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I've sold it all....

Don't get nervous, I've not abandoned photography or anything, just going in a little different direction gear-wise.  Let me explain.

The Evolution of the Photographer.   Fujifilm posted the above graphic on their Photokina 2014 page and it perfectly describes my own evolution as a photog.  The guy on the right, that's so me right now.  Free from the weight and burden of gear and excited to create again.

The Evolution of the Photographer.  Fujifilm posted the above graphic on their Photokina 2014 page and it perfectly describes my own evolution as a photog.  The guy on the right, that's so me right now.  Free from the weight and burden of gear and excited to create again.

No wonder I have back problems today.

First let me say just how much I loved my Canon 5D MkII setup.  It served me well for six years.  I knew this camera, its lenses, and flashes inside and out.  It takes amazing pictures and even more amazing video and is a system I still have and use at work.  But in the everyday, and in my personal work, I found myself using it less and less.  Ever since I started experiencing back issues and the resulting surgery, I just didn't want to carry around a large camera body, two large heavy lenses, flashes, and all the other accessory gear.  So I didn't.

The problem with this is my life as a photographer began to diminish.  I was no longer creating the body of work the creative in me needed.  So I decided to sell it all, body, lenses, grip, bags, and everything else I didn't want to carry on a daily basis and move to a new system.  But what?  

This is a scary proposition for a photographer.  Just do a quick search for Canon vs. Nikon and you'll get thousands of results and quickly find that people are VERY passionate about their choice of gear.  I never really fell into that debate because I always felt that a good photographer could produce amazing imagery with any system, the basics are all the same, it's just a matter of taste.  Myself, I used Nikon gear throughout my career in the Air National Guard.  It just happened that when I bought my first camera system, I really liked the feel of the Canon 10D so thats what I went with.  Now, some 15+ years of gear acquisition later, I found myself staring at a closet full of gear I no longer wanted to carry around and wondering what I could replace it with that still met all my needs? 

I looked at some smaller Canon bodies to replace the 5D MkII but that wasn't enough.  It would have been the cheapest and easiest solution but I would still have to lug around the same lenses.  Have you ever shot for a full day with a 70-200 2.8L?  It gets heavy fast, even if it just stays in the bag.  After deciding that wasn't going to work, I started looking at other options.  Eventually it was Zach Arias and David Hobby who turned me on to Fujifilm's newish line of x-series mirrorless cameras.  I lusted over the X100s and the X-Pro1 but it was the X-T1 that eventually sealed the deal for me.  I ordered the body and a couple lenses and was hooked right away.  This is a setup I don't mind carrying.  It fits in my everyday work bag easily, even when paired with a couple flashes and the images from it are outstanding.  

A quick size comparison between systems.  On the right, the Canon 5DMkII with 24-105 f4L IS and 70-200 f2.8L IS compared to my new Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135 as well as the 35mm f1.4 on the left.

A quick size comparison between systems.  On the right, the Canon 5DMkII with 24-105 f4L IS and 70-200 f2.8L IS compared to my new Fujifilm X-T1 with 18-135 as well as the 35mm f1.4 on the left.

I don't want to get into the nuts and bolts of the X-T1 as this isn't intended to be a review.  There's enough of them out there.  It's more a post to explain where I'm at as a photographer and why I'm excited about the art again.

So what's next? Well, I don't really know.  I carry my camera with me every day now and am excited to create again.  Is it because of my shiny new toy or is it something else?  Again I don't know, but it doesn't hurt thats for sure.

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Aerial

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When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to be a pilot.  I would go into the library during lunch and read all the books I could find on airplanes and flying.  I would read pilot manuals, aircraft reference books, magazines, and whatever else I could get my hands on.  Much of it way above what my 7th grade mind could probably handle, but I did everything I could to soak it all in.  

In high school, I got my first introduction to the world of video production and decided that was something I really wanted to get into, however that love of flying never left me.

Sometime, around my junior or senior year of high school, my family got me a ride in a T-6 Texan, a single-engine trainer aircraft used to train pilots during World War II and into the 1950s.  What an amazing experience that was, and one I knew I wanted to relive again.

In college, I decided to follow my new love of video production, but was dissatisfied with the program leading me to join the Florida Air National Guard where I could be around aircraft and video production all the time.  Throughout my career in the ANG, I have been able to combine my two loves and fly in a variety of aircraft shooting photo and video.  I was given the ultimate ride, in 2004, in an F-15 Fighter.   This was an experience I will never forget and solidified my love for shooting aerial photo and video.

Today, I latch on to any opportunity to shoot aircraft of any type.  If I’m able to do so from the air, all the better.

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Aviation's Early Days

While in DC in June for another project, I stopped at the National Air and Space Museum, one of my favorite places in the world.  I could spend day after day there looking at the exhibits, just taking everything in.  I guess it’s just part of my love of everything aeronautics.

One of the displays that really caught my eye this visit was the old aircrafts from the early days of passenger aviation.  The display included planes from TWA, Eastern Air Lines, and United Air Lines, the only one still around today.  Looking at these aircraft and their old logos was a neat experience for this trip.  

Besides the simple wow factor I also looked at things as a photographer.  For some reason my eye and camera zeroed in on many of the logo’s displayed throughout the museum. There is something interesting in the simplicity of the logo designs and the silhouettes of these older aircrafts.  You can’t help but feel amazed at the advancements in aviation all while walking away with a feeling of nostalgia.

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A&C

Since our first son Robert was born, I've learned a ton about shooting children but most importantly:

 #1 - Always have a camera ready.

 #2 - Expect the unexpected.

That really sums it up, they are so much fun but so challenging at the same time.  You can't exactly pose children or even expect them to be in the same place from one second to the next.  And there are soo many other factors to take into account that can make a few snapshots turn into an afternoon from hell.  Who would have thought naptime or a hungry belly could turn a sweet little angel into a demon child?  That's just one of the reasons I'm thankful I've made the move to small flashes for my shoots.  It really offers me the ability to work fast and flexible.  

This ability came in handy when my friend asked me to shoot their four month old son.  He's such a cute little guy with bright blue eyes and a tranquil demeanor.  For some reason on this particular day he would not sit still and he didn't want to lay down or be held!  It's not that he was unhappy or anything, he just didn't want to cooperate with what WE wanted him to do!  Very unusual for this little boy but par for the course when shooting children.  Being able to shoot fast and light really helped.

I started off with grand ideas, set up a large umbrella and creating a nice scene on the couch.  This didn't work out well because he just didn't want to sit.  I adjusted to try to give myself a little more working room by moving my main light to an overhead position and added a little fill with an Orbis ring flash adaptor.  This didn't work out either so I decided to move in close with a Lumoquest Softbox III held by daddy and came up with the shots below.  I'm pretty happy with the results and love the pop of his eyes.  Really I just had to be adaptable.

 As a bonus, I got this great shot of their daughter as her dad walked by with the flash and umbrella.  It's funny, no matter how much I plan and setup, some of my fav pictures are made completely by accident.

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"Did you get any good pictures?"

This is the question I hate more than any other and for some reason the one most people feel the need to ask everytime I click my camera.  In fact the exchange usually goes something like this:

Person: "So, you get any good pictures?"

Me: "Nope"

Person: "hahaha, funny one.  Seriously, that kid/plane/event was great, you had to get some good stuff."

Me: "No not really, nothing good."

Person: "Oh.......... really?"

Me: "Yup, nothing but junkers."

Now, let me say that I do this with a smile on my face and would never say anything like this to a client, but for some reason this exchange really gets on my nerves (seriously, why do people feel the need to ask this!).  I would never say something comparable to the chef at my fav restaurant, to my plumber, or my mechanic.  Can you imagine asking your doc “So did you do a good job?”

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Children of Tarawa

In a previous post, I told of my trip to Tarawa, an atoll in the South Pacific.  Of everything I experienced there, I will always remember the children.  From their ongoing singing of Justin Beiber, to their begging for our empty water bottles, the children were a constant presence on the island.  I believe here the story is told in their eyes and in their faces.

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Cindy's Belly

Cindy was such a great model and we had a wonderful time with this session.  I love shoots like these because she was so easy to work with.  She was so confident with her pregnant body, easy to pose, and ready for anything I could throw at her.  How often do you get to take pictures without any complaints.  

We started off with some easy stuff; in a dress, wrapped in cloth, hands on the belly, but she was ready to jump into some of the more unique setups right away.  I love the first two images below because they really show off her personality and confidence.  

The best part of having such a willing participant is that I was able to try new things.  Some worked and some didn’t but it really gave me a chance to play with techniques I had been unable to before.  Look at the third image.  It was so easy to get her to stand still and try different silhouetting techniques until we found something that worked to show off her belly in a classic style.

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Tarawa

Much to the displeasure of Raquel, I’m starting to travel some for my “other job.”  I think she’s happy she doesn't have to clean up behind me for a while but I think deep down, she misses me when I’m gone.  In August I traveled to Tarawa, site of one of the bloodiest battles of WWII.  Starting on the morning of November 20, 1943, more than 1,000 American men were killed in roughly 72 hours of fighting with the Japanese. Hundreds of Marines were gunned down in the water trying to make it to shore.

It's estimated that as many as 450 Marines remain buried on Tarawa. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command returned there this year in an attempt to find some of these lost heroes.

I’ve been sitting in front of this computer for quite some time, trying to come up with the words to describe this place.  It’s beautiful yet disgusting.  Inspiring yet depressing.  It is at the same time the best and worst humanity has to offer.

I spent almost four weeks on the tiny, overpopulated atoll, working under the South Pacific sun in heat I had never experienced, even in Kuwait.

I watched a woman wash laundry by hand for over 6 hours non-stop.  I saw numerous young children ride in the lap of their parent, on motorcycles.  I witnessed people relieving themselves in the streets.  We were shown extreme generosity by those who have nothing.  And then there were the children, but I’ll save that for another post.

I’ll never forget the smell, the heat, the people.  My time on the islands will always be with me.

But I am very happy to be home.

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Syracuse Crunch

Had a great opportunity to shoot the Mirabito Outdoor Classic hockey game between the Syracuse Crunch and the Binghamton Senators on the 21st of February.  I was there to shoot video for my other job but brought my still camera with me to click off a few frames.  It was lots of fun to shoot some hockey, one of my favorite sports, and every time I do I learn something new.  

What made this such a great opportunity is that it was an exhibition game played outside.  The mood was so different among the crowd and the players, that it actually felt like I was shooting differently.  There seemed to be an extra added sense of electricity in the air.  Everyone was so excited.  Below are a few shots from the game.

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