Rural Italy

We just finished an incredible 10 days in Italy where a client hired me to photograph their annual incentive trip for their top salespeople.  I brought Julie and Reagan, of course and extended our trip for several days after the job was done.  The first 6 nights were in the Waldorf Astoria’s Rome Cavalieri on a hill overlooking the city; simply breathtaking!!  I’ll be posting the usual images of Rome as well as Sorrento and Positano on the Amalfi Coast but, first, I decided to post images that are NOT the normal vacation photos.

I love to photograph old abandoned buildings and Italy has no shortage of subject matter.  I chose to rent a car to drive from Rome down to Sorrento and it was a struggle to not stop every 5 minutes to photograph something.

The images below are from our drive back toward Rome on our final day.  They are near a town called Mondragone but I could not find any information about them.  First, I saw this old abandoned church on the side of the road:

83-Italy-6307764  Then I noticed two small square holes in the door and it was just big enough to fit my lens inside and this is what I found:


I LOVE photographing this kind of stuff; I’m pretty sure nobody else gets Italy pictures like this!  I had also noticed what looked like an abandoned hotel off the highway.  The drone came in handy for some of these shots.


More to come soon!!

The Salton Sea

I just finished a 10-week stretch of work with very few days off: weddings, commercial shoots and then corporate events not just in Phoenix but San Antonio, Vegas twice, Tucson and Palm Springs.  On the way to the Palm Springs job I decided to take extra time to drive around the Salton Sea to look for anything old, rusty, and abandoned.  I hit the jackpot in a couple of places: Bombay Beach and Slab City.  I used my new drone for overhead photo and video then shot most everything else with my Sony A6300; it has become my new favorite travel camera.  I still LOVE my Nikon D800s (I use 3 of them) but the still photos you see were all shot with the Sony camera and a couple of their lenses.  I used the Nikon for the “starry night” shots of the boat.  I put it on a tripod with a 20-second exposure so I could see the stars, then had 2 speedlights to the left and right to light the boat just before the shutter closed.

Check out this Salton Sea Video  I put together.

Here are a bunch of images from that trip:


Cafe Monarch photo shoot

Looking for the most romantic dining experience in Arizona?  You’ve got to check out Cafe Monarch in old town Scottsdale.  Julie and I had already been there for dinner a couple of times when one of the owners, Christian Lewkowitz hired us to photograph their food and ambience for their website gallery.  In September we’ll be shooting their new location across the street as soon as construction is complete.

All of their waiters have extensive wine education and really know how to pair the right wine with any dish.  On top of that the service is just spot on; absolutely flawless.

Christian’s dad, Gus, is the executive chef and really knows the art of cooking.  The food looks like works of art and tastes even better.  Here are some images from the shoot:

Documentary shoot: Elk Creek Fire Department, Colorado.

Here’s something I dug out of the archives and was one of my favorite experiences as a photographer.  My brother-in-law, Leo Meli, was going through firefighter training.  He was an engineer involved in rocket design for Boeing but hated his job; he’d always wanted to be a firefighter.  Jobs were scarce, though, so he worked hard and trained with volunteer companies and anywhere else he could.

When we drove up that summer for our annual visit he told me he had to go train for a day.  An old house up in the Rockies was going to be torn down and they got permission to use it for some training exercises.  They used a smoke machine to fill the house, then used an infrared sensor to find “victims” and drag them out.  My favorite part was when they set a fire in an upstairs bedroom.  I got to stand on the porch roof and shoot the action from 10 feet away, careful not to take a step backwards.  That was nerve-wracking!!

I travelled light on this shoot and regretted not bringing more gear.  I only had one camera, a wide lens and zoom along with only 1 speedlight instead of my usual 8.  I made the most of what I had, though, and the speedlight came in very handy on a few shots.  I used available light most of the time because I often had to move quickly but, if you know me, I usually find natural light to be ‘meh’ because anybody can take decent photos in shade and I want something that looks different.  I’ll show you the difference in the following shots where I had a few extra minutes to think ahead:
Using remote flash here, off camera right about 10 ft from the firefighter.  I’m about 40ft away shooting through this little “window” of branches.
See how it brings out more texture?  Having the light coming from the right actually creates those little shadows in their coats. which adds depth.  If I just used shade then everything would look flat.  The only time you get this with natural light is with low sun in the “golden hour.” who has time to wait all day for that?  I like to create my own “golden hour.”
Flash also gives way more ‘pop’ in the colors and I’m intentionally creating more contrast.  No photoshop needed.
remote flash here, too.
by comparison this is open shade, not nearly as vivid
shade here, too; see the difference? It’s good but it’s not GREAT.  Sure, you can photoshop anything but my approach has always been to create the image in-camera, not fix it in post.  

This was a once-in-a-lifetime shoot and I’m so thrilled to have been there.  A couple years later Leo got hired by the Boulder Fire Department; he landed his dream job and I can say “I remember him when he was a rocket nerd…”

Here are the rest of the images from that day:

Nike Photo Shoot

This was one of those weeks when I had to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe my good fortune….Nike hired me to shoot at their hi-altitude training facility in Flagstaff.

Guess who I got to work with?? British gold medalist Mo Farah!! He slowed down just long enough for me to get the product shots I needed for Nike.   It was humbling to watch these guys…they are all power, strength and stamina.

Finally added my personal work to the website!

For years my website pretty much featured what I do for clients.  I’ve finally gotten around to featuring what I do for myself when I’m “off the clock.”  I’ve always been a fan of decay: anything abandoned, rusty or run-down.  I still love sunsets, flowers and various landscapes but there is something about an abandoned Airstream trailer in the middle of the West Texas desert or finding an old bicycle through the window of an empty farmhouse in Kansas.

Yes, sometimes I drive my wife crazy with all the sudden stops on long road trips.

I’ll be updating this section with more galleries; I’ve got thousands of images to sort through.

Click below to see what I’m talking about.

My personal work


Janelle and Kramer, Venue at the Grove

Janelle and Kramer had the cutest love story: In high school he had a crush on the gorgeous cheerleader who was way out of his league.  However, he persisted which resulted in the wedding day we were so lucky to capture.  One adjective comes to mind when I recall this day: FUN!  It was non-stop from the moment we arrived; the family, bridal party and all who attended were just some of the most FUN people we’ve ever been around.

Another moment I loved was the first look for her dad.  This is something I frequently suggest for brides.  Even if the couple doesn’t want a first look we can do something really special for Dad; there is almost nothing more emotional than seeing his baby girl all grown up.

Add the beauty of Venue at the Grove and you’ve got the perfect wedding day.  It was our first time here so I arrived early to scout the location.  Can’t wait to go back!


Here are some of the other great vendors we worked with that day:

Cake: My Goodness Cakes

DJ: Direct Sounds

Floral: Wild Child Floral

Caterer: Ensemble Catering

Photo/Video shoot for Twisted Curry

Anyone that knows me well knows that I can’t get enough spice and flavor in my food – must have something to do with living in New Orleans all those years. When the opportunity came my way to shoot the new menu for Twisted Curry, a modern Indian restaurant slated to open next winter, I jumped at the chance. When I’m shooting food, I usually insist on keeping it real and natural…I don’t like to spray WD-40 or glue anything down unless I have to.  I want the food to look the best that it can look, but still  closely resemble what will actually show up on the customer’s plate. As an added bonus, I get to taste many of the recipes once the shoot has wrapped…not a bad perk!

Every dish I shot that day is incredible…when Twisted Curry is fully up and running, I’ll be the first in line!

Behind the Scenes video

I’ve been wanting to create this video for a long time; years, in fact.  I think it’s important for couples to know what their photographer is like “on the job.”  Over the years I’ve learned that producing great work isn’t just the result of having advanced camera/lighting skills and a creative eye; it also requires great people skills, a good sense of humor and making people comfortable.  I suppose those are the “intangibles” that help set us apart from other photography teams.

My Award-Winning Client, MCulinary Concepts!

MCulinary Concepts is the largest caterer in the southwest and one of my biggest clients.  They’ve been hiring me for photo and video the past 6 years and I’ve just learned they won an award from the Leading Caterer’s of America!  Apparently my images may have helped set them apart from the competition!

Congratulations MCulinary; we love working with you guys and appreciate and the great opportunities you’ve given us!!