Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sons of Hollywood

Hollywood - A&E is launching their new show, "Sons of Hollywood". They hosted a party at Les Deux. The show is about three kids, Sean Stewart, son of rocker Rod Stewart, Randy Spelling, son of Aaron and Candy Spelling, and David Weintraub, son of movie producer Jerry Weintraub.

They are part of a gang of Hollywood rich kids with famous last names that frequent L.A.'s clubs on a nightly basis. You can add a lot of names to that list. The trust funders tend to travel in packs using their blackberrys and sidekicks to set up rendezvous points throughout the night.

They mostly shop during the day on Robertson and then hit the clubs hard at night. Sometimes too hard. Paris Hilton might be looking at jail time after she violated probation on her DUI.

The parking lot at Les Deux looks like an auto show. Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Bentley's, Porshe, Land Rovers and $100,000 Mercedes-Benz's litter the area. Pity the few who have to valet their entry-level BMW.

Rod Stewart took time off from his tour to jet and limo into to see his son's new venture. Which is better than his old venture, which according to is none. Rod must had an awkward moment showing up at the club with his new love-interest, the leggy model, Penny Lancaster, while his ex-wife, Alana also in attendance. He left the club with a big smile on his face, a proud papa.

Late night at a Hollywood club is very "Blade Runner" like. Valets running around trying to park cars and entourages arriving trying to get past huge bouncers. Rod Stewart's daughter, Kimberly Stewart who was there supporting her brother, had a scary moment when one of her friend's boyfriend punched the lead bouncer in the face. The puncher ,who himself had a group of bodyguards, ran off in his Rolls-Royce Phantom (base price $350,000 USD) before the cops could come and arrest him.

That was the beginning of the end of the party at Les Deux. Shortly afterward they found the next spot.

Jason Davis, grandson of the late oil tycoon Marvin Davis, left the club in an incoherent daze. When I asked him where his more famous brother, Brandon "Firecrotch" Davis is, he blurted out you would never see a picture of him and his brother posing together. He later handed me his business card with his new venture as a record producer.

Other guests that night included Tina Sinatra, a women who knows a thing a two about famous parents, Brittny Gastineau, whose dad played for the New York Jets, and Deep Roy, the actor who played Oompa Loompa in Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Also on the guest list was a Playmate, Shauna Sand, and Girls Gone Wild's Joe Francis. Just add free booze and you have a Hollywood party.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The $1.5 million Cra$h

Irwindale, CA - Actor Eddie Griffin took a very expensive ride when he totaled a $1.5 million Enzo Ferrari at the Irwindale Speedway on Monday night.

Griffin was lucky he was able to walk away. Both airbags deployed and unlike other celebrities that were driving exotic cars around the race track, he wasn't wearing a helmet.

The event was to promote "Redline the Movie" which is opening nationwide on April 13th. The spectacular crash did make a dramatic impact, but I don't think the owner of the Enzo, Daniel Sadek, who wrote and produced the movie, had that in mind.

I got a sequence of photos of the Enzo hitting a concrete barrier and anyone who wants to buy a license for the photos can contact my photo agency, Landov in NYC.

The only reason I even came to the event because I really wanted some photos that were a little different and thought celebs and exotic cars would be a good mix. When Griffin took a couple of practice laps before the crash, I knew something might happen as he knocked over quite a few orange traffic cones that were laid out on the track.

My first reaction was shock. I knew he was in trouble right before the crash and held down the button on my camera and my newly purchased Canon 28-300mm lens. Later when I reviewed the photos on the LCD on the back of my camera, I was relieved that I actually captured the sequence. When something like this happens, you wonder if you mind and body actually coordinated together to take the photos.

I left immediately left the track to try to make sales of the photograph to publications on the East Coast. If Annie Nicole Smith autopsy report wasn't released on Monday, the papers could of found space for the photos, but their news hole was tight and it was too late. Hopefully publications in Europe will want the photos. Eddie Griffin isn't an A-lister but the last time an Enzo was wrecked on California's PCH in Malibu, it was a world-wide story.

You can see a video of the crash here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Perez meets Paris

West Hollywood - The internet is the great equalizer. In the past there were hurdles and gatekeepers for most people to have their words and photos published. Not anymore.

A once obscure blogger named Mario Lavandeira, Jr. has a website called That site has garnered a lot of attention lately and according to him has had traffic in excess of 4 million visitors in a day.

His website is so popular that even the celebrities he writes about came to his 29th birthday party he hosted at the Roxy in West Hollywood on Friday. Perez Hilton is an obvious play on Paris Hilton's name. Both Paris and Perez were at the party, which is kind of ironic considering they both attained fame via the internet.

Paris was not the only bold-faced guest. John Stamos, Dave Navarro, Dita Von Teese, Kelly Osbourne and Amy Winehouse showed up too. That is a testament of the power of his blog.

This party wasn't for Perez's fans. It was a media event where sponsors advertised their goods and publicists tried to push their clients into the limelight. It may have been called a party, but in reality it was work for most of the attendees.

Usually a party with Paris Hilton's name would attract more than a handful of photographers that were at the red carpet on Friday night. What made many photographers basically boycott the event was the fact that Perez Hilton uses many photographs on his blog without attribution or payment. All in the name of fair use. He has even used my Britney Spears photos. A lot of bloggers are using photos that they haven't purchased any rights to.

Well it's one thing when a blogger uses art to illustrate a story that they are writing about. Perez Hilton is not any old blogger. He is profiting significantly from his blog. Paid national ads for movies are regularly on his blog. Consider that the average cable news show gets less than a million viewers a segment, actually gets more eyeballs. But the mainstream media outlets actually pay for their content. If CNN wants to use my photos, they better be paying me.

A segment on the "View" discussed Perez Hilton's website. One of the hosts mentioned that Perez gets paid in excess of a million dollars a year. I'm not to sure of that, but I think he has the money to pay for photos. Perez was paid for appearing on the cable drama "Dirt", playing himself. Could you imagine if they used his likeness or website on the show without compensating him? He wouldn't be too happy.

So if Perez is exploiting photographers, why cover his event? I'm a journalist first, and you can't report on something without first hand knowledge. I might have some bias about him because he has used my photos, but in the larger scheme of things, he is a story and a story worth covering.

The LA Times reported about how photo agencies are suing Perez.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Environmental Portrait

One mainstay of editorial photography is the environmental portrait. A writer is assigned a story and after doing some reporting, they contact the photo editor to set up a time for a photographer to take a photo of the subject. You seen the results a million times in newspapers and magazines.

It's not really a news photo. What the writer has written about on the subject has happened a while ago and you, the photographer are there to illustrate the story. Sometimes you are given some kind of back story from the editor, sometimes not.

I received an assignment this week to take a portrait of women that runs a non-profit center that is helping people who have been enslaved by nefarious traffickers in the U.S. It's hard to imagine that slavery in America still exists, but it does, often exploiting illegal aliens.

Part two of the assignment was to take a photo of a women who was enslaved. The publication stated in their assignment request was that they wanted to have "Maria", the former slave, photographed outdoors in the neighborhood, showing off the area. They wanted a photo of the director, but "closer on the face".

A pretty interesting story, for the writer at least, but I have to create something that already happened and that will satisfy the layout of the publication and website.

When I arrived at the job, my first priority was to get a decent photo of the director that had a clean background with some nice lighting. She told me that she didn't want to reveal the location of where she lived and a photo of "Maria" shouldn't show any landmarks either. Part of shooting a environmental portrait is to show something that links the subject. So now I had to show something, but not too much.

I asked the director if she had a home office from where she worked from. She said she worked form the dining room with her laptop. I was hoping she had an office that may had artwork or signage that could be used. Her dining room wasn't bad. It had a nice wall that could be used as a clean background, a table and laptop with a bouquet of flowers that was used in the photo.

One of the first thing I ask my subject is what kind of time frame are we dealing with? Do they have some other appointment they have to go to next? She had to leave for work in less than an hour, and "Maria" wasn't there yet, but on the way. So I had to work fast.

The day before I thought about the assignment and decided that I wanted to be very mobile and not bogged down with too much equipment. I have a case with battery operated strobes that I use for that along with some light stands and a backpack with two cameras and two lenses, my 24-105 zoom and 50mm f1.4 lenses.

Battery operated strobes are great when shooting outside. My case includes a Norman 400b, 3 Vivitar 283's and a set of PocketWizards radio slaves. I have a mini 19 inch octo-type light modifier by Norman that fits on the 400b that gives out a beauty-dish light. It works like a shoot-thru umbrella with a diffusing panel on it.

When shooting a portrait I try to balance the really complicated lighting schemes with simpler ones where the subject is more important than the technique. This time I wanted simple lighting that looked good but was worry free and allowed me to focus on the subject.

The first subject was easy. Director with office-like setting, hint of laptop, some flowers in foreground, splash of light in background wall for interest.

"Maria" was a little more complicated. How do you show someone that has been enslaved? The publication wanted outside shots. I could of made some cheesy photos entailing bars or fencing. I wanted something more subtle. I noticed a wall of hedging across the street. I thought that would make a clean background and symbolize a barrier. Luckily it was an overcast day in Southern California making my strobes the principal lighting for the photograph.

What really made the photo was "Maria". Her face belied a history of rough times and more trying times to come. It was just me and the subject on the street with one light. No assistants. No writer. Sometimes simple is best.

For a link to the story on "Maria" click here.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Making the Best in Bad Light

This weekend I was assigned to shoot high school basketball. It doesn't have the glamor of the NBA, but it is less restrictive and you are more likely to get a great photo than from a pro game.

The first thing was to plan on what gear to bring. I usually bring a couple of camera bodies with a 70-200mm 2.8 lens, 16-35mm 2.8 zoom and my 300mm f2.8 lens and call it a day. But that's for a professional or major college team in a well-lit arena. High school is a different manner. Most high school games are played in dark dingy gyms. So my first thought was to bring in some portable strobes with wireless pocket wizards to trigger them.

Then I realized since this was a regional final game to played at Cal State Fullerton, a college gym, I didn't think I needed to bring in additional lighting. I needed just a few action photos and some reaction photos of players either celebrating or sitting on the bench in dejection if they lose.

I brought a couple of fast primes, my 50mm f1.4 and my 85mm f1.8 lens just in case the light was bad.

The first thing I realized when I stepped into the gym was that it was dark. Very dark. At that point I second guessed not bringing in some strobes. My camera exposure said f1.8 at 1/500th of second at iso 1600 under the basket. You need to shoot at least 1/500th of second to stop basketball action and iso 1600 is the highest my camera will shoot at, the 3200 setting is unusable. The 1600 setting is really pushing it.

For reaction shots 1/250th second shutter speed would be okay with my f2.8 lenses. So I decided my 16-35mm and 70-200mm lenses would be for post-game shots. And try to get some action on the 85mm f1.8 lens during the game.

I noticed there was an area high up on the second level where I could also take some photos. Might as well walk around the gym and try to get some different angles, something that isn't allowed in an NBA game. Shooting overhead also allows you to shoot with a better exposure as the light is reflected directly back to you, giving you about a 1/3 stop of light. So why not?

Both the teams I was covering lost, giving me only the opportunity to shoot photos of crying kids at the end. Emotions run very high during a high school play-off game, another thing you won't typically get during an NBA game.

In the end, my client got a range of photos in different shapes to fit their layouts and made a very short deadline. I got them photos in less than ten minutes after the game ended.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Back In The Saddle: UFC 68

Columbus, OH - Randy Couture proved Saturday night that age is just a number.

As Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" rocked 19,000 fans at the Nationwide Arena, Couture entered the octagon in his UFC heavyweight title shot as a 3-1 underdog against the younger, taller, and heavier Tim Sylvia.

The forty-three year old Couture didn't waste time coming out of retirement when in the opening seconds of his fight, he caught Sylvia with a punch that sent the champion reeling toward the canvas. Sylvia never recovered. Five rounds later , a battered and bruised Sylvia had to give up his UFC belt to Couture.

Couture did what Jeff Monson couldn't do, bring Sylvia to the mat. The quicker Couture dominated Sylvia while on the ground where Sylvia's reach and height advantage was nullified. Bobbing and weaving, Couture also beat Sylvia in the striking department. It was a classic match of Brain vs. Brawn, the smarter, craftier and wiser Couture showing why he has won five MMA titles with the UFC.

Sylvia didn't help himself in the fan department. He was repeatedly booed this weekend, during the weigh-in and the fight. And after his loss, he attributed his defeat to a back injury. He was fighting one of the most popular fighter's in MMA history and gathered no support or sympathy from the crowd, getting another round of boos in the post-fight interview.

Couture may have been called a "freak of nature" by UFC president Dana White, but that is not going to be enough when he faces Mirko "Crop Cop" Filipovic in his next bout. He will have to be able to withstand the onslaught of kicks that the Croatian fighter is know for. I'm sure Couture will be watching carefully Filipovic's next fight in Manchester, England.

Baseball player Ken Griffey, Jr. watched UFC 68 from his octagonside seat, instead of training with his team in Florida. Ironically, the reason why he was at the fight was because of his broken hand, which he sustained wrestling with his kids. Maybe he got some pointers.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

UFC 68 pre-fight weigh-in

Columbus, OH- I took the Delta red-eye from LAX to Columbus with Joe Rogan. Rogan was in first class, I in coach. We both are here in Columbus for UFC 68, the so-called "The Uprising".

Why Columbus? The UFC has a tie-in with the body-building show this week, "The Arnold", and is hoping to give mid-westerners a up, close view of their brand of mixed martial arts. It turned out to be a good decision. The Friday weigh-in at the Nationwide Arena was open to the public and over 2,000 people showed up. Saturday's event is sold out and it will be the highest grossing event at the Nationwide Arena, even topping a Rolling Stones concert, according to the local paper, the Columbus Dispatch.

The fight everyone wants to see is the main event, Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia. The last time Sylvia defended his title, he wasn't to impressive trying to avoid the mat with Jeff Monson in UFC 65. Sylvia was greeted by boos at the weigh-in. Couture probably watched that fight and decided that he could come out of retirement and regain his title.

Whatever happens in the Couture-Sylvia bout, the winner will have to face Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. Even though Mirko will be considered a challenger, he will be the odds on-favorite. But let's just enjoy Saturday first.