All Images, reflections, memories and fabrications ©2011 Tony Hernandez Photography

Sunday, January 31, 2010



©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Saturday, January 30, 2010



©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Friday, January 29, 2010

Used cars


©2010 Tony Hernandez 

Thursday, January 28, 2010


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I dream of palm trees

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Road less travelled

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Monday, January 25, 2010


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Words credit ....

Posting up some new work because an image is worth 1000 words.

At least, that's what I've heard.


Hotrod Shrugged

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Saturday, January 23, 2010


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Friday, January 22, 2010


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Thursday, January 21, 2010


 ©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where do I go from here ?

My time as a high school photographer was coming to an end. Our little gang of darkroom dwellers had grown very close in a couple of years and we did a lot of things together outside of school. Our favorite group activity was backpacking. Explorers Post 477 met once a month to plan trips into the wilderness with everything we needed carried on our backs. When you spend a few days with people hiking for miles, sleeping in the open air, cooking on campfires, and generally just messing around, you get to know them pretty well. It was a coed post so there were always separate camps depending on who you were with, who you wanted to be with, or, who you just ended up with. The one common thread that bound us all was the camera. We would hike in and set up camp. The first night, fires would blaze until the wee hours while we sat around just being ourselves, talking about anything and everything. The next morning would be "exploring day". Cameras in hand, we would take off together in search of mischief and cool things to shoot. I remember saying "lets follow this little waterfall up to see where it starts" during one of our outings. What started as a quiet little trip up the hill turned into a full on quest to see where that darn thing was coming from. There were times when we were almost waist deep in water as we waited our turn to climb up the next drop off because we were sure it was going to end right up there. It got to the point of comical as we were drenched by the "now larger waterfall" we had found that was feeding the small one we had started following in the first place. By the time we returned to the camp, we were soaked but happy. We had all shot tons of photos with the film the school had so nicely provided and, no ones camera had ended up in the water. They were some of the best times of my life and I cherish them all. Our memories were, for the most part, captured on film by one or more of us.

Always from a different angle.

Usually never of the same thing.

Yet we all shooting at the same place and time.


©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the Senate

I know this is supposed to be a blog about photography, but I just can't help myself tonight. In one of the biggest political upsets in the history of this great country, Scott Brown, the Republican, defeated Martha Coakley, the Democrat, in the Independent state of Massachusetts. I know it's "supposed to be" the great Democrat, Kennedy state, but the voters showed their independence today. The tide may finally be turning on the nightmare that is the "one party rule" taking place in Washington D.C. at the present time. The arrogance of the current congress is about to be paid back in a big way. Watching the liberal news stations tonight was a blast. CNN, MSNBC, CNBC were all about blaming the candidate, which is partially true. But the real reason for the loss was about the direction the country is being taken by the likes of Barak Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. It was a message that was sent loud and clear. "Can you hear me now?" With any luck, the "rules for radicals" gang may be out of business as soon as November of this year. That being said ..... a big "congratulations" goes out to all of those voters in Massachusetts who voted for "the good of the country", not "the good of the party".

Monday, January 18, 2010

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The last hurrah for pom pom girls .... and football photographs

Being a photographer in high school was great. I was amazed at how much freedom we were given to photograph events on and off campus. I once got out of class to photograph the entire marching band parading through the AV department. I think it was someone in the departments birthday. Middle of the day, pulled out of class, it was great. Field trips with the Homecoming kings, queens and attendants for the honors section. Out to the field for the All State football players photo. Clubs, groups, student government, everything and anything. Now I understood how Bob, the guy with the black hat, was able to cross over the "clique lines" so easily. When you have a camera in your hands, it's amazing how welcoming people of all types can be. Our high school even went to the state championship  football game in my senior year. The game was to be held at the stadium of Arizona State University. It was the biggest thing the school had accomplished in it's few short years in existence so "access to the field" was crucial. We found out on Monday following the semi-final game, there would only be "one press pass" allotted to the yearbook photographers and, one pass for the newspaper guys. Needless to say, the lobbying for the pass started immediately. All of the "seasoned" photographers hit up Mrs. D during the course of the day. All of them except me. I figured I would let her decide who "deserved" the pass by looking at the work done during the season. The layouts for the football section were filled with photographs I had taken. One of the other guys, we'll call him "Bruce", wanted the pass really bad. He was a first year guy who considered himself in high regard when it came to photography. In all honesty, he was a decent shooter but, his attitude and willingness to suck up to the advisor were a bit off putting to the rest of us on the photography staff. But hey, who am I to stop someone from trying to get ahead, right? The week before the game went by slowly. Anticipation for the game was at an all time high throughout the school. But in the yearbook room, it seemed even higher. Mrs. D, our lovable yet super strict boss had not made a decision regarding the pass for "the big game". I saw Bruce butt smooching his head off all week. Every time I looked in the general direction of Mrs. D's desk, there he was. It was sickening, but I had to give him credit, he was going all out. Friday finally came with no word on who was getting the pass. The school day was almost over. The crew was wrapping up the days work in preparation for the weekend and "the big game". I was sitting in the room outside the darkroom looking at contact sheets when Mrs. D came up to me. She sat down and began to quietly talk to me. After a short discussion, she handed me the pass and told me to keep it on a low profile. "No problem" I said. Right after she left the room, I went back into the darkroom to secretly celebrate. When I came out, there was Bruce. He didn't look very happy. I guess he had heard form Mrs. D too. I looked at him, smiled, and left the room. On the field that night, I saw Bruce in the stands. I guess he figured out who ended up with the pass. He did somehow get on the field in the forth quarter with his camera. I guess his butt smooching paid off in the end.

But by that time, the important parts of the game had already happened.

The only thing left for me to photograph in my final football game were the pom pom girls.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kicking and screaming .... all the way to the digital world

I may have been one of the last professional photographers in my area to make the switch to a digital camera. The photo store I went to for supplies was beginning to keep cretain things on the shelves just for me. I seemed to be the only one left shooting "type B" film. Polaroid was a hit and miss for stock on hand, and sometimes, at least two stores were visited just to get enough film to get through a shoot. It was getting ridiculous. For the record, I still believe film is far superior to digital imaging in many ways but ... "you can't stop progress". To me, there's still nothing like a perfectly exposed 4x5 transparency on a light table with a 30 power magnifier sitting next to it. But alas, things have moved on and the digital camera rules. Just before the switch, I was shooting everything with two Hasselblad bodies and four lenses. The difference in speed with the Hasselblad, as opposed to a 4x5 view camera is amazing. The image quality of the lenses are awesome. I really do miss shooting with that camera. In digital's defense, it's even faster than that. Shooting with large format cameras takes time. Just exposing the film could take a few minutes to a couple of hours depending on the shot. Making the move to the medium format systems expedited the exposure process because you no longer had to deal with large film holders, only compact film backs that clicked right on the camera body, and much shorter exposure times. Now, when the shot looks good in the little screen on the camera, or a laptop ..... your done. I think that's one of the best things about shooting digital. That, and being able to take small, annoying things out of the shot. Things like light switches, air conditioning registers, alarm sensors. I'm not one of the "we can fix it later" crowd. I still shoot 99% of the final image in camera. It's just too hard for an OCD-ish guy like me to pass up removing an ugly wall socket in a shot. In the 80's, shooters liked to put plants in front of things like that. It got to the point where looking at an interior design ad photo was like looking at a jungle with furniture. "Too much of a good thing?" I think so. But now, anything is possible with a little knowledge of photography and a lot of Photoshop classes. I am amazed by what's being done with digital images and a computer. My personal Photoshop skills are limited because I don't have the need to "put things together" later. Having done it that way for film makes it easier. I really should take some classes on the subject, just to broaden my horizons, but I find it hard to get excited about it

That must be my last kick and scream.

Friday, January 15, 2010

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tinker toys and the joys of worry free riding

We tinker because we must. I don't know about you, but I have to mess with stuff. There has to be "someway" to improve or understand better, everything I get my hands on. While sometimes visual, there also seems to be a "small amount" of operational tinkering that goes on with the things I choose to propel myself on. It started with my not so genuine "Schwinn Stingray styled" bicycle in the 70s. Ape hanger handlebars were all the rage back then. Everybody was doing it. But what was even cooler was ... boxed in handlebars! They were the same as ape hangers, only with less bend in them so the hand grips were much closer together. I'm pretty sure it was an "Easy Rider" thing. All of my friends wanted them but, we had no idea where they came from. I finally got up the nerve to ask the guy in the neighborhood where he got his. He laughed and said, "I did it myself". I was amazed! How did you do it? "Easy! You want me to do them on your bike?" The thought of having real "boxed in handlebars" was too good to pass up. I said "Sure"! He then proceeded to throw my mock Stingray on the ground, and began pushing on the bars until one of them bent. I was still in shock as he lifted my bike up, looked at it, threw it down again on the other side, and proceed to repeat the process I had just seen. Before I could totally freak out, he lifted the bike once again. Looked at it and rolled it over to me. There they were. The most perfect set of boxed in bars I had ever seen. Thinking back on it, they probably weren't all that perfect. But to me, I was way cool. I thanked him and rode off to show my friends. They were also astounded. "Where did you get those?" They asked. I told them the story and next thing you know, everyone's bike was on the ground getting "custom bars". From then on, whether it was bikes, skateboards, motorcycles, cars, everything had to be "tweaked". Just for the record, I am not a mechanical wizard. I know people who are and I am certainly not one of them. But I'm not a complete idiot when it comes to things like that. So off I go into the world of tinkering. My current tinker toy is a motorcycle. It's the most basic, simple, clean machine I could find. Nothing fancy. No flashing lights, windshields, heated grips, fuel injection, stereos ..... nothing. Just the basics, and that's the way I like it. It's amazing what you can do to this thing with the simplest tools. But the best part is, at least for me, is being able to do minor stuff yourself. The ability to make adjustments and understand why they were made is awesome. It reminds me of when we were skateboarders. We would build up our own boards. No Vans pro-shop for us ..... probably because there weren't any. We knew every nut, bolt and bearing. "Know thy equipment" we would always say. And now, it's the motorcycle. There's always something to do to it. I'm sure it was perfect to the guy who owned it before me, but there's always something I feel the need to change or improve. A new tail light. A carb adjustment. Changing the handlebars. Always something. If I was smart, I would have bought one of those new fangled, fuel injected, heated grip jobs and would have never had to worry about the stuff I do with my basic ride.

But seriously, where's the fun in that?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

OCD for fun and profit

I was sitting in the living room one day channel surfing, when something caught my eye. The guy on the screen looked slightly familiar, but that's not what it was. It's what he was doing that stopped my remote finger dead in it's tracks. There he was, this vaguely familiar gentleman, on the floor, combing the fringe on a floor rug so it all went in one direction. He then went to the other end of the rug and did the same thing. So far so good, I thought to myself. I've personally done that many times. I understand where he's coming from. It was, in effect, almost perfect visually. He then proceeded to walk through what I assume was his house, moving objects and furniture, ever so slightly to the left or right. Clockwise and counterclockwise. Everything in the room was just the way he wanted to see it. At that point, I was totally engaged. It was probably because I had done the same thing, not only in my home, but also in just about every house I have ever photographed in my professional career. Visual perfection, while unattainable in reality, does make everything look so much better. Just an inch to the left ..... Perfect. And this, a little clockwise turn, forward two inches .... perfect. Overlap those items just a touch to create visual tension .... Pefecto. And on and on it goes. I can't remember how many times I have had to get off the couch at home to move something a "smidge", just so it doesn't bother me to look at it. Sounds a bit crazy, doesn't it? Well .... I guess it really is. The show I was watching was about OCD. The guy on the screen was some kids TV show star. I think it was the show that introduced "slime-ing" people to the masses but I don't remember the name of the show. He was opening his life to everyone watching the show so they could better understand OCD and it's effect on peoples lives. Needless to say, that shocked me a bit. Here was this guy, doing the same thing I do on a regular basis, claiming he had a problem. Which I'm sure he believes he has. But I didn't see it that way. While I feel for all of those people out there with major, debilitating OCD, I know we can also learn from it.

It's what I call ....... OCD for fun and profit.

By that I mean ..... if you see something in the viewfinder that you are about to shoot, but it isn't in the exact place you want it, and you have the ability to move the object before you click the shutter, go over there and MOVE IT! Don't say "I'll fix it later in Photoshop". The small amount of time it takes to move it will save you hours in the long run sitting behind a computer "fixing something" you could have moved before you shot it. I say this more to the next generation of photographers who have the luxury we "old timers" didn't have of "fixing it later".

Less time in post means more profit on the time spent on the computer.

Hence: "OCD for fun and profit."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Initail idea and the home town play by play guys

When I first started this blog, I really thought it was going to be all about photography. My life and times behind the lens .. if you will. But alas, I have many interests so, it's hard to keep the one theme idea going in perpetuity. It's not that I won't be revisiting my earlier posts on the subject, but for now, random thoughts will have to do until I get my writing plan in order. That being said, I must share some thoughts about tonight's Lakers vs Spurs game on TV. It wasn't supposed to be on regular TV this evening. Tonight's game was the sole property of NBA League pass. A "pay per view" service that carries all of your favorite teams games for a small fee of .... well... it's more than I want to pay. For me, getting the scores on my iPhone for free from ESPN is usually enough to get me through until the next regularly televised game. Luckily for all of us Laker fans out there, NBATV does "fan night" on Tuesdays. The way it works is, every Tuesday during the basketball season, all of the next weeks games are posted on the NBATV website. The fans are then allowed to choose the game to be televised by total vote count. Most of the time, there's a Lakers game on Tuesday so, it's usually the game that's picked. This Tuesday was no exception. Los Angeles was in San Antonio for the game and the crowd was very into it from the start. The Spurs fell behind early but came back in the first half to take the lead which they would not relinquish for the rest of the game. Yes, the Lakers lost. But even though my favorite team was behind, I was enjoying the game way more than I should have. The reason for my enjoyment you ask? It was the home teams play by play announcers. One of them being Sean Elliot, who played his college hoops at the University of Arizona. I don't know the other guys name but, these guys were on it tonight. The beauty of fan night is the local coverage. And local coverage means very slanted and biased commentary from the guys behind the microphone. I'm used to some "local color" to the play by play but tonight, it was on a whole different level than I have ever heard. It was great. No pretending by the two sportscasters as the proceeded to go "all in" with tonight's call. At one point, Sean Elliot was on fire. Calling Lamar Odom, "Lamar Kardashian". I thought to myself, good one Sean. Then he made reference to Ron Artest's holiday accident after Artest went all the way to the hoop for a score uncontested. Mr. Elliot chimed in, "that was easier than carrying  Christmas presents into the house". I rolled on that one. It continued for the rest of the game until the very end. It was "local color" at is most extreme and I loved it.

I hope the Lakers continue to win the Tuesday vote on fan night.

That way, I can enjoy the games from a "completely different " point of view.

And that my friends .... is a good thing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

3 wires and one lost Saturday

On a completely different subject ....... it's amazing how one can loose an entire Saturday just trying to connect 3 wires. Why must we tinker with stuff? To be honest, I could have taken it to "a guy" and  paid him to connect the wires. But I said NO! I can "do it myself". After all, it's only 3 wires, right? With that, my Saturday was doomed. It started out well. The part I thought was going to be the hardest turned out to be the easiest thing I did all day. Now, it was on to phase two. "The easy part". With a call already haven been placed to "the guy", who was nice enough to give me some information, I went about connecting the 3 wires. It can't be that hard, right? So I'm off to the hardware store to buy a soldering iron, some connectors, and a test light. Everything I need is at hand. Back at the house, I enter the garage and prepare to do battle with the 3 wires. Little did I know the 3 wires were sent directly from Hell. The original part that was being replaced came off in record time. All I had to do now was, strip the old wires down, strip a piece off the new wires, cut some heat shrink, solder the wires together "for a good solid connection", shrink the covering, connect the battery, turn the key and "PRESTO"! All done and ready to test out. But that's not exactly how it went. In order to make sure everything is connected correctly, it's always a good idea to test fit the connections together before you do any soldering or heat shrinking. That being done, you then just turn the key and PRESTO! It lights up and your ready to solder and shrink. So, I turn the key and ....... nothing. No problem, just a couple of adjustments and .... nothing again. Over and over, adjustment after adjustment, nothing. The pattern was set. I wonder if this is how Charlie Brown feels as he's flying through the air after missing the football he was trying to kick? The best thing to do is walk away and, start fresh tomorrow. I spent Sunday doing other stuff and thinking about the problem I was having connecting the 3 wires from Hell. It just can't be that hard. Semi-serious self doubt was beginning to creep in. Am I really that much of a spaz that I can't even connect 3 lousy wires without having to call "a guy" to do it for me? For goodness sake, my very "dude-ism" was at stake here. Sunday came and went with no action on the 3 wires. Best left alone until Monday, just in case "I need to call the guy". Off to bed with those stupid wires haunting my every thought. Monday will be better ..... it has to be.

With a full nights sleep, a day away from "the wires from Hell",and a better attitude, I went back into the garage to finish the work I had started on Saturday. For the sake of argument, if I had let "the guy" do it for me, it would have taken him a half an hour, for which he would have charged me 35 bucks. Instead, I chose to "do it myself". It ended up taking hours of my time and probably 40 or so bucks for tools, parts and other stuff that didn't work in getting the 3 wires connected right. It also cost me a beautiful day of riding my motorcycle because it was "only 3 wires". But in the end, I beat it. I figured out the problem and got it to work. It was such a relief. I no longer felt like a spaz. Like a guy who was on the verge of loosing his "dude-ism". I was back baby and better than ever. The problem ended up being a cheap part used by the manufacturer that when replaced, made everything work just like it was supposed to.

So Saturday sucked ....... but I feel great today ......... because I didn't have to "call the guy".

I can't wait until the next time I decide "not to call the guy".

If anything, it's sure to be an adventure.

I'll let you know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Saturday, January 9, 2010

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Friday, January 8, 2010

Free football and Pom Pom girls

It finally happened. I'm sure I still have the "official press pass" here somewhere after all if these years. I finally get to shoot a Varsity football game. The gods on high, Bob and Larry, the two seniors in charge, have granted me the opportunity to be on the field to record the piece of history that was our beloved high school football team. I'm sure there are people out there who know exactly what I mean. When you go to a "football school", you just know it. The vast majority of our school was hooked up on the program. You still had your cliques, groups and bands of social outcasts, but even they were into being at the games. I came to find out later, the outcasts were using the game as an excuse to go out and get high. But at that point in my life, I was clueless about things like that. It was the place to be on Friday nights. The stands were always filled on both sides of the field with students, parents and fans from both schools. The one area that was off limits to most, and by far the best place to be, was on the field. The first time I got past the teacher and cop at the gate to get on the field was a heart racing moment. Kind of like Niel Armstrong stepping on the moon, only not as important to the history of the world. There, past the dirt running track was Bob and Larry.... and Frank .... and one other guy who's name escapes me at the moment, on the sidelines, all with cameras in their hands, working every part of the field the photographers were allowed to go. I suddenly understood. Yes, you had to have a pass to get on the field according to Mrs. D. But once you were part of the crew, it seemed as though there would always be "an extra person or two" who happened to be there with his, or her camera, that always seemed to get on the field. This even happened at some of the away games. Talk about one big photo party. Mrs D, our fearless leader and still to this day, one of the most intense people I have ever known, called us on it when it started showing up in the amount of film we were going though during the course of one game. The new guy, which was me, and the underclassmen were given two rolls of film each. The upperclassmen however, probably had five or six rolls each in their pockets. Shooting those games were such a blast. If you wanted to get right in there on the sidelines and shoot the action, which was always there when your school had a good team, you could. High school football  players are no match size and speed wise when they're compared to a college or a pro player. But when you have two, three or more guys, running at full speed in your direction, and you don't get out of the way fast enough, that comparison won't help you in the end. I found when you can only see a players numbers in your viewfinder with a 200mm lens, and he's heading right at you, with a couple of guys chasing him, it's time to get the heck up and run! This critical information would come in handy only four years later while shooting  photographs at the Fiesta Bowl. A flash of memory during the days action was confirmed by a replay of that years bowl game highlights. I had just gotten home from working the game. Tired and hungry from shooting all day, I sat down in front of the TV for a bite and to put my feet up. On the boob tube was a recap of the big sports plays of the day. One of them was from the Fiesta bowl I had just come from. As I watched one such replay, I could see myself running like I was wanted in fifty states in order to get out of the way of four or five players flying out of bounds, taking out a couple of photographers on the sidelines in the process. I knew it was me from the red jacket I was wearing. Then, all of a sudden, the "flash of memory" hit my brain. It was one of the photographers who was right behind me on the field, being taken out by the fast moving group of very large football players. I saw him go down right behind me as I was just able to get clear of the carnage. I remember seeing his cameras flying into the air along with his bag and other gear. It only took seconds but, it seemed to take forever. And there was that memory, from a completely different angle, on the nights sports report. I'm sure the play was awesome, I don't think I ever looked at the football players. All I saw was the guy behind me, flying in the air, equipment being gobbled up by the momentum, with myself a half a step in front. I can almost see his eyes right before they got him. You gotta love shooting sports! It became a rush to see what was on the film after shooting a game. All of the photographers would pour over the contact sheets on Monday to see who had the best shots of the game. Even though the crew was shooting ten to twenty rolls of film per game, there were only two pages of varsity football in the entire yearbook. So space was limited to only the best of the best shots. I'm pretty sure I didn't get any of my shots into the football section my first year, but that's o.k. I had some of the best times of my life on that field with those guys. And I wouldn't trade those times for every shot in the book.

Having been given only two rolls of film per game put a premium on shot selection. It was a fortunate consequence of being a new guy. Shoot too fast and your standing around with a great view of the game, a couple of o.k. photos and that's about it. But pick and choose your shots, and all of the  sudden, your rolls of film are filled with great captured moments in time.

Or at the very least, lots and lots of pom pom girls.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"You shoot pictures. I shoot photographs."

The first time I heard this little doozie, I knew it was a keeper. Talk about speaking volumes with six simple words. It came from another "photography advisor" we had briefly during my first year on the staff. Rick M, as he was known to us, somehow knew Mrs. D, the scary, but fair dictator of the yearbook. He had been in the Navy. That's where he had learned the skill of photography. He was meticulous in the darkroom. His attention to detail, not to mention his photography knowledge, was far above anyone on the staff. The careful way he went about everything he did regarding the photographic process was inspiring. We all learned a lot from Rick during his short time with us. He did kind of kill the "Nerf basketball" time in the darkroom but, he did teach us new techniques in film processing, printing, and best of all, shooting. A wizard with stop action photography, he used his flash in a way we had never seen before. It's wasn't some groundbreaking technique back then, or even now, but with all of our limited knowledge of photography as high school-ers, none of us had seen anyone use a flash like he did. We were all "available light guys" back in the day. "All hail to Ansel Adams and Edward Weston!" we would chant in our tiny little minds. Using a flash was always the last resort for us. When we didn't have enough light, we would "push the film" a stop or two and presto! Rick used the flash in a different way. He was all about stopping the action and getting the shot, but he still wanted to have some of the ambient light showing in the image to give it "balance". He would literally wait for entire quarters in a basketball game to get one or two good shots. It seemed crazy to us. That's probably because we had an unlimited supply of film at our disposal, generously supplied by the school of course. But to him, it was about being patient, thoughtful, and determined when it came to photography. He also had one of the coolest cameras I had ever seen. [again] I had only seen a few in my day but the one he had was awesome. Rick shot with a Pentax 6x7. If you don't know what that is, it's a 2 1/4" film camera that is set up like a 35mm, only much larger and, much more cumbersome. He had an entire system. The camera body, 3 lenses, different viewfinders, the whole ball of wax, in one shiny silver case. The image quality was amazing compared to a 35mm. The negative or transparency you shot with it was huge. Five or six times larger than a 35mm in size. It was this camera, and it's operator that led me down a new path in search of "image quality", and "truly wanting to know the process" of taking great photographs. I ended up buying that camera system from Rick a year later. He was going Hasselblad. The baddest medium format camera known to man at that time. I used that 6x7 for everything from skateboarding photos to studio set ups, and everything in between. It was one of my favorite cameras .... until it was stolen from my car years later. I was so bummed. On a positive note, the camera was insured and I was able to use the money I got for it to purchase my first set of studio strobe lighting. I still had a 35mm to shoot with so lighting seemed to be the next logical step.

I guess there's a silver lining in everything.

I can always tell the Pro's from the Shmo's by if they say: "pictures or photographs"

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What's next after processing film and one of the best practical jokes I ever witnessed

The next step after processing your film is making a print. It's actually making a contact sheet but, for the sake of the story, we'll skip that step. After loading the negative in the holder, putting it in the enlarger, focusing the grain and, composing the image on the easel, a "test strip" needs to be made in order to determine how long to expose the photographic paper to make a final print. That's done by taking a strip of photo paper and laying it on the easel. You then take a piece of matte board, or any other light proof material, and cover the photo paper, leaving a small area to be exposed to light. The board is then moved over an inch at a time until the entire strip of paper is exposed. What ends up happening is, you get varying degrees of light to dark exposures on one piece of paper. The exposure that looks the best is the time the entire sheet of paper needs to be exposed to create a full print of the image. Its not a super complicated process but, it does take a little bit of time. Which oddly enough,  reminds me of an "incident" that happened during my second year on the yearbook staff. Well, maybe not so much an "incident". It was much more of  a "practical joke", perpetrated on our new "photography advisor" by some unknown operators who happened to be working their evil in our high school darkroom. On that particular day, our new photography advisor, we will call him "Mr. Ray", had planned on showing the new photographers how to make a test strip so they could begin printing their own shots. The rest of us "seasoned photographers" had been trained in an environment with little to no adult supervision once we left the room to shoot an assignment or, when we walked back into the darkroom to "make prints". The people in charge of the photographers were one year older than us and it seemed to work out ok. While we did make prints, do the shoots, and get the work done that needed to be done, there were also great "Nerf Basketball" games played in that darkroom. It was full contact with no holds barred. I'm surprised the paramedics weren't called in during some of those games. That first year on the photography staff was a blast. We all became good, close friends. We went on camping trips together, hung out together at school, and were just as close to a "gang" as a bunch of nerdy photographers could be. Anyway, getting back to the story, So I guess the "evil perpetrators" working our darkroom got wind of Mr. Ray's demonstration. They then proceeded to put in motion, one of the funniest photography pranks I've seen. It seems as though the perps, had "pre-exposed" a few sheets of scrap photo paper that were commonly used for, well, test strips in our darkroom. It was a small box with five or six pieces of paper in it. They must have just opened the box with all of the lights on in the darkroom, fogging the paper to the point where, once put in the developer, the paper would immediately turn "completely black" in a matter of seconds, as opposed to the image slowly appearing on the paper over the course of say, a minute or two. It was genius! That afternoon, Mr. Ray had all of the newbies surrounding him at the enlarger. He meticulously exposed the scrap piece of paper, which he had pulled from the very same box that was tampered with by the unknown evil-doers. After explaining the process, Mr. Ray then moved to the chemical trays and put the paper into the developer. It turned completely black in about 5 seconds. Stunned at the outcome, he laughed nervously and redid the test strip in order to demonstrate the "proper technique" of making test strips. Once again, he placed the exposed paper into the chemicals and, once again, it turned completely black. Only this time, it took a mere 3 seconds. [ must have been closer to the top of the box when the lights went on ] Completely flabbergasted, he turned to where the "seasoned photographers" were and looked for a reaction. All I can say is .... "good thing that room was so dark". We stood there stone faced like professional poker players, giving him nothing. He turned away in disgust and grabbed a new piece of photo paper from a different box. All went well this time and face was saved. We left the room with our poker faces intact. I vaguely remember a short discussion with Mr. Ray after the session in the darkroom but, without proof, it was hard to lay blame on anyone that day. It's a story I would tell, and laugh about with friends for years, right into my professional photography career 25 years later. On one particular day, I was in the photo store that supplied my film and all of the other things needed to run a photography business telling this story. As I approached the end of the tale, one of the salesmen suddenly interrupted and asked me where I went to high school. I told him and he immediately said "was Mr. Ray your teacher there?" I slowly answered .... "yes, why do you ask?" He then proceeded to tell me he had known "Mr. Ray for years", but had never heard that story from him. To make a long story just a little longer, I saw the interrupting salesman a couple of months later. He had a huge grin on his face as he walked over to me in the store. He had told Mr. Ray the story I had told him. I asked him what he said.

Without hesitation ..... 25 years later ..... Mr. Ray's only reply was ...... "I KNEW IT !!"

We all ended up going back and forth with Mr. Ray the entire year. [ except for Terry ] It was actually kind of fun. It may have looked like I was employing the "teacher torture" used so subtly by my friend Steve in junior high. But the reality was, if Mr. Ray was going to be one of us on the photography staff, he had to pay his dues like everyone else did before him. We had all gone through the "prank-ing thing" our first year so we figured, why shouldn't he?

Acceptance takes on many forms.

Sometimes, even through practical jokes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Boxer Shorts and a New Crew

So here I am. Sitting in the yearbook classroom with the rest of the staff for the first time. Aside from the fact that I was pretty nervous in this new environment, the new boxer shorts I was wearing were all bunched up and it felt to me like everyone in the room could tell. Who knew you had to pull them down after you put your pants on? I sure as heck didn't. Wearing them with OP shorts at the skatepark was much easier for the simple fact that you wanted them to show. It was "the skater look" at it's very infancy. But pants were a whole different deal. How's that for a crazy memory? It's an even crazier memory, considering this would be the first day I would be officially known as "a photographer". After getting past all of the boring stuff the yearbook adviser had to say, we all broke up into our respective groups to prepare for the upcoming year. This would be the first time I would be meeting the the other photographers on the staff. My "new crew", if you will. They were all loud and seemed a bit crazy. [except for Terry] I started having flashbacks of Steve in junior high and my trip to the principals office. But I figured it would, at the very least, be an interesting year. Everyone introduced themselves and went about their business. I was standing there with nothing to do when Frank and Terry, staffers from the year before, came over and began to ask about my photography experience. I had general shooting skills but I had never been in the darkroom. I couldn't wait to see the room with the red light, filled with enlargers, trays and tanks. I had seen it a thousand times in the movies. Unfortunately, the light in a darkroom is a very weak yellow-green-ish color. So the impact wasn't quite what I was expecting. It didn't matter. It was all new. It was all cool. The first thing I learned was how to develop film. Everybody who was new started there. The film was mostly the real general, posed stuff. The "football game film" was handled only by the person who shot it, which was never "the new guy" until later in the season and, only the weakest games of the schedule. The hardest thing about the whole process was loading the film onto the reels so they can be put into a tank for processing. This skill is usually learned in the light, sitting at a table with some old film and a reel. Sounds good in theory, but it has to be done in complete darkness. And I mean "complete" darkness. The first time I went "lights out" in the film processing room, I was amazed at how dark 99.99999 % darkness really was. With the exception of the glow in the dark timer hands, which were turned around while loading film reels, it was black. You wait for your eyes to adjust but they never do. Anyway, I messed up a couple of rolls the first few times but soon had the hang of it. The smell of the chemicals. The sound of the film going on the reel just right in the dark. Watching the clock as time expires in the processing, were as exciting to me as anything I could remember. My first "good rolls" of film were awesome. I had shot them, then processed the film. It was a major step in my photography experience. It's actually kind of sad that most new photography students and shooters will never know what it's like to be in a darkroom, old school style. 

Looking back at them now, [because I still have the negatives] my first "good rolls" of processed film  were thin and lacked contrast.

But at that time, it was ... once again ... the coolest thing I had ever seen.

I had no idea it was a job interview

Off to the yearbook classroom and my first meeting with "Mrs. D". She was a small woman with a big presence. Completely intense and kind of scary, she freaked me out right away. "I see here that you want to join the yearbook staff ... is that correct?" Yes ma'am, I do. "Do you have any photography experience?" Yes ma'am, I do. "O.K. , let me look over your application and I will get back to you." Thank you.

That was it. I walked away not feeling too good about the whole encounter but, you never know. A few days later, Mrs. D sent a pass to one of my classes so we could meet again. I was very nervous and excited at the same time. I went to her classroom, which was empty at the time. It was like the beginning of a scary movie. She was sitting at her desk doing some paperwork when I came in. She stopped what she was doing and looked up at me. "I wasn't sure you had enough experience but, I talked with our photo editor Bob. He said he thought you would make a good addition to the team. Welcome to the yearbook staff. We will see you next year."

That was it.

I was in.

My life in photography would begin a new chapter. My hopes of free football games and pom pom girls may have just been realized.

Thanks Bob .... it wouldn't have happened without your help.

Monday, January 4, 2010

© 2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Early influences, Teacher Torture ...... and a trip to the principals office

My life as a "good kid" seemed to be going well. Even though I lived in "La Victoria Loca" .... I was, for the most part, able to stay out of any real trouble. My only trip to the principals office in grade school was for being in a fight where I got socked in the eye but never returned the punch. Other than that, my life was pretty drama free. That was, until I got into Junior High. [ I think it's also called middle school ] It was then, 7th grade, when I met a guy in my 1st art class named Steve H. He was a tall skinny football player dude who was very into art, which was a strange combination in those days. Anyway, this Steve guy, as far as I could tell, was a bit crazy but very artistic. During one of our classes, he invented a dog character named Otto for an assignment. He then proceeded to make a paper mache figure of the dog for the next assignment. I know that doesn't sound like much but Steve, in his youthful wisdom, had made the figure of Otto the dog with it's leg lifted as if he was preparing to pee. We were sitting there laughing at it when the teacher came by to check out our work. She looked at the figure ... looked at Steve ... looked at me ... then just walked away. I thought it was the hardest I would ever laugh in my life ..... right up until our art class switched teachers with the other class. [ just to mix up the art experience by the two teachers ] We went from a young female "former Playboy playmate" teacher in her 20's to an old man by the name of Mr. Salazar. If there was ever a bizzarro world in junior high art classes, this was it. Mr. Salazar was great. He had to be nearing retirement age by the time we got there so, being "cool and hip" like the other teacher was a bit of a struggle for him, which in turn, made it fun for Steve to mess with him in the most subtle ways. But "subtle" would be thrown out the door a few days later. On this particular day, we were sitting in the back of the classroom as Mr. Salazar had just begun the process of teaching us all about pottery and ceramics. He had a big lump of clay on his desk from which he was pulling golfball sized pieces off of and, tossing them to the students in the class. I guess it was his way of being "cool and hip". But Steve, once again in his youthful wisdom, didn't think it was that cool or hip. When Mr. Salazar tossed him a piece of clay, he caught it, squeezed it in his hand, and proceeded to throw it back at him as hard as he could. It missed him by inches, thudding hard into the chalkboard directly behind him with a loud bang. The entire class jumped at the sound of the clay hitting the green board. It stuck there like a cartoon pancake for a second, only to slip down in slow motion and land on the ledge where the chalk was kept. Everyone in the room sat there in silence ..... well, almost everyone. In the very back, were two students, who were doing their very best, not to bust out completely in laughter. The next thing I knew, Steve and I were on our way to the principals office. I had never been in the junior high version of that office so it was kind of an adventure. On our way there, Steve decided that we weren't in that much of a hurry to get there so, we spent the next 20 or so minutes going to some of his other friends classrooms just to say hi. It was my first real experience not following the rules. I think I enjoyed it more than I should have.

I recently saw Steve for the first time in 30 years at a class reunion. When I asked him if he remembered the "clay incident" he shouted out "Mr. Salazar!"

Steve's no fear approach at living life and creating art is something that has stuck with me since that day.

Hippy Strap and the Black Hat

I now have this cool camera. I take it everywhere I go. Photography magazines and catalogs are my new vice. So many new trends in cameras and gear. Zoom lenses, flash units, motor drives, light meters. All sorts of goodies filled the pages. But there was one piece of equipment that seemed to be "the thing to have" back in the day. It was a 2" wide camera strap that looked like it had been made by a hippy belt weaver. I'm sure you remember the look. I found one at a camera store, bought it, and put it on my camera. No more geeky looking skinny strap for me. It's funny how something as simple as this can make such a change in one's attitude. I now felt like "one of the in crowd", photographically speaking of course. The first time I saw this awesome accessory was my sophomore year in high school. There was this guy, a year ahead of me, which made him a junior, who used to walk around school with a camera and wearing a black hat. He seemed to know everybody. Jocks, cheerleaders, AV clubbers, everybody. All clique lines were blurred with this guy. He stood on the sidelines of all the football games shooting pictures of the action, and the "pom pom girls". He was, in effect, my new hero. His name was Bob and he was the "dude" when it came to photography at my high school. Aside from being the photo editor of the yearbook, Bob was also a role model when it came to "shameless self-promotion". He had T-shirts made with his picture on it, wearing that black hat, holding a camera, and a tag line that said: "Photos by Romi". The fact that he was still in high school and already promoting himself did not escape me. My Dad would call this "a good hustle", which meant my Dad was impressed. I met Bob in the bleachers of a basketball game that year. He was videotaping the game for the coach with what looked like an old reel to reel tape machine with a clunky camera connected to it. I went up and started talking to him. He was more than happy to talk about photography, being on the yearbook staff, and shooting pictures of pom pom girls. After a while, I mentioned an interest in being on the yearbook staff as a photographer. He said: "go talk to Mrs. D". She was the Teacher in charge of the book. I figured I had nothing to lose and said I would talk to her next week. Talking with Bob that day was a revelation. It was the fist time I was able to discuss photography with someone without them being totally confused. He understood the lingo, the equipment, and the passion shooting pictures evoked in ones creative drive.

All I could think about was shooting pictures of pom pom girls and getting into football games for free.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Live .... Learn .... and Reload

I couldn't believe it! I now had a real life, honest to goodness, 35mm SLR camera! It may sound like I'm making a big deal out of such a small thing but, at that moment, I was in heaven. On our way out of J.C. Penny's, we stopped off at the camera department to pick up some film. The guy sold me a couple of rolls of Kodak "Tri-X" black and white. He said it was the best film you could have in your camera because it was "fast and versatile". I had no idea what that meant. I just knew I wanted "the best". We got home and I tore into the boxes that held my new possession. [ O.K. , I didn't really "tear into them". But I sure got that camera out in a hurry. ] It was all new and shiny. The lens was spotless. There were dials and levers everywhere. It was at that moment I suddenly came to the realization ..... "I had no idea how to use this thing"! Up until then, the closest I came to a real camera was my cousin Bobby's Minolta. Oh well .... I guess I will just have to read the instructions. I poured through the manual, looked at the illustrations, and figured I knew enough to get things going. I prepared to "load my camera" for the first time. By the way, one of the reasons the Canon TX was only 250 bucks including the lens was because it was the basic, stripped down model. No frills, nothing fancy. Which also excluded Canon's new "QL" film loading. That particular feature allowed you to just place the film leader across the back of the camera, close the back, and begin advancing the film to the first shot in the roll. I had read all about in preparation for my new camera but, unfortunately for me, my camera did not have it. I did exactly as I had read in the magazine ads. All loaded up, I headed outside to "capture the world". It was amazing how different things looked through the lens of a camera. Different angles gave different results. I blasted through that first roll of film in record time. Shooting anything and everything. Our dog. My house. The ditch behind our house that looked like a shear cliff through the viewfinder of my new TX. It was a blast! I headed back to the house to reload. I guess I didn't read the part about loading and unloading very well. I just opened the camera back without "rewinding the film" back into the cassette! It was then that I realized two things.

1. You must rewind the film back into the cassette before you open the back of the camera.

2. My camera didn't have the QL loading system so, every shot I took on my first day out with my new camera wasn't there.

I had spent my time shooting without film going through the camera. It became a valuable lesson about reading the instructions, learning how to load a camera correctly, and taking what I considered at the time to be "a new toy", seriously.

Nothing about photography would ever be the same for me again.

I had to have one

After my cousin Bobby had left for home, I just couldn't get that camera out of my mind. I was a sophomore in high school at the time. I wasn't making much, if any money but, I knew I had to find a way to buy a 35mm camera. I did odd jobs around the house and restaurant . Not much money there but, it was a start. While visiting the J.C. Penny's at Tri-City Mall, I found a Canon TX with a 50mm 1.8 lens for around 250.00. It wasn't the Minolta my cousin had but it was cool enough for me. It had all of the basics. I put down what little money I had saved and put it on "lay away". We went to the mall weekly so, I would visit the camera department and look at the Canon cameras they had on display. It was making me crazy. There had to be a better, faster way to get the camera paid for. As we returned home for the mall one day, I saw my Honda Trail 70 sitting there in the carport. I thought about it for a while then, decided to sell it in order to get the camera. For the record, Honda Trail 70s are now quite collectible and fetch anywhere from 1000.00 to 2500.00 depending on condition and originality. But back in the day, a used one was worth around .... 200.00 bucks. Which was just about how much I needed to buy the Canon TX. Within a week, my dad had found a guy who was interested in buying my Honda. He paid me the full 200.00 and off it went. I have to admit, I was a little bummed to see it go but, I now had the money to get my camera. I had no idea it would begin a life long journey into the world of photography. My mom took me to J.C. Penny's that afternoon. I went to the layaway department and plunked down my money. The lady behind the counter took it and went to the back to get my purchase. When she came out, she had a strange look on her face.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. She said " that's a lot of money for two small boxes".

I answered "I know, it's a camera".

She still looked puzzled as we walked away.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

 © 2010 Tony Hernandez Photography

Fast forward ..... mini bikes and the military

One of my most prized possessions was a Honda Trail 70 with a 4 speed and a clutch. My neighbor and best friend Tony B. had one too. It was orange with the black stripe. No lawnmower powered mini bike could keep up with us. Drags on the "Victoria Speedway" [ Evergreen Road before it was paved ] were so much fun. I had a great time riding it. I even jumped it on occasion. Nothing too big mind you. Just a little air every now and again. Then, my cousin Bobby from Washington state came to visit while on leave from the Army. He was a paratrooper like my uncle Mike. He had just returned from Japan and decided to pay us a visit before he went home to Washington. While overseas, he had picked up a Minolta srt201 camera with all of the goodies. Wide angles, Telephotos, flashes, slaves [ I had no idea what they were but, they were cool ] and all sorts of film. It was the coolest thing I had ever seen. He let me check it out. Look through it. He changed the lenses, then proceeded to tell my uncle Mike about all of the things that were in his camera case. I don't think my uncle had any clue about what Bobby was talking about.

But I knew. The Honda's days were numbered.

It was the coolest thing I had ever seen.

First realizations of a future commercial photographer

I've been asked, on many occasions, what a "commercial photographer is" after responding to the question: "what do you do for a living?" So let's just clear that up right now. A commercial photographer is a person who "shoots photographs for money". Plain and simple. Not that all photographers consider themselves as such but, that's just the way it is. It's what I do and how I make my living. My first realization that one could make money shooting pictures came not too long after getting that Polaroid camera from my dad. As my good fortune would have it, my parents owned a bar and restaurant right next door to our house. A locals kind of place in Victory Acres that turned into a Mexican music extravaganza on Friday and Saturday nights. The place would be packed. A live band would be playing the "unda-unda-unda" bass line of the songs while the patrons danced and drank the night away. Sounds pretty romantic, doesn't it? Well, to tell you the truth, it was kind of fun, and a drag, all at the same time. Everyone in the family had to work there at one time or another depending on where one was needed or, to fill in for someone who didn't show up. Filling in was the drag part. The fun part was taking money at the door for a cover charge on the weekends. Being a "trust-worthy" son, I was tasked with collecting the 1 dollar cover as the people came in. This is where the Polaroid camera and making money shooting pictures thing came about for me. I had been messing around with the square shooter Polaroid for a few weeks. It was fun but, there had to be more. Then it hit me! I had a plan. All I had to do was, skim 8 dollars from the cover money, take a short break during the evenings work, pop over to the Circle K, grab a pack of film and flash cubes, and get back to work. Only this time, with my trusty Polaroid. By now, everyone was having a good time. Drinks were being consumed. Life was good. It was then that I would pull out my Polaroid and tell people:  "Hey, I'll shoot your picture for 2 bucks." It worked like a charm. Within a half an hour, I was able to sell all of my Polaroid pictures to the patrons, return the original 8 dollars to the cover charge money, and still have a profit of 8 dollars after. If I did it a couple of times in an evening, I had 16 bucks by the end of the night. Not bad dough for a 12 year old kid in 1972.

©2010 Tony Hernandez Photograpy

Here we go

When I was a kid, around 12, my dad gave me a Polaroid Square Shooter II camera.  Also included were a package of film and a couple of flash cubes. My dad was always good at "random gifting" so, when the camera came about, I thought it was pretty cool. I loaded it up and started snapping pictures. I can't even remember what they were of. I vaguely remember shots of family members and the Polaroid film not always coming out of the camera right. Boy was that a mess. But when it did come out right, it was awesome! The first 8 pack of film went fast. I had to have more. There was something about this, about capturing a moment in time, that grabbed me right then. It's weird, but I have always looked at photography as capturing a moment of time forever. It was there, then it's gone. Except for the picture just taken. Weird ... right? Anyway, off to the Circle K across the street for more film and flash cubes. I started taking Polaroid shots of anything. It got to the point where I could get the film/print to come out correctly almost every time. I wish I still had some of the original shots I took with that camera. It's what started it all.