Creating my ‘brand’ and some Rock ‘n Roll for 2014.

2013 was a year of learning how to develop a freelance business. There are endless things to learn and do and I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Figuring out the business side, the in’s and out’s of insurance, taxes, accounting, building a website, creating estimates and billing has been daunting. Even more daunting is figuring out how to promote my name and work.. I’m incredibly fortunate that I have a lot of great friends and contacts who’ve generously shared time and hard-earned knowledge. I’m also lucky I have a body of work to start with.

I’ve always been goal oriented even if in an informal way. I’m not someone who makes New Year’s Resolutions. The problem with resolutions is that they’re always broken.  Goals are a good way to measure growth but not necessarily success or failure.  One goal I want to complete early this year is developing promotional material, both electronic and printed. It is so HARD!

I want to get the size, the paper and the printing just right.  But oh-so-much harder is selecting the images that will represent my personality and skill set as well as my future work aspirations. These photos will have to speak to art and creative directors. I want them to be something they keep and pin to a board, something that keeps my name in front of them.

I’m fortunate to know some of the very best creatives and graphic designers in the business and they’re right here in town.  This morning I met again with the wonderful Susan Dendy who designed my logo and business cards. She did a fantastic job on those and is designing my promo pieces to keep a consistent look and feel. We finalized most of the choices on printer, paper size and design. Now all I have to do is pick a handful of images to represent me. I had been anxious and a little stressed about making these choices until my wonderful wife reminded me that these won’t be the last ones I ever do and you can’t be all things to all people. Suddenly it became a bit easier.

Another nice surprise!

More than a year ago the wonderful people at Rock Paper Photo asked me to submit some of my classic concert photos for possible inclusion on their site.  They represent of the greatest concert photographers of the Rock and Roll era; people like Astrid Kirchherr, Deborah Feingold, Kevin Mazur, Baron Wolman and Henry Grossman.  Even being under consideration was enough to make me feel proud. After submitting the requested eight images they accepted those and asked for 40 more. I’m proud to say that I’m now represented by Rock Paper Photo and couldn’t be happier.

http://www.rockpaperphoto.com/art-meripol

From their site’s home page, here’s who they are…

“Rock Paper Photo is the definitive place to discover and collect iconic photography. With access that fans can only dream of, the photographers we represent have captured unforgettable moments and the legendary personalities who defined them.

We live to uncover rare and never-before-seen images, so you can collect them as beautiful Fine Art photographs. For those who never want the show to end, a Rock Photo Print is more than a unique and museum-quality piece of art – it lets you own the moment”.

They do extremely fine museum quality signed and framed prints. They also do all of the fine art printing for Rolling Stone Magazine. I hope you’ll check out my page on their site and the many greats there as well.

So, new promo pieces and new representation. Good start to the year.

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Willie Nelson at the first Farm Aid ConcertSept 22, 1985

Wrapping up 2013 and looking forward.

In two weeks it will have been a year since I was laid off at Southern Living Magazine. Not being clairvoyant I couldn’t have imagined this past year. I lost my job and only a couple weeks later our beloved dog Henry died at 14. There were other major stress points in life at that time. And now, a year in, I couldn’t be happier. We’ll miss Henry forever. But I have a new career freelancing, some great clients and we have two new canine family members sharing my day and office space.

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As much as it might have made me anxious for the future it wasn’t all that upsetting to be laid off. In fact there was s sense of relief. I’d been on the road for almost 25 years traveling every week. After 3 million air miles, some 3000 nights in hotels and who knows how many Hertz-Avis road miles I was tired…of the grind….of being physically banged up…of the constant motion…of being gone from home. No complaints though. For some 160 plus days and nights a year I was witness to the best the South has to offer. I worked in an office full of bright creative inventive hard-working curious passionate professionals. We all leaned on each other for help in work and support in life. There could be no better world for a creative to be immersed. 

Looking back now in life’s rear view mirror I have come to recognize what was likely the single best part of my career at the magazine. I traveled week-in and week-out meeting and photographed people with a real passion in their life. They were involved in their community, their art, their craft or business in a way that was inspirational to others and elevated lives around them. It was humbling to try to visually honor what they were doing, to share their life and their story with millions of readers.

I was fairly convinced that after being off the road for a few months I’d get a ‘jones‘ to go, the road would call me. After all, it was all I knew for almost half my life. Hasn’t happened. In fact I’m fighting the urge to be more and more reclusive.  I’m willing but love being home and in my own bed every night. I need to go see family in other states but don’t even want to contemplate getting on a plane.

The most wonderful thing about being laid off, besides being home of course, is that I discovered how many people around me respected me enough to assign me work.  There are no words to express how much their faith and support has meant to me.  Those first few shoots gave me hope that I could survive as a freelancer. I met new people, saw new places and made new friends all here in Birmingham, a town I never really got to know. 

I won’t list all of their names or publications but you have left me smiling more than I have in years. Thank you all. 

I want to share a few photos from the year. They may not be the ‘best’ or most visual but in some way they were significant to me. Learning to shoot for new publications, to shoot something other than ‘Travel Photography’ made me push harder to learn new ways of looking and lighting.  I wish I could say every effort was a success. I can say every one taught me something, whether it was a software technique, lighting or just dealing with life with patience and a smile.

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like shooting sparks in fog

My phone rang on Friday a week ago. A book publisher wanted to know if I could get to Colonial Williamsburg to shoot the annual Christmas Grand Illumination events that Sunday. After some back and forth about costs and logistics, needs and art direction it was all set. I would have to leave the next day, Saturday to be there  Sunday. I was already committed to two local shoots Saturday, one at 7am and another at 2:30. That left me very little to work with flight-wise. I got lucky and found one flight left that landed at Reagan in DC at midnight.

After a night’s restless sleep at an airport hotel I got up early and drove down to Williamsburg. The drive took a little longer since it was in the middle of a winter storm named Dion. I drove through rain, sleet and snow all the way. Fortunately on a Sunday with bad weather the traffic was light. unfortunately I was afraid all the events would be canceled after I got there. 

After checking into my hotel room and dressing in more layers than an onion I headed over to meet a PR person on site. It was still raining and  33 degrees. We met up and walked over to the site of the events. Last year they reportedly had some 45,000 people there for the annual event. The biggest attraction, what I was told way my ‘hero’ shot, was fireworks in front of the Governor’s Palace. There is a lovely green the size of a football field in front of the Palace where the crowd gathers early. Today it was a sloppy soggy mess. At least the fireworks weren’t canceled. 

With little to do and hours to go I needed to feel like I was accomplishing something. All the doors of Colonial Williamsburg were decorated with wreaths. So I started doing doorways and then tight square shots of the wreaths. It was still raining, still freezing. I shot 8-10 doorways and a few costumed interpreters along the way. Image

Tired now I found a covered place out of the rain to sit and wait. It was covered but open on all sides. As dark approached and people gathered for the events my little covered spot became “the” spot for some 80 more people, a few in revolutionary garb. I chatted with people who came every year from Maryland and Ohio. I also had  a woman chastise me for taking up too much room with my cameras and tripod. Oye!

After dark, still raining, things got going on a small stage in front of the Palace. There were fife and drum corps, bagpipers, choirs from William and Mary and other musicians. They were truly dedicated performers to play in freezing temps and rain. I don’t know how they managed to keep their fingers nimble enough to sound so amazing.  The big crowds of 2012 didn’t arrive. There weren’t more than a couple hundred people there, lit only by two baskets of burning wood on six foot poles and two small lights on the stage. Image

I had a great time shooting the stage and musicians. The light, low as it was had a magical quality to it. Finally it came time for the fireworks and my ‘hero’ or ‘money’ shot. I had the camera set on the tripod and ready. This fireworks show is really special since the bursts are so close to the ground and crowd, they feel like they’re really in your face unlike the higher soaring bursts at Fourth of July celebrations. The first burst was right in front of me in the courtyard of the Governor’s Palace and the smoke from it immediately obscured the scene and continued to hang in place as each successive fireworks went up. ImageI guess it was something about the weather, the rain and temps but the smoke just hung there. I was a little freaked. It was like shooting sparks in fog. I’d been wet and cold for hours and this was the money shot? Not knowing what else to do I continued to concentrate on just getting some nice bursts. ImageIt really was a pretty and special show but hard to enjoy for me. After it ended and the crowd began to fade into the night I decided to stay and wait for the smoke to fade away too. It took about 10 minutes. I shot a few frames without having moved the camera.Image

I hoped to get home and make it work with a little photoshop. I’m not a photoshop guru but I figured out how to take two different frames and combine them to best effect so I used my ‘smokeless’ shot and tried different versions of fireworks. I think I got away with it. And just maybe I even enjoyed it.

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The Duchess !

Just weeks after I left the magazine in January a good friend and former co-worker Morgan Murphy called and asked me if I’d consider shooting ‘a car’ for him. He explained this was a Top-Secret shoot, one that would be embargoed until he was ready to share it with the world. Morgan is a great collector and restorer of classic Cadillacs so I knew it would be a special car. But only after I was sworn to secrecy and agreed to do the shoot would he share the story of the car. 

The car is known as “the Duchess”. It’s a 1941, one-of-a-kind, custom built limousine made for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as England’s King Edward the VIII and Wallis Simpson were known after he abdicated the throne.  “The Duchess,” built in the Harley Earl era, is a fully unique, one-off commission by General Motors’ legendary leader for the cream of 1940s society. It’s ….

  • A one-of-one custom creation, designed for royalty
  • Built under the supervision of Alfred P. Sloan Jr., for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor
  • Dozens of completely bespoke features
  • A New York society mainstay for a decade

You can read it’s amazing story here. http://www.rmauctions.com/lots/lot.cfm?lot_id=1063841

The car will be sold in Manhattan by Sotheby’s in their Art of the Automobile auction November 21st

Morgan tracked this most famous of all Cadillac’s for several years before finding it. Then spent more years convincing the owner to sell it and yet more years and likely too many dollars lovingly giving it the restoration it deserved.  

Once Morgan told me what the car was my immediate concern was my lack of experience in shooting something like this. We talked about what he wanted in the way of images. He needed images for brochures, the web and for the eventual auction where he would sell it. I’m not a studio shooter but this needed to be done in a studio. Morgan had already found a local studio and rented it for the shoot. I agreed to do it figuring I could pull it off somehow.  We visited the studio, Leo Ticheli Productions and met with the great crew there. They were very supportive and suggested which lighting in the studio to include in our day-long shoot. I was fortunate they had a moveable overhead soft box as large as the car. One shot Morgan wanted to recreate was an historic view of the car parked on Fifth Avenue in NY in 1941. The softbox allowed me to recreate that lighting. 

A few weeks later we met early in the morning at the studio and got started. It was a fun long 10 hour shoot. I got my confidence as the day progressed. Leo came in off and on to see how things were going and was a huge help with lighting tips. Others came in out of curiosity, watched and left. Everyone who came in left deeply impressed by the car. And the more I shot the car the more impressed I became too. Morgan thought of so much. He had boxes of jewelry brought in to shoot in the jewelry cabinet in the back seat and pipes for the Dukes humidor. He even had a wonderful model come in to ‘be’ the Duchess. 

It’s been hard not to share the photos for the last eight plus months but Morgan just called and, with the listing in the auction the embargo has ended. He says the Associated Press is coming out with the story today. 

If you have a spare million or two you should head to the auction. You could drive off into history ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

catching my breath

Going freelance was never my plan. But some things aren’t planned. Now that I am freelance I’m pretty darn happy. It’s hard getting used to the roller coaster of too much to do and then very little and then suddenly busy again after so many years of just busy busy busy. I’ve slept more nights at home this year than in the past three or four and I’m loving it.  And Annie our dog is loving it too. 

I worried about where the work will come from and friends said not to worry, that I’ll do great. I deeply appreciated their confidence but had my own insecurities and doubts. But they have, so far and happily, been correct. The phone has sounded enough to keep me busy. I’ve made good inroads on making a living. Though I’ll always have fears and doubts I also know I’ll be ok. 

I’m especially happy to have had three different magazines use my work on their cover in the last three months. That’s been a very nice kick. Though I can’t expect that all the time I’m going to hope it happens again. 

I have a shoot for a favorite client this Saturday. It’s always good when they call back. Next week I’ll do my third shoot for another client. My work is on their current cover and hope I can get another for them on this shoot. 

I’ve had so much to learn and have learned so much…about creating new kinds of images and photographing things I haven’t, about promotion and about the business. I have done some studio work photographing Christmas packages, an historic car and beautiful hand-made violins. I’ve done a lot location portrait work and active shots of people working in the dark at 5am.

This week I joined Wonderful Machine and hope that exposure will help put my name in front of new clients. I just printed a second portfolio to accompany my main ‘book’. I still need to develop  promotional materials, both print and electronic. And I need to pay my county business taxes and renew my business license. It’s always something. 

 

Now if the phone would just ring  …

 

8 shots of a Backyard Spider

After walking Annie around the block every morning I usually spend a few minutes in the back yard letting her sniff around and chase chipmunks. For the last couple weeks we have had a spider stretching a web each evening across from our deck stairs to a nearby Hickory. At least twice my wife and I have done a face plant right into the web in the dark. There is something in our DNA that says that’s a bad thing. 

This morning as Annie was running around I notice the web was still up and our inch long spider was hanging around in the center of the 3 foot wide web.  As I looked over I watched a bee fly close and make a fatal left right into the lower part of the web. Our spider flashed across, grabbed the bee and began rolling it up in webbing. It was incredibly fast. I thought it might make an interesting photo so I grabbed the Canon 5D II and a 100 macro. I shot a few but the exposure was 60th at 2.8 at ISO 800.  There was nothing exactly ‘wrong’ with those shots but I knew that exposure would likely show a lot of camera motion and look ‘noisy’ or grainy, losing detail. I also knew there  was no way I could have the whole scene in focus. In addition it meant the background would be as bright as the foreground and distract from the spider. 

He was still working on his capture so I thought I had time to work on mine too. I went back inside and grabbed a Canon 580 EXII speed light and a Pocket Wizard remote trigger. That let me  move the flash around independent of the camera. I was immediately able to lower my ISO to 200, reducing the ‘noise’ in the photo and get more detail. I was also able to then change my aperture to 11 and 16 and get so much more of the drama in focus and finally my shutter speed moved from an unsteady 60th of a second.  I bounced around shutter speed between 100 and 250.  At 250 I didn’t have any background at all, just black behind the scene. I liked that fine but ended up slowing back down to 100th and trying several where I had sky areas behind the spider to give it a sense-of-place. Too much sky washed out the web so I experimented with angles there trying to add drama to the web. I did like the shot across the web surface but couldn’t work close enough for fear of entangling myself in the web. As it was Annie was so curious she kept bumping one edge making the web bounce.  

My first shots with flash were with it backlighting the scene. They were dramatic but didn’t give me the detail I wanted. I moved the flash several times experimenting with side angles and finally some directly above the scene from about 15 inches away. I probably could have done even more with a second light but I like blending one light with the natural light. 

See what you think. The first shot is without the flash. Nothing wrong there but I think the visual drama improved with the flash. I also think the naturalist might appreciate the better detail. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Second Site-my new web venture

I spent most of the 70’s and 80’s working as a photo journalist for newspapers. That kept me busy during the day and many nights. But any night I could I shot live music. I shot in Arenas and Auditoriums. I was lucky enough to shoot from on stage for UPI at the first Farm Aid Concert. I shot in many nice clubs and a few that kept an ambulance waiting in the parking lot, engine idling. 

That was all in the pre-digital film days of course. I shot mostly on Kodak Tri-X, a 400 speed black and white film. Many shooters then “pushed’ the film to higher speeds and compensated by overdeveloping. It was a great technique for many situations but I never liked the quality for concerts. I preferred losing some shots for the quality of the ones that worked. When i shot color it was usually Ektachrome 400 slide film. 

For years all that film languished in envelops in old photo paper boxes in my attic. Some years ago I came across the boxes and decided to ‘preserve’ the film by buying a Nikon CoolScan 5000 Digital scanner and scanning a few, whatever looked worthy. I had no clue how much work it would be, how time consuming and how fun. It was a trip back in time that served up long forgotten memories. And I was relatively happy with how decent some of it was. 

Many of the shows I worked with a writer who was doing a review. I was lucky enough to work with a couple incredibly talented guys who became my closest friends. Denny Angelle, who now lives in Houston, accompanied me to some awesome shows like Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever tour in 1980 and to a very strange interview and show with Leon Redbone. Denny introduced me to great Cajun and Zydeco musicians like Clifton Chenier in amazing clubs like Sparkle Paradise. He and I managed to hang out in the original Antones in Austin with Jimmy Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Denny still is my musical north pole. 

In 1983 I moved and my great friend Kelley Bass became my concert partner. Our first was an amazing show in Pine Bluff Arkansas with Kiss and Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics. Together we did big arena shows all through the Hair-Metal Spandex days of Motley Crue, Poison, Quiet Riot, Cinderella, Whitesnake et al. We did a number of wonderful club shows including Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells and Roy Buchanan. Kelley is now CEO of the Arkansas Museum of Discovery, a fabulous facility in LIttle Rock Arkansas.

Eventually i moved again and the new job as a travel photographer just didn’t leave room to shoot concerts any more. Since then the world has revolved several times, cameras went digital and music changed and changed again and again. Those bands I shot came and went and many came back. Stars have emerged and some have passed on. But I loved them all when shooting. So many of the shows were great spectacle, the music so rich. 

Last week I finally put together and launched a new website to show and share my concert images. There’s everything from AC DC to ZZ Top with Minnie Pearl in the middle. It has the expected rock bands but also Jazz, Country, Blues…lot’s of bands and musicians. There’s still more to scan one day soon. Some forgotten one hit bands like Mr. Mister and others that are icons like George Jones, The Judds, Ray Charles and Doc Watson. 

If you’re looking for a great gift for a music fan, try a big print from my site. I’d appreciate it. For media I offer rights managed use as well.

oldschoolconcerts.photoshelter.com