Dancing On An Island (…“it is about decisive moments and interactions” )

These are the moments in life that really turn me on as a photographer. When you look in on a wedding reception and there is all of this chaotic interaction. People are eating, talking, some are outside smoking, there are people drinking and then… you see two people lost in their selves on a dance floor. Nobody else is dancing but just them and nobody is even paying any attention. These are the special moments that some wedding photographers will overlook because they want to stay pinned to the bride and groom for the whole day/night.

Wedding photography in my opinion is so much more than just capturing the beautiful images of a bride and groom on their special day. I once heard New Jersey based photographer Cliff Mautner  say “it is about decisive moments and interactions” and not all about getting technically accurate photos. Essentially at the end of the day you (the photographer) should have all the classic images of things like the bride walking down the aisle, ring exchange, the first kiss ect… Then of course you will have your formals of the family, the wedding party ect… Quite honestly these are very easy images to capture because most wedding flow the same. I say “most”, but not all. Think about it; you’re at a venue the guests are seated, the groom is waiting, the bride is entering and so on. Sure dealing with the iPhone people can be a challenge; weather (if it is outdoors) can be challenging, but after you do enough wedding these challenges become easier to deal with and overcome. This then of course make your job a lot easier and you can go slam out a wedding. But are you capturing the moments?

When we look at some wedding photographers portfolios or look at the couple’s photo books or albums we sometimes see all these great images, but are we seeing the special interactions or those special moments? Seeing the classic shots are nice, however like I said they are relatively easy to obtain. As long as you know and I do mean “know” your entire camera technical you should be looking for the special moments. Think about it; how much more you can do when you never really have to think about camera technical. You walk into a scene and you are the “auto mode” for the camera. You know what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, hell you even know if you should “spot weight metering” for a special shot. I mostly work with two bodies; one will have a 24-70mm f/2.8 and the other a 70-200mm f/2.8. I’ll have an 85mm prime for some special work that I can throw on real quick. And that is it for cameras & lenses, then there is a speedlight on a stick or a continuous light such as a wand light either hand-held or on a stick.

Some special moments take time to evolve and what I mean by this is; the image you captured today might not mean a whole lot today. However we all know time changes everything and what looks like an ordinary image today could mean the world to someone tomorrow. Weddings are the most likely place to find these kinds of shots. But if you’re just there to get photos of a bride coming down the aisle, rings, kissing and hugs you may not be living up to the potential of your job.

 

 

Somebody’s Angel

Angels come in all shapes and sizes.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes. They can often appear in your darkest hours when hope feels like a meaningless word. Keeping faith in all things you do, stay strong and lead others. Faith in your god, your country and most of all yourself is what strong people are made of. You too could be an angel someone and never know it.

Carabao at the Irving Plaza NYC. (They were perfectly loud and I say it that way because …)

So I recently went with my wife and a friend to see Caraboa at the famed Irving Plaza in NYC. Now for my American friends let me give a brief description of Caraboa. They are a Thai rock band that started up in 1981 and continues to go strong today. Their material can be described simply as “song for life.” Their music is fueled by the protest and upheaval of the 1970’s in Thailand. Very similar in some ways as some of the American & British rock bands of the late sixties and early 70’s.

So I know my American musician friends are asking; are they any good? And I can say with a 100% yes. They are a world-class band for sure. They are as tight and on point as any great band I have ever seen. While they are influenced by many sources the overall feel for me personally was very Allman Brothers-ish (without the extended guitar jams). The music is rock driven guitar with prominent keyboard and at times other various instruments. They were perfectly loud and I say it that way because after a near three-hour performance and standing only about 30 feet from the stage I left the show with hearing intact. Their sound mix was perfect too, I could hear every instrument and vocal clearly. There was no fancy gimmicks or stage antics just good ole hard-core guitar driven rock music. At the same time I must point out that they have a strong style all their own and while they come across as a “rock band” on some tunes I hear the influence of folk music with mandolin, flute and acoustic guitar. Most of their songs have a bouncing beat that kept the crowd dancing through the whole show. So I can say “yes” to putting on an energetic show and nobody is falling asleep. Just like Thai food has a signature taste with lime leaf, lemongrass and tamarind. Carabao’s music has a signature Thai feel for the most part. When I visit Thailand I really like the sound of the Isaan/Lao style and I could hear that coming through in some of Carabao’s tunes.

Although I know very little Thai and I did not understand most of the vocals I still enjoyed the event.  Music is universal and being a fan of guitar driven rock I loved the show and I would go see them again.

My only gripe would be the timing of the event. The doors opened at 11:00pm on a Sunday night in NYC. The band actually took to the stage at 12:20am (Monday morning) so yeah… definitely not going to work on a Monday morning. I realize it was most likely due to last-minute booking so they could get a show in on the east coast. And with that said there were fans there from far and wide. I met people from Virginia, Ohio, Georgia, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts and more. There fans are obviously dedicated and not just a bunch of older folks. I saw many people in their twenties attending the show.

About the photography:

I used my Canon EOS M3 with the 18-55mm lens. Small and easy to carry, plus the Irving Plaza does not let people in with professional cameras. I was there strictly as a concert goer and nothing more. I arrived early because it was general admission. I found a spot along the side of the room at stage left. There was a two tier standing bar and I positioned myself at the end closest the stage lower tier about 3 feet above floor level. So I had a great view of the stage, a place to rest my drink, camera & phone. And I was just above the heads of all the fans standing in front of the stage.

Camera settings: All my shot were captured at 1/125 sec in Tv mode. ISO was auto as was aperture. Most times ISO racked out to 6400 that was what I set the limit at and aperture would fall at f/5.6 which is the widest setting for that lens when zoomed to 55mm. If I captured a wide shot at let’s say 18mm the ISO would fall to 2500 sometimes and the aperture would fall to f/4.0.

So yes the shots are grainy with ISO noise but certainly not unusable or un-editable. And “yes” of course I captured everything in RAW. Even my worst image of the night was better than every iPhone or Android shot. I think the ISO grain gives a good feel to the shots.

 

 

1920s Flapper Girl (Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers.)

Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/3.2 ISO 320 160mm. Hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Style, Dress & gloves from Unique Vintage Makeup by Ambre Baxter

My latest photography project has many layers to it. It started out as a straightforward project themed around the stereotypical 1920s Flapper Girl. Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers. I really don’t know where or how the idea it started; but I think it was when I was looking at some old silent film footage and seeing women dressed in the cloche hats and stockings rolled at the top.

In the past I had read much about the women of the roaring twenties. Although it was way before my time, the one thing I always remembered about it was that it was a “time of big change” for our country and women were part of that change. The 19th amendment to the constitution ratified on August 18, 1920 gave women a right to vote. This certainly was a time of change and the “Flapper” came to life. Flappers were already on the rise and there is also much debate as to where the term flapper was born and to what it actually meant. Wikipedia describes Flappers as such; Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.[1] Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.”

So as I do with all my projects I started off with hours of research and reading, and to some this may seem boring however for me it serves a purpose. It gives me time to relax and read (I love research reading) and while reading it gives me ideas and also helps me solidify my thoughts of a specific look. It also helps me find what looks I don’t want to do. For example I did not want to go with a Gatsby style look. At first I did want the Gatsby look and then as I researched I realized the look would be rather generic at this point do to the movie being out a few years back and… well I just wanted a different look and feel. I think the biggest obstacle was wardrobe. While there is so many websites that offer so called 1920s style dresses, they are not at all 1920s style. Any moron can Google 1920 era images of women and easily see that the wardrobe offered today that is listed as Flapper style is hardly that. Hats were the hardest to find. Finding a hat that actually looked like a true 1920s style is practically impossible if you want “just an everyday” hat. Fancy hats were easier to find. Subsequently I had to compromise; I used three hats and one turban. The turban looked authentic and while two of the hats looked amazing they still were not authentic to the time period. Shoes were easy to find, that was not a problem.

I chose to go with a “day dress” look rather than the evening or party attire of that period. In the beginning I was going to shoot two looks with one model. I then thought; why not add another model and shoot one look on each. As for dresses I found Unique Vintage, a website that had dresses that fit the budget and they really looked pretty close to 20s era dresses. Although the fabric would be different it would not a big deal at all.

As for models; Kallie was my first choice because she is new and I wanted to give her camera time. But when I thought of Smithville Mansion as the location and I also thought of Nicole Gallagher. She is the one who first introduced me to the location and she is perfect for the shoot. Her posing is awesome and she has a rounder face (as opposed to angular) that was classic to the Flapper look. Flapper makeup techniques purposely made their face appear rounder as opposed to most current makeup techniques that give an angular look. So I used both Nicole Gallagher and Kallie Pyatt. This worked perfect because of the hot weather I was able to shoot each model separately without the heat & humidity killing the look. It damn near killed me, but the models did fine.

Kallie Pyatt 1/125 sec at f/6.3 ISO 640 155mm Makeup by Ambre Baxter, dress by Unique Vintage, hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Vintage

For a makeup artist I reconnected with Ambre Baxter and she was amazing. Doing makeup on location in the heat is truly a challenge. However both models looked amazing and again not 100% true to the period, but good enough.

Project goals: This project had several layers to it as I had stated at the opening of this post. First was to create a Flapper Girl look, using day dresses. I wanted the looks to be as if she was a 1920s girl out and about in the daytime. Kallie’s look was a little more reserved than Nicole’s look and neither girl looked as if they were heading to the party or jazz club.

Second goal was to shoot a good portion of this shoot on 35mm film. As of this writing I still have not received my 35mm scans, but I’m hoping for the best. I used CineStill 50 Daylight in two cameras, a Canon EOS 650 film body with an f/1.4 50mm prime and a Pentax Spotmatic with a f/1.4 50mm prime. I also used Ilford Delta 100 (B&W) with a Canon EOS 650 mounted with an f/1.8 85mm prime. I have had the film just waiting for a project and this was the project.

Third goal was that I always wanted to shoot Nicole at Smithville Park because our very first test shoot was supposed to be at that park. However the day we went to shoot there was a huge event taking place and we couldn’t even get close to the park, let alone into the park. We opted for a second location and went on with the shoot. However Smithville Park is a place that is very near & dear to Nicole for personal reasons and I always said to myself “someday we’ll shoot there.” And now we did.

Fourth goal was to give Kallie more camera time. She is new and she is advancing I see her getting better with each shoot. She fun and easy to work with so why not.

Fifth goal was I needed a new cover photo for my business Facebook page and as crazy as it sounds I take cover photos very seriously. Your cover photo and profile photo are your first impressions when a newcomer first visits your page. “First impressions are lasting ones” as they say (whoever they are lol).

Sixth goal was to get at least one portfolio quality image out of this shoot and I can safely say this was accomplished.

In closing I would like to say the shoot could have been better… it can always be better, but I’m very happy with what I did get from it.

I will write another post when I receive my scans and I discuss shooting with film and the techniques I used.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. 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.

 

Morning Smile ( Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.)

1/1000 sec at f/2.8 ISO 320 140mm

 

Ok so “street photography” is supposed to be for the most part an unmediated chance encounter.

While it borders on being “candid” there is still a difference. And for those who may not know; no you do not have to be in the street while capturing street style photography.

So let me talk about these two photos because they both are at the top of my all-time favorite street style shots.

I have blogged before about the morning in 2012 when I created a project where I would stand in the village street at the busiest time of the morning and I photographed everything that passed by or that came within 3 meters of me.

It was a lot of fun and I captured some real interesting images. Now first let me say that while most photographers will show their “street style” photography in black & white and I love my black & whites. However I have always had the mindset that because

Thailand is one of those places in the world that is so vibrant in color I personally feel I need to show the color. For street I try to refrain from using “saturation” but sometimes I will break that rule too.

1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 90mm

Ok so I love this image for mainly one reason and it is her smile. Her smile is so “in the moment” and natural. I did not know her nor did I think she was actually seeing me.

It is kind of hard to miss a big white guy standing in the middle of the street with a full frame camera and a 70-200mm lens.

With that said; many of the people who passed me by that morning never even looked my way, and again I was no more than 3 meters away.

So while I was shooting the burst of about 3 to 4 shots I remember seeing her smile in the view finder and I instantly thought “unusable” I’ll have to delete them because most times when people know your taking their photo… well it just doesn’t look natural.

But this was different because she was not moving slow and as she was approaching I was face away from her shooting something that had just went by. When I turned I had the camera already up and in position, essentially the total time was like 3-5 seconds.

So for her to see me and crack such a beautiful smile (and a peace sign) so quickly while her front passenger is more than clueless just adds to the excitement of these images. Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.

While the images are a little soft on focus the content more than makes up for the lack of sharpness, this is the case with many great street style shots.

 

So for those of you who know me personally and hear me talk about the village my wife is from… well this is a typical morning scene right outside our front door.

 

 

I Did It! (…not just sit on a porch smoking cigarettes and posting countless selfies. )

So I guess it is official… As of today I am a web entrepreneur. I received my first payment from my Amazon Associates account. I opened my associates account well over 10 years ago and never did anything with it. Actually at the time I had no idea what to do with it, but I knew one day I would find something or someway to make it work.

I started a blog several years back to complement my photography website. Why? Because that is what someone (who is a whole lot smarter than me) told me was the right thing to do. They also told me that if I ever wanted to have a chance at making any money from the web in any way form or fashion that I needed to learn how to use social media and not just sit on a porch smoking cigarettes and posting countless selfies. She also told me to stay on top of social media with it ever changing tide. So I did.

I also started blogging for a second reason and that was to better my typing skills and work on my writing and composition skills. I have to say my typing has become somewhat faster, composition is better as well as grammar. I said “better” not perfect.

I proclaim that I am the world’s worst blogger and I would never recommend anyone ever to follow my blog, but somehow almost 200 people from around the world subscribe and actually read what I write. I never wanted to fill my blog with advertisements because I feel that it makes your content seem forced, like your writing stuff just to get people to click on it so you can get a few pennies for the click. After all this is where fake news comes from… people who write bullshit just so other people will click on it. Over half of the people on my Facebook friends list are bait clickers. There other half on my friends list seem to know what click bait is and stay away. The bait clickers are also the ones who have a ton of malware in their computers and their phones lol. Either way as of now my photography blog will remain ad-free other than posting links on where to buy or review a product that are photography related.

My soon to start up BBQ blog will also remain for the most part ad-free other than product links. This blog will support my catering business website.

My photography YouTube channel is where my Amazon revenue is generated. The power of vlogging is awesome if you know how to do it. I started off with making instructional videos for beginning photographers to learn how to navigate Adobe Lightroom. Three years ago I placed the videos on Vimeo where they were ad-free and made me no money at all. Then I placed those same videos on YouTube and monetized them. I also started making new Lightroom videos. Then I started actually vlogging, but on a very amateur and sporadic level, not to make money, but to have video content to edit… so I could learn how to edit. However while making the video content I thought it would be nice to make something meaningful such as review the gloves I wear when using a camera in the winter time. This would give me a video that I can link to a product on Amazon and also give me content I can use to learn how to edit using Adobe Premiere Pro. This in-turn lead to making little short videos that let me work on camera technique and storytelling. I received a lot of positive feedback from my short video “Autumn Day at the Temple (4:35) https://vimeo.com/144312373 . It was actually very easy to make because I had a 100% vision of what I wanted and I shot the whole thing myself with no help at all. If only everything I did was that easy. But before Autumn Day at the Temple, came the behind the scenes video of a photo shoot I did with Kendall. I shot a few of the opening scenes and the rest was shot by Kendall’s mother Cheryl. I handed her my camera and asked if she would shoot while I worked. She did and I edited it, put it all together and it again became a huge hit with young girls. Nearly every young lady (16 to 25) I meet who has seen that video wants to be the girl in the video (Kendall). Why? Because Kendall looks like she is having so much fun and truly she was. I was having fun too, but truth be told here for the first time… I was actually dying that day. I had a high fever and walking pneumonia, I knew it, I had been sick for a week leading up to that shoot, but wanted to keep going because we had postponed it once or twice already. I just kept telling everybody my voice was messed up because I had allergies. After it was posted not much happened, but as time passed and girls seen the video I started to get more and more calls. Just the other day I had a girl ask me “can I hire you to do a shoot like the girl in the chair in a field?” https://vimeo.com/143212998

I also follow other bloggers and vloggers. Casey Niestat is all the rage for the past few years and I do follow Casey. I feel a lot can be learned from how he works and his style, I feel he is one of the greatest creators of our time. However I would never try to duplicate him as tens of thousands are doing at this very moment. But the big thing I learned from Casey is that you can make money from placing product links in your video description.

Instagram… oh how I love thee. I only have just fewer than 600 followers but they are a rock solid core group. From them are several people who are actual fans of my photography and they really like what I do. They are people from all over the world from all walks of life. Some are school kids, movie stars, news reporters, champion cyclists, journalists, moms, dads, book writers, doctors and a few friends thrown in along the way. At the same time I follow and interact some of the most interesting people… like a surgeon who takes us on his journey to the make-shift operating room in a third world nation while he saves young children’s lives and then photographs the stars at night. Very powerful photography! Or seeing the strongest teenager in the USA set a weightlifting record. Or my friend in Africa who cares for wild animals. Yeah I love my Instagram, very little drama and very little click bait.

So will I get rich & wealthy from the web? Most likely not, but if I can make $26.59 cents in 4 months I know I can make more. Funny thing is anybody can do it. It is a true testament of how easy it is to make money with a video camera and a little creativity.