Friday, January 30, 2015

A week of photographic communications class in Kailua-Kona Hawaii

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 30 sec
Today I wrap up a week long training of young photographers from nine different nations who were part of the School of Photographic Communication at the University of Nations here in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This is on The Big Island.

I started the week by taking some tourist photos around The Big Island. I had never been to the top of Mauna Kea. Often above the clouds, the night skies are often clear and bright, rivaling any other stargazing location in the world!

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/50
This is most of the students and staff at the school. We spent a lot of time at the computers this week rather than behind our cameras, because I was teaching them how to use Adobe Lightroom.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/140
The purpose of this school was to not just teach photographic skills but leadership skills. Paul Childers is one of the founders of the school and teaches here to the class some of the skills for teams.

This class will teach photography, some lighting, a little video, design and leadership skills so these students can then lead communication teams overseas to help document things like human trafficking, orphanages and other social justice issues.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/210
I chose to break up some of the Lightroom with what I call sidebar topics on photography. I showed them how to use off camera flash and here I Skyped in three time pulitzer prize winning photographer Anacleto Rapping.

The class is going to the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, TX next month to take part of the student workshop and the rest of the conference.

I offered to meet with each student one-on-one and talk about whatever they wanted to ask me or talk about. Here are some of the students who took me up on that offer.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/2.8, 1/500
Nadia Otake who is from Brazil.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 640, ƒ/3.6, 1/500
 Ana Cláudia D' Carlos who is also from Brazil.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/4, 1/500
 Joyce Schoonenberg who is from Netherlands.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/3.6, 1/500
Lisa Peter from Germany also showed me some of her photos.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/20
This has been a good week to get to know the students, to see their work and to see their passion to use photography to tell stories of people around the globe.

Teaching helps me grow so much. The students questions are very intentional and make you think about why you do the things you do. Is this the industry standard or is this my preference. I don't want to mislead them and think this is how you have to do something when other photographers do it another way and are successful.

There is a synergy when you get this many people together studying photography. They are not just learning from the instructor, they learn from one another. I cannot recommend enough the value of a class with working professionals can make in your life as this school is doing here.

They have already had Gary Chapman teach. They have Robin Nelson, Greg Schneider and Esther Havens coming later to teach them as well.  Everyone of the speakers has already said they wanted to be in the class and hear the other speakers as well.

If you are interested in this type of a class then click here to learn more.

Check back to see how my last day went with the students.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Photography isn't all about sunshine

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/6.4, 1/500
I love sunrises and sunsets as much as anyone else. To me they signify new beginnings and bring such a sense of hope and peace.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/6.4, 1/1800
While teaching here on The Big Island of Hawaii, I have taken a trip or two out after class. Here I drove to Waipi'o Valley and was experiencing the socked in fog weather. By the way "Waipiʻo" means "curved water" in the Hawaiian language.

Just as sunrises and sunsets evoke emotion within us, so to does others types of weather. This means that if you only take your camera and shoot on those sunny days you are missing so many other great opportunities to capture moments that also can be peaceful or even capture the turbulence of our lives.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 18-55mm, ISO 640, ƒ/6.4, 1/500
You may need to dress for the occasion and be prepared to protect your camera from the elements.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/500
I believe that photos like this of the lady on the bench at sunrise are photos that invite the audience to just soak up the moment and want to be there themselves.

I like to think of these as invitation photos–travel photos that invite you to come and experience the grandeur of the place. Take a seat and just relax.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 110, ƒ/14, 1/250
Some photos can just really communicate to the audience to stop and smell the roses. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Great photos are about a visual pause

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/14, 1/320
I am reminded as I took in some tourist sights on The Big Island of Hawaii how a photograph is similar to these friends who have decided to have a picnic on the side of the road. They are enjoying the moment.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 180, ƒ/14, 1/250
Here my friends Lily and her husband Philip enjoy looking for whales migrating off the coast of The Big Island.

Now driving down the road and just looking out the window might be closer to the video, but stopping and pausing is how a still image allows people to visually savor the moment.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 720, ƒ/22, 1/250
Driving north from Kailua-Kona we stopped at Hawi Renewable Development Wind Farm. Lily's hair is getting the wind treatment just as the windmills.

I am making notes in my head about locations like this one. I am noticing how the light is affecting the scene for this time of day. What if I could come back at sunrise or even sunset, would that improve the scene to have more visual impact.

In other words is there a better time of day to hit the visual pause button to stop and enjoying the scene more than this moment?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 110, ƒ/6.3, 1/250
Every morning here I am waking up to this scene. I walk past it on my way to breakfast. It is so peaceful and this is why I wanted to capture this and hold this memory forever.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 250, ƒ/8, 1/250
I enjoy watching tourist as they experience new locations.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 560, ƒ/8, 1/250
I encourage you to be like a tourist sometimes in your own hometown. Those things you walk by everyday can be things that just as you pause to enjoy will make others appreciate it just as much.

Is the photo better when I show the people on the stairs better to give perspective or is this closer shot better?

Sometimes we need to spend more time absorbing our surroundings so we can truly pause our bodies to allow us time to not just feel the peace but examine why this brings so much joy to our lives.

To capture moments that move others and not just ourselves we cannot expect a photo from a moving car to compare to the one where you stopped and did like the friends having a picnic did–stay long enough to allow the scene to permeate you completely and then you can decide the best lens, angle and composition that will capture something that truly moves not just you but others as well.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Making tourist shots around The Big Island of Hawaii more interesting

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 30 sec
I just drove up tonight to Mauna Kea and took a few photos. Here is one where I used my cell phone's LED light to light paint the branch in front of me.

Here it is without light painting.

There were four of us driving around the Island and I wanted a memento photo of the group. So I decided to pull out my Neewer TT850, and the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel to light the group.

I used the MagMod system to hold a CTO +1 gel in front of the flash.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/4–Neewer TT850 & Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel
Hope to share some more photos during the week from The Big Island of Hawaii.

Friday, January 23, 2015

In a photography crisis– Who ya gonna call?

Every once in a while I injure my lower back.  Years ago I bought an inversion table similar to the one you see here.

Five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening hanging about like this angle you see here the lady doing is as far as I need to go.

The strap you see there you adjust and it would be tight to stop you from going perpendicular.

I went to a client's office the other day with this lighting kit plus a few other bags and had to carry it upstairs and back down. In the process my back went out ever so slightly. Enough to be in pain.

Went to the basement after I got home and got on the inversion table.


Well all of a sudden the strap broke and I went perpendicular with a jolt. Not a fun thing when you like to ease into this with a sore lower back.

Without that strap and being completely upside down with a sore back it was impossible for me to right myself. Lucky for me I had my phone on me.

First call is to my wife who is upstairs–NO ANSWER. She had her phone on vibrate and in her purse so she didn't hear my calls for help.

Second call was my daughter and I got her. She came down as my wife followed and they pulled on the feet and I was able to get out.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

There will come a time for every photographer where their safety straps [metaphor] will break. You will be caught upside down and unable to do it alone.

Who will you call? I didn't get married and have a daughter so that one day when my strap gave way on my inversion table that I could call them and be saved. I got married because I fell in love with my best friend. We had a daughter and love raising her. Sometimes I think she is raising us.

I joined NPPA, ASMP, CIP, Sports Shooter and other organizations through the years for the same reason I started dating–I enjoyed community and getting to know people who had similar interest and we could do life together.

I go each year to The Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar and Southwestern Photojournalism Conference for similar reasons. I enjoy learning from my colleagues. I enjoy making new friends and the give and take we have with each other.

Through the years my strap broke in some way in photography. I reach out to my friends and get their advice and help.

Who's your backup? Just like I called my number one go to in life–my wife, she wasn't available. I had to call my daughter. Time was of essence in the situation with me being upside down.

If something were to happen to you do you have a community to reach out to that is nearby and can help?

By the way the best thing I participate in through the years has been the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference and it is just a month away. Go and check it out and come if you can. Here is that link again for you

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photographers what are you doing when you don't have an assignment?

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
"It's not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters."
— Paul "Bear" Bryant

The Army's Airborne School has training that takes place before you jump out of the plane with a parachute.

Photographers would do well to learn a few things from the military in how they approach their jobs.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
When you come out of the plane a lot of things can go wrong. On one of my son's jumps the carabiner came loose from the parachute, he quickly grabbed the parachute and held on tight. He knew the alternative is a smaller backup parachute where you come in much faster and more prone to injury during landing.

Training had alerted him to the process and what to be aware of when he jumped.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000
To have the parachute open properly and be prepared to land on almost any type of terrain below requires preparation.

It amazes me as to how much training is involved before our armed forces actually go off to actually perform their duty in a "combat" situation.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/800
When they are not actively training there is a lot of waiting involved.

Tips from the military for the Photographer

  • Spend a lot of time getting to know your gear
  • Practice shooting assignments that are similar to those you will do for "real" later
  • Stay fit by eating right and exercising. You need physical stamina for those long day assignments
  • Expand your skills. Just like the military personnel will go for more specialized training you must also continue to add more skills to make you valuable
  • Military Camaraderie – There is nothing in the civilian workforce that can approximate the bonding that occurs in the wardroom, ready room, or foxhole. Military personnel in those environments put up with much hardship – long hours, stressful working conditions, danger to personal safety, separation from loved ones, and more. However, because they all in it together, they get through it. This mutual self-sacrifice, teamwork, and covering each other's six contribute to individual bonding, unit cohesion, and, ultimately, the camaraderie in question. See your competition more as your colleagues rather than just competition. 
  • Military personnel understand how lack of preparation can cost them their lives and those around them. The lack of preparation for the photographer will cost them their careers.
My son is a 1st Lt in the Army and next month he goes off for Special Forces School for three weeks. If he makes it through this then he will spend the next two years training before he can call himself "Special Forces." 

Because of his investment the military will also invest in him and give him a job for even more years. If you stagnate today in the military as soon as your contract is up you are most likely discharged. 

If you are not growing in skills as a photographer and offering more to your clients you too will be discharged and someone else will replace you with your clients.

Have you been training and preparing for your next jobs that you don't even have assigned? If not, then don't be disappointed when you have to find another career to pay your bills. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Thinking and Shooting Cinematically with Fujifilm X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/125
Learning to think "Cinematically" when framing your images is to think about the end user. Today more than ever most of my audience will experience my images on-line through the internet.

Computer displays with aspect ratios wider than 4:3 are also called widescreen. Widescreen computer displays are typically of the 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio. In 2008, the computer industry started to move over from 4:3 and 16:10 to 16:9.

Basically most of today's audience that is working on a computer newer than 2008 are using a widescreen and most likely with a 16:9 ratio.

Now when shooting for print I am considering magazine covers.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/125
This vertical photo would work much better for a cover of a typical magazine rather than the horizontal.

How it would look on a computer screen
Fill the frame horizontally. This is even more true with video. Turn your smartphone horizontal when making movies. If you don't the image will be shrunken to fit the horizontal limits of the screen.

So two things you are doing to make an inferior photo/video. First the images will be displayed even smaller than if they were shot horizontal, second you give up visual impact.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/125
Learn to see not just edges of the photograph, but from front to back of the photo.

How this would look on a computer screen without cropping
Composition Tip

When photographing like a tourist where you want to capture you friends and family at the different locations you are visiting here are some quick tips to compose a more effective photo.

  • Start with the background. Compose first for what your subjects will stand in front of for the photo. Fill the frame to the edges as I have done here.
  • Have subjects closer to the camera and not closer to the background.
  • Move the subjects around to find the best place where you can easily see them and the place. Be careful that they don't block so much of the background that you no longer know where they are for the photo.
Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/20, -1EV, flash 0 EV Slow Sync
When shooting at dusk or night here is another tip. underexpose the background by -1 EV. That is one stop under. I do this with dialing the EV dial and keeping the camera in Aperture priority, and Auto ISO. Then just add flash. Here I didn't compensate with the flash, but you may need to experiment with it.

What this does is pull the subject out from the background using the light value to do so. Because the flash is on Slow Sync the camera will figure out the best exposure without the flash and then the flash will just be added just enough using the TTL function of the camera flash.


If you put your photos into a typical video I recommend filling the frame and therefore you may end up with a little crop top and bottom of the typical 4:3 ratio camera to the typical 16:9 ratio for video.

If you start to crop photos to dimensions other than the 16:9 or 4:3 to something more like a square you will be giving up space on the screen, which for the most part will diminish the impact of the photo.

My suggestion is to learn how to fill the frame of your camera and not rely on post production.

"God gave you two eyes side by side and not top and bottom so learn to compose for the eyes." Robin Nelson.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Fujifilm X-E2's Six Inches Behind The Viewfinder

Fujifilm X-E2. Fujinon XF 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/4.8, 1/750
Our family has been waiting to be able to come to Orlando, Florida to take in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.

J. K. Rowling is the writer of the Harry Potter literary series which the books have gained worldwide attention, won multiple awards, and sold more than 400 million copies. They have become the best-selling book series in history.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/8, 1/500
While being the most prolific writer ever her books were transformed into series of films which became the highest-grossing film series in history.

One of the key gifts that she has is her ability to create a fantasy world that is quite visual and the movies were able to capture much of those elements, which Universal Studios Theme Park was able to allow her fans to enter into her world through the Harry Potter World.

Rowling consulted on the details for the theme park. There are many details that those who have read the books will appreciate, because some of those elements were not in the movies.

It is a photographer's paradise when it comes to seeing visual cues that cross over cultures and unites more than 65 languages at the present.

Tips while visiting Universal Studios

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/500
Take photos no matter the time of day, but remember that some of these you might want to redo as I did here of my wife and daughter on Diagon Alley. I just used the on camera flash to reveal their faces on the street, which otherwise would have been silhouetted. Now you can see the street behind them better than during the daytime.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/40–Fill Flash -1EV
Here is another example for you

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 500, ƒ/3.2, 1/500
We visited the Nite-Bus a couple of times. During the daytime it is harder to see the shrunken head hanging. However this is a major part of this attraction. The head talks to you and even turns it head towards you.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Notice how much more the Nite-Bus looks more like you would expect in the book or movie when shot at night. What a concept, but you have to think about this to be sure you don't miss a better mood shot. Also, notice how the light on the shrunken head helps it be easily seen at night.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/55
I also chose to stay with available light and not use the pop up flash. The light behind me from the street lamp was lighting the scene just fine.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/600– -1.7EV
 My daughter has very fair skin and wanted to be photographed with the theater production cases. To keep detail in her face I dialed the EV to -1.7EV

Same as above but unretouched
Here are the Lightroom setting I used to take the untouched RAW file and turn it into the JPEG:

However, the simpler and more pleasing photo was to move my daughter out of the direct sunlight to the other side.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 800, ƒ/5, 1/500
This too has been retouched in Adobe Lightroom with these settings:

Also I dodged her face just a little +0.61:

I am trying to do all of this like a street photographer and not carrying extra off camera strobes through the theme park on our family vacation.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/10
One thing I really love about the Fujifilm X-E2 is taking photos at really slow shutter speeds. The image stabilization really works well.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/200
I think it is important to capture photos of the family at the different attractions. It will be a memory jogger as we get older and look at these photos and remember the fun times we had as a family.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/340
Honestly most of the time I think the Fujinon 18-55mm kit lens will suffice, but here I wanted to capture the puppeteer and to do so I needed more than the 55mm. I used the Fujinon XF 55-200mm which I had in a coat pocket to take this photo as well as the very first photo of the sunset.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/13–Shot at -1.7EV
I could have just shot details around the park. I loved how they created a dark part of Diagon Alley. I felt like I was in the book walking with Harry Potter.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/10
I just hung outside the shop Borgin Burkes while my wife and daughter shopped. I then captured the moment my daughter came out to look for me. To me this is better than all the posed photos, but I still take those and just compliment with photos like this one.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.5, 1/500

Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.5, 1/500
My Fujifilm X-E2 settings for while at Universal Studios

    • 200–6400
    • 1/500 shutter-speed
  • Auto Focus
    • Single
    • AF MODE [AREA]
    • Face Detection ON
  • RAW+N – This was just so I could link to my phone using the Camera Remote APP and upload photos as I shot them to Facebook for my friends. You need to have a JPEG to do this.
  • NR -2
  • Color STD
  • H–Tone -1
  • S–Tone 0
  • Color 0
  • Sharp -2
  • Flash-SLOW
  • Flash Compensation -1
Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/70, -1.3EV
Six Inches Behind The Viewfinder

I hope you figured it out by now but more than the camera it is your brain that will determine the success of your photos. There is a lot of thinking going on to get these photos. If you just randomly point your camera and expect it to do all the work, well you could have bought the cheapest camera and gotten similar results.

The high end cameras will let you do more but the key ingredient to their success is your knowledge of how to use the camera.

"The most important thing in photography is the six inches behind the viewfinder." –Stanley Leary