This wedding was such a joy for many reasons, mostly because of the people involved. I couldn’t ask for better clients. Sweet people, clearly in love and surrounded by an amazing group of family and friends. Eric and Ily are in tune with what I try to do as a wedding photojournalist, which is to simply let me document their day from start to finish. I try to approach weddings like I approach a feature story for a newspaper. Moments and interactions are what matters, and when I can capture those then I can capture the heart of the couple. Here’s a tightly-edited sampling of Ily and Eric’s big day. Thanks for looking!

dan

When I started ‘serious’ photography in high school (‘serious’ meant learning what camera settings do and finding your way around a darkroom…), the film manufacturers were in sort of an arms race. This was the late-80s, and imaging giants Kodak and Fuji were constantly one-upping each other with innovative and tasty new products. We were also lucky enough to have smaller makers trying their best, including Germany’s Agfa, and to a lesser extent the U.S.’s 3M and Japan’s Konica. One of Kodak’s great entries in this era was a super-sensitive black & white film called T-Max P3200, which was part of a new line of T-Max black & white film.

I’ll try not to get too photo technical, so here’s a quick run down on what made this so cool. The thing about this film was its unprecedented ‘speed’. Film speed is represented by something called ASA or ISO. I call it ASA. Each number is a ‘stop’. So an ASA film rated at 400 is one-stop higher than ASA 200. The most common speeds back then were in the 100 to 400 range (in photo slang, we referred to the higher ASA films as ‘fast’). This gave you plenty of speed to make sharp images in bright to cloudy days. If you went inside you’d need a flash or some other artificial light to brighten things up.

Then along comes P3200! This film was designed to be ‘pushed’, which means you can rate the film at a higher ASA speed and compensate by increasing your times in the developer. This was a normal darkroom procedure for ages. ‘Pushing’ brought compromises such as higher contrast and bigger grain. You learned what worked and what didn’t by trial and error. P3200 could be exposed up to a whopping ASA 25,000 under the right conditions, and the image quality didn’t degrade very much when you pushed it. BLAM! That’s fast stuff! Well, it was in 1988 when ASA 400 was still considered a relatively ‘fast’ film.

My high school photo buddies and I couldn’t get enough of this stuff, often going out into the night and shooting all sorts of photos….pretty much all of them horrible. Some came out, and when they did it was awesome. Like some dark noir scene with endless inky deep blacks and gruff grainy tones. Gritty and exciting.

Through school and into my early newspaper internships and jobs, P3200 was a common tool in our toolbox. I mostly used it for indoor sports, where that high speed really counted.

During my first internship at the Greeley (Colo.) Tribune, I was assigned my first-ever high school basketball shoot. I was terrified! I loaded up on P3200 and drove out to Windsor, a small neighboring ag town (now it’s an unrecognizable extension of the Front Range’s sprawl). It was as if they had just discovered electric lights in this gym. Barely. The darkest place on earth. How they played any ball in there was a mystery, and I was sure I wouldn’t get any photos. I feverishly shot several rolls of film, and when I got back to the paper I ‘pushed’ it far beyond Kodak’s recommendations. After an agonizing time in the developer tank and then the fixer, I finally pulled the film out to see my disaster. Well, it was kind of a disaster but I managed to salvage a few frames. I printed and turned them in, and the editors were happy. Whew! I still have a print from that first ever game and, well, it’s ghastly. But it worked.

Of course, digital technology has stripped these practical duties from film forever. Those of us who sometimes go back to analog can do it to appreciate its inherent and organic beauty, rather than battling with its shortcomings in difficult conditions and on tight deadlines. Digital has also ruined the business model film needs to survive. Late last year, war weary Kodak announced they are discontinuing the once-revolutionary P3200 film.

I can’t let an emulsion go to the grave without a proper sendoff, especially not something this important. While I haven’t used P3200 since my early days at the Sheridan Press (that would’ve been around 1996 I believe), I decided to order some rolls and give it one last spin.

My friend Josh Wolfson understands the geek. He’s a guitar player and fanatic, loves analog pedals and tube guitar amps. He gets it! So with that in mind he was more than happy to let me take some P3200 and shoot his band Speed the Pilgrim rehearsing in their tiny downstairs space. There wasn’t much room for me there, but it had a great vibe. The light was perfectly awful, which is a good thing! Since I hadn’t used this film in so long I was again afraid things would turn out poorly. Nothing like going back in time to remember what made things exciting, right? Luckily, the negatives turned out pretty much as I had anticipated. It’s the look I was going for. Imperfect but evocative. Like music! No doubt I’m thinking of another larger project for this film and me before it’s gone for good.

The newest DSLRs can shoot at ASA speeds that would’ve sounded like science fiction when I was learning photography. They shoot clean, sharp images with plenty of shadow detail. Don’t get me wrong, I’d LOVE to get my hands on a Canon EOS 1x, especially after this most recent high school tournament season. The thing is a technological wonder. Still, I can’t forget how excited I was when I first went into the night with my friends and a couple rolls of Kodak’s magic new film. I can’t help but love the imperfect perfection of silver reacting with light and chemicals. We gain something, we lose something.

dan

I had the opportunity to photograph the adorable Morton twins a couple of weeks ago. Meet Liam and Amelia Morton.

Amelia was very sleepy during our shoot, which I hear is quite out of character for her. Liam is chill and a good sport. This was fun, and I’m sure I’ll be photographing these wonderful kids quite a lot in the future!

dan

 

It’s time for me to say goodbye to Instagram. The little photo-based social network that started out as cute and innocent has been turned cynical and ugly by its new owners. Who can blame the people at Facebook, though, for trying their hardest to exploit the weird little start-up after they dumped a billion dollars on the thing. A BILLION. With a ‘B’. For a silly little smartphone app that turns our boring, flat smartphone photos into hipster visual post-it notes.

I’m the first to admit that I was an early and enthusiastic Instagrammer. I took many photos of my dog, my breakfast, my lunch, my dinner, my snacks, my drinks, clouds, etc., during my Instagramming days. I also followed a handful of users who were stunningly creative. I enjoyed seeing their surroundings during the walk from the subway to their office (because they lived in hipster heavens like Brooklyn).

Things went downhill in Instagramville pretty quickly. They started fighting with Twitter (no more seamless integration), mucking with filter designs (then changing them back), attracting spam (sadly inevitable), and finally ticked off just about everyone with one of the most audacious retroactive rights-grabbing terms of service (TOS) contract ever. Even though they quickly back peddled on the TOS, the romance is over.

Perhaps it was always just a trend that would inevitably play out, but I really think Facebook’s moronic and ham-fisted handling of their latest billion dollar prize did more damage than time and trends ever could.

So, I’m saying so long to Instagram. Before that, let’s have a look at some Instagram memories from assignments at work, weekends, vacations and just tooling around the house. It was warm and fuzzy. But looking at them on a large computer monitor…it seems mostly fuzzy.

dan

I had the great opportunity this Labor Day Weekend to shoot the outdoor mountain wedding of Brent Soffe and Ashely Eaton. Great people, great weather and a ridiculously picturesque location in the Bighorn Mountains. What’s not to love? I won’t even complain about all the extra traipsing and schlepping a guy has to do during a gig like this or how much my legs and back hurt after it was all done. Worth it!

I shot mostly digital, but I also got to pull out my vintage Polaroid SX-70 along with my 35mm and medium format film cameras. The analog stuff is off to the lab, so here’s a sampling from the digital camera (with the exception of the Polaroids of course). Enjoy!

I was given the opportunity to photograph a fun, breezy ceremony last week when Hannah Rea married Ken Sharp in the back yard of Hanna’s parents’ home in Casper.

I couldn’t have wished for a better time. A nice, lightly overcast sky, a lovely setting, and most important of all, a wonderful group of people.

Big thanks to Hannah’s parents, Barb and Tom Rea, for this wonderful opportunity.

dan

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been accepted as a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association.

What is WPJA? It’s a nifty organization with a directory that lists like-minded wedding photographers from around the world who believe in the documentary style of photography.

I believe a wedding photographer should stay out of the way of the party while capturing honest and interesting moments as they unfold. It’s more important to me for clients to relax and enjoy their special day, rather than posing for a seemingly endless photo session.

I also believe that documentary photography never goes out of style. Will your kids or grandkids laugh at silly, trendy poses when they see your wedding album years down the road? Or will they smile and be moved by the photos of real moments of joy and love?

My love of documentary photography started as a kid while looking through big LIFE and National Geographic magazines. This is what I love doing, and it’s a skill I’ve proudly worked on for over 20 years.

Have a look at the WPJA website here.

 

I’ve been working on a story with Casper Star-Tribune reporter Christine Robinson on a young piano prodigy in Laramie.

Eleven-year-old James Wilson and his mom were kind enough to let us follow and observe them over a few different days. Last Friday we spent a few hours in their Laramie home as he practiced for a recital the following day. It’s tough work, this music thing. He puts in an amazing amount of practice on that instrument.

We were in for an even bigger treat the next day at the recital in the University of Wyoming Fine Arts Auditorium, where we were awed by James, an adorable and crazy talented 7-year-old girl, and a stunningly accomplished 15-year-old. Who knew Laramie had such a pool of musical talent?

Stories like these make me all happy inside. Young people studying classical music and making the timeless art live on is indeed very inspiring.

Here’s a short clip of James I shot with my phone as he works out a familiar piece by Mozart. Our story and photos are scheduled to run this coming Sunday in the Casper Star-Tribune. I’ll be sure to post the links when they publish.

It’s been awhile since I dragged some 120 film through one of my beloved plastic cameras. Too long in fact.

On our much-needed vacation to my old hometown of El Paso, Texas, I carried along my Diana and a few rolls of Kodak’s discontinued 400VC film. It’s an emulsion with a bit of extra color saturation and contrast punch built in, which I feel worked especially well with those wonderfully crappy plastic Holga and Diana lenses.

On the final stretch back home we stopped at Mike’s Camera on Colorado Boulevard in Denver for some quick processing and scanning. Oh to have a professional film lab in Casper again!

Here are some of the better frames, shot mostly in sad downtown El Paso (which breaks my heart with more and more decay each time I visit) and in an even sadder town called Vaughn in New Mexico. The rolls start off with a few shots of Casper shot a couple of days before my vacation started (I was having some trouble concentrating on work…).

A couple of weeks back I went out to a couple of locations near downtown Casper to shoot photos of Brent and Ashley. Their wedding will be later this summer outdoors in the beautiful Bighorn Mountains. Looking forward to that! These guys are a lot of fun.

I shot this all on Kodak Portra 160 film using a Canon 50mm 1.2 L I rented from the fine folks at Wyoming Camera Outfitters. What a brilliant combo!

I’m toying with the idea of shooting all future engagement sessions on Kodak film. There’s added cost, of course, but the look is so beautiful and unique in a market saturated with polished, over-Photoshopped images. The scans by Richard Photo Lab in Hollywood came back just about perfect. No post production necessary. Digital doesn’t have to look ‘digital’ of course, but I just really enjoy this analog-to-digital workflow. I think the results speak for themselves.