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Looking up

Lights Against the Sky

One aspect of photography that I love are people who see lines, symmetry and shapes in anything and everything. They can see a simple staircase and frame it perfectly so it looks like art.

I don’t know if I have that talent. I have no idea if I’ll ever develop it. I don’t necessarily “see” that way too well. Now, if you want to ask me how best to frame a storm cloud, I can help you out.

This is kind of a different image for me. Well, not kind of, it just is. No major post processing, no multiple brackets. I was outside practicing some fill-flash with my little girl when I looked up and saw these cool clouds that suddenly made an appearance. We have string lights up ever since Lyla’s 2nd birthday back in November and I just liked how they criss-crossed against the sky.

I get so consumed by waiting for the big storms, the big weather, the cool abandoned dog track…that I forget a picture taken just a few feet from my back porch can make me just as happy.

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, canon 50mm 1.4, f/3.2, iso 100, 1/5000)

Ugly Mug

This is what happens on road trips in lonely hotels…

Artificial light is something that I’m kind of nervous about. There is so much involved with it…umbrellas, softboxes, transmitters, receivers, stobes, speedlites, light metering…it seems overwhelming to me. I’ve learned a decent amount about a one-light off-camera flash setup for doing simple photobooth kind of things at events. My buddy Rick Young helped a lot with that. I am doing that again this weekend at a charity event and this time with my very own Speedlite EX II and Alien Bee transmitters.

I think it was Rick or Ken…but one of them told me to just practice. Photography is fun, and supposed to be fun…so enjoy playing and trying things out.

This is what you get when I practice 🙂

I dragged all my gear to Las Vegas last week, but left the umbrella and light stand at home. Figured I’d find a way to make it all work.

I had the camera on a tripod using a remote trigger. To the right of the picture was a giant mirror, so I decided to setup there and use that as a way to kind of bounce the light to the other side of my face. I held up the flash manually with my right hand, and used a white sock as a diffuser.

Yeah, a sock.

I asked my wife if I should even post this, she said totally. Maybe she hates me, I dunno. I also have no idea what face I’m making…I believe it’s a goofy, exaggerated wink that my wife and I sometimes do back and forth to each other to get the other person to laugh.

Either way, I wanted to have some fun on Friday. Hopefully this doesn’t give you nightmares tonight!

(exif: canon 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, f/10, iso200, 1/80, speedlite exii off left)

Cliffs of Insanity

Despite my absolute love for stormchasing, lightning and severe weather…a simple drive out to the Superstition Mountains before dawn when there is only a bit of rainy clouds in the forecast…can be just as beautiful and inspiring.

I love the awesomeness of a lightning storm. The adrenaline when I’m trying to get to a good spot for a tripod setup.

The morning I took this photograph wasn’t like that. It was relaxing. Lazy. Rolling clouds, some rain in the distance…but nothing thrilling or exciting. Yet I ended up having just as much fun as I usually do. I don’t believe I have ever been out on the Apache Trail before as the sun comes up. It was magical.

With a day predicted to have rain, you don’t even know for sure if the drive out there will reward you with a sunrise because the clouds could definitely block out any light. But not on this day. The clouds kind of rolled in after the sun was up…and the light and shadows were magnificent.

On a total side topic…this was my first day out with the 5D Mark II. I only had a 2gb card because the others I ordered hadn’t arrived yet. The RAW size is around 21-25mb, so the card could only hold around 60 images. Since most of the time I shoot six brackets per scene…I only had roughly 10 total shots I could take.

So of course I took my laptop with so I could dump photos to it as the morning progressed. Solution to the problem.

And of course I left the USB cable at home…so I couldn’t do anything. Problem remained.

I have to say…it ended up being an interesting experiment. What brackets were actually not worth keeping in exchange for a new scene I just found? Was the new scene better or worse than what I already had? Was I going to cry because I deleted one road shot for another?

I was a nice exercise in self-control. Usually we just fire off millions of shots during a photowalk or excursion like this (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t, I certainly wont stop), but it did teach me to take a bit of pause and make absolutely certain this was a shot I wanted.

ON YET ANOTHER NOTE, check out my guest blog post over on Justin Balog’s blog, Light as Magic! Thanks for asking me Justin to be a part of your Out the Front Door series…was a blast to write!

(exif: canon eos 5d mark ii, 50mm 1.4, iso100, f/10)

The Notebook

Chair and Notebook from the Dog Track

I could have gone with another movie here guys, but I didn’t think anything else worked as well as The Notebook. Sure…Shattered Glass starring Hayden Christiansen is probably more manly…but truthfully? I think Christiansen is actually a bit more girly than a girly movie.

I’ve been married for almost 13 years. My wife is from a family of criers. Before we ever got hitched, I remember sitting in a theater watching one of the biggest sob fests of all-time, My Life (Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman) with my wife, her parents, her sister and her sister’s husband. I looked down the aisle during the movie and they all had tears down their faces. I was like…really?

Flash forward to now and I’m officially part of the family because I get choked up at everything. Having a daughter has even made it worse. Too many father/daughter moments in TV/movies just totally ruin me now.

The Notebook was a great film and an amazing story…one that hits close to home with  my now deceased grandfather who suffered from Alzheimer’s. I wasn’t super close to him, but I remember always reminding him of my name when I saw him those final years. And I’m sure my grandma went through more than anyone knows.

With no real way to segue from that, the movie title is also a main subject of the photo above, one of my favorites from the dog track. This photo was kind of like The Notebook for me…it almost made me cry. Ha! Okay, not really, but when I took it, I showed it to buddies Rick and Scott and told them “This is probably the best photo I’ll take the entire time we’re here.” And I meant it. And I still feel that way.

As photographers, we can take a picture, look at it and feel like we totally nailed it. Best.Photo.I.Have.Ever.Taken. But I’ve had a number of occasions where a photo of mine that I felt was my best work just didn’t get received the way I thought it would. We have all probably dealt with that because it’s hard to be  completely objective when it comes to our own stuff.

I love this scene from top to bottom. The chair amidst shattered glass with a notebook sitting on it. An open doorway letting in an intense amount of light from the setting sun. Rich shadows. This was one of the first shots I processed from the dog track but it took me this long to post it to the blog. I was almost fearful of putting it out there and getting hit with the stark reality that it’s just not as good as I think it is.

But that’s photography really isn’t it? I mean, not all of it…but we want our photos to be seen by people and when you do that, you are welcoming in all comments and critiques…good, bad, indifferent. And that’s just part of being what we are. And the truth is…the more I shoot, the less I care about what people think because this is WHO I am…this is my style…and I’m confident in it and proud of it.

Now excuse me, I’m sure my buddy Bob Lussier is going to ask me for my man card at any moment, but the joke’s on him…I gave that thing away a looooong time ago.