Archivi categoria: Inspiration

This Audi Ad Was Shot Using 1/43 Scale Models and a Homemade Desert

Most car commercials involve big budgets, test drivers, and excursions to exotic far-away lands—unless, of course, you hire miniature photography master Felix Hernandez. For his latest assignment with Audi Middle East, Felix created his own personal desert and roadway right in the comfort of his own studio.

For this particular project, Hernandez was tasked with making 1/43 scale models of Audi’s new Q2 look like the real deal. This is, of course, what Hernandez is an expert at, but the assignment was challenging even for him.

“Were I normally work with 1/18 scale models, for the Q2 launch I was commissioned to do a series of photographies using a 1/43 scale model,” explains Felix. “This was my first time doing this kind of photography with such a small model.”

The smaller models meant creating realistic sets and making the cars look full-sized was even more difficult, but Felix was able to pull it off. He used foam core, LEDs, and sand paper to create an indoor roadway for the little Audis, while his desert was made from polvo fino (a fine powder) mixed with water and moulded into makeshift sand dunes.

Finally, he did spend SOME of Audi’s budget on a trip to Dubai, where he and fellow photographer Adrian Sommeling captured this base plate in order to create a shot of the Audi in front of an iconic Middle Eastern cityscape:

The final images are, like all of Felix work, impressive creations. Mixing practical crafts work with focus stacked photography and some serious Photoshop skills, he makes teeny tiny Audi models—smaller than he’s ever worked with—look life-sized.

Check out the BTS video below to see how Felix built his desert and road scenes from scratch in his studio in Cancun, Mexico. And then keep scrolling to see all of the final images from the campaign.

To see more of Felix work, visit his website or give him a follow on Facebook, Behance, and Instagram.

(via DIYP)

Image credits: All photographs by Felix Hernandez, used under creative commons.

Movie Scenes Side-by-Side with the Historical Clips that Inspired Them

Aspiring filmmaker Vugar Efendi has created a fascinating video for history and film buffs alike. In it, he places famous movie clips right next to the historical news reels and TV clips that inspired them, showing us just how incredibly accurate some of Hollywood’s period pieces really are.

This particular trip through history is almost disorienting. In some of the clips, it’s almost difficult to tell which is the historical clip and which is the reproduction; in others, Hollywood takes full advantage of different camera angles and historical context to “show” an event from perspectives that were never captured in real life.

As Efendi notes in the video description, the result is “transcending, powerful and nevertheless, haunting.”

(via Sploid)

Huseyin Sahin’s Surreal Digital Photo Creations are Straight Out of a Dream

Huseyin Sahin is one of the most talented digital artists you’ll find online. Following in the footsteps of other incredibly skilled artists like Erik Johansson, he’s got a stunning talent for creating surreal scenes by blending together digital photographs.

Sahin’s photos embrace the most disparate scenes and bring them together in a way that seems… almost possible—a whale breaching in the desert, or an Earthbound beach extending into outer space.

But whether or not you’re looking for deeper meaning from the Turkish artist, you’ll no doubt enjoy the acid trip that is his work. Scroll down to see a few of our favorites.

To see more of Sahin’s surreal collages, you can follow him on Instagram and Behance.

(via Colossal)

Image credits: All photographs by Hüseyin Sahin and used under Creative Commons.

I Built a Panoramic Photo Rig Made of 6 Nikon DSLRs, and It’s Awesome

My name is Paul Bruins and I am hopelessly addicted to panoramas. It has now been 48 hours since my last fix. If I don’t shoot up at least one fresh panorama per week, I start to experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

I shot my first multi-image panorama way back in 1982, with a small instamatic camera. It was a panorama of the “Bloukrans” bridge under construction, which was too large to fit into the tiny viewfinder of my camera, and thus required multiple photos to capture in its entirety.

After clumsily sticking the prints together with scotch-tape I was instantly hooked on the concept of multi-image panoramas.

Sticking together glossy paper prints was clearly not the most successful way of doing things, but this was in the early days before digital photography (and stitching software), so I didn’t really have any other option.

Some years later, when digital camera technology became readily available (and affordable) I was one of the first in my circle of friends to make the switch from film to digital. My first digital camera was a measly 2.1-megapixel Sony Cybershot, with terrible image quality when compared to 35 mm film. But that didn’t matter to me, because if I took 10 photos of something and stitched them together, I could easily end up with a 15 megapixel image.

The more I zoomed in to my subject, the more photos I needed to capture it and the larger (better quality) my final stitched image would be.

Besides the improved image quality, the biggest benefit of shooting multi-image panoramas is the freedom of composition and lens-choice that you get when you aren’t always trying to squeeze all the beauty of the landscape into one frame.

When you’re shooting single-frame images, your choice of lens is entirely determined by how close you are to your subject and how much of your subject you are trying to capture—if you want to capture a lot of stuff close to you, then you stick on your ultra-wide lens; if your subject is far away, then you mount your telephoto and zoom in on it. But what do you do if your subject is both far and wide?

If you zoom out a little to capture the wideness of the subject, then the top and bottom of your photo often becomes a lot less interesting than the rest. Why not simply zoom in until your subject fills the frame, and then take multiple images to capture the entire width of your subject? More importantly… why should we EVER allow our compositions to be constrained by our lenses and viewfinders, when most modern stitching software is able to join multiple images together so seamlessly?

However, when digital cameras first became available, our stitching software options were limited to one or two programs, none of which did a very good job of it. Of course, the fact that I didn’t have a clue what parallax was, and how important it was to always rotate your camera around the centre of the lens (the nodal point)… well, that didn’t really help things either. Some of my early panos were impossible for any software to stitch seamlessly, and I often ended up spending hours in Photoshop afterwards, desperately trying to hide all the most obvious stitching errors with the clone brush.

Fast-forward about 6 years, several camera-upgrades, two dedicated panoramic tripod-heads, huge leaps forward in the stitching-software-department, and hundreds of practice attempts later… finally my panos were turning out seamless and flawless.

Finally I felt totally free to capture any subject, confident that my camera and lens would capture all the details, and that the stitching software would be able to put everything together afterwards.

But who was I kidding? I wasn’t totally free at all!

There was one kind of subject that I was never able to capture as a multiple-image panorama, and that was any subject that included multiple moving objects. Since each successive photo in a pano-sequence is taken a second (or more) after the previous photo in the sequence, the moving objects will be in a different place in each photo, which tends to completely confuse the stitching software.

I used all the tricks in the book when I did have one or two moving objects in my composition, but try as I liked, some subjects were simply impossible to capture… including my most favorite subject of all time: Table Mountain as seen from Blaauwberg beach (too many moving waves).

My addiction to panoramas and my love for Table Mountain soon led me to begin adopting a most unsuccessful compromise, the “Croporama.” This is where you crop off the top and bottom part of your photo so that it looks like it could be a panorama. This should probably be called a Fake-orama, since it shares absolutely no similarity with a true panorama, other than the aspect ratio. While shooting Croporamas, our compositions continue to remain constrained by our lens choice. Also, the cropped image will obviously always be smaller than the original single-frame image, and thus always of a lower quality.

The photo below might look like a panorama, but it’s definitely not. This is not what Table Mountain looks like from Blaauwberg beach. It looks much bigger than this in reality. It is my use of an ultra-wide lens that has made it recede into the distance, to appear much smaller than it really is.

This “moving objects” conundrum seemed like a show-stopper to me, something that I would never be able to overcome. Unless I built some kind of tripod-head that could support multiple cameras… to capture all the images required for a panorama at exactly the same time!

At first the idea seemed too ludicrous to even contemplate. How would a thing like that even work? How would I get all the cameras’ shutters to fire at exactly the same time? How would I be able to ensure that the exposure from each camera was exactly the same? And more importantly, how would I be able to eliminate those dreaded parallax errors with the cameras spread out next to each other?

After many discussions (and paper-napkin-sketches) with friends, I decided to attempt the project. To build a rig that could fit onto a standard Arca-Swiss tripod mount, which could be light yet strong enough to support six DSLRs. As much as I would have loved to attach six Nikon D810 cameras to my rig, that would have been both too heavy and completely unaffordable, so I put that idea out of my head as soon as it entered.

I would have to settle for something much less, an entry-level camera, the one with the best image-quality for my buck. I didn’t have to look very far (or long), the superb (24 Megapixel) Nikon D3200 seemed like the obvious choice. I was able to find six “as new” second-hand camera bodies for about half the price of a second-hand D810 body, which was well within my budget.

The next consideration and decision was which lenses to buy. The most versatile lenses are, without a doubt, zoom lenses. But a good zoom lens is usually much more expensive than a good prime lens, which made it very tempting for me to go with the Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8 prime (cheap yet very good). The zoom lens vs. prime lens decision was made considerably easier with the knowledge that with a zoom lens I would have to adjust the angle for each camera every time I adjusted the focal length (to ensure a consistent overlap of the images). That seemed more trouble than it was worth, so version 1.0 of my pano-rig would definitely be using fixed-focal-length lenses!

The shutter-release system proved to be easier to build than I’d imagined. An electronic-genius-friend of mine simply connected six shutter-release cables together into one (inside a small weather-sealed box), with a single wire coming out the other side of the box to connect to the trigger mechanism. Once I’d connected all the cables to the cameras, I was able to auto-focus all the cameras with a half-press of the trigger, and to fire all the shutters with a full press.

All that remained was to build the rig to hold everything together. The most obvious (and easiest) design seemed to be to mount each camera in portrait format in a straight line next to each other, as close together as possible, yet still allowing some space between to operate each camera. It made sense to spread the direction that each camera would be pointing in a fan-shape, with the left-most camera capturing the left-most image in the pano-sequence.

But the words “Parallax Error” were booming loudly through my head the entire time that I was considering this potential solution. To completely eliminate parallax error I would have to mount each camera vertically above the other, so that the nodal points of each lens would all be on the same vertical plane.

But while the vertical option seemed ideal and preferable to the horizontal option (from a parallax point of view), I was concerned that this solution would also require the longest (and most-fiddly) setup-time before shooting, since each camera would have to be pointing a bit more downwards than its lower neighbour (or aiming more upwards than the camera above it). The more I considered this arrangement, the less the idea appealed to me.

After considering a number of other options (and many, many more napkin-sketches later), I finally settled on the “Banana Arrangement”. This is where all the cameras are mounted in a semi-circular formation pointing inward, so that the left-most camera takes the right-most photo of the pano-sequence. While this cross-over arrangement would probably not completely eliminate parallax errors, I figured that it would reduce them to an acceptable level. As long as I didn’t include too many objects in the immediate foreground of my compositions, the parallax errors would be negligible.

No matter how much brain-power I threw into this design, I was unable how to mathematically calculate what the ideal radius of my banana would be, and the ideal spacing between the cameras.

When in doubt, prototype!

So I bought a short length of steel cable-channel, some steel L-brackets and a bunch of nuts and bolts, and I started playing. I attached the cameras to the L-brackets, and bolted those onto the cable-channel in all conceivable arrangements. As I’d suspected, the banana arrangement proved to be the ideal arrangement, with all the cameras pointing inwards instead of outwards. The biggest downside to this arrangement would be the mental gymnastics that I would have to go through while trying to compose my panoramas (since the left-most camera takes the right- most photo).

The cable-channel proved to be much too flimsy to support the six cameras, and its weight combined with the weight of the L-brackets meant that my first prototype was completely impractical. And since I was (unfortunately) born with two left thumbs, I would need to find someone else (more practical than me) to manufacture the rig to be much lighter (aluminium?), and much more rigid (to eliminate all vibrations).

Fortunately I also have a mechanical-engineering-genius-friend whom I was able to turn to in an attempt to solve the weight and rigidity issues. So I paid him a visit (with prototype in hand) and asked his opinion on how the rig could best be constructed. After a couple of hours of brainstorming (and many more paper-napkin-sketches later), we finally hit on the idea to mount the banana on top of a length of square aluminium tubing (for maximum rigidity), and to drill the whole thing full of holes (for minimum weight).

My Gitzo tripod has a maximum load capacity of 25 kg, but my Kirk ball-head can only manage 6.5 kg. Nikon D3200 camera bodies weigh 455 grams each, and the 35 mm prime lenses each weigh 305 grams. Six of each will add up to just over 4.5 kg, which meant that (unless I wanted to upgrade my ball-head) we would have to ensure that the rig would not be heavier than 2.0 kilograms. The solution was to construct the vertical camera-mounts and the banana- shape from an 8 mm aluminium plate, then use a 4 mm square box tube underneath to stabilize everything… and then drill the whole thing full of holes!

Besides adding rigidity, the box-tube also allowed us to control the balance of the rig on the tripod once the cameras were fitted. Before we bolted it all down, we were able to slide the banana-plate forward and backwards on the box- tube to establish the ideal position to ensure optimal balance. I will admit that the centred (and perfectly balanced) carrying handle was not my idea, but I am ever so thankful for it, as this rig would be very awkward to carry without it.

So after 6 months of planning and scheming, buying cameras and lenses, and building the aluminium rig, I was finally ready to attempt my first multi-camera panorama. If only the weather would cooperate!

But we were in the middle of another typical Cape Town summer, with hazy (smoke filled) skies, daily gale-force winds, and not a wisp of a cloud to be seen anywhere! The first opportunity to test the rig came a full week after it was completed. Of course I did shoot a couple of “proof of concept” panos in my garden while I was waiting for the weather conditions to improve, but as soon as the air cleared a little and the wind died down to a stiff breeze, I was out on the beach to test my contraption.

There is no better subject to test a multi-camera panoramic-rig on than a sky full of kite-surfers! There are at least 40 (fast) moving objects in the photo below… which my rig manage to capture perfectly… with not a single stitching- error to be found! Not a single kite-string was disjointed, every wave lined up perfectly, and the 35 mm focal length offers a completely natural perspective. Table Mountain looks exactly this big (relative to the people in the foreground) when you’re standing where I was standing while I was shooting the images for this panorama.

As our summer starts morphing into autumn, so we’re finally getting some nice weather again here in Cape Town. The wind is much less ferocious, the air is getting clearer, and the clouds are starting to fill the skies again at sunset.

Operating all the cameras at the same time is proving to be easier than I thought it would be. The horizontal nature of the “banana arrangement” lends itself to visually aligning the cameras with the horizon, so getting the horizon perfectly level is a whole lot easier with this rig than it is with a single camera.

The biggest headache so far has been keeping the lenses clean and dry (with plenty of flying sand and salt-water spray), but I have since discovered that it is a whole lot easier to just cover everything with a light blanket when I’m not shooting, than to keep popping all the lens-caps on and off.

At this stage I’m still playing it safe and allowing a 30–40% overlap between each of the images. I could probably get away with a 10-15% overlap with these 35 mm lenses, but I prefer my horizontal panoramas to have a (roughly) 2:1 aspect ratio. Plus… when you shoot too wide… the light tends to start getting confusing (when the shadows on the left of the photo are pointing in a completely different direction than the shadows on the right).

But even with the generous overlap that I have allowed, these panoramas are still roughly 15,000 pixels by 6,000 pixels in size. That works out to a whopping 90 megapixels in total… that’s medium-format territory… and not too bad for a couple of entry-level DSLR cameras!

Besides Table Mountain, there are a whole bunch of other subjects that I am now finally able to capture as high-resolution, freedom-of-lens-choice, multi-image panoramas. As soon as I am comfortable using the rig for day-time panoramas (when I can do everything with my eyes closed), I plan to start capturing panos of car-headlight-trails at twilight… and perhaps even some panoramic star-trails? Who knows what next? The possibilities are endless!

Finally, I feel totally free to capture any subject with my new multi-camera pano-rig, confident that the cameras and lenses will capture all the details, and that the stitching software will be able to put everything together afterwards!

About the author: Paul Bruins is a Cape Town based professional photographer who has spent the past 12 years exploring and photographing every corner of his home town and province. His images have won numerous competitions and awards, and have been published on calendars, in magazines, and as book covers. To see more of his work, visit his website or follow him on Flickr, Facebook, and 500px.

6 Creative Portrait Photography Hacks in 2 Minutes

Ready for some rapid-fire DIY tips? A team of French photographers who goes by the moniker “Shootr” has put together a simple photo hacks video that offers a few creative ideas for your next portrait shoot.

Let’s take these one at a time.

1. Tin Foil Background

Don’t have (or want to use) a standard portrait background? Try crumpling up and hanging some tin foil instead, and then add a colored gel to your flash. The pop of color will show up in the reflection in the tinfoil, and it makes for a unique, sparkly background.

2. Tin Foil Foreground Bokeh

Once you’re done with your tinfoil background, fold it up and cut it into tin foil confetti. Then have someone sprinkle it in front of your model while you shoot with a relatively open aperture. The out of focus foil bits will catch the light from your flash and add some foreground pop to your shots.

This, by the way, is our favorite tip of the bunch.

3. LED Lights Foreground Bokeh

If you don’t have an assistant or you don’t want to clean up bits of tinfoil, using some of those tiny, copper-wire LED lights that are so popular these days is another great foreground bokeh option.

Hand a strand or two (or six) from a C-stand, or hold some up in front of your lens yourself. The results are quite dreamy.

4. DIY Cinematic Snoot

A popular tip (for good reason), use some foam board to make a DIY snoot with barn doors for your off-camera flash. This way, you can shape your speedlight output and create neat effects like the one above. You can also take it a bit further by…

5. Add a Window Pattern to Your Snoot

…cutting out some sort of window pattern from an extra bit of foam board and placing it on the end of your snoot. This is just like yesterday’s biscuit box tip, except Shootr went with a “Windows 95” theme for theirs.

6. Water Spray Foreground

Finally, the last tip is to load up a small spray bottle with water and use that to add some foreground interest. If you want an extra pop of color (and a real mess to clean up) add some food coloring to that water and play around until your flash catches the mist just right.

And that’s it! Check out all 6 tips up top to see them in action, and then head over to Shootr’s YouTube channel for more photography tips, gear reviews, and other interesting videos.

Image credits: All photographs provided by Shootr and used with permission.

Meet Michael McCoy, the Veteran Who Fights PTSD with Photography

Michael McCoy, at age 34, has had two tours in Iraq over five years with the United States Army, and spent time at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2008, and has been receiving treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“During his hospitalization, he discovered documentary photography and from that moment on it has been instrumental in helping him deal with his struggle,” says artist Jamel Shabazz, one of 12 experts who was asked by Time’s LightBox to pick 12 African American Photographers You Should Follow Right Now for Black History Month. “Since picking up the camera he has amassed a compelling body of work, showcasing everything from portraits, families, fathers and daughters, church services, and political protest. In addition to working as a freelance photographer, Michael is dedicated to helping veterans like himself battle PTSD using photography as a platform for both creativity and inter-communication.”

“On my first trip to Iraq, I would take tons of pictures to keep up the morale and to send back to friends and family,” McCoy tells TIME. “I had everything backed up to a hard drive and I lost (crashed) that hard drive, which was very hurtful because I had pictures of family members that are deceased. I realized the only thing I could do was document life in the present.”

This loss inspired him to photograph present-day problems. When Freddie Gray died while in police custody in McCoy’s hometown of Baltimore, he took to the streets to capture the aftermath as the city exploded with outrage. McCoy hopes that his imagery can produce some accountability amongst the elected representatives, “and to see that all police officers, and all protesters, aren’t bad people.”

We sat down with McCoy, whose work has been displayed and talked about in newspapers and online publications the world over, to get a sense of the man behind the camera.

PetaPixel: Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Michael McCoy. I was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. I am a U.S Army veteran. I served almost 5 years, including 2 tours of duty to Iraq.

Joining the army was always a dream of mine as a child. My grandmother lived near an army base and whenever the soldiers would drive by, I would flag them down and they would let me play around inside of the trucks. From that moment on I knew I wanted to serve my country.

Doin It For The Insta

At what point in your life did photography turn from a hobby into something more?

In 2013, I began serving in my church’s Photography Ministry. I attend the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, in Upper Marlboro, MD. While serving Christ, I began to see the impact and understand the importance of how photographs could change a person’s life in so many ways, such as bringing a person closer to Christ and later documenting the Black Lives Matter movement.

No Hate

What did your two tours in Iraq bring to your photography?

My photography is a tool that I utilize to escape the memories experienced while serving in Iraq. I use my camera as a tool to allow my feelings from my wartime experiences, to be conveyed through the subjects I photograph.

The People

Did your stay at Walter Reed Hospital impact your photography?

While being hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, I began to notice that I was not the only person struggling with issues. Some of my Brother and Sisters in arms were struggling with physical injuries as well as mental illnesses.

While being a patient, I have learned to be grateful that I am still alive. I also learned that we all have a story and have now found a way to share my story with others just like me.

I Am

You once had an external hard drive filled with precious memories and pictures of lost family members crash. How did that affect you?

I once owned a hard drive, on which I stored photographs that I captured during my two deployments to Iraq. I also used this hard drive to store the precious memories of my mother, who passed away during my second deployment to Iraq; also my father and my 1st cousin, both of whom have passed.

Once I realized that my data was lost and that it could not be retrieved, I felt devastated. From that moment on, I made it my purpose to always back up my data onto a backup drive and to document every moment that I could.

The Big Date

Which specific moments did you document after the loss of your hard drive data?

Since the loss of my hard drive, I’ve had the opportunity to capture and document memories such as my niece’s first Christmas, the First Baptist Church of Glenarden’s 98th Church Anniversary, U.S. Capitol Shooting, and the Bill Pickett Rodeo (an African American Rodeo) just to name a few.

Body Camera

Many veterans have difficulty coping with PTSD. Has photography helped you deal with yours?

It is true that many veterans have difficulties coping with PTSD. Photography allows my mind to go to a functional place, to where I can concentrate and escape the encounters of my past experiences. Photography provides me with a sense of relief and enjoyment, which rarely occurs during most of my days.

American Dad

Freddie Gray died tragically at age 25 years in Baltimore, a city you call home. Did this spur your photography?

The tragic death of Freddie Gray really hit home for me. I am often reminded, as an African American male, that I could have been Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Terence Crutcher, or Philando Castile just to name a few of the men who have lost their lives to police violence.

As a documentarian, it is my duty to document these social issues, to bring awareness and accountability and to hold our lawmakers and police officers accountable for their actions. I know that all police officers and citizens are not bad people, just like all people from Iraq are not bad people either.


Time magazine named you one of the “12 African American Photographers You Should Follow Right Now” last month. How did that feel?

I was extremely surprised to be acknowledged by Time magazine. From the moment that I was notified, I felt like a kid in a candy store. After reading the email, I immediately gave thanks to God for this opportunity. It was truly an honor to be recognized by Time.

Breaking Every Chain

Who are the photographers who have inspired you?

In my photography I have studied the works of photographers such as Gordon Parks, Roy DeCarava, Jamel Shabazz and Ruddy Roye. All of these photographers have had an influence in my style of photography.

On your Facebook page you have quoted Gordon Parks: “The subject matter is so much more important than the photographer.” What does than mean to you in your photography?

I feel that, without the subject, the image does not have a meaning. Well before the evolution of technology and social media, photography has been a valuable storytelling tool used to bring awareness and document social issues and life, as we know it.

Round 1

What was your first camera, and what equipment do you shoot with nowadays?

My first camera was a Pentax K-r with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens. I currently use the Fuji X100T, which has a 23mm f/2.0 (equiv. to 35mm) lens. I also use the Fuji X-T10 with the 23mm f/1.4 (equiv. to 35mm), 35mm f/1.4 (equiv. to 50mm), and I occasionally use my 56mm f/1.2 (equiv. to 85mm).

I am a huge fan of the Fujifilm mirrorless camera system, since it’s compact and very discreet.

The Healer

You have said in the past that photography is an escape for you? How so?

Whenever I place my eye at the viewfinder and my index finger onto the shutter, it allows me to escape the memories of the trauma experienced in my two deployments to Iraq. My camera provides me a sense of relief and safety.

Does the viewfinder give you a different perspective on life?

Photography has given me a different perspective on life. The camera is a tool that allows you access to things that you normally would not experience.

Reflection External

How did you get started in photography? Was it a part of your growing up years?

As a kid, I remember my dad having an old film camera. I would load the film into the camera and begin clicking away. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing, but it felt good. As I got older, I began to understand the importance of how much power can be produced through an image. This is why I believe that photography is an important tool.

What Do We Want

What kind of subject matter do you like to photograph?

I like to photograph life, people.

Doing what?

Being themselves.

But, what genre of photography do you like to shoot?

I love portrait photography and documentary photography. In portrait photography I find a fulfilling joy and comfort, because it allows me to capture special moments and emotions of people. There is no better feeling than receiving/seeing your subjects’ reaction once they have seen the end result of being photographed. One single portrait has the ability to change a person’s life.

I love documentary photography because it allows me to inform, educate, and most importantly document reality in an instant, from my perspective. Documentary photography also provides the opportunity to connect and inspire people through your vision. Most importantly documentary photography provides a platform to record history for future generations to come and it can also serve as a blueprint to create a legacy.

“It’s the not the subject that interests me as much as my perception of the subject,” Roy DeCarava. Do you agree?

Yes. I believe, as photographers we document life as we see it through our eyes. My camera serves as my voice to provide the viewer a perception of how I see life.

I Can’t Believe

Where do you see yourself headed 5 years from now?

Since the Time magazine article, I have begun to receive feedback and testimonies from other veterans who use photography to cope with PTSD. I hope to continue to use photography as a tool to inspire and educate more people living with PTSD to use photography, but importantly I would like to bring awareness and to educate others about PTSD.

The Proud

Anything else you’d like to say to PetaPixel readers?

I hope this article can be a source of inspiration to all and bring more awareness to mental illness. Living with PTSD does not have a specific look. The wounds are invisible and at the end of the day the one thing that we’re looking for more than anything is love.

To see more of Michael McCoy’s work, head over to his website or follow him on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About the author: Phil Mistry is a photographer and teacher based in Atlanta, GA. He started one of the first digital camera classes in New York City at International Center of Photography in the 90s. He was the director and teacher for Sony/Popular Photography magazine’s DigitalDays Workshops. You can reach him via email here.

Image credits: Portrait of McCoy © Luiz Marinho. All other photos © Michael A. McCoy/Michael A. McCoy Photography

What It’s Like to Work in the White House Photo Office

Chuck Kennedy is a former White House Photographer and worked as Assistant Director of the White House Photo Office during the Obama Administration.

How is it to work as an assistant director and official White House photographer on the day to day?

My title was Assistant Director of the White House Photo Office, from February 2009 to January 2017.

On a typical day, I’d get in about 8:30 in the morning and check again the day’s schedule of events for the President and First Lady. I’d usually confer with my colleagues and assign the assignments for the day. How late I stayed each day just depended on the nature of events that were taking place.

I’d usually work a full day five or six days every week. Occasionally, it was more. On foreign trips, it could be eight or nine days straight.

My colleagues and I would rotate weeks to determine who would be on call during any given week at night/weekend. That gave us a some flexibility to predict, on a calendar, when things might get messy schedule-wise. Or who was working holidays. While random in some ways, certain patterns emerged. Like who always seemed to attend a funeral, or travel to particular states. For big events, like a State Arrival, we’d all be covering different aspects.

Event-wise, the subjects coming through the White House included the best and brightest of world leaders, artists, performers, athletes, or administration staff. Perhaps a kid who had written a letter that caught the President or First Lady’s attention. Fantastic talents like Mick Jagger, Adele, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, BB King—and that’s just from the music sector! Pretty incredible.

A Marine Sentry posted outside the entrance to the West Wing of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama delivers a statement regarding the Paris Agreement on climate change, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 5, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Do you have a sense of moral obligation regarding your images, knowing that over time opinions of presidents can change?

Personally, I always wanted to give 100 percent to this endeavor. I had two motivating factors. First: Trust in the people for whom you are serving and collaborating with. Second: The demands of recording history.

Our mandate for the Photo Office was to build the richest and most complete photographic record for future researchers of history (and for the First Family, I suppose). There will be a desire for those historians looking back on different parts of Obama’s presidency—maybe his first hundred days, or the process to pass the Affordable Care Act, or the First Lady’s work with child nutrition, education or military families.

Less glamorous photographically speaking are simple things, like knowing the joy of an 8×10 print for a person that meets the president. You feel a responsibility for that, too. That could be a transformational personal moment to someone. You don’t want to mess those things up.

I feel really good about my work and the work of the Obama administration and our Photo Office to record this sliver of time. Our photos were relevant, and honest… sometimes extraordinary.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks to highlight the impact a sequester will have on jobs and middle class families, at Newport News Shipbuilding, in Newport News, Virginia, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

When did you start using a Fujifilm X-Pro2 and why?

In my pre-digital years, I usually had a Leica M film camera in addition to Canon SLRs. I suppose I wanted to be able to replicate in digital that small and quiet form factor. Something compact with a decent fast prime lens or two. It would compliment the Canon 5DmkIII, which I needed for flash and longer lenses.

I was skeptical about APS-C sensors delivering the quality I expected and need to print up to 20×30 inch prints. Also, I survived the early digital transition where you had enormous and loud SLRs with small sensors. I really hated having to use wider zoom lenses cropped back to where I wanted to be focal length-wise to begin with.

President Obama, stands in the “door of no return” on Senegal’s Gorée Island, where captive Africans were led as slaves onto ships bound to America. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Final preparations for the State Arrival ceremony honoring Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy and his wife, Mrs. Agnese Landini, outside the Diplomatic Reception Room on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Not sure how the X-Pro2 made it on my radar, but Fujifilm was generous enough to send me a body and couple of lenses for a trial. I liked the weight and loved the 23mm f/1.4 lens. I also found the electronic shutter indispensable in certain situations, like in a TV interview, performance, or some private meetings. The absolute silence let me shoot as much as I wanted compared to a shutter clicking where I would really self-limit the number of frames I’d shoot.

Also, I like some of the Fujifilm color models that I can apply to the RAW files. Reminds me of the Fuji films I used to use. I was skeptical of electronic viewfinders, too. But now I really like it—especially the magnification for critical manual focus. Good for tired eyes.

In summer 2016, I bought an X-Pro2 and couple of lenses for myself and really like the results so far. I’m very curious about the new medium format Fujifilm.

Advance staff works by the President’s motorcade during the United States Air Force Academy commencement ceremony at Falcon Stadium, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 2, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Invictus athletes listening to stage program during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, May 8, 2016. The Invictus Games is an international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured, and ill service members and veterans. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
First Lady Michelle Obama joined by Prince Harry, President George W. Bush and Morgan Freeman listen to Invictus athlete stories during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2016 Invictus Games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, May 8, 2016. The Invictus Games is an international adaptive sporting event for wounded, injured, and ill service members and veterans. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

How do you keep your inspiration, creativity and stamina for eight years straight?

I think this is a challenge for any photographer. No matter what the subject, we strive to refine a style, vision, or technique. Otherwise, why bother!

On campus—White House events and meetings are usually in the same rooms, and the event lighting generally doesn’t vary a great deal. You find angles or times of day that work better in all those situations and go to those first to make sure you have something serviceable before looking elsewhere in the scene for something unusual.

I also relied upon remote cameras frequently for places a photographer would be in the way or couldn’t physically be. One remote that I was very happy with I shot on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial. To do it, I clamped a radio-triggered Canon 5DMkIII to a 17-foot-tall painter’s pole and raised it like a periscope to get the angle I wanted of the President, First Lady, and former presidents Clinton and Carter walking out to the crowd.

Let me tell you, I was feeling like a circus performer spinning plates on a stick. I’m surprised I didn’t kill a camera on marble, really. That was in 2013.

Another way of thinking outside the box, as it were, the elevator photo. Coming or going in/out of hotels, offices, convention centers was always a tour of the least glamorous sides of buildings. Dumpsters and loading docks. In this case, we were at a black-tie event in 2009, and in a huge meeting space that could accommodate this enormous elevator which could accommodate all the traveling staff and Secret Service.

This was a rare case where not being in the bubble and watching from the other side made for a fun moment when the doors closed. I’ll have to go back and look at the sequence to see if can guess which shoe belonged to President Obama.

The elevator door closes on Secret Service, staff, and others departing from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s 32nd Annual Awards Gala dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 16, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

I adore and respect the President and First Lady, the Biden family as well. They were all very generous to us as official photographers to grant us access to be watchful and creative. I’m grateful for them ignoring us while working.

President Barack Obama meets with hosts during a fundraiser in New York, N.Y., March 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Personally, I always felt like working at the White House was like a small town. There are so many talents and personalities working to a common set of goals that it’s hard not to be equally impressed by a carpenter, florist, painter, gardener, chef, butler, Secret Service agent, or member of the military.

Honestly, in 8 years I was humbled by how many different skills intermeshed to make things go seamlessly. So, you know, you hustle, do your part for the team and watch everyone else’s back. That keeps you invested and enthused.

I’ll add, a lot of our best work was printed and on rotating display around the White House complex, and you know that your audience ranges from the President to the custodian—I wanted and appreciated them all to stop sometimes for a moment to view a photo. That keeps you motivated, too.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama depart the 4th quarter toast with White House staff on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 14, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sing songs with Girl Scouts during the White House Campout, as part of “Let’s Move! Outside” on the South Lawn. 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Driving home after a day of work to get back to your family and friends must feel quite strange, how did you separate your personal life from the job?

You know, for eight years you are mentally looking ahead to the next day, or week, or trip—constantly trying to anticipate staffing needs or the potential for a problem.

Certainly on weekends or a day off, you’re hoping that the Cyclops red LED on a brick of a Blackberry doesn’t start blinking. But you know, I think to be effective at work you also need to have a life. I can’t tell you the number of times—like any parent jumping straight from work to shuttling one of my kids to a fencing or Tae Kwon Do practice, or cook a dinner—you just get good at juggling.

You also hope for (and I in fact have) a very supportive and forgiving spouse. I didn’t really try to separate work/life. I considered both my families.

Fall foliage illuminated by television lighting on the North Lawn of the White House, Nov. 8, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

My commute was about six miles through the heart of Rock Creek National Park located in Washington DC. Windows down and some loud music in the car was a nice way to decompress on the way home.

Certainly there were extraordinary, surreal extremes. Like flying from Washington to Johannesburg and back for the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Leaving home at 6am on a Monday, attending the memorial service in a brutal rain and then walking in my front door about 48 hours later in time to catch my youngest son before school on his birthday. Without a magnificent blue and white Air Force 747, it wouldn’t have been possible.

President Barack Obama boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland for departure en route to South Bend, Indiana, June 1, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

How did you select images for your portfolio?

I haven’t done a deep-dive retrospective edit. I routinely tagged favorites while editing each day in PhotoMechanic to mark those selects while prepping files for the photo archive. Really, most everything here had been released in some form or from public events. I just wanted to put it in one place as I re-enter the world.

President Barack Obama pauses after adjusting a wreath placed in the Hall of Remembrance during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
One of the stairways in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, adjacent to the White House. Constructed between 1871 and 1888, the building provides offices for much of the White House Staff. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

What is your best memory of this part of your life?

Countless, really. Camaraderie, teamwork, people, adventure, a common good. Maybe a good meal here and there!

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton walk past the statue of President Lincoln to participate in the ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. August 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama walks to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House for departure en route to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Aug. 26, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

What are your career plans after this long term assignment?

This is the million-dollar question. I’ve joked that I can think of some things I don’t want to do (I’d like to avoid work confined by red velvet ropes). Seriously though, I’d like to be able use my documentary and portrait skills, storytelling to support initiatives and ideals that the Obama administration worked towards—like fighting climate change and environmental protection protection, education accessibility, childhood nutrition… Going on tour with Adele or Beyonce would be fun, too!

I have a love of travel, having gotten to accompany the Obamas or Bidens to more than 40 countries. Maybe some day I can set foot on that 7th continent.

President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office to Marine One as he travels to New York May 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Where can we see more of your work?

On my website at, and on Instagram at the same name (@chuckkennedydc), but you need to request access.

About the Author: Samuel Zeller is a Swiss photographer and editor of FujiFeed. To see more interviews like this one or learn more about FujiFeed, click here or follow them on Instagram. This interview was also published here.

Try to be The Dumbest Photographer In The World

I always say the Universe’s favorite hiding place for the most awesome stuff is right behind fear. Isn’t that a little unfair? Why doesn’t the Universe put the great stuff right before the fear, so everyone can enjoy pure bliss?

Although there are a million laws in the Universe, you only need to know one for your photography right now: it expands. Always. But what does that have to do with fear, being dumb and your photos? Let me explain.

If the Universe always expands, you have to comply or otherwise you’ll struggle: if all your friends try out new things and you don’t, you won’t fit in anymore; if the company you work for expands big time, you either grow with it and embrace the change or you’ll get fired.

As long as you have a relationship with something or someone, you relate to each other. Once you relate to each other, you are connected—if your friend tows your car, you better not hit the breaks.

It’s the same with the Universe, your life, and your photography. Since the Universe expands, you as a person and a photographer have to do the same. Otherwise you fight against an insurmountable force. I tried it multiple times and almost died, developing severe suicidal depression due to my ADHD.

You can take vacations, you can take creative breaks, but as soon as you stagnate (creative) depression hits you. Maybe it won’t hit you as severe as it did for me, but every one of us can become depressed. This is why I say you have to be dumb to become better at photography and life.

Of course, the definition of smart and dumb depends on perspective, but let’s try something. Decide for yourself whether you would consider the following person smart or dumb:

  • Is it dumb to quit your well-paying job while in debt to become an artist with no savings and not one sale in sight?
  • Would you consider it clever to go against the advice of hundreds of well-educated people to do so?
  • How smart is it really to be homeless over and over again to just take photos all day that no one really needs?

As someone that studied statistics and goes by reason and logic, I have to say it sounds pretty dumb. So why the hell would you want to be the dumb photographer?

Well, it already makes you unique by default. If you always go where no one else goes, you’ll end up where no one else ends up. If you always do what no one else does, you’ll get what no one else gets.

Whether it eventually leads to your own photography paradise depends on how well you learn and improve from your mistakes, of course, but the insights, knowledge and skills you gain are rare and precious. It’s the road less travelled by, and that’s what makes all the difference—for you, for your photography, and for all the photographers you care about.

What’s more, being the “dumbest” photographer in the world is actually pretty easy. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, and a lot of people will judge you, this is the one rule you have to follow:

Always go where no one goes.

This rule has served as the ideal fuel for the motor of change in history. As soon as you feel that you are part of the masses, leave. Turn around, walk away, and forge your own path.

It may feel lonely and you have to trust your instincts more than ever before, but it’s the right way. How could you ever experience your journey as unique if millions of others have walked the same exact path before you? How could you grow as a human and photographer if you just follow the steps of others?

Now, this doesn’t mean that you should blindly walk where no one else is going.

Listen to what the photographers you admire advise you, and evaluate their advice based on how successful they are with their philosophy. If they are not where you want to be, don’t follow their advice… it’s as simple as that. They might have the best arguments in the world to defend their path, and it’s their right to do so, but you also have the right to learn from their experience and go elsewhere.

Why is this article not called “10 Crystal Clear Ways To Become More Successful”? Because abstract guidance, if done right, leaves you much more room to create your own thoughts, actions, and steps.

Any rule or advice you read that dictates steps and a path rather than helping you define and create your own, is almost certainly bad. It’s turning your unique creative soul into a bad remix of what’s already been done or someone else is doing at the moment.

I personally believe that you can only teach what you’ve personally proven with your own success. If you want to start your own business, from whom would you rather learn? A college professor that knows all economic theories in the world, or an entrepreneur who has already achieved your goal and runs multiple successful businesses?

If you want to check how “smart” a photographer is, just tell him this:

Pics or it didn’t happen!

If a theory isn’t proven by a successful photographic experiment, it’s nothing more than a hypothesis. Photographic scientist claim wisdom, but they don’t put it to the test themselves.

In science you always base your studies on the proven facts of other studies. Reason and logic are the driving forces behind it. But that doesn’t apply to photography or art. Photography is emotional. Period. As soon as you try to calculate it, it loses its heart and soul.

There are proven ways to run a profitable business, but where will proven strategies in photography get you?

Basic technical knowledge and composition rules is as far as “strategies” will take you in photography. This art is 10% logical and 90% emotional—90% you have to figure out yourself, and 10% you can learn from others.

Just compare photography to poetry or novels. The 10% is the ABCs and grammar, 90% is having a great (visual) story to tell from within. If it truly was the other way around, we would all take the same photos, wouldn’t we? Do 90% of the photos you see online offer you a unique perspective of the world? No, because having the honesty to look within yourself for inspiration is harder than looking left and right.

To be honest, I’d rather not even give you any examples. I would love to keep your creative soul free and independent.

Picasso claimed: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I know what he means, but I politely disagree. Good artists copy, great artists steal people’s hearts by pouring their own into their artworks. The answer is always within you, not around you. It’s not in the past or the future, it’s in the now. That’s where you are and that’s where your photography and art has the most fertile soil. Connect the dots from the past, but focus on creating in the now.

Don’t fall in love with your fellow photographers’ work, love yourself and let them fall in love with yours. That’s the true meaning of giving. Please feel free to steal the mindset behind the following examples, but create a unique journey and photography that can’t be copied. That way you become touchable and untouchable in the best way possible.

The following examples that were captured due to “dumbness.” not lessons to be replicated. In 2013, when I discovered street photography, I tried to educate myself on the subject to improve. No matter where I looked or whom I asked, the “golden rules” were pretty clear.

This is what happens if you’re dumb, don’t listen, and do the exact opposite:

1. True emotions come from strong facial expressions

2. Don’t capture people’s backs, it lacks emotion

3. People walking past buildings are boring

4. Black and white highlights structures and patterns best

5. Black and white brings out more “soul”

6. Zoom lenses are a big no-no

7. Eye contact attracts viewers most effectively

8. The quieter and smaller the camera, the better

9. Capture unique characters that stand out

10. The closer you get to the subject, the better

I hope this article inspires you to become a bit more hungry and foolish, as Steve Jobs once said. Be dumb, take risks, trust your instincts and create your own path, because that’s the only path there is. It may be more challenging at first, but it’s much more rewarding in the long-term. And even if we both walk the road less travelled, it doesn’t mean that we are lone wanderers without travel companions. We can always share our unique insights with each other. Whether it’s through social media, emails, or meeting up every once in a while in this insanely beautiful forest of billions of creative souls.

If you have any questions or ideas on how we could become dumber together, please reach out to me. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this to re-evaluate my own. Let me try to finish this article with the dumbest last line I could come up with:

If you want to be dumb, follow my advice, but if you want to be the dumbest photographer in the world, please don’t and share your insights with all of us!

About the author: Marius “VICE” Vieth is an award-winning fine-art photographer, entrepreneur, and coach based in Amsterdam. His brand new label Eye, Heart & Soul empowers rising and established photographers worldwide. Connect with EHS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to level up your photography game! This post was also published here.