Category Archives Guest Blogger

Perspective. It’s a word I try to keep at the forefront of my mind when I’m going through a challenging situation (or year, right?). Perspective is also a word I emphasize in my pursuit of better storytelling. 

Technology has endowed us with the benefit of capturing story with bold new perspectives. Smaller remotely triggered cameras and more compact and powerful lighting tools can now be placed anywhere. Out of all the advancements we’ve seen in the last 5-10 years, my hands down favorite is the use of drones. 


My Drone Backstory

I first started using a drone for small documentary film projects around 2013/14. I helped tell the (continuing) story of Eli Reimer, the youngest person with Down Syndrome to reach Mt. Everest base-camp. We’re friends with his family and wanted to document his trip to the Summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. (Side note, Eli didn’t reach the summit-but he did get roughly ten feet higher in elevation than Everest Base Camp-a PR for him.) 

While we did get a couple of usable video files from the drone, we also got to expend additional calories as we hunted for it throughout the bushes during one of its famous fly-aways. That particular drone didn’t have a proprietary camera and utilized a GoPro on an upgraded Zenmuse gimbal. It was messy, unpredictable, required a larger remote and a ridiculous amount of batteries that made it difficult to travel with. 

And it was freakin’ awesome. 

To say that drone technology today is better than that of 2013 would be an infinite understatement. Gone are the days of fly-aways, cases and cases of volatile batteries and now, smaller remotes work seamlessly with high functioning phone or tablet apps allowing you an assortment of flight modes. Drones are getting smaller with greater flight times and features-which makes them perfect to travel with. 

Roughly four years ago, I decided to bring a DJI Phantom 3 drone to a ranch wedding in Oregon. My intent was to capture a few video clips that could be used on my website and, as I’m always looking for a new perspective, I thought I might try to grab some stills. Though the cameras in the earlier drones weren’t comparable in quality to my then DSLR, I found I could capture images for my clients that before then could only be obtained when they booked the “Helicopter Rental” package, which strangely enough, never sold…  

Though not technically magnificent, I was able to capture the ranch at sunset with the wedding reception in glow, little girls twirling in their dresses from above and little details that perhaps everyone had seen, but not from this vantage point. Vendors were given images of their work they hadn’t seen before. The bride loved the perspective. 

Major light bulb moment. 

My first foray into drone usage at events proved to be an exciting way to help tell the story-for both the client and myself.

Now, the majority of weddings and engagement sessions I capture have a drone component to them. As I seek to continually push myself and become more creative with drone portraits, I thought I’d share some things I’ve learned along the way. If you’ve not yet played with the bird’s eye view that drones offer you, I hope this information sends you over the edge to take flight and enjoy the new perspective. I just hope this gets you stoked. 

This image was taken at roughly 7,000 feet, in a high Cascade Mountain lake. The clients were down to jump in the water and perform the difficult “floaty/kissy maneuver.”  I love the transition of water color and showing a bit of the rocky beach lends some context.

Safety

Know your equipment and the laws in your country, state, county or city. Know where you’re allowed to fly and how high. Fly in spaces you feel comfortable and fly within your ability. If you’re a beginner pilot and a Windows user, you can take advantage of DJI’s in depth “Flight Simulator” software which helps you grow your ability while walking you through different intelligent flight modes and environments. 

Fly creative, fly safe. 


Concept + Location 

Most of the time, I bring the drone and incorporate it into a shoot that’s structured around a typical session, such as a wedding, engagement or family portrait. Generally, I can find a pose or use of the land to make an interesting image.

From time to time, I’ll capture an image of people I’ve just met and my wife will insist we hang it on our wall. It’s only awkward if they come over, right? This is one of my favorite “bird’s eye view” images. Also a great shot to utilize a walkie talkie on, screaming back and forth across the water takes some of the romance out.

As of late, I’ve been more intentional with creating images specifically for the drone perspective. I’ve found that using apps like Apple’s Maps or Google Earth can help me scout a location I haven’t been to in person to see if it’s a viable option. Sun tracking apps such as Lumos or Photographer’s Ephemeris 3D (TPE3d) are helpful in tracking the sun, and can show you where shadows may fall on your subject. Interesting landscape features, leading lines and uses of color will generally yield a more striking final image. Think through the client or talent’s wardrobe and how you might incorporate it into the color palette of the surrounding area, or, ensure what they’re wearing is going to “pop” against the background.

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Kelby people, long time no talk. Long time no see, actually I haven’t seen anyone for a long period of time, I am sure you can relate. Kind of a bummer, but hey – it could be worse. Anyway I am (was?) a Music Photographer. Meaning I spent the majority of my time on the road photographing musicians. Here are some of my most recent favorite photographs.

When Corona restrictions hit LA I was left feeling uninspired, lonely – I couldn’t see my friends at concerts. I couldn’t hear the music I am an addict for. I couldn’t create the art I had been creating for over half my life. You know – all that considered my life isn’t that bad. I actually thought to myself – alright if this is really all you are dealing with – surely you can do something with your time. After all I was fortunate enough to be able to pay my rent and buy food to eat. That is more than enough for me.

It still took me a few months to wrap my head around the situation I was in, but after the sensor dust had settled it was time to get to work. I don’t know about you guys but I need to be creating, I want to put my time towards concepts I care about – I want projects I can obsess over.  I called my friend/ business partner/ more hair on his head buddy named Thomas Falcone and we got scheming.

Thomas Falcone and Adam Elmakias

What can we do that involves the Music Photographer community, brings them closer together – and gives back in some way or form.

… In real life gatherings – not happening.

… Another A Music Photography Magazine with all of our friends (issue 2 ft. your very own Brad Moore) – good idea, but too many moving parts.

… Online A Music Photography Magazine PDF – eh, kinda boring.

… Online A Music Photography Magazine…. Gallery.. Virtual Gallery?

Alright now that’s what I’m talking about baby.

This checked all the boxes. We could make a VR gallery with all of our friends, ask for donations, and treat it like an IRL event. It would be ticketed, have a launch date, and then run its course. You could invite your friends, your family etc. My general rule of thumb is that if it genuinely excites me, it’ll probably at least tweak a few folks interest. 

So that is what we did. We started hitting up every music photographer we knew while at the same time accepting submissions for this project from any music photographer that wanted to submit. The goal was to include all of our professional friends while the same time including the parts of the community we hadn’t yet connected with. The quantity of submissions we got was close to 1000 and churning through them was nothing short of a pleasure. So much talent in our community. 

Going into it we thought it would be about a single month of work. In the past I had done the magazine alone, and it was 50 photographers. Now we have two people and we are going for about 90 photographers – how much harder can it be? Turns out, a lot. It ended up taking us about five months.  

We asked everyone. We got a lot of yeses – and an equal amount of nos. Tell you what I am good at now – being told no. I mean I was pretty good before. I’ve had my fair share of creative ideas that probably deserved all the nos they got. This one felt special though – it was for a good cause and we were doing it together. 

That being said – when people told me yes – it made my heart warm. There is nothing better than coming up with a creative project, pouring your heart and soul into it – and then having people join you in your mission. Some of the photographers that agreed in this project were people I have looked up to for most of my life. Danny Clinch, Jeremy Cowart. Additional a lot of my peers I respect and value their friendship joined in – Lindsey Byrnes, Pooneh Ghana, Rob Loud, Matty Vogel, Ashley Osborn.

After confirming all the people that would be involved we had them each dig down into their hard drives and find images that meant a lot to them. The only other rule that we had was it had to be music related. We wanted the gallery to be full of moments people held close to their heart.

Anyway I am not sure what else to say. I am pumped. Come to our gallery, enjoy it like you would an in real life event. BYOB. Each photograph has an audio caption that goes along with it that tells a bit more about the photograph – straight from the photographers mouth. 

Here are a few quotes from their captions:

The gallery opens tomorrow, November 26th.

You can buy your tickets here (it is free, optional donation).

All the proceeds got to NIVA, the National Independent Venue Association.

You can see the full list of photographers below. 

You can see the virtual gallery starting tomorrow, November 26 at AMusicPhotographyMagazine.com. Find more work from Adam at AdamElmakias.com, and keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter.

To start off – THANK YOU to Scott and Brad for letting me write a guest post! As they say in radio I’m a, “long time listener, first time caller.” I’ve been fortunate to attend a handful of KelbyOne Live events and virtual conferences and have been a big fan for a long time. To share even a tiny bit of space with the likes of Scott, Rick Sammon, Joe McNally and the dozens of photographers who have been a part of this space is really cool!

BACKGROUND

My photography journey began almost 40 years ago when I inherited my grandmother’s Minolta HiMatic7. My dad had been an avid amateur and he encouraged me to explore photography but I had never had my own camera before. The next year I spent an entire summer buying my first used camera five dollars at a time. I edited my high school yearbook and shot frat parties in college for extra cash.

I got into the photo retail world when a Photo 101 class was killing me financially and I needed the employee discount to go through 5-8 rolls of film a week. I still work in a brick and mortar camera store, as well as teach and shoot a good bit in my adopted hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina.

In short – in some form or another, photography is just about everything in my world. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked with a number great mentors over the years and that’s what I’m writing about today – the value of teaching, mentoring and helping out the next generation of photographers. 

THE IMPORTANCE OF MENTORING

I find a lot of photographers who share their time, talent, insight, and technique and appreciate all that they do. Over time I’ve given a hand up to aspiring professionals and watched them grow (some have become far more successful than me). As I’ve gotten older and more secure in my space, I find more and more that I enjoy the teaching part of what I do far more than the shooting. Mentoring and coaching rookies is so fun and rewarding, and its not unusual for me to learn something from them, too. It’s true: old dogs CAN learn new tricks! <using the whisper voice> Most days I actually prefer teaching and coaching over shooting and editing.

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Mickey with Dr. John West and his image at the Mount Miguel open House

My name is Mickey Strand, I am a US Navy Combat Photographer Veteran. I served for 24 years, retiring in San Diego in 2009. I am a professional photographer, involved in many projects, the number is dependent on my ADD. 

Currently, I am photographing members of America’s Greatest Generation, The Veterans of World War II. Collecting stories, memories, and images for future generations from these heroes who signed the dotted line on a check that could have included their life if called upon.

Navy Chief Photographers Mate, Joe Renteria turned 103 years old in July and is still photographing the world today. Joe was a Navy PHC and retired after 20 years.

The project started as a suggestion from a mentor that I should work on my studio portrait lighting by shooting one portrait a month. He suggested I find a subject I was interested in, that it would grant “buy-in” of the work, find something or someone you want to photograph and you’ll work harder on it. This self-assignment started two portrait projects, the Veterans Portrait Series taking on the bulk of my attention.

I was inspired by other Veteran photographers who were shooting Veterans, collecting their images telling these stories, but saying “I want to shoot Veterans”, is like saying you want to learn about photography. I narrowed it down with a concentration on America’s Greatest Generation.

Corporal Seki “Don” served in the US Army with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT).
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Working Your Way Through a Cinematic Photoshoot

Cinematic lighting is something that’s the holy grail of photography. (Well, at least it is for me.) When I talk about a cinematic shot, I think about a shot that uses multiple lights to create drama and depth to an image or subject. I struggled in balancing all of the factors of photography when I first started shooting, so I’m hoping that walking you through this process will help your workflow when you get out there to shoot.

To make this happen, you have to conceptualize your light before you shoot. This means thinking about your scene and environment. You’ll need to determine:

  1. The number of subjects in your scene. If you have more than one subject, then you’ll want to examine each item as a basic shape. 
  2. Any reflective sources or surfaces that could be used. If you
  3. The number of lights you’ll need to get the effect that you want to achieve.

In conceptualizing the lights, we have to think about lighting in layers.

Remember that light is additive; meaning that if your lights overlap then you’ll get more power where they overlap. You’ll want to keep this in mind when choosing where your lights will be placed and how many you need. For this shoot, I wanted each light to have a purpose and not cross over with other lights.

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Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted by KelbyOne instructor Mark Heaps. Thanks for making this happen, Mark!


How did you get started?
In the mid 80’s, Steve took a photography class at a local community college, and I (Karen) took a photography class in high school. So with really no experience, just enough to be dangerous, we decided as couple, in our 50’s, that we would like to do photography as a hobby to spend time together.

We started out doing senior pictures, two weddings, and engagement pictures for friends and quickly realized that type of photography wasn’t inspiring us. We wanted to do something different but didn’t’ t know what that was. While looking at artists on the internet we discovered Brooke Shaden and instantly we felt like, “this is what we want to do.”

After researching her work, we discovered it used a lot of Photoshop. So, we contacted Precision Camera, our local photography store, to find out about taking Photoshop classes and we were connected with Mark Heaps, a KelbyOne instructor, and the journey began.


Your work is filled with these amazing characters. Are these professional models?
We do not use professional models. All our images are of people that live in and around our community. We will see someone in the grocery store, at a restaurant, or just through friends and ask them if they would like to be in one of our images. I would say 99% of the time, these total strangers, say yes…if you ask them.


You seem to have these deep intimate moments with strangers, can you tell us just one story about that?
When we are planning a project with someone new, we meet with them to talk about their life and events that have impacted them that could be used for a photo.  

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