Archive for September, 2009


Beach at Dusk


Early Fall is a hard time for me. it’s difficult to accept that summer is really over. But the quality of light can be wonderful – low humidity, super clear, clean and crisp.  This photo for me captures a bit of this bittersweet time of the year.  The beach umbrella is down, the Adirondack chairs are empty, but the sky is beautiful and the sand is warmed up by the late afternoon sun.

 I used a very wide angle lens here, to get close and low on the chairs, but still be able to bring them all into the frame. The wide angle lens also has the advantage of a wide depth of field – the chairs are in sharp focus and so are the distant trees. It’s hard to see on the screen, but just to the right of the chairs are a couple of boats, and in the far distance, our local lighthouse, Green’s Ledge Light. 

How many times have I passed that light on a boat – it’s alway there, steady as the rock it sits on, an aide to navigation that gives one a sense of stability and connection to time and place.  And Green’s Ledge Light will surely be there when next summer rolls around.


More on New Identity

We’re continuing tro implement the new “identity” for my photography practice. Here’s the back and front of my new business card:




In my portrait work, I always try to capture the spontaneous moment.  In many studio pictures, there is a posed, stiff feeling.  We don’t want that!  First, I’m going for a relaxed, natural and comfortable pose – really a non-pose. Then, if possible, I look for ways to add some spark – perhaps saying something  goofy to get a laugh – and then capture that fleeting moment.

Jolita (pronounced “Yolita”) is a professional model and an aspiring pop singer.  She’s very comfortable in front of the camera, which is tremendously helpful. To some degree, this image was planned – a very careful makeup job, soft “beauty” lighting, the position of her arms and the bending in of her shoulders, her dress and earrings, the dark background. So we had a general concept for the shot.  At first, Jolita was looking straight at the camera, but the idea came to me to suggest she look away and then laugh out loud – really loud.  To me, this brought real sparkle to her eyes and some good energy to the image. I shot her right in the middle of her laugh.

There’s a small detail about this picture I really like.  While Jolita’s hair is lovely, it’s not perfectly coiffed. There are a few stray stands, especially on the left side as you look at the picture. In Photoshop, I could have cleaned up the hair – made it look like the old Breck magazine ads.  But I close not to – I think the not-quite-perfect hair adds to the spontaneity of the image. In some sense, we’re seeing Jolita at an unguarded moment, that works with the turn of her face and the smile.  So many pictures we see in fashion magazines are too perfect – lovely images but no personality.  With my work with models, I’m trying for a sensibility that is a bit more natural – an image that looks like a real person. Real people often have a few stands of hair out-of-place!

Look closely at the picture.  How does it work for you?


New Identity!

Final Logo lrg

I’m thrilled to introduce my new “identity” – in marketing-speak – for my business. I’ll use the new logo on my website, this blog, business cards and anywhere I need to show the name.

Lisa Berko, of Starlight Design, created the logo for me. Lisa is wonderful to work with and is a terrific graphic designer. Check out her work by clicking on Starlight Design.

With the design, we were going for a clean, classic modern look, but with a bit a personality and flair too. I wanted the logo to reflect my photographic style, which emphasizes bold colors. The face suggests most of my work is portraits of people.

Everyone will look at a logo and get a different reaction or feeling about it. (Just like looking at  a photograph or painting.)  For me, sometimes a new logo won’t click at first, but then does over time.  With this design, I liked it immediately and have grown to like it even more as I have lived with it.

I’d love to hear what you think of my new identity.  Many thanks, faithful readers.


Window Light


I love working with studio lights. The amount of control that can be exercised is amazing. I use up four lights on a portrait and the possible different effects are endless.

But – it’s hard to recreate sunlight with studio lights. Natural light can be beautiful – soft, warm and flattering.  Window light especially has a wonderful quality. Think of Vermeer’s paintings.

Amy is a model, a personal trainer, a yoga instructor, and a hula hoop dance enthusiast (very big in California and coming to Connecticut if Amy has her way).  I took this portrait of Amy in mid-afternoon, right next to one of the windows in my studio. There were no artificial lights, just the indirect sunlight streaming in.

Generally, I like to have a portrait subject looking right into the lens. This creates a connection with the viewer.  But sometimes having the person look away can still leading to a visually appealing image.  To help make a connection with the viewer, I shot in fairly close to Amy – about four feet away.  For me, this picture has a hopeful and optimistic feeling about it, because:

  • the sunlight is so warm
  • Amy is looking into the light
  • She has a natural and open smile
  • She’s looking up
  • the colors are positive – warm skin tones, the pink straps, and the blue background

Take a close look at the picture. What do you imagine Amy is thinking about? Does the image “work” for you? What feeling does it evoke? I’d love to hear from you – by comment on the blog or by email .


Motion Blur

small beetle_edited-2

Motion Blur can add interest to an image. Our eyes really don’t see the blur, so a shot like this one is not “realistic” in terms of how our eyes work.  But our mind perceives blur if something is going by really fast. To some degree, our mind cannot keep up with our eyes. More below about how fast this car was actually moving.

There are two main ways to do motion blur. The first is represented above. I used a tripod, so everything except the car is in sharp focus. We have the contrast of the blurry car in a sharp setting.  The other way involves panning. Imagine shooting a race car on a track, while sitting in the stands. If you set up with a slow shutter speed, and “pan” or follow the car while the shutter is open, so the car stays fixed in the frame during the exposure, the car will be sharp (if you’re lucky) but the background will be a blur of horizontal lines. With panning, our frame of reference is the car, and we have a sense of how the scenery would blur as we rode along in a very fast car.

A little bit about the image above. I used a very wide angle lens, to bring in more of the buildings on both sides of the street. (This is my hometown – Darien, Connecticut.)  I was actually very close to the car – maybe 8 feet or so, but the wide angle lens makes everything look further away. The exposure was only 1/5th of a second – not very long.  And the car was moving very slowly. But the wide angle lens distorts our frame of reference. Some people have commented to me the the car appears to be going very fast, about to crash in an unseen building.  A few were actually disturbed by the image and the implication of an impending wreck. In fact, the car was turning slowly – perhaps 3 or 4 miles an hour – into a Dunkin Donuts parking lot.

For a video critique of this image, including an interesting discussion of how the colors work in the picture, please click here. Then scroll down to the last video and hit the play button.  This critique was done by Craig Tanner, a nationally known photographer and a mentor on mine, with whom I’ve taken several workshops. Craig has a terrific website, The Mindful Eye.

I’d encourage you to try motion blur. There’s a bit of trial and error to it, but I’m sure your efforts will be rewarded.