About a month ago when I was getting a haircut from Vonn, the young lady responsible for making me look as terrific as I do, she informed me that she was putting together a Client Appreciation Day.  She envisioned her gift to her clients as a time in a park where the client would come and bring the family or significant other and get a 15 minute mini “on location photo shoot” by her friend and professional photographer Jana.  This event was free of charge and each customer participating was to receive for free 2 high quality, high resolution prints of his or her choice.  Vonn asked me if I would be interested and that I had a choice: getting my photograph taken or helping out with the photography.  Since I already know what I look like, I jumped at the chance to come out and help with taking pictures.

As I was not the lead photographer, meaning that my images were not going to be the ones that would be viewed and selected for printing by the clients, I knew I would have more freedom in how and what I shot.  This was a great chance to get some great practice done in a real situation but without the normal pressures of shooting lead.  I would be able to go for the shots I like to do best, the candid shots, the “non-posed” images which capture the emotionality of any given moment.

I also used the day as an opportunity to rent a lens I had been wanting to try, the 85 mm 1.2 by Canon.  It is a prime lens that has a great reputation for excellent portrait results and tack sharp images.

The morning was to be a styled shoot.  Basically that means  instead of just showing up and getting a picture or two taken, there would be a theme to the session complete with props.  The theme for the morning was “picnic”.  Vonn provided a plethora of props for the session as well as encouraging her clients to bring props of their own.  Although I have heard about them and seen images from them, this was my first ever involvement with a styled shoot.  Vonn ran the whole morning like a movie director putting all the pieces together for a film masterpiece.  She helped with the posing, moved the props, moved us to various locations around the park and was pretty much a dynamo of energy and creativity all morning long.

I also enjoyed observing another photographer at work.  One can learn much by watching how other people perform their work.  That is why colleges and universities put students with a mentor teacher so they can observe the professional in a classroom situation.  Thankfully, Jana didn’t charge tuition.  I was able that morning to observe how she posed her subjects, how she interacted with them, made them feel relaxed during the shoot. When we had a break between clients I was able to ask Jana any question that came to my mind during the previous session.

I saw my main purpose of the morning as that of a “behind the scenes” shooter.  I was documenting the documentary, so to speak.  Sort of a B roll shooter in film jargon.  I ended up taking photographs of the props, the scenery, the posing,  the young ladies at work, the unguarded moments of the clients, and the ducks.  No self respecting park is without a duck population.  And no matter what the session, I am always capturing an image or three of the ducks.

Here are images of some of the props used on Vonn’s first ever CLIENT APPRECIATION DAY.


Some of the clients that came that day were couples.  For one of her props of the day, Vonn made this little “love” sign.


Of course what is a  picnic without a picnic basket?  Just ask Yogi and Boo Boo.


If kids are coming, balloons are a MUST!

2013-05-27_0013.jpg 2013-05-27_0011.jpg

Vonn did something special for the last family of the day.  It was the dad’s birthday. Vonn secretly brought party hats, cupcakes and a birthday sign she had made.  She had the dad and mom off by themselves while behind their backs the two daughters and grandma put on the hats and got out the cakes.  Much like a “first look” shot at a wedding, the dad was asked to turn around and as he turned, Jana photographed his reaction to his mini surprise party.  Great fun.


The complete picnic staging area.  The pillows are hand made by Vonn.  Attempting a little humor I asked Vonn “in what demented universe do people bring books to a picnic?”  I was informed by the two young women that bringing books to picnics was quite normal and not “demented”.  At that point I figured out two things: 1. it has been way, way too long since I have been on a picnic, and 2. I am never as funny as I think I am.


All that morning, being in the park on a great day with  a nice little breeze and pleasant, lovely people all around, the song “Saturday Afternoon” by the Jefferson Airplane, with its lyrics about “incense and balloons”, kept replaying itself in my head.  (listening to the song now as I write this little post).  Brought back many pleasant memories.

Now about those ducks…one of my objectives for renting the 85 mm was to see if it truly performed as advertised.  Would it delivery those tack sharp details that turn a good image into a great one. I was not disappointed.  This lens may have jumped passed a new refrigerator and big screen TV on my must purchase list.

Just look at this pre-crop and post-crop result.



If the enlarged duck has any soft detail, it is because of depth of field, not because of the lens.  I am pretty sure that when I saw how sharp these images turned out when I zoomed in, I got up and fist pumped and said “YES!” a few times, frightening cats and wife all at the same time.

I can live with an ice chest and a 19″ TV.


Jana “capturing the moment” with Vonn looking on.

I am very appreciative that Jana gave permission for me to work beside her during this shoot.  It was essentially her gig, and she didn’t have to do that.  I am glad she did. I learned much from talking with her and watching how she interacted with the subjects during the session.

Jana did earn a degree of sympathy from me, however.  On the odd occasion that she asked me a question, I went “full teaching mode” on her, starting from the invention of photography to the current state of Adobe and Photoshop.  Old habits are hard to break.  My motto?  “Why say in 5 words what I can rant on for 4,000.”  Now she knows what my poor students had to sit through.


Vonn doing it all; giving instructions, encouraging her clients and carrying the props.   Thanks you for inviting me to tag along and take pictures on your special client day.

For samples of this shoot and more of Jana’s images go here.

For your hair styling needs, Vonn’s page is here.

Title of this blog is a play on “They Might Be Giants” which can either be the name of a movie or the name of an American alternative rock band.

“Saturday Afternoon” by JA is linked here.



Instead of pigeons, what if they were “Peacocks from Hell”?

It all started last week when in the extreme early morning (that darn golden hour), I was in the parking lot of the Glendale Library awaiting the arrival of a family that I was photographing that morning.  The place sounded like “Wild Kingdom”.  Apparently, a few of the peacocks from neighboring Sahuaro Ranch Park decided to wander over and check out the surroundings at the library, or do whatever peacocks do at 6:15 in the morning.  Whatever it was, it was loud.

Now in the many times I have been to Sahuaro Ranch Park to take photographs, I have never been able to capture a peacock with his feathers out.  But today I got lucky.  This bad boy came out this morning and claimed the parking lot.


He had those feathers spread the entire time I was there, a living version of strutting like a peacock.  Spent most of his time walking around and chasing any and all birds and critters that happen to land in his space.  In the upper right of the picture is one of the birds the peacock was particular vexed with that morning.


Since I didn’t have a long enough lens with me to catch closeup shots of this  bird from the safety of my truck bed, I had to sneak up on this guy,  like Elmer hunting wabbit, in order to get close enough to get a good picture.  As I kept shooting and stepping closer, I started to think in the back of my mind “what if this sucker gets ticked off and attacks me?”  If that bird attacked me and I wasn’t mortally wounded, I knew for a fact I would feel extremely stupid about it.  I concluded it was time to stop shooting the pretty bird and  go shoot pretty flowers instead.


But I apparently was not done with peacocks that day.  As I was going about my shooting, I heard this loud peacock cry from right above me.  I looked up and there on the roof of the two story library was this fellow.


There he was, the king of all peacocks that morning.  And unless there is a secret little peacock ladder, that guy had to fly up to the top of that roof.  Just like I have never seen a baby pigeon (have you?), I have never seen a peacock fly.  I still haven’t, but I bet it is a sight to see.

Of course being it is really, really early in the morning and I am not coffeed up yet, my mind starts wandering off into a little flight of imagination.  Having already escaped a near death situation with the peacock in the parking lot (I am never going to an outdoor shoot again without my Bowie knife). I immediately connected the peacock on the roof with my favorite scary TV episode “Pigeons from Hell”.

What if  they were Peacocks from Hell?

Seriously, if there were about 20 peacocks lined up on that roof looking down at me, I am heading for the truck and locking the doors and leaving, Bowie Knife or not.  I am not going to be the photographer who keeps taking pictures until the only thing they find is my camera and the last shot I took was of the monster’s teeth and gullet.  I am not going to be the Tim that dies in this scary movie.

close crop

As photographers today we are blessed, and sometimes I think cursed, with the ability to manipulate the final image into whatever reality we as artists would like that image to reside.  Reminds me of another moment from a great classic move, “The Three Amigos”, in which the German was telling Ned that all his quick draw ability was just special effects. We have that option as photographers as well, to alter the reality of our photographs. So I decided to play a little with the sliders in Light Room 4 to give the photographs  a bit of a different mood for each image.


This is the image straight out of the camera.  I tend to shoot dark, so later when I edit I don’t have a blown out sky.

So let’s adjust the sliders a little to give the photograph a bit of a golden glow of the morning sun.


I next tried a bit of over saturation and cooler temperature to give the photograph a bit of an other worldly look, or a twilight look.


Of course, if I was continuing in the “Peacocks from Hell”  meme, I would just say one thing: everything is scarier in black and white.


La session de la maternité de Haze

For the majority of my teaching career it was a very rare occurrence  but always a treat, to run into a former student. Facebook has obviously changed that. Vive la révolution des médias sociaux! But before Facebook hit the scene, seeing a former student and catching up with them usually happened by accident. As it did with Hazel. Hazel is a former photography student of mine from 2006. Our reconnecting happened when I walked into my bank one day, which I seldom do, and there was Hazel working at the teller window. As a student, Hazel was always smiling and cheerful and we had many a pleasant conversation during class. She hasn’t  changed at all. We now connect on Facebook, and on those still rare occasions when I go into the bank I can still count on Hazel for a cheerful greeting and a bit of pleasant conversation.

When it comes to remembering a student, there usually is one or two incidents with that student that come to mind.   One story I remember is the day I sent Hazel down to her French teacher to see if the two of them could translate the words to a 15th century French folk song.  Hazel and the teacher did their best, but after all, it WAS 15th century French.  Think reading Medieval English.  Now I can Google the song for the translation.  I can even download the song as a ringtone.  La joie de merveilles modernes.

Hazel is expecting her second child. Hazel graciously allowed me to use her as my model for my first ever maternity session.   I am very grateful to you, Hazel, for giving me this opportunity.

Appréciez les photos tout le monde.

2013-05-06_0052.jpg2013-05-06_0049.jpg  2013-05-06_0051.jpg 2013-05-06_0050.jpg 2013-05-06_0046.jpg2013-05-06_0038.jpg2013-05-06_0044.jpg  2013-05-06_0032.jpg2013-05-06_0035.jpg2013-05-06_0026.jpg2013-05-06_0034.jpg2013-05-06_0014.jpg  2013-05-06_0015.jpg   2013-05-06_0012.jpg2013-05-06_0004.jpg2013-05-06_0002.jpg