Rain out my window

Another glorious day of weather that changes by the hour in downtown Asheville. One minute I look out my window to the sun shinging through the clouds, the next moment there is thunder and rain. At least it keeps it interesting.

I have been working on a project for a friend who is working with the Red Cross Asheville, helping them with their Under the Silver Moon Gala on Mrach 21st, 2009. In so doing, I bought some roses to use in a shoot I am doing for them. Stepping away from the table, I looked over at the roses I had left in a cup by the window and thought they looked beautiful against the rain on the glass and the neutral background. I hope you like it too.

Enjoy the weather, whatever it may be.

Roses and Rain


Hope and Alan

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending time with Hope and Alan in Bryson City. Hope and Alan are madly in love, super cute and are a real joy to be around. Alan is home for R&R from his tour in Afghanistan and contacted me to come and get some pictures of he and Hope while they spent time together in a beautiful cabin they rented from Carolina Mountain Vacations on the edge of the Smokey Mountain National Park.

I had not spent much time in Bryson City previously and didn't know what photographic opportunities there would be where they were, so it was exciting and a little nerve racking walking into the situation. Once I arrived and met Alan, I knew that we would have a good time, no matter where we went.

Their cabin didn't have long range views so we went up the hill to the next cabin that was not rented and started shooting some images along a fence with a good view. In the middle of our shoot, a man came up the driveway and told me that he owned the cabins and his home was at the top of the hill and proclaimed that it had the best view in the county and told us we could go up there to shoot all we wanted. So we took him up on it... and he wasn't kidding.

We could see 5 sets of mountains from his house, looking due west. Simply breath taking. We shot there for a while then took a quick drive into the Smokey Mountain National Park to grab some shots along the river, knowing we would come back to shoot the sunset at the same place.

Hope and Alan and I had a lot of laughs during our shoot this Saturday. It was great to be around two people so in love with one another. I could feel how precious this time was to both of them as Alan is shipping off again soon and it will be several months before they will be together again. Thanks so much you two, for allowing me to capture your love while Alan was in town. I hope that I get to see you both together again when Alan gets back!

Here are a couple of shots from the top of the mountain and from the National Park. Enjoy!

The playful couple by a waterfall in Smokey Mountain Natl Park

Such a cute couple!

Love the jacket on Hope! Too cute.

Love the sunset... and the kiss. These two are so in love!


For the love of Dog

Just a quick post with some new images to keep up with my 365 project.
So, today I volunteered at the Manna Food Bank here in Asheville. There were a wealth of volunteers both young and old and we had a great time sorting all the food that they have on hand into boxes for their affiliates to shop from. Manna is an amazing operation, giving away over 6 millions TONS of food last year. That's a lot of food. The problem is, the need is increasing while their food supply is decreasing. I took a tour and learned about how the efficiency of our food delivery system in the US is actually hurting food banks because manufacturers are no longer over producing, they are producing on demand. Manna used to get a lot of their food from large food manufacturers and now they are not, so their stocks are lower this year than last. What was great to hear is that in Western North Carolina, the personal donations are the highest they have ever been. In fact other food banks have been checking in with Manna to find out how they have gotten so many homes to donate food. I believe it is because the people who live in Asheville and Buncombe county truly believe in helping each other out!

So tomorrow is the big day! I am excited to watch Obama come into office and I will be at the Orange Peel tomorrow night at 7pm to re-watch the inauguration and to celebrate with Josh Phillips Folk festival. If you are not going to one of the 100 parties in town, drop by the Peel for some great music.

The Pop Asheville festival was a big hit. I had a blast all weekend long and when I sort and tweak images from that adventure I will let you know.

Hope everyone has a great day tomorrow...

Hope is alive.

"Dirty Red"
From Pop Asheville -

For the Love of Dog
Suzie - doing what she does best...


Meditation and Pop Asheville

I usually write "Hello" but I don't really think that is necessary anymore... if there is anyone out there, we're past the niceties... aren't we?
Today, for the first time in my life, I woke up and meditated. I have wanting to incorporate a meditation practice into my life for some time and with it being a New Year and all, I thought this would be a good time to start.
Now, let's get something straight. I didn't sit there in the lotus position humming "Om" until I levitated off the ground. I didn't hum or chant or any such thing. I have kept myself away from meditating for so long because I thought that's what meditation was. Sit still for hours, mind blank, back straight, chanting or humming, butterflies landing on my shoulder, floating six inches off the ground. Meditation doesn't have to be all that. I mean, that's cool if you can levitate, more power to you, if little winged creatures land on your shoulder, hey... far out... good for you. But it's not that for me and its mostly due to a book I read that helped me get my head around meditation called "Hurry up and Meditate!" by David Michie.
Michie helped me realize that the whole "blank mind" ideal some people (me) have or had around meditation is not all it is about. In fact he makes a strong case that blank mind is NOT what it is about, but I won't go in to that here. What Michie does well, is to break down all of the physical benefits of meditation, backed by scientific study, that people who meditate have known for ever. One is happier, less stressed, lower blood pressure, higher serotonin... all that good stuff. Then he provides step by step easy instructions to follow on how to get started.
So this morning, I started. I set an alarm for 10 minutes, got a pillow, sat down, closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. I counted my breaths as they passed through my nose. Stuff came up... what time is it? How long have I been here? Is there enough money in the bank? What do I have to do today? Each time something came up, and broke my counting, I started counting again. Before I knew it, the alarm had gone off and I was done. I must admit, it was really wonderful to sit still for 10 minutes. Each time a thought arose, it had less traction than the last one until I could sense something coming and concentrated on my breathing and it went away.
Now, those of you who know me well, if you are still reading, may think, Jon's lost it, he's gone to the deep end. Jon doesn't sit still... he talks to himself so he'll have something to do. And that's the point. I don't want the constant concern of the monkey chatter of my brain anymore. I have too much going on to let all the little annoying thoughts that have occupied my precious brain space for so long, hold down that realty anymore. I want my brain back.
I believe that Meditation is the way for me to make that happen.

So, tomorrow I will sit again. I have no expectations of what it looks like, so I won't judge myself, I'll just sit and count my breaths and see how I feel when I am done. I gotta admit, today was a pretty good day.... and I have only just begun.

Tonight I am off to Pop Asheville, a super cool independent music festival / weekend multi-venue thing. It's cheap, great music at different bars... how can I miss out? I am excited to see some good music, take some pictures, have a couple of beers and hang with some friends. And who knows... maybe a butterfly will land on my shoulder.

Enjoy the image, I shot it yesterday in my studio. The sun light was bouncing off a window in the building across the street, coming in my studio window and gently laying across my floor. I couldn't resist. That's double diffused, reflected, super soft morning light... for those of you who aren't photographer's... That's some damn fine light.



I am honored to be the recipient of the 2008 Independent Music Award for Concert Photography

Hello everyone...

After my last two posts yesterday, I was checking my email in preparation for leaving the studio and came across an email from the Independent Music Awards program director.

I had been contacted by the IMA board in early August of last year asking me to submit images to the Photography category of the IMA's. I was blown away that people in the music business in NY and NJ had found my site and liked my work enough to invite me to submit images to their competition. The stipulation was that the image had to have been shot between January 2008 and August 2008 and had to be of an artist who was either unsigned or signed with an Indie label (which was further defined as not being owned by a large parent company).

I could submit to the live concert, or artist / band publicity categories, which I did. I submitted 9 images to the live concert category and 6 images to the artist / band publicity category. I was thrilled when I found out in November that I was a finalist in both categories with 2 of my images in the running for artist / band publicity and 1 of my images in the running for the live concert category.

The IMA's are the Independent Music Industries most prestigious awards for all aspects of music, ranging from Gospel to Punk to live performance to children's music. The judges this year included Peter Gabriel, Roger Daltrey, Suzanne Vega, Buddy Guy, Clint Black, Keith Urban, Kurtis Blow, Ice T, Rob Wasserman, Steve Vai, "Play" from Kid-n-Play and Lisa Loeb, to name a few.

The winners of every category get included in mass amounts of marketing, including CD's and print and web and are included in the Musician's Atlas which is available at Barnes and Noble, Borders and Guitar Center and numerous other brick and mortar retails hops.

So, as I opened the email from Martin Folkman, the IMA program director, I was delighted to see that I had won the 2008 IMA Award for Live Concert Photography. I must say that I am blown away to have been a finalist in 2 categories and to have won in 1 of those categories.

I am honored to be recognized in this way and want to say thank you to all of those people who have been supportive of me and my photography over the years. This is a big step in the right direction for me and look forward to seeing how 2009 will continue!

Thanks again everyone for being there for me.


The Winning Image...
"The New Familiars" @ Am Jam
Deer Fields, N.C. 05/24/08


JPG Magazine Submission

JPG Magazine is a great magazine that takes all of it's images from the website of the same name (
JPG on line is a community of photographers from novice to professional that post, comment and support each other in our craft. I have found many inspiring images, great people, constructive feedback and I enjoy posting images to the site. This particular image I have submitted for their monthly contest titled "ZEN". The contest is for publication in the next print isssue of JPG MAG and a small monetary prize.
Check it out, vote for me if you like it, and search for JonAvl and you can see more of my work.

As the project progresses...

As I continue on with my 365 project, I find myself searching for new ways to process my images to make them more visually appealing. This comes from both a desire have my images stand out and the fact that some days I take some pretty boring pictures.
There have been a couple of days already that I have remembered to shoot something at the close of day, almost missing my self imposed deadline of an image a day. I haven't fully missed one yet... but I have come close. The few times that this has happened, I have found that I have not felt good about the image OOC (out of camera) and have felt a need to spend more time in post production enhancing the image. This is both good and bad. It is good because I am learning new ways to process my images and bad because it takes more time to get the image ready for viewing... and time is something I could use more of.
That being what it is, I like the way this image came out a lot. I spent some time in Photoshop working it over and like the texture quite a bit. I feel that the colors, texture and edge burning really brought the image to the place that I saw it in m mind's eye and that is what I am after.

Early morning light through the trees off my deck.


Midnight Bowling

Greetings All,

Friday night I went midnight bowling with a bunch of friends here in town. The lanes are covered in neon colors and black lights, pitchers of beer were 6 bucks and we had a blast!

During my experience I had some Zen-full moments... I fully anticipated on reporting on them here, but, alas, they are gone. Zen can be funny that way sometimes... especially when it is found at the bottom of a 6 dollar pitcher.

Bowling does remind me that I can get injured doing the most mundane of tasks...

Hope you enjoy the photos.


Rollin' Low


Light Shadows Flowers

Just a quick post.
This is in the lobby of my building... I liked the way the light was creating shadows on the table with the flowers.
It was really cool watching the light and shadows intensify as the sun streamed in through a window up the stairs. The clouds were passing in front of the sun so the shadows would get stringer, then weaker, really beautiful to watch.

Going bowling tonight, should have some good pics for tomorrow!

Happy Friday.



Benefits from a photo.

Yesterday, I was at my local organic grocery store to get my morning muffin on my way to the studio. As I am dedicated to my new project of producing an image everyday for a year, I had my point and shoot camera with me and was looking around the store for an interesting image. My eye was drwan to the vibrant colors and perfect shapes of the peppers in the produce section. I liked the symetry of the peppers and the visual aesthetic was enhanced by their bright yellows, deep reds, earthy greens and contrasted by an almost unnatural orange. In addition to the colors, they were so lovingly organized on the shelf with all of their tops pointing out, laying on top of one another so that they won't roll away I knew someone had taken their time in setting them up so that they looked their delicious best.
As I took out the camera to get my shot, I was moving around to get myself out of the reflection of the mirror that the peppers sit in front of, giving them the appearance of almost going on forever, when I noticed that the sign said:
"Organic Yellow Bell Pepper $4.99 lb. Israel"
I thought: "Wow! That's expensive!", then it hit me, these very peppers, here in Asheville, that I was so lovingly examining to be part of my 2009 project, had come all the way from Israel to be placed with care on the shelf in front of the mirror and lighted to perfection with high pressure sodium and fluorescent bulbs and surely washed with reverse osmosis water. And I thought... I'm an American. If I had forgotten how spoiled I was, here was my reminder. January 7, fresh peppers from a place so far away, I dread to think how long these little peppers had been on a plane or boat to get here. Stacked neatly for my choosing. Dressed to the nines. All of this was mine for the taking, for a mere $4.99 / lb.
It was then I started to think about what shopping in the place where these very peppers came from must be like. I wondered... do they have out of season fruits and veggies year round? Are their fruits and veggies treated to such care as to be washed with reverse osmosis water? Are they stacked neatly and perfectly lighted with a wondrous blend of high pressure sodium and fluorescent lighting devices? Can people there stop in to a comfortably heated, well lighted store on their way to work to get a cup of Joe and foods from thousands of miles away and stroll leisurely over to another aisle where there is fresh cooked food sitting patiently waiting for people to eat it? I don't know. Maybe they can. Certainly in some sections of that country they can right?
From that point forward I was gently disgusted at myself and the pleasures I have available for the taking as an American. What would I do if this store wasn't here? I don't know the first thing about growing an organic perfectly colored pepper. I know it has something to do with dirt, seeds, water and the sun. That's about where my education ends. As I continued around the store I was bombarded with all of the lavish cheeses, delicacies, meats, fishes, wines, breads, milks (both from animals and vegetables), cereals, beauty supplies, nick-nacks, chocolates (my favorite), oils, soaps, and things I know not what they are or for what purpose they serve, and I thought... wow, I am one lucky devil.
I am sure all of these items come at a cost. That cost may be monetary at the very least. I am sure there are more costs involved in getting produce from Israel to Asheville, some of which I am sure would make my stomach turn over, brain bubble and blood boil. I want to know, and in the same moment, I think and feel that ignorance is truly blissful.
These are my observations from yesterday. I am a spoiled rotten, lazy, highest expectation having, throw it away if it don't look right, cold beer wanting, no line checkout, 200 types of cheese exploring, consumer of the American way. I am not going to be a farmer tomorrow. Nor the next day. I feel good having had this epiphany and I know I do my part to make this a better place. I recycle, buy organic, help my community, buy local (unless I need peppers damn it), carpool, walk places and confront my shadows. And I am an American.
I expected to learn something from my project... if you would have asked, this would not have been one of the lessons I would have guessed I would come across... but that's why I am here, now.

America on the shelves.


365 Project

Greetings 2009!

As it is a brand spanking New Year, I am incorporating new projects into my life, both personally and photographically.

Photographically speaking, I often find myself so busy with the work that I have that I forget to make time to go out and shoot for the fun of it. Well, since I have recently purchased a Canon G10 I now have a great small manual camera that has lots of resolution, a great optically stabilized zoom and fits in my pocket. Too often in the past I did not bring my Pro Slr (that's Single Lens Reflex for those who want to know) the Canon EOS ID Mark III out with me when I went to lunch, or to pay my taxes, or to walk around with friends due to it's size and weight. Therefore, like the proverbial cobbler's child, I didn't have pictures of my day to day adventures, nor was I shooting candids for the fun of it. Well that way of life is so 2008, and I'm over it.

Welcome the 365 Project!
I plan to take a picture a day for a year. This means that I will, no matter what, take at least one picture each day for a whole year. I feel confident that this will remind me why I love photography so much, hone my skills and produce some wonderful images of the world I live in. The great thing about it is, you get to be part of it as well! I plan to post most of the images here (notice I said "most" and not "all") and am encouraging all of you to give me feedback on the images. Drop me a comment, send me an email, throw up an emoticon, link me, however you feel inclined to participate, all of it is welcome.

So, in the spirit of new beginnings, I am posting 3 of the 6 images I have snapped this year so far, below. I look forward to your feedback!

Happy 2009 everyone!

January 04, 2009
Buddha with Light and Shadow

January 05, 2009
Golden Staircase (coming back from paying my biz taxes)

January 06, 2009
View from Baird Mountain (where I live)


It's a New Year

As 2008 gave way to 2009, I thought about those aspects of my life that I wanted to devote more energy to, the places I felt that I could improve upon, the details of my life that I was not completely satisfied with. This blog is one of those aspects.

I thought about how I could share more of what I see, what I experience and what I feel and think with my community, both geographically and on the web. During that stream of thought, I realized that I neglect my blog. I get caught up in my head about nobody caring about what I am up to, convincing myself I don't have time or I plain forget. All of these distractions from my blog are me getting in my own way and they show up in a lot more places in my life than just on my blog. Some of those places are harder for me to control and apply new technologies to than others, this blog is certainly one place I can control and do something about.

Call it a resolution, a renewed dedication, guilty conscious or a new leaf. Call it what you will, I am going to work at keeping this blog fresh with stuff that comes out of my head. It may be ramblings such as this, photography, a book review, shameless self promotion (another aspect of my life I am going to devote more energy to so watch out), or something I have not yet even thought of. The beauty of all of it is, it feels good. It feels good to put dedication out into the world. It feels good to create. It feels good to share.

Keeping in the spirit of sharing, I have to cut this short without posting any images because I am off to a facilitator training for Building Bridges. BB is a program in Asheville that brings groups of diverse people together to have conversations about race, racism and how it continues to show up in our world. The course is nine weeks long and I attended the winter session last year. BB provides all of their "students" with a workbook that has different articles, studies and readings that are designed to promote conversations during the nine week course. We meet together as a large group for a presentation, then break into smaller groups to have our discussions. I learned a great deal form the last session, having the opportunity to sit with over 100 people in a room to hear a presentation then the privilege to sit in an intimate group of 12-15 people of all walks of life to discuss the readings is truly inspirational.

The Spring session will start January 26th and meet Monday nights from 7-9pm until March 23rd @ MAHEC 501 Biltmore Avenue. See their website for more information.

This session they have invited yours truly to be a small group facilitator, so I must go now to attend my first facilitator training. I promise to bring back snippets of wisdom, insights or at at least my own musings about what I learn to this medium. Maybe some of you will read it.