Saturday, December 5, 2009

Our Visit to South Africa - Kruger National Park

As you may know, Sharon and I are visiting family in South Africa. Last week we went to Kruger National Park, a wild life reserve larger than the size of England. We spent 3 days driving through the park, and explored only a small portion of the reserve.

I have to admit, I was totally astounded at the amount of Wildlife we saw. Kruger Park has been kept untouched, and to experience Kruger is to experience Africa as God created it. Photographing the wildlife was a very special opportunity and an experience I’ll always remember.

I love Baboons. They always look like they are about to do something extremely naughty.

Taking photos of the Hyena was an electrifying experience. Having a Hyena look me in the eye sent shivers down my spine; not because he may have considered me a lunch target, but because of the pure power in his stare. Hyenas were much larger than I expected, but also much more beautiful.

Elephants were the one animal that required careful maneuvering of the car to avoid being squashed. When an elephant stamps her foot and flaps her ears, be ready to back up really fast.

Getting so close to a leopard is quite rare, as they typically shy cats. Seeing a leopard, or any wild animal in Kruger, is NOTHING like seeing a leopard in a zoo. It is a completely different experience. It is hard to describe why, but your heart and soul are elevated by the experience, and for several hours afterwards you can still feel the excitement.

My wife was the quite the wildlife spotter on the trip. She had an uncanny ability to find wildlife that we had all overlooked. The pictures of the Hyena cubs below were her find, and the experience as a whole was a very special gift.


I know it is not practical, but I want one! It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that these adorably cubs will grow into some of most ferocious hunters of the Bushvelt; when in packs even lions are threatened by Hyenas and will abandon their kill.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Iowa Engagement Photos

More and more  Sharon and I are realizing the importance of an engagement photo shoot.  I really feel like we get to know couples at engagement sessions and this gives the couple an idea of what to expect on the wedding day.  

At the engagement photos shoot, be it in Fairfield, Des Moines, or your home town, we like to spend an hour or two just having fun.   In the summer we will go to the lake, in autumn we might take a walk in the park or along the train tracks;  but whatever we're doing we like to keep it casual, light-hearted, and full of laughter.

I strongly believe that how you feel during your engagement shoot will be reflected in your photos.  A great portrait photographer may get the perfect light and composition, but if you are not feeling love, the photo is not going give the effect of closeness.  The same applies to wedding photos; but the engagement photos are a great opportunity for you to practice without the expectations you may have for your wedding day.  

Below are some more of our favorite Iowa engagement photos; in particular we love these because of the emotions they show.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Music On Our Website

In your search for a photographer you will find many websites that have popular music to enhance the photographer's art. It seems ironic to me, that as photographers we are sensitive about others copying our work, but somehow we don't think twice about copying music without permission. We were uncomfortable doing this, so we researched a lot of royalty free music (Muzak, etc.), but mostly it just seemed tacky.

I was discussing this dilemma with my wife, when she mention that her cousin, Jess Penner was a musician and that we might talk to her about using one of her songs. The first song of hers that I listened to was “All Smiles” and I loved it... what a perfect match for wedding photojournalism :-)

So we agreed to do a swap... we could use her song on our website in exchange for taking photos of her in Los Angeles for her website.

Below are some of our favorite photos that we took of her last week.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What to Wear for Engagement Photo Sessions

A photo says a thousand words, so let me start with some of my favorite engagement photos.

Choosing an outfit for engagement photos can be difficult. Some questions you might be asking yourself:

1) Should my outfit match with my fiance?
2) Should we go with a casual or formal outfit?
3) Should we be considering weather and seasonal outfits?

While these questions are good to be considering, the most important thing is that you are wearing something you feel good in. Our photographic style is geared towards capturing the emotion, and so it is absolutely critical you are wearing something that makes you feel comfortable, relaxed, and reflects your personality. If you feel your best in your Armani Suit, then by all mean wear your Armani Suit. But if you are thinking of wearing something because someone else tells you it looks good, then I would ask you to think twice before making a decision.

While being comfortable is the most important thing for your engagement shoot, I can also make some suggestions that you might find helpful:

1) Simplicity Enhances Emotion
Avoid strong stripes, polka dots, clashing colors, or complex patterns. While these elements can be used to create style and even artistic compositions, I have often found that they distract from the emotion that we are trying to capture.

2) Bring a Change of Clothes
If you are not sure how the formal outfit will work, bring your jeans along as well. Better safe than sorry.

3) Consider a Prop
Being in front of the camera can be intimidating at first. Having something to hold may help you relax. I have had couples bring their dog, an umbrella, flowers... we even found cotton candy to be very effective. We won't necessarily use the prop for all the photos, but we usually find that it is a fun way to get started.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Thoughts on Assistant Photographers and Portraits

We were driving to the reception after taking some garden portraits with the bridal party, and my wife was laying into me. "How come we don't have a second portrait lens? You're taking all these photos, and I am left just standing there!". She was also upset that while she is arranging the photo, she is not looking through the lens to see what I am shooting. It would seem she is making a valid argument?

What is the answer? Am I just being a cheapskate for not shelling out another $1,100 for a good portrait lens for my wife?

Here's my justification for protecting my pocket book:

Doing great portraits really takes two people. One to setup the shot, communicate with the guests, get them to laugh, smile, relax, and feel comfortable. The second person is the geek (me). The geek needs to make sure the lighting is right, that the flash is not leaving shadows, that there is enough depth of field to keep everyone in focus, and that the shutter speed is fast enough that there are no blurry images. When one person tries to do both, things can fall apart. It is VERY hard to be focused on the technical requirements of the camera AND be communicating with the guests. When you do one THEN the other, portraits take much longer and people get impatient.

The morning after our disagreement, we took a look at some of the photos. To our amazement, the portraits that she had setup without trying to shoot where some of our favorite portraits to date. Here's a pre-edit sample:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

God @ Iowa Weddings

I'm moved to say that this year we have had some very special, very sincere weddings. Enough inspiration to keep us positive about yet another year of hard work. At some weddings it's the couple's genuine love and care for one another. At other weddings it is the support of the families and the "coming together" that is the essence of the story. One of the most inspiring things we have seen at a wedding, is when a couple has a sincere devotion to God.

In my mind, it is not about which faith they have chosen, be it Buddhism or Baptism, it is simply that the couples hearts are open to the love of God. It's not something that can be contrived on the spot, as it is not about flaunting devotion for the sake of maintaining a religious appearance, or devotion out of fear. It is quite simply a devotion to God and the faith they have chosen.

Last week we had a special wedding where prayer played an enormous role in the wedding day. Both my wife and I agree it was by far the most sincerely faithful wedding we have been to, and we both felt lucky to be invited as the photographers.

Below are some of our favorite 'moments' of the day: