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Monday, October 20, 2014

Photo Tip Monday: Keep Your Background Clean

Summarizing today's post: Photo tip for wildlife photography, snapshots, & carrying your camera with you always.

colorful bug photo
snapshot using available light
Happy Monday! 

Yes, even if you have to get up and go to work this morning like most of the world, it's still a happy Monday. You're vertical aren't you? Some folks are not so lucky!

Let's be thankful to the good Lord that we have jobs to go to so we can keep the heat on and food on the table. I know I am.

So it's Monday and that means I have a quick photo tip for you. This one is so simple, but important none-the-less.  

Take a look at this beautiful little insect at the left. I had stepped outside one day at work and saw this colorful little creature just sitting on the side of a car taking a break. Of course...I had to take a quick photo.

Look at him, then look at his surroundings. What don't you see? 

How about clutter and even dirt particles in the background? That's right.

How much would it have detracted from the photograph of this little guy if the surface he was perched on was filthy? Probably a lot. If he were sitting on the side of a nasty car that hadn't been washed in 3 years, it may have been enough for me not to even bother to take the shot. The dirty surface would have easily taken away from his beauty. I would have just enjoyed a few seconds of watching him and then walked off in that case.

So this got me to thinking. While there's not a whole lot I can do about the cleanliness of things away from home, I can do something about it on my own property. How many times has it happened that I haven't taken a photo of some cool-looking creature that landed on my patio table because I hadn't taken the time to wipe it down in a a week or so? (Admittedly, I still may have snapped a photo, but I'd never show it to anyone!)

Photo tip for today: Take notice of where you often see insects and wildlife stop off around your home (for the sole purpose, of course, to allow you to take a photo of them). Then make it a point to wipe down those areas from time to time and remove the clutter. You will thank yourself later when your little friends return.

You'll make your snapshot (which is all that my photo above really is, truthfully) into a much more appealing piece of art that you can show off.

Have a great Monday and thanks for reading. Don't forget to carry your camera with you today as you walk out the door!


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Friday, October 17, 2014

Have You Had A Break Lately?

Summarizing today's post: Taking short breaks with family, finding peace & contentment, and carrying your camera with you always.

lake photograph
Overlooking Lake Phelps

On Saturday I had the privilege to visit one of our state parks not too far from where I grew up. Pettigrew State Park is right on Lake Phelps, NC and is a beautiful place. Check it out if you like by clicking the here: 

My dad, our little boy, and myself had been planning a little camping trip over the last couple months and decided Lake Phelps was the place to go. Not too far away, and there was plenty for us to do to occupy our time while there. I wanted to post a few photographs I took while there. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to snap a few photos to capture the moment.

Dissipating clouds over the Lake Phelps
Happiness to me is being with family, as you have heard me say before (see here). I love taking short breaks throughout my busy week and recharging my batteries with my wife and son. It's an extra special treat when I can spend time with my parents as well. This little trip was Gavin's first official camping trip away from home so I was extra excited to get away with him.

A little Lake Phelps history lesson
We all had a wonderful time. And although we had to dodge a few storms while there, we made the best of it and had a dry night's sleep in our tent. I couldn't ask for a better experience for Gavin's sake.

I think it is so important to break from our hectic schedules and "recharge" a bit from time to time. It can be compared to sleep at night between our busy days...we all need it.

I sure hope that you get to break away from your busy life this weekend and do something fun with family. It doesn't have to be a long, eventful trip either. A simple hour-long walk in the park during this awesome weather we are having right now might be enough.

Whatever you do, just make sure you bring your camera with you to capture the peace and contentment that such a little outing will give. You'll be pleasantly surprised of the warm happy feeling that will come over you when you look back at your photos later on.

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday!


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Friday, October 10, 2014

I Need Your Help: What Makes You Happy?

Summarizing today's post: Happiness thru photography, & a petition for your story.

shot at 44mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1/800th of a sec
As I have said before, I am convinced that happiness is escalated by the use of photography. You can look at my recent post where I wrote about our wedding anniversary (here) for a concrete example.

Time is escaping out from under us, and I believe it is so important to capture 'on film' the little things that make us glow. 

Thru my blog, I have provided many, many examples of things that make me happy. My family has been the main source of these happy times that I have shown you. But I have provided other examples as well. I have shown photographs of our pets, provided neat little shots of nature, and a couple off-the-wall things thrown in for good measure. 

This wonderful hobby of mine--photography itself--gives me a jolt of happiness as well. Only the tech-weird amateur photographer can appreciate this one (and that's okay).

Nine-nine percent of what my blog has been about up to this point is what has made ME happy. Granted, I hope you have gained something out of this and projected my examples onto your own lives in some small way.

But now it's your turn.

I need your help. I am asking my readers for some examples of what makes them happy. What floats your boat? What have you taken photos of that when you look back on them, you smile from ear to ear? I would like you to share that happiness with me so I can provide yet another example to my readers that happiness is indeed linked to photography.

Here are just a few things to get your mind stirring:

  • Do you have some photos of your son or daughter playing sports who you are super proud of? 
  • Does your husband like hunting/boating/fishing and you have a story along with a photograph to share? 
  • Does your wife love baking and have you managed to sneak up on her and get a candid shot of her in 'her element' that you'd like to share?

It's your turn to broadcast your happiness and I need some examples...can you help? I'd be tickled to turn your example into a blog post for others to see if you'd like. (Note: Your photos don't have to be perfect, snapshots will be just fine.)

Contact me thru Facebook here,
Or thru Twitter here,
Or leave a comment below (if you have a google account set up).

I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Photo Tip Monday: Using Ambient (Available) Light

Summarizing today's post: Using only ambient/available light in photography & keeping your camera handy at all times.

shot at 120mm, ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/30th, ambient light only
Happy Monday guys!

I've got a quick photo tip for you today. Nothing earth-shattering, but important.

First, I'd like to start off with a thought for those of you who hate Mondays.

A colleague of mine at work told me this when I came dragging in early one Monday morning...he said: "You know Brant, one of the best things about Monday is that it is the absolute furthest day of the week away from the next Monday". 

Pretty neat thought. Maybe it made you smile.

Okay, on to the photo tip.

With all the many, many ways that you can adjust lighting in photography, don't overlook the lighting that's already there. The ambient/available light can be (and often is) sufficient to light your subject. This is good news to those of you are a little timid with using flash photography.

Take a look at Kitty above (her actual name is Pepper, but she wouldn't know it...I've always called her Kitty). 

We had a chilly night sneak up on us last week and I didn't have the heat on just yet in our home. Therefore, it was a little colder than normal inside when I got up and moving. I found Kitty soaking up the heat from one of the sun's rays streaming thru our porch door. 

Maybe she was dropping me a hint. "Turn on the heat daddy!"

Anyhow, I thought it was a pretty neat photo opportunity so I grabbed my camera (I always have it handy, especially around home...don't you?).

With the sun illuminating her face and chest just right, I didn't want to add any light (flash or otherwise) to the image. I simply went with the ambient light. It turned out very nice I thought...and it took maybe 30 seconds to capture. 

Sometimes you do need to add your own light to the ambient (see my post here for an example), but many times you can get away with what's already there.

Don't over-complicate things. Just have your camera ready at all times.

Have a great Monday and thanks for reading!


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Friday, October 3, 2014

Our Wedding Anniversary: Happiness Defined

Summarizing today's post: Photos of our wedding from a year ago, what happiness is to me, & how photography and happiness are closely related.

shot at 62mm, ISO 400, f/4.8, 1/250th, ambient mixed with 2 off-camera strobes (TTL)
This past Tuesday, the 30th, my wife and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful day relaxing and reflecting on this past year and how quickly it went by. 

As part of the day, we looked at some wedding photographs...such happy moments! I wanted to share a few of them with you. [Now why would I do that? Read on...]

Pictured above is a sweet little photograph taken on the back porch of our mountain cabin just after the wedding ceremony. While I was taking a few shots of Pinky in her pretty white gown, one of our friends who accompanied us grabbed my camera. He made me sit down for a moment while my new bride jumped in my lap. He snapped the photo. Nice shot I thought.

Photo by wedding photographer
This next photo is from our wedding album, and it shows the energy and excitement that Gavin brought to the event. It makes me smile to look at it :) Sweet youngin...he did so good as ring bearer.

I never knew how much effort could go into planning even a very small wedding. Not only did we need to decide on the place, but then who would marry us, how many people were going to come, how to feed everyone, etc. The list goes on. (I don't know what I'd have done if I didn't have Pinky's help!) 

After much deliberation about where the ceremony would be held (deciding ultimately between the Outer Banks of North Carolina and the mountains of Tennessee) we decided that Gatlinburg, TN would be where we were going to "tie the knot". And it was a wonderful place indeed.

We found a wonderful little wedding chapel tucked away in the the hills of this nice town, and it was perfect. It provided for us exactly what we wanted...a small, classy place where we could exchange our vows in the presence of God. And of course...we arranged to have plenty of photos!

Photo by wedding photographer
We decided on Gatlinburg for many reasons. One of which was that we didn't want a big wedding at all, and didn't want to trouble a lot of folks with coming. The way we accomplished this was by moving the event 300 miles away! Only a handful of our friends and family followed us up there.

The seclusion of the mountains is soul-soothing. I have spend a lot of time as a child visiting the mountains, starting from when I was just a child. I have learned how simply being up there can change you. It's hard to explain unless you've been there. To be able to gaze up at the nighttime sky and see the brightest set of stars in your life looking back on you is priceless. 

We wanted this simplicity and serene environment for our special time. We spent several days up there in Gatlinburg (and neighboring Pigeon Forge) after the ceremony was over and the family went home. This gave us a chance to rest a relax after the hectic events leading up to our trip. We so desperately want to return very soon to visit again. I highly recommend you make plans to travel up there soon if you are looking for a place to get away for a few days (especially this time of year with the leaves about to turn colors).

Finding Pinky and then getting married to her completed me...for I was lost for a long time. Discovering someone who fits you like a puzzle piece can be a gut-wrenching journey. We all go thru it, and some of you may not have found that perfect person yet. But don't give up, keep looking. (By the way, there is no such thing as a perfect person... but there is such a thing as a perfect match for you.)

I have talked many times about happiness and photography (see here for most recent post) and how they are closely related. I am absolutely convinced that photographing events--that already make you happy--will increase that level of joy. And here's the will EXTEND and lock in that happiness. As long as you have access to those photos, you can get a quick little "happy fix" whenever you want!

This is the reason for my post today. I wanted to show you by example something that gave me extreme happiness. Our wedding day. And that by taking the time to get some photographs of this wonderful day (either my me or someone else), I extended that happy and content feeling.

What ever gives you joy...capture it forever with a photograph.

One last photo before I go. This one is a group shot of all our loyal friends and family who made the long journey up into the hills of Tennessee to share in our joy that day. (Not pictured here is my brother Bryce, his wife Krista, and Gavin...poor boy was too wore out to pose for yet another photo.) I love all of you.

shot at 20mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/60th of a second, ambient mixed with 2 off-camera strobes (TTL)
I hope everyone has an awesome Friday. Thanks for reading!


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Monday, September 29, 2014

Photo Tip Monday: Pack An Extra Battery

Summarizing today's post: Photo tips, being prepared, & remembering the camera.
Not too long ago my aunt told me a sad story.

She had taken a little trip down to the Outer Banks with my uncle to get away for a few days. They like to visit Ocracoke Island, and that was their destination.

It was a beautiful day out when they loaded up on the ferry (yes, Ocracoke is only accessible by ferry). What an awesome day to take a few photos of the ocean shore from the ferry's viewpoint.

She pulled out her camera, and...dead battery. What a disappointment!

My aunt is usually all-prepared in every situation imaginable. Bless her heart, she remembered to take her camera for the trip. But she is human, and she forgot to charge her battery the night before. Rats.

So in the spirit of this sad story, I have a photo tip for you (after all, it IS Photo Tip Monday): 

Get yourself a backup battery. 

They are usually cheap. But even if it weren't, I'd still recommend you get one. It doesn't matter how fancy your camera is...if you don't have a battery for it, you're screwed. I'd rather have a $50 camera with a charged up battery than a $5000 inoperable one.

Here's a resource for you where you can find any battery for any camera:

Batteries Plus:

Go buy yourself an extra battery and keep it charged and in your camera case at all times.

Thanks for reading and have a great Monday!


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Friday, September 26, 2014

Tribute To Summer Fun: Taking Group Photos

Summarizing today's post: Summer fun with family, taking group photos, making mistakes, & happiness thru photography.

shot at 18mm, ISO 159, f/7.1, 1/250th of a sec, strobe at camera left @ 1/2.5th power
We are officially into the Fall season now. Cooler temps greet us as we walk out the door in the morning and the leaves will start turning those deep orange, yellow, & red colors very soon. So pretty. It truly is my favorite time of the year. 

Fall is the season that cameras were made for. Photographers--that have perhaps lay dormant all year--spring into action. There are just so many beautiful scenes (in the most common places) just ready to be captured! I smile just thinking about it.

Summer is also a wonderful time of the year and has provided many fun times for me and my family. Today, as we bid farewell to Summer, I wanted to share a couple of photos of our beach trip to Nags Head, NC this past July. This trip was, by far, my happiest time this season. 

And when something makes you happy, what should you do? Right. Capture the moment so you can remember it always! Happiness is elevated and extended by that beautiful little box known as the camera. Priceless it is to be able to pull up a photograph of an event 10 years afterwards and draw happiness from it. I know nothing else like it.

You have perhaps seen some photos already of our family's beach trip (see my post here). I took plenty! I wanted to share few more as we close out this season. 

Group shots can be a chore, but they pay off. I took the above shot of the family just before we left the Outer Banks and headed back home. My mood that day, as I remember, was not the best because our trip was coming to a close. However, after getting everyone together one last time perked me right up. 

Shown above are my parents, two brothers, aunt & uncle, and my wife & son. I'm at the far right side so I could have easy access to the camera (I used time delay so I could jump in too). It turned out to be a pretty nice shot I thought (even with Gavin sticking his tongue out!).

The lighting was a challenge due to the fact that it was so bright outside and I was facing full-on sun. We were on the porch which shaded us, so that helped a bunch. However the background was so bright that our faces were extremely dark without the help of flash. 

Thinking back on some of my own advice (see my post here) about shooting in full sun, I set up one strobe to camera left and set it almost to 50% of it's capacity. That's a lot, but I was trying to light a large area. [The high power setting was also necessary due to my low ISO sensitivity, where I was trying to tame the bright background.]

Thinking back, I should have brought out 2 for each side of our group. Lesson learned (poor dad... I had to "burn" him just to make some light reach over to my side). Sometimes we have to improvise as photographers, and--since I was short on equipment--I had to do the same. I wound up having to use my on-camera flash to assist in the distribution of added light. 

It was a mistake to skimp on my lighting set up, I should have packed my other strobe. But that's okay, we learn from our mistakes, that's the important thing. 

18mm, ISO 159, f/7.1, 1/250th, strobe 1/2.5
My set up was actually better for lighting a small area. Here's a better shot of just Ron (my brother) and Pinky (my sweet wife). They have always been best buds and I wanted to get a shot of them. This one turned out pretty good I thought.

I could show you more photos but I'm flat out of time for today.

I'll leave you with this thought:

Happiness is a state of mind. One thing that brings me extreme happiness is being with my family. What brings you happiness may be something different, and that's OK. 

The point is that you can amplify your happiness (and extend it) by capturing on "film" whatever it is that makes you smile. This way you can enjoy the moment forever.

Photography is awesome like that.

Thanks for reading, have a great Friday!


Wow, look at made it all the way thru my post! I really appreciate you as a reader. Don't forget to register your email for automatic updates up at the top. Please pass this blog post on to your friends using the Tweet, Facebook, and Google+ buttons. That would be awesome.