Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Double Daily and an Apology

Ok, here goes...

***I usually update at minimum M-Th. Lately I have failed slightly. I apologize for the lack of recent posts. Between the lack of new shots (camera went to Indy with the man) and lack of time due to personal and family obligations- my poor biz blog has been sadly neglected. To make up for this sad sad fact you get two today. Yipee!***

Darin and Chelsea got married last month. They got their images about a week later and all was happy. I am in love with temple weddings and would happily do nothing but them all the time given the opportunity. Hooray.

As many know, I went over my files this weekend, did a little clean up and a little messing around. I realized that I had this one sitting there still and wanted to share.

I don't think they realized I was still snapping. Standing on the side of the temple, almost finished with portraits and trying to work around harsh 1pm light and landscape that was being extensively torn up- I wound up with a gem here.

So in love, always smiling, laughing and of course kissing!

I think that if every couple were like these two....this happy and this in love and in tune with each other- the world would be a better place. Its heartwarming just to be near them.


Lately I have been taking more lighting equipment with me to shoot nature. Its hummingbird season, this years chicks are fledging into hovering jeweled swordsmen and the light really helps. Its also been putting some of my more stationary fare into a better light.

As I go out and shoot for personal enjoyment, I have learned to give myself time to study life. Patterns, shapes and functions. Intricacies. I have learned more in these explorations than I have in quite possibly all of my schooling.

One of my favorite new "Arizona Octopuses" are seed pods. The desert springs fourth millions of them this time of year. Each is symmetrical, and thoughtfully shaped for survival. They are beautiful and outlandish. Lit properly, they take on different colors and shapes as well. They are special because through all of this beauty- they have but one purpose- to give life to new plants.

People rarely take note. We decorate our homes with them in potpourri baskets and arrangements. Heck, Ikea carries them. We do not appreciate them as much as we should because they tend to take the place of springs vibrant flowers just in time for miserable summer.
But there they are... a perfect fusion of beauty and purpose if you only care to consider them.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Black and White Revival

Much to my dismay, this weekend I will be left to my own devices...and camera-less. Kirk is going to the Indy 500 with his dad and brothers (hoo boy!) and since hes been good I am lending him my camera and glass due to their superiority over his as well as my faster/larger memory cards. Commence happy because hes going to have a great time, and pouting because I will be sad and alone with nothing to entertain me.

So what on earth will I do with all my spare time and my itchy shutter finger?

Re edit. Due to my new infatuation with the happy replies on flickr, and some new techniques I am messing with- it gives me something constructive to do. Theres a gold mine on my RAID array- and I intend to pillage and purge.

These two are from an older studio shoot I did at Sarah's request so that she and her friends could get promo model jobs. It worked for them, but I never really played with the images. I processed them and tossed them at the girls to use without a second thought.

Now that I am going back and playing with them (and other older shoots) I am finding a veritable wonderland of stuff to edit and mess with- and stuff I will never ever do anything with that is just taking up space.

This weekend will be my black and white revival. Back to simplicity- and back to fresh edits. A chance to clean up and turn old images into new and exciting ones. Hooray!

Meanwhile, if anyone wants to go shooting this weekend, sorry. Its going to have to wait until Tuesday. I hope for Kirk's sake he has good images for me to play with when he gets back- for him its a trip of a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Illusive Arizona Octopus

Living in the desert is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because I have something very different scenery wise than most of my fellow photographers and a curse because its all quite similar sometimes. Sharp, dully colored and well...the same. I suppose this happens to everyone- I just am not one to lie down and take it. My solution? Hunt the illusive "Arizona Octopus".
What is an Arizona octopus? Glad you asked. No, the image above you does not contain a sea creature that decided to move to the desert- though it is the image that inspired the phrase. An Arizona octopus is a subject that while common place in my environment (as this agave certainly is) appears to be something foreign and different.

This practice is an important one for anyone who loves to document their world with a camera. No two people have quite the same view of the world, and if we all took photographs of the same thing, life would be quite mundane. Instead we find new and interesting ways to present everyday things. A new view, new light and new life.

Every day, I hunt the Arizona octopus. Something the same but different to shoot...something new to give me life. What do you hunt in your life?

Monday, May 21, 2007

We Don't Need No Stinkin Badges!

Its obvious from a parking lot (or more) away. Everyone, even my little sister who does not know a Ferrari from a short bus, can call a vintage corvette when they see one. So why the big flashy badges?

Now, don't get me wrong, Chevrolet did these old badges right- and in a real big way! They stand the test of time and taste as one of the most aesthetically pleasing labels of all time. Its sad to say, but they just don't make them like this anymore. These days a photograph of an automotive badge alone rarely makes the cut. This is a big exception.

So whats the point? Its a label. A label that is meant to tell its viewer that the owner of this car has taste, class and style. A symbol of automotive fun and freedom with a pinch of power.

" Hello, My Name Is: Corvette"

No wonder every little boy aspires to be the man behind the wheel. Who wouldn't with a car like this...This car could bring the most stoic man to his knees.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Secret Life of Plants: Part Two

There are two parts to nearly every story, and in this case of the agave that time and fast lane runners forgot- both parts are worth telling. In my haste to beat the sunset and get some shooting time in I had mentioned that I literally snapped and ran as is generally the case when I am in a hurry. As many know, I am slowly teaching my mother the art of digital photography. Its been a long and arduous process, moving as slowly as the glaciers that surely covered the earth during her youth. She does not know computers and email is a foreign thing to her. She has trouble retaining that kind information. The digital camera is not much better. She forces me to slow down.

This is a blessing and a curse. On one hand, I consider other vies and angles I would not have considered otherwise in my great haste to hit my hot spots for my favorite wildlife. On the other hand, well...she is certainly teaching me more patience.

The flower in the previous entry was toppled over, into another small tree. I had never thought to glance to the plant several feet below it to see what had given rise to one of my new favorite images.

When I did look down, I was greeted with an agave rainbow. Though its hard to see at the sizes I publish at, a wind-catching clung loosely to its spines.

Life had been accomplished. Tiny, hard to see with even the naked eye and very very delicate.

I wonder what the tiny seed will grow up to be? Will it make the journey at all? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Secret Life of Plants

Its magic hour. I have an itchy shutter finger and insist on dragging poor Kirk, sans his camera , to go do some shooting. As we drive I am racing the sun. Precious moments left ...I hope my flash holds out. Humans are fast creatures. We live for ticking clocks, moments and numbers.
I almost walked right by it, in my hurry to go nowhere and everywhere in my quest for light and a release from the photographic demons in my head.

But there the agave sat, stem so heavy with its alien like flowers that it had doubled over onto a nearby cactus. It was not preoccupied with time, its appearance or current events. Its only purpose and only care was life, and the continuance of life. Quiet. Calm. The world stopped for a tiny fraction of a second while the shutter released. A single shot and I was back to my rush, my ambition.

The agave paid no notice.

The secret life of this plant goes on. Quiet. Calm.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I often visit San Diego with Kirk. For us, its a haven of sorts. On our last visit, I was given the opportunity to go check out the Mormon Temple that gracefully resides on a hilltop there. Needless to say, we went back later that night for some night shots.

There is something about this particular Temple I find very enjoyable...the boasts beautiful windows, an atrium and a world of class. Often mistaken by tourists for Disneyland (which is of course NOT in San Diego) this place truly does resemble a palace.

This place is interesting from any angle you can shoot it in, in any light. Its exterior is tastefully groomed and covered with blooming plants. During this visit, they had just added Christmas lights to the palm trees on the walk up to the temple, though they had yet to be illuminated for the season. I am very very sad to say we missed that part.

The cool ocean breeze reaches you when you walk the campus there, and people are very friendly- strolling along in couples and family groups. Many stop to take photographs. Garden snails can be seen lazily meandering the side walks and planters.

The most interesting part about this Temple though, is the way that it glows. Intelligently lit, they use search lights pointed at the building at night, concealed in innocuous concrete structures on the edge of the property. Unless you are really looking for them, they are hard to find.

The Temple also glows from the inside. In my archives somewhere I have a day time photograph of the sun setting through the stained glass windows. It is as though it is setting inside the Temple. A similar effect occurs in the evening when they light the interior of the building. It becomes a beacon on its hill top. I wonder how many Californians look up to see it every night - like wisemen following it home.

Monday, May 14, 2007

One Night Wonders

This weekend I took as my last opportunity for the year to enjoy the gardens. Its just too hot and miserable any time after the sun comes up to be outdoors. Ok, I am being over dramatic...but my mom and I took this Saturday to enjoy the outdoors. We were glad we did.

These are Easter Lily Cactus. They come from South America (mainly Peru) and bloom ONE NIGHT A YEAR closing in the early hours of the morning the next day. We lucked out and happened to be there on a day that dozens of them opened.

Aside from a photographer with a ridiculous piece of glass trying to run the show and monopolize the entire area, everyone was awed and inspired by these flowers and certainly took the time to enjoy them. Reds, pinks, peaches, yellows and whites...all bloomed. We had hit the jackpot.

Cactus flower season lasts too short here, and its end means months of sitting inside griping at the electric bill or escaping to higher elevations on the weekends. I am dreading that.

For now, I am happy to enjoy the little miracles that nature and our local botanists provide. As long as I remember the sunscreen, lots of water and to stay in the shade as much as possible, I figure I can tough it out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Look Out Internets!

After much hmming and hawing, along with my regular does of speculation, rejection, suggestion and then acceptance...I have finally caved in to the less crazy side of me and decided to open a flickr account.

Ok...collective gasp here...I know. Generally I am the last person on earth to use such a thing, but some of my photographically inclined friends pestered me into it for the simple reason that its a great place for photographers to share ideas and critique - and its a great place for anyone to share photos.

So I have given in...last to the party as usual. Figures.

Click here to go to the RedFeather Photography Flickr Page!

Exploring Boundaries with Composition

I do have standard composition shots of this male western tanager. However, among those standard, normal style photos I did manage to snap one that was a little different. As he hopped over my head and just barely into my frame, he glanced down curiously at my lens- making for a unique perspective, and somewhat unusual composition for a nature photograph.

Now bear in mind, this is what most people expect in a standard wildlife composition:

Note that the camera and bird seem to be about level with one another, the bird is neatly perched and appears to be looking directly into the lens. Not too interesting but typical- check just about any Audubon Society field book... you will see them by the hundreds.

The unique image still holds true to the rules of good composition. The rule of thirds is followed, but in a slightly less conventional way. A unique perspective is used to add some interest and interaction with the subject, and important features such as eyes are still sharply focused. The negative space is divided by the branches the bird is resting on- narrowing near to his face and drawing the viewers eye to the subject (not that he could be missed dressed in summer yellow and orange).

What makes it different and unique is its feel. The bird seems to beckon, and even play with the viewer. Not everyone will like it...heck, not everyone likes any particular image- such is the nature of the arts. That being said, many will stop and look at it longer, consider it for what it is, because it is not the norm.

I encourage you in your excursions to photography- be it a point and shoot or the best equipment on the market- to play while you shoot. Mess with rules, change them if you must- and find a unique perspective. You may be very surprised, and even pleased with the results.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cholla Blooms

Since it seems that yesterday I shared only the less happy side of the cholla cactus, I have decided to share today why I love that particular desert plant - despite the fact that it may not always seem like it.The cholla family of cactus is common in Arizona and often seen on the many trails both in the Phoenix area and elsewhere. With their thin winding branches and generous dose of thorns, they are not easy to miss.

What is really amazing about them however, is their flowers. They bloom mid to late spring and its a wonderful game of chance. They flower in all manner of colors- reds, pinks, yellows and oranges. You are never sure what you are going to get, and I have seen plants sport multiple colors of the blooms at once.

In addition to being a veritable grab bag of desert color, these plants have unique flowers.

Right now, when you stroll a natural area or cactus garden, you will witness dozens of varieties of cactus blooming in their full glory. Most have slender, elongated, pointed petals that compliment the defining spines the plant carries. The petals are delicately satin like, and thin, letting light pass thorough them easily.

The cholla on the other hand, carries thick, stout, waxy petals. Because of this trait, cholla blooms stand out easily. They are roundish small blooms compared to those of similarly sized plants of other species.

For the time that they are blooming, their unique nature captures plenty of attention. In a desert full of cactus, something besides the bad rap has to set this cactus apart. The flowers are a nice start.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


Living in what seems to be the most inhospitable climate on earth is not necessarily something to fret about. After all, the desert has lots of nice qualities too- if you can thwart their less fun counterparts. One method of thwarting is to bear miserable spines, thorns or prickers.
As I leaned forward in my saddle to dislodge the large chunk of cholla cactus firmly embedded in my boot and unfortunately for him, the horse- I looked around me. Yes, it did indeed seem that every last weed, bush, plant and tree was thickly covered in spines, thorns or spikes. "Great" I thought. I live on a giant pincushion.

Being the wimp both you and I know I am, this was a scary prospect. Millions of needles ready to pierce my flesh at any giving moment...jumping cholla ready to leap out and get me at the first wrong step.

I have since learned that there is a right way and a wrong way to deal with the perilous prickers.
As I brushed the thorns out of the chest and neck of the horse I was riding, I realize the big doof had something right. He had gotten into his sticky situation by straight just bowling a cactus over. This is typical for this particular animal...he is huge and really, nothing stops him. Why should this? His attitude was admirable.

Now am I suggesting that you charge any cactus you come across? Absolutely not. Are you crazy? What I am suggesting is simply ignoring it. Be careful where you step, and observe the beautiful desert flora. Enjoy the great outdoors anyway. If you do manage to pick up a cactus related injury on the way, you can do what he does and attempt to eat the local shrubbery while someone pries the needles from your skin.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Why Shouldn't You Have It All?

My experiences on the other side of the lens have helped me develop a lot of my personal business practices I use with my current clients. I can see both points of view easily, and this allows me to be as fair and friendly as possible for my clients.

One policy that many digital photographers impose- that I will never ever understand for the life of me- is not to provide their clients who are getting the digital files, with the standard color image if they are going to give you an edited version such as a black and white, sepia or hand colored version.

Top: Hand colored version Bottom: Black and White The client got both of these versions and the full color version on their disc. A bit of a repeat? Maybe, but they were not left wishing they had a different version..they had them all right there at their fingertips! Notice how the different versions have a different feel to them.

It really does not take any more work from the photographer- at least if they are working smart in their post work. An image can take on a different meaning or evoke a different feel or emotion just by changing the way it is edited.

When I modify my images, add special tints or effects or change elements such as adding selective shading or blurring in post processing, I make it a point to provide my clients with the standard color file for several reasons.

First, it doesn't cost me any more time. Really. It doesn't.

Second, if the client is paying for their images, they should get them. Perhaps I love that particular image in black and white, but maybe they would like it in its rich and vivid color? Or maybe I have added an artistic element- they may want to see the image without the digital magic.

Third (and most importantly) I remember looking at portraits Kirk and I had had done, and gotten in one edit or another...and really wished I had the original. In some cases the edits that were done had lost elements to the image, or I just wanted to see the color version, or I had an idea for post work that I could not do without the proper original file (we used a newer photographer who was learning to edit, so sometimes either the edit was poor or incomplete or just plain awkward...glad to say her work has since blossomed and I would gladly recommend her).

This was such a big deal to me in fact, that when our wedding photography was done I asked the photographers to send me the raw files, without any editing. It did not happen (a handful were heavily modified without the plain color file provided) but it was only a few so I could easily go back and request the originals.

Whatever the reason, I believe my clients should have it all. I will admit, I can go a little overboard and in some cases clients get three or four versions of an image (very different editing styles) but I look at it like this: If I can give you more options, then it is likely that you will have something there you love. Thats my take care of your needs and give you images that you love.

Monday, May 7, 2007


*First, it should be explained that this image, like the vast vast majority of my images- is NOT a crop. Not even a little not even at all. Now that we have that out of the way, on with the intro*

They buzz my head. I hear them nearly everywhere I go. Its spring here in the desert and that means two and humming birds. My fascination with them seems to have no limits. I stand in awe as this little female hovers mere centimeters above my lens before deciding to feed. Fearless.

Delicately, she hovers. With mechanical precision she moves from flower to flower, extracting nectar. I have a hard time visually following her. Her wings beat so fast that they are invisible to the naked eye.

Everything about these little birds is fast...a life fed on pure sugar rocket fuel. They move fast, they feed fast, their chicks grow fast. With a heartbeat and metabolism faster than any other animal on earth the life of a humming bird is a demanding one.

I love the moments I spend with them. Graced by their presence- I feel they have as much a curiosity about me as I about them. Pugnacious and territorial, these birds are completely unaware of their size and have few qualms about approaching people.

As she finishes her final sip of the flower, she hovers above my lens again, mere inches from my face. She then zooms off to another part of the time to slow down. The slowest speed she goes is "hover".

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Looks Can be Deceiving

Fierce. Angular. Electric. Masculine. It stares down all who oppose it. The Lamborghini Gallardo is definitely one hot looking car. Its aluminum and thermoplastic body, flawless paint and thoughtful design make it quite a looker. After that, its a disappointment in the drivers seat.

The car is worth more than I am. Its a prized icon of status and frivolity- it gets you from point a to point b- with style. Lambos and Ferraris- the lunch box cars of the 80's and every little boy now turned young man's dream.

Women would flock to them, champagne would rain from the heavens (just not on the car!!!) and life would be perfect. If only you had the cold hard cash.

An obsession. By standers flock around the super car, its power is discussed erroneously in hushed tones despite the fact that the engine is off and the car is most definitely parked. Teenage boys drool like rabid dogs and swoon like schoolgirls.

And this is Lamborghini's low end car. According to the wikipedia article, 5,000 Gallardos were built in three years- the highest production for the company. The V10 5.0L 11:1 compression engine roaring behind the drivers head is impressive on paper.

But where is the power? I will never understand the price for these cars. A Z06 corvette has similar performance and runs a faster quarter mile with less of an insurance hike and a fraction of the price tag (although I admit, their appearance is not as threatening).

At their price tag of between $175, $300,000 (plus it DRINKS premium-11mpg!!!) for the base model, I think I would rather outfit myself and select family members with the nicest Corvette on the market and have a track day.

We Think.

Every photographer has that moment... You have finished what you have come to do. Once the shot list is done, the client is satisfied - you are left to your creativity to play a bit of fill in the blanks so to speak.

Or... A personal project, an art concept or open ended shoot. You go and shoot, creativity and the situation directing every frame you capture. Spontaneous yet precise.

In some cases, a couple days later, I find myself replaying things...a review of my services as it were- so that they are just a bit better the next time.

After all, once you give up and stop striving for perfection- why continue at all? You would be doing a disservice to your clients and your profession. Photography is an art and all about constant growth and breaking new boundaries.

In some cases, I think of another couple of shots I would have liked to achieve- in other cases I consider my use of light, lines and composition. In more cases still I think about great ways the image could be used and the thoughts it provokes.

The point is I think. That is really what makes a photograph.

A thought.

You think. You line up the shot in a creative or thoughtful way, you light it perfectly, your lines and composition playing off of one another. You shoot. You process and think some more. You edit...and your thought is printed for all to see. You can let your viewers into your thought. They think.

You observe. You think. You feel. You shoot the scene as is, an observer to the world around you. You process and think some more. You edit...and your thought- a scene that provoked a feeling- is printed for the viewers to see...and to experience. You can affect your viewers. You can let them in on a fleeting frozen moment and let them think.

This is what photography is...and does. Be it a portrait to portray the love of a family, or the uniqueness of an individual- or war torn- dirty drag out- photo journalism.... Photography has an incredibly profound presence in society. It shapes the way we see the world and lets moments be frozen for all to experience. We think.