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Hard to believe it's been almost a whole year since Burning Man 2012, but it's true. Now here we are busily preparing for another exciting time on the Playa.

If you have never been to Burning Man… GO!!!! It WILL change you life. Check it out. www.burningman.com


The Playa is a special place with music and art and more events than you can possibly attend. It is the biggest outdoor art installation in the United States. Every year it becomes, for one week, the 3rd largest city in Nevada!


I'll be there this year with the beautiful and talented, Scar. Many of you have seen her in my photos (before I took em all down!) and I'll be shooting her there again this year.

We'll be camping in the French Quarter, so if you are going to Burning Man, contact me and let's hang out.


WOOHOOO!!!!!


  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
I often write rants about religion, so for those who are tired of reading what I have to say about this topic - it might be a good time skip this and have a cup of tea.

I enjoy reading the daily news and having a cup of coffee every morning. I scan the headlines on my laptop and eat up all the latest scientific discoveries, local weather, and international news. I enjoyed reading about the asteroid that came close to hitting Earth because it reminds me of how fragile and insignificant we are here on our little blue marble. Our place in the Universe is pretty much meaningless in terms of time and space, yet we think we are not only important but THE singularly important species. A silly thought in my book.

Also in the news I read this:  religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/05…  It seems a group of humans 16 million strong can't associate with another group of humans because of who they choose to love. It makes it even more tragic when I discovered that this group of 16 million is the Southern Baptist Church. They are pulling their association with the Boy Scouts of America because the BSA is now ALLOWING openly gay boys to join. I can't begin to describe my disgust, sadness, and even anger at such a bigoted, hateful, and tragic decision.

A few months ago, during a photo shoot, I had a client who told me his marriage had recently broken up. He had two children, one of which was a 17 year old gay boy. When the boy came out of the closet, his Mother told him she no longer wanted anything to do with him. He was "dead to her". A week later the boy hung himself in their family bathroom. My client told me about trying to explain this to his 5 year old daughter. He told her how some men love women, some men love men, some women love men, and some women love women. He explained that it is very difficult for those who love others of the same gender because lots of people don't understand and have a hard time accepting what they do not understand. That some people even hate them and do bad things to them. He tried in a most delicate way to tell his child that her brother was one of these men who loved other men and that he felt his life was too hard and that he would not be coming home.
My client's 5 year old daughter looked at him quizzically and asked simply,"Why, Daddy? You can't tell your heart who to love!"

This morning I wanted to stomp around my studio tearing my hair out and screaming. What stupidity. What ignorance. What ARROGANCE it is that the Southern Baptist Church thinks they have the right to dictate the thoughts and feelings of 16 million members about another group of people's love, when a 5 year old child has the wisdom and insight to simply accept it. What message does it send to the gay community to disassociate from them? What happened to "love thy neighbor"? What happened to acceptance? What is it about a person being gay that threatens them and their beliefs so much? Is THIS their way of winning the gay community over? Is THIS their way of leading the gay "into the light"??? Is THIS their way of showing "God's love"???

Not only is this an ignorant decision. Not only is this a hateful, bigoted, and fearful decision… it's simply lousy business. If you take away all the emotions and religious aspects, it's a stupid corporate move. They will not win any support from outside their narrow minded group. I also wonder how many of their 16 million members have gay family. Statistically, depending on what study one uses as reference, it will be anywhere from 2,000 to 20,000. I'm not going to get into the statistical studies of gay percentage of the population but there is enough information for me to confidently say that those 16 million Southern Baptist Church folks DEFINITELY have gay family members. Do they disassociate them from their own family? Probably - mine did.

Hatred, prejudice, and bigotry are horrid human characteristics driven by fear and arrogance. These characteristics are, in my mind, emphatically more tragic when espoused by a group of people who claim theirs is a message of love and acceptance. This hypocrisy is repeated over and over again in religion and results in segregation of society, xenophobic communities, and outright declarations of war. But it is what I have seen over and over in my life,  my own family, it is what happens consistently in the news, and it is what is being procreated in the sons and daughters of the religious.

How many sons will hang themselves in the bathrooms of the religious before changes are made. I suspect it will only happen when the Southern Baptist Church and other churches like them, die out as archaic irrelevant systems of belief. I hope this will happen, I believe this will happen, but it will take generations and although I doubt I will see the day, I am encouraged to see these changes on the horizon.

I am teaching my children tolerance, acceptance, and love of all human beings. Standing against those who would spread their vitriol by holding the hands of those who are different. My daughter recently marched in a gay rally here in LA and I'm so proud of her. Her friends are a varied and diverse group. Only by information and example will our children and our grandchildren open their hearts and minds to the LBGT community and others who represent smaller percentages of our population.

I wonder how the Southern Baptist Church feels about God putting a rainbow in the sky? :)
I think I'll have a beer (not drinking Heineken any more…moved on to Asahi) on my patio and toast my friends and my daughters' friends. Diversity is good!

PS More on this issue from my dear wonderful colleague Halohid.  www.deviantart.com/art/A-world…
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
I wrote this post on July 22nd just after the Colorado massacre. Now - I am submitting it again because of what transpired in Newtown this past week. 4 times this year there has been a mass killing. ALL of them involved assault weapons and hand guns.
The response I got from this posting was often supportive, but I got the usual "right to bear arms" speeches, the "protect my family" speech, and the "protect ourselves from invaders from a foreign land" speech. I'm so heartbroken.
Apparently we live in a nation where paranoid fear and macho posturing trumps the value of our children's lives.

This is my journal from July22nd:
This past week our nation witnessed one of the most horrific violations in history. A beast that I refuse to name, planned and then killed 12 people in a theatre in Colorado. I won't go into details of how, why, or who committed this atrocity.
What I WILL address is the idea of our Constitutional "right to bear arms". The misconstrued perception of this "right", saddens and confuses me. The archaic belief that having a gun in our houses will enable us to "defend ourselves" is not only statistically improbable, it is metaphorically AND literally unsettling to those who live with us. A loaded gun in a house says,"I don't trust people", "I am afraid someone will break in and hurt us", and also "I am willing to shoot to kill another human being".
If you have a gun in your house and it is NOT loaded, the statistical probability of you being able to get to it, load it, and confront a home invader AND for the outcome of that confrontation to be positive in ANY way, is insignificantly small.

This is not to say I don't think we should be prepared. It is not to say that I don't think we should defend ourselves and those we love but having a dog and a home alarm system are profoundly more effective. The idea is to not have your home be very appealing to those who would invade it.

What all this brings me to is a conclusion I came to in my teens. There is NO REASON for assault rifles to be in the hands of the public. There is NO REASON for hand guns to be in the possession of the public. Hand guns and assault rifles were invented for ONE single purpose and that is to kill other human beings. SO - what do I say to those who claim they have a "right to collect" weapons? I say,"Get a life and collect ceramic frogs, lawn gnomes, or goldfish". Collect something that adds life to the world, not something that is designed to destroy life. What possible joy can a human being derive out of owning a collection of assault rifles?? What fearful illusional self perception of manhood needs to revel in the ownership of something designed to take away the life of another being? When I see a photo of a guy standing around with his buddies and brandishing their prize AK-47's, I wonder if it makes them feel powerful, macho, and strong? It also makes me wonder where this need for that sense of power came from. Is there a correlation between this behavior and the violent idiotic murderous video games? There are even TV shows dedicated to showing off "powerful weapons". I get nauseous when I pass by these shows on my way to the Discovery Channel.

I come from a long line of poor people in the South and I remember well my Father and my Uncles going out hunting and bringing home rabbit, deer, squirrels, and quail to feed our family. I've personally hunted and helped clean our kill to add to our dinner table. I understand the need to eat and I understand the idea of hunting to sustain loved ones. But I've never seen an AK-47 used in deer hunting and a hand gun is impractical for hunting anything other than humans. Also, I don't think there are very many families who depend on hunting for sustenance any more anyway. Maybe it would be a good idea to get rid of ALL guns! It works in a lot of countries.

So, I am not without understanding when it comes to the "right to bear arms" but the bastardization of this "right" has becomes the mantra of lobbyists with special interests in Washington and it sickens and disheartens me. That law was written when all you had access to was a musket.

12 people are dead and 58 wounded in Colorado, because of this "right". Now 26 more are dead in Newtown. These monsters had the "right" to buy machines made for the purpose of killing human beings. All weapons were LEGALLY purchased.

To those who will say to me,"Guns don't kill people, people kill people", I say,"Tell that to the families of those murdered in Colorado. Tell the heartbroken Mothers of Newtown." These types of guns ARE what kill people, furthermore, they are singly designed for that purpose. Yes, people kill people and it is these types of guns they use to do it.

I say ban assault rifles and hand guns. It certainly won't stop the mentally unstable from committing horrid acts, but it WILL cut down on the number of lives lost and make the whole process more difficult.

Washington MUST do something…. but I've worked in Washington, so I know how it works up on the Hill and I recognize the fact money speaks louder than the voices of grieving family members. The NRA cares about profits not people and the "good ol boy club" will feign compassion to polish the tarnished corporation.

I SAY BAN HAND GUNS. I SAY BAN ASSAULT RIFLES.
But - I don't see it ever happening… and because of that...
today I am heartboken.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
A week or so ago, I read this article that made me laugh and yet feel so sad. Seems there is a guy from India who is in exile and may serve prison time for blasphemy. What he did was investigate what was making a statue of Jesus "weep". Supposedly water is dripping from this statue and people are drinking this "Holy Water" in hopes it will cure their ailments. Tragically, the water is sewage that is seeping up from a leaking pipe! But when this man reported on his findings, the religious were incensed and want him thrown in prison!!!!
I find the story so....well perfectly metaphorical.
beforeitsnews.com/christian-ne…
I sent this news story to a person I knew, who claims to be very anti church, and it started an email exchange which much to my dismay went ass over teakettle down the hill.
I often post rather anti-religious rants on here. Without going into a long blog about my past life, how I was raised, and my growth as a rational human being...suffice it to say, I am at LEAST agnostic, if not atheist. So, I followed the "weeping Jesus" story with a reference to Stephen Hawking's thoughts on "There is no God".

www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L7VTd…

Much to my dismay and surprise, I got THIS response:

"Like Stephen Hawkins, you live in a crippling reductionistic reality defined and limited by materialistic physics, which we all know came into being from an unknown defying all the supposed absolutes such theorists postulate. I will pray no such crippling disease affects you, although you too propose a mechanical unfeeling life.
You are free to drown yourself in the swirl of a mere molecular mindset of binary code and bio mechanical engineering. I will walk on the water."

Let me state from the onset, I'm really happy...TRULY happy. I have a great life, for which I am ever so grateful. I have a fabulous daughter and a brand new baby boy. I love and adore my beautiful (inside and out) wife. I love what I do and I do what I love.
NO...it isn't always easy and, matter of fact, most of the time it's pretty tough. I put in long hours and spend ridiculous amounts of time in my studio but I CHOOSE to be positive, happy, and always striving to make it all better.
So when I get such an accusatory, condescending, and self righteous note...it makes me sad. I feel sorry for the person who sent it. It also just reinforces my view of the religious.
Judgement and arrogance disguised as compassion, is a congregation of the narcissistic. A "we know better" club which prays for those for unfortunate non members.

Then there was this quote from that same email:

"All the years spent disrespecting the sanctity of women and profiting from your abusive objectification of them, have now come back to haunt you and you find yourself dependent upon such a beauty for your welfare. Yet even now you claim no righteous judge rules the universe with compassionate concern for all. Will you not learn a lesson?"

This is a rather common dissertation from the religious. So much assumption is made about how I feel regarding women when people view my work when the truth is my work reveals what lies beneath in the viewer. When someone views a photo of a naked woman and calls me a "pervert" or says I "abusively objectify women", it reveals the feelings that arose in THEM when they saw that image. There is NEVER any question asked of me regarding what I FELT when I shot the image. No one ever says,"What was it about this image that you found compelling?". The religious just rant about the images and in doing so, reveal their own discomfort at what is inside them.
And just to set the record straight, the nudes I have shot have cost me a tremendous amount of time and money without a single penny earned. I work hard for every cent and have strived to build a photography business in a tremendously competitive market place.

But back to Stephen Hawking. In view of our place in the Universe, I find immense peace and comfort in my own insignificance. None of us, not even the greatest of us who have ever lived, commands a nanosecond of importance. Isn't it a relief to know we are all star stuff and unimportant and yet every atom from which we are made will go on? Individually insignificant, yet part of the ultimate significance of the existence of the universe!!
I was hang gliding one day out in the California desert, 8,000 feet above the valley floor when an F-15 fighter jet blew by (and under) my right wing. I  had just been thinking about how tiny and insignificant I was up there and what joy and peace I got from that feeling. The jet certainly drove home the point! I wept, I laughed, and if I believed in angels I would have heard them sing. It was an AWESOME, AMAZING experience.
Coming to accept our own insignificance gives us the freedom to love, to create, and to take responsibility and joy in the eye blink of a life we have. It allows us to revel in the ULTIMATE importance of here and now! So during these holidays and all throughout the year, let's all strive to live life to the fullest. To love what we have and laugh every chance we get.

I feel sad that this person views me in such a way because it only reveals what is inside her.
But…for my part… I will continue to live, love, and laugh. I often tell my friends,"I'm sorta like a puppy. I just love everybody and wanna hump their legs!"

Happy Holidays to all you other puppies! I'm off to have an Asahi! (yea - I switched beers!)
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Check this out

News from  Perry Gallagher :iconperrygallagher: and Michael Helms :iconpelicanh:

ONLY 3 SPACES REMAINING AS OF TODAY.. 10-10-2012

EXCLUSIVE EROTICA WORKSHOP

Saturday, November 3th and Sunday, November 4th, in Burbank, California

The workshop is limited to 7 photographers.  As of today there are NOW ONLY 3 spots remaining.



Topics include lighting, posing (communicating with the model), location and equipment in shooting Erotic Art and Fine Art Nudes.


Participating photographers will have an hour to photograph each model on a one to one basis each day. All the models will be there both days. Michael and Perry will be available for one on one mentoring during the entire weekend.

The models will be available during the evenings for hire for private shoots for photographers who would like more time with one or more of their favorite models.



The cost is $1,250 for the weekend and will include continental breakfast and lunch both days.

Please contact Perry with any questions at (818) 326-1926 or Perry@PerryGallagher.com or Michael at Michael@MichaelHelms.com  818 353-5855 at his studio.



REGISTER HERE   www.eroticaworkshop.com/worksh…
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
My name is Cameron Michael but all my friends call me "Squicken". It's a mixture of "Squid" (what Mommy calls my Dad) and "Chicken" (what Daddy calls my Mommy). I was born last Tuesday the 18th, and have learned SO MUCH that I asked Dad if I could write about it here in his journal.
Dad gave me permission so here goes… my first attempt at writing. Don't judge me too harshly because I'm only a week old and I've got my hands full trying to learn stuff. For instance, eyes!!! Wow, eyes are tough to control! It's hard to focus them and move them all around. I can't really see all that well yet but I think I recognize Mom and Dad and I CERTAINLY recognize a fine nipple, which makes Dad proud. Of course, I don't have much experience with other nipples but, I have time to fix that.

I spent a few days in ICU (Mom, Dad, and I called it "jail") at the hospital because Mom ran a fever during birth and the docs said they found some indication of infection in the blood samples they took from me. I hated being in jail even though Mom and Dad came to visit me every 3 hours. Fortunately, I got out a half day early because nothing came up on the cultures they took so I was feeling pretty content about that. But then, the very next day the doctor came and got me to do my circumcision. It was actually pretty painless. The nurse was kinda cute and when she leaned over I noticed she had nice boobs, so I was hoping maybe she'd feed me a bit, but she was just a tease. The Doctor was cute too, so I was checking them both out when the nurse grabbed my junk and started swabbing me with antiseptic. WOW….it kinda felt good and for some reason my pee pee got all stiff…that was REALLY weird. I have NO IDEA what that's about but before I could give it much thought, the nurse and doctor closed in on me holding some crazy looking medical instruments that I was NOT really prepared to see. SO…I did the only thing I could…I peed all over both of them! They both jumped back about 47 feet and I saw Daddy laughing over in the corner of the room.

We all went home the next day and it was cool to get my first ride in a car. My car seat is so cool…I look good in it!
Here at home, it's fun to wake Mom and Dad up every few hours. OMG…you should see their faces… all puffy and sleepy and tired. When Dad gets up to go in the studio, his hair is all screwed up and his eyes are all swollen. lol They try to take turns watching, feeding, and changing me, so I try to keep the surprises coming! It's a hoot.
I hear them making all sorts of plans for how they are going to dress me on Halloween and so far, it seems a Charlie Chaplin outfit is the winner. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I was thinking more "punk baby" but whatever.

In other matters… can I tell you how much I hate "onesies"!!! Who the heck came up with THAT idea needs therapy. I was born NAKED, people, why put me in some scratchy (even though YOU think it's soft) outfit that you RUDELY pull over my head. I don't get it. On the other hand, I must say, I LOVE being swaddled. WOW…when Mom wraps me up real tight, it rocks. I feel all safe and snug. Cool way to sleep if you haven't tried it for a while.

Here's something else weird I've found since I've been born…. pooping and peeing! WTF!!! I'm still not sure if it hurts or feels good. Dad says he understands, so, at his age, I guess he does. Wow…how do adults put up with this…shit! I guess I'll get used to it but, wow, how inconvenient!
On the other hand,I gotta say I DO love a good burp. Mom and Dad are pretty proud of my abilities there because I always hear them say,"Wow…good boy!" My older sister stopped by today and I was REALLY impressed with her abilities. She's a hundred times louder and longer than me but oddly, Dad just kinda shakes his head at her. I don't get it. I'd high fiver her if I could.

I had my first "close call" a couple days ago, too!! I was taking a very nice nap in my basinet swing when I looked down and saw a black widow spider! Wow! I'd never seen one of those and they are REALLY scary looking. I'm still trying to figure out how to work these crazy arms and legs and hands and feet things, so I couldn't figure out what to do. I thought maybe I'd roll over on it and kill it, but I can't even figure out how to roll over yet and besides, I wasn't so sure if that might just piss the spider off and he'd bite my ass. SO…the only thing I could think to do was piss on him…so I did. BIG TIME. I soaked the entire diaper, blanket, and everything. I looked down and the spider was staggering around and sort of dragging a few legs! ha ha I fucked him up.
Dad came to check on me and change my diaper and when he saw the black widow he was pretty shocked. The swing was a gift from a friend and I guess it had been in storage for a while, so somehow it got into my swing. Dad rescued me and told Mommy to come check out what was in the swing. Mom's face went very pale!!
I never saw the spider again but from the look on Dad's face, I don't think it went well for the spider. Dad and Squicken team - ONE, Black widow spider team - ZERO!! High five Dad.

Otherwise things are going well. I've been figuring out the difference between farts and poop…yet another oddity of life outside the womb.
Last night about 3:30AM, I took a nice dump because it looked like Mom n Dad were trying to sleep. They wiped the sleep from their eyes and gathered all the tools of the trade to help me out. They were changing me and just as Mom was closing up my diaper, I heard Dad say,"Is that SHIT on his forehead!!??"
Mom didn't have her contacts in, so she leaned WAAAAYYY up in my face and then they both died laughing for at least 10 minutes. Well now hell, I don't know how it got there but I heard them say it looked kinda like a shit bindi, then they fell apart laughing again. When I learn to read, I'm gonna have to look that up to see what a bindi is but, no matter, I didn't find it all that amusing. Whatever, Mom n Dad.

Whew…all this writing has made me hungry, so I think I'll see what Mommy is doing. Maybe I'll write more later. Dad said he's  gonna go have a "Heineken", whatever that is…probably not as good as booby milk.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
My Hang glider pilot friends called me "Pelican" and it has been my "handle" for many years but my girlfriend (of almost 4 years now) calls me "Squid". I call her "Chicken". So, it seems only reasonable that our offspring should be named "Squicken". He is due September 26th or whenever he chooses to come out and play. On his birth certificate, he will be "Cameron Michael" but he's gonna be stuck with Squicken...so be it.

Some of the joys of pregnancy are all the stupid classes one feels compelled to attend. Of course, it isn't fair in the least to refer to these wonderfully instructional forums as "stupid" because there  truly is a copious amount of information disseminated during the eons of hours you sit through. Videos, lectures, illustrated instructions, and hands on practice doing all sorts of things one rarely finds palatable. Well, by "one", I mean my girlfriend and me.
What astounds me is how excited everyone in our classes is...well...everyone except the two of us. What I want to do is ask all these wide eyed expectant Moms and Dads if they realize the monumental chore of having a PERSON enter their lives. I want to shake them and say,"This isn't just a baby to play with. It's a HUMAN BEING.!" But, first of all, who am I to say such a thing AND they probably wouldn't hear it anyway.

My girlfriend and I are a good pair because we seem to have a missing gene. We are both missing the gene that allows you to be excited about learning what baby poo looks like and how radically it changes in the first week or so. We're missing the gene that makes you smile when there's a video of a fresh-from-the-exit bloody baby laid on a mother's chest.
I turned away from the movie of gore while my girlfriend looked at me and said,"Hey - I'm telling the Doc to clean that thing up before he hands it to me!" YEP - we're missing a couple of key genes.

I don't need to know how a baby's head crushes as it passes through what they affectionately call "the birth canal" and which I refer to as the "extruder" because, if I give it a more mechanical name, I'm distanced from the carnage a bit. I don't need to see photos of a "healthy" placenta, although I do find the word rolls off the tongue nicely. I DO NOT want to have discussions about what to do with the placenta nor do I want to hear about all the things other people do with their placentas (placentae?). Furthermore, we have to make decisions about what to do with the umbilical cord blood. My gene for being interested in a long discussion about this matter is missing. Matter of fact "umbilical" is a fine word and "cord" also has a charming assortment of vowels and consonants but when combined, they make me wince. I don't care to hear those two words together even when referring to an astronaut's attachment to the International Space Station.

I keep telling myself I will be grateful for all this info when Cameron Michael becomes more than a stomach lump. I keep trying to convince myself that, in the near future, I'll be happy to know it is imperative to stick, not just the nipple, but the entire areola into the baby's mouth when breast feeding. I continue attempting to persuade myself that terms like "mucus plug" and "bloody show" are normal in the vocabulary of soon to be parents. BUT - I'm missing a gene. I don't WANT those terms stuck in my head any more than "nose bleed", "diarrhea" or "hemorrhoid".

To add insult to our injury, the instructor in "Preparation for Baby Delivery" class stopped part way through one of her morbid tales of Doulah-dom and asked us to form circles of 6. In these circles we were to take turns telling the other parents-to-be what we lovingly wanted to pass on to our progeny. 
My lack of a particular gene and perhaps the activation of some other less desirable genes kicked in and I found myself in,"This ain't NO, this is HELL NO" territory. Now, this group of folks are probably all nice people but I already have friends...lots of good friends. I don't know these people, I don't want to know these people, and I certainly don't want to "share" with them or have them "share" with me. The reason I attend these classes is for information not therapy or group hugs.
But, rather than be a total asshat, I sucked it up and tried to act like I cared when Julie said she wanted to teach her little girl to cook, and Len said he wanted to toss a football with his duckling (even though he was a skinny Asian dude). When it came my turn, I just said,"No thanks...I'm shy" and left it at that. It was the best I could do given my genetic coding.
All eyes trained on my girlfriend. Keep in mind, this is the girl who when asked what she did for a living, once replied,"I have a monkey cleaning business!"
She tells people I am a photographer but also own a Porta Pottie business. Her penchant for f**king with people is legendary.
I know her intimately, both literally and figuratively, so I was wondering what, given HER similar genetic coding, would come out of her mouth.
"I want to dress our little boy in girls clothes so he doesn't grow up with gender discriminating values", she delivered. It was pure and utter and simple genius. She didn't elaborate, explain, or even continue. She just smiled and surveyed all the less than comfortable faces.
Our clan of 6, sat and stared for a moment, then heads nodded politely and a couple parents agreed that might be one way to do things. 
I was SO PROUD of my girlfriend. I wanted to dance around the room and have a beer but the joy was all in our twisted genetically aberrant brains. Her brilliant warping of this uncomfortable situation into a knotted bizarre joke was hysterical to me. I nodded my head and smiled approvingly at what she had "shared" while trying to contain myself.

Only the two of us knew how funny it was and we weren't gonna "share"... at least not with these folks.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Well - it looks like it's time to sell off some gear. Canon's new 1DX is out and it appears I am now 2 generations behind, so given this is what I do for a living, I have to suck it up and plop down the big bucks.
For some lucky people, that means a deal on gear.
I am selling two cameras - BODIES ONLY.  Fortunately, I don't have to buy new lenses as the new camera will accept the lenses I have.

What I have to sell is:
A Canon 7D -   www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product…
with a BG-E7 Battery grip -  which effectively doubles battery life.

Both are in pristine condition.
I am asking $1200. If you happen to think that's too much, then make an offer, I'll consider it but doubt I'll take it. :)
Let me emphasize, this camera is in perfect condition.

I am also selling a Canon 1DS MarkII.  www.amazon.com/Canon-Mark-16-7…
This has been my main camera and is in good condition. It's the camera all my nudes were shot on, so it's been trained to take lovely nudes! :) I am including 3 batteries (usually about $100 each) with the camera and a charger. The charger also has a cord that enables you to power it from a wall socket in case you have the bizarre circumstance of 3 dead batteries. Hasn't happened to me in 35 years of shooting - but I'm big on having backups for my backups.

I am asking $1400. for all of it. PLUS, I will throw in a GoPro Hero camera with a lexan housing. It's a cute little camera.  www.sportsauthority.com/produc…;

Oddly, I am a bit picky who I sell my cameras to because I want the new owner to love them, use them, and appreciate their history. It may sound silly, but I love my cameras! :)

I'll include shipping but would prefer the buyer come to my studio to pick up the cameras unless you simply live too far away.
Of course, they come with owners manuals.

All serious inquiries just be emailed to me.   michael@michaelhelms.com
Obviously, first come, first serve. I already have two people interested in the 7D but aren't committed… so cash talks, folks. No checks please.

Off I go to sit on my patio… it's "beer thirty" here in LA!

UPDATE: Both cameras are sold. WOW....they went quickly!!
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
This past week our nation witnessed one of the most horrific violations in history. A beast that I refuse to name, planned and then killed 12 people in a theatre in Colorado. I won't go into details of how, why, or who committed this atrocity.
What I WILL address is the idea of our Constitutional "right to bear arms". The misconstrued perception of this "right", saddens and confuses me. The archaic belief that having a gun in our houses will enable us to "defend ourselves" is not only statistically improbable, it is metaphorically AND literally unsettling to those who live with us. A loaded gun in a house says,"I don't trust people", "I am afraid someone will break in and hurt us", and also "I am willing to shoot to kill another human being".
If you have a gun in your house and it is NOT loaded, the statistical probability of you being able to get to it, load it, and confront a home invader AND for the outcome of that confrontation to be positive in ANY way, is insignificantly small.

This is not to say I don't think we should be prepared. It is not to say that I don't think we should defend ourselves and those we love but having a dog and a home alarm system are profoundly more effective. The idea is to not have your home be very appealing to those who would invade it.

What all this brings me to is a conclusion I came to in my teens. There is NO REASON for assault rifles to be in the hands of the public. There is NO REASON for hand guns to be in the possession of the public. Hand guns and assault rifles were invented for ONE single purpose and that is to kill other human beings. SO - what do I say to those who claim they have a "right to collect" weapons? I say,"Get a life and collect ceramic frogs, lawn gnomes, or goldfish". Collect something that adds life to the world, not something that is designed to destroy life. What possible joy can a human being derive out of owning a collection of assault rifles?? What fearful illusional self perception of manhood needs to revel in the ownership of something designed to take away the life of another being? When I see a photo of a guy standing around with his buddies and brandishing their prize AK-47's, I wonder if it makes them feel powerful, macho, and strong? It also makes me wonder where this need for that sense of power came from. Is there a correlation between this behavior and the violent idiotic murderous video games? There are even TV shows dedicated to showing off "powerful weapons". I get nauseous when I pass by these shows on my way to the Discovery Channel.

I come from a long line of poor people in the South and I remember well my Father and my Uncles going out hunting and bringing home rabbit, deer, squirrels, and quail to feed our family. I've personally hunted and helped clean our kill to add to our dinner table. I understand the need to eat and I understand the idea of hunting to sustain loved ones. But I've never seen an AK-47 used in deer hunting and a hand gun is impractical for hunting anything other than humans. Also, I don't think there are very many families who depend on hunting for sustenance any more anyway. Maybe it would be a good idea to get rid of ALL guns! It works in a lot of countries.

So, I am not without understanding when it comes to the "right to bear arms" but the bastardization of this "right" has becomes the mantra of lobbyists with special interests in Washington and it sickens and disheartens me.

12 people are dead and 58 wounded, because of this "right". This monster had the "right" to buy machines made for the purpose of killing human beings. He bought everything LEGALLY on line.

To those who will say to me,"Guns don't kill people, people kill people", I say,"Tell that to the families of those murdered in Colorado. These types of guns ARE what kill people, furthermore, they are singly designed for that purpose. Yes, people kill people and it is these types of guns they use to do it.

I say ban assault rifles and hand guns. It certainly won't stop this kind of thing from happening but it WILL cut down on the number of lives lost and make the whole process more difficult.

Washington MUST do something…. but I've been to Washington, photographed Senators and Congressmen, so I know how it works up on the Hill and I recognize the fact money speaks louder than the voices of grieving family members.

Today I feel powerless. How many innocent people and how many good presidents must die to make these weapons illegal?

To those who will say to me,"Guns don't kill people, people kill people", I say,"Tell that to the families of those murdered in Colorado. These types of guns ARE what kill people, furthermore, they are singly designed for that purpose. Yes, people kill people and it is these types of guns they use to do it.

I say ban assault rifles and hand guns. It certainly won't stop this kind of thing from happening but it WILL cut down on the number of lives lost and make the whole process more difficult.

I hope Washington will do something…. but I've been to Washington, photographed Senators and Congressmen, so I know how it works up on the Hill. I don't have a lot of hope because money speaks louder than the voices of grieving family members.

Today I am heartboken.

Some stats.
People killed by guns/year

USA: 11,127

Italy: 483
Germany: 381
France: 255
Spain: 113
UK: 68

483+381+255+113+68=1300. There are about 9 times more gun-related deaths in USA than in these countries combined. Even though their combined population is about the same, even a bit bigger than USA's.
Or...how about this??
youtu.be/8LbLu6E0I0
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
July 14th and 15th Nude Photography Workshop!!!

NEWS FROM: Perry Gallagher   and Michael Helms


EXCLUSIVE EROTICA WORKSHOP

Saturday, July 14th and Sunday, July 15th in Burbank, California

5 SPACES REMAIN OUT OF THE 7.



Topics include lighting, posing (communicating with the model), location and equipment in shooting Erotic Art and Fine Art Nudes.


Participating photographers will have an hour to photograph each model on a one to one basis each day. All the models will be there both days. Michael and Perry will be available for one on one mentoring during the entire weekend.

The models will be available during the evenings for hire for private shoots for photographers who would like more time with one or more of their favorite models.



The cost is $1,250 for the weekend and will include continental breakfast and lunch both days.

Please contact Perry with any questions at (818) 326-1926 or Perry@PerryGallagher.com or Michael at PelicanH@aol.com.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
In the 1960s, Ray Stevens wrote a song titled "Everything Is Beautiful" and it won him a grammy. Perhaps it was the idealism of those times or maybe a personal philosophy that gave birth to this song. It starts out with children singing "Jesus Loves the Little Children", a song I remember singing in church when I was a child.
"Jesus loves the little children
All the children of the world
Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world"

Like Disney's "It's a Small World", this song has a worm like infectious tune that rolls around in your brain like a marble in a barrel. A child, once he has learned this song, will hum it, whistle it, and sing it until adult ears bleed. Not only is the tune contagious, the lyrics are ideal and Pollyanna to the point of near myopic blindness.
After one chorus of "Jesus Loves the Little Children", Mr. Stevens' song moves into his "Everything Is Beautiful, in It's Own Way" mantra.
The notion he puts forth in this song is that everyone and everything is beautiful in it's own way. That if we CHOOSE to see the good, choose to find the positive, and choose to open our hearts to love, then …"the World's gonna find a way".

The first thing I want to say is, whatever you do, DON'T listen to this song on YouTube or anywhere else because it will stick in your head. In less than an hour you will be begging for some Beatles, the Who, or a good dose of Led Zeppelin.
But beyond that, I have a bit of a dilemma. I am embarrassed to admit, I actually agree with Mr. Stevens… in theory. I truly WISH it was that way. I WANT to believe the best of people. I WISH the world would live in love. Personally, I choose to live my life that way. I choose to believe the best of people, trust people, and see the best in them … BUT… at 62 years of age I can say it's not only incorrect, it's dangerous to walk through life with rose colored glasses.
I have had people steal from me, cheat me, and deceive me in many ways, but I STILL choose to believe the best. I choose to be this way because I cannot live my life in paranoid, bitter, and angry resentment for the few times that people have chosen to be dishonest, deceitful, or deceptive.
As the old saying goes, I can't allow "one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch" for me. I love life. I love people. I am happy when I see generosity in the world such as the relief efforts for the tsunami in Japan. I am happy when I see a child share a toy.

"Everything Is Beautiful in It's Own Way" is an ideal I wish were true, but when I go downtown Los Angeles, I won't leave valuables in my car and I won't leave it unlocked. What I WILL do, is be the best person I can to everyone I meet. I will try to add something good to the world. And through personal experience, I now have a fairly perceptive filter on who to trust.

The way I see it, not everything is beautiful in the world, but I can add my small part to what is beautiful and I can revel in all the beauty around me. People who refuse to love again because of having experienced heartbreak, are protecting and empty house. Love will teach us freedom and experience will teach us discretion.

Now if only I could get that stupid song out of my head. I'm going on YouTube and look for "Stairway to Heaven"!!! Yeah… gimme some Led Zep and a Heineken!
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Almost 99.9999% of the comments I get on DA are very nice and complimentary. For this I am grateful and appreciative. I also appreciate the occasional criticism that suggests I try a different crop, color, or lens choice. Even after 35 years I feel it is vital to listen to all the input I get because there are occasional jewels of ideas that come from learned professionals and beginning amateurs alike. Sometimes I even like it more when someone who is new to photography makes suggestions because they aren't stifled by the "rules" we all learn when we start out.

Recently, I've had a few people say some interesting and absurd things. These comments are related to my having taken down my gallery of nudes. First of all, let me say, my motive for this action was simply time management. I run a business so I don't have time to respond to all the comments or even read them all.
The suggestion has been made that by me removing the nudes, by responding to horrid comments then hiding and blocking that user, and by not allowing comments in the first place… that means I am "chicken". That "if I can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen". That "people are welcome to their opinions".

As a professional photographer in Los Angeles, the suggestion that I can't take criticism is absurd to the extreme. One does not survive in one of the most competitive markets in the world by hiding from criticism or shrinking down when it comes like a hail storm. I choose my battles, see what merit is in engaging in dialog with whoever makes criticism, and decide if my return on investment is worthwhile.

Cyber bullying is becoming a MAJOR problem on the net and several states have now passed legislation making it a crime. I'm not going to go into specific cases but type in "Cyber bullying deaths" on Google and read what you get. Kids are taking their own lives because of the horrid things said about them on line. And our response should be, "Well, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen!"  That might be the stupidest, most horrid, and terribly noncompassionate remark ever.
Someone once posted on an image I shot,"Your model should be taken out back and shot like the whore dog she is". I am VERY protective of my models and this is NOT OK behavior. This is NOT an "opinion". This is NOT a "criticism" or simply "their opinion".
I posted a journal (actually a few) about how outraged I was. Mostly people agreed…. but I also got this from one DA member "Taken out back and shot like the whore dog she is?" Really? Fuck that's an epic quote...
I'm gonna have to start using that!"
Or there is this  "Commenting, then blocking is known as "Internet Cowardice"--of which you're a repeat offender. Which means you're pretty immature."

See the problem here? Not only DA, but the internet in general has a SERIOUS SERIOUS issue. People who say horrid, hateful, vitriolic things with no consequences are rife on this and other web sites. But thankfully, it is slowly changing.
Keep in mind, people, that if you say something horrid about a model and she takes her own life, you stand a chance of being dragged into court and doing time. And I sincerely hope you do.

To suggest that someone (ME) who blocks people for cyber bullying and making hideous comments is "wimpy", "can't stand the heat in the kitchen", or is "Immature" is like telling the world Hitler was just "voicing his opinion". The classic psychological tactic to reverse the tables in a  situation like this is simply childish foot stomping from ill mannered infants. I've had 3 death threats here on DA… and the response is supposed to be,"Well, Michael, if ya can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen"?

So where do comments "cross the line"? Again, as I have said MANY times here on DA, on MY gallery, I will decide. MY gallery is not a democracy. Neither is my house, my property, or any comment of a horrid nature about my models. HERE, I am the boss and if you wanna test to see if I am a "coward", "wimp", or "immature"…. then cross the line. I value those who say, "Im not crazy about this color, crop, or that the background doesn't work". But negative comments about my models don't really work for me. Go somewhere else and get your jollies or do it on your own page.

I would be in favor of everyone on DA having to post their REAL names and where they live. It MIGHT help a tad. I hope so because as I see it, DA is having some growing pains. I also think DA and their staff are VERY VERY bright people and will get through whatever comes their way. It's a wonderful site and I've met a lot of cool people.
I'll be hanging around for a while!!

Time for a sunset beer!!
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
It took a couple of friends and me about 3 hours to delete all the images from my gallery. There are a few left, but no nudes.
I will keep an account here on DA and pop in occasionally to see what's going on but for the most part, I am moving on. It had become increasingly obvious to me that this is not the site I should be on. I have been looking at the front page of DA for 5 years now and wondering why I am here.
Anyway - I've blabbed enough about that topic. If you look at my last journal, you'll get the idea.
Here is where you can find me these days AND you can see ALL the nudes I had here on DA plus a bunch of new ones AND more coming. I just did another shoot with Scar last night, so there are some cool images from that shoot! I'll give you a hint… "Fire chandelier!"  

Also check me out on Google+
plus.google.com/u/0/1101948915…

You'll find all the nudes I had here and MORE!!! You will have to send me a friend request. I like that because it means I control who makes comments! YAY

Please join my Facebook page fan site.
www.facebook.com/helmsphotogra…

I'm also on ModelMayhem
www.modelmayhem.com/12886

and don't forget to follow me on TWITTER!!!!
twitter.com/#!/MichaelLHelms

I want to thank DA for a wonderful site. I am a fan and a supporter of all they are doing here. Of course, I also feel a great debt of gratitude to the over 53,000 followers I have here! Thanks so much to every single one of ya!
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
First and foremost, let me say… the DA staff and admins have been outstanding. These are good hard working people. They are all truly dedicated to making this a place for artists of all levels and interests and I honestly don't know how they do it. The task they face daily must seem overwhelming at times and yet they just keep plowing forward to make it a better site for everyone.
How they are able to deal with all the varied interests and agendas I see on here is beyond me.
I salute DA, the staff, and admins for a thankless job so very well done.

Tonight I am announcing "Pelicanh" will be gone… or rather moving to a new DA page. My gallery will be taken down.
There are many reasons for this.

1) I now have 197 people I have had to block.
2) I can't even allow comments because I don't have time to weed out the flamers and trolls, block them, and hide their comments. To those who say,"Well, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If you can't stand criticism, then don't post your photos on line"…. just let me say simply FUCK OFF.
Some ass hat writing a comment like, "Your model should be taken out back and shot like the whore dog she is" is not anything I'm going to tolerate no matter where I am.
Say anything about me personally - fine... but say something awful about my models and the Pelican will peck your freakin eyes out.
3) I feel like an old fart in an arcade full of gamers. When I look at the front page, I don't see people who share MY type of art. I see ponies, kitties, gamers, anime, hentai, and cosplay. Furthermore, I have been to a few DA functions and it's just weird. I'm DEFINITELY out of place there. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some AMAZING art here… incredible anime, wild cosplay, and cool fractal stuff. While I can admire it as an art form, it doesn't interest me in the least. I'm not on a web site where people discuss Jazz, or knitting, or pottery. I admire the art forms but I have other interests.
4) I'm also tired of seeing my images stolen from here. Yea, yea, I know… no matter where I go they will be stolen, but I'm not going to post as much as I have here. I got an email from a girl last week who was upset because her photo was being used by a site in Vegas advertising hookers. Stolen, no doubt from here because this is the ONLY place it is posted on line.
5) I have some upcoming projects that are going to be taking more of my time. Possibly a book. Possibly getting a rep for my images. Time is money and I spend too much of it here with no return on my investment other than the fun of being here. Fun is good but it doesn't pay my mortgage.

My new DA account will be Squid326. It's already set up and will go into effect tonight.
Please don't ask me to reinstate my gallery. While I appreciate the thought, I respectfully say, "It just ain't gonna happen".
I'll still be here.. just lurking in the shadows!!!!!
Time for an Asahi beer!
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Perry Gallagher :iconperrygallagher: and I are thrilled to announce we will be hosting "Erotica Workshop 2012" on February 25th and 26th. It will be a two day intensive workshop open to the first 8 photographers who sign up. We will post a count down on our web site to let everyone know how many spots are left.

We will be teaching techniques on shooting natural light nudes including, posing, lens choice, identifying light sources, use of reflectors, and other technical and practical aspects of photography.
Perry and I will give short talks on Saturday morning and open up the workshop for questions.

We will be announcing who our models will be VERY SOON! Not only are our models great at what they do, they are incredible people as well, so it will be a wonderful and productive time for every photographer no matter what their experience level.
Everyone is welcome no matter what their skill level. The only requirements are that photographers have their own equipment.
Perry and I will be mentoring as you shoot to make your Erotica Workshop 2012 experience the best it can be.

We think it is the perfect holiday, birthday, Valentine's, or "just because" gift for the photographer in your family! Remember, there are a limited number of spots available, so let us know as soon as possible.

Go to:

www.eroticaworkshop.com  

to sign up....NOW!!!

HEY...I'm on Twitter now!!! Come follow along YAY!!! You can ask questions or make comment there directly to ME!!!

twitter.com/#!/MichaelLHelms
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
I have had several journals that started out with a sort of disclaimer or apology for being less than tolerant of religion. This time, I don't justify, apologize, or disclaim anything.

Nigeria, in the last decade or so has seen thousands of people die because they were Muslim OR Christian. They are killing each other by the hundreds with guns, machetes, or whatever means available. Women and children slain in their homes because they were a different religion. What possible God sees this as OK? OH…perhaps it's the god that commands his followers to kill thousands and thousands of people in the Bible. Seems like the same one to me.

There are property rights and what the government refers to as "indigeneship" in Nigeria. It means whoever was first to live on a particular parcel of land, has the rights to it. Add to this law of "indigeneship" the fact that Nigeria now produces a LOT of oil and you have the makings of a war. Ironically, the "democratic" government has embezzled four to eight BILLION dollars a year, so none of it goes to the Christians or Muslims anyway, but they kill each other over the prospect of owning some land and working their way up the loose ladder of politics.

This situation is tragic beyond belief. It illustrates the words of Voltaire,"If someone can make you believe absurdities, they can make you commit atrocities".  
I'm tired of hearing people say it "…isn't the religion but it's the people". It isn't guns that kill people… blah blah blah.
People desperately want to defend their "faith", desperately want to keep their comfortable beliefs justified, and deny the fact that their religion is at the root of ANY murder, bigotry, or hate crime. But there it is…over and over again in the bible, in history, and in present day Nigeria. The thing that I find most baffling is religious people's refusal to READ facts. I can never seem to get it through my head why someone would CHOOSE to be ignorant about something they think is important. But this is almost beside the point because the point is not WHETHER they believe or not, the point is, how do those beliefs allow or command people to behave?

Just yesterday I read this headline in the news:
"Homosexuality criminalized by Nigerian Senate: Christians, Muslims cheer"
It is now a crime to be gay in Nigeria. Anyone who dares enter into a same sex relationship or marriage faces a 14 year prison sentence. Any public display of affection between same sex couples results in a 10 year prison term. In addition, anyone advocating for gay rights or gay marriage gets 10 years in prison also. For these "crimes", one is handed a prison sentence and the Christians and Muslims CHEER! They fucking CHEER when two people who's only crime is to simply love each other, are thrown in prison. And if you think that kind of horror only happens in Nigeria, listen to Presidential candidate Rick Perry's "Strong" video clip on Youtube. How can anyone who CHOOSES to be this ignorant run for President of our country?

I'm sad, I'm sickened, and I'm broken hearted to see, in a modern world, this kind of religiously motivated hatred, bigotry, and homophobic paranoia create and pass these kinds of laws in Nigeria or anywhere in the world. Add to this tragic scene, the fact that in Nigeria you can marry a 13 year old girl. How is this possible? It's OK to violate a child but unlawful to love another human being if they are the same gender. THIS is a DIRECT result of their beliefs in their gods.

Set this against a background of advances in science where the Higgs boson or "god particle" is very close to confirmation, and we have such dichotomy that it strains comprehension. Scientists are able to make these discoveries, put a man on the moon, and send rovers to Mars, but we imprison two people for loving each other. In spite of the advances in every area of science and research, people still believe there's a guy in the sky watching us and judging our behavior and this sky guy tells his followers to kill anyone who doesn't share his beliefs, imprison others who love each other differently, but it's perfectly acceptable to violate a 13 year old child.

After my trip to Japan where I witnessed first hand the destruction of the tsunami, I have become even more a lover of life. ALL life. I have become more of a pacifist. I see no justification for killing another human being and no reason to believe in some guy in the sky who'd allow innocent children to be viciously drowned and swept away by a wall of water. No reason to believe in a supposedly loving power that would allow Miki Endo to announce over the loudspeakers of Minamisanriku to,"get to higher ground, tsunami warning" and then be enveloped by that very tsunami. This type of god must either be a loveless power or a powerless love…useless and pathetic as a candidate for a god in my book either way it goes. Christians love to say,"His ways are above our understanding" or "It must be for a reason". This COMPLETE surrender to unconsciousness, this choosing of ignorance, this denial of factual information flies in the face of all that makes us human and aware. It is the ultimate Christian denial of personal responsibility and it is THIS denial that allows murder, imprisonment, and hatred to flourish.

I dislike writing journals full of negativity because I am such a positive person. But those news headlines hurt my heart deeply. Because I came out of a deeply religious background, because I am now free of that blindness, and because I now celebrate the different ways human beings love each other… I MUST speak out. Shout out against what I see as evil and ignorant and speak up for love, peace, and understanding.

Therefore, my final observation is this… I know human beings will survive even the worst of natural disasters. I believe people will survive and learn from even the worst onslaughts from ignorant factions. Somehow we made it through the Inquisition (which no one expected! lol) (wonder how many people will get that reference?). I maintain the belief that some day, being gay will go unnoticed because it is no different than having red hair or blue eyes. WHO we love won't matter and THAT we love, will be celebrated. I choose to believe that some day Christianity, and hopefully all religion, will fade away as did the mythology of  the Romans and Greeks. We'll understand the consequences of building barriers between humans, we'll understand the cosmos much better, and hopefully our place in it. I choose to believe we'll learn to live in harmony with our planet and be better to Mother Nature and to each other. I lived to see the Civil Rights movement, but we have a long way yet to go.

I CHOOSE to live positive. I CHOOSE to believe in mankind, in art, and in love. I see no other way to live. I see no other way to BE, than to spread peace and love where ever I go. In spite of what I see in Nigeria, I choose to believe it can't last. While I am just one person, I am resolute in my choice to live free and spread that same message. I'll continue to write, to donate time, and to use my skills to influence where I can.

So in this season… I will spend time reflecting on how fortunate I am and what a marvelous and wondrous world I live in. The best present I could ever have for Christmas, is the realization that I celebrated another year walking around this beautiful Earth. Happy for the gift of life… my life… and all life.

Happy Heinekens to you all.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
A final word on Minamisanriku, then on to Fukushima.

There was one building I really wanted to shoot when we went to Minamisanriku. It was the place where Miki Endo worked. She was a lovely vibrant 24 year old newly wed who worked at the Minamisanriku Disaster Response headquarters. It was her responsibility to announce the warning of an approaching tsunami.
"Tsunami warning, get to higher ground", she repeated over and over again. In many of the videos from that fateful day, you can hear her voice echoing through the town as water rushed in and swallowed everything in it's path. She was on the second floor of the building. Thirty people worked there and when the tsunami came they all rushed higher and higher but Miki stayed at her post issuing warnings until the very last second in an effort to save as many lives as possible. Along with others, she hurried to the roof, but the raging tsunami ripped the skin off the building and gutted it, taking everything and everyone inside, and then it rose even higher. Among the people working in that building was the Mayor of Minamisanriku. Nine people made it to the roof pushing their Mayor ahead of them…but still the tsunami rose higher. They climbed a radio antenna and clung to life while just inches beneath their feet all the places knew and people they loved disappeared beneath the roaring torrent.
Nine people will never forget that day, suspended above the furious tsunami, clinging to fragile life while 21 of their friends and coworkers, including Miki Endo, were devoured in the deluge.

This is a composite photo of the building where Miki and 29 others, worked. fav.me/d4hq8ou The top frame is as it was, the center frames show the Mayor and 8 others hanging on for the lives while the entire building is devoured, then the water begins to recede. The bottom frame, I shot, and you can see MUCH of the debris has been bulldozed away. Initially, people wanted to make the building a memorial to Miki and the tsunami victims, but her parents (who were saved by their daughters warnings), could not bear to pass by it and asked for it to be demolished.

Miki Endo's body was recovered in April.

When we left the hotel at Minamisanriku, 3 attendants rushed out with a 10 foot long banner that said "Thank you for coming!" and then they bowed graciously as our bus pulled away. It was raining.
It was a couple of hours bus ride back to Sendai to catch a train to Fukushima. On the bus my gf got a call and turned to me,"Wanna do a shoot in Sendai!?"
Me,"Huh? Uh….OK!"
Sometimes I think she knows every single person in Japan. Someone heard we were there and knew my work. This guy (I can't even remember his name) represented a Taiko Drum group. This particular group has been traveling a lot doing fund raisers for the earthquake/tsunami victims. They wanted to shoot at this particular shrine in Sendai that is the grave site of Date Masamune who was the founder of Sendai. If you Google him, it's a fun read.
Hauling all my gear and a packed suitcase, we caught a bus for a half hour bumpy ride, then walked another 6 blocks to the entrance of the shrine. When we arrived at the shrine we rounded a corner and stopped dead in our tracks, staring at 650 million wet and slippery stone steps.
"Awww…. I can't do this" my gf whined.
"YOU got us into this, so come on…they wanna shoot up there…so let's go!" I grumbled
When we got to the top we were sweating in the chilly drizzle. There was a kiosk where the band and their rep were hiding out, so we all exchanged greetings and headed out to our shooting location. Much to our horror, we rounded a corner and came face to face with another set of 650 million wet and slippery stone steps.
I glared at my gf but couldn't be irritated because she looked like a soaked kitty and she was just standing transfixed staring glassy eyed at the steps.
If misery does indeed love company, it didn't seem to exhibit itself that day. Even the Taiko Band made jokes about their location choice. But fortunately, there was a nice location at the top where we could shoot and they could be out of the rain. Unfortunately, yours truly, had to stand in the drizzle and try to get a good shot in between tourists walking through the backgrounds of my shots.

We took a taxi back to the station, caught a train for Fukushima, and watched out the window as the clouds parted in time for a lovely sunset.
Yet another bar in Fukushima. More sake tasting. More staggering back to our room…well, I staggered… my gf can put me under the table SOOOO easily. Whatever.
We are upwind and on the opposite side of the mountain range that separates Kitikata from the nuclear reactors that blew. There is less radiation here than there is in Tokyo but just the NAME 'Fukushima" stops people in their tracks, so the economy in this area is suffering horribly. It's so sad because the crops here are fantastic but are virtually unmarketable.
At 6 AM we received a wake up call from Mom Nature… an earthquake. I'm a kind of twisted sort - I LIKE earthquakes. Only one made me nervous and that one was the 6.7 Northridge earthquake of 1994. I lived 10 miles from the epicenter. So the Fukushima quake was kinda fun but a solemn reminder of all we had so recently seen and experienced.

We took a nice tour of the city with a local guide and he overwhelmed us with tons of information about this 1500 year old city. Many of the buildings have double roofs for insulation. Fukushima is known for it's roof tiles, brick, soy sauce, and of course, the local sake. So, of course, part of our tour was, yet again, another sake brewery. Geeez… Japan was beating me to death… I finished the tour in a daze after sampling all the local brews.

I would like to pause for a brief second and say one thing. Of ALL the MANY and PLETHORA things I love about Japan and it's culture… what the hell is it with their TOILET PAPER!!!! It's so thin you can almost see through it and you have to be careful not to get a paper cut. OK…it's not THAT bad but GEEEEZ PEOPLE… you have complicated electronic toilets but ya can't get the paper right!??? WTF??? OK...rant over.

Now…I feel better…so back to my story. We were driven around the city by the owner of the local sake brewery (don't ask me how my gf knew HIM - she seems to know everyone on Earth) and we stopped at a town center where a small gathering of locals were celebrating a low key version of harvest festival. They invited all five of us to have lunch with them (by this time we had been joined by my friend Jim Beaver and his guide, Kazumi) so we sat down to a HUGE spread of marvelous marvelous food. My girlfriend's ancestors are from this area, so as we spoke with the locals, they connected the dots and several of them, it turns out, actually knew her grandmother. "She was a good Doctor" one guy said nodding approvingly.
But then… "She was a drunk…. and she touched me!" said his friend.
Maybe it was the sake but I'm pretty sure that was one of the funniest things ever uttered by a human being. The timing couldn't have been better.
In her defense, my girlfriend's Grandma WAS a good doctor and was VERY aware that the locals often didn't have the money to pay her. So they brought her food, housewares, and of course, SAKE! Being Japanese, she HAD to drink it so as not to offend. It also came to light that her "touching" was chest tapping done during an examination. But…even so, it was hysterically funny and delivered ever so perfectly by an eight hundred and thirty five year old wrinkled little Japanese man. Classic.
From the celebration we drove over to a property still owned by my girlfriend's family. I had visions of fixing up the house there and turning it into a Bed and Breakfast and getting out of Los Angeles… going somewhere that I can't actually see and taste the air.

We boarded a train and headed for Tokyo, our heads spinning with 11 days of madness. More than once on this trip, I had asked where we were.
Back at the Tokyo Hilton we picked up a few bags we had stored and headed for Narita Airport. We passed, I kid you not, a hotel named "First Wood"… then "Hotel Slit"… then "Hotel Rainbow". I guess some things just don't translate.
My friend Jim speaks a bit of Japanese so he did his best to leave a good impression. As he was getting off the bus, he MEANT to say,"Thank you for driving us"… but he attempted to use past tense and failed. What came out was, basically, "Thank you for driving us… NOT!"
We are STILL laughing WITH him over that.

I stopped in one of the tourist trap shops to buy a pen before we boarded and was a bit undecided. My gf handed one to me and said "this one!". I guess I must have looked at her quizzically because she snapped,"Hey, I'm Japanese, I know more about pens and toilets than you do!"
I bought the pen… and by the way…she was right.

On board the plane I watched the little monitor's trace of our flight path over the ocean. I didn't want to leave that beautiful charming land. I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend EVERYONE visit Japan. It fits the bill for something John Muir once said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread…places to play in and pray in…".
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
A little more on Minamisanriku before I move on. It is impossible to describe what I saw there. Standing in the middle of such mass destruction is overwhelming to the point you just go numb. More than anything, what I felt was confusion. My mind could not comprehend houses in this place, I couldn't hear children playing, smell food cooking, or touch the texture of a building… it was all scraped clean down to nothing but concrete slabs.
We had hired a cab driver to take us around. It felt invasive so we asked the cabbie if it was OK. Not only was he OK with me taking photos, he knew all the best spots because he had shuffled many people from the press to various locations. He told us that his Father in law was in the hospital when the earthquake hit, so the nurses took him up to the third floor where they thought they'd be safe. The tsunami took them all.
As we drove into the center of where the town used to be, I just got out and started walking. My gf couldn't bring herself to even get out of the cab, she was completely heartbroken. This is her home country. I walked through meaningless piles of debris…pipes, shattered wood, chairs, tables, blankets, roof tiles… everything that constitutes a a deconstructed home. They have pushed out roads through the debris and made piles 50 feet high and half a mile long. Pile after pile. A few buildings still stand but are completely gutted and stand soulless like skeletons on a movie set.
Because the scale of things was so massive, I was a bit uncomfortable for not having a stronger emotional reaction, until I saw a little girl's shoe. I lost it. I could hear her laughter, see her smiling little face, and could not bear to think what her final moments might have been like. I read once about a photo journalist who was covering the starvation in Africa, when asked how he dealt with the horror of what he was seeing, he said,"I am doing all I can to help. Maybe my photos will make a difference, but every now and then I just have to put my camera down and weep!" So it was for me, I shot til I couldn't see through the lens, then I'd take a small break and just sit and look. I still can't get it through my head.
The day of the destruction, our cab driver had dropped off a fare and was headed back into town when he looked up and saw the tsunami coming right at him. He slammed it into reverse and backed up as fast as he dared. He got away and drove over a hill. There were cars everywhere from people evacuating, so he just left his car where it was and started running back to town. He knew of a hiking trail through the woods, so he hiked all night, and when he broke through the forest the next morning, all he had known was gone. He couldn't find his house, his neighbors, or his loved ones. His family, with only the exception of his Father in law, had escaped but it still took him two days to find them.
Some people had raced to the top of a hill where there was an old folks home miles from the ocean shoreline. They thought they were safe but tsunami took them all.
As I walked around that shell of a building, there were gurneys and wheelchairs twisted into death sculptures. A soccer ball with a kids name written on it sat on a window sill, carried up from the town below. Inside there were big piles of debris. One thing that caught my eye was a paper with hand prints on it. It was the kind a kid makes when they dip their hand in paint and then make a print on a piece of paper, then sign it as a gift to an elder. I had visions of an old lady cherishing the hand print of her grand daughter until the ocean came for her. Time to set the camera down again.

Our driver took us back down closer to the water where a new fishery building has already been erected. It's a huge structure right in the midst of all this destruction. There was a salmon run going on during the time we were there and that is a large part of what used to be Minamisanriku's livelihood, so there were the fishermen, back to work, doing what they have done for years and years. I watched as Salmon came en mass up the river to spawn and die. I've seen lots of Salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest but this was different because it was here, in this place, in the river than runs through the destruction. Dead Salmon littered the river banks and took on a whole new and deeper metaphorical meaning. Perhaps it is as simple as a "cycle of life" vision but somehow it all goes mad when mankind gets involved.
The town will be rebuilt but this time up on the surrounding hills while only a few boats in the harbor and a few buildings that HAVE to be near it, will venture there again. Some of the fish farms in the bay have been reconstructed and I saw fishermen motoring here and there in what must be numb routine.
As I stood up on a boat that had been torn in half, I shot photos of the fishermen going about their duties. I failed to look where I was going and stepped off the boat onto a nail, and drove it through my shoe. The nail stabbed through the rubber of my tennis shoe and luckily went right between my toes without even a scratch. I climbed the rest of the way down, looked at it, stepped on the back side of the board the nail was in and pried my foot loose. I shrugged,"Whatever"… and kept shooting. I honestly believe had it driven through the dead center of my foot I might have had the same reaction. It was a perspective check. After all, what is a stupid little nail wound in a place like this?

A young man we met is in charge of the first festival in Minamisanriku since the tsunami. We met with him and his business partner in the Hotel Kanyo where we stayed. As we sat in this luxurious place, amusingly named "Blue Line Tea Rounge" (yep they spelled it with an "r"), we asked uncomfortably if there was any way we could help. "Just let people know", he said. The Japanese are unaccustomed to asking for help but give it graciously and abundantly when a need arises.
There is a custom on New Years in Japan where children are given decorated envelopes of money from relatives and friends. It's called  "Otoshidama". A while before we left for Japan, my gf came up with the idea to give as many envelopes as we could to the children of Minamisanriku. Her idea was to put a $5 American bill in each envelope with a paper listing all those who donated. While it isn't a great deal of money for each child, it is the idea that someone in America is thinking about them and that those people do care, that means more. The 5  buck bill is worth more in metaphor than in reality… especially given the exchange rate. I suspect the children in Minamisanriku will keep those bills for many years.
My gf handed them over $3000. in Otoshidama envelopes. The young man and his business partner got teary eyed and literally sat and stared at us not knowing what to say or how to say it.
Money had come in to the area through the Red Cross and other agencies but very very little of it had been distributed even all these months later. But here in this room there was a direct gift from a few in the US to them, with no strings, no red tape, and 100% going to the children. I was happy to be part of it.

We slept that night uncomfortably comfortable with images in our heads of hope amidst devastation, peace in the middle of chaos, and people resuming their lives surrounded by shattered pieces of what it used to be.

Tomorrow we are off to Fukushima. The dead nuclear power plant is on the other side of the mountain from where we will be.
It has started to rain.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Today we are back on the bullet train heading for Akita. Funny thing about bullet trains…they don't turn around but rather go to a destination the go backwards over the same tracks. As a result of this, all the seats rotate 180 degrees so passengers can always be facing forward. But it's odd to look for your seat and notice the numbers going up sometimes and down sometimes depending on which way you are headed.
We had a nice breakfast in Sendai. My girlfriend went ahead to our room to pack while I took a few photos. I went to the restroom in the lobby and as I sat there communing with nature and enjoying the wonderfully heated toilet seat, I noticed a narrow  door in front of me. Out of curiosity, I opened it. A mop with gloves fell out of it and scared the crap out of me! Curiosity will be the death of me.  As I left the restroom, I realized I couldn't remember what room we were in, I didn't have the key, and I most assuredly didn't speak Japanese. Fortunately the charming young ladies at the front desk were helpful and spoke enough English to get me on my way.
We had purchased a JR (Japan Rail) pass for our trip and it has been wonderfully convenient. So much better than buying tickets every time. It has probably saved us over a thousand dollars in all our travels.
On the way to the airport, our cab driver told us that although he and all his family survived the tsunami, his condo was swept away. I would imagine every person in Sendai has some sort of story about that fateful day.
At the station my girlfriend struck up a conversation with a little old lady who was headed to Akita for a reunion with some of her classmates. She was 86! She was so delightful, cheery, and full of life. She declared," I will die with my legs and brain working!" So adorable. She gave us 3 heart shaped little felt bags with lavender in them that she had made by hand. Their aroma was yummy.
Out the window of the train we are passing through beautiful autumn colors with snow capped mountains that remind me of my boyhood days in Virginia. The difference is, sticking out of the gently rolling, tree covered mountains, is an occasional steep sided, two times taller, snow covered volcanic peak! Japan is a land of fire and ice, for sure.

Again, it is an odd time displacement, that from the last words I wrote til now has been 18 hours. We arrived in Akita and had just enough time to catch a cab, throw our stuff in the hotel, and meet our ride to Akita University where my girlfriend and I are guest speakers. We're addressing a bunch of students there on the topic " the conditions of success in Hollywood and effective ways of cross cultural communication, image making, and self advertisement."  
One of my girlfriend's specialities is corporate training in the area of body language, speech patterns, and intercultural communications. I spoke about corporate image making with, of course, the emphasis on photography and corporate style and marketing imagery. We opened it up after our talks for questions, and had so much fun teasing the students. We got a good laugh by calling their "Drama Club", the "drunk club". My girlfriend and I are a good speaking team because we banter a lot. The professor in charge, who was a co-founder of the University, told the student body,"Let's finish this, so they can continue their argument!" Everyone laughed. It was a lovely evening and charming to see all those young faces with so much of life in front of them. It was so apparent they all had hopes and dreams and I wondered how many of them would realize even a tenth of what they hoped. Most of all, I felt so fortunate to have seen and done all the things I have in my life, including standing where I was at that moment.
Akita International University has, in only 8 years, become the number one foreign language (the students are all required to speak English) school in Japan. An amazing accomplishment.
Professor Katsumata treated us to a wonderful dinner afterwards and again, I got buried in sake. The Japanese can drink and I'm such a lightweight. After ONE day sober, here I was staggering back to my hotel room. My lovely girlfriend can easily put me under the table every time even though she's a teeny thing. For some reason I don't get a pounding headache from it though, so that's good.

Another morning… right now we are on yet another bullet train heading back to Sendai and on to Minamisanriku. While I am looking forward to it, I also have grave feelings of dread. It is a city that was 95 percent destroyed by the tsunami. Fifty percent of the population was washed away. How to shoot it and put a positive spin on that sort of subject matter is clearly impossible but I hope to capture something that speaks of hope. What we are heading for , I am sure will be an immensely moving experience so I will carry a box of kleenex. Strange to be riding the train through beautiful countryside, peaceful farmlands, and lovely homes, knowing I am headed for ground zero of one of Japan's most horrific natural disasters.

Another time displacement…we spent the night here in Minamisanriku at the gorgeous Kanyo Hotel. It's unbelievably beautiful. The hotel sits up on a cliff about 150 feet above the ocean. The foundation structures go deep into the rock and all the way to the water. The tsunami tore apart some of the foundation and part of the first floor but the hotel held strong and has been almost completely repaired. It reminds me of Monterey, California. I hope what happened here will never occur there.
We had an amazing dinner. It's so hard to function normally here knowing what the people in this area have experienced. After we checked in and were headed to our room, we noticed an art show in the lobby. Some wonderful paintings by artist Toshie Hashidate. She was there signing autographs, so we stopped to chat. SEVEN of her family members died in the tsunami. I noticed the head shot on her promo wasn't very good, so I asked if I could take her photo. She was kind and gracious. I set up some lights and shot her standing next to a row of her paintings. She was gracious and grateful for her new photos. As my girlfriend chatted with her, they discovered they were from the same neighborhood in Chiba, near Tokyo. Small world.
On a side note, it's so refreshing to be able to shoot most anywhere I want. In Los Angeles, I'd have to get a permit, hire security, and sign all sorts of waivers to shoot in a hotel lobby. Here I didn't even ask and people were happy to see a photo shoot taking place.
Our room is on the 10th floor facing straight into the Pacific. I can't begin to imagine the horror they must have seen coming across the water. How do you watch 95 percent of your city wash away knowing many of your friends were taken? This was a resort town but now it is a tragic skeleton. The fishermen who still had boats went right back to work. And oddly, they are building more structures right down near the water's edge. It seems they HAVE to do this in order to ensure the catch of the day is fresh when they cut it up and prepare it for market and this is Salmon season.
The river that flows through what used to be a town is calm these days except for the fact, it is full of spawning salmon. The salmon have no idea what happened, so they have returned full force with less pressure on their numbers since most of the town has been washed away.It's odd to see lots and lots of dead Salmon (they swim up the river,spawn, and then die) all over the river banks. It seems strangely metaphorical.. sort of a "cycle of life" kinda thing, I guess. I got very emotional watching the salmon struggle through the shallow parts of the river. I'm sure it is because, just being here, brings everything that is human and compassionate so very close to the surface.

Much of Minamsanriku cannot be rebuilt because the whole area subsided and when the tide comes in, it is now underwater. Some places went down 6 feet or more.

More on all of this when I get home. I have no more time free while we are here…
Off to have more sake! F**K sobriety…I'll dry out when I get home!   :)
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken
Although I am back in LA and thoroughly jet lagged, I will continue posting my trip journals. Photos will be forthcoming, too.

Out of bed by 6:30AM and off to tour the Muromachi Sake brewery. It was fascinating. They have been brewing sake in this traditional way for over 300 years. The current owner is the 11th generation but there is a joke that some of their ancestors lived a couple hundred years. The brewery burned at one point and some of the family records were lost, so the family tree has a few sketchy spots that are filled with Japanese humor. We had White Peach Sake, Tomato Sake, Ginger Sake, Plum Sake, Yuzu, Junmai Ginjo, Red Pepper, and a few more that are now a fuzzy blur in my cloudy memory. We got to carry the steaming hot rice in these kind of burlap folder blankets. We carried it to a room where it was spread out to cool. The rice is an Omachi rice, which is called phantom rice because it is hard to grow and particular. They "polish" the rice (a sort of grinding process) until there is only 40 percent of it left. That "heart" of the rice is the best part and basically makes Muromachi Sake expensive and REALLY REALLY good! We wobbled out of there and missed our train, so we took the next one to Kyoto.
A bento box on the train helped soak up some sake, so we were approaching sober when we arrived in Kyoto. We had only two hours to tour a couple of temples near the train station because we had to be in Nagoya for another meeting and I had a talk to give. The temples in Kyoto were worth the entire trip to Japan. I was literally moved to tears to see these beautiful structures. Huge buildings built without one nail. So much tradition, so much history, and so much respect for both is obvious everywhere. If you Google the temples of Kyoto, you will see what I mean. Simply astonishing. It is my understanding there was a petition sent to our president during World War II, to please NOT bomb Kyoto because of it's beauty and history.  I am so glad this city was spared, it is full of treasures and beauty. So many cities in Japan were destroyed by US carpet bombing during the war. In my travels around the world, I see over and over again the tragedies of war and the older I get, the more of a pacifist I become. "War, good god ya'll…what is it good for? Absolutely nothin".

As we walked back to the train station, I noticed little piles of white stuff by doorways. My girlfriend told me they were piles of salt placed there to ward off evil. Wonder if it works?
We got back to the station just in time to hop the train for Nagoya. I gave a talk there at some sort of "Beauty School" . I babbled on about shooting fashion, head shots, marketing and self promotion, then answer questions. It was kind of fun but I was exhausted. We had another bento box on the train. I ate rice, mushrooms, salmon eggs, seaweed, daikon radish and chrysanthemum salad with a yuzu dressing, a bit of egg plant, and some cooked salmon. It was delicious and fresh. The combination of salmon egg and cooked salmon is, amusingly, called "Mother and daughter".
My girlfriend is fairly nuts. As I'm typing, she turned to me and said,"Give me a mole!". I adore how random and weird she is. Me,"Uh….OK". SO I took out my ink pen and drew a mole on her face. She was happy. It's the little things, ya know.
One of the curious things they have here is "smoking rooms" at the train stations. It's a glass room about 15' x 50' where people go to smoke. It's weird to see all these people crammed into a smoke filled goldfish bowl. Smoking is still very prominent here, so we are careful to look before we eat or reserve a train car, to make sure it is non-smoking.
There was a photo shoot going on at the school, so I checked it out. One of the teachers was shooting some fashion stills. Much to my horror, the guy who runs the school asked me what I thought. I hate that question. In LA, that means,"try to guess what I think and then agree with me". I am a lousy politician and am a lousy liar, so that particular question has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.
I said,"Well..it's like cream in your coffee, not really right or wrong, just different!"
I THOUGHT I had dodged a bullet but he cut to the chase and said,"Ah… well what would YOU do differently!"
Crap… busted.
"Well, for me, the key light is too low, the fill is too hot, he's using the wrong lens and camera combo, he should be shooting raw files instead of jpgs, and there are some serious styling issues…the kimono is not being worn correctly !" I winced.
"Ah", he said. And that was it.
I asked my girlfriend later if I had committed a social faux pax and she said, No…because unlike the US, they really want to know what you think because they respect you. If they didn't respect you, they wouldn't bother asking. I hope it helped.

Four cities in one day is exhausting. Okayama to Kyoto, to Nagoya, to Sendai. We stopped briefly in Tokyo to change trains. I am looking forward to a good night's sleep in Sendai, ground zero of the earthquake. Tonight it will be just my girlfriend and I, so there won't be anyone filling up my sake glass over and over. What a relief.
Tomorrow we are off to Akita.
  • Listening to: the hum of the G5
  • Drinking: Heineken