Our New World (A small look at the world outside amid the Covid-19 crisis.)

I created this video for a few reasons. One I wanted to just give glimpse into what it looks like in the town where my wife works. No different than any other town at this time.
I will continue to make short videos similar to this just to document our new world.
However, the message in this video is to show that whille some are obsessed with the shopping for food and supplies there are those who not only don’t have the time for it… the shopping and standing in lines, they just look past it. They are the ones who continue to work in the stores and the supply chain to bring the products and serve the people.
The truckers, delivery workers and medical staff.
My wife has been working 8 to 10 days straight with only 1 day off and then right back at it. Dealing with her job that she actually loves and spending time alone to decompress.

Munn Smith I love more than words could ever express.

Technical Notes: Due to the current Covid-19 crisis as a photographer I have to change tactics and approach shooting documentary photos and videos in a new way. This video was created with a “long lens” a 70-200mm and most all of the time it was at 200mm.

Normally when shooting “Street Style” photography photographers will chose a fixed lens with no zoom because you want to be up close with your subject. However, now with “Social Distancing” being the buzz word of the year being close to your subject is not a good idea.

Yesteryear. (I’m just waiting for the app that delivers your food and pours it down your throat and three hours later sticks a tube up your…)

Old Polaroid Photographs & Memories.

Those scratched and blurry old polaroid’s take us back to yesteryear… to a time when life was much simpler however, we never knew it was simpler at the time. Of course, some things seem simpler today, after all just the act of creating a photo is so much easier than in the days of our youth. So, it begs the question; was life really simpler?

In my opinion; no, life was not simpler in a technical sense. So, is our sense of yesteryear jaded?

But, like me, many people would love to travel back in time if even just for one day.

We all have memories that take us back to happier times in our lives. We also have memories that were not so good. But, for most it is those good memories that we cherish and how we would love to go back and live that day or week or even that one special year all over again.

When we talk about the “yesteryear” in conversation often times the term “things were so much simpler back then.” Now please forgive me for saying this and I am not trying to crush anyone’s wonderful memories “but, no things were a lot harder.” So why do we perceive them a simpler?

Let’s just take a little trip down memory lane and look at just a few things in our daily life that were a lot harder. Now before we get started please know this list could be a long as we want to make it. Why we could write a book that would rival an edition of “War & Peace.” So, here we go…

I already mentioned that it is easier to create a photo today, every phone has a camera. Ah, “every phone” why yes phones are all together different, they are not tied to a wall in our house. Now a phone is attached to your hand or at least that is the way it seems. And the phone is not just a phone it is a gadget that is a computer and connects us to a plethora of information. Certainly, the mobile phone/device has made modern life a lot easier. But enough about phones and cameras.

How about cars and vehicles in general. Practically everything about the car is easier. Now I will admit at first a new car can seem as if it is harder to understand as opposed to the cars of yesteryear. But, after feeling those heated seats on a cold winter morning we’ll overlook the leaning curve the key that is not a key anymore. The feel of the air conditioning on a hot day helps us wash away all the other things we have to sit and take the time to learn about a new vehicle. Then there are all those other wonderful things like airbags, GPS navigation, On-Star, incredible stereo sound, lane guidance and the list of easiness just keeps going.

What about shopping? You don’t even have to stop eating your microwavable mac & cheese, you can just tell Alexa to send you more. Restaurant food delivered to your door… I’m just waiting for the app that delivers your food and pours it down your throat and three hours later sticks a tube up your ass to remove the waste. It will happen and when it does people will flock to use it.

As I said we could go on & on about easy vs hard between today and yesteryear. So why if it is easier today do, we yearn for the days of our memories. Aside from the fact that we were younger what was so nice about yesteryear?

First let me say while life was harder, we did not see at as harder or difficult at all. We did not know the life of today and how easy things are now. We didn’t know things like the ease of creating false restaurant reviews and destroying a person’s livelihood or cyber bulling. Or pausing a movie while we leave the house and resume watching two days later. But yet we yearn for the days of those memories we see when we pick up that old scratched and faded photo.

Now let’s shift gears and look at the reality of the past and the future. Most people think of the past as something pleasurable because they are thinking of loved one’s family and friends who are not with us anymore. Those memories bring us comfort and it washes away the everyday things like, how crappy cars were or that our phone was tied to the wall of the house. The same could be said for when we dream to the future. Dreaming of something about the future is often not what would really happen if the dream were to come true. Examples… of course I’ll give you my take on a few of my dreams that came true. Like that beautiful girl that I longed to be with… how I would see us together walking hand in hand, kissing and having sex and all the stuff that… well it was a dream and yes it came true. Yes, we kissed, we had sex and we really enjoyed being together… until I found out how stupid she was. Stupid is like beauty it is a relative term. However, at 22 she did not know how to cook anything other than a fried egg. If it didn’t have microwave instructions, she didn’t buy it. Her only hobby was drinking beer and I spent most of my free time fixing her car. So yeah… dreams do come true lol.

How about those lottery winners that squander their fortune? Was that part of their dream when they were dreaming of winning the lottery? Yes, I think it safe to say we kind of “whitewash” future dreams the same as we do when we think of the past… at least to a certain degree.

Is it always this way?

In my opinion; no, not at all. As for dreams; dreams with goals attached to them seem to be more realistic. At least in my experience when I had a dream with goals attached, if and when that dream came to fruition it was very much what I expected it to be. But, for looking back at a memory it is all together different, what is done is done and the pleasure of the memory is only on the surface. So, while the mundane of everyday life was certainly harder, we don’t see the mundane in our memories unless we were to sit and actually think about it. Maybe I am different than most because I will often fixate on the mundane of a memory. Take for example the memories I have of my early 20s, I was living with my grandmother and the memories of her are very heartwarming and special. When I hear the theme music to the TV show “Taxi” it automatically takes me right back to Grammy’s kitchen at around 5-6:00pm on a winter’s evening. We would both have arrived home from work and she’d be cooking dinner while I was showering after a day’s work. I can see the gaudy pink & black tile of her bathroom and yes, it is a good memory. But if I dive into it and start walking through that memory my life at the time was not that great. Other than the fact I lived with my grandmother who I really loved, most other things in my life were not that great. I worked at a crappy job for very little pay, I drove a crappy vehicle, and my life was going nowhere. So, while I do cherish the memory of Grammy everything else about the memory is not that great at all. Again, I reiterate that I don’t think everyone digs as deep as I do. I have a good memory and it is also reinforced due to keeping journals and diaries. If it were for those writings, I don’t think my memories would be as vivid lol.

Now I have covered a decent amount of ground in the blog post and I have curtailed myself from using a certain word and that is “nostalgia.” I often cringe a little when I hear this word “nostalgia” because it is usually connected to somebody wanting to capitalize on my memories or on the days of yesteryear. In fact, “nostalgia & classic” are the two buzz words that are used in somehow making money from the days of yesteryear. Usually they (the business world) are aiming to capitalize on a period of time that their customers never actually lived in. Let’s look at the younger generations that were born in the 90s or later. Being born in 1990 would put you at 30 years old and marketing anything “nostalgic or classic” could be a very profitable venture.

I myself have seen teenagers now (born in the 2000s) wearing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd shirts. One boy I talked to didn’t even know Led Zeppelin was a band, he just thought the shirt was cool (true story). Look at how many people wear the Harley Davidson logo and don’t even own any motorcycle, they just like the logo because it implies the “Biker” lifestyle. And speaking of “biker” lifestyle I can remember a time when that so called “bike” lifestyle mean something a whole lot different. Let me just say it like this… “I remember seeing the State Police escorting biker gangs as they would pass through our area.” “And I remember the fear it created knowing those guys were in town.” I was young so I didn’t really know what it was all about therefore I had not too much fear and I thought they looked cool on their “Harley Davidson” motorcycles. Funny thing is… none them and I mean zero were riding Hondas, Yamaha’s or Suzuki’s. Cut to today you see anybody wearing a Harley logo because they think it is cool. Talk about “whitewashed nostalgia” lol.

At 55 years old I have seen variations of the “bell bottoms” resurface a few times. Auto makers have brought back the names of their muscle cars from the late 60s, while rock bands resurrect themselves (almost literally) and head back out on tour. To be honest I’m not really a big fan of the resurrected rock band thing, because the concerts are most times (but not all) disappointing. Old rockers hiding their “turkey gobbler necks” with the silk scarf while they rasp out an old “classic” hit song that the whole audience is encouraged to sing along with so you can’t really hear the actual performance. I fell in love with the song “Proud Mary” and John Fogerty is one of my all-time favorites. But if you’re going to a Fogerty concert in hopes of hearing a good rendition of Proud Mary… it isn’t happening. Disclaimer: Fogerty actually defies the laws of the aging rocker and he does not wear a neck scarf.

So, in regards to Nostalgia as a market; it is basically the idea that the old times were better than they actually were or in some cases the old time were something they never actually were. And best of all the people buying into it never really lived it so they haven’t a clue lol. I say just let them have their fun and buy into the nostalgia thing because it makes somebody somewhere a lot of money.

 

In conclusion; Are the days of old better? Were the days of our memories a simpler way of life? Or do we just want to believe they were simpler and better? Either way for me it still feels good to pick up that scratched and faded polaroid photo and drift back through the years.

The Day Our World Went Crazy (Somehow we all arrived here at this point in time in the year of 2020)

Everything is going to be ok; you are going to be ok. We are going through a troubling time with the current spread of the Corona Virus (Covid-19). There is a lot of misinformation and a lot people making misleading statements that is causing a lot of anxiety, both personal & public. I do not have all the answers but, I do have common sense. A lot of people have common sense however, anxiety and stress will blind and deaden your common sense. We all know common sense will take you a lot further in life than any highly educated scholar. I’m not knocking education but look at history’s evidence of “common sense.”

As we go back through the pages of man’s existence, we can attribute a lot of our accomplishments to common sense. Somehow we all arrived here at this point in time in the year of 2020 and it was not all due to high education.

When I was in my high school years I lived in a very rural part of the southern part of Virginia. I guess most would call it the “backwoods.” While living there I seen a lot of very uneducated people that my friends back in the Northeast would call “hillbillies.” Call them what you’d like but, what I found were people with a lot of common sense. Sure, they were by definition “uneducated” however they were far from stupid. “Uneducated” is just a label same as the term “hillbilly” is a label. Labels mean nothing about what a person can do or not do.

In times of a real predicament, I will often turn my mind back to where I have come across common sense people in my life. My mother, grandmother and other old sages I have met in my life.

So, in this troubling time just stop and relax, sit and think about where you are and who you are. If you have taken the time to read this far most likely you have a little (hopefully a lot) of common sense.

Look at facts.

If you are a healthy person you will be just fine. Sure, you may get sick but, you will self-resolve as you have many other times in your life that you were sick. This is a fact not an opinion.

Social distancing; certainly not a hard thing to do.

Might I add a little of my own advice; “Social Media” distancing.

I came home today and yeah, I did the “Facebook” thing. Looked at some funny memes, antagonized a few people. Then… I shut it off and I turned on some good music. I have spent the whole evening listening to music and doing little things I like to do in my private time. I like editing video and photos but, for you, you have something that you like to do, everybody has something they like to do. Something that is easy and takes your mind off of the rest of the world.

After editing a video to send to my mother, I then contacted a friend on the other side of the world via email just to say “hi” and tell them I am thinking about them.

Then I though about finishing this blog post. Not really know what I was going to write… I though about how relaxed I feel after such a hectic day. I thought about how relaxing it was to just shut off the rhetoric of the news media, social media and all other forms of BS.

Now as I finish this blog post I am already thinking about my plan for tomorrow. News & weather in the morning for about 15 minutes and again in the evening just to stay current. Social media?… Maybe the same about 20 minutes twice a day and I have had my fill.

Thank you for taking the time to read and most of all be safe, stay healthy and use your power to help the vulnerable stay healthy. Look after your elders.

 

Everything will be fine.


							

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.

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.

 

 

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.