Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and yours. I hope you get everything you asked for and eat so much pie you can’t see straight.

michael

Bridal Session: Natalie

Brides are quite possibly the portraitist’s dream.

When you shoot a wedding, it’s all about capturing moments in time: memories, details, cross-sections of day where a million tiny (and some not-so-tiny) things happen almost all at once. As a photographer you’ve got to be on top of the situation; you’ve got to get good shots, and you only get one chance. This is the rush of wedding photography: you’re part portrait photographer, part event coordinator and part photojournalist. It’s great fun, but there’s also something to be said for taking things a bit more…slowly.

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A Summertime Wedding

There was a time in my life when I didn’t enjoy shooting weddings. I thought there was too much pressure, that they were too hectic, stressful. Now? I find them really enjoyable. I enjoy each one more than the last.

People make a big to-do about making sure everything is just right and goes according to plan, but what a wedding ends up being about is the moments shared between people. Parents and children, life-long friends, people very much in love. The beautiful things about weddings are almost always the ones you could never plan for.

Photographing a wedding isn’t just about knowing which events need to be captured. Sure, there’s a “list”: the kiss, the first dance, the cake. But it’s also about finding those little moments, the ones often happening when nobody knows you’re watching.

For me every wedding has an overarching theme: people in love, people being happy. Photographing a wedding is all about capturing those happy moments.

Congratulations to Josh and Natalie, and thanks for letting me be a part of your big day.

IgniteOKC

Tonight I’ll be making the trip down the turnpike to give a talk at IgniteOKC. If you’re not familiar with the concept of Ignite, here’s a little info from the website:

Started by Brady Forrest, Technology Evangelist for O’Reilly Media, and Bre Pettis of Etsy.com, formerly of MAKE Magazine, Ignite […] speakers are given 20 slides, each shown for 15 seconds, giving each speaker 5 minutes of fame.

I’m giving a talk entitled “The Power of Visual Communication: Together, We Can Rid the World of Comic Sans” tonight at the Lyric Theater in OKC. I’ll be talking about how sloppy and thoughtless our communication has become in modern society, and giving some tips about what everyone can do to improve the quality of their own visual communication. Here’s a teaser:

The event sold out only hours after tickets were released, but there will be a live stream of the event and all talks will be posted to youtube later on. You can bet that, barring any really bad screw-ups, I’ll be posting said video here on the blog just as soon as it’s available.

Award-winning Filmmaker? Apparently.

This was my second annual submission to Living Arts Tulsa’s 24-hour Video Race back in February. We took the prize in the Experimental category.

Mostly did this one with Shane Hood of Tepera|Hood design (with additional help from a couple of Matts who don’t have websites) using a combination of Legos, Playskool people, found objects, fishing line, electric motors and stop-motion animation.

Check out my other video work here. Enjoy!

New Stuff All Around

I’ve moved the site onto a new WordPress installation so things might look a little odd while I iron out the details. I’m running WordPress 3.0, which means exciting new features and more stuff to learn. What you see here is my very first (and very much work-in-progress) theme for WP3. As it stands, it supports:

  • Custom header images
  • Custom background colors
  • Article Images
  • Custom Menus

with plans to add

  • Custom post types (in my case a custom portfolio display)
  • Custom post taxonomies (not so much because I need them as I want to learn how they work)

so yeah. That’s all good and quite geeky; just thought I’d get the technical stuff out of the way.

Practical Typography: Volume One

I started thinking about this concept over a year ago, writing disjointed thoughts on typography in my notebook instead of taking notes in my “Services Marketing” summer class. My realization was that since high school I’d been using Courier New for every academic paper I’d written (and after spending two years as an English major this was quite a lot indeed). The advice came from an insightful high school English teacher, and I’ll explain his reasoning a little later. What’s important to know is that despite constant skepticism from classmates when I tried to give them the same advice, I never received any negative feedback from a professor. Sure, there are those who state outright, often in the syllabus, that students are to use a certain font, usually Times New Roman, at a certain size. But these were generally the exception, not the rule. In probably 90% of my college classes, across several majors, professors had no objection to size 12 Courier (on a Mac I’d be Talking about American Typewriter Std). But why is this important? Well if you’re an upstanding, rule-abiding student who enjoys writing as many pages as possible in response to your required reading of Babbit in Business school, it might not be. If, like me, you’re always looking to do the most good with the least effort, then read on.

The fonts I’m talking about here were designed, essentially, to emulate typewriters. In this respect they are perfectly acceptable for the purposes of academic, or for that matter any serious, writing. The term monospaced refers to the uniform spacing of letters, numbers and punctuation. This is unique among monospaced fonts. Your standard serif such as Times New Roman has varying amounts of spacing dependent on the letter in question; for instance, the letter “i” gets less space in the horizontal direction than, say, a “w”. In this respect there is a sense of unpredictability with these fonts, as a word with more slender letters will take up less than a word with a lot of wider letters. But why does this matter? Because monospaced fonts are both consistent…and take up more space. Consider the following example:

Type

Courier New on the left, Times New Roman on the right. Both examples use the same 50-word sample set in 12pt type leaded at 15pt. Note the difference in length. And this is simply over the course of one (very short) paragraph. So we can see right away that using a monospaced font has serious advantages in situations where a certain page-length is required. Is it cheating? Maybe, but I don’t think so. But just in case, after using this method for more years than I care to divulge here, I formulated a succinct justification should the need arise (it never did). Essentially, and this is the bit I gleaned from that insightful high school teacher, this format (double-spaced, of course) is considered standard “Manuscript Format” when submitting any piece of writing for publication. This has a lot to do with cleanliness: If a publisher sees identical manuscripts, the emphasis is on the words rather than the fonts. You can say a lot with a font, but one could argue that with a typewriter font you’re simply saying “I’m writing something”. Additionally, the wide spacing allows for easy markup and proofreading.

This whole length-manipulation technique played well into a style of writing which served me quite well for the entirety of my college experience: say a lot with a little. “Trim the fat” as it were. So you need a ten page paper? Write a ten page paper with Times New Roman. Then set it to a monospaced font…suddenly you’re going to have fifteen. What now? Start trimming. What you’re left with afterward, in theory, is nicely distilled. Whoever reads it isn’t going to get the feeling you were drawing things out to take up space, they’re going to get the feeling you’re getting right to the point.

Inspiration

Sitting down to write this post, I asked myself where I go for inspiration. I guess my first inclination, as always, was to make some kind of list. But what would this list look like? Websites, photographers, designers…books? I arrived at the conclusion that inspiration necessarily comes from all around me. There’s no one place I go for inspiration. But that doesn’t really make for an interesting read, so I made a list anyway.

So, what’s inspired me lately?

Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Crawford, Nickolas Muray for Vanity Fair 1929

Vanity Fair: The Portraits

I received this book as a birthday gift last month. It’s a truly amazing collection of images documenting a century of modern society, by many of its most iconic photographers (and a few of my personal heroes) including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibowitz and Edward Steichen. I love taking pictures of people, this is no secret. I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of that lately, but I’m working on it (see my previous post). It seems to me that if you want to do something well, you study the best. This book showcases some of the finest portraits from the last century, and thumbing through its massive pages is awe-inspiring.

500 Days of Summer

500 Days of Summer

This film has been praised as the anti-love story and dismissed as a hipster romantic comedy, but I think what I liked about 500 Days of Summer is how it defied categorization. It had moments of genuine emotion alongside lighthearted comedy (and even a dance number). The film didn’t claim to be something it wasn’t—I think the opening narration says it best:

“This is a story of boy meets girl. But you should know up front, this is not a love story.”

But I must confess: it takes more than an enduring story for a movie to truly inspire me. 500 Days took it to the next level with an interestingly jumbled chronology—which in some movies proves confusing or disorienting—and tied it all together with a very slick design. The feel of those interstitial spaces was more reminiscent of information graphics or user experience design than simple movie titles. The design of the movie is what made it work. And it worked out quite well, in my opinion.

Kansas City (on the grounds of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)

Travel

Though something tells me everyone already knows that. In addition to the epic (and previously blogged) trip to California this summer, we also took a summer-ending road trip to Kansas City over the Labor Day weekend. It was awesome. Just long enough to be relaxing and see the sights, short enough to keep things cheap and simple. The problem with me and travel, however, is that the more I do it…the more I want to do it. Not to mention the fact that every time I visit some place other than Tulsa, the less I like Tulsa. But that’s not inspiring, so it doesn’t belong on this list.

So tell me, where do you find inspiration?

My People Project

List

New Years Resolutions

I’ve never been a big fan of New Years Resolutions. They’re always seemed kind of cliche and commercialized,  and when I’ve made them they always seem to fall by the wayside, forgotten.

I am, however, rather fond of making lists. So this past January I made a list of things I wanted to achieve. Some items were short-term goals, to be completed in the year, and some were more long-term. Some were more practical (put $25 a paycheck in savings) and some were perhaps a little ambitious (work out 5 times a week? a nice concept, but I know myself better than that). The list can be viewed in full here (link).

One entry that falls squarely into the ambitious column: “Take a picture of everyone I know. Everyone.

See, it’s underlined. That means it’s important.

The People Project

Connor

So I realize the full magnitude of the statement. It’s everyone, underlined, after all. And that’s undoubtedly going to be a lot of people. If we’re speaking in broad everyone terms here, then I could probably say that I know people I had classes with, the guy who seats us at our favorite restaurant, and people who work with my wife. So where does one draw the line?

The short answer is that I’m not. I’m embracing the true scope of the undertaking. Sure, I may never photograph everyone I know. For starters, there’s not enough time in the day. Then of course we factor in that some people simply don’t want to be photographed, some people would be inappropriate to ask, and some people I simply don’t want to (I just can’t get excited about taking a picture of former coworkers and managers, let’s be realistic). Those caveats aside, I’m just looking at this as an opportunity. Maybe I don’t have to meticulously document every single person I know, but it encourages me to look for subjects in the people I see every day. And there are no rules here. Some will be formal portraits, some will be snapshots (I’ve already got some of both). I’d love as many of them as possible to be quality photographs, because that’s just the kind of person I am, but I’m also a big fan of the fortuitous snapshot (like this one, after which she asked “did you just take a picture of me? to which I simply grinned sheepishly).

So maybe it will never be a coffee table book, a major motion picture, or a PBS documentary. But even if nobody ever sees it but me and the people I photograph, I feel like I’ve done something worth doing. I’m pointing something I love to do more than just about anything (making photographs) at the people who matter most in my life. And if nothing else, someday I’ll be able to look at the pictures and remember all the people who have touched my life.

You probably saw this coming

If you’re reading this blog post, it probably means you belong to that not-so-exclusive group, everyone. Which means I’d probably be giddy to take some shots at you. This doesn’t have to be a formal get-dressed-up kind of affair. If you’d be interested in taking part in the project, shoot me an email (spam filter don’t fail me now), I’d love to hear from you.