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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The California Honeydrops don’t just play music—they throw parties. Drawing on diverse musical influences including Bay Area R&B, funk, Southern soul, Delta blues and New Orleans second-line, they have taken those parties all over the world, playing festivals of all kinds and touring widely across North America, Europe and Australia. The band was honored to tour with Bonnie Raitt on her 2016 North American album release tour, and in the past has been privileged to support the likes of B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Buddy Guy and Dr. John. Whether playing for audiences of thousands or in intimate venues where they can leave the stage and get down on the dance floor, the California Honeydrops’ shared vision and purpose remain: to make the audience dance and sing.
Founded by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski and percussionist Ben Malament, The Honeydrops got their start busking on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area where they quickly developed a passionate local following. But the band’s roots stretch back to Wierzynski’s childhood in Poland where he soaked up the sounds of contraband American recordings by the likes of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong. Later, as a first- generation immigrant to the U.S. and child of political refugees, he assimilated himself by devouring American rock & roll, soul, jazz and hip-hop recordings. His musical immersion continued at Oberlin College and on the club circuit in Oakland, California.
Growing up playing trumpet all the way into college bands and singing for the church I just loved the groups sound. Their music is quite eclectic as far as most bands that have a more narrow style.
Hearing a washboard being played with horn section was just amazing. The syncopation and groove that they got into made me feel like I was just enjoying the musicians in a garage jam session where they were playing for the love of the music rather than for a performance only.
Terminal West was one of the best venues in Atlanta that I have been to for a small intimate band experience.
The cost of our tickets was only $15 each. The food was also great and reasonably priced.
They had two bars and the staff was excellent.
We will be looking for more bands playing at Terminal West in the near future.
Robin Nelson had been encouraging me for years to cover the Atlanta Pride Parade.
Each year UGA’s Photojournalism students are asked by their teacher Mark Johnson to shadow a working professional photojournalist. Kayla Renie contacted Robin to follow her shooting. Robin suggested her to follow her at the Atlanta Pride Parade.
The mission of the Atlanta Pride Committee is to advance unity, visibility, and wellness among persons with widely diverse gender and sexual identities through cultural, social, political, and educational programs and activities.
Kayla did her interview on the front end of the coverage since Robin would have to leave for another engagement before the parade was done.
When the parade hits the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont, things get confrontational. A “Christian” group stood at the street corner holding signs denouncing not just the LGBQT community, but Muslims, Women who work outside the home, and the list went on and on.
What was interesting to me was how the “Christian” group would pick people out and start yelling at them. All based on what they perceived as a person deserving condemnation.
The reason I put the “Christian” group in quotes is this is what was creating a great deal of tension in my gut. Robin came up to me at one point and asked if covering something like this can give you PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] from covering an event?
According to the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma “Journalists frequently bear witness to human suffering whether covering mass disasters or individual atrocities; however, little is known regarding the impact of such exposure on the well-being of journalists. Researchers in the field of traumatic stress are only beginning to examine the toll this line of work may have on the health of journalists.”
“Research suggests that between 80-100% of journalists have been exposed to a work-related traumatic event.”
When a protestor gets in the journalists face and starts to yell this can be very traumatic. If the journalists feels they are in physical danger then this can trigger a trauma experience which the brain has a hard time processing.
I watched as Kayla and Robin were taking moments to talk to each other to process all they were seeing, hearing and most of all feeling from covering such an event.
According to research on PTSD reported by the Dart Center you can have a personal experience with work-related stressors such as experiencing Aggression, Intimidation or Moral Injury.
The hardest part for Robin, Kayla and even myself today was that each of us are professing Christians who did not agree with the tactics of this “Christian” group. It was running opposite our beliefs of how to act as a Christian.
Apparently other Christians have felt this way and created their own signs that not only reflect a different position but declared that all those in the Atlanta Pride events could also be Christians.
Each of those polar opposite groups believed that the others were wrong and they were right.
This man is confronting Robin saying he wasn’t part of their group. This is when Robin wanted to have a friendly conversation and said well “I am a born again believer as well.” I think the photo reveals the posturing that was happening between them. One wanted dialogue and one wanted to just judge.
So how does a person cover an event as a “journalist” when they have all these feelings? How do you cover something when you may pick one of the sides personally because of your own belief system?
This was what Robin was trying to teach Kayla that day as she shadowed Robin. Robin has been able to bring her faith into her work and not leave it behind. She believes that everyone is God’s child. This means everyone deserves to be treated with honor dignity and respect, even when they are wearing a strange outfit.
As a journalist you do all you can to be sure you let both sides be represented in the coverage. If you are aware of your bias and acknowledge it you have a better chance of overcoming the bias.
This photo was as close as I came to showing both sides. The “Christian” Group were first on the corner and then you could hear the crowd roar as coming down the sidewalk was a group carrying Pansies.
They called themselves the Pansy Patrol. They had whistles to blow and these large pansies on sticks. Their mission was to block as much of the “Christian” group’s protest banners and make enough noise to drown them out with their whistles.
Still there were those who chose to be more confrontational to the “Christians”.
They not only confronted the group but took selfies in front of their banners and mocking them on social media.
When you are an event like the Atlanta’s Pride Weekend where hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend the parade, which ends at Piedmont Park, you have to be able to cover the event for your news outlet. You also have to not editorialize your coverage so as to be more of an activist with an agenda about the event.
If you want to do this then you may be able to find a job with an organization that fits your beliefs and do social activism, but don’t consider this the same as journalism.
Robin told me that over the years the Atlanta Pride Parade had become more commercial than in the early years. I personally saw many corporations participating in the parade.
Each company had their on #hashtag and were there to let everyone know that they supported the LGBTQ community. The reason I included them in my photos was I wanted to show how the corporate community is supporting the event.
While it was a tough assignment for Kayla to jump into with all the emotions surrounding the Atlanta Pride event, I think she enjoyed watching a professional photojournalist like Robin do her job and be able to ask her questions to help understand how she might have to cover something outside her comfort zone in the future as a photojournalist herself.
Both Robin and I were quite impressed with Kayla’s eagerness to learn and how well she did interacting with people throughout the day.
35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The best moments for celebration almost always are when we have set goals that took a great deal of effort to achieve.
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28
At The Citadel there is the fourth class system. The purpose of the Fourth Class System at The Citadel is to provide a base upon which a fourth class cadet may develop those qualities essential to a good leader.
Although the System is demanding and difficult, the rewards are considerable and more than justify the effort. Upon recognition by the upper-class cadets in the spring of the Knob year, a better person emerges – one who is mentally, morally, physically and spiritually prepared to accept the responsibilities of leadership – a role which will ultimately be his/hers at The Citadel and in the world.
Isn’t that the purpose of setting goals and meeting them? You are better for taking actions to meet those goals.
Don’t just create a goal without a lot of thought in what you are setting up for yourself.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” Ps. 127:1
My faith teaches me to pray about decisions. Take some time and allow God to speak to you. He will give you the peace of making a decision and your chances of achieving the goal is not just better, but the reward is often much better than when we pursue vanity.
I find that making goals where others are there to support you like they do in the Fourth Class system at The Citadel means you have a better chance of achieving them.
The Citadel has an above average at retaining students past freshman year with a 86.0% retention rate.
Based on the caliber of first-time/full-time students that attend Citadel Military College of South Carolina we would expect an overall graduation rate of 58.3%. However, students are graduating at a rate that is 9.1% higher. That means Citadel Military College of South Carolina is performing above average at graduating students based upon those students’ anticipated academic achievement in college.
“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7
Do you have a goal that you are working on in your life? If not–Why Not?
This past Sunday my wife Dorie Griggs was asked to give the message for Parent’s Weekend at the Summerall Chapel on The Citadel by Chaplain to the Corps of Cadets and Director of Religious Activities Joe Molina.
Dorie introduced the concept that often we live either in the mindset of Good Friday, the Saturday in between or Resurrection Sunday.
I came prepared to video tape Dorie speaking for our own records and to share with friends and family that couldn’t be there.
Listen to her message here. Many people commented on how much they appreciated the message.
Now before Dorie’s sermon The Citadel’s Gospel Choir sang.
I didn’t plan on shooting a video of them singing or I would have been further back. But please listen to them sing.
I enjoyed seeing the joy on the cadets faces.
Now the service was a lot of pomp and circumstance. They have a Color Guard bring the colors in to start the service.
Few tips if you decide to cover your church service.
Talk to minister first to get permission
Go stand on the stage and get a custom white balance
If video taping use wireless Lavalier microphone for speaker
Plan your moves around so that it is at a minimum
Recommend zoom for less movement verses a fixed lens
Upload your photos to a online gallery like PhotoShelter
Knowing your subject gives you insights to what makes a better photo than just any photo.
My son was a Summerall Guard at the Citadel in the class of 2011. During this time I took more photos of them performing and started to see these moments that I thought gave you insights into how they communicate during a silent drill.
One thing I noticed was the face expressions showed them counting to themselves or when they breathed loudly so those around them would hear. This let them all know if they were together in their counts and their moves.
The Summerall Guard was formed in 1932. Membership is considered a high honor at the military college. The platoon’s purpose is to exemplify, through a unique series of movements based on the old German close order drill, the exactness and thoroughness with which a cadet is trained. The drill, is performed to a silent count. Each year’s Guards take responsibility for teaching the next year’s unit the precise drill.
In sports very similar predictable moments happen as well. I know that if I am covering a team like The Citadel they are trying to get to the goal that they are facing. So even on defense if a fumble or interception happens the players will try and go towards the goal.
I like to stand or kneel in the endzone which they are going so that I can see their faces. If I am on the sideline I sometimes get their faces, but when I am face on to them the percentage of photos with their faces seems to be a lot better for photos.
Their extra effort on the play will be them lunging towards the goal line, which is where I am standing.
The holes that the offensive linemen are creating for the running backs is facing that goal line.
Even if they are stopped, which is most of the time, the expression on their faces shows that often they are putting it all on the line. This type of a tackle photo when the guy just got a first down works well on sports pages.
As you can see in both the examples of the Citadel cadets that if they are on the Summerall Guards or if they are playing a sport it is the face expression that draws the audience into the photograph.
What you are wanting to show as the photographer is the effort and one of the best ways to capture this is in the expressions.
Go here to see more of my photos from The Citadel during Parent’s Weekend.
By the way were were at The Citadel due to request for my wife Dorie Griggs to preach on Sunday. Here is her message if you would like to hear it.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” ― Mark Twain
Too many photographers do not spend enough time editing their photos. Editing has many different stages of the process. The very first step is that of culling. I just want to address culling today for this blog.
Culling is used as describing the process of reducing the population of (a wild animal) by selective slaughter.
While there are maybe more definitions I think this one will help you remember you will take the entire shoot and narrow it down to the keepers.
When I am using PhotoMechanic as my editing tool after I ingest all the photos the first thing I do is go one-by-one and look at each image full screen size. I then press the “T” key to keep the ones that are:
Good or great moment – If I have a series of a sports play I may only keep 2 or 3 of 20 to 30 images of a play.
Can see faces/No back of heads – If someone starts to turn away from me or someone block them I don’t keep those that you cannot see their faces.
Good expressions – When people are giving a speech for example I eliminate those awkward expressions. The same as avoiding people putting food in their mouth. No blinks of the important people in the photo.
After I have tagged the keepers I then select all the untagged photos and delete them. For an event this may well be 80% of the photos. For studio portraits more about 20% will be deleted.
Too many photographers often think this is the only photo I have of someone and I don’t want to leave them out. So they put up on their social media or gallery for people to see an out of focus, back of the head, and bad exposed photo so that the person knows they took their photo.
It is much easier to just take photos and then post everyone you took than taking the time to go through and eliminate all the photos that would never be published by a client. If you can’t imagine a commercial client taking your photo and putting it up on a billboard to sell their product due to focus, exposure and seeing the people’s faces then don’t put it up on social media.
More people will have the opportunity to see your photo published on social media than will ever drive by the billboard, so get rid of anything that shouldn’t be published for the world to see.
There are two main reasons to edit your photos to the best ones and get rid of all those that shouldn’t be published.
First reason is treating people with honor, dignity and respect. If you publish a photo of a person that they will regret being of them, then you have done damage to them. Now I will admit sometimes there are photos that people don’t like of themselves even if they are wonderful photos of them. There are just some people that wouldn’t like any photo.
There is a second reason to cull a photo out of your take–Your Reputation!
You want to think of you as a photographer and not a hack. We use this to describe poor golfers as well. But you don’t want to have the reputation as a hack when it comes to photography.
You want people to invite you to their events and not to tell you to come but leave your camera at home.
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
What lenses do you take on a job? For me I might take all I can but a better question might be which ones do you try to use the most.
One lens I love to use a lot these past couple of years is the Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 Art lens. It is so sharp.
I love to fill the frame get pretty close to people and let that background go out of focus giving that smooth BOKEH. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.
The cool thing beyond the BOKEH is shooting a much lower ISO than you have to do with say ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6.
The shallow depth-of-field makes the subject just pop out of the photo.
The closer you get to the subject the even shallower depth-of-field becomes with the lens.
The other cool thing I love about giving clients photos with this lens is you cannot get this look with your iPhone.
While I love this lens I often am having to just react to a moment. I need to have more than a 35mm lens. I love a good zoom and when it comes to photographing people I love the Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4 Art lens.
Sometimes I need to be really wide like in this photo of the Sunday School teacher reading a story about the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.
Next I need to go a little tighter in the photo.
Then I am right back out shooting wide again.
I like working around three to five feet of the people I am photographing. Sometimes I might get a little closer or I have something in between me and the subject that backs me up a little further.
With this lady in the Sunday School class I am on the other side of the table. But I could get a little closer by zooming.
Here the lady is in between me and this lady smiling. But I could isolate her and make you the audience look where I want you to look.
Next I turn and get some shots of the teacher. You cannot run everywhere on a photo shoot without becoming the focus of everyone. That is what happens often when I have just a couple of fixed lenses. I might have a 85mm ƒ/1.8 on one camera and then the 35mm ƒ/1.4 on the other camera, but with the zoom I can get much better compositions without moving so much I become a distraction.
Very rarely do I ever use on camera flash, but I had no assistant and setting up a light stand would have been knocked over with so many people. The people were backlit and were pretty much a silhouette. I just filled in using the Godox V860IIN with MagMod sphere to soften and spread the light. I used slow sync and was able with the Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4 Art lens capture this moment.
My goal was to give the client a variety. You cannot do that with one lens as easily as mixing up the looks with a few lenses.
Hope these insights help you on your next photo shoot.
For the past nine to ten years I have made a journey to Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism class at the Grady School of Journalism on the campus of the University of Georgia. Each time I present on the topic of how to make a living as a photographer.
This last visit three of Mark’s former students that I work with on my Chick-fil-A account came to the class as well. They had all been in the class when I spoke in the past.
Earlier in the morning Brenna Chambliss and I were doing a video shoot in town with a Chick-fil-A operator. She was my client and directing the project. Just a few years ago she was one of Mark’s students.
After we finished that morning Brenna took me around campus for a tour. I got to ring the bell on campus. I had never done that before. That was a cool experience.
Brenna told me that she learned more about life lessons from Mark Johnson than from any other classes at UGA. He was the person that helped her understand that it is all about relationships.
The program has grown in the past few years. They now have 80 students taking the introductory photojournalism class and in his advanced class has 20 students where in the past that was limited to 16.
My presentation you can download from the link above.
The best part about having Jackie, Brenna and Mercedes is that they were the evidence that there are jobs in the industry for the students.
During the class and afterwards the students asked a lot of questions and took time to talk with all of us that came.
Mark got a lot of hugs from Jackie, Brenna and Mercedes. Now that they have been working for a few years they knew even more how much Mark prepared them for the jobs they have today.
During the presentation I realized I could just ask the three who were with me some of the points I wanted to make. I asked Jackie when she meets with a client what does she talk to them about for a project. She wasn’t expecting this and we hadn’t rehearsed, but she listed how she would ask questions about why they needed something. She would then talk to them in a way that all the ideas were addressing that need. She also gives them options.
I then put up the PowerPoint slide and it said exactly what I had prepared. The reason I knew Jackie would know what to say is professional communicators who do a great job start with asking those questions of clients to help the client meet those objectives that sometimes they haven’t thought about.
For more than nine years I have gone to the class met people and then helped some of them find jobs with Chick-fil-A or even steered them to other employers. I have helped some of them with internships in the summer with WinShape Camps that is non-profit run by the family that owns Chick-fil-A.
When I was first asked if it was OK if the three ladies came along they were thinking more about how wonderful it would be to visit and see Mark Johnson. How could they justify going up to the class away from their jobs was their question. I suggested they make it a recruiting trip.
Ken Willis their agencies boss understood exactly what I was suggesting and made it a recruiting time for them.
When I asked Jackie how she think it went for possible people she had a wonderful response, “We will see who follows up.”
Not all 20 students met with one of the three that came to recruit. Some had to go to other classes and took their cards. Some talked to them.
My suggestion anytime a possible employer comes to your class do your best to meet them. Show interest in them and try to learn as much as you can about their work environment and what they do. There is no job to turn down until they offer one.
If you take their card then write to them a letter thanking them for coming. Why? The reason is quite simple. You need to network and build your contact database and build relationships. While you may not work for the person you meet they are often a great resource with their network to put you in touch with someone else that might be a better fit. You can’t find this out unless you make an attempt at building those relationships which will become your network for the rest of your life.