Thursday, April 30, 2009

Wildlife Extravaganza!

Before I launch into this week's post- a reminder for my local readers. 
If you are interested in family portrait sessions, I am running a local's special right now. For $95 you receive an hour and a half of shooting time at a location of your choice in or around Lyons, and I'll throw in the first 8x10 for free! Add that together with standard pricing ($125 for the shoot and $35 for the 8x10), and you could save $65! Schedule your shoot before the end of May, complete the shoot by the end of June and you get a great deal.
Email me at to talk about how we can make some really great images of you and your family.

On to the main event!

I spent most of last week in Northwest Wyoming visiting an old friend and having fun. That's not really news- the news is that we had some of the most amazing wildlife viewing ever! 
We weren't sure which way to look we saw so many amazing things. So here are a few of the 
highlights for you.

Saturday morning we were driving up the North Fork of the Shoshone River to fish, came around a corner and a wolf crossed the road right in front of us. That is unusual enough (I had never seen a wolf in the lower 48 before), but this wolf put on a show for the next 45 minutes, wandering down the valley, hunting elk (and almost getting one right in front of us), and generally behaving like a wolf. Here he (or she) is standing still for a moment.  I cannot explain how beautiful and exciting it is to watch these animals. It really was a moment to remember.

Of course, what would a trip to the Yellowstone area be without a bison sighting? This one was hanging out right next to the road, as they are wont to do. If you have never seen one up close, well, they are really big. I wouldn't want to upset one. Yet I have never seen one upset (though I have heard some stories). I really like getting close-ups of their eyes. I always wonder what they are thinking. Eyes like that seem like they should be hiding some great mystery or some great wisdom (maybe both). 

One of the reasons for being in Wyoming this time of year is to
 see the Sage Grouse mating. I know, bird sex. How strange. But if you are a birder, and you know who you are, this is a sight that should not be missed. We spent two mornings watching approximately 100 birds doing their strange dance on a Lek (the official term for their mating grounds). Like many mating rituals, it is much like a middle school dance in several ways, but watching these birds strut and puff their chests was awesome. And the sound is other-worldly. It is a bit like falling water, and a bit like nothing you have ever heard. The Sage Grouse are also smart enough to live in a really beautiful landscape, which helps the ambiance a lot. 

Finally (as if all that wasn't enough), we were heading
 down a small county road on the way to the bottom end of the Clark's Fork Canyon, and we saw this on a road sign.
That is an Osprey, sometimes called a Fishhawk, and a close cousin to the eagle. For reference, that road sign is about three feet wide, and the fish in the bird's talons is about a foot or so. 
What an amazing chance encounter. He sat for maybe two minutes, then flew off with the fish grasped firmly in his talons. 

After all that, we even did some fishing. That is my friend Chip on the oars. He is the manager of North Fork Anglers in Cody, Wyoming, and knows about as much as anyone about fishing in the area. He and I have been friends since fifth grade, so its nice to know someone in this amazing part of the country. Another friend of ours, Tim, is the fisherman up front, and yes, that is an elk head attached to the front of the boat. Chip spotted it on the side of the river and we had to take it along. Our best guess is that it was killed by a bear (we could definitely tell that it had been eaten by a bear!)

And lest I forget, this really is one of the prettiest places to visit.  A quick shot of the mountains on the north side of the river, as we were heading home from a long day on the river.
Shooting over 1500 frames in three days was pretty unusual for me, but we just kept seeing things! I have included only a few here- if you want to see more, or would like a print of one or some of these, shoot me an email and we can talk.  It was one of the best trips I have had to that area ever. I hope you enjoyed hearing about it just a tiny bit as much as I enjoyed sharing it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hooray for Earth Day!

Hooray for Earth Day!

We celebrated last Sunday with an Earth Day festival here in Lyons. 
This festival included a community garage sale of kid stuff supporting our local Montessori School-Lyons Community Montessori 
Across the street in Sandstone Park there was a play and singing by the kids, and there was entertainment at Oskar Blues as well. Many thanks to OB for providing space for the festival as the weather here in Colorado was looking pretty iffy on Saturday. 

The picture of the play at the top ran on the front page of the Lyons Recorder yesterday. Two weeks in a row. New York times here I come.

Tomorrow I am heading to Northern Wyoming for fishing, friends and if we are really lucky, some bird sex. Really- it's mating season for Sage Grouse, and we are hoping to have a chance to photograph them on their Leks (the technical term for the spot where they all gather and the boys duke it out with each other). Stay tuned for some pics- I hope.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Local Spring Special!

It's Spring- get your portraits now!

Book a portrait session for a group or individual by May 15 and receive the 1 hour photo session and an 8x10 print of the image of your choice for only $95.
That's a savings of $65 over the regular price!

Email me at Jay(at)
to book your portrait session now.

Photo session must be scheduled by May 15, 2009 and must be within 10 miles of Lyons.
Shoot must be completed by July 31, 2009

Man and Dog for Easter

My favorite shot of last week. It ran on the front page of the Lyons Recorder this week. 
Sam Tallent (minister of the day and co-owner, with his wife Mindy, of the Stone Cup) considers sharing his Easter Ham with a friend at the Lyons Community Easter Celebration. It's Easter Sam, give a dog a break.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Week in Photos...

...Okay, not really. But I did take some photos this week. How nice. 
A friend who used to work there (and hopefully will again when the project is done) told me to check out a local middle school that is being completely rebuilt. The facade is being saved, so right now there are only two walls standing. Quite a sight. I took a
 few shots on my way home from work, then stopped on my way in the next morning. 

I only had one flash, wish I had more with me. I also learned that
 rubber bands (one of the big ones) can be used to secure your flash to a post in a pinch. On full power the SB-600 lit up the plaque on the building a little bit. I might try to shoot this again next week if I can get a better sky and more flashes.

I also took some early morning shots on the way to work and from where I work. The scenery here always offers something worth shooting. The first is the view from where I work. Ironic, because I have no windows in my part of the building, but the view is great. 

The second is from my drive to work the next day. There is a hill along the road and I pulled over and hoofed up it for a few quick shots. The wind was blowing about 30 mph, so I didn't stay long. But I liked this image. 

I'll be taking pics at the Community Easter service this afternoon-hopefully that will fulfill the people portion of my photo week! 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Back In Black

I though about adding the appropriate sound track to this post, but I didn't have time and it would be in violation of copyright. So best not. 

Spent most of Saturday afternoon in the basement with my new el-cheapo studio set up. Thank you to the unknown poster on Flickr who suggested this path. I went to the fabric store and bought three yards of black muslin and three yards of white- both 108 inched wide. With the coupons (one from the store flyer, and one from the nice lady with the kids next to me in line) the grand total in fabric was $29.32. Beat that on eBay for two 10x9 backgrounds. Then I headed across the street to the greatest hardware store on earth.
 No you idiot- I do not mean the big orange box. They have good prices and the people are nice, but if you really need to figure out something strange, you go to McGukin's

There I happily purchased 15ft. of light bungee cord, two small
 hooks and wall anchors, and two six packs of small alligator clips. All that for under $10. Total cost so far- less than $40. Got home and had the wall hooks up before anyone was the wiser. Bungee and alligator clips to hold the fabric and presto- we've got a ripping little home studio going in my basement. 

I really love the effect of the low-key background. It 
makes all the colors pop and adds some dramatic effect. For the portrait shots I had an SB-600 cam left with a homemade snoot on it, and an SB-26 cam right with an umbrella. The snoot was aimed across the models at about head level and  pretty tight. The umbrella was shooting fill on the other side. As you can see, I am the least attractive thing in the house (except maybe the cat), and the pictures improved considerably when I stayed behind the camera. The portraits were taken with a 50mm 1.8. When the dogs came in I switched the lens to a 24-120mm so I could keep pace with a moving kid and dogs, and took the snoot off the 600 on the left and aimed it at the ceiling for a high overhead light. I really like the way it turned out.

There were a few really great shots of my wife and daughter. My daughter just kept mugging like crazy, and my wife kept laughing, and I kept shooting. 
I was using my new iShoot PT-04 CNs as triggers for the two SBs, and I didn't have one problem over the course of two hundred shots. I am not sure I would try them at a hundred yards, but close in they work great. I also really like the electronic shutter release from Younguo. The remote really slows my synch speed (see previous post), but attached to the camera it was great to fire without worrying about my hands moving the camera/tripod. 
I can also see how it would help keep contact with the subject. I wasn't hiding behind the camera, and could make eye contact much easier. That remote also operates the auto focus on the Nikon, which is nice. 

Eventually we even got the dogs to pose for a few shots (even tougher than the five year old). We do have a matched set of labs, and if we can get them to sit still they are pretty darned good looking. As you can tell, I am surrounded by blonds. I know that would have sounded good a long time ago...

Of course, as soon as I have tried one thing I am thinking of another. I am looking forward to trying out some product type shots with a more high-key look in the upcoming weeks. I have several friends lined up to provide products, some large and some small, and as soon as things get a little greener around here I have a plan for a series of shots in my town featuring elements of local life. I am hoping to improve not only my lighting skills but also my post production skills with some of these ideas. 

In the meantime, keep an eye over your shoulder!
She really is a total ham. But she's got the model moves down. There are a few more of these in my Flickr stream. Click the new button on your right to see them.