May 30, 2011

Rendezvous III

Yep, it's that time again: The most Character rich people on the planet get together in the same few acres of mountainside and trade their character-rich-ness amongst themselves, increasing in character-rich-icity day by day. Finally, toward the end of the reverie, the public is welcomed to come and try and soak up what character is still available, and they are all too happy to welcome the uninitiated into the fold. It really is fun for the whole family.

Don't worry if you don't have your own moccasins: a few bucks will buy you some; though, a bottle of Scotch whiskey may go a lot further in the can be used to distill herbal medicines. Right.

May 26, 2011

Flower Friday

Nikon D700, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 300mm, f/11,  1/200s, ISO 500.


Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.4 lens, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 1250, SB-600 through zumbrella with a full cut plus 1/4 cut CTO gel.
I teamed up last night with Andrea of K Salon here in Logan. You should have her do your hair. She is an incredibly talented artist: she has vision, and makes it happen. Her medium is hair, which is fortunate for me because I think I'd be run out of business if she ever takes up photography--heck, I'd even go to her. But, in the meantime, you're all just stuck with me. Mwahahahaha.

The shoot was a ton of fun--I may post some of the pictures with the llamas--and all the talent was very fun to work with, too. Dre had some specific poses she needed for each style she made, but after that we just got to play. Our support staff was also wonderful: can you believe that as soon as the girls mentioned they were cold Trevor had a propane heater warming up the whole hillside in no time?! Really a good time.

So, slavery. It's got nothing to do with the model, and everything to do with me and all those other photogs out there. In photography, Light is the Master, and that's it. It is not just the most important thing in photography, it is the only thing in photography. If there is no light, there is no picture. So, we run around like headless chickens seeking the light, looking for the right play of shadows and the reflections of off buildings and minivans, scrounging up all the men in white shirts to stand in a line and reflect some light back into a brides face. She's not an easy Master, Light, but she's the one we choose to serve when we dedicate our index fingers to the shutter.

But, sometimes, she gives us our head and let's us run with her and direct where shadows will fall and she bends to our wills to create the image we want, not only the one she has predetermined we will make. Reflectors let us take this kind of control.

True emancipation, however, comes with SpeedLights. Speedlights are the big flashes that you see wedding photogs walking around with on top of their camera. This is one way to gain a little freedom, but the power of these lights comes when you remove them from your camera and control them wirelessly. When we control them wirelessly the tables are turned: the flash is called a slave.

Not only can you control the direction of light this way, but you can also control the quality and color of light. In the picture above, we obviously have the light coming from the left (direction, check!) but it's coming from the flash and passing through a white umbrella which enlarges the size of the light and makes it very soft and gentle (quality, check!). But that's not all! I also put an orange piece of cellophane, called a gel, right on the flash, which makes the light coming out of the flash--you guessed it!--orange. Why? Well, it's not just any orange, it's the same color as the incandescent light bulbs inside your house. See, your camera has the ability to make just about any color of light look normal. Remember those pictures from when you were a kid and your grandma took a picture in the living room and the flash blinded you and made you look bright white and washed out while the room itself was really orange? Actually, you could make this picture today, too. The trouble is that the flash is really white and the light bulbs are not. Your camera can handle any one color of light, but two throws it for a loop. In the above picture, I made the loop on purpose.

I manually set my camera to adjust for orange light bulbs, which it does by tinting the whole picture blue (see the sky?). But, the flash light is orange, so whatever that light falls on is made to look normal (see her rich skin tones?). So I colored the light I could control and colored the rest by default (color, check!). 

This is creative freedom at it's best, and there was lots of ecstatic squealing going on at the shoot; then I showed the girls and they were happy, too.

So, don't be a slave to the light. If you are then when the light is gone, so are you. Master control of the light and learn to communicate with it--the power feels good.

Nikon D700,  28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 135mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 160, SB-600 through zumbrella.
For some excellent, excellent reading about using SpeedLight, see Joe Mcanlly's The Hot Shoe Diaries.

May 25, 2011


Canon 1D KkIV, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens @ 148mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 200.
Had the opportunity to make a few pictures between products during a shoot yesterday. It's the little things that make it all worthwhile.

Canon 1D MkIV, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens @ 200mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 200.
Canon 1D MkIV, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens @ 165mm, f/2.8, 1/250s, ISO 200.
Canon 1D MkIV, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens @ 100mm, f/11, 1/250s, ISO 200.

May 23, 2011

Foggy Bottom

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 200mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 640.
I made this image as I was driving with the Cache Valley Photographers from the Spiral Jetty back to the Golden Spike National Monument site a couple of weeks ago. What I liked about it was the stacked up hills, layer after layer, all pouring alluvium down over time. An old landscape. The fog is cool, too.

Notice on this image that I shot it long. That is, I used a telephoto lens to make it. We often think to ourselves that we'd like a wide angle lens so that we can make better landscape images--so we can "get it all in." However, the ability to choose what not to include in a picture is at least as important as knowing what to include. Had I used a wide angle lens (say, a 14-24mm lens) I would have a lot more of the land in the picture, but I think the image would be unclear. There would be fence line in at least two places, two cows (now, three would be a nice element; but two? come on!), and a whole lot of blank cloudy sky. Nope, sometimes, you need to limit what is in the image--focus the image to include something specific. Using a wide lens I would say, "It's a picture of a high desert valley, with some cows, and some hills in the back ground taken on a cloudy day." Using the long lens I can say, "It's a picture of a mountain valley with clouds low on the hills." Usually, the simpler the description of the picture, the better the picture is.  So, before you make a picture, especially some kind of landscape, ask yourself, "What is this a picture of?" Your answer will dictate your lens choice and camera settings. Have fun!

May 20, 2011

Flower Friday

Nikon D700, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 250mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 400.
Tired of Tulips, yet?

May 17, 2011


Canon 1D MkIV, 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lens @ 80mm, f/11, 1/250s, ISO 100.
Have I told you that I enjoy people? I especially enjoy working with people who have a talent, people who have put a lot of effort into something. Focussing on a goal develops character, and discipline of mind. This stuff shows in pictures. It's also the best thing when I can give people a focus to consider as we make pictures. Whether it's kids, or a hobby, or a violin, the person becomes more natural looking in front of the camera when discussing a familiar topic.

This is A., and he's obviously put a lot of effort into shaping his own body. He's also a mountaineer and adventurer. And he's from the MidWest. Ask him to smile and you're gonna get a crooked smirk that doesn't look quite right. But get him talking about any of these other things that make up part of him and he loosens right up and has a genuine smile that is warm and natural. 

Of course, if it's concentration you're looking for, nothing beats holding a pair of 25 pound weights spread eagle while your photographer fusses over how parallel and symmetrical they are...

May 16, 2011

'Tis the Season

It's that time of year when every child you know is playing soccer or tee-ball or little league. THis is just a reminder to keep you batteries charged in your camera, and remember to download your pictures to your computer and format you memory cards EVERY TIME YOU GO OUT! Memory cards are the least safe place to store your pictures. 

See you at the Game.

Nikon D700, 300mm f/4 lens, f/4, 1/2000s, ISO 320.

May 15, 2011

What A Wonderful World

No pic; I just wanted to share some thoughts I had as I cleaned the garage the other night.

My previous life was spent working for someone else during the day while dreaming of creating beautifully designed furniture, and then trying to make the furniture a reality at night. I have lots of wonderful tools, and I have them all tuned nicely so that they cut and shape with precision, and I have spent countless hours studying how they work and which methods produce what results.

I have also spent lots of hours and grey matter studying designs by other people and drawing up what I think might be beautiful (hey,it keeps me awake in church...). I have a bent toward Danish Modern designs--the sleek look, and clear functionality appeal to me. I'm not one who likes massive furniture and visually weighty designs.

Heck, I've even built a few things.

And that's the trouble. Woodworking is not a fast process, and does not yield immediately beautiful results. I can visualize what a thing will look like and thrill in it all the way through the process; but people I want to share it with may not be able to visualize what the result will be, and that makes it harder to stay excited, I guess. Plus the expense is great and it always require more: more wood and materials, if not more specialized tools. Plus it's a subtractive art, and there's always a mess to clean up afterward.

I still love woodworking and fine design, but I find much more fulfillment in making pictures. As much heart as I put into a table of interesting design, it's all mine and while someone else may buy it and enjoy it they don't really have a strong connection with it. When we make pictures together, however, we both have a vested interest and the cooperative spirit of the process yields an image that we both care about and may even treasure. Most of the satisfaction in woodworking always came from working together with my brothers, and we often did not finish a project, but still enjoyed the work. In photography I get to work with you to record some history together, and that is always enjoyable.

I love the smell and feel of shaped wood, and I love the act of making fine shavings with a well tuned plane. The smell fades, however, and the shavings go into the fire. When I work with you to create pictures I have fun working with you, getting to know you and your family and what things make you happy and what goals you have and eliciting the kind of naturalness that those who know you well will recognize in the pictures. Then, I get to enjoy sorting and finishing the images and anticipating which pictures you will like best when I have you over again to look at the images. Finally, I get to watch you enjoy them and remember what happened to make this or that expression and what was said, and what the child did at that time, and listen to you make plans for the images--who gets what print and why and where it will go. And nothing ends up fading or going into the fire: instead they get shared and shared again. You give some to your parents, they show them to the neighbors who visit, your kids will inherit them and your grandkids will treasure them. It's a process that keeps giving and never becomes old or a drudgery or unenjoyable in any way.

The best I can hope for that table that the young couple bought is that it won't break when their kids jump on it.

Nope, this life is much better for me. What a world where we can choose from many mediums to create beautiful things. Let's get together and make some art. It's a wonderful world.

P.S. I have some tools for sale...

May 13, 2011

Flower Friday

Sorry it's a little slow, today--google was doing site maintenance all night and until just now. Seriously? On a Friday morning? That's, like, everyone's favorite time to look at blogs! Ya know, getting ready for the weekend, but you finished your work on Thursday (maybe Tuesday) but you still have to clock in...Wouldn't they save money on utilities by sending you home with pay, anyway? Especially on a beautiful day like today...kinda makes you wish you could quit and be a full time photographer, eh?

Nikon D700, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 300mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 400.

May 10, 2011


Nikon D700,  70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @82mm,  f/8.0, 1/400s, ISO 400.
It's the anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Point, west of Brigham City. The Cache Valley Photographers headed over to check it out, and it was well worth the beautiful drive out there. I highly recommend checking it out--especially if you have a train crazy kiddo in your household.

The volunteers are all extremely friendly and really make the day worthwhile. I'm told they do this every Saturday, and you can find more info at the Golden Spike National Historic Site.

Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.4 lens, f/2.2, 1/3200.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @98mm, f/5.0, 1/250s, ISO 400

Nikon D700,  70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 155mm, f/8.0, 1/500s, ISO 640

May 9, 2011

" what bwings us togeva, today."

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 145mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 500.
Keep an out for these two--they're gettin' hitched on Saturday.

I love this picture. "I love the lighting" is what people tell me when they see something like this. The thing is, light is the only thing in photography! The camera's job is to record the light reflecting off of stuff and coming into the lens. Without light, there's no photography. 

Now, you may say, "I can make it look like that in photoshop." If that's the case, then you are waaaaaay better at using photoshop than I am. This particular image has very little photoshop work done to it. I use adjusted the brightness slightly, corrected the color, and then made my black and white adjustments. The light disappearing on the right side and the tender look on their faces was all created during class, and all my students had the opportunity to make the same picture. Just Light. 

May 8, 2011

Family Fun

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 70mm, f/7.1, 1/250s, ISO 400.
Got out for a little shoot with some family yesterday. Don't get to see the older siblings much since they're off to school on their own now, so it was pretty fun to get together and make some pictures for a little while. 

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 86mm, f/6.3, 1/320s, ISO 400.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 105mm, f/2.8, 1/1600, ISO 400.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens, f/3.5, 1/1000s, ISO 400.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @190mm, f/5.6, 1/640s, ISO 400.

May 7, 2011

Semper Fi...

...or is it, "Tempus Fugit?" Mrs. Tuggle said I would never forget my Latin, unless I got hit by a Mack Truck. My Mack Truck was actually a Cheng De, and it hit me in China.

It's been two years since I picked up my camera and started this blogging thing. 562 posts later, I'm still shooting pictures almost daily and stumbling through my sentence structure. Time really does fly, and I'd like to thank you flying with SDesigns.

As for the Semper Fi, well...I've been deployed around the world, shooting in tough situations, long flights, longer hours, cultural differences, hostile natives...

...Oh, yeah: and sometimes I've been outnumbered:

Thanks for sticking with me for another year. As I've become a full time photographer this year, I especially appreciate your patronage and support. Please give me a call and we'll create some beautiful Art of your family, and I can also help you on your way to learning photography.

Here's to another year behind enemy lines; may the shutter fly like the time.

May 5, 2011

"Carpe..." (Family Photography)

The pictures speak, ya know? Reminds me of that scene in Dead Poet's Society when Mr Keating is showing the boys pictures of previous students and reminding them that each of those pictures was a person, living his own life, thinking his own thoughts.

Sometimes as I ride my scooter around town I get to thinking that everybody on the street is living his life, everybody in a car is living her life, even the mailman is living his own life! Maybe you've already realized this, but there are millions of lives happening every second right here--in America! It's pretty stunning.

And every second a part of every person's life just went by. In photographs, I get to help capture that moment, record it a little bit like it was, and my record can potentially last forever. That means the moments  that I see in my lens maintain a small part of a story of a life. A tiny, itsy-bitsy portion of a life. And it's not that important.

Right now.

But how about in ten years, or fifty years when this mother's grandchildren look back at this image? Maybe the girl notices that she has her grandmother's red hair (I know, I know: it's black and white, but you still know she has red hair!) or the boy sees that his little brother looks just like his uncle. At some point this image may share the moment and it may make a connection to the past that shapes the future! Maybe the kid will see his potential and make some kind of decision to do choose to do something worthwhile in his life, to seize opportunity and make a life! Well, I'd like to think so, anyway.

Still, maybe he'll hear it whispering: Carpe...

Nikon D700,  70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 98mm, f/5.0, 1/125s, ISO 500.

May 2, 2011

How I Spend My Days

I used to work as an engineer for Icon Health and Fitness, the world's largest producer of fitness equipment. I started as an electronics quality engineer for the commercial line of equipment, FreeMotion. 

That was eye opening! It's amazing what goes into making machines like this. My job was to ensure that the electronic components we received from other manufacturers to use in our equipment was built the way we told them to build it, and if the inspectors found problems I tracked down the problem and figured out if it was the designers' fault or the manufacturers' fault. Kinda fun.

Later, I moved to the Customer Care department to continue doing the same sort of thing, but for both mechanical and electronic parts. This job is what lead me to traveling all over the world to train others and also track down particularly difficult or strange problems. I made lots of friends along the way, and made lots of pictures, too. (I've talked with other guys who travel for their work, and they are picky about which hotels they choose because of the cable channels available or the in house restaurant; I'll never understand why they are in the hotel at all when there's a whole other world to see on the other side of the remote control...)

Well, I loved that job; and I quit in December.

Now I'm only a full time photographer. And for the last few weeks I have been working for Icon again, as a contractor, making pictures for their product boxes and advertising. This has been a great experience, and I have learned volumes working with some really imaginative designers and talented models and trainers. Still, shooting the same set with the same model all day in similar poses with slightly different equipment ("No, no, Levi, this one is different. The last product was a 2 pound ankle weight; this one is 2.5 pounds.") can get a little boring.

Fortunately, we have been cranking through the images quickly enough that we have still had time in between for a few fun pictures now and again. Like this one of T.

Canon 5D MkII, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 135mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 100.

We had just finished making all the pictures for the boxes and had a few minutes left. See, boxes are white, and the pictures we made today will be cut out and put on white to go on the box with all the labels and great looking graphic design--but the above picture would look totally out of place on white--just not plausible. So, I quickly turned off the fill flashes I was using on the right side and the background, leaving just one ProPhoto Acute D4 flash head in a three foot strip box to the left. This puts out a powerful, directed light, at one soft and edgy. I'm in love, if you can't tell. 

f/11 keeps the Flash under control and gives me sharp focus throughout the picture, while the 1/200s shutter speed removes the light leaking across the set from the garage door we opened to cool off.

Cause, ya know, I have to show the talent how to do these exercises, so I get pretty warmed up...