The good people of the Photographers Adventure Club, PAC for short, hold monthly photography contests for its members.  This month, under the supervision of event organizer Evy Olivia, the contest was a photo shoot at the Matsuri Festival of Japan held down at Heritage Square Park.  I had not participated in any of the previous contests, so I thought this would be a great time to enter one, not with any expectation of winning, but as a chance to enjoy the new experience of the festival and to practice and improve my photographic skills.  On Saturday, many of the PAC members were meeting together at 10 AM to go as a group and shoot the parade.  Unfortunately for me, I had another commitment that morning and could not make the 10 AM meetup, but I did have the organizer’s number and could call her when I got to the festival and meet up with the group at that time.

Saturday morning, functioning on about 3 hours of fitful sleep, (my Medifast counselor asked “are you OK?   You don’t look good!) I finally got my act together and headed downtown.  As I was driving, my I-pod, which normally tries to make every other song a Christmas carol, shuffled a back to back selection of “Sea of Tranquility” by the Japanese trio Rin’ followed by Deep Purple’s “Woman from Tokyo”.  I thought this to be good Karmic evidence that this would be a great day.

Although there were a few bumps along the road, such as going the wrong way in the parking garage, paying $12.00 for parking and $3.00 for a Pepsi, and not meeting up with anyone from the PAC, (I decided that at 1:00 everyone was probably gone or getting ready to go)  I had a great time.  Visited some nice exhibits, met some nice people, bought some incense and a CD from the Nippon Kodo booth, sampled and purchase some Hawaiian Crispy Wafers (Cherry Vanilla) from the High-T Snacks booth.  (, and shot some decent photographs.  I sit here now, lighting the incense, listening to the CD and noshing on a Cherry Vanilla Wafer while I share my thoughts and photographs of the day.


I normally head to the events and displays I like first, and then take in the rest if time permits. Being a drummer, the first thing I headed for was the drum show. So had everyone else. There I was with my 50mm lens getting shots of the back of people’s heads with the drummers way in the background.  I kept thinking of a play on words of a line from “Jaws”.  “We’re gonna need a bigger lens.”


Many photographers are reluctant to crop their original images.  Although I agree that composition should be done in the lens, I have no guilt or shame when it comes to cropping. I will crop any image if I believe that crop makes for a stronger picture.


I eventually maneuvered myself up as close to the stage as I could.  I took this picture of a drummer watching the show from offstage.  I was reminded of the lyrics “the drummer relaxes and waits between shows” by Neil Young.



It was suggested to bundle up because it was going to be cold.  After all, it DID snow in Phoenix just a couple of days before.  I wore a sweatshirt, which I quickly ditched.  People found many ways to try and keep out of the sun and cool down.

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Once again I followed the sound of drums, and came upon this performance.



Another example of my willingness to crop. I wanted to showcase this tambourine.


The “dragons” unmask.


One of my favorite photos of the day.  One of the “dragons” lost a flower from  his mask.  The child quickly picked the flower up and gave it back to him.


The Dragon Masks were provided by Masks by Zarco


I would love to own and care for a Bonsai tree.  However, I know it would end up an epic fail.  I once  bought a lucky bamboo plant that promptly died.  These trees were at  The Phoenix Bonsai Society display.

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The following photograph initially reminded me of a Japanese ink painting.  I turned it to black and white trying to emphasize that similarity.




As I was photographing this display, a young woman came up to me, gave me her business card and asked if I would send her copies of the pictures I was taking.  Being an affable guy, naturally I agreed to do so.  We started chatting and I asked what the cranes were made of.  She told me they were mad out of cyanotypes.   I knew what a cyanotype was.  When I started teaching photography I had a supply of special blue print paper so I taught the making of cyanotypes until the supply was gone.  Cyanotypes are made by the placing of objects on the special paper and exposing the paper to the Sun.  Whereever the objects are, the paper stays white. The paper that is exposed to the light turns blue.. Look at the following closeup.The objects she used on her cyanotypes were feathers.  All the cranes were made out of feather covered paper.


BUT, as my friend Shannon Gillis says, there’s a story…there’s ALWAYS a story.

This is not your typical high school photography class cyanotype paper.  The artist, Airi Katsuta, makes her cyanotype paper from scratch.  She takes a special type of paper, coats it with two different chemicals to make the paper light sensitive.  Once the paper is made, she proceeds with the laying on of the feathers.  All 1,000 cranes were created from handmade cyanotype paper.  For a complete look at  the step by step process illustrated with photographs of Airi making the paper and the origami cranes, click here

But the creation of the 1,000 cranes did not come about because of her desire to make a pretty wall hanging or a conversation piece at the Festival. Airi started creating the cranes after the May 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  That summer, she went to Japan intending to stay a week as a volunteer working in the village of Ishinomaki.  She ended up staying longer and was determined to come back to Japan after her senior year at ASU was finished.  She used the symbolism and importance of the 1,000 cranes in Japanese culture as a fundraising vehicle to raise enough money to go back to Japan to continue her volunteer work.  Additionally, Airi, as a photography major, used her photography skills to record the devastation and recovery of Ishinomaki.

For the full story of the 1,000 cranes and Ms. Katsuta’s efforts, click here.  To view her photographs of the village, click here.


Airi Katsuta, it was a pleasure to met you, and thank you for letting me share your story of the 1,000 cranes on my blog.




Shontionn is a former student and athlete of mine from the good old teaching days at Apollo High School.  Shontionns specialty in track was the hurdles.  I and his event coaches will always remember Shontionn as one of the hardest working and determined athletes that we have had the privilege to coach.  I was happy for Shontionn when he posted his engagement to Maria on Facebook.

Maria did not attend Apollo, so my first time meeting Maria was the day we shot their engagement session.  What a wonderful young lady.     I look forward to the day I get to photograph their wedding.  Best of God’s blessings to you, Shontionn and Maria.

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A Slice of Summer’s Drake’s Cakes

A little background here.  I introduced my former student Summer Drake in this blog post at the end of December. One day I was brainstorming about photography sessions I could do in between jobs and I thought of Summer and her cake baking enterprise.  As a new business myself, I am quite aware of the need for the new business to get the word out about their product, be it photography or cakes.  I myself do this with my website, Facebook business page and, of course, this blog.  So I thought that I use the tools I have at my disposal to give a hand to Summer and help her promote her Drake’s Cakes business.  So I came up with the idea of shooting a photographic journey of Summer putting together one of her cake masterpieces.

I was a big fan of the show “Amazing Wedding Cakes”.  I always thought that the job, the creation of the final product, looked like something fun and creative, but I knew it would be too tedious a job  for me to do.  Plus, I know that somewhere along the line I would succumb to the temptation of doing a faceplant into one of the cakes and eating my way to the surface.  One might think that the show would be boring to watch, but I found it highly dramatic and entertaining.  The show featured 4 different bakeries that followed the creation of the final cake from the meeting with the client to the final delivery and the clients all gushy and happy about the results.  But the show always had its share of tense moments.  There were  the two sisters who always hated each other during the making of the cake but at the end loved each other again, until the next cake.  Then there was the owner that would never like anything and pretty much throw out everything that was done and start over an hour before delivery (as my wife said, “I could not work for that man.”).  Of course there was always the  perils of delivering a huge wedding cake on time in the harrowing Los Angeles traffic. But my favorite drama moment was when the baker found a slight flaw on one of the 2 dozen blown sugar glass balls and proceeded to throw everyone of them on the floor at about 4 in the morning with shots of her 2 interns looking on in horror.  Classic.

I did not anticipate there being any of this type of drama at Summer’s cake baking session.  After all, the other is television and if it didn’t have drama and suspense, no one would watch  “Amazing Wedding Cakes”. It would have just been another cooking show.  What I did want to do was capture the love and care and steps that Summer took during the cake building experience.  I believe the photographs that follow are a great testament to Summer’s cake making abilities.

I did a Friday night and Saturday afternoon session with Summer.  She had three cakes to decorate.  She had done all the baking before I arrived and the cakes were chilling in the fridge.  Summer’s sister Samantha, another former student of mine, came over and helped.  (they liked each other all the way through the process)  I hope these pictures convey the energy that Summer puts into her creations to make sure that the client is completely 100% satisfied with the results.  (or gushy and happy, if you prefer)

The cakes I photographed are the baby shower cake and the Sweet 16 cake.  It was also Summer’s first topsy-turvy cake.  Finally at the bottom are two pictures Summer provided of two wedding cakes she made.

For more photographs go see her Facebook page at

Phone number: (623)297-0113


On to the main event!


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The above is the cake without the decorations.

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When I started writing this post I started thinking of Bill Cosby’s routine about chocolate cake, so thought I would share it.  It is hysterical, without a single swear word.  Worth the 9 minutes.