A magical Summer..

Our Summer began with the golden southern California sun. Then it was on to New York to see the glittering high rise windows of the city. We managed to find a few minutes to dip our toes into the rich waters of Coastal Massachusetts with our friends. It wasn't easy coming home from our adventures. We were able to spend a great deal of time with many of our closest friends and  adoring family. I believe we spent what little time we are given to be free from life's obligations in the best way were able. Only nine more months till we are free once again!    

Posted on August 30, 2014 .

Living room turned studio...

I recently moved. Into a very...... pause.... tiny space. We shed three playrooms, a pool, playground, countless bushes, grass for miles, a million tiles that needed endless mopping and my choice of three different shooting spaces throughout my nearly 4000 square foot home. It's been two months since the move and it's truly been a liberating experience.  I love my tiny house. I love my 7 minute vacuum routine. It's wonderful. 

Having all of that out the way, I need....like really..really... NEED a studio. I didn't realize how often I was shooting and practicing at home. I also didn't realize how much amazing equipment I had collected over the last two years. I've come to prefer artificial light and its incredible contrast quality. I've become a traveling photography circus and its beginning to cramp my style. So now I dream of a small space above another business. A white loft with a big beautiful window. I am constantly on the hunt. But today I'd had enough! 

 I woke up feeling antsy and turned the tiny house completely upside down. I put the dining room in the bedroom and shoved everything else to the walls. I dug out all my goodies, cranked up the music and went paparazzi crazy! I think the boys had a good time. I even brought Bryan into the fun. I learn so much from just playing around. Maybe I don't need a studio after all! 

Update: It's been three months in the tiny house. I still love it and my photography has grown leaps and bounds! I've gotten control of my traveling circus and learned to be meticulously organized. Turns out all I really needed was a challenge!

Posted on August 8, 2014 .

Cake is so wonderful...

I absolutely love cake. Sometimes it is just too pretty to eat. This fabulous rolled yellow sponge cake was made in a local Virginia Beach hang out, Rigoletto's Italian Bakery and Cafe. As I strolled the window shelves this whip cream covered beauty stopped me in my tracks. It's bright red cherry was so full of personality. It sparkled at me like large wet puppy eyes. I was struck with it's interesting shape.  I had to take this one home. Rigoletto's was recently featured on FoodNetwork's  Diners Drive-ins and Dives. After spending the afternoon with this delight I can certainly understand why.  

I managed to get about two bites before my in house staff, Oliver, Bryan and Nico needed samples. I would not let anybody touch the cherry. The stem was just too unique and perfect. The pudding inside was the best part. 

Posted on January 29, 2014 .

Goodbye Fall, Hello Winter....

These past few weeks were so beautiful here in Virginia Beach. The leaves had reached thier peak color with just a hint of chill in the air. Our children played outside almost every evening without fear of mosquitos or being slathered with sunscreen. Then with one last burst of warm sun and the smell of grass in the air it was over. Winter charged in with burning cold and howling winds. That last day of fall was just breathtaking. It was just under 80 degrees with cotton soft clouds blanketing the sky. That final day of fall won't soon be forgotten for this lovely family that I just met recently and was able to photograph as the last red tree of the season sprinkled it's leaves throughout the park. Just three days after these photos were taken, the trees were all but bare and our faces left chapped by the cold winter air. Our beautiful Virginia Autumn has come to a close. In the weeks to come my camera and I will be inside, snuggled up in warm wool socks clutching cocoa and good books until the spring. I hope you all enjoy the photos.  -Jill 

Posted on November 25, 2013 .

Schooled!! By a 4 year old....

Over the last two months I have been in quite a creative slump. The summer ended with high emotion and very low motivation. But just as fall has arrived, so has my desire to start something new and rekindle those neurons that barely survived the long summer sun. Even as a little girl I've always loved this time of year. New pencils and clothes, new teachers, new beginnings. The only problem is that I've grown up and I have to make my own adventures. Not so easy. 

I started back on the wagon earlier this week when I just picked up my camera and decided to shoot. Anything. Whatever. I took a picture of a sandwich. Not so exciting. A bunch of boring pictures and a few days later I planned a trip to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I brought my supervisor Oliver and had a fabulous time. He showed great interest in a blank photo book disguised to look like a camera. We had chatted about what artist's do, art mediums and the definition of art. I bought the book and we decided he would fill it with *art* pictures. An exhibit entitled "The seven cities" by a local photographer sent us to the Nightmare Mansion at the oceanfront. A photo in the exhibit stopped my little supervisor in his tracks and had him chatting away. So off we went album in hand. 

We have a system, the supervisor and I. I hold the bottom of the camera to support its weight. He tells me "BIGGER" or "SMALLER" and I turn the zoom wheel until he is satisfied. He composes his images with his tiny eye stuffed into the eye piece and little finger on the shutter button. I have no idea what he's thinking. When's he's ready he fires! And not a moment before! It sometimes takes a while for him to get just what he wants. We cross the street, up down, backwards, wherever he directs. He seems to always know just what he wants. He demands to see his images right away. And I am almost ALWAYS left dumbfounded. Completely flabbergasted  that a four year old boy that can't even tie his shoes is a compositional GENIUS! Perhaps that's why he the boss and I am just a lowly associate employee. 

Anyway, here are the first four pages of his new *art* book. He wasn't happy about the little pictures I snapped of him before he left but oh well! I hope you enjoy them. I certainly do.  

 

 

 

Posted on October 30, 2013 .

A little family fun...

I haven't made a post in a quite a while. I can count in single digits the days I have spent in my home over the last month. I've traveled all over the East Coast. Some of my days away were better than others.

The pictures in this post are from one of the better days. Much better days! Try not to judge the images too harshly...  As I was mostly drunk, dancing, and having a **Fabulous** time at my cousin Deborah's beautiful wedding in Brooklyn, New York. Those conditions don't always produce the sharpest and most eloquent photographs. Hopefully my family will find a few keepers in the pile.

I've only been home a few days and I miss them all terribly. 

-Jill

Posted on September 16, 2013 .

Congratulations Amy and Jay!

This past weekend I was chosen to share a very special day with the Forand family. This wedding was so full of love and joy. It was a pleasure to be a part of it. I was so excited to see how everything turned out and was able to process and present thier photos in 24 hours before they left for the big honeymoon in St. Lucia.  

The beautiful chest I used beneath the wedding dress and for a few bridal portraits turned out to be his mother's hope chest! And the mirror was also a very old family antique. So special. :) I'm glad they caught my eye. 

The beach location I chose was a little spot tucked away behind some huge bushes. I found out from a friend, after I had chosen it, that it was a very popular spot among the late night teen crowd looking for privacy. That made me giggle and love it even more.  

I hope you enjoy the slide show! 

 -Jill 

 

Forand-Wedding.jpg
Posted on July 23, 2013 .

Design and Dancing Batman

I've found that I don't take my camera out as often as I have in years past. I spent a week at my mother's farm in Kentucky and only shot for one hour on one day. Much like working in a candy store can ruin your taste for candy, a gazillion photography courses, books and tutorials have diluted my need to have a camera with me at all times.  

My old camera has huge chunks of plastic missing from the lens, tons of scratches and sand permanently embedded everywhere that I can't reach. I got up one day, turned it on and after only three years, my first DSLR had given up the ghost. It now lives in either the toy bin or around the neck of my trusted assistant Oliver. I thought that I needed it with me all the times in case that *perfect* moment came along to take the best picture EVER!

I was completely unknowingly unaware of the rules of composition and design. I knew that when I liked a picture, I *REALLY* liked it! But I didn't know why I liked it. The great 'they' say that great pictures are not taken, they are made. After a gazillion hours of study and practice, I finally know what that means.

Great photographs have so many things in common. They have symmetry, lines, color, shape, form, balance, and my two favorites, depth and texture. There are so many elements of design. These are just a few. Not all pictures have all of these qualities but all great pictures have at least one or more of them. I look at pictures in ads, books, TV, movies, billboards, online and everywhere with a totally different focus. When I have my camera in my hand I look through the viewfinder with a totally new goal. 

My favorite shots from the farm are filled with texture. They may not be award winning photographs but they are rich with meaningful texture. The giant tractor wheel tracks remind me of my Step-Dad Ray and his big smile watching Oliver dance in the mud. I love the way Ollie's little fingers frame his face and almost point you to his eyes filled with excitement at being so dirty. I have completely fallen in love with photography. And am relieved that I don't have to drag my camera everywhere to get the best pictures EVER! :) 

A few book recommendations if your interested in learning more. :)  

triptych.jpg

My Step-Dad Ray really wanted me to photograph a single purple flower that had popped up under a tree among an entire farm full of white flowers of the same species.

Posted on July 10, 2013 .

Karina...

I had SO much fun shooting a little vintage glamour with you this morning. Here's a sneak from the end, when for just a minute or two we did straight up regular gorgeous. :) You are growing up much too fast.  

Posted on June 30, 2013 .

Wanted... live in Chef.

Today I decided to try and craft something up myself. While it was delicious and fun. It wasn't quite the pro level piece I had hoped for. I can cook. I like to cook, but I am by no means a restauranteur! I thought I could fake it a little today with something simple but I was quickly knocked down a few notches from the pedestal of pride.

The puff pastry puffed a little more than expected. I made an enormous mess! I found myself constantly dividing my attention away from lighting, composition, angles and exposure and instead spent a ridiculous amount of time constantly cleaning my hands while trying to keep my equipment safe from sticky cherry and nectarine juice. All the while I was getting yelled at by the in house staff. "Can we eat it yet! Is it ready! Maaahhhhmmmm.. Hurry Up!"

I didn't find the excursion to be as enjoyable and rewarding as my previous sessions with food that was already prepared. So next time I get grand ideas, I will head in a different direction than my kitchen. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the images as much as the boys enjoyed messing them up into funny faces.

I will be headed out of town for more than and week but will try to return with some interesting non-food images from the farm. Where I'm going there are only two types of chefs. The first group wear a label inscribed Captain D's, and the other have spent years perfecting what I call Temporary Lo mein. Meaning it will only be in your belly temporarily. Mmmm. The joys of rural America. 

 

Posted on June 15, 2013 .

Coconut Cake with a side of Mud light

So yesterday we had a big bright almost 3D delicious giant piece of chocolate cake. Mmmm... Mmmmm... Mmmmm....!  Well today instead of getting right to work first thing in the morning with delicious fresh from the sun glistening window light, I had to shoot later in the afternoon.... With old, stale, half rotten, left out on the counter half the day *mud* light.   Not desirable... But whatever.

We must push on! The great *they* say that amateurs wait to be inspired, but pros get up and go to work! Or something like that.  I could have easily gone to another window but wrestling practice was fast approaching and the Floor Supervisor (Nico) and Branch Manager (Spencer) were hovering. I used a small white V-flat on the side, which is just a white foam board bent into a V and another white board behind. I just didn't have enough light to push the background to white. I found the shadowed background really complimented the wine. 

The cake, was AWESOME! Way better than the chocolate. The texture of the coconut was what really seduced me at the bakery window. The whole "pro's push on" mind set lasted a whopping 12 minutes. I just HAD to take a bite. Ten seconds later the cake was half gone. It was so light and soft. The filling had a smooth pudding feel with just a hint of lemon. Fabulous!

Branch Manager was directly over my shoulder at this point. I popped off three more shots and surrendered my subject. If you can imagine a cartoon buzz saw sound while visualizing three little piranhas surrounding my plate with crumbs flying in the air, than you know what happened next.  

Both cakes are from the Jewish Mother, Virginia Beach. The food is just as good as the desserts. The walls are covered with local Art available for purchase and every weekend they have fantastic bands. It's a great place to sneak out on a Saturday night. 

Do enjoy.

 

 

Posted on June 13, 2013 .

Let them eat cake...

Day 4. Food photography is really growing on me. I am a strong extrovert and normally thrive in groups. However I am also the creative type which consequently means I am a control freak. I never thought I would love tinkering all by myself so much. Food photography is *complete* and *total* control! And it's really hard to make everything perfect! I love it! 

I woke up this morning and decided I wanted to photograph an egg. Big disaster! I am in no way ready for hot food. I love great food. And I love to cook. Unfortunately I don't get the opportunity or practice I really need because my assistant and partner, Oliver, has a palette fine tuned to frozen waffles and goldfish crackers.  

Oliver had other business to attend to today at preschool so I was on my own. After a brief trip to the book store perusing food magazines,  I decided to purchase something delicious.

I had always wanted to try a slice of giant cake from my local favorite restaurant, The Jewish Mother. But whenever I go there I am so full of Rueben's and Matzah ball soup, I never make it to the cake. Well not today! I purchased two pieces of cake and raced home before the icing started to sweat. 

I lined three dark stained boards that I use for photographing babies on top of the table. I thought the dark would compliment the chocolate better than the blonde wood on my table. I also set my white foam boards on the back and side of the table. I added a silver reflector the the opposite side creating a little box around the plate. The cake was facing the window. I was crouched down just above the window sill shooting in the direction of the light. I was twelve shots in before I just had to take a bite. 

I hope you enjoy these pictures as much as I enjoyed the cake!  

Canon 5D mark ii, 24-70 2.8, @ ISO 200, f2.8, 1/60th

 

Posted on June 11, 2013 .

Blueberries for breakfast

It's a beautiful day in my dining room. I've decided to try my hand at a little food photography before I am completely overwhelmed with all of my July bookings. 

Out of boredom I threw some raspberries on the table the other day and was very pleased at how they turned out. I spelled raspberries wrong but even so it was a successful photograph. I decided to put in a little more effort and explored a myriad of websites and several food blogs. Without spending any money and realizing that I have enough equipment to do just about anything, I got right to work this morning while Oliver, my assistant, smushed up a banana while begging to eat cookies for breakfast. 

I pushed the table close to the window and unrolled a faux floor that I use for babies. I soon discovered that I needed more light and added a white foam core board to one side and a silver reflector to the far side. I was shooting with my Canon 5D mark ii, 24-70 2.8 at ISO 200, f2.8 & f4, and 1/25 - 1/125th on aperture priority. 

I hope you find that they look tasty. Apparently the great *they* say that there are only two categories of food photographs. Good and Nauseating. I found that to be very amusing. 

 

Posted on June 10, 2013 .

Black and white at its best.

The little prince ISO 400, F2.8, 1/160 Natural Window light.

The little prince ISO 400, F2.8, 1/160 Natural Window light.

Black and white photography is certainly my favorite medium of art. It completely embodies everything I want my photography to represent. Its timeless, sophisticated, artistic and when done well, just screams professional photography. The pro's call it monochromatic and in the old days, in the time of the *real* pro's it was all they had to choose from! 

The old pro's got the secret real fast! Great black and white images come from images that are perfectly lit! That's it. They didn't have photoshop or screen preview. They had light. Great lighting makes a great black and white. If you can find a space that has even soft light you can take a perfect black and white.

I wish it were that easy! Light can be the hardest element to master. Thankfully cameras are smarter than we are and can help. No matter what camera you have, if the flash pops up on its own, its a clear indicator that you should move to an area with brighter light. If you can't see the sparkle in your subject's eye, again time to move. Look for areas that have blurry edge shadows instead of sharp ones. Window light is always your best bet. The photo above is window light. Windows act like light tunnels or funnels that help to direct light in a certain direction. Be careful though not to block the window light with your own body while taking a picture! Put your subject in front of the window and then step to the side.     

Do comment or post your own pictures if you find this helpful or have more questions. Happy snapping! -Jill  


Posted on May 28, 2013 and filed under beginner, light, black and white.

my beautiful assistant..

He's my best buddy. Never too busy. Always full of love. My baby. :)  

virginia beach newborn photographer.jpg

Oliver came to say hello in my office. The window was directly behind me. You can see the shape of the window in the catchlight of his eye. I leaned to the left so that my body would not block the light. If you look really close you can see also see my reflection in his eye.  I quickly switched my focus mode to AI servo because he is such a wiggler! I popped off four shots, this was the best. I was also shooting in Aperture priority and toggling focus points directly over the right eye which was closest to the camera. This image was brightened in photoshop using three separate curve layers, 2 selective color layers, and very subtle vignette.  Want to know more? Ask me a question in the comments section below. 

Posted on May 12, 2013 .