Monday, January 31, 2011

Class: location photography

Shot this in my location photography class last week. Noelle Wells (who we have seen before) was kind enough to model for me.

So far I'm cautiously optimistic about my location class. I don't really care for the locations themselves, but I see it as a great opportunity to do location portraiture. Mixing ambient and strobe, things like that. I have a couple fun concepts for images I'd like to make.

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Flyby (OOF)

Another image from my walkabout with Bryan last week. It's out of focus. I think I like it in color better than black and white... but I can't quite make up my mind. Every time I look at these two pictures, I decide I like the *other* one better. Naturally.

Details of the dreamTrip are starting to come together, though quite slowly. I have a couple images from a class shoot that I have yet to post as well. Look for those Monday.

Friday, January 28, 2011


The other day I went on a walk around downtown Flagstaff with my buddy Bryan of The Schlepper and Kinkade Photography. He was out with a specific goal in mind. I was not. With no goal in mind, I followed Bryan around, shooting anything that caught my eye. I saw a couple fun cars (considering I'm in Flagstaff). I don't consider these calendar material images, but I was still surprised to see a Mercedes of any kind in Flagstaff. It's been a while since I've seen a tricked out land rover too, though definitely less surprising.

Two photo shoots today, see you on the other side!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


As many readers here will know, I more or less worship Chase Jarvis.
He's rocking pretty much everything I want to do in life, although he is a bit more video-centered than I plan on being, he certainly has the basic idea down.

Ever since I saw this video about the D7000 introduction, I've wanted to do a road trip with a bunch of photogs and models.

image courtesy of

Well, the planning has begun.
I'm still fairly fuzzy on the details, but here's what I got so far

The Numbers:
3 car minimum.
At least 4 models who know what they're doing.
1 road trip.
5-7 days.
At least 4 photographers who know what they're doing.
2 videographers.
March 12-19, 2011.

It's gonna be caravan style, cram people into vehicles and drive off into the unknown. Back roads as much as possible from AZ to SoCal, then up the coast to the Redwood forest in NoCal. Shoots on the beach, in the pool, in the cars, in the desert... anywhere that anyone in the trip wants to stop to make some art.

Lights, cameras, and lenses galore!

Small flash
Einstein 640s
Battery Packs
Power inverters
Pro bodies and lenses from:
Sony 0_0

I am super stoked about making this happen, but I need a few things to pull this off:
Videographers and photographers

If anyone in the Northern Arizona area is interested in making this happen - please let me know!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Out and about

I was way too warm yesterday afternoon, so I decided to get out and enjoy the bitter winter chill of downtown Flagstaff. I grabbed my camera, put on a coat, and headed out to freeze.

Here's what I came up with.

I've definitely done worse. I particularly enjoy the first photograph. I love taking pictures of birds. The alley I was standing in was full of them. Most of them were bombing the ground below without the courtesy of warning beforehand, so I didn't wander into the alley - instead choosing to stand off to the side. In order to catch the wings in a good position, I kept the camera on Continuous High shooting mode, and rocked away at 8 frames per second until I saw the shot I wanted.

In the third image, the car was driving by me as I went to open my car door. I guessed the exposure and fired at Continuous High for 10 frames or so. I didn't even look at the LCD until I was in my car and the heat was on full blast. 

There is something great about listening to a camera thrash the shutter and the lens diaphragm around. The feel of it is undeniably awesome as well. Sure, it takes a lot less skill to hold the shutter down than to catch the precise moment - it is also way more fun. 

If you haven't looked in a while, check out the links on the right side of the blog. Many of them are for my work, but several will take you off-site to companies and photographers I recommend.

Have a great day!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Desktop Background Compilation

One of my friends asked me for a way to get to all of the desktop background images that I've made since I started in late 2009. I resisted at first, but finally acquiesced and put something together.

Here's a sample of the images that are included in the zip file linked below.

I didn't change anything about the images from when I originally posted them. Some of them have funky filenames, some are different sizes. The server they are located on isn't the fastest in the world, so the download may take a few minutes.


Friday, January 21, 2011


For those of you who don't know, I shoot mainly using a Nikon D300s body. Attached to it at all times is a vertical grip/battery pack.

The grip can power the camera using the following power sources:
1 en-el3 battery
1 en-el4 battery w/ adapter (the same battery the D3 and D3s use)
8 AA batteries

Both the en-el4a and the AA batteries offer a frame-rate boost, which is really helpful when shooting sports. It was super easy for me to tell the difference on the old D300 body, because the AAs took me from 6fps to 8fps. The D300s shoots at 7fps regularly, so i'm only getting 1 extra frame per second using AAs. Still, that one frame makes a difference.

Here's the problem:

The photo above is the AA batteries I've gone through in the last 5 months. Approximately 68 in total. That's a lot of batteries. In fact, it's over $50 worth of batteries, since I usually find myself (or my boss, who generously donates about half my battery consumption) buying name-brand power cells.

I should be using rechargeable cells. I know. I own more than enough to power the camera, while having a spare set on the side. The problem is  - the camera refuses to acknowledge that the batteries are there. Even after fully charging them, the camera sees them for about 400 frames, and then thinks they're empty. I know the problem isn't the batteries, because I use them in everything from my scanner to my SB600 speedlight, and they work great for weeks!

With a regular set of alkaline AAs, I generally get 2000+ frames before the camera switches to the internal en-el3 battery. As such, I use alkaline disposable batteries pretty much full time. At this rate, I'm using well over 120 batteries a year. It's costly and it's a pain in my arse; I feel bad about throwing that many batteries into the landfill, so I have to make special trips to have them recycled.

To be fair, I haven't tried the rechargeable batteries with the D300s body yet, so I'll try to do that in the near future. Maybe I'll get lucky and that issue has been fixed.

I'm busy today with client meetings, which hopefully means I have some work coming my way.

Next up - a review on the 35mm f/1.8 lens!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

2011 Storage changes

For the new year, I've decided to switch up my workflow/storage technique just a little bit. Nothing huge or life-changing (like switching software), but a tweak significant enough I figure I'll share it with you.

FYI - the pictures in this post are from *old* folders I was cruising through while auditing my backups...

First irrelevant picture...

If you haven't already, check out my last workflow post that goes into great nauseating depth about how I do things.

For 2011, I've decided that I wont be keeping any photos on my Macbook Pro's internal HDD. Everything will be stored on USB drives. This makes my life much much much easier when I need to swap out Aperture libraries. I'm getting ahead of my self.

At the rate that I currently shoot, I end up with 500gb of pictures per year. These are pictures that I think are worth keeping - I shoot about 1.5 TB of images in any given year. The 500gb represents the final edits that don't hurt to look at.

In order for this whole photography thing to be sustainable, I need to be able to keep track of where all my images are. In the past, I've moved pictures from the internal HDD on my laptop to an external drive, then re-referenced them in Aperture. This process is time-consuming and leaves LOTS of room for user error. Being the moron that I am, I invariably make many such errors.

Another photo that has nothing to do with anything...

In order to avoid making all those errors, I'm cutting myself out of the process. From now on, all my photographs will be stored on external hard drives. The Aperture library that belongs to those photos will live on the drive with the photos. This way I don't have to worry about misplacing file references or whatever - the computer will automatically use the correct Aperture library when it's plugged into a certain set of drives.

Set of drives? Yup. I'm just a *little* paranoid about losing my photos, so every photo is copied into 3 places.

The first copy is instant and does not require me to use my brain at all. I have 2 Seagate 500gb portable USB drives. They are set up as a RAID 1 Array, which means that they are exact copies of each other. Should one drive fail, I simply buy another, plug it in, and the computer will restore everything for me. The instant I upload my photos, I have each photo in 2 places.

Another picture that is completely irrelevant...

Next, I keep another 500gb drive that is a backup of the RAID. This hard drive lives in a fireproof, waterproof, locked safe. I *should* store this off-site, but I figure the safe will cover me in the event of theft or pyromaniac roommate an act of God. I do have to use my brain for this one - which means copies aren't instant and if shit hits the fan, I might lose a day or two worth of photos.

There you go! That's the system as it currently stands.

I've had great luck with Seagate portable hard drives in the past. Less so with Western Digital.

This also frees up a lot of space on my laptop's hard drive, leaving more room for music, movies, documents, etc.

Every couple months, I add photos to The Archive. It is also in three places at any given time: one in the safe, one in a different city, and one plugged into the computer so I can access all my old files.

Friday, January 14, 2011

My Camera Bag

It has been a while since I shared the contents of my camera bag with my loyal readers. A fair bit has changed, so here's what I got.

I use a LowePro CompuTrekker AW Plus II bag. It is easily the best bag I've ever had.

Starting at the top left corner and going down and around...

  • 18-55mm kit lens
  • Rain cover
  • 50mm f/1.8 lens w/ lens cloth
  • 28mm f/2.8 lens w/ lens cloth
  • SB 600 flash and Polorizing filter
  • Nikon D300s Body with grip
  • BlackRapid R-Strap. RS-5 It carries an extra D300 battery as well as all of my Lexar memory cards
  • On the camera is the 35mm f/1.8 lens.
Continuing right and upwards...
  • 2x PocketWizard Transievers
  • Portable USB HDD - Right now it's a 250gb Seagate. It will soon be a 500gb Seagate
  • 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens
  • A spare pair of socks. Gotta have 'em
  • Backup Camera Body is my Nikon D300 that recently had its shutter replaced to the tune of nearly $500
  • Spare D300 battery
  • A third PocketWizard Transiever

In the top pockets I have a notebook, zipties, and a bunch of spare Mini and Micro USB cables for HDDs/cameras/phones/ etc. I also carry a card reader, nail clippers, my old media pass and a flashlight. You never know.

When I'm traveling, I put a spare shirt and pants on top of everything and my laptop goes in the bottom. Fully loaded it's about 55 LBS.

I'm traveling back to Flagstaff tomorrow - I'll probably do a post about my new workflow when I get settled, along with whatever photos I take on the drive back.

See ya around...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

NY Times call

I was sitting in my car today, waiting for a friend to show up for breakfast when I got a phone call.
The number was 111111111
I answered, fully expecting it to be some automated recording or somebody trying to sell me something a leopard-print snuggie.

"Heyyyyllloooooo" is about as unprofessional as it gets.

I was greeted by neither expected response, but by a photo editor at the New York Times, requesting a photo shoot that I had done years ago. Whoops. I switched to a more professional tone and had a lovely conversation about a shoot I spent 20 minutes on, nearly two years ago.

Apparently, while I was working for The Lumberjack student newspaper at NAU, I photographed a band performance of great interest to the NYT.

Of course, they don't care about the band itself. They care about the fact that Jared Lee Loughner, of Tuscon mass-murder spree fame, was apparently friends with the guitarist of the band that played. They think he might have been at the performance that I photographed, and they want me to look through my photoshoot and see if I can find anyone who might look anything like him. 

Crazy stuff.

The story ran in late March of 2009. I don't keep photos that old on my local hard drive, so I told him he would probably have to wait a while until I can get my archives spun up to look at the pictures. I also asked him to email me his contact information and a link to the story. I didn't get an email. 

Looking at the story and the image that ran, I remember the shoot. There were maybe 10 people total in the room, so I'm guessing that I didn't shoot many "crowd" shots. Still - it's fun to get a call from a publication like the NY Times. If I end up finding a picture of Loughner, I'll be sure to post it here, with a link to the NY Times page that runs it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to photography - cars!

I was just cruising through a few older posts on the blog. It looks like the vast majority of my recent posts have been about non-photography stuff. While I don't claim to have a specific focus for this blog, most of the time what I have to talk/rant about is photography related. Recently I have taken a hiatus from shooting anything interesting. Bummer, I know. I'm finally starting to get back on my feet.

Today, we're back on track with a few car images I shot the other day. As usual, They look better enlarged.

1975 Chevrolet Caprice Classic

1997 Mazda Miata

1990 Mazda Miata

My first shoot of the day was with the two Mazda machines. Working on a motion images is both a blast and huge pain. Instead of doing everything in post production, which I know how to do, I prefer to get out, feel the wind in my hair and freeze my freakin' butt off. Cue convertibles in 30 degrees with overcast skies.

I tried to employ a shutter speed that gave me some motion blur in the wheels, while still maintaining some semblance of sharpness on the rest of the car. I think I did alright, but the line is a fine one. The VR II on my 70-200mm lens definitely did most of the heavy lifting. Playing around with shutter speeds, I went from 1/50 to 1/250 of a second. My best results were somewhere around 1/125 or so, with the cars moving between 35 and 40 mph. 

The Chevy Caprice Classic came later in the day, with even less light. A large, wet storm spent the day inching its way towards Boulder, so as the day went on I had less and less light to work with. I finished the shoot with the big red boat around 5:30pm with a hand-held shutter speed of 1/50 sec, ISO 800. Definitely not ideal for shooting a stationary car, but it worked out alright. Again, the Vibration Reduction system saved my butt.

The learning curve on photographing cars is a steep one. I'm climbing like a maniac, and I hope to get somewhere where I can start making BIG prints of cars and be proud of them. You, my fearless reader, get to come on that journey with me. Please do stick around :-)

Thanks to:
Mark Beaty - 1990 Mazda
Rick Schader - 1997 Mazda
Rhoads Hollowell - 1975 Chevrolet

Monday, January 3, 2011 update!

More changes at Vault Photography!

I put up an "About" page, as well as a new portfolio of cars!

Comments/Feedback are appreciated! I view the site using Chrome, so I know that works. If anyone has any formatting or viewing issues on any other browser, please let me know!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The New Vault Photography

It's a new year and Vault Photography is undergoing some extensive changes.

Before we get into that though, I'd like to point you to a gallery of my favorite photographs of 2010
There are some 156 photos, out of tens of thousands that I shot, that speak to me personally. Some are just great memories, while others are photos that speak to me for one reason or another.
Best of 2010

Out with the old, in with the new!
Vault photography has a new logo and a new slogan

I finally got my act together and learned from some of the marketing stuff I've been reading. I've standardized my fonts throughout my written material, as well as my color scheme. The logo above is now prominently featured on - right where it should be. It also appears on this blog, on my business cards and on T-Shirts! 

Exceeding Expectations - ?
I sat down a few weeks back to ponder deeply about the direction of my business and where I want it to go. I wrote a mission statement. It took me approximately forever to come up with something that isn't terrible - but I think I got there.

Mission: to exceed expectations, providing clients with premium service and photographs while staying true to a unique creative vision.

The keywords to note are: exceed expectations, premium, unique, creative.

Of these, the only words that I don't see often in the photography business are Exceed Expectations. Sure, everyone wants to provide a premium product and be unique and creative, but so few people these days strive to go above and beyond. I realize that the experience clients have with me is going to be the deciding factor in whether I get hired again. 

New Market
For the last 5 years, I've been focusing on portraits. Families, high school seniors, pets, stuff like that. I've realized that while I love making these kinds of photographs, it isn't really what I want to be doing full time. I have decided to leave the portrait market behind, in search of bigger fish. I am so grateful to all the families who hired me to make their portraits, and I am confident that I haven't disappointed them. It's just time for me to move on.

Bigger Fish
I have identified a niche market in Flagstaff that is more or less untouched: Automotive photography. There are a lot of nice cars in Flagstaff but very few great pictures of these cars. I think I can fill that niche, and fill it well. 

Selling Car Photos
Hopefully these pictures can speak for themselves - perhaps with a little narration.
Which of these cars would you rather buy?




I know which I would want to buy. 

I think the difference between the photographs of each car is pretty extreme. Even with my limited automotive experience, I know I could improve vastly on these picture. The cars could be washed, they could be on a much better backdrop, the asphalt could be wet - there is so much more that could improve these pictures. But, for the sake of having a demonstration, I did these images in front of my house in Boulder over the span of about 30 minutes.

What is different? From the "point and shoot" style to the more polished image? 
1) Angle - Get Low!
2) Focal Length - 105 to 135mm
3) Car Position - showing all 4 wheels, as well as the rims and lights
4) Post Production: vignette, dodge/burn, sharpening, contrast adjustments
5) Lighting - one Einstein 640 camera left at full power

It doesn't take much to turn a car from a POS into a completely sellable (sexy) machine. 

I also plan on doing more advertisement-ish and action-y photos as well. If you've been around this blog for long, you'll remember some of these. (They look great enlarged)

In the past, automotive photography has been a hobby while I focused mainly on portraits. For 2011 and beyond, I'm going to focus on cars while making portraiture my hobby.

That's all for now. This post took me nearly two hours to finish because BLOGGER decided to start inserting random HTML tags and prevent my post from saving. Rawr.

Happy New Year! Stay tuned for more updates on the changes at Vault Photography!