Category Archives: Blog

Oklahoma Bridal Shootout And Vendor Collaboration Yukon, Oklahoma Bridal Shootout

I recently had the pleasure of attending a bridal shootout and vendor collaboration in Yukon, Oklahoma in March.   I wanted to write a review of the event.  Before I get too deep into this review, if you want to know why you should participate in a bridal shootout as a photographer, read this recent article that I did for Improve Photography.

INTRODUCTION

The event was hosted by Michael Aguilar and Ashley West.  Michael and Ashley are photographers based in Oklahoma City.   I found out about the event through a Facebook photography group that I am a member of.   I had connected with Michael through that group.  Once I found out about the event, I knew I had to go to it.  Michael’s attitude towards photography and artists is quite refreshing and positive.  The purpose of the event was to bring together people who work in the wedding industry.  Photographers, hair and makeup artists, bridal shops, florists, event planners and in this case, a beautiful venue that caters to weddings.  On top of that, several models were invited to display the gowns and accessories.  With all of these pieces in place, the goal was to allow all of these entities to expand their visual portfolios for marketing purposes.  

Being a wedding photographer on the wedding day can be a high-stress situation.  For the most part, we are moving from shot to shot while adhering to a timeline to make sure everyone is at their appointed place at the appointed time.  At an event such as a bridal shootout, there is a timeline, yet the timeline is created to allow everyone to maximize the opportunity to create an image portfolio that is stunning.    Even though wedding photography is on my menu of services, being able to immerse myself into an environment that is focused on the creation of images was just one of the reasons why I attended.  I also wanted to connect with another group of photographers that I have never met and wanted to learn and expand my knowledge.   An event like a bridal shootout is perfect to meet those goals.

THE SETUP

The event began with everyone arriving on location.  After hauling in our gear and making introductions, Michael and Ashley brought the photographers together and briefed us on the day.  Once the briefing was finished, we were turned loose.  Since the models were still being attended to by the HMUA’s, we had some time to work on detail shots.  Shots like shoes, flowers, place settings, rings.  It was all ready and detail shots were an area that I needed to work in.  Once the models were ready, we were off to explore the grounds to collaborate together on the images.

WE GOT OUR PHOTOGRAPHY GAME ON

We had a total of five models and nine photographers.  We broke off into small groups that were easy to manage.  Most of the time, there were be two photographers shooting one model and we would work together to get the shots.  One of the main concerns of the day was the weather.  As luck would have it, we were sitting right in the upper left hand corner of a Moderate Severe Weather advisory.  On most days, if something like that happens where I am, I am going to indulge in weather photography.  Not on this day.  Outside of checking some of the weather models and Radarscope, I had no urge to go play with the clouds.  Luckily, we did not have to deal with any weather as the storms built up southwest of our location, but blew far enough east on their treks north that we got to use the backside of the supercells as backdrops.

After a couple of hours, we took a quick break while the models changed gowns.  Once they were ready, we were back out and had a couple more hours of shooting with each model.  The venue, The McGranahan Barn had opened the doors to the antique barn on site.  In addition to shooting outside, we got to shoot inside the barn.   

Overall, the day was very laid back until we hit Golden Hour.  The Golden Hour is a photographer’s ultimate playground.  The timing is used in all genres of photography because the light is so magical.  Add in Golden Hour and models wearing bridal gowns at a rural location with awesome grounds, magic happened.  With the way the venue is situated, there was a nice line of trees on the west boundary that diffused the sun rays just right.   Right before the sun was completely gone, the photographers lined up with the models using one of the vintage furniture pieces and we had a “paparazzi” moment.   Utilizing a Magsphere on my Yongnou 560IV flash, I was able to capture one last shot of all the models together.

CRITIQUE

Michael told me that if I had anything about the event that I could critique, I should not be afraid to mention.  Well, the only thing I can critique is the fact that I had a 500 mile round trip to make for this event.  Honestly, the event was one of the best experiences I have had since I started in photography.   Everyone came together and worked together.   My goals were to expand my portfolio, watch how other photographers worked and receive feedback/mentorship and all of my goals were met and exceeded.   I would do it again in a heartbeat.  

IN CLOSING

I could not close this post out without mentioning everyone that was involved in the bridal shootout:

VENUE: 

The McGranahan Barn, Yukon Oklahoma

HOSTS: 

Michael Aguilar 

Ashley R West Photography 

BEHIND THE SCENES:

Naoki Graphics

MODELS: 

Emily Victoria 

Julaporn Mercado

Sabah Khan 

Morgan Gray 

Emily Booker

VENDORS: 

Lewis Jewelers 

Silhouette Bridal 

Ruby’s Vintage Rentals 

Leslie Herring Events 

Everything Beautiful OKC 

Chantilly Couture

Cake Creations By Kim

DESIGNERS:

Paper + More

Haute Bride

Bella Belle Shoes

Davie & Chiyo

EddyK

Chantel Lauren

Tatyana Merenyuk

Lillian West

Justin Alexander

Daalarna

HAIR AND MAKEUP ARTISTS:

Classic Beauty By Tasha

Evelyn Rodriguez

Candie Renee Makeup Artist

Roxanne Matammu

Beauty by Kim Kimani

PHOTOGRAPHERS:

Ben Winters Photography

Chelsey Seaton Photography

JPerez Photography

Lauren Grigg

Brent Andrew Media

Maiigo Photography

Ernesto Hernandez (Mentor)

 

 

Sunset At Lake Hefner Sunset At Lake Hefner

March is getting ready to be done and over with.  Unfortunately, it did not start the way I would have liked it.  But it is ending on some happy notes.  I just returned from my second trip to Oklahoma City.  If you have ever made the trip from the Panhandle to OKC, then you feel my pain.

Most of the times I have gone down there, I have not made time for my own personal photography.  This month was different, though.  On the first trip, I contacted one of the photographers I know there and asked him to put me on a spot so I could shoot the skyline at night.  Oklahoma City Skyline.

On this most recent trip, I went to participate in a Bridal Shootout and Vendor Collaboration held at The McGranahan Barn, a wedding events venue located in nearby Yukon.  I did not an idea of what I wanted to shoot on this trip until I was on the road.  I soon realized there is a lighthouse in Oklahoma and it is at Lake Hefner.  A quick search revealed that the lighthouse would probably be a great subject since it was situated in a near perfect spot for a sunset image.  Lighthouse at Lake Hefner.

I showed up about an hour before sunset and looked around and found a great spot on the rocks.  With my camera mounted on my Vanguard tripod with the Pro Media Gear L-Bracket holding it firmly in the ball head, I began shooting.  I also had my small action camera sitting beside me shooting time lapse of the sunset.

By the time darkness had almost completely descended, I had my shot.  Back at home, I processed the image using Lightroom and Photoshop with the Lumenzia  plug-in to add the final tweaks that brought the image from it’s basic RAW state to wall hanging status.

Hopefully, I will be able to return to Lake Hefner in the future.

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The March sun goes down below the lighthouse located at Lake Hefner.

 

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Oklahoma City Skyline Oklahoma City Skyline

Oklahoma City Skyline

A misty, overcast sky lights up from Oklahoma City.

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A Photographer’s Guide To Black Mesa And Kenton Learn About Black Mesa And Kenton

From time to time in some of the social media groups that I am in a request for information about the Black Mesa and Kenton area of the Oklahoma Panhandle.    Even though the Okie-Tex Star Party is held there every year, because of the dark skies, this area of Oklahoma is almost devoid of any photographic attention.   The purpose of this guide is to give photographers a one stop shop about information regarding Kenton and Black Mesa.  The focus is more on things like lodging than it is specific photographic locations.

Kenton, Oklahoma Sunset

BACKGROUND

I grew up in the small town of Boise City, located in the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Boise City is the county seat of Cimarron County.  As a kid growing up, I got to spend a lot of time out in the Kenton area.  Especially Lake Etling.  To say that this area holds a special place in my heart would be an understatement.  Ever since I started with photography, I have made the Kenton area kind of like my own little personal playground.  

Even though I should have been aware of this tidbit, it did not strike me until I got into photography that the Kenton area is a night photographer’s dream come true.  There is almost zero light pollution and when the day turns to night and there is no moon, it is like one is in a whole different world.  The night sky lights up with its brilliance.

SO WHERE IS KENTON?

 

Kenton is located in the far northwestern portion of Oklahoma.  It is so far west that it is in the mountain time zone.   As you can see from the map, it is only a couple miles east of the New Mexico state line.  It is about a 30 minute drive from Boise City.    At the last Census, the population was listed at 17.  From time to time, I hear the number 100 as an estimate of the number of people in the area.  That might be generous, or it could be in relation to the total area the person is considering.  There is no two ways about it though, it is desolate and provides a photographer, or even just a tourist some issues they have to deal with.

MOUNTAIN TIME ZONE, WHAT?

That is correct, Kenton rests in the mountain time zone and that can mess with a person’s head.  The residents go off mountain time, yet Boise City, the center of the Cimarron County universe is in the central time zone.  Growing up, this meant nothing to me, but since I started making regular trips out there with my camera, it messed with me.

I always found it difficult to find accurate sunset information because of the time zone.   This, in turn, would make planning sunset shots or portrait sessions into a mild nightmare, even with the tools that I use.  To get around this issue, I just look up those times using Clayton, New Mexico as my location.  If you zoom out on the map, you will see that Kenton is almost due north of Clayton, but since they are in the same time zone, the times for Clayton works for Kenton and the surrounding area.

Confused yet?  Well if you are, I have more confusion to throw in with…………………..

CELL SERVICE INFORMATION

This used to be a big issue as the Black Mesa area tends to be somewhat behind in technological advances.   Just a few years ago, the local telecommunications system, PTCI undertook a serious effort to upgrade their system in the area.  Since they are AT&T based, those with that service should be fine.  My IPad has service through PTCI and it has service all over the area.  My phone though is Verizon and I lose service in about 99.9% of the area.  There is one little spot that it does get service for about 30 seconds.  Enough to annoy me with a hundred notifications and that is it.

Lake Etling

Lake Etling

I HAVE HEARD ABOUT OKLAHOMA ROADS

And guess what, they can be pretty bad out in the Panhandle!  Honestly, the roads out in the Black Mesa area are pretty solid.  The paved roads are fairly smooth, but narrow.  Since this is mesa country, they do have some elevation changes and curves, which adds a little danger to the traveling.  As long as one keeps a sane speed, which I do not see why they would not since there is so much to see, everything will be fine.  Large wildlife and livestock are the main concern and at night, it pays to be prudent and take it easy.  

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Overlooking Kenton while storms move through the area

The main road to Kenton from Boise City is State Highway 325.  It turns into New Mexico highway 456 at the state line.  Highway 406 is known as the “Seneca Road” and that comes out several miles east of Clayton, New Mexico.  456 can be a doozy though as it turns into a dirt road several miles into New Mexico and has a tendency to wash out with heavy rains and can be impassable at times.  There are also several other paved roads in the area.  One goes into the Lake Etling area and this can be taken around the lake area and then through some beautiful country and meets back up with 325 several miles east of Kenton.  There is a paved road that goes to Black Mesa itself.  This road can also be taken to the three state marker, but it turns into dirt before the marker.

New Mexico Highway 456 just west of Kenton

New Mexico Highway 456 just west of Kenton

If you mess around with GoogleMaps or GoogleEarth, you will see a vast network of roads in the area.  Most of them are dirt, but most of them are real solid dirt roads.  Several of these roads will take a person to places like the three state marker where Colorado, New Mexico and Oklahoma meet.  A person can also head up into Colorado on these roads.  One nice drive can take a person through northern Cimarron County.  If you use the map, go to the area where Highway 325 turns to the west from the north.  There is a road marked N0110.  This road can take a person into Colorado, but it can also lead a person to US 287.  The drive is totally worth it.  This drive though is entirely dirt, so be mindful of the recent weather.

GAS, FOOD, AND LODGING

One of the things that a person needs to plan on is where they are going to stay, gas consumption and food supplies.  Clayton and Boise City are the only two places where a person can get gas or fuel.  Depending on the length of time a person is going to stay out in the Kenton area can determine when they should fill up.  I live just about a hundred miles from the area and I will leave town on a full tank.  When I get to the area, most of the time I am only going to be out there for a few hours, but I usually scout locations in the daylight.  I do not worry about filling up before leaving Boise City to head out there.  I would not suggest leaving Boise City on less than half a tank, and to be safe, three-quarters of a tank.   Boise City has two convenience stores that sell fuel.  Clayton has several also.

Again, Boise City and Clayton is it when it comes to food.  Along with the convenience stores, there are two restaurants, a Subway (inside Love’s), a Pizza Hut and a Dairy Queen in Boise City.  There is also a small grocery store.  Clayton is slightly larger than Boise City, so it has about the same options.  Clayton is also home to the world famous Eklund.    Boise City has two motels, while Google lists seven hotels and motels for Clayton.  Although I am partial to Boise City, the drive to Kenton from Clayton is more scenic.

Unlike the food and fuel options, the Black Mesa area boasts several options for lodging.  The first being the campgrounds at Lake Etling.  There are two campgrounds that offer primitive spots for tents, along with some spaces for travel trailers/motorhomes and hookups.  The larger of the two also offers up a playground and a fully functional restroom/shower facility.  This particular campground offers up plenty of shade during the day and it is pretty common to see deer around.

If camping is not your thing, then you can check out several of the bed and breakfasts that are in the area.

Black Mesa Bed And Breakfast

The Hitching Post

Mesa Valley Guesthouse

Hoot Owl Guest Ranch

The owners of these establishments are long-time residents of the area that can really give a person a history lesson about the area.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO GO?

Honestly, that is up to the person wanting to go.  Since it is Oklahoma, and mesa country, and just down the road from the Rockies, the weather can be quite crazy at times.  Winter can be a bad choice, plus if you are looking for the Milky Way, skip winter.  Spring is okay.  The days can be cool to warm, but nights can be chilly.  In the summer, the heat is a big concern.  Fall is a lot like spring, with the added benefit of fall colors with the trees.   

One of the things that I do like to stress about going to Kenton is thunderstorm safety.  The paved road network is limited, and it is very directional.   Kenton was somewhat of an “off limits” area for me when it came to weather photography.  That changed once I got my IPad and can keep my eye on the radar.  The storms that pop up in spring and summer can be very powerful.

WILDLIFE 

There is an abundance of wildlife in the area.  Anything from hordes of mosquitoes to black bear and everything in between.   Although black bear sightings are rare, there is probably a couple running around.  Mountain lion sightings are more common, and even then rare, but they are out there.  Although I have never seen an elk, I have been serenaded by the song of their people at night on occasion.  The chances of seeing deer are pretty high. Further down, rattlesnakes are the common creepy crawly thing and with the amount of rocks and high grass, you will want to keep an eye for them.  

Along with wildlife, the main way of life for people out there is ranching, therefore you will see cattle.  You will not see a whole lot of fencing, though.  In the areas where there is no fence and cows are, finding cows are the road is pretty common.  

THE CHECKLIST

I think I have covered all the background information that should be considered by a photographer before heading out to Black Mesa and Kenton.   Although I am not taking into consideration the lodging aspect of going to Black Mesa and Kenton, I do have a small check list of items that should be in every vehicle.  That checklist includes:

  • Water for one day for each person
  • Food and snacks.  I usually eat in Boise City, but will have several Clif Bars because at some point, I will get hungry while I am out there shooting
  • Warm clothes.  Even during my summer trips out there, I will toss in a fleece jacket or hoodie for the evening.
  • Bug spray
  • First aid kit.  You can check out this line of kits from Adventure Medical.  I have one of the .3 kits for my camera bag and I will be getting a larger one for my vehicle
  • Cell phone charger (goes without saying)
  • Halo Bolt 57220.  This nifty device is a battery jumper and charger.  It comes with cables to jumpstart your car and a couple of USB outlets to let you charge electronics
  • Lastly, let someone you know that you will be in the area and when you should be back to civilization.   The Cimarron County Sheriff is the primary law enforcement agency covering Kenton and Black Mesa
  • Flashlight and headlamp.  I favor smaller, cheap LED taclights as they are easily replaced if they break.  A decent headlamp lets me have both hands free to setup and take down my camera

NOW, SOME PHOTOGRAPHY SPECIFIC INFORMATION

Hopefully I have not bored you to tears at this point, but many times I will see discussions that talk about the photography without any mention of some of the other things we should think of before heading out.   Even though it might be in the back of our heads, when I give people information about Kenton and Black Mesa, I focus on the background stuff mostly because I would not want to see someone have a surprise meet them once they got out there.  So on to some specific information about photography the places and people of Kenton and Black Mesa.

MOST OF THE LAND IS PRIVATE

Yes, if the land does not belong to the state, which most of the Lake Etling and Black Mesa itself falls under, the land belongs to private owners, even if the land is not fenced.  This does not mean that your photography has to suffer, though.  Pulling off the side of the road in a lot of areas is all that is needed to take advantage of a photographic opportunity.   Since it is mesa country, you will find yourself surrounded by landscape most everywhere you go.  Most of the land owners I know are more than accommodating if you ask first if you find an area to shoot.  And if you make contact with certain ones, you might get to enjoy a private tour of some of the gems that are held within the walls.  But do not let the fact about land ownership prevent you from going.  

BRING ON THE NIGHT

If you are into night/astrophotography, then Kenton and Black Mesa is a place you must go.  Click for a light pollution map.  Type “Kenton, OK” into the search bar, and then zoom the map out.  What you will see will tell you what you need to know.  I really cannot put it into words as one must experience it.  Where I live, about 100 miles to the east of Kenton, is pretty dark.  Most nights, I can see most of the Milky Way ring in my night skies once I get out of town.  The Kenton area though is a whole other level.  It is not only clear, but it pops.  The only issue I have had is dealing with airplanes in the sky. 

Lake Etling at night

Lake Etling at night

 

LANDSCAPES

Although I am a pretty poor landscape shooter, there are numerous opportunities to create a landscape composition where you are on the road.

Storm clouds over Black Mesa

Storm clouds over Black Mesa

Storm clouds over Kenton

Storm clouds over Kenton

WHAT GEAR SHOULD I CONSIDER?

Even though I have a Rokinon 14mm 2.8 in my lineup, I had no problem shooting anything I wanted with my kit 18-55, even Milky Way shots.  Post processing though takes a little more work.  I highly suggest something along the lines of the Rokinon for night shots, but it is not mandatory.

I also drag along my 70-200 glass when I go out there.  Even though it might be a little short for wildlife shots, sometimes it will do just find.  I mess around with shooting landscapes at longer focal lengths to I can keep the landscape looking like it does, not compressed.  Of course, if you are going to be on foot and want to stay mindful of the weight in your camera bag, or do not want to spend the money on a 70-200, then a 70-300 will do just find during the day.

A quality tripod is a must.   I have two Vanguard tripods, an Alta Vista Pro and a VEO model.   Both have served me well.

Lastly, a good map.  Even though I am a GPS guy, I am a firm beleiver in paper maps.  You can get free topographical maps from the USGS, or purchase a topographical atlas of Oklahoma from Amazon.  The only issue with the atlas is because it is state based, coverage into neighboring states is limited and since Kenton and Black Mesa are near two different states, you might want to make sure you have those areas covered.

CONCLUSION

Taking a trip to Kenton and the Black Mesa region is a soul cleansing experience.  The tranquility and solitude of the area is second to none.  It is a trip back in time and to be able to soak in all of that does wonders.  It should be on anyone’s list of places to go and experience.

 

 

My Favorite Images Of 2016 – Seniors, Families and Weddings

SENIORS

Picking out favorite shots for an entire year can be stressful and it can easily be put off.  I know, I did it last year.  This year was different.  Below is some of my favorite images from 2016, “The People Edition.”  These images are from sessions involving seniors, engagements, families and of course, weddings.

Starting off with Guymon High Class of 2017 graduate Austin Lozano, I found myself shooting out in the Kenton area a lot this year and Austin was not the first client that went out there.  With Austin though, it looked like the streak had been broken where sessions were cut short by weather when I headed to Kenton and Lake Etling.  Although we got to spy some lightning in the distance, we were able to get the entire session wrapped up.   With many seniors, it is sometimes impossible to capture an entire senior portfolio with just one session.  Austin’s session was broke up into two sessions.  The first captured his athletic life, and then we headed west to Cimarron County to finish it up under the dark, starry skies with an astroportrait session.

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Conner Kaufmann is another graduate of the Guymon Class of 2017.  Although we still have another session to go with Conner’s senior photography, this image from the first session was hit out of the park.

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Cord Fox, another Guymon graduate, but he graduated this year and was one of my late in the season clients.  Cord brought a distinct look with his classic car to the session.

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Kaeli Robbins, Guymon Class of 2017.  We still have one more session to go.  To coincide with Kaeli’s post high school pursuit of astronomy, we will be making a return trip to Kenton in the spring to create magic under the stars and clear skies that are in the Black Mesa Area.

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WEDDINGS AND ENGAGEMENTS

Carlos and Shauna was my first wedding clients of the year, and they were my first session held around Kenton this year.  We scheduled their engagement session to be an astrophotography session, but as you can see from the skies of their engagement session, that did not happen.  I ended up storm chasing for a bit before they arrived in Kenton and because of all of the rain, we were very limited in what we could do.  We were able to squeeze in a few shots with the fiery skies.  As you can see at the end, we also had some nice skies on their wedding day.

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Everyone has their own unique personality and traits and bride Sally is no different.  Having a late October wedding in Guymon, Sally and Dustin were my second wedding.

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FAMILIES, ETC

The year ended with a bang as my schedule filled up with sessions.  I also did a session to expand my portfolio with a certain type of portrait.   Here are my favorites from the “family” and “etc” category.

Thank you to all of my family, senior and wedding clients of 2016!  

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My Favorite Images Of 2016 – Land, Sky and Stars Storms, sunsets and stars

STARS

I purchased a lens late last year for one reason and one reason only, astrophotography.  As luck would have it though, the first keeper image I created with that lens was a sunset.  That lens went on to produce not only that image that will be in this post, but a sunrise image along with some of the storms and of course, the astrophotography images.

This was the first night image I created using that lens, the Rokinon 14mm 2.8.  Even though there was no Milky Way to be seen, after several months of it sitting around and doing nothing (except a sunset shot), I had to shoot the night sky with it.

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I returned to the same spot a few months later to fire off my first Milky Way image of the year.

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Shooting the night sky around Black Mesa with this lens is cake.

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A late season trip back out to Lake Etling scored this image.  Although the sky was not perfect and clear, I can take what I can get.

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STORMS

Although I would not classify myself as a storm chaser, I have a bad habit of making impromptu road trips and showing up where storms are a brewing.  This image, “Felt Supercell” is from April 15th of this year.  I tend to have a habit of avoiding the chaser convergence and on this day, I went after some blips on the radar that were forming around Clayton, New Mexico.  I was able to get to Felt, Oklahoma just in time to capture this beast.   For the photography geeks out there, this image is a pano shot at 14mm.  Yeah, we were that close to this beast.   Luckily, there were very few chasers on this storm as most went after some monsters that came out of Texas and dropped several tornadoes in my backyard of Texas County.

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South of Tribune, Kansas

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This image is from one of the last attempts at weather photography for 2016.

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I have had very little luck capturing lightning the last few years.  Although I was able to capture a couple of bolts on a different storm, I was able to capture these images as I was driving home from shooting rodeo in Beaver one evening.  These were shot near Turpin, OK.  The first image is a composite shot over several different minutes, while the second image is what an 8 second shutter speed caught.

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The first week of June has proven to be a good week for me and weather photography.  This year on June 6th, storms made their way through Texas County and I was able to follow them for awhile.  The first shot was north of Guymon.  The second shot, the storm is just west of Guymon.  The last shot was captured in Texas.

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I get great joy shooting around Kenton and Lake Etling.  I schedule several portrait sessions out there every year, but with that, I have ran into a run of luck that will dictate that if I have a session there, I will see storms.  I have had several sessions cut short because of storms.    My first session out there this year was no different.  The forecast for days called for a calm, nice day, but when I woke up the morning of the session, that all changed.  Even as the morning pushed into afternoon, the forecast got more ominous.  Sure enough, as I headed west through Keyes and arrived in Boise City for lunch, I could see the clouds building.   When I arrived in Kenton, it was game on.  There were storms everywhere.  While in Kenton, I watched the sky explode before me.   But to the west of me, there were more storms forming.  After shooting in Kenton, I headed towards Lake Etling.

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My shooting time with this beast was very limited.  I ventured a hundred yards onto a dirt road to capture this magnificent cell as it rolled through western Cimarron County.

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SUNSETS AND SUNRISES

As a rule, I do not capture many sunsets and as a rule, I very rarely capture a sunrise.  I have horrible timing when it comes to capturing a sunset.   This particular image was captured just north of Guymon early in the year, using the lens that I had bought for astrophotography.

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I made my first trip to Roman Nose State Park in July.  Although it was a short trip, in a very rare occasion, I got up early to meet the sunrise at Lake Watonga on the off chance it would be photogenic and I was pleasantly surprised.

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Over the last couple of years, I have made it a point to go to this spot just east of Kenton to see what the sky would bring.  A year ago, I captured a large panorama with the same viewpoint, but with a very large and turbulent thunderstorm in the background.  On my last trip to Kenton for night photography at Lake Etling, I hit up this same spot at sunset.

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Sunset At Kenton Kenton, Oklahoma Sunset

Over a year ago, I started a personal project.  The project was simple.  I found a spot overlooking the small Oklahoma town of Kenton.  My goal is to capture four images from this spot, looking towards Kenton with four different skies.

The first image, created in 2015 was created while thunderstorms moved through the area.  Just this past spring, I sold a large print of that image and that print currently hangs in the office of State Representative Casey Murdock a the state capitol in Oklahoma City.

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The first weekend of October 2016 found me back in the Kenton area.  I shot a wedding on Saturday and decided to head to Kenton the next day for personal work. You can view one of the Milky Way images from the trip here.

Shortly before sunset, I went back to the same spot overlooking Kenton to catch the sunset.  Even though the forecast was somewhat sketchy, would there be clouds, were there going to be no clouds?  It was a wild guess.  There were some clouds, but not an over abundance of clouds that would give the image that really dramatic feel.

Even with few clouds, the sun position itself to go down behind one of the many mesas in the area.

I created this image with a little different technique, but in the end, I walked away with an image that I am really happy with.

Sunset At Kenton

I still have more images to create before I am finished with this project, and I cannot wait to see how it will end up.

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Austin Lozano Senior Session, GHS Class of 2016 Guymon, Oklahoma Senior Photography

I was honored to be selected to be Austin Lozano’s senior photographer.  Austin is a member of the Class of 2017 at Guymon High School in Guymon, Oklahoma.  The session was split into two sessions.  The first session was around Lou and McKinnon Stadium in Guymon.

It was at the stadium where we created images of Austin’s sports life.  As you can see, he is a pretty good athlete in both track and football.

The second session was held out in the Kenton, Oklahoma area.   One of the things that I have wanted to do is create an astrophotography portrait.  Luckily, the clouds were not a player and we were able to create several images using the dark skies of Kenton and the Milky Way.

As you can see from the images, I utilized several different techniques to bring out the best in the images, from the casual shots to the sports images and then finally, the sports montage at the end.

If you are interested in having a senior photography session that is built around you, please go to my contact page and shoot me a message.

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Milky Way Over Lake Etling Lake Etling

Lake Carl Etling, located in the far western area of the Oklahoma Panhandle is a magical place.    As part of Black Mesa State Park, the lake serves as a getaway for many people, and it also serves as a gateway to one of the most beautiful areas in the country.

One of the most interesting aspects of the area is what draws photographers to the area.  The area rests inside one of the few “darkest of dark skies” left in the country. Head over to the website Dark Sky Finder and plug in “Lake Etling” into the search box. Zoom out and you will see what I am talking about.   The dark skies are so inviting that the annual Okie Tex Star Party is held in the area.  Although I have slacked the last year or so, one of my personal photography projects is to capture the beauty of the night skies.   I have created several star trail and Milky Way images in the area, but the one thing that I have not been able to do has been create an image of the Milky Way over Lake Etling.

This year, I brought aboard Astrophotography portraits to my list of types of images I will create for clients.  Even though my first attempt was washed out, I was able to work with a senior client on my second attempt.  With the calendar year getting long in the tooth, I was running out of time to create an image of Lake Etling and the Milky Way together.  Luckily, the day after a wedding, I was able to head out to the area.  The forecast called for clear skies, but in reality there were clouds everywhere.  As the sun went down though, the clouds started to break apart and when it came time to start the creation process, I was left with only a few clouds.   I was able to shoot for about an hour until the winds came up and I left.

The good thing about shooting the Milky Way this late into the year is that it is right behind the sun, so one does not have to stay up late or get up early to catch it.  Next spring, I will be heading back out to capture a different viewpoint of the lake and the Milky Way.  This winter, I hope to create some star trail images involving Lake Etling.

Anyway, here is my latest addition to my Nightscapes gallery, “Milky Way Over Lake Etling”

Milky Way Over Lake Etling

 

If are a photographer, or a budding photographer and would like to learn more about Milky Way photography, head over to Improve Photography and check out this excellent tutorial written by Kevin Jordan.

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Lake Watonga Sunrise Lake Watonga, Roman Nose State Park, Oklahoma

I recently made a quick trip to Roman Nose State Park, located just north of Watonga, Oklahoma.   It was just a quick, overnight trip, so I really did not have anything on the agenda.

After arriving at the beautiful lodge late in the evening, I decided to take a shot at shooting the sunrise coming over Lake Watonga.  I had never been to the lake before, and since it was after dark when I arrived, I had not time to scout out a location.  Awaking just a few short hours after falling asleep, I did a quick check of SunsetWX, a website that forecasts how good or bad a sunset or sunrise will be.  Although the website was telling me that I might have been pushing my luck, knowing that thunderstorms had pushed through around midnight, I had a feeling that the sunrise would be decent.

Once I got outside of the lodge, I could see the early signs that SunsetWX was wrong.  I made the quick drive over to the lake, found a decent spot and immediately setup my Pentax K-5 II on the Vanguard tripod.  I also setup my UltraProX action camera on the Vanguard monopod to shoot some time lapse.  Needless to say, I was not disappointed by the sunrise.  I have very few opportunities to shoot a sunrise, and even less to shoot at a decent sized body of water.

Lake Watonga Sunrise Time Lapse Still

Lake Watonga Sunrise

All in all, I was glad that I was able to make the trip, but sad that I did not have more time to shoot.  I also took a quick tour of the small waterfalls in the park.  The lodge itself was excellent and hopefully I will be able to go back at some point.

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