From Novice Photographer to Wedding Photographer

 

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I have always had an eye for photography. Since as long as I can remember I have usually carried a camera around with me–often just a point-and-shoot or cell phone camera, but a camera nonetheless. Since my purchase of a Nikon D90 in April of 2009, I have really started to focus more on developing my photography skills.

In the past year or so I started to feel I have the skills to take my passion to the next level. I launched “Photography by Wheeler” on Facebook and got the support from friends and family and eventually started getting offers to do grad announcement shoots, which I gladly did free of charge. However, once I started getting requests for weddings, I was a little hesitant.

What if the shots don’t turn out? What if my memory card fails? What if my batteries die? There are countless ‘what if’ scenarios when it comes to wedding photography. I had basically given up on actively searching for my first client for fear of failure. Fortunately, I have a wonderful girlfriend who didn’t count me out.

When a patient came in to her office and asked if she knew of a wedding photographer, my name came up. I jumped at the chance and everything was basically settled over the phone. Then the nerves kicked in. I decided to call up a good friend, Mike Doyle to hire as my ‘assistant.’ I use single quotes around his title, because he turned out to be more of a ‘rock star photographer colleague’ than merely an assistant. I also ended up purchasing two additional lenses and a second camera (all Nikon of course). This made a huge difference and definitely helped me to get all the shots I wanted.

Though Mike and I have plenty of horror stories about our first time shooting a wedding, we turned out some fantastic photos and are looking to team-up and do more weddings in the future. As Mike said in his blog post, “Doyle & Wheeler Photography” is officially open for business (or should it be “Wheeler & Doyle?” I’m kidding).

The Perfect Minnesota Snow

Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve.
Photo of a dock at Quarry Park and Nature Preserve. Shot & edited with Instagram.
 

I waited two long winters in St. Cloud, Minn. for picture-perfect snow to blanket my surroundings so I could trek the outdoors and capture the ideal winter wonderland through the lens. Though I think fresh snow is beautiful no matter when or where it comes, the temperatures in Minnesota are often too cold to get that perfectly fluffy snow that peacefully falls from the sky to rest on tree branches. Besides wind often making it impossible to stay on trees, the bitter cold known to permeate Central Minnesota in the winter usually makes the thought of spending a couple hours outside snapping photos a bit undesirable.

Alas, my winter dream came true this spring. Yes, spring. The perfect snow I was waiting for finally fell on April 20, 2011. The lakes in Central Minnesota had thawed out only days before and the snow that seemed to stay on the ground forever had finally melted away. When I woke up early in the morning and looked outside, I was excited to see such a perfect opportunity to capture the beauty of Minnesota. I had been to Quarry Park and Nature Preserve a couple of times before and figured it would be a great place to take in the spring surprise.

Thinking I would just hop out of my car and snap a few pictures before getting to my morning workout, I packed my camera and gym bag and headed out. Little did I know, I would spend the next hour and a half exploring the trails and capturing images of white trees reflected off still water, rocks climbing out of wintery surroundings and winding trails. I ended up snapping over a hundred photographs. The photos below are my favorites. Though the light was not necessarily ideal, I think they turned out nicely and no manipulations or adjustments were made. Shot with a Nikon D90. Enjoy!

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Photos from Quarry Park and Nature Preserve in Waite Park, Minn. taken April 20, 2011.
 

iPhone App Review: Instagram

Great Wall of China taken this summer and edited with Instagram.
Great Wall of China taken this summer with a Nikon D90 and edited with Instagram.

Let’s call this my first iPhone app review. In my very first blog entry I promised to throw in some posts on photography. Living up to that promise, I want to talk about one of my favorite iPhone apps: Instagram. This is the perfect iPhone application for someone who’s into art and wants to share his/her world with others through photos.

Taken from the Instagram website, Instagram is “a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures.” The app definitely lives up to its motto and it is super easy to use. All you do is choose a photo (either by taking one using the app itself or by choosing from your iPhone’s camera roll), apply one of the filters, name the image and you’re done! The app even has the option to apply tilt-shift to make your pictures look miniature or more mysterious by blurring the edges. In short, Instagram is a great way to make otherwise boring or uninspiring photos come to life with simple filters. The photo in my Gravatar at right was manipulated using Instagram and I now use that same image across all my social media platforms (this might be a good time to attribute the photographer: Danielle Morris).

Photo of a bar in Rapid City, S.D. with tilt-shift applied.
Photo of a bar in Rapid City, S.D. with tilt-shift applied.

The Instagram iPhone app also is very much a social media application and even mimics some of the same features as Twitter. Users can create hashtags, use @mentions, add a location and follow other users. With photos of people you follow showing up in a photostream, Instagram is essentially Twitter, but with photos. Another fun aspect of this iPhone app is that you can send your creations out across a number of sites supporting photos. I typically add a location via Foursquare and send the photo to Facebook or Twitter (sometimes both). The photos you see in the sidebar at right are Instagram photos synced to my Flikr photostream.

The one drawback of Instagram is that the actual website is worthless from a user standpoint. Although every Instagram photo published on another site has its own URL, the site contains no way to share the image, comment or rate the photo nor does the site contain links to any other photos. Basically, the site does not support user profiles. This is a little frustrating and disappointing all at the same time. However, I’m sure the developers chose to keep the website simple and maybe they are still laking the infrastructure needed to host the nearly 300,000 photos uploaded each day. This means Instagram is limited only to iPhone users (as well as  iPad and iPod Touch users).

I found a donut shop that had bacon on their donuts!
I found a donut shop that had bacon on their donuts!

Many organizations are using Instagram already and it will be interesting to see what type of marketing campaigns will be launched using the app. I currently follow NPR, the Boston Celtics and MTV just to see what type of images they come up with and to see how they are using Instagram to connect with their audience. Although KVSC-FM does not have an Instagram account set up, I have used the app to create interesting photos to post on the station’s Facebook wall. Organizations with a larger following could easily conduct contests or use the app for awareness efforts of national or worldwide events. How do you see Instagram being used as a marketing tool?

Then I saw my Life in Pummelvision!

I believe I came across this gem of an idea a few weeks ago via TechCrunch. I immediately fell in love with the concept: Pummelvision flashes your life before your eyes using photos from around the web. What Pummelvision does is it collects photos you already have posted to Facebook, Flickr, DailyBooth or Dropbox and puts them into a short, high quality video, which automatically uploads to Vimeo or YouTube. What really draws me in is the intense music and high-quality photos that flash by at a perfectly fast rate.

After reading the article on TechCrunch and watching their video, I went straight to the site and uploaded my own Pummelvision (above). It turned out to be a great way to showcase some of my photography over the past couple years. The only negative I found is the site takes a day or two to process your video, but that beats me trying to do it myself. Another downside is there is only one soundtrack. However, I can appreciate that decision–the site is trying to maintain simplicity, and since they went with such a unique and fun score, I’ll deal.

It will be fun to see creative Pummelvisions by photographers and people who lead interesting lives. Photo apps for mobile devices and social photo sites are all the rage these days and I could definitely see Pummelvision teaming up with Instagram and some other leading mobile photo apps in the future. I would definitely like to see NPR’s Instagram photo stream in Pummelvision.

The site has some of the better videos featured in gallery form, and YouTube is already gathering quite the quantity of Pummelvisions as well. My favorite so far? A collection of photos of cups of coffee. Now I don’t even like coffee, but with the music, speed and variety of coffee mugs and surroundings, this video is pretty sweet.