Jeffrey Byrnes Photographer Fashion + Portraits + Travel

Travel Photography: Hurricane Matthew

By now most of the developed world has heard about Hurricane Matthew. The weather people are spouting that it has already devastated parts of Haiti and is brutalizing Cuba. Matthew is rumored to be picking up momentum, as they say, and gearing up to hit the continental U.S., Florida to be exact. If this is not news to you, well, keep reading below. 

Just over a week ago my wife and I left Massachusetts with our two dogs and drove south. After a 22 hour trip with an over night in North Carolina, we arrived at Isle of Palms in South Carolina. Isle of P is part of Charleston, a fascinatingly beautiful city that we adore. We arrived to beautiful weather and I, personally, with hopes of creating some great images. The day before we left I purchased a Fuji X Pro2. I have been lusting after a X series camera for sometime now. I finally pulled the trigger and purchased one for the trip. 

In an extremely bold move, I only took the Fuji. Yes, I only took the Fuji, with a 35mm F 2.0 lens. My bag consisted of the camera, extra memory cards, extra battery, and my notebook with pens. When I travel I write. I keep notes for blog posts as well as for general stories of my travels, some times making notes of things to see in the future or recommendations for friends and family traveling to that area. I will get into the camera and note books later in a follow up post. This is a short and sweet post. Before I continue, full disclosure, I also brought a few GoPros, my DJI Phantom 4, and my Osmo. So, I guess in a way, I brought more than just my new Fuji. However, primarily being a still photographer, the Fuji X Pro was my only still camera of choice. 

I will fully discuss the Fuji in the next few blog posts, once we are back. But for now I will share 1 photograph from our trip. 

It is 11:39 and Sue just went to bed. I will be following her shortly. We are waking up and heading out at about 3 am. The Gov of the State of South Carolina has give an executive order, a mandatory evacuation of the coastal towns and cities. We are currently on an island, the wrong place to be during a hurricane of this magnitude. We were due to leave in 3 days, on Saturday. We are now being force out of our rental, again, more details when I do my full travel post. The night air is soft as the palmettos gently flex their tops in light wind. The roads are mostly empty, where as days ago there would be a steady stream of cars on both sides, zipping around the island. During the day golf carts would cruise by. Some with teenagers at the wheel, some with women and a dog as their navigator, some, just a group of guys out cruising around with a few drinks in hand. 

Beautiful houses that line the streets and the beaches are boarded up. Those who linger risk their lives, knowingly rejecting any form of emergency services. Almost all gas stations have been sucked dry of their precious fuels. Most stores have been cleaned out and people have been disembarking the area for hours. There was a round of people that left yesterday, fearing the need to evacuate very early. We chose to stay a day later after the captain of a boat tour we took suggested we let the first group leave. He thought it would serve us well to leave very early on Thursday morning. That is the plan and it is breaking our hearts. Like I said, I am going to be discussing our travels at length, so this sort of prologue severs as a vent to our frustration as well as a means to introduce the stories that I will be sharing when we arrive home. It has been a rather near tragic trip for us, for a verity of reasons, and as I prepare to shut my computer down and head to sleep for a few hours, I think of those who are already suffering due to the devastation that has occurred, and for those who have left their homes in haste to find shelter and safety. For us we are heading home, leaving behind someone else's home. It is not an easy thing to do, fee, and just turn a blind eye. At the moment we have no choice but to head home. In a few days from now, hundreds of thousands of people might not have homes to return to. That is very sad to know, that while you flee to your home, others are fleeing from theirs. Our hearts go out to those already affected and to those are will be affected. We love Charleston and the surrounding area and have hopes of returning in the Spring, hopefully to a city that has not been leveled or damaged to much. 

If you are evacuating, safe travels. If you are reading this from the comforts of your land locked home, keep us in your thoughts as we navigate out of the area.   

Portraits: Location Test

Early in the summer I discovered an ultra cool location while on a bike ride. Meandering through the area I knew that at some point in the summer I would need to come back and shoot some portraits or fashion in this spot. While talking to one of my clients and discussing the spot, she eagerly expressed some interest in a shoot at the location. Over the last few years I have photographed Erin for her business, giving her head shots for marketing purposes. This shoot was vastly different being that it was not for her business and it was more casual with a flare of fashion. I suggested a white dress, giving the environment, I thought white would be most idea.. The shoot would occur later in the afternoon leading up to that beautiful golden hour light. This was one of the very first shoots with my Canon 5dS. Love this camera. At the same time I was shooting with such a beast of a DSLR, I had my Nikon F4 loaded with some 400 speed film. I wanted to play with the film while using the DSLR to capture some high resolution images. The results are beautiful, filled with light, texture, and a play on the environment. 

Photography: Personal Work, Social Media, Marketing and Promos

Wowzahs! I havent posted in a long time! This year has been a strange year for a few reasons. I have encountered a number of injuries. Most recently I suffered a pretty sizable mountain bike crash. If you were to rank it 1-10, I would have scored a heavy 8. I took a risk and it did not pay off well. The reward was a face plant on a rock and some new battle scars. I looked like I had gone half a round with Mohmad Ali. I am taking a break from the downhill stuff, permanently. With my career and work on the major uprise, I would rather focus my energies on taking major risks with my business as opposed to doing things that will delay my work or put me on the bench.. "Put me in coach." Life: "No, you take the back seat and heal." Ain't nobody got time to waste healing.. 

This photo does not convey the severity of the injury. 

I suffered a minor knee injury in February. It was a two part doozy. I was taking a yoga class and that was the major factor. However, when I was hiking the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful spot along the Oregon Coast, I twisted my leg while turing on a muddy corner and my knee didnt do what it was supposed to. That was a fun couple of weeks. NOT!  A few weeks after the knee was better, I had a back injury put me out for almost a week. That came out of no where. What was mentioned was that due to the knee injury and compensating for that, my back was like, "hey, you, I'm going to quite out on your for a few weeks.." That was also not cool. 

Growing up I always heard, from my mother, "If you want to play, you are going to pay." Well, this year I have played and I paid. This kind of risk, when you own a business and do not have a large staff to take over is challenging. When I was with the back injury, that was the worst of it. I had two full weeks of work and walking around, carrying lights, cameras, and shooting was very tough. I was not very happy to be in that condition. Like I said, I want to take bigger risks with my business, not so much my health. I am planning some awesome, fun, new marketing strategies that will be bringing me to new places. I am striving to shoot some new work and travel more. All the new marketing I am going to be implementing will be the foundation for this to come to fruition.  

I firmly believe that I was born 20 years to late. I was just telling that to the guy who processes my film. Yes, I said film. I made a conscious decision a few weeks back. All personal work is going to be photographed using film. I have some pretty awesome film cameras. I just scored a vintage Yashica range finder. I have an awesome Nikon F4, a 35mm Canon from the 70's, an older twin lens reflex, not a Yashica or Rollie, but something fun and simple to play with. 

Last week I was working on a marketing task and the light was splendid. Perfect golden hour light. I closed my macbook and grabbed a bag of film cameras and hit the road. I had no idea what I was going to shoot, but I knew where I wanted to go. I drove a half hour north of the studio and found some fields with views of mountains and some farms. I shot primarily with the Yashica, playing with the simplistic mechanisms that are so well engineered into this body.

I am not a hipster. I am a photographer. I am not shooting film to give people that aura that I am oh so cool, like a hipster. I am shooting film because I grew up with film. I worked in a few different 1 hour photo labs. I shot with film in school 1999-2001 and then again in college 2006-2009 and 2010-2012. If I was born 20 years earlier, most of my work would have been on film. Film is different than digital and I will explain below the images, shown below. 

How many of you are guilty of taking a photo into Light Room and hitting a preset button? How many of you are also guilty of just allowing that preset to be the total result of the work? I know a lot of people rely heavily on presets and actions, (if you are using photoshop) as a means of making their photos look the way they do. The photographs above were photographed on 400 speed Fuji film. I scanned them in once I got the negatives from the lab. I spotted out all the dust that appeared during the scanning. I have not made a single local correction, exposure, brightness, or corrected the colors. I will not and do not want to. While I could nit pick the images, for example, the image with the trucks, I could go into photoshop, play with some levels, some curves, adding some darkness to the sky, but I don't want to. That is not important to the image. The image is paired with the photograph of the steering wheel shot through the window. The point of the photographs are about seeing, composing, using the mechanics of the camera in conjunction with film, and showing the work as part of a collection of images of what I see. The stories I tell through film are scripted through composition and light, not by the latest presets or actions. 

I was explaining the cameras to a friend of mine. He is a few years younger than I am. He didnt understand a word of what I was saying because he, like so many other people, including most youth, will not have the benefit of learning from the use of film. In some ways I am keeping film alive, for me, by using these cameras and producing work with film. It is my way of honoring where photography has come from. It is my way of saying, this is what photography was and can still be, for those who know what to do and how to do it. There are still a lot of resources to learn film photography. There are new manufacturers producing film and keeping it thriving. There is a surge in people, them damn hipsters, buying vintage film cameras. Film is still going to be around for some time. Go play...

Behind the scenes in studio working with a dance company.

I am on Instagram as @jeffreybphotography I have been using IG for a few years now and have posted, as of today 2567 photos. For a while it was anything goes. Now, this account, is soly for my business. I share work, current mostly, behind the scenes, and humors moments on sets. I share what I am seeing at sets, my equipment, and the life of a photographer. I am getting a fair amount of little red hearts. I have yet to land a big shoot because of IG or connecting with someone on IG that leads to a great shoot. I am struggling to get to that point. I know that a lot of it has to do with where I am located most days. The work that I want to shoot is not in my region. I am relying on my other marketing efforts to lead to that. While my IG is a major component of my branding and identity as a photographer, it is taking a little bit more time than I would like. That is fine. I see it as a challenge and will not only increase the followers, fans, but increase the potential to use it as a means to score big shoots. You dont need to be a social marketing guru to use the app, but you need to be posting the right content and directing it towards the right audience, both in terms of fans and followers, but also towards the people that will see it and want to work with you. That is what I am working on, aside from shooting film, and creating new marketing strategies to implement.  

Until the next post, stay cool my friends.

Peace, love, and buckets. On set with a dance company. 

Commercial Photography: Boston Marathon

I have never run any sort of race, let a lone a marathon. When I was actively running a few short years ago I found myself enjoying the hell out of it. For years my asthma prevented me from doing so. The closest I ever came to running any kind of marathon distance was the day my friend Kris and I ran a portion of the Charles River in Boston. 

At the time Kris was living just south of Bean Town. I went out to visit him and we planned a swell run. We were going to do the entire Charles River loop, which totaled the sum of 17 miles. The day of the run we pounded an unhealthy lunch, something you wouldn't see a marathon runner doing. But, the commute we had from Canton Ma to Boston was enough to let our lunch set in and give us the energy we needed to tackle such a feat. We got off the train, walked from South Station to the Charles River as a warm up and began running the moment we set foot on the pavement that wrapped the river. It was one of the greatest days, one of the greatest moments, one of the greatest runs I've had. We were competing against ourselves. We were making our own marathon and running our own race. We set the pace and chased the ladies, flexed our muscles as we passed them, let the athletes pass us, watched as a cyclist made love to a fence when he didn't make the turn, as his handlebars caught the pole, we sweat, we ran, ran, and ran some more. We made a decisive turn, skipping the last leg. By that point we realized we would not be able to make the full loop. We would be shaving off about 6 miles and ending our run just over 11 miles. Why ruin a good run with over extended ourselves? Right? Welp, we ran a good race, had a blast, and it is a memory I will never forget. 

Over the last 4 years my running has declined. I have had major set backs with running and have become incredibly frustrated. I have been trying to work through it and am in the process of making incredible changes in my lifestyle. Said changes will be enabling me get back to a place of comfort and joy. Amongst the changes I have been making, I have found inspiration in a project I worked on. Below is a photograph of my sister-in-law Alison. Today she is one of over 14,000 women running in the Boston Marathon. I am proud of her for the training and strength that she has show me, us, her family. She has taken her training seriously, inspiring not just me, but my wife as well. 

Alison is a recent mother, as you will notice by the image below. Over the course of her pregnancy she came into the studio, discretely, not telling anyone but her husband. We were working towards the below image, a timeline of her pregnancy in a running pose. The idea, of course was born, PUN intended, because of the two pervious progression series I have composed. These kinds of shoots are so fun, so awesome to produce, and so enjoyable. I love the task of coming up with a concept for the series and will take them on in the blink of an eye. 

For all the thousands and thousands of athletes, runners, new, young, old, seasoned, best of luck to you. You have been training hard. Maybe you have worked your entire life for this moment, maybe you have been running the Boston Marathon for years and you still get that adrenaline spark that defines every step you put on the pavement. No matter where you place, whether first, second, third, 18 thousandth or dead last, you are still completing a marathon. There are a lot of people who can not and will not compete in a race for any number of reasons, but there you are, running, winning a race. Yes, winning a race. Even if you are not the first person across the finish line, you still beat the biggest competitor, yourself. You have beat the odds, beat the doubt, and won. Congratulations to all who have run and will run. Your accomplishment is your reward and an achievement, which no one can take away from you.  

Photography, Entrepreneurship, : Know your limits

I once had a business partner. Things did not work out and we parted ways. He moved away. I stayed here and continued running the show. In a way, I always ran the show and held things to a higher standard. The parting of ways was an eye opener. I was able to discover things about myself, my business, and most importantly, the direction I wanted to be going in. While we had a business and a studio and worked toward building a reputation and taking on larger studios in our area, I was building a reputation for myself. I was doing the work that I really wanted to do, which was most important to me. When the time came and things were ready to end, after a small messy battle, I kept moving forward and have made changes with my business.

You will not see me discussing the past business beyond how I did so above. I will not discuss past shoots that occurred under that business. By all accounts, I am that business, have always been that business and will always be that business, that is, until a time comes that I chose to follow other leads in life. I have a new partner now. A new business parter, my wife. She believes in me and wants me to succeed more that the former business partner did. She cares about my business, nurtures my creativity, and wants me to be the success that I am and will continue to be. She does so out of love and care, but also because the more successful I am, the more we prosper as a couple. 

Sue, cliff side, Cannon Beach area, Hiking to Indian Head Beach, Oregon

My wife, Sue, is always quick to point out the importance of downtime and knowing my limitations. Sue has endured her share of physical set backs. Her health at times is like a roller coaster, up and down, peaks, highs, and lows. She is always encouraging me to rest and get better sleep, which I am finding out makes a huge difference. I have cared for her when she has needed it, never giving her many opportunities to reciprocate. Her mother is a retired nurse. Sue grew up in a house with two other sisters, her father, and the best possible kind of caretaker there is, a nurse. She learned to be more compassionate, undoubtedly, from her mother, who I may add is a sweetheart, and if she is reading this, I'm sure she is now blushing. 

Photo Credit: Sue, my wife. Landscape, Oregon.

Photo Credit: Sue, my wife. Landscape, Oregon.

Yesterday, while running some errands for the house and picking something up at the Home Depot for a project I am starting, I experienced a pain in my back. It was familiar, yet strikingly new. By the I made it home, I could not walk up the driveway. I attempted to help with a few minutes of yard work and found it to be a challenge. I retired to my new leather chair and ottoman. I fell harshly into it and painfully began to find a spot of comfort. With minimal strength to even lift my legs, I was able to sit into some sort of contorted position that was as pleasant as it was painful. I texted my uncle to let him know I would be unable to join him that evening. I closed my phone and laid back watching season 7 of Californication. I had no idea the rest of the night was going to be a painful spiral downwards. 

By the time I was able to get into bed, wiping the tears from my eyes, I was near delusions. Some how she managed to make me laugh, which amplified the pain, which increased the tears and laughter. Oh I was more of a train wreck last night than anything I have seen in a while. After some pills and a few sips of water, I checked out for the night. 

12 hours later I rose like the holy man himself. I was in pain, yes, but had to get up and stretch out as well as empty the bladder. Today was a new day with a new possibility of gaining some mobility. Around mid-night I had texted one of my long term clients, whom I am friends with and informed her I had to reschedule the shoot. That is something I do not commonly do. As a business owner, there are times when meetings and shoots have reschedules, and things need to be adjusted. Happens in all industries for countless unforeseeable issues that arise. Today mine was a physical limitation. I was upset and concerned that I would either end up in the hospital or worse have to cancel the first few days of my week. 

While I was seeing the light and nearing the level of pain that induces a coma, my first thought was my business, my second thought, was my business, my final thought before passing out, was my business. This is where knowing the importances of your limitations are and knowing how to shut off from time to time comes into play. This week was not horribly crazy, compared to the past. Friday was fast paced day, day before injury, and was not super, over the top crazy. However, the fast movement from place to place, shoot to shoot, in some way contributed to my Saturday collapse. Not that I fell, but that metaphorically I did collapse. It was time to rest. The biggest bummer of all, Sunday, today, was one of the most nicest days we have had this spring. I was looking forward to a successful shoot in the morning, a nice road trip with my wife and our fur kids, and a grilled dinner, with a fire to top it off. So far I have managed to sit in the sun, read 8 pages from a book I am in love with, and barely eat a frozen mash up of rice and beans cooked by one of the finest microwave ovens Best Buy has to offer. However, during all of that, my new partner has been there by my side, holding me as needed, walking with me to loosen up the tight muscles, and tend to the yard work that so desperately needs it.  

View of Pacific Ocean from cliff side, Indian Head Beach area/Cannon Beach area, Oregon

It is incredibly cliche to say, "don't take things for granted." In some ways, we are as human beings take everything for granted at one point or another in our lives. The flexibility to get in a car and drive anywhere and do just about anything, so long as we have the proper resources, enables us to take for granted what we do have, life. During my struggles and my pains over the last 24 hours, 12 of which we unmeasurable in terms of pain levels, I never kept my wife in mind and thought of how well she is doing with taking care of me. I am not easy to manage when I am in pain and she did a stellar job. While this blog post is more about the undertone, "don't take what you have for granted" and know your limitations and rest as needed so you can avoid injury and risk to your job, life, or business, it is also a way of me publicly saying thank you to my wife. Without her I would have suffered insurmountable levels of pain that would have kept me out for days to come. But her encouragement and support is what has gotten me up. She believes in me in ways I still don't yet understand. But the level of support and creative freedom she gives me gives me courage to fight on and be better than I can imagine. 

Thank you Susan. 

Fashion Photography: Cover Shoot

In March, a couple of weeks back, I found myself admiring the view from the 8th floor of an apartment window on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I was thinking of how I could incorporate the scene I was so longingly appreciating into the images I was about to make. Michael, my assistant, and I scouted the apartment for what would work, both for the cover and interior pages. In terms of the cover, I kept coming back to a scene in the bedroom as a possibility. During the pre-production we had discussed a few ideas for the cover, but never settled on anything final. There were a few images I put into the mood board that incorporated views out a window. All of us agreed, editor, myself, Michael, that the ledge in the bedroom, set against the quintessential Manhattan view would work. The bedroom was the perfect size to shoot with the bed and then reconfigure everything and shoot against the window.

Behind me the dialog between the editor, Mariana, our cover model and her assistant filled the room with conversation that echoed down the hall. The dialog shifted between the modeling industry to the wardrobe that was styled for the shoot. My assistant, Michael, was moving equipment around, setting things up. Depending on time, we would be shooting between 3-4 looks with 3-4 different sets within the apartment. The first agreed upon set was the bedroom. Directly across from the bedroom there was a kitchen area, a play area for the kids, and a small reading room off of that. The kitchen area would work for one of the ideas that Mariana had. From there we decided on a spot in the living room. There was a beautiful couch set against an orange wall that was close in color. Dale wore a vibrant orange top and a pair of white jeans that provided the perfect contrast. 

Our shoot time, like our pre-production planning was short. Working within a narrow timeframe, we had to shoot the cover image in one outfit and change sets as fast as we could to allow for the other outfits. Our model for the shoot, Dale Noelle, a veteran to modeling, founder and owner of True Model Management, was in the chair being prepped for the shoot by Hair and MUA, Shqipe Gocaj. As Michael was finishing with setting the lights up, the next step were to plan the wardrobe. This was the first time any of us, with the exception of Dale and her assistant were seeing most of the pieces. For the cover we agreed upon a dress that had arrived from Jovani Fashion just moments before we were ready to start shooting. As you will see below, the dress is stunning and Dale wore it well, very well!

I think we rocked this shoot. Mariana was ecstatic on set and the flow was great. This shoot had a lot of time crunchs, in terms of planning and execution on the day of. It was fun to work quickly, under the pressure of getting the shots in as fast as we can. While I have not had any exposure to photographing A list celebrities, yet, I look forward to when I get 5 minutes with, oh lets say Jason Statham or Kristen Bell. This shoot was awesome. I had such a great time working with everyone. A HUGE thank you to Dale, Dale's assistant Rachael, Mariana, Michael, and Shquipe. I am proud to have worked with everyone! 

Commercial Photography: Portraits

Rome is the ideal client. He has a need for great portraits. While he has ideas of how he would like to be photographed, ultimately he leaves the creativity up to me. Back at the beginning of March I had the pleasure of having Rome in the studio for a shoot. I put together a working plan to photograph him against a white background, knowing he would want some full body shots. I also photographed him against a very nice muslin background that I bought for a trip I took to the left coast in February. Sadly it never got used on the trip, so I was very anxious to shoot against it. 

I kept the lighting set up simple. For half the shoot I used a softlighter with my AB 1600. For the white, I used a parabolic with an AB 1600 and a bare bulb AB1600 to illuminate the white. I kept the background light off to the side a bit to add a bit of glare. With a few outfit changes, we navigated through the shoot with ease. I took him off the white and the other muslin for a few shots against the bare walls and window of the studio as well. 

Rome is an R & B Artist, producer, and song writer. He is quite the talented chap. I first had him in the studio back in July of 2015. A mutual friend of ours produced a music video for one of Rome's songs. We were able to shoot the entire video in studio. During the shoot I popped off a few stills with the lighting having been set up for the video. I really liked the photos, as well as Rome did too. 

Rome needed some updated images for his social media as well as for future releases of work. I was happy to have him in studio. You can see some behind the scenes as well as the results below. I will be working with him again in the next few weeks to create a different look. Of course I will share that shoot as well. 

From the Wall

My career as a graffiti writer was short lived but plays a key roll in my photography. I was introduced to graffiti when I was 14-15 by a friend who showed me a legal wall. Painted from top to bottom on an expansive wall, ironically across the street from the police department, there were characters, lines, colors, every single element of a well composed piece by a reputable crew of talented writers. 

At that time I had just finished my first photography class and was already hooked. I made a point to go back and shoot some photos of the painting. Walking in a straight line, left to right, I framed up sections of the painting until I captured the entire piece. Did I mention I did this with an old 35mm film camera and stitched the pano together in camera. When I received the 4x6 prints I taped them down to a piece of cardboard. I still have that photo, 16 years later, sitting in the studio.  

i began documenting the places that had the best paintings. I always went alone, never when anyone was painting. I would photograph the paintings that I admired, by the artists I admired. I started doing research, bought sketchbooks and markets and gave myself a name. In high school I was known for drawing, the graffiti. I always had a camera around and was always drawing graffiti. Occasionally Id scribble on a desk, but mostly in my books. Chicks loved it, so did a few of my friends Id skate with. Graffiti went hand and hand with skateboarding. I introduced the medium to a few friends, some of whom either curse me commend me for getting them hooked because they are still at it.  

Where I grew up was a haven of writers for years. In the backgrounds I would follow the artists by photographing their work. During that time I began painting, developing my style, learning and researching. I once came across a few paintings on website. I searched the interwebs, way before Google was around, and found something beautiful. The paintings always stuck with me. One eventful day I climbed through a fence, walked down an embankment, stepped onto the train tracks and looked at the wall. I was flabbergasted to see the same paintings I adored. I somehow thought these painted existed in some far off place in the world, not anywhere close to me. I began snapping away. I maneuvered around and kept shooting. There were two sets of tracks and a train quickly approaching. I was in awe and hadn't noticed the impending freight train. What seemed like inches away, the train engineer blew the horn, scared the crap out of me so hard I graffitied my underwear and ran for my life. It was a close call, but I caught some amazing paintings. 

For years I followed one group of artists. I was never in their league, not even close. I had a few friends that knew them, but I never met them. I kept my silent distance and photographed their work. Of the group there was one artist in particular that I was inspired by. I admired his work, his style, his bold use of paint. Over the years I heard the rumors of the trouble he got in, the time he did, and that one time a judge let him off by painting a piece right behind the courthouse that had a positive message, "The future is in your hands." It was a beautiful painting of a pair of hands extended from a character the artist made. 

One evening I was with a friend. At times he was a chill kid, other times he was a raging dick. That particular night he was a dick. He told me I should never pick up a can of paint again and that I should just make photographs of the writers and their work. He said the world needed someone to document the work and make the books instead of someone that couldn't paint. Id like to say that I took his advice, however I did not. I was not discouraged in the least. I continued painting and documenting what I saw. It would be a few years before I put the cans down. In full disclosure, I was never one of those offensive artists that would maliciously paint everything I could, racking up a case of vandalism. Graffiti for me, as it has been and always will be, is art. 

Recently I found out from a friend of mine that the artist I idolized for so many years passed away. I was saddened by this news. While I did not know him personally, I took the loss in my own ways, knowing that another talented artist had left this world too soon. The day I found out about his passing, my long time friend, the one who loves to curse me for getting him hooked, was at an undisclosed location painting a mural with a group of friends. The mural was the last piece the artist was working on. They were painting it in his honor. He invited me down, but due to a shoot, I was unable to make it down. This past week I had a shoot in the neighborhood of the wall. I had a few minutes to stop and admire the work, so I did. I snapped a few photos and thought back to all those short years of the smell of Krylon, markers, discovering new paintings by the artists I admired, and that sensation I got from graffiti. It is sad to think that the artist I admired so much will no longer be producing work. There comes a date when we all retire from what drives us, the things we love and the work we love to produce. Enjoy the days you have and the work you make. Keep sharing, you never know who you will inspire. 

The following photos are from the memorial mural. 

Travel Photography: Key West, Florida

Key West is the southern most, final destination in the state of Florida. Key West is by all accounts a tiny island in the Florida Keys. My wife and I rented bicycles and were able to ride around the entire island very quickly. Before we got on our two wheels and made our way around the island we took one of those uber, not the car service, touristy trains. Being a tourist, you can hop on a freight train for the unadventurous and get a history lesson of the island from one of the plump drivers. While bopping around the seat, photo-bombing the group in front of us taking "selfies," I spotted a restaurant that spoke to me. I made a mental note of where the restaurant was based on how the driver navigated his choo-choo train. 

From the moment we rode past Frita's Cuban Burger Cafe, it was my mission to eat there. The first time I had a cuban sandwich was in Boston. Not the most ideal place to have such a sandwich. It was lack luster, but when you eat something at the bottom of the barrel, that just means that when something is how it should be or when it is served in an authentic environment, it will be life affirming. Frita's would be both culturally relevant and decadent. 

We handed over the credit card, signed the papers, and saddled up on the wheels that have probably been ridden more than a Brazilian prostitute. Our bikes moaned and creaked as we cycled our way around the island. Around a corner, down a street, up the block, to the left, followed by a right, we found a beach. Our bikes were equipped with locks, which we used to safely secure them to some bike racks. The water was beautiful. We had a swim, a few moments for photos, and a few minutes laying in the sand and we were off. During our train ride our the island I made a few photos of things we passed, mostly with my Gopro, photos I'll save for later. As we navigated around I built a map of the island, making note of visually appealing landmarks along the way. This mental database would be what helped me pedal our way to Frita's. 

You should never judge a book by its cover just like you should never judge a restaurant by how many people are dinning. My wife was a bit reluctant when we rolled up Frita's. I was ecstatic because after half an hour and a wrong turn, we arrived. There wasn't a single person eating, drinking, or doing what people do at restaurants. I didn't hesitate or think anything none-the-less. I first learned about Frita Kahlo when studying Art History at The University of Massachusetts. I knew that if there was a restaurant dedicated to her, the food must be as well composed as her paintings were. I am by no means a food critic. I know what I like, love, hate. I am however one for a culinary adventure. I was eager to sit down, order, and stuff my face. 

Everywhere we turned there was portraits of Frita looking at us, greeting us, asking us what we were hungry for. Our table had a bust of Frita painted on it. No matter which angle you sat, she was looking up at you. No doubt the artist who painted her knew a thing or two about perspective. We sat outside, as it was a beautiful, hot day in Florida. Groups of people passed by. Occasionally the brave would stop and read the menu, but most people kept passing by. I kept thinking to myself, "are these people crazy for passing a place like this up, or are they just not in the mood to eat?" My camera was torn from the bag the moment we sat at the table. It was obvious by my behavior that I am not a tourist. Most people get that the moment they see my set up. I made a few photos of our surroundings and a few while the manager came out and took our order. I stood and approached the guy behind the grill. I asked if I could make photographs while he cooked our food. He obliged, even showing a bit of excitement for being photographed, sort of as if it made his day. Dewan from Bangladesh worked the grill like an artist, perhaps the same artist who painted Frita on our table. He was happy to tell us his story as to why he was in Key West, grilling our food. At some point we had a more personable conversation with the manager who took our order. He handed me a business card with his name and email address, so as I could forward him this very post, but during my travels, the business card slipped from my notebook and became a reminder of why I should also write things down in addition to taking a business card. Some book make that card was..

I ordered 2 Cuban Tacos, Sue ordered 1 Cuban burger, I had the ear of Cuban grilled corn, and we shared 3 churros. Like I said, I am no food critic, but what I can say is this, my life changed with every bite I took. The juxtaposition of each element of our food created sinful, lusting, flavor bombs of transcendence. Frita's is the type of restaurant where you will eat something that you will remember. Located off the main road and 90 miles from Cuba, you would think that your eating at a restaurant on the Havana Port.