a version of this. Last year I picked up a Panasonic Lumix GX1 and once I gained the confidence in the quality that this camera delivers, I walked away from traveling with a full sized DSLR. The image quality and low-light ability rivals that of my pro Nikon DSLRs. This is one powerhouse of a compact system. I’ve got 2 lenses with a combined weight of 8.7 ounces. The body comes in just over 11 ounces. Compare that to my Nikon rig with a single 24-70 mm lens weighing in at a tick under 5 pounds.
- iPad 3: No doubt the iPad 3 has the most incredible resolution to date. It makes viewing and editing images a dream. It has better resolution and detail than my MacBook Pro and at a fraction of the size and weight. My 13″ Laptop with charger: 5.5 pounds. iPad with charger: 1 pound, 14 ounces. No brainer.
- Camera adapter: There are many versions of this available, mine has a port for an SD card, a mini SD, USB, and 3.5mm jack. That will get me access to the images on about 99% of my devices–including RAW format. It’s smaller than a Compact Flash reader and allows me to tether any camera with a USB cable straight into the Photos app.
- Editing Apps: There are a lot of photo editing apps out there. I have my favorites and chances are you do too. Once the images are dropped into the Photos app on my iPad, I have a world of options for editing. Are you an Instagram devotee? Go straight there and share the heck of your pics. Lately I’ve been in love with Snapseed. It’s a highly intuitive touch-to-edit app that has some pretty advanced features not found on many others out there. The photo below was shot on the GX1 and edited exclusively with Snapseed.
My travel photo workflow has been revolutionized in the past year. The more I discover the amazing capabilities of my tiny camera and the new apps that keep blowing my socks off, the more I want to go exclusively in this direction. I won’t of course. I can’t. There will always be a place for the full frame DSLR and the boatload of accessories and gadgets that go with shooting on a professional level. But when I’m off the clock, I will pick up the small bag. And my back with thank me for it.
Cheers, and happy (lightweight) travels!
All photos © 2013 Gary Allard Photography
I like to cook. While I’m certainly no chef, I’m decent at most tasks and know my way around a few culinary tricks in the kitchen. Cooking is something I have been doing for a long time and, most days, look forward to putting in quality time in the kitchen. Not long ago I was preparing a meal and I made a connection between what I do in the kitchen and what I do as a professional photographer.
There are many tasks and decisions flying at you when cooking (and I mean truly “cooking” – none of that microwave stuff) or working on a photo set. The fact that you can’t un-make a photo or un-cook a meal has a certain definitive charm that not many things in life share. Painters, architects, writers, designers, have the ability to massage and coerce their medium over time. With a great photo or a great meal, you’re done. For better or worse, it’s been made. Here are 5 things I have learned to love about both.
1) Defining creative direction: In the kitchen it starts with the raw ingredients. — the very base of the meal to come. With photography it’s the camera, the tools for greatness but little else. It takes a decisive step to make anything happen. A knowing approach that will define the outcome, or at least define the immediate direction. Sometimes simple, sometimes complex, both equally pleasing. You always need that first bold step toward your vision. Next, you’ll need some …
2) Planning: Once the creative direction is established (steak au poivre! Portrait of a cicerone looking like a rock star!) there needs to be a plan to make it happen. This is where I start from the end and work back to the present – envision what I want to create then determine if I have the resources. Do I have all of the ingredients? Are there time sensitive components? Am I confident that I have the skill to turn out the meal or the photo I want to make? It’s basic visualization. If I move throughout the process from the end to the beginning I get a pretty good idea for what needs to happen – and what pitfalls might lurk. Which leads me to …
3) Improvisation: In the kitchen or on a shoot things can change in an instant. Being quick on your feet or a very creative problem solver when the heat is on is a very valuable skill. Knowing how to improvise, substitute, or otherwise hack many situations confidently goes a long way in the kitchen and on set. You may have botched something but if no one is the wiser, is it really a problem? While I think the how you make something is important, the what you make is really the meat of the matter. Get the meal on the table before your guests starve. Which speaks to …
4) Timing: In the kitchen I’m basically managing 2 main things, timing and temperature, the rest is pretty straight forward. Cook your recipes to the proper temperature in a timely and efficient manner and you’re set. And trust me, that sounds a lot easier than it is. In photography, timing is what makes a good photo good. There’s a reason cameras have shutter speeds measured in thousandths of seconds. It matters. The difference of a single second in photographic terms can mean you either have a great photo or an empty frame. Which brings me to ….
5) Humility: Sometimes things just don’t work. The brilliant flavors or presentation that you envisioned (see #1) just fall flat. Maybe the vegetables went too long (see #4 above) or your sauce broke (refer to #3). Maybe you’re getting sour looks from your subject because the makeup artist said something that insulted her chihuahua. Who knows. Shit happens, but chances are good that you now know what and why it did. Congratulations, you’re now better at what you do.
Congratulations go out to my pal Scot Blair for being named Imbibe Magazine’s Beer Person of the Year in this month’s issue. I had the good fortune to shoot the portrait of Blair a little while back. This guy is one hard working bar owner/craft brewer. And, one of his bars happens to be 2 doors down from my studio space in University Heights. Needless to say it’s the unofficial “break room” for Gary Allard Photography. Cheers, Blair!
I’m recently back from a short trip to the Netherlands where I visited a couple cities I’ve never seen. I truly love wandering streets with a camera (or 4 in this case) and Leiden was the perfect place to do it. The city sits southwest of Amsterdam and is known mainly as a university town – the oldest, in fact. In 1575, Leiden became the first city in the Netherlands to have a university.
The winding canals of the Rhine are lined with 17th century homes, cafes, shops and of course the ubiquitous bicycles. There’s a calmness to this city that doesn’t exist in the neighboring Amsterdam. Even during the bustle of the afternoon commute, Leiden kept a cool confidence and comforting vibe that I have rarely experienced anywhere else.
I was sitting in a local bar with my friend on a late Thursday afternoon. The light was beautiful, drinks were cold, the room quiet. Our bartender pausing for a snack before the evening rush. It reminded of a great quote from one of my long time favorite books:
“I like bars just after they open in the evening. When the air inside is still cool and clean and everything is shiny. The first quiet drink of the evening in a quiet bar – that’s wonderful.”
– Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye
I very proud to announce that two of my photos have been selected to hang in a group exhibition hosted by APA | SD next week at Subtext Gallery (probably my favorite art space in town). The show is called Noir and is, you guessed it, based on the dark and sinister vibe from classic film noir movies.
This was a very fun project to shoot – the possibilities are endless for the theme. I sketched out a handful of ideas, some elaborate, some simple and gritty. When it came to choosing the images, it was the experimental and unexpected that I gravitated toward. Originally shooting in black and white film seemed like the way to go but when I saw how the city streetlights tinted and twisted the color, it really felt unique. By gelling my strobes to 3200K I ended up with the look you see here. Very little post production in color was needed and the overall effect is haunting and ethereal. Although one of my favorites, the photo here was not selected and two others will hang in the show (tune in next week to see those).
Please join me along with the other talented winners next Friday, November 16th, at Subtext Gallery in Little Italy. There will be 30 fantastic prints on display, live music, adult beverages, and a silent auction (maybe you’ll take one of my prints home?) to benefit Outside the Lens.
When: Next Friday, November 16, 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM (One night only!)
Where: Subtext Gallery, 2479 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, California 92101
All photos © Gary Allard, all rights reserved.
I won’t bore everyone here with how much I love my camera phone. It’s well documented here, here and here. This post is about how much I love my new waterproof case for my phone. I’ve taken it kayaking several times now and I pretty much love that I don’t worry about keeping the phone dry any longer. That paired with the ease of taking photos with the case on and I’m hooked. Up until recently I’ve only been dipping the phone into the ocean for some interesting angles of our paddling adventures. Last week I had the chance to test it out in a beautiful Palm Springs backyard pool which was more fun than I thought it could be. Below are four of my favorite shots, processed up with Instagram. Hit the bottom for a pic of the case and a short review.
The Lifeproof case is one of a few iPhone 4/4S cases available that makes your device completely waterproof. This has been something I have wanted for a long time now. I am one of those people that keeps my iPhone naked when on dry land but I do a lot of kayaking and other surf-&-sand-centric activities so when I saw this it fit the bill perfectly.
A few high points:
- Low profile: This case barely creates any extra bulk at all. It’s actually slimmer than a lot of regular cases.
- Ease of use: While some weatherproof cases restrict some features (like ringer toggle or headphone access) the Lifeproof let’s you have a fully functioning phone underwater. It even comes with a screw-in waterproof headphone jack so you can pair it with waterproof headphones for swimming.
- Quick installation: The front and back snap together and the bottom clip secures the shell and closes the charging port. This added function enables you to charge the phone without removing it from the case. Handy.
Some minor cons:
- Delicate O-ring: The very thin o-ring that creates the watertight seal is quite delicate and will sometimes pop out when taking the phone out of the case. It is easily pushed back in but this could introduce dust or debris which would compromise the seal.
- Touch pad vs. water temperature: While not a case-specific issue, I’ve noticed that sometimes as the phone hits the water it will open the zoom function on the screen. Also the touch pad is much less sensitive when underwater and sometimes the shutter button does not trigger. I have gotten used to using the + volume button shutter feature instead which gives me a better grip underwater as well.
- No lanyard hole: Just this small addition would help with peace of mind when multitasking on a kayak or sailboat. As it is, there is no way to clip the case to a ‘biner or lanyard. They do make an optional float but at $40 (and a LOT of bulk) I’d prefer to just not drop it in the first place.
So there it is. If you are in the market for a case that will keep you phone “life proof” check it out. If you’ve just upgraded the to the iPhone 5, word is the new case is in the works.
All photos © 2012 Gary Allard / GaryAllard.com