What birds can teach us

American Gold Finch [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/10, 1/280 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? – Matthew 6:26

The past few weeks have been bitterly cold for our community in Roswell, Georgia. While we didn’t have a lot of snow it stayed on the ground longer than normal due to the freezing weather.

While we have birds all the time at our bird feeders during this cold snap they have been eating a lot more. I think this is due to the ground being so cold to kill many insects and keeping many in the ground.

Yellow Finch [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.2, 1/2200 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
We stayed inside more than normal due to the icy streets for many days.

Since I just can’t sit still I decided to make photos of the birds at our bird feeder with a new Fujifilm X-E3 camera I bought as well as a new flash system made by Flashpoint for the Fuji cameras.

Blue Bird on my Birdfeeder in Roswell, GA [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/2500 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL]
This morning I was pondering how they survive and was reminded on the scripture that says God takes care of the birds. What I was fascinated by in the scripture was that birds do not “sow nor reap nor gather into barns” as humans do, yet God takes care of them.

Tufted titmouse on our Bird feeder [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/3200 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
No matter how well I know the scriptures that talk about how God will take care of us–I worry.

It’s true we all worry to some extent but do it too much and it can color your whole life, leaving you strung out, unhappy and constantly anxious. It’s not unusual either. Around 1 in 20 of us experiences excessive worrying – called Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – at some time in our lives.

If you are really struggling then get some help through I licensed counselor like a social worker, psychologist or psychiatrist.

One thing I noticed from being locked up inside due to the cold is getting cabin fever. It can be depressing as well.

Keep physically active. Develop a routine so that you’re physically active most days of the week. Exercise is a powerful stress reducer. It may improve your mood and help you stay healthy. Start out slowly and gradually increase the amount and intensity of your activities.

Make sleep a priority. Do what you can to make sure you’re getting enough sleep to feel rested. If you aren’t sleeping well, see your doctor.

Eat healthy. Healthy eating — such as focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fish — may help in reducing anxiety.

As a freelancer looking for work to pay your bills focus on those type of jobs that people need now. Portraits/headshots are usually needed quickly as compared to someone booking a wedding photographer.

People don’t book headshots 6 months to a year out, but that is how they book photographers for their weddings.

Bird feeder in our backyard during snow day. [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/1000 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
Get together with other photographers and just talk. They will not solve your problems by telling you their client’s names, but you will pick up tricks and how they talk to their clients.

Maybe you can just practice a cold call with another photographer. Maybe you can practice doing an estimate with them.

Female Cardinal [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/10, 1/280 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
Don’t let life ruffle your feathers.

Focus on one thing at a time. For me–and most people–multi-tasking typically leads to chaos. I try to choose one task, see it through, and head on to the next task that needs to be done.

Learn to be flexible. Things will come up or someone will ask you to help with something, so learn to go with the flow a little bit. Just take a moment to think about what is happening and regroup. Change your plans accordingly.

Learn to prioritize. Let’s just face it there are things that if you don’t get to them will not really impact your goals. However, there are some action items if you put off can wreak havoc.

You can use your energy to focus on all that could go wrong or and even better just focus that energy on doing something. The energy amount is about the same, but one moves you forward and ones leaves you standing still.

Remember birds go where the food is and this is called migration. This is where we get word migrant workers. They go where the work is for them. They go where they can help their families survive.

Today is a day for action. The question for you is what actions will you take? While the birds don’t “sow nor reap nor gather into barns” they are out looking for food. How about you?

Don’t raise Cain in your business

Story of Cain and Abel [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4, 1/200]
Yesterday when I was in my Sunday School class we were studying the story of Cain and Abel. While I have read this story over and over since a little child each time I come to the scripture a little differently. Life experiences and where I am in life really can impact one’s perspective.

Reading this as a business owner I saw this in a new light. I thought of how I see this story lived out in business every day.

Just read the story with a customer being God and while Cain and Abel are two freelancers giving estimates to get a job.

Genesis 4:1-15

4 Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

8 Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.

9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is more than I can bear. 14 Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Not so; anyone who kills Cain will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the Lord put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.

While discussing this passage in our class I was struck by why God didn’t treat both Cain and Abels gifts equally. The scripture doesn’t say why he treated them the way he did.

You would think God should treat them equally.

I can think of many Christmas and birthdays where opening a present I was disappointed or one of my family/friends were disappointed with a present. It was always important in my circles that you were appreciative for the gift.

So I can get why God might like one gift more than the other, I am that way. Our customers and potential clients also have reasons they pick one vendor over another and they don’t always tell you why.

Instead of dealing directly with God over his gift Cain got angry with his brother Abel. Sound familiar. We often are upset with our competition.

Instead of taking our anger out on others we need to work on ourselves. We need to remember there is always a next time. Maybe not with that client, but with another.

Maybe you are like Cain and realize you only have  “fruits of the soil” as a farmer and not an animal to sacrifice because you are a farmer and not the cowboy. Don’t be shortsighted and think the only way you can win a contract is to take out your competition. [You could be just talking about your competition in a bad way to the customer.]

Look at what you have to offer and do everything you can to be sure that your presentation of your gifts is as good as the gifts themselves.

Focus on your Audience’s Needs. … As you prepare the presentation, you always need to bear in mind what the audience needs and wants to know, not what you can tell them. While you’re giving the presentation, you also need to remain focused on your audience’s response, and react to that.

The Catch-22 of finding work for the freelancer

2017 SOP1 Group Photo–L/R Juan Carlos Sanchez De Fuentes, Thema Black, Daisy Wang, Fred Tesone, Hayley Webb, Michael Gellerstedt, Laurelee Martens, Chance Punahele Ortiz,Heather Morse, & Dennis Fahringer. Also featuring Keiko the dog.
[Fuji X-E2, Fuji 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 1/80]
A month from now I will be back in Kona, Hawaii to teach the YWAM School of Photography 1 portrait lighting and business practices for a week.

This group photo is last year’s class. This year’s group will be twice the size of last year.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/200

While I will be teaching a great deal about lighting the business practices is the one thing that over the years has proven even more valuable to the classes.

“How do you make a living doing photography?”, is answered through solid business practices.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5, 1/180

Knowing your Cost-Of-Doing-Business and how to price your work doesn’t get you clients. It only makes sure that you make money when you price jobs rather than losing money.

How do you get those clients? Well this is the Catch-22 of Freelancing.

When you are a professional photographer you are like every other business person. You are in the business of solving people and businesses problems through the use of photography.

What you need to be doing is interviewing people and listening. You need to find out what their problems are so that you can pitch to them solutions for which you can provide those services.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/200

Having a portfolio is like any other business where you can display your wares, or as in this example Maine lobster buoys on the side of the road of commerce.

If the client know what they need then this works really well, except now your work is more of a commodity. This is an article of trade or commerce, especially a product as distinguished from a service. Due to your work being seen as a commodity it is much harder to get prices that work with your Cost-Of-Doing-Business.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/320

You need to be seen as a visionary for the person’s business and not just a commodity if you are in the creative arts type of a business.

Mark Johnson’s Photojournalism Class [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/100]
You need to put yourself in situations where you get to listen to business people talk about what they do. You need to learn about their business. You need to ask questions that give you understanding.

Only when you really understand what problems they are facing with their business can you then think of ways that you can help solve some of those problems.

Now often they do not even know that your solution is to a problem they have. This will come over time where you start to recognize problems facing business owners and knowing that there are solutions you have done for others that could work for another business.

Here is the Catch-22 you must face each day to make a living as a photographer. You have solutions for a business to thrive, but you must first find a way to know what problem a particular business is facing before you can offer a solution.

Making this even more complicated is that if the client already knows what they need then you will be treated as a commodity. You need to be the photographer that has business solutions and not just the ability to take a picture.

What are your “Business New Year’s Resolutions?”

One of my wife and I’s favorite photos of our daughter Chelle. She is having her first Shirley Temple drink at the beach. Her expression of how much fun she was having and that we had this experience with her and the photo now helps us remember that moment like it just happened.

This is the time of year we make New Year’s resolutions, which are typically about taking care of ourselves. What are your Business New Year’s Resolutions?

Most likely whatever you come up with is a way to build your brand. Let me give you some business topics, which you should be very concerned about this year.

Number One _________________

I want to leave that blank for now for a reason. I will come back to it shortly for you. Now lets look at some of those hot topics.

Quality Control – You should be always concerned that you are giving your customers the very best that they can get in the open market. Notice I didn’t say the best that you can give them. If you lack something that is keeping your quality behind that should be one of the things you want to address this year.

In my industry photographers are always trying to keep their camera gear as new as possible. The images coming out of the newest cameras are superior to the quality of older models. I know many photographers who update immediately and other who upgrade every other model.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Speed of Service – If you are not careful your competition will take away your business just because you are too slow. Customers have problems for which a business has a solution to fix. If you are too slow the customer will go somewhere else to get those problems solved.

Pricing – There is a great deal of things that affect pricing, so you need to be sure you are on top of everything.

One thing about pricing is the cost-of-doing-business that you must be sure you are covering in order to make a living. However have you considered how your pricing comes across to the customer?

Too many businesses are more concerned with what they make and covering their costs that their pricing is really worded to how they think and not about how the customer thinks.

I am a big proponent of at least giving a customer three to four prices. Bare minimum, medium and high price packages and even the Whoop Ti Doo for a fourth option.

How you differentiate the pricing points also gives a better understanding about the different services you can provide.

I want to go back to the Number One thing that I started with but left blank. What are your core values that guide your business?

This core value is what I think of as the culture you exhibit to your client. When you go into a hotel where the décor is all about log cabin as compared to going into a castle it sets a tone for the business.

I think also about the restaurant chains Texas Roadhouse, The Ground Round and Logan’s Roadhouse that all served peanuts and customers toss the shells on the ground. The waitress greats you with Howdy as much as a Hello.

Now these core values often will have you doing things that do not make the most business sense. We often talk about a person having a moral compass. A moral compass an internalized set of values and objectives that guide a person with regard to ethical behavior and decision-making.

I know of one man who when finding out that his employee was drinking on the job confronted the young man. As long as an employee would come clean and own up to their in digressions then he would do all he could to help that employee.

He helped that employee overcome his drinking problem. It made no business sense to do this, but this was his core value of giving those who need help and willing to make changes the help. Now he would fire many people as well and the line in the sand appeared to me to be one of if the person would own up to their mistakes.

Here are some ways that you might want to evaluate how your character is coming across and revealing a lack of core values that show a moral compass.

How do you speak to your spouse? Let me say I am preaching to myself on this one. We all need to show respect and not get so short with those closest to us. Every time you answer your phone and it is your spouse often there are others in ear shot who hear how your treat your spouse.

How do you speak to your children? Now if you don’t have any this could be anyone who is a subordinate that depends on you. You always want to speak with respect and love to them. You still need to discipline but how you do it should be one that helps to build them up and not tear them down.

How you speak to those serving you? Our son works in restaurant as a server and the stories he tells is horrifying as to how people treat others. You need to have the ability to request things you need and correct a mistake in a way that gives honor to those who serve you. Now if you get horrible service and are mistreated you still can handle this in a way that demonstrates the high road.

How do you speak to your enemies? Truly listening to others and addressing their concerns in a calm voice is powerful way to win friends. Stay with the facts over disagreements and explain what you can do and what you are unwilling to do.

Lincoln Memorial

It is your attitude that can jeopardize the situations more than the words themselves. As Abraham Lincoln wisely said, “Better to be silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Put your moral compass first this year. Focus on relationships and not on transactions. If you do this then you will be successful.

Shooting High Speed Sync with Fuji X-E3 & Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL

Blue Bird on my Bird-feeder in Roswell, GA [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/4.8, 1/200 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
Just before Christmas my friend Dennis Fahringer forwarded me a special that Adorama had on their  Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter. The flash was $119 and the transmitter $46.

I had bought earlier the Godox VING V860IIN TTL Li-Ion Flash Kit for Nikon with it’s transmitter.The reason I did this is I loved the Neewer TT850, which is pretty much the same flash with the TTL capabilities.

Neewer, Godox and Flashpoint are all the same company but marketed differently. Flashpoint is the Adorama branded system that comes with more warranty than the others.

I have not bought the studio version of the system yet, but plan to do so in the near future. They just introduced this week the newest version of the studio flash the Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO TTL Battery-Powered Monolight (Bowens Mount) – Godox AD600 Pro. This sells for $899 without the transmitter.

The XPLOR 600Pro TTL is the next evolution of the Flashpoint R2 radio system, compatible with the R2 Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm and Olympus/Panasonic TTL auto flash systems, for remote power control and shooting.

Brown-headed Nuthatch Sitta pusilla Probably the least numerous nuthatch in North America. Has lost ground in some areas because of habitat loss, but still common where southern pine forest exists. [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
Just using the bird-feeder in my backyard I was able to do some tests to see how well the camera worked with HSS of 1/4000. The flash supports the FP mode (high-speed flash sync), in which the flash outputs continuous light while the first and second curtains travel across the sensor, thereby enabling flash photography at any shutter speed.

The range of the radio transmitter from the camera to the flash is 330ft / 100m. Recycle time is <4 seconds. This is great for more than 600+ full power flashes with the Lithium battery.

If you want something faster then you need to use their studio heads. The Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO TTL Battery-Powered Monolight recycle time is approximately 0.01-0.9s.

Blue Bird on my Bird-feeder in Roswell, GA [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 25600, ƒ/8, 1/4000 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL]
When you think of the exposure triangle you think that as you change on the others all are affected.

Well there is a kink in this because when you use a flash the volume of light is pretty much the same as you shorten the duration. The problem through the years was the ability to shorten the shutter speed and sync with the flash. This has now been pretty much solved in the last few years. So the affect on the shortening of the shutter speed is actually impacting the available light (The Sun) if outside and not the flash as much.

Action shot of soccer player in Oxnard, California. [Nikon D5, Nikon 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 50, ƒ/11, 1/200 – (2) Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT]
Earlier I showed how I did this with the Nikon system. Now I can do the same with my Fuji X-E3 and the Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter.

Now the cool thing about maybe picking up the studio flash Flashpoint XPLOR 600PRO TTL Battery-Powered Monolight (Bowens Mount) – Godox AD600 Pro is it works with all the transmitters for Nikon, Fuji, Sony, Canon and Olympus. So, my two camera systems can use the same studio flash in TTL mode.

Yellow Finch [Fujifilm X-E3, 55-200mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/1000 – Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter]
I am looking forward to shooting more with my Fuji X-E3 and the Flashpoint Zoom Li-on R2 TTL & Flashpoint R2 TTL transmitter in the months ahead. I love such a small system for travel.

Sharing my own struggle with depression related to storytelling

Witch doctor and his family in Togo, West Africa [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500]
I believe that many journalists look for validation that the work they are doing is important. I sure do look for it myself. I want to know that I am making a difference.

However, I believe that too many put that validation within the industry through awards that are for the most part given by the high priests of journalism. Awards like the Pulitzers and POYs are judged by our peers and not by our audience.

Children of the local pastor in his corn field in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000]
I stopped entering contests more than 25 years ago and only recently can articulate why. I felt like the awards didn’t validate if the stories I worked on made a difference in the audience’s lives.

When journalism is done right it is often a very slow pace of change that takes place in the communities that it serves. Sometimes the hardest part of the job is our impact can take years to see. Sometimes we often take credit for change we see that is really the work of others long before we came on to the scene.

This little shepherd boy is part of the Fulani tribe which is known for being herdsmen and is working in the village of Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-125mm, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/90]
We as journalists should really be looking to our audiences and how they are responding to our stories about our communities for validation.

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.

Lisbon, Portugal [Nikon D4, Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 800, ƒ/9, 1.3 – On Tripod]
We need to ask ourselves, “Who’s paying attention? Why does the story need to be told? Why should the audience care?”

When the inner drive in our souls is that of a calling to journalism then it is much easier to endure long time sometimes necessary for us to see any real change.

The times when I am most depressed from burnout is when I am no longer really in touch with the audience and really know what they care about. If there are stories we think they should care about and they don’t then this is where I struggle the most.

I have discovered when I see no impact from my work it is often because of the metaphors and simile that I maybe using does not resonate with the audience. I must really know my audience so that while doing the story I am thinking of what the audience would be interested in and why.

Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]
I think one of the best questions journalists should be asking of themselves is not how much time they spend on telling their stories, but rather how much time are they spending on getting to know their audience.

Once you have sought to understand your audience and your subject completely is only when great journalism can take place.

Woman in Nicaragua showing her kitchen to us and the lunch she is preparing. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 4500, ƒ/4, 1/100]

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Highlights

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 8000, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
Every year I cover the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. These games have been some of the most watched games in the Bowl Series through the years. Many close games and big upsets have taken place.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 10000, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
This year it was a match up between the SEC and the AAC conferences. University of Central Florida achieved perfection upsetting Auburn for 13-0 season.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
Auburn fought hard but had 3 turnovers while UCF only had 1. This was the difference that helped UCF defeat Auburn 34-27.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The game was close through out the four quarters. They traded scores back and forth keeping it close.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
UCF is Nation’s Second-Largest University. The University of Central Florida has become the second-largest university in the nation in student enrollment, surpassing Ohio State.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 20000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
The hard part about covering football is the tension about shooting tight and shooting too tight that you don’t see the competition.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
On one touchdown I couldn’t switch cameras fast enough so my lens was too tight to show the playing crossing the end zone.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 5600, ƒ/2.8, 1/4000]
One thing I did enjoy capturing with the UCF players was the joy they had for the game.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
These are just some of the action shots I captured from the game.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 22800, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]
[Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, TC-2001, ISO 18000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000]

Pictures of the Year 2017

Georgia National Cemetery is the second national cemetery in Georgia and the 123rd in the national cemetery system. [Nikon D5, 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250]
2017 has a lot of memories for me. Fortunately my profession lets me document these moments in pictures.

Shuler Hensley Awards [Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.4, 1/160]
This year we started with a household of four and now we end the year with just two. Our youngest started at Columbus State University in Theater and our middle son moved into a house with a few of his friends.

Taylor, Chelle and Nelson [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 200, ƒ/4, 1/160]
We had a lot of fun with Chelle’s theater performances and graduation this year.

Hawaii High School State Finals at the Parker Ranch on The Big Island. [Nikon D5, 85mm ƒ/1.8, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/1600]
I enjoyed another year spending a week in Kona, Hawaii teaching in the YWAM School of Photography.

This coming year I have been asked to teach by Mark Johnson in the Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia. I have taught in the past as an adjunct at other colleges and am looking forward to the new opportunities with UGA.

Here is a gallery of the Pictures of the Year for 2017.

 


I am looking forward to 2018 and will start the year with the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

How To: Christmas family photo where everyone will look great – Even pets!

Christmas Family Photo [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/200 – (2) Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT with MAGMOD MagSphere]
This is a family photo we did this year of our family with my wife’s family. One of our son’s couldn’t be there and had to work with a new job.

To get this final photo required me to be behind the camera saying “Do you want a treat?” to get the three dogs in the middle to look at the camera.

Photo without me

So this is actually the photo I took with me behind the camera.

Photo with me but the dogs not paying attention

Here are the steps to then add me into the photo with dogs looking the best.

Open photo with me in photo shop. Open the second photo in photo shop with dogs looking best. Select all and copy the photo of dogs best.

Go to the photo with me in it and paste the other photo on top of it.

You will now have two layers. the top will be the one with dogs looking best and I am not in the photo. See the copy of PhotoShop screen grab.

Now we need to create a mask. Down below the layers click on the mask.

It will now look like what I have screen grabbed here for you. Be sure the brackets are around the mask (white box) and that it is the top photo, which is the one without me. We are going to use the eraser and now erase the empty chair and reveal me.

You just need to brush me in. See the photo of the tools here. Pick the eraser. It has box around it.

Next be sure the foreground color is black and on top. This will let you erase me.

Now if you make a mistake you can then click so that the white is on top and use the same brush and brush back the photo on top.

 As you brush you can see in the mask that what you brush over becomes black.

Now when we I finished and showed the photo they wanted the small dog on the far left to look at the camera as well. So I looked for a photo of the small dog looking great.

So I found this photo and then using the same technique brushed in the dog.

Here the tips you need to follow to make this work.

First put the camera on a sturdy tripod. You want to lock down the composition so that nothing changes.

Second do not change the zoom if you are using one.

Third if you are in the photo use the timer or use a remote to fire the camera. I had left my remote so I set the camera timer to 10 seconds.

Fourth, be sure you have good lighting on everyone. For this photo I used two Godox V860IIN + Godox X1NT with MAGMOD MagSphere. Here is what the setup looked like:

Breaking Tradition to experience Christmas in Sparta, New Jersey

Christmas in Sparta, New Jersey. [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/60]
We are celebrating Christmas in Sparta, New Jersey this year. This is my wife’s hometown.

She hasn’t been home to celebrate at Christmas since 1985. During our time together we have spent many of the years with my family in North Carolina.

Family photo with Santa is my sister-in-laws family tradition. [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/3.6, 1/100]
Joey is my brother-in-law and while eating dinner he realized my families traditions might be different and he asked me what we did for family traditions at Christmas.

What I am really excited about is that our family is willing to do something different in order to be with part of our family we haven’t had as much time with this year.

Santa is watching me at breakfast and holding his naughty or nice list. [Fujifilm X-E3, 18-55mm, ISO 51200, ƒ/4, 1/4000]
Just seeing the decorations around the house reminds me that these are new traditions for us to be exposed.

Dorie and I went to see earlier this year The Man Who Invented Christmas. The movie is the journey that led to Charles Dickens’ creation of “A Christmas Carol,” a timeless tale that would redefine the holiday.

While you may have some really cool traditions for your family at Christmas ask others what their traditions are and why they do them. Maybe this year you too will learn to redefine the holiday for your family.

Maybe the process will bring you closer to Christ whom this holiday is all about.

Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas