Weddings and Friends.

One of the aspects of being a wedding photographer is being able to share in one of the most enjoyable days of the couple's lives.  Little girls grow up playing and dressing up as a bride.  At a wedding held at Eagle Ridge Inn and Resort several years ago, a bride commented that she and her family had visited Eagle Ridge when she was 8 years old and she told her mother that she was going to get married there.  After spending time with the couples and their families in the months leading up to a wedding I become to see my "clients" as friends. It's even more rewarding when people who are personal friends ask me to photograph the weddings of their families.  Over the 40 plus years that I've been a wedding photographer I've had the pleasure to photograph the weddings of several friends.

This past weekend was one of those weddings for friends as I photographed the wedding of Brad and Morgan who become Mr. and Mrs. Crackel on October 7, 2016.  This was my 3rd Crackel wedding and I have enjoyed being a part of these special days for the Crackel family.

Here is a video slideshow of just a few of the many images from Brad and Morgan's wedding.

Source: topsites://

A Day With The Bears

One of the things I wanted to do when coming to Alaska was to photograph the Alaskan Brown Bear.  The pictures that most people see of Alaskan bears is of the bear in the waterfall catching the salmon as it jumps up the falls.  This is in Alaska at a place called Brooks Falls.  At this time of the year, there are not as many salmon running up that river, so there are not too many bears around that area.  So I opted to fly out of Homer Alaska on a guided bear viewing trip.

We started by getting fitted with hip boots and getting our gear loaded into the belly of the float plane.  The plane was a DeHavilland Beaver.  

We would be flying over an hour to a glacier river.  The glacier melts an runs toward the ocean and is fresh water.  The tides come in and push the fish up this river.

After we landed we got a briefing on how we were going to walk amongst the bears and how we had to act in certain circumstances.  One of the things the guide said was if we should be challenged by a bear we were not to back up as the bear would see that as us backing down and it then might challenge us because it already had some dominance over us.  We started walking across the sand a mud flats besides the meadow and came across some tracks.  In the image below, the tracks on the left are from a wolf and the ones on the right are from a bear.

I wish I had something to put besides these tracks to give them scale as they were huge.  The wolf was about the size of my fist with just the ends of the fingers bent over.  The bear was probably the size of my size 10 boot.  The guide said that this wolf had to be big as he was sinking into the sand so deep.

I wish I had something to put besides these tracks to give them scale as they were huge.  The wolf was about the size of my fist with just the ends of the fingers bent over.  The bear was probably the size of my size 10 boot.  The guide said that this wolf had to be big as he was sinking into the sand so deep.

We had hiked a little over a mile when we saw a bear coming down the river our way.  The guide suggested we just take a seat and let her come to us.  This was a big female that the guide had seen quite a lot this season.

She had been fishing and was finishing up one of the fish she found.

She had been fishing and was finishing up one of the fish she found.

The main goal of the bears at this time of year is to eat as much as they can to store up fat for the winter hibernation.  So they eat and sleep and then eat some more.  After a while she dug a hole and took a nap.

After nap time, she took a little swim.  At first we thought she had caught a fish but it turned out to be a stick.  She "played" with the stick for some time.  It reminded me of what a dog might do when playing fetch.

Then it was time to get to business of fishing.  In this river, the salmon were jumping and making some splashing noise.  The guide said that is like the dinner bell to the bears.

She would slowly walk close to where a fish was swimming.

She would slowly walk close to where a fish was swimming.

Then she would start running toward the fish.  These salmon are powerful and fast swimmers.  If you have ever tried to catch a fish with your hands you know how fast a fish can be.  These salmon are strong swimmers.

Then she would start running toward the fish.  These salmon are powerful and fast swimmers.  If you have ever tried to catch a fish with your hands you know how fast a fish can be.  These salmon are strong swimmers.

After a quick chase, she would pounce like a cat on the fish.  It was amazing to see such a large animal be so agile and quick.  I realized that if one was ever chasing me I was toast as there is no way one could ever outrun a bear.

After a quick chase, she would pounce like a cat on the fish.  It was amazing to see such a large animal be so agile and quick.  I realized that if one was ever chasing me I was toast as there is no way one could ever outrun a bear.

In the distance we saw a sow with two cubs and another bear in a meadow so we headed that way.  The tide was coming in and the ankle deep river that we had traversed when we first landed had swollen to thigh depth...thank goodness for hip boots.  And the speed of the current was fast.    I had one camera strapped around my shoulder and I was carrying the other camera with the telephoto lens and all I could think was that I was going to go down and all my equipment was going to be under water.  Luckily I made it back with no problems.

Back at the plane we had some visitors in the river.  Six harbor seals had come into the river and were also fishing for the salmon.  Above us flew an eagle looking for a quick meal. On the flight back the pilot pointed out whales in the bay and sea lions sunning on an island.  All in all quite a day spending time with the true inhabitants of Alaska.

We See The Light

One of the shops in Talkeetna was a tiny gallery of photographs by Aurora Dora.  Dora specializes in images of the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights.  The northern lights are the effect of Sun Flares entering the atmosphere and igniting gases in the atmosphere.  Different gases produce different colors and because they are basically exploding gas, the Northern Lights look like they are pulsing.

Dora has a board that lists the probability of seeing the Northern Lights on any particular night.  On our last night to be in the area, the percentage was less than 20% and since it has been cloudy, I was not holding out much hope of getting to see them.  First off you need clear skies.  Then it’s better in the colder months and even though it was chilly during the night, the conditions were less than perfect.  Oh, and another factor is that they show up at the peak of darkness which on August 28 would be between midnight and 4:00 am!

I had been up early for the sunrise and we had done some hiking and driving around, so sleep came easy.  I am a good sleeper (part of the Gommel heredity!) but Sue finally was able to rouse me at about 1:20 am.  She had awoken to see a beautiful clear night sky filled with an unbelievable number of stars and a band of light that at first looked just like a band of clouds.   Luckily for me, she was able to get me up and I went out on our balcony to take a look.  I thought it possible that it was the Northern Lights, so I got the camera and tripod to take a few exposures.  The more I watched, the more the sky started to dance and I ended staying up until after 3:00 am.

The night sky was pretty amazing without the Northern Lights.  I felt like I could just grab the big dipper!

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The display was pulsing.  It would just be a glowing band that looked like a strip of clouds and then it would start to shimmer and get bigger.

This is probably my favorite image.  Not that it is the biggest display, but the colors and the night sky and stars being so clear and visible just make me like this one the best.

According to an App that one of the inn's guest had, this night would rate a 2 on a scale that rates the display from 0-9.  Check out Aurora Dora's website to see some incredible images.  

http://www.auroradora.com

North To Alaska

One of the things that Sue and I have talked about for some time is taking a trip to Alaska.  We thought of going on a cruise.  The problem with doing a cruise is that wherever you go, 2000 other people go with you-essentially you bring the crowds with you.  So we figured we would go it on our own.  It seems like other things always came first, so we never go to our Alaska trip.

Then my younger sister’s husband took a consulting job in Soldotna, Alaska for six months, so we figured we might as well take advantage of a built in guide while we could.  So Sue took to Trip Advisor and Google and came up with a plan.  We flew into Anchorage and after spending the night, headed to Talkeetna to the Denali Overlook Inn.

When Sue booked the room, she took one of the middle of the road rooms due to being able to save a little cash.  A couple of days after she booked the room, we got a call back from the inn keeper.  Seems that another guest had requests such that they needed the room we had booked.  So they were going to upgrade us to the Denali View suite.  Well, we would first like to thank the other guest, since our room was the prime room at the inn.  When lying on the bed, we had a view of Denali, the tallest mountain in North America.

Many people who visit Denali National Park never see the whole mountain due to the cloudy, overcast conditions.  The day we arrived, the summit of the mountain was covered with a layer of clouds.  Sunset time was around 9:35 pm, so I figured with all the clouds we might have a nice sunset.  Sunset did indeed put on quite a show.

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And when looking out at the mountains, Denali put on a show even with the clouds.

The next morning I woke up early to see the sun just kissing the top of the peaks.  Of course I had to grab the camera and take a few images as the sun continued to rise.

Later in the day, the clouds cleared and we finally saw the full grandeur of the mountains. Somewhere Sue read that less than 30% of the people who travel to Denali will actually see the total mountain.  After two days we officially joined the 30% club.

Lauren & Nicolas

Saturday 7/23/2016 I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Lauren Sheehan and Nicolas Shaw.  The temps were in the mid 90's with the heat index over 100!  What a hot sticky day for a wedding!

Lauren and Nicolas were a joy to work with.  Starting with the "getting ready" portraits, through the ceremony, the church formals, outdoor portraits (yes during the hottest part of the day!) and  the reception they couldn't have been more accommodating and fun to work with.  Needless to say, we tried to do a super job for such a super couple.

Here are a few of the hundreds of images that were created throughout the day and evening.

Big Surf

While the weather news back home is about snow, the news in Hawaii is about big ocean swells caused by winter storms in the North Atlantic.  Between December 1 and the last day in February, the storms create swells which translates into large waves on Hawaii's North Shore which translates to "Surf's Up" to the local surfers.

If the swells get large enough and the conditions are just right, a surfing competition  is held in Wiamea Bay.  This competition is the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational known as "The Eddie."  The competition is in memory of Eddie Aikau, the first lifeguard at Wiamea Bay and also a legend at surfing the big waves.  Check out the Wikipedia entry about Eddie Aikau and the Quicksilver completion on links at the end of this post.

Monday 2/22/2016 we traveled to Oahu's North Shore to check out the surf.  At Wiamea Bay the surf was crashing into the shore.  No one was allowed to surf as the conditions were just too dangerous.

This image was from the area known as Pipeline and the lens does not do justice to the size of the wave.   

This image was from the area known as Pipeline and the lens does not do justice to the size of the wave.

 

   The brown in the wave is the sand being churned up from the beach.  Tonight on the news they showed pictures of the beach as it normally is and it is a wide and beautiful beach, but after the surf of the last few days, much of the sand is gone and the black lava rocks are exposed.

 

The brown in the wave is the sand being churned up from the beach.  Tonight on the news they showed pictures of the beach as it normally is and it is a wide and beautiful beach, but after the surf of the last few days, much of the sand is gone and the black lava rocks are exposed.

   These two images were taken at Wiamea Bay and you can see and feel the power.  While I was taking these images, a surfer climbed over the tape signifying the beach was closed and immediately the lifeguards were there making him leave the beach.  I asked him how big these swells were and he estimated them at about 30 feet.

 

These two images were taken at Wiamea Bay and you can see and feel the power.  While I was taking these images, a surfer climbed over the tape signifying the beach was closed and immediately the lifeguards were there making him leave the beach.  I asked him how big these swells were and he estimated them at about 30 feet.

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   Turning the camera the other direction I was able to catch the waves as they battered into the rocks.  I was able at one point to get so close to the edge that spray and salty mist hit me as the waves crashed into the shore.  I did grab a little video, but even it does not capture the full force of these waves.

 

Turning the camera the other direction I was able to catch the waves as they battered into the rocks.  I was able at one point to get so close to the edge that spray and salty mist hit me as the waves crashed into the shore.  I did grab a little video, but even it does not capture the full force of these waves.

As I write this blog post, The Eddie has the green light pending the official determination at 8 am.  The forecast is for waves of 35-55 feet!  People are already camping out hoping to see some big waves and great competition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quiksilver_Big_Wave_Invitational

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Aikau

 

Whale Watching Adventure

Today I took a Whale Watching trip out of Moloka'i Hawaii.  This is my second whale watching that I have done over the past several years.  Today's boat was a 44' "fishing" type boat and there were 15 "watchers" and a crew of 2.  The wind was pretty strong so there were 6-8 ft swells which made for tough shooting trying to hand-hold my Nikon with the 80-400mm zoom lens.

   The first sighting was a mother and baby.  The Humpback whales travel from Alaska to the Hawaiian waters to give birth to their calves.  The do not eat once they leave the Alaskan waters.  The calves nurse while they are here and hopefully gain enough weight and strength for the long journey back to Alaska in the spring.

 

The first sighting was a mother and baby.  The Humpback whales travel from Alaska to the Hawaiian waters to give birth to their calves.  The do not eat once they leave the Alaskan waters.  The calves nurse while they are here and hopefully gain enough weight and strength for the long journey back to Alaska in the spring.

   One of the shots you see in all the shops and on the postcards is the "tail shot."  The top image is of the whale going away from the boat while the bottom image is of a whale come towards the boat.  The underside of the body and tail have white marking on them.  Each whale's marking are different, so the researchers can track specific whales by studying these markings.  Our captain said he hates to see tails because it means that the whale is diving and probably will be down for some time...not good for the whale watching business.  I was glad I got to see tails today as in my last whale watching trip I did not see any so no "tail shot" in my library.

 

One of the shots you see in all the shops and on the postcards is the "tail shot."  The top image is of the whale going away from the boat while the bottom image is of a whale come towards the boat.  The underside of the body and tail have white marking on them.  Each whale's marking are different, so the researchers can track specific whales by studying these markings.

Our captain said he hates to see tails because it means that the whale is diving and probably will be down for some time...not good for the whale watching business.  I was glad I got to see tails today as in my last whale watching trip I did not see any so no "tail shot" in my library.

   the other shot you see all the time is the "breech."  this is where the whale propels itself out of the water and then comes crashing down with a huge splash.

 

the other shot you see all the time is the "breech."  this is where the whale propels itself out of the water and then comes crashing down with a huge splash.

   I always hope for a whale to breech and then come back for a few more, but this seldom happens.  So you hope that you are ready when it does happen.

 

I always hope for a whale to breech and then come back for a few more, but this seldom happens.  So you hope that you are ready when it does happen.

   This breech happened about 20 yards for the boat.  I was holding the camera in my arm looking for signs of whales when out of the corner of my eye I caught some action.  I just pressed the shutter and even with the motor drive set to continuous high, I only got the last of the breech...oh and believe me, it was a great breech!

 

This breech happened about 20 yards for the boat.  I was holding the camera in my arm looking for signs of whales when out of the corner of my eye I caught some action.  I just pressed the shutter and even with the motor drive set to continuous high, I only got the last of the breech...oh and believe me, it was a great breech!

   What another tail shot?  Yes it is a tail, but this whale is doing a "tail slap."  The whale has lifted it's tail out of the water and is whinging it down to slap the water (Note the water flinging off the top of the tail.)  The resultant thump can be heard for miles and it is believed they do it as a warning to others in the area.

 

What another tail shot?  Yes it is a tail, but this whale is doing a "tail slap."  The whale has lifted it's tail out of the water and is whinging it down to slap the water (Note the water flinging off the top of the tail.)  The resultant thump can be heard for miles and it is believed they do it as a warning to others in the area.

   This particular whale put on quite a show for us for several minutes.  He first was on his back (top image) as the black was visible.  The bottom image he is on his stomach just lifting the tail and slapping it down.  I took a video in hopes of capturing the loud thumping when the tail crashed down, but it was too windy so ally hear is the wind howling.  But the video still portrays the force they create.

 

This particular whale put on quite a show for us for several minutes.  He first was on his back (top image) as the black was visible.  The bottom image he is on his stomach just lifting the tail and slapping it down.

I took a video in hopes of capturing the loud thumping when the tail crashed down, but it was too windy so ally hear is the wind howling.  But the video still portrays the force they create.

Warehouse 109

This past Saturday I photographed an event at Warehouse 109 in Plainfield, IL.  It was my first time at this venue.  It is an old warehouse that has been converted for having parties and other events.  The owner has several old cars and motorcycles that add to the decor of the building.

I'm So Bad at This.

After each event this summer, I had good intentions of writing a blog post.  Now here it is October and my last post was Spring.  So here are a couple of highlight from the summer's events.

Stephanie and John were married in June.  The wedding was outdoors at Arrowhead Gold Club in Wheaton.  They had a great day for an outdoor wedding and it was fun being a part of their day.

Stephanie and John were married in June.  The wedding was outdoors at Arrowhead Gold Club in Wheaton.  They had a great day for an outdoor wedding and it was fun being a part of their day.

Steve and Melissa's wedding was in July.  Another nice day so we could go outdoors for some images.

Steve and Melissa's wedding was in July.  Another nice day so we could go outdoors for some images.

Their reception was at the Haley Mansion in Joliet.  In addition to the outdoor grounds, the mansion itself was a great place for portraits.

Their reception was at the Haley Mansion in Joliet.  In addition to the outdoor grounds, the mansion itself was a great place for portraits.

Hopefully I can be better with the posts as the year progresses.

Winter Time

It's time for Winter to be over!  No more snow that needs to be shoveled!   No more sub zero wind chills!  No more ice that I slip and slide on.   I'm OK with Winter-ish, but NO MORE WINTER!

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NCHS Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Brunch

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This weekend was the annual Naperville Central High School Father/Daughter Dance and Mother/Son Brunch.  This was the 20th F/D and I have been the photographer for 19 of them.

When I was working in the school district, it was always fun to see the former students as they progressed through the High School.  The past few years, those former students have been the parents of the students at these event.  There were even several parents who's weddings I had photographed.

 

Hearts For Valentine's Day.

Today is Valentine's Day.  Are you getting engaged?  Book your wedding today and save $400.  Book within the next week and save $200.

One day while taking a walk, I noticed a leaf shaped like a heart.  Having my camera, I took a picture of it and I called it Nature's Heart.  Now whenever I find a a heart in nature I add it to my collection.

One day while taking a walk, I noticed a leaf shaped like a heart.  Having my camera, I took a picture of it and I called it Nature's Heart.  Now whenever I find a a heart in nature I add it to my collection.

Be An Olympic Photographer

I've often wondered what it would be like to photograph a huge sporting event like the Olympics or Superbowl.  Well now I'm getting the feeling vicariously through Jeff Cable who is an official photographer for the Winter Olympics.

Here is his blog if you want to check it out.

 

New Website

Today I activate the new website.  Of course if you are reading this blog, you are already at the new website!  I'm excited about the new look and feel and hope everyone likes it.  Hopefully I can keep up with the blog to share some of my images and thoughts.

Getting away from the midwest weather

After a few days in Phoenix for Imaging USA, we flew to Hawaii to visit with Sue's brother and his wife.  This is such a relaxing place.  I'm sure I will find lots to photograph.

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Day 1 of Imaging USA 2014

Today I have been at Imaging USA in Phoenix.  I attended some sessions and reinforced some ideas and skills that I have had for years.  I also looked at all the new gear on the trade show floor.  Tomorrow will be another full day of learning sessions.

Packing and repacking.

I've been working all day getting ready for the PPA Imaging USA in Phoenix  AZ.  It will be nice to see all the new stuff, see some old friends, and hear some speakers.  Plus getting out of the ice and cold to a warmer destination doesn't hurt either.  I've pared the camera bag down to one camera body and one lens.  I'm going very minimalist on this trip.