Prom season is in full swing and I had the pleasure of going back up to Charlotte, NC., Concord actually, to do the Cabarrus-Kannapolis Early College Academy prom this weekend. I shot this event last year while I was living up there. They asked me back and I was happy to get back up there to do this for them. Great bunch of teachers and students at that school and it was a lot of fun.
But the main reason I wanted to share about this event is to point out that you always have to have a plan going into whatever type of shoot you are preparing for. In this case, it was not very complicated. The standard background and lighting setup for prom couples and groups. That hasn't changed much since I last attended a prom almost 40 years ago. So while you have to have a plan, it's good to be flexible enough that you can throw that plan out the window at the last minute if you see a better way to shoot it.
In this case, we were at the historic Hotel Concord and the area they set aside for my setup was really beautiful. The prom theme was "Hollywood" and I took one look at the place and decided it would be a real shame to throw up a background and cover up what was already there. I mean, we photographers will spend two or three hundred dollars on a painted background that depicts the scene that was already there in front of me. So I ran it by the prom coordinators and they agreed with me. The result was some really unique prom photos and some of my favorites I've ever done.
Yes, I have always been very competitive. Growing up, whether it was baseball, basketball, football, board games, it didn't matter. I wanted to test how I how I measured up to the competition. Later as a soccer coach for top level teams, I had the perfect outlet for my competitive nature and now, more recently its been tennis and golf. I don't have to win every time, I left that idea behind a long time ago, but its important for me to compete well and feel like I have pushed myself to a performance I can be proud of. Of course, if that results in a win, well I can really enjoy that, too!
Two years ago, with encouragement from mentors and peers, I decided to start competing with my photography as well. The PPA and my state organization, GPPA, give me plenty of opportunities every year to put my work out there and see what the serious judges think about it.
The PPA holds its district competitions this time of year throughout the country and last weekend the Southeast District (SEPPA) met in Virginia to see what the best photographers in the region had to offer. More on that in a bit. Next up, in May is the International Print Competition (IPC) also run by the PPA. Lots of cool things happen at that level. All images that earn a merit (a score of 80 or above) are showcased in the IPC gallery at the next Imaging USA in January. The best of the best get accepted in the Loan Collection and printed in the annual book of the top images.
My first submission was two years ago and I was thrilled to have one of my four entries earn a merit. I missed competition last year due to my move back from Charlotte so this yearI wanted to be ready to go for SEPPA. I felt 3 of my four entries were pretty strong, but its in the hands of the five judges. By the end of the day Friday, all four of my images had been judged and I was really happy to see that not only did three of the four earn merits (shown here in this post) , but all three scored my highest points in competition to date.
So now I turn my attention to the IPC competition later in the spring and will work towards that elusive four for four showing.
While the competitive juices start flowing during these opportunities, the real reason to compete is it makes you a better photographer! I am always striving to improve and expand my vision, creativity and techniques and these events really force you to stretch yourself. Listening to the judges do their thing, not only for your entries but everyone else's as well, you learn so much!
One of the things I enjoyed the most about photography school was being around other creative photographers and getting to share ideas and techniques. Its the thing I miss the most. Fortunately those opportunities still arise from time to time at large events such as the recent Imaging USA, PPA's huge convention for photographers held this year in Atlanta. Smaller events such as meet-ups offer another chance to enjoy the company of peers and last night was such a time. The Georgia Professional Photographers Association offers up small gatherings every so often and last nights shoot though lightly attended because of the weather was well worth dragging myself from my warm home.
Led by Augusta photographer Kevin Jiminez, we had a beautiful young model to work with on some senior photography style shots. It was rainy and cold so we were forced to spend most of the time indoors but we made the most of it, borrowing a photo studio in downtown Norcross and a cool little shop nearby. Kevin braved the drizzle for some stunning shots out on the street after dark, but I was a coward and chose not to subject my gear to the rain.
Photography meet ups are available to everyone, pro or amateur. i belong to a couple of others that meet often at interesting locations around the area. Check out the Decatur Digital Photography Meetup or the Southeastern Photographic Society Meetup. These groups have events every month and often get together afterwards at a nearby place to eat or have a drink.
A few weeks ago, I had one of my favorite shoots of the year at The Goat Farm in Atlanta. For those not familiar, The Goat Farm is an arts community located in an old industrial area just outside of the the middle of the city. And, yes, they do have goats there, as well as chickens and roosters running around to keep an eye on you!
The occasion was Amber & Galen's engagement. I had worked with Amber a year or so ago at another great location, the old Habersham Mills in Clarkesville to create images for her website (she's a fitness instructor). Those turned out great so I was not surprised that when she called me about shooting her engagement photos, she wanted to return there. Unfortunately, that's become a busy place and they had no openings to we turned to The Goat Farm which was a stroke of luck because it was a great setting.
Amber had a vision for a very elegant look to the session and I was very excited to help her pull it off. The team included a stylist and makeup person and we were set to go! Rain threatened to cause problems but we were able to work around that with no issues and even embraced the conditions to help provide a moody, romantic look. For lighting, I used my Profoto B2 Location kit, which has become my go-to location gear. Some shots were lit with one head while others used the second head as well. I went natural light for a handful of the shots also.
Amber & Galen proved to be great in front of the camera and needed little direction and we all were very happy with the results.
We had a lot of fun shooting on the shores of Lake Lanier the other day! Ava and Wade's mom wanted some images for her holiday cards and these kids couldn't have been more fun to work with1 It was a touch-and-go shoot as the weather had been miserable for a solid week and there was no real encouraging sign that we would be able to get this done, but shortly before our appointment time the rain stopped and we were blessed with about a 45 minute window before the clouds closed back up and the rain came down again.
We were lucky on all counts because the weather also brought down a bit of fog on the lake to give some of the shots a pretty cool looking background, plus the lighting became perfect for an outdoor shoot. I knew it would be muddy, so I brought a little chair from my studio to keep the kids off the ground and to serve as a prop. We found a great spot on the lake and had a great time.
These were all shot with one light, my Profoto B2 with the OCF Octabox which gives a nice, soft light. For a few of the shots of the kids sitting by the water on the rocks, the sun even cooperated by making a brief appearance, so I quickly moved the subjects around a bit to use the sun to backlight them and lit from the front with the B-2. This is where the B-2 lights really "shine." They are so light and mobile. I can quickly move and adjust, even if I'm not working with an assistant.
I really do love photographing children and I hope do do more of it in the coming year.