How do you find the inspiration that helps you create the images you really love? Finding inspiration at the best of times can be very frustrating. If you have a deadline and need to send ideas to someone for a project you can multiply that panic. When ideas are not coming and you are getting close to the deadline true panic can set in and shut you down. Deadlines can cause panic with a very paralyzing effect.

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Being open to all the possibilities and all the possible creative influences is one way to unlock the inner creative ideas that you have. Do you have a song that you have been listening to over and over in your head? Play that song and start listening to it. Not just hearing it, the music and lyrics, but really listening. Get the lyrics and following along as your song plays over and over. Let yourself drift in the lyrics and melody and watch what you mind’s eye creates. You may see an image you just have to create.

Do you have a favorite film that you haven’t watched in a while. Get it out, watch it straight through and then go back to that one scene that you just can’t forget. Look at the lighting, the set, the wardrobe, the actors and listen to the dialogue and sounds that accompany that scene over and over. There is something about that scene that you like so find it and use that as inspiration for an image.

Music and films have always been a big influence in my life. You may have something else that you feel is a big influence in your life. Open yourself to the possibilities of that influence and see where your mind takes you. Inspiration is where you find it. Sometimes it’s the journey toward inspiration that leads to great images.

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Baseball Rainbow

Baseball on White Background

Baseball on White Background

I have been asked many times, “How did you do that in photoshop?” Well, the easy answer is that I didn’t do this in photoshop, I did this with light. Originally titled “Baseball on White Background” seemed to confuse people and suggest that the color was added after creating the image. Those of you who know me, know that I like to do things with as little photoshop work as possible unless I plan for it. Here I just wanted to have some fun with three speedlights and three colored gels. The baseball was in the middle of a triangle of speedlights. Each speedlight was fitted with a red, blue or green gel. Each speedlight produced light that was the primary color of the gel. Where two or more colors mixed a secondary color or something close to white was created. A camera, a white background, three speedlights, three gels, one baseball, lots of shadows and a rainbow of color is all it took to make this image.

Blue Bottle

Blue Bottle on White Background with Blue Shadow

This image was done in my basement using a wine bottle, a piece of white laminate (for countertops), and a single light. You could say it’s another one from the “I got bored and went into the basement…” series. I save wine bottles that interest me so that I can use them for images. I have several in a box in my basement still waiting for their chance to be a star. What attracted me to this bottle is it’s vibrant blue color. I wanted to make sure the color was nice and saturated in the shadow. I used only one light with nothing but a reflector. I experimented with a few light modifiers but none gave me what the bare bulb did. I did very little post processing using Nikon Capture NX2. This is basically right out of the camera with a little exposure adjustment and some added saturation. I’m happy with the way it turned out.

You don’t need very much room to do this kind of image. An old door on some saw horses was the “table”. The laminate was clamped to the door and curved up an unfinished wall then taped in place. One studio flash head with reflector was all I used for lighting but you can do this with a portable flash unit. Just make sure your light is pointed so it lights the background. Give it a try and have fun!

Morning Laps

PS105A001

I was working on a textbook project for the American Red Cross out in the Los Angeles area. We arrived at the pool a bit early for the day and swimmers were still getting in their morning laps. They were not closing the pool for the shoot that day so the swimmers would be using one end of the pool while we used the other. It was a very overcast morning with clouds rolling in from the west. From where we were sitting the pool and swimmers would be backlit if the sun could punch through the clouds once it rose high enough. I got out my camera and started looking for angles and watching exactly how this swimmer used the lane he was in. After trying to use the camera’s autofocus to get what I wanted in focus quite unsuccessfully, I zoned focused and waited until he came into the frame. After a couple of laps in less than great light, the sun finally got up over the hills and punched through the clouds. I was ready and only had about two laps to get this image before the clouds got too thick again and the light was gone. I’m glad I was ready for the light that I wanted. Thinking ahead is the only way I would have gotten an image like this.

Last Saturday as I walked from the Smithsonian Metro Station to the Washington Monument, I walked past tents and exhibits being prepared for this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday, June 27th and then again next week, Wednesday through Sunday, July 4th through July 8th.

Each year, National Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument is transformed into three small villages for the festival.  There is a small cabin with a garden, large tents for concerts, live shows and food. There were large banners that let you know the name of the tent and sometimes what would being offered inside. One of the banners made mention of Azerbaijani food. Now, as far as I know I have never sampled Azerbaijani cuisine, but the more I thought about it the more I knew I had to go back and try it out.

If you are looking for some arts, crafts and cultural entertainment the next two weekends, will be amazing. People from all over the world wearing in their native dress. The will be showing visitors their customs, crafts and playing their music. I’m looking forward to heading to the Mall and taking in all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes that I can because the Folklife Festival is a feast for the mind as well as the senses. Oh yeah, don’t forget to bring your camera, because the world comes to DC for this festival.

A special note about this year’s festival: The full AIDS Quilt will be on display in the Mall. This is the first time in many years that the AIDS quilt has been on display in DC. I saw the quilt many years ago when it was displayed here in Washington DC, and sadly, it has grown since then.

Take some time to visit the festival and don’t forget to bring your camera because the world comes to DC for this festival. For more information visit the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s website.

Saturday night was a great night! It was the night of the 2nd Annual Celebrate the Summer Solstice, an all night shoot in Washington, DC. We started at 7:30pm, an hour before sunset Saturday evening and went all night until 6:45am, an hour after sunrise Sunday morning. Most of the people who started didn’t make it the whole night. When 6:00am rolled around there were only 6 people, of the 20 – 25 that started the evening,  still out making images.

US Capitol at Dawn

US Capitol at Dawn

I’m glad I made it through the night with a wonderful group of photographers. I hope they had as much fun as I did. It’s not as easy as it used to be to pull an all nighter but it’s still fun! You get tired and you want to pack it in and head home. If you can hold out and keep going, you can be rewarded with some great morning light! The image above of the US Capitol is from 5:18am. Just before dawn when the sky is starting to brighten up and some great colors light up the sky. I’m glad I waited for the light to get like this.

Morning Light

Morning Light

This image was made at the last stop of our journey, the National Museum of the American Indian, just before 6am. I knew that light like this was possible but I was very happy to see just how good the light was. If you know the building, you know that the color of the stone is a golden yellow to start with but when the first light of dawn hits it, it comes alive with color. The angle of the sun has to be just right for the rays of light to get under the large overhang and light these surfaces. With a little bit of planning, being in the right place at the right time and waiting for the right light, you can get some great images!

Fredericksburg Photography Show

If you are interested in looking at photographs, as photographers we all should be, then this weekend will be a treat for you. You can take a look at other photographers’ work at the 30th annual Fredericksburg Photography Show sponsored by the Fredericksburg Department of Parks and Recreation. The show opened Thursday and runs through Sunday, at the Dorothy Hart Community Center, 408 Canal Street in Fredericksburg. The show is free and open to the public.

This year there are three divisions that photographers could participate in, junior – 16 years old and under, amateur and advanced amateur. Within each division there are 11 categories in which the photographers could enter their work: Animals (all animals and sea life), Architecture/Buildings, Black & White, Children, Close-up Nature (Including Macro), Enhanced (no restrictions on use of digital, hand tinting, Polaroid transfers, etc.), People (subject being the main interest), Plants (all plant life, including mushrooms), Scenic, Unclassified (does not fit into one of the other categories) and Sunrise / Sunset. If you are interested in photography I’m sure you will find some images that you will interest you.

Each year the Fredericksburg Photography Club supports the show by having members at the show to answer any questions you might have. They can help with questions about the show and how to participate next year. If you have any photography related questions or questions about the club I’m sure they will be happy to help.

Show Hours:
Saturday, 10am – 4pm
Sunday, 12pm – 4pm

Spider or Fly?

As a photographer are you more like a spider or a fly? I know what you’re thinking… “Vincent’s gone off the rails like the crazy train, again!” But think about it for a minute, the spider and the fly have very different ways of getting food. In many ways, they represent two very different approaches to photography. Let’s take a look at both the spider and the fly.

The Spider: The spider is the patient one of the two. The spider finds a place that they deem suitable to spin their web. Then they very carefully spin that web in order to have the best chance of catching a tasty morsel. Then the spider waits patiently for something to come along.

The Fly: The fly is in constant motion or seems to be. The fly is always busy looking for food, here, there, everywhere. Where ever there might be something tasty to eat you will find the fly.

The spider and the fly have two very different approaches to finding food. So how do they relate to photography? There are photographers that are patient and there are photographers who seem to be in constant motion. A photographer that is constantly moving and looking for that tasty morsel of an image represents the fly to me. Grabbing what they can before moving on, many times unnoticed, to the next place. Because they know if they stay in one place too long they might get shooed away or the pickings might be rather slim and they will get bored. A photographer that spends a bit of time planning, choosing just the right vantage point, waiting for all the conditions to be right, for me represents the spider. Patient, looking for just the right image. They take their time and precisely frame the image they want.

Neither approach is bad or better than the other. I have been both a spider and a fly and I am comfortable using both approaches. For me, I prefer to take my time and set things up just right and wait for that image to present itself. I also worry that I’m missing something and I should head off looking for something else.

So, as a photographer are you more like a spider or a fly?

I have often thought that it would be nice to live in some great place that everyone would like to travel to and photograph. Wouldn’t you? I was born in Key West and being very biased for that reason, I think it is one of the great places on the planet. But thinking about it, my wife was born in Stroud, Gloscestershire, in the Cotswold part of Engalnd, a pretty great place as well. Our two sons were born in Washington, DC, another great place. Lots of people travel to all three places, from all over the world, to visit and to photograph. Which got me thinking. Why is it that we ignore our own backyard, so to speak, and dream of traveling to distant lands to make images?

I live less than an hour’s drive from Washington, DC. Some people travel many, many hours to get to DC. Like most people in the DC ‘burbs, unless I have a good reason to, I don’t go to DC. Why not? There in lies the question that most of us have to answer. Why don’t we do more photography locally? I think it has to do with the fact that it is in our “backyard” and we can go there anytime we want to. I think we get used to a place and take it for granted. We figure we will have time later because we will be there for a while. Getting comfortable in a place and taking things for granted happens a lot in our lives. When we lived in Wheaton, MD, Susanne and I would joke “We will have this house fixed up just the way we want it six months before we move out!” Well, in fact, I finished working on that house, getting it just the way we would have wanted it, the day we sold it, six months AFTER we moved out! Have you lived somewhere only to move and then wish you had taken more time for making photographs while you lived there?

Life gets in the way of photography! Yes, its true! We let it, or we have no choice but to let it, and we dream. We get busy doing the things we do while we think “I can’t wait until I have time to photograph… (fill in your favorite place close by)” or dream of that big trip to some distant land. Do you know what is wrong with that way of thinking? By the time you get around to go to that place to photograph your photographic skills are so rusty most of the images are crap! At least to start with. It happens, to everyone that is not out making images on a regular basis. I know I get out of paratice and I must assume you do to. Have you ever noticed how the images from the last few days of your trip are so much better than the ones from the first week? Yeah, it happens to all of us. So what’s the cure?

Practice. Make the time to get out into your own “backyard” and practice. Your images will improve and you will be ready, photographically, for that world tour you will take, someday.

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