Portrait of an Entrepreneur: Drones of all sizes

Something I thoroughly enjoy is engaging with and learning from clients.  Jeremy has just started a business called Silicon Flight Academy and their goal is to train kids how to fly multicopters responsibly.  He’s in the process of partnering with some schools in the NJ area as a part of the STEM program.

We had a couple of goals for this shoot.  First, Jeremy wanted some updated profile images to use on LinkedIn.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Portrait - Darrin Estep Photography

Next, we wanted to feature some images that show a little of what some of the multicopters (drones) look like.  We wanted to show some really small ones and some that are a little larger.  In addition, he had some FPV gear (headset) to help demonstrate what it would look like to be in an open space piloting a drone.  He's knowledgable and passionate about this subject and I plan on taking advantage of his proximity to me to learn more as I also explore what its like to fly drones.

Lifestyle Images - Darrin Estep Photography

I look forward to our next meet-up.

Laundrylux washing machines at Queens Laundromat

I was recently hired to photograph a laundromat in Queens to help support the manufacturers, Laundrylux marketing effort for both current and future laundromat owners.  I was connected with the owner of this location and we agreed on a date to shoot.

On the night before the shoot, it was raining...hard. The next morning, no change.  Fortunately, there were only a few shots I needed outside. 

Laundrylux laundromat in Queens NY

There was a brief reprieve from the rain so I took advantage to get shots of the exterior.  The location is on a pretty busy street relatively close to the LGA airport.  Once back inside, I knew the key to this shoot was to get the color right.  When fluorescent lights are used, they throw off a green cast that isn't terribly visible until you compare it to other light.  So for each of the locations in the store, I would reset my white balance on the camera using a card to ensure I was capturing an accurate, balanced color from each section of the store. 

Laundrylux laundromat in Queens NY

This shoot went well and the people involved in the shoot were great to work with.  I definitely look forward to shooting additional locations with this group.

Corporate Headshots in lower Manhattan

A few weeks ago I was hired to shoot some corporate headshots for a small company called Mastiff LLC located in downtown Manhattan.  They are a property development and financial services firm.  In my consultation meeting with them, we were discussing what they wanted from the upcoming session and suddenly they stopped to ask, “Would you like some cereal?”  I felt like I immediately got their humor and personality.

My contact is Marissa and she told me about the desire for them to have headshots for the three of them and we also discussed some recent blogging that she’s started to do for the company.  She wanted to capture some lifestyle images for the blog. The topics focus on the work they do and how they split their time across a few locations where they have property.   

mastiff-corporate-headshots-indoor

Once the formal shots were done we headed outside.  Fortunately, we had a beautiful day.  Their offices are near the South Street Seaport.  I haven’t been down there in a long time and was surprised to know there are still sections of that area that have been closed since Hurricane Sandy.

mastiff-corporate-headshots-outdoor
mastiff-corporate-headshots-indoor01
mastiff-corporate-headshots-indoor02

Such a fun group to work with.  We talked about some fun projects to do in the future so I'm looking forward to being a part of that soon.

Teterboro Airport: Private Jet Interior/Exterior

I've had lots of interesting opportunities in the time I've been a photographer.  This, however, is by far the most interesting (and expensive) product shoot I've ever done.  When the first question you're asked upon arriving is, "Where would you like the plane?", you know its going to be a fun shoot.

Unfortunately, it was a rainy day which required us to shoot inside the hangar vs. outside. The ground crew at Teterboro Airport accommodated us by moving this plane to allow for mostly unobstructed views.  We started with the outside, then moved in. 

The owner of this beautiful Falcon 900EX is making it available to charter.  This generated a request from the charter company, Landmark Aviation, to have images featured on their aircraft data sheet to show prospective clients.  They connected us with the pilot, Bruno, for a tour of the plane and help with any requests we had during the shoot.   

Bruno told us about the updated interior and, as you can see from the images, everything is immaculate.  Looking back, I laugh that I brought windex and paper towels as a "just in case" - NOT needed!

For a shoot like this, it's always better to have another highly competent person with you to cover the job properly.  Theresa Keil of Keil Studios Photography has worked with me on many jobs and helped create some great images on this shoot as well.  To add some color, I worked with a local florist, New Providence Florist for the short-stemmed yellow roses.

Family Photos at the Great Swamp

Late fall in NJ can be a great time to shoot outdoor.  On this day we had some nice cloudy weather that most photographers love.

NJ Family Portraits - Great Swamp

With some research, I found a location within the Great Swamp that worked great for Nick & Nirali's family shoot.  We had this cute family walk a bit and huddle in for a few poses.

NJ Family Portraits - Great Swamp

A few images I liked from a little more walking around the grounds.

NJ Family Portraits - Great Swamp

Some individual shots of the kids.  The older children were a little more willing to step out on their own.  For the youngest, mama had to tag along for that shot.

NJ Family Portraits - Great Swamp

GTD: A WPPI Follow-up

I struggle…a lot with getting things done (GTD).

There are so many ways to get things done and so many distractions preventing me from just doing it.  The saying I try to live by is, “You always have time for what you do first.”  After this bit of learning what I’d add to that is, “Do the deep work first”.  Being honest, the reasons I don’t take the time to do the deep, focused work are tied to distraction, laziness and avoidance.  This brings me to a talk I went to while at WPPI 2016 in Las Vegas.  The presenter was Dane Sanders, whom I’ve seen before and enjoyed.

His topic was Rebuilding Your Business from the Ground Up.  The target audience for his talk included those just starting their business all the way through those that have been in business for some time and looking for a re-think.

Dane covered the categories to consider when evaluating your business.  Things like: value creation, marketing, sales, value delivery, business model (whether you’re freelance or a signature brand), what systems you use to process your work and finally how you work with people.  Obviously, there’s a lot of content in each of these categories that I won’t cover here.  The one I want to spend a little time on is a point that would fall within the systems category having to do with how you organize your day and how you get things done.

The reason why I feel like this one is a big deal is that if you don’t have the focus and wherewithal to do some deep work to sort through questions like: 

  • What can I bring to the client experience that only I can do?  
  • What’s the best way to identify and target clients in a meaningful way? 
  • What can I do to make sure my brand presence is consistent from end-to-end?  

These are all pretty hard topics and not something you’ll likely figure out easily.  Without diving into these topics, my business will not flourish as quickly as if I did take that time.  Dane suggested several books but one stood out and I’ve just finished reading it, its called "Deep Work" by Cal Newport.  "Knowledge workers are forgetting the value of going deep”, Cal tells us.  According to a McKinsey study, "60% of the work week is spent doing internet searching with 30% of that time spent answering emails alone.”  Hard to hear but it doesn’t seem far off to me.

Without getting into too much detail, the highlights from the book are first learning to identify the different types of work and the effect of each.  Primarily, the book focuses on shallow work and deep work.  Examples of shallow work are things like checking email, surfing the web and catching up on social media.  A good example of deep work for me would be editing video or writing a blog post like this one.  This is an exercise that I need a large block of uninterrupted time to parse through the message and spend time thinking before creating.  What the author argues is that to produce anything of substance, you need to devote time to deep work.

Finding a way to structure your day so this deep work gets done leads to the topic of forming good habits and continually prioritizing what’s important for you to succeed both personally and professionally.  Another photographer I follow, Chase Jarvis, shared these thoughts  on how feels about being "busy" and how he organizes his day to get things done (skip to 3:07 for the meat of it).

The take-aways for me are: 

  • Consider your entire day as a set of opportunities and possibilities
  • Have a set of goals identified 
  • Prioritize those goals and aggressively find ways to minimize distracted, shallow work to allow for blocks of time for deep thinking.  There were many suggestions on how to manage the disconnection from email, social media, noise, etc.
  • Watch the rewards of this deep thinking come back to you many times over

Now the test.  Let’s see if I can take the time needed to dive in and make this a reality.  

WPPI 2016 - Las Vegas

As I complete my time at WPPI in Las Vegas (forth year attending), I continue to come back because each year is different. New people, new experiences, new parties (which I usually skip). 

Every year, I organize a shoot to experiment and practice.  This year I worked with a makeup artist I worked with last year, Bri, and asked her to suggest a model instead of me conducting my own search.  Thanks to the crew (see below) that braved a very long walk through the desert, getting rained on briefly and cold weather (for Vegas)...all to get to our beautiful destination in the Red Rock Canyon.   Here are some behind-the-scenes (BTS) followed by the results.

Darrin Estep Photography | BTS
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial
Darrin Estep Photography | commercial

The day before, I attended a completely unplanned shoot that someone else organized. They planned the location, hired the models and I just showed up to shoot. As it turned out, this was a great way for me to meet some new people. Here are a few images from that shoot.  

Darrin Estep Photography | portrait
Darrin Estep Photography | portrait

Now to the classes. I didn't attend as many sessions as I had in years past.  I like that this conference is not all about the presenters, the classes, and the expo.  I attended a great talk with Dane Sanders about building your business from the ground up. He outlined categories to think about when evaluating your business, whether you're just starting out or have been at it for a while.  Since I've left I've started to look more into a book he suggested called Deep Work.  More on this soon.

 Expo floor

Expo floor

Next was a talk with Jen Rozenbaum. She's a NY based boudoir photographer.   We have mutual friends through the photography community and I hadn't heard her speak in the past so I'm glad I had the chance to see her this time. She's great and I loved that her personality came through in her talk which makes it so much more fun.  I also attended a social media talk with Susan Stripling that was enlightening. Through her talk I learned that her competition is my favorite NY based wedding photographer, Ryan Brenizer.  Interesting.  She had some good suggestions about what tools to use and why and how to automate a lot of the interactions with social media. 

My last class was a lighting class with Joe McNally. Love him! He's very funny and such a wealth of knowledge. He admitted from the beginning that he had no agenda and was just winging it. He took some questions from the audience and then started to experiment with light and color and explain it as he went along. Here are some images he made during the talk. 

 Joe McNally's images playing with color and light

Joe McNally's images playing with color and light

Thanks WPPI.  It's been fun!  Until next year.

Red Rock Canyon crew:
Model: Danae
MUA: Bri
MUA Assistant: Alessa

Fashion Portraits with Melissa

I’ve been wanting a beauty dish for years now and just never invested in one.  For those not into photography, its a very popular light modifier mostly used for headshots that shapes the light very nicely on the subjects face.  Photographer friends kept saying, “just go to Home Depot and make it on your own”.  Nice idea but just not realistic for me for many reasons.  I decided to get one and now I’m kicking myself that I waited this long. I think there’s a lot to learn with how to position the light just right to achieve the desired result but I'm very happy with my first try. 

Darrin Estep Photography | fashion

Armed with this new toy, I posted a quick casting call on Model Mayhem and opted to work with Melissa (featured here) as my model.  She was really fun to work with and had so much personality that comes through the camera.  I also pulled in Lyndsey as the MUA that I’ve worked with in the past on this shoot.  She was great once again in bringing the drama to an already pretty face. 

Darrin Estep Photography | fashion
Darrin Estep Photography | fashion

These last few (above) were actually natural light (e.g., no flash).  Its funny how seldom I shoot without studio light but its fun to experiment with what you get from nice window light.  Until next time.

Family Photos in Berkeley Heights with the Kale's

Rupa has become a good friend and valuable business contact over the past couple years.  She owns Bottle & Bottega in Berkeley Heights, NJ and she recently asked me to snap some photos of her young family.  

Darrin Estep Photography | family

I was fortunate enough to have this great location picked out by her.  It has all the qualities that I look for as a photographer: great light (open shade), nice scenery that's not distracting, limited number of people around.  This had all those things.

Darrin Estep Photography | family

Given that it was a little chilly outside and we're working with small children, we moved quick and tried to keep things interesting to keep the energy high and positive to get some great smiles like  I got here.

Darrin Estep Photography | family

Cute family.  Lots of fun.

Lifestyle stock video shoot

Recently, I helped put together a shoot for Tom, a friend I’ve worked with at Shutterstock, to shoot some lifestyle video to be sold as stock footage.  We started planning this in late summer and settled on a date when we could all get together.  Tom lives in a nice neighborhood in Manhattan so to keep it simple we shot in his apartment and just outside the building near the water.

The model on the shoot was Stephanie Damiano.  I worked with her 2 years ago when she was toward the beginning of her adult modeling career.  Since that time, she’s done very well for herself.  She’s currently in 3 films, had TV appearances and other exciting projects in addition to  being an NYU student.  Samantha Linn was the MUA that had worked with Stephanie in the past and joined us on set.  She was great to work with as well.  

 Stephanie texting face-timing on camera

Stephanie texting face-timing on camera

Anyway, onto the shoot.  I brought my Movi to the shoot to have Tom try it out.  We planned for some fairly static shots and some that included movement and the Movi gives you this fantastic, smooth feel to the shot.  While Tom was shooting the scene below, I was able to snap a few stills of Stephanie eating this fruit plate.  She did great in making it look like she was really enjoying it.   I’ll update this post once the final clips are posted for sale.

 Stephanie enjoying "the best fruit ever"

Stephanie enjoying "the best fruit ever"

Great crew and super fun shoot!

Update: Here's a link to the videos.

2nd Annual Company Party: Stride

Stride just had their 2nd annual company party.  Things are going great for them and they are proud of what they've accomplished in such a short period of time.

 Debbie Madden, CEO (left), Company meeting space (right, top), Striders engaged in dialog (right, bottom)

Debbie Madden, CEO (left), Company meeting space (right, top), Striders engaged in dialog (right, bottom)

I was brought in to capture the company event, shoot some additional interviews that are a part of a recruiting video we're putting together for them (check some BTS shots already posted).  On the same day, we also grabbed a headshot of their new VP of Client Services and wrangled them into a full group shot so we can see how much they've grown as a company from year to year.

Darrin Estep Photography | Corporate Event

This company meeting didn't feel 'corporate'.  It didn't feel forced.  It felt like they were a team of like-minded people after a goal of being the most sought after Agile consultancy in the world.  Doing it all with a great attitude and a respect for a work/life balance is pretty hard to find.

Darrin Estep Photography | Corporate Event

This event wasn't covered by me alone.  I had some great help:
Theresa Keil: 2nd shooting, video interviews
Jessica Cuevas: Event photography, assistant

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Real Estate Headshots for Matt

Matt is a friend and a new Real Estate agent.  He needed some headshots for his new role.  He approached me and said he wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of needing to have his picture taken - a common thing I run into - but I promised to keep it as painless as possible.

Darrin Estep Photography | Real Estate Headshots

Since this was a professional headshot for a realty company, it needed to be formal BUT it didn’t need to be a full-length shot. :-)  Here are a couple that we chose from the shoot with Matt.  Best of luck selling all kinds of property!

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Corporate Headshots: Vidhi from Stride

Stride has a new VP of Client Services.  Her name is Vidhi.  I sat down with her recently to capture her likeness to grace the pages of the Stride website.  Coincidentally, I almost worked with Vidhi a few years back.  I was just leaving a company and she was just coming in.  With Debbie as our mutual connection, we meet again.

Darrin Estep Photography | Corporate

My default for a shoot like this is to light it up.  Not this time.  There was some beautiful light  coming from a window camera-left so we went with that.  She has a great smile and we were able  to get some nice images in a very short period of time.

These are a few of my favorites from the session with her.  Vidhi, congratulations on the new role.  You’ve earned it and I’m sure you’ll enjoy working with the Stride family as much as they’ll enjoy you.

Darrin Estep Photography | Corporate Headshots

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BTS: Stride Video Shoot

Okay, maybe the behind the scenes (BTS) material should come after the project but I have it now so I'm sharing it.  

 Aldric (upper left), Darrin, Theresa, Lucille (lower left), Ian, Mike, Lucille (right)

Aldric (upper left), Darrin, Theresa, Lucille (lower left), Ian, Mike, Lucille (right)

A couple months ago I was contacted to put together a video that highlights what its like to work at Stride, an agile consultancy based in New York City.  We're shooting this in two parts.  First, we interviewed three employees, plus the Head Of Talent, Lucille to introduce the video for us.

 Theresa (left), Darrin/Theresa (middle), Jenna (right)

Theresa (left), Darrin/Theresa (middle), Jenna (right)

There were three of us working the shoot this time.  Myself, Theresa, and Jenna.  While Theresa and I were shooting, Jenna grabbed shots of our talent and the crew working the scene.  Great stuff!  Soon we'll be shooting the second part of the video which will include some more interviews and a company meeting.  Stay tuned for updates on the finished video.

 Darrin (upper left with Jenna in the lens reflection), Theresa (lower left), Ian & Mike (right)

Darrin (upper left with Jenna in the lens reflection), Theresa (lower left), Ian & Mike (right)

I was fortunate enough to have some great help on this shoot:
Theresa Keil: 2nd shooting, video interviews
Jenna Fernandez: BTS shots + assistant

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Central Park Senior Portraits: Ally & Katlynn

A couple months ago, I received an inquiry from Kim, Ally's mom to shoot a senior portrait session for her daughter while they visited NYC from Kentucky.  Ally was bringing a friend so we arranged to shoot with both of them.  Ally & Katlynn will be seniors in high school in the coming year and were taking a summer trip together.  

I scouted out a few locations, hired a trusted MUA (thanks Nicole), set a time to meet at 72nd Street & Central Park West and we're off.   Since Katlynn was ready first, we shot a few images a short walk from where we met.  Here are a few of my favorites... 

Darrin Estep Photography | senior portraits
estep_blog_0167.jpg

Next up was Ally. There are so many great places to shoot in Central Park and one of my favorites is  Bethesda Fountain.  There's an amazing set of stairs and some world famous arches that I really enjoying reinterpreting each time I shoot there.  We happen to find a musician playing which made it even more fun to shoot.

Darrin Estep Photography | senior portraits
estep_blog_0173.jpg

A quick step to the outside the arches and we're in front of the fountain.

A few more with outfit #2...

Darrin Estep Photography | senior portraits

Switching back to Katlynn, she also had an outfit change and we stumbled upon a "bubble guy" (I'm sure he's got a more official title but I'm not aware of it) so we had a little fun with that.

Darrin Estep Photograpy | senior portraits
Darrin Estep Photograpy | senior portraits
estep_blog_0169.jpg

Of course we had the bubble guy work his magic for both of them...

Darrin Estep Photograpy | senior portraits
Darrin Estep Photograpy | senior portraits

Finishing with a few more showing some of the cabs passing by.  I enjoyed the time with these girls and hope they had a memorable journey for their trip to NYC this summer.

Commercial Work: Drive-Thru Systems for VGS

I love when new challenges come my way.  A couple months ago, I stopped by the offices of VGS (Visual Graphic Systems) to provide a quote to photograph a set of drive-thru systems.  There were four separate "systems" in place that each have components that can be swapped out for advertising purposes.  VGS has their systems in a warehouse, which is great for shooting indoor however, it presents its own set of challenges with mixed lighting, reflection and framing the objects with enough contrast that they can be cut-out and delivered as a Photoshop layer. 

I was very fortunate to have some help.  Theresa, who has worked with me on many shoots, helped from the planning to the execution and I can't thank her enough.  Also, all the VGS staff was very accommodating when it came to helping with moving items and blocking out light from some windows.

A couple of the systems I'll highlight here are the Dunkin Drive-Thru and a VGS exclusive drive-thru system called "Burger Bar".  They've put a lot of effort into making and building this system that has a lot of great humor.  They note, "Don't touch / 8'6" / The Bun" on the top of the Welcome Bar.  On the menu, one portion reads, "Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner".  This particular system has a digital menu component on the right side that rotates different signage as you wait to place your order. Here's what the whole system looks like. 

 Burger Bar Drive-Thru system with digital menu system

Burger Bar Drive-Thru system with digital menu system

Another system we shot was for Dunkin'.  Its amazing how many little things you notice about what's in and around this system when you look at everything blown-up to 500%. 

 Dunkin' Donuts Drive-Thru System

Dunkin' Donuts Drive-Thru System

Great clients (thanks Anna & Shannon) and fun, challenging work.  I look forward to additional opportunities with VGS.

Stride Corporate Headshots

Something that I think every business strives for is repeat work.  It strengthens the relationship and helps to solidify that you’re a good match with that client.  With Stride, and more specifically Debbie Madden, I’ve been working with her on creative projects for a few years now.  She’s been growing her business and has some new hires that needed headshots so they called me to do the shoot.

Lucille is the Head of Talent at Stride and comes from the General Assembly and Google most recently.  Here are some favorites from our session around the streets of NYC.

Darrin Estep Photography - corporate headshots NYC
Darrin Estep Photography - corporate headshots NYC

Lisa is also new to Stride and is the VP of Engineering.  She’s worked with Debbie prior to Stride at Cyrus and comes from London where she worked for The Guardian.  She told me she had one headshot from that time that worked for all occasions and didn’t fancy being in front of the camera but got comfortable quickly after some initial shots.

estep_blog_0160.jpg
estep_blog_0161.jpg

I look forward to continued interactions with this great group of people.

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Bottle & Bottega Studio Images

I first shot this space last July, when it opened.  I was asked back to photograph the updates to the space.  Rupa, the owner, has remained very busy since she opened and the evidence is on the walls.  There are so many great pieces in this space that weren’t there before.  It's looking great!

estep_blog_0155.jpg

There are two sides to the space.  What’s shown above are both sides of the studio.  There’s plenty of seating to accommodate large parties. More shots of the interior here...

Bottle-Bottega-Interior Space

It's not common for me to work in Photoshop however, for this exterior shot, I saw the potential in the original image.  We planned this shoot on a Sunday night as it was the most likely time when we wouldn’t have someone parked in front of the building.  We were both disappointed to see that there was one car was parked in front during the shoot.  I continued to shoot inside but the sun was starting to go down and the lighting was nice outside.  Clock was ticking.  I took some shots with the car in front just in case but fortunately, the owner of the car arrived and left.  I quickly snapped the shot on the left and cleaned it up to become the image on the right.

Bottle-Bottega-Exterior Space

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Corrie J: Boudoir in Vegas

Continuing with my series of shoots I did while I was in Vegas this year for WPPI, the last one I’m writing about is with Corrie J.  She models full time in Vegas and works various conventions and events, of which there are many in Vegas.  

When I first decided on Corrie, I was a little worried because she’s almost 6’ tall - and I’m not.  I couldn’t bring a ladder all the way to Vegas so I improvised when I needed to be eye level with her (like standing on chairs :-)).  I like the before and after shots so I put this comparison together for that reason.  The one on the left is probably 5 minutes after she walked in the door.

CorrieJ-Before and After Headshot

Here, I’ve got some of Bri’s work-in-progress with Corrie along with her kit spread out on the table.

Corrie-Bri-Makeup

Some beauty/headshots before some other poses...

Corrie-Headshots

Some variations in a comfy chair that I really liked the angles on.  Even though I’m featuring the one with her looking at the camera, I really like the shot on the right with her looking down.

CorrieJ-Chair beauty

Going for something soft and in the moment for these...

Corrie-soft-moment-quiet

Then for something a little more edgy and dynamic for the ones below.

CorrieJ-edgy-sexy

Corrie brought a lot of clothes to the shoot.  Her suitcase was bigger than mine and very pink.  I wish I would have taken a picture of it but I didn’t.  So, I thought it would be fun to show all the things she brought in an interesting way so we put all the clothes on the bed and had her pose as if she’s exhausted from the mere thought of having to pick something to wear.  Fun stuff.

CorrieJ-clothes-options-lingerie

Harley's Photo Session

I’ve had quite a bit to write about from my WPPI experience in Vegas this year.  This post is about Harley which was one of the two scheduled shoots.  All interactions with Harley were upbeat and positive... and when this happens I feel the need to point it out.  It makes the whole experience so much nicer. 

This was my first time working with Harley, and the first of two shoots working with Bri, the make-up artist (MUA).  Whenever possible I like to shoot the prep to show a little of the behind the scenes (BTS).  I selected a few of Bri working on Harley below.  The role of the MUA is so important to the shoot that I’ve keep a separate gallery dedicated to the work they’ve done on my shoots. Thanks to all they do!

One of the talks I attended at WPPI talked about the use of props; specifically how they don’t like to use them.  I personally find them to be kind of fun to incorporate into a shoot if not overdone (which is subjective).  As you can see from these images I’ve used a few props but its all done with a playfulness in mind.  

Another topic that’s often discussed within the photography industry is evoking emotion from the viewer.  I’d rather have you love or hate the images vs. feeling nothing.  Love it or hate it, I’m creating something that I want you react to.  If I've achieved that, I've done my job as a photographer and as an artist. 

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