Monday, June 30, 2014

The Memorial Lights returns to the Air Medical Memorial in Littleton, CO

Last week marked 370 days since the original quiet debut of The Memorial Lights, to an impressive crowd of three people, my friends and co-creators Alex, Temple and myself. The Memorial Lights then went on to make their AMTC debut then a few months later in Virginia Beach with a much larger and receptive showing.  The Memorial Lights has always been a labor of love for me, and something I want to give back the air medical community. I would be lying if I said I was not nervous about returning to Littleton, CO, managing the unique challenges of the venue...and wondering exactly what the turnout was going to be.

To my surprise, Steve Sweeney, Co-founder and Board Chair of the Air Medical Memorial, called me Thursday morning of the event, letting me know that AirLife Denver was going to fly one of their aircraft in for The Memorial Lights. I was pleasantly surprised, as I started to realize that what has been a pipe dream so long for me was starting to grow wings. In addition it was so fulfilling to see that other key members of the air medical community were also working behind the scenes to promote The Memorial Lights success. A big huge “Thanks” Tammy!

Once I arrived in Denver, Temple and I made our way to a cafĂ©, where some of the survivor’s families were meeting for a casual dinner. The place was packed, and it was nice to see some familiar faces. However, when I sat down at the bar by myself to enjoy a cold beer, I suddenly was accompanied by an amazing woman, who had lost her husband 17 months ago. She explained to me, how important the The Memorial Lights installation and their quiet nature was to her and how the ceremony gave her such peace. This completely warmed my heart. I think I am making a difference.

Shortly after dinner, Temple and I arrived to the Air Medical Memorial site, to be greeted by the Littleton Fire Department, who was there to monitor the landing zone for AirLife.  Once the helicopter landed, I headed with the cardboard box of Lights, set up a table with some volunteers, and then explained to the Volunteers what to do. "Take a few lights, read the names and spread them out in groups of one, two, three or four. As you read the names, please take note of who they are. Each tea light represents an honoree and their service. And if you feel so compelled to place them in their correct groups please do, as the Lights are all mixed together." A few family members also assisted us, and as would be the case, they always seemed to find their loved ones immediately despite the mixture. It was uncanny and humbling in the same breath.

In total there was about 75 people there, paying respects to loved ones and colleagues. The captain of the fire department, kindly offered the use of his 100ft ladder truck for me to get an overhead image. I took him up on his offer, and a few minutes later a large truck rolled in, set up, and I climbed it as it took me above and I quickly capture imagery of the layout and the fruits of our labor.

Once it got dark enough, I set up my tripod and captured what I believe is a key color image of The Memorial Lights installation, with two important family members in the foreground surrounded by lights; in the background I also captured the three-person flight crew, holding three tea lights, which represented their three crew AirLife lost a few years ago. Only the sounds of the nearby freeway were heard, everyone just walked around in silence. Again humbling and so resounding are the first words that come to mind.

I am very thankful for the growing encouragement and continued support from the US air medical community in their endorsement of my professional photography, my artwork and this installation.  And many, many thanks again to Temple, Alex (from afar) and Steve Sweeney, as well as his corps of volunteers as this project would have never taken flight without you. 

Many thoughts still swirl around my head, as I try to understand how The Memorial Lights can help to educate and inform as well as honor the fallen. How can I further spread this concept of reflective beauty and solemn nature to the entire air medical community? How can I, the photographer and the artist, honor the air medical community’s fallen heroes, while trying to eliminate it from happening again? All questions impossible to answer, but I will continue to do my part in trying.

The Memorial Lights project will make its next appearance this September at AMTC Nashville with the heartfelt assistance of AAMS and the city of Nashville. Each time is bigger and better than the last and I look forward to its debut. Come September there may even be some surprises involved!?!?

Until next time……..

Mark Mennie

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dog Beach Imagery....How does Mark do that??? And then make it look so easy????

Anyone who visits Mark's blog, website, or Facebook pages with any sort of regularity knows that one of Mark's favorite pastimes is capturing imagery at a dog beach in Del Mar, CA. Equipped with nothing more than his iPhone (with his favorite photo app, ProCamera) and an innate instinct for the day's best sun, Mark vividly draws in his audiences.  So much so that Mark was recently notice by reporter, Abbie Alford from CBS 8 San Diego, CA and was featured in this informative segment a few months ago.  If you have not seen this yet, please click here and check it out.  

After viewing Mark's dog beach photos and hearing that they were taken his cell phone, people often then ask "how much photoshop?" or  "what sort of special effects filter or special post production technique did he use to get them to look like that?".  They answer ladies and gents is NONE.  Since most of you are still skeptical I thought I might take this opportunity to clarify his process a bit.  So I asked Mark for some of his secrets and here is what he said.....

CDL- Timing seems to be everything in capturing these perfect images.  What is your preferred time to hit the beach?  
MM- Low tide, this really is the most important factor.  The best time is only about 3 minutes before sunset and then 15-30 minutes after. 

CDL- Besides lighting and timing what other elements allow you to take all these amazing shot? 
MM- Staying AFTER sunset, as the temp drops, many people head back to their cars and that is when the light is perfect. The right conditions in the sky also help a lot, which sometimes is not always a crystal clear day. The sun is much too bright at times for my iPhone.  

CDL- Any other techniques you use especially when it might be too bright or sunny?  
MM-When the sun is "too bright", I try to catch a dog's / a person's body in front of the sun-to reduce the brightness and the iPhone does adjust for that.

CDL-Okay the million dollar question that everyone is dying to you retouch or photoshop your dog beach images?  
MM-I DO NOT do any "Photoshop re-touching or re-illustration" I am certainly NOT a fan of the HDR look. (High Dynamic Range)  I ONLY adjust image brightness and a slight increase in contrast/saturation to keep my silhouettes black and make sure peoples' identities are anonymous...the opposite of HDR. The iPhone does a it's own great job on capturing what I see and feel. Really the largest adjustment I sometimes I choose to make is "straightening out the horizon" as many times it is hard to keep my iPhone camera level as I kneel in the soft wet (and sometimes cold) sand.

CDL-Okay last question....what makes your dog beach photography one of your favorite pastimes?  
MM-I am creating something unique, that can be electronically shared right from the beach. That and all the great conversations I strike up shooting with people surprised with what I am getting with my "iPhone"...

Mark's custom sized dog beach imagery is available for sale on his website  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Ushering in 2014 with some reflection......

So as 2014 quickly unfolds I have challenged Mark to reflect on 2013.  What were his highs? His lows? What would he like to see more of on 2014?  What would he like to eliminate?  What would be an all encompassing snap shot of last year? What image does he see in a crystal ball of the year ahead?  It took a while but this is what he said......

My highs? My European trip, which included re-connecting with some European air medical friends, mission photography in the Czech Republic (and the amazing hospitality of my CZ friend Pavel, his family and his vineyard+cellar!) and then a brief, but successful scouting of Roma in preparation for the Airmed World Congress in June 2014.

The low? Watching the continuing deterioration of pro photography, not necessarily as a result of technology or the internet, but how mediocre and even poor imagery is continuing to lead alot of sheep. But in all honesty my real low was at the start of 2014, but directly related to 2013. I did not meet my photo buddy Ben Checkowy, in Los Angeles, for just a half day in December, as I was too"busy" and I could not quite afford the trip. Ben suddenly passed away two weeks ago. RIP Ben. Life is way too short.

More of this next year? More missions with more air medical programs, including some good light to feature STARS' new A139 in action!  Finding more time to shoot more sunrises, as I think I have sunsets at Dog Beach covered. And seeing more pros speaking up about mediocre imagery flooding the internet and the hazards it can cause. Those who already know that you have to pay real money for good photography can chime in at any time as well. Support Artists! Their vision can take a lifetime to develop. 

Eliminate? The "joys" of travel, as my last big trip across the US with United had me stranded alone in Chicago...Perhaps eliminating some of my airline travel and getting my butt on more Amtrak trains. 

All encompassing snap shot of last year? Europe, it's friends and their hospitality and the future possibilities that it held! Mix in a successful Outriders' season...the best ever Drill Crew Calendar just debuting now and there were some real highs. 

Crystal Ball? I see a successful HAI experience that relates to both the November 2014 Dubai Helishow and the opportunity to meet some great air medical friends at the Airmed World Congress in Roma this June. The AMTC Host Program Photography project will put me in TN this year, and I always have enjoyed my time in that region of the United States. Images from that project will debut in Roma! And lastly, yet another return to Burning Man with the intention to receive a grant to do "something big". Stay tuned. 

Many, many thanks again to the followers of my blog. I really appreciate your support, and insights over the years. MM

Thursday, January 9, 2014

No doubt Mark and Waldy's best work yet! Roughneck Drill Crew's Calendar Debuts January 10th

Well Mark along with his good buddy and longtime colleague Waldy Martens have most certainly outdone themselves with the Drill Crew's 2014 Calendar.  Below you will find the official press release marking the occasion.  Once the calendar is released at the Roughneck's Home Opener this Friday, January 10th, we will be updating you with more of the amazing imagery and outtakes.  So please stay tuned!

Until Next Time.....


Back Again: Roughneck’s Debut their 2014 Calendar January 10th
 featuring the photographic genius of Mark Mennie + Waldy Martens

January 9, 2014- Mark Mennie of Mark Mennie Photography and Waldy Martens team up for the second year running to shoot the National Lacrosse League, Calgary Roughneck’s dance team, Drill Crew’s 2014 Calendar. A collaborative union, which has proven to be of utmost success for both the Drill Crew and the Canadian Football League’s Calgary Stampeders’ dance team the Outriders, with a consistent history of calendar sell outs year after year. The Drill Crew’s 2014 edition is already being touted as Mark and Waldy’s best collaboration yet, utilizing Mark’s creative capture skills and Waldy’s art direction and world class post production talents. The stars truly aligned when this for these two Alberta College of Art alums reunited for this project and pure magic was formed. The success of this shoot cannot be solely credited them though, as the dance team as a whole and their talented leader Dana Murphy played an integral part if not the most important.

Stepping away from the Saddledome this year, the 4 day shoot was set at Harley Davidson of Calgary, which was initially scouted by Dana, and while it did not allow the Drill Crew a “home field advantage” of shooting in their arena, the dealership created the perfect contrast to compliment to each of the team members’ calendar spread. “Something always drew me to a motorcycle themed calendar and shooting in late November I knew the shoot had to be indoors. Taking the shoot to an unfamiliar location can be a gamble, but it was Mark and Waldy’s dream location. They were like two kids in a candy store with the excitement that grew from scouting and all the location and motorcycle options we had available to us. Harley Davidson of Calgary was the most accommodating and welcoming to our whole production crew.”

In addition to amazing hospitality of Tom, Rob, and Patrick as well as the entire staff at Calgary Harley Davidson, the project would have been nowhere without the hairstyling talents by the Drill Crew’s own Petra. The coordinated team of make-up artists, Karen, Helen and Vered magically transformed all the ladies into calendar girls. “It always take a village during a rapid shoot of this magnitude” Mark adds.  “The production crew, venue staff, and Drill Crew created the perfect “dream team” for Waldy and myself and our organized chaos. All these unique elements merged together to create this great calendar"

The Drill Crew 2014 Calendar will be officially released on Friday, January 10th at the Roughneck’s home opener versus the Colorado Mammoth. In addition to being available for sale at all games the calendar will also be offered online as well at www.calgaryroughnecks.comThe calendar is $20 for a signed copy, plus shipping. To find out more about Mark and Waldy and their professional work please visit their sites or