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Friday, 25 October 2013
2013 VPP Mtg - Busath Family Portraits
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

The Vermont Professional Photographers held their latest meeting at Hotel Coolidge in White River Junction, Vermont, on Sunday, October 20, 2013. Our guest speaker was Drake Busath, M. Photog. Cr., of Salt Lake City, Utah.  He spent the day with us sharing his techniques and style for family and group portraiture.     

Drake says he "grew up in a darkroom," the son of a great photographer.  And the family tradition extended to a third generation as Drake's sons have now also joined the Busath Studio and Gardens business (  This has enabled Drake to now split his time between his native Utah and Italy, where he leads photographic village tours in Tuscany, Venice and other locales.


Drake has been privileged to teach his portraiture techniques and style to professionals worldwide.  He has also been a regular speaker at Imaging USA and been featured on four covers of Professional Photographer Magazine.  He has earned Masters and Craftsman Degrees from the Professional Photographers of America and is a charter member of XXV.

Family Portraiture

For our meeting in the Vermont Room at the Hotel Coolidge, Drake shared tips and favorite techniques that have sustained his family's classic portrait business in Utah.  Many of them we had heard before in different forms, but his twist made some of them more memorable.

We have always been taught, while photographing families and other groups, to try to avoid having the heads lined up in a row or a column - each should instead have its own space vertically and horizontally.  In Drake's version of this tip, he visualizes the heads as notes on a musical score and requires their arrangement to create a melody (rather than "Johnny one note!").  When there is only four people it often works to have them simulate a "String of pearls" supported by diagonals on the two sides.

Another thing he tries to weave into his group poses is what he calls "connections."  These are gestures, touches, that communicate bonds between some of the people - he called it "adding the love."  Interestingly, he suggested that a loose or draped hand connotes trust, whereas a firm hand is often interpreted as possession.   

He also offered practical tips for interacting with the subjects of the photograph.  For example, he suggested not micromanaging the pose, using non-posing direction, such as look at a certain place rather than turn your head 20 degrees left.    

When younger children are part of the group, Drake suggested that how you interact with that child (or children) may make or break your portrait session.  This is an area where his studio takes time to train his photographers.  He said the trick for him is to develop ways to take the attention off of the child and put it into a made up storyline.  Get the child involved and invested in a story.  You need to infuse personality into an object that will keep their attention as the story develops.  This might be a stuffed animal, toy, or almost anything.  Then by using the elements of suspense (what is going to happen to the character), discipline (the character gets disciplined rather than the child), and humiliation ( the character of the photographer) you can almost always draw out the great expressions you need for a great portrait.   He notes for ages 2 to 6 a bit of slap stick is almost a necessity.     

We got to see some of these techniques in action as VPP had arranged for a three generation family to pose for Drake, while we watched him in action.  I personally did not like the spot that was chosen to pose them because even with a short depth of field I could still identify the dumpster in the background - and that was a bit too urban grunge for my tastes.  

As Drake worked with the children one at a time we had more flexibility and his storyline technique evoked some good expressions. 

And this one I took over his shoulder.   

Drake also described his technique for large extended groups that cannot all be present at the same time.  This is similar to a technique described by Michael Greenberg and others.  In Drake's version you define a fixed camera / lighting setup and then set everything up identical each time.  You take the individuals or individual sub-groups and then stitch them together.  He uses this technique to sell very large panoramics up to 20x80.  Because it is made up of stitched images, there is more than enough resolution for very large prints.

Drake demonstrated the setup with what we had available and walked us through the steps by photographing the attendees.  Since he did not take the time to develop the finished product, I thought I would try the technique when I got back to our own studio.  Since I also did not have a large group to photograph right that minute, I decided to photograph myself multiple times - each time with a different instrument - for a One Man Band composite.  Here is the result.  

If you would like to see a larger version than will fit in this blog format, click HERE.  As our own family has grown larger and larger and harder and harder to get everyone in the same place at the same time, I have begun to think this might be the way to go to producing some great keepsakes.  

Like all of the Vermont Professional Photographers meetings we learned something and had some great fellowship.

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont           

Posted by ayerphoto at 10:29 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 October 2013 7:36 PM EDT
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Thursday, 2 May 2013
Seeking The Backstory
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

About a month ago the Vermont Professional Photographers held their annual convention at the Stoweflake Resort in Stowe, Vermont.  We look forward to it each year and make plans to attend.  This year we missed most of it attending to our Bichon Frise in the final days of his long battle with Lymphoma. 

But, we did submit several images and two albums (for the first time) to the annual Print Competition.  This is a part of the convention in which the attendees submit printed (or digital) images 16" x 20" for judging by a panel of judges that are not part of our local community.  I like to watch the judging and especially like it when the judges disagree because then you get to hear some of their reasoning behind their perception rather than just the end result (a score).  The judging is based on the same 12 criteria that are used at the national PPA competition. 

These elements are: Impact, Creativity, Style, Composition, Print Presentation, Color Balance, Center of Interest, Lighting, Subject Matter, Print Quality, Technique, and Storytelling.  While many of these contain quantifiable objective qualities such as is it in sharp focus and color balance, etc., these criteria are highly subjective.  As a result it is rare to see any two people give the same image the same score, even if trained and very experienced in judging.  

After watching several years of judging you will notice that there is usually close agreement on the truly outstanding entries and the poor entries.  These tend to demonstrate excellence for many reasons, or fail to, respectively.  Where the disagreements come in is when the image does some things well, but is lacking in some others.  Then it becomes a question of whether the strengths outweigh the weaknesses and by how much - sort of a subjective judgment of subjective criteria.  The differences in scores often reflect the fact that different people respond differently to the various elements of an image. 

When you first start competing it is usually a question of mostly improving basic technique and presentation to improve your score.  But as you improve, the subjective elements begin to weigh in to a more noticeable extent.  To some extent you start to feel like, as Don Chick explained it, you are playing a game.  As such there are rules to follow and strategies for performing better.  When you are improving your technique to improve your score, such improvements translated directly into better service, better quality to your photographic customers.  But as you begin to concentrate on the subjective game aspects, scoring better does not necessarily mean your customers will be happier.     

As a point of personal satisfaction, however, we were delighted that every image and both albums that we submitted earned a coveted ribbon, giving us each an Imaging Excellence Award for this year.  Having said that, we were sometimes surprised by images that did better, and just as often by those that were scored lower. 

Our highest scoring image for this year was taken in our backyard as I was testing a new lens.  A tufted titmouse landed on the birdfeeder right in front of me to get some takeout lunch.  As such, I titled it, "Lunch."  

I loved his expression and that I was able to get him so crisply focused.  (In the original full resolution version, you can see every vein in every feather).  But, yes, I wished his distinguishing top-knot was standing up, that the feeding shelf was wide enough to see his tail feathers, and a few other things, but this was all he gave me a chance to get, since he thought I was in his personal space and did not return until I stepped much further away.  

Another image that scored only one point less was actually shot on a "photo safari" at one of our monthly meetings.  We were challenged to shoot some macro images in a nursery on a dreary rainy afternoon.  I found a flower with some very interesting internal structures.  Because the day was so cold and dreary, light was very poor and the flowers were pointing down.  So I used an external flash to one side and pointing a little up to get light into the flower and highlight the internal structure.  As I was doing this a bee came along and started to make his way up the chain.  So, I naturally titled it, "Starting At The Bottom."   

These images were well received and the judges seemed to "get" the story, even if it was pretty simple - and ones to which I as the creator had little emotional attachment.  And in general the simple stories do better because more judges are likely to "get it" than more complex stories.  And watching the judging you do develop some sympathy for the judges who get only a few seconds to draw a conclusion or figure out what it is all about. 

Gerri Karamesinis defines the Storytelling element this way: "A good strong statement or complete story within the photograph.  Does the photograph say something?  The purpose is achieved when the photograph has meaning AT FIRST GLANCE, challenges your imagination, and evokes an emotion.  A statement may be highly personal or distinctive, but should accomplish its purpose and relate to the title."   

This need to tell the story in a single glance is what causes some photographers to create contrived situations - to me sort of the equivalent of "overacting."  It is not a style I can relate to, but I can understand why it tends to do better in Print Competition. 

One of our other entries that earned a ribbon, but did not score as well as those above, is an image I entered in the mini-competition a couple months earlier and again at the real thing.  I really liked the image in no small part because of the backstory, but I found that the story was nearly lost on the judges in both cases.  They apparently could not get it at first glance. 

I originally titled this image, "Fellowship of the Rings," and after changing it for the real competition, have gone back to it.  In the mini-comp one of the experienced judges said the title threw him off because he expected to see something from "Star Wars."  For this reason, I switched to an alternate title, "Ring Bearers," but it did not seem to do any better.  Another person who saw the image thought I should have cleaned up some of the imperfections in the hands to improve it. 

All of this illustrates that not everyone sees an image the way you do.  And they bring their own pre-conceived notions of what should have been done to tell the story they think should have been told, rather than "listening" to the story you are trying to tell. 

This is an image from a wedding in which the groom had two best men.  These were two friends that were close to him and carried out the "best man" duties equally.  One of those duties was to carry both the bride's and groom's rings down to the front of the church for the ceremony.  This image shows the two best men each holding up one of the rings prior to the ceremony inside the church.  If you study the hands they seem to be the hands of guys who have worked with their hands.  These are strong hands with lots of little nicks and stains from lots of the kind of work one does not normally do while dressed in a tuxedo. 

So to me, the image tells the story of two good friends of the groom, who are stepping out of their normal roles in life to honor and support their best friend the groom.  It is both a story of honor and the bond of friendship, symbolized in the carrying of rings by workman's hands for an elegant formal ceremony.  (and to a little extent I could imagine hobbit hands holding up the ring in the light of Sauron's eye - shades of Lord of the Rings, not Star Wars)

Oh well, I still like the image ... and there is always next year ... maybe I will think of another way to tell the story in a way that even a judge could "get."

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont

If you would like to see some of our other entries from various competitions, check out our competition gallery.    

Posted by ayerphoto at 9:56 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 2 May 2013 2:22 PM EDT
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Sunday, 14 October 2012
2012 VPP Mtg - Macro & Nature Photography
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

Today was a day of dreary weather, cloudy and windy with constant threats of rain.  But I brightened it up by attending the latest bi-monthly meeting of Vermont Professional Photographers.  This meeting was held in Charlotte, but featured Gustav Verderber talking about macro and nature photography.  Between showers we also made a quick foray to Horsefords to practice some of the macro techniques we had just discussed.      

Our guest speaker, Gustav W. Verderber, is a naturalist, author, professional nature photographer, and adjunct professor of environmental science at Johnson State College.   Interestingly, one of the best aspects of this meeting were the stories he told behind each photograph he showed - from the bear picture he stopped to take on his way to a wedding in which he was the best man, causing him to be late, to the Atlantic Puffin shot he took just a couple of hours before his own wedding (to which he was on time).            

David Sleeper, former editor and publisher of Vermont Magazine, says: "Gustav W. Verderber is one of the few professional photographers with whom I've worked who can write as well as he can photograph.  Although he claims his strength is in making images with a camera, I would argue that he does as well creating images with words.  He has done first-rate articles for Vermont Magazine on color, nature photography, and terns and even took on a decidedly unnatural topic when he wrote about the Air National Guard for us. I highly recommend Gustav's work -- both words and photographs -- and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Gustav's publishing credits include: cover & feature article in Natural History, Nature Photographer, Nature’s Best, Backpacker, National Audubon Society Calendar, Ranger Rick, Vermont Life, Vermont Magazine, Yankee, Northern Woodlands, Natural New England, Fly Rod & Reel, Adirondack Life, Nebraskaland Magazine.  Gustav has also been the featured guest speaker at the New England Camera Club Council Annual Convention, The Photographic Society of America International Conference, the Columbia Council of Camera Clubs, the Cleveland Metro Parks annual festival, as well as at clubs, corporate meetings, nature centers, galleries, and campuses across the United States.  In 2003, Gustav photographed Yellowstone National Park on assignment for Kodak. Gustav lives in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom with his wife, Cheryl, and their English setters, Aldo and Béla.     

Gustav is also known for his nature photo tours to such places as Yellowstone, the American southwest, Glacier National Park, Costa Rica, New Foundland, Maine, Kenya, and of course Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.     

He told us that we all already have most of what we need to do good macro photography.  You need: a) a good macro lens, b) a heavy sturdy tripod, c) extension tubes, and d) a cable release.  He also likes to use a diffusion disk, gold reflector, and warming and polarizing filters as needed.     

It was also quite clear that his extensive knowledge as a naturalist greatly aided his ability to get a great nature shot.  Even so, while some came quite easily - almost by accident - others required persistent and repeated attempts over periods of up to three years to finally get the shot he was looking for.  While his work can be seen in a variety of magazines and galleries from Maine to Pennsylvannia, you can also find his work on his website at Sojourns In Nature.       

Because of the constant threat of rain, our photo safari was somewhat abbreviated and moved to Horseford's Nursery.  By definition our available subjects were mostly flowers of various types.  The macro challenge was further aggravated by the gusty wind, since the very shallow depths of field at close distances made even small movements problematic.  My first subject was a flower that looked to me like the floral equivalent of Medusa crossed with Kali - a head of snakes and multiple flailing arms.  I quickly gave up getting a long exposure as the wind caused every attempt to blur.  So I then experimented with off-camera flash angled to try to get some separation between the flower and the background leaves. 

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera:  Canon EOS 1D Mark IV                 

Lens:  Canon EF 24-70 mm f/2.8L USM at 70 mm (dist. = 0.48 m)

Exposure: 1/60 (on tripod), at f/10, and ISO 100

Settings: Manual, Evaluative Metering

Lighting: Canon 580 EX II Speedlite held to side off-camera cabled for ETTL 

I went on to try to take some shots of some interesting structures on the end of a tree limb, but eventually gave up as the gusty wind had picked up and made it pretty much impossible to get a slow shutter exposure and have it come out as anything but a blurry mess.  So, then I went back to looking for subjects closer to the ground and more protected from the wind. 

I found an interesting yellow flower.  As I was working on getting the lighting between wind gusts a bee came along and added considerable interest to my image as he worked his way up the "corporate ladder."      

The equipment was exactly the same as for the first image.  The exposure was taken at 1/4 sec at f/22 and a distance of 0.57 m.  Interestingly it was only after I got home and studied the image closely that I noticed the tiny little filaments inside each blossom.     

As it began to sprinkle lightly, I took one last image of a red bush with two colored berries.  It was again, only after I got home did I realize that the two colors were the same berries with and without the outer coating.  In the image you can see a few that are just starting to pop like little orange pistachios.  (you can tell I am not a naturalist)       

Again the equipment for this image was exactly the same as for the others.  The settings were just a bit different:  focal length = 64 mm,  distance to subject = 0.51 m, and the exposure was taken at 1/60 at f/11.  

All in all it was an interesting day in spite of the weather.  Seeing some of Gutav's moose, puffin, and other wildlife images makes you seriously consider going on a tour with him, although from his stories, you quickly learn, that good wildlife shots require either lots of luck or tons of planning and patience.     

By the way, we would love to see any of you at the next meeting of the Vermont Professional Photographers.            

Posted by Warren    

Ayer Photography of Vermont         

Posted by ayerphoto at 8:09 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 15 October 2012 11:47 AM EDT
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Saturday, 31 March 2012
2012 VPP Annual Convention
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

We had the privilege of attending the 83rd Annual Convention of the Vermont Professional Photographers.  it was held near us at the Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, Vermont, March 24-26, 2012.  

This was also a great opportunity to gather together as a group of photographers and participate in events ranging from print competition to product and technique demonstrations and a wide variety of well-known speakers. 

Saturday was taken up primarily by the print competition.  It is here that the membership submit up to six prints to be judged for quality (see 12 elements of a merit print) by an independent panel of judges.  This year's judges were Ella Carlson, Kristine Struminsky, Nancy Green, Tim Cameron, Ed Pedi, and Hanson Fong.  Each of them has a history of having won accolades in similar PPA print competitions at the national level.    

Warren entered six images, all of which earned a ribbon, one a blue (deserving of merit).    

Saturday was also the day some of us took the two-hour Certified Professional Photographer exam.  Most of the questions relate to materials covered in the 400 page Photography textbook by London, Stone, and Upton.  This exam is one part of the process of eventually becoming certified at the national level as a professional photographer.  Only six professional photographers in Vermont currently have this certification.  

Sunday began with a presentation by Candace Pratt Stiteler entitled, "Profit is not a 4 letter word:  Understanding your business."  Candace is a PPA Approved Business Instructor.  She has owned a studio for more than 30 years and studied with several of the top business and photography instructors in the country.  She is also the current president of the Professional Photographers Association of New England.  Her talk was a quick overview of basic good business practices, echoing many of the same ideas presented at previous meetings in more detail by Ann Monteith.   

Our primary speaker for Sunday, however, was Hanson Fong.  Hanson called his workshop, "Fong Shui," and as you might expect it focused on creating "Harmony with the Art of Posing and Lighting."  His approach is to analyze the relative body types of your subjects and arrange posing and lighting to make the resulting image as flattering as possible.  WIth more than 30 years of experience, Hanson is globally recognized as one of the premier wedding and portrait photographers in the industry today.  He has earned the Photographic degrees of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman.  In addition he is also a member of the pretigious Society of XXV and Canon's Explorers of Light

The day with Hanson was a delightful mix of informative lecture and hands on demonstration with a variety of models, including several "makeshift family combinations" from the audience.  Hanson speaks with the voice of experience and his teaching style constantly reinforces practical application in real-world situations, liberally doused with humor - to make this talk our clear favorite of the convention.    

I did feel a little sorry for the father of our model family at times.  In the above shot you'll notice that he just got semi-blinded by the flash as Hanson is demonstrating the metering of the lighting setup.  Moments later, while trying to add the family dog to the posing, you'll notice that the dog persisted in "kissing" in the face, while he is trying to look good for the camera.     

Hanson also demonstrated a bit of his flow posing for weddings and engaged couples.   

Keys to Hanson's posing process is to keep the heads of the subjests all at different levels.  For some groups this can be difficult to achieve without a little help.  For this he often resorts to a series of posing blocks to adjust the relative heights quickly to be more complementary.  For one demo he also used one of Ed Pedi's posing "rocks" to achieve the same effect.  For his signature "Hanson Shots" he will almost always incorporate some form of back, hair, or rim lighting as a key element of the setup.    

Sunday's session ended with a banquet featuring the installation of the officers for the coming year and presentation of various awards.  

Monday brought a new speaker.  This time it was David Hakamaki talking about "Success in Rural and Home Based Photography."  David's studio is located in Michigan's upper pennisula, where the nearest city is over 100 miles away.  The challenges faced by his studio echoed many faced by home-based studios here in Vermont.  His talk pointed out the need to often be more of a generalist rather than a specialist, the need to look for non-traditional assignments (such as remembrance slide shows at funeral parlors), the need for a distinctive style, the need for "insanely good customer service," and to utilize networking in all you do.    

All in all it was a good convention as we look forward to the start of a new wedding season and a new year of great images.  To see a few more candid images from this year's convention day, click here.   

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont            

Posted by ayerphoto at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 April 2012 3:24 PM EDT
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Monday, 23 January 2012
2012 VPP Annual Mtg - Photoshop For Fun & Profit
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

Spent the non-football part of my day yesterday at the Vermont Professional Photographers Annual Meeting.  It was held earlier this year than last; and the location was moved to The Essex Resort & Spa in Essex, Vermont.    

As is our practice, the actual business meeting part of the event is sandwiched into the break for lunch of a nationally renowned speaker.  This year our speaker was Ella Carlson, who had served as a print judge at last year's convention, and will do so again at this year's convention in March.     

Ella Carlson is a certified professional photographer who earned her Master of Photography degree in three years and the Photographic Craftsman degree the following year. She won the Photographer of the Year award in New Hampshire print competition in 2009, and then in 2010 and 2011, won the equivalent award in Massachusetts, the Professional Excellence Award, topping this past year’s competition with a perfect score of 100 and meriting with all six of her images.   

She attained the level of Platinum level Photographer of the Year in the Electronic Imaging category this year and had a total of 4 loan prints in this year’s PPA competition. She’s been a PPA Photographer of the Year three additional times, with nine loan prints, plus two showcase prints. She also has seven Courts of Honor awards, four Fuji Masterpiece awards and four Kodak Gallery Awards. Her work has been published in several books and the PPA magazine, and has been exhibited in various venues.

Some of her award-winning fine art images can be seen on her website gallery at .  If you go and view any of these images, you will quickly realize that while they have their origins in digital images, they have been transformed to works of art through significant manipulation, enhancement, etc. using Adobe Photoshop and various plug-ins.  And whether or not her style suits you, you have to admire and appreciate her skill with these digital tools.                            

At her session with us here in Vermont, Ella drew on her experience teaching Photoshop at the University of Massachusetts to give us a few pointers on using some Photoshop's key features.  Her talk was billed as:               

Photoshop® for Fun and Profit

The field of photography has gotten more and more competitive which means those of us who want to thrive need to have better skills, from capture through processing, so that we set ourselves apart. This talk will focus on ways to make the most of your images. From retouching to enhancements, from filters to hand painting, we'll talk about ways to take your images beyond the basics. This talk will be filled with useful techniques for making good images better as well as a few tips for rescuing the occasional “not so great” capture.

In some cases she took us on a mental journey unlayering some of her complex award-winning works of art, highlighting the digital techniques she used to produce key effects.    Some of the features she demonstrated were:  a) the history pallette including use of snapshots, b) various blending modes, especially multiply, screen, overlay and soft light,  c) High Pass, d) a variety of techniques to make Quick Select more accurate in certain situations, e) a few techniques for mitgating the unwanted loss of anti-aliasing that certain effects cause, f) the Pen tool, g) Puppet Warp, h) Photo Merge for panoramas, i) Fade Cutout for reducing the effect of last operation, j) a couple of techniques for reducing halo that occur with such things as over sharpening, k) textures, l) content-aware fill, and m) JPG templates.  

All in all, I think even the most experienced photographers in the room saw a few tips they thought they might be able to apply to their own work.  In some cases, I saw uses for operations that seemed to have little use by themselves, but in conjuction with others, made certain complex tasks such as tedious selections potentially quicker.      

Ella also shared some of her experience as a Certified Professional Photographer, as did some of our own members.  They encouraged the others to consider taking the exam to become certified themselves; the next one will be given at our convention.  A text for preparation is London, Stone & Upton's classic Photography text

See the Vermont Professional Photographers for more information on the latest meetings, conventions, or membership.     

Posted by Warren

Ayer Photography of Vermont               

Posted by ayerphoto at 12:29 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 23 January 2012 3:15 PM EST
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Saturday, 12 November 2011
Doug Box Off Camera Flash - Part 2
Mood:  accident prone
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

A couple of weeks ago, i posted some of my experience replicating the off-camera flash "recipe" suggested by Doug Box in his workshop with the Vermont Professional Photographers.  It worked so well that when Linda suggested that I take a photo of her with our Bichon, Jeremiah, (primarily to show off how well his hair is returning after losing it all to chemo treatments for cancer), I thought it would be a good opportunity to try it again in a little different conditions.     

While the day just seemed a little darker, the real difference was the wind.  It was not much of a wind by stand around and talk standards, or take your dog for a walk standards, but way too windy for light flash setups with an umbrella.   Barely got it set up and started to think about composition, when a gust blew over the umbrella.  Fortunately, the speedlite and pocket wizard appeared to be unharmed, the same could not be said for my umbrella.  It was mangled.  I was able to bend it back into a workable shape - it will even fold back up, but I am not sure it could withstand another mangling and rebending without something fracturing.    

So, the next few minutes were spent trying to get a quick usable photo between gusts, with one and sometimes two eyes always on the umbrella rather than on the task at hand.  This kind of took a bit of the fun out of it, although I still liked the images.  And I lost interest in trying to find a better spot with more interesting composition possibilities.  So, here are a couple from the session. 

If you compare to one of our earlier images of Jeremiah, you will see his hair is coming back relative to the most recent shot in the midst of his chemo, but still not back where it was before cancer, and not white, as the bichon frise breed is known for.     

Obviously you can see the color is pretty well gone except for our burning bush (and that, I wish had color a little lower to the ground).  The rest of the leaves are mostly brown.     

I am already thinking about getting additional speedlites, since in a case like this where the backgound is darker, I would have liked a bit more separation from the hair for some angles.  A little light on the hair might have been nice (if I only had another speedlite to spare and another pocket wizard).      

Since I am using this post as my Pix Of The Week also, here are the shot specifics for the camera / photo enthusiasts:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 95 mm

Exposure: 1/50, at f/8.0, and ISO 200

Settings: Manual Mode, Evaluative Metering

Flash: Off Camera with umbrella set so metered at about f/7.1 or f/8.0; and an on camera flash in E-TTL mode set at negative 3 eV flash compensation. The subject was about 3.4 m from camera.

So, the question is what additional lessons did I learn?

First, I decided that it would be very nice to have a sandbag or two (or equivalent) to relieve at least some of the anxiety of shooting with this technique, since the wind was not that bad on this particular session and would very likely have to shoot in similar circumstances again.  I then recalled that Doug Box mentioned he had them, but had just not needed them on the calm day of the workshop (not to mention plenty of people available to act as assistants). 

Second, I recall Doug Box mentioning that the DougBox softbox was a bit more aerodynamic than an umbrella and would not blow over as easily.  Terry Norris also reminded me of this in a Facebook comment.  

Third, as I thought about the possibility of working solo in similar circumstances I remember another tip from Doug that would have enabled me to hold the umbrella myself was a radio remote shutter trigger.  His recommendation was the Aputure TrigMaster.   

Fourth, as I thought this possibility through I realized another problem I have to worry about when triggering the shutter without looking.  That is what is the camera focusing on?  For a single subject this is not usually a big problem, nor for a large group - the subject usually fills enough of the frame to be pretty will assured whatever it focuses on is at the correct distance.  For couples, however, it is often easy to have camera focus in the wrong spot if done blind.  A Doug Box suggestion that solves this and other problems is to use back focus (AF-ON on Canon) and deactivate autofocus from the shutter button.  I have not tried this yet, as it would need to be realtively instinctual, so I do not forget in the rush of a wedding and wind up with a bunch of out of focus shots.  But, I can see this would be a very liberating mode of operating to adopt.   

Lastly, Doug Box used a Canon WiFi transmitter to send his photos as he went along directly to his iPad with ShutterSnitch.  This is a neat way to operate, but not cheap!   

So, some resources are (including those from part 1):

1. The Doug Box softbox (location lighting system)

2. Manfrotto 458B Tripod

3. Gitzo GH 3750 QR head

4. Doug Box Photography site   

5.  Pocket Wizard        

6.  Matthews Senior Boa Weight Bag       

7.  Aputure TrigMaster      

8.  Canon Back-Button Auto Focus     

9.  Canon Wireless Transmitter      

10.  Shuttersnitch      

11.  Ram-Mount cradles for iPad        

12.  Nik Snapseed           

13.  Sekonic L-368 light meter      

May you blow others away by the impact of your photos, and not get blown away during your own photo shooting!    

Posted by Warren                           

Posted by ayerphoto at 10:34 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 12 November 2011 12:03 PM EST
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Saturday, 29 October 2011
Doug Box Off Camera Flash
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the latest meeting of the Vermont Professional Photographers down at the senior center in Charlotte, Vermont.  Now that was not because we are all seniors - because many of the attendees have yet to reach that age, but because they have a very nice new meeting room and close access to the lake for the shooting demo later in the day.      

The special guest speaker was Doug Box.  He is the third most merited photographer at the national level of the Professional Photographers of America and has been on their board for years.  In addition he is a popular speaker, not only for his knowledge, but engaging style.  This seminar in Vermont meant he has now spoken in 49 of the 50 states - I think he said he now only has to do one in Wyoming to make a complete set.   

Doug's talk and demo centered a little on marketing and then a good deal on a particularly mobile version of shooting with off camera flash.  Anybody who has shot with studio lights knows the advantage of shooting off camera - the trick is to come up with a mobile version that can be carried and set up by one person and easily moved from spot to spot as is common in the outdoor portraiture of Vermont.  Doug's recipe fit those specifications to a tee and as I have tried it out using an umbrella rather than a Doug Box dome at home, I find it is quite applicable to a wide range of situations without significant modification (significant meaning additional heavy stuff to carry around - I am getting too old to play pack mule anymore).   

Here is one of the images I took at home using the Doug Box recipe ...         

I love the ability to control the background, main and fill lights all separately without needing to hire a kid to lug it all for you and take so long to set it up the light is almost gone by the time you finish - or in the case of this day, the subject got too cold to be willing to stand there any longer.      

For the camera / photo enthusiasts, the shot specifics were:

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark IV

Lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 105 mm

Exposure: 1/100, at f/6.3, and ISO 200

Settings: Aperature Priority (forgot to set back to manual after metering the background but it did not change much), Evaluative Metering

Flash:  Off Camera with umbrella set so metered at about f/7.1 or f/8.0; and an on camera flash in E-TTL mode set at negative 1-2/3 flash compensation.  The subject was about 4.5 m from camera. 

While the image above was one of my favorites from the quick session, Linda's was this one among the leaves ...   

We used the same basic technique except the background is part of the foreground for all practical purposes.  Here is another one from the same session, but over by the "burning bush."     

Having tried the technique and thinking about using it on a more regular basis, I can see a few things would be useful.

First is a taller light stand.  Doug said he liked to use one that was 13 feet tall.  I can see where that would be very handy when photographing larger groups.  In that case the light would need to be a bit further away and therefore higher.  Which in turn means a sandbag would be useful - on the day we were playing around there was the faintest of breezes and I could see much more wind on a higher umbrella and I would have had trouble keeping it upright.  

Second was the Doug Box softbox itself.  While there are many such solutions, this is the first one I saw that collapsed like an umbrella - making it much quicker to put together and close down.  This is the single biggest reason I have been reluctant to use a softbox at a wedding, as we are almost always pressed for time and they were just too cumbersome without an assistant to lug stuff for you.   

Third, was the tripod Doug used that was adjustable at the push of a button rather than adjusting each leg separately with a screw - which takes a lot of spontaneity out of the whole process.  

So, some resources are:      

1.  The Doug Box softbox (location lighting system)       

2.  Manfrotto 458B Tripod             

3.  Gitzo GH 3750 QR head     

4.  Doug Box Photography site     

May all your days be full of color!  

Posted by Warren                       

Posted by ayerphoto at 11:08 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 29 October 2011 2:06 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 7 June 2011
2011 VPP June Mtg - Light & Nimble Creative Lighting
Mood:  bright
Topic: VT Professional Photographers

The Vermont Professional Photographers hold a meeting approximately bi-monthly.  The meeting for June 2011 featured "people photographer," James Hazelwood on the topic of "Light & Nimble:  Creative Lighting Photography."  We met in the historic Tracey Hall in Norwich, Vermont

Part discussion, part workshop, the activities of the day explored the use of available light, creative uses of speedlites - on and off camera, as well as a variety of inexpensive light modifiers and video lights.  While we all readily recognize the virtues of a full studio lighting setup, this discussion was on techniques for achieving many of the key attributes of a studio setup with a much simpler and far more mobile set of lights - namely only a couple of speedlites at most.   

Our speaker demonstrated the results of many of his recommended techniques with examples primarily from his wedding portfolio, where being nimble is often key to being in the right place at the right time. 

All participants were encouraged to bring their own cameras and explore the techniques discussed using two models - a juggler and a baton twirler - in a variety of off-camera and natural lighting setups.  Pocket Wizards and Radio Poppers were utilized to control the off-camera Speedlites

One exercise was to attempt to balance the off camera flash in such way to directionally light the foreground while underexposing the cloudy sky.  While planned to take place in the adjoining park, we had to retreat to the bandstand when it began to rain.   

James describes himself as a people photographer - mostly weddings and portraits, although he does photograph a smattering of other things as well.  He is located in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, and you can view samples of his work at and on Facebook.    

If you are interested in attending a future meeting of Vermont Professional Photographers, the latest schedule may be found on their website at .    

To see additional photos from this workshop / meeting, see our gallery by Clicking on this Link.   Or check out our Pix of the Week.       

Other Links of interest are:

     Pocket Wizards    

     Radio Poppers   


     Niel van Neikerk     

     Joe McNally     

May all your lighting be Creative, Light & Nimble!

Posted by Warren of Ayer Photography of Vermont                  

Posted by ayerphoto at 3:23 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 29 July 2011 4:21 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 12 April 2011
2011 VPP Annual Convention
Mood:  energetic
Topic: VT Professional Photographers
We had the privilege of attending the 82nd Annual Vermont Professional Photographers Convention at the Woodstock Inn & Resort in Woodstock, Vermont, on April 3-5.  For us it was an opportunity to go back to where we spent a few days of our own honeymoon, so many years ago.

This was also a great opportunity to gather together as a group of photographers and participate in events ranging from print competition to product and technique demonstrations and a wide variety of well-known speakers. 

Saturday was primarily a day focused on getting things set up for the print competition, that started the next morning.  We volunteered to help and were surprised to see just how much work it takes.  But, we found it was a good way to get to know some of the other members and have a few laughs.  Many thanks go to Lucas deSousa and the whole print competition committee for their amazing ability to keep track of all the details associated with the handling of over 100 professional 16" x 20" prints, as they make their way through the various rounds of judging.        

Print Competition began the next morning after breakfast.  A panel of 5 judges and one alternate scores each print as a team based on 12 elements that an excellent print should portray - Impact, Creativity, Style, Composition, Presentation, Color Balance, Center Of Interest, Lighting, Subject Matter, Print Quality, Technique, and Story Telling.  The images themselves were in four categories - Portrait, Commercial, Event Candid (usually wedding), and Illustrative (pretty much anything else).  While the judges often reached a quick concensus, it was most interesting to those of us observing, when they started wide apart and openly discussed the merits or detriments of a given print.

While you can read many articles on the 12 elements of an excellent image, sitting through the judging of over 100 mostly excellent examples of some or all of the elements, proved to be a very valuable learning experience.  And we are sure we will look at some things just a little more critically on our next shoot, no matter what it is. 

After lunch, Bob Jenks gave a presentation / demonstration entitled, “Fun With Medium and Large Format Film”.  Bob is a 4th generation photographer, who is as much fun, as he is talented.  The larger format sheet film and chemical processing in his demo brought back many memories for Warren, who started out learning the art and science of photography in his own father's darkroom, using 4" x 5" sheet film. 

Bob's vaseline print demo, not only helped demonstrate the photographic processes, but provided his “volunteers” and observers with a lot of laughs.  He asked his volunteers to put Vaseline on their face, and then press a piece of previously unexposed photo paper onto their faces, pressing it into the crooks an crevices.  Since the lights were on during the process, the paper was being exposed by the ambient light modulated by the thickness of vaseline it picked up.  Each sheet was then developed face up in the developer right there in the open light.  Whenever the resulting image looked interesting - that is, resembled an ink blot with a few discernable facial features, it was stopped an fixed.  As you might guess, large ears, beard stubble, and distinct features were an asset for this exercise.  It was fun seeing the images that came out.

Bob also brought a very old and large studio camera that took 11" x 14" sheet film.  With the help of three volunteers they were able to move it over near the window, where he attempted to update a portrait he had taken many years before of the current PPANE president, Nancy Green.  It was a clear demonstration of how much the technology has changed - with this kind of camera there was nothing automatic, and you certainly could not take hundreds of pictures to get it right - each 11" x 14" film holder held exactly TWO pieces of film - that's it!           


The Convention Banquet on Monday featured a touching tribute to Bob, his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather -- all having had a profound impact on photography in Vermont. 


Our final session for Sunday evening was a program by Tim John of Fundy Software on “Creating Profits Through Album Design.  Tim has a unique approach to photography, design, sales and marketing.  His philosophy is best described as “find things that other people aren’t doing.”  Tim talked about the latest trends in albums, the large varieties of albums for sale, pricing strategies for successful selling, bundling vs. al a carte, shooting for album tips and tricks, design and style tips and tricks, predesign selling, and how to get the most from album images.


When he is not helping lead our live auction at the banquet, Tim lives in California and enjoys the local farmers market and early morning running.


Monday was another full day!  After a nice continental breakfast, we headed over to hear Nancy Green discuss “What To Say And How To Say It.”  Nancy currently serves as PPANE president, and it was a joy to get to know her over the weekend.  Within 5 minutes of saying hello, you realize that Nancy has an exuberant personality coupled with a great sense of humor.  Nancy covered how to book an appointment right away without a callback, how to control your thoughts so not to get defensive, what to do when your customer cannot make up their mind, how to overcome your fear of the salesroom, body language and gestures that help set the tone, how to make that one last sale, and what can we say to turn around a difficult situation.    


In addition to being PPANE president, Nancy has won many prestigious awards.  Her most cherished are the two PPA National Awards, presented to her by PPAM and VPP.  She also proudly earned her Affiliate Judge's position in 2008.    


Nancy lives with her husband in Carver, Mass where she has her studio.      


After a short break we were treated to Joan and Rene Genest's program and live demo entitled, “For the Love Of Children”.  This was a very fast paced interactive class, that Linda really enjoyed.      


Rene and Joan have been photographing children for over 30 years and they really know the ins and outs of working with children.  Their program covered how to create successful portraits, composition, posing, relationship, expression, children’s marketing plan, lighting and posing, and how to keep your clients coming back for more.

With this background, they then demonstrated their techniques live, when a mother brought her two young children in for their portraits - aged approximately two and four.  Joan worked primarily as what she calls a child wrangler - keeping the children comfortable, entertained, and focused, while Rene clicked away capturing the expressions, Joan was able to evoke.  Joan is such a bundle of energy, and let me tell you, she will do whatever she has to do to make that child comfortable and evoke the best expression(s) possible.   


Joan and Rene have a studio called Storytellers Photography and their work expresses their obvious passion for what they do.  Their portraits are so much more than just a picture hanging on a wall.  Their portraits are “Stories for your heart and your home.”


After lunch it was Walter van Dusen and Chris Rioux discussing, “Weddings, Wireless, & Workflow – Streamlined.”  Based in Connecticut, Walter is the winner of numerous professional awards for his prints and albums - almost all from weddings.  He loves gadgets and when the one he wants doesn't exist, he will work with someone to make it a reality - or cobble it up with parts from Home Depot.  He brings so much stuff to a wedding that his assistant needs to be part sherpa and part pack mule.  Walter's brand revolves around his personality and reflects his belief that in addition to great photographic technique, his wedding customer's seek him out for his personality and the "experience" of being one of his customers.  Even in his talk, his personality comes across as a unique force of nature. 


One of his creations was a professional "photo booth" that he uses to augment his wedding experience.  A testament to its lure was how much the convention attendees had with it during the cocktail hour before the banquet. 

Monday ended with the Vermont Professional Photographers annual awards banquet.  This is were the awards were presented in several categories based on the Print Competition results, the new officers for the coming year were installed, we participated in a live auction of donated items to benefit the scholarship fund, and we held the drawings for the scholarship raffle.  You can view all the award-winning prints by visiting Vermont Professional Photographers at


The final program of the conference (all day Tuesday) was given by Michael Greenberg, on “Master 3D Lighting On The Run”.  In spite of having been voted as one of the ten best Canadian Wedding Photographers, he is as humble as they come.  In contrast to Walter, Michael travels light to a wedding and often works alone.  He shared his award-winning techniques to create studio-quality light with just one speedlite (on or off, but usually tethered to the camera) in any condition, at any time throughout the wedding day.  We were shown how to get the effect of 3D lighting for portraits, groups, and wedding candids, with the same equipment you already have (no soft boxes, no stands, no assistants, no heavy equipment – just one speedlite (flash)).  Michael walked through the audience as if it were a wedding reception, demonstrating his techniques and showing us the results.  After trying some of them afterwards, we got similar results but also appreciated how much youthful stamina would be required to handle a heavy professional camera one handed (the techniques require) for the several hours of a whole wedding. 


Michael, his wife, and newborn baby live in Canada and operates a studio in both Montreal and Toronto called Phototerra.   


All in all, we learned a lot, picked up some ribbons and an Award for Imaging Excellence with our own print entries, made some new friends, had some fun, and are looking forward with new eyes to competing again next year.     


If you would like to see our entries to print competition, click here.  If you would like to see additional candid images by Ayer Photography of Vermont from the first two days of the convention, click here.  To see Issue 2 of the Light & Lens newsletter containing many of our candid photos from the convention as well as others, click here.       

Posted by Warren & Linda    

Posted by ayerphoto at 4:16 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 16 April 2011 4:58 PM EDT
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