Web director and on-air host at a non-profit radio station in Alaska. Photographer. Passionate about cameras, technology, jazz, astrophysics, travel, typography.

Like many conferences, Photoshop World actually gets underway a day before its official opening with pre-conference classes – “pre-cons” for short – that drill down into single, specific topics in photography or software processing for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours.

On Tuesday, I took a pre-con on wedding photography (with a particular focus on composition and lighting) from the highly renowned photographer David Ziser.

"I once caught a fish... this big."

“I once caught a fish… this big.” Instructor David Ziser illustrates wedding photography technique at a Photoshop World 2012 pre-conference session. Holy Redeemer Church, Las Vegas.

The class began within the Mandalay Bay conference center, where Photoshop World is being held. David went over some of the key concepts that we’d be exploring in greater detail as the day went on, and then, the whole class (about 50 people) spilled out into the hallway so that David could show us setting up portraits of the “bride” and “groom.” I didn’t have my flash with me for this class (and, of course, I couldn’t have used the flash setup and light modifiers David was using, anyway), so all of these inside pictures are using available light, with ISO’s between 1600 and 6400.

Setting up the shot

David sets up the shot on the lower level of the Mandalay Bay ballrooms.


The kiss.

As luck (or misfortune) would have it, the site of our first photo shoot (above) became a busy corridor for other PSW pre-con attendees, as other sessions – led by photographers Moose Peterson and Joe McNally – departed the conference spaces to go shoot outdoors. As a large group led by Joe McNally walked by, Joe jokingly broke up David’s shoot, ironically asking “is this the way to Shark Reef (Mandalay Bay’s aquarium)?”

"Is this the way to Shark Reef?"

The whole class then boarded a coach bus, field-trip style, and drove across Las Vegas Boulevard to Holy Redeemer Church.


Photoshop World lightpainting

A lightpainting of conference materials from this year’s Photoshop World in Las Vegas. This image was captured during a 30-second exposure in a pitch-black room, using a flashlight to gradually “paint” the light on the objects in the frame. The lens was thrown out of focus halfway through the exposure, giving the image the halo/blur effects seen around the text of the brochures.

I’m so excited to be in Las Vegas again for Photoshop World. It’s an incredible week of training on all things photography and Photoshop – equipment, lighting, composition, software, post-processing techniques, and lots more – held at the Mandalay Bay.

This is my third time at a PSW conference, and just as I’ve experienced in the past, there’s a palpable sense of creativity and enthusiasm here.

Both the instructors and the attendees are passionate about what they do and passionate about sharing it, and that excitement is contagious even for people who are still getting started in photography (like me). At both of my two prior PSW experiences – in Las Vegas last year and in Washington, D.C. this March – I’ve left with a long laundry list of techniques, styles, and tips to try in my photography.

One of these techniques is lightpainting: the practice of illuminating photographed subjects with flashlights and other steady light sources over long exposures.


Eyeing the stage

My friends Carol and Jim relax in between musical acts; the stage was set up in front of Old St. Joe’s, which you can see reflected in Carol’s sunglasses.

In Nome, Alaska, where I live, it has been a gorgeous Saturday, probably one of the nicest days we’ve had this summer: sunshine, highs in the 60s, a gentle wind. It’s a happy coincidence that today is also the kickoff day of our third annual Relay for Life, a 24-hour-long event sponsored by the American Cancer Society that raises funds for cancer research and urges cancer survivors, their family, and supporters to “fight back” against the disease.

Relay is a fun event. It’s not just a bracing call to arms in support of those battling cancer (although that’s certainly an important part of it) but also a way for our small town to come together: with music, food, a few games, and ample doses of common purpose.


A luminaria near the stage at Nome’s Relay for Life.

The event is being held on Anvil City Square, situated around the meeting hall and former church known as Old St. Joe’s. This afternoon, while participants took turns in their relay around the town square – the walking, which will continue through noon on Sunday, is symbolic of a long but determined struggle against cancer – music echoed from the stage in front of Old St. Joe’s.

Since my house is literally a block away from the event, I could hear the faint strains of energetic pop songs – bass lines, amplified drum beats, electric guitar riffs – as I was editing these pictures.

In late June and early July 2012, I took a road trip from Chicago to San Francisco by following a portion of the historic Lincoln Highway, one of America’s oldest roads. In ten days, I took about the same number of photographs as the miles I would eventually drive: around 2,300 images and miles, when all was said and done. I’m kicking off this website with a photographic retrospective and travelogue of the trip, the first two days of which I spent in Chicago.

My first sight of Chicago – from the window seat of an Alaska Airlines jet – was dominated by a view of its strikingly beautiful buildings (including the John Hancock Building, pictured at top). The redeye flight from Anchorage concluded with a sweeping flyover of the city; I was surprised how close our plane seemed to fly to the Loop, Chicago’s downtown. Beyond the scratched plexiglass of the airplane window, skyscrapers – massive rectangles and cylinders of grey steel, khaki-colored brick, teal-blue glass – silently glided by. As I tweeted shortly after our landing, the perfect view of the skyline “was like an establishing shot from a movie.”

ParkWhile waiting for my hotel room to become available, I walked around the busy streets of the Loop; among the first things that caught my eye were the many signs for parking lots along North Wabash Avenue. Understandably, downtown Chicago has an abundance of parking lots, and many of those on Wabash had wonderfully grungy, faded, retro-looking signage. Looking north up the street, as pictured at right, you could also see the modern Trump Tower. (For this photo, I did some post-processing in Nik’s Color Efex Pro.)

Later in the afternoon, I spent a few minutes in the cavernous outside courtyard of the Wrigley Building, whose ornately-detailed stone edifice reached up to the sky on either side of me. In addition to a different vantage point of Trump Tower, the spot offered a fleeting view of an airplane flying overhead.

Further up North Michigan Avenue – past the many blocks of upscale shops known as the Magnificent Mile – was the imposing, dark grey, steel facade of the John Hancock Center:

I couldn’t stand outside one of the tallest buildings in Chicago and not visit its observation deck: as much for a reprieve from the 100-degree-plus temperatures as for the views from 100 stories up. On the south facade of the observation deck, the windows were filled with a fine metal mesh (rather than glass):

A few feet further, the observatory’s cafe offered, among other things, a fine mojito. Behind me (not pictured), a group of boisterous men drank coffee and played cards.

On my way out, I was amazed to notice a handful of spiders crawling on the other side of the observatory’s glass windows, weaving their webs as if we were only a few dozen feet above the ground, rather than a thousand. The strong winds that buffeted the building – and the rain that started to fall while I was inside the tower – seemed not to affect them in the least:

A few hours later, after a deep-dish pizza (and another mojito) at the crowded Giordano’s on Rush Street, I walked back to the Loop and snapped this along the Chicago Riverwalk along East Wacker Drive, just past the Wabash Avenue bridge:

You might recognize the pair of cylindrical skyscrapers on the right side of the river; known as Marina City, the buildings are featured on the cover of Wilco’s 2002 album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. They also appear in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.