Sunday, May 22, 2011

Laura and Brian | May 20, 2011 | Pittsburgh Wedding Photography

It was a beautiful day in Oakland on Friday for Laura and Brian's wedding. Laura was the maid of honor in a wedding I did a few years ago and I was honored she remembered me when it came time to plan her own wedding. Once again I was assisted in the coverage by my good friend Mike Reed.

We met up with Laura for a few portraits as she got ready at the Wyndham Hotel. I love the soft light from north facing windows, but hotel room backgrounds are usually not the best. There are basically three ways I combat cluttered backgrounds: first, place the subject very close to the light source (window) so the background goes very dark because of the difference in exposure. Second, use a very fast prime lenses wide open, I usually use an 85 1.4, to throw the background out of focus, or three, pull the sheer curtain out and use it as an impromptu background. For the portrait of Laura I used two of the techniques and it worked wonderfully.

While I was working with Laura to capture a beautiful portrait, Mike was busy looking for details, moments and other angles. A sharp second photographer is invaluable in expanding coverage. But the key is to find one who sees in a similar style as the prime shooter so there is a continuity and flow to the photography. Since I've worked with Mike for many years some of my vision has rubbed off.

Photograph by Mike Reed

Photograph by Mike Reed

A good photographer is always looking for the right angle and right moment. But it always helps getting lucky, too! Without the light from a guests flash this would have been a nice picture of Laura and her dad walking into the church, but with the small bonus of a beautiful rim light you have a memorable image.

Photograph by Mike Reed

The wedding ceremony was at one of Pittsburgh's most beautiful churches, St. Paul's Cathedral. And once again luck provided us with a better picture. Usually at St. Paul's the alter is bathed in a light so bright it causes a dramatic imbalance of exposure across the scene, however, Friday afternoon the lights did not come on and for the first time I can ever remember I was able to capture the church in its full glory. A 16mm full frame fisheye lens allowed for a full, stylized view of the interior.

After the ceremony we went to a few famous Oakland landmarks for some photos.

Finally, we were ready to go the reception when, all of a sudden, something amazing happened... the SUN came out! Well, we couldn't let that opportunity slip away so it was off for a few more shots. I just LOVE long veils as they float to the ground or get whipped by the wind. A 14mm lens allowed for the expansive view from the camera held overhead at arms length. Over the years I've gotten pretty adept at shooting without looking through the viewfinder. As one of my mentors said, "you must feel the photograph before making the photograph." It's a Zen thing.

One thing I've discovered after 36 years doing this called photojournalism -- amazing images will happen when you just let people be themselves and stop trying to create emotion. It's a wedding. They're in love. Trust me, there's enough emotion to go around, just wait for it.

Finally it was time to head off to The 20th Century Club for the reception. Now I've been to a lot of weddings over the years but this was the first time I had made it to this particular venue. What a treat! This is one of the nicest places I've been in town. First off it's a beautiful facility, but most important the staff was outstanding. Bravo!

Spotted at the cocktail reception. Oh my, the competition is getting younger and younger!

The first dance. Beautiful backlight provided by Anna Marie of Ambiance Video Productions. I love to shoot wide open into the videographer's light. It can be a difficult shot to pull off because of lens flare, exposure problems and focus, but when you capture the pure emotion and interaction of the couple during this moment of their wedding it's worth it.

Then the party really starts!

Laura and Brian, thank you again for allowing Mike and me to be a part of your day. It was an honor and an absolute blast! Look forward to seeing you after your honeymoon!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Battle at F-Stop Ridge

Hey folks,

It's been an absolutely insane week of shooting one project after another from annual reports to a national magazine cover shoot to schools of all kinds. Today is Friday and I'm ending the week on a high by shooting a wedding for a great couple. Laura was the Maid of Honor for a bride I photographed a few years ago and when it became her turn to walk down the aisle she said I was the easiest decision she had to make!

So to help celebrate the end of a long week I wanted to share a little video I found over at Chase Jarvis dot com. I've seen it before and it's a riot, but, you gotta be a real photo geek to understand this brand of humor. The Battle at F Stop Ridge. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Meghan and Colin

What an amazing wedding yesterday at the Center for the Arts in Pittsburgh! It was such an honor to photograph Meghan and Colin throughout their day. We started early and ended late, but the moments we captured will tell their story. I'm still going through the thousands of images we shot but here are some early standouts. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek. Thank you to Meghan and Colin and their families for allowing Mike and me to be a tiny part of your special day.

A hug from Meghan's sister, her Maid of Honor

Colin sees his bride for the first time

The weather turned fast but the heavy clouds provided a great backdrop for a city portrait

A few rain drops didn't phase us to shoot just a few more

until the wind changed, then it was time to get to the ceremony!

Good friends come to your wedding, great friends give you a foot massage before you walk down the aisle.

Signing the marriage scroll

Photo by Mike Reed

A kiss from Meghan's first violin teacher, he's 100 years old.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Leica Fotografie International | Terry Clark Photography

Monday evening I was elated to find out that Leica Fotografie International has accepted two more of my photos in the Master Shots Gallery! These are images Leica has judged to be among the best of all the images submitted from across the globe. This is the third and fourth photo published on their website in two months.

The photographs they selected were from the first tests with my new Leica M9 digital camera. The first image is of my buddy Jim as he enjoys a cigar at Bloom's Cigar on the Southside. The second picture was made right around the corner from the cigar shop of the reflection in the windows of the Iron and Glass Bank. Not a bad 20 minutes of shooting on a freezing Saturday afternoon!

Now I can't wait to do some serious photography with the M9!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

NYC Street Photography | Cheryl Dunn filmmaker

Photographers have been capturing images on the street since the beginning of photography. New York City, being the epicenter of the photographic universe, has always been a favorite subject. Of course it doesn't hurt that NYC has a huge and diverse population teeming with characters of all stripes. Just sayin.

Not long ago, Filmmaker Cheryl Dunn was commissioned by the Seaport Museum in New York to create a series of documentary pieces highlighting some of the best photographers working the street today. These are the masters of the art and craft of capturing a fleeting moment. Their eyes are sharp and their reflexes cat like in quickness.

On a personal note, two of the participants in the series, Mary Ellen Mark and Bruce Davidson, were highly influential in the early stages of my career. Their images spoke to me in ways others did not and inspired me to develop my own ability to capture the fleeting moment.

... Note of warning... Ricky Powell is what you might call, a bit rough even for a New Yorker. The film was not edited for polite language so if you're sensitive to profanity you might skip that segment.

See Everybody Street by clicking the link.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Nevada desert

It's way to early in the AM to be up and writing but I couldn't go to sleep without sharing these two photos from last year's trip to Las Vegas I worked up in Lightroom and Photoshop today. With a zillion things on my plate today I just needed to escape into some personal work today to clear my head. I'm taking tomorrow (err, later today) off to attend to a family situation and I just couldn't concentrate on business. Life is like that sometimes.

These photos were fun and challenging to construct. Even though they may seem pretty straightforward, each one required up to 20 layers to produce. There were TONS of curves adjustments, dodging, burning, cloning, and in the top photo I even moved mountains. Literally, I moved the bottom portion of the scene closer to the clouds. Better life thru Photoshop. But, and this is to me the key, after all that work on the computer, the photographs still look natural.

A creative director and friend told me a few weeks ago the reason she likes my work so much is that it never "looks digital." By that she meant the super sharp hyper reality high dynamic range images so often seen today. Oh don't get me wrong, I've done those too. But afterward they left me cold and empty. That's just me. I've seen examples where they look pretty cool, but I've seen more that just looked super sharp and hyper real with no emotion whatsoever. Call me old school but I want feeling in my images. I want someone to look at my photographs and feel like they are there, or could be there, seeing it as I did. But that's just me. Others have their own style, and that's cool, too. That's the beauty of photography. To each their own... vision.

Enjoy the first Wednesday of the new year. I'll be back in the saddle on Thursday.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Color, light and gesture | Jay Maisel

About a year ago I was in Las Vegas for the annual WPPI convention. For those not familiar that's the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International. Good group. To my delight and surprise Jay Maisel was on the roster of speakers. I say surprise because Jay is not a wedding photographer (which naturally dominated this convention). Jay is, however, a legend.

As one of the most famous color photographers ever to pick up a camera Jay has influenced generations of image makers with his rich, powerful images and his delightfully colorful persona. You see, Jay is a New Yorker in the truest sense of the word, that means he can be a bit crusty at times. But that's all part of his charm. For me, he's Knute Rockne and Yoda rolled into one -- an inspiration and a fountain of wisdom.

One of the most important things Jay explained was he never goes out to take pictures. He doesn't have to, he always has a camera with him. When you always carry a camera you are always looking for pictures so you never have to go out to make pictures. Makes perfect sense. Always carry a camera. Check.

The other thing he stressed was the three building blocks in photography -- color, light and gesture. By using these three simple elements your work will stand out. Color, obvious. Light, early morning or late evening to bring out texture, shadow and contrast. And gesture, that subtle or not so subtle movement to add life to your images.

After just an hour with Jay I was so charged up I couldn't wait to hit the Vegas strip and make images. That excitement has carried me throughout the last year, and with luck, for the rest of my life. Jay runs a week long workshop from his New York studio. It's not expensive, it's priceless.



Man on city bus

Cruising the strip

Blue walk

Bright hotel, Las Vegas Strip

Yellow cab, red light

Jay Maisel

Sunday, January 02, 2011

10 Things I've learned in 2010 (in no particular order)

As the new year is just hours old I'm reflecting back on the year gone by. What I did right, and what I did not quite right. Hopefully I've grown as a person and a photographer. I'm grateful for both. And hopefully I've learned a few things along the way. That's how we grow. To keep learning, every day, every week, every year. These are a few things that I've learned, or re-learned, in 2010.

1. It's darn hard to explain to someone how to "feel" the moment is right to make an exposure. Everyone wants instruction in absolute measure to get quantitative results every time. Photography doesn't work that way. Even in digital. Maybe somewhere it does, but not here, not with my eye, my heart or my soul.

2. Old friends are treasures and new friends are wonderful gifts. Thankfully in 2010 I reconnected with some people that I fell out of touch with for years and made many new beautiful friendships.

3. Making images is as fun today as it was the first time I borrowed up my dad's Konica camera to photograph a lunar eclipse a very long time ago. Every single day I wake up filled with excitement and passion for this amazing profession.

4. You can't please everyone... especially in photography. Therefore, I will make pictures my way. Some people will love them, others won't. Some things never change.

5. There are positive people and negative people in the world. I will spend my time with the former and stay away from the latter.

6. I still love film. I love the discipline it requires to shoot only 36 images a roll, the technical skill it demands to focus (manually) and expose properly and the resulting tones it delivers. There is nothing like it anywhere. You cannot replicate the luscious tonality of a black and white negative in digital no matter how much you try. Even though I've been shooting digitally for all of the last decade, I am dedicating myself to using film for a great number of personal projects in the next decade.

7. Doing personal work clears my mind and sharpens me for commissioned work. I will do more personal projects this year. I'm working on a few things now that will come to fruition in 2011.

8. Leica cameras are the best cameras in the world (IMO). They are, as they've always been, an extension of my hand, mind and spirit. There is something magical about them. I see differently when I use a Leica -- clearer, more precise, more compositional. They "feel" right. Every lens they ever made sees the word in its own unique manner. I had the pleasure of using a 3.5 cm lens for a few shots this year. The lens was made in the late 1930 and created images I can only describe as "poetic." I want to do more pictures with that kind of glass.

9. I love light and creating beautiful light makes my heart sing. Even though a lot of my work is done using available light, I really enjoy bringing out my own set of lights and sculpting the scene. I miss it. I miss big softboxes, strip lights, my beauty dish and all those wonderful grid spots I so often used. At the end of 2010 I invested in a couple of octabanks and a new powerful battery operated flash unit. I'm looking forward to shooting with it a lot in the new year. It's going to be a great piece of gear for on-location portraiture.

10. You have to dream big. You have to work hard. You have to eat, sleep and breath this thing called photography to get to the next level. It's about immersion. No excuses. You just have to do it. All the time. Shoot, shoot and shoot some more.

Well that's about it for 2010. Now it's time to get to work on 2011. A new year brings the hope for great things, new challenges, and with luck, a few rewards along the way. I'm looking forward to one heck of a great time this year as things unfold. Stay tuned. Thanks.