A Rock is Not Just a Rock

A rock. Simple, solid and stable. Physically or Mentally. We all need a rock in our lives during these days of angst, someone to lean on, someone to bounce thoughts off of, someone to listen. Someone you can be comfortable with when your movements are restricted. When you are locked down. You do not have to be with your rock, it can be off in the distance, just a phone call away. I will not share my views on the current methods due to the fact that I am biased, as are most people in my field. We are not allowed to be confined, restricted or locked down. Unless of course we get sick. And we do get sick.

Life remains quite the crazy, non stop adventure. Hopefully, it will slow down soon. 6 weeks to be exact. I pen this from work, it is after midnight and we are in between jobs. I have one more shift on the truck after this, ten days till the company closes. Thirty days of administrative duties after that the job of 24.5 years is gone. I will be taking a few weeks off to clear the head and stretch the legs. New Hampshire and Maine are on the agenda, and some much needed housework before I hit the ground with the new employer. I am incredibly excited to see what the future holds. Though I do have a bit of angst towards the unknown, it is a perfectly healthy feeling. The groundwork has been set and it is just a matter of time.

This particular formation is called Looking Glass Rock. It gets its name from the sun shining of the bare face after it rains or it is iced up. I caught this view from a couple of pull offs on the Blue Ridge Parkway last time I was on it. There is not as much history recorded on it as I would have thought, 300 million years old, almost 4000 feet high, a piece of land that was on its way to being a volcano but stopped short for whatever the reason.

During one of my pull offs I met a lady who did have some insight into the area. We got to talking about family, relatives and ancestry which led us to Scotland. She mentioned the Appalachian area reminds her of the Highlands and that one time many moons ago when the continents were connected this area was next to that area. I do not remember my geology, tectonic plate shifts or formations but my wife and I would love to go exploring over there.

This thing juts up out of nowhere, fills the mind with wonder and takes away whatever stress you may be having. I am big on nature and fresh air, frees the mind, postpones the worries, creates happy thoughts. Gives WTF a positive meaning. I guess Nature is my inanimate rock. Always good to have two.

Make sure you have a rock in your life. Ask for help if you are in need, give help if you are able. Do not succumb to the media, but do take precautions. It has been a wild ride this year of 2020. Let’s see what else it will be giving us.

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time

Phil

Socially Distanced in The Whites of New Hampshire

Back at the end of January the company I worked for gave every employee notice that as of April 1, 2020 we would stopping all field operations and begin dissolving the entire corporation. Most were let go then, the rest of us would endure staggered layoffs until the end of the year. I received an April 30th date, so what do I do? Book a 10 day trip between New Hampshire’s White Mountains and Maine’s Acadia National Park for the beginning of May. After 24.5 years, a vacation without worrying about 500+ people sounded good to me. Solitude, Peacefulness. Uninterrupted time away. Uninterrupted. Time away.

Ha! So much for that. The back half of the trip to Maine was canceled. Of course I waited as long as possible and let them do the canceling, I was not going to pull the plug. New Hampshire was still a go! I had the time, let’s put it to good use. 

White Mountains Pano, 4 images hand held at 105 mm, EOS R 24-105

It was a little early in the season but what the heck right? Less people and no crowds, little did I know when I booked it what would ensue. It was weird, but cool, staying in a motel for 2 nights and being the only person in the joint. The third night another body arrived. A friendly hello exchanged and that was that. 

Snow covered the highest peaks, not much I could do there. Wanted to hit up the auto road, nope, still quite covered under snow towards the top with more on the way. Quite a few trails I had plan to tackle were closed for maintenance. Something about mudslides and uprooted trees. Spring thaw indeed. K, so next time plan during summer/early fall. I still have a remaining bucket list of things to do and see, perhaps turn into a leaf peeping trip in the fall.  

I arrived into town around 5 pm on a Tuesday, saw a couple spots for a potential sunset on the way there, checked in and headed out. Sunsets around these parts is a bit rough with all the mountains. I did not see any at all color while I was there but she sure was pretty watching her disappear behind the mountains.  These are from the side of the road on the Sacco River, near Conway. 

Wednesday would be a full day as I headed out to explore the 34 miles that make up the Kancamagus Highway. My primary objectives were waterfalls and other bodies of water that project downward. There are stated to be around 100 waterfalls in the region, with many more flumes and gorges littered throughout. My first along the highway was Lower Falls, located along the side of the road. No hike needed. This is a focused shot on a particular area of the falls. It actually extends quite a few more feet downstream before dumping into a general area frequented by swimmers in the summer when the turbulence is not a high. 

A couple miles down the road was the Upper Falls. 

A close up and a pull back. The difference in a two second exposure and a 1/10th of a second exposure. I am still more fond of the longer exposures overall, but these shorter ones do provide a little more feeling and a better understanding of the speed at which the water is moving. 

Next up was Champney and Pitcher Falls. This one turned out to be the only real hike during my stay, covering 3.5 miles round trip. A few stream crossings made it interesting, and I still dislike when things go up <Sea Dweller>. I did take a few 60 second breaks after some of the inclines and was very pleased I can still recover quick. 

Champey Falls

Set to the side, off in a little ravine was Pitcher Falls. This combo was very beautiful to see and well worth the effort it took to get there. 

Just down the road was Sabbaday Falls. A short hike only to discover the wooden stair case of a viewing ramp was closed. Despite my best efforts there were no compositions to be had at the base or the top. Could I have gotten a shot I was happy with? Most Likely, but you gotta respect the NPS signs that say do not cross these locked gates. And if I cannot view it on a wall, not pressing that button. What I did find however was a nice composition of boulders just above the falls. I was not looking for river shots at all but this one spoke to me. 

 The Lost Gorge is one of those major, charge admission to, attractions in the area so I knew that was closed.  Beaver Brook Cascades was closed as well, this one for trail trouble. I was bummed about this one. So, I headed over to the Basin to check it out. This is right on I-93 South, which I thought was wild. A short jaunt into the woods and an area full of cascades to be had. I would imagine this is incredibly popular destination during normal times. So easy to access, and so impressive the way the rock faces were cut in a smooth circular shape. 

Just up the trail is a less traveled location called Kinsman Falls. I imagine during warmer weather everyone stays and plays in the water at the Basin and this does not get much attention. Fine by me. 

With day one in the books, my legs were trashed. Day two proved to be, well, not as productive as day one. The Pinkham Notch section was pretty much shut down to due trail maintenance. Sounds like they got hit hard. Did a bit of driving and the next location I had marked out seemed a bit sketchy so I blew that off. Did not like the feel of the area. One more I had earmarked I could not find so while I was striking out for various reasons, I was enjoying the drive. The opening two shots of this page were from day two so I remained very content with the catalog I was building. After making a loop around the area, out of nowhere I saw a sign for Ripley Falls. This one was not on my list, I pulled over, looked it up and figured I would make something happen. 

0.6 miles of uphill, leg killing, seemed much longer than it actually was, roots, rocks, snow and mud stepping love ensued and I cannot find a composition I am happy with. Well, not actually true. I had one only there were a few distracting tree branches in the way so I ended up here: 

After this I knew I was shot, legs were done from not enough walking and I was getting real food hungry so I just kept driving. This is just some random photo of the mountains from a Scenic overlook. Cool sky but the lighting was flat. Everything is still in cold weather growth mode. 

The only time I used my crop camera on the trip was for this shot of Mount Washington. 7 images, 640 mm. The only problem is it is only 19 ” tall. I should have doubled up. Live and learn, educate and grow. Time to plan some day trips before I go back to work. 

Thank you for stopping by. Stay safe, stay positive. 

Phil

 

A New Canvas and a Canvas Changed

Dance season has held my focus for the past four months, so I have not had much time to catch up on a few sessions from over the winter. We are winding down now, one more to go and then a little break until nationals. When I can get a few dance sessions in the studio up to date, I will tell you all about it, but right now we are going to take a little peek into a hard rocking blues man gone solo.

I first met Brian while he was the front man for a four piece hard rocking blues act. These guys were a throwback and I very quickly became a fan of what they were putting out. But as it is with many young bands, things change and people go different ways. Brian and I got together to create a body of work that he could use for promotional material as he ventured out into the world of a being solo musician.

I had ordered a canvas backdrop from Savage just for this session. Savage is known for its amazing selection of paper and muslin drops and I had never even considered them for canvas. When I saw the color was exactly what I wanted and the fact that it was much, much less expensive than the well known canvas companies I figured I would take the plunge and pick one up. Oh my goodness, the thing is an incredibly gorgeous backdrop. I am now hooked on canvas.

Brian’s music has taken a little turn into a mostly acoustic avenue these days, still incredibly soulful, only in a more relaxing atmosphere. He has not put down the electric by any means, and it is going to be great watching and listening where he goes from here.

Since we had the time, of course had to get this look in. It goes perfect with the new backdrop and meshes well with his current direction.

You can check out Brian’s latest release, Learning Curves, and his social channels over at his site. Hope you dig it as much as I do.

Thanks for stopping by, talk to you soon

Phil

All About the Folk

Music that is. I am always amazed how different genres of song influence the soul. By nature I am a progressive hard rocker, raised on Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Yes and Genesis with a ton of Rush thrown in. These days it Sevendust, Shinedown and Godsmack laying a base for me along with a bunch of other rockers getting playtime. Need to put a quick shoutout in for Badflower, who have been on the top of my playlist for the past two months.

And then, there is the other side. It is like a split personality carving out a large part of my musical wanderings. The mellower but just as energetic persona influenced by Folk music. My favorite songs over the past few years have been from The Lone Bellow and John Mayer. Perhaps it is because I have the blood of a southerner but was raised in the Northeast. Does it matter? Nope.

Many of my local favorites are based on the softer, more passionate side of my interests. I was very excited when Joseph Miller answered the call and expressed interest for a sitting. It was just over three years ago when I first saw Joe strum his acoustic at a show. And at the time I could not resist sniping this candid of him next to the bill, checking out the history of the Wonder Bar while he was waiting to go on stage.

We hooked up over the holidays to create some material for him to use in for some upcoming promos. After a little catching up we got right to work. I did not even let him take his coat off, it fit the color scheme nicely.

Running the patterns, I am always one for a more dramatic look

The guitar came out of course and we had a little fun with that, coming away with a few different looks. I will always leave space on one side or the other for typeset with images. Need to provide content that is easy and suitable for use.

One of my favorites, and I think one of Joe’s as well. This one is for the walls!

You can check out Joe along with his work and whereabouts right here!

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Kicking off a new body of work

I started a personal project back in December with a goal of developing a body of work geared towards promotional material for the musicians I cover. And, while I am not out there as much as I want to be I still pay attention to what goes on and who is where, hoping that this little thing called life slows down for me again soon so I can get back to the scene I love so much.

I had a few bites from the posting I put out, fell a couple short of the goal, but spring weather approaches and with it the attempts to finish out my initial shot list. Most of the musicians I have shot so far I have followed or covered for a few years so it was really cool getting them into a controlled environment for a change. The first one up was soft spoken, dreamy, singer songwriter Mackenzie Brown.

I have wanted to get Mackenzie into the studio for a while now for more than just promo material, she has a great look and was a perfect subject for my foray into colored gels. And while our time was short, towards the end of our session I did find a good combination of lights and gels that work great together. Of course I had to start out without the gels just so we could have some “normal” material to work with. I also messed around with some color grading, making use of some new Lightroom presets and LUTS in Photoshop.


This next image I honestly have no recollection on the base configuration and what treatment was done to it in post. But it is totally different from the rest of our series and is one I am still tweaking away at to this day. I might have just jacked up the power on the background light and perhaps a blue gel was added as well.

As we got in the groove (…I stopped screwing around…) we began to create some stunning material and things really began to click. I love this classic look and the hint of a blue gel adds nice contrast to her hair and shoulder.

One of my favorite looks from our session. There is so much to be said about someone who can pull off an expression like this. Mackenzie has perfected the no smile, retain a personality look which is incredibly hard to do. Of course one of the reasons I wanted to get her in to begin with .

I could not resist making a crop of it. I also left the background alone.

More gel play as the weather turns. I have a good combination that I can work with and now it is all about experimenting with the set up and getting comfortable with the boundries. You can check out Mackenzie’s music here, and more to come from the artists and groups that have visited.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

Dance Season is Upon Us

Seems appropriate that I get off my duff and continue where I left off at the end of last summer when I was trying out some new lighting gear. A blurry few months have shot by and it is a new year now, with dance season bearing down upon us. For the next five months many of my weekends will be spent glued to the viewfinder with hundreds of competition dancers leaping across the plane of my lens. I can only hope the light is good during these events as we are subject to the confines of the stage we are visiting. Ain’t no flash here.

The second go round I had with the Flashpoint Xplor Pro 600 back in the fall was just as awesome as the first. Mary Cate was the subject for this particular evening, and even though we did not get much color in the sky, the fact finding mission was accomplished and we captured some great material in the process.

Mary Cate is a dancer of course, long and lean with some great lines. To refresh, I was checking out the high speed sync capabilities so my shutter speeds were upwards of 4000 with the tele lens at 2.8, and 2000 with the wide at 4.0. Since this time I have become a big fan of this series of light, and at half price or better from the big boys, very well worth it.

I think the biggest challenge when shooting during a setting sun is the large change that happens in natural light in a very quick time span. The constant evaluation of meter readings can be a pain but once you get a base, should not be that bad. Grabbed this on while the sun was still reasonable, but no clouds to play with so a little flare:

Then after a bit it came time for another base exposure

And then the real fun began:

The final series of the night and a look that seems to have become very popular in the dance world. Or maybe it has always been and I just have not seen it much. Either Way…

It was great having some one on one time with the dancers, always a pleasure getting them in this environment. Spring should be right around the corner, though we really have not had much of a winter yet, so as soon as it warms up I will get them back out there. In the meantime to the stage we go!

Thanks for stopping by, Talk to you soon!

Phil

My First Go Round with High Speed Sync

Being someone who likes action oriented photos as much as I like the static ones, I have always wanted to get into high-speed sync. The Canon 430 used on camera does a decent job, if you are close, but I have always wanted something with a bit more juice to it. Not having the budget to purchase a desired Profoto or Broncolor unit, I went all in on the Flashpoint Xplor 600 Pro, half the cost of the others.

There is quite a bit for me to still learn about it, but as soon as I got it I secured my test subjects and went into HSS mode. I will go over more of the features in a future offering, this one was all about fast shutter speeds.

The majority of my outside sessions involve a setting sun, I love the combo of a lit subject and a colorful, scenic background so these images are some of what went down on the first day of tests. This image is one of the last of the evening, and while you do not necessarily need to shoot HSS to achieve it, I did it anyway. f4.5 at 1/1250.

Allie used to be one of my dance girls so I have known her for a number of years, but never had the opportunity to get in a session with her. Allie does not dance competitively anymore, but she does cheer so she still has those pliable abilities and of course we got them out.

f4.5 1/1250

Solid result. Crisp, mid-air edges. I think I was still using a soft box here so we got some pretty good flash coverage area. Funny thing, these images are six weeks old and it is the first time I am noticing that yellow sign.

Since we seem to be going in reverse order here, this next image was shot at f4, 1/2500th of a second. It did not make the final selections – I am all about the face – but I am impressed with the stopping power. The light provided just enough detail in the image and 1/2500th caught Allie with hands just off the ground and the sand in the air.

I originally thought this next image could be obtained just using a reflector. After studying it, I do not think it would be possible. F3.2, 1/4000th of a second. Soft box just above head and pointing down.

One of the first images of the evening while we were getting dialed in with light and position. Another at 3.2 4000.

I was very happy with my first foray into high speed sync and the Flashpoint xplor600 pro. Be back soon with our next adventure with the new gear.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

No Tolerance for Ignorance

I need to get back and pay attention to this area of my life. Growing up I thought life was supposed to get easier as you got older, it seems to be steamrolling right along, without a chance to step back and relax. I have started to make time for doing nothing, just to try and clear the mind and body. Gym time stays in the loop three or four days a week, but certain things have definitely taken a back seat as of late. When you sit in front of a computer for most of the day, you kinda want to stay away from it at night. It just saps your energy.

I was sitting outside tonight, watching the sun set, it was pure and peaceful. I always want to find somewhere to capture it, but I have shot at most of the good locations around here and have no desire to drive more than needed. [discovered a couple new locations last week!] Plus I have run out of room on the walls and the last thing we need are more digital only images. I like to hold and remember the moment, not just look and move on.

Anyway, what prompted me to get going here is a comment that was thrown at a coworker I recently shot. Melissa has busted her ass for two years, transforming her life and her health during that time to become an award winning body builder. TWO YEARS. In her first competition she did not place, this was around one year after she began her journey. In her second one, another year later, she placed second in two different categories! Busted her ass, full time job, mom, wife, homeowner and she got it done!! If that is not bad ass I do not know what is.

So just a few days ago someone told her she looked like a man. Ummmmm, not. Why, because she is fit?  Just stop. Intimidated perhaps? Should be, I am and I am fairly confident with my appearance. (The over 50 belly and loose neck skin has made its way forward) What is wrong with people these days. I would challenge anyone to put in half the effort that Melissa has put in. So that comment kind of bothered me and was just the spark I needed to get going here.

During the actual competitions, it is all bikinis for these ladies, but for the sessions I like pure fitness. This may be adjusted if we shoot again, just to stick it to a few people. I have never appreciated shooting scantily clad bodies for the simple fact I feel it degrades the person. How is that for old fashioned thinking. Eyes, hair, face and shoulders are all I need.

We tried a couple of different looks during the session, played with some gels a little and even got the atmosphere aerosol out for a long burst. I am still feeling a bit confined in my space, the low ceilings especially weigh on me, but Grids are good and light is just light after all. I just added one to the inventory for my favorite outside shoots. Touch base on that one in the next offering.

Thanks for stopping by, get out and get it done!

Phil

Family Time

The holidays approach, the house is clean, strike up the oven and break out the leaf for the table. Lets all get together, eat, drink, nap, watch movies, play games, then rinse and repeat.  Blood relatives and extended families congregate for their specific cultural reasons and engage in…..

Why do we need an excuse? Call your family now and say hi, have not talked to someone since the last holiday? Call them, visit them, do not wait. Do it. Now. I am guilty of this just as you are. Life is not that simple anymore, but oh I wish it were. Just to be kicking back without having to worry what city will be next up for craziness.

My mom and dad turned 91 this year, our daughter 18, crazy stuff those two ends of the spectrum present us with. My parents have not seen Britt in a couple of years because life has given us a very windy road to maneuver, but this holiday season we are stressing the importance of resolving that fact.  Southbound again. Finally.

I had the pleasure of shooting a large family over the summer as they all congregated for a milestone celebration.  A mid morning session after I worked an overnight shift had my nerves activated but a few cups of coffee got me going and I was able to subtly feed off the love this family had for each other. And this makes it all worth it.

Going into this solo enforced the need I have for my “assistant” (Mee wife) but we were at opposite ends of the state almost. Nat is actually on her way to Maine to see one of her besties right now. Without me. Maine. The things we do for love.

The Primaries

And the kiddos

Combined as a group or separated as a unit, as long as we are together everything will always work out.

And at the end of the day, we can be assured that no matter how many challenges life brings us there is always time for silliness.

Right in the middle of all this I think, the battery pack for my main light decided to take a dump. We were nowhere near electricity. I always carry a couple of speedlites with me just in case of this scenario. I may have lost some power, but I did not lose the fun. Enjoy the approaching holiday season, and be prepared for all the excitement to come!

Thank for stopping by!

Phil