Sleeklens Review

About a week ago I received an opportunity to try out a Lightroom preset package from a Danish company called Sleeklens (https://sleeklens.com/product/professional-photo-editing-service/). I was a bit wary at first, (always on the lookout for scams) but after doing some research I came to the conclusion that they were legit, and after using their workflow I can say with confidence that they are, in fact, legit. 

The workflow that I've been testing out is called the 'Forever Thine Wedding Workflow' (https://sleeklens.com/product/wedding-lightroom-presets/). It includes 112 Lightroom presets and 23 preset brushes. Typically for my wedding editing style I try to keep things more on the natural looking side of things, and so those are the presets that I gravitated to. 

The photo on the left is a raw, unedited image. The image on the right is done with one simple click on the preset, no further adjustments made. I love how it makes the image pop and come to life, all with only one preset. 

I used the same idea here for this engagement photo. The image on the left is raw, unedited. With the application of the preset I'm able to make the image pop, and I made no further adjustments. With my typical editing style I usually veer away from simply applying a preset and leaving it at that; I like to dive into each image a little bit more for some fine tweaking, but my intent here is to show just how easy it is to simplify a workflow using Sleeklens packages. 

The variety included in this particular workflow package is spot on. It includes presets that can drastically change the look of a photograph, and also presets that just subtly alter the feel. In the above example I'm able to cool down the temp of the photo and mute the colors to create a bit more of a flattened image. Again, keeping with my editing style of not making hugely drastic changes in color, contrast, exposure etc. 

When it comes to details I do sometimes like to get a little bit more far out with the editing presets. In this example I chose a Sleeklens preset that really took the color back a bit and gave it that antiquated, somewhat sepia toned look. I really like the tone of this particular image. By taking the color back a bit it really changes the overall emotion and feel of the photo. 

One thing that I've not really used in my photo editing experience is preset brushes. Preset brushes are set to a specific setting to get a desired result, and Sleeklens has some pretty awesome ones. In the above photo, I was able to bring it back to life using a few quick tools. For the sky, I used the 'fix overexposed' preset brush, and for the foreground I used the 'fix underexposed' brush. This really helped to bring out all the detail that was lost in the unedited photo. You can check out all of Sleeklens' presets and brushes at https://www.pinterest.com/sleeklens/lightroom-presets/.

Overall I'd have to say that I'm psyched with what Sleeklens gave me to review. There is enough variety in presets to accommodate a wide array of editing styles and I can say with confidence that it will definitely help to save me time in my workflow. You can check out what they have to offer here (https://sleeklens.com/product-category/lightroom-presets/). Thanks again, Sleeklens!

Women's March 2017 SF: Reflections

First off, I had a great time getting to document the Sioux Falls Women's March 2017 this past Saturday. I got to stand together with some amazing women to make our voices heard. I got to see some close friends of mine work their asses off to try to get their message out there, and judging from the crowd (over 3300 people) I'd say their message met a few receptive ears. Since the march, there's been a lot of discussion on where to go from here. I'm going to keep it brief here, because I don't want this to turn into a stream of consciousness with no real point, but I'm slowly realizing that one of the most important things I can do right now is to listen. As a straight white cis-gendered male, my place isn't to tell anybody else how or what they should be doing. What I can do is listen to the women in my life and make sure that I'm aware of the injustices that they face. I can stand in support and solidarity. I can show up and add to their strength in numbers. I can stay educated and remain open to a variety of ideas and perspectives. I'm ready to stand more often with my sisters (and brothers) for a common cause of equality and justice. Let's do this. 

P.S Maybe someday I'll write more on this, but I wanted to just get these photos up for now. My mind is swelling with reflections on this event and many other political happenings right now, but if I think about politics to much I just want to break everything, so I need to go think about art for a while now. Have a great day :) 

2016: A Quick Look Back

Now that 2016 is done, I decided to take a look back at some of my favorite wedding/engagement photos of the past year. I definitely learned a lot about what I do and how I approach things in 2016; I was able to pinpoint strong points in my practice and areas that I would like to focus more on.

I'm ready for 2017. I'm ready to continue capturing those amazing moments that only last for a fraction of a second. I'm looking forward to continuing my practice of becoming a better photographer and growing both personally and professionally. So! Cheers to 2017! Let's do this! 

RIFFLORD

I love heavy music. Always have, always will. I also love rap, hip-hop, jazz, country, punk rock, Brazilian Tropicalia, West African Highlife, Nigerian psychedelic rock n roll, etc. etc. If music is true, done well and genuinely creative, genre is irrelevant. But at the end of day, I'll never say no to some sweaty, heavy riffs. RIFFLORD is a band that's made up of some of the South Dakota's heaviest musicians, and they never cease to bring the (rock n roll) ruckus. I got to help them shoot a music video at the Siouxer skatepark, so I took a few moments to snap some stills as well. These dudes are going to be on the up and up soon, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. 

Riff easy. 

Dancing With The Sioux Falls Stars

Last weekend I had the great opportunity to get to photograph an amazing event. Dancing with the Sioux Falls Stars is a fundraiser put on by NAMI Sioux Falls (National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI is an amazing organization that is doing great things for our community at a grassroots level. They provide services to families that are dealing with mental health issues. Often times the services they provide are at no cost to these families, and they are a certified non profit company. As somebody who has worked with people with mental disabilities (as a direct support professional in a school setting) this is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. NAMI are working to end the stigma that has been attached to people who seek help for these issues and harbor a safe space for conversation and healing. 

Dancing with the Sioux Falls Stars was an awesome event that paired a local Sioux Falls-leader-in-their-field with a dance instructor. The end result was an event that was spectacular and full of energy. Most importantly, a lot of money was raised for a really great cause. Here are just a few of the photos from that wonderful night.

Maggie + Jordan

I've had the pleasure of knowing Maggie and Jordan for a while now. We met through the art department at USD. It was such an honor to get the opportunity to document their wedding day. To say that it was beautiful would be an understatement. The ceremony was held outdoors at the Arboretum, and it was right at that time of year before the leaves change, but as they're slowly beginning to yellow. This was my last wedding of the season, and Jordan and Maggie really made it a great wrap up to the year. It's been awesome getting to know these two over the years, and I can't wait to watch them continue to grow as a couple. Here are a few of photos of their gorgeous day. 

Valeri + Mike

I know for a fact that Valeri and Mike are going to have a long, happy and joyful marriage. I know this for two reasons. A). You could tell how happy they were just by seeing them interact with their friends, family and each other on their big day, and B). It rained on their wedding day. The rain only lasted for a short while, and it definitely made taking pictures pretty interesting for a bit, but in the end it still ended up being a beautiful day all around. They had people from all over the state and country come to a little cabin by a lake near Yankton, and from what I could tell, a good time was had by all. Here are just a few of the many pictures that we took on their beautiful day. 

Retta + Nick

Retta and Nick ended up having a perfect day. It was right around that time of year when the AM hours have a hint of chilly-ness, but by mid-afternoon a you're trying to find shade. It was pretty clear from the get go that these two have a great group of friends and family, and that only became more apparent as the day went on. Their wedding ceremony took place in Nick's parents backyard by a pond, which was beautiful, intimate and charming. The wedding party went out of their way to help us get the best photographs possible, all while walking in the heat (without complaining, which doesn't always happen). Overall, everything fell right into place, right when it needed to. Here's a small sample of what a great day that was. Cheers! 

Angelica + Josh: A long time coming

I knew Angelica and Josh when they first started dating, almost 10 years ago! On their wedding day, I heard a lot of people saying things like, "This day only took 9 years to get here!" or "It's been a long time coming!" But hey, there's nothing wrong with taking your time. It's actually probably a better thing to ease your way into things, as opposed to jumping right in head first.(ACTUALLY, it's different for everybody. There are no blanket statements you can make when it comes to love. To each their own). Anyway, the day went absolutely perfectly. Michelle and I got to spend some quality time with the couple at the rehearsal dinner the night before and get some bowling in. The weather could not have been better and, super-mega-bonus, we got to drive around on golf carts all day! Golf carts should be a requirement at every wedding.....or at least every wedding that takes place on a golf course.

I love watching friends tie the knot, and when I get the opportunity to help them document it, all the better. We took so many photos at this wedding. I'm going through them right now and it's hard to decide which ones to send out first. Here are some of my immediate favorites. Enjoy! 

Kayla + Jon: A Day in the Making

I love the days when everything falls right into place. The days when you know right from the first second that everything is going to go exactly how you want it. Kayla and Jon's wedding day was definitely one of these days. I knew from meeting with Kayla a few days before her big day that things were going to be super smooth. Everybody involved with their wedding was very down to earth and friends and family went out of their way to make sure that me and my wife were able photograph at our hearts content. Hearing everybody speak about Jon and Kayla's relationship, I was able to glean a few things. First, you could tell that this day had been a long time coming, that from the first time they met each other, they both knew that this is where they would end up. Secondly, the love that they share for one another is mirrored in their close relationships with their loved ones. Overall, a beautiful day. My wife and I took almost 3,500 photographs, and now in the midst of the editing process, it's hard to decide which ones to take out. On this day, I was a happy photographer, and from the looks of it, everybody else was right there with me (especially Kayla and Jon). 

Yoga w/ Megan Punt

My relationship with yoga has been an interesting one. I never really gave it much thought during college, but shortly after I graduated I had the opportunity to go on tour with a band made up of some of my friends. One friend in particular was pretty avid about yoga (and all things mystical:) and he showed me a few poses. That was really what sparked my interest in it. After the tour ended and we started playing in different bands, I kept with the yoga and started to pursue it a little bit more; mostly just researching poses on my own, never taking a class or anything. As recently as 2 months ago though, I started taking hot yoga classes every week, 2 or 3 times a week in the morning. And I love it. It just so happened that within that frame of time my friend Megan Punt asked me to take some yoga photos for her. She is a certified yoga instructor and has a very firm grasp on her practice, and she's just an all around awesome person. Taking these photos for her was a blast and it will only act as a catalyst for me to further pursue my own practice. 

Namaste. 

Angelica + Josh

Angelica and I have known each other since our college days in Vermillion at USD. We had a lot of mutual friends and ended up becoming good friends ourselves. We shared a love of music, photography, and always ended up at the same parties. Somewhere along the line she met Josh, and the rest was history. After school ended they both moved out to Denver and are starting to carve out a life there. Naturally, I was honored when I got a random message from Angelica one day, asking if I would document their wedding day. I had a blast getting to hang out with these two when they were back in Sioux Falls a few weeks ago. In between hanging out, we found some time to get out and about and get some engagement photos taken. Their wedding day is in August this summer, and I am soooo looking forward to getting to capture every moment of their day! Until then, I'll just leave these engagement photos here:). 

BFA Exhibition: Angela St. Vrain (+Animals!)

Last week my wife Michelle went down to her hometown, Louisville, KY, to attend her sister's BFA exhibition. Angela has been studying sculpture at UofL, in addition to studying glassblowing at a studio in Louisville. I wasn't able to go due to work, but I'm so glad Michelle brought a camera to document Angela's show. What I love about Angela's work is that it's relatable no matter who you are or what your background is; we all have some kind of connection to homes we lived in as children, we all have some kind of connection to the spaces we currently dwell in. She's able to take the emotional qualities that we attach to the buildings we inhabit and put that sensitivity into the actual structures she's creating. It should come as no surprise that I'm immediately drawn to her use of photography (film photography!), and how that influences what she's making. I've included a photo of her artist statement, because writing about your art is always difficult, but Angela has a way with words and is very astute and articulate about her thought process. If this show is any indication of what's in store for Angela's future, I have no doubt that she'll continue to make genuinely interesting art well into the future. 

BONUS!

I feel like Michelle could have a great future as an animal photographer. She's always loved animals and it's pretty clear, going through her memory card from this trip, that they are some of her favorite things to photograph. Here were some of my favorites!

Iceland

Last year my wife and I went to Iceland. We went at the end of July and drove around most of the island for 10 days. The airport we arrived at was about 40 km outside of Reykjavik, so right from the moment we landed, we got to fully take in the gorgeous landscape.  We went for a vacation, but it ended up turning into one long photography adventure. We didn't really go on any tours or do big group activities or anything like that, instead we kind of just explored and took in wherever it was that we were (Ok. We did go whale watching. Which was awesome. But cramming into a small boat with a bunch of other people isn't the best opportunity to get that primo whale photo). We saw waterfalls, mountains, glaciers, fjords, caves, volcanoes, nature baths, elf houses, tons of sheep (everywhere), little ICELAND HORSES!, got our car stuck in some rocks and had to get towed out, almost ran out of gas in literally the middle of nowhere, got a flat tire driving on a mountain, and I lost my wedding ring in an outdoor hot spring! Which sucked, but at least it has a good final resting place. 

National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson said, "To take better pictures, stand in front of more interesting stuff." This vacation was our perfect opportunity to do just that, and I can't wait to do it again this year. 

Nick + Retta: Winter engagement session!

I love winter engagement sessions. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind getting out and about in perfect conditions in the spring and fall, but it takes a bit more searching to find the exact right spot when everything is covered in mud and snow. At this point in the season, I'm about ready of winter to be done, so the chance to go exploring and take some photos is always a very welcomed event. Weather is always an unpredictable factor, but we got lucky and ended up with a beautiful day. Many photos were taken; here are some of my favorites. 

Krysta + Joel: Winter Wedding!

The weather in the midwest never ceases to surprise. Joel and Krysta got married on Saturday, Nov. 21st, the day after it had snowed 10 inches in Sioux Falls. When we met to go over details on Tuesday, Nov. 17th, it was about 55 degrees and sunny, a beautiful fall day. I'll be honest, when I woke up Saturday morning, I wasn't quite sure how I would approach photographing Joel and Krysta's special day. Good thing they're both so easy to work with and down for anything. We were able to improvise and just go with the flow, which really worked out for the best.

I've had the pleasure of knowing Joel for quite a few years now, and I've gotten to know Krysta just recently, but it's going to be great to see them grow together. Here are a few of my favorite photographs from their wedding day. Enjoy! 

Sarah + Ryan: DIY Forever

Lately, I've been thinking about weddings and what exactly they are. It's becoming clear to me, the more weddings that I photograph, that weddings are events that reflect the personality of the people participating in them. This idea was totally summed up in the wedding of Sarah and Ryan. Creative is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but this wedding was filled to the brim with creative energy. Getting to know Sarah and Ryan, it's pretty clear that they fully embrace the DIY lifestyle, and their wedding was no exception. All handmade decorations, handmade corsages, handmade altar, handmade bouquets, you get the idea. They also had probably the most off-beat (but amazing) unity ceremony I've ever seen (shooting arrows at a heart target, embracing Ryan's love for hunting, and maybe influenced by Sarah's participation in Dungeons and Dragons, I'm not sure:) All in all, it was a great day shared by a very small group of close friends and family, and I'm very grateful for having the opportunity to document it through photographs. 

Rebecca + Joel: So Happy Together

It was such a pleasure getting to photograph the wedding of Rebecca and Joel. They decided that they wouldn't see each other before the ceremony, so that added an environment of excitement and anticipation to the whole day. The first look happened as the bride was walking down the aisle, and it was an amazing thing to not only witness, but also photograph. After the ceremony, seeing Joel and Rebecca interact with their friends and family, it was clear that joy was in the air. The love that was shown from bride and groom to their guests was only overshadowed by the love that they shared for each other; it was obvious that they were, in fact, so happy together. Here are some photos from that day. 

P.S. The large panorama photo shown directly below was a treat. The bride and groom wanted to get a group photo of all the guests at their wedding, which is an awesome idea. So, I arranged the group and climbed to the top rung of a ladder and took 6 photos (assembled later in Photoshop) to create this photo. I almost lost my balance, which would undoubtedly have resulted in serious bodily (or camera-ly) harm, but I survived, and the result was totally worth it. 

Kenzie + Sam: Outdoors in Minnesota

I had the pleasure of getting to know McKenzie when we both worked at Southeastern Behavioral Healthcare last year. I got to see her passion for what she did on a day to day basis, and it was a beautiful thing. She has such a genuine love for what she does and the people that she helps that it's impossible to hide. To say I was excited when she asked if I would photograph her wedding day would be an understatement; I was honored. I got to know Sam in the months leading up to the wedding, and it was clear from our first interactions that these two were meant to be. McKenzie is a passionate individual who isn't afraid to say what she thinks, and Sam is right there alongside her. Their wedding day was all outside on her family farm in SE Minnesota, which was amazing. The amazingness was in the details, which were all DIY, and crafted with care. In the end, the entire day went off without any issues. Family and friends were high in number, food and drink were in abundant supply, and smiles and hugs could be found around any corner. If Kenzie and Sam's wedding day is any indication of what their future is going to be like, it will be filled with love, smiles….and bouncy castles.