Bon Iver is not a person

Justin Vernon is the voice and artistic creator of Bon Iver.  The band and concept is his vision and he alone accepted the best new artist Grammy a couple of weeks ago, but Bon Iver is a band and Justin Vernon is a person.  Jethro Tull is also not a person, but that is a different post.  I had the opportunity to photograph Bon Iver at the Fox Theater in September of 2009, and it was an incredible show.  I was not familiar with the band at the time and their album For Emma, Forever Ago turned an obscure singer songwriter from Eau Claire, Wisconsin with an incredible falsetto into a national phenomenon. Since the Grammy win I have heard many people refer to Justin Vernon as Bon Iver and Bon Iver as a he and it just is not so.  This is a band and a pretty good one at that.  I met them briefly before the Fox Theater show and had two minutes to take a mediocre backstage group shot, they never turn out very well, but it is a fine memory of a great show and a moment in time before this very talented group blew up.


Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael offers a sneak peak during casual opening

Phil Lesh and his many friends played an intimate show for around 200 people tonight at the new music club and restaurant, Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA.  This soft opening tonight in the lounge is the start of a music filled March with a run of 12 shows in the Grate room with Phil Lesh and Friends to close out the month.  I was fortunate to be inside tonight to photograph the festivities.

Opening Night at Terrapin CrossroadsOpening Night at Terrapin CrossroadsOpening Night at Terrapin CrossroadsOpening Night at Terrapin CrossroadsOpening Night at Terrapin CrossroadsOpening Night at Terrapin

Hats off to the Sports Photographers

Walking through the service entrance at AT&T Park, and following the media signs to the field is an interesting experience.  Walking into Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott and Jerry Rice in the hallway got me on my toes.  This was the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and I had a press pass.  I don’t usually shoot sports, but sometimes my camera allows me into places where I have never been before.  It is busy on the field with players from UCLA and Illinois warming up and press swarming the sidelines.  Kickoff is thirty minutes away.  The previously mentioned former 49ers are enjoying themselves on the sideline and I am hoping that the knee pads I purchased earlier that morning will be sufficient.  As I scout the other photographers around me I notice that the experienced shooters are wearing heavy duty knee pads, the kind you find at a home improvement store, not a sporting goods store.  I quickly learned that I need to upgrade before my next foray onto the football field.

The game began slowly with neither team gaining much yardage or momentum.  I was getting used to shooting fast action with a 400mm lens and an ever changing light at the ballpark.  This sports photography was not as easy as I thought.

Kraft Fight Hunger BowlKraft Fight Hunger BowlImage



In a football game there are many plays run, and thousands of images are made throughout the course of a game.  Very few of them mean anything, but if you are lucky enough and skillful enough to capture a moment in time that actually means something you have succeeded.  Anticipation of where the ball is going is imperative, especially when one team is close to scoring a touchdown.  UCLA scored first with a 16 yard touchdown pass to Taylor Embree.  I was in the right position in the corner of the end zone, but I switched cameras to use my shorter lens too slowly and I missed a great catch.  Jason O. Watson-US Presswire and Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP did not.  See the difference experience makes below:



Photo by Jason O. Watson – US Presswire


Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

I think I was standing right next to both of them.  Missing a shot is not usually an option in this business, but luckily my assignment was more open ended than just chronicling each scoring drive of the game.  I learned a valuable lesson and I will be looking forward to my next chance to document a big time football game with this newly acquired knowledge.  The game continued on slowly and I was putting my motor drive to the test, capturing plenty of action shots that held little meaning in the grand scheme of the game.




I am satisfied with these images, they capture good action on the field, the color is crisp and the photos are sharp.  But they just show random plays that amounted to a few yards gained or lost or a catch or an incomplete pass, I don’t even remember.  Then Illinois Wide Receiver A.J Jenkins caught a 60 yard touchdown pass and I missed the shot again.  Jason O. Watson US Presswire nailed it.



Photo by Jason O. Watson-USPresswire

This time I was out of position, behind the play on the field and off on my focus.  So I missed another shot, I’ll get it next time.

Traveling the World with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (without leaving Honolulu)

Dedicated photojournalists log countless hours in airports and hotels, while documenting the often mundane details of the world’s leaders.  This is not my job description.  On a recent assignment for The Department of State, covering APEC Leaders’ Week in Hawaii, I got a glimpse into what it would be like to work in this manner.  I was assigned to cover Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for three days while she held bi-lateral meetings, gave speeches, hosted dinners and attended many other events.  In fact I got to travel around the world with The Secretary of State without leaving Honolulu.  Our first stop was the East West Center on the campus of the University of Hawaii, where Secretary Clinton met with Pacific Island Country Leaders and gave a speech to a large and enthusiastic crowd.  It was en route to this location in the motorcade, complete with secret service and a police escort,  that I realized this job was unlike any other I had done before.

Secretary Clinton at East West Center

The rest of the day was consumed with Bi-Lateral meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Japan, China and The President of Vietnam.  Shooting these meetings is fast and a bit unrewarding as the press is allowed in at the top of the meeting for a quick handshake photo-op and out the door we go.

Bi-Lateral meetings with Australia, China, Japan and Vietnam

From the final meeting with the president of Japan we traveled to Shangri-la, the mansion built by Doris Duke to house and preserve her Islamic Art Collection.  A dinner reception was being held for trade ministers from APEC economies.

Secretary Clinton receives a private tour of the art collection at Shangri-la

The next day we got to work early and spent the day in meetings, in a press conference, at the CEO Summit and finally back at Shangri-la for another dinner, this time with The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo.  The dinner was prepared by Iron Chef Morimoto.

The Foreign Ministers Breakfast at The hawaii Convention Center

Secretary Clinton at The CEO Summit

Back at Shangri-la with Iron Chef Morimoto and The Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo

The final day in my 3 day assignment with Secretary Clinton was a long and slow one spent primarily waiting around the hotel for my photo-op.  Only 4 meetings were held and that means I had a total of less than ten minutes of actual photography work in a day that began at 8:00 and ended at 6:00.  It was all worth it though, with a priceless moment during the last meeting with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.  The sun was setting so the shot was at least a bit interesting when out of nowhere comes a man running, presumably on his way to the luau complete with torch.  The security was nowhere to be seen.

A Day With The White House Press Pool

4 a.m wake up

5 a.m arrive at Hawaii Convention Center for security sweep

6 a.m secret service and dogs check all camera bags

7 a.m load buses to JW Marriott

8 a.m arrive JW Marriott

9 a.m move to first photo location APEC Leaders’ Meeting

10:30 photo spray at top of meeting

President Obama greets world leaders at APEC Leaders’ Meeting

11 a.m return to press hold to edit and upload images

1 p.m press pool moves to second photo location

2:30 p.m Leaders arrive for group photo

APEC Leaders gather for “Family Photo”

2:45 p.m return to press hold to edit and upload images

4:00 p.m move to third photo location for concluding press conference

5:00 p.m President Obama arrives for press conference

President Obama arrives for press conference

6:00 p.m setting sun frames President Obama as he concludes his press conference

President Obama concludes his press conference

6:30 p.m return to press hold to pack up gear

7:00 p.m board buses back to Honolulu

8:00 p.m arrive International Media Center at Hawaii Convention Center to edit and upload images

9:30 p.m quick dinner

11:00 bedtime

This was the final day of APEC Leaders’ Week in Hawaii and it was a long and exhausting experience, but one that I will not soon forget.

Landing the big one

As a young photographer, just out of college and idealistic enough to believe that my love of music was enough to have a career as a music photographer, I loved to look at books by established photographers.  The first book I remember spending a lot of time with was “Photo Diary” by Lynn Goldsmith.  This chronicle of her adventures with musicians on various shoots from the mid-seventies to the late eighties hooked me and I loved it.  The stories are insightful and allowed me a glimpse into a world I only dreamed about.  One story that has stuck with me over the years involves Bob Dylan and an assignment that she received in 1976.  Lynn tells the story better than I do so I will use her words here,

“But I never really experienced what it meant to be a professional photographer until I got a call late one night in 1976 to come down to Secret Studio to photograph Bob Dylan and Bette Midler.  I grabbed my cameras and hopped in a cab.  I was so excited I started talking to myself, saying over and over, ‘I’m going to shoot Dylan, Bob Dylan!’  The driver heard me and pulled over.  He told me to get out of his cab, he didn’t want to drive ‘no assassins’.

Many photographers use this term ‘shoot’ to describe the act of making pictures but in today’s world it is best to change the verb under certain circumstances.  This morning I received a similar call and an assignment that makes me very excited.  When I step into the cab and head to the airport on Sunday I will only say, “I am off to Hawaii to photograph the President of the United States, Barack Obama.”

For more information or images visit

Putting my Political Science Degree to Work

When I received the call from The State Department this past summer regarding APEC 2011, an economic summit being held in San Francisco in September I did not know what to expect.  As a photographer my name gets passed around and I am often asked to submit proposals for a variety of projects.  This one however was different than anything I had done before, but I felt like it was the right job for me.  As a college freshman at Tulane University I signed up as a Political Science major.  I always enjoyed politics and had no idea what else I should study so I went with it.  Once in New Orleans my focus quickly shifted outside of the classroom and I began to explore and study the city I was living in.  Eventually I took a photography class and the rest as they say is history.  My love for music and deep respect for the traditions of New Orleans led me to jazz and for the past 15 years I have been shooting this truly American art form.  Jazz photography has been the thread that keeps me tethered to my passion and while I shoot a wide range of subject matter it is jazz that I always come back to.

When I received word that Scott Chernis Photography had been chosen as the APEC 2011 official photographer I knew it was going to be a great project to work on.  I have come full circle and one week in with one week to go, the APEC 2011 Senior Officials Meeting in San Francisco has been an experience like no other.  From the opening remarks by California Governor Jerry Brown to the two days of meetings chaired by Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood I have been immersed in the functions of international politics like never before in my life.  I sat in on Bilateral meetings with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and have created countless images of foreign dignitaries from around the Asian Pacific Region.  The week culminated with an address by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton at the Women and The Economy Summit, which is being held in conjunction with APEC2011.

The days have been long and the pace has been fast, but the experience has been amazing and I am looking forward to shooting at this level again in the future.  It has been inspiring to see so many committed, bright, hard working people come together to pull off an event of this magnitude.  Week two began today.

To see more work from Scott Chernis visit

SF Outside Lands has arrived

In four short years Outside Lands, the music festival in Golden Gate Park has established itself as the premier summer music festival in California, perhaps even the country.  This eclectic mix of music, food, art and human personalities has found its groove and should be a part of the San Francisco scene for many years to come. Following is  small sample of photos shot by Scott Chernis on Saturday from the three day music festival.

The food truck forest

Outside Lands

Christina Perri

Old 97’s

Only in San Francisco A cello playing Wizard in the forest

The Roots

Twin Peaks Stage

Warren Haynes Band

Outside Lands sunset

Muse plays for 60,000+

Golden Gate Bridge

This may or may not be true, but I believe the Golden Gate Bridge is the most photographed landmark in the world.  When this is the case how are we to find one more interesting angle to shoot.  With the 75th anniversary of this incredible structure being celebrated all year; cameras are sure to be snapping.  Many years ago when I was younger and blessed with much less common sense I walked into the Waldo Tunnel to shoot the bridge framed by arch of the tunnel.  This was dangerous and stupid and the police quickly lectured me on that fact, I also received a $50.00 ticket.  I recently shot a portrait of an SFTravel Association executive with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop and we made a nice image with an interesting perspective of the bridge.  Regardless of the over saturation of Golden Bridge imagery I find it hard not to shoot this bridge.  The light is always changing, the fog is a constant factor and the view is breathtaking.  This year I will honor the bridge by trying to photograph all her beauty and find something different to look at.

For more work check out

24 hours in the life of photographer Scott Chernis

Everyday in the life of a freelance anything is a bit different than the one before or after it.  Photography is one of those jobs that does not follow a steady rhythm, at least not my line of work.  Take a recent 24 hour period as an example that most likely will be repeated in the future with a completely different rhythm and result.  Drinking scotch and shooting out the window with renowned photojournalist Rick Friedman at the Starlight Room on the top floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in downtown San Francisco is a good way to start any evening. From there I walked three blocks to the Hotel Nikko where I was to meet Kim Nalley who has taken up a five week residency at the Rrazz Room playing a 5 night a week tribute to Nina Simone. She requested me to come by and shoot the band. After a stellar set of music I met up with her guitarist Greg Skaff in from New York to play the gig who also needed some updated photography for himself. Around 11:00 we were atop the Ellis/O’Farrell garage setting up for a portrait. The lights of the Palomar Hotel framed the back drop as the city wound down another day and I finally headed home for a short rest. Thursday morning had me scrambling about on five hours of sleep to get the kids to camp, and my equipment packed for a three shoot day. Intersection for the Arts recently opened their latest gallery installation “Sweet Beans and Rice: Investigating a Chino-Latino Future”. As I have been doing for years I was hired to document the gallery. These shoots are some of my favorite moments when I get to spend a couple of hours alone in a gallery with incredible art and make pictures. Upon completion of shoot number one I headed across town to another rooftop, this time in Chinatown, where I was to meet a new client, with a new business and a need for headshots. Setting up lights in the Stockton tunnel and creating a striking portrait was a challenge and an experience. I had no idea so many people walked through that tunnel and the sidewalk is quite narrow. With the sun going down on another San francisco day I had just enough time to eat a bit of dinner with the family before heading south to the campus of Stanford University and the Stanford Jazz Workshop. In it’s 40th year the SJW puts on 30+ shows and holds three separate weeks of Jazz Camp each summer on the Stanford University Campus. This night was legendary Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist Milton Nacimento and I was shooting for the festival as I have done for the past eleven years. A great performance and a perfect end to a busy 24 hours in the life of Scott Chernis Photography.