Working with Afghan Refugees in Metro Atlanta

The Scarlet Ibis makes its home in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary in the Caroni Swamp in Trinidad. [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4500, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000, Focal Length = 300]

This story starts in Trinidad.

A little over a year ago in March 2019 I went to Trinidad to teach a Storytellers Abroad Workshop with Jeff Raymond. We were leading the workshop for Cedarville University student group led by Jeff Gilbert.

We were the outsiders needed help to navigate the country.

Lauralie Brock, Jeff Raymond, Scott Brock and Jeff Gilbert walking to get some Doubles in Trinidad. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/500, Focal Length = 24]

Our hosts who planned all of our accommodations and help find all of our stories was Scott & Lauralie Brock. We really hit it off and since then they had to return home to the states to take care of some of their family.

They relocated to Metro Atlanta in November of 2019.

Scott Brock talks about their work to the students from Cedarville University during the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Trinidad [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 51200, ƒ/9, 1/100, Focal Length = 32]

They felt called to work with the Afghan Refugees that had helped the US during the Afghan War and had to leave for their own safety came to Metro Atlanta to start over.

I wanted to help them during this pandemic to communicate to their supporters what they are doing now with so many restrictions to what they can safely do with their work.

Due to the people they work with cannot be shown for security reasons and practicing safe distancing we decided to just have them talk to the camera and share what is going on. Listen to how much they really love using their gifts of service to work with the Afghans.

What is wonderful about the Brocks is their “Go With The Flow” attitude. They are driven by their purpose, but are aware that the core element of developing a good relationship with others is the ability to listen and truly meet people where they are in life.

If you have gifts like accounting, law, nursing or anything else that you think they could use, connect with them. They could use a network of people that they have on speed-dial so they can just call to ask for help in answering questions to help the Afghans assimilate into American culture.

If you want to financially help support them and their work, then go here.

If you need to connect with them write to them:

What should I do?

Okay people I need advice: Camera A or Camera B?

This type of question is asked over and over and over in every photography group I have been a part of in my entire life.

For all who continue to ask for advice, here is my response:

More Information

You need to give us more information or the advice you get will show you that those offering their advice know as little as you about it.

They make different cameras for many reasons.

1) Price drives so many people’s purchases that they make cameras stripped down to cater to those who price is the most important issue. If you have a budget range you need to stay in that is always helpful to know. There is the Best and then there is the Best you can afford.

2) What type of photography are you doing?
* Landscapes
* Headshots
* Events
* Sports
* Astronomy

3) How will the photos be used? This impacts the size of the sensor.
* Huge Prints
* Web

4) Available light or strobes? This also affects the type of sensor you need in the camera.

5) Do you need video capabilities?

These are just some of the many, many more things one considers when buying gear.

For example if you are doing headshots, the odds are high you will be using strobes. You don’t need a camera with high ISO and can get by with a much cheaper camera.

If you are shooting sports you need a camera with large buffer and frame shooting rate.

Anytime you ask for advice it is always best to tell us what you are primarily purchasing the equipment to shoot. The tell us where the photos are used. If you do this then the advice will be better for you.

Okay people I need advice: Lens A, Lens B or Lens C?

See advice above!

Copying Prints with Nikon Z6

I have been doing a project for a friend where I scanned transparencies, negatives and copied prints, so that they now had all their photos in digital form to use and pass along to their children.

I just thought some would like to know how to setup to do the copying of prints. My setup is what you see above. Ideally you would want to use a copy stand to make prints.

Kaiser Reprokid Copy Stand Kit

This is a typical copy stand that I don’t own. I didn’t want to buy one if I could make do with what I own. So here is the step by step setup.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/6, ƒ/4, (35mm = 61)]

You are going to need to create a jig where every time you put a photo to copy in place it lines up consistently. I used two pieces of gaffer tape on a small fold up table.

Next I had a small plexiglass that I put tape on one side to act as a hinge and a piece of tape on the other side to use to lift it out of the way. This would keep each print flat as I copied it.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/4, ƒ/4, (35mm = 76)]

You need to be sure your camera is parallel to the prints. Easiest way is to put a mirror in the place of the print and then get your camera to be dead center of your frame looking into itself. See the example here.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/7, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 28)]

Now I am choosing to use two hot shoe flashes. Specifically the Neewer TT850 with the Neewer Wireless 16 Channel Remote. I have also put MagMod Grid on the front of the flash to keep the flash from lighting up my camera.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/6, ƒ/4, (35mm = 76)]

Now I also have zoomed the flashes to 105mm.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/54, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 28)]

I removed the table where the prints are to be and put the flash at the same height and distance. I then use this with the ExpoDisc to set my Custom White Balance on the Nikon Z6 camera using my Nikkor 60mm macro lens.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/5, ƒ/3.2, (35mm = 28)]

Be sure the lights are at 45º to the prints and the camera.

Using the same setup with the flashes on the stands I put the camera where the photos were with the ExpoDisc on the lens and shot many photos and dialed the flashes power up and down until I got a perfect histogram with the peak dead center for perfect exposure at ƒ/11 and shutter speed of 1/125. Of course I am shooting at ISO 100.

Using the Nikon Capture software I am tethered to the camera. I shoot everything raw and send it to an external hard drive.

Then after importing into Lightroom I select all the images and make a crop. As long as they are all the same size that is pretty much all you need to do to get a good copy. The I export them.

You can go photo by photo and tweak each exposure, but you just will not have the Dynamic Range you might be used to having when shooting raw with your digital camera. The reason is the latitude of a print is not a great deal as compared to today’s cameras.

The Dynamic Range on today’s digital cameras is about 14 stops. Photo prints are around 6 to 7 stops. So you are basically cutting the dynamic range in half.

Copy Work Setup [COOLPIX P7000, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/3, ƒ/3.2, (35mm = 28)]

I recommend cutting a hole in a sheet of black construction paper the size of the lens and put it around the lens to keep any reflections showing up in the prints because of the plexiglass can reflect things above it.

There are my tips.

Update on Photo Mechanic Plus – Database

I am learning something new every time I use this software. It is packed with so many features. Personally I think it is ready, but I don’t have the inside scoop or all the possible things it does that might still be glitchy. For me it is awesome.

391864 is the total number of images I have put into the database of the program. Remember it is basically Photo Mechanic 6 + the database.

You can add the images when you ingest your cards into the database by just clicking the Auto Catalog option on the ingest screen. I am not doing this, because I am really only interested in a catalogue of the JPEGs that I have processed.

I just select all the JPEGs after exporting them from Lightroom and right click for this menu to add them to the catalogue. As you can see you can also remove them just as simply this way.

The reminder still pops up to let you know this is a beta version. I hope it comes out soon.

Like I mentioned last time the left pane looks the same with the addition of the Folder and Catalog tabs. Here I am in the Photo Mechanic 6 folders and basically not much different than what you are used to using.

In the catalog you can click on filter and then new and you will see this pop up as the default. I changed from rating to all the other ones and tested some of them. Works great.

I chose date created and got this menu. So you can find things easily by year, month and day by drilling down.

You can also get to similar searches through the browse tab on the side.

This is great for those who just want to drill down by different methods.

If you rate by colors you can see all those you have in a catalog that are rated any color. The same for number rating.

I think this is a great way to find your best work.

When you find photos they will appear the same as they do in Photo Mechanic 6 with one exception. There is a circle in the bottom next to the file name. If it is empty as here, you can see the image, but the image is offline.

If it is green, then the image is online and you can do more than just see it, you have access to the original image.

This one feature is what I think takes a while for images to pop up. The database is checking to see if they are connected.

For the photographer who wants to find what they have created this is awesome tool. I will be buying it once it is available.

I think I would love to see this integrated with online galleries like PhotoShelter, Flickr, SmugMug and all the other software that are part of your uploading process with Photo Mechanic 6. What I would love to see is maybe another circle or something that lets you know if you have this online for others to see.

I am just ready for the software to be permanently on my computer and no longer a Beta Version.

Enjoying Red-Tailed Hawks nest in our backyard

Sibling Red Tailed Hawk nesting in our Backyard in Roswell, Georgia. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports + Sigma 2.0x Teleconverter TC-2001, Mode = Manual, ISO 5600, 1/1000, ƒ/8, (35mm = 550)]

Mankind has always been connected to animals around them. Many of us have pets that we feel connected to for love and support.

“Does the hawk take flight by your wisdom

    and spread its wings toward the south?

Job 39:26

Some Native American tribe’s tradition provides that each person is connected with nine different animals that will accompany him or her through life, acting as guides. Each of the animals is symbolic.

If  you see hawks showing up in your life frequently, it may be a call to see things from a higher perspective and focus on your observation skills. 

Red Tailed Hawk nest in our Backyard [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports + Sigma 2.0x Teleconverter TC-2001, Mode = Manual, ISO 1400, 1/1000, ƒ/8, (35mm = 600)]

The Hawk is thought to represent being a messenger, intuition, victory, healing, nobility, recollection, cleansing, visionary power, and guardianship.

So having this a Red-Tailed Hawk nest in our yard each year has been so fun. Right now during this Pandemic it is a good distraction.


  • Hawks can reach incredible heights and seem to touch the higher realms with ease, which can heighten your spiritual awareness.
  • Hawks soar high in the sky and have the ability to view all of life from this perspective. We need to look at the big picture, and not get too wrapped up in the petty details of things. This might mean that you need to deepen your focus on tasks at hand and not allow yourself to get distracted by the smaller details of life.
  • Hawks represent leadership and taking initiative. Hawks take action and maybe this is to remind us to take action.
  • Hawks observe their area before taking action. Study your situation thoroughly before making any rash decisions, as every action bears a consequence.
  • Hawks means that you are on the right path in life, and your spirit animal is there to make sure you keep on this path.

For Native Americans hawks will show up when you need guidance from the universe and support from something beyond yourself. The hawk represents focus, strength, and poise, and can show you your hidden abilities to lead yourself and others to a more positive outcome. Hawks can also help you to see the bigger picture and avoid getting caught up in the small details, so look to this powerful spirit animal the next time you need perspective on a certain situation.

Red Tailed Hawk nest in our Backyard [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 120-300mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sports + Sigma 2.0x Teleconverter TC-2001, Mode = Manual, ISO 8000, 1/8000, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 600)]

Priming the Pump

Eloi DeLma pumps water while Mano Bilarga Tiendeno waits for water at the theology school in Koudougou, Burkina Faso. (Photo By: Stanley Leary)
[NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/400, ƒ/5, (35mm = 27)]

“Priming the Pump” is the operation of older pumps – a suction valve had to be primed with water so that the pump would function properly.

Sosthene Zuma plays with water at well in Koudougou, Burkina Faso. (Photo By: Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2X, Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 EX DC, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/250, ƒ/5, (35mm = 27)]
Chick-fil-A often gives away samples of their products to help clients try their food before buying.
[NIKON D3, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 6400, 1/200, ƒ/5, (35mm = 24)]

Priming the pump allows your customers to experience your product or service and start the buzz. You need to get people talking, hopefully in a positive way, about what you are offering.

[NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/100, ƒ/4, (35mm = 52)]

Sales Funnel

This is the process through which a company finds, qualifies, and sells its products to buyers.

What many creatives struggle with the most is the business side of their work. While it can be very difficult and not very fun to do, it is the necessary part of getting those customers that will pay you to do what you love doing.

Don Miller of StoryBrand says that their experience is they have to work really hard at building Familiarity and Trust before the prospect makes a purchase. They have found from just sending out free email content in various ways that it takes more than 80 of these before a customers makes a purchase.

I think this is why the funnel shape is so great for the visual person. It is large at one end and small at the other. You must do a lot of work to get that one client.

For someone like myself it is getting examples of my work and how it helped other businesses in front of prospects.

One Campaign

Here is the video that helped this restaurant during the pandemic. I shared this with my prospect audience. But I needed another way to get this content in front of them.

I then did a blog post talking about what I did to give a peak into the process. [Click here to see that post]

Still I needed to be sure I got in front the client with more “Free Content” to give them a sample of what I do.

Then I did an “e-mail blast” to be sure they didn’t miss the blog post.

Remember what Don Miller said. He had to do more than 80 of these interactions before prospect became a client.

I then thought can’t the prospect see how great these videos are for small businesses. I believe more and more that you must connect the dots for your prospects. I then decided to go back to the restaurant and find out how the video helped them.

I did another video capturing their comments and review. I was not just happy about their comments, but blown away by how much it really helped them.

I did this same process many times and plan to continue doing this to get my name out as well as what I am can do for companies to improve their sales and for nonprofits to increase their giving.

I shared the original video of I Canita Cake and then followed up with the review video and posted it in my blog.

I am also posting these links on all the social media I can think of that would be helpful to those audiences.

If you are a communications colleague of mine I hope this inspires you to work on your sales funnel. If you are a prospect, please consider partnering with me so together we can help you work on your sales funnel by using storytelling as a way to engage your audience.

Time to work the soil & plant seeds

Paul Tiendeno at the theology school in Koudougou, Burkina Faso. They not only teach theology but farming to help the pastors feed their families while they minister as a bi-vocational pastor. (Photo By: Stanley Leary)
[NIKON D2X, 18.0-50.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/320, ƒ/5, (35mm = 27)]

I am thinking about Chauncey Gardiner, the main character in Jerzy Kosinski’s classic novel, “Being There.” He said, “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden. … There is much to be done during the winter, I must start the seeds for the spring, I must work the soil.”

Right now I am making the most of my time by doing projects to show my skills of storytelling.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

2 Corinthians 9:6
In the bush village of Sabtenga, the oldest man in a hat was Musanai Zemnai, the Chief of the Young People, welcomes the group. Here he is holding up peanuts, which the Bissa people group is known for growing. (photo by: Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2X, AF Zoom 18-50mm f/2.8G, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/400, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 75)]

Every day I wake up and look for something I can do. One of the ways I have been keeping myself busy was doing videos to help businesses and organizations messages out about what they are doing during this pandemic.

While the actual amount of time will depend on your individual business and circumstances, for a small to medium-sized business, a strong content marketing strategy generally takes between six and nine months to yield real results. I have also heard six to eighteen months as well as a realistic time to see return on your investment.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7

I am reminded through scripture that throughout history you can only do what you can control, your actions. You cannot be a puppet master and control others or God. You do what you can and must realize much is out of your hands.

Woman carries a load on her head in the bush village of Sabtenga, Burkina Faso. (photo by: Stanley Leary) [NIKON D2X, 18.0-50.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 400, 1/320, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 27)]

I am doing videos to help my neighbors in Roswell, GA. These are my seeds.

What are your seeds? Are you working your garden?

Here a few videos I have done this past week.

Telecommuting Not an Option

Mendel Rashi, a Hungarian Jewish homeless gentleman who couldn’t quite remember his age, was headed to a Kroger store in Atlanta where he planned to sleep in a corner outside as protection from the cold weather. He likes to spend his days being free to roam with his carts of ‘silver and gold’ treasures. He has but four teeth and isn’t able to eat much except soft fruit, especially bananas. photo by © Robin Rayne/ZUMA PRESS

Photojournalist Robin Rayne – Selfie

To minimize the risk of infection, photojournalist Robin Rayne is equipped with masks and gloves, in addition to disinfecting all the photographic equipment he carries on a daily basis. In search of stories, Robin has been on duty in visiting those on the fringes of society. Robin knows many journalists are covering the “Front Lines”, but he sees the need to show those who often fall through the cracks during crisis are not forgotten.

Working on a new story about Victoria, who has Mitochondrial Disease and needs strong CBD oil to keep her seizures under control. The story will explore what life for her family is like during this time of COVID-19. photo by ©Robin Rayne/ZUMA
1 Corinthians 15:8-10 
and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Most of the stories I see from Robin make me say “there but for the grace of God go I.”

A group of self-described conservative “patriots” gather outside Cherokee County Courthouse on Sunday April 19 to protest the state’s “shelter in place” orders because of the COVID19 pandemic. Several were armed with AR-15 weapons. Organizers voiced a list of grievances against the state, arguing citizen’s rights were being violated because of the orders, and vow to ignore state mandate. photo by © Robin Rayne/ZUMA PRESS

Every story must have a conflict and with Robin’s camera he puts that conflict front and center. The photos will be in your face and make you “Feel” and not just “See” the story.

While Robin has been looking for stories to do on those who often fall through the cracks, I have been looking for people and businesses to tell their story during this pandemic. I decided to tell Robin’s story. Here is a video I did on Robin.

Do you know of a nonprofit or business that is in a crisis due to this pandemic? Tell them about how I can help them get their story in front of their audience.

Take a look at the other videos I have done for businesses to help them tell what they are doing during this pandemic. Consider passing my information on to them.

Maybe you want to donate to me to do more stories like this one here.

Go here and there is more information for you.

Can I Get a Hug?

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds The joint effort from the Navy and the Air Force is part of multiple flyovers across the nation called America Strong — a “collaborative salute” to honor healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers as they combat COVID-19. [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 320, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 440)]

Horse is a basketball shooting game where players take turns shooting at the hoop from different locations. If someone makes a shot but everyone else misses, those people get a letter toward the word ‘HORSE‘. The last person left standing wins! In photography we have shoot outs. Where we all are shooting the same subject at the same time.

There are events where people are not just interested in posting a picture for the fun of it, but need a hug. They need affirmation.

Scott Kelby presenting at 2011 Southwestern Photojournalism Conference

During the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference speaker Scott Kelby joked, “You go to Flickr for a hug.” The whole room started laughing and knew exactly what Scott was talking about.

You see all photographers love to have people respond to their photos.

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 360, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 460)]

So yesterday in Atlanta we had a joint effort from the Navy and the Air Force is part of multiple flyovers across the nation called America Strong — a “collaborative salute” to honor healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential workers as they combat COVID-19.

Before the event I was asked in an online chat with Zoom of other photographers where the best place to photograph them would be. Well, this is a clue that photographers all want a shot at getting an iconic image if possible and frankly to “Get A Hug”. To do this online you just look for those “LIKES”.

No photo description available.

When it comes to likes on your photos my wife has me beat. She posted her photos on 11 Alive Weather group page. On this page as of writing this post she had 296 LIKES.

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds. photo by Dorie Griggs [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 800, 1/8000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

I gave her one of my cameras to shoot during the fly over. So Dorie shot the photos with the Nikon Z6 and the Nikon 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 lens. I set the camera up for her to shoot at the fastest shutter speed of 1/8000 and Auto ISO.

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds photo by Dorie Griggs [NIKON Z 6, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Manual, ISO 800, 1/8000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 300)]

I did get likes on my Facebook and Instagram pages for the photos.

This was the one comment that made my day. It was my “Virtual Hug” .

I like it when someone notices something that I did that made my images “Different”. Notice I didn’t say “Better”.

Nikon Ambassador Dave Black changed my perspective on always trying to improve my photography. He opened my perspective by this one comment. Look for something “Different” not necessarily “Better”. Dave had discovered through his career that when something is “Different” the audience will stop and look.

Chelle Leary at Krog Street Tunnel in Atlanta, Georgia [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 10000, 1/160, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

So earlier this year I went to the Krog Street Tunnel in Atlanta with my daughter Chelle. I had just bought the Flashpoint XPlor 600 HSS TTL monolights. We had fun playing around and looking for something “Different”.

Krog Street Tunnel Chelle Leary [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 1000, 1/60, ƒ/4, (35mm = 90)]

It is easier to stand out by not shooting what everyone else photographs.

The Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force’s Thunderbirds [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 360, 1/4000, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 340)]

What I had hoped to get with the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds was them passing the King and Queen, but the location I picked didn’t have the advantage point I thought it had. Rather than spending time driving to look for a better angle, I just stayed put.

By the way once you go pro everyone expects you to have awesome photos, so you get less likes, unless you really get that “Different” photo that Dave Black talked about.