F8 Industries Photography

F8 Industries Photography


The Aggie Barn (behind the shoot)

After turning onto Highway 6 from I-35 in Waco to travel south towards Aggieland every Aggie in the past few decades is familiar with the privately owned “Aggie Barn” located near Reagan, Texas.  It is a popular stop on the highway for a quick photo.  It is privately owned so you have to gain permission to go on the property, which we had for a special senior portrait session.  Using the tools I’ve explained before for planning outdoor photography, I was able to determine where in the sky the sun would be and what time we needed to be setup to shoot.  The scene would be wonderfully backlit, the challenge would be creating an exposure that will have my two subjects lit well, while maintaining the exposure for the landscape and sky.  The only way to keep the exposure even from front to back like that is to use external lighting.  For mobile location shoots I’m still a big fan of Speedlights.  For the money you get a lot of functionality, costing a fraction of the cost of full powered and portable strobes.  With the financial trade off you lose some power, so another photographer may have lit this scene with two strobes, I used four speedlights, three of which were on stands and triggered wirelessly.









I’m using this diagram to demonstrate what I worked out sketching in my notebook.  The difference being if I would need to use diffusers on the three unmodified speedlights, the fourth in an octabox.  When lighting an outdoor scene a photographer can either choose to ignore the sun, use the sun or eliminate the sun, but it will have an effect on the final photograph.  Ignoring the sun wouldn’t work, needing to use spot metering on the model or center weighted metering to get the exposure correct for the model and the barn.  The downside is that the sky, sun and background will be blown out with severely overexposed highlights.  Although that is a chosen look for some photographers, my style tends to center around even exposures from front to back.  To eliminate the sun all we would have to do is wait for the sun to drop below the roof line of the barn, which results in a glowing sky and a bright “halo” around the barn.  That would be a good exposure, but it doesn’t fit my photographic style or what I like to shoot, so I would have to use the sun.

In a previous post about Depth of Field I explained how setting your aperture is the first step in a creative composition and it will effect other parts of your photograph even if it is unintended.  Being a landscape photograph with a portrait in the middle, the objective would be a longer depth of field to begin with, but it goes beyond that.  Using a very small aperture can create a starburst effect on lights.  If you remember the glamor photo studios in shopping malls in the 80s and 90s then you might remember that there are filters you can put on the front of your lens to create a star burst.  Those have their applications, but I’m not a fan of them.  I do, however, enjoy the look of an aperture diaphragm induced star burst effect using a small aperture.  In the case of the final portrait I used f/22.

As a general rule with outdoor photography, if you have good light now you are too late, you should have been setup before the good light comes so you can be ready to shoot.  That mean that the Jenn, the graduating senior in the photo, had the opportunity to enjoy an aspect of landscape photography that many people don’t think about:  relaxing in nature waiting for the right light and conditions.  In other words we sat around for about thirty minutes, but once the light gets right it is go go go!

For the majority of my portrait work I use a handheld camera for the ease of use, in this case I opted to mount my camera on a tripod.  That gave me the ability to very specifically stage the composition and keep the framing correct for the final photograph when the time and light came.

Cellphone Outside Shot





Notice that there is a speedlight on the hotshoe of the wireless trigger in the hotshoe of my D800.  The octabox is standing to the right of the camera, two other bare speedlights are positioned closer to the barn, but just out of frame of the camera to light up the face of the barn.  Only lighting Jenn would result in a nice portrait, but it is important to remember that there are two important “people” in this portrait, Jenn and the Aggie Barn.  So the barn face had to be lit as well or it would show too dark in the final photograph.  After a couple of test shots to get the lighting metered correct we waited.  Once the sun dropped into the frame at the right spot, it was time to move quickly and shoot.

Here is the final shot:




Back roads and hotrods!

Hidden in the back roads of Texas are people of all sorts, from all backgrounds and interested in many things, but at their core they are Texans.  They have their own style, their own way of doing things.

Recently MF Photography, Mark Futch, joined me on a photodrive through a couple of back roads in central Texas.  The goal was to photograph a long abandoned gas station that you’ve seen the inside of if you follow F8 Industries on Facebook, but from the outside now that it is winter and the vegetation was down.

A rule of abandoned/Urban-Ex photography is you take the shot you have, the shot you want may not standing tomorrow.  The gas station was still standing but it was very worse for the wear in only a couple of months.  The shot we planned was gone because the building had shifted.

The interior of the gas station we wanted to photograph from the outside. The interior of the gas station we wanted to photograph from the outside.









The gas station from the outside. Although the trees are bare, the roof and building wasn’t leaning so severely before. I’m still happy with the shot, though.




Around the corner we saw a country home surrounded by hotrods!  What we found was an owner who was gracious and full of incredible stories about the cars and the area where she lived.  Not only did she say we could photograph the cars in the yard, she opened the shop and let us take photographs of a work in progress!

Old school and too cool, just sitting in the front yard!

Old school and too cool, just sitting in the front yard!



From the back of the cool hotrod that is a work in progress, back dropped by the large doors to the shop with all kinds of antique license plates.

From the back of the cool hotrod that is a work in progress, back dropped by the large doors to the shop with all kinds of antique license plates.




The lessons learned on this photodrive?  With Urban-Ex photography, take the shot you have, don’t wait for the shot you would like.  It may not be there when you come back.  Also, it never hurts to ask, sometimes you might just meet someone who is really interesting!

Hotrod reflections. Hotrod reflections.

Published on:
March 5, 2015 16:27
Photo Updates

The $100 Photo Safari

Photo safari trips to photograph exotic animals, $10,000 lenses of incredible focal lengths, lengthy air travel, guides…it is not for the faint of heart.

Lion Nose

I want to spend less than $100 and I want to use the photo gear I currently own.  I want the “$100 Photo Safari!”

Wait, what?

You can go on your very own photo safari, you can do it for less than $100 and you can probably use the photography equipment you already own.  It cost me $16 to enter the Houston Zoo last weekend.  $16 with free rein to wander around the zoo and take as many photos as I wanted.

Name a spot near you where you can get close to exotic animals, if you have kids you have already figured out I’m talking about going to your local zoo.  You don’t have to have kids to go to the zoo, you can even go by yourself.

But the animals are in enclosures, behind nets, behind glass…

Yes they are, but don’t let that stop you, there are some techniques and tricks to shooting through the barriers with out having to gain special access to the zoo.

First, though, we need to plan the trip.

Weekdays during the school year are less crowded than the weekend, excluding field trips that might show up. 

It is probably obvious to all of you why this is true, but if not and you take the time to make a weekday visit to your local zoo while school is in session then make a follow up trip, you will see an incredible difference in the crowds.  The popular animal enclosures are often quite crowded, which can prevent your access to the angle and the shot you want.  However, even if you’re stuck to a visit during peak hours, a little bit of patience and polite requests of your fellow zoo visitors and you’ll easily be able to make your way to the spot you need for the shot.

Mornings when the zoo first opens are less crowded than the afternoons. 

If you have a zoo membership the entry process will be faster, but even with out a membership get to the zoo before the gate opens, get a good parking spot and get in line to purchase a ticket.  Once the gate is open you can make your way directly to the one animal that you really want to photograph.  Even on weekends during the summer you will generally have about an hour before the zoo starts to get busy.  You’ll have a few hours before the zoo gets really crowded.

Feeding times can either get the animals active or the animals will be brought in from an enclosure to their private habitat to feed. 

Some animals are fed out in the open, like Giraffes.  Some are fed behind closed doors, like Tigers (generally).  Often it has to do with the animal’s food and how they eat it, sometimes it has to do with the animal’s temperment.  A phone call to the zoo you’re going to visit can help you figure out when the feeding times are and if you can see the feeding.  Some animals eat out of a trough and it is really not a great photo opportunity.  Some animals have more dynamic feedings which are great photo opportunities.  Regardless you won’t get the National Geographic shot of a lion taking down a zebra on a wind swept plain, but on the up side you aren’t traveling for days to reach an exotic location with mosquitoes that are trying to kill you.

Second, what equipment?

Lens choice makes a difference.

For shooting into enclosures the big secret is having a telephoto camera.  This is two fold, firstly a tight crop on the animal will help make the shot look less like a zoo.  Secondly, with a zoomed in lens held near the enclosure fence, netting or glass and focused well past the barrier (on the animal, right) the enclosure will practically disappear.  My lens of choice is a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8, I like shooting with a shallow Depth of Field and a larger aperture, so it fits what I need.  I’ve also used a Nikon 70-300 VR II and a small armada of other lenses and focal lengths.  Assuming you have at least a 55-200 (crop sensor lens) then you will be able to get nice tight shots.  What if you only have the 18-55 lens that came with your camera?  Don’t let that stop you, go take photographs.  You’ll have fun and you’ll still get some good photos.  In fact the wider lens choices are awesome for the tight small animal enclosures.  Animals like small monkeys, reptiles and similar.

No Flash!

Seriously, don’t use a pop-up flash ever, but especially at the zoo.  No speed lights, nothing.  For one you will bounce light off the enclosure you might be shooting through, which will ruin the photo.  The other is you might annoy the animals or more importantly you might annoy the zoo staff, which means your photo safari is now officially over and you’re out your entry fee.

No Tripods!

Many zoos have specific rules against tripod use.  If you are running some monster glass then you probably already own a monopod and really don’t need me to tell you how to photograph zoo animals, but seriously, no tripods.

So now what?

Go take some photos, have fun and play with your settings.   Remember your photo composition techniques and be patient.  If you take the time to stand by an enclosure for a while you will get an idea of what the animal will do and you will be able to better anticipate the shots.  You might even get a fun photo (like the featured photograph of this post).

What can you expect to shoot?

All of the photos below were taken at zoos in Texas.  The lion photos were taken through some very thick glass, others were shot through a chain link fence, some through netting and a small few were shot by hanging my lens over the top of a low barrier.  I love big cats, especially lions, so no surprise that I have more photographs of lions than any other animal.

Lion Nose F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-14 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-13 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-12 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-11 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-10 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-09 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-08 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-07 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-06 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-05 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-04 F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-03 Chimp Idea


Published on:
January 27, 2015 20:00
Photo Updates

How I Shot It!

This is the first “How I Shot It” post of 2015.

We are going to have more of these this year, so I hope you stay tuned to F8 Industries!  If these posts leave you wanting more then you need to attend the F8 Academy.


Here is our “hero” photo for the post.  It is the Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge that spans the Red River near Denison, Texas.  This photo is taken from the Oklahoma side.

Carpenters Bluff Bridge






What is the nitty gritty for this shot?  Well, it is a composite of five exposures in the HDR process, but don’t let that stop you, HDR isn’t hard but it is easy to quickly “over cook” a photo so use a light hand.  Besides, the HDR process isn’t what makes this photo one of my favorites, it is the composition using very strong leading lines, but also bending reality from what someone really sees when they stand in the same place I took this photo.

Focal lengths in photography, how long or short your lens is, makes a dramatic difference in the composition of a photograph.  I’ve posted about my love affair with the 50mm f/1.8 lens before, The Nifty-Fifty, and one of the reasons I love that lens is that it is close to what the human eye actually can see in regards to the depth and degree of view.  In reality it is closer to 52mm, but still the 50mm lens get’s it close and photos look good because of it.  That’s also one reason why it is a popular lens for portrait photography, it replicates what we expect to see.

The hero photo was taken with a Nikon D800 using a Tokina 16-28mm f/2.8 lens.  (The D800 has been supplanted by the slightly updated Nikon D810).  The camera was mounted on a very sturdy tripod and I used the camera’s timer function to take the photo to minimize camera shake.  The D800 has the ability to take an assigned number of exposures from the timer release and you can set those to bracket the exposure, so that is what I use when I’m bracketing for HDR.  It minimizes camera shake and keeps the exposures close together in regards to time lapsed, which helps minimize ghosting from things that moved in the frame.  Sometimes you can’t help the ghosting and on windy days you’re really stuck.

What matters in the above equipment mix is the focal length of the lens.  A very similar photo could have been taken by my old Nikon D3000 or D200 or any number of cameras costing a little to thousands of dollars of kit.  In a crop-sensor camera body (DX in the Nikon line, for example) a similar focal length would be a 12-24mm lens.

Why such a wide lens?  It spreads out the foreground and the background, making the distance look further away.  A wide focal length also distorts the edges of the frame, so it makes the wide look wider, the large look larger and in this case it really exaggerates the bridge steel trusses.

What if I took the same photo at a different focal length?

Well, you’re in luck, I did!







First you’re going to cry foul because the colors are different.  Well, yes they are, this isn’t the “hero” shot so I didn’t do much of any post processing work on it.  That isn’t what is important for the example.  What is important is to look at the difference in how the bridge looks.  The end of the bridge looks much closer, the trusses look straighter and not as angled back.  See the broken road surface just at the bottom of the frame, that is where the tripod was set for the “hero” photo.

Carpenters Bluff Bridge 16mm at ISO 100 f/11

F8Industries-MarkedForWeb-02-3 70mm at ISO100 f/11








Wow what a difference that makes, the difference in focal length makes an incredible difference in how the composition of the photograph looks.

Note that I used f/11 in both photos, both lenses are f/2.8 lens, which means that both of them can maintain a constant aperture of 2.8 anywhere in the zoom range.  It is possible to take a correct exposure anywhere from f/2.8 to f/22 with the lens used this day and end up with very similar results.  The difference is the depth of field.  f/11 is a moderate aperture for many landscape photographs.  Often you’ll find photos taken with an aperture around f/18 or f/20.  The reason is that I wanted both  exposures to loose detail on the far end but remain sort of sharp through the middle.  If I had chosen f/20 the middle (far end of the bridge) would look sharper, if I had chosen f/2.8 and focused on the trusses then the far end of the bridge would have been very blurry.

What I wanted from the photograph is the end of the bridge to seem dream like, as if you could walk through it into Narnia, but I wanted the front of the photos to be razor sharp.  So middle of the road in terms of aperture was the way to go.

For the majority of the photographs I take the very first compositional questions I ask myself is “what do I want my Depth Of Field (DOF) to be?”  The next is “what is the focal point of the composition” followed quickly by in this case “I wonder if a car will hit me?


(That’s why you bring a friend)

Carpenters Bluff Bridge






So what about the Leading Lines composition?

There are some basic compositional techniques that we are going to discuss this year, some have been discussed before such as Rule Of Thirds, but we are going to cover them in more detail in a later post.  Some of the other techniques are Perfect (Golden) Ratio and Room For Movement, all of which we will cover in later posts.

In the case of our “hero” shot we have strong lines coming from the corners of the frame leading the eye up and towards the middle of the frame.  It causes someone to do what they would naturally do if they were standing where the camera is:  look around.  Creating eye movement in the viewer of a photograph is much more difficult, so in cases we want to create that experience we as photographers have to look for something in the frame to do it for us.






Take a look at the following photos, each of them uses Leading Lines in the composition, it may not be all that is used, but see if you can find what the leading lines are:

Company C-2 Flag Detail Country Target







Often more than one compositional technique is used in a photograph, sometimes it is easy to get bogged down in the technical aspects of a shot more than living in the moment and enjoying what you’re experiencing through the lens.  In the case of the cadets raising the flag in a flag detail, if you can believe it that was not a staged shot.  That shot happened as they did their detail.  I had the advantage of knowing roughly what time it would happen, what the general flow of the event would be and I had a hard point to frame from in the case of the flag pole.  So I was able to arrive early and take care of the technical problems and composition before the cadets arrived, marching in formation.

So regardless of what you’re trying to photograph, have fun doing it or what is the point?

Published on:
January 13, 2015 13:59
Photo Updates

My Favorite Photos From 2014 (The Rest)

Now on to the Top-10 picks of my favorite photos from 2014!

When I sat down to select my favorite photos from 2014 I created a new collection in Lightroom and ended up with over 100 photos in it!  Last year was just incredible when it came to fun photography, minus the few months in the middle when I couldn’t even hold a camera due to a serious injury, but the year ended with a bang!  Eventually I was able to trim the number well down from 100 photos, but the post is being broken into two parts.  Some of these photos you are going to see pop up again with some detailed “how I shot it” posts.  Except for a couple of larger production photographs that required extensive lighting, most of these photos you can take yourself with a minimal amount of equipment.  You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a camera to do it either, even an entry level DSLR or Mirrorless Camera can take a similar photograph.  Contrary to what you may think, the photographer is the most important part of the equation.  As I like to say, I can play a $5,000 Martin guitar just as badly as I play a $100 pawn shop guitar.

If you want more than just some up coming blog posts then you should attend one of my classes in 2015 with the F8 Academy!  The classes numbers are kept small so there is a high level of interaction and you can even rent a variety of Nikon DSLR equipment to use during the class if you don’t currently own a camera.  Can’t attend a class and you want to learn more, look for my book of extraordinary photography for everyday people to be released in the early summer of 2015!  For now you’ll have to settle to read my current zombie apocalypse series published by Winlock Press, Winchester Undead.



This was shot during a personal photo project I’m just kicking off that is telling people’s personal stories through their tattoos.  It is an incredibly powerful and emotional project that I can’t wait to show the world.  Look for a gallery showing announcement sometime late summer for a early fall showing!



This is a self portrait taken at The Window in Big Bend National park.  Due to the contrast and wide exposure values this is a difficult shot to take, you’ll get a chance to read all about it in a later post!


Company C-2 at the 2014 Rice vs TAMU March-In





An example of the editorial style of photography that I love, this is far from being a staged or planned photograph.  I was on the Quad at Texas A&M continuing my long term photography project of documenting the cadets in Company C-2 of the Corps of Cadets (which was recently featured in Shutterbug Magazine) and this shot unfolded in front of me.  Who could resist?







Accidental Urban (country) Exploration at its finest!  In an abandoned wood framed gas station buried in a lot of overgrown trees and grass sat this wonderful find.  This is like winning the lotto if you enjoy UrbanEx photography!



The stars at night, are big and bright *clap, clap, clap*  Yes from Big Bend National Park featuring the ruins of an old ranch house near Santa Ellena Canyon, but not in Terilingua Trabajo.  The starts are absolutely amazing and there is zero cell service for miles and miles, which makes the trip even more worth while!



Yet another from Big Bend National park, this time from the Cottonwood Campgrounds featuring my very own Panther Primitive canvas wall tent (it really is the best way to camp).



This is one of the hardest and most technical photographs I took in all of 2014.  In fact I already posted about what it took to capture this photo.  It looks easy, but I promise you that it is near impossible to capture Sully with out a lot of planning and a lot of well used lighting!


 Winchester: Over

If Sully was one of the hardest, this was the hardest and most complicated photo shoot of the year.  I posted about how it was done already, but I’m very proud of this photograph.  I’m also pleased to announce that my first novel, which I self published, has been signed to a traditional publisher (Winlock Press, an imprint of Permuted Press) and includes the following four installments in the series.  In fact I just finished photographing the cover for Winchester Undead book 2!  If you haven’t yet, check my book out:  www.winchesterundead.com



My kids made it on the top 10 list, but not #1.  That’s ok, but if you like this photograph you’ll have to wait to see how easy it is to take a similar photograph of your children, this one will be featured in an upcoming post!


Carpenters Bluff Bridge

This photograph is the #1 photo of the year for me.  Partially because it is a good shot and is a classic example of using leading lines in your composition, but also because this is Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge.  This is the last place that my Dad and I photographed a few months prior to this shot together.  I took this photograph the day after his funeral in May.  Photography for me is always about an emotional journey and about telling a story.

##Honorable Mentions##


These photographs didn’t make the Top-10 but they almost did!  Some I’m proud of due to unique compositional techniques, some I like due to technical mastery, others I enjoy just because they’re cute.  Regardless, I still had to share them!  Some of these are going to be seen again in upcoming how-to posts!

Painting Face











































Published on:
January 11, 2015 14:00
Photo Updates

My Favorite Photos From 2014 (Part 1)

When I sat down to select my favorite photos from 2014 I created a new collection in Lightroom and ended up with over 100 photos in it!  Last year was just incredible when it came to fun photography, minus the few months in the middle when I couldn’t even hold a camera due to a serious injury, but the year ended with a bang!  Eventually I was able to trim the number well down from 100 photos, but the post is being broken into two parts.  You’ll have to wait a few days to see what my number one favorite photo of 2014 is.  Some of these photos you are going to see pop up again with some detailed “how I shot it” posts.  Except for a couple of larger production photographs that required extensive lighting, most of these photos you can take yourself with a minimal amount of equipment.  You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on a camera to do it either, even an entry level DSLR or Mirrorless Camera can take a similar photograph.  Contrary to what you may think, the photographer is the most important part of the equation.  As I like to say, I can play a $5,000 Martin guitar just as badly as I play a $100 pawn shop guitar.

If you want more than just some up coming blog posts then you should attend one of my classes in 2015 with the F8 Academy!  The classes numbers are kept small so there is a high level of interaction and you can even rent a variety of Nikon DSLR equipment to use during the class if you don’t currently own a camera.  Can’t attend a class and you want to learn more, look for my book of extraordinary photography for everyday people to be released in the early summer of 2015!  For now you’ll have to settle to read my current zombie apocalypse series published by Winlock Press, Winchester Undead.


My Favorite Photos From 2014 (Part 1)



Strong leading lines drive this photo from a commercial series I shot for a local brewpub restaurant; the strong placement of the growler and inviting cold beer with a unique crop for a portrait to maintain focus on the product placement puts this on the list.



Live music photography is challenging, many venues and musicians do not want extra strobes or flashes being used, so you’re stuck with really bizarre stage lighting intensity and color.  However, the challenge is completely worth it when you capture the raw emotion being poured out through the microphone with every ounce of intensity the musician has!



Candid moments happen quickly during some portrait sessions, if you’re ready, if you’re able to make the adjustments needed on your camera fast enough, you can capture the raw emotions that make photographs speak volumes.



More musicians!  Music and photography goes together like hipsters and mustaches.  Ok, maybe that’s not the best analogy, but musicians and photographers are people cut from the same cloth, we have a creative story to tell and it is up to our mastery of our chosen medium to have the chance to tell it.



This isn’t the only photograph from a wedding that will make the final list and there is good reason.  Weddings are fun, you get to capture people when they are happy, when their friends are happy and when everyone is having a good time.  You get to capture happiness when it is raw on the surface of every face around you.  Yes weddings are some of the most challenging photo shoots a photographer can take on and when this photo is broken down in a later post you will be surprised everything that had to go into it!



On the trail to The Window in The Basin of Big Bend National Park.  This photograph wasn’t one of the four I planned in exceptional detail, it was en route to one of those photographs, but luck favors the prepared, so with a 24-70 on my Nikon and a circular polarizer already on the lens, I was able to stop follow the trail to the edge of the shadow cast by the rock outcrop to compose this photograph.









Another from Big Bend National Park, this time at the not as well known Cattail Falls.  This was the first time that I found the falls with water flowing.  It was incredible.  Incredible enough that my family used it for our Christmas card this year.  Well, not that photo exactly, but this one:


No we don’t have some sort of trained monkey that hiked with us to take the photograph, although that would have been handy.  How did I get the waterfall to have a flowing look to the water and get my family’s portrait sharp while standing in front of the camera?  You’ll have to wait for it, but you’ll learn how to take great vacation photographs like this one in a later post!



If there is something I absolutely love doing for family portraits it is capturing playful moments.  Especially when I get to use use one of my favorite style techniques of angle lighting or backlighting the subjects with the sun while lighting them with a diffused speedlight.  How I do that exactly so that you capture detail in the sky and background with out having huge washed out highlights will be a featured subject in a later post.



There are a set of poses I use for portraits of young women and I describe them as “sassy.”  They are a lot of fun and you can see she pulls off the pose perfectly!  This is another example of using the sun angled and backlit on the portrait subject and lighting the subject so they are exposed correctly for the background colors and highlights.  I’ll say that I’m a natural light photographer, one that uses natural light and then manipulates it, moves it and adjusts it as I need with extra lighting to make a photograph turn out balanced and beautiful instead of harsh and blown out.



Another photograph from a wedding.  This wedding was a departure from my norm as this was the first traditional Indian wedding I had the opportunity to photograph.  Classic American weddings all follow a very similar script and even with changes, they are easy to anticipate and adjust for, but in this case there were traditions and customs that I would have never of guessed.  For instance the groom had to barter and buy his way into the ceremony and that was just the beginning.  It was incredible fun and I hope I have the opportunity to photograph a similar wedding for another client.


Stay tuned for the top 10 favorite photos of 2014!



Crooked Yard Lines

Upwards Football.

Crooked yard lines, father coaches and the entire parent, grandparent and family friends cheering section pointing down the field and yelling, while laughing, for the kid running the wrong way down the field.

F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-14 Ending an evening practice, all the children cheer with the father-coaches.

There are goal lines, the End zone exists, no uprights, no Point After Touchdowns, in fact there are no points at all. Although it sounds like an “everyone is a winner” new age socially acceptable watered down sports event, it really is a highly positive and exciting game for the participants. You should know that the players are 4 and 5 year olds and this is generally for most, their first exposure to playing any sort of organized football game.


F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-17 My son running the football in a game.

Teaching the children about sportsmanship, teamwork, some of the basic rules and giving them a general idea of how the game is played, Upwards Football was an incredibly positive experience. Each team has a rotation for the players, since there is usually one kid who is quite talented and another who is still trying to figure out to run fast, every child gets a turn in on defense, on offense, as the running back and as the quarterback. On a couple rare occasions the young quarterbacks had the chance to throw the ball to a wide receiver.

F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-04 One of the coaches trying to explain how to block for the runner. Although watching the games I think most of the good blocks were completely unintentional and generally hilarious.




F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-02 A break during an evening practice, the head coach for my son’s team reads the important lesson for the day, which were Bible based life lessons about teamwork, playing fair and doing the right thing.


What made the season special isn’t that the children played a championship game or even that they all received a small trophy at the end of the season for accomplishing continued participation. What made the season special were the parents at the game every Saturday morning, at the practices immediately after work during the week and the excitement that each of the children had while playing.


Early morning fall football game, the parents are ready to cheer, with the player’s brothers and sisters watching.





Little sisters participated on the sidelines, watching and cheering.

Although flag football, I have to admit that I saw some better open field tackles completed than I’ve seen on the college level, regardless, the coaches would pick the kids up, help them reset, design a play and hope their running back would run the correct direction on the field.

F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-12 The coaches worked very hard to keep the game safe and the “tackles” flag pulls, but with a group of 4-5 year old boys, tackles happen before a flag is pulled.


Another potential for a play coming unraveled was an excited teammate that might pull his own teammate’s flag! Still, important lessons were taught along the way, young friendships were made, friendships among the parents were made and who can deny the cuteness of four year old running down the field with a peewee sized football that looks comically large in their little arms.

F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-18 Little guy, big football and an even bigger smile!

Truth be told, although I watched the large majority of the action through my viewfinder, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh for the entire game or practice. The excitement of the young children is contagious, the happiness and dedication of the parents and families brings a quick smile to your face and the hilarious antics of a group of four year olds is hard to deny.

F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-16 Who can expect a four year old to keep serious, even when the center just snapped the ball to the quarterback.

While I am admittedly not a sports photographer, I photograph my children and my children are starting to get old enough to play in sports. Since I’m “that dad” on the sidelines with a high end camera and telephoto lens, I left my usual approach of simply photographing my children to make this season into a personal project: photograph the games and practices as able and give all the parents copies of the photos. So after each practice and after each game a link was e-mailed out to the parents and forwarded to the opposing team so they could have their photos.



F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-15 Early in the season the children figured out how to dive for a flag tackle!

Upwards Football 092714 Game Some of the best football action you can cheer!

Upwards Football 092714 Game Nothing like a team sport to help build young friendships!

Upwards Football 092714 Game Happy faces, serious faces, but everyone is having fun.

Why? Well that goes back to my philosophy for F8 Industries Photography. That is I want to provide the highest quality product to my clients, as they have invited me into their lives to capture the most important moments, the memories, the photos that their children will have to show their children in the future. The role of photographer is often looked upon with a whimsy approach, sometimes by people searching for a photographer, sometimes by the photographer themselves, but I see it as an honored gift to be a family’s photographer. They are placing a level of trust in your confidence, skills and ability to provide them with their memories in lasting form.


F8Industries-UpwardsFootball-26 At the end of each game the parents and family members would make an arch for the kids to run through, which they all loved!

This season has ended, I have no idea if my son’s team won or lost, I have no idea how many touchdowns were made, but I know that my son is already looking forward to the next season and he is excited to try out other sports since he had so much fun.



Published on:
December 8, 2014 16:41
Photo Updates

What Does It Take?

What does it take to be ready for capturing the important moments in family’s lives?

It all depends.  For a family portrait session, depending on the number of people in the family and the location, I might use an on camera speed light and my favorite 50mm prime lens, or I might use multiple lights with wireless triggers and light modifiers.  However, for a family portrait session the one thing you have is a little bit of time.  When you’re hiring a photographer to capture candid moments that are of great significance to the people involved, it takes a different approach.  Often lost is the luxury of being able to setup extra lighting due to the dynamics of the photos that need to be taken.  Sometimes you aren’t afforded the luxury of being able to “zoom with your feet” to frame a photo perfectly when the action is moving fast.  You also lose the luxury of being able to “try out” different settings on your camera to get the right exposure.  You have to know how to move and shoot accurate and fast.

My professional approach to these moments is significant.  I have to have the gear immediately ready, but I also have to have some backups of critical components.

This morning’s critical must-get-it-right shoot was a young man proposing to his girlfriend.  The dynamics are fast, as are the reactions.  Being able to setup off camera lighting would be nice, but often people will move unexpectedly, ruining your meticulously planned lighting.  So this was my approach for the photoshoot this morning:










  • Nikon D800 with a Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 and a Nikon SB-700 with diffuser
  • Nikon D800 with a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 with a Nikon SB-700 with diffuser
  • Spare AA batteries for the flash units
  • Spare batteries for the cameras
  • Lens Pen to quickly clean the front element of a lens if something gets it dirty while shooting
  • BlackRapid 2-camera sling system
  • Pelican case with spare SD cards in case of a memory card failure.


That may seem like overkill and quite frankly it would be for most standard portrait shoots, but when shooting candids I have my reasons.  First of all, if for some reason I have a camera body completely fail on me, I can still run the other camera, even if I lose the ability to quickly switch focal lengths.   The camera body and the battery grip both have fully charged batteries in them, but failures happen and they will happen at the worst possible moment, so I have to have a spare battery for each camera.  My projected shot count for the portraits was approximately 100 shots, so the batteries in the Speedlights (flash units) should last that long.  While prepping gear I test each AA battery I use to verify that they function with a high level of charge left.  I’ve had brand new name brand batteries fail out of the packaging, so I can’t trust that the tested batteries in the flash units will continue to function.  So a spare set of batteries for each unit.  Just like if a camera body fails, if a Speedlight fails I can immediately switch camera bodies or I can very quickly adjust the camera’s settings to adapt to the lack of lighting.  However, even using open shade, the use of lighting is important to give detail and definition to the people’s faces.

When you have important moments that you want captured “on film” then you need to choose your photographer carefully.  You don’t want a single point failure to shutdown an important and fluid moving photo shoot.  That’s why F8 Industries Photography shows up ready to shoot and prepared to “complete the mission” even in the face of component failures.

How did the proposal turn out?  She said yes, everyone was happy and I can’t help but smile and get excited watching such a significant moment in their lives unfold through my viewfinder.  It is an honor to be trusted to capture moments like these.
















Published on:
November 26, 2014 18:22
Photo Updates

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park, oh how I really enjoy each visit.  My first visit to the park was 12 years ago and I slept in the bed of my truck because there were no campsites available.  I’ve camped in The Basin, stayed in a CCC Cabin in the Basin and this time we had a major first, my nearly five year old and my three year old children joined my wife and I to camp.  We chose to the Cottonwood Campgrounds on the Rio Grande near Santa Ellena Canyon and it was incredible.  I’m a fan of old school canvas wall tents for their durability and livability, you’re not going to backpack one to Everest, but if you’re car camping you’re not going to go wrong.  Later I’ll have a large write up about the tent on the blog for my zombie apocalypse series of books over at www.winchesterundead.com.


For now, here is the family tent the first night:








The next day we took the kids hiking, keeping the trails easier but scenic so they could enjoy themselves, so Santa Ellena Canyon was on the list:









That night an abandoned ranch home was on my photographic agenda:










The next day we hiked The Window, with the towering Chisos mountains beside us, it is hard to resist the incredible beauty:









At The Window I took a self portrait, sitting while looking over the edge with a 200ft drop off below.  How did I pull off a self portrait?  A tripod, a Camranger and my iPad that is in my lap you can’t see.  The ravine was quite a bit darker than the mountains in the distance, so a single speedlight was used to get the lighting just right.  I brought two speedlights, but after trying it with one I liked the results:












The drive to the Tie Down Tree the next morning was incredible:










From the Tie Down Tree we hiked to Cattail Falls, which due to the rain a few days prior, actually had water flowing:










The hike across the desert floor back from Cattail Falls looked incredible:







The campgrounds proved to be great for birding, to include a hawk that was hunting just a few yards from our tent:


F8Industries-BBNP-09 F8Industries-BBNP-10




Published on:
November 21, 2014 02:56
Photo Updates

Macro, It’s In The Tubes!

Macro photography, the photography of the extreme close up for detail.  It can be found with high dollar macro lenses that are specially designed with fine focusing and a very close to the lens minimum distance for focus.  If you want to try your hand at some close up photography and don’t want to spend the money for a high dollar specialized lens, then it’s in the tubes!


Extension tubes.

Extension tubes come in various lengths and go between your camera body and the lens, extending the distance of your lens away from your camera’s sensor.  What that does is it allows objects to be in focus much closer to the end of the lens, among other things.  My favorite go to lens for the sometimes macro photo I take is my much loved Nifty Fifty!  With a set of cheap extension tubes I don’t have autofocus, I don’t have aperture control on the camera body, but who needs autofocus for such a composed shot anyways?

The biggest hurdle to note is that with most extension tubes I’ve seen on the market they do not allow the camera body’s control of the lens aperture to be used, which means an older lens with an actual aperture ring has to be used.   You might find some still in stock at B&H, but you might have to dive into the used lens market for one.  That also means you might find a good deal on a great lens only a generation or two old!  The AFS-D Nikon 50mm I have fits that bill and it still works in my modern digital camera bodies just fine (although some camera bodies won’t have an autofocus drive built in and the lens does not have its own autofocus motor).

As for extension tubes, the cheap set I purchased cost less than $20, although if I took more than the very occasional macro photo I would invest in a higher quality set.

So for about $200 for the lens and extension tubes, what do you think?









This photo was needed for a friend who is an avid guitar player who found a problem with uneven wear on one of his guitar frets causing a string to play sharp on that fret.  If you look at the string that is focus you can see the uneven fret wear.  Wide open aperture and stacked extension tubes produced an razor sharp macro photo that has a very small depth of field!

Published on:
November 4, 2014 14:19
Photo Updates
Top! Created by Dream-Theme — premium wordpress themes.