Asbury Park Wedding 9/17/16 #sonyalpha

Weddings are very interesting events; they are all different, yet all the same:

 

The venues are different, but the spirit of the day is the same

 

The families are different, but the support is the same.

 

The music may be different, but the fun is the same.

 

The couples are different, but the love is the same.

 

Some people have asked me how it was photographing a same-sex wedding. Honestly, it's the same. This is a popular mantra, but nonetheless very appropriate: "love is love." And it was an honor to be able to capture this couple's love story on their wedding day.

Seeing all the love and support around this couple was powerful, and seeing the commitment they had towards each other was refreshing. Shooting a wedding like this, when everyone in attendance is there to celebrate, makes the 12 hours of shooting easy.

 

 

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The Great Egret #SonyAlpha

The Great Egret - Brought to the brink of extinction by plume hunting, is a prime example of how conservation efforts can save a species. Great Egrets were targeted for the use of their gorgeous feathers in fashion. Hundreds of thousands of birds were killed per year at the height of the extermination. After a series of laws were passed in order to preserve the Egret and other native birds, Egret populations were able to recover (although not fully). The Egret is now the symbol of the Audubon Society which strives to saves birds and their habitats. 

 

The Egret in this colony were among the birds that were saved due to the efforts of early conservationists.

Zeiss 85mm Batis (My new favorite lens) #zeiss #sonyalpha

The 85 mm focal length has long been considered optimal for portraiture. Anyone who knows me, knows that I love taking photos of people. So (naturally) I have been eye-balling a new 85mm for a while now. My current 85mm is a manual lens and while I am perfectly fine working with manual, the work flow is much slower compared to working with a lens that provides autofocus and electronic control over the aperture.

 

A few weeks ago, I plopped down a significant chunk of change for a Zeiss Batis 85mm lens. While the price tag is significant, this lens is everything I could have hoped for. I have never used a lens this close to perfect. From the moment I picked up the lens and felt the build quality, I knew I was in for a treat. For my photography, this lens meets all my needs. It is fast, sharp, compact, distortion-free and the images that this thing can produce is just dreamy. I shot a few portrait sessions and even a wedding with this lens. It is no understatement when I say: this lens has profoundly impacted the way I shoot. It blends so perfectly with the way I photograph, that I want to use it in every situation; so much so that over the past couple of weeks you would have to fight to pry it off my camera!

 

The Zeiss Batis 85 has become my new favorite lens. To any of my friends shooting with the Sony mirrorless system, if you have been considering this lens I cannot recommend it enough.

Photography Chose Me #SonyAlpha

While taking photos of my family yesterday, it all clicked in my head (pun intended). Photography is something I’m meant to do. Growing up, my school subject of choice was always history. Even today, if the television is on, it’s most likely on some sort of historical documentary. I was always drawn to stories of the past and how those legacies affect life today. I was also intrigued by the record keepers: the people who took up the task of representing the events around them. People who tell stories have an incredible amount of power. History is often manipulated, whether by intention or by subconscious biases. I believe that people who take up the torch and record our stories have a responsibility to tell as accurate of a depiction of life as possible. 

 

I realize that the type of photography I am drawn to has made me the de facto historian of my own family and the families I photograph. I have stated this before, and I truly believe that the photographs we take are our legacies. We see it all the time; from lovers reminiscing over wedding photos, families and friends grieving over the loss of a loved one. Photographs are our historical records of the most important times in our lives. I do not take this lightly at all. When I photograph someone or something, I always ask myself: how should this story be told? I have the responsibility to create something that accurately depicts what can be a lifetime of development and experiences in a single or series of frames. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than when I get that right. 

 

I realize now, that my personality type, experiences and outlook on life have all brought me to this point. In a way I didn't choose photography, photography chose me.

Newport, Rhode Island

If you don't think Newport, Rhode Island when you hear the words "quaint New England," clearly you have never been. Until this past weekend, I was one of those unfortunate people.   After just a few days in this history-rich town, I am a fan. Newport has sky rocketed to the top of my list of favorite places. It is an incredibly photogenic place: vibrant colors, ecclectic store fronts and light houses (what photographer doesn't like light houses?). Newport doesn't pretend to be somewhere else. Is it a big metropolitan? No, doesn't try to be. Is Newport a finacial capital? No, doesn't try to be. What it is, is a beautiful, slow paced, town with a rich maritime culture. It embraces its history as much as any American town I have been to. If you are down for that, I think you can be down to enjoy Newport, Rhode Island. Oh, and great beaches too... Just saying. 

The Magic of a Wedding (By a Photographer's Wife)

So, my husband is typically the one blogging, but I decided to hijack his iPad. A few weeks ago, we photographed an amazing wedding on Block Island. This is the third wedding I've assisted my husband with (# 1 was our own of course). First of all, the scenery was gorgeous. The wedding took place at the charming Sullivan House. The couple, Meghan and Tim were down to earth, welcoming, and just overall amazing. After shooting this event, it clicked... I love working weddings! Once upon a time, I looked at people who worked weddings as if they were from another planet: why put yourself through such torture?! But as corny as it sounds, seeing two people who are genuinely in love with each other, and spending time with their loved ones celebrating with them, is simply infectious! Nowadays, I can't help but hear bad news and events happening everywhere. But days like yesterday...WOW! In a world full of chaos, people still take the risk to love; and events like weddings happen multiple times a day, everyday, everywhere in the world.

Although we were a vendor, viewing those precious moments of love, light, and goodness were just irreplaceable: a full course meal for the soul. When I work with my husband, I don't shoot (I pretty much suck), but I am his shadow, and fill-in wherever I can (maybe I'm more of a supporter than assistant). It was hot and sweaty, filled with running, hunger, tiredness, and achy feet. However, I was able to assist with supplies for stepping on glass, wardrobe malfunctions, and flower refrigeration. Was any of this my job? Technically, no. But after being a bride myself, I realize what an event it is, and so it is my job to do as much as I can to contribute to that bride and groom having their day.

Seeing my husband throughout this whole process was priceless. I can't do enough  justice to express how much pride I felt in knowing and witnessing what he was capturing: laughs, kisses, dance moves, cigar smoke, gentle whispers, tulle, ivory, silk, flower petals, fans, a spectrum of colors... too many things to list! Honestly, most guests will forget those details. But for that couple and their family, those details are deeply intertwined within every photograph.

So I'd first like to thank Micki and her family for gifting my husband's photography to her sister Meghan. Secondly, I'd like to thank Meghan and Tim for bestowing the honor of not only allowing us to work the event, but having the opportunity to get to know their incredible family (CONGRATS TO THE RIVERAS)! Last but not least, I'd like to thank my husband for falling asleep on this ferry so that I could sneak this blog in, for having the courage to share his gift of photography with others, and trusting in me as his support.  I hope that other couples will continue to see the value in hiring a couple who will treat their wedding or special event as if they would their own, and I look forward to continue working as my husband's supporter. :)

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Why I love this photo

 I believe every good photo needs two elements: good lighting and good composition. The third element of photography however, is what can move a photo from good to great... That element is story telling. When a photo is well lit, composed and leads the viewer to create a story behind the image in their own minds, you may have captured something very special. If anyone has been to a wedding (I'm sure we all have) there are a few moments that are defining and extremely memorable. A single frame can tell the entire story of the wedding as a singular day, as well as tell the story of the couple through to that moment. While I will never call one of my own photos great (I will leave that to the viewer), I believe this photo captured one of those defining moments. This photo is more than the sum of the camera settings and equipment. This was a moment of pure emotion, an outpouring of joy. That is why I love this photo.

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Shooting Fireworks: Tips (Beginner level)

It's July 4th; that means one thing: lots of people will be out photographing fireworks (with varying degrees of success). Here are a few tips for getting better photos of fireworks:

Tools Needed 

Camera with manual controls and a tripod. (Don't worry, I have a few tips for the iPhone shooters) 

 Find Location

Step one to photographing fireworks is to find where they will happen. Easy enough. Once you find your spot, you want to look for compositions that tell the story of the event. Obviously you will be capturing the fireworks, but including additional scenery can tell the viewer a little bit more about your location, which can create more interest. 

 Set Up

The key thing to remember when photographing fireworks is that you are typically photographing bright lights against a dark sky. If you put your camera on auto and point it towards the sky, your camera will have no idea what the scene is and will most likely get it wrong. This is because the camera does not know fireworks are coming. Your camera or camera phone will try to expose for the night sky and then... BOOM! A bright firework will go off and the image will be too bright. In this situation, you need to tell the camera what to do. This means exposing for the highlights (brighter parts of the image). When I photograph fireworks, I like to capture the light trails and that requires the camera's shutter to remain open longer. Place your camera onto the tripod and make sure it is securely locked. Set your camera to a narrow aperture, somewhere around f11. I like to shoot with with a shutter speed between 15 and 30 seconds. I keep my ISO set as low as possible, usually ISO 100. Your setting will vary depending on the unique conditions, but you can start here. If your image is too bright, try closing the aperture further to about f16, but if that's too dark, increase your ISO. 

For iPhones

If you're hand-holding your iPhone, it will be difficult to the get the same type of results the settings above will get you. However, you can still get good photos. The iPhone allows you to adjust your exposure by tapping the screen and sliding your finger up or down. For fireworks, slide your finger down to darken the scene (remember fireworks are bright). Keep your flash off as your phone's flash is not strong enough to impact the image. 

Final Tip

Don't get so caught up in trying to capture the perfect picture that you forget to cherish some amazing memories. Enjoy, and happy shooting!

 

 

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The Many Hats #sonyalpha

How much can you learn about a person from a photo? A lot actually (and sometimes nothing)! A portrait can be an act of self-expression captured and shared with the world in a single frame. It can tell your life's story or it can give a little insight into the hobbies you enjoy. Either way, a good portrait can be a statement to the world, a very personal statement. The photos I have always gravitated to the most were the ones that told a story about that person. They don't always have to be dramatic in nature; most times it's the fun, carefree variety that I can relate to the most.  

I wanted to take these photos of my wife to illustrate her love for baking and cooking. While she may not be a professional, she enjoys using her creativity to make enjoyable meals. It's definitely a part of what makes her, her so why not make some images out of it?!

 

 

Why I love This Photo #sonyalpha

Central Park is photographed a lot...and this in itself is an understatement. If you go to any of its landmarks, you are guaranteed to see dozens of people with cameras, at any given time. Most people take snapshots for their own memories, while others may be wedding photographers shooting couples. There is by no means, a shortage of photographic activity going on. So, on a recent walk with a few friends, I went into the park with the mindset of capturing a familiar, commonly shot area in an uncommon way. The solution I came up with was to shoot a daytime long exposure. In a long exposure, moving figures become blurred (some actually disappear), while stationary elements look perfectly sharp. The composition is simple; I just wanted to include enough elements to tell the story of the scene. Most of the photographs I've seen from others in this same location tended to be taken at a closer angle. 

I love this photo because with the use of ND (neutral density) filters and the addition of some of my signature split toning in post processing, I was able to give a different look and feel to a scene that is photographed often. 

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Impact Day 2016 #OurImpact

As many of you know, my day job is with Discovery Communications. At Discovery, they designate one day per year where everyone in the company takes part in some sort of community based activity. This year, I elected to go to the headquarters of the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Bronx Zoo. I love the Wildlife Conservation Society. I believe they do a lot of amazing work in research and education to protect the natural world. For those who have never been, I encourage everyone to take a look at their work. I wish we lived in a world where we didn't need these organizations, but maybe through their efforts, there will come a time when we won't anymore. Their mission reads:

"WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature."

So, back to Impact Day. Our activity was to take third graders around on a scavenger hunt; the intention was that in the process of doing so, they could learn more about the animals in the zoo and the impact humans have on wildlife. It was incredible to see the energy and enthusiasm these kids had towards learning! But, for me, the most interesting thing was how the mindset of the kids evolved during the trip. For example, at the beginning of the day I noticed that the kids were mostly talking about which animals they wanted to see. However, near the end, I saw two little girls speaking about a display that documented how the loss of habitat caused by humans affects wildlife. It was such a defined shift: from talk about entertainment, to how we can help the animals we love. 

Impact Day is not just about us (the employees of Discovery); it teaches kids about their impact. It is easy to think that if humans just fenced off specific areas and never went there, we could save that wildlife. But, we need to learn that our influence on this earth as humans is far-reaching, and our world is very interconnected. For instance, even though gorillas don't live here, our actions on this side of the world affects them (and the entire globe). 

Us humans have the special ability to consciously determine our impact: that impact can be negative, or we can choose to impact the world as positively as possible.

Why I Love This Photo

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Sunsets and sunrises usually provide for very interesting lighting conditions. When the sun is at a lower angle you can get some crazy light patterns. Especially if there are any clouds in the sky. I set out to Long Beach with the hopes of getting some crazy colors. On this occasion there were none. Bummer... But, that can all be taken care of in post processing, which I did here with a technique known as split toning to get colors I was happy with. 

I saw a surfer walking along the beach line and positioned myself to use the incoming tide as a leading line to draw the viewers attention to the surfer. A little blur action in the foreground and my photo was complete.  

I love this photo because of the way the elements came together. Well, some of the I put there but that's ok. I wanted to depict a dreamy end of the day beach scene and I think this photo got there. 

Working For The Weekend

"Working for the weekend..." What a terrible concept! I'm not old enough to have been around when that song by Loverboy was popular, but I can just imagine how many people that line resonated with. My question is why? Why do we find it acceptable to trade five days of being miserable at a job we hate for a day and a half of mild enjoyment (because let's be honest, most people start dreading Monday by Sunday mid-afternoon)? Why do we do this to ourselves? 

I love having very existential conversations with people and I have yet to meet one person that doesn't believe that we live to have some sort of purposeful life. I believe that us humans are passionate creatures and we need this passion to feel "human." 

The Japanese have a word for this: Ikigai (生き甲斐); it translates to "a reason for being." To me, it's impossible that our reason for waking up Monday through Friday is just to get closer to the weekend. 

So what am I suggesting we do? Quit our jobs? No, unfortunately we live in a capitalistic society that requires us to use money. What I am suggesting for each of us is to find what we are passionate about and schedule 3 hours, 1 hour, or even 20 minutes to it; whatever amount of time we can devote to doing that thing that we claim to love. Why is it that we can work to the point of a breakdown for a shitty job and not commit to time for us? 

I think if we schedule this time to ourselves, we can wake up with the thoughts of what is possible for us today, in our passions, whether it be creating art, being a good parent, or cooking a meal (whatever you think you were put on this earth to do). Do it! Any day you go to sleep without feeding your passion is a day wasted. 

Everyday we are working on our life's work. Don't let your obituary say "well, they were always on time to work". I'm begging everyone to be the best you, you can be and share it others. The most selfish thing we can do is to not share our passions with the world.

Sony A7Rii Day One

So after some saving and good luck finding an open box return. I've Finally got my hands on a Sony A7Rii. I absolutely love the Sony mirrorless system. I ditched my DSLRs for the more compact and advanced technology in the Sony cameras. For the most part I have been very happy the only area that I was looking for some improvement was with the autofocus system. The improvement I was looking for wasn't dramatic as I have been able to use my A7 and A6000 in so many situations without issue (portraits, street, wedding, event, movie set). I really just wanted something that focused a little faster in lower light and improved accuracy in tracking. 

While I haven't had much time to really thoroughly stress the A7Rii. I can tell you I am really enjoying how the camera focuses. There are even some new focusing modes I didn't know I wanted, but the addition is welcome. I have even noticed I was able to get focus better using focus peaking while manual focusing using wide apertures. Here are a few shots I took my first time using the camera. I will be posting more photos and opinions as I use this bad boy some more. 



My Experience Using a Manual Lens

About 3 weeks ago I purchased my first manual lens. It was a Rokinon 85mm 1.4. I bought it because it was a less expensive alternative to the 85mm Zeiss I having be pining over. Coming in at a price tag around 1/5 of the Zeiss, I figured why not give it a shot? Before getting this lens, my experience using manual focus was minimal. Of course I’ve had manual focused lenses before but (without getting too technical), those lenses were never designed to be used that way. This was going to be somewhat of a new adventure for me.

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First, let me start by saying this isn’t a technical review of the lens. I didn’t set up scientific lab experiments to test this lens. I simply took it out of the box and began shooting. This is just about my experience using a manual lens.

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So, what was the first thing I noticed about using a manual lens? It doesn't auto focus (which is obvious), but it took me some time to get my head wrapped around that. For the first few minutes, I continually found myself trying to auto focus the lens out of habit. Though I often shoot in manual mode, I still forgot how much I’m reliant on technology. Manual lenses renders much of that technology useless. While I’m not completely on my own (my mirrorless camera has some nice tricks to help), I was fully responsible for the resulting images.

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Once I got over old habits, the second thing I realized was how much slower I was working. This may sound like a bad thing, but for me, slowing down helps with the creative process. One of the reasons I enjoy using prime lenses (lenses that don’t zoom) is that they make me think. Having a prime manual focus lens only compounds my need to think. A lens that prevents snapping off photos at machine gun rate helps me to really “focus” in on what story I’m trying to tell. Additionally, I found myself very connected to the moment. Instead of thinking about the camera and where my settings needed to be, I just shot. Capabilities are obviously limited with this lens (but I already knew that). So, I worked within those limits quite easily and got the shots I know I could. When I shoot portraits, I give a lot of direction. While shooting manually, I found myself giving even more direction. It’s much less likely you’d fall into a happy accident without auto focus, so I took even more time to position the subject (my wife) to get the shot where I wanted it to be.

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Overall, the experience was good and I plan on keeping the lens, incorporating it into my workflow. Does it satisfy all of my needs? No. Will it work in every situation? No. Will I get the more expensive auto focusing Zeiss lens? Yes. But, that doesn’t mean this lens looses its value. Whenever I want to explore my photographic “eye”, I’ll probably reach for the manual lens. When I want to be more in tune with myself and my creativity, I’ll probably reach for the manual lens. In fact, I plan on getting more manual lenses for when “work” is more about fun and exploration.

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Embracing Limitations

Embracing our limitations can unlock a world of creative liberation. Paraphrasing from a TED talk I watched recently.


With the abundance of choices I can become paralyzed by the options. This is one of the reasons I love working with lenses that do not zoom. Moving myself to find different perspectives instead of relying on the technology.


I took this shot while testing out my new fully manual lens. I will write a little bit more about using that in a later post.



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Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Thank you everyone who supported me in the past year. I love being able to share my passion with others and I love connecting with people. Every like, share, comment is appreciated and helps me to reach new people. I have a few new projects planned for this year already and can't wait to she what else is in store.

Thank you everyone that will come along with me on this journey.

Time to keep growing, building and climbing higher in the new year!