I confer a lot with my twelve year old on what’s hip, and what’s not.

Did you know that fresh actually means cool?

And did you know that tide pods actually taste like candy?

I sure didn’t.

So I asked my three daughters if they wanted to jump on the bandwagon of craft store photoshoots and they squealed with ear piercing glee.

Huh, who knew following the latest trends would make me the “Cool Mom”. 

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So off we went to Joann craft store.

I can see the allure of this type of shoot, and why the idea went viral. The lighting inside these giant craft stores are utterly terrible: fluorescent, flickering, dull, rage inducing. So the challenge is high to get shots that are exposed correctly, sharp focused, etc.

It’s also fun to “steal” these floral backdrops for a few minutes and then leave the store without actually buying anything. 

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I paid my twelve year old the sum of $5 to follow me around with my backup Nikon so I could clip together some shaky, yet useable, footage of this shoot.

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Enjoy Peons.

And here are the rest of the edited shots from this shoot:

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This is a birth story.

But this is NOT a story about giving birth.

We’ve all read a million blogs telling first hand accounts of their birth story’s. Contractions. Water breaks. Contractions. Pushing. Pushing. Contractions. Fart. Hemorrhoid. Baby. Tears. 

This is not one of THOSE birth story’s.

I mean, yes, all of that did happen……technically. But this story is a first hand account of birth from the other side (which I found much more enjoyable to be honest).

It all started the day before Katherine went into labor. We squeezed a short maternity shoot into our hectic schedules. We laughed through the whole shoot, and even harder and longer at the “unusables“. We laughed for over an hour.

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I still maintain that Katty laughed herself into labor because she went into active labor the next day.

I met her at her house around three where she was laboring at home for as long as she could. She kept saying  “I don’t think this is really it. You should go home

But I knew. I knew from the way she breathed, the white knuckled grip, the arching back; I wouldn’t be going home.

So I meandered around her house for the next seven hours, we ate beef stew and played dominoes. (I told her in a few hours she would be enjoying the stew again via vomit).

I encouraged Katty to walk around her house, to enjoy the quiet, the tidiness, the peace. Because her house would never again feel so empty.

She disappeared for a while, likely overwhelmed by the rush of emotions. There is always a moment when it feels like your world is crumbling around you. You know your whole life is about to be different. You know it’s too late to go back. It’s scary. And it’s overwhelming. But it’s also necessary. And when she needed a moment alone, to wrap herself in the realization that THIS was actually it, we left her alone.

Let’s fast forward to 10:00pm when Katherine decided it was time to head to the hospital.  I got lost on the way. I do that. When I showed up Katty was dilated to a 5.

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There is such a different atmosphere in birthing rooms, such a stark difference to the aura of sadness and anxiety that envelopes the rest of the hospital. Birthing rooms buzz with excitement and promise. I walked into Katherine’s room and a flood of memories washed through me. This was familiar. I’d done this before (Three times), and this time I didn’t have to be in pain. Can I get a Hallelujah?!

 

Still, as familiar as I was with the whole process, I had never experienced it from the other side before. I wasn’t prepared to be knocked on my ass by humility. I wasn’t prepared to feel frightened and inspired by Katherine’s pain. I wasn’t prepared to discover a whole new definition for “Awe”. But indeed I did.

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It was almost like a car accident. You want to turn away but you don’t want to miss anything.

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It was hard to watch. We all breathed with her during contractions and, in fact, I clenched with her as rode out the waves of pain. I started getting cramps before I realized what I was doing and mentally kicked myself in the shin.

Katherine rode the Pain Train for hour after hour. Andrew alternated between rubbing her back and letting her hang on him for support. Such a lovely team.

Although, we all kept wondering how Andrew could look so damn perfect and be so damn chipper.

He was practically vibrating with excitement.

Katherine….not so much.

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At this point we were all exhausted (except for Andrew who couldn’t sit still). It’s actually extremely hard to watch someone go through so much pain and not be able to do anything about it. Katherine’s mom, my aunt Teresa, had a grimace of pain in every picture. It made me wonder if I would be the same way if I were in her position and it was MY daughter giving birth. Teresa was there when I was born, helping my mother the same way she helped Katherine. I’d never seen my Auntie so quiet, offering the comfort and assistance that she couldn’t verbally. It was beautiful to watch; A night of action, not words.

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Things went from 0-60 real quick after the nurse told us that Katherine was fully dilated. Suddenly our weary bones perked up, the exhaustion left and it was time to rock and roll.

Thinking back to my own births, I didn’t remember being such a bad-ass. I mean, I’m sure I was, but I wasn’t concentrating on anything else but getting the damn parasite out of me. Looking at Katherine, gathering her remaining strength to push over and over and over, made me realize the strength of us women. We are awesome! We were built for this purpose, our bodies know how to take us through to the end.

As Spock would say “Fascinating”.

I wasn’t silent for the whole thing. My mantra for the night was “Katty stop holding your breath”. I may have said that 52 times that night. And then I shut up. Because she didn’t need me anymore, or Andrew or her Mom. I watched Katherine’s instincts take over, watched her body flow through the moves that billions of women had done before her. She had this.

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There were a lot of firsts that night, and I stood there humbled as we all experienced them together, in our own way. My plan was to take a picture of the clock on the wall, the minute Prestyn was born. But as I panned over I caught Andrews first moment seeing his daughter’s face.

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I often told Katty that there is no pain like the pain of pushing out your baby…..

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……and there is no moment quite like the moment you first see your baby. You only get to experience it once. The moment of awe.

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And the “We did it” moment.

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And all of a sudden, our family was a little bigger. 6lbs 11 ounces bigger. And Prestyn was just there, like she’d always been there. She wailed a hearty cry, covered in goo and sporting fiery red hair. And she was perfect.

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In some ways it was kind of terrible being the photographer in this particular scenario. I was the silent observer, trying with all my might to melt into the shadows, to keep my shutter clicks from bothering Katty. I didn’t help her rough through her contractions even though I wanted to. I could’t cry when Prestyn came out because then I wouldn’t be able to see through my lens. I feel like I missed out a little bit on the whole experience.

BUT (and this is a huge but), I got something priceless in return. Not only did I get to watch this beautiful little girl take her first breath, I got to photograph it.

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This little human who was brand new to the world had never EVER had her picture taken before. I was the first. That’s special. I will always have that.

As a photographer there is no greater honor.

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How quickly you forget how tiny they can be, how precious. And just how different your world feels afterward. 

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I went home to my own children with renewed vigor and the memory of what I went through to bring them into this world. I never knew how bad ass I was. I did this three times! and yet I didn’t fully appreciate it until I watched it from the other side.

I learned so much about Katherine and myself and life that night. But out of all the things I learned and forgot about my own births, I remembered THIS moment clearly:

Joy.

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2018 Photography Bucket List

A lot of my blog posts are fueled by anger. I usually sit my indignant ass down and let righteous anger fuel my fingers. Sometimes I even smell smoke.

Those posts are full of emotion. They’re funny. They’re meaningful.

Not this one. 

This one is just a list. 

A BADASS LIST!

But still….just a list.

JAKE SHOOTS PEOPLE 2018 BUCKET LIST:

  • 12 SELF PORTRAITS
  • WIN ONE CONTEST
  • WORK WITH MIKE GUASTELLA
  • PHOTOGRAPH A WILD ANIMAL
  • 3 BLOG POSTS PER MONTH (AT LEAST)
  • PHOTOSHOOT WITH PAINT
  • TAKE PHOTOSHOP CLASS AT VVC
  • GET PAID $100 IN BLOG ADS
  • MINIMUM 8 YOUTUBE VIDEOS
  • START SAVING FOR TAMRON 70-200
  • MINIMUM 8 INTERESTING PEOPLE INTERVIEWS
  • NEW BUSINESS CARDS
  • LEARN 5 NEW PHOTOSHOP TECHNIQUES
  • HAVE A POST GO VIRAL
  • GET PUBLISHED

I’ll keep updating this list as things get crossed off, or if I add to it.

Wish me luck Peons!

Your Overlord,

Jake

 

A Song and a Self Portrait

“What of the pious, the pure of heart, the peaceful?
What of the meek, the mourning, and the merciful?
What of the righteous?
What of the charitable?
What of the truthful, the dutiful, the decent?

Fin

Doomed are the poor
Doomed are the peaceful
Doomed are the meek
Doomed are the merciful
For the word is now death
And the word is now without light”

-APC-

See these bad boys?

(click the image to purchase them for pocket change. You won’t regret it!)

These tiny things help me see into another world.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?! You ask.

Allow me to explain: These lenses screw onto my camera lens and open up a whole new world.

An alien world.

A world so full of the most minute detail that it gives me the heeby jeebies.

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Ewwww!! Who knew the Soul’s Window could look like a butthole!

Macro changes EVERYTHING. It brings out details that our own buttholes can’t see normally.

But macro photography is hard. I’m still learning the technique and what I’ve gleaned is that you MUST autofocus and you MUST NOT use flash. So when I have my subject in frame, even the smallest amount of movement ruins the focus. Usually I just lean forward or backward about 0.67354 of an inch at a time until my focus is tack sharp…and then I try not to move. Or breath. Or pass gass. Or blink. Or anything that would cause me to move and lose focus. 

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This little fellow was smaller than my pinky nail. Bask in his cuteness.

My garden hosts lots of tiny creatures that look like horrific beasts under the macro lenses. Unfortunately, the photos in this post are all I have as far as macro photography goes.

 

I don’t claim to be an expert in all areas of Photography. In fact, I probably know the least about macro photography. It’s a niche I have touched on but it didn’t hold my interest (for now).

For those of you who are interested in actually learning something from this post, head on over to Click it Up a Notch where you can get some real information about Macro Photography. Courtney has such a knack for the technical aspect where, sadly, I lack finesse.

Enjoy Peons. And Happy Shooting!


 

Photography can teach you many things.

Besides being an outlet for creativity, photography can help heal wounds, cope, organize your thoughts and teach life lessons.

It can also help you with perspective.

Have you ever had a problem so overwhelming you felt drowned? In the thick of a problem you sometimes feel there is no way out, no way around it, no other way but to trudge on through. And that my peons, blows. Blows hard.

Ass! No not ass….butt! No, not butt. BUT…BUT there is another way.

It’s called PERSPECTIVE friends. How you perceive something can completely change the outcome.

I suppose this is the part where I throw in a nifty example that totally correlates with this life lesson…hmmm…I got nothing.

Oh wait, I’ve got something. Once upon a time Brett and I made Hotel reservations in a part of the state we were not familiar with. Upon check-in we realized we’d accidentally booked a nice cozy little death trap smack down in the middle of Ghettosville. Our door had kick marks in it, three dead bolt locks, half eaten food on the bathroom floor and a TV that only half worked. Literally. Only half the screen worked.

All night we could hear fighting and stomping around the halls. And when we got in the elevator we gazed, in horror, at a sticker above the floor buttons. It read: EXPIRES 2012. Here we were standing in 2016 hoping the whole elevator didn’t come off it’s hinges, sending us crashing to our collective deaths. (Or maybe it was just me that thought that. I can’t remember).

Time for that head tilting, perspective thing I was telling you about. We could have run for the hills, screaming of bed bugs and expired elevators. But we did not. Instead we were kind of excited. Death was imminent. We were being adventurous. We don’t do much of the whole dangerous thing. Suddenly our trip was kind of exciting and we drove home with PTSD and the proverbial “I survived” mentality. Not to mention a cool story to tell.

See! See how perspective changed the way I viewed the problem and in turn changed the outcome? So let’s go ahead and relate this to photography, shall we?

Sometimes just tilting our heads a little, tweaking and turning, can completely change a picture. The photo of model, Leilani, jumping in the air was lackluster at best. I wasn’t even gonna use it….UNTIL I turned my head a bit, squinted my eyes and imagined it differently. Simply turning the picture upside down completely changed the feel of this picture. What once was a picture of a pretty girl jumping in the air (i.e. blah), transformed into a photo that makes you think. Is she falling to her death? Is she transcending gravity? How does one fly?

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With this picture of Jessi I struggled for hours on perspective. Each version spoke in different ways. Was the Jessi on bottom the real Jessi, trying to communicate with her own downtrodden self? If I flipped it to the side it seemed she was on the other side of a door, begging to come in. Flipping it again made it seem as thought she was listening to herself cry.

See what I mean about perspective peons? Taking a simple image and flipping it, or looking at it from a different angle can change is so drastically.

I encourage lots of head-tilting in these next few shots (and in life!).

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This demon, to me, seemed to be begging for something. Much like a dog. A demon dog begging for scraps. No one likes begging. Flipping it changed the direction the demon was focusing and now it seems as though she is gazing longingly at her own death.

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Turn your head to the left. That’s the original. It shows physical strength yes (How does she hold her whole body weight up??). But it is not as pleasing to look at. At the current angle it shows strength of a different kind. Like the whole world is pushing down on her. Like she is giving her all to hold the world up, and it could come crashing down at any moment. Crushing her. Splat.

In Photography, and in life, sometimes all it takes is a simple head tilt to see things from a different angle. And maybe things aren’t as hopeless as they look.

Different angle. Different perspective. Different outcome. It’s easy, peeps.

 

I don’t do impromptu.

The fickle (and brightly colored) parts of my brain that controls my nerves don’t appreciate being rushed. They tell me that everything must be planned out, in perfect order, first. For my comfort, things must be thought out, from every angle, planned, dissected, and then written down. If I could make an itinerary for every day of my life, I would. 

I like lists too.

Bu sometimes things just happen.

And by happen I mean my cousin coming over and saying, “Hey I brought my camera, let’s take some pictures”

WHAT?! Pictures?? Right NOW? What about my lists!? We haven’t planned anything out yet! We don’t have outfits, or makeup or even SOME kind of direction! We just can’t! 

Of course I didn’t say that….Instead I cooly shrugged my shoulders and said “Sure”

Meanwhile my anxiety had an aneurism and died on the floor. 

So yes, this photoshoot had no direction, or aim (I know! Awful right?!), but it still somehow turned out to be pretty gosh darn amazing.

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Katherine and I got half naked, slapped on some cool makeup and brought out my trusty (and well used) bottle of fake blood.

Folks, it was messy, it was sweaty and the fake blood burned our skin after a while.

We took turns using each others cameras so that all the good shots would be on both of them. (I think there may be some blood on my lens. meh)

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Shots of me courtesy of the lovely Katherine.

For editing I threw beauty out of the window. These shots were incredibly raw from the start, so I continued that theme when I sat down to edit. I didn’t edit out the flaws: The bags, freckles, pimples, age spots, blackhead, what have you. (It wasn’t laziness I swear! It was VISION! Honest…)

Instead I amplified the flaws. Mostly because I didn’t want these photos to turn into glamour shots, but also mostly because that’s just how I roll. There is a time and a place for blood and glamour, this night was not one of those times. 

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I didn’t want editing to take away any of the detail, to smudge, and heal the rawness from these. To me they are messy, and ugly, and REAL and beautiful.

And no, they don’t have a message or a meaning, because I didn’t plan them. But they SPEAK!

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This was one of the last shots and I think it is fitting. It was after 1am by the time we filled our memory cards.

After showers, we crawled into bed with visions of blood and awesomeness.

Amen peons.

Amen.

You know that moment when the clouds open up, light pours out and you can hear the heavenly voice of the angels singing Ahhhhhhh? That scene has been portrayed a hundred different times in a hundred different movies. Why? If you ask me it’s because of the light.

Light. LIGHT! Lighting is used in movies, music videos, photography, etc. to show something important. (It also helps you to find your underwear at five in the morning when you forgot to put the laundry away and instead shoved it into a pile by your bed)

Photographers use lighting to create a mood. A feeling. An emotion. It’s not easy, trust me. As a newbie with studio lighting, I am just scratching the surface of what my studio lights can do for me. I have always been an advocate for natural light. God created the perfect accent, the perfect soft box when he created the sun. And God doesn’t make mistakes!

With that being said, natural light is fleeting. All photographers know about the “Golden hour”; That moment just before sunset when the light turns from harsh and bright to soft and gold, casting long, dramatic shadows. When the Golden Hour is gone you’re reduced to fixing grainy, dark pictures in editing (Which is stupid. So don’t do it. That’s an order)

This is the reason I un-puckered my ass cheeks and doled out Fifty bucks on a cheap lighting set up.

I bought these:

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Which you can buy Here.

They serve me well and give me so much control in my studio. For this set up I put my umbrellas on either side of the subject with the accent light to the right and behind (It get’s moved around to fullfill it’s masters needs).

A simple white reflector was placed in from of the subject to bounce light onto her face, since any one of the lights directly on her face would be too harsh. SIDE NOTE: My fancy “reflector” is a white piece of cardboard from the dollar store. I also have black and one covered in foil. Did I mention I’m cheap?

Speaking of the “Subject” she does have a name. This adorable little hooman is my second born and the destroyer of worlds. She is Benji, conqueror of all toilet seats and sports a face that is likely to send her Daddy to an early grave.

So now that you know Benji, let’s get started. The first setup I am going to show you looks like this:

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My drawings might just rival Da’Vinci, I know, I know. So these shots were created using the two umbrellas and the reflector ONLY. It creates a very soft even light.

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Simple, beautiful.

BUT if we add the accent light behind her (and to the right, remember?) it adds a dramatic glow behind her and places a beautiul shine to her hair.

Setup looks like this:

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By Golly I am amazing!

Pictures look like this:

It’s amazing what a little light can do for a picture.

For the next set up we put one umbrella in time out and had the accent light assassinated. Setup looked like this:example4

Doing this brought a nice one directional light to the picture casting dramatic shadows:

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This setup is nice for moody self portraits. But if you want even MORE drama (Because we are all basic and we all love drama *rolls eyes*) Then we can send BOTH umbrellas on a shopping trip and use ONLY the accent light.

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The outcome? Out of this world, dramatic, moody, dark….all the fun stuff. Mmmm.

It’s fun to play around with the lights and settings and come up with different moods. I switched between a black and white background as well, just to create a different feel.

(No editing was done to these pictures)

Hope this little how-to helps! Happy shooting and happy editing my peons!

Believe it or not, I didn’t start out as a bad ass photo editor. Nope. I worked my way up doing normal, boring photo shoots like Joe Blow. Just like the little people.

I work full time at a dog grooming shop during the day. My nights and weekends are full of maternity shoots, family portraits, weddings, birthdays, newborn, boudoir, etc. And while I enjoy these (mostly the money), these types of shoots don’t tickle my fancy the way that photo editing does. That’s why I try to make sure and throw in a fun and challenging photo shoot that requires lots of editing every once in a while. (I don’t get paid for these yet. But they keep my spirit alive!)

One of my other passions is Equine Photography. I’ve been riding for twenty years and find, like most people, that horses possess a grace and sincerity that longs to be photographed.

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Although, anyone who works with animals know how unpredictable they can be. That’s probably why I love it so much. Photographing horses is enough of a challenge to tickle that fancy I was just talking about (And a good fancy just needs to be tickled. Trust me).

For every beautiful, graceful shot of a horse running through a field, is a photographer, sweaty, laying in a pile of fresh crap.

I took this picture lying underneath a jump, surrounded by horse shit, as a 1200 lb beast jumped over me. It made me pucker, that’s for sure.

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Especially because a few minutes later he did this:

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I have not been to one horse shoot where the animal didn’t have a diva moment at some point.

This shot: loralee14donebw

Preceded this shot:

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And these ones:

Led to this one:

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See what I’m getting at? Equine photography is most certainly NOT boring. And that’s what draws me to it.

Don’t get me wrong, my paid weekend shoots are awesome. People actually hand me money to photograph them (Thief Baggins!). But at the end of every shoot I am left uninspired and a little dead inside. I am an artist! And I need to be challenged! (Too bad the market for horse photography is dead in my area. Cowboys love their iphones apparently).

One day I will meld my love for horse photography with photo editing and create some magic. I just need to find a willing model. In the meantime, these two different facets of photography will remain in different folders on my computer. *sigh*