Category Archives Guest Blogger

When you're in high school, you're on top of the world. You have everything figured out; a plan for everything. You're told the next step in the road to success is collegeâ¦. I started my college experience at a large university. It only took me a semester to realize that I was wasting a lot of time and money, cutting out shapes and gluing them on paper in my "introductory" art classes. Not to mention, everyone around me was more interested in the party scene. I felt like an outsider. Like, I wasn't where I was supposed to be. I was more focused than my peers and had nobody to relate to. I felt isolated and dark, with only my art and music to turn to. So I came back home, took a semester off and continued working in a retail job. I attended a local community college that fall where I majored in graphic design. It was in those classes that I realized I enjoyed creating images for my designs, more than the design itself. But it was too late to change majors, so I stuck it out and pursued photography outside of class. I began freelancing in 2006 shooting local bands, products, portraits and weddings, eventually winding up as a freelance retoucher for a local commercial photography studio. But freelance work was far and few between, so it’s not like I could sustain myself at that time.

As your life unfolds, things don't always go the way you plan. I graduated college in 2007 and guess what? Companies weren't handing out photography jobs. I went door to door in various cities looking for someone to give me a chance. But nothing was happening. Sure, I got to sit down with some agencies – but they weren’t hiring. So I continued working my retail day job while freelancing at night. I was no stranger to hard work. In fact, I learned what hard work was at a very early age. If I wanted something, I had to earn it. I bought my first electric guitar by mowing lawns in the summer of 97'. Teaching myself how to play guitar through the years taught me three things: discipline, patience and the ability to become a self-learner. These three qualities have transcended into other avenues of my life, including my career as a commercial photographer.

My wife Jill (girlfriend at the time) bought me my first Scott Kelby book, the 7-Point System, for Christmas in the winter of 2007. Reading that book was a mind altering experience for me in terms of my Photoshop education. For the first time ever, I had experienced a fun way to learn the software that would help me create the type of imagery that I had in my head. Scott's approach to teaching was like nothing I had ever read before. It was fun to read, easy to comprehend and also entertaining at the same time. By completing the tutorials in the book, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. It also made me realize that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. Through Photoshop User Magazine, I learned about NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). I quickly became a member and subscribed to Kelby Training. Scott’s original portrait retouching class blew my mind. It was full of “WOW" moments for me. Things just started to click. After graduating college and several failed attempts to land a job in a creative field, I became burned out. Kelby Media Group single handedly reignited my excitement and fueled my creativity again.

When you're a hard worker and you work in the retail industry, they want to promote you. And promote me they did. In 2008, I landed a job at the corporate office of the largest retailer in the world. Nothing was happening with my photography at that timeâ¦what did I have to lose? My job was to create open flight 3D simulations of new and existing stores. Not a bad place to be in my early 20's. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I moved our entire lives 12 hours away from everything we had ever known for me to take that job. Although I had met some great people there, it didn't take long for me to realize that the lifestyle of Corporate America just wasn't for me. Sure, I was making great money, but I was sitting in a cubicle all day, behind a computer that never worked, having meetings about meetings. I never really felt any sense of accomplishment at that job. The only escape I had were my lunch breaks.

I had an hour. Everyday at lunch, I would go out to my car to get out of the office environment and clear my mind. I would spend that hour watching things like Zack Arias' OneLight Workshop on my iPod, reading issues of Photoshop User Magazine, and Scott Kelby Photoshop books. That hour always flew by. So, if you think about it, I spent about 260hrs on my lunch period alone over the course of that year immersing myself in sea of photography and Photoshop related education. This is a trend that continues even to this day. I have a real passion for learning new things, not only in photography, but other areas as well. I studied studio lighting for a solid year and used nothing but cheap painters lights from Lowes before eventually buying real studio strobes. Experimenting with these cheap lights taught me how to really "see" light. As Joe McNally says, "Light is the language of Photography."

After working at that corporate office for a year, I just couldn't take anymore. I wasn't happy. I wasn't being fulfilled creatively. It was a soul sucking experience in my life. Something had to change, so we moved back to our hometown in Northern Indiana. I left the corporate life, and corporate wage behind, only to return to my old life as a retail employee. Only this time it was different. I felt like I had taken a step backwards. I felt like I had made a mistake. I had a perfectly good job, and made great money. I should have been content. But I wasn't. I could have stayed there and worked my way up the corporate ladder. But it wasn't about that. It was about something deeperâ¦

Upon my return, I took a management position and took a large pay cut. Yes, I was manager and took a pay cut, you read that correctly. Things were pretty rough for a while. One day I remember being pulled into the office by my retail store manager. He was very adamant about having me join the upper level management team in his store. He told me that I was “wasting my time” with my freelance work, and that I should be focusing on inline management within the company. I had a decision to make… and it was an easy one. Needless to say, I traded that retail job for another one before finally landing a full time job as a retoucher for a commercial photography studio that I had started a relationship with back in 2006. I worked there full time for about a year before transitioning into a full time career as a commercial photographer/digital artist at an advertising agency.

My parents once told me when I was a kid (as most parents do), "When you grow up, you can be anything you want to be." Today, I'm fortunate enough to say that I'm doing what I feel I was meant to do, at least at this point in my life. I'm Brian Rodgers Jr. Commercial Photographer/Digital Artist. I've been a dreamer my whole life, but I've also been a realist at the same time. One of the reasons I think I’ve gotten this far, is because I have two things going for me. In the words of the great Joel Grimes, “I have a passion for the creative process, and I’m a hard worker." I'm always working towards my next goal.

Every artist has a different path. You must realize however, that the path never has an ending. "Life is a journey, not a destination" as the saying goes. Sometimes it's almost easy to just give up on your dreams when you have people in your life telling you that “you’re wasting your time," and that you should just do something else. Those people are detractors – don’t let them steal your dreams! It's so easy to get comfortable in your unsatisfying day job. It's so easy to put things off. So stop doing it! You alone have to fuel your fire and keep your dreams alive. Set goals, and push yourself to achieve them.

If you’re not getting the type of work you know you’re capable of doing, go out and create that work for yourself. Do it totally unpaid. Build your portfolio. You have to practice if you want grow as an artist. This is also how you get experience. This is how you become an expert in your field. Create the type of work that you eventually want to get hired to shoot. Building a portfolio of those types of images is the key to getting hired. Create your own opportunities.

Don't stress over gear. You will acquire essential gear over time as you build your career. Gear is not nearly as important as vision. A little bit of gear can go a long way when you have vision. Nearly every image I'm posting today was shot with a Canon Rebel t2i, and 3 or less strobes. Two of the images were lit with a single LED pen light. Can you guess which ones they are? At the end of the day, the only people who really care about what camera you are using are other photographers. Gear is great, but only when it helps you achieve your vision as an artist. My personal work/self assignments are what landed me a job at the advertising agency I currently work at. My personal work also allows for freelancing opportunities. (All of the images that I'm posting today are self assignments, btw). Not only have self assignments opened up awesome opportunities for me, they have also helped me develop my own way of shooting and retouching; my own process.

Douglas Sonders wrote a great post on Scott’s Blog a while back about the important of self assignments. Go read it! Everything he is saying has merit. In retrospect, my college portfolio was not great. It was full of school assignments. It didn’t really show who I was as a photographer. So I had a lot of work to do over the years. I'm still working on new things all the time to take my work to that next level.

Through the past 7 years, my wife has been one of my biggest influences. She has always believed in me and pushed me to be better. She bought me my first Scott Kelby book. She made sure that I had a Wacom Intuos tablet for retouching (which completely changed the way I work.) When I needed a model to practice portrait lighting, she was always the first person to sit in front of my camera. She still to this day brings home cool things for me to shoot. Through everything, she has always been my support. She’s awesome!

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason. Why? What if I told you, that I met my wife in pre-school? It's true! We first met when we were just 4 years old. And boy did we like each other. After pre-school, she was gone. I didn't see her for many years after that because we went to different schools. All I had to remember her by were fragments of childhood memories. Fast forward 20 years from pre-school, we recognize each other at a Taco Bell drive through. She left her business card at the drive thru window with her cell number on the back. The Taco Bell employee gave me that card and the rest is history. That girl I had met in preschool, is now my wife.

Oh yeah, and those years of retailâ¦.it turns out that I learned all kinds of skills including how to communicate with different types of people. And wouldn't ya know it, those communication skills that I learned over the course of 10 years in retail, are now coming in pretty handy in my career as a commercial photographer. Because I talk with all types of people on a daily basis. The year I spent in the corporate office, actually helped me develop a lot of Photoshop skills I may not have otherwise acquired. I had built a lot of retail products (including the boxes) from scratch in Photoshop, those products ended up being placed on shelves of retail store layouts in the 3D models my team and I were working on. The ability to create objects and products from scratch has helped me immensely in my retouching abilities. Furthermore, because of my struggles and hardships throughout the years, I have a deeper appreciation for what I do professionally. Because I really had to work for it. Photography is hard work!

The experiences that you will encounter throughout your life, help shape the work that you create. For me, it's really prevalent when I’ve got that perfect playlist going and I’m in my creative zone. The frustration, the angst, the happiness and sadness; all behind those pixels we today call digital imagery. The images you create are a reflection of you. Which is probably why we as photographers get emotionally attached to our images.

If you’ve ever worked in a job that you dread going to everyday, keep your head up. If you have a passion for something, pursue it! Don't make excuses. Keep putting everything you have into your craft. If you want it, you’ve gotta work for it. Being a photographer for a living is not an easy job. In fact, it's damn hard. Photography has become somewhat of a fad these days. But I believe the artists that really work on their craft, and think like entrepreneurs, are the ones who are more likely to have the opportunity to do it professionally. It's a very rewarding career, but it's very hard work! I'm nowhere near the skill level I'd like to be, but I'm on my way.

Here's a time-lapse retouch video that I created of a recent self assignment:

More info on about this self assignment on my blog.

Dream Big. Stay inspired. Never stop learning. Be honest. Be genuine. Be yourself!

I wanted to give a shout out to my buddy Melvin, who I met in Chicago at Scott’s “Shoot Like a Pro” seminar. Good guy!

Finally, I wanted to thank Scott Kelby & Brad Moore for the opportunity to share my thoughts on a stage shared by some of the best photographers in the world! And a special thanks to Pete Collins!

Brian Rodgers Jr. is an Addy Award winning Commercial Photographer/Digital Artist based out of the South Bend, Indiana area. When he needs to take a break from photography (and we all do from time to time), he's writing and recording his own guitar driven music. You can see more of Brian’s work at and connect with him on Google+, Twitter, & Behance.

Photo by J. Tom¡s Lopez

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."
â”Martin Luther King

I have come to treat this, my annual installment on the anniversary of Scott's "Guest Blog Wednesday," the same way I treat my birthday. I try to spend my birthday the way I want my year to be. For this annual blog post I endeavor to write it the way I want my heart and spirit to go for the rest of the year.

Change takes but an instant. It is the journey to change that often takes a long time. The moment of change, the defining instant, when you are at your core different than you were the moment before. It is as if in comparison to all other moments in your life, it feels like you have just had a momentary lapse of reason. An island of understanding in the sea of confusion.

So I want to tell you about the momentary lapse of reason that occurred when this picture took me.

It eventually came to be chosen for the cover of Asian Photography magazine. (Read the article here)

I was asked to come to India to teach Indian photographers how to "see" their country differently. It was an amazing experience, more for me than for my students, truth be told. I was interviewed about my work for the article in Asian Photography after having done a radio show interview on Mumbai's Radio One 94.3 just before we left to travel to Varanasi for the workshop. But that's not the story I want to discuss. What I want to talk about is the moment that this picture took me.

The journey began a few years back when I photographed Aung San Suu Kyi.

To get the opportunity to photograph her as part of the American Photography feature on Burma that I did for the 2012 January issue, the promise I made was to do "right" with my pictures. It was not until over a year later I discovered what that meant. (You can read the guest blog I wrote about the experience here)

Journey As The Destination
It was early January, just before sunrise, a very long way outside of the city of Mandalay. It was myself, Kyaw Swa Minâ”"Joe" for shortâ”and our driver. It was a chilly 85 degrees (it was January after all), and we had spent three and half hours driving on what the locals affectionately refer to as the "Burma Super Highway," which is a dirt and gravel road so full of pot holes and cliff-like ruts that you are frequently thinking that Columbus was actually wrong and the world is indeed flat. We arrive at 5 a.m., half an hour before first light and about an hour before sunrise.

How we wound up here is because Joe said he knew this placeâ¦. FYI: for the 12 years I have known Joe every one of my great Burmese adventures starts with him saying, "Vincy⦠I know this place." This time "the place" was just outside a village that makes bricks. The village was located next to a bend in a river that had a huge clay deposit.

The reason I was told I wanted to be there was because of the profound lack of motorized vehicles and the amount of morning fog that happens on the river that time of year. So off we went and there we were. After shooting the moments just before sunrise and the sun rising, we are now faced with having traveled three and half hours and having basically  captured two "pretty" shots. Which means we have three and half hours to get back to where we started and I have two shots. Parts of my backside still hurt from the ride there and the thought of going the same we just came was not exactly something to be looking forward to. Which is when I saw smoke that was now coming up from over a hill, which means fire, so I followed the smoke.

What was over that hill was a village that makes bricksâ”bricks upon bricks upon bricks as far as the eye can see to a perspective point. Keep in mind that it is 6 a.m., and the brickyard is in full swing. They have been up for awhile. Making bricks, stacking bricks, "firing" bricks (baking them), gathering clay. I even watched a boy and a girl in the process of falling in love.

I found myself lost in these moments, witnessing moments happen in front of me at the speed of life. All of which was happening in beautiful light. When you have moments like these, who needs coffee to get your heart racing and your mind to wake up?

As we started moving into the city of never-ending bricks and light, there were children everywhere playing in the bricks. Keep in mind it is 6 a.m. And the morning is filled with the laughter and giggles of children.

So as I am blissfully clicking away in snot-encrusted child photography heaven, Joe starts talking to the adults who are amused by the big tall goofy "hello person" playing with the children. (The reason the Burmese refer to Americans as "hello people" is because Americans always wave and say "Hellooo" no matter where, what, or when. So the Burmese wave and say "hello" back. If Burma is anything it is a polite society). During the course of his conversation, he finds out the reason why there are so many children about at 6 a.m. There is no school, not because there is a holidayâ”there is no school in this village. So the children play amongst the bricks while the parents work. What this also means is that most of the villagers do not know how to read and write well, if at all. It is also the responsibility of the older children to look after the younger children.

The highest anyone was paid in the village was $3.00 a day for a 12-hour workday. The factory ran 7 days a week because of the demand for bricks, which was due to the lifting of sanctions and the growth happening in the urban areas of the country. If you think about it, we spend more for a cup of coffee than these highest paid workers make in a day. The life expectancy age of a Burmese man is 57 and the life expectancy age of a Burmese woman is 62. The life expectancy age for men and women in this brickyard is 50.

5 years old

15 years old

35 years old

As Joe was telling me all this, the moment that the picture of the girl who became the cover of Asian Photography magazine took me. It was that moment that I realized what Aung San Suu Kyi meant when she said to "do right with your photographs." Her request was not about putting your money where your mouth is, it was about putting your art where your heart is. At that time I experienced a momentary lapse of reason. I was changed. At that moment I decided that I am going to build a school. I had no idea how; I just knew I had to do right by these people.

"One person can make a difference, and everyone should try."
â”President John F. Kennedy

We have traveled in different ships to get to this moment in our lives, but we are all in the same boat now. At this moment, if you have read this far, you and I are literally on the same page. The issue I'm about to discuss is not an issue of liberal or conservative, or the religious belief you hold. This issue is about the one defining thing we all share. We are all humans that live on the same planet. Whatever affects one directly, ultimately affects all of us indirectly. Are there many things that need fixing in our human experience? There surely are. Can you fix all of them? You surely cannot. But the best you can do is fix the things you can. So do that. If everyone did that at least once, just think where we would be today? Tomorrow? A year from now?

So my goal is this: I want to use the power of the camera to build a school in this village. I want to use the power of the camera to create something that will take the experience that affected one person directly and use it to affect as many people as directly as possible.

The etymology of word "photography" means to write with light.  Thomas Jefferson (among others) said, "The pen is mightier than the sword." Wellâ¦TJ did not have a digital camera. Because the camera is mightier than the pen. Which means that a photographer wields a light saber.

I have started the site The first goal of the site is to build a school in this village, using art to do it. My plan is to first create a limited edition set of four 17×22 portfolios, then to create a book from the 137,000 captures I have of Burma to help keep it going.

What I need is help.

I am asking for help from the collective all of you. From straightforward legal advice, to help and ideas about book layout, to ideas of how to expand the thought of fixing things that we can with our art, creating a forum to show the things that take us. If you have an idea, send an email to
. If you want to help the school project send an email to

In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King said, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits." Next time you drink a cup of Starbucks there is someone in this world we all live in that has to toil all day to make what you spent in a moment.  If not for them, take pause for a moment and think of their children playing in a brickyard whilst they work. That you, one person, have within your power to make a difference in life. All you need do is try.

You can see more of Nikon Ambassador Vincent Versace’s work at, follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr, and find out more about his latest venture at

Real World Tips for Photographing Real People
People have held a fascination for me from the first moments that I picked up a camera in my adolescence. They were the very first things that I turned my camera toward, and it's a fascination that continues to this day.

Despite such an early start, I still face many of the same doubts and insecurities that you likely feel any time you are out in public and want to photograph strangers. Such feelings don't ever go away, but I've managed to find a way of working through those feelings to make intimate photographs of people.

The fear that people will become angry or even violent is how far we take our anxiety over photographing someone we don't know. But the reality is that most people, when approached in a sincere and friendly way, are often flattered and thus agreeable to being photographed.

Though I discuss in depth my personal approach in my e-book Portraits of Strangers, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share a few tips that I think you will find helpful the next time you want to photograph a stranger.

Begin with a Compliment
I was walking to my car after a teaching assignment when I spotted this young man talking to some friends in the parking lot. I approached him and complimented on his hair and joked about the fact that I'm follicly challenged. I asked if I could make his photograph, which he gladly agreed to.

Approaching someone with a sincere compliment about something you find interesting is a great way to start an interaction. First off, giving a complete stranger a compliment catches most people off guard. They are often flattered. Secondly, it provides them with an understanding of why you want to photograph them. They don't need to ask, "Why do you want to make my picture?" because you've already established why. Whether it's their hair, the dog they are walking or just the fact that they look great in a suit or a dress, it helps to bridge the physical and emotional gap that separates them and you.

Having Your Camera Ready
When I saw this caballero walk into the restaurant where I was having lunch, I knew immediately that I wanted to photograph him. As he and his wife were ordering their meal, I was busily setting my camera's ISO, white balance and aperture to take advantage of the light within the space. So, when I finally approached him and he agreed to my making his picture, I focused completely on keeping him engaged rather than fiddling with my camera.

As I am often making street portraits, I am always assessing the quality and the quantity of the light and adjusting my white balance, and ISO accordingly. I especially pay attention to my shutter speed and increase my ISO as needed to ensure a reasonable shutter speed that will keep my images sharp.

Stay Aware of your Light and Background
During the anniversary of Union Station, there were several people dressed in vintage clothing. I stopped this young man who I thought looked stellar in his suit and hat. Though the light was great in the initial setting, the background was far to busy and cluttered and so I moved him to a location with a simpler and cleaner background. This resulted in a much better portrait that emphasized his style.

Don't hesitate to move your subject. Often the place where you initially find your subject isn't the ideal location for a portrait. Remember, if a person has agreed to being photographed, they likely will be more than willing to move to a location where the light and the background is better if you explain simply that you are doing so to make them look as good as possible.

Get Closer
When I saw this fellow place his dog in his jacket, I complimented him on the dog and asked if I could make a photograph. I had a wide-angle lens on the camera, which allowed me to include him in the frame. So, when he pulled out a cigarette and lit, I was ready to include the gesture of his hands to make a better photograph than I had initially anticipated.

Don't be too preoccupied with invading someone's space especially after they've already agreed to be photographed. For the few moments that you are engaged, you have received permission to move closer to a complete stranger than you normally would have any reason to. Take advantage of that, because the result are images that are much more intimate and immediate than something you could produce at a distance with a telephoto lens.

Include the Environment
While in a small town in Guadalajara, I walked into this muffler shop and simply asked what kind of work they did there. After a brief chat, I explained that I was there as part of a photo workshop and asked permission to make some photographs, to which they agreed. I wanted to do more than a head and shoulders portrait. So I included part of this man's workspace in my composition to provide some context that explained who he is and what he does.

If the setting provides some insight into who the person is and what he does, it's a perfect time to open up the composition and include those important elements in the frame. Be careful to scan the edges of the frame to eliminate anything that doesn't serve the subject or the image. Carefully consider your composition so that you can succeed in making a strong environmental portrait.

Slow Down
When I saw this young man, I complimented him on his look and asked to make his portrait. I positioned him so that the background was as clean and simple as I could make it. There were cars and people passing by in the background and so I had to wait several times for them to pass. I didn't rush it and I didn't settle on just making one image. I simply explained why I was taking as long as I was and thanked him for his patience. In the end, we were both pleased with the final result.

I recommend that you don't rush things once someone has agreed to be photographed by you. It's tempting, because you don't want to take too much of that person's time, but it's important that make sure that you get the best shot possible. That's likely not going to happen if you just make one frame. As the photographer, you have the responsibility to make the most of the opportunity and to honor the person with the best image you can muster. You should be quick, but be efficient.

There is no real secret to approaching strangers. Like with anything in photography, it takes practice. Yes, there will be times when you are rejected, but the worst that will happen in those situations is that people will simply say, "no." Just thank them anyway and move on to your next subject. In due time, you will find yourself making photographs of complete strangers and not only coming away with a good photograph, but a wonderful story to go along with it.

Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, educator and host/producer of The Candid Frame, which features conversation with some of the world's best established and emerging photographers. He is the author of 5 books including Chasing the Light: Improving Your Photography Using Available Light. You can see more of his work at and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Some Things I’ve Learned Over The Years. In Order Of Importance.
Six things I have learned over the years that are relevant to this increasingly common desire. In order of importance.

1. How you see the world and what you have to say about it (also known as point of view) is the single most valuable asset you have as a photographer. Often, developing a strong point of view has very little to do with photography and a lot to do with what you read, think, and have seen. What is you point of view? What you are doing to develop and expand it?

2. Be a nice person. Clients give work to talented people they want to spend time with. Its that simple. In the past 25 years I could probably trace every job I have ever gotten back to about 15 people. They would recommend me to others because I had put in enough hours to get good at my craft and they enjoyed my company. Its that simple. Solid Talent + Nice Personality = Third Person Referrals. Third person Referrals = everything. This also happens to be a much less icky way to think about marketing.

3. Walk before you fly. The curve of every successful photographer I know represents a slow and steady rise over time powered by passion. They started with small unglamorous assignments for small unglamorous publications and through dogged commitment and talent built their careers one picture at a time. Sorry folks, there is no fast track to success. For some reason people don't want to hear this. I'm gonna sound old here, but this is especially true with some younger people. It takes 10,000 hours to master a craft. The sooner you accept this, roll up your sleeves, and start doing the hard work the better off you will be.

4. Find a mentor (and listen to them). I can trace everything that has ever happened in my career back to 4 mentors. Each of them helped me through different stages of my career in a very old­ fashioned way. Basically, they would give me advice and I would follow it. A lot of the time this advice made no sense but in retrospect it always did. None of them every told me I was great and all of them expected a lot of me.

5. It's not about the gear. For every minute you research or think about gear/technology you need to spend 100 hours actually using it. Look at the greatest photographs ever taken, almost all of them could have been shot with a 35mm or 50mm lens. I'm begging you⦠shut down your computer get offline and shoot more. The real world can be so much more interesting and rewarding than the virtual one anyway.

6. Embrace business. You're better off being a mediocre photographer who is an excellent business person than vice versa. I know, creatives are supposed to be above business. Here's the key, don't think of business as something that will turn you into a suit and tie. Think of business as nothing more than a way for you to enable your dream job and lifestyle. The better you get at the business part of it the more opportunities you will have. Business for photographers is really just a different application of the creative problem solving skills we already posses.

Learn more about the feature film David is shooting at and see David's work at

Photo by Scott Kelby, just before we hit the streets of Ybor City to shoot for an upcoming book last week

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to photograph a local radio show, 98ROCKFEST at one of Tampa’s largest venues, Tampa Bay Times Forum. It was a fun night of photographing a familiar band, one I wasn’t familiar with and ended up loving, and trying to keep up with the headliner.

First up was Chevelle, a band that I had shot once previously, so I was familiar with their stage energy and had a pretty good idea of what to expect. They’re energetic without moving around too much, so it’s easy to focus on one person at a time (especially there’s only three guys in the band). But they still have some good expressions, so it’s easy to show emotion in the shots.

Next up was Volbeat, the band I was unfamiliar with but quickly became a fan as soon as they took the stage.

These guys all had great energy, expressions, and looks in general. They moved around the stage a good amount, but once they hit a point they would stay there long enough for you to run over and get a few shots off. And they would even step onto the subs in front of the stage, getting nice and close to us photographers in the pit. I would almost say they’re the perfect kind of band to shoot.

Last up was Avenged Sevenfold, another band I hadn’t photographed before. There were other photographers in the pit who had and gave me a heads up on what to expect, but there’s nothing like experiencing something for the first time to learn from and improve for the next time.

These guys ran around the stage almost constantly, which made it difficult to keep up with any one person. After attempting to do so, I realized that I was just going to have to pick a spot to stay in for a while and shoot whatever came into my frame, then move to another spot and do the same. They also had three risers at the front of the stage, which was great when they were on them, but became obstacles to shoot over/around when they weren’t. While they were a little more challenging to shoot, I still got some of my favorite images of the night from this set.

Before I close out here, I’ll leave you with one pro tip… Don’t be this person:

I get it. There’s something cool happening in this one spot on the stage. We all want to get the shot, so we all converge on the same area and politely jockey for position. But DON’T hold your camera up in the air like this. You’re ruining other people’s shots. It’s slightly more than annoying. We’re all trying to do our jobs, so let’s work together. If you have to hold your camera up to get a shot, do it for a second or two here and there at most, not for the entire three songs.

Okay, rant over. Hopefully you picked up something useful from this or at least enjoyed my shots. If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll answer as soon as I can. And if you’ve just finished reading this and are wondering, “How can I get a photo pass to shoot a concert?” I have a link you’ll find useful right here.

As always, thanks to Scott (Kelby) for allowing me to use this platform to share my work, and thanks to Scott (Audette) for asking me to cover this show!

You can see more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.COM, and connect with him on Instagram and Twitter.

I’m originally from Slovenia but I’ve lived and worked in the United Arab Emirates since 1991.

My background is in architectural visualization and illustration. For almost 2 decades, I worked in the Emirates, one of the fastest growing countries in the world, and work was never scarce. I specialized in the creation of photo-realistic, computer generated renderings of master developments, buildings and interiors.

Examples of the 3D CG architectural visualization workflow, 2007

Somewhere around 2005, many real estate developers started to outsource architectural renderings and animations to companies in Asian countries where they managed to get about half the quality I was offering for about 1/10th of the price. Needless to say, getting new projects became hard. In 2008, the economy collapsed overnight. Real estate developments were suddenly frozen. Nobody dared to launch new projects and with that, the business of 3D walkthroughs and still renderings was declared dead.

A vision that never became more than a dream. 3D CG rendering, 2007

It was the time to react and adapt. In May 2008, I joined a VF/X and film production company in Abu Dhabi. This is where I got the chance to learn something new and to move away from the realm of 3D computer graphics.

I've had a life-long fascination with photography but for one reason or another, I never got into it. Life’s weird that way. One day, sometime back in 2009, I picked up a Canon PowerShot G9 camera and started dabbling with it. The initial results were pathetic, but I was motivated to try harder. So I enrolled myself in a 6-month, self-taught crash course in photography. I was like a sponge for information – I bought tons of books about photography, I studied the work of great masters and read all of them. I browsed thousands of photography websites, forums, blogs and watched pretty much every YouTube tutorial I could find. Whatever I learned in the books, I tried later with the camera. I shot thousands of pictures every month and shared the work on various forums. Slowly but steadily, my work got better and with improved results, my confidence grew.

One of my earlier works, captured with Canon PowerShot G9 in Slovenia, 2009

Meanwhile, I continued working on sporadic 3D computer generated animations for real estate developers when an opportunity arose. In 2009, I worked on one specific architectural visualization in which the client asked for a few beauty shots of the city as an introduction to the 3D animation of their proposed master development. I first thought of shooting them in a conventional video but then, for some reason, I recalled the incredible urban time lapses I saw years ago in Godfrey Reggio’s ‘Koyaanisqatsi’ and Ron Fricke’s ‘Baraka’. These two films left a lasting impression on me. In all honesty, I didn’t have the first clue about time lapses at the time. But there was something indescribably beautiful and magical about them, so I decided to give time lapse photography a shot.

Little did I know that I had just entered into an adventure of a lifetime.

Study of sunlight and how it changes the landscape, 2009

The Canon PowerShot G9 is a great little compact camera, as long as you’re not trying to do serious work with it. I did my 2-day research about time lapse photography online and I gathered the basics. I learned that I would need an electronic shutter release cable which can trigger the camera’s shutter in user defined intervals. So I bought a cheap Chinese intervalometer for 10 bucks. I picked up a flimsy tripod dating back to the early 80s and I was ready to go. At least I thought so.

My first time lapse attempts were, well…abysmal. No one told me that the autofocus should’ve been turned off while I was shooting the sequence. The camera was constantly trying to re-focus between each frame and at night, it missed the focus every other frame. It was a disaster.

Day to night time lapse of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, 2013

That wasn’t all. I was shooting in Aperture priority mode which was another time lapsing gaffe. The camera was changing shutter speed from frame to frame, and each time, the lighting conditions changed a bit. That caused a nasty strobing effect, commonly known as time lapse flicker. I also didn’t know that the White Balance and ISO should’ve been set to manual and that lead to inconsistent colors and grain. The camera should’ve been set in full manual mode but at the time, I did not know that.

With each failure, I learned something new. I kept trying and trying and by the end of the week, I had my first time lapse scene of Abu Dhabi’s skyline, the establishing shot my client had asked for. They were very impressed with the result and at that, it suddenly dawned on me that I had found my new passion. I was hooked at 110%.

‘Into the abyss’. Climbing the rooftops of Abu Dhabi, scouting for shooting locations, 2013

2 years later, in 2011, I got my hands on a Canon 5D Mark 2 and decided to create my first time lapse film. By that time, I knew the importance of a stable, solid tripod. Vibrations are a bad thing if you’re shooting time lapses. The longer the lens, the more pronounced the vibrations, especially in high wind. They can be stabilized in post-production but not entirely.

I learned that shorter intervals work better for faster moving subjects such as people and cars (1 to 3 seconds), and that longer intervals looked good on slow moving subjects, such as moving clouds and setting sun (5 to 15 seconds).

My first time lapse film, titled ‘ABU DHABI 2011’ was extremely well received and it encouraged me to stay the course and learn even more about the craft.
Abu Dhabi 2011, my very first time lapse film and a passion project, 2011

At the end of 2011, I got calls from the BBC and Discovery to shoot time lapse material for their TV series, and this is where my hobby turned into a profession.
I started working with motion control gear which added dynamism and liberty to my time lapse sequences. My shots became more complex and choreographed. I felt like my time lapses suddenly got liberated from the chains of the static tripod.

At this point, I also found out about ‘shutter dragging’ – a term that describes motion blur in moving subjects which added fluidity to the scenes. ‘Shutter dragging’ is achieved by fitting your lenses with Neutral Density filters which reduce the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor. I never shoot daytime time lapses scenes with anything less than a 6 to 8-stop ND filter. With experience, I came to know that the recommended shutter speed for daytime time lapse sequences is anything between 2s to 1/10th second. Shooting with high powered ND filters also helps to combat Shutter flicker (brightness strobing) which can occur if your shutter is triggering faster than 1/100th second.

‘While you were sleeping’, looking for new points of view in Abu Dhabi, 2013

As a Canon user, I learned how to deal with another adversary – Aperture flicker. Canon lenses have an electronically controlled diaphragm. It’s a great feature for shooting stills but awful for time lapses. Why? Say you set your lens to shoot at f/8. Each time you take a picture, the camera instructs the lens to contract the diaphragm to f/8.0 and wait in that position until the image is captured and then, to reset it to its original position. Trouble is, the diaphragm never truly returns to the same precise position. Instead of maintaining the precise diameter of f/8, it may go to f/7.98, or f/8.06. A slightly different diameter of the diaphragm during exposure will result in a slightly different exposure of each frame. If you play such a sequence in real time, it will flicker. It’s irritating to watch, it ruins your time lapse and is very hard to fix in post production.

Trying out new techniques, blending multiple times of the day into one frame, 2014

To avoid this problem, you have several options. You can choose to shoot with manual lenses which have a mechanical diaphragm. In some cases, I use Nikon G lenses with a Canon mount adapter. It’s a well-designed solution which works wonderfully. Another trick I learned is Lens Twisting. It involves untwisting your Canon lens partially while holding the Depth of Field preview. This locks the diaphragm into fixed position which effectively eliminates any possibility for Aperture flicker.

I also mastered advanced time lapse photography techniques, such as shooting flicker-free, day to night / night to day sequences using Bulb Ramping and Holy Grail methods. The first one requires you to shoot with a camera set to Bulb mode. A special device or a tethered laptop are then connected to the camera’s shutter trigger and USB ports which control the exposure time in extremely precise, progressive or regressive lengths, down to the millisecond. The result of the Bulb Ramping technique is completely flicker free time lapses during major light transitions. Bulb Ramping is a bit tricky to set up, but the result is a flawless, flicker-free time lapse sequences.

The ‘Holy Grail’ method requires a de-flickering process with specialized software tools. If used correctly, the Holy Grail method produces flicker-free results for day to night time lapses. I use it regularly and it works very well.

Looking for something new in Oman, 2014

As of recently, I also started working with a ‘hyperlapse’ technique – a method in which the camera is moved over great distances between each exposure. This method is currently trending in the time lapsing community and some have made it an art form of its own.

I’ve only began to explore the vastness of this amazing craft. Unlike older and more established forms of photography, time lapse photography exists on the fringes of the constantly evolving science and art. Digital cameras and motion control technology are becoming more sophisticated with each passing day, while being more accessible and affordable.

So why do I like time lapse photography so much? Because it always manages to surprise me. We are so hard wired to perceive the world around us at a certain pace. Twist this perception a bit by speeding it up and you’ll be dazzled at how amazing rush hour traffic will look. Or the play of shadows cast by the buildings as they dance across the city. Or the hide and seek play of the sun between the clouds as it plunges towards the horizon. Time lapse photography reveals that there’s magic in the mundane greyness of life; it has the power to enchant and inspire. You just have to look at it with different eyes.

Scouting locations from the helicopter in Abu Dhabi, 2013

That being said, time lapsing may not be for everyone. It takes a particular kind of person to get up at 4am in arctic weather and wait for the sunrise, or spend the whole day in the blistering heat next to the camera to make sure the exposure is set just right. It takes patience and dedication. You need to be able to see ahead of time, predict the pitfalls before they arise, while many elements are working against you.

If you’re still curious about this wonderful art form, I’ve good news for you; you are living in the most exciting time in history of photography to get into it. What are you still waiting for?

To see more of Beno’s work, connect with him on VimeoFacebook, Google+, Twitter, Flickr, Instagram or 500px.