Category Photography

What Happens in Vegas

Here are some leaked images of what happens at a Vegas bachelorette party! Maybe that’s not what really happens when there are a bunch of girls in a hotel room, except when you add me into the mix, I will make it happen. So don’t let your next Vegas memories be a bunch of boring sorority-sister-hands-on-hip poses with a drink. Let’s do something you’d get in trouble if your boss finds out.

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Follow the Sun

In the morning you arrive, the glowing fire merges from you and I am warmed by you. You spend the few hours nourishing the forest with your light, planting your life deep in the roots. When you dissolve into the earth, darkness follows until the next morning when I wait for you to return.

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Correct Print Sizes

Dear clients, please read your contracts and packages carefully, especially when you’ve paid a few thousand dollars for the professional to deliver products to you. So far, my most common complaint (even if only 3 times so far), is the apparent incorrect sized prints I provide the clients. Apparent, because the clients seem to read 8×10 inch prints, when it is written 8×12 inch on my package. I have clients demanding that I send them new images in the correct size. While I understand it seems to be a common consumer print size and most picture frames sold are 8×10, it is not the correct print size directly out of professional cameras. So here is a brief lesson on proper image ratios and why 8×12 is better for you.

I offer two print sizes in one package, 8×12 and 4×6. You can do the math, it’s the same ratio of 2:3. That means when you get the prints in either size, nothing is cropped and nothing is missing. You are getting everything you see. If you decide to get 8×10 photo, you have to crop 2 inches off, that’s 16.66% of the image you are losing, and it becomes a 4:5 ratio.

I will apologize in advance for all photographers who do not mentally think about a 4:5 ratio in their viewfinder while busy shooting a hectic wedding day. In the worst case scenario where you happen to buy an expensive custom frame that is in the incorrect ratio, I can always do some Photoshop magic and shrink the photo to fit a 4:5 ratio and reconstruct the missing edges with the clone tool. That is if you don’t start the message with an angry and demanding tone of voice telling me I owe you a completely new set of photos.

New Obsession

An evening where she and I discover new wonders together, new desires of each other. She runs away so I can grab her arms, she covers her eyes so I can desire her lips, she smells the flowers so I can watch her play. Her scent is what she leaves me at the end of the night. I wake up every dawn hoping for more.


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Secret Garden

I have a secret garden,
Where I can laugh and play.
I have a secret garden,
Often it’s there I stay.

I have a secret garden,
No one else knows its location,
I have a secret.

By Catrin Hitchcock


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After Work Session

After a hard day’s work, come back and enjoy a glass of wine, take off your shoes, turn up the music, let your hair down, slip into something comfortable, turn the lights on… and action!


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Summer!

What do you do when it’s scorching hot outside with unforgiving sun? Jump into the pool of course! Considering I don’t like the water nor do I know how to swim, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to practice some outdoor flash techniques. Nothing advanced here except for two remote Canon Speedlites on each side, and one on-camera Speedlite, although more powerful studio strobes would have been easier. It’s great to have subjects who are so willing to endlessly jump into a pool of water on your command. Hope you enjoy the photos!


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Best Cake Ever

This is how a one year old should really celebrate, getting to discover and enjoy cake for the first time in all it’s glory. Perhaps we should be so free to enjoy cake this way too.

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Update on new Aputure Trigmaster Plus II 2.4G

For the past few years I’ve been using the Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G wireless flash remote systems. They’ve been working very well with no radio interference or distance issues compared to my PocketWizard Plus II’s. If you read my review, the only issue I had with the TM’s was the channels changing whenever you moved the lightstand, compressing the transciever body, thus inadvertantly changing the channel. While this wasn’t an issue with modeling shoots, it was annoying for weddings. The wonderful guys at Aputure sent their newest transcievers for testing and so far they are definitely an improvement. Here are some shots of the new Trigmaster Plus II 2.4G.

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Consumerism Destroying Art

Before the days where everyone could afford a professional DSLR and have access to cookie cutter portfolio websites, finding a wedding photographer was a local search, usually through word of mouth. It’s easy to see how saturated the internet is with aspiring wedding photographers, anyone with spare change can start up their own business and practice at friends’ weddings. The competition is fierce, the selection is overwhelming. We are in the age of smart digital shopping, the days of Fat Wallet turned to Groupons, getting the best value for your money, seeking discounts while expecting highest quality. This is good practice for mass produced products where it drives costs of products down due to demand, however, this is killing the art of photography, specifically wedding photography.

Back in the days when digital was only slowly taking over film, and internet portfolios were rare, wedding clients did not complain about not getting their money’s worth. Considering you get married once with one set of photos, how could you really know if someone could have done a better job, or even shot it differently? You accepted what you got. This is not to say you should accept low quality work even if you have nothing to compare it with, but also not to expect the entire wall found on your Pinterest to be in your album.

There was Google, and now there are massive wedding forums and Pinterest that showcase the world’s most beautiful wedding photos all in one convenient collection. As brides continue their research and soak in all these images contributed from thousands of photographers, they get more excited at the fantasy of what their wedding can and will look like if they just hire that “perfect” wedding photographer for the lowest possible cost. Brides will even go as far as sending a photographer images shot by someone else they would like said photographer to emulate. Offensive? Probably just a little.

In the bride’s defense, most of my clients are not like this. They have followed my work for years or have a personal connection with me just by looking at my work. They have not been saturated with fantasies. They accept reality and respect an artist’s personal vision. I am talking about the brides that try to be a smart shopper and think too logically. They want the photographers to be robots and artists at the same time. They want high quality portraits, artistic vision, unlimited group photos, a documentation of every face, and a customer-is-always-right mentality. You should see the typical photo-list that clients used to show me, it’s a joke how long it is. I personally don’t believe you can have it all.

If you want an artistic vision, an artist needs space and room to breathe, relaxed, and not feel the pressure to also include cookie cutter portraits. If you want full documentation of every guest, then hire a studio with 5 photographers and you’ll get 250 great passport photos. Do not expect a photographer to have the ability to switch on and off the artistic side to match your hectic wedding schedule. Your entire day will set the tone for a specific mood, and a photographer will inherently feed off of that mood. These brides do not treat photographers as artists, they have no feelings for people they paid to serve them on the most important day of the entire world. They are never “satisfied customers.” There is always something to complain about, and when they do, it’s a poopstorm. As a smart consumer, there is no excuse for a photographer who tried his or her best. Disregard the fact that this person was willing to spend 10 hours documenting your silly little day, and that he or she took some amazing photos, but maybe had difficulty with certain situations. Mind you, weddings are not an assembly line of the same product, it is a day of unlimited combinations of lighting, environmental, and personal factors that change how a photographer works. For a bride to nitpick what she sees as faults in her wedding photos and have the audacity to say her memories of the entire day is forever lost or ruined because one or two photos cannot be cropped to her liking, really says something about her character and how she treats her friends and others.

Finally to my point, brides, be realistic about the unique circumstances every wedding photographer has to approach on a weekly basis, and are trying their best to produce something they would be proud of. You cannot expect a 100% success rate on all of the images, and you have to accept each artist for their strengths and weaknesses. This is the human element. If you research a photographer, really get to know his or her work instead of congesting your mind with the “best images” from the internet. Art requires you to have an emotional attachment or a personal connection with the artist, not a checklist of requirements. In the end, you are only doing yourself a disservice to yourself if you love to find the faults in everything. If you appreciate the positive things in life, then you will cherish the moments captured by even the simple photographs.

Autumn Princess

When I suggested to make her look like a princess, she replied “I am a princess”. Well consider me the luckiest photographer who gets to follow around a princess and captures her soul and spirit.

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Evacuated City

Two years in a row New York is being hit by a major storm caused by a hurricane, and this year’s Sandy will be a lot more devastating than Irene. The night before the storm, New York City forces public transportation shut downs and evacuations. While the weather is still relatively calm, the city is mostly dead with only a few souls roaming around. This was my perfect opportunity to capture empty streets of a city that “never sleeps”. I drove to some of the more well known spots, from Times Square, Columbus Circle, Apple Store, to Herald Square, Union Square and Meatpacking District.

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Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G Review

Here is my long over due review of a wireless flash trigger system I have been using for the past year. I was lucky to get in touch with Jesse from Aputure (yes, Chinese brand), and I was given samples of the Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G transceivers for my Canon system to review. They work exactly like my previous Pocketwizard Plus II system, each device can perform either as a transmitter or receiver. The purpose of a wireless trigger system is to use off-camera flash for either a more flattering, natural, or even dramatic lighting – basically anything but on-board camera flash! The system allows for 1 or more flash, in my case I use up to 3 flashes.

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South Africa: Favorite Photos

South Africa is definitely a beautiful country with all seasons to experience, from hot summers to cold winters. I was able to feel it all in one trip, the hot sun beating down on us in the village, to the cold winter frost on top of the mountains in Drakensberg. The most unforgettable sight was the stars and Milky Way galaxy at night. The night sky was so bright it felt unreal.

The prints are up for sale and all profits will go to Zimele.

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South Africa: Saint Lucia

One of the must-do’s in South Africa is to see the wild life. Our first stop was the town of Saint Lucia to see crocodiles and hippos. Surprisingly hippos are probably the most dangerous animals in the area, but I assume it’s due to the fact that these large beasts are allowed to roam the city streets day and night. Nothing was cuter than seeing the baby hippo take a nap next to mom and stretch his little paws. If you come to South Africa, you can expect to eat very well, just look at the photos! After lunch we visited a beach that meets the Indian Ocean where the sand is littered with titanium deposits.

Our next stop was the cheetah farm where we saw wild cats and cheetahs feed and pet them after they weren’t so hungry. Don’t be fooled by the cute cats on the fence, they look and sound ferocious in person. The only actually cute cats were the cheetahs. A few simple rules, never approach from behind, and don’t play with their paws. They were so fun to pet and rub, I wanted to hug it like Hobbes.

Our last day out was to the safari in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. We started off early in the morning, and drove around for 8 hours trying to spot animals. The most abundant were the impalas and zebras, and it was always a joy to see some giraffes. The lions were quite a distance away and they usually just lay in the sun, so not much action there. We were all hoping to see some elephants all day long, but it wasn’t until the final hour on our way back did a male elephant stopped us on our path. Our driver informed us it was angry and it started walking toward us as the driver slowly backed up the truck so we could maintain a very uncomfortable yet close up viewing distance. Seeing a giant up close and personal with unknown angry intentions really puts the fear in you. Imagine wanting to let your mouth release your fear but knowing you have to be silent so you don’t agitate the elephant even more. We were all done with seeing elephants ever again after this experience! When we finally got passed the elephant, our last spotting gave us a chuckle – the ever so tame and harmless donkey!

Fore more info on the safari trips, check out Heritage Tours & Safaris

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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South Africa: Making Bricks

One of my favorite experiences in Swayimane was brick building for a new rondavel. The bricks are made from the dirt and water straight from the land. We dug up the dirt into a pile, then added water as we used gumboots to stomp and mix the mud. It was a great workout for our legs. The next step was to fill a brick mold with the mud, tap out the air pockets, smooth the top, then score. Liz and I decided to make a design on top of each brick. It was one of the few chances we were really able to get down and dirty, but also experience the labor that the local women do all on their own.

Photos taken by Scott Kwak


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South Africa: Drakensburg

During the weekend when we had time off from the village, we took a trip up to the Ukahlamba Drakensberg mountains to stay overnight. While biking along the trail, I found a beautiful lake with a mountain view, so I made my group wake up early the next morning at 6AM to catch the sunrise. It was freezing weather in the morning, the windshield was completely frosted over, and we brought extra blankets to stay warm. It was worth the effort, as the sunrise was awe inspiring. I was so excited by the landscape, I was literally running around the field getting all different angles as the sunrise time was limited.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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South Africa: Swayimane

The heart of the trip was to visit the village of Swayimani in the province of KwaZulu Natal and teach the Zulu women trade skills to establish better living conditions and sustain their own economy. We came as the Zimele team. Each team member would teach finance, another fashion, baking, medical, daycare, and I taught photography and computers. The skills they learn would help improve their quality of life, and even help them grow or start their own business. Zimele does not give hand outs, instead, they encourage each adult to find a way to generate and save money as a community.

I was assigned to teach two classes a day for three days. Each class had just over a dozen women, eager to learn. While their native language was Zulu, some spoke broken English and we had a translator in each class. The women were donated a handful of new digital compact cameras, yet they’ve never held one before. It was amusing to watch them fiddle with the devices, and humbling to watch their eyes light up when they were able to take their own photos for the very first time. One of the youngest students had the greatest potential, as she immediately grasped the concept of composition and light/shadow. Once I assigned homework for them, the women spent the rest of the day taking photos of everything. This was by far the most rewarding lesson I have ever given anybody.

We brought as many extra luggage per person possible with donated items such as medical supplies, sewing tools, bake ware, calculators and toothpaste. We would ride in the back of a “bucky” every day back and forth from our B&B to the village. It was quite uncomfortable flying through the rough dirt terrain, and even worse after a full day of sweat and dirt, however we made the best of it. Being dirty and uncomfortable in a group made the experience a lot more tolerable, sometimes funny, and always a bonding moment. The number one thing that kept the group intact was our sense of humor.

The kids were one of the greatest joys of being with the Zulu people. While we didn’t know their language well enough to communicate verbally, it was not necessary for us to bond. The act of being there, playing soccer with them, taking photos of them, was more precious than words. They lit up when they saw us, as did we.

There were two nights we stayed at the village in their rondavels to experience a small taste of their living conditions. It was close to comparable to camping, no electricity, no plumbing. We just roughed it out for 2 days and 2 nights with sleeping bags and air mattresses. Being guests at their village, the hostess Thanda would prepare amazing meals for us with a full table setup. We were very honored how much effort they put in to make us feel comfortable.

While the community lives in poverty, none of them acted like it. They were always cheerful and were always grateful of what they had. Their lands were beautiful, the people even more so. We felt so welcomed, as time passed we were feeling like this was our second home.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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South Africa: Miranda’s

Our flight took us from New York to Zurich, then to Johannesburg and finally landed in Durban. We would then take another hour drive to Pietermaritzburg, our bed and breakfast lodging. Miranda owns the B&B with her husband Max, and their dog Tessy. Tessy would wake up late at night and bark at all the porcupines eating their garden. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any porcupines ourselves. You can see Scott, our trip leader for Zimele, sitting in the back of the “bucky”, which is how the rest of the team would be traveling for the remainder of the 2 weeks. Xolani was one of our main drivers, he is the funniest man in South Africa, incredibly dedicated, and drives like a madman, like me.

Every morning Miranda would cook us a delicious breakfast, and the nights we spent there, an amazing dinner. We were absolutely spoiled by her meals and desserts. The dish which I will forever be fond of the name, bunnychow, is chicken curry in a loaf of bread. We can see the distant rolling hills from the back yard, and chicken and ducks would wake us up early every morning.

I have to admit my impressions of Africa was dirt and brown, however I was completely wrong when I witnessed all the lush green hills and trees that surrounded me. It was a beautiful land, but unfortunately segregated between the rich whites versus the natives.

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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South Africa: First stop, Zurich

On our way to South Africa, we had a 12 hour layover in Zurich, Switzerland. It was a nice experience to see the city for a day, and it was definitely more than enough time. ¬†After a while, all the architecture begin to look the same, however I was amazed how crystal clear the water in the rivers were, it made me thirsty, and if I could swim, I’d jump in. Our team from left to right, Hannah, Annie, (Sophie our Zurich guide), Mike, Scott, Liz, Maria, Coco, Peter, and me (behind the camera).

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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