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!

One Response to “Home for the Holidays… in the Studio”

  1. Lisa Watts

    These are two of my favorite things, truly: coffee and Christmas cookies. My oldest sister, 10 years older, started a tradition when I was little that I’ve maintained ever since, especially with my own kids: rolling out sugar cookie dough, cutting shapes just like you’ve shown, then painting them with egg-yolk paint. You can’t rush it, so it forces you to sit down with family and be creative.

    Of course, last year Amos, our larger mutt, helped himself to several dozen carefully painted cookies cooling on the kitchen counter. So I had to ship Moravian cookies from the store to my family.

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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!

One Response to “Time, something to toy with.”

  1. Hey Ang

    Very cool Mark

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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: www.markwagoner.com.

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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!

One Response to “Father’s Day 2011”

  1. Hey Ang

    I love this! What a wonderful tribute to you as a father, and a what a wonderful daughter you have raised. I love the part where she asks for a ‘plain restaurant’, something I hear from my own children once in awhile!

    Angela Montgomery

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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”.

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Hanging Lights

Electricians Wayne and Charles hang lights, 1975. I am glad I shot these photos.

For many years my Dad, Raymond Wagoner, Sr., and his business, Wagoner Electric Company, would hang the downtown Christmas decorations for the City of Reidsville, North Carolina. Imagine long strings of lights on gold and silver tinsel that were strung from the street lights back and forth across Scales Street. Giant red bells with lights in them hung from the strands over the middle of the road.

Now for me, this was a major event in my calendar of cool things. On the big day I would wait with as little patience as one can imagine to get out of school and go downtown. I would get to help in any way that I was able, depending on my age at the time. When I was very young, that meant tagging along when my father went for coffee, but in time I was handing lights or tools up to the men on the ladders. By the time I got to high school I would work on the ladder myself, which proved to to good training for my career.

The other part of the job that was great fun and seemed at the time to carry a great deal of importance happened a week or two before the light hanging day. We would go up into a warehouse space that was over Davis Pharmacy to test all of the bulbs, and replace the ones that were burned out. OK, I know it does not sound like much, but trust me, it was big fun. See, it involved getting to bust the old light bulbs! Oh, and when you changed a bulb, if you got the aluminum tinsel into the socket (by accident, of course) the bulb exploded – like I said, big fun.

Around 1970, the Chamber of Commerce made a major change in the Christmas lighting plan for Reidsville. They decided to go modern and replaced the old gold and silver strands that were strung across the street with these “things” that just hung on the poles of the street lights. Heresy I say!

I do not know how many years my father’s company did this job, it started before I came along and ended after I had moved away from Reidsville, but it always gave me a sense of pride that my father was asked to oversee what seemed like such an important task for my home town. These are moments that I cherish and will always remember.

One Response to “Hanging Lights”

  1. Mike

    Heresy, indeed!

    I miss the old school, fire-hazard lights. Seriously. One or two blazes around town were worth it—the lights were better.

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Christmas Magic… behind the scenes

In the beginning, there was an idea. Mark had an idea for a scene of an enchanted forest, perhaps at dusk or in the evening. Over the course of several months, three days of shooting, 720 still photographs, and 500 snowflakes, this idea developed in to “Christmas Magic,” a stop-action animated short that we are very excited to share. We were pleased to have Natalie Jester and Kelly Swanson at Ink Production Services collaborate with us, and you can see their artistic touch throughout. You can see the video on our Blip.tv channel.

Although the final product is only one minute and 30 seconds long, months of research and planning went into creating this piece. One of the most difficult parts was finding the right elements for the scene. Trees from model train sets and miniature villages were tested for size and shape. Also, arranging the trees to create the perspective of depth in the forest took careful planning. The snowflakes in the scene were arranged on three different planes, also to give the illusion of distance. Finding tiny decorations to fit our hero tree was another challenge. Eventually, lights and ornaments intended for a dollhouse Christmas tree were located. (and the transformer required to provide electricity for them, without burning down the studio!)

Finally, our deer was assembled by Kelly and Natalie, with articulated joints to let him walk, jump, angle his head to look at the tree, and of course, wiggle his ears and tail!

We hope you enjoy viewing the final result as much as we did creating it!

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Letters to Santa… behind the scenes

“Letters to Santa” includes footage shot for a series of commercials with our friends at G-Force Marketing. Mark wanted the results to show “classically beautiful lighting and camera movement” to give it a traditional, yet timeless, feel. He re-cut the footage to showcase the results into this short film, which can be viewed on our Blip.tv channel. Here are a few production stills from the shoot, showing all the work it takes to make something look natural and effortless!

Mark shot the film using the Letus camera attachment, which combines still camera lenses with the video camera. This allowed for the shallow depth of field and critical focus pulls that give the video a very intimate feel.

The crew rented a real, lived-in home for the day, rather than build a set, for a variety of realistic environments. It made it a tight squeeze for the dolly and track, but they were necessary for the camera motion that contributed to the classic look.

Actors don’t always appreciate the time it takes to get everything set just right… But we think it’s all worth it in the final film!

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August 16th, 53,33,42

Thirty-three years ago today I went to work at my first freelance photo job after finishing college. I remember that day because it was my birthday, I turned twenty, and it was the day that Elvis died, he was forty-two years old. I have never been much of an Elvis fan, but I seem to remember that day in a “where were you when” sort of context.

I was at Bill Ellis’s studio on Edwardia Drive in Greensboro. I printed some black and white fashion photos and shot a picture of some cedar ice-cream makers. After a few days working there, I had a call for a full-time job at Glen Godfrey Communications in Raleigh, that started in September as I recall. A year later and I was back at Alderman’s where I had been an intern, then in 1982 I was off to The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for 18 months. When I returned to the US, I had so many options, but in October I rented the building that still serves as my work space and started the company that is now known as Mark Wagoner Productions.
Today I went by Bill’s old studio and sat in the parking lot and reflected on all of the experiences and travels of the past 33 years. I have made many great friends and relationships that I cherish. There is not much I would change.

One Response to “August 16th, 53,33,42”

  1. Austin

    Congrats and cheers to your success!

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MWP wins the Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project

Mark Wagoner Productions and Monkeywhale Productions teamed up to produce a short film titled The Adventures of Martin Dockery, Horologist” under the MWP Collaborative moniker, for the 48 Hour Film Project. This is the third project for MWP this year. In addition to winning best film, we won best costumes, best acting, best graphics (this was for the stop motion paper animation work), and best directing.

The story is told in the serial film format; it is a good verses evil science fiction film, with touches of western movies and a nod to the late Ed Wood. It will be shown in Las Vegas in October, and if it wins there, it will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.
Teaming up with Harvey Robinson and the Monkeywhale crew has been a very rewarding venture, not only because of awards, but primarily because of the experience. Film making is a team project, and the goal that we have as a team is to create a space for us all to produce work at a level that surprises us. For the 48 Hour project we put together a team of 35 people, which produces its own logistical problems but opens so many possibilities. I am very grateful for all of the hard work that the MWP team put into this film.

MWP has several more projects in the works right now, stay tuned…

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