Has Never Taken a Good Photo.

Immediately on the heels of shooting Sara, I had another portrait session lined up for the following weekend. This one was a tad different. I regularly browse Craigslist for photo opp's that seem interesting, and ran into an interesting post. He was was requesting a female photographer for a portrait shoot. What drew my attention to the ad was that he bluntly stated he was not photogenic. He was the type of person who hates how he looks in all the photos he has taken of him. I immediately felt empathy for him, as I also feel the same way about myself. It is no coincidence there is only 1 photo of myself on my entire site! I choose to be behind the camera, not in front of, for a good reason.

Seeing his honest posting sparked my curiosity. I'm not a female but figured I'd shoot him an email anyways, relaying him to my website if he was interested. Just a few hours later, I received a response from him; a response that were some of the kindest words anyone has ever said to me in regards to my work:

 "I mean, I was looking at your pictures (of complete strangers) and caught myself smiling, as if I was caught in the moment - that is powerful!I was surprised at how many responses I received to my ad in a short period of time. I am not selecting you because your response was first, but rather, your portfolio stood out among the others. "

And with 1 short email, I had my next assignment lined up. 

We met in the following days for the pre-shoot consultation I like to have. It was very brief, but I got a deeper understanding for what he was trying to accomplish, and why he had requested a female photographer initially. He wanted to be very hands off with everything and let me run the entire show. I told him we'd absolutely capture photos he was proud of.

The day of the shoot was an absolutely frigid one. The temp in my car never went past 18 degrees. Since we were planning on shooting outside, I knew this would absolutely be a hurdle for the both of us. For him, I wanted him to be as relaxed and calm as possible in front of the camera. That is already a challenge in itself, but tacking on sub freezing temperatures would be an even greater task. It didn't take much convincing to take him to an inside location nearby for our shoot. 

Arriving inside at the location, I did a quick lap around the venue to see what we could do. I wanted to integrate some environment into the pictures if possible, and not just a series of headshots and snapshots. When we settled into shooting, I could see his apprehensiveness coming alive in front of the lens. This is absolutely the same look I give cameras resulting in stiff, sterile photos. I started off with headshots to warm him up to the idea of being photographed. I tried to keep the conversation flowing the whole time, relieve some of the stress he may have been feeling.  Also, to keep him occupied while a camera was in his face.

Gradually the hard work was paying off. I could see him becoming looser in his photos and a little more outgoing in what we were trying. The second half of the shoot saw far more keepers in my eyes, than the first half. Eventually he got so comfortable, that he changed his mind and wanted to get some shots outside. We finished the morning, shooting in 18 degree weather while he tried his best to keep a smile for the camera.

We wrapped up after 2 hours of shooting to head our separate ways. Some of the results of our work are below. Remember, these photos are of a guy who claimed he had never taken a good picture before. Enjoy!


Sara Buelvas

I was contacted before the end of the year by a referral named Sara. She was interested in collaborating for a future shoot. I took a look at her webpage (sarakbuelvas.com and noted she has a fitness history. Quickly my mind started scrambling for possible shoot ideas we could consider. We agreed to meet to talk about what we wanted to accomplish, prior to shooting. 

We met days later briefly. I was surprised to hear she wanted to do more of a traditional commerical-esque/modeling type shoot. Seeing as I was eager to pick up where I had left off from shooting, I quickly agreed and we made tentative plans to shoot the following weekend. 

As the days approached to our photoshoot, the entire shoot fell in jeopardy of not happening. She contacted me having to cancel on the shoot, with the no future date in mind of when she would be available. I was taken back, but had to accept that it probably wasn't going to happen. Thankfully, the very next day she reached out again and said she could indeed make the shoot and we were still a go.

I arrived at the shoot that morning eager and nervous. It was a typical cold winter AM in the DMV area, but thankfully it was a cloudy one. I had a lot of filtered soft light to work with, which I prefer when working outside on location. She arrived shortly after with a tote bag behind her, with 3-4 different outfit changes. I was happy to see she was as serious about the shoot as I was in getting great captures. 

The shoot started as it normally does. Nerves in the beginning, and then finally we both got into a comfortable groove. I eventually go into auto pilot, totally immersed in scenes, surroundings, anything I can use to make a more complete picture. I like to travel light when on location so brought with me a minimum amount of gear. I did have my reflector/diffuser and a flash on hand, which all were used throughout the shoot.  Sara was a real trooper throughout, changing outfits at a moments notice, wearing heels on a rocky road just baiting a twisted ankle. Overall, the shoot went really well and am glad we were able to get it done.

Reviewing the photos after the shoot, I was able to see some rusty mistakes I had made very early. I missed focus on some, had my ISO set too high on others, and composed poorly. But as I further went though the photos I could see myself making the proper adjustments to end up w/ more keepers, and higher quality shots. 

I promised more activity for the new year, and was able to deliver on the 2nd day of the new year. Future projects are still incoming!


Year in Review

Before writing this blog, I took a look back and re-read my previous posts from earlier in the year. I made a lot of progress this year, which I noted very specifically in the 1st half of the year. I started the year eager, and it showed. I was blogging at a worst, weekly; always eager to share new experiences, projects, and new gear. Just seeing the gap between this post, and my previous one, shows how much its been a tale of 2 halves for me this year.

The first half of the year I came out the gates, always eager to shoot. This second half of the year has been the yin to that yang. For the past few months, I have struggled to even look at my camera. Something I am very disappointed about. A lot of it has been life itself, my schedule, and also my own poor work ethic. Between a lot of distractions, I lost that lust for photography I had coveted so much only a few months prior. 

The turbulent events and distractions subsided just a few short weeks ago and I once again mustered up the courage to take a look at my work, my blog, and my gear. It had been too long and I was ready to get back into the game. In two days and two separate walks, I brought home the following shots:

Though disappointed with how I finished the year, I did accomplish quite a few things this year while motivated:

  • My continued knowledge of learning this art has led me to produce photos I am most proud of in all my years of shooting.
  • I no longer wish I had the pro gear. I have it.
  • The wonderful people I've met, and had the privilege to work side by side with to create these wonderful photographs as a result of it. 
  • For brief moments, my audience expanded even more than I had imagined. A portrait this year I had taken, literally brought tears of joy to the subjects mother. 
  • The ground work has been laid out, and the only thing holding me back is me.

2015 aims to be where I get the  train back on track and take RJHFOTO to greater heights. I have already been in contact with a few clients for shoots starting as early as the 1st weekend of the year. 

RJHFOTO is the only resolution for me this year.

Happy New Years!

Alexandra Bonventre

I haven't been quite as inactive as my timeline might lead you to believe. I've had a couple shoots in the past few weeks, but nothing I felt was truly blog worthy. This shoot with Alexandra was something I knew I'd end up typing about on this keyboard.

I met Alex @ the Knotty Gal shoot I had done a few weeks ago. She was helping there and we just happened to start up a conversation. She expressed interest in having some photos done, but had never actually modeled before. Always being difficult to turn down a pretty face in front of my camera, I volunteered to shoot her if she was truly interested. She agreed, and we scheduled a date to talk about the shoot in person.

Meeting again the following week, we both realized we were very much on the same page in terms of the type of photo we were looking for. We both have the same type of "style" when it comes to photography. She showed me some photos that she liked on Pinterest, which weren't far off from my style of shooting. Being like-minded, I knew would make the shoot, and the eventual final photos that much better. Meeting with her beforehand, also played a good role in helping developing chemistry between one another. I hate to show up the day of a shoot and having never truly met the person. I always hope this pre-shoot collaboration pays dividends the day of, making the subject that much more relaxed in front of my camera.

The shoot ended up getting postponed a few times, once because she was under the weather, and the other because of the weather (shocker). We finally had a clear day and met first thing in the AM...7 to be exact. We had discussed wanting a warmer vibe to the photos, and was hoping that a morning sunrise would help in getting to that desired effect. Alex, having never modeled before, did an excellent job. We both worked off one another's vibe and direction as time seemed to fly by with morning turning to noon.

One thing I noticed right away was her eyes, I knew I wanted to put extra effort into getting her eyes as sharp as possible, and catching as much light as possible. I wanted this so much that I whipped out a few flashes just to ensure her eyes would get a catchlight to further accentuate them. 

By the time the shoot wrapped up, we had been out there for a full 5 hours, bearing the cold fall morning. I eventually ended up catching a little cold from being out there, but wouldn't hesitate to do it again considering the final product. Thank you to Alex for going out on a limb and trying her hand at modeling and letting me be the first to document that.


Knotty Gal

A few weeks ago, I ran into a request from a local jewelry business looking for a photographer to shoot a presentation for them within the coming weeks. I responded to the request and was pleasantly surprised by a response a few days later. Nur-E, co-founder of Knotty Gal , sent me an email saying out of dozens of photographers whom had applied for the position, she liked my work best and offered me the gig. Of course agreeing, I was set to shoot at a boutique hotel rooftop in Georgetown to document the event the following week.

As what always happens any time I am scheduled to shoot, it rained the day of the shoot. Not typically bad news for an event shoot, unless the shoot was supposed to take place on the rooftop of a hotel. I am sure this was more inconvenient for Nur-E and Knotty gal, as they had to relocate their show to the lobby of the hotel. This further trickled down to effecting me because this lobby was very limited in space. In addition to that, the available light was dismal. After a quick survey of the working area, I knew I'd need a fast and versatile lens. I attached the 24-70 f/2.8 and never took it off my body. 

Things got more difficult as the night progressed. What little natural light I had coming from the lobby windows was getting less and less, as the day was already overcast to begin with. I was shooting at a minimum of 3200 ISO but eventually had to settled on 6400 ISO to even consider hand holding w/o a flash. I had a couple options available to me which I eventually dismissed. I had a faster 50mm prime in my bag, but it was beginning to get too crowded to even move. With the limited space to move, 50mm was too long a focal length. I also had my flash on me which I did attempt to use a bit inside. Problem w/ this, was that again, the lobby was so small, anytime I popped that flash, I had a crowd of people looking at me. The flash could be seen from pretty much any angle in the lobby. This altered the mood of the event  and lost a lot of its naturalness. After a few shots w/ the flash, I again decommissioned it for the time being.

Eventually, we were notified by the hotel that the rooftop was being made available again, the rain had stopped. They relocated back upstairs to continue the party. I was relieved to get more working space until I noted the time. It was after 8PM by this point and the sun was setting rapidly. No more natural light for me! At this point, I attached my flash back to my camera and knew I'd be using it for the remainder of the night. I shot until after 9 giving them over 3 hours of shooting. 

I was exhausted after a full day having been up since before 6AM. I had a ton of fun and met a lot of really successful, yet extremely friendly people. This shoot turned out to be quite a learning experience for me, and easily my most difficult event shoot to date. I had never been apart of a shoot that kinda just had all things go wrong in terms of photographer preferences. With all that being said, I still believe I got the job done regardless of the obstacles. 

I wish Knotty Gal and Nur-E the best of luck, and hopefully we run into each other again in the future.

Christiana Reloaded

The first shoot before the engagement shoot was almost completely impromptu. Christiana had hit me up a few weeks prior saying she'd like to collaborate again, for a possible urban shoot. My schedule was filling, but I told her we'd get it done.....then my crazy life went down the tank for three weeks.

Stressing to myself that I was back in this for sure, I told her Sunday morning, we'd shoot no matter what. Sunday came, and of course I had a 2nd shoot in the evening so I had to make sure we made the most of our time. We metro'ed into DC and went to Adams Morgan. I had taken my camera for a stroll there once a long time ago, and I remembered there were long alleyways that would make a great urban style shot. Unfortunately for us, I couldn't remember exactly where I had seen these alleyways. When we finally found them, we had maybe an hour left to shoot.

Generally my portrait style had been very desaturated, when it came to portraits. I had been aiming for generally softer/lighter looking photos. With me wanting urban, and in an alleyway, I didn't think that style would lend itself well to the type of feel I wanted to achieve from our shoot. I processed these much more contrasty/saturated/and more edge. I wanted it to feel completely opposite of what I'd been shooting prior. 

I told her this out loud as we were shooting, I wanted to see sexy, a bitch, an attitude. Our last shoot was cute, warm, and gentle. I wanted to see grunge this time around, a complete contrast from our first meeting. WIth the hour left, a different take on our first shoot, and a little creativity in the lightroom, this is what we got: Enjoy!

Christiana Hohenrainer Reloaded

Incredible 3 Weeks (In a Bad Way) + Engagement Shoot

I try to keep my blog as photography oriented as possible. I don't really talk too much about my personal life on here, and for reason. But the past couple weeks have been ridiculous. In 3 weeks, I've changed my relationship status, visited an eye doctor because my contacts were killing my eyes, visited an ear doctor because of an ear infection, got into a car accident, and bought a new car. I say all this to say, for about 3 weeks, I hadn't touched my camera or any of my gear. As soon as I got my new camera, tragedy seemed to hit in a variety of ways, keeping me out the photography game.

But all of that is now behind me. Moving on w/ my life and (again) photography has returned to the forefront of my concerns. Moving on with my life, I booked 2 shoots over the weekend, one for Saturday and one for Sunday. The Saturday shoot was an engagement shoot for my barber, and friend of mine for the past 10 years or so. And following the pattern of all my scheduled outdoor shots, it opted to rain that day. We re-booked for the following evening instead. 

People act very different in front of a camera. Some stiffen up (I know I do.), some live for the camera, and others pretend you aren't there. This couple was a combo of the latter two. While shooting them, I gave very little direction. They seemed to go into their own zone, and almost seemed to forget I was even taking their picture. Sometimes I'd ask them to look up, smile, give each other a little peck; but they mostly did what came natural to them. I came in w/ a mindset that I'd be directing them w/ their poses but quickly changed up strategies and focused on moreso capturing moments. I let them do what felt right to them, and I think this helped them relax in front of the camera, and helped me in capturing authentic moments.

Overall, I think it was a successful shoot. They were a great couple to be around and even better couple to shoot. Another event in the books, and prepping for the next!


D810 in it's First Trial Run

After feeling like Christmas in July on Thursday, I had to wait patiently until Saturday to really take my new toy out to play. Beforehand, I tried to get used to the newly placed buttons and get all my settings to my liking (back button focus FTW). Saturday morning, I was up and antsy to hop on the metro to get into DC.

It was a long day of shooting. About 8 hours, almost 12 miles of walking, and 20k+ steps actually taken (thanks to the Samsung Galaxy S5 for actually recording that). I visited multiple places, The National Mall, China town, 2 museums, a couple outdoor gardens and attractions, Georgetown, and Rosslyn, VA to name a few stops. I really tried to put the camera through it's paces. I tried to shoot a wide variety of things, from tiny bugs, to gigantic skyscrapers. 

All in all, the camera didn't fail to meet expectations. Coming from the D800 to D810 was not a huge learning curve. A few newly placed buttons, but I felt right at home from the get go. I can't comment enough about the new viewfinder and actual feel of the camera in hand. The viewfinder actually does feel like a significant upgrade from the D800. It is much clearer, so much a difference that I hadn't even noticed that my D800 wasn't up to par. The deeper grip on the D810 is a blessing for me as well, making the camera much more comfortable to hold, even on 8 hour trips into the city.

The D800 was the best camera I had ever owned. I'm sure I still haven't learned what it can fully do and how to totally use it to its potential. But in what I use it for, the D810 manages to improve upon such a high standard previously set by its predecessor. I look forward to moving forward and using this camera on future projects and assignments. 

A few sample images from my travels, all images (aside from a few exposure corrections in PS) are straight out of the camera. No additional sharpening or clarity was added.