Don’t Forget Your Camera!

Shot this barn on Yellow Creek Road in Ball Ground, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 140, 1/2000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

I am starting to plan those little outings with friends that were not possible just a couple months ago. I am only planning these outings with my friends who have gotten their vaccinations for COVID-19.

Gibbs Gardens [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/640, ƒ/4, (35mm = 75)]

We drove up to Ball Ground, Georgia to visit Gibbs Gardens for the day. One of the things I love about the gardens are the bronze statues. Most are depictions of children enjoying the gardens. I think the artist did an awesome job of capturing their expressions.

Gibbs Gardens [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 110, 1/100, ƒ/4, (35mm = 24)]

For people from my generation or older, we grew up with our parents telling us to go outside and most of us did just that. We played all day long until our parents would holler to get us back in for dinner. We had not heard of kidnappings during my years growing up.

Gibbs Gardens [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/100, ƒ/4, (35mm = 105)]

When I was really young you could see me on this tractor peddling through Kennedy Home, an orphanage where my father worked as a pastor/chaplain to the campus.

My sister and me with my grandparents at Kennedy Home in Kinston, NC.

Later during primary school years I was on my bike exploring around my neighborhood. I remember the fun of going through the woods and stumbling upon beautiful scenery. Gibbs Garden’s scenery is a better version of those scenes, but still made me appreciate getting out and exploring.

Gibbs Gardens [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 62)]

I enjoyed seeing the reflections in the water at Gibbs Gardens.

While driving to Gibbs Gardens I commented to my friend I wanted to stop by this farm scene on the way back. My friend reminded me of it and not only did I stop, I got out my drone to get a different perspective. The very first photo is of the entrance to the farm.

[DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 110, 1/3000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

We didn’t go in, but I sent the drone up and above to get some different photos of this abandoned building on the farm.

[DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 110, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

This past year I helped a few families organize their photos. Because they were isolated at home they explored their photos. I hope you did as well. I just wanted to remind you to be sure you take photos as you explore once again beyond your home.

Be sure and put copies up on Google Photos, Amazon Photos [free with prime] or something else to help preserve these photos for your family generations from now.

Before & After Commercial Real Estate

The above photo is the final product I delivered to the client.

Now this is an available light photo of what it looks like without the editing.

This is another shot from the shoot. I am mixing flash with ambient light. Many call this Flambient Lighting technique. Take a look at this before ambient light shot below.

Take a look at the colors in the carpet and furniture. The biggest gain in using flash is getting more accurate colors. When you are shooting these photos for a designer, they want accurate colors. You can be in the ball park for most residential real estate projects, but commercial it has to be accurate.

I am working hard to make the photos not look like flash. You see it is impossible to put your flashes in the exact same location as all the natural lighting to get similar shadows.

Many photographers will just shoot all available light and then use multiple exposures and combine those for a HDR photo.

Comparing HDR Ambient vs Flambient

Here this is a 5 – Stop HDR photo of the location using just ambient.

This is the Flambient version. I think the colors pop and are more accurate. Also the lightning on the cabinets in the back are better than the available light.

It takes about 10 – 20 minutes to shoot each photo and about the same amount of time to edit each photo. This is one of the reasons why commercial real estate photography costs a more. The other reason for increased cost it is being used more widely for marketing and advertising.

City in a Forest

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 120, 1/1250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Granite quarrying at Stone Mountain, Georgia was the area’s lifeblood for decades, employing many thousands. The excellent grade of building stone from the mountain was used in many notable structures, including the locks of the Panama Canal, the roof of the bullion depository at Fort Knox, Philadelphia’s Liberty National Building, and the steps in the east wing of the U.S. Capitol.

Downtown Stone Mountain, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 110, 1/3000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

When you are selling real estate it is all about Location, Location, Location. For the Park Springs retirement community the location they are promoting is the proximity to Stone Mountain. The population was 5,802 according to the 2010 US Census. 

Club House at the Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 130, 1/1600, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Drone photography is the newest Aerial form of photography. As long as you can get your photo from 400 feet or less then this is the best way to capture your property. If you have a massive location needing you to be 500 feet or better in height, then you need a helicopter or plane to get those shots.

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 130, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

While showing the Park Springs community near Stone Mountain, this wasn’t the only reason to shoot photos from a drone.

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 8.4)]

Showing the lake in the middle of the community was also important. From the air you get a great perspective.

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/1250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 8.4)]

Right next to the property is also a golf course. This is really impossible to show from the ground as it relates to the retirement community.

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 110, 1/2000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 8.4)]

While I was flying the drone and showing the client the images, they commented on from the air you do see how Atlanta is the City of Trees.

Park Springs Retirement community in DeKalb County, Georgia [DJI Air 2s, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/1600, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 8.4)]

The city of Atlanta, Georgia has a reputation as the “city in a forest” due to its abundance of trees, uncommon among major cities. Tree coverage was estimated at 47.9% for 2008 in a 2014 study.

Are you using aerial photography to help communicate your location and what surrounds your business? Give me a call and we can get it done for you.

Bird’s Eye View Can Help Marketing

[DJI Air 2s, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Storytellers Abroad Workshop Bucharest, Romania Herăști, Giurgiu, Romania

Selfie sticks not only let you get more people in a photo, most everyone like the slightly higher perspective. Just take this principle to a property and you understand why you would like to use an aerial photo of your location.

Chatham’s Greenway Neighborhood [DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/30, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

In Real Estate aerial photos help you get a perspective of the location of a property and what is around it.

This is me on that day of getting aerial shots of the campus for the school. [photo by Craig Carden]

Back in 2014 I rented a Helicopter to photograph a private high school. That was $600 for an hour. The client then paid for my time on top of that photo shoot.

Shot from Helicopter [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 800, 1/800, ƒ/8, (35mm = 19)]

It took more time waiting on the helicopter and getting in the air than getting my drone up in the air.

There are going to be times that the property on the ground will require you to fly more than 400 feet above the ground. In those cases you will still need to hire a helicopter. FAA rules keep drones at 400 feet above the ground or say a building. There is a 100 feet buffer between the drone limit and the rest of airspace for manned aircraft that cannot fly below 500 feet unless they are landing.

The advantage of having a drone capture images from the Bird’s Eye Perspective is they don’t need to be extremely high above the ground. Actually, you just need to be just above a property to get a good perspective.

St John’s Baptist Church in Connelly Springs, North Carolina. [DJI Mavic Air 2, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/40, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

Keeping your drone flights safe and legal is the other part of the “flying smart” equation. Always do your research and due diligence to know and comply with local and federal laws. Before taking to the sky, a FAA Part 107 certified pilot will run through a quick safety checklist and ensure that the aircraft is in tiptop working shape.

Aerial photography is the perfect way to show off the surrounding environment around your property. Why? Because location is everything. And in many industries, location sells. 

Rediscovering My Purpose

Photo of me with my daughter Chelle and her cat Salem. Chelle took this with her phone on a timer.

So much of our identity is fused with our jobs, our function, our company. That actually isn’t all that bad.

Ephesians 2:10, NIV: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Early in my career I was paying the dues working at The Hickory Daily Record honing my craft of visual storytelling through the skill of photojournalism.

Shot on May 24, 1985 while working at The Hickory Daily Record.

In life, we put a lot of emphasis on dates, on periods of time, and on milestone anniversaries. We often tell our stories as a timeline. After a while you will learn to see a theme in those milestones. For me those milestones were me learning to listen to people and hear their stories first hand and then helping to tell those stories using impactful visuals with words.

Philip Newberry almost died of meningitis just before his second birthday. As the missionary child recovered, his hands and feet were amputated because of gangrene. An antibiotic after surgery caused 70 percent of his skin to slough off, but he was recovering two weeks later. Philip with his mother, Jan, and with his sister Amy.

I quickly turned my storytelling to my faith. I was working on the most successful magazine for the church during the 1980s The Commission Magazine. It told the story of international missionaries for the Baptist. However, by the end of that decade controversy in the denomination impacted giving and I lost my job through a layoff.

Microneedles give painless shots. The smaller the hypodermic needle, the less it hurts when it pierces skin. Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed ways to manufacture solid and hollow metal, silicon, plastic and glass microneedles that range in size from one millimeter to one thousandth of a millimeter.

I went back to school for my masters in communication from a seminary. I believed that this would help me become a specialist in humanitarian work. Well I graduated and the only job I could find was to work at Georgia Tech.

This was one of the few advantage points to capture divers and the Olympic Logo for the Centennial Games in Atlanta.

I told the stories of researchers, athletes, administrators and more for ten years at Georgia Tech. I lost that job.

You see there were seasons of where I was helping a particular genre of people’s stories. It helped me to develop skills such as lighting, cross cultural understanding and most of all learning to listen better and better. I am still learning how to listen even better. I think that will be a lifetime lesson.

Surgeon Danny Crawley is in theatre doing a hernia operation and Comfort Bawa, theatre assistant helps him at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana.

I never stopped telling missionary stories and this morphed into telling humanitarian stories. Humanitarian work is promoting human welfare and social reforms. The goal is to save lives, relieve suffering, and maintain human dignity.

Just Coffee and Frontera de Cristo [NIKON D3S, 24.0-120.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 4000, 1/1000, ƒ/6.3, (35mm = 62)]

I was helping tell the story of migrant workers who wanted to stay in Mexico. They could if only they could cut out the middle man [the roaster] and form a cooperative of coffee growers. That story helped the cooperative grow and more coffee growers to join and change their community.

The president of Honduras came to the US to thank the organization and all they have done to improve their country.

The President of Honduras Juan Orlando Hernández meets with President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Center in Atlanta.

I was just trying to survive by shooting anything, I was covering the Peach Bowl in 2008. During that game Greg Thompson met my wife Dorie in the press box. He was shooting the game with his son. My wife gave him my card and told him to look me up on the sidelines. Well he didn’t meet me then, but went to my website and shortly after that asked me to help him as a consultant with Chcik-fil-A’s corporate communications team.

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl 2019 [NIKON D5, 120.0-300.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 11400, 1/4000, ƒ/4, (35mm = 195)]

For the next twelve years I worked on that team and working a great deal with the family as well.

Video Shoot for home office Tour Truet Cathy, Dan Cathy, Trudy Cathy, Bubba Cathy

In March of 2020 I found myself sitting at home was needless to say, a very unusual feeling. The pandemic had shifted my career as much as any other job change had done so in the past.

I believe that God gave me the gift to help tell people’s stories better than they could without my help.

[DJI Air 2S, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/1000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

I studied and got my FAA Part 107 Certified Commercial Drone Pilot license. I started helping Chick-fil-A, real estate people and businesses use this new perspective to engage their audience. It was another arrow in my quiver.

I have always done headshots for actors, business people and a good number for counselors.

Dubbed “the new handshake,” professional headshots are now the first introduction to you, your business and your personal brand—shouldn’t that intro be the best it can be? With 93% of HR professionals and recruiters tapping into LinkedIn to find quality candidates—plus candidates—plus 2 in 3 on Facebook and more than half utilizing Twitter—that headshot has countless applications in your professional life.

What have I discovered?

The issue was that I needed to sitt with myself. With my thoughts. My emotions. My feelings. I had to do “the work.”

“The Work,” was to understand how I truly feel. To do this justice you need time. This past year–I had plenty of time. I created a Zoom call group on every Friday for the past year. It was due to no longer getting the FOCUS group together in person, why not do it online. [FOCUS – Fellowship of Communicators Uniting Socially]

I learned that I thrived at helping people have the space to share their stories. I found myself coaching people before they were to share. “People want to hear your story,” is what I was telling them over and over. Then I would tell them what I thought was their story. Often they commented how much this process was helping them.

All this time I thought I was just learning how to listen and help people tell their stories, so that the audience’s lives would be impacted. Little did I know that this process was cathartic for so many.

My purpose is still to help people and organizations tell their stories in an impactful way. While the audience will be impacted, it is often the subject that is transformed the most.

Tip for You!

Everyone will be enriched by doing the same thing I do. Take the time to listen to a person. Listening is active. You will need to ask questions. You don’t have a list of questions as much as through truly listening to a person, you will need to ask qualifying questions.

When you think you got that person’s story, just like a journalist will do, verify that story. Just tell the person their story as you understand it and asked if you missed anything.

It is when you listen that you will awaken your own story and learn to connect in new ways to people.

Do This In Remembrance Of Me

photo by Don Rutledge

Memories are very essential in our lives because they allow us to grow and learn to be a better person. Our recollections can teach us very important life lessons, demonstrate skills and abilities and can make us feel happy and entertained. 

By having memories, we will know what is right and what is wrong. We can remember where we did our mistakes and learn from it.

Chelle’s 21st birthday celebration in Columbus, GA

We have birthdays as a way to celebrate and remember the year that has past and the clean slate we have going forward.

Carmen & Reaves Newsome 25th Anniversary Party

Wedding anniversaries are where we gather with our friends who helped us in our journey. We are able to celebrate because our friends and family helped us through those moments where it was difficult and also the times that we celebrated.

Rebecca Sills 20th Anniversary Party

I loved that at Chick-fil-A corporate offices they celebrate work anniversaries. Every 5 years they celebrate. On your 20th anniversary there is a big party thrown by your department. One of those traditions is getting a cartoon drawn of you and surrounding you are things you are known for contributing to the brand.

Now my mentor Don Rutledge helped me to understand how important photography plays in mankind. It helps capture moments and tell stories. Sometimes we need to be sure we are capturing our own stories and our families.

John Howard Griffin & Don Rutledge

Maybe when you were in school your english teacher assigned you to read “Black Like Me”. My mentor Don Rutledge traveled with the author John Howard Griffin in 1955 as he did his research for his book. He photographed him when he took drugs and using makeup transformed himself from a white man to a black man to be able to write about what it was like to live as a black man in the south.

I did my master thesis on Don Rutledge. If you want to read it here are the links to the chapters of the book:

I gave a copy to Don. Just before Don retired he was having mini strokes that were affecting his memory. After he retired he had a couple major strokes and he couldn’t remember very much. When I would call to talk to Don, he told me over and over how much he appreciated the work I did on telling his story. He was reading it over and over to help him feel good about his life he had lived, but couldn’t remember. Here is an article I wrote for NPPA News Magazine.

My daughter Chelle’s Pre-K class trip to Alpharetta Children’s Dentistry

Now while you might not be photographing or creating videos of content that goes onto a newspaper, you are recording history. Sometimes the most important documentation is that of your family and friends. I have been doing this for our family.

Here are examples of photos of my daughter through the years

We all need to remember our past, the good and the bad. We celebrate not just the good times, but that we pushed through and overcame adversity.

Remember if you are a leader that you celebrate those who work for you. Celebrate those work anniversaries. Remember to tell those stories of how your people overcame obstacles and grew and helped your team grow.

I believe one of the best ways you can celebrate is through using photos and videos to play back some of those memories. Sometimes for us to “Seize the Day” we need to remember we did it before.

Bracketing With DJI Air 2S

When taking photos with the drone I noticed sometimes there just wasn’t enough dynamic range in the RAW files. The really cool thing is you can take 3 to 5 bracketed photos with the DJI Fly More APP.

Using Adobe Lightroom or PhotoShop you can let the software do an auto merge or in PhotoShop you can put them in layers and do a custom blend.

I have found that by shooting RAW with AEB set to 5 I have five different exposures to pick from rather than always just merging multiples ones into a photo.

Often I am just picking the best exposure and tweaking that photo.

[DJI Air 2S, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/90, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Anytime you have something moving in the frame you will need to do a custom merge or just pick the best exposure. So for the photo of these Brown Pelicans flying in the photo, I just picked the best exposure and editing it in Lightroom.

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/80, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

During a sunset is a great reason to use the Auto Exposure Bracket [AEB] to be able to hold together such a wide dynamic range.

Anytime you are shooting and you can shoot a variety of exposures you give yourself a lot more options in the editing.

Not For Decisive Moment

When shooting people or moving objects trying to shoot a bracket and get the best peak moment isn’t realistic. Just shoot RAW in these type of situations. However, it is a good idea to shoot a bracket of exposures to then pick the best exposure that you will use when in a situations for shooting people.

Real Estate Flambient

The photo above is a mixture of Ambient Lighting and Flash Lighting––Many call this Flambient

The “flambient” method involves combining both flash and ambient light in shots. It is one of the fastest-growing techniques for shooting real estate images. … On the other hand, shooting using pure flash can result in an image that looks fake, with shadows pointing towards the windows instead of away.

Here is just the Ambient of the photo above.


While it does take time to do this as compared to just shooting one shot, it is even better than HDR without flash. You tend to get more accurate colors.


Now here is the before with just ambient.


Here is one more example from one room that I did for a client.

178 Brighton Blvd Woodstock, GA

Now notice the color of the fabric and the windows as well as the kitchen which is far from the window light is dark in the ambient photo.


I really love the Flambient approach to real estate.

Time Of Day Can Be Everything

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 840, 1/8, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

I believe one of the best times of day to take photos outside is Twilight. Just compare this top photo to this one from a different time of day.

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/250, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

This can be summed up as the difference from everything in the photo getting the same amount of light or like a spot light on the stage, when you light just some of the scene is more appealing.

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 1690, 1/4, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Again another Drone shot from different perspective and different time of day to compare.

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 110, 1/320, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

Another difference is the type of light during the day also can make a difference. This one below is with very little clouds. The one above it is with cloudy conditions.

[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 1/5000, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]
[DJI Air 2S, 22.4 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 1130, 1/4, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 22)]

My suggestion is whenever you can, make pictures at twilight.

Could we live in a world without rules?

The FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate tests for understanding of hazardous attitudes. They have a list of five:

  • Macho – “Let me show you what I can do!”
    • Antidote – Taking chances is foolish.
  • Impulsivity – “Do it quickly!”
    • Antidote – Not so fast. Think first.
  • Invulnerability – It won’t happen to me.”
    • Antidote – It could happen to me.
  • Resignation – “What’s the use?”
    • Antidote – I am not helpless. I can make a difference.
  • Anti-Authority – “Don’t tell me what to do!”
    • Antidote – Follow the rules. They are usually right.

There are some who will rail against rules being an affront to our freedom, and argue that they’re “there to be broken”.

Woodstock Park Roswell

Yes there are rules that are unjustified. Someone gets in power and just doesn’t like something and then since they sit on the city council create a new ordinance or law because they don’t like something their neighbor is doing.

Rules are the essence of sport, games and puzzles – even when their entire purpose is supposedly fun. But when haven’t you seen a fan lose it when their team is called off-sides.

I teach a lot of workshops around the world and the organization I work with starts each workshop going over some of the ground rules. At the end of going over each rule the leader said, “Please don’t do anything that makes us create a new rule.”

I think we would want to encourage everyone to learn the rules so that we can all enjoy flying our drones for commercial and personal enjoyment without having someone create problem that needs a new rule.

Rules, like good policing, rely on our consent. And those that don’t have our consent can become the instruments of tyranny. So perhaps the best advice is mostly to follow rules, but always to ask why. Learn why a rule was created.

I have learned a lot this past year when I jumped onto the Drone Bandwagon. Most all the rules the FAA has created only makes it safer for all of us. In addition, it helps all of us enjoy this as a hobby and as a profession.

Water tower in Roswell, Georgia