Monday, January 30, 2006

Marantz 2235 - A Lesson in Photography

Back in the early 70's, stereo receivers such as the Marantz 2235 were the audio components many budding audiophiles wanted to buy. Why? They were built like tanks and sounded better than most other components in its day.

In the late 70's and early 80's my family owned a stereo store in Skokie, IL and we sold (among other brands) Marantz components. I was always impressed by those old receivers, but little did I know that in subsequent years, Marantz would undergo great changes and those great monster receivers would go the route of becoming "mediocre" stereo equipment.

I always wished I had kept one of those old receivers just to remember the days when I worked in our family's store. Now years later, while checking out the offerings of eBay, I found that some companies have been restoring these great stereo components and selling them again! Well, I snatched up three different models of Marantz receivers as quick as I could, and I hope to get one or two more in the future. This one above just arrived today, so I waited to post this just so I could take a photo of it to show it off.

But as I was preparing to take the photo, I thought this might also serve as a lesson on photography as well.

If you look at the first photo only, you might say, "Wow... nice shot." But if you look at the second photo, you can clearly see there's a lot more to that old Marantz 2235 than you thought! Yes, you can see the nice glow of those gorgeous blue lights that helped define the look of those classic Marantz receivers! And in case you are wondering, the light are ON in the first photo... you just can't tell.

How did I get the lights to show in that second shot ?

Well, it's actually a "time exposure" shot along with a flash! It's called, "Dragging The Shutter," and it's a technique I often use in wedding photography when shooting the formal group photos!

You see, the first shot is just a typical flash shot. It exposes the image properly for the majority of the receiver, but it does nothing for the glowing blue lights. So, by leaving the shutter of the camera open longer and mounting the camera on a tripod, the flash exposes the whole receiver but the long exposure allows the lights from the tuning dial to record on the image sensor of my digital camera as well. In wedding photography, this technique allows me to get those nicely lit photos of my clients as well as getting nicely lit backgrounds of the church!

For the technically-minded reader, the first shot was taken at 1/60 second at f 8.0 with a flash. The second shot was taken at 1 second at f 8.0 with a flash. The second shot is properly exposed by the flash with an aperture of f 8.0, but because the shutter remains open for a full second (much longer than 1/60 second) it allows the light from the receiver's tuning dial to record as well.

Cool, huh?


For more information on old Marantz receivers, check out this site:

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Sometimes I Just Luck Out!

I found this guy just standing in the corner of the living room of one of my 2005 bride's parent's home. Now how can I just pass up an opportunity like this? You don't get to see too many bears in green derby hats!

I told you before, I like shooting the most interesting things!

So if you don't want me to shoot it, you better hide it before I get there!

Monday, January 23, 2006

What Makes A Shot - Professional?

This is a photo of guitar legend Doyle Dykes. You may remember him from one of the first posts I did back in October 2005.

Is this a professional shot? Or is it a snapshot?

Defining a professional shot isn't easy. I suppose if you wanted to get technical about it, you'd have to ask, "Was I PAID to take this shot? Afterall, once you get paid for your work, aren't you then a professional?

In this case, I wasn't paid for this shot. But I am a paid professional photographer as far as weddings are concerned. Does that make this photo any less professional?

On the other hand, does the shot look professional? Or does it look like a typical snapshot?

Let me give you some specifics about how this shot was taken. The lighting is from a colored spotlight that was being projected onto Doyle. It was fairly bright, so a flash was definitely not necesary. But the light had a red gel on it causing any photo taken to have a reddish tone to it (by the way, Doyle's guitar is orange... that's how it is even without the red light. Chet Atkins had orange guitars too and this color was chosen by Doyle as a tribute to his late friend Chet.) Concert lighting isn't all that flattering sometimes, but it IS dramatic.

To get this shot back into a usable image, the color was corrected in Photoshop. Is this something that the average person can do? Sure, if you own a copy of Photoshop!

So is this image a professional shot?

To the casual viewer, they might say this is a professional shot. It took some knowledge of photography and some fairly expensive equipment to get this shot. The average person could not have taken it with his "point and shoot" camera because certain camera settings were necessary to get the photo to "record" properly on the camera. And, manipulation in post production was necessary to correct the color.

But to me, this is a snapshot. Why? Because it was just a series of photos I took quickly at one of Doyle's concerts. I take photos of Doyle all the time when he comes to town. (I think Doyle expects it now!) And, I always use my digital SLR cameras and long telephoto lenses to take these photos because I'm often farther away than I'd like to be. Plus, I always correct my images in Photoshop. So really, nothing out of the ordinary was done to this image that I wouldn't have done to any other image I take.

Now you may argue that you can't take a photo that looks like this and that the fact that I am a paid photographer by profession makes the photo "professional." It does have a certain "professional" look to it, doesn't it?

So is it a professional shot?

I think a shot is a professional shot if you want to call it a professional shot. It really doesn't matter! If you like a photo, that's all that counts. That's what makes it professional.


Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Rule of Thirds

Recently, I exchanged email messages with one of my brides from 2005 about getting better pictures with her new digital camera. She's an aspiring photographer... who knows, maybe one day we'll see her shooting weddings!

But during that email exchange, I brought up the subject of composition and mentioned the "Rule Of Thirds." So rather than just sharing this secret with just her, I thought I'd post it here for all of you to read.

The Rule Of Thirds is used in many photos to get better dynamics in composition. The photo here shows this composition. If you divide the photo into a "Tic-Tac-Toe" grid, you'll find that the subject's head is placed in the third to the upper left and his legs extend out to the bottom third to the lower right.

Had I shot this image with his head in the middle of the photo, a lot of the dynamics of the photo would be lost. Following the rule of thirds helps keep the interest in the photo.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I usually get at least one question per wedding about my lenses. Let's face it, there are a lot of guys at weddings who love taking photos! So when I pull out these very expensive lenses to photograph weddings, you can see all the "camera guys" turn and try to figure out what lens I have mounted on my camera! It's actually kind of funny to watch.

I have gone through so many lenses over the course of my photography career. I buy, sell and replace them like there's no tomorrow. Why? It seems something new comes out every year that I just have to have for my clients. Sure, I can get by with the same old lenses and probably make more money per year since I'm not spending all my earnings on new gear, but somehow, I just have to have the sharpest images out there. Some say I'm fanatical when it comes to my gear. Maybe they are right. But it benefits my clients as well, so I'm ok with it.

My lenses are all "Fast Lenses" meaning they will capture images in very low light. Couple this to the high ISO settings on my cameras (the equivalent to fast film), I can shoot where there is very little light and still gather a great looking image. Plus, fast lenses have a quality of blurring out the background of an image that is not the main subject matter. It just makes the subject "pop out" at you because it's the only thing that's in focus. It really looks cool and many of my clients comment on how "professional-looking" my images are. Well a lot of it can be attributed to those great new lenses!

Pictured above in order is the Sigma 30mm f 1.4 lens (a new acquisition for this year's wedding), the Nikon 17-55mm f 2.8 DX lens (also a new one for me this year to replace my 28-70mm f2.8 lens) and the Nikon 70-200mm f 2.8 VR lens - not new, but it was new last year...

The 30mm f1.4 lens is really nice. This thing is two f stops faster than the f 2.8 lenses which means it can really get low light photos better than any other lens in it's class. I also have a 50mm f1.4 from Nikon that is used quite a lot too.

The 17-55mm f2.8 DX lens will be my "main lens" for this year. I replaced the 28-70mm f2.8 because I needed a slightly wider lens so I would not be switching lenses as often. Plus it's a tad lighter in weight which comes in handy since the new Nikon D200 camera is heavier than my old cameras. That extra 1/2 pound means a lot over 8-12 hours of carrying it non-stop.

The big 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens is really cool. With "Vibration Reduction" technology, I can shoot very long telephoto images without blur even hand-holding this lens! I've shot many weddings where I had to be way in the back of the church with this lens. Nothing beats a fast telephoto lens with VR and high ISO on a camera!

I have many other lenses that I use for special purposes as well... but more on those later!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

How Long Do CD-R or DVD-R Image Files Last?

Not forever!!

CD-R's and DVD-R's are not designed to last forever. Each company has different qualities in their digital media and it's a sure thing that the CD's and DVD's do not last forever. This means that the data on the discs could be lost over time.

Because of this, I always suggest my clients do a backup of their image files and slideshows onto other storage media often. How often? Who knows! CD-R's and DVD-R's can last for years, but nobody really knows how many years.

I suggest taking your CD's and DVD's and copying the files onto your hard drive and keeping a copy there. Then, every few years, make a backup copy on another CD-R or DVD-R (it's up to you if you want to use DVD-R or DVD+R.) The main point here is BACKUP YOUR DATA often.

I do not guarantee that my files of your wedding images will be available years from now. Keep in mind that your wedding images will span several CD's when you receive them from me. DVD slideshows are on only one disc. Imagine how many CD's and DVD's I have of weddings over the course of only one year!! I have a BUNCH of discs! Because of this, I can't backup everything as much as you can. So, be aware that it is your own responsibility to safeguard your wedding images on your own digital media.

I also suggest burning an extra copy of your image files and slideshows and give them to your parents or siblings to keep for you. This way, you always have an extra copy of your images in another location other than your own home. It's a good way to make sure your images will be secured. I don't mind you making additional copies of your discs. My license to you allows you to do this.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Typical Wedding Day...

I've been asked in the past what the typical wedding day is like for me. Actually, it's more of a question of what is a typical wedding weekend like for me! Here it is for a single wedding weekend:

Friday night: Charge up all batteries and double check all equipment. Go to bed around 12:00 midnight.

Saturday morning:
1. Wake up around 9 AM. Take a shower, get dressed for the wedding, print out driving directions from Microsoft Streets and Trips and also Mapquest.
2. Double check all equipment again and re-read all my notes on the wedding and load everything into my car.
3. Pack a cooler full of water bottles (I go through A LOT of water during a wedding day!!)
4. Pack a sack dinner (in the event food is not provided at the wedding)
5. Go to the wedding.

Saturday Evening:

1. Return home often between 10:00 PM and 1:00 AM depending on the length of the wedding.
2. Take a shower.
3. Upload all image files from the Compact Flash cards to my desktop computer.
4. Charge all batteries.
5. Burn a backup copy of all image files from the computer to DVD.
6. Review the images shot from the wedding (can't go to bed until I do this!!)
7. Go to bed - often around 3:00 or 4:00 AM.

Sunday Morning:

1. Wake up around 8:00 AM (after only about 4 or 5 hours of sleep)
2. Go to church Worship Team practice at 8:45 AM (I play guitar at church)
3. Stay at church until 12:15 PM
4. Go home and crash!!

There are weekends where I shoot two weddings - one per day for two days in a row. I never accept three weddings per weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday.) That would be too much! Often it's Friday / Saturday weddings or Saturday / Sunday weddings. Somehow, I never seem to get a Friday / Sunday wedding...

Obviously, by the end of a two day wedding weekend, I'm beat! It takes the entire week to recouperate from working two solid days at weddings. I'm on my feet literally all day and carrying around 1-3 very heavy cameras and a waistbelt of lenses and accessories. Often I don't get to sit even for a minute. But I do try to take a slight break during dinner hour because nobody really wants photos of people eating! So I get maybe an hour break. Afterwards, it's a full evening of photographing dancing and other events of the reception.

By the time I get in my car to go home, I'm dead tired. It's very tough on the body.

By Monday, I'm back on the computer, Photoshopping all the images. Often I'll start late on Monday after getting some rest. But I'll be working on those images usually from when I wake up (usually around 7:00 AM) until I go to bed - often 1 or 2 AM.

It's a lot tougher than most people think, being a wedding photographer. I will often put in 40-50 hours of work for a typical wedding, so it's more than just shooting a wedding on a Saturday. Consultations and Photoshop work, as well as visits to the print lab often take up the majority of my work week. Still, I enjoy it and that's more than most people can say about their jobs!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Things change...

Kodak is changing their old logo to a new one. How do you feel about this?

Apparently, in an effort to change their branding and expand to new areas of imaging, the old logo is going to be replaced. I'm a little sad over this. That old yellow logo has been something I've seen all my life and switching to the new just says to me, "Times are changing!"

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of digital. But it's the history of film that keeps me nostalgic. By the way, I had read somewhere that the top selling digital cameras today (in the point and shoot category) are Kodak brand cameras. So don't think Kodak is dead... it's just film that's dying.

I wonder if my collection of Kodak cameras has just increased in value?

In a similar manner, Nikon announced that they are ceasing production of all of their film cameras except for the ultra high-end F6 camera, a few manual lenses and the entry-level FM10 camera . For a major company like Nikon to announce this, it's very clear that digital has taken over.

Hasselblads Again!

By special request via the comments section of my last post, this is a photo of the three Hasselblads that I currently have.

From left to right:

1. Hasselblad 500c body with 90 degree viewfinder, 16 film back and 50mm wide angle Carl Zeiss lens
2. Hasselblad 500c/m body with waistlevel finder, Acute-matte focusing screen, A12 film back and 150mm telephoto Carl Zeiss lens
3. Hasselblad 500c body with 45 degree viewfinder, 12 film back and 80mm T* Carl Zeiss lens

With this type of camera, you can interchange lenses, viewfinders, focusing screens and camera backs (where the film is loaded.)

Should anyone want very high-resolution portraits as large as 40"x60", these are the cameras to do the job!


It seems with digital, photographers must upgrade their equipment every few years to keep up with technology. We didn't have to do that with film cameras in the past because the film itself was the upgrade!

Over the years, film had improved in quality. Years ago, we would have to shoot with our medium format cameras if we wanted the best images for our clients (see my post on my Hasselblad equipment about a month ago.) But then, 35mm film took a major jump in quality and then all photojournalistic wedding photographers adopted 35mm as the camera of choice.

35mm film never reached the quality of medium format, but the new films made it really close. Today, most photographers are moving to digital if they haven't already. Digital is getting better every day too!

Pictured above is one of the three Hasselblad medium format film cameras I own. They don't get used much because everyone wants digital today! Did you know that the original Hasselblad 500C medium format camera which is often referred to as the "Rolls Royce" of cameras was first introduced in 1957? Many of those original cameras are still in use today! The one pictured above wasn't manufactured in 1957, but the 500c hadn't gone through that many changes over the years.

For 2006, I'll be shooting with two new 10.2 Megapixel digital cameras and a 12.3 Megapixel digital camera. The increase in the megapixel size also means an increase in file size forcing the purchase of not only new cameras, but additional memory cards. And, it also means that to process the extra data quicker, you need a faster computer or risk a reduction in post-production processing efficiency.

So you see, it's a chain reaction. Every step in upgrading of acquisition equipment (cameras) results in an upgrade throughout the path... right down to burning more CD's for the larger files!

Luckily, business is good for me and I can afford to make these changes in my gear to offer better service for my clients for 2006!

I wonder what I'll be buying in 2007?



Monday, January 09, 2006

Processionals - How Long Should You Wait?

Back in the early 1990's, I once photographed a wedding in which there were 12 bridesmaids (including the maid of honor.) Of course that meant 12 groomsmen too (including the best man, but not including the ushers.) It was a wedding that was booked by another photographer and I was simply assigned to cover the wedding. Because of this, I never met the bride or groom until the day of the wedding.

Well, apparently the photographer who had booked the wedding never did any pre-wedding consultation with the wedding couple because they did not have a clue on what to do to optimize their wedding photos! When the time came for the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle, they really started to march down the aisle, one right after the next!

It's usually best to send one bridesmaid down the aisle (walking slowly) and then wait until the first bridesmaid has arrived about halfway down the aisle before sending the next one. This allows the guests to see each bridesmaid enter without having to turn their attention quickly to the next one. Plus, it allows the photographer time to take a couple of photos of each bridesmaid as they walk down the aisle before getting ready to photograph the next bridesmaid. It takes about 3-4 seconds typically for the electronic flash to recycle and fully charge back up before you can take another photo, so that extra time really helps.

At this particular wedding, the bridesmaids came marching down the aisle at a fairly quick pace and nobody seemed to wait too long for the previous bridesmaid before entering themselves! Because of this, I frantically shot one photo of each bridesmaid just as they were coming down the aisle. I did not have the luxury of taking two shots of each person. I often do two shots in case I catch someone blinking on the first shot. But that wasn't going to happen on that day!

Luckily, I got all my shots... but not without working like crazy! From that experience, I told myself that if I ever started booking weddings myself, that I would make it a point to always meet with my clients beforehand and to give them tips on weddings and photography so that everyone knew what to expect on the day of the wedding. I continue to do that to this day and this blog is one method I use to communicate these tips!

Be sure to stagger the bridesmaids as they come down the aisle. They should walk slowly as they enter and they should wait until the previous bridesmaid has gotten at least halfway down the aisle before entering. This will make for a nice processional and you'll get some great pictures of each person walking down the aisle. The bride should wait until all the bridesmaids have walked completely down the aisle and positioned themselves in the front of the church before making her entrance... but you already knew that, didn't you? :)

Saturday, January 07, 2006

From Crime Scenes To Weddings!

Instead of waiting until Monday, I decided I'd tell the story of how I got into wedding photography while I had some time!

Back in 1990, while working for the San Diego District Attorney's Office, I was asked by the Questioned Documents Examiner to photograph her wedding. I had never photographed a wedding up to that point, so I was rather reluctant in accepting. But, after some nudging from everyone at work, I decided to do it.

I did a lot of research before shooting that first wedding by reading everything I could on the subject matter. Photographing crime scenes is not quite the same as shooting an event like a wedding. But I had some experience shooting events for the DA's office before and also while I was at the Chula Vista Police Department, so I figured it couldn't be too much different. After a lot of study and a lot of test photos, I felt ready for the job. Overall, I think I did rather well at my first wedding and really enjoyed it too! It gave me the ability to take some more "artistic" photos rather than the precise documentary photos of forensic photography.

About a week after that first wedding, I was assigned to photograph a home that had been burglarized. The pictures were to be used to help illustrate areas of the home during witness testimony in court. While taking my photos, the owner of the home started talking to me about what had happened and he mentioned that he was a full-time wedding photographer! Well, we got to talking about my first wedding and he asked me if I would be interested in shooting some weddings with him on Saturdays. I said, "Sure... give me a call if something comes up!"

That Saturday, while still in bed, I got a phone call from him asking if I would like to shoot a wedding. I said, "Sure, when is it?" To my surprise, he said, "In about two hours!" Apparently he had double-booked a wedding and totally forgot he had to be in two places at the same time! Well, I jumped out of bed, grabbed my cameras and went to the church and shot my second wedding! Talk about diving right into something!

I continued to shoot weddings for this other photographer and did so on the side for about a year before deciding it was time for me to "do my own thing" and so I went off on my own, booking my own weddings.

I found I really liked shooting weddings as it gave me the flexibility of doing some creative photography and I actually like working under the pressure of a typical wedding! I think my training in law enforcement helps keep me calm during most of the chaos.

After leaving the DA's office, I continued to work on forensic cases with my own company doing everything from photography, videography and audio work but I continued photographing weddings on Saturdays. Although I am still sought out for forensic work on occasion, I concentrate my full efforts today on wedding photography. I can't say that I don't miss shooting crime scenes as I really enjoy doing that as well, but working with my wedding clients today is just as rewarding. I still get excited on the day of a wedding and have that same enthusiasm I had when I shot my first wedding. Not many people can truly say they enjoy their jobs, but I'm among the lucky ones that can!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

John Wayne Gacy - Remember him?

Well, it's a new year and it's also been a while since my last story about forensic science. So I thought I'd start off the new year with a mild story about how I got involved with crime scene work.

Many years ago, while I was still in high school, I recall the news stories about John Wayne Gacy in Chicago. Gacy had murdered many young boys and then buried them in the crawlspace of his home. When they finally caught on to him, the police went into his home and had to exhume the bodies one by one. They eventually tore his house down. Gacy was one of the most notorious mass murderers of our time and admitted to killing at least 30 vicitims.

I remember thinking that this had to be one of the worst jobs in the world... going into a murder scene and having to collect evidence and actually exhume the bodies buried inside the house! How awful! I recall saying, "I could NEVER do something like that!" To make matters worse, we actually had a crawlspace in our home! I didn't want to go in there after that. (Now that I think about it, we have a crawlspace in our current home too! - Yikes!)

Then there was a show on TV at the time called "Quincy" which starred Jack Klugman (aka "Oscar Madison" from "The Odd Couple" TV show.) Quincy was a medical examiner who also happened to solve all the murder investigations as well. He also seemed so passionate about his work. I remember thinking that the lab guy who helped him ("Sam") had a cool job doing all the forensic lab work. The show's opening title and credits showed a bunch of new rookie cops lined up to watch an autopsy that Quincy was to perform. As he got ready to start, Quincy would say, "Welcome to the facinating world of forensic science..." and then one by one you'd see the cops faint. Great opening scene! :)

Anyway, stories about murderers like Gacy and TV shows like Quincy really made me think that working in law enforcement or forensic science would be something I would never want to do, even though I thought it was facinating.

Fast forward to years later when my wife and I moved to San Diego in the late 1980's. I had to make a decision as to what kind of work I wanted to do and while playing with a police scanner that I had purchased, I thought something in law enforcement might be interesting. My wife was looking through the classified ads and saw one for "Evidence Technician" with the San Diego Police Department. So she said, "Why don't you look into this, since you like the police scanner so much." Well a call to the PD about the job got me in touch with someone in the crime lab and they said I needed a degree in Evidence Technology... so I went back to school to study to be an Evidence Technician!

While at school, I was able to land an internship with SDPD and got to learn with the best by working homicide with their evidence techs. Later, after graduating at the top of my class, I landed a paid internship with the Chula Vista Police Department and then subsequently ended up working for the District Attorney's Office of San Diego County.

So, for someone who once said, "I could NEVER do something like that," I ended up doing it. Who would have thought it would be so facinating and rewarding? Well, I suppose "Quincy" thought that...

And now, I shoot weddings instead of crime scenes. What? You don't see the connection?

Check in next Monday and I'll tell you how I went from photographing crime scenes and evidence to photographing weddings!

Monday, January 02, 2006

I've Been Busy During The Holidays!

Wow, I have only 1/2 hour to post something here before it is no longer Monday! :)

I promised to update on Mondays and Thursdays and I haven't been exactly on target lately! And then, I said I'd probably have the time to post more now that weddings are finished for the year 2005... but here it is and I haven't done it!

Well like most of you, I've been rather busy spending time with my family (immediate and extended family) during the holidays. We have spent a lot of time together this past week and of course have eaten way too much as well.

No, I didn't make a New Year's Resolution because I don't think many people can keep them... I know I usually can't. Most often, it's the typical one... "I'm going to lose weight this year!" How many times have you heard that one from people? Do you know many who have been able to do it?

Regardless of the resolution or not, that's always a goal of mine but we'll see how well I do! With the weddings finished for now, I'll actually have less physical things to do, so I'll have to be diligent and work out by myself. I'm not good at that! Send me your encouragements... I'm going to need them!

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start composing and recording music. I've got a goal of trying to finish at least a dozen compositions before the first wedding. Again, we'll see how well I do.

Stay tuned!