Tips & Techniques

dustSpotVideoImage It's a problem we all eventually have no matter how careful you try and be with your equipment. I'm talking about those annoying dust spots that show up in your DSLR photos. They can be a slight issue or a real problem depending on how bad the situation is. I've seen some very very terribly dirty sensors, like a shovel of dirt was tossed into camera. It's really amazing at how poor some people are in their efforts in camera care and/or cleaning. A little effort goes a long way, and I'll be showing you in the video below. The process of committing to physically touching your sensor to clean it is not a task that should be taken lightly, as you can really damage the sensor, but if you execute with care and use the right tools, it will turn out just fine. We'll be covering how dust gets there, how to look for it, and how to clean it. This is the first of what I hope to be many little video tips I put together. It's nothing fancy, and I really tried to keep it simple. There are too many people trying to sound smart and/or experience when giving advice, using terms or situations that go right over newer photographer's heads. The whole point of this video is education, so I try to make it as easy to follow as possible, and speak English in relative terms. When I think I cover material that is not exactly general knowledge, I step you through it or give you some kind of visual. I was also extremely surprised to see how much misinformation there is floating around out there, especially from folks trying to tell you how to do it, and doing it wrong. Rest assured, the methods I discuss in this video are repeated with other legit professionals that actually know what they are doing.

IMG_0578 Life is all about time, or rather the lack of, right? Time is always the most scarce resource, even if you have all the time in the world, others around you, or even mother nature does not. As a photographer, "good light" naturally only happens in small fragments of time, and we counter this by using off-camera light, even when we don't need to in order to get even "better" light. I think we need to put all our cancer curing resources and task them into figuring out how to extend really nice sunsets to say... twice as long (I kid.... but seriously). Here is a behind the scenes video I cut together today, it showcases a little bit of the stuff we did while we were running around the island.

michael-jordan We all know who that man is, flying through the air, dunking a basketball. If you were to poll a bunch of people and ask them who the best basketball player of all-time is, I don't think any of us could argue that the masses would most likely utter "Michael Jordan" more times than any other name. No, he's not a photographer, but a prime example of someone who has failed over and over, yet he is the image of success. When you think of Mike, you think of thee best basketball player ever. Please watch the following video before continuing with the post.


Breaking from the Herd

It seems simple, right? I mean, you, as a photographer, just have to take pictures. How hard is that, how hard is it to just go take pictures? The hard part isn't clicking the button, it's not understanding apertures or shutter speeds, it's not even finding the time to go click that button, or enduring the bite of the cold wind as you work outside in the not-so-pleasant months of the year. For me, I think the hard part is the state of mind. It's being in "the groove," getting the creative juices free flowing, properly executing your unique perspective on the chunk of the world you are capturing in present time. It's creating photographs that are new, different, and refreshing to look at. We live in such a contradictory world. We live in a place where we are taught, either directly through our friends, family, and peers, or indirectly through magazines, news, and other media outlets how we should live our lives and think. It's the message that you are brainwashed with since day 1 of your life, "you will do this, look like this, act like this, spend money like this if you want to be happy and successful" (in a nutshell). We are taught to live by these rules, walls, and boundaries all over the place, to emulate that which is around us in both a personal and professional sense (coincidentally, we call these people who follow the rest of the flock "normal"). Yet, at the same time individualistic, out-of-the-box thinking is what people stop to appreciate, it's this thinking process that separates them from the rest. We tend to call it "breaking the mold" when something comes along and slaps us in the face, opening our own minds through other people's visions and creations. It's a really cool thing. Simply put, it's inspiring. In a way, inspiration for me is basically an escape from the mundane, it reminds me how important it is for myself to continue to create original works. Inspiration is my fuel as a photographer, it keeps my head in the right place, and keeps my work fluid and the ideas rolling in. For me, it's a kick in the ass to ensure I continue to think "outside of the box." It's a large motivator to keep me shooting, shooting personal work when I'm not shooting clients.

6-canonMerlin Been integrating more video work in with my clients. I'm experiencing that once business clients know that I can shoot/cut video along side the photos, they ask for it. And why not? At a flip of a switch, I can go from photos to video, both top quality products out of the same device, pretty neat. I say that loosely, although you can make the transition to capturing photos or video with a flip of a switch, there is a bit more to it than that. Obviously photos and video capturing have a lot in common, but as much as they have in common they also have just as much that separates the two arts. First, you have a completely different selection process for what to capture in each medium. Some things are best captured with photos, some with video. Understanding and getting a feel for working to each medium's strengths will greatly improve efficiency and the overall product given to the client. With photos, you have the luxury and power of flash/strobes to blast light, greater controlling your environment. With video, you are stuck with continuous light, which also has it's strengths as well.

IMG_8949 I was browsing the web the other day, like most days, and I saw the term once again, "light chaser." A descriptive term used for photographers. It struck a chord in me. If you are a regular reader of the blog or even a follower of my work, you'd know that the vast majority of my photography is not "chasing" light at all. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I am usually making light to compose my photographs. When I think of a 'light chaser' I think of like this herd of photographers roaming the streets, waiting for favorable light, or heck, just keeping their heads on a swivel, looking for chance opportunities where light might be shining a little luck their way. It's like back in the day when I used to watch the Scooby-Doo cartoon. Remember when they'd usually have a montage somewhere in each episode where the "gang" was running in and out of hallways doors, evading a monster. That's kinda how I picture photographers when they are referred to as light chasers, just running every which way, literally chasing light around, minus the cheesy music. Ok, leave the cheesy music, it's a good touch...

matty_3.4.10_ 373 Ok... so we are shooting on-location. Woah, hold on. What does "on-location" even mean?! That all depends on you, the photographer, or you, the client who has hired a photographer. A lot of new photogs out there will toss around words like "on-location" to describe in a round-about way of saying they don't use lighting. Which translates to they haven't invested in either the knowledge, the equipment, or both in order to utilize lighting for on-location shoots. Photographers who spin their own reality using catchy words in an attempt to sound marketable, allthe while misinforming the public can drive me crazy at times. On-location does not mean you are having to settle for anything less than amazing. I bring up this odd tangent at the very beginning of my post to make a key point. That point is that on-location does not mean I can't bring the power and control of my lights with me where ever I go, in fact, it's the exact opposite. I repeat, I'm bringing more than just my camera to the party. I use every single piece of lighting equipment that I use in the studio in that big, wild, endless possibilities of an environment we call "on-location." It's the world around us, every part of it. And I'm here to tell you that every single part of it can be lit with off-camera lighting to create your own vision. A vision that couldn't happen without bringing your own lights along for the ride.

handwashingHANDS It's so important going into a project to bring some sort of a vision along for the ride. You just don't show up to a location for a gig, drop your gear bags, look around with your hands on your hips, deeply inhale, and then with a sigh-like exhale go "ok, so how we gonna get this baby done?" Don't get me wrong, in some cases that is literally the situation you are thrown in, but in all instances when you are lucky enough to get that planning/conceptualization time... USE IT! That's why I thought I'd write up a little post about "the vision" that goes into projects, where the concepts start, how I work on key visuals, etc. The following are some sketches from the concept phase that we drew up prior to the shoot day side by side with shots from the video we just finished last week. Yes, you will always get something a little off from your sketches, whether that be restrictions of your location, time, access, etc., but some of the sketches below show how the main idea is retained from the concept and carried through to the final product. This first guy is a perfect example of that. We originally had a cat sitting on the bed to give it a more "homey" feel. But... you can always count on the most predictable animal to act like a D-bag when you really need them to pull through for ya. Our ridiculously lazy cat model, who on any other day wouldn't move if you stepped on him, decided to emulate a curious cat on a crack high, not sitting for more than half a second. Oh well. For the rest of it, it worked out pretty much to plan.

IMG_9790 Started working with a new client the other week, Tiare Floral Design. A floral designer local here to Tacoma. Doesn't sound too exciting, eh? Yeah, well he's not exactly the kinda guy who is taking calls at flowers-r-us. When you think of a floral arrangement I can guarantee you it's not anything close to what Tomasi, the designer, is creating. I've had the pleasure of seeing his work in person, and it's not something you'll find the Safeway florist slapping together. Tomasi approached me and said he really liked my work, I said the same, and we were booking shoots that day. I'd never shot flowers specifically, but after seeing Tom's work, I was very excited to take a shot at it. We talked about present and future projects. The most interesting aspect of our future work coming down the road for me is the mixture of portraiture and the floral design. So there will be many posts coming at you in the months to come with many variations besides just flowers on a pedestal.


Remember the days when you saw a really awesome photograph that was visually engaging say... 10 years ago? The comment that inevitably seeped from your mouth was something along the lines of "this is so good, it looks fake," yet full well knowing it was most likely the real deal, cause at that point in time digital photography and photoshop artists were just really starting to go mainstream and it was uncommon for a photograph to undergo complete and utter manipulation by the knife of a photochopper. Today it's the exact opposite, if the photo looks awesome it's gotta be fake. Something has been tweaked, thinned, trimmed, cut and pasted, filtered, and/or drawn. Which brings me into the meat of the discussion...

What has photography become? How unrealistic have we become, how have our expectations lost every little scrap of perspective on the real world? As I browse thousands of model and photographer portfolios I'm overwhelmed by the amount of doctored photographs, neither providing true representation of themselves or work. A model with so much post work done to her she looks like a barbie doll (no exaggeration), and photographers claiming work as "photography" after a picture has spent a good few hours getting "tweaked" in photochop (yes, chop). Hell, the only ones being honest are the photochoppers showing their work, cause that is their true work.


Summer is coming to an end, days are getting shorter, and I have still only gotten out to ride my motorcycle a handful of times during our 4 good months of riding weather here in Washington. While looking at this set of photos it occurred to me, I think I've photographed my bike more times this year than I have ridden it. But at the same time, I like looking at the machine almost as much as I like riding it, it's a piece of art all by itself.

I wanted to shoot something extremely simple yet visually engaging, and this shoot provided just that. I've recently been playing with a lot of color gels, creating vivid backgrounds on the seamless. I posed the bike in front of the seamless, threw a single strobe behind the bike with a color gel, and popped the picture. I wanted a nice gradient light falloff, which the single light did perfectly, while also keeping to our "simple" theme for the shoot. Lisa stood in as my shadow rider (I wouldn't recommend following her riding technique out on the streets ;) ).

IMG_2913 So I ponied up some dough and bought the AlienBee RingFlash system a couple weeks ago. Just got out in the studio to finally play around with if for the first time. Lisa, the brave soul for most of my lighting testing, stepped in to let me blind her at point-blank range for an hour or so. I will feel fully responsible if this poor girl looses her sight by the ripe old age of 30, cause at the current rate, it's totally a possibility.