For photographers

I’m often asked similar questions from photographers and thought I’d try to answer them here!

You will notice that most of the gear links go to B&H Photo Video. I buy nearly all of my gear there because they’ve got the best selection, best pricing and best customer service going. If you choose to purchase anything you see here, B&H appreciates it and a few pennies will rub together in the night for me. The same principle applies with the FIND Guide.  I’d be shouting the FIND Guide’s praises from the rooftops for free, but Jonathan has arranged that I get a few bucks each time you buy a guide.  Mailbox money makes me happy.

If there is anything not covered here that you’re still dying to know, feel free to hit Formspring at the bottom of this page or ask through my Contact form. Enjoy!

What camera, lenses, flashes, etc. do you use?
This is the stuff that rolls in the Tamrac 5552 | SpeedRoller 2 bag ThinkTank Airport Security 2.0
Nikon D3s – One of these
Nikon D700 – One of these
Contax 645 medium format film camera with Zeiss 80mm f/2 lens – Yep
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G ED – This thing goes wide, is tack sharp and makes skies and your wallet blue
Nikon 24mm f/1.4G ED – On my camera nearly all the time
Nikon 35mm f/2.0D – On my other camera nearly all the time
Nikon 45mm PC-E Micro f/2.8D ED tilt-shift – Addicted to this lens
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G – Faster focusing than the D and bokeh that is from another planet
Sigma 50mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro – 1:1 focusing for the ring shots
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED – This is a workhorse
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED – Back of the church lens and portraits gramma likes
Nikon SB-600 Speedlight – I use two of these for AF and on-camera fill
PocketWizard Plus II Transceivers – 6 of these

The Back-Up rig in the trunk
Nikon D300s – Back up to the back up in the trunk at all times.
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED – This versatile lens lives with the D300 back-up
Nikon 50mm f/1.4D – My first prime lens and still a fave.  I could photograph and entire wedding with this lens
Nikon 24mm f/2.8D – My second prime lens and a great perspective

I carry a Tamrac 5606 Pro System 6 bag for grip and another for the back-up rig.  4 PocketWizards, gaff tape, a Justin Clamp, a Super Clamp with Bogen Magic-Arm and 2 SBx Nikon strobes go in here for reception lighting.

For studio use I employ (3) Alien Bees B800 mono-bloc strobe heads and an Alien Bees ABR800 ring flash.  Light modifiers include:  an Alien Bees FSB3060 30″ x 60″ softbox, Alien Bees FSB1036 10″ x 30″ stripbox with honeycomb grid, 22″ Beauty Dish and a Vagabond II battery pack for when remote.

There is also a Lowel ID Light kit with a Lowel Handle and Stud-link residing in GoBoda Dry Jr. that goes to nearly every wedding for ring shots and a kiss of light when working after dark.

In addition to the Tamrac ThinkTank wheelie and Tamrac grip bag mentioned above, I carry a ShootSac during weddings and on family, engagement, newborn, and event shoots.  In addition to the ShootSac I have a GoBoda v3 that I carry Fuji Instax Mini 7S, Fuji Instax 210 cameras with a Hasselblad 500c/m with Zeiss 80mm f/2.8 T* lens and A12, A24 and A16 backs loaded with Fuji 400h film.

Computer + Software
I use Apple computers exclusively and have a range that includes a MacPro Tower outfitted with 16GB or RAM from MacSales, (2) 24″ Apple Cinema Displays, 4 TB of internal storage and a DroboS archive system. Same-day wedding slideshows are rocked on a 15″ MacBookPro.  SanDisk Extreme 16GB cards are unloaded by (4) daisy-chained Lexar Professional UDMA FW800 FireWire Card Readers and ingested by Photo Mechanic.  RAW conversions are handled in Adobe Lightroom, post-processing occurs in Adobe Photoshop using a combination of Alien Skin, Totally Rad Actions and Kubota Actions.

Other tools I use are SlideShareMax (since replaced by Flaunt) by Into The Darkroom for slideshows and online proofing with Instaproofs for post-event sales.  Albums are designed with PhotoJunction and video slideshows are made with FotoMagico.

My branding, blog and websites
In the spring of 2010 I embarked on a journey with Ross and the team at Flosites for a re-branding.  It really wasn’t a re-branding as my initial “brand” wasn’t much of one.  The process was fantastic and I cannot recommend Flosites enough.  What started off as an effort to re-brand turned into a custom blog, two portfolio sites and an ongoing relationship.

When starting off in the business it’s easy to be focused on getting this lens or that camera body… An investment in branding is the best thing I’ve ever done for my business and choosing to work with Ross and Flosites has turned out very, very valuable to both my brand and my career.

In addition to how my brand lives online, I have invested a great deal in letterpress paperie and business cards through Zida Borcich at Studio Z Mendocino.  Zida is an amazing woman and a true pleasure to do business with.  The feedback I get from the informal cards, correspondence cards, and business cards she laid out and made for me are always glowing and an element of my brand that I always feel great presenting.

Other vendors
Colorati beautifully make proof-ready adjustments and provide a critical element to the success of my business.  I HEART Colorati to the moon and back.

I carry the Package Choice insurance policy with The Hartford through Hill & Usher. This has saved me and is worth every penny and beyond.

I use Renaissance SoHo books for my wedding albums.

VisionArt is my vendor for 2nd tier high school senior and engagement albums.

I use Finao Elements for my family and 1st tier senior albums.

ProDPI is my lab.  Nothing better.

Pixel2Canvas is my canvas supplier.  Uh-mazing.

Website hosting is provided by Host Gator. Media Temple is a pile of hurt.

Automated offsite back-ups are courtesy of Backblaze.

Do you have a studio?
I have a client meeting room in a giant audio/music complex in the Belltown neighborhood of downtown Seattle.  Available on premises is a large lounge I can shoot studio-style in and a covered garage with beautifully decayed brick walls and large windows with a lot of natural light.

Do you shoot alone or with an assistant?
It depends on the situation and what the bride and groom have chosen.  I love to shoot with my friends as a second shooter, but prefer to photograph my clients myself.

You used to record bands?  How did you get in the music biz?  And do you make music of your own?
It’s a long story.

I grew up with no siblings and parents older the the grandparents of my friends. There was never any music in the house or the car. Except “Little Drummer Boy” during Christmas.

Music wasn’t anything I connected with over my years in elementary school. A bit of Michael Jackson and RUN D.M.C I suppose, but a cursory appreciation at best.

I didn’t even discover Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Who and stuff like that until 11th grade. Late bloomer.

A best girlfriend of mine had an older brother that was a drummer and total metalhead. I heard Metallica for the first time and it was game over… Sprung.

I started playing guitar. Reading album credits trying to figure out what a producer was, what a remix engineer was… It consumed me. Critically listening to everything became an obsession.

It was about 1990 and Soundgarden released Louder Than Love. The metal magazines covered it and I was intrigued that they were 3 hours up the road and how they looked so unlike any other band featured in those type of magazines.

I got their record and dug it. It was co-released between Sub Pop and A&M records. As such, a folded-up Sub Pop catalog was included. I spent hours reading the fascinating and colorful descriptions of all the albums. I bought one from Mudhoney and convinced the kid across the street to buy Bleach from Nirvana. Heard Nirvana. Double game over.

Bought pretty much the entire Sup Pop catalog. Realized the vast majority of it was recorded by Jack Endino at Reciprocal Recording. Wait a sec… There is a guy 3 hours up the road that gets to be with and record all these cool bands? I wanna do that.

I gotta scholarship to the Art Institute of Seattle for the Music & Video Business program. 4.0’d that sucker, learned a lot and hit the mean streets of Seattle looking for a job.

I was picking up temp work as a stagehand before landing a spot at a gutterpunk/post-grunge beer palace of a studio called House of Leisure that is now the Fountain Court at 4th and Battery. From there I was scooped up by Stuart at Avast Recording. I worked there 5 years while simultaneously freelancing. To grow one must leave the nest, so I freelanced full time after that while having extended stays at Robert Lang Studios, London Bridge Studio and Soundhouse Recording. My career took me to 23 states and 3 foreign countries, earned two platinum records and one Grammy nomination.

I quit recording records full time when my daughter was born. Endless 14 hour days are not conducive to being the type of father I wanted to be. Since her birth, I’ve been producing music for a commercial music production company in downtown Seattle.

In this role I occasionally write a piece of music or add parts and vocals to things, but I’m primarily only focused on sonic and technical considerations.


Film, eh?
While I’m not using film exclusively to produce the imagery I love, I do use it when appropriate.  Film just looks better to my eyes.  It’s all about the skin and the combination of highlight retention, buttery depth of field on the Contax and the no-frills workflow.  Heart explosions.  Where to get started?  You can check out Jonathan Canlas’ Formspring, attend one of his workshops or simply start with the Film Is Not Dead Guide, a comprehensive walk-thru on film, cameras, resources for getting equipment and supplies, exposure principles and a WHOLE LOT MORE.



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photoblog by Flosites