Dear TSA – I am not a terrorist

Sigma 55-200: All out/ full zoom, 2

A couple years ago I was near Centennial Airport with my camera. For whatever reason, it occurred to me that I could use a plane to do some comparison shots with my (then) new Sigma 55-200 on my Olympus E-510. The comparison shot is above, and I think the plane served as a useful example. Nothing terroristic in nature, just a simple lens demo.


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Why I want an Olympus E-30 DSLR

Olympus E-30 DSLR

In the DSLR world, most people think that there are just two brands – Canon and Nikon. They find it quite easy to forget about the other players in the market – Sony, Pentax, Olympus and others. I have never really understood why it is so easy to dismiss these other manufacturers. In fact, the Zuiko lenses from Olympus have long been regarded as some of the finest glass around.

I don’t know that I would say I take offense to this dismissiveness, but I guess I do. Back when I started shopping for a DSLR to move up from my Canon G5 point and shoot (a VERY capable camera I might add), I looked at Canon and Nikon. And then I participated in a test drive event Olympus sponsored. I took home an E-500 for a weekend and was hooked. Shortly thereafter, I bought an E-510 kit that included 2 lenses. Since then, I have created some stunning images that get rave reviews. I even put them up for sale, that’s how confident I am of the work. I have done headshots, portraits, landscapes, product photos, all with my E-510. None of my clients have complained in the least.

Why then is it time to upgrade? More importantly, why do I want an Olympus E-30? Well, it’s time. As noted before, I am looking to ramp up how much I shoot. In that respect, having a second body is always a good idea. Once I start my schedule of team photos, there is no way I can be out of commission if something goes wrong with my only camera. So this is indeed a primary driver.

My photography is continuing to evolve though, and this is really why I am looking to upgrade my camera. I love taking HDR pictures. Sadly, Olympus elected to not update the 510 firmware to allow for the kind of EV bracketing that is ideal for HDR captures. The E-30 is well suited to this, allowing a 5 frame, 1 sec burst that will be perfect for HDR. Overall, the upgrade in frames per second from 3 on the 510 to 5 on the E-30 should help with taking pictures of my daughter, as well as the various sports I take pics of during the summer (baseball, softball) here in Colorado.

The increased megapixels will be nice, but not necessary. The ability to interact with the Olympus Radio system for flashes would be nice too, but I already make do with Cactus triggers (and manufacturer flashes in general are way too expensive). Simply put, I am taking my photography far more seriously, and I want a camera that can keep up. Sure, I could switch systems to Canon or Nikon, but right now I don’t see the point. I think the Olympus E-30 will work just fine for me.

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Using a softbox

Natalie (by Chester Bullock)

In the past I have done a lot of do-it-yourself photography projects. And yes, that included a DIY Softbox. The results were acceptable enough, but after a short time the softbox looked like it had been taken out one too many times. As I continue to do more professional photos, I want to also have a more professional look when on location. Also, I like the better spread of a bigger box. That said, I picked up an inexpensive 16″ softbox from Cowboy Studio (they sell on Amazon).

It is priced quite reasonably, $35 at last check, and as you can see from the photo above, it delivers. I mounted my Vivitar 285 on the L-bracket and did a quick test session with my daughter. Once you get your flash dialed in (I think I need to get a light meter to make this faster), the results are great. I took a few pictures of my daughter with it, and am now quite comfortable using it. Next step will be to add a hairlight or background light (easy enough with my Cactus triggers and my other flash). In fact, thanks to a session I attended with David Tejada, I learned a couple of ways to position the box relative to the subject and also a bit about background lighting. Total sidenote, but I would recommend David’s blog and workshops to anyone.

In short, while making my own softbox was fun and interesting, it is hard to beat the 16″ Cowboy Studio 16″ softbox, especially given the price.

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Best Western Denver SW (by Chester Bullock)

I do product photography, and I do real estate photography. But when it comes to shooting hotels and resorts, it’s a mix of both.

The manager of the Best Western Denver SW (located in Lakewood, Colorado despite the name), saw my photos recently and liked my work. They are in the middle of a website redesign and needed new photos of the property since they have completed renovations recently. I went down one recent afternoon and took care of the shoot. By the end of the weekend I had presented him with the images I thought were keepers. He was extremely pleased and they should be showing up on the website after the new one is launched. And I’ll be going back for exterior shots once things green up here in Colorado.

Contact me today if you have photographic needs in real estate, products or portraits.

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Colorado Product Photography – Arjuni

Arjuni Photo Shoot

I love shooting hard-to-photograph items. I am getting pretty good at it. But this time, I really had my work cut out for me. Arjuni is a Denver purveyor of hair weaves. The owner came to me with what seemed like a simple request – take photos of roughly 27 samples for use on the new website. It was something of a rush job, because the grand opening of the site was two weeks out. On top of that, two other photographers had been tried beforehand, but could not deliver images to her satisfaction. Great, no pressure there.

I experiemented a bit with some different positioning and lighting, and then settled on something that seemed to work really well. The owner was pleased. I started getting comments like “Phenomenal work!” and “Thanks for all of your hard work. You’ve definitely captured some gems that I’m excited about!” Really, this is what it is all about. Sure, I get to make images that make me happy, on my own time, but when I am on the clients’ clock, I need to deliver.

That said, I really like doing product photography here in the Denver area. So far I have done some neat things and met very interesting people. I have started to see repeat business, which is a good measure of success I think. If you need a product shot, even if it is not a hard to photograph surface, contact me for a quote. I have no doubt I will deliver images you can be proud of, and ones that will help sell your product.

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Snowflakes – The Sequel

I spent some time the other night working on the snowflake images a bit more. Here is a series of keepers (at least in my mind). All shot on my back patio here in Lakewood, Colorado. I actually thought about taking more during a more recent storm, but it was so cold when the snow was falling, the flakes were really small.

And don’t forget that you could win a $50 gift certificate to my online gallery by becoming a fan of my Facebook page. One fan will be picked at random on 1/31, so become a fan now!


Colorado Snowflake macro photo by Chester Bullock

Colorado Snowflake macro photo by Chester Bullock

Colorado Snowflake macro photo by Chester Bullock

Colorado Snowflake macro photo by Chester Bullock

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Lakewood, Colorado Family Portrait

Souther Family

A rare occurrence happened recently – all immediate members of the Souther Family were in town, so they took the opportunity to do a family portrait in time for the holidays. Any major holiday tends to be a good time to have your family portrait done, since that is the most likely time to have everyone close by with some free time.

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Golden Gate in HDR, as show by Chester Bullock

This HDR image came out far better than I expected it to in the wind and water vapor surrounding me. It has been chosen as an editor’s pick at, and HDR afficionado website. And now you can hang it on the wall of your home or office by placing an order from my online gallery. White space has been added to the gallery version, allowing proper cropping for standard prints and frames.

Also, if you like my work, consider becoming a fan of my Facebook page. On January 31, I will select one fan at random to receive a $50 gift certificate to my online gallery (for a print purchase only, not for session fees).

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Torrey's Reflection - Tonemapped

For as long as HDR has been a processing option, there has been debate about whether or not a single tonemapped image constitutes and HDR image. Classic thinking would say no. However, Photomatix is capable of taking a RAW image and doing the tonemapping actions that come with HDR processing. In fact, the guy who is now producing the best HDR books, Trey Ratcliff, encourages you to try the technique. So I did, and you see the result above.

I personally am happy with it. Some photographers like heavily tonemapped HDR, some don’t. For me it depends on the image. More importantly though, the image consuming public likes it, and wants more of it. To that end, I guess I will do my part and keep contributing.

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