Category Archives: Photography

Photography related posts

Rob’s Famous 30-Second Modeling Lesson

I work with quite a few inexperienced models or people who are trying modeling for the first time and I frequently have to give them some basic instructions.  There are even times when I’m working with experienced models and find they need to be reminded of a few things from time to time.

Over time this has grown more than 30 seconds, but there are the major points I like to cover to help people with posing.  Even photographers who are wanting to photograph people in posed settings can benefit from these pointers, so I thought I would put them down in e-print for everyone to have available.

Arms and legs bent.

This is primarily a rule for posing women, but it’s useful for circumstances with men.  The idea is that straight lines tend to form hard edges which produces a more masculine look.  Women generally are better represented as soft, smooth and curvaceous.   Every joint should be bent if even just slightly.   Straight legs, arms and in particular fingers need to be avoided.

Our bodies are designed to generally form a straight line with our shoulders balanced above  our hips.  Rule #1 above though says bend it if we should and putting a gentile to strong S curve in the subject’s body makes for a more interesting pose.  Generally the hips and shoulders should be offset from each other and if they can be kept parallel even the better.  It’s are to tell someone how to do this, but generally starts with shifting the hips from having one leg bent a bit more than the other.  Studying other photos and practicing before your shoot will help you master this skill before you show up for the shoot.

Notice the curve drawn from her head to her feet with her shoulders and hips offset

While Tyra Banks does come up with some really whacky things from time to time, she has the experience of a super-model and frequently her ideas are important ones.  Smize is one of her whacky terms that is critical for the success of fashion and glamor photography.   Smize means “Smile with your Eyes”.  As you’ve probably no doubt heard in your life:  “The Eyes are the Keys to the Soul”.  In people photography, eyes are everything.  And even if you’re giving a fierce expression you must still “Smile with your Eyes”.  That is your single biggest connection to the camera and one that you need to nail down.

If you are tired, hung-over, bored or for any other reason not into the shoot, your eyes are going to sell you out.  Your photographer should notice this and do what they can to re-engage you in the shoot.  But it’s not the photographer’s job to make your eyes smile, it’s yours, the model.   This also can be practiced.

Related to Smizing, is finding your light.  Lighting isn’t just the business of the photographer.  The model doesn’t have to know lighting ratios or the difference between a barn-door or a snoot, but a model does need to know where the main light source is.  In photography terms we call this the “Key Light” or simply the main light.  It’s the model’s responsibility to know where the main light is coming from and try and orient the poses toward that light.  In many settings, there will be a brighter light on one side than the other.

If you pose away from the brighter light, you get shadows and more importantly you don’t get enough light in your eye sockets to bring out the beauty of your eyes.  You get bags, dark areas and other un-pleasantries.  Now of course the photographer may ask you to pose away from the main light if they are going to effect, but a majority of your photos you should pose toward the key light.

If you don’t know, ask.  Photographer’s are happy to let you know that.  Even if you’re shooting outdoors and even if the photographer has put the sun behind you, you can tell which side of your body is better illuminated and pose in that direction.

This is another Tyra-ism.  Even if the photographer is photographing you from the shoulders up, how you hold the rest of your body is important.  If your arms are just dangling, or your back is slouching it’s going to carry through your facial expressions.  Every shot regardless of what’s going on, you need ot assume the photographer is shooting full length unless they tell you otherwise.  Even if they do, its a good idea to pose head-to-toe.

Notice how her arms are offset to avoid being too symmetrical.

If you’re holding your hand’s above your head for instance try to have the hands and elbows at different heights and angles.  If your hands are lower, have them at different heights.

Dangling arms and hands are bad bad bad.  You’re photographer, may not always know how to tell you to deal with it.  You should always do something with your hands.  Studying other photos and practicing in front of a mirror will help you make this second nature.  It gets a little frustrating to always be reminding the model to do this.

Do this every shot unless the photographer asks you not to.  Along with this, if you’re leaning back on your arms, don’t put too much weight on the arm facing the camera because your tricep (the muscle in the back of your arm) will produce an unsightly bulge and the photographer will be fixing that along with your tummy roll because you didn’t suck in your tummy.

This is hard to do when you’re putting your arms over your head which can be good poses.  But you need to angle your body so that your armpit isn’t aimed straight at the camera.  Oh yea, make sure to clean them.  Stubble, bits of fuzz from cloth caught on the stubble and deodorant flakes put more post-processing work on the photographer.

Barbie Toe: Standing on your tippy-toes, elongates and tones your legs and makes them look longer. Along with this point your toes if you’re in a laying down pose. Curled toes don’t work. Avoid the duck face. It IS NOT pretty.

Photographing your best friend’s wedding — 10 Reasons to say NO!

I saw a tweet fly about twitter that read:

Photographing Your Best Friend’s Wedding – 10 Tips #photography #photo

There was no URL with it to go read the 10 tips, but with the help of our friend Google I was lead pretty quickly to this site, which seems to be the origin of the tweet:

a website called Photography 101.

In full disclosure, I make a majority of my photo income photographing weddings.

The article’s advice is aimed apparently at amateurs who have been lured in by their BFF to do a for free, er. Pro Bono job because they have a nice camera. My advice: Just say “No!”

Just say No!

And here are the 10 reasons why!

1. Photographically speaking a couple’s wedding should be the most important day to them. It is not a time to be breaking a new photographer in to do the job. Couples will look back on these photos for years and not having a professional do the job is just a mistake. Quality wedding photographers don’t have to cost $4,000 depending on what is being delivered. Depending on the local market, its possible to find talented photographers who will do the job for under $1,000.

Its very very important for you and your BFF asking you to do this to realize the average wedding photography isn’t just the 8 hours on site for the wedding and reception, but considerably more. If albums are involved, a pro photographer can easily spend 50 hours of work to make that 8 hour wedding a possibility.

2. You need backup gear. Murphy’s Law is a frequent guests of weddings and having just one camera body, one lens and one flash is an invitation for Murphy to apply his law. Even pro’s loose gear at weddings but we are smart enough to have backup’s packed away so we can keep shooting.

3. Weddings are stressful, even for an experienced photographer. They are hectic and high paced. As a guest or even as the couple themselves, you don’t realize all the different photos that have to be taken. It takes planning and choreography and coordination to pull it all off. You have to spend time with the planner, the DJ, and the couple while they are stressed to the max. Which leads to #4.

4. You won’t enjoy the day. This is your BFF. If you’re behind the camera, you’re not enjoying the wedding. Your friend may not realize what they are asking of you. There is no time to socialize. No time to hang with your family and friends.

5. You cannot (should not) drink if you’re working. So no partying for you. No cocktail hour either because your busy trying to make sure Auntie Em and Uncle Joe get in the right photo.

6. No champagne for you to toast with. You have to get that photo!

7. No cake for you. You will be busy shooting the dance floor.

8. This one may be a positive! It’s an excuse to skip the Electric Slide… but you still have to take photos of it.

9. Its time for the garter/bouquet toss. Wait a minute, you’re still single and you want to catch it. Guess what! It’s not your time to catch the flowers, you have to take photos of it.

10. Now you have to deliver all of your goods and well a lot of the photos are blurry (did someone miss reason #4 above?) and the exposures and color balance is all over the place and you give them to your friend and they are disappointed with them and it costs you your friendship. Is it really worth the risk of loosing your BFF because your quality just wasn’t there? You’re friendship is way too important.

Want to be a true BFF? Take your wedding gift money and contribute it to the fee to hire a professional photographer. Wedding vendors are becoming more popular additions to the Bridal registry and a young couple will appreciate better photos in the long run than a toaster.

They will appreciate having you party with them and be there to help them get through their stressful day. If you are interested in the photography aspect, why not volunteer to be the liaison between the photographer and the family. Photographers appreciate having someone who knows the family and can help out. Just don’t neglect the fact that you are there to be with the bride and groom, not work the wedding as a vendor.

Just say no!

F5.6 is the WORST f-stop.

I’ve not done a tech post in a while, so it’s about time.

There is an old Photojournalist’s saying: “F8 and be there”.

Basically in our print film days, if you left your camera on F8 you could snap a pic of something happening without worrying about focus, shutter speed etc. and have a reasonable chance of salvaging the important moment in the darkroom, and of course you “have to be there” to capture the moment. We would leave the camera at 1/60 F8 and the lens focused at just under infinity and have a pretty good chance of taking the photo.

This works because of some photographic magic called Depth-of-Field. On most lenses (though modern ones are starting to leave this off), there is a gauge that shows you the distance to where the focal plane of the lens is focused. It can range from a few inches/mm to Infinity (that 8 on its side!). There used to be markers that also gave you a rough idea of how much would be in focus at various F-Stops. Those marks are disappearing like mad these days.

Depth-of-Field or DOF is a measure of how much of a scene will appear to be in focus, in front of and behind the point where the lens is focused. DOF is not an easy concept to master. There are three factors that go into determining how much DOF you have. It’s not an absolute. Focus fades in and out over a distance, it’s not a sudden “I’m in focus. Now I’m not” situation.

There are four important ideas in thinking about DOF. Even seasoned photographers need reminded of these:

  • Subject Distance: The closer the subject, the less will be in focus; the further away, the more will be in focus.
  • Lens Focal Length: The longer (i.e. more telephoto) the lens, the less will be in focus; the wider angle the lens the more will be in focus.
  • Aperture or F-Stop: The larger the lens opening (smaller F-Stop number) the less that will be in focus; the smaller the opening (larger F-Stop number) the more that will be in focus.
  • The distance in front of the subject that’s in focus is less than the distance behind the focus point.

So if your subject is 100 feet away and you’re using a wide angle lens, and an F-stop of F16 you pretty much won’t have to focus the camera, yet your hot 70-200 F2.8 lens at 200mm wide open shooting a subject 3 feet away will have almost none of the photo in focus.

Lets look at some examples. There are several online DOF calculators that can help you understand this complex subject. Lets look at a couple of examples using our favorite normal 50mm lens.

River Girl

Photo at F8 and 145mm makes the background part of the photo!

If our subject is 10 feet away and you’re F-stop is F11, almost 6 feet will be in focus. But your subject isn’t centered in that 5.86 zone, but a little over 2 feet in front of the focus point will appear to be in focus, and around 4 feet behind the focus point will appear sharp.

But keeping the same camera settings, we move our subject/focus point to 5 feet away. Only a mere 1.36 feet will be in focus; about 7 inches in front and 9 inches behind the subject. Now move your subject to 30 feet away. Now over 150 feet will be in focus, 13 feet in front and 140 feet behind. It’s amazing how much distance affects this.

Now let’s look at another example. We will use the same distances, but this time open up to F2.8. With our subject at 10 feet, the depth of field is almost identical to F11 at 5 feet (1.36 feet, though the front and rear distances are slightly different, but close enough).  Bring your subject back to 5 feet at F2.8 only 4 total inches will be in focus.

Shoot your subject at 5 feet away at F2.8 with a 200mm lens only 1/4th of an inch will be in focus.

Country Girl

At F4.0 the background is defocused. The 200mm focal length aids in the defocusing.

With our gear, our common F-stops run from F2.8 to F11. F5.6 is the middle of this range. Some of our lenses will let us open up to F2.0 or more and of course, we can stop down to F16 or more, but F5.6 is pretty much the middle. So one might think that F5.6 might be a good F-stop to use. But here is the problem…..

At most common distances with “normal” lenses, at F5.6 too much will be in focus to achieve that “defocused” look and blur out background elements; but it doesn’t bring enough depth of field to bring the background into focus, so you’re kind of left in no-mans land, so to speak. It’s a safe F-stop for several reasons. One is shutter speed. If you were to shoot at F8 for F11, it’s going to cost you a couple of shutter speeds. And while you might be getting a nice hand-holdable 1/60th of a second at F5.6, suddenly becomes 1/15th at F11 and your photo is going to be blurry, but now because of camera shake, not focus. Going the other way, open that lens up to F2.8 gets you some nice shutter speed, but your focus now has to be very precise or your photo will appear to be blurry because the focus depth is too little.

So that makes F5.6 sound good to me, you might be saying. Well if your goal is happy snaps of your family and friends, then it is, but when you look at someone’s photos who gets off of F5.6 and works with the extremes of aperture, you ooh and aww going “Why can’t my photos look that good?”. Well, its because they are taking advantage little or a lot of depth of field.

So if you want to work on more creative photography, ban yourself from F5.6.

You may also hear the term Bokeh used when talking about low depth of field photos. This term is frequently misused to mean a photo with very low depth of field where the background is seriouslly blurred out. Bokeh actually means the “Quality of the out of focus highlights”.

Consider this photo:

Enigma - A Red Shouldered Hawk

Here, we have the bokeh effect showing. The background consists of white Christmas lights, but they are so defocused that these point lights have formed large circles. Different lenses will render these out of focus highlights differently. For instance, a mirror lens produces donut shaped highlights. A lens with 6 aperture blades will produce a hex shaped highlight. Lenses with more blades produce rounder highlights. This quality is what Bokeh is all about, not how much of the photo is in or out of focus.

Birds of Prey from the American Wildlife Refuge.

Its a Bird! Its a Plane! No. Its a Bird! Actually six birds.


The American Wildlife Refuge, a non-profit wild bird-of-prey rescue organization in Raleigh, North Carolina had a variety of their Educational Birds on display at Wild Birds Unlimited in Cary on Saturday, December 5th. Volunteer handlers answered questions for several hours as they displayed the raptors to their audience.


The organization rehabs wild birds that are injured and returns them to the wild. Some birds, perhaps due to injury or too much human contact cannot be put back into the wild and those birds join the Educational Birds. They function on donations. You can donate simply by tying your Food Lion MVP card to them.

While I would love to have gotten these photos of birds in the wild, even photos of captive birds can help us appreciate their beauty and their power and strength. Enjoy the photos!

Beanca Steppe Eagle

Horned Owl





Photographing a future Super-Model

As many people may have noticed on my various social network sites (, Facebook, etc.) that I recently photographed a model named Laura. Laura is not just any model that many of us here in the Raleigh-Durham area, but a celebrity model.

Laura was the runner-up on . Several people have asked how I got this opportunity. Well, Laura is my great-niece. Her grandmother Wanda Sue is my sister.

My family has been suggesting that I get a chance to shoot her before she heads off to the to pursue her career. I had a very narrow window of time to do that. It had to be after the show finished and before her time demands make her unavailable to even family. That time was this past weekend.

I knew I wanted to accomplish several things while shooting her. Those included a beauty session, a couple of editorial sessions showing up some Wanda Sue’s Fashions. Wanda Sue (we just call her Sue) had made several of Laura’s outfits that she wore to the judging panel and Wanda Sue became kind of her own celebrity. Then I wanted to do a couple of high fashion looks.

To do this, I would need a styling team. I wanted someone excellent with hair and someone with a lot of creative makeup ideas. It would have been easy to pack up some limited gear, fly to Kentucky and shoot on her schedule. I would struggle to find the talent needed and even then, I wouldn’t have a working relationship with them. I also wanted to shoot the editorial shots in an urban setting, so it seemed logical that shooting here in Raleigh-Durham would be perfect. Stylists I trust are here and my location looks are here.

I contacted Jennifer at D’Jin Salon in Durham to see if she would be interested and she jumped at the opportunity. Her salon would serve as a perfect base of operation, doing studio shots in the salon and the editorial looks around downtown Durham.

For makeup, I had recently worked with Daniel from Libra Looks. He had a book of makeup ideas that he had been working on and was a fan of the show. Though Daniel and Jenn had not worked together, I got them emailing back and forth and let them have creative control over all styling related issues. Hey, I’m not a stylist.

They make Laura look good. She poses well. I make sure the photos are sharp and lit well and surely magic would happen.

While dodging interview after interview and local shoots, Laura and I worked out a plan to get her here. 37,500 frequent flyer miles and some taxes and fees later, she had a flight from Lexington to RDU.

To add an interesting twist to this, my youngest son’s Junior Ice Hockey team was playing two games in Wake Forest this same weekend and we had arranged to feed the team before their Saturday game. My wife’s parents drove in from Kentucky to see Chris play and help with the team meal.

My MIL has been watching ANTM all season and cheering for Laura so my wife and I decided to make this a surprise that Laura was coming in. In retrospect perhaps I should have had them pick her up on the way!

The surprise would have to be delayed 12 hours as filming for the Tyra Banks show caused Laura to miss her fight. The next flight wouldn’t get her to RDU until 8:30am the next day instead of 9pm the night before.

We also caught a break. Tropical Storm turned noreaster Ida damaged the fleet of vans Chris’s team was planning to use to get to Wake Forest. So they had to bring a bus and the driver limits prevented the team meal from becoming a reality.

The night before the shoot, the stylists hinted they were nervous about the shoot. We had no idea what wardrobe was coming and they saw an opportunity with a celebrity model as too important and didn’t want to blow it. I was worried too because other than the vague outline of what to shoot, I had no idea what “looks” to do. I don’t get chances with models of Laura’s calibre very often either and I didn’t want to blow it. But I had faith in the styling team so I knew it would be okay.

I also invited Tom Winstead to come shoot with us. Tom and I shoot a lot together and he has always helped me out and this was a good way to repay him for everything.

With the team set, we now only had to dodge the two hockey games because I don’t get to see Chris play often and with the in-laws in town, they were not to be missed. We also wanted to have at least one meal with him.

Saturday, 8:30am
Laura arrives at RDU. A quick trip back to my house for breakfast and then off to the salon.
We arrive in Durham and the stylists start looking over the wardrobe and talk with Laura about the ideas. We start setting up lights, backgrounds and such while the styling beings. Visitors arrive in the form of my wife and in-laws to watch the beauty shoot portion. By 2pm, they depart.
We start the first of two editorial shoots. In between, we keep the the styling, but add a little additional makeup and Laura becomes a marionette puppet. A quick studio session with that look, then we style for the 2nd editorial look. Then back inside for the final two fashion looks.
Leave for Wake Forest and the hockey game. Luckily my wife brought the computer to the rink, so I was able to download and get some photos up quickly from the WiFi at the rink.
Leave the game for home. We arrive a little after midnight and its back to editing for a bit and we probably get to sleep after 1am.
Sunday, 8:30am
Time to start day 2. The hockey game was in the middle of the day, so after a breakfast, it was time to drive to the game. I got a little more editing and posting done before we departed. Its a 45 minute drive from home to the rink.
The 2nd game commences with more photoshop work in between periods. The game ends and we head to the local mall food court with the team.
We leave Wake Forest for Durham to start the second day’s photography. Its a 45 minute trip to the Salon. The stylists planned to get as many looks in as they could before we had to call it a wrap. Several of them were complex and required considerable styling time. Before we had to quit at 11pm, we got in four complex high fashion looks.
Finally home, a quick edit to get some shots from Sunday up and then call it a night
Monday 6:30am
The alarm goes off. Time to get Laura to the airport to send her home.

Through out this whole process, we all were in pure awe of how talented Laura is. I’ve never had this many keepers from a shoot. All of her poses are strong. Her facial expressions are spot on. Clearly she took Tyra Banks’ advice about “Smizing” (smiling with your eyes).

Laura is also incredibly versatile. Each look was different. Even within the same look, one angle would be completely different than another. Jenn describe her hair as perfect. She was a wonderful canvas for her and Daniel’s ideas. Laura hit it off well with the stylists which I now realize may be some of the most chemistry needed at a set. When sitting in a chair for over an hour being poked, prodded, glued and tugged, having a good report with them is important.

Then the camera turns to her and and infinite number of poses appear beautifully before the camera. It was the most incredible shoot I’ve been part of. Enjoy the photos.

Misty Mountain Hop

Morning Fog

I’ve lived in North Carolina for 10 years and I have yet to make a trip to the mountains in the fall. Visions of picturesque mountains vibrant with color and crystal blue skies danced in my mind as to what I would see.

Getting there, at least for me is hard. Its hockey season, which means my disposable income is trips for our boys hockey habits. Four hour trips with overnight stays and meals get expensive and finding a free weekend to go the other way for photography has historically not been practical. This year, I got an opportunity to go to the Mountains.

Blue Ridge Clouds

I planned this weekend a couple of months ago along with my friend, Lori, who lives there. The middle of October should be the peak of color. I had the weekend of October 10 free and so we decided that would be the weekend to go.

Mother Nature took a lesson from Murphy and his Laws.


The trees are late changing. Warm temperatures and a wetter year has pushed the peak color back two-to-three weeks. About 1/3 of the leaves above 4,000 feet were changed. Saturday was a complete wash with rain and fairly dark skies. We had planned on Saturday for other activities so that wasn’t so bad, but Sunday, our morning to drive the parkway was fairly well fogged in.

I had actually hoped for foggy conditions, but not mountains in the clouds. I thought that the crystal blue skies and loads of color with fog laying low in the valleys would have been cool. The plan was to drive up to several spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway, ending up at a location called Graveyard Fields where you can access a couple of waterfall’s with an easy hike.

But as we headed out around 9:30 we realized that conditions were not good. A light rain was falling and you could barely see the mountains. With hopes it would pass and burn off, we trudged on. We would drive for a while and see a clearing where some sun was peeking though and find a pull off. But as we grabbed the cameras, the fog and clouds would move in and close off the shooting opportunity. This happened several times.


The original plan was to have a model with us to pose in the landscapes. But given the cold, wet conditions it was best that we didn’t have a model.

We passed a group of four photographers, cameras mounted to their tripods and aimed into the fog, patiently waiting for the fog to clear. Ironically as we returned, they were still there, still pointing at the fog. That’s dedication! At times visibility was less than 50′.

We eventually got to Graveyard Fields and caught a few moments before the fog rolled in. Since we were not going to get any sun, we headed down to the stream that feeds the Lower Falls. We stopped to photograph a nice spider web dripping in water droplets. As we reached the creek, there was a fairly nice scenic with the fog filling the gap between trees as the running brook ran with water. This was a good opportunity to try out slow shutter speeds to blur the water.


Not having a polarizer or a neutral density filter and only being able to get to ISO 100 meant cranking the F-Stop up to F32 or higher, to try and get a 1 second or half second exposure. The problem with that is two fold. Most lenses stink above F11 with regards to sharpness. With that tiny of an aperture, every spot of dust on my sensor stood out. Boy is my sensor icky.

We headed down to the lower falls. Getting down is easy. We shot around there for a bit and decided to head back as I had to return to Raleigh. As we drove back, the sun was finally staring to peek through and we stopped to get more traditional landscapes.

While I didn’t get those post-card photos, I think I prefer the bad conditions as they provided a much more moody landscape to photograph.

Overall I think were happy with the results.



What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Attending photography meetups are a great way to learn . . .

more about photography.


You have that new camera you just picked up and you’ve tried to read the manual and it kinda makes sense, but you want to go learn and shoot some stuff. Yet you spend another night with the manual taking pictures of your furniture… There could be a good way to solve that problem.

Photo meetups!

In many communities, photographers get together and go shoot stuff. It could be anything from shooting sunsets to shooting urban decay to events like a small town rodeo. At meetups you get to meet other photographers who’s experience runs from someone who just got their first camera to seasons professionals — all sharing a common love of photography.

There are three main ways you can find meetups. Flickr, and your local computer club.


Many photographer’s have found each other through Flickr. Flickr is a photo sharing service that has put a lot of effort into the social aspect of photography. Flickr has good tools for meeting other photographers. You can easily search for photographers, mark them as contacts and friends, email them, comment on their photos, mark your favorites and so on. Flickr also has “Groups” which let people come together on various interests. If you are into photographing urban grunge, there is a group for that. For meetups though, you need to find groups based on your location.

Searching for your city or region will give you a list of groups in your area. You can look at the information for the number of photographers and last activity. Find the one with the most photographers and recent activity and join them. If those groups are not currently having meetup’s free free to make a post inviting people to come to a meetup.

If you’re lucky you will find a raging active community with multiple meetup chances. Here in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina we have three groups that manage active meetups:

The Raleigh Flickr Group and Raleigh Social group are tightly coupled. RFG holds a standing 1st Tuesday meeting every month. The topics vary, but frequently they are shooting based and generally involve meeting for drinks and dinner then shooting afterwards. RSG fills in with ad-hoc meetups that are scheduled when people feel like it and can vary from just getting together to random shoots. In addition to shooting and social meetups, these groups also get together to talk about post processing with programs like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom .

Triangle Strobists is a bit more focused on using camera strobes for more creative lighting. Almost all of their meetups are shooting meetups where the photographers get together and share knowledge and equipment. They meet on the 3rd Tuesday every month. The photographers of Triangle Strobist are a sub-set of the overall Raleigh/Raleigh Social Group groups, so in effect we have two standing meetups and a lot of ad-hoc ones.

In all cases, the groups are open. There are no dues like clubs, you come when you can and no one judges you based on your skills. If you show up with a point and shoot or a pro grade camera you will be equally accepted. You will find this kind of openness among the Flickr meetup communities across the world. is a website for meetups, not just photography, but for any thing. But photography people make good use of it. You put in your topic you are interested in and your zip code and the website will present you with a list of meetup groups along with the number of photographers and you can find out how often they meet and what previous topics are.

Searching for a Raleigh zip code and photographers, 11 groups were presented. Some of the more popular ones include:

Local Camera Clubs

You can use Google or check with your local camera stores to find information about any local camera clubs. Many cities have them and some will be more active than others.

These various groups are great ways to meet new people with common interests and learn more about photography.

Are there any resources that you have found that helps you? Leave a comment below.

Sharing your photography knowledge with others.

This weekend will be a weekend I won’t forget for a long

But we have to back up a few months to put this in context. There was twitter and all things were good. Then twitter started having problems and a bunch of other services started up. One such service is Plurk. Plurk is like twitter but its more conversational and you can develop friendships on Plurk much like you can on Flickr.

About 6 months ago, I met Susan, who is @ttpus here on Flickr. Much like any other internet relation, it takes time to build up trust. @ttpus is a photographer who shoots a lot of baby and senior portraits and some weddings, mostly natural light.trailer movie J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only 2017

In June, she planned to shoot her own daughter’s wedding but a week before hand she decided that she would rather have someone else shoot the wedding. She took a chance on someone she knew in 140 character chunks and flew me to Iowa to photograph the wedding.

While there, we talked a lot of shop and she was interested in getting into working with models, perhaps setup a home studio, but she would need to learn lighting.

We continued to talk about this after the wedding and she decided now was the time to move forward with this part of her photography. Using frequent flier miles she and her husband picked a weekend to come to Raleigh for me to teach her.

She’s a Canon owner (5D + 40D and 2 580EX II speedlites) and she knew she needed some real studio gear. A couple of weeks prior to her visit, we talked about what she needed. She ordered the studio gear and had it shipped to me, so I could make sure I knew it before she arrived.

A couple of days later, two hot pink Alien Bee 800’s along with light stands, umbrellas and a big 5′ x 3′ softbox showed up. Having had Monolights before, the AB800’s were a piece of cake to use. For what its worth, the light from them are just awesome. She also picked up a pair of pocket wizards and enough parts that she could also use her 580EX II’s off camera much like we do in our strobist setups (small shoot through white umbrella, light weight stand, etc)

To make her trip worthwhile, I booked a couple of models. I thought “Film Noir” would be a great introduction to lighting and booked the wonderful CoriLee as our model along with Jessica Dunn to do the makeup. This shoot would tie us up from 12-5 on Sunday.

For Saturday, we added in an urban street shoot to get her experience with the 580’s off camera and booked Laurie Lu to shot in the warehouse district in Raleigh.

Somewhere along the way I got the bright idea, since she shoots a lot of babies to find a six month old to give a free sitting too while she worked with her studio lights. My next door neighbor has a 5 month old, the timing was good, so we had our baby model which we shot prior to the Sunday session, now making that an 11am to 5pm shoot.

It got even better. My day job was needing a product shot with a hand model so I picked the item up Thursday since I took Friday off to work with Susan. Since these shots are going to run in ads, I was able to score “Tear Sheets” for everyone involved.

I needed a big softbox for the product shoot so the timing was perfect.

Friday arrived and my guests arrived around 1pm. After a brief lunch, we came back to the house and she and her husband got the Studio Lighting 101 class. They learned how to setup and break down the Alien Bee’s. How to use the pocket wizards. We discovered a bad hot shoe on her 40D which explained why she was having trouble getting her 580’s to work on that camera. Using hubby as a model she learned how to use her hand held meter to get the right exposure.

Saturday, we hung out in the morning and talked for a while before my wife and I introduced them to the wonderful cuisine known as “Clyde Coopers BBQ”. We drove around where we would be shooting to give her an idea of the scenery.

Both nights after shooting we downloaded her cards and analyzed her work. It was a great weekend, but afterward we were all quite beat. They arrived back in Iowa this morning and her Alien Bee’s are en-route to meet her in a few days.

I will miss my time with them.

For me it was a great time to give back and share what I’ve learned over the years. I hope she has great success with her plans.

Our Kentucky Derby Festival Vacation Comes to an End.


Nine days ago we packed our bags and loaded up our Expedition for the long ten-hour drive from our home in North Carolina to our native home of Kentucky. It was a trip we had not made in several years. We picked this week specifically because it was the main week of the Kentucky Derby Festival. For my wife, a native of Louisville, Derby Week is ingrained into the soul and its been hard for her over the 15 years we have been gone and hopefully we satisfied her yearnings for a while.

The week will go down as her most memorable vacation in a long time. I wanted this week to be all about Sherry. If she wanted to do it, we did it and if I got to take photos, all the better. She had a very packed and aggressive schedule planned and we made most of the events and made all the key events.

Spring time in Kentucky means unpredictable weather. It has been known to snow this week and rain is always a problem. Temperatures can soar into the low ’90’s or can require the heat to be on all week. When attending festival events the weather can make or break a trip. Winds and rain threatened almost every outdoor event this week. The rains came during off hours, the winds delayed but didn’t cancel any events and even for those attending the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby were granted dry conditions making it almost a near perfect week.

This website’s blog posts have been a daily diary of our exploration. We hope you have enjoyed reading the stories and viewing the photos as we got to experience the events first hand.

The week was full of favorite moments and very few forgettable ones. The highs include:

And the two low points, besides the weather concerns included:

  • Not getting all the Carolina Hurricanes playoff hockey games
  • Not having a DVR. We didn’t have a clue how much we use the rewind live TV feature.

As tradition before each running of the Kentucky Derby, just after the “Call to the Post” and the National Anthem, Stephen Foster’s song “My Old Kentucky Home” is played. Never has the song meant as much to me as it did when it was played Saturday as the final lyrics struck me:

Weep no more my Lady. Oh weep no more today.
We will sing one song for my Old Kentucky Home,
For my Old Kentucky home, far away.

…”Far away”…

Kentucky is my home, not North Carolina, though thats were I live. Staying away all these years from family and friends is not good. We should not be bound by distance, gas costs, schedules, or the other excuses of life. Being away from your home is not healthy for the mind, body or soul. We must work harder to make sure that our old Kentucky home isn’t as far away.

But for now, its back to work on Monday. Time to hit the ground running and act like we never missed a beat during our nine-day excursion.

I thank you for following along.
Rob & Sherry!syndey

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Release : January 26, 2017
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Runtime : 130 min.
Genre : Drama, Romance, Science Fiction.

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