Friday, December 16, 2011

NILMDTS (in the recent news)

Today, I went online to renew my volunteer status at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.  I should have done this months ago, but haven't for various reasons.  It's been nagging me though, so tonight I decided to go ahead with it.  When I went to the website, I found that NILMDTS has been in the news recently as the Duggars of the reality show 19 Kids & Counting required the organization's services this past week.  There's a lot of controversy due to the memorial service and photos which leaked

First off, to those of you who are offended by the photographs - don't look.  I saw a couple images in an article and they're absolutely tasteful.  If you think photographing deceased infants is sick and wrong, imagine it was you.  Wouldn't you want the pictures?  Think of history - in the Victorian era, post-mortem images (especially of children) were quite common.  The mortality rate was high and a photograph was a reminder of the child that was lost.  It still is.

Second - This is a tragedy.  Yes, I completely understand mocking reality show stars, but this is a baby.  A lost baby.  The way some articles online are referring to the child is disgusting.  I honestly am far more sickened by the scathing tone of the articles and their uncaring choice of words than the fact that a family wants to have (and show photos at) a memorial service for their child.

Third - Despite the sorrow (I can't help but get teary when I hear about the death of infants and children), I'm glad that NILMDTS was in the news.  The more that the world hears about the organization, the better.  NILMDTS does a wonderful thing for people going through a terrible time and it's something that everyone should be aware of.

So yeah.  I just wanted to share that with you guys if you weren't aware.  And if you are aware, don't hate, ok?  You can mock reality show people if you want (I know I do it) but don't be cruel about this.

Oh, and seeing as it's the holiday season, if you're in the giving mood, please donate to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep.  It's an amazing organization providing professional infant memorial photography for free to families who have lost or are likely to lose their baby.  What is there but memories?

Monday, December 12, 2011

LIVAN (and Alice Cooper)

On Tuesday, my boyfriend Damien and I went to The Hard Rock Cafe to see a band.  This isn't really unusual, as we met when his band, Sick Twisted Debauchery, played at The Fallout Shelter.  So anyway, Tuesday we go to see this band, LIVAN, that we saw open for Alice Cooper over the summer.  We were both really impressed and when we heard they were coming to Pittsburgh again had to go.  Not gonna lie, slightly disappointed in the turnout - there were MAYBE 30 people there and most came to eat or were groupies of a local opener.  It was still an awesome show though, and I was psyched because I got to try out the lens I'd just gotten the night before - 85mm prime, f1.4, manual focus.  I'm kind of in love with it.

I mean, look at this.  Seriously, click on the picture and make it bigger.  It's freaking sweet and I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to manually focus with that shallow depth of field.  This, by the way, is Livan, who is really cool and nice.  More on that later, first some pictures of his drummer, Seven.  Watching him is the most fun I've ever had watching a drummer and he may be my new favorite (sorry, Rick-O).

I'm quite pleased with the results.  So, after the show, Damien and I go to tell Livan it was a good show and we specifically came out to see him.  Ended up talking to him for....I don't know, I'm terrible with time, probably 20 minutes at least.  We talked about music and I showed him some of these photo on the back of my camera and he seemed fairly impressed.  After a bit someone else came over so we went to the merch stand.  Damien got a shirt, I got a CD, we chatted with Ash the merch guy.  Then Livan comes back over to us, asks how far we are from Erie (about 2 hours) and if we want to come out on Saturday, he's opening for Alice Cooper and will put us on the guest list.  This sounds ridiculously fun so of course we agree and on Saturday drive up to Erie.

Just a quick note - while in Erie, there's this thing called a cocoa cafe that has some the best hot chocolate EVER.  Try it.

The show was at the Warner Theater, where we had never been before.  We arrived just as Livan was going on stage and because he had invited us I was able to bring my camera in.  85mm again and MUCH harder to focus from the seating.  I went up closer to the stage for awhile during his set and got some pretty great shots.

You can't see his mic stand too well here, but it's amazing.  Mechanical, with removable parts and goes up and down.  Super impressive and when we saw Livan over summer I think Damien wanted one for Christmas....

So, let's see...I'm really interested in the top photo in this set because it breaks a ton of rules but still works.  Maybe because he's facing out of the frame but the lights on the other side make you look at them too.  I'm fond of it.  Next one down has guitarist, Will, who wrote "Black Cherry" a song of theirs I really like, then Seven, then Anna.

I also took a couple shots of Alice Cooper from my seat, and my favorite is below.

Hi Alice!  You're a legend and 40 years ago the first rock show my dad ever went to was to see you.  (My first concert was Spice Girls.  It was awesome.)

After the show we went and hung out with Livan, Will and a couple other girls from Pittsburgh for a few hours in the tour bus.  We talked about politics, religion, different world views (Livan is from Greece and England), crowd responses at shows, all kinds of things.  It was really interesting because I don't normally have that kind of conversation very often but it was definitely thought provoking.  I'm also really terrible at talking to people for extended periods of time but this conversation was all very natural and relaxed.  It was awesome and can't wait for next time!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rose and Rev

Yesterday I photographed Rose and Rev, a nice rock and roll couple.  I met them over summer when I went to see Rev's band, Only Flesh, play.  In October, I did a shoot with the band, which was really fun.  Recently they contacted me again - Rev knows some guys who have a tattoo magazine in Mexico and they want to do an article to promote Only Flesh's new album and needed some photos.

We shot down in The Fallout Shelter, nice three light setup (softbox, umbrella, and hair light) with a white background.  When they walked in, one of my co-workers nearly had a heart attack over Rose ("Who is SHE, she's SO beautiful!!"), which was kind of adorable.  Once we got downstairs, Rev explained to me exactly what he wanted, which was great - we had a plan and we stuck to it.  This is one of my favorite shots, though there are variations on pose and camera angle.  Oh, and yeah, the hooks are real.  He's a piercer and Only Flesh does suspension as part of their act, which is really interesting to watch and I absolutely want to do it myself.  We had a discussion on the pain level - he said it's not just size of the needle, but speed.  For example, if you pushed a safety pin thru your skin, but slowly, it's probably a similar amount of pain to him shoving that hook thru quickly.  It was really fascinating!!

While I had them here, I wanted to do some portraits for the tattoo project I've been on/off working on for the last year and a half or so.  My project isn't just "oh, I'm going to photograph tattoos" but "I'm going to make really nice portraits of tattooed/pierced people."  Rose and I discussed how we both love black and white photographs but since they're both highly colorful people (literally and figuratively) that it's hard to convert.  However, I found a couple shots that work well.  Colored photos of both of them are on my Facebook page.

Wrapping up, we took some cute couple pictures of them.  Awwww!!!

Friday, December 2, 2011


A couple days ago I got a phone call from an aspiring young male model who needed some photos taken to show an agency he was interviewing at.  Yesterday he came by for studio shots.  I like male models because they're more likely to enjoy dramatic lighting than the girls, who go more for soft pretty light.  I did a mix of the two with Devon and he was quite good at following direction and getting a feel for what sort of lighting called for what sort of expression.  Definite potential!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kayla's Boys

My friend Kayla, a groomer, has been wanting me to photograph her poodle DaVinci literally for years and we just never really got around to it.  Last year she got a second poodle, Roman, and this Saturday, I went over and we took pictures.  While Kayla was finishing getting ready, I wanted to photograph DaVinci - he's a really cool dog and loves me, so figured that he would listen to me enough to get a couple good shots before Kayla finished her makeup and trimming Roman.

What I instead learned was that DaVinci HATES getting his picture taken.  We're pretty sure the flash of my Alien Bees reminds him of lightning.  This is one of the only shots I managed to get of him before Kayla came downstairs - he was half hiding behind the wall.  I felt so bad, poor puppy!!

Roman, the more skittish dog who doesn't like being touched, was all for it.  He sat nicely and posed and moved his head different angles and basically completely shocked me and Kayla.  We had been expected the opposite of what the boys gave us.

Kayla was in some of the photos as well.  DaVinci hid underneath the stool she was sitting on, so she decided to sit on the floor with them.  Her puppies love her!!

I took this last shot afterwards using only the window light and imagine Roman to be saying "It's ok, it's all over now!"  From this shoot I learned that while I do love pet photography, you have to be prepared for the animals to behave out of character and that it might take more time and effort than expected.  I'm just glad DaVinci still loves me!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Resistance 13 Promos

Resistance 13 is a metal band from Ohio.  I've known them since their formation, and did their original promos awhile back.  Coulda sworn I had a blog on that shoot, but I can't find it.  Since then, they've had a change in line-up.  Over summer, I saw Jeremy and Bryan (the two original members) at Mayhem Fest and we discussed doing photos.  This past weekend, that shoot became reality.

Jeremy and I had thrown around a couple different ideas, but our main one was a pretty large scale project which we would need a lot of extras for.  Hopefully it will eventually happen, but for this shoot we went with option #2 - find a badass location and take sweet pictures.  We drove out to the Aliquippa Industrial Park and if you know anything about Aliquippa, you know it used to be a booming steel town 40 years or so ago.  Nowadays.....not so much.  We drove along until we spotted our badass location, which ended up being a huge pile of rubble.  Slabs of concrete, rusting pipes, the whole deal.  I hadn't really expected to be rock climbing, but luckily boots are my standard form of footwear.  (Doc Martens = LOVE!)

Rock climbing was definitely fun.  After spending awhile in the rubble pile, we got in our cars and went back aways to a run down building with broken windows.  Here we mostly did individual headshots.  They had spotted a building coming in that looked interesting, so we went down that way and determined that the fence wouldn't let us in.  There was, however, a small dirt road leading up a hill into some trees...spur of the moment decision we went up it.  It didn't look too promising, and then we reached the top of the hill.  Train tracks, and directly across them, a rusted out old car.  Score.  I wasn't too interested in the tracks - they're cliche, and still in use.  We tried to find someone to ask if we could shoot with the car, but when no one was there, decided to do it anyway.

I'd say it was a good choice.  Oh, and that train track?  Definitely still in use.

We hit up a place called the Joseph Building as well, using the faded ads on the brick as a backdrop.  There's a picture of the guys goofing off in front of it on my Facebook page, check it out!  It's my old hangout - when I was about 5 my dad's pizza shop was next door.  Now it's a water tower, but visiting the spot was cool because I used to play around there all the time as a kid.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jeff and Christine

My uncle Jeff and his wife Christine wanted to get photos taken, so they asked me, their amazing photographer niece, to do so for them.  We were supposed to do this last time they were in town like a year ago, but it didn't work out, so when they came up for his birthday last weekend, we finally got around to it.

Seeing as they don't live around here, there wasn't anywhere special they really wanted to go.  We ended up taking some shots on the roof of the bowling alley in their NASA shirts (they both work for NASA, cool, right?)

After that, we went to the park.  Not gonna lie, it's slightly creepy to see my uncle be cutesy, but these were couples pictures, so it had to happen.  I got over it.  Some of the shoot was pretty ridiculous, but then again, this is my family, so it's bound to be a little weird.

This last shot, by the way, is Christine and Uncle Jeff pretending to be fashion models who are not caring or being pleased about getting their picture taken for the cover of some huge magazine.  I told you we're ridiculous.

Seniors 2012 - Lecksi

Lecksi bowls with my brother on the Hopewell High School team, so when I'm at the bowling alley I'll talk to her and the other high school kids.  One day I basically just said "you're a senior, right?  I'm gonna do your pictures."  She said "ok" and so we took senior portraits.  Had my studio set up down in The Fallout Shelter, which works out quite well.

I kept telling Lecksi "don't look so scared!" and she would say "I'm not!" and laugh and I would get a good shot.  It was fun.  After the studio shots, we went to Hopewell Park, which is close by.  The shirt she was wearing kind of matched the fall leaves, something I thought was really cool!  The 50mm f2 prime lens kept the background from being too overbearing like her shirt though, and I really like the resulting images.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ginny + Kyle's Engagement Photos (Part 1)

Last weekend (Saturday, mainly) was another one of those busy busy ones.  I had Ginny and Kyle's shoot, then Jeff and Christine's, then work that night, then work again in the morning, etc etc.  I like being busy though, so we're going to take a short bit out of this entry to make a note of what I did during the week.  It was discovered that my beautiful wonderful 27-inch iMac's hard drive was failing and I had to take it to the Apple store for repairs on Monday.  Got it back...Thursday night but since I was also shooting an event that night, didn't get to use it at all until Friday (yesterday).  So here I am feeling like I'm a little behind on everything, but gotta say that, wow, it was kind of nice to feel like a "normal" person and come home after work and chill out for a few days instead of continuing to work.  Oh, and the important part - BACK UP YOUR FILES!!  I work primarily off of external hard drives, but all my edits were on the iMac.  Luckily I had those backed up as well and use one of the hard drives as a Time Machine as well so was able to restore everything back to how it was when I took it in.  So, once again, BACK UP YOUR FILES!!  Music, photography, LightRoom presets, financial logs, even my FireFox bookmarks were saved.

Now then.  Ginny and Kyle.  Kyle used to be in a band (The Scratch 'n' Sniffs) that I'm friends with, and Ginny had me do photos of her nephew recently (there's one in my general September post).  We had discussed engagement pictures a couple times, and the reason the title here says Part 1 is because we're going to do some more in the winter which will be super cold but surely super pretty as well.  Part 1 occurred in the fall, obviously, and we started out at Geneva College.

Ok, so I am all about this clock photo.  In general, clocks are cool.  Time and our view of it is interesting.  But a clock for a couple, in engagement photos, kind of has a nice "forever" idea.  Like the clock will keep ticking and they'll still be together.  That's what I was going for, at least, but maybe I'm just a bit of a romantic on occasion.  Opinions?

After Geneva, we got breakfast.  It was early and none of us had remembered to eat, so we stopped at this cute little shop where I got a cinnamon roll and Apple Chai-der (half apple cider, half chai tea, SO GOOD) and then made our way to these benches along the river that Kyle and Ginny go to have cute romantic alone time.

I LOVE THESE.  They are so cute and beautiful.  Ok, the bench is beautiful and the ring/kiss is cute.  Either way, I adore them.

Our last stop was back to Kyle and Ginny's, to take a few shots of them carving pumpkins.  This was kind of ridiculous, but really just fun.  It was Kyle's idea, and since these sort of thing tend to be more about what the woman wants, Ginny and I were all for it.  Pumpkin carving, yay!

Winter pictures with these two will be really fun, I'm sure.  Gives me something in the miserable cold to look forward to!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seniors 2012 - Kacie

Kacie's senior session was, no lie, one of the most fun I've had, and I love doing senior pictures.  They're all fun to me, but Kacie's was awesome.  I've photographed her sister before - for senior portraits awhile back and during my beauty shoot this summer (was it summer?  Spring?  No, summer.  I'm so bad with time....).  For Kacie's shoot, like Alex's, I went to their house, which is amazing.  They have all this land and beautiful scenery.  Normally my senior shoots have the studio shots first and then outdoors, but we switched it up and did the outside ones first.

The thing I really love about doing senior shoots is going somewhere that the person is comfortable and wants to be.  Not just "oh, look, this is my studio and the places I already have set up."  No.  It's so much more interesting to go and photograph in someone's natural environment.  Not only are they more comfortable, the images will be unique to them.  No one else will have pictures on that porch swing, with those flowers in the background.  Just Kacie.  And that's really cool to me.

For the studio shots, I set up in their living room with a similar lighting pattern as I used for Drew's portraits last week.  (Note: I am very proud of my lighting here, especially in this first image where she has on a white shirt.  White shirt + white background + good seperation = win.)  The beauty dish was more to the front than side, and the hair light closer to the background, but it was very similar.  The shoot, however, was very different.  Because we were having fun and Kacie's entire wardrobe was in the house, she changed a few times, grabbed hats and scarves and the camera clicked away for a bit longer than expected.  When she becomes a model for Abercrombie, I told her, she better give them my name!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Only Flesh Promos

Yes, this IS my third post today.  I've been busy!!  And don't want a repeat of last month, where I didn't update at all and then did a lame "here's what's been happening" post where I didn't get to spend as much time as I would like discussing my shoots.  So deal with the insane updating.

Anyway, on Sunday (after work and the first half of Drew's senior portrait shoot), I drove out to Greensburg to a venue called 42nd St to do promo shoots for the band Only Flesh.  Because (once again), the weather was miserable, we had to change our strategy.  Rev, the lead singer, had originally wanted to shoot out in the alley by the dumpster for dirty, gritty photos.  This wasn't going to happen.  It was pouring.  We ended up setting up in the backstage area and taking photos in a booth.  I brought in two of my three lights and set up one with an umbrella.  The guys had requested I bring my fisheye lens, which I was all about, so I grabbed a chair and did some shots of them in the booth, shooting down with the fisheye.  Because I had lean down so far to get the shot I wanted, there was some falling off of the chair.....

I also used my regular 18-55mm lens for some cool shots.  The two on the ends are the newest members of the band - that night was their first live set.  Damien (lighting a cigarette) and Rev (with the spikes) I had sit up higher to get a nice triangular kind of pose.

They also wanted some group headshots.  After the first couple shots, I grabbed my second light and put it behind them to give a little separation between their hair and the wall.  The whole thing was quite an amusing experience and reminded me why I love photographing bands so much.  Seniors and weddings, I really do like them.  They're fun.  But bands....they're an entirely different breed.  And Only Flesh is unique among them.

Seniors 2012 - Drew

I joked recently that I should do a "Zach's ex-girlfriend" senior special this year - Zach being my little brother.  I've photographed his first "real" girlfriend, a girl he hung out with in kindergarten and now his elementary school "girlfriend."  My brother and Drew were in the same class for years and she was his girlfriend because they played basketball together after school.  I love kids.  But now they're grown up and getting their senior pictures taken.

Drew and her mother came by on Sunday to do her pictures, but we ended up only doing studio shots because (like I mentioned in my last post about Jake and Melissa's wedding) the weather was horrid last weekend.  I had set up shop down in The Fallout Shelter, which worked really well because there's so much more room down there than in, say, a living room.  It was also my first shoot with a three-light set-up, as I just bought a third Alien Bee from a girl I went to college with.  From my point of view, I had a softbox to my left, a beauty dish to the right, and a hair light also to the right, but slightly behind where Drew was standing on the backdrop.  There's a photo of it on my Facebook page if you're interested.

We wanted to do more than just plain background shots though, so we cleared off the stage, grabbed the beauty dish and did some portraits of Drew and and her basketball with the brick wall.

Yesterday we finished up the shoot in Drew's yard.  I got a bit lost on my way there, honestly, but all was well in the end.  They have a pretty little garden and a big yard, and a basketball hoop.  Her mom Kelly told me she was glad to have me as their photographer because she knows we can work around each other's schedules.  Compliments like that are always so nice!