My second shooter Nikki and I had a great time getting to photograph Josh and Hannah’s wedding in late October. After Josh and Hannah got ready and did their first look at the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Marry we headed to Dow Gardens to do some more portraits pre-wedding ceremony. After the ceremony we headed to Riverwood in Mt Pleasant for more group shots and the reception. Despite the incredibly fickle weather which went from sunny to a torrential downpour to hail to overcast the wedding went great. I also had the privilege of working alongside Live Authentically Videography who were incredibly professional and did an amazing job.
I had a great time getting to photograph the Wehrman Family in the wetlands area of the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland, Michigan. The Wehramn Family loves to hike trails together so we decided to have some of their photos be along the paths they enjoy hiking on. My favorite images from the session can be viewed below.
It is always great when you can find a great reliable model to work with. My first shoot with my distant cousin Cassi was way back in high school when she hired me to photograph some images of her belly dancing in Beaverton, Michigan. After I graduated from the Hallmark Institute of Photography and moved back to Michigan, she became one of my go to models. I’ve had her both model and assist on several personal and commercial shoots.
This first image was shot in Nelson Park in Mt Pleasant, Michigan shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography in 2013. As I had mentioned before Cassi is a belly dancer and she came prepared to this shoot with all of her belly dancing garb. I had cassi stand behind the leaves of some weeping willow trees. The late afternoon light worked as a backlight separating her from the background. I lit her face with an Alienbee B1600 strobe with a shoot thru umbrella to create a nice soft light. I used a longer lens (my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8) at a wide aperture (smaller f number) to throw both the background and the leaves in front of her out of focus. I just recently bought this lens and knew that stopping down to f/4 (instead of shooting wide open at f/2.8) would result in a sharper image. After using the lens more I found out that I could get images which were plenty sharp wide open at f/2.8.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. As I’ve mentioned in prior posts I quit using Radio Poppers in 2016 because I found them unreliable and switched back to using Yongnuo flash triggers which are way cheaper and have been far more reliable in my experience. ISO 64 170mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.
This image of Cassi remains one of my favorite images I’ve taken period. This was shot during an evening at Nelson Park (one of my most frequented locations) in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. I’ve shot several images on these rocks with a variety of different models but none of them have lived up to this image of Cassi fully decked out in her belly dancing garb. I had Cassi sit on the rocks in front of the waterfall and I boomed the the light out in front of her head. This makes the soft light come from above instead of the side. In post I later did some dodging and burning to bring out the shapes of rocks and her outfit.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 155mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.
This image was shot just a few minutes after the first image on the trail between Nelson and Island Park in Mt Pleasant, Michigan. I had Cassi go thru her various dances and once she bend over really far. I had her hold that pose and later flipped the image from horizontal to vertical in post. People are always confused by this image because of the orientation and her pose. Her face is lit with the natural light which was soft due to the time of day and there is a slight edge light added with an Alienbee B1600 strobe to give her a bit of separation from the background. I also did a far amount of dodging and burning (lightening and darkening) in post to the get the tones where I wanted them.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 400 135mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.
I would do another shoot with Cassi in October 2014. This shoot took place at my late grandmother’s property outside of Clare, Michigan. I had always loved photographing craggily trees like those in my grandma’s yard. For this shoot I took multiple images with my Alienbee B1600 lighting various parts of the trees and later merged the different exposures into the result you see above.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with an shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 200 18mm f/13 10 second shutter speed.
These next two images were from the same shoot and were Cassi’s idea. She had recently bought a gas mask and wanted to use it in a post apocalyptic looking shoot. We figured the dilapidated barns at my grandmother’s property would work out well. This first image was lit with my Alienbee B1600 strobe from outside the barn. The strobe puts out a white daylight balanced light whereas the natural light was bluer due to the time of day. A longer exposure was used to get the dark blue of the sky to show in the final image. A quicker exposure (like 1/125 of a second) would have made the sky go black making the image far less interesting. Even though these images deviate from my timeless style a bit it is always fun to mess around with the more advanced lighting techniques I was taught in college.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 35mm f/16 5 second shutter speed.
This next image was shot at the same location but the light was placed inside the building resulting in a far different look. We left the location shortly after taking these images because we heard what we thought were coyotes.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers powered with a Vagabond Mini. ISO 100 28mm f/16 5 second shutter speed.
In the summer of 2015 Cassi and I did a shoot together in Ludington. Ever since I had moved back to Michigan I had wanted to do a shoot with a model in Ludington. This first image was shot at the park right next to the beach. I placed Cassi between two large trees and lit her completely with flash.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with a Kirk B3 Ball Head with a Kirk L Bracket. Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with a standard sync cord (I was starting to get tired of the Radio Poppers at this time but hadn’t moved over to the Yongnuo yet) powered with a Vagabond Mini. IS) 50 70mm f/10 1/60 of a second shutter speed.
This next image was shot on the beach. This is another one of my favorite images of Cassi. It has a very editorial look to it. Cassi also does larping in addition to her belly dancing. In this image Cassi is decked out in her larping garb. I had the sun lit Cassi’s back and hair separating her from the background. The light breeze caused Cassi’s hair to sway in the wind giving the image a hint of motion and gesture.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens . Lit using an Alienbee B1600 with a shoot thru umbrella triggered with a standard sync cord powered with a Vagabond Mini.
ISO 50 70mm f/7.1 1/250 of a second shutter speed.
This last image was shot with Casi resting on a bottom of a lighthouse. I wanted the image to be very stark and graphic focusing on the lines and shapes in the image. One of the reasons I changed the image to black and white is so the colors wouldn’t distract from the design of the image. Around this time in my career I felt like I was too dependant on using the Alienbee strobe for my portraits so I started shooting more natural light. As time as went on I’ve started to shoot more with a small Yongnuo speedlight as well as natural light. I still very much like the Alienbee, but it can be a pain to lung around during lengthy location shoots.
Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld in natural light. ISO 400 170mm f/2.8 1/320 of a second shutter speed.
I had a great time photographing High Definition Detailing’s booth at the Northwood Auto Show in Midland, Michigan. To learn more about their services visit https://highdefinition-detailing.com/
I had a great time getting to photograph the Elisson’s family portrait in mid October at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. The Ellison’s are the owners of CD Dents a paintless dent removal business in Midland that I’d highly recommend checking out for your dent removal needs https://www.cddentsrepair.com/
For my former clients, I would be very appreciative if you left a review of Ryan Watkins Photography on one of the following websites:
Reviews help me bring in more clients an also help my search engine optimization rating. I have had several wedding clients find me via the knot and more reviews their would be much appreciated. Thank you.
When I first got started in photography I shot primarily landscape and nature photography. When I went to the Hallmark Institute of Photography for my formal photographic training my main emphasis switched to portrait photography. In 2017 I started putting a heavier emphasis on the wedding side of my photography business. Sadly nature, wildlife, and landscape photography is (generally) viewed fairly negatively in the professional photography industry. This is partly due to landscape, nature, and wildlife photography being the main photographic subjects of wealth enthusiasts. Despite its ill deserved negative connotations I have always loved nature and landscape photography even though I don’t get to do as much of it as I would have liked.
2016 was a slower year business wise compared to the next year 2017 and former years like 2014. Due to this I had more time for my fine art work. I spend a great deal of 2016 working on fine art landscape and nature work around (primarily) central Michigan. One of my favorite images from this series is the image featured above.
This image of a lone tree in a field was capture in the country outside Clare, Michigan at sunset. When shooting my fall 2016 and winter 2017 landscapes I would drive around the various backroads in (primarily) Clare, County. One of the regrets I have from this project is not keeping closer track where I took specific images and how to get back to those locations. I admittedly don’t know which road this was shot on nor how to get back to the location.
Usually when I would go on my small trips to photograph the fall foliage I would go alone and listen to podcasts. During this shoot my mom went with me. She loves the fall colors. Her and my dad regularly make trips out to New England to see the fall colors at their peak. She had a great time looking at the fall colors around Roscommon, Gladwin, and Clare as I photographed the best trees. We also used this time to talk and get caught up. It was a great experience. Her and I stumbled upon this tree near the end of our journey.
The scene was very high contrast with the very bright sky and very dark field and trees. Our eyes are designed to see the highlights and darks in very high contrast scenes. Our cameras have a harder time with this. I wouldn’t have been able to get all of the details in the lights and darks with taking only one image. I shot multiple images from the same angle with different exposures (some lighter and some darker) with the intention of merging them later in Photoshop. In the film days people would use filters called graduated neutral density filters to darken the skies of landscape images. Now with digital photography we have even more tools at our disposal for dealing with high contrast scenes. I did some basic retouching to the images I wanted to combine in Lightroom and then took the images into Photoshop. I usually do the majority of my global retouching (affecting the entire image) in Lightroom and use Photoshop for more intricate local retouching (affecting only a part of the image). In Photoshop I used a plug by Nik software (Nik was recently bought by Google and the software is now available for free here) which allows me to create High Dynamic Range (HDR) images. HDR images combine several images of the same scene with different exposures to create an image with details in brightest brights and darkest darks. When I first got started in photography (circa 2009) HDR was all the rage. During this time people were using this technique to create garish cartoony images with tons of detail which were generally loved by non photographers and hated by professionals. I have generally hated the garish HDR look and have seldom used this technique because of that. As time has went on I think most photographers have moved away from the garish HDR took to a more realistic HDR look similar to what our eyes would see. My image showcased here is an example of the more realistic HDR look which strives to create an image closer to what our eyes see at the scene than what our cameras can capture with one frame. I want my images to look timeless and not have novel retouching (or shooting) techniques. This is one of the few HDR images to make it into my fine art portfolio (a few others from a trip to the Canadian Rockies are all featured). This image is also on display (and for sale) at the Four Leaf Brewing in downtown Clare, Michigan.
This image was captured using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 Lens handheld (because I was standing in a road and didn’t have time to get my tripod out). Camera settings where as follows: ISO 400 28mm f/8 various shutter speeds.