Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Memories & Giveaway Winner

In our last post, we offered a giveaway of 2 lbs of coffee from Carolina Coffee Roasting, and a delicious tin of cookies from Simply Scrumptious. And now, we announce our winner... chosen by a random number generator...  Chris Ferguson, Art Director at Pace Communications! Congratulations!
Thank you to everyone who entered! We enjoyed reading about your holiday traditions & memories so much, we just had to share them with everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.

Happy Holidays & Best Wishes for the New Year!
- Mark

From our winner, Chris Ferguson:
One of my favorite holiday treats is something my wife makes (passed down from her mother): Crème de Menthe bars!

From Banu Valladares:
I don’t drink coffee or eat cookies (I have dairy and gluten allergies) but love the smells of those two, particularly in the holiday season. In Venezuela, we didn’t bake. I was introduced to the joy of holiday cookie eating and later baking after I married Jay. His mom made a fantastic “monkey bread” – carrot bread that she’d bake in a tin can…. It was the most fantastic thing in the world – moist, sweet…. And then, a stay-at-home neighbor who baked and gifted sparked the spirit in me.

In Venezuela, we make a traditional meal starting in early December – hallacas. They’re like tamales, but wrapped in banana tree leaves and stuffed with a stew made with chicken, pork and beef, as well as raisins, almonds, pickled veggies, bacon…. We made hundreds of these that we’d eat throughout the month until the day the kings arrived (Epiphany in January).

Making hallacas was a family affair. The elders took care of the guizo (stew) and making the dough. These required huge bats. I remember my grandma sticking her arm all the way to her elbow in a bat to knead the white corn dough mixed with annatto and oil for these. The youngest kids were responsible for “curing” the banana tree leaves – using the same combination of annatto and oil to clean and soften them so they could be pliable enough to wrap. The grown ups would then add a bit of dough to each cured leaf, flatten it and add the stew. The little ones could then add little bits of all the other ingredients and, as they got older, wrap the hallaca, reinforce it with a faja (a thin strip of leaf  where there might be a tear to keep the stuffing from falling out) and tie them the way you wrap a Christmas gift except crossing over twice. Then, the elders would boil them twice and stuff the bottom shelves of our refrigerator as well as the drawers until they were all gone.

We never tired of eating hallacas, maybe because of the time we spent together making them, maybe because we only ate them in December while the gaitas and aguinaldos played all day and the fireworks lit up the nights.

From Terri Beam:
Every year since I can remember, my family has attended the Moravian Love Feast service in the afternoon around 4:00 on Christmas Eve. We have visited more than one particular Moravian Church over the years. Many times our church selection was driven by friends or family that may help serve and present the unique services of the Love Feast or by those that sing in the choir, as my only surviving Aunt does now. The service is beautiful, touching and invites much congregation involvement.

Regardless of your religious preferences, everyone is invited to attend these worship services all over the city of Winston-Salem, in what seems like every Moravian church (of which there are many.)  Yes, the minister/pastor delivers a sermon, the choir sings Christmas anthems, but the congregation practically guides the service in their participation in sharing and receiving a cup of hot coffee in a hefty mug, a delicious Moravian Love Feast bun (baked by Old Salem, Dewey's or local food artisans) and a lighted candle to be held high in exultation of Jesus Christ's' birth at the very end of the service. There is an adult choir, a hand bell choir and a children's choir, all of which deliver sweet hymns that bring Christmas into my heart every year.  There is something very special about entering that church, sitting with my family, waving to friends, trying to get my aunt to laugh out loud while she sits and faces the entire congregation that brings merriment to my heart.
It is usually tough to stifle a laugh more than once as my Mother and I sing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" since we have our own way of raising our voices at offbeat times. When the buns and coffee are received by all the congregation and choir, we must all sit quietly and wait until the minister takes his first bite or sip and then we may begin our Love feast portion of food. Several people choose to balance their bun on top of their coffee mug to keep their coffee warm prior to partaking of the tasty meal.  My boys and I always smile as we wait for buns to topple down the aisle with one sneeze or cough! Miss Mannerly, that my Mother is, usually comments on how one or another person is eating their bun "incorrectly" or started eating prior to the minister's signal to begin.  Oh my gosh, another opportunity for me and my sister to laugh and shake the row of seats in doing so. Mother's will be Mother's but church will never be church without a little bit of laughter from MY family!

I have lived out of state several times, once in Boston and another in Chicago, but I always came home for Christmas and attend the Love Feast service with my family as Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the Moravian Love Feast and I will cherish all my memories there for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Home for the Holidays... in the Studio

One of the things we love about preparing for the holidays is the opportunity to bring the comforts of home into the studio. Freshly baked cookies, a cup of hot coffee on a cold winter morning, having these delights as subjects for our still photography take us to a happy place this time of year.

We've been especially fortunate recently to have two of our studio neighbors work with us on some delicious projects.  Julie Watson of Simply Scrumptious created a variety of Christmas and classic cookies for us to photograph. Julie makes amazing cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, truffles, etc. for any occasion, and from locally sourced ingredients. Candy Azarcon at the Carolina Coffee Roasting Company has provided fresh and roasted coffee beans for shoots, but also keeps the studio caffeinated with our own special studio blend that she helped create. Their coffee is roasted in small batches and freshly ground in their shop just around the corner. Sometimes we can even smell the coffee roasting from our front door!

We love being able to work with and support our small business neighbors and friends, so we'd like to share their talents with you by having a giveaway! The winner will receive 1 lb. of the MWP Studio Blend (a lovely mix of Columbian and Guatemalan organic coffees) and 1 lb. of Jamaican Blue Mountain from Carolina Coffee Roasting, plus a delicious tin of cookies from Simply Scrumptious.  Just reply to this email to enter, or leave a comment on our blog! The winner will be selected at random from the replies. (Tell us a really good story about a favorite holiday treat, and we'll give you 2 entries! ;)

Wishing you and yours holidays that runneth over with all that is wonderful!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time, something to toy with.

Our new Time Showreel

Time affects us in many ways, we run our life by it, music is based on time, we mark its passage with rites and ceremonies, and yet the main way that we tend to think about time is based on divisions interpreted by people. It is amazing to me that something that is so abstract and untouchable can be used by us all each day, divided up, possessed by us, then bought and sold.

I became interested in using time as a way to express emotion with photography while still in high school. My friends and I were doing these large, hours-long exposures with flares, big flashlights, boats... well, needless to say they were big productions for a bunch of high schoolers. This experimentation continued in college with things like running a roll of 35mm film all the way to the end, then opening the shutter and rewinding the film to expose it, then contact printing the result.

One of my first experiments with long exposures. 
This is 2 o'clock in the morning at Reidsville Senior High.
Believe it or not but the photo guys had a key to the school.

Since those days I have worked with time-lapse, fast motion, stop motion, frozen moments in time, and motion blur to change how we think about time. My interest has three facets:

1. The technical challenge of getting all the gear dialed in just right, and planning the performance or action. This is the fun of the moment.

2. The visual appeal of how the image looks. If done well, we go beyond a gimmick to something that holds up over time.

3. The emotion - when used in the right context, time is a meaningful story telling element. You have to use the right technique at the right time to make it effective.

All three of these elements take years to learn how to use correctly, and getting them to work together can be difficult. Sometimes it just does not work, but other times when you place one into an edit and add the music, it can seem magical. That is when you forget about sitting in the cold for five hours, the dead battery at the wrong time, and the never ending purchase of hard drives!

I don't understand time, I just hope I have some more of it to play with!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Case Study: Eastern Music Festival

Each summer, the Eastern Music Festival brings students from around the world to Greensboro to study with outstanding professional musicians in classical music. In addition to classical performances, EMF offers events in a variety of musical styles, through EMF Fringe, Jazz & Blues and Kids programs. As the Eastern Music Festival celebrates its 50th anniversary season, we thought it appropriate to celebrate our partnership with the festival.

Mark has always loved live music, both as a listener and a performer. So it was natural that he had an interest in documenting and promoting this unique musical event. For 15 years, Mark has contributed to EMF by photographing classes, students and performances for use on EMF's website and print pieces. He has worked closely with Director of Education Nana Wolfe-Hill to cover the events and people EMF wanted to highlight in their promotions.

Mark Wagoner is creative, talented, and professional. He has been working with Eastern Music Festival since 1996 and brings innovative and thoughtful ideas to our team. He has initiated several projects to help promote our Festival and follows through with each one, working with us during each stage so that the final product is just what we need. Mark goes “above and beyond” for EMF and we are deeply grateful for his commitment.
~Nana Wolfe-Hill, Director of Education

In addition to still photography, Mark has created multiple videos documenting and promoting EMF. In 2009, Mark proposed that these short films could became the foundation of EMF TV, a YouTube channel dedicated to videos featuring Music Director Gerard Schwarz and other students and staff of the festival. Through this venue, the public and EMF donors get a closer look at the amazing experience the festival offers to young musicians.

One other fun note - Mark once performed at EMF, as part of an ensemble of drummers performing traditional African music!

This summer, the Eastern Music Festival continues until July 30. Visit their website for a schedule of the many different events, and to purchase tickets online! Please visit our website to see more of Mark's video production and photography:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Father's Day 2011

I had the nicest surprise last night, I received an email from my daughter Lauren with a link in it. On opening it, I saw a lovely photo of the two of us in DC where she now lives; the photo was shot by my talented wife Lynn. Well, then I read the text with the photo and was overwhelmed with emotion. It was the nicest thing about me that she wrote for a blog about Father's Day.

It is a very special thing to find out the effect you have had on your child. I guess it would be safe to say I really had no idea she felt this way.

Wishing all my fellow Dads a happy Father's Day, here is the article, reposted from Propper Topper's wonders never cease.

“If I had to describe my dad in only a few words, I would say he is worldly, goofy, and passionate.”

Just HOW worldly, we wonder?
As a professional photographer for over 30 years (and still going strong!), he has had a chance to travel or live in over 25 countries. As a result, I grew up in a household full of culture. He (yes, my dad is the main cook in my family!) would only cook different ethnic foods for dinner EVERY night. It got to the point where I would beg my mother to take me to the “plain restaurant” as I called it, a cafeteria down the street which served mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and chicken—all the “normal” dinner foods that I knew my friends were eating with their families. Looking back on this now, I am so grateful that I was introduced to ethnic cuisine at an early age. Now, when I am going out to dinner, I almost always pick to go to an Indian, Thai, or Greek restaurant, and when I do get to go home to North Carolina I make sure to ask my dad to prepare me a Mediterranean style meal (my favorite in his repertoire!!). I can definitely say that I owe my appreciation of different cultures and love of travel to him and when I have children of my own I hope to be able to spread this appreciation on to them.

And the goofy part?
My dad is quite the jokester. He would make jokes with random strangers in stores, waitresses at restaurants, and anyone who would listen. Talk about trying to mortify your 13 year old daughter—I swear I thought it was his mission in life to embarrass me at all times; he definitely got a kick out of my over dramatic reactions to his shenanigans. Of course I now understand that it was all in good fun and he was not out to destroy my teenage years, and I am even grateful for the sense of humor I have picked up from him.


What about passion?
When my dad gets interested in something or starts a project, he goes all in. I would say that this is one of his most admirable traits. He became interested in photography when he was 5 years old, and he has never looked back. This is what he studied in college, and he now owns a very successful photography and videography business (Mark Wagoner Productions). I always point out his work to my friends when we are in public because it makes me so proud! I mean, when you drive on the highway and see a billboard with a photograph your dad took or when you are in Barnes and Noble and see books his photographs are in, it feels pretty cool! His passion is not just in his work though, it shows through in everything he does.


What is a gift possibility, this year? (Mr. Wagoner: CLOSE YOUR EYES!)
I have been waiting for an excuse to buy my dad Strange Maps by Frank Jacobs because I think it will appeal to both his goofy and worldly sides. I think Father’s Day will be the perfect excuse!

What would you do with your father on June 19, if you had the whole day to spend with him?
I’m lucky that this year I actually will be with my dad on Father’s Day. We haven’t determined whether he is coming up to DC or if I am going down to North Carolina, but for the first time in several years we will be in the same place! If we are in DC, we will probably go to a nice brunch and then go to a museum of his choosing. If I go down to visit him, I will definitely be cooking breakfast for him and then we would maybe go for a hike with the dog and/or a movie, obviously his pick! I haven’t seen him in several months, so I am counting down the days!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


This iconic toy was invented by a naval engineer named Richard James in the early 1940s and first sold at Gimbels department store in November of 1945. I loved having a new slinky when I was young and it was great fun, as long as you could keep it from getting twisted.

While I was on a prop search for another project this past summer, I saw Slinkys for sale in a store, and I could not resist getting one. OK, I went back for a second one (to have as a spare in case of a kink, of course). I had this idea of shooting it in slow motion and crawling across a flat surface. After a bit of mental problem solving and design time, followed by a few hours of shooting, here is our little short visual experiment called "Slinky".