Our big trip to Las Vegas for the yearly WPPI Convention is over, and the whole thing was surreal. It was overwhelmingly too great to absorb. I got to spend a week with my team, Justin, Kyle and Sadie. Sadie is our new Social Media Marketing Director, and it was a great opportunity to put her front and center of our industry.
I’m glad to be in the middle of it. One of the best parts of my job is that I have a super roladex. I can literally call anybody in photography with a project and have some movement. I can call the world’s best photographers my friends. And I get to help design great products for people who love photography. Not only for myself, but also for Sony.
I got a chance to meet with the product development team from Sony Tokyo. What an awesome opportunity to literally lay out my wish list for the ultimate camera. And they listened to every part of it enthusiastically. I never realized how big of an undertaking a new camera is. The a6000 took about 300 engineers and about $300 million to develop! I thought it was just a few people. What came out of the design session, I cannot even hint at. But I do know this – these features are going to change photography forever. I can’t believe I have a say in it.
I also can’t believe that I can type that photographers such as Brian Smith, Robert Evans, and Mike Colon are my friends. Brian has photographed pretty much every celebrity and politician that I can ever think of. I’ve been a huge fan of his since I first saw his book on portrait photography. He had simple advice that I will never forget to spread along as a fellow educator. He said, “photograph 50 strangers”. What fantastic advice.
So on the Sony stage, I got to interview Brian in an impromptu conversation. It’s all coming up on my YouTube channel and I can’t wait to share it with you. I was amazed that I had a chance to ask him all of the questions one would ask a famous celebrity photographer. Who was your first big celebrity? How do you get these jobs? What do you think about when creating a portrait? And to hear him say what he thought of my contributions to photography was crazy awesome.
I am an excellent photographer. I do world class work. You can hire me for any assignment, and I will deliver great images. I know how to do this. I’ve been a professional photographer all of my life. But then again, I’m not really a photographer. I am a gadget freak. I’ve come to realize after all of these years, scanning my eyes over a huge collection of cameras, guitars, keyboards, violins, recording gear, even cars and watches – I am a toy freak. I’m not an artist. I shoot because I love the toy. I download apps because I love that toy too. In fact, all of the things I’ve ever had an interest in were simply because I wanted to play with the new toy. That’s where photography came in. I’m not like my peers. I do not dream of creating stunning, expressive images. I shoot because I can’t wait to test AI Servo Continuous High with Focus Lock. I choose cars not because I love cars, but because I am fascinated that they can create an engine that is literally two engines sharing the same powertrain (W-12 engines).
There is an exception to the gadget reliance, and it’s music. I am a musician to the core. It’s what I understand, and it’s how I express. I’ve done everything from pluck a ukelele to conducting a full orchestra. Sitting at a grand piano is like hooking me up to an IV of some sort. Or nursing my favorite guitar.
Melissa couldn’t figure me out at first when she saw all of my gear. I had a studio with everything, recording gear, many guitars, a string bass, a drum set, a grand piano, violins… toys. She asked if I played in any bands, and I said hell no. I didn’t like playing with bands because they all argue as to what to play next. It’s like playing doubles in tennis. You stand around and ‘tolerate’. I don’t have a lot of time to goof with my music, so it’s better for me to play my instruments solo.
Every once in a while however, I get to perform live. It’s only fun if you have an incredible band. When I was a wedding photographer, I actually would bring my Les Paul to weddings, and sneak in a number with the amazing Rembrandt 16 piece band – the best wedding band in the world. I’d refer them profusely so I could play with them at weddings. Eventually, my couples came to expect that I would play with the band during the reception. It just became a thing, and a constant thing.
At this WPPI, the powers that be wanted to assemble some talent acts for the opening celebrations. This was my in to play live again. I chose “Rock and Roll” by Led Zeppelin, and brought my sunburst Les Paul Standard, the one signed by Peter Frampton. I was going to bring my carefully dialed-in effects box, but one thing about playing live I realized long ago, was that nuances don’t matter. So much volume and attack go into a room that your sound gets thrown into a thick gravy soup, and you’re just really there for the energy. Of course everyone can hear every note, but it’s not the same as recording dry in the studio. I like it better. I just plugged my Les Paul in, and put the distortion on about 8, reverb around 8. And away we went. Here is the sound check that I recorded with a Sony Action cam taped to my head. I kind of wanted people to know what it is like to be a lead guitarist:
I’ll put up the concert performance when we get it edited. I had a head cam, and we had a number of cameras plus a digital recorder straight off the board. I like sharing, so I thought it would be fun for you all to see what it’s like to play in a rock band.