Photo Talk

Photoshop World 2011 (Part 1)

It has been one hectic week! I've been lucky enough to chaperone a trip for Ashland University to Photoshop World 2011 in Orlando, Florida. I haven't been to this conference in a few years, and I can't tell you how nice it is to surround yourself with tons of people who are addicted to creativity and learning cool new tricks of the trade. I was explaining to my four students who came down here that this conference is one of the best opportunities they will have to take classes from world-renowned instructors. The courses range from web design, to photography, to digital copyright and all offer the unique perspectives of seasoned professionals. If you haven't gone to PSW before, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Here are a few photos that I've shot thus far!


The first three images were shot on my iPhone. The next shot is the view out of my hotel window, and the final two are model shoots.

More to come!

35,000 Shots + Tilt Shift Lens = AWESOME

As I was perusing the internet the other day I found this really awesome video by a VFX artist named Sam O'Hare. The video that he produced was simply amazing. It's a time-lapse video using a Nikon D3 with a tilt-shift lens. The effect that he achieved makes the video look like a city of "miniatures". It's not quite the same as shooting straight video with the D3, but the time-lapse turned out great and achieved a unique look.

The article of how he did it is here.

Check out his awesome work. Very cool.


(Watch it in HD for the best look)

The Sandpit from Sam O'Hare on Vimeo.

A Trip to Bowling Green...

We got a hold of our photography professor, Jeff Hall, from Bowling Green State University the other day and he thought it would be a cool idea to come back and lecture to a group of up and coming Visual Communication students. Chris and I being alumni, we jumped at the chance to talk about what we love to do. I think this was also a great opportunity for Brad to talk about his creative side. (We usually keep his head buried in the everyday business stuff...)

Our presentation was focused primarily on what it takes to start a creative business, finding your inspiration / creative style, and lessons we've learned along the way. It was very humbling and a fantastic experience for us, and one that I don't think any of us will forget. I think it's through sharing ideas, insights, and inspiration (ha... alliteration!) that you gain a sense of where you've come from... and the experiences you've had.

Chris, Brad and I really enjoyed presenting at BGSU, and I hope that we get a chance to do it again. It was also very flattering that so many people stayed to chat with us afterward. I think we'll be doing some photo-walks soon so hopefully we'll get a chance to work with some of the great students we met.

I wanted to share a couple videos that we showed during the presentation, as well as some video clips of our lecture. (Thank you Rebecca for snagging those for us!)

This video is of an old Kodak Commercial that we LOVE. It's so well done, and its fun to watch! If you need some inspiration to shoot photography, this is a must see.

This video has the reel that we showed as well as clips from our presentation. Enjoy, and thanks again to all the VCT majors who came out to see us!


Our Clients Deserve the Best.

Hey everyone. I wanted to share a really cool video we saw at Imaging USA that Graphistudio, our wonderful album printer, put together. The video really showcases the time, craftsmanship and detail that goes into each album. It's amazing to see how many people work together on creating something that is truly beautiful, especially when there is an ocean between us.

Graphi has been renovating an old castle in Italy that will serve as the company's education headquarters. There will be workshops, tours, etc... for photographers to learn about the process of creating one-of-kind albums. The amount of investment they have in their clients really showcases their commitment to not just being an album printer, but a partner in the storytelling process.

Near the end of the video, one of the gentlemen says that this could be the century of forgotten images, where everyone has photography that just sits on a hard drive. We want to do our part to help those images come to life for our get them off the cd and into a book that is truly a work of art.

Our clients deserve and expect the best... and Graphistudio helps us deliver to that expectation.

Hope you guys like the video! (I'll try and talk Brad into sending us to Italy...)


Need some Inspiration?

It's cold outside! I've been spending a great deal more time inside (more than I want to) working on some business stuff. I'm definitely in the mood for summer, but until then, I like to stay inspired by checking out some of my favorite photographers. Now, I'm often asked by other photographers, or sometimes even clients, as to who inspires or motivates me? I think it's safe to say that most photographers draw their inspiration from other photographers strengths, at least initially. When I started to shoot weddings I had an idea in my head of what I thought wedding photography should be, so I went out to search for it.

I immediately identified that I loved the "California" style of photography. Now, what do I mean by "California"? I'm talking about bright colors, amazing locations, lots of contrast, shallow depth of field, all that stuff... Now, I know we're in Ohio (most of the time) and to produce that kind of look takes a bit more effort. But, that's what I like, so that's what I seek to produce on shoots.

Here are some examples of photographers I continue to check out on a regular basis:

Mike Colon

Jessica Claire

Now, I have to mention up front that I do not advocate copying another persons work. That's not cool at all, and it shows that you can't think outside the box. However, I do think it is very important for a photographer to identify what they like about certain types of photography and more importantly, why they like it. It's through the industry as a whole that I developed my sense of style and what I think looks good. I tell brides all the time, "if you see something in a magazine that you love, rip it out, send me a link, etc...". Knowing what your client thinks is great photography only serves to help you raise your personal bar even higher. Get inspired! Read blogs, check out magazines, network with other photographers, whatever it takes. You'd be surprised how much your photography improves when you can truly establish your personal definition of amazing.

I think some of the best photographs I've taken have been in situations where I hadn't been to the location before and something happened unexpectedly. It's my formula for awesome photography. Take a great couple, add a new location, and make uncertainty your friend. Great stuff, every time.

We've been talking about video on our blog for quite some time now, and I always like to share some video work that inspires me. We have some photographers that follow our blog, so hopefully these videos inspire you as well. The more I see Canon 5d and 7d dSLR footage the more I want one. I've been looking for some Nikon D3S footage, and Chris sent me a great link that showcases the Nikon D3S in action. (Gotta give some praise to Nikon after all...)

Check out the Nikon D3S video here:

Here are some additional Canon videos that I really like:

Roger and Hayley - Short eShoot Clip - 5D Mark II from Matt E on Vimeo.

Vera & Aleksander - the highlights from Catch The Motion on Vimeo.

Again, I think this kind of stuff is going to revolutionize videography. I can't wait for us to get our first video dSLR!

Hope you like the vids. Definitely check out the photogs who produced them. Very good stuff.


The 'Best Camera' is the one that's with you.

Hey everyone! I've been working on some 'behind the scenes' stuff all day and thought I'd take a break to peruse some blogs. One that I've started to check out is They recently did a story on Chase Jarvis, a photographer that we have been following for a few years now.

Chase created an iPhone app called "Best Camera" that allows people to share their photos seamlessly with Facebook, Twitter, email, etc... without having to use 4-5 different apps. Now, I don't have an iPhone yet (still waiting for some other network to pick them up) but I think Chase's message was good. Just take photos.

The video I linked to really showcases how the app is used to free you up to focus on the image. Chase says, "The Best Camera is the one you have with you...Photography is becoming a huge part of our culture... incidentally, because the capture devices are getting so cheap and so available and the opportunities and the means by which we share that material is so at our fingertips. I love it. I think it's amazing."

His message is great because he talks about how important it is to capture moments, which is the entire focus and driving force behind our photography. I thought you would get a kick out of this video. Perhaps it will inspire those of you out there with nothing more than a cell phone camera to start shooting. ;)


Downtown HDR's (Part 2)

When I'm walking around looking for things to shoot, especially for HDRs, I am looking for architecture that stands out against the skyline. I love lines, color, and contrast, so if I can find all three in a particular scene, I'm going to try and see what I can come up with. 0004

When processing HDR's you have to be careful not to over-process the image. Now, on my HDR's I am intentionally going for a more surrealistic look, since that's what I like. However, if for example you are being paid to shoot interiors of a building, and you want to expose the inside of a room versus the windows facing outside, the surreal look just won't work. In this case, you have to be very careful to make sure your shots are well-exposed and merged properly. If you look at good real estate photography, you'll notice that when you're standing in a room and looking outside, you can always see the room clearly and the outside area clearly. HDR's are perfect for that kind of thing, and certainly much easier than hours upon hours masking in Photoshop.

If you notice in the image below, while it is a cool HDR, it's slightly over-processed because of the "ghosting" around the buildings. Sometimes it looks cool, but in this case it's a bit much, so I would bring this back through my editing process to eliminate how extreme that looks.


On this image, I love how the HDR brought out the detail under the archway. You can see all of the wood rafters, as well as into the building.


Here's an example of how lines can create an interesting graphic element within the scene. The tall building in the background looks like a grouping of emerald crystals when standing far away. I thought it was cool to show it as a part of the block in downtown San Diego. Compared to much of the South-Western look of the downtown area, this building it seems to grow out of the ground and makes a striking addition to the San Diego skyline.


Hope you like this set of photos! More to come!


Wedding Videography: An Industry in Flux

If you've been keeping up with our blog, you'll remember that we have been documenting an ongoing conversation as to the state of the wedding videography industry. Specifically, we have been discussing how the Canon 5D Mark II is a game-changer not only in terms of production quality, but also in how it opens up the creative possibilities for photographers and videographers alike. Chris found a great video the other day that I wanted to share on our blog. Now, please note, this is not our video... we haven't gotten into videography...yet (wink) but I thought that this was a great example of how a videographer named Jeff Wood took his 5D to the extremes. In this video, pay attention to the depth of field control, variable frame rate, and selective focus. There are also great examples of bright daylight and dark reception footage and how the camera handles both extremes. I also have to note that this video was VERY well edited and the post effects are top notch. Hands down, this is where the industry is going, and those who have an eye for it are certainly going to benefit greatly from the flexibility and affordability of video dSLR technology.

Check it out.

5d from Jeff Wood on Vimeo.

As always, we welcome to discussion on our blog, so if you have some insights, or links you would like to post, comment at the bottom! We've heard some great feedback on this series and we hope to keep the discussion rolling. :)

The Gaslamp District

My Aunt Linda and I were walking around downtown San Diego looking for a good place to grab a bite to eat... okay...okay... I dragged my Aunt Linda downtown so I could shoot some photography and finding a good place to eat was a bonus. :) Excellent Sushi in San Diego by the way... We started out at Horton Plaza and walked around Market Street and the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. I've probably been to this city 20 times since my grandparents moved out here when I was a little kid, and truth be known, I had never walked around the actual downtown area. My family would always wind up going to Seaport Village, or a theater in a specific area of downtown, but I had never just walked around the city. San Diego in recent years has been on a campaign to revitalize the downtown area. They've built numerous high-rise apartment buildings, a baseball stadium (Petco Park) as well as an elaborate trolley system to link the outlying suburbs to the metro area. Luckily, my Aunt an I arrived downtown just as "magic hour" was about to take place. Being close to winter, the sun is setting here at about 5:00PM, so it's nice to get an early start on great skyline photography. I can't wait to show you all the series of shots that I was able to come up with. I wanted to take some time and explain how I shot them so if you get a chance to visit a cool city yourself, you can go out and look for some of interesting things to photograph.


Now, when I shoot HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, I'm looking for certain things. It takes time and patience to create an HDR, so I only want to shoot things that I know will turn out well when I'm post-processing my images.

First, I like to wait until I have an interesting sky. I think that clouds work best for this, especially in the late evening when clouds pick up the bright reds and oranges of the setting sun. However, sometimes (most of the time in San Diego) you don't have any clouds. When this happens, you really have to wait much later in the evening to pick up some great color. I'll be honest that a Photoshop guru can certainly make the sky whatever color they want, but to be a purist, I am doing very little color enhancement to the sky in the series I'm going to show you.

To see some great examples of HDR photography that will blow your mind, check out Ben Willmore's site:

I love angles, textures, and perspective. When you combine these elements with great color, it can be a winning combo for a great image. The reason I like to shoot HDR is because it looks surreal. You can see what your eyes would see if your brain could process the lightest of the light and the darkest of the dark all at once. Since you don't see that way, multiple exposures from your camera will show you what you're "missing". In the late evening, I like to shoot 5 exposures. This is known as "bracketing". The textbook definition is: "An exposure technique to assure an accurate, or preferable, exposure. I like to compose my shot at proper exposure first, or even 1 stop below "proper" exposure. I think going 1 stop of light below helps to bring out richer colors, plus the way-over exposed shots don't get you much in post-processing. Next, I set my camera to shoot -2, -1, +1, +2 exposures of the exact same shot. Basically, 2 stops below, 1 stop below, 1 stop above, and 2 stops above "proper" exposure. What this is doing is allowing your camera to capture the darkest darks and the lightest lights. This is allowing you to capture as much contrast (the differences between the light and dark portions of your image) as possible.


Notice that in this HDR, you can see the full range of color in the windows. The darkest blues, as well as the brilliant teals, are combined to show the gradual change in color from the horizon to the sky. In addition, notice how you can see detail underneath each balcony all the way up the building. This is because the over-exposed shots were combined with the under-exposed shots to get you both detail and color.


This is an example of how you can accentuate features of a building using HDR. I love the lines and symmetry in this image. The sconces on the side of the building look like they're on fire. I love how the trees and the arches draw your eyes into the image. I feel like I could just keep looking higher and higher.

I'll be posting some HDR images throughout the week, as well as show you some before and after processing images, so you can get a sense of what I'm doing. I hope you like the shots... there's definitely more to come!


Is Wedding Videography Dying? (Maybe Not...)

We've been keeping track of the wedding videography industry over the past year and one thing we've noticed is how few of our brides actually book videographers these days. It's an interesting trend that I thought would make a cool topic to discuss on the blog in a series of posts. Often, during a client consultation, I ask the couple if there will be any outside photographers / videographers in addition to us at their wedding. 95% of the time, they say no. However, they do ask me about videography and what I think about it. Now, I love video, and I can't wait for Kaufman Kramer to purchase it's first video camera, but I've found that traditionally, the price to play in the video market is just too high. I've always subscribed to the mantra that anything worth doing is worth doing well, and if we couldn't produce something that looked top notch visually, well... best to stick with our strengths.

I think wedding videography is cool, but it's expensive to produce something that looks like it was shot with Hollywood quality. (At least, that's what I would want quality-wise if it were me). Plus, it's hard to justify an investment in high-end gear knowing full well that the chances of a "wedding video" just sitting on a shelf collecting dust is pretty high. Unless of course... it's amazing. Photographers live in a world where digital dominates, and while the one thing you can guarantee is that your photography will at very least get printed and hang in someones home, it will additionally be posted all over Facebook. (Which we encourage, for the record) :) There's something to be said for having a photograph hanging prominently in someone's home versus the dusty wedding video DVD case on the bookshelf.

Just as professional photographers try to find more and more ways to differentiate themselves from the "I went to the electronics store, bought a camera, and now I'm a self-proclaimed pro" type of shooters, the video market has now saturated itself with HD cameras that produce half-way decent video.

So, this leads every photographer to make a decision. How can you stand out amongst the "every-day videographer or dare I say photographer?" There are many of us out there that are always quoted as saying, "put your money in your glass". I don't think there are many photographers that would disagree with me there. However, the missing link has always been... "okay, I own the best lenses, but do I really have to buy all new stuff to move to video?" Well, as much as it pains me as a Nikon shooter to say it, the Canon 5D Mark II is the photographers answer. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Nikon, and I'll still argue that the glass is still hands-down better, but Canon has far surpassed Nikon in video dSLR technology.


I was at first concerned with how a video dSLR camera would produce in terms of ISO performance. After watching some videos on, I was just amazed. The quality is definitely there, and if there's any doubt in your mind about it, check out this video. Pay attention to the amount of light that this camera is shooting in.

Canon 5D Mark II from Focal Bliss on Vimeo.

This video was shot with a Canon 5D Mark II in an ISO range between 1000 and 3200. If you click on the link to this Vimeo post, you'll see that this shooter used all of the lenses that most pros have in their arsenal. I wanted to share some of the great stuff that is being produced with video dSLR's because it really inspires and revives an industry that in my opinion, has been losing out to the you-tube and viral-video mass media revolution.

We'll be posting more about this topic in our "off-season", so keep a look out and join the discussion! We're curious to hear what you think!

Something Cool I Found...

I saw this video on vimeo today and I thought it was an awesome example of time lapse video of something photography-related. These guys built a cardboard model of a twin lens reflex camera. Plus, I love the music they used. You certainly don't see too many of these cameras around any more, but it's cool to see these guys pay homage to a classic. Enjoy! I'm totally looking for one on eBay. :)

Kiel Johnson's Cardboard Twin Lens Reflex Camera Time Lapse from Theo Jemison on Vimeo.