Photography In The National Parks: All About The Bears

A Morning Stroll Along The Beach

 

The National Parks Traveler has just published my latest article to their site.  Click on the photo to be taken there.  And while you are at it, check out my previous article as well.

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Filed under Katmai National Park, Lake Clark National Park, National Parks, Travel and Photography

Photographing Jennifer and John’s Big Day

Avery and Jennifer

I met Jennifer several years ago, during our Texas Renaissance Festival days; I have a couple of fun photos of her elaborately costumed as a zombie wench during the Halloween-themed weekend.  I also remember her telling me once she didn’t like jam because she used to work in a jam factory.  Jennifer is from the UK so she has that wonderful British accent.  Oh, and she’s the horror hostess of the Edwina Rigormuerte Houston Horror Chamber Review (being a photographer has allowed me to meet all sorts of interesting, cool people).

I was so pleased when Jennifer asked me to photograph her and John’s (she calls him by his middle name, Avery) wedding.  I knew this was going to be an interesting wedding, given the couple’s love of old horror movies and her own very unique fashion style.  What made it even more special is that, in addition to being hired as their official photographer, I was also a guest!  That meant I could have a slice of wedding cake (it’s a thing with me – I always try to get a piece of cake); for once, I could photograph the cake and eat it too!

A Slice of Wedding Cake

Ever heard of the Las Velas?  It’s a hidden gem in Houston located between Hwys 59 and 610.   It’s not obvious from the road, and I saw no large sign pointing the way to this venue.  I asked Jennifer how she found it and she laughed, saying she was searching online for “inexpensive wedding venues”.  The Las Velas’ exterior is filled with lots of flowers and greenery, fountains, and mosaic-inlaid stone.  The interior hosts large, airy spaces, lots of natural lighting, elaborate molding and polished stone floors inlaid with mosaic butterflies and curly-cues.

Mosaic Detail

The Ceremony Venue

The Bride on The Balcony

As I wrote in a previous post, every wedding is different.  This particular event was quite laid back and kinda funky (the bridesmaids wore combat boots with their dresses).

Boots and Heels

Levity with the Bride and Bridesmaids

Both ceremony and reception were interior events (with the exception of a few posed outdoor photos), so I made use not only of the natural light coming through the large windows, but my flash as well.  As with the previous wedding about which I wrote, I used the same three cameras (Canon 1DX, Canon 5D Mk III, and a rented Canon 6D) and the same Canon L-lenses (85mm f1.2, 70-200 f2.8, 24-70 f2.8, and 16-35 f2.8).  I photographed the same scenes with all three cameras, with and without flash.  For exterior shots, I used ISOs of 200-400 and interior shots had ISOs of 1600-2500 even with the flash.  As with the photos from the wedding of the previous post, I used Imagenomic’s Noiseware to reduce the high ISO grain as well as Imagenomic’s Portraiture and OnOne’s Perfect Effects for certain photos.

Tiara and Bubbly

W on the Cake

The Grooms Zombie Cake FX

The Groom and Groomsmen

The Bride OnThe Stairs

The Bride In Front Of The Window

Bride and Bridesmaids

Jennifer and Avery at the Fountain

The Ceremony From Above

The end of Jennifer and John’s wedding signaled the end of my wedding photo shoots for 2014.  We’ll see what transpires in 2015.

Photographer and Guest - My Table Assignment

To see more images from Jennifer and John’s wedding, click on this link to go to that gallery.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Events, Houston, low light photography, Photography, wedding

Photographing Kevin and Amber’s Big Day

Bride-Groom-Pink Shoes

Gads!  I know!  It’s been forever since I last posted to this site.  So sorry!  I’ve had two weddings, a trip to Hawaii, and two airshows that I’ve photographed since my last post.  Oh yeah, and a day job in addition to all of this photography stuff.  I’d come home from work, eat a little dinner, try to watch the national news, then sit down to process anywhere from 4 – 10 images each weeknight before going to bed around 10PM and then getting up at 4AM to start my day over again.  Sometimes, I’d even take my small travel laptop to work with me so that I could sit at my desk and edit photos during my lunch time.  Weekends after each event have been spent at home, making the big push to get as many photos processed as possible, from the time I wake up around 5AM to the time I go to bed around 10-11PM.  My home is a pig sty because I haven’t had time to pick anything up and clean, and I still have luggage opened up with stuff strewn about on my floor because I haven’t had time to really unpack.

But now, I’m done!   And to prove it, I am posting here the results of the wedding I photographed September 27th, for Kevin and Amber.

Bride and Groom in Front of The Alamo VIGNETTE

Some of you have asked what my wedding workflow entails.  One of the tasks I try to do for each wedding is to Google the wedding venue and then personally drive (if in-state) to the venue to scope it out for photo ops as well as just the general lay of the land.  I also introduce myself to the venue staff so they know who I am, why I am there, and what I look like in order that they recognize me on the wedding day.

Kevin and Amber’s wedding was held at the Northwest Forest Conference Center, Cypress, Texas.  The conference center is a large area of acreage with several venues as well as hotel rooms on site.  The venue Kevin and Amber chose was The Alamo (a replica thereof, where the ceremony was conducted outside the building and the reception held inside).  You’d need to have met the couple but this venue was absolutely perfect for them.  Soooo very Texan.

The Ceremony at The Alamo

Every wedding is different.  While there are certain shots that are de rigueur (ceremony, bride and groom kissing, posed shots, cake cutting, etc.), each wedding also opens itself up to numerous photo ops singular to that couple’s day and event.

Amber was the first bride ever who told me up front that it was all about the photos.  She acknowledged that the ceremony would be over in minutes, but the pictures would last a lifetime.  With that mindset, she had a number of images she definitely wanted me to capture, and she even had examples for me to use as go-by.

While the venue differed (of course) from the example images Amber showed to me, the idea regarding what she wanted remained unchanged.  Plus, I now have these ideas in my photo op repertoire for future nuptials.

Boots-Bouquet-Rings

Rings Line of Sight

Engagement Ring and A Rose

Rings and A Rose

Generations

Picture Frame - Bride and Groom in Focus

I used my Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III bodies along with a rented Canon 6D (really cute little camera easy for my little hands, but not so great with low-light, I freely admit).  I used all L lenses (except for the 40mm pancake lens to which I affixed the Canon close-up lens filter):  85mm f1.2, 24-70 f2.8 (since destroyed during my Hawaii trip, blast it), 16-35 f2.8 (also destroyed during the Hawaii trip), and 70-200 f2.8.  I also used my Canon Speedlite 600 EX/RT flash.

For outdoor shots, I used an ISO of 640 and for indoor shots, I used an ISO (in general) of 3200.  I captured indoor and outdoor images both with and without flash.

Bride on The Bridge

Bride and Bridesmaids On The Bridge

Groom and Groomsmen - Alamo

I’ve never much cared for using a flash, but that dislike has lessened as my experience wielding it improves.  That, plus a flash is an absolute MUST for reception / indoor images because of the low light.  No way around that.

Grooming The Groom

Wedding Cake

Feeding Her Cake

Last Dance

Reception Hall

Dancing Inside The Circle

Everything was hand-held and with the exception of the 70-200mm lens, none of the others had image stabilization (IS, VR, whatever your camera brand calls it).  This meant I used the “spray and pray” method (holding down on that shutter button and letting the camera click away).  With this particular wedding, time was really tight and a tripod setup would have taken too long.  I was constantly on the move, changing between cameras.  Actually, I used each camera for the same scene just so there would be at least 1 good image between the 3 cameras – sometimes there were 2-3 good images of the same scene, so I processed them all because I like the newlyweds to have a choice – especially since each camera sported a different lens.

I made certain I whitened and brightened the smiles and I used Imagenomic’s Portraiture plug-in for Photoshop to smooth out skin creases and blemishes.  I also utilized OnOne’s Perfect Effects to add a little variation to the standard color images.  Some poses just begged for sepia or other interesting effect.

The Groom His Men and Texas Flag

The Groom and His Father

While I am always a little tired after spending 3-5 weeks on wedding photos (I cull through thousands to get anywhere between 150 to almost 400 really good shots, depending upon the length of time I am photographing), I also feel a huge sense of satisfaction with my work; that satisfaction grows in proportion to how pleased the newlyweds are with the images.  I must ALWAYS keep in mind the desires and expectations of the clients, so I am always a little nervous as to how they receive my work.

To see more images taken during Kevin and Amber’s wedding, click on this link to be taken to my photo website.  And feel free to browse around the other galleries and folders as well.  My site continues to be a work in progress.

Pinkie Promise

Next post:  Jennifer and John’s wedding.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Equipment, Events, Life, Photography, wedding

Oh Denali!

Becky at the Park Entrance

As mentioned in my previous post, the National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography article.  To check it out, click on the image above.

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Filed under Alaska, Denali National Park, Landscape, National Parks, Photography, Travel

Nugget Pond: Same Place, Different Time and Day

Nugget Pond Reflection

I‘m a bad blogger, I know I am.  It’s been a month, right, since I last posted? Until recently, I’ve been traveling, then I had a food photo session last weekend and now  am preparing for a wedding photoshoot in a couple of weeks and – oh yeah – I have my day job with which to contend.

I actually have an upcoming article that will be published in the National Parks Traveler, the link of which I’ll provide in a new blog post.  For now, though, here’s something I wanted to post for your viewing pleasure.

Remember my last article that was published for the National Parks Traveler?  It dealt with returning to the same scene in a national park but during different seasons, different times of day, and different weather patterns in order to get totally different looks for the same place.

Well, I applied this  during my recent visit to Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska, while staying at Camp Denali.  The scene you see is Nugget Pond, situated right in front of Camp Denali’s lodge building.  Time of day was either morning or afternoon.  The weather ranged from sunny to overcast to stormy, with clouds in between.

Morning View at Nugget Pond

Sun and Clouds at Nugget Pond

Stormy Evening at Nugget Pond

Morning Reflection on Nugget Pond - HORIZ

Denali in the Morning 1

Becky on the Front Porch

Enjoying my first cup of coffee for the morning on the porch of the Potlatch Building.  Do I look a little tired?  Well, I probably was, from all of the activities in which I’d been involved and with plenty more fun ahead of me.

Stay tuned for my upcoming article about photographing in Denali National Park that will be published in the National Parks Traveler.

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Filed under Denali National Park, National Parks, Photography

Same Scene, Different Seasons (and Time of Day and Type of Weather)

I’m back from a 2-week trip to Alaska to find that the National Parks Traveler has published my latest photography article.  Extremely short on words but lots of photos to prove my point.  If you want to check it out, click on this link.

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Filed under Big Bend, Glacier National Park MT, National Parks, Photography, Seasons, Texas, Travel

A Visit to the Lone Star Flight Museum

Thunderbird B-17G Flying Fortress

Thunder Bird B-17G Flying Fortress

I’ve lived in Texas for a little over 16 years now, and it’s taken me this long to discover Galveston’s Lone Star Flight Museum.  I still probably would not have heard of this place had I not been Googling around for some other aviation-related item and just happened to chance upon this site.

I’m interested in all things WWII-related.  If you’ve read my previous post “Remembrance”, then you know my father was a WWII paratrooper who jumped over Normandy on D-Day.

I’d just finished editing a large set of wedding photos and decided for my first free Saturday to take a little drive along the Gulf Coast toward Galveston and visit this museum.  Naturally, I took along one of my cameras (the 1DX with the 16-35mm lens).  I also brought along my 24-70mm lens but exclusively utilized the 16-35 because I wanted that wider-angle perspective perfect for capturing most, if not the entire, plane view.

The museum is well-lit, but it’s still an interior venue; this means I set my camera to a relatively high ISO of 640; I subsequently brightened up the images a little more during the post-process stage.

First Sight in the Hangar

First sight that greets the museum visitor’s eyes

Nose Art

Nose Art

Nose art

Some people think that these buxom, scantily-clad women (not including that winged tiger) are denigrating to the female sex.  I totally disagree!  But maybe it’s because I – on occasion – have the opportunity to photograph very lovely women (sometimes scantily-clad), myself, and thus I see the beauty in what was captured on the plane’s noses.  Don’t forget that this artistry was also a great morale booster to young men very far away from home.  The museum has a great explanation of the nose art you see here in these two photos.  My favorite piece of art is ‘Surprise Attack”.

Willys MB 1943

Willys MB 1943

Planes are not the only items on exhibit in the museum.

Tarheel Hal

Tarheel Hal P-47D Thunderbolt

Special Delivery

Special Delivery – B-25 Mitchell Bomber

During the time I visited, a James Doolittle reenactor was recounting Doolittle’s Raid to several listeners (including yours truly) .  I had a chance to speak to the gentleman afterwards, who told me he’d been doing this for 4 years, during which time he had the good fortune to speak to several survivors as well as to Doolittle’s biographer.

Bum Steer - P51 Mustang

Bum Steer P51 Mustang

According to the placard for this plane, the engine didn’t “meet the expectations of the U.S. Army Air Corps”; Britain re-fitted the planes with the Rolls Royce Merlin engine which greatly improved performance.

Annie Mo  F4U-5N Corsair

“Annie Mo” F4U-5N Corsair

The wing configuration reminds me of the imperial shuttle on Star Wars.  My tour guide Kevin told me that George Lucas is a huge WW II buff.

Marlene - Uncle Hos Nightmare

“Marlene – Uncle Ho’s Nightmare”

Million Airess

“Million Airess”

As a photographer, I absolutely LOVE the nose art on these planes.  Those artists were amazing.

Yellow Peril

Yellow Peril

Surplus Stearmans were sold as crop dusters and stunt planes after the war.  This gorgeous yellow model immediately brought to mind the yellow bi plane crop duster I sometimes see on my way home from Houston, swooping around and flying low to the ground.

A Stearman and A Texan

Ready to Roll

The museum offers 25-minute flights on both the Stearman bi plane and the T-6 Texan Trainer (for a price – check their website for more details).  Flights are offered on Saturdays, good weather permitting.  During the day I visited, the cloud ceiling was too low, otherwise I would have splurged for a ride (had I not been saving for my upcoming Alaska trip, I would have probably taken a ride in both, because they both looked like awesome fun).

FYI –  I recently read an online article indicating the Lone Star Flight Museum will be moved inland to Ellington Field sometime in the spring of 2016.   You see, Hurricane Ike did a number on the museum (to the tune of about $18 million) and damaged several planes.  There’s an American flag hanging on the wall above one of the jeeps; this flag bears a dirty water mark indicating the height of the flood waters that rushed into the museum’s hangars.

Becky and the T-6 Texan Trainer

Becky and The Texan

Special thanks to museum photographer Kevin McGowan for snapping some “me” shots in front of the Texan and the Stearman.  The show woman in me wants to return all gussied up wearing a 1940’s dress for some more photos. Open-mouthed smile

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Filed under Aviation, Canon, low light photography, Photography, Texas