The Power of Art, Barter and Gifting

Jesse Fortune's adventure.

Jesse Fortune's adventure.

I went to a wonderful presentation over the weekend at the Huntington Beach Art Center. It was given by Jesse Fortune who shared his experiences from his Epic Art Quest ( In a nutshell, earlier this year he traveled for 45 days around Europe with only a few essential belongings, a $9 easel and some paint supplies. He paints Plein Air paintings (outdoor and in the moment for those of you not familiar with the term). On this journey he painted small acrylic paintings and then bartered, gifted and sold them along the way to fund his journey. Sometimes he would barter for a couch to sleep on, or sell them for a few Euro to pay for meals, additional art supplies, transportation or an occasional beer. At times he would meet and converse with locals and tourists who, at times, would simply offer him a few Euro just to help him continue his journey. He was, as he put it, "An Ambassador of Art" (or something along those lines). He learned among other things how art transcends the barriers of culture, politics and even language.  It sounded like a wonderful experience. I wonder how a journey like that might apply to my photography but alas, I am not as young, adventurous or courageous as Jesse. That said, ever since the presentation I have been wondering if there is a page I can take out of his book and apply it in a small way to my life and work (at his suggestion to all in the room). So to that end, I'd like to try an experiment here in California where I live and only have to sleep on the couch if I choose to do so :). 

I would like to propose to any person or company who may be interested in 1) bartering for either my fine artwork or commercial photography services or 2) sharing with me a suggestion for gifting a print or photo service to a person or entity that could benefit from that gift of photography.

Just like Jesse's trip, I don't know exactly where this journey will take me, or who I will meet in the process but I think that's part of the fun and charm of such an adventure.

So that said, if you're interested, please reach out, let's talk and see where it leads. Just go to my contact page and shoot me a note. I will share my findings as I go so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to the journey ahead.

Have an awesome day!



A Photo Assignment with a Purpose....

Huntington Beach... Pick up your Trash!

Huntington Beach... Pick up your Trash!

I recently started teaching photography and documentary classes at the Huntington Beach Art Center. It has been an interesting process trying to organize 3 decades of knowledge on the subjects. Things that are second nature to me at this point and that I don't even think about are necessary pieces of information to know. So, as I dig through my own brain it's challenging to organize all those thoughts in such a way that will make sense to others so they can grow both creatively and technically. 

I had my first advanced photo class the other day and I went it to it thinking "these people are advanced and know what they are doing so what the heck am I going to share with them?" I began the class with a quote from Socrates that I ran across lately that seemed appropriate and is now becoming a major theme of my teaching philosophy. The quote is, "I can't teach you anything. All I can do is make you think."

So that's what I'm going to do. 

The first assignment to get everyone thinking and creating was something that I concocted from my experience making a film entitled "Imagine it". It was a film about the power of imagination and creativity that was based around a creative challenge Stanford put on for their entrepreneurship students. The task the Stanford students were given was to create "value" from a single package of post-it notes. That's it. They had 4 days to do something that created value of any kind. They also had to present their results in a lecture hall for all to see. The results were amazing and the student's solutions were brilliant. 

So that's what I did with my students.  I decided to challenge them  to do the same using photography as their medium. My students are typically at least twice as old as Stanford students so I'm curious how this will play with a more "experienced" group. My guess is that by the end of this some will love it and others will absolutely want to kill me. So to avoid the latter, as the instructor I told them I wouldn't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself. So this morning I created my photograph (see above). 

Before I issued the challenge,  we talked about the process of going from getting inspired to having that trigger your imagination to then creating something based upon what you imagine.  In the course of making my film, I interviewed a wickedly smart gentleman named Randy Komisar who suggested that to get started, find something to "rub up against, something to oppose, or dance with." So that's what I did.

I regularly take walks on the beach in the early morning and it always pisses me off when I see trash on the beach. As of late there has been an inordinate amount of trash and it's really been pissing me off. So, This morning, I took a garbage bag with me on my walk and collected the trash I saw, sprinkled in a few of my post-it notes with messages on them and photographed it (I Picked it all up afterward and threw it where it belongs... in the trash). I also included a post-it note with written on it. (It's an app that enables you to photograph trash you see and it geotag it. They are building a database from the info to help clean up the planet. Thus far they've tagged over 1 million pieces of trash and are applying that data to find solutions.)

As I was collecting my trash I found myself getting even more angry, especially as I saw what kind of trash I was finding... Lots of candy wrappers and "disposable" cups from McDonalds and other fast food companies, kids toys, a tennis ball, a lot of plastic bottle caps and of course water bottles. I found a mascara pen, a liquor bottle and one thing that surprised me (not sure why after thinking about it) a used condom and condom wrapper (2 separate places). Thankfully I had gloves on because there was no way I wa not going to include those in my picture. 

So as I see it, here's the value I have created thus far.... environmental value for picking up trash and showing a problem that will hopefully motivate people to not litter and/or pick up trash, promotional value for and health value for me. I say the latter because I got plenty of exercise bending over hundreds of times on my 1 mile walk and carrying what added up to about 10 lbs of trash. 

So if you're still reading this I now ask you to help me add more value. Please share this or my instagram or facebook post and help me get more visibility to help prove that there was in fact value to what I have begun. Maybe we'll even get some people (including you) to sign up for so you too can start tagging trash that pisses you off. 

Thanks for reading. Have an awesome day.



PS Interesting note... It looks like I created some additional value from my project as several months after posting this, my image has reached Australia where apparently they have trash on their beaches too. Happy to lend my photo to the cause. Check it out at

I'm ready. Bring it on 2017!


 2017 looks to be a great year. Why? Because the time has come where I am finally going to focus on "my" work. I spent much of the past year shooting, editing and organizing my Artisan photography collections in preparation for the new year and beyond. I will of course continue to work with select clients on both photography and documentary projects but I am most excited about expanding my personal creative body of work. 

Over the past year or so I have shot literally thousands of images, developing a couple of different styles and techniques. I utilize tools from both the past and present to create my images including antique lenses to capture impressionistic images and my “Mélange” lighting and editing technique I created to shoot and digitally mix multiple exposures into beautiful, engaging images that simply cannot be created with a single click of the shutter. After two years of experimenting with different labs I’ve also finally found a lab that can do my images justice by making “old school” chromogenic prints that are actually processed with chemicals. All very exciting. 

I have applied to numerous juried art shows around the Southwest and as of this moment, have been accept into shows in Arizona, San Diego and Palm Springs and am awaiting a number of other responses, to which I am hopeful. Three people have ordered commissions for me to shoot in the upcoming months and if all goes well, my work will also be represented at a couple of well-respected art expos and galleries around the country later in the year. 

I have also decided to market my work using my full name Rüdiger which I have only previously used on a handful of select film projects for which I am most proud. And yes, I’m finally going to work hard to promote myself and my work using social media! To that end, I have a new website, facebook page and instagram account specific to this aspect of my work. If you’re so inclined, please check out and rudigergallery on Facebook & instragram. I plan on actually writing a lot this year to share my journey and work so we’ll see what kind of progress I make there as well. 

Bring it on 2017! I’m ready for you.

Thanks for reading and I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year!



To learn more about me and my work please visit:

Artisan Photography:

Commercial Photography: rudypoephotography


Social: rudypoe  rudigergallery

Life is Beautiful.

Life is Beautiful.

I shot a different kind of picture the other day.

Some friends, Mark and Tracy, were at an art gallery over the summer where they saw a still life watercolor depicting a wine and cheese platter with a vineyard background.

They liked is so much they wanted one, but commissioned so it would be created in a way that was personal to them. They thought it would be nice to have an image that depicted a special moment they enjoy together… watching the sunset on the red rocks of Sedona while drinking a glass of their favorite wine at their home there. 

I am a photographer and not a watercolor artist.  My girlfriend, Lee Ann,  happened to be vacationing with them that day and thought that I should photograph the scene for them. The idea appealed to me. For years I have made documentary films for which we built small sets that re-created slices of life, places in time, memories and tributes to people’s lives and accomplishments. The props included photographs, trophies, medals, jewelry, trinkets and other cherished memorabilia. The footage we shot created drama and brought the people and their stories to life. Here are some of those clips from a biographical documentary I directed entitled, "Mr. K"

Mark and Tracy agreed to the idea. We started by asking them what their favorite wine was, what they liked to eat with it, their favorite things about the house and what items they would like to include that would personalize the image. They also have a saying they live by, “Life is beautiful” and so we wanted to factor that in as well. Lee Ann and I spent last Thanksgiving with them at their Sedona home so we decided to do in once again… only this time we would do more than eat turkey and drink wine. We would shoot their picture for them.

Before we left our house in Southern California, we purchased the wine and some props including an olive wood cheeseboard, corkscrew and all the food that would look good and pairs well with the wine (for any aficionados who might see the final piece). We gathered more options than we needed as my theory is always to “have and not need rather than to need and not have”.  Plus this shoot had an added benefit…we would be able to drink the wine and eat the food after so nothing would go to waste. Lee Ann also went the extra mile and ordered something extra special… wine glasses with “life is beautiful” etched into them.

We loaded all my camera and lighting equipment along with our props and suitcases into our SUV and off we went.

We arrived around sunset so I was able to “scout” the location (aka their back yard). I noted where and when the sun went down and determined I’ll have about an hour or so to shoot on the following day, weather permitting.

That night, I was mulling over how I might light the shot but wasn’t sure exactly how I was going to approach it. I really wanted the reflections in the glasses and bottle to add a subtle visual layer that included the environment surrounding the composition. I also wanted the image to look completely natural so I didn’t want and lights and/or bounce cards reflecting in the glass. I knew that the weather and light in Sedona would also play a role in the final image as it is always beautiful but changes quickly. All that being the case, the one thing I knew for sure is that I would want options. I decided to go into the day with the plan that I was going to composite an HDR photo in which I lock down the camera on a tripod and shoot multiple exposures over the window of time when the light is at its best. As for the lights, I decided to cross that bridge when I got to it.

The next day, after a hearty breakfast, the first thing to do was to set the shot. The morning was cold and I started around 9. Mark and Tracy’s “must haves” for the image included the flagstone that much of the house is made of and their backyard view of the forest and the rocks (duh…their house looks over Coconino National Forest).

My first task was to “find the shot”. I wanted the viewer to have the perspective of being a participant in the scene so I mounted my 50mm prime lens and walked around the yard “fishing” with my handheld camera. I found the shot on the flagstone wall that separates their patio from the forest.

Next, I placed the primary foreground elements, the bottle of wine and the two glasses, on the top of the wall.  I broke out my tripod, and played with camera placement until I liked the basic composition.

Tracy also requested I include one of her mother’s handmade patchwork runners that they have at the house so I draped that over the flagstone wall that was my “tabletop”. I needed some elevation adjustments to improve the composition so I added the olive wood cheese board on top of the runner and placed the wine glasses on top of that. I snapped a few frames to check the composition. The shot was coming together nicely with these key props in place.

The basic composition.

At this point I thought I should consider my camera settings. There were a number of factors. I usually like my images to have very shallow depth of field but I wanted this image to be similar to the “hyper-reality” of the watercolors Mark and Tracy liked so much. That being the case, this composition required sharp focus for the foreground, mid-ground and if possible, the rocks and clouds in the distant background. The final image would be blown up to as much as 30 x 40 so I also needed to shoot at as low of an ISO as possible to avoid grain. I tethered my camera to my laptop so I could accurately check focus and exposure. Ultimately the desired result required an aperture setting of F25. At that setting the distant rocks were slightly soft but that was actually a good thing as it helped add depth to the image and focus the viewer’s attention on the tabletop set. There was a slight breeze blowing and I hadn’t set the greenery in the frame yet but that was going to be the only consideration for motion blur created from what would be a longer exposure given the high F-stop. A little motion blur would add a sense of the breeze to the otherwise still image. 

I was about 4 hours into the process at this point so I took a quick lunch break with my friends who spent the morning preparing Thanksgiving dinner and working on a 1000 piece puzzle.

During lunch, the sun moved across the sky as it always does, and created a beautiful 6 point star highlight on the glasses. The shadows were pretty dark but when I flew in a bounce card to fill the shadows in, the bounce card reflection on the glasses was so obviously out of place that I realized I didn’t need or want to utilize a light or bounce card. My lighting question was answered. I would instead, bracket the exposures so I could expose for both highlights and shadows and merge the shots using photoshop.

Next came placement of the supporting (and in some cases, perishable) elements; wine in the glasses, cheese, fruit, nuts and a couple of small items Mark and Tracy wanted to see in the picture. Lee Ann told me a story about how Tracy’s maiden name and the middle name of their daughter is Rose. Lee Ann thought it would be a nice touch to include a white rose in the scene to represent their one and only daughter, Ellie. Tracy had a habit of looking for heart shaped rocks on their hikes through the Sedona wilderness so we included her favorite one as well as a “life is beautiful” guitar pick that she and Ellie gave Mark recently.

Once that was all set, I invited Mark and Tracy to come out and take a look. There was still something missing. Mark and I decided it was a mid-ground element, which we decided would be some tree branches set back from the tabletop that would help frame up the composition. Mark grabbed his tree trimmer and set out into the forest to find some choice branches for use in his picture. Everyone in the house laughed at me as I broke out my C-stands, clamped in the branches and placed them into the upper right and left corners of the frame. Clearly they had never been involved in creating a setup like this. Pictures always look so natural but little do people know that there is almost always something that needs to be manipulated. That solved the missing element issue by adding yet another plane and subsequent depth to the composition.

The shot is set.

So at this the composition was pretty much set. It was time to consider lighting. The sun continued it’s trek across the almost cloudless sky and my set was completely in the bright sun. I considered the direction of the sun when I set the shot so I was liking the angle but I needed something to break up the sunlight that was washing over the entire setup. Mark set out once again and cut down a few more branches than I needed for my lighting gag. I grabbed 3 of them and clamped them to some lightstands that I brought with me. I placed them off camera between the sun and the set and viola, I had beautiful dappled light across my entire setup.

At this point I was almost ready to shoot. I had about 2 hours left in the day and the light was not as good as it would eventually get but I thought I’d start shooting and tweaking whatever wasn’t perfect. I played around a bit with adjusting the color temperature setting on the camera both warming up the image and then cooling it down. I ultimately decided on balancing for 6000K which gave me a fairly neutral white balance. From there I’d let nature do the work and warm up the image as I knew it would as we approached “magic hour”.

For the next two hours I shot and tweaked, bracketing every minor set and lighting adjustment. The shadows and highlights throughout the frame were in a perpetual state of change as the sun moved toward the horizon and while I kept adjusting my light stand “trees” that created the dappled light, it was impossible to get the light on every item perfect in any single shot. That being the case, I adjusted the light exactly how I wanted it on the rose, the grapes, bread, cheese, bottle, glasses, etc. and shot them all.

I shot until the sun dipped below the hill and the last of the direct light kissed my set. I left the camera setup for a while afterwards and continued to shoot as clouds magically appeared and the last of the day’s sunlight danced across the forest and rocks. When all was said and done, I had shot over 200 images.

We wrapped up with Mark, Tracy, Lee Ann and myself enjoying a celebratory toast of the Quintessa and enjoying on the food that made up the set (the aged cheddar was particularly good).

The only thing left for the day was to eat Thanksgiving dinner.

At this point the job was only half done. When we got back home I went through the images and selected about 30 that had interesting lighting on one or more elements in the composition. Some images were overexposed but the reflections were perfect while others were dark but the highlights were just right and some were exposed for mid-tones and had just the right sunlight or shadow.

I chose image #314 as my “base” image. It was perfectly exposed and had several key elements in the image already. I then spent the next twelve hours in photoshop grabbing pieces of the other thirty or so images and massaging them into place over the base image. Slowly but surely, layer by layer, as I added and subtracted from the base image, the image took on a whole new life.

During the shoot I had the idea of adding Mark and Tracy somewhere in the image. I dubbed it my “Where’s Waldo” gag. So before we left Sedona I captured a few images of the two of them together backlit by the sun. I deliberately underexposed it so I would pretty much only see their figures as a rim lit silhouette. Now that I was in front of my computer, I copied that image and pasted it into the reflection in the bottle. Now I know this sounds like it could be like a like a cheesy wedding photo so I was careful to make it so subtle that you pretty much had to know it was there or you wouldn’t even see it. It worked.

Now that I had it just right, I made a safety copy of the file and then collapsed all the layers into a single layer and made some final tweaks, removing the houses and dead trees in the forest. Lastly, I selected and applied a VSCO film treatment to the picture to take the edge off the digital image which gave it a “filmlook”. I was done.

A day later I presented the image to Mark and Tracy. I invited them over so they could see it for the first time in all it’s glory on my 27” monitor. They couldn’t believe it. The image took on the “hyper-reality” quality of the watercolors. The focus and colors were crisp. I asked them to find themselves in the picture and after some hunting, they did. All that remained was to select a location, size, frame and paper stock to print in on.

We went to their house for a small celebration of our accomplishment and the unveiling. Everyone is thrilled with the outcome. The piece captures a moment in time that they will be reminded of every time they enter the room.

If you have a special moment that you would like captured please contact me. If not for yourself, then maybe for a family member, friend or colleague. If you don't like wine and cheese here are a few other suggestions to get your ideas flowing:

Breakfast on the Lanai

Cocktails at the Club.

Romantic Fantasy Date for Two

Family & Friends Dinner (Themed cuisine…Italian, Pizza, elegant)


Desert / Night Cap

Happy Hour / Tea Time 

Home Sweet Home / Grandma’s House

Childhood Memories (sports memorabilia & trophies, the arts, diplomas and other accomplishments)

Family Tribute (estate and/or personal items)

Professional/Military Career Tribute (Historical Items, media/press clippings, written testimonials, awards, medals, plaques)

Birth / Infancy (clothing, toys, stuffed animals, blankets, décor)

Travel & Events (memorabilia, tickets, collectables, trinkets

Hobbies / Collectables (sports, music, cars, special collections, photos)

That's it for now. Happy Holidaze :)




Truth in Documentary


A documentary, when done well, reveals the truth. I had the honor and privilege of presenting an award at the Global Genes Tribute to Champions of Hope Annual Gala on Saturday night to two young filmmakers, Lucy Walker and Marianna Palka. Marianna had the courage to ask her friend Lucy to direct a film that follows her as she finds out whether or not she inherited Huntington's Disease. She was in search of the truth about her future and it took great courage to share her experience with the world. I'm not going to say what her test results were but I can tell you as we accompany her  to the doctor's office, it's something you won't forget. Please watch the trailer and the film if you have HBO and you'll understand. 

Playing with my Petzval 85 Lens

Playing with my Petzval 85 Lens

I recently purchased a Petzval 85 lens. The lens was originally conceived in 1840 by Joseph Petzval in Vienna, Austria. Lomography x Zenit recently brought it back into existence and now one of them came all the way from Russia and is now in my hands. I have been playing with it to see just what it can do and last night I took it out and shot some test shots at the new Anaheim Transportation Center. Here are a few shots from my hour long walk through the center.

TEDx Conejo

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the TEDx Conejo event on Saturday. The theme of the day was “What’s the big idea” and apparently everyone wanted to know as the Sherr Auditorium in the Civic Arts Plaza in Thousand Oaks, California was completely full. I wasn’t really sure what to expect of the day as I have never been to a TED event but by the end of the day I was thoroughly impressed and inspired. One of the producers of the event, Don Levy opened the day by stating that the purpose of the event was to raise awareness of all the creative thinking and doing of people right here in our local community. By the end of the day I realized that there really is a wealth of talent out there and it’s not just those on the national stage doing amazing and important work. The thing that surprised me most was how many of the speakers made a connection to spirituality through their creative work. In retrospect it really shouldn’t have been a surprise as it was quite obvious that while the “big ideas” that were discussed were born in these people’s brains, they were speaking from the heart. If you come across a TEDx event in your area, I would highly recommend it.