Mar 31, 2011

April 2011 Cover

Cover image by Yasmin Tajik

My Personal Journey as a Photographer

By Yasmin Tajik of Shalimar Studios
South Asian Wedding Photographer

Photo by Pet'ographique
My parents were born and raised in Pakistan. My mother is from Lahore, a large urban city in the Northeast, and my father is from the tribal town Bannu in the Northwest. Over 45 years ago they migrated to Minnesota, where I was born and raised along with my 4 siblings. Being raised in Minnesota and coming from a different ethnicity definitely had its challenges, however those events have made me who I am today as a person and as a photographer.

Growing up, I was constantly singled out being in the minority with brown eyes and dark skin amidst a community of Norwegian decent where blond hair and blue eyes were dominant. Like many children, I often looked at my appearance and culture and wanted to distance myself from it because I was different and wanted to fit in, but I could never do it. That would have required me to disown my heritage, ethnicity and my family. Over the years I learned to embrace what made me different from my friends and celebrate the uniqueness of my culture and heritage.

As I ventured through life I found myself drawn to experiences and imagery that represented cultural differences. I cherished learning more about other cultures through international travel, and sought out experiences where I could learn more about others, their family history and heritage. I knew everyone had a story and finding out theirs, was always an adventure for me to learn more about who they are. Their stories fascinated me and taught me to appreciate everyone’s journey.

It wasn’t until I saw Steve McCurry’s iconic image of the Afghani girl on the cover of National Geographic [here] that I experienced the impact of an image of someone from my own culture. The girl wasn’t the typical blond model, perfectly coiffed or styled. Her piercing eyes spoke volumes of her torment as a refugee, her tattered clothes represented her limited daily choice in clothing and food options. But most of all, it was a beautiful and striking image of someone from my own culture. It represented beauty in the darkness of the Afghanistan war, and made me stop in my tracks. The image was simply breathtaking and I saw beauty where no makeup artist or stylist could recreate, and that is what started my personal journey utilizing my photography.

Since starting my studio 2 years ago, I’ve been blessed with meeting so many wonderful clients who I’m proud to now say are friends. Each person has a story, each family has a history, and I pride myself on the fact that I am here to photographically document my client’s lives and heritage for future generations to cherish. But there was something else I needed to do with my photography. I needed it to share with others the beauty within my own culture. To open the eyes of those around me to something shunned in a world of terrorist attacks, discrimination, fear and hatred towards a culture I know so differently. And now I’ve been deeply drawn to using my photography to document and share with the world beautiful images of people from my own culture, just like Steve McCurry did for me.

My studio name, Shalimar Studios, is in honor of the famous Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. And in honor of my culture, I purposely set out to specialize in photographing South Asian families, weddings, engagements and events. My goal is to share with the world the beauty I see in my culture, in my people and seen all around the world. Beyond it having a personal connection to my own culture, it also feverishly feeds my soul in no other way that I can describe. Having the ability to show others beauty where we typically don’t associate it, is groundbreaking. It feeds my soul and rejuvenates my spirit. The magic, message and impact of the images I strive to create, transcends any language or cultural difference. And that is something beautiful.

Shooting Video Manually with My Canon EOS 5D Mark II

By Brooke Weidauer  
(Many of these tips can be used with other cameras that have video capabilities)
"Maybe you’re like me and have not been receiving email firmware updates for your camera. Maybe you’re like me and had no idea how important firmware is. Yep, that’s an embarrassing confession".

You ought to keep in the know about your camera’s firmware. Updating your camera’s firmware is relatively easy to do and requires:
•A fully-charged battery
•Your EOS 5D Mark II camera body
•A CF memory card
•A CF card reader
•Internet connection

If you do not have a card reader you may use a USB cable and EOS Utility, software that was included with your camera.
Updating Firmware

A few weeks ago I decided to discover for myself what all the buzz was about regarding the 5d Mark II’s video capabilities. To my dismay, I’d expose properly and then once I began to record my subject, the camera took over.

I had to update my camera’s firmware. Since the Mark II was released in November of 2008 there have been six firmware updates. These updates fix little annoyances as well as big issues, like the inability to shoot video manually. When you update the latest version, 2.0.8, all previous versions will be included in the update.

To begin your firmware update click [here].

Under “Drivers and Software” select your operating system in the drop down menu. Then click on the firmware link and “I Agree- Begin Download”.

A step-by-step guide [here] will pop up on your screen. Follow these instructions carefully.

Shooting Video in Manual Exposure Mode, A Very Basic How-To

My grandpa was all about the video camera when his kids were young. We recently sat down as a family and watched these old silent films. The children in the video shielded their eyes from the spotlights affixed to the 8mm film camera while opening their presents on Christmas morning.

Fast forward two generations. Forget the bright lights, the silence, and lack of control. If you shoot with the 5d Mark II by Canon and are not utilizing the HD video and in manual mode, you are just as nutty as I was.

Fun fact: the Mark II has been embraced by film and television productions. One such production was the television series House, episode Help Me broadcast May 17, 2010. The episode was filmed entirely with the Mark II.

Before you Begin

A few last steps before you begin to shoot video:
•After updating the firmware on your camera and before you begin to shoot video be sure your LV (Live View) settings are set to “Stills + Movie”. Then, press the SET button and set your screen settings to “Movie Display”. If your screen settings are anywhere but “Movie Display” you will not be able to manually adjust exposure.

•Turn the mode dial on top of the camera to manual just as you would to manually adjust exposure for still shooting.

•Press the Live View button (to the left of the viewfinder) to activate Live View and the SET button to start and stop recording.

Shooting video manually will be intuitive to anyone who’s familiar with shooting stills in manual mode. Basic camera settings such as shutter speed, aperture and ISO apply to video mode as well. Other settings that also apply include picture style, white balance, AE lock, and exposure compensation.

My Method

What I like to do before switching to video is to first expose properly and take a few test shots. I then activate LV and the settings, and therefore exposure will remain constant. When shooting stills I use automatic focus but manually focus when shooting video because I love the look as well as the added control.

Play around with your settings just as you would when shooting still frames. Try shooting at your lens’ widest aperture. Experiment with different lenses, various compositions and angles just as you would when shooting stills.  

When you are ready to upload your video, you would do so just as you would for still shooting, either with a card reader or a USB cable.

Here’s a one-minute video. My aperture was between f/2.5 and f/2.8 and shutter speed around 1/250. I shot with the 85 mm f/1.8 and the 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. The post processing in these images includes a simple s curves, a soft light layer at reduced opacity as well as some slight skin retouching yet the exposure is consistent with the video. For the editing of the video I used imovie and added some royalty free music that I purchased.

Whether you choose to shoot video around the house or plan to incorporate video into your still photography for your clients, you will benefit creatively by utilizing your 5D Mark II’s HD video. For a more in-depth article regarding shooting video manually with the 5d Mark II click [here].

Photo Session Share: Neon Museum

by Chelsy Cardin

"Allie and John have such a great love story. Allie is from Chicago, and John is from London. They met in Las Vegas six years ago while both doing an internship. Time and distance kept them apart, but their love eventually brought them back together. They are now living in Las Vegas, recently engaged, and planning their September wedding.

I had the pleasure of photographing their Engagement Photo Session at The Neon Museum's Boneyard . Since Las Vegas is where their love started, this location was the perfect spot! The Boneyard houses all of the vintage and original Las Vegas signs; I love the colors, the history, and how unique the photos are".

About the Photographer:  Chelsy Cardin, owner of Cardin Creative, is a Las Vegas photographer specializing in wedding photography and couple photo sessions. She is the winner of the “Best Wedding Photographer 2010” award from the Wedding Professionals of Las Vegas. 

The Contributors of LVP

Where We Began...
 Cindy Larkin: Founder/Contributor

I have been interested in photography since I was a little girl sifting through the pages of my own personal photo album.  But let's face it, just because I loved pictures and photography, did not mean that I started out as a good photographer.  Actually, my photography was quite dreadful when I first began and I specifically remember my husband sitting me down and telling me kindly, that I needed to read my manual on the camera that he'd just given me for Christmas, or I was never going to figure it out.  "Owning a camera does not make you a photographer ", so they say.  Although I agree with this statement, I really dislike the negative connotation behind it.  I had a camera and I wanted to be a photographer, but I was having such difficulty mastering it. 

I was angry and frustrated with myself because I had this natural longing to be a portrait photographer, and I also wanted to be able to take beautiful pictures of my children, but I had no idea how to use this brand new camera of mine.  In fact, I'd started reading the manual several times, but had thrown it down in dismay, when I couldn't figure out what it was trying to tell me.  I didn't learn well from simply reading about it.  I needed practical application and hands-on experience.  I learn kinesthetically, and the only way I could get a grasp of this new skill was when I really began to practice, practice, and practice some more.

At the time, I could not afford a photography class, but I was determined to learn so I set out to teach myself.  I tried in door lighting with cloth backdrops, clamp lamps and windows.  Then I tried outdoor lighting in full sunlight, overcast light, and shade.  I tried changing every knob on the camera and getting familiar with how each button worked, and which one was best for each light setting.  I tried reading the manual word by word, and then using my camera in practical situations to grasp what it was saying.  My children, our dog, and my sisters were my subjects.  I tried googling Nikon and Canon's websites, and browsing YouTube for videos and tutorials on everything, including how-to's on using photoshop, and tutorials on my specific camera.  It took hours, that turned into days, that turned into years [Yep, I learned the hard way]. 

Eventually, after I'd gone through several mediocre cameras and learned more about photography, my husband upgraded me to a nicer camera, and bought me some lighting equipment.  Then I started taking pictures for my extended family and friends.  On occasion, I’d even get a referral!  At first I could hardly believe that I was getting paid for playing, but soon I got repeat customers and more referrals! 

Around year three of my photography career, my sister got me a job with a small local magazine that thought enough of my work to hire me to take pictures for their customer ads. Up until that point, my title had always been “amateur photographer”, and I didn’t really see myself as a professional until the first day I saw my photographs and my logo on a prominent page in the magazine. This was such a boost to my “photographer's image” because now someone other than myself and my small clientele, was seeing my value as a photographer. Soon my logo and name got out, and I began taking pictures on a regular basis as a professional.

Even after being in business for myself for more than 8 years now [Cindergirl Photography], I still get excited every time I pull out my camera. I especially love to collaborate with other photographers and shoot just for fun. Shooting with other photographers, and doing it "for fun", is what has inspired me to start Las Vegas Photographer.

I am blown away with the talents of the photographers that I have had the opportunity to associate with on a regular basis. It has been such an education for me to put my fears aside and shoot and learn with them.  Letting them teach me, as I share some of my knowledge with them, has been a key component in my photography and I know it has made me a better photographer.  I believe that no-one is good at everything, but we are all good at something! We can learn so much more from each other, than we could possibly learn on our own.  I LOVE meeting, networking, and learning with you!  I personally invite you to come and share your talents with us! 

P.S.  I just opened up a facebook page specifically for my photography!  [It's about time, right?]  I'd love to connect with you. Come find me [here]!  :)

Photo by Yasmin Tajik
Amy Leavitt: Contributor

I started in photography in 2007 when I took a course at our leisure center on how to use my new Canon Digital Rebel xTi. I fell in love with it, as many do, and my kids soon developed photographers-child-syndrome. They ran and hid when I pulled out my camera...

And I sucked. But I thought I was awesome.

I took another course, from the New York Institute of Photography and began to really develop my skills. I started to understand how bad my photography was. I read everything I could online. I even tested the focus system on my new Canon 5d because I was sure it was unable to focus. It passed the test (shock!) and I understood on a deeper level that if I really wanted to be a photographer, I had to put in the time and effort to really learn it. I studied masters like Diann Arbus, Jacques Henri Lartigue, and Leon Levinstein, and most recently, Vivian Maier. I paid too much for an over-hyped workshop. I imitated other photographers I admired.  I practiced on friends and my own kids. I signed up with Kelby training to learn Photoshop better. Some of it worked, and a few things didn't, but I took giant steps forward to becoming a better photographer. I am now studying to become a PPA Certified Professional Photographer.

I run my own portrait business, Amy Leavitt Photography. When Cindy asked me to help with LVP, I was more than happy. It's fun! I get to discover new talent by handpicking my favorite photographers for the cover. I get to talk and interview with successful bloggers and photographers. Although LVP is for all photographers, I particularly love that it connects local Las Vegas Photographers.

I remind myself every day:
Nutella is not a food group.
Millions of women are doing laundry all day too, and are complaining far less.
I may not be beautiful, but my husband thinks I am, and that should be all that matters.
I have a house, a husband, and three kids who still like to kiss and hug me at bedtime. What's better than that?
Some people may not like me, but my dog thinks I'm awesome.
And from Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

Mar 15, 2011

March 2011 Cover


Letter To The Editor

I received this letter today from a Boy Scout here in Las Vegas.  I thought it was pretty funny and thought you'd enjoy it too! 

Dear Cindy Larkin,
I am writing to you so I can finish my Communications Merit Badge before getting my Eagle.  I understand that you are the founder, and one of the editors of Las Vegas Photographer magazine and blog.  It would be cool if you could answer my questions.


How is it?  It's awesome!  I love collaborating with other photographers from around the world on special writing and photography projects.  I get to learn from many talented photographers, and in return I also get to share some of my own knowledge and ideas.       

What do you do as Editor?  As one of the editors here at LVP I get to read the articles submitted by other photographers before they are published.  I help gather the information and images, make sure our deadlines are met,  then proofread it for spelling and grammatical errors.  One of my favorite assignments that I share with Amy Leavitt, (my co-editor, contributor, and partner in crime), is creating the cover of the magazine.  I really enjoy the process and absolutely love seeing the finished product!  Getting to use the best images from a photographers portfolio to create a beautiful masterpiece, makes our job so much fun! 
Do you have to sit there for hours looking at pictures?  -I think that would be really boring.   Yes, we sometimes sit for hours at a time looking at pictures and deciding which ones to use for the cover, but I'd have to say that we really like doing it!  It inspires us to see other photographers best work and to read about the story behind the photographs.   

Do you get to have your own pictures in the magazine?  Yes, as the founder and contributor, I get to be as creative as I want to be.  I love sharing my work and my ideas, but mostly we try to feature and highlight other photographers masterpieces.  Learning from others is what makes the world of photography go 'round, and we really enjoy having photographers submit articles, tutorials, and photo sessions, that they've done just for our blog.