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  • Nov24

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    I’m selling a bunch of my gear in order to fund newer gear and to clear out equipment that I’ve long since upgraded. While I was listing these products on eBay, I started adding images I made using said gear and I thought I’d share those here as well.

    I’ll link to the listings before each image if you care to buy any of this equipment (or if you know someone who’s in the market this holiday season).

    Here goes. First we’ll start with my Nikon D40 – My first ever Digital SLR! Check out this image:

    Gorilla Face

    Then we have my Nikon D90 – I really pushed this camera to its limits and then some:

    Day 233 - Christopher The Grasshopper

    My street/travel camera, the Nikon Coolpix P7000 is up for grabs. I made this image with it:

    Manhattan 2011

    All right folks, now we’re going to get real serious here. My flagship camera, the Nikon D800 is currently up for sale!!!

    Grand Canyon Sunrise (Nikon D800)

    OK, so let’s talk about lenses. I’ve got some DX and FX Nikon mount lenses for sale.

    The Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 is a wide angle beast. Here’s one of my all-time favorite images, which was taken on my D90 with the Tokina:

    Day 358 - Abandoned Trailer

    **SOLD** The Nikkor 28mm f/2.8 is a fast prime lens that I used to make this image (it’s also a full-frame lens that works on DX cameras as well):

    Day 13 - Rusty Red Ford V8

    The Nikon 55-200 DX lens is a steal for what it can do:


    **SOLD** The Nikon 55-300 DX lens goes a little farther. It’s like it goes to 11!

    Dragonfly At The Beach

    **SOLD** You can’t beat a nifty 50, and the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D lens is a great choice (and it also works on full-frame Nikons as well as cropped sensor ones):

    Day 191 - Old Sunflower

    A 50 is nifty, bbut on a cropped sensor camera, the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX is where it’s at:

    Angel Oak 2009 B&W HDR

    **SOLD** And finally, the best DX lens you can buy for under $50 is the Nikon 18-55 VR:

    ZIp Line

    Please share this post with anyone you know who’s interested in getting some Nikon gear because there’s stuff here for every level of shooter! Have a great Thanksgiving everyone.

  • Nov10

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    I’ve led a photographically themed session at the annual BarCamp “unconference” in Charleston since 2010, with sessions on post-processing, lighting, retouching, and iPhonography. This year I tried to tap into the technical aspects of creative photography that have existed since the film days – Multiple exposures. We explored two different techniques, one involving a long exposure with multiple speedlights, and the other using the in-camera multiple exposure feature.

    The first demonstration involved off-camera lighting. I used two speedlights and radio triggers to get this effect. I use Cactus v5 radio triggers, which allow me to assign a separate channel to each flash as well as fire them both at the same time. I set the flash on camera left to channel 3 and the one on camera right to channel 2. I set the camera to bulb mode, shut off all of the lights, and shot at ISO 100 and f/9 from a tripod. Rachel is the model, and her brother controlled the radio channels. As I held the shutter open, I had her do each pose and had her brother switch to the appropriate channel and fire the flash. This was the result:

    Rachel - BarCampCHS

    That’s not a Photoshopped image. It’s all one exposure as far as the shutter actuations are concerned. The multiple exposures come from the separate speedlight actuations. Pretty cool, huh?

    The next technique is a function of most DSLRs – a feature called “Multiple Exposure”. I learned something new about this feature on my Nikon – It’s not available when you’re shooting tethered! Oh well, after a long minute of trying to figure out why I couldn’t get it to work, I unplugged my camera from the presentation computer and got started. The way I set my camera up this time was to set the Multiple Exposure setting to 2 images in a series and then disable the auto-gain. For the effect of constraining the 2nd exposure within the 1st exposure’s silhouette, I wanted the background to be blown out (which is why you want to disable the auto-gain). This technique doesn’t require any special lighting, but since we were in a classroom, I used my speedlights to blow out a white wall behind my subjects.

    This is John, who certainly had the best beard in the whole conference (probably in all of the Charleston peninsula for that matter). Another attendee had this vibrant purple paisley laptop bag with her that I used for the second exposure. Together they made quite the juxtaposition:

    John - BarCampCHS

    We had time for one more example, so using the same technique, I had this idea that came from something I saw that day at the College of Charleston campus. All over the walkways there were messages about speaking out about rape. There were hashtag messages such as #nomeansno and #itsnotyourfault written in chalk everywhere.

    I asked my daughter Mackenzie to pose with a very sad and angry expression, and then I got a few people to stick their hands out for the second exposure. The idea of the shot was to see where you can take the technique creatively. In trying to make a visual interpretation of these messages we all saw that day, this was the result. I didn’t let on that that was what I was going for while we were setting this up because we were having fun during the session, so I hope that anyone who was there didn’t misinterpret my light-hearted presentation as making light of the seriousness of sexual assault in all of its forms.

    Mackenzie - BarCampCHS

    Finally, I once again had the pleasure of shooting the group photo for the conference. Here’s most of the attendees and volunteers who make BarCampCHS happen every year:

    BarCampCHS 2014 Group Photo

    And here’s a photo of me taking that photo, courtesy of Andy Paras form the Post & Courier:


  • Sep12

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    Shelly Waters

    The road to the image above was long and hard-fought. The shoot was a total of 773 images, including test shots and all. Some days you have to work harder than others. There have been more than a few times that the first few images of a shoot are the strongest. Sometimes you have an immediate connection with your subject, the light is right, the mood is clicking, and the stars are aligned. Other times you have to build. You create a foundation, you lay the concrete and build up on top of it one piece of timber at a time. The end result is hopefully something you’re proud of. Those images seem to have a special place in my heart, mainly because I knew what it took to get there.

    It’s not the subject’s fault either – Obviously the image was/is in them all along. It’s just that some days are harder than others. The trick is in working your way though those days and going back to the basics of everything you know about relationships, art, and technical ability.

    Shelly Waters

    If a person starts off a shoot by telling you that they’re terrible in front of the lens, yet when you’re talking to them beforehand they’re full of energy and charisma, you know that they’re full of crap (I mean that in an endearing way). But, they don’t know that. It’s time to become a creative psychologist and figure out the problem and create a solution. You pull out your potato peeler and start peeling back that tough skin.

    Shelly Waters

    I loosen up the subject and ask them to do some awkward things that get them out of their head. I make sure the music is making them move when they think I’m not paying attention. I pull out some strange props or ideas to see how they handle it…

    Shelly Waters

    The hair/make-up artist is a valuable tool to break any tension. It’s a person who you can bounce ideas off of and he or she can be a real confidence booster when they start getting excited.

    Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose
    Amanda Rose assists Shelly Waters

    But, once the subject starts to open up, then I start to act like a personal trainer – It’s my job to keep pushing the subject to their limit. I’ve gained their trust and now I’m bending it as far as I can. I’m forcing them to react by shouting, laughing, dancing around the set… Whatever it takes to get their personality to appear vividly in a two dimensional photograph.

    Shelly Waters

    Shelly Waters

    Shelly Waters

    At the end of any job, I ask myself “How was the experience?”. A shoot like this one was long, but it went by quickly. We struggled but we ended up laughing. There’s a valid reason why I love shooting people, and it’s simply the human experience of it. My day is filled with little interactions, but when I can work so intimately with another person I barely know in such a unique way and come out with a memorable experience as well a piece of art, that’s a good day on the job.

    Here’s Shelly Waters’ new cover artwork for her latest record, “Drive” (click here to go grab a copy from her website):


  • Jul4

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    Mackenzie With A Sparkler

    It’s been a very busy year so far – July 4th seems to sneak up and remind me just how fast time slips by. I’ve been busy growing my other business while still working this one. In fact, I surprised my crew yesterday by dragging in a light and a backdrop to the office for some surprise headshots:



    Speaking of headshots, I’ve been doing a lot lately for various professionals in the area. A few years ago, you could only thrive from doing headshots in a major market, but because of social media every professional needs one, not just actors and comedians.

    Here’s a couple I did this past week:

    Dr. Kelsey Harris Headshot
    Dr. Kelsey Harris

    Molly Slade
    Dr. Molly Slade

    I’ve also discovered that my Fuji X-T1 is quite the capable headshot camera. The two headshots of the guys in my crew were taken with the Fuji, while the two doctors were taken using my Nikon D800. While the flexibility gained by the controls, full frame sensor, and lens selection of the Nikon are paramount to shooting professionally, the Fuji’s results are almost indistinguishable when the output is simply an internet profile picture. The only drawback I found with my current lighting rig is that I need to close down the aperture on the Fuji a couple of stops because it shoots natively at ISO 200 and it’s a cropped sensor. That leads to more depth of field when shooting with strobe lights. For headshots like these, it’s not a problem though. For creative portraiture using these strobes it might be limiting, but I think a ND filter or two would help in that case. The look of a lens at it’s proper focal length that you get from a full frame sensor when compared to a cropped one can’t be beat, but like the US Soccer team’s performance in the World Cup game against Belgium, it comes really close by giving it its all – And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

    Sorry, I fell into a technical wormhole. Back to the photos…

    Sottile Theater Installation Obey
    Shepard Fairey Installation At The Sottile Theater

    If you haven’t stopped by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art to see the exhibit of Shepard Fairey and Jasper Johns, you’ve got ’til July 12th to do so. The work is amazing and inspiring. Shepard Fairey has a few installations in the Charleston area, including the one above at the storefront of the Sottile Theater on King Street. There’s also a few murals that he’s put up, such as this one on one of the College of Charleston’s dormitories:

    Shepard Fairey Mural in Charleston, SC
    Selective Color Still Lives!

    I do love some street art. In the right places, like the back alleys of the city where people store their trash, they bring color and joy. I find the story told by the street artists to be just as compelling as the story told by the architects on the main streets.

    Fire Escape
    The Other Part Of King Street

    On another note, every once in a while I get reminded of just how amazing the camera in my pocket (the iPhone) is. I snapped this little dragonfly while walking into a client’s office the other day:

    Dragonfly posing for an pic!
    Dragonfly Instagram

    I also got to go to a wedding that I wasn’t working at for the first time in a looooong time. I still managed to take a few photos, but only because I wanted to, not because I had to!

    Samantha & Jerry
    Samantha & Jerry

    Samantha & Jerry
    Samantha & Jerry

    I’ve been seeing as much music as possible and spending some great time with my daughter in the process. We had front row center seats to see the Head and the Heart and Valerie June recently:

    The Head and the Heart in Charleston 2014
    The Head and the Heart

    "Time tells all, but we only get a little slice of it... Then we gotta change" #ValerieJune
    Valerie June

    At the start of the summer I surprised my daughter during our “school’s out weekend trip to Disney World” with a visit to Universal Studios to see Huey Lewis & The News!

    Huey Lewis & The News at Universal Studios
    Huey Lewis & the News

    Speaking of Disney World, I captured this family photo with a Rokinon fish-eye lens on my Fuji X-T1 while we rode Primeval Whirl in the Animal Kingdom:

    Animal Kingdom 2014
    The Nienstedt Family

    And while we were walking through Epcot’s World Showcase, we ran into some old friends. It’s Paulie Latex and Jenny Jelly of Latex Generation fame! Paul used to sing and play guitar in my band and Jen was our merch girl. I wrote a song about them when we were teenagers about how they would never last. I then wrote a song a few years later about being astonished that they were still together. Now they’ve got 3 girls and have been together for somewhere near 20 years. Holy crap was I wrong!

    Latex Generation Family Photo Disney World 2014
    Photo by Mrs. Edel

    Local artist Patch Whisky asked me to shoot some of his artwork to be reproduced as prints that he’s now selling on his website. It was a different animal to shoot his monsters, but they sat well for the shoot…

    Patch Whisky
    Patch Whisky

    On the topic of artists, I sadly had to say goodbye to one of my favorite artists who gathered his family up and moved to the West Coast. Here I am getting one last tattoo from Rob Junod at Holy City Tattooing Collective:

    Getting the Junod one last time (In Charleston) #holycitytattooingcollective #tattoo #IWantYourSkull #nipslip #organicsweater
    Rob Junod & a Shirtless Me

    Rob’s wife, Amanda Rose, is a talented hair & make-up artist. I worked with with her recently for Shelly Waters, who hired me to shoot the cover of her upcoming CD. I’m bummed that the Junods had to leave, but I’m happy to see where their journey takes them as they are both immensely talented.

    Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose
    Shelly Waters and Amanda Rose

    And finally, since we’re on the topic of tattoos and art, my wife Amy paid a visit to Margo at Holy CIty Tattooing Collective just yesterday to start work on a new piece on her bicep. It’s just an outline in this picture and it already looks amazing!

    Amy's New Tat Sunset

    I think that about wraps it up for this post. We’re planning a road trip later in the summer, so hopefully I’ll capture some fun photos of that adventure. It’s gonna be filled with plains, trains, and automobiles for sure!

  • Jan4

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    White Keys

    It has been awhile since I’ve added images to my Fine Art Gallery. The image above is a brand new image that I created just moments ago, while the other four images are ones I created in 2013. The following two images were created recently while staying at Occoneechee State Park in Virginia. The first was at sunrise on Christmas Eve, while the other was taken the day before during a rainy sunset.

    Occoneechee State Park Sunrise

    Occoneechee State Park Rainy Day Sunset

    This next image was taken during a commercial shoot for a local magazine here in Charleston. It’s a group of Citadel cadets standing in front of a construction wall off of King Street that people have been writing their dreams on. I happened to get a girl walking by in this shot:

    Citadel Cadets

    And finally, this is an image I’ve posted here before. It’s Sullivan’s Island at sunset on a glorious summer day:

    Sullivans Island Sunset in July

  • Dec7

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    Dereon - Help-Portrait 2013

    That picture says it all. Little Dereon was the first to come visit us in the atrium at MUSC Children’s Hospital on Friday for our annual Help-Portrait event that we organize there every December. She was also the last to get her photo taken! It took her a while to warm up to me, and she wanted to watch the other children with a curious eye to see what the deal was. The whole morning she was wearing a mask that covered her beautiful smile, and when she finally built up the courage to get her picture taken, she took off that mask and instantly transformed into an excited and confident little girl. I couldn’t think of a better story to explain what our Help-Portrait event at the children’s hospital means – It’s a way to make these kids and their families feel normal.

    Joe Help-Portrait 2013

    The holidays are an emotional time, and to add the struggle that these kids are going through is not easy to say the least. To give them any experience that lets them feel like regular kids is important in keeping them hopeful and strong. We’re just but one event of the hundreds of different kinds that are held every year for the hospital, but to see the happiness in Danielle’s face and the gratitude from her mom, you can see why we get so excited for this event every year:

    Danielle - Help-Portrait 2013

    How about little Kloeiann, who came out like a rock star? We had her and her mom design a sign for her to hold up for one of her pictures, and very awesome is quite appropriate for her 🙂

    Kloeiann - Help-Portrait 2013

    We also had a frame crafting station set up for the kids to design their own picture frame to put one of their photos in.

    Crystal - Help-Portrait 2013

    Thanks to Amy, Crystal, & Christina who volunteered to make this happen with me again this year. Also, thanks to the staff at MUSC Children’s hospital for letting us do this every year!

    The photos are up on my gallery here, and there’s also a set on Flickr.

  • Nov3

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    Movember 2013 JoeL8X - Week 1

    It’s that time of year again folks. The air’s a little crisper, the trees are full of color, and I’ve shaved my mustache in an effort to raise awareness about men’s health issues as well as raise money for the organizations that are fighting the good fight.

    This year I’m flying solo as a “MoBro”. Can we lose the “bro” monicker though? Seriously, the term “bro” makes me think of beer coozies and fist bumps, and that’s just not me. Anyway, here’s the link to donate through my page: MoBro.co/joeL8X. I’m thinking of doing some fun stuff to raise money this year, so be sure to follow me here, on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

    If you don’t know about Movember yet, you can read all about the organizations vision, values, and goals here.

    Swingin' at the #coastalcarolinafair with @frostymac #fair #swing #ride #charleston #sc

    While I’ve got your attention, the Coastal Carolina Fair is in effect again. All the rides, attractions, and deep fried things that probably shouldn’t be allowed near a deep frier are available for your enjoyment at the Ladson Fairgrounds.

    More importantly, I’m proud to announce that my daughter Mackenzie has won 2nd place in this year’s photography contest for division 3 (Students)!!! She entered shots she made during last month’s World Wide Photo Walk, and her shot of a rusty old bicycle bell earned her a red ribbon.

    Mackenzie Wins 2nd Place at the Coastal Carolina Fair Photography Contest

    Next up in the information department is that Halloween was this week, and of course my family had to pose for pictures in our costumes:

    Halloween 2013

    Kegan’s buddies came over and were promptly stuck in front of my camera. Some kids are so cooperative in getting into character. These kids rule.

    Kids Halloween 2013

    My Satyr costume was inspired by this new Halloween themed tattoo I got from Rob Junod over at Holy City Tattooing Collective:

    I got my #Halloween #tattoo by @robjunod at #HolyCityTattooingCollective in #Charleston #SC Check out that #Satyr fiddling the night away! I admire his goatee...

    In sadder news, we lost a New York legend last week. Lou Reed passed away after losing a battle with liver disease. When the kids and I carved our pumpkins, I decided to make mine a tribute to one of rock n’ roll’s most influential people. From the left to right, it’s Mackenzie’s “Hedgehog-O-Lantern”, my “Lou-O-Lantern”, and my son Kegan’s “Boo-O-Lantern”:

    Pumpkins 2013-6

    The sadness didn’t last long in our family though, because the day after Lou passed away, Karlina Josephine joined the world:

    Brian & Mira's Baby Girl

    Welcome to the family, kiddo. Brian & Mira are going to be great parents to you, and you will have more professional photos of yourself than any other kid in your neighborhood, so just accept it and be prepared!

    Brian & Mira's Baby Girl

  • Sep18

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    Brian & Mira

    Pinterest is a great thing. You can find inspiring photography in just about any practice of the craft. Much like YouTube is for video, you can chase an idea and end up in unexpected places along the way, sometimes going off in a completely different direction.

    It’s also a problem. You start to see patterns in a derivative way. A search for maternity photography will garner a plethora of similar results. Some expertly executed mixed in with a bunch of terribly imitated images. After a few minutes, everything seems so similar. Photography really is an insestuous form of art – But I guess every form of art suffers from this. It just seems that photography is more readily copied than any other.

    So when Brian & Mira announced they were having a baby (and by announced, I mean I accidentally figured it out, but that’s a story for another time), I was excited to try a different approach to maternity photography.


    I wanted to put the couple in an environment that captures who they are and what they represent at this time in their lives. They are both very outdoorsy people, and Mira works a lot with Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding, a horse farm that specializes in improving the lives of children and adults with disabilities. What a perfect environment for these two!

    Mira & Brian in the Stable

    Mira Horse B&W

    They also recently celebrated a non-traditional baby shower under a tree in Hampton Park. No silly “Guess what’s in the diaper” games going on, just a nice picnic in the park for family and friends to come together and show the new parents-to-be some support.

    Brian & Mira's Baby Shower Garden Party

    Brian & Mira's Baby Shower Garden Party

    Brian & Mira's Baby Shower Garden Party

    Earlier in the summer, I snapped this shot of Mira at Folly Beach during the 4th of July celebration. It captures her just as she started to become a little more obvious with her pregnant state:

    Mira's Maternity Shots at Folly Beach

    We’re super excited to welcome “Baby X” into the world with them, I just hope they hurry up and pick a name so we don’t have to keep calling it “it” 🙂

  • Sep8

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    Here is #sketch no. 2 of @emmawatson that I got a little more ambitious with #drawinglaceishard #moleskine #sketchbook #art #graphite #drawing #draw #pencil #fabercastell #emmawatson #orlando #florida

    One of the most important things I’ve learned about photography is that the equipment is not ultimately important. The overall image is. I’ve hammered it in so many blog posts that I’m not even gonna bother linking to them here. Just choose any month from the right-hand list and you’ll find me ranting about some facet of photography that has nothing to do with lenses or light modifiers.

    Tonight's #sketch is of #AngelinaJolie - I dig her more now than ever for promoting women's health #art #sketchbook #moleskine #fabercastell #graphite #pencil #draw #drawing #portrait #girl #actress #bighair

    So, I’ve recently rekindled my love for drawing with graphite – Something I did back in high school but never really pursued again until now. The whole process has inadvertently turned into an advanced lesson in portraiture. I scour through Pinterest feeds looking for faces that move me, and before I know it, I’m studying. I’m learning about which photos appeal to me, but more importantly why they appeal to me. Expressions, quality of light, overall mood, etc.

    Tonight's #sketch of @nottildaswinton was made in 3 different airports and caught the attention of the TSA (in a good way).  #TildaSwinton #moleskine #sketchbook #art #drawing #draw #graphite #pencil #portrait #face #actress #artist #woman #girl #shorthai

    Once I’ve settled on a portrait to sketch, I then get a chance to slow down and really tear the image apart so that I can put it back together again. Every facial feature, every shadow, and every highlight gets meticulously recreated.

    Tonight's #sketch is of @gilliananderson #sketchbook #moleskine #art #drawing #draw #graphite #portrait #hair #pencil #fabercastell

    I even started adding my own little adjustments, such as the tears in this sketch of Benedict Cumberbatch that I did for my daughter:

    Tonight's #sketch of a sad #BenedictCumberbatch @cumberbatchb was commissioned by my daughter @frostymac for a school research project.  #art #moleskine #sketchbook #draw #drawing #graphite #pencil #sherlock #necromancer #fabercastell #portrait #tears #fa

    The real trick is in translating that inspiration and effort back into photography. I find that getting people to slow down with me is helping me get some deeper images of their faces. Here’s an photo I shot recently after a head shot session where I just asked Christina to relax a bit and look at the camera without any predisposition. Just take it easy and let the face tell the story without forcing it.

    Christina Dramatic B&W

    If you want to keep up with what I’m doing in my sketchbook, follow me on my Instagram feed

  • Sep6

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    Posted in: Insight, News, Projects

    Black Swamp Girl

    I woke up one Saturday morning with this image in my head. Inspired by my friend Katie’s new venture called “Black Swamp” in which she re-purposes the wood shavings from her & her husband’s woodworking business into jewelry, I saw that the pieces she’s producing look much like the curls of her own hair. The idea was almost too easy! I drove out to Eutawville, SC that afternoon to make it happen.

    Of course, nothing worth doing comes without a price, and Katie did not come out of this squeaky clean.

    Black Swamp Co.

    I like to “warm up” for something like this to get a feel for the location, loosen up the subject, and get my brain on the correct frequency. I shot a few environmental portraits in Katie and her husband Joe’s new shop space. Here’s my favorite of those shots:

    Black Swamp Co.

    You can check out the rest of the photos on this Flickr Set.