Little Tree in The South Window, Arches National Park, Utah
Category Archives: Events
Just another Friday morning, up at the crack of dawn and headed out the door at 4am to beat the traffic heading north into Houston. After opening the door, I looked around me and saw that it was SNOWING! In SOUTHEAST Texas! All thoughts of leaving for work left my brain as I grabbed my Canon 5DSR and 24-70mm f1.2 lens to get some shots of this rarity. I mean, snow on palm ferns is pretty weird, ya gotta admit.
Dear Northerners: before you roll your eyes over my excitement (and the excitement of everybody from Kingwood to Houston to Katy to Clute to Galveston), please allow me to explain to you: in southeast Texas, I am currently living closer to the equator than the North Pole. It once snowed about 8 inches on Christmas Eve in my town back in 2004, and then it snowed a teeny bit (and I do mean teeny) in 2009 – more north than south. Snow is, indeed, rare, in my neck of the woods, and for many living around here, this is the only chance they may ever get to actually see, feel and even taste snow (I’m serious).
For me, it was a reminder of beautiful winter scenes I’ve photographed in previous years, and beautiful winter scenes I hope to photograph in the future. It was early in the morning, quiet, and utterly beautiful.
Tech specs: ISO between 1000-1250, shutter speed 25-30, aperture f4-f5.6, handheld, burst method.
I’m a little slow about getting back into the swing of things these past couple of weeks. I was in Washington State where I spent a week visiting my sister and her family and then a week in Mount Rainier National Park. While this was going on, the National Parks Traveler published a photo story I wrote about my experience photographing a Kemp’s ridley hatchling release up close and in person, during a few days spent at Padre Island National Seashore back in early June. It was a wonderful, uplifting event and I want to share it here with you readers. Click on the photo to be taken to the article.
Righteous! My friend’s daughter keeps changing her mind from being a vet to an ornithologist and loves photography. From her love of birds, she’s already identified over 300 species. She’s 10. Go Bella!
I know there will be a huge number of March For Science and Earth Day blog posts out there, so just add mine to the fray. The premise of this march meant enough to me to actually join in – at age 56 – my first protest march ever.
Was it a “protest”? The March for Science was meant to be a bipartisan event, promoting the scientific method, fact-based approaches to the study of the environment and climate change, and the benefits to humanity which have resulted from science. As my friend’s daughter points out in the photo above: her little brother would not be alive were it not for the accomplishments of medical science. He was born 3-1/2 months early. He’s now a sweet, happy, laughing 15 months old (11-1/2 months adjusted – they do that for preemies).
So, back to the March. Was it a protest in addition to a celebration of all things and people scientific? Ultimately, yes. We probably should be having marches like this every year in celebration of scientists and all the things they’ve learned and created through science that aid us in our daily lives (Hubble telescope, space shuttles, internet, radio, iTunes, cell phones, velcro, medicine, photography, coffee makers, planes, trains, automobiles, etc). We should be doing this not just because of the current administration. It’s this current administration, however, that impelled these world-wide marches. I still find it mind-boggling there are people out there (including the elected president) who deny climate change and want to cut funds to health and other scientific research. America has been at the forefront of so many scientific discoveries, and now we should take a back seat?? I’m uncertain as to how this is “making America great”. Whenever I think about this, I become that “mad scientist” you’ll see in one of the signs below.
Ok, enough of politics. I leave you with images I captured during this very short, but very transformational march for me.
The number of marchers 10 minutes prior to the beginning of the event. And more people kept streaming in.
In all honesty, I’d be kinda lost without coffee, wine and beer. Just sayin’ 😉
A scientist who votes. Somebody in government should be getting a little nervous, I should think.
Marchers were there of all ages. Made me proud to know so many people care about fact-based research and the scientific method.
Let’s see … I was born in 1961 so the CO2 level was probably around 318 – 319 ppm, approximately.
My favorite sign was the “Mad Scientist” sign. The next time I reach that boiling point of anger, I’ll think of this sign.
The Planet Dress
The Brain Hat. I saw a number of them in varying colors during the march. And they all looked very neat, and very hot. While it was not particularly humid, it was quite warm and sunny (thankfully, since thunderstorms were predicted).
The march ended at the Houston City Hall. So many people! It’s estimated as many as 15,000 people participated in this event.
Let’s not forget that it was Earth Day, as well. This gentleman saw me with my camera and came up to me to tell me he’d worn this same shirt during the very first Earth Day march. I told him that definitely merited a photo.
For those of you interested, I used my Canon 1DX and 24-105mm lens to capture these images above. The 24-105 is the perfect walking-around lens with a good number of focal lengths from which to choose. All this, courtesy of science.
Your’s truly with a couple of friends she walked with at the march.
Twins? Triplets? The science of cloning? Nah – well, not really – actually it was the science of Photoshop!
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY
(yes, one day early – at least it’s not one day late as is my usual timing)
As I look back on 2016, I see a mix of good and bad, as is usual over the course of a year. The good stuff had to do with travel and photography and getting closer to what is left of my family. The bad stuff – well, let’s just say 2016 was marginally better than 2015, which was a horrible year.
Sooooo, I’m truly hoping that 2017 makes up for all the bad stuff. And I also hope the New Year 2017 is a start of many good things for all of you out there.
Now, for this photo: I had the great good fortune to stay in London over Christmas and New Year. It was my last hurrah to close out that horrible 2015 year I mentioned earlier. I deliberately chose that time of year to fly to London because I wanted to especially see the fireworks over the London Eye.
I remember joining the hordes to wait about 45 minutes for the security lines to open up so we could go find a spot around 7pm (nothing ever opens up exactly on time, you know). I went through 3 checkpoints before squeezing into a spot along the Thames in front of the Royal Horseguards Hotel and across from that great wheel on which one can get an amazing view of the surrounding land. It was a good thing I didn’t have to go to the toilet because we all stood there, cheek-by-jowl, for about 5 hours, waiting for the countdown to begin. I got acquainted with the family from the Midlands and the young lady from Dubai standing behind me who was there for some sort of news service.
It was worth the wait. The 10-minute display of fireworks was amazing and I alternated between having the camera up to my eye and then putting it down so I could just enjoy the fireworks without looking through a lens. It was such a neat feeling to realize I was actually standing there, in London, watching the New Years fireworks from a prime spot, surrounded by people from all over the world.
Again, Happy New Year! I hope everybody’s 2017 adventures far surpass those embarked upon in 2016.
The Bordello Sisters ready for action in the King’s Feasthall. Texas Renaissance Festival 2016 (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 24-70mm f4L lens, f7.1, shutter 1/40, ISO 3200, no flash)
I am staff photographer for The Merchant Prince – a vendor out at the Texas Renaissance Festival (aka TX Renfest). I worked for him and his wife as a serving wench and then Feast Gift Shoppe store manager for oh, about 9 years, before “retiring” and then returning annually to focus on photographs for their marketing purposes. It’s a sweet deal: I do my favorite thing of photography on their behalf and they make sure I get access to venues both in front- and behind-the-scenes, as well as provide me food and beverages during my entire weekend stay. It works!
I like to go during the Halloween-themed weekend, so the photos here reflect the occasion.
Spooky pirates onstage in the King’s Feasthall, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 1DX, Canon 24-70mm f4L lens, f5, shutterr 1/40, ISO 4000, no flash)
Bartender at the Wonky Wally Pub, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5DS, Canon 50mm f1.2L lens, f8, shutter 1/125, ISO 640, no flash)
This year, in addition to my Canon 1DX and 5DS cameras, I rented the new Canon 5D Mk IV. I wanted to run this camera through its paces – mainly its low-light paces. My 1DX works quite well in low-light. The 5DS and 5DSR are not that great at all in low light. I was hoping the 5D Mk IV would be a game changer.
You won’t read about any pixel-peeping minutiae here, nor do I go into depth regarding technical specs. I’m just going to tell you what I think about this camera based upon the shots I achieved after a full weekend of using the 5D Mk IV. Would I purchase this camera to use alongside my others? Should you purchase this camera?
The 5D Mk IV provides quite a bit more resolution than the 5D Mk III, but not as much as the 5DS/5DSR. That said, the extra resolution (~30 mp) creates lovely sharp shots in good light. Actually, if you use a flash, it creates lovely sharp shots in low light as well. And that extra resolution allows for nice crops and enlargements.
Blackheart, 2016 Texas RenaissanceFestival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L lens, f9, shutter 1/60, ISO 400, no flash)
The Cannibal Tudors, 2016 Texas Renaissance Fesstival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 50mm f1.2L lens, f9, shutter 1/60, ISO 320, flash used)
This camera, however, is not as great of a high-ISO, low-light performer as I had hoped for. In reality, even with all of it’s technical upgrades, I feel it’s only marginally better than my 5DS cameras. Of the three Canons, my 1DX provides the best images in low light. Judicious use of my Imagenomic Noiseware application helped to reduce the graininess, which I basically applied to all of my low-light images taken with this and my other two cameras.
Regarding speed, the Mk IV’s 7fps is nicer than the 5fps provided by the 5DS/5DR. The shutter is relatively quiet (nothing at all like the machine-gun sound of the 1DX). Nonetheless, you still would have a difficult time using this camera at a sporting event. I photographed birds at the Royal Falconer’s Show using the 5D Mk IV and really didn’t get any clear shots to speak of when the birds were in flight or getting ready to take off. I would have been better served using the 1DX, in hindsight. 7fps would certainly help for wedding events, even though you still might have trouble photographing movement to some extent without a flash.
Ronin the Lanner Falcon, Royal Falconer’s Stage, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II lens, f9, shutter 1/320, ISO 500, no flash)
Rey the King Vulture, Royal Falconer’s Stage, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II lens, f9, shutter 1.640, ISO 500, no flash)
I was impressed with the focus upgrades. Even in extremely low light, the camera never once had to search for something on which to focus. Where ever I pointed the lens, that’s where it focused.
Broadside onstage, Pirate Pub Sing, Sea Devil Tavern, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L II lens, f4.5, shutter 1.40, ISO 6400, no flash, noise reduction applied during editing)
Fiddler onstage at the Pirate Pub Sing, Sea Devil Tavern, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 100mm f2.8L II lens, f4.5, shutter 1/25, ISO 6400, no flash, noiseware reduction applied during editing stage)
Interior shot of the Prince of Wales Pub, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 14mm f2.8, f6.3, shutter 1/50, ISO 3200, no flash)
Because I had the GPS function turned on for about half the day on Saturday, it used up battery juice much faster than the analogous battery in my 5DS (the batteries are interchangeable). If I had left GPS turned off – which I did later that day, the battery life would lasted longer and I would not have been forced to switch out batteries later that same day. I do think the GPS function is cool and would be an awesome enhancement for landscape shots. I never used the WiFi function but think that’s pretty cool too – provided it works.
I didn’t really have much use for the touchpad, but it was kinda neat as well, and it was especially helpful during my microfocus adjustments for all of my lenses, which is the first thing I do with a rental camera to ensure my lenses focus clearly. As I reviewed a shot, I’d zoom in and instead of having to use that little button to the side of the LCD to move around the shot, I simply swiped my finger across the LCD to move the image around for further inspection.
This post is not meant to be a thick-paged documentation of the camera, so I’ll bring this to a close. All in all, I think the Canon 5D Mk IV would be a worthy upgrade to the Mk III, just for the extra 2 fps, the faster focus, the GPS/WiFi and all the other technical improvements. But if you own the 5DS or 5DSR, I don’t believe you really need to get this camera (I LOVE my 5DS/5DSR cameras for landscapes). For photographing action, you would be much better served with the 1DX or 1DX Mk II. Same for low-light imagery, I think. For me, the low-light results were the tipping point to keep me from purchasing this camera. Had I seen miraculously little noise in my images, I would have probably purchased that very camera I’d rented (you can do that with lensrentals.com). Alas, that was not the case and all of the improvements were not enough for me to want to add this model to my existing gear.
I know this sounds critical of the 5D MkIV and I don’t mean it to be. Camera choice, like photography itself, tends to be subjective. It’s a very nice camera, has more resolution than the 5D Mk III, and has GPS and WiFi in addition to improved focusing. If you can rent it (I rent from lensrentals.com), then do so and try it out to see for yourself. I recommend you do that with any camera or lens that interests you. Try before you buy.
The Bordello Sisters in the King’s Feasthall, 2016 Texas Renaissance Festival (Canon 5D Mk IV, Canon 14mm f2.8L lens, f4.5, shutter 1/50, ISO 4000, flash used)
I met Jennifer several years ago, during our Texas Renaissance Festival days; I have a couple of fun photos of her elaborately costumed as a zombie wench during the Halloween-themed weekend. I also remember her telling me once she didn’t like jam because she used to work in a jam factory. Jennifer is from the UK so she has that wonderful British accent. Oh, and she’s the horror hostess of the Edwina Rigormuerte Houston Horror Chamber Review (being a photographer has allowed me to meet all sorts of interesting, cool people).
I was so pleased when Jennifer asked me to photograph her and John’s (she calls him by his middle name, Avery) wedding. I knew this was going to be an interesting wedding, given the couple’s love of old horror movies and her own very unique fashion style. What made it even more special is that, in addition to being hired as their official photographer, I was also a guest! That meant I could have a slice of wedding cake (it’s a thing with me – I always try to get a piece of cake); for once, I could photograph the cake and eat it too!
Ever heard of the Las Velas? It’s a hidden gem in Houston located between Hwys 59 and 610. It’s not obvious from the road, and I saw no large sign pointing the way to this venue. I asked Jennifer how she found it and she laughed, saying she was searching online for “inexpensive wedding venues”. The Las Velas’ exterior is filled with lots of flowers and greenery, fountains, and mosaic-inlaid stone. The interior hosts large, airy spaces, lots of natural lighting, elaborate molding and polished stone floors inlaid with mosaic butterflies and curly-cues.
As I wrote in a previous post, every wedding is different. This particular event was quite laid back and kinda funky (the bridesmaids wore combat boots with their dresses).
Both ceremony and reception were interior events (with the exception of a few posed outdoor photos), so I made use not only of the natural light coming through the large windows, but my flash as well. As with the previous wedding about which I wrote, I used the same three cameras (Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mk III, and a rented Canon 6D) and the same Canon L-lenses (85mm f1.2, 70-200 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, and 16-35 f2.8). I photographed the same scenes with all three cameras, with and without flash. For exterior shots, I used ISOs of 200-400 and interior shots had ISOs of 1600-2500 even with the flash. As with the photos from the wedding of the previous post, I used Imagenomic’s Noiseware to reduce the high ISO grain as well as Imagenomic’s Portraiture and OnOne’s Perfect Effects for certain photos.
The end of Jennifer and John’s wedding signaled the end of my wedding photo shoots for 2014. We’ll see what transpires in 2015.
To see more images from Jennifer and John’s wedding, click on this link to go to that gallery.
Gads! I know! It’s been forever since I last posted to this site. So sorry! I’ve had two weddings, a trip to Hawaii, and two airshows that I’ve photographed since my last post. Oh yeah, and a day job in addition to all of this photography stuff. I’d come home from work, eat a little dinner, try to watch the national news, then sit down to process anywhere from 4 – 10 images each weeknight before going to bed around 10PM and then getting up at 4AM to start my day over again. Sometimes, I’d even take my small travel laptop to work with me so that I could sit at my desk and edit photos during my lunch time. Weekends after each event have been spent at home, making the big push to get as many photos processed as possible, from the time I wake up around 5AM to the time I go to bed around 10-11PM. My home is a pig sty because I haven’t had time to pick anything up and clean, and I still have luggage opened up with stuff strewn about on my floor because I haven’t had time to really unpack.
But now, I’m done! And to prove it, I am posting here the results of the wedding I photographed September 27th, for Kevin and Amber.
Some of you have asked what my wedding workflow entails. One of the tasks I try to do for each wedding is to Google the wedding venue and then personally drive (if in-state) to the venue to scope it out for photo ops as well as just the general lay of the land. I also introduce myself to the venue staff so they know who I am, why I am there, and what I look like in order that they recognize me on the wedding day.
Kevin and Amber’s wedding was held at the Northwest Forest Conference Center, Cypress, Texas. The conference center is a large area of acreage with several venues as well as hotel rooms on site. The venue Kevin and Amber chose was The Alamo (a replica thereof, where the ceremony was conducted outside the building and the reception held inside). You’d need to have met the couple but this venue was absolutely perfect for them. Soooo very Texan.
Every wedding is different. While there are certain shots that are de rigueur (ceremony, bride and groom kissing, posed shots, cake cutting, etc.), each wedding also opens itself up to numerous photo ops singular to that couple’s day and event.
Amber was the first bride ever who told me up front that it was all about the photos. She acknowledged that the ceremony would be over in minutes, but the pictures would last a lifetime. With that mindset, she had a number of images she definitely wanted me to capture, and she even had examples for me to use as go-by.
While the venue differed (of course) from the example images Amber showed to me, the idea regarding what she wanted remained unchanged. Plus, I now have these ideas in my photo op repertoire for future nuptials.
I used my Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III bodies along with a rented Canon 6D (really cute little camera easy for my little hands, but not so great with low-light, I freely admit). I used all L lenses (except for the 40mm pancake lens to which I affixed the Canon close-up lens filter): 85mm f1.2, 24-70 f2.8 (since destroyed during my Hawaii trip, blast it), 16-35 f2.8 (also destroyed during the Hawaii trip), and 70-200 f2.8. I also used my Canon Speedlite 600 EX/RT flash.
For outdoor shots, I used an ISO of 640 and for indoor shots, I used an ISO (in general) of 3200. I captured indoor and outdoor images both with and without flash.
I’ve never much cared for using a flash, but that dislike has lessened as my experience wielding it improves. That, plus a flash is an absolute MUST for reception / indoor images because of the low light. No way around that.
Everything was hand-held and with the exception of the 70-200mm lens, none of the others had image stabilization (IS, VR, whatever your camera brand calls it). This meant I used the “spray and pray” method (holding down on that shutter button and letting the camera click away). With this particular wedding, time was really tight and a tripod setup would have taken too long. I was constantly on the move, changing between cameras. Actually, I used each camera for the same scene just so there would be at least 1 good image between the 3 cameras – sometimes there were 2-3 good images of the same scene, so I processed them all because I like the newlyweds to have a choice – especially since each camera sported a different lens.
I made certain I whitened and brightened the smiles and I used Imagenomic’s Portraiture plug-in for Photoshop to smooth out skin creases and blemishes. I also utilized OnOne’s Perfect Effects to add a little variation to the standard color images. Some poses just begged for sepia or other interesting effect.
While I am always a little tired after spending 3-5 weeks on wedding photos (I cull through thousands to get anywhere between 150 to almost 400 really good shots, depending upon the length of time I am photographing), I also feel a huge sense of satisfaction with my work; that satisfaction grows in proportion to how pleased the newlyweds are with the images. I must ALWAYS keep in mind the desires and expectations of the clients, so I am always a little nervous as to how they receive my work.
To see more images taken during Kevin and Amber’s wedding, click on this link to be taken to my photo website. And feel free to browse around the other galleries and folders as well. My site continues to be a work in progress.
Next post: Jennifer and John’s wedding.
Ok, so in my previous post, I gave you the lowdown on the wedding location and the gear I took with me. I’d checked in that Saturday afternoon and proceeded to get my stuff spread out all over the room; when I was finished it sorta looked like my room at home (grin).
That evening, around 5PM, everybody met in the resort’s entrance hall and then headed to the gazebo for a very quick rehearsal run-through with the resort’s wedding planner.
I was not scheduled to take any rehearsal dinner photos, but I wanted to be there for the rehearsal prior to their dinner to meet the key players as well as to scope out the gazebo venue for photo op locations. Since I was carrying my 5D Mark III with the 24-70mm lens with me, I figured I might as well take a few pics (can you imagine me *not* taking any photos if I have a camera handy?). I had to remember to switch from a higher ISO for the above indoor shot to a much lower ISO for the outdoor images.
Rehearsal didn’t last but maybe 10 minutes max, and then they were all off to their dinner. I had made a reservation at the resort’s restaurant called The Steakhouse. I highly recommend this place for the food, polished and unobtrusive service, and ambience. Pricey, yes, but it was a little splurge for me (my hairstylist returned from her Puerto Rico vacation with a huge cold and had to cancel my hair appointment for that week, so I instead blew that cash on dinner). I figured what the heck, I had the whole night ahead of me to relax and get ready for the next day’s activities and figured I might as well treat the day as a nice getaway from home (spotted some neat birding photo op locations along the way to Galveston).
Next post: the first photo ops of the Big Day.
Originally, I had written a 2800-word blog post (give or take). Yikes! Way too long! I think the human attention span tends to get a nervous tic over anything past 1200 words (which is the length I try to stick to but oftentimes never successfully manage). I personally can’t stand reading uber-long posts, no matter how helpful they may be; I tend to skim over them and just look at the pictures. I’d forgotten about this, though, in my 2800-word zeal to get everything down about my experience photographing this wedding. Then, I started reading some short but neat blog posts by Scottseyephotos about his photographic trip to Hallo Bay, AK, and I realized I was far more interested reading his numerous, interesting short blog posts than I would have been had he combined all of his bear articles into a single post. So, I’ve separated this original post into several shorter ones.
Here’s the First Post, which I hope whets your photographic-blogospheric appetite for the next post:
I had the great fortune to photograph Josh & Maegan’s wedding in Galveston, Texas, back in late April (2013). The venue was the San Luis Resort. I reserved a room for the weekend and prepared for the event.
What I took with me:
- Canon 1-DX body + 3 spare batteries
- Canon 5D Mk III body + 4 spare batteries
- A rented Canon 6D body (go read my previous blog for my take on this body)
- Canon 85mm f1.2L lens (which I absolutely loved but never used for this event)
- Canon 50mm f1.2L lens
- Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II lens
- Canon 70-200mm f2.8L II lens
- A rented Canon 14mm f2.8L lens (go read my previous blog for my take on this lens)
- A 7’ parabolic white umbrella
- 2 Canon 600 EX-RT flashes (one of them was a rental)
- Canon ST-E3-RT transmitter
- Gary Fong flash head diffuser dome
- 2 lightstands (of which I only used one of them)
- One 500-watt studio light (which I did not use but now wish I had for the groomsmen shots instead of my flash – that way I could have seen right away how the lighting situation would look).
- Induro 8X CT314 tripod legs and Induro BHD3 ballhead (I only used it for the HDR shots of my room interior and balcony view, believe it or not – all of the wedding shots were hand-held)
- 42 memory cards, both CF and SDHD in 4GB and 8GB capacities
- 15” Laptop
- 2 portable hard drives
- 2 memory card readers (in case something happened to one of them)
- Battery charger for each type of battery
- My portable MiFi (never used it since the resort had free WiFi)
- All the assorted cords and connecters needed to power up the other items listed
- My LowePro Slingshot AW 202 camera backpack
- My Think Tank Airport Commuter camera backpack
- My Photoflex Transpac to carry all my lighting equipment (it turned out to be rather large and exceedingly heavy, so I plan on ordering something smaller to take with me for my next gig)
I’ve written a TripAdvisor review including photos of my room and the resort. Suffice to say that I enjoyed my stay, liked my room, loved the view, but wished they had provided me with a different type of coffee maker . A small complaint, but coffee is a mainstay for me when traveling and working with photos on my laptop. I usually pack my own coffee and filters with the assumption the room has a 4-cup coffee maker. It didn’t work with this particular room.
Looking down at the wedding venue from Josh & Maegan’s 16th-floor penthouse suite.
Now you have the location and the venue. Next post: my first photo op with the bride and her crew.