Paragliding Portrait

Jason Ely.jpg

Recently my wife went out of town on a week long holiday, leaving me home to look after the house and pets. Knowing that I was grounded for the week, I wanted to do some personal shooting for my book.  I contacted a paragliding company and asked if I could do a portrait of one of their instructors.  As it turned out, Jason Ely, owner of Tandem Paragliding in Golden, Colorado agreed to model for me.

I scouted a location near where they fly using Google Maps and agreed to meet up with Jason at 7pm, about a half hour before sunset.  As it turned out, Jason was running late due to student flyers and arrived about 90 seconds before the sunset.  I was hoping to get a few shots with the sun over his shoulder.  I am the sort of shooter that likes to be well prepared, set and ready to go just in case something happens.

Jason's van pulled into the parking lot with only moments before sunset, I had never met Jason so thing were a bit rushed. I yelled down the hill to him to run his ass off and get up to my location.  We no proper greeting at this moment, we pulled out the parasail and had him position himself where I marked out a spot.  Looking at my metadata, I got 9 shots off in 90 seconds before the sun went behind the mountains.

Once the sun went behind the mountains, we shook hands and greeted each other properly.  Only then did I learn he had a helmet and other gear to use as props.  It was rushed at the start, and we were able to make several more shots like the one above.  I image below is the third shot of the nine I took before the sun set behind the mountains.


I used a 48" FourSquare™ Softbox with 4 Nikon Speedlight inside the box. The power was set to about 1/8 power of each flash, which indicates that I could have achieved the same light with only one flash using a higher power.  Using several flashes at a lower power allows me faster recycle time. Here is the set up shot.


With Love and Support

Life as a corporate photographer is interesting, exciting and most certainly challenging.  Over the past 30 years I have traveled the world shooting corporate annual reports for all sorts of industry.


I was born in Southern California, and spent about 20 some odd years there.  When I joined the airlines in the mid 1970's as a flight attendant, I was based for a short time here in Denver.  I liked Denver for the quality of life aspects as well as the 4 seasons.  In California we had two seasons tourists and no tourists or parking spaces or no parking spaces. The seasonal changes were something new to me and I really came to enjoy them, more then today.  Now the winters seem longer, and the summers hotter.


When I chose to start my business, Denver was my first and only choice.  I was less concerned about business opportunities and more interested in life style.  As it turned out, Denver had a pretty good business climate. Denver had and has, a strong Oil & Gas (energy sector), and Mining community with many Fortune 500 companies headquarters or had major office's here.

When I started in business in 1983, the economy was in the crapper, and intramuscular, the oil and gas sector tanked, which hurt a lot of shooters and other business. Most people would say that I choice a bad time to open a business, what did I know, I just wanted to shoot. Actually, I thought it was a perfect time to start, I had only one way to go, UP.  Other shooters in town had lost a lot of jobs, yet I had no jobs to lose.  Listen, I'm not saying that it was easy, it was damn hard starting a business. But when you are passionate about your "life's work" you will make it... you persevere.

Being a new business owner I had to wear a lot of hats, I had to do the marketing (cold calls), book keeping as well as the creative. You can spread yourself rather thin with so many things to look after. I could not have gotten to where I am today without the love and support of so many people.


It started with the love and support of my parents, believing and trusting in me. My dad was a company man an engineer not an entrepreneur, being self employed seemed risky to him. It thrilled me as the year went on to see my dad shake his head with a smile on his face saying "I don't know how you do it" I know, I made him proud.

Not only was I lucky to have found my life's work, I was also was extremely fortunate to have met and married the most wonderful person on earth. Deb and I have been together for around 29 years, we'll be celebrating our 25th anniversary next year.  There is no way in hell I could have succeeded to the extent that I have, without the love and support of my dear wife.  While I was traveling the world on assignment, she was holding down the fort, raising our son and running the business in my absence.  I recall one year, being on the road around 170 days.  I was always worried about the time away from home, she on the other hand, worried about the places I was traveling. There were times in the Mid 1990's when traveling in South America, I did that a lot, where there were real risks. The Shining Path Guerrillas in Peru were kidnapping people, bombing buildings and causing all sorts of worries.  I often traveled with armed guards, supplied by clients while working assignments. As I mentioned, it was the time away not the locations that bothered me the most. Those worrisome assignment make for some great stories, exciting at the time, but just stories now.


Please take a moment and think about and acknowledge the people in your life that have supported your efforts and pursuits. Make sure you provide that same commitment and support for their interests as well. I guess you know where I'm coming from, I am so internally greatful for all the support I've received over the years.

What Does the Future Hold?


I'm turning 60 years old in a few days and I'm a bit taken back by that fact.  I usually don't pay attention to birthdays, but this one certainly has my attention.  I've been reflecting a lot these past several months about my career and the various choices I've made over the past 30 plus years as a professional photographer.

I'm very fortunate that I selected a profession that has been creatively satisfying and challenging to me.  After reading the last sentence, I'm not certain that I selected this profession rather photography selected me.

Back some 36 years ago, I was working as a flight attendant for a major airline. Back in the days when a complete meals were served on flights as short as 1 hour.  I use to pass out pillow, blankets and magazines and often recited the old saying "a smile in every window and an ass in every seat".  

It's strange how life works out, I would have never guessed that working a flight from Kansas City to Denver would change my life forever.  This is actually how I got into professional photography as a career.  On that flight seated in first class, was a very well know photographer named Joe Baraban.  I really didn't know him, but strangely I knew his work (more about that later).  The passenger load on that flight was very light and my fellow flight attendants saw that this was an important meeting for me and they suggested I not work the flight and continue my conversation with Joe.  Thank you!

I remember asking Joe what type of clients he shot for, he Budweiser, Dewar's Scotch, Exxon, Shell etc.  I knew he was a heavy weight shooter and that he must be a great shooter. He asked me if I had every seen a CA (Communications Arts) magazine before, I lied and told him that I had and that I read it all the time.  Where in fact, I actually only had seen one issue before, I actually bought it because of the photography featured in the issue.  Joe noted that CA had recently featured him in the magazine, I asked Joe what the cover photograph was on the issue he was featured in.  You see, back in the 1980's, CA used a photograph on the cover of the magazine from the photographer who was featured in the issue.

Joe described the photograph and I was floored!  The one and only issue of CA I had every seen & owned was Joe's work.  I bought that issue because, it was the first time I had seen "commercial photograph" as Art.  What are the chances that seated before me is that same artist "photographer" that impressed me so much as to buy this one CA magazine. Crazy!  Here is the CA magazine.

CA Cover.png

The day Joe was on my flight, I had my portfolio with me.  My portfolio at the time consisted of Rocks & Trees, I was an Ansel Adams fan and shot only black and white scenics.  I asked Joe about photography as a career, and weather or not you can make a living at it.  I didn't know.  He suggested that I work for a photographer to learn the business.  I asked if I could go on an assignment with him to watch him work, he said that would be fine and asked that I call the studio in Houston to make arrangements.

Long story short, after about 2 months of assisting Joe on various assignments he ask me to work for him full time.  I received a 3 month leave of absence from the airlines and moved to Houston. I worked for Joe for about a year and a half before leaving Houston and opening my business here in Denver back in 1983.

With my 60th birthday upon me, I wonder what future has in-store for me?  Be open at all times, you just don't know what might happen!  Peace out.

India Trek

It was brought to my attention this morning, that a few spots have opened for the India Mentor Series Trek coming this November.  This is a once in a lifetime adventure, if you have every wanted to see the best of India, this is the trek to be on.  We'll be visiting Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, Sikri, Jaipur, Paipur, Pushkar and Jodhpur.  

It's unusual to have these open spots, don't miss out.  By the way, I have a discount code you can use to save a few bucks.   Use the code DT50 at check out. :-) 


Mentor Series Long Island

I've just returned from the Mentor Series Trek to Long Island, NY.  I had a wonderful time working with my friend and fellow mentor Reed Hoffmann.  We had a good size group on this trek, some regulars and many new trekker and now new friends.

We based ourselves at the Montauk Yacht Club for the weekend, photographing the surrounding area.  We photographed sunrise at the Montauk Lighthouse, surfers on the beach as well as at Wolffer Estate Winery.

Here are a few images of one our surfers at the Montauk Lighthouse.

Here are a few images of the Montauk Lighthouse photographed at both sunrise and sunset.

Here are a few other images captured during our trek.


Venice Carnival 2015


 I had a wonderful opportunity to photograph in Venice, Italy during Carnival a few weeks back. My visit to Venice was at the tail end of a Mentor Series Trek that I and my friend Reed Hoffmann were guiding.

Shooting carnival in Venice had been on my bucket list for quite sometime, I was thrilled to be there and I wasn't disappointed in the least. Knowing I was going to be shooting there, I came prepared with one SB-700, a RoundFlash, a 34" umbrella and a 18" copper pipe as an extension to get my flash even further off camera.

Each morning, I would get up early before sunrise and head down to Piazza San Marco. This time in the morning is when you find the "more professional" shooters looking for their shots.  I must say however, these "more professional" photographers still need to learn more about flash photography.  I would say that the majority of those using flash were using them on camera and direct on there subjects.  There were a few that had a helper to hold the flash off camera... one which I'm thinking of was nuts.  Here is a guy with a small octa and he had his wife or girlfriend hold the octa on a stick directly behind him.  I'm sure he got some wonderful "flat" properly exposed images.  If your going to go to the trouble to place a flash off camera, how about lighting from one side or another.

As I had mentioned, I also brought along a RoundFlash, basically a ring light. I wanted to be able to introduce just a bit of fill without creating a harsh shadow. Since the RoundFlash fits around my lens, the light does not create distracting shadows like a direct on camera flash. Here are a few examples using the RoundFlash.

Venice was a blast, if you have never been there, I would recommend it highly.  I might also mention that Reed Hoffmann and I will be leading a Mentor Series Trek to India later this year.  It should be in early November, on every trek I'm on, I always teach about how to use your flash.  India will be a fascinating place to shoot local people and culture.  For more information regarding Mentor Series Treks, follow the next LINK.