Last fall marked my third time documenting the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. It’s always a lot of action and emotion with plenty of great photos to take (if you know what you’re doing, that is).
My SEO plugin wants me to type a bunch of words. “F*ck off, plugin,” I say! I’m going to tell this story through photos. Just look at the images and feel like you’re there.
Let’s work together
If you have an event coming up and need a photographer to create meaningful images that serve multiple purposes: advertising, sponsor gifts, collateral or post-event gallery purchases, give email me and we can talk about your project in detail.
If you’re into the sports, check out some stories from both amateur and professional athletics.
One of the many reasons I love my work is that I never know what type of shoots are going to come my way. Documenting the rededication of Bethel Cemetery is definitely a photo story different than any I have done before.
A logistics company called Cardno contacted me in the fall to document the opening of a new/old cemetery. Due to necessary infrastructure improvements, Bethel Cemetery was relocated from its home by the airport to an area within Concordia Cemetery on the south side of Indianapolis. Cardno led the project.
Established in 1827, Bethel Cemetery saw its last known burial in 1935. Among the buried are veterans of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
An initial survey of the site identified over 150 headstones. Throughout the relocation project, 543 individual were discovered. In the process they salvaged, restored and reassembled headstones that had fallen into disrepair.
Bethel Cemetery Families
Descendants of some of the Civil War veterans attended the rededication as well as some historically prominent families from the Indianapolis area. As a part of the rededication, reenactors from from the Civil War and War of 1812 along with an Honor Guard from the IN National Guard gave salutes to the veterans.
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If you own your own business or are a marketing pro and you want more info about having me out to do a story, send me an email.
I do documentary photographer for all sorts of commercial clients. Check out these stories below to see some cool stories.
We love to celebrate art and artists, so I was excited to photograph a new event in Indianapolis: Indy Mural Fest. I appreciate their mission to have a festival full of LOCAL artists, so the full talent of our city is on public display.
Another important factor is that all artists are paid for their work. As a working artist myself, I know how much of a reward it is to be hired for your own vision, so it’s great to see others provided that same opportunity.
See it Yourself
A great thing about this mural art is that it’s on display around the clock in public places. Take a look at this map and go see the art for yourself!
If you’re interested in seeing even more images from this event, subscribe to our newsletter for a full gallery. Click here to sign up. After entering your email, you’ll see this past week’s newsletter containing a link to a password-protected gallery.
Our newsletter is the place we give a first-looks and extended galleries of my weekly stories. It also includes extras like free downloads, tips, discounts on prints and more.
Into art, artists and just general creativity? Check out these other posts.
These are images from the 2019 Indiana Grown Monumental Marketplace. This event only happens once a year and includes nearly 150 vendors from across the state of Indiana. I was hired to provide a comprehensive catalog of images for digital and print advertising and I only had four hours to do it.
If you’re the kind of person who looks for great locally-made products, you need to check out Indiana Grown. They help connect Hoosier farmers and producers with consumers. Each year they take over Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis to host the Indiana Grown Monumental Marketplace.
“TRUCKS!!!!!!” (read in the voice of Benny from the LEGO Movie yelling “SPACESHIP”) is what I hear when I get a call to come photograph some shiny new trucks at the NTEA Work Truck Show.
A few months ago my Subaru was in the shop for being 20 years old and I got a big fat pickup for a loaner. Since then I’ve been pining for a shiny new truck of my own. These trucks are slightly larger than anything I need to carry photography gear, but a man can dream!
These are images I took roaming the 500,000 square feet of the Work Truck Show after my client shoot was completed.
Keep On Truckin’
A salesman asked the gentleman above if he had any questions. He said no, so the salesman launched into listing the specs of the engine. Is that one of the rules of sales? Don’t take no for an answer?
I like this image above because to me it feels like a typical office scene (man in suit with briefcase, carpeted floors, drop-ceiling with fluorescent lights), except that there’s a massive, shiny red dump truck in the background.
A lot of the larger businesses had private conference rooms built into their setups, which I found interesting. Good spot to close the deals.
Out of the Ordinary
At events like the Work Truck Show, I like to find things that are outside of an ordinary business atmosphere like people laying on the floor, shiny truck wheels on plush carpet and conversations around a different type of water-cooler…
Displays like the one above feel like shooting at an art gallery. Especially because I have taken photos of cars at an art museum. See the IMA Dream Cars post.
Ram Trucks had a GIGANTIC video screen that I would estimate was roughly 7,000 feet tall by 211,000 feet wide. The three images below are takes on the same angle with different screen and human elements in the frame.
All images for this post were shot on my Fujifilm X-T20 (see image of me below). I like how I can move through a crowd without attracting the attention that my full set of gear draws.
If you want to try out this camera (or a similar model), I recommend BorrowLenses.com. Use this link to let them know I referred you.
If you want to read more about how I approach a trade show shoot for my clients, be sure to check out this post from when I shot the NTEA Work Truck Show in 2017.
Do you love trucks? Hate trucks? Have a truck? Tell me about it in the comments below. Or leave a photography question or comment since this is a photography blog. Bonus points for a combination photography/truck comment.
Welcome to my third
and final post on my practices for shooting in low light using only available
light. This post addresses the low light post-production practices I use to get
great shots in extremely low light without using flash or strobes.
Get the whole series here in a cool PDF download. All the kids are doing it. Just enter your info below.
This is my tag line for commercial photography, so you’ll need to get your own. My first priority when editing photos is to make the scene appear as it did when I took the image. I don’t use filters or Lightroom presets and I definitely don’t photoshop as a verb. I am a photojournalist by training and I use the same principles as the photojournalism community in maintaining honesty and accuracy. My images are intended to be a part of the historical record, documenting a time and place in the world.
“As I Saw It”
say I want the scene to appear as it did when I took the image, I mean I want
the scene to appear as I saw it, not exactly how the camera captured it. I
always keep that in mind for low light post-production. A camera isn’t the same
as the human eye. We can see a greater spectrum of tones than the camera can
capture in one frame. So when I photograph a performance and expose for the
stage, the audience is very dark, but that’s not how my eye perceived it in the
moment. I could see the crowd as well. So I’ll bring some of the crowd detail
out of the shadows to better represent what I saw with my eyes.
images below are a good representation of what I’m describing. The image on the
top is completely unedited, the way it came out of the camera. The image on the
bottom is edited to my standard of “how I saw it.”
Color VS. Black & White
Everything I shoot is in color. I’d rather have the option of converting to black & white later than making that decision in the moment. I don’t have a general rule about what ends up color or B&W; it’s more of a gut feeling. The easiest consideration for me when making this decision is if I find the color distracting from the essence of the image. When a nice moment is muddled by green fluorescent light (see image below), I switch it to B&W. If a bold color in the background draws the eye away from the focus of an image rather than adding to it, I switch to B&W.
When I’m going to use color, I want it to convey the ambiance of a place or add to the story in some respect. When the color doesn’t accomplish that, I’ll convert to B&W.
I do 98% of my post-production work in Lightroom. It’s great software for tagging, marking, organizing and editing images. I could do a whole series of posts on Lightroom, and maybe someday I will. For today, I’ll focus on some of the Lightroom features I use when editing my low light photos. Most of these low light post-production principles will work with whatever editing software you’re using, even if it’s not Lightroom. I’m sure some specifics will differ though.
As a reminder from the second post, I’m always working with RAW image files. They offer the most latitude in tone and color adjustments, which is especially important when using images that were shot in extremely low light.
First, I make sure the brightness on my screen is all the way up. It’s basic, but an easy thing to forget! As previously stated, I want the scene to look as I saw it in the moment.
I watch the histogram to make sure I have the full range of tones in the photo. The right side is whites and the left is blacks. To the right you’ll see sample histograms from two images. The top is a color image and the bottom is B&W.
“Clipping” is when some of the whites are so bright, or the blacks are so dark, that there is no visible detail in them. When the histogram goes off the right or left side of the image, you have clipping. The histogram on top has clipping for both blacks and whites. The bottom histogram has no clipping. Sometimes clipping is unavoidable. If you have a bright spotlight, of course you’re not going to have any detail in that. And definitely when you’re in a very dark room, some of the shadows are going to be too dark to contain any detail.
If the histogram doesn’t have the full range of black and white, it won’t have much contrast to it. So, when I’m shooting in low light, it is usually weighted more towards the blacks. I look to increase the exposure until some of the histogram reaches closer to the white side.
For my style, I like the image to have contrast, but not too much. I work to bring out some detail in the shadows, but just slightly. Mostly, I go by feel to get it where I want it, which is how my eye saw it in the moment. I don’t want my images to look HDR (High Dynamic Range. I will NOT get into that. Google it if you’re curious.)
When editing in Lightroom in
the “develop” module, on of the boxes is “HSL/Color”. HSL is for hue,
saturation and luminance. I find luminance most helpful. I can make the individual colors
brighter or darker by using the sliders.
For example, skin tones often contain a lot of orange in them
(regardless of ethnicity), so when I slide the orange up and down, it will take
those tones up and down. I pay close attention to anything else in the
photo that’s orange-ish because it will change brightness as well. Also, it’s
easy to slide it too far, so just watch that everything still looks
balanced. I typically don’t go more than +/- 20. This also works
with colored light sources. So if a person was lit by blue light, I need
to slide the blue slider to adjust the brightness.
A breakthrough for me in low light post-production for B&W images in Lightroom was discovering the “Black & White Mix” functionality. When shooting an image in color and converting to B&W in Lightroom, it retains the color information underneath. Use the slider to adjust the brightness of certain colors.
SUPER ADVANCED PRO TIP:Adjusting the mix with the tool tip. This is very cool. First, I click on the little circle in the upper left corner of the “Black & White Mix” box. Then I can hover the tool tip on the part of the photo I want to adjust. Clicking and holding then dragging the mouse up and down makes that color brighter or darker. This works even better than adjusting the individual sliders because sections of the photo are made up of more than one color. For example, skin tones aren’t just orange. They can be a mix of orange and red or yellow. So when I drag up or down on someone’s face, it will adjust each color in proportion to how much of it is present. NOTE: This also works with color images in using luminance.
sure which other software might offer this feature. If you know, leave a
A huge benefit of shooting RAW files is to adjust the white balance of image using a combination of color temperature and tint. This is allows for much more subtle adjustments than working with a jpg. As I mentioned in the previous post, the RAW image is uncompressed so adjusting the white balance while editing does not affect the image quality at all.
With low light post-production, I’ll try the “auto” white balance setting in Lightroom to see what it gives me. Sometimes I like it and keep it. Many times it gets me close and then I can make custom adjustments from there. Occasionally it’s just way off and I immediately “undo”.
For low light post-production, and any other editing I do, I work to keep the color as I saw it. If I don’t like the color of the light in an image, rather than changing the white balance so much that it looks like it was shot in different lighting, I’ll make the image B&W.
Shooting in dark places using only available light often leads to very saturated colors. When at a show or a bar, there can often be very strong colored lighting. If the subject isn’t too close to the light source, it can make for really cool colors in the image. However, if a colored light is especially strong, a subject close to the light source can be saturated to the point of losing detail. In those cases, again, I’ll make the image B&W. It’s always surprising to see the detail emerge when the color is stripped away in these cases.
Low light post-production takes some practice, but once you find what works best for you, it can take your photography to another level. This concludes my series of three posts on using available light in low light situations. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe learned something, if only that I like to talk about low light photography. As always, please share this with your photog friends if you think they could use it. And if you’d like to have the whole series to refer back to, you can download the PDF guide through the form below.
Thanks for checking out my second post on my practices for shooting in low light using only available light. For an introduction to the benefits of available light photography and a review of the type of gear I use to get great shots in low light, be sure to read the first post. This post addresses the specific low light techniques I use while shooting. You can also download the whole guide as a super-sleek, handy-dandy PDF right now by entering your info below.
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
For illustrative purposes, I’ve selected a series of images from
the four years I photographed RIOT LA Alternative Comedy Festival because
almost the entire festival happened in dark and crowded theaters without
As mentioned in the first post, I use mostly prime lenses that have a minimum aperture of f/1.4. When shooting in low light I shoot consistently at either f/1.4 or f/2.0. So, since I don’t change my aperture much in these situations, I rely mostly upon changing shutter speed and ISO to get the desired exposure.
I usually have a minimum shutter speed in mind when shooting
depending on the subject. If a person is standing mostly still engaging
in conversation, I find that 1/60 will suffice, although I’ll try to get that
up to 1/125 if I can. When the person is more animated, I consider 1/125 my
target and adjust the ISO to get the shutter speed higher if needed.
Photographing a scene that’s still, I have no problem shooting at 1/15.
Later in this post I will describe some of the techniques I use
to increase my yield of sharp images when shooting at slower shutter speeds.
Like most photographers, I try to shoot at the lowest ISO I can. For my low light technique, I find my best-case scenario is usually around ISO 800. I’ll regularly shoot at 1600 and even push to 3200 in some circumstances. Occasionally I’ll even go up to 6400, but only when I feel like a grainy image can work stylistically. I recommend taking some test shots in low light at different ISO settings so you can see for yourself where your line is between good and poor image quality.
Most pros (myself included) will always shoot RAW images. The fact that these are uncompressed gives you a lot more latitude when making color and tone adjustments in post production (the topic of the next post). If you’re put off by the file sizes of RAW images (which can be 5-10x the size of a JPG), you might want to at least consider switching over to RAW when you’re shooting in very low light.
I also like shooting RAW images because I don’t have to mess
with white balance while shooting. I’ll leave my camera set to auto white
balance and just adjust it in post. Since the RAW image is uncompressed,
adjusting the white balance while editing does not affect the image quality at
I address working with RAW images in my next installment in this
series: post production.
I don’t fully rely on my light meter when shooting in low light.
It’s always going to say that the image is underexposed because in low light,
it’s trying to average the entire scene, which is mostly dark. So a part of my
low light technique is that I’m actually more concerned with my highlights than
shadows. If the highlights are blown out, I can’t get them back when editing. I
prefer to shoot on the side of underexposing the highlights. Then I know
they’re there for me to bring out in post-production.
The other benefit of underexposing is I can shoot at higher
shutter speeds and minimize unwanted motion blur. For example, if I spot-meter
on a subject and the shutter speed is coming out to 1/15, I might shoot that at
1/30. Then I don’t have to worry about motion blur or camera shake as much.
However, I make sure not to underexpose too much because there will be too much
noise (digital artifacts) in the shadows/blacks of an image when I adjust the
exposure in post-production.
It can be a fine line to walk, but the more I shoot, the better
I know where the balance is between a sharp image, good exposure and image
No matter where you’re shooting there’s a light source of some sort. If you’re trying to shoot in pitch black, you have bigger issues than I can address here. The first thing I look to identify, whether I’m shooting with my low light technique or at high noon, is where my light is coming from and how I can use what’s available most effectively.
In a dark space, I like to camp out near the light source and see what kind of activity is happening nearby. I look for people who are talking together near a light and then focus on the person whose face is most clearly lit. If several people are in decent light, then I look to see who I can frame up in the most interesting way or who is speaking in with more facial expressions or animation. I’ll also step away from the light source and see if there is an interesting silhouette that can be made or just a different angle I can get by changing positions.
Keep it Sharp
In order for me to consider an image a “keeper”, SOMETHING in it needs to be in focus. On some occasions a moment may have really cool action or life and it’s not 100% sharp, but for my work that’s the exception rather than the rule.
Here are a few pointers on how I get a higher number of sharp photos utilizing my low light technique.
There’s a photography rule of thumb for avoiding blur from camera
shake (caused by the way your body/hands move naturally when you’re just standing
still): Keep your shutter speed equal to or greater than the focal length of
That just means if you’re shooting a 100mm lens, you want to
keep your shutter speed at or above 1/100. For a 50mm lens, keep it at or
above 1/50. At any slower speed you risk getting blurry images from
camera shake (this differs from motion blur, which refers to the movement of
the subject). A lens with image stabilization has more latitude, but
typically prime lenses don’t have stabilization.
A simple, yet highly effective technique is to just find
something nearby to steady yourself and/or brace your camera against: a wall,
chair, table, post, floor, bar top, etc. If I need a little bit of
stability (like shooting a wider lens around 1/15), I’ll do something like lean
against a wall or doorway. When I’m shooting slower than that, I’ll look
for something I can wedge the camera itself against like a post, chair or
You might think I’m a real dummy here, because I could just use
a tripod. Nope! Can’t do it. Tripods slow me down significantly, are difficult
to carry around and take up a lot of space. It is important to me to be able to
work in low light in the same manner I approach any of my shoots, which is why
I started using these techniques.
Shoot in bursts
When I used to shoot film (pre-2004), I was very precious with
it. I didn’t have much money and only had a certain amount of film to
shoot, so I didn’t shoot a lot of frames. Even after switching totally to
digital, it took a bit of prodding from an early photo editor of mine to start
shooting more frames. As a result, no matter what I shoot, in any level
of light, I take 2-3 frames in a burst each time I press the shutter.
This greatly increases my number of usable images.
I think this is especially important in low light, because when
I’m shooting at slower shutter speeds, the natural movements of subjects can
easily blur an image. The higher I feel the risk is going to be of
getting motion blur I don’t want, the more images I’ll take in a burst.
If I’m at 1/15 taking photos of a person talking animatedly, I’ll take 7-8
consecutive shots. When I’m taking a wide angle of a scene with many
people moving around, and I have the camera resting on the ground, I’ll shoot
10-12 frames in a row. That gives me a lot to work with when I’m
editing. I only need one of those frames to turn out.
Using Live View
When I first bought a DSLR that could shoot in live view (using the LCD screen as a viewfinder), I thought, I was NEVER going to use it; it’s amateur stuff. Wrong! Shooting in live view in low light situations took my available light photography to another level.
Live view has two main features that I use: exposure preview and electronic zoom. Prior to having exposure preview, in low light I would use spot-metering to get a light reading of the subject, take a photo, and then review the resulting image. Now I can just see immediately on the screen how the exposure changes as I adjust the camera settings and know I’m getting the result I want before even pressing the shutter release. When using my mirrorless Fujifilm camera, I’m always shooting in “live view” because even the viewfinder is an LCD screen. I’m not looking physically through the lens like on my Canon DSLR.
When using autofocus on a DSLR, if the light gets too low, it just can’t get a read on anything. I learned to combat this by using live view to improve focus. By using the exposure preview feature, I can essentially see in the dark. I would set the exposure much brighter than I wanted, giving the autofocus something to grab onto, and then return the exposure to the desired level and start shooting. Camera manufacturers got wise to this practice and now many cameras do this automatically. When shooting in live view in the dark, if the camera can’t focus, the screen will brighten, the camera will focus, and the exposure on screen will return to normal, all automatically. Pretty cool.
Many cameras also give the option to digitally zoom when in live view mode. To be clear, this doesn’t zoom the final image; it just allows you to see a section of the frame closer up in live view. I frequently use this feature in my low light technique to make sure the focus is exactly where I want it to be. Sometimes the method described in the previous paragraph isn’t perfect, so I’ll digitally zoom in live view mode and try autofocus again. If autofocus isn’t exactly where I want it to be at that point, I focus manually and zoom back out to get the image. When I need to act quickly, I can shoot a burst of images even while zoomed in on the LCD screen because it’s actually taking the full frame image.
This concludes the post on my low light technique I employ while shooting. Check out the first post for an introduction to the topic and gear info. The next post is about post-production. Get the whole series in one download, here. Have anything to add to this discussion? I’d love to hear it! And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer them soon. You can also have the whole series now, in a really fancy full color PDF download.
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
Thanks! If you take any images using these techniques, tag the photos with #ZDPphototips. I look forward to checking them out!
One of the most difficult aspects of photography is shooting in low light. However, with my documentary approach, it’s a skill I need in order to maintain the integrity of the subject material and avoid affecting the end result with my presence. Therefore over the past 15 years I’ve developed a series of practices that allow me to shoot in low light using only available light without compromising image quality.
Often people will ask me about low light photography situations, so I’ve created a series of three posts shared some tips. OR! You can also get the whole guide now as a PDF by entering your info below.
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
This first post is about gear. Subsequent posts address shooting technique and post-production. While I firmly believe that the gear itself is NOT the most important aspect, I want to address it in the first post so that the technique I describe later will be clearer.
To illustrate these posts, I’m using images from the four years
I photographed RIOT LA Alternative Comedy Festival. Recently I was going
through some archives and enjoyed revisiting the experience of the great event,
invented from the ground up by my extremely talented friend, Abbey Londer. I
thought RIOT was the perfect backdrop for a discussion on low light
Shooting exclusively with available light at night and in dark
theaters and bars was a fun challenge at the festival and made for some really
cool and rewarding images. Also, I’m a huge comedy fan, so that just made
these gigs even sweeter.
Benefits of Using Available Light
First and foremost, I prefer using available light because it is significantly less obtrusive. As a documentary photographer, I want my imprint on the scene to be minimal. That means two things to me: First, I don’t want to affect someone’s experience by introducing flash. Secondly, I want to stay inconspicuous so I can capture authentic moments that are happening in front of me.
Popping a flash or strobe a few times every minute can be very
distracting. I’m not the only one who feels that way. When
photographing Mel Brooks at the festival in 2017, he specifically asked
photographers not to use flash around him. As a result, I would have
missed out on being able to take photos of him backstage and behind the scenes
if I relied upon a flash.
Similarly, I feel that the ambiance of a scene is lost once artificial light is introduced. Using available light allows the image to retain the same feel as the original setting. Richer color, more background detail and softer light are all benefits of shooting with available light in low-light photography situations.
Some professional photographers use flash to highlight a scene
and allow viewers to see into the shadows. I like to portray the scene as I saw
it. Therefore, it’s simply a matter of style and intent. I think
the larger point is to be purposeful in your approach.
Let’s get to it. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going
to talk about gear at the level of an amateur who knows the basics of the
technical aspects of photography: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. I want
these posts to be accessible to the widest audience. If you any
questions, whether more basic or advanced, leave them in the comments below and
I’ll be sure to answer.
I think the most important piece of gear for low light photography is the lens. I prefer prime lenses, also referred to as fixed focal length or non-zoom lenses. This is because of their wider aperture. The best, most expensive zoom lenses are only going to get you down to f/2.8. Having a prime lens that is f/2.0 or f/1.4 gives you a significant amount of latitude in low light. And don’t forget the lower apertures give better bokeh.
I also like wide angle lenses to give the viewer a better sense of being in the middle of things. That’s a stylistic choice. If you’re looking at one of my images and you feel like you’re standing right next to the subject, that’s because I was standing right next to the subject using a wide-angle lens. When shooting with two cameras, I typically use 24mm and 50mm lenses. When I shoot a single camera, I like to use a 35mm lens.
Keep in mind that if you have a crop sensor camera, you need to account for that when choosing lenses. For example, my carry-everywhere-with-me camera is a Fujifilm X-T20, which has a 1.5x crop factor. So, I bought their 23mm lens, which actually has the same field of view as a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.
The camera market these days is exploding with mirrorless
cameras. “Mirrorless” refers to the fact that these cameras don’t have
the mirror that a DSLR has, which allows the photographer to look into the
viewfinder and see physically through the lens. Mirrorless cameras have
electronic viewfinders, which means you’re looking at a tiny LCD screen when
you hold it up to your eye, or using the larger LCD screen on the back of the
This has a few benefits that will come into play in the next
post when I talk about technique. Using an LCD viewfinder with exposure
preview in low light allows you to see the image as it will appear when you
take it. This can greatly improve exposure accuracy when shooting in low
Another benefit of a mirrorless camera is that most of them can be made to shoot completely silently using electronic shutter mode. While this doesn’t pertain to low-light photography specifically, I have found it extremely beneficial when shooting in very quiet places where I don’t want to draw attention to myself, which coincidentally tend to be places with less available light.
Even though I just laid out a number of benefits for mirrorless
cameras like the Fujifilm I use, I do want to point out that for my
commissioned work I continue to use Canon DSLRs. I find that I can work
faster and more effectively with Canon, especially in environments like sports.
I’d give Canon the edge in image quality as well, although it may be
negligible in most cases. All of the images at RIOT were shot with Canon.
Below are some links to some of the gear I’ve mentioned. You’ll
see that prices vary quite a bit, but I made sure to include some “affordable”
prime lenses ($500 or less). Prices are as of January 2019. Most larger camera
shops have a used department that’s worth checking out as well.
I regularly rent gear from BorrowLenses. This is a great way to try something out before you buy it or rent a specialty item for a specific shoot. Use my affiliate link below. They have discounts for first-time users.
This wraps up my post on gear for low light photography. Please check out the the next two posts on technique and post-production. If you’ve enjoyed this post/series on shooting in low light, please share it! You can also have the whole series now, in a really fancy full color PDF download.
and post production. If you’ve enjoyed this post/series on shooting in low light, please share it! You can also have the whole series now, in a really fancy full color PDF download.
DOWNLOAD THE COMPLETE LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE
Thanks for reading! If you take any images using these techniques, tag the photos with #ZDPphototips. I look forward to seeing what you make!
You see model trains a lot during the holiday season, but nobody does model trains like the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. Jingle Rails is their annual train display. Models travel through famous local scenes and national landmarks from the American West. You’ll find downtown Indy, complete with a scale model of the Soldier and Sailor’s Monument, lights and all, along with Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s also Las Vegas, Yosemite, and new this year: Route 66.
The Men of Jingle Rails
Equally as interesting as the trains are the old men who are really into it. I happened to notice one gentleman making a repair, so of course I had to take a moment to capture it…
Jingle Rails is sponsored by the Indiana Railroad. Their signature red locomotive travels overhead throughout the entire exhibit.
Had enough trains yet? No? Here’s a few more…
Thanks for visiting our Jingle Rails coverage for 2018. We were there last year as well, so you can check that out here: Jingle Rails 2017. I work to take new angles each year.
2018 Holiday Events
As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.” So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season. Click the image below.
Next up for our holiday events is Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis. This is always a great event at the Indianapolis Zoo because in addition to Santa’s Village and lights throughout the zoo, a lot of the animals are out and about and available for visits.
The Bicentennial Pavilion houses Santa’s Village which includes Santa’s house, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus, reindeer, a mirror maze and more.
The tunnel of lights at the edge of Santa’s Village is a popular spot for portraits and selfies (above).
Christmas at the Zoo is one of the best places around to visit Santa. He has a very tastefully appointed study in the village. This Santa has nailed the classic Santa look and he’s very good with the kids, as you’d expect.
Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center
Follow the lighted walkways to visit attractions like the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.
Visiting the animals at night is a great part of Christmas at the Zoo. Max, a three-year-old orangutan, was kept up late by visitors, but his mom did her best to get him calmed down and back to sleep.
The oceans exhibit is a popular spot during the cold weather. It’s close to Santa’s Village and a good place to come in and warm up for a bit. The kids enjoyed these cownose rays (above) because they look like they’re smiling. The California sea lions (below) like to swim laps, passing as close to the glass as possible.
Christmas at the Zoo is a must-do for families in central Indiana. I recommend arriving early to enter Santa’s Village right at 5:00. That way you can do the Christmas activities with little to no wait and spend the rest of your evening just walking through the zoo, enjoying the lights and animals.
In October I was commissioned to document the Indiana Pacers premium experiences. They want to give fans looking to purchase tickets a sense of the available spaces during a game. It was fun to get a first-hand view of all the awesome areas throughout Banker’s Life Fieldhouse.
In this post, I’ll talk about how I find good subjects, use available light, and layer images. These are three aspects I take into account in order to be able to tell a client’s story.
Finding Good Subjects
Another of the Indiana Pacers premium experiences are the Party Suites (above). This photo (and every photo from this shoot) was completely un-staged and un-rehearsed. These are real fans enjoying a Pacers game.
While shooting, I look for a combination of factors to be able to get this type of shot candidly. Good natural light and a location that give sense of place is typically where I start. Then I look for subjects who seem engaged. At a sporting event, this is usually people who are cheering, laughing and/or talking with friends.
In the above photo, select fans have the opportunity to line up as the players enter the court for high fives. For this image, I focus on one person to show their experience. I chose this kid for a couple reasons. One, his smaller size is a nice contrast to the larger players. Secondly, he seems to be in awe of the moment. Because of the low angle, the viewer can see things on the kid’s level, including how large the player’s hand is in comparison to his own. The other hands in the image provide depth of field and form a frame around the kid, drawing the viewers eye to him. Yes, these are all things I’m thinking in the moment I’m taking the photo.
Using Available Light
The Lightbound Cafe (above, left) is an Indiana Pacers premium experience that’s a courtside club: a full-scale bar with plenty of draft beers and pub food. For most shoots (including all photos in this post), I work only with available light. This serves two functions. First, it allows me to document a scene without disturbing the subjects. Secondly, it retains the atmosphere and ambiance of a location. The images better reflect what it’s actually like to be in the space.
The theater boxes in the Lexus Loft (below) are super spacious with all-inclusive gourmet food and drinks. My goal with the shot below is to use layering to show the space of the theater boxes themselves while placing them in the context of the arena as a whole. That way you can experience the view you have while seated in this space.
In my view, there are three different layers in this photo. For one layer, the focus is on the court, which is your focus when you sit in these seats. The second layer is the crowd as a whole. I shot wide here to show the full size of the arena and give a sense of the entire fieldhouse. The third layer is the theater box in the foreground. The wide perspective and my close proximity to the box highlight its size and space. As a result of these layers, a more complete story is told in one image.
Choose Your Own Indiana Pacers Premium Experiences
After checking out all the Indiana Pacers premium experiences, I’d have a hard time choosing one for me, personally. While courtside has amazing action, the food available in the suites and clubs is definitely a draw.
One of the things I enjoy most about shooting this time of year is the diversity of people that come out to celebrate America’s independence. It’s a great reminder that we all love this country and we all are welcome here.
Here’s a slideshow of some of our favorite images celebrating America…
Another stop we made on our holiday tour of Indianapolis was Jingle Rails, presented by The Indiana Rail Road Company, at the Eiteljorg Museum. Eight model trains travel through miniature scenes including downtown Indianapolis, Hollywood, Las Vegas and western landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. After the Jingle Rails photos, you’ll see a few general shots of the museum which has plenty to explore too.
Jingle Rails runs through January 15th, so be sure to check it out!
This week we headed to the Indianapolis Zoo for their annual Christmas at the Zoo. 2017 saw the addition of a new Santa’s Village under the Bicentennial Pavilion. With Santa in his study, Mrs. Claus in her kitchen and reindeer in the barn, there was plenty to see and do.
The kids enjoyed multiple trips through the “Snowflakery”, which is a short, but surprisingly tricky mirror maze. PRO TIP: Keep your hands in front of you so you don’t smack your face into a mirror!
Head to the zoo early and you’ll probably see a good number of cool/cold weather animals out. We took a short walk through the the forests (located next to the pavilion) and saw tigers, bears and eagles out in the cold weather.
Winterlights is the newest of the major holiday attractions in the Indianapolis area. A part of the 152-acre Indianapolis Museum of Art campus, recently rebranded as Newfields, the event features more than a million lights, winter treats and displays set to holiday music. The family and I decided to check it out this week and we highly recommend a visit!
Pro tip: Arrive just before sunset. The colors of twilight in the sky behind the lights is a nice bonus, and night falls within half an hour, so you get the full effect of lights at night, too.
This past weekend was the grand opening of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt. I stopped by on Sunday evening to check out the scene. It’s a beautiful setup with the Palladium in the background. The iceskating is affordable, and there are special deals on Wednesday and Thursday, so be sure to check out the website for details: https://www.carmelchristkindlmarkt.com
Here a few shots from my brief visit. I’ll be back soon to do a full shoot for Hamilton County Tourism, so I’ll be sure share those later this winter.
The woodworker is Christian Werner, a master craftsman from the small town of Seiffen, Germany. He travelled to Carmel for the opening weekend in 2017 to demonstrate how he creates animal figurines.
If you’re looking for more recent images from Carmel Christkindlmarkt, you’ll want to join our mailing list because we shared an exclusive view of the gorgeous Glühwein Pyramid, added in 2018, and a mouth watering image of a Raclette with our newsletter and we’ll be sure to let you know when those images go live in the future.
2018 Holiday Events
As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.” So by all means, please enjoy our other Indianapolis holiday events posts from 2018. Click the image below.
Tired of the eclipse yet? No way! The family and I headed to Hopkinsville, KY to get the longest duration of totality in the country. It was worth the drive (which was about 4 hours in and 7 hours out).
Also, here’s a time lapse of the scene that I shot on my iPhone. It’s cool to watch how dark it gets in such a short amount of time.
Here’s some documentary photography of a youth baseball team from Carmel, Indiana. These photos are taking at Grand Park, a massive 400-acre sports complex in Westfield.
Baseball usually requires a really long lens to get any decent action, but with youth baseball, I can usually stand close enough to get some cool shots with my 70-200mm.
Another great thing about shooting baseball at the high school level and younger is that everyone is fine with me shooting in the dugout and on the field. Getting physically closer to the subjects and using a wide-angle lens really brings the viewer into the frame.
On the field these kids look like mini professional baseball players. But once they’re off, they’re just regular kids again. I like the image below for this reason.
Trafic Design, is a Quebec company specializing in corporate design and branded environments for business. Trafic contacted me to document their promotional exhibit design at the 2017 NTEAWork Truck Show, the largest event in association history. It featured more than 500 vendors with nearly 12,000 attendees, occupying all 566,000 square feet of exhibit space in the Indiana Convention Center. Trafic’s client, Ranger Design, is a commercial van outfit manufacturer for mobile professionals. At the exhibit, attendees were able to view Ranger’s latest innovations in person and have questions answered in detail by knowledgeable staff. Ranger’s exhibit also employed touchscreen technology to digitally outfit trucks to fit their clients’ unique needs.Ranger Design had more than a dozen employees at the show and seven fully equipped trucks on site.Trafic’s goal for the shoot on was to feature the design, flow and functions of the booth. With that in mind, I aimed to highlight how Trafic’s design facilitated interactions between Ranger’s products and employees and their target customers visiting the show.Three hours were allocated for the shoot and we broke it into three segments:
1. Scouting – Due to situational constraints (the Truck Show & exhibits weren’t set up until the day of the event) a separate scouting trip wasn’t possible. I arrived before the convention floor opened to have a brief walk through with Trafic’s president to discuss a few of the key features and design elements of the exhibit.
2. Exhibit Design – Before the exhibit hall opened to the public I shot for about one and a half hours focusing on taking wide, medium and detail shots of the booth’s design, features and branding.3. Environment in Use – Once the doors opened to the public, I spent about an hour documenting how attendees moved through and experienced the space in order to really showcase how Trafic’s brand experience for Ranger Design and their clientele.
I focused on attendees’ engagement with the products, Ranger employees and interactive elements of the exhibit. I also briefly shadowed Ranger’s CEO to document his interactions with customers on the trade show floor.As with many of my shoots, this job required me to be able to move quickly and inconspicuously so as not to distract from the company at work. I kept my gear to 2 camera bodies and 4 lenses, which I wore on me at all times. The Indiana Convention Center is properly lit and I knew from past experience that no additional lighting would be necessary.Trafic’s product and service shows best in real use. My approach is a practical solution provided in real time without the use of models or expensive staging, saving the company money and time while producing images that capture the full experience of a Trafic branded environment.Are you ready to show your business in action? Contact us now to schedule a consultation.
As a born and bred Midwesterner, I love documenting fairs and festivals. I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana attending the 3 Rivers Festival. Each year, my family would travel to my father’s boyhood home in Wayne County, Ohio to attend the fair. The animals, funnel cakes, disorienting carnival rides and tractor pulls were rites I looked forward to each year.
Now that I have a family of my own, I really enjoy experiencing the simple old-fashioned fun that a fair offers to my young children. Petting cows, feeding goats, consuming ridiculous fried food and lemon shake-ups, and of course those exact same (literally) carnival rides all feel like a step back in time to my own childhood.
I took the Ferris wheel image above at the Italian Street Festival in Indianapolis in 2010 and that inspired me to begin traveling to document events across the state. Since 2010, I’ve photographed a couple dozen festivals and fairs which I’ve compiled into my Indiana Fair Project.
County fairs and town festivals are often long-held events where communities gather to celebrate what makes them distinct. By visiting all corners of the state to photograph these annual happenings, I’m seeking to document how the traditions of these events connect Hoosiers to their past and to each other.
RIOT LA 2016 is currently underway in downtown Los Angeles and this is my 3rd time documenting the festival. It’s always one of my favorite events to photograph each year. With standup, improv, podcasts, music and more, RIOT artists are always pushing boundaries and experimenting, and as the festival’s lead photographer, I’ve always been afforded the freedom to do the same.
So thank you to the performers and organizers (particularly the festival’s creator, Abbey Londer) for the privilege of telling your story. I hope that my photos bring back the excitement of the weekend long after it has passed.
Below are some of my current favorites from Friday & Saturday. Check out my twitter and instagram feeds for more photos soon.
Thought I’d get out and do some shooting yesterday evening. I went to the Cole Noble Gallery at Artistry Apartments during First Friday festivities in downtown Indianapolis. Well, apparently First Friday an extremely large event every month (48 galleries/venues), which I’m sure everyone already knows. Unfortunately, I only had time for one stop. Honestly, I feel like an idiot for not setting aside enough time to shoot all evening! Beautiful weather and great light! I suppose sometimes you have to make a mistake to learn the right thing to do next time. It was definitely interesting, so hopefully I’ll have a chance to head to another one this fall.
The artist here is Chad Hankins. He’s the gentleman in the second photo.
CarmelFest is a big Independence Day celebration held every year on July 3rd & 4th in Carmel, Indiana. Since 2012, I’ve participated in the event as a sponsor and “official photographer”. I enjoy living in a smaller city where I get to see so many people I know celebrating our country together as a community. It’s also nice to have a shoot where I can drink beer and eat fried dough and it isn’t frowned upon.
Every color, race, religion and orientation is welcome in the United States. And that’s a lot of what makes it a fantastic place to live. As descendants of immigrants, our household proudly celebrates this heritage. I love this theme of diversity in America so much that we created a slideshow to celebrate it. You can see it here.
One of my favorite aspects of shooting festivals & fairs like CarmelFest are the common themes of: joy with family and friends, a sense of community, service, respect for veterans, the enthusiasm of children, and the bonding qualities of music and food. And don’t forget about some good ol’ fashioned American entrepreneurship!
And let’s not forget fireworks…Fireworks are tricky to shoot, which you probably know if you’ve ever tried to get a decent image of them in action. Maybe in the future, I’ll pull together a “how to shoot” fireworks post. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy mine.
If you’re in the sharing spirit, send this post along to some friends & family. And we’d love to hear about your favorite July 4th memories in the comments below! Prints for these events are available in our shop and we always share 20% of the proceeds for prints with a partner charity.
Want more photos celebrating America? View these additional posts…
Whatever I’m shooting, my aim is to document all aspects I see, so viewers will have the most complete picture possible of people in a certain place and time. What people wear says something about their personality. Showing surroundings creates context for the subjects and expands the viewer’s experience. When I’m physically close to the subjects, the viewer feels closer to the subjects, both in a physical and emotional sense.
When shooting sports, it’s not simply about action. It’s about emotion and effort as well. Moments of defeat are as powerful as moments of triumph in showing a person’s level of passion and commitment. I feel that it’s important for both my subjects and viewers to know that photographing someone in a moment of pain or defeat isn’t about exploiting their emotions. It’s about honoring their dedication and pursuit of a greater self. I want a broader audience to increase their understanding of, and respect for, the subject and others who share their experiences.
These images from the IHSAA Track & Field Finals on June 6, 2015 are a good example of my pursuit.
The following day, the conference was held at the International Monetary Fund HQ2, featuring Janet Yellen (Chair of the Board of Governors, Federal Reserve System), Christine Lagarde (Managing Director, IMF), Sarah Bloom Raskin (Deputy Treasury Secretary) and other prominent figures in economics.
I always appreciate an opportunity to document people at the top of their field. Whether it’s economics, sports, comedy, government, the area of specialty isn’t important. A person’s knowledge and expertise is apparent in the confidence they show in their actions and words. I enjoy working to translate that to the still image.