The Important Role of Dad in Daughter’s Lives

Capturing the memory that is cherished a lifetime for daughters. It was a great Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/10 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]

A father’s influence on a daughter’s self-image. A dad’s involvement in his daughter’s life is a crucial ingredient in the development of a young woman’s self-esteem. … Direct involvement and encouragement by her father will help diminish a girl’s insecurity and increase her confidence in her own abilities.

My favorite type of photos are where there is an emotional connection. Last night I was able to capture a lot of moments of dads and daughters enjoying the Memphis Zoo for a Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night.

By putting my flash off camera for some of the photos I was able to improve the light on the faces of the people to capture those expressions and then drag the shutter to pickup the background to add to the atmosphere.

Dad and daughters bust a move dancing together. It was a great Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/8 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]
The dads and daughters enjoyed dancing together.

Many of the daddy and daugthers enjoyed a carousel ride during the Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/30 – Godox V860IIN]
They enjoyed a Carousel Ride as well.

The Important Role of Dad. While almost any man can father a child, there is so much more to the important role of being dad in a child’s life.

Many of the daddy and daugthers enjoyed a carousel ride during the Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 1600, ƒ/6.3, 1/3 – Godox V860IIN]
I watched as dads did everything they could to be sure their daughters were having a wonderful time.

Some of the dad and daughters took in ice skating. It was a great Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/160 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]
Now not all were as brave or maybe good on ice skates as this dad. However many did also take in the ice rink as well.

Dads and their daughters take the tram around the Memphis zoon for the Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 8000, ƒ/6.3, 1/20 – Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]
To walk the zoo could take a long time the zoo had their trams running to take everyone around the zoo cutting down on those long walks.

This girl loved her time with the Breakfast cow. It was a great Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/20 – Godox V860IIN]
There were the Cow Celebrities running around as well as the princess for the kids to enjoy being photographed with and to give hugs.

This dad and daughter enjoyed meeting Cinderella at the Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 3200, ƒ/2.8, 1/20 – Godox V860IIN]
While I would have preferred to shoot everything with available light the problem was that I found the people silhouetted by the lights of the events behind them. The flash also made them the most important part of the photo.

A good father makes all the difference in a child’s life. He’s a pillar of strength, support and discipline. His work is endless and, oftentimes, thankless.

This dad was loving dancing with his daughter at the Chick-fil-A Daddy Daughter Date Night held at the Memphis Zoo on November 16, 2017. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/8 – Godox V860IIN]

Photographers should be like Firefighters

Roswell Fire Department [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 7200, ƒ/4, 1/100]
I have two fellow photojournalists that I love to hire when I need help. One is Robin Nelson and the other is Michael Schwarz when it comes to meeting tight deadlines.

What all three of us have in common is newspaper and wire service backgrounds.

We have a lot in common with Fire Fighters I have come to realize over the years. Have you ever visited a Fire Station? I know I did as a young preschooler.

Roswell Fire Department [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/100]
You will notice they are ready to go at a moment’s notice. They have their firefighter pants [Heat and Flame Resistant Clothing] with suspenders over their boots. Jacket hanging with their helmet and breathing unit nearby.

They are not their when they come back from a fire. Once they return to the firehouse their first mission is to get everything ready to roll. They clean their uniforms, they clean the trucks and any of the supplies that need restocking is done.

99% of the photographers I meet if they were firefighter would not not have their boots and uniforms ready to go out the door.

What A.S.A.P Means to Wire Service

Shooting for a wire service like Associated Press means that you get a shot and as fast as you can get it out of the camera to your computer to caption it and upload it to the Associated Press server is expected. This “fast as you can” usually means in less than 15 minutes and not like 2 or 3 weeks.

Each of us are always asking the client, “When is your deadline?” What surprises us is when they say A.S.A.P. each of us finds ourselves asking what they means. Do you want it right after the event, next day or when?

We all think when they say A.S.A.P. that we are ready to bring our laptops along and turn it around in minutes and not days.

Why turn it around right away?

When I shoot just about anything I am trying my best to edit those images and get them to the client immediately. When I shot some weddings, which I rarely do, I had the 2,500+ images to the bride and groom before they left for their honeymoon the next day.

You see my goal is to be ready like the firefighter. Too many photographers I have called to do assignments that have been too busy to take on another job. They were busy editing.

If you approach being a professional photographer the way firefighter do then you come home from a job and maybe go to bed, but the first thing you do is get that job edited and off the computer to the client.

Actually the first thing I do is pull all my batteries and recharge them while I am editing. Once I have ingested the cards and have backup I reformat the cards so they are ready to shoot a fresh job.

I have different lighting kits ready for different type of jobs. I have speed light kit, studio strobe kit(s), and a video light kit ready for any types of jobs.

Once those images are delivered I am also scanning all those receipts and creating an invoice that goes to the client as well.

It is rare that you could call me and I am not ready at that moment to walk out the door for any kind of assignment. The only thing that I can think of that would delay me getting on the plane for any where in the world is only if the country requires a visa.

If you were to approach your business by getting your photography to the clients immediately and have your gear all fresh and ready to go then your business will be on fire for the right reasons.

Your Camera Takes Great Photos

The camera that takes great pictures

How often do you feel insulted when some says your camera takes great pictures?

The reason so many people think this is because they treat photography like a commodity. They believe it is mainly the gear that takes photos.

When you give those people a Nikon D5 they will get better photos than their camera on their phone.

The thing that makes you a professional photographer is your knowledge of how to use your photography gear.

I believe you could take on the challenge of using every piece of your gear in capturing a subject in as many different styles of photography as possible. You would be changing the depth-of-field, controlling motion with your shutter speed and pulling out your lighting gear to create so many different looks.

You could then show this to clients as to show how you can take the same subject and give them many different looks. It might be a great way to talk about how knowing more about the purpose of hiring you will help you with creating the look and feel they need from the photos you create.

So much of our business revolves around tools. We often think of our gear as our only tools, but I want you to think about other parts of your business like you do you camera gear.

Your business cards, websites, blogs, newsletters, phone calling and postcards are all tools that have a great deal in common with your camera gear.

Too often photographers treat their marketing tools like people think that our cameras take great photos.

We create a website and then wonder why we are not getting calls. We print business cards and hand them out and still no calls.

We even treat our photos the same way with clients. We just hand them the photos.

I have heard we are no longer living in the Industrial Age but rather the Information Age. The Information Age (also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a period in human history characterized by the shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information computerization.

What was the difference of being a farmer during the Agricultural Age to moving to the Industrial Age to now the Information Age?

The farmer used animals to plow the fields and also fertilize those fields during the Agricultural Age. During the Industrial Age it was about using tractors and man made fertilizer [nitrogen] to increase productivity.

What changed in the Information Age was those farmers learned how to analyze the data from their farms and improve all areas of the farming. They used computer models that took the data from satellite imaging of their fields to put different amounts of fertilizer and water on their fields to get the best yield from all of the land.

As a photographer you need to know how to use your marketing tools. You need to understand how they all work individually and how they work together. There is a best time to use each of those tools and there are also times that using a tool can do damage if not implemented correctly.

The Client

What I am discovering more and more is many clients do not know how to use their marketing tools either. They don’t know how to take a well crafted story that is a video and integrate it into their communications plan. They think maybe they show it just at a meeting or put it online or some other tactic and not really knowing what the strength of the video is compared to their business card or a brochure.

Be sure you help to educate your client on how to use your content to best leverage their audience.

Living in the Information Age is about the personalization of your services to address the needs of your clients. This is the knowledge economy we now live in.

This evolution of technology in daily life and social organization has led to the fact that the modernization of information and communication processes has become the driving force of social evolution.

We have moved into an era where photography is being used all the time. The professional photographer’s true commodity is their knowledge on how to use it and how to control it for clients.

The best way to help your clients understand how to use photography in their marketing and communications is to do a personal project that you demonstrate how this can be done. Then you have an example to show to your clients.

Looking for the shot

This is the brand new Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the Ferris Wheel Skyview and along the tracks of the Atlanta Street Car in Downtown Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/500]
Yesterday I was trying to find the right perspective so that in one photo I could capture the new Chick-fil-A that is in a container at the base of Atlanta’s Skyview off of Centennial Park.

The photo above was my favorite of all the photos because I also lucked up and caught the Atlanta StreetCar as well in the photo.

This is the brand new Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the Ferris Wheel Skyview and along the tracks of the Atlanta Street Car in Downtown Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/500]
Just a few seconds before the first photo I captured this of the train passing by.

This is the brand new Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the Ferris Wheel Skyview in Downtown Atlanta, GA. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/11, 1/400]
When I first arrived I shot this photo. I thought it captured the restaurant at the base of the landmark really well.

I shot details shots all over and everything in between. While I didn’t have a drone I decided to do the next best thing available and pay for ticket to get the view of the restaurant that those who ride the Skyview would get from inside one of the Gondolas.

SkyView Container OCL [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 720, ƒ/8, 1/500]
You can see the restaurant a few times from inside the gondola. So my job was not just to find the “One Shot” but to compliment the photo as well with details like this from inside the gondola.

SkyView Container OCL [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.3, 1/320]
I moved to the other side of the gondola and on the next pass of the restaurant shot this to also compliment the other photo.

Enjoyed the view from SkyView today while getting some photos of the brand new Chick-fil-A at the bottom of the Ferris Wheel. [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.3, 1/400]
While this photo doesn’t show the restaurant it does give an idea of why people are drawn to the ferris wheel for a ride. You get to overlook Centennial Park that was central gathering place during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

SkyView Container OCL [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 200, ƒ/4.5, 1/320]
I went around looking for people at the restaurant as well.

SkyView Container OCL [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 200, ƒ/4.5, 1/320]
I just kept looking for photos. These are a small fraction of what I shot.

SkyView Container OCL [Nikon D5, Nikkor 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/500]
Take Away Tips

Look for as many perspectives as possible
Go Super Wide
Go close
Once you have the Wide shot, the medium shot and the closeup then go and do it again looking for something different. Do this until you have exhausted your ideas.

Blessed to cover Islamic Speakers Bureau’s Change Makers Award Gala

Sally Yates is given the Courage Award by the Islamic Speakers Bureau during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
I had the pleasure of photographing the The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta Gala where they gave four Awards for those who have had impact on Atlanta. The ISB seeks to build bridges between Muslims and the wider community.

The thing about my job is sometimes I want to pinch myself to see if it is real what I am experiencing. Photographing the award honorees was a special honor.

Sally Yates is a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Justice Department and formerly served as a federal prosecutor in Atlanta. Most recently she was the acting Attorney General who earlier this year refused to enforce President Donald Trump’s first ban on travel from several majority-Muslim nations, calling the order “unlawful.” Trump fired her for her decision.

Arthur Blank is given a Lifetime achievement award by the Islamic Speakers Bureau during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
Arthur Blank has given more than 300 million dollars to charity through the years. Most recently he has helped with Westside neighborhood which includes Vine City. The English Avenue/Vine City area has some of the highest poverty and crime rates in the city, with the Carter St. area surrounding the Vine City MARTA station ranking in 2010 as the #1 most dangerous neighborhood in Atlanta and #5 in the United States.

Blank said his family foundation will contribute $15 million, bringing the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund’s total to $30 million. The fund goes towards housing, education, health, entrepreneurship, workforce development and youth leadership.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 8000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
I have to admit attending this was the most diverse crowd I have been apart of in Atlanta. People from all faiths were in the room and different nationalities.

[Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/25]
While there were Muslims, Christians and Jews in the room within each group there was even more diversity. Muslims from India, Arab Countries and many whose roots are from diverse American blend background. There were also mix of Christians from many different denominations.

Bishop Robert. C. Wright, of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, is given the Building Bridges Award by the Islamic Speakers Bureau during their Change Makers Award Gala held at the Cobb Galleria on November 4, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/75]
Besides covering the stage I am also covering VIP room with donors getting a time to meet the Award Winners one-on-one and get their photo made with them.

Sally Yates and her husband with some of those in the VIP room.

The volunteer working the VIP room and I spent some time talking before people arrived. She was like super excited to maybe meeting Sally Yates. The volunteer was star struck when Yates walked into the room. I just asked Sally Yates and her husband to get their photo made with her. The rest of the night that volunteer was thanking me.

Emcee for the Gala was Mr. Bill Nigut, Senior Executive Producer at Georgia Public Broadcasting. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]
I enjoyed talking with Bill Nigut. Dorie, my wife, let him know that he was what we listened to on our way to see our daughter in Columbus, GA. I let him know I listen to him often along with Greg Bluestein on his news show.

Dr. Mokhtar Bazaraa, business leader and former Georgia Tech professor. [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.2, 1/100]
Years ago while on staff at Georgia Tech I had photographed Mokhtar Bazaraa. Bazaraa, Executive Vice President of LogicBlox and former professor at Georgia Tech, was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award. It was good to make this connection as well.

If you get the chance to cover an event be sure you read up on who you are photographing. Sometimes you may need a little “insider information” to help you with ice breakers to talk with people at the event.

I talked with Bishop Robert. C. Wright’s kids. We are both preacher kids and I was able to find out about their passions. The connection I used later with the Bishop was that our daughter and his were both Thespians.

My ice breaker with Mokhtar Bazaraa was some of our connections at Georgia Tech.

Ice breakers are really ways you show your interest in the person.

Another tip is to arrive early and set your white balance for the lighting on the stage. Test you lighting in different rooms. It also makes the rooms your rooms after a while. You are there first and it will help you feel like the host rather than the guest. This can also help you with being more proactive with people.

Photographers it isn’t about the gear

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100]

We live in a changing world, but we need to be reminded that the important things have not changed, and the important things will not change if we keep our priorities in proper order. – S. Truett Cathy

How people approach photography these days has me very disappointed. There is way too much emphasis on gear and techniques. While you must master your gear and learn techniques they are not the purpose of photography.

The essential purpose of photography is communication. Few people take pictures solely to please themselves. Most of us take them because we want them seen by others. Pictures are a photographer’s means of expression as a writer’s means are words.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Every time a new piece of camera gear comes out there is so much talk about it. I was privileged to have started my career before the digital revolution.

When I would go to workshops before digital cameras were introduced we had been working with the same technology for more than one hundred years. While the cameras did evolve in this time and the film technology got better the understanding of how to take a photo didn’t change.

Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm, ISO 450, ƒ/1.4, 1/200]
Here are what I would like to think of are the four “Ps” to make your images better.

Problem Solving

Problem Solving

A great photo connects with people. If you know what you want people to take away from looking at your photo, then you have a good chance at making a great photo. When you don’t know why you are pushing the shutter at that moment is one of the greatest indicators that the audience will not know either.

Problem solving requires you to be very curious. I didn’t know it at the time I was first labeled by my dad as “Curious George” that this quality would prove to be one of the most important skills one should have when being a professional photographer.

You see Curious George is a sweet African monkey who can’t help but run into trouble. George’s friend, “The Man in the Yellow Hat,” tries very hard to care for George and is always saving the day.

Curious George is intrigued and pursues his curiosity while not paying attention to what he is doing. While photographers shouldn’t get themselves into trouble they should be curious enough to want to figure out things and ask why.


If you look through history you will notice that great things could not have happened often before that moment or after. There is often a season for a good idea.

Mathematicians often do not solve some of the most complex problems until often other ideas are able to be mixed to create the new solution.

For example Guglielmo Marconi is credited with inventing radio, but his equipment was based on Tesla’s ideas. Without Tesla there would not have been Marconi’s solution.

One of the best things one can do is to keep a journal or at least write down some of your ideas in a book. You may pitch these ideas to others and find they are not interested.

Then often years later you can go back to that book and pitch those same ideas and now the season is right for them. You may have learned something in between that helps you do a better job of communicating your idea as well.

As we know the word photography means to write with light. Well you must have a lot of patience if you want to take photos using natural light.

There have been many photographers who for example need a lot of time to do the research to know when to take a photograph. When Steve McCurry was working on the story for France’s BiCentennial for National Geographic he spent more than two weeks going around and making notes about the light and places. He took photos more for research than for publication.

He then realized certain places would be great photos, but he needed to come back at a different time of day.

One photographer was doing a story on a train and saw this gorgeous landscape with a railroad track that went through it across a bridge. The photographer decided to wait until the peak of fall season to capture the moment.

I know that in just photographing a person making a speech that I must anticipate the moments that capture those expressions that will do the best job of capturing the mood and message the speaker was making.

I have also photographed a few people that were difficult to capture due to their unusual blinking. So besides being patient to get them looking the right direction with the right face expression and body language I had to get it when their eyes weren’t closed or half closed.


Closely related to problem solving is being persistent. Musicians may study music for years and practice eight to ten hours a day so that they can take the stage and perform with such skill that it makes people want to pay to hear them.

You see probably the most famous photographer of all time Ansel Adams was described as having same qualities of Curious George as well. He was described as a hyperactive child. He transitioned from being a concert pianist to being a photographer.

He grew up going to Yellowstone and other parks. He spent years working on finding the right location for photographing some of his most famous photos. This also required him to return to the park for right time of year, day and weather to get the photos we now see of his in museums, homes and books of these iconic places.

While Ansel Adams happen to drive upon the scene Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico he would later spend much time in the lab to get all the values he could out of that negative to make the prints that we see today.

When we think of the famous photojournalist Eugene Smith we think of all the time he spent on stories like the Country Doctor. He followed the doctor for days to build a story. Smith was hired to produce 100 photographs of contemporary Pittsburgh for a book in honor of the city’s bicentennial. Two years after beginning the planned three-week assignment the editors demanded the photos and if it were not for the funding stopping Smith would have continued to pursue better photos than he had.

Hawaii High School StateRodeo Finals on The Big Island [Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 560, ƒ/4.5, 1/4000]


“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

This famous quote is a philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. Let me rephrase this question for the photographer.

“If a photographer makes a photo and no one ever sees it, then what is it’s purpose?”

Even if what you photograph isn’t a person but a thing you are most likely making the photograph to share with other people. You want them to appreciate something you saw as much as you did.

Matthew 22:37–40: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I believe photographers when we do our jobs at the best are loving our neighbor. We care for them in such a way we want to share our experiences with them or make photos of them to share their essence with other people. 

I see photography as serving the purpose of the glue that helps connect people to one another.

Until someone actually invent the transporter device used on Star Trek to beam people around time and space we only have photography/video that allows us to see people around the world and even into outer space.

Putting it all together

You need camera gear to capture photos. Learn to use the gear the same way you use a car. While you may have never driven a stick shift, I do remember there was a moment when I was no longer thinking about shifting gears but just doing it. This would be the same as the photographer who shoots today in manual mode.

Most likely there are more photographers using some of the automation on their cameras just like we use automatic transmissions and some of us even have cars that help drive themselves today.

Most of us don’t really care that much about how the car works, we just buy a model that we like and then use it to take us places.

Use your camera like your car. Let the camera take you places. Spend your time like you do when you plan your trips. Focus on the destination and the people you will see. Make the trip with your camera about what is in front of the camera and not the camera itself. This is how you will make great photos.


Photographing Friday Night Lights at a small country high school

Referee is taken on on play during the Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy
Football against Mountain Island Charter. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
I had a lot of fun covering my nephews high school football game. The oldest is a senior and played and the youngest was dressed if they ever needed him.

Elijah and his girlfriend
Joshua and his girlfriend

As with all small town high school football the lighting for these games is not all that great. I covered high school football in these same small towns back in 1984 for the Hickory Daily Record. Just getting a photo in focus and somewhat good exposure was so difficult to do in just Black and White. Today I am able to shoot color and get great results.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
So the camera settings for this game were:

ISO 64000
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter 1/2000

Compare this to the Billion Dollar Mercedes Benz Stadium where I was shooting the Chick-fil-A Kickoff games:

ISO 12800
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter 1/2000

Basically 2 1/2 stops different in the quantity of light.

High SchoolColor Temperature 5650º Kelvin with +2 Magenta
Mercedes Benz Stadium Color Temperature 5000º Kelvin with +11 Magenta

Almost catch for a touchdown. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
This was a big game for my nephews team. They were undefeated 9-0 before the game and needed the win to basically seal their conference win.

They went into the locker room at half time 14 – 0.

Touchdown [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 45600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
They went on to win the game for 36 – 14 and now are 10 – 0 for the season in their conference.

Defender tipped the ball upsetting a possible long pass and yardage play. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
The visiting team was in white and in the first half were showing signs of frustration and making turnover after turnover. Their coaches were losing their cool with the kids.

[Nikon D5, Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 65535, ƒ/5.3, 1/4000]
I think the coaches had a good talk with my nephews team. I think they explained how the other team’s outbursts and turnovers were signs that they had gotten into their heads. So they came out with more confidence in that second half.

Touchdown! [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 51200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
What this made me realize is how much we all need encouragement. When you believe you can do something verses feeling like the under dog you make the big plays.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]
During the first half the offensive line wasn’t able to create holes for the running backs, but the pep talked gave them the confidence they could play better than the other team if they just believed.

Running back (20) Bill Lay breaks for long yardarge during Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy’s upseating Mountain Island Charter for a 36 to 16 victory and givng them a 10-0 season thus far in the year. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
While my nephews might not have played as much as they wanted, at the end of the game they knew they were as much a part of the team that got them to 10 – 0 as the star players.

(84) Joshua Poe, my nephew, on special teams kick off ended up tackling the runner on the play. This was a better photo to show him. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000]
I could tell everyone was giving their all to win the game.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
(5) Miller Outton, tail back, runs out of bounds after getting first down for Thomas Jefferson Classical Academy against Mountain Island Charter. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1250]
[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 51200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/1600]


Here are a few tips for those of you wanting to get better photos of your kids playing under the Friday Night lights a game of football.

  1. Buy a lens that is longer than 400mm. I suggest things like the Sigma – 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Sports DG OS HSM Contemporary which is under $1,000.
  2. Use the ExpoDisc to do a custom white balance under the lights. Gives you more accurate colors in your photos, especially better skin tones.
  3. Use a monopod to help steady your camera.
  4. Use a fast shutter speed. I suggest 1/2000 if possible.
  5. Use high ISO. You may need a new camera that shoots above ISO 12800.
  6. Stand way in front of the action and let the players be going towards you. You get more photos of the faces this way.

The real purpose of a “Thank You Note”

Photography Students or Wannabe Photographers I realized that I need to connect the dots for many of you on how to start your career from those already in the profession.

First of all this is not about photography skills but about developing relationships which can help you grow professionally.

photo by Robin Nelson

While I love to teach photography skills such as lighting and students just love taking on those assignments it is the business tips that I share that for the most part very few ever follow through on and the reason is simple–it isn’t as fun.

I promise you if you have a good portfolio and do not listen to the professionals when they talk about business practices then you will have missed the most important tips we can share.

Mark Johnson’s Photojournalism Class in the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia.

If you are a student like those of Mark Johnson’s at UGA then you have a major advantage to those who are not students. Mark Johnson is the person who knows most people in the industry and can help make that first introduction for you.

While Mark may not pick up the phone to make the call he has in essence done this when he gives you the assignment and even names to call when you need to shadow a professional photographer.

That first email or phone call starts with my teacher Mark Johnson has given me an assignment. Those few words open a door that others cannot use.

Once you have met the photographer and done your assignment it is extremely important in your career to write a thank you note. I recommend the hand written note over an email or just saying thank you in person.

I am realizing now that more people are writing those thank you notes that they really forgot to ask themselves the question of “Why do I write this hand written note?”.

Students I can tell you the one thing that is quite annoying to your teachers and professionals who will hire you later is when you check off an assignment. This attitude of treating people and stories like items on a check list undermines the content.

To tell someones story you must peel the onion which also is building trust with the person. Checking your list is more like washing the onion rather than peeling the onion.

Most of the Thank You notes I get seem to be done to check this off the list. They really don’t know why they wrote the note other than they heard good etiquette requires it.

What is the purpose of a Thank You Note when you are trying to become a professional or move up in the profession? You are building a RELATIONSHIP with someone who can help you. If you are just trying to move up without the relationship it can come back to haunt you later on.

The type of relationship you build is up to you and the other person. Keeping it professional can be done without you having to become the best of friends. You still need to mix some kindness in your conversations.

My recommendation is to build your relationship over time. Thank them for what they have done and then ask if it is OK to contact them again.

You may say something like: “Thank you for taking time today to visit with me. Do you mind if I send you some sample of my work in a month or so and get some of your feedback?” Then do follow up.

Then it is much easier to ask again with your correspondence asking if they see any improvements based on their previous comments. It can be more detailed showing that you did listen and try to make those suggestions.

Then every once in a while just send a note thanking them for all they have done and how their suggestions have proven helpful in your professional development.

Ask them for referrals later in your relationship to see if they have someone they recommend that you get to know and show your work to for more professional growth.

While you may not have a desire to become good friends with some of the people who have helped you, do take the time and effort to thank them proportionally to how much they helped you.

If you got a job due to their connections and suggestions a small gift is a good way to let them know you were appreciative and not just using them. It could be just a gift card to Starbucks or something similar. Take them to lunch to catch up and tell them about your new job and thank them in person.

If you are reading this blog and you have people that have helped you along the way take a moment and write each of them a thank you note. Sometimes your note can be the little encouragement they need today. You would be surprised how many people never know that they made a difference in someone’s life. And if they life is you, then you need to thank them again even if you did it before.

It boils down to this. When you write a thank you note you are showing your appreciation for someone taking time out of their life that helped you. You also want to be sure that person that helped you is open to helping you even more if that is possible. Don’t write thank you notes to put a check on some list. Don’t be the person that just uses others for personal gain.

Just remember the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Jam Sessions are great examples of healthy friendships

The California Honeydrops play at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 25600, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
One of the most fun things I ever did in my years of playing trumpet was sit in on a JAM Session.

A jam session is a relatively informal musical event, process, or activity where musicians, typically instrumentalists, play improvised solos and vamp on tunes, songs and chord progressions. To “jam” is to improvise music without extensive preparation or predefined arrangements, except for when the group is playing well-known jazz standards or covers of existing popular songs. Original jam sessions, also ‘free flow sessions’, are often used by musicians to develop new material (music) and find suitable arrangements. – Wikipedia

For me this is one of the best artistic renderings of what it is like to have good friends.

There are many people who never take their bands out of garages and just enjoy the time of sharing music.

The California Honeydrops’ Lech Wierzynski, on trumpet, plays with Ben Malament on the washboard at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, 28-300mm, ISO 9000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
This give and take in the Jam Session is where bands form their bonds and write new music.

I get a lot of phone calls where someone is trying to sell me something. The sad thing is that often this is from my “friends”.

I have a small group of friends that just call to catch up and talk about just about anything. We find that our spouses are often reminding us we have been on the phone too long. That is a good friend when the two of you get lost in time.

The California Honeydrops play at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia. [Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 20000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
Funny thing is that most of my closest friends were also musicians at one time. They understand we need others for our creativity to be pushed and we need the friendship due to how lonely often it is being an artist.

Then there are the formal groups where I worked with people with the hope of building friendships. I served on industry boards and helped with many different conferences for many years.

When I needed to leave those roles for any number of reasons I often sent letters to the group explaining my departure. Sadly only one person at the most ever reached out to say thanks or checking to be sure everything was alright.

Don Rutledge enjoys telling a story at the first gathering of the SBC photographers at Ridgecrest, North Carolina.

I have talked often about my mentor Don Rutledge and his impact on my life and many of my closest friends.

Don had an open door policy. If he wasn’t editing the door on his office was open. He had regular visitors through the years of all different levels of photography. He treated them all the same. Usually he looked at their work then would ask one of the other staff photographers to join him for a few minutes before asking the photo staff to go to lunch with him and the new acquaintance.

One day I was eating dinner with Don and his wife Lucy. I said to them how much I appreciated his openness. Then Lucy got very serious. She was upset at how many photographers came by and Don gave them some pointers and they even went to Black Star, his agency in NYC, to try and take his work. They never came back again and just used Don.

Don bowed his head and felt a little shame. He never stopped welcoming people.

Don was really trying to develop long lasting friendships. He would call photographers and mention he saw their work and compliment them. He wrote letters all the time telling people what he thought and often gave little tips that were most of the time welcomed.

Matthew 22:37-40

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Fresh Eyes to Old Photos

Rodeo at Parker Ranch, Waimea, The Big Island of Hawaii [Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/1000]
Every once in a while I like to go back through older photo shoots and just look through them. I sometimes find some photos that I glanced over earlier that are much better than I first noticed.

South Point, The Big Island of Hawaii
[Nikon D750, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/2500]
I use the software PhotoMechanic for my culling and reviewing of photos. 

I can make the photo large and also see all the information about the camera settings on the right about the photo.

This is quite helpful for evaluating a photo. Why isn’t the photo sharp? Just looking at the shutter speed helps you see if it was fast enough to eliminate camera or subject motion.

I also like clicking on seeing the photo 1:1 so I can evaluate down to the pixels.

Charleston, SC, The Citadel, Recognition Weekend [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 2800, ƒ/8, 1/4000]
This I am doing with images that I have already edited through Adobe Lightroom. If I think I could do a better job now than say when I first did the edit or that Lightroom now has tools that were not available when I first edited the photo I may go back to the RAW photo and work on it again.

The Citadel [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/4000]
Often when you first edit a photograph you are on a deadline. Having the luxury of a lot more time to evaluate photos I find that I seldom am feeling much different than I did at the time of the first edit.

White-tailed deer live throughout the Smokies, but are most commonly seen in areas with open fields such as Cades Cove and Catahoochee Valley. Biologists estimate that more than 6,000 deer may live in the park. Deer populations can change quickly. Local over population leads to widespread disease and starvation. Predation by coyotes, bears, and bobcats help reduce threats associated with over population. This deer was photographed in Cades Cove which is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park located in Townsend, Tennessee on June 22, 2006. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, Sigma 1.4X, ISO 400, ƒ/4, 1/100]
One thing I do notice a great deal when I go back a few years or more is that the cameras have gotten a great deal better. In 2006 when I took this photo of the dear I owned the Nikon D2X camera. This was a cropped 12 megapixel sensor with a usable ISO range of 100 to 800.

The California Honeydrops play at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia [Nikon D5, Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
Just this Wednesday night I was shooting at a music venue with my Nikon D5, a full sensor, and at ISO 40000 to get this photo above. Basically with the Nikon D2X this photo wouldn’t have been possible.

The California Honeydrops play at Terminal West in Atlanta, Georgia [Nikon D5, Nikkor 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/200]
Too often when I am looking back at photos where I was hand holding the camera the shutter speed just wasn’t high enough to eliminate movement.

Red-tailed Hawk in our backyard eating a squirrel. This one kept on screeching with another hawk nearby. [Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sport, Sigma TC-2001, ISO 1000, ƒ/8, 1/200]
While this is a very recent photo of the Hawk in our backyard the reason it is so sharp isn’t the shutter speed as much as I was on a tripod.

Stream near Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky National Park located in Townsend, Tennessee on June 22, 2006. [Nikon D2X, Nikkor 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/1.5]
I recommend you go back through your photos and not just look for great moments, but evaluate them for sharpness. If they are not sharp then ask yourself why not? Look at the camera data and see if you can learn from your older photos.

While shooting is a great way to improve your photos, learning to take the time and evaluate photos for how to improve them next time technically can mean that when you do shoot again you will not make those same mistakes due to not having the camera on the best setting.