Sunday, November 20, 2011

Trip to New York City - film premiere and more!

NYC Trip - 11/2011

I decided to document most of my experiences of my NYC trip before I forget the details. Some of this may be more detail than most may want to read, but at least I've captured the detail for history sake. :)

If you haven't been keeping up with my news, you might want to read about Project Imagin8ion before continuing.

When the Winning "8" Photographers were notified that we had won, we were told we would receive a free round-trip flight to New York, with a driver to drive us to/from the airports and event. The trip itinerary was go to NYC on Monday and return home on Wednesday. The only event planned for us was the premiere and VIP after-party, all the rest was open and up to us to do whatever we wanted. We were told we could bring one guest with us to the film Premiere and after-party. I decided to take my sister (Carol), so you will be seeing her in the photos. In fact, she had the camera most of the time (during the event), so most of the photos were taken by her.

A few notes about the cameras used during the event: One of the prizes of this event was a Canon S95 (a very nice point-and-shoot camera that also shoots HD video), which I let my sister use during the event. I also carried my iPhone 4S, so I could capture some snapshots and short video clips during the event. I also took my Nikon with me to NYC and shot some 'tourist'-style images, which I'll post later.

These are by no means all the photos we took. This is only a few. Over the next week or so, I'll be posting the photos on my Facebook page at

My trip began on Monday, 11/14/2011, at 3:30AM. Yes, a driver was in my driveway at 3:30AM!

My flight was a 6:30am flight from Little Rock to Newark, NJ. Carol (and husband Randy) had flown-up the night before, since they flew straight from Dallas.

My flight was on-time and the driver was just a phone call away.
I called Carol and we met-up for brunch at a restaurant near the hotel.

During brunch, we discussed what options we had for the day. My main priority was to get a skyline shot of NYC at night, so the challenge was to determine the best place and plan around it. I decided on the Empire State Building as a good candidate for viewing the skyline.

Carol and Randy wanted to visit the World Trade Center Memorial & Museum complex, and they said it would be best at night with the grounds all lit-up with lights. So after more discussion and planning, we finished brunch and returned to the hotel for my camera equipment and to reserve tickets for ground zero.

We then walked to Central Park. The weather was abnormally warm for November in NY. The fall colors were vibrant, although the sky was overcast.
(I'll be posting more images from Central Park in the coming weeks.)

From Central Park, we continued with my plan to get to the Empire State Building (ESB) by dusk. I wanted to get there by dusk to capture the late-evening color and shortly thereafter also capture the NYC lights. Unfortunately, the ESB is so crowded, they don't allow tripods, which was devastating since I required a tripod to get great night shots of the city. So, I had to improvise and rest my camera the best of my ability on the ledges and fencing around the perimeter. I also shot a short video clip with my iPhone 4s. (I'll be posting more images in the coming weeks.)

We had tickets for the new World Trade Center at 7:00pm, so we left the ESB in time to get there. I was amazed at the level of security! We likely passed through at least six checkpoints, with two of them being the baggage scanners like the airports have. Once inside the complex, we had the freedom to walk around. By this time it was dark and the grounds were lit-up beautifully. With its shimmering glass curtain walls and towering antennae, One World Trade Center will soar a symbolic 1,776 feet skyward to become America's tallest building. Designed by David M. Childs of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the 2.6-million-square-foot building will include office space, an observation deck, world-class restaurants, and broadcast and antennae facilities.

There are two massive pools, set within the footprints of the Twin Towers, with the largest man-made waterfalls in the country cascading down their sides.

The names of the nearly 3,000 individuals who were killed in the September 11 attacks in New York City, Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, and the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing will be inscribed around the edges of the Memorial pools.


We had to be ready for the premiere by 6:00pm sharp. So we planned our day backwards. We left the hotel and proceeded to find a place for breakfast. In our
search for a restaurant, we stopped to talk with a bus tour guide. We took a few brochures and maps and discussed the plan over breakfast. Yes, we seem to
plan our days while eating. (ha)

We decided to take a bus tour, which would give us a nice view from the top of the bus around the city. We chose a route which passed Macy's, which is a stop
Carol wanted to experience. We purchased the bus tour tickets and were on our way. (I'll be posting more images in the coming weeks.)

Unfortunately for us, our route took us through the financial district, which that day, was heavily bombarded by protestors/demonstrators, which in-turn brought 20,000? police officers to the scene. Traffic was a standstill and I'm glooming at my watch worried that we were going to have a challenge getting back to the hotel on time. Fortunately, we were able to get off at the next stop, find a taxi and get back to the hotel in time to grab a quick bite to eat and get ready!

The Winning 8 Photographers and guests were to meet in the hotel lobby at 6:00pm sharp, so that we would all be driven at the same time.

The film premiere and after-party destination: American Museum of Natural History.
We arrived as it was beginning a slight mist in the air. The red carpet was out to the curb as we were greeted with people escorting us with umbrellas.
The museum was closed to the public, excluding those invited to this event, so most of the decor was all Project Imagin8ion related. Once inside, we were quickly sipping champagne as we walked through the museum hallways. Soon we entered a room full of lights, media crew and more red carpet. This is where we took the group photos and we each did two interviews (one for National TV and one for in-house that will be distributed). I was a hot room with all the media and hot lights. I hope my interviews aren't too embarrassing. (ha)

Within a few turns, we were blown away by wall-to-wall photos of ALL 96,362 photo submissions! It was amazing to see all the images tiled on the walls of the hallways. It was almost a dizzying place to stand. I'll post a video soon.

Once we passed through this hallway, the next hallway revealed the winning photographs, framed and large!

After a few minutes of visiting, we were ushered into an auditorium where we would watch the premiere. As we began to enter the auditorium, there were two movie posters on easels, inside each side of the entrance. To my amazement, the movie posters were based on a rendition of my tree! :)

We had reserved seats on the first row, which we sat and waited for the show to begin. Introductions were made by the Director of Grey Interactive/Alliance Agency (don't remember the exact name/title), which she soon introduced the Winning 8 Photographers as we stood and received applause from the 500-700 attendees of the Premiere. Next, we were shown 'the making of...' film, which showed some behind-the-scenes, etc, of the making of the movie. Following this, we watched the film. It was an incredible film - full of emotions, scenery, and dramatic characters. It seems longer than the estimated 23 minutes. I'm anxious to watch it again! There was so much to absorb in those 23 minutes, that I'm sure I missed some things. :)
Here's a link to the trailer.

After watching the film, they had a Q&A session planned with Ron Howard, Bryce Dallas Howard, Dane Charbeneau (the writer), Rob Altman (a Marketing Executive from Canon, and the host of the Q&A (David Edelstein, Chief Film Critic, New York Magazine). The Q&A was very entertaining. I hope to post a video of the Q&A - if/when it's published.

After the Q&A ended, we gathered in front of the stage for a few minutes before continuing to the 'whale room'. During this wait time, I was able to briefly
meet with Ron Howard and continued to chat with the other winning photographers. Soon, we were ushered through more hallways, and more hallways, into what appeared to be an even larger room, what is known as the 'whale room'. As we entered, again we saw the two movie posters.

Upon entering this monolithic room, you see the life-sized WHALE suspended from the ceiling! Massive! As we descended down the stairs, my fellow photographers brought my attention to the centerpiece of the room: a bar in the center of the room, surrounded by blue lighting, and in the center this spectacle: a glowing white tree! I was speechless. I never expected so much representation of my winning image to be used for the movie and premiere!

The after-party was VIP only and the room seemed to fill quickly. The music was great and the drinks were free! The bar was amazing - Microsoft tables with photos digitally within that you could scatter around the table.

I was able to visit with Ron Howard and Bryce Dallas Howard and get photographs with them. I also met with Dane Charbeneau, who wrote the screenplay. I talked with the Canon executives for a while. They asked me what I shot with, and after hearing my reply of "I'm a Nikon guy", they grumbled (in a fun way). I told them that I had 30+ years of collecting Nikon gear and there's no easy way to switch, even if I wanted to. They all nodded and said they completely understood. We all had a great time!

The great news - I was able to keep one of the posters! :) Also, all VIP attendees received a gift bag of various gifts. Canon, Grey Interactive/Alliance Agency did a FANTASTIC job in creating a wonderful experience at the Premiere and after-party!

There was also an "after-after-party" at a local bar. Since I was carrying the poster and gift bag, I wanted to get them back to the hotel. My sister & I grabbed a taxi to get us back and the taxi had an "8" that someone had wrote on the windshield with a finger in the rain. What are the odds? (ha)

Upon arriving at the hotel, I noticed two ladies exiting a cab, standing near the curb, in front of the hotel and continually smiling at me, as if they knew me(?). Once we paid the cab and walked toward the front doors, they approached me and noticed I was carrying the gift bag from the event. One of them asked if I photographed the tree. Bewildered, I responded, 'yes'. The younger of the two was the Line Producer of the film! The older lady was her mother. Obviously, we had questions for each other. :)

One of the interesting points of our conversation was the fact that they assumed (correctly) that I had shot the scene in true infrared. One of her first questions was to confirm that I had a dedicated infrared camera - which I do. She said that they 'tried' to fake it (the infrared look) during the initial shooting, but couldn't match it. To stay with the integrity of my image, she finally convinced Canon that they "needed" to convert one of their expensive cameras to be truly infrared. They finally agreed. So, in the trailer and movie, when you see the infrared scenes, they were shot in true infrared. :)


We only had a half-day before we had to prep for the flight back. Unfortunately, it was raining, so it clouded my opportunities for more city photographs. We decided to visit time square and have some brunch. We discussed next plans and decided to walk back to the M&M store. If you've never been, it's incredible - a 3-story building full of M&M stuff. You can get custom-colored M&M's! We also visited the Hershey store across the street.

We ended the trip chatting in the hotel lobby with some of the other Winning 8 photographers as we waited for our drivers to pick us up. All the other Winning photographers are awesome, friendly and humble. I enjoyed meeting them all!

[See my Facebook page for more photos over the coming weeks:]

Special thanks to Canon, Ron Howard, Bryce Howard, Grey Interactive, and Alliance Agency!

Click here to learn more or to buy a print

Sunday, November 6, 2011

"Trail Invitations"

A favorite panorama from a hike at Woolly Hollow State Park, Arkansas a few years ago.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

More press! >> ICON magazine

Hot off the press! You can see my photos on this month's cover of ICON magazine, as well as an in-depth article and more photos inside! :) You can pick-up a magazine in various locations around central Arkansas.
>> View November Issue of ICON magazine

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

See my winning photo on tv!

If you haven't yet seen this commercial, you probably will - just watch prime time TV on the major networks (cbs, nbc, abc, tbs) and look for the Ron Howard/Project Imagin8ion commercial.
Near the end of the commercial, you'll see the above frame. You can easily see my winning photo near center-left. :)