Portraits – Prospect At A Glance – Part 2

Happy Friday to everyone.  Just moving and grooving to some We Were Promised Jetpacks, fueling my own pack up with some fresh goodness that comes out of my espresso machine daily, sometimes twice daily.  May need to cut back on that a bit.

It’s been a pretty good week, and I am hoping the weekend will bring more of the same.  Good weather, great people, and perhaps some BBQ in the old back yard.

Speaking of good people, I couldn’t resist heading back to Jefferson Mack Metal with my lights to capture a few more images of the guys in the shop.  This time I was lucky enough to snag the trio, in that Jefferson was available for a quick little session.

Here are few…

Augustine

Nick

Jefferson

I have to say, Jefferson threw me for a loop.  We were photographing at first, and he had just his black shirt on.  Then he said, “Oh, let me get my scarf, it will ad a pop of color.”  I thought, “This is perfect.”

Turns out he used to do some modeling in Europe, and I tell you, he’s still got it man!  He was turning and working the camera no problem.  It was the first time in a long time that I didn’t really have to say anything – No directing.  He just rocked the whole session.  I tell ya, you just never know what is going to come out of people’s mouths.  Here I am, in a dirty and gritty shop with a bunch of smithies, and the last thing I expected was a comment like that.  Simply amazing.

See you down the road.

-Todd

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Portraits – Prospect At a Glance

Deciding to go play with my new Alien Bees strobes, I stopped by Prospect for a portrait session.  When I walk in with a few bags no one seems to take notice. The minute I get out a 5 foot soft-box that stands 9 feet in the air, everyone is interested in what’s going on.  Comments such as, “Whoa, shootin’ a commercial or something,” or “You ain’t gonna photograph me with that thing,” or just plain old, “Damn,” spill out of the guys’ mouths.  I tell them it just looks fancy, but I don’t really know what I am doing – I only brought them to make me look more professional 😉

I had a location all dialed in.  I spotted a cluster of work bins with a clear area. It was gritty and raw.  Chains hung over the metal, scrap lay about the floor, and exposed concrete dotted the background.   I returned to my gear, and heaving my bag on my shoulder, I started to walk to my spot, mulling over ideas in my head.  But in that time, a crew had moved into place, and started working in the very spot I had wanted to photograph.  Quickly realizing these guys are not going to move for a photo session, there’s only one thing to do: Deal with it and move on.

Standing tall at 6 feet 8 inches, Kevin sees it all and doesn't take lip from anyone.

Back near the entrance, the only other spot that seemed worthwhile stood by the front door.  The background was high quality plywood that had a nice grain, and I thought it would handle the lights relatively well.  Not a lot of glass for flare or reflection, and it would give a nice warm quality to contrast most of the other images I have, which are quite hard and gritty.

Firing off a few test shots, I was up and running pretty quickly.  First on the chopping block was Kevin.  He’s the head guy on the floor.  I will venture to say his official title is superintendent, but I could be wrong.  Chatting with him during the shoot, I learned that he surfs, and we instantly had a little talk about breaks, boards, and good sessions of days gone by.

He’s got a son who’s beginning his first year at Cal Poly SLO, my alma mater (ipso facto e pluribus unum…)  Heading in as an architecture major, he’s got his work cut out for him, but it sounds like he’s ahead of the curve.  Having CAD on his computer at home, he plays with it and will be ahead of most of the incoming students, and possibly some of the outgoing as well.  Jeez…I feel dumb.

Tommy Knows Construction.

Next up was Tommy.  He has been a fixture at Prospect with his sense of humor and hard work.  Something of a camera buff himself, I got a few questions on light, aperture, and other technical issues.  He proved an excellent subject, and was willing to try a few ideas.  Thanks Tommy!

Michael, aka Mark Twain, chewed on his stogies while laying down the eco-mat. All around nice guy.

As I walked through the building, I looked over and knew this guy was my next victim.  The Mark Twain of Eco-Mat, Michael had the mustache and cigar to complete the package.  I asked him quickly if I could take a few images of him, and then he could get back to it.  No more than 2 minutes.  I think I took a total of 7 shots and that was it.  Got a great look from him.

Taping drywall isn't easy at all - even though Marin makes it look silky smooth.

Marin is helping with the drywall, and although he was a bit hesitant at first, a few jokes from me and his cohorts allowed him to open up a bit.  Lucky guy is getting married soon, and I am sure the food and festivities will be amazing, as it’s going to be a double wedding with his cousin!  Never heard of that before, but hey, two parties into one?  Sounds amazing.

I know it's been a rough day, but don't do it man!

And finally Ravi.  What can I say that hasn’t been said.  Chef extraordinaire, business partner, construction foreman… the list goes on and on.  That being said, when he picked up the hammer, I wasn’t sure if he was wielding it as a tool or weapon?!  If a weapon, I think he was looking for some self-inflicted pain.

Food Rock Star - he'll never tell you that - but taste his food and you'll understand.

More to come!

See you down the road.

-Todd

The Cowboy and Concrete

There’s a sticker on the big metal carts that the tradesmen bring to house their tools while at the job site.  It reads, “Honor Labor.”  Hell yeah.  For some reason, I feel like the American Dream has been a little tainted this last decade.

The trucks arrived with a vengeance, and soon after they were pouring.

We’ve gotten to where people don’t want to put in the hard work it takes to accomplish a difficult goal.  We want our desert, and we want it now.  Here, take this pill to magically get rid of your fat while you sit watching the latest celebrity fall from grace from cocaine or an extra-marital affair. (Now that’s livin!)

But when a line of trucks appeared, cresting over the hill and rumbling their way down Folsom towards Prospect, I knew I was in for another day of good old fashion labor.  Why concrete, and why so late in the game?  The original floor plan that was cast needed an augmentation or sorts.  The kitchen floor was recessed from the rest of the restaurant, and it required a lift for many reasons.

I really had to watch where I stepped. It was easy to get tangled in the wire re-bar.

As soon as the trucks parked, bam, the guys jumped out and prepared the piping to run the concrete inside.  Tools such as floats, 2×4’s, wrenches, and shovels made their way in as well.  As the truck’s cylindrical mixer rotated slowly, the sloshing aggregated material waited to become part of something more than itself.

Let her go!

The signal was given to release the concrete, and after a little “tickling” of the pipe, the stuff poured forth.  Out came the newest, viscous, and very permanent addition of Prospect.  Watching these guys do their thing proved pretty amazing.  When you dump three trucks of concrete onto a floor, you better have your plan already formulated.

Once it starts flowing, you better be ready!

Out of all the people to photograph, one stood out – The Cowboy.  He also happened to be the lead man, and a little surly as well.  I suppose you have to be when leading a team.  He barked orders, but he stood in the thick of it too, literally.

The Cowboy, doin' his thing.

Standing tall.

Watching these guys baby a material that looks lumpy and stiff, into something buttery smooth and level – in less than a few hours – was pretty amazing.  And as they finished up, a little stiff themselves, sweat and exhaustion coating their faces, they looked back at their work and smiled.

Smoothing it out to some buttery goodness.

Honor Labor

See you down the road.

-Todd

Seaport Stainless

Ahh, ever since my days on the sailboat, I have had a love affair with stainless steel.  I know you are just shaking your head at me, wondering what the hell I am talking about, so let me explain.  Stainless Steel = Amazing.  Understood?

From left to right, Ryan, Ravi, and Ray discuss logistics and answer any final questions.

When something is exposed to the salty elements of the ocean, wind, sun, and waves day after day, year after year, and ceases to rust, well, to put it lightly, “You had me a hello.”  Thus, I (and you as well!) can appreciate the craftsmanship, knowledge, and specialty of Seaport Stainless, builders of shimmering, custom-made, kitchen equipment for the food service industry.  Translation:  They are outfitting Prospect’s kitchen with any and everything stainless.  Which is a ton of stuff.

Father and Son, standing in front an expensive "toy."

These guys do it all.  And when I say guys, I mean father and son team Ray and Ryan Doving.  Ray started the business, and completed their first major job in 1977.  Like any son, Ryan went off to experience his own life for a while.  After graduating from UCSD with a degree in Computer Science and working three years as a software engineer, he eventually migrated back towards the shop (where I am sure he spent his earlier years welding things he wasn’t supposed to, or taking the dogs on long walks).  Now he actually gets things done, as he is the lead CAD guy, manning the brains of their new $600,000 Bystronic CNC laser cutter.  Gulp.  600K.  That’s a lot of dough.  But hey, you gotta keep growing to stay ahead of the curve.  And ahead they are.

"Oh, what's that? You need an inch of solid steel cut by noon? No problem."

"Fine cuts aren't a problem either."

Ryan and Ray were kind enough to lead us around the premises, and show off all the cool toys and some of the current work.  Walking onto the shop floor, the first thing I noticed was how clean everything was for an industrial trade.  Panning left and right there were kitchen hoods and countertops in varying stages of completion.  It seemed as though everything had a “Prospect” written on it somewhere – including half the finished pieces in the warehouse.  We all migrated toward one piece, and Ravi asked questions about functionality, refrigeration specifics, and requested some minor alterations.  Smiling like a giddy kid on Christmas morning, his stoke is palpable.  It’s been great to watch him bounce with more energy now that the restaurant is really coming together.  I can tell you, all he really wants to do is get back in the kitchen and make amazing food.

A few more questions about the goods.

Hang on Ravi, your kitchen is almost there! These are actually photos of Seaport's first big finished job in 1977.

Heading around for a loop and back over to the laser cutter, we got a peek into the guts of this machine to watch it in action.  Under the hood of this thing is like looking into the future.  Glowing purplish blue, CO2, Helium, and Nitrogen are combined under a vacuum and pumped through glass tubes.  As they travel to the tip of the laser cutter, it’s hit with a high dose of voltage.  The result:  Freakin’ Laser Beams.  As the material passes under the laser, it’s instantly cut, and never really gets too hot.  It’s all very scientific.

Look! It's the internet! A series of tubes and pipes. Just look at all the information! Nope, just gas in a vacuum being combined and sent to cut inch thick steel.

Is that nitrogen, or are you just happy to see me?

If you could see this machine pump out whatever you want it to make, your jaw would drop to floor like mine.  Not only does the speed and efficiency startle you, but the astounding finesse of its accuracy will blow you away.  Once a sheet of metal is laid down and put into place, the mechanized dance begins – at a blistering speed.  The arm works its way back and forth, from corner to corner with a quickness that no human could ever equal.

Once fitted on the tray, the steel is ready to go.

The point where the laser is actually cutting the material is 1/8000 of an inch, and the super intense beam can blaze through up to an inch of solid steel.  Plywood isn’t an issue either.  In fact, this thing can cut through pretty much anything it wants.  James Bond wouldn’t stand a chance…unless it was Sean Connery…then just maybe!

At the helm, Ryan controls the progress of the cuts. For the lighting nerds out there, I was at F11 @200th with three lights. One up high and gridded tight for the guys faces. Once behind Ryan's head lighting the inside of the laser cutter. And the third camera right lighting the front of the cutter.

But in all seriousness, it was a pleasure to visit the grounds and meet a family run business.  They’ve been around for over 30 years, but you know, they still face challenges like everyone else.  It’s only through hard work, planning, and perseverance that Ray and Ryan have come through these times with more business than ever before.

My kind of people.

That’s what life is all about.

So untie the bowlines.  Sail away from safe harbor, and catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore.  Dream.  Discover.  –  Mark Twain

And don’t forget your stainless.

See you down the road.

-Todd

Leslie Lowe – Rock Star

Is a working vacation still a tax write-off?  I suppose it’s a valid question seeing as today, “the tax man cometh,” and we have to file those un-enviable papers to our beloved government!  But half kidding aside, toting all my gear a few hundred miles away got me thinking, “How can I write this off?”

And so with my set of lights and a brain full of photographic ideas whizzing around, Jen and I loaded up the car and took off for the High Sierra.  Our purpose:  Photograph Leslie Lowe – Rock Star.

Leslie’s the bassist in the trio I covered last fall. She’s a good friend, not to mention an amazing artist, athlete, and musician.  Opening for Ani DiFranco – Gaby, Sebastian, and Leslie – took on the East Coast with fervent energy and unabated youth.  It was an amazing experience, and one that they recently repeated with Ani in late January.

So when I found out that all the while, Leslie has been building her own solo career as well, I wanted to help her out with some photos.  With more than a few songs cut, and more on the way, I suggested that we meet over our coinciding vacations to get some images together for PR and advertising.  She was game, and my vacation turned into a tax write off with benefits.  Errr… I mean…you know what I mean!

Rocking out in the trees.

Starting out with some casual stuff, we both went through the motions at first, not putting all our energy into it.  Sometimes photographing your friends (don’t even get me started on family) can bedevil the heck out of you.  It’s funny, but when you are really feeling it, the energy will cause you to tweak an angle a bit more, or search for that little glimmer of light that you might not have otherwise noticed if you weren’t really looking for it.


I tell all my new wedding clients that an engagement session is a great idea; not because I want to make more money.  Having some experience behind the lens and getting to know your photographer a bit more always pays dividends.

As time went on, I noticed both she and I relaxed about a half-hour into the session.  (I think Kata needs to invent a gear bag with an insulated sleeve for a bottle of wine!  I would buy it, and my clients would love me for it!)

Definitely my favorite photo. The light, colors, and expression blew me away!

We started having more fun, and the stress we felt earlier vanished.  With a few wardrobe changes and tweaks of the light, we had a great little session.  We kept it fun and light, and then rocked out a bit.

Finished with the lights, we drove for some lunch and looked for a spot with access to the “golden hour.”  A few different looks are always nice.  As I drove on a shaded, windy road, a little splash of color made its way through the mountains.  We pulled the car over and down from the street was a nice little beach.  Walking down and peeking around the corner, I saw golden sand, and knew we had about 10 minutes of good light.  I managed to snap off a few images before the sun dropped below the trees.

Those 10 minutes produced my favorite photos of the day.

Thanks Leslie!  You’re great to work with.

See you down the road.

-Todd