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.

 

Freedom of Creativity (Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”)

By The Sea

I have never before created an image that drew so much criticism and also at the same time was liked by so many others. This is a two element composite that I created in the very beginning of 2017. Actually the image of the model was captured on the last day of 2016 in a studio. Many times when shooting a model session I will have some sort of prop that I will pull out at the very end of the shoot, sort of a surprise. In the past I have used fake hand grenades, fake cigars, and gas masks ect… On this day I had a feathered headdress that closely resembles the kind of headdresses worn by the indigenous tribes of the North American Plains or as many would call them today “Native Americans.” The headdress was purchased online from a dealer in Indonesia where the headdress is made. The headdress is fabricated from duck feathers and either painted or dyed with various colors for decoration. The rest of the material is mostly cheap felt, string, thread and plastic beads. I was actually quite disappointed when I received the headdress because the feathers were rather narrow and distorted due to the painting or dying process. For this reason I did not use it right away and I was looking for a better one. I soon lost interest and the prop was packed away. I then relocated and the prop was in storage for most of the year. I came across the headdress while sifting through my props and model wardrobe and thought “I might as well use it” after all I did pay $60 for this thing. So I brought it to the shoot, pulled it out at the very end, asked the model if she wanted to wear it and she (like me) though it would be nice and rather “Avant Garde” with the juxtaposition of the fitness attire she had on. After all I did know while shooting her on a gray background I would clip her out and use another outdoor background thus creating a “Photoshop composite” as I am so known for doing.

Why? I liked it. It was creative decision based on the look and color of the feathers and the overall feel it would bring to the image. In my years as a photographer I have designed and created my own headdress for models to wear as well as purchasing pre-made items. I have seen headdresses made from everything possible (or so it seems).  Just the other day I saw a headdress with biplanes in it. One was the plane of the famous Eddie Rickenbacker and the other Baron Von Richthofen or as many know him “The Red Baron.” I thought it to be rather funny and odd all at the same time. Some headdresses I do not get at all, such as ram horns, dead sticks, plastic garbage bags ect… But “hey” beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art, fashion and beauty are all “subjective” so while I may look at a model with sticks and deer antlers as a headpiece and think it is idiotic, others could find it artistic.

Now I am fully aware that no matter what I write in the following sentences will be justifiable in the minds of some people. I might add that I am not looking to justify anything nor am I trying to win over the opinion of a naysayer. All I am saying is “there is (in my opinion) no way possible that a model and a photographer standing in a studio and deciding to place a feathered headdress on one’s head and photographing it could bring harm to anyone”… period. The model is dressed in current day fitness attire that in no way depicts her and as a Native American. Upon close examination the headdress craftsmanship shows no possible comparison to the craftsmanship of a “Plains Native” war bonnet. Other than shape and color there is very little that could be comparable between a headdress of a Native American and the headdress that is in my image. There is nothing about the way that my image was created nor in the way the image is being presented that could be contrived as someone or anybody trying to demean or disparage indigenous people of North America who whore feathered headdresses. Now with that said there are still people whom are highly offended and for several reasons. The first thing that comes to my mind is “some people just like to be offended.” There’s no two ways to look at that, they just like being offended, its life. Then there are those who are offended because they have a vested interest.  I know that sounds rather idiotic, but it is true as true can be.

Most of us have experienced bullies growing up, every class had one or more. And if it wasn’t in the class room, it was at the park or on the school bus or somewhere in our life. You didn’t have to provoke a bully, just the mere fact that you woke up that morning and now standing in close range you were going to feel the wrath of the bully. Be it physical or verbal you were going to feel the wrath. Myself personally I felt the wrath of a few bullies and I found that the biggest way to combat a bully was to fight back. But not to fight back it the way the bully fought against me, in some cases just ignoring the bully was good enough. However most effective was a flat-out “take’em out quickly and as mercilessly as possible. It could be done verbally or physically, whatever way worked best. Now cut to forty years later we are to play patty-cakes and give blue ribbons and have an after party at Panera Bread or Starbucks. Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”

So what happened on social media? Ok here is the time line of my image. It was initially created a few days after the photo shoot. I sat on it for about a week as I made various changes to the overall color and sharpness. I made test prints and used it as an image to compare different print method. Then after about two weeks it was posted to my blog. There was very little reaction. It had been keyworded with headdress, fitness, feathered and so on. Then after a few months I decided to put the image on Instagram. It was received very well, but no more than other images of comparable quality. Then it received the first comment “this is the dumbest pic I’ve ever seen.” The man was a Native American and I waited about 12 hours and asked back “what is it about the image that you do not like? His answer said “well thank you for asking, as a native it is always disappointing to see models wearing headdresses thereby the stereotype continues, women don’t wear them, it’s disrespectful to us, but people continue to misuse our culture, thanks again for asking, most people don’t care to ask.”  I did not reply and left it at that. Then there were people hash tagging it and those I deleted. The random hash tagger is the modern-day bully whom you really can do nothing about.

While I do understand a little bit of what this gentleman is saying when it comes to native women not wearing headdresses, so I guess to him it would be like me seeing a man wearing a dress. I get that and I can live with that. But this whole “stereotype” thing is a bunch of crap. I literally have no idea what so ever of what stereotype I am keeping alive and how I am misusing anyone’s culture. So I set off and a three-day research binge to try and find what I was doing wrong and how my actions could have brought harm upon this man or anyone else. Yes for three days I spent every free moment reading and researching how the Native Americans feel and their current position in society today.

Here are my findings:

Nearly every single article I could find written on the subject of downtrodden Native Americans was on blogs, and very few were on actual creditable news sites. The articles posted to these blogs were very scathing and dramatic. While most of the facts were correct about the history of the settlers pushing out the indigenous people, the articles are clearly written to be used as “click bait” and it was easy to see why. Every single one of these blog sites were filled with pop up after pop up as well as every pixel of extra space taken up by affiliate advertisements. Essentially these were all “pay per click” sites that generate revenue each time the site is clicked upon. Are they “Fake News?” No I didn’t really see anything fake about them; however they clearly have an agenda to write articles that are jaded to drawing the reader to a predetermined conclusion rather than letting the reader draw their own conclusion.

So now I leave the blogs and head off to message boards where there is no “pay per click” and it is just everyday people talking about everyday stuff. I find that about 75% of the Native Americans who I actually questioned did not care at all about my image or any other involving non-native people wearing a feathered headdress. In fact one man said that the only people who are going to be offended are people who have something to gain by being offended. And I think he’s right. The other 25% really didn’t have bad things to say, they just thought it best to not offend anybody about anything. So let me get that right… you’re not really offended by the feathered headdress being worn by a model… but I still shouldn’t do it. Ok.

So after all the research and questioning, still no one can tell me what stereotype I am keeping alive or how what I have done has brought (or will bring) harm or doom to an indigenous person/s. My conclusion is that the biggest criers are the writers who are posting to “pay-per-click” sites. This is actually the case with a lot of social topics today. While the world is now bogged down with this increasing blight of “Fake News” we are also being bogged down with one-sided dramatic opinions that are being contrived as “facts” and it is all in the name of pay-per-click advertising. For all I know the blogs that I visited may have not been run by Native Americans at all, there really is no way to know. After all you yourself could write a post on any topic, make it as dramatic as possible and post it to your pay per click site and start making money.

For now my image will remain online. People are free to comment although they have to keep comments realistic and on topic.

End Stage Creativity (once back to Lightroom that is where I find it easy and fun to play)

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 50mm

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 50mm

Can Adobe Lightroom be a creative tool? While “hardcore” Photoshop users will beg to differ, I find for me personally Adobe Lightroom can be what I call a great “end stage creative editor.” I say this because I will always start my edit in Lightroom with basic prep adjustments preparing the image for Photoshop. Then after Photoshop the image always comes back to Lightroom and while it may be finished and ready for output with a watermark I will spend time playing around doing some creative editing. It fun and it is easy, and sometimes this is where I will create something I had no idea I would do to that particular image. Best part is that if I find something I really like I can save it as a preset and use it again and again.
This image of LaydeeFly is a perfect example. The image that went to Photoshop had a color cast removed and some hair fixes as well as a few blemishes taken away. These are all standard fixes that would be done to any image I work on. But once back to Lightroom that is where I find it easy and fun to play with what the end view of the image will look like.
With this image of LaydeeFly I ended with a look I rarely ever use, although for this image the intense split toning, curves, HSL and adjustments proved to be amazing.

Shooting Guns with Cameras (have another set of eyes helping direct the shot just makes for a better and quicker way to achieve a great image.)

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 125mm Model LaydeeFly

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 125mm Model LaydeeFly

Happy Valentine’s Day everybody, sorry there are no roses & chocolate today. Not even a glass of champagne.  You see here at Reckless Pixel Images it is all about “photography,” because I love photography. So for this Valentine’s Day I wanted to post this image from a shoot I did in the studio a few days ago. It has to be interesting and what could be interesting than guns & tattoos. I have shot with LaydeeFly Reyes in the past. She is interesting and always great to work with. On this particular evening my friend and fellow photographer was on hand to lend his eyes and experience in directing a few of our shots. This image like most is not just a “point & shoot” kind of thing. Lighting had to be just right as did the placement of the hands and the gun in relationship to the tattoo. I should also mention the lips and hair as well as the “Mom” tattoo.  So as a photographer to have another set of eyes helping direct the shot just makes for a better and quicker way to achieve a great image.

Autumn Fun (…the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air…)

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan is new, but a fast learner. We had a great outdoor shoot in Stockton, NJ along the Delaware River. It was a beautiful autumn day and while the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air that added to our mood. The Prallsville Mill adds such a great backdrop to any photo shoot, be it wedding, engagement or model. On a weekday there is always a few people walking or riding bikes and of course they will stop and look and that just adds to the fun. We’ll see more edits from this shoot in the coming days.

Quarry Office Shoot with Kendall (Lots of windows and wood.)

Kendall at the Quarry House 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 105mm

Kendall at the Quarry House 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 105mm

Been awhile since I shot with Kendall, but this shoot wasn’t really planned until the last-minute. I had planned to shoot another model at this location, the shots were all planned out with a mood board, it was to be a “catalog” style shoot with bright high energy shots. At the last-minute the model fell sick (as they always do) and I was left with an empty time slot. So a quick text to Kendall and it was a done deal.

Kendall is amazing and always has been from the day we first met and worked together on that hot summer day in Bethlehem Pa. Everybody sees the images we create, but what you do not see is how professional she is. If I say “two looks” she bring three or four, she is always on time and well prepared. I give her an address and she is there… easy to do when you’re a young teen and you’re being chauffeured by mom and dad, but now Kendall is an adult ad drives herself to the shoots.

When it is a public location as this shoot was I like to arrive early and scout the premises for anything that will be a problem. The location was the Prallsville Mill property although we were shooting in part of the old Quarry Office/House. Lots of windows and wood. So I arrive early, but no chance to scout because Kendall arrives early too and we get right to it. It was hot inside the building, I opened windows, turned on the ceiling fan, but still it was a sweat fest.

The technical: Shooting was done the whole day in manual mode except for a few shots that were natural light. Manual mode because I was using flash. All my indoor shots were made at either 50 or 100 ISO, so I used a manual radio Speedlight to light the room. Most times I bounced the flash off the opposite wall from where the model was located. Or I bounced the light off of the ceiling. At one point I found some brochures that were all white on the back, propped them against a window and placed the Speedlight aiming at them and bounced the light to Kendall. This allowed me to give fairly even light and not reflect off of the glass windows.  In-fact I wanted to see out the windows… it worked.

As for lenses; I used the 70-200mm f/2.8L and a 50mm f/1.4 prime.

The second portion of the shoot was a fitness look and those shots were all done outdoors. For those shots I used a Paul C Buff 640 watt light and a white beauty dish powered by a Vagabond battery. I’ll put a post up from that part of the shoot another time.

So needless to say we had a lot of fun… as we always do.

Thanks for reading.

Independence Day (The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. )

Ryan Flag Over Shoulder

Independence

It’s the 4th of July, it’s Independence Day and today those words really weigh heavy in the air and in the hearts of many Americans. As we go about our celebrations of parties with food and beer, as we go about our travels to entertaining events, we do it all in the name of “Independence” and while many Facebook and other social media memes will try to make us out to be bad people for having a party or drinking a beer (or two or 10) while we have troops who are away from their families, I feel differently. I feel we should celebrate as we see fit.

It is because of our forefathers and our troops that we have independence. So we must pay a deep respect to our troops as well as our forefathers. The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. Sure we live in a time of drones and robots, but it is still (at least for now) the bravery of an American to stand up and fight for what he/she believes in, to put their selves in harm’s way so that we can have that party on the 4th of July. Our freedom was not given to us and many times we have heard it said “freedom is not free” and nothing could be truer. The price for freedom is not paid in gold or silver, diamonds or gems; it is not bought with checks or currency. Freedom is acquired when we fight for it and in that fight, simply put… humans die. Both men & women give their life because they believe in freedom. It really is kind of strange to think of it that way, but there really is no other way to look at it. The bravery of the American who stands up and answers the call to go and serve is paramount and deserves the utmost respect. Say a prayer, shake a hand, buy a coffee, give a hug and help their families. All of the aforementioned are miniscule to the price that a brave soldier is putting forth for his country… and for you. Also take care of him/her when they return with visible and hidden wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their life. The battle for many soldiers does not end on the battlefield and many have hidden wounds that we’ll never understand. There wounds hidden or visible is “the price” that they have incurred. Don’t try to understand it, but rather comfort it and most of all give respect.

So it with that feeling I created this image montage to celebrate this year’s Independence Day. The model Ryan McNally is a former soldier himself and it was his idea to bring this American flag to the photo shoot. The very first thing I said to Ryan when we first connected on social media (Instagram) was “Thank you for serving our country.” His reply was “Oh no problem, I was happy to do it.” Ryan is an awesome young man and a pleasure to shoot with. I was also amazed at his knowledge and respect of the flag. While yes we did use the American flag as a photo prop at no time did it touch the floor or was disrespected in any way.

So here we have a six element montage. A young American patriot draped in a flag with our fore fathers, our eagle, our constitution, troops on patrol, a returning soldier holding his daughter up high and lastly the long dreary road behind the soldiers. All of this put together as Ryan gazes over his shoulder while looking out over the heartland of America. My thinking that goes into this kind of montage is a kind of “make it as I go.” When starting I did not really have an idea other that it had to say something about independence. While it may not be the most striking image I’ve ever created I do like it because it conveys what I wanted to say.

Happy 4th of July weekend everybody. Please be healthy, be safe, have lots of fun and shake a soldier’s hand and say “thanks” they’ll know what you mean.