Category Archives Photo Shoots


I am just thrilled to announce that our online training class called “A Day With Jay Maisel” is now live at Kelby Training Online (link).

This class chronicles my “Day with Jay” as this living legend of photography walks the streets of New York City, shooting as he goes, and sharing some of the most amazing, insightful, thought provoking, and just plain brilliant ideas for taking your photography to the next level, that you’ll find anywhere. It truly is absolutely fascinating.


In this video, I’m the student, and Jay does all the training. You’re there as we start out at Jay’s studio, then head out to the streets of Manhattan, shooting everywhere from the Subway to Times Square to a quaint Italian restaurant in Jay’s neighborhood. It’s an experience like no other, and the feedback we’ve been getting from Jay’s class is literally just out of this world. Photographers are blogging about it, raving about it, and learning from it around the world (There is only one Jay Maisel!).


The class went live last Friday, and one of my readers, Sebastien Dalahaye posted this on my blog about the class:

“…Don’t know if that’s something related to what you learn from Jay Maisel in NYC, but I just watch the class on Kelby Training and whoah, amazing stuff. Class itself is worth the annual subscription.”

The class is produced kind of like a documentary, kind of like a reality show (because it’s pretty live and uncut, complete with Jay’s own “colorful” New York language), and kind of like a roving class, where whatever Jay sees, he shoots, and then he teaches. Seriously an amazing experience, and I hope you get to catch it. Here’s the link.


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Hi everybody—I’m back from my break, which turned out to be 16-days in China of nothing but rest and relaxation (with some travel photography throw in as we slowly made our way from Hong Kong to Shanghai by ship and eventually to Beijing for a few days before heading back home).

My wife surprised me with the trip as my Christmas present (I was totally blown away—-and still am), and what was cool was it was just us two—we left the kids at home this time (well, it was us and two other couples who are good friends of ours). Another cool thing is that my wife speaks Chinese (Mandarin), so that made everything much easier (even though they primarily speak Cantonese in Hong Kong, and “Shanghainese”[dialect] in Shanghai, they still understood enough Mandarin to help us get around and get everything we needed).

I’ll have a few more details tomorrow but China was absolutely incredible and loads of fun. I had been to Beijing 11 years ago and I can’t believe how much it has evolved since then. Just simply amazing.

Just like I did for my Tuscany trip last summer (link) I put together an Apple iPhoto book of some of my favorite shots from my trip, and I’ve included some of those pages below (click on them for a much larger view). I did take lots of regular vacation photos as well but those are going into a separate iPhoto book for the family and our friends that were with us.

About the Photos
Although China has all these amazing landscapes, and stunning mountain ranges, our trip was all to major cities and ports, so all the photos are from big cities we stopped at along the way.

The shots below are all taken during group sightseeing bus tours or guided city tours, so I could pretty much only snap shots during those times (though in Beijing we did take a taxi to shoot the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium at sunset, which was a blast). So, if you’re wondering where all those “fisherman in a small both in the mist with jagged mountain behind him” shots are—I’ll have to try and find those on another visit (I’d love to go back on a dedicated photo trip).

Camera Specs:
For the first few days in Hong Kong, I shot with a Nikon D300s with an 18-200mm f/3.5 – f/5.6 VR lens. Having just one lens that does it all was incredibly convenient, but then when I got to Shanghai I switched to my D3 using either my 14-24mm f/2.8 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I have no idea why I switched. I guess I thought the quality would be better, but lugging all that heavy gear around for 10 hours a day really turned out to be a huge pain in the $@#. When will I ever learn.

Before we get to the photos; a big thanks to everyone who covered for me here on the blog while I was slacking off. They did an absolutely fantastic job (and how about Alex’s awesome guest blog, eh?).

Anyway, here’s some shots from the trip (click on them for larger views).  There’s no HDR here, but I did shoot a few HDR shots during the trip, one of which I actually like, but it’s not in this batch. I’ll run it separately here tomorrow if I can:

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I recently co-taught a Landscape/Adventure Sports workshop out in Moab, Utah with famous adventure photographer Tom Bol (and just all around nice guy). The class was great, the weather was great and we had a blast. But on the way back I started thinking about some lessons I’ve learned along these trips so I figured I’d share them with you today.

NOTE: Click on the photos to see them larger

Lesson 1 – Get up earlier than you think
The formula is simple. Get there 1 hour before sunrise. Plain and simple. You never know what snags you’ll hit (road blocks, detours, equipment). What happens if you’re on your way and you realize you forgot a lens or your tripod. If you have to turn around you’re screwed – you’ve missed sunrise because you left no extra time. But there’s another big reason to leave earlier than you think. If you happen to be going to a popular shooting location you’d better bet everyone else will have left early. Imagine walking up to a great sunrise shoot and seeing this.

Getting there early could be the difference between getting this shot of Mesa Arch (in Canyonlands National Park)


…or this shot


When I took the first photo, we were there about an hour before sunrise – the first ones at the spot. The second one was taken on another trip and several of the good spots were already gone. It’s not horrible but certainly not the shot we go there for. This next photo was taken at another sunrise shoot. What you can’t see are the 10 people standing on the ledge next to me and the guy’s foot (from a ledge above) I had to clone out on the far left side. Had we got there any later, there wouldn’t have been any places left to shoot from.

The moral of the story is that if you’re going to get up early, then do it right and get up really early. There’s no way around it. You’re gonna be tired whether you get up at 4am or 5am right?

Lesson 2 – Get ready the night before
I can’t stress this one enough. When you wake up at 4am you’re going to be in no condition to start gathering things. Trust me, I’m a morning person and I still don’t have the mental capacity to think that early. So get your stuff ready the night before. Pack your bag, pack your car if possible (as long as the car is in a safe place) and make it so all you have to do is roll out of bed, grab your coffee (or Coke Zero) and head to the shoot. Heck, I even sleep in my clothes, hiking boots, and photography vest so I’m totally ready when I get up. Just remember to take any lens filters out of your pockets so you don’t crush them while you sleep (I’m kidding – those filters are stronger than you think ) ;)

Lesson 3 – Shoot & Move
I’ve been on a lot of sunrise shoots and I’ve seen this happen plenty of times. A photographer sets up their tripod and shoots the sunrise. But they stay in the same exact spot and shoot that sunrise to death. 756 frames later they’ve only got one actual photo to show for it. Instead, when you arrive early (see #1 above), scout a few other locations near your ideal sunrise spot. Shoot the “official” sunrise for 3-4 minutes and move on while the light is still good. Hit another location and shoot there for 2-3 minutes and move on again. You’ll be amazed at how many great “sweet light” shots you can get within the first 10 minutes of the sun coming up or going down. Here’s a photo taken just a 60 second walk from where I set up to shoot sunrise one morning (pssst the official “sunrise” photo I took first that morning never made it to my portfolio but this one did). If I hadn’t moved when I did, I would have never captured this with such nice light on it.

Lesson 4 – Try Photographing People
Photographers taking photos in a dramatic location can be great subjects. You can make a lot of these photos while you’re waiting for the light to get good (or after it gets bad).

There’s also lots of opportunities to take photos of people in cool landscape locations. For example, in my Moab workshop the other week we shot some mountain bikers. Moab is basically home to mountain biking. What better place to shoot awesome riders in some killer locations.


As I mentioned earlier, I co-taught this workshop with Tom Bol. He brought along his Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery packs and heads so we were able to do some really fun off-camera flash stuff during the day. Combine the edgy lighting with some post-processing effects it made for some great shots.


Lesson 5 – It’s all about luck
This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. A good friend of mine, Bill Fortney (one of the greatest landscape photographers I know) has a very cool story to demonstrate this lesson. He was once asked “Bill, how do I get photos like yours?” He told the person that they probably weren’t going to like the answer but it was very simple in nature. He said the way to get photos like his was to go to every one of those landscape monuments and national parks 25 times over the course of their life. At some point, the weather, conditions, clouds, sun, light, etc will all fall into alignment for you to get that great shot. Simply put, great landscape photos involve a lot of luck. And I mean A LOT! If you’re out on a portrait or studio shoot and things aren’t going right, you have a bunch of factors you can change. You can change location, wardrobe, and even lighting if you’re comfortable enough to use flash. But with landscapes, there’s not a darn thing you can do if you get out there and the fog is thicker than pea soup. If you’ve traveled to that location from a far distance it’s even more disappointing. Here’s an example of a photo taken on our Friday night sunset shoot during that same Moab/Arches workshop I’ve been talking about. The light was kinda bla for sunset and the sun died out behind a cloud before creating any of that really nice color.


As Bill alludes to above, persistence is the key. On my way out of town the following evening I was all set to make the 4-hour drive to Salt Lake City. I saw the makings of a good sunset though so I stopped at the same place we were at the night before. Things turned out much better this time around.




I love landscape photography. There’s something about bringing back a magnificent scene and showing it to those that just aren’t able to get out there and see it for themselves. Landscapes don’t talk back, they don’t ask for more money or flake out and pull a no-show on you and when they’re “on”, all you have to do is set up your camera and capture the beauty. Thanks for reading everyone. Have a great Tuesday!

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This weekend I had media passes to shoot the Sun n’ Fun Fly-in, a wonderful air show that takes place each year in Lakeland, Florida (my hometown no less), and this time I got to shoot it with my buddy Bill Fortney from Nikon Professional Services and professional aviation photographer Jose Ramos (check out Jose’s work here).

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It all started by setting my alarm to go off at 4:45 am on Saturday morning, and then driving to the airshow in Lakeland (about an hour or so away) to hook up with Bill to catch first light on the warbirds on display, and the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds sitting on the flight line, who would be doing demonstrations that afternoon and Sunday, and some A-10s and FA-18s (that’s one seen above at dawn).

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It was a pretty cloudy morning, so we didn’t get great light, but once the light was up, I managed to get a few shots I liked of a Lockheed 12A Electra, shown above (at least I think it’s a 12A Electra) before the light was so harsh we had to pack it in (which was about 8:15 am).

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I headed back home to rest up because my son and I were headed to see Bon Jovi in concert that night (our favorite band), and we even got to meet up with photographer David Bergman, who is touring with Bon Jovi currently, and he’s scheduled to be my Guest Blogger this Wednesday. Great guy, and just amazing photographer—you might remember him from his famous gigapan shot of the Obama inauguration).By the way; the Bon Jovi concert was insane!!! Incredible show (with high tech lighting and video that was just incredible!!!!) Jon can still belt it out, and Richie Sambora totally screamed on guitar!!!!

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On Sunday, I headed back to the Sun n’ Fun with my whole family in tow, and we met up with Jose Ramos and spent the day shooting with him (mostly in the rain—the weather was rainy and gray the whole day), and waiting for the Thunderbirds demonstration (I had never seen them before, and I knew the kids would love ’em, which of course, they totally did!).

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Tech Specs
Shooting the jets would be easy, but I wanted to also catch some shots of the aerial acrobatics going on before the Thunderbirds, and this time I wanted to make sure I got nice propeller spin in the photos (Last year, I got to shoot for maybe 20 minutes, and was called away for an emergency, and I got just a few shots, and sadly I hadn’t found that sweet spot where the propeller has motion, and the plane is still sharp. This time, I was smarter. I asked Jose.

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He told me for those types of planes, and the speed of their propellers (Jose knows this stuff inside and out), he shoots in Shutter Priority mode at 1/320 of a second (I’m glad I asked—I would have shot much slower, and had a lot of blurry shots along the way). He says he doesn’t go for a full blur, and prefers to see motion and some of the blade as well, and so that’s what I went for, and it worked really well—-planning along with the planes and letting the camera choose the Aperture (since I was stuck at 1/320 of a second).


Once the jets came out (first a few FA-18-Fs then the Thunderbirds), I would switch to Aperture Priority mode and shoot wide open (which in this case was only f/5.6—-I was expecting a bright sunny day so I didn’t bring fast glass), to freeze the jets in motion.


Camera Gear
For the shots on the ground on Saturday, I took my D3 and used a 24-70mm f/2.8 and I borrowed Bill’s 16-35mm f/2.8 wide zoom. I also shot a few with my 70-200mm f/2.8.


On Saturday, with Jose, since now I would be shooting planes up in the sky, I followed Bill Fortney’s recommendation of bringing my D300s (to get closer to the action than shooting full frame), and my lightweight (yet very sharp), 70-300mm f/4.5 to f/5.6 lens, which worked great. I used that one lens for all the aerials.


Gray skies stink!
Although I really enjoyed the Thunderbirds (They are out and out amazing!), there is nothing more disappointing than shooting their incredible formations against a flat gray sky (as seen above and below). On Sunday, when they flew, it was raining on and off all day, with steady drizzle in between, and just absolutely flat, boring gray skies. Uggh!!! Even though it was gray and yucky, I enjoyed their show so much that I would make a special trip to another air show just to shoot them again against a beautiful blue sky.


So, it was “gray city” all day—but that’s the thing about photography; I didn’t get the shots of the Thunderbirds I wanted, but I still had a great time!!!! (and Jose was about as gracious a host as you could possibly ask for, and he was giving me tips and helping me with my technique throughout the day). I know so many photographers who would rather miss the shot, and instead spend the day fussing around with their camera settings, rather than just asking a follow photographer with more experience for help with their settings, or some tips on how to shoot the event.

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I was not embarrassed in the least to let Bill and Jose know this was really my first airshow shoot, and that I didn’t have any idea of what I was doing. I’ve found that rather than looking down on you, most photographers are happy to share what they’ve learned, and that’s what both Bill and Jose did without reservation, and now I know better what to do next time around, how to set my camera, and I bet my results will be better (especially if it doesn’t rain).

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My humble thanks to Bill and Jose for taking me under their wing, and for being so gracious with your time, and so warm and welcoming to my family. You guys are the best!!! :)

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Last weekend, after my Chicago trip I headed up to Birmingham, Alabama with my close friend Dave Moser to shoot the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. I was really excited because I had just shot the St. Pete Grand Prix a couple of weeks ago, and I wanted to take what I learned there and apply it to this shoot while it was all still fresh in my mind,  but as it turned out, I learned A LOT more at this Indy event, than shooting the St. Pete gig (more on that in a moment).

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(That’s me directly above [photo by Dave Moser], in the yellow photographer’s vest with the red headphones on for ear protection, taking the shot you see just above that, of race winner Helio Castroneves).

Dave and I flew up on Saturday and hooked up with our buddies Jeff Rease (better known as “The Chancellor of Birmingham” and Pete “The Juice Collins.” We went shooting out and around downtown Birmingham (mostly HDR stuff), and then we went to an incredible BBQ place called “Dreamland.” Had a great night, then had to get up really early for the mandatory photographers meeting at the Barber Motorsports Track on Sunday.

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The weather was absolutely perfect—high 70s, blue skies, no chance of rain, and a slight breeze. You couldn’t ask for better weather. We shot the Indy warm up session in the morning, and then the Indy Lights, and finally in the late afternoon we shot the actual Grand Prix race itself.

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Trying Out Some Tamron New Gear
Dave brought along a new 200-500mm Tamron lens he had on loan to try out, and I thought I’d give it a whirl too. I though this might be perfect lens for shooting motorsports because it’s so lightweight and compact, and the price was only around $900, which is pretty much insane to get 500mm reach. Dave shot the Indy Warm-ups with it, and when we loaded his images into Lightroom, we found that, unfortunately, out at the 400-500mm end of the lens, it’s just not tack sharp. In fact, the images were so soft they almost seems to have a little haze over them.

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We quickly changed Dave over to the Nikon 70-300mm lens, and I sent Dave back out to the track to take a another round of test shots, and sure enough—these were all tack sharp. It was the Tamron. Although I had great success with their 70-200mm f/2.8 recently, this one is just not sharp enough at the long end of the lens where you really need it to be sharp. Too bad, because the size, weight, and price were perfect. We put it back in the Dave’s camera bag, where it was never to see the light of day again.

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Tech Notes
I shot with two camera bodies: (1) A Nikon D300s for my long shots (I took this one so I could get closer to the action, since it has the standard zoomed crop factor, and (2) A Nikon D3 for my wide and closer shots.

I put my 200-400mm f/4 on the D300s, mounted on a Gitzo Monopod (shown above—photo by Dave Moser), and I put a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on my D3, which I carried using a Black Rapid R-Strap (that camera is down by the ground near the base of the monopod). I also used a Hoodman Loupe to check my images on the LCD screen (by the way—we were in direct sun most of the day, and there is just no way to really see your screen without one).

Camera Settings
I used two different sets of settings during the day.

(1) To make sure I had wheel spin (so the cars don’t look like they’re just sitting there parked on the track), I shot in Shutter Priority mode and panned along with the cars at 1/100 and 1/125 of a second (though Hal did talk me into shooting as low as 1/30 of a second, but I wasn’t having much luck, so I raised it up to 1/60 second a did much better there). That had the camera setting my Aperture at around f/22 (which is why you see that nice starburst effect on the shot at the very top of this spot. That comes from shooting at f/22 or higher).

(2) If the cars were coming straight at me, where you can’t  see much of the side of the wheel, which means you don’t have to worry about wheel spin, I switched to Aperture Priority mode and set my f/stop at f/4 to get a very shallow depth of field. This put my shutter speed anywhere between 1/1000 of a second and 1/2400 of a second, which just a great job of freezing the car and making everything really sharp. Again, you can only use this setting at certain angle.

A Day of Learning For Me
A number of media photographers were gathering on a hill overlooking the track for the start of the race, and we start chatting and before you know it, I ran into a longtime NAPP member. We started talking, and this guy is an absolute motorsports photography veteran whose been shooting professional motorsports, for teams, magazines, and manufacturers since the late 70s. His name is Hal Crocker, and since he had so much experience, I asked him if he would share some shooting tips (I’m always trying to learn), and he was an absolute fountain of information, and he helped me immeasurably with everything from my panning technique to composition for motorsports.

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I put Hal’s tips immediately into practice, and any time Hal would see me on the track he would come up and offer suggestions and share more tips, and I just can’t tell you how helpful he was (that’s Hal in the background on the left side of the photo with the red arrow pointing to him—-photo by Dave Moser). Hal has done some seminar training and teaching during his career, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that maybe one day soon Hal will be sharing his experience and techniques with you guys as well.

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I wasn’t on an official assignment this time around, so I made a pretty leisurely day of it, hanging out with Pete and Dave as we hiked to different parts of the beautiful road course.

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I’m not sure if we did more laughing or shooting, but we surely had a blast on a beautiful April day doing something we all love, and I got to meet some great people (and learn a lot) along the way (I met a number of NAPP members on the track that day, and some photographers covering the race from Japan as well).

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Thanks to Pete “The Juice” Collins (shown above far left, wearing the unspeakably large gaucho hat for which he took an unending stream of teasing) for putting up with Dave (2nd from left) and I, and for taking a bullet to make sure we made our flight home on time. I also owe a big thank you to my buddy Jeff Rease (that’s him on the far right above—check out his coverage of our trip right here—-he’s got an absolute killer shot of Danica Patrick’s car).

If it wasn’t for Jeff, I never would have gotten to shoot Indy in the first place, and now not only have I gotten to shoot a couple of races on assignment since then, I even got invited by the Indy Racing League itself to shoot for them at the Indy 500. It all started with a comment left by Jeff on my blog, and I’m so grateful for everything he’s done—for his wonderful hospitality—and for hanging out with us while we’re up in his home town. I owe ya, man!


(Above: This is one of my buddy Dave Moser’s shots, and I’m showing it off because I shared Hal’s panning tips with Dave while we were on the track, and he jumped right on it and got this super sharp panning shot with great wheel spin, yet the car is sharp as a tack from tail to nose. He was nailing these panning shots all day long!).


I’m in Chicago for my Photoshop seminar tomorrow (over 600 photographers will be there, which is awesome), and since I was getting in the day before, I got a chance to shoot the Chicago Bulls vs. Cleveland Cavaliers NBA game last night with my buddy Mike McCaskey (we were guests of our other buddy, Bulls Team photographer Bill Smith).

The shot above was taken with a 10.5mm fisheye lens. You have to see it big to appreciate the fish-eye effect, so click on it for a much larger version. I used the 10.5mm fish-eye lens, which is a DX (cropped format) lens on an FX (full frame) body, so it crops in a bit, but I like that it doesn’t look too crazy.


I had a much better time shooting this game than the Orlando Magic game I shot a month or so ago, because of one main thing I learned at that Game—buy a  fold-up portable floor chair for back support (my chair is shown below in the corner of court where we shot for most of the 2nd half).


Man, that thing is worth it’s weight in gold because you basically sit cross-legged on the floor for hours at a time, and it made the whole experience 100% more comfortable and enjoyable (I had Mike pick up one, too and he thanked me several times during the game).


Bill Smith took this shot above of Mike and me shooting during the game (that’s us in the left bottom corner, Mike’s in the light blue shirt). Also, you do have to kind of keep your other eye open while you’re shooting, because you’ll get beaned with the ball (at the very least), or run right over if not you’re watching out (by the way, even if you’re watching out, you can still get run over, but at least you can cover up a bit).


Tech Specs: Here’s what I shot with, then I’ll tell you what I wish I had been shooting with. I used a Nikon D3 with either a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens (most of the night), a 24-70mm f/2.8 (for some wide angle shots and stuff near the close basket), and I took one series of shots with that 10.5 fisheye lens. I shot in Manual mode, at 1/640 to 1/800 of a second, at f/2.8 all night. I used a gray card to set a custom white balance at the beginning of the game, but I shot in raw in case the white balance got squirrely on me. I shot at 2,500 ISO to get that fast a shutter speed (no reduction was applied, which is the marvel of the Nikon D3).


Now, here’s what everybody was shooting out there. They all did have a 70-200mm (either Nikon or Canon), but then just about every photographer had a second body with a 300mm f/2.8 for when the action is happening at the far basket. The 70-200mm is just that little bit too short to cover the far basket the way I’d like (about 100mm too short with a full frame body).

They would sit the 300mm on the floor, lens facing straight down, and shoot the other lens, but then when the action went the other way, they just picked up the 300mm and starting shooting. That part was a little frustrating, but next time I’ll rent a 300mm f/2.8 from


Mike took this shot of me during a time out using my iPhone. This is about where I was sitting for most of the game. Here, and just on other the other side of the basketball goal post behind me. We thought Lebron James was going to be playing that night, and that he’d be playing toward our basket in the first half, but we found out right before tip off that he wasn’t able to play tonight because of an existing injury.


So, the good news is I think I made some progress on this, my second NBA shoot. It’s better than what I got on my first game, but not nearly as good as what I’ll get next time (at least, that’s the plan). Either way—-it was an incredible way to spend the night before my seminar (thanks Bill!), and Mike and I both had a ball (we had been shooting earlier in the day around Chicago, and in the Little Italy area. A little HDR stuff at St. Inglesia’s Church, and then followed by a fantastic Italian Dinner at Tufano’s Vernon Park Tap. That place rocks!!!!


Two Last Things:
(1) Don’t forget the big stuff kicking off on Monday (from Adobe, of course, and from us at NAPP, too!).

(2) Hey, isn’t there an Indy car race in Birmingham, Alabama this weekend? Man, that would be fun to shoot (wink, wink) ;-)

Have a great weekend everybody, and we’ll see you on CS5 Monday!