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Rock The River FXBG 2017 will be the biggest and best RTRFXBG yet! On Saturday, June 3rd I’ll be there at the Create Photographics booth giving lighting demonstrations throughout the day. I’ll also have a limited number of prints available for purchase. Make your plans to visit Rock The River today. For more info visit Rock The River FXBG. I hope to see you there!

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I have decided to change some of what I post about here on this blog. There is a good reason why and it has to do with one of my biggest pet peeves. Everyone has pet peeves and I certainly have a few of my own. One thing that really peeves me is the misinformation that can be found all over the interwebs that concerns photography. Things like:

ISO controls shutter speed – asked by several different people in classes I have taught, I tracked this one down to a book by a well-known author of photography books. ISO never controls shutter speed. It can’t, never has and never will.

Neutral density filters control depth of field – I saw this recently on a well-known blog about photography. Wrong! Again, they can’t, never have and never will. This title is misleading and doesn’t have to be. Why do they do this? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s a kind of clickbait enticing people to read because they know that ND filters can’t control depth of field. The problem with this tactic is new photographers will read this and the title of the post will get stuck in their heads.

I will try to shine a light on this misinformation when I find it and post that information here to help correct or clarify why it is incorrect. I will still be posting tips and tricks but not here. That information will be posted on other blogs. I’ll post links when I have everything sorted out.

I’ll be looking for things to post about so if you have heard of anything misleading or just need some clarification on a topic please let me know. I hope I can help. Thanks for bearing with me. I have some ideas for posts, including the list above, in the works and you should see them posted here very soon!

Doing What You Love

Baseball on White Background

Baseball on White Background

You have probably heard the old saying, “Do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.” While I truly believe that, I like to keep the Peace Corps’ slogan in mind when thinking about photography, “The toughest job you’ll ever love.”

Why is photography one of the toughest jobs you will ever love?

The hours stink – Weekend, what’s a weekend? One Sunday I worked on a project from 6:15am until 8:30pm. Those are long hours to work on a weekend after a “normal” work week. That doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Over the years I have created a more manageable routine for myself. I use Mondays to sort out the coming week and to tidy up any loose ends from the previous week. In the past, I did try to do that on Friday, but it never worked for me.

Family life suffers – Your significant other wants you to spend a lazy day around the house, but the “Honey Do” list has more than a few ongoing projects to be finished. The problem here is that there are some very cool things happening that you would love to go and photograph. It’s a tough choice, but I try to make room for everything which can work out well or be a complete disaster. You never know which going in.

The money – Well, let’s just say you probably did not get into photography for the money anyway. Besides, no one has a budget for photos because the economy is circling the drain and everyone is broke so why should you make any money? Sounds reasonable right? Not exactly, the trick here is to find clients who realize that photography is a great way to help market their business in the long run.

Creativity – Huge bonus points on this one! I’m not sure there are many other jobs where you can be playing with smoke in a studio one day and working in a foundry the next. Being out all night on a ride along with paramedics, spending a night in the ER, hanging out of a helicopter at 1500ft, climbing up a vertical rock face all tend to help spark moments of profound creativity or sheer terror, sometimes both!

I have enjoyed being a photographer for many years, and every time I hear that someone wants to get into the business, I think that’s great. The world needs more creative people in it. The more, the merrier I say.

Sky on Fire

Sky on Fire

As children we learned by playing and as photographers we still learn by playing. My youngest son’s favorite question for many years was “What if…” Every time he would ask that question I could see the wheels turning while he tried to imagine all the possibilities. As photographers we do the same thing all the time. When we ask that question with a camera in our hands the wheels are definitely turning. “What if I made the background more out of focus?” “What if I drag the shutter?” What if… what if… what if? Some of the answers to that question get pretty creative and being creative is what photography is all about.

Even when I say I’m “working” I’m still trying to imagine all the possibilities of a thousand “what if’s”. I put working in quotes because for me, most of the time, making photos doesn’t seem like work. The feeling that this might be work comes from other things but not photography itself. I might be under the pressure of a short deadline or in the midst of loosing light but when it come right down to it, you guessed it, I’m playing!

If I weren’t having fun I’d probably be sitting on the couch with the TV tuned in and my mind tuned out. Creativity comes much easier when I’m having a good time, so I play. For me, when I have my camera, playing is always a good time. I’m not afraid to be a little silly when I can be and I don’t take myself too seriously. One of those silly ideas might lead me to the best idea of the day.

Playing with a camera in my hand let’s me be curious and try things that I’m not entirely sure about. Just do it and see what happens. The results might surprise me. Happy accidents happen all the time and quite often produce some great photos. I know for a fact that happy accidents will not happen unless I’m trying something that I haven’t tried before. Happy accidents also happen when I haven’t thought the process all the way through. These are the best kind because I’m thinking one thing is going to happen and something completely different happens!

Whenever you can grab your camera and head out to play and be sure to have some fun. You just might learn a thing or two while you’re at it.

Be Inspired

Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral

Cloisters, Gloucester Cathedral

Inspiration comes in many different ways and in many different forms. The real trick to getting inspired is being open to the possibilities. Yesterday I had the good fortune to be part of a group that was discussing blogging. It’s obvious that I have not been active on this blog for some time. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, it’s just that I have not been inspired to write it. In many ways, I have missed writing. I can’t say that writing has always been something I looked forward to, but I do enjoy writing posts for this blog.

As a photographer, I’m usually looking for inspiration to make photos. What wild idea can I use and try to bring to life photographically? Where can I go that will help photos come more freely? What creative source can I tap into to help make interesting photos? There are no easy answers to these questions. On a recent trip to the UK, I didn’t go out to make photos as often as I thought I might. The holidays are for spending time with family so that is what I did and I enjoyed their company quite a bit. I did go out with the express purpose of making photos twice. Once for a walk by my self and another time to Gloucester Cathedral. You might recognize the photo from the cloisters at the cathedral. Several scenes from the Harry Potter films were shot there.

The inspiration for this post comes directly from the meeting yesterday about blogging. I started thinking of different things I want to talk about. The many posts I have started and never finished. The backstories of the photos that I want to share. Inspiration is all around us. All we need to do is be open to it. When we are open to it, inspiration will find us, we won’t have to go looking for it. I know this time of year can be uninspiring photographically. They call it “the dead of winter” for a reason. And then there are the cold temperatures to deal with, definitely not my favorite conditions to make photos in. But looking around, there is something nearby, maybe even within arm’s reach that will inspire you to do something that you haven’t done in a while. Take the opportunity to be inspired and to do whatever that might be.

Nest Egg

A year or two ago I found two bird nests after they had fallen out of the trees after a storm. I thought they would make nice props so I picked them up and put them in a place where they could dry in the sun. Once they were dry I sealed them in separate plastic bags and then sealed both inside another plastic bag. After that, into the freezer they went and stayed for quite some time. I think it was a year or more. I wanted to be sure any mites or other things that might be living there were well a truly dead. I picked up the egg at a local art supply store and the wood in the background is actually porcelain floor tile from a local building supply store I bought for a different project.

As with many of the photos I make, I had been mulling over the idea to make a photo like this for some time. The other night, I finally decided to work on it. I grabbed the floor tile and set up the background. Then the nest and the egg were place and propped us as I wanted them. I knew I wanted very directional light that spilled in a tight ring around the nest so I used a 10º grid over a single light. I chose my camera angle and tweaked everything to get it just the way I wanted it.

Nest Egg

Nest Egg

Technical Data: Nikon D7100, 50mm f1.4 lens at f16, 1/250 second (x250 sync), 10º grid on a Dynalite head.

I find thinking about photos I want to create, sometimes for a prolonged period, helps me get exactly the photo I imagine. This photo is the result of thinking about creating it off and on for many months or maybe more than a year. I knew the look of the lighting I wanted and the background. It took a bit of tweaking to get the circle of light just the way I wanted it with the fall off to near darkness. I’m happy with the results.

 

Carabiners

Carabiners
Carabiners

Carabiners

As photographers we see the world differently than other people do. Were we born seeing the world this way or did we develop a different way of seeing? Either way we see things that others often don’t. I was out with the Rappahannock Area Climbers Meetup group last Thursday getting ready to climb Rappahannock Rocks, a local climbing spot a few minutes from downtown Fredericksburg, VA. Keith from River Rock Outfitter was getting the gear ready to set some anchors for our climb when he took a handful of carabiners from his pack and let them spill out over the rock. He was concerned with making sure that the anchors were set correctly and never paid attention to the way carabiners looked. As he said later, “That’s why we bring Vincent!”

I feel it’s my job as a photographer to see differently, to notice those things that others don’t. Seeing differently is a unique perspective we bring to making our photos. Have you ever been out with a group of photographers and after everyone has shared their photos you see things that you would like to have photographed but never noticed? You might have been standing right next to it. You may have even looked right at it and it never registered. If we aren’t born with a different way of seeing we can certainly develop one. The more we make photos the more we develop our unique way of seeing.

Technical Info: Ricoh GR Digital 4, 250 ISO, 1/100 sec., f 6.3, 6mm (24mm equivalent)

Trail in Shenandoah National Park

I know photographers that only head out to make photos in what they feel is perfect weather conditions for the photos they want to make. If there is a chance of rain or even heavy overcast they stay at home and don’t go out. That is unfortunate because you miss out on a lot of opportunities. Sure, I have been disappointed when the weather takes a turn for the worse. But more often than not I come home with some interesting photos.

Trail in Shenandoah National Park

Trail in Shenandoah National Park

The forecast called for cloudy to mostly cloudy skies last Tuesday for Harrisonburg, VA. I knew that it was time to head up to Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park for the day! For most of us, when the forecast calls for cloudy skies, the clouds will be rather high in the sky. When you are on a mountain, cloudy skies can mean you will be in the clouds! And that is exactly what I wanted. I spent the day walking trails in the clouds.

Last Light of Day on Old Rag Mountain

The last light of day on Old Rag Mountain.

There was a break in the cloud cover but not for long. Plus, it depended on where you were on Skyline Drive. A few tenths of a mile could mean clear skies or staying in clouds. As I rounded a bend I could see Old Rag Mountain bathed in some nice golden light. I hurried to the next over look and got a photo just in time. A minute or two later, the light was gone.

As photographers we need to study more than just photography. Study the weather if you photograph outdoors. Look for changeable weather not just clear blue skies. Find conditions that will help enhance the photos that you want to make and get out there!

Wegner Brothers

Stewart and Steven Wegner in their galler
Stewart and Steven Wegner in their galler

Stewart and Steven Wegner in their gallery.

In May I had the opportunity to photograph the Wegner brothers for the June issue of Rappahannock Magazine. They have a gallery and foundry on Wofle Street in Fredericksburg. Like most of that part of Wolfe street the building was once part of an ice cream factory. Stewart and Steven are twins who have been creating bronze works of art together for many years. If you have never been to a foundry before it’s interesting to see everything that goes into make a bronze sculpture. They use the “lost wax” method to create their sculptures. I won’t go into all of the steps necessary to make a bronze casting this way but there are many. Some are more tedious than others but they are all necessary to create the pieces that they do. While I was there they were working on several different projects.

Steven and Stewart Wegner pouring molten bronze into molds.

Steven and Stewart Wegner pouring molten bronze into molds.

I helped to pour the bronze for a plaque at the College of Charleston commemorating the 200th anniversary of the college while I was a student there. Pouring bronze is a hot and heavy task. Steven told me that the molten bronze is about the same temperature and the center of a nuclear explosion, around 2400º fahrenheit. Not something you want to spill down the front of you! In fact, it would probably go right through you. Molten bronze pours like water, glows bright orange and is very heavy. It took four of us to pour the bronze for the rather large plaque. Steven and Stewart can pour several pieces at a time depending on the size of the pieces. It is quite a process to watch and to photograph.

Stewart Wegner working on a wax casting.

Stewart Wegner working on a wax casting.

Stewart Wegner sifts silica over a mold.

Steven Wegner sifts silica over a mold.

Stewart Wegner putting the finishing touches on a bronze sculpture.

Stewart Wegner putting the finishing touches on a bronze sculpture.

Steven and Stewart Wegner in their foundry.

Steven and Stewart Wegner in their foundry.

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