Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alabama the Beautiful

'Sweet home Alabama. Where the skies are so blue.'   Boy are they blue today!

My family moved to Alabama in 1994 when my Dad retired from the USAF. I went to High School in Billingsley, graduated from The University of Alabama and then made Montgomery my home.  I've grown accustomed to hearing tornado sirens in the Spring. I have a safety plan. I even worked for a major insurance company for 6 years and have seen first hand the destruction of mother nature. But yesterday? Yesterday was something un-imaginable.

Dozens of tornadoes tore through the state including one that was a mile wide and devastated parts of Tuscaloosa and Birmingham. As I write this there have been 145 confirmed fatalities and the number is expected to climb as many are still missing.

From the mountains in Northern Alabama to the Gulf of Mexico, the real reason this state is known as 'Alabama the Beautiful' is the people. Alabamians created Southern hospitality. We love our state and each other more than we love football (and we LOVE football). My heart breaks for those that lost their homes and for the families that lost loved ones.

If you want to help them pick up the pieces and re-build, you can donate to the Red Cross here or text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10. Be sure to specify Alabama when prompted.

The state was hit hard yesterday, but the sun is shining today. I pray that everyone seeing the beautiful Alabama sky is reminded of how precious life is. Do something you love today!

*Yes, the skies are really that blue.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This... is Love

I have been working hard and making a dent in my 31 before 31 list lately. Last week I completed #8 on the list: Have professional headshot's taken. I needed them for a branding project which I'll be blogging about soon.

These were taken by my hubby, John. Imma go ahead and call him a pro because I'm a professional and he is my silent business partner, my rock that I could not do ANY of this without, and my second shooter so... he's totally a pro. Right?  I'd like to take credit for teaching him everything he knows but the truth is that he is techie who reads manuals and actually understands them. HE teaches ME how to change menu settings half the time. When he started 'getting into photography' he dug in and learned all about the technical aspects. The rest- composition, lighting, posing, editing in camera, etc - came from me. Either I am an excellent teacher, or dude is a natural.

How many guys would be willing to take photos of their wife just to have her scrutinize them and try to find a few that she likes enough to upload to the internet to be the face of her business? My guess would be not many, but John did an AMAZING job.

I don't mean to be all 'look at how pretty I am', but this is the best set of pictures of myself I've ever had taken. So, either I'm an excellent teacher, or dude is a natural, or he captured me the way he sees me... with LOVE. Am I a lucky girl or what??

Monday, April 18, 2011

Do I need a list for my lists?

I've been such a busy bee since the Gray Photography IN-CAMERA Workshop that I almost forgot to scratch off #18 on my 31 before 31 list: Attend a photography workshop. You can read all about Shooting & Post, Light and Executing the Dream in my previous posts.

I smiled when I got my handout for the last day because, for me, being at the workshop was LIVING a dream. It feels great to scratch this item off the list, and I'll be scratching more off soon thanks to the enormous inspiration I got from Zach and Jody. Also, I'm making new lists because I'm dreaming bigger dreams. :)

Doing my homework.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BURST! - Focus on Fitness

In the last FoF post I mentioned Bobbi + Mike's healthy train. Well, the train is halfway to the station and I've lost 15lbs ChooChoo!!

While that's awesome, I had hit the dreaded plateau and knew I needed to shake up my routine. But, I love my routine, and besides... I don't really know how to do anything else. We all know I have NO coordination. None. I mean, Sweatin' to the Oldies is advanced for me so, group fitness/dance classes terrify me! In fact, the last time I went to one I tripped and fell in front of the whole class. Yeah, it's a good thing that I can laugh at myself. :)

Enter Nathan and Jenni holding up a big flashing sign with an arrow pointing, "THIS WAY!"

I met them at the 3rd day of the IN-CAMERA Workshop and I was surprised they were there because Nathan and Jenni are not photographers. They created BURSTClub and were there to get their business learn on. [Sidebar: what a testament to what Zach & Jody are doing to attract all sorts of business owners, not just photographers, to their workshops!]

On a break I overheard Nathan say their program is 3 minutes a day, 3 days a week. He had me on the hook and then Jenni reeled me right in. She was talking about being a busy mom and business owner and how she knows that she can commit to 3 minutes vs. an hour or more at the gym. A group of us had a little Q&A session and they explained the science behind their program, which you can read all about on the BURSTClub website.

Needless to say, I joined as soon as I got home. I've been BURSTing for a week now and I am pretty sure I'm in love. The workouts are fun and my non-coordinated self can do them just fine. AND I've already seen a difference on the scale. Who doesn't love that?

Nathan and Jenni,
I am so happy to have met you. Your story is beyond inspiring! Go get your greatness!


Friday, April 8, 2011

IN-CAMERA Workshop Day 3 - Executing the Dream

I couldn't write. I sat there thinking and fighting the tears that were beginning to well in my eyes. Maybe it was because I was tired after a whirlwind week. Maybe it was because I was missing my husband and baby girl. Maybe it was because I had spent the day listening to Zach and Jody talk about executing the dream and my mind was in overdrive. Whatever it was, my emotions we ready to pour out of me.

Towards the end of the day they challenged us to write a mission statement for our life and business. They gave us about 15 minutes to spread out, be quite with our thoughts and write. I sat in their living room and stared at my paper. I thought about about this risk I have taken by leaving the security of a good job to follow my dream and finally the words came...

My mission statement:
To celebrate and honor the gift of life by running a business that serves a happy marriage and a happy family. To invest in relationships generously. To inspire and be inspired.
Not to be very good, or the best, but to BE REMARKABLE.

Zach and Jody talked to us about using a business as a tool to reach your dreams. How to avoid having a business that runs your life and makes you miserable. Specifically, as photographers, how being perfect at the craft of photography isn't enough. You've got to invest in the business of business to be successful. They discussed branding, marketing, social media and client interaction with the underlying theme of being remarkable. Being remarkable will create value in your brand will get you where you want to be.

This 3 day workshop is hands down, without a doubt the BEST investment I have made in my business to date. If you are a photographer and have been trying to pick a workshop to attend, I would encourage you to do whatever you can to go to IN-CAMERA even if you can only swing one day... DO IT!!

Photo courtesy of Lisa Cour ~ Dayspring Photograpahy

To Zach and Jody - Y'all are awe-inspiring. You're a beautiful couple and some amazing teachers. God has blessed you with many gifts and you blessed me by sharing them!!  THANK YOU.
Meeting you was an absolute dream come true.

Love always,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

IN-CAMERA Workshop Day 2 - Light

"What's that movie where they're in a bunker during a tornado and a cow goes flying by? Twister?" -Jody

Day 2 of the workshop began under severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings. Gotta love Spring in the South! Zach's Light lecture was preempted by lightning, sirens and the news that a tornado had reportedly touched down in a town nearby. We all contemplated squeezing into the bathtub, but instead we watched the weather radar until the worst had passed.

Zach lectured about lighting patterns, ratios, flashes, strobes and metering - Oh My! When it was time for us to go shoot it was still raining sideways. Pouring. As a wedding photographer, this was actually to my advantage. Zach and Jody showed me how to take beautiful portraits, on location, in the absolute worst weather conditions. Lets be real... if you are getting married in the South during Spring or Summer the odds that it will rain on your wedding day are pretty high.

I wasn't sure about booking this day of the workshop because I was afraid of getting overwhelmed but Z&J are SO good at breaking down the process into simple steps and making it fun. I'm very glad I decided to go because now I feel prepared and won't go into full on panic mode if I'm ever in poor weather at a wedding. That is a good feeling :)  Also, I fell in LOVE with artificial light!! You can create some absolutely stunning portraits with just one strobe. I'll be saving up my pennies to buy some lighting gear as soon as possible.

We shot at Factory in Franlkin, TN.  Here the rain let up for a few minutes so we ran outside. Elly is standing under an awning in front of the parking lot. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon and the sky, while gray, was actually pretty bright. Zach showed us how to darken it.

 Showing how strobes can create mood and beautiful light anywhere. This is in front of a bathroom.

Behind the scenes.

The result.

Huge thanks to the models that came out in the weather and still KILLED it during the shoot. Y'all are amazing!

What we used, aka my wishlist ;)
Ellinchrom Ranger Light
Photogenic Powerlight
Westcott 24x32 Softbox
Photogenic Speedring
Westcott 13' Air Cushioned Light Stand
Vagabond Mini
Pocket Wizard Transceiver
Sekonic L358 Light Meter w/ Light Module 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

IN-CAMERA Workshop Day 1 - Shooting & Post

Voice over intercom:  Are you here for the in camera workshops?
Me:  I am!
Voice over intercom: Great, I'll buzz you in.

A huge butterfly started going crazy in my stomach. I was about to meet Zach and Jody Gray. Like f'real, shake Zach's hand and hug Jody meet them. Not only that, but I'd be spending the next three days in their home for the IN-CAMERA Workshops. AwwYeah!!

The Gray's believe in running a business that serves their life and marriage instead of having a business that runs them. A big part of this includes how they shoot and their streamlined workflow after the shoot. We learned their process of getting exposure, color (setting custom white balance) and composition right in the camera and then went outside to practice. It was about 3pm and the sun was blazing. Zach and Jody taught us to look for open shade and how to create it using a diffuser. They also demonstrated some fill techniques using a reflector.

Let me say that I was so blown away by the results of setting custom WB that I went and bought an expodisc as soon as I could the next morning. This was my moment in the workshop where I thought, 'how have I been shooting without knowing this... I mean, really WHAT have I been doing!?' This alone was worth the trip for me but I got so much more.

Obviously it didn't hurt that we had two gorgeous models, but I am very pleased with the results. Especially since there is very little post processing on these images. (I shoot RAW so there is a pop of luminance that I was able to batch process instead of touching every single image one at a time. HUGE time saver!)

Part of the group. It was so much fun to be out shooting/chatting with other photographers!

Once our natural sunlight dipped below the horizon we went back inside and Zach showed us his post processing workflow. Dude is a culling animal!! I took good notes for John to study :)

If you are thinking about going to a Gray Photography IN-CAMERA Workshop, stop thinking and DO IT! You will not regret it.

A wrap up of Day 2 and 3 coming soon...