Monday, July 31, 2006

Finally, A Harpist!

It's been a while since I've had a harpist at a wedding. This one was at this past Saturday's wedding.

I really look forward to having harpists at weddings because I think it really adds some sophistication to an event. Plus the sound is just so wonderful.

This time, the harpist was playing at the cocktail hour of the reception. Most harpists I've had in the past have been at the wedding ceremony itself. But still, it's always a joy to see and hear a harp.

If you are still thinking about what instruments you might want at your wedding, consider a harp! It's a great instrument and really stands your wedding out from all the rest.

Edit Note: Yes, there IS such a thing as an "electric harp." There is a contact pickup that can be attached to the harp and then the harp can be plugged into an amplifier!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Great Values In Cameras Today!

Nikon D200
(image "borrowed" from the Nikon USA website)

Prices of DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras are coming down! The camera pictured above is Nikon's D200. I have two of these 10.2 MP cameras for my wedding work. Each camera and vertical grip combination costs under $2000 (without lenses) which is an amazing price for such a professional grade camera. And for under $1000, you can choose from 6.1 MP cameras like the Nikon D70s or D50 with lenses as well!

Sony just announced a 10.2 MP camera called the Alpha DSLR-A100 for under $1000 which includes a lens! ($899 for the body only.) Not to be outdone, Nikon has a new camera to be announced in about two weeks... but nobody knows what it is yet. My guess is that they will be replacing the D70s with a 10.2 MP model to compete against the new Sony. We'll see if I'm right.

You can also get cameras from Canon, Pentax, Samsung, Olympus and others for well under $1000 today as well. It's getting really crazy trying to keep up with all the new cameras!
But whatever camera you choose, keep in mind that you will need to buy lenses for it and once you start with one system, it will be increasingly more difficult to switch to another brand later because of the investment you make in all the lenses. Lenses are proprietary gear in that they only fit one brand. So if you buy Nikon, you need to buy lenses in the Nikon mount. They won't fit on Canon or Sony or any other brand of camera.

So choose your camera "brand" carefully. Weigh out the differences between cameras, but also look at the "system" of lenses and accessories as well. Once you pick one camera body, you will find that you will most likely stay with this brand going forward.
Edit Note: 8/09/06 - Well, I was right! Nikon announced the new D80 to replace the D70s. It will be 10.2 MP. Instead of using CF cards, it will use the SD cards instead.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Secret To A Successful Wedding

I'm often asked what the secret is to having a successful wedding. Well, after working on so many weddings, I can tell you easily!

The secret is...

Before I tell you the secret, let me say that it seems every Bride has her "moments" at her wedding. Often little things can and will go wrong on the day of the wedding. Really, it's just the little things that can irritate you. Things like people not moving quickly during the formal photos, getting your dress dirty during the day, flowers not showing up on time, DJ's not having the songs you want them to play... you get the idea.

So what's the secret?

Let it go.

That's the secret. Only YOU know if something is not working as planned. Nobody else knows. So if you learn to let it roll off you as if it were planned that way, nobody is going to be the wiser. Then, you'll hear compliments all day long like, "Hey, your wedding was so well planned! Everything looks like it went without a hitch!" No pun intended. :)

When YOU are happy at your wedding, everyone is happy at your wedding. That's the key to having a great wedding day.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Light Modifiers

Images "borrowed" from Demb Flash Diffusers

Ever wonder why "professional" photos look different from "amateur" photos? One of the reasons could be due to the use of flash diffusers like the one pictured above.

Light modifiers like the "Demb Flash Diffuser Pro" help to change the quality of the light that is generated from portable electronic flash units. With its use, the light can be made very directional or less directional. This can change the effect of the light and create or minimize shadows.

In general, the larger the light source, the "softer" the light (meaning the more diffuse it is.) This minimizes shadows. Often this is desirable, but sometimes having more shadows is good too.

Bouncing light from the ceiling or from walls instead of aiming the flash directly at the subject can soften the quality of the light dramatically. So to take advantage of this softened light, often you will see professional photographers aim their flash heads straight up to the ceiling. But by doing this, light comes mostly from above and that can cause shadows in the eye sockets of people. To minimize this effect, aiming a smaller amount of light forward using the white bounce card on the Demb modifier will help reduce or eliminate the darkened eye socket effect.

Little tricks of the trade!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Do Video Lights Affect Photography At Weddings?

In the past when I was still learning my craft while photographing weddings in San Diego, had someone asked me this question, I would have said, "No!"

That's because back then, I shot a lot of flash photography with my shutter speed set for 1/125 second on my camera. Aperture was often set for f 5.6 or f 4.0. What this means is that the ambient light provided by bright video lights really didn't make much difference because most of my light needed to take a photograph was provided by the flash. The ambient light didn't really record on the film. But back then, many photographers shot this way as it was considered "normal" to set the shutter speed at as high of a sync speed as possible.

But today, if you ask me that question, I'd most likely say, "Yes! It affects photography." That's because today, you'll often find me shooting at slow shutter speeds - sometimes as slow as 1/10 second (it's called dragging the shutter) and very wide apertures (like f 2.8) to let in more ambient light. So any ambient light provided by the video lights is going to record on my digital camera. Ambient light helps "brighten up" the backgrounds of my photographs today.

Now if you read this quickly, you might be thinking that having a pro videographer that uses bright lights is not a good thing for photographers. Well, sometimes that's the case. But other times, a good pro videographer knows how to light his subject and often I can readjust my shooting technique to take advantage of his video lights for my own photography images!

Knowing how light works and how to modify it is a key to successful photography. I can tell you I'm pretty good at knowing all this and I look at situations as a challenge. Often I think out the solution and adjust my camera accordingly.

Today, my images look so much nicer than they did 16 years ago. That's because I know how to properly adjust my equipment to work with most any lighting situation at hand to get the best results and my shooting style has evolved over the years. Often, you'll see that my images offer a degree of lighting quality that you might not see in other photographer's work. That comes from experience and experimentation over all these years.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Panorama Shots!

Panorama images are really nice, don't you think? Click on the image to see a larger version!

People often wonder if you need a special camera or lens to create them. Sure! It takes a very expensive camera and lens to make a panorama shot. Look at how wide this shot is!

Actually, I lied. This isn't really a shot that was taken with a special panorama camera or with a special lens. It's a standard photo that was simply cropped to a very long horizontal photo.

Check out the original photo below. You'll see it's just a standard 4x6 photo!

It's all in the presentation, isn't it!


Monday, July 17, 2006

Tea Ceremony

This colorful shot was taken by my daughter with a Fuji F10 point & shoot digital camera. While I was out shooting a wedding, she was at another wedding as a guest and came back with this shot of a "tea ceremony." The tea ceremony is something Asians do.

There's some camera shake in this shot since it was taken with very low light and the camera was hand-held. but the image still works. I really like the deep blue color of the sky. Originally, the shot was very "orange" since auto white balance on the camera did not do the proper job... so we just did a little computer magic to it. After we played with the correction software, we were amazed at how much better the image looked.

The only other thing done to this image was to crop it to eliminate some of the people in the foreground.

Not bad for a quick grab shot don't you think? Notice the "pro" photographer in the shot photographing the ceremony. I'm sure his shots look good up close, but this one is cool because the distance of the shot captures the entire setting. I can just imagine what this shot would have looked like if my daughter had one of my DSLR cameras with her and a good lens on it. But it's not bad for an image taken with a little point and shoot camera shot by a high school kid. ;)

I like it. Do you?

Maybe I should get her a "good" camera one day, huh? lol

Edit Note: (4:57 pm) My daugther just informed me that she held the camera over her head to shoot over the tops of other people's heads. That's why she got some camera shake. Still, not bad!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Peter White - "Playin' Favorites" - Highly Recommended CD

(photo "borrowed" from Peter's Website)

Wow... what an incredible recording! Hats off to my friend, Peter White!

I met Peter many years ago and he's been one of my favorite guitarists ever since.

This new CD from Peter is a collection of cover tunes from the 60's, 70's and 80's. Nobody plays these kinds of songs better than Peter. If you are a fan of Smooth Jazz, you are most likely familiar with Peter White. Often voted the best smooth jazz guitarist year after year, Peter's artistry is second to none.

Peter started his career playing with people like Al Stewart (of "The Year of the Cat" fame) and Basia. Today, Peter is a solo artist and hangs with friends like Dave Koz, Brenda Russell, Boney James, Rick Braun and Richard Elliot. I met many of these artists through Peter's introduction.

Pick up this CD! I guarantee you won't be disappointed! To hear previews of the songs, go to Peter's website by clicking here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New "Photoshopped" Albums

Here are three pages from one of the new sample albums I'll be showing starting late next week.

These albums are the new styled contemporary albums in which the prints are all "attached" to the album page so that the print becomes the page. Each print is a 10"x10" print so in order for multiple images to be displayed on the page, they must be "Photoshopped" and designed before being printed.

What's the advantage to this kind of album? Well, each album is definitely "unique" in that no two albums will ever look the same. Since I must design the layout of each page, you get the design vision of the photographer in each album. They are also much "thinner" albums than the traditional albums and so they are more compact in size.

Traditional albums use a "matted" page in which photos like 4"x6" prints as well as 5x7 and 8x10 prints are placed into the album using a mat which is inserted into a slot in the page. These albums are still extremely popular and on the long run, less expensive to produce than the new styled albums. But if you are looking for something unique and different, you might want to consider the new albums.

I have located an album company that can produce these albums at a relatively low cost compared to the other albums I have been offering in the past. So if you are interested in this type of album for your wedding, please contact me and we can discuss your options!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It's Only Wednesday...Part II

A comment was left on the last "It's Only Wednesday..." wanting to know what else I was interested in besides guitars and photography. Well, let's see:

Martial Arts (I studied Tae Kwon Do)
Forensic Science (although I don't watch CSI...)
Music (ok that's within the Guitars catagory)
High-End Audio Equipment (including Studio Recording Equipment)
Computers (I work with Photoshop WAY too much!)
Anything related to Church and Christianity

I'm sure there's more, but these are the top contenders right now!

It's Only Wednesday...

... But I feel like writing something for my blog! So here's a random thought...

I've often wondered why I am so drawn to the two things that I enjoy doing most... playing guitar and taking photos. Well, I think it's because they are both forms of expression and creativity. One is audio and the other is visual. But they both require creativity if you want to be good at them.

Some people might not know that I have perfect pitch. Well, I do. I've had that since I was very young. Back then, my brother and I would "test" each other by laying on the floor, reaching up to the piano keyboard and playing a note and then asking each other, "What note is this?" Then we'd stand up and look to see if we were right.

Because of this "ear training" we both got really good at identifying notes simply by hearing them. To this day, if you asked me to sing any note, I can do that for you. I can string up a guitar and then tune it without the help of a guitar tuner and be within a few cents of the actual pitch. I can also play along to any song on the radio without even having heard it before. That just amazes people, but to me, it's just a natural thing. It's from years of practice, I suppose.

As for photography, it's the perfect compliment to my interest in music and audio. I can create nice looking images by just pointing my camera at something. It doesn't require me to be able to do something as difficult as being an artist who must paint something to create an image. I get instant gratification by just letting the camera capture an image. But it still requires expertise in knowing things like composition, lighting, balance, etc. It is definitely an artform, but different than the skills a traditional painter must be able to do.

I also wonder why I like things that are technically oriented. I'm one of those guys that will read instruction manuals from my cameras and audio equipment. It's not like I don't know what most of the controls will do when I see them on the equipment. I can figure it out pretty quickly. But I still read the manuals because I like knowing every detail of what I can do with those controls.

I think I like things that are technically oriented because I like being in control. To know every capability of my equipment gives me that control. I don't like being lost when using my equipment. It's important to me to know what every button and knob does. I want to be able to control every aspect of the sound or of the image I create by knowing what options are available to me through my equipment.

Some may think that's not necessary. But to me, it is. For instance, when I create an image with my camera, often I don't just mindlessly shoot away. As I'm taking the photo, I'm often thinking to myself, "What can I do that will really make this image pop?" Sometimes it requires me to change to a different lens to get a different perspective. Other times, it requires me to change exposure settings to create a certain mood. That's control. And it requires knowledge of your equipment and also the ability to "see it" in your mind before you even click the shutter release on the camera.

I think great music and great images are created by a feeling that the artist gets even before it is created. The end result is the creation of a song or of a photograph made because of it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Wedding Cake Knife & Server

This may be the last time we see this set of Wedding Cake knife & server.

This afternoon, I delivered photos to my clients whose wedding was a few weeks ago and they mentioned that their knife and server is missing! Apparently, the reception hall gave them another set in place of the set they had purchased for the occasion and now theirs is missing...

So it dawned on me that this would be something that all my clients should look out for! Make sure that the set that is given to you when you leave the reception hall is in fact the set that you have purchased for your wedding! It may not be such a bad idea to take the set with you shortly after you have finished cutting the cake to avoid loss!

This may be a rare thing, but I'm sure it does happen on occasion. Why take a chance? Be sure to retreive your knife and server as soon as you can.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Blogs are International

The World Wide Web is truly world-wide!

Besides all the visitors who are here in the United States, my blog has also been visited by people as far away as:

The Netherlands

Just to name a few countries!

If you are from anywhere other than the USA, please let me know where you are from and how you came to learn about my blog! If you are a professional photographer, let me know that too! I'm always glad to hear from other photographers!

And. if you are here in the USA, let me know where you are as well. I know I have consistent visitors from Florida, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Colorado, New Jersey, Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Virginia, Minnesota and of course Illinois. Sorry if I missed a few...

Keep on visiting and let me know where you are from!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Pre-Ceremony Images

Some of my favorite images are taken BEFORE the wedding.

I find that the anticipation of the wedding day often provides great opportunities for taking photos. I'll take photos of everyone getting ready and will leave the dressing room just before the bride gets dressed. Then, right after the bride gets into her dress, I jump back into the room to take photos as the dress is laced up. She's usually helped by her mom or her bridesmaids.

But sometimes, everyone gets in the act. Check out the top photo. How's that for efficiency?!

Try to find a bright room to get ready in. Too often, brides are forced to get ready in some dark and messy room at the church. Ask for a nice room! Your pre-ceremony photos will look a LOT nicer!

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Fourth of July

Here's wishing everyone a Happy Fourth of July!


Monday, July 03, 2006

Military Brothers

I am always very pleased and proud to photograph weddings of our military personnel. Back when I shot weddings in San Diego, it was not uncommon for me to do a military wedding. We have a lot of personnel from the Navy and the Marines out there.

But last Saturday's wedding was unique. The groom (in the center) is a Sergeant in the Army. But his other two brothers are not from the Army, but rather are in the Navy and the Marines! Another brother (not pictured) is in "God's Army"... he's a Youth Pastor.

I don't recall ever shooting a wedding where the siblings were not from the same military branch. Comments were made that all we needed was someone from the Air Force and we'd have a complete set!

These guys were great to work with and I'm very proud that they are serving our country and keeping us all safe.

Here's to you guys! Godspeed to all of you.


Caught In-Flight

I had the very rare opportunity to photograph the bouquet toss this past Saturday using the continuous action capability of my Nikon camera at a rate of five images per second. In a series of ten shots, I was able to capture the flight of the bouquet from the toss to the catch! Although it may be a little hard to see here in this sequence of small images, when viewed as a regular sized photo, you can clearly see the flight of the bouquet and the final catch.

I've enlarged the toss and catch for you to see. And, if you click on the first image, it will enlarge for you to see more details.

This is a great way to capture the action, but it rarely happens at weddings. The reason is that it is necessary to photograph something like this with natural ambient light rather than with a flash (the flash takes time to recycle before you can shoot again... maybe 2-3 seconds.) Most venues where the bouquet toss takes place is in a rather dark banquet hall... which of course requires flash. By the time the flash recycles, the flight is over.

But this time, we had a "private" toss happen outside for just the bridesmaids. The result is what you see above.

I'm all for doing this type of photography at your weddings, but to do it means it must be done early enough in the day before the sun sets and we must do it outside. If you are "up" for that, just let me know and we can move everyone outside for the bouquet toss and the garter toss. I'm sure the DJ's won't like it (they can't be involved because their equipment is inside and they can't announce the toss) but I'm sure YOU will like it!

By the way, the ladies here are "so polite." If you look at the various images, you'll see that none of them really make a huge effort to get that bouquet since it was in a direct path headed straight for the maid of honor. One bridesmaid to the right of the maid of honor makes a slight effort, but the rest just give up.

Now if it were guys, I bet they'd be all over the person in an effort to get the garter. It must be the competitive edge that guys have. Either that or they really DO want to be the next one to get married! :)