Christmas Fun With The Cameras, Tree, Decorations and Lights

Christmas Cozy

My home is small, but cozy and bright with neat pictures hanging on the walls (grin)

I actually wasn’t going to put up a tree this year; too many other things going on.  Then, one Saturday evening, I started thinking up photo ops that required the use of a brightly-lit and decorated tree.  So, at 10PM that night, I pulled the tree out of storage; it’s fake and pre-lit so it makes setup and decorating a breeze.

Since the tree has been up, I’ve been milking the photos for all they are worth.  I used my tripod, Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III, and either a 40mm pancake lens, a 24-105mm lens or my prime 85mm f1.2 lens to get the shots you see below.  I love decorations and colored lights, so this has been fun and I’m glad I put that tree up, after all.

H5T1200_Ornaments Lights and A Glass of Wine

Variation On A Theme #1

Bright Lights and Christmas Colors

Czech Glass and Christmas Lights

Christmas Color-Full

Bright Lights and Holiday Colors

Christmas Colors

Here’s wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Christmas Becky2

 

 

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The 2014 Commemorative Air Force Airpower History Show in Dallas, TX

Bringing In FiFi

Bringing in FiFi, the world’s only flying B29 superfortress

I have a work colleague to thank for my interest in aviation and in particular, WW II aviation.  WW II warbirds are beautifully photogenic and even more fun to fly in.  If anyone would have told me at some point in my life I would become fascinated with attending airshows like this one, I would have thought they were nuts.

As is usually the way things happen with me, I was surfing the web for something – can’t remember what – when I noticed this link to the CAF Airpower History Tour (a road/runway tour, if you will) coming up in about a month (this was back in September and the airshow was scheduled for Oct 2 – 5).  So, on the spur of the moment, I bought a ticket and booked an aerobatic Stearman ride for Oct 4.

Dallas was a 3-hour drive…..I thought.  In truth, Dallas from where I live is a 5-hour drive.  Totally worth it, though.  I took along both my Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III along with the 24-70mm, 16-35mm, and 70-200mm lenses.

By the time I actually arrived, the parking area was packed.  I had no idea airshows pulled in such crowds.

Looking Out Over The Airshow

Looking Over The Airfield

Looking over it all – the Ladies For Liberty were gracious enough to let me climb onto their stage overlooking the airfield.

Compared to other airshows, this one was relatively small.  Nonetheless, it was filled with neat planes and jeeps of the era, re-enactors, a wonderful singing trio (The Ladies For Liberty) reminiscent of the Andrews Sisters and the veterans themselves, representing all the military branches.  People like me viewed these amazing warbirds; the veterans actually experienced the warbirds.

Ladies For Liberty

The Ladies For Liberty during a performance.

My aerobatic ride on the Stearman was the bomb!  It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  And the feeling of gravity pulling down as the pilot did maneuvers such as a loop, 2 spins, a roll, a lazy eight, and one other maneuver (can’t remember the name), was crazy!  I squealed with glee wildly every time a maneuver was executed.

Strapped In To The Parachute

Strapped into a parachute…..just in case…

Becky and Bill in the Stearman

Becky and Bill, my pilot, in the Stearman ready for takeoff!

A Primo Ride in FiFi

Regarding the photo above, I had to laugh (at him and at myself for getting outdone):  this guy paid a little over $1500 for the privilege of riding in this primo spot on FiFi, and he used a camera phone…..gah!  I’m saving up so that in 2015, I’m going to ride where this fellow rode on FiFi, the “Flying Fortress”.

Speaking of FiFi and the other large planes:  we all stood relatively close to the planes as they made their way from the runway back to their display location.  During the time those planes kept their engines running, I could hear the deep, loud drone and could feel the power of each plane through the soles of my shoes.  Can you imagine more than one of these great planes out on the airfield, ready to ferry their cargo of soldiers into the war zone?

Underneath The Texas Raiders

Underneath the Texas Raiders B-17.

Texas Raiders Coming In

The Texas Raiders taxiing into her spot.

The CAF is still working on next year’s schedule but it looks like their San Marcos, TX, stop is going to be the closest one to me (which is nice because that’s less than 5-hours to get there).

H5T0176_Stearman Taking Off

Navy Stearman taking off.

Stearman

A Stearman close up.

Gunfighter

The “Gunfighter” P-51.

Texas Raiders Takes To The Air

The Texas Raiders takes to the air.

The Yellow Rose Taking Off

The Yellow Rose B-25 taking off.

Ready For Duty Nose Art

Ready For Duty R4D nose art.  This plane is the navy version of the C-47, which is what my father flew in as a paratrooper during WW II.

Inside the C-47

Inside the R4D.

I’m looking forward to 2015.Becky Bill and the Stearman

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Photography In The National Parks: It’s Not Just About Landscapes or Wildlife

The National Parks Traveler has just published my most recent photography article, and it’s a little different from my norm.  Click on this link to check it out.

 

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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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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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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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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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