Thoughts

BlackRapid Motorcycle Tour of Utah (part 1)

We recently had the BlackRapid Motorcycle Tour of Utah, and it started here at my home studio. Photographers from around the country came for a week of touring the backroads of Utah via motorcycles.

I do a lot of commercial work for BlackRapid, and have long loved the brand, and the camera straps the company makes. If you’re a photographer, make sure you check them out. They’re by far the most comfortable and versatile strap I’ve used.

Ron Henry, the founder of the company put on the event and I’m happy he did. I had gotten used to the Covid life and could feel the change and a feeling of relaxation when I saw all these cool bikes lined up in my driveway.

We headed out and met in Salt Lake to gather the rest of the group and begin our ride south through the 90-100º heat towards Moab in southern Utah.

Though some photographers cancelled due to Covid and some couldn’t make it across boarders, the photographers that came were a great group of guys. The size was perfect, and we took this group shot before heading out. The photographers are from left to right:

On the long ride to Moab through the heat, I took a few photos with my iPhone during some of the long stretches of highway.

Though we posted iPhone images along the way to social media, my favorite way to create images is with an actual camera. But for things like this, I don’t like taking my high-end professional gear. Though I’d get the best possible photographic images if I did, instead I take a small and compact camera with manual controls. It takes up less space, I’m not worried about it getting broken or lost, and I know the images I’m creating with it are going to work out and give me the highest resolution and bit-depth possible for it’s small size.

If I want to make prints large or small, or even crop, edit, or zoom into an image, I’ve got the quality to do so.

Once in Moab Utah, we got our hotels secured, unpacked our bikes and then headed out to ride through Arches National Park for the latter part of the day.

The sun low in the sky, made for some dramatic light and shadows on these gorgeous red rock formations. We’d ride a ways, stop, chat, and take photos, …then ride some more, just soaking everything in.

A motorcycle is a great way to be in this environment. In a car you can’t look up or around, nor can you feel the air change you pass different vegetation or go from sun to shade. On a motorcycle you’re in it all and you feel it.

As Robert Pirsig says in his great book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:

“In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”

At one point we stopped to watch the sun go down behind a formation, but the setting sun created some beautiful light on us and the formation behind us.

The great thing about traveling with photographers is that we all are on the same artistic journey – we all want to stop and take photograph along the way. When we travel with other groups, we feel pulled to go in different directions or stop and take photos and enjoy some particular scenery, but no one else wants to. It means leaving the group, which is hard to do.

Here, if someone wanted to pull over to photograph something, we’d all pull over and just enjoy the moment and look to see what that particular photographer was seeing.

As the sun set below the horizon, we rode the curvy roads out of the park, through the dark and warm summer air, back to the small town of Moab for dinner. It was a great first day on the moto tour of Utah, and there’s much more I have to share coming up in part 2. The next day we did some awesome day rides and took some great photographs. That will all be coming soon in the next part of this series.

But in the meantime, if you’re on Instagram get a peak of our iPhone images by following the hashtag, #BlackRapidMoto2020.

And until next time, America.

After a Blog Hiatus, I’m Back

Everything has been so weird in the world, I haven’t felt like blogging and posting photos, yet each week I’ve thought about it because I’ve had so many cool shoots I’ve wanted to share – both during and from before all this craziness in the world.

Covid and shutdowns has affected weddings, family portraits, pretty much every shoot I had scheduled. Almost everything has been cancelled and even my speaking and training events for photographers have all cancelled.

One wedding that I did photograph recently became a small and quite amazing garden wedding in the yard with just immediate family. I’ve often been amazed at all the money people spend on weddings over the years on areas that I myself don’t value as much. I know that photography is the most important thing and should be a bigger part of the budget because it’s the only thing we keep when the wedding is over. It’s our memories of the day in an artistic form.

So many other expenses seem to be about impressing all the guests in attendance, and one good thing about the Covid weddings are that people are saving money and only getting what they really care about.

This recent wedding was a perfect example. It was serene and perfect. It was in the family’s gorgeous yard with their immediate family, and they had me come do some amazing photography. And the images are fantastic! I hope to share some of them soon on this blog.

I’ve created portraits for the occasional high school senior during this time too. Seniors currently value great photography, particularly because everything else in their senior year has been cancelled – their dances, senior trips, all their plans that they’ve looked forward to are gone. So creating an album of wonderful images for them to document this point in life has been important. I’ll share some of these shoots soon too.

I feel grateful to have the commercial work that I’ve had during this time too. Because of other things being cancelled, I’ve been able to spend more time on certain commercial clients and it has kept money coming in.

Thank you to everyone who’s made orders large and small, like reprints from past family portraits to new shoots, albums, and other things. I appreciate every order and every chance to make something amazing for people.

So to kick off my next blog entry, I’ll share something completely different. I’m going to share photographs from a recent motorcycle trip through Utah. It was a great chance to get away and enjoy a sense of normal life again.

“Soft Rain” by Janet Cox (My Mom)

My mom wrote this song, “Soft Rain” a few years before I was born. She wrote it on her ukulele and my dad arranged it for choir and orchestra. I grew up hearing it all the time. Besides singing it as kids, we’d constantly be invited to hear choirs across the valley perform it.

I really love this song, and our beautiful Utah spring weather has made various people post about this song online this week. So my sister took a recording from the 1970s by the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus, created this video, and posted it to her YouTube.

There are two windows to the outside world: the version given to us through screens (TV, news, movies, social media), and our actual windows to the outside. The messages are completely different from both views. The first tells us to worry, have fear, and creates anxiety. The second is much more positive. Being outside, talking with our friends and neighbors, and being involved in our community creates a far more positive view of the world.

So being spring time, and knowing that we all need something beautiful and positive today while we’re all in quarantine, here’s this song my mom wrote, called “Soft Rain.”

And until next time, America.

Joe McQueen Passes Away at 100 Years Old

Famous Utah sax player and friend to many of us, Joe McQueen has passed away at 100 years old. Many musicians of course know Joe here in Utah. But those who follow my blog may know him from these recognizable portraits I’d done of him a few years ago.

For his 100 year birthday, I’d recently helped his Baptist church congregation in putting together a book on his life. And they had me play sax at his birthday party too. For that event, I made up these two videos.

Here’s the video clip of performing at his birthday party in June.

Recently, my dad and I had dinner with Joe and some other friends of his from church. He was in great spirits and has kept a busy schedule gigging, even at 100. He was always blessed with health, talent, and was a friend to so many people. At his last birthday, it was inspiring to hear so many people talk about how their lives were changed by Joe.

I’m grateful for the time I had to get to know him. He inspired many people in many areas of life, and his friendship has led to other dear friends for which I’m grateful.

I know he’s playing his sax and feeling young and free in heaven.

It’s my Birthday & Time for an Updated Portrait

After years of being a photographer, one of the biggest hurdles I’ve noticed for clients is that they stress about getting new portraits done. I understand that. Everyone has the same excuses to put off professional photos: I’m getting older, I don’t like how I look right now, I don’t have time, it feels vain, I’ll do it later, etc.

So to set the example, and for the mental exercise of doing it, I update my portrait each year. I use my use my birthday as the reminder and catalyst to create something new. I think it’s important to keep your portrait up to date, no matter what.

Many times a client will show me their website, and their business headshot is 5-10 years old. It looks dated, and nothing like them. And I speak and train photographers around the country as a PPA Master Photographer / Photographic Craftsman. Even amongst photographers, it’s not uncommon to see them using old headshots. So of all people, we as photographers should get and show updated portraits.

So for my new portrait, I wanted to try something new this year. I decided to do everything the opposite of my last one. Normally I’m smiling in my images, so I instead I’m serious. Normally as people get older, I photograph them with softer light to hide wrinkles, so for this I did sharp specular light to highlight wrinkles, lines, and textures. Normally headshots are close up, and so this time it’s full length. And normally I do a clean white or fashion gray for headshots, so this time I used a dark, hand-painted, Oliphant-style background that I got in California from DBC Backdrops. Normally a headshot is bright and airy, this time it’d be darker tones and moody.

After setting up the equipment and metering the lighting, I shot a few options both standing and sitting using a hand-held remote to fire the camera. These were my favorites. The artistic side of me often has to live with something for a bit to see how I like it, and so far I am really liking these. They are completely different from my last ones.


And I have another self-portrait to reveal on my birthday. I wanted to do a fun image of me, riding my motorcycle by standing on it, while driving through an exposition, shooting a gun, and waving the American flag. It would be over-the-top enough to be funny and entertaining, but also artistic and well-done down to the tiniest details. I’d do it just like a commercial art piece for a client.

For commercial work, sometimes a shot is impossible to get. In those cases I’ll create illustrative composites – multiple images combined into one impossible-to-create image. These digital composites are surreal worlds that don’t really exist. It’s a complex process, but first the idea is mapped out, then a series of photographs are created of each piece matching lighting throughout, then those parts are painstakingly blended together into one final art piece.

I love how it turned out. It’s comical and fun, but the attention to detail (like the shadows, lighting, and blending) all look great, especially up close.

Portraits should be fun. The creation process should be enjoyable and memorable. If you get them as custom wall art that you see every day, then those portraits should make you happy when you see them. We shouldn’t put off getting portraits either. I’m a believer that we should have current portraits that we love, whether you’re single, married, have kids or not, you should have a portrait that represents this time of life in a beautiful, artistic, and uplifting way.

If you’d like a new headshot or even some new family portraits, it’s a great time to come in. The studio gives us a lot of artistic options, but there’s still some fall left to do something outdoors too. Give me a call at 801-728-3317.

And until next time, America.

I Love Portraits Because I Love People

The magic of a photograph is unlike anything else. 

I specialize in portraits of people. I love people – I love children. Each child is beautiful and unique, and I love that I’ve been trusted with capturing who each child truly is. 

The most important thing in life are family and relationships. We’re all terribly busy and we have problems and issues. But getting together for a moment, to create a family portrait is important. Loved ones pass away, or go off to far away places. There really is no better time than right now. 

I connect well with children, because they see me as a big kid. They know I care about them and understand them. I know just how to get them to relax, smile, and look beautiful in a portrait. 

I am one of the most credentialed and award winning photographers around, so besides getting great expressions, your portraits will be beautifully lit and composed, and gorgeously printed and framed. 

But more than anything, you’ll be able to look at this portrait throughout your life and see and remember the togetherness and relationships of your family and loved ones. 

That’s what I do – I do it with light, with emotion, and with quality all the way through. 

If you’d like to see more of my portrait work, check out my main website at BryCox.com. And give me a call at 801-728-3317 and let’s talk about your next portrait of either you, a loved one, or your family.

Merry Christmas from BryCox.com

Merry Christmas!! I love this time of year and right now I’m finishing up the last of everyone’s Christmas orders and making deliveries.

If you’d like something made up for Christmas, let me know in the next couple days so that I can get your order done too.

Aside from gift size prints like 8x10s and 11x14s which I can make up quickly for you, here are a couple last minute ideas too. I can take a photograph from a past session, and create some beautiful ornaments. These are nice to give a family member or to decorate your own tree.

brycox_photochristmasornaments_01

I have two types of ornaments, framed and unframed. The unframed metal and wood ornaments (like the ones above) are great for children or family portraits. They are $45.

The boutique framed ornaments are ready to hang with a brown twine loop. These are especially nice because after Christmas they can also be hung on a wall year round. These are $69. In both cases I can ship these directly to you too, to save time during this last week before Christmas.

BryCox_ornaments

Call me at 801-728-3317 and I’ll get your order going. Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Utah!

It’s a white Christmas here in Utah. And last night I dreamed that I flew my drone around and edited a short video showing the white Christmas and all the snow. I woke up and realized that was a fun idea, so I did just that.

And one of my favorite parts is the shot over the church showing all the donuts in the parking lot. It means people on their way to see family had to stop and drive some donuts and enjoy the snow before continuing down the road. Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas, Santa Pictures of My Nephew’s Kindergarten Class

Earlier this week my little nephew had a Christmas party in his kindergarten class. My sister was in charge of it and arranged for her husband to be dressed as Santa, and to show up during the games to read a story. She also arranged for me to be there with a full photo studio set up in the hallway, so we could do individual portraits of each child with Santa.

I created a custom layout of golden snowflakes along with the teacher’s name and year at the bottom, and we got some beautiful prints made up to present to each child the next day. It was a total hit. It was a fun way to donate some time and talent to make some kids happy.

During the party, the teacher would bring one child at a time into the hallway. Then they would each have a small but endearing conversation with Santa and then get their portrait done. In fact, kids from other classes got word that Santa was in the building, and many little faces continued to peak out from classrooms all down the hallway.

For privacy reasons, I can’t post the pictures of the cute little faces I photographed, but they were each adorable and the images turned out great.

So being Christmas Eve, I will share this one image I did of just my sister and her husband before I packed up all my gear.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing holiday. And I hope you all can spend time with family and loved ones.

And until next time, America.

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.