New website....again

After several years with Livebooks and after waiting and waiting for them to make a change I have given up and decided to leave them and create a site on squarespace.  I decided to leave Livebooks for a couple reasons, as all in all I had a very positive experience with them, but, they are sticking with Flash.  

For me I just got tired of coming up with lame excuses to clients complaining that my website failed to load, loaded improperly, or frankly just took forever, plus the mobile site that livebooks offers in my opinion is unacceptable, you can see my site using an iPhone or iPad but it pretty much looks like hell, its not a good image for anyone.  I had hoped that Livebooks was working on some sort of transition to HTML but alas it doesn't appear to be so.

So far my squarespace site has been a bit of a learning curve it is certainly more customizable that my live books site, and when you view it on an idevice it just looks great, this is something that has really impressed me, as more and more of my sire visitors are using devices other than computers I no longer find myself writing emails telling people please check out my website it looks best when viewed on a computer.  I think I used to tell people that the big screen would help them appreciate my images which is probably true, but it also sounds pretty bush league.  If you are one of the people I told that too, my bad, really, my bad, Im sorry, Apple and Flash don't get along and Im sorry for bringing you right in the middle of it.  Apple and Flash both love you very much, but Flash is moving out for awhile....

The Studio, a love story.

Just over a year ago now, I moved into a great studio with two other very talented photographers.  It took me months to make the decision to move in, I inspected the property, I really liked it, I took a trip to America, came back inspected it again,  I still wanted it.  
I made the decision to take it, to move in, to put my name on the wall, it was one of the single most gratifying experiences of my life.  And yet while I stood there watching the man install my name letter by letter I knew I was getting into something, something great and scary and stupid, but I didn't care because I loved the way those letters looked on that wall, loved them enough to pay 300 bucks to put them there.
Because what I found out was having a studio was a lot like dating a coke addicted stripper.  At first its a lot of fun, like a lot of fun.  Until you start looking at your numbers, and you see how much she's costing you, and suddenly your not having a good time, your paying for one.
There is also another similarity between a coke addicted stripper (CAS) and a studio, they are both empty inside.  A massive void, hollow, capable of anything, but holding nothing.
There are a lot of cool things to do in a studio, if you havnt blown your bank roll on rent, but my fun money that I used to use to make images for me, well the fun money became rent money, and the rest went to things like food and gas and I found myself with a big beautiful space that I couldn't afford to fill.  So I was able to use it to do quite a bit of product work, which was great and it paid the bills, but thats not why I moved in, I wanted to create, to build sets, to really make images.
But now I had something on my back I had to keep my CAS happy, and that meant marketing, marketing more than I ever have before, and stress.  When I worked from home and it was slow it sucked, when I had a slow week with my CAS it was terrifying.  That first job used to be in the bank, now that first job was owed on the first of the month and sometimes that first job didn't book till the 5th and didn't pay until the 25th.  And thats when things changed, when I realized if I keep running around with this chic shes gonna kill me.  I really wanted a studio, but I didn't really need one, but I really liked being in one.  Exciting in that near death experience kind of way, your heart is racing, your making bad decisions, and beautiful images that are costing you 19-21% on a credit card, it all seems worth it, until you remember your credit card company wont take an image as payment, my photo portfolio looked great, my financial one quite the opposite.
Then the curve ball, my wife and I going to have a baby, and as you can imagine when he finally makes his appearance in about 3 months everything will change.  The home office I wanted so badly to be free of, starts to make a lot more sense.  
So last week I decided to break up with my CAS, it was a clean break, and I know that if ever need her I can hire her for a reasonable day rate.
Thats what I had always done in the past, rent a studio when you need a studio, I knew it, but I couldn't help myself, and I had an incredible year, I met some awesome people, took some great photos, my profit went up from the last year, and my expenses when way up from the last year. 
I still don't know for sure if I made the right call, I don't think I will know until the baby comes, and I feel a) I'm so glad I can be here and spend so much time my son or b) I really wish I could go back to the studio, or somewhere, anywhere else just for an hour.
But the decision has been made I am moving out and I cant help but feel again like I did when I moved in, that I am about to start on something great and scary and stupid, but I love it and I know I want it more than anything else.

Levantine Hill

Recently I have had the pleasure of working with another wine company, this time Levantine Hill where I did most of the photography for the website and just last week got to shoot their newly bottled and soon to be added to their site Pinot Noir.  Please head over to their website and have a look around, some really great wine, made by some really great people.

Brown Bros

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to shoot some stills for BWM for their client Brown Brothers.  They popped into the studio and we did the shoot here at Ripe.  Their graphic designer was on set so we got to collaborate on shooting for the final product which I think turned out really nice.  A big thank you to BWM for bringing me in and I hope to do more with them in the future.

Im out of Promos

So after a few rounds of intense folio showing, I have run out of promos, well not totally out, but out of the four I made one was the clear favorite.  The old holden shot, those went fast, so Im getting some more of those printed and replacing two of the less popular promos with one of my new favorties, the tilt shift on the beach, and oldy that I love, Mr Potato Head crime scene.

PXL review

While I was home sick last week with a bit of a head cold, I spent some time playing with an app I downloaded but never messed with.
PXL a photo editing app, while sometimes being a bit clunky and sort of daunting in terms of control, is actually a nice breath of fresh air, at least temporarily before hundreds of thousands of PXL images start turning up everywhere. It turns photos into interesting if not abstract images with a high level of user control over the outcome, once you figure out how the app works.
It does lack some critical functionality, mainly in a rather low export resolution(the developers say this is being worked on), and a strange distortion when importing photos to the app that are non native size, e.g. if you import a square image from say hipstamatic, it turns it into a rectangular photo, which is kind of annoying.
All in all it is definitely worth the two clams they are charging for it, plus its universal so you get it on your iphone and ipad, which if you ask this guy every app should be, but since they all are not, I give credit to the developers that do so.
It is a clever app, and it most certainly is something new in the realm of photography apps that simply apply a filter to an image. It also has a great knack for turning photos that are out of focus, into something much more interesting. I expect we will start seeing these more and more, especially if the developers update it often (hint hint) and allow high rez export. So pull out the iphone of ipad and make something different right now, and ensure you were one of the few who were PXLing before it was cool.

Saba drops by the Studio

I've been trying to get Saba to let me photograph him for a while, practically from the moment I met him. For starters he's got great skin, with an Italian, and Jordanian background, he tans well, like perfectly. Put that with his ruggedly stubbled jaw line, and lets be real, amazing dress sense, and he makes my job so much easier. So when I touched base with him last week and he wanted to come in to the new studio, I was stoked. I wanted to try some styles that I dont get to do very often, male fashion. The idea I had was to get a really good shot for lets say a high end watch, or cologne ad.
I had been caught up moving in and completely redoing my website to a Livebooks Scaler site, which to be honest was much easier than I imagined. I really liked my old Livebooks site, but their new scaler (responsive) sites are really amazing. I've got big things plans, well just videos actually, but it should be amazing. But start to finish I completely re-did my site in about a week. Which is practically a day.
So I pulled out the new BXRi 500's, the mini deep octa, and mini soft beauty dish, and decided to keep it super simple and really let Saba fill the frame. All shots were with the mini dish for the key light, and some had the deep octa for just a touch of fill. Also a little behind the scenes shot of the set up with mini dish with diffusion sock, and I think with the gold reflector.
I think I dig the ones with the black background over the white, maybe because that's just the way my style has been leading me recently, but I forget who said it "if you want something to look interesting only light part of it" but I would agree.


After literally months of umming and ahhing about whether or not to move into my own place. I have done it, and as of this moment am fully operational (kinda) in the new studio in South Yarra aptly named Ripe Studios.
And while I was at it, it felt so good pulling the trigger, that I fired a few more off, I bought a mac mini, and I sucked it up and bought some big lights, Elinchroms 500 bxri, its been exciting, and I think if things go well my wife and I will have enough money to eat again sometime late next year. Im kidding-ish.
Sadly I havnt had a chance to put the lights through some initial tests, so no picks yet but Ill be sure to have some lighting diagrams, and production shots over the next few weeks.
in the meantime here are some of the new promos (let me know if you want me to send you one).

Understanding the 99%: A Lot of Greed Vs. A Lot of Need

When I looked at the website for the "We are the 99%" ( I found it an easy way to look at several individuals in a few moments, looking at their pictures and reading their hand written messages. An understanding is what I left the site with, after reading enough sad and heartbreaking stories in few minutes that could make me angry for years. Because for me what it comes down to is hope, and that used to be something that came with living in America, a benefit of living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But as more and more of the nation’s wealth is tied up in the bank accounts and mutual funds, of the elite 1%, and as its conceivable that it could even get much worse given enough time, their grip and strangle hold will only tighten. The only hope is that maybe we will die suddenly without getting sick, because we don't have enough to retire and because a hospital stay without insurance is sure to leave my loved ones with debt. I don't want to divorce my wife to protect her from my debt should my health fade but I think about it.

We are playing checkers against an opponent who never moves their back row. And in the bizarre chance when you happen to get them to move and bring them down, the government refills their ranks and their pockets with your money. King me. King me indeed.

So with this anger of reading about these people; jobless, homeless, sick, dying, I wondered, is there even enough money out there? Is it even possible for everyone to eat, see a doctor, and have a place to sleep inside? While the 1% live in sky palaces on Park Avenue, nearby people live on benches and in boxes in the park.

Today we live in a economic situation of extremes where the rich have so much more than the poor its hard to fathom. So to contrast I sought to propose an economic situation of extreme equality. (see infographic attached). Where by it would successfully eliminate homelessness, social security, and other such problems related to money. In this system the money could be divided equally in what is quite literally a socialist paradigm, meaning there is enough to go around, enough to live, eat and breathe again. I am not saying I am a Socialist or this is what should be done, but I think it is an interesting way to look at this situation from a different perspective.

When we look at money as a fixed thing, the nation has $12 trillion to distribute amongst all working Americans. Mathematically if we divide 12 trillion by the total US workforce of 150 million people that leaves $80,000 for each working person.

Now, if each worker thought about the reality that every single dollar paid to them in excess of their allotted $80,000.00 would be taken from someone else – would they still want it?

If your gain was a result of taking money from those worse off than you, would you take it? Because for you to have more it invariably means someone else will have less.

Lets look at it as if the $12 trillion is one big pizza. The pizza seems really big before it's cut up, and the rich get their slice first, it's the biggest slice of pie, and they just put it in the freezer because they still have leftovers from last year, but they take it all the same. And then the middle go through and they get their slice just big enough to get them close to what they need, but not enough to repay what they borrowed from the rich last year for a sliver of frozen pizza they wouldn't have known was gone if you didn't tell them, but now your paying them 8% on it, repaying a sliver with a slice, to go right back in the freezer.

And then the people who really need it come through, but there is no pizza anymore, just crust, melted cheese, a few spare pieces of pepperoni to the lucky ones and a box for those who get no pizza at all.

If you were at a party and took more than your fair share you are considered an asshole and inconsiderate, if you’re in America and you take more than your fair share, then you are a CEO and a capitalist. A lot of greed versus a lot of need.

Controversial: Is it smart to do work for friends and family?

Last week I posted some fun infographic work we have done in between client work. We are working on another infographic this week about the "we are the 99%" ( and will hopefully have it all finalized shortly and post it here soon.

In addition to the creative self commissioned work we do, we are often asked if we can help our friends and family with some design and or photography requests.This I think must be a pretty common request asked by a lot of designers and photographers out there.

Due to time constraints unfortunately we cant always help out even if we would like to - but a couple of months ago I had a bit of spare time up my sleeve so I helped out one of my best friend's Dana with her wedding invitation. Sometimes when you work with family and friends it can be become complicated but working with Dana and Garrett was an absolute pleasure. I think it was because they came to me and said that their only real request was that I match the colour palette they used on their Save the Date and that the invite would be post card size, but otherwise everything else was up to me. I think it was the fact that they said they trusted my creative vision and didn't try to micromanage me that it turned out to be really fun.

I guess when it comes to family and friends it can be really complicated if the communication is not clear. As long as some basic terms are set up, such as whether there is an idea or style they would like me to create or whether its totally my call and how many subsequent revisions we are going to go through. Often design projects have a way of spiralling out of control if you allow endless revisions. By enforcing a couple of rules, like how much time you will give the project and if its not working and leading to feelings of resentment and annoyance then it is time to speak up and be honest.

Giving one of these projects enough time and effort can really be difficult because you are always feeling pulled to return to your paid work. But then I always feel torn b/c if someone asks me to help out and my name will be associated with the finished product then I want to give 110%.

Anyway here is the invite I did for Dana and Garrett - which is really true to my style - strong typography and simple illustration. I wish I had been able to give this invite some more time. When I look at it still I see things I would have changed but overall I was pretty happy with the final product.

While I was writing about Dana and Garrett's invitation, it got me thinking about when I designed Brando and my wedding invitation. Partly because Dana said she liked my invite and wanted to go with that style. Easy.

Anyway last year when I sat down to sketch some initial concepts for our wedding invitation I knew I wanted something different and anti traditional wedding. I went for a long DL sized double sided invite using some beautiful stock from Raleigh papers. B/c I love typography I made that the feature. That along with a lot of white space. I also love white space and wanted an interesting composition. When I showed my family the initial concept, they all thought I had gone mad - "really? that doesn't look like a wedding invitation? are you sure?" or "hmmm I dont quite get it" "do you think people will be able to read it?". I mean along with all the complexities and family drama that go along with planning a wedding in Hawaii, the comments regarding the invite were nothing.

When the invite was finally printed and my family had had time to get use to it, they all changed their minds and said they "loved it", "so unusual", "really different". Maybe thats not what they thought, but its what everyone said out loud :)

I would love to hear other peoples comments about how you feel about working with family and friends. And if you have good or bad stories to report...

Obsessed with Infographics

I am the other half of Brandon Rossen Creative and dont normally do any of the blogging but wanted to share some of our design projects. Over the last couple of months, we have been trying to take the time, in between client work, to work on our own creative projects and ideas. Here are 2 recent ones we have created.

Obama's News Feed: pretend facebook newsfeeed for President Obama

This was designed before facebook went through its recent design upgrade!
With the development and popularity of social media the way we receive our news today is vastly different to 10 years ago when we relied more heavily on traditional forms of media such as newspapers or television. To play on this development we decided to create a fictional Facebook account for President Obama and to depict various news stories within the playful news feed.

These events/stories are presented as the various elements that typically appear in one's Facebook news feed: status updates, friend requests, event attendance, relationship status, places etc

In no particular the current events that we included:

- Strained US and China relations: China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. debt.
- The need for bipartisan support to avert a federal government shut down.
- Unrest in the Middle East: recent uprisings and violence in Libya and Syria.

- The Palestinian Authority's attempt to gain statehood through the UN
- 2012 election campaigning

To keep the project light we added some fun elements such as the Australian Prime Minister's friend request, George Bush's comment that he left a board game at the White House and Donald Trump's request for Obama's birth certificate.

Infographic on how creatives spend their time online

This is a fun infographic about how creative people spend their time online and how the boundaries between work and play are blurred. We are big into infographics as an effective and interesting way to communicate complicated stories and data.

Hope to show you some more new ones we are working on soon....

In other news we are now looking at moving into a new studio space and releasing our new and exciting branding...details to be released soon

Why I cant work at a office

There are quite a few reasons why Im not good in an office, I like to come and go as I please, I enjoy a casual dress code, and I pretty much wear sandals everywhere, with the exception of the gym and shower. But thats not the reason for this post, because the other day I saw a fish, a rainbow trout actually and it was a beautiful fish, so I brought him home, and I was thinking of photographing him and how I was going to light him and then from across the room Karyns scanner jittered to life, squeaking and humming before reverting to its normally silent state.
This gave me an idea, now call it divine intervention, or call it coincidence, but Karyn wasnt home to protest what I was about to do at her desk on her combo printer/scanner.
So I closed up all the blinds, and grabbed a black board from the studio to block out as much light as possible, and I put that fish on the scanner, which surprising can scan at resolution of 1600 DPI, if you dont know what that means, its a lot, a normal printed photo is around 300 DPI. I am still working on cleaning the shot up a bit but due to the scanners very limited depth of field you get some nice dreamy boca that I think looks like the fish is swimming is some mysterious black pool, but no its carefully laid on my partners scanner.
Also Speaking of partners Karyn who will start guest writing on here shortly will be blogging and showcasing some of our new design work, and gripes related to completing them.

Last Minute Job

My phone Rings on Friday and it is a PR company who got referred to me by a friend, thanks Joel.
They ask me if I am available to shoot monday, I am, sounds good, portrait type shots of three people for a couple ads running in the Australian paper. They tell me that they will send over the brief soon, it comes in, and then my phone rings again, one of the people cant make it on monday, and can I shoot him, like right now.
So I start scrambling around, collecting gear, from my desk, from my little studio, from the car, and start lamenting how when I set up lights in the studio, I leave them up, instead of packing them up when Im done.
So I get everything I can think of and throw it in the car, and head off to the location, which I dont know very well, which is why I brought everything, I pick up my assistant on the way, she reads the brief to me while we drive, yeah it was that last minute.
I decided to shoot natural light, because it was 5pm, and if I wanted to get a couple of looks done, I was going to have to work fast before I lost all the light, and the brief wanted shots that could be cropped short and wide like the first example above.
We managed to get shots in a few locations, but as it turned out the first place we went turned out the best, and the first shot out of the camera ended up being the clients pick.
I relaxed a bit, and went home and thought about lighting and locations, and the nervous tick of fear about monday because I didnt know who I was lighting, how I was lighting, or even where I was lighting, I just knew that I couldnt shoot in same place, the shots all had to be in different locations.
Shoot two started 9 am, and all my planning went out the window, as I drove by the local market which was closed, and offered a range of different colored corrugated steel roller doors, and that became location 1, we had two good sides, one partially lit with silver doors, and one side all shade with cream doors and
brick, shot almost exclusively natural light, with a few shots with a soft box camera right filling in the shadows.
Second location I decided I head over to a lane way where Drew Funk, a graffiti artist I shot a couple months ago did some work, and there was a popular cafe, St Ali, and I figured between the cafe and the graffiti that Id get a couple different backgrounds. Like the last I shot almost all natural light and occasionally pulled out the soft-box for a little bit of fill.
It was a liberating break from how I have been working, where everything was thought out before hand, lighting planned, location scouted, time of day taken in to account, this was running and gunning, when an idea didnt work I just scrapped it and moved to the next look, it was a lot of fun, a big thanks to the great people at Haystac, and Ill be sure to post the final artwork for the ads when they come through.

Waiting on a Train

There is a lot of stuff coming up, but sadly not a lot of pictures to post. Ive been working on my book a lot, with Sally Brownbill, who has been amazing and so helpful, and Mel T, from Melt studios who has done an amazing job retouching and editing my stuff, and hopefully over the weekend Ill have Karyn get all laid out and then posted up here soon.
T-shirts, we are releasing limited edition T-shirt prints which will be signed and numbered, we are currently working with the manufacturer and Ill be posting some images of the art work we are using for the shirts, and the samples as we get them.
Pictures, well the other day, thanks to the Melbourne train system, which runs consistently behind schedule, I was stranded at the station in the cold with my tiny G12 camera and an ipad, for a meeting I was most certainly going to be late getting to, in the cold, in sandals, but I guess that last part was my fault.
So I pulled out my camera and took some shots while the sun was setting, and edited them while I rode the train into the city on my ipad using a great app Snapseed, which I talked about in the previous post. However the more I use it, the more I like it, once you get past the amusing filter hipstamaticish filters, there is actually a very powerful, and controllable system, if you have an ipad I highly recommend you check it out.

Snapseed Review

Much like my quest for the perfect camera bag, I find my self searching for apps for my ipad. When I saw snapseed and it was five bucks I was intrigued what could it offer for that price, swimming in a sea of 2 dollar apps 5 stands out. however when I saw it was made by nik software my five dollars was as good as gone. I bought it and read the reviews while I waited for it to download, luckily the reviews mostly gave it the thumbs up. However it wasn't a minute and I was enthralled by the clever interface and how logical and easy making image adjustments can be. The app really pushes the limits of the ipad capabilities, and amazes me at overturn. It allows for selective adjustment, using a very similar dropped point system seen in their full featured computer software. I never thought that I would be able to use the ipad for anything more than hipsta-gram (hipstamatic and instagram) type images. I find myself looking for reasons to use it to edit photos over my computer.
Both images were edited using snapseed.

Ranger Quadra Review and pics

Ive been in the market for a new light kit for while now. But due to the variety available and price I could never really pick a direction I wanted to go in. Alien Bees, have it cornered in watt second to dollars, but you cant get parts from anywhere but the manufacturer, so that made it impossible. I demoed a set of profoto D1s which had nice light, but a funny 77 degree built in reflector that just didnt make sense to me. So I started looking at Elinchrom, and found the Ranger Quadra, they are small, have LED modeling lights, battery powered, built in radio trigger with power control. So I rented a set of the A heads. And by now I should now better about renting things, check them out at the rental place, take out all the lights plug them all in make sure everything is there, and make sure it works. Well I checked that everything was there. It was indeed all there. Later I found out one of the cables that was there might as well not have been, there was a nic in it covered with electrical tape. So now I got two lights, and one cable, so Im shooting one light, which is allright bc thats how I normally roll, but if I had a second light, Id use it.
Took some shots on the city fringe, building in the light with the ambient that I was quickly losing. Shoulda brought a assistant, very windy, a umbrella or box wasn't happening, so lights were bare with frosted plastic covers that dual purpose diffuse light or protect the flash tube in transport.

The next day I was planning a dual purpose lifestyle/engagement shoot at a farm on the mornington peninsula. I tried the second cable again, it still didnt work, annoyance growing. Shot everything one light again, with a medium shoot through umbrella at the vineyard, and the rotalux deep octa 100 at the property. I set it up, started installing the inner baffle, and it was way too big, it flapped around like a spinnaker when there is no wind. It was clearly the inner baffle for an octabox, just not this one, I pulled it out and shot with front diffuser only.
The range on the radio was kinda hit or miss past 30 feet, and I plan on testing the range more throughly soon.
All in all a good kit, set up and broke down easily, but a couple unlucky events have made it a bit sour for me, but in truth thats on the rental house, not the lights.

Death from Above

Ive had my head down the last few weeks, straight down to be exact, like a bombardier in a WWII movie of your choosing. Working on a collection of images shot from birds eye view, for what I hope will be an interesting composite. Or in other words something I think will look cool.
The shot above, was created using two strobes, a shoot through umbrella camera left and a honl 8' travel softbox on the right. The honl softbox is pretty lightly used piece of gear in my kit. I thought I would love it. I dont. Its better than a bare speedlight but its supposed to be a round soft light, but in reality its a kinda cats eye, which you can squeeze to make round, and release, cats eye again, its a funny shaped light. Secondly, its not really soft, its not soft at all, it behaves more like a loose snoot with a bit of diffusion fabric on the end, its squeezes the light, and then spreads which is probably not what happens if it was round. Thirdly I used it here, and it worked as a bit of directional fill.
Also on a interesting non photography side of things, my post about BNI a months back, is getting a fair amount of traffic and a few commenters, my rants are reaching beyond the photo world, who knew.