Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Citizen published an article today on my photography and new book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait. The story was written by Tom Steiner and he also photographed me up at the West End overlook. Tom is a Ben Avon resident and Renaissance man. He is a writer, photographer, English teacher, yard sales guru, and world traveler. It was fun talking with him and promoting the book in this small Pittsburgh newspaper. Unfortunately, The Citizen is not online and can only be purchased locally in the North Boros, so pick up a copy if you are in the area this week!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
If you watched the Steeler vs. Dolphin snore fest last night, you'll know that weather here in the 'burgh is leaving a lot to be desired. If the weather keeps up like this, it will be time to break out the sun lamp, a bottle of scotch, and a Montecristo #2 to get my attitude back. It's not even officially winter yet. I need a warm trip soon, art buyers! Here's a warm photo...This was shot at one of my favorite places in the world, Siesta Key, Florida. It was done during a stock production shoot for my former stock agency. The beach has white sand like no other that I've ever been to. And... you get to shoot late afternoon and sunsets which makes getting out of bed easier than when I shoot in Miami, or the east side of Florida, and need to be up at 4AM to get the great light.
Think sun :-)
Monday, November 26, 2007
No rants or stories today...Just a portrait made for a trade magazine of a sales executive at
Kennametal, a cutting tools manufacturer located in nearby Latrobe, PA.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Well, it had to happen sooner or later...My son Michael passed his drivers road test today and is an officially licensed driver in Pennsylvania. I don't have any gray hairs at this point in my life, but having a teen driver is bound to turn a few. As my parents always say, "having kids is payback for all the grief you put us through when you were a kid"! Hopefully we have taught him well and given him a sense of responsibility that will keep him out of trouble.
One of the things that I was determined to do before he went on the road, was for him to attend a high performance driving school. After investigating driving schools at BeaveRun Racetrack and Mid-Ohio race course, we choose BeaveRun for it's close proximity to home and owner Scott Slibaugh's commitment to making safer teen drivers. This school is NOT your typical "Drivers-Ed" classes given by tired instructors in compact cars teaching what shape a stop sign is, or parallel parking. It is a combination of classroom work that discusses vehicle dynamics, physics, physical conditioning, weather conditions, and driver psychology. Then out on a full blown race track where Ex-police cruisers with Corvette LT-1 engines and Mazda 6 sports sedans are put through the paces at highway speeds.
Cars are driven around the skid pad, thrown out of control and gathered back up, driving the race course in reverse at speeds approaching 30MPH, panic stops and swerving, dealing with road rage exercises, and many other maneuvers that teens typically never get into until it is TOO LATE, and often with disastrous and tragic results. The professional instructors, many with auto racing experience made the class fun and informative, along with the obligatory PA State Policeman to discuss drinking, drugs, and speeding. I'm glad we used the school cars instead of my vehicle, because by the end of the day tires on many of the cars were worn down to the cords!
If you have a teen who is of driving age, I highly recommend looking into a class that teaches real world road skills. I'm glad we did and I might even be able to keep those grays away a while longer! These photos are of Micheal on the skid pad trying to keep up with the steering, as the instructor controls the accelerator and brake. Also a sequence where he learns that it is tough to steer a car when the front brakes are locked up as he hustles a Mazda 6 on the Wilson Circuit at BeaveRun.
Friday, November 23, 2007
This video by Hollywood screen writer, Harlan Ellison has photographers, artists, writers, and anyone else who works for themselves saying, "Right On"!!!! The video should be required viewing for anyone joining any "professional" organization as Harlan cuts through the chase in his rant about actually being paid to do work. What a novel concept...So many photographers have seen this video, that I would imagine in the last couple of weeks, many buyers looking for freebies have had their heads ripped off by the artist at the other end of the phone. And they should. In my experience, EVERY buyer calling me for photography generally gets a paycheck, but yet too many times, they ask for freebies. Go figure....?????
Being a PROFESSIONAL creative person is damn hard work, no security, requires a huge investment in time and money, and is an overcrowded career that has 20 wannabees for every true professional. This video short is the new Rocky theme song in which I can imagine creative people clutching their cameras, pens, and keyboards running up the steep stairs at the Philadelphia Art Museum, working together and standing united for fair business practices and respect. The video has some rough language, so be forewarned. HARLAN ELLISON RANT
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Never were the words of Bruce Springsteen's song, 57 Channels (and nothin on) more true than today. Between the writer's strike (they deserve everything they're asking) and endless "reality" television, that has nothing to do with reality; finding something to keep the gray matter occupied for an hour or two is getting tougher. However, I've found my nirvana with the Surviorman series. Les Stroud eats dirt, makes fire by rubbing two live rattlesnakes together, and builds shelters out of shoe strings and pocket lint. Great, great stuff! Between my short lived Boy Scouting and hunting and camping as a youngster in the Southern tier of New York, ole' Les has struck a cord. While I never was put in a survival situation, I did loose my bearings a couple of times while out looking for a Bambi to shoot...Seriously, it's a great show to watch and Les loves nature and the outdoors. Sure, it's a little overproduced at times and you KNOW he's never that far from a satellite phone and ER room, but it's still pretty interesting to me on making due with very little. A little like, shooting location photography in a bad location...
So in honor of Les and his great show, a couple of wilderness pictures for you today. It's Half Dome in Yosemite Park, CA. Ansel, eat your heart out :-)
Monday, November 19, 2007
A sudden cancellation last week left me with the show of my work from, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait and no gallery space to show it! The show consists of 25 framed prints of images from my book and I'd like to get the show out of boxes and up on a wall this week. I'd be very interested in office lobbies, restaurants, coffee shops, lounges, or other place of commerce that would like images hanging for a month or so. If anyone has any ideas or "knows someone who knows someone", please get in touch!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I probably won't make any posts for a couple of days, as I'm headed up to Toronto to shoot for one of my favorite clients, King Pharmaceuticals. I've shot their annual report and senior management for a few years now and they are a delight to work with, and appreciative of all the hard work and hours that I put in for them in numerous locations around the country.
Tommorow will be my first trip to Canada in six years and I'm a little nervous about going through Canadian customs with my photo gear. Canadians for whatever reason really don't want US photographers working in their country even for just a few days. CANADIAN shooters seem to come and go into the US without any problems, but even with NAFTA in effect, if you come across a Customs agent who hasn't yet had his coffee, had a fight with his wife, or doesn't like the shirt you are wearing, they can make entry miserable.
Oh well...it's all part of being a road warrior and having backup plans in place if things suddenly turn for the worse. Been there...done that. These are a couple of photos that were culled from last year's annual report assignment.
On another front...Just heard from my publisher today, and my book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait has arrived in the Boston warehouse and will ship to bookstores
later this week! I will be also be getting the advance copies this week, so those of you who have pre-ordered the signed book/print package can expect to receive yours very soon. The book is a couple of weeks behind schedule due to some minor printing problems and the entire run needed to be reprinted and bound. Thankfully, the printer was able to get the book reprinted in a fast track mode and we are good to go! I'll send an email reminder to friends of Mark Bolster Photography next week to remind you all that books are available and that Christmas is coming quick...(hint.hint...)
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
When I started my career, I always strived to have a couple of specialties, but didn't really want to be a "generalist". After all being a specialist generally means better jobs, more exposure, and the opportunity to be considered "the expert" within the industry. After working in NYC (where everyone's area of expertise is extremely narrow) I moved to Pittsburgh where specialists were few and far to be found. I continued my specialty at the time of corporate/industrial location photography and this actually served me quite well. However...after a few years you find yourself relying on tried and true techniques. While these are safe, it was kind of hard to find personal reward by not pushing your limits of your comfort zone. It was shortly thereafter that I started to shoot a lot of stock production which consisted mostly of models, real people, and lifestyle photography. This came at a time when my family was growing and I tapped into many personal feelings I was going through and I had a blast shooting these subjects. It was rewarding. I allowed myself to make mistakes. The work was almost like film making. The best frames were always in between situations and trying to make "just one more" shot the best. Gradually, I found myself enjoying more things and working closely with people is what I have found I do best. While I'll probably never be a still life photographer, I have found expanding into different subject manner has allowed me to feel better about filling creative voids. After all, I've got many interests and didn't get into this business to be pigeon holed. While this attitude probably won't land me any big time reps, it does allow me to take advantage of many situations that come forth in this rapidly changing market. I always feel better saying "no" to jobs that don't fit me as opposed to the phone not ringing. At least that way I know what markets are bustling and what ones are lagging. Having multiple portfolios that are "specialized" go a long way to showing my experience without burdening art buyers with work that they can't use or aren't interested in. As I grow, so too will my areas of expertise. I always feel that the best is yet to come!
This photograph is of Jenn Thomas shot at the Creative Treehouse. Jenn and I have worked together a few times, and she is a joy to work with. She is professional, works hard, and up for just about any idea. She works very hard promoting herself through various websites, and has grown to be a very popular swimsuit/lingerie model. Check her out here... Jenn Thomas Is it a stretch from the previous steel mill photo? Absolutely! Did I enjoy both jobs? Let's just say it beats sitting in an office cubicle all day long...
Monday, November 12, 2007
I had a call last week from a NYC designer needing a steel industry portfolio for a potential assignment. No problem...been doing that sort of thing for quite some time, though the steel business isn't the same as it was when I first got into the photography business. Thought I'd drop a forgotten photo on the blog. Watching steel being made is probably one of the most fascinating things most people will never get the chance to see. It's hot. It's cold. It's noisy, and dangerous work. Shooting in a mill takes a lot of stamina, patience, and most importantly eyes in the back of your head to be on the lookout for dangerous machinery, hot stuff, and caustic chemicals. Most of the large mills have gone overseas, but there are still quite a few "mini-mills" in our area that makes high quality specialty steel that is second to none on the world market. This was an outake from an annual report for Universal Stainless and Alloy.
Friday, November 9, 2007
You can almost tell by my photo selections this past week that the days were shorter this week due to setting clocks back. Always a very depressing time. Cold, dark, cloudy and a lack of sun this week has put me in foul mood. Most of the posted photos were monochromatic and dark. Here is a sunny day photo for a change ...It's a garage for a townhouse complex that I shot while ago on a real estate assignment for JP Morgan.
Think Spring! (anyone getting the idea that I'm not a winter kinda guy???)
Today will be different. I'll be in FRONT of the camera as the subject. Tom Steiner of the Citizen will be interviewing me about my new book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait. He wants to shoot a portrait to go with the article at the West End Overlook that looks out on the Golden Triangle. I will do my best to avoid asking the cliche, "did you bring your skinny lens"? Should be fun and I'm looking forward to meeting Tom.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
When I started my shooting career in the early 80's many assistant friends of mine pushed to get editorial work to start their careers. At the time I always thought, "why bother"? After all it paid horrible, magazines made stupid demands on photographers, and doing editorial was a quick way to the poor house if you wanted to make a truly professional reputation for yourself. I bypassed it all and went directly to working with graphic designers, corporations, and ad agencies as they had bigger budgets that would allow you to actually be profitable.
In hindsight, I feel starting in editorial probably would have been a good choice. Despite the obscenely low fees, working with magazines do provide a showcase for getting more commercial work. Also currently, the number of magazines is quite staggering and they all seem to have certain niche markets. Most importantly, the work is always there. Monthly issues require monthly assignments. So, in the past few years I've taken on more editorial assignments, despite the hassle of haggling with every photo editor that calls for more money, and scratching out contract items that could have only been drawn up by corporate attorneys not bright or sharp enough to actually work for a "real" law firm. It really is a hassle "confirming" these type of assignments, but to not approach these clients in a business like manner is a sure recipe for financial ruin as profit margins in our business get smaller on a daily basis. Even though I LOVE shooting editorial, I still turn down at least 60% of the assignment requests I get, because I KNOW I'd loose money shooting the job.
It's frustrating to do, and years ago I could accept some of these "loss leader" jobs for either the fun of it, the stock potential, and/or promo value. My corporate and advertising fees could make up for the loss. Those days have long gone, as photo budgets have been slashed in all venues, and Royalty Free stock destroyed the stock industry as we once knew it.
When I do find an editorial client that fits, it is a ton of fun! I meet lots of interesting people, leaders of industry, and people many of us have never heard of, but are making this world a little bit better place to live. The creative freedom is second to none, and I work with no art direction after discussing the assignment with the photo editor. Photo editors while busy, are usually very appreciative of a great job done and realize that budgets for production expenses and oppressive magazine contracts are detrimental to getting great photographers to shoot for them. They have a tough job do. I always feel bad for them, when we start discussing money, because you know they are tired of getting beat up every time they call a shooter to do a job. But...We need to make a living too, so negotiation is always important if photographers want to be in business tomorrow.
The photos above were shot recently as a cover story for Chess Life magazine (talk about a niche market!) Fee and expenses were low, but I knew I'd get great stuff and make at least SOME money. Photo editor was thrilled with the pictures, and I got another image for my portfolio. My subject was Grand Master Alex Shabalov, US Chess Champion. Shot on location at a commercial loft I frequently like to use as a location. Alex was fun to work with, accommodating, and obviously a much smarter person than I...
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I can't believe that we've actually had a few snow flurries in Pittsburgh the last couple of days. To remind myself of warmer places, I thought I'd post a photo taken in South Beach during some down time from an assignment for PNC Bank awhile back. I always try to get a few hours in for myself after an assignment has been completed. The Miami beach was pretty empty as the day was overcast and flat. But if you keep looking, you can generally find the light. The pin point light shooting through the clouds was truly an amazing moment, and the kind of moment that photographers live and die by.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I'm always amazed how many great photos I've made throughout the years that haven't ever seen the light of day. What happens is this...The phone starts ringing, assignments need completed, print orders need filled, kids need a ride to soccer practice, etc., etc. The photos that I feel excited about somehow get lost in the sea of images on my multiple computer hard drives. I don't spend much time these days even opening the file cabinets that contain thousands of images and take up way too much valuable real estate in my office. Even if I come across a nice transparency, it needs to be cleaned, scanned, retouched, and outputed. Unfortunately, my attention span isn't that long. As I frequently say, for me the thrill in photography or assignments is the actual production and pulling out all the stops for a great shoot to come together. Once it is shot, I'm looking forward to my next shoot. Tearsheets and gallery shows, while extremely important, have never really been my primary focus. Probably much to the detrement of my checking account...
Anyway, this blog is going to be fun for me to show new work from "out of the vault" so to speak. I'm still learning the html and about linking, and ways to make posting quicker and less painful for me. Hopefully everyone can be patient while I get these issues worked out. This venue is going to be great as a way to see work that won't be found on my website. Hopefully I can keep everything fairly current. So please bookmark my blog or visit often, as I'm sure you'll find a wide variety of images and eventually writings and musings on the business.
Since my back is sore from raking leaves this past weekend, here are a couple of fall photos photographed at Moraine State Park in Butler County, PA for your enjoyment...For you techies out there, the car photo was made with a Lens Baby lens.
A cheap, plastic lens on an $8000.00 camera body. Lot's of fun!
Monday, November 5, 2007
Came across this forgotten image today when I was looking through my hard drives for promo images...The original image
was a bit flat, even though the light was fairly bright. It was a very cold, misty day that was in late October. One of those days that you can "smell" winter in the air. Hummed Eddy Rabbit's "Drivin my Life Away" while I was working on the file. I often think
that being a long haul trucker would be a pretty cool job since I love driving, traveling, and the open road. Though I think as soon as you got in city limits the fun would die pretty quickly!
Don't forget to VOTE tommorow!