Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Searching through the archives for "the best"

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment. – Ansel Adams

While I constantly feel compelled to capture a scene,  I have a difficult time looking through my images, many of which are really quite lovely, to find one or two that I'd like to submit to competition. I have participated in competitions for years. They are, in a word, brutal. Judges tell you why the image would have been better if it had been taken at a different time of day, from a different perspective, if it were only darker, or lighter, or had fewer distractions. Spectacular images are presented to the judges. The audience pauses, not daring to breathe, and then the judges proceed to say that the image is good, BUT....

And once again, after having spent hours trying to decide which were best and which I should submit to the ridicule, I carry my images home feeling depressed that, once again, I have not "scored." Somehow this process does educate me and makes me continue to seek that perfect image. (Perhaps I am a masochist?) In the process, I do come home from a shoot, happy at the newest images I've captured (even if the judges may find fault with them). Even writing this, I want to grab my camera and head out for a snowy sunset. But my objective today was to sift through my recent images and see if I can find one that I'll have printed as a 16" x 20" competition print and open myself up to more critique. In order to get that process rolling, I paused to read a blog and some articles from photographers that I admire. Thus I found the quote above which makes me realize that even Ansel Adams was not always pleased with the results of his photography. So it is an ongoing process, in search of the perfect composition, elements, colors, shapes and ultimately, to create a vision from those elements that moves others. 
Think I'll run out and seek a new snowy sunset after all.

Happy New Year's, Friends. Here's to continuing that bizarre compulsion to capture the perfect image. Happy Shooting in 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas and Thank You

'Tis the season to recognize others and the impact they have on your world. I am very grateful to the people who have put their trust in me and allowed me to photograph their events and be part of the special moments in their lives.
I am also grateful to those of you who read my blog.  I don't get a lot of feedback (feel free to respond in any way!) but every now and then someone tells me they've been reading and it makes it all worth my while!  Hopefully, in 2011, I'll do more "behind the scenes" articles where I'll show you what the set up looked like and what challenges we met.

I was blessed this past week with being asked to take portraits of some very beautiful young women of varying ages, all who made great subjects. They make photography easy and a pleasure to edit.

Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, a holiday filled with love and laughter and a year to come complete with many, many wonderful, photographic moments.
Happy Holidays!
Love and thanks for being a part of my world,

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Been busy this week with a nice variety of tasks. Shot a young boy who is contemplating modeling and had fun with his younger brother as well who looks like he'll make a great director/manager for his sibling.
I hope to go back and take some outdoor shots as well. I think the texture of the rocks in his backyard and a barn down the street will make some great backgrounds.

I also shot a dance company's recital. It was full of energy and capturing the young women was quite a challenge.  The one above is my favorite.

I shot a one year old's birthday party. She is part Korean and they dressed her in her mother's traditional garb to see how she would choose her destiny.
As you can see, she'll be a scholar since she immediately went for the book.

On Monday night I shot a nonprofit event at Locust Grove, Samuel Morse's Estate, that provided Women in Transition with spa treatments.  It was a lovely event and I actually got to do some much needed networking as well as get a facial, so taking photographs definitely has it's perks.

It's been a productive week - and one where I've had computer and phone issues as well. But I am a much happy camper when I keep busy and creative, so it's been a fulfilling week as well.  I am looking forward to a Fashion/Photo Op Teenage party this coming weekend.

Happy Shooting!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas is coming

So bring on the red!

As you can see, not everyone got the memo (or paid attention to it) but my point is, pay attention to what you chose to wear for a photo shoot (or advise your client). Solid colors with no logos work best. As you can see, my family is very cooperative about posing for the group shot. I am always surprised at having to tell clients how to line up, since my family is so accommodating. We usually even fall into "age order." But most people haven't spent their life being photographed by their nutty oldest sister, so they do need some direction. Looking for triangles within the heads is a good technique (unfortunately not seen in the haphazard photo above.)
This was a fun client that I shot the "whole" family - 20 members and then shot each of the 3 daughter's individual families. Each of the daughter's selected a different version of blue for their t-shirts so the large family shot looked like this:

I'm looking forward to a 13 year old birthday party/fashion portrait shoot next week.  I'm hoping the young women all come with fun hats, scarves and mittens and I'll do some nice portraits outdoors using reflectors and some fill light. I'll be sure to bring plenty of colorful scarves and mittens of my own in case the girls forget to bring theirs.
Think about what you wear this season. You may just get photographed yourself!
Happy shooting!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I am so blessed to have a big, healthy, happy family: My mom who is an inspiration to us all, four sisters, three brothers, a great husband, three daughters, numerous nieces and nephews, one who is in Marine boot camp right now getting ready to defend our country. God has blessed me with so many gifts, people, experiences and great times to enjoy with all.

I am thankful for all of this and more. May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember the great things in your life.  Happy Thanksgiving!
Love, Chris

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reviewing Some Things That I've Learned

I took the train to NYC to enjoy Indian food and a Broadway play with my youngest daughter and got the opportunity to read some photo magazines and re-read through all the notes I’ve been taking this past month. I cart around an old-fashioned spiral notebook with me everywhere I go and take notes but I hadn’t taken time to review those musings until now. These are some of the things I’ve learned recently:
            • Light is the key to a great photograph. A perfect subject is nothing without light and the QUALITY of that light is the most important factor. (Robert Rodriguez, Jr. )
            • Google calender something I need to investigate further. (John Ianelli)
            • My next purchase needs to be two additional hard drives and I need to organize them better. I also need to research off-site storage places. ( the Apple Store in Danbury, Ct.)
            • Things I should blog about – A look at behind the scenes, show off recent work, provide tutorials, interview other photographers, give reviews, pose questions to your audience. OK, audience, what would you like me to blog about? Is there something you'd like to know? Please, please, please respond.
            • If you are contacted by a prospective client by e-mail, respond to them with a phone call, not an e-mail. Make a personal connection. OK - tried that one this morning. Took more time on the phone but hopefully the mom feels more confident about my talent now than she did before.

     Well, it was great having time to catch up on the train, but it was even better getting to NYC at dusk and having fun getting some new photos. Thank God for high ISOs!
Have a blessed Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the ability to shoot the beauty that is in this world as well as for the fans I've developed and the chance to share those images.  Happy Thanksgiving & keep on shooting!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Keeping up

I've been writing this blog to share photography tips and great places I've discovered to photograph for close to two years now. Sometimes I get a little off the beaten track but for the most part I'm hoping that there are a few folks who take the time to read what I have to say and maybe even look forward to the next installment. A week ago I heard a speaker talk about the importance of "Building a Community" and getting more people to follow your blog. So, aspiring photographer friends, please let me know what you'd like me to focus on (get it?) and how can I make this a better blog?

I made my first "tweet." Not sure where it went or if anybody noticed but I am trying to decipher the world of Twitter. I also posted a few images on Flickr. Again, it seems like a black hole to me at the moment but perhaps I'll get discovered there.... One can hope.

On a more productive note, I shot the American Society of Fundraising Professionals Award luncheon last week. It was a lighting challenge because it was such a large room and it had such a variety of lighting already. Still, I put a gel on my flash to try and prevent everything looking too yellow and I got some nice shots of some very impressive people.
Above is J. Douglas McDaniel, Director of Special Gifts for the Salvation Army, who won an the Outstanding Fundraising Professional award. Below him is a very enthusiastic  15-year old, Sara-Elizabeth Clark who was awarded Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy for all the work she has done both by raising money and bringing about an understanding of epilepsy. I found myself tearing up as I listened to the their stories of dedication, determination and selflesness. Sometimes it is an honor to be a photographer to document important events in the lives of others.

I was fortunate enough to get a couple of hours with Robert Rodriguez, Jr. the following day who showed me his gorgeous studio complete with large prints of his beautiful work and he shared with me some awesome details of his Lightroom workflow. He shared the names of some photographers to check out: Bill Atkinson, Brenda Tharp, Allison Shaw and of course, Art Wolfe. It's always great to go to great photographer's site to get inspired.

Happy shooting!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Absorbing great new information

What a great day! My head is bursting with information. I went to a TEP - that is Hudson Valley Professional Photographic Society of NY's (HVPPSNY) Talent Exchange Program - an all day learning experience for Photographers in Newburgh. I highly recommend making sure you get in on any advanced education opportunities that are available. The morning speakers was Lindsay Adler who spoke about lighting for fashion photography. Her basic message was break the rules and you can make anything work. She showed examples of a variety of lighting techniques and then gave a live demonstration with a model. Adler seemed to be a a font of knowledge as she confidently turned the subject matter to new media social networking (she's got a book on the subject, "A Linked Photographers' Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media"). Her enthusiasm and comfort with a large variety of networking programs made me excited about exploring more thoroughly the world of social networking. Stay tuned while I try and figure out how to tweet. She did encourage us to "Build a Community" - that is, to develop an audience who will participate in a dialogue and be our "voice" in letting others know it's worth following our blog.  So, that's your job if you are reading this.  She had lots of other great suggestions that I hope to incorporate in the coming days.

The afternoon speaker was Neil van Niekerk who provided insight at one flash photography for weddings which I really appreciated and hope to try out tomorrow when I'm shooting an award luncheon for a philanthropic group. 

All in all the day was great and I am so excited about the things I learned.

Here's a photo from last Saturday when I tried my hand at horse photography:
I am so blessed to grow as a photographer and I encourage everyone reading this to enjoy your growth as photographers as well!

Monday, November 1, 2010


As much fun as it is to TAKE pictures, there's a job behind that called "managing your photos" (Photo management). My task has become a bit more complicated lately since I am now working with Lightroom (I was working exclusively in Photoshop).  I USED to save everything in folders by year and then by month. Lightroom seems to have a design for me that I haven't quite figured out....thus I have managed to duplicate things and even seem to be missing one complete photo shoot.   The lesson I have learned here is that it is important to LEARN the program thoroughly and stay on top of all new innovations.

I went with a friend to Photo Expo in NYC last Thursday and was reminded that there are CONSTANT innovations in photography. The nice part was that some of the vendors were willing to explain things or tell us where to find additional help.  It was fun watching experts demonstrate how to use the Wacom tablet and to see how the pros utilize the newest HDR techniques. I purchased some paper samples and plug-ins that should help me to enhance my photos. The best part of the day was bright and early as we stood on the train platform and saw a magnificent vision as the fog sat on the Hudson River and the sun shone on the boats and the fall colors. Naturally I didn't have a camera with me. But, I woke up early Friday morning hoping to get a second chance at capturing that beautiful site. Naturally, Friday was overcast and gray. Definitely not the same conditions as Thursday. Still, I had fun hiking along the waterfront and trying to see what I could still glean from the cold, bleak day.
I guess my favorite picture from the weekend still goes to my beautiful niece, Brynn.  She can make anyone smile.....
Happy shooting, friends.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Some of life's little lessons

"Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
                                                                                    –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I've come to a quiet place in my new career. I left the newspaper industry in July to spread my wings as a freelance photographer. I was fortunate to have several assignments and plans in the ensuing weeks. I've shot a few weddings, worked with a team of school photographers, done a few head shots a few advertising shots and now... life has gotten quiet.

Time to take a look at some of the images I've taken to see how they can be improved and select some favorites for a new portfolio.  I've been fortunate to have learned some new techniques for enhancing existing photos.  Like making panoramas....

and making already dramatic skies pop.....
This world is filled with great teachers who are willing to share their expertise. I've learned so much from joining camera clubs (DRPPHVPPSNY) where guest speakers like Joe Brady share their amazing expertise. And I've had the pleasure of taking photo workshops with geniuses like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson and Robert Rodriguez Jr. all of whom are eager to share their knowledge and help watch a fellow photographer grow.  All of those I've mentioned, and many others, provide tons of great information on their websites, blogs and in books they have written.

We are so blessed to live in a spectacularly beautiful world and be given the talent and education on how to try and capture the emotion we feel when we witness a beautiful landscape. So, it is a joy to share some of that and try to encourage others to get out there and try and capture a moving image. As Robert Rodriguez said to us in Acadia, "Do not say 'this is how the landscape looks', but rather 'this is how I represent and interpret the landscape I encounter.'"

I hope I am making moving representations.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Always Important To Remain Teachable

Share your knowledge. 
It is a way to achieve immortality.
                         Dalai Lama

"Less is more"
                       Originally by poet, Robert Browning; 
                       more currently by photographer Robert Rodriguez, Jr.

I am still reeling from a five day landscape photography workshop led by one of my favorite photographers, Robert Rodriguez, Jr. I’ve yearned to capture just one image as spectacular as his ever since I saw him speak at my camera club two years ago. His images just speak to me…they make me feel all kinds of emotions and totally captivate me.

So, when I saw that he was leading a workshop in the Fall at Acadia National Park, a place very high on my list of places to visit, I immediately signed up.  The workshop met all of my expectations and more. The only down side is that I am currently very dissatisfied with my own photos. The images I used to show proudly suddenly seem cluttered and “not good enough.”  I hope this is a good thing. It must be because I am still happy to be plowing through them and thrilled that I have learned new techniques to enhance them. Perhaps I just need some time to distance myself from them. 

One of the first things he taught us, and he was a wonderful teacher, willing to share all of his magical insight, was that we should look at our scene and determine “if I have to capture this image, what would I caption it?” Well, that’s one of my biggest problems right there. I want to call all of my photos, “pretty scene.” But that doesn’t tell the story or help you recognize the subject. So, that is something I need to continue to work at.

He stresses that quality light is the key – you can have an amazing subject, but without magic light and good composition, your image simply will not work.  Suddenly many of my images are not working.  They are still moving images, I believe, and I will share some here now. I have certainly been fortunate to receive a lot of positive feedback from my pictures in the past. And my mother and friends remind me today that I have a style all my own.  But I’m just not as pleased with the light and composition in many of my images as I would like to be. 

I had a lot of fun waking up with the group and racing to see the sun rise at different, magnificent sites that Rodriguez selected for us. If nothing else, just being up watching the light was exhilarating. His enthusiasm for nature’s beauty was absolutely contagious. He was eager for his students to see as he sees and I am getting it – I am beginning to realize that there is an innate beauty in simplicity. “What does not add, detracts.” 

Then why are my images so filled with clutter? And why do I capture "everything" and am having so much trouble simplifying? I believe I am just beginning this journey of actually "seeing the light" and improving myself, perhaps not only as a photographer, but maybe as an intuitive human being as well. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Big Adventure

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans     – John Lennon

The PLAN was to travel and photograph and write about the experience (and sell it to a magazine). We DID travel and I DID take an enormous amount of photos (why did I shoot every one of Elvis' rooms in Graceland?) but while we DID get to see some great places, the joy of the trip was in the PEOPLE we visited with. The photos I took tell the story of our days, ad I'm glad to have them but they are not artistic gems that would be coveted by national magazines.

On our way to Texas (to visit daughter #1) we stopped off in Gettysburg,
Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky, Elvis' Memphis home, Graceland (even stayed at the Heartbreak Hotel) and Hot Springs, Arkansas.

We climbed up this tower
To get an outrageous view of Hot Springs, where they are know for having springs that are 140 degrees. Over the years, people have flocked there for the healing power of baths in these unusual waters. The town once flourished as a healthy retreat and it remains a charming place to visit.

There was a National Park Visitor Center that showed us how sterile and clinical the whole thing looked - not spa like at all (which I had hoped for).  So, we passed on the bath experience.

Next stop was Elgin, Texas, home of my daughter and son-in-law. It really was a beautiful drive  from Arkansas to the Austin area, as we passed pine forests and some very small towns. Even stopped by for charming antiques
and got to visit a Texas dance hall
But the very best part of the trip was in the people we got to see and spending quality time with some very important people who we don't get to spend enough time with and for that I am quite thankful!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Living my dream

Had lunch with a dear photography buddy yesterday and her enthusiasm for my new lifestyle was contagious. "You are doing everything you set out to do!" she beamed, "you are living your dream."  Yes, I am. Shot a wedding last week and have another one coming up. I'm studying Lightroom and HDR every free moment I can find (isn't that what everyone's reading about in local doctor waiting rooms?).  I've got my website set up so that you can purchase images there and a profit check will be sent to me (eventually).  I am working with someone to build an even more professional site.  The only thing I haven't mastered is writing the travel stories (complete with photos) and hawking them to publications. But wait... we've got a neat road trip coming up followed by a whole NY wintertime which should be a perfect time for doing just that.

Did a portrait shoot for a friend last week and posted it on Facebook – and then got two more requests to take portraits to update people's FB profile picture. Hooray!

My challenge to you today is to take photos that tell a story... or that you want your audience to figure out the story. Like:
Give yourself an assignment. For example, focus only on things that are blue. Or only on round things. There's a whole group of people who seek out letters in the alphabet for their images – this can be an especially fun thing to do in a big city. Just keep shooting and having fun doing it. Read inspiring books on how to get better and look for that great shot that has a subject and tells a story,  I'm still searching for that perfect picture.  

Happy shooting!