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Make It Look Good Baby!

“Make it look good baby!” That is what my clients tell me. Well maybe not exactly like that but that is part of my job description. Some of the projects I shoot are beautiful works of art and it is difficult to take a bad photo, that is not what this post is about. This is about some of the pigs that needed a good bit of lipstick before they where ready for the camera.

I scouted this library a few days before the shoot so I knew it was a mess (see below). When I receive an assignment I don’t like to give excuses about the difficulty of the shot, as my clients just need me to capture the perfect image. After taking the before photo (so we could put it all back together), it was time work up a sweat and  start the transformation.

BeforeInterior photo of North Terrace SchoolA couple hours later it was looking good.

AfterBelow is a pretty typical classroom. They are always full of all kinds of informative charts about the ABC’s, 123, ect.

BeforeInterior classroom photo of North Terrace SchoolAfterInterior classroom photo of North Terrace SchoolSometimes the objects of distraction are bigger than you can lift. The time of day can dramatic change the way a structure looks.

BeforeAfterBroadway PierSometimes it is best to wait until the project is finished for the best shot.

BeforeAfterArchitectural photo of Escondido High School by Zack Benson


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Looking Back on 2012

Well, 2012 is done and in the bag. Looking back it was a great year with many new clients: Trex, MJE Marketing, Karma, HMC Architects and many more…  Below are a few highlights. The shot below is a collaboration with Karma and Trex. You can find this shot in the Trex‘s 2013 catalog.

Trex Catalog Shoot 2012Below is another Trex shoot I did outside of Spokane WA with The Neiman Ad Group.Trex Catalog Shoot 2012This interior kitchen shot was done for Restyle Source.Re-Style Kitchen Interior PhotoHere we have Vista Del Mar School. I captured this photo for HMC Architects and EPC Construction.Vista Del Mar School in San DiegoVista Del Mar School‘s library at dusk.Vista Del Mar School at duskThe image below was a shoot for San Diego Magazine, located on Conrado Island.This photo was for Mill Hull Architects. This is their office located in San Diego.Miller Hull Office in San Diego, CaliforinaWell I am looking forward to 2013. Hope to see you then…


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On The Cover

Below is the cover I shot for the March issue of San Diego Magazine. Everybody strives to be on the cover so it is nice when your shot is selected. This was a particularly fun shoot. I had to climb onto the neighbor’s roof which was two stories high to capture this angle. Luckily the sunset was perfect that evening and with a little fill light we were able to capture the image you see below.

Below are some other projects I also shot for the issue. Here is The Q in Little Italy.

The QThis one was a real treat to photograph. The Mid-Century architect Richard Neutra designed this house back in the 60′s. The home has been loved and well cared for and is “the only one still intact in San Diego.” I could have spent all day there but I felt very lucky to have access for the afternoon.

Neutra Home is San Diego

To see more photos I shot for this issue click here.

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Smoke and Mirrors

As we know, the photos we see these days are not as they appear. There is always something  pushed, dropped in, retouched out, pinched in or pulled out. It is really amazing how far the visual arts have progressed in the last ten years.

Below is a great example of the evolution of a photo into a national ad. Originally I took this photo in New York for Belgard’s Catalog and that was just the beginning. It was then transformed by Wray Ward Creative Group into the ad you see now in Architectural Digest, Sunset and other magazines.

It was Wray Ward that came up with the Sunflower concept and once Belgard gave the green light the colossal task of bringing the sunflowers to life began.

Below is the final ad that is running now. Note the color of the house, tree line, oh, and all the sunflowers. Remember whenever you see an ad its all just smoke and mirrors.

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Happy Holidays!

Recently I received a call to do some interior photos of the Grande Colonial Hotel, which is a great 93 room hotel located in downtown La Jolla, CA.

Interior photos of Grande Colonial

This seaside hotel was establish in 1913 and is full of rich character. The goal was to capture the holiday decor in the lobby for their seasonal marketing and it was very important not to disturb the guests. So just like Santa Claus late at night we came in through the chimney which was hard with all the photo gear. Being quiet as a mouse we styled, lit, and shot the space while everyone was asleep. I wanted to dress up like Santa but my assistant was unenthusiastic about the elf suit I picked out for him. I also had a hard time finding room in the budget for the costumes and reindeer so I had to pass on the holiday attire.

Holiday Photo Shoot

We shot through the night and before the guests were getting up for breakfast we had completed our shoot and loaded up the sled. With a big wave and a ho, ho, Merry Christmas! We flew off into the sky.

Happy Holidays and I wish you and yours all the best in 2012

Grande Colonial Hotel3RMKQNK6QW8B

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Cosmopolitan Living In Downtown San Diego

One of the perks of my job is that my “office” is always changing and this time I couldn’t have picked a better spot.

Sapphire Tower White ChairYou may have seen this swanky penthouse in the latest issue of San Diego Magazine. The unit is located on the 27th floor in the Sapphire Tower overlooking San Diego bay. My shoot took place on a beautiful sunny day and the penthouse was not a bad location to spend the afternoon working. I always enjoy shooting in downtown San Diego and this great location was no exception.

Sapphire Tower in San Diego, CAFor this project we were focusing on the interior design which had plenty of style and character. Almost everything was black and white so color balance was crucial. With many different light sources: natural daylight, tungsten, fluoresces, and strobes it was important to let one dominate and blend the accent lighting carefully. I wanted to keep the whites, grays and blacks mostly neutral but just a desaturated black and white photo wouldn’t capture the feel of the spaces. It was important to have those subtle cool and warm tones to add a natural feel to the photos.

Overall photo of 2701 at the Sapphire TowerA great attribute to this penthouse is the large open layout. Each space easily flows into the next.

Interior photos of the master bedroon in the Sapphire Tower in San DiegoThe black and white made for a very cool graphic subject but it also was inherently a high contrast scene. The key was blending natural light with my strobes to hold detail.

With such a great view we had to stick around for dusk to capture the beautiful view over looking San Diego Bay.

Livingroom photo professtional taken at dusk at the Sappier Tower over looking San Diego Bay.

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Cinder Block Succulent Planter Project

I have to admit my girlfriend and I have a bad habit. One of our favorite pastimes is collecting succulents. Our habit has gotten so bad that we might become the stars of a strange new “Reality TV Show.” For example a few days before Valentine’s Day when every guy in a relationship is looking for a dozen roses I’m out shopping for a rare succulent. Believe me if I showed up with a dozen fresh cut red roses I would get a wired look with a sympathetic “oh, thanks babe.” She would way rather have nice a Kalanchoe Beharensis a.k.a. Felt Plant.

So, with an ever growing collection of succulents taking over the front and backyard it was time to figure out a way to show some of them off.

Succulent PlanterI’ve seen people use cinder blocks before as planters and I thought with a little glue (block adhesive) we could take this planter vertical.  After all, I wanted this planter to house as many succulent as possible.

Succulent Wall
I wanted to use cinder blocks because I knew it would be inexpensive (total cost was under $60) and simple to make. Remember I am architectural photographer, not an engineer. Also, I new it would have a great modern feel to use the simple square lines of the cinder block. I love modern design but even “Design With In Reach” is out of reach for a young photographer building up a business.

Succulent Planter
After a few trips to Home Depot I started to stack up the blocks at this time I was not using any glue I just wanted to “play” with the blocks until I found the perfect shape. After a few different tries I settled on the layout you see now. I carefully took it apart and glued metal screens to the bottom of the blocks that would be holding dirt. Once the screens had bonded to the blocks I started to rebuild the wall, gluing all the blocks together.

All in all it was a fun project and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive modern planter wall. This is a great weekend project, just take your time and always try to think ahead so you know what your next step will be. Best of luck!

Cinder Block WallMore Succulents



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Photographing the San Diego Broadway Pier

While San Diego’s general public either hates it or loves it, I was excited when I got the call about photographing this LEED certified project.

San Diego Broadway Pier, Side Exterior

I knew photographing the pier would have its own unique challenges but wow, this one was tricky. First there were many different contractors, electricians, plumbers etc. all trying to finish up their work at the same time and most of them didn’t want to be models for our shoot (imagine that). Second was the heightened security, due to the fact it is a port; you can imagine we had to have all of our ducks lined up in a row. The icing on the cake was the exterior lighting which was control by a computer (which may have been “Hal” from Space Odyssey) that had a NASA inspired control panel. We were up at dawn setting up for our shoot and had been told that all the lights would come on for our shoot automatically but “Hal” had other plans. I guess he wasn’t feeling that photogenic that day.

San Diego Broadway Pier Front Exterior
Running into problems is all part of the job. Ask any professional architectural photographer and they can tell you that coming up with creative solutions to problems you can’t control is definitely in the job description. With a bit of extra time and work we were able to capture all the shots on our list, much to the clients delight.

San Diego Broadway Pier InteriorSan Diego Broadway Pier Interior

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Capturing an Invisible Product

You may have seen these photos in the current issue of Luxe San Diego. The client is Cover Glass which manufactures a unique frame-less glass door system. As I was preparing for this shoot I knew one of the challenges would be capturing a product that, by design, is almost invisible. While having a frame-less door system is great for showing off the beautiful view, it is not the easiest thing to translate into a 2D photograph.

Professional Interior Photos of Cover Glass door fully closeIt was important to show how the door system closes and stacks away so we decided to do three different photos with only the doors changing. This way the viewer can see how the doors function.

Interior photo of door 1/2 openThe key to capturing these photos was lighting and shooting at the right time of day. Dusk is always a great time of day to shoot almost any project.  The last hour of the day is normally full of deep sexy blues and pinks colors. Add some carefully placed lighting, strong composition, and a bottle of wine to set the mood. Light up that fireplace and bingo, you have a great sexy photo with a warm inviting feel.

It may seem pretty easy but actually it is a bit more work than that.  The client and I were working at this location three hours before dusk cleaning, prepping, and rearranging the furniture. Most people don’t realize how much work goes into a single professional photo but I assure you it is a full time job.

Cover Glass USA Professional photo of doors fully open


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One of My New Year’s Resolutions – To Start a Blog

Not because the world needs another blog but in hopes of sharing a little bit with others. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to start a blog. So, it’s the last day of January and whala here we have it! This calls for a check mark in a box. Now maybe next year my New Year’s Resolution will be to write something. Stay tuned.

Man walling into the light

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