Archive for October, 2008


This blog posting has been a long time coming and I’m very proud to present to you the pictures of the wedding of my good friends Kelsie and (the recently appointed) Sarah Carpenter. But first a little history…

I met Kelsie just over a year ago during one of my first days on the job. I was fresh out of the military and he was fresh out of college, and we both had great jobs lined up for us. Unfortunately, these jobs required some advanced clearances that took almost 8 months to process and during that time we were left completely unattended! Kelsie and I spent a good bit of time together and found some “creative” ways to burn the day.

One day, seemingly out of nowhere Kelsie tells me, “Sarah and I are engaged,” and I think that I immediately offered my (at the time) fledgling services if they were on a budget. Kelsie tentatively said yes, and it was at that point I realized just what I had gotten myself into. I felt confident when I told Kelsie I’d be ready to shoot his wedding by August, but at the time I had no clue how to go about breaking down this huge elephant into smaller bites. Like every other photography venture I stumble upon, I picked up a book and started to read.

Fortunately, at some point I figured out by rifling through books, magazines, and various sites that shooting weddings is a lot like event photography. The caveat is you MUST get the shot at several critical junctures and be able to perform a bunch of other tricks, which is why shooting weddings is perceivablyso difficult. What makes it easier is being cool under fire, knowing your gear, being able to predict what’s going to happen, and plenty of mission planning (preparation, sorry, mil jargon). So about a month before the wedding I mapped out a plan of attack and got a good handle on how I was going to go about this shoot.

Prior to the big day I went out and bought a big 48″ Lastolite TriGrip reflector so that I wouldn’t have to lug around ancillary lighting and more importantly, utilize the natural warm summer light. I also recently obtained two PocketWizard IIs for my birthday and I wanted to implement them into flow, but as it turned out I only used them for the group shots.

The day of, Amy and I woke up at 6am to be at Wrexham Hall in Cheserfield, VA by 9am. Showing up early NEVER HURTS, and I’m really glad I did for my first wedding since I had ample time to walk the grounds, find shooting spots, and set up my equipment. I spent about a half an hour taking captures of the setup and macro shots of whatever caught my eye.Before I knew it, Sarah and her party were arriving and Kelsie and his groomsmen were right behind them. There was a bit of disorganization on my part since Amy and I wanted to devote a good bit of attention to the bride getting ready, but eventually I had to cut out to hit the rest of the wedding while Amy stuck with the bridal party. From there everything fell into place quite nicely. The event was somewhat informal (as far as weddings go) and I was free to shoot where ever I wanted to. I stuck with my beercan and tried to remain “smooth and small” as possible so as not to distract the guests, and all the pictures came out great!

I am generally afforded flexibility with event photography since a majority of the events I’ve shot don’t move very fast, but weddings are one sprint after another! After the ceremony let out everything was pretty tame and paced. When we got to the group shots there was a bit of confusion getting the families together, but after a couple calls all the players fell into place nicely. For the group shots I set up one 43″ umbrella high with my Sigma EF-500 (close to this model) set to 1/2 power and connected to a PW. I also left my Sony F56AM on my rig with a Gary Fong frost Lightsphere II set at 1/4 power. The setup worked great in the decently lit room since the tungsten bulbs in place weren’t too strong and there was plenty of fill coming in from the windows. We then said goodbye to the group and I set off along the property with Kelsie and Sarah to get some captures of just the two of them.

The party at Pocahontas State Park was our last stop and it too presented some interesting elements to overcome. The facilities they used were awesome, but for the sake of photography, logs don’t bounce flash very well…or at all! I tried to set up another flash in the corner tied to my PWs, but it didn’t work out so well since it was entirely too bright, even when dialed down. Instead of trying to get the flash to bounce I opted to get as close as I could and dial down the flash and slow my shutter speed. This worked out real well and the warm colors from the logs came out along with the string lighting that adorned the place.

We eventually had to part from the group at the end of a long day since we had close to 2,500 RAW pictures and a drive back to DC. When we got in the car I was still buzzing, but Amy was ready to crash out, and I felt the same about halfway home. For those of you who took the time to read this whole entry, I hopeyou aren’t falling asleep by now!

It was a great experience and I can’t wait to shoot my next wedding when the season rolls around. A LOT of work, but well worth it in retrospect and I’ve never been one to shy away from a big project. I am looking forward to applying the many lessons learned from Kelsie and Sarah’s wedding to the next couple brave enough to hire me!

Anchors Away

Things have been quite busy lately; I’ve shot two promotion ceremonies, a Starlight MidAtlantic event, and a family in the last two weeks! Surprisingly, I am not completely overwhelmed by the amount of images on my hard drive since I have been waking up at 0500 everyday to get a leg up on all this work that has been coming in. Not that I’m complaining, and I am very grateful to all my clients out there for their continual support and spreading the good word about my work.

Speaking of, the above image comes from my latest gallery and newest venture…shooting military promotion ceremonies. This work came to me after meeting a very friendly MSgt from the DIMOC who referred my name to Admiral Wright (the man pictured above), who happened to call her office shortly after I left…a very chance encounter!

I am not one to toot my own horn, but I think that this is an almost perfect marriage of my two greater passions in life- the military and photography. For the last month or so I have been trying to track down DoD photographers to ask them about how to get into the field, but I have not made much headway.So this is the next best thing (or best thing depending on how you look at it?). I’ve been to quite a few of these promotion ceremonies, and I knew that Iwould only need two pieces of glass- my “all around” and the trusty beer can. I also brought an extra flash and my stands to do some formals afterwards, which were a big hit with the family since it’s almost the Holiday season and every family is in dire need of that perfect shot to put on a card!

These events move really fast, and just like with weddings you have to be two steps ahead of the crowd or you’re going to miss that shot. I did well with keeping my tele on for a majority of the time and I only went to my CZ for a few crowd shots. I can’t say enough good things about the ‘can'; for a piece of glass that’s over 20 years old it captures like a champ! In keeping with the wedding analogy…I treated this event just the same. I kept out of the way of the players, tried to be a fly on the wall, and got some great group shots as the event wound down. At the end of the day I couldn’t be more pleased with how the pictures turned out despite the multiple lighting sources, vast room, and dark spots on the stage.

Even though I only got to know RDML Wright in this setting, I can say with confidencethat he is a great leader and one to be admired in the military. I could tell from the way the crowd received him and the way that he spoke about his troops that his command is highly regarded. He has done much in his career with the Navy and as a Delta pilot, and seems very humbled by all of his accomplishments. He took a good bit of time out while on stage to pay homage to his father, to whom hecredits much of his success, and wassorry that his dad couldn’t be there because of debilitating arthritis. I chose the picture above for this posting since I think it captures all of these previously described elements so well.

If this gallery leaves you thirsty for more (trying to make a pirate joke), standby until next week when I’ll post the pics from RDML Yurina’s promotion at the Navy Memorial.

Until then, fair winds and a calm sea sailor!

Capitol Capture

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how I took this, which got me to thinking that other people out there would be just as curious, and what better way to answer those burning questions than through my blog! I have to warn you; we are going down the rabbit hole with this entry and please don’t be intimidated by the technicality. I’m really trying to lay this out as simple as possible and if I overstep my intent of “everyman simplicity,” please let me know with a strongly worded comment below.

One of the first things I would advise someone to purchase who decides to get serious about photography is a solid tripod (here’s mine!). But don’t take it everywhere with you! I consider myself a pretty mellow guy, but I can’t stand seeing tripods during the day!!! Only carry it if you plan on shooting in low light or, want to capture yourself in the frame otherwise, there is no reason to use a tripod during the daytime and you are cleared hot to kick out any you see…just kidding! Many of those stunning landscape pictures that you may have seen are the result of a long exposure coupled with a high aperture. To accomplish this you HAVE to secure your camera, hand holding at high apertures in any medium to low light scenario turns out nominal results (or at least I think so). Using a tripod also diminished the amount of ISO you have to use, which in turn will make the sensor (or film) less sensitive to light and thus reduces the amount of noise present in the image.

Another huge help with long exposures is a cable release since you have to set your shutter speed to BULB for any exposures over 30 seconds. I recently purchased mine, but forgot it for this shoot since I originally intended on capturing the Capitol during sunset, whoops! Not the end of the world, but it was a pain to hold down the shutter button while not trying to move the camera, while holding my watch in the dark for 45 seconds…which leads me to another item, time. I have read a ton of different opinions on this subject, and I can’t seem to find one consistent agreement. My rule goes by post sunset; after the official time add a second for every minute thereafter, but keep in mind a lot of this is preparation and simple trial and error. Having your camera, tripod, cable release, and timer on hand at the planned time and place will help tremendously with the guesswork. And shoot, shoot, shoot. The worst thing that can happen is that you come home with a full memory card.

The quick and dirty; use a tripod, high aperture, keep the shutter open, crank down the noise, and happily see what comes out!

Good hunting!