Thursday, March 19, 2015

Finding the Model

   I can't honestly say that portraiture is really my thing. It's not what I grab my camera for every day. But I can't deny that portraiture is a huge part of photography, and it is nice when you have the right people to work with.

   A few weeks ago I put an ad up on Craigslist that I was searching for models who needed shots for their portfolios. I need some for my portfolio too so I figured a nice trade was in order. I was surprised that it took a little while to get my first contact. I even had to renew my post to get one. Finally though someone contacted me and I was quite pleased. We set up a date to shoot and all seemed well. Of course Texas being Texas, the weather went from absolutely wonderful to absolutely dreadful that week so I told her we may have to reschedule but we would just have to see closer to the day of the shoot. So fast forward to the day of the shoot and my message to her was basically, "Hey it is a little cold but the weather isn't too bad, we can go ahead with the shoot if you wish." No response... She ended up flaking out on the shoot.

   A word to the wise for photographers, models, or anyone wishing to do any kind of business: don't be flaky. I would rather the model have told me, "Hey you know what? I'm not really feeling it today, I'll tell you when I am ready," and I would have been perfectly fine with that. When you just completely bail on people, you end up burning bridges. I am not pretending that my photos were going to launch her modeling career into super stardom, but you never know what could happen when you make these kinds of connections. In the art world, connections are everything so don't bail on the people who are trying to help.

   It was back to Craigslist for me and I started to question again why it was taking so long to get hits on my ad so I did a little research. I knew from the start there are better sites to advertise on but I was looking for a specific kind of model. Someone with little to no experience who was simply looking to add to their portfolio. So I picked Craigslist which was good and bad at the same time. I started looking at the section I had posted in and quickly came up with a hypothesis as to why I was not getting very many hits on my ad. Many(I use that word lightly) of the ads in that same section were for some form of nude services. Even amateur porn in some cases! While I agree that there is a certain artistic aspect to the nude body, I seriously doubt Craigslist is where you should be searching for such things. What it meant to me is that many people glanced over my ad and saw it as "one of those," ads.

   My hypothesis was sort of proven correct by the next two inquiries I received. One was an escort asking to take nude photos for her and another was a... questionable modeling agent. Again, nude photography is not something I would shy away from. I am not a 13 year old boy. But you can just never tell with Craigslist and so I had to decline.

   Luckily enough I was contacted for a fourth time by Jasmine, the model you are seeing in this post. At this point I really didn't think much of her contact because of the previous instances, but mostly because of the previous model who had flaked out. I kind of expected her to do the same. But I went ahead and scheduled a shoot and we went from there.

   I am quite happy that I did schedule a shoot with her. She was actually very pleasant to work with which made the whole thing enjoyable and comfortable. That's the other thing, if you are a model or a photographer, do everything in your power to make the other person comfortable. Don't expect too much or be too overbearing and on the other side of the token don't be too clammed up and boring. In Jasmine's case she was quite friendly, talkative, and fun.


   One thing she did that I am glad for too is that she brought along a friend. This made me happy for a few reasons. For one, it is always nice to have someone around to help make a model smile more naturally. Especially with models who have little or no experience, it is a bit tough looking natural and comfortable in front of a camera. I mean really, how would you react with a person putting a camera in your face knowing full well these photos may be shown to hundreds if not thousands of people? I bet it would be anything but natural. So bringing a friend along to lighten the mood is a good thing. Another reason though is simply security. Again, being that this was a Craigslist ad, you never really can tell what you are getting yourself into. It makes me sad that I need to say that but it is a simple fact. She was smart for bringing a friend for that reason. Honestly there is no telling who I am or what intentions I have. It just so happens that I am me and my intentions are to take photos. For all of these reasons I brought along my sister Janett. My hope was that a female presence would lighten the mood a bit. Plus Janett helped me out a lot with things so I must thank her for that.

   So that's it for this story I guess. Everything I said here could really apply to any professional setting and not just photography. I think the key to getting what you are looking for in any professional endeavor is just to be relaxed. I have always found that a relaxed atmosphere always goes over far better than a stressful one.

Here are a few more shots from that day. I wish I was better at editing and retouching to get rid of fly away hairs but alas, I am not. However, this was an outdoor shoot, that stuff happens. If this was going into publication I would have definitely sent the images off to a retoucher and had someone doing hair for me on the day of the shoot.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pizzaphile: House Pizzeria Austin Texas

   I like pizza. Yep, I eat the stuff a bit more than I care to admit some times and I think I am a Pizzaphile. I like it all too, from the authentic Italian stuff to the fakest Tombstone in the frozen section. I just ate, and writing this post is making me want pizza. So naturally when I go somewhere new I always want to try a couple of things. One is that places version of Mexican food, and the other is a local Pizzeria.

   Not so long ago I went to Austin for some business and I felt a need to try some sort of local restaurant or food place. Not really knowing the place, and not having much time, I was about to just drive to an In-N-Out Burger I had seen on Airport Blvd. when on the way I saw this sign for House Pizzeria. I had no idea what this place was but it looked small and I had never heard of it, so it seemed like a good place to visit.

   As I walked into the place I noticed right off that it was a little different. This was the middle of the work week so naturally it was a bit dead and I was glad for it because the place is a bit on the small side. It's not terribly small but if it gets busy it would be. It seems they do get busy because there is also outside covered seating I noticed. Beyond that, the staff kind of gave away the sort of place this was going to be. Each was un-uniformed and bearded, and everyone who was eating there seemed to be a scruffy bearded guy. (Myself included) I walked up to the counter kind of unsure of what I was supposed to do. No one really guided me to a seat, and there were no big menu boards to look at either. Luckily enough the staff were all really helpful and showed me a menu.

   This menu was pretty small admittedly. There were all the pizza staples like pepperoni, cheese, etc. and some other Italian dishes. From the start they make it known that all pizzas are 12" which is good or bad depending on who you speak to. For me that's good. As I sat down they brought me out my drink which I ordered at the counter. I ordered a rootbeer which they said was from a local brewer in town. It was really good but admittedly seemed a little flat. Perhaps they were just in between changing out that batch for a new one but whatever, it was good none the less. They also had a small bar with wines and Texas brewed beers. With my drink they also brought out these little cracker things that I didn't try at all. Maybe they were the best thing ever, or maybe they were meant for decoration, I didn't really feel like finding out.

   Before the rest of the order came out I wanted to get an idea of what this place was all about. So, seeing as the staff really wasn't terribly busy, I decided to ask one of them what set them apart from other pizzerias. Basically when I go to one of these places, I want to know why I should go there instead of Pizza Hut. To all you pizza connoisseurs out there, what I just said may get your panties in a knot but as I said earlier, I like all types of pizza. When I try a new pizza place, if I leave feeling like I should have just gone to Pizza Hut or something, you have failed to do your job in my opinion.

   The staff member I spoke to was happy to answer my question though and I learned that they try to keep all of their ingredients local. They also use green friendly materials where they can and generally try to promote local stuff. I support this 100% I say go local where you can so kudos to them.

   Now, when I judge a pizza place I judge them on one of two pizzas. Either their pepperoni or their supreme. I feel like if you can mess up a pepperoni, I probably won't be coming back, and a supreme should show you the quality of every ingredient they are putting in any pizza. So on this occasion I ordered a simple pepperoni with extra cheese. When it came out I was not disappointed... I mean really...just look at that!

   I'll just begin by saying this pizza was great. The crust was hand tossed and thin in the center like a real hand tossed pizza should be. I hate all these places claiming "hand tossed" and the pizza comes out looking perfect. I call bull shit on that, if you have never hand tossed pizza dough, you have no idea how hard it is to get it perfect. Generally the center is always pretty thin and floppy. That's the sign of a good pizza. Beyond that, look at that crust! All of those slightly singed bubbles gave a real brick oven taste to the pizza that you really can't get from big chains. That is not burnt, that is cooked to perfection!

   As far as ingredients go the cheese was awesome. It was oily and gooey just like it should be, and the pepperoni was really good as well. But more importantly, how is the sauce? Well, I will say right now I am not a big sauce guy. Some people may think that's the most important part, and I'd have to agree but for a different reason. I really don't like sauce. Mainly because it burns my stomach somethin' fierce. I have come to notice there are 3 ways to make pizza sauce. Either it's a really sweet tasting sauce, a real thick tomato tasting sauce, or something in between. I like sauce to be somewhere in between but tip toeing on the side of thick tomato tasting. This sauce was perfect, it tasted great and didn't take away from the flavors of the cheese, pepperoni, and more importantly, that awesomely seared crust.

   Really guys if there is one reason to get this pizza it is that perfectly seared crust... I can't stress that enough. I was not planning on eating the whole 12" pizza but that crust kind of compelled me to... I was regretting it on the long drive home but every single bite was well worth it.

   Ok so what do I think about House Pizzeria? Well for one I really liked the calm atmosphere. When you walk in and see that the people behind the counter are in bluejeans and non uniform shirts, you immediately get a relaxed vibe. I like feeling like the staff is there because they want to be and not because they're trying to collect their minimum wage check on Friday.

   Bottom line is, I give this place a definite 9,500 out of 10,000 awesome Pizzaphile points. The staff was great, the ingredients were delicious, the sauce was good, and the atmosphere was really relaxed. The only gripe I had is that I was really looking forward to my rootbeer since it was locally made. It was good, but I couldn't get over the slightly flat taste it had. Other than that everything was perfect and I definitely recommend House Pizzeria to anyone visiting Austin. So next time you are around Airport Blvd. in Austin Texas give this place a try! You won't regret it... unless you eat too much like I did.