Sunday, February 22, 2009

WPPI Accolade of Excellence

"The Love Bug"
Greg & Amy

I'm pleased to announce that I was awarded an Accolade of Excellence in the 2009 Wedding & Portrait Photographers International 16x20 Awards of Excellence Competition. This is the most competitive international print competition for wedding and portrait professionals, attracting literally thousands of entries, and an Accolade of Excellence is a real honor. I'm thrilled and humbled to be placed among such distinguished company.

Thanks are due to Greg and Amy for wanting to create such a fun and stylish image!

Congratulations also to my friends Andy & Angie Woods, Gabe Mcclintock, Chris Fawkes, and Ed Pingol on their success in this competition!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Did a studio session with Amber yesterday: a talented young lady who is getting ready for her big move to LA. She's really got a great look!

A significant portion of this session was shot under a 1000w hotlight beauty dish, which accounts for the different look.

I'm getting a great response to the new workshop offering! Thanks guys!

The new commercial website might be up as early as this weekend!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Still Life

For Christmas this year, I had asked for a book of images from Irving Penn. I'll be honest that when I added this item to the list, I was thinking of Penn's stunning fashion and portrait work. However, my lovely sister-in-law Melissa surprised me with Still Life, a collection of the photographer's images with which I had less familiarity.

The book is a moderately-sized 11x11" hardcover, and contains 45 color, 50 tritone, and 3 duotone illustrations. The most striking thing about thing about the volume is the excellent quality of the reproductions. The dust jacket comments that Penn oversaw every aspect of the production of this book, and that comes through in the superb rendition of the vibrant colors and subtle tones. The introductory essay by the late John Szarkowski is fairly dense: lots of complex sentence structures and references to slightly less-well-known denizens of the MOMA. It is definitely not light reading.

Lion Skull (Panthera Leo)
Irving Penn, 1986

As a body of work, the most striking thing to me is the moodiness and poetic quality the artist imparts upon these "inanimate" objects. Whether by austerity of composition, a slightly dark color tone, or even a little insect crawling across the cheese rind, these images express a profound sense of the ephermality of the subject matter. Even the flower images, which rank among the most beautiful I've seen, evoke a greater sense of the fleeting nature of these plants' beauty than the immortality conferred by the medium.

Cottage Tulip, Sorbet
Editorial Photograph for Vogue
Irving Penn, 1967

Its singularly fascinating to peruse these images and to attempt to distill the source of this "personality" in each, when on the surface many exhibit no obvious style cues but the almost clinical precision of the artist's technique. Penn's ability to construct an emotion from a seemingly careless arrrangement of objects is a unique kind of alchemy.

In closing, many photographers may be tempted to pass up this volume in search of Penn's remarkable fashion and portrait work. However, this book is a catalog of the beautiful possibilities present even when supermodels and celebrities aren't. Not only can cigarette butts found on a NYC street be beautiful: they can have true character.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Birth Story: A Visual Documentary

I would like to take this opportunity to send you folks over to, where my good friend and associate photographer Daniel has posted one of the most beautiful and poignant series of photos I've seen in a long time. This series documents the birth of his second son, and is truly a profound and moving documentary. I challenge you not to be affected by his powerful images. Dan is a gifted photographer and a great friend.

Congratulations Daniel!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


SGT Ken Weichert has me do all of the photography for his column in GX Magazine, and he's one of my best clients. The only downside is that I wind up with more great shots of Ken than I could possibly use on my regular website. Regardless, he's a great subject and a lot of fun to shoot.

Here's one from today that I thought had a good feel. It can be challenging to work accent lights on a high-key background: total tightrope act! But accents do make sense in this context, as a bright background would often suggest some back-lighting on the subject.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Individual Workshops

I've had a bunch of people asking me about workshops and mentorship lately. After quite a bit of thought, I've decided to try something a little different: the individual workshop.

Here's the idea:
-1 on 1 with me for a half-day or full day.
-At my studio or on-location
-Curriculum is completely customized to your needs

Basically, I work as your private tutor in anything you want to know about the art or business of photography. The nice thing about this is that its actually much easier to do this kind of workshop than the larger group format, which means that I can make it quite cost-effective.

Let me know if you are interested and I'll provide some more details!

Monday, February 9, 2009


You know, when the Army moved Amanda & me to Tennessee, we were not sure how much we'd like Nashville. However, it really has become a very nice home for us. Its a great little city.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

There's No School Like The Old School

Here is the corollary to my "gimmicks" post: these are some of the photographic skills and qualities that are impossible to "short-cut."

1. Personality/Empathy/Scope of Knowledge
You've probably noticed I talk about Avedon a lot. What made Avedon great was not some technical brilliance that exceeded that of mere mortals: Avedon was a brilliant talker. Avedon was brilliant at finding common ground with a subject. He knew just what to say to get the reaction he needed. Avedon had a scope of knowledge that enabled him to speak knowledgably about classical music with Mitsuko Uchida, and about theater with Andre Gregory. The ability to empathize with a subject, and to know how to create a circumstance where they will show a desired quality is almost impossible to teach. Its a skill that is partly inborn, and partly honed through extensive practice.

2. Posing
Posing isn't "cool" these days, largely because most photographers haven't studied it and aren't good at it. Many clients express distaste for "posed" photos, often because they have usually been exposed to awkward and inexperienced direction. Good posing is the accumulated knowledge of centuries of visual artists concerned with making the subject look a certain way. A good pose doesn't look "posed." The only way to master posing is countless hours of practice with subjects of all shapes and sizes.

3. Elegant lighting
Lets face it: it's not rocket science to go out and buy a really powerful strobe and create some "gee whiz" lighting. Power can be purchased: elegance can only be learned. Examine the portraits of geniuses like David Seidner to see what is possible when grace takes priority over power.

4. Timing
Some folks are born with great timing, and some folks learn timing through practice. However, there's no blog or book you can read, and no workshop you can attend that will imbue you with great timing. Machine-gun photography is a poor substitute, and in the context of photojournalism or portraiture it seldom works. Nailing the "decisive moment" is a carefully honed talent.

5. Artistic Judgement
Anyone can learn to apply a texture to an image in Photoshop. $1600 will buy you the ability to shoot at f/1.2. Only a refined sense of judgement will tell you when either of these options are appropriate. Composition I'd consider a subset of this skill: what goes in and what stays out of an image is a matter of judgement that is partly innate, and partly developed over time.

These are the qualities upon which I have focused my photographic studies of late, because in an era when so many qualities can either be bought in a fancy piece of kit, or short-cutted with a trick learned on a blog site, the only way to reliably differentiate one's work is by focusing on those skills and qualities that are impossible to reproduce without the confluence of talent and sweat.

I'll end this post with a shot from today's session with the always-stunning Carrie.