Saturday, July 31, 2010

I'm outta here!

I've moved to (no separate blog - the webpage is the blog) and I'll be shutting down the comments on these posts (they just attract spam). I'll probably move the content over a little at a time. The post "Why Photography Is Important" is already there.

Thanks and we'll see y'all over there.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Intimate Wedding At Lon's

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being the photographer for a very intimate wedding at Lon's at the Hermosa Inn in Paradise Valley, AZ. The entire wedding, guests and all, was a group that is smaller than many bridal parties. Parents, brothers, sisters and closest friends..... oh, and a couple of photographers to share the day and capture it for them.

The venue was one I hadn't been to before, but absolutely perfect for this wedding. Lon's and the Hermosa Inn is an older property with mature landscaping and an interesting history (check the link above). Off the beaten path, it lies just west of Camelback mountain, nestled among some of the older homes in the Paradise Valley area. As we drove through the neighborhood to get there the beauty of the area just made me want to move in.

The photo above captures something I'd never seen before at a wedding - a "ring warming". I thought this was a wonderful idea and was particularly suited to such a close knit gathering. The rings are passed from hand to hand, from one guest to the next as their body heat warmed the metal bands, a sort of blessing of the union with each one present giving warmth to the couple. That's Christine's father passing the rings across the aisle to Jameson's family and friends.

Unlike many outdoor weddings in the Phoenix area that are held in the glaring sun, this one was fully shaded on a small patio between the rows of low casitas. The combination of warm light from the sun and cooler shadows from the canopy of leaves overhead made for some interesting lighting. I decided to match the sunlight with warming gels on my flashes. This threw the background into a deeper shade of blue. On some photos I corrected the background and sandwiched the two together, but I rather liked the effect of the cooler shades in the background. In the photo below there was no flash, just a shaft of golden sunlight filtering through the trees.

As noted before, Lon's is located just West of Camelback mountain (seen in the background below). The parking lot is just over this low wall and we'd wait for cars to pass by and grab shots whenever there was an opportunity. I still ended up getting several shots of vehicles pulling into the drive straight behind them.

Many of the doors had such great character, including this one. When I met Jameson and Christine at Lon's a few weeks ahead of the wedding we saw this door within a door and planned to get a shot of them looking through. The door was quite old and only hanging on one hinge. I had to slip something small into the crack in the smaller door to keep it from swinging closed due to the angle. My assistant for the day - Darren - held a flash on the other side of the wall to light them while I lit the door with a hand-held flash.

All in all, a beautiful wedding at a great venue. I want to thank both Christine and Jameson for choosing me to be a part of their day. I had a great time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Why Photography Is Important

The following is something I shared with a group of friends, fellow wedding photographers, on a wedding photography forum yesterday. It was so well received that I decided to post it here as well.

I was shooting an e-session this past weekend at the Mesa Arts Center with my pastor's daughter, Christine and her fiance, Christian. The place has this fabulous blue wall that I love to use as a background element and all kinds of nifty water features.

We were taking these shots at one of the water features when I glimpse some movement coming into frame right (albeit out of focus).

Christine and Christian: E-Session

The movement was this little guy. He dropped in with lunch and just wanted a drink, so I snap a shot with him as the center of attention.

Christine and Christian: E-Session

...and then the bird flies away.

Christine and Christian: E-Session

It's at this point that I think, "That's why I do this...... To catch fleeting moments that will never be just so again. These two people; this place and time of day; this little bird......"

How often you hear stories about loved ones who've died and what comfort the photos bring to the family, or sadder still when they pass on and the thought is, "We were going to get some photos done....." I'd been talking with someone about getting a shot of the various members of their family for some time and one day one of them was, like this bird, no longer there. Gone......

Have you ever seen a movie where someone suffers the loss of a loved one and they interact with a photo on the nightstand, drawing it close and examining the features, tracing them with a finger and then embracing it? Sure you have. Maybe some of you have actually interacted with photos in that way.

It's not just the passing of loved ones that may trigger this emotional connection to our art. Moms might sit on the side of the bed holding a photo of a son or daughter who's left home for college or a job in a distant place. Parents look back at photos of their children when they were younger and you see a trace of a smile at the corners of their mouth and a faint twinkle in the eye.

There's a reason why we hear about people dragging the family photos out of a burning or flooding home - sometimes even risking their lives. I can't picture someone racing back into a burning house to rescue the frozen wedding cake or tearfully tracing the edges of the caterer's menu.

This may sound maudlin or sappy or even self-serving, but as important as they may be to the whole experience, I just don't see the other things folks spend money on to make their wedding day "special" being able to have the same impact over time as our images and albums.

That's why I think that what we do as photographers is important.

I don't mean to take away from Christian and Christine, but this was just something I've been mulling over since the shoot. I'll put up some more photos in a blog post that's actually about the couple in a few days.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Sue Ellen And Todd

Sunday I met up with Sue Ellen and Todd for some engagement photos. Their wedding is just two weeks away and I'm on a time crunch to get their e-session photos edited and create a guest book before the wedding. I'm a bit ahead on time so I thought I'd share some of the photos from the session.

We started out at an old cattle chute (for a new photo shoot) just outside of Prescott, AZ. Well, actually we started in a park in Chino Valley, but it was way too windy and Sue Ellen would have had to fight her hair the whole time. The chute and corral was in a little valley, so the wind wasn't nearly as bad, and the structure added a little more wind-break. Todd was the one who knew about this chute and he liked the weathered wood. I must say the look of the wood was pretty nice (although not too sturdy to stand on, which is what I was doing to get this angle). But that was only the beginning of our adventures.

From there we headed over toward the Granite Dells. There's a riparian habitat and hiking trails nearby and we headed down to a felled cottonwood tree. This thing was wider than I was tall. We took shots of the two of them standing next to the trunk and even though they were standing on the stump the trunk was taller than they were. This shot peeks through a cut section of the trunk and you can see the water way behind them.

I won't tell you what happened at the end of that portion of the shoot, but I will say that logs aren't much of a cushion for your head when you fall in the woods. Todd and Sue Ellen had to kind of ignore my persistent bleeding while we went up into the Dells above Watson Lake for the remainder of the shoot. I don't want you to think that they weren't concerned, because I had to keep assuring them that I was perfectly alright. They felt really bad about it.

Once we were in position above the lake, I set up one of my flashes with a CTO gel. This gives the light a warm appearance (like a sunset) and when I use my white balance settings it makes the water go really blue. I love this look.

I think Sue Ellen and Todd were a little concerned because I was climbing all these boulders and jumping around like a mountain goat...... or maybe just an old goat. I was OK though. I told them we don't have trees in Phoenix and I'm used to jumping around on boulders. It's the darn trees that trip me up....... literally!

This spot at the Dells is beautiful and with the sun just kissing the tops of the boulders across the lake and with the additional boulders sticking up from the water the scene was perfect. Just add cute couple and you're good to go.

While we were at the lake I realized that I'd lost my glasses and my pen when I fell. After we finished shooting these shots we went back to the previous spot and Todd went to look for my things while I showed a sample Graphi Studio wedding album to Sue Ellen. It was starting to get dark and with all the debris scattered on the ground around the big cottonwood I really didn't think Todd would find anything. I was pretty happy when he showed back up with both items.

So, thanks guys for the fun (if a bit too exciting) day, and a special thanks to Todd for finding my specs and my pen! I'm really looking forward to the wedding in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I won't need a helmet..........

Friday, March 7, 2008

Carrie and George

I had a great time last Saturday shooting a graduation set with Carrie and George, the wonder dog......

I think George was diggin' all the attention. It wasn't enough that he was getting his portrait taken, nearly everyone who passed by on a nearby hiking trail had to comment on how beautiful he was. George was soakin' it all in.......

We went out to the desert at the base of Superstition mountain and shot among the Saguaro, Ocotillo and Mesquite. We hoped to find fields of Mexican Golden Poppies, but the best we could do was a small group of 4. That's OK. There was plenty of other vegetation after our very wet winter. Even without poppies I think we got some good shots.

While we were out there, Carrie's mom lost her cell phone. They went back through the brush to look for it (apparently George isn't a good tracking dog) while I packed up and then joined them. They hadn't found the phone, but Carrie found my bluetooth headset laying on the ground. I'd never have found it (especially since I didn't even know it was gone).

We went back down to pick up my gear and head to the cars. I mentioned I'd looked at the area where some of their things had been laid down but hadn't seen the phone. Carrie walked right over and looked in the same spot and guess what she found...... That's right. The phone I didn't even see. Next time I lose something, I'm calling Carrie to help me look for it.

Later that day I went by Usery Mountain Pass and got to shoot mountain bikers free-riding on a jump course. There were a group of us that got together to shoot the bikers just for material for our portfolios. At dusk I set up a group shot and got one of the bikers to allow me to attach a flash to his handlebars. I triggered the camera as he flew over the jump.

All in all...... a fun day.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Heartbreak In S.E. Mesa

I had just finished my dinner at one of the Valley's finest dining establishments tonight (those who know me will recognize this as Chipotle...... Mmmmmmmm) when I saw a thick column of black smoke rising from the neighborhood to the east. I headed that way and got to the location on South Longspur about the same time as the first fire trucks.

It seems a family's van had caught fire either in the driveway or in the garage and had then been pushed into the drive.

When I pulled up the van was fully engulfed in the driveway and the Fire Dept. was just rolling out the hoses.

In quick order they were both hosing the van and house and shortly thereafter laid a protective foam layer on the neighboring house. By that time the flames from the van had ignited the eaves right above it and the flames were drawn up under the roof tiles.

Before long the roof was ablaze with flames shooting into the night sky.

There was a unit positioned on the cross street just to the north with a ladder or lift from which the firefighters had an overhead view of the fire. I think they had to wait until the roof fire was under a bit more control as I didn't see any spray from the overhead position until the flames had been subdued.

Here are some more shots:

The old saying is true that says, "If you set a house afire people will gather to watch it burn."

A view from down the block to the South.

At one point the smoke really thickened at ground level and you couldn't even see the men working the blaze.

Those of you who are inclined to pray might intercede on behalf of this family. I'm sure they'd appreciate it.

Thankfully, to my knowlege, and that of the officer I spoke to at the scene, no one was injured in the blaze.

Friday, January 25, 2008

MLK Basketball Classic

This past weekend I had the privilege to shoot the MLK Basketball Classic at Mesa Community College and ASU with my associate, Jim. Now, I'm not a sports shooter and don't make any claims as such, but I am an event shooter and I'm always looking for ways to expand my horizons photographically.

Jim and I were shooting for the event organizers and wanted to capture a sense of the event itself and not just the players. Between quarters they had shootoff's at each end of the court with two young spectators chosen from the crowd to shoot free throws and layups. There were cheerleaders at the High School games as well as dance troupes and spirit squads at both venues.

We arrived at noon both days to set up. Jim and I were the only ones using remote flash units to help light the floor. There were media folks from newspaper, magazine and television outlets represented. The High School event not only attracted the media but there were a number of college coaches on hand to scout the talent.

It was a great opportunity to stretch and develop my skills. Basketball players move a bit faster and in different directions than your average wedding party. Nobody in a wedding photo jumps unless I direct them to. At the games I'd get a player all framed perfectly and suddenly he or she would jump and I'd get a shot of their body and feet but no head..... kinda like some of the snapshots some of my relatives take....... c'mon..... you've got an aunt or uncle like that too..... In fact, they often distract the folks I'm taking photos of and I get a shot of half the group looking at aunt Mabel and her instamatic instead of at my camera. I hope aunt Mabel got a good shot but I'm guessing some of you are missing heads........ But that's a subject for another post.

The spirit squads were just as difficult. You'd get a whole pack of them framed and all of a sudden they'd launch some little girl twenty feet in the air! I've got a couple of shots with a cluster of girls on the floor and a pair of white shoes barely in the top of the frame.

Once some of the basic differences were accounted for I was able to get into a groove and shoot from various vantage points. Like other events you just have to anticipate the action and be ready. You may have to be ready a bit quicker, but that's part of the game.

You can see more of the shots from this event (both mine and Jim's) at Jim's Desert Graphix site. You can view the Juco event as well as the High School event. Photos you're sure to flip over!

......Sorry. Couldn't resist........