Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tequila Day!

According to Cabo Wabo...It’s national tequila day.  For this day, I offer you my own margarita recipe.  The Monstarita!
15 to 25   limes
1 to 2     lemons
1 cup      blue curaçao
2 cups     water
3/4+ cup   Agave Nectar
Now, for starters, this is a blue, lime margarita, with plenty of tequila.  I developed this recipe myself, BUT I will take no blame for your actions after drinking it.  That being said...Here we go!
First you take a two cup measuring cup, and a two quart pitcher.  Measure 3/4 of a cup agave nectar and add as much of it as will drain into the pitcher.  Actually, add a little more...but not too much.  Add the tequila, the blue curaçao, and the water, out of the same measuring cup to rinse out all of the agave.  Juice either one great big or two small lemons in the measuring cup, and fill it up to 2 cups with the lime juice.  Add the juice, and stir like there is no tomorrow.  Stir before each time it is poured.  You can drink it on the rocks, blended with ice, or frozen for about 8 hours, it will slush up nicely.

High School Memories

A fellow high school classmate of mine started a thread on Facebook about funny high school memories.  She included about twenty people in the message.  Everyone replied with these water balloon stories, or prom stories, or some other rated “G” story that just wasn’t in my memory of high school.  I decided to spice things up a bit with the following.
Another student and I were looking through the high school negative dryer for something to print...It didn't have to be ours, or any good...we were just looking for an excuse to spend all period in the darkroom.  So, I spotted this roll of negs with what look to me as nude photographs.  We took them to my enlarger, and started printing them. Sure enough, it was a roll of nudes.  Poorly exposed, and processed, not to mention very unimaginative composition...I'm not going into detail.
We continued printing...well...because we were teenaged boys...at the end of the day we had, like 15 8x10s from this roll.  We didn't recognize the model or have any idea how a roll of nudes got into the dryer.  
I had a stack of about 25 bulk film containers behind my enlarger, so I hid the negs in the sixth one from the bottom.  My buddy hid the prints in the locker next to his because he thought the girl was absent.
So...the girl wasn't absent, she found the prints, and threw them in the trash. The custodian found them and took them to the principal.  Because they were on photographic paper, he took them to the photography teacher, who immediately searched my enlarger room.  The teacher spent the next day printing them.  He called me at home about 1:00 PM and said I needed to meet him in the principal’s office.  I told him I was sick. He said they found the roll of negs
I asked, “What negs?”, and he yelled, "The NUDE NEGATIVES!"  
I told him I'd be right there. So I called a friend, who I knew was also skipping...and he drove me in.
I walked into the office, and the principal was leaning back in his chair looking angry.  
The photography teacher walked up to me and said, "Mr. Whitmire, you shouldn't be doing this kind of photography, and YOU CAN'T do it at school.  Do you realize we could expel you for this?"
I said, "They're not my negatives.  We found them in the dryer and we printed them to find out who took them, so we could tell them that they are nuts for bringing them to school."
"We know that you are the only one to have the contacts to do this kind of photography."  He said.
I rolled my eyes and said, "Thank you for your confidence in my connections, but if I had them, these aren't the photographs I would take.  And I would use the studio darkroom because they have thermometers, and better chemistry.  If I had taken them, don't you honestly think they would have been properly processed?"
My dad walked in.
I muttered under my breath, “Oh f@#k.” Only, it wasn’t totally under my breath.  The principal heard me and perked up.
"Mr. Whitmire, we've found a roll of nudes in your son's possession, and we think he took them." The teacher said.
My dad didn't skip a beat.  "Well, are they good?"  
The principal started laughing.   The photography teacher didn't even understand the question.  How could they be good?  They were of a naked lady!  
Actually they were not good, and I said so, “No, Dad they’re horrible.”
I was kicked out of the darkroom for a quarter...and my grade went up, as I was using the thermometers in the studio darkroom
I was inspired.  I thought, if I ever do take any nudes, they won’t be what the photography teacher expected of me.  I had seen all of the nudes in the Professional Photographers of Washington print competition, and that inspired me too.  There were nudes in barnes, and nudes in forests, and nudes in deserts, and nudes sitting on wicker chairs in high key backgrounds, etc.  I thought these things just wouldn’t happen...Inspiring.  I thought, if I do make any images of nudes, they will be, first of all, different, and second of all, plausible.  This is my first nude, it's titled, "Nude Dune".


-Brent

Monday, July 18, 2011

Deep Blue Sea

One of my favorite memories happened in ‘91 while I was on a photographic tour of the Orient with a group of Canadians.  I think it was before the letter-bomb exploded in our Holiday-Inn in Hong Kong, and before two of our group had all their camera gear and their passports stolen in Bangkok. (Such a well named city!) But I think it was after we were fed whole fried shrimp while riding in a fishing boat down the Li River in China.  Tasty.  
Others on the tour questioned why I brought my travel BC and regulator.  Two of them actually laughed at me for wasting the space in my luggage.  They obviously didn't see the world like I did.  I just smiled.  I really didn't NEED the BC, but I had built the regulator myself, I wasn't about to trust a RENTED regulator...in a foreign country.  
We got to Bali, Indonesia, and in the lobby of the hotel, I saw out of the corner of my eye, a flyer for a PADI scuba guide.  I called when I got to my room and booked it.  A couple of days later, my dad and I took a cab down to the dive shop, skipped the morning photo expedition, and met my dive guide.  He showed me his PADI C-card, he was a certified Dive Master.
So we got our tanks, and boarded a blue boat that with the four of us, the boat guy, the dive master, my dad, and I, and our tanks, was just a couple of inches out of the water.
The boat guy went to work. He must have been 600 years old, but he rowed us away with a single oar.  About twenty minutes later, he said something in Chinese to the dive master, and stopped rowing.
We dove in.  My dad photographed it.  The blue of the sea 45 ft. below the surface of the Bali Sea is a blue that I still remember.  It was an amazing color.  It was 85° at the bottom.  There was about a 5 mph current, so we just equalized our buoyancy, and rode it literally for a couple of miles.  40 minutes later, we came to the surface.  The 600 year old boat guy was there, waiting.  He had taken my father back to shore and he caught another cab to the end of the morning photo safari.
Doffing our gear, we climbed aboard.  We went back to the dive shop, and took a bit of a time out, while the nitrogen drained from our systems.  I spent my off-gas time relaxing in a chair, smiling on the beach.  I had seen all the Jacques Cousteau specials on TV in the ‘70s, but I had never seen water so blue.  The tanks were exchanged and we went back out.  
We dove in the water, and watched the boat guy row away.  The dive master looked at his pressure gauge and asked how much pressure I had.  I checked, I had 3500 psi...He said he had a little less than 500 psi.  They had given him an empty tank.  
So...We dove and he breathed his tank dry, and gave me the scariest hand signal there ever was, the cut-throat out of air sign.   I knew what to do.  I had gone over, and over this, fear didn’t even enter the picture.  I gave him my octopus, or spare mouthpiece, and we buddy-breathed.  We held on to each other’s BCs, and still had a 35 minute dive off of my tank alone.  I could actually feel him breath.  Now, I think dive training should include, not just a sample in the pool where you take a minute and breath off of your buddy’s octopus, but you and your buddy should take an open water dive off of one tank.  It was a bizarre experience.
I saw more florescent colored fish over those two dives, than I did people on my whole five days on that little overpopulated island.  There was at least 75 foot visibility.  It was wonderful.  AND, although I was forty to fifty feet down, I received a sunburn.
After we got back, we had a party in Saskatoon where we discussed the trip and what we saw.  We talked about what options we had each taken.  While in China, either you went and photographed a little village or you went to a golden royal temple; while in Bali, you could either go on morning photo expeditions, or you could sit by the pool; in Hong Kong there was nothing to do but shop.  All together there were hundreds of options.  I just sat there and smiled.  I was the only one who dove.  I was the only one who saw the other side of the sea...the UNDERSIDE.  Sure, it was beautiful on the surface, but it was so gorgeous underneath the waterline, the only moisture in my mask was tears.


-Brent

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monsters Of Rock


My father has been a photographer for over 50 years.  I picked up my first camera at the age of 12, and took my first really proficient, well composed photograph later that year.   It was of three elk walking through water.  I entered it in a print competition at the Professional Photographers of Washington convention, and received a score of 76.  Pretty good for a 12 year old.  I was so hooked.  I studied photography and all things photographic for the next thirty years.  During those years, much of my time was spent photographing rock stars.  I was a concert photographer for about ten years.

My concert photography began illicitly.  The first concerts I photographed, Van Halen, Def Leppard, and Heart were done with a camera that had been smuggled in, in pieces.  
I would go to the concert with a friend, give him or her the camera body, and I would take the long lens.  We would wear bathing suits with liners, and jeans two inches too large in the waist. That way the body and the lens would fit between our legs.  Going through a security frisk really tickles when you’re smuggling something.  When we got through, we would go to the T-shirt stand, and buy shirts. Then we would go to the restroom, take the contraband camera out of our pants, wrap the lens and body in our new shirts and take our seats.  
In case we got caught, I rolled the loading tab inside the film canister of one roll, and my friend kept all the exposed film.  That way if we were caught, it looked like I had an exposed roll of film with me.  We were betting they wouldn’t check him/her since after we put the camera together, I kept it with me.
It was exciting and all, but the photographs were too distant and too grainy and I wanted to be able to show my work.  What I needed was press credentials.  
The Monsters of Rock tour was coming to Spokane, and Seattle.  Some how, I got the phone number of the promoter or the publicist...I can’t remember which.  I called them, and after being put on hold for a twenty minutes, they were nice enough to tell me what was required to photograph a show; an assignment from a magazine.  Okay...That shouldn’t be too hard to get.  I called and talked to the photo editors from Rolling Stone, Guitar World, Guitar Player, Time, Life, I even, I think, put in a call to National Geographic.  All with poor luck.  They all  put me on hold long enough to watch my hair grow, and then told me that they already had photographers.  And all of the magazines that were covering the tour, were already covering it in different places, like L.A. or New York.  The concert in Seattle was too late on the tour for the magazines. At the time I made my requests, they already had their photographs, and their articles, and probably had already gone to press.  Besides, they had not seen my work, and they weren’t about to hire some 21 year old photographer off the street that just called one day.  
I went down to the studio to work in the darkroom a while, and spoke to my father before starting.
He said, “What’s going on Brent, why the sad face?”
I told him what I had spent the whole morning doing, and he asked me if I’d tried Rangefinder, a photography trade magazine. It didn’t even occur to me to put it on the list of possibilities.
“What are you doing right now, Dad?” I asked
He said “I’ve got to go water the lawn.”
“How about I go do that, and YOU call Rangefinder?”
So after I explained exactly what I needed, I went and watered the lawn.  I came back in to find my father smiling.
“Good news?”
“Yes, after I agreed to an interview, he agreed to send you an assignment.”
So...I went to the concert in Spokane, while my assignment was being reviewed by the publicists.  I was approved.  The day before the Seattle concert, my press passes came in the mail.  I was okayed to shoot Kingdom Come, the Scorpions and Van Halen.
I went to the concert with a couple of friends who were brothers. One was living over in Seattle then, so the other brother and I drove over, and met him at his apartment.  From there we went to the Kingdome.  
When we got there, I looked around for the press door, and met up with a couple people from the Oregonian, who were looking for the same thing.  Meanwhile, my two friends went through the regular entrance.  
We found an open door, and entered into the backstage area.  I was astonished at the lack of security.  The two Oregonian guys and I were able to walk around with out anybody saying anything to us.  
Walking by about ten little Airstream trailers in rows, I didn’t know what to expect.  It was like a little campsite, in the Kingdome.  All of a sudden, one of the trailer doors burst open, and the members of Metallica, jumped out, one after another...all screaming at the tops of their lungs.  
We met up with a security guard who took us to our scheduled meet and greet with Kingdom Come.  
When we walked into the room, the drummer from the band was working on a solo on his practice drum kit.  He sounded like a machine gun, and soon took a break. He looked at the road manager, closed one nostril with his index finger, and inhaled, while flaring his eyebrows, as if saying, “Is it time yet?”  The road manager put an index finger up to his mouth, and shook his head, as if saying, “Shhhh!”  
I smiled and said to the photographer from the Oregonian, “Did we really just see that?”
He laughed.
Pretty soon all the members of the band came in and we met them, were introduced, and had a little photo session.  Then we were led to the other side of the dome, upstairs, to a press room complete with an open bar.  
But, no time for beer because it was time for the first set.  We went to the back of the stage, and this is where I found out that the only way to the photo pit was UNDER the stage.  We took our first trip under it and ended up at stage level.  To look back from our position in the pit was absolutely amazing, 20,000 people on the floor.  And it seemed is if they were all looking at us.  
Soon the lights went down, and the concert started.  After, we were led back to the press room, where Don Dokken was actually making out with one of the other photographers.
On the way to photograph the Scorpions, in the elevator, Don Dokken looked at me and said, “You’re not using a flash!  That’s great!”  He said, “The last time I was on the cover of Hit Parader, the photographer used a flash!”
A photographer at the back of the elevator raised his hand, “That was me.”

Don turned and said, “Ya it was him!  Anyway, when you’re on stage, it’s like a hundred and twenty degrees, you can’t help but sweat!  And that makes the flash just glare off of your skin!”
I smiled and said, “Yeah, I think it ruins the ambiance.”  I didn’t know WHAT I was talking about....but it sounded good.
Before that set, I turned to the crowd and captured an award winning image.  After I shot it, I was told I shouldn’t take any more of the crowd. I thought...Shouldn’t or couldn’t?  
After we photographed the Scorpions, we ducked under and we could hear them running around on the stage above us.  The media girl, on accident, led us by a bikini clad blonde, with a fairly sizable chest, laying in a hammock, strung between two of the stage supports, reading a Wall Street Journal, by elbow-lamp.  We instinctively got our cameras out, and she was already hamming it up and smiling, but we were told we couldn’t photograph the crew.  
The next set was Van Halen.  We were led to the same spot, but before the guard or the media girl could give us any instructions, a guy fainted in the middle of the crowd.  He was being passed over the crowd on hands, towards the front, where he would see a backstage medic. He got within forty feet of the front of the stage, when he was dropped.  I got a photograph of his leg towering above the crowd, before it fell.  Out cold, he was lifted again and made the final trip to the medic.  Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have taken that image...but I could, and I did.







The first three songs of the Van Halen set lasted twenty five minutes.  I used about 25 rolls of film.  At one point, I set my monopod on a stage-front monitor.  
Before long Sammy Hagar came up, kicked the monopod and said, “Get that the f#@k out of the way!”
I said, “Okay!” I moved the monopod.

Sammy did a five minute guitar solo right in front of me.  I focused on his eyes and then the strings, and then back to his eyes, and then back to the strings.  He placed himself there for me and only me.  I had the shots, the composition...For that five minutes, Sammy Hagar was all mine.
After that shoot, we went back up to the press room.  I sat down at the bar, and had a free beer, my first of the night.  
The bassist from Kingdom Come sat next to me, “How’s it going?”

I replied, “Not bad, not bad at all.”  No sooner did the bartender get him a beer than two blonde groupies, wearing next to nothing, came, got him, and left. 


That night, at my friend’s apartment, I packed all the exposed film.  The next day would bring another adventure.  I was sending the film back with his brother, and meeting my mother and father at Sea-Tac.  We were flying to Fiji that morning.  
After a week there, we flew to Auckland, New Zealand, for a photographer’s convention where my dad was speaking.  Then we flew to Australia.  
Somebody at the convention had told us about a nature reserve about 50 km South of Canberra called Tinbinbilla.  We spent a couple days in Sydney, and then we went to Tidbinbilla.  There we photographed koalas and kangaroos.  In fact, I took my second trophy winning photograph that month, of a kangaroo couple, with a joey’s head sticking out of the mama’s pouch.  I called it “The Enchanted Forest”.

I was walking by this gray kangaroo feeding area, watching a little kid feed this kangaroo a loaf of bread, piece by piece.  I walked up, and held out my hand.  The kangaroo hopped up, sniffed my hand, and I petted him with the other hand.  I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I had nothing for him, or I was invading his personal space by petting him, but he punched me in the stomach.  I thought I’ve just been punched out by a marsupial.  
About ten years later I was visiting a sick friend at a nursing home.  He had an infection that just wouldn’t go away.  
He asked, “So, Brent, what do you want done when you die?  Where do you want to be buried?”
I thought about it a bit, and remembered, for some reason, that concert, “I wanna be dumped over the Kingdome.”
“So, you wanna be cremated.”
I paused for a second and answered matter of factly, “No.”
He laughed and laughed at that, and started getting better.  The imagery in his head was of my nude body falling from a helicopter over the Kingdome.  In his head, it went through the dome during a Rolling Stones concert, and landed on stage. 
Keith Richards came up to my dead, naked body and asked, “Who the bloody hell are you?”


-Brent