Sunday, September 16, 2012

Personal Projects ~

So Whitney & I did something last week that we try to do occasionally, and this was to schedule a day for personal projects at the studio. You get so busy with your everyday work that sometimes you just need to re-charge your batteries and try out new things: styles, lighting, subjects -- wherever your heart, brain, and soul take you.
Plus, we opened this up as a "drop-in" experience for anyone who wanted to drop by and participate.

Did anyone takes us up on it? Well, not this time around, although there were a number of people who definitely wanted to, but couldn't get away for it (a Wednesday afternoon) so we'll keep scheduling these in. But boy did we have fun!

We played with every style of lighting we could muster up, which is considerable: strobe, continuous, and even plain-old available. Which is hardly plain at at; the whole north wall of the studio is a roll-up door, so we can enjoy the best northern-light quality you can imagine. Whitney often uses that for her portraits of children, and used that with her image you see on the right. My image above was taken with my Elinchrom strobes.

Bliss Studio's intern Stacie got right with the program. A very talented artist and photographer, it was really fun to see her approach to lighting and posing, too.
Which, come to think of it, is the real benefit to the drop-in philosophy: sharing tips and learning new things goes both ways.

This is one of the images Stacie made and shared with us. She was exploring lighting and angles we hadn't noticed before. The most fun I have in the studio, when I get the most energized and feel the most creative, is when I have a group of people at a lighting workshop. Sometimes people who are learning have the most to teach.

And of course, post-production technique can (or at least should) round out the vision you began forming in your mind when the camera was in your hand. These two pictures illustrate that, as well as really showing how two people can interpret the very same subject in such different ways. This is Whitneys image of two sunflowers on the right, mine is below.

We both use Photoshop CS6, and we both really enjoy using OnOne software too. But all of that is about the same as saying we both use a darkroom.

We have this discussion all the time, and perhaps you should too. Does the use of post-production software enhance your vision and interpretation, or define it? It's a tough call, and the line separating those can be pretty vague sometimes. My own philosophy of photography and the "painterly" manner in which I tend to interpret  my subjects is something that began to form even back in the black & white darkroom, where at times it could take weeks to make the exact print I was looking for. Does photoshop merely speed up this process, or fundamentally alter it?

Your thoughts?

That'll make a great discussion for our next post! That, of course, and some of your photos.

You know where:           And drop in next time!

Later, amigos!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Drop-In Studio -- What An Idea!! ~

Have you ever wanted to just pop into a nice photo studio, get a little hands-on instruction, and have some fun? And not pay a fortune?
Well, Whitney & I have thought a lot about this, too. After all, we're at the studio most of the time, sometimes doing commercial work, and sometimes just working on personal projects. So we thought we'd just swing open the doors and offer a drop-in, open studio on a regular basis.

In fact, we're going to be offering it every other week, so you can make plans around it. We'll start it out on Wednesday, Sept. 12 from 1 to 5 pm.
Here's how it works: Whitney & I will be there working on some flower arrangements that day (and other kinds of projects on other days), so bring in your camera and work right along with us, practicing with the lights, arranging still-life compositions, metering, the works. You can even bring some of your own flowers and still-life subjects if you want, and come away with some great shots. It's a great way to get some practice and some individual attention. Stay 4 hours, stay a half-hour, it's all up to you. The cost? A measly $20.
Just helps us pay the electric bill!

This is a drop-in studio experience, not commercial studio rental, so we ask that you not bring a client or shoot a commercial job. Just you (& friends!) having some fun, gaining some great experience, practicing new skills.
So drop in on the 12th between 1 and 5! Questions? Email me at Or Whitney at
Or text me at 503-449-0662.

Or grab a Starbucks and just pop on in and surprise the bejeebers out of us. We're going to be there anyway. Might as well join us!

Oh yes, where are we? Bliss Studio, 7693 Cirrus Blvd in Beaverton (near Washington Square), Go the the Directions link on my website for easy directions:

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Selling Our Photos on Etsy ~

It was one of those odd twists-of-fate sort of things: Whitney posted a recent picture she took on one of her Etsy crafts sites...and sold it! It was just a spur of the moment thought, but it's from these kinds of inspiration that opportunity often comes. So it was off to the drawing board (so to speak) for us: Whitney, of course; her husband Dan Harlacher, and me.
Our site is called Fifty Fifth Avenue Arts (, a name that reflects the fact that we all live on (you guessed it...) 55th Avenue in beautiful southwest Portland!

Like so many professional photographers, we all have tons of images, outside our regular commercial output, that rarely ever get out of our computer files and see the light of day. So if nothing else, this is a really fun way to showcase that work, and eventually the work of others.

For me personally, it's also a way to explore new software and hardware. This summer I upgraded my 4 year old Macbook to the new Macbook Pro 15" notebook and Photoshop CS6; these, along with OnOne Photosuite 6.1 have given me the opportunity to see and re-examine some of my work in entirely new and delightful ways. We all need ways to refresh and recharge (as well as the photo challenges Whitney keeps dreaming up for us!)

The pieces we sell on our Fifty Fifth Avenue Arts site are all 11x14 for $59, with options for different sizes and finishes. We're also in the process of putting together some 3-piece collages made from our iPhone photos. If you look back at a couple of my earlier posts here, you can see how impressed I am with what those can accomplish!
So when you get a free moment, check out our site & let me know what you think. And I hope you keep sending me your photos, too. There's nothing I love more. In fact, let me ask you a question: if you step outside -- way outside -- your comfort zone, what kind of images do you create? Those are the ones I want to see. And I'll post them here next time.
Get busy.

Later, amigos!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Visiting the Photography "Holy Land ~

Last week I visited the George Eastman House in Rochester NY -- something I had dreamed of for most of my nearly 40 years in photography. It's more than just a huge collection of cameras and photographs - one of the largest in the world - but more importantly, it's a preservation, and celebration, of the people and technologies that shaped our profession.

My daughter Sara had just completed her Masters Degree there at the University of Rochester/George Eastman House. She spent her entire first year at the house, where she obtained her museum certificate in Film Preservation, and then completed the academic course work on campus. What a great opportunity for her, and it gave me this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get an insider's tour of the GEH, its museum and its archives.

The camera on the right, for example, is the very first one produced by Kodak. It's amazing to look at it and touch history, and imagine the kind of revolution it created in photography. We have a direct visual link to our past because of this and the finishing process offered by Kodak. Ordinary people made extraordinary images of their lives, and those who saw the art in it -- Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Steiglitz, Strand, Dorothea Lange and so many others -- were my inspirations.

It was good to feel like a kid again and get that rush of excitement that made me pursue photography in the first place. 39 years later, I'm still energized and amazed by it, even though I now use a computer instead of a cold-lighthead enlarger. Museums don't just preserve the past; great ones, like the George Eastman House, also point the way to the future.

Share your experiences?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Let's Go For A New Photo Challenge ~

Time sure has a way of getting away from you, especially if you're like me and would rather spend it outdoors instead of in front of your computer. My studio partner and photography motivator (as in, "get busy!") reminded me how long it had been since our last photo challenge, which was to produce a photograph that somehow embodied the concept of soft. The topic this time around? Stripes. 
I have always found that the simpler a concept may sound, it's that much more difficult to actually realize. It's easy to look at the word stripes and think t-shirts and zebras, but we're looking for something deeper and more subtle.

The staircase photo above is my initial entry. I love to work with lines (stripes?) and geometric form; and, as with a lot of my recent work away from the studio, this was taken with my trusty iPhone 4s. And I really like this photo on the right; it's Whitney's submission and is a terrific image with strong photographic elements and a touch of whimsy. It has that special "HDR" look that I like so much.

So get out and try on some new ideas and ways of seeing things. Anything goes. No rules, no limitations. Just inspiration.

It's nice outside. Think I'll go out and shoot.

                                                       Send me your shots!

Later amigos!

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Video Project ~

Last week we spent a day (a very long day) in the studio working on an instructional video about studio lighting. It's being produced by the Pacific Northwest Center for Photography and my good friend Sharon O'Keefe as part of a series of instructional videos she's planning. One thing is for sure: I'll never see what the big attraction is about being in front of the camera!

That's Sharon on the left, conferring with our Final Cut-certified videographer Brenda Manookin. They're either going over the shooting script or the lunch menu, can't remember which!
It's hard to convey just how much work goes into a production like this. I have a huge amount of respect for Brenda and her skills; video production, especially at this level, is such a mystery to me.

But I was really impressed to see that the cameras she was using were Canon 7Ds -- the same camera I use! Of course, they were connected to some pretty sophisticated sound equipment, but great image quality is what we both want in the studio, and these let Brenda shoot at a full 1080p.
I have always loved doing lighting workshops, and over the years have done hundreds of them. I really want photographers to get to know the studio and how creatively fulfilling studio portraiture can be, but I also want to dispel some of the mystery that makes it a little intimidating. It's a fun and accessible skill that I hope this video will convey!

What have you been working on? I hope you've been having as much fun as I have (yes, as nerve-wracking as acting in the front of the camera can be, I had a blast!)

Anything to share? Doesn't even have to be 1080p!

Later amigos!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Girl With The Red-Striped Hair ~

Sometimes, maybe when the planets line up just right, I get the chance to shoot a portrait session with no agenda in mind. Not a business portrait, not a magazine shoot, not a modeling portfolio; just an "anything goes" hour or two. Such was the case last week with my dear friend and favorite model Tiana.

Actually, Tiana wanted me to get some shots of her while she had this fantastic red coloring in her hair, and I was more than happy to oblige. I'm drawn to distinctive looks like this and the challenge to capture the essence of the person in front of the camera without resorting to kitsch or formula.

More than any other kind of photography, I enjoy making portraits, especially in the studio. What I like in particular is the interaction with the sitter, and when I teach my lighting and posing workshops I like to stress the intimate quality of a really successful portrait.

A portrait, then, is something more than just a picture of a person. The photographer and the viewer invest a part of themselves in the image; when this is successfully done, the portrait becomes a work of fine art that can stand on its own, and will be a powerful and moving image. Think of some of the finest portraits of Halsman or Karsh, or contemporaries like Mary Ellen Mark or Steve McCurry.
That's the goal I strive for every time I'm in the studio; someday I may actually achieve it, but in the meantime I truly enjoy the journey forward. It's not about being, it's about doing.

I hope you may start seeing portraits as a truly artistic form of personal expression, and make some again. And share! Nothing I'd love more than to see some here.

Right here:      

Get busy.

Later amigos!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

another day on the job ~

This is one of those rare but happy occasions when my core training business, teaching digital imaging in dental clinics and labs, intersects with my studio photography interests. I was invited to make portraits for the Clark County (Washington) Dental Association to use on their Members website. I've worked with dental professionals all around the country for several years now, and alway have fun with projects like this.

The set-up is pretty straight forward, and one that I sometimes set up for clinics to use for their own client portraits, something pretty common with the higher-end family and cosmetic practices. Good clinical intra-oral photos are a standard in any practice, but a really well made portrait that shows the beautiful results of cosmetic or restorative dentistry really sets a successful practice apart from others. There's real artistry in both endeavors.

Making a good head-and-shoulders portrait for business & web is a common project, but one that still needs your creative chops. When I teach studio lighting, I try to convey that it's an important fundamental, and the starting point from which to let your imagination take off.
Isn't that what it's all about?

I love people pictures! Send me some of yours to post?
You know where:
Later amigos!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My photo in the Soft category ~

Ok, this is my thrown gauntlet to my studio partner

Whitney: my official submission in our current challenge, soft. You may recall how we have always given these obscure & abstract artistic challenges to each other as a way to stay fresh and try to see the world in unexpected ways. A couple months ago we opened up our friendly little competition to all of our friends and photographers who follow our respective blogs, and that particular topic was red.  This time around we want to see how we photographically interpret the concept of soft, and there are no limitations, constraints, or preconceptions to anyones individual interpretation. Other than it be a new image, made specifically for the challenge. And last night, after a meeting downtown, I was walking back to my car and was taken by this rainy, watery scene down in the inner SE of Portland. I call it "Waiting For Batman". Don't ask me why. Just somehow popped into my head when I was standing there in the rain. Taken with my iPhone 4S.

And speaking of meetings, here's a shot of my business partner Dave Carsten, caught in a somewhat pensive pose as we figure out details of the video we're working on. As some of you may know, my core business is a trainer & consultant in digital photography in the dental profession, and we're in the initial stages of our project. I'm thankful to be working with some top pro's in the field, up here in Portland and in California. But it should be fun!

Have a photo to share? (or video tips??)

later, amigos!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Get out there and shoot!

It's been a very eventful week, capped off by a surprise celebration of my 60th birthday! And ahead of that, I got to spend a couple days with one of my favorite photographers: my brother Jim. I just don't often take the time to get out of the studio and shoot outdoors, so when I do -- particularly in the company of a challenging photographer -- it's going to be a good time.

We didn't start out with any agenda other than to look at shapes and colors and textures, and make the best out of what we encountered. And to keep the cameras dry -- you gotta love shooting in Oregon in the winter!
The week prior to that I had the opportunity to try out something a little out of the ordinary: shoot with a Hasselblad V-series lens on my Canon 7D!

My friend Bryce Hoeper is an incredible photographer and a collector of all things film-based, so I borrowed his 80mm V lens and a Canon adapter. The focal length compared very closely to my Canon 85 f1.8, but of course required some old techniques -- remember stop-down metering?

But is was certainly fun to play with again and brought back a flood of wonderful old memories. It doesn't matter how much I shoot with my digital SLR, I will always have a soft spot for medium format. I probably should have cropped Tiana into a square just for old times sake! I want to do some more work with the Hassy lens, but even at a glance I was marveling at its clarity and tone. They were truly unique.

So go grab something old (like me?) and shoot something new!  And if you'd like to share it, you know where:

Later, amigos!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Alternative cameras ~

When I was sent this photo as a submission to the "soft" challenge, I was immediately struck by three things: one, it beautifully interprets the soft theme, two, it's an absolutely beautiful portrait by any standards, and three, it wasn't even done with a camera. Well, a conventional camera, anyway. Our friend Tori Bascue made this on her cellphone, in this case an Android Atrix 2 smartphone. It absolutely knocks me out, and shows how a creative and talented eye can turn something like a cellphone into a powerfully expressive tool.

So my post today is doing double-duty, talking about all these terrific images that have been sent to us as part of the soft challenge, and also a discussion about our smartphone cameras. Every photo on this post was made on one. These photos on the left are from big bro Jim Hutt, using his iPhone 3Gs.

This sunset is a wonderful image, no matter what kind of camera it came from. That it was made on a cellphone makes us appreciate all the more its potential for personal expression. And since we always have it with us, I think we'll see a whole new body of spontaneous, adventurous, exciting work.

I had uploaded this photo by Whitney on my last post, but really wanted to revisit it. She took it through her windshield on one of those rainy days we had a couple weeks ago, using her iPhone 4S; a little photoshop work, and a result that looks so much like a 19th century platinum print. By any measure, it's a beautiful photograph; haunting and brooding, evocative. Whitney likes the Ansel Adams quote:  Chance favors the prepared mind". The right light, a good eye, and a smartphone. Who'd have thought?
Lastly, here's a photo of my friend Ashley that I took just a couple weeks ago, a snapshot really. Unposed, unselfconscious, just a quick situation where I thought the light was good. I use the iPhone 4S too, and have a number of photography apps, although I find myself using one called "Pudding Camera" more often than not.

Someday, I might actually use my iPhone to make a phone call.

What are you using? What are your favorite photo apps? Hey, if you have your smartphone fired up, send 'em to me! You know where:

later, amigos!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Some SOFT samples...!

A few days back Whitney & I suggested a new photo challenge; the theme: soft. Here are some beautiful images that suggest some wonderful interpretations. This colorful photo of dancers (including my two nieces!) was taken by by sister Kitty. The warm, soft light silhouetting dancers in a classical pose is really lovely.

Whitney just sent me this photo, which I believe she took with her iPhone (and suggests to me a topic for my next post!). This is a really beautiful image, which evokes the etherial and haunting qualities of a 19th century platinum print. Definitely a soft image, but the result of a clear vision.
And what collection of photos designed around the concept of soft would be complete without a shot of a kitten? And particularly, one wrapped up in an Angel Soft tissue bag? It's cute, it's funny, it's a kitschy homage to the obvious; and that makes it delightfully successful!

Here's a shot I took this summer, a popular view of the Columbia River Gorge. I admit to being a mostly-studio shooter, but light of any kind intrigues me, none moreso than the fading pastels of late evening.
Where day meets night, where sea meets the shore, where light touches dark: really beautiful things happen at the edges.

What are you dreaming up? May we see?                toodles, amigos!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

But SOFT! What light.....

.....through yonder window breaks? Ok, it's a cheezy Shakespeare reference, but one that's intended to introduce our newest photography challenge: soft. You recall a couple months back Whitney & I issued our "red" challenge, and now here's our new one. Soft. We're going to shoot -- and invite you to shoot -- images that in some way embody whatever you interpret that word to mean. You can be as literal, figurative, alliterative, fantastic, ironic or just plain weird as you like. There are no limits. Ready, set...go!
And this was a great day for me in another respect as well, as I enjoyed some time with my dear friend Sharon O'Keefe at iWitness Gallery. Sharon is the founder of the Northwest Center for Photography ( and this beautiful photography gallery. The Center offers an incredible range of programs and workshops, including some Studio Lighting workshops that I conduct at our studio. My conversations with Sharon turn always and inevitably to what we love about photography, what (and who) inspires us, and what challenges us. 

iWitness Gallery is currently exhibiting the work of Portland photographer David Zaitz, wonderful and humorous works which remind me of the fun of photography. And that gets us back around to our newest challenge: a great way to remember that along with everything else -- the need to expand our horizons, to hone our technique, to learn new skills, even the need to earn a living -- we are committed to the proposition that we can also enjoy our craft.
So shoot and share! I look forward, as always, to seeing your creativity at work (and play!). 
Oh, and for the record,  " is the east, and Juliet is the sun"

You know where I am!  

Toodles, amigos.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year! ~

So let me start this post right out by apologizing for neglecting it for such a long time! The holidays are over, so I can't use that as an excuse any more. But I hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season. And as this picture suggests, last night was a wonderful New Year's party thrown by my friend Laurie Excell and her husband Frank. For all of us, it's the highlight of the year! I mention this because Laurie's images literally leave me breathless, and inspire me to continually strive to be a better photographer.
So I sat down this morning, the first day of 2012, and started going through my own archives to look again at what makes me enjoy being a photographer, and post some work I've never shared here before. So much of the time I'm behind the camera doing lighting workshops in the studio, or teaching digital photography to my client dentists. I love doing all that very much, but I overlook some opportunities to just get out, look, and shoot. So that's going to be my New Year's resolution: do more, shoot more, look more, enjoy more. Plus: give credit to the photographers in my life who inspire me everyday.
Laurie, of course, is just wonderful; as a photographer, an artist, a person. She conducts workshops all around the world and is the Photo Equipment Advice Desk Guru for NAPP. We used to work together many years ago at Pro Photo Supply in Portland, and would often bring in photos to share with each other and critique. You can't imagine how much I miss that. I highly recommend you follow her blog:
My friend/mentor/studio partner Whitney Stevens is also a cherished source of inspiration. Her studio work -- portraits, maternity, boudoir, children -- is extraordinary; her lighting and posing is so fluid and immediate it can't help but take away your breath. And then, of course, the photography challenges she gives us: remember Red? When you give yourself and others a challenge to step outside your comfort zone to find new ways to see things and create images, you're going to be better at your craft.

And my brother Jim Hutt, a supremely talented photographer who supports his habit with a private practice in psychology -- although  those two things seem oddly, and happily, synergistic. Hardly a week goes by that I don't open up my email and see something new from him. His wanderings around the San Francisco bay area, near his home: the scenery, the people, the wildlife; all of them focus sharply in his eyes and camera, and make images that simply dance.
This will be another resolution: I will seek out the work of other photographers where ever I can, and take pleasure in sharing in the vision and energy of my many talented colleagues. I'm looking forward to keeping this one!
And as always, I welcome you to send me your own images to share here. Not to critique, not to analyze, not to judge; just to enjoy.

May 2012 be a year you find new, exciting, crazy, confusing, challenging, exciting, questioning, provoking, wistful, and beautiful images. And that they bring you joy.