The Power of a Photograph & Volunteering

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

W. T. Purkiser 

It was quite an honor today to volunteer for the John William Grosso, III Scholarship Endowment. This was the 3rd Annual Golf Tournament to remember a young man gone too soon. As he aspired to be a physician, his mom started the golf tournament as a way to raise money for a scholarship that is awarded to medical school students annually. It is a beautiful gesture to keep the memory of her beloved son alive.

I encourage all photographers to find time to volunteer and use your talents. We already know and understand the power of a photograph, and it is an awesome feeling when you can give that gift to someone else.

 John William Grosso, III

John William Grosso, III

Spring has finally sprung

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.

Denis Waitley 

It finally hit me… my baby girl is just about finished with her freshman year of college. I dare say we have both grown over these past months. She in navigating her way around campus, dorms and classes; myself in redefining my life and my role in hers. 

As the days drew nearer for Tatiana to come home for spring break, I could hardly wait. The week was all about her. We shopped, dined, had a spa day, several movie nights, cuddled with puppies, and enjoyed each other’s company. 

The highlight of the week was showing Tatiana our new studio and actually spending several hours with her in front of our cameras. Tammy and I spent the Studio Session photographing Helen and Tatiana. It was awesome to get the creative juices flowing, knowing we weren't constrained by time. We had a blast showing the young ladies just how beautiful they are. 

I think it’s really important to shoot even when you don’t have any booked sessions. For Tammy and I, it helps us to discover and develop the shots we have envisioned. Plus, because the studio is new, we are breaking it in and figuring out how to best navigate it. 

 Me & My baby girl.

Me & My baby girl.

Because I said I would...

Life is a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others.

Thomas Merton

I first heard about Alex Sheen when Matthew Cordle did a short video accepting responsibility for driving while drunk and killing Vincent Canzani. After reading the article, I quickly looked up Because I Said I Would (https://becauseisaidiwould.com), ordered some promise cards, and joined the social movement. Needless to say, I was absolutely delighted when I found out that the inaugural speaker for the Calyx and Beau Schenecker Foundation’s ethics and leadership series would be Alex Sheen. So fitting, as Calyx and Beau were both great examples of young people living their best lives. 

Losing Calyx and Beau in such a tragic way affected so many lives, none so deeply as their beloved father and grandmother. At the celebration honoring their lives, Parker Schenecker made a simple promise that he would spend the rest of his life honoring his beautiful children. He continues to live that promise every day. 

Our words have power, and I think for the most part we know that. However, this movement is about being purposeful with your words, being mindful of just how powerful they can be. More importantly, BISIW teaches to stand by your promises because you never know how much others may need you to. I urge you all to take a moment and check out www.becauseisaidiwould.com. You will laugh, cry, and be inspired.

 Me & Alex Sheen, Tampa Florida Inaugural speaker for the Caylx & Beau Schenecker Foundation.

Me & Alex Sheen, Tampa Florida Inaugural speaker for the Caylx & Beau Schenecker Foundation.

Shoot Like A Pro Tour with Scott Kelby

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.

Thich Nhat Hanh

It’s no secret that I love the KelbyOne Crew. I feel so fortunate to live in the same city as the KelbyOne group. Needless to say, I never miss a hometown live tour. Tammy and I actually met up with Brenda Irizarry and spent the day at the Shoot Like a Pro Tour. Part of what makes Scott Kelby and all of his instructors so good, in my opinion, is that they all understand their position as mentors. They are confident in their personal talents and styles and they love what they’re doing… and it shows. 

During a Kelby seminar, I always learn something new, brush up on everything else, and come away inspired. The best tip he gave us was on avoiding sensor dust: don’t put your lens cap in your pocket or throw it in your bag, then put it back on your lens. So simple, but a real aha! moment.

Oh, and there is always a word of the day with Scott. This day it was “sessy,” said in his best latin accent. “Now give me sessy,” he would tell the model on stage as the audience roared with laughter.

Check out the KelbyOne Live Tours in your area. 

First Shoot in the Studio

There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth… not going all the way,and not starting.

Buddha

How ironic that the first studio session at Moments Captured Photography Boutique was a maternity session; the start of new beginnings. Monique was wonderful to work with, as she had no inhibition and was all in for the posing ideas that Tammy and I came up with. We were able to capture some beautiful images. The best compliment was when the grandmother-to-be said, “Watching you and Tammy is awesome… you are like yin and yang, working together.” 

The studio is small, and we have worked very hard and spent countless hours designing it for maximum efficiency. We can now break down our office area in minutes and create several sets, making for a cozy and quant shooting space. It’s such a treat to be able to shoot and assist each other as needed throughout the session. 

 Courtesy of Moments Captured Photography Boutique

Courtesy of Moments Captured Photography Boutique

Mentoring is always a great idea

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.

Maya Angelou

I recently heard a fellow photographer say that the business of photography is only 20% photography, and the rest is all business. I thought it couldn’t be. 

Let’s just say I finally get it. It’s really hard work to open and run a photography studio. In addition to taking photographs, now there’s advertising, marketing, business accounts, and gear to worry about. On top of that, there’s the question of if the 80 hour weeks will breed success. 

Tammy and I decided to consult our friend and local photographer, Brenda Irizarry. We spent four hours having an in-depth Q & A with Brenda listening to what she has learned since she decided to pursue photography full time. We discussed everything from difficult clients to budgets for marketing. Not only did Tammy and I walk away feeling confident in our approach, we were also able to share our experiences and ideas thus far. I know we all hear that the market is saturated with photographers, but really, I think there is room for us all. You shouldn't be afraid to share your talents. Who knows you just might learn something in the process.

 My alter ego...

My alter ego...

An Evening with Joe McNally

There is a vast difference between taking a picture and making a photograph.

Robert Heinecken

One of my photography idols is Joe McNally. His command of light is awe-inspiring. I have just about all of his books and have attended his seminars at PSW. When I heard that KelbyOne was sponsoring an evening with Joe McNally, I didn’t care what else was going on; I was going to be there. Linwood and I turned it into a date night. 

KelbyOne was shooting a new film and wanted a live audience, so you’ll be able to spend an evening with Joe as well. I promise you won’t be disappointed.  Here are some of my favorite quotations from Joe that evening:

“I strive to embrace the light.”

“The job of the photographer is to arrest the audience’s eye.”

“Be happy at the moment of exposure.”  

“Get to the level of the life that you are observing.” 

“Human gestures trump all.” 

“What is the story? Tell it photographically.” 

“We all need an editor in our lives.”

In true KelbyOne fashion, there were no inflated egos to contend with, just a conversation amongst friends. I came away with a little more confidence, in search of an editor and the determination to just do it!  Who inspires you in your photography?

 RC Conception, Scott Kelby, me and the one and only Joe McNally!

RC Conception, Scott Kelby, me and the one and only Joe McNally!

Notebooks, Lists, & Jump Drives

After the writer's death, reading his journal is like receiving a long letter.

Jean Cocteau

Those of you who know me will know that I have a collection of notebooks and jump drives. I can't seem to pass up buying just one more whenever I see one that strikes my fancy. In fact, it’s been said I have a notebook for my notebook. I consider them my butterfly catchers.

Being a type-A personality, my brain is always going in a hundred different ways. My notebooks are a place where I can copy down my thoughts and act on them. When I started my journey with photography and being an empty nester, I took out a notebook and divided it into sections: Goals, Gear, Expenses, Learn, Blog, Travel, Tutorials to Watch, Business of Photography, Memberships, and Resources. This has become a place where I can jot down all of my thoughts as they pop up, then go back later and explore those ideas. 

My notebooks have been the single best piece of my journey, especially as I have joined forces with Tammy of Moments Captured Photography, Inc. to open a studio. Tammy and I both have studios set up in hour homes, and establishing a commercial studio is so much more work than I would have thought. My notebooks allow me to stay focused, keep a to-do list, and collect notes about the gear I discover and the ideas I have for the studio. 

What do you do to keep organized and keep your creativity flowing?

 I really think I need the Wonder Woman jump drive I saw a few weeks ago...

I really think I need the Wonder Woman jump drive I saw a few weeks ago...

Photographers Unite

To invent your own life's meaning is not easy, but it's still allowed, and I think you'll be happier for the trouble.

Bill Watterson

My girlfriend and fellow photographer, Tammy, is taking the next step in her journey as a photographer and opening her own studio later this month. I am proud to have been asked to be a guest photographer at the studio and join Tammy in the next stage of her business. These past few weeks have been full of meetings and brainstorming about her vision for the new studio. I am excited that my journey has brought me to this moment in time. Combining our knowledge, talent, and passion for photography, I think the new studio will have something special to offer. 

When you pursue your passion with all of your heart, despite the nay-sayers, you will find that doors open when you least expect them to. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Joining forces with a fellow photographer offers another perspective on your work. Join a photography club. As photographers we are forever evolving.

 My first meet up with the Tampa Strobist Group, images courtesy of Michael Sheehan. I was so nervous stepping out of my comfort zone...

My first meet up with the Tampa Strobist Group, images courtesy of Michael Sheehan. I was so nervous stepping out of my comfort zone...

 So blessed with my hero! He supports Tammy and I 100%, and he really came through in helping us get the studio ready. Many late nights, laughs, and OMG moments!

So blessed with my hero! He supports Tammy and I 100%, and he really came through in helping us get the studio ready. Many late nights, laughs, and OMG moments!

Miami Workshops

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of poem twice.

Robert Frank

 Always willing to help out. My hubby ended up being our model. I know what he's thinking,  I should have gone to the beach.

Always willing to help out. My hubby ended up being our model. I know what he's thinking, I should have gone to the beach.

Tammy and I are taking advantage of every workshop we can as we pursue our passion. This past weekend, we traveled to Miami for a trip full of workshops hosted by Photo Scoop Stay In The Loop at Electric Avenue. We started the weekend off with a lighting workshop with Bill Watkins, a 40-plus-year veteran photographer. We also met a new photographer, Carl, who is studying photography at a local university. We convinced him to take the fashion photography workshop with us the following day with the fabulous and talented photographer Cassie Peech. The shoot was held on a downtown Miami rooftop and it was simply amazing. The hands-on work and collaboration with other photographers was priceless. On our last day in Miami, we took to the streets to just photograph whatever moved us. My hubby was a great assistant, chauffeur, and partner in crime. He survived T & T and even volunteered for our next adventure. He's a keeper.

As Tammy is preparing to open her very own studio, I am delighted to be apart of her journey.

Traveling with photographers means that getting home always takes twice as long, as we have to stop and photograph along the way. We were exhausted, but we got some great shots. Always having your camera with you means you can stop and shoot whatever speaks to you. I really do believe that shooting often keeps your eyes focused on the never ending subjects just waiting to be captured. 

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A New Year Full of Possibilities

Photographs don’t discriminate between the living and the dead. In the fragments of time and shards of light that compose them, everyone is equal... The pictures are always there. And so are the people in them.

Robert Goddard

I have lost too many loved ones over these past few years. It’s never easy, and grief is all consuming. However, one thing I know for sure is that moments, memories, and photographs of my loved ones bring me joy. This past spring, we lost a dear friend, mother, and wife, Onie. She was 47 years young, and the news was devastating. She leaves behind two beautiful, young daughters and a devoted husband. The news just floored me as I looked at my own daughter getting ready for college. I couldn't sleep thinking about her girls without their mother. 

Every year we would receive a Christmas card featuring a photograph of her girls. I have watched them grow up through these yearly photos, and I look forward to receiving them. Just as I was thinking I wouldn't receive a card this year, it arrived. I opened it and there staring back at me was a beautiful photograph of Onie’s girls and her husband. I couldn't control the tears. As I opened the card to read the message, I was given an amazing gift—A picture of Onie with her family and a caption:

Mom/Onie always in our hearts - I'd like the memory of me to be a happy one. I'd like to leave an echo whispering softly down the ways of happy times and laughing times and bright and sunny days.

It was the way I always want to remember Onie: with her girls and smiling. As I reflect on this past year, I realize I can neither control the good nor the bad. Despite knowing that, I am choosing to focus on the endless possibilities of the year that lies ahead.

I learned this week something I already knew—my photographs tell my story and are priceless to me.

Assisting on Senior Shoot

I’ve found [photography] has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.  

Elliott Erwitt

This week I had the pleasure of assisting on a senior portrait shoot for the son of my friend and fellow photographer, Tammy. Alicia Fernandez was the lead shooter. Watching her work is magic. You can see the wheels turing as she scopes out the next shot or location. Assisting is one great way to learn new skills and to keep fresh, as it gives you a different perspective on a shoot. It’s also a great way to cut your cost, as by volunteering to assist on each other’s shoots, you eliminate the cost of hiring an assistant. 

 Yes, we do live in Florida, but this day it was freezing... so glad we were able to take the shoot inside!

Yes, we do live in Florida, but this day it was freezing... so glad we were able to take the shoot inside!

Assisting a photographer can be just as much fun as being the lead photographer. I really think taking direction from another photographer keeps you on your toes.

Off Camera Flash

Keep shooting. It helps the model's confidence. Flashing strobes are like applause. 

A. K. Nicholas

I took another workshop this week all about off-camera flash. I learned so much and loved playing with the light.  It’s easy for photographers to stick to what they know. Taking a leap into another area of photography can be a little intimidating. However, once you do, you may just find it opens new ideas and passions you weren't even expecting.

There are many different ways to arrive at the same photograph. Remember that style and art are subjective. Get out, shoot what makes you happy, and find your style.

Continuning Education: Photography Workshops

Usually the amateur is defined as an immature state of the artist: someone who cannot — or will not — achieve the mastery of a profession. But in the field of photographic practice, it is the amateur, on the contrary, who is the assumption of the professional: for it is he who stands closer to the noeme of Photography.

Roland Barthes

My grandmother used to say she learned something new every day. This is the way I live my life—always striving to learning something. My photography is no different. I am eager to learn from different photographers and other creative people. Physicians call it continuing education. No matter your profession, staying current and learning new things is what makes whatever you do more enjoyable. 

To put this into practice, Tammy and I have been taking hands on workshops with www.photoscoopstayintheloop.com and KelbyOne working on everything from shooting in manual mode to playing with lighting. There is something to be said for hands-on shooting with another photographer right there to answer a question or help you set up the shot you have in your mind.

I love taking hands on workshops probably even more than some of the classes I have taken over the years. It is so much more useful to actually do what you are learning right at the moment you are learning it. These type of workshops allow you to be pushed out of your comfort zone, and they also allow you to mingle with fellow photographers and observe other styles. No matter where you are on your photographers journey I encourage you to find a local workshop, class or seminar.

How do you stay current and keep your ideas fresh?

Girls Weekend

A photograph is a click away. A good photograph is a hundred clicks away and a better one, a thousand clicks away.  

Kowtham Kumar K

We are all so busy these days that it’s hard to get together and just have fun sometimes. My girlfriends and I are no exception. Two of us are taking care of our ailing parents, and my other two friends have teenagers in high school. So, although we try to get together, something always seems to get in the way. 

My girlfriend Tammy took the lead and planned a weekend get away to a local ranch. I had no idea that this place existed.  Seriously, if you are ever in Florida, you have to check this place out. We had a blast riding the mechanical bull, skeet shooting, watching rodeos, and line dancing. Thank goodness we took a vow not to upload any videos to social media! 

As we are all shutterbugs, we took our cameras and just clicked away. We shot using available light, moving subjects, and large animals. In the evenings, we worked on uploading our daily shots and catching up on the never-ending list of photos to edit. We relaxed, danced, talked, and laughed to the wee hours of the morning. It was just what we all needed. A reset.

We really do have to make the time to reconnect with the people in our lives. We were all able to reset ourselves and return home ready to tackle life as it unfolds. Clicking away all weekend also allowed us to photograph a variety of subjects in various settings, and also pushed us outside of our norms. 

Hiring a Fellow Photographer & Constructive Criticism 

A true artist willingly removes their heart, allows constructive criticism to stomp it, then puts it back--bruised and aching--to continue improving due to the all-consuming obsessive love for their art.

H. G. Mewis

My friend and fellow photographer, Tammy, recently hired another photographer, Alicia Fernandez of http://photoscoopstayintheloop.com, to help her sort through a shoot. According to Tammy, the shoot just didn’t go the way she planned, leaving her unhappy with all of her photos. 

Tammy and Alicia allowed me to sit in on their session. First, they went through all the photos that Tammy shot, and Alicia offered constructive criticism on each of them as they came across the screen. Alicia truly critiqued each photo, commenting on the composition, posing, and lighting. She offered advice on what could have been done differently to achieve the desired shot. More importantly, she quickly pointed out when everything did come together in a particular shot. As an observer, I especially took note when Alicia would ask Tammy, “What don’t you like about this shot?” or, “What do you think is wrong with this shot?” These simple questions forced Tammy to think about each photo and prompted further discussion about the creative process on location. Furthermore, Alicia offered ideas on dealing with the unexpected, posing on the spot, and keeping your cool when you feel rushed. 

Once the photos where critiqued, it was time to go through again and pick the ones that Tammy did like. For me this was the fun part, as I had not taken the photos, making it easy to be objective. By the end of this review, we realized Tammy actually had more “keepers” than she had previously thought. This process made me realize we can all benefit from a fresh set of eyes and some consecutive criticism.

Now it was time to move on to the really fun part of the session--editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Tammy and I are both fairly new to Lightroom and Photoshop, so having Alicia there to walk us through each stage of the processing was beneficial. Editing is the part where the art happens for me, as a good photo becomes even better, and a story unfolds in the final image. 

I know hiring another photographer isn't always an option. Get creative, barter, offer to assist on a future shoot. Join a photography club. Start to surround yourself with people who share your passion. I think hiring a fellow photographer for a review of a shoot, your portfolio, or your post processing is another one of the tools we can use to become better photographers. It is also important to have a little bit of working knowledge of who you are hiring. Not all photographers are created equal, and no one wants to work with an ego-driven photographer. Tammy had taken a workshop with Alicia, so she knew that Alicia was not only a gifted photographer, but also a skillful instructor. Spending the day observing this process was really valuable experience for me. Tammy and I both signed up to take a workshop with Alicia and are looking forward to traveling to Miami in the new year to take yet another one of her workshops. 

We all have something to learn and something to teach. Sometimes we just have to put ourselves out there and let the universe do the rest.

Happy shooting!

Back-Up Plan

Be infinitely flexible and constantly amazed.

Jason Kravitz

The benefit of making a plan is that you have a plan. The downside is sometimes plans have to change. I was really looking forward to taking the MK Lightroom 5 seminar in Ft. Lauderdale. I did my very first Kelby Live Tour with Matt way back with LR 3. I learned so much that day that Matt became my go-to instructor and inspiration for everything Lightroom. After working in Lightroom 5 since its release, I figured the refresher and instruction about new features would be good for me. 

As a bonus, my hubby and I were going to drive down to take advantage of shooting along the way. One of the best thing about being retired empty nesters is we can hit the road often. I was all packed and ready to head to South Florida, but when I picked up our puppy, Luna, to get her ready to board, all plans changed. We went off to the vet, and it turns out that Luna is just about 5 months and in premature heat! 

A delay is not a stop sign. As we could no longer board Luna, by the time we finally made it home, we decided to just change plans and cancel going to the seminar. I compromised by logging on to Kelby Training and watching Matt’s LR5 series again. Keep moving forward...

Plans will change, and that’s okay. Having a back-up plan or being open to plans changing can help keep you inspired and focused. A change of plans is no reason to give up.

Why I love Zack Arias

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

I was first introduced to Zack Arias’ work through Kelby Training. His video, “The 5k Challenge,” will reignite your passion for shooting. No matter what gear you have or where you are on your journey as a photographer, you to will be Zack Arias’ groupie, too. Here’s an excerpt:

Please do not think that i’m speaking from the mountain top of the photography industry like i’m some Grand Poobah of light or something. If there is a mountain top, then I just recently made it to base camp. After 16 years of pursuing photography, I feel I am just now getting ready to begin climbing. As I answer these questions, I’m doing so from the perspective of dealing with current issues in my own life, or I’m speaking to myself in the past. I’m saying things I wish I would have known “back then.

 - Zack Arias; Photography Q&A Real Questions. Real answers.

This passage pretty much sums up why I love Zack Arias and why I think every photographer should read his book. I promise it is full of questions you want answered -- everything from exposure drills to great photographers you should know to the dreaded “gear lust.” Once I started reading his book, I couldn’t put it down. Even better is that Zack is hilarious.

This week I decided to actually start reading some of these photography books I buy. You know, the ones we all buy thinking simply owning them will make us better photographers. I am so glad that I started with Zack’s book. It’s so easy to compare ourselves with others and allow self-doubt to take over, sabotaging our journey before we even begin. My takeaway from Zack’s book: embrace what you have and where you are, and take a leap of faith. It was an inspirational read to get out of a rut, or as Zack would say, “get off your ass” and just shoot! 

Source: http://www.peachpit.com

Changing Seasons

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Lao Tzu

I love fall, crisp mornings, changing foliage, and sweater weather. When I landed in Durham, NC, I could hardly wait to get to my daughter's dorm to see her smiling face. She greeted me with a warm, welcoming hug, and all the stress of missing her melted away. I brought her up to speed on my 52 week journey while I made her Santa Fe Chili. The fall season is off to a great start. Because this week was all about catching up, we shopped, cooked, dined out, and just had great time along with my best friend and her family. In keeping with my commitment, I shot a few photos, and every evening I watched at least one tutorial video on Kelby Training. I started with the Accessories Basic series. Although I knew most of the info, it was good to refresh and think about the gear I already have and what I would like to purchase. I highly recommend watching "Professional Photography on a Budget: The 5k Challenge" with Zack Arias will set you on the right path.  It will really help you come to terms with what gear you already have and re-enforce that getting out to shoot is still the best way to grow and take better photos. If you don’t want to join Kelby Training, remember you can also rent their videos.

With each changing season comes great opportunity to live in the moment and find the joy in the change. Again, going back to the basics of all aspects of photography is not only a good idea from a continuing education standpoint, but it will really boost your confidence. You will realize that you know more than you think. As I sat there and watched my baby girl walk out of her dorm, it finally hit me she is a young woman who has begun her own journey. I wasn’t really fired from my job as her mother, even if it feels that way sometimes. Transitioning from full-time mom to full-time photographer isn’t so bad. It is just the season...

Re-Designing My Creative Space

 
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”  
~ Maya Angelou 
I can hardly wait until Friday -- I am heading to North Carolina to visit my baby girl and my best friend. I plan on taking a few days to shoot and capture the fall foliage while enjoying the cooler weather. I have spent most of this week cleaning and sorting my studio and thinking about how I want to use the space to enhance my photography. With the help of my hubby and the puppies, I decided to move my backdrop to where I can capture more natural light while still using the studio lights when needed. I searched my house for interesting things to photograph and carved out a space to work on editing in Lightroom and Photoshop. I also took this time to catalog my gear and reorganize my camera bag. 

 

 You need to really think about the way you want to use your creative space. This will help you define your workflow and also make it easier to practice shooting. I also picked up a cute notebook to jot down notes and ideas as they come to me.