Allison and Nick drove down from Edwards, Colorado to Estes Park yesterday for a camping inspired engagement session in Estes Park, Colorado. Both 6th grade teachers, Allison and Nick exude a joy for life and the outdoors that is contagious beyond belief. The mountain weather decided to be extra volatile for us and give us a mixture of sunshine, clouds, hail, downpours, snow, lightning, and sunshine again all within an hour and a half. Allison and Nick, thank you so much for the amazing experience of being your photographer. I cannot WAIT to photograph your wedding in Vail this summer.
Oh what a joy it was to have Amber in front of the camera today. Not only is she a beautiful young woman on the outside, but her inner beauty exudes confidence and gentleness. Amber is a nurse, worship leader, and soon to be missionary in Thailand. We got a call from her last week looking to update some of her photos for support letters so that she can be a nurse to those who truly need medicine, a helping hand, and an encouraging word. I cannot wait for your journey to begin in Thailand!
Yesterday I had the chance to attend a photography workshop taught by Steve Stanton, someone whose work and passion for creating art I profoundly respect. I brought my Hasselblad 500 along to take a few frames of film, and I cannot wait to share those once they are developed and scanned. Towards the end of the workshop, we all went out to an old tree farm where we had some fantastic models and stylists for the classic feeling scene.
Honestly, ever since I left the snow blanketed state of Kansas from Rachel and Nathan’s wedding, I have had a smile on my face. Nathan and Rachel share an infectious chemistry for one another and a passion and zeal for life that inspires everyone around them. It was an amazingly cold day and Rachel and Nathan held their first look on top of a snowy dike just outside Saint John’s Military Academy. Looking back on their first look, I am met with memories of pure happiness, coming away feeling utterly and completely blessed to have shared in their love and celebration…if even just for moments as long as 1/200th of a second. One thing made this wedding even more special to me – Alyssa was able to come along and rock her mad photography skills with me.
I absolutely love photographing military weddings and truly appreciate the sacrifice and dedication to our country that not only our soldiers display every day, but their spouses as well. We offer a 10% discount for all active military.
Rocking the video was Matt from Baysinger Films.
We take a break from some of our wedding work to feature a different type of photography we do…editorial work. We love the fine art wedding photography we offer in Northern Colorado and all over the country. But sometimes I love to make a few edgy, crisp portraits for our editorial and advertising work.
Brett is an amazing Counselor and track coach at a local high school. He just got accepted to be an instructor at the Nike Running Camp in Boulder, Colorado. So, we went out to the school’s track today and did some editorial photography work for his bio page for the program.
It was a surprisingly brisk, dew-drenched morning that brilliantly reflected the golden California sunshine up into my face as I walked down to the barn for morning chores. With the dogs playing at my heels, I opened the warped, wooden barn door and was immediately greeted by a bouquet of fresh straw and the sight of dozens of young lambs beginning their routine stretches in the morning and preparing for a day full of frolicking and playing king of the hill on the resident straw pile. As I rationed out flakes of alfalfa, fresh scoops of molasses soaked grain, and scrubbed and filled water buckets to the cleanliness standards of a surgery center, I would always take a second to relax and enjoy the sight and expectations of this year’s lamb crop that we would sell to 4-H and FFA members across the State.
As usual, my mom was right there with me, helping me do chores, formulate the best nutritional rations for our ewes, and just chat about what we were seeing. An accomplished horse trainer, she had a certain way of life that just exuded knowledge about the blending of livestock and life. Little did I know, this everyday meeting would be different.
My mom and I started evaluating the year’s lamb crop and talking about what direction we wanted to go when purchasing rams and ewes to help improve our flock for next year. After several back and forth exchanges on viewpoints, I decided to win this argument once and for all, “knowing” I was right. I mean, I was a teenager after all. I exclaimed “We have to go to Berry’s Farm to purchase stock from him, he’s the most popular person right now, and he’ll help us become popular breeders too.” Taking a second to think of a response, she replied “But Scott, You don’t even like his stock or style.” I thought to myself in all my infinite teenage wisdom that it didn’t matter, I wanted to get customers, and I wanted notoriety in the show ring. What came next was a lesson beyond the barn.
“You see, every day you and I wake up at sunrise and come out here to the barn to feed, water, and complete all the chores that are needed. We’re up at 2 am just to check on the health of our ewes who we are expecting to lamb, and we are out here till sunset practicing. We’ve had a lot of great memories in this barn…and a lot of heart breaks too. Whether its freezing or 110 degrees, we are out here working with our only company being the sheep.” At this point, I have to guess my eyes were beginning to roll, but that’s when she got right to the point. “You can’t go chasing after the trends. With all this work, you have to like what’s in the barn.”
In other words, when you are giving all that you are to your work, you better enjoy the taste of the fruit of your labor the most. Even if no one else appreciates it, you need to. Now how does this lesson in the barn have anything to do with photography? It’s quite simple, as most important things truly are.
As artists, we often thrive on positive affirmation to validate our worth as photographers. There’s nothing wrong looking for positive feedback, in fact, it is always appreciated. However, as a creative I can place too much emphasis on the feedback and too little of it on creating art that inspires me and makes me happy. Don’t get me wrong, I desperately want to please my clients beyond their expectations, but I ultimately want to do that by becoming an inspired and fulfilled photographer ,who, by creating work that he enjoys, overflows that joy to my clients. After all, my clients hire me for who I am, not just my work. I can’t enter into that place of creative Zen without first creating images I love. And in reality, if I don’t love my images, how can I expect anyone else to?
I’m reminded of the contrasting lifestyles of Howard Roark and Peter Keating in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. One created for the pure joy of creating things that he enjoyed, and the other was too consumed with creating what others wanted and neglected creating work that inspires his heart. Keating found temporary notoriety and success, while Roark found fulfillment and ultimately great unnecessary fame.
I’ve been realizing a few things lately, with the first being that I need to create for myself. I sat down to coffee with a good friend and heart the other day, and he said something that has stuck with me. “Scott, skill wise you can technically pull off any photograph you want, but what I want to see is YOU in the photograph.” He didn’t mean a literal “YOU.” I mean, who would want to see that? My morning sit up routine involves the transition of my bed to my espresso machine. What he advised was a creation of art that demonstrated who I am and my heart in every image by simply creating art that I enjoyed and made me happy.
So that’s my goal. I’m going to be removing the “comment” section of my blog page simply because I’m the type of person who chases after affirmation too much. I want to focus on only one thing, creating artwork that inspires me and, in turn, inspires my clients beyond what they could ever image.
As the memory of dew and the smell of fresh straw fill my nose and heart while I drink my morning espresso, I sit down to edit my latest photographs with one thing in mind…I have to like what’s in the barn, even if no one else does. If I stay true to that idea, hopefully I find people that like what is in my barn too.
This post wouldn’t be complete without several embarrassing pictures of me growing up, but hey, I’m not ashamed because it was a life I enjoyed in the barn. Don’t ask about the hats and ties…I had to wear them
Since all my weddings are officially over, I”ve been taking the chance to get into doing some personal work, try a few different techniques or ways of lighting, and just have fun with cool people.
Keith is an incredible musician and composer who is studying at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. I’ve known him for a few years and had the chance to play in our church’s worship band with him. Truly a talented individual. So after I found out he would be back in Northern Colorado, we set up a photo shoot. There was snow all over the ground, but we managed to find a place that worked beautifully for a fall color cast.
I absolutely love getting a chance to try out new ways of lighting and photographing people. In fact, I think it’s incredibly important to push yourself as an artist on a regular basis to keep yourself moving forward. So when a good friend of Alyssa and mine volunteered to do some modeling to test out a few lighting concepts we wanted to use for our Colorado Commercial Photography, we were down.
For photographers, these were all shot within the last 3 hours. Get it right in camera, and the editing is quick and easy.
I love the use of off camera lighting in my portrait work because I don’t have to compete with the sun, I can have greater control of my lighting, and above all else, I believe it allows me to offer something unique and different to my clients. Plus, I enjoy it. In a growing market of photographers with a low barrier to entry, I see a lot of work being produced with the same back lighting and the same click of a purchased photoshop action. In short, it allows me to differentiate. I’ve been utilizing off camera flash in my work for the last 18 months, and it’s been a wild ride that has changed stylistically over that time frame. In my work as a denver commercial photographer as well as my personal work, I tend inject more contrast and an “edgy” feel when compared to my bridal work. Lately, I’ve been addicted to using my Paul C Buff beauty dish to get that “punchy” feel. But as I peruse through a portrait session I did a while ago using a Paul C Buff Octabank, I realize what a truly beautiful and versatile light source it really is. There are a myriad of different ways I have used this light modifier for photography portraits. It’s allowed me to get some truly soft, painterly looking transitions in my shadows to a more edgy, contrasty look. For me, it’s the swiss army knife of my lighting bag.
With this colorado senior photography session sprinkled with hints of semi-post-apocolyptic flavoring, I wanted to demonstrate how I used this Octabank in an almost completely feathered nature. By feathering, I mean pointing the light modifier almost completely away from the subject, so only the softest light hits the subject. You see, at the center of each light modifier, you have a hot spot. If you point it directly at your subject, the hot spot will appear as just that…a hotter, more contrasty light source. You can fix this by purchasing a double baffled modifier (one that has two diffusion sources spread out inside the box), but I’m cheap. By feathering your light so only the rim of light falls on your subject, you get the smoother light source you intended to purchase as well as some great control of shadows.
Technical Notes for this shoot.
Camera stuff - 5Dmk2 | Lens 24-70L (version 1, since switched to 24 1.4LII |
Wireless Trigger: Promaster *Note* I’ve wanted to switch to Pocket Wizards for a long time, because, well, they are the industry standard and can fire from insane distances away. But to be honest, they are over $400 to get started for a set. These cheap Promasters are about $50-$100 and over 2 years, I have never had a misfire. I’ve even left them in a park overnight, had a downpour, went back and found them soaked, and they worked just fine the next day. I don’t need the High Speed Sync for my Alien Bees, and never shoot from over 50 feet away. One day I’ll definitely upgrade to some Pocket Wizards, but for now, that $350 is 7 months of diapers for my kid. Priorities… even if it makes me appear less “professional.”
Let’s take a look at the first set up. Right or wrong, this is my thought process. I took the talent to an area that had the environment I wanted that happened to be in complete shade. But since I was going to light it with off camera flash, that didn’t matter. I metered the scene and underexposed it by about a stop to a stop and a half to bring about that moody feel I was going for and to separate the subject out from the background that much more. Once the talent was in place, I started to slowly introduce my light. I know a light meter would be quicker, but once again, those are 10 months of diapers. (I find as a new parent, I convert all currency to the monetary value of diapers. For non parents, that’s about $300-500 bucks. Inevitably, this leads me to wonder how many diapers I’d charge for a sitting fee…I’m sick.). With my lights to 1/8 power, I set up my light camera right and slightly above my subject angled slightly down to help create slightly more dramatic shadows.
ISO 100,F8, 1/200
Here’s the lighting diagram, courtesy of Strobox. Notice how only the edges of the light modifier are actually hitting the subject.
To help the session move quickly, I usually do two or three shots with the same lighting set up. Here is another variation with the same lighting. I turned him a little more towards the light source, which resulted in less of his face falling on shadows.
EXIF: ISO 100, F8, 1/200
Set Up 2
The next series is all done within about 5 minutes of each other. We had waited about 20 minutes at this location (an old 1800′s sugar beat mill) for the setting sun to cast light through the windows on the lookout tower above right. We didn’t have much time to waste, so we set up our lights and the talent did a great job with everything I had asked of him.
About the light set up: I kept the light as close to the subject as possible while keeping it just out of frame. In general, the closer your light source is to your subject, the softer the light source appears. The further away your light source (i.e., the sun), the more contrasty and harsher the transition of shadows becomes. The light was coming from camera left. Normally, I would have the light coming from a more natural direction (in this case, camera right to match the direction of the sun), but I wanted a more surrealistic scene with competing light sources, so I opted to place the box against the direction of the sun, and use the sun as a filler. The same feathering technique was used.
Exif Data again ISO 100, F8, 1/200. We shot everything within 5 minutes, so there wasn’t too much of a change.
A few more subtle variations with this lighting set up. The only changes were the position of the model, and the height of the modifier.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll answer them within a day or so. Thanks for reading, be blessed!