(Nikon Z7, FTZ Adapter, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm. 1600ISO, 1/500th@F4.5)

Here we are once again at the end of another rotation around the giant fireball in the sky to signify one more year of our lives.  Each year a lot of folks start making resolutions on things they want to change about themselves for the upcoming year, but I am not sure I totally believe in the whole “new years resolutions” thing.  It’s totally just semantics, but I would rather think of it as setting goals for a year as opposed to resolving to change something about myself.  A goal of bettering myself in some way.  This will be a hard year to follow through as I did a lot of things that I am proud of over this last 365 days rotating around the sun.  While not all things were the best, and the year definitely had its difficulties, professionally I did do a lot of things that excited me this year. Let’s recap a little.

(This was the first boxing session at the EDU Expo last January)

2018 started out with a BANG for me.  I finally got to not only meet but work with one of my photography Heroes.  The one and only Dave Black.  Every year, Roberts Camera hosts their EDU Expo with Photovideoedu, the Mac Group, and several other sponsors.  Every year, I have helped work at the event as either a teacher, a speaker, or in some other helpful capacity.  Last year Dave Black was the keynote speaker and I assisted dave for the three days in both helping with the workshop teaching as well as driving him around to the locations.  It may seem like a small thing, but it was the honor of a lifetime (at least to me) and gosh I’ll never forget it.  In January of this year, the EDU Expo is coming around again and while I think last year will be a tough year to follow, and I am not sure I am allowed to say in what capacity I’ll be working this year, I think it has the potential to be a great one also.  I already teach other workshops regularly with Roberts camera, and in fact, for 2019 we have several cool ones planned including Hockey, Light painting, Advanced Speedlighting, and even Astrophotography. Look for them HERE.

(Nikon D850, 800ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm. 1/2000th@F18. Elinchrom ELB500ttl set to 1/1 with a standard 7″ reflector to camera left. Elinchrom ELB500ttl to camera right set to 1/1 with 30 degree spot grid. Both lights 12′ stands triggered by a Phottix ODIN 2 on the camera hot shoe.)

Earlier this year was asked to do a review of some NEW Elinchrom lighting equipment named the ELB500TTL.  Reviews aren’t uncommon for me, and I am always more than excited to do one.   The one thing that was different about this review was the length of time I would be given to do it, which was 3 months.  It was of course on the condition that I represented Elinchrom at a couple of events they had in the area as they had no midwest representative at that time.  3 free months with someone else’s newest latest greatest light kit?  Why would I say no? When I was just getting started in photography EVERYBODY at the top used Elinchrom.  It was always the go-to for top end lighting.  The fact that they reached out to me to ask me to do this for them, was beyond an honor. I had a feeling this was their plan as now I’ve spent enough money with Elinchrom that I am pretty sure we are legally married in some states.  (I’ve talked with the folks at Roberts, we are pretty sure this is true with me and the owner there as well…)  The light kit for the review was their newest ELB500TTL unit which I fell in love with.  I feel in love with it SO much so that now I have TWO ELB1200 units and my own ELB500 that I use almost every time I shoot.  This was a big change for me this year, partially because of cost, but also because for years I have been 110% Phottix due to the ease of mixing large and small flash.  I still own Several Phottix Indra500 heads, and they do still get used with some frequency, but I’m so in love with my new Elinchroms that I’d be surprised if another ELB500 wasn’t in my future sometime this year to round out the kit completely. Changing systems is hard, whether that be a camera system, a lighting system or even a computer system.  That’s why this was a major milestone in this year for me.

(Nikon D850, 5000ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8N@24mm. 1/1000th@F2.8)

This year I also shot a lot more championships than years prior at 15.  That’s not regionals, that’s not state, that’s National Championship events on some level or another.  There were plenty of other games or competitions between these, however being able to document and remember the performance of the BEST of each respective sport in this particular timeframe is always a joy for me. This image above was from the Big Ten Women’s Gymnastics championship in Champaign Illinois.  This was shot at the end of March on a day we were getting 9 inches of snow.  It took almost 4.5 hours to get from Indianapolis to Champaign that day; a drive that is normally just under 2 hours. I love shooting gymnastics, it is probably one of my top 5 favorite sports to photograph.  The athleticism and artistry are breathtaking to me and I cannot imagine doing what all of these men and women do on the ground, much less on a beam or set of suspended rings….  On another side, my Nikon D4s also blew its shutter at this event which was annoying, to say the least and marks the first time in the last 1o years I have had a camera shutter go on me (Knock on wood).  This is also where I learned though that the Nikon USA Service department has a sense of humor considering that when I got my Nikon D4s back a Nikon D5 brochure was rubber banded to the body.  Thanks guys.

(Nikon D850, 100ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8E@110mm. 1/200th@F16. Shot at the Ivy Tech Classroom studio with Profoto B2 heads in the background at the edge of the frame set to 8, Profoto D1 set to 6 in a beauty dish over the subject. All lights triggered by Pocket Wizard Plus III transceivers.)

As usual, I taught my classes at Ivy Tech Community College here in Indianapolis.  I teach Studio lighting and Advanced Portraiture on opposite semesters.  Being a full-time freelancer, the teaching does a number of things for me.  It gives me a little bit of a regular schedule, as well as it also provides for a pretty solid Educational Discount on lots of different items both online and especially at Roberts Camera.  The Teaching also shows me how to look at things a little differently, when folks ask me questions to things I sometimes take for granted in knowing.  Sure there are the occasional conflicts between the teaching schedule and a good client, or project I do not want to pass on.  Overall though, it all seems to get worked out and this upcoming semester I will be teaching studio lighting once more and I greatly look forward to the challenges that it presents.

((Nikon D850, 400ISO, NEW Sigma 105F1.4ART, 1/160th@F1.4. Phottix Indra500 with 47″ Octabox to camera left back about 10 feet. Single Phottix Mitros Plus on a stand with a Red Effects Gel behind Shannon to camera right. Orbs created by Christmas Light netting hanging on a few C Stands in the backyard.  This was shot for a Sigma Advertisment in the Roberts Camera Fall catalogue)

Something else I continued doing in 2018 was reviewing lenses for Sigma and Roberts.  This is not a paid job, but I thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to take Sigma’s newest and latest offerings on a test drive and give my impressions to both Sigma and Roberts via my blog online.  As you could expect some reviews go better than others, and it’s also a really hard thing on my wallet for these primo products to show up on my doorstep to tempt me into buying them.  But I’m honored and humbled to be asked to do it.  I hope to continue this ongoing set of reviews in 2019, and I am really hoping to start it all out with Sigma’s NEW 70-200 and several E Mount lenses sometime in January.


(Nikon D500, 1600ISO, Nikon 200-400F4@200mm. 1/15th@F16)

I added a new sport to my sports photography list this year with Marching Band..  I know to some of you this sounds kind of boring, but rest assured, the imaging possibilities are almost endless! There is a ton of motion, sound and artistry that goes with this also and holy smokes is it cool when you really get into it.  I shot several Marching events this year for a couple of different entities and wow was it different.  Not at all what I expected, but hope to have the challenge of shooting it again soon.

(Nikon D850, 31ISO, Sigma 85F1.4Art. 1/16oth@F1.4. Elinchrom ELB1200 in a 100cm Strip box camera left of Dennis James set to 3 triggered by an Elinchrom Skyport Pro in the camera hot shoe. Nikon SB5000 speedlight sitting on the stage with a green Gel set t0 1/4 power triggered by Nikon WR-10 in the Nikon 1o pin port on the D850. Smoke provided by Aerosol Smoke machine in a can sprayed by Brittany the shoots creative director).

This year I also once again did a lot of work for the Indiana University Alumni Association.  This is a great group to work with as they have some great ideas for their stories and also have a great creative team as it comes to brainstorming ideas for the shoots before we go to them, not just winging it like some of the other magazines I have worked for in the past.  This shot above was of Dennis James, who has been hosting Halloween at Indiana University for almost 50 years.  Originally I was supposed to have an hour with him, but once TV showed up for an interview that 60 minutes got cut down to a solid 7.  Luckily I came prepared with my Smoke machine in a can, and the photo above was born which ran almost double truck in the magazine.  I am pleased with how everything turned out that day, but I can’t say I didn’t feel lucky to be prepared with several lights and my can of smoke.  It allowed us to shoot 3 different portrait setups inside that 7 minutes allowing the magazine multiple options on an occasion where they might have only had one otherwise.  It is also worth noting that just because I only had 7 minutes with my subject, it does not mean I didn’t have 30 minutes before that to get everything set up.  That certainly helps for sure.

(The NEW Nikon Z7 with FTZ Adapter, 640ISO, Sigma 24-70F2.8Art@70mm. 1/200th@F7.1. Medal lit up by a White light Stylus Streamlight hand held by my left hand to add a little mood to the frame.).

While I could certainly go on for several more pages and images, and there are still a lot of things that I am excited about from 2018 with these only scratching the surface.  I think this is where I am going to start to tie it together with another large change that was made for me this year.  The Nikon Z7.  Last year I started shooting with my Nikon D850 which was a game changer for me, and the Nikon Z7 is a game changer as well.  Mirrorless has been a long time coming for Nikon and Canon.  Sony has been there a while and in fact, I attribute Sony for this big push into mirrorless (Despite Olympus, Fuji, and Panasonic having been there for some time).  The Nikon Z7 has changed the way I shoot in a number of ways, and the more I use it the more I know I love it.  It’s not Perfect, but gosh there are a lot of things it does so incredibly well.  On top of that, I genuinely feel as though the Z7 RAW files are better than that out of the D850.  You can check out my full review HERE, but sufficely to say, the Z7 is staying in my bag for a long time to come.

(Nikon D500, 800ISO, Tamron 100-400F4.5-6.3@400mm. 1/1000th@F8. converted to Black and white in photoshop.)

While this is nowhere near ALL of the things that have kept me busy in 2018, these were just a select few high points in my eyes.  I said in the beginning of this that I don’t quite believe in “New Years Resolutions” but would rather think of them as goals to improve myself knowing that it is going to take ongoing work to achieve this target and it is not something I can just shrug and go, “well I guess that didn’t work”.  It will always take work.  I’d like to thank my incredible wife Shannon for helping inspire me to see the areas where I want to improve myself, as well as for being the most incredible and patient person on the planet.  I couldn’t do what I do without her, not in 2018, 2019 or any other year for that matter.  I would also like to thank all of my clients who have called me back again and again for me to create media for them over the last year(s) as I couldn’t do anything without all of you.  Last but not least I want to thank those in the folks who have believed in me and helped me to get to where I am right now either hiring me for workshops, asking me to review gear, or just plain being there for me to bounce ideas off of or gives suggestions to.  Folks like Roberts Camera, The MacGroup, PhotoVideoEdu, and Sigma.  Happy Holidays everyone, and Happy New Year.  More Soon.