Thursday, March 23, 2017

Preserving Family History, One Memory at a Time

My sister is on the couch with my grandfather and grandmother during one of our many times of watching the slide show my grandfather had created from his recording of our family that year and often years in the past as well. Not sure if my dad or uncle took this photo.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a family historian is an authority on known or recorded family events. Most everyone on both sides of my family were recording our family history with photos and movies through the years.

April Saul won first place in the Feature Picture Story category at the 1992 Pictures of the Year competition for her portrayal of the American family. She believed that family struggles were an important topic of journalism. "I hope what it [winning] means is that the everyday struggles of an American family are as valid in their own way as the struggles going on in Azerbajian or Sarajevo -- and that the private wars next door can be as compelling as the bloody, public ones thousands of miles away."

Family photographs can be considered cultural artifacts because they document the events that shape families' lives. Thus, the recording of family history becomes an important endeavor. In many cases, photographs are the only biographical material people leave behind after they die. But, the impact of family photo albums extends beyond merely recording history. Interpretation of family structures, relationships and self is possible through viewing family photographs.

Preserving Family History, One Memory at a Time

One of the biggest roles one can serve as a photographer is to help with the recording of their family history.

Now taking those pictures isn't enough. You need to share them with the family. You can do this many different ways. A traditional print that you give people is still a great way for them to enjoy what you have captured. They can put it on the museum wall that most homes have, which is also referred to as the front of the refrigerator.

This is my sister and I with our grandparents being photographed by my dad or mom at our home across from the church at the orphanage in Kinston, NC.
At my parent's 50th wedding anniversary we pulled these photos and had them in a slide show for those attending the event.


For our daugther's last musical we bought a 1/2 page ad and used the photos I had made of her in high school plays.


For her yearbook we bought a 1/4 page ad and used photos from early to now that captured her personality.

We take pictures to celebrate our new babies and birthdays. Later at weddings we put together slide shows for rehearsal dinners and the receptions to show the young couple growing up.

We use photos at our anniversary parties to remember all we have celebrated as families through the years.

I had the privilege of recording a video of a cancer patient who was dying and wanted to capture in her own words thing she wanted to share with them before she passed on from this life to the next. We found photos to use as she talked about her children and grandchildren.

Tomorrow I am going to her funeral where for the first time the family will see the video. I believe it will help them celebrate their family member in a way that many never get to have at their funerals. The great thing is that all the friends that will show up that may have never met their family member will be introduced to her for the first time.

This is my uncle playing with his daughter [my cousin] that I took.
First of all taking the time to make these photos shows your love of your family. Taking the time to share it with them at poignant moments in your families celebrations is a way you serve as the family historian.


This Subaru ad captures that special relationship between a father and daughter using images of the girl when she is young and now.

This is my daughter at age four in the front seat.
Here is one that a dad did over 14 years to show his little girl growing up in front of the camera with just portraits.


Here we did a book when our oldest graduated from high school and was going off to college.

There are family milestones that often cause us to find our photos and take the time just to look at them and remember.

For some of us as we grow older we may start to suffer from memory loss. These photos will become for us what our memories used to do for us and help us know those around us and that they are our family.

Photographs can prove to be an invaluable source of information when resolving personal problems. Photographs are not subject to memory recollection, and a person's portrayal of events can be quite different from what appears in the photographs. The information is intimate because family photographs are collected from the inside compared with journalistic institutions, which usually operate as outsiders. Photo albums and home movies provide the richest sources of memories about the family. They offer an intimate look at personal relationships. Psychologists recently have begun using this display of intimacy to help resolve family conflicts.

Just imagine a couple getting close to divorce that pulls out the photos and then starts to remember all the good times and takes the time to work things out because of the memories that helped to build those bridges necessary to save the marriage.

Photos are powerful reminders of the family ties.
My great grandmother holding my baby sister and me. 

Photo taken by my grandfather a month or so before my sister married my brother-in-law.
A photo I took of my daughter testing a lighting setup for a musical. While I was taking it for another reason I appreciate it because it is one of our father and daughter times together. It is a powerful memory for me.
One of my wife and I's favorite photos of our daughter Chelle. She is having her first Shirley Temple drink at the beach. Her expression of how much fun she was having and that we had this experience with her and the photo now helps us remember that moment like it just happened.
Nothing means as much to me as watching my family and capturing our times together. How about you do you value what your photos do for your immediate family as much as you do for how the rest of the world sees them?


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Storytelling Photo vs Point Photo

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100
"When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!", sings Curly in the musical Oklahoma!

This photo above is the only time on the stage during the entire production of the musical at Roswell High School where the surrey is on stage. This is the one scene that captures the build up of the whole show to where we see what Curly was singing from the beginning of the show promising Laurey how he would treat her on a date.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
This is Ado Annie Cames singing, but because I am isolating her alone only the corn in the background helps to place this with the musical Oklahoma!.

This is what I call a point shot verses the top photo which has much more information and is getting closer to helping to tell more of the story. You still need words with either photo to make it storytelling, but hopefully you are seeing the difference between the scene establishing shot and the closeup.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100
Now the reason this photo of Curly and Laurey often works as well as the shot of the surrey is that this particular pose is used often in posters to promote the show. Just Google "Oklahoma! Musical" and look at all the photos and you will see this style shot pop up.

Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/8000
Here is how I shot a promo shot verses the photo above it is from the show. Now while this doesn't tell the story say as well as having the surrey in the photo, Curly is gesturing about how the future he promises to Laurey is better than where she is now.


Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/180
Google "Oklahoma Barn Scene" and you can see variations of other productions that show similar scene. Again this is more of a point photo, but because I included more of the set most theatre folks will know this is the Musical Oklahoma!.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/200
People Need The Lord Photo

"I don't need a lot of 'People Need The Lord' photos," commented Jeff Raymond to a photographer shooting photos with him in the Dominican Republic. "What do you mean?," commented the photographer.

Jeff went on to explain the photo style like the Afghan girl on the front of National Geographic by Steve McCurry. This photo has had such an impact that many people think this is the "BEST" way to shoot.

Give me more context is what Jeff coached the photographer to do in addition to a few portraits.

You see the photo of the boy here could have been shot anywhere in the world.


This is a frame from short movie clip. Notice how the kids in the foreground are close enough to give you a portrait, but including the background gives you more context. Here is the movie and you can see what conditions I was shooting.

Kids playing in Togo, West Africa from Stanley Leary on Vimeo.

Please understand this blog post is not saying Storytelling Photo is better than a Point Photo. What I am saying is you need both.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000
The problem I see with many new photographers is falling in love with the closeup shot at ƒ/1.4 and centered. Then they have only slight variations of this photo in their portfolio.

If you are going to be hired over and over you must be the photographer who gives the client more than they expected. This is why learning how to use a variety of lenses, different apertures and shutter speeds on an assignment will have clients raving about you.

Sure you can do OK shooting the "People Need The Lord" photo, but you are a one trick pony show.

Monday, March 20, 2017

What high school theatre can teach us about Volunteers

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100
Roswell High School had their last show of the musical Oklahoma! yesterday. What a production it was for everyone involved.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/180
Our daughter Chelle was in the musical as Aunt Eller and this is the main reason my wife and I were involved as volunteers.

While there are many other ways I could talk about being a volunteer I thought this was a great way to talk about the roles of the volunteer.

If your organization is using volunteers it is imperative on you to define roles of volunteers so everyone knows what they are doing. Most organizations that regularly use volunteers usually have a volunteer coordinator.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100
Now in theater the term role came from literally an actor being given a part. No one had the entire play in the time of Shakespeare. They just had their part. This is why often their role would setup the next actor.

For the play to be successful each person needed to know their part/role.

Think of your organization like a musical to give you an idea how important it is for each person to know their part and for someone to be responsible for coordinating like the director of the show.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S,  ISO 32000, ƒ/5, 1/500
If you want to see excitement on your volunteers faces like here in the scene from Oklahoma! then you need to make everyone feel like they are part of the team.

Now everyone in this musical except for the two teachers were all volunteers. The student actors could have quit at any time.

By the way very seldom does this not cross someone's mind as a volunteer. The main reason for the thought of quitting coming up is due to communication problems, which are often rooted in poor understanding of volunteers.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.2, 1/140
Here is a list of some suggestions for you:
  • Developing ways to recognize and reward volunteer efforts
  • Helping volunteers feel welcome and supported
  • Developing and managing policies, procedures and standards for volunteers
  • Looking after the volunteer database and records
  • Planning and goal setting
  • Rostering and organizing volunteers
  • Delegating projects and tasks
  • Managing any associated budgets and expenditure
  • Communicating with people from diverse backgrounds
  • Resolving conflict or managing the grievance process.
Some No-Nos
  • Complaining about a volunteers work
  • Ask people to volunteer and then when they show up not use them
  • Make volunteers wait on you
  • Don't thank your volunteers
Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S,  ISO 18000, ƒ/5, 1/500
TIME

The one thing that is the most valuable given by any and every volunteer is their TIME. No matter the person no one's time is more valuable than any other person.

The only time it seems that we are really aware of how valuable our time is seems to be when our time is running out on this earth. Don't be one of those people who doesn't think about how valuable your time and others is until your last days here. Each person's hour of time they donate is the same value as another person.

Now some who read this will disagree with me, but just like this play if one person didn't do their assigned part then it is noticed. An actor doesn't appear on stage at the right moment the other actors have to improv and the plot can be affected in the storyline. 

Just think of the time you had a splinter and how annoying that is and affects the whole body. That is how big of a deal each person's time is to the organization. Something so small will be felt by the body.

Feelings Get Hurt

When people get upset working as a volunteer it can almost always be traced back to miscommunication. Often it is when the role wasn't well defined or just as often is when volunteer shows up and those who are coordinating their time dropped the ball.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5, 1/100
When you take the time to plan and organize your thoughts about using volunteers you can get everyone in step together.

When a plan comes together

I can tell you healthy organizations are the ones that treat everyone's time as precious as gold. When they do the word gets out. People see what is going on and want to join. You see way too many people are aware of volunteering and wasting their time or at least not being treated with the respect due when you are giving away your time.

When a theatre company consistently is putting on great performances it is due to someone coordinating all those volunteers and treating everyone's time a precious.

When respecting people's time you will benefit from more friends and deeper friendships. You see a good relationship is respecting one another's time.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Which are you apart of? Group ƒ/64 or Group ƒ/1.4

Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4
Group ƒ/64

In 1930 Willard Van Dyke as well as Ansel Adams & Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64.
Group f/64 was a group founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects. 
The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras [35mm] increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.
– Wkipedia 

One of the magazines I have done work for through the years is Country Magazine. There requirements are to shoot at the highest depth-of-field for their photos. To do this on today's DSLR cameras you are typically shooting at ƒ/22. This would be equivalent to the ƒ/64 on a 8'"x10" that many in Group ƒ/64 used.


Nikon D2X, Nikon 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/2.5


The strength of shooting with sharpness all through the photograph is it puts the audience into the scene. This is where you are using composition and lighting to draw the audience into the photograph.

While your eye may go first to where the photographer directs you using light values and composition your eye will wonder afterwards around the scene just as if you were standing there yourself.

This style was in opposition to the pictorialist of the time.
Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of "creating" an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer's realm of imagination.
– Wikipedia


Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
Group ƒ/1.4

Group ƒ/1.4 you may not have heard of, but I bet you have heard of BOKEH Photography.
In photography, BOKEH is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as "the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light". Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—"good" and "bad" bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.
– Wikipedia

I would say that those who shoot primarily wide open aperture are more stylistically like the pictorialist of the last century and less like Group ƒ/64 which was about preserving everything in the scene.

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/320
I love that my camera lets me shoot from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/57. The ƒ/57 is when I shoot with my Nikon 60mm Micro lens. Here is a shot I did that was widely published.


“ƒ/8 and be there,” was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s response to the question on how to be a successful photographer. 

However the earliest record of the quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee who was a famous street photographer during the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers and even nature photographers.

This says you just need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”

I say to be careful not to treat your interviews as just got microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record and I am done.

Don't Make Your Camera a Box Camera

Kodak made a box camera where you pushed the button and Kodak did the rest. You had no control over the Aperture, Shutter or even ISO.

Once you subscribe to shooting all your photos like the Group ƒ/64 or those doing BOKEH photography you have in essence taken that very expensive camera and turned it into a box camera.

Exercise for you to do

Take your camera and just one lens. Find a scene and then shoot the scene at every aperture you can on your camera. Now as you get to a wide open aperture you know that your depth-of-field becomes very shallow, so remember to change your focus so that the focal point is on something in the scene that creates interest. We call this technique selective focus.

Now just spend time doing this for several different situations. It might be able to do it with scenics rather than people at first, but then move on to people. What is really fun to do is to shoot where there are many people. A good example would be in a coffee shop.

Your challenge is not to make one good photo in each situation, but rather a great photo at each ƒ-stop.

When you master this technique you will discover you will be able to say something totally different about each situation. This will be the difference of you writing a very short sentence to creating a novel with just one frame.

Will you take up the challenge?

I believe the great photographers are the ones that know when to use what aperture to capture what they want to say about the subject.

Friday, March 17, 2017

How to Video Capture more than 29 minutes with a Nikon D5

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100
Last night I photographed and video captured the show Oklahoma!. Just a last minute push to encourage you if you are in Roswell, GA to come and see the play. Runs through the weekend. Go here to buy your tickets or at the door.


For video capture I attached to my Nikon D5 using the HDMI output the Atomos Ninja Blade 5" HDMI On-Camera Monitor & Recorder.

Why did I do this is a great question. Most all DSLRs that record video have a 30 minute time limit. I understand this has to do with avoiding a double tax in some countries.

So how do you record a musical as I did that goes an hour and half for just the first Act? This is where the Atomos Ninja Blade comes to the rescue.
Atomos Ninja Blade 5" PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS
Key Features
325DPI, 5" IPS 1280 x 720 capacitive touchscreen monitor/recorder.
Waveform RGB & luma parade, vectorscope with zoom, and test pattern generator.
Adjustable gamma, contrast and brightness.
HDMI input and output.
Real-time monitoring, playback, playout to a PC or Mac with QuickTime, and edit logging.
Focus peaking, 0-100% zebra, and two modes of false color monitoring.
Records 10-bit, 4:2:2 in ProRes or DNxHD.
S-Log / C-Log recording.
Trigger REC/STOP from camera (Canon, Sony, ARRI, Panasonic, RED, JVC)
Timecode from camera.
2.5" HDD/SSD media storage.
It records up to 1080 30p/60i resolution via HDMI to an available HDD or SSD using either Apple's ProRes or Avid's DNxHD codecs. Recording at 10-bit with 4:2:2 color sampling, this unit provides you a monitoring and recording solution in one compact battery powered unit.

Now I bought the ADATA Technology 256GB Ultimate SU800 SATA III 2.5" Internal SSD card.

This setup worked great for last night's opening night performance.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.7, 1/100
While the Nikon D5 will record 4K I don't need this most of the time, so the Atomos Ninja Blade 5" was perfect.

If however you would like to record at 4K you can get the Atomos Shogun Flame 7" 4K HDMI/12-SDI Recording Monitor. They make other higher end models as well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250
If you are not a video shooter and are more of a stills shooter then for capturing video you need to be a little more hands on technically.

What I mean by this is that the exposure and sound vary through a production and you may need to adjust this as you are recording.

With the Nikon D5 attached to the Atomos Ninja Blade using the HDMI port just siphons this off before it hits the H.264 encoder and you are recording in ProRes format. This isn't really recording in RAW video but more like a TIFF file than say a JPEG.

Now I cannot share the Oklahoma! video because of copyright. [I am recording it for the Shuler Awards in Georgia]

The cool thing is right now you can buy the Atomos Ninja Blade 5" for $395 without a hard drive which gives you the 5" monitor. I would recommend buying a SSD hard drive of your choice in size.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/5, 1/100
There are three more performances for me to tweak my exposure and sound on to capture the best quality possible out of my setup. At the same time each performance traditionally gets better each time.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.5, 1/100
By the way Aunt Eller is my daughter Chelle. This is her senior year and last production. She also taught the choreography to the cast.

Fuji X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/4.7, 1/100
I hope these tips will help you thinking of ways to use your DSLR to do more than just take photos. I know I wanted to use the high quality CMOS chip to get a wonderful keepsake video of our daughter to cherish for the rest of her life.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Clothes, Color of Outfits, Backgrounds & Lighting Impact the Portrait


When picking clothes for a photo shoot I have a few tips. For these photos of recording artist Sydney Rhame we had a few outfits. So here I will show you how there are many variables that can impact the final photo.


Solids

I recommend wearing solids over patterns. It keeps your eye going to the face rather than the outfit.


Color

If you have two or more people you need to coordinate your outfits, but by yourself you have much more latitude. You just want to pick a color that works with your skin tone, hair color and eye color.




Lipstick

Be careful to coordinate your lipstick color with your outfits.


Background

Backgrounds need to be simple and uncluttered. Backgrounds need to be complimentary to the colors the model is wearing.


Black

Black and White are great neutral colors to use as well as Gray. I would avoid pure white due to it is difficult to keep the detail in the white when you start going to different outputs like photo prints or to a newspaper.

Black works well and I like it when the fabric has some texture as Sydney's sweater does here.


Notice that you can keep the same background and change outfits and the mood of the photo will change.


Also keeping the same outfit but a different background changes the mood of the photo.


What I have learned through the years is if you want the very best photo then you need to bring a variety of outfits to a photo shoot and mix and match those outfits with different backgrounds as well as lighting schemes.

Sometimes in the case of a recording artist like Sydney you need a different look depending on the music you are promoting.

Expression

While your clothes, the background and lighting can have a huge impact on the photo the one thing that really makes the photo is the expression of the model. Now coordinating all these into one moment is when you have that EUREKA MOMENT!