Maggie B's

During our recent vacation we found the coolest little boutique wine shop located in Weaverville, NC (just north of Asheville). Maggie B's shares a building with Preservation Hall, a cool vintage hardware/architectural salvage business. The link will take you to their "what's new" page where they mention the relatively new Maggie B's. Weaverville's blog even has a few entries highlighting recent tastings and events there. Whether it's an organic wine tasting, a six-pack of Sammy Smith, a fine cigar, or some gourmet cheese that piques your interest, Maggie B's is worth checking out!

While visiting, I managed to make a few nice images. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Maggie B's is owned by our good friend Elspeth and her husband Andy. Karen and her sister Anne have known Elspeth for years, so we couldn't wait to stop by and check out the new shop.

Elspeth shows off their new sign on the side of the building.
Inside the shop, the owner stands among numerous brands and styles from all over the U.S. and the world.

Maggie B's takes its name from the childrens book "The Maggie B" and was also the name of Elspeth's dog growing up. I chose a wide aperture to emphasize the custom cork in the foreground, but now wish I had stopped down a little bit to make the book more legible.
Looking out from inside, cars cruise the main drag in Weaverville.

Elspeth in her element.

Here is a closer look at one of the awesome custom corks they had made.

A very cool guestbook allows visitors to receive updates regarding the latest happenings at the shop.

And a quick shot of Anne and Elspeth.

Congratulations on the new store Elspeth! I wish we lived a little closer so we could attend some of those fantastic tastings!

Umbrella Specular Portrait

Warning: Photo Jargon Ahead! If you are here to just see pretty pics of Karen, scroll down.

I have one more vacation post to write, but I am breaking things up with this portrait session. This was done for Strobist's "Umbrella Specular Portrait" Assignment, the second one in the Lighting 102 series (my results for the first assignment can be seen here).

A quick background for you non-photogs: A specular highlight is just the reflection of your light source on an object. In the example below, the yellow areas indicate the specular highlights. There are two specular highlights on the 8-ball because I was using a flash on-camera to trigger the main flash that was off to the right. This makes a good point. My on-camera flash is not bright enough to contribute to the exposure of the image but the billiard ball so shiny that the light is reflected and appears in the image as a specular highlight. With a little creativity, this knowledge can come in quite handy. The white arrow points to what is known as the diffused highlight (the entire bright side of the billiard ball). As in the game of billiards, the control of specular highlights is geometry in practice.

Enough background, let's get down and dirty. Remember how I said that knowing how to manipulate specular highlights can come in handy? That is the whole point of this assignment: to use the specular highlight of a light source as an interesting background element. Typically, a traditional studio portrait uses several lights: a main light, a background light and sometimes a hair light. At weddings, I find myself trying to create studio-quality portraits 1) quickly, 2) in random rooms/hallways and 3) with a minimal amount of gear. Using specular highlights, I can create a portrait with one light. All I need is a dark reflective surface to use as a background. These can easily be found once you are looking for them. The trick is to line yourself up so that you see the reflection of your light on the background (imagine the light is the cue ball and you are the pocket or vice-versa). Placing the specular highlight somewhere near Karen's face helps draw the viewer's eye to her.

Lucky for me, Karen (my wife) is a an excellent model and very patient with me. Lately, I have been focusing on Karen's pregnant belly, but for this we just concentrated on portraits.

The assignment had two parts. In addition to the lighting, we were supposed to try and create a real portrait; capture a meaningful moment or expression (most of my lighting experiments consist of a tripod, a timer and me staring blankly into the camera). Although some of the other images are composed a little better, this was the one that revealed the most about Karen's personality so I chose it as my final submission.
Some of my other favorites:

I have to mention that these pics are straight out of the camera. A slight contrast was applied in Adobe Camera Raw, but no Photoshop was used. Karen has awesome skin and is a pro at makeup. Combine that with a big, soft, bright light source and you get fantastic images.We pulled out about 5 different shirts and decided to go with this one since the cool blue is such a nice contrast to the warm brown/orange door.

The assignment was to use one light, but after we had lots of great frames I wanted to add some more dimension to the photograph. A snooted hairlight from above gives the image extra "pop."
Here are a few setup shots so you can see that it is possible to create professional studio-quality images just about anywhere. The background was one of those flimsy hollow doors. I was practically standing in the closet. You can see the snooted hairlight in these pics, but it was only used for the image directly above.

This is from my perspective. You can see the reflection of the umbrella in the door (it's not as pronounced here because I lowered the exposure so you could see the umbrella). The dark part of the image on the right is the inside of the closet. PS, if any of you were interested, you now know what color we painted the nursery!

That's all for now!

Vacation Part III: Nature

This post will highlight some of the nature (or people in nature) images from the trip. Western North Carolina has some great mountains, forests and waterfalls. These shots are from the Bat Cave area near Chimney Rock.

The boys hanging out and exploring. Since the sun was behind us (see our shadows) we were silhouettes in the image. An added flash from the left (you can see the bright spot on the rock) helped balance our exposure to the background.

Just down the mountain from the house was the Rocky Broad River. The river goes along the road through Bat Cave and Chimney Rock until it empties into Lake Lure. The cool water was very refreshing, altough a little low thanks to an ongoing drought. Karen grabbed the camera while I was playing around and she got one of the best shots of the trip!

Anne and Matt hang out along the river. I was real glad to find a vantage point that showed them and the river with that large rock face in the background. This might be my favorite image from the trip.

The front yard of our rental house had a great garden with lots of flowers. Matt and I went out one afternoon and played around getting some macro stuff.

An abstract look at one of the flower beds.
This is the front of the house shot at dusk. A flash on the left and one on the right supplement the porch lights to illuminate the house. I made sure to go and turn on every light in the house for these.

This is from down by the deck looking up at the back of the house. Same thing: one flash on each side aimed at the house. You can see the flashes on the grass in each corner of the image.

I am started to collect pictures of my car in cool places. This certainly fits that description. This is on the Blue Ridgeway Parkway just northeast of Asheville.

Yes, it's a picture of me taking a picture. This was an exercise in lighting and I just happened to be the only subject around. One flash camera left is aimed at me and one flash camera right is aimed at the big boulder. The ambient exposure is slightly underexposed to allow the areas lit by flash to pop out.

Here is the set-up shot for the above image. You can see the camera on the tripod, one flash on the ground and one flash on a stand across the pool.

I was walking around the river at sunrise and a single beam of light made it through the trees to hit this stone. Everything was in shadow except for this one rock bathed in light. It was pretty cool.

That's it for the vacation. Thanks to the SC crew for accomodating us while we were there. We are looking forward to y'all making it down once Baby Vichich arrives.

Vacation Part II: Mountains and People

After spending some quality time with family in South Carolina, we headed up to the mountains for a few days of relaxation. We rented a house near Asheville, NC so we could spend some time in the woods while also soaking up some of the urban culture of the town. Karen and I lived in Asheville for a year after college before moving back down to St. Pete. I am breaking the mountain trip into two pieces: people and nature. Hopefully tomorrow I will have the nature stuff up. Karen's sister and her husband joined us for a few days up in the mountains and since Matt is also a photographer there was plenty of picture-takin going on. Hey, when you love what you do, it's OK to do it on vacation.

This was the day Matt and Anne were leaving us. I regretted not getting that group shot of everyone in SC, so I made sure to get a pic of all four of us for historical purposes. Nothing fancy; just on-camera flash and a view of the mountains.

Ahh, summer in the mountains (thank goodness for rocking chairs!).

Karen wasn't a huge fan of this image but I am throwing it in the mix. I really like it. Four different styles of sandals, a local Highlands Kashmir IPA (beer) and a bottle of sunscreen. The two details at first seem like a distraction, but then they help tell the story of summer.

I decided to set up a quick studio on the deck to get some quality portraits with the sweet view. This was a test shot of Matt, but it ended up being one of my favorites.

Awww, so cute. They still qualify as newlyweds. It is so weird to see quality studio light with a rugged mountainous background, that your brain probably wants to tell you that you are looking at a Sears backdrop. I guarantee it's the real thing.

Me and my lovely (and pregnant) wife. Thanks Matt for grabbing the camera (by default the photographer usually gets left out of the pictures).

It is a ball to watch these two sisters interact. They are quite a pair!

Here is K showing off that belly. My gorgeous mountain mama! From a lighting standpoint, I wanted to showcase the shape of the belly, so I had her turn away from the light. Unfortunately that made the shadows too strong. So I added a bare light on the right to fill in those shadows. The umbrella light is still the main source, but the second light adds enough to prevent the details in the shadows from getting lost. I used the same lighting scheme for the sisters shot above.
Since Karen can't exactly go hiking for miles into the woods we did a little driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway for some accessible scenery. This was a super-quick pic mainly for historical purposes. The low camera angle helps emphasize the belly, but it also crops out the unsightly guard-rail that was there. This was shot using the built-in pop-up flash on the camera.

Of course I had to throw in at least one tripod/timer self portrait! This was around the halfway ponit of this waterfall. The next part is probably even taller than this one. We could hear these falls from the deck of the house so each morning it was just a quick walk to an awesome playground. Shot using available light.

Tina is our good friend from when we lived in Asheville. Karen worked with Tina at Barley's Taproom and Pizzeria. With 40 (good) beers on tap and some of the best food around you have to stop in if you are ever in the area. Tina was one of Karen's bridesmaids and they remain very close even though we live so far apart.

Vacation Part I: Family

My wife and I had a lovely vacation last week dividing our time between North and South Carolina. These pics are all from SC.

Dogpile on the pregnant lady! My wife Karen snuggles up with her sister Anne and brother-in-law Matt. You may remember Anne and Matt from their wedding pics.

Our beautiful niece Greta. What a doll! I swear she's 5 going on 16.

Our younger niece Cecilia. She is too cute! Seeing and getting to play with our two little nieces really gets us excited for our own arrival.

Daddy and daughter take a break from coloring. Adam is Karen's older brother. The lack of clothes is from Adam living on Lake Murray. We spent a lot of our time out on the water and swimming trying to deal with temps over 100!

Greta shows off her dancing skills during an improptu recital on the deck.

Unfortunately I neglected to get a group shot when we had everyone in one spot. Who knows the next time all 9 of us will be together! We had a great time hanging out with family in SC, but then it was time to head for the mountains. Look for those pics tomorrow.

Christine and Michael, The Castaway Wedding

Christine and Michael were married this Sunday on the beach overlooking Tampa Bay with a reception at the Castaway. I was there for just two hours but managed to capture some great memories for the couple. Congratulations to both of them!

OK, I have to start with this image to help tell this story. A photographer doesn't always hear the couple's vows because there are so many things running through our minds during the ceremony. However, these vows were very special and I think I gleaned most of the story while I was shooting. Here it is as I understand it. These two have known each other for years (the top image of them is from the 6th grade!) and Michael had pretty strong feelings for her. When it was time to head off to college, Michael and Christine went for a walk along the beach. Michael wanted to tell Christine he loved her but didn't. They both went off to live their separate lives. Each married and started families, but life's circumstances brought them back together. And they were married on that same beach; only this time Michael had the nerve to tell Christine how much he loved her. Guests were signing this picture as a keepsake.

The ceremony was right down near the water. This was during the vows and you can see how special they were by the look on the rabbi's face.

The couple and the rabbi embrace hands as part of the ceremony.

The couple enjoys their first moments together as husband and wife.

Michael and Christine walk along the same beach, but this time the walk is the start of their journey, not the end.

The window light in the restaurant made for a nice picture of the rings on the ring-bearer's pillow.

We were doing some formals in the lobby of the restaurant and I snagged a few of the couple while waiting for groups to assemble. They looked so cute here that I grabbed my second flash off my other camera body and held it in my left hand. The second off-camera light adds some dimension.

Congratulations Michael and Christine! Thanks for letting me be a part of your special day.