Back in the Desert

My drive as an artist is to grow. I always want to push limits and find new ways to express myself though my photos. Over the last few months I have been experimenting with light shaping and blending my landscape photos with the photos I take of people. When I take landscapes, for me it is all about the vivid colors of the sunset. My goal is to capture a moment in time that give the feeling of motion. With my portraits, it’s all about emotion. If I take 100 frames, I know my favorite will always be the candid moment that I capture between poses. You can see some of this in my recent photo shoot with Nika.

With all that said, the bread and butter of my photography business is a saguaro cactus at sunset. I have hundreds of them. The reality is I could spend every night for the next 30 years in the desert taking the same type of photo…a saguaro backlit with a vivid Arizona sky at sunset and I would not consider it a wasted life. But if you look at am recent Instagram feed, these photos are few and far between recently. I think that’s because my desire to grow as an artist has pushed me away from my foundation. That changed tonight. At ab out 3 this afternoon I knew it would be a perfect night with the high clouds, and amazing weather. I grabbed my camera bag, took my Tahoe off road into a sea of saguaros, and found my roots. And it felt amazing. Not just because of the landscape and light I found, but also the renewed appreciation of why I love Arizona.

If you’re following me on Instagram, you will see the result of my night with a handful of new photos. Enjoy. 

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It's Not a Green Screen!

This week I had a great project shooting graduation photos for Nika Gueci, who recently earned a doctorate from Arizona State University. She lives in Apache Junction because she LOVES the Superstition Mountains. This was an obvious place to stage the photos. After I posted them on Facebook and Instagram, I got questions from several people asking about what other Arizona backgrounds I have in my studio. Even Nika commented when we were reviewing the RAW files on Capture One that they looked like a green screen in a studio because she was so sharp, and the mountains had such vivid color. I promise these were not shot on a green screen. We were on location at Lost Dutchman State Park

To achieve this look, I used a few techniques. First, I used a circular polarized filter that I generally only use when shooting landscapes. Second, I lit the scene with two strobe lights, one as the key light and the other as a hair light (I’ll post a review on the strobes in a few days). The photos were shot at the golden hour, so I was able to use the ambient light as the fill light. This setup helped me achieve a studio feel while shooting outside. 

For the photo below (Nika’s favorite shot) the camera settings were ISO 100, 50mm, f/2.8 and 1/1600 sec. They were shot with my Nikon D750 with a Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. I did very little post-production in Lightroom, only adjusting the highlights and shadows a bit and adjusting the color temperature to account for polarized filter. 

The point of this long-winded technical explanation is to show that you can get a studio look anywhere with a little planning.  

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My First Drone

After reading and watching dozens of reviews, I decided to pull the trigger and add the DJI Mavic 2 Pro to my gear bag. I don't do a ton of video work, so I always went back and forth on whether having a drone was worth the cost. But the addition of the one-inch sensor in the new Hasselblad camera makes this drone a must have for a still photographer. At least that’s what I keep telling myself to justify spending nearly $2,000 on a flying camera. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is $1,500. If you decide to get one, I highly recommend buying the Fly More Kit. It comes with two extra batteries, extra props, and a perfect gear bag. I have not had a chance to take the drone out yet, but I’ll get a chance to this week when I’m shooting some graduation photos in Apache Junction. I’ve only had the drone up in the air a few times in our backyard, so I can’t offer much of a review except for this: Our dog, Bonnie, HATES my new toy.