Friday, December 12, 2014

Snowy Owl

As a Sigma sponsored public speaker presenting my sports photography program to photography organizations around the country, I feel honored to be able to share my knowledge with my fellow photographers eager to learn. I am also just as eager to learn and take every opportunity to do so. 

This past Tuesday I had the privilege to share my program with the Professional Photographers of Greater New York on Long Island. I had another event to shoot later in the week, so I spent a few days with my Aunt in Lynbrook. One of the PPGNY members, Scott Dere, was showing us some of his spectacular owl photos he has taken in the past and agreed to take me on an owl "hunt" at Jones Beach State Park on the south shore of Long Island the next morning. I had gone on outings before to do bird photography, but it was usually on my own just hoping I'd see something. Going with Scott reminded me more of going to a new river to fly fish with a local guide. Sure, I know how to fish and can even pick the brain of the local fly shop owner on what to use and where, but there is nothing more valuable than to have a local expert share his knowledge. 

 We headed to Jones Beach early the next morning in hopes of spotting the elusive Snowy Owl that had been spotted in the dunes the week before. It was 32 degrees with a stiff 25 mph wind. I had come to Long Island to speak, so I was not prepared with my usual outdoor gear for the conditions. A Nor'easter had passed over Long Island the day before dumping 3" of rain with 50 mph winds. If I were the owl I would have continued straight to Boca. 

With binoculars in hand and an SUV full of camera gear, we scanned the horizon looking for the owl. I asked Scott what I was looking for. "You'll know", he said. The Snowy Owl is two feet tall with a six foot wing span with snow white feathers. It's hard to hide something that big and white on top of a sand dune. We scanned and scanned and found nothing, so we ventured up one of the sandy trails between the dunes toward the ocean directly in to the wind. Other than a Northern Harrier Hawk diving between the dunes in the distance and numb fingers, we found nothing. 

 We changed areas and made our way toward the beach from a different parking area, only to be met with flooded out trails from the earlier storm. We were about to give up when we found a small patch of footing to get around the flood zone and made it to the beach. Scanning the shoreline, Scott got noticeably excited as he looked toward the west with the binoculars. He asked me what I saw and all I could see was a black blob a quarter mile down the beach with a white spec in front of it. "Bingo!" That was it. The owl had taken up residence down wind of some debris on the beach. 

We made our way very slowly toward it, zig zagging our way like feeding deer. Scott warned me not to look directly at the owl so it doesn't think we're stalking it. After a few minutes of "grazing", we were close enough to start shooting. I fired off a few frames just to document that I actually saw one and then began to inch my way closer. Unfortunately, the owl was on to us and decided we were too close for comfort and flew away to the dunes. We kept an eye on it and repeated our grazing pattern, taking the opportunity to photograph some Plovers and Pipers being sand blasted like a flock of penguins in Antarctica. We finally got close enough to get some nice shots of the owl before he made his next jump up the beach. I didn't get the spectacular image of an owl in flight coming toward me, but just seeing one and snapping off a few good shots was enough for me on my first outing. It was a success.

Technical Data: Camera Nikon D7000, Lens Sigma 120-300mm f2.8 Sport with a Sigma 2.0X EX Teleconverter.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Time to Fly

My therapist is a fish, a trout more precisely. I can think of no better way to decompress and deal with life's stresses than to head down to the river to fly fish. I think the trout would beg to differ, but for me, it is the ultimate in relaxation, that is until I get my line caught in a tree.

Although I have the world's most perfect job, getting to play for a living as a photographer, I still need my down time. Fortunately, I love what I do so much that even on my down time I still have a camera in hand, combining two of my passions, photography and fly fishing. If I could make a living doing fly fishing photography, I'd never work a day in my life again.

While traveling for photography events, I often take the opportunity to combine it with an outing on a river I wouldn't normally get to. This year I had the opportunity to fish some world class destinations relatively close to home, such as the Ausable River near Lake Placid, the Beaver Kill and Willowemoc in the Catskills, and Pennsylvania's Pine Creek, Penns Creek and Spring Creek. One of my favorite trips was a few years ago when I had the opportunity to fish in Oak Creek Canyon just outside of Sedona, AZ while traveling in between two photography conferences in Las Vegas and Phoenix. What an incredible experience that was. I eagerly await the day I get to go back, hopefully sharing my passion with my kids.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

I have been nominated for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by my little friend Carter Woodard. The problem is I hate cold water, so here's what I did. I put a 24 hour auction up on eBay for a limited edition 19" Giclee print of the Canandaigua Lady with Lightning in the background. All the proceeds of the auction will be donated to the ALS Challenge fund raiser at the close of the auction. Here is the link for those who want to bid on a good cause.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

It's Never Too Late To Say Thank You

This past week I had the honor of photographing a gentleman in his mid 90s who had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.  He flew PBY aircraft over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, protecting the United States from a Japanese attack from the north. He was very proud of his service and was one of the most polite, sincere men I've ever met. As a "thank you" for his service which occurred almost 30 years before I was born, I created a collage for him to surprise him when he came back to the studio to pick up his head shot.  When I presented it to him, he was extremely moved as was I from hearing his story. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Syracuse Nationals

A few years ago we set up a booth at Syracuse Nationals, one of the largest classic car shows in the northeast with over 8,000 cars at the Syracuse Fairgrounds. We tried to book sessions to photograph cars. It wasn't very successful since many of the cars were too far from Canandaigua.

We did a booth again this year with a different approach and that was to show the cool designs and products that we use with our car photography and let people choose whether we use our photos or theirs. The results were much more promising, so much so that we're toying with the idea of going to the Adirondack Nationals in Lake George in September.

We set up a new section to our website to explain how to submit their own images for the products as well as tips on how to photograph their cars for the best results with the products.

Here are some of the images we created for posters, shirts and blankets from images we shot during the show.

Monday, May 26, 2014

AWesome 1

How far would you go to get "the shot"? Sometimes, getting that perfect shot means putting yourself and your gear in some sticky situations. Fortunately, I was recently able to get my hands on one of Nikon's new AW 1 mirrorless cameras, which is waterproof down to 49 ft, shock proof from a 6.6 ft drop and freeze proof down to 14 degrees. Over the past few weeks I've been able to put the camera through a few tests that I would never imagine doing with my DSLRs.

The first test I put it through was during the waterfall class I put on with Chesler Photography Workshops. While most of the class was geared toward creating the veil look of the water, I couldn't help but try the camera out in the falls instead of looking at them. The results were pretty dramatic.

I bought the camera to take on fly fishing trips and out on the boat. I have a smaller point and shoot camera that's waterproof, but the results weren't what I wanted. As a professional photographer I'm always looking for quality even at the expense of a little convenience. The AW 1 is a small camera when compared with DSLRs but it's significantly bigger than a point and shoot. Nikon designed the camera to be able to change it's setting through a series of easy to touch buttons and by tilting the camera to toggle through the settings, so you can change the settings with gloves on or under water. There is definitely a learning curve with this camera since it is so different than Nikon's familiar DSLR buttons and menus. Although I bought the camera for it's waterproof capabilities, I was very impressed with it's autofocus speed and high frame rate to capture amazing stop action photographs.
The kids were out playing with water balloons today, so what better way could I find to test not only the speed of the camera, but also to combine it with it's waterproof capabilities to capture some truly dramatic images. I won't go in to all the technical aspects of the camera since other websites do a great job of that. I just want to share how it's a great tool to remove some of the limits of creativity.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Wedding Photography Workshop

In this extensive 4 hour class, follow award winning wedding photographer Steve Chesler around to several locations with a model bride and groom to learn how to create the romantic wedding photos that will set your work apart. This class will be very specific to the 1/2 hour to hour you have at a wedding with just the bride and groom and how to get the most from it in a short time. Learn how to seamlessly go from one pose to another creating a full portfolio in minutes. You'll learn how to work with off camera lighting to get dramatic photos in any lighting situation. The class will go in depth on posing, lighting, lens selection and how to get the bride and groom to look comfortable and in love even if they don't like being in front of a camera. Space is limited….$150

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Photography Classes

Now that hockey season is over and I finally have a minute to breathe, it's time to start up our photography classes again. This time around we are adding a new concept with the class concluding on our new Chesler Photography Workshops group on Facebook, by participants of the class sharing their photos taken that day. We will also post tips, how to's, contests and giveaways on the page, as well as information on all of our upcoming classes. Here is the short list of upcoming classes for this Spring.

Photo 101 - DSLR Basics  April 8, 2014 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.  $25.
Get the most of your DSLR (or advanced Point and Shoot that has manual settings). Learn what each button does and when you'd want to use them.  You will get an understanding of exposure and how each camera setting effects the final outcome.

The Bird Song Trail  April 26, 9:00-11:00 a.m.  $25.
We will meet at the parking lot to the Birdsong Trail at Mendon Ponds Park to explore the trail and adjacent fields for the amazing variety of birds returning to the area from a long cold winter. A DSLR with a 200mm+ lens is recommended, as well as a tripod.

Landscapes  May 4, 9:00-11:00 a.m. $25.
This class will focus on the beautiful scenery of the rural areas surrounding Canandaigua. We will look for fields of wildflowers set among the rolling hills. A wide angle lens is recommended for this class, however pack your telephotos and macro lenses as well.

Urban HDR  May 14, 6:00-8:00 p.m.  $25.
If you've never experimented with High Dynamic Range images, this is a great starter class. We'll explore some of the texture filled alleys of downtown Canandaigua creating bracketed exposures of each scene to merge in the computer later. The final image has a tonal range far greater than a traditional photo resulting in a surreal fantasy look.

HDR image of the Canandaigua Pier boathouses.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Playing with a Ferrari

As a child I had a ton of car toys. My favorite was a 15" plastic 1978 Trans Am just like the one from Smokey and the Bandit. I wore out the carpet and my knees racing that car all over the house. Not much has changed since then, my life still revolves around cars. 

As part of my business I lease my cars for three years. It never fails, as soon as the new car reaches my driveway, my gaze starts looking along the horizon for the next one in three years. I'm a car research junkie, however I always put my efforts in to researching cars I have a remote shot at getting. I'm realistic, so I don't put much time in to reading about the super cars such as Ferraris, Lambourghinis, Porsches, etc… 

 Over the last year or so, I've been fortunate enough to get hooked up with RM Auctions, a Canadian company that does high end auctions for the world's premiere cars. My role with them is to photograph cars going to auction from Buffalo through Albany. This region is not exactly a hot bed for super cars, but if you look carefully, they're hiding in places you'd never suspect. I've driven through Ovid, NY dozens of times on my way to Ithaca or down to Wagner Vineyard for weddings. I never would have guessed that tucked between the miles of farms and rusting pick up trucks was the last prototype Ferrari F-50 before they went in to production. Needless to say when I pulled in to the driveway to photograph this beast I was giddy. The owner even took me for a short ride from one shooting point to the other.

 Shooting for RM Auctions, I have to wait until after the auction ends before I can post the photos as to not interfere with the auction process. "My" little red Ferrari sold at the Arizona auction for $1,625,000. Not a bad pay day.

 As my business transitions more heavily in to commercial work, I'm setting my sights on more and more automobile photography. Since I can't afford them, I can always drool over someone else's.

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