Derek Jeter NOTE

Yankees SS Derek Jeter hands a game ball to a young fan in the crowd.

Yankees SS Derek Jeter hands a game ball to a young fan in the crowd.


I’ve had a very busy week and after returning home from covering the Mayweather Jr. fight in Las Vegas, there was only one more gig I was looking forward to covering: ……New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter would be playing in his final game ever against the Tampa Bay Rays, and I wanted to film him one last time.
After arriving, I was relieved to see that he was in fact on the starting lineup for the game, after being struck by a pitch the night before.
The Yankees fans were out in full force, and there were signs and camera flashes going off the entire evening, especially when Jeter got a hit and eventually rounded the bases for a run. He was all smiles the entire night and you could sense he was a bit sad about saying goodbye for the last time to his loyal fans, and the regulars that he always saw at Tropicana Field. There was magic in the air, mixed with a little bit of sadness that one of the greatest ever to play the game would not be in uniform come next season.
With the final out of the game, the Yankees had defeated the Rays 3-2, and the crowd roared its approval with whistles, clapping, cheers and flashbulbs. Derek tipped his hat for the very last time on this field, and I followed him until he disappeared into the safety of the dark Yankees bench, and down the dugout steps……….

Only later while photographing the aftermath of the bench area and searching for a shot of the final team lineups did another piece of paper catch my eye…….
……after looking closely, it was a hand written note addressed to Jeter, by a very young boy….it was taped to the wall with red tape, sitting just beside the players heads……..it read:

From Anthony (………..)

Hey Jeter! I really hope you read this. If you do I just want you to know that you’re my hero. You are the reason I wake up with a smile on my face. You are my motivation to do everything to my best ability to be as successful as you. Baseball has had a big impact on my life and it is because of you. I want to be just like you and be a role model to so many people like me. I hope you have a good game an I will always love you. You should text or call me sometime it would make me so happy, but I wouldn’t tell anyone your number ;-): (PHONE NUMBER CENSORED)
You could also visit me: (ADDRESS CENSORED)

I love you man. 😉

THANKS <3 And that folks is exactly the reason Mr. Derek Jeter will truly be missed. Yes, he was an incredible baseball player, and the best Captain ever…..but as a person, we should all strive to emulate this man. Alex Menendez Derek Jeter

Blog JeterLetter

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Boxing projects

Showtime Boxing at Turning Stone Resort.

Showtime Boxing at Turning Stone Resort.

When I was 19 years old, I started participating in the sport of Boxing. There was no real reason for it, I had been in a few fistfights growing up but nothing that lived inside me that craved a penchant for blood and fists. I simply thought the sport was cool. Keep in mind, this was the time of Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard…..it was popular and I just wanted to do it.
I fought everyday for almost 5 years before “retiring”……It kinda hurt.

Thomas Dulorme gets knocked down by Luis Carlos Abregu during their fight for the WBC International title during the HBO Triple Explosion fight at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY, on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012.  Abregu won the bout by TKO in the 7th round.(AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Thomas Dulorme gets knocked down by Luis Carlos Abregu during their fight for the WBC International title during the HBO Triple Explosion fight at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, NY, on Saturday, Oct 27, 2012. Abregu won the bout by TKO in the 7th round.(AP Photo/Alex Menendez)

Fast forward twenty some odd years and here I am again in the sport that I loved, only this time I am outside of the ropes. I’ve become a sports photographer and I have had the opportunity to shoot quite a few fights in the past year. I’ve flown numerous times to The Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Upstate New York and shot televised events under the ShowTime, HBO and ESPN broadcast banners. I’ve also filmed in Kissimmee,Orlando, Las Vegas and Liverpool and I’m hopefully just getting started in this endeavour.

Orlando Cruz fights and wins after announcing that he is gay.

Orlando Cruz fights and wins after announcing that he is gay.

My rekindled interest started back when there was commotion of the first pro fighter coming out, as they say. Puerto Rican superstar Orlando Cruz had just announced to his family and sportswriters that he was gay, a first in the sport, and the media buzz was incredible! I shot his fight in the packed stadium and listened as the catcalls and boo’s of the crowd quickly turned into chants of joy,encouragement and national pride. Cruz had turned a majority of the crowd into passionate fans who got to witness his pugilistic prowess first hand. He easily won the fight, and that feeling I had upon seeing my images on the back of my camera that night were set in stone, boxing and the surrounding atmosphere would become my new passion.

ESPN Boxcino action featuring Brandon Adams.

ESPN Boxcino action featuring Brandon Adams.

It was shortly after that when I began work on a documentary film centered around Canastota, New York, the home of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, and the town I grew up in. Interviews with Tony Graziano, Ray Rinaldi, Billy Backus and Ed Brophy give this project in depth insight into the history of the sport and how it should be covered and one day remembered. This project of mine has continued for almost 3 years, and I am getting closer to finishing up the project with the help of talented producer and writer Linnea, and the wondrous insights from all of the promoters, trainers and boxers themselves, and the witty locals who have extensive knowledge of boxing and its roots. The folks I have met, and my surrounding team are the best at what they do, and this keeps drawing me back, month after month. Im proud to say that I am off once again to my hometown, for my fourth consecutive Hall of Fame inductions in just a few weeks, to not only cover the event for the Associated Press wire service, but to reach out and make more industry connections. I truly want to be a “go to shooter” in the minds of all of the promotion companies and their fighters for the next few decades. I feel I have the skills and my technique and timing for the moment of impact are flawless.

Miguel Cotto knocks out Delvin Rodriguez during their bout in Orlando, Florida.

Miguel Cotto knocks out Delvin Rodriguez during their bout in Orlando, Florida.

Near the end of 2013, another Puerto Rican superstar, Miguel Cotto was bringing his contest to the Amway Arena, with his Hall of Fame trainer, Freddie Roach. These two have hooked up and are both at the top of their games. The sellout crowd was just under 17,000 and was by far the biggest fight ever in the Orlando market. Cotto won by beating Delvin Rodriguez by knockout in the 3rd round. My images were distributed all over the Associated Press wire service, and I ended up having a “Photo of the week” image run on the ESPN photo gallery page. Big time fights make for damn good images!

A few more trips back to Turning Stone saw some amazing fights on the ESPN Boxcino tournament. I was able to capture some more thrilling images including a TKO from Floridian Nate Heaven, in the heavyweight division. Power punches galore.

Floyd Mayweather is seen at the weigh in prior to his fight against Marcos Maidana, in Las Vegas.

Floyd Mayweather is seen at the weigh in prior to his fight against Marcos Maidana, in Las Vegas.

The highlight of my boxing photography happened a few short weeks ago at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and crew had promoted a show at the Turning Stone Events Center earlier in the year, and it was there that I met with TMT media and promotions manager Nicole Craig. She is an extremely busy person, but actually took the time to speak briefly with me. It was her help that enabled me to shoot a few days of coverage in Las Vegas. “The Moment” pitted Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his 45-0 record against Argentinian Marcos Maidana.
There is way too much to talk about on this trip, the fans, the promoters, the weigh in, the fight and just that Fight Freak atmosphere….but all in all the experience was incredible! Though I was not really set up for the media access I am normally accustomed to, I was able to pull off a few cool handheld images from my seat up high in the arena. I truly hope to one day be a main apron shooter at fights of this magnitude! I am working on my boxing styles and shooting skills every chance I get, and will surely be part of the young guard coming up the ranks…. I want to acknowledge and thank all of the promoters and media contacts that have helped to get me this far. You will be seeing a lot of my images in publications in the coming years……this I guarantee!

Floyd Mayweather punches Marcos Maidana as he wins his 46th straight match.

Floyd Mayweather punches Marcos Maidana as he wins his 46th straight match.

All images copyright Alex Menendez. More work here: http://alexmenendez.photoshelter.com/archive

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My Viral Image?

Every photographer that has ever uploaded their image to the internet to share it with friends, family or clients, has at one time or another had their images stolen (whether they know it or not). Its not a very good feeling when you realize that after you took the time to prepare, arrive, properly capture the shot, edit it, watermark it and then upload it, that an unknown thief grabs it and claims it as their own. Trying to pursue them can be very challenging and makes most individuals gnash their teeth and curse the invention of the web for image sharing in the first place! Some victims have been known to morph themselves into the NSA, looking for and tracking any leads on Bing or Google that pop up….. it quickly turns into a lesson in futility. Trust me I know , but I digress…………….moving on to my story.

AP Image ESPN

AP Image ESPN

Over the past few years, every time the U.S. National soccer team comes to Florida, I am always the first to sign up to shoot them, no matter if it’s the Men’s or the Women’s team….they both ROCK and the games are always action packed with tons of screaming fans in attendance and top quality play! It truly is one of the highlights of my photo career to capture these athletes on the field and to experience the actions of the game on the pitch. I’ve had a few images featured on both the ESPN and the Sports Illustrated websites after International friendlies and the CONCACAF qualifying games……and its just awesome to be able to share these scenes with the world, when its on my terms!

The first weekend this past November, the U.S. Women arrived in Orlando to take on their futbol nemesis, the Brazil National team. Just to be clear, there is no love lost between these teams and the players know each other as well as one can know a rival. Though it was an international “friendly”, no one on earth expected the game to be played with kid gloves, this was serious business with bragging rights and National pride on the line.

AP Photo Alex Menendez

AP Photo Alex Menendez

(Side note)- Local media picked up on a story a few days prior to the match where the U.S. team bus broke down after a scheduled practice session and the players actually caught rides back to their hotel with their fans. The Twitter and Facebook worlds were all abuzz and other social media platforms stressing just how relaxed the U.S. girls seemed to be. Smiles and happy spirits seemed to be everywhere if you could believe what you read…but that changed come game time.

The Florida Citrus Bowl was packed with about 30,000 spectators and the decibel level of the screaming fans was actually quite high. Though fireworks and flares were not allowed, the U.S. faithful seemed to have a pretty good time as they were videotaped live for the NBC television network, performing the wave, chanting and beating on small drums and tossing rolls of colored toilet paper onto the grass.

As for the media, all of the wire services and broadcast teams were in attendance and the assigned photo areas were pretty packed at the beginning of the game. It was about 10 minutes into the match that I decided to pack up my gear and change my camera angle….I caught a quick golf cart ride to the other side of the playing field and set up shop behind the endzone boards. Within minutes of arriving, I was connected wirelessly to the internet with my MacAir. It was Game on!!!!
It couldn’t have been 3 minutes later that Sydney Leroux scored her first of two goals on the day, and the crowd went absolutely nuts! All time leading scorer and recently married team Captain Abby Wambach raced over and jumped onto Leroux’s back as she stretched her arms out in celebration, facing the crowd and the national TV audience. The moment was fleeting and I happened to be in precisely the exact spot to see it, 8 shutter clicks later I had captured what I had come for, the perfect emotional frame. I quickly pulled the card from my camera, inserted it into the card reader and grabbed the one frame that I wanted to transmit. I really didn’t do much in the way of image manipulation, just a simple tone, crop and added the caption/metadeta. Less that 2 minutes after the goal was scored, the image was already visible on the AP Images website. Just as quickly as I had settled in, Abby was tripped in the goaltenders box and a penalty kick was assessed, she scored easily on the shot and the score was now 2-0, in a matter of minutes. Brazil kicked it into overdrive and the elbows started to fly. By halftime I was walking back to the media room, having already uploaded 10 images….

AP Photo Alex Menendez

AP Photo Alex Menendez

The game ended 4-1 with the U.S. winning and everyone was happy. Days later I was thrilled to see that my first image had been selected as one of the ESPN “Images of the week”!

It was on a different job a few days later that my world came tumbling down. I searched “Alex Menendez” and “U.S. soccer” on the search engine and low and behold, my image was EVERYWHERE! Literally. There it was, on hundreds of tumblr sites, with full credit given “COPYRIGHT AP IMAGES ALEX MENENDEZ”, but interestingly enough, more than half of the shots still had the AP watermark placed right across the shot that was there to prevent illegal use. They were stolen…..plain and simple. TUMBLRstolen3

If you want to do a frame grab or a screen grab its quite simple, you just find the shot you want online and grab it. Once its on your computer screen, you can pretty much manipulate it any way that you want to, and this is just one of the things I saw being done to my soccer photo. This image had been cropped, toned, over saturated, brightened, sharpened or simply turned to black and white. Somebody else had actually grabbed the un-watermarked version (most likely the large file from ESPN’s site) and created an Iphone screen saver and was passing it out like candy at Halloween to any of his followers that wanted it. I was less than thrilled at this discovery and the feeling one gets once they’ve realized that they’ve been violated sunk in….I was way more than mad.
Immediately I sent a quick list of sites to my editor who didn’t know what to say…..what could he say?
One by one I started following the long rabbit hole, down this way, right, left and back right again, only to discover 50 more violations. The few main sites I had discovered were being followed by hundreds of people, who in turn were being followed by hundreds more, and then more behind them…..all of them sharing or linking my photo, I was at a loss. Due to the fact that I was on assignment in California, and using the incredibly slow hotel internet connection, I felt handcuffed as to how much trolling I could actually get done before my daily shoot was scheduled. I managed to contact the first 30 sites and sent a take down notice, but only 4 of them agreed to take the shots down with a written apology. My next move was to contact Tumblr directly…..but that proved to be a joke.

TUMBLRstolen1

Here is the response I received:

“If you are the copyright holder for the content that you are reporting, or their authorized representative, please complete the following DMCA notification form.
(form here) Once we receive your completed request we can proceed with removing
the material you’ve reported.”
abuse@tumblr

The problem with doing as they command in their policy, is that you need to fill out the entire form
for EACH OCCURRENCE with the listed website users web address. In essence, I would have to
fill out over 1000 DMCA forms and include every single link, and a copy of the pilfered image
with the link. It would take weeks to complete this method. They seem to trust their own
users more than they would trust me, the original owner of the shot, whose name by the way appeared
under most of the images stolen.

Most of you who are professionals know about copyright registration, but to those that may not,
let me kinda, sorta fill you in.
Once you snap the shutter button and the image is captured, you own that image, you
are the copyright holder. It belongs to you and you can call it yours. There are certain restrictions
on what you may or not use the image for, whether you can sell it or not, based on its contents and
the location of the shot , and who the people are that appear in the shot. I won’t get into this as this
is a whole other can of worms and we could talk for weeks about responsibility and usage.
What I want to talk about is the fact that the Associated Press watermarked this image with an
APImages logo so that people who wanted to use it in their editorial content could license or “rent”
the image for presentation or publication without the logo covering the scene. I captured the
image, and then via my contract, provided the shot to the AP site for licensing, for a set fee.
ESPN, among other publications, paid for this image on a rental basis and then uploaded it to
their websites for worldwide use. They did nothing wrong in this instance, in fact, it was done
by the book.
The theft began when a fan, (I can assume) grabbed the image from both the ESPN site and the
APImages viewer site, and downloaded a lower resolution image to embed on their personal pages.
They attempted to give me credit under the image. I am not sure if they thought that this would
free them from paying for it or what, but it means nothing in a court of law if you’ve stolen the image
in the first place.
Keep in mind that once I register this set of images via http://www.copyright.gov/, and I receive
my registration receipt number in the mail, I am bonafide. I can prove that my image is registered and
then if I send an invoice to the guilty party for stealing my image, and they refuse to pay, I can then
take them to court for copyright violation. This is the norm and I am having to do this
for a lot of images that I have recently discovered. Its not fun, nor is it how I would like to be
compensated for my hard work, but realize this, every assignment that I go on, I have to travel there.
My costs include gas, perhaps airfare and hotel, and food. My gear is worth tens of thousands of
dollars and it too needs repair at times. I could go on, but won’t…….

TUMBLRstolen2

Every image that I upload, there is a chance that it could get stolen, I know this and it seems
to be the norm these days. Once upon a time, a sportsshooter would walk into a flea market or a
shopping mall and see illegal prints of theirs for sale to general public, nowadays, when a stolen
image goes viral, there is no way to stop it. This once profitable industry has changed, there are
still ways to make money at it, but you have to outsmart the trolls…..
Let me know your ideas or thoughts on this if you have any, but when you contact me,
don’t try to do it through Tumblr, I wont be there.

Alex@InstinctFilms.com…….

This blog is Copyright Alex Menendez….. 😉

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Scout night at the Zoo

The gang upon arrival, before football took over.

The gang upon arrival, before football took over.

Last evening both boys had the opportunity to attend the “Wild Night” boy scouts campout event at the Sanford Zoo. Both dens attended and the turnout was pretty good considering this would be a fairly short event.

Scouts and their families were to arrive at 4:00 on Saturday night, setup tents and the campground, then be prepared to meet our Zoo tour-guides at 7pm. Since the daylight savings time clock change happened a few weeks ago, it was fairly dark by 6:00, but that did not deter the 7 footballs that were flying between the trees and bouncing off the tents. These boys were non-stop and all roaring to go, especially since none of them has to return to school for at least another week……at this point, I was beginning to prepare for a long night!

Scouts had to test their red gels to make sure that they were not too bright to scare the nocturnal animals.

Scouts had to test their red gels to make sure that they were not too bright to scare the nocturnal animals.

Our guides arrived at 6:45 and gave instructions on what to do, and what NOT to do. We would be split up into 5 individual groups, and would be getting a 90-minute tour of the actual zoo. Everyone that carried a flashlight had to have a red colored gel affixed to their lights, as to not disturb or blind the wildlife. These gels were doled out and tested by our guides….then we were off in search of wild beasts and hissing insects.

A zoo volunteer shows a deadly scorpion that stirs in the nighttime hours.

A zoo volunteer shows a deadly scorpion that stirs in the nighttime hours.

Each group stopped at predetermined check points and saw such critters as scorpions, owls, Madagascar hissing roaches, alligators, porcupines, cougars and a fully loaded bat house. The time passed fairly quickly, and then it was back to camp.

Zane cutting the American Flag prior to its retirement.

Zane cutting the American Flag prior to its retirement.

We met up under the fan covered meeting spot which featured at least a dozen picnic tables, a few of which were strewn with old and tattered US flags.  Tonights lesson/activity would be to teach the boys (and a few visiting girls), how to properly retire a worn or tattered US flag.  The process begins with cutting out the blue patch with the stars, and then meticulously cutting the red and white stripes into individual ribbons or strips.

The flag ceremony around the fire.

The flag ceremony around the fire.

One of the US flags gets retired in accordance to the Scout manual.

One of the US flags gets retired in accordance to the Scout manual.

Fireside, a few small words were spoken by the parents and scouts, and the flag segments were placed into the fire, in order.  At this point, the flames grew taller than most of the kids that were surrounding it, and the heat radiated at least 30 feet from its popping and cracking center.  In a matter of minutes, the fire was back down to its normal size with no trace of the flags, and the group was off for banana pudding.

A :30 timelapse as the clouds were moving in, the orange is from the City of Sanford light pollution.

A :30 timelapse as the clouds were moving in, the orange is from the City of Sanford light pollution.

The clouds slowly moved in and at 11pm and there were still youngsters running through camp, screaming and giggling as little boys do…..!

Blaze, my 10 year old, decided that we should shoot some long exposure images before the clouds totally blocked out the stars that we could still see. We filmed for about 30 minutes and he lightpainted the bottom of both palm and oak trees…..nothing too spectacular came to us, but just being out there with him made the entire trip worthwhile!

A :30 timelapse as the clouds were moving in, the orange is from the City of Sanford light pollution.

A :30 timelapse as the clouds were moving in, the orange is from the City of Sanford light pollution.

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James Risen-Prosecuting the Press event

RisenBlog2

A few weeks back I was invited to shoot an event at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. The event was titled “Prosecuting the Press” and featured the world famous investigative reporter Lowell Bergman, a true badass and currently producer/correspondent for the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE. Bergman is so tough and experienced that actor Al Pacino played him in the feature film “The Insider”, needless to say, he is the real deal!

His guest for this lecture was the currently embattled Pulitzer Prize winning American journalist and New York Times reporter, James Risen. Risen is also as tough as nails and has been challenged by the courts to reveal the name of his source for a chapter in his book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration. Chapter 9 in his book talks about a secret mission called Operation MERLIN that the CIA totally screwed up. Risen caught wind of this mishap and wrote about it years later, unfortunately, both the Bush administration and the Obama administration are still trying to punish him for bringing the said incident to light. He is currently challenging the ruling of the court system who looks to send him to jail if he won’t divulge his source of the leak, by taking his case to the Supreme Court. This is currently scheduled to happen in a few months, and that is also why I chose to accept this assignment, the verdict in this case will have HUGE implications on the way the Media/Press deal with acquiring and writing their stories in the near future. Risens’ challenge is one of the bravest things for a journalist to attempt, and I fully support his rights and ideals.  With the amount of hype that Julian Assange (Wikileaks), Eric Snowden and Chelsea Manning have received in the past few years for their specific leaks, the Risen case may seem miniscule in comparison. However, it must be noted that he was not the “leaker”, he merely wrote about the events the occurred, as told to him, by a trusted source…….but he is also a journalist, and is protected by the laws of the land…..right? One would think, but the rules have changed rapidly since 9/11, and the U.S. government is trying to set him up as an example….don’t burn us or we will burn you seems to be the statement they are screaming!

“The basic issue is, can we continue as journalists to protect and offer the confidentiality to someone who knows something going on in the government but doesn’t want to go public?”, asked Risen.

 

RisenBlog1

 

His question and answer event was scheduled at the Berdahl Auditorium on campus and was held in front of 300 invited guests. Among those in attendance was Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, one of the first ever to leak secrets, most famously the “Pentagon Papers” that he copied and delivered to The New York Times in 1971. His leak changed the way the Vietnam war debacle played out, and his decision and bravery no doubt helped save the lives of  many U.S. soldiers.

 

I was fortunate enough to film all of these men and listen to their stories as well….a bonus if you will. I had read the book ahead of time to judge for myself if the leak was really worth going to jail over…..I don’t think it gave away anything that would have jeopardized or hurt America…..unless showing how reckless and childish the whole CIA plan actually was…! I truly believe that the people trying to punish Risen are embarrassed by what he revealed, and the simple fact that they got caught.

 

The Berkeley professors, Dean Wasserman and the students/staff who helped and attended this event should be proud of the program that they put together this night and I am glad that I could attend and do my part in capturing this small segment of history….James Risen is a true leader, and will be seen as one by years end.  When asked about his own future and why he published his book, Risen responded to the crowd, “I thought, I either publish these stories or I’m getting out of journalism. The default position for a reporter should be to publish.”

The entire event was videotaped and will hopefully be around for many decades to teach other journalism students the ethics and responsibility of being  professional writers.

 

In other happenings, I was invited to put together a small workshop on the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism campus and it couldn’t have gone any better! I was to discuss being a “Pool photographer” as well as how uploading images to the Associated Press wire service happens. I had about a dozen excited and curious students in attendance in the library, and we spoke for over 2 hours. We talked ethics, responsibility, PhotoMechanic, editing, cropping, metadata, code replacements, Photoshop actions and FTP servers……and then went through my traveling camera case. Students set up my cameras with Pocket Wizard remotes and tried my selection of different lenses and bodies……Hands on was the motto of the day.   I want to personally thank everyone at Berkeley, and I truly hope to return there one day for a longer workshop to train these excited students. This was one of the best teaching experiences ever. Go Bears!!!

 

AlexClassUCBJsmall

Alex Menendez leads a workshop at the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

 

More images found here:  http://alexmenendez.photoshelter.com/archive

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Dia De Los Muertos

“DAY OF THE DEAD”…..what a title for a Holiday!

 

 

I had heard about this for years, but didn’t know if it was the title of a movie or the name of a song, or both…..but it stuck…until a few months back….

 

A friend mentioned it to me and explained the concept and origins…and I have been waiting impatiently for these few days to begin ever since.

For those of you that aren’t quite up to date, or just simply lost like I was….lets take a look at Wikipedia’s definition of this worldly ritual:

 

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico and around the world in other cultures. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico, where the day is a bank holiday. The celebration takes place on October 31, November 1 and November 2, in connection with the Christian triduum of Hallowmas: All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.[1][2] Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. They also leave possessions of the deceased.

Scholars trace the origins of the modern Mexican holiday to indigenous observances dating back hundreds of years and to an Aztec festival dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. The holiday has spread throughout the world: In Brazil Dia de Finados is a public holiday that many Brazilians celebrate by visiting cemeteries and churches. In Spain there are festivals and parades, and, at the end of the day, people gather at cemeteries and pray for their dead loved ones. Similar observances occur elsewhere in Europe, and similarly themed celebrations appear in many Asian and African cultures.

 

 

Get it? Well, let me take it from what I experienced at the Mexican Consulate event in Orlando, Florida this past weekend.

 

I saw Skeletons, flowers, food, cigarettes, cerveza, face paint, honest feelings, sad faces and a huge sense of pride. Friendly folks tried in vain to explain the purpose to me, while speaking in Spanish and feeding me and my son Blaze the best Beef and Sausage tacos I have ever eaten….. in short, I was very welcomed, accepted and taken in.

 

 

I first made the connection to photograph this event on Friday afternoon after searching endlessly on the internet for “Dia De Los Muertos” festivals in the area. The closest was in Fort Lauderdale……..a bit too far to travel for me……but with some persistence and tracking down and translating the El Sentinel newspaper, I came across a very small article about the Mexican Consulate public event. I knew this was my only chance to capture this festival, so I cleared my cards and charged my batteries. My son Blaze also wanted to shoot, so he agreed to tag along with his DSLR.

 

 

Saturday arrived with the cold front, and all of the ofretas that had been arranged outside were packed up, and moved indoors. The first heavy rainfall in weeks arrived to try and ruin the event, but it was not to be…..nothing was going to supress this day.

 

The event went off without a hitch and the Consulate was packed to capacity. The altars were stacked with candles, old photos, Catrinas, sombreros, paper figures and sugar skulls……It was colorful and GRAND!

 

 

 

 

Blaze and I took many photos of the surroundings and the parade of worshippers……it was a fantastic experience and we hope to film it again next year. Thanks to everyone who granted us permission to photograph.

 

 

Please see photos here:

 

http://alexmenendez.photoshelter.com/#!/index/G0000kZvwSdxZ_I0

All Images on this blog property of Alex Menendez.

Dictionary text usage: Credit Wikipedia        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_of_the_Dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cotto-Rodriguez Weigh In

Tomorrow night is the first ever Boxing event at the Amway Arena and features a heck of a bout with 3 time Champion Miguel Cotto from Puerto Rico taking on Dominican challenger Delvin Rodriguez.

These two are evenly matched and this promises to be an incredible bout.

Cotto represented Puerto Rico in thMiguel Cotto, Delvin Rodrigueze Olympics and has gone on to be the best fighter to come off the island. He has previous bouts with Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito. He has gone on to start his own promotion company and I had the pleasure of shooting one of his first promotions at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY. They put on a heck of as show and this HBO fight will surely gain him more credability in the boxing promo game.

Add that Miguel is bringing in Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach and this has all the makings of a brighter future for Cotto.

 

 

Delvin Rodriguez is stepping up to the HBO fight after a series of ESPN Friday Night Fights features. He is of Dominican descent and fights out of Danbury Connecticuit and has appeared on live television 11 times.

 

Both fighters made weight and are confident they will be victorious.

.Miguel Cotto Miguel Cotto, Delvin Rodriguez

 

Tickets still available, check back for more images after the bout.

 

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Ninjas at home

So, my boys decided to create “Sugar Glass”, you know, the material that is used on movie sets to crash over the actors heads, or in the old cowboy Western’s, the window that was broken as the villain gets kicked out of the saloon. This is all the rage apparently with 8 and 10 year old boys….as this is all they spoke about for a week.

Now, if you don’t know my boys, they are actual Ninjas….honest to God, actual living and breathing NINJAS! The actual spinning, flying, grunting and cussin little buggers who are 2 stripe tests away from earning their brown belts…(one belt away from BLACK)……so you can probably see where this little story is headed.

 

I digress……..so anyways, they mixed the concoction up in the bowl and then cooked it in a 9×9 cake tin. It turned into a rather large Ricola cough drop looking thingy, about half an inch thick and sticky as hell….but it was transparent for the most part.  We left it in the fridge overnight to harden….as the boys went to bed for the night, smiling and planning on the next days adventures, and how to break the glass.

Sunday morning was like Christmas to them as I apparently overslept for the grand breaking ceremony. I was pulled from my somewhat comfy bed with the demands of Blaze to “grab my camera and shoot this thing”…………Y A W N!

I told him to go to the garage and retrieve the black backdrop, stands, beauty dish and a kicker light for the background. We took a 4×8 foamcore sheet and tried our best to block the sun streaming through the front door, as total darkness what my ultimate goal. This didn’t really work out as planned, but I proceeded to attempt the shot anyway.

 

We took a simple tripod and Blaze gaff taped a normal spring clamp to it, to hold the glass in place. This stuff was as sticky as molasses I tell ya.

It was very important for the two of us to get our timing down, we only had the one chance to nail the shot and I was already up……..I counted him down at least 10 times until I felt we were in sync. When he finally got consistent in his throwing of the punches and his screams were at the optimal NINJA volume, we decided to go for it!

 

 

One more test of the flash was necessary to make sure the lights were firing…they didn’t?  The cable release had fallen out,….phew….quick fix.

 

 

3………..2………..1………POP!!!!!!…….then a second later the shattering echoed throughout the living room……….it was over….DONE!

 

 

 

Chimping on the back of the camera was almost as glorious as seeing my Space Shuttle remotes for the first time….we had done it….Perfection on one take.

 

He laughed as we ate the glass that was still stuck to the tripod………….not a bad days work.

 

Glass shardsBlaze Glass med

 

Check the new website at www.AlexMenendez.com

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Bay Bridge San Francisco

I recently traveled to California for the assignment of filming the new construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The new east span is the largest suspension bridge in the world as was built on the premise of public safety in the event of an earth shattering earthquake occurring again. The current (Original) bridge buckled and a section collapsed after the last major earthquake struck years ago.

This new structure is built of hollowed out steel sections that are joined together, almost like a large train, but with the girth of an aircraft carrier….a total of 5 lanes wide with a bike path and hi-tech LED lighting fixtures.

This particular assignment was for me to capture the build and archive the way the structure is connected, both above and below the bridge. Entering through the roadway was almost like climbing down into a manhole in a major city street.  The backpack and the two cameras I carried over my shoulder made the entry very difficult, with a very narrow steel ladder to climb down.

Once in the structure, I quickly noticed that each section was lit by the orange halogen bulbs, and the air was thick with various gasses and welders smoke.  The hollowness of the steel made the construction work above sound like I was in a motorized subway, hum after hum followed by the never ending buzz of electric lines over my head. To describe it would be like the sound of a stirred up bees nest in your attic.

The steel walkway that went down the center of the aisle was still cluttered with nuts, bolts and boxes of steel connectors.

After assessing the scene, and with no tripod for long exposure shots, I decided that an onboard flash would be the only lighting I could use. I snapped shots, then moved on down the walkway, capturing images as we went.  The hard helmet I was required to wear was surely needed, as hidden steel rods and corners protruded every 20 yards.  The whole setup reminded me of setting strobes in the rafters at an arena, above an NBA basketball game, only much darker and confined.

The highlight of this adventure was gaining access to the never before filmed “Splay Chamber”. This is where all the cables that support the bridge meet, and connect, to hold the bridge up over the bay. I was allowed about 5 minutes to spray this area and boy did I. These photos will one day be worth their weight in gold, and I was so lucky and thankful for the opportunity as this area has now been deemed off limits. (Due to the construction controversy of bad steel rods and the recent discovery of cracked bolts installed in various locations on the new structure).

After a hot hour exploring underground…..it was time to go back up to the main deck.

The workers in their orange vests were scurrying around pretty quickly and the guys on the wires, high above, were doing their jobs as if they still had their boots on the ground. They were all tethered in, with a giant crane dropping materials, and these were some of my favorite images to capture. The workers blasting with the blowtorches made for some very artsy looks as well.

Once done on the bridge itself, we were brought to the marina area and boarded a boat to float on and shoot under the new span of the bridge. The weather was less than ideal with a grey and white sky, which caused my photos to look as if they were shot in black and white, but the experience was so surreal, and authentic, and we all know that you cant change the weather! .We floated the entire length of the new span, both under and around the new structure. The Bridge Media Liason, Andrew, was a true professional and was one of the most patient and accommodating media reps I have ever dealt with, a true professional who knows how to get play for his project. My producer on the job was local, Linnea Edmeier, and many thanks to my Editor Doug Benc at Associated Press.

Currently there are over 300 images posted on the Associated Press Website as well as my Photoshelter site, found here:

http://alexmenendez.photoshelter.com/gallery/Bay-Bridge-Construction/G0000hSARCVr0MkM/

Posted in Bay, Bay Bridge, bike path, bolts, bridge, California, Caltrans, construction, earthquake, engineering, Oakland, San Francisco, Splay chamber, steel, suspension, tethered

Altas V Launch with my sons

I missed the remote control camera setup on Tuesday
for the Atlas V rocket launch, but couldn’t get the thought of missing this opportunity to film at Cape Canaveral out of my mind. When a rocket blasts off and you are within sight and close enough to taste the smoke, there is no better feeling. To describe it would not do it justice…..AWESOMENESS exploded!!!!

So I decided that with perfect blue skies, I would go for the 5:38 launch on Wednesday.

Keeping in mind that both of my sons have a science fair at school this Monday, and both of them are featuring rockets and launchers….I decided to pluck them from school, grab our swimming trunks and 4 Canon cameras…..and off we were…they were thrilled!

We of course had to stop at the Twistee Treat ice cream stand on the way, (Don Montague, you know what Im talking about)…..with our bellies full we set out towards Playalinda Beach.

The crowds at the park were pretty fierce and we had to drive a bit to park in a secondary parking lot. After loading up, we crossed the boardwalk over the dunes to see 4 foot waves and about 1000 spectators who had the same plans we did.

After setting up a pocket wizard remote to the 70-200, the boys jumped into the Florida surf.  You could barely hear their screams of joy over the hovering helicopters flying overhead, but the smiles on their faces told the whole story.

Twenty minutes later, we were lined up in the waves, firing 4 cameras as the rocket lifted off towards space….

The  launch actually went on time without a hitch and it was back into the water until the rangers ordered us to leave…

We had to stop on the way out to let a 5 foot long alligator cross right in front of my truck……thats when I heard the words I love to hear…..”This is the best day ever Dad!”

I hope this wont be our last launch……

More pics here

Posted in Alex Menendez, AP, Atlas V, boardwalk, Cape Canaveral, Dad, Florida, Instinct Films, Launch, Launch complex 41, photography, Playalinda Beach, professional, rocket, satellite, Sons, space, ULA