Insta Inspire 2017

On April 28 I left my three sleeping boys in bed and headed to the airport at 3:45 am.  Insane, right?  There's only one reason I would do something that crazy.  To meet up with all the photographers who I admire and am inspired by at the inaugural Insta Inspire retreat.  Held in Stamford, CT, I had the immense honor of speaking to the group and leading a shoot along.  It was a weekend filled with learning and laughter and I am already counting down the days until next year's event!  It was hard to leave my boys for the weekend, but I called the first day to check on them and they had popcorn and ice cream for lunch, so I think they did okay. :)

The very first night of the retreat we made quite the scene pulling up to the beach with a massive coach bus filled with eager photographers, and I'm not sure the locals were exactly happy to see us, but the location was too beautiful and the models were too precious for us to be discouraged.

My girl Whitney Williams leading a maternity shoot along at the beautiful Tod's Point in Greenwich, CT.

My girl Whitney Williams leading a maternity shoot along at the beautiful Tod's Point in Greenwich, CT.

Erica Bowton, the brains behind the retreat, shares some tips with attendees during her Friday night shoot along.

Erica Bowton, the brains behind the retreat, shares some tips with attendees during her Friday night shoot along.

I could use a lot more beach hair like this in my life.

I could use a lot more beach hair like this in my life.

I was sad and a little anxious to leave my family for the weekend, but a view like this can make a girl feel better real quick.

I was sad and a little anxious to leave my family for the weekend, but a view like this can make a girl feel better real quick.

Saturday was a jam-packed day of hands on learning with panels, presentations, and editing workshops, oh my!  I walked through my editing process to show attendees how I got from this image...

To this image!

Later in the afternoon, I spoke about how to "Beat the Boring" in your photography.  We started off with a fun photography personality quiz and then spent the next half hour or so talking through some things you can do with your shooting when you're feeling bored or in a rut.  We talked about incorporating emotion and humor into your photos, learning new photography tricks like the ring of fire and freelensing, how to change up your perspective and how to shoot and edit with deep shadows and silhouettes.

That evening I had the pleasure of leading a shoot along with about 13 other photographers.  It was the perfect evening to spend chasing a sweet brother and sister around on their bikes and capturing them playing and twirling in one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen.  

 

170429-501.jpg

And finally, all the instructors!  It's funny how we are all photographers with cameras always in reach, yet the only photo we got together was this iPhone snapshot!  Still, I'm grateful for it.  This was Friday night, and I know I'm not the only who got up at an absurd hour, so it's a wonder we were all even awake at dinner time. 

What a great time learning from these ladies and I am so thankful they took time out of their lives and away from their kids to spend the weekend with us!  Looking forward to the next time we are all together again!

Lens Love

I know, I know, "rock what you've got."  Awesome gear doesn't make an awesome photographer.  Stellar lenses don't always make for a stellar photo.  Would I know how to take a nice photo if you handed me an inexpensive kit lens?  Sure!  But boy, oh boy, do I love experimenting with fun, new lenses.  Of course I can't possibly own all the lenses that I swoon over, so I have discovered a little trick.  Whenever I'm itching for a new lens, I rent one!  All the fun of playing with a new lens without breaking the bank!  But first, here's a line up of the lenses that I do own and why I love them, so, so much

Tamron 70-200mm 2.8

This lens produces such beautiful images.  The type that I just can't get with any of my other lenses.  When shooting in the 135mm-200mm range, the compression of the background is just so gorgeous.  It's the absolute best lens for detail shots as well.  I originally didn't think I would use this lens much indoors since it is such a long focal length, but I use it inside as much as any other lens I own.

1/1000 f3.5 ISO200 (200mm)

1/1000 f3.5 ISO200 (200mm)

1/640 f4 ISO400 (155mm)

1/640 f4 ISO400 (155mm)

1/1000 f3.2 ISO800 {200mm)

1/1000 f3.2 ISO800 {200mm)

i/800 f4 ISO500 (200mm)

i/800 f4 ISO500 (200mm)

1/800 f3.5 ISO800 (100mm)

1/800 f3.5 ISO800 (100mm)

1/640 f4.5 ISO5000 (112mm)

1/640 f4.5 ISO5000 (112mm)

Tamron 24-70mm 2.8

I usually say that this lens is tied with my 70-200mm as my favorite, but it does seem like I reach for this one just a little bit more.  This is what they call a great walk-around lens.  For me, that basically means this is the lens I carry around for everyday shooting, when I leave the house, on vacations, etc.  It's so versatile and the wide angle at 24mm is so much fun to play with.

1/1600 f2.8 ISO1000 (24mm)

1/1600 f2.8 ISO1000 (24mm)

1/4000 f2.8 ISO800 (24mm)

1/4000 f2.8 ISO800 (24mm)

1/4000 f4.5 ISO160 (24mm)

1/4000 f4.5 ISO160 (24mm)

1/800 f4 ISO450 (24mm)

1/800 f4 ISO450 (24mm)

1/1600 f5 ISO250 (24mm)

1/1600 f5 ISO250 (24mm)

Nikon 50mm 1.4

I don't use this lens nearly as much as I do the first two.  I mainly use it for portraits when I'm shooting with clients, because I just love the shallow depth of field I can get with it.  I rarely use it with my kids, but when I DO think to pull it out with them, I'm never disappointed.  Although I don't use it as much as the others, I would be super sad to not have it in my line up anymore.

1/320 f2.5 ISO3200

1/320 f2.5 ISO3200

1/3200 f2 ISO100

1/3200 f2 ISO100

1/1000 f1.4 ISO100

1/1000 f1.4 ISO100

1/800 f16 ISO100

1/800 f16 ISO100

Lensbaby Edge 50

This is a fun, creative lens to play with.  Truth be told, I actually rented it first and had so much fun playing with it, I decided to buy my own.  It's nice that it's not a terribly expensive lens and it is great for getting out of a shooting rut.  It takes some getting used to though, that's for sure!  Manually focusing on wild and crazy kids is not for the faint of heart!

1/2500 ISO1200

1/2500 ISO1200

1/320 ISO400

1/320 ISO400

1/400 ISO3200

1/400 ISO3200

 

What I've Rented

Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art

I've heard such great things about Sigma's Art series.  The only thing holding me back from buying this one is that I already have this focal length covered with one of my favorite lenses (the 70-200mm). I was curious about being able to shoot at f1.4 at that length though, so I rented it for a weekend. It was a lot of fun to play with!

1/4000 f1.6 ISO400

1/4000 f1.6 ISO400

1/1600 f1.6 ISO320

1/1600 f1.6 ISO320

Nikon 16mm 2.8

I had been wanting to play with a fisheye lens for a while.  I had it for a long weekend, and while I did get some fun shots that I liked, I feel like I may need to rent it again to really get the hang of it.

1/400 f4 ISO6400 

1/400 f4 ISO6400 

1/320 f22 ISO200

1/320 f22 ISO200

So there you have it!  What's your favorite lens?  Need some ideas for the next time I get the itch!

Riding Planes Like a Boss

I may have packed 43 too many coloring books, 27 too many bags of candy and 13 too many new toys, but the boys now have their first plane ride under their belt!  I was so anxious for how they'd do on the plane and navigating through busy airports with us, but I totally underestimated how well they'd do.  Snacks and movies on the iPad?  Yes, please! 

 

Waiting on our plane.

Waiting on our plane.

Starting to get a little case of the crazies.

Starting to get a little case of the crazies.

We went through about four bottles of hand sanitizer on this trip (their hands are like magnets to anything and everything filthy - like bottoms of shoes).  

We went through about four bottles of hand sanitizer on this trip (their hands are like magnets to anything and everything filthy - like bottoms of shoes).  

That's the smile of a kid on his way to Disney World.

That's the smile of a kid on his way to Disney World.

Before he realized how fast airplanes go on take off. 

Before he realized how fast airplanes go on take off. 

After he realized how fast airplanes go on take off.

After he realized how fast airplanes go on take off.

Snacks, drinks and movies for the win.

Snacks, drinks and movies for the win.

The Focused Photographer

Wow, what a year. I picked up my camera every single day in 2016. Some days I struck gold and others it felt like pulling teeth trying to get a photo I was happy with. It was both incredibly gratifying and insanely frustrating. The growth I saw in myself as a photographer was immeasurable and for anyone wanting to push themselves in ways they didn't even know possible, I wholeheartedly recommend a 365 project.  

But now it's time to move on! I desperately wanted a project in 2017 that would continue to push me to be better, but I knew that another 365 project was unreasonable (I mean, I literally have 10s of thousands of photos from 2016 to cull and edit). I wanted to really focus on improving in certain areas and not just try new things willynilly like I did in 2016. That's how The Focused Photographer was born. In 2017, I have decided to dedicate a full month to learning and practicing different types of photography and techniques. No pressure to shoot daily, but just a commitment to myself to focus on the technique for that month and practice it whenever I pick up my camera (while still shooting what and how I normally do, of course).  If you'd like to follow along with this project, I'd love for you to join us as we learn together over on our little corner of Instagram. 

https://www.instagram.com/the.focused.photographer/

JANUARY - get in the frame

FEBRUARY - multiple exposures

MARCH - freelensing

APRIL - video

MAY - prism

JUNE - fisheye/wide angle

JULY - underwater (alternative: reflections)

AUGUST - panning/motion blur

SEPTEMBER - ring of fire

OCTOBER - film

NOVEMBER - lensbaby (alternative: portraits)

DECEMBER - creative editing

 

Getting In The Frame - He won't always need me to help him wash his hands.

Getting In The Frame - He won't always need me to help him wash his hands.