Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Viva Las Vegas with Keith Urban at the Cosmopolitan, iPhone Style

This past weekend I shot my first iPhone only concert ever — Keith Urban at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas with Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Neimann.

I was there with my wife mrsth for our 18th wedding anniversary. We’re both big Keith Urban and country music fans, so when I saw he was playing at the swanky Cosmopolitan (which is absolutely the best place to stay in Vegas these days), I booked us a room there for the weekend and we celebrated 18 years in style.

A great show was made even better thanks to Jessica Northey who put us in touch with Keith’s management (thank you so much Rachel!) who were able to arrange a special meet and greet ahead of the show. There’s nothing like impressing your woman on her special day!

I’ve shot a lot of live music over the years and always with a DSLR, but this time I went sans DSLR and shot only with my iPhone. You can check out what I was able to get with only an iPhone only here. iPhone shooting in low light can be tricky. I felt like I got some good shots though.

At Coachella earlier this year my friend Sam Levin gave me an olloclip. That really came in handy for this show. If you like shooting concert photography with your iPhone, you absolutely *HAVE* to get one of these. It’s basically a telephoto lens for your iPhone and makes a huge difference in terms of getting closer than you could otherwise.

Most shows I see I’m pretty much focused 100% on just shooting the show — so much that I don’t even really have the best time. This show though it was much more laid back without my DSLR and just hanging out as a normal fan with an iPhone. One of these days I would love to shoot Keith Urban with a DSLR, but the Vegas show was perfect just like it was with the iPhone.

And about that show — WOW! if you haven’t seen Keith Urban play live yet you really should. In fact he’s in the Bay Area Saturday night in Mountain View if you want to check him out for yourself. He puts on a really rocking show digging deep into his repertoire with so many of his greatest hits. Keith has a ton of energy and he and his whole band really put on a super fun and kick ass live show — that man can play guitar!

Both Brett Eldredge and Jerrod Niemann are great opening acts. My wife especially enjoyed the fact that in Vegas Brett played a bit of Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, which was coincidently the first song that we danced to at our wedding 18 years ago.

Keith’s got other dates coming up in Oregon and Washington if you live there. You can check out the remaining dates of his Raise ‘Em Up tour here.

You can check out all of my live music concert photography here.

On William Eggleston Meeting Henri Cartier-Bresson

William Eggleston: You know, I had a meeting with him [Henri Cartier-Bresson], one in particular, it was at this party in Lyon. Big event, you know. I was seated with him and a couple of women. You’ll never guess what he said to me.

Drew Barrymore: What?

William Eggleston: “William, color is bullshit.” End of conversation. Not another word. And I didn’t say anything back. What can one say? I mean, I felt like saying I’ve wasted a lot of time. As this happened, I’ll tell you, I noticed across the room this really beautiful young lady, who turned out to be crazy. So I just got up, left the table, introduced myself, and I spent the rest of the evening talking to her, and she never told me color was bullshit.


Snapsation Launched Today at LeWeb

Are you a photographer looking to make money?

Congratulations to my good pal Chris Chabot on the launch of his new photography services internet site today at LeWeb, Snapsation. Snapsation is an innovative new site that matches photographers and clients looking to hire photographers.

If you are a professional photographer or just an amateur looking to buy a few new lenses, either way you will want to check out this new place to market you and your work. You can find me there at

How I Will Publish One Million Photographs Before I Die

Waiting for the Mother Ship -- Death Valley, CA

My friend Chris Guillebeau sent me an email this morning about my uploads to Flickr. One of the things I love about Chris is that like me he is a big dreamer/achiever. For those of you who don’t know him, you should get to know him. He’s a huge motivation and someone who can help you achieve great things as well. Chris wrote up a really nice interview on my photography a few years back.

One of the things that Chris wanted to do was to visit every country in the world by April 7, 2013. For this goal he is using the United Nations list of 193 member states. You know what? He’s visited 192/193 so far. WOW! His Brief Guide to World Domination should be required reading for every person in the world. It should be taught to students especially.

I sincerely believe human beings are capable of so much more than they think they are. Unlocking our true potential and power comes from some very basic tools and techniques that can be learned. In 2005 I read a book that dramatically changed the way I think about my own life by Brian Tracy called Focal Point. I’d encourage you to buy this book and read it. It’s probably the most important book I’ve ever read. If you’ve got kids buy it for them and give it to them as well. It teaches you how to accomplish great things.

One of the things that I’ve decided that I want to do with my own life is to publish one million photographs before I die. When I talk about publishing a million photographs, I’m not talking about simple shutter actuations — I’ve already taken over a million frames. Anyone can push a shutter a million times. You could probably train a monkey to do this. Anyone can even publish a million meaningless photo clicks to the web — many in fact already have.

My quest is not simply quantity over quality. What I’m focused on is publishing one million *quality* photographs that I believe in and care about as personal art — photos that I can be proud of. Each photo I choose to publish is carefully selected amongst many different frames from a shoot. Each photo is individually worked with, processed, edited with software, keyworded, and frequently hand titled and geotagged (although not always, for those last two points). Occasionally I will create more than one version of a single frame, but each photo is unique and different.

Although I publish my photos to many different sites on the web, Flickr is where I’m presently maintaining my larger body of work. What a deal Flickr is — unlimited high res photos for $24.95/year. Nobody comes close to touching this. In addition to this great value, Flickr comes with great presentation tools, an awesome new iPhone app and a pretty terrific social network too.

At present I’ve published 79,783 photographs to Flickr. In addition to these published photos, I’ve got an archive of about 22,000 fully completed and finished photos in a folder ready to go to Flickr. Each day I publish about 30 more of these to the site, pretty much at random — or about 11,000/year.

Which brings me back to Chris’ email earlier this morning. Chris is working on a new book right now and for the book had asked me some questions last month about my photography. He was following up today to confirm that last year I published about 11,000 new photos to Flickr — which I’m going to confirm with him shortly after finishing this post — but in considering this, I realize that the 11,000 number for 2012 is problematic. It’s problematic because if you assume that I continue on at this pace, I will need to live 84 more years to realize my goal of 1,000,000 photos. At age 45 today, it is highly unlikely that I will live to be 129, and so at my present pace, this sets my goal up for failure if people take my publishing rate today at face value.

My goal is much more complex than simply 11,000 photos per year for the rest of my life though. I’ve thought about my lifetime goal for many, many hours and my plan to achieve it is more complicated than a simple number for 2012 might suggest.

I’ve actually worked out my lifetime achievement goal in rough form with a spreadsheet as I’ve developed my thinking. At present what I plan on doing is increasing my publishing rate of photos by 2% per year during the next 10 years. The reason why I’m publishing less photos today is primarily because I’m so focused on actually shooting the photos today. I want to spend the time in my life when I’m most physically fit shooting the most. I also think that time/age frequently add interestingness to many photos. So I’d rather capture photos here and now today than in the future.

If I increase my publishing 2% each year for the next 10 years (something I’m very confident I’d be able to do even with my current unpublished archive alone) I should have about 200,000 photos published 10 years from now.

10 years from now my last of four children, Kate, will (hopefully) be leaving us for college. With all four of my kids out of the house, I will likely spend less time on my children than I do today. So 10 years from now I will increase my publishing rate even more, about 5% per year — more time for shooting but more importantly, more time for processing. In 10 years I’ll have approximately 370,000 photos published.

20 years from now, not only will my kids (again, hopefully) be done with college, but I’ll also be able to retire from my day job at around age 65. This will then free me up 100% to focus my time and energy on photography. I plan to increase my publishing rate by 10% per year then.

After age 65 the proportional rate of time spent shooting vs. processing will likely flip flop from what I’m doing today as well. Instead of spending 80% of my time shooting and 20% of my time processing, like I do now, I’ll likely spend 20% of my time shooting and 80% of my time processing. When you’re an old man (not that 65 is old, but I’ll get older likely after that) it’s a lot easier to sit in front of a computer and process than it is to run around the country staying up 20 hours at a stretch and shooting.

If I follow this strategy, and the part between age 65 and 80 is super important, I will publish 1 million photos when I am 80. Government life expectancy tables today give me until age 83 to live, but I wanted a few years as a buffer in case I kicked the bucket early.

My biggest challenge in all of this is maintaining my unpublished archive. I want this archive to grow larger and larger and larger, even as my published work grows as well. By growing my unpublished archive larger, I ensure that greater and greater diversity will be represented in my daily publishing. This is a secondary goal of mine, to have as much diversity with what I publish as possible. 20 years from now I like the idea of a photo from 2010 being published alongside a photo from 2015 and one from 2020. I like the idea of my photos been diversified not just by time, but by location (I’ll shoot more and more locations over my lifetime), subject matter (I’ll shoot more and more different things), style (my style will evolve and change), etc.

As I pursue this lifetime goal I’m also cognizant of a powerful tailwind at my back — technology. Technology will make my goal easier and easier to achieve. Already in 2013 I’m blown away at how much faster I can process my work than two years ago. Going from hard drives to flash storage, going from USB to Thunderbolt, faster macs, better cameras, all contribute to ensuring that I will be able to keep pace in the future even as I grow my publishing rate. For the first time, this year, I’ve felt like the only thing holding me back with my processing is actually me. For the first time with the hardware and software advances, I feel like I’m working and editing my work in real time. The future is indeed bright for the future tools that will not only continue to make our images look better, but which will also help us do more faster.

One final note — this goal is intensely personal for me and me alone. I created it, I live it, I fuel it. Over the years I’ve had many who have been critical of my goal. Many don’t understand that quantity can also be quality. Many have expressed an opinion that taking so many photos somehow diminishes my work. Many people have a desire to produce less, not more. All of this is fine. Everyone can do whatever they want. This is just what *I’m* doing. I’m not saying that this is the right path for anyone other than me and me alone. I’m not making a larger statement about photography in general, or saying that people that don’t keep my path/pace are in any way less significant as artists or photographers.

While I’ve personally admired many of the most prolific artist/photographers in the world (Warhol, Eggleston, Winogrand, Friedlander, etc.), I also admire many photographers and artists who make great art in smaller but more intense doses too. Whatever YOU do is fine. Be true to yourself and follow the artist that is inside of you.

What? An Interview with Thomas Hawk! Thanks PetaPixel!

Thanks to Michael Zhang and PetaPixel for featuring an interview with me today. I’ve been a huge fan of PetaPixel for a long time now. Michael is probably doing a better job blogging photography than anyone else on the web right now and publishes great stories pretty much every single day. In this interview with Michael I talk about my own background in photography and where I think online photo sharing is headed in the next five years amongst other things.

It’s truly an honor to be featured on such a great photography blog!

Do You Even Have to Own a Camera to Be a Photographer Anymore?


I just posted the photo up above on Flickr, Google+ and Facebook. It’s a diptych that I made with photos that I found on Google Street view. I really like the way it came out. I like the message that the random word spells out in the Wawona Tunnel in Yosemite. “Prepare.” It’s part of a longer message, Prepare to Slow I think, but in this context it means to prepare yourself for what you are about to witness immediately when you exit the valley side of the tunnel. One of the most famous and spectacular views in all the world. Of course a random photographer is photographing it — from sun up to sun down a camera is constantly on this view 365 days of the year.

In this photograph “Prepare” also has a secondary meaning of preparing for a new world of photography. A world of photography that is no longer bound by technical mastery or even a camera. A new more modern aesthetic of photography far, far away from the burning and dodging that Ansel Adams once did to perfection over hours spent in the darkroom. The new aesthetic is faux film as defined by Instagram, their new filters and mobile photography. An aesthetic where flaws are celebrated in photography. The purposeful broken Holga that lets the beautiful random light leak in. An aesthetic that has been made simpler with drag and drop technology, where algorithms quickly create your latest masterpiece.

Personally I’m excited about this new world of photography and art. I love it when artists push bounderies. Richard Prince pushed boundaries in photography and art by rephotographing Marlboro billboards and making the work his own. William Eggleston pushed boundaries by presenting fine art photography in color and exhibiting the mundane. Gregory Crewdson stopped pressing the shutter himself when he created his masterpieces, much to the chagrin of many a Nikon D800 weekend warrior. Andy Warhol had someone else sign his own work.

And what inspired me to create the dyptich above?

It’s the amazing work I’ve recently discovered by Jon Rafman. For those of you who are unfamilar with Rafman’s work, he is building a body of photography created entirely from Google Street View (exhibiting at Saatchi no less) — and these are some of the most creative and brillant photographs I’ve seen in some time (warning, prepare to spend a ton of time floating through Rafman’s images, there are many with and endless scroll).

I suppose the point of this article is to celebrate this new vision of photography where a camera isn’t even required any more. A new vision that is a great equalizer and the next step in the democracy of photography. A new vision that emphasizes the creative process over the tools and technique.

American Graffiti

American Graffiti

I went out shooting with Sly and Charli and Jay yesterday. A few things about the making of this shot.

1. Charli is a kick ass model. Thanks to Charli who so generously gives of herself to make amazing art. The only models I’ve really ever shot are the ones that I know. I’m not sure why. There’s comfort and familiarity maybe that helps pull a shot off. I’ve known Charli Blake and Sly for a while now and they are two of the nicest most generous people you’ll ever know. This could have been a cool graffiti shot, but having Charli in it really throws it over the top for me. When Charli comes out shooting with us it’s not just hoping in the car and let’s go. She spends a ton of time with makeup, the right outfits, etc. She’s as good as they get when it comes to modeling and I’m lucky to have access to such a Pro at what she dos.

2. This shot is actually a collaboration effort. And thanks to Sly Vegas for much more than just being a shooting buddy. Sly got the *coolest* new flashlights. Coast Flashlights are the F*ck***ing BEST!!! After showing me one for 15 minutes Sly wanted to know how soon one would be on my wishlist. And guess what, he’s right. This will be one of the next photo gear purchases I make.

I know what you’re thinking, $300 for a flashlight?!?!? But, yeah, $300 is an amazing deal for this flashlight. The difference between lighting Charli up with one of these flashlights and using natural light alone is like night and day. Just the right light, just the right colorcast. I’m not normally a guy who really obsesses about lighting, but after seeing what Sly could do with this thing I’m so getting one. Coast should totally sponsor Sly because he’s gonna sell alot of flashlights for them when people see what he’s doing with them.

3. Also Charli and Sly both helped me process this shot last night. Charli helped with the crop and Sly contributed with the mask to get the right exposure around the edges of the photo. We all three processed it together just before I posted it last night. After we processed it we were sitting around thinking of a title. I’m hyper focused on shooting America these days and so I was muddling around American Art, American Beauty (after the movie), and all of sudden Sly bursts out “American Graffiti” which is actually the *best* title for this shot. And a perfect description for this place we shot in Alameda yesterday.

4. We had great energy going yesterday. Four good friends, Jay, Sly, Charli and myself just had a really nice groove going. I’m not going to get into the whole bust thing earlier in the morning because some things that involve cops are probably best not blogged about, but I know I was down, and spending the rest of the day inside this magical location with good friends like these guys was the best pick me up I could have gotten. Afterwards we ate some great American Steaks at my place and I think all four of us felt like we had one of those amazing days with the camera that you never seem to get enough of.

The Plus One Collection

The Plus One Collection

Wow! I just heard from my good Pal Ivan Makarov that the Plus One Collection sold almost 100 copies in the first day of taking orders. That’s pretty impressive for a $200 limited edition book. I think the book probably got a nice boost when Google Social Chief Vic Gundotra himself posted about it and bought a book yesterday.

What is the Plus One Collection? Well 520 photographers got together on Google+ to create a collaborative book for charity (so far we’ve raised over $5,000 for Kiva). These are some of the very best photographers on the site and each submitted their best photo of 2011. A panel of 11 editors (I was one of these) using blind ratings then edited this down to 193 single page photographs (all 520 will be in the ebook but only 193 would work in the print book).

There are two editions of the book being offered for sale. A numbered limited edition 11×13 fine art book, printed on fine art paper, including tipped-in print, made to museum standards, available for only 9 more days — and another less expensive book that will follow fulfilled through Blurb after the limited edition sale. Each limited edition book also comes with a print from the book and a certificate of authenticity.

All of the work on this book was done by photographer volunteers on Google+. Ivan probably did the most work of all, but so many others in the community helped as well. Especially notable was the amazing design work on the book that photographer Andy Lee did. Ingo Meckmann designed the great website for the book.

100% of all net proceeds go to Kiva.

I’ve loved seeing this project come together as photographers from all over the world have contributed (literally only 65% of the photographers are from the US/Canada, the rest are from all over the world including Europe, Asia and as far away as Oceania!). The book shares a love for photography and fine art along with a way that we have been able to give back to the world that we all find beauty in and photograph every day. Thanks to everyone who bought a limited edition book yesterday, the price is steep but I think you’ll be proud to own a highly collectible edition of some of the best photography from 2011 while helping to support a very worthwhile cause.

My Talk on My Photography from the @Google Series

I had a great time a few weeks ago giving a talk about my photography as part of the @Google talk series down at the Mountain View Campus. During the hour long conversation I talked about my own approach to photography, how I’ve integrated it into my life, how I’m able to produce the volume of photographs I do while having a day job and family, my project to publish 1,000,000 photos before I die and my project to photograph the 100 largest American cities.

I also comment on the photo sharing space, Flickr, Google+, etc. and answer questions at the end.

Thanks so much to +Brian Rose for having me down to Google.

A Sunday Photo Talk Plus Extra!

In this Photo Talk Plus Extra, Lotus Carroll and I talk with photographers Billy Wilson, Olav Folland, Doug Kaye, Todd Green and Helen Sotiriadis.

In this discussion we talk about Olav’s aerial photography this week and his photos from a Cessna airplane of the Golden Gate Bridge.

We recap Lotus’ San Antonio photowalk yesterday and share photos from the walk.

We talk about a new Christmas based photography series Billy Wilson has started.

We talk about 10 photography based films for photographers to watch and review my personal wishlist for photography related items that I want for Christmas this year. 🙂

We also share the photos of Helen Sotiriadis and talk about some of those.

Todd Green joins us for his very first hangout ever and Doug Kaye stops in and updates on his movie plans tonight. 😉

Towards the end Mark Esguerra joins us, but too late as we already were over the 1 hour broadcast mark.

Braden Carroll makes a brief guest appearance to remind us all that he loves us.

Thanks to our +Photo Talk Plus sponsors +SmugMug and +Drobo Check them out at and