March 13th, 2022
Social media is far less appealing when there's a war on. The Russian invasion of Ukraine hit me pretty hard and I am still in a state of shock that such an event is possible in Europe in 2022. However, I participated in an event recently that was the polar opposite of what is happening in Ukraine. My fiancé hosted an art event at her coffee shop in Petersburg. 5 local artists came to create work in front of guests. Around 50 people attended and chatted with the artists, including myself. I set up in a small corner of the room with a V-Flat, single light, and a soft box. Over the course of the evening, I photographed friends and strangers alike. My intention was to demonstrate the technique I use for the out-of-focus portraits I have come to love, but by the end of the evening I, of course, digressed into various looks. What I saw was a wonderful group of humans coming together to create and enjoy art. The variety of ages, cultures, sexual orientations and the joy they all brought into the room was the exact opposite of what I'd been reading in the news. There should be more evenings like this in the world. Perhaps it would go a long way to avoiding situations like the one we are watching in Ukraine. Find the light and move towards it.
Below is a gallery of images I captured at the Live Art event at Restored Cup Coffee Shop in Petersburg, Virginia on February 26th, 2022.
January 16th, 2022
It's been awhile since I got to collaborate with anyone on a creative shoot. This weekend, the lovely Naomi came to Old Towne Petersburg to create some magical images with me. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to create and it all started with a collar I found in a vintage clothing store. This high silver collar struck me as an ideal accessory for a high-contrast black and white portrait. I wanted a striking face with sharp features, dark hair, and a slender neck that would work well with the collar. I recalled having seen Naomi's work before and she had the right look for what I wanted to create.
While I have a three light setup, often a single light works best for these high-contrast black and white images. We were only looking for two or three frames; one in focus with her eyes closed and one out of focus a la one of my favorite portraits with Isabella that I took with some added heavy grain. I positioned the light above her on a c-stand in a 3 foot octagonal soft box with a grid attached. This illuminated her face while making the collar pop as the light fell off across her shoulders. As a bonus, we used a silver face mask made from many round pieces chained together and created some natural light images on a black background. With these shots, I used a slow shutter speed and asked her to move her head slightly to show movement in the mask.
In the end, I got what I was looking for and then some. Naomi is a professional. She nailed the look and met my requests. Every time I pressed the shutter button, she changed her expression and direction, giving me waves of emotion to work with. Somber, seductive, stern, powerful, and pensive. I will certainly be working with her again.
The image to the right is one of the out of focus portraits. View the gallery below for more images from this shoot.
January 15th, 2022
I have finally started my journey into print making. To the right is a photo of 'Trees of Fire', a 16x20 satin finish print in a gold foil on pine frame with no glass. This print is part of a limited edition of three and is available for purchase at $250. The photograph was taken at sunset in Richmond as the last remaining sunlight broke through the clouds and hit the top of this tree. I used a slow shutter speed and moved the camera to create a motion blur effect. The print has an impressionist oil painting look with stunning colors that really pop in the gold frame. Contact me and make this fine art print part of your collection.
November 26th, 2021
I was beyond thrilled when Annette contacted me about portraits. When we agreed on something black and white in traditional attire, I was very excited. Those that follow me know that black and white is nothing new for me. I prefer to work in black and white. There is something inherently mysterious and classic about it. But to take something traditionally colorful and interpret it in black and white was a welcome challenge. Could we use light and contrast to create something impactful without relying on the vibrant hues typically present in Indian dress? I think we succeeded.
The above image is a style I have come to love; out of focus with intent. It lends elegance and mystery to the image. We started with natural light from one of my large windows. Moving in and out of focus. Light slowly revealing the subject. Who is she and what are her secrets? As we move into focus and light, details emerge to tell us more about her. The absence of color makes her more intriguing. When her eyes finally make contact, we are transfixed. Captivated. Building this suspense requires a delicate balance of technical skill and rapport with the subject. Once certain parameters are in place, you must be free to allow the subject to express themselves as they see fit. They reveal what they want to. By the end of the process, you may have discovered multiple characters.
In an Instagram world that says "LOOK at me", these portraits ask the viewer to "SEE".
To see more images from this series, view the gallery below.
A note on her dress:
The traditional ornate skirt worn is known as a Ghagra, which can come in a variety of styles and colors. Heavy embroidery and beading is done by hand by skilled garment makers who specialize in that, an industry that is one of the largest in the world. The headpiece worn, called a Maang Tikka, is traditionally adorned by married women but is widely sported by people of any marital status. Representing the union of a bride and groom, the tikka sits at the center of the forehead, typically pinned to the hair.
November 21st, 2021
It's been almost a year since I updated this blog, which is shameful. Over the last year, I realized I have fallen prey to the social media trap, which is also shameful. I intend to remedy that.
Sometimes, I feel like I don't have a story to tell, photographic or literary. This is simply not true. Everyone has a story to tell. Always carrying a camera makes pretty good odds you can create a visual story. I had been looking forward to camping in the Shenandoah Valley this weekend for some time. It was a near full moon, so I expected the light at night to be spectacular. I also expected to get some brilliant Fall foliage. What I did not expect, but is always possible in November, is how cold it got... And, the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges of Fall were largely gone. So it goes.
I went with my trusty camping buddy, Ryan. He's one of the only people crazy enough to camp with me in this kind of cold. We camped at a site in the George Washington National Forest we used before around the same time of year. There were plenty of hunters camping somewhere nearby but we only saw one. Otherwise, we had the place to ourselves. A full moon, good food, good tunes, and lows of 20 degrees. Not ideal for photography at night, but great conditions for acclimating to coming Winter weather.
Ryan is a musician. His recording name is Pnuema. We shot the above image in May and he used it on the cover of his "More" EP. On that day it was plenty warm, as you might have guessed from the photo. Inspired by some of the moving imagery he has been creating for a music video, we thought we'd try and get some spooky/moody black and whites at night. Braving the cold temperatures, we left the comfort of our warm fire and walked to the nearby gravel road and took full advantage of the moonlight.
A full moon offers many advantages. For one, it looks like daylight in frame, especially if you shoot in black and white. Second, it allows you to use slightly faster shutter speeds than you need on a darker night. Have you ever tried fumbling with your camera settings in pitch black with frozen fingers and a flashlight? Not ideal. The moonlight also allowed me to manipulate my settings and use my cable release with relative ease. The image below was then closer to our campsite where the light of the fire mixed with that of the moon and the smoke added a hazy effect to the image.
We could have stayed home. We could have stayed by the fire. We could have stayed buried in our sleeping bags. But, we didn't. We got out in the cold and created some solid images. Maybe one of these will end up on Pneuma's next album cover.
December 23rd, 2020
Portfolio Building with Model, Pedro
Recently I got to work with an up-and-coming male model, Pedro. He contacted me via Instagram about getting more photos for his modeling portfolio. I was excited to work with him, since it's much less common for me to work with male models. Not that I don't enjoy working with male models, but typically, males are less interested in modeling and posing for pictures.
As it turns out, Pedro went to the same school as I did for my Master's degree. That set the tone for the shoot and created a relaxed atmosphere, something essential for a portrait or fashion shoot. Over the course of the afternoon, we worked our way through 4-5 looks, utilizing both natural and artificial light. Pedro has a classic, James Dean/James Franco look with a dashing smile. This inspired us to emulate that 50s, classic, movie-star vibe, as well as a more modern look. Shooting with male subjects is generally different than female ones. I use different light modifiers and lighting positions when working with males. In the example on the right, I was looking for contrast and color tones that complimented Pedro's features and wardrobe. So, I used a red gel on my kicker light placed back left of the subject. The key light was a 3' octabox placed about 45 degrees front-right of Pedro fitted with a grid and double diffused. Normally I wouldn't do this and go for harder light, but I wanted subtle front light so the red would really pop and his eyes weren't too bright. This gave him more of a mysterious villain look. In the end we created a character that could be James Bond's nemesis.
November 17th, 2020
The Hopewell Portrait Project
This weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 45 portraits of people on the streets of Hopewell, Virginia, my hometown. Hopewell is a small town with a storied past and a diverse population. An industrial town in the American South, Hopewell has long been considered an arts and culture desert. I came up with the idea of the Hopewell Portrait Project as a rebuttal to this view of the City.
Many of the faces of Hopewell are unknown and I wanted to reveal some of these faces to the public by taking a series of black & white portraits of friends and strangers alike. While some knew I was doing this project via social media, most of these portraits were people unknown to me. Part of the fun was calling to people on the street passing by and convincing them to let me take their portrait. Some needed far less convincing than others. As it happened, there was a "fur fest" happening a block away and many people were there with their dogs, which added extra entertainment and "aww" factor to some of the photographs.
All 45 portraits will be printed and displayed in the windows of businesses in Downtown Hopewell giving the general public a chance to see new faces previously unknown to them. When the display comes down, the 45 prints will be donated to the Hopewell Library for their archival collection and take their place as part of Hopewell's history. I want send a massive thank you to the Hopewell Downtown Partnership and CultureWorks Richmond for making this project possible with their financial generosity.
The portrait tp the left is Messiah, an elementary school student in Hopewell.