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a decade of digital part 1

07.20.2011
**Warning, this may be my longest blog post ever. Lots of images, but I'd love for you to take a trip down memory lane with me.**

Ten years ago today... I got my very first digital camera. It was a Nikon D1x that I had ordered in April of 2001, and I paid $5,500 for it (then I eventually got a second one). There was a long waiting list for them, and it finally arrived on July 20th... I remember the date because it was the anniversary of Apollo 11 when Neil & Buzz first walked on the moon. That was a significant event in world history back in '69, and July 20th is an important milestone in my career, because that is the day I became a digital photographer. It was a Friday and I brought it to a wedding the very next day. I only took a few shots with it since I had no idea what I was doing, and unfortunately I didn't have a killer workflow back then, and the hard drive with those images crashed so I don't have any images from my first digital shoot. (Thankfully now I have a rock solid workflow and can literally find any shot I've ever taken in a matter of seconds, plus everything is backed up 4x).

The D1x was a 5.5 megapixel camera, which is crazy to think, because my iPhone 4 now has a 5 megapixel camera. Also back then, CF cards were crazy expensive. I believe I paid $600 for a 320MB card (that's megabyte, so like 1/3 of a GB). Those first few days were confusing. I had a hard time getting decent exposures and figuring out how the whole thing worked. There was no option for shooting RAW. It was Jpeg of Tiff back then. But... I was hooked!

I loved the instant gratification that comes with shooting digitally. The ability to review your images right away, and make the necessary technical changes to your camera settings, or the ability to adjust the pose, the lighting or the composition to get the best possible shot in camera. I feel that once I started shooting digitally, my photography skills increased dramatically in a short amount of time.

I had 8 weddings between July and early September 2001. In the first few weddings, I still shot mostly film, but at each wedding, I shot more and more digital, and I as got more comfortable with the new technology. By the last few weddings that summer, I shot more and more digitally and only shot a few rolls of film as back up. Then for a year, I brought a couple of F5's and a brick or two of film as back up just in case, but I never had to use it. By the time the Fuji S2 came out in 2002, I had a 3rd back up (although the Fuji became my primary camera) and I sold my F5's and stopped bringing film to weddings all together.

In the end, digital is just a tool. But it's a tool that I love and prefer. I know some people are switching back to film for the "look & feel", and because it's old school and trendy now, but I for one don't plan on ever shooting another roll of film. There are just too many advantages with digital and I am excited to see what the future holds.

Here a few of my more memorable images by the years. Make sure to check back for part two of this post next week.

2001.

This is from my second wedding with the D1x. The groom designed my first flash website back in 1999. Remember flash? Those were the days! ;-)

My sister got married the next day and she was the 3rd bride to get some digital mixed into her coverage. (I remember missing my 10 year high school reunion because of her wedding).

Gwen & Gavin were guests at a wedding that I shot in October of 2001. They were super nice and posed for photos with just about everyone.

This was at a really nice venue in Santa Barbara, however I don't remember the name?

I flew to San Jose for this wedding. It was at a country club up there somewhere.

My friends Nick & Becky got married in Napa on my dad's birthday. It's funny how photos are anchors for memories.

This wedding took place on September 8, 2001, just a few days before 9/11. I flew home on the 10th after visiting some friends in the Bay Area on Sunday. That freaked me out.

Just a couple of random art shots. Remember Tower Records?

This was shot out of my front window while driving in the 405 late one night. I had just got a new lens and wanted to try it out. Happy accidents!

2002 was a great year. Finally got the hang of this whole digital thing (so I thought). I knew just enough about photoshop to be dangerous. This is one of my favorite images. It was on the home page of my website for years:

Another one of my favorites. This is from the 3rd wedding I shot in Italy, but the first once since digital. It poured on the wedding day. The bride's dad went through the town and bought up every umbrella. My assistants & I were soaked after this wedding, but this print was enlarged to a wall portrait and still hangs in my clients dining room (I just saw them at a wedding recently).

When I say that I try to capture real moments as they happen, this is what I mean. This was taken right when the groom saw the bride for the first time.

Here are some of my early relaxed portraits. I love the color. The Fuji S2 produced some amazing skin tones and was my workhorse camera from 2002 - 2005.


The old Pelican Hill. I used to shoot tons of weddings at that venue. Still haven't shot at the new one. Someone want to hook me up with a referral?

All these years later, I am still rockin' the same hair cut. It's nice to see that I am in better shape now at 37 than I was at 28.

The bluffs at the Ritz Carlton.

This is another one of my favorite art shots. It was taken in an elevator in Bellagio. Italy, not Vegas. This was my desktop photo for a long time and is still in the rotation (my desktop photo changes every 30 minutes).

2003.

This could be one of my favorite images of all time. Surely one I will never forget taking. I was hired to shoot a wedding at the Vatican a couple of days after Christmas in 2003, so we headed over a few days early to get adjusted to the time change. We waited in line forever to see Pope John Paul II preside over midnight mass. It was amazing. As it got closer to midnight, there was just this energy in the air... it was electric. You could feel something special was about to happen. The crowd in the back of St. Peter's cathedral started moving around and making a lot of noise. "Viva Popa, Viva Popa" was being chanted as the Pope rolled down the aisle. I was with the couple, their families and my assistants. The decided to give me the good seat on the aisle since I had the good camera. I actually shot this one handed as my other hand held the video of him making his entrance. After that though... mass was quite boring. It was in Latin and translated into Italian, not English. I believe I dosed off for a bit.

The wedding actually took place at St. John Lateran. Pretty church eh?

Who can forget the time I shot Bob Dole's 80th birthday party that coincided with his library opening in Kansas. That was a fun weekend. I photographed Guiliani, President Carter, Condolezza Rice, John McCain and Tom Brokaw. It was pretty cool.

This was taken in Napa. For the record, I never tell my clients to bite each other's tongues... but whatever happens, happens!

This portrait from 2003 still is hanging prominently in my gallery. I think it defines my "relaxed portrait" style. The flip flops help! The groom is Boo Arnold. Look him up on IMDB. I've been seeing him in a lot more shows lately.

The ex girlfriend! Yeah, as Seinfeld would say, I am a good breaker-upper. Although in this case she broke up with me. In fact when she dumped my ass, she made me promise to still shoot her wedding and somehow I fell for it. I've shot weddings for several of my exes. It's all good. Everything happens for a reason right?

Here I am with my ex and her little sister (who's wedding I shot a few years later).

This is also in the desktop photo rotation. It's the outer brass door at St. John's.

We managed to sneak a few shots of the Sistine Chapel. I am a big believer in asking for forgiveness than permission.

Another example of my signature relaxed portraits. I actually shot this from about 40 feet away... he had no idea I shot it. This is John Brenkus from Sport's Science on ESPN. He's a really cool guy.

I loved the action shot I took at the reception. This guy just flipped his bride all the way around. They were crazy good swing dancers. One of the things I love about digital is the experimenting. I don't mind a little blur from time to time. If it doesn't turn out... just delete it!

2004.

This could be one of my more recognizable images. It was shot down near Cancun and it just happened. I was shooting the couple right after sunset, We had just finished the family portraits and this guy, just cruised through the background. Of course I didn't stop shooting an finally got a real smile out of the groom. If you look closely, the guy is actually wearing a Speedo, so it's not as scandalous as it could have been (Thank God!)


At every wedding I also try to capture all the amazing details. These were some cool Shelley George shoes:

The trend of beautiful brides continues. If you want to look smoking hot in your bridal portraits... just hire Becker!

This was another one of my favorites from the year. It had rained all day and we didn't get to go outside for portraits until night time. I just loved the blur and I loved the light. The groom is actually somewhat famous and didn't want me to use any of their images on my website (this was pre blog) but he said I could use this one since you can't recognize him (or her for that matter).

For a long time, the Bellagio was my favorite hotel in Vegas and I used to stay there exclusively. I still love this piece in their lobby.

Again, I love experimenting with the camera settings with digital. This is an in camera cross process.

I used to head out to Joshua Tree often just to get away and take some photos. The desert light is amazing. This was taken in Hidden Valley - near where they make the Ranch dressing ;-)

2005 started with a trip to Kenya with my church. I'll never forget the people I met and the things that I saw. It was a life changing trip and I am eager to go back one day. In this photo, most of the kids were watching a concert, but this little girl was fixated on my camera. I shot this at a 1/15th of a second and spun the camera as I shot. Who cares that I shot about a dozen frames to get this one. At least I got it!




This was my favorite portrait of the trip. I just got right up in his face and started shooting. I love the expression and the innocence of this child.

For those who know me, I tend to shoot a lot. My philosophy is shoot first and ask questions later. Although when I shot this death row inmate in a Kenyan jail, I took one frame and was kindly on my way. That guy had a menacing look and I just got the feeling that if our armed guards were there, I would have been in serious trouble.

I found this guy deep in the bush. It was the first time he'd ever seen a digital camera. He kind freaked out when I showed him the photo of himself on the back of my camera.

I love this shot because I just found this guy standing in front of the matching background. i didn't move him or pose him at all. I think he was on something, but I don't judge. I just liked the color.

I still can't figure out how my friend Gary tricked Jana into marrying him. She was such a stunning bride. And he's is... well, he's got a great personality! ;-)

This was my first wedding with the D2x, March 2005. I liked how the camera felt and functioned, but that sensor was tricky. It was hard getting consistently good color from up. This was a memorable shot. Anyone every had the cake collapse as the couple was cutting it? Dang spot lights. Thank God for LEDs.

Another rad cake. Linda from the Cake Studio was the best. Unfortunately she retired.

And finally, here's another relaxed late afternoon portrait that was taken in Sonama. This is my good friends Jim Kennedy & his wife Stephanie. They are also photographers here in the OC. She also designs killer wedding dresses which she started doing shortly after their wedding photos were published.

Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. Be sure to check out A Decade of Digital, part 2 were I cover 2006- though the present. I sure would appreciate if you'd leave a comment and let me know what you think. Also feel free to share this link with your friends and don't forget to vote for your favorites.
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