My Favorite Images 2016

Every year, as we close out our files for the year and prepare for the next, I like to look through the images I created and share of my favorites, along with a little story on each of them.

At the risk of sounding self indulgent, I do try to think of myself as an artist, and artists need to grow, or quit. Stagnation is just not an option. This exercise is helpful to me because it allows me to review how my work has grown, where I need to improve, and where I’ve had some success.

It is also interesting to me that at times my favorite images, and the ones that seem to win awards and recognition, are often not the same images my clients choose to own. This year that seems to be improving. So, either I am getting more in tune with what my clients are looking for, or more clients are seeking me out who appreciate what I do!

Anyway, here in no particular order, are some of my personal favorite images from 2016!  Please feel free to leave me some comments. I do read them all and they are important to me. Be nice. Spammy or inappropriate comments will be removed.

Capturing peak action is much more difficult than it seems. Often times I have to ask my subject to do something energetic and physically demanding over and over and over again. I was lucky this time to have a girl really up to the task. So naturally, I had to make it even more difficult by adding an avalanche of silk rose petals to the mix.

I remember ordering 5,000 silk rose petals online, only to have them show up in a small 6×9 envelope, all squished together like a stack of Pringels.  It took my wife and I three nights watching TV and pealing apart flower petals to get enough for this shot. And yes, I did fill in a couple empty spots here and there with flowers in Photoshop, but this image is pretty much how it was shot straight in camera.

Even though we do a lot of promotional headshots for actors and performers, this stunning image was actually created as part of this young lady’s senior portrait session. She is a gifted vocalist and wanted an image that would reflect that. I borrowed the vintage microphone from a friend who has a recording studio (yes, it’s real) and added strong backlighting to her hair to give it a theatrical look. Using my signature ringlight gives her eyes a magical sparkle and really made for an image that forces you to look, and look again.

Sometimes, the fleeting unguarded moments between shots when you are adjusting lights or camera settings can give you a glimpse into someone’s soul. There is a reason that the Old Master painters rarely portrayed their subjects with big smiles. I wish more people could appreciate that, because a quiet, introspective expression can say so much more. This was photographed in my studio with nothing more than window light, a pretty girl, and my camera.

I don’t always do portraits strictly for people to hang in their homes. Photography plays a vital part in helping businesses establish their brand and reach their clients as well.

This fun crew of young women run a fitness website that helps make fitness fun and enjoyable. I worked with them to create a series of images for their website that conveys exactly that message. These were shot on green screen, so the web designers could drop in any type of background that would work best for their design. But I love the energy of this shot. Almost makes me want to go to the gym! I said almost.

Scholar, athlete, musician. This kid has it all. He had been in the studio earlier in the day for more traditional shots and I convinced him to bring his cello with him to the football field that evening for something different. I actually had him playing something and still can hear the haunting melody when viewing this image. I love the way the halo flare from the field lights looks like a cloud shrouded moon in the upper right corner. Completely accidental, but I’ll gladly take credit for it!

Portraits are all about capturing emotion, and I don’t think there were many images I did in 2016 that do that better than this one.

We got lost on the way to this shoot at the stables where this girl boards her horse. By the time we found it, we had only about 15 minutes of sunlight left. I powered through a bunch of regular “poses” that I knew the clients would love, and then after doing the smiling at the camera shot, told the girl to give the horse a kiss almost as an afterthought. I added a slight texture overlay to give it a little more of a “painted” look. Beautiful!

My granddaughter turned 3 in 2016 and her favorite color is yellow.

I had stopped on the way to shoot her birthday portrait at the party store and bought a whole bundle of yellow balloons. My camera room has very high ceilings, so when I got inside I let the balloons go up to the ceiling until I was ready for them, not realizing that because heat rises, the temperature near the top was probably 20 degrees hotter than the rest of the room. The balloons quickly started bursting in rapid succession and by the time I realized what was happening, we were down to just 3 balloons. So now I pretend we intentionally choose just three because it was her 3rd birthday.

So I’m coming clean. It was purely an accident.

Because of how we choose to shoot many of our senior sessions, we get to go to a lot of cool locations.

This is the boathouse on Cooper River, and this girl is coxswain of her school’s crew team, and wanted portraits that showed that aspect of her life. The inside of the boathouse was big, and dark, and required a lot of additional lighting to capture. This image  took a total of 4 off camera speedlights to illuminate, but I think it was well worth the extra effort.

Speaking of lighting challenges, nothing is more difficult to light than a sexy sports car.

For this image, I used a technique called “light painting”. It involves actually moving all around, inside, and even under the vehicle with lights, making as many as 100 different exposures. I combine them later in Photoshop to create an image with details that simply could not be done in one shot.

This was shot in my studio parking lot, and I decided at the last minute to wet down the pavement with a garden hose to give it that super sexy look.

I sometimes work with models who are looking to add a particular look or style to their portfolios. This young woman, with her bright red hair and tattoos, was looking for something with a “Steampunk” vibe. If you don’t know what it is, Google it. It’s a whole subculture.

I used an area in my camera room often used for executive portraits. I found an old gas lantern in the basement (the previous owners where antique buffs and left us a lot of cool stuff). I lit it from inside by putting a small flash with a colored gel inside it.  Then I gave the whole image a kind of muted color, punched up detail look.

But the model’s attitude and pose is really what makes it work. I love starting with a picture in my head and then working to make it come to life. Its the closest we get to actual magic.

Speaking of redheads, this woman is an amazingly talented photographer herself, and a friend of mine. She has very striking features and stunning natural red hair and I’ve been trying to get her to model for me for several years. 2016 the stars aligned and this is from my first, and only session with her.

I added a texture overlay to the image to give it a more ethereal look than a conventional photographic print. After the shoot she told me that this was one of the only pictures of her that her mother actually fell in love with! So that should be my new tag line, “Making Mom’s Fall in Love Since 1981.”

This is my friend Annie, who survived breast cancer in 2015. Like me, she is a diver and we have shared many exciting underwater adventures.

Annie is being inducted into the Atlantic County Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017 for her many philanthropic works. She needed an updated portrait, but I knew that a typical grinning mugshot wouldn’t do her justice. Windowlight, two reflectors and eyes that tell a story of bravery and compassion.

This senior’s mom had a very specific request for his senior portraits.

Something that really spoke to the transition from boy to man, and to high school graduation as the beginning of the journey, and not the end of one. Oh, and she wanted pretty fall colors too.

No sweat.

Speaking of milestones, a child’s First Communion should certainly qualify.

I swear though, if I see one more picture of a kid standing next to white Grecian columns or holding their hands together pretending to pray with Jesus smiling down on them, I think I’m going to loose it. LOL

Portraits can be beautiful and timeless without a lot of “STUFF”. Simplicity.

I had found these beautiful antique mirrors in a thrift shop a few years ago, and I think I scored them for like $30 or $40! They were broken and had to be glued back together, but they are just sooooo beautiful and I knew that would be the perfect counterpoint to this stunning girl and her elegant dress. Yes, this is the same girl leaping with the flower petals in the first picture. Beautiful and talented!

I decided to add the single candle in the right corner just to break the darkness in that corner… but the beautiful expression is what makes this portrait one I will always be proud of.

I currently have this as a 36″ print above my fireplace in the studio lobby, where it kind of makes the whole room sing with beauty and elegance.

As a working pro, I don’t often get to shoot “just for me” and sometimes we tend to overlook the simple beauty that surrounds us.

I noticed this simple scene in my studio yard one day and decided to shoot it. Something I probably walked by 30 times without ever really “seeing” it. Stop and smell the roses. Or, whatever those blue flowers are. Smell that too. Its all good.

We will go on location almost anywhere to get “the shot”. This senior wanted to do some shots where he wrestles. This is actually the spot where his team practices, and it was literally about 100 degrees in there the day we went to shoot. No air conditioning, or at least it wasn’t turned on for us.

The sweat actually looked kind of good on him, so it wan’t a problem, but I’m sure I was a sight as a dripping sweaty disheveled mess. Not to mention, the camera lenses kept fogging up coming from the air conditioned car, and I had all kinds of problems getting my accent lights to fire consistently.

It all worked out, and I love the intensity of the shot and the splash of bright red on the mat.

Another “Peak Action” shot that is way harder than it looks.

We have to carefully light the subjects here with strobes that can “freeze” the action, while keeping the shutter speed set so that we keep the background subdued, but not completely black. Then time the shutter release just a fraction before you anticipate the peak moment will be, because it takes a fraction of a second for the focus to lock, the mirror to get out of the way, the shutter to open and fire the remote lights. Hundredths of a second maybe, but if you try to push the shutter button at the exact moment you see the shot, you will miss it every time.

This one worked. I always tell my kids when doing this type of shot… it’s a lot like hitting a baseball. If you can do it 3 times out of 10 you’re doing pretty damn good.

We were supposed to do an awesome fashion shoot with our Senior Model Team at this amazing junkyard last year. Actually it’s more like a museum than a junkyard.

On the way to the shoot a driver involved in a road rage incident with another car crossed the median and hit Bonnie’s car with her and 3 of our Model Team members in it. The car was totaled, and the girls were all taken to the hospital  to get checked out, so naturally, the shoot didn’t happen.

I did have these awesome images I had taken a few weeks prior when we went to scout the place. I’d love to get back there again soon.

My niece got married this summer in Florida. I don’t actually do weddings, but it was my niece, so….

Florida in July is, well lets just say it’s pretty hot. We had about 15 minutes outside before people starting wilting. And did I mention it rains every afternoon? It did give me a great appreciation for what wedding photographers do. In fact, I wrote a blog post about it. You can read about it here.

We do photograph a lot of dancers and this one wanted something totally different.

She suggest wrapping herself in Christmas lights. This was about a week after the car wreck on the way to our fashion shoot and with the way our luck was running I wasn’t too keen on wrapping a kid in 120 volt wires for a photoshoot. Luckily, I found these LED fairy lights that were 12 volts and much more safe.

I had to shoot using just the modeling lights from my studio lights in order to have the little led lamps register, which means my subject had to hold pretty still and couldn’t really “move” through the pose. Still I love the way it turned out… magical and dreamlike.

It is so sad to me that classical portraiture is becoming a lost art form. There is something so timeless and pure about an impeccably lit, well posed classic portrait.

Today all you see is people in parks, on railroad tracks, and standing by dilapidated buildings with bad lighting and sun flare. I love this image because it is timeless and elegant. Not to mention, there are not many photographers left who can do it.

I have often said that you could take away all of my fancy studio lights and just give me a window and a simple background and I’d be happy creating gorgeous portraits all day long.

I love the higher than normal angle of this which forces you to connect with her eyes, and the out of focus “bokeh” in the foreground (which is really just a glass vase held in front of the lens) gives this beautiful portrait a sense of mystical sparkle.

Cutting into the top of the head is a technique used a lot in fashion photography. It imparts a feeling of energy to the image and places the eyes and face in a part of the frame where it is hard not to look at them.

I love using contemporary techniques in photography so the image not only looks like it came right out of  a magazine, but it captures both the beauty and personality of my subject.

This one will finish off my collection for 2016. A pretty simple shot really, but the addition of the 3 dimensional lighting, plus exposing the background and ice to bring out a “grittier” tone, I thinks adds a lot to the edgier feel of an otherwise “typical” portrait of a hockey player.

We usually think of ice as smooth and glossy. But a hockey player sees it as a field of battle… ripped and torn.

So, there you have some of my favorites for 2016. There were many more, it was hard to choose, but I hope you enjoyed seeing them and reading a little about either the thought process, techniques, or back story behind them. Now, to get pumped for 2017…..

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