Thursday, November 7, 2013

Making the best of a bad situation...

Last week, I heard there was going to be an eclipse that would be partially viewable by the East Coast of the United States shortly after sunrise.  The only downside to this, so far, was that I don't like mornings.  But, not wanting to miss a rare photo opportunity, I made it a point to make it out to the beach.  As seen in the photo below, I wasn't the only one.  :)

Sadly, though, there were clouds on the horizon, so I didn't see the actual eclipse.  It's ok though.  There will always be times when things doing don't go as planned.  You can either get frustrated and let it impact your work, or make the best of the situation and come away with some good images.  Here are some photos of the sunrise.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Photographing Volleyball: Part 2

Last weekend, I photographed my second volleyball game for the University of North Florida.  I learned a few more things and have some new insights.

  • push the ISO a little higher and try to shoot at an aperture around f4.  It is more forgiving than lowering the ISO and shooting at f1.4.  While I would like as little noise as possible, it doesn't matter how much (or how little) noise is in a photo if it's not in focus. 

  • For the last match, I switched to the 50mm lens and shot a bit wider.  I was initially concerned about it being too wide, but was happy with the results.  Not only did I still get some great action, but I was also able to capture the emotion of the game in the other players' faces.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Guide to buying camera gear

In this day and age, there are plenty of places to get new camera gear.  But how do you decide if you want to buy new or used?  Online or in a store?  What equipment should you get?  These are all good questions.

First, start with what to get.  This is not an easy thing to answer since not everyone's needs are the same.  I generally wait until I have a need before I buy a new piece of gear.  I started out with a mid-range dSLR and the kit lens that it came with.  This worked well for me until I photographed my first concert.  Out of approximately 750 photos, less than 25 were usable.  I quickly realized I needed a better lens.  That's how I ended up getting the Nikon 70-200 2.8 lens.  That was many years ago and I still have that lens.  For the general consumer who isn't sure what they want, a great place to start your research is SnapSort.  This site will allow you to do side-by-side comparisons of a wide range of camera gear.

Second, now that you know what you want, where should you get it?  A local big box store?  The internet?  Random guy (or girl, no need to discriminate.  :D )  I don't recommend the random person on the corner.  Who knows what could be wrong with that gear.  I tend to avoid the big box stores for camera gear since they don't have much in the way of higher end stuff.  Two of my favorite places are B&H Photo and Adorama.  They have good warranties for their merchandise and are reputable sales companies in the camera business.  You can also check Ebay and Craigslist, but be careful.  You generally don't get a warranty from these sellers, and there's no real guarantee that you're getting what you pay for.  If you do choose either of these, check the prices at other dealers first to make sure you are actually getting a good deal.  I've seen a few cameras lately on Craigslist that are more expensive than if I were to buy them from B&H.

If you have any questions, let me know and I'll try to help.  :)

And here's a random photo I took of a body-painted model in a suitcase from John Shippee Photography.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tips for photographing horse jumping

When you're shooting a horse jumping competition, it's all about freezing the action in your photo.  I shot a horse competition for the first time not too long ago and here's what I learned.

1. It's all about timing.  The ideal time is when the front hoofs are tucked underneath the horse. 


If you are a little slow on the shutter release button, you'll end up with an image closer to this one.  

Notice how the legs are coming down and getting ready to land.  This image doesn't have the same visual impact as the one above it.

2. Horse move quickly.  In order to got shots like this, I recommend shooting at a shutter speed no slower than 1/500th of a second.  Because the shutter speed needs to be so high, I was shooting at 2.8 and had the ISO cranked up to 8000.

3. If at all possible, shoot horse going over obstacles that conceal their hind legs.  There are times where their back hoofs are still on the ground as their front legs start coming down for the landing. 

This image does not have the same impact as the one below because you can see the back hoofs still on the ground.

This horse's hind hoofs are probably still on the ground, too, but because you don't see them, the overall image is more striking to the viewer.

This is one of my favorite images from the set.  The timing was right, I like how the rider's position matches that of the horse, it all came together nicely.

If you'd like to see more shots from this event, check out my site, John Shippee Photography.  If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Pretty Reckless at Jack Rabbits

I have been wanting to shoot The Pretty Reckless for quite some time.  I almost had the chance a few years ago when they were in town.  I'd worked things out with a friend of mine that works the door so that I would be able to bring my camera into the venue.  Then the day of the show, he called to let me know that the band had strict instructions that no cameras were going to be allowed.  :(

When I found out they were coming back to Jacksonville, I quickly contacted the band to arrange for a photo pass to the show.  After some communications back and forth, it was all set and ready to go.  Now the hard part; waiting the few months to pass between getting approval and waiting for the actual show.

The show was yesterday, September 25.  My calendar had it as this coming Sunday.  OOPS!  Fortunately, I was looking at Facebook and saw a post from the band that alerted me to my error.  I quickly grabbed the camera and headed out the door.  There was a small line outside, but at least I didn't miss the show.

Louna, a band from Russia, went on first.  This was their first show in the US, which made being there a little more special.

After Louna's set, it was time for Heaven's Basement.  They are from England.  While I don't recall them specifically saying so, I think this was their first time playing in the States, too.  They kind of reminded me of a young ACDC.

Then it was time for the headlining act, The Pretty Reckless.  Their set was particularly difficult to shoot.  There was more use of fog machines.  The lighting was harsher.  People kept crowding and pushing in front of me, and then raising their phones in front of my view to take photos.

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless

While it was a difficult show to shoot, I think they turned out pretty well.  More pictures from the show can be seen at my site John Shippee Photography.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Another great burlesque performance

Vita DeVoid (, a jack of all trades, hosted and performed in a burlesque show at Eclipse in Jacksonville, Florida, this past weekend.  I've seen her perform a few times and she always puts on a great show.

Not only did she dance and MC, but she also did a brief sideshow.  Here she is having a nail that she nailed into her nose removed by an audience volunteer's mouth.

This is probably one of my favorite shots.  From a distance, it looks sweet and romantic, but upon closer examination, you see the nail he's pulling out of her nose with his teeth.

And the fire play!  Let's not forget about the fire play.

More images from this show can be seen at

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sunrise Surfers at Jacksonville Beach Pier

I have lived near the ocean almost my entire life.  It's something that I take for granted, and as such, I don't visit it nearly as much as I would like.  There's always an excuse:

  • It's too far away (about 30 min drive)
  • I'm too busy
  • It's raining
  • Antiques Roadshow is on Netflix
So every now and then I force myself to go to the beach.  I'm always glad that I did once I get there.  I usually go to the Jacksonville Beach Pier.  It's a little further out of the way than other parts of the beach for me, but it's worth the extra few minutes in the car.
  • The pier adds a nice focal point to photographs
  • There are people usually surfing nearby
  • For a dollar, you can walk out on the pier and get a different view of things
  • Parking is really close
Here are some photos from my most recent trip.

I call this one "the pier to enlightenment or I couldn't sleep and went to the beach to watch the sun rise"

These girls were really nice.  The one on the left was learning to surf.  I've always wanted to learn to surf, but never taken the time to do so.  Maybe someday...

Some tips that I learned/already knew and reinforced from photographing surfers this time were:
  • bring an umbrella with you
    • it was drizzling for a while, so it was nice to keep myself and the camera dry
    • after it was done raining, it was still nice to have something to keep the sun out of my eyes
    • it also kept me from getting sun burned, which I'm prone to do
  • bring a tripod
    • the camera can get heavy after holding it up for any period of time
    • this also allowed me to always have the camera ready to shoot an action shot
    • it leaves a hand free to hold the umbrella from the previous tip
  • be nice to people
    • I had various surfers come out of the water and talk to me about what I was shooting for and where they could see the images
    • I met a few potential clients to shoot future surfing events
    • one guy that wasn't surfing, just out for a run, stopped and talked to me for a bit, then asked where he could buy some prints of my work
  • the lighting isn't ideal for shooting surfers just after sunrise
    • I think next time, I'll try to go later in the day
  • beware of the tides
    • the tide was coming in while I was shooting, so there were a few times that I had move back
  • leave any unnecessary gear in the car or at home
    • you don't want to spend time worrying about it getting wet, sandy, stolen, etc...

Friday, August 16, 2013

The perspectives of flooding

A few months ago, I moved to an older part of the city.  One of the things people complain about here is the poor drainage and frequent flooding after it rains.  While I can see that flooding can pose problems, it can also create possibilities.  As with most things in the world, it depends on your perspective of the situation.

After a recent storm came through, I grabbed my camera and tripod and went for a walk.  I started out down by the river.  (which just made me think of that Chris Farley sketch about living in a van down by the water. )  Any ways...

I got there just after the sun had set and had some gorgeous lighting and clouds.

St John's River at nightfall by John Shippee Photography

After taking a few photos, I looked to the left and saw that the road had flooded.  I walked past the flooded area and turned to see some great reflections in the road.

The taller building is an apartment complex and the smaller one that looks like a little castle is one of my favorite houses in the city.  Hopefully one day I'll get to see the interior of it.

My favorite shot from the night came from this spot.  To get the colors to show better, I opted for an HDR image instead of a standard photograph.

HDR image along the St. Johns River by John Shippee Photography

Yes, I could have stayed in and complained about the recent rain and mild flooding, but had I done so, I would have missed out on this gorgeous scene.  I'm so glad I chose to go out.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Learning to work with models...

This very well should be a blog all unto itself.  But I'm feeling lazy and don't want to create another blog.

Until recently, I've pretty much stuck to shooting HDR landscapes and live events/shows.  I've had people tell me that some of my landscape work is really great, but would be even better if I had a model in the image somewhere.

Lately, I've had more time and availability, so I've been taking that advice and working with some models here and there.

Some things that I've learned are:

  1. Give feedback to the model.  
    1. It should be positive and/or constructive.  If you like what they're doing, say so.  If you don't, ask them to change what it is you don't like and explain why.  Simply saying "this sucks" doesn't help anyone, and can put them in a bad mood.  If the model isn't happy, it will show in the photo.
  2. Have an idea of what you want to get out of the shoot before you get there.
  3. If you want the model to do something specific, either make sure you have the time to explain it well and don't be afraid to stand in for the model to show them exactly what it is you are going for with a particular pose.
  4. Finding a model that is professional is extremely helpful.
    1. They know how to pose and won't just stand in front of the camera.
    2. They will show up, and most of the time be punctual.
    3. There are many other reasons, but I'll save that for another post.

Here are some photos from this week's shoots with Ashley.

These last two photos really emphasize how incorporating a model into the shoot totally changes the photo.  The columns are nice, but with Ashley there, they take on an ancient Greek feel.  Having her next to them also shows just how large they are.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Some of my favorite Instagram photos.

Some of my favorite photos lately have been taken with my iPhone and edited with/for Instagram.  My username is @JohnShippee, in case you want to follow me.  A few of accounts that I follow are @Stace_a_Lace, who documents the legs/feet of people she sees on the streets of New York, and marscuriosity, which is the Mars Rover named Curiosity, that sends photos from Mars back to Earth and some of them get posted to Instagram.

Some of my favorite images from the over 400 that I have posted are below.

A highway in Jacksonville, Florida.

Storm clouds over the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

A view of three of the high rises in Jacksonville, Florida.

A collage of different views of Pittsburgh, PA.

A girl walking in the rain in Jacksonville, FL.

And here is a collection of other images, which can all be seen on my site, here:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Inexpensive tiltshift

I remember sitting in a cafe with some photo-buddies of mine and one pulled out a newspaper he had been reading with an article including some type of 10 best photos, or something to that effect.  The first photo was an aerial shot of a construction site where everything looked to be miniature.  I couldn't figure it out and was amazed.  I HAD to know how it was done.

After researching the photo for quite some time, I figured out it was done with a tilt shift lens.

(If you really want one, you can pick one up here for $1,900.

After learning what tilt shift photography was, I wanted to do it myself.  That is, until I figured out how much a lens was.  :/  I figured that I'd probably use this about as much as I use the fish-eye lens that I had to have.  Yes, it's nice for certain situations, but it is by no means a daily use lens.  The lack of use makes it hard to justify almost $2,000.

Then I learned about a (toy) lens called the Lens Baby.  (

While it's definitely not an actual tilt shift lens, it is the same idea, and less than 1/10th the price.

Here are some photos I took with my lens baby today.

The rest of the images from this set can be seen at

Monday, June 17, 2013

Savage Burlesque at Eclipse

Event photography covers so many different areas of life that the only reason you can get bored as an event photographer is if you allow yourself to get bored.

Sometimes I'm photographing a club opening and the patrons having a good time.  Other times it is a group of friends having a night out and want photos as keepsakes.  And other times it is a fetish show at a club.  This past weekend was just such an event.

There was something going on around every corner.

From fireplay...

to classic burlesque...

to audience participation with rope play...

and foot worship...

to milk and latex...

to a girl in a straight jacket and dental restraint...

The night had plenty of visual stimulation for all.  I look forward to the next show and hope to see you there!