What Phone Did You Use? (envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot)

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

What Phone Did You Use?

It was nearly 6:00pm on a Cold windy February evening when myself and a group of friends had finished our joyous dinner and were leaving the restaurant. Earlier I had promised my two friends that once we met up, I would take a few nice photos of them. Nothing special, just a few good photos. Knowing I am a photographer this would be a little treat of sorts for them. 99% of the time I have my camera bag with me and there is always a body with a full frame sensor, a 24-70mm and yes, always the 70-200mm both f/2.8 lenses. Also, there is always a radio controlled speedlite or two, but who the hell wants to use those when there is natural light to glorify already natural beauty.

However, the day did not go nowhere near as planned. I was to leave point “A” and pickup Nam & Kukik at point “B” and return to point “A” to retrieve my wife from shopping and we would all go to dinner. We had also planned that somewhere along the way we would find a spot for a little photo shoot. Nothing particular just a spot with good lighting so the girls could have some nice photos and then off to dinner.

Sadly, the trip from point A to point B involved driving in mid-Saturday afternoon traffic in North/Central New Jersey. When we think of bad traffic, we have visions of LA or Bangkok, however parts of New Jersey are just as bad. I know the area well so I know all the shortcuts and alternate routes. But on this day what should have been a 25-minute ride turned into almost 2 hours, mostly due to congestion and fender benders.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Needless to say, I was able to finally get to Kukik and minutes later pick up Nam. However, I knew that by time I got back to point “A” where I had left my wife there would be little time for a photo shoot and dinner takes priority because… well because it is food lol and I know everyone was hungry and darkness would fall soon.

I start thinking to myself “maybe the girls forgot about the photos.” And as we’re eating and having a wonderful time enjoying this wonderful get-together, no one says anything about the photo shoot. I mean it was not etched in stone or anything, it was just me taking a few quick shots of these lovely Thai beauties.

But I was forgetting a few things here; first thing I was forgetting is that the whole point of this get together was because Kukik would soon be leaving to live in California and we would not be able to see her to often anymore. The second thing I was forgetting was the fact I had told two women I would take their photo. So, forget about the first part of Kukik moving away, the big tragedy here is that I told not one, but two women I would take their photo. As you can clearly see I need to find a way at 6:00pm on a cold dark windy winter night to take a nice photo of these to young ladies or I may never hear the end of this.

As we leave the restaurant no one has yet said anything about the photos, but I have this feeling building inside that “what if?” kind of feeling. What if they say “hey you said you would take our photo?” Of course, as a photographer I could justify not taking the photos for many reasons; There is not enough light, it is too cold or too windy… But then what kind of a friend would I be? The core part of my OCD is not letting people down, be it a client or a friend “if I told somebody I was going to do something I will do it at any cost or I just can’t live with myself.” They are very good friends and wonderful people and I know they would forgive me, sadly I would never forgive myself.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

So again, as we walk out of the restaurant, I am scanning the area and I see this wonderful window light coming from this rather large thrift store. Most thrift stores are small and tucked away, but this store is large and has big windows just gushing with light.

We make our way to the vehicle and the moment of truth has arrived. The girls are talking Thai with my wife and I know very little Thai. But I do know enough to know when they are talking about me and more-so I can tell by the “heartbroken” tone of their voices that they are asking about the camera and the photos. As they’re all talking, I’m playing the scenario through my head of me telling them “it’s too dark or too cold” and then envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot lol.

Needless to say, by looking at the photos that are posted here I used the window light and I feel it made some really nice lighting for a quick shoot. I pulled my vehicle right up in front of the store and stopped in the “No Parking” fire lane and we all got out and the girls were happy to say the least.

Three things came together (in my opinion) that made these images as good as they are. First was the full frame sensor. It doesn’t matter the brand of the camera, they’re all good, Sony, Canon, Nikon and all the rest. If you have a full-size sensor shooting in low light can yield amazing results. All though it seemed the window light was extremely bright, in reality it is not. It appears bright because everything else is dark, it is night time. Most of the images came in around 2500-6400 ISO and on a full frame sensor that is easily doable these days.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Second thing that made the images as good as they are is that the lens was good and fast. I was using my (pry it from my cold dead hands) 70-200mm f/2.8. I had my camera set to manual, shutter at 1/125 sec, f/3.2 and auto ISO. If the ISO went above 3200, I would have the girls move closer to the window or zoom out a bit. If they were too close the shot didn’t look good because the glass would be in frame and it did not look pleasing. Also, most of the photos were shot at 115mm or higher which gave a good compression for the leading lines of the walkway in the background.

And the third thing that made the images as good as they could be on a cold windy winter night was the “even lighting” coming from the store. It was bright and soft. It was not the best lighting, but it was the soft enough and that was all I needed. I started shooting with Nam who has never been in front of my camera before. Next up was Kukik who has been in front of my camera and then of course there is going to be no stopping both girls getting shots together. It truly was one of those fun moments in life that we will always remember. One of the hardest parts of our lives is identifying those moments as they’re happening. As I was watching the girls I realized “this was one of those moments.”

Then the shoot was over in an instant… I seen the flashing lights of the parking security vehicle coming our way and I yelled for everybody to get back to the truck and we pulled away.

But as we pulled away my wife and the girls start commenting on the fact it was a thrift store and they hadn’t gone inside. Yep, I think you can see where this is going to lead. So, I quickly linked my tablet to the camera WiFi and asked each girl to “pick one good photo of themselves” and I would edit it while the were shopping. “one good photo each,” yeah, right, that is like asking a kid to take only one piece of candy. So as the girls headed off to the thrift shop, I stayed behind and using Lightroom CC Mobile I edited a few photos and posted them to Instagram and sent them copies as well.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

Later the next day I did take a few of the images into Photoshop and put them to a better edit. However, the best part of this whole story is; we realized Kukik has a few more weeks here in New Jersey so why not plan another good day to get together and have fun and we did just that. Before I returned the girls home, we all sat looking at our calendars and set a date.


Hey thanks so much for stopping by and reading, have a great day.


It Will Never Happen To Me… Right? (when I see a photographer with his Canon 7D or 5D … you are a walking billboard )

Big Ouch!


Don’t think it could never happen to you… and if it already happened don’t think it won’t happen again. I was unlucky enough to have had a horrible head-on car wreck thirty-one years ago. The accident was no fault of mine at all. I remember people remarking “what a freak thing” to have happen to you. Then nine years later it happened again and yes again it was no fault of mine whatsoever. I learned the first time that life can change so quick and as they say “in the blink of an eye”. Taking me over a year to fully recover it was a life changing experience to say the least.
So let’s change gears here and talk about why you should always put a clear filter on the front of that big expensive lens you love so much. If you have read previous posts you know I have many times referred to my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens as my “pry it from my cold dead hands” lens. While I like to shoot many kinds of photography it is the faces that I love and the 70-200mm is the tool to get that job done. I shoot a lot of models and do a lot of head shots so that lens is my baby.
I read long ago about putting the clear UV filter on the front of a lens because it is just one more thing to take the initial force before the front element of the lens would. Although I put the clear filter on practically every lens I own from the 58mm’s to my 77mm and even the 82mm, I still thought “It’ll never happen to me” because I’m so careful. I mean I have never dropped a camera or a lens in my life. I almost never use a camera strap anymore because I have come to find them bothersome. I will shoot either from a tripod or I will hand-hold using a wrist strap. I will be the first to say that I am very hard on gear, I keep a neoprene skin on my camera body 100% of the time, my 70-200 has a lenscoat brand cover 100% of the time and I always have the filter on the front. The only time the filter comes off is when I shoot in studio, I will also take the skin and the coat off as well.
But when I’m out and about I rely on Lowepro bags and pouches for protection while moving from place to place and when I am on a tripod my hand rarely leaves the camera body on a model shoot. As for the wrist strap; Yes holding a full body camera with a battery grip and a 70-200mm lens is a lot of weight and I will admit most people could not and would not do it without a camera strap. I am a big guy and I am averagely strong in the arms and hands. I really never gave it a lot of thought until now, but I like shooting on a tripod the best because of the extreme clarity and crispness of the images. I like hand-held because of the shear freedom and because my neck does not like a lot of weight and that is mostly due to the broken vertebrae from the wreck thirty one years ago. So far I have never let myself down while holding the camera with the wrist strap. I use a Cotton Carrier wrist strap, I have tried many and the Cotton Carrier is the only one I love. I liked many others but this is the one I fell in love with. I have waded streams, I carried my camera neck deep in the Gulf of Thailand, I have hung off the back of pickup trucks while traveling down back roads both here in the USA and in Southeast Asia, riding on motorbikes, looking over cliffs, lying on the ground in mud and sand and dirt… I have never dropped a camera. It is my hand and I control it. Have I ever hit something with my camera? Sure, all the time. With a long lens and being outdoors and doing what I do how could you not hit something, but that is why there is a skin on the camera body and a coat on the lens. There actually is a secondary reason for the covers and I have blogged about this in the past and that is; I really don’t want people to easily see what I have. I have no desire to show off what I have and as a matter of fact if I do use a camera strap it is for security more than to carry the camera. If I use a strap I use a homemade body strap similar to a “Black Rapid”. While in a bad area it is hard for a crook to just hit you and take the camera when it is tethered to your body. I kind of laugh to myself when I see a photographer with his Canon 7D or 5D Mark III strap that came with the kit. If you are in the wrong setting you are a walking billboard for any crook.
So it did happen to me. I have a catering business and the camera is always with me because I like to keep current content on the catering business’s Facebook page and I never want to miss that special shot at the party that might be good for the website. My camera always rides in a big Lowepro backpack that keeps it very safe. Well… until I had to attend a formal affair in NYC and I felt that carrying the big backpack while dressed in formal attire would cumbersome and actually stupid looking so I opted for a smaller Lowepro bag. It worked fine and it was a safe option for the low duty of a formal affair. However… upon return from the upscale event I was lazy and I did not switch back to the backpack. I grabbed the small bag and out the door I went and off to the catering job. I had my work vehicle loaded with food carriers (boxes) and I had the camera bag stuffed high on top. Upon return at the end of the day my wife opened the door and the bag fell out of the Dodge Durango from nearly roof top height and landed on the cement directly on the bottom of the bag. It made a strange noise, but I thought it to be ok. As we unpacked the vehicle I noticed the full moon rising and it was big and orange as orange could be. I ran for the tripod and placed it as quick as possible; I then pulled the camera out of the bag and went to remove the lens cap and… that was when I noticed the lens cap had been driven through the UV filter and was jammed into the filter ring to the point it was nearly impossible to remove it. It took several minutes to get the cap off. The filter had been destroyed; however the front element looked ok.
So yes it happened to me and I never seen it coming. Was I mad at my wife? Not really, I never yelled I just showed her the damage and she went silent and felt physically sick to her stomach. I let her stew about 20 minutes the time it took to get the filter off the lens and then I showed her the lens element appeared to be ok.
So today I headed down to Canon Pro Services to drop off the body, the 70-200mm and a 24-105mm that was also in the same camera bag. I wanted all three piece checked for internal damage as well as it was time for servicing anyway. CPS has a 2 turnaround time so I’ll have my gear back soon.
In conclusion; Go buy a UV filter for the lens you want to protect. Personally I use Tiffen or Hoya filters for all my other filter needs such as Polarizers and Neutral Density, but for UV I use Canon filters. Again this is just a persona preference, but you should always buy real glass and buy the best you can afford.

Have a great day and thanks for reading.