Posted on May 28, 2013
I really love taking photos of my lilac flowers and my plants in general. The older I get, the more I appreciate flowers and growing plants. I just went to Dayton Nursery the other day and spent nearly $100 on flowers and plants for my vegetable garden and was just as thrilled to be shopping for them as I would be for a new piece of photography gear. Walking through the isles of the nursery, I get all dreamy about what all those amazing plants could look like in my yard and flower pots. It doesn’t help that they’re priced so low ($2-$5 per plant) that its nearly an impulse buy to pick up some new flower that you’ve never seen in the nursery before or a plant that you’ve seen growing in other people’s yards and always wanted to try in your own landscaping.
The lilac bushes in my yard were purchased at a landscape auction about 8 years ago. They were anything but healthy looking when I got them home because they had been sitting in a pot all season, waiting for a landscaping contractor to purchase them for use in a client’s yard. The plants were rather bare of leaves and spindly-looking. I dug holes in my awful, rock-filled soil and planted them on either side of my front steps, making the holes large enough to fill a bunch of potting soil around the lilac bushes because the soil in my yard is so dead. After the first summer, I thought the bushes were never going to make it and was certain they would be dead come next spring.
To my surprise, when spring sprung the next year (probably around 2004), the little lilac bushes had leaf buds and even sprung a couple of flowers to assure me that they were alive and kicking. Fast-forward 8 years and dozens of massive prunings to keep the bushes from growing too large, and I have some of the most full, and beautiful lilac bushes in my neighborhood. Every spring I prune the flowers as they begin to fade because that causes more blooms the next year. I have to cut them bushes back about three times per year because they start to choke my front walk and grow into my front porch. This keeps them tidy and dense.
Lilac flowers are some of the most wonderful smelling blooms in nature, in my opinion. They’re so special because they only last for a few weeks, so you fully appreciate them while they’re in bloom. Also, because they have such an abundance of blooms, you don’t feel like you’re taking away from the plant when you take some cuts into your house as decorations. Lilacs are super easy to grow and add a hardy, good-looking green shrub once the flowers fade.
Posted on May 21, 2013
I was invited to photograph one of the most fun and well put together surprise birthday parties I’ve ever been to this past weekend at Paolo’s in downtown Akron. Will, who I know through other photography work I’ve done has a very organized and thoughtful girlfriend named Riti, who put the entire event together and invited their closest friends and family.
The party began about 40 minutes ahead of Will’s expected arrival. Riti told him that he was going to be going to a friend’s surprise birthday party there, so Will had no idea the party was actually for him. The guests enjoyed mingling ahead of his arrival and they had plenty of time to catch up with old friends, shoot some pool, and get a drink or two to get in the spirit of the event. Paolo’s has a great party environment complete with free pool and one of the nicest bars in Akron, so everybody had plenty to keep themselves occupied with while waiting for his arrival.
Riti had one of the coolest birthday cakes I’ve ever seen made for the occasion. It has elements from Superman, Batman, Iron Man, and The Hulk all rolled into one very impressive (and very delicious) cake. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything like it and it was really the centerpiece of the room with everybody gawking over it. It was a real pleasure being able to see so many people enjoying each other’s company and everybody had a great time, with most guests staying well into the night to enjoy the occasion.
Because the party was held at night and Paolo’s lighting was low and comfortable, I had to use a flash for the event to properly expose the photographs. Thankfully the ceiling wasn’t too high and I was able to use it to help the flash be softer in the photos, and I also used a flash diffuser panel to cast softer light on the people I was photographing. I kept the ISO at around 1,000 and the shutter speed relatively low because I wanted the ambient light that Paolo’s has to show up in the photos, rather than have a black background. I also shot some photos without the flash to show the atmosphere in Paolo’s and to mix the photos up a little.
The staff at Paolo’s was first-rate. I’ve rarely seen such amazing food served at a birthday party and they made sure that everything was cleaned up throughout the night and that nobody lacked for anything. The facility was spotless and has a wonderful atmosphere for any event to be held there. With lots of gorgeous woodwork and artwork throughout the building, it has an elegant, but relaxed vibe that anybody can be comfortable in. If you’re in the Akron area and planning an event or party, I’d highly recommend checking them out at paolosakron.com
Congratulations to Will for his epic 30th birthday party and to Riti for her amazing planning, organization, vision, and execution of such a great birthday party. Few people could have pulled it off like she did.
Posted on April 29, 2013
Recently I worked with the organizers of the 2013 Brodyn’s Friends Golfing for a Cure to be held on Monday, July 15th at the Ridgewood Country Club. Brodyn is a super sweet boy who was born with Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH) and has been bravely battling it along with his supportive family and a wonderful group of friends. Founded by his loving parents, Heidi and Dan, Brodyn’s Friends has raised tens of thousands of dollars to help find a cure for Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia (NKH). The annual Golfing for a Cure is the group’s largest fundraiser of the year and promises to be a great time for all those involved.
I volunteered to take portraits of Brodyn for use on event marketing material. Being such a sweet boy, Brodyn was all smiles and fun, which made my job easy. His parents made him laugh and kept his spirits high throughout the entire photo shoot. After an hour of me taking photos of him he was still as high-spirited and fun-loving (something that many adults aren’t able to pull off). I primarily used an on-camera hotshoe flash set to TTL -2, because I didn’t want to blow the photo out with a lot of flash light. Using the walls and ceiling, I tried to simulate the look of a large softbox, rather than on-camera lighting.
Take a look at the event at brodynsfriends.com and consider attending the golfing event. There are few causes in the area that are truly locally-based and will have such a positive and direct impact on the life of a local child living with a disease. For more information about Golfing for a Cure, please call Heidi Leslie at 330-414-9949 or email her at Heidi@BrodynsFriends.com.
Here’s the flyer for Golfing For a Cure: Golfing For A Cure Flyer
Posted on April 29, 2013
I was hired to photograph the 2013 Color Vibe Akron 5k took place on April 27th at the Summit County Fairgrounds. From looking at the photos, you can tell this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill 5k run. Participants of the Color Vibe 5k are guaranteed an event unlike any run they’ve probably ever taken part in. With over 8,000 runners showing up the morning of the run, the fairgrounds were full and lively well before the run got under way.
Being April in northeastern Ohio, the weather is always a gamble with an outdoor event, but nature was kind to us and we had the most outstanding conditions imaginable. In the morning it was bright and clear and about 45 degrees, but the sun quickly warmed things up and everybody was in t-shirts before the first wave of runners hit the course. Every participant is given a white event t-shirt and a pair of Color Vibe sunglasses. These aren’t simply to look cool, but the white shirt gives the perfect canvas for the brilliant colors, that are the event’s namesake, to be painted on. The sunglasses look fun, but also protect the wearer from getting a blast of color in the eyes. The colored power itself is nothing more than cornstarch with a biodegradable pigment which is made in the USA and is safe for the participants and the environment (and hopefully for camera gear).
At the staging area, runners are given bags containing the colored powder and they began dousing themselves and others with bright, fun designs, or simply tossing it in the air and letting the cloud waft color onto everybody surrounding them. Upbeat music is pumped out by a DJ the entire day and keeps the entire event feeling like a giant neon-colored party. Runners were let off in waves of 1,000 at a time and start at an easy jog. They proceed though multiple “color stations” where event volunteers are waiting with truckloads of different colored powder to be squirted, lobbed, tossed and wafted onto the passing event participants. Runners can decide to go directly through the thick of the color station and get the full dousing of powder, or if they’ve had enough color for the time being, they can go to the outside and skip that particular color station.
At the end of the 5k, plenty of water was available for the runners and the DJ really ramped up the party atmosphere. Free prizes were thrown into the crowd and participants could join in the dancing and partying or decide to sit under the shade of a nearby tree and relax their painted and (possibly) tired bodies.
Throughout the entire Color Vibe 5k, the event organizers were easy to spot for runners with questions and all the corresponding stations were well marked with large flags. The party atmosphere was never tense and everybody was enjoying their time at this one-of-a-kind event. For next year’s 2014 Color Vibe 5k, the event will be moved to a larger venue to accommodate an even larger number of participants.
More information about upcoming Color Vibe runs can be found at http://www.TheColorVibe.com.
Posted on April 26, 2013
A few weeks ago I was hired to pose as a paparazzi photographer and photograph people at the grand opening of the new Microsoft Store in Beachwood Place Mall in Cleveland, OH. Kelly Clarkston was putting on a free concert in the mall’s parking lot to celebrate the opening of the new store and we were hired to shoot paparazzi-style photographs of the crowd as they came into the concert. In total there were 5 photographers shooting the event, with all five of us placed in front of the Mictosoft/MSN backdrop. Our job was to call out to people as they filed past us to pose for us so we could snap their photo and give them the experience of being a celebrity on the red carpet.
After being photographed, they were given a card telling them where they could view and download their photo on Microsoft’s website. The photos I shot weren’t used, but the people got quite an experience posing in front of 5 photographers with large DSLR cameras and hot shoe flashes blazing away. The crowd got a real kick out of being called out to by us and having us ask for them to pose and smile.
It was a cold and rainy day so people were all bundled up and the camera gear kept getting wet, but the equipment I use is weather sealed, so it wasn’t a problem. The photographers weren’t weather sealed and we all were quite cold by the time the gig ended and were happy to go into the mall to warm up. It was a really fun gig in part because the people had a lot of fun posing for the cameras and also because we had full freedom with the entire photographic process.
Posted on April 23, 2013
I was honored recently to be asked to photograph the 50th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz at the MAPS Air Museum in Canton, OH. The parents of a good friend of mine, they have enjoyed a half century of good health and a large family of five children.
Mr. Schwartz serves of the board at the MAPS Air Museum and is highly respected there. He was able to arrange the use of the main hanger at the Museum to house the large, and happy celebration that lasted the entire afternoon and into the night. Banks of large windows let in bright sunlight that showed the air power of the United States in years past and toward the present, presenting a backdrop to the event that few other events can top.
My job at the event was to capture the happy atmosphere that was present and the feeling of the party at such an impressive location. We also had the idea of setting up a photo booth that allowed me to photograph people and have their photos printed on-location and inserted into a frame, giving the guests a physical reminder of the event. I chose a location directly in front of a large Navy prop plane because I liked the light from the windows near it and the way that this particular plane had it’s engines and cockpit near each other, allowing me to capture both in-frame while at the same time being close to the guests.
After night fell, I lit the plane and guests with off-camera strobes, which looked beautiful.
The cake topper was the same one used 50 years ago, I was sure to capture it as well as the ceremonial cake eating, although there was no cake smeared on each others face. The staff at the MAPS Air Museum was first-class. When guests wondered around the celebration, there was no shortage of fascinating history to read abut or displays to look over. Before dinner I went from table to table photographing the guests for the happy couple and there was no shortage of kind words and compliments for the family or the entire event. Compliments to the Schwartz family for putting on such a wonderful event and for Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz 50 years of wedded bliss.
Posted on April 15, 2013
Posted on April 8, 2013
The regional qualifying round of the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games is complete. The organizers of the CrossFit games wanted them to go out with a bang, so they saved what could be considered the most intense workout for last. Clocking in at 4 minutes, the 13.5 workout gave the athletes the shortest workout of the Open, which means it was probably be the most physically intense one too. As a general rule, the shorter the workout, the more intense it will be. Talking about the short time span, William Christian commented, “It’s…tricky. You can do anything for 4 minutes, but you have to be smart about it… For me, it was more of a mental challenge.”, referring to the intensity and duration of the exercises. The 13.5 CrossFit workout also had a twist that no previous workout offered. It rewarded the fittest athletes with an additional “Bonus Round” of punishing workout time if they exceeded a preset number of reps.
As with the 13.4 workout, the athletes had to use a combination of free weights and pull-up type exercises. Comparing the two workouts, Brian Yoak said, “In difficulty it felt similar to to 13.4, in that it hit you fast”. To allow quick access to the overhead bars, the athletes are packed into a tight bunch of raw muscle power and intense, powerful motion that has to be seen to understand how impressive it really is. The close proximity of so many powerful bodies all performing identical movements is awe-inspiring.
A thruster is a muscle-draining exercise that combines squats and a barbell. An athlete must squat down, lift the barbell off the floor, squat with the barbell on their chest, then stand and lift the barbell over their head. Performing a thruster during competition is quite different than lifting some weights in your garage or even just to warm up. There’s the pressure of completing enough reps to move on to the next step with the need to conserve enough strength to go back to the barbell and pound out another set afterward with no rest in between. “The bar felt heavier than 100lbs after the previous 60 reps, being able to control breathing while moving the bar was key”, commented Yoak.
“The extra capacity it takes for chest to bar increases breathing and if you don’t remain consistent in your movements and know how to breath when working as hard as you can, the thrusters would be tons more difficult.” – Brian Yoak
After the required number of thrusters are completed, the CrossFit Legacy athletes run to the pull-up bar and throw themselves into chest-to-bars. These are like chin-ups on steroids. “The hardest part was trying to maintain a good pace during the chest to bar”, commented CrossFit athlete William Christian. An athlete must lift themselves up high enough so their chest comes in contact with the bar they’re holding onto. The vertical lift they are required to perform is extraordinary with many athletes’ feet coming over 3′ off the ground with every rep. CrossFit athletes try not to simply do a chin-up type motion, but to complete a butterfly movement where they swing their entire body all the way back and all the way forward as if on a trapeze. This is a very efficient movement and allows for a high number of reps in a short period of time as long as a rhythm is able to be maintained, but it’s immensely tiring and quite difficult to continue rep after rep.
The athletes kept moving back and forth between thrusters and chin-to-bars until the 4 minute mark was hit. That is, unless. they were able to complete 90 reps (3 rounds of each exercise) in the 4 minute span, in which case they got to continue the workout for another 4 minutes in a bonus round. The bonus round was an additional set of reps that pushed an athlete to the brink of their physical and mental endurance. Many athletes really felt the burn set in around the 70-80 rep mark. Christian commented, “I felt like I was spent when I got to 70 (reps)”. The thought of another 4 minutes is a motivator but also a bit of a relief. Brian Yoak didn’t make the bonus round, but summed it up well, “I was disappointed i didn’t make it past 4 min, but the fear of the pain also made it a relief.” Typically, there was only one athlete from a heat that would be able to make the bonus round, and that athlete had the entire gym as a cheering section. All eyes were focused on that lone athlete throwing everything they had against the workout and never giving in. This test of the athlete’s mettle was rewarded by the satisfaction of knowing that they are among the most elite athletes in CrossFit and the additional reward of accruing additional points toward the CrossFit Regional score, propelling them further ahead in the qualifying round.
With the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Open qualifying round drawing to a close, CrossFit Legacy is able to look back with pride at it’s athlete’s hard work and effort. cross the gym, the scores were even higher than the 2012 CrossFit Games and the number of athletes competing was higher as well. Most athletes bested their 2012 scores considerably and have every confidence that the 2014 CrossFit Games will be an even higher mark in their personal best. Brian Yoak, CrossFit Legacy owner, is immensely proud of his athletes. Through their hard work and dedication combined with his drive to forge the fittest athletes, CrossFit Legacy sets itself apart from every gym in northeast Ohio, and cements it’s place as one of the premiere CrossFit gyms in the country.
Posted on April 5, 2013
I wanted to shoot a still life photo of these exotic tulips that was outside of my comfort zone. This might not look like a terribly difficult image, but it took about 1.5 hours from start to finish to capture.
Firstly, it was at night, so there was no natural lighting to use in this photo. Natural light is so great because it’s so well diffused and it’s easy to see where any shadows might fall. When shooting any reflective surface, natural light is the best there is, but the sun was asleep for the day and I was left to use man-made light.
Secondly, I decided to use 3 flash units for this photo. It didn’t necessarily need all 3 flashes, but I wanted to push my comfort zone and challenge myself with this image. The most difficult part was making sure that there weren’t hard flash reflections on the vase. I wanted the viewer to be able to see the water and the bubbles inside.
Thirdly, I wanted to tint the photo somewhat blue, so I used flash gels. I had to experiment to see which gels to use and where not to use gels. It was time consuming to say the least. I used a combination of softening filters and studio umbrellas to soften up the harsh flashes. The main white flash was bounced off of the white ceiling.
I went with a white background to show the jagged edge on the tulip petals. I didn’t want the background to be totally blown out either, but I wanted it light and showing a gradient down to the bottom of the photo. I was going to use a fourth flash behind the stand, but Jake, my dog, kept walking around the studio and I was convinced he’d knock the flowers onto the floor, thus destroying a floor-mounted flash unit.
Posted on April 3, 2013
If you were competing and don’t see your photo here, it’s because I wasn’t able to find a good angle to photograph you during your workout. It’s my goal to stay out of the athlete’s way during their workout to avoid distracting them or risking an injury.
If you’re a CrossFit athlete, please feel free to download any of the images from Flickr and use them on your blog, social media, to make prints for yourself, etc. All the images are licensed under a Creative Commons license.