Vines Climbing Alley Walls – Holga Film Photography

Holga black and white film photo of vines climbing alley garage siding

Holga black and white film photo of vines climbing alley garage siding

Perfectly imperfect.

A life motto, really. The toy camera that inspired Instagram, the Holga, was my escape from the Digital SLRs that had helped to jump start my photography endeavors. All that whiz-bang technology, wireless photo transfer accessories, those hours poring over editing presets and bad effects just needed to be simplified.

In addition to instantly reviewing my DSLR shots came the rushed pace of taking, reviewing, editing and uploading photos faster than I could appreciate them. Most of all it was a race to fill social media feeds with snapshots rather than to wait for an interesting subject and make, not just take an image.

Every walk is a photo walk if you believe!

While my children were in school a few blocks away I began walking the neighborhood to pick them up. I had just bought film to try out and it seemed like the perfect time to get to know my surroundings and photograph unique finds along the way. We’d stroll back home together and talk about their day in class, noting interesting architecture, cars, and yard art. I saw vines overtaking a garage along my walk and made sure to bring my Holga along the next time I would be passing by.

This image further illustrates many problems with and characteristics inherent in Holga photography. Most noteworthy of the quirks are light leaks and streaking, questimated zone focusing, unpredictable vignetting, questionable sharpness just to name a few. It is a distant opposite to the clean, crisp, predictable digital image reviewed down to each pixel.

Finally, just go shoot. Whether the results are interesting or artistic are up to each viewer to decide. What I found in carrying my Holga around was that it helped me clear the larger hurdle of just taking a camera along with me. Probably the hardest part for a camera gear collector is just choosing what to bring! Most all my other cameras have multiple lens choices, but my Holga only has that dead-simple “Optical Lens” on the front.

Intention needs action.

A camera with very few options makes that first step to creating a simple choice: take a photo or do not take a photo. There is no try. Either you press the shutter lever and snap an image or you don’t. Whatever photo making thing you’re carrying with you today, #JustGoShoot!

Prints of this photo are available here

Pick up a Holga here on eBay or Amazon

Join me at Instagram or Flickr to see a larger version of this scan.

Film Flashback Friday – Cross Processed Dandelion

Dandelion Cross-processed Slide Film

After picking up a shiny new 6-megapixel digital SLR in 2004 I found myself using less film. Make that near no film at all. I had done my homework, invested in a camera brand / system that offered lenses compatible with my 35mm film equipment as well as the newest digital camera bodies. Experimenting in digital photography was effortless, the results instantaneous. This was a huge boost to my already inquisitive imagination as far as tinkering with ideas, reflections, abstracts go, and made learning manual exposure techniques far, far easier when the results could be previewed on an LCD screen.

This yellow fellow was photographed with slide film for a color photography class study in cross processing. As with so much of my film photography, it sat in boxes & binders… until now.

Between the bokeh of a very unfocused background and the colors of the alternative film processing I ended up with an almost watercolor paint blur of shades behind the flower.

Next time you fire up Instagram, know the odd filters packed in the app have… (dandelion pun!) roots… in old-fashioned film photography.

Dance Performance Photography – Caught at LangLab

Reiterated confession: I’m a live performance & visual media junkie.

The anticipation, nervous energy before the stage comes to life, and one-shot no retakes atmosphere gets my creativity charged up. I absolutely love the countdown to go time. Troubleshooting in a pinch to make it work and look flawless. Fast paced action all around! (These all translate just fine to wedding photography moments too… but that’s another post.)

Caught performance at LangLab December 2010

Earlier this month I joined the production of Caught – a senior thesis turned full out dance production by Hannabeth Fischer. A brief excerpt from the show’s event page goes like this:

Artistically acclaimed “mesmerizing”, “enthralling”, and “beautiful the whole way through,” Caught is up for it’s second run in South Bend, IN. Choreography and film: Hannahbeth Fischer. After a highly successful debut at Saint Mary’s College in November, Caught has grown. Adding two musicians to the original sound artist, Patrick Quigley, the Analecta trio is complete. Analecta is a group of rising local musicians: indie, progressive, classical.

Experience a cross-platform performance with digital film and dance, playing on the borders of Dance Theater. Live sound engulfs the entire audience, the entire building. This performance, while beautiful on camera, cannot be experienced anywhere but live. Fischer’s statements about movement, duality, tension, architecture, desire, and interaction permeate the multiple channels.

Audience members should look forward to an exciting new space at LangLab. The truly unique space, conducive to incubation and artist musings, will shock many that it exists in South Bend.

Fischer shot some of the film for the projection in the space, adding a unique parallelism to this run of the piece. This is LangLab’s first full length dance performance. Neither South Bend nor LL have experienced a full kinesphere performance such as Caught, and should make it out to LangLab on December 10. Fischer and collaborators welcome conversation in the post-show hang time.

Aside from the usual available light performance photography I also worked with a great crew to provide video and multitrack audio recording for the performance portfolio DVD project. This was a first to go a huge step past mics-mixer-camera to allow for precise audio postproduction mixing of the single-take recording. Translation: geeking out.

Caught LangLab Dance Photography

Shots made with Nikon D700 and Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 lens in existing light / video projection.

Technical challenges outside of the recording side included adapting a theatrical stage performance at Saint Mary’s College to the LangLab warehouse art venue (very cool feel!). Full theatrical lighting and dimming control was simplified to fit the intimate space. I do enjoy a good brainstorm and improvisation!

Congrats Hannabeth and the cast of Caught on a wonderful 2nd performance! Glad to have been part of it!


UPDATE! Jan 2011 – Check out the LIVE recording album the band made from the audio tracks from the show.

Trash the Dress – Prom Edition

Trash the Prom Dress lakeside storm portrait

While throwing around ideas with Tabatha for her outdoorsy Senior Sessions it was quickly apparent she was up for something a bit different. I’ve been working with more and more cool clients that have been completely game to try something a bit different than my previous shoots, and I like it. From the responses to seeing their photos I’d say the efforts have paid off!

Once we got talking, I mentioned the whole concept of the Trash the Dress shoots we had in summers past. Creation, more than destruction – getting a new look by not being afraid to take a bridal gown somewhere that would mess it up, muddy it down, or get it wet. It instantly struck up an idea –

Enter a new twist on our bridal themed TTD shoots – Trash the Prom Dress.

While I hoped for a bit more sunlight after the first set out on a tree over a pond, I have to say I loved the addition of the storm clouds that started to move in for a good weekend of downpours.

Always great to work with creative subjects not afraid to go out on a limb -or fallen tree trunk- to try a new idea for a new look.

The more ideas and involvement you give us the more the creative energy gets going to make your photos that much more uniquely yours. Go ahead, drop me a line and fire away to see what I do for you!

Nikon service saves the shoot!

I am floored. So was my favorite lens.

During a shoot in an old theater’s projector booth, I accidentally pulled a lens of a table when my camera strap caught it. While in a moment of inspiration, I changed lenses and grabbed my D300 off the table after arranging lighting and props. The camera decided to bring a friend with it, and my 50mm lens soon followed. The model, tangled in old film footage from the Lion King, Spawn and an unknown scifi movie saw the horror on my face as I tried to stop the lens with my foot, hacky-sack style. Swing and a miss. Severe ouch.

The glass was fine but the focus and aperture would barely move. We finished the shoot with the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G
lens, the workhorse of my gear, and I was seriously unhappy at my klutz move. I have backup cameras AND lenses plus insurance for a very good reason!

This is, by far, my favorite focal length on the 35mm / DSLR format, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Lens

I sent it to Nikon that following Monday, got a repair statement and price within the week, and approved it over the weekend. Pretty good speed to get it ready to repair within a week of the drop.

It showed up at my door before 4pm today – Friday. Hokey smokes!


Thank YOU, Nikon repair service! I was fully content to shoot the 50mm f/1.8 this weekend… but you guys put the pedal to the metal to get this one done in a jiffy!

Check out how the photos turned out – lots more in the Trash the Dress Gallery

Enjoy the weekend! It’s stright up summer weather today in South Bend!

Photo Lessons by Joe McNally

I took a break from designing and sketching ideas for this weekend’s event setup to check the web feeds. Had a good laugh when I came across this napkin art. I’ve had some pretty cool photography instructors, mentors and inspirations. Still nobody illustrates his or her work as simply and geek friendly as the famous Joe McNally. What do these scribbles equate to for a photo?

Joe McNally photo school

Check out his workshop post HERE

Instead of “light modifiers” I will probably start to refer to our lighting kit as the photon force field.

Keep the creativity cookin!

Seeing Something Invisible

If you’ve looked at a photography magazine or seen any photo-centric websites or forums you know there’s been a tidal wave of new digital SLR cameras flooding the lineup of already pretty awesome cameras out there. Newer, faster, shinier, a couple extra megapixels… it’s crazy how quickly new cameras are being introduced!

This summer it was time for us to retire the second Nikon DSLR that helped start our business. I bought the Nikon D70s it back when it was introduced in 2005 and it has helped to photograph over 70 weddings since then, not including tons of engagement portrait and senior shoots. Hokey smokes I’m exhausted just counting up all the shoots since 2005!

The improved controls, response speed, and feel of the D200 and D300 had me hooked, but I didn’t want to try and sell a very used D70s when I could instead use it to see invisible light for a new take on some interesting photographic art.

Walnut Tree in Infrared

Southside Welcome in Infrared

For all the “how’d they do that” check out the conversion and technique at

Trash the Dress – Sand Dune Style

On our way up to Lake Michigan I wondered if in fact we wouldn’t also be getting a bit messier than usual at a location shoot. Thunderstorms were in the forecast and we hit a good drizzle as we neared one of my favorite beaches, Weko Beach in Bridgman, Michigan. The rain was gone when we parked but there was lightning in the distance so I opted to keep the light stands and tripod in the car!

We started with some test shots and walked a ways down the shoreline when our brave trashee model noted the rain coming across the Lake. I saw clouds across the Lake and mentioned it would add a nice touch to the sky when I noticed what she was talking about. You could literally see the storm front’s edge as the calm water in front of us was quickly turned to splashing ripples of rain. I got cameras in the bag and threw the top closed as the wave of rainfall swept up the beach and soaked us and everything uncovered. Didn’t quite expect we’d be getting pretty trashed by weather while trashing a dress.

The sudden rain stopped as quickly as it arrived and the rest of the afternoon was dry and the sunset evening’s sky was filled with dramatic clouds.

Dune grass trash the dress

It wouldn’t be a summer Saturday night if I wasn’t skimming photos and posting a favorite before bedtime! Enjoy! (Many more to come!)