Encountered this dense crowd of jellyfish while paddling out to an on-water reggae concert last night. It was like paddling through a giant pool of bubble tea.


Summer Vibe: Which wins?

In the spirit of Brian Benthin's recent urge to seek feedback and actual human contact, here are a couple of takes on a summer day wrestle with a sprinkler. Tweet me your vote for which wins the summer vibe throwdown. (Either way I win, because it's finally summer.)


Another awesome marketing moment

Spotted at a great cheap teriyaki joint in Seattle. The stack of Calrose rice bags and the complete and utter lack of pretense made me want to hop a plane to Hawaii and head to some favorite Big Island dives. So good. So salty. So much wood paneling. Happiness indeed.


Design inspiration: the Thermos

I love a good vintage Thermos. They usually have great graphics and logos representative of the era they were made. I also like them for the fact that a vintage thermos has usually been somebody's workplace companion for many years. There's something interesting there. I used to have way more, with the 70s, 50s and 60s represented (it gets boring after that), but somewhere along the way I got rid of a bunch. Now I have only a few, which are headed out the door to make way for whatever is next.

Design inspiration: Random vintage junk

I keep a pile of cool things that can kick start a design idea if I'm in a void. These things start to stack up, so I occasionally employ catch and release practices and send them back into the world for others to discover. If I'm smart I'll take a photo before they go. I guess I've been smart, because here are a few random items, some vintage others just old. I love the Best Test Rubber Cement can too much to not include it.

Design inspiration: Leaves

Sometimes it's good to stop and look around. I did this yesterday in my front yard, and found an amazing abundance of shapes and textures. Props to the gardener who makes it all happen. Probably way better than a rusty car hanging over your head.

Design inspiration: Build your own car

Found images pulled from bringatrailer.com. Something about these shots just looked so cool together. I'm really tempted to buy the body, hang it on a wall and just enjoy the decay. (or maybe mount it on the ceiling...) Plus I'm really perplexed about the green and yellow flags. Freaks me out if I go there for too long.


Shaun Tan's work is amazing

My dad is a great finder of cool stuff. He’s a constant explorer, digging through mounds of music, books, art, cooking techniques, spices, and so on to find something new and interesting. A random drop by might find him cooking Moroccan food to Okinawan pop, or solving physics problems to Ry Cooder’s Chavez Ravine. The latest thing he shared with me was the work of Shaun Tan, an Australian illustrator whose work is powerful, beautifully detailed and wonderfully off center.

He’s got a long history of great work, but he’s new to me. As soon as I opened the first book, it blew me away. He ranges stylistically a bit, but there's a consistent synthesis of future and past, plus a loving care for details, fonts, misfits, creatures and humanity. His book The Arrival is remarkable in the way it conveys the experience of coming to a new land and culture. It's truly epic, and to think of the work it took to produce is astounding. He’s also recently released a collection of some of his shorter stories, which includes his wonderful meditation on depression/artistic struggle/life, The Red Tree.

Tan has done a great amount of sharing around his process, and there's some really honest and engaging writing about the creative process and all the failures, successes and work that come through it. I’ve excerpted some of his quotes as picture captions below, but you should really go check out his site, spend some time reading and look at some amazing pictures.

Some of his books. First found in the library and now being converted to private ownership. As he says,
“Good ideas don’t just turn up, you have to go looking for them.” His books are a source of much inspiration.

A detail from inside one of his works. Says Tan, “Research - reading, looking at pictures, playing with different media - provides freedom from the creative paralysis that comes with infinite possibility. I need specific points of reference to develop ideas, and also a kind of resistance to my own stylistic ‘default settings’ so that I think outside the usual circles, and actually learn something new.” Bottle caps, words, charts and drawings indeed.

A spread from within his epic Arrival. Says Tan of the process, “I know I’m on the right track when there is a sense of unfamiliarity about what I’m doing, that I’m actually being surprised by the way mixed drawings and words make their own novel sense.”


Patterns: the two car garage

Last February I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend a funeral. My sis had moved into a mid 70s neighborhood after many years in the less suburban avenues neighborhood. I noticed an abundance of two car garages of a similar design and it kind of freaked me out. Here's a few.


Has your lawn been mowed?

This is not a metaphor. This is not something you should ask yourself before you pursue a creative endeavor. This is not the title of my new book. This is not code. This is not ironic. This is not a dirty joke. This is not the next big thing. This is not the name of a band. This is not the start of the revolution. This is not relevant to many people. This is not the tipping point. This is not art. This is not the end of the world as we know it. This is not a lyric from a song. This is not fake. This is not an underground campaign for a major brand trying to establish street credibility. This does not rhyme. This is not an internet meme. This is not an inside joke. This is not the mantra of a secret cult. This is not the tip of the iceberg. This is not the start of something big.

It is just a question a signboard asked me this morning. Feel free to answer honestly.


How to rule the world

I love a whiteboard brainstorm. This one's derived from a conversation with a coworker about how to influence within an organization, but I think it has broader applications:

1. Engage with genuine interest and confidence.
2. Develop an opinion.
3. Create an expression of that opinion.
4. Publish it. Speak it. Embrace it. Evangelize it. Live it.

(rinse, lather, repeat)


Dropping into research mode

I tend to veer from one thing to the next. It's a process not entirely unlike driving a '72 eldorado fast on a icy road. It's usually an interesting journey, but it can be a bit polarizing in that I'm usually all in or all out on something. I think I have problems with moderation. I do this with art, food favorites, skateboarding, biking, writing, work, design, photography, you name it. For months I'll be carving lino cuts intensely, then the next day that vibe has passed and I'll pick up my camera with the same intensity. Then it'll be on to making snowboards out of cedar fence boards. I'm sure there's medication for this, but I'll take a pass on it.

I guess this is just a long way of saying that I seemed to have slipped into a heads-down working-on-ton-of-things mode. Lots on the plate keeping me very busy lately. Coinciding with this is that I also seem to be in a deep research mode. There's so much cool stuff happening out there, and I'm on a heavy intake spree. Some things I've found interesting this week include:

  • yayeveryday. I'm probably the last to know about this. An amazing flow of fantastic ideas. Thanks Jim Schnieder for cluing me in to this. It's the proverbial tip of the iceberg to a lot of great work and talent out there in the big wide world.
  • Scipsy. Way interesting science information, plus an author who is ridiculously committed to responding to questions that come in. In the era of the curator, it's nice to see somebody curating science knowledge. Growing up with a physicist dad and a math teacher mom, science is my comfort food.
  • 500 Photographers. Always interesting. Always gives me good rabbit holes to go down into and poke around. Love it. I bet he had no idea what a monster he was creating, but I thank him.
  • This AdAge article on how Home Depot is creating an army of social media peeps on their store floors. It's pretty cool in how they're developing a genuine and useful connection to their customers, and see the value of keeping those experts in the stores where the action is real. Huge relevancy to what we work with at REI. We've been trying to bring the stores peeps into more broad interaction with our customers, and it sounds like Home Depot has similar issues and is making good steps.
  • Bring a trailer. My motor head self contemplates the purchase of many of these rigs, and envisions the perceived and cascading life changes it would bring about. (Especially this jacked up 70s wagoneer, which I envision mud bogging while blasting Queens of the Stone Age.) These guys do a great job at curating a very cool bunch of vehicles.  
  • George Greenough. I bought one of his fin designs at a swap meet this weekend, and you can feel his funky vibe radiating from it. I stuck it on a board and can't wait to get it on the water. The dude was an innovator. (the fin above is not his -- it's what his replaced.)

Dig through. See what's good for you. For me, it's wonderful, frightening, intimidating and inspiring to see all of the great work that's happening out there. Let me know what you find interesting. I'm soaking it all in, and can't wait for the next bout of whatever to hit me.


Camping with a filmcrew

As a combination platter of my "let's get sh*t done" and "put your self in unfamiliar/uncomfortable situations" I recently went camping with a film crew, my family and another family. We were filming to gather content for an idea the team had about taking two families camping and making a series of mini-episodes out of them for REI's summer campaigns. As usual, it was a good time, and it makes me want to get out camping more.


Cool illos

Loving these illos from ThisThisThis. Very cool, calm and beautiful renditions of natural and not-so-natural things. There's a nice vintage feel to these, and I have to say one of the nicer about me sections I've seen. Gotta love a picture story. After the monkeys, mannequins and machetes, I needed something a little a tad soothing and peaceful.

Ebay finds for today

These are not my pictures. They're just a few I scraped from that fabulous gallery of ready-made photo art called ebay. Kind of makes my heart jump every time I see them. Found photography is good stuff, and ebay is littered with amazing moments. Bad lighting abounds, but there are some crazy juxtapositions and odd situations that I just find oh so compelling.

500 Photographers by Peter Wisse

Still from a video project by Justin Maxon

It seems like I've referenced Peter Wisse's 500 Photographers a lot lately. It's a fantastic project where he's going out and searching the big ol' internet for great and interesting working photographers, and putting a few samples and writeup on his blog. He's got a great goal of adding five a week for 100 weeks until he hits 500. So far, the variety and range of work has been eye-opening, and the following the breadcrumbs laid down by the work has taken me into some really fascinating places. Not just stills, but of course the fascinating and beautiful mix of video and stills that is the new world order.

If you haven't been there already, head there and check it out, people. And if you happen to get overwhelmed or intimidated by the amount of great work out there, remember, it's all a remix. So you might as well add your noise to track.


A few from behind the scenes

So I had a chance to sneak in the back door of Chase's recent CJLive gig with We Are Augustines. They're a totally positive, honest band and it was great to be there and see it happen live. Chase and the band had a great discussion about making art, and it felt great to pull apart Polaroids as Chase took pics. Fun to get your hands on things and have pictures you can hold again. Nothing spectacular here, but it'll give you a feel for what was happening. Check out Chase's site for a rebroadcast.

One mailer's story

In answering questions on Chase Jarvis Live, one of the themes that emerged as a hot topic was around how photographers should contact companies or prospective clients. A mailer? An e-mail? A portfolio?  I gave a few pointers that I thought would be helpful in Chase's blog, but also thought it'd be interesting to share a few real-world examples of how we experience new work and discover talent. I know photographers and creatives in general put a lot of work into how they represent their work, and it's often done with very little feedback after you hit send or put that stamp on it and send it into the cruel world. To help show that the world isn't entirely cruel, I thought I'd trace a mailer or two as we get 'em and describe how we interact with them. With that in mind, here's how one story played out.

My co-worker and awesome art director Brian Benthin (follow his twitter here) comes walking the ten steps over to my desk with a sharp looking photo bedecked envelope and says, "Check this out." If Brian's sharing it, it's bound to be good, relevant or just super interesting, so it already has my attention.

Good clean branding for Nick, and nice shot that's tied into the others.

The main spread.
Stylistically, it's compatible with what we're doing. It seems like an outdoor image happening, with nice cold tones and a cool pop of green. I'll bite.

I open it. Clean design, cool paper. I unfold it. Same runner, winter scene. A story is unfolding, supported by each additional image. Interesting casting, as it's an older women out running, not typical model perfection. Seems like it'd fit well with my "real people, real places" mantra. I tell Brian I dig it, and when I turn around he's already on Nick's site checking out his work.  We spend a bit of time digging through the portfolio, which we like because it's organized in stories, too. Love the portraits. I'm flipping the envelope over in my hand, notice a couple of stickers that tout his accomplishments -- one a PDN endorsement, and the other a call to a new motion project.  I like the confidence and third-party endorsement.

Brian checking out Nick's work online.

So that's the story of Nick's mailer. It didn't make us call him with an offer for a project instantaneously, but it had us enjoying his work, and thinking about how his style could fit into our plans. We now know Nick, and before he sent us this we didn't. Nick got our attention with a few smooth moves:

Great photos.
Clean design (trust us, we care about this)
Good story telling
Nicely edited photos
Unconventional casting

As others rise to the top of the pile, I'll try to share the experience as well. Hopefully this is interesting and helps make you feel like representing your art is worth the effort.


Anybody need half a giraffe?

I found this while researching a project. So much right and wrong here. The downtrodden posture. The happy little free shipping bug (sweet deal!). The mother's day ad. The price. All of it has me wondering if I can get a good deal on the back end. More information here, including the beautiful opening line of "with a profound respect for ecology." I don't know how they knew the name of the poetry book I'm writing, but indeed. 



Ever wanted to start you own business? Meet Salt & Straw

I really enjoy people who pull the curtain back on how things work. Chase Jarvis does this really well, demystifying many parts of photography in an earnest effort to bring creativity to the masses. Inspired by this, I thought I'd run a couple of profiles on projects that I have a behind-the-scenes view to. I'll be rolling a few out over time, but to get things started I'd like to introduce a new company called Salt & Straw, started by my friend and marketing wiz Kim Malek.

Salt and Straw is an old-school ice cream shop that Kim will be opening up in Portland, Oregon on May 25th. It's the kind of project I like, in that Kim's working hard to make her ice cream out of the best, local ingredients, and mixing new-school delicious flavors with old-school hand-making methods. It should be a good combo, and it'll be fun to see the physical form the business takes. Kim's already doing cool, new-school transparent things like involving her customers in flavor development and cart design. I like that a lot. It's not surprising really, because Kim's super nice, and brings a lot of energy and integrity to whatever business she's involved with. Kim and I have worked together in the past on some projects with Cupcake Royale. Prior to that, she was working in the marketing arm of the progressive RED effort, and before that I think she was deep in the heart of Starbucks. Let's just say she knows what she's doing when it comes to putting a plan together. And fortunately for us, I managed to talk her into sharing what it takes to take a great plan and turn into an actual business.

In future updates I'll get into the nitty-gritty of building the business as it evolves real-time. Kim has nailed down the name, the logo, the location and the opening date, but everything else is evolving, shifting, and generally taking up the time she used to use for sleeping. It's fun stuff, too, if you like thinking about all the details that make a business what it is. Everything from the social media strategy to the copy tone to the colors that make up the brand will be covered. I'm a junkie for that kind of stuff, and hopefully a few others out there are too.

The picture below is from an earth day event that happened this last weekend, where Kim was in Portland for an earth day cleanup effort for the neighborhood she's be opening her shop in. She used the opportunity to get to know the people in the area, and brought sweet samplings of her ice cream to share with all. As soon as she recovers from that event, I'll have a round of hopefully insightful Q&A with here around some of the planning issues from her decision to go indie, as well as the latest updates on progress with the store. 


This makes me happy (nerd alert)

This makes me happy on many levels. First, that the making of The Hobbit is actually happening and that I know it's gonna be great fun to watch. Second, I get happiness in that Peter Jackson is shooting it at 48 frames per second, and third I like that he's written about this decision at length on his facebook page. It's like a burrito of happiness, wrapped in a warm tortilla of comfort, served on a plate that's pleasantly hot but not too hot to touch. Social media, great story telling, gorgeous cinematography, a commitment to technological advances, and sharing it all out to the people? Seriously Mr. Jackson? That sh*ts for real!

It's a fun world out there. If you think way back to the early 2000s, there was once a day when people didn't give such great behind-the-scenes peeks at how cool (and massive) projects like this go down. People held onto their projects until they pulled back the curtains and heralded a triumphant, "Ta-da!" as their project was presented complete.

Nowadays, there's a ton of information out there happening in real or near-real time on projects big and small. Not only does it make life for those not on the project interesting, but it's also a good way for those neck deep into the work to gather feedback on a project underway. You gotta love that. It can get a brain fired up, and used wisely, all this info can result in learning curves shaped significantly different.


Chase Jarvis and I chat about things photo-shooty

In case you're interested, here's the episode of Chase Jarvis Live where he and I spent some time talking about creativity, photo shoots, and the role of art directors and photographers. It was fun for me, and hopefully useful for somebody out there.

And now, the remix

"Only 12 notes a man can play..."

Despite the fact that this line ignores a huge tradition of music outside of the rather confining 12-note structure, and despite that it also ignores more than half the planet in terms of gender, the beasties had it mostly right when they penned Shadrach. Because when you think about it, we're all playing from the same set of notes. Yet there are millions of songs.

In other words, everything is a remix. It’s a popular refrain nowadays on the ol’ internet. This concept can be a bit daunting thing to think about when trying to create, in the way being strapped to a board with a wet piece of cloth over your face can make you feel a tad suffocated. When everything is a remix, it can feel like it’s impossible to come up with something new that’s gonna tear the roof off the world. But the flipside is that it’s also freeing. If there isn’t anything truly new ever, then you’re free from that pressure. Now you can use those notes (or pixels, or paints, or words…) to create an expression for the emotion, thought, or idea you want to express. And your expression of the idea will be unique, thanks in part to technique, but largely due to the fact that humans are complex and often f-d up units that can’t help but bring their baggage and perspective to everything they do.

I don’t have to look any farther than the currently raging Tiny Card Challenge (if I use capital letters it makes it a Real Thing), a project that my buddy Erik Hecht and I did last week. Erik and I share a love for nuance, and often end up taking pictures of similar subjects. We’re also camera nerds, and use similar equipment. But that’s where the similarity ends. I’m constantly blown away by how beautiful his images are, and how he brings a feeling of light to what he captures. In his introduction to the challenge he talks about how he future proofs his world and shoots in a way that is flexible for reinterpretations of his images down the line. I'm more of a capture it now, save it in an unfindable place until the hard drive turns to a brick, and then breath a sigh of relief when it's all gone and I can start over, fresh and organized this time. (Yeah right.) Of course, he's a pro that makes his living with his images, and I'm just a guy filling bottles with flammable liquids, stuffing rags into ‘em, lighting them and tossing them as far as I can.

I found a good example of the impact of technique and perspective as part of Erik’s Tiny Card Challenge images. In his collection, there was a beautiful shot of a fine German automobile. I also took a picture of a fine German automobile. Only mine was smashed up in front of a body shop, lonely and awaiting repair. Where Erik's was rendered with smooth, continuous tones, I bashed my imaged even further until there wasn't an undecided midtone left. As I tweaked the image to render what I saw in the subject, it made me smile, much in the way I'm sure Erik's beatific BMW made him smile.

The images are side-by-side below. I think it’s a good example of how similar elements, compositions, and subjects can end up in totally different places when different people get involved. And to me, that's a beautiful thing.


The tiny card challenge: day one images

Here are a few images from the Tiny Card Challenge. It does indeed make me shoot differently, or at least operate post-capture a bit differently. At first I was shooting and editing out shots to make way for new ones. After a bit I realized I was backing away from pressing the button, and just not taking framed up shots. Kinda fun.

Because my card was a CF card, I also had to dig out a CF-compatible rig that I wanted to shoot with. I turned to my Nikon D70, which I hadn't seen in quite a while, and a simple 50mm lens. That big ol' DSLR made me miss the GF1 I've been shooting with lately, but you gotta do what you gotta do when it comes to a challenge.

So here I am. Although I've been out and about with a camera for good chunk of the day,  I have only four images to show for it. I feel a little like I just traded the family cow for a handful of magic beans, and at this point I'm not quite sure if I've been swindled or if they're gonna grow into something huge and awesome.