Thursday, December 10, 2009

Musical Musings

Losing my camera has made me realize what an extension of me it had become. As we roamed through Italy and Northern Spain I have had to find new ways to interact, relax, explore and learn to play nicely with others.

I've found myself appreciating music quite a lot. Mostly listening; but also forming new band called "Damn Shame and the Fuckin Weezles". Unfortunately for our followers we only do unannounced improv shows, and we rip on our fans even if they do make it there, and sometimes wrestle them, and usually get too drunk to play our gigs, so you can't hear any of our music.

That said, here's a clip from Rosco playing in Greece. Shot one evening when we were hangin out before losing our cameras, it gives a little taste of the musical talent that I have had the pleasure of being accompanied by in the past couple of weeks.

Here's the soundtrack of our trip thus far:

1. Nantes by Beirut
2. You're a Wolf by Seawolf
3. Too Young by Phoenix
4. The Suitcase (unreleased) by Rosco
5. New Wave by Against Me
6. Venomous by Trevor Hall
7. Blood Bank by Bon Iver
8. Gracefully Facedown by DM3
9. Rise by Eddie Vedder
10. Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
11. When I Awoke by Dark Dark Dark
12. Jolene by Ray Lamontagne
13. The Long and Winding Road by the Beatles
14. Business Time by FOC
15. Born to Run by the Boss
16. Nervous Tic Motion by Andrew Bird

Also reworked a version of the Bonnaroo video/slideshow from the music festival I shot earlier in the year.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Avast! treasure! below my feet here, shimmering under the surface, lies a 5D Markii...

Unfortunately this is no new loot. It is my 5D Markii. And I am standing chest deep in the Aegen Sea.

Soaking wet, I emerge from the sea and scramble back up the outcropping of rock from which I flung myself seconds before. And from which my camera plummeted seconds before that. 

If you've been living vicariously through me, and feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, perhaps you should stop reading now ;)

It began on a beautiful sunny day, as we rented mopeds on the Greek Island of Paros, and headed out on a pirate moped adventure. An adventure of the best kind. Catching a ferry to the island of Anti Paros, we arrived at dusk and after gathering provisions headed out of town on the single track around the island. Stopping for some spelunking in an old cave we emerged under moonlight and were greeted by the quiet sparkling seascape of the Aegean.

Driving on we left the lights of civilization. Pulling off of the main road we wandered down towards the coast and stashed our mopeds to continue on foot. A mile up the coast the shore turned to ragged cliffs, and we found a good cove to make port for the night. After starting our pirate bonfire I climbed up a cragg overlooking the campsite to enjoy the view of the surrounding islands while Captain Wuestewald cleaned the nights catch to cook on the fire. 

Startled by his shouts from below I scrambled from my perch, missed a step in the darkness and tumbled into the water below. Climbing out of the brine I found Rosco's in a frenzied dance along the shoreline as he clutched at his hand and yelled obscenities into the waters. Blood spattered the rocks from four razor cuts in his finger. As best as we can make out the story, Earl the eel (as we have named him) was drawn to the smell of the tasty fish, and perhaps confused Rosco's finger with the fish he was cleaning. At least that's what Earl said. In alternate versions it has been hypothesized that Earl actually knew full well that it was a finger, and was in fact trying to drag Captain Weustewald into the sea so he could eat him.

In any case, enter the cursed Cove of the Shrieking Eels. A few hours later my camera would meet it's untimely demise as we spent the rest of the night trying to dry out clothes and keep a fire going. Pirates-0, Cursed Cove-4. Escaping at daybreak, our bad luck decided to tag along freezing up the shutter on Rosco's camera. Camera death toll mounting: Canon 50D, Sanyo Exacti HD waterproof (or so it falsley claimed), Canon 5D markii (never claimed to be waterproof - tested it anyway) + a couple lenses.

So what comes of all this 'misfortune'? An unanticipated, but in retrospect much needed, break from photography for me, the beginning chapters of Rosco's novel, and plenty of inspiration for philosophical musings. 

Nietzsche spoke of amor fati (love of fate) and coming to terms with the idea that you are absolutely responsible for all of your actions. In that there is liberation. In recognizing that you control your fate, you also have the power to choose your outlook on the life that stems from your choices. From a sociological perspective I have some qualms with the philosophies lack of compasion for those whose 'life chances' are limited by the circumstances under which they enter the world. However I am drawn to the general premise that it is up to us to choose our outlook on life and the story we make of it. Bad decisions, ugly situations, or invoking the wrath of karma all happen in a lifetime. And it follows that in moments of reflection or introspection we retell ourselves the story of our lives; molding the chapters, creating new ones, and rewriting old ones to incorporate new discoveries or changes in perspective. The liberation comes from the recognition that it is up to us, not to rewrite the actual events, but to choose our emotional response and the greater context of the story in which these events are framed.

Recognizing the intention that is inherent in my emotional responses to the events of my life, reveals the ambiguity of many situations, and the degree to which I am free to choose to bring humor and good intention into the stories I tell. Not just talking about being a pirate here. That was just a carefree tryst of the imagination and kicking it back to childhood. In thinking about the events of the last week, the story is held together not by regret or cynicism, but by the more important elements, of laughter, good people, adventure, music, artists and pirates, connection and reflection, misfortune and growth.

Travel imparts the unique opportunity to share briefly in the lives of others. Unexpected connections and chance encounters carry the power to inspire, or provoke a smile, a twinkling, a fresh glint. In such, it makes little sense to carry yourself with anything other than good humor and openness, even when it seems you are being followed by the curse of the Cove of the Shrieking Eels....

 We're not laughing at you fate, we're laughing with you

('read more' for a few of the last snaps from the Cursed Cove)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fishing on the coast of Greece

Rosco and I arrived in Greece on Friday after taking an overnight train from Istanbul.

I came across this fellow on the coast, about an hour from Thesalonik. After a nice swim in the Aegean I hung out with him for awhile as he set his nets for the night.

 He explained to me "no fish now. in the morning"

The voice of my most recent editor and mentor, Andreas Gebhard, had me searching for a way to get back to photograph him in the morning. I knew I had some good shots, but for this to be a story it needs more. I need the details, I need the fish, I need the hand off, the market, ect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Parkour in Istanbul

If Cenk had lived during the reign of the Ottoman empire he would have been highly sought after as a warrior or assassin of the highest class. As it is he rounds out his skill set as a teacher, PHD candidate, quadrilingual, professional stuntman, free runner, inline skater and flamethrower.

His training in Parkour allows him to move through his surroundings effortlessly and gracefully, yet with lightening speed.

Watching him vault and fly over the ancient walls of the Blue Mosque it was easy to let my imagination drift. Evading attacker after attacker, to slip over the sea wall and into the sunset.

Thank you my friend Cenk. You rock.

More Parkour on my website - which has also been updated with a new portfolio from the last two weeks in Europe.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Musical Adventure in Asia


On our 8th day in Istanbul Ross and I cast ourselves from the "comfort" of the Paradise hotel and onto the streets of Istanbul in search of our next adventure. Wandering into a coffee shop with wireless we set our gear down and went about researching our next move. Greece seemed to be calling. But leaving Istanbul without crossing over to Asia sounded foolish.

Something you should know about Ross, is that you want to know him. And so do a lot of other people. He made more friends in a week in Istanbul, than most people make in an entire year. That's how we ended up on the Asian side of Istanbul, with some of the most kind hearted and generous people we have met thus far.

Click 'read more' for more images...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"F8 and be there"

What a whirlwind of a week it has been. A student again. Pushing myself, reaching out, falling short, listening, letting go, processing, turkish baths, ancient faith, a pigeon fancier, a perfume vendor,  turkish friends, sunset from the Galata, gypsy bands, devilish taxi drivers and hotel owners, street music and sherafe!

A rockin group of new friends and family brought together by a passion for photography; and to top it all off at the wrap up party I was offered a position as an inspector for iStock. I can now officially work from anywhere in the world!

Yesterday, after the conference was over, I went out to photograph a new friend, Cenk. Intelectual, stunt man, trilingual, PHD student, in line skater, teacher, and professional Parkour athlete, Cenk was our guide and model for the day. It was good to be shooting my own stuff again, just for fun, and free of the pressures of the last week.

But photographing Cenk, something felt different. I mentioned it to Rosco as we shot, but I couldn't really explain it. My time with the editors from Getty has made forced me to look at my work more critically. pretty pictures are no longer all that I'm searching for. I want substance. stories. I've been left paralyzed by the enormity of the possibilities in the world of editorial, and the vastness of what is left to learn. This is the beginning of a new phase of growth in my career. The eye, the passion, and the ability to tell stories. These are the essentials according to Aidin Sullivan. I think I have them. But it will be some time yet before they dance in unison. In the meantime I must deal with the real challenges.

The nitty gritty of editorial. Back to the basics. Lose the gimicks, trust your eye. Lightroom presets, and Photoshop foolery have no place in the world of editorial. Andreas let a Getty staff photographer go just the other week for adding a bit of gray sky to an image.The viewer has to trust that these are not photoshop stories. That they are real. As a photographer this means you have to nail the moment. This means getting there. Earning trust. Reaching out. and reaching deeper. In showing his photographs of war and famine Tom Stoddart's words really hit home for me: "those scenes are about F8 and be there, but the fact is I was there."

The following is a slide show of images from my first attempts at telling stories on the streets of Istanbul. Shot in a very brief time, without prior connection to my subjects, and no way of communicating other than gestures and pantomime I found it all very difficult.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Operation Istanbul: Paradise Hotel

RDU-Washington Dules-Frankfurt-Istanbul. hop, skip, jump. I found old Rosco by the baggage claim playing his guitar and wooing the new arrivals. After a light rail adventure from the airport, and a couple of looping circles around various neighborhoods in our taxi we were evntually dumped in the old historic sector and left to look for our hotel on our own.

We met 3 or 4 nice Turkish folks as we attempted to get directions, and eventually made it to our room. Here I was glad to discover proof that the interior designer and I have a similar idea of what paradise is. Among other essentials, we have a light that changes from red to green, to blue, to purple, to aqua.

Here are a few shots from our brief foray out into the surrounding streets:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Operation Istanbul: phase 1

Hoppin a flight to Istanbul today to join 29 other photographers selected by the folks at iStock and Getty Images based on their "potential for quickly taking to the editorial style."

 In Istanbul: We will be joined by major players in the Editorial industry, including the people behind Getty Images Reportage, and some of the very best photojournalists in the game today, including:

– Aidan Sullivan, VP Assignments, Getty Images
– Andreas Gebhard, Manager, Picture Desk, Americas Getty Images
Tom Stoddart, Photographer 

Stoked for a week of photography, learning, and exploration in a city that is as foreign to me as anything I have visited before. More to come soon, from the other side of the world!

Friday, October 30, 2009

family time in the mountains = KaYaK

Growing up around the Woodward household there were a few certainties in life: you wore cloth diapers, thought granola was a food group, and you kayaked. Ol' papa Woodward has sometimes been referred to as one of the "founding fathers" of whitewater kayaking in the Southeast (you can check out his book here), and it followed logically that at the age of four I found myself on the river in a kayak, and at the ripe old age of six was kayaking class II-III whitewater in the NC mountains.

Since those early days, school, living in Chapel Hill + a whirlwind of other sports have often pushed kayaking to the back burner, but coming home is always special, and times spent on the river with family are some of the finest. Earlier this week, some heavy rains boosted all the rivers, and my older brother David (aka: woody) and I headed up to paddle Overflow Creek - a homegrown classic. The majority of the gorge that Overflow runs through is deep in the mountains and can only be accessed by those with the skills to navigate it's class V waters by kayak.

With a new tilt-shift in hand I jumped at the opportunity to bring the camera along and try to capture a bit of the beauty and adventure that draws us there. The reality of it was that I spent most of my time trying to keep the boat pointed down river and out of the manky undercuts, but I did get out to film and shoot stills at a couple of the nicer drops.

PS) I know some of you may have been worried about Ralph - my trusty helmet parrot. Not to fear, he survived unscathed...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A town of ghosts

Not to be confused with a ghost town, Genoa is very much a town of ghosts. I got off the exit ramp in search of gas. I arrived too late. A year too late? ten? It's hard to say. The nearest pavement is the on ramp to get back onto I-70.

A green sign placed next to a dirt road informs that I am entering the Business District.  Hard to say when it was that any business last took place here.

This must be main street. The few
windows that aren't boarded up stare out on empty sidewalks - dark sockets in the sunken frames of sagging siding. People were here not too long ago. Children. There's a dollhouse. A trike. A car-seat. Not everyone is gone. A car cruises slowly down mainstreet, chased by a bitter wind and dead brittle sounds of fall. Headed for the senior citizen center no doubt. The only building on main street that still appears to be in use.
The Christian prosperity center is no longer prospering, the cafe is boarded up, and (bummer for me) the service station doesn't appear to have been in "service" for quite some time.

I've been to ghost towns. I've been to cities that never sleep. But Genoa is making a strong bid for being the strangest of the lot. It's a town existing on the cusp. The cusp of what? Death I think. Too much life left in it, or too many signs of recent life, for anyone to be comfortable visiting it as a historical site. Too much a part of recent history to be interesting. Yet too dead for anyone to give it a second glance. Trucks speed by headed east. headed west. I sped past just a few months ago. So did you. Or at least you will if given the chance.

Genoa is a husk of a town, and it is making me really uncomfortable. Maybe it's the sociologist in me. Probably it's something more instinctual, triggered by the tangible signs of life, yet lack of accompanying lives. It's not that I've stumbled upon something remarkable. Far from it. In and of itself, the very unremarkableness of Genoa, is the reason that it will exist only in memory before too long.

Leaving town I met William. His was the last trailer. Catching a movement out of the corner or my eye I stopped my truck, and committed myself to some sort of explanation. I got out and introduced myself, mumbling something about doing a story on towns along I-70. I guess I am now.Too curious not to talk to him, but too embarrassed about my clearly morbid fascination with Genoa; I couldn't bring myself to objectify him by taking his picture. I couldn't risk the possibility of him picking up on the exploitative look of a nature photographer documenting the last of an endangered species. I asked how many people live in Genoa. "About 50" was his response. Adding "they come and go". I couldn't think of much else to say, so I left.

I'm not a journalist. As my friend Mary - who has a degree in journalism - has, on occasion, pointed out. I'm more of a reality-fiction author. Get it? Like historical fiction? Whatever. I make up stories according to my observations, and I choose whether or not to include other people's opinions. With full disclosure of course. I didn't bother getting the full story from Will. A - because I'm not a good reporter, and B - I don't think he was shooting me straight. I'll allow him his population estimate of 50. However, people are clearly not "coming" with the frequency with which they are "going" here in Genoa. Maybe it's his perception (or delusion) of comings which keep him here, but I wonder if he's not more frightened of the goings. Whether it's from old age, and the passing of time, or the growing up and moving on of new generations, Genoa is disappearing.

Genoa is the sort of place we avoid, because, quite frankly, it's frightening. Though it exists in plain sight of the freeway, the act of setting foot on its lonely streets conjures up images of lives and dreams that never saw the light of a wider world. I wonder about the last time an outsider set foot in Genoa. For that matter, I wonder when the last time someone who wasn't from Genoa, even wondered about Genoa. We spend so much time seeking out the latest in technology and entertainment, or the oldest in art and history, a town like Genoa doesn't fit the schedule. It's not new enough, or old enough, to be interesting. To be safe. Certainly you don't want to take your kids here, at best it would bore them, at worst it would terrify them. Take them to a ghost town, those are fun. Genoa is real, and reality is no longer in vogue. At least not realities that speak this clearly. That lay bare the fragility of life in mosaics of broken glass. Whose strangeness is matched only by the stubborn shadows of the lives that framed those same panes.