Welcome to my blog. I like to use this as a place to expand on the work in this site, the stories behind the photographs, current and past activities, and observations and reflections on photography. Feel free to participate by adding your own comments or impressions.

Drone Photography Changes the Plane

There has been much talk and excitement about drones. The sentiment from the public ranges from indifference and curiosity to indignation and alarm. People who normally embrace emerging technologies will suddenly feel uneasy when confronted by an overhead drone. Ironically, significant safety issues aren't the reason. People are more concerned about aerial trespassing even though they are happy to post much more about their lives on social media than an overhead drone could ever capture. Maybe there is something more primal at work, something more instinctual that creates a sense of insecurity. Is it just that being observed from the sky doesn't feel right? Is this the human equivalent of a hawk and a rodent?  You might say it's all in the eye of the beholder.



To the photographer or videographer operating the drone, having a flying camera lets you get shots you could never do before, even from an airplane or helicopter. 



The drone is a technological marvel, combining aeronautics, computing, and digital photography, with global positioning and wifi communication. The result is a sophisticated flying camera that can be used by anyone with a few extra bucks and an avid curiosity. The medium has opened new avenues to capture every day realities, and the constantly changing environment.



The beauty of timely aerial photography is a unique view of our activities and our collective footprint that is otherwise fleeting, and largely unobserved.


People gather to watch the sunset over Mission Bay


The New Alpine Library

The new Alpine Library

To view additional exterior and interior images visit my features page.

Design - build Team

Manuel Oncina Architects, Design Architect
FPBA, Architect of Record, Phil Pape, Principal in Charge, Project Architect: Amanda Schulz, Interior Designer: Ann Shelton
Structural Engineer: Hope-Amundson Structural Engineers, Project Engineer: Clint Etzel
Mechanical Engineer: McParlane & Associates, Project Engineer: John McGee
Electrical Engineering: ELEN, Project Engineer: Anton Nathanson, Lighting: Stéphane Beauvais
Landscape Architecture: VDLA, Principal in Charge: Mitch Philippe, Landscape Architect: Bret Allen
Design-Build Contractor: CW Driver
Principal in Charge: Andy Feth, Project Manager: Matt Christensen, Superintendent: Will House

A Breath of Fresh Air in Encinitas

My regards to San Diego Home/Garden magazine and Janice Kleinschmidt on their June 2016 edition featuring this Encinitas home. Architectural design was by Lauren Williams, and Fred Gemmell, at the Matrix Design Studio. Furnishings were chosen by Holly Howell, with artwork curated by Nico Gemmell, also from Matrix Design. Additional images of the project can be viewed on my features page.

Defining a great image

You might get lucky and take a great photo but doing this over and over is another matter. There's a distinction between a good picture and a great picture. While the terms may be used subjectively, you can create good images by simply being proficient with the craft. In fact, we are inundated with good images but they are mostly meaningless. This is especially true in television, it's principal purpose seemingly being to awe, and distract us, dispelling any kernel of thought while keeping us transfixed. The blur of motion, color, impossible perspectives, and hypnotic slow motion has habituated us to expect more, an addiction to instant visual gratification. We've grown too impatient to linger on any one view or take. A few seconds is all we are allowed, lest we lose interest. Contemplation has become anathema to modern video.  Paradoxically, instead of being uplifted, you feel like you're getting bludgeoned. The effect is anesthetic. The vacuous stream acts as a central nervous system depressant. Your cognitive function is arrested. You are left empty and drained. In the wake of this torrent, a still photograph is an oasis of calm. There is far more to be gleaned from a single great image, than by a stream of empty visuals refreshing every second.  A really great image will maintain our attention because it defies explanation. Stripped of a verbal equivalence, we must rely on our intuition. The image becomes an experience onto itself, apart from the original subject. It's transformative. It may compel or inspire, or at best, completely still the mind. A few of the great photographers I think of are Jacques Henri Lartigue, Sebastiao Salgado, Irving Penn, Ansel Adams, Edward Steichen, Max Yavno, Gary Winogrand, Edward Weston, and Robert Mapelthorpe, among many others.

Photographing in Cuba

Bride, riding along the Malecon, Havana


I had the opportunity to visit Cuba in 2013 and spent a couple of weeks taking pictures, mostly in Havana. Despite the volume of photography that has already been produced in Cuba there is a wealth of material there, and you can quickly move beyond the photographic cliches that have become synonymous with the place. In hindsight, I actually regret that I deliberately chose to avoid one of these cliches, the classic cars from the 50's that Cubans have painstakingly maintained and kept on the road. There is really no cliche that can't be re-examined with fresh eyes and portrayed in a different or more revealing manner. Still, I chose to focus more on the people and the street life, and to some degree on the architecture, which in it's state of decay and neglect offers a rich tapestry that perhaps reveals more about this place than anything else.


Basketball game at a public park, Havana


In spite of the recent changes in the economic and political landscape Cuba remains a place where a certain authenticity has not yet been erased by the homogenizing effects of renovation and renewal. It's still a place where commerce, long kept in check by a moribund economic system, has yet to mar the landscape with billboards, messages, and sales pitches. You won't see walls whitewashed here, emblazoned as you might in Mexico with corporate brands such as Coca Cola or Pepsi. But the change is coming. It's already visible in the clothes people wear, with their designer labels and styles. Long suppressed by limited choices and scarcity, people are eager to express their individuality and freedom. This freedom is also expressed in the warmth and openness with strangers that one seldom finds elsewhere. People are friendly in Cuba. They haven't tired of outsiders, and don't mind if you take pictures. I found the best way to do this was to smile, say hello, and extend a hand. 


Woman leaning on a window, smoking


An impromptu chess match in the street


There's an immediacy to the street life in Cuba that's wonderful to photograph. Teeming with people, the streets are a theater of everyday life. The vibrancy of interactions between long time friends and neighbors, the habitual routines of residents as they go about their daily business was the subject I set out to portray. This is a place you can practice street photography almost at will. Even in the back alleys of poor neighborhoods, away from the tourist traffic, you can work with relative safety, confident that security is not a problem. I never felt like an unwelcome intruder here. No one was offended that I took their picture. With some sensitivity and understanding you can photograph the lifestyle here, meet new people and make some friends.


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