My photo
... is a freelance photographer working in Middle Georgia

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Not Fit For Publication??????? EXCUSE ME!!!!

Over the years there have been a few times that my pictures have been deemed
"not appropriate for publication in a family newspaper" by our august editors. Usually was something involving a dead body. Some of those I could understand, some of them I argued for publication. I always felt that it was my job to document what I saw, and the editors' job to decide if it should be in the paper.

The photos accompanying this blog were done some years ago at the request of our Features editor at the time. Joey, a local female impersonator, was doing his last performance at a Macon club. I was asked to photograph him for a story that was planned for a later Sunday front. My first thoughts were "Wow, what a cool assignment" followed by "The Telegraph ain't gonna run this." I expressed my doubts and was assured this was a done deal.

I spent quite a bit of time following Joey on this last Saturday. Me and my cameras were accepted with no problem. Everyone was cool. I shot a ton of film, and and my final edit was about twenty images. All quite tasteful. No duct tape. A really strong photo package.

I turned the pictures in knowing everyone was gonna be thrilled with the results. Wrong. Asked the Features editor how he liked them, and the reply was "We can't run these in a family newspaper." What did they expect?

So alas, they have been stashed away for long years now. A friend suggested I use them in my blog. Nice to finally display them.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Uggghh, Another Boring Photo.....

I cover most of our assignments at Robins Air Force Base. Seems like most of the press conferences I shoot are there. I did one last week. Major General Tom Owen and Col. Warren Berry were announcing the results of their huge readiness

Press conferences are usually pretty predictable, and visually boring. I hate turning in boring photos. Sometimes I guess I go a little overboard
trying to do something different, something other than a talking head.
Sometimes that is all you end up with.

The military expects a bit more decorum than the Mayor, so I don't get too weird with what I do. I shot all the angles, tried shooting low with the egg crate architecture and it didn't work.

Finally shot the two officers on the monitor of the base videographer's camera. This was shot with the 80-200, so no depth of field. They were out of focus. I really wanted to shoot with the 17-55 but I would have had to push the videographer out of the way, and figured she would probably kick my butt.

Well, it kinda worked.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Leapin Lizards!!!!!

I love my lizard picture. It should be my wife's photo. She has been doing a lot
of photography lately, and as I have said before, has a great eye. We were working in the yard a couple of weeks ago and she found the lizard. Said "You should shoot a picture of this." I tried to get her to shoot it, but was really wanting it for myself.
Ah, greed. Nothing like photo envy.

Anyway, I shot the lizard with my little Canon and left the picture in the camera until today. I had forgotten about it until I was looking at some cat photos Deborah had done. We have a new little Manx that is quite the photo opportunity waiting to happen.

The bottom photo is one Deborah shot last night. I had mentioned a while back that you need to get down to eye level when photographing pets and kids. This is a perfect example of what you can get. Quite the dramatic image of a little
house cat.

Back to the lizard....I am old and my mind wanders. Sorry. The first images were all shadow, none of the lizard was showing over the leaf edge. I was afraid it would get scared off before the head came over the edge. I got two frames and he was gone. I did the original in color and noticed it made a pretty cool black and white when I was sharpening it. The black and white really gets creepy. Looks like Nasferatu.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Photographing The Prez

The first American president I ever photographed was Richard Nixon. The only one since Nixon that I have not photographed was Gerald Ford. Before Reagan was shot, access was a bit more free. For a while after John Hinckley, everyone was kept at a distance.

The best pictures to me are always the ones shot with a wide angle following the prez through the crowd while he is shaking hands with the local folks. With Carter and before the shooting with Reagan, you could start out in the press area(which was usually a decent place to shoot from) and after the speeches follow into the crowd for pictures mingling with local folks.

The last time I photographed Clinton, I passed up the press area completely and just went early and hung out with local folks up close in front of the platform. When he came down to shake hands I got some nice images of him with the regular people, not just the VIP's onstage.

The times with Dubya, seemed like control was the key. No walking through the crowd in advance of the presidential arrival talking to folks and getting pictures. In Perry we were confined to the press area, and anyone who appeared to be with the press and came in with the average joe's got tossed. Photographing his dad was not much fun either. Maybe it's just a Republican thing.

It will be interesting to see what the next administration brings.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Little Help For Junky Backgrounds

I went out last week to do a group shot of the Peach County Girl's
Relay. Wanted a nice portrait of the group. Wanted something
with a little pop to it. Not just another boring group shot,
something that said relay.

The track suits and baton took care of part of the problem.
The time of day was bad because I had some really nasty shadows.
The background was not a big help either.

I shot the first photo, low angle, sun over my shoulder.
The pose was pretty good, but the lighting and the junk in the
background had to go.

I moved in and shot one from up close and low. The background
was now the sky. Much better but still lots of shadows.
I turned them around with the sun coming over their shoulder
and poped in a fill flash. Used my off camera sync cord and held the
flash as high as I could.

I wished I had brought my light stands and radio trigger, but this worked
pretty well. Now you look at the picture and the four gilrs are what your eye
goes to. No junky background to compete.

The sun adds another nice element, a complimenting element. And when
you shoot up with a flash this way, the sky is awesome.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Finding the Right Perspective

Monday evening I went to Byron to photograph the new fire chief being
sworn in during a city council meeting. . The photo was to run later in the week in our Houston Peach section. Since this was the first city council meeting being
held in the city's new municipal building, our editors decided I should shoot
some "new building" art for the next morning's paper.

You can't hardly have photos of a new building without showing the exterior.
Building shots are usually so boring. I had intended on shooting the mandatory building mug and then shooting something of folks interacting inside before the meeting.

It was raining lightly when I got there, the pavement in front of the building had a
little shine. I knew I wanted to shoot from a low angle and make use of the two wings. I only had to wait about five minutes for someone to walk in. Glad he came from my left side, perfect position for my planned composition. He fits right in with the lines of the building.

I went inside and got a look at the staircase. Wow. Pretty cool for Byron. I shot some stuff in the council chamber, kinda showing the interior. Really liked the little girl on her mom's shoulder but it didn't quite fit.

I left the meeting and my timing was great again. These folks were leaving behind me and I had just enough time to get set for their descent. I shot one and then dropped my angle of view to get rid of some of the window. I like it with less window and also was able to get the medalions lined up.

Shooting architecture is a good exercise for your composition skills. Go find a neat building and see what you come up with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tips For Better Portraits

Know your subject. People are a lot more comfortable doing something they like or enjoy.
If your dad enjoys fishing take him to the lake, or at least get him with his fishing gear.
If your subject is invloved with an activity, they will be more relaxed, and at ease. Be
sure you can see their eyes. In a portrait, the eyes always need to be in focus.

Shoot from your subjects eye level or lower. Makes a more pleasing photo, the
viewer can relate better to your subject.

Try for soft light. But be sure it is good light. Watch for shadows. You don’t want to
have splotches on your subject. Use windows, open doors. Get in the shade. Make use of backlight(get a halo) Avoid shooting outside at high noon.

Use fill flash in the daytime if you need it. Giving the portrait subject a little extra light will help bring the person out as the central element in the frame. Flash often ads a little sparkle to the eyes, and reduces harsh shadows on the face.

You can also use a white card to reflect light back onnto your subject’s face. You can buy
reflectors, but they are easy to make. A large white card at least two feet square. You can also use a car windshield reflector.

Watch the background for distractions. No trees coming out of their head. Watch for reflections from your flash.

Get close. A good portrait can almost always be made better by getting closer and tighter.
Sure, you can crop in the computer, but you get better results doing it in the viewfinder.

Vary the angle you shoot from. Don’t stand in the same place for all your shots.

Vary your poses, but keep them simple. Be in control, be confident. But don’t be bossy.

Shooting two subjects together? Keep the faces on the same plane so they are both in focus. Keep them fairly close together.

Go telephoto. At the telephoto end of the focal range, perspective gets less distorted and
slightly flattened. This gives a more pleasing and attractive portrait than one taken with a
wide angle. For the basic headshot a 105-135mm tends to work well.

Try using the portrait mode if your camera has one. It will make the background less
obtrusive and usually renders skin tones nicely.

Turn the camera sideways so you are shooting some vertical. Most people are more vertical than horizontal.

Don’t put their face in the very middle of the frame so there is lots of empty space above their head, and most of their torso chopped off.

Have some poses and locations in mind before you start shooting.Look at magazines of ideas. The ads have some really cool images. Keep your subject comfortable. Get feedback.

Use props. This can relax your subject.

Photographing children...Just let them play. Follow them around and keep shooting.
When you are photographing kids and animals get down low-on their level. If a kids is
upset, wait for another day.

And, oh, get in closer.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Special Olympics, And Having Fun

I photographed the Houston County Special Olympics Last Friday.
What a great time. This is one of the neatest things I shoot regularly.

So many enthusiastic people, both contestants and their teachers.
The kids all are there for friendly competition, to try their best and have a good

That is a lesson for all of us. The way we should be living our lives every day.
You try your best at all you do, and have a good time doing it. Guess
we can't all be photographers.

And speaking of photographers, Gary Harmon and Donna Arledge-Segelken were both shooting. Always makes me a bit sharper when I am hanging out with other photographers. I am still not sure what Gary said to make that woman use the Olympic Torch to keep him at bay. Maybe she was protesting Gary? Can' t take him anywhere.

So, go have some fun. Every picture you shoot should be for you, no matter the circumstances. It should be fun.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

All You Need Is A Grand Piano.....

My first assignment of the day today was at photograph
the newly renovated Spruce Street Auditorium in Fort Valley.
The old school auditorium was a popular community gathering place
but had suffered from some years of neglect. This weekend
there will be a dedication ceremony.

When I arrived there were folks working outside, and they made a nice
secondary image. I needed something showing the inside. I walked in and
saw this wonderful grand piano up on the stage. Knew I had to have it in my picture.

I shot it from the back of the stage. I wanted the auditorium in the background.
I started out right up over the piano, with the lights reflecting in the polished wood.
It was okay, but I wanted Grand dominance. I backed up and shot from the floor
getting the image above. Not bad, but would have been better with people in there

Then the side stage door opened and the two workmen appeared. i shifted around a bit and got the first guy framed in the doorway. Kept shooting as they came in, and really like this one. The open doorway and the light spilling across the floor really makes this one pop.

And you can't beat a grand piano.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lighting For Effect

I have been working with my little traveling light kit some more.
I have made a kit using several shoe mount flashes. I have three Nikon SB-28's and a Sunpack 120. I have just added the Sunpack to the bag. It is a great flash with an external power pack to give it a little boost. I have written about it before. The reflector comes off to be used as a bare bulb flash.

I have also added a soft- white umbrella. I have been using direct flash, and decided to try the umbrella.

The top photo I did yesterday in a local restaurant. It is an extremely low-light kinda place. I wanted to see some of the room in the photo so I shot at a really slow shutter speed to capture the ambient light. I shot at f4 for the flash and 1/13 second to get the ambient.

The second photo shows my lighting setup. The subjects were at the center table, and the umbrella was the main light. The other light came in on their backs to separate them from the background.

The last two photos were done with two lights as well. I wanted to light the two business partners and the artist rendering of their new building in the background. I put one flash with a homemade snoot behind them aimed at the rendering. The snoot concentrates the light so only the rendering is lit. The other light was to my left aimed at about a 45 degree angle toward my subjects.
These were done without the umbrella for a bit more control of the light.

Since I wanted these to be a bit dramatic, I kicked my shutter speed up to 250th to darker the room, eliminating the ambient light.

These shots kinda work. I should have noticed the reflection on the painting hanging behind them, and on the rendering. Need some barn doors for my main light.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday's and Doggie Kisses

I ventured over to Fort Valley State this morning to photograph the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America's Variable Surface Tracking Dog Test. This is one of the steps of a dog to be certified as a search and rescue dog. Really a different event to shoot. One dog handler who was participating said "It's about like watching paint dry." Not super action, just a trainer and a dog following a scent.

It was fun hanging out and watching. After watching the first team I knew I had to have a reaction shot. Probably the old doggie kiss. I followed Suzette Jett and her Weimaraner Nani's Cool Your Jetts as they followed the trail. I knew where they would end up, so I got fairly close to the end of the 700 yard trek.

I had some good shots and was about 100 yards from the end of the course when my camera went wack. Push the shutter release, and nothing happened. My brain stopped about the time the camera did. Pushed the shutter release again and the shutter fired about 10 seconds later. Panic. I checked the battery, made sure my lens was locked in place, and tried a new memory card, Then realized that the Mode Dial was turned to self-timer. What a dope. Anyway, I got squared away and got the doggie kisses. It is Monday.

So, now to use the sweet petite lick or the face washing slurp?

The Irish water Spaniel Club and the Peach Cluster Dog Show will be happening all week at the Georgia National Fairgrounds. Great opportunity for photography.
Check their website at
for more events.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thank You, Nikon!!!!!

Okay, let me begin by saying that this is not a camera review. I have had a camera in my hands almost every day for the past 37 plus years, and guess I ain't a bad shooter, but am not gear head enough to do a review. I do know what I like. I like the Nikon D3. A lot.

First impression was the way it fit my hand. It feels good, like a camera. I have used Nikons for most of my career. The Nikon F, F2(both with motors), the F5 and D2Hs have all had that fit. Everything is where it should be, and easy to reach. Balanced and solid, and you can shoot them real slow with a good wide angle. I like that because I love available light. And speaking of available light, this puppy does a really clean 6400 ISO. These night shots were done under the street lights in downtown Fort Valley at 6400.
Not real noisy, and they are sharp.

The photo of nurse Sheryl Rice was done at 800 ISO under mixed lighting, lot of sunlight through a window and hospital fluorescent overhead. Shot using Auto white balance. The color came from the camera real clean, not the usual ever present Nikon yellow, and the new color management system seems to not build up contrast like a lot of earlier DSLR's.

The autofocus is fantastic. Really quick and works well in low light, and does things
that are quite incredible. To steal a line form my hero Woody Marshall "This is a $5000
camera, and I only used about $10.00 worth."

Plus it is full frame, but I raved enough about that the other day.

Like I said, I am no gear head. I have not wanted to rush out and buy very new Nikon model that came along. I have wanted them for their usability. Hard to believe how far we have come since the old AP 2000e or even the Kodak DCS620's I used for several years.
The D3 is a really great tool for the photojournalist. Newspapers that are not using it will be at a disadvantage coving the news. It is that much better than what we have now.

The D300 is a good little camera. The color is quite clean, and it does higher ISO's well. The Dogwood blooms I shot at 1000 ISO. The camera without the optional vertical grip is unbalanced, and is is awkward shooting vertical, you have to reach over the camera for the shutter release. I am sure I would be more fond of this camera had I not been shooting the D3 at the same time.

I must say a big "THANK YOU" to Nikon. You have done this old shooter proud.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Keep Your Eyes Open, Dude

I have written about groundbreakings before. We don't shoot them too often, but sometimes you gotta. Peach County's school board squabble has been big news this year as they fought over where to build new schools. That made the groundbreakings a bit more newsworthy.

The only thing worse than shooting a groundbreaking is doing two in one day. Well, I shot two yesterday, and managed to get some different images from them. I went early and shot anything that made a photograph(and a few that didn't)

As the board members and other dignitaries collected their shovels and moved into position for the dirt throwing, board member Wright Peavy came up behind fellow board member Jody Usry pretending that he was going to whack him withthe shovel. Guess he was pretending. Made a nice, really different shot.

Another really different shot was the one below of Usry and Peach Commission chairman James Khoury framed between two shovel. Had to get down under a table to shoot that one. Not bad for an old man. This was after the ceremony was over, and people were beginning to leave.

Guess the lesson here is always keep your eyes open, and a camera in your hand.
Be ready when that spontaneous moment comes along. And it ain't over until you drive away.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The New D3

Today has been a wonderful day. A day I have dreamed about since I
started shooting digital full time. I put a really wide angle lens on a Nikon
DSLR and shot real wide angle pictures. No #@$&** cropping due to the small chip. Didn't loose that 1.4 of my 17mm.

I love digital, don't get me wrong. As a photojournalist, digital has opened
up such wonderful options. So much faster, more efficient workflow. So many advantages.

But I spent close to a lifetime shooting with really wide lenses. My idea of "Normal"
lenses was a 17mm or a 20mm on one camera and a 180mm f2.8 on the other.
Took me so long to adjust to that 1.4 magnification factor.

Anyway, today I shot wit the full frame D3 and the new D300. Both are great cameras. The D2HS is a good camera. But the D3 does so much. 12.1 megapixel, will do a really clean 6400 ISO. Best color ever from a Nikon DSLR. I will revisit after shooting it a little more.

But for today, the wide angle thing is more than enough.

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