I like beer. Seriously. I really like beer. That seems kind of ridiculous because at 150 pounds, I'm what you might call a "lightweight," something my friends love to remind me of any chance they get. No worries though. I can still enjoy good beer.Read More
I don't usually use this blog to discuss the work of others, but occasionally I see something that I feel warrants my sharing on this site.
I have loved Sally Mann's work for years. Her work has always felt magical to me and despite her numerous detractors, I think her work is beautiful. It's not often that I find a book about photography that really inspires me, but Sally Mann's book, "Hold Still" really got me excited about the still image once again. She discusses her relationship to photography and she shares some of her families most intimate stories in her memoir. Stories that are both good and bad. Her writing style is genuine and engaging. Her artistic sensibilities inform her writing style and help make what is already a fascinating life even more enthralling to read. For example . . .
"The Japanese have a phrase for this dual perception: mono no aware. It means "beauty tinged with sadness," for there cannot be any real beauty without the indolic whiff of decay. For me, living is the same thing as dying, and loving is the same thing as losing, and this does not make me a madwoman; I believe it can make me better at living, and better at loving, and, just possibly, better at seeing."
So I know what you’re thinking. If you’re a child of the 80’s like myself you are wondering if I photographed Sylvester Stalone as the troubled Vietnam Veteran that was John Rambo in the Rambo film series. Let me clear that up by saying absolutely not. That would have been cool, but this story is much more interesting in my opinion.
I photographed a remarkable man named Ron Rambo for a story in USGBC Magazine. Besides having a wicked cool name, Ron is a wonderful man. I rarely say that about someone I have only spent a few hours with, but Ron left an impression on me. He has what I can only describe as “good vibes” and it’s apparent by the people he surrounds himself with.
Ron was born with cerebral palsy which limits his speech and body movements. He uses a wheelchair and has 2 aides that help him around the clock. He faces mobility challenges on a daily basis, including moving about in his own home. He is an advocate for the disabled community and is well known in the city of Lancaster, PA. Ron had an idea to create a totally independent and fully accessible home on a piece of property owned by his mother in Lancaster. He nicknamed the project “Ramboland” and it has since attracted the attention of Jesse Pellman of Longview Structures and Max Zahniser of Praxis Building Solutions. His project has also gained the support of Mayor Richard Gray of Lancaster.
I had the opportunity to meet and photograph all of these people on a mild February day in Lancaster. I love shooting these kinds of stories because I get to meet amazing people and learn about inspiring projects. Ramboland is in the planning stages, but this home will be cutting edge in every way. Not only will it be fully accessible for Ron, but it will also be totally energy and water independent. This is why the USGBC (United States Green Building Council) sent me to photograph this project.
The scheduling for this shoot was challenging because I was trying to coordinate with so many people for one day of shooting. All were very accommodating and I was able to shoot this story over the course of a few hours starting with the Mayor. I photographed the Mayor in his office and then met with Jesse Pellman at the building site. After photographing Jesse I met with Max Zahniser who was traveling from Philadelphia at a coffee shop where Ron hangs out on a regular basis. I photographed Max in the back courtyard and when Ron arrived I photographed the two of them together. Once Max hit the road I had some time to get to know Ron. We spent a few hours at the coffee shop and around the streets of Lancaster.
Making portraits of people can be such a daunting challenge if you let it. It’s difficult to capture a person’s personality in one frame after only spending a few minutes with them. For every assignment I shoot there are different goals with how the images should be used to tell the story. Sometimes I have the freedom to put my own spin on how I feel about a particular topic. Other times I am hired to merely make someone look good on camera. Most of the time, my job is to discover the true essence of the person in front of the lens and to show at least a little bit of that essence on camera.
If you'd like to read the entire story, you can find it online HERE.
This past fall I had the good fortune of being assigned to photograph Police Officer, Rob Capezio just outside of Pittsburgh, PA for Men's Fitness Magazine. Men's Fitness has a success story in each month's print edition and Rob was chosen for the work he did to transform a bare bones gym at his department headquarters into a well-equipped training space for himself and his fellow officers.
I was hired to photograph Rob working out in a variety of scenarios with his fellow officers as well as to make a few portraits of him. My assistant and I started the day by grabbing a few shots of Rob running outside before moving into the gym. Once in the gym, we prioritized getting shots of Rob working out with fellow officers. Both Rob and his fellow officers were very gracious with their time on their day off of work and were happy to help me get the shots we needed. The gym is well-equipped but fairly small and covered on one side with mirrors. While the mirrors are great when you're working out they are problematic when shooting and lighting a space. This limited me to only a few angles and I chose a shot that had a bit of depth to it for the group shot.
Once we had the shots we needed of Rob with his fellow officers we moved on to focusing on shots of just Rob. Since we were shooting for a fitness magazine it was important to highlight Rob's physique. Rob has some wicked looking arms so we thought photographing him doing some dips would give him the arm definition we were looking for. For this shot, I wanted the image to be focused solely on him so I didn't mind shooting against a plain white wall. I used two softboxes slightly behind and on either side of him to add definition and used a 36-inch Octabox with a grid attached to light in his front.
After we had the shots we needed for the story we spent some time experimenting and grabbing a couple extra options which you can see below along with tear sheets from the January/February issue of Men's Fitness.
I get hired to make portraits on a regular basis. Portraits are one of my favorite specialties and I always enjoy photographing interesting people. Regardless of whether I'm photographing my kids, a CEO, an ordinary person on the street, a musician or a doctor in a hospital, learning about different people makes me a better artist.
I was recently hired by Virginia Heart Cardiovascular Group to photograph some of their doctors in various settings at their offices in Northern Virginia. Over the course of 2 days, we photographed 10 doctors as well as nurses and staff. The images will be used in a new website design and in marketing materials that will be distributed throughout the region.
One of my favorite things about photographing doctors is getting to learn about what they do on a daily basis. Having the opportunity to learn a little bit about cardiovascular disease, treatments, and surgeries is fascinating stuff. Most of it is over my head, but getting to hear these men and women talk about the heart and the human body is incredibly inspiring.
I've been lucky enough to photograph cardiac ablation procedures as well as pacemaker installations. It's with this great respect that I approach each portrait because I want confidence, dedication, positive energy and approachability to radiate from each of these professionals.
Here are a few of my favorite portraits from the shoot.
"And life needs to be more than just solving problems every day, you need to wake up and be excited about the future. Be inspired and want to live.” - Elon Musk
In a recent speech at the 67th International Astronautic Conference in Guadalajara, Mexico, Elon Musk gave a speech about Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) plans to put humans on Mars. Whether you believe this is possible or not is irrelevant. The important point is that someone believes it is possible. Instead of simply talking about it Elon Musk and SpaceX are actually working toward achieving their goal. This is a private company who is building rockets and sending them to space. And while they are doing it, they are driving down the cost of sending rockets into space. Occasionally, they have problems, but they are doing it.
Because of this vision and a relentless drive to achieve it for the good of all humanity, SpaceX is actually doing the impossible. The reason I'm writing about this on a blog that mostly talks about photography projects I have done or am working on is because this is just damn inspiring shit. If you are an aspiring or professional photographer you need to have the same drive that Elon Musk has. Well, maybe not to the extreme extent to which he lives his life, but at least sharing a bit of that enthusiasm for the future will be helpful.
As an aside, I recently finished 'Elon Musk,' a biography by Ashlee Vance and highly recommend checking it out. If you're like me you will find Musk to be equal parts inspiring, equal parts despicable. His vision for humanity is incredible while the appearance of his personal relationships seems quite dismal. Of course, I don't know him, but from Vance's reporting it doesn't seem like he will be winning any awards for greatest husband or father. But, I suspect he will be looked upon as one of the greatest industrialists of our time in the years to come.
His ability to think on a timeline well beyond his own lifespan is very humbling. How many of you can actually say you think about the state of humanity 1,000 years from now? I think about what the world will be like for my kids, but beyond that, it becomes hard to fathom. Just try for a minute to imagine humanity in 1,000 years. Will we still be here? Will Earth still support us? How will we evolve? What will society be like? Will we be traveling around the universe in space ships? Will we still argue about which bathroom people use?
I'm trying hard to bring this post back to photography, but honestly, I'm forcing it a bit. I just like this quote and I like talking about space exploration and the future of humanity. Let's leave it at that. I hope it inspires you in the same way it does me.
Oh, and here is the video about making humans a multi-planetary species.
10 years ago, with a passion for photography, a strong work ethic and just the right amount of naiveté, I struck out as a professional photographer with the support of my wife. I haven’t had a real job since. There have been some major highs and major lows during the past decade, but as my 11th year in business begins I feel as if I’m finally on solid ground.Read More
I feel that I should give a warning before you dive into this blog post. It contains a lot of links to other websites where you will likely spend a good deal of time watching, looking and listening to great art. If you're at work, you may want to wait to read this until you're on break.
I recently stumbled upon a documentary on Vimeo On Demand called “Make” and have been thinking about it ever since. The film is expertly produced and well shot. It’s a beautiful film that tells the stories of multiple artists and really reminded me of why I do what I do.
I’ve been in the photo industry long enough that sometimes I forget why I got into photography. This is my job. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes it’s just a job. One truth that continues to hold up no matter what my day is like, is that I get to make things on a daily basis and that makes me happy. Sometimes I get to make pictures that I want to make. Most of the time I get to make pictures that other people want me to make. Other times I get to make my own rules and that feels pretty good too. Regardless, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to make photographs for a living and I try to remind myself periodically not to take it for granted.
When I watched “Make” I was reminded of the drive that creators have to make things. Artists are compelled to bring new things into the world over and over again. The film features artists that I am familiar with like Miller Mobley, the band Sylvan Esso, and Elliot Rausch. Each person has something interesting to say about their lives and their art. After I researched Elliot Rausch a little more I was excited to learn that he was the director of a music video of a song that had a dramatic impact on my adolescent life, “Bro Hymn” by Pennywise. The influence of Pennywise on my younger self cannot be understated and to hear from the director of a music video of the song that defined my youth is particularly inspiring.
Just a quick warning. If you go to Elliot's website and watch "Last Minutes With Oden" you are going to cry. If you don't, then you are a heartless bastard. If you want to be inspired and moved without crying, you can do it for only $3.99 this weekend. Rent “Make” on Vimeo and enjoy this honest look into what it means to be a creator.
The title of my post might be a little misleading, but it sounded cool so I went with it. This post is really about traveling to Jackson, WY for a few days with good friends over the 4th of July weekend. There were definitely guns, but I'm not so sure about guts or glory. Although catching cutthroat trout in the Snake River while drinking a beer with a bald eagle flying overhead made me feel pretty glorious. Seriously. That happened. The beer was none other than “America”, aka the beer formerly known as Budweiser. Maybe the glory I felt was simply unadulterated American pride in the situation. Regardless, it felt pretty awesome.
The trip was for my friend Dan’s bachelor party although there has been talk of late that the trip was actually for me. I guess we’ll never know will we Dan? Anyway, we had an awesome time. I won’t argue who had more fun, but let’s just say I did pretty much everything I had hoped to do in only 3 days in Jackson. I went fishing. Twice. I climbed. Twice. I drank a lot of beer and even lost the jumbo margarita race. I went hiking and running. I went biking and watched the sunrise on the Tetons. And, I even got to shoot a wide range of firearms. All in all, it was a pretty epic 3 days.
Now, I should mention that the majority of my life is not epic. Unless of course you consider being woken up at 3am by a 4-year-old regularly because his blankets fell off as epic. I’m a dad and husband and that comes before anything else. I'm working from home this afternoon and my son has actually interrupted me 4 times so far while I've been writing this blog post. I get enough thrills from having a family and running a business that I am quite happy in my day to day life.
Every once in a while though, I have the itch and the opportunity to branch out and pursue the activities I love to do, but seldom have time for. I get paid to do some pretty cool things (see this post), but it’s different when you are simply on vacation.
Here a just a few highlights from my trip to Jackson.
Having just returned from a climbing trip in the New River Gorge of West Virginia, I'm eager to share some images I shot while there. Check out this blog post to learn more about the Gorge. I was hired by Mercersburg Outdoor Education to be a 2nd climbing guide for 7 students. We climbed for a total of 6 days and had students who had never climbed in their life leading 5.7, 5.8 and 5.9 climbs by the last day. For the non-climbers reading this, that is a pretty tremendous feat. If you want to fully understand climbing grades check out this explanation.
It was exciting to see everyone improve so quickly and to watch them push each other to step outside their comfort zones. I didn't have as much time to hang on the rock to photograph everyone this year, but I still was able to come away with some fun images from the trip.
A lot has happened since my last blog post. Hell, it's been over 3 months! I've gotten pretty bad at updating this blog, but I'm going to keep trying whenever I can find a few spare minutes.
Anyway, for this post I want to share some images from a recent test shoot I did with a model from SLU Agency. I have shot a variety of sports and lifestyle over the years, but I've been wanting to narrow my focus a little more in this genre and decided I'd like to do a combined fitness/running shoot.
There is an old apparel building in my hometown of Mercersburg, PA that I've been obsessed with for years. I've been looking for ways to utilize this space for a shoot and finally found a concept that would work for it. I know the owner and he was kind enough to let us invade the space for a day. Once I had the location dialed in, I worked with SLU to find the right talent for this shoot. Shelbye Schlange is based in Baltimore and is a talented fitness model. Check her out on Instagram. I got her to come up for the day and also brought stylist, Brooke Leidner on board to help with wardrobe, hair and makeup.
My assistant, Quinn shot an awesome behind the scenes video which you can see below. It will do a much better job of describing the shoot day than my rambling blog post will so I'll share a few pics and leave it at that.
I thought it would be fun to share a little glimpse behind the scenes of a recent editorial assignment in Washington DC. This portrait was part of a story about green building within the DC marketplace. The story took a look at some of Washington DC's most iconic monuments and buildings through the eyes of the GSA and The Capitol.
I photographed LEED Program Manager for Design Excellence Architecture + Sustainability Lance Davis at the GSA building on a hot, sunny day in September. I was forced to go it alone on this particular assignment and had to improvise a sun block on the fly. Fortunately, a large softbox can double as a shade in a pinch and even add some extra fill light if necessary.
In the image above you can see my key light is my 36 inch octabox with a grid on the left. The large softbox on the right is blocking the sun off of my subject. While I want the sun to illuminate the background, I did not want it putting harsh shadows on the side of my subjects face. This was a simple workaround in a pinch. Had an assistant been with me and we had a little more time we may have been able to throw up a large scrim instead. But since I was working alone I opted for a simple and less likely to fly away solution.
All in all, I think this was a pretty elegant solution for a situation where improvisation was needed. You can see the final shot below. I loved Lance's boots and wanted to make sure they were included in the shot. I feel that it gives a little more information about his personality. In Texas, it's common to meet businessmen who wear boots with their suits, but this is not the case in Washington DC. It seemed out of place which made it all the more interesting to me. Lance is a really nice guy and we had a good time working on these shots together.
Back in June I had the pleasure of photographing a rock climbing trip to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. The 10-day trip was put together by The Mercersburg Academy Outdoor Education program and I was hired to document it. I love climbing so it was a thrill to climb and photograph in one of the greatest climbing destinations in North America.
The book above was created using my photos from the trip and quotes I collected from each student during short, informal interviews. It was written, photographed and designed by me and published through Blurb.
I've been climbing for 15 years and have been to some really great climbing destinations. One of my all time favorites is the New River Gorge in West Virginia. It's a 5 hour drive for me and boasts over 1,400 established rock climbs. It's all sandstone and it's wonderful!
Back in the summer of 2002 I lived there and worked as a whitewater photography on the New and Gauley Rivers. I lived in my tent at a climbers campground and spent all my free time climbing. It was one of the coolest summers of my life. I've been there numerous times since, but it's been almost 5 years since my last trip.
This June, I had the pleasure of working in the Gorge as a photographer for Mercersburg Outdoor Education. My good friend and client hired me to photograph a 10 day trip with the Outdoor Ed program from Mercersburg Academy. I was part of a 9 person trip. Six students, two guides and myself. The Mercersburg Outdoor Education program is incredible. They take students all over the world and teach leadership skills that can only really be learned in wilderness situations. These kids are great. Not only are they technically proficient, but they are bright, thoughtful, eager and polite. It was an absolute pleasure for me to be a part of this climbing trip.
I'm currently in the process of designing a book for the program based on this trip. I'll share that here once it's complete, but for now I'd like to share a few of my favorite images from the trip.
Hi There. Thanks for visiting my blog! This is an all new platform for my website and blog. It took a long time to get everything together, but it's finally here. My blog and website all in one place. Woohoo!
For those of you with developer experience this probably would have been a piece of cake to make happen, but alas, I'm a photographer. And what do photographers do when they don't know how to do something? They figure it out. I'm stubborn enough that with enough hard work and research I can side step obstacles and get things to work the way I want them to. Of course it took 4 times the amount of time it should have taken a knowledgable web developer. With that said, it sure would have been nice to have somebody smarter than myself to migrate all my old blog posts to my new blog.
Anyway, it's here and it's live! That's the important thing. So, whether you're a new visitor or an old time pal, I hope you enjoy what I have to share. Hit me up with questions, comments and suggestions.
I recently had the pleasure of photographing Under Armour Founder, Kevin Plank for Footwear News Magazine. I had about 20 minutes with him (he's a busy guy after all) and was able to grab 3 setups, including the cover shot. Mr. Plank is a great guy to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with him. It's easy to see why he has been so successful and has guided Under Armour to where it is today.
“If you do it for the sake of loving it, and you don't care whether you're seen or not, or paid or not, all that stuff will come. But enjoy the process! If you start doing things for the sake of selling up front, for rewards, then it's going to catch up to you. The other guys not chasing money are going to outdo you in the end, because real innovation and grit come from loving the process.”-Rodney Mullen
Read the entire article titled "Silicon Valley Has Lost Its Way. Can Skateboarding Legend Rodney Mullen Help It? on Wired.com
Wow, it's been a long time since my last blog post! It's been a busy couple of months and here's a more recent project I worked on for the U.S. Green Building Council and The Content Worx. I promise I'll update more frequently in 2015. You can see the full story and images on USGBC's website.
I have the very good fortune of being married to an amazing singer and songwriter. My wife, Larissa and her sister, Brechyn, started a band named The Hello Strangers in Austin, TX and have worked hard to create an authentic sound that highlights their sibling harmonies. I love their music. It’s not just because I’m married to Larissa. It’s because their songs are filled with stories and each is executed with precision and grace. They are the kinds of songs that you can listen to over and over again without ever getting tired of them.
As someone who spent his youth listening to punk rock and heavy metal I never envisioned myself being married to an Americana musician. The fact is that we all grow in one way or the other and years ago I opened myself to all kinds of music and am a much better person for it. I love music and I enjoy seeing how different bands present their stories, emotions and poetry to the world.
There are numerous benefits to being married to a musician. Aside from getting in to shows for free, hearing new songs first and feeling cool for being married to a musician, I also get great joy from collaborating with The Hello Strangers on their image and identity. Larissa, Brechyn and I have been collaborating on photos and videos for years now and each one has it’s own unique set of challenges and rewards.
I am exceptionally thrilled about The Hello Strangers' self-titled debut album. They worked extremely hard with Nashville producer, Steve Ivey, to create an album that is excellent. And I’m equally thrilled about working with them to create the photographs used in the album packaging. I’ve worked with them on other projects and have worked with other bands for promotional photos, but this was my first time working on photography that would encase the entire album. These photographs needed to introduce The Hello Strangers and to build a story in the viewer's mind about what they were going to hear on the 13 track album.
We worked together to craft a general idea of how we wanted to present the music and this idea changed multiple times over the course of this project. What we ended up with is new and old photography that shows who The Hello Strangers are while also creating a mood and story about music. The images we shot and selected went through numerous changes, and with expert guidance from Designer Carl Nielson, we were able to lay everything out into a unique package that introduces The Hello Strangers and their music to the world.
Their songs have a wide stylistic range, but at it’s core each song is meant to be sung by two voices. The harmonies are key, regardless of whether they are singing a murder ballad, a love song or a honky tonk number. These photos are about the love and respect Larissa and Brechyn have for one another as sisters, musicians and friends while also paying homage to the dark stories they create.
I’m proud of the creativity, love and hard work they have put into this album. I’m also proud of the photographs I helped create. These photos help give their songs and voices a visual identity. I couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of this process.
If you have never heard their music, take a listen to a couple of my favorite tracks. It's really hard to just pick three, but these are my current favorites live and recorded alike.
If you like what you hear, then please consider downloading an album. The albums aren’t yet available for mail order so when the opportunity arises for you to come to a show, be sure to check out the schedule. You can pick up a real hard copy of the album then.
Sometimes, it's really hard to turn down work. Especially when the work sounds interesting. But, there comes a time in every photographer's career where you are faced with a choice.
"Do I go against everything I believe in and sign this shitty contract to make a few bucks or do I politely decline and stick to my guns?"
I recently had the opportunity to politely decline what sounded like an interesting project because the contract was simply bad. The contract was a "work for hire" agreement which requires that I sign over any and all rights, including copyright ownership to the client. Some people will say work for hire is evil and should never ever be considered. I take a more optimistic approach in that each project is different. If I were approached by a client who required a work for hire agreement and understood exactly what it meant and how much it should be worth then I might negotiate a rate that compensates me for handing over my intellectual property. That's the core problem right there though. If I sign a work for hire agreement then I have no opportunity to make money from those images in the future. Technically speaking, I can't even use them in my portfolio. Shitty. If a client is actually willing to pay a fair price for that, then hell yeah I'll sign it, but I don't know that any company exists that is willing to pay a true work for hire cost.
Here's the thing though. They don't need this kind of agreement. They really don't. It's a contract that was crafted by the company lawyers, who in all fairness are just trying to do their job. In their legal minds they only see one side. The client's side. I get it, I really do. However, it locks creative professionals like myself into a contract that doesn't have any flexibility. If I can't negotiate a fair wage based on the end use of the images I create then how do I survive as an image creator?
The client of the agency that contacted me made it clear to the agency that the contract crafted by the company lawyers could not be altered in any way. No changes, nada. It was a really bad contract and I had no options for negotiating changes.
Despite that, I aired my grievances to the Art Director, who quite frankly is put in a tough situation every time she needs to hire creative services. I suggested changes to the language in the contract that would essentially give the client what they need without asking me to give up everything. She was extremely understanding of my position, but despite her best intentions the contract could not be changed. She seemed really nice and I did want to work with her, but we had no way to change the terms of the agreement.
I really feel for agency creatives that are forced to ask other creative professionals to sign these kinds of contracts. It must suck knowing that you are asking photographers to hand over their rights for a nominal fee, without having any alternatives.
The worst part about this whole ordeal is the fact that the next photographer in line probably signed that terrible contract without a second thought. It's a reality of my profession though and I intend to continue to negotiate each and every contract that comes into my inbox. I know for a fact that all parties involved can reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial and respectful to the rights of one another if everyone involved is willing to communicate and be flexible. So that's what I'll do. I'll remain flexible.