2010 East Nicolaus FFA

Well, another year has passed rather quickly and it was recently back out to East Nicolaus to do their FFA Office pictures. We took them last year in a rice field and they turned out great. This year, it was a crop dusting plane and a landing strip.

The crop duster is partially owned by the Reese family, who I have have photographed so much this past year. :)

The day was a beautiful cloudless blue. I decided to enhance the blue of the sky using a Neutral Density filter that blocked light from the upper portion of the picture and then faded to transparent at the lower. That way, I could darken the sky and leave the bottom half of the picture untouched.

It was with no small amount of embarassment that I noticed while unloading my gear that I brought everything for the shoot ... except stands for my lights!

On sunny days like this, you need to do something to lighten the shadows - otherwise the shadows will be too dark. If you change the exposure so that the shadows look good, the highlights will be too bright. What I wanted was a nice balance between the two.

So I brought out with me a couple of lights which I had planned to put up on stands as close as possible to lighten the shadows - which is where the FFA Officers were standing. Thankfully, I rustled up a couple of volunteers to hold the lights for me - Stacy Reese and Laura Goss were my voice activated light stands for the officers picture. It was much appreciated - the picture wouldn't have turned out the same without their help!

In the end, we got - I think - I very nice photograph. The crop duster is a beautiful yellow, which contrasts wonderfully with the rich sky and dark blue of the FFA uniforms.

The Hubbard Gang

Well ... time surely flies.

I recently had an old high school friend of mine come to our studio with her husband and their children. Julie, Bart, Allura, Delaney and Charlotte all joined me for a portrait session.

Unfortunately, Julie and Bart refused to get in front of my camera, but the young ones had a great time and weren't camera shy in the least.

This was a night for practicing my technique on our white background and having some fun with the results.

According to Julie, her youngest, Charlotte, never poses for the camera ... but tonight she was first up for the camera and didn't hesitate a moment! She had a grand time.

Allura, the oldest, was a little more conservative, but very photogenic!

Delaney, the young guitar player, was a great little performer with her new, super-cool electric guitar (she still prefers her acoustic, but she's getting used to the new electric ...)

Oh, and - as for time flying - it's been nearly 18 years since I last saw Julie! Hard to believe and even harder to admit. I didn't have any grey hairs the last time I saw her. I can't say that anymore. :)

Portraits of Tiffany

Tiffany is a young lady that we met as photographers of the Sac City volleyball team. She's also a good friend of Alex Tkachuk, who was recently in the studio for a portrait session.

Tiffany saw Alex's pictures and really liked them so I extended the offer of having here in to the studio for her own session, which she instantly agreed to.

She and her boyfriend, Drew, came in and we had a great time. Tiffany is very relaxed in front of the camera (actually, she's a total goofball, but I didn't post those pictures of her!). We spent several hours photographing ... and Drew slept on the couch in the lobby! (Apparently he'd had a very early morning).

We started off outdoors to take advantage of the last little bit of evening light and use the texture of the outside walls of the studio against her pretty white dress and contrast that with her boots.

Once we came indoors, I found out that Drew had fallen asleep on the couch, so I tried to keep things a bit quiet.

Tiffany is full of smiles and laughter, but she it didn't take long before she was giving me that classic, direct gaze which can be so arresting in photographs.

We played with a number of poses lying down on the white, including some new stuff with a wide angle which I hadn't tried in portraits before.

During the session, I found out that we had photographed Tiffany a number of years ago while she was playing club volleyball for Orangevale Volleyball Club! Small world. :)

All in all, it was a very fun shoot and Tiffany was a great sport and a beautiful young lady. I hope she comes back in to the studio again sometime!

Portraits of Michelle and Family

Michelle and her kids Faith and Christian recently stopped in to visit at our studio ... I know Michelle through Ryan's homeschooling and she was nice enough to volunteer to come in to the studio for me to practice on.

Of course, being friends of my daughters' - they wanted to join in the session and I was happy to include them.

This was a great session - very relaxed and full of laughter (ok, I have to admit they usually are). Faith and Christian are full of life and energy and love their mom very much. Michelle, in turn, adores her kids. Hopefully it shows in the pictures!

I started off testing the lighting with the four kids. I love the relaxed, playful fun they are having on the couch in the studio. It's this kind of studio work that I've always wanted to do. Just fun, good time stuff.

When we got to photographing Michelle with Faith and Christian, we kept up the playful atmosphere, but there were also some snuggly loves as well.

After a bit, they changed and I switched up my lighting a bit. I really like the low-key look of these.

Finally, we let Ryan and Sierra join back in the fun ... and they sure did have a good time of it!

One thing that Michelle and I discovered was that, though she wasn't there that day, I had photographed Michelle's oldest daughter, Hope, years before as a volleyball play for Sac Select Volleyball Club!

She's all grown up now and has a two year old daughter of her own - I'm hoping to have the two of them in shortly. I'll be sure to share when I do!

2010/2011 High School Rodeo Season is almost here!

Last year I got to photograph something new for me - rodeo. I'd always wanted to try it out, but had never had the opportunity.

Through lucky chance, one of the Reese family, who I have photographed so often in this past year, rides rodeo and that was all the excuse I needed to get out and try my hand at it.

I was only able to make it to two rodeos last Fall, but I enjoyed them a great deal and am looking forward to photographing several more this year.

The action is incredible and the opportunity for amazing pictures is all over the place. I can't say just how much what these students do impresses me. Many elements in modern society put forward the unfortunate viewpoint that kids should be coddled and not allowed to be or do much until they are 18 at which point they are "adults" and can decide for themselves. Of course, the fact that they have not, to that point, been allowed to be who they are and think for themselves or do what they are capable of doing puts them in a very rough spot in life, whereupon they are tossed into society to make their way. And we're then surprised they have difficulties?

What I love about the rural communities I have been exposed to is that kids are allowed and expected to contribute as soon as they are able and to the degree that they are able. They grow up knowing their worth and having a place in their family which they have earned. It's this style of living that created the country we live in.

What does any of this have to do with rodeo pictures? Well, I suppose not much other that an enjoyment at seeing these young people allowed to live and experience so much with families there to cheer them on and support them.

I posted a few images last year, and - in celebration of the approach of a new rodeo season - I pulled a few more out and did the finishing work to share them.

There are too many to share here, so I have posted a gallery of rodeo images. I hope you enjoy them!

Studio Portraits of Alex

With the opening of our new studio location, we are able to do things which we never could before.

For years, we have specialized as location photographers - and we still are! But we have never had a location in which to meet clients, share images, create portraits, etc. We have always been a home based business. However, late last year, we made the move into a beautiful new studio space. Well, with work it BECAME a beautiful studio. It didn't start that way! With that space complete, we have opened our doors and are inviting friends and acquaintances in to allow us to photograph them to hone our studio skills.

That was the idea with this session of Alex. We met Alex several years ago when doing a team picture for the Sac City College volleyball team, something we have been doing six years or so now. This past year, I got in touch and asked Alex if she would like to do a fun test session. She agreed right away, but we were not able to get together for the shoot for more than six months! In the end, this was perfect, as by this time the studio was done.

When the day finally came, Alex arrived wardrobe in tow with her entourage composed solely of Cath, her mom, who, it turns out, is a right handy assistant and extra set of eyes!

I was pretty certain we were going to have fun, but this session with Alex was a BLAST! We photographed for more than six hours. We started at 7pm and finished after 1am. But we were having a great time the entire time and it really flew by. Obviously, I can't share anywhere near all of the images, but here are some I liked in particular ...

At the beginning of the session, I had Alex sit down and go through a book of 500 different images and put post it notes on images she liked or thought she might look good photographed similarly too. This gave me a baseline idea of what she would like to try and me some concrete goals.

We started off outside the studio. The idea is to see what sorts of images can be created in this space so that I know what I can offer our clients. I hadn't photographed anything outside our building yet, so we decided to start there. I brought out a couple of lights with me, but - in the end - I used natural light for most of the images.

Next we moved indoors and I pulled out our white seamless. Here we played for some time. This first image of Alex biting her lip, is actually a result of something she did while talking to her mom behind me. I was fiddling with something and looked back at Alex to find her biting her lower lip. I had her do it again ... and again ... and again ... :)

White seamless can give a really interesting look and it's actually one of the reasons I wanted a studio. I've gotten so many requests over the years, doing portraits on location, asking if I could do this.

At this point, we also pulled Cath in on fan holding duty. That, along with that direct look of Alex's, really makes for some nice images.

Next we moved in for some closeups. Alex has beautiful eyes and beatiful skin and beautiful bone structure and ... well, she's just a beautiful girl, so it was fun to light her for closeups.

There is one wall in our camera room which is smooth textured and painted a nice coffee color. We created this space as another photograph location and I've found I really like it! I love the shadows and colors in these images.

Next we pulled up a chair and worked with some different poses there. Alex has a natural grace and is very easy to work with and really started to relax in front of the camera. She also absolutely LOVES to be photographed ... so I would have had to WORK to screw this up.

Who doesn't love a little black and white?

Up to this point, Alex had been careful about her hair. Adjusting it here and there so that it was "just so". However, I started having her rough it up a bit and play with it. She look great perfectly groomed, but I thought mixing it up and playing with a more relaxed look would be fun and it paid off - she looks GREAT! We actually turned off the flashes for these and I used the modeling lights for the images. I wanted less depth of field than some of the other images. These turned out to be some of my favorites.

Alex next brought out an adorable hat, vest and scarf. This image was taken with a wide angle from a chair. Not your usual lens or vantage point for poraits, but I love the perspective of this one.

For the last part of the session, Alex changed into a beautiful sun dress. We went for an over the shoulder look with Cath calling out, "Give him your come hither look!" and telling her to drop her sweater to show her shoulder. Gotta love mom's!

Finally, we worked on some reclining poses with this one in particular really standing out.

During the intial part of our session, when Alex was marking images she liked, she tagged a sitting pose we wanted to try out. So I dragged a chair from our lobby for our last setup.

By this time, it was getting REALLY late and, though we were all willing to continue, we also had to get up in the morning, so we called it a night.

It was a really fun session and I hope to be able to do it again. Alex and I are both big fans of classic Hollywood glamour from the 30s and 40s and I think she's got a look that would photograph really well that way, so we are already on board for another shoot.

One final thing to share are some of our outtakes. Many of the images from the session were more serious, direct gaze type of images, but there was a lot of laughter and fun the entire time. Here are some of our outtakes ...

Juliet's Senior Portraits

I've been meaning to post these for a while now.

Some time back, Josina and Julient Conant called me out to their family property to spend the afternoon doing Juliet's Senior Portraits.

Those of you that come by this space may recognize Juliet in a number of the shoots I did this past year at East Nicolaus High School - she was a member of the FFA and a stand out varsity volleyball player, to say nothing of being a genuinely nice young lady who is a pleasure to talk with and photograph.

I drove out to the Conant's property without much of a game plan other than I knew we were going to photograph Juliet in a pretty dress on her horse Leah. Beautiful girl, beautiful dress, beautiful horse, beautiful country side. Sounds great!

I was a bit uncertain as to the photography conditions. Not knowing what I would be faced with, I loaded my poor car with pretty much an entire studio's worth of gear - even to a backdrop and stands that I had some fun ideas for, but that we were never able to get to. Instead, we drove out to a creek on the Conant property which was gorgeous, but on first inspection which I wasn't so sure about. The sun was still high in the sky, shadows were strong and dark and I was without help. So I dragged the Reese sisters (Sydney and Morgan) into action and put Morgan on reflector duty and Sydney on the diffusion panel. With many, "Oh I got it!"s and "Almost! Just a little more!"s and quite a few "I can't see where it's pointed"s and plenty of laughter we walked away with many many beautiful images.

We started with Juliet in her dress with Leah. It was something of a challenge, as I wasn't certain this was our final shooting location and I had yet to workout a method of lighting that would present this gorgeous area and these two beautiful creatures in their best light. So, in the end, I took A WHOLE LOT of pictures. Getting Leah to look interested and "posed" at the same time as Juliet was ... tricky. :) But it worked out!

Once in the creek, it turned out that Leah was in a playful mood. She just started splashing away at the water having a grand old time. There is sequence of these images which look great.

When we were done with Leah, I moved up onto the side of the creek, which was about 15 feet above the waterline. From there, we used the creek to frame Juliet and played with the warm tones of her skin against the cool colors of the water and her dress. Beautiful!

With that, Juliet decided to change outfits and return Leah home. I grabbed a few candid images of her astride which turned out to be favorites for their naturalness.

When Juliet returned, we used an area above the creek which was catching some of the golden light of the sun which was lowering in the sky. Light was still challenging, but it was becoming easier to work with ... Sydney and Morgan really helped out here. They may not be pros, but they really jumped in and did their best, which was great.

In case I got stumped or wanted to try something new, I brought some posing ideas with me on my iPad. As soon as I showed the girls, Morgan was on it, going through poses trying to coach Juliet.

"Juliet do this!" ...
"No, put your hand over there!" ...
"Juliet, you're doing it wrong!"

It made for a lot of laughter and some fun images. Sydney suggested I give Morgan a job and asked if I would please keep her the entire summer ...

Naturally, being a standout athlete at the school and a great student, we included some beautiful portraits of Juliet in her letterman jacket

All told, it was a wonderful session. I had a great time with the Conant family, Morgan and Sydney Reese and my daughter, Ryan, was along for the ride had a great time looking for critters in the creek and running about and meeting the girls.

I look forward to working with these families again!

Calling all of our East Nicolaus Friends ... come in to the studio for some fun portraits!

Hey! This is a shout out to all of our East Nicolaus friends ... we want you to come in to our new studio. Morgan and Sydney Reese have already visited and Juliet Conant was here recently as well to see her Senior portraits we took out at her house with her horse, Leah. (I'll be posting some of those shortly for everyone to see!). But we want YOU to come in as well! (How about you Riley Wood, or you Haleigh Fuentes, how about Katie Moos, or Sam Skelly, or Haley Uhland? Come help us out! :)

Right now, in celebration of our new studio, we're not charging a thing for our photography sessions (the ones done here, in the studio). We want to practice and we are looking for silly, funny, goofy, interested, PATIENT photo subjects to help us work on our lighting, posing and general photography skills so that we can create the most beautiful work around. We want you cheering and your mom speechless (or better yet, in tears!) when they see our pictures of you, so - as with anything you want to be really good at - we want to practice. Bring multiple outfits ... bring a friend ... Parents are - of course! - welcome. The more the merrier! But don't bring a pet, we're not set for that. :)

So, will you help?

Call us to schedule a time to come in, the doors are open, but we're by appointment only ... 916.344.8512.

Hope to see you here!

They're baaaack! Sydney and Morgan in the studio.

This pair of hams just can't stay away from the camera ... something they recently told their mother is my fault! Apparently, when I started photographing volleyball team pictures for East Nicolaus High School a coulple of years back, a transformation occured. From mild-mannered country gals, to camera loving little hams.

OK, well, truth be told, I don't think either of these gals was EVER described as mild mannered. Mannered, certainly. But MILD? Nope, don't believe it for a second.

The truth of the matter is, they came to the studio at my invitation. Not long ago, I had the very great pleasure of photographing Senior portraits for the wonderful and beautiful Juliet Conant and Sydney and Morgan were along for the fun (I put them to work too!). We were just about done with our studio renovations at that point and I promised Syd and Morgan they could be the first people photographed in the new studio space.

And they were ... mostly. I kind of stretched that promise a bit by bending it to allow my daughter to be the first person photographed in the space, but that's expected, right?

So, the day finally arrived. I was excited. Very! I've been a photographer for 18 years now ... nine of those with my own photography company. But I've never had my very own studio to photograph in. In fact, the sum total of my studio experience is about three months 10 years ago and I was never able to review my work to see if I was doing a good job or not. So, when the new space was finishing, I wanted to arrange some test sessions to check the light, practice in the room, work on my posing and the entire flow of the experience.

Stacy, Sydney and Morgan arrived ... and I guess they were excited too, because they were about a half an hour early. They beat me to the studio that morning ... I arrived to find them waiting outside my front door.

They got a tour of the new space - it was fun for me to show it off to my first non-family members. They were properly impressed and complimentary (thanks!) and we settled in to take some fun pictures.

In the end, we photographed for 6 1/2 hours! We took a break in the middle there to have some sandwiches and chat, but then got back to work. Over 500 images resulted from the session. Wow! I couldn't believe it.

Of course, I don't have the space here to post that many pictures ... so I'll share a very few of the many highlights.

After the fun in the studio, we all headed over to Tex Wasabi for some "sushi" (don't let the Japanese hear you call pulled pork and a french fry sushi). It was a great way to end the session - I look forward to doing it many more times. Sydney has plans for several sessions for her Senior portraits, so she'll undoubtedly featured here many more times before she graduates next June ... not to mention Morgan's Senior year next season, so plenty more of the Reese's to come including their father, Tom, who is a fire chief and has agreed to let me photograph him ... So keep an eye on this space!

So there you go! A VERY few images from our recent studio shoot with Morgan and Sydney. I hope you like them! If you would like to see some more, I have uploaded a gallery with more images here.

Celebratory Pricing!

In celebration of the grand opening of our new studio location, we are offering some amazing pricing on our portrait and wedding photography. Read on for details ...

Studio Portrait Discount
Through the month of August, we are offering NO SESSION FEE studio sessions and 20% off of our normal print prices! This is an immediate savings of our regular $100 session fee and 20% off of any print or album purchases. We want to use our new photography space - call to schedule a session!

Special Wedding Pricing
We are offering a simply AMAZING special on our wedding photography pricing. Our normal wedding price is $2500 for up to 10 hours of coverage and a full set of corrected files and 4x6 proofs. In celebration of our grand opening, we are offering 4 hours of coverage and a full set of corrected, printable files for $850! This is a massive savings of nearly 66%!

If you know someone putting a wedding together short on time, or small budget, perhaps a military couple marrying before deployment, or a family that just wants a small backyard wedding this special could allow them to have wonderful wedding pictures at a very reasonable price.

We hope that you will share the news of this special pricing with anyone you know planning an upcoming wedding. Prices are effective for any wedding occurring prior to 31 December 2010.

So there you go, some amazing specials to celebrate our new studio location - we hope to see you here soon!

Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved Micheal Hall Photography