Merman Caspian Storm

I have always been fascinated by underwater photography and knew I must try it one day.
When I had the opportunity to participate in a mermaid shoot (oh, how I love you, Los Angeles!) I dove right in, pardon the pun. It was way harder than I ever imagined. Staying low underwater was a huge challenge.

I learned so much observing the other experienced photographers and talented models.
I paired up with Merman Caspian Storm and asked him to be patient with me since I was a first-timer. I later found out it was his first time too! I'm really proud of these shots and I think we made quite a pair.

Learn a bit more about Merman Caspian Storm after the photographs...

I love your merman name, tell me more?
My name is Brian Garces and my Merman name is Caspian Storm. I picked Caspian because that is what Ursula uses as part of the spell to steal Ariel's voice in The Little Mermaid. Storm because I'm quick to move in and destroy things. I was born and raised in San Diego, CA and currently live in Newport Beach, CA.

What draws you to the water?
Since I was a child the water has called to me. I remember being little and always staring out into the ocean hoping I would see a mermaid come up to the surface. The mystery behind what's in the deep blue sea is what attracts me to the ocean. I really enjoy being underwater. Its very calming, soothing, and peaceful. I have been a merman for almost a year and this was my very first underwater photo shoot. 

What do you do when you're not in the water?
I'm a Medical Nail Technician. I work as a podiatrist assistant along with going off site to over 50 different senior assisted living homes providing medical hand and foot services to the seniors. I specialize in senior, diabetic, cancer, and HIV patients. I love to help others in any way possible.

Why Mermaids? Why a Merman? 
Seeing Splash and The Little Mermaid as a child I said to myself, "I want that, I want to feel that, I want to see what they see." Mermaids are finally getting the recognition they deserve. But everyone wants the beautiful Mermaid, not the Merman. I would like to become a merman with a cause some day. I hope to make a change so our future generations can continue to enjoy the oceans instead of learning what happened to them from their ancestors.


Model: Caspian Storm
Hair: Carlos Ramirez
Makeup Artist: Moe Artistik
Makeup Artist: Stacy Ann


Desert Escape

15 ON 15 JULY

After 15 years in Los Angeles I still can't get over the fact that a two hour drive (traffic gods on your side) will give you a complete change of scenery. A little exploring, a little shooting, a little relaxing and a whole lot of glorious silence. That's what the desert brought this trip. The temperatures were surprisingly cool and comfortable for July.

Exploring the Yucca Valley never disappoints. For drinks and some tasty food, Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace is oozing with history and desert charm. With their dog-friendly outdoor beer garden and colorful local crowd I simply can't get enough of this place. (order the steak salad with cilantro lime vinaigrette!)

Another favorite is the Shari Elf Gallery. I fell in love with one of her paintings a few years ago and it has proudly hung above my mantle ever since. I had seen her Just Keep Getting Back On The Horse prints in her online gallery and knew I had to pick one up for my office. Sadly, I missed her this visit but the gallery was unlocked with payment based on the honor system. (say, what??!!!) Another reminder I am no longer in L.A. The teddy bear shots below were captured at her studio gallery. Check out Shari's latest music video, I Like Myself,  shot in Joshua Tree, for some true desert eye and ear candy.

Starting off this set are two abandoned homes that lured me in. These were both located on the road to Joshua Tree National Park. I found these landscapes outside the park way more interesting than the park itself. Surprise, surprise.


But the true reason for this weekend get-away was to stay at the fabulous Rock Reach House. Words simply do not do this place justice. The house and the property were every bit as phenomenal as promised. The perfect way to decompress. Even though we only spent two nights we left relaxed and recharged. Delilah also gives this pet-friendly utopia an enthusiastic two paws up. We'll be back. 


Crossing Paths


15 ON 15 MAY 2015

While out street shooting this week I came across these papered windows which provided an interesting "stage" for the people passing by. I slowed my shutter speed to capture just a bit of movement and documented the foot traffic in one spot for a few minutes to create this typology. The location is 5th Street between Spring and Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, an area that is rapidly changing, just like the people passing through it.


Homeboy Industries


15 ON 15 MAY 2015

Homeboy Industries provides hope, training, and support to formerly gang-involved and previously incarcerated men and women, allowing them to redirect their lives and become contributing members of society.

Ever since moving to Los Angeles in 1999, I have heard and read so many many wonderful things about this organization. When the L.A. chapter of Atlas Obscura (cool international group doing very cool things) offered a tour of the Homeboy facility, I knew it was time I checked them out. I arrived to a bustling lobby and friendly smiles. 

Kendra Brown introduced herself to our group and let us know she would be our tour guide. We gathered out front and she began by telling us her story. The hows and whys of how she found Homeboy. And how Homeboy accepted her back into the program only a few months ago, upon her release from federal prison, even though she didn’t succeed with them the first time around. She was so real. And honest. And appreciative of every single opportunity she has right now. She is working very hard for all of it. She told us we could ask her anything. We did. I was so moved by her and her honesty. So was our entire group. There were tears and there was applause. This lady is on her way to a new life. She said she is ready this time and I could see it. The positive effects in just a few short months are making her and her two young boys shine.

From Monday Morning Meditation to Anger Management to Employment Services, a wide variety of classes and programs are offered.

After the tour we enjoyed lunch at the adjoining Homegirl Café. As their websites states: 

Homegirl Café & Catering is one of Homeboy’s six social enterprises, where young men and women are placed in what is often their first “real job,” learning to work side by side with their former enemies and gaining fundamental job skills in a supportive environment. The café assists high-risk and formerly gang-involved young women, and a few young men to become contributing members of our community through training in restaurant service and culinary arts. Homegirl Café has an 18-month training certificate program that empowers women to support themselves and their families while receiving needed services as they work toward a better life.

The food is fresh and delicious, I whole-heartedly recommend the tacos on grilled nopal (cactus leaf)!

The open and airy space doubles as an art gallery showcasing the talent found at Homeboy. I was especially taken by the photo-realistic paintings of Art Carrillo. 

Don’t forget to visit the bakery case packed full of delicious homemade treats and be sure to take home some of their incredible salsas. I can’t believe it took me so long to pay them a visit. Really great stuff is happening here and the vibe is so good. I'm now a regular.

Be sure to continue the 15 on 15 blog circle and check out what Lynn David Photography has been up to this month.

Woman in White

Last weekend Paris Photo made it's third appearance at Paramount Studios here in Los Angeles. I can't get enough of this venue. And I can't get enough of the people who attend this show. I think it's safe to say I enjoy the people watching a tad more than the show itself. But we'll just keep that between you and I.

Because this is a photography show, I left my big camera at home. I didn't want to be "that guy." And it was a good opportunity to see what my iPhone 6+ was made of. I always have the iPhone camera set to shoot in square format for Instagram. I only post iPhone shots there. Yep, I'm a purist and for me Instagram is all about the "Insta."

One of my favorite exhibits was CALIFORNIA UNEDITED! an exceptional collection of photography from late 19th century California. These rarely-seen glass plate photographs depict the community of San Luis Obispo through the eyes of one photographer, Richard J. Arnold. Shortly after I entered the exhibit I noticed a woman walk in. Every head turned. She was not only beautiful, but angelic. I immediately knew I should photograph her. The way she approached and enjoyed the exhibit was mesmerizing. 

I couldn't have styled this any better if it were a planned shoot. The dress? The hat? The gloves? The delicate magnifier necklace? I was totally captivated by The Woman In White. I honestly don't know if she knew what I was up to, but as you can see, I did get very close to her. If she noticed, she didn't seem to mind. I spoke to her as she was leaving and told her how beautiful she looked that day. I was rewarded with the sweetest smile. Kicking myself for not asking her name. i would love to know her story.

On Recognition 2015

Last year I created a blog post On Recognition, where I recognized six photographer friends and their photograph that knocked my socks off that year. It was one of my most popular posts-to-date and so much fun to curate I decided to make it an annual thing. 

I find entering contests and submitting for competitions a fun challenge. Every single time I do, I learn something. A piece one judge or curator considers worthy another may easily dismiss. Everything is subjective. And it's important to keep that in mind.

Lately I've been making a point to share my work as much as I can. It can be pricey but it doesn't need to be. I've found some pretty affordable (and even free) online sites I love which I'll share at the end of this post. My success rate so far has been pretty good. And nothing feels better than to be recognized… knowing your work, when put to the test, stood out and was memorable? Oh, yes.

[That guy, Jay Maisel, I just quoted? If you aren't familiar, Google him, and prepare to be amazed. I'll give you a head start HERE.]

Curating this post, I'm learning to see patterns in what appeals to my eye. I'm a sucker for clean lines and interesting compositions. But for me, nothing is more important than gesture. Dictionary.com defines gesture as "a movement or position of the hand, arm, body, head, or face that is expressive of an idea, opinion, emotion, etc." I'm pretty sure that's why I'm so drawn to documenting people and real life. It's almost impossible to coax a gesture. It just happens and if your timing is good, you capture something great.

Below are six photographs from photographer friends that turned my head this year. My first thought when I saw each one of these was "Wow." My second thought was, "Oh, I wish I'd shot that!" I love reading the story behind these shots and learning a little bit more about the photographer. I hope you enjoy this gallery as much as I enjoyed putting it together.


LITTLE LOVES   Beth Marchitello


HAPPY PLACE   Andrea Chivers

GOLD IS IN   Marilou Jaen

UNINHIBITED JOY   Sharra Liptack

I'd like to thank all of the photographers pictured above for participating, allowing me to curate another show-stopper post this year!

If you take photographs and are interested in entering a competition, these three sites are my favorites:

  • National Geographic Your Shot : Be sure to check out the Assignments & Stories section where documentary photographers, photo editors and photo producers create assignments and if your work is chosen it becomes a part of the online story. Best part? It's free!
  • Leica's I SHOT IT Photo Competition : An ongoing competition with tons of categories and the entry fees are very affordable. For each competition there is one winner and several Mark of Excellence (MOA) recipients which all receive comments on their winning entry from the judge. I've entered a few categories over the past few months and received a MOA in the Black & White Competition. And just this week I received another MOA and also WON the Dog Competition! I entered three images at $3 each. Those are my kind of entry fees!
  • LifeFramer : I found out about this competition last October when they were launching their second year. I subscribed for a year for $99 which allowed me to submit 5 photos to 12 monthly themes. They have several pricing structures to choose from and you don't have to subscribe. I won third position the very first time I submitted and was over the moon! Nothing since, but I love how the judge comments on the top selections. That kind of feedback is priceless, whether it's on my own work or someone else's.

I highly encourage you to get your work out there! If you do, I'd love to hear what happens, so please keep me posted. ~ S.

15 on 15

APRIL 2015


My first blog circle post! I was invited to join a group of very talented photographers, so saying yes was pretty much a no-brainer. I was in dire need of some blogging inspiration and this will be the perfect opportunity for me to share a complete set of images and not just single images like I post on Facebook and the CMpro Daily Project. Be sure to follow the link at the end of this post and follow the circle. It will not disappoint.

My goal is to shoot something special for this monthly 15 on 15 post. Try something new, experiment a little and pretty much push myself with the ever present deadline of the 15th in my brain. I do well with deadlines. I may not always be a rule-follower, but deadlines work for me. Otherwise the queen of procrastination wins every single time.

For this first post I'll share some street photographs I captured this past February when I participated in a challenge with 40 other photographers documenting downtown Los Angeles over a three day period. This was my first time spending three consecutive days out on the streets and I'm quite pleased with the results.

My top 15...

Beginning a 15 on 15 in 2015 is so fitting since this marks my 15th year in Los Angeles and I still feel like I've barely skimmed the surface of what this vibrant city has to offer. Stay tuned for more on the 15...

>>>   Please continue the circle with Jo's blog   <<<


Close, but no cigar.


I recently found out about Leica's online photography competition I SHOT IT. Lots of categories to enter and all very affordable. Each category awards one winner a Leica camera (model determined by category) and a cash prize (determined by number of entries). They also award 'Mark of Excellence' finalists for each competition. I was honored to receive this finalist award in the Black & White category last week. See all of the finalists here.

What I like most about this competition is that you can see the other entries. If you win or receive a 'Mark of Excellence,' the judge comments on your entry and you can comment back. I love reading through these comments from around the world.

I have my eye on a Leica M so I will keep entering. Nothing beats the praise of a judge who knows nothing about us. 



A few months ago I came across a call for entries by the National Museum of Animals and Society for their Fundraiser Exhibition: BUNNYMANIA. I had pet rabbits as a child and have always been a sucker for those sweet, soft, floppy-eared creatures. Since I had some time before the deadline I thought it might be a good time to shoot some new work. I posted this message on Facebook:  L.A. friends, do any of you have a pet rabbit or know anyone who does? I knew the chances were slim, but wouldn't you know, my friend Anna introduced me to the Grazioso family who have an indoor pet rabbit named Dave.

Dave is not just any rabbit, he's an unbelievably photogenic Flemish Giant rabbit. I was smitten the moment I saw him. So big and fluffy. He weighs almost 25 pounds! His favorite snacks are strawberries, blackberries and chard, and I was told he broke into a box of sweet potatoes one time and had a little solo feast.

While we waited for the girls to get home from school, Claudia shared a few of her favorite Dave stories with me.

"My favorite Dave story is when he first realized he could easily jump the gates we put up in the kitchen. One night, I woke up to thumping. I woke my husband and he turned on the light to go investigate and then shouted and jumped back. Dave had run up the stairs and was standing on his hind legs right next to Peter's side of the bed -- and since Dave is so big, they were pretty much eye level!  Dave was rather pleased with himself, and then took off running around our upstairs, evading capture for a good long while."

And this one?!!

"We had friends over one night and had neglected to mention that we have an enormous rabbit who just kind of runs free-range style around the house. After we had had a glass of wine or two, Dave hopped by, stopped next to our guest, stood on his hind legs, extended to his impressive height, looked at him, sniffed the air a little, and then continued on his hop around the house. Our friend paused for a moment, then looked at me a little stunned and asked, "Did -- did that just happen?"

Dave made my job easy, when he stayed still that is. Sudden bursts of energy resulted in a flurry of hopping all over the place and when he tired himself out it was snuggle time. When Esme + Addie bounded in from school, Dave went hopping right over to greet them. Having a family dog is pretty commonplace, but a family rabbit? Not so much. It could not have been more obvious, Dave is the perfect pet for this family. I can't thank them enough for sharing him with me.


I'm happy to report the first photograph below was selected for BUNNYMANIA, curated by Peter Frank and Delia Cabral. The exhibit will explore our perceptions of rabbits as individual beings, muses, companions, and as dynamic cultural symbols. There will be two HOP UPS (<-- how cute is that?), so please visit the event link for all the details. I hope to see you there.


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