Infinite's Information, Inspiration & Ideas … our I's on you!


Women’s Empowerment

We recently produced a short promotional film for the non-profit organization, WOMENS EMPOWERMENT INTERNATIONAL.  The founders of WE, Leigh Fenly and Win Cox,  sat down to talk with us about what they believe is a successful business model for tackling the cycle of poverty. The organization is based in San Diego, but spreads its arms out to include women in Mexico, Honduras, and Africa.  Based on the Grameen model of microfinance, WE has helped hundreds of needy families and raised thousands of dollars.  We truly believe in this cause.

We hope that you watch our video, which they premiered at their annual meeting a few weeks ago, and received thundering applause.  We hope you’ll feel compelled to share it or better yet, make a donation to WE!

We loved working on it and meeting some of the incredible refugee women who have benefitted from WE’s Star Center in San Diego.  Women from Kenya, Somalia, Mexico, Iraq … their stories are incredible, their faces are beautiful, and their love & energy are inspiring.  We are so honored to take part in helping to get their message out.

We are also working on an even shorter “commercial” version of the video, so stay tuned for that …


Happy? Mother’s Day

old family photo

Dad says good-bye.

I won’t be sending my mom a Mother’s Day card this year.  Or a birthday one.  Or Christmas.  Definitely not Christmas.  She pretty much ruined Christmas.  Holidays will never be the same.

Ten days before this last Christmas, she died.  Suddenly and unexpectedly.   It was just like the movies, that phone call that wakes you up and you know it can’t be good news.  It took awhile to sink in when my brother said, “… she passed away.”  “What?” I said, not because I wanted him to repeat it but because I couldn’t understand it.  I just spoke to her a few days before and she sounded great.  She was getting ready for Christmas, wrapping gifts and signing cards.  She wanted to start planning for our visit to see her and my dad in the Philippines in March.  We were supposed to celebrate our one-year anniversary there so my new husband could meet all the family who couldn’t come to the US for our wedding. Mom wanted to have a party.

Well, she got her damn party.  Everyone was there.  They came from everywhere; some took several days to travel by bus from the countryside to be there.  And mom just laid there.

It’s true, dead people really do look like they’re just sleeping.  Mom looked peaceful and beautiful in the dress she wore to my wedding.  In the last few minutes of her funeral, dad begged her to wake up.

I’ve been to funerals before.  When I worked at the Denver Post in 1999, I had to go to several funerals in just one week, after the Columbine High School shootings.  Those moments – taking pictures of mourning families and caskets of dead children – left me questioning my life and what I was doing with it.  I wondered what the hell I was doing there, and what for, and was it worth it.  I considered quitting photojournalism for awhile.

That was over ten years ago and I haven’t had feelings or thoughts about quitting again – until my mom’s funeral.

Helpless.  Distraught.  Confused.  Depressed.  I had them all.  I couldn’t even make myself write this blog.

Then slowly, as I talked to friends and told stories about the funeral, I started to realize something.  At my mom’s funeral, I learned so much about her, really amazing things.  Those discoveries made me feel proud and happy.  Mom and I didn’t always get along so well, and we disagreed often, but I always respected her, and now I loved her in a whole new way.  It was weird that I could simultaneously feel the pain of death and the joy of love.  I loved learning about my mom and that helped me get through it.  She was a pretty wonderful person with an incredibly generous heart.  She was devoted to her church and her family.  She constantly donated time and money to the church, and helped family members like a cousin who approached me at the funeral to tell me, “You don’t know this but when I was in school, your mom paid for all my schoolbooks.”  He’s a doctor now.

At her funeral, my brother and I did the eulogies.  I just said all the things to her that I would’ve said if I had the chance to say good-bye.  What I wouldn’t give for just five minutes.  There’s so much I should have said to her and done for her when she was alive.  Those feelings still haunt me.

Oh, the guilt.  All the “shoudda’s” and “couldda’s”.  I was consumed by guilt.  Guilt about my mom, guilt about my life, guilt about working or not working.  It made me think about all the work I should’ve accomplished, all the good I could’ve done.  Have I done enough, said enough?  That’s why I can’t quit now.  I still believe in making a difference — mom bought schoolbooks, I can shoot a story.  I was too late to say a lot to my mom but I still have a voice for others – do some good while I’m still here. That’s what journalists do.  Until they die.

I hope that everyone who reads this has someone to send a card to on Sunday.  And be thankful – that your Mother’s Day is Happy.


Photos and video by InfiniteBrett

Warm Memories

Since there’s a nice chill in the air these days, I thought we’d share the last wedding that we shot because the day was so warm and the happy couple are shown basking in the sun on the beach.  A classic San Diego day.  Robin and Terrence had a beautiful and intimate celebration with their closest friends and family and we felt so honored to be a part of it.  Robin has become a dear friend and confidante and I’m so grateful to our mutual friend, Ron Sanchez who introduced us.  Robin and Terrence moved back to Washington, DC after the wedding and we hope that the little wedding film we shot for them will always bring them back to that special day in Southern California.  Check it out here – we hope you get all warm and fuzzy, too!

Trade & Spaces

It’s been awhile… and we’ve been pretty busy. We moved and are settling in to our new place. It’s frighteningly close to a couple of our favorite pubs – but that’s another story. Our office is set-up and we can finally catch up.  I’ve had some fun shoots and I’ll write about that in upcoming posts but in the meantime – about our move:

When we packed up all the crap from our old place, we discovered boxes and boxes of old camera gear and photos and slides and newspaper clips. I made it my goal to sort through them and get rid of it. The feng-shui experts recommend this cleansing experience so that you can make room for newer and better things.  Ok, I like new.  I like better.  So I tell myself to let go…

I got nostalgic at times – especially looking at old Kodachrome slides and seeing those vivid colors. (I just dated myself, didn’t I?)  The clips made me a little sad and I missed my newspaper days. The prints from college made me appreciate what I’ve learned and how far I’ve come. The old camera gear made me laugh when I thought what expensive paper weights they made. I packed most of the stuff that we didn’t want to throw out into boxes and shipped them off to my in-law’s house to keep them safe and stored. (I charmed them with the ol’ – “maybe your grandkids will want to see them”…) Then we took the camera gear that we didn’t have any use for (except for my first two cameras ever, a Nikon F3 and an Olympus OM-4) and traded them in for more useful gear at Camera Exposure, a used camera store in our neighborhood. We scored a sweet Nikon prime lens (50/1.4) that’s awesome for video and a cool little light kit. Who knows if it was a fair deal? I was just relieved to get all that stuff off our back porch!  I needed room for the new and the better and there was no way in hell I was going to pack that stuff and move with them ever again!  

And on a side note about our new place … we have a nice little backyard that we really want to spend time in but our landlady lives in the house behind us and her front porch looks straight into our backyard which gave us no privacy and made us very uncomfortable.  It felt like our personal space was invaded whenever she was there.  Brett finally convinced her to let us build a higher fence.  So we bought some bamboo from a friend and on Saturday, Brett built a nice tall bamboo fence and it’s so much better – no naked yoga but a lot more privacy.  Wanna see?  Check out this 5-sec video clip using that cool 50mm prime lens we just acquired in the gear trade.  Gotta love that bokeh!

P.S. I’ve never actually practiced naked yoga.  Ewww.

Reuse, Recycle … Relocate

About a month ago, we decided that we wanted to fix up our home to make it feel more comfortable and look nicer.  So Brett decided he wanted to make some outdoor furniture – using discarded wood pallets.  (Yay – Reduce!  Reuse!  Recycle!)  He piled them into his car and brought them home and started to work on his project in our backyard.  He found some good websites to guide him.  He worked on it little by little, an hour after work or on the weekend. And after awhile, his hard work resulted in an adorable handcrafted adirondack chair!  We drank beers and took turns sitting in the new chair.  We took photos of the chair and I even made a fun little video of Brett making the chair.  We both got excited about making another chair, a sofa, a table … woo-hoo, the backyard was finally going to look cute and cozy!  We couldn’t wait to make it all nice.  We even made plans to make some cool props for photo shoots.

That’s when we got the letter from our landlord …the couple who own our place are breaking up after 15 years and one of them is going to have to take back our place to live in it.

So, just when we were getting all comfy, we have to move.

And we have to pack that pallet chair.

I tried to embed the short video I did of Brett making the chair  but WordPress is being a pain in the arse and for some reason, I can’t do it so please watch it here – it’s only 1 minute:  vimeo

BLOCKS: building up & tearing down

It happens to the best.  To the smartest.  To the seasoned.  And the newest.

Writer’s Block.  As storytellers, we’ve all gotten stuck somewhere at some point, allowing those blocks to build-up and keep us from that creative flow we crave.  For writers, you can stare at a blank screen and thumb through your notes for hours. For a cinematographer, you keep shooting repetitive images – usually, they’re quite nice so you don’t realize you should stop and move on.  And maybe, like me, you’re stuck because you haven’t asked all the questions yet.  You’re still trying to get everyone used to you and your big cameras, hoping that when they’re comfortable, they’ll start opening up and the stories will pour out and you’ll have that a-ha moment and you’ll know what your story is.  And finally you can wrap it in a nice big bow and present it to the world.

I’m hoping that’s what will happen as we progress with our short documentary.  We’ve made some beautiful images but I’m struggling with the story line.  So, I do what many original creative artists do – I go find some inspiration and copy them.  While surfing the internets, I came across some old video interviews with NPR’s Ira Glass, host of This American Life.  (Disclaimer:  We are HUGE addicts of TAL and have donated to the radio broadcast regularly.) I thought Ira was very helpful – although the videos themselves are pretty poor quality.  (We’ll cover VISUAL inspiration in another blog post.)  I hope you will find Ira’s words of wisdom as informative as we did.  They are short but appear in four parts:

Here are the links to the other 3 parts:

Now to tear down those blocks and build up that story!

I do!

This past weekend, IMW took the plunge into a new business … weddings!  It’s not unusual  — so many of our friends and colleagues, amazing photojournalists all, have jumped into the thriving world of weddings.  We dabbled in it briefly last year then took a step back to debate whether it was something we really felt in our hearts that we wanted to commit to.  Then we talked to our friend, Sean Haffey, who has been so successful with his wedding endeavor and he inspired us.  We decided that weddings encompass all the things we feel passionately about with our documentary film work … to tell a story, to feel emotion, to create art and to impact people’s lives.  It suddenly felt like – well, like a perfect marriage!  Now that we’ve decided to embark on this additional branch of our video work, it seems so natural.  We’ve been doing a lot of research and we recognize that these early stages will continually be a “work-in-progress” but we are committed to the challenge and vow to work hard.  Through the inspiration from other cinematographers, we have discovered a really unique way to present our “product”.  We will post some of our work on this blog so you can follow us on this journey, our labor of love.

Here is a frame grab from the wedding we shot over the weekend.  The couple, Robin and Terrence Barrett were married at the Naval Station North Island, Coronado, in a simple and romantic ceremony in front of their closest family and friends.  Robin (nee Weiner) is a photojournalist and like most shooters, does not particularly enjoy being on “the other side of the lens”, but she basked in the glow, took everything in stride and was so gracious with the camera in her face all day.  And oh how we appreciated a like-minded artist who realized our needs and recognized the value of what we were doing!

The happy couple share a sweet-frosting kiss after cutting the cake.

Katrina’s Anniversary

Five years ago, I was sent to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the town of Biloxi, Mississippi.  This Sunday, August 29th marks the 5-year anniversary of that awful time in American history.  In my mind, I can still see the homes reduced to rubble, feel the soft muddy streets squishing under my feet, and sense the angry deprivation.  I was sent there during the first Christmas after Katrina.  Some places were so ruined that there was no way Santa could have landed a sled there.  But, the people … wow, the people.  They were hurt and frustrated but were still amazing.  Happy to be alive.  Glad that we still showed interest in their stories.  Trying so hard to be merry for their kids – to be able to give them something, anything.  After the hurricane dissipated and the help slowed and the coverage faded, their spirit never left them.

A picture I shot of a destroyed Biloxi home where the family lost everything but their Christmas spirit.

A few weeks ago, we had the privilege of watching a preview screening of Spike Lee’s “If God is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise”.  It’s a follow-up to “When the Levees Broke” and similarly, it is sharp and exasperating and poetic.  Aside from the technical criticisms we had about the film (Let me just get this out of the way – but the version we saw had jump cuts, bad color, weird edits & poor audio.), there were many strong points made and the images of destruction still move me.  The righteous anger of those that endured the hurricane and its aftermath is the ongoing theme as Lee chronicled the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which occurred while he was wrapping up the filming of “…da Creek Don’t Rise”.  Documentaries like this remind me why we do what we do – and why we need to keep doing it.

I wish I could go to the photo exhibit at The Ogden Museum of Southern Art (University of New Orleans) where “Telling Their Stories:  The Lingering Legacy of the Katrina Photographs” is now on display.  It is an amazing collaborative project birthed by photojournalists who covered Hurricane Katrina and who felt that their photos have a purpose beyond documenting history.  It is definitely worth checking out the website – or better yet, going to the exhibit if you are in the area.  And for visual journalists, it should motivate you to recognize we still have a job to do…

…even if others debate our worthwhile existence – like the former head of Magnum Photos, Neil Burgess who was recently interviewed on the topic “Is Photojournalism Dead?“, and said, “We should stop talking about photojournalists altogether. Apart from a few old dinosaurs whose contracts are so long and retirement so close that it’s cheaper to keep them on, there is no journalism organization funding photographers to act as reporters.”  But check out the video interview from the current Magnum director, Mark Lubell, who disagrees.  It’s a debate that has many convincing arguments on both sides and has gone on for awhile.  It’s a tough one for me – someone who is no longer at a critically ill daily newspaper but definitely still has a pulse for storytelling and still breathes for the art.

(For the record:  all photos shown above were shot by me…I didn’t steal them.)

Addendum:  I wanted to ask that we keep in mind that the recovery work after Katrina is ongoing and sadly, there remains so much to be done.  Five years later and it’s pathetic what little has been learned of government corruption/involvement.  I implore you to keep it in your thoughts and stay updated.  (Even my former newspaper that sent me to cover Christmas after Katrina has done little since then.  Also pathetic.)

Limitations? N’ah – we’re INFINITE

A couple of weeks ago, we started shooting a short documentary for the local International Rescue Committee and a promotional video for a non-profit affiliated with the IRC.  We’ve met some wonderful people who are truly making a difference in our community.  It’s very exciting and we’re loving the challenge.

One of the biggest challenges is working with the limited gear we have – we have a long wish list of things we would love  but can’t afford (I’m looking at you Cinevate slider!).  But, I’m all zen about it and decided not to focus on what we don’t have.  Drawing from my experiences in the newspaper business and remembering how cheap they were to update our gear I know how to  make due with what I have.  I remember one week at the San Diego Union – Tribune when I only had ONE working lens and had to shoot all my assignments with just that.  It wasn’t ideal, of course, but I thought it was a good lesson on creativity and it made me work just a little harder to get different angles.  So, as we forge on, we recognize our limitations and embrace them, knowing that the work will get done and we’ll do the best we can.  After all, our imagination is INFINITE.

We’ll keep you updated on the progress of the documentary and hopefully, in a few months, we can show some footage.  Here’s a sneak peek frame grab:  

Meanwhile, I’ve been sharing a lot of information on Twitter so if you’re following me, you’ve already seen these interesting links/stories … if you’re not following me on Twitter, what’s your problem?  Get on it.

Last week, Nikon announced the upcoming arrival of the D3100 – “the first DSLR with constant autofocus while in video mode” – and for those of you (like me) who only ate once a day so they could pay $2,500 for the Canon 5D Mark II – the D3100 is only $700.  It’s scheduled to be released next month.

Did you know that August 19th was “World Photography Day“?  Me, either.

Love PhotoShop?  Here’s a fascinating study by the Image Science Group on the history of photo tampering:

Recently, the PhotoShelter blog posted a discussion, “Top Ten Ways to Piss Off a Photographer” I thought, “offer photo credit as payment” was the best – and unfortunately – the most abused one.  Oh, puh-lease don’t do this!

And speaking of the challenges of working with limited funds/gear … Last week, Philip Bloom wrote a blog post recommending which lenses to buy.  I always have to give myself a reality check and be reminded that I’m not Philip Bloom and I’m not sponsored and I don’t make shit tons of money shooting video … yet.

Vimeo news

Infinite Media Works uses VIMEO to share our videos.  Yesterday, they announced some welcome changes.  They have added a  universal player that will make viewing Vimeo videos a whole lot easier for iPhone and iPad users.  Woo-hoo!

Read the full article:

Here is one of IMW’s videos: