October in the Dakotas is a particularly dry time of year, and it’s not uncommon to see smoke from the many controlled burns used to keep the grass lands of the Ogallala region in check from natural or man made fire starters.This fire was a mixture of both smoke and dust from the eroded prairies that was being carried by a strong wind storm. I was out in the Dakotas-Nebraska area checking out some off beat locations with my recently acquired D700 when I spotted this while leaving Crazy Horse. As I was heading south towards Alliance, NE. I saw this cloud of smoke and went up a hill to check it out. The road I had come up was smoggy as heck from the smoke/dust being blow all over and there was a grit that you could taste in the air. I found a forrest service truck with a Ranger monitoring the fire and inquired what was going on. He mentioned that they had a controlled burn that ran wild on them from the wind that morning, but it was under control now. I notice how the smoke and wind together made a eye shape that was kinda cool. who could resist shooting this? and even better, the only people seeing this perspective were myself and the Ranger.
I got busy snapping a few test shots and realized that the best way to get this would be to shoot a series of verticals and stitch them together since I lacked a real wide angle lens. Being that it was 5pm, and I was looking S-SE, the natural light was on my side. I set up a tripod and did two passes with about 7-9 images per series. In all, I was on the scene for maybe 10-15 minutes then on the road again looking for the next shot. Photo road trips are an inexpensive & awesome way to spend your time off. They allow you see things that put life in perspective, because were all small in the eyes of the universe.
I-94 is the only interstate image to be a part of my Miles Between collection. The Interstate & this place in particular recall many childhood memories. Movies at Vali-Hi drive in, vacations to our cabin or heading to my dads car dealership every Saturday to name just a few. Before there was a bridge here to safely make a photo from, the road just T’d up with the major Interstate. You’d have to play a game of “Frogger” to cross it because it was so busy. As you’d expect a major interstate to be. But this was the 80’s and the highways were still in-between the Eisenhower era designs & Reagan era updates, so there were a lot of whacked out intersections like this. I grew up on the road that T’d up there. Neal Ave.
My parents would drive us thru this crazy intersection often as kids. It was the most direct way to get to Stillwater, and all the other cities north-east of our home. It was also notorious for bad car accidents, many fatal. There was-still is, a 1800’s era cemetery off the westbound lane. The highway department just built around it. When I was a kid, my mom would take us out there often to “help” cut the grass & tidy up the monuments to keep them from disappearing in the over-growth. We’d do more exploring than helping, but my mom didn’t seem to mind. I’d get to play like a young “Indiana Jones” creating rubbing impressions on tracing paper of the weathered headstone’s while my mom ran the “clacky” sounding 2 tone John Deer push mower. I notice today that someone still keeps up the cemetery, not sure who? Wonder if their kids do the crayon rubbings?
My idea for this image centered around the idea of “taking off” and “exploring the unknown” like a rocket launching an astronaut into space. A lot of my life journeys have started here on this path, many were steps into the unknown or leaps of faith, like joining the Army at 18 or getting married.
I decided using a long exposure from the bridge would be the best way to play this idea off and get what I was looking for. Fortunately, the bridge is really wide and had a side area for bike traffic that works well for setting up a tripod. After several exposures with varying degrees of success, I spotted a large convoy of semi’s approaching, lit up like airplanes. I opened the shutter while the road was empty in the view finder, about 10 seconds before the first truck in the center lane came thru followed by 5 more in various lanes. Less than 10 minutes and I had my shot, and a little piece of history as I see it.
Shooting portraits for Guitar Aficionado has been a goal of mine for quite a long time. So, when the opportunity came, I jumped at it eagerly. The writer reached out to me after a client of mine in Las Vegas let him know I would be traveling there for another assignment. They needed a few images to accompany their Effects Profile article on Mike Rayburn. A Las Vegas based writer, performer and speaker. The images needed to be environmental portraits, shot horizontal with space for copy if they decided to run that on top of the image. They also need the image files as soon as the shoot wrapped in time to make selections for the print run. Rush big time, but not impossible. Normally, I’m not a fan of rushing off images right after a shoot as I like to get a chance to pick out the best, do a quick edit and sit on it for 24 hours before sending a selects folder. This schedule didn’t allow for that, and knowing that going into the shoot, I just made extra sure all set ups looked great without much post production help.
Being a guitar player myself, I always love a set full of vintage and high end instruments like these for props. The Van Halen Guitar was the most interesting one to me, although the Martin was a close runner up.
Time again to gear up for what has become an annual trip to Las Vegas for our portrait shoot with the champion bowlers of the PBA for the 2014 ESPN World Series of Bowling. This is one of my favorite shoots and I feel so lucky to be a part of this event. The images we create are used thru out the year in many formats to promote all the PBA events worldwide. It has been such a gift to be welcomed into this family and to be able to create such fun portraits-WIN-WIN=)
This year I’m hoping to not only shoot for the clients, but also take the next step and fully complete these images with my retouching and deliver the best work to date. Here’s a couple looks at our past work with before and afters.
I will be in the Las Vegas, Moab and Denver areas November 1-3rd, available for short assignments-by estimate only. Contact us thru the website if you’d like to inquire about availability while we’re in town.
This spring, I decided that it was time I reviewed my strengths & weaknesses in Photoshop after using the program for over 12 years. A lot has changed over that time to say the least. It has been incredibly fun, albeit frustrating at times to learn, then master many of the techniques needed to step up a level or two. My main focus was on retouching people as well as compositing and blending techniques. Along the way I’ve mastered, like a ninja, more than I set out to, including the ability to make perfectly transparent liquid, smoke & fire outlines. These skills are huge for me, not for the show off factor-but for the ability to really get into a shot and create a vision in the minimal amount of time with maximum effect for myself and my clients. I was happy to share these skills on my latest branding project with IOS.
Office Line Magazine recently looked to us to create a series of “real world” looking images for an article about a Minneapolis CFO, Jason Player of Innovative Office Solutions. This was a real treat for me, as Jason is not only a fun client, but also a good personal friend, photographer and beer aficionado who can make a great portrait himself. no pressure there……
To get a natural look (as natural as an office can look=) I used indirect lighting, bouncing the set ups off the celing. We were shooting inside of a glass office, so much like a fish bowl, it was just a matter of using cards and white walls. The final image was a close head shot, not a bad choice. This one was my favorite of the set ups. We also shot in the warehouse and tried a few slow long exposures with the flash and workers moving behind him. The set ups will follow once I have a chance to post the other images.
This year we had the great fortune to work with a really terrific local business that sets the bar high in every way. Innovative OS is a leader in it’s industry and it’s my honor to shoot their branding images for 2015. Here’s a little in progress sample. I will share the finals very soon and they will ROCK!
See more at the website and thanks for stopping by.