Monday, August 31, 2009

An Eagle's Eye and Disappearing Fences

It's Monday afternoon, the last day of August, and summer is beating down with a vengeance. It is beastly hot today. I love summer, though, because it gives me a chance to do some scenic photography, which I used to do way more of than I do now. Don't get me wrong, I love doing portrait photography. It's a blast to work with people and see how excited they are when they get their proofs. But when I first started shooting seriously, I did nothing but scenic photography. You can see some of it posted on my website
Anyway, last July 4th I was in Big Bear Lake where I lived prior to coming to San Diego. One of my favorite places to visit up there is the Moonridge Animal Park otherwise known as the Moonridge Zoo. I had worked as a docent there when I lived on the mountain and I have always had a fondness for the bald eagles. The old fellows that live at the zoo have been through a lot with their injuries and can no longer live in the wild. Did you know that bald eagles nest in Big Bear Lake each winter? A pair of eagles had a nest not far from my home. They are breathtaking to watch and I can identify their cry after years of hearing them each winter.
So I decided to visit the zoo and found a big festival going on. Lots of people and lots of kids. It worked out great, though, because I was able to sneak right up to the fence of the eagle enclosure and capture some great images of these amazing creatures. The photo above is one that I took that day. Had I not been able to sneak in, I could have used the depth of field on my lens to fade out or greatly diminish the chain link fence as I did in a photo I took of the owl below.

For some reason that concept seems to be a difficult one for photographers just starting out or at least it was for me. So let me see if I can explain it simply, and if you have a better way of explaining it, add your comments. I'd love to hear your explanations.

Here goes. Each lens has f-stops. They determine how big the opening is that lets light into the sensor in your camera. Here's the part that drove me crazy when I first started out. The big numbers, like f-22, mean the opening will be small, and the small numbers, like f-2, mean the opening will be big. My brain took awhile to get this concept, but I've got it now.

In order to make the fence disappear, you need to use a small f-stop number, like f-2, which will give you a very narrow depth of field. That means the owl will be sharp and the area in front of him and behind him will be out of focus, which is exactly what we want. Out of focus fence means it will disappear or fade greatly.

Lenses vary, so use the smallest f-stop number you have. Then focus in on the owl or whatever it is behind the fence you want to shoot. Be careful you are not focusing on the fence itself or you will get a lovely shot of a tack sharp fence - not what you want! Hold still and shoot. That's it! It's not rocket science, but it can make for wonderful photos.

Now go forth and make it a day to try something new - like making fences disappear!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ashley, Beach Girl, Gets Her Senior Portait Done!

August 28, 2009

It was a blistering hot day, even in La Jolla. Ashley and her mom had arranged to meet me near the seal pool and we were all hoping for nice blue skies. We got our wish. The marine layer was way out to sea, which meant we'd have a gorgeous sky, blue water, and heat! But Ashley and her mom, Norma, were real troupers. I had them hiking up the rocks, down the rocks, over the rocks, well, you get the idea. We got our exercise in for the day, but we also had a ball trying different poses in all the different spots.

Ashley is a lovely strawberry blond with the most beautiful eyes. She's built like a model, which made posing her tons of fun. At her high school she is a member of the Color Guard, so we had a lot of fun trying different poses with her big red flag. She liked the poses and I think I got some nice shots. I had to get close ups of her fabulous eyes to show them off. She did an excellent job following all my directions. Way to go Ashley! Check out the photo below.

Now I can't post my blog without mentioning Ashley's mom, Norma. Wow, what a great gal. She became my willing assistant holding up my reflector and diffuser sometimes both at the same time. It's not easy getting them both in exactly the right spot to get a catch light in the eyes, but she caught on immediately and did a super job.

When our shoot was done, Norma asked if I'd like to join her and Ashley for lunch. Now no self-respecting girl who likes to eat could refuse an offer like that. It was also noon and my tummy was rumbling. I said yes almost too enthusiastically. Bubba's Barbecue, which is owned by people Norma knows, was fabulous. I love baby back ribs and sweet potato fries. Oh, my gosh. YUM! Hey, I'll be going back to try everything else on the menu and if you'd like to try it, too, it's on Prospect down towards the museum on the right hand side. It's a local fave, so you know it has to be good.

It's scary how easily food distracts me. Okay, back on track - I was writing about Ashley's senior photo shoot. I had such a great time with Ashley and her mom. I think they will enjoy the photos and Ashley will certainly have fun passing them out to her friends at school. You can check out Ashley's photos on my website at Look for 'Senior Portraits AL' in the Gallery link.

Make it a beautiful and delicious day!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Courtney Ties the Knot!

August 23, 2009

Courtney, my friend Diane's daughter, recently got married at the gorgeous Founder's Chapel at the University of San Diego. Diane asked if I would take photos of Courtney and her bridesmaids getting ready for the big day. Of course, I said yes!

The house, which was set high on a hill above the ocean in La Jolla, practically made me drool. It was just stunning. Big huge windows all around the house brought in perfect San Diego sunshine. From the back yard, the view of the ocean far below was just breathtaking. Sandy and Norm, the homeowners, had done a wonderful job of making the house perfect for the wedding preparations.

Sandy had fruit and muffins, along with quiche, coffee, and orange juice. I was encouraged to eat as much as I wanted, which usually doesn't happen on my photo shoots. But then Sandy is a fabulous hostess who wouldn't think of not inviting the photographer to put down her camera and join in. I restrained myself, but not entirely!

I had arrived at 7:30 a.m. sharp ready to snap candids of hair being curled, makeup being applied, and the general excitement and giddiness that goes along with such an event. I roamed from room to room scouting out moments that would remind Courtney of her special day. Everyone was so cooperative and allowed me to take photo after photo right down to the bride brushing her teeth with full makeup and veil.

Time seems to fly on mornings like this and before I knew it Courtney and her girls were in the limo headed to the wedding. I had a blast capturing the memories of that morning for Courtney and her mom. It was an absolute pleasure working with all the girls, even the flower girl, Amalie.
Check out her cute photo sitting at the piano in the photo gallery 'CH Event,' on my website
Make it a joyful day!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday, August 21st

I typed the date in and couldn't believe that it's almost the end of August. This year has flown. The sky is filled with clouds on this cool day in San Diego. Rain and thunder storms are predicted, which makes this seasonably unusual. I love it, though, because I think change is good. So often we fight change in our lives only to look back and find that it opened up doors that we never expected or perhaps gave us opportunities that took us in a whole new direction.

This week I met with the Smuggers group of San Diego. Smugmug is the host for my website and they do a fantastic job. I started out displaying my photos from the DSLR Photography Club of San Diego, but eventually upgraded to a pro account. David Wolf of Wolfsnap Design, who was also at the meeting, did a great job designing my site and I enjoy the compliments I receive.

Sorry, I digressed there a bit. Anyway, I had the chance to hear a gifted photographer by the name of Dane Sanders who presented an amazing show of his work. His style is totally different than mine and he works in the big leagues of wedding and commercial photography. His clients are people like Lens Crafters and Ozzie Osborne! He's a local guy, which makes me realize what a gifted group of photographers actually call the San Diego area home.

Dane really inspired me to work hard and be open to the opportunities that present themselves. I think sometimes we as photographers can become very short sighted and we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. As I work on building my business, which is hard work for very little pay at this point, I am going to remember Dane and his story. His crazy photography style as a 21 year old kid crashing high end parties in New York to take photos of people he didn't know has developed over the years to the much in demand destination wedding photographer he is now.

You can check out Dane Sanders website and his new book, Fast Track Photographer at

Make it a great day for change!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Escorting A Star!

August 19, 2009

There she was, the Grand Duchess, elegant, poised, and ready to greet her guests. The excitement in the air was palpable. The water was like glass and the gray of the morning fog hung in the air. Cameras were at the ready as T.V. crews and regular folks, like me, anticipated her every move. The Star of India was headed to dry dock for scraping, painting, and a bit of a face lift to keep her in tip top shape.

I was there among the crowd. I knew as soon as I read the email from the Maritime Museum that I had to be part of this special day, especially since it only happens once every three years or so. My two cameras were slung over my neck fitted with a wide angle 17 - 35mm, and my workhorse lens, 28 - 80mm L, that I use ninety percent of the time. I got some strange looks when people saw my circular polarizers on my lenses, but I had decided that I wanted deep, clear water shots, not the sheen I would have had without them. When I checked my shots, I was glad I had made that decision.

Seven o'clock sharp the call came to board. Both the California and the Pilot Boat were headed out to escort the lovely lady. I chose the Pilot Boat because of its quickness in circling and maneuvering, which would allow me to get some great photos. And I'd be able to get some photos of the California somewhere other than where she docks.

Bracing myself at the railing, I watched like a kid. Tug boats gently nudged The Star from her dock and brought her out into the San Diego Bay. I clicked away grabbing one camera then the other camera for a different view. Vertical, horizontal, wide angle, close up. I was giving my gear a workout.

As we moved down the Bay toward Coronado, it was an odd juxtaposition seeing military ships in the midst of tall ships. History standing or should I say floating side by side with modern vessels each respecting the other. Slowly and carefully the tugs led her down the Bay past the San Diego skyline, under the Coronado Bridge, and to her new home for the next two weeks.

Ever so gently the tugs turned her and eased her slowly and carefully into the dry dock. Hoards of workers in hard hats waited for her ready to begin their task of sprucing her up for her grand reentry Labor Day Weekend. She looked small once she was swallowed by the dry dock. Her masts peaked out of the top her flag still flying proudly. She'll be back, fresh and beautiful, ready to great her public once again, people just like me who are fascinated and moved by her greatness and history.

If you'd like to see more photos, I've posted a gallery on my website,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Celebrating Dad, Good Memories, and Passion

August 17, 2009

I'm thinking about my dad today. He died exactly a year ago today on his 82nd birthday. I miss him a lot. So, I got to thinking about my growing up years when so many people I know developed the passions of their lives, like trains or surfing, or baking, you know, stuff like that. I didn't actually begin to take photography seriously or become "passionate" about it until I was in my mid-thirties, so where did my passion come from?

Dad was a terrible photographer. We'd wait FOREVER for him to get us posed so we didn't look like we were posing. Then the picture would come back with mom and the five of us kids with quiet looks of desperation on our faces. He had the right idea, but he didn't do so well at the execution of it!

Dad was an artist - water color and oils. He also sang opera. He had been trained in it since he was a little boy growing up in France. I think perhaps that his artistic abilities spilled over into our day to day lives without me realizing it. I'd watch him paint and talk to him about colors and how to put them together. It was all just a part of life back then.

We'd be driving up to the mountains in the old station wagon and dad would point out the lines and textures in the rocks. Or when he and mom took me San Francisco the year I graduated from junior college, I can remember him pointing out the architecture of the buildings he loved and all the features that reminded him of the architecture in Paris where he grew up.

I think of photography as an art form, although, I've heard many paint brush in hand artists who would dispute that with me. But for me it IS art. Painting with light, colors, textures, leading lines, all the things that make up good composition and elements of art. My photos are simply a different form of art and one that, whether I realized it at the time or not, was greatly influenced by my dad.

In the years before dad died, he would encourage me every time we talked. He loved my photos and he'd tell me, "I showed your photos to so and so and he loved them too. Everyone loves your photos!" I hear his voice in my head every now and then telling me to press on and not to give up on my dream, this crazy, wonderful, wild dream I have of becoming a respected photographer giving people memories for a lifetime.

Dad, I love you and I miss you so much. I honor you today for being my dad and instilling in me an artistic eye and the mind of an artist always looking at my work critically and enthusiastically to improve and grow and succeed. I press on toward my dream enjoying the journey (most days) along the way.

See you next time. Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Saturday Night in Gorgeous San Diego

Welcome back! It's Saturday night and I'm loving living and working in San Diego. The cool air tonight is wonderful after the heat we've had here, but you can't beat being a photographer in this gorgeous setting heat or no heat. My studio is anywhere I want to go whether it's the beach, La Jolla Cove, Wind and Sea, Coronado, or Griffin Park steps from where I live. And why not? The morning and evening light is perfect and gives me the opportunity to take gorgeous photos.

An indoor studio is great if you can afford to have one, but since I can't at this point and I love being outdoors, it just make sense to use it to my advantage. My clients love it too. After all, they are in a place they enjoy being, so they feel more comfortable having their photos taken. When I'm at the Cove, for example, the crashing waves, the stunning blue sky, and the smell of the salty air is completely energizing. I work better in that kind of atmosphere and my clients have no problem smiling. A win win situation for all, I'd say.

I just got an email today from a photographer friend who has a studio in a beautiful spot along the coast of Oregon . She just closed it down and will be working outside exclusively now. With the economy being what it is, it just makes sense to use what is available. She and I are blessed to be able to work in such beautiful cities.

So I guess tonight I'm celebrating San Diego, my studio, and all that it has to offer a photographer who is willing to get out there and use it to its full advantage! So here's a challenge for you: go forth and shoot photos where you live and take full advantage of the gorgeous spots in your city. You might be surprised by what you find!

Good night and I'll see you here in a couple of days.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hi everyone. Wow! This is the beginning of a new day for me. I'm actually blogging! I've thought about joining the blogging world many times, so I'm excited and looking forward to this new adventure. Welcome aboard! I'm glad you're here.

Am I sure of exactly how this is going to go? NO! But I do know that I have thoughts and ideas to share about my photography and photography in general. In fact, I love sharing and hearing other people share their ideas and thoughts. I guess that comes from being a teacher for so many years. Ah, that's another blog for another day, but my point is that I want this to be a forum for sharing and learning. I have learned amazing things from my photographer friends, and in fact, I wouldn't be where I am today without their help. Thanks guys!

So here I go, jumping in head first, the adventure begins! Now I want to know what you think and what you'd like to discuss in the world of photography: cameras, lenses, equipment, lighting, composition, starting a business, marketing, or whatever. All questions and comments are welcome. Let's BLOG!

Make it a fabulous day and I'll see you again in a couple of days.