11 or so pics from Dubai

So I was a keynote speaker and guest at the Access Film & Media Conference at this years MEFCC. I was terrible at getting my camera out of my bag, it was just too frantic of a trip to stop and click the shutter. I’ll do better next time. Here were a few snaps, I’ll try and make up for it with stories though. Click one for slideshow & biggerer:

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So I did get to go do a deal in Al Karama district. As a Canal street veteran, Grade A New York haggler, and boisterous braggart when it comes to street negotiations… my new friend Arafaat decided to challenge me in Karama. Like you would handicap a pro golfer, Arafaat wheeled us in a shinny new Cadillac CTS-V (which mind you is a slick choice in the world of Dubai supercars). Having just walked out of meetings, we were dressed to the nines and far away from our typical wardrobe of comic book shirts and flip-flops. Arafaat, with his bespoke carbon-fiber cuff links and my super shinny near Mexicali Barrio Apache Hyphy crew shoes, wasn’t doing me any favors. We began strolling by the vendors hearing the standard call outs of well known brand names. We decided that a high-line watch would be the most difficult item to negotiate for based on our current look.

There were several shady characters in this grey market here. I caught some younger vendors, that while having the energy to negotiate for hours, seemed to be the most enturpanuring of the lot. I gave the nod that we might be interested in seeing some watches. They whisked us into a tidy, brightly lit store front, pushed on a section of uncovered wall, and slid it back to reveal a secret passageway to a set of dimly lit stairs. In any other country (looking at you Mexico), I would have faked a phone call, and jettisoned outta there in a flash.

This however was Dubai, and I had something to prove, so we lead the way into the unknown (Pro Tip: never be the first guy on the stairs in a dangerous situation, you have little tactical advantage). We got to the negotiating room. Lined floor to low ceiling with suitcases I assume were filled with contraband.  They set up a folding table and chairs, removed a section of wall in front of us, pulled out merchandise, and began calling unknown parties on their cells.

They promptly left the room. Arafaat looked at me in wild-eyed confusion. “Take a picture”, I said.

photo credit: Arafaat Ali Khan

photo credit: Arafaat Ali Khan

The men came back in the room, and as a Canal street knockoff watch connoisseur, I wasn’t overly impressed initially with the selection or quality. They were quick to catch on, and after a call and barely a minute of wait time a new suitcase arrived. Now we were talking. Before me was s selection of the best quality grey market timepieces that would make the most hardcore nerds on do a spit take.

Now the dance could begin.

The initial prices they were quoting were on the ridiculous high side. It was clear our current dress and arrival in the fuck-off Caddy had put targets on the wallet. Settling on a timepiece of the utmost build quality (only way I do knockoffs anymore, besides I’m a vintage guy at heart as you probably know) I told them the price I would pay. No. That price. No deviation. That was the price. Mind you, we’re talking below 60% of their ask.


They argued for a hot minute, and after at least two more calls to a big boss I assume, they capitulated. Arafaat stared at me in wonder. Was I a wizard? It was clear they were not trilled with the deal, but a sale was better than no sale. How could I have known their bottom line from the start? How could ol’ Nortega get so close to their margin? It’s not like I deal with shady knockoff watches everyday. No… simply put-

I cheated.

Allow me to teach you how it was done. Early on I noticed the merchandise had price tags on the bottom but with only letters in place of numbers. In this case, there was a very simple substitution cipher in play. Based on their repeat opening offers of 2x listed value it was pretty clear how the code worked. In this case it was the most basic: A=1 B=2 C=3 D=4 etc.

Most pawn shops and some antique stores will use a similar code to remind themselves and let employees know what their cost was. MARYLOUISE used to be a common pawn shop code. With M=1, A=2 and so forth. Other common cipher blocks are MONEYTALKS, BLACKHORSE, and VOLKSWAGEN. 10 letter words if you hadn’t caught on.

By the way, it is best not to let on that you’ve cracked their code. I later had to get Arafaat a little thank you gift. What better than a 12V automotive Shisha!?!

automotive shisha


Anyway great time in that city. Very unique spot on this earth. Some other things that happened that deserve stories… but we’ll just have to go with pics for now.

Got to chill with Shatner:


Got to hang with the greats of the anime industry (some of whom I hadn’t seen in years!):


Got to drag race this turkey (info on vanity plates in Dubai) :


Ate some fish split in half an roasted via open sand pit:


Got to see where the Electronic Dance Music Saxophonists have gone to die:


8hrs at “Ryusei Matsuri” in Chichibu City, Saitama


Our good friend Koga-san took me to a rocket festival. It evidently was the setting of an anime series. Of course there is an otaku site that outlines how the series emulates the town.  Here is a collection of pics snapped on that day (click for biggerer):

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…and a quick video to give you an idea of the spirit. Love this country.

48hrs at the 2012 TampaAm

Another fun round of shooting at the world’s greatest amateur skateboarding contest. I was trying out a 1955 Rolleiflex 2.8d most of the weekend so I didn’t shoot as much with the M9. Here’s what I did capture on the ol’ Leica tho (click one for bigger and slideshow):



Akihabara Boxkeepers

The tiny little shops boxes in Akihabara’s electric town are only as strange as the shop box-keepers that run them. Here is a study of the fantastic men and women that power these tiny outlets of the most specialized collections of vacuum tubes, capacitors, led lights, CCD cameras, switches, and other electric needs. Each tiny box is an average of six square feet in size and the boxkeeper usually has the tiniest space in which to operate from. Shot with Leica M9 and a 35 v4 ‘bokeh king’. This is their story, click fer biggerer and slideshow:

72hrs in Weihai

Tampa Pro 2012 : the weekend

Another weekend at the SPOT. Here’s Saturday & Sunday. Always a blast with the best skating in world. Live. Here are photos of no one skating. Click fer bigger and slideshow.

Portraits from the 2011 TampaAM

An hour spent at the SPoT spread across two days. Here are some portraits from the weekend. Click fer bigger and slideshow:

21 minutes through FetishCon 2011

…and to the Hub.  On a long stroll through downtown Tampa, I happened upon Fetish Con again (like I had managed a year before). I didn’t really feel up to a prolonged stay this time around, as I was meeting a friend at the Hub.  Next year maybe I’ll be in the mood to shoot more. There’s little escape from the energy that this event creates in that town.  The last few moments of our evening were of the delightful fellow pictured propositioning me and Andy to “Go dancing, if we knew what he mean’d.”  We would then motion to the several 50 dollar bills he spread on the table. Andy repeated and repeated: “The friendly’s wearing off.”

He never really understood that meant “no.”

Click for slideshow:

12 Hours at MetroCon 2011

Pictures from an Anime convention from either a Epson RD-1 w/ Rokkor 40/2 and Leica M9 w/ Summicron 35/2 v4. Click for bigger n’ slideshow:

NYC in 36hrs

What did you do on your bender? Click fer biggerer:

Rokkoring the Fungus

Sometimes the horrible growths inside a lens can yield an interesting look. Minolta M-Rokkor 28/2.8 on a M9 clicker fer bigger:

Robbing the weekend away

Stealing a weekend back. Packed light and dirty. Only brought the Epson RD-1 rangefinder and a M-Rokkor 40/2. Great lens, but becomes like a 65mm on the RD-1. Wish I had a thrown a wide in the bag, but I also wish I had a beater Leica M9. Oh well…  Click image to start slideshow:

Rob-in weekend

Accelerated Lenses? 1/5000th ISO?

Prepare to have your fucking head blow’d off. Well, if you’re a photo geek. Light acceleration with electromagnets. I’ll take one. Analogue is back… in the terabytes.

Fastest Tool to clear yellowed Thorium lenses

Hi all, just wanted to share the absolute fastest way I have found to clear up the yellowing of lenses due to rare earth content. I’ve cleaned up several Takumars and now a 50/2 Wetzlar rigid ‘Cron with this lamp. After witnessing the speed in which it just cleaned up this Leica beauty from 1970, I was compelled to share this technique. For whatever reasons, it is able to clear up the yellowing of lenses  FAST. Like in all of 24 hours. Not a week of sitting in the windowsill trying to harness the sun.

So here’s the secret tool.

The JANSJÖ work lamp from Ikea. Item number 101.287.34

It’s an LED unit, but evidently puts out a highly focused beam of UV light that you can bend down right into the barrel of your lens. Seriously this thing works awesome. I’ve tried other UV bulbs to some good results but still those take days to undo the yellowing of decades of the radioactive breakdown. This lamp will cure it overnight. 2 nights, and you’re back to like new.

Hope this is helpful to someone… other than just Ikea’s lamp sales.

Real reel 2 reel sound.

Hooked up on a Teac A-4300SX for Fates’ Florida animation studios audiophile room today. Great sounding ‘prosumer’ unit. The real find was the old mustachioed guy’s collection of 20+ reels of rare recordings of everyone from Howlin Wolf to Leon Redbone. Sounds awesome blasting out of the DynaKit system.  Keep listening analogue fans; as the ad below says, don’t let the music stop!

28 hours left

Random R-D1 snaps with Russian Glass from 1959 (Jupiter 3 & 12 ). Click thumbnail for big size and slide show:

Street Love

If you have to ask about these… you don’t want to know.

R-D1 with CV 21/4 (terrible low light lens btw) shots (click one to start slide show):

Epson R-D1 : Day One

So I finally found an affordable Epson R-D1.  That’s a digital rangefinder camera. What’s fun is you can easily trick people into thinking it’s a film camera. It definitely is a challenge to use, but pushes the way you think about framing… and unmistakably makes you more deliberate in your clicks. One real bit of odd history with this camera is that it was announced in 2004, and subsequently has been released twice more (R-D1s & R-D1x) without ANY UPDATES to the taking sensor! It is a cult classic for that reason alone.  Read about the R-D1 here in an early article.

Anyway, been snapping some stuff with it. Here are some early shots (click one to start slide show):

Guinness : The Perfect Pint

Print & Digital Ad for Guinness served at the Perfect Pint bars in Manhattan. Click for larger size:

… and below is the original photo minus the text & graphics. Click for larger size:

Guinness : St. Patty’s Day

Maybe you’ve seen these hanging around NYC. Not the most well known (or known period) street photog but I do love interacting with interesting people on the street for a few random moments in time. Click image for bigger image: