Photography by Steve O'Donnell » Clermont and Orlando award winning professional wedding, portrait, senior and family photographer serving central FL

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Best of 2013 – My photography year in review.

At the end of 2012 I blogged my favorite images from that year with a short description as to why they made the cut.  It was a fun look back for me to see how my photography evolved throughout the year and I thought it would be a good idea for every year.  Well, a few weeks ago I started combing through the thousands of images I had taken in 2013….(yes thousands)….and I was a little surprised how nothing really stood out as the best.  Maybe I had become desensitized  from the initial impact they originally had when they first came off the memory cards or maybe I had just become bored with them after looking at them over time?  What ever the reason was I was miffed by it.  I shared my thoughts with a friend and fellow photographer and was reminded at the fact “we as photographers are our own worst critics” and we will often loose ourselves and find fault in the smallest of details.  I often feel my best images are the ones I take for me, the candid moments from home….or the random shoots I do with my kids where I can take my time and plan things out and work around problematic shooting conditions.  So naturally I looked to my personal images first and this is where the feeling started to hit me.  My fellow photography friend reminded me of the images I took of my clients…the ones who hired me for my photography.  Know what, he was right.  I shook off the feeling and took another look thinking back from where I started out….to where the year took me.  Being proud of the work I did for clients isn’t a bad thing.  Being proud of my client work is a good thing….a really good thing!

If there are any “take away’s” looking back over 2013 I think it’s safe to say I’m a people photographer.  I love photographing people.  I love working with people, capturing their candid moments, their memories, the look in their eyes, and the way they smile.  My main mission for 2013 was to become very comfortable using flash photography and boy did I do a lot of flash photography.  The best light isn’t always available.  Sure, nothing beats that natural light golden hour.  But, a clients time and my time is very important….and I can’t expect clients to reschedule a shoot just because the best light isn’t available.  I also can’t expect every wedding to be graced with the perfect light and weather conditions.  If the best natural light wasn’t available I set out to be certain that I could produce light that was pleasing and unique.

The following are my favorites from 2013.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

#1.  My daughter Little C.  She loves to dress up like a princess in one her various princess costumes.  Here I decided to bust out the off camera speedlites and try a shoot through umbrella and another behind her for rim light.  This was the start of my experimentation with mixing off camera flash with ambient light.

#2.  As a result of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown Ct. the Olivia Act was formed.  In short, Olivia was one of the innocent victims of the shooting.  She and her family had just had a professional photo session with a local photographer a short time before the shootings in Newtown took place.  Those images from that photo session are priceless to her family as you can imagine.  So the photographer started the Olivia Act which urged photographers to give away a photo session to a family in need of portraits who may not have the means to hire a professional photographer.  Photographers were asked to accept nominations from friends and fans, pick a nominee, and provide the photo session and digital negatives all for free.  No charge, no sales…..but the kind act of giving a memory to a well deserving family.  The above image is from that session.

#3.  My wife and daughter. My wife took the family to a fun weekend at Disney’s Fort Wilderness. Out of all the images I took that weekend this was my favorite. It was really dark out but I wanted to capture the character and atmosphere of the scene. What a great memory of my little one enjoying roasting marshmallows over a campfire with mom.

#4.  One from a family shoot for a fellow photographer.  They have a precious little girl who was in every picture except this one.  Sometimes parents just don’t get alone time, so I wanted to get at least one shot of just the two of them.  I loved the leading lines of bamboo and the composition of the frame.

#5.  A quick simple portrait of one of my step-daughters friends.

#6.  I participated in a bridal show for the first time.  As a vendor I provided a free engagement shoot as the raffle prize.  The above image is from Catherine and Bryan’s engagement shoot they won.

#7.  The tunnel shoot.  Sometimes I just get the itch to get out and shoot.  Quite often I will take my step-daughter “CL” out for the fun of it or to get an idea out of my head.  I wanted to do a shoot in a tunnel.  I knew of a local tunnel and though I had never been inside it I assumed it would be dirty and grungy which is what I wanted.  So, “CL” went for the grungy look and to our surprise the tunnel was painted white and really clean inside with not even a stitch of graffiti.  The image above is just one of our favorite images from CL’s tunnel shoot.

#8.  My personal favorite from CL’s tunnel shoot.  This is probably one of my best personal images of the year.  She just looks beautiful!

#9.  The weed shoot.  Another image from a time when I just grabbed my step-daughter and went out shooting for the fun of it.  A good friend had asked to go out shooting with me as he wanted to test out some new flash equipment.  We decided to shoot in this field that I had been eyeballing for about a year.  The sunsets against this field are just beautiful.  As our luck would have it, there was no golden hour to be had.  Heavy cloud cover rolled in and blanketed the sky, but we prevailed with off camera flash and came out with some unique images.

#10.  Another from the same location above.  CL brought along a friend so we would have two subjects to shoot.  I just thought the lighting was gorgeous in this shot.

#11. Scooter.  My daughter was outside riding her scooter.   Another opportunity to fine tune my off camera flash skills right.  Well, as luck would have it she let me take a few shots with a off camera flash on a stand.  I just love the lighting in this shot.

#12.  The Pre “I do” Bar-B-Que.  My wife and I were invited to her friend Gwendolyn’s wedding rehearsal dinner.  At the time I really had not met the bride to be and didn’t know anyone.  I brought my camera along and documented the entire night.  During the rehearsal the bride-to-be and her father started skipping down the isle.  What a great moment to have with your father.  Glad I was able to capture that memory.  I’m not certain the skipping was part of the actual wedding….but I’m actually not sure.  LOL!

  #13.  Susan and Michael’s engagement.  I’ll be shooting Susan and Mike’s wedding in April 2014 and can’t wait.  This image from their engagement session is still one of my all time favorite images.  I used a combination of natural light from the sun setting behind them along with a off camera flash set up on a stand in a softbox umbrella to add some dramatic lighting to the subjects.

#14.  Another from Susan and Mike’s engagement shoot.  If you wait just long enough and time it just right, the sunset will be perfect.  Again a flash was added into the scene to add some drama to the subjects.

#15.  Second shooter.  When I first started shooting weddings I admired ( still do ) a local photographer by the name of Courtney Jozsa who stood out from the crowd.  I just loved her images.  They were different from all the others.  They had a style all their own and they were consistently clean and timeless.  They weren’t overly processed with canned photoshop actions that’s the current rage.  Her images were done with intent to tell the story.  Truth be told….that is what I wanted my photography to be like.  Well, this year we became friends.  She asked if I wanted to second shoot a wedding for her and I jumped at the chance.  While she was shooting the bride and groom formals I stood off to the side while she took control.  While she was doing her thing I noticed the scene unfolding in front of me and quickly grabbed a snap of the bride and groom from a different angle.  This was not my wedding as I was second shooting for Courtney.  I just happened to capture a moment that was happening in front of me.  Ironically, knowing Courtney’s style I processed the image totally different with a little vintage twist that I usually wouldn’t do to a wedding photo.

#16.  Another from the wedding above.  This year I set out to focus on the environments that weddings take place in to help tell the story.  As the speeches during the reception started coming to an end I walked outside the tent to see if there was anything left in the sky or if it had turned to complete darkness.  To my luck there was just a hint of sky left.  In order to make the sky show through in the picture I had to boost my camera close it’s maximum ISO capability  (iso 12800) and hand hold at the slowest shutter speed I knew I could get away with ( 1/60th a second ) without introducing motion blur into the scene from hand movement.  I just thought it was cool capturing the setting and the environment that night.

#17 Stunt man.  I don’t get the opportunity to shoot many male portraits so when my old friend Scott called me to do a shoot I was beyond psyched.  He doesn’t normally sport a beard.  He had a limited amount of time left before he had to shave it off and wanted to preserve the beard and tuff guy look for his portfolio…so we ran out for a quick shoot.  Out of all the shoots I did for clients….his shoot was the most difficult to choose a favorite from.  The above shot was done on the porch of an old vacant building in the early evening.  There was plenty of daylight…but Scott and I both wanted the pictures to look tuff and dramatic to match his look.  Again, this is where the use of off camera flash played a key role in getting that look that I could control with the placement and power of lighting.

#18 Bubbles.  Again here I’m using off camera flash to get a unique look.  I underexposed the image to help keep the detail in the sky while adding light onto the subject.  I also chose a wider angle lens to incorporate the environment to help tell the story of my daughter playing with bubbles.  This is one of my favorite images of her.

#19.  For the heck of it.  Gwendolyn commissioned me to do her head shots and at the end of the shoot we decided to have her husband join in for a few “for the heck of it” shots of the two of them.  She’s the bride skipping down the isle in rehearsal in image #12 above.  I decided to do something a little different with the lights and cross lit them from either side while letting in just enough ambient light in to fill the shadows.  I was thrilled with how this shot came out and how unique it is.

#20.  Amy & Kevin’s engagement.  I think this image tells you a lot about these two and that is why it’s a favorite.  Happy, playful, and very much in love.  I had a blast shooting their engagement portraits in Leu Gardens.  I’ll be shooting their wedding in 2014.

#21.  Goofing around.  Sometimes when out shooting a family there is one in the bunch that just isn’t into it, but they’re along to accommodate the family.  I bet you can guess which one it is.  Sometimes all it takes is a little sisterly shenanigans to get your less than interested family member to lighten up and have some fun.  Sometimes outtakes make it to the final delivery of images.

#22.  Super model.  This was a quick shot of my daughter who was playing in the front yard until I turn a play day into a photoshoot.  OK dad…I’ll give you five minutes…..ready…..GO!  Two off camera flash units gelled to match the ambient light.

#23.  Mr. Toad!  What do you do when you find a toad on your doorstep?  You run inside, get your camera, a macro lens, and a remote flash….and have a photo session.  I don’t believe Mr. Toad was happy with all the flashing lights.

#24  It’s a boy!  Lets get one thing straight.  I tip my hat to newborn photographers.  It’s not easy….it’s not my thing.  This baby was as sweet as could be but I don’t know how you newborn photogs do it.  I pulled this image off and I love it…..but man I just don’t think newborn photography is my thing.

#25  The lion sleeps tonight!  Well, it was in the middle of the day actually on that safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.  The safari truck bounces you around….a lot!  I had just enough time to focus and frame this shot before the truck started moving again.

#26.  Sunset family shoot.  Again a beautiful image can be made with the mix of off camera flash and the perfect sunset.

#27  Negative Space.  I love it when this composition technique works out and leads your eye to the subject.

#28 I wont post it….promise.  Well, sorry to say I lied.  I asked CL to be a stand in subject while I tested out some lighting.  I took a few candid snap shots of her and this was one of them.  I think she said something like “Ugh!  I thought you weren’t going to post those. ”  Her mom then replied  with something like ” It’s a great shot.  It shows the real you.  The person that we see you as.”  Yep…she is right….it’s a keeper and a favorite.

#29  It’s not easy being green.  What do you do when you see a green frog in one of your trees.  Yep…run inside, get the camera, macro lens, and a remote off camera flash and light him up!

#30  I lost my dot.  It’s an inside joke that got us both laughing….and then I snapped away.  It’s also proof that you don’t need an expensive camera to get a great photo.  CL wanted to start shooting….so gave her my old Canon Rebel T2i and the kit 55-250 lens and took her and a friend out to a location.  At one point I wanted to shoot so I took the Rebel and composed the shot.  As we started to position ourselves something distracting got my attention and I started cracking jokes about it and got her laughing.  Genuine laughter is just the best in photos.

#31.  Learning to skate.  My daughter Lil C decided she wanted to learn how to skate…so she just went for it.

#32.  Peaceful moment.  While on family vacation we had one night without rain and this was that night.  Sometimes the beauty of a perfect sunset is just peaceful.

#33  Spinning steel wool.  Always wanted to try it and glad I did.   How it happens:  Kitchen whisk stuffed with steel wool attached to a long chain or cord…..light it on fire….spin it over a long camera exposure.  CL was on the shutter while I did the dangerous job of spinning a hot flaming object.

#34  Family Kisses.  My wife and daughter sharing a touching moment while taking a break at Epcot.

#35.  I had the opportunity to shoot my brothers wedding.  I’ve never felt so welcomed by a wedding party in my life.  I got to meet a few relatives I’ve never met before too!  And to top it off, this is the first picture of my very own dad I have ever taken.  That’s him…second to last  from left to right.

#36  Also from my brothers wedding.  This was one of the girls prep shots.  Stuffed in the set among all the other wedding preparation shots it appears that she is seeing the bride for the first time with all her make up and hair done.  In reality the girls were talking about people from high school and what had become of them.  Conversation turned to someone that had done something bad I think…and then gasp!  While shooting weddings I look for emotional moments like this…but now the cause behind the reaction is out of the bag.

#37.  Dragonfly.  Do you know….I chased this dragon fly shot around for  3 weeks?  Oh yes I did!  The first week I would find him on the same tree branch every night around sunset.  I shot him in natural light a few times.  It’s very hard to keep focus and shoot a dragon fly sitting on a branch that is swaying in the wind in low light, while standing on a step ladder.  I did it…but then I had the idea that I wanted to try and shoot him using flash.  Then he disappeared.  Every night I’d check the branch only to find it vacant of the dragonfly.  This went on for about two weeks….and then he reappeared again.  This is the result using a off camera flash.

#38.  Melissa.  Occasionally during a corporate head shot shoot you just have to stop being serious and laugh a little.

#39.  Caitlin & Mike’s wedding.  While the bride and groom were sitting down to eat dinner I went outside and noticed this beautiful sky.  It was a cold February day by Florida standards.  The temperature was in the 40’s but with the wind whipping off the lake it felt like 30 degrees.  I took a quick picture of the sky then rushed inside to interrupt the bride and groom from their dinner.  I showed them the back of the camera and the beautiful sky that was about to turn to darkness.  I explained to them if they just gave me 5 minutes outside I would be able to get a beautiful portrait of them against this beautiful scene.  They were cool enough ( no pun intended ) to accommodate my request.  We ran outside…took a test shot.  Due to the nature of the space and limited time to get them back to their dinner  I took a shot of them standing on the dock  alone and then asked them to dip into pose while my second shooter stood beside them holding a remote flash.  My second shooter would later be photoshopped out of the shot using the first image.  It was the only way I could pull it off in the amount of time we had.  We were all cold….and I wanted them to get back to dining and their guests.

#40.  Dance with your girlfriends!  From Ryan and Rob’s wedding earlier in the year.  I love it when friends just dance at a wedding celebration.

#41.  One of my last weddings of 2013.  Mollie and Justin’s wedding.  This was a small intimate backyard wedding.  Mollie was such a stunning bride.

#42.  Another shot from Mollie and Justin’s wedding.  The scene was just too cool with the reflections in the water and the little boy was just too handsome to not include in this 2013 roundup.

#43.  Kayla and Roberts wedding.  My last wedding of 2013.  During the reception we went onto the venue grounds where their ceremony took place for a few formal shots.  It was just a awesome location and one of my best wedding shots from the night.  Once again….two off camera flash’s were used.  One was in a softbox umbrella held up high by the second shooter off to the right, and one was placed directly behind them on the fountain ledge.  I included just enough ambient light from the surrounding features to show off the beautiful scene.

#44.  Hot mess!  Enough said.

#45.  Landscape photography.  Landscape #1.   Another photography friend convinced me that getting out there and shooting some landscape photography just might do me some good.  I didn’t believe her…but hey…..maybe she was onto something.  So, one weekend I set out early every morning to catch the sunrise.  Every morning had something different to offer.  It made me think differently about how to approach and frame a shot for sure.

#46.  Landscape #2

#47.  Landscape #3

#48.  Landscape #4

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