• Archives
  • Nov30

    After a month of growth, today marks the last day of November as well as the end of my beard (for now). It’s interesting to see how even a simple chore such as taking my own photo every day starts to make my mind wander into new territory. I started out just using the same lighting and spot and then started experimenting with the way I was lighting myself – changing the umbrella configurations, playing with gels, and using the walls as a giant bounce flash. I actually learned a bunch doing this because I let myself play around with it. If you find yourself in a personal project such as this one, by all means you should exploit it! I only wish I started stepping out of my element sooner.

    You can check out the whole set on Flickr here. Here is today’s final photo. I half-assed it.

    NSN-Day30

  • Nov30

    Disney World 2010

    One of the benefits of being a photographer and going on vacation is being in a place you don’t experience every day. On the other hand, one of the obvious problems in visiting a vacation destination is trying to make something new in a place that everyone shoots! No other place defines that issue more to me than Disney World. You can’t take a step without seeing someone with a camera up to their eye. From cell phones to the most expensive DSLR’s on the market, it’s a safe bet to say that Disney World is the most photographed vacation destination in the world. So how do you make something new while visiting a place like that?

    Disney World 2010

    I look at a place like this as a great way to further define your style, because that is the only thing that will separate your shots from the tens of thousands of other shots taken every day. What can you inject into a scene that makes it yours?

    Disney World 2010

    It can be overwhelming when you start to think that you are photographing a mostly man-made environment – how are you making art out of someone else’s art? That is what photography is all about! Capturing images of life the way you see and interpret them. You’re telling a story with your own voice, even if it’s a retelling of another person’s tale.

    Disney World 2010

    Adding your loved ones into an interesting background is a no-brainer, but how about making them a part of the artwork by composing them as an element in it?

    Disney World 2010

    I personally like to look for shapes and textures in a place like this – especially during those harsh mid-day hard-lit hours. You can shoot in every type of light, but you need to work within its limitations while exploiting its positive points.

    Disney World 2010

    When looking for design elements, you can always make a decent picture much better by adding an element that sticks out, such as people. I started shooting this scene and even though I loved the color and angles, I was bored with it until I asked my daughter and her cousin to sit off on the side of the wall.

    Disney World 2010

    As I’ve stated in previous posts, I also love to shoot in low light. I composed this shot and used the guard railing inside Space Mountain to brace the camera as my son awaited the last ride of the evening (and our vacation).

    Disney World 2010

    This photo was made by holding the camera steady against the fender of the car/table directly in front of my family’s seats at the Sci-Fi Diner.

    Disney World 2010

    When you don’t have anything to act as a makeshift tri-pod, you can get low to steady your elbows on your legs, shoot wide open and crank up the ISO. This shot was done at f/2.8 and ISO 1600. I had to take quite a few of this scene to ensure that at least one of them would be acceptably sharp. It’s digital, it doesn’t cost you anything to let the shutter fly, but you can loose everything you’re trying to say if you’re not generous with your disk space in extreme shooting conditions such as this.

    Disney World 2010

    There are plenty of opportunities on vacation to relax and stretch your creative mind out while behind the lens. Go ahead and try new stuff while opening your eyes a bit wider to find the shots that most people might skip over. I still haven’t shown you my favorite shot that I took on this trip, but I have hundreds of photos to go through. I promise to share it with you this week as I get more time – the sucky part of returning home from vacation is all of the work that piles up in your absence, so I’ve got a busy week ahead of me.

  • Nov26

    Go Big!

    Posted in: Inspiration

    Freestyle Motocross

    Reflecting after Thanksgiving, being away from my day job, and having some time to generally rest my brain has been a cathartic experience. I run so fast through each week and am amazed at the beginning of each month that I’ve passed through the previous one without even a chance to settle into it. It has me thinking that I need to keep growing my craft. Time is of the essence and I can’t settle, I need to go big.

    Ever since I identified photography as my creative outlet a couple of years ago, I’ve been on a steady climb with my ability, focus, and style. Within this past year, I’ve been giving myself personal projects, stepping out of my comfort zone, and really putting myself out there. I’ve completed a 365 project, which was a huge task (just look at how many start on Flickr, but never get finished – it’s not easy) and after that I started this website. I’ve also been published in Charleston Magazine a couple of times, including their Last Page feature, as well as various other publications such as Australia’s Hysteria Magazine, and I’ve been featured on blogs and news sites such as The Digitel. I actually received an award for one of my pictures, and I got the opportunity to lead a photography related session at BarCamp. I’m super excited about the upcoming Help-Portrait sessions because it is something much bigger than anything I could ever do on my own. In particular, this Help-Portrait project really has been inspired.

    I need to keep climbing this mountain ahead of me, and there is no time for plateaus. I need to push my ambition into overdrive. The question is what next? I do hope to keep the Help-Portrait idea going for more than just this December, but other than that, I need to do something big in a different way. Up until now, I’ve been what I consider an amateur – someone who does this for the love of it. I don’t want to ever lose that affection for photography. But, my wife has been yelling in my ear lately that it’s time to get paid. I get a little scared of that, because if I get paid, then it’s a job. If it’s a job, then it becomes something you have to do. If I have to do it, instead of wanting to do it, I will resent it. But enough of this silly rationalization. I see now that my own fear is making up excuses. I need to prove to myself that I’m worth it. I need to get hired and deliver above an beyond what I’ve been asked to do. It’s not about the money, it’s about the accomplishment.

    Right now, the creative part of my mind is an open book. A journal that has been written into randomly and needs to be organized into a cohesive work. I’m very open to your suggestions, in fact, I would truly appreciate your input on this one. So please, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or right here – please shoot me some thoughts about going bigger. How do you see someone like me best contributing to the world of photography?

  • Nov25


    Happy Thanksgiving From The Magic Kingdom

    Just a quick post from the Magic Kingdom from my family to you. We have a lot to be thankful for, especially these two happy and healthy kids who we get to spoil every now and again!

    This picture was taken with my camera by one of the street photographers on Main Street.

  • Nov24

    A Change Of Pace

    Posted in: News

    Kegan Sledding

    For the last couple of Thanksgiving holidays my family has traveled up into the mountains of North Carolina for some sledding, hiking, and Turkey. The picture above is my son gliding down Beech Mountain last year. This year, we’ve decided to change it up a bit and head to warmer pastures. We’ll still be spending our time with family, but also with the giant mouse and his gang in Florida. I’m kind of sad that we wont be playing in the snow, but who can resist the allure of Space Mountain five times in a row during “Magic Hours”?

    I will try to post a short update or two during my vacation and I will still be updating my “No Shave November” self-portraits here.

    To all of you folks out there reading this, I truly hope you can take some time during the holiday to reflect on all of the positive things in your life. No matter what cards life deals you, there is always something worth living for in everybody’s life. The challenge is to identify and accept the gifts you have, then have the strength to employ them.

    I for one know that the most thankful thing my family claims at the table every year is small, fluffy, and likes to sleep on top of my head at night. Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours (and to little Lola too)!

    Day 213 - Lola Smiles

  • Nov23

    Mac B&W

    If you read a lot of photography blogs and/or books, you will hear the veterans of the craft talk about the shot between the shots. That it, the real shot is the one that is caught when the subject is off guard and their true personality shows.

    Over the weekend, I was walking my dogs with my son and when we came upon a small pond in our neighborhood. The morning light was awesome and my jaw dropped when I looked up and saw the color of the trees behind the pond. I immediately decreed that it was time to take fall portraits of the children. Unfortunately, my wife and daughter were working at a community garage sale and then I had to take my daughter to piano practice right afterward. That meant no picture taking until the ugly hours of the middle afternoon. Booo. As luck would have it, a bunch of clouds rolled in and turned the ugly direct sunlight into soft diffused daylight! I dragged an umbrella out to the pond that afternoon and asked the kids to stand together for a portrait to send to their Grandmother for her upcoming birthday. I swear, I almost lost my mind trying to get these two to stand still and smile. After only a couple of attempts, this was the best I could do:

    Kids Fall Portrait

    I wish I had the patience with my own children to somehow get them to cooperate, but within seconds after this shot my kids were rolling on the banks of the pond and then my son ran off all upset at his sister! Here I was, just getting started, and they were finished. When shooting kids – there’s no practice time. You’ve gotta get it right immediately or else you lose them.

    I asked my daughter to smile pretty for some shots after my boy ran off. When I did that, she put on what was obvious to me as the world’s most forced smile and pose. If I could see it, the world would see it as well. So, I began to talk in a crazy demon voice and she started to giggle at my silliness. Luckily, she was in frame. That is the shot at the top of the post, which was my favorite of the day – the shot between the shots. That’s my daughter – a happy kid who loves to laugh, and that’s how she looks when she’s doing it.

  • Nov21

    College of Charleston Observatory

    As I stated in Friday’s post, I love shooting after the sun goes down. One of the coolest techniques you can use to spruce up your long exposures is called painting with light. Basically, you use a flashlight to paint in the object you are trying to photograph in order to make it stand out in the frame. In the image above, there was a lot of ambient light on the right side of the College of Charleston Observatory dome, so I used my Fenix E01 pocket flashlight to fill in the left side.

    Fenix E01

    An alternative to the E01 if you have a camera phone with an LED flash such as the iPhone 4, which is just as bright when using one of the countless flashlight apps available. A step up would be something like the Fenix LD15, which is capable of 117 lumens versus the E01’s 10 lumens (Hint to anybody who’s reading).

    What about a much larger object? A puny pocket flashlight can surprisingly make a huge difference, but sometimes you want to really light up a structure, such as this lighthouse. In this situation, a car was parked on the side of the lighthouse and the owner was kind enough to turn on its headlights to illuminate the whole side of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. Even still, I used my pocket flashlight to fill in some of the lighthouse’s left side.

    Day 166 - Sullivan's Island Lighthouse at Night

    Photography is all about capturing light, so anything that you can use to manipulate or create it is another item in your mental bag of gear. Whenever I shoot something like the photos above, after I compose the shot and take a test frame, I always think of way to improve it while I’m there. You should rarely ever shoot and think about how you can fix it later. In most situations, post processing should be about maximizing the information that you caught, not about changing it completely. Having a flashlight in you pocket that is just a little bit bigger than a AAA battery is a helpful tool to have for more than finding your keys in the dark!

  • Nov19

    Mt. Pleasant's Riverfront Park

    Just in time for the holidays, I wanted to offer two recent photographs I made at Mount Pleasant’s Riverfront Park just after the sun went down. There’s a short magical window of light where everything gets a very deep saturation and it’s one of my favorite times of day to shoot in. This photo below was taken a few minutes before the one up above, and you can see the difference in the intensity of the color in just a short span of time.

    Mount Pleasant's Riverfront Park

    Just a reminder, if you are planning to purchase framing through my store and want to do a mat or use glass, those options are not available when you choose Metallic Printing as the printer states a problem with it sticking to the glass. Personally, I don’t think you would have a problem if you use a mat because it would separate the print from the glass, and I’ve been pleading with them to change it. Until then, the color paper option still looks fantastic.

  • Nov18

    Charleston Docks

    In contrast to yesterday’s post, today I snapped a shot of the docks off of East Bay Street in Charleston, SC. I have driven past these docks plenty of times before, and I always wanted to stop and take a shot of them. Today, I decided to practice what I preach and pulled the car over. I walked up and down the street looking for a good shot. I was intentionally trying to frame it to show only a man-made landscape. When the worker walked through the frame, It morphed the whole idea into something new for me.

    Look at the grandeur of what we as humans can do. Items such as the shipping containers which see much more of this world geographically than most of the people who create them. Their bold colors, stark texture, and patternless arrangement like giant building blocks line the coast with giant cranes replacing Palmetto trees and a magnificent suspension bridge carving out the skyline like a pair of mountain peaks. In the foreground, instead of grass, lay the train tracks that will eventually cart those boxes to the mainland. Walking through it all is a man. Man, who created this landscape, is strolling through his domain. It’s as if the creator of the world was caught walking through a valley and someone snapped a photo of it.

    Every element in your work matters. To me, what started out as a shot to simply show an artificial landscape turned into a nearly spiritual representation of creativity with the addition of one small but meaningful element. It’s the little details that can define a bigger picture.

  • Nov17

    Wadmalaw Windmill

    Every so often I get the pleasure of driving out to Wadmalaw Island. For anyone who’s never been out there, it’s about 40 minutes outside of Charleston and it’s one of those drives that makes you want to crank up some rootsy music, roll down the windows, and breathe in the fresh air.

    Tractor on Wadmalaw

    When I lived in New York and commuted into Manhattan everyday, I used to look forward to the train ride on most days (the days when they were late or broken down were not a treat). It was a time to relax, listen to music, read books, meditate, or just take in the quickly changing landscape as you travel from the suburbs into the crossroads of the world. It was a fantastic commute if you were able to look at it that way, and that’s the way I look forward to the occasional trip out to the far reaches of Maybank Highway on Wadmalaw. The best part? When you get out there the cell phone stops working! I know I have a very good excuse for unplugging from the world for a while because I have no choice – just like when the Long Island Railroad heads under the East River on its final approach to Penn Station.

    Ryan Bingham has a knack for hitting the nail dead on the head. He captures what I’m trying to convey in song perfectly.

    It ain’t that I can’t see,
    Or find my way home,
    It’s just that I like to breath,
    Out on country roads.

    I love when music and photography are speaking the same language. Where do you find your moments of Zen in everyday life?