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EVER DID I DREAM THIS WOULD BE MY LIFE. THIS IS A TEST.   If you’ve ever hand-churned it in a bucket of dry ice, you know even more how magical it is when raw ingredients transform into a fluffy, textured, creamy, bonanza of pleasure.

Deb Phillips, owner and chef of Lottie’s Creamery in Walnut Creek, has a special talent for making and serving ice cream.  I ran across her shop by chance one day and was seduced by the nostalgic promise of something special. With my daughter in tow, we ordered our first ice cream there together.  We’ve been fans ever since, going through the menu and other specialties such as her Single Scoop Sundays.



I was on a boat and I met my husband as he landed atop with his helicopter.





Quentin Bacon















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I once read that we all have three lives: The one we live, the one we dream and the one we remember. The experience of an authentic asado is all three.

Defined as a South American cookout, there is an emphasis on creating a communal experience that incorporates grilled meats, wine, stories, music and taaanngo.

With the raw earth of the Napa Valley beneath your feet, budding vineyards, laughter, romance, and the slow caress of the fading sun, the smoldering fragrance from the oak flames unifies everyone’s hearts for the bounty that extends long into the evening hours.

This year marks my third visit to the vineyard to capture the story for the Robinsons.  I never walk away feeling satisfied I captured  it all. I’ve come to realize, like most dreams, it’s not entirely possible.

Chef Morgan Robinson  //  SMOKE Open Fire Cooking



Your face is a muscle.  Have fun and use it!

Having a professional photograph you should be fun.  If it’s not, it will show in your eyes, face and minds of those who view your profile.

The challenge lies beneath our skin where hundreds of involuntary muscles are responding and expressing themselves outside of your conscious control.  If you’re just the slightest bit uneasy, your face and body will whisper to the world that you’re not present.  Another challenge for many of us is that the primary relationship we have with our face is the one we have in the mirror, not a camera.  Socially, we’re just not accustomed to flexing our facial muscles and delivering on cue.  This is why all those great “looks” you see in your bathroom mirror get lost in photographs.

Professional models understand the muscles in their face and easily cultivate “looks” on cue.  Some of the easiest photos I’ve ever taken have been while working with professional models.   With a little coaching and good rapport, you too can easily deliver the best you.

Rapport is everything.  I usually start with a conversation and see how people hold themselves before the camera is even brought out.  I naturally tend to mirror my subjects in a way that lets me be in their skin a bit.  From there, I go through some basic poses with them until something organic emerges.  That’s the tipping point.  I capitalize on those moments by bringing the subject’s natural stance into the classic forms that speak well for their personalities, body type and professional role.

As I’m shooting, I imagine the photo in the context of how it will be used, how it feels and what it is saying.  I tend to move fast at that point to lessen the chance for any negative self-talk.  For my subject and me, it’s a great place to be and where the best shots occur.

Don’t be afraid to share with your photographer how you feel and what you like and don’t like in your self-image.  A good photographer listens and knows techniques to minimize or capitalize on those likes. 

When hiring a photographer, be sure to look behind their portfolio.  Ask about how they work with regular people (non-models).  If you’re doing the hiring and things go ugly with the CEO, it will be more than the photographer who has a bad day.

For more on the hidden language behind the human face and body, read Joe Navarro’s book, “What Every Body is Saying.”  It’s a book for photographers and just about anyone else who works with people.

Purchase “What Every Body is Saying”:  Amazon

Joe Navarro:  joenavarro.com 


Marketing and advertising, like movies, are true lies.

Years ago, I fell in love with movie screenplays and screenwriting.  The writing captured my imagination in ways most novels never could.  It’s a very visual style of writing.  Heavy on metaphor — you have to show, not tell the audience the story.  It’s a very challenging, but rewarding art form and one I’m still mastering and integrating into my photography.

Developing good characters and the stories that show their transformation requires a deep understanding of the human condition.  You can’t have a character face conflict, discover truths about themselves and change if you yourself don’t intimately understand the nature of desire, conflict and self-discovery.

The schizophrenic relationship of our very separate, yet intertwined, reptilian, mammalian and thinking brains make humans the craziest thing walking the planet.  Self-knowledge and personal truth is everything to creative work.  Like most, I don’t want to wait until I’m 100 to have all the answers, so over the years, I’ve become a passionate study of the human condition.

All of this has nothing to do with the technical aspects of photography, but everything to do with developing the narrative within an image, especially one designed to captivate and persuade.

So stay tuned.  I love to inspire, so I’m committed to reviewing and breaking down the key points of the select books and authors I’ve found most persuasive and powerful.  These are the books that upon reading will instantly transform your world view and self-image or at minimum, keep your flourishing with new insights and possibilities.



A good story is about the transition from one emotionally charged condition to another.  Rejuvenation and a return to vitality is a story I think we all long for.  It’s why I love a good property restoration project – the dirty, neglected before, to the brilliant return to grace.  When polished and decorated, these properties express our idealized visions of living.

I don’t work much in real estate these days, but I have a couple of long-term clients who know how to make a statement with everything they touch.  Debbi DiMaggio, realtor and partner of Highland Partners in Piedmont, is one of those rare real estate professionals who elevates real estate and the properties she represents with supreme style.  When her luxury properties come to market, it’s a social event that draws attention.

In addition to working with Debbi, I’m working with the designer, Marlene Wharmby, also a long-time client.  Marlene brings her own vision to Debbi’s properties and together these ladies transform an empty rooms into grand spaces.

Both clients have differing photographic needs and styles.  Real estate photography is about unedited documentation.  Design is all about emotion and aesthetic appeal.  You can spot the two styles in the dinning and living room images.

Debbi and Highland Partners will be hosting a gala party, open to the public, Wednesday,  January 29th, 6:00pm.  Come by and see it for yourself.

3210 Sheridan, Dr.  Piedmont, CA.

Debbi DiMaggio:  debbidimaggio.com

Marlene Wharmby Design:  marlenewharmby.com



Storytelling is arguably one of the most powerful forces on the planet.  Before any great feet of mankind has been taken, a story was told.

Robert McKee’s book Story is not a book you simply read.  It’s a book you mark up, dog ear and forever hold by your side until you absorb the enormity of knowledge within it.  It is so densely filled with insight and understanding, it takes repeated readings and the experience of applying it to your creative work to fully digest.  It’s a book that grows better over time as your experience relates back to the text again and again.

Primarily a book for screenwriting, the breadth of knowledge packed in Story can be applied to any media or marketing that revolves around communicating an idea.  McKee is considered mandatory reading throughout Hollywood.  The list of writers-directors with hit films and even more gold plated statues is awe inspiring.  McKee takes you deep into the psychological dynamics of why stories are told and how they captivate and change us forever.

A popular Hollywood axiom says, “if your story is about what your story is about, you’re in deep shit.”  Having dedicated a great amount of time and passion into understanding McKee and his principles, it’s become the foundation to my creative work.

The first step in any assignment begins by exploring the story behind the creative.  You want to shine a light on the creative dark spots.  What are the inner-personal, personal, and extra-personal values on display, or at stake?  What are the character dynamics of our hero(s)?  Are we at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the story?  Where in that story does your product or service come in? How will your intended consumer identify with your brand?  How will they choose, and why?

If a picture is worth only a thousand words, you’ll want to have the right image.  Story is the path that will lead you there.


Robert McKee:  mckeestory.com

Purchase “Story”:  amazon.com


Ice cream holds a special place in everyone’s heart.  If you’ve ever hand-churned it in a bucket of dry ice, you know even more how magical it is when raw ingredients transform into a fluffy, textured, creamy, bonanza of pleasure.

Deb Phillips, owner and chef of Lottie’s Creamery in Walnut Creek, has a special talent for making and serving ice cream.  I ran across her shop by chance one day and was seduced by the nostalgic promise of something special. With my daughter in tow, we ordered our first ice cream there together.  We’ve been fans ever since, going through the menu and other specialties such as her Single Scoop Sundays.

Needless to say, I introduced myself to Deb and decided we needed to work together.  We’ve been hand-churning some visual delights ever since.  Here’s a peak at some of our first efforts.

Lottie’s Creamery:  lottiescreamery.com 



Seeing is believing…

My love for a walk through the corner Christmas tree lot is about more than simply finding a tree.  It’s a family ritual connecting me and my wife’s childhood to that of our daughter’s.

That being said, those with busy lives know the Holiday season lands like reindeer droppings.  You have to move fast for cover and get things in place from the advancing elves.  We’ve perfected our Holiday Season rapid deployment plans so we can get things going quickly and be ready for the experiences that are in the end the most important.

Artificial trees have never captured my heart until recently, when I had the chance to photograph them for Balsam Hill during their showroom open.  These are not the plastic, wire hanger variety artificial trees from Costco.  The trees from Balsalm Hill exude incredible soul.  The look and feel of their trees are nearly indistinguishable from that of real trees.  It may not be a walk through the corner lot, but that’s the point.  New and meaningful rituals that can assure quality time is reserved for the important moments, can make all the difference in a busy Holiday season.

Balsam Hill:  balsamhill.com


It is said that filmmaking is like watching paint dry.  That’s not the case on the Guy Fieri show.  Things run fast and loose, full throttle, shits and giggles the entire day.  Bouncing around the country and drilling deep into the types of cuisine that define the American heartland, needs a little something special.  Long-time client, Adriana Lopez and I were thrilled to have such a great experience.  Everyone on the crew and the production executives from the Food Network where simply awesome folks.

Guy was everything I thought and feared.  He’s kind of a bully, but in a way that only an older, loving brother can be.  He wants to bring the best out of people and his charisma and passion to get things right is contagious.  He’s very generous and knows his food.  You can’t fake your knowledge of Venezuelan cuisine or get fed cue cards on the side.  He just knew it.  The ingredients, the flavor dynamics and its appeal to customers.

Filming took place over a couple days.  I was on board to help Adriana as needed and grab some snap shots.  She didn’t need much help.  Adriana has come a long way from our first little web video series we started in 2010.  All the work in front of the camera has paid off.  She cooks and entertains effortlessly, even under the ominous shadow of her experienced side-kick.  This may have been Guy’s show, but Adriana knows how to tango.  I did mention, she’s Venezuelan, right?

I always knew Adriana’s tom-boyish, sweet charm could captivate an audience.  Like Pica Pica’s flavor dynamic, she’s a “sweet and spicy” personality.  The final episode came out perfect with a good balance of both personalities.  Guy’s final declaration of the Arepa, “Outrageous, Outrageous….!”

The episode re-runs from time-to-time.  Check your local listing.  The episode is named “That’s Fresh.”


Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen:  picapica.com

Guy Fieri:  guyfieri.com


There’s nothing funnier that watching large groups of adults playing make-believe against a green screen.

A couple years back, I met the principle of Steelblue, a creative and architectural visualization production company specializing in creating virtual environments with marketing and visualization videos.  Their work is amazing.  They effectively balance Hollywood style video production and computer effects techniques with live action to breathe life into computer aided architectural designs.

I’ve had a couple opportunities to work for them, most recent on a video for a large commercial-residential development, called Bay Meadows.  I was the Director of live action, which wasn’t much in the grand scale of the production.  The development is really the star, but it gave me a chance to cast and direct a young daring couple and direct them through the green forrest of imagination.

My approach was to inspire the cast with a sense of float to their presence when interacting with the space.  Our female lead was cast in part because she had classic ballet experience, so she was very comfortable engaging with the unseen space.  Buildings long to love and be loved.  Doors don’t just open, they swing to embrace, elevators are amusement rides, hallways mystery filled passageways…  Every little space aspires to be more.

Steelblue:  steelbluellc.com



We all spend a good amount of time on the thrown.  I’m sure some would say it’s their greatest contemplative space.  It would make sense that great care should be considered in its design.  This is exactly what Designer Kelly Flynn did for her “Water Closet — A Princely Seat,” which was featured in the San Francisco Designer’s showcase.  The room was well received, garnering numerous, glowing reviews.

I think I’ll be adding “Royal Photographer” to my list of titles.

DESIGNER:   Kelley Flynn Interior Design

VENUE :   San Francisco Decorator’s Showcase



“Here’s to the crazy ones…”

The mythology of American inventiveness has many iterations, but none as strongly rooted in the collective consciousness as the tech start up garage.  Its iconic, a bit whimsical and an expression of the American “can do” spirit — humble beginnings and hard work can transform the world.

When Robert Half approached me to capture the photography for one of their key customer facing publications, the 2014 Technology Salary Guide, I was thrilled.  The creative spoke directly to this story, calling for a humble and curious cover concept, followed by a photo narrative throughout the guide to illustrate growth.

Part of the assignment included scouting the Bay Area for a location we could secure to photograph for the cover.  The Creative Director wanted a start-up garage, something that captured the spirit of innovation and optimism.  Naturally things got pretty involved as we started scouting and talking about garage door styles, paint color, size, pavement quality, driveway pitch, sun positioning…  The garage had to translate the mythos without much thought.  I got pretty obsessed with garage doors as I drove around the Bay Area which has sporadic pockets of classic bungalow style homes.  After doing photographic, “drive-by-shoots” on dozens of possible garages, I was able to secure the Art Director’s first choice.

It was a great shoot.  Between the property, and the corporate offices that represented the success and rapid growth portion of the story — all fueled by the global resources of the most trusted staffing firm in the world.  It’s no coincidence that Robert Half’s origins can be traced back to the same humble beginnings.

Robert Half Salary Guides:  rhi.com






Writer-Director and good friend, Sean Mitchel is going to be a successful Hollywood film Director.   Film Directors are the kind of people you just know when you speak with them at any length.  The breadth of Sean’s experience and knowledge is impressive.   We met a couple years ago and with a shared passion for screenwriting, started our own writing group to deeper our understanding of story in all its forms.  After receiving some promising interest in his first screenplay, Sean decided now was the time to showcase his talents as a Director by producing a short film – “Witness 11.”

A bit of a masochist, Sean wrote a script that would require an incredibly challenging production.  I of course, was all for it.  Sean’s production team included myself and a couple other long-term friends, all of whom have formal film production experience to assure we achieved the scripts vision.

The film’s story is a dramatic reenactment of Bertolt Brecht’s testimony for the House of Un-American Activities Committee – the origins of the now infamous “Hollywood 10.”

Production took place over three full days at The Berkeley City Club.  There were some very challenging days, but the most fun I’ve had in years.  I served as second-unit director, capturing various effect shots along with some improvised coverage of the main action.

I’ll have more to share on this as the film is edited and makes its way into the world.



Food, photographers and culinary talents have always made for savory collaborations.

I started working with Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen in 2010.  What started out as a discussion about the aspects of the brand that I needed to understand before photographing their menu, led to my realization that the owner, Adriana Lopez, was so entertaining and passionate as she gushed with ideas and knowledge, she seemed destine for great things.

In addition to photography, we decided to share her passion for Venezuelan cuisine through social media, primarily her blog and a some form of cook book.  Three years later, Pica Pica’s online brand has grown to include blog editorial, videos, live demos and integrated events connecting everything together.

After a series of local television broadcasts featured Pica Pica, Adriana’s blog was discovered by the Food Network.  The producer’s, like myself, where so intrigued by the cuisine and Adriana’s passion, they invited her to be on Guy Fieri’s show, Dinners Drive-Inns and Dives, the largest program on the Food Network.

I always knew Adriana had something special to offer in her cuisine and beyond.  Over the years, we’ve become friends making the collaborations even more enjoyable.  “Don’t crack the hallacas!”  I can share more after the air date on August 18th.  Be sure to tune in!

Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen:  picapica.com


Reinvention needs a beginning.

In 2011, my wife and I welcomed our daughter to the world. She’s beautiful and perfect in every way to us, so much so we just forgot about all our other loves. My blog was one of them, and after two years of only a few posts, I realized just how much I missed the process of organizing my thoughts and ideas into words.

During this time, I also had some great assignments and discoveries that have been transformative to my points of view.  When looking back at my dormant blog, and the fifty plus posts, I just felt no connection or interest in the stories any longer. Creative people are always evolving.   Select All – delete.