Stop the Car!

One thing I have slowly learned, is if you see a photo while driving around, stop the car and get it. Don’t make an excuse for yourself. It will never happen the same again. Especially with sunsets.


Tonight, heading home, as I went through an intersection and looked west I saw a car top a hill against a nice Oklahoma sunset.

I pulled into a drive and then headed back to the intersection and parked in a lot at the corner, dug out a Canon M5 and mounted my Canon FD 400 4.5 lens on it. Set my iso to 400, used AE mode and set the aperture on the lens to f8 and then set the compensation dial  to -1 stop exposure. Then walked into the intersection to capture the next few cars and trucks as they crested the hill.

When standing in the street I always try to stay at the center lines separating the cars traveling opposite directions. That way I can take a step either way for an approaching car.

As I was getting back to my car, a pickup pulled up with the window being rolled down. I expected an owner or manager of the property asking me what I was doing, (it’s happened many times) but it turned out to be a man who saw me taking photos as he drove by and was curious what I was taking a photo of while standing in the street with a long lens. With the miracle of digital, I was able to show him what I had just captured and he complimented me on the photos. Then he told me he had just come from Remington Park where starlings were roosting all over the cars in the lot instead of wires or trees as normal, and showed me video. Darndest thing I’ve seen lately!

The exchange of visuals between strangers. What a great time to be a photographer.

Stop the car.



10 Minute Portrait

I don’t know about all newspapers, but we do a lot of portraits at The Oklahoman. I love it, as portraits are one of my favorite things to shoot. While on assignment for the paper the challenge is not only getting a good photo of the subject, but coming up with something visually striking in a matter of minutes. You really have to bring your “A” game each time.

Sometimes it’s easier than others, when everything just falls into place. That happened today in a portrait for our Executive Q&A we do each week.


It was a job downtown, so I walked. It took 5 minutes to walk there. Within 10 minutes of arrival I had this portrait and was breaking down. It rarely happens so quick. When I was being led back to the subject’s office, I saw this great arched doorway, which is unusual and I knew I wanted to try and use it. When the subject showed me her office, it was the usual white, boring box except for the brightly colored footstool. The subject was in in monotone colors, like the office, so I posed her on the footstool in the arch. The room behind was empty, so I set up kicker lights, one on each side, and turned out the room lights. I then used a 42” umbrella as the main light. I only carry two light stands when I’m on foot, so the light behind her to the right was placed on a file cabinet. It was further away than the other kicker light, so I set the flash head zoom to 105 to make it about equal to the one that was high on a stand set to 24 to the left. The umbrella was placed about 45 degrees to the front. I had her turn her body into it.


I used a “Nifty 50”, EF 50mm f1.8 STM lens with an adaptor on my Canon M5, which has an effective focal length of about 80mm. Used the Flashpoint R2 radio system to fire the three Zoom TTL Mini strobes.

When the paper moved downtown, I knew we would have lots of assignments close, so I rethought what I use and how I carry it so that I could walk to assignments. What I came up with is a two messenger bag system, one for cameras and one for lights and a small light stand bag.

I wear one bag across the chest to each side and carry the light stand bag, usually in my left hand, so that I can access the camera around my neck if I see a “street photo” on the way. The light stand bag has two compact 6 1/2’ stands and two white translucent 42” umbrellas. The strobe bag has three Flashpoint Zoom TTL Minis, a transmitter, snoot, two RoundFlash modifiers, batteries and just in case, a light meter. The camera bag has a second body and three lenses and batteries, notebook, pens, etc.

I choose the Flashpoint Zoom TTL Minis because they have built-in radio, TTL and High Speed synch and are small. (They are the Adorama branded version of the popular Godox system).


The Minis are totally modern units that are smaller and about as powerful as the old standard hot shoe flash of the film era, the Vivitar 283. They only use two AA batteries to keep the units small. I use them with AA lithium batteries which last forever and are lightweight too. Recycle on full power is 4-6 secs, but I rarely use full power for a normal set up and use TTL, which shuts the power down and makes recycle rates around 1-2 seconds normally. Shooting at iso 200 I can use an f-stop around 5.6 normally.

Small, lightweight, versatile. Just what I wanted downtown to walk to assignments with, but still have enough equipment to produce creative environmental portraits, the bread-and-butter of my job.

Keep shooting.


Paseo PhotoFest

PhotoFest is a photography only juried show put on by the Paseo Artist Association every year. Photographers are limited to three entries. I am fortunate this year to have all of my entries accepted for the show. The show opens this week at the Paseo First Friday Art Walk at the Paseo Art Space and will be up for the month of September.

About my entries…

“Bison” was photographed at the Tall Grass Prairie near Pawhuska, just before the sun set. I was using my Canon M5 and the EF-M 55-200 6.3 lens (to keep my distance!) which is a rather slow lens for me. To keep the iso low, I used a slow shutter and panned with the bison as he walked toward the sun. For the show it, is an 11×14 wrapped canvas print.

“Dancers” was done during a practice at OKC Ballet. The soft daylight balanced window light became a beautiful blue as I had a Canon 5D set for tungsten light which is what illuminated the dancers. Mounted on the camera was a 24mm tilt/shift lens. I used that lens to “throw” the plain of focus at an angle to the chip, causing the extreme focus extremes within the frame. It too is an 11×14 canvas wrap print.

“Ferris Wheel” is the third photo. It is a slow shutter horizontal blur of the Wheeler District Ferris Wheel. I used an 80D with a 70-200 2.8L and a shutter speed of around 2 seconds and panned the camera horizontally during the exposure. I played with the orientation and settled on a 90 degree counter-clockwise rotation for the image. It is the first image I have had printed on metal, and the results are eye popping! It is 12×12 borderless.

The prints are all for sale, as is everything in the show, with the commission going to the PAA. Each are available for $175.

I hope you can stop by this Friday, I’l be there around 7:00 for the announcement of the awards, or sometime during September.


Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

Don’t pack up and go home after you’ve shot that beautiful sunset. There are still plenty of things to shoot! Grab a tripod, a fast lens and start looking.


For this photo of Stage Center, I got up in a parking garage across the intersection with a tripod, a 35mm lens on a Canon 6D, set at iso 200 f8 and exposed for 20 secs. The power was off at Stage Center, so when I exposed for it, the rest of the surroundings were overexposed, creating an almost infrared looking effect.

img_2542Night downtown

I came across this shot along Broadway walking back from Deep Deuce and didn’t have a tripod with me, so I improvised finding a strong pole to brace the camera against. Canon M5 with Kodak Extar 24mm movie lens at f1.9 iso 400 1/4 sec. The lens doesn’t cover the entire frame, hence the heavy corner vignetting. Do yo like the color or black and white better?

Festival of the Arts

While I had planned on shooting this photo of the Festival of the Arts from the roof terrace at OKCMOA, I had been walking around the festival for a couple hours, so I didn’t carry a tripod. To steady this 1/2 sec. exposure, I sat the camera on the granite railing around the terrace. Rock steady! I used the Canon M5 with a Rokinon 12mm lens at f8 iso 200.

Plaza District

Sometimes light happens and you just go with whatever you have. I came out of an assignment at Lyric in the Plaza District to find it had just rained. I had a Canon M5 with the trusty 22mm lens and exposed at iso 800 f2 1/200 sec. hand held without bracing myself against anything, which is why I used a higher shutter speed. With APS-C chip, your depth of field is wider than full frame, allowing me to get most of the image sharp even at f2. Careful standing in the street! While pedestrians have the right of way, if they don’t see you, it won’t matter!


Outdoor movies are cool, but it has to be dark to watch them! I was shooting my Canon M5 at iso 1600 with the 22mm lens, and waiting for the best balance of the crowd, buildings and screen. This exposure was 1/80 sec f2. Thanks to the miracle of Photoshop, I was able to bring the screen down to match the rest of the frame. Oh, what a beautiful morning!

Keep shooting!


Cheap tricks…

A common trap people starting out in photography fall into is shooting everything with front light. A quick “cheap trick” to add pop to your photos is to shoot a silhouette. Align your subject against a clean, bright background and expose for the background. You don’t need to shoot manual!!! I shoot 95% of my photos with AE-Aperture Preferred auto. Just dial -2 stops into your exposure compensation dial and shoot away. Wide apertures also help to isolate the subject from the background.

An added feature of shooting “wide open” is the bokeh effect in the background.

Silhouettes can add depth to your photos too.

Find the good light and make photos!


When do I break the rules…

As in all of art, photography has a set of rules all it’s own in addition to the larger sets of rules: design, color, composition. Photography’s rules have more to do with exposing the image. Use a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the subject. Use the lowest iso you can to improve the quality and reduce noise and grain. Focus on the subject and use a plenty of depth of field to keep things sharp. The “Program” setting on cameras with automatic is designed take care of all those in one setting. And for most people starting out, it is the safe way to get good photos, letting the camera do the work. But the art of photography doesn’t really start until you get off program and learn how the shutter speed, iso, f-stop and focus work. Then you can use those basics to manipulate the images to what your vision allows.

For this image from Bricktown I wanted to add to the feeling of dark deserted buildings. Using a vintage 16mm movie lens on my Canon M5 causes vignetting in the corners, I intentionally raised the iso to the highest settings, iso 25,000, and underexposed 1 stop. This gave the image the raw “early day” spooky look I was after.

One of my favorite techniques is to use a slow shutter speed which blurs the image. I compare the technique to that of the impressionist painters. Blurring color and shapes and creating new emotion and feeling.

In the car photo I used panning, following the subject with the lens, to create the blur of Christmas lights in the background. I panned the camera against a stationary object, the Crystal Bridge at the Myriad Gardens, to create an abstract, and rotated the camera on the lens axis to create the spinning tree.

All of these images came about because I learned the “rules” and then made the decision to “break” them. Get of Program and break some rules!


Keep your eyes on the…

I’ve said before, but my vision is “always on”. While I’m walking, driving, sitting. This gets to be a challenge while driving!

Recently on the way home from The Oklahoman, while stopped for a light, I looked to the side and noticed a manhole cover ajar. When the light turned green, I advanced to a place to park and got out with my camera and captured this.

Shot in color, but chose black and white to add to the power of the design.

While heading back to the office after stretching my legs, I found this.

I used my iPhone. Again converted to black and white to emphasize the design.

Curious minds see photos.

– Doug