Ryan and Renata

Had a blast photographing Ryan and Renata (and their pup!) for their engagement session! We visited historic Highland Park in Rochester, NY. I swear, this place is absolutely gorgeous in any season. We may have missed the peak lilac bloom, but this place has so much more to offer than just purple flowers. Not to mention, these two made my job extremely easy by bringing some fun props! What a beautiful couple — they have such a bright future ahead :) 

Cameras: Canon 1DX w/ 70-200mm F2.8 // Canon 5DMIII w/ 35mm F1.4

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Faces of Hope.

In August of 2015 I flew to Africa on behalf of the Center for Infectious Disease Research to document the stories of South African citizens who have been affected by devastating infectious disease. The goal: to raise awareness that, although much progress has been made in combating these deadly diseases, the 14 million people who die every year is evidence that there is still much work left to do to completely eradicate them.

These diseases do much more than incapacitate the human body - they invoke fear and confusion, tear apart families, leave adults as outcasts and children as orphans, contribute to insurmountable unemployment and poverty, and perhaps most egregiously, they break the human spirit. When I look back on this trip, I remember the people. I remember their smiles, their laughter, their hope and their sorrow. These are their stories. 

Gladys Mahlangu

Gladys was diagnosed with HIV in 2008. An orphan, Gladys relies on her job to sustain her and with no support network, being employed is essential. Unfortunately, when she started getting sick her co-workers began to act differently around her. Special rules were created to limit her interaction with customers, and eventually she was let go.

"It's hard to find a job when you're HIV positive. When you arrive at an interview, you find that someone has already notified the employer of your status. They promise to call you back, but they never do. People that are HIV positive aren't given opportunities as easily as people that are HIV negative. A cure would make me very happy. There would be less oppression and less discrimination. I'd be able to get another job, and pay for an education. The thing that I want most in this world is a vaccine. It is the only thing that will change our lives."

Thokozile Ngobe

"I first found out that I was HIV positive when I was 28. I felt like dying in that very moment. Fortunately there is counseling after being tested, and after attending a few sessions it became a little easier to accept the situation. Living with the disease has disrupted many of my dreams. I was a grade school teacher, but after I found out I was HIV positive people began to talk."

Thokozile ended up losing her job as a grade school teacher. 

"When I decided to have a child, I was not afraid - I have courage. I only wish there was a vaccine to reduce the risk of children contracting HIV. There are a lot of children living with this disease that are suffering from a lack of food, whether that be at home or at school. Treatment for HIV requires a meal before one can consume it, otherwise the effectiveness is compromised. If there were a vaccine everyone would be protected and the community would benefit tremendously. We have lost enough people because of this disease." 

Hendrik Jonkers 

"I've had tuberculosis (TB) three times in my life. The third time I was diagnosed with TB and HIV. I have been cured of TB all three times, but am currently taking medication for HIV. When I was diagnosed with TB I was unable to work because I had to spend six months in the hospital. It was difficult being away from my family for six months at a time. I would only be allowed to see them once every three or four months - it was very difficult for me."

Although Hendrik had beaten TB three separate times, he was eventually let go from his job because he no longer had the strength necessary to perform his daily duties.

"The hardest part about living with TB is that I didn't know or think that I'd ever get better. Especially when I had it for the third time in conjunction with HIV. I'm very afraid of contracting again -- it would be my last days on Earth."

Anna Chauke 

"After testing positive with HIV, I was told that I was pregnant. Due to complications the doctors said I would need to undergo a c-section because I would die if I gave birth naturally. When they did further tests, they found that even a C-section would not work, so they cancelled the procedure and started giving me pills to abort the baby."  

Portia Marumo

Portia has experienced both TB and HIV. She currently has no job, and lives with her mother to help support her four children. 

"When the doctor first diagnosed me with TB and HIV I was deeply hurt and very ill. My uncle passed away from TB and my biggest fear was that I would experience the same thing. We struggle a lot, and the only person that has income is my mother. Sometimes I take my medication on an empty stomach. Sometimes I just wish I could stop taking the medication, but I continue to take them so that I can remain healthy for my children and live for them. The only thing that gives me hope is my kids."

Tiuey Radingwana

In addition to the physical ailments that accompany a disease like HIV, there's a societal notion of fear, shame and degradation which presents an entirely different set of challenges for those who are infected. In many instances, a person who is infected with HIV may forego disclosing to friends, family and their employer out of fear that they will be exiled, disowned, or let go. For those who don't have a support network of friends and family, disclosing to an employer means running the risk of losing your only source of income. Those who choose not to disclose out of fear or denial will sometimes seek out "traditional healing" methods. The outcome is not good.

"When we went to get our treatments, some people expressed their faith in traditional healers. Unfortunately, they died. So some of us formed a group and spoke to the traditional believers - explaining to them that traditional healing is not as effective as getting treatment from the clinic. If someone hides their status, it brings danger." 

Jeannette Dima 

   "In 2000 I was diagnosed with HIV. I couldn't tell my family. I didn't know how to tell them because I had a young baby. I was afraid they would chase me away. I went to my doctor and said I don't know how to tell my family - when I look at my mother and father I felt ashamed of myself. The doctor called them and had them come into the center. After he explained to them what the virus was all about, my father cried and my mother said there is nothing we can do. I was told by my parents that I must keep this a secret of the house.  
   If there was a vaccine, we would be free to talk about the disease. Because there is no cure, we are cursed to the community; we are cursed to our families. Everyone is afraid of you. When you eat, people don't want to be in the same room. When you drink from a cup, they throw out the water and wash the cup.
   There was a time when I hated myself. I blamed myself. I suffered from depression and didn't want to talk to anybody. I thought I was alone. However, now that there's treatment for HIV, some people are more open to go and get tested. There is an understanding that life exists after a diagnosis. If a vaccine comes, people will be free again."

Lillian Mogwana 

"Back in 2010 I was being tested for high blood pressure when they diagnosed me with HIV. I had lost my husband before treatment began, leaving me to care for my two year old alone. I am unemployed, and the lack of income makes it difficult for my children to get to school and for me to provide food. I think of how young my children are. If I pass on, I will be leaving them orphans. I would be extremely happy if there was a vaccine. Knowing that my children would be protected and never experience what I am going through would give me peace of mind."

Richman Kumpana Malawi

When individuals are diagnosed with HIV, they are referred to group counseling and treatment. Through our interviews we learned that people within these communities helped one another with education and acceptance of the disease. Many individuals think that testing positive is an automatic death sentence, but with education and treatment, patients can live long and productive lives.

Richman Kumpana Malawi tested positive for HIV after being treated at a local hospital for meningitis. He found that the people he sees regularly for treatment helps him stay positive.

"I've been living with HIV for four years. The people who are sick in this community are told to support each other. Nurse Miriam always encourages us to love each other, and not to treat each other differently. That is how we live."

Fridah Kumweda

   "I first found out I was HIV positive in 2010. I found out because my boyfriend became very ill. After noticing his severe weight loss, the clinic asked me to come in for a check-up. That's when they discovered we were both HIV positive. We both started treatment at the same time, but because he had been sick for longer and did not take medication before the diagnosis, he unfortunately passed away in 2011."
    At first I did not want to accept it. I became ill and lost weight. I was very upset with my boyfriend and blamed him for my situation. The first person I told at home was my sister. After telling my sister, my family did not accept me. They started swearing at me. It was very difficult - it drove me to move out; to go find a place of my own. Living at home became very difficult. I was too ashamed to show my face in the community, and I could not bring myself to socialize with them. My family showed no support - they were the ones that oppressed me the most.
   I wish there was a cure so HIV could disappear forever." 

Tembi Ndubase

   "I first found out I had HIV in 2011. It was very difficult because it was apparent that the disease is dangerous. I saw it as a disease that could destroy you if you do not take medication for it. I was angry because it was harder to be accepted by people in general. Even my husband couldn't accept it. So much so that he decided to get tested at a different clinic for a second opinion. The results came back negative, which created tension at the house. There were constant misunderstandings and arguments because he refused to accept it.
   Living with HIV has made life difficult back home. I can say that my little sister is the only one that understands. It is different with the rest of my siblings - we do not get along at all. They hardly come over to visit me, so it is hard, because now it seems as though they are distancing themselves from me. It is the same thing in the community. Sometimes people say harsh things. I do not have any friends. The only people that I could have called my friends are the people in my family - those are the people I used to be close to.
   HIV has also affected me financially. All six of my children look to me for support. The youngest of the six is five years old, and I can't even afford to send him to preschool. It is just very difficult to look after my children. 
   What hurts me the most about living with HIV is the fact that you lose your family. HIV made me give up on my hopes and dreams - any future plans I had before. You know now that there are things you will never have again."
   
 

Grace Silaule

Grace has been living with HIV for 20 years - a testament to the benefits of modern medicine. She was one of the first to disclose that she was HIV positive in the city of Pretoria. Over the years Grace has facilitated support groups in all of the Pretoria region to encourage people to accept their status, seek treatment and get counseling. 

   "I got divorced because I disclosed my status to my husband. At first I didn't know why he was leaving me alone with the children, but then he told me it was because I was HIV positive. It was not only him - in my family I was treated as an outcast. My nephews even plotted to kill me. People are afraid that if they contract HIV they will die."

Mukondeleli Edith Tshishonga

 Mukondeleli was diagnosed (along with her entire family) with malaria in 2007. Approximately 300-500 million people per year contract malaria, with around 600,000 of those people succumbing to the disease (500,000+ being children). Mukondeleli is a self-employed brick layer, but when she contracted the disease she could no longer do the job on her own. She was forced to hire labor, which cost her nearly all of her disposable income.

   "Malaria is very dangerous - it kills. When I was admitted at the hospital two young girls died. In most cases, children die because it is difficult for a small child to explain their symptoms. By the time the child makes it to the hospital it's often too late. In my community if four kids are diagnosed with malaria only one of them would survive.
   As a parent in this community you worry a lot if your child is diagnosed with malaria. There is a huge shortage of medicine here. You can go to multiple clinics around the area and still die waiting for medication. A vaccine would be great because it would prevent our kids from getting sick."

Mulanga Mulaudzi and his mother, Shisharga Mukondeleli

Mulanga and Shisharga have both survived malaria. Mulanga was eight years old when he was diagnosed. 

   "When I first got sick my body was always tired and I would suffer from headaches. During school holidays I couldn't walk or do anything. I really wanted to play with my friends, but my body was so weak that I couldn't." 


Unfortunately we did not have time to interview everyone who showed up with a story, but they were kind enough to pose for a portrait (see below). Also, please take some time to view the center's video (see below) which discusses the great work they are doing to help eradicate infectious diseases.

To learn more about how you can contribute to the fight against infectious disease, please visit the center's website


One Light Setup for Compelling Food Photography

Compelling food photography (also known as food porn photography) begins with nice light. You want the viewer to feel like they are actually sitting in front of the plate and about to dig in. Luckily it's not terribly difficult to find flattering light. Sometimes all you need is one light source. A big window will do; if it's cloudy out, all you need to do is set your display up next to the window. For even softer light, try hanging a white bed sheet over the window to help create more diffuse light. 

Unfortunately, you won't always have a window available and/or the shoot takes place at night. In that case, you'll need to create your own light. Don't worry though, you can keep it simple by bringing one light in and either bouncing it through or off an umbrella. 

I recently had the opportunity to make some photos for an aspiring chocolatier, Carly Lauricella of Dolce Bella. Her website is about to launch, and she needed some nice photographs of her product to get you all salivating. This was created using one light, bounced through a white umbrella facing away from the subject. Check out the results below.

Most importantly, If you're interested in some of these tasty creations, Carly creates and sells her chocolates right in Geneseo, NY! Just stop by the display case in Crickets Coffee Company on Main Street. 

Spellbound

Filmmaker Chris Bryan released an awe-inspiring video of surfers using camera footage shot at 1000 frames per second... AKA: super slow-mo. The equipment he used is valued at close to a quarter of a million dollars, so I'm guessing he was a little nervous dunking them in the ocean. As you will see, it was totally worth it. Put on some good headphones, display full screen, turn the lights off and crank the bass.




Alaska

This afternoon travel through the land of the midnight sun with Solstice. This video was produced by Ben ‘Sturge’ Sturgulewski of Sturgefilm and is just absolutely remarkable.

After watching the footage you may be surprised to learn that this professionally produced work of magic was created with relatively "modest" equipment! According to Ben, here is the list:

- DJI Phantom 2, GoPro Hero 3+

Now, a DJI Phantom 2 and a GoPro Hero3+ will run you over $1000.00 but no more than $2000.00 all together. To many people (including myself) it may not seem "modest" but that is really only scratching the surface when it comes to money being invested in today's professional video productions. Enjoy!



"Surfing the Ends of the Earth"

In addition to being a kick-ass cloud service for hosting, sharing and selling photos, SmugMug has recently (within the last six months) produced a video series as part of SmugMug Films -- an ambitious undertaking to document some of the photography industry's leading professionals. If you are looking for some inspiration from photogs around the world, get lost in these beautifully produced shorts that will leave you in awe!

Yesterday's installation follows photographer Chris Burkard literally to the ends of the Earth, shooting professional surfers IN THE ARCTIC! Are you kidding me?


Check out this mini-city!

Freelance filmmaker Pau Garcia Laita put together this awesome video showcasing the city of Girona in a truly unique style! Utilization of a tilt-shift lens editing effect (he recounts in his step-by-step tutorial that he didn't actually use a tilt-shift lens, rather a blurring effect in post to achieve similar results) making the scenes before him look as if they are scaled down models.

I love it! What do you think?





"How to ruin a wedding"

Photographers from the Toronto Star host a video series called "Master Glass" in which they provide helpful tips to other photographers on various subjects within the medium. Last week, they produced a satirical episode showcasing how to ruin (or in some people's minds... "nail") your wedding photos as a guest. As a lot of wedding photographers can attest (myself included) they have experienced some degree of this while documenting a wedding day. I hope people can get a few laughs out of this, but most importantly I hope it reminds them that when attending a wedding they should really enjoy the moment and let the hired professionals do the job they are paid to do!



"Now I See"

Have you ever wanted to see in the dark? Sony is making that possible with their newest flagship mirrorless camera -- the SONY A7S

My mind has officially been blown. Unbelievable footage shot by UK filmmaker Philip Bloom with the A7S shows "usable" night footage resulting from ISO 40,000. If you are in the know as far as the future of photo tech then you're already aware that mirrorless cameras have made massive strides in the last two years in both the still and video department. The Sony A7S, however, has taken a massive stride forward with it's full frame 12.2MP full frame sensor and 4K footage ability. The low light performance of this camera is nothing short of extraordinary. Check the video below and you'll see what I mean! 

 

When you see the footage jumping from dark to light, Bloom is showing us what he can see with the naked eye, and then what the camera is seeing at ISO 40,000 and above. All I have to say is Canon and Nikon need to look seriously into their DSLR and mirrorless lineup because if they don't jump on the 4K video revolution they will be missing huge market share.

 

 

Inspiration Point

Tonight my wife and I took a trip down to Letchworth State Park. Referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East," the spectacular views never disappoint! If you are looking for a one day getaway or even an extended stay, an endless variety of hiking trails, hot air balloon rides, white water rafting, camping areas, waterfalls, and wildlife will keep you entertained for as long as you decide to stick around.

My lovely wife and I :)

Walking to an overlook... tripod in hand

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The main photo below is from one of the most popular overlooks -- "Inspiration Point." I didn't pack the right glass -- this was shot with a 16-35mm but the area is so large I could have used a little more zoom. Anyways, enjoy the view and make sure you get down here some day to visit if you haven't already :)


The power of photography

The Sunday Times released an extremely moving piece last week on the power of photojournalism and photography as a storytelling medium. The video only contains a handful of photos, but they are treated with beautiful motion effects and reinforced with great audio. The video is part of a series that The Times and The Sunday Times has put together titled the "Unquiet Film Series" ... be sure to check them all out!

As a photographer, it's refreshing and reassuring to see a news agency support the medium in light of the recent hardships the profession has endured due to tightening budgets and a changing journalism landscape. I can't help but get chills every time I watch it! Enjoy :)


"A Tribute to Discomfort"

This is a great perspective piece not only on what it takes to be one of the best photographers around, but also on living life to the fullest. Cory Richards is a National Geographic photographer and North Face athlete who pushes himself to extremes both physically and emotionally to live out his dream. His job, as he states, "is to communicate a real, raw, visceral experience." Enjoy the video and his amazing work!

If you like the video, be sure to check out Blue Chalk Media's Vimeo page for more great stuff.

If you like the photos, check out Cory's portfolio -- it's really stunning!


Rainbow

Tonight's photo came down to anticipation and some good timing. Spotty showers began shortly after I arrived home from work and continued into the late afternoon. At around 8:20PM I could hear rain pattering against the windows but could also see a bit of sun peeking through the blinds. With the sun due to set at 8:40PM this could only mean one thing!

Time to hunt some rainbows.

I grabbed my camera and flew out the door, jumped into my car drove to wherever would give me a good vantage point of the eastern sky. I ended up at the intersection of two old country roads when a beautiful 'bow began to form. I jumped out of my car and composed the scene, snapped nine frames and then the sun went behind the clouds. It stayed there for the remainder of what would have been a phenomenal sunset. All in all I had about three minutes of good light to work with and I was lucky enough to time it just right. Cheers!

KW.



How to: Shooting at Night

A recap on how I snagged this photo last night:

What you'll need:

- Camera, tripod, wide angle lens, flashlight, patience, enough caffeine in your system, a can-do attitude

Technique:

First and foremost, it's always best to plan your shot. Sometimes you can stumble across a beautiful starry sky scene and nail a beautiful photo, but the truth is that planning ahead will often times improve your chances at getting the shot you've been dreaming of. I've been conceptualizing this shot (or at least a shot similar to it) for quite some time now. The idea came to me when I was driving by one of the many highway overpasses in Geneseo. I thought to myself it might be cool if I could get both the light trails from passing cars and a beautiful night sky.

With the idea in mind, I would pay special attention to an overpass each time I happened to drive by (day and night) to see which area lent itself to the best angle, night sky and most importantly provided me with the most safety. If you are going to do a shoot involving standing on a narrow shoulder, you need to know what the traffic patterns are!

After narrowing the list of potential spots down to two different locations, I waited for a new moon which would afford me the greatest star-gazing ability, and prepared my gear. I will add as a side note here that you really need to be familiar with your camera's functions and controls because once you are out in the darkness you will need to rely on your memory. In case you haven't yet memorized your camera functions, bring along a flashlight.

Once you've arrived on location, set up your tripod and mount your camera. Set your lens focus off AF and to full manual. I would also recommend shooting on your camera's full manual mode for complete control over your exposure. Since there is very little light, you will need to amp up your ISO value to at least 1600, if not 2000, and open those aperture blades up to around f/2.8-f/3.5 -- this will allow for the maximum amount of light to enter your camera. Depending on the light pollution and ambient light spill from nearby buildings and cars, you will need your shutter speed to be at least several seconds long, but more likely around 10-30 seconds. Anything over 30 seconds and the stars will begin to move due to the Earth's rotation (which is cool if you are looking to capture star trails)

With your exposure settings ready to rock, set your camera's shutter release to either a two or ten second delay. If you don't know how to do this, check your camera manual. This delay will allow you to press down on the shutter button and release completely before the camera actually takes the picture, thus eliminating the chance of camera shake during a longer exposure. If you are feeling fancy throw that pinky skyward and use a cable release switch the trip the shutter remotely. Take a few snaps, and check your image on the screen. Odds are your focus will be a little off the first few tries since you are on full manual. But hey, that's the beauty of digital - just keep shooting until you get a decent focus. Take a lot of photos and mess around with your exposure settings to see what happens. My camera settings were as follows:

ISO 3200, Shutter 30 seconds, Aperture f/3.5

Cheers!

KW

Stop and watch ASAP.

Looking for some positive reinforcement? I came across a two part video series today by Delve that delivers a message we all need to hear. They're also very aesthetically pleasing to watch.

I'll let the videos do the talking

Part I:

Part II:

 

 

This video will send you in circles

I came across this video today titled, "Living Moments" - NYC streets frozen in time and MUST share it! In an effort to capture one of the most photographed cities in a unique fashion, a team assembled 50 Lumia 1020 smartphones into an arc to "turn the world upside down."

Unique for sure, although it did leave me feeling a bit woozy! I've included the feature, as well as the behind the scenes version if you want to see the rig.

Feature:

Behind the scenes:


From baby bump to little bean!

A few short months ago I photographed a radiant Melissa and her beautiful family while she was nearing the end of her pregnancy. You may remember:

 

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Yesterday, I got to meet the newest member of the family!


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