How I Got the Shot: Frigid Gesture

 

Since I first got started in photography I loved wildlife and nature photography. I even got some of my bird photography published in Audubon, Nature’s Best Photography, and a few other publications back when I was in high school. Due to using primarily shorter telephoto and standard lenses (which are a bit short for wildlife photography) I don’t shoot a ton of wildlife work anymore.

In early December 2016 I woke up early Sunday morning to head to church. I put the key in the ignition of my car and it didn’t start. I messed around with it trying to get it to start until it got to the time that I would be late for church anyway. I went back in and noticed the beautiful light streaming down on the frigid trees in my backyard. I grabbed my Nikon D600 with my go to Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. When I got out there were several chickadees out their as well eating from our bird feeders. This chickadee had just landed on the barbed wire fence causing some snow to fall off of the fence. The golden light streaming thru the trees lit this falling snow making the image. This little bit of movement and gesture is what makes the shot one of my better wildlife images.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 800 200mm f/2.8 1/4000 of a second shutter speed.

 

 

How I Got the Shot: Bird Butt

Because I primarily shoot portraiture and weddings my gear choices (obviously) reflect that. I have a great deal of respect for those who shoot wildlife but I don’t get to do it much myself anymore due to other priorities. The longest lens I currently own is my Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 (yes 80-200mm not 70-200mm; the 80 is cheaper and I don’t need the bells and whistles of the 70) which is great for portraiture but can be a bit short for wildlife. Due to this I’m limited to shooting wildlife I can get close to.

I have a dog dish on our porch which holds the cat food for the outdoor cats (originally strays who have warmed up to us). I have made a nice warm place in our garage for the cats so there are plenty of times the cats are inside (the garage) instead of out on the deck. When the cats aren’t around various birds come and eat the bird food on the deck. This also makes it so I can easily photograph the birds with my 80-200mm lens from my living room.

In February 2017 I walked into the living room to see a gorgeous cardinal out on the deck. For years I’ve wanted to get a good cardinal image (especially when I was younger and my aunt who loved cardinals was still alive). The first time I had gotten a cardinal image I was happy with was a year prior in 2016 (that image would later get used as the cover of the Phone Guide Isabella – Gratiot County January 2017-2018). I grabbed my camera out of my bed room and slowly approached the window in the living room. Because of the constant threat of our cats these birds are very skittish. I slowly inched closer to the window snapping images as I went. I was worried that my camera’s shutter noise would scare off the cardinal (one of my few gripes with the Nikon system is how loud their camera shutters are and the quite mode’s uselessness). The cardinal stayed put long enough for me to get right up into the window. As the cardinal flew away it kicked up some snow off the railing of the deck. Later in post I would crop in quite heavily to emphasis the snow being kicked up. Little bits of gesture like this in any photograph greatly improve their quality. This ended up being one of my most liked images on Instagram in 2017 and an image people have mentioned they liked to me in person several times over the year.

Shot using a Nikon D600 and a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld. ISO 800 200mm f/4 I/4000 of a second shutter speed.

 

 

 

How I Got the Shot: The Accidental Homage to Kinkade

 

I enjoy shooting commercial photography, but due to my area (rural mid-Michigan) I seldom get to shoot much which would fall under that category. A few years ago in late 2013 and early 2014 I was commissioned to shoot images of the exteriors of various churches which were part of the Church of Daniel’s Band (a non-denominational church with its roots in Methodism which I grew up attending). I knew shooting these images at midday would result in boring images. Instead I opted to shoot them during the “blue hour” (as us photographers call it) shortly after sunset when everything has a bluer tint to it. This would create contrast between the warm tungsten bulbs lighting the interior of the church and cool evening light hitting the exterior. I also wanted the church to have some shape and dimension to it as well. To achieve that look I used my Alienbee B1600 flash to light the part of the church with the entrance door. I placed the flash far enough back that the light would spread and light that entire side of the church. This made that side of the church slightly lighter giving the church some dimension (making it look more three dimensional). The light put off by my strobe is daylight balanced (which means it looks white to my camera) so I had to adjust the colors in post making the strobes match the ambient blue light. Looking back now I could have also attached a CTB (color temperature blue) gel to the light to minimize my time in Photoshop correcting the colors. I also added a moon to the sky in the background in post to add to the night time look. After showing this image to various people many have commented that it reminds them of Thomas Kinkade’s paintings. People have made similar comments about other night (images taken shortly after sunset during the “blue hour”) images of mine that they remind them of Kinkade’s work. I’ve been aware of Kinkade’s work for years but none of my “blue hour” shots have been intended as an intentional homage to his work (even though I’ve always liked his work). He and I use a similar technique to make our images shot (or in his case painted at this time of day) look dramatic. The natural color contrast between the warn interior light and the cold exterior light always makes for dynamic engaging images regardless of medium.

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 an L bracket. Lit with an Alienbee B1600 triggered with Radio Poppers and powered with a Vagabond Mini. As I’ve stated before I quit using Radio Poppers in 2016 and switched to the cheaper and more reliable Yongnuo triggers. ISO 100 28mm f/10 0.8 of a second shutter speed.

How I Got the Shot(s): The Ents and The Omelettes

In early 2017 I spent a good amount of time reading business books and shooting winter landscapes around (primarily) Clare, Michigan. Since I first got started in photography I have loved photographing nature. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned to love the small town community I grew up in as well. It seems like a natural fit to shoot the countryside around Clare.

 

During my travels thru the rural roads near Clare I eventually found places I would return to frequently. One of those was the historic Dover School. Many places near the Dover School proved to be beautiful locations for both the fall colors and the winter landscapes. If you take a right leaving the Dover School parking lot and take a right at the first road you see and keep going you will eventually run into the tree featured above. I have always loved this old craggily tree. These have some much texture and character which makes them great photographic subjects. I had photographed this tree several times but had yet to come across it when the conditions were right to make a good lasting photograph. With trees on property I have access to I can easily get out my artificial lighting and make the tree look really cool. Since this tree is on private property (and I have a very high view of private property rights) I’m restrained to what images I can get of this tree from parking lots and the road. Usually when I would come to visit this tree there was little separating it from the trees behind it making it blend in with them resulting in a busy cluttered photograph. When I was out shooting on this particularly blustery winter day the high winds were kicking up snow between the ent like tree and those behind it. These snowy wind gusts made a white background separating the tree I liked from those behind it. This image is actually a small panoramic composite of two images. Because I knew I would want to print this image large I shot two images right next to each other and combined them later in Lightroom creating one large file which can be printed at even larger sizes. One of the reasons I like this image is the tree seems reminiscent of the ents from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I had read the books multiple times back in middle and high school and hope to again sometime sooner than later.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm lens handheld. ISO 800 80mm f/4 1/4000 of a second shutter speed.

While training my second shooter for weddings, Nikki Robinson, I found out that she always calls the Amish omelettes. I have no idea why this is now this is but  I find myself accidentally referring to the Amish as omelettes now to. I’ve heard people say you become like the people your around the most and I guess this proves that theory true.

 

On that same day that I shot the ent like tree I also came across these cold omelettes raveling home in the fog. I slowed down and grabbed a few images of them before passing them and traveling to other locations to photograph. As I’ve grown older I’d grown to love this local community here in Clare, Michigan and I think this image of these Amish traveling in the snow is a beautiful representation of Clare, Mi.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 800 170mm f/4 1/4000 of a second shutter speed.

How I Got the Shot(s): The Change of Seasons

2016 marked a return to photographing fine art nature and landscape work for me. I had loved this type of photography when I was in high school, and had even had some of the images in this genre of photography published in magazines back then. As I grew older and photography became a profession instead of a hobby I’ve ended up putting more emphasis portraiture and weddings.

One of the big projects I worked on in 2016 was photographing the local fall foliage (primarily) around Clare County. After a few days of shooting I found a handful of places I liked and returned to. I regrettably didn’t keep a close track of some of the more hard to find places that I came across. A place I ended up coming back to several times was the Dover school just outside Clare, Michigan. This place usually has beautiful fall colors during the entire fall season.

While shooting these fall colors it started to unexpectedly snow allowing me to capture images with both snow and the fall leaves. These images remain some of my favorite fine art nature images that I’ve taken in recent years. At no other time have I been able to capture both the fall colors and snow in the same images.

Capturing (most of) these images was pretty simplistic. I would drive around the rural roads pull my car over and walk up and down the roads capturing the best leaves. When you point your camera at a subject your camera thinks it needs to make the subject 18% grey. Regardless of if you are photographing a black bear in a cave or a polar bear in the snow your camera thinks the photo needs to be 18% grey. Due to this when shooting in the snow your camera will usually make the images slighting to dark (or underexposed). If you are using an automatic or semiautomatic mode (like aperture priority or shutter priority) you can easily correct this by slighting increasing your exposure compensation to +⅓ or + ⅔ of a stop. Take some test shots to make sure your aren’t making the image to bright (overexposing). Many cameras have a function I usually refer to as the “blinky” which will alert you if their are pixels so bright in your images that they can’t be saved in post production. The pixels will flash red. Turing this feature on is very helpful when shooting in the snow.

The image at the top of this post was captured just down the road from the Dover School. I have photographed these trees numerous times. A few months later I would get images of these trees during a snowstorm which would become one of my most liked images for the year of 2017. Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld. ISO 400 105mm f/2.8 1/1600 of a second shutter speed.

This next image was shot on the same road near the Dover School but I had to use a different technique to capture it. I moved my camera from left to right shooting several images with the same exposure intending to later merge the images in one large panoramic image later in Lightroom. To make the panoramic stitching easier I made sure to shoot in manual exposure mode the brightness of the images wouldn’t vary. Also using a long lens at a shallow depth of field allows for a look most people aren’t used to seeing in landscape photography. Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens handheld. All images which were later stitched together were shot at ISO 400 80mm f/2.8 1/1600 of a second shutter speed. (panoramic)

This image was shot in the parking lot right next to the Dover School. This is another tree I have returned to and photographed many times in many different seasons. Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens handheld. ISO 400 100mm f/8 1/320 of a second shutter speed. (Dover school snow on tree)

This last image was shot on Maple Road right off of Tobacco Drive outside Clare, Michigan somewhat near Loomis, Michigan. I used a wider lens to capture more of the scene and stopped down to a narrower aperture (larger f number) to ensure the entire scene would be in focus. From using my Sigma 28-70mm for years I’ve learnt where the lens is most sharp and has the least vignetting which was another factor into why I shot using f/8). Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 lens handheld since I was standing in a road. ISO 1600 28mm f/8 1/250 of a second shutter speed. (maple road)

After photographing Maple Road my windshield wiper motor died. My car is constantly having bizarre yet minor issues with it (this case being the perfect example). I drove to Coleman to get it fixed. I wasn’t able to get it fixed that day so I had to drive in the snow to Midland than evening to a Bible study without windshield wipers. I’m incredibly thankful that I was providentially kept safe during that experience.

 

How I Got the Shot: The Peak In Field

Way back in 2011 my parents and I made a trip out to the Canadian Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia Canada. In 2017 I revisited many of my old nature images and have done new retouching in Lightroom and Photoshop. This image was one of the few which needed no new or improved retouching applied to it.

Most of the days of my parents and I’s trip in the Canadian Rockies thus far had been cloudy. This lead to me mostly photographing wildlife such as black bear, elk, moose, and grizzly bear. I had yet to get many landscape shots I was very happy with (with the exception of a shot of the well known Peyto Lake). On this day as sunset approached, my parents and I crossed over into British Columbia near the small town of Field (an ironic name if you think about it). Most of the rest of the trip was spent in Alberta. We drove across some very curvy mountainous roads and eventually came to a very large waterfall that my parents were trying to find (I no longer remember the name of the waterfall). After viewing the waterfall for a while we started our trip back to our hotel (which was in Canmore, Alberta). A beaver ran out in front of us (how Canadian). My dad tried to stop the car in time for me to get a shot of the beaver, but we were to late. Shortly after the missed beaver, the sun started to break out of the usually overcast clouds. The light streamed thru lighting this one lone peak. We were able to pull off on a scenic turnout on one of the thin twisty mountainous roads, where I was able to get out of the car with my massive Velbon metal tripod (upgrading to a carbon fiber Feisol about a year later was quite the relief). I stood in the middle of the road and grabbed as many frames of this mountain peak as I could before that lonely light bean was removed by the passing clouds. I’m incredibly thankful for how my parents and I were able to providentially come across this beautiful scene. Many landscape photographers prefer images of lesser known areas (such as this nameless mountain peak in Field, British Columbia) than well known icons (think Mt Rundle for the Canadian Rockies or Tunnel View in Yellowstone). In Photoshop I increase the contrast and cropped the image in tighter. This image would later be published in Outdoor Photographer Magazine in their March 2012 issue. More images from that trip are available to view and purchase thru my fine art website.

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 70-300mm AF-S VR f/4.5-5.6 Lens on a Velbon Metal Tripod. ISO 100 140mm f/8 1/20 of a second shutter speed.

How I Got the Shot: The One I Don’t Like But Everyone Else Does

I think anyone who is honest with themselves can look back at things they’ve done and go “well that was stupid.” The story behind the above image is one of those. Back when I lived in Massachusetts my friends and I would regularly go to an abandoned insane asylum called the Belchertown State School. We had got wind of rumors that the asylum would be demolished soon so we went there quite frequently. The Belchertown State School specialized in treating children, but their methods in those days were probably closer to what we call torcher than treatment today. Not a nice place. The “school” had been closed down for years and many buildings were in various states of decay. It was also a hot spot for “paranormal research.” We ran across people who were “paranormal researchers” there and got to hear some of their (not quite compelling) claims. Due to the decay many of the multiple story buildings were very dangerous to navigate thru.

Outside of our normal assignments at the Hallmark Institute of Photography (which was pretty much a trade school for photographers) we would have various contests as well. One of which was all about breaking the traditional rules of photography. The above image was my entry.

This image as shot inside one of the many buildings comprising the Belchertown State School. I had my camera set on a tripod and lit part of the hallway with a flashlight (yes an ordinary flashlight not a traditional camera flash). I moved the camera on the tripod (by changing the camera from horizontal to vertical orientation) and lit other parts of the hallway. This was done by using a very long exposure. I did several tests with this exposure being my favorite at the time. I did some minor global (affecting the entire image) adjustments in Lightroom. This image ended up winning the aforementioned contest.

At the time I thought this image was cool. Some people even thought they saw my reflection in the image (the dark shape which looks like it is wearing a driving cap and a black sweater). There’s nothing reflective in the image so I don’t buy it. Looking back now this image is a far cry from the things which encapsulate my style (clean simple elegant timeless). Does this image showcase the good, the true, and beautiful? Not really. It shows a place with a dark past lingering in decay shot using a weird gimmicky technique. Not very aesthetically pleasing. Never the less people still really like this image even though as my understanding of art and aesthetics have grown with age I have grown to dislike it.

Shot using a Canon 5D Mark III with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens on a tripod with a pan and tilt head. ISO 1600 24mm f/13 30 second exposure.

 

 

How I Got the Shot(s): Studies of Cassi Over the Years

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.

How I Got the Shot: Family and Fall Foliage

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.

 

How I Got the Shot(s): Studies of Arches Over the Years

I grew up in between the two small towns of Clare and Coleman, Michigan. Both have about 4000 residents last time I checked the statistics. I’ve been used to seeing beautiful nature (trees, wildlife, etc) since my childhood. Due to living in a small town (more exactly in the woods outside a couple small towns) I never got to see beautiful architecture until I moved to Greenfield, Massachusetts to attend the Hallmark Institute of Photography. During Phase 3 (similar to third semester) at Hallmark I made a trip to the Boston Public Library to do a shoot with a couple I had originally met in Michigan. I had photographed Katie and Tim’s wedding shortly before moving to Massachusetts in 2012. Tim and Katie had one of the coolest weddings I have ever photographed. They had a lightsaber battle between the wedding and reception (which was a ton of fun) and walked into their reception to the imperial march.

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Tokina 12-24mm f/4 Lens. ISO 400 12mm f/8 1/1250 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a 50mm f/1.8 Lens. Lit using a Sunpak speedlite (this thing was dirt cheap, fully manual, and worked for about a year, it died on the last shoot I did before moving to Massachusetts) triggered with Yongnuo 506N Flash Triggers (which I still use to this day and have proven to me more reliable than the Radio Poppers and Pocket Wizards I have used). ISO 400 50mm f/2.8 1/20 of a second shutter speed.

 

Tim and Katie had moved to Boston for school around the same time I did. One of my professors David Turner had mentioned the commons at the Boston Public Library during a lecture and I figured I would check it out as a potential location for a photoshoot. In February 2017 I did a shoot with Tim and Katie in the commons which has beautiful architecture. This was the first time I had photographed a portrait against architecture as in this scene and loved it. From growing up in the wood I had never seen architecture like this. Also at this time my photographic style was starting to get developed as well. I was starting to incorporate that elegant clean simple timeless designs into my portraiture (and other work). There is nothing that says timeless like beautiful old architecture. The arch was a great framing tool to draw the attention to Tim. I also used a Profoto strobe to light Tim and let the ambient light go a little dark to make him stand out.

Shot using a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Lit with a bare Profoto strobe (I don’t remember the exact model anymore). The lights were triggered using pocket wizards. ISO 160 70mm f/5 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

 

When I was leaving the library and looking for a cab to take me back to North Station (I took the train from Fitchburg to North Station in Boston; one does not simply drive into Boston) I stumbled upon the gorgeous Trinity Church across the street from the Library. A little over a month later I would return to Boston and do another shoot but this time in front of Trinity Church. Many will remember this church from the scene in the movie Blown Away with Jeff Bridges and Forest Whitaker. After shooting several images someone at the church notified us that I was too close to the entrance of the church and we were asked to leave. I was able to get the shot before we got kicked out.

Shot using a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Lit with a bare Profoto strobe (I don’t remember the exact model anymore). The lights were triggered using Pocket Wizards. ISO 100 85mm f/14 ⅛ of a second shutter speed.

 

A few weeks later I would travel home to Michigan for spring break. I spent much of spring break shooting for my final portfolio. I stopped in Detroit to do a couples portrait with my (distant) cousins Alex and Michael. I had also photographed these two before my formal photographic training. At this point I had grown to love arches and decided to incorporate the entrance of a church in Greektown in Detroit into the photograph. The day of the shoot was Saint Patrick’s day 2013. I didn’t have an incredibly wide lens on me at the time (I rarely shoot with really wide lenses) so I had to wait until the light on the road next to use was red, run out into the road snap a few images, then run back to the sidewalk. After a few attempts (and some mild jaywalking which J Gresham Machen was also in support of) we got the shot.

Shot using a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. Lit with a bare Profoto strobe (I don’t remember the exact model anymore). The lights were triggered using Pocket Wizards. ISO 100 24mm f/10 1/60 of a second shutter speed.

During my final portfolio review at the Hallmark Institute of Photography (passing this determines if you graduate; your work is critiqued by four famous photographers) my arch shots didn’t go over well because the subjects were small and I shot too many arches (my portfolio still passed with flying colors and I graduated with the highest academic honor). After this critique I set a personal goal of shooting a “redeeming arch shot” as I called it (an image which corrected the issues of my past arch shots). After moving back to Michigan I got the chance to make a trip to Ohio to visit two of my friends I had met from the Hallmark Institute of Photography (Sean and Jess). At a park in Cincinnati I was finally able to get my “redeeming arch shot.” This image is now on display at the Four Leaf Brewing and has been part of shows at the 515 Gallery both in downtown Clare, Michigan.

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 and a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens. ISO 125 18mm f/5.6 1/320 of a second shutter speed.

Around the Clare areas there are few (maybe no?) places with pretty arches to frame subjects, but I have came across other nice arches throughout Michigan. One of the reasons I love shooting with arches (as I alluded to early in this article) is it matches my photographic style. The arches fit my clean simple elegant timeless aesthetic. I want my images to be something my clients with cherish for years to come and I want them to only be dated by the clothing and hairstyles in the image (not by the style or shooting or retouching). By incorporating other elegant timeless things like beautiful architecture into my images it helps create that timeless look. This last arch image was shot of the lovely models Chelsea (who I’ve had the privilege of working with multiple times) and Dayna in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2017.

 

Shot using a Nikon D600 and a Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with Kirk B3 Ball Head and Kirk L bracket. Lit using a Yongnuo Speedlite YN560-II with a Westcott Pocketbox 8×12 triggered with Yongnuo 506N-II Flash Triggers. ISO 100 18mm f/8 1/125 of a second shutter speed.