Where does the time go?

Same place my money goes…away from me. :)

I realized my last post was during the Christmas holiday.

Wow. Time has just been passing by like sand in an hourglass, trickling away whether you are watching it or not. I admit, I’ve been lazy as well. I get home from my day job, and all I have energy for is getting things together for the next work day, or if I’m lucky enough and it’s a weekend, doing things around the house. Either way it’s exhausting…

I’ve still been shooting, although sporadically. I haven’t been able to do any projects I’ve been wanting…and I have 2 at the top of my list. I won’t go into them for this post, but hopefully in the nearby future I’ll have some photos of a completed photo project.

So a few months ago, Mother’s Day was around the corner. I hadn’t bought a card yet for my wife. I didn’t want a cookie-cutter card that every other¬†man was buying for their significant other. I decided to do a mini project, involving my son of course.

I left the wife to her iPhone/iPad, and went into our bedroom. I had setup a small light stand with an even smaller 9″ softbox I found on ebay for, I don’t know… $8. I didn’t need anything big, my subject matter was fairly small….my son’s hands.

Several snapshots later, I got what I needed. A little bit of time in photoshop, and I came out with a fairly decent, “home made” card, with my son spelling out “Love U Mom”. I also used a variation of the card for my own mom and my mother-in-law…hey, if I got it, I’m going to use it… Each card was still unique in the end.


Of course there was also a picture of my son, hamming it up for the camera (gummi bribed of course).


This was just taken with him standing next to a wall. I used the following equipment:

Fuji XT-1
Fuji 35mm f/1.4 @ f/4
ISO 200

speedlite @ 1/32 power
Phottix 36″ double folding umbrella

Fuji Classic Chrome color preset in camera. Minor tweaking in Lightroom.

But wait….there’s more!

Father’s Day soon follows Mother’s Day. I dug myself a hole…since I made custom Mother’s Day cards, I couldn’t skimp out on my Father’s Day card.

One of the days we were visiting my parents, I snapped this with my cell phone…

WP_20150626_20_59_56_Raw - Copy

Oh come on, now that’s just too easy… ūüėČ

Went home, plopped my son on the couch. Set him up with glasses and an iPad, and he was just like “Pop Pop”.


Fuji XT-1
Fuji 23mm f/1.4 @ f/3.2
ISO 200

speedlite @ 1/16th power
32″ gridded softbox (which unfortunately, can be seen in the reflections on the picture frames…oh well).

Although I’m 1-2 months later (depending on your gender), Thanks to all of the mothers and fathers out there that have gone through Hell and back raising us kids (big and small). Probably the two hardest jobs in the world, and you go into it with no experience or training whatsoever, but also the most rewarding…( even though the perk package is a little on the weak side ūüėČ ).





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Warm wishes and Holiday Cheer

From my family to yours!


Stay safe all, and enjoy the holidays with those closest to you. :)

On a side note…

My 3 year old son, who I am proud of because he actually wrote “Santa” on the card, knows he hasn’t been on his “best” behavior this year…so decided that he needed to soften up Ol’ Saint Nick.. I’m glad I baked a few dozen cookies tonight lol.


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Happy Holidays

A little holiday decorating fun

It’s been a while since my last post. Life seems to get in the way of all the fun!

Last year for our holiday cards, I thought it would be neat to have a fun picture on it…not the usual stand, pose, and smile for the camera. Well of course by doing that I set a precedence that my wife has decided should be done every year!


Fast forward to December 2014… Here it is, middle of the month, already halfway to Christmas, and we JUST now get our tree (a real Fraser fur…because fake trees just won’t do anymore). Needless to say I hadn’t even thought about any ideas for a photo.

Well….since we just got the tree, it needs to be decorated.

We decided to put the tree in our dining room near the window. I didn’t want a plain picture of us decorating. It needed to be fun!

I pictured my wife putting decorations on the tree, with my son helping. I, being the neglectful forgetful dad, seems to find whatever I’m looking at on my tablet much more interesting than realizing my son’s mischievous antics on trying to climb up to put the star on the tree.

The setup for this shot were 2 manual speedlites on a Phottix multi-boom, with a Phottix 36″ double folding umbrella as the light modifier. The lighting diagram should be pretty much self explanatory.











The photo was taken in 2 shots. The first shot involved my son’s balancing acrobatics of standing on Christmas decoration boxes in his attempt to put the star on the tree. In reality he was standing on a step stool, with my wife holding him from behind the tree so he didn’t fall. The second shot was of myself and my wife. The two shots were blended in Photoshop. I processed it with a slight vintage feel and vignette.

Wishing you a Happy Holidays to you and your family from mine!

Happy Holidays!


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The BoxTrolls are coming!

And one of them is living in my house.


Any of you reading this that have kids have surely already heard of the BoxTrolls movie that’s coming out on 9/26/14. If not, take a peak here: http://boxtrolls.com/

It looks to be a cute movie done in the old school stop-motion style animation,¬†inspired by the book “Here Be Monsters” by Alan Snow. The plot (as copied from Wikipedia):


The film tells the story of an orphaned boy named Eggs who was raised by underground cave-dwelling trash collecting trolls called the Boxtrolls. The Boxtrolls are targeted by an evil exterminator named Archibald Snatcher and Eggs has to save his family from Snatcher.


As a way to promote interest in the upcoming movie, Amazon is holding a costume contest where you have to use either an Amazon box, or an unbranded box to make a Boxtroll costume.

Sure…why not?

I order so much stuff from Amazon as it is¬†(personal and work). Especially with Prime 2 day shipping? It can be addicting…but I’m not addicted…I can stop whenever I want. ūüėČ

Needless to say I had plenty of boxes to work with…

 Contest details can be found here: Boxtroll Contest

Once again, my son Liem was my model. It only took 1 bag of gummi bears to persuade him. :-)

We drove to Old Towne Petersburg (Virginia). It’s an area rich in history, with no shortage of old abandoned buildings. I wanted a old brick background for the shot. I didn’t want a paved or concrete parking lot, or sidewalk either. Looking at screen shots of the movie (as well as the movie poster), it’s a turn of the century setting, with old cobblestone roads. That’s what I wanted, and luckily, Old Towne Petersburg had just that.

Here is a little diagram of the shot:

¬†I put a Yongnuo yn560 flash (set to 1/2 power) in the “high voltage” box. The box was lined with aluminum foil, with the flash firing into the box. The foil would reflect the light back out.

My wife was my voice activated light stand. I set her up with a monopod outfitted with a Phottix multi-boom, 2 Yongnuo yn560 flashes set to 1/2 power, shooting through a Phottix double folding 36″ umbrella. Both flashes at 1/2 power equaled 1 flash at full power, but faster recycling.

I really wish I would have taken a picture of the setup, but in my haste, I forgot. I would say my wife was holding the umbrella at about a 45 degree angle 3 feet above my son’s head, at roughly 4 feet away.

The sync speed of the Fuji is only 1/180th of a second. Even though it was evening, the sun was still out, so I used the sync speed to try and kill as much of the ambient as I could.

My Fuji X-T1 was set to ISO 200, and I was using the Fuji XF 56mm f/1.2 lens @ f/5.6.


The resulting shot:



As for his costume, I purchased welding goggles and the aviator hat off Amazon for around $5-6 each. I already had plenty of boxes. Amazon was kind enough to provide a download PDF of the labels, which I printed and glued to the boxes. I used black spray paint to make the boxes look beat up. I taped bits and pieces of “junk” to the goggles. The lamp he’s holding is a battery powered LED lamp.

Update 9/22/2014:

Looks like the Flickr group Child Photo Competition liked my photo enough to include it in their Inspiring Monday Volume 44.

Update 10/13/2014:

Looks like my photo was not worthy enough to be one of the finalist in the Amazon contest. Oh well. I still had a good time with the shoot. :-)


Update 10/22/2014:

Phottix has once again chosen one of my photos for their photo of the week! That’s 3 times now.


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Crop or Crap?

Zack Arias Tackles The Question Of Full Frame vs Crop Sensors


As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a Zack Arias fan. I enjoy his teaching style, and his no bull**** attitude.

I found his latest video humorous as well as informative, as it seems this topic is always brought up in photography forums over the debate on crop APS-C versus full frame sensors.

Little bit of background on me…

When I first started shooting with a DSLR, I started with a Rebel XS 10 megapixel “crop” APS-C body. I loved it. I was happy with the image quality (coming from digital point and shoot cameras and film cameras). I slowly moved from one body to another, going from the Canon Rebel to a 40D, then a 50D, and finally to a 5D Mark II. It seemed like with each new body, the camera was getting bigger and bigger. The image quality the 5D II produced was amazing, I don’t doubt that. However, becoming a dad was, I wouldn’t say a difficult transition in a bad way, but it took some serious adjusting. No longer was I lugging my camera around everywhere. I was lugging around diaper bags, lunch bags, etc.

I did end up buying a Canon EOS M, and that I took everywhere with me. It was compact and produced terrific image quality. It literally replaced my 5D II (as crazy as that sounds), but I still kept it. I was still in that photographer mindset that full frame was king. As time went on, and my 5D II sat in its bag, I decided to jump ship, and go all in for Fuji after reading so many reviews and image samples. I still kept my EOS M as my wife likes it. Do I miss my “full frame” 5D II? Not at all. I’m having more fun with the Fuji X-T1 than I ever had with the 5D II. It’s compact (not as much as the EOS M, but definitely smaller than the 5D II), the image quality is outstanding.

Back on track…. Zack takes on this question from an interesting perspective, comparing many of the sensor sizes currently available, and why the question of Crop versus Full Frame is a waste of air. I know there would be many that would disagree and think it’s heresy to put APS-C and full frame sensors in the same league with each other.



What’s your take? Are you a happy APS-C user? Are you a no exceptions, Full frame, and “Crop” is what I have to wipe off my @ss before I flush kind of photographer? Or are you a medium or large format shooter that shakes your head at the constant bickering of the crop and full frame shooters with a¬† bumper sticker that says¬†“My camera would eat your camera whole”?¬†:-)


Read more¬†on Zack’s dedpxl website.


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One Hot Idea

By one “Hot” Daddy


According to eMedicineHeath.com:

When to Seek Medical Care

When to call or see the doctor

A fever has many possible causes. Most commonly, a fever is part of a viral infection that will go away on its own. However, there are some reasons to be concerned or worried about a fever; do not hesitate to call or see a doctor for any high fevers.

  • Call the doctor if any of these conditions exists.
    • If the temperature is 103 F (39.4 C) or greater
    • If the fever lasts more than seven days
    • If the fever symptoms get worse




You can probably imagine how my weekend went… (Actually midweek through the weekend). Brain exploding migraines, being able to cook off my forehead, and seeing the world like it’s constantly swaying back and forth like a ship. I felt like I was on the S.S. Minnow with Gilligan at the helm…only without the hotnesses of Mary Ann¬†and Ginger to console me…When I took my temperature Wednesday afternoon (and several more times after seeing the results), I decided it might be time to see a doctor lol. I drove myself, and miraculously didn’t kill anyone (or me) in the process. The doctors ran tests, drew some blood, and came up empty handed….Awesome. Well, I figured, if I was going to go by way of a new virus, I’d have it named after me ;-).

Apparently I read some people get delusional, hysterical, lethargical, etc….a lot of “al” words. I’m pretty sure for the most part I was lucid and coherent….well, as much as I am on a normal basis anyway. My wife commented that whenever I get sick, I’m always quiet. I never whine or complain, so when I was grasping my skull with tears in my eyes from the monstrous migraines that fever was giving me….she could tell I was really hurting.

In any case, Saturday rolls around, and I don’t know if maybe it was the antibiotics the confused doctors threw at me, or perhaps the alternating of large doses of Tylenol and Motrin, or if the virus finally got a good look at my head and had second thoughts on further invasion plans….but my fever broke. It still hovered from 100-102, but compared to 104.7, It was like making a miraculous recovery in my book.

I hadn’t taken any artsy photos of my son in a while…and it was due to working, tiredness, laziness, and being….well, a dad. I was determined to get out and get some shots…even if it killed me lol. I figured fresh air would do me good.

I always wanted to do a shot with my son with a “Huckleberry” type theme. The image in my head (whether during a lucid moment during my head’s revolt with viral reinforcements, or a hallucination), I always wanted to do was a setting with him in overalls, standing on a wooden raft in a stream. Unfortunately with him just getting ready to turn 3 years old on the 3rd, that one got vetoed by myself AND my wife.


I instead settled on a country woods theme.


Setup shot below. I used two Yongnuo flashes inside of a 28″ softbox mounted with a Phottix Multi-boom.

The photos were taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 56mm lens with a two stop ND filter, shooting at f/1.2, ISO 200, 180/s shutter speed, in RAW.

Setup shot for “country bum”


The resulting shots. My son was a “willing” participant. It only took him 2 packs of gummy snacks, and a bag of Cheetos to “convince” him to play long. Of course during the shoot he was having a good ol’ time with the harmonica and was moving around to his tunes. I’m lucky I got the shots I did.


Disclaimer: No woodland animals were harmed in the making of these photographs…..but many….many…..MANY mosquitos met an untimely death. My son and I have the battle scars to prove it.





Update 7/11/14: Looks like Phottix Journal liked one of these enough to make it their Weekly Photo. :-)

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“Upgrading” from a 21 megapixel Full-frame DSLR to a 16 megapixel¬†APS-C mirrorless.

In my last post I mentioned I sold off my Canon DSLR gear and was left with only the Canon EOS M. I was freeing up funds, and diving head first into the Fuji X series platform. I’ve read review upon review of their system, and felt like it would be a better fit for me.

My favorite go-to combo was always the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 lens. At one time I did own several lenses, but slowly started selling them off because I got tired of hauling all of it around. It’s kind of¬†like the picture I snagged off of the Fuji website…







I wasn’t necessarily the guy on the far left. I was more like the middle guy. Doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but when¬†I’ve got a rambunctious 2 year old (well, almost 3 now), it does tend to weigh me down. The less I had to carry, the happier I was, (and the faster I was able to keep up with my son).

So I traded my Canon gear in for a nice, new, shiny Fujifilm X-T1, and a gorgeous, amazing Fujifilm XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens.

I’m not going into any reviews over the Fuji X-T1 or the lens, as you can find more in-depth reviews scattered across the internet. I’m merely documenting my switch, and my reasons for doing so on my blog.

As mentioned, I loved the small, unobtrusive size. The quiet shutter was a bonus as well. It’s like a finely built machine. I originally wanted the ¬†Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens since the 35mm equivalent on a crop sensor ends up being about 53mm, so it would have been what I was used to with the Canon 50L. Anyway, I tried ordering it at the beginning of the month, only to have it STILL on backorder. I cancelled it and ordered the ¬†23mm f/1.4 instead….and glad I did. For the last 3 years I’ve seen nothing but the 50mm focal length, and I felt like switching to a somewhat wider 35mm field of view would be a good change.

Seriously need to cut my lawn…


Since I only got the lens this past weekend, I don’t really have anything to post other than my test shot of some dandelions in¬† my back yard taken at f/1.4. I think it’s safe to say this lens and camera body are both keepers….and I need to get off my ass and cut the grass…


I have a confession…

No sooner did I get this lens, did I find out that Zeiss had a sale going on. I packed up the Fuji 23mm lens, and bought the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 lens, as well as the 12mm f/2.8 lens. The 12mm lens went up for sale immediately as I’m not a wide angle person (and coincidentally sold almost immediately). Now I hear that combo is sold out at Zeiss USA, so lucky me ;-). It seems to still show as available at Amazon
, but you’d better hurry. It doesn’t seem like U.S.¬†retailers are going to get replenished.


Since I named this post “X-Rated”, it’s only fair I show you some Camera P0rn with the lovely (and talented), Fuji X-T1 with her Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 lens.

Camera P0rn


Considering one of the only downsides is the rather short battery life…




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Duke Gardens, a Pocket Rebel, and a brush with the “Law”

Duke Gardens Misadventures

It’s been forever since my last post.

So my family and I spent this past weekend with some friends in North Carolina. We went back to Duke Gardens because it’s beautiful, full of lush well-maintained landscapes, beautiful flowers, and neatly cut grass…in other words, the exact opposite of our yard back home.

This past week I literally sold off all of my Canon gear (well…the one Canon camera body, one Canon flash, and one lens I owned). If I was smart, I would have at least waited until after this past weekend to sell my gear so I would have everything I needed to take some portraits at the gardens.

Well I wasn’t (smart), so I didn’t have my fancy “full frame” camera and my Canon “L” lens with a 1.2 aperture. To be honest, I was tired of lugging it around. I was bored. I needed a change. You shouldn’t get bored with a hobby….then it’s no longer a hobby. It’s a chore. All I had was my Canon EOS M “pocket rebel”.

Anyway…back on track… My wife wanted some more family pictures. Unfortunately on this post there will not be any family pictures of us. My little EOS M¬†didn’t have a remote shutter, so I was left setting a self timer and running back and forth from behind the camera to my wife and son to get in the picture. Needless to say I looked either like a blur, or out of breath from running back and forth. Those pictures have been doomed to the recycling bin.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect from the pocket rebel as far as portraits. Granted it uses the same sensor and tech as some of Canon’s other DSLR offerings, but I had mainly only used it for quick pics when a sh*tty cell phone pic won’t do. I was about to find out…

My setup for these shots was pretty simple;¬†a single light source (apart from the getting hotter by the minute Sun), a light stand/boom,¬†a 60″ umbrella, and a couple of flashes.


I had each Yongnuo YN560 flash set to 1/8 power, effectively giving me the equivalent of a single flash on 1/4 power, but with faster recycling times. The Sun was behind the subjects, so I didn’t have to worry about squinty eyes or harsh shadows. The pocket rebel had a 22mm lens (35mm equivalent) set to f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/160s shutter speed.


Meet the Growing Pearsons. One of my wife’s best friends, who’s husband is also a photo hobbyist like myself, and daughter whom my son is in love with lol.


















The gardens were crowded, and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to¬†be outside. It was a beautiful day. There were on-lookers standing around looking at what was going on. Some of which had big DSLRs with rather long lenses. Needless to say I heard some giggles and saw lots of smiles. I can only assume they were laughing at my choice of camera. Whatever.


Next up were the kiddies…

oops…this one was taken at 1/100s. I was still getting chimping my exposure :-)





















My son likes hamming it up for the camera…



















And a big flirt…



















That’s my boy. ūüėČ



So we packed up all of our stuff and went onward looking for another spot for a photo op.

We walked.


and walked…


and walked…


Finally we needed a break. Hauling everything around was laborious, not to mention two toddlers in tow in the sweltering heat.



My brush with the “Law”

I setup to take some shots there, but within minutes,¬†a Duke Gardens Rent-a-Cop (or so I now call her) raced over to where we were shooting. I mean man…she must have been going a full 8 miles per hour in that golf cart. The only thing that would have been more impressive is if she would have pulled up in a Segway a la Paul Blart. She asked whether I had a permit to take pictures. I was polite and told her I was taking family pictures (of course as I’m saying this, I’m doing a one-legged balancing act off a flower pot so I could get a shot of my wife and son looking up at me. In any case, she explained to me there are portrait policies at the gardens. I could either get a 1 day pass for $100, or become a member photographer for the paltry sum of $450 for the year. ūüėģ

After my stern talking to, she said she would overlook this “incident”. Two minutes later as I’m packing up, she comes whizzing back, eyeballing me as she’s driving by to make sure I’m packing up all my lighting gear.




















I decided to employ another tactic…

A big umbrella and a light stand would just be a dead giveaway. However, people use flashes, and people use monopods. I decided to make a “flash on a stick”. I took my monopod, attached a single flash, and a 45 degree grid. I could carry and hold it in one hand while shooting with the other. Quick and easy.

We again wandered around until we found a semi-secluded path. The bright sun was in full force, but the trees were hampering its plans to wash out my shot. There were still people walking around admiring the foliage, but the paths didn’t look large enough to accommodate Robocop’s speed wagon.






































Both shots taken with a single, gridded flash set to 1/2 power on a monopod.

I can’t blame Duke Gardens’ staff for scolding me. I should have done my research as to what is permitted in the gardens as far as photography is concerned. I didn’t think twice since we had already ventured out there once last year. I now know better (and better places to hide and boldly go where no golf cart has gone before).

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What once was old….

Inevitably becomes cool again.

Does that mean I will eventually be cool again?


It’s interesting to see how, despite all of the advances in technology, people will still get the nostalgia bug and go back to, or try to at least simulate, the things of yesteryear. Once what was in fashion, what was “in”, became outdated. “Out of style.” “Old News.”

Then history repeats…and then it’s considered “vintage”….and cool again.

The same goes with photography. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not good anymore. (Just because the Canon 5D Mark III came out doesn’t mean all of a sudden my Canon 5D Mark II became crap or started taking crap pictures)…it’s always been that¬†way¬†ūüėÄ j/k

With all of these advancements in noise control, auto-focus, camera presets, etc. There shouldn’t be any reason why anyone cannot produce a photo they should be proud to hang on their wall, no matter what camera they use. Yet, despite all of these advances in technology, many of us still cling to shooting with manual settings (I think it’s trust issues) :-). Some of us add noise to a digital photo to give it an analog film look. Some add light leaks, etc.

Why add these imperfections back that camera manufacturers have strived so hard to eliminate?¬†For¬†me, there’s more character. More color. More definition.

This past Sunday, my wife and I took my son to the Norfolk Zoo. I left my big burly DSLR at home, and opted to bring my Canon EOS M. I’m still working the 22mm EF-M lens, but I also brought along some old Canon FD lenses that are older than I am. Manual focus. Manual aperture. Built like a Tank. If you ever find yourself with an FD adapter for your particular camera brand, It’s worth checking out a few of these lenses. You can find them on eBay dirt cheap. It makes you slow down and really work on your focus and composition. No spray and pray here…

Black and white also seemed fitting for these old lenses I brought along. Of course pictures I took with the EF-M 22mm lens also got a black and white makeover.

This first one was with the 22mm EF-M. The bright outdoor sun illuminating the nearby window and door at the end of the hallway, giving a nice outline to the subjects.

EF-M 22mm
f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 1000

My son wanted to get a better look at the giraffes. He thought he was big enough to use the spotting scope. Also taken with the 22mm EF-M lens.

Not. Quite. There. Yet. :-)

EF-M 22mm
f/2.8, 1/640s, ISO 100

One of the giraffes he was trying to see. We’ve come to this zoo probably 4 or 5 times in the last year alone. It’s a bit of a drive for us, taking about an hour and half with little to no traffic. We remember this little¬†giraffe when¬†it was barely walking, keeping close to mommy and daddy, with daddy keeping a very watchful eye.

FD 70-210 f/4
f/4, 1/60s, ISO 500

Now baby seems to be big enough to wander around on his/her own, exploring its enclosure (that sounds a bit depressing). I guess in a way we’re all caged. :-)

In any case, little giraffe here was stretching out, getting some of that midday sun warmth. This was taken with an old Canon FD 70-210 f/4 lens. Trying to keep a manual lens like this steady on the EOS M was a bit tricky, as well as trying to maintain some semblance of focus on the subject. This was taken at roughly the 150mm mark. This little gem of a lens I purchased off eBay for a paltry $20.

My son staring down the King of Beasts, while repeatedly saying “Hakuna Matata”.

FD 50mm f/1.8
f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/200s

And what did the Lion have to say?

FD 50mm f/1.8
f/1.8, ISO 100, 1/200s


These last two images were taken the the FD 50mm f/1.8 lens, the predecessor to the “Nifty Fifty”, “Plastic Fantastic”, EF 50mm f/1.8 autofocus lens.

Last but not least…I thought it was only fitting, seeing as how I was in a black and white mood, to include a shot of “Pros” to this genre.

FD 70-210 f/4
f/4, 1/640s, ISO 100

Once again taken with the FD 70-210 f/4 lens. This one was shot at roughly 180mm. I luckily had a fence post I could somewhat sturdy myself with.

I absolutely love looking at the black and white photos taken from times long forgotten. Something the newer generations, myself included, don’t remember or never experienced. No “soft” shadows there. Hard light was where it was at. Sharp, dark, piercing shadows. Awesomeness…

All general post processing was done in LightRoom 5. For my black and white conversion, I¬†used Silver Efex 2. I¬†have a preset I created that I aptly named “gritty B&W” that was applied to each of these shots.

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Happy Holidays Everyone

I wish you all a Happy Holidays, and a prosperous New Year. :-)

-Phillip & family.

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