A Blog by James
Fifty Percent

“Oh my god I’m bleeding.” Startled, I looked towards the bathroom door where my eyes meet those of my wife, ten weeks pregnant. I saw the small pool of blood on the sheets as I rolled over. Her pants beside the bed stained as well. I forced out some awkward words of encouragement as she broke down in the shower. As I went to her side I fought to keep that word out of my mind - miscarriage.
A month earlier, I sat on the edge of the bed as Kathryn emerged from the bathroom with home pregnancy test in hand. “Let me see the directions,” she said. “You’ve never needed them before,” I responded. There it was - the word “PREGNANT” with a bright, blue line beside it. The second test reported the same result, only this time with a pink plus sign.
The next five minutes of my life were the most terrifying in my thirty-one years. The thoughts came fast and hard, like blows in a title fight. “We weren’t planning on this. Not this soon. What are we going to do? Are we ready for this? We can’t possibly be ready for this.”
A month is a long time to dwell on just one thought. It is a long time to spend analyzing it from every possible angle. We had only told our immediate families. We knew it was early and of course things can go wrong early. We had decided to tell our friends and social circles after our ultrasound appointment. A month is plenty of time to fall in love with someone you have never met.
The darkened room was lit by a black and white monitor.  On the screen, just noise, then, a shape. A little peanut shell of a shape. Sounds came next - muffled at first, and then forming an unmistakable rhythm. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. The reality fell like a hammer.
I had never felt so great a desire to be a dad until I heard the heartbeat and saw the sonogram. The technician tried to snap a few photos for us as the little peanut shell wiggled on the screen. “It’s doing a little dance for us,” she said. Overcome with emotion, I quietly wiped away a tear as I stared in amazement at the screen.
Both our phones buzzed as we sat in the restaurant booth. “I just posted the sonogram,” I explained. We looked into each other’s eyes, hardly able to contain the excitement. It was a relief to finally be able to let everyone know the good news. “I’m going to post this on Facebook and Twitter, too.” “Okay!”
That evening we tried to cling to at least some small bit of hope as we drive to the emergency room with Kathryn still bleeding. We didn’t think there was much they could do. We just had to know for sure, one way or the other. Kathryn remained strong as she endured the endless needle pricks, poking, prodding, and, finally, another ultrasound.
The doctor reentered the room to break the news. Though the bleeding hadn’t stopped completely, the tiny heartbeat was still there. Our baby had made it through the night. Kathryn had what the doctor called a “threatened miscarriage.”
Between twenty and thirty percent of pregnant women have bleeding significant enough they see a doctor. Of those, fifty percent go on to have a normal pregnancy. “Fifty percent,” I though. “Not ten, not twenty. Fifty percent. We have to be in this fifty percent.”
The following night I kissed Kathryn’s belly as we turned off the lights, both of us physically and emotionally exhausted but thankful to be home. “Fight hard, little one,” Kathryn encouraged. In the darkness I reached out and rubbed her stomach. Tears ran from my cheek to my pillow. I thought of the black and white screen, the heartbeat, and the dancing peanut. “Please don’t leave us, little baby,” I whispered silently, still rubbing my wife’s belly. “Daddy is here and he loves you. Please don’t leave us so soon.”
Update: The little one is eleven weeks now as we continue to hope for the best.

Fifty Percent

“Oh my god I’m bleeding.” Startled, I looked towards the bathroom door where my eyes meet those of my wife, ten weeks pregnant. I saw the small pool of blood on the sheets as I rolled over. Her pants beside the bed stained as well. I forced out some awkward words of encouragement as she broke down in the shower. As I went to her side I fought to keep that word out of my mind - miscarriage.

A month earlier, I sat on the edge of the bed as Kathryn emerged from the bathroom with home pregnancy test in hand. “Let me see the directions,” she said. “You’ve never needed them before,” I responded. There it was - the word “PREGNANT” with a bright, blue line beside it. The second test reported the same result, only this time with a pink plus sign.

The next five minutes of my life were the most terrifying in my thirty-one years. The thoughts came fast and hard, like blows in a title fight. “We weren’t planning on this. Not this soon. What are we going to do? Are we ready for this? We can’t possibly be ready for this.”

A month is a long time to dwell on just one thought. It is a long time to spend analyzing it from every possible angle. We had only told our immediate families. We knew it was early and of course things can go wrong early. We had decided to tell our friends and social circles after our ultrasound appointment. A month is plenty of time to fall in love with someone you have never met.

The darkened room was lit by a black and white monitor.  On the screen, just noise, then, a shape. A little peanut shell of a shape. Sounds came next - muffled at first, and then forming an unmistakable rhythm. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. The reality fell like a hammer.

I had never felt so great a desire to be a dad until I heard the heartbeat and saw the sonogram. The technician tried to snap a few photos for us as the little peanut shell wiggled on the screen. “It’s doing a little dance for us,” she said. Overcome with emotion, I quietly wiped away a tear as I stared in amazement at the screen.

Both our phones buzzed as we sat in the restaurant booth. “I just posted the sonogram,” I explained. We looked into each other’s eyes, hardly able to contain the excitement. It was a relief to finally be able to let everyone know the good news. “I’m going to post this on Facebook and Twitter, too.” “Okay!”

That evening we tried to cling to at least some small bit of hope as we drive to the emergency room with Kathryn still bleeding. We didn’t think there was much they could do. We just had to know for sure, one way or the other. Kathryn remained strong as she endured the endless needle pricks, poking, prodding, and, finally, another ultrasound.

The doctor reentered the room to break the news. Though the bleeding hadn’t stopped completely, the tiny heartbeat was still there. Our baby had made it through the night. Kathryn had what the doctor called a “threatened miscarriage.”

Between twenty and thirty percent of pregnant women have bleeding significant enough they see a doctor. Of those, fifty percent go on to have a normal pregnancy. “Fifty percent,” I though. “Not ten, not twenty. Fifty percent. We have to be in this fifty percent.”

The following night I kissed Kathryn’s belly as we turned off the lights, both of us physically and emotionally exhausted but thankful to be home. “Fight hard, little one,” Kathryn encouraged. In the darkness I reached out and rubbed her stomach. Tears ran from my cheek to my pillow. I thought of the black and white screen, the heartbeat, and the dancing peanut. “Please don’t leave us, little baby,” I whispered silently, still rubbing my wife’s belly. “Daddy is here and he loves you. Please don’t leave us so soon.”

Update: The little one is eleven weeks now as we continue to hope for the best.

Free photos! This is your last chance to get free photos before my wife and I move out of Charlotte the end of May. Headshots are okay, but let’s crank up the awesomeness.
Bring your band down here for a new publicity shot! Play an instrument? Bring it! Sports equipment? Bring it! Weird costume? Bring it PLEASE! Crazy bicycle? Sexy swimsuit? Awesome tats? Experimental fashion? Amazing dress? James Bond tuxedo? Crazy piece of art? Weird prop? Let’s do it! Check out http://JamesWillamor.com to see my work so far.
Don’t worry if you think you look “plain and boring” because a little dramatic lighting can be fun to play with. Here is a good starting point for some of the photo ideas I’d like to try.
Area Fifteen (515 E 15th Street) Thursday, 7:30pm to at least 10pm and Friday 10am to 1pm. 
Email me james@jameswillamor.com and let me know when you’re coming!

Free photos! This is your last chance to get free photos before my wife and I move out of Charlotte the end of May. Headshots are okay, but let’s crank up the awesomeness.

Bring your band down here for a new publicity shot! Play an instrument? Bring it! Sports equipment? Bring it! Weird costume? Bring it PLEASE! Crazy bicycle? Sexy swimsuit? Awesome tats? Experimental fashion? Amazing dress? James Bond tuxedo? Crazy piece of art? Weird prop? Let’s do it! Check out http://JamesWillamor.com to see my work so far.

Don’t worry if you think you look “plain and boring” because a little dramatic lighting can be fun to play with. Here is a good starting point for some of the photo ideas I’d like to try.

Area Fifteen (515 E 15th Street) Thursday, 7:30pm to at least 10pm and Friday 10am to 1pm.

Email me james@jameswillamor.com and let me know when you’re coming!

How We Hire Photographers: New York Magazine

Great story about David Hobby, photojournalist who left newspapers to start a photography revolution. I had the chance to hear Hobby at the Flash Bus tour stop in Atlanta the first of this month.

Great tutorial on how/why to sharpen your images in Photoshop.

Lighten Up and Shoot is doing a three part video on location, wardrobe, and model shoot in one hour. Watch the second video here.

An intro to photography

Intro to Photography:

The most important camera is the one in your head. Your ability to “see” a photograph before you take it is more important than the gear you use. Your camera doesn’t matter. A famous quote says “the job of the camera is to get out of the way of making the photograph.” Composition and framing are two of the most important elements in making a photo.

Composition:

“Composition is the pleasant arrangement of elements within a frame which give the most powerful ability to attract the eye, and to keep it exploring within the frame for as long as possible.” (Ken Rockwell)

Good composition often means simplifying the photo. Get rid of anything within the frame that is distracting from the subject. Often this can be fire extinguishers on the wall, signs, power poles, or trash cans in the background. Move around your subject and try shots from many different angles until you find one with an uncluttered background. If something isn’t adding anything of value to the photo, it is taking away from it.

Look at thumbnails of your photos; the ones with good composition should stick out from the others. If it is a good photo, even seeing it from far away it should catch your attention.

“A wimpy image (one with a lot of random stuff in it) is a poor image. The strong image that says “Pick Me!” is the simplest and best balanced possible image. You need to organize the stuff within your image so it makes sense to every viewer who wasn’t there with you at the scene, otherwise your photos will stink.” (Ken Rockwell)

Framing:

Framing is choosing how much or how little to include within the frame of the photo. This comes second to composition. Remember:  You can always crop later, but you can’t go back and add things to a photo.

 Don’t be a “sniper” photographer –where the subject is always dead center in the photo. Try framing the subject closer to one side of the frame or the other. In most cases, you want the subject looking towards the open side of the frame.

Don’t be afraid to get in close to your subject and fill the frame with them. Try taking some shots with your camera turned vertically when shooting people. Be careful not to cut off the tops of heads, hands/fingers, and feet.

Shooting a set of photos:

The most important thing to remember when shooting a set/slideshow is to include a variety of shots, including wide (overview) shots, medium shots, close in shots, and very close detail shots.

Start off with an overview of all the people at the meeting, for example. Then include a medium shot of two people greeting each other and shaking hands. Then get a close in shot of the speaker where their head and torso fill the entire frame of the photo.

Tips & thoughts:

  • ·         Only consider using at most your best 10% of photos. If you want ten photos for a set, you should be shooting a minimum of 100 photos. I cannot stress enough to shoot more, shoot more, shoot more.
  • ·         Move around as much as possible. Take shots from all sides. Take some from higher if possible, some from lower. Try unique perspectives and try shooting the subject with different backgrounds. Shoot some with flash and some without. If you subject is lower than you, try to get down on eye level.
  • ·         Getting sharper images is simple; hold the camera steady. Also, shooting more photos will ensure that at least one will be sharp and in focus, even in low light situations.
  • ·         Get closer on portraits, have the subject fill almost the entire frame, but watch for cutting off hands, tops of heads, etc.
  • ·         It has been said that a portrait is really a portrait of the eyes. Make sure the eyes of your subject are visible and well lit.
  • ·         Take your time. Somebody who takes snapshots does not give much thought to the composition of the photo. A photographer thinks about how the subject fits into the background, and how balanced the photo will look. Simplify the photo by removing as much clutter from the background before making the photo.
  • ·         Practice shooting people. Get comfortable with shooting strangers up close. The beginner photographer is afraid to get close to their subject. They shoot from far away, and the subject is too small in the photo. Get up close, and then get up ever closer. Be obscene about it.
  • ·         If your subject has dark skin, hair, or clothes; try to shoot thing against a lighter background to give good separation between the subject and background. If the subject has light skin, hair, or clothes; try shooting them against a dark background for separation.
  • ·         Almost all cameras have a white balance setting. Are your photos too orange indoors? Choose the incandescent/indoors setting on your camera. Are your photos to greenish? Try the fluorescent setting on your camera (if you have one). If you are shooting in shade or on a cloudy day, most cameras, even point and shoots, have setting for shade or cloudy. This will bring out more color in your photos.
  • ·         Wait for the defining moment. That one moment that conveys emotion. The photo that tells the story visually, often through the facial expressions of the subject. Patience is key to getting the perfect photo.

Additional reading/viewing:

Ken Rockwell — Composition http://kenrockwell.com/tech/composition.htm

Ken Rockwell – What makes a great photo http://kenrockwell.com/tech/basics.htm

Zack Aries – A great portfolio critique http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWNLg01ZHsY

Photos: My first attempt at off camera lighting in a studio environment.

What first attracted me to strobist theology was the idea of using small speedlights to shoot on location. I’m still not too keen on the idea of a traditional studio setup. But a studio you can carry in a backpack? Yeah, I can dig that.

I think the great epiphanies in photography - when it clicks and you “get it;” when your abilities take a great leap forward - include understanding principals of composition, going full manual mode, mastering white balance, and getting off camera lighting.

As several photographers have said, on camera flash turns your camera into a Xerox machine. Off camera light gives you a canvas and paint brush. I think off camera lighting is really what separates the point-and-shooters from the professionals.

The internet age has made it easy to learn new skills on your on. Blogs and YouTube tutorials are free and plentiful. I’ll be posting some of my favorites on this blog and hopefully, if you are learning photography, they will help you as well.

First off, I’d recommend reading the entire Lighting 101 and On Assignment sections on the Strobist blog. These are some of the best tutorials and examples you will find on any blog.

Your homework assignment today, young photogs, is to watch this video.