Looking Back on 2015…

December 31st.  End of another year and beginning of the next one.  As I was young I was taught that it’s the Journey, not the destination that is important but really life is the journey and not the time between January 1st and Dec 31st yes? It’s nice to be able to break it up in to smaller journeys along the way though, which is why I am guessing it was decided a system should be devised to document the passage of time and why it was decided that this time each year was the end of one, and beginning of another.  Each year we all get a little older, and a little wiser (hopefully).  For us, 2015 was significantly better than 2014 was in any number of ways, but that’s another story for another time.  End of last year I wrote a blog to recap the year also, and while we were ready for 2014 to come to a close, we were just as eager for 2015 as we now are for 2016 and the unknowns it brings.  I’m a freelance photographer.  My entire profession rests on being restless, or unsure of the future.  It never gets easier, but it can get better if you let it and with that in mind I think that 2015 wasn’t so bad.  Lots of my photographer friends have done galleries with their top shots of 2015, and I’ll be totally honest.  I tried to pick 10 but failed miserably on the high side.  I consider it to be a good problem that I had trouble but I’ll let you decide.  So here we go.  In No Particular Order; some of my best shots/opportunities of 2015 with a little bit about each one.

This was from the Indiana University vs Michigan game in Bloomington Indiana on November 14th.  The light cut across the field and all I had to do was wait for that moment when the shot was lined up.  Don’t shoot tons of football but I love shooting it and it’s shots like this that make me happy.  Are there other action shots out there that are more ‘peak Action’?  Sure, I even took quite a few that way, but the light is what does it for me in this one, and that’s why it’s here as one of my favs from 2015.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Indiana

(Nikon D4s, AISO 1100, Nikon 400mmF2.8VR with TC20eIII to make 800mm. 1/1600th@F5.6.)

Sticking with the sports theme to get started I was offered the opportunity to shoot a new sport this year. Gymnastics.  Wow was it a thing to behold too.  I had never shot gymnastics before, much less had I shot Olympic level gymnastics before but I’ve read all about shooting it on one of my Photographic Idol’s websites: Dave Black.  After the fact though, I can tell you that I’m hooked.  What a beautiful display of power and grace in one spot.  If they ever come back to Indy, I’m going to try my best to find someone in need of photos because what a great sport to photograph, worked by some of the nicest folks I’ve ever met in my life.  You can read more about that experience HERE.

Gymnastics: P&G Gymnastics Championships

(Nikon D4, 5000ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR2@155mm 1/2000th@F2.8)

While this looks like another addition as sports you’d be interested to know this was actually a portrait workshop that I did for my new favorite lighting equipment company: PHOTTIX.  At the beginning of the year I went looking for a brand of lighting equipment to recommend to my students that would allow me to know the gear, and help them easily while also being easy on their budgets.  John Scott at Roberts Camera here in Indy made me a stout recommendation in PHOTTIX.  PHOTTIX was the answer, and while I was demoing their gear I fell in love with it.  While I review quite a bit of gear for Roberts Camera and I love doing it, the Phottix gear is something that really stood out for me this year.  Even over the multiple Sigma lenses which I reviewed and Loved this year also.  This photo of Brennan was shot at Roberts Camera here in Indy during a crowd driven lighting workshop I did with Phottix for Roberts Cameras Anniversary sale.


(Nikon D4s, 100ISO, Nikon 24-70F2.8@62mm, 1/200th@F10.  Two Phottix Indra500 heads set to TTL behind Brennan on each side back about 5 feet.  Both lights had Paul C Buff 14×60″ softboxes on them.  Main light provided by a Nikon SB900 inside of a Phottix 70cm Luna folding beauty dish also set to TTL with an ODIN receiver on the foot.   All lights triggered by a Phottix ODIN transmitter from the camera hot shoe.)

Speaking of Phottix we should just keep going there. This is two shots, one is kind of a behind the scenes look at a shot I set up for Phottix up at Calumet photo in Chicago during another lighting workshop that I did.  The premise of the shots was to shoot as many different portraits as I could in the time allowed in front of a crowd while asking for crowd sourced help as we went.  Crowd Sourced help meaning suggestions and such.  This was the last shot created at the Oakrbook Calumet Photo using a piece of black paper and $6 worth of Christmas lights that I found that morning at the Target.  We came up with 13 different portraits in that space in the time allowed and everybody had a good time.  It was great, and I really look forward to working more with Phottix in the future to do some more neat workshops like this.

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(Nikon D4s, 100ISO, Nikon 85mm F1.4D, 1/40th@F1.4.  Phottix Indra500 set to TTL to camera left with a Paul Buff 14×60″ strip softbox.  Light triggered by Phottix ODIN transmitter from on the camera)

Ok so I’ve talked sports and PHOTTIX for a few shots lets jump tracks here a bit.  This shot was taken on a trip Shannon and I took to Colorado to watch one of my best friends and old college roommate get married on top of a mountain.  (seriously, mountaintop wedding).  I don’t have any photos from the ceremony as the photographers asked nobody take any photos and well being a photographer I gladly respected their wishes.  I shot this frame in the rental car on the way there from the airport though and It’s easily one of my favorites this year.  Just goes to show that as I’ve said before, there are 10 photos within 10 feet of you at all times. You just have to find them.   (I know this was further away than 10 feet, but you get the point…)


(Fuji X100T, 1250ISO, Fixed 23mmF2 lens, 1/1250@F11)

Speaking of traveling, Shannon and I did more traveling this year than years past.  Some of it was for work, but some of it not as well.  Some trips were great, some were… well..  could have had better weather.  This shot was from an Airplane seat taking off from O’Hare Airport on the way to Las Vegas Nevada.  Beautiful sunrise, but when you get at the Airport at 4am the likelyhood of seeing the sunrise is pretty good…. I wished that there wasn’t a thick payne of airplane window between me and the skyline as the Chicago skyline silhouetted in the sunrise would be awesome if the crop could have worked out…


(Fuji X100T, 6400ISO, 23mm Fixed Lens, 1/2500th@F5.6) 
(Looking at those settings now I have no idea what I was thinking)

Not everything was sports workshops or travel of course but I guess I’ve made it seem like that’s most of what I do.  It’s definitely not.  This next frame was shot for Herff Jones.  If you ever went to or graduated school here in the US chances are you know who Herff Jones is.  Last May myself and a small crew of folks spent two days at Marion University shooting a large variety of items and materials for their print, and online marketing.  Quite a few things on their website currently and in various different catalogs like this one is the stuff we shot those days and I can confidently say (as many photographers would agree), it never gets old seeing your work in real life.


(Nikon D800, 50ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@400mm. 1/250th@F4.  Paul Buff Einstein set to 1/32nd power shot through a 47″ Octabox to camera left.  Einstein triggered by a Pocket Wizard Plus III from a Pocket Wizard Plus III in the camera Hot shoe)

Something else I do quite a bit of is shooting product on its own.  This next shot was for Backbone Bourbon whom I have shot for on a couple of different occasions now.  Their website is not photo heavy, but a majority of the shots on there are things that I took.  Shooting liquor can be a challenge on location with all the differnet reflections in shiny bottles and whatnot, but I love shooting on location.  We went to three different locations over the course of three days for this one and each location had slightly different results.  Thanks to Backbone I now also have a number of silicone Ice cube Trays in my freezer.  I don’t drink a ton of bourbon, but I do really like the giant ice cubes.   I have a feeling I’ll think of something else to use the big cubes for in 2016…


(Nikon D4s, 250ISO, Nikkor 50cm/5 Reflex lens.  1/200th@F5).  Camera supported by Manfrotto 190GO with geared head.  Bottle lit by a Paul Buff Einstein set to 1/16th shot through a 30×60″ softbox.  Background lit by a Nikon SB900 set to 1/4th aimed directly at the bottles behind the bar.  Both einstein and SB900 Triggered by Pocket Wizard Plus III’s from a Pocket Wizard Plus III on the camera hot shoe.)

Not all product is shot on location though to my dismay, and over the years I’ve had to become master of a studio space too.  While no, I do not actually own or rent a dedicated studio space I’ve been fortunate to know folks who do that allow me to rent or borrow space as necessary.  That way when I AM required to shoot in a studio I can.  I do shoot quite a bit of tabletop product and the particular client I shot this next shot for supplies the studio space, and the (Canon) equipment required to shoot for them which to be honest is really nice.  But when they provide you some of the most difficult product any tabletop photographer will face, any little bit of help is nice.  The shot below is the final edit, but I try to get it as close as I can straight in the camera.  Curious as to how close to final that is on a mirrored item like this? Here’s a screenshot of the RAW file to get your brains thinking.  This isn’t a client I shoot for every day, but they are a great group of people and when I am there I thoroughly enjoy the challenges that are presented to me.  I look forward to continuing a relationship with them in 2016.


(Canon 5D Mark III, 160ISO, Canon 24-105mm@50mm 1/125th@F16. You’ll just have to check back another time for a lighting explanation on this one)

Whew.  Almost done, don’t worry.  Looks like I’ve done quite a few interesting things in 2015, and this is only a small fraction of the stuff I’ve done!  To end this thing out we’ll go to a shot I took last May at the Indianapolis 500.  This year is the 100th Running of the Indy 500 and I hope to make it back again this year to capture some of the fantastic racing action.  One of the coolest things I did this year was assist my friend Andrew Hancock on a video assignment documenting Gabby Chaves preparing for his first Indianapolis 500 for AutoWeek.  While I definitely think that was a highlight of the year for me that wasn’t my assignment but one I was helping Andy with.  I did get up at when most of you would call STUPID EARLY though, to grab this shot of the sunrise.  I was one of two photographers on the roof of the grandstands with a tripod (out of around 20 or so), the other being my friend Walt Kuhn with Roberts Camera and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Photographers Pool.  Everybody else used their ISO as a crutch, but go dig some of those up and see what shots you like better.  Tripod gave a much lower ISO, much better Dynamic range, much better images as far as I am concerned.  But to each their own I guess. One area those photographers did win on was that they didn’t have to carry a tripod around all day…

(Nikon D4s, 250ISO, Nikon 14-24mm F2.8@14mm. 1/3s@F11.  Camera supported by Manfrotto 190GO with geared head)

So there you have it.  I still have about 10 more photos in my top photos folder but I think those 10 are a good broad overall of what kept me busy this year and, I think I’m going to leave it at that as I am looking at them and smiling at some them; which as far as I’m concerned is a good place to be.  I’ve been super quiet on twitter and facebook and blogging lately and that’s been on purpose. (that’s even over thanksgiving and Christmas where usually I post about happy holidays and I didn’t even do that this year.)  Honestly I’ve been getting mentally prepared for 2016.  I’ve needed the last month to get my head wrapped around the end of 2015 and the beginning of a new year of being on the photographic road so to speak and figuring out where I want to go.  There are a lot of neat things to come, and I wish everyone the best for 2016, for life is an adventure and remember; “Adventure is not outside man; it is within”. -George Elliot.

Thanks for a great 2015.  See you in 2016 very soon.