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Winning These Photography Awards Was More Than A Coincidence!

26 Aug
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What do you notice about the ribbons in the snapshot below?

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How many “big” blue ribbons do you see? . . . the two that happen to say “Best Youth Award” and “Best Of Show”? Two, right? Exactly! Two. And they belong to the only two Lenspiration PRO Member who entered the Addison County Fair!

So, how did they do it?

It all started with a question over a month ago on the PRO Q&A Forum. @hannah asks,

I am planning on entering a photo competition, and was wondering if I could ask advice on some pictures, and if you could give me better ideas, or different critique on them, etc.?

The discussion went on for a good while. The PRO members and I chimed in with our thoughts and we went back and forth on several different photos. @hannah’s sister, @emilym, jumped in with some of her own pictures too. I gave my thoughts and recommendations but left the decisions up to them.

I left it there and moved on to other things. The rest was in their hands.

But then a few days later I got this email:

I won the adult best photograph award! We’ve gone from red or white (bad) ribbons to Best of Show. 🙂

What a thrill it was to hear this! It wasn’t just one of the sisters . . . it was both of them that placed. “This is the first time I’ve ever won an award at the fair”, @Hannah writes on the Q&A Forum in a followup comment. Could it be a coincidence? Perhaps. But I don’t think so. Their diligent study and application of the PRO training over the past year is paying off.

To learn more about how you can become involved in the PRO Community, click here. There’s no better time than now to start preparing for your next photo contest!

Have You Ever Had A Chance To Photograph This Creature Before?

22 Aug
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Even though I’ve lived in rural West Virginia for about 14 years, it wasn’t until this summer that I finally felt I had a sporting chance at photographing one of the most elusive creatures that silently frequent our area.

Though I hear their eery call regularly, floating through my open bedroom window as I fall asleep on cool summer evenings, I’ve never attempted to actually track the caller down.

Several times, while hunting or simply going about every-day activities, I’ve seen their black silhouette fly across open patches of only-ever-so-slightly-lighter patches of sky.

But because of the Barred Owl’s elusiveness, I’ve felt that I never had a sporting chance at finding one close enough to photograph with any sort of decent quality. And investing in a telephoto lens just for this purpose simiply hasn’t been high on my priority list.

But then came a morning when the odds turned in my favor.

I was taking a pre-dawn stroll down the driveway when I heard an odd, soft, clucking-like noise coming from the edge of the clearning quite close. I didn’t have a flashlight or anything, so I simply recoreded the call on my phone and resolved to ask my bird-genious brother about it later that day.

When I did, I was surprised that he himself did not recognize the call! That made me curious. So after a lot of digging online, I finally discovered what it was: the call of a young, fledgling Barred Owl. 

Perhaps this was my chance! If it happened to be in the same place the next morning, I would be there to photograph it.

And thankfully, it was. Here are the only three pictures I got before it flew off into the misty darkness of that rainy morning:

To learn about how I actually captured these photos–my approach, how I used the limited equipment I had, technical settings, how I processed the photos, or how I identified the call–PRO Members feel free to ask on the PRO Forums!

A Story About Mexico Culture . . . Told With Pictures!

14 Aug
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I’m on the Photography Missions Trip in Tijuana this week! Today, the mission team worked on cleaning out and fixing up what will be a third mission center for MissionTalk. Meanwhile, the construction team was hard at work on a big project . . .

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It’s fun to watch how things are done in Mexico. Smile 

Want a listen in on the live update on how things are going here in Mexico? PRO Members join us for the webinar on Monday at 7:00pm ET!

First Time for Everything . . . Like Shooting an Event Close to Home!

10 Aug
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I’ve lived in West Virginia for over a decade now, and yet I’ve photographed very few photojournalistic-like projects around here. Sure, I’ve shot lots of WV FEW Conferences, Apple Butter Festivals and various ministry outreaches we do as a family, but those I shoot just for the fun of it—it doesn’t matter whether or not the pictures turn out. Most of the time, I’m shooting events out of state, whether it’s a homeschool Conference or wedding for a friend. But when our country church’s multi-day Church Camp rolled around this year, I would have to consider it the first event I’ve shot more than just for fun of it close to home. Like 3-miles-away sort of close to home!

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No, it wasn’t a large event, and was definitely pulled off in regular West Virginia fashion, but it was a great place to be involved as a photographer. I had other roles to play other than photographer too, but now that it’s over I wish I had taken more pictures!

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the few times I pulled out my camera. As usual, I was faced with the typical challenges of indoor action, background distraction and covering an event in general, so if any of the PRO members have questions about how a certain shot was taken, or have a local event coming up that you’re expected to perform well in, let me know here on the forums and we’ll discuss it on the PRO Q&A webinar on Monday!

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Behind The Shot: Patriotic Expression

30 Jul
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Have you ever spent the 4th of July at an airport?

Travel has it’s unfavorable flavors sometimes. When I dropped off the car at a local hotel for a week of parking near the airport, the lady at the desk asked about my Independence Day vacation plans as she pulled up the paperwork . . . No, not for me this time. After a fun-filled weekend with friends and family for the WV FEW, the 4th of July needed to be a normal day of business. I thanked her for making the 4th of July a day of work herself . . . as well as the fellow who drove the shuttle to the airport. I could feel for them.

I must say, if you’re going to spend a holiday at an airport, Pittsburgh is the place to do it! It’s spacious and peaceful. They play classical music too. After seeing my brother Daniel off on his early afternoon flight to Dallas, I got to spend a few hours there before my late afternoon flight took off for Sacramento.

The layover in Las Vegas, however, was a different story. The annoying sounds of countless slot machines and the unceasing frolic of vacationing crowds was almost humorous.

Watching fireworks from the plane, though, as I took off on that last leg of the journey, actually turned out to be something interesting. Not necessarily photogenic, just unique. Little bursts of light erupting simultaneously from multiple points across the cityscape sprawled out below . . . it was, interesting. With a travel-weary smile, I reclined my seat in an attempt to get some sleep, grateful that the firework show was the only unexpected event of the day.

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Patriotic Expression
Parking lot in Sacramento, California
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As it turned out, though, it wouldn’t be the last firework show of the season.

After a full and fun week leading the ACTION Photography Team for the Sacramento Family Conference (which I wrote about in The Photography Team That Kept Growing), and with the long return flight to the East Coast planned for the next day, I was enjoying the randomness of post-Conference, brain-fried conversation with Jonah, a photographer friend from the Sacramento area, while we cleaned up the classroom together. I may tire of taking pictures (especially if it’s of basically the same thing day in and day out during a Conference), but I don’t ever seem to tire of talking photography (especially when the friend you’re talking with is big into phone-photography and is showing you how to utilize your new phone’s manual camera settings.)

At some point, the topic of fireworks comes up. Any shows going on this weekend? As a matter of fact, yes! The California State Fair is just down the road . . . it actually started tonight. No way. Jonah’s says he’s free for the evening. And has a car. Why not?!

With permission (and after the classroom was all cleaned up), we took off! Before long we found ourselves in a Chase bank parking lot just outside the fairgrounds, chatting about life, photography, cars . . . ah, I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing conclusion to a fantastic week! And the firework show that ensued added a nice, dramatic—patriotic—exclamation mark.

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Photographing fireworks is a lot of fun and a Making the Most of Your Vacation video available only to PRO Members is in the works that will explain how to capture them artistically. But for now, here are a few of my favorite shots from the California State Fair fireworks show:

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