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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How I Got the Shot(s): Revisiting Lake Placid with New Technology

Way back in 2010 (when I was still in high school) my parents and I made a trip to Lake Placid, New York. This beautiful mountainous region of New York is rich with a plethora of gorgeous photographic opportunities. I shot a ton while we were out there. This was several years prior to my formal photographic training so many of the images were admitabley terrible, but some held up. After I started selling prints on my fine art website I decided to revisit many of my older nature, landscape, and wildlife images from years past.

Since 2010 the technology used to create panoramics have improved greatly. I had attempted to create panoramic images using Photoshop back in 2010 (shortly after I took the images) but the results weren’t that great since I was trying to manually stitch the images together. When I revisited these images in 2017 I used the newer technology available to me to easily stitch  these images together using Lightroom. The advancements in the technology made it easy for me to create these stunning panoramics from old images. One of the reasons I am able to still work on these older files and get better results with the newer technology is because I shoot in RAW. Shooting with the RAW file format gives you more flexibility when retouching your images and is a practice I highly recommend.

This panoramic consists of several images shot from our hotel balcony. Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-S VR Lens on a Velbon metal tripod. The stitching and further retouching was done in Lightroom and Photoshop seven years after the images were shot. ISO 100 70mm f/16 1/13 of a second shutter speed.

This still image was shot during the same sunrise as the above panoramic from the same location. Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 AF-S VR Lens on a Velbon metal tripod. ISO 100 116mm f/16 1/80 of a second shutter speed.

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How I Got the Shot: Jerry A Study in Gesture

I read an article recently (that can be read here) that I fully agree with. The article deals with technical precision versus emotion in photography (and specifically how your clients view this). The author argues that emotion is more important (especially to clients) than technical precision in photography.

When I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography I shot very conservatively and did everything by the book. This is one of the reasons I graduated with the highest academic honor (highest grades through the entire year). My work was always very technically precise (correct exposures, any blemished retouched out, etc). As I’ve grown older and started to understand the craft of photography better I’ve started to realize the important of gesture and expression in photography. Even though I still try to have all my images be as technically correct as possible, adding gesture to imagery is something that I’ve learnt is very important (and something I hope to become a hallmark of my work).

In the article mentioned above the author talks about how he was originally surprised at how many high school seniors have friends (of a similar age) shoot their senior portraits. This is actually something I did quite a bit back when I was in high school. Even though I didn’t have the technical photographic ability that I would later develop at Hallmark many of the images had that gesture and expression encapsulated in my later work. This was because of the connection I had with the subject. People close to another person can more easily get good expressions out of the aforementioned person than a complete stranger can. This is one of the reasons older images of mine shot of friends still hold up because of the expression and gesture I could get in the images due to the subject and I’s closeness. This is another reason I recommend friends or siblings coming to senior portrait sessions because they can help get those natural expressions out of subjects which someone not as close to them can’t.

An example of the aforementioned portraits which have great expression and gesture is this old senior portrait of my friend Jerry. During his senior portrait he and I were joking around telling jokes and what not. This allowed me to get a genuine expression out of Jerry. This image was later published in PDNedu mostly due to the expression. The image was shot in open shade next to a barn his parents owned with a wide aperture (small f number to throw the background out of focus).

Shot using a Nikon D200 with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens handheld in natural light. ISO 200 50mm f/2.8 1/350 of a second shutter speed.

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How I Got The Shot: Bryana

 

This image almost never happened. I shot this photograph while I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography. I was in Phase 3 (kind of like 3rd semester) at the time. We (us students) were all stressed out with the short deadlines and high standards which needed to be met to graduate. At this point we were working on our Phase 3 Electives. These images could be anything related to our main emphasis of our final portfolio (of which mine was portraiture). I was set to work with model Bryana (a student and model attending the University of Massachusetts) an evening after my classes were done. She needed a ride so I offered to pick her up at her home. My Garmin didn’t take me anywhere near where she lived, and her home was missing any clear distinctions that it was the proper address, so it took several phone calls to finally get to her home. Once I got her back to the studio the shoot when amazingly. I had borrowed the floppy hat from another student earlier that day. I used four lights to lit Bryana. The first key (or main) light lit her face. Two others were rim lights separating her from the background and bringing out the textures in the hat. The last light was a subtle background light adding further separation between Bryana and the background. The key light and rim lights were modified with strip boxes (tall narrow softboxes). All the lights were Profoto strobes. In post I did some dodging and burning as well as turning the image black and white. I also added a slight split toning in Lightroom which makes the darks in the image have a slight brown tone. I intentionally do this on most of my work to make the images more warm and inviting. I even use a similar technique on my color images.

Shot using a Mamiya 645 AFD with Leaf Aptus 22 Digital Back and 150mm lens. Lit with four profoto strobes, three of which with strip box modifiers, one with a grid with a diffuser. ISO 50 150mm f/8 1/60 of a second shutter speed.

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How I Got the Shot(s): Pets Over the Years

 

When I was a student at the Hallmark Institute of Photography one of our assignments was to photograph a pet portrait. Prior to this I had very little experience photographing pets after this I ended up loving photographing pets. This image of Feona the golden retriever was shot for my final portfolio at Hallmark. When my clients arrived Feona was super rambunctious. The skies that day looked stormy but thankfully the rains held off. My clients brought two of their dogs with them but didn’t think they would get any photos of Feona because of how wound she was. I set up a Profoto strobe with a white reflective umbrella. I had my clients direct Feona to a picnic table where I had Feona sit briefly. I was down on the ground and shot up towards Feona getting the dramatic sky in the background. I only got a few shots off before Feona lost her patience and jumped off the picnic table. This image ended up being my favorite from the session and remains one of my favorite pet images that I have shot. Later in post I retouched the sky to make it more dramatic and blue. The contrasting colors between the blue clouds and Feona (who is yellow of course) is one of the things which made this image work.

Shot using a Canon 5d Mark III with a Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 Lens. Lit with a Profoto strobe and a white reflective umbrella triggered with Pocket Wizards. The aforementioned gear was provided by the Hallmark Institute of Photography. The gear mentioned after the later images in this post is the gear I actually own and use now. ISO 100 64mm f/10 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

 

After I moved back to Michigan in 2013 I decided that I wanted to put together a pet portfolio. A former client (who had a plethora of pets) offered to have me photograph them. This shoot resulted in some of my favorite pet images to this day. My favorite image from this shoot was a profile image of one of my client’s dogs. I lit the image in the same way I would lit a profile image of a person. The dog sat on the deck while his owners kept him from running off. My Alienbee B1600 strobe was placed to camera right on the lawn in front of the deck and facing the dog. When shooting pes you need to be very patient. Luckily this dog was pretty chill. He allowed me to get several frames with him in this spot before getting sick of modeling.

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 with an Alienbee B1600 with a white shoot thru umbrella triggered with Radio Poppers and powered with a Vagabond Mini. As I’ve stated in past posts I quit using Radio Poppers in 2016 and now use cheaper but more reliable Yongnuo triggers.  

 

In early 2014 I shot some images of my friend and fellow Hallmark alumni’s cat Sadie in Weidman, Michigan. I used one of her backgrounds, lights, and softboxes for this image which was shot in a fairly tight space. This image remains one of my favorite cat images.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens. Lit using a Calumet Strobe with a Cowboy Studio softbox (this softbox and strobe belonged to a friend of mine; the Cowboy Studio equipment I have used is consistently horrible and I would not recommend it).

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How I Got the Shot: Ian the Welder

 

The title of this blog post sounds like it could be a Primus song.

When I studied at the Hallmark Institute of Photography our professors Gregory Heisler and David Turner would take us once a week to different locations to teach us location lighting. We got to go to a variety of locations such as a paper mill, and abandoned industrial building, and an airport to do shoots. The lighting techniques I learned during these classes are things I use almost every shoot.

Shortly after graduating from the Hallmark Institute of Photography with the highest academic honor I was commissioned by the 515 Gallery in downtown Clare, Michigan to shoot images for their “Junk it” opening. Ian, who is a junk artist and high school art teacher, was commissioned to create a sculpture from various scrap metal and other “junk” brought in by the community. I was commissioned to photograph the people who brought in “junk” with the “junk” they brought in; as well as, photographing the still lives of the “junk” itself and Ian creating his sculpture.

I drove to Harrison, Michigan (where Ian lived) fairly late at night (around 10pm) for the shoot at his home. I looked around his work area (a large barn) to figure out where to get the shot. He had his welding equipment set up. I set up my tripod and an Alienbee B1600 Strobe with a standard reflector attached. I set the strobe (another name for flash) to camera right and behind Ian to separate him from the black background. Without adding the additional light Ian would have blended into the background so I wanted a light to give a clear outline to his body. I wanted Ian to be entirely lit by the flash and the welding equipment so the background would go black making the smoke stand out. Because I knew Ian’s face (mask?) would be lit entirely by the welding equipment I had to guess on what the exposure would be for this. I figured trying to meter that with a handheld meter was a bad a idea. I got the exposure right for the strobe and guessed on the face exposure. I set my camera up on my Feisol Carbon Fiber tripod, then focused on Ian. Then I looked away (to avoid eye damage from the welding equipment) and had Ian start welding as I snapped images without looking at him. I nailed the exposure on the first image. It was actually the first image from the shoot which I ended up retouching and putting in the show (the image which is featured in this post). We shot several other images but none were as good as the first. In post I cleaned up the image further (adjusting the smoke a bit) and did some dodging and burning (lighting and darkening specific parts of the image) as well as giving it the black and white treatment. I later printed the image on metal for the show (at that time using Miller’s Professional Imaging). This remains one of my favorite portrait images to this day.

This image was shot using a Nikon D600 with a Sigma 28-70mm f/2.8 lens on a Feisol Carbon Fiber CT-3371 Tripod with Kirk B3 Ball Head and Kirk L bracket. Lighting wise I used an Alienbee B1600 Strobe with a standard reflector powered by Paul C Buff Vagabond Mini Lithium Battery Pack. The lights were triggered using Radio Poppers (which I highly advise against using, especially with Alienbee). I am now using Yongnuo 506N-II Flash Triggers which are way cheaper and way more reliable than Radio Poppers. ISO 100 44mm f/4 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

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How I Got the Shot(s): Invasions via iPhone

I was a late adapter to the smartphone thing. I got my first iPhone in late 2013 after my burner pay as you go phone quit receiving calls and messages for an unknown reason. One thing I loved about the old burner phones is their longevity and durability. If you dropped one of those old phones the sidewalk would crack but the phone would be fine. I got that first iPhone 5s to last (almost exactly) four years and now use an iPhone 8 (I miss the headphone jack). I know use my iPhone all the time for mostly business related tasks and have even put together a series of nothing but iPhoneography shot using my (older) iPhone 5s (currently there aren’t any photos in the gallery shot with the newer iPhone 8).

Back in 2015 I found an app called Matter which allowed you to add all kinds of unique 3d shapes and graphics to your images. I decided to mess around with adding these shapes to my (mostly) iPhone images and a few shots taken with my Nikon. These shots have (weirdly I think) been really popular and many people haven’t been able to figure out how I got the image. I usually take a fairly drab original shot (a road, path, fence, sky) and add the unique shape to it later in post.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/200 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/125 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/1900 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using an iPhone 5s. ISO 32 4.15mm f/2.2 1/4600 of a second shutter speed.

Shot using a Nikon D600 with a Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 Lens. ISO 50 80mm f/4 1/500 of a second shutter speed.

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