Thursday, August 27, 2009

Congratulations Grace and Tom!

Congratulations to Grace and Tom Wang on their recent marriage! I had the honor of photographing their wedding in Taipei, Taiwan on August 22, 2009. Their wedding was a beautiful blend of Asian and American cultures and traditions that felt very Asian to us Americans, and very American to the Taiwanese. I guess that's how you know you got the blend right!

Check out the high-res images or order prints from

For more information on my wedding photography visit the Portfolio section of


Monday, August 24, 2009

Cameras: Rough Time to Buy

Cameras: Rough Time to Buy

I am constantly getting asked what camera people should buy. The simple answer is… “I don’t know!” And really, I never tell anyone what camera they should get—I just point things out and ask questions.

That said, unless you want to get a Canon 5D MarkII or a Nikon D90, it is a bad time to get a new camera. We have finally reached a tipping point in DSLR technology development that futurists have been predicting for years—the merging of video and still photography. Without looking up dates, I think the D90 was the first DSLR to offer HD video, but it was really the Canon 5D MkII that made the big splash with it’s full frame sensor, outstanding noise levels, and full 1080 HD video. I’ve shot it. It’s awesome…

Here are two key points in this discussion that you should know about…
1. Depth of Field. This is where DSLRs rock. There are no consumer digital video cameras that do a good job of controlling the depth of field. However, start shooting video on a DSLR and you get the exact same control over the focus range as you have with your still images. There are tons of tricks and gadgets to do this in the video camera world, but now the DSLR does it out of the box.
2. Multi-media. We see it most clearly in the world of photojournalism, but the realms of photography and videography are merging. The photojournalist of today must be able to shoot both. Even newspaper photographers are doing stories with stills for the printed paper and in video for the website. Who wants to carry two cameras? Today a few, and tomorrow all, DSLRs will give you the ability to shoot video.

Right now my camera purchasing advice is usually to wait… unless you’re getting the 5D MkII or the D90, or now the Rebel T1i. Even if you don’t think you want/need video… trust me, you do. The potential to capture a video clip or two in a portrait session, a special moment between bride and groom at a wedding, or record an interview with a missionary on the field is so appealing to out ability as photographers to step beyond the traditional bounds of the profession and engage culture with new tools and new potential.

Me? I’m waiting for the Canon EOS 1D-MkIV. Waiting and saving…

This quick interview was shot on a 5D MkII with a 17-40mm f/4.0 lens using the camera’s built in microphone.

If you’re interested in doing more with multi-media you should check out the folks at Revolutionary Media at:

Check out dpreview’s in depth review of the Canon EOS 5D MkII:

Ready to buy? Bhphotovideo is the best:


Sunday, August 16, 2009

To Build a Better Vignette

To Build a Better Vignette.

The vignette is a fabulous post-processing effect in today’s image style library. When done well, it draws attention to the key parts of an image composition by subtly darkening less important areas. When done poorly, you just look like you’re trying too hard… :-P
If you’re using Adobe Lightroom for your image cataloging/processing solution you have a vignetting option built right in. It works, but really, it’s not my favorite. Today I want to show you a little bit more complicated way that gives far better results. I still use Photoshop CS3 Extended, so if you are using Photoshop Elements or PS CS4 you may need to do some translation…
-Open a portrait in Photoshop and grab a selection tool. (You will see as we move on that with this method you can create vignettes of any shape or size.) For now let’s use the Rectangular Marquee tool (M).
-Create a selection about 25% bigger than the face/upper body of your portrait.
-Feather the selection. (CTRL+ALT+D or CMD+OPT+D) For high-resolution images use a setting of 250 pixels. For low resolution images you will have to play around to find a good blend.
-Invert the selection. (CTRL+SHIFT+I or CMD+SHIFT+I)
-Duplicate your layer. (CTRL+J or CMD+J) Note: this doesn’t work if you go up to Layer>Duplicate Layer. Use the shortcut and we will all be happier!
-Go to your Layers Palette and change the blending mode from Normal to Multiply. Use the Opacity slider to dial back the intensity if the vignette is too strong. Want it stronger? Duplicate your layer again!
You can think of the Multiply blending mode as doing the same thing as running an image through an inkjet printer more than once. Unlike the vignette option in Lightroom, which just adds a black overlay, the Multiply vignette takes the actual tones and colors and intensifies them. Areas of your image that are bright will not be affected by this mode very much at all, while dark areas will become quite intense.

Judson Alphin
My friend Judson. This image was color corrected in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and has no vignetting applied.

Judson Alphin
Image 2 has the same color correction and a vignette from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. This isn't bad, and I would even go so far as to say that the Lightroom vignette makes the image look decidedly better.

Judson Alphin
Image 3 has the same color correction from Adobe Photoshop Lightroom but has been vignetted with the technique described above. Note the subtle drawing of your attention to his face by darkening the edges without the noticeable black overlay in Image 2.



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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Charity and Caleb

And, at long last... Charity and Caleb's wedding photos are fully uploaded! Congratulations on a beautiful wedding. It was a pleasure to spend the day with you both. Thanks for taking the risk of having a photographer who was attempting to shoot three weddings in the same weekend! I think it worked out. :-)

The gallery can be viewed at:


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mary and Andrew's Pictures

Congratulations to Mary and Andrew Eisner on a beautiful wedding Saturday! I pray God richly blesses you and the new union you have formed!

Here's a slideshow from the wedding. Larger images and print orders can be found at


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Caryn & Cody's Pictures

Yahoo! Caryn and Cody's pictures a live! Check out for the complete album, larger images, or to order prints.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Weekend Wedding Extravaganza Pt. 2

I have a new least favorite airport. It could be the $4.50/gal gas station, or maybe its the massive lines at 7am on a Sunday morning, or maybe I'm just tired, but Orlando International Airport is topping my list right now...

This weekend has been awesome... I think all told I've gotten more sleep than I expected, but last night was still a pretty short and interrupted 3 hours. Brian and I shared a hotel room, and between the two of us we kept our computers humming with still downloads and DV video capturing. Michelle and I shot 1500 images for about 12GB. Brian and his team shot 50-some gigs of video... I'm glad I didn't have to download that much.

We did kind of a weird swapperoo for today's travel. Brian gets into San Antonio first, so he's going to grab the car. I had extra weight available in my bags so we traded... I got a MacBook Pro, 2 big video batteries, and a ton of metal washers... yeah, metal washers. They go on a steady cam for video shooting. Brian got my drivers' license and credit card. Not a fair trade. The car was prepaid in my name, so I have to pick it up, BUT, the company has kiosks where you just swipe your cards. If all goes well, Brian will have a car waiting for me when I walk out of the terminal and we'll be on our way. If not... uh... at least I have my passport! :-)

So, Mary and Andrew's wedding went really well. They were both in fine form and seemed to be quite with it and enjoying the day. (I always feel bad for the couples who are so out of it that they don't even remember what happened!) I thought pictures went well... we were a bit rushed because the florist forgot the corsages, but I think we made it work anyway. Should be fun to look through the pictures tomorrow... :-)

Here's a couple favorites until then.

The dress
Mary's dress

Mary and Andrew
Andrew and Mary

Coming down the aisle
Mr. Fear bringing Mary down the aisle

Mary and Andrew
Mary and Andrew

Bridal party
The bridal party

Mary and Andrew
Mary and Andrew

More pictures will be up at in a few days.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Wedding Weekend Extravaganza pt. 1

It's Saturday morning. I'm in Lakeland, Florida. Yesterday I photographed Caryn and Cody's wedding in Albuquerque, NM. Tonight I photograph Mary and Andrew's wedding here in Lakeland. Tomorrow I photograph Charity and Caleb's wedding in San Antonio. I'm crazy... but I'm not the only one!

This morning I got to hang out with my long-time friend Andrew Fear and the videographer, who I've known in absetia, Brian Denton. We went around looking at the church, shoot locations, etc. So, the good part is that Brian is doing video for three weddings, in three different states this weekend, and just happens to be doing Charity and Caleb's wedding with me tomorrow. Weird. Amazing. It's kind of nice to not be the only one!

The other really awesome part about doing this with Brian is that we've been trying to cross paths for quite a while to work on some ways to connect amateur videographers and photographers with important missions projects around the world. It was great to finally get to sit down and talk. Oh, and we might be going to Egypt soon... who knows. My God is pretty big. (Check out Mission Focus by Brian and his team...)

Back to weddings. Caryn and Cody's wedding was fabulous. Short. Sweet. To the point. An gorgeous. The lighting was both atrocious, and the kind of stuff that I absolutely love to work with because it's super dramatic. Let's just say there's a reason I shoot a pro camera and f/2.8 lenses... Here's a couple shots from yesterday.

Thanks to those of you who are praying! I'm rested, travel has gone well, and I'm super excited about another amazing wedding tonight! :-)


Caryn's Dress
Caryn's Dress

Caryn & Cody
Caryn & Cody

Caryn & Cody
Don't they have amazing eyes?

The Party
The party... Chuck Taylor's and all!

Caryn Jarvis

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Image Resizing

Image resizing. Have you ever gotten one of those emails that contains 5 FULL SIZE pictures from someone’s brand new DSLR? You know, the ones that are 50MBs in file size and would probably be fine if you’d received it at home, but it just so happens that you’re not, and so instead of waiting 3 minutes for it to download it actually crashes your phone for a week. Yeah. One of those emails. This post is about how to NOT be one of those people…

Good image resizing is critical if you want to display your images well across a broad range of venues. This post is going to look at resizing things for the web/email.

There are two key issues… quantity and quality. Let’s discuss quantity first. It’s fairly safe to generalize that every digital camera takes pictures that have more pixels than your monitor can display at any one time. That’s OK… our computers are smart, and they automatically scale images so we can see the whole thing at once. For most web use, we can save a significant amount of time (upload & download) and space if we simply cut out the excess quantity.
The largest images I put up on the web are 1024 pixels wide. That’s the extreme. Most stuff is significantly smaller than that. Don’t ever post images that are 1024 pixels high. Most people’s screens don’t have that many pixels and it just takes longer to download. So… here’s my rules of thumb:
Facebook: 640 pixels wide or high
Flickr: Up to 1024 pixels wide; 800 pixels high
Email: 800 pixels wide or high

I don’t really use any other social networking sites, but note this: they take whatever you upload and resize it to what you actually see on the site. Don’t send them huge files. It takes forever to upload, and the final size is the same. The closer you can get to what they do, the less reprocessing is going to happen.

OK, let’s talk quality. Everything we’re dealing with here is a JPG image. (We can talk about GIF and PNG somewhere else.) Shoot in RAW? Great. Me too. The internet doesn’t understand RAW. It like JPG. Compression is the big (or small) reason why JPG is such a popular file size. We can compress images without losing tons of quality. (Think MP3 files for audio… much smaller than CD quality and not a whole lot different, right?) This is where the magic comes in; if you apply the right amount of compression to your resized JPG image you can reduce the number of pixels and get the file size to a minimum, thus saving the world. Here’s the skinny:
Photoshop/Photoshop Elements: do a “Save As” and select JPG level 8
Photoshop/Photoshop Elements: use the “Optimize for web” and use 75-85
Picasa: Export as a JPG, set your pixel dimensions, use custom quality 75-85
iPhoto: it’s evil… Mac users tell me this too… if you have to use it, look for something in the 75-80% quality range
Photoshop Lightroom: Export your image, set your pixel dimensions, use JPG quality 75-85

Note: This really does diminish the quality of your image! If you take your original, high-resolution image resize it, save it as a new file, and use a compression of 75 you probably won’t see ANY artifacting or “fuzzies.” If you save that new file and compress it to 75 again, you will…



A couple walks into the late evening sunset
Image cropped and resized using my Facebook defaults.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Three Days at VOICE

Three Days at VOICE. This weekend gave me the opportunity to spend some time with the staff and students of the VOICE program in Oklahoma City, OK. VOICE (Visualizing Opportunities in Character and English) was started by Karen Kallberg (Chen) in 2004 as a summer study program for Asian high school and college students. Participants travel to the United States for month of Bible studies, English classes, American culture, fun, fellowship, and coaching by a dedicated Christian staff. Most students who attend this program profess faith in Jesus Christ before attending, but many have come to know Him as their personal savior through VOICE.

I was really blessed this weekend to make some great new friends, and to reconnect with some lifelong soul mates. It was a blessing, and it was hard. VOICE has been a significant part of my life since 2004, but this summer I could only be there three days. They were good days. I was honored to speak to the leadership track students; encouraged to see new students loving Jesus more because of VOICE; challenged by the incredible musical Tim Chen wrote and the VOICE students produced; strengthened in my desire to see others step forward and play an active role in ministry for the Kingdom of God. What a great weekend!

There’s no way to mention everyone in a brief note, but here goes…
Karen and Luke—Are there words? I count myself privileged to be your friend and value every collaboration between us.
Team Leaders—Your love for Jesus and for each one of your students was so evident! Long hours and hard work did nothing to diminish your enthusiasm for investing the Gospel of Jesus Christ into your students!
V2 Students—I am so proud of you guys! Long may you continue to grow as People of Influence.
Tim—I stand amazed at the gifts God has given you. The musical was a masterpiece. I want to love Jesus more because I saw it. Truly…
Elise—The musical would not have happened without you. Thanks for playing your heart out on the piano!

Be sure to check VOICE out online: