Friday, May 28, 2010

Amazing Time-Lapse Video Montage of Japan

What an amazing video. It also reminds me of my fantastic trip to Japan in 2009.

I really need to learn how to use the HD video capability on my 5D.

Have a good Memorial Day weekend. I feel bad for all the people who live in NJ. Thanks to MTV, wannabes from all over the US are probably headed to the Jersey Shore this weekend.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Make it happen, Cap'n

I recently had the pleasure of taking engagement photos for my good friends Jane and Peter. We took a quick stroll through Peter's alma mater as I scoped out potential locations. I usually have a good idea of where and what I want to shoot, but this was my first time on campus. As I grow as a photographer, I am starting to relish the challenge of getting the shots that I need regardless of conditions. I think that is one aspect of this business that separates the pros from the amateurs. The best can process their surroundings quickly, adapt, and make their vision a reality with relative speed.

Life is very much the same way. They say that if life gives you lemons, you ought to make lemonade. That's too easy. What if you don't even have lemons? You better look for some seeds then, son. Plant and water that bad boy. Stand watch. Wait. Keep watering. That purple stuff just won't do, because I want some lemonade. No excuses. No wallowing. Maybe a little whimpering depending on the circumstances. But in the end, make it happen, Cap'n.

Working under changing conditions is something I have grown comfortable with, but equipment failure is an entirely different story. But that too is a common recurring theme in life. Unfortunately, as I set up my first shot, I learned that my Q flash would not operate. That was a big downer, because that flash was how I envisioned getting and enhancing most of my shots. I quickly had to rethink the entire session, despite how annoyed I was at the situation. I wasn't going to get the Q flash up, but I could look for ideal natural lighting. Most photographers who claim to prefer natural light just don't know how to use artificial light sources, but there are definitely times when God-given natural light is simply amazing and impossible to simulate. So I searched. And I shot.

I used to get all crazy with my post-processing in Photoshop and Lightroom, but now I basically stick to color, black & white, and sepia. Through my education and training, I have grown to love classic photography. In particular, I find that my personal preference runs toward brown tones. I just love its timeless feel.

The sun was my friend on this day. A little sun flare was also a nice sidekick.

My love affair with infrared photography is also ongoing. This time, I chose to convert the photo into a brownish tone. The infrared camera turned this nondescript field in the middle of nowhere into a dreamy backdrop.

Most days I go back and forth between feeling frustrated that my skill level and technique is not where I want it to be and being satisfied at the progress I have made. My mind is a complicated place, and being hungry is a complicated game. Like Puff (not the Magic Dragon) used to say, 'I've got to keep on moving.'

Thursday, May 20, 2010

language of love

[Looking Ahead]

One of more unexpected and surprisingly interesting aspects of my training in photography has been the pleasure of seeing the way different cultures and ethnicities celebrate weddings.

In addition to standard American events, over the last 6 months I have had the privilege of shooting Filipino, Ethiopian, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Pakistani weddings. While I may not be versed or understand the cultural significance of each part of their respective ceremonies, I appreciate the unique twist and flavor that has emerged through each culture.

Sometimes I enjoy not being able to understand what is said, because then I have to rely on my other senses to guide me. While I enjoy words, at times they are a distraction.

Love may be the universal language, but the expression of love and commitment is different across cultures.

And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Truth About Destination Shoots

[Jamaican Sunset]

Just got back from helping shoot a destination wedding in Jamaica. I was a bit surprised at how much work it was compared to a regular wedding, but I enjoy the hustle. Prior to hitting the ground, I imagined it would be much more relaxing (enjoy the beach, pick up the camera occasionally and shoot), but the actual experience was far more intense. Between the heat, location shoots, and three days of coverage, pool time was pretty much limited to the evening and the final day. Relaxation was further cut into by a last minute model shoot. Shooting Austrian-Jamaican twins on the beach didn't really feel like work though...

[Red Stripe]

The picture above is something I came up with in the moment. I initially thought about doing a ring shot with hand prints in the sand (nothing wrong with that concept of course, just cliched), but I am glad I did not follow through. For most of my life, I have always wanted to carve out my own little niche in the world. And whatever I was doing, I wanted to do it differently. Not different just for the sake of being different, but I have always wanted to put my own unique stamp on the beach that is life. My approach to photography is no different. At the very least, I want to work off of established baselines and add my own twist. Paying homage while respecting my own individuality, I dig. As I continue to explore and define myself as an artist, I hope to maintain that attitude.

On the flight home, I could not help but reflect on the whirlwind the last 6 months of my life have been. Looking back even further, I also realize that there is an unknown purpose to the ups and downs of my life. My life may not be unfolding the way I had planned it, but it has certainly not been boring. At the moment, I do not fully understand what or where the body of my experiences is leading me to, but I am starting to think that trying to figure that out is an exercise in futility. There is a time for self-reflection and looking back, but currently I believe my time is better spent engaging in the moment. Following my dreams has gotten me thus far, and I can only hope that will carry me forward the rest of the way.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

50% Pain

[Meadowlark Gardens, VA - infrared shot at F11]

Recently, I have been intrigued by infrared photography. I love how infrared forces me to think and visualize differently from what my eye can see. I have grown to love the color green and clouds, which infrared turns into a dreamy white on the canvas of a photograph. In order to start shooting infrared more regularly, I need to buy another Canon body and have the sensor irreversibly adjusted. Photography continues to be an expensive hobby. What's a few more toys? My bank account is in serious pain.

"10% luck. 
20% skill.
15% concentrated power of will. 
5% pleasure.
50% pain.
And 100% reason to remember the name."

- Fort Minor, "Remember the Name"

I find these lines particularly applicable to photography. Anything that goes beyond the comfortable confines of a hobby and starts to teeter into the territory of a job is filled with pain. Photography as a hobby is all fun. Photography as a job requires much more discipline and engaging in tedious but necessary activities. As I've grown older, I have come to realize that every single job in the world is like that. For a while, photography and poker seemed like too good to be true professions. In the past year, through my tangential pursuit of each arena, I have come to realize that the grass in fact just looks better from the other side. So keep mowing your lawn.

Baby Momma photographers and Uncle Bob photographers are surely scratching their heads. They take pictures all the time and enjoy doing so. "Spray and pray" (in auto to boot) is their preferred operating mode, an approach that doesn't fare too well in the field. The hours that go into improving as a photographer are far greater than I anticipated before I started my training. It sounds like an adapted cliche, but photography is yet another area where there is no gain without pain. And photography does not discriminate. No matter who you are, you're only going to get back what you painfully put in.

I was in Chicago for a bachelor party this weekend. Good friends. Good food. Great city. Awesome time. As is the case with all bachelor parties, I didn't get much sleep. When I got off the plane at 1:30 PM on Sunday, I knew I didn't have much time before the wedding at 3 PM. Being so tired, I kind of thought about skipping the gig, but having committed, I did not want to go back on my word. That was the first time the thought of working an event felt like a job to me. It was a great example and reminder of the pain principle. In a quiet and unceremonious way, I felt like I crossed some kind of photography rite of passage. Ironically, I think I got some of my best images to this point at this past weekend's wedding. And it almost didn't happen. I will keep that in mind the next time I am debating calling out and taking a nap.

And despite the 50% pain, I still find that I am eager to get out there again in pursuit of that 5% pleasure. Because to be totally honest, that 5% sometimes feels like 1000%. During those moments, the time and sacrifice are all worth it.

Since this is a photography blog, I will share a few photographs. As much as I would like to, I cannot share my best photographs from recent gigs. When I get my own gigs, I will, but for now, I have to respect the subjects' privacy and want to avoid anything that might complicate my mentor's business. One day, some of those images will show up in my portfolio I am sure. For now, I suppose there is no real proof that I am a photographer nor evidence that I am improving. = )

Here are a few of my favorite photographs of Japan:

[Mount Fuji from a Bullet Train]

[Geisha Meets West - Kyoto]

[Begging Monk - Kyoto]

I took these photos before I started getting really serious about photography. These images don't make me cringe like most of my earlier shots, but I would be the first to admit they are over-processed. I see plenty of room for improvement in the images, but it kind of amuses me to remember how I used to approach photography.