According to a recentarticle, the recession has hit a girl’s best friend–the diamond market. But while De Beers may have seen decreased sales in Q1, this photog had a chance to take photos of the largest group to date–nine Diamond Girl cheerleaders.  After 500+ photos, there’s a few sparklers in the rough (my photographer, not the models).  Here’s the low-down on the sparkle.

9 – The number of people in the photo session
3 – Number of costume changes
4 – the number of hours to shoot (not counting setting up gear)

My first goal for the session was to not only make everyone feel at home, but to spend time as a female photographer, focusing on the personality of each cheerleader. For that reason, I explained that I would be taking mostly 3/4, mid and portrait shots. Just like on magazine covers, the closer to the subject, the more we see her personality. Think of the difference between the cover of Time magazine verses Maxim. Onto the session…





Cinnamoneye productions is performing YOU! by Richard Foreman on the first Friday of May at a local gallery. I recently sat in on rehearsals to observe the process of the actors and director defining the script and motivation for the characters. It’s a process I once worked through as Marilyn in “A Projection of Marilyn” back in the old days (long, long ago). Being able to watch and read about Richard Foreman was a treat. My ol’ college colleague, (and now director), asked if I would take some pictures as the group prepared for the upcoming performance.  Here’s a flyer I created after taking individual photos of each actor.


The concept for the image is built upon the script. Foreman’s work often introduces sound fx as character, and YOU! is no exception. So, here, we have a microphone in the image–symbolizing the actual microphone used in the performance. The two female characters mirror one another in a give-and-take duality in both the script and physical movements of the performance–and we evoke that here in the image.

Lights used: 2 Halogen 1000 Watt in softboxes
Lens: A mix of 50mm (thank goodness for that lens!) and a 17-85mm for different shots

Halogen Light Study

Despite all the reverie, work (and learning) that goes into planning a photoshoot, sometimes the results are better and more organic than originally planned.  Such was the case with this photo session.

There is so much to say about this photo study. I’m so thankful for the energy and time the model spent with me. I approach photoshoots and the creative touches studiously. Much went into planning this event: Matching a dress from one end of the world to a backdrop from across the US that was a perfect marriage; studying classic asian beauty ideals; coordinating makeup and hair; building an 8 ft backdrop, and working with new 1000W Halogen lights.

The images below utilize the self-made presentation backdrop. I built it with 6 yards of fabric, four 32 x 40 presentation boards taped together, and adhered fabric to the board with the “Barbara K” stapler tool John gave me as a Christmas present years ago. With these images, I also completely began my post-work from the Camera Raw settings to define color differences, sharpness and detail. Without using Camera Raw (CR), detail was lost in the hair. An extreme setting in CR gave it this edgier look. And, yes, I realize now that Camera Raw has the lens vignetting I was doing by hand in photoshop before. Takes mere seconds now.

Another backdrop:

As I’m learning, I experience a different side to people when photographing them–which is magical. Everything gets magnified–whether it’s his or her vunerabilities, or as in the case of this model–strength, beauty and openness. All in all, my visual assumptions about what and how to photograph people take on a new form in the actual photoshoot–a form better, different, and more authentic than I could’ve imagine–until I tried.


“Who you see today may not be the person I am tomorrow,”  writes my friend of 20 years in a recent essay. He’s in town for a brief stint and I ask to take some pictures. He agrees. I read over his emails, the essay…any words I can find he’s written…to reacquaint myself with who he may be now in his life, art and writing. 

He’s an artist, writer, performer. I remember seeing his journals years ago. Not exactly the written words, but visuals he would draw with pen on paper to capture a particular moment in time. The entries were fascinating. He’s the real deal, and a bit of a chameleon. A boyish face belies his age, ethos and the depth of intelligentsia he is part of.

I move my suburban living room furniture around for his visit. Make a quick trip to Hobby Lobby to find something he can draw on that might allow him to contribute to a picture. I decide on some black presentation board. Buy four panels and chalk.  I’m thinking of those journals. First we take some portraits.



Between takes I hand him the chalk and one of the black boards. He draws. I run to the closet and get out an unopened box of 48 feet of rope lights.  We improv a box from the black boards and duct tape–with his featured drawing in view. He has to leave in 30 minutes. Click. Click. The results are magical and strange. A gesture to his oeuvre and a portrait version of the subtext that his writing and art might instill in a reader/viewer. Happy New Year.

Trick or Treat

I recently saw a new book by photographer Rachael Hale, who is best known for making our furry companions works of art. Called Baby Love: An Affectionate Miscellany, the new book is full of wonderment and technique worth a looksee.

by Rachael Hale

by Rachael Hale

In related news, a friend recently held a halloween party for the little ones and asked that I take a few photos at the party. Can’t say I’m even close to Hale’s sense of expressive portraiture, but these best of friends (in costumes) take a darn cute picture. I also met the Incredibles, a hockey star, a pirate, bumblebee and a giraffe (to name a few). Très mignon.

My brother was up from Memphis and I spent a good three days with many photo firsts:

  1. My first senior portrait session for my graduating niece
  2. My first time taking pictures of my brother and his family
  3. My first time using a flash (Canon 580 Speedlite–yeah, that takes a little practice!)
  4. My first time using a FOG machine (check it out people!)
  5. My first 10 foot seamless paper roll. (Um, barely fit in the car, and where to store?)
  6. My first time taking environmental, outdoor-among-the-day-lillies portraits, ever.
  7. My first time trying to truly use Aperature and Shutter Priority on the camera

Ahh, so where to begin. Well, first (aren’t there already so many?), I did plan. I found a variety of items to be sure to have as props. A raincoat, three cool outfits (you gotta check out http://unique-vintage.com), makeup kit, vintage camera, eyelashes, ottamon, and backdrops. And, I did practice with that speedlight and Lastolite travel softbox–even some training at http://kelbytraining.com. Alrighty, let’s get to the pictures already. Here’s pics from Independence Day of my brother and daughter Amanda using a new favorite–fog.

fog and fireworks portrait

umbrella and fog portrait

My brother (below). Officially, a rockstar in my book. Let’s start with just an easy portrait (outside…that’s different than the studio, you know…yowsa…trying to learn).

my bro rocks it

Now, let’s pump up the fog machine. It’s actually to the left of the camera, as well as a single continuous light hanging down from a deck with a daylight bulb. Michael’s actually holding the remote in his hand and pressing for the fog machine to run.

my bro in fog couple in fog

Well, that’s officially cool. Maybe you’ve done fog machines and that’s so 1998. But, for the newbie, I was looking for the fog to help bounce more light around the scene without resorting to the flash. If a photog has to “find their voice” then mine is certainly leaning to hone the cinematic, retro or graphic in the whisper of a click.

Now, onto some senior pics. A variety. I got a lot of good practice with the lights, backdrops, and makeup and hair application. Now, lemme tell ya. I’m not really practiced, but I am getting pretty darn good at stylin’. And, I have to try the “Dave Hill” look on that first one.

Senior Portrait goes retro glam senior portrait

retro black and white senior pic retro senior pic

Below, found the red dress at a store called Wet Seal and the backdrop is my family’s antique headboard from a bedroom suite. Ahh, it’s good to go home again.

Senior pic updo

Senior pic with rosesenior pic with rose 2

I scoured the city looking for “photo opp” locations. 100+ miles later, and it turns out the best is right around the corner at Hodge Park in Missouri.

Hodge Park senior pic

Hodge Park

Another location was the backside of a residential entrance water feature. The front side is the ubiquitous home association water fall. The backside is this completely underestimated vista of water, rocks and flowers.

Behind the gates

kicking water

Finally, it took a village, but we got the 10ft “thunder gray” paper roll up. That, and I dropped down some sheets of mylar on the floor.

Class of 2009

Using mylar senior session

senior pic cool boots

A few more for the vintage look against the basement wall.

glamour senior portrait retro look

Here’s a list of “learning tools and resources” I used the week before to prepare:

  • Joe McNally’s training videos for on-camera` flash
  • Book: “The Art of people photography” by Bambi Cantrell
  • Book: “Master Lighting Guide” by Christopher Grey
  • Book: “Minimalist Lighting” by Kirk Tuck
  • Book: “Canon Speedlite System Field Guide” by J. Dennis Thomas
  • Book: “Hollywood Portraits” by Hicks and Nisperos
  • Guides: The actual guidebooks that come with your camera and speedlite-read em’ front to back…geeking out now

Did I mention it’s my birthday? This is the best present that photography provides–the chance to spend a different quality of time with family. If anything, maybe that’s a gift that keeps giving.


I’m schlepping into concept art (I hope). My first attempt at photographing an environment required no less than 1) a cool motel off the beaten path 2) trips to Boomerangs (Kansas City) and many nights online scouting for retro 70s-wear. And, of course, two models who are willing to have fun playing dress-up for an evening. 

My own parents’ 1970s foray into Square Dancing conjured up ideas for this shoot. As a former writer (I said former), I preconceived a storyline around the theme of “square dancers.” A main image concept I had (and actually got) was this photo setup below. Here, we see our square-dancing couple just won first place at a local dance off. See the trophy next to Sidney at the mirror?

after the dance

A note on the coloring. I used a pre-set action to get it. Apparently, I forgot to white balance, and the original, original is way too red from all the red in the room and what the subjects are wearing. Any ideas out there on what to do? Here’s the white balance tweaked to this before the action pre-set:

square dancers

And, yep. I did the hair and makeup. Dress by, well, that’s my mother’s old dress. A perfect fit.

A couple more photos of our resident cowboy.

Cowboy at the dance

Square dancers resting

In researching the decade, I looked through old advertising and many books. Of course, the 70s were filled with reaction to the Vietnam war, rising oil prices, and many of the ramifications of the economy that we are also seeing now. In fact, one advert I came across gave warning to “Wake up America” and continued on in the copy about our reliance on foreign oil. Almost 40 years later, it’s disconcerting to be reminded of what a similar path we are on. But, that’s another story, another time. Let’s get back to grooving on the 70s with another set of photos. The set up this time? Disco, hobo chic, and “Charlie girl” darlings….

1970s darlings

People magazine 1978

1970s couple