Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Will the internet prove everyone has talent?

A close friend of mine made a statement “What the internet will eventually prove to us is that everyone has talent.” I have been thinking about this for a while and it’s true, we have arrived in an age where if you need tools to unleash your creativity those tools are often easy to find and are very affordable.

"Acto De Fe" -  Album Cover

With so many people able to create all sorts of media one has to wonder what that will happen to the creative industry as a whole in the near future?


I think the music world is giving us a sneak peek at what will happen to other artistic media. It use to cost a fortune for a band to go to a studio, put together an album, get it duplicated, marketed and distributed. Now days a composer can put together an album with great home recording gear and get it on i-tunes or bandcamp working a minimum wage job. In basic terms what was once a playground only for the rich or lucky has now become open to anyone with a passion and some basic computer skills.

iTunes, Pandora radio and the like have completely change how people think of hearing and obtaining music. The term "album" is rather obsolete and most people these days associate artists with specific songs rather than an album; A crazy example but - Rebecca Black’s “Friday” made her an overnight one-hit-wonder thanks to You Tube – not a record company, not a manager, not a distributor and it wasn’t even part of an album at all. Another interesting case was the vastly popular Skrillex who created his Grammy award winning album “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” on his laptop in his apartment; The next thing we know the former unknown is on a world tour with millions of fans worldwide from the internet.

Josh Money
(The super talented Josh money is a Orlando based composer on the edge of breaking into the big time. He held the #2 spot on the Beat-port top 10 right Dub-Step just under Skrillex recently. Check him out here http://www.beatport.com/artist/josh-money/27088 )

If you haven’t already discovered it another revolution is happening on Cinema5D.com and Vimeo and that is all the independent film makers finally being able to make and release films for under $10K.

These films are all amazing:

Panic Attack:

The Chapel

TheChapel. A short film. (HDR timelapse) from Patryk Kizny on Vimeo.

Portal No Escape

 Tempest Milky Way:

Tempest Milky Way from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

 Films with quality as high as these use to cost an extraordinary amount of money often with little or no way to ever recoup your expenses or even be seen by the general public other than film festivals. Some films such as “Paranormal Activity” were made on a shoestring budget and became box office block buster’s rivaling films costing over 100 times more to produce.

Of course the word of photography has been exploding with creativity since digital cameras and programs like Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro have made what was once an alchemy-like-art accessible and understandable by the masses.  The ever popular Flickr has millions of photos a day loaded on it. Before the internet many images would likely only see leather portfolios and scrapbooks with some lucky artists managing to show in a gallery or magazine. It is likely however in many cases (even for me) that the social aspect of people actually commenting on our work online keeps a lot of us creative types going, where as unsupported many would likely give up in time otherwise.

Some of my favorite Flickr artists:


beyond the horizon...







miranda 1

Kelly Clarkson


McLaren MP4-12C


Pencil Vs Camera - 58

All of this makes one wonder if people like George Lucas, Ansel Adams and The Beatles were just coming up today would they have enjoyed the same success as they did back in the day?  These people helped inspire so many of the ideas and processes we use today in modern software so if they hadn't been a part of history our history may have been a little different...but what I am talking about is could their talent still shine through as brightly as it did if millions of others had access to their same tools and processes?

To the thought above I say yes...talent is talent and no amount of software or hardware will ever replace a great mind, a deep passion. Think of the modern creative trends like stock car racing, it's getting to the point where everyone can enter the creative race on equal technological par. Those who really have the talent, passion and persistence will likely find some victory and cheering fans.

Avatar of Speed

On the negative side of all this there is also an alarming trend of devaluation of all creative art. I'm not going to drop any links here but there are certain stock media websites that encourage selling photos, footage & music for little money. I have seen open licences for music going for $14 or less (with the stock host taking half), photography going for $1 on some for unlimited rights. I could really take a deep dive into why this a very bad thing for the creative industry but for all you artists out there before you give away your gift for so little consider the time you spent creating it, all the knowledge you had to gain to create it, the price of all the equipment needed to bring it to life ... think about that... lets just say if you had to make a living at it, would you charge the same as you are about to ask for now?

The last thing I will talk about here is creativity for creative resource. I am of course talking about all those artists and companies making the huge amounts of plug-ins, samples, software and equipment to empower all us creative types. If your really looking to make a living at creativity you might take a serious look at what is going on with this. People who find a new hobby quickly buy up a lot of creative content to help them; if you can make a product to help inspire creative minds or help them work more efficiently you likely have a successful and creative future ahead of you... a modern day "Funk Brothers" or ILM

(Photo from Tonehammer now known as 8dio and Soundiron make extrodinary samples for modern composers at very affordable prices)

Will the internet eventually prove to us is that everyone has talent? Maybe.. but what is more important is that with all that is going on creatively the internet is showing us without question how important art is to the human race.

Goddess of Love

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Top 20 Photos from 2011

As 2011 comes to a close I decided to reflect on some of my favorite shots and projects. This year the list is 20 wide but you’ll see why as this was a very diversified year for me as an artist.

(Click any picture to see it in a larger size)

Azlan 2

“Azlan” was shot at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with a rented lens at the end of 2010. Every photographer goes to a zoo hoping for that magic when you can capture a moment with a rare creature that would be virtually impossible out in the wild. There is a lot of waiting for a shot like this, animals rarely pose for long so it’s all about being ready to hit the shutter.

The shot was tweaked to maximize the beautiful light across the main. Of course I thought of the story “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe” and that is how the shot got its name.

Diva LaIndia Page

Diva LaIndia was starting up her you tube page and needed a proper background. I hired in Kyle Vest to do the wonderful body paint. After hours under the airbrush LaIndia emerged as a character with great Puerto Rican pride and some wonderful New York accents as well.

Image was done against a green screen and the wall behind her was composited. I was pleased with the metal texture I made for the lettering in her name as well.

Djinn Remix

“Djinn Remix” started out as dancer Lori Katz stood up and arched over backwards to the camera for a bellydance portrait. The shot as taken really didn’t come off as we hoped but flipping it upside down and adding some black smoke like a “Genie in a bottle” It came to life. Lori’s husband liked the shot so much that he commissioned me to make a bigger/grader version of it. There must have been 30 layers of lens flares to get all the sparkles, not to mention all the painted in smoke effects. After all the layers were built a considerable amount of time was spent in re-coloring as the original shot was set against a neutral grey backdrop.

Bonett Smart 3

Bonnet Smart was shot at an Orlando drag racing track for a local Smart car club event. This was a tricky shot to get not so much in the set up but walking across the surface of the drag track literally stopped me in my tracks as the surface was like fly paper. A simple light change took nearly five minutes just to walk over and back. I used two studio strobes to light the car from each side.

In post I did an HDRI pass with some extra contrast. The shot was named after the owner Ivonne Bonnet who runs the local chapter of the Smart club

Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars

“Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars” was shot one evening on the St Johns river after I was returning home from Daytona Beach. I shot a series of photos that night in that area mostly because I was interested in the massive power plant nearby.

All the shots of the power plant came out pretty bad but this shot with the airplanes heading toward Daytona Airport more than made up for it.

DeadStalkers Album Cover

“The Deadstalkers Album Cover” was shot on a green screen for the band “Fast Fists”. Make up for Lori Katz was done by Kyle Vest in a ultra Goth type fashion.

The background was shot separately at Rollins Collage in Winter Park Florida but lit the same as the studio shoot for continuity,

Bringing the composite together was fairly straight forward and the rest was simply picking the best tonal look (done in Nik Color EFX Pro). The band was very pleased with the cover.

In The Shadows

“In the Shadows” was a spin off shot from an album cover shoot I did for the St Petersburg band “Fast Fists” . The image was shot on a green screen and the set was created in DAZ 3d.

I created the shot because I have an interest in blending 3d environments with reality as they do so well in movies these days. I thought for a serious first attempt this turned out pretty realistic.

Heart of America

“Heart of America” was of course taken in Times Square New York. Though this exact spot has shown up in countless photographs the simple fact that I was actually standing in the most famous intersection in America made me snap the Cliché shot but add my own little twist to the post process.

Let Freedom Ring

“Let Freedom Ring” is an HDRI image shot in the shadow of the Statute of Library. The sun was directly behind lady library to create the halo effect seen here. The HDRI processing only got me about halfway to this shot, I spent a considerable amount of time in the NIK program Viveza 2 to bring out all the detail and color hidden in the shadows.

Ellis Island - HDRI

“Ellis Island” – You would never know from this shot that there were a ton of tourists there that day. My family and I just happened to walk into this hall when no one was there, I’m not sure why it was so empty but thinking quickly I used my backpack as a tripod and captured the moment.

In post I used HDRI processing on the triple bracketed image along with a little bleach bypass love to bring out all this detail in the bricks.

Departure Ceremony

“Departure Ceremony” - Independence day weekend - American reserve troops stand in a departure ceremony saying goodbye to their friends and families before leaving for up to a year.

I volunteered my time to these troops and their families on this day to photograph each of them so they can remember each other on the far side of the world.
Regardless of your political beliefs this event was very humbling. These troops and their families willingly make a sacrifice the majority would never consider. I have a great respect to the American men and women who so bravely serve our country, we would not be here if they did not.
This was a 4th of July event I will never forget.

Blue Monday

“Blue Monday” - While on a business trip to Vancouver I shot this image on a cell phone while strolling through the immensely beautiful “Stanley Park”. The image of ships in the harbor was just so tranquil I had to bring it to life as I saw it that day.

Through some color restoration in Viveza the shot was sculpted to be what I had hoped for. Though it was not shot on Monday it was named so because of the lyrics to the New Order song “Blue Monday” that say “I see a ship in the harbor, I can and shall obey but if it wasn’t for your misfortune I would be a heavenly person today” … whatever that means.

Orl-y & Kel-e  Shot 2

“Orl-y & Kel-e” - This image was taken for a couple of Reggaeton artists here in Orlando out in an abandoned railroad yard. The color processing on this really made this special , I was working with some new “Red Giant” software - “Magic Bullet” to achieve the effect.


“Bubbles” - Lori again (my muse for this year) had hired me to do some bellydance photos for her, but at the end of the session I requested a couple extra shots to try out some more virtual reality sets. This shot modeled after the Michael Parks painting “Gargoyles “ was by far my favorite, though did not receive much attention online.

To create it I composited a shot of Lori on the green screen, a photo of a bubble blowing device and a sky photo taken on the parking garage where I work. The stone structure and big cat were created with Daz 3d. Color processing was done with Nik Color EFX Pro and Red Giant “Magic Bullet”

Flamenco del Sol 8

“Flamenco del Sol #8” - Tammy Millar poses for a shot to be used in the “Pasion Flamenca” performance program. The shot was taken in the lobby of the Casa Monica historic hotel in St. Augustine (about 12” from the reception desk)

I used three strobes for the shot to freeze the dress that was dropped by hand.

The theatrical gobo lighting effect was created with the Digital Film Tools Plug-in “Light”

Flamenco del Sol 9

“Flamenco del Sol #9” - Karen dances outside the Casa Monica hotel for the “Pasion Flamenca” performance program.

This shot used four monolights to add some color to the night. I used a blue gel for the strobe hitting the fountain.

I really love the movement in this shot.

Like my status :)

“Like my Status” was taken at the 2011 Orlando Festival of Speed. The Ferrari F430GT was parked in a very crowded spot but thanks to a wide lens and a low angle I was able to walk away with a sweet shot.

I lit the car with a 240 Watt studio strobe attached to a Alien Bee’s Vagabond tucked inside pilots case; it made a great mobile lighting setup.

4 5 8

“4 5 8” was also shot at the Orlando Festival of Speed, ironically I was actually setting up to take a shot of a Ford GT when I saw the Ferrari making its way down the path. I quickly turned the camera and strobe light around waited for that perfect moment as the 458 entered my frame; the strobe froze the 458 in the image so most would never know it was a moving shot.

In post I did a selective desaturation and toning process. I also spent some time in Color Efx pro getting the Ferrari just the right shade of red.

Serenidad 10

“Serenidad 10” was shot from the deck of the 41’ sail boat as we pulled into the docks in Marco Island Florida. The sunset created this beautiful golden tone that really summed up the romantic atmosphere that was with my girlfriend and I during our sail; simply a beautiful way to end a day.

Equus Prime - Album Cover - Shadow of the Colossus inspired

Equus Prime – Album cover
Inspired by the “Shadow of the Colossus” video game by ICO - I created this album cover image using fractals, star brushes and a photo of a “Colossus”
The image of the Colossus horse is in fact real, it was a group of trees in a local greenbelt that took on such a wonderful shape that I had to capture it. Though the shot was taken in daylight I transformed it into a night to fit the mood of this sci-fi type musical track.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Equus Prime - Relased

Equus Prime - Album Cover, a photo by Savage Land Pictures on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
My latest original score: jessejamesallen.bandcamp.com/track/equus-prime

This track pays homage to artists like Enigma & Vangelis. Equus Prime is a very atmospheric track lush with sound textures and melodies.

For me one of the most creative aspects of composing this track was creating all of the sounds for it across a wide range of samplers and synthesizers. I wanted it to sound otherworldly with a trace of familiarity so real instrument elements are blended with synthetic sounds.

The cover artwork was done by me as well. As with the name is inspired by the ICO video game "Shadow of the Colossus" . The image of the horse is in fact real, it was a group of trees in a local greenbelt that took on such a wonderful shape that I had to capture it. Though the shot was taken in daylight I transformed it into a night to fit the mood of this sci-fi type track.

Thanks for listening! Namaste - JJ

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Perhaps the most complex project I have worked on over the past couple months was a complete body of work around a group of Floridian performers named "Flamenco Del Sol".

To explain who this group is it is advisable to watch this short documentary about the group that I produced with former "Hip Hop 411" host "Diva La India"

Part 1

Part 2

The dance group lead by veteran instructors Tammy and Alonso Millar was slated to perform at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center at the end of October but before the show the group requested that I photograph the dancers for the official program.

In the past I have done such shots in the studio but I was really wanting to take it up a notch this go around. I worked with Tammy and the Casa Monica historic hotel in St Augustine Florida to really raise the visual bar. The result was a full day photo shoot on location.

Flamenco del Sol 8

Flamenco del Sol 4

The theatrical type lighting was really the key to success with these dancer photos ; during the shoot I ran a four light array with various colored gels to bring out the wonderful colors in the costumes . Some shots were done externally so for power I relied on the Alien Bees Vagabond 2.

Flamenco del Sol 12

Flamenco del Sol 13

To dial in the stage like lighting gobo's I used a plug-in package called "light" from "Digital Film Tools", for me this was an invaluable tool since setting up all these patterns live would have required so much more time than I had available. Color correction was done primarily with Nik Viveza , an excellent color tuning tool that runs with Lightroom

About a month after the pre-show photos I was shooting live at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center, The theater staff there really did a great job with lighting. Flamenco Del Sol performed "PASION FLAMENCA" a two hour show.

The primarily Latin audience was mesmerized and for good reason; having worked for a performing arts complex in Denver for many years I have seen some great shows and this one was top notch, especially on night two.

There was a lot of emotion on stage and each dancer brought their own persona out in full light

Each number had it's own style but all numbers pulled the audience deeper into the world of Flamenco dance, transporting us all to not only another place but another time as well.

For me as a photographer, watching the transformation of each dancer as they walked across stage to embrace their persona was somewhat magical. As the music starts you see a notable change in the face and eyes, the movement does not seem planned but rather let out like words from a beautiful poem.

Shooting Flamenco requires some understanding of music and timing. Many of the choice shots were achieved by counting the measures varying between 3/4 and 6/8 to anticipate a choice moment.

My choice lens for the shoot was the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM for it's constant F-stop and favorable range. I have shot at other indoor events and found that this lens is ideal for capturing fast movements in low light.

Each night at the end of the performance the audience stood and cheered; The dedication and passion the dancers had brought to the stage had paid off.

This was a wonderful project and I am honored they chose me as their photographer.

The complete set of shots from the PASION FLAMENCA show can be seen here

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The 2011 Orlando Festival Of Speed

I know it has been a little while since my last post but only because I have been on a number of projects, one of them photographing automobiles for a couple collectors at the Orlando "Festival of Speed".

Maserati Gran Turismo

For those of you who are not familiar with the show, the Festival of speed is the premier Exotic car show in Orlando, Miami and St Petersburg at various times of the year.


I have been attending the Festival of Speed for a number of years and have worked in the past as a photographer for the coordinators but this year it was a couple of collectors who wrangled me in to capture their hard work on a set of beautiful Mustang Mach 1’s.


The Mach 1 (1969-1978) is a stunning muscle car that shares many of the key features of the original Ford Mustang but has a more aggressive looking style that cues you in that this pony means business.

Both the classic 302 and 428 Mach 1’s were on display at the show and certainly turned some heads.

Mach 1's

I actually enjoyed following these two down the highway as they made some glorious sounds out on the road.

Mustang Mach 1 428

I did manage to shoot some other vehicles at the show as well because well…I love automobiles and I was like a kid in a candy store at the show.

Before I get to the ultra speedy stuff I will make mention of a beautiful trio of Thunderbirds that was on display; I have always been fond of the styling of the Thunderbird as it really sums up to me the classic 1950 American auto design.


Moving on of course the crowd favorite was the Bugatti Veyron that I believe is the rare Centenaire as it was painted in an all elegant blue tone. I had a brief moment with this car alone as they loaded this vehicle in that I captured this image.

Bugatti Veyron Centenaire

The other head turner at the show was the brand new Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4; this 700 HP aggressively styled exotic for me really brought back what made Lamborghini so different many years ago.

Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4

The previous Murciélago seemed so rounded compared to the edgy lined classics like the Diablo and Countach, I was glad to see the bold lines and high shock value were back with a vengeance. I think many people agree as getting a clear shot of the Aventador was next to impossible with the crowds gawking around it.

Diablo 6.0

Another new Exotic strutted its stuff at the event – the Ferrari 458 Italia stayed for a while. This new Ferrari was raved about on the BBC show “Top Gear” as “one of the all time greats” “It really is absolutely , unbelievably, mesmerizingly brilliant. “ All I know is that it is a stunning vehicle in person.

4 5 8

Aston Martin of Orlando brought out a beautiful display of British brilliance , as a huge Lotus fan I was loving the Lotus Exige SC RGB Edition

Lotus Exige SC RGB Edition

But certainly the 007 chariots were impressive as well.

Aston Martin @ The Festival Of Speed

My favorite shot from the show? Well that would have to be the stunning GT clad Ferrari 430 that was on display in the main ring…wow, just wow.

Like my status :)

Thanks for reading