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!

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

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.)

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.

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