It’s beautiful outside – go take some pictures

We’re starting to get into spring/summer mode.  Bikes are coming out, the occasional hike,  walking around the lake.  This is also a good time to photograph nature; the cold of winter is gone so we’re more at ease using our gear in the outdoors.  If you’ve seen those great pictures of silky running water and always wanted to try to create that effect this short article will walk you through the steps.

First, scout a location.  You don’t need a dramatic waterfall – although that’s always nice to find.  A small running stream flowing over the rocks will work just fine.  Are the leaves in season?  If they are – great – include them in the frame.  If the trees are looking kind of bare,  frame the rocks and water tighter and include less of the surrounding foliage. Look for bends in the water – S shapes are visually more interesting than straight lines.

Look to shoot early or later in the day.  Midday harsh sunlight won’t look great.  You can also wait for a grey overcast day – perfect weather for nature shooting.

Bring a tripod.  You will be keeping your shutter open far longer than you can handhold.  That’s the trick to getting the silky water effect.  No tripod, no silky water (although you can use the self-timer and set the camera on a rock/tree stump and let it count down and trigger the shutter).

If you have a polarized filter use it.  You will need to darken the scene to get a longer exposure (again, for the silky water effect).

Use shutter priority mode or manual metering mode.  You want a shutter speed of 1/2 second or slower (hence, the tripod). Watch for blinking highlights.  If they are blinking you’ve overexposed the image and need to adjust the aperture to a bigger number (smaller opening). It is an iterative process – expose, check, adjust, repeat.

Smell the roses.  You’re in the great outdoors, taking pictures of nature’s beauty – don’t forget to enjoy your surroundings.


Image retouching – the good, the bad and the (too) beautiful ?

It’s been around long before digital photography.  It used to be called airbrushing and was done with an ink/paint spray device; now it’s done digitally with photoshop and other software.  Still, the goal remains consistent – alter the picture and make the model look better.  What used to be reserved for the famous is now commonplace with standard professional portrait and wedding photography.

Everyone (subject and photographer alike) wants the subject to look good for a shoot.  The subjects/models may use make-up artists and hair stylists – or just spend a little more time in the bathroom and make sure they have put themselves together a little more than usual.  Photographers use our most effective tool – light – to shape and present the subject’s face  in the most flattering manner.

So what’s the problem?  Too much of a good thing?  The American Medical Association criticized extreme retouching  for its effect on the psyche of kids.

So where do we draw the line?  Well – I’ll ask you that.  Take a look at some of the models that I have photographed.  I’ve included the unretouched image, typical retouching, and the glamour effect retouching.   I’m interested in what you think looks good, real, fake , terrible, get another photographer…

The All-American Girl Shoot

Recently a knowledgable colleague of mine reviewed my portfolio of  fashion and glamour photos and suggested that I needed “a different look” to augment the models’ photos that I currently had in my portfolio.  She recommended including more of the “all American” look.  Fortunately, I knew the perfect group of wonderful young ladies, and just my luck, they were all together in Vermont for vacation.  We decided on an outdoor, playful, (semi) snowy photo shoot.  I wanted bright colors, big smiles, fun and sun.

There were some of the usual challenges:

Wind knocking over the lighting umbrellas – assistants became critical as the winds picked up.

Pocketwizards mini TT1 failing – make sure you have those spare flat batteries when shooting in the cold.  Better yet, use a TT5, which uses AA batteries, as your transmitter on camera , if you happen to have a spare.

Harsh sunlight – I knew this would be the case but we had a limited shooting window.  For the most part I used the sun to backlight the models.

All in all, a fun shoot, great models, and some “all American” pictures for the portfolio.

On the road with Big Blue in Indianapolis

Wow. I’ve had the privilege of attending the last four Giants Super Bowls. With the exception of the 2000 game against Baltimore (let’s quickly skip that day), each Giants Super Bowl has wildly exceeded my greatest expectations for exciting football. But I’m not going to talk about the game – that’s been done many times over by analysts far smarter than I. This is a blog about photography. I was selected as the photographer for Big Blue Travel, the road company of the New York Giants that is run by my dear friend, renowned travel entrepreneur Barry Liben and his partner Michael Martocci. They put together a travel package and took over 800 Giants fans to Indy. No small feat. Planes, busses, hotels, game tickets, parties, rental cars – all in less than 2 weeks. Here’s a quick photo essay of the experience.

I liked the above grin and grab shot for a few reasons: great vibrant colors, personality and fun with the face painting and context with the Superbowl marquee in the background.

The scene checking in. Photo is a little busy but it does tell a story between the eye-catching jacket and the signs for the plane.

Great subjects make great pictures.

Fisheye lens works nicely in tight spaces where you’re trying to include lots of people. I like the effect.

Arriving at the airport in Indianapolis. The city is decked out in Super Bowl XLVI.

Big Blue Travel knows how to throw a party.

Even the Super Bowl party is a news event.

 Former Giants players talking to a sea of fans.

These are the kind of great pictures you get inside the stadium when you leave your G10 in the hotel room and security doesn’t allow you to bring in your D3 because it’s too big. Epic fail by the photographer.

Great memories.

Seeing the difference – or why guy with camera may not be your best choice

I belong to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).   The mission of the PPA, from their own website, is “Creating a vibrant community of successful professional photographers by providing education, resources and industry standards of excellence.”  With 22,000 members in 54 countries, they are world’s largest nonprofit association for professional photographers.

Recently the PPA embarked on an interesting (self-serving?) campaign.  Recognizing that everyone has a digital camera, why should clients pay for the pro?  Aside from the omnipresent iPhone, people have some really good, technically capable devices that can take good (and even excellent) pictures.  PPA  has prepared images and videos showing the differences between the pro and the “guy” (or mom) with camera. The image on the left is one of the more subtle differences from the PPA-prepped images.

A few years back I read the book  “How to Photograph Your Life” by Nick Kelsh.  Although Nick is a pro, he shot all the photos with his wife’s simple point-and-shoot.  Nick knew what he was doing – how to set up a shot, use complementary natural lighting, posing, good backgrounds.  And he got great images – all with a simple point-and- shoot – because he knew what he was doing.

Here’s what I’ve seen:  Lots of good equipment out there – Nikon D90, Canon G9-12, and some much higher-level equipment as well.  But most of the people I see don’t know how to take the camera out of auto mode.  And it’s a shame because these cameras can deliver much more than their owners are getting out of them.   But you gotta know something.  And one of the big things you gotta know is lighting.

And that’s the kicker – getting the flash off the camera. Separates the men from the boys.  When you see a photograph professionally lit you know you like it, but you’re not sure why – which is exactly the point behind the PPA campaign.

Here’s an example when you don’t know how to take it out of Auto mode.

Here are a couple that show the difference that professional lighting will make:

Not every event requires a pro photographer – but some life-cycle events deserve nothing less.

From the NFL Sidelines…

I am a NY Giants fan. My entire family is NY Giants fans. As a matter of fact, the Giants are the only pro sports team that my family agrees upon (Yankee, Mets split, Devils, Bruins split – my oldest kid lives in New England – fortunately he is NOT a Pats fan, and we couldn’t care less about basketball). Needless to say we are a very happy and excited household as we await the Super Bowl.

I have had the opportunity to shoot some pro football games from the sidelines. It’s a kick – and lots of hard work. Running up and down the sidelines with two cameras, lenses, monopod – about 25 pounds worth of equipment. The first time I shot a game I did a full “documentary” of the entire day – not just the action on the field. Since this is a blog about photography I thought I would share that experience here. This is from the Giants – Redskins home opener on Sept 13, 2009 back in the old Giants Stadium

Visiting players arrive by bus from their hotel.

The famous “tunnel” where players emerge to take the field

Eli Manning during pre-game warm ups.

Ever wonder how the jets/helicopters that fly over the stadium know how to show up exactly when the national Anthem is over? These are the National Guards guys that call in the air show and coordinate the timing. Here they are checking their communications.

Pre-game full-uniform warm ups (one of Sunday’s heros – Lawrence Tynes warms up)

Pam Oliver on the sidelines pre-game.

This is a really bad fly-over picture. First off, I wasn’t ready (even though I knew it was happening – see previous picture of the National Guardsmen preparing). My shutter speed was way too fast so I have the classic no-motion that makes the chopper look like it has stalled and is about to fall on the stadium. My timing was also pretty bad – should have gotten it before the scoreboard obstruction. Lastly – dead smack in the middle of the frame = boring composition. Definite fail on the fly-over shot.

My favorite action shot from the game: Eli Manning gets the pass off before Washington’s Andre Carter slams him. Carter beat the Giants’ David Diehl to get to Manning.

Picture of yours truly taken by a friend in the stands.

I was told I would be the only photographer at the game…

Post game.


Coach’s post-game interview (Giants won, by the way).

One last thing – Go Blue.

Abandoned buildings make great model shoots

Maybe its the stark contrast between a dilapidated dump and a sexy, attractive model.  Maybe it’s the uniqueness of really cool setting instead of the sanitary studio.  Whatever the reason, fashion shoots tend to look great in gritty, run down space.

I recently did my second photo shoot with Isabel, a model from Vermont. Isabel has not had an easy go of it – including losing her home last fall to flooding caused by Hurricane Irene. I admire Isabel’s resiliency.

We did an outdoor snow shoot last year by a covered bridge.  It was pretty cold and very windy.  My light stands were like sails.  Isabel was freezing – but we did get some great photos.  So why not shoot again in the cold?  Isabel was up for it.

We decided on a location that Isabel found.  I have to say she did an amazing job scouting this place.  Really interesting buildings, rooms, just the right look for what we had in mind.  Lots of locations to chose from.  We arrived late afternoon and I was facing problem number 1 – only about 1 hour worth of daylight for shooting.  Time to get moving.

I liked the door frame; it was interesting – especially with the Library lettering.  I liked the wall in the background.  I backlight Isabel and threw some light on the door – I liked the look.  Here’s what it looked like pretty raw:

But turned out pretty nice (see above).

Next onto the profile shot by the staircase. I liked the angle and wanted Isabel’s pose to lean into the staircase:

We moved on to the basin:

Isabel was pretty cold by now:

But we finished up quickly with her last change of outfits:

Three outfits, two sets of batteries (25 degrees temperatures), some nice keeper shots.  Not bad for a one hour shoot.