That One Time My Uncle Went to Baghdad to Rescue Japanese Hostages by Tim Putnam

Japanese Beatles in Baghdad, Mike Morgan

Japanese Beatles in Baghdad, Mike Morgan

Before the first Gulf War, when tensions were rising in Iraq, my uncle, photographer Mike Morgan, received a call from a friend who asked him, "Where is the last place in the world you would want to be right now?"

He answered, "Baghdad".

"Wanna go?"

That was the beginning of an unbelievable journey in which he would realize he was in way over his head in a mission to rescue Japanese hostages in Iraq. Posing as a Japanese olympic basketball team, the group attended the International Sports and Music Festival in a secret attempt to negotiate the release of the hostages. 

The story was featured on The Story many years ago, and you can listen to the interview below. For more stories and photos from the event, be sure to check out Mike's blog.

Making "Coastline, Vic" by Tim Putnam

Coastline, Vic, Iceland

Nerd alert: ISO 100, 200mm lens, f9, 6 seconds

We took Route 1, or the Ring Road, through the south of Iceland. On a whim, we took a detour prior to Vic, and found Dyrhólaey Arch. The name translates to "the hill island with the door hole".

Approaching Vic

It's an insanely huge landscape. The lighthouse sits on top of an enormous cliff. We drove up to the top. The views were insane.

Lighthouse at Dyrhólaey Arch
Dyrhólaey Arch

I took this pano with my iphone at the cliff in front of the lighthouse. The cliffs drop off quite suddenly. To give you an idea of the scale, here is a closeup:

Dyrhólaey Arch perspective

The landscape in Iceland is just like the weather - completely unpredictable. One moment you're driving through volcanic landscape that happened 500 years ago,

Iceland volcanic landscape

the next, you're crossing a mountain shrouded in cloud.

mountain cloud

I took the shot below from the same location, just looking in the other direction.

Atlantic Ocean, Vic, Iceland.  Nerd alert: ISO 100, 170mm, f8, 1/800 sec

Atlantic Ocean, Vic, Iceland. 

Nerd alert: ISO 100, 170mm, f8, 1/800 sec

Photo courtesy of Paul Sanders

Photo courtesy of Paul Sanders

Paul Sanders, one of my favorite photographers for his work with long exposures, has a shot taken at the same area. Paul was kind enough to allow me to use his image here. He is a master at creating extremely long exposures that transform reality into otherworldly dreamscapes. Seriously, check him out.



Making "Sunset in Tennessee" by Tim Putnam

Sunset in Tennessee

Some sunsets are different than others.  Cumulus clouds at sunset/the golden hour are something to pause and revere. This is taken less than a mile from my house, but it's one of those moments that is a complete inconvenience. My family was ready to be home, but I saw this view and had to stop. They graced me with ten minutes to shoot this, and in that time I was able to get some really interesting things to work for me.

Here is the in-camera original:

Sunset in Tennessee, in-camera

Sunset in Tennessee, in-camera

The interest in this photograph, to me, is the blur that runs through the middle. You may not even notice it. This was taken between me, a barbed wire fence, and the clouds. 

Nerd alert: ISO 100, 180mm lens, f4, 1/640 sec.

The f4 aperture completely blurs the fence line, but it's still visible in the photo, giving character in addition to the ominous clouds. I added a little dodging and burning, as well as a texture to give the image more character.

I only took seven shots of this scene to ensure my family wouldn't murder me. A few were portrait shots, but ultimately the landscape made more sense. 

Sunset in Tennessee, in-camera, vertical

Sunset in Tennessee, in-camera, vertical

Slight color correction, a little dodging and burning, and the final was pretty easy.


Making "Beach Fog" by Tim Putnam

Beach Fog, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

In March of 2015 I went to Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, on the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of many beaches on highway 30A which stretches between Destin and Panama City. The weather had been sunny all week, and even though it was March, it was still warm enough to get in the water. 

Then something curious happened. On the last day of the trip a fog rolled in. It was so thick it created a natural gaussian blur in front of you, and the consistency was like nothing I've ever seen. There were patches of fog like floating cotton balls, broken apart from each other, drifting in the wind. 

Santa Rosa Beach, FL when the fog rolled in.

Santa Rosa Beach, FL when the fog rolled in.

Fog creates these lonely moments in time that are just gorgeous in their melancholy. Visually, fog obscures, but only partially. To me, it is a parallel to insecurity and loneliness, but also quiet confidence. 

I've not been around fog on the beach, so naturally, I had to check it out. It was perfect. There was no one there, but the umbrellas and chairs were set up. It was apocalyptic...a scene from The Walking Dead. 

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

I only had my iPhone and a Canon T2i (because I'm a rebel), and I began looking for a composition that would illustrate what it felt like to be there. Some of the shots where the umbrellas and chairs fade into the fog were close, but they felt more journalistic than emotional. I climbed to the top of the hill behind the beach and looked straight on at the beachfront. This was the perspective I wanted. I captured a few shots.

Nerd alert: ISO 100, 50mm lens, f8, 1/640 sec.

This was the one I used (straight outta camera):

Beach Fog, Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, In Camera - Tim Putnam

I cropped the bottom and remvoved the guy in the right side of my shot. There is a pocket of sand behind the left umbrella, so I took care of that, too. Other than that, there was some minor color adjustment, contrast, vignette, dodging and burning. 

My friend David Maxwell used to assist for Jack Spencer. David took me to Jack's studio and showed me some of his techniques - this is before digital photography reached puberty...mid 1990s. Jack was shooting film and developing everything himself. My uncle is a photographer, so is my dad, and we used to have a dark room in our basement growing up, but David exposed me to Jack's technique of dodging and burning, and overall photo manipulation to create emotion in his photos. There was so much literal touch in his photos; it was so personal. I love that.

In my own work I'm trying to figure out how to achieve that touch to make even digital photography into original artwork...making every print different. I'm experimenting with painting techniques on top of the photos, as well as variations in signing prints with my fingerprint. There is something so special to me about one-of-a-kind artwork. 

Here are a few other variations I tried before landing on the final image. 

Test file

Test file

My uncle said this yellow reminded him of prints that spent too much time in their chemical bath, so I nixed it. I like the version I ended up with because it feels much closer to the feeling of the actual event.

Test file B/W

Test file B/W

While I have some shots that are killer in black and white, this one didn't seem to translate. The blue umbrellas against the sand is a great color contrast, and the fog is much more visible in color.

So there you have it. God made beach fog and I made a photo. 

The @eliyoungband Crazy Girl EP is now the #1 album on iTunes Country charts and top 10 overall. Thank YOU!!! by Tim Putnam

Wow, what a way to start a Tuesday.

My song, "The Fight" which I wrote with Natalie Hemby was released on iTunes today as part of the Eli Young Band "Crazy Girl EP". This morning it is already the #1 album on the iTunes Country Chart and in the top 10 overall albums (in the amazing company of Adele and the Beastie Boys).

I just want to thank all the early adopters, friends, fans of Eli Young Band, and anyone else who happened upon the project. Thank you for listening. Thanks also to Natalie, Mike Wrucke, and Eli Young Band. I'm proud of this song, and I hope it resonates with you. 

Download the song here.


Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails and my favorite campaign of all time. by Tim Putnam

I thought I'd leave you with a quick post before I get outta here for a long weekend and share one of my favorite engagement campaigns of all-time. It plays host to mystery, puzzles, games, themes, music, more mystery, and one amazing surprise at the end. I give all the credit to the author, Frank Rose, for detailing such an inspiring endeavor by none other than Nine Inch Nails.  Rather than gank their story, here is a direct link to how mysteries unfold over at

See you on the flip side.