Brian & Laura's Engagement Shoot

Last night I shot Brian and Laura's engagement photos at Sanctuary at Camelback. These two are so laid back and fun to work with. I'm so glad I get to shoot their wedding in November!

Brian and Laura are both radiologists and have been together all the way through med school and residency. When asked how they met they get to say what few other couples do: "We met over dead bodies." If you can start a friendship that leads to romance and marriage in dissection class, I'm thinking you're meant to be. And these two are. They're clearly cut from the same cloth and compliment one another so well.

Here's a few of my favorites from the shoot:

Thanks Brian & Laura! Can't wait for the wedding!

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101 in 1001


34. Visit my grandparents on the farm in Nebraska

I just got back from such a wonderful time spent with my grandparents on their farm in Nebraska. As mentioned in my last post, I've tried a number of times to make it out there in the past couple years but for various reasons the trip kept getting postponed. But we finally made it work and I'm so glad. I originally put this goal on my 101 in 1001 list because I knew it would afford me some good quality time with my precious grandparents as well as a relaxing get-away. Well, since then life has dealt our family some difficult blows -- my grandpa had a heart attack, my grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and my aunt (their daughter) committed suicide. All of these things combined made me even more eager to spend some quality time with them. And that's just what we got for four solid days. Even then, it was heart-wrenching to say good-bye.

This farm was passed down to my grandparents from my grandma's parents who spent their lives working it. This wedding photo of them sits in the farmhouse:

My grandparents now rent out the land to other farmers and try to spend their summers there as a get-away from their lives in Florida. Look at how cute they were back in the day:

And here's a shot of them now. They've been married for 57 years.

They have two Australian Shepherds who decided pretty quickly that they liked me. This is Marley. She wouldn't let me sit down without pawing at me for attention.

And this is Mitzy:

We pretty much did a lot of nothing during my visit, which I absolutely loved. There was no internet so that freed me up from any pressure to blog. I was fed really well:

And went on three runs out on the dirt roads in 50/60 degree weather under some of the most beautiful skies:

My grandpa took me out on a four-wheeler in his pastures as well. We saw deer, cows and wild turkeys. We also just spent time talking about life. I got to hear some great stories as well as listen to my grandparents' hearts and how they are dealing with the loss of their daughter. It was precious time and I tried to take a mental snapshot of each moment.

Here's some other random shots I took around the farm using my new 24mm 1.4 lens which I LOVE!:

I feel so blessed.

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MJ's Camera Bag


this week I'll be in nowhere....

...smack dab in the middle of it, in fact.

This morning I fly into Omaha and then drive 4 hours to Broken Bow -- a little town in the middle of Nebraska. Once I get there, the plan is for me to call my grandpa so he can tell me how to get out to the farm which is about 10 miles out of town. I have to call him for directions because apparently there are no street signs.

These are my cute grandparents I am visiting:

They live most of the year in Florida and usually try to spend the summers on the farm in Nebraska. I've been trying in vain to get out to visit them on the farm for the past two years. Two summers ago I had my trip planned and then my grandpa went and had a heart attack. So instead, I visited them in Florida. This summer I planned to go in August (had the tickets bought and everything) but then my aunt (their daughter) committed suicide so the plans were changed and we all traveled to Florida instead. My poor grandparents had only been on the farm for a week and turned around and made the long drive home when they heard the devastating news.

My grandma is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease and my grandpa has heart problems so I know there is no better time than now to spend time with them. It will be good to be near them as we all continue to grieve the loss of Beth as well.

Seeing as I'll be smack dab in the middle of nowhere for the next week, I'm guessing the internet will not be joining us. So I will miss you all, but I'll try to come back with some good photos of dirt roads and corn fields to share with you. I will be back in the office next Tuesday so I will return emails and phone calls then.

In the meantime, if you want to see how cute my grandparents are, you can click here to watch a video I took of them telling stories. I could just listen to them tell stories of the olden days all week long. And maybe I will.

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For Photographers

to start a business or not to start a business...

This isn't really a F.A.Q. that I get from photographers. But I'm putting it in this category because it doesn't really fit under the others and because I think it would be a wise question for aspiring photographers to ask.

I was inspired to write this post after meeting with an up and coming photographer for lunch last week who was in town from Houston. We had SUCH a great conversation and I really appreciated the thoughtfulness with which she was approaching her future and the next steps she was thinking about taking in photography. She, like many other photographers who are just starting out, has gotten into photography for the love of shooting and has had a little bit of experience working with more established photographers. She is excited about her journey but also has some hesitations. She is a stay at home mom and wants to make sure she can keep putting her family first. She also doesn't like spending time in front of the computer. And she's ambivalent about business. Also, like many other newbies, she has thought of her options in two categories -- keep enjoying photography as a hobby OR start her own business.

I know I have some blog readers who are just starting out their journey in photography, so I thought I'd share with you the same thing I did with her: There is an option C. So often people who enjoy taking photos see those of us who have made a business out of doing what we love, and they think that that is the only option for them if they want to go into it professionally. And I believe many photographers have gotten themselves in over their heads by jumping into business for themselves. They enjoy photography, but they have no idea how much work the business-side of the venture will take. Starting your own photography business is at least 60% business and 40% photography. And that's on the conservative side. If you want to be really successful, the business-side will require more like 80% of your time and energy.

Option C is ideal for those photographers who love to shoot but don't have the desire to deal with the business side of things. They would love to make photography more than just a hobby, but going full-steam ahead with their own business is not a good option for them -- at least for the time being.

I encourage those of you reading this who are relating to the scenario I describe above, to consider working for other photographers. This route can take a number of forms. It would start with you seeking out photographers whose work you admire and who do business locally. Contact them, take them to lunch and see if you have a connection. Second shoot with as many established photographers as you can. Make your desire to shoot but not to go into business for yourself known. The relationships you develop in this way could lead to a more established role for you in another photographer's company. Some photographers take on associate photographers who are paid to shoot events on their own. They are sometimes asked to do post-production work on their images, but oftentimes they just shoot, deliver the unedited images to the studio and get paid. Each studio that works with associates has it set up differently so you'd have to find out the specifics from the business owner. But I wanted to share this option with you as I did with the photographer I had lunch with last week, because I think it is an option that would work well for many people. Going into business for yourself is a very involved venture. And if you want to spend your time shooting, it is not the only option and may not even be the best option for you.

I know if I leave the post like this, I'm going to get a number of questions about whether or not I use associate photographers or am open to the idea. Up to this point I have not taken on associate photographers. But I'm not opposed to the idea. I think I would be open to it if the right person came along. He or she would have to be the right fit for me and my business in multiple ways. So there you have it -- open but not actively seeking. This type of thing would have to develop out of a trusting relationship for me. That's why I encourage those of you who are starting out and are interested in Option C to start by taking a photographer you admire to lunch. Great things come out of doing lunch.

If you found this tip helpful, click here to find out about other resources I offer photographers!

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For Photographers

behind the image: off-camera flash

Today I'm continuing 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.

Last night I spoke to a group of photographers at the Phoenix PUG about lighting. I shared a quick tutorial on off-camera lighting at receptions and talked about my set-up. So in honor of how fun that was, I thought I'd pick an image today that was taken with off-camera flash at a reception. This image comes from Shane & Tatum's wedding all the way back in September of 2007. It was taken at Trilogy at Vistancia in their ballroom during the father/daughter dance.

I love the three-dimensional feel that off-camera flash gives an image. This is an incredibly touching moment between Tatum and her dad and while it would still be a great capture with on-camera flash, the image would look flat and not be nearly as powerful. I'm going to share with you what I did in camera and in post-production that resulted in the above image as the final product.

In Camera:

This image was shot in RAW with my Canon 5D, on manual, hand held, with a Canon 70-200mm 2.8 lens, at a focal length of 125mm, f4.5, 1/30 of a second & ISO 200.

While I oftentimes shoot with both an off-camera flash and an on-camera flash for fill, in this instance I only fired the off-camera flash. The off-camera flash was set up on a light stand about 20-30 feet away from the subject and about 100-120 degrees clockwise from where I was standing. I had the flash set manually to 1/32 power and pointed at a 90 degree angle directly at the dance floor. I used pocket wizards to trigger the off-camera flash.

This is the image straight out of camera:


I opened the image in Camera Raw in Photoshop and took the saturation completely out to change it to black and white:

Then I converted it to a .jpg and used the clone tool to take out the distracting light on the left side. I also used Kevin Kubota's Smokeless Burn action to darken dad's hands and Tatum's hair just a bit. I love this action as well as Kevin's Digital Fill Flash to lighten and darken specific areas of my images. They work like the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop but much more realistically. Then I used Kevin Kubota's BW warm + snappy 1 action that I have customized to around 18% opacity. I use it on all of my black and white images just to give them a little bit of warmth and pop. I chose to crop in just a bit to put dad's face a little off-center and WA-LA! This is the final result:

If you're interested in even more info and tips about shooting in low-light situations, I've done a number of F.A.Q. posts that you can find be clicking on the links below:

Off-camera Flash
Using Shutter Speed
Low-light Focus Trick

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