Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What makes a great photograph?

I am often asked the question "What makes a great photograph?" Whenever I'm asked that question I think of the old joke that goes "ask 3 lawyers their opinion and you'll get 5 answers." Well, ask 3 photographers this question and you'll get 5 answers. So, here's my contribution to the collective wisdom on what makes a great photograph.

I believe that everything "boils" down to composition. It's not the lighting (although the lighting is crucial), special Photoshop effects, film, camera, lens or ISO. As one of my mentors taught me "photography is simple, don't make it complicated." Instead of focusing on the gear and all of the dynamics involved in creating a great or "winning" image, I encourage you to focus on the purpose of the image. Why are you taking a picture of that subject? Never forget that the strength of an image is the emotional content it contains. Does the image "move" you? Does it make you smile? Does it bring back memories of a special moment? In the end what matters most is how the image makes you feel. And all of those questions can be answered by simply making sure you have a great composition.

Now, I understand that "great" means different things to different people. But, if you've captured the emotion of the moment, exposed the shot correctly, and held the camera still you've done most of the work. I am always working on my compositional skills. In fact, I believe it is the one area in modern photography where we can continue to grow throughout our life. Some of the most respected and loved images throughout the world are not technically perfect. But, they captured a moment in time that continues to touch the hearts of everyone that views them.

Look for those special moments of expression and you will find that your images will have an emotional impact that will cause people to call them great. Since this is such a controversial topic in photography I'd love to hear your thoughts on what makes a great image. So, hit me up and let's continue the conversation. Be blessed and keep shooting!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Promise vs. Coincidence

One of the most profound truths in the life of a believer is the realization that there is no such thing as a coincidence. The first time I was introduced to this spiritual truth was during a Sunday morning service when our Pastor said, “…in the Kingdom of God there is no such thing as a coincidence.” I had heard that expressed before but for some reason that day it took root and became alive inside of me.

Now, here’s why this truth is so powerful and motivating in your life – take a few moments and think about the times when you accidentally “ran” into some famous celebrity, athlete, CEO or politician. At some point in our lives we’ve all “run” into someone we admire, respect or aspire to be. Do you really believe it was an accident? I don’t. I believe it was a divine appointment arranged by God to help us believe in His promise to fulfill our heart’s desires. God’s no respecter of person; what He did for one person He’ll gladly do for another.

I know this may sound a little “deep” but when you understand that there’s no such thing as a coincidence, you will realize that those so-called “chance” encounters were actually orchestrated to build your faith and encourage you to never give up on your dreams. Haven’t you noticed that every time this happens that it is always related to something you love or are passionate about?

OK, so some of you may think I’m a little crazy. But, here’s what I believe – I believe that there is greatness in you. I believe that you are gifted and talented beyond your own imagination. And, I believe we serve a God that loves us so much that He will even go as far as to make sure we “bump” into someone or something that is directly related to our heart’s deepest desires. Why? Because He promised to fulfill those desires. And, because He loves us that much.

My challenge to you is to look back over your life and begin to associate every “chance” encounter with a true desire of your heart. Then, begin to remember what that encounter felt like. Why? Because you have to “see” it before you can achieve it. And, once you come to know that there is no such thing as coincidence, you will begin to view yourself and your dreams in a new and positive way. Your deepest desires will move from the realm of being “out there somewhere” and into the realm of being something real inside of your that must come out. Remember, there is no such thing as coincidence.

(That bright-eyed kid in the middle is me on a High School trip to Washington, DC. I was a photographer for our schools newspaper as well as a student leader and participated in a wonderful program called "Washington Workshop." The man I'm standing next to was the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States. I was heavily involved in politics and had aspirations of becoming my state's first African-American Senator and ultimately working at the U.N. I don't believe it is a coincidence that during a time in my life when working for the U.N. as an Ambassador was a deep desire of mine that I actually met and spoke with a real-life Ambassador.)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Oscar Night

Well, it's finally here - the 79th Oscars! I would love to be there working as a photographer covering the event, and one day soon that will happen. And, given all of the hype and the wonderful films we've enjoyed this past year I thought I'd share my Oscar pics and ask what are yours? Here goes nothing...

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland”

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond”

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Helen Mirren in “The Queen"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls”

Best animated feature film of the year

I'm choosing Happy Feet but I really liked Cars

Achievement in art direction

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”

Achievement in cinematography (I didn't see any of these so this is a true guess)

“Children of Men"

Achievement in costume design

“Marie Antoinette”

Achievement in directing

“Letters from Iwo Jima”

Best documentary feature

“An Inconvenient Truth”

Achievement in film editing

“Blood Diamond”

Best motion picture of the year

“The Departed”

Achievement in sound mixing (as a sound engineer IMHO this is the toughest category)


Achievement in visual effects

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest”

Adapted screenplay

“Notes on a Scandal”

Original screenplay


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Surviving the Blizzard

We survived the blizzard (well, part of it as the really tough stuff is tonight and tomorrow morning). Despite the frigid cold I had to capture a few still moments in the snow as the heavy snow was just beginning to fall. To everyone affected by the huge winter storm please stay warm, stay safe and remember - spring is just around the corner. Be blessed and keep shooting!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Give and it will come back to you...

Recently I had the opportunity to cover a very special event that really touched my heart. I was the photographer for a Volunteer Banquet where all of the volunteers for this particular organization were honored for their service and faithful contributions. The place was full and there was plenty fine dining and an awards ceremony. They even featured a very funny comedian during dinner to entertain everyone.

But, what was so special was all of the laughter, warmth, and love everyone expressed towards each other. It was clear that the people who volunteered, along with the staff sponsoring this event, really loved what they were doing and the people they were serving. It was truly one of those "things" that you had to experience to fully appreciate.

I've attended plenty of banquets over the years but I've never been involved with one where there was soo much love in the room. The slideshow is forthcoming, but for now please enjoy a few images from an evening where the people who usually give had the joy of having someone else give to them. That old scripture is so true - give, and it shall be given unto you.

(This was a very emotional moment as the winner of the "Volunteer of the Year" award was overcome with surprise. Her heart-felt "thank you" speech and testimony brought tears to everyone in attendance.)

(This young man won an award that evening but wasn't initially present as he was volunteering during the event. When asked to say something, he simply pointed up to the sky, thanked God for the opportunity to help, and left the stage. In his own very special way his "thank you" speech said it all!)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Following Your Heart

Recently a friend from work left the company to pursue her true heart's desire - to be a missionary and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in hurting places throughout the world. Wow, what a high calling and a special anointing. Her team threw a going away party but she really wasn't leaving us, just moving into a new season in her life. She is training now and in a few months will be in some part of Africa sharing the story of Jesus Christ, and helping make life better for the people she will be living with during her assignment.

She is the 3rd person within the last 2 months who made a decision to let go of what seemed "comfortable" to pursue their heart's love. I have to admit that I have a burning heart's desire that I need to pursue. And, would you like to know a secret? More often than not, so do you.

Why do we stay in places that don't fulfill us instead of letting go, trusting God, and really pursuing what makes us happy? I don't know the answer, but here's what I do know and have learned from working in places where I was not happy or fulfilled:

If you're not willing to take a risk, you cannot grow.
If you cannot grow, you cannot become your best.
And if you cannot become your best, you won't be happy.
And if you can't be happy, then what else is there?

A little something for all of us to think and ponder...be blessed, keep shooting and never give up on your dreams!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Introducing Reggie Royal & Judah!

Whew, what a busy few weeks it has been. But, I'm not complaining as I feel blessed to have so many photography projects to finish this month. And, I feel truly blessed as recently I had the opportunity to photograph a super talented, powerful, energetic, and anointed praise and worship group called Judah! There aren't enough adjectives to describe these guys - yes, they are that gifted and anointed. But, what made being with them so special was their collective "heart" to minister and loving personalities. The slideshow is next, but here are a few of my personal favorites from our photoshoot. Enjoy and don't forget to check out the slideshow!