Wishing you all a wonderful and joyous holiday season!

No snowmen in sight...

No snowmen in sight…

It seems like the faster I go, the further behind I get. Thankfully my lovely wife has gotten at least some cards sent out to family, as I have been so preoccupied that I haven’t even picked up a card for her. And I’m still in the thick of it, thrilled that there is photographic work keeping me busy through the waning weeks of 2014!

I just wanted to take the time to thank all of the wonderful people that have made it possible for me to be a professional photographer and photo-educator, and there are so many. Each and every one of you is special to me!

It’s Christmas time here in Charleston SC, which means no snow but plenty of holiday cheer to be seen. One of the many visual delights is to walk about and see all of the homemade wreaths decorating the historic homes. Thought I’d share a few with you. Merry Christmas!Christmas season on Tradd Street Christmas season on Tradd Street Christmas season on Tradd Street Christmas season on Tradd Street Christmas season on Tradd Street

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The ProActive Photographer; Photographic Inspiration

Over the years I have enjoyed looking at the images made by master photographers and artists, and I remain in awe of what has been created. I do this for inspiration and to better my craft. Seeing through the eyes of Yousuf Karsh, Steve McCurry, John Singer Sargent, Gregory Heisler, Jay Dickman, Art Wolf, Renoir, Richard Avedon, Pablo Picasso, Joe McNally and so many others (my list is huge and there are so many I owe much to!) broadens my personal view. It also allows me to shift my way of seeing things in new ways, which has given me much appreciation for the every-day!

What keeps me inspired is the ability to tell a story through the images I create. What inspires you? What stories do your images tell?

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Ghislaine Maxwell, founder of the TerraMar Project, a nonprofit on a mission to create a global ocean community to speak up for the high seas.

Next time; Photographic goals for 2015

Magnolia blossom at the historic Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston SC

Magnolia blossom at the historic Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston SC

Corporate portrait, Mario Nardone

Corporate portrait, Mario Nardone

Newly renovated Colorado state capital dome. All of the copper plates that make up the dome were repaired or replaced and shipped to Italy along with gold mined in Colorado for gilding, then shipped back for installation.

Newly renovated Colorado state capital dome. All of the copper plates that make up the dome were repaired or replaced and shipped to Italy along with gold mined in Colorado for gilding, then shipped back for installation.

Brilliant lecture by "Catch me if you can" Frank Abignale

Brilliant lecture by “Catch me if you can” Frank Abignale

Technician setting up the new Orion medical fluid delivery machine

Technician setting up the new Orion medical fluid delivery machine

Ageless beauty

Ageless beauty

Athletic beauty in the human form, pro surfer

Athletic beauty in the human form, pro surfer

"Obey Giant" Sheppard Fairey's Andre the Giant looks across downtown Charleston

“Obey Giant” Sheppard Fairey’s Andre the Giant looks across downtown Charleston

Camera Gear, part 2 ~ Or the tools in the toolbox continued…

I have been asked once again by people getting into photography; what’s the best camera and what do I use? There seems to be this ever-present mystery in the eyes of the general public (and quite a number of photographers!) is that there is some special gear still out there that can create the perfect image and that what ever they have isn’t good enough. Maybe this is what is fueling the latest mumblings going on in my brain.

Wait, what?

Yep, even found myself feeling the same way, but for a different reason.

These days I have been wondering what the perfect setup for me would be when I cover next year’s Sperry Top-Sider Race Week here in Charleston SC and a race week in the Bahamas. The second part of this dilemma, is that for the sailing race in the Bahamas, we’ve been invited to set sail from here in Charleston aboard our friends’ beautiful 43’ Beneteau. In becoming shot-term live-a-boards, space will be a premium, so bringing along all sorts of gear that I would usually have (like the EF400mm 2.8L II that’s not much smaller or lighter than a horses leg!) will not work.

With this limitation in place, I’ve been having some serious gear lust for the Olympus OM-D pro system. They have built a pro-level micro four thirds system that is dust proof, water proof and even freeze proof, and have just come out with another pro zoom lens; the 40-15mm f/2.8 Zuiko (equivalent of 80-300mm on Full Frame) . I had already tested the fantastic 12-80mm f/2.8 Zuiko lens (equivalent to a 24-80mm on full frame) on the OM-D EM-1 and was quite impressed with its sharpness and clarity. I have already heard from my friend, Olympus Visionary Jay Dickman, that this was even better! And to round things out, they are planning to roll out the pro-line Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 & 300mm f/4 for micro four thirds sometime next year. Four lenses giving me a focal range of 14mm to 600mm in full frame equivalency plus two pro bodies, all waterproof, weighing in at less than half of my normal kit.

Pretty sweet. But would it also cover my needs for the rest of the photographic work I do? Maybe not.

I look at photographic gear in terms of buying in to a “system”. In other words; what kind of lighting systems will it interface with? It gets old when you have to cobble gear together in an attempt to make things work reliable, and in commercial work repeatability is essential. Right now Canon has the best OEM small flash system available, complete with built in wireless transmission. No need to purchase third party accessories in an attempted work around. There may be in time, something available from Quantum that talks with the Micro Four Thirds systems of Olympus and Panasonic, but they have been working on it for a few years with no signs of a release.

So I guess this is my way of explaining my answer to the original question in depth. The best camera system is the one that covers what you, the photographer, need it to do very well. And in my case, more tools in the toolbox!

One more thing to think of when looking at upgrading cameras or making your foray into a new gear purchase, is how it feels in your hands. No matter how technologically advanced the latest camera and lens combo is, if you aren’t comfortable with the way your gear handles, you won’t enjoy creating images with it.

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving and don’t forget to make those holiday captures with the ones you love!

Next time; The ProActive Photographer ~ Photographic Inspiration

Ciao!Olympus_OMD_EM1 001 20141119_Gibbes_Luncheon_Preview-021 2014 Sperry Top-Sider Race Week Friday 20141120_NanoScreen_Orion_web-017 SI Solutions, Inc., Columbia SC

In search of the next great image

The life-long pursuit of the next great image

I have been on a quest…, for the past four decades. And me thinks I’ll be on this quest for many years to come. Not quite as “out there” like Monty Python’s Holy Grail, but close. Yes, the Quest for The Next Great Image still has a hold on me.

I have seen so many wondrous things through the lens and many that just make you stop and say “Huh?” out loud. The joy in all of this is that there is plenty of fodder for interesting (at least to me) conversations and stories. As it has been said before; it’s not the destination, but the journey that matters.

I suppose I should give you a little background first. I fell in love with photography at the ripe old age of 12. My dad had given me his Agfa Ambi Silette 35mm rangefinder with three lenses and my grandfather had given me his Polaroid Land Camera. I was in heaven, as I had finally found a medium that I could create with as my mind’s eye saw. Previously to photography, I was into drawing and spent many hours a day working on the kitchen table, my desk or my grandfather’s drafting table. The big issue was that everything I tried to draw would wind up becoming an airplane, a motorcycle or a car of some sort. No matter how hard I tried to capture nature and the human form, it eluded me.

Once armed with my trusty camera (and there have been a lot of them over the years!) I could go out into the world and create to my hearts content. But I found that no matter how nice the images looked or the compelling story they told, I always felt like the next time would even be better. Please don’t get me wrong; I have had the good fortune to produce some very compelling images over the years, even published in a wide variety of publications. My clients have usually been quite thrilled with what I am able to produce for them (especially on those next to impossible deadlines and small budgets!) and people enjoy viewing my images. It is me that is my worst critic. I imagine that some of you are also your own worst critic, too.

As I approach each new day, and another chance to create images, I do my best to see things from a different viewpoint. Sometimes I change things up entirely just to see how it comes out. Like hauling a station wagon load of lights and modifiers out to photograph caterpillars feasting on milkweed or taking a walk with just a fisheye lens on my camera and capturing my usual locations with a different look. And portraits can look real interesting when shot with a fisheye!

So as I get ready for another crazy week of sittings, events and meetings to photograph, I’ll be keeping my eyes open for that elusive next great image!

Ciao!Testing / having fun with the Sigma 50mm 1.4 around Charleston 20140613_OSA_web 0095 20141003_Mike_Floyd_web-0001 20141017_ACE_Cafe-002 20141017_Italian_Trade_Association_AIMExpo-003 20141017_National_Cycle-001 20141026_Charleston_Cruise_Ship-001 20141028_Da_ECC_Boyz-001 20141108_NCIFF_Morning_Program-0006 20141109_NCIFF_Finale-0147 A to Z Tree & Land Service, Rome GA Burdick_Gang 002 Burdick_Gang 005 Dorchester County 1/8th mile dragway test & tune night Lemus 001 Megan Landreth photo test Miranda Charleston Riverkeeper's 2012 Oyster Point Runoff

Why I love being the secondary photographer at weddings

I love being the secondary photographer at weddings!

You might think that someone who has photographed as many weddings as I have over the past three decades would want to be the lead photographer, but you would be wrong.

I love being able to capture all of the details and ephemeral moments that make up a wedding. From the groom fumbling with tying his bow tie with trembling fingers, to all of the little details at the reception, I have the honor to create images that I wouldn’t necessarily have the time to capture if I was the lead photographer. It also means the groom and his groomsmen get to have equal time in being represented!

Another reason is that it gives me a chance to push my creativity further when I know that the lead photographer is capturing all of the required shots. Most of the time, the bride, groom, bridal party, family and guests are paying attention to the lead photographer during formals, processional, cake cutting, toasts and family photos which means I can also capture many unguarded moments without drawing notice. These images complete the story and add dimension in creating a much fuller view of a very special day in that couple’s lives.

I also enjoy being a problem solver. Something happens to one of the lead photographer’s lights? I bring with four spare location strobes & stands. A button pops off the tux? We have a sewing kit. No one knows how to pin on the boutonnieres? No worries! By making things run smoothly, it allows the lead photographer to concentrate on their job at hand, and the bride and groom are relaxed knowing that we’ve got it covered.

The bonus to this; I get to help my fellow photographer build his or her business, which means more opportunities for me to second shoot! I also build trust with the lead wedding photographer / studio owner, as I have no desire to go after their target market: weddings. You can imagine that the last thing a professional wedding photographer wishes for is to train and work with their second shooter only to have them as direct competition next year!

Thanks for checking out my From The Fox blog! Next week’s topic: The life-long pursuit of the next great image.

Ciao!20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-001 20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-002 20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-003 20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-004 20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-005 20140911_RDP_Second_Shooter-006 20140913_RDP-001 20140913_RDP-002 20140913_RDP-003 20140913_RDP-004 20140913_RDP-005 20141004_RDP-001 20141004_RDP-002 20141004_RDP-003

My professional photography support group

A funny thing happened to me the other day. I had been at a SCORE business workshop (for us creative types, something I highly advise going to!), wanting to energize my business brain. The speaker mentioned how businesses should make it a point to use images unique to their own company. While she was speaking about not using stock images (as everyone has the same image, what sets you apart?) I was nodding my head in agreement. And then she said something that stuck in my brain; “Don’t steal images to use on your website and marketing materials.” It got me to wonder, as I am a long time professional photographer, if anyone had stolen my images to use on their site in the digital age.

So I decided to do a rudimentary search using Google, and low and behold found a batch of wedding images I had done for a client / friend a few years back. The problem was they were showcased on another photographer’s blog, with their watermark, and some bad editing, and a statement telling her reading public that I had given my client the images without editing them. That she “had come to the rescue!” and had just finished these wonderful “edits” for them. I felt like I had been kicked between the legs and slightly nauseated. Who was this person I had never heard of telling people that I wasn’t professional enough to finish the images before presenting them to my client. That hurt. (The client had been given finished files plus an archive of the RAW images for safekeeping at their request.)

Enter the calm, cool, collective thoughts I had; Why, I’ll sue! I’ll make a scene! I’ll call Professional Photographers of America! Copyright infringement! Argh! Sputter….

Maybe before I fly off the handle, I should get another perspective on this. I belong to a great group of photographers located in beautiful Charleston SC. So I thought I would put the question to them, especially since my friend and fellow pro Chris Smith had just posted yesterday about image theft. I made it a point to make screen captures of the offending site, just in case.

What I got in response was amazing! Within minutes there was an outpouring of support from my fellow professional photographers, with many recommendations on how to proceed. I decided to start by requesting the offending photographer remove the post with my images that they had post-processed and added their watermark. I dug around and also found their phone number and proceeded to call. Without going into all the details, let’s just say the first call wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped, with a rather curt response, no apology and finally an agreement that they would take down the post. Well, I thought, at least that (post removal) is done. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. It was the photographer, sounding a little nicer this time. I actually think I got an apology, in between the justifications for why it was done.

Two things came from this for me. The first was that we should all remain diligent in protecting our intellectual property and company reputation. Yes it is a little time consuming, but know when these things happen and dealing with them quickly and efficiently is key.

The second was much more meaningful for me. The power of support and friendship from my peers in a tough industry that has such a profound impact on my wellbeing, that it actually put me in a much better space which carried over into the rest of my day! Sometimes we don’t realize how many people we have out there willing to take up the charge for us or cover our back. How do you even put a value on that? Pretty cool, indeed!

B&W Photography

The least desirable position on a WWII B17G heavy bomber was the underbelly ball turret. Only one way in and one way out, so if the ball should jamb in another position, the hatch could not be operated. Part of my Black & White Photo Challenge series.

Next week, The ProActive Photographer; Why I love being the second shooter at weddings.

Safe journey!

And now for something completely different…

I’ve had the primal photographic urge to expose some black & white film lately. I do love all film formats, but the one that I have enjoyed most since the 1970’s is medium format. Back then it was split up between my trusty Mamiya 645 (later added the 1000s model!), a friends Brooks VeriWide, and a Bronica S2.

Back then, my best friend at the time Scott Champion, had the darkroom at his house where we were able to experiment with different developers & processing times. I wonder how many people at that time besides us were working with Tri-X and pushing it to 8000 ASA (ISO) with very acceptable results?

I know that we have ultra high ISO’s these days, and there is no need to mix chemicals, testing with varying developer temps and times. Yes the digital age is a wondrous thing for sure, but I keep getting the feeling that there is something missing; something tactile, something surprising and most definitely something unique. In the days of film, each roll of 120 film would net me 12 frames. I could of course utilize my Polaroid back to verify that my exposure was good and the camera was working properly. Most of the time, I would just pull the back off the camera and look through the back of the camera to see if the lens and flash were syncing because Polaroid was expensive!

There is something refreshing and wonderful about having to wait and see my work instead of just looking on the back of my camera. This isn’t to say that I don’t love being able to check on each image while on a commissioned photo shoot. Two different animals for sure, digital is the way to go for me to create client work in the commercial world.

To help push me along, the other day my friend Mahmood passed along a couple rolls of Ilford FP4 black and white film so I could break out the Bronica and dust off my film shooting cobwebs. Hmmm, twelve images… What to photograph?

In the mean time, here’s my film weapon of choice and a few images (scanned from prints!) created way back when…

Is it time for you to break out an old camera?

All cleaned up, loaded and ready for action, my trusty Bronica SQ-B medium format film camera waits for me!

All cleaned up, loaded and ready for action, my trusty Bronica SQ-B medium format film camera waits for me!

Medium Format Medium Format EPSON scanner image  Medium Format EPSON scanner image  Medium Format