Storytelling Photo vs Point Photo

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

“When I take you out in the surrey with the fringe on top!”, sings Curly in the musical Oklahoma!

This photo above is the only time on the stage during the entire production of the musical at Roswell High School where the surrey is on stage. This is the one scene that captures the build up of the whole show to where we see what Curly was singing from the beginning of the show promising Laurey how he would treat her on a date.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

This is Ado Annie Cames singing, but because I am isolating her alone only the corn in the background helps to place this with the musical Oklahoma!.

This is what I call a point shot verses the top photo which has much more information and is getting closer to helping to tell more of the story. You still need words with either photo to make it storytelling, but hopefully you are seeing the difference between the scene establishing shot and the closeup.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5, 1/100

Now the reason this photo of Curly and Laurey often works as well as the shot of the surrey is that this particular pose is used often in posters to promote the show. Just Google “Oklahoma! Musical” and look at all the photos and you will see this style shot pop up.

Nikon D5, 28-300mm ƒ/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/8000
Here is how I shot a promo shot verses the photo above it is from the show. Now while this doesn’t tell the story say as well as having the surrey in the photo, Curly is gesturing about how the future he promises to Laurey is better than where she is now.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/180

Google “Oklahoma Barn Scene” and you can see variations of other productions that show similar scene. Again this is more of a point photo, but because I included more of the set most theatre folks will know this is the Musical Oklahoma!.

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

People Need The Lord Photo

“I don’t need a lot of ‘People Need The Lord’ photos,” commented Jeff Raymond to a photographer shooting photos with him in the Dominican Republic. “What do you mean?,” commented the photographer.

Jeff went on to explain the photo style like the Afghan girl on the front of National Geographic by Steve McCurry. This photo has had such an impact that many people think this is the “BEST” way to shoot.

Give me more context is what Jeff coached the photographer to do in addition to a few portraits.

You see the photo of the boy here could have been shot anywhere in the world.

This is a frame from short movie clip. Notice how the kids in the foreground are close enough to give you a portrait, but including the background gives you more context. Here is the movie and you can see what conditions I was shooting.

Please understand this blog post is not saying Storytelling Photo is better than a Point Photo. What I am saying is you need both.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000

The problem I see with many new photographers is falling in love with the closeup shot at ƒ/1.4 and centered. Then they have only slight variations of this photo in their portfolio.

If you are going to be hired over and over you must be the photographer who gives the client more than they expected. This is why learning how to use a variety of lenses, different apertures and shutter speeds on an assignment will have clients raving about you.

Sure you can do OK shooting the “People Need The Lord” photo, but you are a one trick pony show.

Which are you apart of? Group ƒ/64 or Group ƒ/1.4

L/R Laura Standard, Almond Standard, Pam Pullen (Almond’s daughter) & Christine Burton (Almond’s sister) & Kyle Standard (Nephew of Almond) & Rick Standard (Almond’s Son)
Almond Standard built his log cabin home himself. It is located in Tignal, Georgia.
[Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/13, 1/4]
Group ƒ/64

In 1930 Willard Van Dyke as well as Ansel Adams & Edward Weston formed the Group ƒ/64.

Group f/64 was a group founded by seven 20th-century San Francisco photographers who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras [35mm] increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.

– Wkipedia


One of the magazines I have done work for through the years is Country Magazine. There requirements are to shoot at the highest depth-of-field for their photos. To do this on today’s DSLR cameras you are typically shooting at ƒ/22. This would be equivalent to the ƒ/64 on a 8′”x10″ that many in Group ƒ/64 used.

Stream near Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont in the Great Smoky National Park located in Townsend, Tennessee on June 22, 2006. [Nikon D2X, Nikkor 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/22, 1/1.5]
The strength of shooting with sharpness all through the photograph is it puts the audience into the scene. This is where you are using composition and lighting to draw the audience into the photograph.

While your eye may go first to where the photographer directs you using light values and composition your eye will wonder afterwards around the scene just as if you were standing there yourself.

This style was in opposition to the pictorialist of the time.

Pictorialism is the name given to an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. There is no standard definition of the term, but in general it refers to a style in which the photographer has somehow manipulated what would otherwise be a straightforward photograph as a means of “creating” an image rather than simply recording it. Typically, a pictorial photograph appears to lack a sharp focus (some more so than others), is printed in one or more colors other than black-and-white (ranging from warm brown to deep blue) and may have visible brush strokes or other manipulation of the surface. For the pictorialist, a photograph, like a painting, drawing or engraving, was a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer’s realm of imagination.

– Wikipedia
Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
Group ƒ/1.4
Group ƒ/1.4 you may not have heard of, but I bet you have heard of BOKEH Photography.

In photography, BOKEH is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”. Differences in lens aberrations and aperture shape cause some lens designs to blur the image in a way that is pleasing to the eye, while others produce blurring that is unpleasant or distracting—”good” and “bad” bokeh, respectively. Bokeh occurs for parts of the scene that lie outside the depth of field. Photographers sometimes deliberately use a shallow focus technique to create images with prominent out-of-focus regions.

– Wikipedia
I would say that those who shoot primarily wide open aperture are more stylistically like the pictorialist of the last century and less like Group ƒ/64 which was about preserving everything in the scene.
Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 500, ƒ/1.8, 1/320
I love that my camera lets me shoot from ƒ/1.4 to ƒ/57. The ƒ/57 is when I shoot with my Nikon 60mm Micro lens. Here is a shot I did that was widely published.
“ƒ/8 and be there,” was Alfred Eisenstaedt’s response to the question on how to be a successful photographer.
However the earliest record of the quote “ƒ/8 and be there” is attributed to Weegee who was a famous street photographer during the 1930’s, 40’s and beyond. It represents a philosophy to keep technical decisions simple and be where your vision takes you. The quote has been the mantra of photojournalists, travel photographers and even nature photographers.

This says you just need to anticipate and be technically ready to capture “the decisive moment.”

I say to be careful not to treat your interviews as just got microphone and recorder levels set and just hit record and I am done.

Don’t Make Your Camera a Box Camera

Kodak made a box camera where you pushed the button and Kodak did the rest. You had no control over the Aperture, Shutter or even ISO.

Once you subscribe to shooting all your photos like the Group ƒ/64 or those doing BOKEH photography you have in essence taken that very expensive camera and turned it into a box camera.

Exercise for you to do

Take your camera and just one lens. Find a scene and then shoot the scene at every aperture you can on your camera. Now as you get to a wide open aperture you know that your depth-of-field becomes very shallow, so remember to change your focus so that the focal point is on something in the scene that creates interest. We call this technique selective focus.

Now just spend time doing this for several different situations. It might be able to do it with scenics rather than people at first, but then move on to people. What is really fun to do is to shoot where there are many people. A good example would be in a coffee shop.

Your challenge is not to make one good photo in each situation, but rather a great photo at each ƒ-stop.

When you master this technique you will discover you will be able to say something totally different about each situation. This will be the difference of you writing a very short sentence to creating a novel with just one frame.

Will you take up the challenge?

I believe the great photographers are the ones that know when to use what aperture to capture what they want to say about the subject.

Making Photos POP!

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500

Selective Focus is what makes people pop out of photos or the backgrounds recede in a blur. And you make the choice of what pops, what blurs, and what fuzzes over.

Where do you want the viewer to focus their attention – the hedge in the foreground, the man in the middle, or the trees in the distant background? Many professional photographers use the selective focus technique to control the viewer’s attention.

The apertures, called f-stops, are actually fractions. The f-stop ƒ/4, for example, is really ¼ (one fourth). What one fourth of, is a little beyond the scope of this article.  Let’s just say that an f-stop is a fraction, ok? (ƒ/4 = 1/4th  f8 = 1/8th). Typically these numbers are on the lens, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22 and so on.

Remember these are actually fractions: 1/2.8, 1/4, 1/5.6, 1/8, 1/11, 1/16 and 1/22. It provides a comparison of how much light each number lets through the lens. Therefore 1/5.6 allows more light through the lens than 1/22.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 180, ƒ/8, 1/100

Here’s the creative part: the smaller the opening (f-stop) in the lens, the less light is allowed in. Therefore, a greater area is in focus from the foreground to the background. If you want to throw most of the background out of focus, use ƒ/5.6 rather than

Today’s digital cameras allow the photographer to vary the aperture, preview the results, then make a decision about it’s effectiveness.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/320

If you want the subject to “pop”, use the larger lens openings, i.e. ƒ/4 or ƒ/5.6. Like a simple sentence, having one distinguishable subject is better.

A smaller aperture (ƒ/16 or ƒ/22) brings the foreground and background into sharper focus or a greater depth of field. It also allows for other compositional techniques to direct the viewer to the main subject of the photo.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/1.8, 1/4000

Setting your cameras ISO, shutter speed, and aperture provides more than a properly exposed photograph. These are tools you can use to compose and say what you want to say in your photographs.

Nikon D5, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/10, 1/320

Experiment using different ƒ-stops. Try setting the camera to the aperture preferred setting. Explore the creative tools available on the camera. If the camera is always set on automatic, it becomes into a very expensive box camera.

Shooting Gilley’s of Dallas Texas with the Nikon D5

Nikon D5, Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 14400, ƒ/8, 1/100

Last night I took in Gilley’s of Dallas with a large group. What I was really pleased with at the end of the night was my ability to shoot everything without a flash.

The reason is the Nikon D5 just has such a wide range of ISO. ISO 100–104200 and can be pushed to 3 million ISO as well.

Nikon D5, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 4500, ƒ/3.2, 1/250

Since there was a lot of line dancing I wanted to crank the shutter speed to a minimum of 1/250. The people in front were being lighted by the stage lighting and then the rest of the place was extremely dark in comparison. However the dynamic range of the Nikon D5 did a great job. I was able to pull out all the shadows in Adobe Lightroom from the RAW images.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 65535, ƒ/2.8, 1/640

Now when the people jumped up on the mechanical bull I needed to capture this without everyone being blurred. No problem. I set the camera to my Sports Settings.

These are the settings that I use on my Nikon D5 for shooting most all sport action. Nikon has made it really nice to allow photographers to save these settings so they do not have to remember each and every little setting they like to use for a style of shooting.

If you go to Menu and under the camera icon pick the first item “Shooting menu bank.” I have chosen B, which is my sports menu.

If you toggle into the “Shooting menu bank” you can rename those settings. Once you choose one of these settings everything you do to change the menu will be saved in that menu bank. I recommend to go ahead and try all my settings and then tweak them to your preferences.

When shooting sports it is very common for the lighting conditions to change instantly. While the football player runs toward you they may go from shade into direct sunlight. For this reason I let the camera do some of the thinking for me.

Go to the camera icon again and look for “ISO sensitivity settings.” Select this and you will then see this menu:

I turn on the “Auto ISO sensitivity control.” Then I set the minimum shutter speed to 1/4000. You could pick something else. I used to shoot at 1/2000. The ISO setting is what you see in the smaller window below the menu. I set this to ISO 100 and then set the “Maximum sensitivity” to ISO 102400.

While I am in Aperture Mode shooting the camera will always pick 1/4000 shutter-speed. If in sunlight I am at ƒ/4 the shutter-speed may go as high at 1/8000 at ISO 100, but as the scene changes and the athlete is now in the shade the camera will automatically drop to 1/4000 @ ƒ/4 and then change also the ISO up until I can still shoot at 1/4000.

The only time the shutter speed will dip below the 1/4000 is if the ISO peaks out at 102400.  If my aperture is wide open then the camera is doing everything that I would have done manually, but faster than I could ever adjust the camera. That is how you get more shots than the guy next to you.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 4500, ƒ/1.4, 1/100
Here I am letting the BOKEH create the mood for the night club. Shooting at ƒ/1.4 let that background go to a silky smooth out of focus while directing your attention to the man in the foreground.

I really love the Nikon D5 because it lets me capture anything I can see with my naked eye.

Monday Devotional for Photographers – Full-time Ministry

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2500

Capturing moments like this one in Togo, West Africa is what I thought many years ago would be my full-time career today.

In high school during a youth retreat I responded to what I believed was a call to full-time christian ministry. My church licensed me into the ministry. This was the first step down a process which I thought would have me doing ministry/missions full-time. Full-time meaning I would pay all my bills from being on staff of a missions agency.

I received this call while a senior in high school. My father, a pastor/missionary, gave me counsel. My father mentored me and guided me to avoid some of the mistakes that he made. Together we determined that I needed an education path.

You will open more doors with a master of divinity degree. This is required for most pastor and missionary positions. Before you can get masters you need a bachelor’s degree. This is where my father gave me some of the wisdom from his experience. He said there is basically two areas that he worked in a great deal that a master of divinity don’t prepare you very well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM | S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 64000, ƒ/5.6, 1/2500

Most ministers and missionaries are the leaders of an organization and having a business degree would really help you with the administrative responsibilities. The second area was that as a counselor.

I decided to major in social work and then the plan was to go to seminary.

Well while in college I discovered photography and more specifically photojournalism. My senior year while on spring break I was offered a job as a photojournalist for a newspaper. I really didn’t see this as a departure from ministry but rather a call to a specialist role in ministry.

I met Don Rutledge my senior year in college and he would become my mentor. Rather than telling that entire story here you can read more here. Basically Don was a photojournalist who worked for the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board as the main photographer for The Commission Magazine.

Just a year and half later I would get a phone call from Don Rutledge telling me about a photographer position on their staff.

I would spend five years working on the staff before they went through financial crisis and cut my position.

This was a great time it seemed to go ahead and attend seminary. This was one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I thought I was going to study and learn all this theology that was going to help me and I did, but what I didn’t know was how much I would learn about education. I learned a lot about lesson planning and how people learned.

Upon graduating I thought I was now better equipped to help tell those missionary stories and I was a better communicator. However no positions opened up for me in the church. I did find a job at Georgia Tech.

The assignments here stretched me in other ways. I worked with Gary Meek and the two of us were helping to tell the stories that were shared through all kinds of media. We were published in many national magazines and newspapers as well as all the public relations materials for the school.

I thought my time at the school was God’s way of further preparing me for something in missions. Well it did help me in so many ways and I learned many new skills, which I use today.

For the past fifteen years I have been a full-time freelancer taking any job coming my way in photography and in communications to help pay the bills. I was helping NGO with web design. I had learned how to create my own webpage to help me with freelancing and then others heard and asked me to help them.

Every few years I would do a missions trip, but never did this turn into a full-time career. Last year I did four separate trips for missions and each one was for a week. The rest of my freelancing helped to pay the bills allowing me the ability to do those mission projects.

I am still longing for the opportunity to do full-time ministry work.

Nikon D3S, NIKKOR 14-24mm ƒ/2.8G, ISO 220, ƒ/2.8, 1/8000

Today I am asking myself did God really call me? If he did why am I not working full-time for an organization doing missions/ministry?

Most likely I am limiting God with all my questions. Maybe I am doing missions and ministry and my understanding of what defines ministry is more limiting than the way God sees it.

The one character in the bible I can relate to the most is Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob. He was given a dream that wouldn’t come true for most of his life. In telling of the story it wouldn’t be fulfilled until the very end of the story, which took most of his lifetime.

His older brothers knew Joseph as their father’s favorite. For this reason his 10 older brothers conspired against the boy and sold him to slave traders, while telling their father the boy had been mauled by an animal. Joseph had been given dreams of God’s plan for his life; so with confidence and strength, he endured in this amazing story in Genesis.

He would be falsely accused and thrown into jail. It would be his gift to interpret dreams that would have him later become a leader for the Pharaoh of Egypt and lead them through a time a famine and for the dream he had as a young boy to come true.

Are you too feeling depressed and beat down? Do you wonder if you were ever really called by God to pursue your profession?

Did you know that scripture most commonly associates those who minister for a paycheck as false ministers?

Matthew 6:24 – “No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold.”

The first missionary was Paul and he earned his living as a tentmaker. He said:

1 Corinthians 9:12 – If you support others who preach to you, shouldn’t we have an even greater right to be supported? Yet we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than put an obstacle in the way of the Good News about Christ.

Paul also instructed people to work and earn a living:

2 Thessalonians 3:11 – Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people-no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living.

The biblical word “pastor” is the same word for “shepherd” (which is simply a caring servant of God’s people) and, as a matter of fact, Jesus Himself made this point clear when he said the following about such “ministers”:

John 10:12-13 (MSG) – “A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.”

Christians did support Paul’s travels financially and Paul encouraged the Saints to consider those that spend their lives ministering the Gospel, but the gifts were given freely, from love and in response to need (ACTUAL NEED – i.e. FOOD AND CLOTHING).

1 Timothy 6:6-11 (NKJV) – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

I fully believe that IF God has ordained their service than He will also fully provide every legitimate need they have. But the minister should not have a high and mighty opinion that he is above the need to earn his own living and provide for his family and ministry.

That provision may be having another job to pay the bills.

Ephesians 2:8-9 

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

If you have the money and time to do missions full-time then God wouldn’t get any credit, but if you lack money and time then when you get to do missions you know it is because of God and not your abilities that made it happen.


Great photos require intentional photographers

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/320

Before you read this post, take a moment and just look at all the photos. Then take a moment and think about what you think they are all about. Once you have done that, now come back and pickup the reading from here.

Why did I take this photo and the others I am showing you today? Let me talk about each one separately. Also I would rarely not include some text with these photos no matter where I share them because I want to communicate what is going on.

I was accompanying one of the workshop participants that I was helping teach in Togo, West Africa on her story of a pastor. This was part of the story.

This is a Charlatan Witch Doctor of Fetishes in Togo, West Africa going into the temple that he has build for the different gods he worships. In Togo, about half the population practices indigenous religions, of which Vodun [worship of fetishes] is by far the largest, with some 2.5 million followers.

Vodun cosmology centers around the vodun spirits and other elements of divine essence that govern the Earth, a hierarchy that range in power from major deities governing the forces of nature and human society to the spirits of individual streams, trees, and rocks, as well as dozens of ethnic vodun, defenders of a certain clan, tribe, or nation. The vodun are the center of religious life, similar in many ways to doctrines such as the intercession of saints and angels that made Vodun appear compatible with Christianity, especially Catholicism, and produced syncretic religions such as Haitian Vodou. Adherents also emphasize ancestor worship and hold that the spirits of the dead live side by side with the world of the living, each family of spirits having its own female priesthood, sometimes hereditary when it’s from mother to blood daughter. [Wikipedia]

The reason I took this photo and the way I took it was to communicate the belief in many gods by the people of Togo. For many who become Christians it is still common for many to still practice these Fetishes. The tradition is so strong for so long in their culture that it is difficult for them to break away from these practices.

Here is the story that the student Hannah Teramura tells the story of Martouka.
Freedom From the Fetish – Martouka’s Story from Storytellers Abroad on Vimeo.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 1800, ƒ/8, 1/100

Why did I make this photo?

Before we sent all eleven students out individually to go and work on their stories we did a refresher on capturing the interview.

We walked around as a group and agreed on this place to do the interview. We did this based on the lighting, the sound and the background. We then setup the camera with the subject to be interviewed, the translator and the student who is asking the questions and doing the story.

We then practiced and stopped here and there to talk about the camera settings, the interviewing process and the importance of the student to listen with headphones and watching that the subject doesn’t move too much to put them out of focus or out of the frame of the camera.

Can you see how I composed and picked a moment to convey much of this information, but it was text that helped to explain who each person is in the photo and their role?

When did I figure out all this?

Before I clicked the shutter! Very important to think through what is going on in front of the camera and then to distill all this into a moment that will convey the point that you want to make.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/640

Why did I make this photo?

This is pastor Martouka Anani’s son. Now he was very inquisitive and intense. You can tell he is a thinker and trying to figure out why these white people are doing with those cameras.

As I brought the camera up to take her photo I could see this intensity in his face and body language. I decided I needed to capture this tension. I also decided I wanted to isolate him in the corn field but also hint that his brother was in the background.

I felt this girl was fearless and unlike his brother who were just playing. Like his father this little boy wants to know more than he sees on the surface of people’s faces. He is peering into your soul with his eyes.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/2000

Now contrast this to his older sister who while still engaging with her eyes there is more softness with her gaze than her younger brother.

Martouka Anani, their father, after years of growing up in fetish worship fell deathly sick and remembered the gospel he had heard as a child. Even though his parents disowned him from walking away from the fetish religion, he pursued Jesus and devoted his life to sharing the good news with others.

There next door neighbor is the Charlatan Witch Doctor in the first photo. Just imagine living next door to a faith your father gave up and lost his family over and all the day to day interactions they have with that family. I am sure the kids play together, but imagine them having to understand why their parents are so different.

Maybe the reason for these looks of the children is they are not sure what we believe and then also will this be their faith for themselves.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 900, ƒ/1.4, 1/200

Why am I taking this photo?

I wanted to capture how important faith is to the community that we came to cover. This photo by itself doesn’t capture the whole story. But when paired with photos above in a larger story helps me to convey all the intricacies of the culture a little more and help you the reader understand what they are dealing with each day.

Had we just taken photos only in the church buildings the photos really are not all that different than here in the United States. Yes the building is a little different, but the expressions in prayer look similar. However, with the other photos showing this pastor living next door to a Witch Doctor and that this is the life he left for Jesus we can see what maybe is something different that they pray about that we don’t have to deal with here.


I hope you can see that I must take the time and think about what is going on around me. I then have to think what is it that I want to share with someone through my photos.

If you make photos without knowing what you are trying to say, then your audience will have no clue as to what you are trying to say.

Here are some places to start thinking about your photo that you want to make.

  1. What is my emotion right now? Are you happy, sad, melancholic, joyful, etc…
  2. What is the subject? If I were to put this into a sentence what is the noun?
  3. What is the verb? Thinking again like a sentence what is going one that I need to show? What would be the verb in the sentence if I were writing this all down. Your shutter speed may help communicate motion for example or freeze something.
  4. What should I include or exclude? You may do this by composing by moving around and picking a particular lens to capture the content. You may also decide how much is in focus around the subject. You may even decide to not just go from wide angle to a telephoto, but super close with a macro lens.
  5. Do I need to alter the light to help with capturing what I need? Do you need a flash? Do you need to wait till the subject moves into the light? 
There are many more questions you can ask to help you determine what to capture with your camera. 
Great photographs are like great poems. The differences are in the nuances. Finding the perfect balance of grammar, simplicity, intricacy, feeling, imagery, and rhythm is one of the most difficult challenges that a poet will face. In some cases, a poet’s work might never be done. For example, he might spend several years, or even his entire life, trying to perfect one single poem. He might omit a word or two here, or change some words there every so often.
The photographer is always looking for ways to improve. They work to understand the technical so as to help improve their images. They study the subjects so as to see those nuances to give more understanding.
My challenge to you is just to be intentional. Know why you are clicking the shutter or your audience will not know either.

The How To – 12′ x 8′ Oklahoma! Musical Banner

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 280, ƒ/8, 1/100 [photo by: Dorie Griggs]

This year we are getting our PR for the musical Oklahoma! started much sooner than last year’s production of Into The Woods. We are about 2 months before the performance with the 12′ x 8′ banner.

Last year we up just a little more than a month before the performance.

[photo by: Dorie Griggs]

Last year the banner was 9′ x 6′. When I put the banner up last year I can remember the feeling that it wasn’t big enough. I do believe that the 12′ x 8′ is plenty big for the space.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 140, ƒ/8, 1/100 [photo by: Dorie Griggs]

Every 2 feet there is a grommet to help you tie the banner to posts like I am doing here. If you are putting this outside and not on a wall you really need to use everyone of those grommets. When you do and wind comes along then each grommet has less tension on it than say if you used just the corners. Your banner will do better in the wind if you tie it down well with all the grommets.

[photo by: Dorie Griggs]

You can get an idea of how really big the banner here is from the back with me on a 6 foot ladder.


1) Select your source to make the banner. I use Here is a link to their specs to give you an idea of what you need to supply as a file size.

2) Select your image. My recommendation is to shoot in RAW and in Lightroom or PhotoShop resize the image to the size of the banner. I did it here and exported the photo as a JPEG to 12 feet on the long side. You need to check with your banner source to see their specs. They said 150 dpi or more.

 3) Open the JPEG large photo in PhotoShop and then put text over the photo.

4) All State Banners can take most file types. The first time I sent them the PhotoShop file saved as PSD. The last two banners I just exported out of PhotoShop as JPEG. Again the size being the exact size of the banner at 150 dpi. As a PSD the file is 1225.1 MB file. As JPEG it is 66.1 MB file size.

The total cost this year was $229.44. I only paid $206.50 because they were running a 10% discount.

Now this is only part of our PR. Here are two Facebook Cover size photos for the people to post on their pages to help promote the musical as well.

Stay tuned to see other ways we use photography to help market the musical.

More than just a photographer

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800

I can relate to these boys in so many ways. What they are thinking I am not sure, but they do make me think of feeling alone even tho there are people around me.

The reasons these boys may feel isolated is quite different than my own isolation. They are living in one of the poorest nations on earth–Togo, West Africa. When you go into their homes they don’t have a closet with many outfits and shoes. This maybe the only thing they have to wear or maybe one more outfit.

When I would peek into their kitchens I saw no food.

So we might interpret their expressions as related to their poverty and hunger for food. However, I believe that people hunger for true friendships that are deep with roots that bind them to others.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100

 They are looking for a nourishment that comes from deep within people.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/500

When there are people who have these deep relationships with friends they have wells within them that are overflowing and able to glow and give to others. Here you see these guys who are friends that exude happiness.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 450, ƒ/1.4, 1/250

One place I continue to find those with wells full are in the houses of worship. These people search beyond what people can give to them for even a relationship that will sustain them even more.

What I love about my profession is capturing all of this and helping to direct people to know where to find that living water that refreshes the soul. It comes from being able to be open and real with your friends. They know your flaws and you know theirs. It comes from God who is forgiving and looking for a relationship with you.

When people just see me as a photographer I feel isolated. It is when they see me for who I am and not what I do that I really connect.

I use many different skills of mine from my studies of Social Work, Education, Theology and many experiences to help people connect to the world in which they live. My ultimate goal is to connect people to deep relationships with others and I hope as well to God.

Who am I? I am another person looking for another person to go through this life together. I know I will need many people to make this journey exciting and new.

Creating the Publicity Photo for the Musical Oklahoma

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 500, ƒ/4, 1/8000

This morning we spent the time shooting promotion shots for Roswell High School’s Theatre performance of Roger & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma. We were shooting a variety and then we will pick the one favorite we all have for the 12′ x 8′ banner that we will put in front of the school.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/400

This is me and the setup for shooting the first photo that Dorie my wife took of me. Now I am shooting High Speed Sync of 1/8000 to make the sky go darker and create more of the “Big Sky” look you would have in Oklahoma.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/6.3, 1/4000

This was the first photo we started shooting.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1400

Here you can see my setup. I am using [2] Alienbees B1600 for the lights. To power them I am using the Paul Buff Vagabond batteries. To trigger the lights I am using Pocketwizard AC-9 pugged into the Alienbees B1600 and then into the Pocketwizard TT5. This is receiving the signal from the Pocketwizard TT1 with the AC-3 to dial in the exposures on the camera.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/8000

I am shooting low again to emphasize the big sky.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 400, ƒ/8, 1/640

I tried to keep it simple by not moving all around the farm but rather make use of more time at the same location and vary the camera angle.

Nikon D5, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/4000

Last night we watched the movie of Oklahoma with Shirley Jones starring as Laurey Williams. I feel like this last photo has that same look and feel of the movie.

I wonder which of these might be the banner photo we use to promote the musical Oklahoma.

Here you can get a feel for what we are creating when all the type is added.

Treat your Camera like a Pen and you will get better photos!

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art, ISO 1400, ƒ/1.4, 1/200

If photographers would take photos the way they write all of their photos would most likely be ten times better in quality.

So many people just pick up their camera and point and shoot. Just try and do that with writing. Go ahead and try it. Pick up the pencil or pen and just write.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100

For those of you who use the methodology of “Spray & Pray” how is that working for you? Your percentage of a photo you like is probably better than just clicking one time and moving on.

Fujifilm X-E2, Fuji XF 18-55mm, ISO 320, ƒ/4, 1/100

The famous photographer Ansel Adams first chapter in his very first book was about the concept of previsualization in photography is where the photographer can see the final print before the image has been captured. Adams is often quoted as saying “Visualization is the single most important factor in photography”.

Adams was referring to not just what was in front of the camera, but rather his interpretation of what was in front of him all the way to the print before he clicked the shutter.

The reason most photographers are not producing work like Ansel Adams is because very few have taken the time to think about what they are trying to capture and say with their photos.

Previsualization is applied to techniques such as storyboarding, either in the form of charcoal drawn sketches or in digital technology in the planning and conceptualization of movie scenery make up.

The advantage of previsualization is that it allows a director, cinematographer or VFX Supervisor to experiment with different staging and art direction options—such as lighting, camera placement and movement, stage direction and editing—without having to incur the costs of actual production. On larger budget project, the directors work with actors in visual effects department or dedicated rooms.

At the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London they have displayed the sketches which then are turned into models like here.

After they have done this then they make the actual set that will be used in the movie as you see here for Diagon Alley.

Now compare this set to the street of Cecil Court that most likely inspired J. K. Rowling for Diagon Alley.

This is why Harry Potter the movie is a little more exciting than the just point and shoot of the tourist that I was on Cecil Court. The street has been the inspiration and then the artists create their vision of what they want to use to convey a mood for a story.

Nikon D5, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS HSM S, Sigma TC-2001 2x, ISO 40000, ƒ/5.6, 1/4000

Even in sports the creative photographer is anticipating. I am down field waiting for the action to come to me. I have thought about where I need to be and what I want to capture.


Treat the camera like the pen. Before picking it up and putting it to your eye have some idea of the sentence you are going to write. If you don’t you will have only gibberish and that is why your photos don’t work. You didn’t know why you took the photo and no one else will either.

Take this one step further and have in your mind the caption that will accompany that photograph as well. This will help you know what you are trying to say with your photo.