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I love Montana.
I was lucky enough to document Nick and Eleese’s wedding in a beautiful setting in Northwest Montana. The town of Trego really doesn’t have much — no cell service, no grocery stores or fast food restaurants. Eleese grew up in this area and if I remember right they did not have running water at her home until she was in the fifth grade. But what Trego lacks in modern conveniences it makes up with its breathtaking beauty — typical of Western MT. The area Nick and Eleese chose for their big day lies just North of Whitefish and is truly a great place to make some photographs.
From the waterfront home the bridal party got ready at to the ceremony on the shores of Dickey Lake and the reception out in the woods, you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop for making some photos.
I will sadly admit that spending a day without cell service was sort of hard. But it was also refreshing and was a good reality check. I think it’s great to get out in the country from time to time and simplify things for a weekend or even a day. I’m glad Nick and Eleese gave me the chance to do that while being a part of their special day! Congrats you two!
I’ve been slacking.
By the looks of my blog lately you’d think I haven’t been busy at all. Truth is, this summer has really taken off and I’m averaging close to one wedding per week since my last blog post! It feels great to have my cameras in my hands so often and every wedding has been simply awesome.
So, I’m going to take the time to post some of my favorites from each wedding I’ve had the chance to document since my last blog post.
I had a blast being a part of Jeremie and Katie’s wedding in the Bigelow Gulch area of Spokane. The sun was shining, skies were blue and it was a perfect July day for an Inland NW wedding! I think my favorite part about the location was the tall pine trees covering the reception area. It made for some shade and some nice shadows to work with. I also have to commend these two — Katie especially — for trucking through some gnarly brush to get my favorite portrait of the two out in the wooded area near the reception.
And to top it all off, there was even a proposal at the end of the wedding. As these two were about to head out, one of the guys in the audience got down and one knee with a ring in his hand. It made for some awesome frames and was a really cool moment to capture in my photographs. And most importantly, she said yes!
Congrats Jeremie and Katie and thank you for being such a pleasure to work with!
Well, it’s been an insanely long time since my last blog post. But I have a (pretty legitimate) excuse.
I got to experience my first broken bone in the beginning of January this year. I broke and fractured my leg, went through surgery and was destined to spend the next couple months on my couch, bed and eventually crutches. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to do what I love for quite some time. But, I picked up a few photo books and furthered my education and inspiration in photography while I was making my recovery.
I’ve since been back on my feet and have made an excellent recovery. I can’t express how great it feels to have a camera back in my hands again. I’ve had quite a few shoots lately, so I’ll share a couple of my favorite ones in this post.
Last weekend I got to work with one of my favorite groups of people again — The Angela Marie Project. I’ve photographed these cats a couple times previously, one of those times being at the Annual Earth Day celebration in Downtown Spokane. They contacted me and arranged for me to shoot the Earth Day gig again.
But that’s not all.
I was offered the amazing opportunity to provide them with a shot for their upcoming album to be released this summer! You’ll have to wait in suspense on the album shots, however, as I won’t be posting them until after the album is released.
Here are some of my favorites from their Earth Day gig. It was a bloody, good time — literally — their guitarist sliced his finger open on a broken string halfway through the show, toughing it out and playing through the rest of the set without skipping a beat.
It’s always a blast to photograph these guys and you just can’t beat shooting outdoors in 70-degree sunshine in April. I want to give a huge thank-you to The Angela Marie Project for continuing to provide me with awesome opportunities to work with them. They’re a great group of people and terrific musicians. Give them a listen sometime if you haven’t yet!
I also had a really cool shoot recently with Albert Hurt of Silver Bullit Cafes. Al builds “cafe-racer” style motorcycles and hired me for a shoot of his pride and joy he just finished up – a Kawasaki KZ1000. I can’t describe just how awesome of a job Al did with this bike so I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. His attention to detail is incredible and this is truly a one-of-a-kind bike.
The photos will eventually be used to help sell the bike to its lucky new owner; however, since the bike is so rare and unique it is being featured in various online motorcycle publications. I feel very fortunate to not only take part in such a cool photoshoot, but to also get worldwide exposure with my photographs on top of it is just simply amazing. So far, the bike is published in Pipeburn magazine and Silodrome.
Here are a few shots of the bike taken at Industrial Park in Spokane, WA:
Ansel Adams had the coolest job ever.
Although shooting landscapes and scenic shots doesn’t do anything for paying my bills (outside of selling a few prints here and there), it is pretty fun.
I took a trip back home to Western Montana for Christmas and stopped at several places to grab some shots. It’s amazing the beauty you realize outdoors when you pull off the freeway and just look around. As I motored down the interstate early Thursday morning, I kept my eyes open for photo opportunities — which were everywhere. I grabbed the sunrise over Lake Coeur d’Alene, risked frostbite shooting the raging Clark Fork River, trudged through snow on Lookout Pass and wandered around the Pattee Canyon area of Missoula.
Landscapes are a really nice break from shooting the typical photojournalism, wedding and portrait stuff — the bread and butter my job. It’s not that I don’t love those assignments, but it’s nice to just wander around with a camera and have plenty of time to prepare for the shot.
Here’s a few of my favorites from the trip. I even threw a few film shots on here too for the hell of it. And just in case you’d like to support a struggling local photographer — all of these shots (along with plenty others) are available to purchase on my website under the “Buy Prints” tab.
Well, I’ve embarked on my first-ever photo project – A mix of old-school film shooting, street photography, and some strangers.
The project, entitled “15-35-58,” is a collaboration of portraits taken of complete strangers in the downtown area of Spokane, WA. The 15 stands for 15 portraits, the 35 for the 35mm film and the 58 refers to the 58mm lens they were all shot with.
The camera used was a Pentax K1000 – my favorite 35mm film camera I’ve ever laid my hands on. The film was Kodak Ektar 100 – my favorite film.
And the lens was something special.
I used a Meyer-Optik 58mm f/1.9 screw-mount lens that was made in Germany in the 1950’s. It produces very unique bokeh (the out of focus areas) when shot wide open (which is how I took all the portraits).
The idea of approaching people at random to ask if you can take their picture is something that will never cross most people’s minds – even most photographer’s minds. But I wanted to push myself. I wanted to break outside of my constantly-expanding comfort zone and try something most wouldn’t consider. Plus, I find people to be the most interesting subjects to photograph, by far.
The approach is simple — a quick introduction, followed by the purpose of taking the photo, concluded with the all-important question – “So, can I take your photo?”
Contrary to what you might think, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did all but a couple people (who were in a hurry) comply, but most also showed a genuine interest in the project and in photography in general.
Quick conversations were sparked and a mutual respect for the project was felt and (hopefully) conveyed in the final images.
I learned several things too.
I learned just how easy we have it today compared to shooters of the past. Manually focusing, manually advancing film and manually turning knobs and rings to adjust your exposure puts a whole new set of challenges on shooting photos. Not to mention never seeing the photos until they’re developed.
But it also gets you in the mindset of making each shutter click count.
Still, doing everything manually — particularly focusing — leaves more room for operator error, which I saw my fair share of. If you notice, there are 15 final portraits. I shot a roll of film with 36 exposures – you can do the math; there were some mistakes.
Simply focusing a few inches off from the subject’s face results in much reduced sharpness. All of these shots were taken in a timely manner – sometimes in a matter of a few seconds before the traffic light turned green or the subject’s bus arrived. I chose to shoot film because the more compact camera size is much less intimidating than my larger DSLRs.
The project validated the idea of everyone being a different, unique person, with different looks and personalities.
But there’s one thing that really stuck with me.
So often we look at people and judge them by the way they look, sometimes thinking less of them due to their appearance. But the reality is, no matter their looks, they’re still people. I approached all sorts of individuals from all sorts of backgrounds with all sorts of personalities. Not once did I feel any negativity towards the project or myself. Nobody acted bothered by me (The guy flipping the bird wasn’t directed at me, just a pose).
Despite what someone looks like on the surface, under their shell there’s likely a decent person, and that’s what I enjoyed most about this project — getting to know the people, even if only for a few seconds.
And now that I look back at the pictures, I can make a link between the photo and the person I made a quick connection with. And that’s what I enjoy most about this job.
P.S. If you were one of the subjects and would like a copy of your photo, email me at email@example.com and I’ll shoot you over a copy.
My next project I’m planning is inspired by Dennis Darzacq. Look out.
Composition. Light. Moments. Color. Perspective. Rules of thirds. Photography is complicated. Well, good photography is anyway.
Of all the elements that can make a great photograph, I keep coming back to one – color.
I recently went through old photos, re-editing some and revamping my portfolios. I quickly noticed a trend in my shooting as it progressed to the point I’m at today — color is dominating my photos. Blues, Reds, Yellows – they’re all making their way into my viewfinder, and in a big way.
What does this mean exactly? Well, I’d like to think I’m finally discovering my style. Every photographer develops his or her own unique style once they gain more experience shooting. I know I’m always progressing — every photographer is — but it’s reassuring to finally see myself developing something that helps make myself unique, something that is becoming ever more important for photographers these days as more and more people are shooting photos, often with very capable equipment too.
It’s frequently said that photography is all about light. Why color then? Nothing makes me more happy than shooting with treasured window light or golden light as the sun is setting, but color is different. Color can bring out emotion. Color can make one calm, stimulated or cheerful. Color can move you.
Don’t buy it? Look at a painting by Mark Rothko — not on your computer screen, but in person. Rothko’s paintings get much criticism due to their simplicity, but he was a master of color. He understood what color means to the viewer, and played off of that 100 percent to create works of art that can move you in ways that are hard to comprehend. It all comes down to color.
I remember first learning about color theory in an introductory photography class in college. I found it fascinating that the pairing of certain colors could change the viewer’s impression of a photograph so greatly.
The great thing is — it’s everywhere, and I’m always seeking it out. I’ll see a brightly-colored wall, and instantly be drawn to it, wanting to get it in my viewfinder somehow. It’s something that is becoming a driving force behind my photography.
Here is a collection of photographs I’ve taken that I feel demonstrate the true power of color.
I’ve shot several bar gigs, but this one was different. This one had light — lots of it.
See, typically bars are very dimly lit and the stage (often stageless) area the band plays is no exception. But when I shot The Rhythm Dawgs at the Eagles in downtown Coeur d’Alene it wasn’t this way — in fact, they brought their own lighting. They had two light stands with four high-powered lights a piece. That, paired with the eight stage lights behind the band provided more than ample lighting to get some great shots — something unusual for this sort of gig. I was actually shooting some at ISO 800 with shutter speeds as high as 1/640! Compare this with the Blue Scholars Show I shot last weekend where I was shooting at ISO 3200 and 1/50, praying against logic that I would get something in focus without motion blur.
Furthermore, one of their songs even featured a cowbell. Never before have I had a chance at a good cowbell photo.
For this gig I used my 16-35mm f/2.8 wide angle and 50mm f/1.4 lens for all of the photos. I left the 70-200 at home, partly because the lighting is usually so terrible that using that lens is out of the question, but also I’m able to get so close to the action at these sort of gigs that there’s no need for a telephoto lens. Plus, it’s best not to leave a $1,200 lens unguarded in a bar when not using it.
All-in-all I’m very pleased with the photos. Instead of trying to polish turds I was actually having a hard time editing down to the keepers because there were so many great shots. For this blog entry I’ve narrowed it down to my favorite 20 shots.
Please, musicians, take a hint from the rhythm dawgs — buy your own lights to bring to gigs! It makes you look much more professional and in the event you hire a photographer, the photos will in turn be of much better quality.
People love to hate on hipstamatic. Why though?
I mean, I get it. Everyone is taking snapshots they suddenly believe are works of art because they have high contrast and a little border around them. But honestly, I am one of hipstamatic’s biggest fans.
It all started with the iPhone. Getting the iPhone 4 was a breakthrough for me. The phone I upgraded from, believe it or not, was actually a flip phone, circa 2007. Although it had a two-megapixel excuse for a camera, I never really used it as a camera. Fast-forward to 2011, and we now have phones with cameras more capable than most fixed-lens cameras of the past. Add to that the sharing and networking capabilities of the modern smart phone, and you have a great camera in your pocket at all times which can snap and share a photo to the world in a matter of seconds. What’s not to love?
The great thing about having this technology is that I now have no excuse for missing a shot. Obviously, I’m not going to lug my real camera gear around with me everywhere I go; that’s impractical. But, I do have the next best thing with me, you know, in case a pulitzer falls into my lap sometime.
Now onto hipstamatic. Sure, it’s the brunt of many hipster jokes. Essentially, it takes your crisp photos and turns them into a 1960s or ’70s film shot variant. Here’s why I like it though: When used properly, it can provide you with results unique to what you want the shot to look like. I’ll admit, about 75 percent of the films and lenses I don’t even use. But with the handful of combos I do use, I can make anything form a high-contrast b&w to a color-soaked frame with a nice vignette. I actually think about what I’m looking for and choose the lens/film combo that will best suit it. I also don’t feel like editing a photo on my phone, so it’s nice for the app to do the editing for me based on what setup I choose.
Even though it’s my iPhone, I still have the same mindset as shooting with my big-boy cameras. I think the shot through. I make a careful composition. I won’t tap the shutter button unless I think it’s a picture worth taking.
Once I take the shot, I usually upload it to instagram, another beloved app of mine. It works out nicely because the hipstamatic shots are the same dimensions as the instagram format. I hate instagram filters so I never apply those to the photos. I crop out the border, because I seriously hate borders around photos. Instagram does have one feature I absolutely love, and that’s the blur tool . You can blur either in the form of a rectangle or circle. This is great because you can totally fake depth-of-field this way. Without getting too technical, depth-of-field deals with how much of the photo is in focus. If an object close to the lens is in focus while a very distant object is in focus too, that indicates a great amount of depth. If the object in the forefront is in focus but everything behind it is very blurry, that indicates a shallow depth-of-field. Cameras other than SLR’s (interchangeable lens cameras) are incapable of producing a shallow depth-of-field, so by blurring parts of the photos, you can essentially fake that shallow depth.
Here’s how I see it — As Bobby D. wrote — the times they are a changin’. So, why not embrace that change? In terms of technology, I try to embrace it as best as I can. The world of photography is always changing. We have New York Times front-page photos being taken with iPhones. We have national photojournalism awards going to warfront hipstamatic shots.
Embrace change, or you just might get left in the dust.
If you like these and would like to keep up with my iPhone photography, my instagram handle is McCall86. You know what to do.
Sunsets are played out.
In a world where nearly everyone has a camera on them nearly all the time (thanks cell phone technology!), sunset photos are being plastered all over places like facebook, racking up more likes than an engagement announcement or newborn status.
Since sunsets are a dime a dozen, I try to make my shots as unique as I can. Anyone can just point a camera and click — that’s called a snapshot. You have to put some thought into making a photograph. I’d like to think the thought put into these shots make them stand out.
The more people are taking pictures, the more important it becomes for photographers’ work to stand out. I’m always trying to make my shots as unique as I can, and it’s a challenge I’ll continue to work and improve on. And in the process, I’m finding my own unique style of shooting.
It wasn’t my first self-assignment, and surely won’t be my last.
Upon finding out the Occupy Wall Street movement had hit close to home, I knew I had to check it out, camera in hand, of course. I couldn’t make Friday’s rally, which would have had better photo ops I’m sure, but I did swing by the protests downtown Saturday en route to an assignment for the Inlander.
It was one of those cases where you envision something much different than what you end up with. I thought there would be hundreds of protestors lining the streets for blocks.
About 25 or so protestors occupied one block of downtown. Still, it was a unique opportunity to make some frames filled with pure photojournalism. So that’s what I did.
This is what I came up with in about 30 minutes of shooting.