The One With You

My name is Rob, and I don't always use the best tool for the job.

More often than not, when I'm travelling for work I like to camp. Camping is cheap, and sitting around a campfire is one of my most favorite things.

Wednesday night I stayed at a place called Sherling Lake.  The campground was chosen out of necessity. It was the closest spot, nearly an hour south, to Montgomery that I could find. And, Montgomery was where I needed to be Thursday morning.

Much to my delight, the place was gorgeous. The primitive sites where I was camped out were largely out of view of the RV parking, and just up the hill from the lake.

Sherling Lake

After having been on the road all day, the last thing on my mind was hiking down to the lake. But, I knew I'd kick myself if I didn't at least walk down there to see what could be seen.

When I got down there, I knew there was a picture to be taken. I wandered around a bit before I found the angle I wanted.

I proceed to trudge my way back up the hill to grab a camera. I decided when I got back to camp that I wasn't gonna lug my big heavy DSLR and tripod down and back up that hill again.

It was a steep hill! Don't judge!

I walked back down with my cell phone and took the above image.

That brings me to my point. The best camera is the one you have with you.

Even if it's a cell phone. Even if you have a full-frame DSLR a few hundred yards away. 

As long as it's functional, and you have a vision, you can wind up with something worth sharing.

I Got Worked

My name is Rob, and I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 14, and headed to dinner with the rest of the indoor drumline from Grissom High School. I managed to score a ride with Kevin, our new drum tech. All of us looked up to him - because he had just finished his summer touring with Phantom Regiment, and he was a hard-ass, and he could play, and he was teaching us things we never thought we'd learn.

As it would turn out, he showed me something on that car ride that would change my musical tastes to this very day. He put an album called "Music" into the CD player and immediately skipped to track 5 - entitled 'Unity'. It was hard, and loud, and aggressive, and had some metric modulation like I'd never heard before. Transitioning to the chorus, the feel changes from duple to triple while the 1/8 note stays constant. You'd swear the tempo changes if you're not in the know.

If you're not in the know, that track belongs to a band called 311. Two weeks later, I purchased my first, and their latest, album - the self-titled '311'.

It was safe to say I was hooked. I got my hands all of the albums released up to that point, including two never officially released albums 'Omaha Sessions' and 'Unity'. And since, I've purchased every album they've released.

311 has a bit of a cult following, and you wouldn't be wrong in making the assumption that I'm part of it. There are currently 169 different tracks on my phone that I listen to on a regular basis.

Now, you might see why I was so stoked to score a photo pass to the show that took place last Thursday, assuming you read my article You Get Worked.

When the day of the concert arrived, I emailed my contact to make sure I was to have a photo pass waiting for me at will-call. I received a response saying everything was taken care of.

When I arrived at the venue, and approached the will-call window, there was no pass.


When I informed the lady behind the counter that the pass was supposed to be left for me by someone from the band, her attitude changed from Yeah, buddy, nice try to Hold on, let me go get someone for you.

Just seconds later, a weathered roadie came out and introduced himself, asking who left the pass for me.

I told him it was Peter Raspler, the press contact, as I was pulling out my phone to show him the series of emails exchanged between the two of us.

He then disappeared, and again, just seconds later, popped back out with a wrist band for me.


Making my way through the crowd filled with avid 311 t-shirt wearing fans to the front the stage, it started to hit me.DSC_7308

I'm here, in a semi-official capacity, to photograph my favorite band of all time. Holy crap. Holy Crap! HOLY CRAP!

There was ample room for me, and the two other photographers, to move about in front of the stage. One photog worked for the venue, the other for The Tennessean. They both looked at me like I'd grown two heads when I told them I was just there for fun. I guess getting ahold of a photo pass for just being a fan isn't all that common after all.

I spent the next 20 minutes chatting with people in the front row, explaining that, yes, I really did just ask for a pass and that's why I'm here. I even gave one guy a camera recommendation.

I wasn't ready, when Nick, Tim, P-Nut, S.A. and Chad finally took to the stage. I just sorta stood there, slack-jawed, still almost in disbelief that I was there.


They opened with 'Jackpot', my head nodding involuntarily within the first few notes. If you pay attention to the chorus, it's entirely too fitting that they chose this track to play first.

What are the chances? The odds must be enhanced. It's a wild card that you threw. Of all the places to end up, it amazes me.

By the time the hi-hats came in, I snapped to it. Time to work!

I was only allowed access to the photo pit for the first three songs. I left the area with 220 images.

After vacating the photo pit, I headed for the handicapped seating area. It was a little elevated portion of the venue that the house photographer told me about.

After dismissing the security guard questioning my presence by pointing at the $5000 piece of equipment hanging around my neck, and looking at her like Of course I'm supposed to be here! What are you? Crazy?, I continued snapping away at every opportunity.

I managed to pair down the 771 shots I took to just over 40, which can be seen here.

It might just be that the folks in the photos are relatively famous, but I feel like this has been my best concert work so far. Evidently, Peter from 311 management agrees because I'll have another pass waiting for me at the show in Atlanta in July.

I can't wait.



Indecent Exposure Part One

My name is Rob, and math is a part of my job. As promised, I'm going to school you on the exposure triangle. This is the first of four posts in a three part series on the exposure triangle. I'll talk about the three elements that determine the exposure of an image - ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed.

But before we jump into the first element we need to know a thing or two about "stops"

A stop is a term used in photography to describe an amount of light - the exposure value. Stops are a difficult thing to wrap your head around until you've been tinkering with a camera for a while. Think of them as units of exposure for an image, and they work on a logarithmic scale. That is to say, if you increase the exposure of an image by one stop, you've added double the amount of light - increase it by two stops, you get quadruple the amount of light. Subsequently, if you decrease the exposure by one stop, you get half the amount of light, and so on.

That sounds like a huge jump, right? It's not as large as you'd think, as light intensity doesn't work on a linear scale either, but that's another post. That being said, an entire stop is still a considerable jump. Stops are generally broken down into 1/3, 1/2, and full stops when making adjustments.

So how do you make adjustments? That's where the triangle comes in.

It's not really a triangle. There are just three elements that, when all taken into account, determine the exposure for an image. Three elements, three sides to a triangle. See? It's really a crappy metaphor. When trying to illustrate changes in one aspect of exposure, the shape of the triangle changes, but it doesn't really convey what happens to the exposure.

...or maybe I suck at drawing. I'm just going to use this keyboard to explain the whole thing.

First up - ISO.

ISO is a carry-over from the film days. It stands for International Organization for Standardization(It should really be IOS, right? Whatever, that's what it stands for).  ISO 5-1:2009 primarily provides a system for describing methods of measuring or specifying the transmission and reflection properties of photographic and graphic arts materials(taken from In other words, it describes the films sensitivity to light. Before the  take-over of digital photography, films were commonly rated at ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600.

See how each number is double the last? There are stops in action for you.

With the advent of digital photographic sensors, ISO refers to the sensor's sensitivity to light. Nowadays, digital cameras have gone just a little bit bonkers. The latest full-frame camera from Nikon goes up to ISO 409,600 - a whopping 8 stops above 1600.

The thing about ISOs that high, is that the resulting image is basically unusable due to noise.

On a modern sensor, there are little buckets that collect light, and produce an electrical signal. These buckets can't change size, so the sensor makes up for this by amplifying the signal produced. When you jack up the voltage, digital noise is introduced into the image. Also, it pretty closely resembles the grain you got from film.

So, ideally, you want to use the lowest ISO value possible to achieve the exposure you want. Though with modern digital cameras, you don't have to be parked on ISO 100 all the time to get stellar image quality. At most concerts I shoot, I have zero qualms with shooting at ISO 6400, because the noise level is more than acceptable for a properly exposed image.

Notice I say "properly exposed" up there. When you have to adjust the exposure in post-processing, you'll introduce noise as well. Cameras have a hard time retaining detail in shadows and highlights when adjusting exposure.

And, that, boys and girls, concludes the first of four parts in this three part series. Stay tuned for more information than you ever wanted about the word aperture.