Mindless Chatter

Chasing the Total Elipse

The total eclipse was absolutely breathtaking and inspiring. Words really can’t describe the feeling and overwhelming awe of being there, feeling the air on your skin dramatically change, watching the sky all around you go dark, and then suddenly seeing the sun’s white rays burst out from behind the moon in the darkness in an angelic way… it was beautiful!

I’m glad I made the last minute decision to drive the 3 hour route north to see the eclipse in totality. Here at my place in Utah it was going to be 91% which sounded pretty good to me. I debated if that extra 9% would really make much difference. It did.

The local news made a big deal about all the traffic and congestion that would be heading north into Idaho, and their daily talk of armageddon (gas stations dry and store shelves bare) made me want to avoid the crowds and just watch the eclipse near my home.

But the night before, some friends called me to join them on their drive up. They said there wasn’t any traffic and that they had a spot for me in their camp. So excited about the adventure, I loaded up my motorcycle with my bare essentials and some items of preparedness and headed out at 1:00 am to drive through the night. As I got further north, the temperatures dropped to the 50’s, which when going 80 mpg makes it feel like 25º. Freezing. I arrived shortly after 4:00 am, found my friends sleeping under the stars in a farm plot turned makeshift RV park, and I got out my sleeping bag for a few hours of warmth and sleep.

The rising sun in our eyes woke us up and we all greeted each other, made some food, and began setting up to watch the eclipse. I had a sheet of solar film from my friends at Pictureline in Salt Lake, and it was awesome. I had enough film material to cover my camera lens, my binoculars (which were an amazing way to watch), with left over pieces to give to a few close friends for their cameras.

Here a drone shot of us hanging out at camp, watching the eclipse.

As the eclipse progressed, I created a series of photographs that I later combined into this one-piece collage. Since the moment of totality was such a wondrous experience, that image needed to be much larger. And as much as I like this collage, it is just a reminder of the experience. It doesn’t do the real thing justice.

Here are all of the images I did during that procession.

I only took a minimal setup because I was on a motorcycle and hoped to enjoy the event too, not wanting to get bogged down in technology during the wondrous moment. I’m happy with my results, but we met many people at the camp who’d planned for months and years, even coming from out of state for this event. This California man shown below spent years building this elaborate setup, which included multiple computers and analyzers to track the sun and adjust for micro movements. And with all that equipment, he forgot to remove his solar filter to get a photograph of totality because he was so engrossed and blown away by the experience as it was happening. Only afterwards did he realize he forgot to photograph it.

I flew my drone around the area during some down time, and shot the nearby country side and the snake river running right past us.

Then to avoid the horrible traffic being funneled down the only road south to Utah, we instead went bridge diving with some other friends we met up with.

Here’s a video clip of us jumping, shot by flying my drone out above the water.

As it got later, I thought the traffic would be clear enough to go. Plus I wanted to avoid another cold night’s ride home. I packed my bike and headed out an hour and a half ahead of my friends. …and I hit horrible traffic. It took me 7 hours to drive the normal 3 hour route. There were no alternate roads, no turnoffs. Just one long 200 mile road in gridlock. I even got a ticket for what I consider normal motorcycle driving (i.e. passing gridlocked cars).

Nevertheless, I am so happy that I made the drive north to see the eclipse in totality. It was worth the photographs, but more importantly it was worth the experience. The difference in the last few moments (95%) when it just felt dim outside and the sun was still pretty bright without the solar glasses, versus that moment of totality when the sun burst out in a bright angelic way from behind the moon was spectacular. It lasted only a few moments, but it was an incredible experiment that is hard to describe with words.

I’m grateful I’m a photographer and lived close enough to be able to experience such a wonderful moment with dear friends.

And until next time, America.

Updated Studio Portrait for Spring

I’m being featured in a magazine and needed to turn in a headshot, and realized the latest image I had of myself was a year old. Now a year is not that long when you’re an adult. Still, I believe we should all have updated portraits to fill both our business and personal needs.

I’ve talked before about how nobody really likes getting their portraits taken, including me. But that’s also exactly why I focus on creating great portraits of people. And if I want my clients to update their images, I should lead by example and make sure my portrait is always current.

I think it’s important to have current and professional portraits of yourself for business needs and for personal needs too. It wasn’t too long ago when our ancestors would get one or two professional portraits in a lifetime, and they’d save up to do it. Now we can easily come to the studio to get professional portraits regularly, be we often don’t. Instead I see some professionals using the same photograph for what seems like 10 years. Instead of looking “younger” by using old photos, it appears as if they’re sad about their age, or yearn for a distant youthful version of themselves. Rather I think it’s better to be happy and confident about our current stage of life and who we’ve become by having a current and updated studio portrait that reflects that.

And because no one likes being in front of the camera, my biggest job as a photographer is to read people and connect with them, helping them feel comfortable to bring out their real emotion in a portrait while also deciding the best angles and ways to light them. I make it painless and easy. And because business portrait sessions are short, we often have time to look at the images right then. You can see how it went, how good you look, and if you’re concerned about your hair or something, we can shoot more while you’re here. I’ll make sure you get something you love and are proud to use.

So with all that in mind and being the first day of spring, I took some time to photograph myself. I try to change up the ways I light myself. I don’t want to use the same angles and lighting that I know have worked in the past. I want the entire look to be current and new. Here are my three favorites. I’ll live with these for a while and see which ones I use more, but now I’m ready with three current options to send to magazines and speaking events: a color image, one with my toned color nouveau, and a high-contrast black and white, .

 

If you’re a professional and need a great new portrait, give me a call, 801-728-3317.

And if your entire office needs new portraits, I can come to your office and set up a mini studio. That way each person only has to give me 3 minutes of their time, and they’re done. I’ll even pick and retouch the best ones and send the finished images over. No hassle for anyone.

Give me a call. If you’re in the Ogden, Salt Lake City, or Provo areas of Utah, spring is a great time to get some updated portraits.

And until next time, America.

A Christmas Music Message for You

I was wondering what to send out to everyone as part of a Christmas message, and it hit me. Why not something more personal like me and my sister playing some Christmas music?

Every year, my friends and I have a dinner together and host an acoustic night. We invite a small group over, I bring in some sound gear, and perform along with a few others. So this year, I recorded my numbers to share with you all.

This first one is me singing with my sister, ‘O Holy Night.’ We winged this for the first time together as we performed. I printed off some words and chords, and we talked it through before going on (I’ll sing first, then harmony together on chorus, then a harmonica break, then harmony together on verse and chorus once more through). I really liked how it sounded.

For my second number, I got out my tenor sax to play and sing one of my all time favorite jazz and Christmas numbers, ‘Christmas Time is Here.’ It’s a Vince Guaraldi chart written for Charlie Brown.

A few things I have always loved about the original 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas program were the very things CBS hated about it. First, Linus quotes Luke 2, and in a wonderfully moving way too. CBS thought that was just inappropriate. Second, I love all the great jazz music throughout, which CBS considered bar music not to be mixed with a cartoon. And finally, actual children were used to voice the characters which CBS disapproved of, thinking adults should have recorded everything I suppose in an awful baby talk. Thankfully CBS lost, and Charles Schulz got his way, partly because it was too late to change anything. It was an immediate success and became one of the highest rated and most adored Christmas programs ever.

I love watching it and am moved by it still to this day.

(Video note: my camera feed died part the way though, so I did a freeze frame, but the sound continues.)

As a plug for my sister, she recently crossed 1 million spins on Pandora. 🙂 If you’d like to hear more of her music or to get some of her CDs, visit MusicByElise.com

Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed these. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Bry Cox in Glacier National Park at Fall, September 2016

Adobe Spark Page
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I recently returned from a trip to Montana and Glacier National Park with a couple friends. Driving the ‘Road to the Sun’ road, there were too many things for me to want to stop and photograph, so the compromise (if you can call it that because I think it was the best idea ever) was for me to stand up out of the sunroof and photograph as we drove. It was a frigid and cold day, and I loved the cold air blowing against me, the unobstructed 360º view, and the ability to absorb everything and shoot photos.

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And I found it really fun and a creative challenge to shoot motion blur images as we drove. It’s a technique a good friend, Julieanne Kost showed me once while we were riding on a train. She’s absolutely perfected it, and her images are emotional and phenomenal. Here’s a link to her work, JKost.net, and a link to her recent book, Passenger Seat.

And I have more of these images on my Spark page (linked above), but here are a few of my favorites.
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The fog was beautiful at the top of the mountain, perfect for our hike, a 9 mile loop along the Highline trail.
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Normally on this trail you can look down the cliff and see the ‘Road to the Sun’ about 100 feet beneath you. As we started though, we looked down into just fog. It was quite beautiful.

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And the higher and further we got in, the more the fog changed. I shot quite a few panoramas.
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In this image below, you can see the trail close on the left as it hugs the mountain side, and also the road beneath us on the right of the photo.
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On our hike back, you can see the trail cutting along the mountain behind me, and the road down beneath that at the bottom.
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It was an inspiring and awesome adventure. The colder weather made for a great hike and even more gorgeous scenery. The fall leaves were out, and the park’s busy season was over so we had the mountain and our trail practically to ourselves. To see even more photos in a very cool responsive presentation, click the window at the top or click this link.

And if you would like some beautiful fall portraits of either you, your family, or your high school senior, now is the time to get it booked. Here in Utah, the fall colors have hit and we have a very limited time to catch these beautiful colors up the canyons. Lighting is the key to making you look your best, and that’s what I do. Give me a call at 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

My “Company Party” Christmas Card

Merry Christmas, everyone! This year I re-used my previous card because it took so much work to create it originally. It’s a group portrait of me, taken at my company Christmas party.

Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-2-finalChildren especially have told me that they like my cards and can’t figure out how I can be in so many places at once. To see how it was made, check out my original post that explains all of the time-consuming details.

I love that this holiday is about people taking the time to go out and specifically shop for others. It’s a great time for selflessness, and a time to remember the reason for the Savior. I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

The Story Behind My Birthday Portrait, And Our Love/Hate Relationship With Photos

I just had a birthday and like all of us, it reminds me that I’m getting older, I look different – and that’s usually reason enough for people to not get new portraits. In fact photographers don’t like being in front of the camera any more than anyone else. Everyone has the same excuses to put off professional photos: it feels vain, I’ll do it later, I’m getting older, I don’t have time…

No One Likes Being In Front of the Camera

Being a photographer for so many years, I’ve found that actually no one likes being in front of the camera. My clients constantly tell me how much they worry about their upcoming shoots, moms put off family shoots because they worry about how they look, high school seniors fear their shyness or other weaknesses might show, beautiful models are more critical of themselves that you can even imagine, and even famous VIP clients confide in me about their various concerns.

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My biggest job as a photographer is to help my clients feel comfortable and to bring out their real emotion in a portrait. I don’t want fake looks, I want real expression that I can light in an exquisite way. That’s why I say my specialty is exquisite lighting and emotion – you need both for a fantastic portrait. And because I believe that my clients should get regular portraits, I too try to create regular professional portraits of myself. I personally use these for my website, for magazine articles I write, and for when I go speak at conventions to train photographers. Sure I could do what a lot of people do and send a 10-year-old photo, but I really dislike when I see others do that. It looks unprofessional and is says that you’re embarrassed with yourself now and that you deep down really wished that you looked like you did back then.

That’s unhealthy. We should be happy with ourselves right now. But we’re bombarded with ads, creams, and magic serums telling us that we shouldn’t be happy with ourselves. The old hippie mantra was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” as if to say that our elders are stupid, life experience made you wrong, and that youth was the answer. And decades later the media is full of pop musicians, models, tv shows, and movies all staking a claim on “youth.”

So what’s wrong with being the age we are? What’s wrong with lines and wrinkles that we earned? What’s with Hollywood actors always pretending to be characters 15 years younger than they are, like 40 year olds saying they’re 25, or 30 year olds pretending to be high school teens with silly haircuts?

The truth is that in a few years we’ll look back to how we look now and think how great we looked, meaning we should enjoy how we look now.

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Our Ancestors Valued Portraits

It wasn’t too long ago when our ancestors would scrimp and save to get one or two great professional portraits in a lifetime. These would be professionally printed physical heirlooms that would be passed down through generations and people would fight over who got to inherit great-grandpa’s portrait. Even today we run into burning buildings to save important photos and family archives.

But lately we’ve moved into an era of digital-snapshot-proliferation, where every device is a camera, no image is very good, few images are printed well if even printed at all, and we’re overwhelmed online with bad, egocentric selfies – often from the exact same angle and with the same annoying cocked-head and unattractive pouty duck-face. All this makes people worry that a professional portrait means that “we’re in love with ourselves,” which isn’t true at all.

Plus add all the new untrained photographers flooding our feeds with sub-par, over-retouched, washed out, puffy-eyed, “natural-light” photos that are to some young people becoming the new norm – just like the awful sound of Auto-Tune in trendy pop music which is indicative of bad signing.

I care about this industry. And despite the devaluation of photos is some areas, I still believe in the actual importance of a good, well-made professional portrait, and that it’s good for the soul.

A Good Professional Portrait IS Good for the Soul

What Are We Passing on to Our Children? How many times do we wish we had a better portrait of someone that we loved but lost? Maybe it was a relative that passed away or maybe it was someone we cared about that is no longer in our lives. When we get portraits done, it’s often for our closest loved ones.

But a great portrait isn’t just valuable later and to other people, it’s good for us right now. A good portrait that is well lit and masterfully retouched and void of all the artificial rubbery-skin looks, is good for the soul. It’s good for your own self-worth.

Testimonials From Mothers and Single Women

I could share countless stories from mothers who’ve told me that the portraits I did for their high school senior child changed how they felt about themselves. Girls walked taller and boys found more confidence because I portrayed them in ways they couldn’t see before in themselves. I can tell you stories of older women that have gotten married and thanked me for the attention they got on Facebook and dating sites.

I’ve photographed children in foster care who avoided eye contact and smiling, kids sometimes with severe issues of self-worth that have never had a good portrait of themselves, that later get soggy eyes when they see their finished, framed image on display. You can see the gears turning in their head as they come to terms with the fact that they are perceived differently than they see themselves internally, and they’ll say, “That’s me?! …….That’s Me!!”

And moms have given me big hugs after I hung their family wall portraits in their home, because they are so stunned at how great they look surrounded by their closest loved ones. It’s a big change from before the shoot when they are stressed about their hips, their clothes and countless other things.

A well-made portrait is good for the soul. Why? Think of the all-to-common alternative. How do you feel about yourself when your so-called “professional” picture is only deemed viewable by the public after your “photographer” has over-retouched you until you have a plastic, pore-less, rubber face? Or when they whiten your eyes so that you look like a weird alien that is going to shoot lasers out of your eyes and start fires, or when they “liquify” and bend your body to change your boobs or arm shape? What does that say about you? How do you feel when you look at it, knowing that it isn’t you at all?

Come in to my studio and get a real professional portrait that you absolutely love. I’m a Master Photographer and use specific lighting techniques that will accentuate the right things and hide the things you worry about. You’ll be amazed at how great you look before I do any retouching. I want you to have regular portraits from throughout your life that you love, and that your future children and grandchildren will fight over when we’re all dead and gone.

My 2015 Birthday Portrait

And because I believe so strongly in portraits, I make myself get portraits regularly. It’s not always fun at first, but I’m always grateful afterwards.

So this last week I set up my studio for the lighting I envisioned. Being an older guy I wanted an aggressive angle that would accentuate wrinkles and skin texture, not hide it. And being fall outside, I shot myself in the clothes I happen to be wearing, including my Black Rapid snow cap (a gift from the owner of Black Rapid from earlier in the year). I was wearing the cap just prior and opted to just leave it on because I thought it was different than my past photos, and I was also being lazy, knowing that I didn’t want to comb my hair or overthink the shoot too much.

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I shot about a dozen images because I can’t see exactly how the light is working when I’m not behind the camera, I have to imagine it. So I shot a few more than I thought I’d need and from those I narrowed it down to these two as my favorites. I think they’ll work well with my new website that I’m working on, but more than that I’m really happy with the photos and am excited to use them, as we all should be with professional photos.

So if you’re in need of some great new portraits (and I know you are) either of yourself or your family, let’s get them done now for Christmas, and beat the Christmas rush. Call me at 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

BlackRapid Motorcycle Ride 2015

For two weeks, BlackRapid (maker of the coolest and fastest camera straps) is on a motorcycle tour of the backcountry of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and California as part of their #livethemoment mantra.

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The night before the ride, they used my place to setup and prep for the next morning. And I have to admit that I really liked having these cool bikes in my driveway and parked in my garage for the night.BryCox_BlackRapid_01

The next morning we had a 70% chance of rain so we trailered some bikes behind the BlackRapid support van while Mike Ridinger and I rode our bikes and we headed out to Pictureline in Salt Lake City for some strap giveaways. BryCox_BlackRapid_04

Here’s a closeup of BlackRapid founder and owner, Ron Henry, his wife Shawna, and my good friend Mike Ridinger, a serious and long-time biker.BryCox_BlackRapid_06

Here’s a shot I took of Mike as we rode into Salt Lake City that morning, with storm clouds looming around us, and a bit of light rain.© BryCox.com, Bry Cox

Once we arrived at Pictureline, the sky cleared up. Even the weather apps changed to show better weather. Here, the BlackRapid team set up and gave away straps for a few hours, answered questions, and let people try out the straps with their own cameras.BryCox_BlackRapid_08

Then by early afternoon we headed south towards Moab. I had to be back for appointments the next day, so I just rode for the day with the team. We had wet roads most of the way, got a little rain, but never anything too bad. In fact we watched heavy storms pass to the right, the left, in front and behind, but never right on us. Here is Ron on his Harley.

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Mike on his chopper. BryCox_BlackRapid_12

And yes, these were taken one-handed as I rode, using a BlackRapid strap. I didn’t look through the camera obviously, just held it out and shot guessing by instinct on the composition. I really like this one below with my handlebars and Mike and Ron in the distance.© BryCox.com, Bry Cox

Here’s Shawna on my bike during a gas break.BryCox_BlackRapid_09

Part of the fun of being on a bike is that you are out in the environment, you feel everything, smell everything, and you see the entire sky, and not just the frame of a sky through a car window. And the sky that day with the storm clouds was unbelievable. © BryCox.com, Bry Cox

We were always seeing storms to the side and behind us, smelling the rain, feeling the wind, but never a huge downpour on us. Here’s an iPhone pic I took of our bikes with the support van as we watched a storm to our left and one in front as well blow by.BryCox_BlackRapid_16

Here’s Mike with that storm in the distance, sporting a small BlackRapid strap for his point-and-shoot.BryCox_BlackRapid_17

Below is an image of another great storm to our side, and the clouds and light were perfect. Mike pulled over to shoot it and I had to do the same.

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I took one of it too with my iPhone so I’d have something to post to social media accounts that day as we were riding. This is one of my favorite iPhone images from the day.

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And this rainbow was to our left as we approached Moab.

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After reaching Moab, we ate dinner and I as they settled in to camp, I got back on my bike and headed home so I’d be back for my appointments the next day.

Well that is just DAY 1, and for me it was a 550 mile ride round-trip ride. But the BlackRapid team will be riding for two weeks and you can follow the trip on BlackRapid’s social media accounts, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as Mike’s Instagram and Facebook account.

And if you’d like to see what I posted from my phone (besides this blog post) they’re on my iPhone Instagram account as well as to my personal Facebook page, using #BlackRapidMotorcycle2015.

Until next time, America.

How I Created My Christmas Card, A Group Portrait of Me

For many years I’ve done group portraits as my company Christmas card, always a group of just me as if it’s taken at my own company’s Christmas party. And because I personally see each job through from beginning to end, I wear a few different hats and the card has become a growing joke, getting better each year. Well here is my card and how I created it.

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Clients, especially children that come in are always asking me how I shoot my group photos of myself, so I decided to share with you my process.

First I mapped out the entire shot, and decided on which images I’d need, where the various people would be positioned throughout the image. I needed depth, but didn’t want anyone in front of anyone else. I even have three people tied together with garland, all handing each other the same strand. It all has to look real and work. Each person had to be working together naturally, and that meant thinking about how the angles and lighting should be.

Once it was mapped out, I began photographing the pieces. I started with my studio/home. I needed to use open area of the front and didn’t want it covered with the cedar fence and line of trees in front. So I used a wide angle up close to get the entire home in the shot without the fence and trees you’d see from the street. This gives me the best angle on the place but causes bending on the vertical lines, that I will fix later.

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Next I photographed my folks’s tree in their home. My mom always puts together the best tree.Cox_Christmas2013-114

Then back at the studio I photographed each remaining part on my fashion gray background so that they could be extracted easier. Extractions are not easy nor fast, but a solid gray background makes it easier at least.

To fit a large ladder in the studio on gray, I chose my smallest ladder, and doubled the size of the legs digitally, adjusting too for the perspective of the steps. I then photographed each version of myself, imagining where each would be positioned in the final image, but used the same step on the ladder to stand so that I’d fit in the studio shot.Cox_Christmas2013-groupEach photograph was fired with a remote that I am hiding in one of my hands. For instance, in the shovel image, I’m holding the remote up against the shovel’s handle. Once I’m in position, I fire the shot. After each shot, I change clothes, set up the next image, and shoot again.

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After all the camera work, the digital work begins. I started with the individual versions of me, each extracted off the gray background and placed in the shot where they were mapped out. The ladder was also extended taller, being key to making sure all the other people were in the right spots and in proper perspective.

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Slowly the group began to grow, and the star was added in the hand on top.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1c

Then I extracted the tree off the living room background and prepped it.

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The tree was brought in and more details were brought together.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1d

 

Then to the background. I corrected the vertical lines, and the image was cropped to fit the final piece.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1e

I then created snow from scratch and added it throughout, fading out the home as well for a misty look and to keep the background from being too busy and competing visually with the foreground.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1f

The background was added to the crowd, and more details were added like sparkles on the Christmas tree’s lights.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1g

Once the background was in, people needed to be moved slightly on the right side to work better with the background. Once they were in place, shadows were drawn in so that each person and object cast a shadow that matched the lighting from the sun behind. Each point of contact with the snow was then painted up close so as to “drop” everyone into the snow so they didn’t look like they were on top. That, along with creating custom shadows, help give the final piece a more 3D look and not a flat, fake look. There’s much more I could do to make it look real, but a little of that fake look will help with the comedy effect.

The star was also given a nice sparkle. More snow was added around the edges to create a natural white vignette to keep the focus inside the image, and the tree’s trunk was finished as well.

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Finally, I used one of my custom edges to finish the piece, added the text, and the legend of who everyone is at the bottom. And the finishing touch as always, is adding my signature, in this case in the bottom left.

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So what’s your guess on how long it took to complete this project? All in all, it took about 23 hours including both the camera and digital designing time, and that doesn’t count working with the printer and mailing company to get it all out to each of you. Hopefully when it comes, it brings a smile to your face. If your address has changed, let me know so that I can update it for the next mailing I send out.

I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

Official Birthday Photo

Today’s my birthday, and I’m spending the day with friends cramming in the fun, including shooting guns in the canyon and eating out.

As I was making my party invite on Facebook, I realized I needed an awesome photo. I had the thought of making a satirical cover image typical of 80’s style action novels and movie posters. I thought about it in my mind and quickly whipped up this image and had it posted on the invite.

And because I want more people to see it than those few friends on the invite, I’m posting it to my blog today. I hope you get as much of a kick out of it as I had making it.

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And because the resolution of the web is low, here’s a vertical crop so you can see more detail.Cox_BCox41Bday-135b-composite-2-900b

Well, I hope you all are having a great day today too. And until next time, America.

Kendra Lowe Featured on Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Blog

My friend Kendra Lowe is featured today on the Mormon Tabernacle Choir blog. The opening photo is the image I created for her, to be used in exactly this way, for musical bios and write-ups.

It’s quite an honor for her to be featured by the choir, as it is world-famous. Founded in 1947, it is a 360-member, all-volunteer choir, part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Called “America’s Choir” by President Ronald Reagan, the choir is completely self-funded, recording albums for support.

Kendra has performed with the Choir before, and on June 24, 2014 Kendra will accompany David Archuleta for a worldwide live Facebook chat.

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Kendra is a good friend of mine and a great musician. She’s a full time composer, arranger, and performer, and she plays multiple instruments like the piano, banjo, and violin exceptionally well. She has perfect pitch, she performed with the Utah Symphony at age 6, was the Assistant Executive Director of Utah’s Stadium of Fire show, toured with David Archuleta (of American Idol fame), and is a constant studio musician.

We really had a great time during this photo shoot and the image above is one of my favorites from the shoot. In fact, I actually posted about this shoot on my blog at the time and you can see it here, but here are some of my other favorites.

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If you need something more than the normal photograph, and instead desire some iconic images that also tell a story of who you are, then give me a call. I’d love to create something wonderful for you. 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

 

 

 

How I Created My New Christmas Card, A Self Group Portrait

My Christmas Card is out and in the mail. If you haven’t seen my past Christmas cards, for the last few years they’ve all been group portraits of me, but in the studio. My idea is that it’s a funny company group photo from my own Christmas party. My clients know that because of the custom work that I do, I personally see each job through from beginning to end, which also means that I wear a few different hats. The card is a growing joke, and each time I’ve done it a little better. But this time I really wanted to out-do myself!

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Clients, especially children that come in are always asking me how I shoot my group photos of myself, so I decided to share with you my process.

First I mapped out the entire shot, and decided on which images I’d need, where the various people would be positioned throughout the image. I needed depth, but didn’t want anyone in front of anyone else. I even have three people tied together with garland, all handing each other the same strand. It all has to look real and work. Each person had to be working together naturally, and that meant thinking about how the angles and lighting should be.

Once it was mapped out, I began photographing the pieces. I started with my studio/home. I needed to use open area of the front and didn’t want it covered with the cedar fence and line of trees in front. So I used a wide angle up close to get the entire home in the shot without the fence and trees you’d see from the street. This gives me the best angle on the place but causes bending on the vertical lines, that I will fix later.

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Next I photographed my folks’s tree in their home. My mom always puts together the best tree.Cox_Christmas2013-114

Then back at the studio I photographed each remaining part on my fashion gray background so that they could be extracted off the background easier. Extractions are not easy nor fast, but a solid gray background makes it easier at least.

To fit a large ladder in the studio on gray, I chose my smallest ladder, and doubled the size of the legs digitally, adjusting too for the perspective of the steps. I then photographed each version of myself, imagining where each would be positioned in the final image, but used the same step on the ladder to stand so that I’d fit in the studio shot.Cox_Christmas2013-groupEach photograph was fired with a remote that I am holding with one of my hands. For instance, in the shovel image, I’m holding the remote up against the shovel’s handle. Once I’m in position, I fire the shot. After each shot, I change clothes, set up the next image, and shoot again.

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After all the camera work, the digital work begins. I started with the individual versions of me, each extracted off the gray background and placed in the shot where they were mapped out. The ladder was also extended taller, being key to making sure all the other people were in the right spots and in proper perspective.

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Slowly the group began to grow, and the star was added in the hand on top.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1c

Then I extracted the tree off the living room background and prepped it.

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The tree was brought in and more details were brought together.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1d

 

Then to the background. I corrected the vertical lines, and the image was cropped to fit the final piece.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1e

I then created snow from scratch and added it throughout, fading out the home as well for a misty look and to keep the background from being too busy and competing visually with the foreground.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1f

The background was added to the crowd, and more details were added like sparkles on the Christmas tree’s lights.Cox-Christmas-2013-Card-Design-1g

Once the background was in, people needed to be moved slightly on the right side to work better with the background. Once they were in place, shadows were drawn in so that each person and object cast a shadow that matched the lighting from the sun behind. Each point of contact with the snow was then painted up close so as to “drop” everyone into the snow so they didn’t look like they were on top. That, along with the shadows, help give the final piece a more 3D look and not a flat, fake look. There’s much more I could do to make it look real, but a little of that fake look will help with the comedy effect.

The star was also given a nice sparkle. More snow was added around the edges to create a natural white vignette to keep the focus inside the image, and the tree’s trunk was finished as well.

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Finally, I used one of my custom edges to finish the piece, added the text, and the legend of who everyone is at the bottom. And the finishing touch as always, is adding my signature, in this case in the bottom left.

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So what’s your guess on how long it took to complete this project? All in all, it took about 23 hours including both the camera and digital designing time, and that doesn’t count working with the printer and mailing company to get it all out to each of you. Hopefully when it comes, it brings a smile to your face. If your address has changed, let me know so that I can update it for the next mailing I send out.

I hope all of you have a joyous season with family and loved ones. Merry Christmas!!

And until next time, America.

James Conee Album Cover, Stand Like A Mountain

My friend James Conlee has recorded a new single, Stand Like A Mountain, and it was just released on iTunes. Here is the photography and cover that I produced for him for this song.

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To help launch the song, James created this YouTube video which has already had over 31,000 hits! He mixes time-lapse photography of mountains with his song for a very cool mix, and notice how the northern lights hit at minute 3:35 right at the crescendo. View it out below…

And to purchase the single, you can get it on iTunes here:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/stand-like-a-mountain-single/id737895528

Make sure you check out his other single, Until also available on iTunes (or both are also on Amazon too).

Enjoy, and until next time America.