Grand Lake, Colorado: The Next Place You Should Visit

So, I have had the pleasure of traveling to the opposite side of the globe (Australia) and back, been honored to capture photos though out France and England and had my share of awesome stories along the way. One of the biggest regrets I have now in adulthood is having not learned photography until I was in my 20's and not having some of my larger trips documented correctly. But I have vowed to come home with at least a few keepers every time I go somewhere. As you may know, I recently got married to the love of my life who is so supportive of my passion and I can't thank her enough for being the muse that she is to my work.

Well for the honeymoon, we headed to a mountain house in Grand Lake, Colorado. It's a sleepy little mountain town that buzzes with activity during the summer season and winter skiing season. But just like Myrtle Beach, when the tourists leave, the town goes in to a bit of a shut down mode. Unlike Myrtle Beach though, the people that are left are the sweetest people that seem like they never have visitors. I know that sounds strange, but I mean it in a good way; everywhere we went, we felt like honored guests who they were happy to play tour guide with.

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We did go hiking up on a trail right out of grand lake, which is in a valley, and started making our way up the mountains on this path. The path led to Adams Falls and Lone Pine lake where we found plenty of places to enjoy the wonderful views and great air we were able to take in. Nothing beats hiking up a mountain. We went 14 miles without even knowing it! All in all it was an absolutely wonderful trip and I am so glad we were able . Hope you enjoy the photos!

5 Tips for better Landscape/Streetscape photos

Landscape and Streetscape Photography Tips I am not a certified teacher, nor do I have a case of awards and accolades at home for all my photographic adventures, but what I do have is experience and I hope you find this helpful in some way! If you are not a landscape photographer, you should still try using some of these ideas, because I have found it to be one of the most relaxing escapes to do these types of photos even though I am primarily a portrait and wedding photographer.

I love taking photos of people; I hear their stories and try to make myself blend in with them to where you can see the real them through their photos, but sometimes that can get very stressful. Zack Arias said in an interview once that his hobby is his passion and it also happens to be his career and that if he isn't spending time with his family, he is better honing his craft because it is what he loves. I firmly agree with that. I have been asked numerous times why I decided to start taking photos and my answer has always been "Because I can't afford hobbies that don't make money." Though of course this was said as a joke, it was true. I love photography, but I had to focus on it terribly hard because I wanted to become great at it.

Well after being well in to a year after my first paying gigs, I feel I have learned a lot and have definitely seen my stress level rise. One way I have found that I can continually sharpen my photographic skills, but relax is landscape photography. There is something relaxing about being by yourself in nature and not having to focus on what you see in someone but rather what is all around you.

Click "Continue Reading" to see my tips on better landscape photography!

#1 - Use a Tripod

Landscape and Streetscape Photography Tips

This of course is an obvious one. When anyone thinks about landscape photography, they see a camera on a tripod. Being a mostly handheld shooter myself, I had to really learn to work with the constriction caused by the handy device. I have used many types of tripods over the years and yes, having an extremely nice tripod is great but completely unnecessary unless you are doing some commissioned extra large prints for a client. For exposures under a minute, you can feel safe with a light tripod unless its an extremely windy. I do not have a very nice tripod. The legs are actually from a Targus tripod system I bought at Walmart and the head is a used Manfrotto head that I found on sale. Before that though, I was just using a bargain bin Kodak brand tripod that I picked up at a yard sale. (If you have a light or flimsy Tripod, make sure to weigh it down some how! I normally tie mine down with my camera bag. #2- Know When Not to Use a Tripod

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Tripods are not always a necessity. I personally have had five or six camera bags, some big and some small but the one thing they all have in common is that they make carrying a tripod cumbersome; even if there are straps on the side or bottom of the bag, it usually is more of a nuisance than anything else. There have been plenty of times where the light was just right and I pulled out my camera and got the shot I wanted. If there would have been the task of taking my tripod out and getting it set up, I could have missed the photo or lost the composition I had in my head because I had focused too hard on getting the tripod set up.

#3- You Don't Have to Use HDR

Landscape and Streetscape Photography Tips

Now I know that HDR is a beautiful thing at times, and when done right it can create some of the most astounding images. I have never been able to make an HDR that I was happy with and I choose not to. There are plenty of people out there with tutorials on how to make HDR images but I have found that shooting with RAW and exposing for the mid-tones, I can show the image a little love with the dodge and burn tools and be completely happy with detail in most all of the dynamic range.

#4- Stopping Down Isn't Always Needed

Landscape and Streetscape Photography Tips

When I first started doing long exposures and night photography, I was using really stopped down apertures such as f/16 or f/22. My thought was that the image would be sharper and more things would be in focus. But what I figured out, and you will too, is that smaller apertures focused at infinity will look the same but the larger aperture will take less time for the same exposure. For example: Having an exposure at f/16 ISO: 100 with a shutter speed of 30 seconds if the exact same exposure as F/4 ISO: 100 with a shutter speed of 2 seconds. How crazy is that!?!?

#5- Focal Length is Your Friend

Landscape and Streetscape Photography Tips

Now, I have seen some amazing landscapes taken with all types of focal lengths, but different focal lengths can create the exact look you are going for. When I go out shooting landscapes, I normally pack a standard length( 35mm or 50mm. Most likely the 35mm), an ultra wide (14mm) and a Fisheye. All of these lens types can be found for amazing deals. The Nikon 35mm 1.8 is sharp piece of glass for only $200 and Rokinon have manual lenses in all three of these types ranging from $200 - $500 each. With a longer focal length, such as a 50mm or and 85mm, it is very hard to hand hold without shake in lower light situation. I try to never shoot a focal length at a shutter speed slower than my focal length (Example: I wont shoot an 85mm at 1/60 of a second, but I will shoot a 50mm at 1/60th of a second.)

My favorite type of streetscapes are with my 14mm or 8mm fisheye where I steady myself up against a light pole or a wall and bring my shutter speed down to around 1/15 or 1/20 of a second (If I am really steady, I can do 1/2 second exposures this way. The image about is an example of this type) This allows me to catch the blur of cars going by and also expose for enough ambient light to capture the scene without causing too much if any camera shake. Are these pictures perfectly tack sharp? not in the slightest, but they are a ton of fun to take and extremely rewarding. All in all, a shorter focal length will produce better handheld shots than longer ones when using slower shutter speeds handheld.

These are just my opinions and take them as such. This is what I have found is very comfortable for the work I like to do and if you decide to start doing this as well, you will find what works best for you as well! I love learning and passing things along to others, so I hope you have enjoyed it!

Thank you very much for reading! Like and share with your friends to pass along the relaxing art of landscape and street scape photography!

Do you have any places you have been or would like to photograph? Let me know in the comments!

Mobile Phone Photography

So, everyone and their brother have smartphones now and Instagram is flooded every day with square cropped images featuring anything from someone's beautiful hipster lunch to the most beautiful cliche sunset you have ever seen. But pro photographers have also jumped on board and started doing some amazing work with their phones. Some of my favorite work with phones are the numerous big name street photographers who like spending time away from their DSLRs and sometimes even find a small rangefinder bulky and in the way. There are so many beautiful images to be seen so I figured I would share some of mine! Enjoy!

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Sleepy kitty

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Baseball on the iPhone

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Barber shop

So do you take photos with your phone? Do you have something you would like to share? Well post it on my Facebook wall, on twitter or in the comments below!

Change your Perspective: Using a fisheye lens

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First, let me say that the lens in discussion today is the Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye. This a fully manual lens that allows you to fine tune every little detail but does not include the comforts of automatic modes of any kind (Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program, etc etc) or even autofocus. But what it offers are crisp beautiful images with plenty of contrast and clarity.

Fisheye lenses are nothing new. They were first invented to be used for weather instruments and astrophotographers, so the entire sky could be captured from horizon to horizon. I am not an astrophotographer.

They have since, been adapted to many different types of photography. The largest is definitely skateboarding and other extreme sports and the exaggeration of lines can turn a difficult trick and to something legendary on film. I am not a skateboard photographer or videographer.

So... why the heck do I have a fisheye lens?

Funny you should ask...

Street Photography

This is a given. Street photos can be taken with anything, if you go out looking for something in particular and that is exactly what I did with this particular outing. It was July 3rd and I was out at Barefoot Landing to capture some of the nightlife for my blog and the blogs for my day job. I think all in all, they turned out pretty well; either way, it was the perfect opportunity for me to realize how awesome this lens really is.

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Real Estate Photography

This is something I do a lot of at my day job. The neat thing about this lens is that excites you about using it. I don't know how to explain it, but even using it in real estate photography makes that type of work fun again ( keep checking back for my upcoming full length post on real estate/resort photography!) It takes a little more work is post, to get the distortion to an acceptable level, but I think it is worth for the type of shots I have been able to get with it.

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Family and Beach Photography

This is by far my favorite application so far. With this lens, I am able to get family of 10 in to creative poses and have fun with needing a ladder or something crazy. In this particular shot, they decided they wanted a shot of everyone with their heads close together, so I slipped on the fisheye and was able to oblige with no resistance or time to figure out how to make it happen. But then I decided to keep it on for a few more shots including this jumping of all the grandkids.

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Wedding Receptions

This is probably one of the most fun applications for this thing. Walking around, I was able to really get some great shots of people enjoying themselves on the dance floor and hanging out. Even a fun shot or two of the bride and groom.

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What do you think would be a fun use for a fisheye lens? Maybe you have one, and use it for something in particular? Leave your opinions in a comment below! Be sure to subscribe to see some of the fun things we have coming up!

-Jarrett

Room to grow: Using my Nikon 105mm Micro Lens

So, many people have their favorite lenses that they own or have owned and many drool over certain pieces of glass that they feel will boost their photography to the next level. That piece for me was the 85mm 1.8. I had such of love affair with this lens and after getting it, I haven't really used it much. But still I was determined to continue my photographic journey to professional status so I started to use it and have really fallen in love with what I can produce with it, but I figured I needed to continue investing in to my equipment to take better photos. Well one day cruising around craigslist, I found a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 for sale just an hour away from me. I couldn't pass up the opportunity of at least inquiring about it. Well after a few emails, the seller informed me that she was parting with a bunch of her equipment. She knew what she had but was willing to make a deal. I ended up walking away with the 70-200mm Sigma. She also had a few other things that sparked my interest, like a 17-55mm 2.8 which I passed on but she did talk me in to coming home with the handy dandy Nikon 105mm 2.8g Micro. Both were in pristine condition but I still only paid around 60% less than retail which for such a big purchase is impressive.

Anyway, I used the 70-200 constantly on photo shoots, weddings, pretty much anything outdoors just because there is something commanding about a lens that size. I know that sounds ridiculous and a bit narcissistic, but every photographer starting out has issues with being taken seriously. This lens was my ticket to the "not to be taken lightly" glances by those around who thought of me as a just another kid who thinks he knows what he's doing.

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Well all this time goes by, probably six months, and I haven't even touched the 105 macro. This is ridiculous because it is by far the most impressive lens I own but I can never make anything work right with it. It always produced blurry and soft images. Most would get annoyed, blame the equipment and sell it off; but I keep it. Why do I keep it?

Maybe it's because I suck at letting things go. I'm great at finding deals but I am awful at selling off things that I can't or don't use. I usually hold on to them for way to long and then it bites me in the butt when I finally decide to sell something and its three generations behind and.worth half of what I think it is. I have been burned like this plenty of times.

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But.... this is not one of those times. See, I realized shortly after I bought it, that this lens was too much for me, I couldn't make it work because I didn't know how to yet. I was still stuck in the "I must shoot wide open all the time" phase and didn't understand how to use it to its potential.

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To tell you the truth, I still don't yet, but I'm learning and I am shooting with it at my level now. I am gaining an eye for it and I can see where this lens could be a permanent fixture in my lineup to come. More than just a few nice shots of engagement rings, this lens is great for all types of shots. One use I have found, is babies. Having my first encounter with baby portraits just recently, I learned how to make the distance and depth of field and all the magic inside this lens work for me.

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Hope you enjoyed the photos. Please subscribe!

-Jarrett

Photo Of The Day: Surprise Engagement

So, this is the first blog post of it's kind. I just recently had the wonderful opportunity to share one of the largest moments in a couple's life: their engagement. After a few brief coded phone calls, I was enlisted to help Justin surprise his girlfriend on the beach with a special not in a bottle on the beach and a beautiful proposal. They were such a treat to work with and I am very excited to present their photos to them. Hope you enjoy the photos and the video! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP5lfu4DeP4&w=640&h=360] Engagement-24

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Phot of The Day: Grumpy Baby

Today, I thought I would share a shot from a recent photo session I did for a family here on vacation. The family was wonderful and so easy to work with, but the baby of the family was ready for sleep for sure. She was not in the mood to be directed but she would cheer up long enough to get her photo taken in most cases.

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This is something completely normal on vacation shoots. People are here all week and their sleep schedule get interrupted. Even for most adults, we usually get tired quicker by the end of a vacation because of the random sleep schedule we normally keep. Well this little sweetheart is no exception. She was not having it, in some cases and we had to wait her out but that's all part of the job! I loved hanging out with this family and because we took our time and kept everything smooth, we were able to get some very fun shots like this:

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As an alternative, if you have a baby who is a little less than happy and getting their photo taken, give them something to do. When they are concentrating on something else they are much less likely to be upset. For some children, give them a physical activity while others prefer something to hold and tinker with. Either way, be prepared to inspire the parents to get the child active!

One thing I have found that keeps a child's attention is my Holga 35mm plastic toy camera. The more beat and banged up it becomes, the different leaks it produces. Very cool little camera, in most cases I even leave film in it and tell them to take photos. I am hoping for some cool shots when I develop the roll!

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Thanks for reading!

5 Tips for Beach Family Photos

Excited about your upcoming vacation to the shore? How about some professional photos taken while you are there to commemorate the occasion! Now there are a few things you need to know before booking your family photos with a local photographer. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:

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1: Dont just pick anyone
- Picking your photographer is the largest hurdle for you to face. Not every professional in the area you are visiting is right for you. If you check for someone on Craigslist and that is their only way of showing you your work, don't be surprised if they seem inexperienced or unprofessional( I am not talking down on this type of marketing, Lord knows I received some very good jobs through Craigslist starting out. We all have to start somewhere). On the other hand, if you decide to use a company that is highly commercialized, be prepared to be up-sold with high pressure sales tactics. Many that work at these types of establishments know you came to spend money and want you to spend as much as possible of it with them. Find someone who seems easy going with you, personable and willing to immerse themselves in the family.
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2: Be relaxed and dress accordingly
- As a vacation/resort town native, I know how many people have their photos taken in matching outfits: Blue and Khaki, White and Khaki, White and denim. There is nothing wrong with this, in fact I kind of like it. You may be very comfortable in a white shirt and khakis, but maybe someone in your family isn't. An alternative would be to use complimentary patterns and colors, or different shades of the same color family. Uncomfortable dress is a dead giveaway when in front of the camera.
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3: Be understanding about lighting, timing and location
- A perfectly sunny day on the beach is great for splashing around in the surf, but in most cases, bright sunlight is a photography killer. The best time of the day for photos on the beach is in the evening in the hour before sunset. Especially on the east coast where the sun sets opposite of the beach which is easier to control than water over the beach. So, even though your photo time may hog a little more time before dinner than you would have hoped, it is totally worth it with the quality of light you are allowing your photographer to use for your photos.
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4: Let your kids be themselves - I know everyone has a different style of discipline and I am not Doctor Phil, I will not even try to tell you how to raise your kids because I have no idea myself! But what I can say from experience is that kids have a hard time sitting still and parents normally lose their cool at least once during a session because their kids are doing something crazy. That's ok! As long as they are just being kids and enjoying themselves the way they know how, most photographers are perfectly content with sitting and waiting until a toddler is happy to smile and look at the camera. If you force them, they will looked forced and Mr./Ms. Grumpy Gills will be forever captured in the 8x10 on the mantle.
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5: Plan your photos for early on in your stay - I know it may sound like a great idea to wait until you have a tan, but the risk is tremendous when dealing with the sun. When you want to spend your time on the beach soaking it in, the chances are you will have tan lines and your skin will look red when photographed
Hope this helps you understand and prepare for your beach photo session! Remember when in the Myrtle Beach area to contact me for your vacation/wedding photography needs!

A Photographer's Worst Nightmare

A Photographer's Worst Nightmare: So I recently had the worst week I have experienced thus far in my photographic career.

My camera crapped out on me. It didn't completely die but it was effective for not much more than a paperweight without some serious work. The shutter curtain snapped and needed to be replaced. the mirror moved perfectly and all the electronics were fine, but the sensor was not being exposed to anything because the shutter curtain was not raising. Luckily I have access to other cameras while my workhorse is in the shop getting some TLC.

This was not the worst part of my week.

Most feel that a photographer's worst nightmare might be damaging their gear or getting something stolen; I agree this leaves much to be desired on the fun scale but I have other things much more frightening in the works. One of my clients, did not like my work. It took a lot of wrestling with my pride to write this out but I think of it as a chance to share my growth and maybe help someone else. She called and was very nasty about how much she disliked the work I had done for them. Because they had been traveling, I could not even offer a re-shoot. I am aware that many people complain on vacation in hopes to get things for free. I have worked in the resort industry for over 4 years now and I run in to this all the time. But the problem was that looking back at what I sent her, I realized something: I didn't like my work either. I had never sent out work I didn't like before, but these I truly would never show and that was the problem. I at once offered her a refund. I would never make someone pay for photos I didn't even like myself. But the hardest part was realizing, for the first time, I had not worked hard enough to make these photos what they should have been. I understand that everyone has these types of things happen and I try my best to make sure my clients are as happy with my service as possible. That is why, I buckled down and made sure my next photo shoot would be the best experience I have ever offered.

I scouted longer, I searched for open shade, I timed the golden hour perfectly, I remembered everyone's names and used them frequently and most of all, I provided some of the best photos that I think I have ever taken. Being a former professional ballroom dancer, I have learned (and have tried to overcome some of it) how to be confident, over confident even and I use this to my advantage in some cases; but I now feel like I don't have to put on a show as photographer. I am comfortable in my style, I learn more every day, and I know at the end of the day that people are happy with my work. Hope you enjoy some of the photos from the shoot:

-Jarrett

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P.S.: For the camera geeks out there who are interested, I shot all of the photos for this particular shoot with a Nikon D3200 I had on loan and a Sigma 70-200mm 2.8 Thanks for reading!