Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking Back on 2012

Here we are at the end of another year. 2012 turned out to be another great year with a lot of fantastic experiences shooting! You can view the photo gallery: "My Favorites From 2012."

The year started out with a model shoot and rolled right into the early spring with senior photos, events at the Ferguson Center for the Arts, and shooting a few Norfolk Admirals home games (they won the 2012 Calder Cup Championship and set an AHL record with a 29-game winning streak). As spring continued on, wedding season began and it was another fantastic year for weddings. One of my first weddings of 2012 was a destination wedding at the Gran Bahia Principe Resort on the "Mayan Riviera" in Akumal, Mexico. The 5-days I was in Mexico documenting Steve & Sarah's wedding was an unforgettable experience! Then it was back home to the states to shoot an AHL Eastern Conference Finals game the Admirals were playing at the Norfolk Scope and a few more weekends of weddings.

During the spring of 2012 I also shot the annual Civil War reenactment at Endview Plantation, which I always love shooting, and this year I was shooting it for the City's Tourism Development Office. As summer began to approach I shot more weddings, a few of AAA baseball's Norfolk Tides games, and photographed a performance by one of my two favorite musicians...Willie Nelson!

As summer kicked off, I shot a number of really fun engagement sessions, a 4th of July event for VA delegate Rick Morris featuring VA Governor Bob McDonnell, and several events for the City's Tourism Development Office that included a wine festival and a children's Civil War camp. I was also able to enjoy some surf throughout the summer and I shot with my surfboard mounted GoPro.

I also shot a few charity events including a Surfers Healing camp. Surfers Healing hosts day camps at the beach where autistic children and their families can be exposed to the therapeutic experience of surfing. The event was so moving, I'll be doing my very best to shoot it every year. Speaking of working with charities (view my blogpost on my charity work here), I donated $1200 in gift certificates that were auctioned by a number of locally affiliated national charities to assist their causes. This year I also shot a wedding and a number of portrait sessions (all at no charge) to help families in need. I was accepted as a "Wish Granter" for Wish Upon A Wedding, a nonprofit organization that provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and serious life altering circumstances.

The summer rounded out with winning a dispute over copyright infringement, a couple of weddings, more surfing, shooting for a local homebuilder, a few more event shoots for the City's Tourism Development Office, and senior photo sessions. With fall, the work kept rolling right on along with more work for the Tourism Development Office, portrait sessions, an event for Congressman Forbes, and weddings. By Thanksgiving my last wedding package had been delivered and there were a couple of senior photo sessions booked. December kicked off by shooting one of the many cool things I have the opportunity to shoot... firefighter training.

It was a good year all around! I didn't lose any gear; except for rechargeable AA batteries confiscated my Mexican TSA who said I had too many lithium ion batteries. As it turns out they weren't lithium ion, but they took them anyway. I shot a lot of great weddings in 2012; from Mexico, Virginia Beach, Chippokes State Park, and the New Kent Winery to the Outer Banks, Yorktown, and right here in Newport News. I shot a wide variety of work for a lot of new clients and donated my services to charities. Head over and check out my favorite photos from 2012. I'll be posting a 2012 Wedding Highlights photo gallery in January and I'll be making a blog post, "Take Time To Make Time," in January. So until then, enjoy the 2012 photos and have a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"For It Is In Giving That We Receive"

The title is a famous quote from St. Francis of Assisi and I think there is real truth in it. Until recently, I really haven't talked about the charity work I do and someone suggested I get it out there more. I've always felt charity work was something one should just do without saying, "Hey, look who I helped!" The point the person made was if I put it out there more, the word can spread and I can assist more charities by donating my abilities. So here I am, putting it out there.

Every year I shoot events for charities. I donate my time and the images to the charity, as well as their participants, to help their causes. Along with shooting charity events, runs, golf tournaments, and fundraisers; I've even donated photos from a 2007 ministry trip to Israel for a fundraising calendar. Each month of the calendar featured one of my photos from the trip and ALL proceeds from the internationally sold calendar went to the ministry who hosted the trip. That, by the way, is a great way for any charity organization to continue to generate donations after a ministry trip, mission trip, or event! Keep in mind, professionally taken photos sell more calendars than those taken by hobbyists or enthusiasts within your congregation or organization.

On top of donating event coverage over the years, in 2012 I donated $1200 in gift certificates that were auctioned by a number of locally affiliated national charities to assist their causes. This year I also shot a wedding and a number of portrait sessions (all at no charge) to help families in need. I was recently accepted as a "Wish Granter" for Wish Upon A Wedding, a nonprofit organization that provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and serious life altering circumstances.

I don't shoot these events or donate hundreds of dollars in gift certificates and claim them as tax write-offs. The Donald Trumps of the world (or most business owners) would probably call me foolish for this. I feel that if I'm doing it to be charitable, I should truly give...not to mention it just feels good to do it! 

One of the events I shot this year, that had a huge impact on me, was the Surfers Healing a Foundation for Autism event in Virginia Beach, VA. Surfers Healing hosts day camps at the beach where autistic children and their families can be exposed to the therapeutic experience of surfing. A number of pro surfers, shapers, and tons of volunteers were all on hand to share their love of surfing with autistic children. As a long time surfer, I too know the therapy that surfing can provide. I've never seen so many smiles and all around joy as I did during their event in August. I donated all of the images I shot to Surfers Healing, their VA Beach Chapter, and any parent that contacted me for an image. With the help of the VA Beach Chapter of Surfers Healing Facebook page, I was able to send out nearly a hundred photos to the parents of the children who participated. The outpouring of appreciation from those families who spread the word about my photos landed nearly 12,000 photo views to my Surfers Healing Photo Gallery in 24 hours and, as of this posting, about 25,000 total views.

I have a few things coming up in the spring and later in 2013 to continue what I've done since I started as a photographer...GIVE. I give what I can, when I can, without expectation of anything in return. What I give to my charity clients is a benefit to their organization and their cause; what I get out of it, I can't put a price on. Feel free to contact me regarding local/regional charity events, missionary work, community assistance (soup kitchens, food/clothing drives, etc.), pet rescues (a photo can really make a difference in adoption), wildlife conservation organizations, NGO affiliations, or international causes that you may be involved with at

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Mind's Eye"

I think everyone has experienced a situation when you "see" a scene, push the shutter button, and the picture you get is not necessarily what you saw in your mind. I'm not talking about a bad exposure or anything like that. I mean, what you envisioned in your mind was not what you end up with. For me, I find it just requires a change in composition or my vantage point and then I get what I "saw" in my mind. Then there are situations when there is nothing you can do to get what you see in your mind due to things beyond your control. In some of those cases you can create your vision through the wonderful tool that is photo editing software. By no means am I Photoshop guru, quite the opposite. I can't shoot a portrait of you and create a fantasy world where you are hovering over a flower with fairy wings, but there are talented folks who do amazing things like that. I simply use it as a tool to help get to what it was I saw in my mind.

In August I was hired to shoot a car show and I experienced a situation where I couldn't always get what I saw in my mind because of things I couldn't control. As I shot, I made mental notes of a few cars I wanted to shoot for the client without the distractions that come with a car show. If you've never been to a car show there are rows and rows of cars next to one another, signs, vendors, and lots of people walking around looking at the cars. The reflections of these distractions also turn up on the cars' polished exteriors. So I planned to ask a couple the owners to move their cars to another area onsite to shoot them after the show. Halfway into the event, thunderstorms rolled in and the weather was going to be nasty and stay that way through the rest of the day. So I had to shoot as close to what I envisioned (without moving any of the cars) right then and do the rest later in Photoshop. 

This first set has the most dramatic differences between images. You can see all of the "distractions" I mentioned. I would have liked to have also shot this De Lorean from the 4 o'clock position, but there was a car to the left (you can see a bit of shadow on the grass) and cars behind it to that side. I also wanted to shoot it from the 8 o'clock position but the car on the left was in the way and there were umbrella stands, vendor tents, cars, and people in the background. So I had to shoot it straight on and reconstructed things later.

In this photo of a 1966 Camaro, you can see a bit of a gold Stingray Corvette on the left of the image and the obvious green Camaro in the background. As you can tell by the clouds, the storm was upon us and the rain had started. The owner of the car was loading things in the trunk which was why the trunk lid was up and the interior light was on.

It took FAR, FAR, FAR longer for me to edit things out and create pieces of the image that didn't exist as opposed to doing a couple of quick tweaks with a clean background. I like to get as much correct, in camera, at the time because it means I get to spend more time behind a camera and less time in front of a computer. In the end and under the circumstances, the time spent one these edits was worth it to me to get what I saw in my mind's eye.

If you click on an image all four will pop up in a box at the bottom of your screen. If you click one photo and then the next, it is kind of like a "Photo Hunt" game.

Monday, April 30, 2012

"Here, There, & Everywhere"

Since January I'd been looking forward to the arrival of April. With the warmer weather, there are a lot of great opportunities to shoot and I was booked for a destination wedding on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. Here we are on the last day of April and I've been so busy it feels like the month has just flown by. This is my month in photos:

 High school senior portrait shoot 4.1.12

 Covered the AHL record breaking team The Norfolk Admirals for BMLTV 4.3.12

 Shot Nick and Stephanie's Wedding 4.7.12

 The groom takes the stage with his favorite local band (Hey Hey Hooligan) during the late night after party 4.8.12

 Fun college graduation shoot 4.8.12

 Shot the AAA Norfolk Tides opening night at Harbor Park for BMLTV 4.9.12

  Over the Gulf of Mexico on my way to Cancun Airport 4.12.12

 Third floor balcony view from my villa in Chetumal, Mexico (66 miles south of Cancun) 4.13.12

 Shot Steve & Sarah's wedding at the Gran Bahia Principe, Tulum 4.14.12

 The bride and groom help a resort "taxi" that got stuck. 4.15.12

 The lobby of the Gran Bahia Principe, Akumal 4.16.12

Shot my nephew's little league game 4.19.12

 Shot Nathan & Jaclyn's wedding 4.20.12

 Shot a Civil War reenactment at Endview Plantation 4.21.12

 Shot Steve & Sarah's state-side wedding reception 4.21.12

 Managed to find time for my first surf session of the year. 4.24.12

 Impromptu portrait session with my new puppy  4.26.12

Engagement Session with Andre & Julie 4.27.12

Now it is time to get back to editing. See you next month...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Chip Off The 'Ol Block

photo by Hailey Thomas

Finding inspiration and creativity, whether shooting or writing this blog, can sometimes be tough to come by. As the end of the month approached, I still hadn't come up with a topic for this blog post. Then I found a bit of a muse while editing some skate photos. I decided to write about being inspired by others.

A buddy of mine asked if I'd come over and shoot a few images of him skating so I grabbed my gear and I headed over there. As we were shooting his daughter came outside with her camera and started taking some photos around the backyard. At 11 years old, she is quite the young artist (having won local awards for her artwork) and has an eye for photography.

There was a break in the action while my buddy was taking a rest and his daughter came over to show me some of the photos she had taken. The photo at the top of the page is one she shot. When I saw the photo on the back of her camera I said to her, "I wouldn't have seen that. That really is a good picture. I like it!"

I really wouldn't have seen that photo, because I was focused on shooting the action of skating and not really the little details that were around. When the action stopped during the break, I stopped shooting. Now if had it been a wedding or something of the sort, sure, I'd have been able to find those photos to take. It really reminded me not to get so focused on one thing when I'm shooting for fun...or anytime really. It was a moment of realization and inspiration for me and it didn't come from a pro teaching a workshop, it came from an 11 year old in her backyard.

In her case, she's a chip off the 'ol block because her father has been a talented artist for many years and has been snapping photos for just as long (below is one of his photos). It is great to see those interests and talents carried on within their family. If she continues on this path, it may not be too long from now that she's showing a gallery of her artwork or photography...or both! Keep up the great work Hailey, your folks are certainly proud of your talents and for good reason!

 photo by Shane Thomas

Inspiration and creativity come easily for some and others have to work at it. Sometimes you have to keep in mind that being too focused really limits your creative possibilities. Inspiration is key to making pictures, whether it comes as an "ah-ha moment" or from the work of an 11 year old, take heed as you just may find something you weren't looking for.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Didn't Buy A Ticket For This Ride

After the first of the year I was able to finish up some remaining work and take some time to reflect on 2011. Last year was quite a roller coaster ride to say the least. It was not the kind of fun and exciting roller coaster that you would want to buy a ticket for. It was the type of ride where you suddenly find yourself sitting right up front, there is no way to get off, and the ride just won't end.

The year started with bookings, a slam-packed wedding season to look forward to, and the addition of some new gear. Now out of the gate and making the assent, everything felt great. As the year continued on there more bookings, a number of events to shoot, I was producing work for clients that they loved, and I was published in the BMX magazine PULL (2) (3). But, we all know that the first drop is a doozy, and my first drop on the 2011 roller coaster was the loss of my one of my cameras to the murky depths of the Swallow Bag Bay in Manteo, NC (the blog post on that story). 

The ride continued with ups, downs, twists, and turns. I had the opportunity to meet and work with a lot of great people, had some fantastic experiences, and produced great images for my clients. At the other end there were equipment failures and back-up equipment failures that occurred before, during, and after shoots. As one thing was replaced, repaired, or a problem was solved; the next issue was waiting around the bend. It wasn't just my professional life riding this roller coaster, my personal life was sitting shotgun which only made the ride drag on and on. It was truly an ongoing mixed bag of gut wrenching disappointment and excitement. 

When the ride finally came to a stop, I jumped off and ran like hell. Needless to say 2011 was not exactly a year I would like to have to repeat, although I did come to some sort of understanding and was able to make peace with it. With the exception of my camera going into the drink in July, nothing else that went wrong was my fault. They were things that just happen in life and were beyond my control. The great times in 2011 were either the result of good timing or something I had a direct hand in. The bad times of 2011 ultimately taught me a few things and  really tested my ability to adapt to and overcome situations I hadn't experienced before. We all know that there will be things that happen in life that we cannot control. When they do happen, it is how you deal with them and what you learn from them that help define you as a person. I've never been one to get caught up in "what if's" and "why me's" because they are simply a waste of time. When you find yourself in the front seat of that roller coaster just before the first drop, you just have to suck it up and deal with it until the ride comes to an end.