Texas Burlesque Festival

Every April, we hold the Texas Burlesque Festival here in Austin.  This year celebrates the 10th anniversary, and I'm proud to say that it will be my 8th year affiliated with the festival.  The first year was 2007, which was before I had begun shooting burlesque, followed by 2009 after they skipped a year.  I attended as a guest in 2009, and got the opportunity to shoot as a volunteer in 2010.  In 2012, I became the director of photography, and I've been doing it ever since.

As part of the 10th anniversary, we're having it at the Stateside Theatre at the Paramount, an historic theatre that opened its doors in 1935.  It's a major step up for us, and I'm crazy excited about the show.  There are shows Thursday night (Newcomer night - always a ton of fun), Friday night (headliners and legends where you will see some of the best acts in the world), and Saturday night (competition night that always gets out of hand), so come on down and say hello.  Get your tickets here!

Here's a slideshow of some of the best photos from the past 8 years.  It's a bit long, but there have been close to 400 performers over the past 10 years.  Even culling it down to the highlights, there's still close to 500 images.  Anyway, enjoy, and feel free to skip around.
 

Pictures from the past 10 years of the Texas Burlesque Festival. All images are copyright the original photographer and used with permission.

SXSW 2010

Back in 1989, I was sixteen and one of the few sophomores at my high school who had a driver's license and a pass to park on campus.  I'd pick up my friend Chris on the way, and we'd trade tapes back and forth, questioning who was the bigger Metallica fan, who played better bass (Les Claypool), all that stuff.  One day, Chris stuck Scumdogs of the Universe into my tape deck, and I've been a fan of Gwar ever since.

So cut to 2010.  I'm a fledgling photographer with a day job picking up the odd gig here and there, when I get a gig working for one of the local weekly papers following Gwar around the convention center at SXSW.  It was an amazing day!  I got to hang out with one of my heroes, David Brockie aka Oderus Urungus, and be around people who were dedicated to their art and music.  And get paid for it.  I was living the dream.

It's hard to explain how much Gwar has been a part of me over the years.  When I get too full of myself or caught up in the grind, Gwar always brings me back, reminds me not to take myself seriously, have fun with my art, and remember that life moves fast, so we should stop and enjoy the shit out of it every once in a while.

Here's a few of the photos from that day, seven years ago as I write this.
 

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween, everyone!  I hope you are all staying warm and dry in this stormy, wet weather.  If you're wearing a great costume and need a place to show it off, stop by and get your picture taken on the Black Carpet at the Zombie Ball.  Tickets are still on sale, and it's one of the greatest Halloween events of all time.  I'll be there taking pictures of the performers and the hundreds of amazing costumes everyone brings.

Want to see pics from last year?  Here's my gallery:

Zombie Ball 2014
Password:  Zombie Ball

Every year, I like to do a couple of Halloween-themed pinups.  This year, we did the Bride of Frankenstein.  Below is the exclusive pinup, but we also did a set that got published in this month's issue of Texas Inked Magazine.  Get your copy here.

Thanks to Kimber Fox, my model, and Aneysa Moreno, my hair and makeup artist who also helped me put together the costume.  We made it from cotton gauze and bandages that we soaked in black tea.  The tea gave the cotton a yellow, withered, antique look and helped give it more texture.  We shot on a white background, and I composited in the moon and bats.  The bats are from a royalty free vector background kit I found a few years ago, and the background was provided courtesy of my good friend Mark Daughn.

I hope everyone is having a nice Samhein or Halloween.  Stay safe and get candy!

Steve

Weight Loss Day 1

It's 4:30am on a Wednesday, September 2, 2015.  I've woken from a really bad dream where I went to a strip club, met Stills and Nash from Crosby, Still, and Nash, and locked myself in the bathroom just as we were about to party.  It was so real...

Anyway, sleeping has become difficult for me.  The stress of being a self-employed business owner struggling to stay ahead in this economy causes me all kinds of difficulties.  Add on top of that my skyrocketing weight problem, and it's a wonder I get any sleep at all.  Looking around for solutions, I can't help but think of the adage that helped me quit smoking and drinking back in the day - I can't do anything about the rest of the world.  I can only control me and how I respond to it.  I can't do much about the immediate stressors - work and money come and go, and I can have some influence on it, but not as much as I'd like.  But my weight is an issue I can address, and it's something I can take hold of.

I've always been an overweight kid.  With a brief exception at the end of high school and early college when I was an athletic trainer and getting in a fair amount of exercise, I have always been chubby and overweight.  Even during that brief period, I still felt like the fattest kid in the room.

It's time I change that.  If I can fix one thing about me, it's that.  I'm not going to turn this blog into my personal diary of weight loss and change, but I am going to use it from time to time to talk about what I'm going through and how it's changed me.  I need an outlet to talk about my goals and what I want to accomplish and to keep track of how I'm doing.

Since fewer people read this than read my Facebook page, I think it's less embarrassing for me to talk about it here, too.

Anyway, today is day 1 of what's going to be a long journey.  Stay tuned.

Austin MD - July / August 2015 Cover

One of the things I really enjoy about photography is getting to meet some of the really interesting people that live and work in our community.  Case in point was the subject of Austin MD's July / August 2015 Cover - Greg Abbink.  Greg is an instructor at the Austin Police Academy who has dedicated his life and career to teaching and improving the standards of the Austin Police Department.   He's a great guy and was a fascinating subject to work with.  What makes him especially special is that he is one of the first police officers in the country who is transgender.

Now I could go off on politics and my personal beliefs and long standing support for the LGBTQ community, but honestly, it's not about me.  And if you're not LGBTQ friendly, then I'm not going to change your mind in a blog post.  Maybe I'll talk about my personal politics on this issue in another post.

Anyways, I think that fact that our police chief and police department have actively supported LGBT officers is awesome.  Greg brings a unique perspective and provides a great resource for the department.  He makes the unfamiliar familiar and puts a face on the transgender community that officers can recognize and identify with, and I think that's a great thing for the future of our city.

Shooting with Greg was a lot of fun.  I was commissioned to shoot the cover, title page, and provide some extra images for the article itself.  Doing my research, I was trying to find a balance between the obvious topic and placing Greg as an instructor at the academy.  We shot in his office, in the gym, in front of the academy, and in one of the classrooms.  Because we were shooting in so many places, I tried to keep my gear light and portable.   I used a beauty dish with a diffusion sock on an AB800 with the VLM battery back.  I tried to balance the ambient with strobe and still create a sense of place.

Here's the cover, and you can read the entire issue here.

As always, comments and feedback are appreciated, and I'm happy to answer questions about the shoot.



All American Summer

It's the dog days of summer here in Austin, and that means high temperatures and the kind of oppressive heat that will keep you in doors thanking whatever god inspired the invention of modern air conditioning.  Seriously, I don't know how we would live in the South without it.  I see those old movie stereotypes of the men and women in 20 layers of wool and cotton sitting on a porch in a rocker with lemon-aide and mint juleps, and it makes me wonder how we ever survived here.

So it's times like this when no one wants to shoot outside, and everyone is on vacation that I like to go shoot in the Austin greenbelt.  Tall, shady trees, and access to Bull Creek or Barton Springs, or even parts of the Colorado River make these places ideal for a quick private shoot.  When you get too hot, you can always take a break and jump in the cold, cold water to refresh yourself.

There are dozens of little places to shoot on the greenbelt.  I've shot at this one quite a few times, and it's become my favourite.  When the water is up, there are some really pretty waterfalls, and there's lots of places to shade the sun or get good sunlight from behind.  There's a really deep pool at the base of the waterfall, and you can relax and swim there in clear, blue water without much fear.  Sure, there's the occasional coral snake or cotton mouth, and there's always a turtle or two, but I find if you stay away from them, they stay away from you.

This shoot was a quick, spontaneous shoot.  I realized I hadn't shot anything patriotic for the 4th of July.  Originally, I had wanted to do body paint for the suit, but couldn't get time booked with my body painter, Amy, before the holiday, so we decided to shoot out at the green belt in a patriotic bikini I picked up from American Apparel.

Kendall, the model, is one of my go-to models.  I've been shooting with her for at least three years, and I've watched her develop into a strong, confident, beautiful model.  I know I can count on her to bring a fun, positive energy to the shoot and to elevate whatever we've planned to the next level.

Enjoy the pics below.  I used all ambient light with some reflector fill.  As always, feel free to comment and ask questions.

Model:  Kendall Karczewski
Hair and makeup provided by the model
Bikini:  American Apparel
Location:  Austin Greenbelt
Assistant:  Jordan Danielle Lowery
 

Study Breaks - July 2015 Issue

For the July 2015 cover of Study Breaks, I got an unusual request.  The magazine has spent much of 2015 going through a bit of an overhaul, and this was the first issue featuring the new editorial staff.  Mark, the new editor, wanted a high key image featuring the winner of the  Study Breaks Swimsuit Cover Contest, Jessica Delgado.  We were able to work out permission with Rio, a high end bottle service bar on west 6th Street.  The two story club features a pool on the roof, which provided an ideal location and a super classy setting.  Ian, the graphics designer, and I worked out a concept that we thought might work and sketched out a quick shot list based on the theme.

For the shoot, I used two AB800s with grid spots as backlights coming in on either side of the model from behind and an Einstein E640 with a diffused beauty dish for the main coming in above and in front of the camera position.  We set up a diffusion panel to the model’s left to block direct sunlight coming in from the sun just over the tops of the buildings.

For the image itself, I used a higher ISO and opened up the aperture.  I also let some of the rim light bleed into the camera lens to give a “foggy” appearance and add to the effect of being in the pool.

We duplicated the look for the interior editorial using the Rio's staff bartenders as well.

 

Camera Settings:
  Canon 5D Mark II
  Canon 70-200mm F2.8L at 200mm
  F/4,  1/125sec,  ISO 640
Styling:  Karinna Lopez
Hair and makeup provided by the model
Model:  Jessica Delgado
Location:  Rio Lounge rooftop pool in Austin, TX

Click here to see the entire Austin edition of this issue.

Thanks, and feel free to ask me any questions about the shot.

Steve