Where Will Your Camera Take You? (Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together.)

Koh Chang, Thailand

Where Will Your Camera Take You?

Most photographers never really think about where their camera will take them. I can honestly say “my camera has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d ever go to.” When I make this statement, many readers may think I have traveled the world over and have been to exotic places. In some ways this is partially true, but you don’t have to go around the world to see amazing things and meet wonderful people. There may be an amazing place right up the street from where you live or amazing people in your community that you haven’t met yet.

My camera and my love of photography has taken me to places 10,000 miles away and it has taken me into the fields and forest behind my house. My wife is from Thailand and while my photography played a very small part in meeting her, it has played a huge roll in my life when I travel to Thailand. I can say without a doubt that there are places I would have never seen and people I would have never met if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a photographer. This sounds so prolific when you put the “10,000 miles away” statement in the paragraph. It makes me sound so worldly, I can also honestly make that same statement about the area where I live right here in the USA.

I live on the west side of New Jersey not for from the Delaware River that divides New Jersey & Pennsylvania. As my photography grew, I wanted more and more out of it. I didn’t want to just take photos of my dog anymore and I never was that great of a landscape photographer, however I did like product & food photography. I like my own product photography, I would sell stuff on eBay and I knew that the better the images of the product or item I was selling, the higher the bids would go. I sold everything on eBay from a postage stamp to a Caterpillar bulldozer. With that I was hired several times to photograph moderate to high dollar items such as antiques and cars.

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

 

Still I wanted much more from my photography. I would photograph events, just for the fun of it. Many times, I would be at a public event and think to myself “If not for photography, I would most likely not be at this event.” Some events I chose just because I wanted the challenge of photographing fast-moving things, so I would go to an airshow. Parades are always nice, but again I still wanted something more.

As my photography progressed, so did my editing skills. Learning Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom were a bit of a challenge at first, but like riding a bike it comes quickly if you keep at it. Around this time, I decided I really liked photographing people and I wanted to pursue it. I had always liked photographing people, however one day I sat thinking long and hard and came to the realization how much I liked it. The reason I had not pursued it I think was mostly due to lack of confidence and lack of equipment. One, being a mental thing and the other being obviously a money thing. So, I soon set off on a journey to acquire what I needed to photograph people. In time came better lenses and then onto building an arsenal of lighting equipment.

As for the confidence; it too came in an ebb & flow kind of way. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and “hey today I can photograph anybody.” I think what happened was, I realized I had the skill all along, all I needed to do was talk. I am not an “up front in your face kind of person” when I fist meet someone, however I found a long time ago that I have the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It doesn’t matter really who it is, but I usually find something to talk about. This is nothing new of course, we have all heard or read that we can start a conversation if we can find a “common ground” topic. So, using my gift of talking to people I found photographing people easier to do if I could talk as I worked.

Shooting portraits is something I really like to do because for one, I can make money doing it and two, it is a way to network into other areas of photography. Think about how much easier is it to get a wedding gig when I have already met the person/s. Business headshots is another way to network and get some good commercial work. I love photography and I love it more when it makes me money.

So as time went on my photography allowed me to meet more people, some of which I have become very good friends with and other who have become regular customers over the years. As I look back at all the places, I have been just because of my knowing how to work a camera and edit a digital image is really amazing to me. I might add it is not all about working a camera and editing an image in Photoshop. Just take for instance an engagement shoot I did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, I have done many engagement shoots and most times the couple wants to go to a rather quiet place, a somewhat peaceful place, but not these guys. The location is the Art Museum on a rather cold Saturday in January. It is a nice day, but cold and there is a lot of people and my job is to get good images of this couple and include the scenery of the outside of the museum all while not getting people into their photos. And if that is not bad enough there is not a cloud in the sky so the sunlight is as about as harsh as it gets. Also, I would guess about half the people walking around are also photographers on some level or another.

A little bit of a challenge it was. Just getting to the museum and parking was enough to make me want to go back home lol. Then there was the cold air and wind, the bright sunlight and all the people. All this is going on and at one point, for just a moment I think to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” If not for the money I was making I don’t think I would have any reason to hangout one the steps of the Philly Art Museum on a cold windy day in January. The images of that day turned out great, the couple loved them and they pay for the job was very good.

 

“Look where my camera has taken me today” is something I actually think to myself a lot. Sometimes I will say it out loud even if I am all alone. I think the first time I really thought about it and actually said it to myself was in 2012 while I was in Thailand at a Buddhist temple on top of a mountain. We had driven to a parking area located nearly at the top of the mountain. Then we walked and we walked, uphill of course. “Don’t stop walking now we’re almost there” said my wife’s niece. It is very hot and humid, and I am carrying 30 lbs. of camera gear and a tripod. I am dying as we reach the steps. As I reach the top step and walk through the gate, I feel this wonderfully strong breeze blowing through the doorway. So, I step into the shade of the round roof & walkway that surrounds the temple and I stay right there. The breeze was heavenly and I drink two bottles of water in a about a minute.

As I was cooling down, I was taking in the beauty of the temple grounds, with all the amazing flowers, trees and walkways. Under the circular roof there were an endless line of gold monk busts. Then I looked toward the temple itself and it was nine stories tall and still under construction. As I walked across the courtyard into the bright sun, I was anticipating the coolness I knew would be inside the temple. I take off my shoes quickly and enter and “yes” it is cool, a nice breeze is blowing through. But nothing like the breeze that was blowing at the gate.

Okay, so there are nine floors to this temple and I will photograph my way to the top. Sadly, the elevator was still not finished and I had to climb the steep stairs. Each floor was hotter than the previous and there was no more breeze. Also, I was on my last bottle of water. So, I did make it all the way to the top and out to the open balcony. The view was breathtaking, I could see for miles. There was a slight breeze, but there was also midday sun beating down. While at the top I did take photos of the view and of the family and then back inside. After heading down the stairs, floor by floor I made it to the second floor and it was cool enough that I just wanted to sit. As I was resting, I seen a very nice scene I wanted to photograph. I was sitting on the floor preparing the camera on the tripod and then I stopped and waited as people were moving though my scene.

During this waiting for people to move and me recovering from the heat is when it hit me. I sat there thinking to myself; “look at me… I am here on this mountain top at this beautiful temple… me a country boy from 10,000 miles away” and then I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Sure, it was my wife’s idea to come to this temple, but only because she knew it would be an awesome place for me to photograph. If not for that reason I would have never been there. So, I just waited for the people to move and soon they did. I shot a series of HDR photos and moved on. But not before letting it really sink in that this camera, I am holding is really changing my life.

I have since returned to that temple once more on another trip to Thailand and I was better prepared. The second visit was well thought out and I annoyed the shit out of everybody traveling with me as I took my good ole time photographing all the stuff, I missed on the first trip lol.

Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together. Charon was a friend of mine who I had met on Facebook by way of her daughter who had done some amateur modeling. Charon had met Jimmy and they fell in love, I had never seen her so happy. I mean she was just so happy to have found Jimmy and he loved her too, they were an awesome couple. Charon said “I want you to shoot us, a couples shoot and it’s a paid gig, not a freebie.”

We all meet up at Smithville Park a very popular wedding and engagement shoot location in New Jersey. This was my first-time meeting Jimmy and he seemed a little “off.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but he seemed just a little weird. Then Jimmy said he had just had brain surgery a week or so earlier. When Jimmy left to use the restroom, Charon told me the bad news. Jimmy had brain cancer and he only had a few months live, maybe more. I continued shooting and never missed a beat. We all kept joking and moving around to the different locations at the park. We had stopped at a gazebo, it was shady and cool, I could see Jimmy was tiring and Charon was getting a phone call. So, I stepped back and let them have some private time together while I looked through my camera at the images.

I was really hurting inside. I was hurting for Jimmy who I had just met, but more so I was hurting for Charon. She is such a wonderful human being and her fulltime job is taking care of dying people. She met Jimmy because she was caring for his dying mother. They met, they fell in love and now just months later Jimmy was dying… and I am photographing the last good day of his life. And it was at that moment I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Not 10,000 miles away and not some exotic location, but to a place where I am capturing the end days of a man’s life with a woman he loves so much. After the job was done, I just sat in my car and after Charon & Jimmy left I cried.

I sat in the car just thinking about what had just happened. I was watching another couple with their photographer as she was photographing them in the park and thinking “they look just a happy as Jimmy & Charon, but I bet he’s not dying” and I laughed a little bit. I drove and got a cup of coffee to clear my head and then as I drove the hour or so back home, I ran though my mind all the places my camera had taken me. I thought about all the people I had met. It was one of those drives where I arrived at my driveway and don’t remember anything about the ride because my mind was so far away in thought.

Jimmy passed away four months later and left a hole in Charon’s heart that truly may never heal. I know they say “time heals all” and I truly believe that, but sometimes there are just not enough years in our life for time to do its good deed.

Sorry to end on such a sad note, but that is just how life is sometimes, that’s how it was for Jimmy & Charon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

 

 

 

No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2) (The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere…)

No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2)

Early on the morning of October 31, 2009 Munn’s brother-in-law arrives with his pickup truck to take us to her village. It will be a 9-hour ride although we will stop for a roadside lunch. Needless to say, I was really excited about this trip. I love road trips in the USA because it usually means I get to see new and different places and now, I get to experience Thailand by “road trip.” As a photographer; is there any better joy than that? But of course, I was still a novice photographer by all means. By October 2009 I had been into photography for several years, but now I had my first DSLR, a Canon T1i with two lenses.

At this time, I was still shooting in JPEG (mostly). I knew what RAW was, actually let me restate that. I thought I knew what RAW was. Either way, I was riding in the front passenger seat of the pickup truck and loving every minute of it. I would anticipate our next restroom or fuel stop, so I could get out and walk around and explore a little before it was time to hit the road and be back on our way.

1/320 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 82mm

As we headed north, I notice a little change in architecture of the buildings and other things such as farmland. Farmland really excited me just as much as city life. I couldn’t wait to get out in the countryside and see Thai nature. Sadly, with the short days of October and nine plus hours of travel, it meant the last leg of the road trip would be in the dark. We rolled into Kalasin City in the early evening and we had to stop by the market to get food for the next day. I say “market” however it was not a store. It was more like a central marketplace for the whole city of Kalasin. It was big, there was fresh everything, from fresh fish to fruits and vegetables and of course there was a lot of prepared food in the way of barbequed chicken & fish, soups and so much more.

After a day of traveling in the car and fighting an intense case of jet lag, the smells of the market were really getting to me. I wanted to capture photos, but I was really hitting a wall of fatigue. We rolled into the village under the cover of darkness and that was actually a good thing, although I did not realize it until the next day.

Okay, so as a little side note here; Thai people are very friendly, Thai village people are even more friendly. Friendly to the point you need to prepare yourself for it. When you’re new to a village (in most cases) everybody wants to know you, they want to say “hi” and bring you food and beer and just talk… even if you can’t understand them, they still want to talk lol. I found this all out the next day, as the word spread though the village that there was a big white American guy in the village.

I woke at 5:00am the first morning, Munn was up and gone at 4:00am. She would walk to the nearby temple to cook for the monk and would return, but not before I woke up. Upon waking I hear voices in the distance, some laughing and other just talking. I could hear occasional footsteps outside the house in the street as someone was walking by. Every so often there was a dog bark and not too far away I heard two dogs fighting for about five seconds, then a lady yelling to break them up. I could smell a rather pungent smoke in the air as it lightly drifted in the open window. For me it was like Christmas morning, I wanted to see the village in the daylight, but was only predawn. I used the restroom put on shorts and a t-shirt and out the door I went. Actually, now that I was outside, I was afraid to go very far because I spoke very little Thai and Munn was no where in sight. I soon learned the pungent smell was coming from small piles of trash burning in the middle of the street. I seen a few neighbors raking dead leaves, paper, sticks and other debris that had gathered in front of their homes. They would rake it to a small pile in the middle of the street and burn it, the smoke would hang in the heavy morning air.

As I looked up and down the peaceful empty village streets there was an early morning haze or fog of sorts. The haze was a mix of the humidity and smoke, the temperature was about 70°F and it felt great to me. The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere, chickens coming down from their roost and an occasional dog walking down the street by himself, heading somewhere with a plan just like a person would. The streets were mostly concrete but covered with red dust from the local dirt. I stood there taking the whole scene in and just processing it.

It wasn’t long before the sun was up and the village came to life. Gone was the smoke and haze of the predawn hours and now I could smell food cooking, tractors and motorbikes filled the streets with an occasional car or pickup truck. Most of the motorbikes were people starting their daily commute to work or school. Small children crying, neighbors yelling to each other from five houses away, just so much activity, I loved every minute of it and of course my DSLR never left my hand. I was always looking for that something to make an interesting photo. Years later I would soon learn that I needed to be looking for the “moment” as most photographers will call it, especially wedding photographers.

Before I knew to look for the “moment” I did know that I needed to find “interesting,” oddly enough sometimes the interesting moment will find you. All you have to do is be prepared for it, have your camera at hand and be ready. It was fun and memorable, to be able to capture so much at every turn of my head. After the morning past I headed out to the country side on the back of a motorbike. Yes, the back of a motorbike so I could have my hands free to shoot as we traveled. But that story is for another post.

In conclusion; the whole trip was awesome and I have returned many times. Munn and I were married and that is an amazing story by itself. Two people 10,000 miles apart, meet as 100% cold contacts, no dating websites or couples’ services, just me pulling a name out of the Skype world directory. Just looking for a chat friend, not knowing if they were male or female. It is actually hilarious every time I think about it.

From this trip my love of photography intensified ten-fold and I eventually grew to be a commercial photographer. Thailand was special for so many reasons, but one is; this is where I found how it is very hard to create black & white photos of a place that is so beautifully rich with color. I have edited some black & whites from Thailand and people have liked them, but for me I see the color and it is so much more beautiful.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Read part one.

No Justice in Black & White (Welcome to the land of smiles… and lots of color)

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

No Justice in Black & White (part 1 of 2)

I love black & white photography. What I love most about B&W is that I have to convert it over from a color image to B&W. Of course, today there is more ways to convert to B&W that you can shake a stick at, but my favorites are Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Most of the time I use Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. It is a lot of fun to run a photo though this process and it is certainly altogether different form the days of film where all we had to do was put black & white film in the camera.

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

Okay, with all that said; B&W photography is, like all things in photography, very subjective. After all some photographers shoot exclusively in B&W and others reserve it for certain situations or genres. I know photographers who will shoot color most all the time but reserve B&W for landscapes. Then there are those who feel “street photography” should always be shot in B&W. While I too feel street photography looks great in B&W, I tend to totally break away from that rule while traveling to Thailand. Thailand like other Asian countries is so vibrant with color that it is hard to capture an image and look at all the colors and say “ok this needs to be a black & white photo.”

Thai Snorkel Boat Koh Chang

It is obviously the culture; Thai people love vibrant color and use it in a way they we usually do not see here in the USA. I travel to Thailand for a month every year or so because my wife is Thai and we go to visit family, travel around and basically enjoy Thailand. Now I am using Thailand in my example, however other Asian countries have a lot of color too, it’s just that I’m partial to Thailand, my second home.

On my first trip to Thailand my plane arrived just before midnight October 27, 2009. My arrival was not at a jetway, but rather the old-style mobile stairs that roll up to the aircraft’s door. So, after all most 30 hours of travel I was perplexed to see this and then I was stunned when my face hit the 92°F (33°C) humid and pungent air of Bangkok. Having left the USA where it was very cold with rain & ice, I met up with my girlfriend (now wife), headed to the taxi line and off to the hotel located in Pattaya about an hour away along the water front.

At the airport I did not notice any change in color, maybe I was too tired. During the midnight taxi ride I was looking out the window the during the whole ride. My girlfriend Munn was very tied from her bus ride to meet me at the airport so she quickly fell asleep in the taxi.

I am in a new country, a new land and I want to take it all in, but the night view was just highway scenery with giant billboards. I mean like the biggest billboards I have ever seen in my life. As the taxi hummed on through the night, blazing down the highway that had very little traffic, I just stared out into the night and was mesmerized at how all yellowish-orangish everything looked from the highway lighting. There was also an almost full moon with ominous dark clouds around it, everything looking so surreal.

Soon the taxi starts to slow a bit and I know we’re close. I have to explain for those who may not know Pattaya is a party city that practically never sleeps. It is a mix of beer bars, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and everything else that tourist come to enjoy. Munn chose this destination as a place for us to layover for a few days before traveling to her village. Why? I have no idea whatsoever. Munn is a very traditional country girl, she worked just outside of Bangkok for several years, but would often spend weekends back at her village. She wanted me to see Pattaya, however this is not really my style either, but for photography this place is awesome.

1/800 sec at f/4.0 10.835mm Canon A640

After only a few hours sleep I was awake and eager to get out and see Thailand in the daylight. A quick trip to the breakfast buffet and then out into the day. Again, it is a new experience for me, Thai culture, food everywhere and motorbikes… The motorbikes were just everywhere I turned. The air was hot and humid, but I was embracing it. As Munn and I walked along and I am taking in all this new “everything” all of the sudden it hit me as to “how colorful everything looks.” The motorbikes, the people on the motorbikes, the signs, the buildings, the boats, just everything seemed to have more color than I would see anywhere I had ever been in the USA. Well, anywhere in the USA except for Chinatown. So again, it is an Asian culture thing… I guess. But I love it!

1/320 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

After a morning of walking along the waterfront and other streets I start to get tired, the heat is taking its toll. I retreat to the hotel room where I am eager to look at my bounty of photos I have captured. As I start to go through the images again, I realize even more how much color I see. It was at this time I started to come to the realization that I do not think black & white edits can do justice to any of my photos. Here again some photographers would argue the point that “street photography” should always be black & white because it strips the image down to just looking at the scene for what it is and blah, blah, blah… Whatever. For me, to edit a photo into black & white is more of a creative decision, rather that following a rule.

So, after a few days it is time to head 9 hours north by car to Munn’s village in the Kalasin province.

See part two.

Rain Perspective (And we sat in the car looking at the rain… and then got out and started shooting. )

1/100 sec at f/3.5, ISO 160, 70 mm

Shooting in the rain… Who the hell wants to stand out in the rain with a camera and capture photos? Why would you even want to do that?

Ok, so let me jump right to it and say that I learned a vital lesson several years back. “Photos have to be interesting” and if they are not interesting… well they may just be what is referred to as a “snapshot” and while snapshots may hold a lot of love, memories and meaningfulness to the people who are associated with the snapshot. However if we are trying to create something other than a snapshot, we must do something that will in some way capture the viewer’s attention enough to look at our image. We know photography is subjective, like art, music, dance, food and beauty, it is all subjective. But let’s set aside the fact of Subjectiveness and focus on being interesting.

Some subjects are photographed all the time and not every photo of that subject, whether it be a person, place or thing is interesting. Iconic landmarks are photographed everyday all day long, the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower are just three that come to mind. However many of the photos are nothing more than a snapshot, they all look exactly the same. Even people… let’s take a sports star for example. He/she we see their photographs all the time as they kick a soccer ball, swing a tennis racket or a golf club. Maybe it is a photo of them scoring a winning shot and for today and a few days later the photo is interesting. And next week they score another winning shot and last week’s photo is not all that interesting anymore. But if we take them out of their normal setting and place them in a setting that creates juxtaposition… well, now we have changed it up and maybe create an interesting image of this person.

One day I captured the local steam engine as it chugged down the tracks. I see it coming, I have my camera on the tripod and just as the train gets closer the rain increases from a very lite drizzle to a steady heavy rain. Not quite a downpour, but enough to ruin the series of photos I was about to take. Sure I still clicked the shutter… I don’t know why, but at the time I thought “why not” I’m here, the camera is set up and… Ok, so I pack up and go home and when I look at the photos I see the rain doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Also I notice that the rain is creating steam to rise from the boiler of the engine creating a more dramatic scene. So I chose one photo and I edit out the power lines and road signs as I always do and then post it on-line. I should also mention the train had a Christmas wreath on the front because it was the Christmas season.

Original edit for print and Historical Flemington website.

So, later that year I am contacted and asked if the image of the train can be used in a holiday tourism campaign and for a local website. The art director seen many images of that old steam engine, but none that had the look & feel of my image.

Lesson Learned. Changing perspective can make a photo more interesting, this I already knew. So let’s use rain as a change of perspective.

I had an outdoor photo shoot scheduled with a model and of course it turned out to be a rainy day. The model, Tiffany is very determined and is not at all bothered by the rain. Like a true professional she decided to “roll with the flow” and make the best of it. We found some roof overhangs and tried to stay as dry as possible. In the end we had some really nice images. However we both decided to reschedule the shoot for a few weeks later so we could work with some nice weather.

A few weeks later…

The rain was harder than last time. And we sat in the car looking at the rain, made a few comments about the rain and then got out and started shooting. Needless to say I have good gear so I’m not at all worried about the water. So here again we find ourselves in the rain, even harder than last time and no roof overhangs. Just two people in the rain, but two people who could care less because I for one know that “right or wrong” the images we are creating will be… shall we say different. Tiffany on the other hand, is a small little girl with enough determination and enthusiasm that would make anybody happy to be in the rain.

In the end it is about two things: 1. Are you happy about what you have created and 2. Was it interesting?

Instagram is my latest flavor of social media; I can get a “half decent feel” of how interesting photos are by the response I get. It is not so much the amount of “Likes or Hearts” but more so it is about knowing your followers and knowing what compels them to take the time to leave a comment. Also knowing who never really comments on anything, however today they were moved to take the time to leave a heartfelt comment. Or even better, they take the time to send a direct message with a comment.

So yes shooting with Tiffany in the rain generated some interest. Shooting with Tiffany in the rain again two weeks later generated even more interest. I would have thought that it would have not been so interesting because it was so similar. I was wrong… again, but wrong in a good way.

One more thing to mention and truly a key component to any photo shoot… rain or no rain, is have an interesting subject.

 

Out THe Door Without A Plan ( Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana.)

1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I started the day by getting up early grabbing the camera bag, the drone bag and heading out the door before sunrise. My goal was to capture a scene that would convey “Thanksgiving in The Country.” Or something close to that, however I knew going out the door without a plan is a horrible idea. And it was.

But not all was lost, because being out early on the empty roads was like therapy. It gave me time to think. For whatever reason driving for me is relaxing and driving when you’re the only one on the road is like heaven. Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana. After a while I could care less about capturing my Thanksgiving photo. I was driving along the Delaware River and I started thinking about the upcoming Christmas season and that thought lead to the “New Year” coming and that thought lead to “what are my goals” and then I… well let’s just say “I was lost,” like literally lost for a moment. Not really lost, but more like “hey I need to turn back” and head home because I do have a holiday dinner to prepare lol.

So I did just that and as I was heading back I kept taking roads that lead towards home, but just not the usual roads. And then I came across this scene with the horses and the farm in the distance. I actually turned the car around so I could shoot without getting out of the car (I’m lazy lol). First I sat and marveled the scene and took it all in. It was about 25°F so the air was crisp; the sun was on the rise and not a cloud in the sky. The foreground was still in dark shadow so this in my opinion made it “not” the perfect shot, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I’m not a “horse” person per say, but I love to see them grazing, I love the fences and farms are part of me because I grew up on a dairy farm. Farms are beautiful and here in my part of New Jersey they are getting far and few between.

So there it is, my Thanksgiving Day photo and the day was more productive than I first though because I started planning out my goal for 2018. I have more thought to put into them before I solidify them and write them down. I truly want 2018 to be a great year in my life and as for my photography and videography… it’s going to the next level.

Photo notes: 1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm. Then I edited in Photoshop and applied a few LUTs.

Energy Failure (…bounding through the door hyped on two lattes, one espresso and a bottle of 5 hour energy)

Chevy Corvair

“It is all about energy and without energy life is flat.” That statement holds more meaning than one could begin to interpret or write about in a single blog post. Sure you don’t get enough rest and you wake up lacking energy and your day runs kind of flat. But it gets much deeper that; Why I’m gonna bet that if you thought about the most memorable concert or music performance you ever attended, it was packed full of energy. That was one of the key components that made the performance so memorable. Sure you may have like the band or the performer/singer, however if the singer came out on stage and just sat on a couch and performed… well I think you see my point.

On a photography level and speaking in the realm of photo shoots energy is paramount to capturing great images. Even if the mood of the shoot is meant to be somber and there is no smiling, there still needs to be energy. And this is the very reason I have chosen this topic to write about today. Because I feel that energy is the key component (or lack of) that is missing in many photo shoots. The truth be told, lack of energy is missing in a lot of areas of our lives and I’ll talk about that later. But for now let’s break it down by each individual who is part of the photo shoot.

So does the photographer really need to have a lot of energy? Isn’t he/she the one who should be capturing the energy? Ok, so the answer is “yes and yes.” Sure the photographer’s job is to capture the moment (oh god here comes the clichés) but at the same time the photographer is the leader and the catalyst between this world and the eternity of the world where the frozen moment of the image will live. As much as capturing images and the technique of lighting the scene the photographer needs to draw the energy from the talent/model and this is not always easy if the talent is not at a professional level.

Scenario; your hired to for a private shoot, the subject is not a professional by any means. It is a girl, she somewhat shy, she has never had a professional birthday photo shoot before. She looks like a deer in the headlights… what do you do to get energy injected into this shoot? I’m not going to go into a long detailed synopsis, which would be for another post. But rather I just want you to see in your mind how those images are going to look. “Flat & boring” are just two words that come to mind.

Makeup artist… really? They need to have energy too? Sure it is the whole positive vibe thing, you know how infectious a smile can be and having energy to go with that smile will really help any job, photo shoots included. Now I’m not saying the makeup artist needs to come bounding through the door hyped on two lattes, one espresso and a bottle of 5 hour energy drink, that might be a little (or a lot) too much. And I am using the makeup artist as an example for anyone who is working the shoot. So the same goes for lighting assistants, hair stylists, wardrobe, and art directors and so on. I know it sounds hokie , but it is so true, everyone needs to project a positive vibe.

While all this sounds so obvious it still really is in my opinion why many photo shoots fall short of capturing great images. You could have the best of the best camera equipment, lighting, location ect… but if the energy is not there you’re on a sinking ship. And just the opposite; you do not need $10,000 of equipment if you have good energy.

The model; Ok so if he/she is a professional most likely they are bringing their own energy to the shoot. After all I said they are a professional and that is most likely one of the key things that has raised them up to a professional level… they have drive and they have energy. However what if your model is new to this, they are nervous, they lack experience and they just don’t project that energy. Again I’m not going to go into how to solve this problem; this post is more about identifying and understanding how lack of energy is a huge problem. Many new photographers fall short of identifying this missing component in the beginning. New photographers are focused more on camera gear, lighting and just hoping the talent and makeup artist show up on time.

The biggest way I have found to keep the energy level up and flowing is by “planning” and more planning. Having a plan gives you comfort and this will add or keep energy flowing. Many times I will deviate from my main plan, but not by much. Some things are obvious such as everyone knows the time, date and location of the shoot. However it is the little things that can mean big problems. Now I could go on a long tangent of “what ifs” but for an example; the shoot is an outdoor location and we had to walk to it from the parking lot. Only a fifteen minute walk, but what if a rain shower comes? It only rains hard for ten minutes and passes. Where does everyone take cover? If everyone and everything is wet… well I’m betting energy level will be in the negative lol. And again that is just one “what if” that could have been easily avoided with proper planning. There are many things that can tax the energy from the shoot.

How about your energy? Your personal energy level is important. Did you get enough sleep? Seriously for me this is a big one, because I seem to most times stay up later that I should working or just watching Netflix. But when I think about how important the job is and how good I feel when I sleep early and wake early. Waking early after a good sleep for me is such a good feeling, not to mention the fact of how relaxed life is when you’re not in a rush. I have time to sit a drink that morning cup of coffee, maybe walk a little extra with the dogs, rather than racing around with the dogs and drinking the coffee on the go in the car. I never eat a large meal before a big shoot, but I do eat something. A large meal will slow me down and having no meal is even worse. I tend to snack and I try not to drink too much so I don’t have to keep taking bathroom breaks. After the shoot a nice sit down meal is so nice and enjoyable.

Look around and give it some thought, energy truly is the key thing to all performances. And a photo shoot is just that, it is a “performance.” You’ll know you’re doing it right if at the end you are tired, depleted and spent. And that holds true for pretty much anything, whether it be an athlete running a race, a stage performer or someone looking after children all day. To do any job right you need to expend energy, to create something you need to expend energy, both physical and mental. And when you expend energy you project energy and a vibe. Projecting good energy is like projecting a smile, it is infectious and contagious. Or it scares people, positive vibes and good energy make some people uncomfortable and they just can’t handle it, and that is ok. Either they come on board or they leave or avoid it. If your smile can not make another person smile it is ok, maybe they’re having a bad day or they are a miserable person. I have no problem with them personally; however they cannot be part of my photo shoot.

Your energy comes from more than one place or maybe I should say there is more than one kind of energy. You have your personal energy, you slept well, you have a plan for what you’re doing, and you have confidence. Confidence is like a smile, if you are confident about what you’re doing and you’re the leader the vide goes out to everyone. Then there is your reputation and as they say “you’re only as good as your last performance” although I tend to not believe that whole heartedly because we all have a bad day or a bad performance at some time or another. However I think more over it is the fact that others had a good experience working with you and therefore more people want to be part of whatever your next project is. I call it the “Tom Sawyer” effect. Although I am not being punished to do something as Tom Sawyer was being punished to paint Aunt Polly’s fence. I do find that if you project a good vibe, have lots of confidence and you generally seemed happy about what you’re doing, people will join in… Of course money always helps lol. Money is a motivator but it is not an energy maker. Money will get people to show up to work as millions go to their daily jobs every day. But do they go to work with energy? Hell no! People of all skill levels from doctors to janitors (no disrespect to either) go to work each and every day just waiting for the day to be over as soon as it started. While I’m not a big fan of this thing called “work” I am a big fan of feeling good about what I do. Sure I have days when I just feel down and not so… full of energy. But if I have a big job (photo shoot or otherwise) I know the key to completing the job with a successful outcome is energy.

Many times when I see a local band playing I will see a huge lack of energy. They’re playing a good song, they’re all in key and they sound good, but they don’t sound great… something is missing. They lack energy. They lack that pure raw power or energy that a great performer can put out. And again it is not all physical it is also mental in most cases it is a synergistic effect that comes from both. Think of any good entertainer that ever took to the stage whether it be Billy Joel sitting at a piano or Mick Jagger, Steven Tyler and of course the list could go on and on, but you get the point. I am a huge AC-DC fan and I am also a guitar player and I can play a few AC-DC songs pretty damn good. But could I ever project the energy that Angus Young projects while he is performing? Just watching him makes me tired and again I am just using him as one small example. But when I walk into a club or a bar and I see somebody covering an AC-DC song… sure the song sounds good, the singing, the guitar, but most times the energy is not even comparable. This just confirms the difference between one who has learned how to play the guitar and one who has learned how to play the guitar and use it to master the art of performing while playing a guitar.

Ok, so let’s apply this concept to photography. There are millions of camera geeks out there that know all the tech specs of their cameras and their neighbor’s cameras. They can even tell you all the specs of the cameras that haven’t even been released yet. They spend hours, days and months reading the camera gaga on the internet. So while they have this vast data base of knowledge filling up their brain, subscribing to every tutorial site and taking in every camera expo, they still cannot create and to them energy is something that comes from a rechargeable battery. They’ll never “get it” and some don’t really “want it.” “It” being the ability to use a camera to find energy and capture it or to pull energy from the model or subject and capture it. I’m not here to say it is easy nor am I saying I have mastered it. What I am saying is “without it, you’re just another Saturday night bar band chugging away at playing a tune someone else created.”

So I will say it again “it is not about high dollar gear or fancy cameras” but rather the ability to create energy and capture energy. Learn how to use your tools, your camera and your lights, learn how to pose and after all of these things are in place create some energy and capture it.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

 

Summer Fun (Most important thing was keeping air in the bicycle tire and playing in the creek.)

Summer Fun Model Kallie, Styling by Lenzwizard
1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 100 80mm

Nothing says summer in the country like “playing in the creek.” As a small boy I can remember so many good times (and some bad ones) of playing in the creek in the summer time. I can also remember playing in the creek in the winter time, but that is a story for another day.

Ah summer time, no school, no shoes, no shirt, not a care in the world. Most important thing was keeping air in the bicycle tire and playing in the creek. It might be swimming in the creek that would most likely be the case if it was scalding hot and dripping humidity. But just playing in the creek was where all the real fun was at. Walking along the edge or in the water, it really didn’t matter. Muddy legs and little cuts and scrapes that you never realized were there until later that night.

Skipping flat stones, lifting rocks just to see what was under them, trying to catch a fish with your hands… or just walking the creek to see where it goes. Slipping and falling and getting back up as if nothing ever happened. When I think back about it, and I mean really think back, past all the nostalgic surface memories and dig down deep… still I remember it as fun, just good ole fun.

So cut to 42 years later I’m still playing in the same exact creek. I’m at a spot working a project shoot with a model. While she is walking in the water to position herself, my mind is drifting back to how many times as a small boy I waded that same water with my childhood friend. Talk about surreal and “Déjà Vu” to the tenth power… I never dreamed as a boy I would be back there as a photographer. But still the best thing about all today was… summer fun. The weather was absolutely amazing, not too hot, not too many bugs, no snakes… No snake is always a good thing lol. After the shoot I felt just like that little boy who rode his bike there 42 years ago… I didn’t want to go home; I just wanted the day to last forever. But we had the shots we needed and we reviewed them, we were done. I’m sure Kallie will remember this day too. She looked amazing. Here is one of the looks from the shoot.

Thanks for reading and have a great day.