Elbee Studio offers editorial portrait, travel, architectural, product and food photography, plus writing & design services for clients in Cleveland, Ohio and beyond.


Oranges: Segments of the Imagination

orange segments on a cutting board It has been said Father Clement, an Algerian monk, was the first to discover the Clementine mandarin. Biting into the fruit is heavenly.

Whatever its origins, the clementine mandarin first came to the United States in the early 20th century. And today I picked up some at the local grocer. This California-grown citrus is available in stores from November to January.

It’s like tasting a little bit of summer.

May your days be merry and bright

Picasso painting with light.

The most important ingredient in photography is light. In digital photography, an image is produced when light passes through the lens and hits a sensor made up with millions of light-sensitive photosites called pixels. Light painting is a photographic technique in which images are painted onto the sensor with a hand-held light source or by moving the camera. It’s not a new technique; in fact it dates back to the early 20th century. In 1949, Pablo Picasso learned about the technique and began creating one-of-a-kind paintings in the air with a small flashlight in a dark room. The series became known as his “Light Drawings.”

Another technique is camera painting, which is represented in my new “Glow Series.” With the camera as my paintbrush and neon bulbs as my color palette, I created a collection of abstract images with vivid color and kinetic energy.

The Glow Series by Laura Watilo Blake is now available for purchase. See all 17 images here.


Glow Series: "Infinity" by Laura Watilo Blake

a Glow of lights

Glow Series: "Hearts" by Laura Watilo Blake

Glow Series: "Meteor" by Laura Watilo Blake

Elbee Studio founder honored

Laura Watilo Blake has won seven awards in the 2012 Society of American Travel Writers’ Central States Writing and Photography Contest, including the highest writing honor given to an active member of the chapter each year. The prize, known as the Henry & Vera Bradshaw Memorial Award, is selected from a pool of First Place winners in all writing categories. The story “Uncommon Cottages,” written for Lake Erie Living’s April/May 2011 issue, took this year’s top spot after winning first place for Best Self-Illustrated Travel Article.

Hank and Vera were among the founders of SATW. Hank served as president in 1976, and served the organization for 26 years in numerous capacities. He held offices of treasurer and chair for Central States Chapter. During their 48 years of marriage, he and Vera traveled the world, writing for many travel magazines. Vera continued to contribute to the Copley News Service until the time of her death.

Free Fall Cover Page from Lake Erie Living magazineThe complete list of 2012 wins include:

1ST PLACE, Best Self-Illustrated Travel Article
“Uncommon Cottages”
Lake Erie Living
Read the full story here.

3RD PLACE, Best Travel How-To/Consumer Reporting Article
“Free Fall”
Lake Erie Living
Read the full story here.

Honorable Mention, Best Travel Website or Blog
“Off to the Races”
Far-Flung Travels
Read the full story here.

2ND PLACE, Places & Scenery featuring International Destinations
“Dead Sea Sunset”

THIRD PLACE, Animals or Wildlife
“Long Shadow”
Ghost crab in the early morning light

2ND PLACE, Food Reflecting Local Cultures
“Making Matoke”
scenes in a Ugandan kitchen

Blake was the 2011 PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR in last year’s SATW contest.

McIntosh is the music to a musician’s ear

Celebrities and rock stars descended upon Cleveland, Ohio, on Saturday, April 14, 2012, for the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Many events took place in the days leading up to the big show, including the opening of the Hall of Fame’s new “Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip” exhibition, sponsored by McIntosh Laboratory, the global leader in prestigious audio for over 60 years.

McIntosh was also on hand on Saturday night to present each of the 2012 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performing inductees with a gift of one of its acclaimed MANHATTAN Collection (MXA60) tabletop music systems.

“This year’s roster of inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame includes performers and songwriters who have truly changed the course of modern music,” says McIntosh President Charlie Randall. “They have all presented the world with a legacy of work that will live on and continue to inspire generations of musicians and fans for years to come. As a company with deep roots in American music history, McIntosh is proud to recognize their achievements with the gift of a McIntosh music system – one that we hope they will enjoy for years to come as well!”

This year’s inductees into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame include: Guns N’ Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Donovan, Laura Nyro, The Small Faces/Faces, Beastie Boys, The Crickets, The Famous Flames, The Midnighters, The Comets, The Blue Caps, and The Miracles, as well as other influential music inductees including Freddie King, Don Kirshner, Cosimo Matassa, Tom Dowd, and Glyn Johns.

Clockwise from left: Steven Adler, former drummer for Guns N’ Roses; Slash of Guns N’ Roses; Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and drummer Chad Smith; Mike D (Michael Diamond) and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz) of the Beastie Boys; Questlove of The Roots; and Travie McCoy.

These performers all stopped by McIntosh’s Gifting Suite during the 27th Annual Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. McIntosh, which sponsored the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s new Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip exhibition, presented each of this year’s performing inductees with a gift of one of it’s acclaimed MANHATTAN Collection (MXA60) tabletop music systems.
Photos by Laura Watilo Blake / McIntosh / Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Grateful Dead exhibit amps up

McIntosh Laboratory, the global leader in prestigious audio for over 60 years, is proud to announce its sponsorship of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip exhibition.” The exhibit opened on April 12, 2012, as a part of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Induction Week.

McIntosh has played an integral role in the quality of sound reproduction demanded by the Grateful Dead practically since the band’s founding. It was in early 1969 that McIntosh engineers began creating the sound system that would be used at Woodstock. The Grateful Dead played on day two of that iconic festival, relying on McIntosh’s powerful amplifiers to project their music a full quarter of a mile away so everyone in the audience could hear. Renowned for their intense dedication to their fans, the Grateful Dead always did everything in their power to provide the very best possible sound at every concert.

In 1974, the Grateful Dead unveiled what they fondly called their “Wall of Sound” – a mega stage system that utilized 48 MC2300 amplifiers to provide 28,800 watts of McIntosh amplifier power. The Wall delivered a musical experience that wasn’t just loud enough to be heard in the back row, but also clear and distortion-free – so everyone could hear the lyrics and relish all the psychedelic notes! As the band evolved, so too did the Wall. The completed wall was powered by 48 McIntosh MC2300s and two McIntosh MC350 mono tube amplifiers for a total of 29,500 watts!

McIntosh President Charlie Randall noted: “McIntosh is deeply rooted in American music history, and a huge part of that history is the Grateful Dead. Like the members of the band, our brand has always recognized the importance of sound quality. We are proud not only to sponsor this exhibition, but also to have played a part in the band’s history. It’s an even bigger honor to have McIntosh artifacts included in the exhibit. From the sound system at Woodstock to the ‘Wall of Sound’ created especially for the Grateful Dead, McIntosh was at the very heart of an audio revolution that literally changed the way musicians played live concerts – and the way audiences enjoy them.”

The Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip exhibit will include three McIntosh MC2300 amplifiers from the band’s personal collection, finished and working manuscripts for classic songs, an unprecedented collection of original album cover artwork, as well as numerous instruments used by the Dead over the years. Additionally, McIntosh is providing the museum with its world-class McIntosh’s SOHO Collection to showcase the premium craftsmanship and aesthetic that the brand is known for.

Even though the Grateful Dead formally disbanded in 1995, the band lives on as one of rock and roll’s brightest lights and most profound influences. Handcrafting its gear in upstate Binghamton, NY, McIntosh is proud to continue its own legacy as a world renowned American audio company and continues to be the gear of choice for music legends of the past and present.

Former Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, with McIntosh President Charlie Randall at the exclusive McIntosh reception on April 11, 2012, at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s “Grateful Dead: The Long, Strange Trip” exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo courtesy: Laura Blake/McIntosh

Photographer Dave Anderson coming to Cleveland

After Hurricane Katrina, Arkansas-based photographer Dave Anderson spent three years repeatedly photographing a single neighborhood block in the Lower Ninth Ward. The resulting images were described by the New York Times as “stunning, rich portraits of people who have been through so much.”

As part of its FilmFeast series, the Cleveland International Film Festival will be hosting an evening with the multi-talented photographer on January 14, 2012. His work as both a photographer and filmmaker has been celebrated in the United States and abroad and the New Yorker has called his work “as clear eyed-and unsentimental as it is soulful and sympathetic.”

The CIFF event, which takes place at Merrymeeting Group headquarters in Independence, will include a showing of Anderson’s photographs, including some from his 2010 monograph “One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds.” Afterward, he will discuss his creative process.

Saturday, January 14, 2012 / 7:00 p.m.
$50 per guest / limit 50 guests
Hosts: John and Allyn Davies

For a full listing of events or to purchase tickets, please visit www.clevelandfilm.org or call Debby Samples at 216.623.3456 x14.

Nothing is “picture perfect”

by Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz
(Translation by Samuel Beckett)

This coloured counterfeit that thou beholdest,
vainglorious with excellencies of art,
is, in fallacious syllogisms of colour,
nought but a cunning dupery of sense;

this in which flattery has undertaken
to extenuate the hideousness of years,
and, vanquishing the outrages of time,
to triumph o’er oblivion and old age,

is an empty artifice of care,
is a fragile flower in the wind,
is a paltry sanctuary from fate,

is a foolish sorry labour lost,
is conquest doomed to perish and, well taken,
is corpse and dust, shadow and nothingness.


Since when did the sight of a photographer inspire angst greater than going to the dentist for a root canal?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I hate having my picture taken.” It’s common to dread seeing oneself in a photograph. Most of the time, the camera tells the truth about how we look as the years pass. Photoshop may be able to remove the wrinkles, but we are still faced with our eventual mortality.

After taking a series of headshots for a Cleveland company this month — and hearing “I hate having my picture taken” many times that day — I was reminded of a poem by a 17th-century Mexican poet named Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. Photography didn’t exist in her day, but portraiture was a common practice. And just as we use Photoshop to take away a few years or a few pounds, an artist would use a paint brush to hide the march of time from his or her subjects.

And yet, as Sor Juana suggests, the final product is a counterfeit; the modifications are a slap in the face. When we see ourselves in those circumstances, perhaps we are reminded of a standard of beauty that we can’t live up to. We will never again be 16 or 17 (the average age of a model on the pages of a beauty magazine) and we will get wrinkles. Why can’t we accept that?

Photo of Taylor Swift for CoverGirlIn recent years, U.S. and international advertising regulators have been moving toward banning the use of Photoshop in advertising when it is misleading to consumers. Just last week, Proctor & Gamble agreed to stop running an ad for its CoverGirl mascara because the images were “enhanced in post-production” to make eyelashes look thicker than in real life.

It’s time to stop believing the hype so we can reconnect with our natural beauty, which comes from our personality, character, confidence, intellect, passion, kindness, poise and soul. Next time you step in front of camera, think of something that makes you happy or something that makes you beam with pride. Another photographer I work with, Janet Macoska, will ask subjects about their favorite pet or their children.

You’ll be surprised at how this exercise can transform a mere snapshot into a beautiful portrait of a unique individual — no Photoshop required.

Lake Erie’s top summer sand spot

The first time I discovered Port Stanley’s Main Beach for myself a few years ago, I could have sworn I’d been transported somewhere in the Caribbean. By day, the beach is packed with sun worshippers playing volleyball or lying on the sand. By night, live music wafts from the back deck of GT’s Beach Bar & Grill, which literally sits atop the sand. The beach’s distinctive energy makes it one of the finest spots on Ontario’s Lake Erie coastline.