March 2010 - Photo of the Month

Spring is in the air. Well, not so much this week like the last but it is officially here. The mountains have been getting pounded with snow the last few days which seems to be a spring time ritual here in the North West. I'm hoping to close out the year tomorrow and take advantage of some of the fresh fallen snow.

All snow aside, Priya and I just returned from a trip to the beautiful San Juan Islands. We stayed at a friends place in Friday Harbor and really enjoyed the dining, drinking, exploring and relaxing. Here are a few places that are worth checking out if you make it to the island. Downriggers is a great spot for delicious food and drinks with a brilliant view. Blue Water is a great casual spot for drinks and specials. Mt Young is a scenic hike with moderate effort to get to the top. Panoramic views of the islands, mountains and sea greet you as you approach the "summit". Which brings us to the Photo of the Month.

This was taken at the top of Mt Young looking west. The sun was just hovering above this lonely tree atop the rock and moss which makes up Mt Young. Something about this photo is majestic to me. It was just so perfect. It was like it was waiting for me at the top of the climb. I love the simplicity of the tree and the complexity of the layers of islands and sky. It was really a beautiful moment snapping this shot. Also, it really helped strengthen my recent discovery of harnessing the great feelings you have when you are enjoying something. I have been really trying to consciously feel the positive energy when accomplishing something. Whether it's a run, a bike ride, a climb, a meal, a laugh or editing a photo, I have been working on bottling up the feeling and storing it for a rainy day. Nothing great comes easy. When you reach the greatness, the hard work is almost always worth it. This is my way of not giving up and knowing the feeling will be unmatched by any other which really helps ease the pain of the journey. You can apply this to almost anything. (Mike tips back in his chair and strokes his goatee.)

I have a ton of shots I am working on which will be up with in a week or so. Which is a great door to my last point. My print shop is finally up and running!!! You no longer have to deal with me if you want prints. Just click on "prints" on my website and you will be directed to my SmugMug page which will have all my available prints in several different sizes for ordering. As of now, I only have the photos which are hanging at Greenlake Bar & Grill available for ordering but I will be adding more this week. Stop by and let me know what you think. It's all for you guys so your feedback is important. Is it easy to order from? Is it easy to navigate? Could it be better? Any comments are much appreciated.

Until next time!

-Mike

February 2010 Photo of the Month

I'm finally posting my Photo of the Month on time! This month has been really eye opening. I've figured out that the busier I am, the better work I turn out and the more motivation I retain. I had a couple of slow days this last month and really had a hard time staying motivated to do any work. I've decided to make my schedule as full as possible and keep shooting whether I'm getting paid or not. I just need to keep shooting and getting better.

A couple of months ago I ran a contest on Facebook which offered a free photo shoot to the first 5 people who responded to my post. The contest was over quick and I found myself with 5 people who needed to find a slot in my schedule. Well I'm finally getting around to taking care of these shoots. A couple of weeks ago one of the winners (and good friend), Nick Thompson came over to my house and we set out for some creative shooting. We took a trip down to Goodwill and picked up an old typewriter and then got some old rope from my dad's house. We decided to do an office type shot and a hostage style shot. This was obviously the latter.

We dirtied up Nicks t shirt and wrapped him up with rope. Once I got the light just how I wanted it, I threw on a blind fold and duck taped his grill so he couldn't mouth off while I was shooting.

We had a really good time and all 10 hours of work that I have put into it were free of charge. Fact is, this is probably one of my favorite shots I have ever taken. If I let the money come between me and getting this shot, I would have never gotten this shot. This has sparked a lot of new motivations to start shooting things for free that I want to get paid for in the future.

Thanks to Nick for being such a good sport with the shoot!

Do you guys like it when I post camera info on how I shot it? I am trying to cater this blog to you so let me know.

Also, I recently started "tweeting" so if you're looking for more people to stalk you can follow me on twitter here.

Until next time,

- Mike

January Photo of the Month

Holy smokes! These last two months have been the best two months for business. I've been working 7 days a week for the last month or so putting in 10 hour days. It's been awesome and tiring at the same time. I got a bunch of new gear with my tax return and can't wait to really put it to use in the next few weeks.

This is the second month now I've been more than 10 days late on my blogging... It's my way of making you believe I'm busy...

Anyways, this month was so amazing for shooting. I had three projects with musicians to do their photos and album design. All are turning out really dope!

This photo was from the Dice photo shoot. I really wanted to post the behind the scenes video with it but I haven't had time to edit the clips yet. Oh well. The shoot went crazy well! Her project is titled "The Foundation" so we really wanted to get some cement and grime in the shoot. We got "access" to a construction site that I spotted which only the foundation had been laid. We also got access to use this wonderful garage in Phinney Ridge. We were brainstorming where to shoot if it rained and I started thinking dark grimey basements. We were strolling along 3rd Ave NW and came across some awesome grimey cement garages. We pulled over and knocked on the door to be greeted by a wonderful lady "Marie". She said "use it as much as you want just don't forget about me when your famous". How rad.

This was the biggest production I have dealt with yet. Tawnya aka Dice really put  a  lot into the shoot. It really made a huge difference in how the pictures turned out. The make up, the hair, the outfit and the energy. It was great! I really worked hard on this shoot and I think it shows.

I will be posting some more shots in the week to come along with the behind the scenes video.

Also, as I am writing this I am sending all the album design files to Copycats Media for her new project. I will be posting some links on where to hear and buy her new album very soon.

December 2009 Photo of the Month

Ok alright I know it's way passed the deadline for Photo of the Month for last month but the holidays just got too busy this year. I was actually taking a lot of photos but didn't have the time to figure out what represented December at it's true essence.

Well, Priya May is back for another December entry. This passed year was spent learning lighting techniques for portraits and figuring out how to best translate gorgeous landscapes. I spent countless hours messing with strobes, filters and Photoshop. I learned a ton and was able to showcase some of that last week at my first solo art show.

This year I want to start learning some new techniques and keep getting better at the ones I already know. A couple of months ago this guy posted on Flickr a blurb about using your camera's disadvantages to your advantage. My first thought was "this guy is a moron".  My second thought was "this guy is a genius!" His point was that the Nikon D200 (which I shoot with) has a terrible noise problem (the graininess or fuzzy look in a photo) at high ISOs. He is right. I always shoot at no higher than ISO 200 because of this. However, he recommended boosting the ISO to it's max to get an older film look to it. I tried it right after reading it and was amazed with the different look the camera processed. I loved it. It just has that old warm film feeling to it. I'm not going to start using this technique with clients right away but something tells me I will be able to add this to my bag of tricks in the future.

Moral of the story is, technology will keep evolving every minute. You can NEVER keep up with it. Rather than getting caught up with what you don't have, get caught up with what you have in your hands and play around with it. Learn it. Make mistakes. Make progress and have fun.

Here are a couple of other shots I took using this technique.

Photo info for the Photo of the Month (top of page)

Camera- Nikon D200

Lens- Tamron 17-50mm 2.8

Aperture- f/2.8

Shutter- 1/50th of a second

ISO- 3200

Edited in Aperture

November 2009 Photo of the Month

Ft-Ebby2 Earlier this month we took a trip out to Whidbey Island for a weekend of birthday celebration. We had a cabin right on the water on the South West side of the island. We ate, drank and traveled to some of the beautiful areas that Whidbey has to offer. The island is truly gorgeous! I felt so far from the city and it only took a 10 minute ferry ride to get there.

One of my favorite spots we visited was Fort Ebby. I have been hearing about this place for it's Mountain Biking for years but never made the effort to get out there and ride the trails. I didn't bring my bike for this trip but I did have my camera. While shooting the shot above, I knew it was going to be my favorite shot of the trip. Something about it just felt right. When I got back to edit my shots, I discovered I was right. I am inspired and awe struck on a daily basis by other photographers but I am rarely happy with my own work. I feel like this one really puts me back on the beach that day and silences all the stress that haunts me on a daily basis.

I really like shooting landscapes. The longer the exposure the better. It's like my mind goes blank for the time that the shutter is open sucking in all the light and I can truly relax. It's super weather dependent and there's a lot of luck that decides if you get to walk away with great images, but when you do, it's so worth it.

For all you photographers that haven't tried your hand at shooting landscapes, I suggest you get out and give it a shot. It's a great break from shooting people and it enables you to see some beautiful places.

I owe much of my landscape skills to my friend Darien Chin. We haven't shot a lot together but the things that stuck with me during those shoots really have helped me become a better photographer. Thanks dude.

If you're interested in seeing some more of the weekend, click here for a slide show.

Camera- Nikon D200

Lens- Tamron 17-50mm 2.8

Filters- Tian Ya Graduated ND and ND.

Aperture- f/32

Shutter- 5 Seconds

Edited in Photoshop CS4

October 2009 Photo of the Month

Dead-Muppet-Web Happy belated Halloween! I know I'm a little late this month but it's better late than never.

Once again, Halloween was only days away and we had no plans. What to wear? How can we not be cliche? Endless google searches for costumes and ideas. And then the little "pop" on facebook. It was my friend Kyle Kesterson checking in on my Halloween plans. Since they didn't exist, he proposed we add to his plans. He was planning on going as Jim Henson. Can you guess where we came in? Yeah, I guess the picture gives it away. Things started rolling that night and it was set. We were going to be the "Dead Muppets".

Since Kyle possesses the art skills he took on the creative direction. He painted up my Kermit mask and made Kermit a zombie.  With the Dominos $5.55 pizza deal and some Henry Wienhards in the fridge we got ready. It took us a few hours with all the make up and latex applications.

Of course a photo shoot was necessary.

We hit up the Atlantic Crossing for a drink before we headed down to the SODO for a Dubstep party. This party was pretty cool. Dancing, loud music, crazy costumes and one bathroom with a really long line. Ok, so the bathroom situation wasn't cool but we still had a good time. We danced until our hips needed glucosamine (2 hours) and went home.

Camera: Nikon D200

Lens: The moon: Tamron 17-50 2.8

ISO: 100

Shutter Speed: 1/200

Aperture: f/8

Strobist Info: 2 SB 28s triggered by Skyports. 1 high camera left and the other high camera forward right.

Heavily edited in Photoshop.

Here are a few more head shots from the night as well.

Dead Muppets 2Dead Muppets 3Dead Muppets 4

September 2009 Photo of the Month

Shoot the Moon 2 What a great summer it was. We had 80 degree days up until the end of September. All that aside, Fall is here. It's cold at night and we have already started using the heater. Our jackets are back on the rack and my beanie is back in action.

This months photo was a hard decision. I have done a lot of shooting and got a lot of new gear this month. I guess what it came down to was none of my photos were really fitting the time of year.

Last week I started to notice how big the sun was during sunsets this time of year. This sparked a conversation about the moon. I then looked up the Harvest Moon and found out it was scheduled for October 4th, just two days away. This led to a picture in my mind of some crazy dude shooting the moon. All I had to do was find a crazy guy, a gun and a location where the moon would be nice and visible at moonrise.

Well the crazy guy is my brother David. The gun was provided by a person who will remain anonymous and the location was Magnuson Park. We headed out at sunset and walked around until we found a suitable location. I really wanted it to look like we were out in the country which would match Davids wardrobe.

This shot is actually two shots. The moon was not nearly as big as I saw it in my head so I had to shoot it with a telephoto lens and then drop it in afterward in Photoshop. I just got some gels for my flashes so this was my test run with those. I used a CTO gel which warms things up quite a bit making Dave's light look like it's coming from the moon. After we had everything set up, things went really smooth. The shoot only took about an hour which is always nice.

I am pretty sure we missed the Harvest Moon since I saw it on Saturday and it was way bigger and much more colorful. That being said, this shot still came out pretty much exactly how I envisioned it. Thanks to David and Liz for making this happen.

Speaking of Liz, I am glad you are ok. After the shoot David couldn't get out of character and kind of started to lose it. He then turned on Liz but I was able to talk him down and have him hand over the gun. Phew!

Shoot the Moon 1

Camera: Nikon D200

Lens: The moon: Nikon 55-200mm. Shooting the Moon: Sigma 10-20mm

ISO: 160

Shutter Speed: 1/80th

Aperture: f/8

Strobist Info: 2 SB 28s triggered by Skyports. 1 behind subject bare flash. The other CTO gelled camera right.

Edited in Photoshop.

August 2009 Photo of the Month

August Photo of the Month When I was young I used to ask my dad "why do we need money?" He would reply "well son, to buy things." Then I would go on about how if we didn't have money everything would be free. There would be no need for money because nothing would require it. If you're thinking to yourself "wow, Mike probably ended up a rebellious thieving low life" you're wrong. I have a job. I am kind of a low life though...

Anyways, this past year I kept hearing the same thing from professional big wig photographers. "Make sure to do some free work every now and then. It's refreshing and it always seems to land you more paid work." Long story short, I started doing free work in the winter and business went up. I had the biggest 3 months this summer and I really think it's from the pro bono work. Whether it motivates my creative juices or spreads my work by word of mouth, it has worked.

So this last week I decided to do a little photo shoot with my friend Joe. Joe is a bartender at Lake Forest Bar & Grill and also a proud creator and consumer of the popular drink "Whoa Joe". You will have to stop in on one of his shifts to find out what the drink consists of.

We headed out on a Sunday afternoon after a couple bloody mary's from Blue Star Cafe. We strolled Ballard with his fold up Peugeot and snapped.

I love this shot. It's simple. Sunlight and cool depth of field. Ok, and a cool looking dude. I was lying on the ground for this one and it just turned out super cool.

Click here to see another shot we took that afternoon.

Photo Info:

Shot with my NEW NIKON D200 (it's so AWESOME!)

Aperture - f 7.1

Shutter Speed - 1/250th

ISO - 100

Lens - Crappy Nikon 18-55mm (which is getting replaced very soon!)

Edited in Photoshop CS4 (I have many new goodies eh?)