Friday, May 15, 2015

I'm making an effort to revive my blog! I'll post musings on photography, sometimes my own and sometimes by others. I love the work by so many other photographers, and I prefer to talk about them and not me. Thanks for stopping by, and I post good items about photography to my Facebook photo page more often.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tragedy in Aurora

I just spent 3 days in Aurora, Colorado on assignment to cover the mass shooting in the movie theatre down there. These events are always inexplicable and tragic. Here's a link to my photo gallery of some select images. I'll add some more thoughts here soon.

Link Tragedy in Aurora

Friday, July 13, 2012

Big Sky Honor Flight to D.C.

A few weeks ago I had the distinct privilege to fly to Washington DC with more than 90 WWII veterans (and a few Korea and one 'Nam vet), as part of the inaugural Big Sky Honor Flight. I was their photographer, documenting their experience. We visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean and Viet Nam memorials, the Iwo Jima Memorial and other stops. I shot a group portrait at the WWII Memorial, a panorama stitching together 5 images. The joy and emotion expressed by these veterans was deeply moving ... words cannot express. For many of them it triggered powerful memories and emotions, or just inspired them to share experiences with family, volunteers and fellow veterans that they haven't shared ever or in many decades. As the son of a WWII Marine Corps pilot, it gave me a chance to fill in the blanks on my dad's war experience, now that he is gone.

For many, this could be one of the last great memories and experiences they may have, and allows some to finally come to peace with their war experience. Something like 1000 WWII vets die each day now – on our trip the youngest was 84 and the oldest was 96. Many veterans cannot travel anymore even though they would like to, and time is of the essence for others. The Big Sky Honor Flight Committee is raising funds now for the next flight, which they hope can go in late September. I urge you to consider contributing if you can ... it is a very worthy cause. This truly is the Greatest Generation, and all these vets sacrificed greatly in the war, and these are the ones who came home. This isn't just for WWII vets either – Korean vets too, and we had one Nam vet who is in hospice care and terminally ill, and this was his only chance to visit the VietNam Wall (which, if you have never seen it, I can tell you is one of the most amazing places you will EVER visit).

Here is a link to the Big Sky Honor Flight:

Here is the link to my photo gallery:

I urge you to support this with a donation ... consider it as "adopting a vet." Every state has an Honor Flight I think. This image, of Ken Brown's incredible joy as he is greeted on his return to Billings, tells the whole story of the amazing experience this is for these veterans to go on this flight.

photo: copyright Patrick Downs 2012

I heard some great stories and snippets of stories on the trip, but this one told by George, a Navy vet, takes the prize for the funniest one I heard:

He was on a destroyer in the S. Pacific which was tasked to protect an aircraft carrier. They followed the carrier, protected it, and retrieved any pilots who missed their landing and dropped into the drink. For each pilot that the destroyer crew returned to the carrier, the carrier crew owed them a "bounty" of 20 gallons of ice cream. One day they came under attack by a squadron of Japanese Zeros including kamikaze pilots. As planes crashed around them, one Zero ditched into the water right next to the destroyer. The canopy slid open and the pilot hopped out onto the wing of the still floating plane. He waved his arms and to the astonishment of the ship's crew he yelled in perfect English, "Hello Americans! Do you have any ice cream?!" It turns out that he had been a UCLA student when the war broke out, and when he returned to Japan for a visit they wouldn't let him leave. They made him into a fighter pilot, and he had spent the whole war trying to get captured to be able to get back to America! Those are the kinds of stories that are being lost as these veterans pass.

It has been said that a Veteran is someone who 
wrote a blank check made payable to:

The United States of America 
for the amount of
"up to and including my life"

Here is a link to a thank you note from veteran Arthur Merrick, expressing his gratitude for the Honor Flight trip he just took:

And here is a CBS segment worth watching, on a WWII hero's wife

Monday, July 2, 2012

All Ears

ALL EARS: A fan listens to the "Clumsy Lovers" modern roots-folk/Celtic band at the Absarokee MT BBQ Festival. Just a snap from a toe-tapping, BBQ-eating afternoon in Mon-tana! (photo: copyright Patrick Downs)

(More blog posts coming soon, from the Big Sky Honor Flight and the visit to Billings of WWII aircraft by the Collings Foundation.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Zack Arias blog post

I'd like to link this blog post by ZACK ARIAS, a very good studio shooter and street photographer in Atlanta. He's an up 'n comer and has some interesting thoughts about photography and the business of it.

Pull quotes:
"I’m not a street photographer but dang it all, I love it. It’s my favorite thing to shoot these days. If I could shut the doors to my studio and live on the streets with a camera I’d be a happy man. But my family would be living on the streets with me and then I’d not be a happy man."
"Photography is such an ugly bitch and a gorgeous siren all at once. It’s such a moving target. It’s a flux of oasis and mirage. It’s an enigma. Following your heart and your passion seems to grow a perfect storm of joy and fear. I was telling someone this tonight and they aptly replied, “Those are equally strong motivators.” Yes they are. We just came home from a family road trip through West Texas and we watched a lot of storms cross the land. Big Texas storms are gorgeous at a distance and scary as hell in the middle of them. A fitting metaphor about being a full time photographer."
"Corporations can’t survive without linear systems and that thought process is leaking, nay, pouring into certain parts of the photography world. Follow these five steps. These ten steps. This 30 or 40 day process. Use this vendor then this vendor then deliver via this vendor. 10,000 other photographers are doing this thing. Here are your flash cards of what to say to get this photograph. Then use this automated system to process it. Then use this exact process to deliver it. Follow up in these three steps. Make sure you use this specific brand of camera and this specific lens set to these settings to ensure maximum effectiveness. Sun flare through an 85mm lens in a field at sunset anyone? Shot with a 5d? Anyone? We’ve all done it. The goal is to learn to stop doing it or elevate it beyond what has ever been done with a girl. On a vintage piece of furniture. In a field. At sunset."
"I moved into a new studio last year to accomodate all the work a client was sending me. How did I get that sort of client? Meg sang at church one morning. A lady stopped her to compliment her on the song she sang. They ended up becoming friends. Her husband is an Art Director. He went on to work for this client and needed some stuff shot. It was a 30 day project that’s been going on for three years. How’s that for a wormhole? Everyone! Send your wife to church, have her sing a song, then talk to the spouse of anyone that talks to her after the church service! You too will soon find success!"
Read it all, and check out Zack's work too: (@zarias on Twitter too)

PS: Zack's a good writer too, and here's a fun reader's comment. You have to read Zack's blog to get it, and then it will make you laugh...
"Thank you for the inspiration. Besides being an amazing photographer, you are a damn good writer. Eff you Zack."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Portrait Quote

I LOVE this quote:

"It's one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like. It's another thing to make a portrait of who they are."  ~ Paul Caponigro