We all have favorite places…right? Places that either has good memories or places that we go to think and have our personal quite time. Always find the place that gives you strength, hope and makes you smile. When you do, feel blessed…..because you are.
One place, the Clinton Lake boat docks, is one for me, it had such special memories with a person you love, that passed away (4/21/2014), that no matter how old you become, you will always return to it....to remember, to find strength and to honor them.
The other is a place that is quite place where you can be by yourself, a place to get away from all noise and hub-bub of life. A place to enjoy the simple things in life like a beautiful sunset.
Always find those places in life, honor them and pull strength from them.
How do you shoot a location based portrait and stand in the middle of a bridge? Regardless if it’s for a business, a publication or a family type of portrait why should you care?
When doing a portrait you always must look at the situation and use the appropriate tools to get the shot. If you have time, and a willing subject, you try to find a cool location that plays opposite of what they do and where they work. In this case Miles was open to spending a little time at a location. I could have shot him at his home studio or somewhere doing a gig or in a little club but really, what fun would that be? This was for a weekly publication called “The Pitch” in KC. One of those weekly arts and entertainment publications.
It was late in the afternoon in Kansas City when this was shot. The light was going low and there was very front light for his face. This is a classic example of needing to light. Yes, a photographer could shoot wide open at high ISO (film speed) and blow out the background and not light but the location makes the shot. It’s always about the light you have then the light you need to make.
This is a bridge with an upper deck, a lower deck and the ground under the bridge. By choosing the lower deck you get some diffused light to start with and from there you build the light. So, how is it set up. You use the natural light as an overall light source then here I used two wireless flashes (Olympus flashes) to light Miles from the front. He was nice enough to drive to couple of locations, so this was all about speed but at the same time getting a good looking shot.
Here’s a quick diagram below with the finished shot.
So you're thinking, "Chuck, that's cool but why should I care? I'm not a magazine or publication." Here's the deal. Regardless of use and regardless of your budget everybody deserves the same attention, the same respect and the same delivery of a good end product.
Portraits for you biz, family, friends or loved ones...give me a buzz.
So, a few of you not familiar with how to do time lapses here you go. This is for iPhone folks but really the same applies to any phone.
There's various apps to do a time lapse. On iOS "Lapse It" is a nice $1.99 app but I tend to use the native camera app. Yep, your native camera has a time lapse feature also. You'll notice I have a telephoto lens attached to the camera. Unless you have extra lenses the one on your camera is fine. The lens is from Moment. If you want one check out: www.momentlens.co
1. Make sure your phone is fully charged and you have some space on your phone.
2. Open up "Camera" Notice the slider at the bottom? Slide it to the far left and you will see Time-Lapse.
3. Make sure you have the phone stabilized somehow. A tripod, propping it up on something...whatever. Just make sure it's secured without movement. I use a tripod and a little thing called "Reti-Cam" to put the phone on the tripod. Many different options, message me if you need help deciding what to get.
4. Tap and hold your finger on the a screen wherever you want focus and hold down until you see a large yellow box. The box will go from small to large size. Once you done this you've locked focus. Still keep the finger down and you will notice a little yellow slider the right of the box with a "sun"icon. This is where you can lock exposure. Simply move the slider to what looks good THEN let off the screen. Now you're locked and loaded.
At the top of screen you will see "AE/AF Lock"
5. Press the little red button and grab a seat, read a book, talk to friends, do your laundry...whatever. The longer it goes the longer the time lapse. Once done just go to your camera album and you've got a time lapse.
6. Have fun and enjoy everyone. Any questions you're always welcome to find me on Facebook or Twitter and I'll try to help.
It’s photo school time.
So does this work?
Let’s make a checklist:
Good lead line: check. You let your eyes go off the edge into the unknown…yep I framed it that way for a reason.
Differences in the color palette: check. That red coupled with the blue water evokes all kinds of emotions. Pretty cool and clever…huh?
Does it further evoke an emotion? Sure the emotion of adventure…sailing off into the unknown. Makes you want to hop in the boat..yes?
Did I capture the real moment? NOPE…this is an epic fail of ridiculous proportions.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, the moment isn’t the damn shot. It’s what’s all around you to make a moment and a memory. Cause more than likely you’re. missing it all just for a what you think is a clever snap. It’s not about a damn piece of film, a digital sensor, a lens, a viewfinder, etc. As photographers we spend a lifetime thinking we’re so smart by getting those moments when in reality we are not..we are perhaps more blind than most. I can name many of these. kind of shots where in reality the camera should have been down or at least used for another kind of shot.
Once you put down the camera and simply use your memory, you realize the truth. There is a famous quote that is the truth about cameras and. photography. The quote is by Dorothea Lange and it is my most favorite photo quote. “The camera is an instrument that teaches people to see without a camera.” So before we all think we’re all so damn clever ask yourself, what moment did I really get and what moment did I really miss?
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Dang, that's a big wall, right?
After taking the picture of it and looking around at all of the beautiful stuff around me I stared at this big ole wall right in front of me for a long time. And let me tell you folks, I'm a master when it comes to walls. Whether it be putting up walls to keep out people or keep myself from goals or keep myself from finding "my true happy." I am the wall friggin' master. I myself have built up some pretty darned big walls. We all do, right? It's in our human nature to do so. Walls can keep you safe, they can put enough distance between you and people in life that you don't quiet want to let in. Walls are safety, sometimes for ourselves and sometimes they're built out of love for the people that mean the most to us in life. Walls can be a huge protector...yes? But here's the deal about walls.
Walls can also keep you from many wonderful things in life. Maybe you've seen some of those wonderful things but put that wall back up for reasons that seemed perfectly valid at the time. More than likely you were building a wall instead of continuing to build a rock solid foundation. Sometimes we realize we do and sometimes we don't. Guess what? Challenge yourself not to build so many walls. Because once you realize within yourself to break all your walls down and shatter them, and let me tell you...you will, you might encounter another big wall staring you right in your face. But it's ok, there's always hope. Next to love, hope is the best four letter word around.
If you look closely what else do you see around this wall? A bunch of trees going straight up and upon closer inspection their are places to put your feet and hands. You can climb a wall, you don't have to bulldoze through it nor do you have to simply take another path around you that might be easy and simply forget the wall. Climb the damn wall. Cause here's the thing, I guarantee you that once you get up that wall, you make that climb, what is on the other side is something of indescribable beauty. It's the best thing in this world and it was well worth the climb. Know that the best things in life, no matter how big the wall, are always worth it and deserve nothing less than your absolute best effort.
When people ask me for advice on how to do photography over the years, whether it be colleagues or students that I mentored while at KU, the first piece of advice is always the same thing. When you've finished an assignment and you think you've got everything whatever you do, do not put your camera away.
While working at The University of Kansas our department was in charged of marketing communications/public relations for the university. All the shiny viewbooks, the official social media, brochures, catalogs, electronic pieces...all of it. One thing we would do was cover the sporting events at the school. Our coverage was different than some others for it was our job to show up right before the game and shoot happy students, mascots, kids throwing confetti, singing the KU Alma Matter and that wonderful Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant. That chant truly gives you goosebumps every time you hear it. As a photographer it was never tiring to watch the opposing team standing there before tip-off and listening to the that chant. Allen Fieldhouse is an historic and magical place for sure.
Instead of covering the game in typical fashion, like I did for many years, I decided to cover it differently as sort of a day in the life of a basketball game at the field house. I arrived early and documented the whole process. All the people that make the place run and ready before the game, ticket takers, ushers, security guards, custodians, ESPN, media folks, etc. Instead of spending a couple of hours I spent the day shooting like this. Nobody ask me to do it this way but I thought the people behind the scenes deserved to represented and be shown what they do to make those games a success. It's far too easy to get caught up in the business of marketing a school but not giving credit to those people that really make the place a success. It was a great experience all day which brings us to this shot.
I had finished the assignment, or so I thought, as I had just documented a staggering amount of confetti on the floor with hardly anybody left inside the area. I thought time to pack it up and turned around and noticed this one student still sitting there just peering down to the court. He didn't look sad but he certainly was in deep thought about something. I hoped he was dreaming about his life, his time at KU, his future successes and was soaking in the historic field house feeling the magic that comes from that building. I resisted the urge to go up to him and strike up a conversation instead I quietly raised my camera and snapped this one shot. Out of all the shots from that day this shot, I believe, captures the spirit and quiet hope of a magical place called Allen Fieldhouse. I keep hoping someday I will run into this student and get to thank him for being at the right place the right time.
Don't put that camera in your bag because the best shot may be the last one.
People tend to think I'm this in the moment photographer and to some extent that's true. In this case it was not. A fisheye rarely works. I literally have only used a fisheye once in my life and it was this shot. I saw this shot in my head months before I snapped it and my employer at the time used it for years. Always trust your gut and if see that shot in your head....it will happen. True story.
Don't Wait To Tell Your Stories
It was Tuesday February 3rd later in the afternoon and I had just walked out of Noona's cafe on South street in Springfield. I heard this sound coming from across the street. It was the sound of music, a fierce blues harmonica cutting thru the air. I looked over and saw this man sitting on a bench in front of Finnegan's Wak playing his harp.
I'm a big blues fan. I've had the pleasure twice in my life to see the great blues harp player Charlie Musselwhite perform. Those sounds coming from across the street that day...I was blown away. At first I just walked on and went back to my car but then decided to grab my camera bag and stroll back to this man. I came upon him and he had just finished up playing in the afternoon and was getting ready to pack up and leave. For you see, Ron "Dr. Spit" Alexander played music wherever and whenever he could get a chance. He would sit on this bench and wail during the day making small change and bills from the folks passing by and take paying gigs whenever he could. He was an artist thru and thru.
I spent about 15 minutes with this man and knew immediately he was a good person and well liked. As we were talking, people that walked by would stop to talk or say hi to "Dr Spit." He had told me he came from Omaha Nebraska in hopes of landing good gig in Branson and the area. He was a fine man. I explained to him I was a photographer and would he mind if I took a few pictures of him. He was more than happy to pose for a few shots for me. We talked of working together on a photo doc/essay project on him. Kind of what it's like to be Dr. Spit piece.
I caught up with him again in April but this time I had made a print of him to drop by, as a token of thanks for his time. He knew exactly who I was and I was surprised. After all, how many people passes by this man each day? It was like catching up with an old friend, we talked for a bit and exchanged phone numbers to get started soon on the photo essay. Unfortunately, Ron passed away in May the day right after the great BB King died. You can say, yeah but BB King made it big, and this guy struggled with playing on the street. I say this guy made it big because all the love and joy he brought to countless people on South Street in Springfield Missouri. He made people happy and smile by doing what he loved to do. He was an absolute success. Here's his Facebook page for those of you who are interested. Dr. Spit and the Blues Mechanic
I only took a few shots of Dr. Spit that day and had previously only shown one but here is the series. Always, always know that people come into your life for reason. Don't wait to tell your stories.
Thanks Ron, it was a pleasure knowing you.
Change is a very powerful thing.
I started my job here at The University of Kansas on my birthday, September 10th, a little over six years ago. At the time I was freelancing but there were changes happening in my life, I was going thru an upheaval. I went thru a divorce, fell in love with someone that later passed away and along the way met some truly amazing people. For those of you still in my life, I thank you and for those of you not here, I thank you. Some changes were happy ones, while others could be described as sad, or as I would say, challenging but full of reward and love. A rollercoaster for sure. One thing over the years I could always count on to keep stability in my life was my job at Kansas.
So, I started this career at KU in a time of flux but over the years I have had the honor of meeting some wonderful people. I watched students come and go, professors do research/education that changes lives and changes the world and met staff, that without them, this campus would not run smoothly nor would it exist. I believe no job is too small and no job is too big. No one job is more important than another, we're all in this life together. I've had co-workers, directly in this office, that have been supportive, loving and kind. Those of you that are no longer in this office....I miss you very much and thank you for allowing me to work with you over the years. I was HONORED to work with you.
I've had the privilege to witness some magical moments. Sometimes I would record them with the camera and many times I would just pause and watch the moment unfold. You see, being a photographer, you tune into moments and some moments need no recording. Those type of moments are kept in your memory forever. I keep many memories of this place and the people with me as I embark upon a fulltime freelance career.
Please stay in touch, follow my journey and I'll follow yours. I always say in order of importance, family, friends then job. Friends for life, everyone.
I have many photographers I admire but I leave you with a quote from one of my favorites, David Alan Harvey: "Don't shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like."
I hope, in some small way, my work made you feel.
It was privilege to work with all of you and a privilege to work for The University of Kansas. Rock Chalk Jayhawk....THANK YOU!!
Isn't it funny how things work out? Today is my last day at KU and I hop on my scale. On July 22nd of this year I made a special promise to get healthy, take care of myself and stay around this place for the people that love me. My life has truly changed for the better....it's amazing. You must take care of yourself, to love yourself, so you can truly take care of the people you love.
I've gone from 234.8 lbs to just over 200 lbs in 6 months but getting under 200 seemed elusive..until today. The last time I was under 200 lbs I was 20!
I'm so grateful and blessed to have people that love me and want me healthy. Looks like you all are stuck with me!! It's cool to remember our past, to honor it and learn from it. The past is a place to visit but it's not our address. Change can be very good.
When I decided to leave my staff job as Chief Photographer at The University of Kansas I wanted my last assignment to be a basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse. This historic and storied place is absolutely the best play to watch a college game in the country. We have the loudest arena and certainly the best fans, young and old. Here is a slideshow of just a few selects from my last assignment. I HAD to get a shot with two of my photographer colleagues! Thanks guys!
Although I have staff cameras available there was no way I wasn't going to shoot this on my personal Olympus cameras. I been using Olympus for many years and I'm excited to go freelance full time and shoot them exclusively everyday. The last shot from my job was historic Allen Fieldhouse. Rock Chalk Jayhawk....thank you KU!!!
Little know fact, when I wanted time to be reflective, some time to myself, those silent type of moments to really think about big life decisions, I would head towards Potter Lake. One of the most beautiful places on campus is away from all the hustle and bustle of Jayhawk Blvd. I would walk around, with my camera, always finding just a handful people. Many times not even taking a photo but just enjoying the moment and the spirit of the place. A few other folks feel the same way. Thanks Potter Lake for allowing me to be part of your magic.
Photos are wonderful things. They can evoke a bunch of emotions. They can make us smile, cry, laugh, feel a deep sense of connection and they give us memories that just make us happy.
I'm not talking about photos that "technically" perfect or photos that considered "masterpieces" or famous work. I'm talking about the photos that just make you feel good. Those ones that when you look at it or hold it in your hand it brings back beautiful memories.
One of those photos for me is the one below. Me, a dork with big glasses, and this cute chubby little baby....my brother, Ben. When getting photos done my folks would always drag me to Olan Mills in Springfield, Missouri. You know, one of those places with big fake backdrops. I have a shot of myself in my junior high basketball uniform sitting on a fake rock in the middle of the woods. Cause, you know, that's what all kids do when they're in their basketball uniform. I wanted a brother or sister so bad and my parents didn't think it would ever happen again, the chances were slim that Mom could have another baby. Then, it happened, my brother was born. I remember sitting at Olan Mills with my new brother thinking.....this is cool being here at Olan Mills. I hope we get to do this again!!
What is a photo that has deep meaning to you? Feel free to post in the comments below. I would love to see your photos!
Much love, everyone.
Family, friends, the people I love and co-workers: announcement time.
So, as someone who observes, someone who witnesses moments, gets the privilege to either record those moments or just be in them there are some photos from The University of Kansas that I'm proud of. The two below are recent shots but there are others over the course of 6 years here.
You see folks, when all is good in the world personally with me that's when my photography shines. For my job, here at KU, it's putting on headphones, walking down the boulevard and just being in the moments. You sorta zone out to zone in. Many times, those moments have deep meaning personally for me. Both photos below have a common theme, it is hope, faith, trust, taking a chance, living life, a willingness to "go for it" as it were.
The first shot of the couple sitting next to the Campanile was a moment that I will never forget. I was walking around and decided to veer off the beaten the path, to get away from the boulevard. I noticed a couple walking towards me, talking but kind of a few feet away from each other. They were nervous, they were guarded...you could tell it was all new to them. I watched them walk past me and settle in at that bench. I kept away watching them talk, laugh and get closer together. When they were done they walked past me but this time very close together. It was like before my eyes they had become best friends...buddies...pals. That's always the best way to start something. You have to be best friends. I knew that they would be just fine.
The second picture, although looks lonely, I find it to be full of hope. I was walking, it was a time between classes when hardly anyone is outside but I noticed this one guy, skateboard in hand walking towards a building...our Art and Design building. Being an artist, a painter, a sculptor, a photographer is a scary thing to do in life. It takes courage to rise up and choose a different path. That shot is not someone walking away from something, it's someone walking towards something. I've always thought, "Here's this young kid, walking towards this place where he belongs..having the courage to try." I remember thinking, "yeah...courage."
I've thought about both of these photos a lot lately.
Yesterday I gave notice and resigned my job as Chief Photographer at KU. I'm going to pursue a full time career as a freelance photographer and film production professional. I'll be here for a short period of time, then I'm moving out of the area. I would like to say to my co-workers and friends here at KU, and those co-workers who are no longer with us in this office, that I will miss you....and thank you for the time spent.
Since late July this year I decided to make some big changes. Things just stared to click in my life. I made a promise to the people I love and to a very special person to get healthy and lose weight (today I'm 35 lbs down!). I decided to stop mourning, living in the past and letting the bad things in life that happened to weigh me down. I decided to open myself up, stop with the cynicism and just let life unfold and it has been soooo wonderful. My life has truly changed and I am thankful and grateful for every moment. Thankful and grateful for the people in my life that I love and who love me..all of you new and old. After many years I've actually been back to church a couple of times and look forward to those Sundays again, soon. Faith is a funny thing, it's always buried deep inside you but eventually it will find its' way out and comes to the surface. For that I am also grateful.
The things that matter most in the life, family, friends, people we love, the career we want, etc. sometimes require not just words, not just the talking but the action behind it. The best things in life or certainly the things that have the best potential require action. Life is short and can be gone in an instant, so live every moment like it was your last.
How does that little saying go? "You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change."
I have a couple of signs hanging up at my place. I believe them both wholeheartedly. One says, "Live Well, Love Much, Smile Often" The other says, "Life is not measured by the number breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away."
I hope everyone smiles today and has a moment that takes your breath away. Much love.
It's a funny thing that your most prized things are not large things. They're not houses (I owned 2 at one time), it's not a fast car, fancy clothes, money in your bank account or a stock portfolio. Those things mean nothing, never have and never will, they are just empty meaningless crap. The most treasured things are the ones that have most meaning to you...things that were given out of love.
The world lost a wonderful, kind and gentle soul last week and yesterday people that loved her had to say goodbye. Chrissy, although not without flaws and personal issues, we all have flaws and issues, was larger than life. Her Western dress/boots, lots of jewelry, hair and make-up... she could light up a room. If little kids were around (at a store, a mall, etc.) it was an amazing sight to see how they interacted with her. She was different, not ordinary and she lived her life as such. All she ever wanted was to make people smile and she wanted everyone to get along.
Sometimes, due to certain circumstances you have to back away and give the person you love time/space and what they need. She needed time to repair a relationship with a very special young man. For when you love somebody, the right way, you give love unconditionally. It should never be what you can get or take but what and how much you give. It comes from a place in your heart that is true and right. You give that person what they need NO MATTER WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOUR OWN PERSONAL HAPPINESS OR COMFORT. SHE AND I BOTH UNDERSTOOD THAT. Sometimes people need it more than others and that's ok...it's just what a person should do. If it means you can't be together and have what you BOTH want, then you simply just give love in its' most purest form.
As human beings it is inherent that we want to be selfish and think about our own happiness, our hopes and our dreams, the life we want for ourselves or as a couple, together. When you love someone the right way, their problems, their health issues, their hopes and dreams, what makes them happy & smile, to just spend time and LISTEN to them, to hold them when they felt bad or just be in the room with them and know they just wanted the company of the person they loved to be close ARE NEVER AN INCONVENIENCE! You give and when it seems you're empty to give anymore...you find deep inside of you an endless supply of love....you suck it up and give more, forget about your own selfish wants and GIVE. Why? Because you know that person is worth it! This world lost a beautiful kind soul, who had more feelings and more caring than any of us. Unconditional love is by far the most difficult thing in this world to do, but if you do, then you know what you have for the other person is the most true.
This heart was attached to a Valentines Day card that Chrissy gave me many years ago. We both disliked Valentines Day....we both felt why do you have one day to do something special and nice for someone? You should be able to do that all time. Nevertheless, she gave me this card with this little heart attached to it. That heart has been on me (it's in my wallet) ever since she gave it to me and ALWAYS WILL BE. I do not and will not keep it with me to pine away for a love lost with BOTH of our hopes and dreams shared...plans made etc. I keep it with me to HONOR and CHERISH Chrissy, who she was and the love in her heart and mine for each other. That will never fade away, it cannot be taken away...that lives on forever. It's ok to keep that love in your heart for a person when they are longer with you. It's what has made us who we are in this life. It should be honored, remembered and celebrated.
SHE DESERVED NOTHING BUT TOTAL KINDNESS, COMPASSION, PATIENCE AND LOVE! It was the utmost privilege to know her, laugh with her, to be there for her when she hurt, to do something to make her smile or laugh when her body had betrayed her years ago, share hopes and dreams with her, love her, and in return, to have her friendship and her love. It never mattered what we did together. It could be something as simple as shopping for groceries, going to a doctor appointment, cleaning, walking through every bead shop in the Kansas City area, watching tv or waking up at 3:00 am to go outside and stare at a full moon with her or listen to "her owls." She loved the night and full moons. She would look up at the moon, close her eyes and just smile. It was such a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. I could care less that she would wake me up, or get a phone call or text, from a deep sleep. I was HONORED for her to think of me, wake me up and want to share that with me. For it does not matter what it is you do...all that matters is the time spent with that person. Cherish every moment you have with someone. Every little thing that might seem boring or mundane are things that matter THE MOST. It's not the big things, it's not the troubles, it's not any drama, it's the smallest things that matter the most. She deserved happiness and unconditional love. What we ALL wouldn't give to have 5 more minutes with her right now.
Please say a pray today for Chrissy, her son and her mother. Yesterday was most likely the hardest day for them possibly throughout their lives. I know it is was mine.
Friends, I ask you to do one of two things for me. Either or would be much appreciated.
Chrissy loved candles. For you see, she had sustained a horrible neck injury years ago and she would almost always wear sunglasses during the day (we would go cheap sunglass shopping at Walgreens a lot) and at night she would dim the lights and sometimes turn them off and light candles. It was the soft light that she loved and they brought her peace when lit. Light a candle today. Her favorite candle was from the Yankee Candle Company "Sage and Citrus".
Chrissy also loved music...any kind of music from country to rock. From Trace Adkins and Big and Rich to Kid Rock and Nickelback. Yes my friends that give me trouble about Nickelback....you now know why I love them so much. She loved to crank up her music and just drive. So today, play your favorite song as loud as you can and crank it up.
For those of you still reading and wondering what is the piece of paper attached to the heart. When times were challenging, drama was high and things seemed impossible I attached this saying to the heart: "Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of hope; it can outlast anything. Love stands still when all else has fallen."
Peaceful journey Cisco....HOH. And yes Chrissy, I will never forget what HOH means (it was you who gave those three letters a name) and it's something that is just, as you said many times, "ours". Love Always, Kimo.
When you make a living as a photographer, in the ever changing landscape that is photography, it's very easy to be afraid of change. After all, with the rise of digital cameras, tablets and smartphones it seems nowadays everyone is photographer. I hear it all too often from my photographer friends, "I wish the people would just leave it to the pros", "They're stealing my shots with their cell phones," "How can I make a living when everyone has a mobile phone," I almost always also hear, "What crap", "Smartphones will never take the place of my pro camera", "Ohh how cute they think they're a photographer" I've heard it all. The mean spirited jabs, the snarky comments, the fear of job loss, all of it.
Trust me, I've been through the time, effort and money when it comes to gear. I think I drove my ex-wife crazy with all the times I changed gear seemingly every week. First dslr? The first Canon Rebel, First point and shoot digital? A Canon Powershot G4. Need a serious camera? I bought a Canon Mark II N with a bunch of L glass. I even went through my medium format digital back phase with a Mamiya 645 and a Kodak digital back. Good lord that thing was expensive, slow, clunky and stayed around the house for about 6 months until I came to my senses, and went back dslr's. I had a Leica MP with one lens. I couldn't afford a German made Leica, due to my camera switching habit, and had to settle for an M made by our friends north in Canada. You see, I've shot a bunch of cameras in a bunch of different environments and different places. But photography, although popular, was an expensive habit and expensive career. I felt entitled to have the best gear and now people are whipping out their smartphones and taking photos? Where is the dues paid in that? The nerve!
Well, I'm here to tell you.....take a deep breath folks...embrace change! Be happy that everyone is enjoying making memories and has the ability to do so, sharing their experience in an instant fashion. Just because somebody whips out a mobile phone does not mean they have any plans to make a living as a professional photographer. But as a photographer I feel it's my duty to stay current with the changing currents and tides in the imaging sea. It's always about having the right tool for the job and I must say that a smartphone is great "Swiss Army knife" you should be using with your image making. Besides, do you really want to be lugging around a heavy camera all the time? If I pull out my smartphone I get to be like everyone else, which is a good thing, I blend into the crowd. Which brings to my little experiment. Using a smartphone, the Nokia Lumia 1020, as the only camera on a job.
I'm a freelance photographer that currently is lucky enough to have a "day job" as the Chief Photographer for the University of Kansas in the Office of Public Affairs/Marketing Communications. We are essentially the public relations and advertising arm for the university. We're all about recruitment of new students, event coverage and ad work. Our office also takes care of all the official social media feeds for the university. Great bunch of people to work with and varied enough assignments not to make the place too boring. I've covered governors, Supreme Court Justices, the President of Colombia, educational leaders, authors, athletes, classroom photography, student lifestyle, studio portraits, seasonal campus color, landscapes, etc. You name it and more than likely I have shot it.
I've carried, as most of you have, an iPhone or Android phone and snapped shots with them. It was fun...it was instant...it was for Instagram or some other social feed. One thing I noticed as I started to do mobile photography was how much I love the ability to be free of my gear and just shoot. To just look like everyone else with a cell phone snapping happily away sometimes is a good thing. Then I noticed a new smartphone introduced by Nokia, the Lumia 1020. It's a windows phone that has all the awesome features of new windows, such as live tiles. Great stuff! Coming from an iOs device it is totally refreshing and a well thought out user interface. I heard the rumors like everyone else and I heard the nay-sayers. 41 megapixels??? No way...it's some marketing hype to sell a few phones. No way to can compete with a traditional camera.
What made me really stand up and take notice was a website by National Geographic and co-sponsored by Nokia. Nokia had given Stephen Alvarez, a Nat Geo shooter a Lumia 1020 and had him take 10 days in the Southwest with just the Lumia. The results were AMAZING! Check out the video below and see why I got so excited about the Lumia 1020.
I couldn't get enough information. I read stories upon stories at the Nokia Connects website. Stephen Alvarez, Bruce Weber, David Bailey all tried out the Lumia. Nokia seems to have a connection to photography. They are excited about the prospect of mobile imaging and have a passion for it. They keep their website and social feeds always current. I believe these folks LOVE photography. So I switched cell phone providers, went to AT&T and bought a Lumia 1020.
Within a month the folks at Nokia did something astonishing, they updated the camera with the ability to shoot in RAW. They also choose standard Adobe DNG. I've been a huge proponent of the DNG standard for years. Now I have an imaging device that shoots RAW and happens to be a good cell phone too!
So, after shooting the Lumia for about a month, taking nice outside and well lit shots, I decided to put it to the test in a harsh environment. As I stated before, at KU we cover all kinds of things and of course this also means the rich historic tradition of KU Basketball. After all, our first coach was the Dr. James Naismith, the inventor of the game. Why not put a modern piece of technological wonder in a historic building that houses the most storied college basketball program in the country. Makes sense...right? Which brings us to the center of the college basketball universe for this little smartphone experiment. Historic Allen Fieldhouse.
When you attend a game at Allen Fieldhouse it is something of magic. The screaming fans, the historic halls, the trophy cases and of course the Rock Chalk Jayhawk chant. That chant gives me goose bumps every time I'm there. Of course this is a college basketball area which means the lighting is not even. The floor is bright while the upper areas of the arena are like a cave. Think of a well-lit cave floor with a shaft of light beaming from the top but all the sides are basically pitch black. I couldn't think of a better place to put the Lumia through its' paces. The results? AMAZING!
Our office covers the fan experience, all of things except for the actual game on the floor. While I'm on the floor many of my friends are shooting the game, which pains me not to, I run around shooting the experience. The screaming students, the band, the cheerleaders, our mascots Big Jay and Baby Jay....all of it. I'm really a photojournalist, so this type of shooting is my thing. I cover the game day from start to finish and document what I see. What a great gig!!
With all the manual controls available on the Lumia and different modes/lenses such as Panorama and the Smart Camera function the shooting was surprisingly easy. Is there noise when shooting at say ISO 4000? Of course. Is it manageable? Absolutely! I never found myself once going back into the media room, opening up my camera bag and pulling out a "traditional" camera. I love lens flare in shots and as you can see with the samples the flare is very pleasing. If you're careful and slow with your shots you can achieve cinematic type of flares with this sensor and lens combination. Next time I'll shoot video of the experience and post some footage with the 1020.
For all your pixel peepers you can head over to my Flickr feed where you can see the full res jpgs that were processed from the DNG files.
Exciting times for photography as the Nokia Lumia withstood the test of historic Allen Fieldhouse. Any questions please feel free to comment and drop me a line on Twitter!
Meeting someone that makes you love your job more
As a full time photographer I get to meet people on a daily basis. Truly, it's the best thing about my job. It's not about coming up with some cool shot in my head and executing it with the camera. It's about having the opportunity to meet new people, be able to spend a little time with them and having the privilege to photograph them. See, for me it's not about who's behind the camera or what camera or gear you use...it's about who or what is in front of the lens. Case in point: Mr. Charlie Wheeler.
I was called by a new client to go photograph Mr Wheeler. Charlie is a Kansas City original! He's a doctor, a lawyer, was a Missouri State Senator, a WWII and Korean War Veteran and former Kansas City Mayor. Wow, what a life! Charlie was to be part of story of lawyers and their retirement. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler had taken a reverse mortgage on his home and did the unthinkable, he outlived the reverse mortgage, had some back tax issues, and now he was losing his home. I ended up getting in contact with Charlie and was told that I needed to call his lawyer and get all this "scheduling stuff done". Understandable, considering his circumstances I was happy he picked up the phone to talk to me. I called his lawyer, a very nice man and told him the ideas for shoot that the magazine client had relayed to me. THE shot was hopefully going to be Charlie standing in front of the soon to be foreclosed house with a distant stare away from the camera....you know that shot that kinda pulls at your heart strings. His lawyer thought it was a great idea but time was short for Charlie, for he was still in the house but not sure how much longer.
As I called Charlie multiple times it seems his voicemail box was full and he was harder to reach this time. For a few days I tried to no avail and then I turned on the weekend 10:00 pm news to find a story about former Mayor Wheeler and an auction that was just held on his behalf. The auction sold off many of his personal items over the years to help with his "situation." As I watched the quick news story, and pulling my hair out, I was thinking there was the shot. Damn it, I missed the shot. The next day I got Charlie on the phone. Seems he had been a bit busy the last few days but he would be happy to meet me on Monday, do a portrait at his new house then I could follow him to his local coffee shop where he had a standing daily 10:00 am coffee with retired friends/business friends. I made the appointment but kept thinking, DAMN IT...I missed the shot!
I met Charlie at his house early at 9:00 am. It was a very small and modest house and decided after looking at it and looking where the sun was located I would simply put Charlie in front of his new digs. After the quick shoot I would then meet him at the coffee shop, grab some photos with him and his friends. The small house he had just moved into and Charlie standing outside was ALL I needed. Forget the sad "foreclosure" sign business. This is a man that has seen it all, done it all and is still standing at almost 90 years young! I grabbed the shot outside, met him downtown, with two of his friends at the coffee shop, got what I needed and left to get my next assignment. As I spent time at the coffee shop talking with the guys all I wanted to do was put down my camera, drink my coffee and spend the morning with them. Man, I didn't want to leave! Maybe someday I'll pull up a chair, without my camera in hand, and just listen to their stories.
Meeting someone like Charlie makes me love being a photographer even more than I already do!!