Song of the Day: I Wanna Be A Rock Star!!!

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AUDRYE SESSIONS
Where You’ll Find Me


DOWNLOAD: Where You’ll Find Me

So yesterday, on the hottest day of the year, I took Audrye Sessions up on a rooftop in Brooklyn for an impromptu photo shoot on one of their few days off while crisscrossing the country on the tour for their album. I hooked up with the band through a series of cool coincidences when I made ‘Turn Me Off’ the Song of the Day a month ago. After my post, a friend of mine saw that Black Seal Records had linked Damn Ugly Photography on their own blog…and a few e-mails later we were up on the roof cooking our asses off!

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And before you all chime in to point out the obvious, yes…the above photo is an homage to the famous Art Kane shot of The Who…..

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‘Where You’ll Find Me’ is another gem off of their self-titled album and another example of just how amazing lead singer Ryan Karazija’s voice really is. The song starts off with him softly leading you into what sounds like just another ballad, but about a minute in the orchestral flourishes and glorious harmonics take you to a much grander place and his soaring vocals, trembling with hurt, rising to a beautiful falsetto, will give you shivers. If you didn’t take my advice the first time, do it now…buy this album! It’s only $5.99 on iTunes…that’s not even a sandwich…and it’ll make you feel a lot better.

I’ll give up a few more shots from the day later on, but for now why dont’cha head on over to MySpace and show the band some love?!! They’re playing a sold-out show tonight at Bowery Ballroom and are on tour through June (with Manchester Orchestra) so if they’re playing where you live, give ’em a look…and tell ’em you’re friends Of Damn Ugly Photography!

Song of the Day

MAJOR LAZER
Hold The Line


DOWNLOAD: Hold The Line

Knob-twiddling, super-groovy reggae dubmeisters Diplo and Switch had one of the most talked-about sets at SXSW with their new ‘group’, Major Lazer, when they set off an impromptu rave complete with a dancer who looked like a shredded chicken and a stage full of guys tossing out swag. This song caught my ear this morning…if nothing else, you can add it to your workout mix and if it gets you interested further, the album, Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do, drops June 16th. The Grammy-nominated Diplo explains the concept for Major Lazer thusly: “It’s like digital reggae and dancehall from Mars in the future….pop culture run through a Jamaican filter!” OK then! You can check ’em out at MySpace

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R.I.P. Portfolio Magazine…..

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Just a few minutes ago, Conde Nast finally gave the lethal injection to Portfolio! You can’t act too surprised…the deathwatch has been on this one for a while, but it’s still awfully scary to see what is happening to the business I call home…

Follow the link for more…
NYTimes: Condé Nast Closes Portfolio Magazine

Song of the Day

DINOSAUR PILE-UP
My Rock & Roll


DOWNLOAD: My Rock & Roll

Oh My God! Did we just take a trip in the WayBack Machine and land in 1991?!! Is this one of the fabled long-lost cuts off of Nevermind?!! Hailing from Leeds, Dinosaur Pile-Up have just planted a juicy wet kiss on the memory of Nirvana with the release of their new EP, My Rock & Roll, even if they insist they’re not trying to revive grunge as we once knew it! But lets take a peek at the similarities, OK? Both bands are trios…both lead singers have a distinct quietly mumbled vocal style and both follow a formula of smart lyrics sung with quiet vocals backed up with driving, chorused guitar work, culminating in a gloriously loud hardcore-inspired finish! I just hope frontman Matt Bigland has his head on straight and doesn’t push the comparisons too far. But let’s face it…as formulas go, they could do a lot worse…and the repeated chorus chant of “My Rock & Roll” is destined to become the festival anthem of Summer 2009…just a few listens this morning and I’m sold, but then I’m a nostalgic suck! Why don’t y’all head over to MySpace and check ’em out further? I’m sure they’d appreciate the traffic.

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Song of the Day

OBITS
Pine On


DOWNLOAD: Pine On

I’ve got some good old fashioned Rock & Roll for you guys today. Rick Froberg and his cult band Hot Snakes packed it in back in 2005 and D.C. power-punks Edsel have been gone even longer, but up from their ashes we have Obits…a blend of the best from both bands featuring Rick Froberg, Sohrab Habibion, Greg Simpson and Scott Gursky. Froberg still reminds me of a punked-out Mick Jagger with his pissed-off-at-everything vocals and Habibion’s surf-riff guitar work backed up by Gursky’s hammering drum beats has me thinkin’ this is what the Beach Boys might sound like if you gave ’em enough meth. ‘Pine On’ is from their latest album, I Blame You, and you can check ’em out on MySpace

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Site Update News……

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Nothing Earth-shattering, but I just figured out how to make the hyper links I add to my posts open into their own window…this just means you can click on a link and you won’t lose the browser window you are viewing. Like I said, not such a big deal, but just one more thing the folks at Damn Ugly Photography are doing to make your viewing experience a pleasant one!

The Photoshop Discussion…Take Two!

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I tend not to see things like most people. I’m not taking anything away from how most folks see, but I typically look at a scene and try to find ‘the shot’, even when I’m not working. I think I got this way when I assisted Enrico Ferorelli back in the early 80’s. He was always about finding the one perfect shot…and in a lot of ways I’ve been looking for that perfect shot ever since. But in the past tens years or so…a time frame that just also happens to coincide with how long we here at Damn Ugly Photography have been Photoshop-compliant…the way I look at just about everything is in some way based on how I know it will look after I’ve finished working on it in post. Before Photoshop I could, of course, alter reality in subtle ways with film choice or by employing some nifty darkroom tricks & techniques, but my style and the way I shoot has changed as my proficiency with Photoshop has improved. Choosing Kodachrome over Velvia over Ektachrome 100 is fine, but you don’t know color control until you’ve fully mastered the Selective Color tool in Photoshop! And while I’ve never crossed over to the dark side and become one of those guys who has to shoot 20 or 30 elements in order to make one final image, very early on I recognized the amazing potential and the options that were now open to me as long as I was able to reconcile what I believed was possible. I now scout locations and very easily see what can fall away or what can be modified. And while cosmetic changes are an obvious first step, I can alter the reality of a scene in extremely subtle ways to make it better…more appealing…while still keeping the ‘integrity’ of the portrait intact. But I can say this because I maintain that my ‘vision’ as a photographer isn’t held up to the same journalistic yardstick that others find themselves judged by. I’m chosen for an assignment by clients who know up front that my interpretation will not be based on a real color palate or a literal translation of a scene. This has been on my mind since I posted that link last week about the disqualified entries to the Pictures of the Year competition. And even today another discussion started up on The Huffington Post about how the Washingtonian Magazine altered a shot of President Obama for it’s recent cover…the Ethics of Photoshop is becoming a real hot-button issue.

But since a bunch of you wrote to me over the weekend (and why some of you still don’t get how easy it is to post a comment on the blog instead of e-mailing me is makin’ me shake my head!) because you know the amount of post work I have done on some of my images…or at least you think you do…I thought I would pull away the curtain on a few of my shots so you can see exactly what sort of thing goes on after hours at Damn Ugly Photography…..

*Click on any image for the full-size preview*

Here is the RAW file of Jon Bon Jovi…

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…and the final, retouched version…

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This is probably the simplest example I’m showing. Aside from some color-shifting and contrast work, there is just a bit of cosmetic ‘fixing’ to get rid of a few wrinkles and bulges better left unseen.

A much more involved photo was this one of Cornelia Guest. Here is the RAW file…

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…and the final image…

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With this one I removed the lights over the paintings, the unfortunate wall-socket and the heating duct…then brightened the entire image. Next I shifted the color palate from green to blue and highlighted some areas (the window, gave the dog a bath!) and darkened others (the floor, the corners). But the real heavy lifting came with the cosmetic retouching on the subject…I built a contrast layer that allowed me to highlight her arms and face by putting them in kind of a glowy light. Then I cleaned up any wrinkles and slimmed down the line of the front and back of the dress.

Joe Rosenberg, RAW…

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…and retouched…

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This is just one of the ‘Less is More’ situations…by simply getting rid of the ceiling lights and the heavy black bars in the windows, the shot takes on a completely different feel. And while the color shift looks extreme, this is one of those cases where the RAW file isn’t really showing ‘reality’ either…the original scene wasn’t nearly as muted and murky as the unretouched image leads you to believe. I find that often a RAW file is so much lower in contrast that without a good dose of tweaking in Photoshop you’d be left with a pretty unappetizing image!

Sheila Nevins, RAW…

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…retouched…

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There are a few of you out there who know the story behind this shot of Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO’s Documentary Division…how I only shot this one single frame when she bolted off the set because the bright explosion of light from the ring light I was using destroyed her eyesight and gave her an ‘ocular migraine’…! I hoped her eyesight was back to normal by the time she was back in her office, but after I checked to make sure my one image was intact, I still had to remove the ugly stainless steel power strip and microphones that ran the length of the boardroom table, as well as brightening the whites and desaturating the pinkish-red skin tones. Oh yeah, then I had to regenerate a reflection of her in the glass table top…

Toxic House, before…

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…and after…

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This BusinessWeek shoot about a family who bought a house sitting on a toxic waste site was definitely made infinitely better by pulling out the Photoshops tricks. To get a feeling of ominous doom, I dialed up the contrast a ton, even for me, and went heavy on the Hi Pass and Multiply layers, so much that it left a glowing halo around the edges…almost like the house was vibrating. Then I highlighted their faces in the masks with sort of a spotlight effect to pull detail out of their faces. I also oversharpened the living daylights outta the thing to make it look even edgier, and finally darkened the sky to further add to the sense of peril.

Steven Spielberg and the scary tree, before…

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…and after I made the tree bigger and scarier…

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I shot Steven Spielberg just before his remake of ‘War of the Worlds’ came out, and for one of my three set-ups I placed him in front of a huge tree in front of the Amblin offices on the Universal backlot. The way the tree looked with it creepy shedding bark, reminded me of the scene in the original 50’s film where the aliens crawled outta the crater that was caused when they crashed, so I lit him with a monster-light from down below and finished it off in my computer. As big as the tree was, I still wanted to dwarf him a bit more, so I cloned the trunk on the top and left of the frame, then I shifted his baby-blue shirt to grey and went about desaturating and increasing the contrast overall. Finally, I darkened the whole shot overall and brightened the light on his face to separate him and give the appearance of something glowing off-camera….in a crater…..with the aliens!

Song of the Day

ARIEL ABSHIRE
Exclamation Love


DOWNLOAD: Exclamation Love

It’s cold and dark and rainy here in the city today…..so how ’bout a nice love song?!! 17 year-old Ariel Abshire’s album, Exclamation Love, has been out since last October, but it was her knock out performances at this year’s SXSW that really got people noticing the Austin native. Her shimmering falsetto kinda reminds me of a happy Neko Case, but with a bit of Patsy Cline thrown in for country cred…and I know some of you are gonna cry this is just a sappy love song, but give those lyrics a closer listen…for 17 the girl has mad songwriting skills! Give her a look over on MySpace

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Is It Wrong???

Haiti Aftermath 02

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There is a fascinating discussion going on at the Judge’s Table at the Danish Pictures of The Year Competition regarding how much Photoshop is too much when it comes to photojournalism. Apparently, the entry of photographer Klavs Bo Christensen went way over whatever acceptable standard had previously been allowed, and his photographs were disqualified. Now God knows I twiddle the knobs as much as the next guy, but then I don’t claim to be a ‘photojournalist’ either. I’m not gonna editorialize, but check out the story yourself and lemme know what you think…..

FOLLOW LINK:
Too much Photoshop? Judge for yourself

Song of the Day

KEVIN DEVINE
Brother’s Blood


DOWNLOAD: Brother’s Blood

It’s safe to say that Kevin Devine probably ain’t gonna win any vocalist of the year awards, but he sings with such raw emotion and gut-wrenching honesty that I just had to pass along this song from his new album, Brother’s Blood, due out at the end of the month. When his Neil Young-like, sorta-out-of-key vocal fades away half-way through and lets the positively hypnotic guitar run take over, you really get to see how damn good this song is…and then he comes back…angrier than ever, to finish you off! Give this one some time…it took me four or five plays before I was totally hooked…but it’s so worth it! Kevin Devine is from Brooklyn and you can check him out on MySpace

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Song of the Day

THE VEILS
The Letter


DOWNLOAD: The Letter

Finn Andrews and a mostly new gang of friends still calling themselves The Veils, are back with a wonderfully mopey, happy, overwrought & complex offering of Rock & Roll theaterics. ‘The Letter’ is off of Sun Gangs, the first Veils album in almost three years. I say new gang ‘cuz after only three records, the only constant has been Andrews, but maybe all the lineup changes are paying off, since I think this is the tightest thing he’s ever put out. The lush, layered arrangements and slightly syncopated rhythms highlight everything that’s great about his voice…think of Coldplay’s Chris Martin but without all the self-important pomposity! Diggin’ it!!! Check out The Veils over on MySpace

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Gee……I’m ‘Blog Famous’…!!!

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I’ve only been doin’ this thing for a short while, but somehow my post about my photo of Jack & Suzy Welch being on the ‘Today’ show got me onto the WordPress.com ‘Blogs of the Day’ Page!

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Zillions of people Blogging and Twittering their little brains out…and I come in at Number 61…!!! I checked my blog stats and the graph kinda showed what went on yesterday…..

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Maybe I’ll just give up on the Song of the Day and blathering on about my photographic exploits and instead just make this the Suzy Welch Appreciation Page!

Song of the Day

RANCID
Last One To Die


DOWNLOAD: Last One To Die

In our continuing efforts to ROCK the joint up, we here at the Song of the Day List got all goosebumpy today when we heard that Rancid has a new album…their first new full length since 2003’s ‘Indestructible’…ready to drop this June and that the first leak, ‘Last One to Die’, is hitting the blogosphere. Often compared to The Clash, a fact they don’t seem to mind (check out their cover of The Clash’s ‘Cheat’ on YouTube), this song is actually the most accessible Rancid song I think I’ve ever heard…the snarly vocals from Tim Armstrong, the shout-it-out anthem-like chorus, the crashing guitars and thumping basslines, the streetpunk attitude…..if the rest of ‘Let the Dominoes Fall’ comes close to this song, I think Rancid just might win over some new fans! Check ’em out at MySpace

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I Was On The ‘Today’ Show This Morning…..

So I’m just sitting here this morning, eating my flakes, reading The Times, with the ‘Today’ show on in the background…suddenly Suzy Welch is on to promote her new book, 10-10-10, and what do ya know…my shot of Jack & Suzy pops up with my credit and everything!

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Now, my pictures of Jack & Suzy have been published all over the place…in BusinessWeek, on the cover of their books…

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…and the photo used by the Today Show was from the last shoot we did for their website, The Welch Way, but it’s still kinda cool to have it splashed up on the screen before you’re even fully awake!

Song of the Day

BAND OF SKULLS
Blood


DOWNLOAD: Blood

A slinky guitar slides into this song, followed by a few high-hat crashes…and I’m hooked. But if you need more, trust me…as soon as lead singer Emma Richardson’s riveting voice slips in with her primal, sexy growl you’re gonna fall in love…if not, you’re dead! And the thing ROCKS…I think I’ve been guilty of tossing out some pretty arty stuff lately, so this is a great way to kick off the week and rectify the level of softness The List has been in. You can pick up Band Of Skulls debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey, over on iTunes for the recession special price of only 6 bucks…and you can check out the band on MySpace

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Song of the Day

LISSY TRULLIE
She Said


DOWNLOAD: She Said

It’s surprising at the speed which a fresh indie act can go from being completely unknown to being anointed supremely worthy, but that’s kinda what’s been happening over the past couple of months to Lissy Trullie. After all this time together, you’ve probably figured out that I keep my ears open when it comes to finding new indie music, but I was only barely aware of her…she was one of photographer Ryan McGinley’s friends who would happily pose naked whenever he asked and she apparently DJ’d around the New York club scene…and yet after releasing a debut EP, Self-Taught Learner, and playing a few well-chosen gigs in all the right clubs (including well-received shows at CMJ and her release party at The Mercury Lounge), this week New York Magazine dubbed her the “future of New York rock”…!!! I figured with all that hype, I had better give her a listen to see what all the fuss is about…and I gotta say, it’s kinda cool. There’s a healthy dose of muscular drum work and a solid array of post-punk riffs to back up her self-aware songwriting and Chrissie Hynde-like snarl vocals and that’s good enough for me to pass on to you guys. As always, you can check her out on MySpace

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Song of the Day

ROSE ELINOR DOUGALL
Start/Stop/Synchro


DOWNLOAD: Start/Stop/Synchro


DOWNLOAD: The Pipettes – I Think We’re Alone Now

The Pipettes were one of the many quirky, slapped-together novelty groups that popped up in England a couple of years back trying to get in on the retro-60’s nostalgia that brought us Amy Winehouse, Adele, Candie Payne and a lot other less talented wanna-be’s…they lasted all of one album, We Are The Pipettes, and got a few people listening with a lo-fi version of the old Tommy James & the Shondells hit, ‘I Think Were Alone Now’, before they faded into obscurity. However, the one bright thing I remember about the band was the voice of Rose Elinor Dougall…it alternates between the warm, husky quality of Cass Elliot, but then there is that lovely warble in the higher register that absolutely has me hearing Siouxsie Sioux…..it’s really quit amazing, but the musical arrangement of this song and even her use of the heavy black eye liner owes a nod to Siouxsie & the Banshees! Anyway…Ms. Dougall has a solo album set to drop in June and you can check her out further on MySpace

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Song of the Day

THE MILK & HONEY BAND
Disappear


DOWNLOAD: Disappear

Since the early 90’s singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist/psychedelic-rock guru Robert White (Ex-of Ring, Levitation and Zag And The Coloured Beads) has quietly shuffled along with a little side project he called The Milk & Honey Band…a mixture of pastoral English psychedelic rock, easy-flowing acoustic pop and space rock. A few years ago, XTC’s Andy Partridge convinced White to make the project his full-time job and signed them to his Ape Records label. Despite what some say are obvious similarities between XTC and the Milk & Honey boys, I don’t think Partridge had designs on turning them into XTC-version 2.0…he probably just fell in love with their sound! In fact, he said they were “…a bit like The Moody Blues but with more energy and better songs…!” And while we’re comparing their sound, I think it’s easy to say there’s a bit of Crowded House, Elliot Smith, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Teenage Fanclub, and Nick Drake in their DNA as well. They just dropped Dog-Eared Moonlight, their second album on the Ape label…..check ’em out on MySpace