We recently moved to a new house in Westerville, OH. One of the attributes of the area is Hoover Reservoir, which is about a quarter mile from our new place. I’ve been intrigued with the dam, it’s reservoir, it’s outflow, and generally everything around it. While exploring one day on top of the dam, I saw this railing leading into the water and knew that I needed to photograph it. The above image style is all in fad recently and I wanted to add my interpretation to the conversation.
I had seen this railing on a previous trip walking along the top of the dam, and waited for an overcast day to go out and photograph it. I used a ten stop neutral density filter to give me a thirty second exposure that allowed the water/waves to totally blur into a fog. The final image is pretty close to what I had envisioned (Ansel called this “pre-visualization”). It has led to a number of other images that I have taken in the past few days…..which means that I am “creating a story” or “working on a body of work”……however you like to say it, I’m photographing things in a certain style with a decent idea of what I want the final image to look like. I’ve got a number of images already, with ideas for more. Fingers crossed for more overcast days!!
It’s always fun to be inspired, and it’s funny how a change of scenery can put you into the right mindset to be creative.
This has also brought up an idea that has been rattling around inside of my head for a bit, which is to get something set up where I can show my personal photography (my website is almost solely commercially driven). I looked into it, and my website can be divided into two parcels which I will be doing in the near future. One side will be commercial, and the other will be more personal work. I have a few bodies of work that are more or less “finished”. At least to the point that I am comfortable showing them as such.
I have recently started uploading stock imagery to istock/Getty again (after a 2 year hiatus) and as I was uploading a number of images from a few years back and I thought I would tell the story behind the image above.
This was taken in 2013 at sunrise along the Ohio River that forms the border between Ohio and Kentucky. Back then I was freelancing for one of Amazon’s studios that was in Hebron, KY and I frequently spent the weekend if I was booked two weeks in a row. My wife (Jennie) was in NY and decided to fly back to Idaho through Cincinnati so that we could spend the weekend together.
Somehow, she agreed to get up with me before dawn and be my model. I had scouted this area along the Cincinnati side before and had been waiting for the chance to shoot someone running, and we crossed our fingers as the forecast called for early clouds.
Anyone that has gotten up to shoot sunrise can tell you that you really don’t know what you are going to get until the sun starts rising, as the sky is bluish gray as you are driving to the location. Until you start to see a glow in the sky at the horizon, you don’t know if you are wasting your time or not. Luckily for us, there were some clouds but they didn’t obscure the sun as it started to arc above the horizon.
Jennie was amazing running back and forth around 20 times allowing me to get lots of variations (and allowing me to correct for when the sun would freak out the autofocus). Overall I was able to upload over a hundred images to the stock agency which hopefully means $$$ down the road.
One of the really fun things of working in the studio is getting the chance to create places that may or (most likely) may not exist in real life. Recently we had a shot request that included the merchandise; a chair, a few fake plants, and a wall mounted shelf kind of thing that would normally hold magazines or something like that.
While looking for inspiration, my stylist (@cassi_bluebird) found an image that utilized an outside wall that leaned in at a 45 degree angle and the stylist and I felt that something like that would give our image that little something extra that we enjoyed introducing into our images.
We also realized that unlike normal room settings where you will most likely have more than one piece of furniture, this image would only feature one chair. Also, we normally like to have the background go as out of focus as possible (this puts the viewer’s focus on the merchandise) but for this shot, the background needed to be a bit more in focus as it would be where the plants and shelf would be.
One of the biggest challenges with room settings is that they not only need to feature the furniture, they also need to be believable, with lighting and accessories that would make sense as if it were actually in someone’s house or apartment.
We decided to build a loft apartment, utilizing white brick walls along with one or two architectural details that would give our place the feeling that it was located in an older building, but on the top floor and one that had an abundance of natural light. We turned one of our portable walls on it’s side and used that as the base of the windows (made from 3/4′ foam core boards) which proceeded up at the aforementioned 45 degree angle. We also build a small nook in the corner of the room to give it that feel of the older building that usually has a few unusual corners or quirky built ins that you so often find in these sort of places.
Once we had the walls built and the windows “hung” from the ceiling, I started to light the interior. Wanting to obtain a bright, light feel I extended a bare bulb head as far above the windows as possible (this would be our main light or “sun” giving distinct shadows). Lens choice came down to an 85mm f/1.2 which I used almost wide open in order to give a bit of softness to the background (but enough focus to identify the other merchandise in the corner). A large softbox behind camera supplied fill light, and I kept it powered up pretty high in order to give good illumination to the shadows.
In the end, the shot turned out almost better than we had anticipated, and the merchants loved the image….especially the slanted window walls.
Thanx for tuning in!
Here is a uncropped shot showing a bit more of the set:
As a typical photographer, I’m interested in anything retro, classic, or just plain old…..so when I found out about a Vintage Baseball Game being played near me, I just had to go and check it out….
When we moved to Ohio last year, I was perusing some of the local magazines and I came across an event notice for a Vintage Baseball League tournament for fall of 2017. It sounded like an amazing chance to get some very interesting photos…..
As the event drew near, I ended up making plans to travel over that weekend, and so I had to do some research to find out when other games were being played. As luck would have it, the weekend that I was able to get to a game, the temperature was in the 90’s, with the humidity about the same 🙁
After one false start (I showed up looking for the game on Saturday, then found out it was being played on Sunday), I was able to make it to the game. There were a few fans, mostly friends and family of the players…..and an umpire and scorekeeper that were dressed in the same 1860’s vintage clothing as the players. The players were dressed in wool jerseys and caps, with various types of pants and some wearing modern cleats. In the field the players didn’t use mitts, and the ball was pitched underhand (These were the major league rules in the 1860’s. Overhand pitching came in around the 1890’s). It is mostly a gentlemans game, with good plays being heralded by both sides. There were a few younger players, but my focus was mostly on the older gentlemen that looked more the part of a vintage league player.
The gentleman pictured here certainly looked the part, and played really well too. As he was stepping up to the plate, I motioned with my camera in an unspoken question of taking his portrait as he got ready to bat. He nodded and hesitated for a second in the pose that you see.
I continued to shoot throughout the game….or at least as long as I could stand being in the heat with sweat literally dripping off me. It was really fun watching these guys play on older brand of “gentleman” baseball, and refreshing to see a group of people dedicated to keeping a tradition like this alive.
As you may (or may not know) I’ve been working as the Lead Editorial Photographer for Zulily.com in Columbus, OH for the past half year or so.
It’s never easy segueing from freelance to staff, but this change has been made easier by the wide variety of products that I get to shoot. Zulily carries everything from jewelry to clothing to room sets, and my day may consist of any number of dissimilar items.
However, I recently had a day scheduled with a couple of special events that came together to form what will most likely be my most diverse day ever.
My morning was spent designing and building a room set for a Women’s Intimates shoot that was happening immediately after lunch. Utilizing one of our natural light sets, we put together a three wall room with floor to ceiling windows along the back wall, with the right wall plain white, and a smaller window on the left wall. This would give us two distinct shooting areas to utilize for photographing two different colors of the same style bra.
Our model showed up on time, went through Hair and Makeup, and was dressed in the bra. We photographed her in one setting for about 30 minutes, and then had her change into the other color of the same bra, and photographed her in the second setting. Everything went smoothly, and we finished up right on time.
Next up, came the more interesting part of the afternoon….
It seems that Zulily had an event coming up called “Farm Friendly”, and one of the shot requests called for a Chicken Swing to be photographed. Although lots of different things come to mind when you put those two words together, it is exactly what the name implies….. it’s a swing……and it’s for chickens. Even better, it’s made by a company called Fowl Play.
As luck would have it, the Editorial Studio Supervisor (my direct boss) raises a small number of chickens with her boyfriend, and had volunteered their chickens as models.
So, I packed up some gear and drove out to the location to shoot the Chicken Swing.
Once there, we walked out to the chicken habitat where they had installed the swing the day before (installed might sound a bit serious….as it simply hangs by two thick strings). Chickens, as I would later find out, are suspicious of anything new and had not been very interested in the swing. So much for my hope of simply walking up to find one on the swing to photograph.
It also seems that these chickens had taken to pecking at each other, so blinders had been installed on their beaks, which didn’t allow them to see anything straight ahead (and thereby reduced the chance of them pecking at each other).
So, we picked out a very photographic young hen, removed her blinders, and proceeded to try and get her to sit on the swing…..which…..did not go as well as we had hoped. Over the course of 30-40 minutes, Chris (chicken owner/handler) would gently pick her up, calm her down, and try to place her on the swing from the back (so that he could quickly move out of the photo if she stayed on the swing). And for 30-40 minutes she immediately jumped/flew off the swing as soon as she was placed on it.
So there we were, with Amanda holding the swing in place and Chris trying to place the chicken on the swing….and the chicken immediately jumping off the swing, when Chris tried holding the chicken and putting it on the swing from the front. I knew that he wouldn’t be able to get out of the way very fast, but it was worth it to try and change things up and see if we could get anything useable.
The first time he put the chicken on the swing from the front, it stayed. He slowly backed away while Amanda held it steady. The chicken sat there. Amanda removed her hand from the swing, and it still stayed. I shot. And shot. Slowly the chicken started moving a bit and the swing started going back and forth a little. She was actually swinging. I kept shooting. After a few more seconds, she jumped/flew off, but by then, we had the shot.
On a country road, in the middle of Wisconsin, I found a veritable treasure trove of old and decrepit machines and sculptures to photograph. To try and describe it would be to fail miserably……suffice to say that if you ever have the chance, it is worth your while to check this place out! It is part scrap yard, part outsider art installation……and it is ALL fascinating.
The sculpture incorporates two Thomas Edison dynamos from the 1880s, lightning rods, high-voltage components from 1920s power plants, scrap from the nearby Badger Army Ammunition Plant, and the decontamination chamber from the Apollo 11 spacecraft. Its fictional creator, Dr. Evermor, was born Tom Every in Brooklyn, Wisconsin and is a former demolition expert who spent decades collecting antique machinery for the sculpture and the surrounding fiction that justifies it. According to Every, Dr. Evermor is a Victorian inventor who designed the Forevertron to launch himself, “into the heavens on a magnetic lightning force beam.” The Forevertron, despite its size and weight, was designed to be relocatable to a different site—the sculpture is built in sections that are connected by bolts and pins.
In addition to the Forevertron itself, the sculpture includes a tea house gazebo from which Every says: “Queen Victoria and Prince Albert may observe the launching of Dr. Evermor; it also includes a giant telescope where skeptics may observe the ascent.” Dr. Evermor’s art park is home to a large number of other sculptures, many of which relate to the Forevertron, such as the “Celestial Listening Ear” and the “Overlord Master Control Tower“. Other large-scale sculptures include gigantic insects (the “Juicer Bug” and “Arachna Artie“), the “Epicurean” bellows-driven barbecue train, “The Dragon“, and “The UFO“. The most numerous sculptures are the “Bird Band and Orchestra” which includes nearly 70 birds ranging from the size of a child to twenty feet tall, all made from scrap industrial parts, geological survey markers, knives, loudspeakers, springs, and musical instruments, among other salvaged materials.
Every says he takes pride in allowing the original materials to remain unaltered as much as possible, using their original forms in new juxtapositions to create his aesthetic. While he himself is not often available for tours of the art park, the site can generally be accessed from passing through the surplus store adjacent to it, Delaney’s Surplus. Mr. Every also created much of the installation art for the House on the Rock, including the world’s largest carousel.“
I’ve been an avid cyclist for a couple of decades now. I’ve participated and spectated almost every kind of bicycle race, but until recently I had never had the chance to watch track racing at a velodrome. This is mostly due to the small number of velodromes in the US, which is around 28 (for comparison, the United Kingdom also has around 28 velodromes, but is less than 1/10 the size of the US).
Around the turn of the last century (1900), velodromes and track racing were much more popular. In fact, many people don’t know that it was huge in New York City, regularly appearing at the Madison Square Garden:
“Another notable use of the first Garden was as a velodrome, an oval bicycle racing track with banked curves. At the time, bicycle racing was one of the biggest sports in the country. “[T]he top riders [were] among the sports stars of their day. The bike races at Madison Square Garden were all the rage around the turn of the 20th century.” Madison Square Garden was the most important bicycle racing track in the United States and the Olympic discipline known as the Madison is named after the original Garden.”
While we were living in Portland, I had the chance to attend the regional championship races at Alpenrose Velodrome. Alpenrose is an outdoor track, made from concrete. It is on the property of Alpenrose Dairy, a family owned dairy business.
Trying to follow the races is not always easy the first time you are at a velodrome. There are different (and confusing) formats with individual races, team races, points races, and specialty races such as the “Keirin” and the “Madison” in which pair up in a tag-team format. Riders “sling” their teammate forward to facilitate alternating sprints that keep the pace very high during typically long races (30 km or 19 miles, or more, compared to 3–10 km or 1.9–6.2 mi for most other races). Since partners can trade as often as they like, this is a very busy race format, with half of the racers racing and half circulating around the track at any time.
The really great thing about these races, from a photographer’s standpoint, is that you are free to roam almost anywhere you want. You can’t get on the track itself, but you can be within a few feet of where the riders are passing by. This makes for some really great chances to show the excitement and intensity of the racers. It’s also interesting in that sometimes the racers are going as fast as humanely possible, but other times they are not quite going all out and are looking around at their competition and trying to figure out their strategy.
As creatives, images have a habit of sticking in our brains. There can be lots of different reasons….. How’d they do that? What is that? Where is that? Sometimes, these images can serve as inspiration for something we decide to do later. This is a story about that.
Flashback to the early 80’s when I was attending Grand Rapids Junior College. The photo department sponsored a photo contest and as students, we were to help with the intake of the contest photos and the judging. We weren’t judging them ourselves, but we helped move the framed images around the department (there were hundreds) as the two judges paired all of the entries down to what would actually be in the show (this was a juried show, so not all entries would make it).
One of the entries was a time exposure of a merry-go-round at a local carnival. Shot on a tripod, the lights of the ride burned into the film to produce a semi circle of light as figures moved and became blurry at it’s base. It was the first time I had scene something like this photographed, and the basics of the image have stuck with me.
The Portland Rose Festival took place last week, and included a carnival along the Willamette River downtown. I thought it would be a great place to try and make some interesting images using the carnival rides to light paint, so I loaded up my camera and tripod and bicycled down to the waterfront.
I started with some static photos using the tripod and a wide angle lens. They looked pretty good, but were very similar to what I had seen decades ago in that contest. I really wanted the light to become the subject, and was hoping to make the light conceptual enough that it might not be recognizable. As I stood and watched the rides, I started moving closer and liked what I was starting to “see”. I use quotes around that word because one of my favorite things about photography is it’s ability to show you things that they human eye cannot see, by utilizing extremely fast shutter speeds to freeze action that is too fast for the human eye to see, or using long shutter speeds to allow movement to blend into shapes.
Moving to a longer lens allowed me to eliminate distracting backgrounds, and really started to allow the light to become the subject. I also brought in the legs on my tripod and used it as a monopod, allowing me to move it through the one second exposures I was using. After a few of these, I also started adjusting the zoom on my lens, adding yet another layer of movement into the image.
In the end, the lights on the ride were moving, the camera was moving, and the lens was zooming, allowing me to combine three types of movement into the one image.
Bisti Badlands has been on my radar for a few years now. Planning a recent trip to Moab with friends (the trip mentioned in my last blog update) got me thinking that I might be able to fit a quick trip there before we headed back to our home in Portland. Looking at the map, Bisti is only a few hours south of Moab, just over the New Mexico border….so we penciled it in and headed south.
Due to time constraints we would have to cut our time in Moab a day short just to get a few hours to shoot at Bisti. It was a huge gamble as any little thing could go wrong…clouds, heat, lodging, etc…..plus, it was adding over six hours to our two day drive home.
As we approached the border, the landscape appeared pretty bleak. Lot’s of abandoned buildings and hard scrabble farms dotted the landscape. Bisti, also known as De-Na_Zin Wilderness, is a bit south of Farmington, and adnacent to Navajo Nation land. There are no camping facilities anywhere near, so we reserved a hotel room in Farmington. We stopped on the way and dropped off our gear, then headed down to Bisti in time for sunset.
It’s always interesting trying to figure out what sunset is going to look like. I wanted to arrive with at least two hours of light left in case clouds came in and I was forced to shoot under overcast conditions. As we got closer, it seemed like it might remain partly cloudy, but there were also some rain clouds in the distance. Weather seems to move extremely fast out in these type of wide open spaces, and I was worried that I might get rained out….
Bisti is a huge place, with a couple of different entrances and miles to explore. There also isn’t a great guide to the place, so ideally one would have a few days of perfect weather to explore the entire place and plan exactly where you wanted to be in what type of light. Instead, I was going in with a couple of hours to shoot under questionable light, with no real idea of where I wanted to be. I wish I could say this was the first time I had ever been in this situation….but it happens more often than I would wish.
The weather held, and I made it to the turn off. A few miles of washboard roads with tons of dust brought me to the “entrance”. I use quotation marks because there is barely any signage, a simple gravel parking lot, and no buildings or restrooms. Just a fence, with a extremely faded photograph describing the area.
I was looking for a place called the egg farm, or alien eggs, or any number of descriptions that use the words eggs. It looked to be about a mile or so to the northeast, so I headed in that direction. As I walked, the blank plateau slowly started to morph into more interesting shapes, and the eroded sandstone, shale and lignite started to take on interesting shapes.
The sun was getting low in the sky, and I was stopping to photograph various shapes and forms as I zig-zagged my way towards the northeast. At times, i was surrounded by amazing images that I attempted to record with my camera. Often I would have to get to the top of something to see the way that I was still trying to head. Some of the hoodoos are fragile, and I took care not to step or climb anything that might be damaged by my hiking boots.
According to my GPS, I was now over a mile and a half from where I had parked, with no sign of the “eggs” section and the sun getting very low, I slowly started to head back towards the parking lot while I kept shooting. A few times, I made myself stop and take a look around at where I was. I had spent a few years thinking about being at this place, and now I was present with good light and nobody else around. There aren’t many times that I have been overwhelmed by a place that I was photographing, but this was surely one of them. The shear number of things that I saw and wanted to photograph exceeded my capabilities, time and talent by a long shot.
In the end, I came away with some great images. But…….there are a ton more there to be found, and I can’t wait to go back.
As many of my friends will attest, it’s hard for me to take a trip without my camera. And, if you have the camera with you, where’s the harm in taking a few photos?
It’s not always that simple. As an example, here’s what happened on a recent trip to Moab, UT with some friends……
A core group of us from Sandpoint (and a few other places) used to go to Moab, every spring. We haven’t gone in a while for various reasons, but this year worked out that we could all get together again and a plan was hatched.
There are always some epic times on these trips. Lot’s of adventures can be had in the area, including mountain biking, photography, rock climbing, canyoneering, off roading….the list goes on and on. It’s a great time for me to shoot a lot of photos. Some for stock, some for my portfolio, and others just because I love photography.
On our first big ride, we decided to tackle a trail that I had not been on before – Poison Spider Mesa. It’s a classic Moab ride, and one of the older trails in the area. We mapped it out, and figured out how many vehicles we needed to get us all to the trailhead. The map showed that we would be on a ridge overlooking a valley, and I was excited to take my camera along and get some great images.
Taking a camera along on these rides is always a bit sketchy. First of all, it’s really heavy. My 5D along with my favorite lens (24-70mm, f2.8) weigh around 7-8 lbs. This gets stuffed into my small backpack that also holds a 3L water bladder, first aid kit, rain jacket, 2 spare tubes, CO2 cartridges, small tool kit, and food. That puts around 12-13 lbs on your back, which I strap down as tightly as I can while still allowing myself to breathe freely.
As this group of cycling friends goes, I’m a bit on the slower side….so handicapping myself with extra weight doesn’t help things 🙁 We have an agreement that we always wait for each other at intersections, just to make sure that we are all going the same way. This also makes for a great way for me to get a bit down the trail and take a few shots of people riding through. This sounds easy, but finding a great spot where the light is coming from the right direction, stashing my bike out of site, getting my camera out and my helmet/sunglasses off, and then visualizing the line that will get ridden is a lot to do in the span of 60-90 seconds. Oh, and don’t forget making sure that the camera is set correctly (white balance, ISO, and autofocus choices) and then the hardest thing….trying not to drench the camera with my sweat.
For this shot, I was lucky and found a great spot within 100 yards of where we had all stopped. I yelled back to everyone to come ahead, and had them stop just before they were in sight. I gave instructions that everyone should ride directly towards me, and turn to their right (following the trail) at the last moment.
Rider number one (I’m withholding names to protect the guilty) came through and I held the shutter button down, but only got one shot. I hadn’t double checked to make sure that my camera was set to “multi” instead of “single”, so I only got one image and the rider was too far away.
Rider number two rode through and I got a couple of good shots, but I felt I was too low to really show the view.
Rider number three rode through and now I was too high.
For rider number four, I switched to vertical and lowered myself just a bit. Unfortunately he turned right way too early and is very small in the frame (and also pointed the wrong way).
Rider number five, came through, and everything worked out pretty well (Thanx Justin!). This is that shot:
The yellow stripe you see painted on the ground is there so that you know when you are on the trail. If you ever ride in Moab, you’ll get used to looking for the various color stripes to make sure you are going the right way.
We stopped a few more times to shoot, but nothing as good as this shot. We also took a wrong turn, ran out of food and water, got a bit lost, and ended up walking a lot of hills later in the ride. One of our group also started cramping up pretty badly, but in the end we all made it out okay. There were a number of times that we shared the trail with some ORV’ers, and almost every one of them asked if we had enough water or needed anything. Moab is a place where most everyone gets along with everyone else, regardless of sport. Which is really nice.
We continued riding and exploring through the week, and unfortunately I took a rather nasty spill on the Porcupine Rim Trail. I went over the handlebars at a good clip, and tumbled a few times. Unfortunately one of the tumbles resulted in an impact to my lens which smashed to UV Filter I had on, and dented the outer ring of the lens itself. The photo of the damage isn’t very exciting, but Canon Professional Services was able to fix it right up….. to the tune of $485.00 🙁