Nature

Desert Mermaid with Mary Jane Monroe

I don’t often consider my photos to be very “High Concept” or even art sometimes. In fact i have to tell models I work with all the time that I am terrible with coming up with ideas and concepts. I sometimes even have a hard time calling my artist because of this. I get around this by thinking of myself as more of an improve artist making things up as I go along instead of having a ton of prep time behind something. Lucky for me the recent shoot I did with Mary Jane Monroe had the high concept feel to it because of her own ideas all I really had to do was shoot. One thing that I differently in this shoot was try to implement scenery a bit more in the shots which is something that I  need to work on but came out quite well in the finished product.

 

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Travel Photography: Virginia/ D.C 2015

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It’s been a little more than a year since I traveled Virginia to visit my girlfriend’s family and friends. The last time I was out there, the weather was relatively cold and I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to get two feet of snow overnight. This time around, I got to experience what a humid summer is like on the East Coast.

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To be honest I didn’t play with my camera much this trip. I came out specifically to spend time with my girlfriend and her loved ones and I didn’t particularly feel compelled to spend my time hiding behind a camera. However there were situations while we were out and about with Emilie’s friends that I brought my camera along.

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One of the first places we walked through was Old Town Alexandria, where we spent most of our time going in and out of the different shops. Normally, this would have been the ideal place to shoot some street photography, however the crowed in the area didn’t particularly catch my interest. Instead a lot of my focus here was on Emilie and her friends as we entered and exited the different shops.

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Later in the trip we took the Metro up to D.C. for the standard Museum and sight-seeing day. The great thing about being in a touristy area is that you don’t have to work too hard to blend in.

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Summers in D.C. and summers in Albuquerque look incredibly different. For starters, D.C. Is a proper metropolitan area whereas Albuquerque can sometimes have more of a wide-spread, small town feel. On top of that, it’s a lot greener in D.C. on account of the humidity.But, in contrast, D.C. doesn’t have the same sky that New Mexico does.

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While in the Museums I didn’t want to get too trigger happy; instead of focusing on the exhibits I focused on my group of people (and some strangers) while still maintaining respect for the atmosphere.

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The lighting in the museum of art was very different from what i am used to. There were areas with really soft flattering lighting, and others with dark areas that had intense falloff. Nothing I couldn’t handle especially with editing the RAW file in post.

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In the backwoods of Virginia I tried stepping out of my normal comfort zone and shooting some nature shots, a realm of photography I am certainly not native to.AJA_0153

While shooting so close to nature I discovered that I craved the convenience of a macro lens (something that I don’t own) which could have let me get in closer for finder detail shots. I found that many of the wide shots that I had taken felt a bit chaotic.

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Of course I couldn’t just get a new setting in front of me and pass up the opportunity for a portrait session. So me and Emilie went out on one of the few days that we had down time and took some photos. The seemingly constant overcast sky provided soft lighting and the foliage gave the perfect backdrop. The drawback of this was the humidity that caused my lens to fog up at the top of the shoot, which called for some editing to make it look like it was on purpose.

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Overall, it was a fun and successful trip and I look forward to going out there again.

Mother Nature Doesn’t Do Favors: Shooting With Alissa Narvaez

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As a photographer you’re always looking for something new. A new location to shoot at, a new concept to try to bring to life and even a new ways to shoot. But the one thing you’re constantly looking for is a new model to work with. Alissa Narvaez has been someone who’s been on my radar for possibly a year now and after a long wait I finally got the opportunity to work with her in a very casual shoot in Old Town Albuquerque.

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The motivation for shooting with Alissa primarily comes from her creative mind. Looking through her instagram, she keeps a trove of brilliant creative design work as well as some high concept makeup works that she does in her spare time. This was probably the most casual thing we could have shot together considering the immense amount of creative possibilities, but despite being a clearly talented individual this was the first time she had worked with a photographer taking the photos of her. This however was not much of an issue because I’ve become accustomed to shooting with newer models. While my directing skills are not quite up to par, my main goal with any kind of shoot like this is to get the subject comfortable with a camera pointed at them. The rest just takes time and practice.

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Now the big kicker of this whole shoot was the fact that mother nature didn’t want to cooperate. Now that we’re in the long days of summer, I scheduled this shoot fairly late hoping to catch everything right at that golden hour where the sun is low and the light is warm, but nature had other plans. Just as I was out the door to heading into Old Town Albuquerque storm clouds started rolling in. The clouds weren’t so much of an issue, they create nice even and soft lighting. It was the wind that was being a pain. Alissa has a lot of hair and it got caught in the wind a lot. On top of that, the clouds had rolled in so late that I had to bump my ISO higher than I really wanted to. However, my motto for photography is role with the punches; despite the challenges, we were able to tie things together and make some beautiful images.

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Over all it was an extremely pleasant shoot with Alissa and I look forward to continuing working with her as she wants to do more professional shoots. Chances are she’ll be the next Tara and will be working with all the photographers and doing all the photo shoots in no time at all.

Taking Photos with Minimal Equipment.

As you dive deeply into the craft of photography and accumulate thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, you start to over analyse your needs when you go out shooting. Often times you might end up packing your entire lens collection when you really only end up using one or two; you may pack a tripod even though you’re not sure if you’ll need it for any long exposures. This typically leads up with you carrying loads of equipment strapped to your back weighing you down when you really could have just gone with the bare essentials.

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This Memorial Day, I went on a hike with my girlfriend up in the Sandia Mountains of Albuquerque, New Mexico and I decided to only take my D600 with the 28mm 1.8g lens attached along with a strap and a 32 gig card with me. What I wanted to accomplish with this was to work with what I was given on the trail and not get caught up in what lens I should have on the camera. It also made things much easier traveling light, considering how treacherous the terrain would turn the further up the trail we got.

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Now it should be known that I’m not a landscape guy when it comes to photography. I often times prefer working with people as subjects, whether that be  a model or a pedestrian that I happen to get a candid of, so I don’t always know what to look for in a nature situation.  I knew I wanted to capture intricate details, so I knew I wasn’t going to be working with shallow depths of field. I kept my aperture set at f8 and change my shutter speed and ISO accordingly for what the situation was. It was a bright sunny day and around noon so I was able to keep my ISO below 400 and my shutter never dropped bellow 1/125 of second.

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The biggest difference I noticed between shooting portraits and shooting nature is that background had become the foreground and how I composed images had changed from finding what angles work to to finding how all the elements in the frame worked together.

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Overall it was an enjoyable experience only working with the basic materials of a body, lens and a memory card and the results were pleasing enough, even though I don’t have much experience in landscape photography. I encourage anyone that the next time you go on a leisurely shoot to leave the big bag of equipment at home and just go with a body and lens and see what you can do with just that, and not to worry so much about being prepared for every situation.

The Most Physically Challenging Photo Shoot Ever.

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I don’t own a studio space making one of the biggest challenges of doing photo shoots is finding a place to do it. There are so many factors to consider from time of day, the weather conditions, how populated the area is and does it work for the images you want to take. On average I enjoy doing these shoots on location outdoors. It gives you a more unique look that you can’t get from a back drop in a studio. However you get less control and in case of this shoot that I did with my friend CheeseCakePanda in her Smaug cosplay from the Hobbit, was fairly dangerous.

We shot up at the base of the Sandia Mountains at a trail that went through very rocky terrain. I wanted to use this location to reflect the nature of the cosplay. The trail goes down quite a ways to the base of the mountain and then goes strait up in almost a rock climbing fashion. The higher up we got it became rockier and more cave like which was perfect. The issues became the amount of space I have to shoot and  getting the model who is in full costume up the mountain.

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I felt terrible about how difficult the terrain was to work with. Lucky enough the model came with a set of shoes and was a great sport about the whole thing. When I had chosen the location I didn’t plan for spaces being so tight and and the vegetation (like cactus) to be so abundant. I put me and the model in harms way and I felt so guilty about it. It also didn’t help that there were numerous amounts of issues that I was having with light and getting at the right angles.

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I was very proud of the way photos come out but it came at the cost of a lot of trial and error. If I could do it over again I would say I should have done better scouting and made life easier on the model. I appreciate CheeseCakePanda’s effort and being such a great friend through the whole process. Hopefully I’ve learned from my mistakes but knowing me I haven’t and will do another adventuress shoot. But at least next time the model will be prepared.

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Photo Shoot at the Bosque

To kick off this holiday weekend I ended up doing a photo shoot. This time it was with a friend of mine who goes buy the name of Kenya who I’ve done work with in the past, specifically on the cosplay side but this time we ended up doing a more casual kind of shoot at the bosque down in Albuquerque.

Kenya Chan on a log in the Albuquerque Bosque

Kenya Chan on a log in the Albuquerque Bosque

I’ve used the Bosque before on several occasions in the past specifically for the nature element of it which is a nice change of scenery from the often gritty city environments you find around albuquerque. Don’t get me wrong I like gritty but you got to change it up every once in a while. In fact there was an overpass bridge that went over the Rio Grande which gave a good urban piece with some juxtaposition next to nature. To add to that there was a bridge under that bridge which I really got a kick out of.

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One thing that I love about shooting outside of a studio environment is  the opportunity to capture something organic. I’ve done some studio photography in the past and though I did enjoy it, I felt limited in what I could capture in such a small place. Granted studios have their advantages such as being a controlled environment where you know what you can expect and they afford you the ability to get away from prying eyes for the more risque photo shoots. But being that I come from a more journalistic side of photography when I do the more commercial work I like to be able to move around and use scenery to my advantage.

Kenya by the Rio Grand

Kenya by the Rio Grand

Now shooting at a location as opposed to a studio does have it’s share of difficulties. Specifically with lighting. Sometimes there’s not enough, Sometimes it’s too harsh and sometimes something is casting some kind of shadow making the light uneven. There are several things can do about this, 1) is be aware of the light you have and where it’s coming from and 2) is editing the RAW Files in Lightroom. You shouldn’t rely on editing to fix your exposures but there is no harm in tweeking your files in post to get then to look the way you want. There are times where an image can look lost but some simple edits can bring it back. There are other things you can do with reflectors and supplemental lighting but that wasn’t readily available to me for this shoot (Once again a benefit to studio and haveing an assistant.).

Kenya and light through the trees.

Kenya and light through the trees.

Overall this was a really fun shoot and I’m looking forward to hopefully having some more over the holiday break since i will have more time on my hands than I will know what to do with.

If you want to see more of Kenya (Specifically in cosplay) You can like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KenyaChanCosplay

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