• Archives
  • Jan31

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    In my exploration of different types of photography, one of my many goals was to try maternity photography. I was all set to shoot Crystal, who was also the subject of my first wedding shoot (I thought it would be fitting to shoot her again), but as I explained in this post, life took an unexpected turn and that opportunity passed. Back to the drawing board. I asked my wife if she knew anyone and she presented me with one of her clients, Tamara.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    The challenge was to explore the different popular poses, lighting methods, and themes in maternity photography while looking to create something new. I started off by searching through popular photo sites like Flickr and 500px for the work of other photographers to see what they are doing. I also wanted to prepare Tamara for what I expected from her, so my wife and I picked our favorite photos and shared them with Tamara. I was hoping that by attempting the tried and true in maternity photography, but applying my style and lighting techniques, I’d get inspired to expand on what’s been done before and find something new. Get inspired, build on that inspiration, and then veer off into a new direction with what you’ve learned. That’s been a pretty good road map for me creatively.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    This shot above has been done a million times before. The old “heart hands” as I like to call it. It’s cute, it’s got hands (which are always interesting photographically), and it’s got a touch of sentiment behind it. If you search the internet for maternity photos, you’ll find hundreds of the same type of photo. Still, I set up the shot and do it almost as if it’s an exercise. While I’ve got Tamara and her husband in front of my camera, I’m able to work with what I see, and because I’m liking the hands, I setup another tried & true photo of dad kissing mom’s belly. This time, I want to see their hands. This photo is all about the hands graphically.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    Another shot I see usually taken from the mother’s perspective is the shot of the belly with their feet up against a wall and crossed. I decided to try a variation of that and had Tamara look back at me while lying on her back with her feet up and legs crossed. Since I was using a backdrop, I had no wall! This was a situation where help is 100% necessary and my wife Amy was playing the part of photo assistant. I had Amy hold up her legs and on the count of three she let go and I quickly snapped the photo. As you can expect, this position is anything but easy for a girl just weeks away from giving birth to pull off!

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    Building off that shot, I grabbed the blue bed sheet that we later used in the photo at the top of this post as well as baby blocks. This time I let her keep her feet down as the blocks were now a major element in the photo.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    Since we had the blocks out and the mother on her back, I got her 1st born involved. He had just taken a bath and didn’t finish getting dressed yet, but I though it would be cool if he left the shirt off, just like mommy! We spelled out his new brother’s name and had him play with the blocks. His smile is genuine, because what kid doesn’t want to play with blocks?

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    I also have him pose with his brother in this shot as he listens for little Gabriel’s heartbeat. I love the contrast of his hand with his Tamara’s as well as the catchlight in his eyes.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    Another shot I really love is the low-key rim-lit shot of a (seemingly) naked maternal figure. The photo up top is one example using two lights, and the one just below is shot using one light source to create a dramatic image with shadows. The beautiful curves of an expectant mother is one of the most stunning subjects one can photograph. I say seemingly because she’s got her bottoms on as well as being fully taped up on top. The illusion is always more interesting as it leaves more to the imagination! Sorry to spoil that for ya…

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    The rest of the shoot was done using natural lighting. I set up this scene in her front window with the theme of waiting. At this point in her pregnancy, it’s about all she can think about – the waiting.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    The sun was getting low in the sky, so we took advantage of the golden hour and hurried outside for a family shot. As I was shooting the family together, we got one magical moment where the dogs stopped, looked at the camera, and posed. It was amazing!

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    Tamara was spent. She was such a trooper as we tried different poses, set-ups, and wardrobe changes. After hours of shooting, she was ready for one last setup – the bubble bath.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

    This leads me to what I think is my most successful shot of the day. This photo screams maternity. An exhausted mom relaxing in the tub, feet up, candles lit, and a grin on her face that glows with the anticipation of the chaos that will be upon her and her family in the coming weeks. Right at this moment she takes a minute to enjoy the best part about being a woman, the gift of life.

    Tamara Maternity Shoot

  • Jan20

    G. Love and Special Sauce

    Last night I was faced with a terrible decision. It was the end of a long day spent working on a project and I was wiped out – I needed to relax for another long day working on the same project. I also knew that G. Love & Special Sauce were playing at the Music Farm in Charleston, SC just at the time I was finishing for the day. Well, you’re reading this now because I made the rock n’ roll choice to go down in flames. You only live once here on earth, best make the most of it.

    Opening the show was the Alabama native Kristy Lee.

    Kristy Lee

    She dresses like 90’s era Ice Cube, talks like an old southern maid, and sings like it’s her last day on earth and she wants the world to remember exactly who she is. She was amazing – I couldn’t believe just how talented she was live. She got the place going better than most full bands could. She’s like a gospel singer who sings about whiskey instead of God. I loved it.

    Kristy Lee

    G. Love & Special Sauce hit the stage like freight train. Timo Shanko was on bass and the Houseman Jeffrey Clemens was on drums as the stripped down trio rocked the Holy City.


    It quickly became apparent that God has returned to the earth and has taken the form of G. Love’s bass player. Timo was on fire. The guy is unbelievable.


    On Stage right was the Houseman slapping the skins like it’s New Orleans in February and he’s got all the beads. The old school voodoo rhythm keeper kept the funkiness turned to 11.


    If Timo’s the God, and Houseman’s the Devil, then G. Love’s the prophet telling us all how it is in the D-Cell slinging streets of Philadelphia. He’s not going back to Jersey ’cause he knows he’s fixin’ to die. He’s taking I76 and his baby’s got sauce, so you better holla.


    The last time I saw G. Love, it was about 15 years ago at Tramps in NYC. I always remembered how this guy brought the ladies in – It was about a 10 to 1 ratio of girls to guys then, and they were all smokin’. 15 years later, and the man still has it. The crowd was a great example of Charleston’s reputation of being home to some of the world’s prettiest ladies.


    G-Love-58 G-Love-22 G-Love-23


    Kristy Lee came back out to sing with the boys:


    The band did not waver, and the crowd was bumpin’ and grinding all night long…




    I took a lot of shots of the show, so make sure to browse through this set on Flickr. I had a fantastic time, but all things must come to an end, so I leave you with a crowd shot I took before I headed back home to my lady:


  • Jan19

    Aurora Kuck 1/8/2012

    When you see a baby that’s just under 2 lbs and is alive, animated, & looking up at you with big beautiful eyes, you can’t help but be amazed at the wonders of life. The folks at MUSC Children’s Hospital are miracle workers for being able to do things like this every single day.


    It was only a couple of weeks ago that I was talking to Aurora’s mother Crystal about shooting maternity pictures. She was worried that it was too soon and she wasn’t really showing much. Life happens in it’s funny ways and Aurora decided it was time to come out (way ahead of schedule). Lo and behold, I ended up shooting baby pictures!


    Walking through the NICU is kind of intimidating – it’s looks like a scene from the X-FIles with all of these blue glowing pods and walls lined with medical equipment and monitors. I was expecting to see some alien being floating in a tube of liquid, but instead I saw little miracles of medical science as babies were being cared for with the greatest of expertise and love.


    Crystal wanted to make sure we got a picture of Sarah, who’s one of many Sarah’s that have been attending to little Aurora. The new mom said that Sarah was her favorite nurse, but she never said which Sarah…


    Welcome to the world little girl, you’ve got two loving parents and a big family just waiting to spoil you. What more could you ask for?

  • Jan18

    This morning I opened up my laptop to my homepage. I have Reddit.com as my home page because I like to smile and “real news” is for the sheeple of the world. Why hear about last night’s debates when I can see cats with burrito hats? I opened up my browser and got this:

    Uh oh, there must be a server issue. Let me check WordPress.org to see what’s going on in the blogosphere.

    Hmmm, that’s strange. Maybe Firefox is broken. Let me head over to Mozilla.com to download an update.

    What the hell? Is the internet broken? Screw it, I’ll just play a little Minecraft to pass the time…

    Red background, white text – it must be CHinese hackers!! Let’s look up China on the old Wikipedia and see if there’s any helpful info…

    Dammit, let me Google this. Google always has the answer.

    What is going on?? What kind of world am I living in where information isn’t freely available? What can I do? Who can I call?

    Without free information, how can we be truly free?

  • Jan15

    Sunday Sunrise Snapseed 1

    One of my favorite iPhone/iPad photo editing apps is now available on the Mac App Store, and it’s called Snapseed. It’s more than just an effects application, but it’s strength is that it’s a quick and fun way to add some textures and styles to your images. The people at Nik software are really setting the bar pretty high with their image editing effects, and this mobile app crossover is no exception.

    I was up at an ungodly hour this morning (for a Sunday) and managed to catch the sunrise from my back porch. I decided to make lemonade out of the lemony situation and play around with the photo in Snapseed to see what I could make with it. The image above was made using their “Grunge” effects as a starting point. The following is the same photo was using Snapseed’s “Vintage” effects as the starting point:

    Sunday Sunrise Snapseed 2

    It also has a mean black & white converter. This version of the image used the “Film” preset as a starting point as well as a green filter effect:

    Sunday Sunrise Snapseed 3

    And for the purists out there, it also does some very subtle basic adjustments, such as saturation, cropping & straightening, sharpening, etc. The interface is very simplified compared to more professional editing software such as Adobe Lightroom, which to some might be a selling point. Here’s the same photo straight out of Lightroom as a reference point:

    Sunday Sunrise

    For $20, this application is a steal.

  • Jan12

    In case you haven’t heard, this week Adobe has released a public Beta of their upcoming release of their photo cataloging/editing software Lightroom 4. When I read the announcement on Scott Kelby’s blog, I giddily downloaded it to see what they have in store for us Lightroom users. Besides some new modules I may never personally use (Such as Map & Book), the interface looks identical to Lightroom 3.5. But, as I poked around in the one module I spend 99.9% of my time in, the Develop Module, I found gold.

    The panel on the left is from Lightroom 3.5’s adjustment brush settings panel, and the one on the right is from Lightroom 4 Beta’s. Do you see those new sliders? Do you know what they mean? You can now selectively paint white balance adjustments as well as selectively control shadows & highlights, as well as noise & moiré. These new adjustments are also available in the graduated filter. This is the one thing I’ve been wishing for since I started using Lightroom! Lets look at what this means with an example:

    You might want to open that image in a new tab or window (ctrl + click it on a PC or command + click it on a Mac). The shot on the left is the original jpeg out of my camera, and the one on the right is a quick edit using the new adjustments. Using the new shadows slider, I’m able to only paint the musician’s face to bring out the details from the shadow caused by his hat brim while leaving the background unchanged. Using the highlights adjustment, I’m able to tame the blown out details in his face and also recover a lot of his shirt’s details. I am also able to enhance the backlighting of his hat to further separate it from the background. The localized white balance adjustment comes in handy in adding some warmth to his face, and by using another brush I’m able to remove the blue tint from his shirt. Add a touch of vignetting, and that’s it.

    Let me show you what the same photo looks like as I edited it in the old & busted Lightroom 3.5:

    2nd Sunday On King St-49

    Now, take a look at the same photo as I edited it in the new hotness of Lightroom 4 Beta:

    Lightroom 4 Edit

    I see a huge difference in the ease of getting that kind of result. Sure, I could do it before by exporting it into Photoshop, but now I can do relatively quick edits when I develop my photos and save a bunch of time in the process! Now as soon as Adobe addresses the bugginess of the beta release (I find it to be very kludgy – it stalls and locks up when making adjustments, much like Lightroom 3’s beta did back in the day), I think Lightroom 4 will be one step closer to photo editing nirvana. Good job, Adobe!

  • Jan9

    2nd Sunday On King St-43

    Today was the 1st 2nd Sunday on King Street for 2012 in Charleston, SC. The weather was perfect for Charleston’s monthly block party. Last time I shot one of these, I decided that I needed to focus on shooting more dogs the next time I go, so today was that next time. Let’s start off with the most interesting dog I saw today, a Toy Australian Shepherd:

    2nd Sunday On King St-48

    Here are some other stand-outs that we saw:

    2nd Sunday On King St-41

    2nd Sunday On King St-25 2nd Sunday On King St-38 2nd Sunday On King St-13

    2nd Sunday On King St-36

    2nd Sunday On King St-21

    2nd Sunday On King St-15

    There was also plenty of music courtesy of Shrimp City Slim, Sollie “Puddin” Jenkins, Michael Lindsey, and accordionist Matt Lohan (pictured at the top of this post). Here’s some shots of the musicians on King Street:

    2nd Sunday On King St-18

    2nd Sunday On King St-29 2nd Sunday On King St-27 2nd Sunday On King St-49

    2nd Sunday On King St-28

    2nd Sunday On King St-44

    2nd Sunday On King St-30

    Some stores brought their wares out onto the streets…

    2nd Sunday On King St-26

    And restaurants their food…

    2nd Sunday On King St-33

    There were plenty of interesting people from all walks of life enjoying the unseasonably mild weather. It felt more like early fall than early winter.

    2nd Sunday On King St-51

    2nd Sunday On King St-50 2nd Sunday On King St-19 2nd Sunday On King St-39

    2nd Sunday On King St-53

    We had a great Mediterranean lunch at Taziki’s Restaurant, but had to cut our trip a little short with the news that Amy’s cousin gave birth to her daughter over at MUSC. Crystal was the subject of my very first wedding shoot a couple of years ago! Here’s a shot of her with Kegan in the hospital:

    Crystal & Kegan

    Congrats to the proud parents! After we left the hospital, we stopped by my brother-in-law’s house over in James Island to check out his girlfriend’s new chicken coup. While we were there, there was one of those phenomenal Charleston sunsets, and I used my iPhone to capture this shot of the colorful sky through the trees:

    James Island Sunset

  • Jan8


    My kids tried to wait up for my wife Amy last night. Kegan didn’t quite make it past the floor. Luckily, Lola was there to keep him company. I still had my camera setup from this post, so I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and got down on the floor to shoot this. I did play with the colors and saturation a bit to get that desaturated look.

    In unrelated news, I got the email today that every person in their mid-thirties who attended college waits many years to receive. My student loans are all officially paid off. I think I need a drink! It’s a happy Sunday indeed.

  • Jan7


    Here’s one of my clients who today became an unknowing portrait subject of mine. I received a really cool book for Christmas by Chris Orwig called “People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs“. The title of the book really spoke to me, and the cover of it screamed “BUY ME!” so I had to add it to the wish list 😉

    I just started reading it this morning, and I was happy to see that the forward was written by one of my favorite photo authors David duChemin, who’s latest book, “Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images” I’ve also received for Christmas and have been reading.

    So the first exercise is to take a very quick portrait with minimal equipment. I was working with Bobby at his office replacing some computer equipment when I saw that the clouds had covered the sun at one point enough to get an environmental portrait outside in front of his doorway. This was the initial shot I made:


    I framed him just outside of the entranceway to his office with his sign hanging overhead so that it looks almost like it was put there in post. He’s in the light and the background is in the shadow. The short-lived cloud acted as my light diffuser and I chose the slight angle to keep all of those elements together while avoiding as much of the reflections in the windows as possible. I positioned Bobby dead center to balance the sign in the shot. The shadows of the entranceway formed a natural vignette, although I did add a little more vignetting in post even it out on the bottom half of the frame. I shot this with a 35mm prime lens at f/1.8 & ISO 200. I was in Aperture Priority with a +1/3 EV and it chose 1/1250 of a second for the shutter speed. I shot a few frames to nail the composition and a few more to adjust the exposure, and got my shot within a minute. It was that easy, and that was the point – don’t worry about lenses, lights, or filters. Just grab the camera and take a simple portrait of a person without forcing it.

    The problem is that once I get the bug, it’s hard to squish it. Inside, I shot a few more shots, including the one at the top of this post which I really ended up liking. He’s sitting between two windows, which made for really cool rim lights. I shot it in manual mode at f/1.8, 1/40th of a second, and ISO 200. I got in close to throw everything past his eyes into a slight blur. I also removed a few blemishes and smoothed the skin slightly in Photoshop (a backlit natural light portrait can be a little unforgiving on anyone over the age of 25) and that’s it. The book is really not about flattery though, it’s about connecting with people, which I believe was a successful attempt here.

    There’s also a Flickr group based around the exorcises in the book, and so far there are some really talented photographers participating.

  • Jan5

    Lola Kisses

    My boy Kegan has decided to raise money for the American Heart Association by participating in this year’s Jump Rope For Heart.

    Make sure to visit his fundraising website and help him reach his $100 goal!

    We had a little scare in our family as we rang in the new year as our little Pomeranian Lola was having trouble breathing. Seriously, she started gagging at the stroke of midnight. After a trip to the vet we found out that she’s suffering from a collapsing trachea. Uggghhhhhh. Why make such a happy, loving, and cute dog only to make it suffer from a horrible genetic disorder? Life can be so unfair and it has no bias in who it chooses to pick on. I’m glad that my kids realize that and are motivated enough to participate in fund raisers throughout the year. We try to live our lives by the golden rule over here because that’s what makes life awesome.

    I Don't Feel So Good

    So far she’s almost back to normal with the medication she’s on. She had a few stoned days where she was not herself. That iPhone snap above was from the day after the vet visit, and she was just glassy eyed and lethargic. She can stand to loose a couple of pounds too, so she’ll be joining us with our healthy resolution to stick to a good diet this year 😉