Year in Review: Personal Photographs

TL:DR – When not photographing Weddings this is what I photograph

Andrew posted a great writeup of his favorite shot from each shoot. I will let him keep that idea and focus on the photographs that I shot for myself in one way or another. Most are personal photographs or photographs where I am stretching my boundaries in some way. Going through my 2015 archive I felt melancholic. I was both amazed at how many places and the cool things we covered this year and I was simultaneously sad/frustrated that I didn’t focus enough on my personals stories that roam through my head. I endeavor in 2016 to bring more focus to my personal work and let those techniques flow into my client work. Read the captions to the photos, I wrote my feelings about each image. Love to hear any feeback you might have.

Colton sinks Proud of my oldest son for getting his head underwater after great spring swim lessons. He is a ham and I am proud of him.

Colton sinks
Proud of my oldest son for getting his head underwater after great spring swim lessons. He is a ham and I am proud of him.

No fear Dash. My youngest after spring swim lessons. He is a water baby through and through. Shown here practicing a "handoff".

No fear Dash.
My youngest after spring swim lessons. He is a water baby through and through. Shown here practicing a “handoff”.

First use of the silver extreme PLM. the balance of the natural light on the background and the deep black of the ambient light combined with Trevor's power

First use of the silver extreme PLM. the balance of the natural light on the background and the deep black of the ambient light combined with Trevor’s power

Testing out small LED's for a startup. Elizabeth against downtown with lights in close.

Testing out small LED’s for a startup. Elizabeth against downtown with lights in close.

LED testing with Katie this time. At night against the Austin Skyline. I need to know what she was thinking right here

LED testing with Katie this time. At night against the Austin Skyline. I need to know what she was thinking right here

Love this for creating what wasn't there. Long drag shutter and powerful lights transformed a strip mall gym.

Love this for creating what wasn’t there. Long drag shutter and powerful lights transformed a strip mall gym.

Stars in California. Astrophotography and Landscape aren't my thing as normally photographed. Been grappling for years on how to make my landscapes more "mine", so I added a bunch of big flashes to the foreground to balance with the stars in the background. Getting close to my ideal of "landscape lighting".

Stars in California.
Astrophotography and Landscape aren’t my thing as normally photographed. Been grappling for years on how to make my landscapes more “mine”, so I added a bunch of big flashes to the foreground to balance with the stars in the background. Getting close to my ideal of “landscape lighting”.

Workshop Model. Leah framed against a Terradorna sunset with a cactus in the foreground. Energetic and a wee bit mysterious

Workshop Model. Leah framed against a Terradorna sunset with a cactus in the foreground. Energetic and a wee bit mysterious

Jenny Lynn in different era's. Steam punk clothes wiht 1960s sunglasses. From a personal project out in the desert.

Jenny Lynn in different era’s. Steam punk clothes wiht 1960s sunglasses. From a personal project out in the desert.

Team Mad Max Energy, crazed maniac, #teamblue all around. We even convinced Adrian to model which never happens. Great adventure

Team Mad Max
Energy, crazed maniac, #teamblue all around. We even convinced Adrian to model which never happens. Great adventure

Liftoff, from a photowalk in Marion, Texas. Need to do more photowalks

Liftoff, from a photowalk in Marion, Texas. Need to do more photowalks

French Water We usually go big every year with mermaid portraits and this was from one of those shoots but it was a quieter moment with the B-Camera to find an enduring portrait

French Water
We usually go big every year with mermaid portraits and this was from one of those shoots but it was a quieter moment with the B-Camera to find an enduring portrait

Color Shift Finally used some of Frank Doorhoof's techniques to shift color in strange ways in camera to produce more cinematic effects. Need to explore this and Nick Fancher's work more.

Color Shift
Finally used some of Frank Doorhoof’s techniques to shift color in strange ways in camera to produce more cinematic effects. Need to explore this and Nick Fancher’s work more.

Gold. Love working with Livia from All Dolled Up and Najatt, our model for this Bond themed shoot. Mesmerized by how the gold shimmers in and out of focus. You should see this on a metallic paper print. Would look great on someone's wall!

Gold.
Love working with Livia from All Dolled Up and Najatt, our model for this Bond themed shoot. Mesmerized by how the gold shimmers in and out of focus. You should see this on a metallic paper print. Would look great on someone’s wall!

Natasha and the Storm. Unfinished meta project with Leah Chyma from the graffiti park.

Natasha and the Storm.
Unfinished meta project with Leah Chyma from the graffiti park.

The Phoenix This photo represents teamwork to me. What you don't see are the 6 people around the Phoenix working to make this photo happen. Maybe the best distillation of my ideals into one photo from 2015.

The Phoenix
This photo represents teamwork to me. What you don’t see are the 6 people around the Phoenix working to make this photo happen. Maybe the best distillation of my ideals into one photo from 2015.

Another from a photowalk, this one in downtown Austin. Notice the way the white negative space frames the tree, but just barely

Another from a photowalk, this one in downtown Austin. Notice the way the white negative space frames the tree, but just barely

Reflections of a Mermaid. Second coldest shoot of the year in the San Marcos spring fed River. Danni shows amazing aptitude for her first time as a mythical mermaid. We pushed hard this year to make our underwater work a new notch higher than yeas previous. I am proud of how Andrew and I problem solved this shoot.

Reflections of a Mermaid.
Second coldest shoot of the year in the San Marcos spring fed River. Danni shows amazing aptitude for her first time as a mythical mermaid. We pushed hard this year to make our underwater work a new notch higher than yeas previous. I am proud of how Andrew and I problem solved this shoot.

Langtry Love From a style shoot in the desert working with more ambient light than my normal workflow. This photo appeals to me because it encapsulates the environment into the story more. I like the subtle leading lines and the contrast of warm and cool.

Langtry Love
From a style shoot in the desert working with more ambient light than my normal workflow. This photo appeals to me because it encapsulates the environment into the story more. I like the subtle leading lines and the contrast of warm and cool.

Enchanted A spur of the moment adventure engagement. Photos like this are where are work is heading as more and more couples take us on adventures that we document. Lit by the moon mostly with a little bit of flashlight at the top.

Enchanted
A spur of the moment adventure engagement. Photos like this are where are work is heading as more and more couples take us on adventures that we document. Lit by the moon mostly with a little bit of flashlight at the top.

Father and Son A shadow selfie with myself and Colton as he accompanied me to photograph a trail race in Burnet. I love being able to share with him what I do.

Father and Son
A shadow selfie with myself and Colton as he accompanied me to photograph a trail race in Burnet. I love being able to share with him what I do.

Interesting Face I don't know this guy's name, and I only took 3 frames of him. I was setup to do something else but felt compelled to speak up and make a picture with him. I love that jaunty hat.

Interesting Face
I don’t know this guy’s name, and I only took 3 frames of him. I was setup to do something else but felt compelled to speak up and make a picture with him. I love that jaunty hat.

Yoga Salutation. 1 speedlight and a talented Yogi combined with different editing lead to one of my favorite fitness sessions of the year. Michael at Venice Beach.

Yoga Salutation.
1 speedlight and a talented Yogi combined with different editing lead to one of my favorite fitness sessions of the year. Michael at Venice Beach.

Zuma Sun The warm California sun, from our August on the west coast. I actually brought a tripod with me and used it. I am terrible at landscapes but I shot more this year than I have in a long time

Zuma Sun
The warm California sun, from our August on the west coast. I actually brought a tripod with me and used it. I am terrible at landscapes but I shot more this year than I have in a long time

Noir Stacy in Burnet. Look at the mystery and messiness to this photo. We strive so hard for perfection and the messy ones usually end up speaking to us.

Noir
Stacy in Burnet. Look at the mystery and messiness to this photo. We strive so hard for perfection and the messy ones usually end up speaking to us.

Jessica Superhero. Jessica and I went to high school together and am amazed at the transformations she has made. Thinking Black Widow here. My groove with green and cinematic lighting this year.

Jessica Superhero.
Jessica and I went to high school together and am amazed at the transformations she has made. Thinking Black Widow here. My groove with green and cinematic lighting this year.

Bend in the River Maybe the most photographed spot in Austin, happened to be there with a fisheye lens and a great sunset. I could hang this one in my house to remind me of good Austin days.

Bend in the River
Maybe the most photographed spot in Austin, happened to be there with a fisheye lens and a great sunset. I could hang this one in my house to remind me of good Austin days.

Old Timey Collaboration with Amie to bring an old time feel to her childrens portraits. Limited myself to fairly low shutter speeds and black and white emulations. I need to limit myself more to get creative with solutions. More good work comes from that than bringing the entire kitchen.

Old Timey
Collaboration with Amie to bring an old time feel to her childrens portraits. Limited myself to fairly low shutter speeds and black and white emulations. I need to limit myself more to get creative with solutions. More good work comes from that than bringing the entire kitchen.

Liftoff, from a personal fitness shoot I commissioned with Rogue AC gals Anne and Kristen. Love strong women

Liftoff, from a personal fitness shoot I commissioned with Rogue AC gals Anne and Kristen. Love strong women

Summertime The cobblers kids need shoes too. A reminder to photograph those nearest and dearest to me.

Summertime
The cobblers kids need shoes too. A reminder to photograph those nearest and dearest to me.

Tahoe Panorama Pretty sure the only panoramic I photographed this year. From a hike with the family to get a view of Lake Tahoe. Testing out the photomerge feature of Lightroom.

Tahoe Panorama
Pretty sure the only panoramic I photographed this year. From a hike with the family to get a view of Lake Tahoe. Testing out the photomerge feature of Lightroom.

Golden Bridge Sacramento Met up with family in Sacramento and then took about a 30 minute walk by myself and my camera when the light got good. Testing out the photomerge HDR in Lightroom to create DNG of merged raw files. Just a cool supsension/elevation bridge on the American River.

Golden Bridge Sacramento
Met up with family in Sacramento and then took about a 30 minute walk by myself and my camera when the light got good. Testing out the photomerge HDR in Lightroom to create DNG of merged raw files. Just a cool supsension/elevation bridge on the American River.

Determination Colton stands against the relentless Pacific Ocean mud dripping from his clenched fists. My boy will go far with this attitude

Determination
Colton stands against the relentless Pacific Ocean mud dripping from his clenched fists. My boy will go far with this attitude

Ophelia. This photo will always remind me of the intense rains we had in the spring of 2015. With rain we could count on I convinced Carrie to venture out into bull creek and play the role of Ophelia. I like the feel of isolation and greenness to this image. My images tend warm/organge as habit, working to shift where my colors flow.

Ophelia.
This photo will always remind me of the intense rains we had in the spring of 2015. With rain we could count on I convinced Carrie to venture out into bull creek and play the role of Ophelia. I like the feel of isolation and greenness to this image. My images tend warm/organge as habit, working to shift where my colors flow.

Reflections of 2015. Photographed after my almost last session of the year. 2016 has big shoes to fill even though I wasn't 100% satisfied with 2015.

Reflections of 2015.
Photographed after my almost last session of the year. 2016 has big shoes to fill even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with 2015.

Andrew’s 2015 – One from Every Shoot

I (Andrew) originally wrote this for my personal photo site AMadTrip.com, but we thought AzulOx fans might enjoy seeing it. These are photos I, Andrew, took this year. Josh shot some of these same things, and many others besides. He shot more for the company than me and I shot more “personal” stuff than him (at least it feels that way). Maybe he’ll do one of these at some point so you can see all the stuff he shot (much of which doesn’t make it here otherwise). In any case, enjoy.

This year, I decided to pick one picture from each and every shoot, love it or hate it, and share it. I’ve been lucky to have been at so many happy events, and luckily only a few unfortunate. As a working photographer, I get hired to shoot all manner of things and I do whether they interest me or now.

Those aspects are what made picking one photo per shoot hard. Sometimes there is only one option; often I work for hours to produce a single photo (e.g. startrails). Other times, a single shoot is filled with images I love (e.g. my days at Joshua Tree and also many of this years weddings). Picking one image from those sets is very hard.

I’d like to tell you that I had a favorite or two in every shoot, but the fact is that picking these images was very hard. Some shoots did not include any images I’m particularly fond of or interested in. At the end of the day, both types of shoots (and everything in between) are represented here the same way: with a single image.

These images are not the best image from each shoot, the most liked or even the most technically perfect. It is simply the image I liked the most today as I picked them out.

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The Last of Summer: Underwater Sessions

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Summer is quickly slipping away and so is your chance to be a mermaid in 2015. We are offering 2 days of underwater sessions on September 16th and 17th. $500 for the session gets you professional underwater makeup, mermaid tails and the photos from your session! Please email josh@azulox.com to schedule your session. Sessions are between 90-120 minutes and can be used as a solo session or with a pair or group of friends.

We hosted 2 days of mermaids this July and had our most diverse group ever. A bachelorette party, a maternity session, an evil Siren, a cosplaying super herione, and mermaids all around. These sessions are truly one of kind and we only offer them once or twice per year. If you have ever wanted to be photographed underwater with AzulOx, this will be your last chance until July of 2016.

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Jenny Lynn in Red: South Austin Creative Portraits

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Sometimes it just all comes together. The weekend of this shoot had us in the possession of a 50 Megapixel medium format beast of a camera called the Pentax 645z. We had it in our posssession for about 36 hours and determined to make the most out it. Saturday night we took it out to Reveille Peak Ranch in Burnet for astrophotography, Sunday afternoon we photographed a wedding with it, but Sunday morning I called together a small team that I like to use when testing out something new. My friend Jenny Lynn (I think I am the only one who calls her that, reminds me of an old fiddle tune Jole Blon) has been a muse for me since we met. We struck up a quick conversation about Avedonand Suzy Parker and now she is always first to go when I am trying out new toys such as really expensive cameras.

This little creative project called for red. Red walls, red apple, red hair, red lips, red dress. Jenny Lynn scouted an area not far from her house in South Austin that held promise with red brick walls, aluminum cutouts and other little touches. Adrian with Revelry Beauty arrived at the happy in the morning time of 6am to get started on hair and makeup. I arrived too after shooting star trails the night before. My voice sounded like an old diesel starting up. Adrian however was chipper and awesome as always. After good amounts of caffiene were imbibed off to the location where we had 45 minutes of decent light before Jenny had to go to work and I had to go photograph a wedding.

But sometimes when you have the right creative team, it all justs comes together. Even when the pc sync cable is it’s unreliable self, even when the hotshoe is giving your radio triggers trouble. You just make pictures. And let me tell you, the files from that beastly Pentax 645z are outstandingly detailed and fabulous. We pulled 4 stops of shadow detail, and the dynamic range I feel truly shows off the combined beauty of Adrian’s work on Jenny Lynn. If you ever get the chance to shoot with a camera such as this, you better bring your checkbook with you because it’s going to be hard to give back. I feel bad that these are downsized version, because the originals are 6 times larger! Really impressed with the Pentax. Good menus, well built, weatherproof, and not as heavy or bulky feeling as it looks. We really enjoyed our time with it, putting it through the paces. I hope the lens choices improve in the near future to truly be a complete system.

Back to the photos after that little technical tangent. Most ended up being natural light that you see on the post because we had good morning light filtering in through the trees and privacy fence creating natural “cookies”. On the strobed photograhps we utilized a silver beauty dish for sharp contrasty light. One of the great parts of having working with Jenny Lynn so many times is her ability to find the light. Love models that pose with the light instead of the camera, makes for dynamic photographs I believe.

Well we hoped you enjoyed this little detour into one of our side creative projects. Hoping to have a few big ones this year as well.
–JB

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October Mermaids: Underwater Series in Austin

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The thing about mermaids is, you never quite know when they will show up to haunt you. Our ongoing project of photographing mermaids in the wild stretches back over 2 years now and we are just now refining our process to capturing these rare and unforgiving creatures. This set of photographs captures 3 sessions from one not so warm October day in 2014. Our first set features Kari and David in either a mating dance or perhaps an underwater turf battle. After the two of them swam furiously away, we found a mermaid in bright orange and yellow mysteriously floating across the surface of the water. We could not divine her intentions, so we simply snapped a few photographs of Nicole and awed at her grace. Lastly, we found Jennifer underwater and coaxed her into letting us take a few portraits of her, much like one does as a tourists in a faraway land. After she had her fill of us, off to the school of fishes to retrieve her young.

Creative Makeup (and pool!) by Lecia Harkins
Mermaid Tails from FinFunMermaid

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“He is Gone”: Cassandra at Lone Oak in Round Rock

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—–
“She wished and wished with all her might, holding fast to the remnants left behind.
A dream, a dance on this late night, hoping her love can find
Her man, her soldier.

The war is done, he should be here to dance. To dance and set free
The war inside of she. Hold fast to thoughts, to romance, to me.
Telegram reads, He is Gone.

Touch and Remember the pearls, the jeweled necklace
All you have is the last embrace”
—–

So a bit of a departure on this shoot. It started with a phone call to Adrian with Revelry Beauty that had me saying, “so I have an idea…”. The team came together quickly with vintage clothing and accessories from Ledbelly Vintage. Our gracious hosts at Lone Oak Barn for a great venue. Our supermodel Cassandra! who held all the emotion to these photographs.

We wanted to create a mood and lighting from 1946. We leaned heavily on film noir principles to help us get there. Hope you enjoy our little break from the norm, the next blog will deal with weddings and a bit more client work. Thanks for reading and watching!
–JB

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Mermaid Monday: Creative Underwater Portraits in Austin

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Underwater has been one of our themes the last few summer’s as the weather in Austin, Texas gets unbearable. This years theme in particular was Mermaids, how fun! We had a menagerie of talented individuals who helped put this all together. Let me thank them now because without everyone pulling together a shoot this scale would not come together.

Hair, Makeup, Style, Pool Owner: Lecia Harkins with Austin Beauty on the Go
Florals: Beau Dawson at Beau’s Flower Child
Producer: Amanda Ervin at 11:11 Events
Camera Assistants: Jessica, Caleb and Ty
Video: Brian Nixon with AzulOx Visuals
Mermaid Tails: Fin Fun Mermaid
Studio Lights: Arri 1k’s from Lensrentals.com
Mermaids: Naomi Loghry, Meganoke, Jenny Lynn Larsen and Cassidy Koranek
Merman: Ryan Saathoff
Safety Diver: Amber Meaux

*****
We would like to mention that we will be offering Mermaid Portraits as a session that you can purchase soon. Please send an email at josh@azulox.com or leave us a Facebook message if you are interested.
*****

We tackled this underwater session a bit differently than we have in the past. I had tried to cobble together an underwater strobe kit, but the results have been inconsistent. This year we used 2 1000w video lights stationed on the pools edge to provide our lighting. Our goal was to provide consistent lighting for both the stills and video. The lights were great except that our sunken treasure chest threw off so much particulate into the water that by the end of the shoot I had no way of getting clarity to the images. Lesson learned there. One of the reasons we shoot these large scale productions for our selves is to work out kinks in the workflow before we take them to clients.

Shooting underwater is hard, posing underwater is hard, lighting underwater is hard. Any breakdown in the system and the images are not that great. Add to that that it takes 3-10 times longer underwater to get your shots. With all that said, I am super proud of the gang we had working so that we could capture a few mermaids in action. Where will the mermaids pop up next?

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“I too, have loved in the Garden”: Creative Shoot in Austin

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The genesis of this shoot was a conversation I was having with Adrian at Revelry Beauty as we talked about ways we could push our work forward this summer. One tangent led to another secant and we came up with the idea of a couple that must say goodbye to each other even while the love is still there. Lots of angst and anguish and Victorian clothes at the cool venue of Dunvegan Keep in South Austin. This shoot provided a personal project for each of us to experiment with in different dimensions.

One of the tenets that we have been working under the last few years is to continually push our photographic boundaries both in business (not the topic of this post) and in technique. This particular session was an exercise in shooting stills and video with one light setup. In the past we have our video lights and our strobe lights and it get’s to be a mess on set, plus longer times for setup and breakdown, not the best idea in the expanding Texas heat. For this shoot then we rented an Arri 1k light from lensrentals.com and a video crane. The 1k light turned out much bigger and hotter than I expected (wear gloves!). The upshot was learning that we can shoot stills and video and almost the same time with little changes to either team. The video is below and we shot both the video and stills in about 3 hours which I feel is great turnaround time and one of the benefits of this type of setup.

We really strive to push our limits in our personal projects so that we can cross over the skills we learn into our client time. In this way we keep our client work fresh and innovative by nudging it more and more forward. Let me know if you have any questions on our light setups or other tech questions.

Thanks to Nicole and Jonathan for wearing 19th century clothes in Texas heat, humidity and mosquitoes.

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Sea Bride: Creative Portraiture in Austin

This project runs a little darker themed than our usual postings but it’s a story that has been in my head since I first heard the song “Sea Bride” by The Haunted Windchimes. Sometimes I just get stories in my mind that I have to tell. This one deals with a bride whose groom never returns from sailing. She waits for his return but realizes her love is lost so she leaves this world to join him. I know, like I said, a little darker theme from me, but I think the photos are awesome so whatcha going to do?

Thanks to my friends for making this notion turn into reality-ish. Beau from Flower Child with the bouquet, Amanda from 11:11 Events keeping us organized , Lizbeth and the PRO Makeup & Hair team for the look and feel of wind torn bride, and finally Naomi who braved some frigid temperatures and numbing water to let us capture these fantastic photographs. Almost forgot thanks to my old roomie Brian for mixing up our fake blood. Pro tip: don’t get the corn syrup in your lens, just sayin’.

“Sea Bride”
The sailor man is set to return on this day of wedded bliss
Rumor speaks and whispers The Tall Sailing ship is sunk
Promise not to tell

Sea Bride grips in grief to shell and sand
while tears and blood fall to the
same water and fate as she

Tossed to the sea at golden light
floating serenely to shore
The rocks and the lips run red

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Kiss! Bang! Pow! – Comic Book Wedding Inspiration

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We love it when a team of talented individuals and businesses come together to produce an amazing photoshoot. This Wedding Inspiration was just released in the 2nd Anniversary Issue of Bliss Bridal Magazine and we have been waiting months to share these photos! Our favorite details/feature is our aerial photobooth to simulate the flying of our models against a Lichtenstein Backdrop. The models were laying on the floor while we photographed them from the second story balcony.

Our team of talented Vendors:
Event Designer: 11:11 Events
Florals: The Orange Poppy
Rentals: Illusions
Venue: The Plant in Kyle
Cake: Blue Note Bakery
Catering: Catering with a Twist
Gown: Sarah Eileen
Tuxedo: Beau’s Flower Child
Hair & Makeup: Brizy Tait from The Beauty Jar
Stationery: Posh Posh Designs
Models: Jenny Lynn Larsen, Haide Gonzalez, Ismael Soto, Chris Van Loan

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Porschia: Westin Fashion

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Porschia and I met up this morning at the Westin in the Domain to kick off her official modeling career. Our goal was to work through 3 great outfits and to provide a variety of looks and lighting to start off her portfolio with a diversity of looks and styles. We started off with a gridded and snooted speedlight with a full CTO gel on the speedlight to match the warm tones of the Wine Cellar room. The first outfit and textures called for restricted, harsh lighting to help create the mood. While still in the Cellar we also used our Orbis Ring Flash to create a hard fashion light in a closeup portrait.

For our first outfit and location change we went with a “Porschia is Donald Trump” attitude. I lit this differently than any photo I have done. The hair light is behind Porschia and a bit high. The light itself is a fotodiox daylight balanced video light aiming toward her right ear. The key light is a speedlight bounced into the silver side of circular reflector to mimic the sheen and specularity of the fabric to Porschia’s left. I think it has an interesting feel to the light. Going to work this that setup again to see how far we can push that technique.

The fourth photograph was also special because we used the giant window light as a scrim. No flashes! Very rare, but when the light is good the light is very good. Porschia looks like she has been doing this all her life, but no, just the first time!

And lastly we come to my favorite photograph of the day, #5. To me, it should be on a billboard or movie poster, just a great moment with super cool lighting mix of ambient and another 1/2 CTO gelled flash in a Westcott Apollo Orb. The best part is the yellow light behind is the background that the Westin staff check in guests at. We had just a tiny sliver of working area to photograph in and Porschia just nails the Hollywood feel. And that’s how we ended the day.

Which one is yall’s favorite?
–JB

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Modern Sophisticant: Lifestyle Shoot

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Lifestyle Shoot for Jinxedaposed Clothing new menswear collection, “Modern Sophisticant”. Our Models for the evening included: Michael Steven Vail, Kevin Cloud, Logan South, Kalev Clawson and Jenny Lynn Larsen. We explored the area around 4th and Congress in Downtown Austin for its mix of warehouse, skyscraper, and alleyways, all areas that today’s modern Man navigates. Our inspiration for the style of the shoot was a cinematic take on James Dean and the duality of man. I think the first photo exemplifies this the best by showing who is turned on by whom and what turns our eye. Thanks a bunch to trusty assistant Austin for coming up with the blocking for this scene.

Visit Jinxedaposed and buy their clothes!

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Underwater Extravaganza: Creative Portraits

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Once or twice a year we figure is a good time to just go crazy with an over the top underwater fashion/concept shoot. This year’s event we dubbed the “Underwater Extravaganza” and boy did it live up to it’s name. I really feel as though this was the best day of underwater photography we have had. A bunch of talented, brave and creative folks came together to make this all happen. Let me start by naming our host for the day and makeup guru, Lecia Harkins with Austin Beauty on the Go for having a deep pool and a deep pool of fashion makeup knowledge. The second huge thanks goes to Robin Leddy at Gillded Petals for her jaw-dropping underwater set you see in the first photo. I mean, just wow, wow, wow. Thanks for your help in sending this day over the top Robin! Our support team of Kody and Austin kept me running smooth throughout the day and allowed me to photo torture our models who never had enough oxygen as I happily breathed through the scuba tanks.

The first photo at the top is an homage to a Midsummers Night Dream which is fitting because this was an end to the summer shoot as we prepare for a steady diet of client work (and a newborn coming in December) and colder temperatures. Robin created this amazing set with PVC piping and her florist talents. She also had the pink adult ballet dress custom made for us. So thanks again Robin. We wanted the feel to be soft and show Jenny Lynn, our model, floating through her dreams in an underwater garden. Pretty Epic, huh?

Our Second Photograph shows off Stacy and our concept of “Love is Lost”. We show her sinking to the abyss as she clutches a her heart in one hand and a dying bouquet in the other. Heavy I know.

The next set of three photographs is from my concept called “I Dream in Color” and we show different models dreaming and becoming the primary colors of Red, Blue and Yellow.

We finish off a few of the concepts with Katie behind the bubbles in her corset and bouquet, and then Ryan as he becomes the Wizard with his Staff and Crystal Ball.

Just an amazing, amazing day that left me sore for three days and a touch sunburn after 9 hours of shooting in the pool. Thanks to all who helped with this Shoot!
Let me know your favorites!!!
–JB
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#BoomAthlete : Chrissy Cowdrey Fitness Portraits

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Chrissy needed fitness portraits for a project she is working on called “#BoomAthlete showcasing everyday people’s fitness through twitter and instagram using the #boomathlete hashtag. First, we love shoot that already have hashtags associated with them. Second, we are a big fan of fitness for everyone. We are proud to have coached experienced and new runners alike, so this project dovetails nicely with my own personal passions. That said, never in my life have I been as fit as Chrissy! She Booms and she Booms hard!

We covered this project in the area of Austin around the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge and the Seaholm Power Plant. We were lucky to have a random late summer rain storm blow in for the last bit of the shoot which made for some epically moody skies to shoot against. The first half of the session we mainly just used big silver and gold reflectors to punch in light where it was needed. Only toward the end did we break out one gelled speedlight to add drama to the scenes.

Let us know if you need fitness portraits or any other type of fitness related photography, we love it! And be sure to check out the hashtag in the coming weeks to see what Chrissy and her team have in store!
–JB

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Mystic Weekend Revisited: Creative Portraiture

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Occasionaly my creative vision outstretches my technical ability to produce the photographs and images in my head. Our Mystic Weekend session is a great example of not having the technical know how to produce what I could see mentally. We photographed these images in the fall of 2011 and at the time my Photoshop skills were caveman crude. 2 years later my knowledge of Photoshop has increased from 1% to 2% doubling what I know, but still a long way to climb. Part of re-processing these images were restoring them to my original vision and some of it was a test to see what I could do with them now. Most of these have never seen the light of day because I didn’t know what to do! We are sharing now to show more from the original plans. You can read the old posts Day 1, Day 2 AM, Day 2 PM.

Let me reset the story for all of our new followers. We have a Druid Archer hunting down other mystical creatures including the Red-headed Sirens and the Winged Faeries. There is also a fight between Old Man Wisdom and a Sun Goddess as she tries to posses his knowledge. Who wins is tough to say as the sun is setting. These were all photographed in my hometown of Kingsbury, Texas with a lot of help from some talented individuals. Kari Lehman and Mitch Bergsma were are Sun Goddess and Old Man Wisdom respectively on day one. Then Mitch turned around and filmed this awesome behind the scenes video. The second day had a crazy fun cast of models/actors. We had Kayla Klepac and Jenny Lynn Larsen as our Red-Headed Sirens. Haley Read, Sky Van Vliet and Tricia Peters Moon as our Winged Faeries flying from a 30 foot trapeze rig and jumping onto mats. Ivy Koehler as our Druid Assassion with head to toe tattoos (and based on the Iron Druid Series from Kevin Hearne).

The top image is an example of what I didn’t know at the time. Creating fire and lighting effects in post production. Color grading to this extent. Removal of unwanted objects more complex than a dust spot. I really had to get it right in camera because my post-production skills were limited. For most projects, that mentality was great and taught me to get as much right in camera as possible. When I want more than enhanced reality I am at a loss. This is a big step to adding to my post production arsenal. A big part is the software used. For us the jump from Photoshop Elements to the Adobe Creative Cloud has been a huge boon. The latest Photoshop, Premiere and ancillary software allows us to produce more than we imagined. The new tools are fast and photographer friendly. Still a ways to go and maybe in a few more years we come back to these photographs and go really over the top!

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Kayla: Creative Style Shoot

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Super pumped about this shoot from last night. Felt like we had a good creative break through to produce some exciting photographs. Tried to push my boundaries a bit in terms of lighting and composition to see what we could come up with. Just like every shoot, the photographs are only as good as the team that goes out in the field. We had a stellar cast with the gals from The Beauty Jar running hair and makeup. Our model Kayla also doubled as our wardrobe stylist for the evening, be sure to check out her fashion blog too. On my side we had Austin running video which we will share later on the youtube channel and Kelsey helping with reflectors and lightstands for both the photo and video production.

With the team and introduction out of the way, let’s take a look at logistics and the thought process behind the creation of these photographs. First up on a shoot like this is getting prepared mentally. We have shot in this empty lot before so I had a good idea of the light quality and the various backgrounds this area offered. We lucked out a bit that one of the rotating graffiti peices had colors and looks that we could use to dramatic effect with the red and black polka dots and the bright colored patches (all the same wall). We also knew we were in good hands with the hair, makeup, and styling team because we have worked with everyone including the model before, so the familiarity and professionalism helped the shoot move along and advance quickly. Those are the basics.

The most important part is the the mental aspect of deciding what part of yourself you are imparting onto the photographs. All the little choices in lighting, styling, makeup, framing, tone add up to tell as much about the person behind the picture as the one in front. On the ride down Mopac from the salon to the location, Kayla and I were talking about the narrative space she should try and enter. We kept using words like “fierce” and “aggro” to describe not just her hair but the attitude to bring. Having a storyline is always a help. I had her watch the intro to Punky Brewster to get inspired! (mainly because I was the only one old enough to remember it airing). The takeaway though was street wise with a big heart, a role that I think Kayla is a natural for, eyes to lure you in and the brains to pick your pocket.

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Mentally we were set then with a streetwise, aggressive character with a glam look. The last part is the lighting and framing. We used about every type of light modifier we own on this shoot, a good thing the trunk of the Jetta was never far away helped! The image that leads off this article is from a silver long throw reflector from up high feathered away and down a bit to keep the hardest intensity light off of Kayla’s skin, still plenty silvery and hard though. Once the ambient levels came down, we also used the Orbis Ring Flash to great effect throughout. Standard beauty fare modifier but we paired it with s-l-o-w shutter speeds in the neighborhood of 1/4 of a second to give it that jittery hand held feel while still maintaining the glam feel. We also used a flash and slash technique to get the ambient lights burning into the background.

The strangest technique and one that I have never tried before was a snooted flash on camera zoomed in. It creates the vignetted effect you see on photograph #4. This light had a definite sweet spot and moving away from the center lost all of your light. Finicky for sure, but fun when it hit right. Fun light setups, gorgeous model styled well, and new camera techniques. Good times.

That’s a wrap on what may be a few of my personal favorite photographs I have taken this year. Thanks to all who helped out!
–JB

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Death to the Dress: Creative Fusion Portraits

Death to the Dress: A Trash the Dress Session where the Dress leaves no evidence.

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This session is a bit hard to explain. It’s one part pinup session, one part trash the dress, one part catharsis, and 5 parts fun. The evolution of divorce isn’t the most fun topic to discuss but Chelsea closed one chapter of her life with a smirk on her face and is anxious to start the next adventure in life. I can’t think of a more fun way to transition than a photoshoot with us!

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We have fusion in the title, because our team was shooting stills and motion at the same time, especially during the fire portion. We have been using LED panels more and more, and our panels from FotoVideo allowed us to film and photograph at the same time without the strobe effect showing up in the video. The other bonus was focusing ability in the fading sunlight. And how about a big hand to Austin, our magic man on the Mark 2! How fun is that video? I keep expecting a T-1000 to enter the frame at some point.

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Our mayhem crew of Lecia Harkins and her assistant Jenny from Austin Beauty on the Go did a fabulous job on the mod hair and makeup. And a big thanks to Anthony at Angel Springs Event Center for allowing our mischief to occur at his venue. (We also had a volunteer firefighter on set, thanks Jim!)

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Let us know how we can help fulfill your vision. I promise we will all have fun.
–JB

Diva & Her Bodyguards: Creative Family Portraits

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For our loyal blog readers (yes, plural thank you very much) yall know that we love to do things a bit different. Yesterday’s family creative portrait session was no different. The basic concept is that our darling youngest daughter is basically a Suri Cruise level diva and needs constant “bodyguarding” by her two bodyguards, also her twin older sisters. She is staying at a posh hotel downtown and is about to go tantrum/trash-the-place/why-are-there-brown-m&m’s-don’t-you-know-who-I-am style meltdown. Also, juice box.

The last photo was fun to create as well. We took our underwater housing and flashes to the splash pad at Butler Park and chased the girls as they ran through the water. We got more than a few strange looks!

This is the type of family portrait that goes through my head, my imagination tends to run a bit wild. If you have an overactive imagination then please give us a call immediately to schedule your session and we can make something larger than life happen!

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Downton Abbey Style Shoot: Creative Session

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Pamuk and Tom play chess. Tom doesn’t know what he is doing.

I have crazy friends and I love them. My friend Amie has been planting this Downton Abbey shoot in my ear for a while now and we finally had the chance to make it happen. For those that don’t know, Downton Abbey is a period drama set in England around the time of World War I in an estate with upper class and lower class characters. Our goal was to play up some of that class warfare and show the Crawley Sisters doing their thing. Amie found the perfect venue in Austin at the Scottish Rite Dormitory and got us access to all kinds of fun rooms, libraries, boiler rooms and grand ballrooms. As a former UT student I had only been in the lobby of the dorm (it’s all girl) so it was fun to poke around this historic venue. Honestly, it took me about an hour of scouting to soak in all the nooks and crannies available to us.

Let me give a shout out quickly to my rockstar Hair and Makeup Gal Crystal Glass. She makes everyone look awesome no matter the style we through at her, and if you follow this blog you have seen some of our craziness.

Returning to Amie, wow, she did so much work to make this shoot happen. Period Costumes, Venue Access, Beef Jerky for the photographer (always recommended!), finding the cast, and starring as Mary!, busy day for Amie indeed. My work was easy, I just pushed the shutter button.

We also setup a Rolleiflex portrait session with our led litepanel, but those will have to wait until we can get our 120 film developed and scanned. Excited to see what those 2 rolls of film holds.

Thanks to everyone that helped out on this shoot, we love showing what we can do creatively.

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Pamuk is restless for something to happen

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The Crawley Sisters

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Edith in the library, no one pays her any attention

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A proposal

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Tom finding a helpful book on chess

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Oh no! A dead body must be hidden!

Jennifer Hritz: Creative Session

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We just wrapped up a creative session for a local Austin Author, Jennifer Hritz (website), to produce media for her upcoming novel, “The Crossing”. The experience was a bit surreal on a day when Austin set an 84 year old record for cold weather in May. This fit our purposes though because the action in the novel is set on a cool October day. The other surreal aspect is photographing characters from someone else’s head. Usually I am the one writing backstories on the characters in our sets, but not today. Jennifer told me that the characters for this novel had lived in her head for the last twenty years. No pressure in presenting them as she saw them! Austin and I were a bit nervous about that part but we kept our professional cool and made these photos happen.

For the curious, we tried out the new VSCO film pack #2 to provide an emulated emulsion that replicated the type of camera and film that would have been available to the characters. First time using VSCO after hearing about them for the past year. Nice setup and fits my workflow quite nicely. Based on limited use so far, I would already recommend this product to use for the right type of photos.

And yes, I realize these photo’s also could be used for a smoking campaign. Just part of the detail that makes up the characters. Read the books, don’t start smoking. That is your public service announcement for today.

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