Archive for the 'news' Category

Feb 16 2010

something went up today

Published by under news,portraits,press,technique,worklife

Update: From today’s New York Times – “Should the United States hire Elon Musk, at a cost of a few billion dollars, to run a taxi service for American astronauts?”

A real version of the SpaceX rocket pictured below successfully launched today (9/29/2008) from the Kwajalein Atol – which you all know is 2,500 southwest of Hawaii.

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Elon Musk with a model of his SpaceX Rocket

There was liquid fuel in the rocket and the project was powered by space, electric sports car and solar power entrepreneur Elon Musk. I took his photo is the El Segundo headquarters for the Wharton Business School alumni magazine back in 2004 when we were all still using color gels in our science photos.

Would you bet your (or our) money on his rocket?

Mark Harmel


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Feb 06 2010

don rickles as the superbowl flower voice

Published by under diabetes,news,portraits

Update: Trailers for the Toy Story 3 movie have been released today. You can hear Don as Mr. Potato Head in the clips.

The battle for your attention has begun. It’s Superbowl ad season, and only one ad has caught my attention so far. It has a talking flower and more importantly the voice of Don Rickles.

Watch the behind the scenes video teaser that has too many flowers and not enough of Don. But it’s worth look for the quips from Don anyway.

Behind the scenes video

A nice touch is the playing of Don’s bull fight theme

Like many, I grew up knowing Don as wacky characters in the Annette & Frankie beach movies and his appearances on the Tonight Show. He fell off my radar until a couple of years ago when he became a patient of my wife and agreed to be involved in her Conquering Diabetes book.

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"Diabetes can be controlled, provided you don't pass out every-time you prick your finger."

This gave me the opportunity to meet him in person and visit his house for a portrait session. After his initial joke where he asked the guard at the gate to turn me away, I discovered the secret to how he gets away with all of his insults. Deep down he’s a warm and loving guy.

When he’s not voicing a flower or Mr. Potato Head, Don still actively performs on stage where he is aggressively engages with his audience. (He’s in Vegas on Feb. 20 & 21st). What’s fascinating is how much he can get away with while bringing up the hot button issues of race and religion. He can insult people and make both the audience and the individual laugh. Balancing on that fine line of insult and compassion is what I think is his real talent.

It’s still a treat to pick up the home office phone and unexpectedly have Don on the other end of the line. He’s not always joking, but he is always kind. I honor my collection of memorabilia from his 80th birthday party and I look forward to Don and Barbara’s 45th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.

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Memorabilia from Don Rickles' 80th birthday party

I hope that Teleflora will be sending plenty of flowers to their anniversary party. And with Valentine’s Day coming up: Get up order some flowers you Hockey Puck! Keep Don famous so that he can keep us laughing for another 80 years.

Mark Harmel


6 responses so far

Jan 18 2010

“leonard is aware of look. is look aware of leonard?”

George Leonard is better know for coining and popularizing the term “human potential movement”, but if he never wrote the title sentence, much of the movement may not have existed. The story behind the sentence also contains some of the best job seeking advice I’ve ever heard. I asked him to tell the story, but today I read of his death on January 6th and now the honor falls to me.

Back in 1952, Leonard was a flight instructor and editor of an Air Force magazine looking to move into the civilian publishing world when he wrote his first version of the tease – “Leonard is aware of Life. Is Life aware of Leonard?” Not as well remembered as the slightly more popular Life magazine, Look was a similar photo based magazine with a circulation over 3 million. The cadence of the Life line sounded as good with the replacement of Look and he sent that note off as well.

The letter worked, and Leonard went on to cover the Civil Rights movement in the South, and was one of the first journalists to predict the social changes coming from the ’60s student movement in California.

I first met him in 1976 at the University of Redlands in California. I had just finished my undergraduate eduction as an exchange student at the experimental Johnston College that shared the Redlands campus. Leonard was visiting and leading an aikido workshop at a progressive education conference. The experiential session featured the life lessons that could be learned from the practice of that martial art form.

Leonard also covered education at Look, and wrote the classic book Education & Ecstasy in 1968. The book was a call to reform the education system. I was a fan of his book and wanted to meet Leonard and talked my way into the conference by offering up photos of the session.

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Cypress trees shrouded in fog at Esalen Institute while attending a ITP workshop in 1991 led by Leonard

I also knew of his history as a photo editor at Look and asked for his advice on breaking into the magazine business. He agreed to meet, looked at my photos and told me the story of how he created his break.

Like many, when Leonard planned his move he drew up his list of the his top ten publications. But instead of the normal method of starting at the top, he decided that he would begin with a visit to his lowest choice. Reader’s Digest was on the bottom and that’s where he experienced his interview stage-fright and discovered that he was asking for too much money.

After making his rounds to his other choices, he made a point of staying in touch with his prospects. He would send copies of his Air Force publication and some reminder notes. On the day that his “Leonard is aware of Look.” promo arrived, there was a decision to add an additional photo editor. The editor in charge of hiring saw the note and asked his assistant, “what do you know about this Leonard character?” Out of the file drawer came a two inch folder of correspondences and Leonard was offered the job.

Look became aware of Leonard, and we all became aware of the human potential movement because his writing and later immersion in the field.

He went on to, write a dozen books, become an aikido masterPresident Emeritus of Esalen Institute and created the Integral Transformation Practice and Leonard Energy Training.

Mark Harmel


One response so far

Jan 14 2010

text to donate innovation

My interest in social innovation prompted me to notice a new fundraising development being used to help the victims of the Haitian earthquake. Mobile giving has played a huge role in massing many small donations to the relief cause. A promotion by the NFL Playoffs over the weekend produced stunning results. The current total reported now on Thursday morning is over $25 million dollars.

Now I gave money the old fashioned way. An email from the Red Cross arrived yesterday morning and I visited their website to make a donation. I’m sure that plenty of other donations came in through this method as well. I was surprised that this new mobile method sprung up seemingly over night. Wondering about when the cell phone system was established I found a plan that was set up after Hurricane Katrina by the Wireless Foundation in September of 2006. Called Text 2HELP, this system partnered with the American Red Cross.

The current system (via MSNBC) of mobile giving effort was organized by the mGive Foundation, as well as the Mobile Giving Foundation, which are coordinating with wireless carriers. In the Red Cross’ case, phone users can text the word “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10,” and when prompted, hit “YES” to confirm the donation.

The mGive Foundation tried the system in a Washington Nationals baseball game two years ago to generate funds for the Diabetes Care Complex, but the idea didn’t work well then, and the method only raised $190,000 in 2008 for the Red Cross to help with Hurricane Ike.

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The text to donate system was set-up after Hurricane Katrina

The difference this time has been credited to the endorsements from Secretary of State Clinton and the White House blog.

The text to donate system has been so effective at both generating funds for the rescue as well as mobilizing the community. Supporters donate, then turn around and spread the word to friends in their social networks. This cycle of giving and sharing sets up a system of social proof that will encourage others to do the same. People often want to help in disasters like Haiti and look for a tangible way to assist. The cell phone texting method is a quick and easy way to move their sympathy into action.

It’ll be interesting to see the studies of this system that will come out in the following months. I’m sure that other charitable groups and foundations are looking into the system now. Will, or should this be saved for the big disasters. Would you like to use this for everyday giving as well?

What do you think about this way of giving? Have you seen this method being used before or is this just the first massive use of the method? How would you like to see text to donate be used in the future?

For a collection of groups that are helping in the rescue and other ways to give – a page has been organized at the NPR site. You can go there for news updates and for links to the other relief groups.

Mark Harmel


4 responses so far

Dec 19 2009

the story behind the living joshua tree holiday card

Almost exactly one year ago a Winter storm came rolling through Southern California. This normally just means rain here in the Los Angeles basin, but we do get snow in the high mountains – and on special occasions the snow level drops down low enough to deposit snow in the high desert area of Joshua Tree National Park. Visiting the snow covered desert is one of the real treats of living out here and my excursion out there last year became this year’s Holiday card.

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The snow covered Joshua Tree that became a card

The printing of my cards is done in-house on my own printer using a card stock that I get at Red River Paper. In the middle of printing my Epson 2400 suddenly stopped printing without warning!  Instead of having a “Check Engine” light like we have on our cars now, this printer simply shuts down when it’s time for service. A late night trip to the electronic store to update the printer got me back in business to finish the rest of the cards.

As I was complaining about the printer to my friend Chuck Chugumlung and showed him a video version of the scene on my iPhone. He said, “You should just do an interactive version of the card”. It never occurred to me, but Chuck is an interactive designer that does this sort of animation all the time. I sent him the movie and he came back with this wonderful interactive version of a Holiday card. If you haven’t seen it yet, click on the link. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You can even play it more than once.

The original clip is a full HD video version of the snow falling. I had received one of the first Canon 5D MkII cameras, but really hadn’t done much with the video capability beyond learning how to push the record button. So after trudging out through the snow to the tree I set up for a still photo, took my shots and after seeing clumps of snow falling around me, I decided that I would try to catch the action of the melting snow. At the time, I was proud and showed it to my TV friends. The reaction? “That’s nice, where are you going to show it?” With the traditional TV frame being a horizontal rectangle, he had a point. But since then I’ve seen some interesting work with what some call “living one-sheets”. This is where a movie ad comes to life. Here’s one for Marley & Me from last Christmas. These are often shown in shopping malls that have HD TV sets turned vertically.

Here is the original video version – only four seconds.

Snow drop – Joshua Tree National Park from Mark Harmel on Vimeo.

On that same day I also shot another horizontal variation I liked. I sent both versions off to the Photo District News and this one was chose to be one of their first’ “Photo of the Day“.

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This version became the PDN Photo of the Day

Mark Harmel


 the story behind the living joshua tree holiday card

2 responses so far

Nov 19 2009

remembering jeanne-claude, collaborator with christo

The long time collaborator with environmental artist Christo died today in New York.

It was there back in 2005 that I saw their last project “The Gates” in Central Park. The beautiful saffron colored curtains of nylon brought the barren winter landscape to life. I was fortunate enough to be in New York the night that 6 inches of fresh snow fell. Seeing the snow start to fall at midnight I felt like a young boy on Christmas Eve looking forward to all the presents that would greet me in the morning.

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Woman with the perfect saffron parka taking a photo of "The Gates"

It seemed as though every other photographer in the city had the same idea and it was hard to keep out of each other’s pictures in the snow-covered park. I succeeded until I spotted this woman in a matching saffron parka. I stalked her until I captured this photo of her in front of a pond.

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Street lamp covered in snow

I had the pleasure of seeing two of their other installations, one here in Southern California and the other in Miami. When I was living in Florida I drove over to see “Surrounded Islands” where they created a pink ring around a number of islands in Biscayne Bay and in the Grapevine pass north of Los Angeles I was able to see “The Umbrellas”.  I both loved the visual impact of their projects and admired how they moved art out into public spaces. This created wonderful conversations about art from people in all walks of live, including those that rarely stepped into an art gallery or museum. To me this is their greatest contribution.

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Snow covered tree branch and a series of panels

I’m happy to report that a series of my photos of “The Gates” was selected to appear in the 2005 Communication Arts Photography Annual and the page was used to promote the 2006 competition.

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My Gates series was used to promote the CA 2006 competition

I look forward to seeing the completion of some of the team’s work in progress.

Postcript: As I was writing this post I wondered if my friend John Lizvey had any of his photos of the “The Umbrellas” project. He was ambitious enough to go out in the middle of the night, and shot the installation by moonlight when the umbrellas were free from most of the crowds and traffic – except for a Sheriff’s cruiser that roared up and caused a broken lens as John yanked his tripod from the middle of the road. The price we pay to make art.

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John Lizvey's moonlight photo of "The Umbrellas"

Mark Harmel


9 responses so far

Oct 07 2009

nobel committee honors the dawn of digital

Published by under healthcare,news,technique

The fathers of digital photography were honored yesterday with the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Physics. Bell Labs researchers Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith shared half of the prize for their development of the charge-coupled devices, or CCD’s. Millions of digital cameras and many other devices now use CCD chips.

My introduction into digital photography was less noble, but never-less momentous in my mind. I made the switch out of love.

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An early digitally captured photo shot on assignment

I’d fallen in love with a clinical researcher that I met shooting while at UCLA Medical Center. With her having a son in a great public school system in Manhattan Beach it was better for me to move down there to be together. That meant moving away from a photo district in the Hollywood area that was full of professional film labs. I used to walk a block down my alley to a great lab and have my film back in two hours. Now I either had to drive 30 minutes to a pro lab, or use a consumer lab 10  minutes away and risk having my slides scratched.

Digital cameras started to become more sophisticated so I decided to make the leap. I’d been scanning film already and working on the files in Photoshop, so I only had to add in the digital capture. But I started slowly with my new Canon D-60. The first photos were taken on our honeymoon vacation down in Mexico in March, 2002. When these bone density scan photos were taken in October I still didn’t trust the camera for commercial assignments.

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The better film version of the bone density scan

Back in those days I would use my Polaroid back to test my lighting set-up. I would take a shot and wait for the “instant” 2 minute development time to see if I had the balance correct. The fist change I made was to use my digital camera in place of the Polaroid. The feedback was truly instant and I would use that for my tests. But I wasn’t ready to fully trust the final capture yet. I would shoot a few frames after the tests and then switch to film. The problem was with this first digital camera was a poor viewfinder that made it hard to focus and the half-frame CMOS chip (a cousin to the CCD) that changed the effective focal length of my lenses.

In the photos above, the main difference was that I could us my wide angle lens on my film camera to capture the more dynamic close view. I continued to use the duel system for the next year until the full-frame Canon 1Ds hit the market. I’ve been digital ever since.

Mark Harmel


3 responses so far

Sep 14 2009

don’t bet against jay leno

Published by under news,portraits

There is plenty of speculation how the Jay Leno Show will change the late, prime-time TV landscape. The little nugget I can add to that debate comes from witnessing to an interview with Jay Leno conducted by Sharon Osbourne before the launch of her daytime talk show.

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Jay Leno advising Sharon Osbourne

I heard one of the smartest dissertations on the recipe for success for a talk show you will ever hear. Somewhere that tape is sitting in a vault. It should be pulled out and played for every TV executive and perhaps even business school students. Jay understands what it takes to please an audience and make a TV show work. He mixes his talent with hard work with being a genuine nice guy. During the break in the taping Jay grabbed food and ate with the crew happily trading tales about his car collection.

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Sharon Osbourne happy to receive Jay's advice

I will be watching to see how Jay will do in his show opener tonight and my bet is that Jay will find a way to make the show work.

Mark Harmel

One response so far

Sep 10 2009

the challenge of digitizing medical files

Published by under diabetes,healthcare,news

The New York Times today has a business story on the Tech Companies Push to Digitize Patients’ Records. It’s a major undertaking that may be solved with major investments by big corporations and government stimulus money.

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Converting existing paper records is an issue

Readers of my oncology office post saw a real-life example of the paper challenge.

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Jul 17 2009

“and that’s the way it is”

Published by under news,portraits,press,process,teaching

I can’t say that I knew Walter Cronkite any better than any other regular viewer, but I did as a college student manage to ask him a question at one of these University journalist all-star talks. I presumptuous asked if it was a bit presumptuous of him to conclude the program with his famous sign-off, “And that’s the way it is.” He graciously explained that when the news show expanded from 15 to 30 minutes there were plans on including a quirky item at the end of the show and the sign-off would be ironic or humorous.

The news hole soon filled up with major events of the day and Cronkite wrote that he “was too stubborn to drop it”

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Walter Cronkite signing off on his final CBS Evening News broadcast

The picture above came about after experimenting with documenting scenes off the TV one freezing Michigan winter. This photo is somewhat historic by being taken right after he signed-off for the last time.

I still recommend shooting off a TV screen as a beginning photo exercise. It is the best opportunity I know to have experiences flow in front of you where you can concentrate on simply pressing the shutter at the right moment. It is harder than it looks.

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