Behind the Scenes of the My Halloween Themed Shoot


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Back in October one of my favorite models, Cassi Gross, messaged me asking if I’d be interested in doing a “post-apocalyptic themed belly dance shoot” before Halloween. This is something you simply don’t say “no” to.


Before all of my shoots I like to go “location scouting” where I look for the most fitting location for the shoot. An abandon house, that my family owns, right down the road from me ended up being the perfect location for Cassi and I’s creepy Halloween shoot.


iPhone shots of the location taken earlier that day.


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To give the images that eerie Halloween look I knew they’d have to be tonally darker so we chose to shoot after dark and light it mostly with flash.


For the first shoot I had Cassi get into fully costume and climb into this abandon building. I had my Alienbee strobe with an umbrella to camera right just out of the shot. I was also on a tripod because I was using a slow shutter speed to pick up some of the subtle blue colors in sky in the background.


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For the next image I moved my flash into the building, removed the umbrella, and pointed it towards Cassi. This lit up the textured walls of the building and helped give Cassi’s mask shape. Both this image and prior required minimal retouching in Photoshop and Lightroom.


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The last image in this shoot involved lighting the craggily tree in the front yard. To light up all of the branches I’d have to do a composite, or combine multiple images into one using Photoshop. With more flashes this look would have been achievable without compositing. I attached my camera to my tripod and photographed three images with my flash in various locations lighting up the different parts of the tree.


The three images before retouching used to make the final composite.

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I later combined the three images in Photoshop. I used layer masks to reveal the parts of each image with the tree lit up the best. I also applied some sharpening, dodging, and burning to achieve the final product.


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We shot a few less successful images that evening before hearing something that we both thought was wolf. We freaked out and packed up only to realize once we listened closer to it that it was only an owl. We talked a bit longer before parting ways for the evening. A huge thanks to Cassi for the photo shoot idea and being willing to model for me again!


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Corey Senior Portrait Session Mount Pleasant, Michigan

I had a great time photographing Corey a few weeks ago at Nelson Park in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. For the best images from the session view the slideshow below.

New Personal Work with Dylan Newman in Mount Pleasant, Mi

I had a great time shooting some personal work last week in Nelson Park in Mount Pleasant with my friend Dylan. I love shooting personal work because it gives me the chance to experiment with different ideas and techniques and, in this chase, it also gave me a chance to meet up with an old friend.


Huge thanks to my friend Dylan for modeling.


Jason and Rachael Wedding Clare, Michigan

I couldn’t have asked for a better couple and wedding to photograph two weeks ago at the Clare Christ Fellowship Church! From Rachael and her bridesmaids getting their hair done at the Waterworks Salon and Spa in Mount Pleasant to the intimate couples portraits of the bride and groom at sunset at the dam in Clare the wedding went off without at hitch. Enjoy this slide show of Jason and Rachael’s special day.

What is New at RWP? – My Mackinac Island Trip

After shooting an amazing wedding in late July I got to take a great trip to Mackinac Island with my friends Jason and Ashley. Mackinac Island is a quant island in the middle of Lake Huron where no vehicles are allowed. Mackinac Island is full of bike trails, fudge shops, and historic sites.


I took my Nikon D600, my go to professional camera body, and four lenses but never used them. All of the photographs I took where shot using by iPhone 5s and edited using VSCOcam. A few images had minor global adjustments applied in Lightroom. All of my professional work and non-iPhone personal work goes thru a lot of planning and retouching to reach the final product. With my iPhoneography I take a far different approach. The images I capture throughout my travels and daily life with my iPhone are spontaneous images of lighting and sights I find interesting. Theses images aren’t meant to be saleable but instead personal images I shoot for fun for myself.



This first image was shot on our boat ride to Mackinac Island of another boat sailing in Lake Huron. A storm was coming towards the island creating the intense clouds.




This image was also shot on our boat ride right before we got off on Mackinac Island. A thick fog was surround the island when we first arrived.




After checking into our bed and breakfast the Small Point Bed and Breakfast, which I would highly recommend staying at, we headed back to downtown. We stopped by Fort Mackinac and ate a few doughnuts under the statue of Père Jacques Marquette. We affectionately nick named this seagull Sheldon since he shooed away other birds when they got near his spot that he never left. We saw Sheldon perched on his spot several more times during out trip.



Next we grabbed a quick lunch and then hiked up to Fort Mackinac where is photo was taken. We ate a great dinner downtown and then went on the Haunts of Mackinac tour at Mission Point Hotel.



On day two we left downtown and explored the outskirts of the island more. I decided to rent a tricycle because of my lack of balance and coordination. Two wheels are to mainstream anyway.



On one of our first stops I found this patch of daisies. I decided to play with the Contrast by Hornbeck app that lets you capture high contrast black and white images on your iPhone. It also has an invert function that was used to create this image.



After triking a bit longer we stopped for a quick lunch. I went over to the beach and shot some non-inverted images of the stones using the Contrast by Hornbeck app. I loved the pattern and texture these rocks created.




Stacking rocks on the beach on Mackinac Island is popular so we decided to give it a try. Our final stacked rock formation wasn’t very impressive but we did come across this one which was. This was also shot using the Contrast by Hornbeck app and later cropped in VSCOcam.



The stacked rocks where right across the road from Arch Rock a geographical formation caused by glaciers. This was also shot using the Contrast by Hornbeck app.




Next we headed up to Mackinac Island’s highest point Fort Holmes. There isn’t actually a fort their but it does have a nice view of the island. Here is quick shot of my friends Jason and Ashley on the highest point of the island.



Later that night after dinner we went on one last walk by the water before heading back to small point. This  minimalistic shot of a few ducks near sunset was shot across from the Mission Point Hotel.



This last image was the next day shortly after returning home to Clare, Mi. I shot this down the road from my house while I went for a walk before getting caught up on retouching and other work after our trip.

What Is New at RWP? – Clare County Charity Calendar

UPDATE: I recently heard from the Clare County DHS and the printing of this calendar is being postponed until further notice

Behind the scenes image of the Dover School Shoot

July was a great month at Ryan Watkins Photography! I got to photograph an amazing wedding, had a great trip to Mackinac Island, I continued my #iPhoneography series, and got to help create some new images for a charity calendar which will be available locally in the next few months.

Two years ago before I moved to Massachusetts I was approached by the Clare County United Way about shooting images for a calendar that would raise money to help their Project Kids Christmas charity. We shot the images but sadly the funding for the project didn’t come thru. Two years later I was contacted by the Clare County DHS to see if they could use my images for the same calendar to benefit Project Kids Christmas. I was more than willing but wanted to reshoot some of the old images. I spent the last two weeks of July photographing a variety of local landmarks and still lives which where relevant to Clare County.

The final Dover School image

The first location I knew I wanted to reshoot was Dover School. The Dover School is a one room school house that was renovated to its original condition. I shot several images of the Dover School while the sun set gradually set. I ended up compositing two images for the final shot. One had the shadows from the trees in the foreground the way I liked them and the other had the exterior of the school lit with flash.

The final Farwell Cannon image

Next I photographed the cannon in Farwell, Mi. This is a real life size cannon not a replica or paperweight. I photographed this at night and lit it will flash to eliminate the distracting park surrounding the cannon.

The Farwell Cannon before being lit

Morel Mushroom Still Life

In the spring many people in Clare County enjoy morel hunting, where they look for wild morel mushrooms. I wanted to reshoot an image of morel mushrooms for the calendar but it was almost four months to late to find local wild morels. So I went on and bought an incredibly overpriced bag of morels for the shoot. For this image I placed the morels on a tree stump near my house and lit them with flash at a very low angle to bring out the textures of the mushrooms.

Black Eyed Susans shot using a Lensbaby for the blurred effect

Black Eyed Susans are another common site in Clare County. I wanted to do something different from the traditional flower shot so I tried out my new Lensbaby. A Lensbaby is a flexible lens which lets you change focus my pulling the lens in different directions. I lit these with flash and turned the Lensbaby to create this blurring effect.

My new Lensbaby used to photograph the Black Eyed Susans

The rest of the calendar will have images of nature, landscapes, and wildlife from Clare County.

The final calendar will be available later in the year at several locations within Clare County. I’ll post on my blog and on social media when I find out where and when the calendars are available.

Teressa Griffith Clare High School 2015 Senior Rep Session

I had an amazing session with Clare High School Class of 2015 senior rep Teressa a few weeks ago!

We started the session at on of my favorite locations Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan. At Dow Gardens we shot a wide variety of images from traditional natural light portraits to warm airy shots which I added a vintage texture to in post.

After Dow Gardens we headed back to Clare for some night shots in downtown. Teressa frequently rides her bike around town so we did an image for her posed with her bike in downtown Clare. We also grabbed an image of her and her dog Floyd as well.

For the full gallery see below.

New Personal Work with Amazing Model Raven Price

I love shooting personal work especially when I get to work with amazing models like Raven Price. Featured below are a handful of my favorite images from the shoot.


Bean and Rocio Couples Portrait Session – Mount Pleasant, Mi

I had an amazing couples portrait session with Bean and Rocio in Mount Pleasant and Clare, Mi a few weeks ago. We shot a variety of natural light portraits in Island and Nelson Park in Mount Pleasant and also shot a few conceptual photos.

Bean wrote a letter to Rocio everyday that she was a away in Spain. These are the letters they wrote to each other and the bench they sat on for their first date after they were reunited in Michigan.

Bean and Rocio work at restaurants across from one another in Clare, Mi. They admitted to staring out the windows at each other during there breaks hence this shot of Bean going though the drive thru to get a glimpse of Rocio.

The complete gallery featured below.


Jake and Shaneice Couples Portrait Session – Grand Rapids, Michigan

I had great session with Jake and Shaneice a few weeks ago in Grand Rapids! They were the winners of my Valentine’s Day Couples Portrait Session give away and received a free session, Facebook collection, and free 16×20 print!


We got to shoot in Coit Park and downtown Grand Rapids during sunset and early evening.


Check out the full gallery below!