Archive for ‘People’

November 7, 2010


Well, I’ve been quite busy the last few weeks.  I’ve missed a few posts on here but I’m back today.

A shot from a resort in Vermont.

September 7, 2010

Monday Morning Coffee – Late

I missed yesterday because I was on the road returning from a mountain bike race in Virginia, the Shenandoah Mountain 100.  Had a great weekend camping and hanging out with friends.  Now its back to reality and work and life.  Here is a little something from the weekend.

Humble Beginnings.

August 30, 2010

Monday Morning Coffee

I am not really a fan of HDR processing.  It seems gimmicky to me.  But of course, I have to try it out myself just to see if I can do anything with it that satisfies my vision of my photography.  So this is what I came up with that seems cool to me.  It isn’t too crazy for HDR I think, but just enough to give it some edge and it seems to work with this picture of my son on his bike.  So I can’t dismiss HDR completely but its important to keep in mind that as with all things, a little moderation is a good thing.  I used two speedlights to light him even though it was a bright, sunny day.  I wanted high key lighting to get the effect I was looking for after the HDR processing.  In the end, I like this well enough although it is really just another example of the types of images we see all over flickr and I just don’t see the need to flood the world with more of the same thing.  So I’ll keep working on my vision knowing that at this point HDR may only be a small part of my photography.

August 23, 2010

Monday Morning Coffee

Continuing my boating theme, here is a picture of my two sons (on the right) and their cousin.  They always have a great time together when we go camping.  More summer memories for them.

I just finished up a wilderness medicine course that ran from Friday to Sunday.  Three very long, physically grueling days.  I had a blast and purposely did not take any pictures.  I’m glad I took the course, the instructor was fantastic.  If anyone is interested in learning wilderness medicine let me know and I’ll put you in touch with her.

Short post today.  I’m really tired and reality decided I should wait for the refrigerator repair person today. 😦

November 10, 2009

Thoughts on portrait photography

LesliePrintThis Saturday a group of photographers I hang out with and I are doing a photoshoot for military families at a local Army base.  This is something that was started by one of our photogs this year and we do this in conjunction with an event called Military Family Appreciation held on the base.  We feel it is a way to do something nice for the men and women who serve in the armed forces and make a lot of sacrifices for our country.  I did a four year stint in the Army years ago and my father was a retired Army officer so I have a good understanding of what soldiers and their families must endure.  I am really looking forward to this and I’ve been working with my lighting to see if I could something different.  I don’t think I came up with anything new but we’ll see.

The picture above is one I made of my wife, Leslie, a few months ago.  She was kind enough to sit for me after a long day of work, another blessing for her being married to a photographer.  But she is always kind and plays along as I tweak my lights and work things out.  In the end I got a picture I really like.  I can only hope that this Saturday I can do some nice pictures for the military families.  Something that will have meaning for someone.



August 27, 2009

A new day for Meagan.

1stDayI took my daughter, Meagan, and all of her stuff, to her dorm room at the University of Maryland today.  We’re all excited and perhaps a bit nervous.  So with a new beginning for her I decided to start a new tradition.  That is, I am going to get a picture of her on the first day of each year, the day we drop her off at the dorm. And when her two brothers start college, I will do the same for them.  A way of keeping track, I suppose, like I like to do with my cameras.  For me, being a visual person, a picture means more to me than just words in a journal alone.

Some pictures are meaningful only to the persons involved in their making.  This shot is in terrible light and I shot it with my G10, not one of my “big” cameras.  I had no fill panels or lights and her face is in shadow and that’s OK.   It means something to Meagan and those of us who love her, but I’m sure it won’t catch anyone else’s interest.  There are some interesting things in the shot.  Notice how all the elements seem to be in balance except the subject, Meagan, she is just left of center in the frame.  I think its a good composition.  Technically Ok, not great.

Sometimes when I look at pictures I can almost feel the moment they were taken.  I can get into the moment and share in what was going on at the time, even though I wasn’t there.  I think we all do that in some way.   Especially with things that are common to most of us, like births, graduations, marriages and all.   There is something real happening that is captured and relived many times through the coming years.  This is another reason why I love photography.

This is a significant moment in our lives. Meagan’s first day at college.  A picture to celebrate.  A picture is a celebration.  Of life.  And all the things we do along the way.

So look at this picture and know that here is something special.  Not a special picture in a technical sense, but a special moment in a girl’s life.  Touching the nose of Testudo on her first day at the University of Maryland.   A new day for Meagan and all the promise it holds.  Go Meagan.  Go Terps.

July 13, 2009

Why photography? Ramblings.

To me, the beauty of photography is in the mystery a picture holds.

I think that video is cool in its own right, but still photography has always captured my attention for what is not shown while video gives lots more information about what is going on at the time.   I was thinking about this last night.  I was remembering back when I was a kid and my father was still in the Army.  He had done two tours in Viet Nam and had a bunch of slides he shot with his Canon camera.  Of course, he would periodically make us watch a slide show of these pictures, usually when my parents were entertaining friends or family.  I was always taken by the people in the pictures.  Foreign people from a strange land.  What was going on at the time the picture was taken?  What were the subjects thinking?  Were they happy? Sad? Lonely?  I remember seeing pictures he had taken of the soldiers he was fighting.  What kind of people were they?  Why did they want to kill my father?  Why did he want to kill them?  The thoughts of a 10 year old boy.  I was fascinated by the things I saw in those slides.  These were pictures of the war.  The real thing.  Way better than the movies.

I have always been interested in photography.   Ever since I was a kid, whenever I look at a picture I try to get into the moment it was taken.  I still do that today.  I love to look at the pictures people have in their homes.  Especially pictures that are old.  I wonder about them as I look at them.  I try to get a sense of what was happening when the picture was taken.  It’s the mystery of it all.  That is why I think still photography appeals to so many, certainly me.  Sometimes its what you don’t see that makes you think.

While looking for a photo of my father I found this:

RJD1This is from a scan of an old picture I found and I thought it would be nice to try to repair it in Photoshop.  This picture is probably from a time before he and my mother were married, perhaps his senior picture from high school but I don’t know that for sure and neither of them are with me today so I can’t ask.  And there is the mystery.  A reason to think about this picture as I look at it.

I’m surely no Photoshop guru but here is what I came up with:

RJD2Not bad, I think.  I only spent about thirty minutes with this so I’m sure I could do better if I took more time with it, and I will.

This is a picture of the guy who first got me interested in photography and pictures.  Before life took its toll on him.  This is how I like to remember him.

Thanks, dad.

June 18, 2009

Use the light you have

Having read Kirk Tuck’s latest blog post about using available light I looked through some of my recent pictures to find something I liked in available light.  Here it is:


This is my son Kevin enjoying his first swim this summer.  I like this picture.  It is funny and a bit interesting.  I think the light is nice.  Kind of like the light we try to get with a big silk with the sunlight coming through it.  I don’t profess to be an expert at lighting but I know I couldn’t have produced light this nice artificially.  The natural light in this picture just works so nicely.  Of course, the 50mm lens I used is awesome, too!

Sometimes available light is best.  I think the trick is knowing when that is and using it.  So to Kirk I say thanks.  I’ll be looking for this more often.

Read Kirk’s post below, he is much better at describing this than I am.

Remember when we all thought available light was so cool?

I still do. Styles ebb and flow but I think the prevailing style of lighting that was coincident with your initial development as a photographer makes a mark on some inner aesthetic part of your brain. The style of your nascent brush with art locks you on a certain pathway.

For many of us old enough to remember the general interest magazines like Life Magazine and Look Magazine; and certainly National Geographic Magazine, the look that “locked” us was the gorgeous and incredibly well executed “available light” imagery. Little wonder that most of us still lust for cameras like Leica rangefinders with their fast sharp prime optics. To work back in that milieu required physical talent as opposed to technical talent. One had to be able to recognize and respond to good light and bad light with flawless technique. If you worked with the ISO 200 speed film of the day you learned to stand still and calm the tremors of human existence in a way that image stabilization and ultra high ISO sensitivities in digital cameras don’t really demand. (Not to worry, this is not a rant about digital versus film…..)
I think the look hooked us for several reasons: 1. The shots weren’t set up. No one needed to show up with an army of assistants and cases full of lights and stands in order to do their work. That meant the photographer blended in and was not part of the production. Kind of reversing the Heisenberg theory of affective subliminal interaction. No “Heisenberg Compensator” was necessary. Subject reactions, unfettered by the persistent visual patter of flashes, was more real, less self conscious. 2. The need for “speed” in order to hand hold cameras led to the design, production and wide spread use of really fast lenses. Some of which are still competitive with the best on offer from Canon and Nikon. Leica had the f1 Noctilux. Canon had a 50mm f (point) .9 lens. Even my old Olympus Pen FT sported a 60mm 1.5 lens. Now we get excited about a constant aperture f2.8 zoom? Really? The upshot of the fast lenses is a wonderfully thin zone of focus that makes the in focus subject the nexus of all attention and intention. 3. The images weren’t subjected to endless iterations of post production. Nothing existed to save a mediocre shot or a shot that just lacked intrinsic interest.
I loved opening up a fresh copy of Life Magazine. Not all the images were wonderful, compelling or even midly interesting but the ones that were had the power to rivet young eyes for ages.
The world has changed. People entering photography now feel the overarching desire or need to imprint a personal style on every image they shoot so many settle on a style that is often a hodge podge of imitative steals and compulsively imprint that style on every frame they shoot. The tools have become more of a message than the message itself.
In the last month I’ve pushed myself to up my game. To handhold better, to see better and to improve the craft. You’ll think I’m nuts (and maybe many of your already do) but I’ve given up a 25 year coffee habit in the quest to handhold better and to have the patience to see stuff worth handholding a camera for. I’m meditating in hopes of getting clearer and clearer about what I want to photograph and why. And I’m getting down right reductivist about the gear I want to shoot with.
I figure that with a D700 and a 50mm 1.1.2 and a fast 85mm I should be able to do good, compelling people work at a higher level than I would if everything were lit. And I do find that I’m having to watch the light with a patience I never did before.
Even though part of my livelihood depends on selling books about using lights I’ll be the first to admit that some subjects don’t need to be lit. They repulse the attempt. Nothing beats perfect light and nature makes a lot of it.
The above shot was done for a hospital group and is nothing much. But it catches my eye because of its candid nature and the perfect balance of light and contrast. It reminds me that sometimes getting even more MINIMAL garners maximum results.
As I was thinking about our society’s collective compulsion to embellish reality and photographers’ compulsion to use light as style I came across a verse in the good ole Tao Ching (Stephen Mitchell Translation) that reads:
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench. Care about other people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.

Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.