Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Human Voice: Storytelling

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/320
This is a photo of Jose Mondragon, Director, Rancho el Paraiso in Honduras talking with Laurie Willing the Executive Director of HOI in Tucker, GA.

No matter how well I capture their conversation the most powerful part of the storytelling is the human voice.

Listen to Jose in this package talk about the work of HOI in the Agalta Valley in Honduras.

If you want to learn more about HOI then go here to their website [] and see how you can get involved.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

When to use flash and not to use flash

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 160, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
Available Light

I love to use available light–that is any light that is available to use. Here I was shooting Ubaldo demonstrating how to rope a calf. Ubaldo teaches this during the family missions team trip each year to the kids.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 250, ƒ/5.3, 1/250
When I first started shooting I noticed very quickly that Ubaldo's skin was just dark enough that with the light calf he was getting lost in the photos. Also as you can see in this photo that I didn't use the flash your eye goes to the background more than to Ubaldo and the calf, which was where I wanted you to focus.

Compare that to the first photo and this photo.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
I always prefer not using a flash if the light is working for me. However, if I can improve the photo and draw you in using the flash I will use it.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/14, 1/250–off-camera flash using the Neewer TT850 flash & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger
When photographing Francisca Padilla, the gardner, I wanted to show that she was in the Agalta Valley. I wanted you to see the mountains. Well the problem is where she needed to stand she was backlit.  I used the off camera flash being held by a person about 45º to my left and the subject's right. This way I was able to slightly underexpose the scene which helped the mountains pop.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
For the photo of the teacher I chose to not use a flash. There was large window on my left and smaller strip of windows on my right as well as overhead lights.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
The photo of the girl at her desk is the same classroom as the teacher above. In my opinion I liked the light as it was and didn't add the flash.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash.
When I was photographing this scene without flash the outside was blown out and the people were heavily backlit. I added the flashes to help light the room up and balance it to the outside light. I wanted the audience to see the location of the school.

When do you use the flash?

You have to know in each situation what you are trying to capture and why? Will the flash help you tell the story?

If you are looking for the simple formula or that always use the flash kind of an answer you will not hear that from me.

Mastering photography isn't just learning exposure, lighting and composition. Mastering photography is mastering the craft so you can control it to help the camera capture your vision.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/8, 1/500
Parting Shot–Moonrise over Rancho el Paraíso located in the Agalta Valley of Honduras.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Crisis Threatening Professional Photography

Mark E. Johnson, Senior Lecturer of Photojournalism at University of Georgia, Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/20 [photo by Robin Nelson]
I have been speaking to college photography students for many years. Mark E. Johnson has invited me to speak for the last several years to his students at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at UGA.  This is Mark talking to the class just before he introduced me.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/12 [photo by Robin Nelson]

I talk to the class about Business and Marketing Skills: How to make a living as a photographer. For most of the class I was explaining what are all the expenses the students needed to consider. The problem is getting a realistic understanding of all the money going out. Most people can see what is coming in, but really struggle with the going out to run a healthy business. Remember knowledge is power. That power gives you the ability to ask the right price for the job.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/10 [photo by Robin Nelson]
Just like the storyline starting with the WHY? is what I was trying to drive home.

The only thing stopping the students in the class from doing what they want to do starting right now is only income to cover their expenses. When I asked them what stands in the way of you doing what you want to do right now, it took a while for them to see money was the obstacle.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/40 [photo by Robin Nelson]

There is no other way to describe the face expressions of the students than as Panic stricken.  After I showed them some ballpark number for living expenses and business expenses they were intimidated that they will be having to ask people to pay them a figure that they were uncomfortable with for themselves.

The wakeup was happening in the class. I have to charge WHAT? But they also understood why–to pay all the expenses like their mortgage and car payment for example.

Derek Jeter talked about how 70% of the time he was failing. That is what a 300+ batting average is all about. Failing 7 out of 10 times at bat.

I talked with the students that most successful businesses are usually 90% failure. 9 out of 10 people are not going to buy your product.

Mark Johnson made a very interesting comment in the class. He asked them the last time they went grocery shopping how many things did they buy. He then pointed out how many products were in the store that they didn't buy.


The crisis is avoidable. You really need to know all your expenses and then charge enough that your income is greater than your expenses.

In some ways this is like the ice bucket challenge. Being willing to take that ice cold water bath is worth it.

Do you know your expenses?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Meet Honduran Chicken Coop Entrepreneur Claudio Cesar Aguirre

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 160, ƒ/8, 1/100
I met Claudio Cesar Aguirre, an entrepreneur, in Honduras. He was one of a few of the families that came together and with a small grant from some organizations, government agriculture department training and few other entities they started a chicken coop.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 220, ƒ/8, 1/100
What is the big deal with a chicken coop, didn't everyone have chickens? Before they started their business there were no other chicken coops in the area. Either a family had enough chickens to get eggs, but most families did not have enough chickens to count on eggs.

This actually is about solving a problem of more than just having some eggs around. It is a nutrition issue. Most kids going to school in the area would go off without protein and just some tortilla, beans and/or rice at the most.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/8, 1/250
Just imagine your household, you buy the eggs at the grocery store and have them in the refrigerator. Imagine being so far away from grocery stores there were no eggs to buy.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/100
Here you see Claudio's wife, Blanca Aparicio gathering the eggs from the chicken coop. They live in the small community Santa Anna, Olancho, Honduras.

Nikon F4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/5, 1/250
Claudio is part of a community development committee and they brainstormed many ideas considering the resources they had in their community and what they didn't have for starting businesses.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 560, ƒ/8, 1/100
Now with enough eggs everyday from the chickens the development committee is now thinking of a new startup business that the community could use. Now they thinking a bakery would be great.

It only takes a pebble dropped into the water to affect the entire pond. The ripples seem to sustain themselves for a while from that first drop.

Nikon F4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/160—Off Camera Neewer TT850 using the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel to control the flash
Dr. German Jimenez works for Honduras Outreach and says that prevention like good nutrition is making a huge difference. Celebrating 25 years in Honduras, HOI is being honored next month by the President for their service. The President believes that HOI embodies his purpose of a "Better Tomorrow."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Broken foot, broken lens and no place to stay helped remind me ofcommunity

I sent this out as my e-newsletter, but thought I would post it here as well.

Nothing throws a monkey wrench into your plans than accident like mine of breaking my foot yesterday in Charleston.

This was suppose to be a great weekend for our family in Charleston, SC.

This June Dorie, my wife, started a one year Clinical Pastoral Education working as a Chaplain at the VA Hospital in Atlanta, GA.

She missed out on going to the beach with my parents, sisters and their families this past summer. This was to be a fun weekend. I was suppose to be at The Citadel football game photographing her firing the cannon during the game. My daughter Chelle will be there in my place.

Besides breaking my foot the story gets worse. While in the ER we got a message from Hotwire that our hotel was overbooked.  Everything was sold out in the Charleston 25 mile radius. Hotwire couldn’t find another hotel room.

We had to call AAA and they found one last room. Now we have been on the phone with Hotwire trying to get them to cover the difference in the costs. We also bought insurance.

When I fell I not only broke my foot and have bruises in a few other spots, I fell on my Nikon D4 and 28-300mm lens. Broke the lens hood and the filter on the lens. Camera appears to be just fine. I have a protective cover on the camera.

I think the lens while it works is not smooth as it was—so off to the repair shop.

We did not want to spend all our time in the ER and on the phone finding hotels this weekend—we were here to celebrate.

I guess you can see I am in the middle of the story of my life these past few days.


When I fell one of the Citadel parents rushed to take care of me. He was a trainer for many years in the NFL.  He was checking me out. Someone ran and brought a bag of ice for me. The cadets got a golf cart to take me to my car. Most importantly my daughter Chelle and my wife Dorie responded and cared for me in so many ways.

At first I thought it was just a bad sprain and only later went to the ER to rule out the break.

Where is this story going you might be asking?

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/9, 1/500
I took this photo this week on my trip to Honduras. We stopped to get gas and this soccer team was all in a pickup truck and I rushed to get the photo. They are what we call a team. It is a small community. You know because you all can see you belong to each other when you wear the uniform.

We also are all part of community.

Do you desire a community as much as I do? I am guessing you too like to walk into places and feel like Norm on the TV show Cheers where everyone greeted him with his name “Norm.”

I just loved this song and even though the show is no longer on TV the lyrics to this song really do touch the concept of the importance of community. In case you are too young to remember the show here are the lyrics:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.
You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.
I want to tell you some key things I have discovered that can help you find your community. Your community is where you will find your Guides and Resources to help you with the story of your life.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/1700
You may look out and see something like Tegucigalpa, Honduras and wonder is this my community? You may have to start here first to establish where you will find your community.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/35
One of the great places I have found to find a community is through houses of worship. This is Santidad Catholic Church in Juticalpa, Honduras where the community is formed for worship.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 280, ƒ/14, 1/250
The first community most of us are apart of is our family. This is Wilfredo Lopez in Cocalito, Olancho, Honduras who is a gardner. The community created a seedling garden which then supplied the plants for 16 gardens to help with the families of the community. They came together to help solve a nutrition problem in their community.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/16, 1/250
All animals have this instinct that community is key to survival.  Here you can see how the cattle come together as a herd. This is the cattle at Rancho el Paraíso (Paradise Ranch) that I was staying at in Honduras.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 450, ƒ/8, 1/100
"Birds of a feather flock together,” is a true statement and will help you find your affinity group.

Find a group that has similar interests to you and join it. Get involved. Support the other people. When someone in the groups life story does as mine and takes a turn for the worse—take this as an opportunity to build deeper relationships.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/180–pop up fill flash
This is the team from Northpoint Communities in Atlanta that were in Honduras the same time I was there with the writer and executive director. They were there to go into the communities and help them preventing diseases by building latrines, putting concrete floors in the homes where dirt floors exist and to help put in stoves with chimneys.  All three of these tasks were saving lives of many people in the years ahead.

While they were giving they talked each night about how much they were receiving by giving.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/11, 1/500
Even before they went in the villages they were bonding as here at the hotel the night before the work.

This weekend my wife and daughter have loved and supported me. I feel bad that I am having to be on the receiving end of all their love and attention. I would much rather be healthy and giving to them.

This bible verse sums up how wonderful my wife is to me. I am truly a blessed man.

Proverbs 31:10-31
In Praise of a Good Wife
A truly good wife is the most precious treasure a man can find! Her husband depends on her, and she never lets him down. She is good to him every day of her life, …[Click here to read more]


Lens is off to Nikon to be repaired and I met with an Orthopedist this morning. 

I am rejoicing because I didn't have to have surgery and just have a boot that I can walk in. Only thing slowing me down next few of weeks is orders from the Dr to not drive.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Shooting scenics on dirt roads out of moving Toyota Land Cruiser

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/1700
While in Honduras I spent a long time in a Toyota Land Cruiser on dirt roads feeling like a bobble head doll.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 2500, ƒ/7.1, 1/500–Rain drops got on lens
Dirt roads like this one, we would be on for couple hours at a time.

I was in the front seat riding shotgun because I was 6'2" and the others were much smaller in the back seat. The others had been here many times before and were astonished that I was getting any usable pictures. They had bad experiences in these situations.

So how was I able to get sharp photos?

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/7.1, 1/500
How I did it

1) Image Stabilization

I was shooting with my Fuji X-E2 camera and 18-55mm lens which has integrated four-stop image stabilization helps to minimize the appearance of camera shake that is normally inherent to low-light conditions and with longer focal lengths. This made a huge difference and helped me use technology to compensate for me being tossed around like a rag doll in the Land Cruiser.

2) Shutter-Speed

When you choose the Auto ISO on the camera the camera automatically chooses a sensitivity between the default and maximum values. Sensitivity is only raised above the default value if the shutter speed required for optimal exposure would be slower than the value selected for MIN. SHUTTER SPEED.

If the value selected for DEFAULT SENSITIVITY is higher than that selected for MAX. SENSITIVITY, DEFAULT SENSITIVITY will be set to the value selected for MAX. SEN

The camera may select shutter speeds slower than MIN. SHUTTER SPEED if pictures would still be underexposed at the value selected for MAX. SENSITIVITY.

I have set my AUTO ISO to have a range of 200 to 6400. The one thing I do go in change regularly is the minimum shutter speed.  I have it set for 1/500 when taking the photos from the moving vehicle.

If you look at the captions you will notice that sometimes the camera would go even faster than 1/500.  That is because I was in Aperture Priority and chose a ƒ-stop that bumped the shutter speed up.

I could have stayed in AUTO ISO and just gone total manual and the camera would then let me choose any shutter speed and aperture and adjusted the ISO for a good exposure.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1/500

3) Hold Camera Steady

Do your best to hold the camera still. I tried not to rest my arms on the window, but float so when we hit a bump the camera was jolted as hard.

4) Depth-of-field

In general you are not going to be super close to subjects so shallow depth-of-field is not a great concern, but I recommend to capture the sweeping landscape to shoot high aperture like I did on some of these photos. 

On the first photo I am shooting at ƒ/4 and some of the photos ƒ/10. Just experiment and be sure you are not shooting such a large aperture that your shutter speed goes down. 

5) Roll down window

I see way too many people trying to shoot through glass and sometimes you have no choice. If you can roll down the window or slide it open do so. The glass will degrade the colors, saturation and sharpness of your photos.

Fuji X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/10, 1/500

This would be difficult to do with your camera phone since most of them come with almost no controls such as shutter speed or aperture. This is why you need to learn how to use your camera so you can adjust it to maximize it for each situation.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Honduran Dentist prefers education to pulling teeth

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/16, 1/125, -1.0 EV—Off Camera Neewer TT850 using the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel to control the flash
Dr. Natalia Velásquez Alonzo is a dentist in the rural Agalta Valley of Honduras. Here she is at her main office at Rancho el Paraíso of Honduras Outreach.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/7.1, 1/500
I went with her and the rest of the mobile medical team to a small village El Pedrero two hours north of the ranch on these dirt roads. I felt like a bobble head bouncing around for those two hours. About half way there the electricity to the area stopped.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/1000
When HOI started going to this community they stopped before they crossed the river and would cross over in canoes. Today they have a bridge to get to the village. When they first started going this was what most of the village people lived in.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
The inside of their houses were dirt floors and walls they let the wind and rain through.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 500, ƒ/3.8, 1/100
Dr. Natalia Alonzo worked for the government as a dentist before coming to HOI some five months ago. She went into the schools and taught as she is doing now for HOI.  Here she is teaching the students about dental hygiene in El Pedrero. She prefers doing this as to having to pull teeth.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/250
Many of the government dentists do not have enough supplies and so many of the patients have many teeth pulled with just one shot or none at all. Dr. Alonzo really likes working with HOI where she has enough supplies to use what would be normal procedures to those in the United States due to the giving that supports the medical team.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/1250
This is the medical clinic in the village El Pedrero. The Toyota Land Cruiser is their mobile medical truck. North Point ministries helped with other groups to buy this vehicle through their "Be Rich" campaign. The idea started at North Point Ministries five years ago and caught on quickly. The message from the pulpit was very simple–you have it, they don't.

Teams are going regularly from the US to help transform Honduras through HOI. The work they have done over the past twenty five years has gotten the attention of the government. Next month the President Juan Orlando Hernández and First Lady Ana García Carías of Honduras are coming to Atlanta to present HOI with an award for outstanding service to their country.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Honduras in Context

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5, 1/100
This young Honduran teen is hanging just outside the door and watching the leader for Young Life lead the group of youth. The couple leading the Young Life program are Michael Aguilar and his wife Daniela Perez. They have only been in Honduras less than five months from Nicaragua.

I love this photo because it really symbolizes a new youth program where they have many teens peering in from outside and not sure about if they want to join or not.

I learned this technique from Don Rutledge.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/100
Here I am showing one of the schools that Honduras Outreach Inc built at Agalta Valley, Olancho, Honduras.  Again here I stepped back with the 14mm lens to capture the two classrooms going on simultaneously and to help the audience see how they teach in an open air building.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 500, ƒ/9, 1/100
Here I chose to shoot through a window and a door rather than just two doors. Again, I am trying to place these students in these photos in context.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 280, ƒ/5.6, 1/100
This is a photo of Ubaldo Ponce teaching how to rope cattle. He is also one of the drivers for the Honduras Outreach program.

See how I am not using a left and right composition elements to show the context but now a front to back where the cattle help show what Ubaldo is doing.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
 While this photo is a little tighter shot it too has some context. You see the girl in the background watching the other girls at the board.  Hey I want to know is she impressed, cheating or what?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 5600, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
 Here you can see another girl in the classroom working. I love the expression of her sounding out what she is reading. I also like the repetition of her classmates behind her in the class.
Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
This little boy was sitting so still and behaving himself while we waited for more than 2 hours for a program to start. I love his expression.

Now here I didn't give you much context in the photograph. You don't need it in every photograph and actually that would be a problem if you did. Mix it up.