Fresh Greens 2

Art Gallery Website Design

Celestart - Artist Representative

'Afternoon Sun' by Simon Kenevan

When the Celestart web design project first began, my client wanted a comprehensive framework to expand his artist's portfolio of work. When we viewed other online galleries we were surprised at the number of outstanding and prolific artists displaying their works on such low-standing website platforms. Equally as poor, were the images attempting to represent their work. Not only were the vast majority of these images poorly lit, most likely taken with a camera utilizing an on-camera flash, but the screen resolution was reduced to a size only qualified for hand-held mobile device resolutions. We thought, how can a patron be expected to become immersed into an original piece of art with a thumbnail image without even offering a slightly larger java script enabled light-box as an alternative?

To launch, we showcased renowned artist Simon Kenevan and his impressive body of work. Now, I've always said that great website designs require one measure of technical (the HTML and CSS code etc.), one measure of content (original written copy) and one measure of quality imagery; with that in mind, now's the time for a Vesper Martini. Beginning with the code, we wanted to create a clean, expansive and minimalist design that would be void of the proverbial multi-column side bars loaded with links & advertising, patterned backgrounds, excessive css (cascading style sheet) drop shadows and the rest of the usual suspects that most websites fall victim to - the site needed to be center-focused on the art. For the written copy, we followed suit and asked Simon Kenevan to contribute some meaningful words that captured the moment and vision prior to creating selections from his collection. Lastly, for the images, I insisted that high-resolution files would be the only source to master from. I specially choose just the right compression percentage and pixel dimension to maximize visual quality being sensitive to bandwidth download speeds.

In addition to website design and commercial photography, I've always been passionate about desert landscape photography. Since the nearest true body of water is a long way off from my existence in the Mojave Desert, it's always nice to see other artists who capture the desert's counterpart. To great surprise I was taken back when I first viewed Simon Kenevan's high-res image files - the soft palate of colors were perfectly saturated with a layer of slight embellishment. Most photographs render colors and object's edges with some exaggeration. Here's where I was off-keel ...I wasn't viewing a photograph, I was studying an original oil on canvas [above] by Simon Kenevan. Since the launch of, I've had fun asking friends their thoughts on Simon Kenevan's images, all the while not telling them what they are looking at. The results are always the same ...truly stunning and accomplished work.

- Chris Wessling -

Mammoth Lakes Architectural Resort Photographer & Website Design

80|50 Mammoth Lakes, CA - A Look Inside Luxury

No, it’s not the address, but the elevation the property sits at; EIGHT THOUSAND & FIFTY FEET above sea level. 80|50 Mammoth is Mammoth Lakes' newest Luxury Ski-In Ski-Out private residence club located in the heart of Mammoth Lakes Village. What differentiates this property from all other ski-in ski-out condos in Mammoth Village is their 5 star luxury condo appointments including 24/7 concierge & guest services, proprietary SUV town cars, valet service, private underground wine vaults, in-room private chef dining, full-time housekeeping …everything a world-class resort would offer, but it’s not a rental, it's yours!

Unquestionably one of my favorite places to say “I have to go to work today”, 80|50 Mammoth is certainly a rewarding project for me and I could not be happier to have them as my client. Over the past year, I’ve been involved in their marketing program specifically relating to 80|50’s website and applied search engine optimization. I spent the week with the sales and operation team reviewing the metrics and strategizing 80|50’s place in the market. In addition, I photographed a number of areas within the property to update the website. Perhaps one of the more stunning rooms photographed was the Owner’s Lounge, located on the rooftop boasting an absolutely majestic panoramic view of the surrounding snow covered Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Windows to the outside world are the bane of any photographer’s existence - the thorn in our side. There are a number of challenges working with windows including interior lights reflecting off the glass back at the camera, a high dynamic range of light exposure between the interior & exterior and color temperature (Kelvin temp.) between interior tungsten lighting & the daylight/twilight balance outside. Remember, the human brain and the eyes have the ability to factor all these variables instantly with a brilliant algorithm supplied by Mother Nature. Digital cameras are not self-intuitive (yet). All professional cameras have the option for manual or auto white balancing (tungsten vs. daylight), but how do you address this situation when you have mixed lighting temperatures, as in the image above?

I’m a strong advocate of truth in advertising, so it was my goal to accurately capture the true nature and beauty of this room as one would see it, if in person. My original plan was to simply open the accordion glass doors to the extending outside patio (eliminating the interior light reflections), but that option was quickly scrubbed as the leading edge of a Pacific storm approaching brought 40 mph sustained winds, gusting to 85 -- standing in a wheelhouse, on the upper deck of ship during a hurricane, with all the windows open would have been a mistake. Instead, I took the more tedious and time consuming approach of taking a series of images, while securely ratcheted into the tripod over the course of several hours to capture all the varying light exposures outside. The more challenging part was figuring out how to turn off all the interior lights. What you don’t see behind the camera, in the picture above, are two extending hallways, a full service bar, the elevator foyer, private spa rooms and a well-equipped wellness center …all with dazzling ceiling lights to annoy me. So you tell yourself, “turn ‘em all off”. Not so easy since the common areas do not have light switches on the walls for the kids to play with. With some help from the engineering department, we were able to locate the breaker panel and identify which circuits we wanted off. For the egress lights, which by building code are all roped together via a special breaker panel and must remain on at all times, I had to mask each one off with black studio foil and gaffer tape to silence them.

For added lighting, I positioned a total of 6 radio-controlled strobes - three inside with 1/2 CTO and 3 outside (out of frame) with 1/4 CTO to accurately reproduce the mood and provide image depth. I originally wanted to affix the outside strobes with my parabolic modifiers to provide some even edge lighting, but the wind had a little sumpin’ to say in that. I was forced go bare bulb with two 25 pound sand bags securing each of the century stands.

One may say why not simply perform many of these tasks in post edit? Well you could, but then you'd be crossing over into the embellishment zone, which I’d prefer to never venture into. Call me a traditionalist, but although I’ve gone all-digital for my commercial work, my integrity insists on adhering to as much in-camera work whenever possible.

- Chris Wessling -

Ownership at 80|50 Mammoth starts at $79,000 ...incredible!

Downtown Las Vegas Food Photographer

Carson Kitchen, Las Vegas, NV - Winter Menu

Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen, located in downtown Las Vegas, is one swanky-cool hangout. In a metropolis where billion dollar casinos, with their financial resources, have ruled the culinary landscape utilizing their "celebrity chef" collections, Kerry Simon and friends have ventured into the abyss of forgotten Las Vegas, to reinvent themselves and give great reason to explore the redevelopment of the East Fremont District of Downtown Las Vegas.

In 2014, the John E. Carson Hotel, yes you read that name correctly, located at the corner of Carson and 6th Street, in Downtown Las Vegas, was re-purposed into a multi-tenant commercial enclave. Hey Manhattan and Santa Monica, there’s a new place to “live-work”! Gone are the forlorn one-night-stay (if at that) hotel rooms, in are today’s digital media artist in their creative dens. The bottom floor of this former two-story mid-century hotel is now home to a Pilates studio, a boutique florist shop and several culinary offerings including Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen.

Like a fall fashion shoot, I set up shop for the day at Carson Kitchen to photograph Executive Chef Matt Andrew’s newest food creations for the forthcoming winter menu. Food photography is no different than photographing people; some take good direction from you, some have good & bad sides and some, well - keep your day job. Chef Matt Andrew’s creations not only behaved on-camera during the food photography shoot, they behaved equally as well after the shoot …in our mouths. Food never goes to waste on a food photography project. I often tell people that I enjoy photographing simpler foods that need no explanation, or accompanying item description, as great food should speak for itself. Take for example Carson Kitchen’s Pork Belly Carbonara with crispy egg yolk and Parmesan [pictured] – here’s a perfect example of a classic comfort dish that needs no introduction. The flavors and presentation of this now classic Carson Kitchen entree exceed any previous version you’ve ever indulged in ...and I do mean EVER! Now let's get into the Chili Cheese Dog Flat Bread. Seriously? Yes, it rules! Did I mention the Veal Meatballs with sherry foie gras cream and the “secret” Baked Mac & Cheese? Sure I mentioned it, in the last sentence …trust me and order both without a second thought. We photographed a number of cocktails too including “The Towns End” [pictured] with Slow & Low Whiskey, Fernet Vittone, Amaro del Sole, Regan’s #6 and Angostura Bitters. Sadly we didn’t indulge after taking their yearbook photos, as far as anyone knows.

Quietly, with great passion and diligence, Carson Kitchen has earned its place in the top ranks of Las Vegas’ local culinary scene. Carson Kitchen is not about over the top haute cuisine rather it focuses on serving fantastic traditional dishes, immersed in an atmosphere of urban elegance at comforting prices. In 2014 Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen was recognized by Gayot as one of the "10 Best American Restaurants in Las Vegas", Vegas Seven magazine gave them "Best New Casual Restaurant" honors, in addition to Kerry's "Lifetime Achievement Award" and Eater Vegas nominated Carson Kitchen for "Best New Restaurant in Las Vegas".

Carson Kitchen is not “one to watch” (what a tired cliché), it’s simply one to experience in your finest vintage t-shirt while your Chucks squeak on the barstool foot rail. Dining tables are typically filled, but in harmony with the proverbial John E. Carson flickering “Vacancy/No Vacancy” sign hanging on the hotel’s façade, Carson Kitchen’s loyal patrons arrive and depart frequently …there’s a payoff to the table wait.

- Chris Wessling -

Keep Calm and Kerry On

Las Vegas Food Photographer

The Chandelier Menu - The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas

Group sales departments of most major hotels rarely have the proper tools for selling private dining events in their various outlets and hospitality guest suites. Typically, sales associates follow the age-old protocol of emailing potential clients the proverbial large file Word or PDF attachments. If they're lucky, the documents will have the most current information and if they're really, really lucky, appealing food images to compliment!

In addition to the obvious challenges in keeping the catering menu updated on the hotel's shared server drive, menu items are constantly being updated due to availability of seasonal ingredients. The other challenge is providing the group sales team with a tasting for every new menu item, so they can disseminate their knowledge and likings to the potential client. Often, destination management companies are reluctant to make selections, on behalf of their client, not knowing what the selections look or taste like. Although there's no current method to digitally encode taste and smell over the internet (I'm working on it), the Visual Online Menu Gallery is the next best thing.

For The Chandelier at The Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas, we created a Visual Online Image Portal for the group sales department to work with. No longer is the need to email bloated documents via email attachment when a visual online menu gallery of high-res images can be viewed with a simple and intuitive copy & paste web-link. No more lengthy conversation with the client as to what the food menu items look like or how they are presented. With the current digital imaging and custom web-portal platforms available, there's no reason to stick with those tired traditional ways. Imagine a resort's entire room service menu available visually online, without the order takers having to describe each item, as inevitably they do ...let the portal sell the product, relieving the staff to tackle other pressing needs.

- Chris Wessling -

Las Vegas Hospitality Website Design
Beyond Hospitality

Beyond Hospitality asked me to reinvent their website, from its original design and update the structure utilizing HTML5 Responsive code. Tobias Mattstedt, Managing Director of Beyond Hospitality, had a specific vision that he wanted to see that would showcase the company’s portfolio of projects with sophistication and modern elegance just as the finished luxury resort properties themselves possess.

The original site was embedded with Java, which can be blocked by default in today’s browsers for security issues, so it was replaced with responsive CSS code and where needed java script for the transitioning images. Tobias leaned away from the proverbial hover-over-drop-down navigation menu and asked me to design and incorporate the various divisions of Beyond Hospitality using a specific color pallet with the Neutraface font. There are challenges with the Neutraface font because it’s not a web-safe font that browsers can handle, so images had to be created to circumvent that obstacle. In order to offset each link to make them appear randomly placed on a full screen computer monitor, they were designed in Adobe Illustrator as PNG transparent files and simply coded as background images in the div’s CSS with varying percentages of X & Y -/+ coordinates to create the random placement effect. To solve the responsive mobile device issue (aligning all of them for smaller smart-phone screens), separate commands were placed for the mobile CSS layout rule.

For the individual page headers, rather than simply designing these in Adobe Illustrator as click-able PNG image links, I choose to wrap each navigation division (implemented as text copy) with its own color attribute defined in the CSS, so that each one could then receive a header tag for search engine indexing. Additionally, a web-safe font similar to Neutraface was used.

As an independent restaurant operations consultant and digital media specialist, I’ve been involved on many projects with Beyond Hospitality. The tasks are always challenging, as they should be; creating unique hotel environments and true hospitality in the modern senses does not come easy, but collaborating with seasoned professionals provides awarding results.

- Chris Wessling -

Aerospace Website Design

FlightLine Films, Las Vegas, NV

The design and build of FlightLine Films' website was moreover a labor of love versus my other projects, due to my direct involvement with so many of their specialized and unique productions; I knew the scope of FlightLine Films’ work and the visual look they wanted to achieve for their online presence.

The redesign conversation started during the zenith of the Red Bull Stratos project. Since the project truly exemplified FlightLine Films' ability to deliver cost effective streaming of moving images live from space, it was important to share this visual narrative using a large number of high-resolution images. With Stratos filed under "mission accomplished", attention to the website began.

The existing website analytics scripts reported a higher than normal use of mobile devices accessing the domain’s server, so it was imperative to construct the ideal mobile responsive design to allow images to load quickly over a wireless network, resize and not suffer from pixel degradation (macro-blocking, pixelation, gradient banding, etc.).

As a rule of thumb, images should be normalized at 72 ppi (pixels per inch) for web use. However, every image is different. For example if most of your images have a skyline that graduates from dark to light (sky to horizon) the inevitable color banding issue will occur if excessive compression is applied. In simple English, color banding occurs when you take a high-res image file, which is too fat and lethargic to download quickly on the internet and run it through an image software program (Adobe Lightroom) which uses an algorithm to “dumb-down” the amount of pixels by compressing them. By compressing, we’re talking about eliminating the in-between pixels by sampling the values of the surrounding pixels and combining them into one, or striking as many as it takes to make the image smaller and download friendly. Too much compression creates that awful banding effect. When “Saving for Web” always choose a quality setting that allows the image to look its best and not necessarily the programs’ default output level. When raising the quality level produces no visible gains in image quality then retreat back to the threshold, or sweet spot that provides the lowest files size for web use. Not everyone is as persnickety as I am when it comes to image quality. Be sure to engage me on that topic, but first reserve a few hours of your day.

The resulting site is light on java script and mainly controlled through the use of clean structured CSS. The purposely designed “Zero-G” floating div arrangements over the background of planet Earth were simply enhanced using a CSS box-shadow code. In this example, the scrolling effect and box shadow provided just the right illusion and atmosphere (pun intended of course) to meet the definition of à propos, or to the purpose.

- Chris Wessling -

Box Shadow CSS Code:

#main_text {
box-shadow: 15px 15px 28px #000;

Background “cover” commands in the body attributes for Earth were applied allowing auto resizing within the various browsers and screen sizes:

body {
background-attachment: fixed;
background-image: url(images/bg/index_bg.jpg);
background-repeat: no-repeat;
background-position: center top;
background-size: cover;
-webkit-background-size: cover;
-moz-background-size: cover;
-o-background-size: cover;
background-color: #000;

Art Gallery Website Design

Renee Reeser: A Los Angeles Illustration Artist

This month, I had the unique opportunity to rework an extremely talented Los Angeles Illustrator's web site by the name of Renee Reeser. Renee was looking for a very image-out-front, now-today design that would showcase her diverse talent in illustration. What made this project so enjoyable was her vast portfolio of work and the wide spectrum of projects she has been involved with.

Knowing her clientele, who are always on the run, we wanted to develop a website that would be fully responsive, having the ability to resize and reconfigure its visual content on any mobile device and also present her illustration artwork in a intuitive user format.

The resulting web site is beautiful example of form and function, with her artwork providing the form and the HTML5 CSS3 web design providing seamless function. Check it out HERE.

- Chris Wessling -

Red Bull Stratos Behind The Scenes

Project Stratos: Redux

I picked up a copy of Al Reinert's remastered For All Mankind from The Criterion Collection this week. As a huge fan of anything space related , I was really impressed with the Datacine inter-positive release print transfer to the high-def Blu-ray format. Equally impressive was the supplemental material and all the archival still images available on the disc. However, this is not another review of that film, but it did give me some thought about revisiting my behind the scenes look at a huge project I was involved with last year: Project Stratos.

Beginning in July of 2011 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where we ran tests of our long range optical tracking equipment on the final Shuttle launch (STS 135, Shuttle Atlantis) and ending on October 14th 2012, deep in the New Mexico desert with Felix Baumgartner's historic world record space jump from the Stratosphere (127,851ft.), I had full access to the project, documenting every moment with my cameras. With thousands of images taken, I even have images of paint drying on the space flight components!

Red Bull Media's live YouTube broadcast of the event broke the internet live-streaming world record with over 8 million simultaneous viewers. In 2013, Red Bull Media and Flightline Films were honored with an Emmy Award for "Outstanding New Approaches Sports Event Coverage." Knowing Red Bull Media's commitment to delivering a first-rate broadcast and subsequent documentary film, I was really focused on capturing the unsung elements that might have gotten lost or overshadowed by the sensational moving images.

For the most part, the following gallery images are in relative chronological order. During the course of the project there were 5 successful launches: 2 Unmanned Balloon Flights (UMF1 & 2) and 3 Manned Ballooned Flights (MBF1,2 & 3). Each launch had its own specific mission, in proving itself during the critical path forward, for the final mission to succeed, much like the series of Apollo launches leading to the Moon landing. I've chosen 180 images that best tell the story from an alternate perspective, including the logistics of travel, remote location setup, elements of weather, venomous rattlesnakes & scorpions, magnificent sunrises, distant Jupiter and its moons, capsule components, telemetry, mission control and "Jumper away!" as captured by my Canon 5D mated to an Astro Tech Ritchey-Chrétien 10 inch optic.

From a human perspective, perhaps the most entertaining of these images are of Col. Joe Kittinger's insistence on getting his hands dirty and later, of Felix's reflective visor folding training.

First mentioned; Joe Kittinger is one Tough-as-Nails, No Nonsense retired United States Air Force Colonel. At the age of 84 his contribution to the project was invaluable. Not only as a technical advisor, but as a mentor to Felix. I would constantly see Joe, hustling around the launch facility performing one task after another. My thoughts were always "Can't someone help Joe out with that task?" Yes, there was plenty of help, but Joe wouldn't have it that way, he had to have his hands in the mix at all times. The images of Joe removing and carrying away the capsule's access panels are priceless. I have nothing but respect and high admiration for him. If you ever run into the Colonel, just thank him for his enlisted services - enough said. [Images 82 - 85]

Capsule Crew Chief, John Wells (Sage Cheshire Aerospace) teaches Felix how to strategically fold the reflective shield which he would use to "visor-out" the Sun's extreme light rays while on the long accent up to space. Now, we all have these types of collapsible devices in our automobiles, but this one was really huge and required a few practice attempts to accomplish the task; now factor in the pressure suit gloves. [Images 88 - 91]

Some final thoughts as I look back: Since 1947, there's been a debate as to whether or not a real live alien ever landed in a farmer's field outside of Roswell, New Mexico. Being that Felix Baumgartner is an Austrian national, I can definitively tell the world that an alien did in fact landed there; I saw it with my own eyes!

- Chris Wessling -

See the gallery images HERE.

Las Vegas Aerial Cinematographer

Red Bull Air Race Championship 2014

30 September

Gearing up for the Red Bull Air Race 2014 Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada, I joined the crew of FlightLine Films to capture some spectacular low altitude aerial maneuvering for the video promo. In addition my operation of the Red One high-speed cinema digital camera rolling at 120 frames per second, two other cameras captured the this amazing video footage; one from an alternate ground position and the other captured by Aerospace Cinematographer Jay Nemeth operating a helicopter mounted Gyron System camera mount. Check out the edited video below.

Red Bull Air Race Promo / Las Vegas Motor Speedway