My Favorite Portraits of 2016

It is an understatement to say that I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a portrait photographer in the Boise area. We have the best people here in Idaho, and there's no other way to say it than to simply express how lucky I am that I get to be your photographer and capture your beautiful souls in imagery. In that light, I made this video looking over my very favorite portraits from the past year. I hope you enjoy it!

Caldwell Night Rodeo 2016

One of the greatest honors of this past year was to be named the official committee photographer of the Caldwell Night Rodeo. It's not just one of Idaho's crown-jewel rodeos, it's one of the biggest rodeos in the country.

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 60mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/100s | ISO 1600

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 200mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1600s | ISO 500
In a quest for more light at a night event, I used the Sony 70-200 f/4, which performed like a champ, with super fast autofocus, and no "hunting". (Perfect combination for my a6000, which has the fastest autofocus in the business.) At that time, the f/2.8 version of this lens was not yet released, and I can't wait to try that one next year!

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 70mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1600s | ISO 500

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 200mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/800s | ISO 1250
Rodeo photography is an exhausting job, but it is immensely rewarding. Having been a rodeo fan for the longest time, being able to capture the moments behind the scenes and on the arena floor is at the same time a privilege and a complete hoot!

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 91mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 2000

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 180mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200
While action photos are the most dramatic, rodeo people are the best people, and catching them doing their thing is what I love the most. From intense rides to quiet, behind-the-scenes moments, there's a range of emotions to capture, if only you'll look for them.

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 70mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 101mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/800s | ISO 320
 My goal is to catch excitement. It's always there in the rodeo. Just gotta be ready!
Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 94mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200

Sony a6000 | FE 70-200mm f/4.0 | 139mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200

Ben's Senior Shoot

It feels like I've known this guy forever. He's been my guitar student for a few years, gone to school with my kids, and the works. It seems kind of strange to be shooting his senior photos already, but I was sure glad for the opportunity.
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 1600
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 1600
Ben has what you might call "classic good looks". Okay, so might isn't the right term. if you didn't call him classically good-looking, you're looking at someone else's photos. He's the perfect kind of guy to head into the gritty back alleys of Downtown Nampa for a kind of vintage-styled shoot.
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 640
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 400
Our retro-handsome guy has a similarly handsome old Gran Torin that is his pride and joy.Naturally, he wanted to incorporate it into his shoot, which was interesting, what with all those reflective surfaces in the frame. I was using a Sigma 60mm f/2.8 prime on my Sony a6000 for this shoot, with a single off-camera speedlight. Eventually, I quit trying to get away from shadows and reflections, and just started embracing them.
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/200s | ISO 100

Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/100s | ISO 500
While looking for a place to do the shoot with the car, we found a cool perch alongside the tracks, and found some other fun places to pose there. While it's fun to do sessions in beautiful wooded or garden areas, there's something distinctly cool about these kinda dirty side-street places, too.
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 320

Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/100s | ISO 800
One photo stood out above all the rest. Some say Brando. Some say James Dean. I know this guy. He beats them both.
Sony a6000 | E 60mm f/2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/100s | ISO 500

Emmett's Gem Boise County Rodeo

From time to time, things just stack up your way. For instance, a great opportunity to shoot great rodeo action in a classic arena under an picturesque sky. For two days last month in Emmett, Idaho, I got just that opportunity.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 93mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200
Emmett is a fun place with a good rodeo. Good enough that it attracts some of the valley's very finest competitors, and a certain photographer from Nampa. I looked forward to this rodeo for some time, and it did not disappoint at all.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 138mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/800s | ISO 1600

 Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 99mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/1000s | ISO 6400
Turns out that the rodeo committee had not hired a photographer for their event, so I was given free rein of the arena. There really isn't a better way to get all the action from pretty much wherever you need to be. Safety first, and stay out of the way, but the arena really lets you pick your spot, and I was glad to have the opportunity there.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 210mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/1000s | ISO 4000

Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 164mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/1000s | ISO 1600
The people in Emmett were so friendly. Rodeo is a kind of unique sport where, as a photographer, you get to know the athletes, and both meeting new people and running into old friends is a huge highlight of the day for me. The forest fires to the west tinted a sky that was threatening sprinkles, and for a great half-hour, we had senior-photo lighting in a rodeo environment. It was awesome.

Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 120mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/1000s | ISO 1600
Keeping an eye on what's around you isn't just a safety thing for the bull riding. Being too focused on the middle of the arena or chimping keeps you away from seeing some pretty cool stuff - even during the mutton busting!
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 116mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/160s | ISO 500

Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 210mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/1000s | ISO 1600
 The arena got very dark at night. Part of the problem with these old arenas is that they tend to not be very well lit, and that makes it tricky to shoot anything after the team roping. Pretty much you're just cranking ISO up and shutter speed down (I max at 3200 and basement at 1/800s, respectively), and hoping the action gets into the spots where the arena lights give you just a little to work with. Then it's up to Lightroom and Nik's Dfine software.
Sony α6000 | E 50mm f/1.8 | 50mm | ƒ/1.8 | 1/1000s | ISO 3200

Sony α6000 | E 50mm f/1.8 | 50mm | ƒ/1.8 | 1/1250s | ISO 6400
The skies, stock, and action just all worked together at Emmett this year on both nights, and I call that lucky. It let me get what might be my favorite rodeo shot yet. It's Dakota Christensen on a great ranch bronc from the 4T string of bucking stock, and thanks to all the elements working together, I feel like it worked out with all the drama I could hope for.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 107mm | ƒ/5.6 | 1/1250s | ISO 1000
 Two nights of action, then on to the next rodeo. It's non-stop... and I'm not even a rider!

The Down Low in Adams County

At the end of July I had the opportunity to hitchhike up to Council, Idaho with Swisher Hat and Supply Co. to spend some time at the Adams County Rodeo.  I wasn't there for the hats, though. I just tucked my head under mine, and slung my camera around my neck to capture the action on the arena floor.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 210mm | ƒ/6.3 | 1/1000s | ISO 160
This particular time around I was just a guest of the rodeo committee, and not shooting in an "official" capacity. (I hold a photographer's card, which allows me to shoot the events, but I had not been hired by this committee.) Out of respect for my colleague, I wandered around to find a spot where I could shoot, and stay out of the way.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 76mm | ƒ/5.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 160
The west side of the arena had nice Priefert panels with gaps just wide enough and in the right places to let me crouch down in the dirt and shoot from just above ground level. It was a pretty unique perspective, and let me get some shots I don't usually get to take.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 55mm | ƒ/4.5 | 1/1000s | ISO 1600
Come to find out, there are lots more events and opportunities for competitors in Council, which means the rodeo goes long and very late. Upside: lots to shoot. Downside: it got very, very dark. There was some arena lighting which allowed me to get team ropers and barrel racers as they passed through it, but when the final bull riding event came around, it was down to luck.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 55mm | ƒ/4.5 | 1/1000s | ISO 1600
I was relatively close to the chutes where I was, so I actually went so far as to opt for my 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens. Although I knew it would require some cropping later, the extra light was going to be absolutely necessary. No, that's not it's intended use, but sometimes you hafta do what it takes to get the shot. At the moment I'm working toward sponsorships that would help me get the Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8, but that's a ways away for now.
Sony α6000 | E 55-210mm f/4.5 | 78mm | ƒ/5.0 | 1/1000s | ISO 125
It was a very late night getting back to Nampa, but it was worth it. Some of the best competitors in the region were there, along with prime stock from Superior Rodeo Co. and High Desert Rough Stock, and I feel like I got a few shots to be very proud of, and the contestants have some for their memories as well. Sometimes you gotta get down and dirty to get the shot. That's okay. It's rodeo.

Fighting Breast Cancer With Blayke

My friend Blayke is pretty awesome. She's beautiful and kind and extremely talented. She's also on a mission, and it's an important one. I was lucky enough to be asked to help her on it with my camera.
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/60s | ISO 320
You see, Blayke wants to encourage women to fight. Not exactly in a boxing ring like these photos might imply, but she wants them to fight something more insidious and damaging than 8 oz. Everlasts could ever defeat.
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/500s | ISO 640
Sony α6000 | E 18-55 F3.5 | 20mm | ƒ/5.0 | 1/60s | ISO 640

Breast Cancer knocks down women every day, but if it's caught early, it can be treated, drastically improving survival rates. It takes a fight to defeat cancer, but the fight begins with knowledge and education - a woman's greatest weapons.
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 | 60mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/100s | ISO 500
Blayke is encouraging all women from teens to adults to get checked and learn how to check for signs of breast cancer. It's not hard, and there are resources all over the web to help women, such as WebMD and Saint Alphonsus in the greater Boise area. There are more and better resources for women now than there ever have been, and they are there for you to take advantage!
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/80s | ISO 320
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/4.0 | 1/100s | ISO 1250
It takes a strong person to be so vocal about this fight, and Blayke certainly is that. Breast cancer has had a profound effect on her life, and  she knows firsthand how life-saving early detection is.
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/20s | ISO 100
There's nothing to be taken lightly about breast cancer, so please don't mess around. Check, and get checked. If anything seems amiss, please contact a health professional in your area. Blayke and I are in your corner rooting for you, and want you to be your very healthiest.
Sony α6000 | E 18-55 F3.5 OSS | 18mm | ƒ/3.5 | 1/60s | ISO 400
Be smart. Be tough. Be like Blayke. LET'S KNOCK OUT BREAST CANCER!

(I've included camera and lens settings in the captions in order to try to stay out of the way. It was fun to shoot something different like this in a small gym that was dark, even though the walls were bright white. It also forced me to shoot at something tighter than wide-open aperture for the most part so I could get Blayke's face in sharp focus, but not completely lose the pink gloves.)

Gold Dust In The Mountains

This past weekend I had the opportunity to be the official photographer for the Gold Dust Rodeo in Idaho City, ID. It's one of my favorite local rodeos because of the gorgeous scenery, hospitable committee and staff, and general old-time-y-ness.

This time around, I actually got to be inside the arena, shooting from up close and personal. This has its benefits and drawbacks at the same time. On almost every other project, the shot comes first. Inside the arena, though, safety comes first, and the shot second. It's worth it, though, if you know your way around livestock and rodeo action. (If you don't, I do NOT recommend being inside the panels!) 
My setup was simple because I needed to be quick and flexible. My go-to camera is my Sony a6000. It shoots 11 fps with object tracking, so I could lock in on my subject and lay on the shutter. It's also lightweight, and the articulating screen let me get all the way down to the dirt when necessary and still keep my head on a swivel. My 55-210 f/4.5 lens got the nod as well, based on its light weight and quick autofocus. (Eventually I'll find a tele lens with a wider aperture, but this one gets the job done for now.)
All my images get processed in Lightroom, but I've also been using Nik for some sharpening, and to get some super dramatic black-and-white filters with Silverefex Pro. 
Sometimes it isn't the action that's dramatic. Sometimes it's a beautiful young woman with a striking pose atop a horse... that appears to be having a stroke. Okay, no stroke, really. No animals were harmed. Still, this barrel dodger is clearly having a moment, and it really makes the photo much more fun:

Incidentally, this isn't just a pretty face and a goofy horse. She's a talented barrel racer, and the horse is a hard worker. By the time this event hit, the sun had set, and I had moved from shooting at ISO 100 and around 1/1000 all the way to ISO 1600, and trying hard to eke out shots at 1/500. By the end of the night I was between ISO 1600 and 3200 under minimal halogen lighting. Flexibility is the key!
The contract personnel were on top of their game, and they present some of the most compelling "behind the scenes" images. The strangest part of behind-the-scenes shots at the rodeo is that most of them happen in plain view of everyone. Since they're not fast action, though, they get lost. They shouldn't. They're important. 
While I would never claim that my work is nearly as difficult as anyone else's in the arena, it's exhausting for me. It's a strange feeling to have your head buried in a viewfinder, but still on a swivel. Nearly every event has the opportunity for imminent danger, and you can't let your guard down for a second - even when a bull seems to be penned and done! I stay no more than 15' from a panel, and don't mess around. I'd rather be out of the way and let the bullfighters and pickup men do their work than be any part of the action whatsoever. Besides, a photographer atop a fence is always good for a laugh from the others!
For the record, one bull did come after me. It was a good black bull from Superior Rodeo who dispensed with his rider rather quickly, and once the bullfighters turned him away from the rider, he set his sights on me in no time at all. I was already attached to the panel by then (once a rider is tossed, I get one hand on immediately), and scurried up it before he could get too close, but he charged and put a little shot of adrenaline in me anyway.
I love shooting the rodeo. There are so many stories and micro-stories that happen all around you. There are more images to be taken than a person can shoot in a night, but I do my best to capture every one I can. It's just too much fun.

Platinum Dance Team in Black and White

Throw a couple dozen dancers on a stage in a dark venue, set them in motion, and try to capture the moment. What happens? 
A lot of fun! That's what! When the school asked me to come shoot their award-winning dance team at their Spring concert, there was no way I was going to decline the invitation. This is a dynamic group of young people with heart, soul, and passion, so it wasn't going to be your run-of-the-mill dance shoot. It was some of the very best in the valley, and I couldn't wait. This was happening!
Shooting from the side of the auditorium posed a few issues, but they were easily enough overcome by a combination of patience and "spray and pray".  Catching action meant I had to set the shutter speed very fast, and the darkness forced an ISO between 1600 and 3200, but somehow I managed to get all the expressions and movement I could have hoped for. I tossed a lot of blurry pics, too, but the keepers made it worth it. This shoot was a sheer joy.
These shoots are so different than portraits, even though the intent is the same. Ultimately in both, you are looking for expression and telling a story of the individual(s) framed. In a portrait shoot, though, the photographer has some element of control in locale, posing, and the like. Shooting live action, you get what's put in front of you, and you follow where it takes you, and that is so much fun! You get a genuine range of emotions and you're capturing people who are enjoying themselves in a moment. That's what the Platinum Dancers brought, and it was my joy to try to honor that with the lens.
Rock on, Platinum!

Lonely Poppies

I happened across some poppies a few weeks ago quite by accident, and couldn't help but get down on their level to capture their essence. They have this way of thriving on their own that makes me quite jealous. I understand their loneliness, and admire their ability to be so strong and beautiful on their own.
The rain was a lucky happenstance. I put a 10mm and 16mm macro ring on my Sigma 60mm f/2.8 for the rainy shot to let me get the raindrops up close and personal. I like the macro rings even if they're a little on the fussy side, but I really prefer the views that show a little more context, so on most of the shots I didn't use them. I've been on these things for the last couple weeks like crazy, and found that shooting them in the sun is fun too, because of how the light shines through the thin petals.
My favorite of these photos happened on the rainy evening, when I caught this beauty hanging behind the pods. It just has a lonely feel, evocative of they way my soul is lately. Hate if you will - it's just how it is.

Senior Sass

Most photographers I know love doing senior photo shoots, and I'm no exception - especially when it comes to seniors like sassy Sydney. I've known her and her family for quite a while, and she's just a delight. She has tons of style, and decided to go with a subtle "retro" look for this portion of her senior shoot. It worked great, and was one of the most fun sessions ever.

I ended up shooting the entire session with my Sony a6000 and Sigma 60mm f/2.8 lens. The two get along great, and I never felt the need for any other focal length that evening. I only got higher than 2.8 once during the shoot when I accidentally bumped the dial and hit 3.5 for a few shots before realizing what I had done. There's no reason to not shoot wide open with a model this lovely, because it accentuates her beautiful eyes and smile so well. Prime lenses can be frustrating, but they can also be fun... sometimes at the same time! It's well worth it. (I'm going to go back to my favorite 50mm f1.x lenses, though, because they let more light in and I don't have to depend on the speedlight as much.)
There had been storm clouds, overcast, and diffused skies all day long - a photographer's dream! By the time shoot time rolled around, though, the heavens parted, leaving us with a flat blue background and harsh sun pouring down. Several of my location and pose ideas were punted, and we went with some "plan B" ideas anyway, including this lovely spot in Lakeview Park. With a little help from one off-camera speedlight and a big gold reflector, we got the job done. Most of the shots in the park are straight-up natural light with a reflector because the angle of the sun was working by the end of the evening.
Talk about someone who is easy to shoot - Syd has a smile that practically clicks the shutter itself, and her serious side is just as lovely. She's a super talented actress and singer who is guaranteed to take the theater world by storm! Don't tell all my other talented friends around here, but she's in a class by herself, and she poses like she acts - all out, all the time.
Genuine, raw emotion is the thing I covet the most. Anyone can pose, but it's hard for some people to just be themselves when someone is poking a camera in their face. No problem this time around. In fact, in between pattering lyrics from Hamilton and making up jokes on the spot, she even took time to poke fun at me and laugh a little bit at my own ridiculous stances. I can't help it if it's hard for tall guys to get low to the ground!
The youth of our time are fantastic. Our future is in great hands, and as long as sweet Sydney keeps showing her heart, it will be a better place! I'm just lucky to catch these moments in time that tell their stories.

Very, very lucky.

That Rodeo Time Of Year

One of the things that got me into photography as more than a mere hobby was the opportunity to provide images to accompany my writing for D&B Supply. I've been around rodeo for a long, long time, and absolutely love the opportunity to cover the local events and spread awareness for a traditional sport I truly enjoy.
Rodeo is a tricky sport to capture because the action is so quick. Roughstock (bucking) events that end successfully only last eight seconds, and a good timed sequence can be five or less. Add to that the unpredictability, the immediately changing angles, and a rather pronounced sense of personal safety, and the challenge presents itself in a rather escalated sense.
It's not all about action, though. Rodeo, like any event is filled with humans, with all the emotions they convey, and the stories their faces tell. Whether it's an old-timer who has ceased competition to take on official's duties, or a young guy who is looking forward to his chance, everyone has a story.
 Let's not forget the stock either. Rodeo bulls, broncs, steers, barrel horses, and all the other four-legged athletes provide at least as much interest as their human counterparts. Whether in competition with or coordination with humans, the animals are often larger-than-life.
I love shooting the action with my Sony a6000 because of its object tracking capacity, but my a58 got the job done for me for thousands and thousands of clicks as well. On that camera I keep a 75-300 f/4.5-5.6, and a 55-210mm f/4.5-63 on the a6000. While I would love to have glass that doesn't mess with aperture as a horse runs down the arena, this lens is so light, and the autofocus is plenty fast enough at the lengths I use, so I will probably hang onto it for a while anyway. 
When people think of rodeo photography, they think of bulls, airborne ropes, flying hooves, dust clouds, and action, action, action. Most of my best work comes away from the arena floor, though. There's a lesson in it: It pays to keep your eyes open. You never know what you're going to see, and where it will show up.

Surest Sign of a Newbie Shooter

I read an article a while back that was entitled "Telltale Signs You're A Novice Photographer" or something like that. It was one of those things Facebook thought I should like, and I took the bait. There were bits about focus and this and that, and may have had some valid points. One thing bugged me, though. One of the biggest "Telltale Signs" was this:

"A sure sign of a novice shooter is that they take a lot of photos of flowers".

Ouch, See, I take a lot of photos of flowers. A lot. A massive file folder on a hard drive taking up crazy space, with flower after flower after flower after... you get the point.

Lily - Nampa, ID
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 | 60mm | ƒ2.8 | 1/200s | ISO 160

Wanna know why? It has nothing to do with how long I've been a photographer, and I'm not saying I've been shooting too long, but I've been at it long enough to not be a "novice" anymore, by a fair margin. Diminishing the art of photographing flowers simply because it's a fairly simple process doesn't seem fair to the flower or to the photographer. The reason I shoot a lot of flowers is simply that I like flowers. A lot.

Found An Angel - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/400s | ISO 100

There are so many humanly expressive qualities about flowers, and they help me be expressive too. It's the trite old "1,000 words" concept at play in many senses. Honestly, a pretty pink tulip on a sweet spring morning is a great way to convey happiness.

Tulips - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/4000s | ISO 100

When things aren't so great, the flowers still have a way of saying that without uttering a word. Black and white or sepia tones say it even better.

Pink Rose - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ2.8| 1/200s | ISO 100
I'm not an expert on horticulture or gardening. I barely know which flowers are which without asking, but I like them anyway. Sometimes people ask me lots of questions about the flowers themselves. My answer: "They're pretty". Beyond that, it's mostly a lot of Google searching to figure it out.

Peony - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/100s | ISO 100

Do I have a favorite? Of course I do. Dogwoods. They're beautiful and strong and fragile and ephemeral - all such distinct human qualities, and they're even relatable. Maybe that's one of the reasons I'm partial to them - I feel like they're resemble most humans in many ways, and I see myself in them, too. I know, they aren't even "real" flowers, but they're so pretty and floral-esque that I can't help but love them.

Dogwood - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 100
Maybe I'm just defensive, but I don't think that taking photos of flowers is necessarily indicative of a person's skill level or experience in and of themselves. Flowers have a lot to say. They deserve to be heard by being seen.

Dark Dogwood - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ2.2 | 1/80s | ISO 400

Rock In The Dark

Original - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 3200
You have to consider yourself pretty lucky when your kids attend a school that offers "Rock Band" as a class, and I do deem myself quite fortunate for that. My kids love their school (as much as kids can love a school), love this class, and love their teacher, and that makes a parent pretty happy. It's the perfect blend of musical education with opportunities to just get on a stage and shred. It only leaves two questions - who wouldn't love that, and where was this when I was in high school?

A few weeks ago as the 2015/2106 school year was ending, this Rock Band class was invited to come close out their season at the super popular Flying M Coffee Garage and Concert Venue in downtown Nampa, Idaho, and I was offered an invitation to come along to photograph the event. They've been given a few opportunities to play outside of school, but this one was the coolest ever by a long shot, and it was an honor to be asked to come shoot it. Truth be told... I was coming along anyway. Not only am I a Rock Band dad, but these kids are extremely talented, and a sheer joy to watch.

Hurt - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 2000
Here's the problem: the Flying M is a great place to hang out, get coffee, and catch a concert, but it's super dark, and the stage is wedged into a corner and backlit with small strips and pin lights. Combine that with the fact that the place was packed with parents, keeping my mobility severely restricted, and I started becoming concerned how well I was going to be able to record this fun and important event. Honestly, this posed a huge challenge, and I was getting flat-out worried.
Crooner - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/400s | ISO 3200
My Sony α58 (alpha series) might not be the best low-light camera ever made, but the 50mm f/1.7 lens I team with it is my favorite for the amount of light it allows, and shallow depth of field. The M is a "noisy" visual environment, and I wanted the kids to be the star of the show - not the wall decor and other "stuff", and from as far away as I was shooting, I needed all the help I could get. If I had a lens in my bag that let me get a little closer with that large an aperture, I'd probably have gone for that one, but it was either this, or don't shoot. Quite frankly, the latter wasn't an option, so I just cranked the ISO and started clicking.
Chili Peppers - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 3200
My favorite shot of the night wasn't of anyone singing or playing. It's simply this young performer, taking a moment, surrounded in the bliss of music. I don't take photos to be the best ever - I just live for shots like these that show the heart and soul of a human being. There are better technical photos from the night, but this one shows more than they do, and for that reason, this one makes me happy:
A Moment Between - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/400s | ISO 3200
Overall, it was a fun show, and well worth the difficulty. Every time I pick up a camera, I hope to learn something, even if I'm doing something I've done before. At the end of the night I looked through a few Lightroom presets I've developed, and decided that these made good black-and-whites with gritty attitude and a retro rock feel. A little cleanup of the noise left over from shooting at ISO 3200, and they were ready to go.
Rock Chicks - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/80s | ISO 2000
No one should be surprised that the most meaningful shot should be of my son, wailing away a solo on "Paris" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. They did that song, followed by "Figure It Out" by Royal Blood, and brought down the house. Yeah, my kid rocks....
Paris - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 3200
From the intense, floor-shaking choruses  to the calm, reflective moments, music provokes a whole range of human emotions, so concerts are a fun way to capture that power. The seniors have moved on, and this was the last show for this particular group. I'm glad I had the chance to catch them doing their thing.
A Breath - Nampa, ID
Sony α58 | 50mm F1.7 | 50mm | ƒ1.7 | 1/800s | ISO 3200



I'm Thomas, and I like taking photos. I've been shooting photos for some time now, and honestly, I really love it. My favorite things to photograph are portraits, flowers, and rodeos, but for the most part, if I'm clicking, I'm happy.

This blog is just to share some of my work in hopes that it brings somewhere near as much joy to view as it was to shoot. Photos aren't being posted to try to prove I'm better than anyone else, or to be overly self-promotional - just hoping that people enjoy them. Along the way I'll share a tip or two, and I'll listen to yours.

I'm not a gear snob, and I'm not a hater. I just like photography and photographs. I hope you'll enjoy, too. Talk to me.

Poppy - Kuna, ID
Sony α6000 | E 60mm F2.8 OSS | 60mm | ƒ/2.8 | 1/250s | ISO 100