Welder Anthony Solis for The Wall Street Journal

Not everyone has big dreams of going to college. Some cut to the chase and learn practical skills to get started earning as soon as possible. One example is welder Anthony Solis, 19, who is a welder working in Houston. I was assigned by the Wall Street Journal to photograph Solis against a grey background. The example page the editor sent was shot by extraordinary photographer Spencer Heyfron and was told to match the style as closely as possible. Heyfron's images are pretty spectacular so I knew I had my work cut out for me. An issue I've been trying to work out recently has been catchlights in the eyes. After some online research, I decided to use a gridded beauty dish on a boom directly over and above Solis, and pop a shoot-through umbrella to his left just to add a tiny bit of fill and put a nice light in his eyes. I was happy with the result and am especially excited about the huge photo play on the front of the WSJ's weekend Review section.

Below are a few of my favorite outtakes as well as the image that ran and the tear sheet.

Country musician Mary Sarah for the Houston Chronicle

Rising country musician Mary Sarah joined me on the roof of the Houston Chronicle parking garage, as well as the paper's decommissioned loading dock, to make some portraits for a feature about her new release. Sarah has joined forces with the likes of Dolly Parton and the Oak Ridge Boys recently and her new album appears to be building a lot of steam. She was great to work with and was game to break away from the photography studio at the paper and shoot outdoors, even in the heat of mid-summer Houston. Yee-haw!

Tear sheet

Studying the minds of fishermen

A shoot for Monitor on Psychology introduced me to Sharon A. Croisant, PhD, a researcher studying the epidemiology of fishermen affected by the mental health effects of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, among others.

From the cleanhouston.org website: "Croisant is a specialist in translational research. She describes this approach as “taking science from the lab to the bedside, and to the curbside”: The information gained in the research lab enhances patient care, and is used to understand and prevent disease in the community. Croisant currently is working with a consortium of researchers from four universities and community groups on the GC-HARMS study to understand the impact of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill on the safety of Gulf seafood and the health effects for those who consume it."

The editor wanted something "gritty." Thankfully, a retired oil rig sits near a dock two minutes from her office, and she agreed to meet me just before dusk. Using a Quantum flash with a soft box attachment, I was able to use the small light source to illuminate only her face and let the background take care of itself.

 

Favorite image

Tearsheet


Patrice Pike for the Houston Chronicle

I love photographing musicians because they're open to just about anything. It's not that this shoot was so wild and crazy, but Patrice was happy to share in a moment of innocent mischeviousness when I asked her to get on top of the bar. Below are a couple of my favorite shots from the session.

Patrice Pike in front of Houston's Mucky Duck

Patrice Pike on the bar at the Mucky Duck

Doug Dreher for Houstonia magazine

I had the recent opportunity to do a good, old-fashioned day-in-the-life story on collector and barber Doug Dreher. Doug runs a legendary barber shop in the Heights neighborhood in Houston (look for a three-minute barbershop scene in "Rushmore," for example). He is also an avid collector of all things. His home is stuffed with a litany of objects including vintage ceramics and old 45 record albums. Doug has an eclectic past as well as an eclectic present and is certainly one of the people that make Houston unique and fun to live in just by his existence.

Houston mayor Annise Parker for The Advocate

I'm stoked to see my photos of Mayor Annise Parker on the cover and inside story in latest issue of The Advocate magazine. In 12 minutes, I was able to pull out a shot against a full-body seamless and a shot with the city seal in the background. The tear sheets look great, with only minimal water damage. Thanks, United States Postal Service!

Terrence Malick and the five-alarm fire

In late March, a five-alarm fire utterly destroyed the huge Axis condominium project in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, a huge city with no zoning laws. Because of this, builders have a lot of flexibility in where and how they want to erect a project. That being said, this condo was pushed right up to the very edge of a historic cemetery. I live nearby, and after hearing more than the usual amount of fire engines screaming past my home, I went out to my deck and looked north, where a huge plume of black smoke engulfed the sky. I grabbed my gear and opened up an app on my phone that tracks fires and traffic accidents and headed out the door. When I finally got to the scene, I hopped the fence of the Magnolia Cemetery where I saw an obelisk with the word "Father" written on the pedestal. With a surreal fire raging in the background, I immediately thought of the whispery voice-overs from Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life," (although I think in the movie, it's the word "mother" that is urgently voiced by Sean Penn).

Semajay Thomas for The Chicago Tribune

Last month I was commissioned to photograph up-and-coming boxer Semajay Thomas for the Chicago Tribune. Thomas was in Houston training for a fight the following Monday. Thomas, a 21-year-old boxer from West Town (Chicago) with a highly decorated amateur career, finally is well positioned and well supported for a successful professional career three and a half years after being acquitted of a first-degree murder charge that resulted from an incident he actually had no part of.

2014 Houston Art Car Parade

260 creative cars and over 315,000 spectators set the festive tone for this years Houston Art Car parade, which I covered for the Houston Chronicle last weekend. Below is one of my more favorite frames. Low-riders are the original art cars: meticulously designed, passionately created, and just all-around cool.

Dross into gold

Photo of the Day: Sometimes if you hang around a press conference long enough, a real moment will happen. Ten minutes following a press conference where Houston mayor Annise Parker announced the plans for the Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July event, some of the young actors broke away to a nearby swing set to exercise their freedom to swing.

 

"Reece Tanig, 6, left, Bianca Bolanos, 10, and Kaylee Tanig, 9 — dressed as Benjamin Franklin, Uncle Sam and Betsy Ross — hit the swings Monday at Sam Houston Park after helping Mayor Annise Parker unveil plans for Houston’s official Fourth of July celebration, Southwest Airlines Freedom Over Texas, which will include fireworks and a performance by Jennifer Nettles."

"Reece Tanig, 6, left, Bianca Bolanos, 10, and Kaylee Tanig, 9 — dressed as Benjamin Franklin, Uncle Sam and Betsy Ross — hit the swings Monday at Sam Houston Park after helping Mayor Annise Parker unveil plans for Houston’s official Fourth of July celebration, Southwest Airlines Freedom Over Texas, which will include fireworks and a performance by Jennifer Nettles."

Throwback Thursday: Arcade Fire, Spike Jonze and the filming of "Scenes From The Suburbs"

In the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I've assembled an edit of some of my favorite photos from the production of the Arcade Fire/Spike Jonze short film "Scenes From the Suburbs," shot in the summer of 2010 in Austin, Texas. Currently Arcade Fire is touring full force for their latest release "Reflektor," a killer double album and true Gesamtkunstwerk. I've been lucky enough to photograph for Arcade Fire a number of times since then and am looking forward to seeing them play in Win and Will Butler's hometown of Houston next week.


Day One


Day Two


Day Three


Day Four


Day Five

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for Houstonia Magazine

In March 2013, I was commissioned to shoot the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for a fledgling magazine that was set to launch in Houston called "Houstonia." They knew ahead of time they needed images and stories from the 2013 rodeo for their first rodeo issue in 2014. Needless to say, I was very happy to discover a year later that one of my images from the saddle bronc competition was used for the cover. Yee-haw!

0214_Houstonia_Cover_NoBC_Crops.jpg

Outplacement services for The Wall Street Journal

Last month, I photographed Houston resident Johnny Burchett for The Wall Street Journal for a story on outplacement services, which are sometimes offered to former employees after they're laid off. According to the story, outplacement services are now "under pressure". I was asked to photograph Mr. Burchett in his home office. Once that was finished, I noticed a very comfy bird's nest chair by a window. I'm very happy the WSJ chose a more non-literal image to run with the story.

University of Houston grad student protestors for the Chronicle of Higher Education

A shoot I recently completed for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Grad students at the University of Houston had a sit-in in the president's office last April. Ashley Wurzbacher, Kay Cosgrove and Jameelah Lang, PhD students in creative writing, were some of the participants who organized a sit-in at the University of Houston last April that led to a big increase – 55 percent – in PhD stipend amounts in the English department. Being anxious and wanting to employ a bit of stealth during the sit-in, the students used the stairwell, where they are posing, to get to the president's office rather than use the elevator. Link to story here.

Tom Bastian for Fortune Magazine

A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to complete my first assignment for Fortune Magazine. The assignment was to photograph Tom Bastian, who manages the Invesco Equity and Income Fund. 

 

I had great backend support from a photo editor at Fortune, Michele Taylor. We discussed options and even location snaps I made before the shoot. It was great knowing that at least the background environments were approved before I even began. We shot in what is probably the biggest boardroom I've ever seen but in the end, went with a couch on the periphery that had a nice, mirrored grid as a background, courtesy of the building next door.

 

 

Tom Bastian in the Invesco Houston office.

Digital tear sheet from Fortune Magazine.

Shooting at LAX

Last Friday, I was at Los Angeles International airport to fly back to Houston after a two-week dream assignment following and photographing an internationally popular rock band (blog post TBD). The show the prior night was insanely good, plus it was Halloween. With two weeks of travel and shooting behind me and three hours of sleep the night before, I was looking forward to chilling out, reading and dozing on my way back home. As I waited at my gate, a group of TSA agents walked into the area, calmly, and announced we were to evacuate the terminal. 

My first thought was that there must have been a fire alarm somewhere. However, I didn't hear or see any alarms. Once on the tarmac, I noticed three news helicopters hovering above the airport and knew that something bad had probably gone down. I later discovered a man, Paul Anthony Ciancia, had shot a TSA officer and wounded many others. He was eventually shot and transported to a hospital.

Meanwhile, myself and my fellow passengers were escorted onto the tarmac and eventually moved to an international terminal to wait until the airport was cleared. I moved a couple of photos to twitter, not really expecting the deluge that followed - lots of retweeting and requests from news organizations for licensing permission. One of my panoramic images was used on Fox News and countless other websites.

 Although my professional gear was packed away, I knew it was only a matter of time that I would be compelled to break it out and put on my photojournalist hat. I ended up shooting some exclusive photos for one of my best clients, the Houston Chronicle.

We stayed in the international terminal for what felt like forever, but in actuality was only a few hours. I eventually made it home at 1am the following morning.

A longer edit of the images can be seen here.

 

Passengers wait outside terminal one of the Los Angeles International airport eventually being moved to the international terminal following a shooting in terminal three Nov. 1, 2013 in Los Angeles, CA.

Shepherd Smith uses one of my twitter photos on his breaking newscast.

Time to get on the bus.

Where we ended up for a few hours.

Another view of the terminal where we were sent.

A good time for a carpet nap.

Thank you for visiting Los Angeles.

Places to charge one's device were at a premium. Here people use the USB ports behind monitors over the gate desks.

Los Angeles firemen dumped boxes of food on the carpet...

 …which was promptly and quickly scooped up by passengers.

Water was wheeled through to wash down the snacks.

A police officer speaks to Riccardo Angiolini, 16, center, who witnessed the shooting.

A police officer speaks to Riccardo Angiolini, 16, center, who witnessed the shooting.

Passengers were eventually released. The volume was huge, so many passengers walked in the street.

Passengers were eventually released. The volume was huge, so many passengers walked in the street.

Francisco Sanchez for Emergency Management magazine

In the United States' fourth largest city, emergency management is crucial. Emergency Management magazine recently published a profile on Francisco Sanchez, the liaison for Harris County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.  Having shot at the TranStar facility before, I already knew what the interior looked like and what to expect. Wanting to do something different, I suggested we go to the roof of the building. I saw a nice bank of clouds from an approaching cold front I knew would make a good foreboding background, and my gut was telling me the roof was likely filled with antennas, which it was. Having been photographed many times before, Francisco told me this was the first time anyone had suggested photographing on the roof. Once I knew I had a decent shot, I showed him the back of the camera and he was as pleased as I was.

 

Tearsheet from Emergency Management magazine

Protest blocks Houston freeway in response to Trayvon Martin verdict

I don't typically post protest photos, simply because often times, it's just people standing around holding signs - not exactly exciting stuff. Yesterday, however, offered something I've never experienced in my career: a crowd of hundreds, expressing their frustration at the Trayvon Martin verdict, marched and then shut down a major Houston freeway for about 15 minutes or so. Interestingly, the police never really showed up en masse. A couple of squad cars arrived and parked on the overpass, but in the end, a rainstorm blew in and with it, the demonstration was over.

Photographing Carla Lane for Ebony Magazine

I had the recent pleasure of photographing self-made millionaire Carla Lane, who started and operates her own staffing agency in Houston, for Ebony magazine. The idea put forth by the photo editor (Dudley Brooks, formerly of the Washington Post, no less) was to show the subject with whatever it happened to be the subject's favorite thing to spend their money on. In Carla's case, it was a massive designer shoe collection. She was very accommodating, allowing me to take a large portion of her shoe collection, arrange it in her foyer, and then have her lie down on the floor.

Photographing Jinneh Dyson for the Washington Post

For a story about mental health in African-American communities, I was assigned by the Washington Post to photograph Jinneh Dyson. Dyson, currently a senior manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, used to suffer from depression. You can read the story in the Post here