Food Photography Workshop with Craig Lee

Worked with photography buddy Craig Lee on a food photography workshop at Taboo Restaurant in downtown San Francisco.

Craig is the former photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Self-taught, he has developed a technique with a strong backlight and modest front fill light to show the texture and the color of the food. As the restaurant kept rolling out the food, Craig continued to shoot. Once he has placed the lights, he works simply and quickly.

Craig organized the shoot. He allowed me to photograph the meals as they came out of the kitchen. In addition to Craig’s Dynalite strobe, I used a Nikon camera and Nikon SB-900 fill flash to fill in the foreground.

Thank you Craig for making it all possible.

Big Roti sandwich including turkey, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion
Texi-Mexi Fajitas including chicken breasts, red & green bell peppers, rice and beans. Served with chilled Sangria.

Restaurant customers enjoying exotic, gourmet Toscana Garden pizza and dark beer.

Three course meal from Taboo Restaurant, San Francisco. The main dish includes Texi-Mexi Fajitas, with chicken breasts, red and green bell peppers, grilled onion, and warm corn tortillas.

Craig Lee on assignment @ Taboo Restaurant, San Francisco. Craig uses Canon cameras, Dynalite strobes, and Pocket Wizard trigger device

Read more.. Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Cactus League Spring Training Baseball 2010

Baseball fan photographs the stadium at the start of a game between the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers.

Spring Training Baseball 2008–a game between the Colorado Rockies and the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park in  Phoenix, Arizona.  Baseball player signs autographs at the start of a spring training baseball game.

Fabulous food at all the Arizona Spring Training stadiums includes great hamburgers. Here a vendor flips hamburger patties over a barbecue grill.

Young fan examines the signature on his baseball.

Young couple dance in their seats to rock'n'roll music while enjoying a Giants spring training game.

Fan enjoys the Arizona sunshine and the 80 degree temps. while sunning herself on the dugout roof

Beer vendor counts her money and excellent business during a day game.

This food vendor specializes in Hawaiian stir fry. He works spring training in the spring in Arizona and Hawaii in the summer. Fantastic food!

Boys will be boys as they take the pause that refreshes.

Boys will be boys as they take the pause that refreshes.

Read more.. Sunday, November 28th, 2010

San Francisco World Series Parade 2010

Panorama of the World Series Parade from Civic Center Plaza

Estimated crowd of 1 million joyous San Francisco Giants fans gather in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza to celebrate the Giants victory over the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series.  The parade went down Market Street and then ended at City Hall.

Balloons in the shape of Giants baseballs float above the crowd jamming Civic Center Plaza

Giants fan cheers on his boys with home made sign and T-shirt.

Line of San Francisco cops form a human barrier against the huge throng of Giants fans. By closing down the streets, moving in any direction was nearly impossible.

Players both walked the parade route and route in motorized repica San Francisco Cable Cars.  Fans went crazy every time a player went by and waved to the crowd. Estimated crowd of 1 million joyous Giants fans gather in Civic Center Plaza to celebrate the San Francisco Giants victory over the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series.

Giants fans on the edge of Civic Center Plaza go crazy and yell "Go Giants" as the motorcade of players rolls by.

Young woman cheers from the shoulders of her boyfriend as the motorcade of Giants players passes before her.

Dad carries his son on his shoulders while photographing the motorcade of passing Giants players.

Motorized cable car carrying SF Giants pitchers Tim Lincecum and Dan Runzler travels the parade route on its way to Civic Center Plaza.

Fans went crazy every time a player went by and waved to the crowd.

Two women ride friend's shoulders to snag a view of the Giants World Series Parade.

Young boys jump on newspaper boxes to look over the fence blocking view of the Giant's victory parade.

Many fans held up home-made posters including this lady who stated her sentiments exactly.

One Fan’s Notes:  Although I have attended many parades and public celebrations as a working photographer, I have NEVER seen or experienced anything like the San Francisco Giants World Series Parade.  The police and the press estimated that more than 1,000,000 people attended this event.  I do not dispute that number.  I do know, however, that the crush of people became overwhelming at times.  On four different times during the day, it became impossible to move either forward or backward.  The good mood of the crowd and the celebration for the Giant’s fantastic achievement saved the day.  I thought it was amazing that no horrible incident marred the day.

Much of the photography was difficult to shoot.  Making the panorama of 12 different shots was very challenging.  Although there is some distortion in the opening image at the top of the post, I was lucky that anything at all worked out.

Read more.. Thursday, November 25th, 2010

SF Giants National League Championship Series vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Sell out crowd files into the main entrance of AT&T Park for the start of the first game.

Standing Room Only crowd in right field await the first pitch of the afternoon game.

Pitcher Matt Cain limited the Philadelphia Phillies to two hits in seven innings as the Giants secured a 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series.

Two young women cheer for the Giants from the steps of a mock San Francisco cable car.

Fan in left field waves a large Giants flag to root on his team.

Giants fans enjoying the game from a yacht in McCovey Cove poke fun at Phillies fans by commenting on the weather.

A sellout crowd of 43,000 cheered on their boys as they returned to San Francisco following two games in Philadelphia.

The Giants had tortured their fans for most of the season, but they won the National League pennant on the last day of the regular season.  Then, once in the playoffs, they played like champs.

Field Notes:

As part of this photo assignment for Corbis, the large photo agency, the editor Seth Greenberg and I agreed that I should mingle with the crowd and avoid using a press pass. I bought a ticket and walked into the stadium like any other fan.  Despite the crush of people, shooting these photos was great fun.

The photos were made with a Nikon D3s camera shooting in RAW mode.  Many of the images used a Nikon SB-900 fill flash and a Nikon SU-800 flash trigger.  The images were processed in Photoshop CS-5.  These photos, and many others, are available online at

Memorabilia from this playoff game including a rally towel, an official program for the game, two tickets, and the photographer's treasured baseball glove.

Many Giants fans wore clothing that were variations on Orange & Black, the Giants colors.

Read more.. Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

"Swimming in a Dream" Video

North Bay Aquatics masters swimmer streaks down the pool doing the butterfly.
This film tells the story of how and why a group of otherwise perfectly normal people do a hard swim workout at 5:30 AM five days a week. Members of the North Bay Aquatics Masters Swimmers in Corte Madera, California go through a profound physical and mental change while swimming more than 3000 yards for each workout. Swimmers explain how they are addicted to, and changed by, the swimmer’s high.

Swimmer Mali Apple does a flip turn before rotating onto her stomach

This positive addiction to their health and fitness keeps them returning day after day.   The filmmakers used a Nikon D3s camera both on land and underwater. Edited in Final Cut Pro on a 27″ iMac computer and Seagate storage devices. Jim Sugar-Director, Bill Holshevnikoff–DP, Mike Russell-Editor & Sound Design, Kim Komenich-Audio
Swimmers wait at the wall for the next workout set from swim coaches Ken DeMont or Don Swartz.

The Swimming in a Dream video resulted from three seemingly disconnected events.  One, I began swimming with North Bay Aquatics @ 5:45 A.M. in September, 2009.  Second, Nikon loaned me an incredible Nikon D3s camera that can shoot almost in the dark at ISO settings of 16,000 & higher.  Third, three great colleagues and I all agreed that we wanted to make a short film for ourselves with no constraints from a client in order to test both our abilities and our gear.

Swimmers streak to the far end of the pool in preparation for doing flip turns nearly in synchronization.

Bill Holshevnikoff, Kim Komenich, and Mike Russell, and I shot seven mornings on the film.  The film required more than 100 man-hours to edit on Final Cut Pro. The film wasn’t just Low Budget.  It was No Budget.  The direct costs were $65.—$50 for an extra camera battery and $15. for chips and salsa @ Moylan’s Restaurant in Novato where Bill & I transcribed the A-roll video.

Swimmer extends his reach near the end of the pool in preparation for executing a flip turn.

To date (November, 2010), the film has been screened at the L.A. 10 Squared Film Festival, where it won second place, and the Sacramento Documentary Shorts Film Festival, where it was selected as the featured film.  We hope to exhibit “Dream” at other film festivals.  I have posted the film to YouTube and  Here is one link to this film:

Davis Barber, Jim Sugar, Kiera Faye, and Jack Venturo (L to R) celebrate at the conclusion of the 10 Squared Film Festival in Los Angeles, California.

Read more.. Sunday, November 21st, 2010

San Francisco Giants NLDS Game vs. Atlanta Braves

National League Division Series (NLDS) between San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves.National League Division Series (NLDS) between San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves.  The Braves rallied for a 5-4 win in 11 innings Friday.  The Giants won the best of five game series in four games by beating Atlanta twice in Atlanta.

Heroic statue of Giants great center fielder Willie Mays at the entrance to AT&T Park in downtown San Francisco, California

The Giants played the Philadelphia Phillies in the second round of the playoffs for the right to represent the National League in the World Series.The crowd of more than 43,000 was the largest crowd in the 10 year history of AT&T Park.National League Division Series (NLDS) between San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves.

Part of the standing room only crowd of 43,000 people squeezing into the main entrance of AT&T in preparation for the first pitch of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and the Atlanta Braves.

The Braves rallied for a 5-4 win in 11 innings Friday to even the series at one game each.  The Giants won the best of five game series in four games by beating Atlanta twice in Atlanta.  The Giants play the Philadelphia Phillies in the next round of the playoffs for the right to represent the National League in the World Series.

Left field denizen Mickey O'Reilly cheers on her Giants from her season ticket position.

The crowd of more than 43,000 was the largest crowd in the 10 year history of AT&T Park.  The Giants went on to beat the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.  Then, the Giants defeated the American League champions, the Texas Rangers, in the World Series.

Part of the crowd in AT&T Park waving bright orange pompoms handed out by the Giants for the first playoff game.Father & son Charlie and Jack Thomas "nearly died" when Buster Posey grounds into a double play to end a rally in the botton of the 8th inning.

Father & son in center field cheer on the Giants in the 8th inning. They "almost died" when Buster Posey grounded into a double play to end the rally.

The "Orange Man" was completely covered in orange grease paint in honor of his boys. Even his backpack, his shoes, and his underwear were orange.

Giants fans dressed up in orange and black in honor of their team. Some uber-fans wore fake black beards in honor of Brian Wilson, the Giants closer, who grew a beard during the season and died in black to frighten opposing players.

Memorabilia from the playoff game including the NLDS program, a pompom, two tickets from the game, and the photographer's glove.

Tips and Tricks about these photos:
These photos were shot at night, under challenging conditions.  Because I wanted to get “the roar of the crowd,” I bought a Standing Room Only ticket and shot the photos among the Giants fans in the outfield. No special arrangements.  No press pass.  The crowd of 43,000+ was the largest ever to attend a game at AT&T Park.  At times the crush of people was enormous.  Still, people were in a great mood.  It was a fun shoot.
I used a fabulous Nikon D3s camera, a Nikon SB-900 strobe, and a Nikon SU-800 trigger for the photography.  ISO’s varied from 800 to 6400.  Camera RAW.  All images processed in Photoshop CS-5 on a Macintosh computer.  The camera and flash were adjusted to match the ambient light in the stadium and the stadium lights.
Read more.. Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

World Series Game 1–McCovey Cove

First game of 2010 World  Series between San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. Pitcher Tim Lincecum defeated Rangers pitcher Cliff Lee before a sell-out crowd of 43,601 plus a thousand more in a variety of water craft in McCovey Cove.  The Giants won 11-7.  San Francisco edged ahead in the series, 1-0

A portion of the 200+ kayaks and assorted watercraft gather in McCovey Cove outside the right field wall of AT&T for the first game of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers.

Young couple kissing on the deck of a fancy yacht at the edge of McCovey Cove.

John Marshall and his dog Lucky from Lake Tahoe enjoy kayaking on San Francisco Bay while waiting for the start of Game One in the 2010 World Series.

Two kayakers sporting pink hair and Fear the Beard beards float in their rubber raft prior to the start of Game One of the World Series.

Surfboarder in McCovey Cove poses for her photo by a swimmer treading water in San Francisco Bay.

Items from Game One of first World Series game, including a pom-pom, ticket stubs, rally towel, plus the photographer's baseball glove.

Tips & Tricks about the photography:  The photos were shot from a 2-place kayak with the help of my good friend Jeremy Howard.  We agreed in advance that keeping our substantial amount of camera gear dry was our Number One priority.  After putting the kayak in the water, we paddled about two miles to McCovey Cove. Most of the photos were shot with the help of one or two Nikon SB-800 strobes balanced for the fading daylight and stadium lights on a Nikon D3s camera.  For most of the strobe photos, the strobes were attached to the side of the kayak with a Justin Clamp so that I could hold the camera and lens in my hands.  For the high angle shots, the camera was attached to a monopod.  A self-timer was used to fire the camera.  Despite the difficulty of moving around, Jeremy and I had good mobility in the kayak.  And the camera gear stayed dry.

Read more.. Thursday, November 11th, 2010

Jim Sugar & Brian Lawler on

Jim Sugar & Brian Lawler were featured on for their coverage of the rollout of White Knight 1 and SpaceShipOne in Mojave, California.

Read more.. Thursday, October 7th, 2010

The Story of Abraham: A Son of Ethiopia from Common River

Aleta Wondo, ETHIOPIA

July 2010

Common River hosted eight medical students and their doctor professor from the University of Texas medical school in Aleta Wondo for 2 weeks this summer.  Each morning the students walked to the government Health Center to conduct a free medical clinic.

One morning as they worked their way through the huge crowd, a student named Matt, noticed a boy lying in the tall grass just inside the clinic gates. Matt picked up the child and carried him into the clinic.  His temperature was 106.5 degrees.  He was unconscious and had less than an hour left to live. When they removed his clothes, his body was completely covered in ants. They quickly washed him and gave him an IV and a load of antibiotics.  When he came back to life, after spending a few nights at the clinic, he told us his story.

Here is what we learned. . .

Abraham is ten years old. When he was 4 years old his mother died and his father re-married.  His new stepmother rejected him and his 3 younger siblings and kicked them out onto the street.  As Abraham could walk, he started walking over the mountains from Hagar Salam making his way to the nearest town, Aleta Wondo, around 30 kilometers away.  He found a job as a tea boy at a local tea house.  He prepared tea, served customers, collected money and closed up the shop seven days week in exchange for a place to stay and one loaf of bread and one cup of tea per day.  He slept in the dark shop by himself at night.

Afraid of hyenas that howled each night, Abraham put chairs together to sleep on, just to get off the floor.  The shop owner abused his indentured servant. If he broke a glass he was beaten.  If he spilled tea he was beaten.  If he made a math error he was beaten. His head bears the scars of many beatings over the past six years.In June, Abraham fell ill and was unable to work. The shop owner kicked him out and hired another boy.  Abraham had heard about a free clinic at the health center run by American volunteers, while he was serving tea.  He decided to go there and made it just inside the gates when he collapsed from weakness. The next thing he recalls is getting spoon-fed by American volunteers at the clinic.

When Abraham was strong enough to be discharged from the clinic, Common River took him to their compound.  He stayed with Tsegaye Bekele in one of Common River’s guest huts for two weeks.  There he was fed, clothed and enrolled in the Common River School.

One of the cooks at Common River noticed how well he bonded with her children.  She wanted him to have a family life so she took him into her home. He loved having a family again.  Common River supplied the family with a bed so that Abraham and his new “brothers and sisters” could sleep together in a bed, off of the mud floor.When we asked him if he wants to find his younger siblings, Abraham falls silent. He feels a bit of survival guilt and certainly wants to find his younger siblings whom he misses terribly.  Yet, he is nervous and afraid of what he may find out. He is also afraid that he will be brought back to his previous life or that his father may take him away.  There is not a trace of paperwork to document his existence, so it is difficult to legally process an adoption or foster care.

Given his 6 years experience collecting money at the teahouse. Abraham is thriving as a 1st grader. He excels at math.  He loves school, sports and playing with the other children. He never had time to study or play before.  He is incredibly helpful with the Common River staff and guests. He is a master at starting the fires each night in the guest huts.On his own volition Abraham sweeps the hut floors, hauls water, collects firewood, helps in the kitchen, serves food and picks fresh flowers for the guests.  He conducts a full coffee ceremony on his own, from roasting the coffee beans, to pounding them, to boiling the coffee water, to serving it and to cleaning the cups.   The coffee cups do rattle when he passes someone a coffee cup, as has a great deal of nervous tension locked inside of him. He is also aware of medicinal herbs and plants, which he says he learned from his father.  He has started planting herbs in Common River’s traditional medicinal garden.

We are grateful to have met such a resilient boy who demonstrates the power of the human survival instinct.  He is also the most loving and happiest child alive.  Even though deprived of motherly love since the age of four, and abused by a boss for six years, he is not hardened, bitter or afraid.

His dream is to become a doctor because he wants to save lives just like the doctors who saved his life.  We have no doubt that Abraham will meet his goals and Common River will do its best to help him attain them.  Common River’s vision is to have him attend Harvard Medical School someday.


Donna Sillan

Director & Founder

Common River

About this Blog Posting:  I created this blog post and added it to my blog because I thought it was such a compelling story.

When Donna Sillan returned from her most recent trip to Ethiopia, she told me the continuing saga of building the school in Aleta Wondo and the story of saving the life of Abraham.  I asked Donna to write up the story and send it to me along with any photos she took on the trip.

I put her words and pictures together.  This blog posting is the result.

Jim Sugar

Read more.. Thursday, September 30th, 2010

"Summer of '69"-RTE revisits a National Geographic Article

In the summer of 2009, Irish director Peter Mulryan phoned  me from Dublin and asked if I would like to reprise the article that I shot for National Geographic Magazine for the September, 1969 issue.  When I realized that he was not kidding, we retraced the steps many of the steps that I had taken 40 years earlier.
First we shot for several days in my California studio with an American crew.  Then, we moved to Ireland for three weeks and revisited  many of the places and people that we could locate from the original article.
Great fun.  Amazing experience.

Three members of the Crosbie family driving sheep on their farm in County Wexford, Republic of Ireland

The Friendly Irish article from the September, 1969 issue of National Geographic Magazinewas the subject of an award winning television program for Radio Television Ireland (RTE), which was broadcast twice in 2010.

Blacksmith Mixi Toomey works on the same anvil that his father used 40 years earlier.

Retired Irish fisherman on the island of Inishere. I photographed his father for the original National Geographic article.

Irish family on the island of Inishere in the Aran Islands. We photographed this kitchen and the adults in the original article. Now their children are the same age as the young children in the original article.

The resulting 1 hour television documentary, The Summer of ’69, was broadcast twice on Irish national television.  On the first broadcast, between Christmas and New Years 2009, it ranked Number One in its time slot.  On the second broadcast, in the Spring of 2010, it was the top rated program for the entire United Kingdom for the week.

Director and producer Peter Mulryan of Radio Television Ireland lines up a shot to match the original frame from National Geographic Magazine.

Field Notes: I was able to work “both sides of the camera” for this project.  For the California portion of the shoot, I worked as Associate Producer, hired the American crew (Bill Holshevnikov-camera and Kim Komenich-sound) and also shot production stills.  For the Irish portion of the project, I was the talent, or presenter, who spoke on camera at the direction of Peter Mulryan.  The Irish crew was great.  Despite the intense experience and occasion marginal Irish weather, we worked well together.

Crew for Summer of '69, including Declan Gallagher, Barry Donnellan, and photographer Jim Sugar

Read more.. Monday, September 27th, 2010