A meeting of creative minds

8 01 2012

On Wednesday morning I drove from San Antonio to Austin to visit my friends Brian and Shirley Loflin. The next day I had the pleasure of lunch at P.F. Chang’s in Austin on Thursday with four fellow creatives.

BRIAN LOFLIN
Brian is my former boss, photography mentor and friend of more than 25 years. He is a freelance photographer and photography instructor in Austin and his career spans more than four decades in the advertising, aviation, bio-medical and publishing industries. Brian is past president of the Minnesota Nature Photographers and founder and current president of the Austin Shutterbug Club. He is a photography instructor in the Informal Classes program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Brian and his wife, Shirley, actively teach and conduct seminars and workshops in many areas of photography. They authored, produced and photographed Grasses of the Texas Hill Country and Texas Cacti, two photographic field guides for Texas A&M University Press and available at most booksellers. They have just completed text and photography for their next book, Texas Wildflower Vistas and Hidden Treasures, also by Texas A&M University Press.

Visit Brian’s natural science photography blog here. You’ll find his commercial work here. In his other business, The Nature Connection, he provides photography and digital imaging services to biologists, professionals, educators and others involved in the natural sciences. He is also available for workshops, seminars and presentations, as well as group and one-on-one training in nature photography, macro/close-up photography, beginning digital photography, field photography and composition and light.

STEVEN SCHWARTZMAN
Austin photographer Steven Schwartzman began his blog, Portraits of Wildflowers, just eight months ago. He commented on my blog many months ago and we formed a sort of mutual admiration society and have kept in touch ever since. His work is beautiful and many times I have said to myself, “I would have shot that one just like he did.” I think that his style, composition and capture of light is so similar to mine.

I e-mailed him when I left Virginia and asked if he would like to get together for lunch when I came up to Austin. It was then that I discovered that he also knew Brian through the Austin Shutterbug Camera Club and the Native Plant Society. He said he was surprised to learn, via my blog posts last March after I visited Brian in Austin for a Joe McNally / Dave Hobby workshop on the Flash Bus Tour, that I had known Brian for more than 20 years!

Steven’s photography has been published numerous times in Texas Highways magazine. In 2007, his photograph of a basket-flower was one of a hundred finalists in Parade magazine’s photo contest on the theme “Celebrate America’s Beauty.” In 2009 and 2010, he was commissioned to provide all the photographs and text for three laminated wildflower guides for Quick Reference Publishing. He has contributed more than 200 photographs to the native plant database of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. His other interests include natural foods and language. I particularly enjoy his fascination with words in his other blog, Spanish-English Word Connections. He has written an excellent tutorial about his photography techniques on his blog here.

From Steven’s blog:
I grew up on Long Island and went to college at Columbia University, where I majored in French. Upon graduation I spent 1968 and 1969 as a Peace Corps math teacher in Honduras; I learned that I was good not only at math (which I knew) but also at teaching it (which I’d had no reason to suspect). It was also in Honduras that I learned the rudiments of photography and got my first “real” camera, a Pentax Spotmatic. In the late 1970s and early 1980s I did a fair amount of art photography and eventually published three books of 3-D infrared photographs. The combination of 3-D and black-and-white infrared was an unusual one but I was fond of it, at least in part because it was unique. My book
Bodies of Light won an award from the Printing Industries of America in 1981.

I moved to Austin on July 6, 1976, two days after my birthday and the 200th anniversary of American independence. In my early years in Texas I did some landscape photography, still primarily in black and white infrared. I was an early adopter of digital photography: in 1999 I launched into a project to produce a photographic CD documenting the Austin area. In the process, I grew increasingly aware of and captivated by the many species of native plants that grow here; they became and remain my primary photographic subject.

It was such a treat being able to meet Steven in person. He is the first fellow blogger I’ve officially met in person and likewise for him! I’m hoping to be able to do a mini photo field trip with Steven in Austin before I head back to Virginia later this month.

SONYA MENDEKE
Sonya Mendeke, a freelance print and web designer living in Austin, is my former college classmate, one-time roommate and lifelong friend. You can see her design work on her newly-redesigned website here. Her hobbies include painting, sculpting and photography. You can see her graphic design work here. She also created whimsical and colorful paper clay “Bugs with Attitude” as well as birdhouses and plant pots.

During our lunch, I shared one of my favorite memories of Sonya. When we were both in college, I lived with her in a large two-bedroom apartment not far from the university. Both of us made extra spending money by doing odd freelance illustration jobs. At some point Sonya connected with a cattleman who wanted her to do drawings of his prize sire bulls for a catalog he was publishing. She showed him her portfolio and one of her illustrations was done in an illustration method called stippling. Wikipedia identifies stippling as “the creation of a pattern simulating varying degrees of solidity or shading by using small dots. … the dots are made of a pigment of a single colour, applied with a pen or brush; the denser the dots, the darker the apparent shade—or lighter, if the pigment is lighter than the surface.” Folks, we’re talking thousands upon thousands of dots to create one illustration. Thousands.

The cattleman loved the stippling style and asked her to replicate it on at least a dozen or more illustrations. She recalls being offered something like $300 for the project. Since we’re talking early 80s, I’m quite certain it wasn’t $300 per illustration. It was most likely that much for the entire portfolio of drawings. With dollars signs in her twinkling brown eyes, Sonya jumped into the project immediately.

It wasn’t long before I heard sailor-worthy words muttered from her bedroom studio, occasionally drowned out only by the never-ending tap-tap-tap of her trusty India-ink-filled Rapidograph pen. Night after night I would find her, mechanical pen in one hand, cigarette in the other, endless cups of coffee nearby, stippling into the wee hours of the morning—exhausted, hopped up on caffeine and almost losing her (creative) mind. The illustrations were wonderful and she did get paid. Afterward, check in hand, she vowed she would never stipple again, no matter what the compensation. I’m sure that, to this day, she still hears the tap-tap-tap sounds deep in her subconscious. In addition to the stippling method, I doubt that she is so fond of things bovine either.

Two years ago, Sonya was interviewed in a video by Roy Gatling and Austin-Artists.com. You can view that video, Saving the earth, one piece of art at a time, here. Roy Gatling is Senior Manager, Project Management at Dell and the husband of another of my college classmates, Maria Gatling, also an Austin artist. Roy and Maria are the co-founders of Austin-Artists.com and Austin-Architecture.com. Check out Maria’s self-published notebook and workshop titled, Be Inspired—Creative Something Every Day, here and her creativity blog here.

PHIL CHARLTON
Phil is a friend of Brian’s and a professional photographer in Austin. He specializes in architectural interiors, but shoots beautiful landscapes and fine art images as well. I especially love his images of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas (at left). The chapel looks very much like Garvan Woodland Gardens’ Anthony Chapel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, which I photographed a few years ago on a road trip with my friend Sue.

From Phil’s zenfolio site
(www.philcharlton.zenfolio.com):
I am a native Oklahoman with a Cherokee heritage. After graduating from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1966 with a double major in math and physics, I moved to Texas where I entered the space industry at NASA. During my 17 years at NASA I worked in the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs designing and testing many systems essential to space exploration.

I left NASA for a second career in the computer business. I held positions at Compaq and Dell before taking early retirement. It was during my NASA years that a friend influenced me to buy a professional quality camera and that led to my current interest as a professional photographer.

My wife Amanda and I have lived in the Austin area for the past 18 years. We enjoy traveling the world and have visited many exotic locales such as Belize, South and Eastern Africa, United Kingdom, Peru, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and Canada. The beautiful sites of these distant lands are inspirational to my photography.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Joe McNally Presents: A 9/11 Remembrance, In Pictures

6 09 2011

Joe McNally is one of my very favorite photographers. He has been shooting for more than 30 years and was LIFE magazine’s staff photographer from 1994-1998. He has contributed to National Geographic magazine for 20 years and is the author of The Moment It Clicks and The Hotshoe Diaries (which I highly recommend adding to your library!). Wikipedia reports, “McNally has been described by American Photo magazine as perhaps the most versatile photojournalist working today and was listed as one of the hundred most important people in photography.” Check out McNally’s website and blog here.

I attended one of his Flash Bus Tour workshops in Austin this past spring. He paired up with local photographer and flash guru, David Hobby of Strobist.com fame, for the entire tour. Dave lives in nearby Maryland and his website is a great resource for lighting tips. (I intend to blog about that fantastic workshop and share photos soon. I shot this photo of Joe during the workshop).

McNally recently guest blogged on Scott Kelby‘s Photoshop Insider blog. Scott, another of my favorite teachers, is a graphic designer, photographer, the editor-in-chief of Photoshop User magazine and the founder of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). Scott is a best-selling author as well, having penned more than 40 books. He is also president of Kelby Media Group, an Oldsmar, Florida-based software training, education, and publishing firm. He is most definitely a Renaissance man—there’s not much he can’t (or doesn’t already) do!

In his guest spot, McNally writes about shooting 246 portraits of NYC firemen with the Giant Polaroid camera in the aftermath of 9/11 in Joe McNally Presents: A 9/11 Remembrance, In Pictures. It is an inspiring read with amazing photos accompanying it. Head over to it here.





Lulu & Kato

5 04 2011

Lulu (left) and her brother Kato are five months old and live with their humans, Brian and Shirley, in Austin, Texas. I flew into Austin on Thursday, March 24. Brian and I attended Joe McNally and David “Strobist” Hobby’s Flash Bus Tour 2011 on Friday (recap and photos to come—it was one fantastic day-long workshop!). I stayed with Brian and Shirley and had an event-filled, fun and informative weekend. Every night Lulu and Kato slept at the foot of my bed and made me feel quite welcome—and they were quite photogenic, to boot!

My week+ away was full and I’ll cover several events in future postings, including a recap of the energetic Flash Bus Tour 2011 workshop on Friday with Joe McNally and David “Strobist” Hobby (read Joe’s recap of the Austin workshop here); a wonderful sneak preview at the University of Texas campus of Dinomorphosis, the upcoming National Geographic film by filmmaker Jenny Kubo, followed by Dinosaurs in Living Color, a lecture by Dr. Julia Clarke, Associate Professor, Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin; visiting the wonderful Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin to view the first photograph ever taken (1826)—by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce on his country estate near Chalon-sur-Saone, France (awe-inspiring for this photographer!) and see The Gutenberg Bible, one of only five complete examples in the U.S.; a grand tour of Austin the morning of Sunday, March 27 with Sonya, my dear friend/fellow graphic designer-artist/former college roommate (check out her adorable Bugs with Attitude in her etsy store here), followed by an afternoon photo excursion with her to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (my first visit there); then on to San Antonio to visit my family for the rest of the week (which included a fun wire crochet/beaded necklace class with my sister this past Friday—the process is actually easier than it looks and I’ll share our results in a future post—yeah, as if I needed another hobby).

From the “It’s a small world after all” department: Sonya and I reconnected as a result of this blog! She was looking for photographs of goats to use as reference in a clay sculpture project when her web search led her straight to my blog. I had just posted a photograph of cute goats in Nova Scotia. She saw my blog name and thought, “could this be my Cindy Dyer?” Indeed, it was! And the rest is history…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Baker’s Dozen Link Love

3 11 2010

1. Joe McNally: Common Mistakes by Photographers
One of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, created a list of common mistakes people make when starting out in photography. Go check out this great post here:
http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/2010/11/02/mistakes-2/

2. Larry Becker’s Cheap Shots
Through Scott Kelby’s blog (love him, too!), I learned about Larry Becker and his new DIY blog, Larry’s Cheap Shots. This blog resulted from his regular segment on the photography web-based tv show, DTownTV. He offers great DIY projects and inexpensive solutions to your photographic needs. Visit his regular blog, also a great site, here: http://lbecker.com/blog/

3. Dan Williams, Bird Photographer
I met Dan Williams, bird photographer extraordinaire, when he was exhibiting during a Craftsmen’s Classic Art & Craft Show at the Dulles Expo in Chantilly, Virginia last year. I had the chance to talk with him at length about his photography career, including his choice of equipment—the full frame 24.9mp Sony A900. After seeing his work, I have concluded that there is no one better at this genre—so I’m leaving avian photography to him! His work is clean, graphic and filled with color. He describes his approach to composition in his blog post, Keeping It Simple Can Produce the Best Results, here. Another insightful post, Breaking the Laws of Nature Photography, can be found here. Check out his website here and his blog here.

4. Bob Krist’s Compact Location Lighting Kit
After seeing freelance photographer Bob Krist on the Nikon Creative Lighting System video, I decided I had to put together a compact lighting kit like his. My only change was a cheaper travel case—although now that I see his Stormcase has wheels, I’ve got that on my wishlist again. I already had many of the items; I just needed to add some of the accessories—such as the smaller collapsible light stands and shorter umbrellas. (The video is well worth the price—lighting guru Joe McNally and Bob Krist show the amazing results you can accomplish using Nikon Speedlight flashes on location. Check out the DVD here). Krist works on assignment with magazines such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian and Islands. His website is beautiful—check it out here. I traveled with my newly-assembled kit for the first time when I photographed musician Richard Reed in Providence, RI, earlier this fall. I was on assignment for Cochlear Americas and posted the results of our two photo sessions here. Richard wrote an article for the November/December 2010 issue of the Hearing Loss Magazine, which went to print last month. I’ll be posting a recap on that issue shortly.

5. Erik Gauger’s Notes from the Road
I discovered travel writer and photographer Erik Gauger’s blog a few years ago and have had the pleasure of corresponding with him via e-mail regularly. I will be interviewing him and profiling his career in a future post on this blog, so stay tuned. His website is not only beautiful, it will make you want to hit the road in search of adventure! His blog has garnered accolades: “Unexpected frontier of the travel blogosphere…” —Boston Globe; “Sumptuous Site” —Time Magazine; and “The best-looking blog we’ve seen” —Forbes Magazine. Erik’s blog is definitely a must-see, must-read virtual trip. Find out why at http://www.notesfromtheroad.com/

6. Kolby Kirk’s Travel Journal
I met webmaster/graphic designer/photographer/traveler Kolby Kirk through my blog. Check out his newest blog—The Journal. He has several other websites that can help you plan your own travel adventures. Click here to peruse that list.

7. It’s (K)not Wood
I have a thing for anything faux bois (fake wood), from vases to dishes to table runners, so I love Emilyn Eto and Jonathan Lo’s It’s (K)not Wood, the blog “dedicated to all things faux bois.” Oh, and did I mention I also love anything emblazoned with leaves, trees, twigs, birds, bird eggs, bird nests, or bird feathers, too?

8. The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies
If you’re an “old school” graphic designer, you’ll appreciate the trip down memory lane in Lou Brooks’ The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies. Click on any item from “the ghosts of graphic arts past” to relive its use.

9. The Pantone Hotel
On my list of places to rest my weary head, I just added The Pantone Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. For those of you who don’t know what the heck Pantone is, click here.

10. On my nightstand: A Homemade Life
A few weeks ago, I read A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table, by Molly Wizenberg, the creator of the blog, Orangette. I found myself sniffling in the airport during some of the passages she writes about her dying father, an exuberant gastronomic. Food and memories are intertwined in this short, sweet read. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…so good, it even made me want to cook—one thing I just don’t do much of, I must confess. Learn more about the book and Wizenberg in this Amazon.com review here. In honor of your father, Molly, I promise to utilize (soon, I promise, soon) my shiny new white KitchenAid mixer—a well-received birthday present last month from my friends Gina, Karen and Rob. I have always thought that if only I had one of these, then I would be a real cook. Guess now I don’t have any excuses to stay out of the kitchen, do I?

11. Matt Bites Blog
I just love food photographer Matt Armendariz’ blog, http://mattbites.com/. His blog tagline reads, “a man obsessed with food, drink & everything in between.” A former graphic designer and art director in the food industry, he is one of the charter members of Martha’s Circle, a selection of lifestyle blogs selected by the editors of Martha Stewart Living. Check out his food & drink, travel and photography portfolios while you’re there. Just reading his recent recipe for Chicken & Potato Patties makes me hungry—oooh, and they include cilantro, one of my favorite herbs!

12. Mark Berkery’s Macro Photography
This site was featured on the “Freshly Pressed” page in WordPress last week—Mark Berkery’s Being Mark blog. His macro photography is jaw-dropping and if you click here, you’ll learn how he gets these amazing shots (it’s not just equipment—he knows technique, too), as well discover that there’s an inexpensive piece of equipment to add to your arsenal to capture images like his—a Raynox Macroscopic Lens. I’ve never heard of this company until now, but was thrilled to find their inexpensive products at Adorama. I first ordered the DCR-250 ($50 + shipping), which allows really high magnification and includes a snap-on universal mount suitable for lens that range from 52mm to 67mm size (I’ll try it first on my Nikkor 105mm micro, but it can be used on any of my lens, macro or not. They can be used on other cameras, too—not just Nikons). After reading the various entries on this Pentax forum here, I decided I also wanted the option of pulling back from my subject, so I also ordered the DCR-150 ($42.95 + shipping). I’ll do some experimenting shortly and will report my findings.

13. And finally, this one is just plain fun!
I learned about HEMA’s site here a few years ago (via graphic designer Chuck Green’s Design Briefs, if I’m not mistaken) and I still think it’s still one of the coolest retail sites online. HEMA is a Dutch department store chain. Unless you’re from the Netherlands, you probably won’t be able to read any of the product names, but wait a few seconds to see the reason this site is so much fun anyway. Do turn up the sound or you’ll miss some of the action. My flight attendant friend Gina has a penchant for visiting grocery stores in her international travels, so I’m sure when she sees this link, she’ll be making plans to patronize HEMA the next time she’s in Amsterdam!





Photo assignment: Richard Reed, musician

1 09 2010

I recently returned from a photography assignment in Providence, Rhode Island. I was contracted by Cochlear Americas to photograph Richard Reed, a full-time musician who wears a cochlear implant and is the developer of HOPE Notes, a cochlear implant music appreciation program.

HOPE Notes (from the Cochlear Americas website)
“HOPE Notes is the first of its kind—a program uniquely developed for cochlear implant and hearing aid users designed to help improve music perception and appreciation using original songs, traditional Folk, Blues & Country styles and some familiar tunes played in unexpected ways. HOPE Notes includes a CD, DVD, and a detailed User Guide including lyrics designed to assist and enrich your use of the program. The DVD incorporates both visual and audio cues while the CD (designed for use on the go) focuses solely on the audio component of the program.”

To learn more about HOPE Notes or to order, contact Cochlear at 1-(800)-523-5798 or check out their website here.

A Life Without Sound
A late-deafened adult, Richard lost his hearing due to an ototoxic antiobiotic he was given to treat peritonitis in the early 1990s, when he was in his mid-30s. His hearing loss progressed from mild to profound over the next two years. Read more about his hearing loss in Rick Massimo‘s insightful article in The Providence Journal here. Carolyn Smaka from AudiologyOnline interviewed Richard in July. It’s an excellent introduction to Reed’s hearing loss as well as the development of HOPE Notes. Check out her interview here.

When I asked Richard what it was like as a full-time musician to not be able to continue in the field, he told me about playing one night after his hearing loss. “While deaf and using useless powerful digital hearing aids, I used to sit in with my brother Tom in various Blues bands or with old friends. I could feel the bass and drums—thought I could hear myself a little. One night in Newport, it became painfully obvious just how little music I could actually hear. During a piano solo, a cord to my amplifier came loose, but I kept right on playing—with no sound coming out!”

After he retired from performing, he worked in his sister Roberta‘s antique store “refinishing and painting warped and wild folk art furniture, which was therapeutic but unfulfilling.” He wore hearing aids during this time, but didn’t pursue the cochlear implant until 2002. Richard wrote, What It Feels Like…to Regain Your Hearing, in a 2007 issue of Esquire magazine here.

Return to Music
After receiving his Nucleus 24 Contour CI in 2002, Richard noticed a significant improvement in his ability to hear and understand speech, but found listening to music frustrating. With patience, practice and the help of his aural therapist, music became a source of joy again. Not long after his CI was activated, he stayed away from playing the piano because to him it sounded out of tune. He had to go back to the basics with scales and eventually made enough progress to start playing with bands again. Learn more about his journey back to the hearing world in the article, Hero Spotlight: Richard Reed, available on Cochlear Americas website here. In that article, he says, “As ironic as it was for a musician to go deaf, I realized, too, how many friends’ conversations revolved around music—what’s new, who’s good, who’s playing where. Losing music was horrible, but the loss of everyday conversation was worse.”

At Long Last—I’m a Band Groupie!
On my assignment for Cochlear Americas a few weekends ago, I was honored and excited to photograph Richard and a few of his fellow musicians at The Music Complex in Pawtucket, R.I.

His brother, Tom Reed, plays bass. At just 13, Tom taught Richard, then 12, his first songs on the organ. Tom plays freelance—backing up various bands from week to week—and teaches private lessons. He plays electric bass in R&B bands, and upright bass for Blues, Jazz and Rockabilly. He recorded some bass parts for Richard’s HOPE Notes project. (Photo, left to right: Mark Cutler, Jack Moore, Tom Reed and Richard Reed)

Drummer Jack Moore, a high school teacher by day, has played with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Roomful of Blues and many others. He currently plays with Robert Graves Leonard’s Slippery Sneakers, a Rhode Island-based Zydeco band.

Acclaimed guitarist and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Mark Cutler‘s latest CD is Red. He has been the lead singer and songwriter for such renown rock bands as The Schemers, The Raindogs, and The Dino Club, and has toured with Warren Zevon, Bob Dylan and many others. The Providence Phoenix recently profiled Mark here. Cutler works in the software business during the week and reserves his very busy weekends for gigs with various ensembles. You’ll find Mark Cutler videos on youtube here. Richard has played many gigs as one of Mark’s sidemen—before going deaf and again post-CI.

Today, Richard plays two to three times a week in New England nightclubs, concerts and recording sessions. When not performing, he travels the world to lecture about his hearing loss experience and “CI music.” He recently returned from Europe, and played squeezebox on two-time Grammy award-winning children’s singer/songwriter Bill Harley‘s newest CD, tentatively titled Songs We Sing. Future travel plans include CI Music Workshops in Salt Lake City in November, Toronto and Orlando in February, then back to the UK in March. Richard is playing with Mark Cutler in a reunion of their old band, The Schemers, in Newport at an autumn festival next month. He says, “this time I’ll hear my piano parts!” When I asked him what inspired him to create HOPE Notes, he said, “it was a way to give CI users simple exercises to learn or relearn some basic songs and tonalities.” He has already starting writing songs for Volume II.

Upcoming Feature in Hearing Loss Magazine
Reed has written an article about his hearing loss and the development of HOPE Notes that will be published in the upcoming November/December 2010 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine, which I design and produce bimonthly for the Hearing Loss Association of America. Donna Sorkin, Vice President of Consumer Affairs for Cochlear Americas, will contribute sidebars about strategies to appreciate music and another titled, “What the Research Says…and Why it Doesn’t Matter.” Some of the images from my photo session will appear in her feature article. Cochlear Americas manufactures Nucleus cochlear implants and the Baha programmable bone conduction system. My otolaryngologist, Dr. John Niparko of Johns Hopkins Medical Center, says that I am a candidate for the Baha system.

Behind-the-Scenes Photo Notes
For the jam session photos, I used the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS)—with three Nikon Speedlights (with color-correcting gels)—an SB-900 fitted with an Alzo Mini Softbox as my main light, an SB-800 on the Nikon D300 as the trigger and an SB-600 on the side with a snoot. For the portraits with the beige background (shot in Richard’s home), I used my Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fitted with a Ray Flash, which replicates the lighting effect produced by more expensive studio ring flash units. It produces a shadowless light on your subject and a soft even shadow around the edges. I was very happy with the results of the ring flash in this session. If you’d like to try this type of lighting, check out the Coco Ring Flash Adapter—at just $49.95 on Amazon, it’s well below the $199 I paid for my Ray Flash a few years ago. (Hmmm….which product came first?—The Coco Ring Flash is an almost exact replicate—but I do agree with many of the online reviewers that, for a non-electronic, purely plastic gadget, the Ray Flash is still overpriced at $199. Having said that, I did buy it and am happy with it. When it first came out, it was listed for $299.99. It’s plastic people, plastic—no electronic parts, no cords, nothing—as one reviewer commented, “they were probably shamed into dropping the price.”). At any rate, whether you splurge on the Ray Flash or spring for the “poor man’s” version (which I was unaware of at the time of my purchase)—the Coco Ring Flash—it’s a really fun gadget to add to your photographic arsenal.

Want to learn more about the Nikon Creative Lighting System? Check out the Nikon School Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting DVD, featuring photographers Bob Krist and Joe McNally. Joe McNally’s book, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes, is an excellent resource as well. A lighting workshop with this master is definitely on my to-do checklist! Check out McNally’s excellent blog here and Bob Krist’s elegant website here. And for really comprehensive information on lighting, bookmark David Hobby’s blog, Strobist.

Whew! And finally, special thanks to my photo mentor, Brian Loflin, for his tips, troubleshooting and advice…and to Michael Schwehr for his service as my most excellent photo assistant.

All photos are by Cindy Dyer © 2010 Cochlear, Ltd.







Signs of spring

8 03 2009

The snow from earlier in the week (see my Currier & Ives posting about Monday’s snowfall here) has melted, and this afternoon I discovered the harbingers of spring—Hellebores and Crocus—were blooming wildly in the front yard garden. We had just returned from the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo at the Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna and I had my camera handy. Jeff Evans, friend and fellow photographer, joined us for this adventure. I recently blogged about Jeff’s exhibit at Gallery West in Alexandria here. Although the show ended February 1, Jeff’s work is on display there and in A Show of Hands, a Del Ray area gallery that recently relocated to 2301 Mt. Vernon Avenue in Alexandria, Virginia.

Each year I have to remind myself to look for the Hellebore blooms. These downward-facing flowers are quite shy and always hide their beauty, so when I catch a glimpse of the lime green, pink, or purple hues, I grab my camera. I posted a nice shot of one in bloom in last March here. As I plunked myself down in the middle of the bed of Pachysandra to photograph these blooms this afternoon, I was forced to assess all that needs to be done to get the garden looking good again. There’s work to be done, that’s for sure!

Speaking of the Meadowlark 2009 Photography Expo, I bought a Lensbaby Muse from Hunt’s Photo and Video‘s booth. I also discovered David Honl’s product line, HonlPhoto, at Penn Camera‘s booth. I bought the HonlPhoto Speed Strap, Gel Kit, and the 8″ Speed Snoot to use on my strobes and Nikon Speedlights. I’m always on the lookout for accessories to improve and stretch my flash capabilities. These products are reasonably priced, simply designed, and will take up very little room in my already full camera bag. Check ’em out!

I’m also debating on whether to get one of the HonlPhoto Speed Grid attachments. Read about their application on the Strobist site here. By the way, this website is an excellent resource for photographers who want to learn more about lighting!

The show continues tomorrow (Sunday) and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit. All of the vendors offer show prices on their products during the show. The entrance fee is $5. And don’t forget to check out the juried exhibition of photos from local camera clubs.

And after not checking the mail for two days, I discovered my Nikon Speedlight DVD, featuring photographers Joe McNally and Bob Krist, had arrived.

Photo inspiration. Photo chat. Photo gadget bargains. Beautiful weather. First blooms of spring. Neighbors out to chat. Something other than bills arrived in the mail. Today was an especially good day!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

helleboresinbloom