Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Questions from a new photographer

I get a lot of new photographers who ask me questions when they're starting their business. Recently I received some questions from a photography student in South Africa named Shelley and I thought I'd share the questions and my responses in the hopes they might help someone else....

1. What type of camera will you be using while you are taking the photos? Nikon D3

2. Where do you prefer to take photos, outdoors or indoors? Both, preferably outdoors.
3. Do you have an assistant that works with you while you are taking the photos? Yes

4. Is there and extra charge for the assistant, if so how much? No, it's included in my price.

5. Is there a back up plan if the weather turns out to be misserable and unpleasent? Yes, I will shoot anywhere. Being a great photographer means being creative and creating something out of nothing sometimes.

6. What would happen if you fall ill, and you can not take photos on the wedding day? Send a replacement photographer.

7. Can other people take photos while you'r taking photos? Not if they're not one of my team members...if they are using pro-type equipment. Others using smaller cameras can use them as long as they don't use their flash during certain moments where they could ruin our lighting.

8. What if we decide to change the date of the wedding is there a cancellation cost, if so how much? As long as I have your new date available I will transfer your retainer towards the new date...if you choose a date that I can't do I keep the retainer which is usually 25%-50% of the wedding cost.

9. Should the event last longer than scheduled what would happen, would there be an extra cost, and if so how much? I don't usually worry about staying longer unless it's significantly longer....like 2 hours or more. The extra charge would be pro-rated at the package price amount for my time.

10. How long after the event will the proofs be ready? 3 weeks....we do quality. Anyone doing them super fast isn't providing quality.

11. What reccomentdations do you have for the the bride and groom to wear during the *photo shoot* other than there wedding outfits? Usually tell the bride to not wear a bra if she has a strapless dress as long as the dress will cover her appropriately...the reason is because the extra padding in there can make her skin bunch up. Other than that it's their wedding and they should wear what they want. I try and give them direction to make sure their wardrobes don't clash.

I hope it helps. If you have any questions don't hesitate to reach me at jason@jlpros.com.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Spain day 2- Segovia part 2

We left the Monastery and and drove to the hills above the castle and the whole city and stopped to take some shots. By this point Ryan started taking shots of me taking pictures and I didn't mind because my wife Kara wants more shots of me anyways....usually I don't have many because I'm always behind the camera. It is amazing sometimes to be a photographer when you get to see the things I get to see...like the shot of the castle, cathedral and city below that looks straight out of a fairy tale novel.

We headed down the hill, went down some one-way roads the wrong way (not on purpose) and found our way to the castle and went inside. I was unbelievably thirsty and there was nowhere or no one selling drinks. Outside the castle there were gypsys selling cloths they had sewn together. I asked them in Spanish if they would give me a drink of water if I bought a cloth. They laughed and asked who the cloth was for and I pointed to Ryan. Ryan called me an idiot and walked away which made all of us laugh even more. Ryan truly is the funnest guy in the world to travel with....

Well, they wouldn't give me the water with the deal so I bought nothing. We went inside the castle and asked the security guard where we could buy water or if they had a drinking fountain. He told me to use the bathroom. I was soooooo thirsty that I did. I went inside and using my hands to scoop the water from the sink I began to drink from the sink. This was done out of desperation...but it was very hot and I was literally needing water bad. Ryan rolled his eyes when I asked him if the water was going to make me sick. Ryan and I were born only 18 months apart and we have always been close....so if you watched us it would be like watching the "odd couple."
We toured the castle which was beautiful. I don't really know the history of the castle in Segovia but Ryan said that Walt Disney modeled the castle at Disney World after it...I thought that was cool. I imagined all the cool stuff that had happened here and wondered what scandalous things had happened...because we all know castles and royalty are synonymous with scandals. We went out to the front of the castle and looked down at the massive drop from the castle wall. Ryan mused as to how many people they had dropped off the sides of the castle when they found traitors or people they didn't like....who knows?

My leg was hurting pretty bad but we had paid for the privilege of climbing 200 steps to the top of the tower of the castle. Ryan was very kind and offered to carry something for me so I could make the climb. He was surprised when I said I would do it with him....but who knows when I'll be back at the castle....so I decided to do it.

The stairwell is a continual winding staircase that seems to go up forever and and is literally only 3 feet wide. So all people going up and going down are using the same staircase...needless to say it is a circus act to try and pass each other. The funny thing is that everyone is struggling to make it up the stairs...sometimes you pass people and sometimes they pass you, and everyone is sweating buckets. A few ladies coming down the stairs looked at Ryan and I and told us in Spanish, "There is lemonade and water up at the top...very refreshing." This livened my spirits and as soon as I reached the top I realized how stupid I was for believing it. Ryan just laughed at me.

As horrible as it was the climb was worth it. The view from the top was phenomenal. We took some shots and regained our consciousness and then headed down the stairs. I couldn't help but perpetuate the lie I was told by telling those coming up the stairs that there was refreshing lemonade and water awaiting them at the top. Ryan who was much more honest than I was during the time down the stairs and would quickly tell everyone I told this to that I was lying. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of it. I managed to grab a quick 10 second video clip to show what it was like.


Well, this post has been long enough so I'll have to continue the rest another day....I hope you enjoy!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Spain day 2- Segovia part 1

So we woke up late, Ryan found these chocolate donuts and bought and ate a ton. We left the hotel and Ryan was still hungry so he grabbed some sandwich baguette thing while I really went out on a limb and stopped off at Burger King. We went to the parking structure where I paid $45 for overnight parking (car was only there 12 hours)....you have to love the value of the dollar compared to the Euro!

We started off on the hour long drive from Madrid to Segovia. While driving on their highways I noticed two things...(1) they have those stupid automatic traffic ticket things like Australia. So if you speed you automatically get nailed for a ticket. I have a fond recollection of this because when I returned form Australia I found three tickets mailed to me. One cool thing is the Tom Tom GPS actually alerted me of some of the speed traps by blinking and beeping anytime I went into one of these speed traps....I'm kind of scared to see how many tickets I ended up getting.

The second thing I noticed is that road rage knows no borders. Ryan and I witnessed one of the most violent and aggressive road rage incidents I've ever seen. These two cars were purposely swerving and trying to hit each other and eventually pulled off the road to fight. We were just glad they got off the road because they were risking the lives of others to fuel their rage.

We got off the road after paying the appropriate tolls and drove into the beautiful city of Segovia. This is exactly what you think of when you imagine old world Europe. Small, narrow streets, medieval architecture, and a beautiful cathedral and castle. We drove around the city wall (yes, it has a very old city wall just like you'd imagine) to survey all of the town. We turned around and I found myself on the wrong side of a one-way road. I honestly have no idea how we made it...but through very creative driving, pulling off onto the sides of the road, getting the funniest looks I've ever seen from Spaniards we made it through it. Ryan was so embarrassed he turned and said, "These people are going to kill us." I replied, "That's why I keep looking straight ahead, if you don't make eye contact with them you don't feel any guilt."

We worked our way around and found this old Monastery that Ryan said was straight out of an Indiana Jones movie...and I agreed. Ryan caught this shot of me just taking in the moment and enjoying the view of this beautiful historic place.

The coolest thing about doing what I do is the opportunity to sometimes just sit down and talk about what you're seeing...not to do the tourist thing to come and see, snap a few shots and get back on the tour bus. Ryan and I just sat there and spoke about the place and took 30 minutes to enjoy the surroundings...it was awesome.

We left the Monastery and headed to the hills to shoot the castle from high atop the city....but this post is long enough and that story will be saved for part 2....

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spain Day 1- Part 2

So we left the hotel, passed the hookers, paid $10 for parking the car for 30 minutes and took off to Retiro Park which was the former hunting grounds for the Royalty in Spain. I had a bridal shoot set up there at the Palacio Cristal. We tried to find a parking spot which is very difficult to do. While trying to make a U-turn and finding no legal way to do it Ryan asks me, "What are you going to do, there's no place to turn around?" I turned to him and said, "I believe life to too special to obey traffic laws." At this point I made sure it was safe and made a quick U-turn in the middle of the road and quickly found a parking space.

We went inside the gates to the park and it is beautiful. The park is huge and we spent the next 45 minutes trying to find the Palacio Cristal. I quickly learned to love the Spanish but if there's one thing I learned it's that they give horrible directions. I literally asked 5 different people how to get to the Palacio Cristal and I received 5 completely different answers.....I became tired due to the time changes (at this point I'd been up for almost 30 hours), and Ryan had already been in Europe for a week so he was much more energetic. He offered to go and try and find the place. I sat down at a little cafe and ordered a Coca Cola Light (no diet drinks over there) and waited for Ryan.

Well, he never came back. After waiting 30 minutes I decided to go and find him. I walked around and stopped at this beautiful fountain. I started taking some quick shots and was only 5 feet from my case when a man on a bike rode up to me and said in broken English, "Do you own that case? You should watch it better before it flies away....this is Spain, if you're not holding it, it goes bye bye." I thanked him for his help, grabbed my case and went to find Ryan.

After walking around for another 30 minutes out of sheer luck I run into Ryan. He had found the bride (Panambria) and was trying to find me. I went over and met the bride and started the shoot. Ryan left to go have fun with his friends from Spain while I started an unforgettable shoot. The thing you have to love about Europe and Spain is no exception is the liberal manner in which they express themselves. There was a small neighborhood band playing in the park and when they saw Panambria they started playing, "Here comes the Bride."

We had planned on having the sunset for our shoot but because of the delay in getting started we had to improvise with a night shoot. Out came the video lights and we got going. We started shooting in the park and moved over to a beautiful Roman/Greek looking structure. There's no way I can post all the shots now but I have completed one so you can see what it looked like. The greatest thing was all the guys whistling, cat calling, and screaming for Panambria. There were about 40 of them playing soccer inside the structure and they couldn't get enough of her. Please see below....

We finished up there, did some shots down by the water which were great and ended in the royal gardens which were stunning. The shot below is the last ones we were taking when I heard the gates being locked.....I couldn't believe it....it was midnight already! I became so consumed in the shoot that I had shaken off my exhaustion and completed a 4-hour shoot that was amazing. I raced down and asked officer to wait which he did. While I was down there Panambria changed into her clothes and came down. When the officer asked me in Spanish, "Que estan haciendo aqui?" (What are you doing here?) I replied, "Sorry, no speak Spanish," which wasn't entirely true but it did get me out of any possible permit issue.

We hopped in the car, I dropped her off and then I went to park. I passed the hookers, went into a Burger King (it was now 1am). I can't believe how late Spaniards stay up. There were so many people on the street and in the stores you would have thought it was 1pm, not 1am. I went back to the room and fell asleep next to my brother in our cozy adjacent twin beds. The day started off horribly, but ended wonderfully....that night I truly fell in love with Spain...more to come later....

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Spain- Day 1...Part 1

I left for Spain on a typical day in Southern California....way too much traffic on the freeways and having to take 3 times the normal amount of time to get to the airport. I finally got there and made my way to the American Airlines counter to find out they cancelled my flight. One question...why do they take my email when I buy my flight if they can't show the courtesy to email all passengers on a cancelled flight letting them know it's cancelled?

Well, it took awhile but at long last they found another flight and I took off first flying to Miami and then to Madrid. I landed in Miami rushed to the next plane only to have it sit on the tarmac for 1 hour. Second question...why board the plane when you know it's not going to take off???? We took off for Madrid and had a pretty seamless flight. Spain is 9 hours ahead of California so by the time we got there it was 9am in Spain (midnight in California). My brother was supposed to meet me in Madrid but he was having his own troubles. By the time I cleared customs it was about 10:30am and I was exhausted.

I went to pull money out of the ATM which is what I always do when I travel and nothing. Stupid Bank of America froze my account. These knuckleheads did the same thing to me when I was in Australia. I didn't anticipate this happening because I hadn't even had any transactions yet in Spain....so why freeze it? The only phone I had was a Global phone I rented from Sprint that charges $2/minute for talk and the data package on it wasn't working....so no emails. I have a blackberry that is only 6 months old but Sprint explained my network isn't global.....very frustrating....so I had to rent this phone.

So I have to wait 2 hours for Bank of America to open their customer service lines and I'm very hungry. I piece together my loose change and a $10 bill from the US and exchange it for about $7 Euros. The only place in the airport that was cheap enough for me to eat was a McDonald's. I was so tired and hungry that I can tell you a Big Mac never tasted better. After I ate I used my "platinum gold rental phone" and called my bank and let them know that I had already informed them I'd be in Spain before I left and if I had my card shut off again I would terminate my account when I returned. They released the hold and life was getting better. I went to the Avis Rental Car kiosk and rented a car. It was now around 1pm and I couldn't wait to get out of there.

I get to my mid-size car which in American standards is a moped....but I didn't care...I had wheels. Even more important the car had a mp3 input for my Ipod which I have to have for any car I rent. I hadn't driven a stick shift for about 1 year and it felt good. I plugged in the Ipod, cranked some Michael Jackson and sped down the highway to get into Madrid. It was hilarious to see the Spaniards watching me rock out in the car to MJ...I was just having a brief moment of adrenaline so happy to be out of the airport. Well...that was short lived. I couldn't get in touch with my brother because of my rental phone not working so after driving around for 45 minutes I needed to sleep.

If you have never driven in Europe....let me tell you...it's like driving with 1 million 16-year olds. Lot's of honking, yelling, cutting off, driving on sidewalks, driving down the wrong way of the road, etc. After 5 minutes I fit right in....I had to find a place to park and the only place I could find was in front of a University...I didn't care, I had to sleep. I tried to lay back my seat in my moped car and it wouldn't go back. I finally found the lever which was one of those manual wheel things that you have to turn to get the seat to go back....all I could do was laugh because I was paying $95/day for this car....I got the seat down and slept. I woke up and called Sprint on my "PGR" phone and they tried to fix the problem but they couldn't..only the phone would work. About 30 minutes later I get a call from my brother Ryan that he had arrived at the train station. He was surprised to find out I had rented a car because that wasn't the plan...but it was the best decision I have ever made.

I go to pick him up and we go to our hotel. We get to this place which is in the middle of downtown and as we walk to the hotel after having to park in a parking garage (no parking offered at the hotel) we pass a row of hookers (prostitutes) and I ask Ryan if he specifically chose this hotel because of it being on hooker row. Ryan was very offended by this question and regretted the choice of hotel...I just found it funny. It's hard to describe but Madrid is truly a beautiful city and our hotel was in a very nice area....prostitutes are just much more allowed in Europe...in America we usually banish them to the nasty parts of the city. The hotel room that was supposed to be spacious with two beds had two twin beds smashed together. Ryan asks me, "Can you sleep next to me like that?" I replied, "Sure I can....just gives me a chance to get to know you better." Ryan gave me a look like, "Don't even think about it," and I just winked at him. That's when he said, "We need to get out of here."

Spain-Day 1....Part 2 will be continued tomorrow...trust me, it was just as fun....

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Taking time to cool off-using a fast shutter camera

I figured since the last post was about the California wildfires...I might as well show some shots that can cool us all off a little. The shots below can only be captured with a fast shutter camera like the D3. Canon has a very fast 10mp camera as well that could do this. The D3 and comparable cameras that should around 10fps (frames per second) are instrumental in capturing the vivid details you see in the shots below. Many times I feel the speed of the camera is overlooked when photographers choose their camera...and so many focus on the mp only.

I believe of course the best cameras have both high quality and fast speed. There are Nikon's and Canon's that have cameras that shoot at 20mp or higher but you lose the speed. The fast cameras are mostly used by sports photographers but I couldn't do without the speed for my wedding business. I utilize the speed for bracketing, HDR, and for capturing the fast never to repeat moments like a crazy bouquet toss. Brides always get a kick out of seeing the trajectory of their bouquet in flight when they see their wedding images. I love high resolution...my only recommendation is to also place a lot of emphasis on speed...it does matter and makes a huge difference.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

California on Fire- life changes quickly

It's amazing how fast things can change in life. This shoot that I did two weeks ago in the Angeles Crest forest is now engulfed in flames in the annual wildfire disasters we have here in California. As I drove yesterday on the 10 freeway through downtown LA I looked over to the mountains and couldn't help but wonder how much of this will be left after the fires have had their way.

It's surreal to work on these pictures while I'm doing the editing and to imagine this whole place of peace and water filled with flames and fire. Thanks to California's conservation efforts we are pretty much a sitting tinder box...so much forestation that hasn't burned for 30-50 years so when it does get lit it burns and creates the disasters we have today. Being a nature lover I can't help but think that anyone who commits arson should have some serious consequences....say like...dangling them over the fire with a helicopter to teach them a lesson? I hope you enjoy the shots and that I'll have the chance to shoot here again if it isn't all gone...