A Trip to the National Aviary

Allison and I recently visited the National Aviary here in Pittsburgh. It was a nice opportunity to take wildlife photographs in a relaxed and climate controlled setting. With the birds used to being around people, I was able to set up shots that reflected each animal’s personality.

Here’s more about the National Aviary from their website:

The National Aviary is America’s only independent indoor nonprofit zoo dedicated exclusively to birds. Located in Allegheny Commons Park on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side, the National Aviary’s diverse collection comprises more than 500 birds representing more than 150 species from around the world, many of them threatened or endangered in the wild.

The National Aviary’s large walk-through exhibits create an experience unlike any other – an intimate, up-close interaction between visitors and free-flying birds, including opportunities to hand-feed and meet many species rarely found in zoos anywhere else in the world.

Click on a picture to see a higher resolution version on my Flikr page. If you enjoy my content, feel free to follow this blog. Also, consider liking my photography page on Facebook.

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary

National Aviary


Twenty Pictures From the Pittsburgh Music Scene

Though not being particularly newsworthy, I’ve put together a Facebook page dedicated to my photography. Slow hand clap. As a way to mark the “occasion”, I’ve put together a collection of twenty of my favorite live band photos from the Pittsburgh music scene, taken over the last year.

Its been quite the learning experience for me and I thought it might be interesting to share some insight on how I take images in a local live setting. This is not meant to give the impression that I am some expert on the subject, but more so to show how I go about doing things.

I mainly chose shots that convey, to me at least, the intense emotion, danger, release, joy and dissolution of self that comes with performing live on stage. While up there, time stops, senses expand, and the mind oozes into the pool of the collective unconscious. I wanted to get photos of people going through that process.

Click on any of the images below to be taken to a higher resolution version on my Flikr page. All images are copyright 2017 and may not be used without permission.

hambonesX (2 of 19)

Allison Kacmar Richards playing with Emily Rodgers Band at Hambone’s

BBTjuly (15 of 30)

Old Game reflected in the mirrored ceiling of the BBT


Shy Kennedy and Nick Kopco of Horehound at Howlers

Curse The Son

Ron Vanacore of Curse The Son at Howlers

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Bradley Jenkins of Ona at The James Street Gastropub

Shooting bands in smaller venues comes with its own set of challenges. At the top of the list, Its generally too dark for a correct exposure without jacking up the ISO settings and thus adding a large amount of sensor noise into the shot. This is preferred to a blurry picture in my opinion, which is exactly what you’ll get if ISO is kept to a more sensible level and instead one uses slower shutter speeds or a wider aperture. Essentially, slightly higher ISO is the lesser of two (or three) evils.

When I go out to shows, I usually take my Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 or my Canon 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM. Both have a decent zoom range for smaller venues, meaning I can usually get “wide enough” to fit the entire stage in the shot, or zoomed in enough to do a nice head and shoulders style shot. The benefit of both lenses is the built in image stability, which allows one to take pictures at one to two stops slower without too much blur- especially at the 17mm end- where things tend to be more in focus, even at f2.8.

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Jeff Betten at the Misra stage, Deutschtown Music Festival

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Jeremy Caywood, Mike Speranzo and Mark Lyons at Mr. Smalls

ActionCamp (17 of 17)

Action Camp album release at Club Cafe

When zoomed in for closer shots, the wide-open aperture is really taking a chance due to the extremely shallow depth of field, the low light, and a typically fast moving subject. For 35mm and especially 50mm, I very rarely  risk shooting any wider than f3.5, with f4 being preferred in a lot of cases. Unless, of course, I’ve got a lot of light and the luxury of shooting at 1/50th of a second or more.

Shooting in burst mode has really helped me out, as I can take 3-5 shots in succession and have a higher probability of getting one that is both in focus and conveys something cool. Unfortunately, this makes for a time suck on the editing end of things, as it is not uncommon for me to come home with 500 or more photos to sift through, most of which are 5-10 iterations of the same scene, shot seconds apart. The effort and time is worth it to me if I end up with shots I like.

ActionCamp (5 of 17)

Donny Donovan of Hearken at Club Cafe

BBTjuly (24 of 30)

Jenn Jannon-Fischer with The Park Plan at The BBT

BBTjuly (22 of 30)

Joe Tarowsky with The Park Plan at The BBT

Speaking of editing, shooting in RAW format has really been a boon, allowing me more freedom in Lightroom. Very often white balance is a huge issue, especially with less than optimal lighting conditions and mixed light sources. Colored stage lights and unnatural colors can look really cool, so how I handle color temperature really depends on a case by case basis.

In a lot of images, I am usually converting to black and white in the end. For one, white balance is not really an issue in monocrome and secondly, black and white can help mask noisy photos taken on the higher end of the ISO spectrum by making them look gritty and raw. I’ll usually add just a touch of noise reduction and bump up the contrast to help minimize noise as well.

Jake The Hawk

John Huxley and Jake Ferranti of Jake The Hawk at Satalios Bar


Horehound at Howlers

Gran Gila

Gran Gila at Satalios Bar

Freedom Hawk

T.R. Morton and Mark Cave of Freedom Hawk at Satalios Bar

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Liz Berlin at Mr. Smalls

As far as shooting techniques, getting to the venue early can help ensure that I can get a spot with a good view while not being in the way of other people there for the show. On that note, I am also not the type to be hanging over things or crawling around on the ground like some sort of snake with a head mounted camera just so I can get “cool angles”. I guess my shooting style is more documentarian anyways, rather than someone who is trying to augment reality with weird angles. To each their own. Maybe my style will change at some point.

I also tend to like to watch the band for one or two songs before snapping any shots. This allows me to pick up on any stage habits and get a sense of how active each member is with moving around on the stage.  Someone who moves around a lot or otherwise has a strong stage presence is going to make for a challenging, but ultimately better looking shot. I like to be able to predict what someone is going to do so I can make sure my camera is set up and ready to take the picture with appropriate settings.

ActionCamp (15 of 17)

Maura Jacob of Action Camp at Club Cafe

BBTjuly (14 of 30)

Brenda Leeds of Old Game at The BBT

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Out Of The Blue at Mr. Smalls

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Chet Vincent at the Misra Stage, Deutschtown Music Festival

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of my favorite local live band shots from the past year. Consider following this blog through email to stay up to date or like my page on Facebook to keep in touch that way. Thanks for reading.

The Last Days of Fall Foliage

Here are some woodland shots from a hike Allison and I went on last weekend at Frick Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Less than a week later, most trees are nothing but bare branches, save for a few withered and frost-damaged leaves. Click on an image to view a higher resolution version, complete with shooting information, on my Flikr page.

Frick Park in November

Because of the flat lighting, this shot was almost all mid-tones and required some additional help in the contrast and saturation setting of lightroom to give a sense of depth. Looking closely, one can see houses on the hill in the back.

Frick Park in November

I like this shot for the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. The red tree was the only red thing on the visible landscape and really stuck out. The little stream has a layer of ice on in, showing just how cold it has gotten in the last few weeks.

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This winding path is called Falls Ravine Trail. There’s a little stream that runs along the side that occasionally forms a small waterfall. Nothing particularity impressive, but a popular area due to its mild hiking difficulty.

Frick Park in November

I was initially planning on taking this shot without people. When I saw the dog walking symmetry, I couldn’t resist. There’s a subtle Yin Yang quality to the balance on this one.

Frick Park in November

Here’s a wide angle vertical shot towards the direction of Falls Ravine Trail (mentioned above) from a the higher up Bradema Trail. I like the bright yellow and orange contrast of the leaves against the purplish-blue haze in the background.

fall colors

This is the fall shot of my “Same shot different season” series that I am working on, mentioned in my last blog post.

I really feel that this past weekend was the last of the fall colors. This is a massive contrast to my the Fall Foliage and Flowers series I did only six weeks prior at the same location! Thanks for checking out my pictures and please consider liking and following this blog.

Same Shot, Different Seasons: Fall Update

I’ve been working on a series of photos that chronicle the same woodland scene throughout the four seasons of South-Western Pennsylvania. The subject is a mysterious looking tree that seems to be well on its way to becoming hollowed out at its base. Follow this blog or check my Flikr page to see this series develop!

Winter 2017

winter snow

Spring/Summer 2017

late spring/summer

Summer/Fall 2017

early fall

Fall 2017

fall colors

Pictures of Downtown Pittsburgh

Presented below is a series of recent shots taken of downtown Pittsburgh from the back of a Just Ducky aquatic bus. The tour went through the city streets before taking things to the Monongahela river. Click on an image to see a higher resolution version on my Flikr page. Please consider following this blog for more pictures.

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh


Fall Foliage and Flowers

Here are 29 photos of early fall foliage and flowers from a recent late-afternoon hike at Frick Park, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For this series I decided to edit with a softer, saturated, and almost “matte finish” look, which I think compliments the subject matter and gives the images an almost dreamlike quality. Click on a specific photo to link back to my Flikr page in order to see shooting information as well as a higher resolution version.































I’m Now on Flikr and Instagram!

Not a huge update, but I wanted to let everyone know that I started up a flikr page as the new host for all my images. I am really enjoying the service as it is easy to embed images back to my main site as well as share on other social media pages. Please check out my albums and favorite a few photos if you have a flikr account. Here are some recent photographs from a visit to the Oakland area of Pittsburgh:



phipps at night


Not as exciting, but still worthy of note, is that I also put together a profile on Instagram. I really have no intention of posting photos that weren’t taken on my DSLR and edited, so this service is not as valuable to me as flikr. There are workarounds that make uploading images from PC a possibility, rather than strictly using the app, but they are somewhat limiting. Maybe I’ll warm up to Instagram with more use. The plus side is that there are a lot of people on there and it is really easy to interact with followers.

I have a huge back catalog of images that I’ll be going through and will be adding them to my Flikr site as I see fit. As it stands now, I could easily add a new photo every day well into next year. I am also on Facebook. Once I hit the 5000 friend cap, I might consider starting up a proper dedicated page for my music and photography. Until then, feel free to add me on my normal facebook profile.

The Site Gets a New Look + Photos

I updated the look and layout of the site, which, in my opinion, looks a lot more streamlined than the older version. Everything is essentially all on one page: music, photos, everything else. Speaking of photos, I decided to feature my photography a little more prominently. I now have various galleries available to view on my home page. If you don’t feel like going there right now to check it out, here’s a sampling of some recent images I’ve taken this month so far. These pictures were taken in either Frick Park, or McConnell’s mill, Pennsylvania- all in the span of two weeks. The fact that there is so much snow in some photos and it is so green in others really illustrates how quickly the weather can change in this part of the country!

Emily Rodgers Band on PCTV, Promote New Album

Yesterday evening Emily Rodgers Band did an in studio interview and performed three songs on PCTV’s  new television series Hugh Shows. The episode is currently being edited and will be available to view shortly. Past episodes are available to watch on PCTV’s YouTube channel. The performance and interview were in promotion of Rodgers’ third release, 2 Years, which comes out today on Misra Records. The album is currently up for streaming on the Stereo Embers Magazine website, which also includes a review. A CD release show is scheduled at Club Café on June 18, with a pre-sale ticket price of $8.

In other ER news, there was a recent article in the City paper, which can be read here. Three music videos have been released as well, embeded below.