Friday, December 31, 2010

Year End Review - Looking Back At 2010 And Forward To 2011


When I look back at 2010, I'm amazed at how much has happened in the past year. I've met so many wonderful people, had so many fun shoots and learned so much, it's hard to believe that less than a year ago I'd never even been in a photography studio before (at least not as a photographer).

It's funny how the more you learn about something, the more you realize you don't know. This is certainly true with photography. I had an excellent learning experience in 2010 with the Meeting of the Masters and hope to attend some more training in 2011. I also learned a great deal about myself and my skills with my 365 project. Both of these experiences taught me so many little details that I have been able to use at every shoot, I'm not sure where I'd be today without them.

Of course, gaining knowledge isn't much good if you don't get to use it once in a while. In addition to all of my paying shoots, I did a number of personal shoots as well. Some were personal projects and some were just for fun. They were all a great way to not only use my camera but also to meet new people.

One of the things that surprised me the most in 2010 was how fun it is to network. I'm not normally a social guy, but for some reason diving into a room of people and seeing how we can help each other is something I truly enjoy. I have met so many wonderful people in such a short amount of time, I can't wait to see what next year holds.

Speaking of next year, what's the plan for next year? Is it going to be the same as 2010? Is there going to be anything new? Well, if I've learned anything from this year, it's that you never know what's going to happen, but if I can be so bold as to put something in writing, here's what I'm thinking for 2011...

One of my big focuses is going to be on high school senior photos. In 2010, I kind of decided at the last minute to dip my toe in and see what happened. It turns out I love working with seniors! I'm planning on spending most of my summer photographing seniors, but I'll leave a little room for weddings. That's right, I'm going to try to book a few weddings in 2011. I was fortunate enough to shoot a few weddings in 2010 and I'm looking forward to shooting a few more in 2011.

Also up in 2011 is a new website. I'm putting the finishing touches on it, so look for it very early in 2011. A website doesn't do much good if no one looks at it, so that's why I'm also planning on not slowing down with the networking. I'm loving it too much to stop, so hopefully I'll meet plenty of new people who I can send to my new website!

Finally, I'm planning on 2011 being a better year for business. Don't get me wrong, 2010 was a great year, but I have a feeling that when it's time to sit down and crunch the numbers for the year, I'll be pretty shocked at what I find. It's time to get more serious on the business side of things and start thinking about things like profit. Yes, I know... crazy idea, right? Well, maybe 2011 is the year things get a little crazy around here. I can't wait!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Favorite Photos

After a year of photographing everything from newborns to politicians, models to caramels, you'd think that the shoots would start to blend together.  That's actually not the case.  I still look back through the different shoots that I've done in 2010 and remember particular moments from each one.  There are also photos from each session that are my favorites.

The photos that I've collected here are just a few of my favorite photos that I've taken in 2010.  Some are my favorite because of a particular memory that they invoke while others are my favorite just because I love the photo.  Without further ado, here are my personal favorite photos of 2010:


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos - Part II: Models

Although some people aren't comfortable in front of a camera and require an extra loose environment for a relaxed photo session, models are usually very comfortable in front of a camera.  Of course, this can lead to more goofiness than normal.  Contrary to what many people may believe, most of the models I have worked with are very bright people with lots of personality.  They also like to have a good time...


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos - Part I: Families and Events

This is what happens when you photograph people you know.
Over the course of a year, after photographing so many families and individuals, it's always fun to look back and remember how much fun we had at each shoot.  Lots of people are intimidated when a camera is pointing at them, so I always try to make sure photo shoots are fun events, not serious affairs.  As evidence, I'd like to present the following photos:


Monday, December 27, 2010

Year End Review - CRAVE Denver Shoots

It all started with a post I saw on the Mile High Photographers' forum that said CRAVE Denver was looking for photographers to photograph local, women-owned businesses. After a bit of quick research, I liked what I had to read about CRAVE and sent off an email saying that I was interested in helping with the photography. Three months and 16 shoots later, I've worked with some amazing women, visited some awesome businesses that I never knew existed and expanded my network by leaps and bounds. Here are the wonderful women whom I've had the opportunity to work with and the Denver-area businesses that they own:


Friday, December 24, 2010

Year End Review - Fundraisers and Donations


If you're a reader of comic books (or have at least seen the movie Spider-Man), you're familiar with the quote: "With great power comes great responsibility."  I'm not sure if I'd say I have great power, but I do feel that, as someone who is able to help, I have a responsibility to help.

In the last year, I have donated my services to a variety of organizations in the Denver area.  From volunteering to photograph events to participating in fundraisers, giving back to the community has been a big part of 2010 for me.  Here are a few different ways that I've tried to give a little help this year:


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Denver Event Photography

I don't typically post about the various events I photograph throughout the year, so I figured I'd give you quick summaries of a few of the more high profile events I've had the opportunity to shoot this year.

The White House Project event with Marie Wilson
The White House Project is an amazing, non-partisan organization who's goal is to create a pipeline of female leaders who participate in politics, from the local levels up to The White House. It was founded by Marie Wilson. Marie came to Denver earlier this year for an event in Cherry Creek. I was asked to photograph the event and had a great time hanging out with so many young, passionate people.



Friday, December 17, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Weddings

Photographing a wedding has got to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have had as a photographer.  I’m not going to lie.  It’s a long, hard day of work.  You’ve got to be alert so that you don’t miss any special moments.  You’re on your feet, constantly moving, for 10 hours or more.  At the end of the day you’ve got thousands of photos to sort and process.  But when you get to sit back and look at those photos, it makes it all worthwhile.

Some of you might recall that I shot my first wedding this summer.  It was done, with some hesitation, for a friend.  After that first time, though, there is really no going back.  When I was done working on their photos, it felt so good to sit back and see all of the beautiful images that they would be able to enjoy for the rest of their lives.  Judging by their reaction (and that of their family and friends), they felt the same way.

Because I felt that I still needed some more experience before I took the plunge and started photographing weddings on my own, I got in touch with a local wedding photographer, Ken Miller, who has been photographing weddings for over 30 years  He graciously allowed me to shoot a few weddings with him.  This opportunity, combined with his experience, has been invaluable.

Thanks to Ken, I had the opportunity to shoot a Catholic wedding in a large church, a small, non-secular ceremony in a clubhouse and a Jewish wedding at sunset.  What a variety of weddings!  These experiences have given me so much experience and really made me realize what I didn’t know (and wasn’t prepared for) about shooting weddings.

Some of my favorite parts of shooting a wedding with Ken were the times when things slowed down a bit and we had a few minutes to talk.  Having been in the industry for over 30 years and shooting over 40 weddings a year, you can imagine that he’d have some pretty good stories to tell, which he does.  I could sit and talk to him all day and he’d wouldn’t run out of stories to tell.

Although I still have a long way to go before I have as much experience (or as many stories) as Ken does, I am feeling much more confident and passionate about shooting weddings.  I’m excited to start offering wedding photography packages for 2011.  I’m also excited for all of the people I’ve yet to meet and the moments I’ve yet to capture.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned with my very limited experience of photographing weddings, it’s that you never know when that special moment is going to unfold before your eyes.  Here are a few images from weddings that I was fortunate enough to photograph this year…




Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year End Review - 2010 Photographers


During the past year, I've had the opportunity and the pleasure to work with and learn from a variety of photographers. It's always nice to spend time with other photographers, not only because of all the tips and tricks that you pick up, but also because they're always ready to talk about cameras and photography.  They're usually a pretty good bunch of people, too! This outlet for geeking out about cameras saves Belinda from countless conversations like this one.

I want to publicly thank a handfull of photographers who I spent time with this past year. Whether it was in a classroom environment, at a photo shoot or over a beer, I've enjoyed the time I've spent with these colleagues:


Monday, December 13, 2010

Randomness - Conversation

Conversation


Sometimes I try to have a conversation with Belinda that, before I ever open my mouth, I know will end up with Belinda thinking I am just a little bit crazier than she did before the conversation started. Take the other night for example. We were driving along and my mind started to wander to something that I had been thinking about the other day. I won't bore you with the details (like I did Belinda), but let's just say it involved apertures, shutter speeds, f-stops and math. Yeah, sounds like a great conversation, doesn't it?

They usually start out like this: "So, the other day I was thinking... wait, you remember the last time we talked about the relationship between apertures and shutter speeds, right? Kind of? OK, well..."

So, why do I start these conversations in the first place? I think I just want to get them out of my head. You know how when you say something out loud, like a person's name who you've just met, it's supposed to help you remember it? I think it's the same with these crazy conversations, but instead of helping me to remember, it helps me to think through any little details that I'm still not sure about. It also helps to run things by Belinda since she's super smart and isn't afraid to challenge my ideas (or just flat out tell me I'm wrong).

I think she's come to expect these kinds of things from me, because she actually gets into the conversations once in a while. While it would be really easy for her to just nod her head and say "Uh huh. Yeah. Sounds good to me. Good job figuring that out.", she doesn't! She asks questions, she gets clarification and she remembers what we talk about! Does this mean that she cares? Not necessarily. Does it mean she cares about me? Yes it does!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Adjust Your ISO - Better Photos... Now!

If you're shooting handheld in a low light situation and need more light, there are three things that you can do to get a proper exposure. First, drop your shutter speed as low as possible while still getting sharp photos. Second, open your aperture to let in more light. Finally, boost your ISO!

Raising the ISO on your camera makes the sensor more sensitive to light. Most cameras start at either ISO 100 or ISO 200 as their default. By increasing the ISO to 400, 800, 1600 and beyond, you increase your camera's ability to take photos in low-light conditions. This comes at a cost, though, as you'll also introduce more noise into your photos.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Year End Review

You might have noticed with yesterday's post, I'm moving into end-of-year mode. That means I'll be doing some posts focused on 2010 as a whole, not necessarily one particular shoot. Here's what's in store for the rest of December:

- Looking Back at 2010 and Forward to 2011
- 2010 Favorite Photos
- 2010 Fundraisers and Donations
- 2010 Photographers
- CRAVE Denver Shoots
- 2010 Event Photography
- 2010 Outtakes and Other Fun Photos
- 2011 Resolutions

If time permits, I might come up with a few more posts, but this should keep me pretty busy until the end of the year. Check back often!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - 2011 Sneak Preview

So, it looks like 2010 is about to wrap up and it sure is keeping me busy! I'm not sure I'll have time to write up any more gear reviews for Tech Tuesday until 2011, but that doesn't mean I can't tease you with a few of the items you'll get to read about. So, although you'll have to wait a few weeks, here's what you'll be reading about next year:

Lens Reviews - I plan on reviewing all of my lenses and doing some side-by-side comparisons to give you an idea of field of view and bokeh. A few lenses that will get reviewed are my Nikon 50mm f/1.4D, Nikon 12-24mm f/4 and Nikon 135mm f/2 AF-DC (DC stands for defocusing control).

Light Modifier Reviews - Ever wonder what the difference is between a softbox, a beauty dish and a plain reflector? I'll show you the difference, using as many different shapes and sizes as possible.

Nikon D7000 - I posted a sneak preview a few weeks ago, but I'm going to dive in and do a full review of this sweet little camera. Now that I've used it in a variety of shooting conditions, including the studio, I've got a lot more to say about it.

Sekonic L-358 Light Meter - I'm not sure how I haven't reviewed this yet, but I've come to love this light meter. I'll tell you why.

Rode VideoMic - I plan on getting very familiar with this microphone in the near future. I'll let your read, and hear, how it sounds and works with a DSLR recording video.

Yashica-D TLR - Uhhhh, wait a minute. Isn't this supposed to be about technology? About lust-worthy gear that just hit the stores? This camera is almost 50 years old. It shoots film. It's not auto-focus. It doesn't even meter light. Maybe, but it's pretty awesome. I'll tell you why.

There you go! I hope that gets you excited for Tech Tuesday in 2011. Sounds like I'd better get busy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Manual Mode - Better Photos... Now!

Have you ever taken a photo, looked at it and wondered, "What was my camera thinking?" Instead of a photo that captures the glorious light that's falling on your subject, you get a photo in which everything is underexposed, except for the windshield of the car in the background, which is perfectly exposed. Contrary to popular belief, DSLRs are not that smart and can easily be fooled by a variety of lighting conditions. Fortunately, with a little practice and common sense, you can take great photos without relying on your camera to figure out the exposure.

When you set your camera to aperture priority or shutter priority mode, your camera is still calling the shots when it comes to deciding the proper exposure. By setting your camera to manual mode, you take complete control over the exposure of your photos. Be forewarned: With great power comes great responsibility. If you're not careful, you'll have lots of under or over-exposed photos. If you change lighting conditions, like walking from indoors to outdoors, you need to change your settings. Be aware of your surroundings, though, and you'll be rewarded with consistent exposures and more creative control than you ever imagined possible!

To get started shooting in manual mode, set your camera to that big, intimidating M. Now you're in control of the aperture and shutter speed. Remember, your aperture controls the amount of light that enters your camera while shutter speed controls how long your sensor is exposed to that light. If your photo is under-exposed, you can either decrease your shutter speed or use a larger aperture (smaller f/number). If your photo is over-exposed, you can either increase your shutter speed or use a smaller aperture (larger f/number).

Now that you're in manual mode, how are you going to take better photos than your camera? Let's say you're standing on the street and your subject is standing on the sidewalk in some beautiful light. Unfortunately, that light is also glaring off of a car windshield behind your subject and is tricking your camera's meter. You take a photo and notice that it is under-exposed. No problem! Just decrease the shutter speed to let in more light. Sure, the windshield is going to blown out and over-exposed, but now your subject will be properly exposed. If you were using aperture or shutter-priority mode, changing the aperture or shutter speed would still give you an under-exposed image, because as far as the camera is concerned the scene hasn't changed. Using manual mode, you override the camera's judgement and get the exposure you want!

Here are a few examples of shooting in manual mode versus shooting in aperture priority mode.  These are for demonstration purposes only, as they were test shots while I was setting my exposure.

The photo on the left was taken in aperture priority mode at f/4.  Because of the bright background, the camera thought it should be exposed for 1/800 of a second, which produces an underexposed image.  I switched to manual mode, set my camera to f/3.2 and 1/200 of a second, which gives the image on the right.  The background is blown out (the camera tried to tell me!), but I'm not shooting the background, I'm shooting the boy!


Although the photo on the right is nothing to write home about, with a little curves adjustment, we get something like you see below, which was taken at the exact same settings just a few seconds after the above photo on the right!


Now, go forth with your cameras set to M!

Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lindsay and Bob - Senior and Practice Engagement Photos

Shortly after doing a photo shoot in October of 2009, I received a message on Facebook. It read something like "I got your name from some friends and wanted to know if you could photograph my wedding in July 2011?". After explaining that I'd never shot a wedding before, the response was "I don't really mind that you haven't done a wedding before... I feel it's one of those "pay it forward" things. If I don't take a chance on someone, who knows if or when someone will."

I want to thank Lindsay for taking a chance on me. It's been over a year since that first message and we have developed quite a relationship. Although we've only met twice (once to discuss the wedding and once for this photo shoot), I feel like we've known each other a lot longer. That level of comfort helped to make this shoot a whole lot of fun and a lot easier, since I was just meeting Lindsay's fiancée, Bob, for the first time.

Lindsay and Bob are high school sweethearts. I got to hear some great stories about sledding, bears and broken noses (all different stories, if you can believe it), as well as getting to see how perfect they are for each other. Although we're planning an official engagement shoot sometime in early 2011, we thought we'd get in a little practice while we had the chance, so after a relaxing lunch we headed out to CSU's campus for some photos.

When two people have known each other for quite a while, it's kind of magical. Their hands and their bodies know how they best fit together. Their conversations calm and relax each other. Their subtle glances between shots bring true smiles and a twinkle to the eye. Just don't ask them to gaze at each other.

Apparently, Lindsay and Bob don't spend much time "gazing" at each other, because when I asked them to gaze into each others eyes, it lasted a whole 2 seconds before they started cracking up with laughter! I told them to practice their gazing before their engagement session, but when I talked to Lindsay the next week and jokingly asked her how their gazing practice was going, she said they tried it in a restaurant and caused a scene. Maybe we'll nix the gazing photos.

Lindsay will be graduating from CSU this December, at which point I'm pretty sure she will be diving into wedding planning mode until July. While she's still a college student, though, we wanted to get some photos of her on campus. Bob took off and left us to capture Lindsay the College Student. We strolled around campus, ducking into buildings to get warm and snapping photos between snow flurries. When the weather really started to take a turn for the worse, we decided to call it a day.

After spending an afternoon with Lindsay and Bob, I can honestly say that I can't wait for their engagement photo session. Even more, I can't wait for their wedding day! What started as a quick message on Facebook has turned into a wonderful relationship. Lindsay and Bob, I'm so happy for you and am looking forward to many more lunches, conversations and photo shoots with the two of you!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thoughts of Thanks

While I sit here at my in-law's house in Pueblo sipping coffee, eating potica (something that, unfortunately, has not seemed to migrate north towards Denver), and listening to some jazz, I have a few minutes of quiet to reflect on what I'm thankful for this year. In no particular order, I'm thankful for:

  • My wife, Belinda, for all of her support, encouragement and patience.
  • Coffee!
  • My wonderful clients who are so full of confidence, trust and love that sometimes I can hardly believe it.
  • Technology, for making things both infinitely easier yet, at the same time, infinitely more complicated.
  • My family, who always tell me they like my photos even when I don't.
  • Coffee shops with free wifi.
  • Professional print labs who make my work look amazing!
  • A reliable car.
  • The health of my family and myself.
  • My cat, Sweet Pea, who has very long hair but fortunately does not ever get hairballs (I can't even begin to describe how thankful I am about this one).
  • Did I mention coffee?
If I really wanted to start thanking individuals I'd be here all day.  There are so many wonderful people who I've met or worked with in the last year.  Hopefully, if I'm appreciative of your support, I've told you or you've received a thank you note from me at some point in the last year.  If not, then I'd like to extend a big Thank You to everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.  I can only imagine what next year holds in store for me and the wonderful people I'm going to get to know.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some pies to bake.  On the menu this year: Pumpkin Cream Pie (a new variation of the traditional pumpkin pie), Pecan Pie (maybe we'll add a little bourbon again this year), and Vinegar Pie (not very traditional, but if it turns out anything like the piece I ate in Arkansas this year, should be amazing!).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - ProDPI

It was a cold, rainy night. I was going to an event down in Englewood. My brother was in town from Boston and was borrowing my truck, so he dropped me off at the event. Unfortunately, due to our schedules not quite meshing, I was about 45 minutes early to the event. Since the weather was kind of miserable, I didn't really feel like hanging around outside, so I asked if I could come inside and wait. The answer was a friendly "Yes", and that was my first contact with ProDPI.

I was shown back to the area where the party was going to take place. One of the customer service reps was just leaving and she told me that I could sit at her desk if I wanted. How nice of her! After sitting for a while, a woman came into the room with her young boy. It turns out she was Caitlin, the CEO of ProDPI. We chatted while she fed her son and I couldn't have asked for a nicer person to talk to while I waited. I learned that the guy who I met when I walked in was Jeffrey, her husband and COO of ProDPI.

When Caitlin had to run off to take care of something, I took the opportunity to look around at the samples or their work that they had on display for the party. I should mention that ProDPI is a full service, pro lab. They offer everything from prints to albums, business cards to stickers. Every sample that I looked at, including albums, accordion books and mounted prints all looked amazing!

Once the party was underway and more people showed up, Jeffrey took us on a tour of the ProDPI facilities. He explained their print process, their philosophy and why they relocated from California to Colorado. He showed us their lab, their prep area and their packing facilities. Their commitment to being a green company shows in their use of shipping materials (cardboard made with post consumer waste), recycling of all recyclable materials, eco-friendly print packaging options and electronic invoicing. By the end of the tour I was thoroughly impressed.

The next day I decided to create an account with ProDPI and order some test prints. No matter how impressive a lab is in person, it doesn't mean much if their actual prints aren't any good. I downloaded their ROES software and, after a few minutes, had ordered my prints. I really wanted to get the prints ordered before noon, as I had another test for ProDPI. I wanted to see if I ordered my prints before noon if they'd be at my house the next day. I'm happy to say that they were waiting for me when I came home the next evening! I know this might not happen every time, but just knowing that it can happen is awesome.

So, let's do a quick recap. Friendly staff, family-owned, great quality press products, good selection, eco-friendly and fast! Sounds good so far, but what about those prints? I'm happy to say that they are better than I had expected! The actual quality of the print is outstanding. I have a standard test image that I print with every lab I've ever tried and ProDPI is at the top of the list. Their print showed more detail than most and the colors were excellent! What really makes their prints stand out, though, is their paper. Jeffrey mentioned that they are one of the few labs in the country who use Fuji paper and I must admit, I like it a lot better than the Kodak paper that I'm used to. It's a little heavier, so it feels more substantial, and it has a more appealing texture as well.

In case you didn't figure it out by now, I now have a new lab. ProDPI does amazing work and I'd suggest checking them out if you're a photographer. Not only are they awesome for all of the reasons I mentioned above, but their prices are very competitive with other national pro labs. If you're in Denver, they are a local business and I'll take almost any opportunity to support local businesses. Welcome to Colorado, ProDPI. I'm glad we met!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sherri and Justin II - Denver Couples Photos

I first photographed Sherri and Justin last year in Fort Collins. For that shoot, we shot in natural light and took things fairly seriously. This year, they were inspired by my Back To School photo shoot with Fashion Denver. Sherri and Justin are the type of couple who say that they want silly, awkward photos on their holiday cards. They don't just say it either, they mean it. So, we made awkward the theme for the shoot, headed into the studio and started shooting.

They looked quite nice for the shoot. Although Justin was sporting a jacket that could only have been improved with suede patches on the elbows, he still looked pretty sharp. Sherri always looks good and had on a great red turtleneck that complimented her hair. Since it's pretty easy to dive in and start shooting awkward photos, we didn't waste any time and got busy taking photos.

Justin is a goofy guy who can make Sherri laugh anytime, so he embraced the opportunity to let loose. Before long, both were laughing so much I had to tell them to get a little more serious for their awkward photos, which they gladly did (in an awkward way).

After we had some good silly photos in the bag, we decided to get a few nice photos as well. Fortunately, they were more than happy to get some cute couples photos. Again, they didn't have a hard time with it, as they're a super-cute couple.

It was soon time to call it a wrap. In less than an hour, we had gone from awkward to goofy to cute and had a great time doing it. We wrapped up the day with beers and Indian food, enjoying both the beautiful weather and each other's company. Thank you Sherri and Justin for being wonderful people and good friends!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Shutter Priority Mode - Better Photos... Now!

If you want to freeze fast action or keep camera shake from appearing in your photos, you'll need to choose a shutter speed that's appropriate for your situation. Almost all DSLRs have a shutter priority mode (usually called S or TV) that you can use to choose a specific shutter speed. Your camera will then remain fixed at that shutter speed and adjust the aperture accordingly to give you a proper exposure.

Why would you want to fix your shutter speed and have a variable aperture instead of the other way around? If you're shooting a sporting event, you'll typically want to shoot with a shutter speed of at least 1/500 of a second. This will ensure you freeze the action, catching every single drop of sweat and blade of grass in mid-air. If, instead of freezing the action you want to introduce some motion into your photos, you can slow down the shutter speed. If you're photographing dancers and you want them to be slightly blurry as they move across the dance floor, you can set your shutter to 1/15 of a second or so and have a more artistic photograph that conveys the motion of dance.

No matter what you are photographing, having a constant shutter speed will help you achieve more control and a more consistent feel to your photos. Your camera does all of the hard work, calculating exposures, while you can focus on getting the shot. Just imagine an outdoor sporting event with players moving in and out of bright sun and shadow and you'll start to appreciate how difficult it would be to shoot in manual mode and constantly adjust your settings for good exposures.

One other great reason to fix your shutter speed is so that you do not use such a low shutter speed that you get camera shake in your photos. The rule of thumb is to not use a shutter speed any lower than 1/(your lens' focal length). This means that if you have a 50mm lens, you should not shoot with a shutter speed any lower than 1/50 of a second. If you shoot with a slower shutter speed you're likely to get blurry photos from camera shake, which is your inability to hold the camera steady. It's less noticeable with wider lenses, so with an 18mm lens you can usually get away with a shutter speed as low as 1/18 of a second (or whatever your camera's closest setting is). By shooting in shutter priority mode, you can ensure that your photos will be free of camera shake!

The next time you're shooting images that include motion, try shooting in shutter priority mode. Whether you want to freeze the action, get creative with motion or just make sure you have sharp photos, shutter priority mode gives you control to get the shots you want.

This image was shot at 1/2000 of a second in order to
freeze the liquid in mid-air.

This image was shot with a 5 second exposure in order to get
the entire action of striking the match.

Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - First Look: Nikon D7000

There are some products that, once they're introduced, rewrite the rules for an entire industry. If you believe the hype, Nikon's new D7000 DSLR might just be one such product. It's been favorably compared to cameras that cost anywhere from twice as much to 4 times as much. No one can keep it in stock and rumors a swirling that, unless you have had one on preorder for a while, it will be months before you can get one.

Imagine my surprise when I decided to dig around a little and found one in my area that was available for sale! Honestly, I believe it was probably the only one available (at retail prices, at least) in the state of Colorado. Someone had a D7000 on hold but hadn't come in to pick it up, so the salesperson took that person's name off of it and put mine on it. I had until the close of business that day to pick it up. I didn't wait.

I got it, brought it home, charged the battery, read the manual, did some research and started playing around with it. So far I've only had a chance to do one shoot with it, but many more are on the horizon. What follows are my first impressions. I'll be sure to follow up with a more in-depth review in the near future.

Note: All comparisons are made to a Nikon D90.

Feel - The first thing I noticed about this camera was the feel of the body. I'm talking about the actual texture of the surface. It feels a bit more sticky, more grippy. I never really felt like I was going to drop my D90, but this camera really feels secure in my hands.

Look - It doesn't really look much different from my D90. There are a few more buttons and an extra dial for the shutter control. The menus and displays all look pretty much the same. Once I had it set up the way I like, it took about, oh, 2 seconds to feel comfortable with it.

Sound - This camera sounds awesome. Or should I say it doesn't sound awesome? It's quiet! The shutter sounds so fast, tight and slightly muffled, I think I'm in love. When you switch it to quiet mode, the shutter just makes the tiniest bit of noise. The first time I tried it I had to make sure I was using it right it was so quiet!

Other thoughts: With just one shoot to go on, I have to say that I'm very impressed.
- Having dual memory card slots was pretty sweet.
- Reviewing photos is a fast and easy experience, as you can scroll up/down, left/right and diagonally, and you can do it quickly!
- Exposures seemed to be dead on when shooting in manual mode and spot metering.
- Focus was pretty good, although I did have a few soft images. I'm going to blame it on the move from a 9-point to a 39-point focusing system. I think I might not be used to such a small focus point, so I was a little careless about being precise with my focus. Regardless, focusing was fast and I don't think I experienced any lens "hunting" in almost 3 hours of shooting with my 50mm f/1.4 AF-D and 135mm f/2 AF DC lenses.
- Did I mention how great this camera sounds?

I haven't really had a chance to test out the D7000's performance at higher ISOs, but everything I've read so far makes me think I'm in for a treat. I also plan on shooting quite a bit of video with it in the next few months. I can't wait to try out the autofocus while shooting some video!

One thing to mention is that in order to process the RAW files, I had to download Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3.3 RC1. So far I haven't had any issues with it. If you're not running Lightroom and need to process your D7000 RAW files, a quick search should point you in the right direction.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a new camera that's just begging me to use it.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Randomness - The Right Tool For The Right Job

The Right Tool For The Right Job


I've always been a big proponent of using the right tool for the right job. For example, sometimes you can get away with using a hacksaw, which is made for cutting metal, to saw through a piece of wood. It's going to take you longer and make you work harder, but you can do it. If you decide to cut a bunch of wood, though, you're going to be wishing you had the right saw to do it.

Recently, I was reminded of this phrase by not following it. I finally got around to painting our front door. I made a quick check of the supplies I had, figured out what I needed, headed to Home Depot and came home with a gallon of paint. I already had rollers, paint trays, drop cloths... pretty much everything else I needed. Unfortunately, painting a smooth fiberglass door is a lot different from painting a textured wall. The rollers I had gave the door an interesting texture. Unfortunately, we didn't want a textured door, so I grabbed a brush to smooth out the texture. That gave me some nice brush marks. Since I'd already started, I figured I'd finish the first coat and then go get the right tools for the next coat.

A few days later I picked up some foam rollers that are made specifically for doors. They lay down a nice smooth coat of paint, they fit all the little nooks and crannies of the door and they make the job so much easier. As I was painting, I wondered how much easier it would have been to start with one of those rollers. Instead of the 3-4 coats I'm looking at now (to get rid of the brush marks), I could have been done in two.

It's the same with photography. Photographing sports is a lot different from photographing a wedding which is a lot different from creating a portrait. They all need different lenses, different lighting and maybe even different camera bodies. They use different techniques and different skill sets. Who do you think is going to be a more successful football photographer: The person who has a knowledge of football, knows where the action is going to take place and brings just the necessary equipment or the person with the most expensive camera and 10 lenses who doesn't know much about football?

Every time I try something new, I'm painfully reminded of how much practice goes into mastering one particular area of photography. Whether it's sports, food, people or a wedding, every job is different. My toolbox is nowhere near full, which means that from time to time I have to do things the hard way. Just like cutting wood with a hacksaw, I get the job done, but I wouldn't want to do it that way every time. Fortunately, each new job seems to be getting a little easier. Anyone have a door that needs painted?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Aperture Priority Mode - Better Photos... Now!

While you can control the overall sharpness of your subject and photo by adjusting the shutter speed of your DSLR, you can control how much of your photo is in focus by adjusting the aperture. Most DSLRs have an aperture priority setting (usually called A or AV) that lets you select a constant aperture for your camera, while your camera adjusts the shutter speed to give you the correct exposure.

By adjusting the aperture of your camera, you can decide if you just want the subject to be in focus with an out of focus background, or if you'd like the subject and background to be in focus. For most portraits, a lower aperture setting is usually more desirable. How low you should set your aperture depends on your lens and your subject.

Let's say you've got a 50mm lens with an aperture of f/1.8. If you're just taking a photo of one person, you can use an aperture setting of f/2.8 which will give you a nice blurry background but a sharply focused subject. If, on the other hand, you're photographing 2 or 3 people, you might want to use an aperture of f/4 or f/5.6, which will give you a wider plane of focus and should ensure that no one is out of focus.

If you're using the same 50mm f/1.8 lens and are shooting a landscape instead of people, you'll probably want to make sure that everything in the photograph is in focus. To do this, you'll want to choose the highest aperture available on your lens, probably f/16 for this particular lens.

For either of these examples, once you choose the aperture you want to shoot at, your camera will choose a shutter speed that will give you the correct exposure. Be aware, though, that when shooting at your highest and lowest apertures, you may approach shutter speed limitations. For example, if you decide to shoot at f/1.8 in full sun, your camera might not be able to set a shutter speed high enough for a correct exposure and you'll end up with an overexposed image. If you decide to shoot a sunset at f/16, your camera might leave your shutter open for too long to shoot without a tripod. Imagine if you set your aperture, started shooting a bunch of photos, then later discovered that every photo was overexposed or blurry!


Shot at f/8 with a 12mm lens - notice how everything is in focus

Shot at f/1.4 with a 50mm lens - Notice how even her ears are out of focus.
 That's a brick wall  about 10 feet behind her.

Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Randomness - Networking

Networking


I'm not sure why, but it seems like lately I've been getting a little better at networking. Yes, it was one of my 2010 resolutions, so I'd better be making some progress, right? Well, I finally feel like I'm getting there.

Take, for instance, last night. I've been working with CRAVE Denver, a guidebook and network for local women-owned businesses, doing photo shoots for their upcoming book. Because CRAVE isn't just about a book, but about building networks, there are occasional parties where all of the women in the book have a chance to meet each other. I was asked to take some photos at last night's event. It turns out the only other guy around was the DJ/dance instructor. Let me tell you, these events are amazing! No, I'm not just saying that because I'm the only guy in a room full of women. What's amazing is the way these women network.

As I made my way through the crowd last night taking photos and meeting local business owners, one thing kept coming up in conversation. The atmosphere and attitudes were all about helping each other. No one was snobby, no one was mean... everyone was so nice! If there were two people who did the same thing, they were talking to each other as friends, not as competitors. This couldn't have been more clear than with my fellow photographers.

I would guess that there were at least 10 different photographers at the event last night. What really struck me was how we all felt comfortable with each other. We weren't comparing how many shoots we'd done this year. We weren't seeing who had the cooler business cards. We weren't talking gear to see who had the biggest lens or most expensive camera. None of that. Instead, we talked about what we shoot, who we know and how we might be able to help each other. We actually networked!

As Belinda and I were driving home, I mentioned to her how nice it was to talk to other photographers and not get into a competition over who has the best gear. There was hardly even any mention of Canon vs. Nikon! Let me tell you, that's a minor miracle. With that many photographers in the same room I'm surprised we didn't break off into cliques based on camera manufacturer, secretly talking trash and giving the other groups dirty looks.

Of course, Belinda wasn't surprised. She says that's the way women's networking events work. It's not about who has the best, or the most, or the whatever. It's about "how can we help each other." I like it! It's so refreshing. I walked away from the event last night feeling very positive and energized. I made quite a few good connections that I hope will blossom into fruitful working relationships. I'm aware that meeting people is the easy part of networking. The hard part comes in maintaining contact and keeping the connections alive. Something tells me the people I met last night will be able to teach me a thing or two about doing that as well.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Lowepro Exchange Messenger Bag

After working a few events where I needed to swap lenses often, I knew something had to change. Here's the situation: You're at an event, you plan on using 3 lenses, your bag is stored someplace that's inaccessible during the event and you're wearing slacks. What do you do? Sounds like you need a bag that's a lot smaller than your camera bag but still holds enough that you don't have to worry about not having something.

When faced with this situation, my first thought was to get a Shootsac. I saw Jasmine Star using one of these while working a wedding and thought it looked like the perfect solution. Unfortunately, I needed one on short notice and couldn't find anyone here in Denver who sold them. Thus began my quest for the non-intrusive-yet-highly-functional bag.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Julia and Jaden Part II - Denver Family Photos

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember me writing about Julia and Jaden last year. Well, I got a phone call from Stephanie, their mom, again this year asking for another photo shoot. Everyone was a year older, but no less full of energy. In fact, the dog had just been to the vet and was enjoying her freedom so much we couldn't even get her to sit still long enough for more than one or two photos!

We had another beautiful October day to shoot. This year, we went for something a little less green and more autumnal. The colors have been beautiful this year, so finding a good location was not hard. The girls were dressed in matching dresses from a wedding earlier in the year. They were both flower girls, but unfortunately did not get a good photo, so the goal of the day was to get a good photo for their holiday card.

Apparently, it's now a tradition to go a little crazy at the beginning of the photo shoot (it's happened two years in a row, so I'm calling it a tradition), so the girls didn't want to do anything serious at the beginning of the shoot. That was fine, as I don't mind some goofy photos. Kids should be kids once in a while!

After they got a little energy out of their systems, we changed locations and got some nice photos. We even got Stephanie and the dog in for a few photos! I knew I was pressing my luck with the reserved, nice photos and pretty soon they just couldn't sit still and got goofy again. That's when I knew the shoot was over. As we were walking back to the car, I asked the girls to skip ahead of me and got a few wonderful photos of them skipping along, hand in hand.

I had gotten the shots I had come to get, as well as a few extras. I'm sure Stephanie will look at them years from now and fondly remember a beautiful October day spent with her daughters before they were all grown up. I'm sure if we keep shooting every year, I will look back at them and recall sunny afternoons and silly girls, which will make me smile.

To see more photos from their shoot, click here.

Friday, November 5, 2010

How Not To Do Things - Cooks Source

There are certain people and organizations you don't want to mess with: The Mafia, North Korea, Dick Cheney... and NPR? Yes, don't mess with NPR. If you need an example as to why, look no further than the recent story concerning Cooks Source.

OK, so maybe NPR didn't break the story, but I still like to give them credit for helping to spread the word. That's where I heard about it. What's the story? Here's a quick summary: Cooks Source, an ad-supported magazine, has apparently been lifting content from the internet and publishing it. They have given the authors credit, but not the source publications like Martha Stewart, The Food Network and NPR. Cooks Source claims that since they were able to find the articles on the internet, they are considered "public domain" and are therefore not protected by copyright laws.

You might be wondering what this has to do with photography? Copyright is a huge issue with photographers who make their living with the photos they take. There are hundreds, if not thousands of stories about photographers who have found their images being used without permission. They might be used to illustrate a blog post or to advertise a product. Regardless, they are being used without permission and are typically violating the photographer's copyrights.

Copyright is a hot topic in the photography community. The combination of digital photography and the internet makes it too easy to copy and paste an image for whatever purpose you please. Most people are unaware that just because you have the ability to copy something doesn't mean that you have the right to copy it. This is exactly what happened with Cooks Source.

Cooks Source is certainly being made an example of and this is only the beginning. Right now, retribution is coming in the form of posts on their Facebook Page. In the time it's taken me to write this, another 200 people have already "Liked" the page. You can be sure that every single one of these people has done so to taunt or chastise Cooks Source.  What's in store?  Probably the end of the magazine and possible monetary compensation to anyone who had work stolen.

Unfortunately, copyright infringement happens every day to artists, writers, photographers, musicians and others who depend on their creativity to make a living. Hopefully, this Cooks Source debacle will generate some awareness about copyrights and make people think twice before stealing someone else's hard work and creativity for their own personal gain.

Oh yeah, since this is titled "How Not To Do Things", I guess I should make a quick list of how not to do things. Thanks to Cooks Source for the inspiration:

  • How not to get 3500 new Facebook fans in less than 24 hours: steal other people's work.
  • How not to get mentioned by NPR, Time, Boing Boing, CNET, CNN, The Guardian, etc...: steal other people's work.
  • How not to apologize: steal other people's work and then tell them they should thank you for editing it to make it better.
  • How not to stop the bleeding: create a new Facebook page for "the readers" and tell everyone that "untruthful posts will be considered libelous".
  • How not to publish a magazine: steal other people's work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Rebecca - Boulder Children's Photos

Good things come to those who wait, right? If that's the case, then the photos of Rebecca's daughters should be amazing! Rebecca let me know way back in April that she wanted some fall photos. At that time, her youngest daughter, Samira, was almost 1 year old and hadn't had a formal photo shoot yet. By the time we shot with the fall colors in October, she was almost 1.5 years old.

The original plan was to shoot up in a canyon outside of Boulder. The original plan was also to shoot a few weeks earlier than we ended up shooting to catch the colors when they were at their peak. When I went up into the canyon on the day of the shoot, the colors were pretty much gone, so, with an improvisational Hail Mary, we decided to shoot on the University of Colorado campus and hope for some color. Fortunately, there was lots of color and many more locations for photos than we would have had in the canyon.

Samira took a bit of time warming up to the camera. Her older sister, Stella, took advantage of the opportunity to get some extra photos while her sister was being shy. Pretty soon, though, they were both goofing around and hardly noticed I was there. This is one of my favorite times to photograph children. When they forget you're there and just act like kids, it's possible to capture some truly authentic images. Posed, smiling photos of children are always nice, but I love a good photo of a kid being a kid.

As is always the case, once the kids decide they're done with photos, the shoot is over. Samira lasted over an hour, which is excellent for a kid her age. We sat down, had a snack, then headed back to the car. Fortunately, she got a second-wind before we got to the car and I was able to take photos for a bit longer before we parted ways.

So, do good things come to those who wait? Let's see... The weather was gorgeous. The location was beautiful. The light was perfect. The girls were wonderful. And the photos? According to Rebecca, they're "amazing". Just what I was hoping for.

You can see more photos from the afternoon here.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Randomness - Salad

Salad


Salad isn't something that you normally get really excited about. Sometimes, though, salads are fun.

Belinda and I always look forward to our salads. I don't think it's because we really love salad (OK, Belinda does but I don't... it wouldn't be my choice for my last meal), but we really love salad nights. A salad is something we make together. It represents teamwork. It's always different, depending on which veggies we got in our vegetable share. It's also one of the few things Belinda helps me prepare.

If I'm grilling meat or making soup, she's nowhere to be found. But, as soon as I pull out a head of lettuce and some carrots, she's in the kitchen, putting on an apron and kicking me out of the way! Never argue with a woman with a knife in one hand and a salad spinner in the other.

I love cooking, so it's no big deal that Belinda doesn't usually help me cook. Long ago, we determined our kitchen was a "one-butt kitchen". If there's more than one person in there trying to cook, that's one butt too many. Somehow, though, we make it work when it's time for salad, which is a good thing. I don't think a salad I made by myself would taste nearly as good.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Book Review - "The E-Myth Revisited"

I had heard great things about Michael Gerber's book The E-Myth. Great things like "I stayed up all night reading it". Successful, young photographers like Chase Jarvis and Jasmine Star have endorsed it. So, I figured I'd give it a shot, but instead of reading the original version (which is from the 1980s), I decided to read The E-Myth Revisited, since it's supposed to be a "new and totally revised edition". Should be the same ideas but with more computers and less fax machines.

For some reason, I just could not get into the book. Usually, this is a bad sign. If I'm not into a book within the first 10-15 pages, I usually just cut my losses and move on, but with this book, I was determined to read it and see what the fuss was all about. As I read on, I started to get into it, which is why I can actually write a review. You didn't think I'd post a review of the first 15 pages that just said "boring", now did you?

The way the book is written is fairly unique for a business book. As you'd expect, the author discusses his techniques, methods and ideas, but each chapter is framed within a conversation with an exasperated business owner. The author meets a woman who bakes pies and just can't figure out why she's working so much and not growing her business. Their conversation carries you through the ideas the book presents and gives them a practical application so you, as the reader, get to see the concepts applied to an actual business instead of just discussed as hypothetical concepts. It's a clever concept that not only helped me to get an idea of what was being discussed, but also broke up the monotony of just reading a business book.

So what about the content of the book? I have to admit, I didn't find The E-Myth Revisited as groundbreaking as I'd hoped. There were times where I was very inspired by what I was reading. The ideas all seem sound and seem like they can be applied to any business. I'm not sure what was missing for me. Maybe it's that I don't feel ready to make the major changes suggested by the book. Maybe it's because there weren't many ideas I could immediately apply to my business. I can't quite put my finger on it. Something tells me that if I go back and read it again in a year, I'll be much more excited. Maybe I'll even stay up all night reading it!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Read Your Camera Manual - Better Photos... Now!

So, you want better photos?  Put down that camera and pick up a good book.  No, I'm not talking about a book that will teach you all about photography.  I'm talking about a book that will teach you all about your camera.  That's right.  You need to read your camera manual.

You probably already know enough about your camera to take pictures, so why would you want to read your camera manual?  I'd be willing to bet that you'll find at least one thing in there that you've been wondering about. Maybe, instead of finding the answer to a question that you have, you'll discover something that you never knew your camera could do!

When I pulled out my camera manual and started flipping through it, I noticed that there was a setting that enabled a high-speed sync between the camera and an off-camera flash.  Instead of being restricted to a shutter speed of 1/200 of a second, I could go all the way to my maximum shutter speed!  Curious, I enabled it and gave it a shot.

Although it's not something that I use all the time, high-speed sync has helped me to nail a shot on more than one occasion.  If I had never read my manual, I never would have known about it and might not have gotten those shots.

You might know about lots of great settings on your camera.  You might have lots of tricks up your sleeve.  You might be able to take wonderful photos.  Just think what could happen if you were able to find an solution to that one little thing that is still driving you crazy.  The answer is waiting for you.  All you have to do is read your camera's manual.

For this photo, I was able to use the high-speed sync on my camera to trigger an off-camera flash. This allowed me to shoot at f/2.8 and 1/1250 of a second to get a soft and properly exposed background, but still fill Ross' face with light from the flash.

Read all of my DSLR tips here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Personal Project - The Chess Shoot


When I started planning my most recent personal project, I realized I needed a theme of some sort as a source of inspiration and to conceptually tie everything together. I knew my theme needed to be something big, exciting, flashy, interesting, and most importantly, cool. Naturally, there was only one option. Chess.

Chess? As in King, Queen, Pawn, black and white squares, board game, checkmate chess? Yup. That's the one.

About now you might be thinking that we have very different ideas of what would make a cool, exciting theme for a photo shoot. Hear me out, OK? I'm not a chess player. I don't think I even know how all of the pieces move around the board. What I do know are these three things: 1) Chess is based on royalty and battles, which are usually cool; 2) Chess has distinct characters, which is great for photo shoot ideas; and 3) Any idea becomes a lot cooler when there are beautiful women involved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Epson P-3000

I don't know about you, but whenever I finish a shoot and can't immediately upload my photos to my computer for safe storage, I get a little nervous.  It's not like my memory cards are plotting against me and coming up with evil schemes to delete my photos, but you can never be too safe.  I'd always heard great things about the Epson portable storage devices and had wanted to pick one up for a while, but they are pricey and I'd always had better things to spend my money on.

One day I was perusing Craigslist for some great deals on camera gear and found an Epson P-3000 for a great deal.  After confirming that it worked fine and didn't have anything wrong with it, I grabbed some cash, drove over, took a look at it and soon was headed home with a new gadget.  It turns out the guy had purchased it for a trip to Alaska and hadn't touched it since he got back.  He figured he could use the money more than the Epson, so it worked out well for everyone involved!

My first impression of the P-3000 was very good.  The screen is absolutely beautiful.  Navigation is simple and intuitive.  Backup is as easy as clicking one button.  What a wonderful device!

My primary use has been for off-site image backup.  The P-3000 has an 40GB hard drive, so it can easily hold all of my photos from one event.  Heck, it can hold all of my photos from a long vacation!  As soon as I'm done at a shoot, I pull out my memory card, plug it into the top of the P-3000 and a screen pops up that asks if I want to backup the images from the card.  I click yes, put it away and it silently backs up every image.  When I come back, the entire contents of the card are backed up and I can start reviewing files if I want to.  It automatically creates folders for the images, so I can browse past shoots by date.  It builds image previews from RAW files, so I can check images for sharpness if I want to.  Although it can't beat reviewing photos at home on a large monitor, it's a good way to pass the time in a coffee shop.

While browsing files, it's possible to flag photos as picks and only upload those selected photos at a later date, but I haven't messed with those options.  I only use it as a backup.  I still upload the files directly from the memory cards when I get home.  It just makes me feel better to know that they are backed up until I get home.

So, is there anything I would change about the Epson P-3000?  Sure.  I'd love it if it would rotate an image that was taken in portrait orientation if I rotate the viewer.  As it is, all images are only viewable while holding the device in landscape orientation, which means wasted screen space when viewing portraits.  I'd like it if it built previews a little faster.  It's not slow, considering it's building previews from RAW files, but it could be faster.  I love the size, but the first time I held it (before actually buying it), I almost dropped it because I expected the "grips" on the back to be a little bigger.  I realize that by making the back more contoured the entire device gets bigger, but I still feel like I need to wear the wrist strap every time I hold it just so I don't drop it.

In the end, I am very happy with the Epson P-3000.  It has recently been discontinued, but Epson still has a full line of these products available.  If you want a portable backup solution, I highly recommend one of these devices.  Even when I have a laptop with me, the ease and speed having one of these in my camera bag makes it my go-to gadget for backup duty.

Friday, October 22, 2010

25 DSLR Tips For Amateur Photograhers

Do you want to start taking better photos without spending a lot of money? Sure, who doesn't? If you've got a DSLR camera, but aren't quite getting the photos you want, there are so many little things that you can do to get great photos. I've put together a list of them to help you out.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Glenn and Jamie - Denver Family Portraits

I was worried I was running a little late for this shoot, but I pulled into the Bluff Lake Nature Center parking lot right on time. I was a little surprised to find that Glenn and Jamie weren't there yet. I knew that they didn't get lost on the way, because Glenn is the executive director of Bluff Lake Nature Center! He was happy to get some family photos as well as take advantage of my fundraiser to support Bluff Lake.

Glenn and Jamie's son, Cedar, didn't really mind that they were late. It turns out they had to wait for a train and Cedar loved watching the train while they waited! It was the first thing he told me about when he got out of the car. It didn't take long, though, before the excitement wore off and he started to get a little shy. So, we took a walk, looked for sticks (Cedar loves sticks) and pretty soon he started to smile.

The colors were just wonderful and the light was perfect. It seemed like we couldn't find a bad location, as everywhere we looked seemed better than the place we had just come from. Cedar was finally having a good time and wanted to be in all of the photos, which made it tough to get a few photos of just Glenn and Jamie, but we figured it out and got some great shots of just the two of them.

As it got a little later, Cedar started to get hungry. I always say that the shoot is over when the kids decide it's over and this shoot was no exception. As we headed back towards the cars I had to laugh a little. While Glenn was walking back to the car carrying Cedar on hisshoulders, Jamie walked next to the two of them, one hand casually touching Glenn and Cedar, the other full of sticks.

To see more photos from this shoot, click here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tech Tuesdays - Photodex ProShow Gold

Photodex ProShow Gold is one of the fastest, easiest and least expensive ways around to make original video slideshows with your photos. With so many photographers producing video slideshows of their work, this program gives you a chance to customize your video and make it really stand out from the crowd.

When I started searching for a product that I could use to produce videos, it didn't seem like there were many options out there. Sure, there are plenty of programs for editing video, but that's not really what I needed. To make a photo slideshow, I don't need a video editor like Final Cut Pro. I need something that's simpler, easier to use and definitely cheaper!

There are services popping up that are geared specifically towards photographers such as Animoto. These are great, as you choose a song, choose a style, upload your photos and let Animoto do the rest. My main issue with Animoto videos is that, well, they all tend to look the same. I think it's a great service and anyone who hasn't seen an Animoto video before is sure to be impressed, but when I see a video portfolio with a bunch of Animoto videos in it, I pretty much know exactly what to expect from each video.

I'm not trying to bash Animoto, just give the reasons why I didn't want to go with it to produce my videos. So, why did I choose ProShow Gold? There are a few reasons. It's a program that you purchase, not a subscription service, which means that once it's paid for, I can produce videos for the next 20 years without spending any more money. It's really easy to learn and use, which is important when you don't have a lot of free time. I also have full control over the videos I produce with the ability to make them as plain or creative as I want.

With that being said, if I make a boring video, that's entirely my fault as well. Fortunately, ProShow Gold comes with a number of templates that animate individual slides or entire slideshows. It's also easy to make various movements (pans, scrolls and rotations) on individual slides. It also comes with a variety of slide transitions. It's able to incorporate video along with photos, and adding a soundtrack is as easy as dragging and dropping an mp3 file.

There's another, more expensive version of ProShow called Producer. It comes with more slide animations and show options. It also is geared more towards commercial use. I didn't think that I needed everything it had to offer and was happy to hear that most of the animations are available for purchase without upgrading. If you do choose to upgrade and you already own ProShow Gold, you receive a discount on Producer. So far I haven't felt the need, but it's nice to know the option is available.

I'm very happy with ProShow Gold. I haven't made as many videos as I'd like to make, but then again I haven't had much free time. Maybe if I had Animoto and could just upload photos and let them do the rest I would make videos more often. If you think that might be the case with you, Animoto might be worth a look. For now, I'll just keep taking photos and then when things slow down a bit I'll get to dive in and go video crazy!

I just made the video at the top of this post this morning. I timed it to see how long it actually takes to make a quick video. I had the images and music picked out before I started. From opening the program to exporting the video to my hard drive, it took about 22 minutes to make this video. Of course, I could have spent more time playing with slide effects, modifying the slide motion and even synching the transitions to the music, but that would have taken a bit longer. I also could have just dragged the photos to the timeline, stuck with the default transitions and had no slide motion and been done in 5 minutes. As it is, I think I found a nice middle-of-the-road solution that gave a nice video that isn't too over the top but isn't too boring either. What do you think?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Nataly - Aurora Central HS Senior

"I'm dressed in pink." That's how Nataly described herself as we talked on the phone while trying to meet up in LoDo. We were walking from opposite sides of the 16th Street Mall hoping to meet somewhere in the middle. It didn't take long to recognize her since she was not only dressed in pink, but also had a pink purse, pink bag, pink lipstick and pink hair. I think she has something for pink!

The day had been pretty gloomy and rainy, but fortunately the weather held out for our shoot and we even saw a little sunlight peeking through the clouds! Not wanting to waste any light, we started shooting right away, moving from city streets to alleys, hunting for nice locations and good light.

Nataly was a lot of fun to work with. She's got a great attitude and was easy to talk to. Plus, when she flashes that pink smile at you, it's hard not to like her! Belinda came along to assist with the shoot and she even commented on how impressed she was with Nataly, especially how much confidence she has.

As Nataly changed from one pink outfit to another, the daylight kept slipping away. Pretty soon it was getting dark and cold, so we headed back to meet up with her parents. As we said our goodbyes and parted company, I thought about Nataly's plans to become a nurse and eventually a doctor and couldn't help but smile. I'll give you one guess what color I think her scrubs will be...

You can see more photos from the shoot here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Kristina and Karl - Parker Family Photos

When Kristina told me she knew of a cute little park near her house where we could take some photos I don't think either of us realized that we were setting up a shoot at a location that every photographer in southeast Denver chose for that Saturday morning. Seriously, the park wasn't that big and there were probably 5 other families with photographers there at the same time we were! Fortunately, we were able to get a little privacy and take some great family photos that only included one family: Kristina and Karl's.

Kristina and Karl have two sons, Ethan and Ryan. I think there's a universal law about getting two little boys near water: at least one of them is going to get wet and/or dirty. It doesn't help when there are so many fun things so close to the water such as ducks and geese to chase around, as well as a stream with rocks to stand on. Fortunately, Kristina and Karl are aware of the affinity little boys have for water and kept a close eye on them. While I was working with one boy, the other was off exploring with a parent close behind.

While we looked for secluded spots that didn't include other families, the boys got to have a little fun which always makes for great candid photos. Even when they started to get tired of the camera, we just let them do their own thing and pretty soon their batteries were recharged and we got some more photos of them! By the end of the day, Ethan and Ryan had made it almost an hour without getting too wet, dirty or fussy. That is quite an accomplishment!

As we wrapped up and headed back to our cars, we hiked up a steep hill. We started talking about how great it would be to sled down in the winter. Maybe that will be our next photo shoot... just as long as the rest of Denver doesn't decide to go sledding on that hill at the same time!

You can see more photos from this shoot here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Christopher - Denver School of the Arts Senior

When you've got a cello that's 200 years old, it needs a story. That's not the kind of thing that you find in a pawn shop. A 200 year old cello has a history and to have survived that long it probably has been cared for by someone who appreciates it. When I asked Christopher the story behind his cello, he told me that it was previously owned by a performing cellist who used it to practice in his hotel room. Apparently he would just sit in his hotel room and play all day on this cello. When it was time for the performance, it would stay in the room and his other cello was the one that went on stage.

I must admit, this was the first senior shoot I've done involving a musical instrument and I can't think of a cooler instrument to photograph! Christopher was a pretty good guy to photograph as well. We met up twice for his session: once in the studio and once in LoDo. Both times the cello came along and both times we had a lot of fun.

In the studio, we went with a simple black curtain for the backdrop, kind of like being on a stage. This was a great session to get to know each other. It was also a great session for photos! With the clean backdrop, Christopher and his cello were the stars of the show. The colors of the cello really popped with the studio lights and black background.

When we met in LoDo a few days later, it had just finished raining and the clouds cleared out just in time for our shoot. I knew that the cello would never see the light of day if there was any threat of rain, so I was relieved that the weather cooperated with our schedule. After shooting in a few alleys, we headed over to get a nice view of the city. As the daylight disappeared and the city lights appeared, Christopher just sat and played his cello while I took photos.

While we were shooting, Christopher's mother made a comment about how nice it is to do what you love for a living. Christopher is planning on going to an arts college and then hopefully on to a career as a musician. Fortunately, I am also doing what I love for a living. It occurred to me the next day that both of us were spending an evening together doing what we loved. Maybe that's why it felt like we could have spent all night overlooking the city, Christopher playing his cello and me geeking out and taking photos. As it turned out, we ran over the schedule by about 30 minutes. Oh well... his cello had waited 200 years to be the star of the show. I can spare 30 minutes.

To see more photos from this shoot, click here.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ariana

I first met Michelle at the big hair shoot I did last year. She was one of Tanya's clients who volunteered to get her hair done and be photographed. When she contacted me and said she wanted some photos of her daughter, Ariana, I was so happy!

When we met up, Michelle warned me that Ariana didn't like to smile for strangers and didn't really enjoy her last photo session. So, I entered the shoot as Ariana's friend. If she didn't like to smile for strangers, I wouldn't be a stranger! It didn't take long for me to start to win her over and get some good photos with genuine smiles.

Talk about a cutie! Ariana's hair (done by Tanya, of course), was adorable and her eyes just sparkled. You could tell Michelle chose her outfits, because they were so stylish (just like her mom). :)

After an outfit change, some photos with mom and a few other family members, and a little playing on the playground, it was time to end the photo session, but not before Ariana played in the water. That's right... she went and played in the water, in her super-cute outfit no less! By the time she was done she was absolutely soaked and couldn't have been any happier. When it was time to go, I even got a wet hug from her. I guess I wasn't a stranger anymore.

You can see more photos from the shoot here.