Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas for 2011!

This has certainly been an interesting holiday season.

I'm headed to my parents' house in a bit for some Xmas eve cocktails and dinner, but I figured I'd wish my pals, clients, acquaintances (and anyone else who happens to stumble across this) a Merry Christmas!

Next week will be a fun one, as we head to Reno, NV to film the third installment of our "Gone Golfing" series... which is basically a movie about our adventures on a crappy golf course as we desperately try to make par. The last movie was 2003, so it's been almost nine years! Very much looking forward to it.

Speaking of Reno, here's a little photo of us sledding on Xmas weekend a couple of years ago. This canyon is our back yard... literally. Of course, the house isn't there anymore (see what happened to it) but that won't stop us from sledding there again! As soon as there's snow, anyway.

Sledding in our back yard in Reno, NV. Before the house burned down.
Be safe, eat food, drink some drinks, open some presents... 


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holidays, Weddings, Parties, and General Merriment

Hi folks!

OK... what a crazy month. I had a clear calendar for basically all of November, which ended up being the perfect decision.

At the beginning of the month was Angela's birthday, then we headed to Gettysburg, PA for a week of relaxing and historical education with my mom and step-dad, topped off with a few days in Washington DC, then our family's house burned down in the 2,000-acre Caughlin fire up in Reno, then came Thanksgiving, then my birthday, then time to break out the decorations and get a Christmas tree!

With all the activity, it was nice to not have any "work" to do.  I say "work" because I love being a photographer, so it never really feels like work to me.

Some fun things coming down the pipeline soon, so I promise more of these posts will be actually related to photography.

Until then, get yourself into the holiday spirit with this lovely photo (taken by Keith Lancaster) of me, face-planted into the snow a couple of Christmases ago:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Up In Smoke - Caughlin Fire in Reno, NV.

My parents raised me with three main phrases to live by: "Life isn't fair", "Shit Happens", and "No one owes you anything". Those words of wisdom have helped me be a very self-sustaining person, and I'd like to think they also helped be deal well with bad news.

Friday, November 18th I woke up and loaded Facebook to see a friend's post about his family being evacuated in Reno because of wildfires. I thought it was weird because a) I hadn't heard anything about fires going on, and b) it's mid-November... way past fire season.

About 10 minutes later I checked my email as usual, to find a message from my mom saying that our house was gone. Excuse the language, but my only thought was "...what the fuck?"

Immediately I went to news websites in the Reno area, and it only took a few minutes before I found this image:
2410 Pioneer Dr. up in flames on November 18th, 2011.
Our house before the fire.

That's our house, where I spent much of my childhood growing up (and is still my parents' primary residence). At first I was skeptical and thought to myself, "Nah, that can't be our house. Ours has an upstairs deck on the right side". But it didn't take long to notice the unique ski lift pole that we have holding up that upstairs balcony, and I realized that the balcony was already gone.

Needless to say, it's an ordeal. My step-brother and step-sister live in Reno still, I'm in the San Francisco bay area, my younger brother lives in Los Angeles, and my parents were at their 2nd home in Gettysburg, PA at the time, getting ready to come back to Reno for the holiday season and tax season (they're CPAs).

There's nothing we can do, but I still felt restless sitting at my cafe (office) here at home and watching our house in 40-ft flames on the news. So I closed my laptop, walked home, packed a bag, and hit the road to drive the 3.5 hours to Reno just so I can be there for emotional support. As I rolled into town, it occurred to me that no one even knew I was coming, and my parents were on a plane from PA so I couldn't tell them.

Getting off highway 80, I immediately went up the hill to our neighborhood. Police cars blocked every corner and I was asked a series of questions (and had to show my ID) just to be allowed onto our street. I parked the car and got out to see our front walkway, which now leads to open air and a burned canyon behind it (click photos to enlarge):

Our front walkway. Still visible: the wall of my brother's room & our fireplace.

This house was unique. Built in 1972 (approx), the first owners were avid skiers. The design of the house reflected that, with a Tahoe-cabin look and even an authentic ski lift pole that supported our upstairs balcony. Everyone's favorite feature, however, was a bridge inside (yes, inside) the front door. As you walked over it, you could look downstairs to our den before descending into the bedroom wing of the house.

My parents divorced when I was 12, and about 18 years ago my step-dad and his kids moved out of their house in Sparks, NV to this one... where it was our first (and only) house as a combined family.

My mom, Ellen Mann, peering into what remains of our garage and her car.

Everyone has their memories of this house. My parents still lived there half the year (and half in PA) as their business is in Reno, my step-sister lived there throughout middle school & high school (and a while after), my step-brother lived there until he was 18 (but still returned often... he was there doing laundry & playing our grand piano the night before it burned), my younger brother moved there when I went to college & lived there until 2004 when he then moved to Nashville, and I lived there during summers, holidays, school breaks, many weekends, and went up periodically to visit when I could get the time off work. We made numerous silly home movies, and I wrote & recorded over 100 goofy songs with my step-brother throughout the years in this house.

my brother and me in 2009 vs. the same fireplace today

The family is doing fine. Some take it harder than others of course, but everyone is safe (which is all that really matters). Numerous police officers, firefighters, gawking neighbors, news cameras, and family members were around all weekend. My parents were interviewed and on the evening news both Sunday and Monday, and they aired an interview with me on Monday night as well.

The property is blocked off as unsafe (the garage could still collapse more) but firefighters are still people too, so on Saturday they looked the other way and let us roam through the debris for an hour or so and just asked us to be really careful. That was a nice gesture, although some yellow caution tape wasn't going to stop me from checking everything out.

Everyone has been super nice and helpful, and my parents have had about 20 invitations to Thanksgiving dinner. The kind boys of Happy Body Slow Brain even offered donations. Bless their hearts, considering they need that money to tour and live off of.

As my mom said, "It's just stuff. We can replace stuff." Of course, some of that "stuff" are things like all of our baby photos, some home movies, family heirlooms (like our grand piano), and even WWII and Civil War relics that my step-dad has collected over the years. Those can't be replaced.

what's left of the grand piano. Passed to my step-dad from his father.

However I offered my take on it, which my family found comforting as well, that at least no one else will get to live in that house. It'll always be our house. When my parents are ready to retire back East, we won't have to watch some new family living in our old rooms. That made me feel a lot better about the whole thing, as selfish as it sounds.

Anyway, we're making the best of it. My favorite moment this weekend was as we stepped through the wreckage, with news vans and cameras around, my step-brother opens the partially-burned mailbox and courteously shouts "...No mail yet!".

Thanks to everyone who has shown their concern. Enjoy (lol) the rest of the photos below, and everyone have a happy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season!

...oh, and take all your photos and home movies, put them on DVDs, and mail them to your relatives. You'll thank me if you're ever in a similar situation.


(more photos by Clay Lancaster):

Caughlin fire in Reno, NV on Pioneer Dr.
Ray and Ellen Mann talk to Channel 4 News in front of their home

Caughlin fire in Reno, NV on Pioneer Dr.
my step-dad with our friends in the front entry, vs. the front entry now

Radiohead's "OK Computer" survived the Caughlin fire on November 18, 2011.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Gettysburg & Washington DC

I spent the last week and a half on the East coast, mainly to visit my mom and step-dad at their new home in Gettysburg, PA. Both of them are civil war enthusiasts, and we got quite the tour from them around the battlefields. My step-dad is the kind of guy who will drag us through the forest to show us where someone was really killed, proving that the monument 200 yards away was placed in the wrong spot.

The weather was crisp, and there was still a lot of color in the trees. You really miss out on Fall when you live in California (here you get green leaves, brown, or nothing at all).

HDR photo of the battlefield in Gettysburg, PA.
Canons lined up along the Confederate line.
my mom.
Not only Civil War buffs, my mom and step-dad are also big into genealogy. Because of their research, I now know that my great, great, great (etc.) grandfather fought in the Civil War at Gettysburg in a regiment from North Carolina. Here is the monument honoring those N. Carolinians:

monument to the North Carolinians that fought at Gettysburg

We took a little side trip to Maryland to browse around, as well as visit "Spook Hill" (a road where if you put your car in neutral it will roll itself uphill). Among our findings was this old stone church:

The awesome thing about this church is that I had a Legend of Zelda moment when I went around the back of it. There's a stone opening in the ground with a steep staircase that leads to an old stone room underneath the church:

It reminded me of some sort of secret passageway in "A Link to the Past" (the Zelda game on Super Nintendo). Like this one:

My parents' house is nestled in the woods, about a 2 minute drive from the battlefields of Gettysburg. In fact, the Confederate troops would have marched straight through their property on their way into town. Waking up to a foggy morning in those trees was worth a photo:

foggy morning in the Gettysburg woods

After spending a cozy 5 days with them, we left my parents and ventured in to Washington DC. My grandparents lived right near the Pentagon when I was growing up, so I've been there many times. Unfortunately, the last two trips I made to DC (2003, and last September) were both for their funerals. I thought it would be nice to hang out in DC for a happier occasion finally.

Nevertheless, our first stop was Arlington Cemetery:

Arlington Cemetery near Washington DC. Photo by Clay Lancaster
It's a short stop off the metro, and thanks to my brother I was able to use the GPS location he sent me to find Grandpa and Grandma so I could say hello to them:

Grandpa & Grandma (Capt. & Mrs. Norman Lancaster USN)
Grandpa was only buried there 2 months ago, so there's still is temporary marker for him while Grandma's name is on the stone. If you didn't see my earlier post, Grandpa retired from the Navy at the rank of Captain, and served in WWII (a Pearl Harbor survivor).

It was an extremely relaxing trip (despite all the walking), and was a bit disappointing to come home to California and be thrown back into the hustle and bustle of regular life. Thanks to my mom and Chip for having us stay with them!

Oh, and I stopped by to say hi to Obama on my way out of town:

The White House. 2011. Photo by Clay Lancaster.
As always, all photos by Clay Lancaster. Except the Zelda one.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Airborne Toxic Event - The Fillmore, San Francisco.

After many scheduling conflicts, the Airborne Toxic Event finally took some time to chat with us at last night at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Nice people, great show. And you guessed it... photos!

JC talks with Airborne Toxic Event on

JC talks with Airborne Toxic Event on

Airborne Toxic Event performs at the Fillmore in San Francisco

Airborne Toxic Event performs at the Fillmore in San Francisco

Airborne Toxic Event performs at the Fillmore in San Francisco

Airborne Toxic Event performs at the Fillmore in San Francisco
All photos by Clay Lancaster (

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Marina Plaza Harbor Wedding - Sausalito

Braving traffic last Saturday, I headed to the waterside town of Sausalito, CA to photograph Sean & Laura's wedding the the Marina Plaza Harbor.

This was one of the more quaint weddings I've done (as well as my first time shooting a wedding at a marina) and was a lot of fun. I'd have to say the highlight for me was the groom with his Les Paul, shredding away at the "Wedding March" as his bride walked down the aisle. In true rock n' roll fashion, no solo would be complete without some feedback at the end, followed by the throwing of the guitar pick into the audience.

I was later told that the guitar solo was meant to be even more elaborate, but the bridal party walked too quickly down the aisle so it had to be cut short.

Congratulations to Sean & Laura!


Bride and Groom in Sausalito, CA. Photo by Clay Lancaster

Abbey Road Wedding Party. Sausalito, CA. Photo by Clay Lancaster

Bride and Groom in Sausalito, CA. Photo by Clay Lancaster

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins - The Fox Theater - Oakland

Last night was a fun shoot for me for a few reasons.

a) I hadn't shot a show in a while
b) I love the Fox Theater. Probably the nicest venue in the San Francisco Bay area
c) the shoot was Smashing Pumpkins
d) I finally had a chance to meet Billy Corgan

Smashing Pumpkins were my first concert ever. My parents weren't keen on me going to shows at a young age, so by the time I finally made it to one, it was January 4th 1997 in Reno, NV. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was on hiatus at the time, so the drummer from Filter was filling in. I remember it was super energetic, and LOUD. I was trying to talk to my friends after the show and I couldn't hear my own voice.

In my old band, we used to jam on Pumpkins tunes to warm up, and I practically wore out my copy of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness from so many repeated plays. I also remember getting upset when Disc 2 got a scratch that prevented one of my favorite tracks from playing properly.

Sure, the band isn't quite the same these days. Billy Corgan is the only original member left, and it's really noticeable not having James Iha or Jimmy Chamberlain on stage. The last show I shot was A Perfect Circle a couple of months ago, and Iha is a part of that group now... so at least I saw him this year!

Smashing Pumpkins producer Kerry Brown was a guest of ours on theFIVE10 Radio a while back, and was nice enough to hook us up last night with tickets, photo pass, and after-show passes. Thanks to him, I finally got to knock this band off my list and finally got a chance to meet Billy briefly, who has created some of the best music in rock throughout his career.

Oh, and a drunk Indian woman asked if I had a cigarette for her. When I said no, she started babbling about how no one would give her a cigarette and then called me a racist. Fun times.

Here are some photos!

Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Photo: Clay Lancaster

Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Photo: Clay Lancaster

Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Photo: Clay Lancaster

Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Photo: Clay Lancaster

Smashing Pumpkins perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Photo: Clay Lancaster

Billy Corgan and Clay Lancaster backstage.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Boundary Oak Wedding - Walnut Creek

Last weekend I packed my gear and headed with my assistant Isaac to Boundary Oak Golf Course in Walnut Creek, CA. This was the wedding of Chris and Brooke, for whom I had done engagement photos earlier in the year.

The club house wedding was a blast... beautiful weather, awesome sunset, and lots of dancing and wine. What a job I have...

Until I am finished editing, here are a few of my favorite photos from Sunday.

the ceremony site at Boundary Oak. Walnut Creek, CA.

newlyweds at Boundary Oak. Walnut Creek, CA.

We had some down time during dinner, so i stepped outside onto the balcony to see the sunset. I was explaining the process of HDR to my assistant, when I decided to go ahead and try one then and there. Not too bad, eh?

HDR photo of Boundary Oak Golf Course. Walnut Creek. Photo by Clay Lancaster

Goodbye Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Just a quick entry to address the passing of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Your ingenuity, drive, and innovation has enhanced our world, and the results of your efforts currently allow me to run my business as efficiently as I do.

Thank you for all you've done. I and virtually everyone I know will miss you.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Goodbye Grandpa (1914-2011)

Been in Washington DC for the last couple of days, and currently at the airport awaiting my flight back to San Francisco.

Yesterday we said our official goodbyes to my grandpa: Capt. Norman Lancaster USN. He was born in 1914, grew up on a tobacco farm in North Carolina, used to help his dad bootleg alcohol, got a law degree, joined the Navy, fought in WWII (Pearl Harbor), was one of the original JAG corps, retired from the Navy at the rank of Captain, was married to my grandmother for close to 60 years, and died on April 25th, 2011. at the age of 96. He now rests at Arlington Cemetery, buried with full military honors.

Love you and miss you Grandpa!

Grandpa & me napping

playing in a tent with Grandpa and R2-D2

with Grandpa and Keith (my brother) at their apt. in DC

Grandpa & me at his birthday dinner. Fixing his coat.

Grandpa (center) in his Navy days
Grandpa & Grandma
Service at Arlington National Cemetery. September 14th, 2011.
From The Observer:

Norman Gray Lancaster

Norman Gray Lancaster, age 96, retired Captain of the U.S. Navy, died April 25, 2011 at Inova Alexandria Hospital in Alexandria, VA as the result of complications from pneumonia.
Captain Lancaster was born in Castalia, NC on October 1, 1914. He graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1938. After graduation and admission to the North Carolina Bar in 1938, he engaged in the general practice of law in Spring Hope, NC until December of 1940.
In August of 1940, Captain Lancaster joined the Navy "V-7" program and attended the Reserve Midshipman School at Northwestern University from December 1940 to March 1941 when he was commissioned an Ensign. Immediately upon being commissioned, he reported aboard the light cruiser USS Phoenix (CL-46) for duty. He remained aboard the Phoenix (which was moored in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese attacked) until June 1943. Captain Lancaster was then assigned duty aboard the light cruiser USS Miami (CL-89) from December 1943 until April 1946. On both ships he served as an unrestricted line officer and was awarded several campaign medals, including the Asiatic-Pacific medal with seven battle stars.
In 1946 Captain Lancaster was transferred from unrestricted line duty and designated a legal specialist by the Secretary of the Navy, limiting his duties to the legal field. In 1967 Congress enacted a law establishing the Judge Advocate General Corps of the Navy, at which time Captain Lancaster became a member of the Corps. He retired from the Navy on June 30, 1975. Among his many and varied duties during 29 years of service in the legal field, Captain Lancaster served as a Senior Legal Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief US Forces Pacific (for which he received the Joint Services Commendation Medal), Fleet and Staff Legal Officer to Commander-in-Chief US Forces Europe (for which he received the Meritorious Service Medal), and chairman of the US Naval Military Court of Review.
Captain Lancaster was also a 32nd degree Mason and a Shriner.
His survivors include his son, Norman G. Lancaster, Jr. of Danville, CA, grandsons Clayton Lancaster of Walnut Creek, CA and Keith Lancaster of Reseda, CA, and a step-grandson Christian Pollock of Layton, UT.
Funeral services with Full Military Honors will be held on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at 9:00 AM at the Fort Myer Old Post Chapel on the Fort Myer Army Base in Arlington, Virginia, followed by interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Those attending should allow 20 minutes to clear base security. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Shiners' Hospitals for Children.

Published in The News & Observer from June 15 to June 19, 2011