Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day remembering the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces

ON THE BEACH: The first wave of Marines takes cover behind the sand dunes on Saipan beach, during the World War II invasion of Marianas Islands. The soldier kneeling in the sand at far right is Carl Matthews of Texas; second from right is Wendal Nightingale of Skowhegan, Maine; standing is Lt. James Stanley Leary of North Carolina. Neither Nightingale nor Leary made it home from Saipan; both are still listed as missing in action. Time Life photo by U.S. Marine Sgt. James Burns
The oldest of my father's siblings was James Stanley Leary who was named after his father and my grandfather. He died July 14, 1944 during battle with the Japanese on Saipan. 120 Marines died there.

I too was named after my grandfather, so we shared the same name.

Good chance that the famous Life photographer W. Eugene Smith was there with him. This is where he took the famous photograph of the little baby being pulled out by the soldier. Here is link to that photo.

Today is about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250
I drove up to Canton, Georgia to the National Cemetery there to just remember. While there I saw family members in tears missing their loved ones.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250
I saw what looked like parents at their child's grave.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200
I saw service members remembering their friends. This marine left this for his friend.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/3200
I had waited till he had paid his respects to get the close-up of the Symbol of the Corps The Eagle, Globe and Anchor emblem has been part of the uniform since 1868 and became the official emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955.

The eagle with spread wings represents our proud nation. The globe points to worldwide presence. The anchor stands for naval tradition. Together, they represent a dedication to service in the air, on land and at sea.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/3200
Today this tomb stones are visual reminders to us the living of the dead who sacrificed. Remember your photos will help generations to come to be able to remember. Take pictures with the attitude of service.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/2.2, 1/3200
John 15:13 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

13 The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Getting the Iconic travel photo

3 photos stitched together, Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/9, 15 sec

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 20 sec
When I am traveling in a new town I like to try and get the Iconic image of the town, which is often a skyline shot.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
Big tip is to find the right time of day to get the photo if at all possible.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/640
One of the iconic places in San Diego is the photo of the statue which is copy of the famous Alfred Eisenstadt's V-J Day Kiss. Since I am here working on a Military Appreciation coverage I thought this would be a good b-roll image and stock image to use.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 3600, ƒ/7.1, 1/100
I even got a photo of The Hotel del Coronado which is another landmark in the San Diego area.

When I went to Seattle I did the same thing.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/6
I shot this photo and then waited for the sun to go down.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1 sec
For the skyline shots I used a tripod which kept the camera still and steady for the long exposures.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Scanning old negatives

Pentax K1000 & Pentax 135mm lens, Kodak Tri-X  [April 7, 1982]
My daughter is really loving theater and this made me want to pull out some photos I shot during college at East Carolina University's theater doing Show Boat.

To scan my negatives I used the Nikon Coolscan V-ED [Adorama has one for $739] On Amazon it sells for $2,000.
A high-performance dedicated film scanner from Nikon, the CoolScan V ED offers high-quality scanning of 35mm slides, 35mm film strips, APS film (with optional IX240 film adapter), and prepared slides (with optional medical slide holder). The Scanner-Nikkor ED glass lens offers a 4,000 dpi optical resolution, while the 3,964-pixel linear CCD image sensor and 14-bit A/D input (8-/16-bit output) provide true-to-life, brilliant results.
Nikon's own LED illumination technology ensures accurate color with no warm-up time or risk of heat damage. Scan times are as fast as 38 seconds including image transfer to display, and as fast as 14 seconds in preview mode. Automatic color/contrast compensation helps you achieve accurate results, while the ICE4 advanced digital image correction suite of technologies helps to restore old slides to their original glory. Additionally, the included Nikon Scan 4 software provides a comprehensive and easy-to-use interface for managing your scans.
The CoolScan V ED has a convenient plug-and-play USB interface, while one-touch scan and preview buttons will have you scanning film in no time. PC and Mac compatible, the CoolScan V ED also comes backed with a one year limited warranty.
Pentax K1000 and 50mm lens, Kodak Tri-X
Now if you have scratches and spots like in this photo here you will need to use PhotoShop to clean up the image.

SilverFast 8
Now Nikon has stopped supporting it so to make it work on my Macbook Pro I bought the software SilverFast 8.0 This software is even more advanced than the original Nikon Software that I used years ago.

Now the learning curve is a little steep to get used to scanning with the software.  Here you can see the version and what I set up for when I downloaded the software. You pick your scanner.

There are a lot of videos already made that you can watch to help you step by step. Just Google SilverFast 8 and look for just the videos, there are many to choose from.

Pentax K1000 and 50mm, Kodak Tri-X
There is one this great about the scanner. As compared to the time spent in a darkroom working on print forever burning and dodging, with the scanner and PhotoShop you can get far superior results.

Hope this inspires you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Principles of photography versus the Techniques of Photography

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/400
Have you ever noticed that when you use a technique that some famous photographer perfected and maybe even taught you that you don't get the same results?

Maybe you have started to realize that you are implementing all these techniques correctly in your photos and you continue to not win any of the competitions you are entering.

There is a great moment in the movie Remember the Titans about how “… attitude reflects leadership.” Here listen to the clip:

Where is your heart?

It wasn’t so much what I did that made a difference–it was how I thought. I started to ask myself why certain techniques worked and others didn’t. I soon noticed that when a strategy was wildly successful, it had more to do with the fact that I honored a principle than the strategy itself. When a strategy was less successful, that too could be directly related to a principle I violated.

Principle is much deeper understanding of something than a strategy. By understanding the why and not so much the what or how you understand how to implement it better because you are able to be much more flexible. Your ability to be flexible is because you are more relaxed. You “GET IT” and because you do you are able to listen more and look more for ways to implement. This is when real creativity can take place.

The principle of the technique frees you up, whereas the technique alone will freeze you up.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 800, ƒ/1.4, 1/160
I remember this photo shoot I was doing to help a young actress with her headshots. I could see right in front of me what I wanted to capture, but it just wasn't working. I was shooting with soft boxes using strobes and the depth of field was too big.

I wanted to shoot at ƒ/1.4. The technique of always using my strobes in the studio setting was a technique. I was letting that technique get in the way of the principle of soft lighting.

These lights are just too much and then I relaxed and realized the modeling lights might be just enough to make it work. So I turned off the radio remote and opened the 85mm lens to ƒ/1.4 and then cranked the ISO up to 800 and then started shooting.

That is only a small part of why I love this photo. You see there is another part of the creative process. I had been noticing her looks and mood they were creating. I talked to her about how certain looks of hers were reminding me of some famous actresses in Hollywood.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 1/200
I thought here that she looked like Evil Queen/Regina Mills (Played by Lana Parrilla) on Once Upon a Time. She loved that actress and was pleased I saw her in that way.

Nikon D4, AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D, ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/80
I told her how she reminded me of Anna May Bates (played by Joanne Froggatt) of Downton Abbey in this photo.  Well her mom was there and said I was mentioning all her favorites. We were connecting.

You see the principle of lighting and WHY was driving the creative process and not just put the light here and look here.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 50, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
For the photos of the beautiful blonde I was just trying to capture her personality. She is such a ham and just loves to have fun. Not too serious at all. After a while I was connecting with her like the humble kid next door.

Then as we changed locations I started to see how certain locations would bring out different parts of her personality. They would compliment her and create a mood. The last photo here is what I think of when I think of the famous Dove Girl ads.

You see we have been talking about the principles of portraits and not so much technique.

If you just love photography because of playing with all the gear, then just be ready to accept mediocrity. However if what motivates you is inspiring imagery then learn to get in touch with your heart and what moves you and then you too will create great images.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Multimedia Storytelling–NEED to know vs. WANT to know

Last year's storytelling workshop in Lisbon, Portugal [Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/13, 1/450]
When teaching workshops on storytelling we always like to get a feel for what the students are wanting to learn from the experience.

There are some very consistent things people want to learn from a storytelling multimedia workshop. One of the top things listed usually involves software. They want to learn how to use Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premier Pro for example.

Now if we created a workshop based on what people talk about most would leave the workshop not much better than when they came. Even the things they don't mention are sometimes at the top of the list.

The location of the workshop is a HUGE factor in people choosing to attend. If the workshop were somewhere down the street from them versus some exotic location like Cuba, Paris or Bucharest, Romania they might not sign up.

What students list at the very bottom of their desires to learn is audio.

Click on photo to see larger

Now this is the timeline inside Final Cut Pro X on one of my most recent projects. The interview is actually the foundation for the project and the sound for this is what is driving the entire project. What the subject is talking about influences what images should accompany the words.

While we teach how to interview and get the sequencing of the interview in an order that helps engage the audience and tell the story, if the person doing the interview doesn't technically get a good quality sound then it makes no difference how good or bad the interview is the audience will never know what they said.

Shure FP1 with the WL183 (Omnidirectional) microphone

Quality Sound

The foundation for every multimedia/video project is the soundtrack. Here are two microphones I use all the time, but regardless of what microphone you choose you must know how to use it and set the levels of the microphone to get the sound just right.

Shotgun Røde Video Pro Microphone
People will not watch your project if the sound is poor quality. They are more likely to watch if they sound is high quality and the visuals are mediocre than if that were reversed.

Which Microphone?

My recommendation for anyone going down this road of storytelling is to invest in a lavalier microphone. One with a long cord of 20' will work great for interviews and is pretty reasonably priced.  You can get one for about $23 from most stores.

I like this microphone because it picks up sound close to it and drops off pretty quickly, so you can put this on someone's collar and get their voice and ambient sound around the room will be diminished.

The shotgun microphone is nice when you don't want to see the microphone and depending on how you place it in relationship to the subject can give you incredibly nice sound. Takes more practice to use this over the lavalier.

NEED to know vs. WANT to know

Now back to the headline. While learning sound is not all that sexy, based on everyone pretty much ranks this at the bottom of what they want to learn, it is the foundation of the project. Good sound is equivalent to good exposure with your photography/video, but the difference is that it is more important.

Here is a simple package I did on how I do packages years ago. It is actually quite easy to edit once you have the voice over recorded. See if you can see how the sound drives the project.

Here you can see the package I produced. Now this was in 2008 when I was just using an audio recorder and photos. But this is the backbone of the video to understand that the soundtrack becomes the timeline for the project.

Advice to those wanting to learn multimedia/video

Most important tip I can give to you is to be totally open to the professional teaching you. Try your best to hear what they say you NEED to know versus what you WANT to know. Don't filter out what you think is not important or not that interesting.

Pour yourself into every step of the process of learning a skill. The reason you do this is not that you can pass a test, but rather that you will master the subject.

Do you want a surgeon who passed their tests or knows all there is about your procedure? Just as a surgeon who didn't pay attention except to the exciting parts of medical school will lose a life, so to will the storyteller who only learns what they want to learn. They too will lose the life of the story.

Here is another example. Listen to the soundtrack and see how it moves the story along.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Your feet are the secret to better photos

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100–Off camera flash Neewer TT850 triggered by the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel radio remote set to 1/128th power and with gels and grid
I love it when you are able to get super close because the people forget about you. Here this boy is deep into his computer software and the teacher is helping him.

This takes time.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100–Off camera flash Neewer TT850 triggered by the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel radio remote set to 1/128th power and with gels and grid
Now if I did this just once you might think it is luck, but trust me once you let people feel comfortable with you and you are non threatening you can get really close and get better photos.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1100, ƒ/5, 1/100
This photo is shot with a 14-24mm and I am shooting zoomed as wide as it will go at 14mm. All of the photos in this blog I can just take my hand and reach and touch the main subject's face. 

This is the key to your photos looking better–Get closer with your feet. You should be able to touch your subject because you are too close most of the time.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Notice the difference when you work this close from the 14mm to this photo at 28mm. Starts to look like a telephoto lens.

By getting close and using ultra wide-angle lenses you get a sense of place. You can see the other students and how they are working. I try to put the audience in the room with me.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
Here I stepped just a little back and zoomed in to 42mm. Notice how distant you are in comparison?

You want you photos to look better then use your feet and get close enough you can touch your subject.

There are a few exceptions and wildlife is one of those exceptions. I like to use really long lenses like 500mm or 600mm so I live to have another day.

Friday, May 08, 2015

New Camera Gear Can Create Panic

When my wife and daughter help me on assignments and it comes time to pack up they bring the gear to me and then I put it away.

Often as we are doing this the client is nearby and my wife explains how I have a particular place for everything and how she doesn't want to cause me panic.

New Gear Creates Panic

Photography is great for those who have a tendency towards an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. No one wants to be OCD because it can be debilitating. But camera bags and all this gear work great for organizing your stuff.

Here you can see my Think Tank Airport Security™ V2.0 Rolling Camera Bag That I use all the time.

Once you get your bag all set with your gear for the most part the gear has to go in the exact same location or it will not fit. All it takes is buying just one more piece of gear that requires you to reconfigure your bag.

So the other day I did just that and then just a day later took off to Houston, Texas for a job. I reached for a piece of gear I use all the time and it wasn't where I always put it.

This is when I was reminded of a story in the Bible which captured my emotional state so well.
Luke 15:8-9
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’
While on the job I was on a short time-line and out of town. I quickly adjusted and got the job done not using that piece of gear. I thought that I must have left that gear on the fireplace where I was putting things while I rearranged my camera bag.

Last night after returning from Houston I too searched my house. When we have a cleaner come to our home, she tends to put things away and sometimes it takes us a little while to find it. So I knew she had been at our home around that same time and thought maybe she moved it somewhere.

I asked my daughter and wife if they had seen my gear. They had no clue as to what I was describing. This went on for a few hours. I decided to go and get out of the house to clear my head and get something to eat. Later I returned and continued to look.

It is very important to note that the challenges presented by Asperger Syndrome [which I have] are very often accompanied by unique gifts. Indeed, a remarkable ability for intense focus is a common trait. This meant I could not let go until I resolved this issue.

Beating myself up

I then remembered I had some boxes that the new gear came in and wondered did I throw it away accidently? I have more jobs soon and was upset that I would have to go to the camera store and replace the gear. It would be around $800. No one just casually replaces something for $800.

Finally I gave up after finding an older piece of gear and realizing I could use this temporarily. The rechargeable batteries in the gear were dead. So I went to my bag and looked for the chargers–which also had been moved around.

As I took one of the rechargers out of my bag I found my gear.

Memory Issue

Once a memory is created, it must be stored (no matter how briefly). Many experts think there are three ways we store memories: first in the sensory stage; then in short-term memory; and ultimately, for some memories, in long-term memory.

Important information is gradually transferred from short-term memory into long-term memory. The more the information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to eventually end up in long-term memory, or to be "retained."

Usually I do a pretty good job of remembering my organization changes, because I am physically moving the gear and thinking about what I am doing it normally sticks. If however I get a phone call in the middle this can affect my memory recall.

Forgiving Myself

The hardest part of an event like this in my life is the ability to forgive myself. It is actually harder most of the time to forgive myself than others.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” –– Buddah
Benefits of forgiveness:
  1. Lowers stress levels
  2. Lowers your heart rate
  3. Lowers blood pressure
  4. Helps you sleep better
  5. Helps you live longer
I could physically feel my body relax once I found it and then as I began to forgive myself for my memory lapse I also felt the stress release.

Had I really lost the gear I would have bought replacement gear and then also had to forgive myself so I could move on.

This will happen again at some time in the future where I cannot find something the key to success is allowing for yourself to be human and make mistakes.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

When shooting sports–Shoot Variety to capture Athleticism and Competition

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1400, ƒ/11, 1/2000
When covering sports you are looking to communicate the athleticism and the competition. Here I went low for a good reason.

When you get below eye level of your subject you give them power. When you get really low as I did here you start to make the athletes look like the "Roman gods." We even name many of our sports teams after Greek names like Spartans.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 1400, ƒ/11, 1/2000
Now here I am standing in the same position but the camera is at my standing eye level height. The thing that makes this photo work is the aspect of "competition." You can see all the racers tightly packed and looking for opportunity to move ahead in the pack.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 800, ƒ/6.3, 1/2000
Now depending on the caption this photo of the three riders can make this photo more or less important. If this were the leaders [first place, second place, and third place] this could be a useful photo in the story. However, the guy in the middle's face expression doesn't communicate effort. He looks like he is just enjoying a leisurely Sunday afternoon bike ride.

Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM,  ISO 2800, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
Contrast the earlier photo of this one that is shot a lot tighter to emphasize face expressions where I think these riders all look a lot more competitive in their face expressions.


  • Shoot a variety of angles
  • Shoot with a variety of lenses
  • Look for body language to help communicate
  • Look for face expressions
  • Be sure you show more than one athlete to communicate competition
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/50
While this is a cool shot, it lacks competition. 

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/9, 1/30
See how included others you introduce "competition" in the sport?

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 160, ƒ/14, 1/30
You don't need a lot of riders to communicate competition, just one more will work.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Playing Tourist in Atlanta & Mother's Day idea

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200
We haven't played tourist in Atlanta for a long time and this weekend we decided to take in a couple of attractions. After doing this I would recommend this for a Mother's Day present.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/18, 1/100
I checked online about pricing for SkyView Atlanta. Here are the prices and you can click on the link to take you to their web page.

We drove down from Roswell and parked right next to SkyView. Walked right up and got on with no wait time at all.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.3, 1/250
Here are some of the sights from up inside the gondola. Due to shooting through the glass of the gondola sometime there were flairs that I couldn't avoid.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.3, 1/250
You can see most of the major attractions from SkyView in downtown Atlanta. Here you can see the Olympic Rings in Centennial Park.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/320
Here is the World of Coke and you can also see the Georgia Aquarium, The College Football Hall of Fame, CNN, and the new Civil Rights Museum as well.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 180, ƒ/13, 1/100
Here we are inside the Gondola.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/18, 1/100
We recommend taking the SkyView ride. While on the ride we noticed the Horse drawn carriage rides and decided to take one of those as well.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 220, ƒ/18, 1/100
We took the Nottingham Shire & Carriage ride around downtown. Here we are passing CNN Center.
$50 15 Minute Carriage Tour walk up only 
$100 Half Hour Carriage Tour 
$200 One Hour Carriage Tour 
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/125
Riding slow without a top that you would have in a car makes you look at the city in a different way. Slowing down and enjoying the scenery was worth the ride.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/100
We noticed some the architecture in buildings that we have never paid attention to in all our years living in Atlanta.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
Have you taken the time to be a tourist in your hometown?

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/125
Here we are driving down Luckie Street on our way back. SkyView and Nottingham Shire & Carriage rides are located at 168 Luckie St NW, Atlanta, GA.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/100
Camera Tips:
  • Daytime–your camera phone will work just great on sunny days.
  • Lens–I recommend lens like the AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR. It will cover the range for most everything you need.
  • Super Wide Angle–Only if you are trying to get a photo of everyone inside the Gondola
  • Small pop-up flash–you may want to use it to help with seeing under ball caps or helping with raccoon eye problems from the overhead sun
  • Keep it light–Don't carry too much. You want to enjoy your time and not have your stuff crowding others and you on the rides.