Tuesday, December 29, 2009

And now for something different

It has taken us some time to start catching up on a backlog of sessions to blog. I truly thought that staying at home with the family during the holidays was going to provide me with ample opportunity to take care of all the little business details that get put on the back-burner for me while school is in session. You see, normally, I teach school full-time still, and David is a Stay-at-Home Daddy, Housemaker, Construction-Worker, Garage-Builder, Photo-Editor Extraordinaire... And he makes it all look so simple! And so, as so often happens, I really felt that being off from school and tending to our wonderful 17-month old son would allow me to get all sorts of work done while Dave was putting most of his efforts into finishing off the garage work. I, like so many "working parents", lost sight of all the WORK the other partner puts into keeping everything running smoothly.

Truly, the most meaningful Christmas gifts for me this season was time spent with my husband and son, and the heightened awareness of how very lucky I am to have them in my life.

Thank you, David, for being the amazing man you are.


Family Photography - Victor and Irma

Lyzette was a student in my sophomore English class many years ago, and I have known her mom Irma and adorable sisters almost as long; as a result, it was a real pleasure to get to spend an afternoon with their family.. despite the bitingly cold weather the day of the shoot! They were all wonderful sports - even little Lolita, the pup, was willing to pose for a few of the photos.


Happy and Hectic Holidays

And now Melody is up.

It has been a busy holiday season, during which we did numerous shoots, in addition to attending all of our own festivities. We were so busy, in fact, that I didn't even start Christmas shopping until the day before Christmas. Oops.

One highlight of this holiday season was receiving holiday cards from people we had photographed... and whose cards featured our images. We know of several different families whose Christmas cards included our photos so far! We are so pleased that they liked how we portrayed their families enough to share with their friends and loved ones. These are the two cards we picked up in the mail yesterday. Greg, Nicole, and Emilie are a family we've had the pleasure to work with on more than one occasion, as has been the case with Lyzette and her family (you'll see more of her in her recent sessions with her family, her honey and the baptism we shot of their godson).

Thanks to all of you who shared a piece of your holiday season with us, and for entrusting Melody & David Photography with your memories. We hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours... and that you didn't gain the 5 pounds I did in the past two weeks!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing Catch Up: Modesto Area Photographer

Hello all, David here. Well it would seem as though Melody and I are way behind on the photography blog. The reason is a good one, trust me. We haven't had time to post because we've been so busy doing actual photography! But that's not all, we also put down two weddings in the books for 2010! That meant a long and very boring weekend of contract preparations.

Aside from the two wedding meetings last week, plenty of shoots, and photo edits, we also had our first indoor shoot that turned out rather well considering what we had to work with. Typically, indoor, posed shoots are done with a whole host of intricate lights set up. Lights set at 45 degree angles, a back light, fill light all with diffusers. It means spending a small fortune. Our first option was going to be an outdoor sitting where light wraps around subjects beautifully, unfortunately Mother Nature had other things in mind . . . like rain. So we got the family of nine in front of their fireplace and did our best.

Shhhh, it's a Christmas present for Grandma.

I hope to have time in the near future to show you our lighting setup. Needless to say, we didn't go with the small fortune gear. Believe it or not we lit them with a series of modified shop lights, shown through our ring diffuser on one side and then through a shower curtain on the other. I wired the shop lights up with dimmer switches and built a collapsible frame for the shower curtain to hang on. I'll have to set it up and take a couple shots of it so you can see what I'm talking about. All in all, I'd say it worked out just fine. Really, it doesn't matter what everything off frame looks like, it's the picture that counts.

There's one more shot that I wanted to share before I head off to bed. While I was packing up gear, Melody went around the house and took candids of everyone. She got an especially cute one of my good buddies niece. It was cute when we presented it to the family, cute enough for them to choose it as one of their top ten choices to be touched up.

Generally, the way Melody and I work is that we come home from a shoot and she's incredibly excited about the images. Sort of like a kid that can't wait for Christmas morning to get here so they go and shake all of the presents. She uploads all of the photos and starts working on filtering out the bad ones and making general lighting adjustments to the rest. What you see to the left is how this image got cropped and exported.

After the client views their photos to be touched up, I usually take over and go in to do all the magic photoshop stuff. I might replace eyes from one shot with those of another, trim up waist lines, fix folds in clothing, rid eyes of dark shadows, clean up complexion, take out unsightly distractions from the background. Basically, you name it, I can pretty much do it. What I tend to do is start over with the image. I use Melody's initial changes as a direction to aim for but create a copy of the raw data and go back and start over. With this pictures I decided to even go so far as to change the crop.

 The new crop brought the focus in on the niece. That was pretty good, but I wanted to take it even further. Although I don't think she was swinging her cousin around in a circle, the above image implies that she is just through the motion of her hair. I wanted to capture that motion in the background of the photo as well so I went in and did something that I NEVER do, and blurred the background.

Generally, a blurred background created in a photo editing program is an excellent example of an amateur photographer. What they're trying to accomplish is something called "bokeh." It's a beautiful effect when done right, but it's only done right when you do it the way you're supposed to, and that's with the camera.

Bokeh is when you narrow your depth of field. It has the greatest success when using a lens with a very short focal length. The reason it works on camera and not in a program is because the amount of blur is lessened the closer you get to the point of focus. When you try this in the computer everything is blurred evenly. There's no sense of depth, just this blurry mess of a background that mysteriously stops when you get to the subject. What makes it even worse is that most beginners use the basic blur function or a gaussian blur. This blurs the pixels in every direction, creating a sort of fuzzy, or soft appearance depending upon how far you push it.

In the case of this image, I decided that a motion blur, angled with the plane of the table, would be perfect for capturing that sense of motion. It gives the viewer the impression of moving with the two girls as they spin around when in fact they were stationary. Frankly, I absolutely LOVE this shot. It's a perfect example of how well Melody and I work together as a team.

Well, winter break is coming up and I'm hoping it will be filled with photo shoots and time to catch up on things like this blog and editing the website. Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Senior, Sassy Sisters, Smooches, and Something More

A couple weeks ago, we met with Alexandria at Moose Park in Modesto to take her senior portraits. She, too, didn't smile often, but her face lights up when she does.

The next evening, we met with Dru, Dri & Emily. Dru and Dri were meeting with is for an engagement session, and Dri and Em are sisters. Since Em was there, too, we shot some family pics, as well as some solos of her, too. At one point, they looked a bit like a cologne ad - you know, hot and sexy and more than a couple? I said as much, and they started hamming it up. All in all, they were a fun set to shoot.

Today, we did something a little different. Donna from Elegant Events 2000 asked us to go take some shots of an event at Sky Trek ... prior to the event. EE2000 rents dinnerware, linens, tables, chairs - anything, really, you could need on a table at an event. While they have been in business for a decade, they have never managed to have someone take pics of one of their events. That was remedied today.

Keep your eyes open for our next shoot - a combined family- and senior- shoot, complete with a couple of small pups for good measure!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Busy Business!

We've had a wonderfully busy and productive week.
Last Friday we had a delightful session with a little sweetie named Mason. He is approaching his second birthday and his baptism, and his family -- which includes some of my all-time favorite former students -- was looking to have a portrait session to commemorate these occasions. At the beginning of the shoot, he was very reserved and shy, clinging to his mama. After a while, David coaxed him into playing, and they dashed about the playground gleefully. At one point, the dearheart stopped his play, ran over to David and threw his arms around David's neck for a long, snuggly hug. Talk about heart-melting! I can hardly wait until we cover his baptism next month!
On Saturday, we then had three portrait sessions with students from Gustine. One was the school's homecoming queen this year, and the other two are students who were in my AP class last year and are in yearbook this year. They were absolutely full of giggles and hilarity, which made for some wonderful shots full of genuine smiles and good humor.
Sunday found us out with Greg, Nicole, and Emilie for some family portraits at Greg's ranch. Greg had recently proposed to Nicole, and so this was a perfect opportunity to celebrate their commitment to each other, as well as to recognize the joining of the three into a family. Emi loves to make faces, some of which we captured quite well. Overall, these were not typical stuffy family portraits, but something more organic.
And yesterday we had 7-week old pistol Payten and her radiant mama, Dawn. During our time together, Dawn was a trooper, smiling through the hazards of taking naked baby pics - pee and poop galore! For almost three hours, we worked to get the shots we wanted while the little miss fussed and squirmed. In the end, we got our way... largely after David once again won over the little angel. Truly, the young ones must be able to sense his goodness, as they always take to him so well!

The next three days will bring new postings, as well, as we have four shoots: a senior portrait session with Alexandria; a maternity session with Angelica and her husband; an engagement sitting with Dri and Dru, a rather edgy pair; and a shoot with some sexy maids. Watch out for those results soon!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

Capturing Beauty

I've always been drawn to beauty. What's more, I believe beauty can be found almost anywhere, if your eye is open to it - the contrast of evergreen against a dismal winter sky; the lit catching the sun on a spider's web; a baby who has discovered the joys of their tongue; heck, even the sunset illuminating the dirt streaks on my livingroom window is rather striking. But it occurred to me last night that perhaps the reason I am so captivated by the art of photography is because I can capture the beauty of life through that medium.

When do most people hire a photographer, after all? When they are anticipating beauty in their life and want those moments to be turned into art. That is my personal goal: to not only photograph the day or event, but to turn those moments into an expression of artistic beauty. 


Friday, October 30, 2009

Rafael - Senior Portraits on October 10, 2009

This was our first portrait sitting after officially starting our business. Rafa was a former student, and his sister is currently in one of my classes. When she saw the photos from Melisa & Sergio's wedding, she told her mom that she thought Rafa should get his photos done by us.

An aside: when he was my student, he was something of a class clown. In fact, we had the Three Amigos - Rafa, Turtle, and Luis - and they made sure our class was never quiet or dull. Yet, on that day, he would NOT smile; he wanted to look "mature"... or maybe it was because his mom was looking on. Whatever the case, the session went very smoothly, and some great portraits were captured.

So serious...

To see more of this sitting, go to http://melodyanddavid.zenfolio.com/p982220733/e2d29050

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our New Venture

My husband David and I have always been rather self-proclaimed artsy-fartsy, hippie-dippie types. He went to art school for a time, and I used to dabble in oil paint. In his case, the market for animators disintegrated and I found that I didn't really relish the idea of having turpentine around our son (not to mention that I usually ended up with more paint on me than on the canvas). For a while, Dave got his art fix through graphic design, and I had a creative outlet as Gustine High School's yearbook advisor; however, it always seemed odd that Dave and I never had a mutual interest in any form of art.

And then a moment of serendipity occurred: a former student of mine asked if I might take photos at her wedding. They didn't have a bunch of money to spare, but knew I had an eye for such things and figured, I think, that any photos were better than nothing at all. I am nothing if not unfailingly organized and prepared, and so I set out to learn about wedding photography. A couple days before the wedding, I convinced David that he really wanted to borrow his Mom's Nikon and come as my second shooter. We had a wonderfully productive, exhausting day together, and this was the result:

...at least one of the resulting shots, anyhow! Check out more from our first shoot at http://melodyanddavid.zenfolio.com

The next week, I brought some photos in to work, as I was meeting with the bride to give her proofs. I shared some with a handful of coworkers and students, and people started asking if my husband and I "do photography"...

And thus began our adventure. We hope you enjoy our work.