Monday, March 29, 2010

The Evolution of Me

Ever since one of my good friends decided to tie the knot at a destination wedding in the Caribbean this summer, I have been super excited for June to come. Some may like the mountains, but I am a beach boy, through and through. I have also come to appreciate the finer points of this thing they call a wedding. [The photo above is a detail shot of portions of the Save the Date and RSVP card created by my buddy's fiancee, a talented graphic designer.]

I have to be honest, weddings haven't always excited me. In fact, before I got into photography, I pretty much didn't enjoy going to weddings unless a very close friend of mine was getting married... or unless there was really good food or exceptionally hot female friends of the bride and groom in attendance. Quite frankly, all weddings seemed kind of the same to me.

That all changed the day I shot my first wedding. For the first time in my life, I was truly able to get a bride's perspective on what an emotionally charged day and experience a wedding is. Even though I experienced my own wedding, like many brides and grooms, I think I was too preoccupied to truly relax and enjoy the day. Not to sound sexist, but the way men and women fundamentally approach and feel about a wedding is very different. You need to look no further than who is more into wedding planning. However, I also believe that most women have a much richer experience at their weddings relative to men precisely because they care so much about and have spent time on more of the details.

So now, when I am shooting a wedding, I have grown to love looking for, seeing, and capturing subtle emotions emerging throughout the day. It truly is such an amazing and intimate moment in two people's lives. It's an honor to be there behind the scenes really. Each wedding also makes me think of my wonderful wife and reminds me of what an undeniably important part of my life she is. Every 'I do' that falls upon my ears is not complete without a momentary mental image of my better half. In some ways, I am reliving my own wedding while photographing each wedding.

While wedding budgets vary widely, each event has a unique story to tell. I love finding and helping to share that story. I never would have guessed I would feel this way a year ago. I also have bought more pairs of shoes at Aldo in the past month than my wife, but that is its own story that I am not so keen on sharing...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

on sadness

Recently, I was tasked with capturing "sadness" as a photography project.

I failed miserably.

First off, I don't believe in excuses, but I will offer up a couple before I proceed. Normally beautiful weather on the weekend is a great thing, but on a weekend I am lugging my 5DMII around trying to find "sadness," it is really detrimental. Smiles all over the place. Epic failure. There was a small glimmer of hope on Monday afternoon, clouds and rain. As soon as I got home and had my camera in hand, wouldn't you know it, here comes the sun. Epic failure the sequel. I hope this doesn't turn into a trilogy.

My failure was not due to a lack of effort, which I can live with. However, I believe that my failure was due to a lack of good preparation, which ultimately makes execution impossible.

For some reason, when I first thought of the notion of sadness, I envisioned a kid that dropped his/her ice cream cone. If I wanted to make that image happen, I should have parked myself near an ice cream store with a long lens and waited for the moment. Again, not to make excuses, but I doubt my wife would have enjoyed hanging out near an ice cream shop waiting for some random kid to drop his treat on a gorgeous afternoon. It was a rare Saturday off from photography to boot. I am just glad she has been gracious about the amount of time I spend at the studio or on gigs, so I didn't want to push it.

So since I wasn't able to truly capture the notion of sadness in an image, I created the lame image that starts this post. One thing is for sure, any emotion that is "created" is hollow in some way. Jerry Ghionis might disagree, especially given his endorsement of the concept of "posed photojournalism," but I think nothing can match the intensity and authenticity of pure unadulterated emotion. Whether it be sadness or happiness, I will strive to capture genuine and interesting slices of reality.

I follow my dreams. I live with my heart. I just hope one day my photography catches up and fully reflects my passion for life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WPPI Recap

WPPI was a fantastic week of inspiration and growth. The conference was a mind blowing experience, and it truly opened my eyes to everything that is happening in the photography industry. I enjoyed being surrounded by thousands of photographers and the opportunity to listen to presentations from stars in the photography world (including Joe Buissink above). If you ever have the opportunity to hear Joe speak, I would highly recommend it. The man is immensely talented and humble, two qualities than generally do not pair up.

The passion of the presenters was amazing. It visibly oozed out of their pores. While I didn't agree with every lecturer's approach, I still respected their respective stories and fervor. It really charged me up to continue working on my fundamentals and get started on finding my own style as a photographer. The motto "inspiration not imitation" is certainly an adage to hold close.

So after a week of sitting in seminars from 8 AM to 8PM, I came to the following conclusion. There are two breeds of successful photographer: there are great photographers, and there are great marketers. Loads of creativity can go a long way in covering a lack of formal training, but I have my suspicions as to how long trendy photographers can sustain their businesses. One thing is for sure, if you are successful, you have essentially earned the right to tell people whatever you want to tell them.

Interestingly enough, my week at WPPI is drawing me in two seemingly different directions. In addition to digital photography, I want to shoot film and HD video. Preparing for the future while respecting the past is a running theme in my life, and I would have it no other way. Whatever the medium, I am going to work on visualizing things before I shoot and pouring my emotions into my photos. While I may have been doing this subconsciously before, I want my photography to take on more of a deliberate and sensitive approach.

So eager to get out there and shoot the next gig. Even more anxious to see if an improvement/difference in my work will be readily apparent.

As for the rest of my time in Vegas, I played poker and slept very little. Finished 19th out of 100 in the WPPI Poker Tournament, but I think I actually played much worse than that number would indicate. In my defense, I was extremely tired the first night and due to unwise loose play out of the gate, I was playing catch-up most of the night. As for poker tournaments, I strongly feel if you don't place in the money, you might as well be the first one out. Next year...

One morning, I got up early and took a few photos. That is how I know I love photography. After a week of sleeping an average of 3 hours a night, I happily climbed out of bed at 6 AM to walk around and shoot.

This guy was deep in thought in front of the Bellagio.

While I recognize there is nothing truly special about this photograph, I like that it demonstrates the properties of morning light.

And if you have never had a deep fried Twinkie, you don't know what you're missing. A fabulous value for 99 cents to boot!

It is often said that, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," but I have brought much back home with me.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

Just returned from a week in Las Vegas, which sounded like a great idea before I arrived in Vegas but turned out to be a little longer than a Vegas trip should be. Still, I love Vegas, and I am sure I will be stoked to return.

WPPI was awesome! I will share deeper thoughts on it later, but I am truly inspired, challenged, humbled, and just ready to raise my photography game like never before. I would highly recommend anyone interested in seriously pursuing photography to check out the conference.

For now, I must go to sleep.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Daunting Odds

Recently came across these statistics:

In the 1st year, 60% of photographers give up their business. Of that remaining 40%, another 25% will fail within the 2nd year. The ones that make it are the remaining 15% who endure through the 3rd year.

So essentially, 85% of new photographers don't make the cut by the third year. Those are pretty grim figures, and while they are certainly challenging, it doesn't really surprise me.


Well for starters I think there is much more to photography than owning a DSLR. There is also more to being a successful photographer than learning how to use your DSLR, though that is definitely a necessary step and a prerequisite. Marketing is nice, but it only really works when backing a stellar product. You can't have icing without cake. I guess you could, but who wants that?

The best photographers are out there constantly honing their craft and building upon a solid foundation (lighting, posing, composition) that was painstakingly laid out over time. The gap between the best and the mediocre hasn't necessarily grown any wider, but the ranks of the mediocre have certainly swelled.

Just take an honest look around at the websites and portfolios of the average photographer. Sloppy images and sloppy websites are kind of the norm in the industry. It doesn't surprise me that 85% are not making it past the third year. In fact, it's probably more of a miracle that some were even able to "survive" for even a little while.

I think everyone is entitled to follow their dreams (in any way they see fit), but it shouldn't come as a surprise when you don't hit that 2 outer. If you do, great. But in the long run, you'll probably donate your winnings right back to the table.

Numbers don't lie. People do, which sometimes lead to numbers lying. But in this case, there seems to be a logical explanation for why the numbers are what they are.

Cheers to everyone grappling and working to be a part of the elusive 15% that makes it past the 3rd year. There's no silver or bronze in life. You make it, or you don't.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Baby Shoot

I am not the biggest fan of babies. I do like kids, but I have seen up close how much work and effort it takes to raise one. And I've seen some pretty bad kids too. You just never know what babies are going to be like. I like poker, but I do not like to gamble.

I assisted with a baby/family portrait session this past weekend, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience. Any sort of situation where there is learning pertaining to photography, I tend to enjoy; however, I was surprised at how much emotion there is to capture when a parent holds their infant child. Photography at its core is about chasing light, but a close second is chasing emotion. When those two come together, the results can be quite amazing. My shots may not be amazing, but I can tell that my stuff is improving. And that is always encouraging.

I am thrilled that the client selected a couple of my photos. Nothing brings me satisfaction like someone enjoying my work.