F-Stop Beyond, an interview with Ron Dawson

While I was in New York with GraphiStudio and liveBooks at the PhotoPlus Expo, I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes visiting with Ron Dawson, for a feature on his F-Stop Beyond podcast. Ron is an amazing videographer and he and his wife operate Cinematic Studios out of California.

Click below to hear the interview:

Thanks, Ron, for the opportunity to share. Congratulations on your exciting new project. A brilliant idea for sure.


We are Thankful!

Today we are extra thankful. Let us share... (this is the first time we have seen each others' answers!):

Today I am thankful for, in no particular order:
-good health: to wake up in the morning and not be limited to do anything, no excuses.
-positive support group, especially our extended family and community.
-amazing friends and mentors, both with our personal and our business lives.
-wonderful clientele and outstanding vendor partners with both weddings and portraits.
-my husband, Garrett, I could not ask for more! A happy marriage, being able to work, travel, accomplish and experience life and business together.
-our daughter, Gray. Being able to watch her grow, laugh, play, and spend time with her. It is priceless.
-our patient, loving, and loyal dog, Sulley.
-freedom in this country, and more fitting with our business, a creative freedom and lifestyle.
-the ability to spend quality time with family. Being self-employed has helped us reach many of our goals, this is one of them.
-God Almighty, He has truly blessed.

Today I am thankful for:
-a bounty of blessings far more than we deserve.
-a beautiful loving wife and business partner who inspires and motivates me every day. Joy, your passion and grace are contagious.
-a fascinating daughter who teaches me every day about love, innocence, purity, patience, and penguins.
-a wonderfully supportive and caring family in Chattanooga and Charleston who shower us year-round with love and peace.
-many of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. Scattered across the country and around the world, our life is sweeter because you are in it.
-absolutely without a doubt the most amazing clients that we could ever ask for. Witnessing your love for each other and for us is humbling.
-and closely related to that is the fortunate opportunity to be passionate about our work. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
-and last but certainly not least, God.

Today I am thankful for:
-Penguins!!! I like penguins. Penguins are funny. Penguins are crazy. Happy Feet. Silly Penguins.

Tomorrow we spend time and eat lots of yummy food with 27 family members here in TN.
Today, what are you thankful for?


What's the difference?

A couple months ago we had our portraits taken. As part of the church directory project, we dressed up and headed to our appointment with the Olan Mills photographer. I am happy to report that it went exceptionally well. It was fast, painless and even the kind saleswoman wasn’t pushy at all. We left ordering very little, but we did order something.

On a sidenote, Joy kept kicking me under the table every time I was about to open my mouth and share that we were photographers.

It was interesting, though, having the tables turned and being on the other side of the entire process. Did I learn anything about sales and photographer/subject rapport? Yes, a little. I was also reminded WHY we do what we do, and even more importantly, I was reminded WHY WE LOVE WHAT WE DO.

Here are the 2 images we ordered.One print was included just for participating in the directory. The other one we purchased. They are scans off of 8x10 prints. And yes, that is illegal. But I’m doing it to illustrate a point, not to make reprints to give to our family for Christmas. We paid for these, and trust me, we won’t be displaying anything that we didn’t pay for.

Image #1 is a lovely family image that does a good job of showing what our family looked like for our appointment.

Image #2 is a lovely child portrait that does a good job of showing what Graycen looked like for our appointment. She is lit well, the colors are nice, and the exposure is right on. At the last minute the photographer grabbed the white pillar and set it on the table and then took the branch of leaves and haphazardly placed it on the pillar. I think he was going for the juxtaposition of the new against the old….a young child against a several-hundred-year-old pillar with a vine growing up around it. But it’s quite obviously a fake—you don’t have to have been there to tell. And what gets me the most is that he was in such a rush that he didn’t even notice the two leaves that appear to be coming out of her head. Fortunately though, they distract from the fact that the image crops along the bottom, right through the middle of her hands. We had been there for about 3 or 4 minutes by the time we got to this shot, he had other people waiting and it was obviously time to move on.

Please understand, I mean no disrespect to our church photographers. They do an outstanding job at what they do…creating nice photographs and publishing church directories.

We, too, are photographers. But how are we different? On a banner in our studio hangs the following quote by one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of the modern era:

“The difference you see in my photographs is that I was not afraid to fall in love with my subjects.”
Annie Leibovitz

Annie's quote reminds us of the difference in being a boutique studio versus a photo factory. Whether we're photographing a subject we just met for the first time or someone we've know for 10 years, our goal, like Annie's, is to naturally fall in love with our subjects. It's not something we have to try to do, it just happens...naturally.

The couples who hire us to photograph their wedding do so because they value individualized attention to detail and our approach to capturing their style and sophistication on one of the most important days of their lives.

And the families who hire us to create portraits, do so because they value unique, stylized, fashionable images that show the love and bond and strength of a family or the style and independence of a child.

Shortly after we got our church directory pictures back we created this image of Graycen.

No, it’s not perfect, and it probably could have been lit better, but which one do you like more? Which one tells a story? In both images she's posing, but that's what she does. This is her being her. And that’s the difference. That's why we do what we do.

Oh, and one more thing…If the church photographer had kept us a little bit longer and somehow Graycen had gotten punch-drunk with laughter, look what else he might have caught! :-)


Heather and Todd E Session

Several months ago when we received Heather's email and she said she was "crossing her fingers and toes that we were available on her date." We had a good laugh, and fortunately we were. We absolutely love excited clients because it always results in good energy and great images.

On Friday, Heather and Todd drove up from Atlanta and met us in Chattanooga for their e-session. They had asked what to wear, and we told them it's better to have lots of options than not enough. So after coming in and saying hi, (and surprising us with some yummy treats, thank you!!!!) they went back out to the car and started bringing in armful after armful of clothes...it was great!

And then she started breaking out the shoes. Okay, I will admit that I'm posting this next series of images very reluctantly because I know this could be potentially damaging to some of our grooms.... ;-)

And now for the whole reason they came to Chattanooga...

Wow, what a fun session! Thanks so much guys for coming up from Atlanta. It was a pleasure getting to know you better and we're looking forward to your wedding weekend at Atlanta's Intercontinental Hotel in May.

Lani and Walter E Session

It's always exciting when we have the opportunity to work with brides who were previously bridesmaids at one of our weddings. Such is the case with Lani and Walter. Lani was a bridesmaid in Maureen and Colin's wedding a year-and-a-half ago in Winter Park, Florida.

Last week we finally got together for their e-session. Lani grew up in Winter Park, and just recently moved back from NYC. So we spent time on Park Ave, and then we went to her parents house and shot on the dock and by the lake.

Thanks, guys, for a fantastic e-session. It was a blast getting to know you, and we're so excited about your wedding next spring at The Breakers in Palm Beach!

Natasha and Jason E Session

I had a great time spending a couple hours with Natasha and Jason last week in Orlando. These two are great...what a blast we had, they are so fun!

Poor Natasha saw a spider, but she didn't get much sympathy from Jason.

Thanks, guys, for doing such an outstanding job! We're totally looking forward to your bridal session in a few months and then the big day in April at Isleworth.


Secret of the Cave...a Chattanooga premiere

Tonight we had the privilege of attending the Chattanooga premiere of Secret of the Cave, an award-winning feature length motion picture produced by Southern Adventist University and the School of Visual Art and Design.

The majority of the film was shot on location in Ireland, with a portion at the end filmed locally on campus. After a year of post-production work, it was ready to go. Almost sounds simple, doesn't it? LOL!

Last year the film was selected out of more than 120 entries to receive the Crystal Heart Award. This award is given to a select group of independent filmmakers whose work explores the human journey by artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of life.

What an amazing experience for the faculty and students to work together and create such a fantastic production. There's no doubt that the students involved in the production of this real film will cherish this experience their entire lives.

Here is Dr. Bietz, university president, interviewing two of the lead actors before the showing of the film.

Chattanooga's Mayor, Ron Littlefield, was also on hand to view the film and talk about Chattanooga's and Southern's commitment to the arts.

Professor David George was the producer of the film.

Professor Zach Gray, shown on the set (in black), was the film director.

A couple stills from the film

At the conclusion of the program, Dr. Bietz recognized Bill and Myrtle Hulsey for their outstanding support and assistance with the project.

And finally, the entire crew....students and faculty/staff, who's dedication and efforts made the film possible.

Now Joy and I are by no means movie critics, but we give it two enthusiastic thumbs up!

Secret of the Cave is available at Blockbuster, Movie Gallery, Hollywood Video and RedBox, and online at BarnesandNoble.com. Check it out.


"You're sold out, man!"

"You're sold out, man!" said Kathy, one of my former photography students who attended tonight's presentation.

We were blessed with an absolutely fantastic group at this evening's SAU School of Journalism & Communication convocation. We were anticipating a moderate handful of attendees, and so we even recruited a couple family members to come and fill chairs. But boy were we surprised when students started rolling in. I think the room comfortably seats 70-80 and we had around 120. Yikes! It's a good thing the fire marshal didn't poke his head in.

We had a great time sharing about how we got started in photography, highlighting some of our recent travels and weddings in Europe, and talking about our plans for the future.

Janita trying to create extra seats

Talking about one of the images that "changed my life."

Brandon Russell, the video lab assistant, taped the presentation. Hopefully we can get it onto our blog sometime soon.

Lots of questions afterwards. We LOVE this part.

A special thanks to Stephen Ruf (pictured right) for taking the photos. Ruf was one of my main professors when I was a journalism student 10 years ago (holy cow!). Prior to that he was an award-winning television news reporter for Channel 12, the local CBS affiliate. And thanks also, to our dear friend and fellow photographer, David L. Smith, who came out to support us. Needless to say, I forgot to change the aperture on this image and so we only ended up with two of us in focus. Oops!

Finally, we had a couple students afterwards ask us to post the two quotes that hang on banners in our studio. They are:

"Photographs can reach eternity through a single moment." -Henri Cartier-Bresson

"The thing that you'll see in my photographs is that I was not afraid to fall in love with my subjects." -Annie Liebovitz

And the other quote that I referred to often from photographer Gregory Hiesler:
"The best price protection someone can have is being unique.... When people follow trends and their style becomes less definable it fuels their doom." -Gregory Hiesler

Thanks so much to Dr. Rumsey and Mr. Ruf and the faculty for inviting us out, and thanks to the students for coming by! Talking with you, sharing, seeing your passion...you inspire us. It was truly an honor.