Monday, April 9, 2018

Banner Thomas...

I've been blessed quite a bit.

As a photographer, I've had the opportunity to meet and become friends with a wide array of people. And, given the time I spent at Taylor Guitars, it probably would surprise no one that there are a lot of musicians on that list.

I've had the opportunity to meet and hang out with people like Ted Nugent, Otis Williams of The Temptations, the guys in Styx, Eric Johnson; I could go on. Hell, Barenaked Ladies even makes sure I have a shady spot backstage during their outdoor summer shows. These people were all riding high when I met them; legends, some. And all of them wonderful people.

But perhaps the one who impacted me the most, probably because I got to know him better than many of the others, is someone I met long after his "rock star" life was done. His heyday, spanning from the early 1970's to the early 1980's, marked a period in my life where I was diggin' the kind of music his band was playing. As a kid growing up on Long Island, we waited with great anticipation for the southern rock tours to come to either the Nassau Coliseum or the Long Island Arena in Commack. The Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Outlaws; man, they all came through and kicked our collective ass with their guitar-searing, don't-give-a-shit-and-get-the-Hell-outta'-my-way attitude.

Molly Hatchet did that, too.

I'd met Banner Thomas briefly in 2014, but got to know him better as I was preparing to interview him for a magazine article I was writing about him. What I found was not what I expected. I sat down with a genuinely quiet, thoughtful guy. His speech was deliberate, and almost Jimmy Stewart-like in its delivery. Banner thought about what he was going to say and then he said it. Period. And, if there were ever wild days of rock n' roll stardom to be lived, he'd certainly done that and left those days in his past.


A full page manufacturer's ad in Guitar Player Magazine? Yeah, Banner was the real deal...

At first, it seemed a little surreal befriending a guy like this. Here was this bona fide rock star, with three platinum albums under his belt, sitting in Tradewinds Tropical Lounge in St. Augustine where he would play bass with this band or that band, depending on what night of the week it was. Between sets he would always walk the room, talking to folks and thanking them for coming out. Some, of course, knew who he was. Most, I think, probably didn't realize it unless someone on stage mentioned it during a set.

This was taken first time I met Banner. "Don't be too impressed" he said. "I just might an asshole"...

This is the photo I took of Banner Thomas to accompany the piece I wrote about him for St. Augustine Social. The article can be found here: The Musical Chair - Banner Thomas

Here I am on stage at Tradewinds, presenting the photograph from the magazine to Walt Kulwicki (left) and Chris McVey (right) of Those Guys. They accepted the photo on behalf of Tradewinds owner Janet Leonard. The photo now hangs in Tradewinds, right next to the stage where Banner's amp used to sit. I still don't know how I got through that presentation without breaking down a little... (photo courtesy of RMP Photography)
 
I remember Banner being almost overly appreciative of the article I wrote about him. His appreciation was sincere and heartfelt, and he always let me know how much he enjoyed being featured in the magazine. We had done a short interview and photo shoot, and I remember not wanting to screw it up. "Get this one right, Parr" was the only thing running through my head. We talked about a myriad of things, from him being a founding member of Molly Hatchet to touring Europe with The Who and, finally, living a somewhat quiet life in northeastern Florida. He seemed comfortable with where life had led him.

He was always humbled whenever I would mention how much I liked Molly Hatchet as a kid. He particularly liked the story of how, while in Navy boot camp in Orlando, I would run the song "Flirtin' With Disaster" through my head while waiting outside to march to the mess hall at five in the morning. "Well, glad I could be there for you" was a comment he made once about that story, and that's always made me laugh. Never once back in those boot camp days did I ever envision that, 35 years later, I'd sitting in a St. Augustine bar with the guy who wrote it.

Over the next 18 months or so following my interview with him, Banner and I became pretty good friends. I enjoyed hanging out with him. We would talk about anything and everything and sometimes nothing. I think he enjoyed the fact that I was able to get beyond the "Holy shit, it's a rock star" phase that, undoubtedly, was probably awkwardly evident when I'd first met him, and I consider myself fortunate that the friendship he and I had was genuine. Banner had many friends, many much closer than I, but I was proud to be counted among them nonetheless.

Banner, Molly Hatchet founder and guitarist Dave Hlubek, Dewey Via and me at Tradewinds in St. Augustine...

I had the opportunity to sit in with him on stage on occasion. The first time was when he was playing with The Dewey Via Band. We were going to perform "Dreams I'll Never See". It was written by Gregg Allman, but Molly Hatchet had made it their own. But not only was I going to be playing this song with one of the guys who made the song popular, I was going to be playing the song with one of the guys who made the song popular in front of a room that was packed with friends who came out to see how bad the carnage would be, so I was nervous as Hell. Thankfully, it went well. But it was an amazing experience to play that song with one of the guys responsible for putting it into the southern rock mainstream. When we got done, I remember how he just turned around and smiled. He didn't say a word. He approved. I'd passed the test.

Not a very good photo, but one I'll always cherish. Sitting in that night was a true, and humbling, honor...

Banner gave my Strat a quick test drive before our set...
About a year and a half ago, Banner asked me if I'd like to have some lighting equipment that he had bought on a whim at a pawn shop. When I met him to pick it up, I saw that it was some relatively cheap stuff; light stands in a ripped carrying bag. In all honesty, it was stuff I would never use and I told him thanks, but no thanks. He then asked if I knew anyone who could use it. He'd rather I give it to someone else than throw it away. I told him I might know of someone and I put the bag in my car The truth was I knew of no one, but I could tell it was important to him that the stuff find a good home. I guess I was kind of surprised when, on occasion, he would ask me if I was able to find someone to give it to.

"Still looking, Banner, but I'll find the right person."

I've never found anyone to give it to, and doubt I ever will. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've stopped looking. I just can't bring myself to throw that bag away. It's still sitting in my garage.

It got to the point where Tuesday night at Tradewinds was a weekly thing. You just didn't miss Those Guys. I'd usually get there before the first set. It was always a pleasure to sit down with Banner before the gig, and just talk about what had been going on during the previous week. He'd usually be at one of the front table with his laptop open, looking at whatever had piqued his latest interest. He was quick to engage and always had something to say, and I remember that I was always eager to listen.


Hangin' out on "the bench" at Tradewinds...

I had returned from a short cruise to the Bahamas on Palm Sunday (April 9) in 2017. Tradewinds was doing their annual Palm Sunday music extravaganza and I was hoping to get back to St. Augustine from Port Canaveral in time to catch Those Guys performing their set. We made it back to town but, for whatever reason, didn't make it to Tradewinds in time. The band had just finished their set when we were pulling up. I saw Banner loading his gear into his van and slowed the car to say hi. He said he wasn't feeling well and was going home. "Take care of yourself, pal. See you Tuesday". "Stay out of trouble" he replied.

That was the last time I ever spoke to him.

The next day I was walking into a Publix grocery store when I received a text from my friend Rachael asking if I knew what had happened to Banner. Instead of responding back via text, I called her. The news was stunning. I felt tears well up in my eyes. Suddenly I couldn't hear anything; everything was silent, save for the cacophony of every conversation he and I had ever had running through my head all at the same time. Everything stopped.

He wasn't my best friend. But he was a great friend.

And my friend Banner Thomas died on April 10, 2017.

He's missed...

Banner Thomas: 1954-2017

Friday, March 30, 2018

Things That Go "VROOM"...

I've always been proud of the fact that I can (and have) shot pretty much everything. At this point in my photographic life I've decided that, as long as it doesn't have the word "wedding" attached to it, I'm in. Sure, weddings pay, but the stress can be ridiculous.

I've shot concerts with regularity for the last 12 years, and I love doing it. Unfortunately, the concerts which lure me are becoming fewer and fewer. Let's face it, I grew up in the 70's and love that music, but the "wrinkle rock" set isn't getting any younger.

My attention, whether by happenstance or subconscious design, has turned to automobiles. Not just automobiles, but motorcycles, as well. As we come into the spring and summer months here in northeast Florida, there will be no shortage of car shows to choose from, and they'll be held, somewhere, almost every weekend.

Hooray me.

Since the beginning of the year, I've photographed two large scale events which center around cars. The first was the Mecum Auctions, which was held in January down in Kissimmee. I'd never attended an event like that, and it was pretty overwhelming. It didn't look quite as huge in person as it does on television. There was a ton of money flying around that place, and the cars were exquisite.






The second "car event" of the year was the Amelia Island Festivals of Speed. Like with Mecum, I had a media credential to attend this. I was hoping to also get in on the Amelia Concours d'Elegance, which was being held the same weekend, but I didn't submit my credential request in time.

The Festivals of Speed was a little different than Mecum. They had an auction on the Friday night,and again on Saturday, where they were auctioning off some rather spectacular automobiles.






In addition to the automobile auction, they also had a car show on Saturday and Sunday, as well. Cars of all make and manner were situated on the 17th fairway of the Omni Plantation Resort. It was a gorgeous setting which really lent itself to photography.

 




I was getting really into motorsports (automobile and motorcycle),  and found myself at Daytona International Speedway back in January for the "Roar Before The 24", which takes place a couple of weeks before the Rolex 24 Hour Race.







Ordinarily, I would've gone back to Daytona Int'l in March, during Bike Week, for the Daytona 200 motorcycle race. My calendar didn't permit it, though, so I guess I'll wait for Biketoberfest.

And, now, I'm looking forward to the next event, which is the granddaddy of all auto auctions: Barrett-Jackson. This is their 46th year and, to be honest, this one has always been a mind-blower. I've been perusing the cars which are going to be auctioned on the Barrett-Jackson website, but there's really nothing as good as seeing them in person. I've lost count of the number of times I've watched a Barrett-Jackson auction on television, and I couldn't be more stoked about landing a media credential for this one.

Add to all of this a "biker portrait" idea I've got running around in my head, and this year could definitely be a little heavier on the horsepower...


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Photographically Speaking...

Photographically speaking, this has been a pretty good year thus far.

Relying on photography for your income can be feast or famine. At the beginning of the year, things were a bit lean. I didn't do a lot of shooting at the end of last year, which means there was no one satisfying those "30 net" payment terms at the beginning of this one. But, what comes around goes around, and the month of March has been, thus far, pretty busy. Now, busy is good, because busy translates to money, but it can actually get a little out of hand, as I was reminded when I'd inadvertently double booked myself not long ago (the first time that's ever happened, by the way).

I've been trying to branch out a bit from my concert, magazine and college shooting. The Mecum Auction in January flipped a switch somewhere in my interest bank, and I've since photographed the Amelia Island Festivals of Speed, which was a pretty cool event. Cars of all size and shape and vintage were on hand:

The 6th Annual Amelia Islands Festivals of Speed...

Right on the heels of the Festivals of Speed was the 77th Annual Bike Week in Daytona Beach. You know, sometimes I wish I was on a Street Glide cruising down Main Street but, if I was, I wouldn't be able to take photos of the really smokin' bikes there. Along with automobiles, photographing motorcycles has been becoming a more and more prevalent aspect of my photography; custom bikes, especially. These things start out as a blank canvas and it's a blast to see what the artists who create them come up with:


A couple of the custom bikes at the 77th Annual Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Florida...

Now, in just a couple of weeks, I'll be attending the Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auctions in West Palm Beach. Barrett-Jackson is the grand-daddy of this type of auction and, as a result, media access is historically very difficult to get.
 
My primary focus of this year, though, has to be the tattoo project. I want to get it done. I've got a couple of people lined up to be photographed, but I really do need to start beating the bushes and getting more people involved. It's also about time I start deciding on my first tattoo and the artist who'll do it. That said, I've got a couple of good shoots under my belt already:

This could be my all-time favorite portrait...

Another portrait favorite...

On top of everything else, I've got my regular gigs going, too; college photography and magazine stuff. Those help keep the lights on. But I like picking up other shoots, both paid and unpaid. I've had a few area musicians ask me about new promo photos, and I'll be heading up to the Catty Shack Ranch in Jacksonville to photograph their new residents (and some of the old ones, too!). I do this one gratis. I see it as maybe being one small way to help them do the good work that they do for some of the most majestic animals I've ever seen:


  
A couple of the current residents at The Catty Shack Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida...

So, while I've been a bit slow in updating the blog, it isn't because I've been sitting on my ass watching Netflix. I've been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. I consider myself extraordinarily fortunate to be able to do what I do for a living. I've had the big six-figure gigs and I've also had to scrape by and what I've learned through it all is that there's simply no way to put a price on doing what you love for a living.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go scout out a couple of photo locales...


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The New Year Is Rollin' Along...

Wow, I can't believe I've been remiss in posting here. The New Year has come and gone and, well, here we are.

The New Year started out well enough, I suppose. Like anything, there were ups and downs, but we learn to roll with the punches eventually. Hey, whatever doesn't kill you, right? Well, I was ripe for some changes, I guess, whether I realized it or not, so those changes were made.

The 6th anniversary of me quitting smoking came and went; January 16. Easily the best decision I've ever made regarding my health and my wallet (have you seen cigarette prices lately??).

An early highlight of the year was getting a press credential for the Mecum auto auction in Kissimmee, Florida. Unbelievable rides and, in many cases, astronomical prices. Here's a piece I wrote for my magazine's website which chronicles my time there: Mecum Auction.

Late last year I got picked up by another area magazine. Of course, I've been writing and shooting for St. Augustine Social since it started, and it's a wonderful group of people to be associated with. This new magazine is a bit different, though, and I'll probably be doing a lot more photography than writing. The first issue hasn't hit the street yet, so I'm not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag as to the name yet, but rest assured it's going to be good! 

And, much to the approval of my bank account, college shoots are starting up again at the end of this month. This is where I make the lion's share of my income, and it looks like it's shaping up to be a pretty big lion this spring. Add to that the concert shoots I'm doing, as well as side-jobs and one-offs, and I hope to not have a lot of free days on my calendar.

Oh, and Bike Week is coming up in Daytona, and God knows I NEVER shooting during Bike Week.

So a busy year it's been so far, and it only looks to ramp up before to long.

But, as I always say, busy is good!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

More Dishonesty From Mudflower Media...

Mudflower Media owner Geoffrey Grider is, once again, proving that he's far from the stand-up businessman he'd like people to believe he is.

So, a while back I posted about one of my photos being stolen by Geoffrey Grider and Mudflower Media. Grider swore up and down that "no one stole anything" and that it was an honest mistake.

Is that so?

This morning, on Grider's uber-radically religious zealot nut-job, his-way-or-the-highway website "Now The End Begins", he allegedly pens an article about how the United States has been leading crippling airstrikes against ISIS since 2014.

It's a good read.

Unfortunately, this otherwise fine article bears a striking resemblance to what is a Reuter's piece posted on moneycontrol . com. Given that he's already demonstrated a willingness to use and claim ownership of intellectual property that he did not create, the prudent person would seriously question the validity of his "By Geoffrey Grider" by-line.

Did Grider write the article? My opinion is that he did not. If he did, and his piece was picked up by Reuter's, that would be impressive. If he did not, however, it is a blatant example of plagiarism. I'm sure Reuter's will be quite interested to see Mr. Grider's website.

Compare the text and decide for yourself.

The first photo is the article Grider claims to have written, and the second is from the Reuter's piece on moneycontrol . com.


The article on Geoffrey Crider's nut-job website...
The Reuter's article as seen on moneycontrol.com...

You be the judge...

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017: The Year In Review...

In another life, I worked at Taylor Guitars. I was the Canadian Sales Manager and, if I do say so myself, I was pretty damn good at my job.

At the end of every year I would write a synopsis; a "year in review" if you will, to keep the powers-that-be up to date on what had been accomplished as well as goals I was setting for the coming year. They were fun to write and, seeing as it was a guitar company (as opposed to, say, a faucet manufacturing facility), things were often offered and taken with a great deal of levity.

Good times, those.

So, with that in mind, here I am looking back on this last year and what I've been able to accomplish. For the most part, things were pretty grand.

As in the previous couple of years, I started the year off shooting for Greek Yearbook. I've been with this company since the end of 2014 and I really couldn't be happier. Most of the photographers, I would think, have never met the staff at the home office in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Everything is done pretty remotely, and a person could easily do the job without ever meeting anyone from the home office. But my semi-frequent travels up to New York afford me the opportunity to stop in and see them, so I do. It's nice to catch up and talk face to face, make suggestions, etc. I consider myself fortunate to have found this company. 

One of the better fraternity photos I took this year...

I continue to be the house photographer at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall and the St. Augustine Amphitheater, although I've shot beyond those confines, as well. In April, I was honored to shoot the Rochester Music Hall Of Fame Inductions in Rochester, NY, which included performances by David Clayton Thomas of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Paul Shaffer of David Letterman's band (a career highlight for me!)

I've had the opportunity to photograph some of my idols (David Crosby comes to mind), but it's also nice to shoot when friends come to town (think Barenaked Ladies or Eric Johnson). In either case, I'm able to get knee-deep into the form of photography I enjoy the most, which is concert photography.
Eric Johnson's one man acoustic show...

Hanging out with Eric in the green room before his show at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall...




Another form of photography I absolutely love is racing. Being so close to Daytona International Speedway, it's easy to catch the Rolex 24 Hour Race in January or the motorcycle racing which takes place during Bike Week in March and Biketoberfest in October. NASCAR is ridiculously tough to get credentialed for, so I opt for these which, frankly, tend to be a lot more exciting.

Motorcycle racing at Daytona International Speedway during Bike Week, March 2017...




2017 saw the start of my tattoo/photo project. It's an awful lot to get into, but suffice it to say I'm hoping to make a lot of money so I can give every nickel of it to a cancer research charity. Let's face it, cancer's an insidious bitch which doesn't give a rat's ass what color you are, whether you're gay or straight, skinny or fat, man or woman, or what your tax bracket is. It's taken far too many from us and what started out as a simple desire to photograph cool tattoos has morphed into a thing bigger than I'd imagined. If I have one resolution to carry into the new year, it will be to finish the tattoo project.

And, besides, tattoos are freakin' cool: 

Any guesses as to what his nickname might be?


This is exactly how the photo looked in my head when I first learned I would be shooting inside a 200 year old church...

Finally, I'm starting year number four with St. Augustine Social magazine. Never in my wildest dreams did I think there would be someone out there who liked my work enough to put it into a regular publication. I started out as a photographer and quickly moved into being a regular columnist for the magazine. It blows my mind every time I think about it. The editors, owners and publishers of this magazine let me flex my creative muscle in every issue and I'm beyond thankful for that.


I'm not sure what a "photographic adventurist" is but, damn, but it sounded good at the time...

So, it's with no small degree of anticipation that I peer into 2018. The year 2017 brought both highs and lows, and I wouldn't change a thing. I'm not foolish enough to think I've not been blessed to do what I do. As I look at 2018, I see good things on the horizon, both professionally and personally, and I'm looking forward to every single one of them...



Friday, December 1, 2017

Mudflower Media, exploreoldcity.com, and Why You Should Avoid Them (a review)...

This concerns a local St. Augustine business, but they claim to have clients nationwide. It's my hope that this serves as important information for anyone, local or not, considering doing business with these companies.

An intern for exploreoldcity and Mudflower Media, Haley Ellison, wrote an online article about Culinary Outfitters on South Dixie Highway. The main photo in that piece was, she claimed, found in a Google search. This is the image as it appeared on exploreoldcity.com and their Facebook page on September 22, 2017. It remained there until December 1, 2017:



 
I was originally going to let this slide with my suggestion that they take the image down, but the CEO of the company decided to jump into the fray, so I edited my original post on their Facebook page, removing the option of taking the photo down as a way to correct this. Payment for use of the photo became the only avenue I would agree to.

This image was from an article I wrote for St. Augustine Social last year. I created it and my expertise and experience resulted in the image. This is the image as it appeared on the website for St. Augustine Social: 



The source of the image is easily identifiable, yet no effort whatsoever was ever made to contact either me or St. Augustine Social for permission to use the image. They never even attempted to source the image, which is ridiculously simple on Google. When I posted about it on Facebook (under Miss Ellison's review), Mr. Geoffrey Grider, who owns exploreoldcity's parent company Mudflower Media, told me the image would be removed and to stop harassing his intern.

He never once apologized or acknowledged any wrongdoing.

I delivered an invoice to Mr. Grider's office while he was not there. He took to social media to take issue with the amount ($350). He told me to "keep dreaming". I stopped back by his office to discuss this with him, and he was immediately confrontational. He offered me $40, which is the amount Mr. Grider claims is charged by Getty Images to license a photograph. In actuality, Getty are expensive to license; usually around the $175 range but, in some cases, as high as $700.

Regardless, what I explained to Mr. Grider is that I'm not Getty Images. I'm not a stock photography agency, I'm a single photographer. I don't have an archive of 80 million photographs to license for $40 each. I don't know how many images they license every day, but I'm sure it amounts to an astronomical sum. Furthermore, if Mr. Grider wanted to pay $40, he should've gone through Getty Images to license the photo. Of course, that wouldn't be possible, since Getty doesn't have this image. But, for whatever reason, Mr. Grider believes I should be bound by a pricing structure that he incorrectly believes Getty Images has in place, for using a photo that Getty will never have.

Mr. Grider's brand of logic is fascinating.

Is the amount of $350 high? Well, if your name if Geoff Grider, yeah, I suppose it probably is. But it's not if you consider that this is how I earn my living, and I cannot allow copyright infringement, especially by a business owner who, by nature of his business should absolutely know better, to flourish.

I eventually countered his offer with an offer of $100 and he flatly refused.

His offer of $40 was an insult, but it also speaks loudly to the fact that he knows he was in the wrong. If he didn't believe he was in the wrong, he would've offered me nothing. When I told him his offer was an insult he said "Take me to court."

So, that's exactly what I intend to do.

I just think it's important that people understand that those who seem like stand-up businessmen (Mudflower was featured on First Coast News) are not, in some cases, stand up businessmen. Geoffrey Grider never once apologized for this, instead opting to insult me with a paltry licensing fee offer. Furthermore, he apparently sees nothing wrong with the conduct of his company, its subsidiary exploreoldcity, or his intern Haley Ellison.

I would also caution my photographer friends to regularly scan websites owned by Mr. Grider for instances of copyright infringement. He will allow your images to be used without attribution, compensation or permission. There are plenty of reputable, good businesses to work with in St. Augustine. Mudflower Media would not be one of those businesses.

And, yes, I have screen shots to support my allegations, and I will be presenting those, and other supporting documentation, in court.

It's disgusting that a supposed legitimate businessman would stoop to such lows. His sense of entitlement is through the roof and his inability to simply admit he and his company were in the wrong would've gone a long way in rectifying this situation.

Geoffrey Grider, however, has determined that this will go an entirely different route...

Banner Thomas...

I've been blessed quite a bit. As a photographer, I've had the opportunity to meet and become friends with a wide array of pe...