Just a quick photo from last week before we head off to New Mexico (where, apparently, there is no water) for Thanksgiving with my brother, sister-in-law, and new nephew, Simon. This photo was taken in the little building around the artesian on the west side of Ashland, where clean potable water flows out of the ground twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Incredible. A few years back, when we lived in a little house with no running water, this is where our water came from. No need to boil or filter or anything. Just fill a jug and take it home. Shooting this photo reminded me that I am thankful for many things: for family and friends that love and care for me, for being a working photographer in a tough economy, and for living in a place where clean drinking water just flows out of the ground. Not everyone has that. Not by a long shot. So, to whom it may concern: thank you.


P.S. Lots of people have asked how I got this photo to turn out the way it did, so watch for a tutorial on how it was done (a.k.a. how to freeze motion with flash), sometime later this month. In the mean time, have a happy holiday, everyone.

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.

Senior Portraits-Jackson.

Hey everyone, meet Jackson. Jackson is a fairly eclectic guy. He's a bow-hunter, a fisherman, a runner, a snow board racer, a scuba diver, a fire fighter, etcetera etcetera. The list goes on. I feel like a total bum talking to this kid. Anyway, someone like Jackson deserves some unique senior portraits, so we put together a shoot that was a little different than most. From the start, it seemed that the universe was against us. There were cloudy skies and boat motors that wouldn't start and lost arrows. But we persevered and, after defaulting to a second day of shooting, we got some really great images. For me that's the fun part.


New shoes, old skateboard.


I did it. I got new shoes. For those of you that know me, this is a big move. Epic even. The planets finally aligned (sort of literally) and I went down to Solstice Outdoors Monday afternoon to get some sweet new kicks. I've had my eye on these Patagonia Boaris shoes pretty much since Solstice opened. I looked at these every time I was in there, but I held off...until Monday. Mostly, I was worried Katie would sell out of my size during their Solstice Sale yesterday. But there were also other factors at play.

You see, I've been needing some new long-boarding shoes for a long time (I know all you purists are shaking your heads and saying you shouldn't long-board in shoes, but I'm really bad at it and rocks really hurt, so mind your own frickin' business, huh?). And since June 21st was also "Go Skateboarding Day", I thought "the time has come." So I pulled the trigger and just got 'em. In celebration of the new shoes and the skater-holiday and the summer solstice and the fact that we now have a sweet outdoor shop where you can actually get stuff like this in Ashland, I had to put together this photo.

See a few more versions of the same concept and check out how I did it below:

**Disclaimer: Taking photos like this is a really efficient way to destroy expensive camera equipment in a fraction of a second. Trust me I have a box of mangled camera pieces from other stupid ideas to prove it. But the pay out on these kinds of gambles can be totally sweet photos. And isn't that the whole reason to have a camera anyway? If a cameras going to die, shouldn't it go out doing what it loves? Still, try this at your own risk.

Step Uno: Drill a hole in your long-board deck. What's that you say? You don't want to drill holes in your stuff? It takes guts to attack your personal possessions with a whirling power tool. Sadly, not everyone is cut out for this project. If you're feeling uncomfortable, maybe you should take up origami or checkers instead.


Step Deux: Mount a ball-head onto a bolt fed through the hole. Add washers to prevent potentially tragic loosening mid-skate. For the ultra-cheap version you can mount the camera directly to a 1/4-20 bolt through the hole (and tighten a stopper nut against the deck to stop if from twisting), but you sacrifice the range of motion.

Step Three: Mount camera with cable release to ball-head. Aim, manually focus and lock it in place with gaffers tape to prevent zoom-creep. Zoom-creep is when, due to vibration or gravity or both, the lens inadvertently changes focal length. Some lenses have a lock switch to prevent this, but a little tab of gaffers tape does the same thing.


Step IV: Set the exposure for desired depth of field and/or motion blur based on ambient light conditions. You may want to do this with a grey card as the black grip tape and dark asphalt may give you a misleading exposure reading. Take a few tests before you start rolling and check the histogram to make sure you're on the money (for example, as the histogram reveals the image shown below is not on the money, too dark.)

Step 5: Get to scootin'... and try really hard not to crash. Push the button. A lot. Process and serve with cold beer. Happy new shoes/Go Skateboarding Day, America.

Claire Duquette-Ashland Daily Press


Over the last four years or so, I've worked with Claire Duquette, editor of the Ashland Daily Press, on a relatively regular basis. I submit the occasional photo, she throws me the occasional assignment. It's a good system. In a recent conversation, Claire mentioned that her headshot was getting a little out of date. So we set up a time to shoot something new. This was a simple, one-light set up in the press room at the ADP, an iconic "newspaper" setting. If you were going to run into somewhere and yell "Stop the Presses," this room is where you would want to do that. I have to resist that urge every time I walk through there. Anyway, start to finish the whole shoot took about 12 minutes, most of which was setup and tear-down, but the end result is a few great images that Claire can use next to her byline. I love these kinds of shoots: simple setup, quick turn-around, great final product. And it didn't hurt that Claire bought me lunch afterwards. Anyone else out there need a new headshot? Call me.

Ashland Yoga Studio.

 A few weeks ago I shot some promotional images for Ashland Yoga Studio. If you're in the Ashland area check them out; lots of great classes for people at all different levels of expereince. They're also teaching pilates and kettlebell classes too. It's a bunch of cool people teaching in a great space. Part of the project I shot for them included a stop-motion movie of one of the yoga classes taught by Charmaine Swan. Check it out:


Camera + Airplane = Awesome-tacular.


Ring, Ring. Hello?... What's that you say?... You'd like a few aerial photographs? I'd love to but I don't have an airplane...Oh. Well, if you have a private, luxury airplane and an excellent pilot I can borrow, that should work fine. I suppose I could make a little time in my busy schedule to do that. Let me see when I'm available to do something like that...How about... any second of any day..Ever.

Let me sum up of the rest of the experience this way: TOTALLY FRICKIN' AWESOME. Special thanks to Pilot Dave Mauer for giving me some great angles over the City of Ashland and the Apostles Islands.

Remember Film?

About a year ago, maybe a little bit more, my friends Merm and Tara gave me a really amazing old Kodak range-finder camera that they found while cleaning out a family member's basement. Without going all camera-dork on you and getting way to far into the details, I'll just say that it totally rocks. It rocks for two reasons: because it's a really great classic camera, but also because it got me shooting film again. Remember film, that thin plasticky stuff that came in rolls? It's how we took photos before digital. Anyone, remember that...anyone? Well anyway, not only did I start shooting film with that camera, it also got me to haul out my box of old cameras (yep, you heard that right I literally have a box of cameras) and start playing around. For the last year on and off, I've been shooting certain things with film, processing the rolls and scanning the negatives to capture all the texture and dynamic range it has. Despite all the amazing advantages of digital, there's still something really special about film, something amazing about the process and the product. Especially now that film as a medium seems to be dying (try finding you favorite film, it's tricky and pricey when you do). But here's the real kicker: much as I hate to admit it, I realized that I still approach shooting film with a little more caution, a little more thought, than digital. I pause more to think before releasing the shutter and I think that's a great thing to do. With digital I usually start shooting and then start worrying about the details, make adjustments, change angles. In the end I get the same shots, but the process is very differnt. So maybe that's the best lesson from the old Kodak: to bring that level of focus--that thought process--back to my digital work. Definitely something to think about. Thanks Merm and Tara, some prints are on their way. In the mean time here are a few my favorites:


Wow. Okay. I just had my first chance in three months to take a deep breath. It's been a busy spring. Good, but busy. Between shooting, editing, and some other projects at home, pretty much all my time has been booked. I just got back from Milwaukee late friday night, was home for two days and now I'm in Grand Marais, MN for another project. I'm getting to meet lots of cool people though, and getting some good images along the way. I haven't even had time to toss up a few of my favorites from recent shoots, but I promise they're coming soon. Today and tomorrow are the last of my spring editorial projects, then senior portrait season is right around the corner. I've already gotten the first few e-mails about sessions during the summer. Should be a good year. Have a great week and stay tuned for a few new photos in the next week or so.




I did a photo shoot for the Ashland Baking Company earlier this week to help fill out their new website. I'm finishing up the post processing this evening. Looking at these photos is making my mouth water. Kealy and Jess did an amazing job preparing some absolutely beautiful plates for the shoot. Then after we photographed them,  I did an amazing job devouring the food off of those plates. Frickin' delicious. I was so stuffed by the end of the shoot I could barely carry my equipment out to the truck. Here are a few of my favorite frames: