JKB Photography: Blog https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog en-us (C) JKB Photography (JKB Photography) Wed, 15 Apr 2020 15:58:00 GMT Wed, 15 Apr 2020 15:58:00 GMT https://www.jkb-photo.com/img/s/v-12/u333387791-o66088565-50.jpg JKB Photography: Blog https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog 90 120 Pandemic Porch Portraits https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/4/pandemic-porch-portraits I had a great time doing the portraits over Easter weekend - so much positivity! I met and talked to more neighbors this week (from a safe distance) - some who lived just a few doors down - than in more than a decade living here.

Back in the "before time" - those halcyon days of February, 2020 - I went to a neighborhood gathering for the first time in years, and now I'm even more glad I decided to go.

I made about 15 portraits, became famous, and learned two interesting things:

1) Apparently I'm developing quite the bald spot in the back. (I never see the back of my head, so I had no idea!)

2) People had two main motivations for taking portraits. Some, perhaps those with a darker sense of humor, wanted a fun distraction. They found this way of defusing tension with humor, embraced the absurdity, and made it part of their lives.

Others reacted against the disruption and chaos intruding into their lives, and sought a way to restore balance. For them, getting dressed up for a family portrait (especially on a holiday), was a way to "feel normal" again.

If more people want these, I'll just keep doing them. It was a lot of fun, and a good way to "sharpen the saw" during a lot of downtime. I can only take so many pictures of birds from my porch :)

I'll keep the gallery updated as I add new ones. (They're private by default, unless people decide to share them.)

IMG_0302Swan Acres IMG_9829IMG_9829 IMG_9604IMG_9604 IMG_9891IMG_9891  


(JKB Photography) Coronavirus COVID-19 Front Porch Project pandemic photography social distancing https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/4/pandemic-porch-portraits Wed, 15 Apr 2020 15:56:34 GMT
"Viral" Photography https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/4/-viral-photography My heart goes out to anyone impacted by this pandemic: families with children with schools shut down, seniors in assisted living, local businesses struggling, and many others. I put off writing this for weeks, since this is a photography blog, and I try to stay on topic. Unfortunately, this has pretty much taken over our lives at this point, and while it will pass, I fear it will be with us for some time to come.

I count myself fortunate that - so far at least - no one in my family or immediate circle has fallen ill, and only business has suffered. Needless to say, it has devastated countless small businesses - especially photography, which after all consists almost entirely of gathering large groups of people close together! Of course, the real tragedy is not that I can't photograph weddings and events - but that the weddings and events are no longer happening. Smaller weddings are still possible in some areas of the country, but not here. I am still trying to book some for the regular season - September and October - for the brave souls willing to schedule anything these days. The present restrictions will surely be lifted by summer, if things continue to go "well," but if it mutates, or comes back for successive waves (as happened in 1918), there's always a chance they will be reimposed.

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a "downer" post - but a story of perseverance and hope! I am still working to the extent possible - limited as that may be. Just last week I booked a headshot session, showed up in full mask and gloves (felt ridiculous, but that's the world now) - and it went off without a hitch.

IMG_20200328_142057IMG_20200328_142057 IMG_9426-EditIMG_9426-Edit

I had been looking forward to visiting family in New York for Easter (upstate at least) - obviously that's not happening now. So instead, I'd like to do something else over Easter weekend. Most of my family portraits and some headshots have been outdoor shoots anyway - and now that "social distancing" is the only way to go -- why not take memorable family portraits or headshots from the street? People are out on their porches anyway, especially now that the weather has broken. What a great opportunity to capture and memorialize this historic time!

I thought of this a couple weeks ago, and since it's a fairly obvious thing to think of, I wasn't the only one. Down south a photographer started the Front Porch Project Facebook Page, but so far I haven't seen anything like that in Pittsburgh. 

So this coming weekend, I'd like to do this in my local neighborhood. I'll post an update if I can pull this off. Wish me luck!

(JKB Photography) corona virus front porch project headshot photography photography social distancing https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/4/-viral-photography Sun, 05 Apr 2020 20:41:26 GMT
Imaging USA 2020 https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/3/imaging-usa-2020 This year I made my annual pilgrimage to the biggest, best Professional Photography conference of the year - Imaging USA. (Thankfully, before the Corona virus, or it surely would have been canceled!)

It was held in Nashville again at the absolutely amazing Gaylord Opryland hotel. If you've never been, I highly recommend thinking up some excuse to go there, because it's the kind of place you need to see to believe. An "indoor" space so huge there's a river running through it - you can take a *boat* from your room to the event space -- and it's easy to think you're actually outside.

I always learn a lot, but I believe this year was exceptional. All the celebrity photographers are there giving talks and classes, and the public trade show is packed with all the latest gear and goods. It's a professional photographers dream; always very inspiring. I went to every class I could (I'm also one of the event photographers, assigned to cover some of the classes and events) - and one of the best classes (on videography) was the very first one: 8 am on a Sunday. Imaging USA is the only time you'll find me up that early, much less on a Sunday!

IMG_6858IMG_6858 IMG_7285IMG_7285 IMG_7559IMG_7559 IMG_7908IMG_7908

(JKB Photography) https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2020/3/imaging-usa-2020 Fri, 13 Mar 2020 22:25:28 GMT
Mailbox of Horrors https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/8/mailbox-of-horrors Every summer my home is invaded, but -- so far -- each year I've managed to thwart the evil at my very threshold and bind it to a small, black box. The Mailbox... of Horrors!


If a spider can be said to have a lair, this massive construction surely qualifies. It extends nearly two feet above the box, and several inches to all sides. Strewn with the exoskeletons of previous molts -- when this eight-legged mail monster was slightly smaller and marginally less terrifying -- it spirals down into a vortex of evil darkness that, more often than not, sports two or three ominously protruding legs.

mb-abovemb-above mb-scalemb-scale

My daughter not only refuses to get the mail now, she doesn't even like entering through that door! I've found that giving the darkness a name makes it less frightening. Meet "Mortimer G. Cuddlebug"


Don't be shy; he's certainly not! If you lean over he will actually rush out, in a rather alarming manner, to investigate. I don't think he's capable of actually leaping up at my face, but I trust you'll forgive me for not thoroughly testing that theory. I hope he's just reacting to my breath on the web, and isn't being drawn to the darkness in my soul or anything. (Not that my soul has a lot of darkness; I expect it's actually pretty shiny and bright.)

I don't know how the thing doesn't get fried in the 100+ degree direct sunlight on metal all afternoon; maybe he creeps behind the wooden shutters, or retreats into a fifth dimension. Late fall he just disappears, in the manner of Stephen KIng's IT, only to reappear each year mid-June or so.

If he sticks around until October the web will make a nice Halloween decoration.

(JKB Photography) horror house spiders scary spiders spiders https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/8/mailbox-of-horrors Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:17:46 GMT
Walking with Bats https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/7/walking-with-bats You might expect to see some pictures of bats in a post about a Bat Walk at the Venture Outdoors Bat Walk at Wingfield Pines -- a former golf course, now turned water-cleansing wetland. I did see many a bat... but in my defense, these little buggers are small and fast. Also, it was dark, and I was being eaten alive by mosquitos! Even though the bats were theoretically eating 500 of the vicious little pests an hour -- they still weren't keeping up!


I did get one flying thing, at least. Birds are much easier. They perch, and they fly slower -- and in straight lines. Bats aren't navigating visually, have no particular destination in mind  -- other than their next insectile snack -- so they move like fighter jets in a dogfight. (If I could shrink myself down and ride one, I'd be throwing up for sure.)

The bats live (in colonies of 10-100, they said) in "bat boxes" like this. Just picture this box stuffed with little fuzzy flying hamsters :-) I tried to hard to get a shot of a bat emerging (they come out the bottom), but had no luck. They move too fast to even see, much less photograph without an elaborate setup.


I also tried some macro shots of the abundant local plant life. This effort reinforced what I already knew -- you need a tripod for good macro photography. I should probably get a small tripod for this purpose; it wasn't feasible to bring one of my big ones to an event like this. I did the best I could, but they're all a little soft.

pIMG_0433pIMG_0433 pIMG_0431pIMG_0431 pIMG_0428pIMG_0428 pIMG_0432pIMG_0432

As an unexpected, very welcome bonus, we had a little campfire afterward, S'mores and all. I highly recommend Wingfield Pines for an outing -- just don't be stingy with the "Deep Woods Off". 

pIMG_0510pIMG_0510 pIMG_0508pIMG_0508

(JKB Photography) Bats Wingfield Pines campfire https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/7/walking-with-bats Fri, 24 Jul 2015 04:45:00 GMT
Chips be Trippin' https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/7/chips-be-trippin Did you ever accidentally open a mushroom farm? I don't remember planting mushrooms (or doing whatever you do to make fungus grow outside your refrigerator) -- but that's exactly seems to have happened. I woke up one morning to a fungal field day, with several patches this size or greater:


Most were of this general type, but there were also red, orange, and yellow ones! These things are huge -- several inches across -- and they grew literally overnight. And it keeps happening. About every other day I remove one or sometimes two grocery bags full of several pounds of mushrooms.

It's been raining a lot, so apparently some sort of chemical threshold for favorable fungal growth has been reached -- or Tim Burton is sneaking onto my lawn every night and shooting an Alice in Wonderland sequel on a budget.

(Sorry for using cell phone pictures on a photography blog, but I was just too shocked to go get my camera!)

Apparently, I'm not the only one who's noticed these invaders. This morning I saw two chipmunks having quite a party. They were apparently just sunning on a rock -- but then one turned suddenly, walked a couple steps to dart down his hole -- and missed! Overshot a little and bumped his head on a pillar. Then the other one turned and tried to follow, but kept listing to the right. Finally he found the wall and just sort of sidled along it for a while.

Upon closer inspection, some of the larger mushrooms bear marks that look suspiciously like chewing... so the conclusion is obvious. My chipmunks have been chowing down on psychedelics! 

Making them easy prey...


Of course, now I'm thinking. How can I get the cat to try them?


(JKB Photography) chipmunks lawn mushrooms party psychedelic tripping https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/7/chips-be-trippin Fri, 10 Jul 2015 02:26:05 GMT
Shoots I won't be doing https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/shoots-i-wont-be-doing Nope. Just... nope!

I'd thought those Russian circus bears who ride around on tricycles were mostly just in cartoons (or at least a lot smaller than they appeared), but this video proves me wrong! How much did they pay these models? It's an impressive shoot: from the array of props they dragged out into the woods, to the tolerant models who never so much as shiver. (That brings to mind a few models I've shot *indoors* at room temperature who complained incessantly about "freezing".)

As Siegfried and Roy can attest, giant wild animals can still be dangerous, no matter how tame. I'm glad this worked out for everyone, and it's an awesome video on many levels, particularly the behind-the-scenes elements... but, don't try this at home! You'd never find a bear that big anyway.

(On second thought, I would totally do this -- with a bearskin *rug*.)


(JKB Photography) bear bikini model https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/shoots-i-wont-be-doing Wed, 24 Jun 2015 20:00:00 GMT
The Legend Rolls On https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/the-legend-rolls-on Harley Davidson machineHarley Davidson machine pIMG_9004Three Rivers Harley

Things got pretty hot at Three River's Harley Davidson last weekend, and not all the heat was coming from the sun. I never wear sunglasses on a shoot (they interfere with seeing how the light falls), but I have no rules against shorts. Nevertheless, I was in heavy long pants, and within an hour I was red and sweating, wishing I could take some clothes off.

Luckily for everyone, the Harley bikini contest girls were under no such constraints. They were all lovely, but for the record, I correctly guessed that Nikki would win.

NikkiNikkiCalled it! Ms Three Rivers Harley2015 Ms. Three Rivers Harley Davidson Ms. Three Rivers on BikeMs. Three Rivers

Did you know girls in bikinis make terrible mechanics? They'll overcharge you every time!

Never trust a bikini mechanicBad mechanicsNever trust a mechanic in a bikini

There were some other girls there too (with untested mechanical skills):

All contestantsAll contestants

Always on the lookout for creative opportunities, I find I'm increasingly gravitating toward portrait work. My method is simple:

1) Look for interesting people

2) Stalk them relentlessly

3) Contort my body into the least comfortable position possible and hold it for several seconds to several minutes, waiting for the subjects to do something interesting -- and for the guy messily eating a hotdog in the background to get out of the (*@&#$@ way

4)  Slather on the Ben Gay while I pick the best shot

pIMG_9679Lead SingerThe music was great! pIMG_9150Sindel Couple on benchCouple on bench Laughing girlLaughing girl Cigar manCigar man 80s Hair80s Hair The judgeThe judgeThe judge Eye see youEye see youEye see you

(JKB Photography) Harley Davidson bikini contest https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/the-legend-rolls-on Sat, 20 Jun 2015 00:05:31 GMT
Ten Little Goslings https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/ten-little-goslings I was driving out of a theater parking lot in late afternoon, and I saw the most beautiful light in a nearby meadow... and then these little guys came strolling right through it.


Not too much to say, here. Pretty much just nature porn :-)


pIMG_8596pIMG_8596 pIMG_8714pIMG_8714



Mommmmm! He's doing it again!

(JKB Photography) Geese goslings light meadow silhouette https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/6/ten-little-goslings Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:00:00 GMT
Continuing Education https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/continuing-education In photography as in life, you never want to fall into a rut. Never want to let your skills go stale.

Sure, there are sites out there like Learn HalesKelby One, and PHLEARN. But for advanced topics, it's hard to beat Peta Pixel:

How to get squirrels to use props...

(JKB Photography) animal photography props https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/continuing-education Sat, 30 May 2015 00:00:00 GMT
Starry, Starry Night https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/starry-starry-night One thing I love about Pittsburgh is all the parks, and I'm making it my mission to visit all of them. One I hadn't been to before was Deer Lakes, and when I heard the Wagman Observatory was having a "star party," I thought that would be a perfect excuse to experiment with long exposures.

There is a whole field of "star photography," involving cameras connected to telescopes and tracking devices. But I'm too lazy for all that :-) My pictures were (mostly) of things much closer -- in fact, attached to -- the Earth.

All the lights there are red (to preserve night vision), and they have two large telescopes, one an historic 11-in reflector built in 1908. Here I am looking into the visitor's area -- and sometimes at the camera.


Here I'm checking on the rotation of the Earth (yup; still turning). And experimenting with adding white light (with a small pen flashlight), to see how it affects colors. Apparently the more light I add, the more "true color" the picture becomes.


Everyone was busy assembling gear and retrieving items through the night. I almost lost my backpack in the dark a couple times. Note to self: next time get a red filter for my flashlight!


If you try to hand-hold the camera, the crescent moon starts to look like the Challenger disaster :-)


Anyway, had a great time checking out distant comets and even more distant galaxies. Jupiter and Venus were out as well. I love this "ghost effect" of long exposures. Somehow on this one I got both the very faint red light leaking through the door below, blue in the sky (even though it was actually very dark), and somehow even clouds. I was exposing for 30s at ISO 1000 or so, F11-22.


(JKB Photography) Deer Lakes park Wagman Observatory light painting night photography photography telescopes https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/starry-starry-night Mon, 25 May 2015 00:25:55 GMT
I only run when chased https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/i-only-run-when-chased The Pittsburgh Marathon has once again come and gone, and I'm exhausted! I started training a couple weeks before, lifting 6 oz. cups. First water, then the heavier Gatorade (all that powder!). Within a week I was up to 10 oz., and the day before I was killing it with full-size 12 oz. paper cups. 

Yeah, I'm not a runner, but I can hand out a mean glass of water! I've been volunteering with CMU Alumni for 3 years now, and I love it. ('Cause, better them than me!) If you know someone brave enough to run -- or would like to remind yourself why you're not a runner -- I encourage you to volunteer next year. (There's a fair amount of swag, and even a volunteer appreciation party.)

pIMG_8137pIMG_8137 pIMG_8335pIMG_8335

My station is near mile 23 -- near the end -- and I'm always amazed at how few are gasping for their last breath, bleeding from the nipples, or at least hobbling in pain by this point. (Actually, a fair number are bleeding from the nipples. Nip friction is no joke; this must be a common newbie mistake :-)

I would be dying, so it's a testament to good training that so many last this long and still look good. Of course, being near the end also means that those who were unfit probably dropped out miles ago. It got progressively hotter through the day, and near the end people were grabbing 2-3 cups and doing this with the last one!


I have great respect for all the runners. I was so tired just standing in the sun for 6 hours (and running around a bit taking pictures), that I felt as though I'd run it myself. There are always a few interesting characters:

pIMG_8328pIMG_8328 pIMG_8296pIMG_8296 pIMG_8252pIMG_8252

In the words of one runner, "You Stay Classy, Pittsburgh!" (Did they really run the whole thing in costume like that?) See you next year!

pIMG_8531pIMG_8531 pIMG_8082pIMG_8082

(JKB Photography) Marathon Pittsburgh https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/5/i-only-run-when-chased Tue, 12 May 2015 04:14:15 GMT
Adventures in cat sitting https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/4/adventures-in-cat-sitting It's a great responsibility... but also a great opportunity for capturing those special moments of creature comfort and feline ferocity.

Meet Sapphire:

pIMG_6239pIMG_6239 pIMG_6180pIMG_6180

Kitten. Instigator. And "personal trainer" to a certain much older, much fatter Tom named Mr. Seymour. An old Tom who's rapidly losing weight from alternately pouncing in anger and fleeing in terror.

pIMG_6196pIMG_6196 pIMG_6211pIMG_6211 ‚Äč

Sometimes he sees her coming from a long way off.


Other times, she takes him by surprise... that's when the claws come out!


Once in a while, Mr. Seymour just wants to chill, in a classic "draw me like one of your French girls" pose. He's still so fat, he can't really roll over or move much at all without falling off, but it's fun to watch him try (and occasionally fail, always followed by a reproachful little "I meant to do that" mrow).


Sapphire has her pensive moments, too.


Yet most of their time together seems occupied by wrestling, or a particularly feline version of tag. The most entertaining part of that is their wordless "negotiation" concerning who is "it." Sometimes they guess wrong, and both shoot off in opposite directions.

Let me tell you, Sapphire has some straight-up Ninja wrestling moves. She runs flat out straight at him, and what follows when they meet is always different, and always entertaining. Once she jumped straight up over him, spun 180 degrees in mid-air, and gently nipped him at the base of his tail. Another time, rather than leaping straight up, she somersaulted when halfway there, slid feet first across the hardwood floor *under him*, then wrapped all four paws around him from below and *flipped* him over. These things happen so fast; if I ever got them on video, they'd go viral for sure!


(JKB Photography) https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/4/adventures-in-cat-sitting Wed, 15 Apr 2015 23:58:42 GMT
Mannequins are terrifying https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/3/mannequins-are-terrifying Imaging USA was a revelation. It was my first photography conference, and I showed up in Nashville with high hopes. I'd also hoped it would be warm (being in the South and all), but it turns out Tenneessee is not quite south *enough*. I felt "Day after Tomorrow" cold there in my light jacket. One morning I even scraped ice off my car like it was Minnesota.
They pair up newbies with established veterans, and I had the good fortune to be matched with Courtney Vernier. That's got to be one of the most mellifluous, artsy names I've ever heard -- and with several merit images to her name, she lives up to it.
Anyway, we were talking about the challenges of human models for portraiture, and how I was having such a hard time nailing all the technical details necessary to earn CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) status. No way would my daughter sit still for me that long! Other people suggested using "still life" props like pumpkins, but how does that help with getting the light and shadows right on a human face?
I have a friend who just graduated beauty school, and it occurred to me then that what I really needed was one of those mannequin heads. Or even better, a full-size model. Trouble is, those aren't normally for sale. There might be something on Craigslist -- but if somebody's selling life-sized female mannequins on Craigslist, I'm not sure I want to drive alone to his house. And I'm quite sure I don't want to think about what a guy like that might have been doing with it, or why he's selling it now.
And then a light went off in my head! Or, as I like to think of it now, my mental Speedlite fired... and I knew exactly what I had to do. Not everyone has the good fortune to know a crazy Iranian with a large collection of female model mannequins of dubious origin... but I do happen to be so blessed! He generously agreed to part with one, so I emptied my trunk and headed on over. 
There was one fiberglass fatality on the way down the stairs -- these things are heavy -- but in the end all it took was a couple hours of stuffing several suspicious packages in my trunk, driving across town, and sneaking them up through my basement. 
Well... then a few minutes of head scratching, reminiscent of the last time I bought something at IKEA, before all the tab A's finally fit into the right slot B's, and I had at my disposal a very life-like -- and infinitely patient -- photography model.
It didn't come with clothes though, other than a fairly ratty wig. Not to worry! My daughter's studying abroad for several months, so her closet was ripe for rifling. Unfortunately, she is small and Asian: not the demographic for which these mannequins were designed. So of course none of her clothes fit. 
Now, having a mannequin in your house at all is creepy enough; a nude mannequin would be just a little too much, and much harder to explain. I'm really just concerned about the facial planes anyway, so I threw a T-shirt on her and called it good.
Pro tip for the day after you get a mannequin: try to avoid this sequence of events:
1) Watch a horror movie
2) Get up for a drink in the darkest hour of the night
3) Forget there is a life-size human figure -- with hair -- at the bottom of the stairs, backlit by street lamps shining through my front door glass
There's a step 4 and, arguably, 5. But I'd prefer to just put this incident behind us and move on.
I definitely underestimated the "creepy factor" of having a mannequin in my house. The thing still
occasionally startles me!
Still more facial expressions than Kristen Stewart!
(JKB Photography) Imaging USA mannequin model photography https://www.jkb-photo.com/blog/2015/3/mannequins-are-terrifying Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:02:38 GMT