Earth Quilt Photo Shoot For Mia Cinelli

The other week I had the opportunity to work with a long time friend and designer Mia Cinelli to document her “Earth Quilt.” The Earth Quilt is a 20 square foot paper quilt that is infused with seeds to be planted in the spring to create an instant garden of sorts. For the full abstract of the project and follow up images after the planting of the quilt check out

To anyone who has read a few of my other posts you may know that Mia and I attended undergrad together and collaborated on several projects. Currently we are both residing in Ann Arbor, Mi. which means, let the collaborations continue! Per usual the shoot was a blast. The intentions of the shoot were to documenting the quilt as well as to show it in an interactive setting before it’s burial, quite literally. So we gathered some picnic supplies and headed to the north side of Ann Arbor towards the country where I had grown up. We found ourselves a nice empty field, called in some help from our friend Dave and the rest is visual history.

Special thanks to Dave Carr For serving as first assistant to the shoot.

Getting into the swing of things

After a wild rush of unemployment and great creative endeavors, *see last post, I’m finally getting into the swing of things. I’ve got my old summer job back at Recycle Ann Arbor and have been editing my backlog of images, most of which are from DEMF. On top of getting into the swing of a weekly schedule I’ve been meeting with a few of my closest friends to get our promotional firm off the ground. It turns out naming the company you hope to make the rest of your life is fairly difficult.

I am also happy to announce that I have finally found myself an art project to pursue. The plan is to create a mini photo/video documentary on street music in Ann Arbor. This was sparked after I ran into two traveling kids whose music made me stop halfway to my destination, sit down, and enjoy their company for about 20 minutes. I’ve since met a young man in quite the opposite situation, he does not have dyed hair or piercing and does not travel by hopping freight trains. No, this street musician is 15 years old already taking a few college courses and plays his saxophone on the street corner for fun in his free time.

Of course this wouldn’t be much of a photo blog with out some images. Below are a few of my favorite images from a shoot I did for my close friends, Shannon & Anthony.

See some more of my favorites from this shoot here.

Moving On Up.

Well it’s more like moving on down.

I’ve finally left the cozy town of Marquette, Mi. to head back down to the lower peninsula of Michigan. I now reside in Ann Arbor, Mi. and further more am unemployed, much like the rest of the state. Lucky for me I am joined by my college friend, Charles Steen. Charlie and I have been motivating each other by taking a morning trip to the Kerry Town Market for a healthy breakfast of fruit and job searching.

My hope is to acquire a job in local creative marketing and to keep doing freelance photography on the side with the hopes of starting a creative firm with some likeminded friends. Charlie, who is in on this business venture idea and handeling the videography side of things, has started a film blog listing alternative film screenings in Ann Arbor. Check out his project at If you know of any screenings that he does not have listed send him an e-mail, I’m sure he would appreciate the help.

So far Charlie I have done videography for a wedding and were volunteer videographers for The Michigan Theater‘s Cinetopia International Film Festival, both in which were a blast! I also brought my cameras along with me to Movement (A.K.A DEMF, A.K.A. The Detroit Electronic Music Festival) I hope to get my images and videos from the past couple weeks up ASAP. I am also planning to continue doing my “blog teach” posts however life is slow considering the necessity of finding a job. For now I will post a few of my favorite images that I’ve captured this spring. Check out my flickr to see more of my work.

Paul Millenback

I had the opportunity to take a trip to south east Michigan on behalf of the NMU Foundation to photograph some alumni for a “Hear Because of NMU” alumni edition campaign.
In this image; Paul Millenbach, vice president at Foster Swift’s law office in Farmington Hills.

Snapped a few images on my anual pilgrimage to WMTU’s Keweenawsome Fest. In Houghton, Mi.

Salad Dishes from the NMU Culinary Traditional Spanish Tapas Bar.
These things were amazing; greens and fruit on a baked cheese bowl.

Senior Show Exhibit: Skilled & Laboring

Taking a step back from my last post I would like to take this opportunity to post the images from my senior show. The exhibit was also approved to be put up on the website, a site I’ve been wanting to get involved with for some time now.

In case anyone was wondering the senior show exhibit was held in the DeVos Art Museum at Northern Michigan University and the show title was “Negative Space”.

Now, rather than rant on what I did I’m going to leave the series abstract right about here with a link to the rest of the photos:

-Skilled & Laboring-

The average American citizen is working for less than a living wage and is said to refuse jobs of manual labor; labor which is responsible for building our homes and infrastructure, providing a foundation for a strong middle class.

I have been photographing the ironworkers of Local Union No.8 here in Marquette, Mi. (the same union that was contracted to build the Mackinac Bridge). They have been raising, setting, and welding iron for the new bus station downtown. These workers are part of a rich history of laborers both locally and nationally. These images are a reminder of skilled labor in a depleting middle class, which has neglected the importance not only of labor but laborers in our society.
“It is we who plowed the prairies; built the cities where they trade;
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid;
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made;
But the union makes us strong.”
–Excerpt from Ralph Chapin’s song “Solidarity Forever”

Click HERE to see the rest of the series.

Blog Teach: Entry #6 (fun & inspiration lit well)

It’s been all to long since I’ve updated my blog here but I’m back at it again with another blog teach and some good news.

First, the good news. I have finally graduated from undergrad. I now hold a BFA in Photography & a BS in Sociology from Northern Michigan University. I suppose even more good news is that I should be having more time to keep up on the blog. So here’s to future adventures & of course another blog teach.

This Entry is less about the technical aspect of lighting and more about keeping yourself active as a photographer. After graduating I was finding it hard to convince myself that there was anything worth photographing, lets be honest I was just being lazy. However after returning to my hometown for a well needed break I had my best friend request that I take a picture of him for his Facebook profile. Lucky for me Dave is one of the most creative Engineers on the planet and never takes the boring rout… except, you know, when he decided to be an engineer. (pretty sure I will have to take that back when I’m living in his basement). Either way back to the story. Dave had recently obtained some huge Nerf guns and his girlfriend Emily got him the Rambo bullet straps to go with their toys. Dave requested a “badass” photo of him strapped to the teeth with some wicked old Aviators on. This is what followed:



The take away from this post is that while it may be easy to feel like everything has been photographed before or that your own ideas just dont give you the drive to go out and shoot it is totally acceptable to let others inspire you. I would advise asking a friend or two if they have something funny or fun they would want photographed. Something goofy and non-serious gets rid of that work or school feeling that can build up over time. The trick is to not just run out with your camera on P or Auto but to take a fun idea and shoot it well. More importantly shoot it and light it appropriate for the idea you and your friends are working with.

Step one, as it usual, is to get your ambient dialed in. The trick for the 100% black background is to find yourself a doorway or something of the sort where you can black out the room behind it. In this case I started with my hallway. I ended up changing locations due to a lack of space but the images work just fine for educational purposes. Adjust your aperture and time value so that you aren’t picking up any information (A.K.A. pure black).

Step two is to get your light or lights set up. This is where I ran into issues. When i brought my light in i was getting a bit of light bouncing off the walls of my hallway and I later realized that my subject and his nerf guns was not going to fit elegantly in the frame that was available.

Go ahead and light your subject as normal adjusting here and their to keep the background pure black. I would suggest trying to keep your lights on an extreem angle to your subject to avoid tossing to much light into the room behind them. Remember to have fun and stay open to creative ideas.


Final Set Up

There you go. A quick way to have fun, play with dramatic lighting, and create a black backdrop without spending a dime. Until next time my friends. Cheers!





Blog Teach: Entry 5 (Background Distractions)

In this post I’m going to cover a couple techniques that will help you avoid distracting background clutter from ruining your image. For starters try repeating this phrase to yourself every time you are lining up a shot, “head in a clean space.” This will speed up the initial composition stages of a shoot. It will also help you avoid having lines cutting your subjects head off, sticking out of their heads, or creating halos around them. It happens more often than you think, especially in event and journalistic photography where time is of the essences. Don’t believe me, check out the original image for the 1970 Kent State shooting.


Alternative edit found in many publications








So what do you do if your golden shot has some funky stuff going on behind the subject? Start cloning, dodging, and burning in post. While all of these techniques can be done in the darkroom I will be covering the tools in Photoshop and Lightroom. Most of these tools can be found in most modern photo editing software.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom has a nice and simple clone/heal tool right at the top of the workflow under the develop settings. You can adjust the size, feather, and opacity of the tool. Unfortunately you are confined to a circular stamp in this program so I suggest zooming in to insure a clean edit. For a short tutorial click HERE. If you are using Adobe Photoshop  you have the option of using the mask tool or the selection tool to avoid cloning out part of your subject.

Clone stamp in Photoshop tutorial: It’s a goofy edit but it will show you where and how the tool works.

Photoshop masking tutorial















In the case of distractingly bright or colorful signage, or whatever is plaguing your background, you can sometimes get away with dodging the troublesome area to darken it up and relive some of the unwanted attention that the area may be causeing. This works best if the distraction is in a corner because you can slap a vignetting effect to make the dodge look more intentional.

The second scenario is of course what to do when you recognize a distraction during a shoot? If you are lucky enough, or skilled enough depending on who you ask, you can correct these problems by moving either yourself or your subject, changing lenses, or hiding the distraction.

Taking a different camera attitude may be able to push the istractino out of frame or in some cases out of your subject.

Changing lenses can push or pull distractions into new places that may be, well, less distracting. Wider angled lenses will increase the perceived distance between objects and telephoto will pull objects closer to each other in the frame.

One of my personal favorite approaches is to take your subject and put them right in front of the distraction. Between the above two techniques you can often get silly signs, garbage cans,  bikes, people, etc… to disappear behind your subject. If you can fix it in camera you have saved yourself the hassle of  finding and fixing the problem in post. So do yourself a favor and keep that head in a clean space

pesky garbage can

hidden garbage can

Blog Teach: Entry 4

In this post I will be covering a shot in which the ambient light is below a workable level. It is all to often that I am called to a location which does not provide efficient ambient lighting. There are three options that I usually consider: Option one spot light the subject and let what little ambient light there is fill in the background. Option two, crank up the ISO on your camera and suffer digital noise or grain in the images. Option three,  light the darn set your self; which is exactly what I chose for this shot.

I was asked to do a shoot in the Forest Roberts Theater at Northern Michigan University for a continuation of a series I had earlier worked on called “I’m here because of you.” Which, was part of an identity campaign for the NMU Foundation. But onto the lighting senario.

The natural ambient light at f 4.0 & 1/4th

When we arrived, quite literally, on the set with my partner we were informed that none of the lights for the stage were currently set up and that it was a hassle to get them strung up. We took a few test shots to see where the ambient and found that we had to push our shutter speed way to slow to get decent information.

As a rule of thumb you can generally shoot as slow as your focal length. For this shot we used my Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. Which meant I could drop my shutter speed to 1/20th of a second without any considerable blurring. Unfortunately we needed to get around 1/4th of a second with my ISO at 400 to have a more workable ambient.  So, we went to our lighting arsenal and developed a plan to light the stage.

Even when using your own lighting you set your ambient first. We rigged up one of our Alien Bee 800 flash units to see how much light we could spill onto the stage. Ultimately we decided that we could cross light the stage with an Alien Bee’s by hiding them just off stage.

Alien Bee 800's back stage

We knew we wanted the subject to be sitting on the edge of the stage and that the lighting should look somewhat believable lighting. We put a grid on a LumaPro 160  and using Pat as a V.A.L. (see link in Entey 3 for definition)  raised it up high enough to appear  to be a spot light. This served as our key light. Remember after your ambient is set, or in this case set up your ambient, situate your key light next.

aiming the grid light

Key and Fill Light Set Up

Using a second Luma Pro 160 and a 60″ umbrella we filled in some of the hard light coming from the grid got our model in place and snapped away. This shot was done with the pretense of text being added to the white board and the background later on for advertisement purpose. We left  the the bottom of the frame nearly black so that the graphic designers will have room for text later on. Be aware of shadows and high lights when shooting signage and be sure to leave nice clean spaces for text when shooting for advertisement purposes. Below is the final image which took 2 alien bee 800′s, 2 lumapro 16o’s, 4 pocket wizards, 4 light stands, 1 grid, 1 60 inch umbrella, and 1 V.A.L.

Final Image


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