And now, back by popular demand, actual photography.


The staff at Sun Printing isn't just any old staff, so theyre not getting just any old staff photos. I love companies that have the stones to do something a little different. Here's a little peek at a couple of the portraits coming out of the photo-shoot today in beautiful Wausau, Wisconsin. These are for their new website, which let me tell you is going to be sweet (they showed me the top secret files, I can't say more or they'd have to kill me). Needless to say, it's going to be a little more light hearted than the previous version. It's been awesome to work with the folks in their creative department to plan and pull off this shoot. Lots of great ideas bouncing around the room. Watch for more in the next couple days.


Jake & Bridget.

I don't shoot a lot of weddings anymore. There are a lot of reasons for that, not the least of which is the amount of time it takes to do it really well. The actual wedding, while still a lot of work, is really kind of the easy part. Then comes hours in front of a computer processing and sorting images, doing touch ups, ordering prints. It's a lot.

But every once in a while a wedding comes along that's just too interesting to pass up. That's how I ended up in the parking lot at Anglers All at 4:30 a.m. last Friday morning standing next to a man named "Big Jim" when he looked out at the lake and said, "It's a little lumpy out there."

That was accurate; it was lumpy out there. And at 5:10 a.m. we were scooting around the break wall at Second Landing and bashing our way through those exact lumps out to the light at the tip of Long Island for Jake & Bridget's wedding.

It was still cloudy when we left the landing and there was a pretty stiff breeze, but at the island, with the anchor down, and the bride and groom standing on the front deck, the sun poked through the clouds for a perfect dawn wedding followed by a little champagne on the beach. Congratulations, Jake and Bridget, not only on your recent nuptials, but also on having one of the most memorable weddings I've ever shot. Well done.

Special thanks also go out to Katie and Dave Gellatly of Solstice Outdoors for the use of their boat, which, for the record, I have re-christened the H.M.S. Awesome. You'd have been proud of me, Dave; I didn't even crash it into anything. Nothing big, anyway.


Gone to the Races.

The first real car I ever drove was a race car. I was ten or eleven and my cousin Jason was racing dirt track stock cars at the time. His car was pretty much exactly like the one in the last photo in this post. What possessed a man who spent all his free time working on his car to then allow that car to be driven by a ten year old, I will never know. But he boosted me in through the window, clipped me into the five point harness and crouched on the passenger side holding onto the roll cage while I drove for the first time. It was incredible. I'm not what you would call a stock car fan, but from that day on there has always been a little soft spot in my heart for dirt track racing. It's not like the big NASCAR events. It's all little teams of two or three guys working in garages and little shops and backyards, building a car on nickels and dimes, and giving it hell every Saturday night because its fun. And you can tell they're loving it.

Jason stopped racing a long time ago and I hadn't been to a track since he hung up his driving gloves, but yesterday I had a free night and Sarah was out of town, so I grabbed a camera and went to ABC Raceway in Ashland. If you've never been before, let me say that short track dirt racing is a quintessentially American past time: It's loud. It's dirty. And it's not quite like anything else I've ever seen. Like any new sporting experience, the key to really enjoying it is to pick someone to cheer for. I was rooting for the guys from Lakeshore Sales and Service since they replaced the brakes in my truck last week. Whoever you cheer for, win or lose, the fun is in the drama.

Since this kind of racing is so classic, I decided to shoot it in black and white with a heavy film grain to give it a more timeless look. These shots could be from any one of a thousand tracks on any summer Saturday night in the last 50 years. That effect, which roughly approximates a classic black and white film called Tri-X, also helps to cover the need for high ISO and cancels out the weird color combinations that come from a mix of halogen, tungsten, and sodium vapor stadium lighting. It's a very different feel than the rich colors and smooth gradients I usually try to get. It's not the right look for everything, but for this, I think it's perfect.


Airplane? Yes, please. And some aerial photo tips.

Yesterday afternoon, local pilot Bob Breunig took Julie Buckles and I up over Chequamegon Bay to get some photos of the sediment cloud coming from Fish Creek in the wake of last week's epic storms. The photos are going to be used to promote restoration projects along the Fish Creek basin to prevent future erosion of this kind. Great cause, and I always love getting up in a plane. Thanks for a great flight, Bob.

Several times in the last few years people have come to me out of the blue (pun not originally intended, but now I sort of like it) and asked if I want to shoot photos of something from an airplane. Does a platypus lay eggs? And just in case you don't know the answer to that question, it's "Hells Yeah!" I wish I could say that these aerial shoots are carefully planned, that I make them happen by working through my extensive network of contacts to arrange an airplane and pilot and all that, but that would be...well, pretty much flat out lying. To be honest, these chances just keep sort of falling in my lap. I love my job.

That said, I've had enough random cracks at it to figure out a few things that I do every time that seem to be good advice for airborne imagery. So here we go, the Hired Lens Photography Guide to Not Royally Failing at Aerial Photography:

1.) Ask if you can take the door off. Crazy, right? But some small planes and helicopters that don't have pressurized cabins can fly without a door on the side where you intend to be shooting. Nothing messes with a photo like shooting through a dirty, hazy or glared window. Best solution get the window out of the way. Obviously, this isn't possible on all planes and not all pilots want to do it. There are still some tricks to shooting through glass that can make for a better photo (yesterday, I was shooting through a window and you can see some reflections from the glass, but I was able to minimize them and get them into areas of the photo that don't matter, watch for a blog about how to do this in the next week or so). If you can take the door off, be prepared for the fact that this will make take-off and landing a little scarier as you watch the run way whizzing past next to you. Also be aware that communication in the air will be much harder due to the noise, even with the airplane headsets on. It's not a bad idea to come up with a few basic hand signals to alert the pilot when you want them to turn, when you want to make another pass over something, and when you're done shooting.

2.) Ask if the windows are polarized. Normally, I use a polarizing filter just about any time I'm shooting outside. But if the plane has polarized windows (which some do), and the answer to the above question is no, you'll have to take your filter off. Two polarized surfaces in combination create a trippy mess of colored lines and waves to rival any Pink Floyd laser-light show. Unless your project is a visual ode to Timothy Leary you're going to want to remove the polarizer.

3.) Pack an obscene amount of film. And by film, I mean memory cards. And by pack, I mean make sure that when you take your seat in the plane you can easily switch them without digging through a bag that will be strapped in a seat just out of arms reach behind you. Particularly in helicopters and especially when the door is off/open, everything in the aircraft needs to be secured to keep it from exiting through afore mentioned open door or bashing around in the cabin. This means that if you fill a card and your extras are out of reach, you're done shooting (insert sad trombone sound here). A card case in a shirt pocket is a good way to avoid this problem. I use one made by Pelican, the eyelet on top makes it pretty easy to teather to some other part of yourself to prevent unintentional ejection and its big enough to not be fumbly.

4.) Use a wide lens. Tips four and five sort of go hand in hand. The real key here is to limit the impact of camera vibration as much as possible. The longer the lens, the more even minute camera shake will appear in the images. A wide lens will be able to create sharper images even while moving fast and shaking quite a bit which small planes do.

5.) Choose what seems like a ridiculously high shutter speed, then go two stops faster. Besides focal length the other major factor for reducing the evidence of motion in the camera is shutter speed. Choose a shutter speed that should freeze the motion your experiencing and then over shoot it by a couple stops just to be safe. It's a real shame to get back on the ground and find out that your images were almost sharp. Almost...

6.) Eat lunch after the flight. A few years ago, I got to the airport and the first thing the pilot asked me was "how strong of a stomach do you think you have?" Great question. I've flown a lot and done a lot of stupid things on my own that have given me a pretty iron clad stomach, but I have to admit that on one particularly rough flight in Northern Minnesota I came way closer to booting in my camera bag than I ever expected. The flight patterns that make great aerial images easier are not always conventional and looking through the viewfinder the whole time doesn't help. If you do have a weak stomach consider one of two options: stay out of aerial photography all together or plan ahead. Pretty much any pilot would greatly prefer that you pull a plastic bag from your pocket instead of redecorating their instrument cluster.

And there you have it. Now get out there and try not to hurt anyone.

New Assistant.

As Hired Lens Photography has grown and expanded into new markets during the first part of 2012, we've found the need to bring on more staff. I'm proud to announce the addition of Tallulah Tarkington to our creative department. Though she brings limited experience to the job, she seems eager to learn. As a first step, I need her to stop trying to piddle on the camera bag, but once that's ironed out, I think we should be good to go. A special thanks to Animal Allies in Duluth, MN for helping us find our new helper.

The Original Hipstamatic. (aka a camera).

Was that photo taken with an iPhone and the hipstamatic app, you ask? Oh, no. That's a real photo taken with a real F#$%^ camera, my friends. Remember those: little black boxey deal, you put a roll of this plasticy stuff in the back and then used them to make photographs. Anyone? No? Hmmm. Okay, to be fair I didn't shoot these with film, but I did use an old camera. I fanoogled a way to shoot through the old body and lens (complete with 60 years of true grit) using my current digital SLR. Pretty sweet. This particular one is a Kodak Dualflex II circa 1949. It's amazing the things you can find in your parents basement. Watch for some new stuff from this little guy ( I think I'm going to name him Marvin) in the next couple weeks. I've got big plans.