Let's Play!

Do you ever go into a local restaurant and notice one of those team posters they have showcasing one of the local high school athletic squads? Well of course I do. And each time I'm checking it to see who shot it. Then I'm wondering how they got the gig. It occurred to me that would be a pretty good area of photography to get into.

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As with any other field of photography, team photos is a competitive field to break into. The hardest part is getting the in. I was able to finally make that happen by connecting with a longtime friend of mine who owns a local crossfit gym. I did a promo shoot for some of the girls that train at his gym. He made a poster of the image which now hangs in that gym. One of the mothers saw it and I was then commissioned for photos for their volleyball club photos.

I still get nervous before every shoot. It's probably the anal perfectionist in me. But even moreso when it's a massive shoot like this one. I wanted to make absolutely sure that everything came out just right since this would be my foray into a new photography arena. Get this one right and it could lead to more possibilities with more team photography. I will have to admit that I rather liked the outcome. Hopefully it paid off and does lead to more business down the same alley.

Loyalty

So Happy 2018! Yep..over 3 months in and this is my very first post of the year. Been so busy with my 365 Project (which I really need to make a post of its own) that I've neglected to hit y'all off with an updated blog. Well if it's any consolation, I've been thinking about this topic for a while. That should technically count as being an earlier post if I wanted to reach a bit.

If there's one thing I have really learned to appreciate in the business, it's customer loyalty. Mainly because it seems to be so rare. Especially in the Dallas market where there is certainly no lack of photographers. Now the photogs that are good at what they do are a little harder to come by. However, you quickly discover that many people don't care about that. They are looking at their bottomline so quality tends to take a backseat sometimes.

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You also have to thick skin doing this. When there comes an instance where that couple you did a shoot for decides to go elsewhere for their engagement shoot, you can't take it personally. Or when the couple you did an engagement shoot for chooses someone else for their wedding photog. Although I can't even lie...that one does baffle me. If you really enjoyed the photos from your session then why not maintain that loyalty with the same photog? But I digress....

The Beamons are a shining example of those folks that have always been loyal customers. I first met them when a friend recommended them to me for their wedding. They didn't know me from Adam but took a chance on this little ol country boy anyway. It started with an epic engagement session and they were sold for the wedding pics also. The result was one of my favorite weddings ever. Not to mention what remains to this day one of my favorite pre-ceremony images ever of Courtney and all his best men.

It could have ended there, but it didn't. They came back to me again for their family pics which gives you the image you see here. To say it was an adventure would be an understatement. That little fella was quite the handful as we tried everything possible to get him to stay focused. I think we ended up getting some good images though as we all chipped in to make it happen.

I can't even stress how much I arppeciate loyal customers. I still have folks from back home in Iowa who faithfully seek out my return dates so they can shoot with me. That will never cease to amaze me. I keep hoping to have that same type of luck in the Dallas area. I refuse to believe that it's just a regional thing. I will just have to keep being persistent until it happens.

 

I Do.

Yes I realize it's a very simplistic title, but it gets the point across. You know that it's in reference to a wedding that I recently shot. Even though it doesn't accurately reflect this was one of my favorite weddings to date. Mainly because it was for a former NHS classmate. It has nothing to do with the fact that I still only average one wedding a year which means I go out of my way to make that one count.

I was sure I had planned this one to death so nothing could possibly go wrong. Of course that was incorrect. Starting with the second shooter. Had one lined up ever since I first scheduled this momentous occasion months ago. So what happened just a few short weeks before the wedding? The second shooter informs me something comes up and they can't do it. Of course I had a back-up plan. At least three other options. Of course none of them could do it such short notice either. I was on my own. Again.

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The photography gods still found a way to smile on me at least a little bit on that day for a couple of reasons. First was that it turns out that it was a rather small wedding. Only one bridesmaid (who was also the maid of honor) and one groomsman (who was also the best man). Second thing was that this was a Des Moines wedding in December that somehow got nice weather. It was a high of 55 which felt even warmer than that with the shining sun. Sure it would have been nice to capture some snow images for the formals and candids, but I certainly was not going to complain.

Phyllis could not have been a better bride. I've been rather fortunate in that regards too when it comes to weddings that I've shot. Never had a bridezilla yet. And this was the best opportunity for one to happen. Phyllis was taking a lot of the planning and organizing herself with no formal wedding planner. If she was stressed and/or nervous, she certainly didn't show it. Their big day could not have gone smoother.

Here was yet another occasion where I ended up second-guessing myself after going through all the final images. I used a drone for the first time and now wished I would have used the video option to do a short vignette to post. I should have used my strobe on a couple of photo ideas outside. I should have done more fun styled shoots with the bridal party. And about a dozen other things I beat myself up after the fact.

However, I am rather proud of the images I did capture. The bride reveal was pretty epic the way I captured Tim's emotion. The shot of catching Phyllis enjoy her daughter's toast while Tim admired her was right on point. The capture of the rings was straight money. But more important than anything is the bride and groom very much enjoyed the photos that helped to make their entire day magical.

Booking It

I FINALLY found a way to incorporate the phrase I said I would bring back! In all seriousness, it is most applicable to this most recent event that I ended up shooting this past weekend. It was a book launch party for my Frat brother (for those of you that are schooled on the process, I was actually his Dean) Chris King. It had been quite a while since I've done an event and this one was well worth revisiting that type of booking.

I told myself a while ago that I would only do certain events (not counting weddings). There was once a time I would jump at any opportunity to shoot them. I would even actively pursue them. I assumed they would always be good networking opportunities. I could shoot the event, hand out cards and meet new people who would then hit me up for their future photography needs. Didn't quite pan out that way. I think I could probably count on one hand how many gigs I ended up getting as a result of contacts made at shooting events. 

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When certain folks ask me to shoot events, the answer would always be yes. Family and Frat being at the top of the list. There may come a time where I won't be able to be so picky so for now I consider myself blessed that that's not the case. It works out very nice when I'm able to shoot events that are benefiting those folks close to me while it can also add to my portfolio in some fashion.

I felt a little bad because I didn't have a chance to read Chris's book "Black Jesus White Jesus: My Search for a Colorless Christ" prior to shooting the official launch party. The name alone reminded me of one of my favorite books "Black Lies, White Lies" by Tony Brown (ironically, also Frat).  That coupled along with the fact that I personally know the cat writing it has me really looking forward to reading it. 

As far as my involvement, I almost ran into a major glitch. Thought I had my batteries all charged and ready to go. Get to the venue and found out that I was down to 1 1/2 charged batteries with both my charger AND my back-up charger at home. Fortunately, I was able to get the most out of that charge to last the entire two hours without missing any money shots.

The event could not have went better. It was set in a venue of an intimate Frisco Art Gallery. It was the perfect backdrop for photos rather than looking at blandly painted walls. It provided extra conversation pieces for folks as they mingled. That didn't seem to matter though because every guest there was more personable than the next. I don't know if everyone knew everyone there prior to coming, but everyone got along and fellowshipped as if they had known one another for ages. It made for a very comfortable setting for all involved. If all events were as smooth as this one, I'd definitely try to shoot more of them.

 

 

Follow Me

For as long as I can remember I have been extremely competitive. From the days of elementary school when I didn't want that kid's coloring assignment being better than mine to high school when I made EVERYTHING a challenge to now as it pertains to my photography. I realize I may not be the best out there, but I will keep striving to be the best I know I can be.

I know photography can be a cutthroat business. Of course it will be when everyone with a digital camera is a photographer these days. So when someone reaches out to me for a quote and/or an inquiry, I know they're shopping around elsewhere. I have no doubt my work will speak for itself. I know I cannot make them choose me. But I also know if they don't, my competitive fire inside will make sure that next shoot I do will be more proof to them of what they are missing out on.

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It's a rather LONG way to get to this latest shoot. However, the backstory needed to be told and this session was the best way to get it across. I try to go out of my way to giver every session my very best effort. It just so happens that when a shoot comes on the heels of a rejection, there's just a little fire ignited under me that serves as a turbo boost of sorts.

This engagement session with Marta and Rene could not have went any better. It got off to a rocky start initially because my plans for an assistant fell through. That was just a minor setback though. I've been shooting solo for 97% of my shoots for the past several years so it was no obstacle for me. The three of us were able to work together to get some amazing images.

This one here turned out to be personal favorite. It was a concept I have been wanting to do ever since that whole 'follow me' craze went viral some time ago. I always knew it would make a perfect engagement photo. Especially if I could get the capitol city in the background. It tells the perfect story of how we begin that journey into marriage. The man may be intended to be the head of the household, but we all know it's the woman who calls the shots.

I was very grateful that Marta and Rene chose me to capture their images. They could have very easily chosen some local cat like so many other folks do and have done. Marta told me she really wanted me to do their photos though. That was an additional incentive for me to make sure the photos turned out amazing. I may not get every job that I want, but the ones I do get will be glad they chose to follow me.

 

Head of the Class

Every now and then I get asked the question what is the one thing I like shooting the most. You would probably think I would say models because my port has so many of them in there. That's not the case though. Don't get me wrong...I do really enjoy those. Many models know how to pose so it makes the shoot go smooth. However, it's not my favorite. That honor would have to go to high school senior sessions.

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There is just something about being able to capture the images of a young adult as they are just preparing to officially enter adulthood. Their formative schooling years are coming to a close and they are beginning to face entirely new challenges. Hopefully, they are challenges for which his/her parent(s) have been preparing them for all their life. Then I get the special honor of making them a superstar for one shining moment no matter how much and/or little of a star they may be in their own high school.

Unfortunately, I have been leaning very heavy on senior sessions that are out of state. Mainly folks from back home in Iowa. Those contacts are still around so I still get requests for those shoots. Of course I'm not going to say no. Then what ends up happening is I get more interest from folks seeing those images. From more folks that are still out of state.

I'm hoping to change that pattern by engaging more folks locally in the DFW area. I know it's a little difficult to do when I don't particularly like leaving the house during the hot weather, but I still try to find ways to alter that. Like connecting with coworkers that have seniors that need photos. They have friends that will need photos too so hopefully it will start a domino effect of sorts.

I'm a little partial towards the senior sessions where the student is active in some type of extra-curricular activity. It just allows much more flexibility with being creative with the editing. Especially the sport ones. I've done baseball and even soccer, but still no basketball. And boy do I have some ideas for a high school senior basketball session.

So if any of you folks out there have relatives who need senior photos done, please direct them to me. I promise I will give them some images that they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. I promise I will make their young adult feel like they are king or queen for the day. And if you know a basketball senior that needs their photos, make sure to get them to me ASAP.

Be My Little Baby...

You know you would think from looking at these blog posts that I haven't done anything for over a year. Not a thing, in fact, since Mom passed away. Nothing could be further from the truth. I did take a self-imposed hiatus after that, but then I started getting back to it. Probably what it was was I got so busy that I never had a chance to blog like I wanted to.

The intent was to get out an entry coinciding with shoots. Not necessarily for EVERY shoot. That would be near impossible. But at least for a few of them so you could kind of get a look behind the curtain at the method to my madness. Better late than never so I guess this entry will be one of those.

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The Manuels have been long-time loyal clients of mine going back to when I did a family shoot for them when I was still known as XL-Images. Since then, we've done a professional shoot for them (with another one on deck), a second family shoot and two senior shoots. But when they said they wanted me to do their newborn shoot, I knew it would be a struggle. Definitely not impossible though so challenge accepted.

I will readily admit that newborns are not my specialty. It takes a talented baby-whisper to get some of the epic photos you see advertised as professional baby pics. However, I do know a few tricks or two. Enough to get some great images to capture the baby's essence. One of those being what is traditionally a coaching opportunity for me: patience.

The best baby pictures are those that are taken when the newborn is sleeping. Naturally, you can't force a newborn to go to sleep. You're at the whim of his/her schedule. The idea is to make the circumstances conducive for them to want to go into a deep sleep. Things like turning the heat up, feeding them, soft music, etc. Well we didn't have access to all that in a home setting with several people present so we had to go with feeding the little lady and just try to wait her out.

As you can see, it didn't work out quite the way we had hoped. She never did get to sleep. At least not while I was there. I found out later that the minute I left, she fell into a deep, deep sleep. Because of course that's just how my luck works. It didn't matter too much though because it turns out the little fella take some darn good pics while she's awake too. One of the most difficult sessions I've ever done was well worth the effort.

Inspiration

It seems like an oxymoron that a photographer would be such a private person.  Here we are spending our time giving people a peek at other people's worlds through the images we capture.  But not all of us particularly like having the same lens on us. In fact, it may be the reason why several of us enjoy staying behind the glass in the first place instead of in front of it.

I am certainly no different.

I go out of my way to keep my private life private. I don't discuss a lot of things on the social networks because it's either family business or people just really don't have any right to know. Or maybe it's because I keep too much bottled inside. Whatever the case may be, I felt like it was time to give everyone a little insight to something that I consider personal.  Mainly because it has been affecting me personally and subsequently, also my photography.

Those of you who have been with me since the beginning, or at least since the name change, may remember that part of the reason for the revamping was I wanted to have the 'Fleming' name as part of the legacy I was attempting to create.  This beautiful woman is one of the main reasons why. I wouldn't be the man I am (or at least trying to be) today if it weren't for the wisdom, grace and knowledge passed on to me by my mother and father.  So to get the devastating news that Mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer was earth-shattering to say the least.

As much as I hate to admit it, I tend to be very selfish. I don't drink, smoke, do drugs, have an ink (tattoo) fetish, drink coffee or any of the standard addictions.  Therefore, my selfishness is my vice of sorts with which I struggle. Where I see it happening now is I selfishly only care that out of everyone suffering with cancer that Mom is the one who beats it. It has carried over to my personal life where the social interactions I used to have are now no longer as important.

Sure, I still maintain a certain facade online. I will tell a joke or two.  I will still make the occasional sarcastic reference here and there.  I will always do that. Those are personality traits that I can't shake.  Wouldn't want to if I could. However, even those have become more infrequent.  And I can't honestly say if its for the better or worse.

The biggest area that has become affected by this at least from my end is my photography.  I have noticed that the passion I once had has dwindled. My competitive spirit to better myself while being challenged by the work of other photogs has diminished. I find it difficult to invest the same time, effort and energy I used to when part of my inspiration for doing so is in the fight of her life.

One thing I learned from Mom though is anything worth having is worth fighting for. So although I may currently be in a self-imposed hiatus of creating new work, I know it won't last.  This too shall pass.  Mainly because I know Mom would want that as well.  Still, the process of getting to that point may be a gradual one.  I will be out of pocket here and there.  My responses may be slow.  In some instances, they may even be unintentionally curt. If there is even a response at all. Know that it clearly is nothing personal. And know that you can never keep a good Fleming down.

Too Fit to Quit

I have been meaning to speak on this for a while now but something always came up to get me sidetracked.  Well a post on a friend's Facebook page compelled me enough to finally put in my own two cents about the subject. Mainly because I too get criticism from conseravative folks about some of the things that I shoot.

Even on this website, you can see that I will delve into a racy concept or two here or there. I am no stranger to controversy. And if I'm going to be totally transparent, it can get even more risque than what you have seen.  But it's all relative to me. Mainly because I don't look at it in that judgmental way at all. I am a photographer who enjoys his craft so I look at it as art.

I am of the simple mindset that our bodies truly are temples.  In these days where fitness is so popular (not to mention a multi-billion dollar business), it's becoming more evident. People spend countless hours fine-tuning their temples to get them in peak condition. They work tirelessly to get them sculpted into chiseled specimens that would make the ancient Grecian statues jealous. Having done all that, why wouldn't you want to show it off?  I say time and time again, if I was built like a premier athlete, you'd have to pay me to keep my shirt on.

Self secure people are proud of their bodies. They are proud of how they look either due to hard work or blessed genetics.  Or sometimes even both.  So there is absolutely nothing wrong with having it memorialized in photos.  It's just another form of artistic expression. When it's done tastefully, there is nothing wrong with that all.

Which brings me to my next point...the key thing is that it is done with class.  There is a fine line. Some people shoot porn and call it art. I suppose one could argue that that is another form of art too. I wouldn't. It's porn. Nothing classy about that all. I go out of my way to make sure I always maintain integrity when shooting my 'racy' shoots so there is no gray area where one couldn't make that distinction. Personally, I think I do a pretty good job of maintaining that if I must say so myself.

I will always have those pearl-clutching folks that say some of my shots are too revealing. Some of them may even end up being family members.  I'm fine with that. I may not have the physique of a Marvel superhero, but I am secure enough with my work to know when something I created is a work of art.

Location, Location, Location

Just saw a post in one of the groups I belong to on The Book.  A photog was looking for a good spot to shoot in the Dallas area and posted about it so the other photogs in the group could respond.  Par for the course, he received no responses.  Except from me chiming in that I would be interested as well.  Besides that...crickets.

The thing is I have noticed some time ago that a lot of photogs don't like sharing locations of where they shoot.  And I mean A LOT. They are very discreet about their 'top secret' locations because they don't want anyone else to shoot there.  Some even get offended that you would have the nerve to ask.  The whole thing has always baffled me.

I have no problem sharing my locations with folks.  If another photog can get a different shot in the same location then more power to them.  The beauty of the art of photography is it's all in the eye of the beholder anyway.  What I may see from one angle in one location, another photographer may find in a different angle in the same location.  It's not about where you shoot..it's about what you capture while you're there.

Don't get me wrong...your location can make or break a photo.  I've seen far too many folks try to do a sexy swimsuit shoot in what looks like a marsh.  Or trying to capture a fashion look with what appears to be someone's backyard complete with raggedy chainlink fence and parked cars that haven't been properly DOF'ed (yes...just made up that term myself. That will be another post to come later).  I'm just saying that there are far too many folks that act like their locations are the garden of Eden and only they can shoot there.

I have been fortunate enough to connect with some photogs in the Dallas area that have had no problems sharing some of their favorite spots. Whenever I see one of their images and ask where it was shot, they don't hesitate to divulge it. There's no shroud of secrecy or them taking offense that I'm being nosy.  That's just how it should be. There's plenty of creativity to go around.

Not So Eventful

I really don't like shooting events. It has nothing to do with them being a lot of work though. Lord knows I could use the exercise. It's just that it's harder to make a connection with folks when shooting event. That consequently affects the individual shots when you try to single out people at the function. Although the candids are always fun because you can often catch people being themselves when they think no one is really watching.

The exceptions I always make are when I'm shooting an event for friends and/or family.  In this instance, doing the one for Grandma's 90th Birthday Celebration was a no-brainer. I always wished I had known now back when I did the one for Popoo's surprise party so he could have had the same quality images. At least I do still have video from that evening and in some ways, that's even better.

At any rate, this event could not have gone off any better. It was not a surprise Grandma made it clear she didn't want that. However, I think she was somewhat surprised at the turnout. And there's no way she knew what kind words everyone would share as they spoke on their amazing memories with her.  The smile on her face during all that was priceless.

It was a bittersweet moment for all of us in more ways than one. Grandma was already showing signs of illness that many of us weren't accustomed to seeing. She had always been such a powerful matriarch in both spirit and physical stature that we expected it to last for years to come. We all know that God always has other plans that we may not be aware of though. 

Grandma's health would go up and down in the days and weeks following her celebration. She tried to hold on for us as long as she could until it just became too much. I, for one, found myself selfishly wishing she was able to stay with us even longer. However, I certainly didn't want it to be in a condition where it was a struggle to remain here.  So her being able to finally be at peace was a greater reward than having more time with her.

At 90-years-young, Grandma had the chance to live a very full life that many folks would be envious of. Not only that, but she was able to experience some of the most pivotal moments in our country's history while she was still old enough to appreciate them.  That's why conversations with her were always so enamoring. As much as I will miss those, I will always treasure the knowledge I gained from her during those talks.

See these are the type of connections I look for when shooting events. Of course it helps when they are paying functions, but more than anything, if the memories are special for me too then that's something on which you cannot put a price-tag. I will always look back at these images from Grandma's 90th birthday celebration and remember how special, loved and appreciated we were able to make Grandma feel.  She may be gone, but she will be with us forever...

Getting Off Track

The title could apply to the fact that I've been MIA for so long with these posts.  Has it really been over three months??  All my bad there.  Totally inexcusable.  I had a goal to get these out at the minimum of once a month.  Actually, originally I had planned to do one with each shoot, but I realized that was a bit to ambitious.  Starting in the new year, I may adopt that philosophy like I intended. For now, I will probably just have to make up for lost time.

One thing the long gap in posts allowed me to do was to come up with more material and/or observations to post about.  Some I may have to filter a bit and won't address so as not to offend. I do like controversy, just not when it's bad for business.  Heck, this post alone may ruffle some feathers; however, it's still a topic that I feel passionate about so I feel compelled to speak on it.

The pic you see here was the last time I ever did a shoot on railroad tracks.  It was by design also. You see..when I first started shooting, I knew I wanted to do all the type of shoots that I had admired in the past. One of the trends at the time was the shooting on railroad tracks. I thought that would be so cool to do one as well. So I got my Frat Theotto and his then-girlfriend (now wife) Rikkia to help out and we made this happen.  I did like the way it came out at the time (given my limited knowledge of composition, editing, framing, etc.).  After this, I was good with raillroad tracks even before there would be issues in the photography world surrounding the use of them.

I would find out later that apparently it is illegal to shoot on railroad tracks in the first place. Something about how they are technically government and/or federal property so it's trespassing? Not that that matters a great deal. Anyone that has been shooting a while knows you will gladly trespass a time or two to get some good shots. I call it guerrilla photography.  As long as the photographer and/or his subjects aren't injured then it's all good. Which brings me to the next issue that would eventually arise...

Folks are getting killed while they are attempting to take photos on tracks. There have been more than a couple of instances now where the photographer is shooting on live tracks when a train has barreled down on them and the rest is history. I still don't know how it's possible that one could not hear and/or see a large locomotive coming. Are they shooting with loud theme music blaring? Even if the train is to their back, shouldn't the client see it coming and forewarn the photog?  Or maybe they thought it would be a cool shot to get the image of the train as it's right behind the client then they forget to move in time? 

The thing for me is shooting on railroad tracks has been come way to passe.  It's an image that has been played out and overdone by now. I don't understand why photographers are still doing it in the first place. Like anything else, it was a trend that had its moment but its time has now come and gone. I guess this is one of those things where I am in the silent minority though. Because even though I have refused to shoot that concept for the past few years now, I continue to see folks still doing it. And some getting killed in the process.