Hiking and waterfalls and yes even bears too.. this summer vacation was a classic. We found a swanky cabin in a pretty remote area close to the Smoky Mountain park and headed out with almost no plans whatsoever… Drove for most of a day in the family Truckster Station Wagon and found our cabin just before dark (good thing because I don’t think we’d have found it easily after dark!)
After unpacking we pretty much had the week “planned” in no time to include lots of hiking to waterfalls (sorry Jake), white water rafting, bear hunting, mountain biking and of course shopping and eating.
NOC provided some excellent river time on the dam controlled Upper Pigeon river. Thanks to John O. for guiding us through the class 4 & 5 rapids. Very exhilarating! Thanks also to “Critter” for guiding us down the French Broad river – a very deceptive river. One moment calm and passive the next quite fun and splashy
We returned to Climbworks to introduce Rachel to some very cool zip line fun. The folks here are extremely safety conscious and Rachel squealed with delight (or fear) to entertain the rest of us! Jake just HAD to try their mountain bike trail and that meant another out of shape dad got to go mountain biking! It was a ton of work panting and peddling and pushing up the hilly trail… but so well rewarded by a superbly designed downhill course. I almost felt like a capable mountain biker coming down. Sorry to Jake for not keeping up but we had a blast anyway.
If you’ve ever been around one of these touristy areas you’ve surely seen the countless go-cart tracks. That’s how we ended our week. Driving fabulously underpowered go-carts around the track and smiling and laughing like we were actually having fun!
Why a week in a very tourist saturated Smoky Mountains? Recently I’ve been watching the calendar pages fall away so very quickly knowing that our high school senior daughter Rachel will be moving away before another blink or two. This time next year we’ll be readying Rachel for her freshman year at university. That of course has this old guy trying to pack in as many family memories as humanly possible.
Thanks to Jackie and Rachel and Jake for helping me fill my memory with some wonderful times in the Great Smoky Mountains! And yes that’s a kind of creepy family photo during a loooong exposure at the Clingman’s Dome Tower.
This is the snapshot, reader’s digest version…. I’ll be posting some finished “photographs” over the next few weeks!
Tanya Reed’s Belleville Elite Dance Academy has some amazing dancers. No doubt about that. Recently at the Talent On Parade Nationals held in St. Louis one of her groups BANJI became the 2014 NATIONAL CHAMPIONS OF 13-14 small groups division! Congrats to all these crazy talented gals!
I can’t wait to continue working with these dancers and create some unforgetable images!
It’s the last day of school! The 2014 seniors are sooo gone and moving on… yeah I know… kind of sad for those of us not going anywhere but really exciting for them!
But NOW – you’ve waited for a long time.. you’ve chanted 2015 and scribbled it all over everything over the years and this summer – it – is – finally – your – turn!!
Make a call. Set your appointment for your senior portraits. I’ll make it as painless as can be – you might even enjoy yourself
The “flour dance”. I’d never seen it before… but I instantly knew this was something very cool that I was gonna do when I saw it recently at the AfterDark sessions in St. Louis. I had not even worked with dancers before but I’ve heard National Geographic photographer, Joe McNally, mention before that wherever he travels he always tries to connect with a dancer because when you add their grace and power to an already cool scene – it’s hard to go wrong.
A couple Facebook posts and a phone call and I had my dancers! Thanks to Natalie and Abby all I had to do was not screw up the timing – which of course I did plenty. I’m really not certain who had more fun me or the girls… Natalie did mention it was the most fun she’d had since school had started 9 months ago!
Bring on the video! I’ll first admit that sometimes I don’t make the best use if my time… but today I found inspiration in these images, found some music and a few hours later YES!
All of this, the shoot, the finished images, the video… works in progress…. I so totally enjoy the feeling.. of knowing I like something AND it will only get better from here!
Sessions range from $75 for a straight studio session to $200 for four hours of fabulous studio, woodlands and Saint Louis too!
Session fees are separate from package prices and are based on time, outfit changes and locations.
A la carte print pricing is available but discounted packages start at $509.
We’ll make 3 appointments. First we’ll set a date for your photo session… then we’ll set a time for you to return to the studio for a viewing and order session about a week after your photo session. Then two weeks later your prints should be ready for pick up!
WANT A BONUS? BE ON TIME. Time is simply something we can’t make more of. Be on time for all three of your appointments and I’ll send you a special bonus – how cool is that?
What to wear? Clothes that fit and feel good. Solid colors… long sleeves… coats, jackets, scarves.. things that add texture and dimension. Sunglasses for all those location shots that are really cool but the light is just too harsh…
Make up. Use it. Bring it. [along with your basic kit to touch up and fix your hair while we're shooting]
Plan on a wall portrait. Something to put above your mantle or over the sofa? Send me a snapshot of your wall space and I can simulate framed prints at various sizes to help you determine how big is too big… or how small is just too small.
Print pricing– Often times the question is simply ‘how much for the 8×10′ — most photographers would rather not answer that question simply because there are so many intangibles that make a direct comparison difficult. For instance, all my prints come with a spray sealant and textured to help them last for years. My portraits also get plenty of TLC in retouching to help us both look good. My rule of thumb in retouching is to eliminate any temporary blemish and soften any other spot that we’ve discussed. AND any print purchased as an 5×7 or larger will be added to a Facebook gallery.
Some of my earliest fond memories are of my father and his three kids (I was number three) wandering through the woodland of Spring Mill State Park in southern Indiana. We would walk with empty bread bags in hand with high hopes of finding the first mushroom of the season. Sometimes just to make it even more interesting Dad would put a twenty-five cent bounty on the first find of the day!
With these images in mind I set off into our back yard woods – my own two kids are disinterested at the moment – watching cartoons inside. But having found a few dime sized morels near our mailbox, I’m certain the kids will join me soon as news reaches them. I’ve never been on a mushroom hunt in such cold weather – nearly freezing. I bundle up with gloves & hat. My breathe hangs in the still air. I’m searching near Richland Creek on a wooded lot where the leaves are never cleared and the brush sometimes gets prickly – morels in the spring are just icing on a very tall cake.
When hunting mushrooms, you step carefully, always watching… a flattened mushroom is almost too much of an embarrassment to pick – almost. Flattened or not it would still hold flour and an egg wash into the hot grease just as well as if it were perfectly cone shaped.
Twigs and leaves snap and crunch under foot as I walk along the path. Then after spotting the first mushroom, a nice sized white morel, I remember the urge as from childhood – to jump down and pick it! Today I have a slightly different mission. Not just to pick - but to first document, camera in hand… then pick.
The first snap is from the spot where I initially saw the mushroom. Then closer. On my knees. To get in real close – still without picking it. I try and fight the urge to dress the shot. If only it were exposed a bit more or had one less stick blocking my view… but that’s not the way they grow.
A mushroom seed (or whatever you call it before it comes into the light) seems to wait for spring showers to soak the rich woodland soil. It then gets a cue from the sun warmed ground and pops up… only to hide under leaves or within a clump of grass. Don’t even think of coming back tomorrow to pick it when it gets larger. They don’t seem to grow. I’d like to know if anyone has ever seen a mushroom pop from out of the ground – or grow for that matter.
Sometimes when the sun pours down on them through the mostly bare branches overhead a mushroom might shine like a beacon – almost impossible to miss. I find that my new perspective, down, really close to the ground has benefits not just for the pictures being made. It seems today I am surrounded by shining beacons. Click. Pick. and another. Click. Change focus. Click. Pick. Pick. Pick.
A friend of mine broke her ankle and still wanted to search for mushrooms on her family farm. She left her crutches behind and crawled and searched through the leaves and brush only to find a large patch of poison ivy. I stop and think about that. Mushrooms, cut and rinsed in cool water then soaked overnight in saltwater (to be sure the bugs are cleaned out) then dredged in egg and flour are pretty tasty. However a bad case of poison ivy would certainly sour that taste a bit.
I’m surrounded by violets, may apples and other spring ephemera (those plants that are only around long enough to announce the arrival of another mushroom season). I call to Rachel and Jake. And together we walk along Shady Creek trail bread bags in hand.
The kids call out every discovery. With every mushroom they find, its as if never in the history of man something so good has been so free and so it is . . . no need for a bounty today.
[written and photographed in 2006]
Life is full of firsts of course… and better yet when they involve your kid.
I’ve been making senior portraits for a bunch of kids for several years now and this year I get another first. MY kid. Rachel will either be spoilded by me or hate the process… but this is gonna be a summer long project! I can’t imagine having to squeeze all my senior photo memories into one visit to one photographer. Yup. I want Rachel photographed at all her favorite things… school… theater… parks… restaraunts… I want it all in her senior pictures. But that can’t really happen. I guess what I want is simply to freeze time. We have been incredibly fortunate to have a beautiful young girl who loves and cares for her family.. who is growing up to be a beautifully strong and loving young lady.
When Rachel got her license and no longer needed me to drop her off at school I told her I was gonna miss that. As up tight as I can get trying to get my family out the door sometimes I really miss dropping her off at grade school… middle school… high school. Pretty much every day of every year of her school carreer we’ve dropped her off. There were tears and laughs and frustrations.. but an exchange of ‘have a good day’ & ‘love you’ before the door closed.. every day.
I’ve experienced tears in the studio from parents as they watch their son or daughter almost instantly grow up in front of them. Somehow suddenly this kid is ready to start making it on their own in the world. This time it’s my turn and I want to enjoy every minute of this next year.
AfterDark. Lots of things happen after dark. This week lots of very creative thinking was happening in Saint Louis. AfterDark has been a creative force in the photography industry since 2009. A dozen times since 2009 some of the most creative, innovative artists in the photography industry have gotten together and mentored THOUSANDs of their fellow photographers and artisans. Fire-breathing, pink-haired, bull-in-the-china-shop mentors have taught everything from newborns to weddings… underwater to seniors… and maybe most importantly – they weren’t just teaching numbers and buttons. They were inspiring. They were teaching how to think. They were mentoring.
Model: Risa Scott
I’ve been to a small handful of photography conventions. Really big ones and pretty small ones. AfterDark was NOTHING like any of them. Small[ish] groups in a very interactive and intimate setting were able to sit and chat and work through ideas and processes to help create beautiful imagery and maybe most important sustain a viable photography business.
Model: Dayvion Garnet
I chose to attend AfterDark as an mentor’s assistant. EXCELLENT choice. It was lots of work, schlepping light stands and cords and bags and backgrounds. BUT a mentor’s assistant works one on one with the mentors to trouble shoot problems during live demonstrations as well as to set lights and background pieces. You can’t help but feel a bonus connection with your mentor when you just scrambled to replace broken cords or dragged an entire model’s wardrobe through a convention center to expedite their next clothing change.
Model: Makenzie Morrison
Very little sleep. Lots of work. Worth every vacation day I burned. Sadly though, AfterDark is now over and done with. The creative force behind it will probably create a new and better educational experience… setting the industry standard again for how to impact the most people in a very short and intensive manner – wherever it is… I’ll do my best to be there schlepping gear and being inspired by some of the very best artists in the industry.
Model: Keegan & Elizabeth Hensley
Obviously it wasn’t ALL work.. and especially if you love what you’re doing and learning it still doesn’t feel much like work.. except for the exhaustion at the end of a day that reminds you – work was indeed done. Lots of really talented models and goofy folks made the 3 day convention plus 2 setup/tear down days wonderfully enjoyable. One of our late nights we were treated to a fire spinning demonstration by the Saint Louis fire spinning troupe: VENUSinFLAMES! How cool!?
Finally my regrets. I regret I didn’t study the mentor lineup before arriving to KNOW them before I arrived. I regret I didn’t hand out a zillion more cards to folks I wanted to stay in touch with. I regret not meeting one on one and giving a hug to every hair and makeup artist that were responsible for crafting and designing the scores of models flawlessly.
Thanks to my good friend Barb and Steph for making me want to go. Dave Junion and Jim Pierson and Dan Rowe [and others I sadly don't even know] for creating and driving this monster through Saint Louis…. you done good.
I recently wanted to try a couple ideas and who better to call than one of my recent high school seniors. That’s a big bonus for some of my senior subjects.. and for me too.. whenever I need to test some equipment, a location or an idea I have a good group of camera ready models to share some cool new photos with!
I’ve got some new equipment coming again soon…. if you’re interested in some bonus FB photos give me a shout!
Sometimes when an opportunity comes along that seems too good to turn down you’re fortunate enough to actually realize it and make it happen. Five days on the road with some of the most gifted and experienced photographers I know. Five guys: Paul Rogers, Michael Barton, Peter Yu, Mark Van Huis and myself. This was simply too good to refuse.
Don’t ask why a trip to Moab started in El Paso but White Sands New Mexico was a stunning place to get started. 275 miles of white gypsum dunes stretch out at the base of the San Andres Mountains to act as a backdrop for these seductive shapes. Spend just a couple moments staring at these dunes and you can’t help but imagine lovely feminine lines and curves.
As feminine as the dunes are, El Capitan, at the beginning of the Guadeloupe Mounain range, is masculine. Strong and imposing. No mistaking this for a hill far off in the distance. Its rugged and fractured face is extremely close to the road and for miles I just kept marveling at its size. At 8,751 feet it is the highest point in Texas and the surrounding national park make it a hiker’s paradise in the West Texas barren wilderness.
You know you’re spoiled when you get to watch the sunlight smack into something this imposing and yet you still want more! more… more drama… more clouds. Maybe an eagle flying over just as the first rays of light start warming the mountain’s face. That’s how spoiled and expectant we can be. But this is lesson in patience. And as they say, most any sunrise with a camera in hand is better than any day in the office. So after photographing and appreciating the newly risen sun we napped, lunched, hiked and waited for the sun again. Found just the right spot. Boulders. Ravine. Wild flowers. Close to the mountain. Now just to cue the sun!
Yup. We were rewarded for our patience and clicked our way through the waning light as it continued to make everything warmer. softer. beautiful.
Next day: Another early morning. This time for a sunset 12 hours north near Moab, Utah.
My first glimpse at the expanse of the rugged canyon valley with the snow capped Lasalle Mountains in the distance was simply overwhelming. (I’m discovering that with each additional year of life I become more deeply moved with the natural beauty around me.) The wide open scene.. the wind and sky.. my knuckleheaded friends enjoying the edge a bit too much… yup.. this was worth the long drive and then some.
The sun sets. Again we are gifted with a stunning view. I simply click my way through the event – Michael on the other hand has brought out the big gun. Shooting old school. Mr. Barton is looking at the scene on the back of his 4×5 view camera. I click through a couple hundred shots on my fancy pants digital camera. He exposed 6 sheets of film.
Next morning – another sunrise. None of them are the same and all of them are worth every minute of lost sleep – as each sunrise makes you appreciate deeper the world we have before us.
More driving, more short nights and more awesome beauty that is the Canyonlands and Arches National Parks.
You get the idea. It was a good trip. I am extremely fortunate to have these opportunities. Michael. Paul. Peter. Mark. I am extremely fortunate to call them my mentors and my friends.
I often quietly pray that the latent image in the camera will come close. That the finished image will convey just a fraction of the beauty and grandure I’ve been allowed to experience first hand. Imagine for a minute that you have the opportunity to photograph the face of God… This creation we are so blessed with having dominion over is as close as we can get.
No pressure there.
Wanna go next time?