Electric Bikes

April 17, 2015

Model and Playboy Playmate Barbara Moore on an Easy Motion electric bike

Electric bicycle sales are growing exponentially in the U.S. They’re already huge in Europe and Asia. The U.S. market is on track to sell 400,000 electric bicycles annually in 2016, and that number will keep climbing. Imagine a bike that flattens hills, that allows people who have trouble riding due to injury or just being out of shape to still be able to ride, that makes it fun and easy to leave your car at home for errands or to ride to work. That sounds like a good thing, but you can’t imagine the experience of being on one of these.


Modern electric bicycles are so intuitive that they provide seemless power assistance to make pedaling easier and faster. I can describe these things ad infinitum, but nobody gets it until they get onto one of these bikes and actually rides it.  My cycling purist friends often poo-poo electric assist, but these bikes are perfect for commuters and people getting back into biking.


I’ve been photographing electric bikes since I worked with Lee Iacocca on his company, eBike, in the early 2000s.


Lee Iacocca with his folding eBike and a PT Cruiser

Lee Iacocca with his folding eBike and a PT Cruiser


I also shot the launch of the first electric Zero motorcycle in 2008. These things were scary fun. 140 lb mountain bike with a battery and a motor that can rocket you from 0-60 MPH faster than a Ferrari. And were they ever fun to ride!

Zero Motorcycles at a secret track in Piru, CA. Main test rider is Lance Coury.  ©Tony Donaldson/


They’ve come a long way since then, and shifted to bigger, more powerful street bikes capable of getting you to 100+ MPH about as fast. Journalist Mark Vaughn compares the acceleration to that of a slingshot.


Now there is the first American magazine for electric bikes, Electric Bike Action, published by Hi-Torque publications here in sunny SoCal. They cover bicycles and motorcycles. I’ve started contributing to the magazine, the first two articles were on the aforementioned eBike and Zero Motorcycles. I’ve been riding several different kinds, from commuter bikes to mountain bikes, and they are a BLAST. If you get a chance to take a test ride on one, don’t pass it up!

My First Kickstarter Was A Success!

April 16, 2015

Rad Army Poster


I was hanging out in Huntington Beach on a Tuesday night with a group of BMX friends. These weren’t just ANY BMXers, though. Among them were legendary riders Eddie Fiola and Martin Aparijo, as well as Bill Allen, the actor who played Cru Jones in the cult classic film Rad. I was hanging out and producing a couple of video interviews for a project Bill was working on.


While I had the lights set up, Eddie asked me to get a dramatically lit image of everyone there, There were about 30 riders hanging out, riding and having a little beach barbecue. They all lined up, we shot a very cool portrait, then I asked Eddie, Martin and Bill to hang out while I reset the lights again and did a portrait of the three of them. I loved the drama created by the light and the strong foreground shadow.


I thought it was a great image, so I laid out some type on it to make it look like a movie poster and posted it on a Facebook page or two to share with the guys. The response was overwhelming, to say the least. EVERYONE wanted a poster.


I wasn’t sure if everyone would actually buy one if we paid to print it up, so I talked it over with the guys and we started a Kickstarter campaign. I just wanted enough to cover printing, buying some shipping tubes, paying for postage, etc. That started to take off, and I learned a lot about Kickstarter. Most people don’t understand crowdfunding, so I spent some time online explaining it. It’s very low risk, if the campaign doesn’t reach 100% funding, nobody pays anything. Those personal explanations helped, in two weeks we wound up with 154% of what we originally needed.


44% of Kickstarter campaigns get fully funded, and those that don’t owe nothing. Those that do, they take a cut off the top. It’s a great way to do it, I learned a LOT in the process, but now I’m starting to get pictures back from those that earned a signed poster, seeing that they have them framed and are loving them.


It was a great experience with lots of personal stories from fans. People can still order posters, signed or unsigned, at


Now I’m getting ready for my next crowdfunding project, a series of video interviews. Stay tuned!

The Insane Fun of Magazine Shoots

April 9, 2015


Mel England Photoshoot

For this image, I lit Mel with a film noir look.

Editorial personality shoots are always fun and rely on experience, preparation, collaboration and often serendipity to fit an entire magazine shoot into a half of a day. 


Diane Anderson-Minshall, Editor in Chief of HIV Plus magazine and friend for well over a decade, asked me to shoot a cover and inside layout of actor Mel England. This is a big shoot for the magazine, Mel is a very outspoken, inspirational and well-known actor who has lived with HIV for over 20 years. And the magazine is redesigning their logo and cover, so they need an outstanding image for it.


I often don’t get to talk to the person I’m going to shoot, sometimes just to their handlers up until the day of the shoot. Mel called me directly beforehand and we discussed ideas. I had a studio booked, but he also wanted to do something outside. Getting a plethora of very different shots isn’t easy, especially on-the-fly on the day of the shoot. We decided to meet early in the morning near the Hollywood sign, I’d get a few shots of him there and then we’d head into the studio in Culver City.


We had Anton Khatchurian in charge of makeup and hair. He’s amazing, I also worked with him on a shoot with Jodi Lyn O’Keefe. His work is incredible and he’s a very fun, collaborative and calming influence on set.


We shot around the studio (including the kitchen) and against a simple background for the cover, giving him some movie hero-ish lighting.

Mel wore a Superman shirt, perfect for this cover image

Mel wore a Superman shirt, perfect for this cover image


We created a great image of him and his husband Tony Wandell and their dogs. For the final shot, I wanted to revisit something I did with George Lucas on a shoot; I lit him (top image) in a way that harkened back to George Hurrell’s portraits of the 1940s, truly an homage to the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Mel having one of his dogs there with him adds a bit of whimsy.


The Technical Side of Shooting Drones For The Cover Of A Magazine

April 1, 2015

Rotor Drone Cover with the DJI Inspire 1. Lit using PocketWizard Hypersync

Rotor Drone Cover with the DJI Inspire 1. Lit using PocketWizard Hypersync


I was hired by Air Age Media to shoot the insanely hot and sought-after DJI Inspire 1 drone. Creative Director Betty Nero asked me to create something high-tech and eye-catching. Though that’s something I regularly do, until you get to a location and see all the various aspects, you never know what you’re going to get to work with.


The shoot was scheduled for 8:30 AM, and I needed to shoot detail shots and some flight shots as well as the cover. I had people from DJI and a couple of very experienced operator/pilots to fly for me. The Inspire 1 is amazing, in that for a fraction of the cost of bigger drones, it can run with two operators. One to operate the drone and one to operate the 4K camera that hangs underneath, offering some outstanding opportunities for great shots from the copter itself.


A few delays in getting everything going, and it was nearly 10 AM by the time I was ready to shoot the cover image. It had rained up until we arrived, to the ground on the pad was wet. I decided to take advantage of the shadows that created and let the crew be backlit. I set up a Lumedyne 400 watt-second head into a medium softbox positioned just out of frame to the side, I was going to need all the light I could get, but I also wanted to show the angles of the Inspire 1, as well as the carbon fiber parts. It’s all subtle stuff, on a black frame with a white cover.


I also had to choose a shutter speed that would allow me to not quite freeze the motion of the props so it didn’t look Photoshopped in. All while controlling the background exposure to show some blue sky and a modicum of detail on the pilots. The Inspire 1 is the star, so it had to be up front. This balancing act is achieved by using Hypersync, a technology in the PocketWizard radios I use to control my flash. I won’t go into the details here, you can read about it on the PocketWizard Blog.


What you don’t get from this picture is that I shot it with a fisheye lens, so the drone is WAY closer than it looks. It’s almost giving me a haircut, a very scary and dangerous proposition considering those blades are carbon fiber. They may as well be knives. This is where an experienced pilot and the great controls built into the machine are critical. I kept having him get closer and closer, trying to get the sun in just the right place to shine through the back of the drone. I had ONE frame like this.


It was a great teamwork effort and the resulting cover is one I’m very proud of.

You Can Have It Your Way, As Long As It Doesn’t Violate This Rule

May 30, 2014

Fast, Cheap, and/or Good

The triumvirate of creative work


As a creative person who works with customers, both individuals and corporations, I have to provide detailed estimates for almost every job I do. And especially now, with the ubiquity of digital images on the web, all the great tools available to consumers. Since everyone has a digital camera and thinks good photography is easy, I have to explain something about any creative process to new clients.


Years of experience creating great work make my job SEEM easy, even when you watch me do it. I talked about this recently here.


The truth is, like the businesses I work for, I run a business. And there’s a rule to creating work. It can be fast, it can be cheap, and it can be good. But, it is impossible to have all three and for me to be able to do this as a business. And keep my sanity.


If I create something fast and good, it won’t be cheap. I’ll then have to push other projects I’m working on back to accommodate you. Time is far more valuable than even money. You can make more money, but you can’t make more time.


If I create something cheap and good, it won’t be fast. It will get done in my spare time between other projects. And as a business, I often bias my work toward those that create the most profit. But as a creative, something that really fires me up creatively will get some extra priority, even if I have to take time out from other things I love, like mountain biking.


If I create something cheap and fast, it won’t be good. These are the types of jobs I usually pass on. They don’t require my level of talent, and I have done a lot to eliminate the types of clients who want this kind of work. There are plenty of GWCs (Guys With a Camera) out there who can do this. If you work with me, you don’t have this low level of work, anyway. You expect quality.


If in doubt, check the image above. When commissioning creative work, you can have any two but not all three. Good is always on your mind, so you now only have to decide how fast you want it done.



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