Photography is Part of the Adventure

I teach destination workshop around the world each year with www.MZed.com that are the most incredible experiences. Photographers of all skill levels come together to learn and to enjoy the art of photography. Professionals and amatures alike, spend time together, learning, traveling, talking, eating and going on little adventures. It is the highlight of the year. This year we will be in Krakow Poland. To join us, sign up with MZed now!
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Photographing with the Panasonic GH4

I had the opportunity to shoot a wedding in Ripe, England with the Panasonic GH4.  This camera is a compact, light-weight camera with lenses so small you can fit them in the pocket of your jacket.  I have always carried around a little Canon point and shoot that takes RAW images, but no point and shoot can match the experience of a SLR style, through the lens viewfinder experience.  So the GH4 made for the perfect traveling companion.   I kept it with me throughout the wedding, and as I traveled throughout the country before and after the job.  While I shot, I has little experiments in mind, like latitude experiments and macro experiments, low light and motion experiments.  I have posted the results here in the blog.  The incredible thing about this little camera is that it also captures 4k video as well, but we will stick with the still photos for this post.

In this image of the pipe organ in St. John the Baptist church, where the couple was married, I was able to truly test the Panasonic GH4's exposure latitude capabilities.  The church was quite dark inside and yet, I was able to capture full detail inside and outside.

In this image of the pipe organ in St. John the Baptist church, where the couple was married, I was able to truly test the Panasonic GH4’s exposure latitude capabilities. The church was quite dark inside and yet, I was able to capture full detail inside and outside.  I fully expected that I would not be able to maintain any detail in the exterior exposure, but I was pleasantly surprised by the latitude on this little camera.

The wedding couple took a walk along the southern coast of England before the wedding.

The wedding couple took a walk along the southern coast of England before the wedding.  Carrying a heavy SLR and its heavier lenses on a long walk is not all that much fun.  In fact carting equipment around makes me wonder why I chose to be a photographer in the first place.  But with a camera as small and light as the GH4 and its sharp little lenses that weigh almost nothing and fit almost anywhere, I was carrying three lenses and camera and I hardly knew I had anything with me.  At times I had to double check to make sure I had a camera.  Typically a light, compact camera means poor photos, but the GH4 breaks that rule.

It was a leisurely stroll and yes, we stopped to admire the flowers.

It was a leisurely stroll and yes, we stopped to admire the flowers and I tested my need for macro!  The GH4 was perfect, in fact, the digital view finder allowed me to see exactly what my depth of field looked like while taking the shot.  That something that a traditional SLR won’t do for you.

The white cliffs made for a stunning coastline.

The white cliffs made for a stunning coastline.  Here again, I was battling a latitude challenge with the bright sun peeking through the clouds, but the GH4 held the detail in the brightest spots of the clouds and even in the shimmer on the water behind the couple walking near the cliff.

Silence at a wedding is golden, especially in an old stone church.  The GH4 has a completely silent mode that makes  me as a photographer invisible to  everyone at the wedding.

Silence at a wedding is golden, especially in an old stone church. The GH4 has a completely silent mode that makes me as a photographer invisible to everyone at the wedding and since my greatest wish is to be invisible at a wedding, this was a perfect camera for the job.  While I was shooting the wedding with both my Canon and the GH4, I found myself choosing the GH4 for all of the close shots as I crept down the isle.  They may have seen me there, but I can guarantee you, no one heard me.

Wedding in Ripe England

Not only could the GH4 give me great back and white images from the church, but it provided excellent color in a dark church. Not only could the GH4 give me great back and white images from the church, but it provided excellent color in a dark church. Smaller chips often yield more noise, so I tested the GH4 for noise and found that the color noise was extremely low and the grain structure feels ver natural. I am a sucker for a beautiful grain structure. I know… its nerdy.

 

Wedding in Ripe England

Not only could the GH4 give me great back and white images from the church, but it provided excellent color in a dark church. Not only could the GH4 give me great back and white images from the church, but it provided excellent color in a dark church. Smaller chips often yield more noise, so I tested the GH4 for noise and found that the color noise was extremely low and the grain structure feels ver natural. I am a sucker for a beautiful grain structure. I know… its nerdy.

 

Wedding in Ripe England

This little angel was my subject for a few days. The grooms niece and I chased each other around the grounds of the church for a little while as the bride and groom chatted with heir guests. The articulating screen on the camera allowed me to follow her around at a long angle and grab shots of her as we ran. Ordinarily, I would be taking shots like this completely blind, wasting 20 shots to get one that was in focus and composed correctly. But because I could see her in the articulating screen at all times and the GH4’s auto focus was tracking her face, I never missed a shot. It’s always nice to have a lot of images to choose from.

Wedding in Ripe England

Like many churches in England, the cemetery surrounds the church, so when the little girls play on the church grounds, they play amid the tombstones of their ancestors. The groom’s Godfather rests in this cemetery. Was was fascinated by the casual and playful attitude of the children amongst the stones. They see them as just that, stones. I couldn’t present this image in color. It needed to be a black and white. It just deserved it. The GH4 makes exquisite black and white images from its RAW files.

After the wedding, I took a drive to Stratford Upon Avon to catch a little Shakespeare.  Before the show, I took in the character of the old english buildings.

After the wedding, I took a drive to Stratford Upon Avon to catch a little Shakespeare. Before the show, I took in the character of the old english buildings.  It handled the latitude and the saturation issues on the chimneys very well.

After the show, I tested the higher ISO settings on the GH4 and at 3200 ISO, the camera produces a very nice grain structure with low color noise.  I was completely happy with its extremely low light capabilities.

After the show, I tested the higher ISO settings on the GH4 and at 3200 ISO, the camera produces a very nice grain structure with low color noise. I was completely happy with its extremely low light capabilities.  I couldn’t have asked for a better image in that light.

My total experience with the Panasonic GH4 was wonderful. It’s small and lightweight body and lenses make it the perfect camera for hiking, and traveling. The quality is quite good and when compared to any small sensor camera, is absolutely fantastic. One could use the camera as their only camera and carry four times the lenses in half the space. Using it in conjunction with my smart phone was helpful as well. Rather than taking decent photos on my iPhone to post on social media, I was able to take superior images on the GH4 and send them to my phone for social media purposes.

The only draw back on the camera is the increase in depth of field due to the chip size and lens lengths. But that is a standard issue with micro four-thirds cameras. For those of us who like to live on the edge of focus, it feels like a limitation. But you get used to the feeling of having all your photos in focus and after a while, it stops feeling like a limitation and starts feeling like a blessing.

Panasonic is making exciting things for photo enthusiasts and pros alike. My good friend and photographer, Isaac Bailey, shoots with a Panasonic micro four-thirds camera and here’s what he has to say about it:

“I love my Panasonic mirrorless camera. It has opened a new realm of fun in personal photography for me. Using the control I get from my big DSLR with tiny size and weight, I can really go anywhere with this baby and make great shots” -Isaac Bailey Photographer Phoenix

Traveling with a camera is the only thing I know. I have never been able to go anywhere without needing a camera with me, but there is always a battle between high quality and compact size. The micro four-thirds market has opened up a new world of possibilities for compact PLUS quality and Panasonic is leading the charge. Heavy cameras may be a thing of the past in the not too distant future. Hurray for that!

Heading Out into a New Year
Photo of England countryside by Jared Platt

 I am looking out into the new year and looking at my travel and lecture schedule which gets more and more complicated and crowded every day and I wonder what things I will see and who I will meet this year.  And more importantly I hope I will be able to able to be a force for change in people’s lives.  I love hearing from people who say their lives have changed as a result of the things they have learned from me.  That is why I teach.  I love to unlock doors for people.

Follow my schedule on the right hand side of my blog here and find a lecture or a workshop near you and come join me.  If you can’t make it to a workshop or a convention like WPPI or Imaging USA, join me online at creativeLIVE.com.

For those of you interested in an adventure… join me in Krakow, Poland in August: www.poland.mzed.com

I wish you all the very best this year.

Thoughts on Images from Budapest and Vienna

I taught a photography workshop in Vienna and Budapest with Clay Blackmore and David Ziser through MZed.  This year we will be in Barcelona, Spain [LEARN MORE HERE].  The experience is fantastic.  Great people, great food, models, shooting locations, great instructors, and wonderful staff.  It was such a pleasure to spend days, rather than hours with students (working professionals) who are thirsty for knowledge.

Here are a few images from my week in Budapest and Vienna.

Enjoy.

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On our first full day in Budapest we were allowed to photograph in an ancient and still operational bath house.  What a fantastic start to our photographic journey.  The place was absolutely full of textures and color.  My lighting was accomplished with three Canon Speedlite 600RT flashes on their included flat foot stands (as I did not want to carry light stands with me to Budapest).  I’d say they turned out very nice.

We spent a few hours wondering through the underground labyrinths under the streets of Buda Hill. These were apparently the dungeons that held the likes of Count Dracula himself (the real live person, not the vampire). It is fun to wander with a group of friends, but when those friends include photographers, every random streak of light through fog becomes and event. Unfortunately for my wife, she was the only non-photographer, so she became the subject of many a posed photograph. I am sure there will be a number of eery silhouettes of the lovely Danielle in the coming months on a few photographer blogs. She was a great sport about it all, and we had a lot of fun wandering in the shadowy underworld.

The photo I have chosen to show, however was one that kind of fell in my lap rather than needing to be set up. As Jeff led the way through the foggy tunnel, the mood lighting made a perfect and unexpected silhouette of him and his camera. I told him to freeze! Which he did. I then positioned myself for the best possible separation for his head, his face and his camera. We all worked on the shot a bit as Jeff dutifully stayed frozen in position. Carlos Martìn must receive credit for closing the gates just a bit, which I didn’t even know were there until he pulled them in. I was too focused on Jeff’s position. The gate gave me a lot to play with in the corners of the shot.

These kind of moments happen more often that we realize, but many times we pass them by in favor of getting to dinner on time, continuing our conversation, or just inattention to the moments and details. Sometimes we just let something beautiful pass us by and perhaps we regret not getting the shot. The world would have been just fine without this photo in it. Jeff didn’t even know the photo opportunity existed, and neither did anyone else in our group. I think he would have lived without it, but I know he is excited to have the image.

Many times, the moments in our lives are far more important than grabbing that great light or that perfect moment on camera. I have often told photographers in lectures to take a little time off from the camera, and live life rather than document it. It’s hard for us to do sometimes. Case in point… later that evening, we ended up in a cafe on the edge of Buda Hill watching the sunset, hot-cocoa in hand, listening to a unique little string quartet, when the violinist approached us and asked for a request. After a bit of thought, we requested Ave Maria (one of my favorite songs) and he began to play like he was born to play that song. It was very romantic.

Danielle describes what happened next by saying, she now has conclusive proof that I can handle about ninety seconds of romance and beauty before I have to pick up my camera and document it. It wasn’t until she began making fun of me that I realized what I had done, at which point, feeling a bit foolish, I set the camera down and enjoyed the next song without the camera in my hand.

The question then is, did I need my camera to enjoy the music and the moment? Was there even a beautiful shot to be made? I suggest not! This image is only worth the memory spark to tell a story about my own foolishness. And I can say for certain that I enjoyed the music far better with my wife’s hand in my hand rather than a camera. So why the gut reaction to pick up the camera to document everything? Is it a sickness? A habit? An obligation? I will spend my entire life attempting to understand it. In some instances, it is a blessing for my wife because our children’s lives are very well documented. But, it can interfere with life experiences as well. They say recognition is half the battle, the other half is doing something about it. I have found that I can be a far better date without a camera in my hands, so I will often leave my camera at home and just practice experiencing life. Sometimes it is painful to see beautiful moments happening knowing that they will only be available in my memory, but at least I will have experienced the moment rather than simply having observed it.

When we are traveling, the task of capturing the experience falls on me (or maybe, I take it on myself), so I feel I must carry a camera, but that doesn’t mean I must carry a large professional camera.  And more importantly, I have to be able distinguish between a moment that is to be captured and a moment that is to be lived.

 We took a day trip to Vienna on Friday and I swear I spent thirty minutes debating whether to take my pro gear or my point and shoot with me. Danielle questioned the wisdom of taking my point and shoot to such a beautiful city, but in the end, I am so happy I left all the pro gear in Budapest and walked those beautiful streets with nothing but a tiny camera in one hand and my wife’s hand in the other (see my notes above).

A small (manual) digital point and shoot camera is the perfect middle ground. When you are carrying heavy pro gear, it just gets used more. Maybe just to justify the weight of the gear. A small pocket camera, on the other hand, can be ignored until something critical presents itself, and as long as it is a quality camera, I can walk the streets and enjoy the experiences I am having until something truly needs documentation. And let’s face it, without some kind of a camera, a photographer might go crazy, so it is just nice to have one around.

Everything I shot in Vienna was done with the Canon G15 (a manually adjustable point and shoot camera) and many of the shots were taken at 1600 ISO or higher. So the camera holds up very nicely in most circumstances. Even in the catacombs, where incidentally, a small point and shoot is preferable, when photography is prohibited…

And yes, at the very least, an iPhone makes an acceptable camera to scratch that itch.

 

FYI.  In this next image, the lights were not on.  It was daytime.  But I thought they would look better on, so I turned them on in Lightroom.  Just thought you might find that interesting.  So yes, it is not absolutely accurate.  But it is more beautiful.

I saw a moment that called out to me, I suppose it was the light, angle of incident, the strange juxtaposition of a glowing telephone in a dark cathedral, the loneliness of the old man using it… but the photo looked nothing like this when I found it. It was cluttered with people passing through the shot, some were from my group and the rest the throngs of tourists moving in and out of the church. But I knew my frame and got my exposure set. I found a place to secure my camera against a column to steady it during the long exposure and waited patiently as my wife and friends left the church (I assume they thought I was with them).

As people left the frame, others entered, but I waited for the moment I knew would eventually come. A fraction of a second presented itself where everyone in the cathedral was just outside my frame, so in the hustle and bustle of a heavily trafficked church, was a moment of complete vacancy and solitude for my subject who feels completely alone. This is why I always tell people that photography is at best incapable of telling the “truth” and at worst an outright lie. The moment I am presenting here never occurred, not even for a fraction of a second. My subject never experienced the solitude you see here, maybe only in his mind was he alone, maybe he felt this way in his heart at the time, but I have no doubt that I only forced my vision of the scene on him.

In the end, any photograph will tell you more about the photographer than it will tell you about the scene or person in front of the camera. When we have our artist hats on, this suites us just fine. Like in this instance, I saw a metaphor, not the truth. So that is what you get to see. The problem becomes that you, the viewer don’t know when the photographer’s intention was to present the truth or just a metaphor. In most cases, the viewer is always better off assuming they are looking at and should treat every photograph as a metaphorical statement made by the photographer… even (especially) when the image is printed in the newspaper.

It was raining.  We had umbrellas.  The light was perfect.  I am a bit of a theatrical show off.  So it was only natural to start a “Singing in the Rain” musical number bit for the cameras.  Right?

These next two images were taken by Cable Notebloom.  Thanks Cable.

Budapest is home to a number of beautiful cathedrals. Danielle and I took the long climb to the top of St. Stephen’s cathedral in the middle of downtown Pest and while the top afforded us a great view of all of Budapest, my favorite image came from the design of the circular staircase. Which only further solidifies the adage that it is not the destination, but the journey…

It’s not a little thing that we were given access to the Budapest Opera House for a four hour photo shoot. I have to give Jeff Medford (the workshop’s brilliant coordinator) credit.  This was an amazing experience for everyone, students and instructors. I spent most of the time there with a few students on Canon Speedlite control. We shot setups with just one off camera Speedlite and setups with up to five. While I don’t have very many of my own images from those setups, because I was simply advising students, I was able to make a few images as examples while I was setting up and explaining my light strategies.

This next shot required a total of five Canon Speedlite 600RT flashes and a small 24 inch softbox. One Speedlite with a soft box lights our model, which was the last light to be placed. The remaining lights were used to create depth in the shot. Each cross hallway is lit with a Speedlite, as is the very back corner of the hallway (which would be a black hole without the lights. There are a few windows in the shot which may appear to be illuminating the hallway, but on their own do very little. The Speedlites are doing most of the work, augmenting the natural direction of light provided by the windows.

The important thing to take away from this shot is that without a set of strategically placed flashes that fit in a small shoulder bag, this brilliant hallway would have been very dark and almost unusable. And the entire setup did not take very long. It is a prime example of pre-visualization. You have to see the possibilities in the hallway to select the location in the first place. Then, there has to be a clear vision for the shot to build in the lights quickly and set the scene, otherwise, the exploratory process is too long and takes up valuable shooting time. Wedding photography is a job that requires vision, skill and speed. So I spent a lot of time with Kam and Cabel (my students of the moment) explaining how to build the lighting into the shot quickly and with purpose. I think we got some great imagery.

 

Cabel then asked a very important question. “What if I only have a limited amount of time and can’t build a shot with five lights?”

So we went into bare bones mode. What if I only have one light? What is the best most efficient use of that light? At this point we had a lot of students gathering around the grand staircase as we discussed the shot. At one point, Clay Blackmore wandered in to shoot some video of our couple walking down the staircase.

Well, with one light pounding into the marble off camera right by about 20 feet, we were able to softly light our models and fill in any unwanted shadows in the room. Even though the original light source is a few small inches, the resulting bounced light makes our light source about 40 feet wide, which means we get very soft light… I think the results were fantastic.

 

I also spent a little time teaching a group of students about efficient use of a second shooter during a portrait session. I acted as the second shooter to the students who were shooting with the lights in the primary position. By working together, both the primary photographer and the second shooter are able to achieve completely unique and valuable shots. This represents the second shooter’s artistic shot that I made, as the primary shooter (a few students) made traditional portraits from the primary position. I also had a few students in the secondary position with me. It’s all about efficient use of time and recognition from the both the primary and secondary shooters of the other photographers position and shot needs, and working together to shift the pose back and forth to work for both camera positions. Of course, the subject is rarely aware of the second shooter’s efforts because the primary shooter is the only one directing her movements and actions.

Before leaving the Opera House, we were allowed to peek into the main Opera House and sit in the boxes for a few minutes.  Danielle, posed for a snap shot memory of the box seat experience.  Carlos Martín, prone to doing whatever he likes, found his way past the do not enter signs and velvet ropes to the King’s box (where the King or President would sit).  You can see him and Coralee in the box behind Danielle.

There is an effort under way in Vienna to clean the stone faces of some of the buildings. Clearly, they could use a good scrubbing. Over the years, these brilliant white surfaces have become grey and in some cases even black. So, like every city I have ever traveled to, the best buildings are scafolded on one side or another. I was struck by the remarkable difference between the sides that have been cleaned and those slated for a future scrubbing. But as I photographed St. Stephen’s cathedral (in Vienna – there is one in Budapest too), I found myself wishing they would just leave the building alone. The soot has created a beautiful contrast to emphasise the sculptural elements, enhancing the dimensions and the textures. As a photographic subject, the building is far more interesting as a faded, dirty, raw old building than it is in its sparkly clean glory.

Sometimes we want so desperately to clean thing up, buy new things, streighten the books on the shelf, fuss with the wedding dress and the veil, spray the hair until it is locked perfectly in place, and yet, often times, perfection is far less interesting and beautiful than the natural state of things. Irving Penn warned that working on perfecting a subject for too long, often kills the life of the photograph. Imperfection is life. Time ages people, building and everything in this world. I love imperfections and weathering because it tells a story and that is what makes the photograph intriguing. Clean up this building and this photograph becomes far less interesting. Cleaning out the cobwebs make a place more livable, but not necessarily more beautiful.

 

 

On the very last day in Budapest, Danielle and I walked along the Danube River.  We crossed beautiful bridges, admired fantastic architecture and bought trinkets, but our destination was the memorial for those who’s lives were taken by the Nazis in mass murders on the river’s edge. The memorial is a simple, understated line of bronzed tattered shoes. The shoes face the river as though they are prepared for their end and walking bravely to meet it. I think the direction of the shoes is also a powerful indictment of the cowardice of the Nazi’s, who slaughtered millions of innocent men, women and children (suggesting the act of shooting them in the back). I don’t know if the victims were told to face their assassins or not, but their despicable treachery is well condemned here. And more importantly, as we quietly took in the scene, the innocence of the victims, their humility, bravery, strength, fear, sadness and faith in deliverance hung around us in the air.

I asked Danielle to choose a pair of shoes and I watched her walk amongst the shoes and wondered which she would choose and why? Would it be a father’s boots, who struggled every day to make a living and feed his children and who now faced his murderers wondering what would become of his family? Would it be a set of tiny shoes that belonged to a helpless little child, separated from his parents, not even aware of what was to come? But as she pointed out a small set of simple boots standing side by side with her mother’s modest heeled dress shoes, tears began to form and we talked of a mother and her little girl standing on the edge of a beautiful river, in a beautiful city and we wondered how and why another human could have seen these two innocent lambs holding hands and done anything but run into the group, hold them both and suffer that fate with them… I wonder what the mother told her child. What did the father say to his son? Empowered by faith in God and with hope in his eyes, I hoped he would have had the strength to smile and say, “I will see you in a few minutes, son. We will be just fine.”

I struggle to write this in a blog that is usually filled with happy unions, beautiful moments with care free children and careless discussions about the importance of f-stops and shutter speeds. But while we stood there on the Danube, we had a chance to stand, not in, but near by others’ shoes and I could not help but feel I learned something about family and about God, who must have stood their that day with open arms on the other side to give his tormented sons and daughters a very real and very long embrace. And I just hope that as I enter difficult times of life that are full of fear, that I can hold my little girl’s hand and say with a reassuring smile, “we will be just fine.”  And then step off into that river and await the unknown and the embrace that comes after the extreme trials of faith and hope. And while life is good, and while we are blessed with plenty and peace, this is the time to hold those I love close, build them up, teach them strength, conviction, faith and hope and above all to show them love.

I teach a lot of photographers about workflow and software and f-stops and shutter speeds, but the most important thing I can tach any photographer, or any person for that matter, is the importance of filling your mind and your heart with inspiration ( joyful and sorrowful).  One cannot produce inspiring work from an empty well.  And that is something that was so fantastic about the Budapest Master Class, it was more than an opportunity to learn technical photography, it was an opportunity to become inspired and experience life from another perspective, in another culture, to meet new and interesting people and see things in a completely different way.

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If you would like to join us in Barcelona in October of 2014, go to www.MZed.com and mention JARED PLATT to receive $150 off your tuition for the class.  I hope to see you there.

 

Deep in the Wild!

Jared Platt photographing at a pond at Hidden Meadow Ranch

 

Here I am deep in the wild, roughing it, doing a little early morning photography.  Cabins?  What cabins?

 

Photography by Ryan NeVille.  Thanks Ryan.

Michael & Bettine’s Grand Canyon Wedding

Bettine and Michael’s wedding was a very intimate affair at the Grand Canyon here in Arizona.  Before the wedding, they spent some time together with their guests on the veranda of the Presidential Suite at the lodge on the canyon’s edge.  We had such a fantastic time with everyone at the wedding (which is a very small number).  Here are a few of my favorite images.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (21)

 Time to head off to the wedding at Shoshone Point.  The map was laid out on the counter, but this map doesn’t indicate the path to Shoshone Point.  You have to know where it is to find it.  The first few times I shot there, I kept missing the turnoff for the point.  It’s worth finding though.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (20)

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (19)

It was a simple wedding, perfect weather, beautiful light and great people all around.  I can’t think of a better way to spend the day.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (18)

This is the entire wedding having a champaign toast directly after the wedding on the point.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (17)

 Then on to the portraits.  The clouds got a little more dramatic for us, although that meant that the canyon lost some of its light.  The canyon shifts and changes, but if you are prepared and know what to do with the changes, the canyon will give you something beautiful every time.  In this case, Ryan NeVille is off camera right with a beauty dish, providing a little needed light.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (16)

I love this shot.  Michael is epic.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (15)

This one too.  One of my favorites.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (14)

This one really gives you a good feel for the depth of the canyon below and the height of Shoshone Point.  And there is Bettine, calm as can be!  I love it.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (13)

This is a great moment.One of my favorite images from the entire day.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (12)

 Bettine’s mother’s ashes made the journey to the canyon where they would later be scattered in the winds of the canyon.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (11)

I have to sing the praises of David and Debra Joaquim and the chef at El Tovar.  Together they put together an amazing dinner on the edge of the canyon.  Everything looked fantastic and by all reports tasted that way as well.  Keep in mind, there is no kitchen out here on the point, no power and the wedding was moved up an hour to avoid the threat of rain, so making a fantastic dinner like this is an amazing thing to do.  I was impressed.  It speaks well to the Joaquim’s planning skills and to the chef’s artistry.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (10)

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (9)

 This bouquet was designed by Debra Joaquim.  An absolutely beautiful mixture of plants and flowers.  It worked so well with the canyon.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (8)

Bettine, there’s that purple coming through.  The canyon was a bit thin in color throughout the wedding because the cloud cover kept things a bit softer, and Bettine was looking for some of the rich colors of the sky and the canyon throughout the day.  But as the sun broke through the clouds just before sunset, we caught some magnificent images with deep blues and purples set against the yellows and reds of the canyon walls.  It always amazes me that this can be a Bride’s backdrop to her wedding dinner.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (7)

 The wedding part took time after dinner to hold an ash scattering ceremony for Bettine’s mother at the canyon’s edge.  The idea being that her mother’s final resting place could overlook and be a part of the place Bettine was married.  The roses were in memory of her and a few rose petals were tossed into the wind as well.  Sometimes, there are moments that I feel like I should put the camera down and step away.  When I feel that way, I check myself, increase my awareness of how obvious I am.  I try to dial it all back a little so I can be as close to invisible as possible, because I know that an image like this one would mean a great deal to me if it were my mother’s ashes being scattered there in that place.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (6)

I love this image.  It is the end of a very important day for Bettine.  I thought it was only fitting to stand and watch the sunset close out the day.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (5)

Debra and David Joaquim  did a fantastic job with the preparations for the wedding.  Including picking up an umbrella for everyone in the wedding, just in case the rains did come.  We never needed the umbrellas, but they matched the decor of the wedding so well, that Bettine thought we could not leave without some photos using them.  So…

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (4)

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (3)

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (2)

This would be the backdrop for the signing of the wedding license and since the sun was long since gone, we had to light this up with a few LED flashlights and an ICE Light.  Everything looked so nice, I couldn’t walk away without a still life of the beautiful flowers, also created by Debra Joaquim.

Grand Canyon wedding photography by Arizona Wedding Photographer Jared Platt (1)

Wedding Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Wedding Location: The Grand Canyon, Shoshone Point

Wedding Officiant: David & Debra Joaquim

Post production by Shoot dot Edit

Wedding Slideshow music by Jason Livesay and Justin James, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Photo of the Day: Sunlight and Sunshine

documentary photograph of a child at dinner taken with the Leica M

 

I spent a week in Greer photographing collateral images for Hidden Meadow Ranch (one of my favorite places in the West).  I am working on some of them now and came across this fun little shot at the dinner table full of sunlight and sunshine.

I had a number of cameras with me on this job.  Dinner time was the one moment of the day I wasn’t shooting or planning a shot, so it was my time to enjoy and to play with some of the cameras I had at my disposal.  This shot was taken with the Leica M rangefinder camera and adjusted in Lightroom.  More images from this shoot are forth coming.  Lot’s of cool cowboys, horses, etc…

Tim & Samantha’s Wedding in the Grand Canyon

Samantha and Tim were married on Shoshone Point at the Grand Canyon.  The wedding slideshow features the music of Native American flutist Kelvin Mockingbird (available on iTunes).  These are a few of my favorite images.

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You may have seen my engagement portrait session with Samantha and Tim on the Dry Tortugas.  Sam and Tim are an adventerous couple and maybe better said, they love life experiences.  So, when they made plans for their wedding, they went beyond planning a wedding and a honeymoon.  They planned a wedding life experience, starting with a four day hike from the north rim to the south rim of the Grand Canyon and ending with a cliff side wedding on the south rim’s Shoshone Point.

Since I am the wedding photographer, their life experience becomes mine as well.  A few days before the wedding, I hiked down the south rim of the grand canyon for four hours with 55 pounds of camping and photo gear on my back (which is apparently more weight that is advisable), so I arrived quite exhausted, but down was easy, up was much harder.

As you can see, the floor of the Grand Canyon is a desert (which at times this week was hitting 120 degrees plus).  The mountains you see in the background are the cliffs that rise up and make the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  We spent the evening on a short  two mile hike, spent the night in our tents and began the long, challenging hike back up the South rim of the canyon the next morning at 5 am (to beat the heat).

Man, I love my job!

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Following the path you see in the photo above, takes you to another impressive drop in the Grand Canyon to the absolute floor, the Colorado River.  This sheer cliff is mind blowing.  Even standing at a safe distance from the edge will give you the absolute creeps.  But the view just cannot be beat.

When most brides and grooms are planning the final details of their wedding, playing a round of golf, or hitting the spa, Samantha and Tim were hefting their packs for 21 miles over four days in 110-122 degree heat, dropping and climbing roughly 6,000 feet on either side, and seeing some of the most breath taking views on the planet.   I’d say that makes this wedding quite unique.

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It’s a long way down.  Even with a guardrail, you question your safety as you look over the edge.  Tim is not too fond of heights…

At 5am we broke and left camp and headed up the south rim of the canyon.  Each hour, the temperature would rise by ten degrees, so the earlier we started, the better.  Tim gave me a hard time about the weight of my pack, but in the end, it could have been a lot heavier.  I couldn’t risk hiking down into the canyon and have a camera fail, so I needed two cameras.  But instead of taking two DSLRs, I took one paired down Canon Mark III with a 24-70mm lens and a Panasonic GH3 with a 35-100 and a 7-14.  The Panasonic GH3 is a light weight, mirror-less, 4/3 camera and it’s lenses weigh almost nothing, but the quality is very high, so while I still used the Canon for many of my shots, the GH3 was a perfectly usable alternative.

Half way up, I realized I could use the monopod from my small tripod as a walking stick.  That helped.  Tim offered to take the rest of the tripod to lighten the load.  Thanks Tim… my legs still thank you for that.  Suffice it to say, when hiking with photographic gear, you might want to leave the camping gear at home!

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Once you are on the trails for four hours, every switch back looks the same.  I thought for sure the top was around the corner at every corner, and since Sam and Tim had not hiked this trail, and I had just come down the day before, when I told them we were almost there, they believed me…  Until we met a ranger who informed us we still had about an hour to the top.  Oops. Well, I was selling hope!

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No, this isn’t us at the top.  This is us close to the top.  Close is a relative term.

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After making it to the top, we had a day to recuperate from the hike and get ready for the wedding.  I was grateful for the rest.  Then, on the following day, at about noon, the getting ready began.  Samantha was in her room getting ready and Tim was preparing with a trip to Shoshone Point for a little meditation and mental preparation for the wedding.  You see, Tim has a fear of heights.  Why then did he choose to get married on the edge of a cliff?  I will tell you in a minute.  Suffice it to say, he needed to spend some time with the cliff, so a little meditation was in order.

Meanwhile, the bride was putting on the dress and getting her hair done and looking like a million bucks!  I got to help steam/iron the dress that had gotten a little wrinkled somewhere between Florida and Arizona.

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Tim is crazy about Samantha!

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It was a beautiful day and the canyon was singing with shadows and highlights.  A cloudless sky is a double edged sword.  It makes for harsh lighting conditions for portraits, but the lack of cloud cover keeps the canyon alive with contrast.  So, a Grand Canyon wedding comes with it’s own special set of prayers: for scattered  Cumulus clouds with a few strategically placed and well timed Cirrus clouds during the portrait session to soften the sun.

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We didn’t get the Cumulus clouds, but we got a few Cirrus clouds.

This next shot is during the wedding.  You don’t see the guests because they chose to sit much higher on the point, and you don’t see the officiant because she is awesome and always stands to the side so the couple is not crowded and so their photos don’t all have an officiant in every shot.  How novel is that?  Almost every wedding ceremony image is cluttered up by an officiant’s head sitting between the bride and groom and even during the kiss.  “You may kiss the bride,” and I’ll just stand right here and and watch and make it look like I am kissing you both as well…  Why don’t more officiants have this figured out?  Samantha and Tim are actually saying their vows and I was able to get a shot with just them and the grandeur of the canyon.  That should be celebrated.  Don’t you think.  So, I have to give many many thanks and compliments to David & Debra Joaquim because they think about the aesthetics of the ceremony and take themselves out of the way.  I suppose it is a show of humility, that the wedding is not about the officiant, or the photographer, or the coordinator, or the mother of the bride, or the best man… it is about the bride and the groom and their commitment to each other.  And with a little humility, we can all make the day more meaningful to them by stepping out of the spot light and serving the couple and fulfilling their needs rather than our own.

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Incidentally, some of those clouds even placed themselves where we needed them.  Photo prayers were answered.  While the lighting was a little challenging on the bride and groom, it was magnificent on the canyon, and in the end, it is easier to light the couple with a soft box than it is to light the entire canyon.

I love this series portraits.  The bride and groom look great and the light is so lovely, thanks to Ryan (my assistant), who was battling the winds with a big soft-box that at one point was trying to push him off the cliff.  Good thing he’s a strong guy!  This shot could not have happened without Ryan and his soft box.  (The light was provided by an Einstein Mono Head, a vagabond power pack, a 30×40 White Lightning soft box and two pocket wizard transceivers.)

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Now to discuss the fear of heights.

When you share major life experiences like these, you tend to develop a deeper relationship with people.  Tim and I have had many deep conversations ranging a myriad of subjects as we have spent a lot of time together.  When you compare  the amount of time we have been photographing to the amount of time we have spent hiking, kayaking, cooking, eating, searching the sunset for the green flash, and discussing life… you might say, we haven’t been shooting photos at all.  As odd as this may sound, coming from Tim and Sam’s wedding photographer, photographing less may be a good thing.  Because portraits are portraits, but understanding is everything.  I am always drawn to Henri Cartier-Bresson’s statement, “Photography is nothing, it’s life that interests me.”  In fact, I have it branded on my studio wall to remind me that regardless of what I know about f-stops and camera gear and lighting techniques, those skills are worthless without a natural curiosity and love of life and for people.  It’s the observation of life that makes great images, because that’s how we see the story that should be told.

In one of our conversations at the Canyon, Tim told me that the reason he wanted to get married in a place that would cause him fear was that he wanted to feel his bride’s calming influence and support as he said his vows.  He wanted to feel her lifting him up against the will of gravity.  Tim is a confident and successful man, so to hear him talk about this choice of location for the wedding helped me to see a lot about his relationship with Samantha.  Ergo, it is not an accident or a whim that led to the photograph below.  I watched Tim stay clear of  cliff edges completely, or white knuckle their secure guardrails, while we were in the canyon, but on the day of the wedding he stood at the edge of the cliffs on Shoshone Point as calm as a summers morning.  So this next image has become to me, the most telling portrait I made of the couple, but it comes from hours of discussion and a better understanding of Tim and Sam.

So, perhaps the most important thing a photographer and his clients can do is spend a little more time talking and a little less time shooting.

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The last moments of light are always the best, and with the help of a small Canon 600 RT flash off to the left, it’s perfect.

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Once the the sun goes down on Shoshone Point, there no more light.  Fortunately we had a mostly full moon, so seeing was possible, but photography was not, without some additional help.  During the signing of the marriage license, we needed some off camera lighting.  Flash could have worked, but we are outside, so there is nothing off which to bounce the flash, and direct flash in that kind of darkness is blinding at any power.  So the wedding party would have been left to sign the document in darkness.  So we pulled out a constant LED light source called an Ice Light and a pocket LED torch.  I was impressed with the final result.

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You can see the light setup here.  Ryan’s arms got very tired.

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The job of photographing a wedding is a difficult one and requires a lot of problem solving, a lot of energy and a lot of love for the people you serve.  But when you have a job that is this much fun, even when it is challenging, it is hard to call it a job.

Thank you Tim and Samantha for trusting us with the photography of this important year in your life.  I will watch your future with interest and wish you all the best.

Wedding Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Wedding Location: The Grand Canyon, Shoshone Point

Wedding Officiant: David & Debra Joaquim

Wedding Slideshow Music by Kelvin Mockingbird, Courtesy of Kelvin Mockingbird, available on iTunes.

Thank you to Panasonic for the use of their lightweight GH3 4/3 Camera.

Kevin Burdick at the Grand Canyon

Kevin Burdick portrit at the Grand Canyon

 

For those of you following the Struck by Lightning story, this photo was taken of Kevin Burdick a few minutes before he was struck by Lightning on Shoshone Point at the Grand Canyon.  So far, Kevin is just fine and now has additional super powers that cannot be mentioned here, as sharing that information may be seen as a national security breach and I may have my phones tapped by the US Attorney’s office.    I can tell you that, with his new super powers, Kevin is often seen in tight stretchy pants and a luchador mask, but it is possible he was wearing those before the lightning strike.

In all seriousness, Kevin is fine and a bit more electrifying when he plays his music in front of an audience.

I shot this portrait with my friend Carlos Martín’s Nikon D800.  It’s a nice camera.

Creativity in Action: The Business of Creativity

Mindy Gledhill writing at the piano during her studio sessions in Nashville TN

When the man or woman on the street thinks about the process of making music, they think about a musician and a piano, or a guitar.  Sitting down and playing for hours, perhaps making notes on some blank sheet music, writing some lyrics under a sycamore tree on a funky hand made notebook, and maybe the younger among us add in a snapshot of the musician playing music on their iPad into Garage Band.

But the creative process is goes beyond the romantic and requires organizational skills and business acumen.

Documentary photographs of Mindy Gledhill in the recording studio in Nashville (2)

When I walked into Cason Cooley’s recording studio in Nashville, TN, to photograph Mindy Gledhill, the first thing I noticed was the wall sized blackboard with a production grid on it.  You can see the songs that are being recorded and the series of steps that each song must go through during the production of Mindy’s new album.  There are a lot of boxes to check.  During short recording breaks, Mindy wasn’t relaxing in a chair, shooting the breeze with the studio musicians, she was fielding calls that were clearly about business.

blackboard checklist for album

So, while it is true, that musicians and artists spend a lot of focused time writing lyrics in notebooks and making sketches on napkins, the majority of any successful artist’s time is spent in managing production and business and checking off boxes on an excel spreadsheet or its funky blackboard equivalent.


Mindy Gledhill making notes on her lyrics for her new album

If you want to be part of the creative life, and “live the dream,” you had better be aware that the “dream” includes spreadsheets and task lists and business goals and production schedules.  That’s just part of the creative life.  Anyone who tells you something different is selling something.

Thanks to Mindy Gledhill for allowing me to invade her creative space as she worked.  You can be a part of her creative venture as well by pledging to her album production at Pledge Music.  The beauty of it is that you will also get some very cool things in return.  One of my favorites is a signed lyric sheet.  I think that’s about as cool a memento as you can get.  Of course, I am biased, I was always the lyricist in the band.

If you haven’t heard Mindy’s music, here is a taste of it.  You can get more at MindyGledhill.com.

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Cason Cooley Studio in Nashville, TN

Slideshow music by Mindy Gledhill, courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

What Do You Do When Your Friend is Struck by Lightning

Shoshone point Grand Canyon, Arizona, portraits (5)

I have quite a story to tell, although Kevin Burdick lived it, I will tell it because I was there.  This story is true, by the way…

I spent two days driving up to the Grand Canyon with my good friends Kevin Burdick and Carlos Martín. Carlos is from New Jersey and had never seen the Grand Canyon. Kevin and I grew up near the canyon, so we took it upon ourselves to introduce him to the natural wonder. I wanted to show him Shoshone Point, since it is one of my favorite places to experience the canyon.

We arrived a few hours before sundown and went dirrectly to the canyon’s edge. A little hike was required to get there. So, we gathered our cameras and started the hike. Along the way we alternated using Kevin as our subject and photographing the landscape. When we finaly made our way out onto the point, a small storm had moved in, the sun was long since burried behind the clouds, it turned cold and began to snow (in May). But, Carlos and I perserviered with our photographs and Kevin, who was no longer the subject of our images was standing just to my right shivering off the cold. A slight rolling of thunder in the distance foreshadowed the moment to come, but we all stood on the edge of the percipise shivering and photographing.

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Shoshone point Grand Canyon, Arizona, portraits (1)

(This next shot is Carlos Martín, Carlos is a talented Architectural photographer.)

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Carlos was adjusting his tripod, I stood behind him with my camera held to my chest looking out into the canyon when I heard the unmistakable sound of electricity pulsing (just like what you might expect in Dr. Frankenstien’s laboritory) and a flash of light just to my right, but the light did not come from the sky and it ddi not come from a mile away.

“Guys,” Kevin said hesitently, “I’ve been struck by lightning.”

That’s right. Struck by Lightning!

(This next photo is my rendition of Kevin holding lightning in his hands.)

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Kevin then described in full detail how the energy had, in a mere moment, gone through his head, down his arm (burning his skin below his watch) and shot out of his hand to the ground. This was the flash of light I saw to my right below the level of my eye. He felt his muscles clinch and the energy flow through him, but never lost balance or consciousness.

We rushed to him to make sure he was ok and then we decided it would be a good idea to get off the cliff.  Carlos later said he was a bit disappointed that we left.  “I had just gotten my tripod set, and then we’re leaving?  Technically, that was the least likely place lightning would strike,” he complained.

After Kevin took the Lightning on the chin and lived through it, we spent another few minutes photographing the fog in the canyon (the first shot in this post) and then hiked back to the car.  Later that night, we had a nice steak dinner.  Kevin’s still fine!

I remember hiking back to the car, turning to Kevin and saying, “sorry you were struck by lightning Kevin…”

There’s something you don’t get to say every day.

Where in the World is Jared Platt?

It took 14 hours, three jets, a car, a sea plane, a kayak and some walking to get to my destination.  There are no hotels, no houses, but I have cameras.  I am shooting an engagement session for my clients who are getting married at the Grand Canyon in June 2013.  But we are no where near the Grand Canyon.  In fact it is quite the opposite of the Grand Canyon.  While writing this, I don’t actually know what to expect or much more about the location, other than we have to bring our own food, because there is no food where we are going.  I suppose I could eat ants. But we’ll cart our own food along.

I will be bringing several cameras, a Canon Mark III and a Canon G15.  I’ll have over 140 GB of card space and 8 fully charged camera batteries, several flashes with 32 AA batteries and a compliment of lenses.  Oh and a camera backpack to hold it all.

This post was pre-scheduled because I am unable to post a photo from this location, so you will have to see the images when I get back.

So, where am I?

It could be cold…

Travel photography by Jared Platt (5)

Or it could be warm…

Travel photography by Jared Platt (3)

It could be high…

Travel photography by Jared Platt (2)

It could be low…

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Could be in the ocean…

Travel photography by Jared Platt (1)

Could be on land…

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I don’t know enough about the place to give you many more clues, other than to say, I’ll be using a lot of modes of transportation to get to the middle of nowhere…  a  place I am always interested in visiting.

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And don’t worry.  I’ll photograph it.  Those of you who know me or have heard me lecture, know how many images I can shoot in a day.  I’ll be sure to show you the best.

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If you are family or close friend and actually know where I am, 1)don’t spoil the surprise and 2) if I don’t re-surface by Sunday the 27th, send out a rescue party!  I’ll be sure to let you know when I land…

The Seely-Olsen Documentary Session: China

Several of my last posts have been family portrait sessions from China.  This is the last family portrait from China, but it is a unique one.  We spent ten days with the Seely-Olsen family in China.  Becky (the mom) is a super great friend and she and her children have always been very important to us.  Becky was married this year to Jeff (also, super great guy with super great kids).  Well, Jeff works in Shanghai, China, so Becky and her children moved to China and the two families combined to make one very big family!  In China, a big family is a very big spectacle.

We spent a few of our days in Shanghai with Becky and Jeff’s family and then took a few trips out into rural China.  I will make one last post with my documentary/travel photographs from the trip, but this slideshow is a family documentary for the Seely-Olsen family.  We never did a formal portrait session, but rather a ten day documentary of their family as we traveled through China.  As you will see, the results are very different from a formal portrait session.  Both documentary and formal portraits have their place and both are important to a family, but I tend to gravitate toward the usefulness of pure documentary because a true documentary captures families and relationships as they truly are, which is how I would prefer to remember my loved ones.  That is why, even in my formal portrait sessions, I try to keep them very casual and documentary in feel.

Here are a few of my favorites shots from the Seely-Olsen Documentary Session.  I know I have not represented each and every member of the family in this blog post, only in the slideshow.  I have just posted my absolute favorite moments and shots here that can help me describe their life in China.

Becky’s kids are all over nine years old, Jeff’s are younger.  So Becky now has little ones again.  Aliah is the youngest and goes everywhere with Becky.  This is their transportation to and from the market.  All little errands, etc are done on this little scooter.  We would hope in the back and off we would go.  On one of our trips, we ran low on batteries and I was tasked with pushing the cart to get it up to speed where the batteries would keep it coasting a little longer than normal friction would have allowed.  I would jump in and enjoy a short rest and then, I was back out to push again.

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (14)

We took a bike ride through rural Guilin, China with all of the kids.  This was at the bottom of a mountain as we prepped for the hike up the mountain.  I love this shot.  These two are very close in age and make up their own little section of the family.  All the kids seem unite to take care of these little ones.

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (13)

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (12)

It was quite a hike to get up here, but everyone made it.  Don’t be so surprised that little Aliah made it.  Be surprised that Becky and Jeff made it.  I think Jeff carried her most of the way up the mountain.  I think Becky carried her too.  I only had to carry my camera.  Being a photographer has its advantages.  My photo duties trump good friend, “let me carry your child up the mountain,” duties.  So I only had to drag myself up the mountain.  That was hard enough.

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (11)

This was our countryside bike ride.  I could have enjoyed riding a bike through the country there for days.  Every time you came around a bend, there were more of these strange mountains and something very interesting to see.  The people, the farm lands, the buildings, the textures.  I think if I were to go again, I would want to spend a few more days just riding a mountain bike around the countryside.

Family Travel Photography in China by Jared Platt (10)

We also traveled by boat.  These little rafts are made of bamboo.  They can seat two passengers and a gondolier.  And no, he does not sing to you!  Sometimes, he will try to communicate with you, but ours knew three words in English, so most of our communication was in pointing and nodding.  This is Larsen.  I have known him for a long time (because he is one of Becky’s kids).  We had a good time on our river rafting adventure.

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There’s Jeff with piled high with kids.  By the time we reached the end of our river excursion, it was sunset.  But sunset here is much softer and darker than other places because the finger like mountains block the sun very early in the late afternoon and the humidity (at almost 100%) scatters and softens the light you do have.

I suppose you would have a hard time judging when you would get true sunset on any given week as the sun shifts around the sky because the sun can be completely obscured by one of the finger mountains one week and the next week the sun could be seen through a gap between the mountains, giving you another 20 minutes of direct light in the day.  At any rate, the soft quality of this image comes from the low and indirect and soft light of sunset in Yangshuo.  It is truly unlike any place I have ever been on the planet.

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This house was too much to pass up.  I only wish we had been there at a different time of day.  But you take what you can get when you are hiking from place to place.  The light wasn’t optimal, but the house is so strange, we had to grab a shot.

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Yes, it is a real place!  These are rice terraces in Ping’an, China.  I will show more images like this in my next China post, but I thought I would add this to give you a sense of the things we were seeing as a family.

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The kids are all waiting for their foot massages.  Everyone (except for me and Tate) got a foot massage.  Not a bad thing to get at the top of a long hike.

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You can see that the village spills through the rice terraces.  The pathways through the village are windy and steep with lots and lots and lots of stairs.  Hence, the foot massage.

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While all of the less tough travelers were getting pampered with foot massages, Tate and I went in search of a spot to record a video.  I was supposed to record a quick video inviting people to join me in studio at my creativeLIVE workshop in Seattle on Dec 6th, The Efficient Photoshoot.  You can see the video we recorded by clicking here.  Tate was a great director.  We found some steps to rest the camera on and set up the recording.  Once we were back in Shanghai with an internet connection we were able to send the footage to creativeLIVE and let them edit it into a video.  We got a little slap happy toward the end and were making some jokes, but they were all cut out of the video.  Maybe that was for the better.

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Let this be a lesson to you.  When in China and you come upon a fruit stand that has an open bowl of fruits and snacks for purchase, it is very possible that the owner’s child has been licking every sing one of them for the past 10 minutes.  These are dried fruits of some kind and have a sugary dust all over them.  I watched this little guy lick the sugar off each and every one of these dried fruits.  I stood there for about ten minutes to see if anyone would stop him… nope.  He was in heaven.  So was I.

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She is always so serious.  I was so glad to capture this smile.  This was on one of the last days.  I think you just have to be around a child long enough and you will find the moment you are looking for.

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Documentary Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Slideshow Music by Roy Ashen, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Location: China

Portraits from China: The Driggs Family

This is my 3rd post of the China portraits I shot in Shanghai, China.  A few more posts on China to come.

This series of portraits was taken at a Buddhist Temple in Shanghai, China.  The grounds were fairly spacious and offered a lot of great opportunities for backgrounds.  Both of the boys are young enough not to be all that interested in the surrounding architecture and symbolism, but they did enjoy the coy ponds and the many small walls and walking paths.

The slideshow has a lot of great images in it, but I was particularly interested in a small few for the purpose of discussing the lighting.  In the next image, we were on the back side of the property where the light was getting dimmer and softer.  The main light-source was the open (sunless) sky, what we could call “north light”, although I don’t know if it was truly the northern sky.  That open sky was to the child’s right and just behind him.  Notice, how the size of the light source helps to wrap around the child’s face, making smooth transitions extremely soft and smooth.  Of course the sky is a huge light source.  But if the sun were visible in the sky, the sun would become that light source and would create harsh shadows and would not be so pleasing.

I like this shot.  This little boy is always on the move and always paying attention to everything, not just where he’s going.  I think the image describes that well.  While he is climbing on the wall, he is still keeping track of everything else in the area.  Probably keeping tabs on his little brother…

Here is the little brother.  Those eyes were the subject of most of my photos with him.  This was the perfect outfit to intensify them.  That large open sky, makes a perfect light for portrait.  But notice that I am not shooting with him facing the open sky directly, which would flatten the subject.  Instead, the open sky is off to his left, my right.  The shadow side of his face is toward me.  The soft highlights are coming from his left .  It’s all about volume and depth.  Without some shadow, you have none of that.

OK.  I have been looking forward to writing about this photo for a while.  The basic scene here is lit by the open sky off to the children’s left (the camera’s right).  You can see the lighting effect on the boys’ faces.  Highlights on the right side of their noses, shadows on the left sides.    But there was one very real problem, the background was quite dark.  Everything back there was sucking up the light and with a thick canopy of trees over the background, the open sky was not lighting the back ground with the same exposure as the foreground.  In essence, it was a black hole.

Enter a small Canon 600 RT camera flash placed off camera to the camera’s left and behind the boys.  You can see the light’s glare in the top left corner of the frame.  It is also lighting the grass and the bushes in the background a bit and most importantly, it is catching the edge of the kids’ shoulders and hair to separate them from the background.  Without this little flash, the photo would not be worth showing.  But notice, I only needed one little light to get a very well exposed and expertly designed shot.  This shot could have been designed with many more lights to get practically the same shot, but why?  The point is, that one small, lightweight flash or even a flashlight can escalate the production value of the shot with very little additional cost or effort… efficiency isn’t just for post production.  Efficiency during a photo shoot is just as critical.

If you are interested in these issues, I am teaching a free workshop called The Efficient Photo Shoot online at CreativeLIVE.com on Dec 6-8, 2012, where we will be demonstrating these very concepts.

This kids started running around and around on this little path and I realized, my light from the first shot could still be used to accomplish the same goal right where it was.  It just had to be turned slightly.  With Karen Liu at the light, that was easily done.  I ran to my new position and told the kids to keep circling the path and kept firing away as the got into the positions I liked.  I think they must have run around that path 50 times, over and over, which was good for me, I needed a lot of opportunities to get the right shot.  And good for mom, they must have slept well that night!

I love how the light cascades across the long grass and kisses the little one’s cheeks.  Imagine, without the light, his little hand would be completely lost in the shadow of the trees.

Now, with the open sky light coming from camera left and the flash also on the left, behind him, the light wraps all the way around his left side.  This makes for an even softer look because the rim light is not so pronounced and looks more like a slightly brighter continuation of the sky light.  Again, volume is created by the direction of the light.  The shot is slightly dramatic, but still pleasingly soft.  I love these shots.  If I had gotten nothing but this little series of shots in the tall grasses here, I would have been trilled.

 Child Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Fisher, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Portraits from China:: The Liu-McGee Family

This is my second post of portrait sessions from Shanghai, China.  You will see, we are in a different spot for every photo session and all of them are very unique, as are the photos themselves.  I try not to follow too much of a pattern when shooting sessions.  I want them all to have their own unique flair…

Karen Liu, mother of three great kids and an aspiring photographer, booked a photo session as a learning experience.  So, we shot a little less and spent a lot of time learning.  I took her through my thought process for shooting and lighting on the street with both natural light and additive flash lighting.  We also talked about compositional choices and selecting the appropriate camera settings.  All things I will be teaching in my upcoming free workshop at CreativeLIVE on December 6-8, 2012.  We got to the market in Shanghai, China early enough to avoid the throngs of shoppers and pedestrians that make this place a purely claustrophobic experience during the business hours.  This also gave us great light, since the market is a canyon of traditional Chinese style buildings (I say that with absolutely no understanding of “Chinese architectural styles” but when you look at the images you will understand what I mean).

In this first shot, we had 360 degrees of choices for the shot, but one gave us the best lighting for a complete existing light portrait.  Notice that the strongest instance of sun is coming from behind the kids which gives us the rim light coming from behind them.  Behind me is a large building with a light wall which is reflecting indirect light onto the kids, so, we have beautiful soft light coming forward on them.  So in an instance like this one, all that is required is the correct exposure at the camera.  No additional light is needed to get a nice shot.

As we got further and further into the morning, it got more and more crowded.  I love crowds for portraits, because you get all sorts of additional people in the shot.  If you wait for the “right” person, you get get juxtapositions.  I love this one.  Karen (mom) also loves this street photography style work, so I suspect she will love this one as well.

We stopped for a Chinese snack after the shoot.  I am not this good at chopsticks!!!

This is one of my favorites from the session because I identify with it!  My kids hang on me whenever I am shooting and they are around.  I am sure any of you parents out there with small children experience the same situation.  I think they do it because they know you are not paying attention to them.  Hanging on you seems to force the attention their direction.

Incidentally, I have the same problem when I am traveling with adults.  I get to taking photos and all my attention becomes focused on the shot.  So my wife and all the other adults with me tend to get annoyed with my lack of attention.  So, if you have a photographer in your life… just know that they still love you, even when they seem to be ignoring you.  Want their attention?  Take the camera out of their hand.

Children’s Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Nancy Falkow, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

Subject: Photographer Karen Liu

Portraits from China: The Sloan Family

Today starts a series of Portraits taken in China.  I will be posting once each day for the the next few days.  Today, I will introduce you to the Sloan Family.  We went to the Former French Concession in Shanghai, China for a walk with the family.  The Former French Concession is unlike anything else in Shanghai.  Enormous trees canopy the streets and you feel like you are on a street in Europe, except that there are an awful lot of Chinese nationals running around…

The kids were great to work with.  They are extremely expressive and are pleasant children.  So, they make for easy subjects.  Something I had not accounted for, though, was the Chinese people’s fascination with blonde hair.  The boys are all ultra blonde, so these kids are a hit everywhere they go and attract a lot of attention, so we had a lot of people staring.  Fortunately, they were less invasive of our personal space since we looked all official as we shot the photos.  But, it is a common occurance to have the Chinese people run up and take their photo next to your child if you have a blonde child…  Anyway, that is one thing I could have never anticipated about the cultural change between the US and China.

This first shot is pushing the composition, but I really responded to it.  It has a lot of energy and movement in it.  I had to include it as one of my favorites.

I seem to recall some question when we first met being raised about her blouse.  Was it a good choice, etc.  I liked it and now I see why.  That soft pink matches her so well.  You can see that same shade highlighting her cheeks and in her lips.

The light here was quite perfect too.  Everything was soft.  Shanghai is an extremely hazy city (due to it being very polluted), but that works well for portrait light.  Then, the buildings, keep any direct light from hitting the subject and the canopy of trees keeps the light from the sky from being too bright (creating raccoon eye shadows).  So the main light source is reflected and filtered light coming from the street to her right and from behind here.  This puts the shadow of her face forward, creating an alternating light pattern on her face shadow, light, shadow, light.  In this case, it is simply about seeing the right light as it exists and exposing for it.  No other lighting necessary.  It’s simple light, but very pleasing.

There’s the curly blonde hair that is the ultimate stand out in China.  I have a shot or two with his head up, but I love this shot.  I think a lot of who we are comes from our hair, when we have unique tops.  I am completely bald.  That is quite identifying and I tend to wear that proudly (as I wear most things).  So hair like this is also worn with pride, and makes a major identifying mark on a person.  I’m pretty sure he loves his hair.  Who wouldn’t!

There are the trees.  Minus the all the cars on the street, this was a perfect place for photos.  I had to constantly re-frame to avoid too many cars and people.  I love the look on his face.

Talk about expressive.  The youngest boy is great.  I know Mr. and Mrs. Sloan were a bit worried that he was getting out of line or that he was not being cooperative, but sometimes a character like this has to be set free so you can get those great shots.  And it’s not all just about the funny faces.  It’s about all of the expressions you will see in this post.  Taking a photo of a child is an art in and of itself, and the art is based in knowing how far to push and when to let go of that control.  There has to be a good balance of discipline and freedom to get the expressions and still maintain control over the photo shoot.  The Sloans had the balance and it shows in the final results.

Now that is a shot for the wall!

I love the light on this image and the texture.

This is the Shanghai sky line on one of the only clear days we had in the city.  So we had to take the opportunity to shoot with the skyline in the background.  The first day we got there, we came to this spot and could see only the shadows of the buildings through the smog.  I’ll post those photos later this week.

The light on this shot is simple.  I exposed for the ambient light from the sky and the buildings in the background, but that leaves the family in dark shadow (not silhouette).  So some additional light was needed.  A Canon 600 RT flash does the trick.  It is off camera right just above head level.  That provides all the light needed to match the exposure of the buildings.  Notice that I put the flash to the side that mimics the direction of light hitting the buildings.  You can see this best on the tallest building in the city.  The shadow is on the left, the highlight on the right.  The same is happening on the family’s faces.  Highlights on the right, shadows on the left.  Put the flash on the other side and it would start to look a little strange.

And this is The Bund.  Look a big like London?  That’s because the English built this part of the city.  I like this photo as well.  It’s shot at 6400 ISO f2.5 at 1/125 of a second with no flash.  This is a risky shot.  You don’t always get it right when you play at low shutter speeds and wide apertures.  But it worked and I love the shot.  The thing is, like everything in life, if you always play it safe, you get predictable shots that are good enough, but the truly fantastic shots come from accepting some risk and accepting some failures to achieve the great shots.  Did I get every shot in this series?  Not even close, but I got three from it, that I liked.  Is everyone tack sharp?  No, I’m shooting at f2.5 at 1/125.  But the photo is strong, there are a few people in the focus plane and the rest become supporting actors in a very cool documentary shot that I love.  I’ll have to see whether the Sloans love it, but I suspect they will…

 

Family Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Location: Shanghai, China

Slideshow Music by Mindy Gledhill, Courtesy of Triple Scoop Music

He’s Kind of a Big Deal: A Portrait in Chandler, Arizona

Photograph of Paul Scott by Jared Platt

You may not know who he is, but he’s kind of a big deal.  Let me introduce you to my good friend Paul Scott.  I was taking portraits of his grand-daughter (coming next blog post) and used him as a test for the shots.  I loved this portrait of him and wanted to show it to you, but I thought I’d tell you how cool this cat is.  He’s the most down to earth man I’ve ever met, patient and unconditionally loving.  I couldn’t begin to give him credit for what a great guy he is.  He’s a big music buff as well, he always has some obscure band to introduce me to, and you’ll never find him at a big rock concert.  It’s always the hole in the wall bar with twelve people listening to a fantastic band… that’s where you’ll find him.  But aside from all of that, he’s kind of a big deal!  He’s quite the unsung hero, or kind of like a super hero.  I can’t say any more because I think he likes his anonymity (he’s kind of shy), but I just wanted to give a shout out to my good friend Paul, who, though you may not know it, works quietly behind the scenes to make your comfortable little world a cleaner, nicer, better smelling place.

Photography by Jared Platt, Platt Photography

Post Processing by Lightroom and Silver Effects Pro 2