Me and my friend Jake

jakethis.com ... everything you need to know and more.

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/20 @ f/8, ISO 100 ambient light

Jake and I have been friends for a long time. It's not very often that we've had an opportunity to spend more than fifteen minutes together but, it's always great to see him. We were working at a restaurant together back in the late seventies, while in school, when Jake came up to me and said, "Well, Deke, I'm moving out to San Francisco to be a stand up comic."

I have to admit that I wasn't completely surprised about the moving part but, was skeptical at best about the comic part ... then, he disappeared. It took years ... I finished school, moved to Minneapolis and thought Jake might just be another phantom that I stuck into the file of past acquaintances with all the others. You know what? He made it. And he's been making a living at it for over three decades!

We got a warm fall Saturday afternoon together in November in Minnesota (oxymoron alert) spent the time talking over Chipotle and working some urban portraits in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. It was a great time talking about everything from health to marriage, children, old friends, politics and who's to blame for the monolithic rise of stupidity permeating America. Then, we had coffee.

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/50 @ f/2.2, ISO 100 ambient light

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/400 @ f/2.2, ISO 100 ambient light

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/80 @ f/4.5, ISO 100 ambient light

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/250 @ f/4, ISO 100 ambient light -- although, highly processed

Sue and I had bought tickets to Jake's 8:00 show and invited a couple friends of ours. Jake was great! Very funny! We all had a fun time. One of the best Saturday's I've had. Thanks Jake. Hope to see you soon. I have a feeling we've still got a lot to talk about.
Check out Jake and his schedule at jakethis.com



Good friends can really be good friends. Earlier this summer I did a shoot with a couple of friends of mine and asked them to help me find subjects I could photograph and build a portfolio. Well ... they found Heather. I had never met Heather before we arranged to meet at the Como Conservatory for an afternoon shoot on a beautiful fall day. I was very lucky. She was great to work with and we had a nice time getting some really good work done. Thanks Heather! The rest of you enjoy. Heather Heather Heather Heather Heather Heather


Mike & Courtney

Last Sunday was a beautiful autumn day and I was fortunate enough to have arranged a shoot with a couple willing to help me build a portfolio. Mike and Courtney are the daughter and son-in-law of a good friend but, more importantly, they're a delightful couple. They were eager to help and had great fun. Thanks you guys. I had a great time, too ... here's the proof. Mike & Courtney Mike & Courtney Mike & Courtney Mike & CourtneyMike & CourtneyMike & CourtneyMike & Courtney

Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/80 @ f/2.8, ISO 100 ambient light


A Little in All of Us


Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/80 @ f/2.8, ISO 100 ambient light

There's something inherently photographic about a curious, energetic little boy. They bring so many questions to the table for an aging, curious, energetic photographer. When did I grow up? How is it that these precious times fade so quickly into adulthood? Can I still be curious?

What do I remember about my own energetic childhood? Was I every bit as curious, contemplative and free? All I can do now is be thankful for that time long gone. It was rich and inspiring, fleeting and yet most impressive. Thanks for letting me take these photographs.

i am happy
Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/250 @ f/2.0, ISO 100 SB800 through 60" umbrella, camera left; CLS
Nikon D200, 230mm, 1/160 @ f/5.3, ISO 320 ambient light
the tree
Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/160 @ f/3.2, ISO 200 SB800 through 60" umbrella, camera left; CLS
For those of you interested ... one of the things I've learned over the past few shoots I've done is that I've dramatically improved the sharpness of my images. There are two things that I lend credibility to: Not always relying on auto-focus and stop trying to hold the camera still by choking it to death. If there is little motion in the frame composition I manually focus. If the subject is all over the place I'll opt for auto-focus.

When I hold the camera, I still cradle the lens in my left hand and hold the camera by its grip in my right hand (finger on the trigger) but ... as with a golf swing, I use soft hands. I don't press the viewfinder to my forehead for stability like I'm branding a calf anymore. I found that the body transfers much more movement to the camera the more rigidly you hold your muscles. Just relax.


All the World's a Stage

an odd couple

Nikon D200, 35mm, 1/6 @ f/8.0, ISO 320, one SB800 in a 30" soft-box, one SB600 illuminating kitchen, CLS

Actors are the best. Particularly actors you've known for a while. I've been trying to step up my portrait chops over the last few months and the skill I really needed to hone is directing. Putting together the shot and directing the subject to get the concept you want ... get the subject; not something staged, something honest. And actor's get that. Whether you're taking a portrait or a caricature ... they get the honesty part. They understand that it will all fall apart if you're not honest with the camera and sincere with the moment.

Nikon D200, 30mm, 1/60 @ f/4.0, ISO 100, one SB800 & one SB600 into a 60" shoot-thru umbrella, camera left, CLS

I approached Todd and Robert about doing a shoot, of them, at their house. It's interesting that even your close friends are suspicious about your intent ... maybe it's more like curious, because they're usually pretty game for about anything. Especially, something that points the spotlight in their direction.

The evening was a great time. I brought some good beer, they made dinner and we shot before and after each course. The time we got to spend was really important. We got to talk about the events of the day, events of the recent past, people we know, just chit chat. It was a great way to disarm and establish a more comfortable relationship between photographer and subjects.

Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/60 @ f/3.5, ISO 100, one SB800 into a 60" shoot thru umbrella, camera left, CLS
Nikon D200, 85mm, 1/60 @ f/3.5, ISO 100, one SB800 into a 60" shoot thru umbrella, camera left, one SB600 shooting thru window into the garage behind subject, CLS

Thank you , gentlemen. We'll do this again sometime.


The Good, The Bad, The Creepy


Minnesota State Fair

Thursday nights are the time to sit and tune into The Grid Live … +Scott Kelby and associates’ weekly live blog show about all things photography. Scott welcomed his wife +Kalebra Kelby and +Matt Kloskowski as they prepared to discuss Street Photography. Scott tells of an episode he had while in Paris filming “A Day with Jay Maisel in Paris” when a woman took offense to being photographed and created quite a stir in response.

The discussion then turned to photographing women on the street and what their perceptions of getting photographed were. In short, Kalebra and two other female guests spoke to how creepy it was! One of the women voiced a very strong instinct to protect her children from being photographed and would be extremely upset with a photographer that did so.

I don’t deny them their feelings and instincts. Their expressions are completely primal and uncontrollable. Like all humans they require security and an interloper such as some creepy photographer can present an endless array of discomforts to a creative and suspicious mind. In contradiction, however, they admitted that the more credibility the photographer had (even if it’s only on the surface: id badge, crew, handsome, available?) the more willing they were to allow the photograph and turn their concerns to how they felt about themselves at that moment: self-consciousness.

It’s an interesting contradiction of themes that send strange and conflicting messages to the sincere student of Street Photography.

I look at this issue two ways ... first and foremost, I'm a photographer in a public place and have the right to photograph anything there no matter how creepy somebody thinks the act of photographing people on the street may be. I would like to point out that I am not creepy nor do I harbor creepy intent. Whether you are particularly photogenic or not I allow you to think I'm creepy that's your right. But the bottom line is you, as a street subject, lost your right to privacy when you entered the public space.*

Secondly, the sincere and serious student of the craft needs to remember that no matter the activity you aspire to your success is based on the quality of your relationships. Including the fleeting relationships of street photography. Sadly, there are photographers who are creepy, whether they have a camera in their possession or not, they're creepy. We all know people like that. Every photographer should understand what creepy is and avoid it. I just ask photographers to do one thing and one thing only:

When you're exercising your public rights to execute your craft, please remember that you represent all of us. All other photographers. Take the work seriously. Take the relationships you create seriously and don't leave a cloud of creep behind.

* One "gotcha" you have to know about is a public space may be privately owned or operated. Example: an outdoor shopping complex. And security may exercise the right of their patron's privacy. That happened to me once ... I still think this may be a stretch.




Nikon D200, 18mm, 1/100 @ f/4, ISO 100, two SB600's shoot-through umbrella camera left 1/8 power, CLS

On a recent trip to Ames, I got the opportunity to visit with my sister who is the proud owner of a 2008 Harley Davidson Softail Deluxe. She just got it a few weeks ago and I had yet to see it. I was in town for a reunion (fodder for another post) and in the midst of our schedule found some time to pay Lauren a visit. We had talked previously and I told her I wanted to make a portrait of her on the motorcycle and thought I could stop by after the reunion dinner.

Things were going fine until I looked up from my cajun pasta and saw the sky let loose with a pretty good downpour. My hopes sunk thinking I would miss the chance to make the portrait. The timing would have been perfect ... the sun going down, I could underexpose the ambient and hit her and the bike with two SB's in a 60" shoot-through; but, the rain! Bummer. I still wanted to see her new toy.

I lingered at dinner a little longer and called letting her know I was going to be a little late. It was still raining when I pulled into her drive but, we were still happy to see each other. We sat and chatted for a little through the cat playing with a pen on the dining-room table and laughed about what little had changed over the years. Time to see the bike.

We went outside where it was still dripping a little but there were some breaks in the clouds and I said, "it's going to stop ... let me throw some equipment together and let's do this shot." The sun was setting pretty fast but I thought we still had plenty of light if we worked fast. I threw two SB 600's into the umbrella, programmed in a few starting point settings and she wheeled the bike into the street. The sky was darkening but great.

My goal was to dampen the ambient to get a rich sky but get enough background detail to maintain context and yet show off the rider and the bike. I think I got it. Lauren and Hazel.


Thanks Kodak ... thanks a lot.


Nikon D200, 70mm, 1/250 @ f/4.5, ISO 100, SB800 reflecting in closed down umbrella camera left 1/8 power, CLS

There's debate around the photog interwebs about "post-processing." Some call it "post." Others refer to it as "re-touching." The debate arises from the premise that the better photographer is the one that gets everything perfect "in camera" (I think that includes zit removal and model releases) and the more someone post-processes their images the lamer-their-photographic-ass. Many are quite fervent in their argument against post-processing. Those people spend too much time wading in trivia when they should be wacking ... well ... their problem is probably a lack of coordination.

Let me just thank Kodak for why we think this way. "You press the button we do the rest." That's what they said. And for years, they successfully suppressed the existence of post-processing to the point that it's been reduced to inexplicable magic ... something the common man would never know!

Now we have digital everything. Someone who says, "I don't post-process ... they come out of the camera that way" marks a really naive amateur or a really lazy professional. Or possibly a really lazy amateur or a really naive professional ... one or the other. Either way, somebody somewhere or something somewhere better be doing the processing ... or you're not "making" pictures.

Shooting Black & White film was liberating! Double exposure! Multi-Contrast paper!!! Rodinol!!! Chemical temperatures, RC Filters and a Gra-Lab timer!!! I could completely lose myself and put hours into the very making of a masterpiece (as my photographing forefathers did). Burning, dodging, pushing, pulling ... and Ansel saw that it was good.

So, now ... people are bitching that post-processing, having become computerized, is some kind of sin. Against whom? Kodak!?! I'll tell ya one thing ... post-processing certainly smells nicer and my water bill is a lot smaller.

To be fair to the argument ... I think their fervor comes from the irresponsible and deliberate manipulation of images that the journalism-consuming public relies on for the truth and that the computer makes it far too easy to be irresponsible. Well ... I'm not a journalist. I do expect them to be truthful and add some credibility to their stories with imagery. But, that's journalism, not photography.

My friends who make the digital switch sometimes ask how I get richer colors and sharp definition in my images. If they're serious about their photography I talk to them about Lightroom and Photoshop. If their photography is personal and they just want to capture memories, I tell them the story about Kodak and let them know about some settings they have in their camera that might help.

Truth be told, somebody has to post-process your images. Either you give a limited responsibility of post-processing to your camera, unlimited to somebody who knows how to post-process or take the responsibility on yourself. Most of us who are serious about the images we make take it on ourselves. We always have; even before Windows for Workgroups 3.11. And, if there was a camera that could do it all for us we wouldn't buy it because it's our responsibility. It is our art.

For those of you arguing otherwise, the bottom line is: only the results matter no matter how you get there ... have a nice day.
"If you're not taking full advantage of the medium, you're not making art." Abraham Lincoln.