what fun!

I was lucky enough to photograph some dear friends this weekend. The Millers. I've known them for a long time, I babysat for them, we've been through a lot together. All 14 of them ended up in the same place at the same time, and I was happy to photograph the event.

It is, quite simply, more challenging to photograph good friends than it is to photograph people I don't know well. Well, it is for me anyway.

I find that what I know about the people can influence how I photograph them. And the kids, who know I'm a total softy when it comes to their behavior, are often less formal than kids who don't know me.

This is a challenge and a blessing.

I had a harder time getting a good family portrait because the kids were having fun, which sometimes means not looking at the camera, or joking around and being silly.

But sometimes it means I get to capture an image that I would never be able to get from people I don't know.

 

A good lesson, and a great blessing, to have photographed this family.

Until next time - Jon

welcome back!

I'm back.

A couple of years ago I found out about some plugins for Adobe Lightroom that would let you develop, edit and maintain an entire website from within LR itself.

I thought it was great.

It was very, very difficult to develop. The plugins, though powerful, were not polished at all. Documentation was miserably poor. If it weren't for one "super user" who published a regular blog about how to use these plugins, I don't think I would have ever gotten my site fully functional. Simply trying to figure out how to increase the border size of images in a gallery took me hours.

Then, after less than a year, the developer abandoned the plugins and introduced an online web page builder. It was new, green, lacking functionality and full of bugs. There were no discounts offered to the unfortunate people who spent a lot of money on the plugins. So, with such a negative experience, I just kind of gave up.

I was stuck with plugins that had no support and no hope for getting better. My website became one of those "It's a mess, I need to update it some day." sites. Cringe.

So check back here regularly for new content and blog posts.

I'm here to stay. Lessons learned.

- Jon

It just keeps getting better...

Every week, I get the opportunity to do something new with photography.  Last Friday, a group of us went to Shenandoah Caverns in Virginia. We spent 2 hours under the earth shooting stalactites and stalagmites. The imagination goes wild when you look at pictures from these caves. One picture of mine was said to have a monster from Pirates of the Caribbean, a giant skeleton hand or a "shrunken head" on the wall.  It was a lot of fun.

The next morning I found myself set up in a warehouse with 4 other photographers. We each had our own space and "models" paid an entrance fee to come in and went from photographer to photographer getting their picture taken. I learned more about portraits, posing and lighting in that one day than I learned in any 3 previous months combined. It was non-stop shooting for over 4 hours.  One thing that I impressed myself with was my ability to get the models to "let loose" a little bit. The shaking of the hair, flowing of the dress as they danced, or the action of a ballerina doing a jump really helps tell a story in a photograph. It also helps get the models to loosen up and look more natural if they can shake some of their nervousness out.

I continue to tutor and mentor other photographers. I'm not remarkably talented, by any means, but I am fairly adept with the technical aspects of photography and I enjoy sharing that with other people.

The photography club I belong to has doubled in size in the last year due to a great, energetic and remarkably enthusiastic President and a more "strong and silent" type VP who does a huge amount behind the scenes.  There are a lot of people who contribute to the club, but it wouldn't be what it is without Joe at the helm.

I quite simply love the journey I'm on as a photographer. It started with the book "Stunning Digital Photography" by Tony and Chelsea Northrup. And this journey will continue until the day I take my last breath.  I just hope I properly express my gratitude, I keep myself humble, and I share what and when I can with others.  And I hope that all of my words are positive.

As a very good friend of mine said one morning, at 5:30 am as he went to the gym before work "Here I go into the world, may I make it a better place."

I hope I make this world just a little bit better through photography. Because photography has made my world a whole lot better.

With gratitude, Jon.

Hello World ...

It's been a while since I checked in with everyone out there in my blog-reading audience. I hope you are both doing well.

I've been working on my photography skills, as usual and have lots of cool, new images to post. But there have been some really nice changes in my photographic journey.

First, I'm starting to teach friends and people from my photography club how to do certain things. Anywhere from teaching someone how to bracket exposures for an HDR image, to teaching someone to adjust the output on their flash so that more ambient light shows in the picture.

I am really enjoying this. I learn a lot as I teach. I always have. It comes naturally to me. I often shy away from what I call my "know-it-all personality disorder". But in certain situations, I have plenty of lessons to offer and I've started giving advice, when solicited.

Another thing that has happened recently, that I'm happy with (and a bit surprised about), is that I've started to learn the artistic side of the craft. I have always been a techie. Focused on the technical proficiencies of photograph taking and editing. Me: "How can I get razor-sharp images, no noise, tack sharp focus... How can I use Lightroom to make a heavily edited image look as if it has never been edited at all..."

But over the last 2 weeks or so, I have been watching workshops on creativity and style and originality. It's awesome! I have had such little exposure to the creative and artistic side of all things photography, that I'm learning in leaps and bounds.

One photographer that I've been watching is David duChemin. He is a prolific writer and a very good photographer. Check out his stuff here: http://davidduchemin.com/  His workshops are a mish-mosh of art, self-help, spirituality and comedy. (He was a stand-up comic for years...)

I don't know what he was like before his accident (he fell nearly 30 feet onto concrete in Italy, breaking both feet, his pelvis, and I think he busted an arm to balance it all out...) but there's a bit of a spirituality to him, Zen like, meditative, Buddhist, I don't know. But he's very inspiring to watch. And his no BS approach suits me very well.  I'm about 3 hours into an 8 hour lecture series and I look forward to finishing. I've already put some of his advice to use (Don't wait for a "blog post" to spring to mind before you start typing... Start typing and the blog post will materialize...)

Thanks. I hope everyone is healthy, happy, safe and at ease with life.  Even the tough parts.

Blessings.

Jon

Wedding photography... fun and demanding!

I was asked by my friends Bill and Bill to photograph their wedding.  They had asked me several months ago so luckily I had plenty of time to prepare (panic) and learn and practice.

I watched at least 60 hours of online lessons. I've taken thousands of pictures over the last few months. I even practiced the "firm, but in a friendly way" techniques that are required for the larger group shots. And, to my surprise, I went into the weekend with a bit of confidence.

All things considered, I am very happy with the results. I ended up with about 250 deliverable photographs. And I only had to do 1 Photoshop "head swap" where my depth of field was too shallow for a certain posed shot.

I photographed the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding, reception and then a wonderful "open house" that the couple held at their home after the reception.  And I will say that it was more demanding, physically, that I was prepared for.  Carrying a camera that weighs over 8 pounds (with fast lens, battery grip and flash) for 15 hours over 2 days is something I could have prepared for better.

But I'm happy with how the pictures turned out and that's a very big deal. I'm quite critical of my work. The "sneak preview" photos I put on the web were very well received by the couple, families and guests. Which is exactly what I wanted and all I could have asked for.

And what have I learned? First: be prepared physically. Second: have your digital workflow figured out and follow it to a "T". Especially when it comes to renaming files and organizing them in Lightroom. Also, drink more water, eat fewer sweets, and stop and stretch once in a while.

Many thanks to the couple Bill and Bill. And a deep bow of gratitude to Tony and Chelsea Northrup (Authors of the #1 photography book in the world.) and the "Stunning Digital Photography" community for all of the fantastic knowledge they have shared over the last 7 months.

Thanks, take good care. And follow your dreams. I did. And one just came true.

Jon

Being a photographer is just downright fun!

I honestly and truly love being a photographer. In the last couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to do an Animal Portrait workshop with my photography club, The Antietam Photographic Society. I got some great shots and was pleased with some of the techniques I remembered to use. Techniques that made some of the pictures a bit better than "good". Techniques that made some of the shots look quite special.

Then I got to do a family portrait shoot. My #1 goal that day was to get good pictures. (Which I did, thankfully.) My #2 goal was to make it a load of fun for the family. Which I was successful at.

And today, I got to photograph the local blacksmiths from Anvil Works installing some incredibly nice handrails on some outdoor stairs.

I would have never done these things had it not been for my photography habit.

So I say "Thank You" to the fates that have put me here with a camera in my hand. The road I've traversed to get to where I am now has not been easy. On the contrary, statistically, I've had way more than my share of obstacles to overcome. And I'm sure I'll have many more.  But I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and get back to shooting.

Looking through a camera lens is a great way to see the world.

Take good care of yourselves.

And thank you.

Jon

Learn, practice, learn, practice...

"Learn, practice, learn, practice, learn, practice..."  If you think that sounds like someone meditating on a mantra, you're not far off.  I found a great online learning venue last week called creativeLive.com. They have some fantastic workshops with some very talented and successful photographers.

I have spent many hours watching their shows and one in particular; "How to build a high volume [high school] Senior photography business." has really captured my attention and effort. 

It focuses mostly on the business and workflow aspects of being a photographer. It assumes that you have your skills and techniques figured out. But then they get radical.

You have to realize that the standard for serious digital photographers is often "Take a lot of pictures but delete most of them." But the (very successful) teacher of this course practices "One shot per pose." in his studio. He shoots quickly and will take only about 20 pictures for a 12 shot photo shoot.

I have been at the park photographing ducks and geese several times. And I'll come home with 300 - 500 pictures on a good day.  This leads to about 3 to 5 hours of post processing on my computer. And about 5 to 10 shots that are good enough for me to be willing to post on the web. The "Don't Overshoot!" paradigm is radically new for me and is way outside of the standard industry practice.

I have implemented this in some of my "Personal Projects" (A photo shoot of my choice for the sole purpose of learning new ways to photograph new things.) I came home from a day of shooting with less than 100 photographs.  I got just as many "keepers" that day as I would have gotten before, but with a lot less hours at the computer.

I have a family portrait photo shoot this weekend and will be pushing toward "not overshooting" and a rapid and efficient post processing (developing and retouching the images on my computer) workflow.

I'm excited to see how it goes.

I don't plan on taking only 20 pictures, I'm sure it will be more like 100, but it won't be the 500 shots I would have taken before I saw the workshop on creativeLive.com.

Stay tuned, I'll be posting the pictures soon. And wish me luck!

Thanks for looking.

Jon

Wahoo!

OK, I'm pretty thrilled about that!

This site was reviewed by my online teachers, Tony and Chelsea Northrup.  Their summary was basically "We really don't have any specific homework for Jon." And Chelsea used the coveted words "He nailed it."

I also got some good belly laughs about "the naked guy". (It's a picture of me with no shirt on, only showing from my collar bones up...) But it just made me laugh.

Here's the link to the review of my portfolio: (My site starts around 23:40)
http://youtu.be/G0nX07p0KQ8

I appreciate everyone's patience with my slight obsession with improving my photography.

It seems my obsession is just starting to gel into something tangible. I now have a photo website with enough good photos to impress my teachers. And 2 of my friends purchased prints of some of my photos. That's all I can ask for at this stage.

I do photography for 2 reasons: I love it and I want other people to be touched by my work. And to have people like some of my pictures enough to purchase them, well that's a very pleasant validation.

I am far from finished on this journey. As a matter of fact, I consider myself to have simply taken the very first few steps toward being a "serious" photographer. I hope you'll stay tuned as I continue on this path, a path that I'm very passionate about. I hope my passion shows when I post new photographs. And I hope you feel a bit of the passion, awe, and satisfaction that I feel when I open an image on my computer and say "Yes! That's a nice one!"

Take good care of yourselves and I hope you too can follow your passion. That's food for the soul.

Thanks to you all.

Jon

Finally! I'm ready. Um, I think...

I've been working on this website for over a month. Many hours of posting all of my favorite pictures, then removing the weak ones. Then removing more. Then rearranging. Enough fussing, just publish the site!

I'm going to finally submit this site to my teachers, Tony and Chelsea Northrup, for review. What you see here is the product of a book they wrote. Stunning Digital Photography. (It's the #1 photography book in the world, btw...) It changed my life. It took me from being a "shutterbug" using a point and shoot camera to a [wannabe] serious photographer. I use a DSLR now and I shoot in manual mode so I can control every aspect of the photograph. And I have finally learned to just delete the pictures that aren't great.

Tony's first quote from the book is "Take lots of pictures. Then delete most of them." I have deleted at least 95% of the shots I've taken since I read the book. That's a good thing. My eye is much more critical and I can see when a picture of mine just "doesn't work". I'm no longer willing to settle for "pretty good focus" or "mostly ok".

So this is the end of the trepidatious beginning; and the beginning of the confident future of photography in my life. Stay tuned. I hope to produce many more photographs that make you want to stop what you're doing and look.

And a big thanks to everyone for the support along the way.

And for those who know me, you will not be surprised to hear that, 5 minutes after I submitted my site for review, I redesigned the entire thing. That's so me!

- Jon

Sculpting with light...

I was lucky enough to attend a workshop by a visionary photographer. He takes dozens of photos of a single scene, lighting each piece individually. Then he masterfully blends them in Photoshop to create the best lighting possible on every individual piece.

I gave it a try tonight. And after a little over 5 hours, I ended up with a fairly decent photograph. I'm proud of my freshman effort and look forward to doing more and getting better. (And a LOT faster.) "Still Life"

I hope you're all doing well. I hope you're all doing something you love.

- Jon

It finally happened!

Those who know me know that I am tough on myself. The cliche' "I am my own worst critic..." applies quite well here.

That is why, when I do something I'm satisfied with, it is such a joy!

What is this great feat of which I speak? It's a picture of a Greylag Goose.

It's in focus, the lighting is good, and there is a lot of detail in the shot.

I declared that this is the first shot since I've gone DSLR/Manual (Thanks again Tony Northrup) that I'm perfectly satisfied with.

Now, in time, as I learn more, I may think "I wish I had done this or that differently..." But for now, I'm quite pleased.

Here is the heralded goose picture.

All the best - Jon

I have a goal...

I have been taking photographs since I was old enough to hold a camera. There are 2 hobbies I've had my entire life: guitar and photography.

I took the "guitar thing" as far as I was capable of. In the early 90's I was in a hard-rock band with 4 other guys and we were pretty damned good. I worked remarkably hard to get there. We played cover tunes and mostly played at sports bars. But we had "a following" and got paid to play at these places.

Now, 45 years after I started taking Polaroid snap shots, I have begun to take photography much more seriously and to work hard at getting better.

The catalyst for this sudden change in effort came after 2 good friends asked me to photograph their wedding.  I was glad to. I took hundreds of pictures and ended up with a handful of good ones. But only one that I am really proud of.

After editing the pictures and feeling very dissatisfied with what I produced, I dumped the point and shoot and got a dSLR. I stumbled across Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup. That book is great. Period. But what's best about buying that book is you gain access to a private Facebook group where peers post pictures and critiques and advice. I feel like I paid for a $10 e-book and hit the photography lottery.

Now 2 more close friends asked me to shoot their upcoming wedding in 3 months.

- So I have a goal -

I am going to continue to improve my photography. I am going to continue to make it a priority in my life. I am going to learn these very technologically advanced devices (My camera has 27 basic auto-focus adjustments, what's so damned automatic about that?) And I am going to learn how to photograph weddings.

My final exam will be in May. The 3 or 4 days surrounding a wedding where families from all over the US will gather for probably the only time. Then the post processing. Then I will face my toughest critic and ask myself "pass or fail". And fail is not an option.

Swallow Falls, Polar Vortex and the Antietam Photographic Society

I'm lucky enough to have found a great photography club in Hagerstown, MD. The Antietam Photographic Society.  Rather than just sit around and chat at meetings, we have gone to a farm to do HDR, light painting and silhouette shots.

This past Saturday, we went to Swallow Falls State Park in Oakland, MD. Just off Deep Creek lake.

We photographed the frozen waterfalls, icy streams and creeks and other wintry wonders. Mike D had arranged to have a Ranger come at dusk so that we could all stay past closing time to do some fantastic light painting.

That's a great club. Full of enthusiasm and as much action as words. Thanks APS.

Take care everyone.

Jon

Welcome to my site...

Hi, I'm Jon. My nickname is BigJonBear. It's a name that cropped up about 10 years ago and just stuck.

I like to take photographs. I always have. It is simply a natural extension of my personality.

I love capturing people, places and things.  But I have quite a fondness for animal shots and candid people shots.  I also love doing portraits. I love doing nature and landscape photography. So, I guess I like to photograph just about anything.

So please, take a look at my pictures. I hope there's something out there that moves you. And be sure to contact me if you have any questions.

Thanks. And take excellent care of yourself and those around you.

Jon