Poor Santa (It is a time when mother and father are everything to our little hearts and souls.)

Poor Santa Claus

Poor Santa Claus

Poor Santa Claus… The day after Christmas for him is akin to a 48 hour rave in the Red Light district. He is depleted of all energy, looking thin and disheveled he sits and tries to decompress. Thinking of a warm beach far away from everyone, battered from the non-believers, naysayers, and the elements of Mother Nature he just sits and stares. His mind drifts back to a time when life was harder but thoughts of Christmas were softer and filled with the joy of giving someone a gift and not a gift card. He knows full well if it wasn’t for children he would cease to exist. But he does exist, he beats the odds and returns each year, no matter how politically correct the world becomes and how much evil tries to topple him; For as long as there is a child with a smile a Christmas wish in his or her heart Santa Claus will return.

I have talked at length with Santa and the one thing that makes us both shed a tear is to see a child who is not healthy enough to enjoy Christmas. Christians will be celebrating their savior’s birth. But for all children Christmas is a celebration of innocence. It is a time of our life which we all passed through called childhood and it is supposed to be filled with innocence and to be oblivious to the cruel realities of the world. A time when mother and father’s love is craved and nothing could be greater. It is a time when mother and father are everything to our little hearts and souls.

So to see a child that cannot enjoy that holy innocence due to sickness or abuse or poverty really tears at my heart. Christmas is a time of the year when many people dig deep and give donations to charity. Please all Santa and I ask is that you help at the very least just one small child to have a good Christmas. Because when you make that child smile you breathe life to Santa Claus. Long live Santa Claus!

Instagram Lives (IG has no adds that chase you around like an evil stepmother)

"Reaching" Model Kendall Strampel, hair & makeup Aryn Wilson

“Reaching” Model Kendall Strampel, hair & makeup Aryn Wilson “Dreams can be so elusive like a whisper on the wind. Like the moon above seen yet never touched. Through perseverance, hard work and a long road traveled… One day the moon is replaced by the earth in the sky.” -Richie Smith Jr-

My experience as a photographer with Facebook is dead. I have two active Facebook pages; my personal page is where I interact with people I know, most of whom I have met in person. However there are a few very interesting people on my friends list that I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person, but I have found them very interesting and I like to follow and read their postings.

My Recklesspixel Facebook page was created as a way to get my photography and illustrations out to the rest of the world. Sure I have a website, a blog site and media content site that are all integrated, but social media is for the most part free and as the name implies it is social. But Facebook has gotten greedy when it comes to getting your message (mine is photography) out to the masses. They want you to pay to “boost” your postings and it really is a bunch of BS.

Here is my personal experience with Instagram vs Facebook. Ok so I have paid to boost a post on Facebook and all it ever got me was a few “Likes” and that was it. I received very few comments and I received absolutely no business, no business interactions what-so-ever, zero.

The short of how I started with Instagram was a friend in China asked me if I would use Instagram to share photos with her and this dates back to 2009. I downloaded the Instagram app to my phone and I had one follower and I followed just one person, my friend Grace. We originally started out on Skype and as Grace’s career changed and she was on the go Skype was no longer functional to connect with a quick real-time photo or comment and given the fact the Chinese government does not allow Facebook we found a work-around solution.

So I had IG for a few years and soon I started to get followers from my Facebook friends list, just a few here and there. Then I noticed in 2012 that when I would meet a younger person say 15 to 24 years old they would ask what my IG name is and they would all but puke at the thought of Facebook. “Facebook” that is where grandma goes to play Farmville or they would say things like “Facebook sucks because it only shows you what Facebook wants you to see.” That statement came from a fifteen year old five years ago.

So I plodded along and every so often I would open the IG app and check it out, but not too much would happen. Then in 2014 I set some goals to take my photography to newer and higher levels, I knew I needed to be more active on social media. Now let me explain that this is not the typical social media activity many are guilty of where they just sit and push a “Like” button or view mindless videos of cats only to get to the end of the climax-less video to wish you had those two minutes of your life back. Or worse to sit and rant and comment about a Photoshoped image of an abused animal, child or whatever… to me that is all pointless stuff one does when they have nothing better to do. No, my social media activity on IG became calculated, but first I had to educate myself a little bit with everything IG, such as etiquette and what people are really using IG for. So for the most part there are really two groups of people on IG; there are people who what to post content for others to see and there are selfie queens who must post a selfie every few minutes because their fragile mindless ego dictates they have to do that. Don’t get me wrong I think everybody has posted a selfie, but if it becomes an obsession than as far as media content is concerned it is pointless.

So I started actively following people or businesses that I thought would help my photography, I also would interact with them. And as time pressed on I would post content that was 99% about my photography and 1% about other stuff such as a cool and interesting location or activity. Then one day I got a DM or direct message and it wasn’t from Grace, it was from a fellow photographer asking advice. What? From me? Then more DMs started to appear in the coming days/weeks from models wanting to shoot with me, photographers who wanted to shadow me at a shoot and people asking Photoshop questions. Although I had interacted with IG users by nothing more than leaving comments on posts I had never sent a DM to anybody, well other than Grace. Then the phone calls started coming, I have my Google Voice number in my profile. I had people asking about portrait pricing and dates. I was like OMG it really can happen, social media can really work for you if you work for it and I have never given Instagram a dime, FUCK YOU FACEBOOK!

So with the good comes a little bad I guess. I have had some images stolen from IG and amazingly enough one moron edited the photo and posted back to his IG and credited me as the photographer and he even credited the model, but his edit was horrible and …yeah his IG account went down in flames like Russian jet over Syria lol.

Now as I said my posts on IG are calculated to get the most impact. Timing is everything; using software to know the best time to post has really helped me. But I think the most powerful tool was learning how to use hashtags. Hashtags are more powerful than older people realize because they travel across social platforms. I say “older” people because I find the younger crowd knows fully how to use them and their power.

Instagram really has taken a good swing at Facebook and as far as I’m concerned it landed a critical blow. Almost like when you’re hit and it doesn’t show till the bruises appear later. I’m sure Instagram will evolve even further, but I just hope they stay as organic as possible. IG has no adds that chase you around like an evil stepmother nor is there a sidebar showing you aunt Martha just liked her 800th cat photo of the day, no game requests and best of all if you get sucked into a video they are only 15 seconds long, that’s the limit and they’re sticking to it… so far.

Love my IG.

 

Wreckage (The plane is not forgotten and it is anything but untouched.)

Wreckage on a distant shore.

Wreckage on a distant shore.

The images of this iconic fuselage that sits on one of Iceland’s black sand beaches has haunted me for years. I first seen this photo of this wreckage years ago and In doing recent research for exotic photography locations, I keep seeing it pop up in my searches.

Although it is called by many names and it really seems to have no official name the wreckage of a (and I quote) “Douglas Super DC-3 airplane lies hollow and forgotten on a deserted black beach in Iceland – untouched since it crashed more than four decades ago.” Actually that statement is far from true. The plane is not forgotten and it is anything but untouched. It has been the focus of several fashion shoots and of recent it is one of the top exotic wedding photography locations in the world. I was recently reading an article about these exotic locations and again I seen this wreckage and that gave me the idea to acquire a high-resolution copy of the wreckage and give it a work up in Photoshop. I made it a little weekend project and I actually worked on some Photoshop techniques that I hadn’t used in a while. Photoshop for me is a lot like playing an instrument; If you do not keep at it you will soon forget what you have learned.

This image will be put to large-scale print for future sale as I do from time to time. This would certainly make a nice 16 x 24 inch print or larger. But I still have to fine tune it.

So for those who are wondering this is a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 that crash landed on or about November 23, 1973. I say “on or about” because there are some discrepancies in the details around the reason and the date. Some articles say it was put down due to “icing” and that the pilot chose the openness of the black sand beach, while other articles mention fuel calculation errors. Being a military plane I would like to believe the first story of “too much ice.” Either way all crew members survived and the Navy chose not to recover the plane. It seems that everybody who writes about the plane tells a tale of how hard the wreckage location is to find. And I find this very hard to believe, with tools like Google Earth and a good GPS unit you can drive right to it. The actual location is 63.459523,-19.364618. https://youtu.be/LwBDzMFVbnA

Thanks so much for reading.

Graveyard Photoshoot. (The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice… )

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm Model Kendall Strampel

It is not often I shoot with the same model two weeks in a row, but that is what happened this weekend. Last week’s shoot was very nice and the images of Kendall in a field on a mountain gave me a light beauty feel so the edits were exactly that; bright & light with lots of back lit sunlight.

So for this week’s shoot it was just the opposite. We were shooting in a church graveyard, ironically located just 1/2 mile from the field we shot in last week. So the concept for this shoot was Kendall’s idea and she presented it to me and when I heard it I knew the exact location. The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice because the actual church building is burned out from a lightning strike that occurred many years ago, leaving an abandoned stone shell. Now the building is off limits but their is a graveyard with a wrought iron fence and all the graves date back to the early 1800s. Because it is abandoned there are no people, well other than the occasional passer-by and we had a just a two people walk through the background of the shoot.

I shot both natural light and studio flash. Natural light is a true love of mine, but having the Paul C Buff Einsteins on location really does open up the ability to be more creative and give different feeling to a shoot.  Before the photoshoot started I already knew I would go for higher contrast images, I knew I would be shooting around f/8 to f/16 and I also knew I would be “shooting for Photoshop.” While my Photoshop skills are very good I, like most people do not want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop fixing things, but I love to use Photoshop to create images. Difference is fixings an image in PS is something that is done to save an image or help it out a little… or sometimes a lot. However when I open PS to create something that is a different story because I am doing something that most times could never be replicated in camera. So when I “shoot for Photoshop” I am actually creating a RAW image with a camera and using it as an ingredient or a seed that will be grow something from PS. With all that said I still want to create my image and be done, so I have many actions recorded in PS that move the process along a little quicker. Two things I recommend to anyone working with Adobe Photoshop and they are “learn keyboard shortcuts and learn how to create actions and use them.” Same goes for Adobe Lightroom “learn the keyboard shortcuts” they really do make life a lot easier.

I’m not a big fan of light meters however they do make life very easy when working with studio strobes. For today’s shoot I used only one light and that was a PCB Einstein 640 with either a beauty dish or a 8 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid. In the end I can say we came away with some nice images, both natural light and studio light.

But Why?… (“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” )

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

 

“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” So here we see a “human condition” that at some point in our life we have had. Mom telling you to “stay put and not jump around” and it is clear from the emotion in her face that she is not happy with mom at the moment.

The shot was taken inside a subway car on the “R” line headed uptown from Battery Park Subway station. I stepped outside of my standard 24mm-50mm focal length and zoomed to 105mm.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

Breaking Out (If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up.)

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

Model Bree Arkham. A two image composite from the Eastern States Penitentiary shoot.

This is a two image composite of model Bree Arkham. In this image we see an outdoor shot of Bree as she pulls her arms backwards while hanging from a large gate. Behind her is an image of a cell inside the penitentiary. The cell image is shot at f/4 and Bree was shot at f/5.6. In Bree’s shot her arms go out of focus due to the shallow depth of field.

So using the masking power of Photoshop I merged the two images and blurred the cell to match the DOF of Bree’s hands. Then I used an Emily Soto fashion action to create an atmosphere that would bring the whole scene together. The Emily Soto action is not a “one click” and your done kind of thing. I will actually spend a lot of time working with the various layers of the action and the masks to get the balance I like.

I feel in the end the light coming through the skylight in the cell looks as if it could be spilling on Bree’s back causing the rim light on her arms. When working with composites this is the one element that will be the most challenging… where is the light coming from? The average person is not asking this question when they view the image, however their subconscious mind is asking this question. If our eye/brain sees something that doesn’t make sense it will pick it up. Now that doesn’t mean that our brain instantly says “hey that’s a composite” but what our brain does most often (as my brain does) is give us a weird feeling about it, just kind of “somethings not right” feeling. So this is where certain things need to match or “balance out” between your elements in a composite, things like white balance, atmosphere and most of all direction of light and or shadows created by light. These two images have very different white balances and if I have a really hard time balancing the color I can always “bail out” as I say and pull the ejection lever and go straight to a black & white image. If I go over to B&W I most times by-pass or greatly lessen the problem of matching white balances between the elements.

Once white balance is done I then move on to creating atmosphere to bring the scene together and I do this in many different ways. Today it was a Fashion Action” and it was todays answer. Like most things in Photoshop you need to know many ways to get to the same end point. It is all about practice and that is what this image is… practice. The main element of Bree hanging on the gate is a 100% fine image as it was shot. We worked the pose out I shot it and a few minutes later I had her revisit the gate and shoot it again at a different f/ stop. The first was f/2.8 and the second was f/5.6 and the later was the better image as it made Bree’s hair really crisp. So “no” I never shot her to be a composite. As for the image of the cell that was shot a year before. It is part of my large stock of images I shoot and save for elements.

Melina Martin at ESP (…let’s shoot our way out of this prison)

1/30 sec at f/2.8 ISO 1600 70 Lindsay Adler Lightroom preset “Dark Memory”

 

Model Melina Martin looked fabulous on Tuesday evening for the third and final photo shoot at Eastern States Penitentiary. Yes it was hot and very humid, but we made our way through the old shambles of the penitentiary and captured some nice images. Miss Martin is new and still learning and that is why I asked her to do this shoot. I wanted to give the young lady camera time and really just a chance to work with here again. I shot with her back in the spring time and she was amazing.

So as we entered inside of the walls at of ESP we started at a location I have not used before. I have always wanted to shoot around the old greenhouse, which by the way is in very good condition. I also found a second gate that has a medical cross on it. Located next to the greenhouse it must have been another entrance to the medical ward. The first well-known gate with a cross is located just off of the central rotunda in what would be numbered “Cell Block 3” but as  you head down that corridor about 50 feet you come to a locked gate with a medical cross the has remnants of red & white paint. This as I was always told was the main entrance to the medical area also known as “Cell Block 3”.

Crazy I know but the more I visit this creepy place the more I get to know it… and yes there is always the creep factor when I’m inside the walls of this 11 acre wasteland. The creepiness starts to rise when you have idle time and stop and actually look at any one particular thing. But I think the most intense feelings (for me personally) are stirred up when I walk through the earliest built cell blocks like #1 and #4. Just to think of that concept that once you (the prisoner) entered the cell block and walked into your cell that is where you stayed for the duration of your sentence, in that cell and the tiny court-yard located off the back off the cell. You had one hour a day in the court-yard and the walls are so high all you can see is the sky. And then someone will speak or make a loud noise and you come back to the reality that you here for a photo shoot. But it’s that short time you drift away that you think about the pain of that prisoner living a life of immense solitude. And I also think that maybe it was a fitting punishment for his crime. How many people did he murder? Or was it rape? Did he kill children? Yeah lots of crazy thoughts as I walk through that creepy old place. And then all of a sudden we stop walking and we’re at a shoot location and my mind comes back to f/ stops and ISO settings.

So for this day I used my all-time favorite window location at cell block 3, but I ran into technical problems with my radio flash and not having a lighting assistant of this day was really making me… well let’s just say “troubled” although I can think of a lot worse four letter words to use here. So I sent Melina off to change wardrobe as I worked out the issue and the issue turned out to be a controller not properly fitted to the camera’s hot shoe. Such a simple fix… after you replace speedlite batteries (that were ok to start with), change flash units and maybe ten other things… then you notice the controller is just not quite mounted correctly… duh!

I found a new location under a stairway that had a lot of crackled paint and that made for some nice shots, but very crowded area and that made for a lot of distractions. So at this point I said to Melina “Ok, I think we’re pretty much done for the night, but let’s shoot our way out of this prison, we’ll find other places to shoot as we work our way back to the exit.” And with that statement she busted out in laughter and I had no idea what she was laughing at. She said “shoot our way out of this prison that is so funny.” Then I started to laugh too. It did sound funny when you think about it.

So as we started to so-called “shoot our way” back to the exit I stopped at the junction where cell blocks 8 & 9 separate. There was very nice window light, soft and pleasing natural light. This is where we finished up the shoot and then headed back out through the main gate to Fairmount Avenue.

I look forward to next year.

Melina_ESP-7494

1/160 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 155mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 70mm