MAJOR Changes

For those of you who don't know already, I have had some major changes in my life over the past few months.  In October of 2014, I resigned from my law practice in Colorado.  After more than 10 years of practicing law, it was time to move on and fully commit to something else while I still had my health and sanity. 

My wife and I sold most of our stuff, rented out our house, and on January 1, 2015 moved into a 28 foot motor home with our two dogs.  The blog that describes our travels can be found here.

There's no time like the present, and just like Warren used to say, "If you don't do it this year, you will be one year older when you do".

Hippocratic Oath of a Photographer

As photographers, we're all trying to be original.  We want the perspective or the light that no one has done before sure, but we especially want the concept that no one has done before.  So before you go out start photographing homeless people or ''nude models looking like tigers because of the striped shadows caused by light passing through Venetian blinds, just remember that people have been looking for creativity in photography for some time now.  

I present to you the Hippocratic Oat of a Photographer.  This was drafted in 1937(!) by no less than M.F. Agha for US Camera. 

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New Photos Added

I added several new photos to the site today.  I've been shooting quite a bit lately, but sadly haven't had the chance to post much.  I've added new shots of Chelsey, Nzuri, Patricia, and Dana. 

Chelsey

Had an awesome shoot recently with a local model named Chelsey.  I think we got some great shots.

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Photography and controlling light

One of the things that has always fascinated me about photography is how a small change in light can result in a completely different photograph.  Clearly, light is a necessity for photography.  Without light, there is no image, simple as that. 

On the most basic level, when it's just the photographer, the camera and the world, you're using available light to record what you see.  The light reflecting off of the mountain or the car or your Aunt Sally goes through the lens and onto the film or digital sensor.  The patterns of light and dark are recorded and presto, you have a copy that you can print or email to your mom, or blow up and put on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard.  In this stage though you are essentially just recording what you see. 

If you pay attention to the results, you may start to notice differences in how the objects in your photographs appear based on how the sunlight is falling on them.  If the sun is behind you, you notice that there are not many shadows visible.  This makes the subject appear flat since your eye uses shadows to show depth on a flat image.  If the sun is to the side of you, you will have longer shadows with part of you subject lit and part of it dark.  If the sun is in front of you...holy cow! You can't see anything at all, just some lens flare and deep shadows, kind of like looking at the sun. Then you think to yourself, "huh, I wonder how I can use this to my advantage?"

It sounds obvious, but this is the basis for all lighting technique.  It doesn't matter if you're talking about Richard Avedon, your 5 year old niece's cell phone pictures, the scene in Star Wars where Luke blows up the Death Star, or a TV commercial for peanut butter.  Front, Back, Side, Period.  Those are the choices, that's all there is to convey depth, or lack of it in a flat image. 

Of course there are thousands, probably millions of variations on this concept based on things like the strength of the light, size of the light source, color of the light, how it reflects, etc.  These qualities of light are responsible for the qualities of the image, and largely why the cell phone picture from your niece doesn't really look so much like the Avedon print. 

The goal of all of the fancy lighting equipment and modifiers and reflectors and the rest of it, is simply to provide control over how light falls on your subject and how the resulting patterns of light and shadow can be used to show off that subject in the way that the photographer wants.

Nicole

Nicole is a young model from Lincoln, Nebraska who was in Colorado with her mom to work on building a portfolio.  This shoot was also my first chance to work with Casandra Gallardo (www.MakeupbyCasandra.com) a very talented makeup artist. 

The goal of the shoot was to provide some high-fashion shots for Nicole's book.  Make up was intended to supplement rather than be the focus of the images. 

 

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Ted Talks

I'm a big Ted Talks fan.  http://www.ted.com/talks 

It's one of those things that I can go watch when I'm feeling down about mankind's stupidity and inhumanity, and feel like maybe it's not as bad as it seems, since there are a few people like these out there. 

One talk that I just saw for the first time recently, though it's fairly old, is a talk about education by Sir Ken Robinson.  In a nutshell, Sir Ken explains that the modern education system didn't exist as we know it before about the mid 1800s.  When the public education system was first invented, it was designed with the twin goals of providing a classical education (Greek, Latin, Shakespeare) for the upper classes, and reading and math for the lower classes.  The goal was to produce a few professors, and more importantly lots and lots of workers for the industrial revolution who could at least read. 

Public education has not really changed fundamentally since then, there are just more standardized tests.  The system is great if you want to turn lots of little Oliver Twists into factory or office workers, but it does so by destroying the creativity and individuality of the majority of the students.  What we need at this point in society, it's argued, (and as a species I would say) are not lots of workers who all think the same, but lots of creatives to move forward.  We can't imagine what the economy or the world is going to look like next month, let alone by the next decade.  

Slow it down and think

One of the things that I've had to work on is to remember to slow down during shoots.  Partially this is experience with equipment and partially it's nerves.  When I'm shooting I have a million things going through my head.  I'm thinking about everything from basic photography stuff, (exposure, depth of field, ISO, are the lights firing?) to simple composition (not even rule-of-thirds, more as in, have I cut off anything important?) to posing (generally the model, not me, my poses are fairly intuitive). At the same time that I'm thinking about all of this technical mumbo-jumbo I'm also worried about how the model is doing, and what she's thinking (this is taking too long, why is he futzing with the lights again?)

I find that sometimes I'm so wrapped up in this basic stuff, that I miss things that either then take forever to fix in post processing, or completely waste the shot, or even the entire set. 

The solution is to S-L-O-W   D-O-W-N.  It sounds so simple, but in real life it's one of the hardest things to do.  At least for me it is.  There are so many things that take about 2 seconds to fix in real life, or about 2 hours to fix in post.  Think about the shot.  Once the light is dialed in and you have the composition you want and the model is facing the right way and not making a claw grip and her skirt isn't tucked into her stockings, then just take a beat or two and look at everything again to make sure there isn't some tiny simple thing that is going to wreck your brilliant shot. 

Think about the entire shot, don't just fire away and hope to get lucky.

Post Number One

This is post number one of this new endeavor. Today is October 31, 2013, and marks the official transition from phase of life to another. These are the origins:

  • A realization that life is short, and to paraphrase     Ferris Bueller, "blink and you'll miss it".  
  • A realization that my biggest fear is looking back and     saying to myself, "Well that was a waste of time". This is far     in excess of the fear of failure, which until recently was fear number 1.
  • A realization that, as much as I enjoy certain aspects     of my current job, such as helping people and making a real difference in     their lives, the constant stress and general negativity that I have been required     to face every day for 10 years has finally taken its toll and I've     recently realized that I don't recognize the person its transformed me     into.
  • A belief that if you can make a living doing something     that you love, that you'll never work another day in your life...well     except for mowing the lawn and shoveling snow and washing dishes...but you     know what I mean, these things rarely take all day. 
  • A belief that in order to be successful, really successful,     not just pay your bills successful, you must really love what you do.

That being said, welcome to post number ONE. I wish I'd done it sooner, but I'm on my way, and I'm going to give this everything I've got.  

~WWHI - Fort Collins, Colorado