Higher education photographer

Welcome to my new website and blog

Today I'm proud to announce my new website and blog.

The lengthy process started a or more year ago with a list of wants, needs, and desires for a showcase of my work, a portal for my writing and, the future expansion into educational opportunities. This site is one I can grow with as the serpentine path of my life and career continues to advance. 

As I said, it was a long, arduous process. Often it felt like I was drinking from a firehose – seemed like a good idea at the time, until it wasn't. In the end, I got everything under control, and I'm happy with the results. I hope you'll like it too as I'm just getting started writing about photography. For your convenience, I've posted everything written since the beginning. 

Thank you and stay tuned! The best is yet to come!!

Building a new website is sometimes like trying to drink from a firehose.

Building a new website is sometimes like trying to drink from a firehose.

Anticipation

Anticipation: noun. Expectation or hope. 

We've all been there. Hanging on by a thread, excited for the outcome, hoping things go in our favor. Maybe it's waiting to hear about the birth of a child, a big job offer, the lottery numbers or springtime in Pittsburgh. Whatever reason it might be, anticipation is a universal emotion. 

Anticipation is a look on the face, body language, and feeling. It provokes tension.  Capturing it in a picture can elevate the image to another level. 

Why it works:

In the photo "Waiting for the Call," anticipation is present on every face and in the body language of the umpire. From the kickup of dust on the lower left to the extended hand of the official on the upper right, there is a diagonal line leading your eye quickly through the frame. Diagonals provide speed and power. Over and over triangles are formed by the people in the picture adding strength and dynamism to the composition. The fence, divided into three rectangles, emulates the three players in the foreground but contrasts with them in their geometry. 

And then there's the timing of the shot. A fraction of a second earlier or later and the image would not be what it is. The composition would be off, the expressions changed, and the umpire's hand, arm, and foot would not be in position. Practice anticipating action makes this image, not the burst of a motor drive. One frame is all you need. One frame is all I got. 

 

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How I did it: The BodPod

I love photographing scientists. Not only do they have interesting apparatus, but the research they do makes a difference in the human condition.  This portrait is a researcher in human performance. As soon as I saw his Bod Pod, I knew I had my location. From the second I saw this white machine in the white lab, I had an image formed in my mind, complete with lighting. I wanted a dynamic picture that would stop the reader and force them to read on. 

The lighting was reasonably straightforward. A blue gel on a Nikon SB-910 was the primary light for the room. I decided on a blue light partially because the scientist was wearing a blue suit. For separation, I placed another SB-910 on a floor stand behind the pod pointing up. For maximum color contrast, I covered the floor flash with the Nikon’s supplied tungsten filter. 

Illuminating the subject is another SB-910, inside the pod, held by the scientist. No gel on this flash but the diffusion cover was attached. A Sekonic flash meter was used to determine exposure, with the blue light set for -1 exposure from the main. 

All flashes were in manual mode for ultimate control. Pocket Wizards were used to trigger the flashes. The camera, a Nikon D750 with 24-120mm f/4 lens, was tripod mounted so the computer screen could burn in at 1/15 second. An aperture of f/8 was selected to ensure both pod and computer remained sharp. The focal length was 31mm, wide-angle but without distortion. I exposed only about eight frames before the scientist decided he had enough. No problem, I expected as much, which made having everything nailed down tight beforehand critical. Never waste a person’s time fiddling with your gear. Get it set then call your subject into the picture. In the end, I had my hero frame in the third shot. 

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How I did it: Theater Portrait

Success in photography requires mastery of many disciplines. The most basic thing you must be master of is your equipment. I don’t mean just knowing how or when to switch to manual mode, but mastering every aspect of every piece of gear you own. 

During a college photo shoot at a noticed the theater professor watching the rehearsal in the back of the auditorium. What first struck me was the lights in the ceiling, then the spotlights aimed at the stage. The image I captured burned into my mind’s eye from the moment I saw the scene. I had to make his portrait. 

I got his attention and cooperation the old fashion way, with compliments. “Do you know how much you look like Mel Gibson?” (this was before Mel imploded). He loved it. After that, he was butter in my hand. I also detailed how I previsualized the picture. Again, he loved it. 

Technically it could have been a simple picture to make – sit in front of the professor, wide-angle lens, high ISO, wide aperture and expose. But that’s not what was in my mind. I wanted those spotlights as starbursts. For that, I needed either a star filter or small aperture. I never carry star filters, so I had only one option. But what f-stop did I need? 

Because I test every piece of gear I own, I knew f/11 on my Canon 15mm fisheye would give me exactly what I wanted. Positioning the lens perfectly level would be necessary to counter the fisheye effect. Also, placing the professor exactly center would mitigate the distortion inherent with that lens. But, because the camera I was using had a 1.3x crop factor, the effective focal length was 19.5mm, diminishing the full fisheye effect. I selected this body over the full-frame Canon 5D because the crop factor would work in my favor with the 15mm lens. 

Shooting this scene at f/11 posed some additional challenges. I wanted to keep the ISO low to maximize quality so the exposure would be somewhat lengthy. During a break in the rehearsal, I explained what I wanted to the professor and asked him just to do what he had been doing, but don’t move. I mounted my Canon 1D Mark II fitted with the 15mm lens onto a tripod and carefully composed the image. Exposure was determined by a handheld meter in an incident mode based on the light falling on his face. At my predetermined f-stop (11) with an ISO of 400, my exposure was 1.3 seconds. The resulting picture was what I had seen in my mind’s eye.

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Balance, Line and Form

In school, I hated higher math. Algebra was the tip of the spear.  I tried to make sense of it but failed miserably. Then, like a breath from Heaven came Geometry. And the Lord said, go forth and angle! My grade point average soared. 

Once I started doing photography, I figured out why geometry came so naturally. That’s also the last time I thought about it. It wasn’t something I had to work on; I could just see in my mind and make it so.

I captured one of my all-time favorite geometric photos in 2011 at Grove City College. I was doing a shoot to build the school’s image library. Wander the campus and look for interesting pictures. I came upon this scene before the students class change. I saw the graphics and the light coming from within the frame. It was interesting, but it needed a human element. I waited. My Leica M9 and 35mm Summicron were ready. 

As students began to rush up and down the stairs, in and out of the frame, I did what I always do in these situations – try to slow my mind to a Zen state to capture a precise composition. I got it. This one frame has everything I was trying to put in the image. Take out any of the figures or change the positions even slightly and the picture would fail. Shoot one shutter speed higher, and the photograph would not have the proper sense of motion. Less depth of field and the image would not read correctly throughout the frame. But this one frame has it all, up and down, side to side, all the angles covered. My high school geometry teacher would be proud.

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