There’s something to be said for small intimate weddings. Estee and I, while we did have a large wedding (huge actually) for some reason it wasn’t legal, (we live on the edge like that. Well it was legal according to Jewish law, we just didn't have the proper paperwork or something of the sort), so we had to marry legally at the court. Going back to the courthouse to photograph Lynn and Charles tying the knot was a wonderful and nostalgic experience.

Simple, intimate, sweet, love.

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The only trouble is: Gee whiz


I have a dream. Wait, no, I have many dreams. Some contradict with others, some with themselves. Some arrive with sudden moments of clarity, others sneak up slowly and burn with a passion. These psychological squatters come in acts of three: Where, What and Who. Where I want to live, what I want to do, and who I want to be.

I want to live in Safed, Israel; Jerusalem; or maybe a small moshav somewhere; I'd like to start a community; I dream about having a small farm in the outskirts of Denver; or maybe Virginia; Northern California always appeals to me; Sometimes I want to stay in Long Beach; I want to live somewhere beautiful, in nature, to drink oxygen and eat soil.

I want to have a farm, a homestead. I want to run a seminary focusing on a more agrarian lifestyle and real spirituality (as if I know what that is). There is this hostel/learning-institution/retreat in Safed called Ascent that I'd love to emulate somehow here in the states. I want to photograph weddings, or families. Or not. I have a dream about having a sort of photojournalism blog focusing on important and meaningful issues. Promoting a less consumer and more do it yourself lifestyle. Showing humane in the foreign, and the spirituality in the humane. I want to publish my photography in fancy books (and somehow convince people to buy them). I want to make beer. Own a cow, goats, chickens. I want to teach.

I want to be organized, calm, on time. I want to have lists and have them checked off. I want to love my fellow Jew. They say (no clue who "they" are, probably the same who don't let me play monopoly or read "the Hardy Boys" until I'm ten years old (ha!! I showed them!)) that love is a verb. I'm not so sure that is grammatically true but the actions prove the state. And if I'm not actively helping out my fellow Jews, spiritually; mentally; physically; emotionally, then my love is just a vague intellectual concept. I want to love G-d. To know Him. I want to daven like a mentch. I want to be strong and healthy. I want to be kind, considerate, patient. I dream of all these things. I want to know how my car works, how to build a table, wire a room, carve, whittle. I want to know where I left my shoes, my keys, and my light meter. I want to be honest, open, real. I want to wear tweed jackets with leather elbow patches, brown boots, professor glasses. I want to not care how I dress. I want to be a scholar.

Usually I dream of all three together. And my dreams are intense, detailed. One day I want to live in Safed. There is this dilapidated house at the outskirts of the old city I have my eye on. It's vacant, has a huge yard and from one side falls straight down to a valley below, with a magnificent view of the Galilee. It's owned by the Breslov mafia but I'm sure I can get them to sell. I'll have a few goats and chickens, and a nice garden. Teach in the seminaries, yeshivas, and Ascent. Get some other young families to move there. Take photos and sell them. Wake before sunrise and learn on a mountaintop.

And while the third category is most important, followed by the second, I spend most of my time dreaming of the first. It's after all a dream, and the less concrete the more intense. Larger leaps are always more romantic.

Dreams are like potions. Elixirs. Healthy, even needed, but only in small doses. It must be dripped into casks of contemplation and barrels of reality.

In the words of Victor Hugo (yup, still reading "Leh Misérables"):

“Thought is the toil of the intelligence, revery its voluptuousness. To replace thought with revery is to confound a poison with a food.”

Granted, revery is quite different from dreaming but the path between is short, steep, and deliciously slippery.

The Rebbe spoke often about Moshiach and how all we we have to do is "open our eyes", and live as if we already had world peace. As if we already got along. As if we did see G-dliness everywhere.

Lately I've been thinking about my dreams, and realizing how lazy and wimpy I really am. Although they come in wholes, they are but sums of parts, and I could be living those parts now. Starting with the third category and moving up. Inconspicuous leaps, tiny jumps. Working towards the dreams.

And that's my resolution for this young fresh year. I can write, learn, teach, love, now. I dream about living in nature but do I make the time for a walk in the park? Nay, this is the year I practice living, you know, to get good at it. So to the dreamers out there I wish you courage to make small changes, and to the do-ers out there I wish upon you the power to dream.


I'll be on the East Coast the week of October 20th and possibly a bit beyond. If you're interested in joining a quickshoot to help out my brother in law (see here for the details) or to book a documentary session, hit me with an email and let's make it happen!

Instant Aerial Jury Duty

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I'm sitting here in the jury antechamber (or whatever title this pre-jury room inspired), exhausted, in that thoroughly putrid state of nervous nauseousness caused by that unique chemical reaction of a sleepless night combined with a Rockstar.

The wifi is broken, the stomach is empty, but the heart hums joyously. Deep in the recesses of my manly man-purse is a recently purchased, just repaired, polished metal, leather encased beauty of German engineering. Along with this mechanical, battery eschewing, photon-recording device, is its dubious cousin, another German wonder, with a a dark and lugubrious background.

We must, dear reader (I've been on a free ebook rampage, Main Street, done; Ann Veronica, done; Siddartha, done; Rights of Man, working on it; Walden, working on it; Winnie the Pooh, done; Treasure Island, done. I now find myself one third of the way through Les Miserables. Holy tangents! I thought I was bad! Just because this Mr. Valjean dude walked by a house on a the corner of "fancy french street name" and "equally fancy french street name" that don't mean I need to know the life story of the previous sixteen tenants. Ain't no one got time for that!) close our eyes (okay now open them again, you can't read with your eyes closed),

(Wait right here, I'm being called up (I'm the row opposite the row under the televisions) to validate my parking ticket. Yeehaw! Things are HAPPENING! Make way for juror number 120817647!)

and take yourself back seventy years or so, before hippies roamed the earth, back when the cars were pretty, and the world was on fire. Bombers lumbered and the Lord seemed to slumber. In secret rooms in secret buildings, secret people sent secret pilots on secret missions. In the front sat the hotshot aviators, in their dashing leather jackets and wonky goggles. In the back, nerds with pocket protectors were manning large camera with huge lenses. Flying high to avoid enemy fire, they captured hundreds of images per flight; army bases, weak points, bridges, convoys.

These aerial lenses were commissioned by the armies, specially manufactured to take in as much light as possible. Now they are prized for their speed, not for photographing the night, but for the speed, the larger the diameter of a lens is the smaller the plane of focus is so you get that crazy front-of-eyeball-is-in-focus-but-the-eyelashes-aren't look. But I bore myself. This particular chunk of glass, in a neighboring pocket of my manly man-purse, keeps for itself the stately title of "Schneider-Göttingen No57610 Xenon 1:2 f=12,5cm".

(Roll call. Schnorrer Berkowitz. Here. Downstairs I go. Past the out-of-order drinking fountain, past the garbage can with the Warning: Garbage and Lid Sold Separately, past two more non-working water fountains, past the cold drink vending machine and into room number 520 in department "M". Juror number 3987, 2870, 8430, 2101… I've heard many stupid things as a Judge. Lunch break. Reconvene at 1:30. Of course I am late. I run upstairs, freshly egged, smoothied, and watered. Judge is later. Gary J. Ferrari is his name. With that name I knew we'd be finished quickly. Right)

So the lens is made by Schneider, from the Göttingen division, which in 1936, either broke off from the Kreuznach division on its own to build aerial lenses for the Luftwaffe, or was forced to by the Nazi Government. Serial numbers are odd, but it seems that most of them are between 55,000 and 65,000. It's a Xenon designation which is a modified double gauss design (and we all know what that is). Its diameter is half of the focal length of 12.5 centimeters. And it's heavy. Very heavy, a lovely chunk of glass.

Leica (the big German camera companies were Rolleiflex and Hasselblad, the big lens makers were Zeiss, Schneider, and Zeiss), was also supposed to be designing optics for the Reich. They had this huge blueprint and prototype that they showed any official who came to check up on them, it took them until the end of the war. It turned out they just blew up the design for a tiny 35mm lens they were working on for their small rangefinder cameras. Sticking it to the man since 1936. In the early stages of Nazi Germany they gave hundreds of Leica's to Jews so they could be designated as journalists and be able to leave. They're cool like that. I really should buy one.

(Are you going to be prejudiced against this man because of how he looks? No, ma'am. Whisper whisper, whisper whisper. I wish judges still wore wigs. More whispering.)

I don't know which camera these lenses were supposed to be mounted on (they were probably specially made for this lens), I bought it from some friends in LA who stuck a SL66 mount on the back (that's the aforementioned camera in my aforementioned manly man-purse). The lens doesn't have a focusing hellicoid (that part of the lens you turn to focus) so it can only be used on a camera with a bellow focusing system (which is one of the reasons the SL66 rocks so hard). But this wasn't enough, no, not for the intrepid Wright Brothers, they had to modify a Speed Graphic to shove the lens onto, calibrated the rangefinder (NOT easy, and NOT fun), and modified the back so a Polaroid back would be centered (for some ridiculous reason (stuff like this is why Polaroid went belly up) the Polaroid back is off to the side, which in this case (where the lens doesn't properly cover 4x5), that just wouldn't do).

(Juror number 2 knows one of the lawyers. More whispering. My lip reading skills could use a brush up. Dismissed. Next. No speak English. Next. Juror number 5 dismissed. No speak English. Dismissed. Dang I got to try this.)

What's a Speed Graphic? Please! I'm trying to get to the point of this pointless diatribe. Okay sheesh, fine. The Speed Graphic was made by Graflex (in the good ole USA),

(Juror number 8 dismissed. I still haven't been called up and while I do pay myself for Jury duty, no one pays me to pay myself, and I REALLY can't do it, even though I kind of want to.)

it can be used either as a rangefinder, or through the ground glass in the back. It also has a remarkably complex shutter system(as opposed to the Crown Graphic which can only be used with lenses that have built in shutters) with 4 shutters and 12 tensions giving 48 (!!) speeds between 1/10 and 1/1000 of a second. And it's remarkably annoying to use. Let's say you see a scene you really want to photograph, you must:

(Juror number 8 dismissed.)

1. Get a meter and figure out how you want he Polaroid exposed (you have to be very exact with Polaroids).

2. Figure out which combination of shutters and tension will give you the shutter speed you want (noooo, no easy obvious numbers. Shutter A is 1/10-1/80 with 6 possible tensions (I.e. a large slit with 6 speeds), "B" is from 1/90-1/200, etc.).

3. Uncover the lens.

4. Compose your shot in the viewfinder (which is way off to the side and completely inaccurate).

5. Focus in the tiny rangefinder window.

6. Fine focus in the viewfinder.

7. Release the shutter.

8. Pull out the Polaroid.

9. Cover the lens to cock the shutter.

You have to do that each time. EACH TIME!

(Juror 11 dismissed.)

Is it worth it. I'm still not sure. The image it produces is delightful and unique. But it's so. Darn. Annoying.

To find out the exact awesome/annoying ratio and how much I'm willing to bend in either direction, I shot an all Polaroid session with a friend of mine in Redondo Beach. I actually screwed up a lot less than I expected but I did realize in middle that I was pulling the Polaroids form the camera too quickly and that was doing weird stuff (white, or magenta dots, and unexposed corners). I took the Polaroids home with me to scan, but normally I'd give them to the clients and just scan the negatives.

So here it is, some positives, some negatives. Just like life.

(Juror 4 dismissed. After five days you can go on twitter and all that other stuff young people use. Kids these days. Juror 4 dismissed. Wiser whisper. Juror number 6471 please come up. That would be me. Did you read the questionnaire? Yes. Did you answer "yes" to any? Yes. 4. Do you, or any relative, or close friend, have any formal legal training? Yes, of course I do, I'm Jewish. 5. Have you or any relative, or close friend, ever been a victim of a crime? Yup! I was kidnapped when I was 2 (nope, you don't get that story now, one day…). Did you testify in court? No, I was two…12. Do you have a personal reason to have a bias either way in this case? Yes (it was a child molestation case), I have 5 kids age 6 and under, so this would be hard for… 5 kids under 6! That would be hard for anyone! Everyone laughs. Sir, I would like to be excused due to financial hardship. Yes? I have 5 kids, one who is a newborn, and I freelance so... Whisper whisper. Juror 4 dismissed. Juror number 3071…)

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Capturing Grace

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It seems that I tend to write about writing and doing more than I write and do. And now I'm writing about writing about writing. Lame.

I've been doing a bit of soul searching and I'm discovering that I'm a serious right-winger. Not in regards to politics or religion (though admittedly I'm pretty hard-core in regards to both) but in the soul-character spectrum.

Kabbalah teaches that there are ten soul faculties. Three intellectual, and seven emotional. There is a right side, a left side and a middle. It goes right, left, middle, right, left, middle, right, left, middle, middle.

The right side is outgoing, challenging, always looking for the new, restless, visionary, revolutionary, fast, and furious.

Left side is calmer, reserved, disciplined, organized, submissive, evolutionary, focused.

Big plans excite me. The minutia of actually implementing it, not so much. And that just ain't cool.

I like me some new cameras. Holy moly I like new cameras. I've gone through more in the past three years than most have seen in a lifetime. I have this weird aversion to what's popular. "If everyone likes it, it must be really bad." Which oftentimes is true, but it's a bit (a bit?) elitist, and you know, sometimes it's good enough that even the proles (sic) get it.

I wonder if everyone shot film would I shoot digital? I don't think so, but it's hard to know the working of the subconscious. Who is deciding here?

So I raise this cup of ice coffee to the lefties of the world. The plodders, the planners. The ones who get stuff done, and are able to focus the crazy ideas out there and actually implement them. And a special sip for Estee who holds my feet to the fire.

Not that I'm boxing myself in. One isn't "either or". There's always some sort of balance and we can always work on ourselves. It's just important to know one's merits and faults. Both to capitalize on what you've got and to work on the other half.

Truth is I'm getting better. Slowly, but it's happening folks. One day I'll be a picture of orderly submissiveness. With a huge side of rebelliousness.


One of the good things about being a righty is the questioning of things that are. The why. And the why behind the why. In between checking ebay for new cameras and expired film, I do my fair share of thinking, especially in the field of photography. What I really wish I had from my childhood (besides Microsoft, and later Apple stocks) is an album or two, from different stages of my life, of how we lived. What we did, how we interacted, what our house looked like. I want to know what we wore, and how many dishes were in the sink. What was in the fridge and what we did at the park. I'd want a beautiful family photo every once in a while.

I had the recent pleasure of photographing Amy Grace and her beautiful children. Amy, besides being a beautiful person inside and out, is a wonderful artist (and I don't use that word lightly) with both images and words. And she gets it. Her photography is quite different, but it is much more of "this is how it feels" than "this is how it looks".

So here is just a normal day at the Graces. Breakfast, chillage, playing, getting food, park, ice cream, back home for some more chillage, reading, back to the park, bathtime... You get the gist. I also busted out my new polaroid machine made by some good friends of mine in LA (it's a modified Speed Graphic with a huge old aerial lens). That thing is annoying, huge, slow, and challenging, but that's why I like it. Nothing normal allowed here. Oh, and the images it produces are spectacular.


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And some instant film. I gave the prints to Amy, these are scans of the negative (which are cool, but not as pretty as the actual prints).

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Please check out Amy's work. You'll be happy you did.


If you haven't heard... I'll be having two (or more) quickshoot days with all the profit going to help my brother in law who has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). One in LA and another in NY. It's a wonderful chance to get amazing photos of your family and help a family who could really use it. You could see the details here. Thanks!!

I'll be wandering around the East coast towards the end of October, so if you want to book a session do so before the fat cows sing (that's the deadline).

Expect Miracles {quick session fundraiser}

None of my sisters hit 5 feet.

All three got close, and I think they have themselves convinced that they still have a chance. It's quite a point of contention between them over who is actually the tallest. My middle sis, Dina, definitely held the height crown in the late 80's and early 90's when she had this awesome curl mosh of permed goodness adorning the top of her pretty head.

Somewhere in the middle of the decade (I think the crazy huge hair styles were fading by then), I was sitting in my parents' insanely large master bedroom (the owners remodeled the front and added a master bedroom to the master bedroom), minding my own business, and I had this strange sensation that everyone was talking about Dina.

"Is something wrong with Dina?" asked my cute 11 year old pre-beard voice.

Everyone stopped talking and looked at me in shock, as if I was from Pluto, which was already showing signs of its coming identity crisis.

"She's getting engaged tomorrow. We've been talking about nothing else for the past two weeks. Where have you been?!"

Thing 1: In my world, "getting engaged" means you already decided that you're getting married ("will you marry me?" "Yes!!! Ask me again!"), and now you are going to get the blessing of the Rebbe (previously done through a letter or phone call, now usually at the Ohel (his grave site), or through an email which someone could read on your behalf at the Ohel). Once you do that you are "officially" engaged.

Thing 2: I was (and still am in some ways) the most oblivious child the world has ever seen. So while it may have been odd to my family that I had no clue of all these going-ons, it seemed normal enough to me.

Dina was the first in my family to get married, so it was a whole new experience for me. I got to go to New York, had my first taste of Scotch (I think it was Chivas Regal, I thought it would be bad, it was way worse), got to freeze my outer appendages in the -7 degrees outdoor ceremony, got to dance like a complete lunatic (I still do that), and many other things I'm sure, all forgotten (or otherwised unnoticed) in my non-drunken obliviousness.

The dude she married was a young Rabbi from Brooklyn. He was a handsome fellow, with clean pressed shirts, a tidy beard, and ice skates. And everybody seemed to know him. I mean everybody. He was the most easy-going, engaging, pleasant, honest, and open person to talk to. He knew his way with a guitar, had a wonderful voice, and was a splendid dancer. A bit of a New Yorker, but he got that part Temeculad out of him fairly quickly.

Seven children (one who was just had recently Bar Mitzvah) and seventeen (or so) years later they now lead a wonderfully eclectic Jewish community in Temecula, Califonia.

I recently came back from an event where Dina was talking about her husband's ability to talk to anyone. Anyone. They were sitting on his parents' front porch in Crown Heights (as either newlyweds or almost-weds, I forget) and on the porch above them there was a set of 3 year old twins staring down at them as kids sometimes do. My sister was attempting to engage them in some sort of conversation. Wasn't happening. Yitzi looks up and says "I can go to the bathroom all by myself", and boom! they had a whole conversation about the intricacies of a three-year-old's potty challenges.

Last year after experiencing an increasing loss of speech control, Yitzi was diagnosed with ALS more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a disease affecting voluntary muscle movements, where the nervous system which is supposed to be telling the limbs to move isn't really doing its job well. It's also symptomatic in that there is no way to test for it other than looking at the symptoms. There's no virus or bacteria or marker anywhere in the body where you can test, point to some sort of oddity and say with certainty "This is ALS".

Since the diagnosis, Yitzi has been losing his ability to talk and recently has lost his fine motor skills in his left hand and a bit in his legs. He can't talk as well, sing, play guitar, or dance. These are the things he loves, and how he shares himself with the world. Yet even so, over the past year and half, Yitzi has been amazing. He's happy, involved, still acts as Rabbi, is always hopeful, and is somehow, still a remarkable communicator. My sister, understandably, is overwhelmed. But she too is showing remarkable strength and wisdom in her not-so-old age.

One of the symptoms is the inability to control emotion. When he is happy he laughs, and when he is sad he cries. No hiding. No layers. And Yitzi has been laughing. A lot. The only time he lost it was when he was on the phone with the Rabbi in Los Angeles, asking about his inability to say all the prayers. Saying all the words would take over three hours and he'd have no energy for the rest of the day. After getting his reply, he broke down crying. That's the type of man he is.

There are a few different treatments, most in the trial stages. All are very costly. They are currently on a flight to Israel for a cutting edge new treatment called Brain Storm. It uses stem cells and has shown some very positive results.

There also is the hope that it isn't actually ALS. Again, being symptomatic no one ever really knows the actual disease. Many symptoms are shared by certain types of Lyme disease. And then there is a whole world of alternative medicine and treatments. Homeopathy, Herbology, Acupuncture, etc. All time consuming, and all costly.

The community, both in Temecula and the larger Jewish community has been amazing in their support. Emotionally, financially, personally etc. But even so there are still many bills left uncovered and treatments underutilized due to finances.

I was mentally writing this blog post on the 101 freeway yesterday, and remembered that they got a blessing from the Rebbe for a recovery by Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). That's less than 40 days away and I was thinking how that isn't much time. Right then (literally 3 seconds after this thought) a motorcycle roared by on the left, with a sign on the back saying "Expect Miracles".

And I am.

I really didn't want to write about this. It's so personal, and this being a place where, in addition to just writing whatever pops in my head, I attempt to publicize my photography, get new clients, and hopefully get more business, I almost feel like I'm using this story to get more traffic, more publicity. As I know it will. And I can't really stomach that.

But I want to help, and this is the way I could.

*** Very important thing 1: Quick Shoot Fundraiser

I wanted to do something to help and decided I would make a quick session fundraiser. I'm not sure what the response would be so as of yet I only have one day planned (though I'll do as many as there is interest).

So here are the Details:

I'll be shooting the entire day of Sunday, August 18th at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. 12 sessions.

Each family will get 30 minutes of my shooting time to do family portraits, and each will get a disc with all the high resolution images (around 20).

Cost will be $275, of which $75 will go to me to cover costs of film, developing, gas, burgers, beer, etc. and $200 to go to Dina and Yitzi.

To book a spot you must email me at or call 714-460-3967, and pay in full.

Again, I'll be doing this again on other days and in other places if the demand is there. I'm really hoping it will.

If you haven't yet seen samples of my work, feel free to browse through my blog or just check out the family sessions.


Almost as important thing 2: East Coast Dates

It seems that me and my flock of cameras will be heading to New York toward the end of October. Followed by a meander down the East Coast for some other bookings. If you are interested in a family session, email me, call me, text me, fax, telegram, moneygram, send a letter, walk over, or somehow get in touch and lets make it happen!

I am also setting aside a day or two for the same quick session fundraiser in the large apple. Very tentative date of Tuesday October 22nd, other days will be added as per demand.


Please share this post! And if you can add Yitzi to your prayers, or can help in any way please let me know.

Love, life, and health, Zalmy