What’s a photographer to do in a pandemic? I’m someone who likes to photograph people most of all. I need to avoid people as much as possible right now. And when I’m around others, I can’t photograph them in the close manner I’m accustomed to.
So I spend a lot of time outdoors. And with my family. I’m fortunate to live with 6 other people and I never take that for granted. I look at this as my professional blog, so I try not to focus too much on my family, even though they’re with me for nearly every shoot that isn’t for a client.
This is an unprecedented time in our recent history. I don’t think I need to draw hard lines between “personal” and “professional.” My family is here experiencing this pandemic with me. We go to local parks and playgrounds. These are the things I photograph.
My brain tells me these shoots get repetitive. But my spirit knows that each time I go out with my camera, new things happen – things that will only happen one time in the course of human existence – and I’m there to document and interpret them.
So, here’s my visual journal entry for this week. We spent time in a brand new environment to us: Eagle Creek Park on the NW side of Indianapolis. We walked, climbed, thought, poked at things, broke ice, fell down, wrestled, and took in the rare Indiana winter sun.
It’s been nine months since I started making these quarantine stories. Here are a few of the first ones from last spring.
Giant industrial plants are my kind of thing, so this was a great opportunity to get some really cool photos, like at Angola Wire or Purposeful Design.
Formerly Indianapolis Light & Power’s Kentucky Avenue Station, The Perry K Steam Plant was finished in 1893 and began supplying electricity to Indianapolis that same year. Citizens Energy acquired the plant in 2000.
Located near Lucas Oil Stadium, the steam plant is at the corner of West Street and Kentucky Avenue in downtown Indianapolis.
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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Last week I visited Indiana City Brewing on the southeast side of downtown Indianapolis to check out their brewing process. It was fun to watch. The building they’re housed in is super cool and the morning light definitely heightened the scene.
I’ve been doing documentary photography and drinking beer (not at the same time) for nearly two decades, so it’s crazy I hadn’t shot any stories about brewing. Glad to finally end the drought!
Meet the Brew Crew
The Indiana City Brewing team has the flow down, moving quickly between tasks. Nick Shadle (the man in the mask) is Head Brewer. Ryan Oesch (the guy with the overalls who you can just tell has good taste in music) is Production Manager. And finally the dude with the best title of all, Cellarman, Mike Abrego.
So if you stop by the brewery and see them around, tell them you saw their photo on here and Zach says hello.
Indiana City Brewing Taproom
Now that you’ve seen all the photos, check out their site for more info and stop by the taproom soon!
We are partnering with Indiana City Brewing for a giveaway on our Instagram page now through November 22, 2019.
They are having a ticketed release party on November 23 for the beer brewed in this photo story, Cratchit’s Winter Olde Ale.
Artist Aaron Scamihorn does the label art for Indiana City, so check out these posts where he makes an appearance.
The NBA season is about to get underway, so I thought it time to finally share this shoot from last season. The Indiana Pacers hired me to document the inaugural game for their partnership with Motorola. I was brought in to capture some pre-game shots in the locker room and game action photos that highlighted the new patch.
It was a fun challenge to highlight a 2.5″ patch within the context of game action. I used a Canon 1DX camera body and 400mm f/2.8 lens. This allowed me to get very close up with the shots I was taking and the patch stood out as a result.
I always like to see what other angles will yield. Getting higher up in the stands and shooting downwards with a super telephoto lens places the court as the background and really isolates the subject. I really like the scoreboard in the shot below as a visual element.
High & Low
The two images below show different angles on a similar play. The image on the left was taken in the stands, the right side from the floor.
I like the cleaner background on the right image, but I also like the perspective of being at eye-level on the left photo.
However, shooting from the stands runs the risk of interlopers getting in your frame. That blur on the left image is a cotton candy vendor who wandered into the frame with less-than-ideal timing.
My style of photography involves getting as close as I can. Typically that means I like to move physically close to the subject.
However, that’s obviously not possible with professional sports, so I enlisted the aid of a Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. This beast weights about 8.5 pounds and the glass at the widest is about 6.5″ in diameter. Not something I want to use every day, but for getting super-close, sharp images with great background blur, it was perfect.
One of the perks of working for the Indiana Pacers and not a media outlet is the special access.
Getting close to the bench during a timeout allowed me to get some unique angles that aren’t afforded most photographers. Also, shooting some images in the locker room before the game was a unique experience.
Always on the Lookout
Even when I have a very specific task (like getting shots highlighting the sponsor patch), I make sure to get other good shots when I see them. These could have other uses for the client.
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We definitely have lots of sports stuff to peruse. Here are a few more 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.
Purposeful Design in Indianapolis, Indiana makes beautiful hand-crafted and custom furniture. That alone is impressive. Pair that with their mission to help individuals who have faced addiction and homelessness and you have an organization that is changing lives.
Most of the men who work at Purposeful Design have no experience woodworking. They receive training and work their way through the various machinery to be able to work on all aspects of furniture production.
They have also started a school that consists of 30 hours of coursework in the areas of woodworking, discipleship, and job readiness.
Ministry is at the foundation of Purposeful Design. Craftsmen participate in a discipleship program to become servant-leaders. Workers gather daily for a prayer and are open to share with the group and receive support.
Check out the Purposeful Design website to learn more about their services, request a quote on a custom piece of furniture, or donate to their mission.
Send a Referral
Do you know any organizations doing important work? What about craftsmen making cool stuff? Leave a comment or contact us to let us know!
I created a short video of some action around the shop. Click the link below to take a look.
Bottleworks District is a massive development underway in downtown Indianapolis. This past weekend I took a tour of the property with Hendricks and their marketing partner Pivot.
In 1931 Coca-Cola built a state-of-the-art bottling facility in Indy. It’s an amazing example of Art Deco architecture. Unfortunately, the property was used primarily as bus storage for Indianapolis Public Schools since 1969. As a result, the condition of the buildings is not what it once was.
In 2016, the city sold the 11-acre site to developer Hendricks Commercial Properties. Hendricks is developing the property, an entire city block, into a mix of commercial, retail and housing called Bottleworks District. So, the original administration building will become the first West Elm branded hotel, designed by Ratio Architects. There will also be food vendors, a movie theater, apartment and condo housing, a business incubator and office spaces.
There are a lot of amazing details still in place in this building and it’s exciting that Hendricks is working so hard to restore as many of the original pieces as possible. Refurbishing the terra cotta exterior tiles alone will cost $4 million. Bottleworks District is shaping up to be a major destination in Indy and I’m excited to see the results!
If you’re into the whole urban scene, check out these other posts fromChicago and Nashville.
This time last year I worked on a project documenting Indianapolis Public Schools. I went to 10 different schools over the course of four days in April & May to photograph students in classes and activities. The images highlight the special programs and opportunities each school has to offer.
Here are some of my favorites. What’s the same and what’s different from when you were in school? Tell us in the comments!
On a warm day in January, we stop by 100 Acres at Newfields with the kids. If you’re not from the Indy area, Newfields is the campus that contains the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 100 Acres is part nature preserve, part modern art gallery.
The best part of visiting 100 Acres at Newfields (to a parent) is that kids are welcome to interact with the art. My kids definitely take full advantage of that!
Enjoy the warm winter weather vibe! What’s your favorite part of 100 Acres at Newfields? Leave a comment below.
If you want to get out of winter all together, check out these photos from the Indiana Dunes from last summer. The post features the state park, which is now surrounded by the nation’s newest national park!
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.
This week we visit Newfields Winterlights in Indianapolis, now in its second year. With over 1.5 million lights, this is THE light display to see. Newfields is the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the surrounding grounds.
In this post I talk about photographing in the difficult lighting conditions we encounter at this time of year.
Winterlights Before Sundown
When you think of light displays, you probably think of nighttime. However, if you wait until total darkness to start shooting, you miss out on some great opportunities.
The above photo shows the Lilly House during Newfields Winterlights. This image is made after sunset, during what’s known as the “blue hour”. A couple benefits of having the ambient light left in the sky in this photo is that it throws some additional light on the primary subject (the house) and it adds some subtle color and texture to the sky.
Let Lights Stand Out After Dark
Once it gets completely dark outside, I like to take the opposite approach I talk about in the last section. I embrace the contrast of the lights against the darkness. In the photo above I found a line of sight where I have lights filling the frame at varying distances from the camera.
Bokeh, Bokeh, Bokeh
For the uninitiated, bokeh is the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photo. People often ask how to achieve that “blurry background” (see photo below), but bokeh can occur in the foreground as well (see above photo).
People often assume that you need an expensive lens for this, but that’s not exactly true. The two most important factors are a lens with a wide aperture (f/1.4, 2 or 2.8) and the distances between the camera, the subject and the background. The foreground should be close to the camera and the background should be a good distance away.
For the image below, I am standing a few feet from the subject, shooting at a low aperture (f/1.4). As a result the background has a nice blur. For the above image I am standing just a couple feet from the lights in the foreground. My focus is on the tree in the background that is about 50 yards away, again shooting at a low aperture (f/2.8). A telephoto lens heightens this affect. For the image above, I’m using a 70-200mm lens at 200mm.
The image below, inside the Lilly House at Newfields Winterlights, shows how you can use both a foreground AND background blur in the same photograph. This image is shot with a 24mm lens at f/1.4.
Underexpose Holiday Lights
I typically underexpose images with holiday lights. That means I make the images darker than what the light meter recommends, so the image appears somewhat dark on the camera screen. If you go the opposite direction, you risk the lights being overexposed. When that happens, you lose the subtle detail in the lights and you can’t get them back. Sometimes overexposure is an interesting affect with holiday lights, but it’s better to do it purposefully.
Embrace the darkness of interior spaces. Expose for the brightest point and underexpose at that. Don’t use flash! Tape it shut if you have to. Flash will kill all the subtlety of warm winter lighting.
If all you have is a lens with a high minimum aperture (~f/4 or higher), well, I suppose your best bet is just shoot at a high ISO (1600, 3200) and see how it goes. If you have just a little bit of money to spend, there are a few options of lenses you can get to make low light photography easier.
Morales Group is a leading staffing agency in Indianapolis. The Morales Group attributes their growth to their commitment to serve: their clients, associates, staff and the community at large.
Recently I had the opportunity to collaborate with them on a new photography catalog to be used on their new website and marketing materials. I photographed their real employees, without the use of models or staging, working in their actual jobs.
The first few sets of images are screen shots from the website (designed by Willow Marketing) followed by the original images. As an advertising photographer, I always have to be sure to shoot with space to provide room for type and to fit a digital layout. Utilizing my documentary photography approach makes this a unique challenge.
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.
I had a co-op day recently at my kids’ preschool and thought I’d take a few photos. It’s a kind and loving environment where kids can explore their own interests in their own ways. They spend time outside every day, including in the rain and snow.
Scroll through the gallery below to see what it’s like on a typical fall day with a group of three and four-year-olds. You’ll see them playing with some kindergarteners on the playground, too.
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.
Like many people, the images I’ve seen in the news lately of refugees fleeing violence and war have affected me deeply. Parents are going through extraordinary lengths to protect their children, risking their lives seeking safety and stability.
America is a country founded and built by refugees and immigrants with these same basic goals. That’s why this spring I began documenting refugees in Indiana. My goal with this series is to show people living in local communities who embody what it means to be Hoosiers and Americans.
Rana and Reem Okar, 35, are twin sisters from Syria. They lived in Damascus for 30 years, and although smoke rising from bomb blasts in the distance had become regular occurrences and work commutes were lengthened by checkpoints, they felt safe in their city. They lived in a tight-knit community where eveyone knew each other and they would spend hours after work most days talking with friends and family at restaurants and hookah bars.
They came to the United States in late 2012 to visit family and by late 2013 decided to seek refugee status, as they were concerned about the escalating discord in their home country.
After few years of working various part time jobs in retail, both Rana and Reem were able to find regular full time employment that they enjoy. Reem works with the program and camping department of the Boy Scouts and Rana works as a team leader for Engaging Solutions, providing call center operations for health care providers.
Currently they live in the Southport area of Indianapolis with two of their sisters, but are looking to purchase a home on the north side. On weekends and during vacations they like to travel around the state seeing sights like Brown County State Park and Cataract Falls or shopping in towns like Nashville and Zionsville.
Rana (left) and Reem Okar are twin sisters from Syria who have been living in Indiana for the past 5 years as refugees.
Rana (front) and her sister Omaima walk down Main Street in Zionsville, a favorite place to shop on weekends.
The sisters enjoy knitting and often visit Village Yarn Company in Zionsville to shop for supplies.
Omaima shops in Zionsville with her three sisters.
Rana and Reem shop for antiques and locally-made crafts & goods in downtown Zionsville.
The sisters stop for ice cream at The Scoop while shopping in downtown Zionsville.
"Great vision without great people is irrelevant."
Reem at work at 1:55 p.m.
Reem speaking with coworker Andy Green, at her Boy Scouts of America job.
Rana works at a call center for Engaging Solutions on the north side of Indianapolis.
Reem takes Lily into the backyard on a leash to play before dinner.
Lily prowls the backyard of the Okars' home in the Southport area on the south side of Indianapolis.
Seeking ingredients from their home country can be a challenge, but the Okars have found a handful of international grocery stores in the area that mostly meet their needs.
The sisters cook and dine together at home most weeknights. On the weekends they look for new restaurants to try around the city.