Monday, December 29, 2008

Ping Pong Portrait

My wife hates clutter. As I am typing this, she is approaching a nervous breakdown while cleaning up after...well, me. I have books, magazines, PEZ dispensers, coffee cups, sunflower seed shells, photo's, computer parts, DVD's, remote controls, business cards, hard drives and all sorts of miscellaneous papers ranging in levels of importance from gas receipts to tax deductions worth potentially thousands of dollars laying around in any number of places. In other words...I'm a slob.

It has been Lea's lifetime goal to minimize the amount of crap we have in the house. It isn't uncommon for me to find a pair of shoes I can't live without (granted, I haven't worn in 5 or 6 years though) buried unceremoniously in a box labeled for Goodwill. Anytime I find these little treasures I unpack them and put them back where they belong. On the floor in the bedroom.

Well, imagine my surprise when on Christmas morning I got a Ping Pong table from Lea. Before I even opened the gift, she said probably 5 or 6 times..."I regret buying you this." I couldn't imagine what it would be but my imagination did wander a bit and a Ping Pong table wasn't the direction it was going I can assure you :)

Anyway, I got this sucker put together and it looks pretty huge in the basement! I love it! I suppose I could have been a good husband and moved the stuff I needed to move for the table into more appropriate places than say...the corner of the room but what the heck, it looks good :)

I wanted to try a self portrait with my new toy so I set up a couple of soft boxes, and ended up using the timer on the camera to trigger the shot. For some reason my remote trigger for pocket wizards wasn't synching right with the camera. Any of you photogs out there reading this that may have come across the same problem in the past and knows what I need to change please feel free to drop me a line would ya?

Anyway, the shot is done, it is posted here. I will post it in Facebook in a moment with this same story and as I look back at the table I wonder if I should remove the tripod, lenses, caps, flashes, laptop, batteries and other goodies I've left on it...Naaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh :)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve is a special time. That goes without saying. The church service was especially powerful at New Life one point all the lights were out and a video began playing where Pastor Nate was barely visible but was speaking with a deep powerful voice. My youngest daughter Sophie tapped her Mom on the arm and brought her down to her level to whisper to her. Lea couldn't here her at first so Sophie repeated herself a little louder while pointing at the monitor..."Is that God?" She asked :)

Then tonight, I asked my oldest daughter Savannah what she thought the chances were of Santa showing up based on how good she was this year..."Oh, for sure Dad..don't you remember? In the summertime I was really good for at least four or five days in a row!"

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Anna Poetzl opened the service with a hypnotic song that filled the room with energy and power. She is an incredibly gifted artist that plays the violin and the piano (who knows what else..I'm guessing a lot), sings opera and every other type of music you can imagine. It is always wonderful when she performs.
Here is Anna singing again with Carolyn Bath-Foster who I am proud to say is one of my Facebook friends and someone whom Lea and I have tremendous respect for. Carolyn's voice is like no other and it is matched by her amazing energy. I kid you not..when Carolyn leads worship I get goosebumps 100% of the time.
Brooks Rice oversees the high school/college ministry at New Life. I've seen him play some serious tunes at many services. He's a dynamic speaker with a great sense of humor.

Pastor Nate Poetzl is the man. From my home town of Eugene, OR (go Ducks) Nate is a powerful speaker and someone for whom I have tremendous respect. He communicates in a way that allows everyone to feel at ease, not judged in any way, shape or form and he conveys the message with passion. We are so blessed to have met Nate and his awesome wife Jennie (also one of my Facebook friends and my toughest competition in the Word Challenge).

Another amazing talent on stage at New Life...Marli Hansen is energetic, charismatic and has an amazing voice. She sang a song written by Anna that was nothing short of incredible.

They do such a great job decorating the church. It's always unique, pretty and as a photographer I must say...well lit! :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snow Day

Parenting 101: Don't put your kid on a wobbly stool while wearing a hat too big too see while wearing and give her a sharp butcher knife...unless it makes for a cute photo op :)
The cool thing is that Lea always gets this dolled up before cooking me dinner :)

The loves of my life.
So my neighborhood was blasted with snow which was converted to a sheet of ice yesterday. Rather than risk my rump and venture outside in the cold I decided to set up a few lights, dress up my girls and do a quick stock photo shoot. Here are a few of my favorites.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Times are tough, but life is good

The holiday season is a joyful time of year. It can also be a stressful time of year. As the Christmas tree goes up and the light in the eyes of my children is as bright as ever I can't help but feel a warm glow inside.

This year is a tough one though. It's an understatement to say that the economy is a mess right now. I worry about my Mom who works in the auto-industry. Obviously, there is great concern for the American auto-makers though it appears that they are going to be helped out by the government. This relieves me for my Mom's sake though concerns me for the country. I hope they use this opportunity to catch up with the eco-friendly, ultra fuel efficient cars they are competing with and create something new and exciting to revolutionize the auto industry.

In the Seattle area where I live, the Boeing employees are finally done with the strike. That devastated our local economy but it didn't start or end there. My friends wife was just layed off after 21 years working for Bank of America. She is now and suddenly thrown into the job market with thousands of other bank employees recently layed off by locally ran Washington Mutual.

There are brand new houses a block away from my house that last year wouldn't have stayed on the market for a month. They've been there nearly a year now unoccupied even as the prices go down and down.

I've always said that photography feeds my soul but offered the disclaimer that the restaurant industry feeds my family. Restaurants are being hit hard and the restaurant I run is no exception. Guest counts are down, those that are coming in are spending less, wages are going up shortly and the outlook is pretty bleak right now.

That being said, it isn't important. What is important is friends, family and life. A good friend of our family died suddenly and unexpectedly yesterday shocking us all. He was on the way home from visiting his adopted family in California who loved him very much. Grandpa Bob as my girls enjoyed calling him was traveling home on a 2 day train ride when he became ill. They stopped the train for him and brought him to a hotel where he was found dead the next morning. It is heartbreaking for those of us left here on Earth though he had tremendous and inspiring faith in God and I know that he is now in a better place. His death reminds me of our mortality and our short and precious every day is. No matter how difficult life may seem at times, every day is a gift and I intend to live each and every one I can accordingly. I hope that you do the same.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Honorable Mention

For the second year in a row I've been awarded honorable mention in the annual Association of Zoo's and Aquarium's Communique Photo Contest. This year my entry is going to be published in their magazine in a fairly large format which has inflated my ego to new heights. Poor Lea will never hear the end of this one. I wasn't able to make it out to the Zoo much over the summer unfortunately but this contest has motivated me to really nail it for next year so they'll be seeing a lot more of me coming up really soon.

Myself, Dennis Conner, Tianna Klineburger, Tammy Fullum and the Woodland Park Zoo's staff photographer Ryan Hawk each earned an honorable mention this year with our photo's from WPZ which is a pretty outstanding result in my opinion. You can view all of the images at the following link...

AZA Publications

Thanks again to Ric Brewer and Ryan Hawk for providing me with such a unique opportunity to photograph at the Zoo. It is something I truly enjoy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Annie Leibovitz

The crowd started getting bigger and bigger. She went from photographing the Rolling Stones getting mobbed by their fans to getting mobbed by fans of her own.
I don't know why authors always insist on signing the inside of their books..I was happy she didn't mind signing the cover.
Ryan H at the W
For some time now I've had a project planned in my mind and on random pieces of paper scattered throughout my house and office to create a book of influential people and places from my life. The plan is to go to childhood homes to take photographs, find old friends and photograph them as well as a quest to photograph people who have influenced my life one way or another over the years that I haven't met. One of those people is Annie Liebovitz. Yesterday she released her latest book called Annie Liebovitz at Work I bought it right away and read through half of it last night and this morning. Tonight she was at Benaroya Hall for Seattle Arts and Lectures speaking in front of a sold out crowd and reading stories from her book along with her amazing images of subjects ranging from Bette Midler to the Queen of England whom she had asked to remove her crown because it was too fancy. A couple of faux pas was that it was a tiara and not a crown..the other was that it was supposed to be fancy and the Queen was not the least bit happy with the request to remove as shown by the BBC. Amazing portraits resulted however so I don't think too much damage was done.

I went to the lecture with my friend and fellow shutterbug Ryan. After the show we had the opportunity to attend a cocktail party hosted at the W Hotel where Annie was graciously shaking hands, signing autographs and taking photo's. She was nice enough to pose for a photo with me and due to technical problems I won't go into in this blog the shots didn't turn out too well so we went back again for another shot. By then, the group of people surrounding her was getting pretty substantial and she handled it with grace and courtesy in a way I think only she could do.

It's weird to me to think of a photographer as a celebrity. Because I live, eat and breath photography there are definitely some people out there who I really look up to. Annie being at the top of the list. Others include Joe McNally, Matt Mendelsohn..well, I could go on but I've got to get up early and need to wrap this up so I won't. My point is that as a photographer I am eager and excited to meet other photographers at the top of their game with such amazing experience under their belts who have lived lives that I can only dream of at this point in my career. The sold out crowd of who knows how many people tonight did not appear to consist of photographers though. Sure there were loads of cameras there tonight and a few were high end good cameras with some nice L glass in front of them but most were cell phone quality P&S cameras taken by people that didn't appear to know the difference between aperture and a Koala bear (sorry for the random analogy but I'm very tired :). Annie is famous for photographing famous people and justifiably so.

It must be an unusual journey to pass from photographing the famous to becoming one of the famous but she really seems to handle it very well. She had a way of speaking to the crowd that makes her immediately likeable. She seems as modest as any person could be with such an impressive resume. She doesn't appear to me to be a person that buys into her own hype which to me is a true sign of character. It would be a dream come true to have the opportunity to shoot with her.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long Lashes

Look at the long lashes on this Zebra!

If you haven't already, be sure to stop by my Wildlife Photography web page at

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Tanzania Photo of the day

Just got back from watching Madagascar II with the girls at the awesome IMAX Theater in downtown Seattle. Great movie, well worth watching and it reminded me to post a pic of the day from Africa.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday's Africa Photo of the day

Laying on the break table at the Fish House was a copy of Sunday's paper. In the midst of the stack, a glimpse of a photo caught my eye. I pulled it out and there in the Seattle Times was this great article...

The article was written by Sandi Doughton, she articulated the African experience better than I could do in my journal. The story was so cool because she writes about her journey to a relatively obscure destination...the Ndutu Lodge which happens to be one of the places I stayed. It is a great lodge and I had written about in my journal posted in August on this blog. One thing she didn't mention that surprised me was the brutal drive I had mentioned a couple/few times :) If you click on the video attached to the article it shows a bit of their experience including a fairly bumpy road and it's worth the 3 minute view for sure.

Because the article brought me down memory lane and I mentally revisited Lake Ndutu today I decided the picture of the day should be from that area. This hyena was hanging out alone in broad daylight. Most of the other hyena's I saw on the trip were in much darker environments. Ugly little sucker isn't he?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wednesday Pic of the day

A couple of lions loving the Serengeti.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pic of the day

Well, I jinxed myself. I said I was geared up and ready to get back to daily uploads and no sooner had I signed out when my computer that I purchased less than a year ago. Top of the line, state of the art..Costco's best...Motherboard went bye bye. Grrr. As you can imagine, I spend a great deal of time on the computer. I blew the dust off my old computer and hooked it up. 45 minutes later when Photoshop finally opened, I attempted to open a photo to edit. Less than an hour later (barely) I finished editing that one photo. Sheesh, what a headache. I've got a new computer to get my work done and it is oh so nice :) I was able to import all of my Africa photo's into Adobe Lightroom in a fraction of the time it took originally. While uploading, this photo of a family of baboons playing in a tree while the African sun rose caught my eye. I hope you like it.

On a side note. I try not to talk too much about politics here. Mainly because so many of my friends disagree and often accuse me of being a close minded hillbilly. I'll tell you this. I think the last 8 years under the Bush administration have been rough and we haven't had a president with our best interest in mind. That being said, I was a firm believer (and still am) that John McCain is as true an American hero as we have ever known. Long before this long campaign began I've admired John McCain and considered him one of our nations greatest leaders.

With Barrack Obama I've been filled with doubt, uncertainty and at times I can admit..fear. It wasn't uncommon for me to rant.. "Barrack Hussein Obama? President of the United States?...really?" It just sounded weird to me. It was difficult for me to get past the fact that he belonged to that horrible church for 20 years and impossible for me to believe he never heard the Reverend rant about race and the US the way he did in the videos. Kinda reminds me of Bill Clinton claiming to have never inhaled.

That being said...watching the election tonight and seeing the overwhelming majority of the country unite to elect this man made me feel optimistic about our future. While I believe John McCain was the more qualified of the two candidates and would have done an extraordinary job as President, watching Obama's speech tonight gave me goosebumps and at times brought tears to my eyes. What I see in him is a man that inspires. A man that brings hope and gives confidence where it has been lacking. While I disagree with a lot of his politics, I believe that he will do a good job in uniting the people of this great country and will renew faith in us overseas. As a man who proudly voted for John McCain I now proudly express my support of our 44th President.

Don't get me started about our evil Governor though...the race is still on. If Chris Gregoire wins again, Washington state is screwed. C'mon Dino!!! :)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hungry Hippo

Not something you want to find while wandering around the Serengeti. Well, it was actually something I wanted to find..glad I did.

Sorry for the lag in posting a pic of the day..should be back on track now.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What a weekend! I spent a whirlwind 30 hours or so in Reno, Nevada on Sunday and Monday shooting thousands of photo's of beautiful women, handsome guys, amazing animals and great food in a gorgeous restaurant co-owned by one of my closest friends.

Dave Powell and Mark Hansen own a restaurant in Sparks, Nevada called the Vista Grille Dave used to work for the restaurant company I work for and he is easily the most talented chef I have ever known as well as a man filled with integrity and honor whom I am proud to call my friend. The Vista Grille is a very community oriented restaurant. They donate regularily to various charities in the Sparks community and this year Dave's partner Mark came up with the idea to create a calendar featuring their crew, the restaurant and a very cool exotic animal sanctuary called the Animal Ark. The Animal Ark was founded by a wonderful couple named Aaron and Diana (seen below). They've dedicated their lives to taking care of disadvantaged wildlife. The Animal Ark doesn't receive steady funding from the Government so all funding is through admissions, donations and grants. The Vista Grille is creating this calendar and donating all proceeds to the Animal Ark.

Special thanks to a partner of the Animal Ark, Master Falconer Martin Stiasny owner of Birds in Flight for driving all the way out from San Francisco for the day to bring his incredible birds to fly all around the crew not only giving us all a great show but giving the staff of the Vista Grille an incredibly unique, memorable experience.

The Calendar should be ready to ship by December. The price isn't set yet but should be somewhere between $15-$20 from what I understand. If you would like to order one (and I sure hope you do) please call Mark Hansen at the Vista Grille. The number there is 775-626-9922 or email Be sure to tell him Mat sent you!
One of two intense Asian Tigers (there is also a White Tiger seen below)

"Effie" the photogenic Arctic Fox
One of two beautiful Gray Wolves at the Animal Ark
Cheetah's have always been my favorite cat. There are two at Animal Ark and they are amazing.
Chelsea and a Cheetah.
"Whoopi" the Peregrine Falcon
Some of the girls striking a pose
Some of the crew posing with a Eurasian Eagle Owl
The African Pied Crow put on quite a show!
Naomi in front while the African Pied Crow zooms away
Megan and her friend the Yellow-Headed Vulture.
"Khan" saying hello
Aaron and DianeDiana and Aaron Hiibel, co founders of the Animal Ark and all around great people and extraordinarily gracious hosts.
On the way back to the cars I spotted this cool spot for a dramatic portrait. Are these girls natural models or what?
A very enthusiastic Vista Grille staff (check out Marks high flying in the back)
There is quite a story behind this one
Some of the crew near the entrance to the Vista Grille
Giving the James Bond pose out in front of the building
A tasty (I know first hand because I ate it) Margherite Pizza cooked in the super hot wood burning, brick oven
Jen in the front with her winning smile
Mark showing off his expertise behind the bar.
Mark and Dave...a couple of happy guys.
A quick shot of the "Biggest little city in the world" while on my way home.