Real Estate

So it’s gotten to the point now where I’m shooting properties for a second time.  Not a re-shoot, but a new/different sale of a property.  I’m sure many real estate photogs have been in this position many times.  As many creatives do, I look back on my previous work and just cringe, but it indicates how far I’ve come and potentially how much further I have to go.  Anyway, when it dawns on me that I’ll be shooting the same property, I only look back on previous images to remind myself of the property – NOT to replicate the shots I did before.  In my opinion, I’ve improved – and not only in quality of work, but in getting a sense of the property and what shots are important.  By the way, thanks for reading this far.  The first image was shot back in 2016 – back when I thought I knew everything and was on a roll (bahahahahahahaha…).  The second image was shot just yesterday.  I’m amazed at not only how far I’ve come, but at how some folks have a knack for home improvements.  The space was completely different – the transformation was incredible.  I can’t wait to look back on the new image in 3 years and think, “holy crap, what the heck was I thinking?!”

Notes to Self

So along with about 5 million other people (give or take), I traveled to the path of totality.  How could I miss something like that?  Many thanks to my friend Brian Clark for motivating me to travel with him and his kids to experience it.  I may not have come away with the best images, but I experienced it.  It was all worth it.  The distance traveled, the traffic, the waiting.  Icing on the cake?  There’s another one in 2024.  I’ll see you there!

In the meantime, here are some notes to my future self so I don’t forget (the beauty of an online journal, right?):

  • Use the same camera to shoot both partial and total (the other camera is a backup)
  • Avoid extenders if at all possible.
  • Get a solar filter for the longest focal length.
  • Practice.  Actually practice.  It may seem silly, but now you know.
  • Take time away from the viewfinder and experience it.
  • A sturdy/hefty tripod ballhead is your best friend.
  • All camera bodies you use need a fully articulating LCD viewfinder.
  • Go ahead and rent that camera body you really wanted to rent this time around – it’ll be worth it.

Mid-day Sunset

The sunset horizon due North during totality.  One of several very specific images from my gallery – those who were there may appreciate them more than others. | More images here.



One of my workflow tricks as a photographer (now that I kinda know what I’m doing) is to not dive right into my edits right away.  I wait a while and edit later.  I let some time pass between when I shoot and when I edit.  I can’t really articulate why this is, but I just know that if I’m too eager to jump into the edit it’s not as creative as when I wait plus it’s a bonus when I go back through my images and find ones I forgot I shot.  Of course, with thos pesky deadlines looming this isn’t always practical.


Order a print of this image. | North River in Bridgewater, VA shot about a month ago.


Before anybody gets too upset, the camera was really nowhere near the cupola.  Photographers use compression all the time – it’s what makes objects in z-space look so much closer than they really are.  A longer lens will make the objects’ relative size so drastically different and they appear closer to each other.  I was using a 400mm lens (which, on my crop frame camera is essentially a 640mm lens).  I was probably 40-50 meters away from it.

I always err on the side of caution.  I quickly grabbed this shot and then got the heck out of there.

I always err on the side of caution. I quickly grabbed this shot and then got the heck out of there.

Angle of View

My depth perception is always a little off when I’m flying this thing.  Since it’s a pretty wide-angle lens, it’s really difficult to gauge where exactly I am in z-space.  But it makes for some really cool angles and images when I can figure it out.


The iconic cupola at Handley High School


It’s Not OK!

We devote an enormous amount of time and effort to improve our craft.  To develop our own style.  To create art.  We put ourselves out there, sometimes in very vulnerable situations.

When I say “we” I mean Creatives – anybody who creates.  It could be paintings.  Perhaps videos.  How about crafts or wood carvings?  For me, it’s photography.

And those “vulnerable” situations I mentioned have everything to do with this phenomenon called the interwebs.  Internets.  The internet folks.

For most Creatives, their art is their main source of income.  It’s a business.  It’s a job and a career.  It was a choice.  IT’S NO OK, PEOPLE, TO EXPECT US TO ALWAYS GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE!  You don’t expect to walk into your local grocery store/pharmacy/department store and walk out without paying do you?  Why is it any different with photography?  IT’S NOT.  I’ll continue to consider freebies and I’ll make decisions based on my own business model and expectations at the time, but don’t get upset if I come right back at you with a link to purchase a commercial  license to use my work.

The experts say that you need to have a web presence these days.  A social media presence.  Ok.  Done.  That opens up a can of worms doesn’t it?  So how do I keep people from taking my images and sharing them elsewhere?  There’s no way you can catch everything.  It’s a pretty vulnerable situation indeed.  Here’s my thinking:

  • I post an image to a social media platform (an actual image, not a link) – I expect people to share it if the desire hits them.  That’s the way it works.
  • I post an actual image to my blog (here at – I expect people to “like” it or share it.  That’s the way it works.  By the way, all the images on this site are posted with a Creative Commons License.   Creative Commons License
  • I post an image to my online galleries ( – I expect people to purchase those images if the desire hits.  It’s an online store people.  This screen grabbing has got to stop.  IT’S NOT OK!  Just because an image is on the internet does not mean it’s “up for grabs.”  IT’S NOT OK.  Did I mention that already.  Technically it’s stealing.

Like I said, I can’t catch everything.  It’s impossible.  I have, however, discovered multiple issues where an image of mine is being used (one from my online galleries) and I have no record of it being purchased.  That’s stealing people.  IT’S NOT OK!

But the latest issue (the impetus behind this post) has really got me heated.  Angry.  Downright pissed off!  And I’ll be addressing the issue with the guilty party.  I’m hoping that it’ll be a simple “Oh wow, I’m so sorry.” but I feel this goes beyond “simple.”  Who knows, maybe this person will approach me after I post this – we’ll see.

I discovered one of my online gallery images imbedded in a Twitter feed.  I have no record of it being purchased.  And credit was given to someone else for having created it!  WTF?!


I've steered clear of watermarking, but perhaps I'm on to something with this watermark.

I’ve steered clear of watermarks, but perhaps I’m on to something with this one.  Maybe you’d like to order a print of this image – the actual image with no watermarks.



The real trick to creating a decent monochromatic image is to have a really contrasty image to start with.  I’m really digging what the new GoPro cameras can do.  The fact that I now have much more control over the exposure is what drew me to them.  I’m not even using it as an action camera as it was initially intended.  Now I have to figure out a way to attach this to my current aerial rig…


If you asked me a year ago with which lens I preferred to use to shoot races I would have answered, without hesitation, “my 70-200.”  These days, not so much.  Almost 50% of my images from the last two weekends of shooting cyclocross were shot on my 12-24 lens.  This also plays into my purposeful shooting method for sports.  Today’s image has nothing to do with cycling other than it was shot at one of the coolest race venues around.

Every year I discover that the Warfield Complex is more boarded up in certain places and more dilapidated in others.  It certainly makes for some fun images .

Every year I discover that the Warfield Complex is more boarded up in certain places and more dilapidated in others. It certainly makes for some fun images .


If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all my sports shooting it’s that high-speed burst shooting should be used very sparingly.  I think it was last year that I came home from shooting Winchester Applecross with close to 7,000 images.  Three 0’s people!  Sure the high-speed bursts have their place, but for me I’d rather come home with images that were shot purposefully as opposed to images that are simply part of a series of high-speed bursts where maybe one is decent.  I don’t want to be that photographer who tries to impress people with the sound of their shutter rapidly firing off 20 frames at a time in a couple of seconds.  So how, then, do you get the good images you might ask?  Anticipate the action and know the sport you’re shooting.  I still came home with a crap ton of images (2k but that’s a far cry from 7,000).

Winchester Applecross coming my way.

Winchester Applecross coming my way.


As it is with any government agency, the FAA has a “crap ton” of regulations and the hottest topic these days is UAV – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.  There are huge numbers of differing opinions about their use and with them becoming much more accessible and affordable it’s gonna get really crazy really quickly very soon (already in some instances).  There are no-fly zone maps, advisory circulars from 1981, COA application procedures, and so on, and so on and so on.  It’s dizzying to say the least.  So here are some simple pieces of advise from me to other/future “droners:”

  1. Be respectful of anyone who approaches you about anything to do about your drone.  Whether it’s simply to find out more about what you’re doing and to watch or someone who’s got an issue with you flying it.  Doesn’t matter – be respectful in your conversations.  If it really gets heated just don’t fly there.
  2. Know your craft – EVERYTHING about it.  Not just how to get it up in the air, but what to do if you encounter an issue while it’s up there.  Know how to troubleshoot what’s going on from the batteries to the blinking lights to the regular maintenance.  Know its limitations and don’t push them just for the sake of pushing them.
  3. Be aware that there are regulations out there for UAV.  They may not be specifically  for this new category of aerial drone per se, but they are for UAV which technically includes your new DJI Phantom (or whatever you’re flying).
    1. Here’s a link to the current FAA set of regulations for UAV
    2. The National Park System has also issued its own policy on UAV within their parks.
  4. Know the regulations or at least be learning about the regulations.  I know there are pockets of rebellious “droners” out there who are going to put up the good fight for their rights, but the FAA’s ultimate goal for its airspace is the safety of everybody involved – in the air or on the ground.
  5. Use some good ol’ common sense folks.  Don’t be stupid about this.  We’re privileged to be part of a new group of enthusiasts that may very well affect the way the FAA leans when it comes to that 9/30/2015 deadline for integration of UAV in the NAS.  If we’re stupid about it now, guess what’s gonna happen when it comes time to develop new/updated regulations.
  6. Be safe.

This post was initially going to be a rant about a confrontation I had with an individual this evening who wanted to make me aware of all the regulations that prompted his company to “ground” their drone and that I shouldn’t be flying if they can’t.  I was initially ticked off, but after careful thought, I decided to go this route to help promote awareness for common sense when it comes to this extremely touchy subject.  I began to realize that I’m just as guilty of not following these tidbits of advice at one point or another so I want to make sure that I ultimately keep myself in check, too.

All I wanted to do was take some pictures of my elementary school…


My elementary school, which is no longer a public elementary school. This one’s for all those who attended Bridgewater Elementary School when it was located in “downtown” Bridgewater.

Turn Around

Every sunset and every sunrise is different to me, which is why shooting them will never get old.  But if you’re wondering “how can I shoot them differently?”  Simple answer…turn around.  You’d be amazed at what it sometimes looks like behind you.

I'm surprised none of the birds that were attacking the drone showed up in this image. | Check out my other sunset/sunrise images.

I’m surprised none of the birds that were attacking the drone showed up in this image. | Check out my other sunset/sunrise images.


I like to shoot sunrises and sunsets.  I’ve said this before.  But after a while, as with anything, it gets harder and harder to shoot it differently.  Granted, each sunset and each sunrise is different, but how do I create something unique.  A big deal for a perfect composition is to have depth to your images and that’s done by introducing foreground elements.  That’s kinda tough when your camera is 250 feet up in the air.  I just wonder if I’ll get any backlash from this image because of how close I was to it.


By the way, if you live in the Winchester-Frederick County area of VA (and maybe even if you’ve driven through), you’ve seen this water tower along I-81 at exit 310.



I’m so amazed at the new perspective of architecture that I can get with this new technology.  Some things look much more majestic from above and others tend to lose a little something with the elevated perspective.  I think the Handley Library actually loses that majestic edge when it’s shot from above.  Maybe I’m too high.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing building, but it’s just not the same from above.  Certain things are meant to be shot from below, specifically subjects that you want to appear more powerful.  I’ve posted images of this building from the ground (and, of course, from inside) on this blog.  What do you think?

Order a print of this image.

Order a print of this image.

My Best Camera

I pretty much take my cameras everywhere these days, but there are specific situations where my big cameras won’t work.  Namely, my bike rides.  I have, however, adopted the popular saying among photographers “My best camera is the one I have with me.”  This is actually an iPhoneography book and app, FYI.  I just really want to go back now and shoot this properly.

A one-shot HDR from an iPhone.

A one-shot HDR from an iPhone.


I took this picture yesterday and was just playing around.  Anybody who knows me knows that I usually have my cameras with me and I’m taking random shots of just about anything.  I may never use the image.  I may use it as a background.  I may use only part of the image.  Regardless of how I use it, it’s in the digital filing cabinet forever.  This image was never intended to be anything other than, well a test shot while I was just playing around with settings.  I started looking at it , though, and it just jumped out at me as some sort of car ad.  The big clear front windshield, the nice motion blur going down the road.  It’s a car ad, right?  At least that’s what it was screaming at me.  It’s funny how some final images started out as throw-aways.

It really demonstrates my “tip of the day” – DO NOT DELETE IMAGES IN CAMERA!  Stop fumbling around on vacation, or on the shoot, or at an event with the images you just shot trying to determine what’s good and what’s not.  There are really only two things I use my digital viewfinder for:  1) checking for correct exposure and 2) helping me compose a shot (my 60D with it’s articulating viewfinder helps tremendously with this one).  Well, make that three.  I also use it to access my camera’s menu system.

With memory cards as cheap as they are these days you’ll have plenty of room on the card.  Review your images when you get home.  While you’re at the event/game/party/wedding or whatever it is you’re shooting – Just shoot.

Sometimes a concept will just smack you right in the face.

Sometimes a concept will just smack you right in the face.

Light Session

Alright, gearing up for the senior portraits in the next year.  Took some test shots this afternoon and am pretty happy with them.  I certainly have some improving to do, but this was a good start – I really need a hair light to make this image really pop.  I got a new light diffuser kit just before Apple Blossom – I knew I’d be using it everywhere.  I’ve tried plenty of light diffusers in the past, but none have had very pleasing results.  I’ve made them work for me, but have always known I could do better.  Along comes Gary Fong.  Granted, he’s been around for a while, but I’m just now trying his stuff.  And I’m loving it.  It’s not just the products themselves, but the techniques that I’m learning along with them.  I’m kinda digging portraits and am looking forward to doing more.

Any takers…?

I'm learning so much about light and how to control every bit of it.  This was shot in the heat of the day at about 4 o'clock outside with an ugly-looking background.  You'd never guess from the final result.

I’m learning so much about light and how to control every bit of it. This was shot in the heat of the day at about 4 o’clock outside with an ugly-looking background. The cover photo is how bright it was outside. You’d never guess from the final result.

It’s A Small World

Just having some fun with my extreme wide-angle fisheye lens.  Actually a lot of my interior architecture images these days are shot with this lens.  The end results have some pretty severe angles of view, but I try to not create them with the extreme, stereotypical, fisheye bulge that most people associate with this type of lens.  The trick begins when shooting the images and making sure that the horizon looks real.  I’m always looking for scenes where there is a natural built-in curve to the image – the fisheye lens can then enhance the scene.  My favorite example is the image from the staircase in our local library – Handley Regional Library.

I usually try to avoid this look, but was just having fun here with this one.

I usually try to avoid this look, but was just having fun here with this one.

Happy Accidents

There’s a lot of value in the various “accidents” that are made while editing.  Whether it’s photos or videos, it happens all the time.  The trick to editing, after all, is the feel or the rhythm that you get into while it’s happening.  And as you’re in the zone, you can easily make creative choices on the fly that you didn’t really intend to pursue, but then you sit back and think “Wow, that could really work.”  This happened to me as I was editing today’s image so I figured I’d post both the intended version and the “Happy Accident.”  So play around with your edits and make all those mistakes.  Some of the best products happened from crazy, unintended creative choices.

The main sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church, Winchester.  Order a print of this image.

The main sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church, Winchester. Order a print of this image.

The "Happy Accident."  Order a print of this image.

The “Happy Accident.” Order a print of this image.


The current Cape Henry Lighthouse from inside the stairwell of the original. | Order a print of this image.

The current Cape Henry Lighthouse from inside the stairwell of the original.
Order a print of this image.

I’ve had plenty of people tell me that my photos remind them of postcards.  To be honest (and absolutely no offense intended), that’s more of an insult than a compliment – and here’s why (at least from a photographer’s perspective).  One of the main goals of any professional photographer is to be different, to separate their work from all others.  A postcard is a tourist souvenir that simply showcases where you are.  You can share it with others or keep it for your scrapbook.  Point is, it’s usually a simple image of the surrounding area – nothing incredibly creative (keep in mind I’m strictly talking about the image postcards, not the creatively designed ones).  So even though I wouldn’t mind if my images landed on postcards some day, a significant part of me lashes out inside when I hear “your photo belongs on a postcard.”

Now here’s the disclaimer…

In my early days I actually used to go straight to the postcard racks to see if I could recreate the images I found there and I usually could.  Fast forward to today and you’ll still find me looking at the racks, but now I look to make sure I’m NOT shooting the same stuff.  Sure, everybody wants to take the pretty images of any locale.  So once you’re done shooting like everybody else, take the tourist hat off and BURN IT.  Then spend the next 15 minutes or day or weekend shooting unique images.

100 Things

I absolutely love this and just might work on my own list at some point (it’d probably contain almost all of these anyway).  (borrowed from

The evolution of a photographer.

The evolution of a photographer.

1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn’t mean that they’re a good photographer. 2. Always shoot in RAW. Always. 3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer. 4. Photo editing is an art in itself 5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time. 6. Macro photography isn’t for everybody. 7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps. 8. Go outside & shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums. 9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph. 10. Film isn’t better than digital. 11. Digital isn’t better than film. 12. There is no “magic” camera or lens. 13. Better lenses don’t give you better photos. 14. Spend less time looking at other people’s work and more time shooting your own. 15. Don’t take your DSLR to parties. 16. Girls dig photographers. 17. Making your photos b/w doesn’t automatically make them “artsy” 18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you “photoshop” your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the “digital darkroom”. 19. You don’t need to take a photo of everything. 20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none. 21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap. 22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better. 23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur. 24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting. 25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography. 26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you. 27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight. 28. The more photos you take, the better you get. 29. Don’t be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures. 30. Only show your best photos. 31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera. 32. Join an online photography forum. 33. Critique the works of others. 34. Think before you shoot. 35. A good photo shouldn’t require explanation (although background information often adds to an image). * 36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well. 37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them. 38. Grain is beautiful. 39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier. 40. Simplicity is key. 41. The definition of photography is: “painting with light.” Use light in your favor. 42. Find your style of photography and stick with it. 43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing. 44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter. 45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere. 46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life. 47. Don’t pamper your camera. Use and abuse it. 48. Take straight photos. 49. Shoot with confidence. 50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends. 51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy. 52. Give your photos to friends. 53. Give them to strangers. 54. Don’t forget to frame them. 55. Costco prints are cheap and look great. 56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s). 57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself. 58. Photos make great presents. 59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling. 60. Candid>Posed. 61. Natural light is the best light. 62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best “walk-around” focal length. 63. Don’t be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary. 64. You don’t need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don’t even own one). 65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose. 66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be “artsy” is exploitation. 67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations. 68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included. 69. You can’t “photoshop” bad images into good ones. 70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer. 71. You don’t need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard. 72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons. 73. Cameras as tools, not toys. 74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren’t much different. 75. Photography isn’t a hobby- it’s a lifestyle. 76. Make photos, not excuses. 77. Be original in your photography. Don’t try to copy the style of others. 78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more. 79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention. 80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography. 81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem. 82. Laughter always draws out peoples’ true character in a photograph. 83. Don’t look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment. 84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while. 85. Have fun while taking photos. 86. Never delete any of your photos. 87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places. 88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens. 89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair. 90. Learn how to read a histogram. 91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one. 92. Don’t be afraid to take photos in the rain. 93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it. 94. Never take photos on an empty stomach. 95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography. 96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world. 97. Never stop taking photos 98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life 99. Capture the decisive moment 100. Write your own list.