Neptune Festival Sand Sculptures

Every year, right around my birthday, there is a Neptune Festival at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. It boasts great carnival food, art shows, street music, and is a wonderful fall celebration after most of the tourist traffic is gone. There’s also the International Sandsculpting Championship. If you want to see some impressive sand structures and art, you won’t want to miss this. Professionals from all over the world, including Brazil, Canada, Italy, and more gather in VA beach every year to compete and build impressive structures out of sand. For more information, visit the website here.

Fall Photo Challenge – Day 1

Fall is in the air! To celebrate, I came up with 30 days of photo challenges. I’ll try to play with light, context, and more. This one is called ‘Spooky Storytelling’. I had the subject hold the flashlight under his face, like we all did when we were children, and had him re-enact a haunted tale. I shot with a long exposure on a tripod to avoid camera shake and blur.


The, I switched it up and had the only light source hang above the subject’s head. This created an eerie halo effect and bright blue light since I was using a energy-efficient, flourescent flashlight. This next one is called ‘Close Encounter’. Aliens might not fall into the autumn category, but they definitely fit into the Halloween schemes!


This next one was shot in the same set up with the same light, but I edited the white balance in post-processing using the RAW settings. You can see how dramatically it alters the tone and warmth of the skin. This one example is also very dramatic since the subject’s eyes are hooded and hidden in shadows.



Split and loop lighting techniques

There’s a lot to think about when shooting people: how they are posed, what they are wearing, hair and make up, and most importantly, the lighting.

Get the lighting right and everything else will follow. Sound easy right?


Lighting was and still is one of the hardest things for me to manage. Looking at a lot of my current work, I’m seeing the error of my ways. Here’s a few of the great tutorial from Digital Photography School I found and re-attempted myself, and the lessons that I’ve applied.

Equipment Used

  • Reflector and mini tripod mound
  • Canon 7D and primary tripod
  • Canon 50 mm f/1.4 lens
  • 3 Softboxes with Flourescent Lights
  • Willing husband and dog (your subjects)

Set Up

I shoot in manual mode with my live viewer turned on to help save my eyes. In the beginning I had my ISO on auto. That changed very quickly as I saw many of my shots coming out grainy, and even blurry. I turned the ISO back down to 400-650 and saw a huge improvement right away. I also normally shoot in RAW + M JPEG so that I have some variety to work with in post-processing.

1.) Split Lighting

Split lighting is just what it sounds like. The light source splits your subject’s face into half shadow and half light, and can be very dramatic and dark. To attempt this, I positioned my lightbox 90 degrees to the camera and to the left of my subject. Accurate split lighting will allow the eye that is in shadow to pick up light source. This way, you don’t have a subject that has flat or ‘dead’ eyes.

Example 1:

Here I’ve split the subject’s face into half dark and half light. But you might notice that it’s grainy and fuzzy. This is when I had auto ISO set. Also, the subject’s right eye should be picking up a catch light (failure on my part, but that’s why it’s a tutorial).


Loop Lighting: 

Loop lighting creates a small shadow created by the nose on the subject’s cheek. To accomplish this, I raised the light source to the left of my subject and re-positioned it to be around 30-40 degrees from the subject. Then, I grabbed my reflector and put it on the other side of the subject to reflect the light back on his face. I tried not to reflect the light back under his chin or on his neck.

In the left hand shot below, you can see a small triangle of a shadow caused by the subjects nose. This shadow should always try to point downward and be relatively small without creeping under the subjects nose like it does on the right hand photo (below).


Lessons learned:

  • Everyones face is different. Even if I set up the lighting sources the same way, light will hit the curvature of faces differently every time. When shooting for a client, it’s remember that you may have to move both the light source and re-position your subject accordingly to get the best results. I had to move my man several times and ask him to get up and down in order to get the right lighting.
  • Shadows under the nose are unflattering and should be avoided. Try to keep your subject relaxed and their chin up.
  • Customize your ISO and don’t shoot on auto. I easily controlled the amount of grain in my images this way and found that they came out much clearer.


I am honored and so thankful that this woman is in my life. She’s courageous, strong, willful, loyal. She’s a bonafide badass and will go above and beyond for her friends and family.

This session shows all angles of her passion, her bravery, and her risky side. See if you can catch that dangerous twinkle in her eye that tells you “I’m about to do something totally crazy, and you’re coming with me”.



There’s something to be said for young women who know how to kick it in the library and in the country.

Normally it takes 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree. It took this lady half the time. That’s quite the accomplishment if you ask me.

To celebrate and remember 2014 we took these shots outside while there was still some sunshine left. Congratulations Dorothy and best of luck on your future endeavors!

Washington DC Cherry Blossom Festival


Every year Washington DC boasts the infamous Cherry Blossom Festival. There are events, street festivals, and opportunities to learn about the beautiful trees that grace the tidal basin and national monuments. Plus, there are guided tours courtesy of national park … Continue reading