Photography without science, is artless.


Photography is widely accepted as an art form, but now that cameras have evolved into highly automated image capture machines, the juxtaposition of the science and art is blurred like never before.

Allow me to explain.  The great photographic artists understood the science of photography, and devoted endless hours toward learning everything possible about the makeup of film emulsion, how it reacted to lighting and exposure, and how the chemistry in their darkroom could be altered to improve results both in processing the film, and making prints.

In contrast, cameras today are easy to use, and require virtually no knowledge or understanding of light or exposure.  Photography is a great hobby, and we all enjoy snapping pictures of our daily lives, travels and activities.  I ate at a restaurant recently that “featured” work of a local photographer on the walls.  There were a few decent images, but the overall quality of the images was embarrassing to the profession.  In addition to compositional errors (crooked horizons, awkwardly cropped images…) the lack of technical excellence resulted in poorly exposed images with no tone control and over saturated files.

The fact that there are so many photographers that don’t know what they’re doing is only eclipsed by the fact that most don’t know, that they don’t know what they’re doing.

Yes boys and girls, light, tone, exposure and controlling noise, are all key factors to successful image making.  I apply my years of experience, training and artistic abilities every time I pick up a camera.  As I’ve stated before, the best camera IS the one you have with you, but it takes more than a “good” camera to consistently capture great images.  Photography can be highly pre-visualized, planned and executed.  It can also be spontaneous, and many photographers admit their favorite images are often from those moments that just happened.

Anyone can get lucky and capture a priceless moment.  I meet many photographers who express frustration that their camera didn’t work right.  This image is a perfect example of such a situation.  The same night that my good friend and fellow photographer Dennis Zerwas Jr. and I went out to photograph this Aurora (Northern Lights) last winter, a photographer I just met just couldn’t believe how nice the images I created were, as hers just “didn’t turn out”.

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A full moon, single digit temps and fresh snow don’t make it easy, and there’s no “automatic setting” to get perfect pictures.

I use all the same skill set when photographing portraits of high school seniors, families & weddings.  Call me anytime to chat about your photography expeditions or to schedule a very professionally created series of portraits.

I just can’t wait until they make a paint brush that I can put on “p”.  Then I’ll be a professional painter too…

Barry 651-426-0232  www.pictureplace.com

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My first iPhone Wedding


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Ok, before you get all excited here’s the “rest of the story” for you to ponder.

We attended a wedding this summer, where I was not doing the photography (I believe this is only the third time that has ever happened) of a daughter of close friends.  A wedding photographer makes for a stir crazy guest (as I watched the 2 photographers roam about during the ceremony, watching what they were doing, wondering why, hearing every shutter trip…).
From our front row seats, I took a few shots as a random act of kindness for the parents of the bride.  My images are now being requested to “supplement” the work of the hired shooters, and I’ll of course gladly give them what I have from my iPhone.

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What is interesting is that in this day and age where so many photographers now shoot thousands of images at weddings, how often brides and or their parents find themselves wanting more.  Wait a minute, “wanting more”, how is this possible with the thousands and thousands of digital pictures being shot at most weddings?  Sadly, the disappointment level is running pretty high resulting from a lack of the right shots.  The 350 pictures of the wedding party jumping in the field are fun, but how did we miss getting a picture with Grandma?

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When asked to critique work of young, new wedding photographers, the body of my critique is almost always the same.  I typically see some nice images, very relaxed and natural, great expressions and fun.  What I rarely see is a cohesive story and well planned, organized group shots, and relationship combinations that are so vital to tell the complete story of the day, AND capturing images with the important people in a couples life.

It’s great that so many photographers have such a great time at weddings.  It’s great that technology has allowed creativity to soar in some cases, without any real knowledge of proper exposure.  It’s great that DSLR gear, and now mirrorless cameras have gotten so affordable.

What’s not great is that far too many brides and grooms experience disappointment in the final results of their wedding photography.  Photojournalism is great, but I will always use it in balance with striking portraits, touching family groupings, balanced, comfortable group portraits that befit the formal occasion of a wedding, and a few images from every wedding that leave everyone saying, “wow”.  I am blessed with an internal wedding day meter that allows me to adjust my plan on the fly to fit what needs to be done, in the time allowed, every time.  When a bride is an hour late, something has to give and the plan needs to be adjusted.  It is never an excuse that you ran out of time, and that’s why you missed the shot with the bride’s 94 year old grandmother.

As I was thinking about this blog content, I had another conversation with the mother of the groom (while I was photographing her last senior of 5 kids in recent years) this weekend.  I was asked to do engagement pictures for this couple last fall.  We got some awesome images, and they loved them.  But, as is so often the case, “a friend” of theirs started doing weddings, so they went with this creative new shooter.  The mother shared with me the frustration, and sad (bordering on angry) feelings about horrible group shots, poorly posed, shadows, dark backgrounds… and no pictures with parents, siblings and grandparents.  They were told by the photographer the church was too dark to get good ceremony pictures (which were all blurry), and were surprised that this photographer charged only about $500 less than I would have, and didn’t even use a tripod, or any external lighting of any kind.  As the mom put it “when spending this kind of money, I thought we were hiring a pro”.  Photographers are often stereotyped as gearheads with far too much gear with them at any time.  Guilty as charged, but I can’t imagine shooting a wedding will less than 2 or 3 cameras and 7-10 lenses.  On the upside, I don’t need a gym membership lugging all this stuff around…

I’ve been told by some wedding planners that brides are starting to figure it out, and are doing a better job vetting their photographers.  I hope this is the case.  It is damaging to the entire profession to have these kinds of experiences occurring so frequently.  We all had to start somewhere, and all I ask is that new photographers be a little more patient before labeling themselves an expert, and that established photographers listen to what the clients want and deliver a great experience.

I was awarded the top wedding album in the state of Minnesota for a reason.  I know what I’m talking about.

Can’t wait for my next wedding in December.

Barry 651-426-0232

http://www.pictureplace.com

Neither snow, nor rain, nor wind, nor gloom of night…


Please accept my apologies for the “test” blog with no link (WordPress and I were at odds this morning).

November 10, 2012 was the annual lighting of Split Rock Lighthouse on Lake Superior along Minnesota’s North Shore.

I joined 5 other photographers for a “Retreat on the Rocks”, which was a group of photographers with 147 years of combined experience, 23 cameras (not counting phones) and gear which included high end point and shoot cameras, dslr bodies and lenses, medium format and 3 4×5 cameras.

We awoke Saturday morning to driving winds, rain and what promised to be a tussle with an angry Lake Superior.

 

After a short photo shoot along the shoreline (and getting nailed be a few waves) we retreated to the cabin to get ready for the big event.  It was time to decide what gear to pack, and start planning the shoot.  The conditions foiled a couple of epic ideas we had, but there’s always next year, stay tuned…  They read the names of the victims of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (I still can’t believe they didn’t pipe in a little Gordon Lightfoot) and lighted it for 1.5 hours, once a year, on November 10, period.

We encountered conditions that clearly separated the men from the boys as they say.  Temps in the low thirties, winds estimated at 30-50mph off the lake and a driving rain that was mostly horizontal, right in our faces (and lenses).  Autofocus was useless, the dark overcast fog limited visibility and the light levels dropped quickly.  Anyone attempting to shoot on program auto, with slow zoom lenses was likely very disappointed with their results.

Full command of your gear was required as exposure adjustments, ISO adjustments and critical manual focus execution was paramount, all while you could barely see what you were doing, while not being able to feel your fingers most of the time. The humidity was so high, that wiping the water off your lenses was pointless.  Our gear was wrapped in plastic bags, and we were dressed for the conditions.  I packed a bit heavy and while determined to squeeze off a roll on my Hasselblad, the roll of ISO 100 film wasn’t ideal.

The rest of the group stayed on the shore and I headed up to see what I could get next to and inside the light house. I knew my lenses would likely fog the second I went from really cold, to inside a humid, human filled building and I was right.  My trusty iPhone saved me and I was able to capture a few great shots fog free (hand dryers in restrooms are a great way to de-fog your lenses in a pinch).

The next image (shot on the iPhone) is a rare glimpse of the lamp lit and rotating.  It was very cool to see.

I have blogged before about the advantages of hiring an experienced pro to photograph the special occasions. I can assure you that anyone that can manage what the 6 of us managed, in these conditions, pass every test when it comes to command of gear, and knowing how to use it.  Those of us in the group that shoot weddings took it in stride, not really all that different…

This was a challenging, and very rewarding experience.  The gear seems to have survived (ok, a few lenses spent a night in a bag of rice to dry out), and it was a great time for all.  Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing any images from this collection.

Gales of November Special Customer Bonus

For the month of November, any Picture Place customer who reserves any session, wedding or event (which can of course be at a later date) will receive a choice of any image from this signature collection (ranging in size from 8×8 to 12×18).  Call 651-426-0232 for details.

It was fascinating to huddle around our screens and compare images to see how we all captured and treated the event differently.  I’ll never forget the majestic sound of the crashing waves, and the sick feeling of removing lens caps with what seemed to be a cup full of water trapped on the lens.  Tripods on slippery rocks added to the fun (you don’t want to get swept off the rocks into this thirty something degree water) and hand holding (as I did for all of my shots near and in the light house) is an added challenge when you are freezing.

Technical Info (for your photo geeks):

Nikon D700 and D200 cameras.  10.5 fisheye, 70-210 2.8,  300 2.8, iPhone 4s, Hasselblad ELX with an 80 2.8.  ISO range used from 800-3200.  Camera RAW

I get asked frequently “Barry, do you ever go out and take pictures outside the studio for fun?”, the answer is yes.

Barry

barry@pictureplace.com   651-426-0232   Twitter @fstop95  http://www.pictureplace.com

 

Making memories that last


I recently met someone who is is a national sales position in the electronics industry that cited a recent study indicating 62% of pictures shot, never leave a memory card.  As professional photographers, we of course rotate cards, and hopefully have a rock solid archiving, backup plan for our images.  The megabytes, gigabytes, terabytes get intimidating for everyone at some level.  I manage an ever growing archive at Picture Place that is well in excess of 7TB and is growing all the time.  Digital capture keeps getting better, and the megapixel sizes keep growing.  It wasn’t long ago when many professionals thought that a 6MP camera was as good as it got.  Well, when it became 10,12,14, 21, 24 and now even 36MP in DSLR capture, the file sizes are exploding.  I now carry around a mobile phone with an insanely good 8MP camera, crazy.

The simplicity, convenience and ease of capturing images, and making memories is fantastic.  The portrait and event photography I do professionally has never looked better, and I am always finding ways to create better images for my customers.  When hiring a photographer, there is real value in working with a professional that not only will deliver great images, but will handle, store and archive your images for years to come.

On a personal level, many of us fall horribly short in the archive chapter of all of this. Scrapbooking was all the rage not long ago. I love looking at the books we (ok, my wife) created for our kids.  When we all recorded our life experiences with film cameras, the prints we had made provided an ongoing inventory of pictures to put in albums, scrapbooks and to display around the house.  When was the last time you made a few prints of anything?  What a shame that the grandparents aren’t on facebook, they’re missing out on all the cool instagram mobile uploads I post of my kids…sound familiar?

I love the instant posting that just keeps getting easier all the time.  I probably post a mobile upload 3 times a week to entertain myself, and enrich the lives of my followers… 

Then again, remember that incredible picture you posted 3 weeks ago?  Let me guess, you don’t remember. In the world of facebook, the feed keeps rolling. Yes, timeline keeps them around, but really?  Does anyone care enough to stroll back through weeks, months, years of postings?

Won’t it be great when my two and a half month old grand-daughter wants to see all the pictures we’re all shooting of her?  Our facebook feeds are full of great shots of her.  Hmmm, fast forward 10, 20, 30 years.  Facebook?  Will it even exist?  How many mobile phones, computers, iphoto libraries, hard drives will you have gone thru?  “Hey grandpa, I’m going on a mission trip to ____________, my mom told me you went there in 2014, can I see your pictures?”,  “well, let me think about that honey, that was a long time ago, yes, here is a CR-ROM with all the pictures, gee, I don’t have anything that can read these old discs….”

As a public service announcement to all my family, friends and Picture Place customers.  Please, think about this, and at the very least, start making prints of your life experiences.  Consumer level prints are dirt cheap, and super easy to have printed.  Retailers offer print sales all the time.  Take some time to think about where all your pictures are stored and how you need to start organizing and archiving them somehow. If you want suggestions, contact me anytime and I’d be happy to help.  While you’re at it, schedule a family portrait with me, it will force you to get some prints made for your walls, not your wallpaper.

Happy archiving.

Barry

www.pictureplace.com  651-426-0232  barry@pictureplace.com

Artists are people too.


In a world where we are exposed to images, videos, commentaries and opinions, there is something truly magical about art.

Not all art is good art, nor is all art loved by everyone. Walking thru a local art show last weekend it became all too obvious that today’s artists are earning the “starving artists” label like never before.  In the realm of photography, I am saddened by how the capture, presentation and sale of great images has been dumbed down to a “hey, nice shot” reaction to the masses, and consequently, very little great photography is being purchased.

On a recent episode of www.prophotoshow.com we discussed this topic, and specifically addressed the capabilities and limitations of capturing great images on an iPhone, and whether it is or isn’t a legitimate medium.  While we’d always prefer to be using our pro level gear, sometimes, that just isn’t possible.

One of the best landscape and nature photographers I know (Lawrence Sawyer) recently took a long trek on a vacation at a time of day when he thought there was no point in dragging his Nikon D800e along (after all, the lighting would be horrible).  He then stumbled upon a breathtaking waterfall, surrounded by glorious fall colors, and subsequently created a multi frame/photo stitched panorama using his iPhone.  It is often said that the best camera to own, is the one you have with you.  Case in point.

Visual artists see things differently, but more importantly, skilled photographers apply years of technical training and knowledge into every image captured.

Appreciated craftsmanship in everything you come across.  There is usually a mix of quality, materials and fine tuning that is present in well executed art of all kinds.

Sure, you might be able to snap a picture from the same general spot, but don’t kid yourselves, it won’t look the same.  If you see art of any kind that speaks to you, thank the artist, and invest in their craft and buy it.  If you are hiring a photographer for most any kind of portrait session, special occasion or event, call me at 651-426-0232.  Sometimes, it just pays to do it right.

Barry 651-426-0232

www.pictureplace.com

Enjoy this image captured one morning while walking my dog.  This moment came and went in less than 30 seconds.  Good thing I had a great camera with me, in my pocket… I am offering this print for only $35 in a 12×18 glossy format (regular price $69).  It would make a great Christmas gift!

Sunrise over White Bear Lake.  

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Notably cool


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Senior portraits on location are exciting, and can be quite challenging.

We had a short amount of time for this location portion of the session. This building is in downtown Minneapolis, and the sun was close to dropping behind the building.  The glass buildings across the street provided some interesting reflection/fill, but the clock was ticking as the sun was dropping fast.

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The other tiny little problem was that this parking lot was jammed with cars, 8 rows deep which really limited my options.  The student is an accomplished musical theatre student, so this location was ideal.

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Just as we were concluding our session, I had a wild idea to use my beloved 10.5mm fisheye lens.

The blue sky (of an almost fall afternoon) setup a unique opportunity for this shot.  I added as much flash fill as I could achieve with the limitations given by the 180 degree field of view of the lens.  Capturing several landmark buildings of Minneapolis, including of course the famous music wall made for a great image.

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Have a great idea for a new location for some senior portraits?  Call me anytime, I’d love to hear your ideas, or schedule a session with you!  Picture Place 651-426-0232

Have a great year Class of Twenty 13!

Barry

Lions, Tigers and Bears (and portraits)


I was asked recently if I would meet a Class of 2013 senior at our local zoo for her senior portraits. Frequent visits to the zoo with her grandfather as a young girl, made this the perfect site for her portraits.

I packed up my Nikon D700, a shoulder bag full of lenses and my trusty SB900 flash on a radio trigger, and headed to the zoo.  The technical challenges included:  The busiest day of the summer at the zoo (zillions of people, with far too many huge strollers), high sun, few clouds, middle of the day and we had about an hour scheduled to get it all done.

The key to a fantastic senior portrait experience is to collaborate and capture images that shows off the personality of every student we photograph.

We were thrilled with the results, and I am already excited to photograph my next senior at the zoo!  Call us at 651-426-0232   www.pictureplace.com

Make every shot count, even when it’s for fun.


I am amazed at the poor quality of images I see almost daily on Facebook.  Even fellow photographers from time to time post pictures that just aren’t all that great technically, artistically and compositionally.

My daughter got engaged a short time ago, and the proposal happened at our cabin, with both families (parents and one sibling at least) part of the top secret event.  I had no idea what kind of images I would capture, but I had the sense that the opportunity to create something magical was certainly a good possibility.

When the couple returned from their dinner cruise on the lake, we greeted them, and had just a few minutes of some pretty sweet lighting so I sprang into action.  It was exciting to be able to apply my skills to execute and create some spectacular images for the couple.  While I prefer the pace of my normal planned engagement sessions, working under pressure (especially with your own daughter) sure adds to the moment.  Call me to setup your engagement, portrait session or wedding at 651-426-0232  www.pictureplace.com

Enjoy these two images!

Barry

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It is the Bride’s day…


I have photographed weddings for over 30 years. I have seen it all, and probably should write a book someday.  While there has been a trend to “candid”, “photojournalism” style photography, I always work in some dramatic images.  It is very rewarding to create stunning images, like this one without the use of any automated exposure.  This image was carefully backlit with a portable strobe (on 1/8th power) and I dragged the shutter speed down just far enough to open up the warm ambient light at the front of the church.  I could have adjusted the white balance to get more natural colors on the alter, but I wanted the color contrast to add drama to the framing and composition of the bride in the aisle.

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I love the classic lines and elegant simplicity of this image.  Call me to discuss your wedding day. I won’t offer you 4000 pictures on a disc, but I will create a collection of images that will amaze you. Set your wedding apart from your friends and hire a seasoned pro.  Barry – Picture Place Photography – 651-426-0232

 

Sealed with a Kiss


Engagement sessions are a blast!  The groom to be from this session brought his dog along.  It was comical trying to work with them above the zeal of the barking dog who was none too please to be tied up around tree after tree.

After getting a few adorable pictures with the dog, I asked that they kiss, and that one of them make some kind of noise to get the dogs attention.  I got exactly what I was looking for!  The dog giving a wet kiss to his master (I wonder if that dog is just a little jealous these days…).

I really enjoy spending time with couples long before their wedding day. Building a good relationship with my clients is an essential part of our success.

Pets are great.  We encourage folks to include them.  Give us a call anytime to schedule your senior portrait, family or engagement session at 651-426-0232.  www.pictureplace.com