Monday, December 28, 2009

December 27, 2009

I guess every day you live is a special day, and every day your are productive is even more of a special day. We had great weather for our holiday workshop and I had a wonderful time with you all. For me yesterday was an epiphany. To the best of my knowledge, it’s the first time that a health issue affected my ability, to not only make a photograph, but also more importantly I'm afraid it also disrupted my level of expertise to teach. You all know me pretty well by now, and you know that I take the teaching very seriously. I hope you had a great day and made some wonderful photos.

I'd like to wish you all a Great New Year. Next time I see you, I'm going to be kicking ass and taking names!It was a special day for me, and I will fondly remember it. Please send me any comments and some photographs as I would love to see them.

From Jeff -
Regardless, it was a great day and I will (attempt) to speak for all of us - it was a great day, insightful, educational, challenging and most of all fun. We all knew you were hurting and wished you well. Who knew the crowds would be beyond anyone's imagination. BTW, on my way back to my car I passed a bomb scare at the Ferrigamo store and the closing of 5th Avenue, and it took me 90 minutes to go from 54th Street to the Lincoln Tunnel. All in all it was a great day, and thanks. Get yourself well (and Dylan too) and see you soon. Have a great New Years. - Jeff

© '09 Jeff Thomas
1 2 3
All photographs taken with Canon 7D and Sigma 18-250

To all the ships at Sea,

You know, I always talk about backlight, and backlight squared. I also try to remind you if a photograph is worth taking, then three or four more are worth taking also. In photo one. Santa is backlit and we have lens flare. Note, this is not the fault of the lens. It’s the photographer’s fault. Photo two, we start to make a correction. Color, sharpness, and contrast increase, but the composition leaves a little bit to be desired. The last photo is a reasonably good environmental portrait of Santa Claus. Backlight is one of your best friends.


A good rule of thumb is to always get what we call an insurance photograph first. A simple, straight-forward, clean, sharp, and well composed photograph. I sometimes call this cliche number 44. We make one and then we play. Photo 2, is a horizontal insurance shot. It's tighter and has no foreground. When you think you're tight, get tighter! You have a delete button to be used afterwards but when you're making photographs, more is better. When you're showing photographs, less is better! By more, what I mean when you have good reason for it. Delete maybe one, two, or three and you have one good keeper. Next week, I will visit the Central Park bridge with a different technique. Have a Great New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Siberian Dog Catcher

A few years back, I remember having an espresso with my dear friend and former CIA agent, Bill DeSmedt, mentioning how I thought it would be great if Joe Lieberman ran for President of the United States. Here it is a few years later, and I was thinking it would be great for Joe Lieberman to run for Dog Catcher somewhere in Tunguska, Siberia.

By the way, Bill denies the fact that he was ever a member of the CIA but I have friends that tell me different. If anybody out there would like to read a great book Bill is the author of Singularity. Pick up a copy; it’s a great read.

Author Bill DeSmedt Photo©Joe DiMaggio
Listen to the free podcast of Singularity at:

Monday, December 21, 2009

December 20

To All the Ships at Sea

After my family and friends I guess the only thing that is truly meaningful to me is my work and I take it very seriously. Yesterday, December 20th, was going to be the last workshop for 2009 but my team and I had a conference call and we made a decision to postpone the Workshop until next Sunday. It was an extremely difficult decision. I was born and raised in New York City and I know that on a snowy day New York takes on this amazing glow. It's like a white frame and if you know how to photograph in the snow your photos can be truly stunning. However, in the interest of safety, there was a level of danger for everyone to physically get to Central Park as people were coming from all over. When the sun came out at 11 o’clock I started to second-guess my decision but it was reinforced by others. So we’ll kick ass and take names next Sunday. To all our friends Happy Holidays & A Better New Year!

Ace & I decided to go for a walk in the snow & enjoy the day anyway ©'09 Joe DiMaggio

December 6, 2009

Leave it to me to do the December 6th blog on December 21. It says an awful lot for my organizational skills. If you can’t critique yourself who the hell can you critique? The last Adorama Holiday Workshop was one of the all time best workshops. I had great students who really put forth a super effort. The end result was some great photos, which is what it’s all about! I did a lot of teaching about portraiture, both candid and otherwise. We got lucky at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and stayed for over an hour. We had a full-blown choir and regardless of your religious beliefs filling that space with great music and beautiful voices is certainly uplifting. I’ll end on a technical note. In the above photograph you’ll see us working with the Lastolite professional model reflectors. There are dozens of reflectors out there but we choose Lastolite because of their size, shape, weight distribution, and ease of use. You can come up with many different photographic results whether you’re photographing a a beautiful model or using it for a gobo to photograph a flower or spectral highlights in a wide shot. I know of three students who went back to Adorama on Monday and purchased the Lastolite reflectors. They tell me they love them.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Filmmaker Albert Maysles

December 16, 2009

I guess there’s an old adage that the teacher becomes the student. Our son Dylan had a great opportunity two years ago. He worked as an intern for Al Maysels. Al is recognized as the father of modern documentary cinematography. His awards are absolutely amazing. Grey Gardens has just closed on Broadway and the feature film was a Blockbuster. His original film on Grey Gardens and Salesmen are classic studies made in the way documentaries should be made. I had the pleasure to meet Al a few years ago at a cocktail party and reception.

Being in Al's presence is being in the presence of greatness. He's soft spoken, has a very small ego, and is a great talent. He was kind enough to invite me to his home along with my partner JoAnne Kalish and son Dylan to do a one-hour interview on his life & career.

I have very few heroes. One was Gene Smith, who I had the pleasure of assisting back in the day. Al is also a hero of mine. He has been kind enough to help me with my film In This Corner… Just came across a few photos of Al and thought all the Ships at Sea would like to take a look at a photograph of a great filmmaker

Photos © Joe DiMaggio

Walter Ioos etc

© Joe DiMaggio
Somewhere around 1970 something, I had a Sports Illustrated assignment with Walter Iooss and we were up in Boston. If you don’t know who Walter is, he’s probably one of the greatest all around photographers in the last 40 years. Walter is a true Renaissance man. When he puts his mind to it, and his eye to it, he can photograph anything, and pretty much better than anyone else. Walter, by the way, had no secrets. He shared all of his inside tracts on how to make a great photo. He has a great level of confidence.

After a long day of shooting, we decided to have dinner on the north side of Boston, and Walter was astounded that I dragged along my camera. He said “How come you’re taking your camera?” I explained to him, you’ll never know when you will run into something you want to photograph. I think he thought it was pretty funny.

On my way to get a Fed Ex, I went to the door, and looked at a cluttered kitchen. My eye was grabbed by an orchid that was having its water changed. I went back to my office, and I took a couple of snaps. I think of it as an exercise, an exercise in visual literacy, or looking from the inside out.

Many of my friends know I have had a love affair with film for the last thirty plus years. Twenty years ago, I walked into a cocktail party with approximately 150 people. Out of the 150 people I could only see one; just one. It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. I worked my way through the crowd of martinis, and white wine to get to a gentleman who was drinking a cup of coffee; two creams, two sugars. His name is Hugh Brodie. If you don’t know the name you may know the music. His cousin was Ella Fitzgerald. He was brought up in the south with a saxophone in one hand a painter’s brush in the other. Half Cherokee and half African American; he’s got to be cool. Approximately six or seven years ago, my son Dylan did a short film on Brodie which came in first place in the Black Bear Film Festival. It actually opened the Black Bear Film Festival. Subsequently, Dylan and I have been collaborating on a feature film. The working title is “The Life and Times of Hugh Brodie.” Another possible title is “The Black Cowboy.” Many people have complimented me on some of my photographs of Brodie and I try to explain to them that I have very little to do with the particular photograph. Brodie is so magnificent, so beautiful, so honest, straightforward and sincere. It’s F8 and show up. Okay maybe it’s F2.8 and show up. We are now in the process of cutting and scoring the film. The great editor Victor Goretsky will be doing the editing and the scoring will obviously be Hugh Brodie. We’re looking forward to having it wrap somewhere in the fall of 2010 maybe earlier. Photo ©Joe DiMaggio

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

© Joe DiMaggio
I drove two hours up North to visit an old friend. Not to beat up a cliché but you’ve heard "in the wrong place at the wrong time?" Well my friend was in the wrong place at the wrong time
to the tenth degree and it’s going to cost him 13 years out of his life in a small cell. We talked for two and a half hours. He admitted his mistakes and errors in judgment and I looked at him and said to myself, “but for the sake of God go I.” I cried three times, gave him a hug and a kiss, and drove home in an ice storm. Now you ask yourself a question; what the hell does this have
to do with photography? The images are burned in my mind, not on the compact flash card. I will take that experience and the burned images and use them in another place at another time and have a better understanding on what I’m photographing and why.
Saturday, December 12, 2009

I have to be one of the luckiest people in the world. I have such great friends. Most of them are artists, musicians, writers, poets, sculptures, fisherman, boxers, trainers, athletes; my God it doesn’t get better than that. Somewhere around 1970 something my dear friend Dennis Wheeler invited me to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to look at some of his pieces in the permanent collection. Suffice to say he is a world class artist. Everything he does is exciting and alive and quite different. He constantly challenges himself to go places that he hasn’t been before with his art. I did a clandestine interview with Dennis; set up my 7D, my Sennheiser microphone, and we talked about art. Dennis is not only a great artist but he is a great art historian. What makes Dennis special is that he can appreciate all different types of art. I am proud to have collaborated with Dennis on several single and multi-dimensional pieces of art. If you’re ever in upstate New York visit Dennis’ Gallery;

Clearfield Farm Gallery/Studio

172 West End Road, Hillsdale, NY 12529

tel: 518-325-7053; email:

Oh, by the way; Please call ahead!

Photos © '09 Joe DiMaggio

We All Fell Hard When We Lost Budd

It’s difficult for me to get with the program. The program changes monthly, or daily, or minute by minute. Somewhere in the 1970’s I had an assignment to photograph a man by the name of Budd Schulberg, one of the greatest writers who ever lived and one hell of a great guy. As famous and as infamous as Budd was, to sit and have a drink with a man who had a lot of drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald back in the day is beyond cool. He let me have a small glimpse into his world, and for that I am extremely grateful. I know it’s a cliché, but they don’t make them like that anymore.

Budd Schulberg (March 27, 1914 – August 5, 2009) was an American screenwriter, television producer, novelist and sports writer. He was known for his 1941 novel, What Makes Sammy Run?, his 1947 novel The Harder They Fall, his 1954 Academy-award-winning screenplay for On the Waterfront, and his 1957 screenplay for A Face in the Crowd. Budd had a very special way of motivating people. We talked about a boxing documentary in the late 70’s, and I took his advice. Thank you Budd, you will be missed.

©Joe DiMaggio

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Every person's life is marked with milestones. One of my milestones at age 18 was photographing a folk group by the name of Peter, Paul, and Mary. It was one of their early performances. I was totally blown away by the music and mesmerized by Mary Travers. She was a blonde with a beautiful frame, beautiful hair, and a great voice. It just doesn't get better than that at age 18. On September 16, 2009 the world lost one of the most beautiful people that God put on this planet. I loved her then, and I love her today. All of my original negatives are somewhere in photo limbo. I have been looking for them for a long time. Eventually, I will find them. I am posting this particular photo, which was an original black and white and then made into an orthochromatic print on a textured matt paper which I painted over a very long time ago. The original black and white hung over Mary's couch for many years. Hopefully, sometime in the near future, I will do another tribute to Mary when I find my original negatives.

© Joe DiMaggio