Graduation: Kai and Melanie

I've known Kai since 6th grade, when we met in Mrs. Cosby's english class. 11 years later, I had the pleasure of photographing him and his girlfriend Melanie's graduation pictures. A lot has changed in those 11 years: back then, I wore Rocket Man-esque transition lens glasses and Kai rotated a series of NBA jerseys on a once-weekly basis. On May 9, 2015, Kai graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in computer engineering, and will be starting a job at Phillips 66. The shoot was a lot of fun, and it also provided a great opportunity to visit beautiful Fayetteville, Arkansas. Congratulations to both Kai and Melanie. I wish you the best!

Senior 2015: Martin

Jo Allen Lowe Park in Bartlesville, Oklahoma provided a stunning backdrop for Martin's senior session. Luckily the subject was great too! A soccer player, juggler, and future electrical engineer Martin will be taking his talents to OU in the fall. Best of luck to him! The perfect golden hour sunlight and lush greenery in the park provided for some images I hope Martin and his family will enjoy for years to come.

Headshot: Ethan Voelkers

"We all have a gap between the way we see ourselves, and the way the world sees us."

- Peter Hurley

I'm a big fan of Peter Hurley's headshot photography. It's an interesting challenge: communicating the personality of a human by capturing their face very close up. Expressing what a person is like, purely from their photograph. Most folks don't like the idea of looking at themselves in a very closeup picture. Especially when another person is taking that picture. As a photographer, I can usually find an imperfection in every photograph I take. Would the average person, or even a fellow photographer notice these imperfections? Probably not, or maybe consciously not. Because perfection can be boring, and boring is one thing nobody, not a supermodel, nor a dock worker, wants to be.

In this case I had a great subject. Ethan's not afraid to get in front of the camera, which makes the first 90% my job easy. He wanted a mix of professional, and expressive headshots, and I think we accomplished that task. With 3 backdrops, 2 lights, and a GQ magazine in hand for inspiration, we got to work.

Here's an amazing TEDx talk by Hurley, and psychologist Anna Rowley, about the self-acceptance gap. 


One Light Portrait

Yesterday, I was contracted to shoot a portrait for a newspaper article. I arrived to the location at around 11 AM (basically the worst time to shoot outdoors). I considered taking the subject outdoors and overpowering the harsh overhead sunlight with a speed light flash. When I arrived none of the outdoor scenery was grabbing me too much. Instead, I set up a stand and speed light with a shoot through umbrella in about a 3 foot space inside the subject's apartment. I considered using a larger reflective umbrella, but I find the reflective umbrella gives me a more direct, harsh, and focused light compared to a shoot-through. Since I was dealing with an older subject, harsh light would not have been very flattering. Plus, the shoot-through threw more light behind the subject giving the scene more context than a darker background would've. I placed the small umbrella about 1.25 ft from the subject. This allowed the light source to be as large and therefore as soft as possible. I was also using a new addition to my kit, which was a TTL flash. Just for fun, I thought I would let the flash do its thing and figure out the settings for me. The first test shots were a bit bright so I set the flash compensation down a notch. Perfect! I chose to use a 50mm lens because my working distance was so short. Ideally if I had more space I would have used an 85mm to get a bit more compression. With Lightroom profile corrections, the 50mm actually worked out well. Another concern was that the subject was wearing glasses. I find with glasses, often the camera focuses on the glasses' lenses instead of the subject's eyes, so instead of going for shortest possible depth of field, I set the lens to f/2.8 to ensure I could nail focus. All in all it took about 2 minutes to set this up with radio flash triggers. Goes to show it doesn't take much to get the flash off the camera, and get a much better simple portrait. 

Project: Boston Architectural Model

I was recently given the challenge of photographing an entire city in less than an hour. Well that's not entirely accurate. In reality I was hired to photograph an architectural model of Boston, created by a group of senior architecture students at Oklahoma State University.

The project required me to consider how I would light such a subject. I chose to light the model primarily by bouncing flash to a small wooden dropdown ceiling above the model. The surrounding ceiling was dark/black. This actually worked to my favor. The small dropdown ceiling allowed the bounced light to be focused on the model while keeping surrounding elements dark. The ceiling was a large enough light source that it didn't create overly harsh shadows, or highlights, and effectively mimicked natural sunlight depending on flash placement. The color-cast of the wooden ceiling was a concern, but actually worked to my advantage when the cast could be corrected for in post, and the color actually served to mimic the look of golden-hour sunlight cast upon the model. Direct flash would've created very directional harsh lighting, and flashing through a shoot through or reflective umbrella may have required a lot more power, and probably would not have spread the light as evenly as the comparatively large dropdown ceiling served to do. 

Another challenge was how to effectively convey the model. This required wide, mid, and extremely closeup perspectives. The model was extremely detailed centering around a reimagined city square designed by the students. The closeups were meant to illustrate actual use of the square from an almost on-the-street perspective. The model included hundreds of miniature figurines representing humans and vehicles, milling about, and interacting with the city. Imagine miniature street photography (many of the photographs actually mimic the look of tilt-shift lens street photography). Funny enough, some of the pictures took on a look close to that of Google Street View. I must say it was semi-terrifying having to maneuver a large camera millimeters away from a fragile object, that which required probably hundreds of man-hours to design and construct. 

I ended up taking several hundred pictures of the model. Along the way moving lights, changing lenses, and trying every perspective I could imagine. All of this in order to fully capture its most intricate details. I try to be a more selective photographer, but given the complexity of the model I wanted to ensure I captured it from every possible angle, so as to both give credit to, and satisfy its creators. 

Overall it was a really fun assignment. I love a good challenge when in comes to photography, so when it came to this one I was all in. 

Check out the results below. Also check out the portfolio website from one of the model's creators at