Fun with Kids and Pets
While I don't often do family shoots, they can be some of the most rewarding. My job is to capture individual personalities and interactions that will be shared across extended family for years to come. My best-laid plans for these shoots normally go off the rails immediately, as small children and pets always have minds of their own. However, I'm never disappointed in the end results and have a lot of fun along the way.
An Engineering Marvel
This past weekend, my wife and I hiked the New River Gorge in Fayettevile, West Virginia. The mountain landscape was as beautiful as we had hoped it would be – especially with the autumn colors. However, the centerpiece of this area is the New River Gorge Bridge. Its steel arch construction is some 3,030 feet in length and it stands 876 feet above the river below. Seldom am I able to capture a photo that includes this level of natural beauty together with such an impressive manmade structure.
Autumn in the Carolinas can be spectacular. It's also sometimes tricky to find the right location at the right time – to showcase fall colors at their finest. I traveled along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in to locate a setting that was close to peak. Although this one involved a two-mile roundtrip hike, it was definitely worth the effort. Crabtree Falls is a 60-foot waterfall located near Mount Mitchell State Park. Fortunately, I arrived shortly after the yellow/gold colors had become prominent.
Big Cat Sanctuary
In Rockwell, N.C. is a hidden gem called, Tiger World. It's an accredited, non-profit animal preservation and educational facility. As its name implies, it features tigers – a lot of them – along with a host of other big cats. The staff gave me access and the opportunity to photograph some of their residents for a couple of days. In addition, they helped me gain a far greater understanding of these incredible animals. The facility is just off of interstate 85 near Salisbury and is definitely worth the trip.
The Immaculate Garage
This past weekend, I photographed the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) races at Virginia International Raceway. However, for the featured image, I selected this shot of the Lamborghini Atlanta race team's Super Trofeo "garage." While the Huracan racecars were clearly impressive in design and performance, I was blown away by the overall organization and cleanliness of this makeshift, on-site auto shop. No tool seemed out of place. Watching the cars run was incredible, but watching crews tear down, repair and rebuild these machines was equally impressive.
I was honored to conduct this shoot of a group of U.S. military veterans. It was part of a corporate effort to recruit recently discharged veterans for both professional and craft positions in the private sector. The human resources team selected a member of each branch of the military – Army, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force – together with their corresponding flags. We researched locations to find a suitable backdrop for the shots and settled on an electric operations center with a bucket truck in the background. I wanted the image to look a heroic and capture the team just as the sun was beginning to break over the top of the building. In order to do so, I had to set up the lighting and get everything in position in the dark. The final images came together as we had planned. It's my sincere hope that the recruiting campaign helps many veterans secure jobs.
Dark Sky and Starlight
Twice before have I attempted to take photos of the Milky Way. This image represents the first time I've done so in such a remote area of the county – in this case, Salida, CO. Darkness is critical. It allows far more starlight to be visible than in areas where light pollution is an issue. Not only is a seemingly infinite number of stars visible, but the gases and dust that also comprise our galaxy are apparent to the naked eye (and camera lens).
For high-end automotive photographs, it's all about making the car look good. Much of that has to do with the location where it is photographed. Typically, the setting is something that contrasts with the vehicle itself. In the case of this Audi A7 luxury sedan, it was parked in front of an agricultural/industrial facility, to create strong visual interest, allowing the car to stand out. This particular model was helped by the matte film that was applied by Exclusive Detail to the entire car.
I photographed my first wedding this past weekend. While it went well, I have to admit that it was hectic. A lot of photos involving many people had to be taken in a very short timeframe. And in 90 degree heat to boot. This complex shoot reinforced to me the need to scout the location and thoroughly plan all the details. Also, it helps if the bride and groom are pretty laid back.
Time Well Spent
I was on an assignment in Western North Carolina for a client and decided to see if there were any scenic hikes nearby. Fortunately, less than 10 miles away was this gem of a waterfall. Normally, I try to get back to my studio to edit client shoots immediately. Given how beautiful Pearson's Falls were, I'm glad I sought it out. The hike was short and when I got back to the falls, I was the only person there. After taking this shot, I sat back there for another 10 minute or so to simply take it in. Time well spent.
Powering Our World
Having worked for an energy company for 20+ years, I've visited many power plants and photographed a few of them. I never cease to be amazed at the size and complexity of these stations. New combined-cycle plants, like this one, are incredible. They are the industrial facilities that most folks never see and don't ever think about. They provide the energy to power all of the appliances and electronics that make our modern lives possible.
Some auto racing enthusiasts view drag racing as overly simplistic. Having attended NHRA events for a few years, I disagree. Winning margins in these races tend to be by the thousandths of a second. That means the driver, team members and equipment must be functioning at the highest level to win. Getting good shots of these vehicles is difficult, especially when four of them are racing together. The acceleration is mind bending, applying upwards of 5Gs to the drivers, so I have to have established the correct shutter speed and focus well before they launch. Through my lens, tracking their movement down the track to ensure that I cleanly capture their movement is a challenge. The tires must be spinning, the background blurred and the cars sharp. Each pass of the vehicles may yield one usable image – like this one.
Composite Grand Sport
Automotive photography is a complex process. Sure, you could just find a cool car, park it, point a camera in its direction and hope for the best. However, with careful planning, patience and time, it's possible to create some pretty compelling images that don't look like they were taken with a cell phone in a parking lot. This shot of a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport is not a single image. Rather, it's a composite of six separate shots, all taken on a tripod from the same angle. Since cars are essentially rolling mirrors, they are very difficult to light appropriately. The process involves much trial and error to capture the vehicle's shapes, lines and forms. But when done properly, the results can be special.
Love at the Beach
This is my only personal post. My older son and his fiancee asked me to take their engagement photos on the beach. I was honored to do so. While this setting makes for some appealing backgrounds, the lack of shade makes for some complexities regarding lighting and time of day. In addition, you can always count on some serious wind on the beach. Fortunately, my subjects were patient and allowed me to direct them to get the type of shots we knew were possible. Two young people in love on a serene shoreline at sunset.
Early Morning Time Lapse
When on vacation, it's tempting to sleep in. Very tempting. However, I've seldom been disappointed when getting up early to try and catch a sunrise – especially in the mountains or at the beach. This shot was taken shortly before sunrise at Folly Beach in South Carolina. I love taking long exposures of scenes to capture the motion that happens. In this case, the water rushing onto the beach and back out over the span of about 30 seconds. Nature is always incredible.
Industrial Design + Fine Art
Some argue that product design can't qualify as art. While it may not be art in the traditional sense, most industrial designers engineer their products to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional. Doing so can help the product be appealing to customers, but it can also make the item simply look cool. In this case, I simply placed the Black + Decker cordless drill on a tile floor, and passed light through a blind to give the shot a more dramatic quality. In essence, I was simply trying to make the image more artistic.
Finding the Perfect Light
A high-end automotive detail shop was looking for some guidance regarding how they might be able to take photos of finished vehicles to showcase their work. I spent the better part of a day working with different types of lighting, setups and backgrounds to try and create a cost-effective setup that would produce repeatable results. This 2004 Mercedes AMG was my subject for the day. In addition to photographing the entire car, I spent some time capturing dramatic shots of the various details that make this vehicle unique.
Field of Fire
Sometimes, the coolest displays that nature puts on take place when most people are still asleep. On an unseasonably warm Sunday morning, I decided to head out before sunrise into the heavy fog. I was looking for some unusual displays and was able to track down a few. While most were of the eerie, misty variety, this one happened just as the fog was beginning to burn off, and the sun was breaking through. The field lit up yellow and appeared to be steaming under the heat of the sun. This scene lasted for roughly 30 seconds before the clouds closed off the light. Sometimes you get lucky by being in the right place at the right time.
Still a World of Brick and Mortar
Clearly, much retail has moved to online only in the past few years. However, there are times when even overnight or same-day delivery just isn't soon enough. For those instances (like when a car breaks down) there will always be brick-and-mortar retails stores to fill such needs. Ironically, high-quality photos of such commercial architecture are needed for websites and social media. This shot of an O'Reilly Auto Parts store was taken in the early morning, to take advantage of the color and clouds at sunrise. In addition, to address the obvious aesthetic issues with oil stains and other imperfections on the parking lot, I was able to mirror the image of the building and lay it over the pavement. This creates the appearance that it had rained, producing a reflection of the auto parts store on the ground. While commercial buildings may not always have inherent beauty, working with nature (and Photoshop) can help them look like they do.
Executive Image in Social Media
Shots of executives are always more difficult than they would first appear. These folks are typically busy, with minimal time in their schedules for a normal portrait session. Typically, there is a small window to get the executive in position, provide direction and get the shots done. To make things more complex, there is frequently the requirement to capture a variety of looks – facial expressions, backgrounds, environments, etc. This provides them with several options that can be used with different types of communications, which is often critical in the world of social media.
The Future of Transportation
I'm a car guy. I have been since I saw my first Lamborghini Countach poster around age 12. I had a unique opportunity to photograph a Tesla Model X – Elon Musk's electric SUV. These things are rare. Far more than the company's better known Model S sedan. It was my first extensive experience with an offering from the company. I have to say, for a startup automotive manufacturer, the strides they've made in a few short years are nothing short of incredible. The Model X is a tour-de-force of technology – from the massive touchscreen, to the trick falcon-wing doors, to the self-driving features. It will be interesting if the new Model 3 is a success and puts the company on solid financial footing. If so, we may indeed see massive growth in electric vehicles.
A Rare Blanket of White
I grew up in the Midwest, in central Indiana and northern Ohio. As a result, I became accustomed to quite a bit of snow from November through March. Having lived in North Carolina for the past eight years, snowfall is a far rarer occurrence. So much so, that when it happens, I feel compelled to get outside and capture the result. It's amazing what even a thin blanket of snow can do to the surrounding natural landscape – like Pharr Mill Park. Everything is completely transformed from the usual brown and gray to soft white. It really is remarkable.
Return of the Stingray
In 1963, Chevrolet debuted the second generation (C2) of its Corvette two-seat sports car and dubbed it the Sting Ray. Five generations later, they brought back the name in 2014 with a ground-up redesign of their halo car. The Corvette has always been a performance bargain when compared to its rivals from Porsche, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini. The goal with the (C7) redesign was to create a vehicle that not only possessed the performance of an exotic, but the look as well. Mission accomplished, General Motors.
Wireless Audio Technology
Industrial designers spend a great deal of time developing the look and feel for the pieces of technology that surround us every day. Of course, there are limitations that range from cost to materials to manufacturing. A challenge, for sure. I tend to gravitate to those items that have been thoughtfully designed with a keen eye on functionality (and cost). This Bluetooth JBL speaker simply looks good, and it provides high-quality sound when connected to any phone or computer. My goal with the shots was to ensure that it looked like the high-tech piece of equipment it is, but looks like it belongs at home in anyone's house.