I’ve always had a problem: I live in the Southwest- surrounded by exotic, beautiful environments like the Painted Desert- but it’s just far enough away that it’s not feasible to take a pro stylized model with me to shoot out there. Enter my daughter Maggie, who at age 8 has been in enough of Daddy’s shoots in her lifetime to finally get styled and shot way out amongst the petrified wood. Hair and makeup done by her mom/ my wife Vesna Miller. We’re going to make this a routine thing- once a month- with the goal of building up a youngster to be an ultra stylized look.
All images done with Fuji X-T2 and either the 35mm 1.4 lens or 23mm 2.0 lens.
We have been having a pretty dramatic winter around Phoenix, meaning it’s a bit more grey and rainy than usual; the day after a storm you are guaranteed the sun will punch through and give you some amazing shots if you’re in the right place at the right time. I went hiking with my family around 3 pm by the Peralta trail on the east side of the Superstition Mountains, and my daughter Maggie decided to get “experimental” with some of her posing. All images shot on the Fuji X-T2, lenses were the 35mm 1.4 and 18-55mm 2.8-4.
A photo contest for baby photography had me revising some of my images of my daughter Magdalena in her first few months. These were shot in 2008, edited 2015.
This year I’m finally organizing my daughter’s photos into a cohesive set of images. She’s just one of those people who seem suited for black and white, or at least my relationship with her seems suited for b+w, or maybe I go b+w since most of her clothes are ridiculously colored things that
I’ve written before that my daughter Magdalena is my favorite model, and she seems to get better with expressions, concepts and styling each year. The easiest way to get a good reaction from her, or any kid, is to put them in an unique environment that they can respond genuinely to.
We took a family trip to San Diego and Legoland at the start of January and the environments were Imperial Sand Dunes, the Lookout Tower off of I-8 (with a lot of snow around), Motel 6 in Escondido, Legoland, and Balboa Park in San Diego. “I want to go to the snow! I want to go to the sand!” We took her, she reacted and I documented it. That’s easy photography.
All shots were with the Fuji X-T1, mostly the 35mm lens though at the sand dunes I kept the kit 18-55mm lens on. I don’t know how many times I foolishly presumed I could switch a lens in a sandy environment only to find I had royally messed up the sensor. This time, I kept one lens and worked with it.
It’s been close to a year since I jumped ship from Nikon to Fuji, and my starter X-E1 already felt a bit long in the tooth compared to the more rugged X-T1 that was released this year. In October I was able to upgrade and my first shoots with new cameras always seem to prominently feature my daughter Magdalena. Long story short- I love the camera. It’s clearly a bit tougher than the plastic X-E1, and I’m more on board with a few small adaptaions:
1. dedicated ISO dial
2. dedicated video button
3. ability to set the function on all directional buttons- in my case, focus points in each direction
Anything that stops me from searching through a menu is a plus in my book. The only downside, so far, is that the Fuji app that supposedly connects via wi-fi is broken since the release of ios8, but that’s an app problem, not a hardware one.
This was also in combination with various small pieces of equipment, like Neewer LED lights and a smoke machine (not pictured here). If you enjoy any of this work I encourage you to like it and share it! For more photoworks goodness peruse my Etsy shop, follow on tumblr and twitter and instagram, and rummage around on my full site.
One bit of my recent European trip I haven’t posted much about was our day in Thessaloniki, Greece. I’ll preface this by saying, “mistakes were made,” but they were all our own. I invite other photographers and travelers to take note of our mistakes and don’t be like us.
Greece is to the southwest of Macedonia, and a 3 hour drive. We chartered a private driver to take us there, 90 Euros roundtrip. The driver found a busy street corner where he said he’d pick us up at 5pm, then dropped us off at a different spot near the waterfront by the obvious landmark “The White Tower.” “Why didn’t he just say he’d pick you up at the same spot?”, I hear you ask through the interwebs? I don’t know but that gives a clue to our problems.
Now, my experience in major cities is A. the good stuff is usually close together B. signs are in English C. there are maps available to give clues as to what one is doing. Also, I’m used to having my phone to access information and directions. Thessaloniki has:
a tourist board with no maps
signs that point you towards tourist destinations with no clue as to how far
far less English signs than Macedonia, and no Macedonian anything (Greeks and Macedonians quarrel over the name Macedonia)
no service for my phone, or Wife’s phone which we needed to contact our driver
lots of hills and heat
no beach by the waterfront, just concrete
Rough stuff. Within this scenario, Wife loaded up a backpack with unnecessary items which was ridiculously heavy, especially walking around the hills of the city. I had spent only 4 minutes prior to the trip looking up museums and locales and picking out things to do, not even bothering to draw myself a map on a piece of paper. I had a totally different concept in my head of how simple it would be to get around, communicate, and be picked up.
After a couple hours of walking in circles, we took a cab (Wife presuming it would be an overpriced 40 Euro drive to a zoo when it turned out to be 3 Euros). The Thessaloniki zoo, while entertaining our children as intended, was basically a bear and some chickens and deer- not worth the effort for the journey. It was free though!
We visited some Roman ruins, which were cool to me but of no interest to the kids.
We went to the Archaeological Museum where the kids remained tired in the lobby while Wife and I took turns exploring. I love Greek sculpture, so this was by far the highlight for me. No fun for complaining tired kids.
There was an Expo area, sort of a “World’s Fair” type of place, that I would’ve fully explored had I not been carrying two youngsters with me. Let’s not pretend that we can shoot anything well while saddled with children who just want to be out of the heat, fed, at home.
Finding our driver, or him finding us, the less said the better, but we left the city maybe 20 minutes later than intended, no one died and we didn’t waste money beyond expensive Coke. On the journey back the kids were thrilled to get American toys at the Duty Free shop, and our driver smuggled cigarettes into Macedonia using the old “I’m showing these American tourists around” ploy.
In the end… I chalk it up to a similar experience to any other major city I visit for the first time, where I’m totally a tourist and all the pictures I take are very surface snapshots. Wife and I both agreed that this was the most difficult day of the trip, but at least I got another country stamped on the passport!
All my new tech gets broken in with Maggie, and we took some new battery-powered monolights to our backyard to get this shot. Maggie now gets $1 when she models for me, which means she asks to go take pictures even more frequently than before.