Guatemala: Week 1

Hola, amigos, from San Juan la Laguna! We have successfully completed our first week here in Guatemala, and the time is just flying by!!!

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We are absolutely loving working alongside IMPACTO Ministries staff, serving the people of the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. Today we said goodbye to two teams (one from North Carolina and one from Tennessee), and we welcome two more teams later this afternoon. We have already captured so many wonderful images and video footage of teams building homes, loving on the children of Happy Tummies, and dancing with the “Abuelitos”. It’s going to be difficult to pick only 3-5 minutes worth of footage to use in the video we’re making!

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The staff members here at IMPACTO have absolutely blown us away with their care and concern for us, always checking to make sure we are doing ok and that we have everything we need. As was expected, we’ve already decided that it’s going to be difficult to go home, as Guatemala has once again stolen our hearts! We are thrilled to be here, and we already have seen God move in HUGE ways in the hearts of so many!

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Please pray for the staff this week, as this will be a very busy week for them with all of the various activities they will be involved in with the teams. Pray for rest and strength for them all as they work effortlessly to meet the needs of all those they serve. Thank you for your prayers! We can absolutely feel them here in Guatemala, and we will keep you posted as we are able to do so!

Adios,

Chris & Steph

Final Countdown – 1 week!

One week from today my wife Stephanie and I will be in Guatemala!! A huge thank you goes out to everyone who helped make this trip a possibility! We are beyond excited to see how the Lord will work through this trip. Here is a little preview of one of the ministries we will have the pleasure of working with, Happy Tummies!

Tools of my Trade

Recently Paired Inc. approached me do put together a post for their Tools of the Trade campaign. The topic of the post is essentially, what tools do you use on a daily basis in your business? This is a crazy open-ended question.. Each shoot requires a very specific set of tools that I tailor to the particular project (Look at these 2 specific posts on projects Traveling with Photo Gear and Weekend Survival Kit). Other factors that determine what I bring and use on a shoot include weather, location, personality of business, timeframe of the shoot, and many more. But if you boil every shoot down to the bare essentials there is a list of items that I typically always bring along no matter what the subject of the shoot is.

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Guatemala Bracelets

Steph and I are blown away by all of your kindness! We are over 50% covered for our time in Guatemala this July! (News to you? Read about it here!) We still have just under $800 each to raise for our trip. We have no doubt that the Lord wants us to spend part of our summer serving Impacto in the villages around Lake Atitlan, so raising enough money isn’t a worry. However, the more we raise the more impact we can make!! Impacto has several full time positions that need our donations to keep their salary. Positions like managing Happy Tummies, a ministry that helps feed and tutor children in need!

One way we are trying to dual purpose some donations is through our friend Carolina and her hand made bracelets! (Pictured below with her daughter) For a donation of $10 or more (through PayPal) we order a custom bracelet from Carolina and bring it back for you! Get your name, nickname, favorite phrase, whatever! (nothing vulgar please..) Choose your favorite colors and any simple designs you would like to see and we will get it made up for you! Although I would trust Carolina with the designs, she is awesome! Average bracelets are about 6 inches of beads and about 3 inches of cord on either end. If you need one longer (like the dog collar Carolina is holding below :) let us know in your notes on name/design/colors. Contact Chris to get your bracelet ordered! Thanks again for your support!

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New Love – Aerial Photography

Ladies and Gentlemen. I have found a new love, well its an old love that just got rekindled!

Photography + Helicopters = Pure Bliss

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Overcoming Photography Ignorance

After reading my cousin Scott Troyer’s guest post on David Santistevan’s blog ‘The Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Musical Gear Ignorance‘, I decided to make up a similar post on overcoming photo ignorance.

There is a three tiered scale when it comes to photography. Where you fall on this scale determines your ability. You are forced to balance your technical ability, people personality, and artistic flare. There is no right or wrong way to shoot. It’s all based on your personality. However, regardless of how you approach your day-to-day shooting, at some point in the day you are forced to think or act technically. (There will be other posts about shooting emotionally and working with clients in the future!) So many of us aren’t even aware of the science going on behind the lens. Being able to answer the following questions at the drop of a hat will force you to memorize some technical facts, and by doing so will give you a better understanding of the limitations of your gear. The more you study, the more the information will be stored in your subconscious. All of this subconscious thought will surface on a shoot without you even thinking twice about what you are doing or why you are doing it, giving you more time to think about interacting with your talent or focus on your artistic side.

There are no particular order to the questions because we really need to know it all. So what if you are an all natural light shooter? The exact same principals of strobed light apply to the sun coming in the window you are using.

This will be an ever growing list so if you have a good question send it in! I would love to expand the list to cover as much as we can.

  • 1) What does DSLR stand for?
  • 2) List full aperture values between 2.8 and 32
  • 3) List full shutter values between 1/30 and 1/1000
  • 4) List full ISO values between 100 & 1600
  • 5) Define the principle of reciprocals in photography.
  • 6) How much additional light are you letting into your camera by opening your aperture from f/5.6 to f/4?
  • 7) How many stops of light do you lose if you double the distance from subject to light source?
  • 8) What are 3 ways to change your depth of field?
  • 9) Is light softer when you are closer or farther from the source?
  • 10) What gives you softer light, a large or small light source?
  • 11) What is White Balance?
  • 12) How does light from a flash differ from traditional lamp bulbs (tungsten)?
  • 13) What type of gel should you use to balance a flash to tungsten light?
  • 14) What is the 1/Focal Length rule?
  • 15) What does a cropped sensor do to your focal length?
  • 16) What is dynamic range?
  • 17) What are the color spaces and how do they differ?
  • 18) How many megapixels do you need to add to double your image size?

 

I love thinking about all of this data!! Its amazing how it is all connected. Like combining questions 5, 9, and 13 to shoot ambient light one shot and flash the next to produce 2 drastically different looks! Remember, I’m not saying you HAVE to know all of this. I am saying that when something unexpected happens to your gear/setup/art direction (and it will!), if you have a great grasp on these topics, you will have the technical knowledge to figure out what is happening, why it is happening, and how to solve the problem without freaking out in front of your client.

If you would like more hands on learning check out one of my workshops! I would love to sit down with you and explain anything here in greater detail! 
Keep Shooting!
-Chris W ‘WhonPhoto’

Guatemala 2013

Guess what, folks? We are going to Guatemala once again (shocking, I know)! This year, we are blessed to be able to spend 3 weeks in this beautiful country with some beautiful people!  Even though the trip is not until July, we are already preparing to go! Whether it be brainstorming fundraiser ideas, collecting shoes and toys, or coming up with kid-friendly crafts, everyone who has committed to go this year is busy prepping! WhonPhoto’s primary task this year is to produce a promotional video for IMPACTO Ministries. Once the video is completed, viewers will see a glimpse of the various ministries that IMPACTO staff and mission teams are involved with as a means of helping to better the lives of our brothers and sisters in Guatemala.

As mentioned previously, once again this year we will be working with IMPACTO Ministries, which is a ministry organization operating primarily in the Lake Atitlan region of Guatemala. Over the years, we have been a part of several different ministries including Happy Feet, Happy Tummies, Help Portrait, construction projects, vacation Bible schools, and a basketball camp, and this year’s activities are panning out to include a lot of the same. But no matter what we are doing, of course, there will be plenty of photo ops!

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Thanks to Epson, we have been able to take a portable printer (Epson Picturemate) with us for the past 3 years and actually print portraits on location for the Guatemalans that we interact with while serving in various villages. Sometimes it’s a family portrait and sometimes it’s just a plain ol’ individual portrait. Last year we were able to take portraits of participants in the basketball camp and give each person a 4×6 photo of themselves holding a basketball! This doesn’t seem like anything special to us here in the United States, but to the Guatemalans, just a simple photo of themselves is a precious gift. It’s incredible to be able to witness the beautiful smiles of the folks we provide with portraits, especially because most of them have never seen a photo of themselves, let alone owned one!

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Epson’s gracious donation of a Picturemate Printer two years ago has been a huge help, as we have been able to double the amount of photos we’ve printed while in Guatemala. And, it’s been great to have a “back-up” in case one of the printers malfunctions or gets damaged (which did happen during our most recent trip). We always are in need of donations, whether it be printer paper for the photography ministry (Help Portrait), shoes for Happy Feet, stickers for the VBS, or simply money for one of the many other ministries we do while in Guatemala. If you are interested in donating or in finding out more information about the various ways you can get involved in this year’s Guatemala trip, please visit our Give page to find more info on our trips and how you can help make a difference!! We are all super excited, and we can’t wait to share more with you in weeks to come!

Keep Shooting!
Chris W ‘WhonPhoto’

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Road Trip!

Heading to South Dakota to photograph and video several interviews for Wesleyan Life magazine. Exciting but fast paced opportunity. More about this when the issue comes out!

So what am I taking?? Below I’ve listed my gear list for the 5 day trip, and a short explanation on why I’m bringing it. But first some tips for traveling with your camera gear (*These tips  are my personal opinion, its how I travel. Take with a grain of salt and apply your personal travel preferences and beliefs to you own trip).

  • If you have multiple bodies/lenses, split them up. Especially if you are traveling to an area prone to pick pocketing. Never a good idea to keep everything in one bag, yes its very convenient, but the trip will be much more enjoyable if your gear gets swiped and you have a backup.
  • Use a travel agent! They know the ins and outs of most destinations and they will let you know what to bring/not bring and which venues have crazy rules. (Personally I recommend Dave Bunn if you are in the Indy area!)
  • Pelicans save lives! Not really, but they will save your gear if you are going on a rugged trip. I recommend the 1510, perfect size plus wheels!
  • Ziplock bags will help with sensor dust. You will feel like a dork, but stick your bodies in a ziplock bag as you travel and you will have significantly less dust than if you don’t. Vibrations on flights especially tend to eek dust into just about any camera body. Also handy if it starts to rain on location and you need to quickly waterproof your off camera speedlight (or on camera for that matter!).
  • If the flight attendants tell you to gate check your camera bag (typically smaller flights with 3 seats per row), tell them you are traveling with camera gear! Most of the time they will put it in their personal closet up front. If they are still reluctant tell them you have a battery that cannot be checked. (Most airlines say not to check Lithium batteries.) I honestly do travel with such a battery. If you are lying, shame on you (but it works!).
  • If you are traveling with crazy lead / Lithium batteries its always a good idea to have the printout saying its air safe. I’ve never ran into an issue with flight security, but you never know.
  •  Travel with snacks. Nothing hurts more than having to run around on a long documentary shoot on an empty stomach.
  • Dont forget your charging cables!
  • Extra memory cards never hurt. On a long documentary shoot who knows when you will have time/space to open up a laptop and dump a card.
  • Primes are awesome, but if space is limited I would recommend ditching them for a telephoto or two. 24-70 is a fantastic wide gamut workhorse.
  • If you are traveling out of the country, check your gear with customs before you leave! Upon arrival to the states if you cannot prove you purchased your gear in the states they are allowed to charge you tax on it. (Never had a problem, but on my most recent trip to Guatemala the customs officer gave me a little crap about traveling with so much gear and not having proper paperwork. Thank God he didn’t charge me, the clueless look on my face must have convinced him I didn’t purchase it out of America.) Better safe than sorry.

(*Note some of my gear is outdated, so I linked to the upgraded product)

LowePro Runner 450

  • Nikon D3 + 2 batteries (Primary still camera)
  • Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8 (For distance shots as well as zooming to compress depth of field)
  • Nikkor 85mm F/1.4 (Renting from Borrow Lenses for portraits & video interviews)
  • Nikkor 50mm F/1.4 (for Portraits as well as run & gun shooting, light & small, makes awesome multi shot combo images)
  • 77mm Variable Density Filter (For video, harder to use larger apertures without a ND filter of some sort)
  • ExpoDisc (Awesome custom White Balance tool for photo and video)
  • BlackRapid Strap (Infinitely more comfortable than the standard strap, especially for longer shoots.)
  • Sekonic L-758 Light Meter (So I don’t kill my shutter prematurely)
  • Nikon SB-800 + Filters (Fantastic run & gun speedlight, small, powerful & virtually indestructible)
  • Sensor Cleaning Kit (Traveling off road / flying / changing lenses in the field = dust on sensor)
  • Rain sleeve (Stupid light & handy if it rains.. These bodies can handle a light rain, but anything serious I would rather be safe than sorry)
  • MacBook Air (Need a way to backup & clear memory cards and edit on the go)
  • USB tethering cables (Because my card reader is in my other bag)
  • Mophie Juice Pack (Nothing sucks more than being on a long road trip with a dead iPhone/iPad..)
  • 1 TB Hard drive (MBA has a awesome solid state hard drive, but its very tiny.. Not the best drive to travel with, but its what I have)
  • Noise canceling headphones (For checking audio & ignoring annoying people)
  • Clif Bar (Energy is good!)
  • Flashlight (Always handy!)
  • Ziplock bags (to waterproof flashes and save camera bodies from getting dusty while traveling)

Pelican 1510 (Good to split up gear in case something happens to one bag)

  • Nikon D800 (Primary video / cover shot camera)
  • Nikkor 24-70mm F/2.8 (Wide angle for photo & video)
  • Røde Shotgun Mic (Because internal mics are never reliable)
  • Zoom H4n (Backup audio / ambient filler, awesome because it can record from multiple sources at the same time!)
  • Elinchrom Ranger Quadra / Lithium Battery / A Head (I love flash, especially this über portable awesomely versatile kit. *Battery in linked kit is not Lithium.. Li battery is smaller, lighter & double the flash capacity)
  • 1 TB Hard drive (backup HD)
  • Card Reader (Because my USB tethering cables are in my other bag)
  • Headlamp (For running around / digging in bags after dark)
  • Midland GXT1000 radios (In the boonies of SD, cell will be sketchy)
  • Clif Bar (More energy!)
  • Ziplock bags (Same as above, doubling up)

Checked Bag

  • Leatherman (I can’t remember the last shoot I was on where one of these didn’t come in handy.. Remember it is a knife so put it in your checked bag!!)
  • Manfrotto Tripod + Photo Ball Head + Video Fluid Head
  • Induro Monopod (Stabilizing low shutter photos & any video shot, also good for birds eye!)
  • Light Stand (I love off camera light..)
  • Charging Bag
  • Clothing (Layers! Its cold out there, but gotta be able to strip off a jacket or gloves when I get too hot running around)

It seems like a lot, and I admit, it is. I have the ‘Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it’ mentality.. Its a blessing and a curse. Rarely am I in need for gear in the field, but I do have to lug it around everywhere we go.. Fortunately we will have our truck close by at all times and I can use as my closet. I am also planning on doing photo as well as video, which means one camera will always be set up and ready to shoot images, and the other will always be set up and ready to record some video. If you know much of anything about DSLR video (Its a work in progress for me), you will know its not super easy to switch from one to another on the fly. Especially if you care about good audio and a stable shot.

I’ll do a follow up post and focus on the gear that I did not need on my trip and make some notes on things I will do differently next time. Until then, keep traveling and Keep Shooting!

-Chris W ‘WhonPhoto’