Yes! That was big fun! Sunday afternoon we had a swimmer and group of dancers over to create some exceptional images…
Not your every day, run of the mill snapshots many of these will be showing up in area photographic competitions this next year!
After basically plastic wrapping the studio we were set to splash some very cool and talented athletes.
Ultimately we dumped nearly 20 gallons of water! The dancers posed and jumped and we dumped, poured and splashed anyone willing to take it! YES! I’ll be doing this again! I’ll streamline the setup a bit and refine it but THIS concept is simply too cool to let go.
Thanks to my friend Barb Adleman from Elan Studios/Bloomington for coming down to assist, my many moms who appreciate my weird ideas and sense of humor and of course Jake for schlepping 20 gallons of warm water and helping clean up!
My son Jake, and a lucky group of guys from Belleville’s Boy Scout Troop 553 are leaving tomorrow for a trip they will never forget. Along with two adult supervisors, they are boarding the train in St. Louis and riding west, then transferring to a bus which will take them to the Boy Scout’s Philmont Ranch, the BSA’s premiere high adventure camp near Cimarron, New Mexico. Jake and his crew will spend about 7 days hiking through some of New Mexico’s very beautiful and mountainous countryside. They’ll carry everything from clothes to water to tents and sleeping bags as well as several days worth of food rations which they can restock at predetermined lock boxes every few days. Jake and crew will come back with plenty of stories (I doubt if we hear even a fraction of them)… Of course I hope and pray for their safe travels, but maybe even more important, I hope for them to come back stronger, more confident and if possible even more independent: Prepared to take on whatever the future has in store for them. Don’t tell them I said that… they think they’re just gonna have fun
Jake and his carefully selected gear for his trek.
Fabulously fabulous! Working with experienced models is the best… and when they’re patient, can interpret bad direction, AND have that indescribable quality that somehow helps images jump off the screen… you’re in a happy place!
I needed a model for a photo session with friend and fellow master photographer, Paul Rogers who was gonna be visiting for a weekend of image making and Becca McFly was my first choice to lend a hand. Becca has helped me with a few ideas over the last few years as I’ve worked toward my PPA Master degree.
“Flying Lady” Earned a merit from the PPA’s 2013 international image competition:
The venue chosen was also one of my favorite places to shoot: The Lemp Brewery. A short call to Jimi Gunn and we had the grungy old dark and creepy place to ourselves (with the exception of a few musicians who use portions of the ghost ridden warehouse as practice space).
This is seriously my favorite space to shoot in here at the Lemp bottle works building.
Big dirty windows create wonderfully soft light!
In the image above Becca is rocking the top of Jimi’s baby grand in one of his many music studio spaces.
For you photo techies we were both shooting with Nikon D800s paired with all 2.8 glass. From wide 12mm to the tightly compressed end of my 70-200mm or Paul’s 300 prime we worked with a mix of low ambient window light and my Paul Buff Einstein with beauty dish powered by a Vagabond. Almost exclusively shooting tripod mounted helps you be more thoughtful and allows you to be more meticulous creating the feel of an image (this is where a patient, self motivated model is critical. Thanks again Becca).
I can’t wait to schedule a senior shoot day over at the Lemp Brewery and make some seriously cool images for some exceptional seniors! STAY TUNED for booking information!
Anastasia came to visit yesterday! As a young model in the St. Louis area it’s tough to get a portfolio developed… and Kevin Long’s The Edge Agency does a great job of doing just that. Kevin has always been a supporter of the local and state photography groups trying to supply models for various functions while getting these up and coming young models some valuable camera time.
Anastasia has a fabulous physique and a killer smile so with the right connections and a bit more studio time she just might show up in one of your next magazines or catalogs! Thanks to Anastasia & her mom for making the long trek to visit my studio!
This guy shows up today almost an hour early for his model session! That’s cool. He is READY. Traveon is working toward a recording deal… producing a CD… hoping to make a splash. We only spent a couple hours in the studio but you get a quick feel that Traveon just might be THAT smooth operator… I’ll share his progress as things develop but keep your eyes and ears tuned in for the name: Traveon.
I’ve not had the opportunity to shoot many maternity sessions so I was super excited when Autumn asked me to work with her and Ryan to document their family to be. She did some Pinterest searching and sent along a few ideas that she wanted to emulate which I’m sure required a bit of shopping for those super cute tennis shoes!
After finishing a big bunch of these super cute images I grabbed a few of my favorites and made this short sample video to share with mommy and daddy to be
Many of you have seen the cool movie created with a ton of our images from the Florida trip and MANY of you have asked how to get your copy…. here’s the breakdown.
Marching Lancer’s 2015 Outback Bowl Trip
$15 – Highlight DVD (preview below)
$25 – Highlight DVD +Outback Bowl Performance
$50 – Highlight DVD +Outback Bowl Performance +Over 500 images
Here’s a link to a preview the video (not the finished version though)
SATURDAY – Travel Day
Today we’re aboard four tour busses headed to Florida with the Belleville East Bands. Almost 150 band members along for the ride, we’re headed to Tampa for the New Year’s Day Outback Bowl.
First we’ll hit Universal Studio Theme Park for a couple days of play as well as a concert band workshop.
I’ve traveled with these kids a few times over the last few years and I’ve always been impressed with just how good this number of kids can be. I look forward to a fun trip and will post more as our trip progresses.
One among many tables of kids waiting to board.
Hoping we find our real driver soon!
Mr. T and his fleet.
SUNDAY MORNING – Universal Studios
Who knew “sleeping” on a bus could feel so little like sleep?!? After several stops overnight for restroom breaks and oh yeah.. so the driver could buy a fan to clear the window so she could see! We’re almost to our breakfast destination.. maybe if a booth is available we’ll sleep better at the Golden Corral
Here’s the bus in “sleep” mode.
Today our Bellevillle East concert bands got to participate in a pretty cool workshop being offered by Universal Studios. The STARS program introduces high school musicians to the music & foley recording process.
Playing along with an old Frankenstein movie the bands were recorded by Universal sound engineers. Along with the full musical score, soloists and small groups added tracks to the music bed as well as a few band members were selected to accent the soundtrack with maniacal laughs and evil zombie groans.
The Universal STARS recording technicians will polish the soundtrack then provide a downloadable version for the students to save and share online.
After the recording sessions we finished up our visit to the Universal parks before heading to Tampa for more musical vacation fun!
TUESDAY – Competition Day
WHEW! Today was pretty action packed! ALL of Belleville East’s bands performed in competition/workshops today! We heard from the Symphonic Band • Symphonic Wind Ensemble • Wind Ensemble • Jazz Ensemble • Concert Jazz Orchestra
AND we finished with a Marching Band field show!!!
It rained and sprinkled and misted and rained some more pretty much all day… [and the bands had to walk about a block from the hotel to the concert hall in this lousy weather]. They plodded through the rain, prepared and performed with a level of excellence that we have all come to expect from these groups. Most every performance ends with a critique from each of three highly experienced judges. These guys not only critique though… they suggest alternative ways to interpret, play and hear the music. They have the students re-play sections of their music incorporating these new ideas and insights – just as if they were working with professional session musicians – the kids really seem to dig being mentored in this way, treated with such respect…. and my admiration for this group of kids and the Belleville East band program grows with each and every performance!
Maybe best of all we were able to finish this evening with a SENIORS only group shot! This is a superb group of young people that we are very fortunate to have in our program!
WEDNESDAY – Rehearsal & Parade
Imagine trying to coordinate 26 band units totaling nearly 3000 members into one monster halftime show! Luckily that was organized by the Outback Bowl folks and it was obvious they’ve done this before.
Drums. Brass. Winds. Flags. All sections set up and rehearsed separately then combined on the practice field. It is mighty cool to experience 26 drum lines up close! Twenty-six bands worth of trumpets!
The real kicker is that all 3000 kids and pit equipment and props have about 60 seconds to get in position on the field before the show… then again to get off the field after the show. After 60 seconds two football teams will be seriously wanting to use the field again!
That was this morning’s practice. Now we’re heading to The Outback Bowl parade. Again… imagine a parade where just about every other unit is a large marching band. If you enjoy marching bands…. THIS should be one heck of a show!!
Finally tonight, we get to go to Busch Gardens with our 3000 newest friends! We’ll ring in the new year with a fabulous fireworks display… then hightail it back to the hotel.. sleep.. wake.. checkout.. perform at the bowl game and enjoy our bus ride home to a very cold Bellevillle… but more on that and photos from today tomorrow.
Finally we made it to stadium and it really was pretty cool to watch the kids perform and imagine the behind the scenes coordination that it takes to pull this off!
We loaded busses and started the long 20 hour drive home AND the Belleville East Marching Lancers came away with a ton of awards from the week!
-Parade Grand Champion
-Jazz Band Grand Champion
-Second Concert Band -3rd Place
-Jazz Band Category 3 -1st Place
-Parade Category 3 -1st Place
-Field Show Category 2 -1st Place
-Jazz Band 2 -1st Place
-Concert Band Category 3 -Honorable Mention
-Outstanding Field Show
-Crowd Pleaser Award
Yup. That’s a lot of hardware to bring home!!! It’s been a pretty fabulous week… We’re really fortunate that these kids are so decent when traveling (who knows what they do away from the group
I’m so very happy to have the opportunity to join in on these trips and can’t wait to see where else we can go with this very large family – even if we are rather dysfunctional sometimes
Recently I reached out to Shiloh’s Anytime Fitness manager Ruth Riley… she liked the idea of creating some portfolio images as she continues to work out and fine tune her body… and I’m launching a new program with a few local gyms and other locations are in the works as well. Ruth did her homework and brought all the right pieces to make her session go well… classic fitness apparel, a couple bikinis and a sassy dress or two. She even brought a few Pinterest ideas and admitted to practicing a few of the poses at home to be sure we could work them out in the studio easily.
So whether you’re a competitive body builder or simply want to document your self looking your best give me a shout and I’ll do my best to highlight all your favorite things about yourself!
Met up with a friend recently over a fine Denny’s breakfast. We don’t talk much these days. See each other even less. So of course it was good to catch up. He’d been a working professional photographer for most his adult life but a few years ago hung it up mostly and took on a different line of work completely out of the imaging business…
Jokingly (sort of) he’ll say that talking about photography makes him itchy… even being around other photogs makes him itch and scratch.
So after all the pleasantries of chatting about family and work and such (we actually skipped the weather talk). He told me I need to invest in a good porcelain sink. Yes. Our conversations tend to… drift… significantly. Of course I wonder why a sink. And a porcelain sink at that. Then without so much as a flinch or a scratch or an itch he told me about the amazing Light that comes through his bathroom window of a morning.
It seems Light pours through the little window and fills the bright, white, porcelain sink. But unlike the morning’s first splash of water, the sink cannot hold the Light. It becomes luminescent and bathes the subject before it with a refreshing glow… that kind of glow that supermodels love to see applied. Instant wrinkle remover and much much more
If you start shopping for reflectors and modifiers you’ll find hundreds of things folks have devised to make Light more controllable… but the mother of all reflectors just might be the humble bathroom sink. White and clean of course.
We discussed using this as a light shaping tool. Think of the beautiful headshots. Hard for anyone to figure out such an exotic, secret recipe! I imagine actors and models would be flocking to our bathroom sink studio to bask in the glory of its luminescent glow!
The interesting thing here is not a new lighting solution. Image makers have probably been using all kinds of make shift solutions since the first caveman broke his printer and had to blow ink through little grass straws.
What I found interesting is the unconscious recognition of Light.. with direction… and qualities too yummy to ignore. I remember hearing guys talk about Light – about seeing Light. The wrap of a soft light. The triangles and shapes. I didn’t get it. But once the mind’s eye is trained to really see Light and it’s even more interesting counterpart, Shadow, it continuously evaluates the yummy factor in pretty much every scene it encounters. For me, I’ve just started seeing Light and Shadow… a couple years ago a couple brain cells clicked and I started taking note of it as I pass by random people on the street or watch folks on the train ride into work.
Light. Such an obvious thing to see… so easily taken for granted… and even harder to capture it’s infinite qualities.
Boy Scout Troop 553 has a pretty proud tradition of ‘graduating’ an Eagle Scout every year or so. Yesterday we had the extreme pleasure of celebrating three scouts earning their Eagle rank. It really is quite impressive to hear the accomplishments of these
boys young men. Between the three of these guys, hundreds of miles of hiking, scores of nights camping, trips to the BSA high adventure camps with more hiking and camping and canoeing… and lots of leadership.
It’s not just the accomplishments on display that are impressive… we get to hear from these young men themselves… speaking words of gratitude to their leaders, mentors, parents and fellow scouts. They receive gifts: Flags flown over the White House. Letters from Senators and other dignitaries… and they give gifts of appreciation to their mentors and parents.
It really is hard not to get choked up every time one of these young men moves to the podium and addresses the group in attendance. These young men should be proud of their accomplishments. They generally don’t like to be the center of attention though.. they’d rather not hear their leaders and mentors talk about them and what they’ve done… Humility isn’t officially a requirement of an Eagle Scout… but it always seems to come quite naturally to these young men.
Congratulations to Sean, Andrew & Jason!
What’s it take to be an Eagle Scout?
Eagle Scout is the highest advancement rank in Boy Scouting. To earn the rank, a Boy Scout must: Progress through the all ranks from Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle • Earn 21 merit badges, including: First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communications, Environmental Science, Personal Fitness, Camping, Family Life, Personal Management, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Cycling, Hiking, or Swimming. They must serve six months in a troop leadership position. Plan, develop, and give leadership to a service project for any religious organization or any school or community. Take part in a Scoutmaster conference. Successfully complete an Eagle Scout board of review.
Well it’s happening. Rachel is now seriously into her senior year of high school and we did her senior portraits (part one) as our trees started showing signs of autumn.. We’ll do part two of her images soon as some snow flies. Maybe even a part three and four when she or her mother suggests another venue
I could go on and on about how proud we are of Rachel. Great student. Wonderful kid. Good sister to her brother. Great helper to her mother. Fabulous character all around… but I’ll save most of that for later when her senior year is wrapping up… for now enjoy autumn Rachel.
This was waaay better than my average day at work. I’ve been employed as a video editor for about 15 years now. Working weekdays at KSDK in St. Louis. Most days we create commercials – for local car dealers, mattress stores, doctors, lawyers OR we make promos for the newscasts – tempting viewers to tune in and sample what at one time were the nation’s highest rated local news programs.
I decided to put some of that experience in the sharing mode and offered to teach a class on DSLR video and editing. With a few folks signed up through the PPA’s Super One Day education program I asked one of my favorite high school seniors to be our subject…
After a couple hours of
lecture random thoughts on video systems and videography, Meghán sang through a couple selections – each time beautifully. Then came the really exciting part – watching me edit! Ever watch paint dry? Yup. That’s kind of like watching somebody edit… BUT… hopefully my attendees gleaned a bit about the process while we enjoyed a beautiful Sunday together in my comfy edit suite…
Thanks to Meghán, her driver/mom, the PPA for this invaluable continuing education program and the folks who drove quite a distance to attend! AND here’s the finished version of our in-class edit… enjoy “The Call” by Meghán McGarrity.
es·prit de corps
: feelings of loyalty, enthusiasm, and devotion to a group among people who are members of the group.
See also: Marching Lancers
I tagged along yesterday to watch my son and daughter perform at the Collinsville marching band competition. They were of course joined by a couple hundred of their closest friends: The Belleville East Marching Lancers. I enjoy hearing them play. I enjoy watching their show. I most enjoy watching them get ready… warming up… preparing their uniforms… practicing… and just being band geeks
Photographically I prefer the evening shows where the light is more dramatic. Then there’s the challenge of being in the right spot at the right time to watch and enjoy all the visuals of their intricate performance – which of course necessitates being high up as you can in the stands…. or buy the video at BOA in a few weeks…
You may not ‘get’ marching band. You may not even like them. However one thing is for certain.. you simply have to appreciate these programs for the discipline and structure and camaraderie they bring to the kids. Hard work only tolerable because of the shared experience. Espirit de corps.
For the full set of images visit Marching Lancers at Collinsville
I don’t get to write many press releases… so please allow me a few moments to brag:
Belleville, IL, 8/12/14 — Doug Howell of Doug Howell Photography in Belleville was recently named a Silver Medalist during Professional Photographers of America’s 2014 International Photographic Competition. Photographs created by Howell were accepted into the General Collection as well as the prestigious Loan Collection of Professional Photographers of America’s 2014 International Photographic Competition. Howell’s work will be on display at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tennessee Feb. 1-3, 2015. This International Photographic Exhibition is held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers and several photographic associations.
HOW COOL IS THAT!?!? Three of my four submitted images were accepted in the the PPA’s General Collection of images and one of my images was accepted into the PPA’s Loan Collection – that makes me a 2014 Silver Medalist (1 of only 108 silver medal recipients!!)
Three of these images were photographed while on the road last year with good friend and mentor Paul Rogers. Paul’s input along with that of Dan Thornton was invaluable in creating, selecting and finishing these images for competition! And of course if you’re one of the cool kids you’ll know MB & JM are always influencing me.. good.. bad.. or whatever…
Sessions range from $75 for a straight studio session to $200 for four hours of fabulous studio, woodlands and Saint Louis too!
Session fees applied toward package prices and are based on time, outfit changes and locations.
A la carte print pricing is available but discounted packages start at $499.
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…
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!
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?
This May I’ll be jumping into the teaching world and leading a class as part of the Professional Photographer’s of America’s Super 1 Day on DSLR video: shooting & editing.
The class will discuss a bit about scripts and storyboards, sound and lighting, editing and sharing, and more. We’ll start with an overview of video systems, TV and DSLR and then examine how to capture the right images for your story and discuss editing capabilities and attributes that all modern systems, from FCP, Premiere, Avid, Edius and even Photoshop have – learn what you want to use and when.
I’ll also walk you through camera technique and basic settings you want to use to enhance your production.
We’ll do a few live demos where you’ll have a chance to shoot-and-edit your own video short. This hands-on opportunity will allow you to practice what you’ve learned with plenty of time for Q&A at the end.
Take it from someone who knows what they’re doing – and make it yours!
How do I use my DSLR? Wanna see some of my work?
Vimeo is where I keep some of my favorite video portfolio pieces.
And of course since we’ll already be at St. Louis’ NBC affiliate we may as well take a quick tour of the TV station’s news room, control rooms and studios.
Course Date: Sunday, May 18, 2014
Course Hours: 2:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Items to Bring: DSLR and video editing software
Location: Doug Howell KSDK-TV 1000 Market Street St. Louis, MO 63101
Kenzie’s little sister Maddy came by recently for a test session… of course we had to take advantage of our studio time together and create a few new headshots for her as well.
Thanks as always to Kenzie for coming over and spending some quality time in the studio!
Meet Maddy. She’s one of the newest models on the block! Maddy is hoping to get some face time when AfterDark comes to St. Louis next month and needed a couple quick shots for her brand new portfolio. Maddy should be pretty well prepared for the long tedious days at a large event like that – her sister has been modeling in the Saint Louis area for several years [more on Kenzie later].
I do enjoy working with new models. Partly because they don’t look at me like I’m as crazy when I’m doing my ‘model 101′ routine.. hands this way… hips that way [I look really good doing this stuff too!]
My favorite moment of the night was watching Maddy try and make sense out of my direction AND trying not to fall over in the process! Maybe if I worked in HIGH heels I’d have a better appreciation for some of the silly things that I ask a model to do!
Thanks to Maddy and her sister for coming over last weekend… you’ll be seeing more of Maddy especially if she gets signed up for the AfterDark gig!
I needed some firemen today. Called my old high school friend Tim Tincher, a Lebanon IL volunteer firemen and a few hours later… I had firemen. I had trucks and lights and pretty much anything else I would have asked for. I even left with an invitation to join them in some training exercises next time they have a house to burn down (yes they do that for practice)..
Why did I need some firemen? I needed a bit of video.. an image of the classic strong and proud looking firemen for a promo we’re working on for KSDK to run during the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics this week. I got it. Tim and the guys fit the bill perfectly and I couldn’t have been happier to have had another opportunity to connect with Tim again.
Thanks Tim. I’ll link to the finished promo soon as its available.
The Lebanon-Emerald Mound Fire Protection District encompases the City of Lebanon as well as areas surrounding and outside of city limits. The Lebanon Emerald Mound Volunteer Fire Department is a member of a group of Mutual Aid Fire Departments and can be seen assisting in many surrounding areas and communities.
Olivia came to visit recently at my request.. I needed a model for some test shots and Olivia was able to help me out. It really is wonderful to have experienced models to work with from time to time and Olivia was perfect for what I needed. She is a signed model with Factor Women Model Management and travels to Chicago periodically for agency coordinated photo sessions.
Here we’re testing out my new beauty dish. It does a wonderful job of accentuating Olivia’s easy good looks.. and with any luck at all we’ll make an image for one of the upcoming photo competitions. Every year there are a series of photographic competitions the first this year is the Southern Illinois Art League in February then we’ll see where it goes from there!
It’s winter. It’s cold. Sounds reasonable. But this is seriously cold. Hard to get an objection on that… funny how you remember things though. THIS is the kind of cold I remember as a kid. The kind of walk outside and your nostrils freeze up kind of cold. The can’t speak inherently after waiting on the bus for 5 minutes kind of cold… and while I don’t enjoy being cold – that frozen sensation brings back memories.
The coldest I remember being was on a ill suited ski trip in college when I discovered what frostbite looks and really feels like. Hint: if parts of your fingers are actually white from the cold… you’ve been bitten.. and it don’t feel good at all.
I remember my toes being really really cold while walking around the Bedford square Christmas shopping. Going from Tindels Hardware to SS Kresge looking for the best way to spend our collective money on mom or dad’s gifts.
Surely you have a memory of ears so cold they might actually break off and the searing pain of a snowball slamming into your already fragile and throbbing lobe.
I remember walking out on a bitter cold morning – and just like today – my nose (and all its contents) freezing up instantly as I inhaled that first bitter cold breath.
Everything even sounds more. More crisp. More clear. Maybe the sound is simply amplified by cold ear drums.
Being cold: It’s certainly not a fond memory… but if you can get passed the momentary discomfort and stop shivering… be sure to look around and enjoy the view.
Cold air is usually nice and clear. Those dirty dust particles don’t really like to hang around the cold either. Winter stars are more brilliant than summer stars.. and before the sun has had a chance to warm branches they shimmer in the light before the frozen dew melts and evaporates away…
Uncomfortably cold out? Yup. Sure brings back memories
Growing up on the family farm you could say Lizzi is a horse person… and if you’ve known many horse people.. you know… they are serious about their horses. With several horses at Fairmont track and the constant need to exercise and tend to these animals it seems natural that Lizzi lend a hand. But Lizzi isn’t happy to just work around the horses though. She has it in her mind that she’d like to ride. On the track. Racing.
This first shot is Lizzi on a summer day when she was helping her Dad with one of their new horses.. an unknown horse that turned out to be just a bit more than a handful. I was disappointed not to capture a cool shot of Lizzi galloping by on her ride – but I don’t think nearly as disappointed as she was. The horse she’s on here is totally blind but a beautiful and gentle work horse that the family has had for years. Not easily spooked and very gentle she’s a great horse for helping tend to new high maintenance animals that come and go through the years.
I invited Lizzi to come visit over the weekend to help me with a couple image ideas. She showed with her trademark pink riding vest and whip. Every girl needs a pink whip right? But pink is not generally in my color palette so here she is finished with my favorite monochrome treatment…
I’m looking forward to getting back to the track this spring and capture Lizzi in full gallop down the main stretch as she and her horse test each other out and maybe in the near future I’ll have the opportunity to photograph Lizzi as a licensed jockey!
The year is nearly over – and it certainly is photographically speaking. I do the bulk of my client work photographing high school seniors – capturing a moment or twenty to be immortalized in the yearbook or maybe even a book of their own..
I work hard for my seniors (and their moms). I like to be ready to shoot when they show up. Studio and gear prep… Lights and backgrounds set. My collection of photo finishing manuals goes all the way back to the OLD days of film.. I watch and learn from experts in the industry to continue to elevate my work… to create images that can be shown and bragged about for years to come.
I have a lot of fun working with ‘my kids’ also. Many will hear me ask “was it as painful as you thought it would be?” I ask this intentionally because standing in front of a camera trying NOT to look like a complete goober can be a daunting challenge for many of us. It’s easy to make silly selfies poking irreverent fun at ourselves for the Facebook or Instagram…. but a senior portrait is different. (hopefully that’s a HUGE understatement).
Countless moms have mentioned to me months or years later how relieved their son or daughter was at the laid back approach I take and how comfortable they were through the whole process.
High school senior portrait time is our opportunity to look our best at possibly the best looking time in our lives. And THAT can be a bit overwhelming. And that is exactly why I enjoy the process. That is why I enjoy working with high school seniors. Whether they want to admit it or not – they_are_motivated.
Motivated to trust. Motivated to put up my bad jokes and humor. Motivated to… well.. be motivated.
I say all that to say this: I have had a wonderful year working with your kids! Getting a little too messy climbing to and from the creek. Surviving a “few” mosquitos in the tall grass. Taking a bunch more of your time simply because
we’re I’m having fun. Wondering how late is too late to be photographing on the St. Louis riverfront…
Yup. I’ve had a good year making your kids “my” kids
Saint Louis’ Alex Hudgens (and Vanderbilt grad) has been a production assistant at NC5 for just a few months now.. sometimes people catch your eye… sometimes you Know [yes with a capital k] that a person will be a good photographic subject. Alex is one of those people. She was in need of some talent headshots for a recent job search and we decided that some basic headshots as well model portfolio images would be good for both our portfolios.
I wish my photography could take credit for helping her find the new job – but it turns out that she had a good lead already and these are just going to be portfolio pieces for her as well. Alex will be leaving Saint Louis soon for her new position as a “Red Carpet Host” for BlackTree TV – one of the many Los Angeles companies that broadcast from the many big events hosted there!
Keep your eyes on Alex Hudgens… you WILL be seeing more of her!
Performing arts. There aren’t many ways to bare your soul more clearly than as a soloist. I’m more of a choir singer myself. Back row of a choir feels a lot more secure to me than being all alone with nothing but a microphone to hide behind.
I recently read about a frustrated musician who picked up a camera to get close to his musical idols.. to document their lives… to enjoy the music vicariously by photographing their performances. It clicked with me.
So I contacted a friend in the music department and asked for a soloist to feature. For simply asking for a couple hours of time with Heather and her accompanist I received a very personal one on one concert at the school’s performing arts center. What good fortune I have.
And I know better than to second guess a recommendation when given a quick response. Heather was that quick recommendation offered up without hesitation. Heather is a soon to be music major over at Webster University but for now she’s enjoying being a senior drum major, student choir director, and clarinet player in the band… and she sings. She sings real good… but then I’ll let you decide that for yourself as you enjoy a tiny slice of time with Heather. A moment: in music.
A special thanks of course to Mr Timothy Hassall for his input, time and piano playing expertise!
Boring details? Nikon D800. Sennheiser G3. Glidetrack slider. Adobe Premiere.
I just had a wonderful exchange with the owner of a studio lighting company. Many will know who I’m referring to before I type his name. A proud American company building and selling quality products with a bullet proof reputation.
Known for his White lightning and Alien Bees mono-lights Paul Buff Inc has been based in Nashville Tennessee for quite a few years and I have a small collection of Buff’s lights and various accessories.
I signed onto the Paul Buff Inc. technical forum yesterday to ask about a light trigger I bought from them 5 years ago. Just looking to find out if an intermittent problem could be resolved somehow.
Not totally surprised – Mr. Buff himself responded to my question. His suggestion (after one last bit of troubleshooting) simply contact the service department and send it back for a replacement. This is not an expensive part. Shipping and handling and his time are probably worth more than their cost of the part! But having dealt with Buff’s company before, I know cost isn’t the point – Buff is known by many to send replacement products or parts out assuming the customer will return the item when a problem is resolved.
THIS is the type of customer service I want to be known for… and I try. When a sports team photo isn’t right – I fix it without question. A print might show up out of tolerance.. in the trash it goes. A frame gets delivered with a problem. It goes back to the manufacturer. It all seems simple enough. Do things right and always try to over deliver.
I should add that working with top notch print labs like American Color Imaging, White House Custom Color and St. Louis’ own Diversified Lab makes resolving problems easier than I would have ever expected.
Thanks to Paul Buff Inc for reminding me what customer service should look like!
We’re fresh from one of several sunrise shoots in Monument Valley and “refreshed” by a quick visit to Sonic (that would haunt me a bit later).
Not quite a zoo, the small parking lot was full of exuberant sightseers with cameras in hand. We go up a mildly steep hill then down a long half mile slope to the edge of the canyon – the edge of the canyon.
Like most of these natural wonders visitors can get as close to the edge as they’re comfortable. Here, the river’s surface is 1000 feet straight down so of course to make a memorable photograph you need to be on the edge… and if you’re hoping to create a PPA caliber image… your tripod needs to be on the edge.
Umm.. the edge. Ask Paul Rogers my traveling companion on this trip and he’ll vouch for the fact I am not fond of the edge. Not at 10 feet or 100 feet and I’m especially not fond of the edge at 1000 feet.
Once near the edge I’m not in any hurry to remove my backpack full of gear. That would require me to move and bend down… and remember, there’s a 1000 foot drop.
Paul’s ready to shoot. Hoorah. Paul’s a proud member of our US Army and seems not to notice the edge or more importantly the drop just beyond the edge. Since the lens he’s planning to start with is in my bag and he’s itching to start shooting, its my turn to unpack near_the_edge.
After I finally warm up to the idea of working sort of close to the edge I get my first series of images. Very cool. Pose for a snapshot – me and my gear on the edge.
Then Paul asks a favor. Would I mind going over there… on that ledge to pose for a photograph. Graciously he adds… you only have to get as close to the edge as you’re comfortable. Apparently he didn’t realize I hadn’t been comfortable since we left the air conditioned car…. but I load my gear and head out for the edge of his ledge. I could be immortalized as the unrecognizable photographer in one of Paul’s award winning images. How could I say no!?
After I got there it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. This was very cool indeed (even though that tingly feeling always returns as I near the edge.)
One last cool snapshot Paul needs to document our experience. But this time the table’s turned and he wants me to photograph him as he sits on that ledge… down there! Um. No. Seriously. No…. Yes? If you’re going down there somebody should document it right?
I’m safe and sound on the edge (where I was previously very unnerved) but now I’m nearly coming unglued as I watch him negotiate down to the next ledge.
Um. Paul? (trying not to sound like my own nervous mother) Paul? Maybe you should not… maybe… ok. Smile. Click. Smile. Click.
Paul climbs back up uneventfully and we pack to hike the half mile to the car. I don’t take many steps up the rocks and up the sandy incline before I remember the Sonic pretzle dog, onion rings and milk shake.
A chocolate milk shake.
Who in their right mind has a milk shake before launching out for a (short albeit) hike up a sandy hill?!? Hoorah. I’ll be the first to admit I’m out of shape (who would have guessed with that meal selection?). But we hike on and Paul only needles me a bit. Hoorah. I breathe. No. I pant and pant and breathe. But me and my lean mean Sonic meal make it back to the car laughing through the pain. That’s what you do when you push your own limits and experience something as incredible as the landscapes of this state of Utah.
Now? I’m on the plane headed home from this trip and can’t wait to see how the Horseshoe Bend images turn out. Thinking about brushing the dust off the treadmill in the basement too
I should note — earlier today I read a report of a man who did indeed fall to his death as he explored too close to the edge.
After shooting one of the most awesome moments of my life in Monument Valley, my travel companion Paul Rogers and I make the drive up to Natural Bridges National Park to photograph a few of the natural bridges that have been eroded out of solid rock over the eons.
It’s just after noon, not exactly golden hour but we descend the trail toward Owachomo Bridge. Very cool. These are huge natural sculptures that we have the pleasure of seeing and documenting. At the trail’s end we set up and make a few images.
Back to the car and a short 40 minute drive to the closest town of Blanding Utah for lunch. Yes, we should have come prepared but we’re just on an adventure. No plans to speak of.
Blanding Utah. If you’re ever in the area on a Sunday afternoon and think you’ll find a delicious out of the way eatery to enjoy… think again. We did find a gas station convenience store bowling alley sort of restaraunt that seemed…. it was open. Nuff said.
Back at the bridges… we stand at the view point of Sipapu Bridge and normally I would have been quite content to stand and look in awe at the great hole in the ground with this massive 500 foot tall bridge. Not today. Not with Paul. Hoorah.
I’ve read lots of trail descriptions in hiking guides and park maps… Never have I seen one that listed ladders and this one had three! Turns out they weren’t as bad as I imagined -and way better than climbing down a tree as early visitors had to experience.
Down. Not really the most challenging direction to hike – however – knowing that the getting back will ultimately require the 500 foot assent with a pack of gear is.. something to look forward to… or not.
Finding the perfect vantage point at this bridge is a challenge and I’m never quite content with my location, the light, the setting. But today isn’t just about making photographs. In between all those shutter clicks and camera settings there is plenty of time to sit in awe.
At one point I see Paul looking over at me. I’m just taking in the scene as it unfolds before me. A veteran of both the military sort as well as previous trips to document our country’s great landscape it seems Paul is better able to stay focused on the task… me? I have to remind myself that a photographic master’s degree from the PPA is within reach and I’m sitting in front of a very merrit worthy subject.
Time passes and photos are made and now is the time. Assent. Up each of three ladders. Up the steel steps bolted into the otherwise impassable gaps in the natural trail. Across a fantastic ledge large enough for a wedding party.
With a bit of (or maybe lots of) heavy breathing I follow Paul (at a distance) and make it to the parking area. I should have been in better shape coming into this trip but this has been a trip never to be forgotten. I’ve never been so up close and personally challenged by these type of trails and views.
I am full of gratitude to my wife and family who only mind a little when I’m not there. I am fortunate indeed to have a good friend in Paul Rogers to have shared the experience.
Consider me blessed.
I went to the Monument Valley area for a long weekend of photography recently with photographer and friend Paul Rogers. If you’ve ever seen a John Wayne movie or countless other western movies you’ll probably recognize these scenes.
After driving up from Albuquerque we arrived just in time for a lovely sunset at The Monument Valley. The sun setting to our backs lighting up the clouds overhead, it was really cool to see and capture an image that Grandpa Ansel Adams created nearly 70 years ago. (I’m sure he would have adopted me as his grandson if he knew how much I revered him).
Knowing that morning’s first light on these great rocks would be worth the effort, it was decided. The next day, just as twilight was breaking we arrived at furthest reach of the park aptly named: Artist’s Point.
Backpacking our gear we hiked a bit further and found two perches on which to sit. Then all we had to do was set up; camera on tripod, remote trigger and enjoy a light breakfast and not forget to capture the most memorable scene either of us had ever witnessed. (Speaking for Paul without permission and yes, our respective marriages and childrens births were really cool too).
The predawn light gradually illuminates everything with a gentle wash of light as you’d expect. Then the first rays of warm and direct sunlight kiss the Mittens as an unmistakable sign: THIS is it. THIS is the moment you came for.
For the next few moments we sighted and framed and bracketed this inspiring scene.
In our media saturated society I think we have been so inundated with spectacular images from the great masters that have gone before us that we tend to trivialize the actual events they captured. Never needing to leave the comfort of our lazy boy and laptop to see anything anywhere. This was the real deal.
Sitting on our tiny outcropping – the two of us shared a view that morning maybe a only handful of people have ever seen. This spot. This scene. THE moment.
I’m writing this at the airport – before I’ve had the chance to even get home and transfer my files. Latent images as Ansel might refer to them and I have the oddest feeling that I might not want to see them.
I KNOW I captured the scene to the best of my ability. But – I am oddly concerned that the finished image will fail to live up to my experience of that moment and somehow diminish that moment.
I’ve been snapping pictures since I was 12. Probably burned through a mile of film by the time I was out of college. Never. Not never in a million years would I have imagined not wanting to see something I’ve captured.
Since I was in 7th grade with my first instamatic and developing my mind’s eye as well as my own black and whites I’ve wanted to go on a pilgrimage – Not to the holy land as you know might know it but to the great southwest that my boyhood hero Ansel Adams knew and photographed.
Spanning across the Utah/Arizona border Monument Valley’s extreme rugged features were well documented by Ansel. ANYbody even SORT of interested in photography would recognize his photograph of the mittons…. or his petroglyphs.
One of my favorite images from his 1958 trip was his self portrait. A simple shadow of an icon – showing us a bit of his personality, his sense of humor and love of these great views that he wanted to help preserver for future generations.
If he were around today I’m sure Ansel would be thrilled to join me with some of his own state of the art digital imaging gear. He’d have a high resolution scan back on a view camera or maybe want to borrow my Nikon D800 but in any case I would have given just about anything (sorry to my firstborn child) to be able to visit these world class settings with the man that inspired me more than just about anyone!
I’ll be making this trip – though not with Ansel. This trip will be a be with one of my current mentors and friends – Paul Rogers. Paul has spent his own time photographing parts of this beautiful country in ways envious to me. We’ll not have the seemingly endless time Ansel had. But I’m thinking three sunrise/sunsets and everything in between should be a good start to pay homage to Mr. Adams.
And you can bet I’ll be sharing images and thoughts about all sorts of things after I get back!
Are you ready Paul?
This week the International Photographic Competition was held by the Professional Photographers of America in Atlanta… I am VERY pleased to
brag announce that one of my entries was awarded “Loan” status! Loan prints are published in the PPA’s book of the ‘best of the best’ from the thousands [4920 to be exact] of images entered at this year’s competition! AND two of my other images were accepted into the “General Collection”.
“Speak Easy” was created from a session with one if my high school senior portrait subjects. No she doesn’t smoke. Yes I felt a little like a jerk making it look like she does… but then again… it went LOAN
I submitted 3 other images into the “open” category and I’m pretty pleased with “Flying Lady” which was also accepted into the general collection of meritorious images. Captured during a model session, I love how Becca’s curls flow and the light does just the right thing.
“Cat Tails Three” which had been accepted in the PPA general collection of meritorious images at the district level a couple months ago. Driving past the dentist office a while back I noticed this large growth of cat tails and loved how they looked in the evening light. I stopped and cut a few, took them back to my studio and here you are looking at them
My final image wasn’t so fortunate but 3 out of 4 and one as a LOAN is a fine way to end the summer
“Hell Bent” is from another model session. Once I experienced my handcuffed model screaming and writhing I knew we were gonna have some exceptional images – no I’ve never done that before either Disappointed the judges weren’t moved by the image – I was given the suggestion that the image may have fared better in the master artist category.. so I may revisit this image again.
Here’s the PPA’s judging criteria if you’re still interested
1) Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.
2) Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.
3) Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.
4) Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.
5) Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
6) Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
7) Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
8) Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.
9) Lighting—the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.
10) Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.
11) Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
12) Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.
This year I’m giving it away! Session fees are gone… You no longer have to pay for your session time!
$300 – 30 minutes, 1 outfit, (2) 8x10s, (3) 5x7s.
$400 – 60 minutes, 2 outfits, (2) 8x10s, (6) 5x7s.
$600 – 2 hours on location, 4 outfits, (4) 8x10s, (8) 5x7s – PLUS a book of your favorite 10 images.
$900 – 4 hours St. Louis Landing Model Session, no limits on outfits, 10 print units – PLUS a book of your favorite 20 images.
This helps me stay focused on your needs and keeps us all moving toward the same goal – creating excellent portraits within your budget!
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!
What to wear? 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] But less is more! I can pretty easily add tone and shading after the shoot… it’s pretty tough to remove over applied make up.
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. ALL my wall portraits (16 inch or larger) come with the frame included! AND any print purchased as an 5×7 or larger will automatically be added to a Facebook gallery.
Every year its a challenge. Create something memorable with a camera on a tripod as the fireworks explode in the just darkened sky to celebrate our country’s independence. I LIKE the images of fireworks against the St. Louis skyline. Old courthouse. Gateway Arch. Mississippi River… but there’s nothing better than EXPERIENCING the event in SMALL town America. Neighbors on porches as you drive to the town park. Folks who live close by walking with their kids and lawn chairs. Free water distributed by a local church not looking for handouts.. just good will.
I GLADLY donate to the fireman’s boot on the way into this park. No big-box corporate presence is made known. No canned soundtrack to fill the awesome silence – just in case you don’t have your own emotional attachment to the event.
Lebanon, Illinois IS small town. I was even greeted by an old high school friend as we pulled into the park [which is especially cool when you realize I grew up 250 miles away and graduated in a class of just barely 100].
So here it is. One frame. No Photoshop manipulation. Just 30 seconds with my Nikon D800 and trusty tripod.
BTW- I’m an 80’s graduate from southern Indiana and John Mellencamp’s Pink Houses chorus fit’s this perfectly.
Sometimes you just click. You know the feeling. Doesn’t matter whether you’re meeting a new friend, coworker or photographer and model… sometimes you just click. Bri visited me this week so we could get an early start on her senior portraits – but primarily I wanted a chance to create some images for an upcoming photographic competition. She brought these beautiful gowns from her collection and looked equally lovely in.. and we clicked.
Then we started working with some really cool hats that I had borrowed from a friend [thanks Andria May].. I couldn’t have been more pleased with how great Bri looks wearing these classic hats! I’m not suppose to share images online before a competition… but really? If you’re a judge at this year’s competition… don’t look
Once these competition images are in the bag then we can get on with photographing Bri’s senior portrait session and she’ll be ready to kick off her senior year for real!
Kelsey came to visit tonight for a quick senior photo session and I had to share her smile with you. She has an easy smile that makes a photographer glad to have a camera in hand Thanks Kelsey.. and enjoy the rest of your summer!
About six months ago, NewsChannel Five introduced a song called “This is Home” to the St. Louis market. It’s fun, peppy, and has been well received. The lyrics gave an opportunity to showcase some of the action going on around town, and it makes people smile. Because the music has been featured a few times now, the station thought it was important to define what “this is home” means…
I suggested these shots be rock solid locked down, well composed images in an effort to highlight the anchors and reporters the best we could (given of course the entire 15 or 20 minutes of time we were allowed for each set up This was all shot using my Nikon D800 and either the 24-70 or 70-200 2.8 glass to make the subject really pop in their environments. A small bit of enhancement and grain was added in post to help unify the look but otherwise the shots are pretty much straight up D800 video – love that system! The Zacuto Z-Finder was used to help sight the images better in those bright outside scenes and second system sound was recorded using the H4n Zoom external audio recorder.
The spot was conceived by KSDK’s marketing director Jeff Winget, written and produced by Jeff Lograsso, audio by Joe Eickmeier, music created by Gari Media Group, camera and editing your’s truely.
The year is rapidly drawing to a close for the 2013 seniors! One of my favorite places to photograph senior portraits is St. Louis’ Laclede’s Landing.
Lots of cool stone and grungy textures along with the cobblestone streets and of course the river.
Kayla was one of my favorite seniors this year, we spent a beautiful Saturday morning together along with her mom and sister.
When Kayla stepped out of her car wearing this beautiful and cool orange prom dress I knew we were gonna make some pretty cool shots for sure!
Between setups I glanced over at a patch of wild flowers and thought it would be the perfect accessory for Kayla
Thanks to Kayla’s quick smile and easy going nature the morning just passed by way too quickly!
Give a call if you’re interested in having your own senior portraits done at St. Louis’ Laclede’s Landing.
25 years ago my beautiful bride met me at the alter to start our lives together. We’ve had many adventures together since.. hiking trails.. trips to the carribean.. cruises.. and trips to the mall. Best of all by far has to be our adventure as a ‘real’ family once Rachel and Jake joined us.
What’s this got to do with photography? Lots. I think back over the years and some of my best memories aren’t necessarily the memory itself. Its actually the photo of the memory. Seems like a no-brainer in this day and age to capture your life events with your phone’s camera or whatever you have at hand. But it’s not only the big life events that need captured. Some of my favorite images over time have been a random moment when life is happening… not chroeographed for an audience… just life.
Those are my favorite moments… but hands down.. my favorite images have been taken by professional photographers who know how to light and direct and pose and retouch and create a concrete memory that often times far exceeds the memory that I had. THAT is when photographs truely measure up to their thousand word potential. Thanks to the Hudson Photography for being there at our wedding and to Cedarleaf’s Gordon Underwood for our favorite portrait together and to all my professional photography friends who have used us as test subjects and created masterful images that we will always cherish.
I can’t imagine my life without my wife Jackie to love me and guide me and share our family together. Here’s to another 25 years.. I can only hope and pray that she feels as blessed as I do.
Here’s a cool little article by the PhotoShelter folks about one of my favorite volunteer organizations: Hearts Apart
Hearts Apart is a nonprofit organization that uses photography to help keep military families connected while they’re serving abroad. Volunteer photographers provide soon-to-be-deployed family members with portraits of their spouses and children that they can take overseas.
We connected with some Hearts Apart photographers to learn more about why they got involved, what a typical shoot is like, and why even though it’s not always easy, at the end of the day it’s a service they’re proud to donate their time to.
Hailey’s a model with The Edge Agency in St. Louis and a senior at an area high school. She agreed to do a short photo shoot in downtown St. Louis recently and brought 3 friends to share the fun with… what you can’t see in these images is just how cold it was…
Thanks to Hailey & Abby & Maddie & Kelsey for smiling through the shivers
Tonight I had the pleasure of photographing one of my favorite models – Kenzie Pettig.
About 6 years ago I went to my first professional photographic class at the Illinois Workshops. Kenzie was one of the first models that I met there and have enjoyed working with her every year or so since that first meeting. She has always brought an easy smile and good nature to any photo shoot we have done.
Tonight we met in St. Louis about 5:00 and while it looked like a pretty nice day… by the time we started shooting it was cold and windy. I kept my jacket zipped and gloves on most the shoot because… I could… Kenzie had the pleasure of modeling a few new little dresses and t-shirts. No gloves or hats for her… she did get to show off a new jacket and scarf for a few shots… but mostly she was simply a trooper working like a good model would.
Smiling.. except when I asked her not to
This morning I ended up on an egg hunt with Lynn Beall KSDK’s General Manager! We went down to the Arch grounds to grab a quick photo for her social media profile… and what I thought at first was simply a dog’s play toy turned out to be a duck egg? I guess? Not much of a nest there.. no expectant mother keeping guard, attempting to run me off.. Maybe this guy was just abandoned without hope.
Not really a deep thought…. just a cool find while out and about this morning.
Inspiration. Where does it come from and how do we harness it? This could be short ’cause I ain’t got the answer
Over the years in the video edit suite in which I’ve become very comfortable I’ve often wished my producer or the client would bring in a story board.. an idea of what they want their commercial to look like. Heck. I’d be happy with a single idea on a dirty napkin some days… but when I’m with a model or portrait client in my own studio I understand better the challenge of coming up with specific ideas.
Take the process of photographing a session. I still get frustrated sometimes that I can’t seem to choreograph the perfect session. Dance steps in front of the camera. Pose A followed by pose B… Backgrounds A through F… rinse and repeat for the next subject.
Only recently have I begun to appreciate the organic nature that my sessions seem to develop. We always start with show n tell. Outfits. Looks. What do you like.. what I like… But specifically what ARE we gonna shoot?
That’s when we just have to start. Like writing. The first word. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just gotta get started. One of my mentors said when he works with a model he expects the first couple dozen images will be disposed of. Like two dancers taking the first tentative steps together… Chemistry often times needs a catalyst.
That’s when music comes to mind. Music can move us beyond ourselves… get our mind off our own awkward thoughts.. Music.
As I walk to and from the train station on my way to work I generally have Pandora playing in my earbuds – music being piped directly into my brain. During this short walk with Incubus or Crash Kings or even Hannah Montana left over from one of my kids playlists – I see things. I imagine things. I imagine business people walking or skipping to their office to the sounds only I can hear. I notice the reflection of the sun and clouds as I walk past those big glass buildings actually matching the music in my ears… I start to get… INSPIRATION… It should be no surprise really. Music is kind of like bottled inspiration.
Next time your brain gets stuck with no direction and you need a jump start. Plug in. Turn it up. Go for a walk. Jump in. Do something… anything.
Recently I had the pleasure of photographing another high school senior. Not much of a big deal normally. Sure.. there were new clothes for the event, hair and make up done just so… but this was different from the first call.. When the mom first called for an appointment she seemed a bit off.. while we continued to talk she explained her confused state by simply telling me – the tumors in her head get in the way sometimes.
Yup. This is gonna be different.
They show up on time. Daughter with her handful of outfits, friend at her side for encouragement – mom with her head wrapped to help disguise the effects of her chemo treatments…
I’ve had moms get teary eyed during the first viewing session – watching their “baby” grow up instantly in front of them.. but never before has a mom teared up before I take my first photo. I click off a few images and play show and tell on the back of the camera… just to make sure we’re going in the right direction. Today I could have sold every one of those clicks. I could have sent the camera files straight to the printer – mom and her tumors would have devoured each and every one.
By the end of our couple hours mom is really ready to get home and rest. I head in and start the transfers and selection process. First I unusually eliminate every extra image that is not absolutely necessary. Today though, every one of those extra clicks, every one of those ever-so-slightly-different looks and smiles are impossible to eliminate. These are one of mom’s last chances to share a bit of normalcy, to share another milestone – her little girl’s senior pictures.
The sales session was even more different. Many of my folks come to me and want a few prints to give to their family.. hang one over the mantle. A bunch of wallets to exchange with friends. This session was different. This mom simply said, “I want them all.” All of them. She wanted every version of every image I had of her little girl… Her daughter of course was slightly embarrassed for mom and her emotional state — but for me it was one of the most gratifying, humbling experiences.
It’s no surprise why we want to capture moments in time with our loved ones… better to remember the first or last of many events… but it still surprises me how humbling it is… how honored I feel to be chosen to help folks I’ve often just met to preserve a little love to hold onto.
As for mom and her situation? She’s still making plans… I’m gonna get to photograph her younger daughter soon and with any luck we’ll be making three and four generation photos over the next few years. How cool would that be?
Since KSDK-TV in St. Louis went on the air February 8th, 1947 film cans have been stacking up.
The station’s archivist, Bob Garger has been maintaining the archive of film for the last few years…
this is a short peek into a part of Bob’s day.
I published this on Vimeo a few months back but this is simply an example of what I’d love to do more of…
travel light with a simple DSLR and a wireless microphone to capture the life around us.. not necessarily big stories..
but the parts of our lives that fit together and create the big story.
Hazel was my wife’s mother’s mom. A wonderfully generous lady who loved to cook and care for her kids and grandkids… Even at 98 she was probably sharper than many 20 something’s I know… I always enjoyed a visit with her. She seemed to always be genuinely happy to know what was happening in your life. Always seemed to love seeing her great grand kids grow.
While I hoped this image would have been up to PPA standards for competition (it wasnt) I know that’s not the standard that matters. Merit worthy or not – I think this captures Hazel at her best, near the end. Her eyes reflect her sharp wit that was still present and that slight smile masks a lot of love that she had for everyone she knew.
Lisa Liefer - I had the pleasure of photographing Lisa recently for her portfolio and I wanted to share her profile today as she heads to Chicago for Miss Teen Illinois pageant! Lisa is a senior at Waterloo High School and will be representing Monroe County in the Miss Teen Illinois International pageant being held on March 2nd and 3rd in Chicago, IL (good luck Lisa). Lisa began modeling when she was 10 and currently models for The Edge Agency. She is featured in the Spring/Summer 2013 edition of St. Louis’ Best Bridal magazine.
Lisa will attend the University of Missouri in Columbia next fall majoring in Athletic Training and Nutrition. Lisa’s hobbies include volleyball, which she has played competitively for the last 5 years, earning a bid to the 2011 USA Jr. National Championships; ice skating, hunting, cooking and modeling. She is the daughter of Les and Kathleen Liefer of Waterloo, IL.
I look forward to photographing Lisa when she returns with some shiny hardware to show off
Last year I was asked to document the Komen Race for the Cure for a NewsChannel Five promotional piece. I expected to shoot primarily stills and create the spot with just a series of slow disolves on the photos… but as I began to document the day I couldn’t resist shooting a bit of video as well [the Nikon D800’s a beautiful camera]. I had been at the event previous years but never spent this amount of time really looking at the people around me. When you start really looking into their faces.. and see the emotion that they simply can’t hide… you can’t help but be moved.
This year’s Komen Race for the Cure is set for June 15th and I hope to have the opportunity to be there again. To document the day. To capture the joy and spirit that the folks participating. If you only have 30 seconds skip down to the second version… if you have a few minutes more watch this and consider coming to downtown St. Louis to join in!
Here’s the 30 second spot that got most the air time:
2009 – I had just recently joined up with the Professional Photographers of America and met a very dynamic group of photographers at the Illinois state convention. I was first impressed at how easy and open to share information everybody was. Then I had the good fortune to meet the guys: Three of the most talented and visually gifted photographers I’ve ever met. Iconic? That’s a big word but these guys have created some iconic work. From the grandure of the wild west… to angst ridden portraits that make you shudder if you stare too long… to beautiful works of art from simple garden weeds…
John • Paul • Michael
Michael Barton, Paul Rogers & John Metcalfe continue to be instrumental in helping me develop my photographic vision and finishing technique. If you ever need some tough love and a true critique of your work – get to know these guys and put on your thick skin. John likes to say “The more thou sweat-est in preparation, the less thou bleed-est in competition.” I’m pretty certain I’ve bled plenty under their mentoring.
This image entitled, “Bucket of Buddy” was my first entry into the seriously competitive world of print competition. I photographed my dog, Buddy. Spent an hour or so in Photoshop and presented it to the guys. Then I re-photographed Buddy. Spent a few more hours in Photoshop and presented it to the guys. Can you say rinse and repeat? Subtle things like retouching eyes, warming up the ears, eliminating all things unnecessary to the image. Finally, at my first print competition at the state convention in Illinois
I was we were awarded a solid score of 83 (my first Merit) and a Judge’s Choice award for the image! I am continually humbled each and every time I have the opportunity to go to print competition and bask in the beautiful imagery that is presented and I hope to continue building my portfolio of merits – someday earning my photographic master’s degree from the PPA. Until then I’ll keep shooting and reshooting…. the more I sweat.. the less I bleed.