March 26, 2014

Portrait photography

A

s a “people photographer,” I absolutely love it when I am asked to capture portraits for my coworkers to use when they are featured in magazines or when they make public appearances or presentations. This happens quite often, so I get to do this quite a lot.

But at the firm I work for, photographs must fit certain criteria in order to be brand-compliant. The look is supposed to be relaxed and natural, set in an office setting, and should not be lit by flash (at least the viewer should not be able to tell that flash was used).

I have found a very good location just a few yards from my desk. The glass wall looks out onto the Entrance to Rosslyn Park and the high-rise buildings that surround it. Yesterday we were experiencing a very active snowstorm while I took these pictures, so the background is a bit brighter than normal and in some of the photos you can see the flakes falling in the background. It makes the pictures unique because it doesn’t snow a whole lot in Washington, DC—well, at least it didn’t until this year.

The pictures in this post are from yesterday’s photography sessions. The first person had been asked for a brand-compliant portrait to use in an upcoming presentation. The second person is one of the editors in my group.

For these portraits, I used a dual flash set up with the primary flash (a few feet to my right) bouncing off of a round white cloth reflector—about 36 inches in diameter. I used the flash on my camera as a fill flash, set to a 1:3 power ratio with the primary light source.

Canon EOS 7D camera, 24-70, f/2.8 lens
65mm focal length
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash 1:3 internal flash
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.0

Canon EOS 7D camera, 24-70, f/2.8 lens
46mm focal length
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash 1:3 internal flash
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.0

Canon EOS 7D camera, 24-70, f/2.8 lens
34mm focal length
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash 1:3 internal flash
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.0

And a few of our local editor:

Canon EOS 7D camera, 24-70, f/2.8 lens
28mm focal length
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash 1:3 internal flash
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.0

Canon EOS 7D camera, 24-70, f/2.8 lens
35mm focal length
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flash 1:3 internal flash
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/4.0

I really love doing portraits!

March 24, 2014

Kids, kids, and more kids

O

ne of my favorite photographic subjects is children. Kids have not yet learned to hide their excitement and joy... or their boredom and fear. Everything is visible on their faces (if you can see their faces).

Warren County Fair - Front Royal, VA
Canon EOS 50D camera
115mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/640th @ f/5.6

Unfortunately, people tend to get a little skittish when you point your camera at their kids—at least in the city. But in smaller towns and out in the country people smile with pride as their kids ham it up for the camera. I guess out in the country people realize that a photographer with a real camera is probably just capturing the beauty he sees in the world around him. The stalkers and pedophiles are much more likely to use cell phone cameras or other non-obvious photography devices. In other words, the parents in the country and in the small towns are simply quite a bit smarter than people who live in the cities.

Front Royal community pool - Front Royal, VA
July 5, 2010
Canon EOS 50D camera, 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
70mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/1250th @ f/5.6

Attending the many outdoor community events here in Front Royal, Virginia, I get the opportunity to photograph children a lot. And because we are such a small community, even those events quite often allow for photos of just a few people without the distraction of a crowd pressing in on every side. This next picture of a mother and son is from the annual Front Royal Air Show. The blacktop in the background is the landing strip. The netting is the fence showing where the people should sit or stand so they’re not in any danger. Obviously, people in the country are smart enough to understand that they shouldn’t go past the line. They don’t need a line of armed guards scowling at anyone who stupidly tries to get over the steel barriers that have been set up to keep the low-intellect city dwellers from walking out onto the tarmac to get that shot of the jet just before it plasters them.

Front Royal Air Show - Front Royal, VA
September 11, 2010
Canon EOS 50D camera
115mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/640th @ f/5.6

I took these next three pictures at the Delaplane Strawberry Festival in Delaplane, Virginia. This festival seems to be targeted primarily for the children. There are loads of fun events including tug o' war contests, face painting, hayrides, a petting zoo, and all kinds of strawberry ice cream desserts and shortcake. For the adults, they have a blue grass band, a car show, an arts & crafts area, and an amazing scenic property that stretches way off into the distance.

Strawberry Festival - Delaplane, VA
May 29, 2010
Canon EOS 50D camera, 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
50mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/40th @ f/22

Strawberry Festival - Delaplane, VA
May 29, 2010
Canon EOS 50D camera, 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
70mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/125th @ f/13

Strawberry Festival - Delaplane, VA
May 29, 2010
Canon EOS 50D camera, 70-200mm f/2.8 lens
130mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/125th @ f/20

My favorite Front Royal event is the Annual Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival. This one actually is crowded. Our little town doubles in population for this one day each year. The streets of the town are blocked off and the two central roads are set up with wine tasting stands and craft stands. At the center of the town, the gazebo serves as a band stand for a variety of bands. After the people of the town have perused the wines and crafts and made their purchases, they take their purchases back to their cars and then make one last walk through the wine stands. They purchase a chilled bottle of wine and head to the gazebo where the Festival turns into a block party lasting the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. As the bands play, the people dance. It begins with a few people dancing on the stone pathways around the gazebo, then it spreads the lawn and into the parking area in front of the nearby visitor’s center. By about 2:00 in the afternoon people are dancing in the streets and on every available piece of ground covering the entire central area of the town. It is a complete blast and everyone has tremendous fun.

These next two pictures show kids dancing at the Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival:

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival, VA
May 15, 2010
Canon EOS 30D camera, 28-135mm f/3.5-5/6 lens
117mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/400th @ f/10

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival, VA
May 15, 2010
Canon EOS 30D camera, 28-135mm f/3.5-5/6 lens
135mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/500th @ f/10

And a few more from Williamsburg...

March 23, 2014

Spring has sprung – time for flowers

T

his past Friday was the first day of spring. Yesterday was beautiful—warm, with alight breeze blowing... the sun shining brightly. It felt like spring.

Of course, they are forecasting snow for the day after tomorrow. But for now... I’m going to revel in the warmth and the feel of spring trying to make an entrance.

I love Photoshop

A

lmost 20 years ago I was working as a magazine editor for a bi-monthly magazine. Although my trade was words, I was fascinated by the design side of the magazine and often watched the graphic designer as he worked. Because I am a photographer, I was particularly interested in the things he did in Photoshop and soon I began to dabble a little in Photoshop myself.

Adobe Photoshop (and its siblings, Illustrator, InDesign, and Dreamweaver) is a phenomenal application. I don’t think anyone could ever learn all it has to offer, and if someone actually did their knowledge would be superseded by the next version. Adobe continually makes changes and improvements in Photoshop and the rest of their Creative Suite.

Over the years I have come to rely heavily on this outstanding software.

I wanted to quickly show what can be done with this amazing photo manipulation tool, so I pulled a photo from our vacation this past summer and made three very quick changes to show how powerful Photoshop is. This is a picture from Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort—our favorite place to stay when we visit Disneyworld. This hot tub is behind the central pool of the resort. It&Rsquo;s a relatively quiet area where I go to read if I’m looking for a little solitude. There are usually no running and screaming children in this area. In fact, there are usually no people back there at all other than me. But while I was reading on this particular day, this woman walked up and got into the hot tub. She smiled when I picked up my camera and I took her picture. I have no idea who this is, but the picture kind of captures the peacefulness of this area of the resort.

The first of these pictures is that original picture I took that day. The second one is a simple color replacement. The next is a black & white using a green filter to soften her skin tones. And the last one is an imitation of a hand sketch that involves just a few adjustments in Photoshop. All three of these manipulations took no more than about five minutes to accomplish. If I had the time and knew how to use the software better, there’s no telling what could be done.

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort - September 17, 2013
Canon EOS 30D camera, EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens
fixed focal length - 85mm
ISO 160, 1/2000th @ f/4.0

March 22, 2014

Why I love Front Royal

M

any years ago I began a series of Facebook photo albums about why I love Front Royal. Those eventually ended, but my love for this wonderful town and the surrounding areas did not. I still love living in Front Royal, Virginia.

In this post I will address the primary reason I love Front Royal—its people.

Front Royal Celtic Festival - June 19, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
52mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/160th @ f/4.5

The people of Front Royal, Virginia, are wonderful! They seem to fit my hopes for the world. They are responsible. They are fun-loving. They are beautiful.

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival - May 15, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
35mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/200th @ f/6.3

The people in this post are my Front Royal neighbors—pretty much all of them. It’s a tiny town, but everyone here just seems to be the kind of people I love. They are free spirited, gentle, kind-hearted. And because they hold to a libertarian view of the world, they do not demand that others act in a way that suits them. I guess you’d say it’s a live-and-let-live place. And I love that!

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival - May 15, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
46mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/80th @ f/7.1

I took all of the pictures in this blogpost at various events in Front Royal and Delaplane—one of our nearby towns. The Celtic Festival... the Wine Festival... the Strawberry Festival... the Festival of Leaves. All of these events are part of the culture and character of this town that I love so much.

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival - May 15, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
64mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/200th @ f/3.2

When we first began attending these various events in our wonderful town, we sensed a spirit of community that has been lost in most towns across the United States. The people in this town genuinely enjoy one another. And it shows when they come together for a celebration. And this town has many celebrations. In fact—they never seem to end during the spring, summer, and fall. This town just loves throwing a block party. A whole-town block party!

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival - May 15, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
135mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/250th @ f/8.0

I guess it’s also a wonderful place for a photographer. When you get this many beautiful, wonderful, accepting people into one location... the situation is ripe for photography.

Front Royal Wine & Craft Festival - May 15, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
24mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/200th @ f/10

Thank you, people of Front Royal, for making this such a wonderful town! I love you!

Delaplane Strawberry Festival - May 29, 2010
Canon 50D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
200mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/125th @ f/18

March 20, 2014

Another rainy night in Georgia

T

he rain has been falling for a few days non-stop now. I love the beauty of rain—the muted colors of the scenery as the rain falls, the soft and even lighting as the sun’s light is diffused through the storm, the sound of the rain hitting the leaves and the grass. It’s really quite beautiful.

But rain also seems to bring with it some sadness and melancholia.

I changed my blog header today to mimic the weather I see through the glass wall of my office. The sky outside is gray. And all the other objects I can see have muted colors, softened by the falling rain.

But I had to adjust the picture I used because it wasn’t really raining when I took that picture. Here is the original photograph:

Savannah, Georgia - August 22, 2012 - 11:39 AM
Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
24mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/100th @ f/14

Storm clouds were rolling in over the port. And it was a somewhat dark day. But there was no rain. I took the picture primarily because I loved the cloud formations. But because I am currently looking out of a glass wall that is covered with rain drops, condensation fog, and little rivulets of water running down the length of the glass, I decided to change this picture to look the same way—as if I am looking out of a glass wall during a rain storm, but with this beautiful view rather than my current view of high rise office buildings, roads, and construction areas. I miss Savannah.

Come ... dream along with me.

March 19, 2014

The blue hour

M

y son is an outstanding photographer. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up with a mother who is a professional photographer and a father who is an avid photography enthusiast. He’s quite comfortable with the camera—from either side.

My son, the photographer

David learned early on to try out unique angles and to get in close to his photography subjects. Once he saw that looking at things from a unique perspective greatly improves photographs and makes them stand out from other people’s snapshots, he quickly gravitated to extreme angles and macro photography. When all the other tourists at Mt. Vernon were photographing the vegetable garden through the gate in the 10-foot-high wooden fence, David climbed that fence to capture the garden from a very high angle. He came back, not with a photograph of the garden but with a close-up macro shot of the little round painted wooden ball at the top of the fence post. The paint was peeling and the angle of the sun cast wonderful shadows showing the texture of that peeling paint and emphasizing the grain of the wood underneath. He then walked into the garden and laid down on the dirt to get close-up shots from ground level of the tops of the turnips sticking up out of the ground. Later that day he waded through the crowd of tourists who were taking pictures of the historic kitchen and stepped inside the fireplace to take a picture up through the chimney. They were all beautiful shots and no one else got pictures anything like them because no one else decided to climb the fence, lie down in the dirt, or step inside the fireplace behind the tour guide.

Photographs that capture our attention tend to be these types of photographs. They are the photographs taken where and when most other people wouldn’t consider taking them.

Most photography hobbyists take their pictures when the sun is high in the sky, providing bright lighting that makes colors nice and brilliant. And they tend to put their cameras away when it’s foggy or rainy or snowing. They also put their cameras away at twilight because it’s hard to hold the camera still enough in that dim lighting to capture a crisp picture.

Savannah, Georgia - August 21, 2012 - 7:36 PM
Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
24mm focal length
ISO 1600, 1/13th @ f/2.8

And so... it is one of my favorite times to take pictures. Twilight is the time of day, every morning and evening, when it is not full daylight and it is not complete darkness. The sun is below the horizon, but is still lighting the sky. This time period is known as “the blue hour.” And the lighting conditions during this time have been known to photographers as “sweet light” for years. The light is very blue and casts a bluish tint on everything around. The low light level allows for the sky to be rich and deeply saturated rather than overexposed, as it is in most daylight pictures. It is a wonderful time to take pictures.

Savannah, Georgia - August 21, 2012 - 7:23 PM
Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
28mm focal length
ISO 800, 1/25th @ f/3.5

Savannah, Georgia - August 21, 2012 - 7:18 PM
Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
30mm focal length
ISO 800, 1/50th @ f/4.0

Savannah, Georgia - August, 2012 - 7:24 PM
Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
24mm focal length
ISO 800, 1/25th @ f/2.8

March 18, 2014

On the outside looking in

S

ometimes in life we feel a bit out of sorts. That feeling seems to be occurring more and more frequently for me. And I always thought we would grow into ourselves as we matured. Maybe I’m not doing it right, because I often feel like I’m on the outside looking in, and all the action is happening inside.

But then, the creative arts have always been intended to reach an emotional inner-point of human existence. Perhaps that’s why I have always been drawn to pictures that show the action happening inside... while the viewer of this action is obviously standing outside and just observing. NOT STALKING, mind you... observing!

Savannah waterfront - August 21, 2012 - 7:33 pm

Canon EOS 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
24mm focal length
ISO 1600, 1/4th @ f/2.8

March 17, 2014

Everything old is new again

B

lack & white photography captures my fancy. As much as I love brilliant, vibrant color, black & white photography has a special way of communicating that color photography can’t match.

Black & white photography also requires the photographer to look at the scene in a very different way. For me, it has always made me consider shading and light values much more carefully. And that is really what photography is all about. After all, the word photography comes from two Latin words that mean, in essence, writing with light. Reducing a color scene to levels of black and white seems to me to be a pure form of writing with light and I really love working that way.

I took this photo of the dogwood tree in my backyard the summer before last. The flowers had some direct sunlight shining on them, but everything else in the scene was in shadow cast by the upper portion of the tree. The result is a striking contrast between light and dark.

Canon EOS 7D, EF85mm f/1.8 USM lens
85mm fixed focal length
ISO 200, 1/400th @ f/7.1

I took this next picture under one of the piers at Clearwater Beach, Florida. (By the way, it’s the same pier as the one pictured at the top of this blog—at least right now.) I love this beach. It is absolutely beautiful. But even more than the beach’s natural beauty, I love the people there. Every time I have visited this beach I have come away with a wealth of pictures of happy people who are obviously enjoying themselves immensely. There’s just something about Clearwater Beach that seems to lift the spirits.

This couple was actually posing for another photographer. But when the wind began whipping the girl’s hair around, the couple began laughing. I had to quickly raise my camera and grab the picture before the scene changed. I actually took three rapid-fire shots. The two others were worthless because the girl’s hair was covering her face. But this one was perfect.

Canon EOS 7D, EF70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM lens
70mm focal length
ISO 100, 1/60th @ f/9.0

And while we’re on the topic of candid people photography, I also love taking pictures of people on buses. For some reason, people become very animated and expressive on buses. Maybe it’s because the noise level is so high that it makes it hard to hear so being more expressive helps the communication. Whatever the reason, it makes for some fun photographic situations. This girl, in a Disney transport bus, was responding to some playful ribbing by her younger brother. I loved the expression as she tried to ignore him by looking out the window. He wasn’t buying it either.

Canon EOS 7D, EF70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM lens
73mm focal length
ISO 800, 1/60th @ f/8.0

Although this post is about black & white photography, I have to honor St. Patrick’s Day with a little bit of green. So... here is my wife’s necklace to provide the needed color splash.

Canon EOS 7D, EF28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens
56mm focal length
ISO 800, 1/60th @ f/8.0

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 15, 2014

Why I love photography

I

have often wondered why I arrived at this place—a photographer who is employed as a designer. But truly... a photographer. I love photography. I think I love every aspect of photography... without reservation.

But... photography is not how I make my living. Although it is a small portion of my job, I am actually a page layout designer by trade. I have been a paid photographer for almost 30 years, but, sadly, photography is not the way I earn my living.

How I wish it were.

Canon EOS 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
45mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/4.0

But early in this post, I’m already getting off-track. I guess that’s what happens when I think of photography.

Canon EOS 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
59mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/4.0

Today, my family and I drove to the home of one of my employees. This woman has come to be one of the leaders on my team and just seems to have an innate understanding of how she should do pretty much everything.

... even though she’s leaving me... to go on parental leave.

My family and I traveled to her home today. She and her husband opened their home to us and made us feel like honored guests.

We visited her because she is going to give birth very soon. And we were taking a “baby shower-in-a-box” to her. Our local staff wanted to throw a baby shower, but she works remotely and... well... we had to do it this way.

All the better for me - and for my family.

Canon EOS 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
70mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/4.0

Our visit with my coworker and friend and with her incredible family was thoroughly enjoyable. This is what family is all about.

Congratulations! We can’t wait to meet the new addition to your family.

Canon EOS 7D, EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens
70mm focal length
ISO 400, 1/60th @ f/4.0