Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you I've had opportunity to work with over the past year. I've made many new friends and look forward to forging new relationships in the coming year.

And now, for the photo part of the BenjPhoto "photoblog":

A few nights ago I enjoyed shooting a community outreach event with our church. I had some help from an elf and some guy in a fuzzy red suit....... Hmmmmm.

Well, there's our elf, but where's the big guy? We were nearly in a panic when someone said, "There he is and pointed to the chair.

There was one pretender to the throne . . .

. . . after another.

Well, the big man finally made it, but I think the poor guy was really tired....... or this little girl had a very looooong list.

All in all, it was a good evening. Although it was pretty taxing on the big guy. He had to leave early. I think the elf sent him home to rest.

And now I'll leave you with a Christmas memory: A little boy my wife used to take care of was left with me while she ran to do an errand. That's OK. I think kids are great. The little guy looked around for my wife and couldn't find her, so he came to the great oracle..... me.

"Mary? ......... go.......... car?", he asked.


"Mary? ......... go.......... truck?", he tried again.


"Mary?", he thought hard......, "Mary? .................... Christmas?"

What more can I say?

You can find more shots from the event at: http://photos.benjphoto.com/Events/431283

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Casino Royale" At the Biltmore

Update: Link to photos at the bottom

Last weekend we shot a corporate party at the Arizona Biltmore. We set up a "photo booth" (manned by my associate, Jim) for formal portraits and shot candids of the party goers as they mingled, danced and gathered at the tables for some Casino Royale styled fun (cue James Bond theme music now).

As most of the folks arrived they were greeted by polished servers offering beverages and appetizers as well as tables laden with a mouth watering display of seafood and other goodies.

Tables were decorated with giant martini glasses and flickering "ice dice".

Along the back wall was an array of tables set up for various games of chance.

The opening band (yes, there was more than one....) was a cool little jazz quartet. I don't have any more information than that (I'll try to get it from my contact for this gig and will post it later) because I didn't want to interrupt the set and they got away before I realized it. They set the Casino Royale mood from the top as the folks arrived and kept it up for the early part of the evening.

After most of the folks had eaten and the gaming tables started attracting a crowd, the second band started cranking up. Shirley's Temple is a rock cover band that amped up the house for the remainder of the night and offered an alternative to those who'd rather dance the night away than throw down at the tables.

All in all, it was a fun night. Jim and I enjoyed shooting it and I hope everyone likes the results of our efforts as much as they enjoyed the celebration.

I've already had some inquiries about the full range of photos but I'm getting a new e-commerce site that was supposed to be ready for me to start posting, but it's not. I certainly hope the provider gets things going before the weekend is out and I can get the photos up before family starts coming in (yours as well as mine) for Christmas. Check back tomorrow for links to the photos, and my sincerest apologies for the delay.


Update (Sunday, Dec. 23): Still no word from the vendor turning the new site over to me. Once it's turned over I'll have to do some setup of my own and then I'll be able to post the photos. If I don't hear from them today I'll find another place to upload the photos on Monday and post the links here. I am very sorry for those of you who've come looking for your photos. To help soften the disappointment I'll offer some discounted pricing for any shots you want to purchase.

Update (Monday, Dec. 24): They're up. I had to go to plan "B" in order to do it. The vendor I'd initially chosen to host my new e-commerce page didn't come through for me. I've had a portfolio page hosted by another vendor for several years and decided to upgrade to their e-commerce package instead. Please let me know how the experience goes - either positive or negative. And thank you for your patience (I nearly lost all of mine.....).

You can see the various galleries at: http://photos.benjphoto.com/Events/430982

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

All That Jazz......

Last weekend I had the opportunity to shoot part of the Arizona Classic Jazz Festival, sponsored by the Arizona Classic Jazz Society held at the San Marcos Golf Resort in Chandler, Arizona. If I could sum it up in just two words -- Great Fun!

The whole experience was fantastic! Live bands played Jazz standards while young and old alike jammed the dance floor to trot out some East Coast and West Coast Swing as well as some Lindy Hop. I was there at the invitation of the Arizona Swing Network to take photos of the dancers (well, the trumpet player in me insisted on getting some shots of the musicians too).

You know that commercial where the janitor spills his coffee on the control room panel and blacks out a major city? He saves the day by hitting a button and the Energizer Bunny is plugged into the grid and all the lights come back on. Let me tell you, the bunny has nothing in terms of energy production on this crowd. They wore me out just watching. Or maybe I wore myself out running around the dance floor and stage holding a heavy camera over my head with one hand and a flash in the other. Either way, there was a lot of energy being expended and it was definitely not limited to my battery packs.

Some of the bands I was able to hear (and shoot) included: Wally's Warehouse Waifs; Pieter Meijers Quartet; and The 51st Eight who closed out the night. As their set drew to an end the band kept growing as musicians from the other bands sat in, either replacing or doubling with the existing members. We had multiple trumpets, clarinets, saxaphones, guitars and even four hands on the piano. Sweet!

Posters around the main ballroom (yeah, this thing was going on in multiple venues at the San Marcos) were supplied by cartoonist Bill Keane, a Scottsdale resident and the creator of The Family Circus. I think I read somewhere that he's a big jazz fan, but I saw him once and he didn't look all that big to me......

I would really love to do this again. What I'd like to do between now and then is shoot the dancers in a more controlled setting. There was one couple doing aerials but they were across the dance floor and other couples were getting in between them and my camera. What would really be great is to do a shoot with everyone in period costumes. That'd be the cat's pajamas..........

Just click the links to see more photos of the musicians and dancers.

Anyone wanting prints or larger files can use the contact link on BenjPhoto.com to send me an email.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fashion or Art?

Last weekend I had the privilege of working with a small herd of photographers and a few models up in Jerome, AZ. Jerome is a cool little town with an interesting history. If you have an opportunity to go, I'd encourage you to do it.

Both the models and photographers were a mix of folks having a great deal of experience and some who had little to no experience but wanted to learn. I was excited to have an opportunity to shoot with some fellow photographers whose work I have admired and was surprised to find myself in the company of some people I really didn't know but now have a deep respect for their skills and abilities. I think that's called "Networking".

I had a couple of simple goals for the day: Get one or two really good portfolio shots; Learn something new; Spend time working with people whose skills I admire. I exceeded all goals. Maybe I just set the bar too low....... Actually, there was a synergy in working with all these creative folks that got my own creative juices flowing. The morning started off a bit chaotic, but as the day progressed we saw things begin to gel.

At times I'm sure we looked like a nomadic production company.

As the day progressed, momentum seemed to take over and ideas went from merely having the models strike a pose to having them tell a story. Once we all converged on the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town with all it's myriad props at our fingertips, things just took off. Some of the shots had been pre-visualized since we knew a bit about the places we'd visit, while others just happened because of found props and venues.

In short, I did get some good portfolio shots, but the crowning achievement for me that day was this shot of model, April Knapp, taken in the blacksmith's shop at the Gold King Ghost Town.

When I discovered the blacksmith's shop it was already being used as a backdrop for April and they were lighting her with a single flash shot through a translucent umbrella with additional, soft light coming in from openings in the building. The exception was the back of the building where the forge is located. It was all dark.

After watching for a moment and a brief discussion, I took one of my Sunpak lights and placed it behind the forge (and the model) with a gel on it to simulate firelight. The quality of the shots immediately ramped up.

The final ingredient was to coach April into positioning her body in a way that would allow the light to rake across her back and bring the hammer up for a dramatic "scene" to unfold rather than a simple pose. I must say that April was up to the task as she follows direction very well.

The result? Well, I went to get a couple of good shots for my portfolio, and wound up with one that I think borders on great. There are still a few things I need to do in post production, but this is pretty much the shot as taken with some color balancing. I'll probably end up doing a little bit of burn and dodge here and there and will be getting rid of the blower that is just behind her.

Anyway, that's the scoop from last week's shooting schedule. Hopefully I can update this blog more frequently as my health continues to improve. Last weekend wore me out! We're planning another outing in Bisbee this spring........ Can't wait.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting Back In The Groove........

Bobbie called me yesterday. She wanted to know if we could do a photo shoot soon. It seems she was talking to her "Pappa" and he asked her for a recent photo. Then she said, "Since you're the only one who takes good pictures of me I need to set something up." Gee, you can't get a better assessment than that! That got me to thinking. If I've done your wedding or family shots or photos of your children and you want to let everyone know how pleased you are with the results, send me an email with your comments. I think I'll include excerpts in the slideshows and maybe add a page to the website for customer comments. Even if you weren't pleased, let me know about that too. I'd like to do whatever I can to make sure your experience with BenjPhoto is a positive one.

Back to Bobbie....... I mentioned in the last post that I'm recovering from medical treatments right now, so I told her that I'd love to do the shoot but we'd have to put it off for at least a couple of weeks. Since there were too many variables affecting the length of treatment my calendar is wide open until well into October. Looks like Bobbie will be the first thing I schedule since the fashion session with Aubrey is a bit more taxing and will have to wait a few weeks longer.

I dug up a shot we did a couple of years ago with Bobbie. Looking at it I'm wondering how anybody could not take a great picture of this girl. Hey, as long as I'm the only one who can, I'm looking forward to feeling better so that we can go out and do something fresh for Bobbie's Pappa.......

Sunday, September 2, 2007

It's Been Awfully Quiet In Here

If anyone's been wondering why I haven't posted in awhile, I've been going through some medical treatments and haven't felt up to posting. In fact, I haven't been doing much photographically at all. Not even editing or working on albums. You can read about it on my family blog if you're inclined.

Yesterday though I dragged a chair out and my wife and son set up the lights and backdrops for a maternity shoot. I shot everything either lying down or sitting. Sitting was actually easier.

The shot above was the toughest as my muscles are too weak to hold my head up for very long. I'd take a shot and lay my head back down. Take a shot and lay my head back down. Kinda like being a sniper or something.

This is my oldest son and his wife. If it hadn't been for that and the nearness of the due date I doubt I would have taken this on. It wasn't too bad though. I normally stop frequently to let mom-to-be rest a bit, but yesterday we stopped much more frequently to let the photographer rest a bit.

This was a planned outage, so I hadn't taken on any additional weddings or other assignments for a couple of months, but that brings up a question brides may want to ask, and that is, "What if something happens and you aren't able to take the photos for my wedding?" The right answer would be that the photographer isn't just the Lone Ranger but belongs to a professional group and/or has developed partnerships or relationships with other photographers in the area who are capable of delivering great images.

As far as "great images" go, I haven't done much to these and they're pretty much right out of the camera. I'll do my usual editing as I feel better and replace these. But I felt well enough that I might take on a few small jobs (no location stuff though) as long as it can be done from a kitchen chair.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bridal Fashion Shoot!

Or, "What To Do With The Dress Besides Zip It Up In A Bag And Forget About It For Twenty Five Years Or More?"

I've been talking to brides, prospective brides and former brides about a Post Wedding Bridal Portrait Session. Basically, it's a portrait session where a bride gets to put on the dress and go play for a day. You don't have to worry about keeping the dress clean for the wedding and that opens up all kinds of possibilities for creative shots and venues. In some cases the photo shoot takes the bride in all her finery into grungy locales and the dress gets a bit...... ummmm...... dusty....... or even muddy. They may climb a tree, drag the dress through dirt or even go swimming in it. This has led some folks to call these shoots a "Trash The Dress" session and there are even web sites devoted strictly to "Trashing" wedding dresses......


Well, before you get into a big panic, unless you specifically set out to shred the fabric the dress is no worse for the wear after a trip to the local cleaners. That red filling from the wedding cake stands a greater chance of ruining it than a dip in the river. But you should see the images! They look like the bride stepped into a magazine ad. More importantly, they also look like a whole lot of fun.

At any rate, I was batting well below 1,000 in my attempts to find someone willing to take the plunge..... literally..... into a post wedding bridal session. Here are the basic reactions:

  • I want my daughter to wear it when she gets married.
Um, yeah. Just like you wore your mother's dress.... Let's face it, by the time your daughter gets married fashion will have moved on. While many people hold on to their wedding dresses for just this reason, how many brides do you know who actually wore their mom's gown? I mean this century.... Besides, I've already mentioned that a trip to the cleaners (which you need to do anyway so that they can apply all the chemicals needed to keep it white until your daughter is grown) will take care of the soiled appearance.
  • The dress is..... well, it's almost sacred!
More sacred than your vows? Think of it as a way to say, "I'm madly in love with the man I married and I'll never need to wear this again." Although you could since it will likely be as good as new after a trip to the cleaners, but we're talking about a symbolic statement here.
  • It cost too much to ruin.
It cost too much to store in a bag.

It cost too much to only wear once.

At least this way you get a set of photos or even a magazine style book full of stylish images of the session that you'll put on display or keep out on the coffee table for enjoyment that goes beyond the single day spent in the dress for your wedding.

Oh, and did I mention that it'll probably look just fine after a trip to the cleaners?

I did? Oh, Okay.

My clever rebuttals notwithstanding I wasn't getting any takers. That is until I spoke with Aubrey who was having me shoot her adorable son Joel's six month portraits (That's him on the right). Aubs is a lot of fun as you can tell from the shots from her wedding a year and a half ago (she's the bride featured on the home page of BenjPhoto.com (......did I mention that my new website is up?)).

Aubrey's face immediately brightened when I explained what a session might entail. Then she jumped through the above arguments (It was at this point that Joel yelled, "I'm not wearin' anybody's dress at my wedding!" and I snapped the photo at right). Once I explained that a trip to the cleaners...... (are you detecting a pattern here yet?)..... would restore it to a condition that any self respecting daughter with 20 year old fashion sense would be happy to wear...... well, she brightened again and said, "Let's do it!"

That's the girl!

I'm all pumped to do the shoot, but we'll all have to wait for cooler weather. Arizona in summer is hot enough that the lakes and rivers might scald anyone foolish enough to jump in. Alright, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I want to do some shots around town before going to the lake and clambering around on the rocks near the spot I have in mind would be pretty hot too. I don't want her looking like she needs to jump in the water. So, we're waiting for September...... sigh.......

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Website Is Coming Along Nicely.....

Perhaps you've heard that BenjPhoto.com is live now. The contact page is still broken but they tell me they're working on that.

Currently there's a Portfolio section that features a slideshow with plenty of examples from the various portfolios that will be coming online one by one. The only one that is currently up is the Wedding portfolio, but that will change soon. I haven't been able to work on it much this week because I'm off in semi-sunny California for some training.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different.....

. . . or not.

Here's the same video on Google Video. Let me know what you think about the comparative quality between the two.

********* edit ************
OK. Don't bother to compare the two because I took the YouTube version down. The Google version is ever so slightly better in terms of resolution, but the big YouTube logo obscured too much of the image. Since the previous post was only about the slide show as a YouTube video, I removed the entire post. As a rule, that won't be happening. If there had been some comment on that post I likely would have kept the post and just removed the video.

###### Post Script to the edit ######
In deleting the other post I inadvertantly got rid of the link to Andy McKee's site. In case you don't watch the video all the way through to the end credits, Andy's the guy playing the music. If you like what you hear, I encourage you to go check him out.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Kickin' it off.....

So, I've decided to start a photo blog and this is the first entry. Those of you who've been anxiously awaiting this moment are no doubt thrilled........

I decided to start the blog as an adjunct to my new web presence at BenjPhoto.com. The web page will house galleries, pricing info and all the businessy (is that a word?) stuff that goes along with operating a successful photography business. The style over here at the blog will be much more casual and breezy (and with an Arizona summer upon us, breezy should be very welcome).

I'll be writing about the latest things going on with BenjPhoto and with me personally. Not too personal (besides, it wouldn't be that interesting).

If you're new here (and who isn't at this point?) and would like to know more about me, cruise on over to my profile. You'll thrill to read the exploits of great daring and brave heroics and wonder at the tenacity and strength that enables a dedicated photographer to hang from a razor-thin cliff edge by his toenails and still take rock-steady photographs of rarely seen wonders. Actually, modesty prevents me from writing about those things (or was it honesty preventing me..... I get those two so confused).

At any rate, if I already know you, I'm glad you're here. If we've not been introduced, I hope to make your acquaintance soon enough. Go to BenjPhoto.com and check out the galleries, slideshows and other goodies. Let me know what you think.