Finished with high school musical, moving onto wedding season

We wrapped up the final edits and uploads from the high school musical for Troy Christian Schools.  This year was the Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast.  Our son played the character of Mssr. D’Arque, the sanatorium director.  It was a great time doing both the cast photos and candids from the musical dress rehearsals and performances.  We made up a keepsake print for the families and put together packages for common items for orders (like buttons, wallets, etc.)


We waiting to see if it makes sense for us to do this again until after purchasing dies down.  Renting gear was a big chunk of the cost for this event, but we always enjoy the show and even working behind the stage doesn’t ruin the theatrical magic. (more…)

End of evening over the Tuleyries

I was chasing a bumblebee when I saw this view of the Tuleyries Farm, in the Blue Ridge mountains.  The farm is next door to the Virginia State Arboretum, near Winchester, Virginia.  Many moons ago, the Blandy family gifted the state of Virginia some land to be a boys school in agriculture.  Today it’s the Blandy Experimental Farm and state Arboretum.  Many moons ago, perhaps as many as the Blandy Farm land exchange, the Tuleyries Farm had the foresight to keep the house and land intact so that I could take this photo.  🙂


It’s a 1/125 a second at f/9, ISO 100.  I converted it to a black & white in Lightroom v.4 and did a little tweaking with exposure also.

A folly on the Tuleyries Farm, Winchester, Virginia. Taken in Spring, 2013.


The Blandy Experimental Farm and Virginia State Arboretum, Winchester, VA


Spring has come and the delicate flowers of the field are out!  The Blue Ridge mountains were gorgeous this last week.  Dogwoods, tulip trees, violets and tulips were everywhere.  It was hard to make a bad photo at the Arboretum, but I tried.  Of the hundreds I took, I did throw away three.  🙂


Busy week ahead.  Photographing the high school musical for my son’s school.  Beauty and the Beast.  Lots of fun.  Took cast photos two weeks ago and now the performances are up.  Went to the dress rehearsal today and had a good time snapping shots of the behind the scenes work that makes a musical actually work.


More to come!


All things are new again

It’s Easter morning and I’m alone in the house.  Well, the dogs are awake, but lounging around, waiting for the cat to entertain them.  Most of the family is in bed still.  The kettle is just now boiling, so I can have my cocoa.  Umm…

This is a new day for me.  I started volunteering at my church in 2005, just after we moved to Ohio.  A very good friend was part of the worship band at our church and asked me if I’d be interested in running sound for his band.  That was a blast!  I love running a sound board, mixing live bands.  It’s artistic and technical at the same time, something I am good at and groove on doing.

With one thing and another, in a year or so I ended up being the ‘in-charge’ volunteer.  That rolled into a part-time volunteer job where I was there every weekend for eight hours, plus any other events during the week.  I trained several sets of volunteers and watched them come and go.

Last summer I looked at a Sunday service, again from behind a mixer, and realized that I was never with my family at church.  It had been 5+ years!  Wow, was I stupid.  The next weekend I sat with my family and let another volunteer make some mistakes, but they learned a lot.  The amazing things was, even though I wasn’t volunteering that weekend I couldn’t sit in the congregation and not mentally be behind the mixer.  My fellow church members couldn’t separate me from the mixer either.  Even when I was not working, people would come up to me and talk about their view of the music and sound.  That’s all they knew about me.

So I quit.  I quit thinking that the technical performance each Sunday was my responsibility.  I quit taking credit for what God did in worship.  I falsely believed that it was my job, my calling to make people worship.  That if I left it would all collapse.

I haven’t been back in eight months.  I did one event for a friend, and that’s it.  I’m focusing (pun noted) on photography again and I love it.  I have to make sure I don’t fall into the trap of idolizing photography.  I can share this with my wife though, and we love that.  Linnea’s discovered that she likes taking photos!  That’s way cool.

So this is the first Easter since 2000 something that I have not been working at every service.  Getting up before dawn and dragging my too-tired-from-spending-all-week-at-church-getting-ready-for-Easter butt in.  Easter for technical crews and worship teams is the Super Bowl of church services.  New equipment, new stage sets, new music, practice, practice, practice.  This is the first one I haven’t thought that I have to carry the load.

That’s what Easter is all about.

See, Easter is the celebration of our failure, our surrender.  Jesus’ death and resurrection are all about our inability to make it on our own.  If we recognize that our falling short of God’s purity (not just in the sex area, but in all areas of life) has cut us off from relationship with God, then we try to figure out how we can get to God.  That is literally like our trying to build a bamboo ladder to the Moon.  Ain’t gonna happen.  Actually, the ladder is way easier.

Since we can’t reconcile our flawed selves with God, He did it for us.  That’s why Christmas isn’t about the end of winter (cause we all know that ain’t true!), but light coming into the darkness.  Easter is about death being overcome, about life becoming real!  We’re all velveteen rabbits who have to be burned (saddest children’s book EVER!).  But after that death, there is LIFE!

So, all things will be new.  Life will become real, better than living under this cursed sky and with death programmed in our cells.  We who celebrate Easter are celebrating our hope in the ‘ever after’.


Happy Easter to you.

Beauty & the Beast

Our son’s high school is doing the Disney musical, Beauty and the Beast and we’re taking the cast and performance photos!  We’re excited to be doing the cast photos this week.  This is the first time we’ve done a school photo shoot so we’re trying to make it all go smoothly.  We’ll be shooting straight to hard drive and should have the galleries online by the 10th of April.

One of the things I am most excited about is bringing online ordering to the school photo world.  I have heard a lot of comments from parents along the lines of “Wow, I love that we’ll be able to see the photos before we order!”  I am amazed that more studios don’t do this.  It is easier for both me and the families to see what you are getting before you order.  That’s one reason we invest so much into our online store, to give us the capacity, convenience and security of online orders.

We’ll be doing a photo collage of the entire cast and each student into an 8×10″ print too.  Think of the typical school collage photo, but with our style of creativity and design.  That really means Linnea’s creativity and design, since she is our Photoshop ninja.  I’m just a camera driver.  🙂

I put together some packages to bundle common photos and gifts together.  We went with names from the musical, so there’s The Beast, The Guest and The Villager.  

We’re also shooting the performances and rehearsals to build a Performance Album.  We showed this off at the musical kickoff and got rave reviews.  The tough thing is the cost.  It costs us a lot to get them printed and unless we go with a small print house (which drives up the cost more) we don’t get a break on cost unless we get silly quantities ordered.  I hope the photos make everyone proud of their kids, but also hope to make it available to as many as possible.  We’re still looking at printers to find the best price to offer the best deal to our clients.

Here are some shots from last years’ musical, The Wiz, which I shot just for fun.  Not saying that this years’ won’t be fun though!

Dorothy from 'The Wiz', from the Troy Christian School's spring musical, 2012

The Tin Woodsman from the musical, 'The Wiz'.  Troy Christian School's spring musical, April 2012.


The Wizard of Oz, from the Troy Christian School's spring musical, 'The Wiz'.  April 2012.



Ninja training

I get asked pretty often, “where can I become a ninja like you, oh master”.  It’s humbling, but I am not really that good a ninja.  My best friend in High School, Ed, and I used to get into lots of trouble dressing up like ninjas and disturbing the peace.  The park police in Coloma, California are probably still on the lookout for us.  This is a true story, just ask my big sister for confirmation.

Anyway, I do get asked about photography and learning how to take better photos and then how to edit them.  I’ve started a beginners photo workshop (It’s a SNAP!) that is four classes with a photowalk at the end.  If you are interested in coming with us on our next photowalk, it will be May 4th in Troy, Ohio.  Send me a note and I’ll get you the details.

So, you want to learn photography?  There are basically two ways to do it.  First, buy a camera and take photos.  Trial and error is a great teacher.  It’s slow though, and you miss the opportunity to learn from the mistakes and successes of others.  That’s what comes with method two, ‘Learn at the feet of a Master’.

I started photography in the dark ages.  Really!  I was in the 7th grade and our science teacher had a darkroom where we could develop photographs.  I was hooked after watching that first image appear magically in the fixer tray.  It really was magic.  It was science magic.  Art and science combined.  I continued taking photos and in high school I was in the school newspaper as a photojournalist.  That was where I received my life’s calling.  I missed it though because I was goof-ball and didn’t turn in assignments on time.  But I was made to be on assignment with National Geographic, somewhere in Borneo, stalking the illegal Bornean trade in used toner cartridges.

When I got back into photography in a big way, the world had moved from analog  film (think record players) to digital (like CDs).  It’s a whole new world.  Now we can shoot THOUSANDS of images and if we don’t like any of them, it’s okay!  Wow.  It used to cost $7 or $10 for 36 exposures of black & white film.  I took over 2,000 images at a wedding in December.

So, takes lots of photos.  Billions, if you can.  But save yourself some time and learn from someone who can teach you what you want to learn.

So, without further ramblings, here are some sites on Ye Olde Interwebs that you can use.  Some are subscription only, like the Kelbytraining website, but they are professional and filled with knowledge.  Others are somebody with a webcam, but they too have info worth learning.  It’s usually a little harder to find the gems in the free sites, but hey, they’re free!  A great website, chock full of good info.  Strong in Photoshop skilz and all kinds of photography.  Teachers are first rate and the production is some of the best.  Cost is high, like $199/year or $25/month but they give out free daily passes so you can ‘try before you buy‘ and you can rent classes too.  They also have some great books too (mine are loaned out, so don’t lose them! 🙂  Another great site.  FULL of tutorials (the tuts) on projects, tools and skills in Photoshop.  They are a hybrid site, free and subscription.  If you are totally new to PS, check out their channel on the Basix.  Martin Perhinaik is the man and his accent rocks.  Their premium account is $19/month or $180 a year.  This is the best, all free, resource out there.  It’s also tough to find beginner material so you have to slog through ads, short articles and their constant ‘please subscribe to our newsletter’.  But hey, it’s free.  They have a newbie section here.  I’ll just send you to their photography channel.  Adobe is world famous for powerful, hard to use and hard to learn software.  No wonder there are tons of videos on YouTube and training classes just for Photoshop!  But they are true ninjas and Julieanne Kost does great stuff in her ‘Complete Picture’ series.  Free!  No beginner track though, so you have to dig for the basics.

Finally, here are two playlists on YouTube I have started and will continue to add to.  One is on photography.  The other on Photoshop.  Some repeat material from sites like PSDTuts in the PhotoShop playlist, but good stuff.

Family Photos!

My daughter, Gwen, asked me to take a portrait for an application she is turning in and I said “YES!”  It’s sometimes a little hard to see my family suffer through yet another photograph, so when they ask I jump on it.

Gwen's portrait

Gwen’s portrait

Simple setup.  I used my LumoPro LP160 flash into a Photeck Softlighter II octa/umbrella and fired away.  Lots of fun pictures, especially with the new hair color.  This is the one she choose for the application.


Studio portrait taken in Tipp City, Ohio by photographer Gene Simonalle of Gene'Scenes. More at

Just a quick note about the site

Just a quick note about the site

We’re upgrading the site this week, so things will be a little wacky until we figure it all out.  Have no fear though, the amazing photos and people will be here!

Thanks for your patience while we get this working.

A little audio/video work on the side

A little audio/video work on the side

Today I spent the afternoon installing an above mantel television for Linnea’s folks.  They upgraded to a 46″ LED TV and wanted it above the mantel of their fireplace.  I looked at drilling in the masonry and went “ugh” at that idea.  Since their mantel is wood and solidly installed, I decided on a pole-mount attached to a 24″ pipe that is threaded into a flange screwed to the mantel.  Here’s some shots of the completed install.




Above is the side view of the pole mount.  That’s a Chief display mount kit in there.  I love their stuff.  While it’s expensive, the quality and the ease of installation makes it SO worth it!  You will never regret buying a Chief installation kit, I can assure you.  I’ve used them for projector mounts, televisions, monitors and displays.  Quality, American made gear.


Below is the finished project.  Slick, floating look that works really, really well.



What to wear?

What to wear?

Just read a great post from DrewB, a mom who writes a blog on photographing your own children.  Here’s the link.  Her blog is here.

Lots of the points were spot on; dress naturally, comfortably, in coordinating but not identical outfits.  Relaxed is more important than impressive, as far as family portraits go.  Unless you’re Donald Trump, maybe.  Or the Queen of England.  Otherwise, be natural so your photographer, professional or family, can capture natural photos.

Be yourself!