Diamond Photographer of the Year Article

Below is one of my international award winning portraits that recently appeared in Professional Photographer magazine.

This is the article that ran with it...

Each year, Professional Photographer shares a feature story about the Diamond Photographers of the Year. These esteemed image creators have earned the highest level of success in the PPA International Photographic Competition (IPC) by landing four images in the prestigious PPA Loan Collection. To appreciate the scope of this achievement fully, it helps to look at the numbers.

During the 2012 competition judged this summer, more than 1,200 professional photographers submitted nearly 5,000 images for consideration. This represents about a 20 percent increase in participation over the previous year. Approximately 1,800 of those images earned a merit based on 12 elements defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Of those, only 476 were selected for the PPA Loan Collection. That's less than 10 percent of the total submission pool. And this isn't your typical collection of photo submissions. This is the PPA International Photographic Competition, the contest for professionals who have worked diligently to excel at their craft, studying, composing and capturing thousands of images in the process. So the submitted photographs already reflect a high standard of expectation.

To Land an image within the top 10 percent is impressive.

To land four images in this elite category is amazing. Only eight photographers reached that level of accomplishment this year. These Diamond Photographers of the Year are breathing rarified air, to be sure, representing about 0.006 percent of the total contenders.

"The Diamond Photographers are setting the bar for everyone else, says Dennis Craft, chairman of the PPA Print Exhibition Committee. " We've seen a progressive improvement in the quality of images submitted to the competition over the past few years, and those who have competed over a period of time are really raising the standard. But what these photographers understand better than anyone is that the IPC isn't just about winning awards. It's also a way to determine how your images measure against good, quality photography. It's a way to make yourself better."

It's also a vital component in earning the PPA Master of Photography degree, which has become a credible differentiator in an increasingly competitive field. For now, though, the Diamond Photographers of the Year have no competition. They are on a level by themselves. And these are their award-winning Images.

This is the image that appeared in Professional Photographers Magazine



Evolution of an idea

I recently created a poster for the Bettendorf boys basketball team.  It was my first time working with them and they left everything up to me to come up with an idea.  They have a new coach this year and I wanted to create something that would show off the fact that it was the beginning of something new without doing something that has been done a million times before.

I was inspired by the image of the soldiers raising the flag of Iwo Jima.  I hope that using that image for inspiration will be seen as a tribute to those soldiers and help inspire more people to be interested in and remember those events.  While creating the poster I wanted to keep that same dynamic shape that the soldiers had created while raising the flag yet stray from it as much as possible in order to keep that historic image unique.

I started off with a quick sketch on paper.  I knew that there was going to be 6 seniors hoisting the hoop into the air and wanted to get a rough idea I was actually going to be able to fit them. 
Next I opened up photoshop and began building my idea. My first idea was to have them standing on piles of broken gym floor boards - as if they were rebuilding an entire gym. Before I went through all the work of actually creating or capturing a broken gym floor I went to some stock sites to see if I could try a sample pile of broken boards to give me a better idea of what it would look like and if it was what I wanted. I also dropped in a sky. I then quickly drew some stick figures to see what approximate size they would need to be.
Then I began extracting them from the green screen and placing them in the scene.  One problem that I ran into was that when they were holding the basketball hoop they were all at different angles.  So I had to do some extra careful positioning in order to get them to fit. 

Yes, I actaully have a full sized hoop in my studio!  (though it has been set on fire and the backboard shattered for other  crazy projects)

I also tried a lightning sky to see if I wanted a really stormy sky in the background but I felt it distracted too much from the players.

In my final version I felt it needed to be even further simplified so instead of a pile of boards I simply painted a black hill. Fog and a forest of basketball hoops faiding into the distance completed the scene.


Profesional Photographer Magaznie

This is my picture that appeared in Professional Photographer Magazine telling about my speaking program! I'll be a mainstage speaker this winter in Atlanta at Imaging USA, one of the largest professional photographers conventions in the world!  Around 10,000 photographers attend this event.  Last year was my first year entering the competition or attending but my timing was right  :)  I was awarded International Diamond Photographer of the Year and placed in the top three at the Grand Imaging Awards in the Digital Art Category.  For the second year in a row this year I will receive International Diamond Photographer of the Year and I am up for some other awards too that I will have to wait to find out! 

I will be speaking in lots of places around the country next year.  So far my list includes  Atlanta, Florida, Ohio, Toronto and just this week two more eastern states called to see if we could work something out.  I love teaching and meating new people.  I'm excited!


Newest Creative Sports Posters

It's that time of year again and I have a bunch of sports posters coming up.  I had two teams that were smart and scheduled early so they get their posters very soon!  I have been doing Muskie Pom for quite a few years now and have created a lot of very cool posters for them.  This year they wanted to do something with their new dance outfits which included a cape.  After a couple of tries with different scenes I ended up with the background below.  The actual poster motto took even longer to come up with.  I finally settled with "Defenders of Truth, Justice and Rhythm.

The Wilton Basketball Girls had a motto of Respect All, Fear None.  I had pretty tough time coming up with something for the background with this motto since it didn't have any specific conotations with anything.  I tried some old buildings and bridges in the background, a blue sparkly background and then out of frustration I tried a monster background and thought it was kind of fun.

Would love to hear your thoughts!


Mini Session Benifit

We are having our first exclusive holiday mini sessions!  I'm excited to announce that all proceeds will be donated to the Help Laura Win Fund! Laura is an awesome girl fighting brain cancer. The date is December 1st.  We only have 6 sessions left!  If you are interested give the studio a call and we can explain more about our Winter Wonderland set.  I spent all weekend building it and it's looking pretty awesome.  Tomorrow morning I plan on taking some sample images on it.  We will also have a clothing suggestion guide that will help to ensure that everyone looks amazing on it!  Hopefully we see you here!

Watch this cool little video we put together about it!


Fall Family Portraits

Fall came early this year!  Still had some amazing opportunities for some beautiful family portraits and I'm still doing lots.  Even though most of the leaves are gone I have been finding some beautiful places with the late afternoon sun shining through long grasses.  I'll be doing lots more this winter when it snows too!   We take our family portraits every year after a big snow and they have been some of our favorites.

I visited the Lorack family farm and they wanted to create somet cool family portraits in their fields and with their combine.  Well as you can see below, I think we got the job done.  One of these will be displayed above their fireplace as a 40" print and the other will also be a 40" print in another room of their house with a smaller grouping around it of single portraits of their children.  I can't wait for them to hang them up in their home!

at first I couldn't find the right angle for this combine pic.  I tried standing on the bed of my truck and shooting over the tops of the corn but it wasn't what I was looking for.  I switched to my wide angle lens and got down low and found what I was looking for.  I love the corn rising up in the forground and the sun shining through the rows!


Big pressure!

So those of you that don't know what PhotoVision is - PhotoVision creates educational videos for photographers. It offers the unique opportunity to observe photographers in their actual working environments. PhotoVision's cameras take you behind the scenes of some of the top photographers in the country to show you their workflow, their lighting techniques, their marketing ideas and much more. I have been watching them for years and last year I was honored to be asked to be a featured mentor on a series of videos for them. They spent three exhausting days at my studio filming me while I created some pretty cool portraits. I did everything from family portraits in a waterfall to an engagement session in an antique semi junkyard and even a senior with a horse in my studio under the chandeliers! I thought I would be super nervous but it was actually lots of fun!

I was again honored when Ed Pierce (the creator of PhotoVision) called me up and asked me to create some images for their new website they are launching! He wanted me to photograph some of the very best photographers in the nation and then create something cool from those portraits. Talk about nervous! Being asked to photograph some of these photographers would be like asking somebody to paint the portraits of Michal Angelo, Leonardo, and Picasso. Photographers like Brian DeMint (fashion photographer extraordinaire) Julie Klaasmeyer (maybe the countries most popular and well known children's photographer), Richard Sturdevant - (the only photographer in history to ever win two double diamonds in a row) and many other crazy awesome photographers who I have looked up to for years and have learned many techniques from. And me - yes ME had to come up with three different scenes, compose, direct, and light each of them!

Well I survived but barely :) These images are going to be viewed by 10's of thousands of photographers from around the world so there was also that to think about. Luckily I have learned a few things these past few years and seem to have a small knack for knowing how to light and composite people. If you know how I work you realize that I do things the hard way. Much of the time I don't know what the scene will be until after I photograph the subjects. I like the challenge of allowing fate and chance to play a big role in what I do. I feel it helps create unique situations with non-standard results which is what helps set my images apart.

Well anyway enough blabbering, here is what I have come up with. Hope you like them!
 This scene included Dave Junion, Julie Klaasmeyer, Beth Forester and Brian DeMint.  I will eventually need to switch out the images on the TV screen before they go on the website.
this was one out take from the shoot when Dave gave Brian a titty twister  :)  There wasn't a green screen available so I used a blue screen.

I wanted to use a vintage tv but vintage tv's are small so I had to make a big screen vintage tv - I kind of want one now!  notice the batman/photovsion logo in the sky!

This was option B - having them all gasp in fright (but we didn't really want them make people think photovison would be something they might be scared of)   This scene included Chucky Arlund, Amy Parrish, Jed Taufer, and  Mike Ridinger.

This scene I had to change a few different times.  I had a few different ideas with a jacked up red 55 Chevy but it got sold so I used the truck of one of my seniors.  This was especially difficlut because I had nothing built beforehand so I had to guess on exact positioning and angles.  This scene included Richard Sturdevant, James Hays, Dan Frievalt, Dan and Alex McClanahan and Me!

this was a fun shot of Dan that I used.


Beautiful Engagement

Megan and Sam love the outdoors and wanted to do something that reflected who they were. We did some brainstorming together and came up with the idea of photographing them along the banks of the river. I few days before their session I happened to get up a little earlier (okay a lot earlier) than usual and as I was driving to one of my sessions I saw the steam rising off the water as I crossed the bridge just before sun rise and thought that it looked pretty amazing. So later that day I called them and told them that I wanted to reschedule their session for sunrise (most days that is out of the question because I normally work past midnight). That morning I got up extra early, loaded the boat and all my equipment and was on the river before sunrise. Luckily last year I had come across the perfect old oar boat and had purchased it just in case I ever needed it for a session. I found some old oars in the attic of my parents garage that happened to match the boat exactly. I also brought one of my old muslin backgrounds that was just the right color and texture for making a cool vintage tent. When I got to the river the steam was rising off the river and the sun was just beginning to have the pink orange glow of sunrise. I loaded a bunch of my equipment into the boat and oared a few hundred yards downstream to a sand bar along the bank. I pulled the boat to shore and quickly began setting up everything. I found two pieces of drift wood and stuck them into the sand to make the poles of the tent and tied a rope between them then draped my background across to make a tent. Then I laid down an old quilt on the ground for them to sit on.. Then I gathered some firewood and placed an picnic basket near the tent with an old book setting on top. Soon Megan and Sam arrived. There was a steep trail that lead down from the road above to the sandbar that they followed down. The steam was still rising off the water and the sun had now broken over the trees lighting the sand bar, tent and oar boat in a golden haze and the rest of the morning.... well see for yourself.

This portrait will be a 40 inch print hanging in their home with a series of smaller portraits from their session above it.


Teaching in Kansas City at After Dark

Yet another amazing time photographing models, teaching hands on classes, and having fun with friends. Between Sunday night and Thursday morning I slept a total of around 12 hours. I taught a bunch of classes on photoshop and also teamed up Dan Frievalt for a composite session and then with fashion photographer extraordinaire Brian DeMint for a senior posing and lighting session.

I'm excited to be teaching all around the United States in the next few months. Next month I will be in Wisconsin for their Fall Professional Photographers Convention and then I head out to Idaho to teach a course in the Grand Teton Mountains with Travis Gugelman. Then in January and February I will be a main stage speaker at Imaging (with around 10,000 photographers attending) then I will be speaking at SYNC in Florida. The week after that I will be at Iowa's Professional Photographers Convention and then I head out to Ohio to speak there!

Here are just a few images that I created in Kansas City - I have lots more to work on!

This was taken around 4:00 AM downtown Kansas City

This was the scene from somebody else's camera - I had gelled lights in the background to create the bright colors

Photographing early one morning with some other very fun photographers!


Volleyball posters

Three of my newest volleyball creations!
Playing off the fact that the year is 2012 and water boils at 212


Tory and Aaron's sneak peak

Tory and Aaron picked a beautiful day for a wedding and we found some cool spots a few miles from the church to take some stunning portraits! I loved the single white birch tree in the middle of the woods.  It made the perfect spot and they made the perfect couple.  The entire day was lots of filled with lots of great people and fun and I am certainly looking forward to showing them all their portraits.

Templeton Rye image with the groomsmen reflected in the windshield!

They decorated their reception with old books and flowers.  I loved their initials cut out of old books!


A few sweet new team posters!

This year has been especially busy with creating cool posters for teams in my area.  Most of the time these are my "treat" to myself because I get to stretch my abilities and see what I am capable of creating.  These are not really anything I make money at but something I just like doing and helps get my name out to seniors.  I've been in mass production mode lately though and when I am creating something I don't like to have time be a factor so in the future I may have to find a way to limit the number of posters I do each season.

There were almost 50 guys!  by far the largest I have attempted.  This was printed on a 9x27" poster for the school

The guys wanted to do a theme along the lines of the popular Ax Men show on the Discovery Channel.  I created this background from some images I had taken while teaching some photography classes in Oregon and some of my neighbor's trees.

TThe coach wanted to use the fact that 212 is right at the point water boils. The background was from an abandoned factory in Cincinnati

They wanted to do a cowboy theme.  The background was something I captured in Tucson this year and the horses were my parents' (it's good to know people :)

This team drove almost two hours to have me create their team poster.  The coach wanted to do something along the lines of the new Avengers movie that came out this summer.  (The team captains are the super heroes)

The Muscatine Volleyball team - I've photographed a lot of these girls multiple times in the studio this year. They are a lot of fun to be around and they are pretty comfortable hanging out here. They made themselves completely at home - dancing to songs, hanging around on couches and making fun of each other.