A photograph is worth a hell of a lot more than a thousand words…


I’m not a sellout, dammit.

No photograph with this post, just me running my soup cooler. I was thinking about my post a few days ago when I was lamenting not being able to photograph my own vision, and the more I think about it, the more I think that simply isn’t true. My vision goes into every photograph I create. It doesn’t matter is someone else asked me to create the photograph for them. People come to me to create their photographs because of my vision.

I remember my college professor once saying that professional photographers, those who create photographs as a means of putting food on the table have to be willing to compromise from time to time and be willing to “sell their soul just a little.” I suppose there is some truth in that, but as in everything, black and white are not critical absolutes in life. A certainty in one situation is not a guarantee of a direct translation or application to another situation no matter how similar.

My studio has been open for six months now, and if I honestly believed I was a sell out, I would close shop, get a job at a gas station and take pictures on the weekends for free. But, I just spent the last four hours sorting through the photographs that I have taken since I opened up in January (because my website is in dire need of an update), and I am finding myself having a good measure of trouble picking which photographs to include in the update.

Between January 4th and June 6th, I have taken over thirteen thousand photographs with my digital camera alone.  Granted, not all of them are winners, and about half of them are culled from the herd before I even show them to the client. But, after my sort this afternoon, I still have close to 300 of what I would call “winners,” photographs that I am happy to show to anyone. Perhaps 100 or more of them I would cheerfully enter into an exhibition…5 of them I already have plans to do exactly that.

So, I may very well be a portrait photographer for hire, squeezing friends and strangers for their hard earned dollars, but I am still quite satisfied that I am just as much an artist as when I was in college. My vision is in every photograph I create because it takes my vision to create it. My subject matter may have changed between then and now, but I still treat every subject with the same eye.

I still like photographing women sans clothes, but weddings, children, and puppies present the same opportunities for the exploration of light, line, and beauty.


The Stowaway.

Been a while since my last update…

Since my last update, I have finished college (in December) and have moved away from Battle Creek. I returned to my native stomping grounds in Northern Michigan (just north of Petoskey).

I’ve opened a portrait studio in my home town. Things are going reasonably well. Business is picking up steam and I am gaining a steady client base. The downside is that I have had precious little time to create any art for the sake of art. But I have been able to create some beautiful and artful portraits for clients…which is most likely what I’ll share here most often.

I have had a couple of opportunities to photograph my own vision specifically for myself, and am making a point to find the time to do so. Shooting for other people is rewarding, and I do put my own vision into the work, but the truth is, the needs and desires of the client do put some limitations on said vision.

This photograph I shot for a solider that is about to deploy overseas. This is her second deployment to a combat zone. As it turns out, she and I were in Iraq at the same time in 2003.

She wanted photos of herself and her children before she left. The idea for the shot just popped in my head as we discussed her session, and she was all for it. I think it turned out well…I wanted a “Norman Rockwell” feel for this image and I think the post processing made it work out as I envisioned.

Semper Fidelis

Blood, sweat, diligence, and pride.uniformdetails2

A woman in uniform…

katieblues…my uniform, that is.

I only had one shoot with Kate. Her sister Emily had been modeling for me for some time, and brought her sister with her on one of the shoots.

She thought it would be fun to wear my dress blues, and I had a hankering for shooting a retro style military pinup/recruiting photo. This photograph is the result

Would you believe me if I told you this was a Polaroid?

I had a Mamiya Universal camera on loan from my professor and had fitted it with a polaroid back. This was shortly after Polaroid had announced that they were no longer producing instant film, and I had quite a lot of 669 pack film at the time.

I figured that the instant film would give me the look I wanted. The film is daylight color balanced, and I shot this in a studio using hot lights. This accounts for the warm muddy tones. After shooting, I scanned the 3×4 polaroid @ 4000dpi so I could make a substantial enlargement. I did color balance the image a little bit in photoshop as it came out much much warmer than I had intended.

Survivor’s Guilt

sgThere is a story behind these images that I don’t share with folks unless they are very close to me personally. The long story made short, I was involved in an incident in Iraq from which I walked away (well, survived) that others did not.

As such, I came home with a pretty healthy dose of survivor’s guilt.  Why was I permitted to live when other perished? Why did a young man with his whole life ahead of him and a newborn baby at home die? Why did a husband and father of 3 die?

The upside? The image on the right won 5th place at the West Michigan Art Exhibit in 2007

Remnant of a past life

m9uniformIn my heart of hearts, I am and always will be a United States Marine.  The Eagle, Globe & Anchor will forever be permenantly branded on my heart and soul. 

I enjoy being a photographer, and I find photography to be fulfulling and rewarding, but I was never happier than when I put this uniform on every day. Being a Marine isn’t a job or a career. It is a way of life. It is a frame of mind.

I look back on my ten years of service with fond nostalgia.

Because those damned zombies just aren’t going to kill themselves.

Sometimes I like to photograph inanimate objects. Still life and product photography are often a welcome break from portraits, weddings, and the like. With shoots like this, you don’t have to worry about people because well, frankly, people get on my nerves. I can smile and be polite, nod my head and keep my cool, but sometimes you just gotta get away from the rat race and just race rats.

The lighting set up for this shot was so stupid simple, you probably won’t believe me when I tell you how to do it. I don’t have my own lighting equipment. As a student at KCC, I don’t really need it. There is a professional lighting studio with both hot lights and high end stobres at my disposal. There are two portable lighting kits available for check out (one hot light kit and one strobe).

The downside is that it is generally only available during the semester. Sometimes the professor or parapro will let me keep an item over the break, but when I was shooting this photo, all I had was my own gear and that did not include any professional lights.

I lit this image using a 6 cell Maglite and a white pillow case. After I white balanced the DSLR for the maglite’s light, I set up the shot, and placed the camera on the tripod. I used the camera’s self timer to allow myself to get into position to act as a human boom. I placed the flashlight inside the white pillow case (the pillow case acted as a diffuser to reduce hard shadows and increase the size of the light source), turned off the living room light before the shutter opened, and waved the flashlight over the scene.  The shutter was left open for 30 seconds.

After the shutter closed, I examined the image and made adjustments in exposure and light direction. The shutter remained open for 30 seconds for all of the shots, I simply closed  the aperature down to get the correct exposure. I wanted to get a good bit of depth, so with a long exposure, the aperture would have to be closed down a bit to make a good exposure.

This one ended up being f/8 at 30 seconds 100ISO.