March 2008

Something Old

On my recent streetwalking event I was disembarking from the train, immediately looking for views to capture. This was the first scene I saw off of one of the stops. The clock is what drew me in at first, but I started to notice the lines created by the overhead wires and the clock. I liked the symmetry of everything, but also the aged feeling it conjured. When I was back home I applied some lighting and color treatment in Lightroom until I was happy with the effect.

Canon 40D, 24-105L, 1/5000 at f/4 and 400ISO

Street Photography in SLC


Yesterday I had the pleasure of joining the Photowalking Utah group on another monthly event. This time weather permitted us to get back in the outdoors and conduct what was mostly a walk.

The concept of this Photowalk was to board the TRAX rail and ride across town, getting off at each stop to take photos of whatever catches your eye until the next train comes along. We boarded on the East side of town, rode straight to the west side as our first stop, then worked our way back West towards our cars. The weather was a bit nippy with some wind, but much better than the forecast snow which thankfully held off until that night.

I have to say this event was one of my favorite thus far. I have enjoyed each of them thus far, but street photography is an art that I enjoy and would like to do more often. Downtown districts seem to lend the best opportunity for photos, both from the architecture and from the people you encounter. Salt Lake City may not be Times Square or SOHO, but much to the disbelief of many outsiders it does have some fun diversity to capture.

Each stop did have some varied buildings, signs and other things to capture, and a good time seemed to be had by all. I enjoyed more of the group interaction as we followed whatever caught our eye yet seemed to end up in pods of similar interest. About halfway through a few of us were seemingly more focused on capturing images of interesting people, and it reminded me what I find as two different approaches to photographing people in this way. First, you can stand back and try to capture them surreptitiously whether with a long lens or shooting from the hip. The other is to approach the individual directly and ask permission.

Without Talking                             Engaged

Because I am not a social person by nature, I like to force myself to get involved with the subject of my photo if the situation allows it. At one of the stops there were a number of (my assumption of course, but fairly self-evident) homeless people in the area, several of which I decided to talk to and photograph. There were others on the walk that were doing this as well, but most didn’t until they saw how we were willing to solicit permission. This is the beauty of group events like this; we see new ways of doing things and break ourselves out of our comfort zone to try them. Incidentally, the “Crazy Tat” as I titled it on Flickr was not homeless, rather someone waiting for the next train along with us; he was just too interesting looking to pass up.

A benefit we as photographers gain by engaging people is meeting new and diverse people. Morgan was more than happy to allow the gaggle of us to capture his character on our sensors, and shared with us some stories along the way. Though he didn’t ask for donations, several gave him some money as thanks for indulging us. Some others were a bit more pressing for a pay for play, but that was ok too.

You can view my growing flickr set from this excursion, and I plan to share a few more images in subsequent posts. I took some video, as well as Rich who manned the camera for a bit. I have yet to look at the footage, but I plan to put out a little video of this event as well. I hope you take some time to explore this fun style of photography, for the enjoyment and challenge of it.

Amazing Opportunities

I can honestly say I have been blessed with many opportunities in my career. Those who know me are aware of my passion and excitement for photography, though it is not really a big part of what brings home the bacon, if you know what I mean. I call it my professional hobby because I do some paid work, but my interest is more in finding gigs that are fun and help pay for new/more gear.

I got my start with professional photo work more on a whim than anything else. I have had a few people that don’t know me as well, or have come to know me more recently, ask for more details about why I have so many Donny Osmond photos. So, with that in mind here is a little history.

How I Met Donny
I helped start and co-owned a little web development company called Infogenix in Orem, Utah. (The company is run by some good friends that still are going strong with it and do amazing work if you are ever looking for that kind of thing.) One of our first projects was for an upstart genealogy company that Donny happened to be an investor in; Donny is very much a genealogy enthusiast. He liked what he saw in our work there and hired us to take over developing his fan site, Over the course of several years working on the site, I got to know Donny well and enjoyed the working relationship. The most common question I get asked is what Donny is like. Short answer, he is genuine, down to earth, and really as nice of a guy as he appears. He is also a bit of a tech geek, so there is an obvious common ground there.

My First Photo Gig
In 2004 Donny was scheduled to go on a short tour as part of a group of artists that were playing temporary venues in front of castles and well known estates throughout the UK. I had never been to Europe at all and thought how cool it would be to travel with the tour and see some of the areas. Previously I had helped Donny on some tour merchandise ideas and had gone on some US tour dates as a part of the project.

This is where the “whim” I spoke of comes in to play. To this point I had only owned two digital cameras, both early models with limited capacity and fixed lenses. I conjured up the idea of following Donny and his band on tour with my camera and capturing photos along the way to produce a photo journal/coffee table style book for his fans. I figured I could do all the work, Donny would give me full access to be along for the ride and we could create something cool and unique.

Donny took to the idea right away, though honestly his manager at the time was less than interested. She thought the idea was great, but why take the risk on this novice when they could hire a “professional” to insure a successful project. To his credit, and forever in my thanks, Donny put his faith in me professionally and as a friend. He told his manager “I know this guy, and if anyone can pull it off he can.” I relay that not to make my ego swell, but to give credit to Donny and to show the pressure that was all of a sudden a stark reality to me. What the heck was I doing proposing something that I really had no experience or skill for! But truthfully, I thrive off of challenges like this.

So, with a small advance for the project I headed out and purchased my first digital SLR, a Canon 40D. With some advice from a thread on the forums at Digital Grin, I bought my first budget lens, a Canon EF 28-135IS, (which was a stellar midrange first lens). Along with some spare batteries, CF cards and a trust laptop, that was my equipment bag in total. I converted a Targus laptop bag into a computrekker by creating my own foam enclosure with custom cutouts for my gear. It was DIY heaven on a shoestring budget.

I was nervous as could be that I would pull it off, but after the first night jitters I immediately realized I loved what I was doing and was able to capture some really fun images. The coolest moment for me was that night on the bus after the first show. I downloaded all my photos and started culling them. I was in the back lounge of the bus and Paul Peterson came back and looked over my shoulder. After a couple of minutes he called in the rest of the band to take a look; Donny, (his sons Jeremy and Don were also on this tour) joined in. They were enthralled with the photos and started helping me rank them as to keepers and throwaways. For the rest of the tour this became an after show routine that we all enjoyed.

Incidentally, Donny’s manager was also on the first part of the tour and after seeing a couple of days of photos she actually commented to me that she was glad I was on the tour and that Donny had pushed it through. Now if that isn’t redemption, I don’t know what is!

Without going through all the details, the trip and experience was amazing.

The Results
In the end I published a book called “On Tour With Donny Osmond: Photos of the UK Summer Nights Tour” which sold out its first printing in a matter of days. The second printing ended up being delayed, but the bulk of it also sold like crazy as well. A number of photos I took on that tour were also printed and sold as 8x10s on subsequent tours and through his site. The stars aligned with the quality and timing of the book was perfectly suited, and I am much appreciated to his fans for making it the retail success it was. I have met many, many of his loyal admirers over these years and can count many as close friends.

So that was my start with concert photography, and professional photography in general. I have since shot countless concerts for Donny as well as a variety of other local and some well known artists. As with most photo enthusiasts who spend (too) much money on gear, I have ended up shooting a lot of family portraits, some weddings, and a variety of other photo opportunities for businesses and individuals. I have yet to find a niche I enjoy as much as concerts, though I enjoy dabbling in everything. There are so many amazing photographers out there that I have no hope of reaching their level, but I sure the ride of trying.

What’s Next
I have been trying to get a foot in the door with a local radio station to get some media access to more concerts from a wider variety of artists. So far that foot hasn’t made it in, but I’ll keep trying. I would really like to add some diversity to my concert footage, particularly because different artists have unique looks and stage performance to capture. Concerts are some of the most difficult lighting situations to capture, particularly with the movement typical to a stage act.

In my mind I was done with Donny photos as I am in a place in my career where taking off a few weeks at a time to travel is not really in the cards. I have also captured so many images of Donny that I am afraid of just repeating myself. A couple of months ago, though, Donny called up and talked to me about doing another book. His entire original family is touring together on a reunion style tour and he really would like to have the event recorded. This is the first time they have toured together in 27 years, and likely the last time, so he would like to see something done for the special event and thought the fans would like it as well. How could I turn it down?!

So, with arrangements made with work who has graciously allowed me the time off, and an even more gracious wife that is taking the full burden at home for the duration of the trip, I am headed back out on tour. With a project like this I am very excited, but I also get that little flutter of nervous anticipation as I look ahead. I know I have the ability to make it a success, but I want it to be the absolute best it can be. I hope to capture images better than I ever have, and hopefully ones that everyone from the performers to the fans truly enjoy.

Like I said, I am blessed. I hope to continue to make the most of these great opportunities.

EDIT:  I completely forgot to talk about the makingof this photo, which was the original intent of the post 🙂  I got caught up in the telling of the overall story.  In the middle of the tour Donny filmed the music video for “Breeze on By” in a loft in London.  I was able to tag along with the hopes of capturing some behind-the-scenes photos.  Not only did I get some shots, I was able to take advantage of the wonderful lighting and set.  When the video crew would stop to change out film, I would jump in and using their current set up to snap off some shots.  How often do you get professional lighting, set design and makeup/hair all provided all provided at no cost to you!

Donny Silhouette in Blue

I thought I’d go back to some of my old “classics” that some fans have seen in print elsewhere. I can’t publish everything, but I figure a few here and there will be ok.

This photo was taken during the 2004 UK Summer Nights tour and was later published in my book as well as an 8×10 sold online.

I am excited to get back out on tour and (hopefully) capture some exciting new images.

Canon 10D, 1/60 at f/5.6 and 400 ISO
see it larger on flickr

Keep Out!

I see these lions at the end of a drive way on my route to work every day. I always laugh a little because I recently read a novel that joked about tacky lion sculptures guarding the entrance to a house. Today I decided to stop by and snap a few shots.

The funny thing about these is that they really don’t blend in with the architecture of the area, or the house they guard for that matter. Likely something the owner just had always wanted and decided to stick at the end of his driveway.

I processed this one into three different looks: one true(r) to the original colors, one in black and white, and one in a gold split tone. Thoughts?

Canon 40D, 24-105L, 1/400 at f/4 and 400 ISO

Working on the “Hard” Stuff

Hidden Gold – Opening Crocus

I tend to read a lot of blog posts every day, likely too much reading instead of more time spent “doing,” but I enjoy reading what others have to say on some of my favorite sites. One of the sites I enjoy reading is Digital Pro Talk, where David Ziser somehow finds the time to write 4 to 6 posts a day. Many are (good) photo blog posts and references to other articles out there with his commentary, but every so often he churns out a well thought insight gained from his vast experience as a pro photog that I really enjoy.

As I was catching up on a weeks worth of posts (it has been awhile since I caught up), one such article struck me titled “What It Takes To Be Great.” David talks about taking the time to practice the skills necessary to become not only good but great at what you do. This applies to anything in life of course, but very much to photography. This is one concept that I always feel like I need to be reminded of as some times I feel like I let my camera time get put in cruise control. When I am not working to be better at “seeing” a great shot and making images I can be proud of, my photos start looking more and more like tourist snapshots.

The last couple of months I have been spending more time than in the past working on my abilities as a photographer, and enjoying the process. The process has caused my head to swim at times with too much reading and theory and not enough application. When I don’t put the new ideas and skills I learn into practice, they are quickly forgotten and never embedded into my abilities to be drawn out at will. This is something I need to improve on and will each day going forward.

Perhaps this was more striking to me at this moment because of my current efforts, but hopefully you find it a good read and reminder to put the effort into your passions in life and becoming better at them.

Canon 40D, 100mm macro, 1/60 at f/4 and 400 ISO
see it on flickr

First Pansey Opening

Though Spring is well in bloom in some areas of the country, it is just beginning here after a long cold winter.  I am happy to ring in the new season with my new 100mm macro lens that came in the mail today.  I immediately shot a few photos around the house, including this just opening pansy in my wife’s flower pots on the front porch.  It was already getting dark, and rather than break out the flash I stuck the camera on a tripod and a trigger release and did an extended exposure.  I wanted to try out the full DOF of this lens in macro, so this is set clear at f/32.

This is my first flower shot with my new lens.  I have been coveting this lens for some time now and am excited to start taking more macro shots.  I have a lot to learn in composing good macro shots, but I am excited for the challenge!

Canon 40D, 100mm macro, 8 sec at f/32 and 100 ISO
see larger on flickr

I’ve Got my Eye on You

This is the very first macro shot with my new Canon 100mm macro. It was hand held with an impatient 6 year old with natural light, so not perfect but still ok. You can see the bright reflection of the glass door to the left, but I figured I would still post my first shot with this great new lens.

I love the detail you get in macros. I think I will try to get a really good eye shot with flash lighting, etc. someday.

Macro work has always fascinated me, the detail you can get on a shot that you may not even notice when you look casually at something. I hope to take many more shots in the near future as I practice with my new toy.

Canon 40D, 100mm macro, 1/50 at f/2.8 and 400 ISO
see more detail when viewed large

Modern Dance Entanglement

I am not exactly a high culture kind of guy, but I try to get out here and there to experience new things. We have a wonderful lady that works with our disabled child that is studying dance at a local university. This last week I went again to take some photos of her performance to use in her future senior portfolio.

Though I don’t “get” the performance all the time, I do find their expression of art interesting. It seems with the performances I have attended they have a tendency to use very low, dramatic lighting, perhaps out of artistic choice or budgetary limitations. Either way, it can be difficult to catch photos at times when they are moving quick in the low lighting, plus the high tonal range between bright spot lights and dark ambiance.

Because this particular group scene was slow moving I was able to crank up the ISO a bit and capture it without too much difficulty.

Utah Lake Cloudy Morning

 On my way to work this morning I decided to leave a few minutes early and swing by the lake to see if I could capture anything interesting.

Unfortunately the clouds were bunched up on the mountains behind me blocking the morning golden sun.  Still, I thought this turned out ok.  I’ll be sure to go out again another morning to catch a better morning glow.

This is 9 photos taken from a tripod, portrait.  Stitched together using Autopano.

Definitely best if viewed large over on flickr!