buying the new, selling the old

Don't worry--I'm not selling Dixie dog. She's just the perfect model for me to try out my new equipment on! I just received my new Canon 50mm 1.2 lens in the mail yesterday and I'm so thrilled!! I borrowed this lens for the last two weddings from generous photographer friends (thanks Jared & Kelvin!) and fell in love with it. Up until now, my 50 1.4 lens has been my most-used and most-versatile lens so I'm thrilled with the 1.2 for the extra stop of light and beautiful glass it provides.

Dixie is in desperate need of a bath and is on the shaggy side, but of course I still think she's the most adorable dog EVER. Here's a few more puppy parts using my new toy:

Both of my 5D camera bodies have been in the shop recently for different issues. They've both served me well over the last 3 years and have been extremely reliable for how much I shoot with them. So a tune-up is expected every now and then. As a professional, every couple years it's time for a new camera, so I also just today, received my brand new Canon 5D Mark II in the mail! I've heard great things about this camera and am so excited to take it out for a spin soon.

I've already sold my 50mm 1.4 but am putting one of my 5Ds up for sale as well as my 85mm 1.8 lens:

I have 2 5Ds and I don't care too much which one I keep since it will be for back-up purposes only. The only difference between the two is that one is more used than the other. One has about 60,000 shutter actuations and the other just got a brand new shutter box assembly, mirror box assembly and battery box assembly. So even though it was previously more used than the first, it is now as good as new. With the new shutter it will have a shutter count of zero. The 85mm 1.8 is a very lightly used lens that is in great condition. If you're interested in either of the cameras or the lens, email me at melissa[at]melissajill[dot]com.

$1,500 OBO -- Good as new Canon 5D camera body: comes with camera strap, double battery charger & 3 batteries in original box
$1,000 OBO -- Used Canon 5D camera body: comes with camera strap, double battery charger & 3 batteries in original box
$300 OBO -- Lightly used Canon 85mm 1.8 lens

I will place an update here, at the bottom of this post when the items become unavailable. If you'd like to see a full list of the equipment I use, click here.

Good as new Canon 5D camera body -- SOLD
Used Canon 5D camera body -- keeping this one for back-up
85mm 1.8 lens -- SOLD

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Weddings by MJ

Jeff & Abby

Jeff & Abby were married Saturday in Tucson. It was a gorgeous day and they were absolutely giddy. It was very cute and fun to witness.

Abby and the girls started the day out at her mom's house for hair and make-up:

Toby, Abby's mom's puppy, stole the show most of the morning. He thought the party was for him. He got a new toy in honor of the day and the poor little bride-dog didn't last long:

Abby's Cockatiel, Holly, who has been a part of the family for 15 years also got in on the pics:

All day long I couldn't stop gushing over Abby's Junko Yoshioka dress from Mariee:

Abby's six bridesmaids all fit in the dining room for primping:

I love this shot of Abby doing her make-up:

Next we headed to The Stillwell House, my new favorite venue in Tucson, for the remainder of the day's events. Here's a shot of Jeff with his guys hanging out and looking all handsome. Most of them, including Jeff, are from New Jersey so I was entertained all day by the accents.

I love everything that Abby picked out for the day. Her flowers by In Full Bloom were so simple and fit the style of her dress perfectly. Abby looked stunning!

The couple chose to see each other before the ceremony which gave us a chance to take advantage of the gorgeous venue for portraits.

I love that the guys wore tan suits. The color palette was so clean and fresh:

Jeff and Abby were so easy to photograph. I had a tough time narrowing down my favorite portraits so there's a lot!

The bridesmaids wore tan and white stripped dresses from Twirl & the guys' ties were made of the same fabric as the dresses:

Abby's father walked her down the aisle:

Jeff's father officiated the ceremony and the bride and groom were both beaming:

Husband and wife!

I couldn't decide between the next two shots so you get both!

The bridal party started the celebration right away:

Meanwhile the courtyard was quickly transformed for dinner:

The details were beautiful:

And instead of cake, Abby & Jeff hired Frost Gelato to bring a cart to their reception!

It was such a gorgeous night--the perfect ending to a great day!

If you'd like to see even more photos from this amazing wedding, click here to see the slideshow!

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MJ's Camera Bag

For Photographers

Behind the image: sun shots

Today I'm starting a new series on my blog for photographers call "Behind the Image." In addition to the topics that I get questions about and address on my F.A.Q.s posts, I often get asked about what went into creating specific images. As you know, I love to share info and so that's exactly what I'm going to do in this series. So as you browse through my blog, if an image catches your eye, feel free to ask me to feature it in an upcoming "Behind the Image" post.

Today I'm going to talk about this image that I shot during Adam & Marie's ceremony last Saturday:

I love shooting images like this with the entire sun in the shot that really place the event within it's beautiful location. But there's a few tricks -- both in-camera and during post-production -- to doing this well.

In Camera:

This image was shot in RAW with my Canon 5D, on manual, hand held, with a Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens, at a focal length of 16mm, f18, 1/50 of a second & ISO 100.

The KEY to getting the sun defined as a star shape and being able to see the rays of light is the aperture setting. You need to close down your aperture as small as possible. Because of how bright it was, I maxed out my settings (low ISO, low shutter-speed) and the smallest aperture I could shoot at in order to correctly expose this shot was f18. It worked great, but try to get your aperture as close to f22 as possible.

Another key is to shoot these type of images in RAW. You'll see why a little later.

When taking this shot, just rely on your in-camera meter and expose as it indicates. This is what my image looked like directly out of the camera:

The image is o.k. but we don't see the full tonal range that you'd like to see in an image like this. The sky is washed out and the sun is lost in it. There are a few tricks to making this image look it's best in post-production.


The first step of post-production on this image is a trick I picked up from Matt Nicolosi's blog last July. He has a great post on creating an HDR image. Feel free to read the full post and I'll give you a summary version here.

An HDR (High Dynamic Range) image is basically one with a lot of detail in it. Looking at the above image, we want to get more detail out of it in both the highlight and shadow areas. Because Photoshop doesn't do a great job of creating HDR images, it's well worth it to download Photomatix ($99) for this purpose. Using your image editing software (Photoshop or Lightroom) create a couple .jpgs from your RAW file that are at different exposure levels. Below are the two exposures I created. In the first I looked at the sky and underexposed the image overall so that I could get the detail in the sky that I am looking for. In the second image I looked at the lower half of the image and exposed so that I could see sufficient details there.

Then I used Photomatix to merge the two exposures into one HDR image. It's very easy to use and you don't even know exactly what it's doing but in the end you get a beautiful image with much more detail in the full tonal range.

Next I used the clone tool in PS to clean up the sensor dust spots that inevitably show up in the sky when you close down your aperture-- NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU CLEAN YOUR SENSOR!!! No, actually I use these handy things and they work pretty well. But inevitably you still have a few spots to clean up.

I also used the clone stamp to tone down the orange sun spot in the trees that distracted my eye as well as the sun spot in the upper right.

Then I ran Kevin Kubota's X-process combo action at about 18%, used magic sharp (also Kevin Kubota) for sharpening and WA-LA!

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MJ 2 Day

I'm so excited! The MJ 2 Day is just around the corner--only two and a half weeks away! I still have a few spots left if anyone wants to sign up last minute. It's going to be a great time of business and photography learning goodness. Click here for all the details!

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Personal, Autism

a great combo

I love photography and I'm passionate about causes surrounding Autism. When you put the two together, I'm just happy. I love when I can do something for a cause I care so deeply about, that is something that is uniquely needed, and that my gifts can provide. When that combo comes together I'm thrilled. I'm there. Sign me up!

Recently I did a shoot for Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center's (SARRC) quarterly publication "Outreach." I had the pleasure of meeting Yeou-Luen, a 41-year-old man who moved from Taiwan to the US when he was 25 and proceeded to get his master's degree from ASU in Computer Science. Yeou-Luen has Autism. He's not the face of Autism that I'm used to seeing but he is an example of hope for those living with this still-mysterious disorder. Yeou-Luen is such a nice man--extremely smart and articulate--and he put up with me invading his tiny work-space at Kolbe Corporation where he works as a software tester and repeatedly flashing him with my soft-box to get these images for his feature in the Spring issue of Outreach Magazine. I just received the issue in the mail last week and it was fun to see how it came together!

Currently 90% of adults with Autism in the US are unemployed or under-employed. Only 3% have independent-living skills and less than 1% get married. As the 1 in 150 children who are born today with Autism grow into adulthood, these are going to be staggering numbers for our nation to deal with. It's great to see examples like Yeou-Luen and the services that SARRC provides to help individuals with Autism find meaningful employment. Such a great story! And I feel so blessed to be able to be a part of telling it through the powerful medium of photography.

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