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Out Their Front Door – Dr. Jeff Edwards

I apologize for the delay in the next installment of the ‘Out Their Front Door Series‘, things were a bit hectic trying to coordinate it from the road last week. However, all good things are worth waiting for, and this post is no exception. Up next is a an installment by the Doctor himself. That’s none other than Dr. Jeffery K. Edwards. Not only have I been following his photography for well over a year, I have followed the volunteer work he does in Caribbean. You can explore his website to learn more. However, be warned, you are going to find incredible photography coupled with the voice of one of the most positive people I know.

Out my front door….

Justin was recently kind enough to ask me to pen a guest edition to his blog, following several other esteemed photogs in the last several weeks. I applaud the idea of sharing knowledge – it is has inspired me over the years to develop my skills and hope I can now pass along the same.

I currently live with my family in north central Texas and work full time (and then some) as a physician. Like Justin, I shoot with Nikon’s D700. Photography has long been a challenge and passion since developing b&w images with my father in the 1970s. However, I could never really breakthrough and feel like my images made an impact. I revisited photography several times over the years but was truly frustrated with film because of the time it took to get pictures from the processor and the expense involved. It remained a steep learning curve.

Then came digital SLR = instant feedback on the LCD monitor with what was being captured by the sensor. Simply put, the ability to shoot in manual and adjust the iso, f/stop, shutter speed on the fly – and then see the image captured instantly, allows one to progress rapidly in their skills. That is the secret.

If you want to step your images up to the next level, you must shoot manual. By shooting manual, you learn the intimacies of relationships between iso, f/stop and shutter speed. If you master these, your abilities will expand dramatically. It is not hard, just takes a bit of time. In the digital world, this costs very little and now takes a fraction of the time it used to.

To learn these skills, one not look farther than your computer and the place you live for inspiration. To get a sense and appreciation you must really look at many images – most days of the week I will spend some time surfing flickriver. This will give you insights into some of the most popular 500 images of the day posted to flickr, many with full exif data = iso, f/stop and shutter speed. As I spent more time on flickr, it became easier to see what I might like to try and create as my own style. This “vision” as many have called it, is always evolving for me and I don’t think it will ever become stagnant. There seems to be always another way to light, expose or compose differently.

Capturing portraits for me is the ultimate. It takes a bit of time and commitment to get people to relax, open up and share some of their soul with you – that’s what a great portrait is all about. I also feel that portraits are done best in the context of a person’s life. For example, the image below is of my daughter this past January in back of our house walking through some tall weeds. Maddie has always struck me as a free-spirit, very independent and confident. This image taken with the 85 mm lens, shares that sense I hope. This portrait works technically for me because her eyes are sharp, the lighting is natural and the contrasts work very well. I used the “rule of thirds” to help with composition. Settings: f/1.8, ISO 200, 1/500, 85mm. The shallow depth of field (f/1.8) really works to isolate her from the background.

One of the things I find exciting to capture both at home and when I’m traveling are cultural events. Can be anything. Around here it is often rodeo, baseball, football, etc. But one of my passions is music. Recently a band played close by and I was able to carry my camera bag in, no problem. Do you know who this is? (hint: he was married to Kate Hudson) Settings: f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/100, 155mm. Shot standing in the crowd, natural stage lighting.

Another favorite portrait of mine is from our place here in Texas and was shot last Mother’s Day. It was a gift to my wife, who wanted something special to remember her favorite horse “Cowboy” in the future. I used the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for this and it gets 75% of the use right now by me. What strikes me in this image is the sense of love, vulnerability and trust – all in one shot. Settings: f/6.3, ISO 400, 1/125, 170mm. Using a deeper f/stop gives more detail to both subjects, slower shutter speed = tail movement. Pretty simple, right?

Last weekend I was able to visit the Twin V Ranch in nearby Weatherford and attend a workshop given by Dave Stoeckline. We started shooting images of typical ranch calf branding. However, what Dave urged us to do was work “outside the box”. So what happens when you lie face down in a corral with horse and cow pucky flying, right behind the cowboy that is getting set to catch the first calf?
Settings: f/5.6, 1/640, ISO 200, 24mm – shot with a 14-24mm lens.

At one point during the weekend, Dave asked the cowboys to drive a herd of horses down a ridgeline. I was lucky and captured Thomas Saunders cracking a bullwhip as he drove the herd along. Exposing manually was the only way to get this image, shooting directly into the backlit sky. Processing it in b&w with sepia tones in Lightroom and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro was the easy part. Settings: f/4.0, 1/1000, ISO 200, 175mm, using the 70-200mm lens.

The last morning of our workshop was spectacular, ironically because of the wildfires going on in west Texas. The image below depicts what happened after the cowboy in the center got bucked off the moment before and had just climbed back up on his horse. This image highlights an important point in photography: your images should strive to “tell a story.” I love the backlit horsetails, dogs in waiting, the other cowboys’ gestures, the fading hills on the horizon…this image is working on many levels. Shot with the 70-200mm, f/4.5, 1/400, ISO 200, 170mm.

This past Saturday was senior prom at Stephenville High. My daughter asked me to shoot some images before they set off for dinner and festivities. I just don’t do flash. For me its all about natural light, mainly because I don’t have the time to set up a flash and there is no one around to hold it for me. The key is finding the light and utilizing it appropriately. This image was shot in alley downtown in the fading evening light, which was spilling indirectly from camera right. Using a prime 85mm lens helps: f/2.8, 1/400, ISO 200.

My last image is one of my favorites from this past year. There is a game preserve about 30 minutes from here – Fossil Rim. It is a wonderful place to go and see different animals. Every time I visit, there is a new experience to be found. I was there in the fall and it was the “rut” for the Red Stag. They were on the prowl and I was lucky to capture this curious bull that day from my truck with the 70-200mm. I again used b&w to isolate the subject and minimize the outrageous fall colors, which turned out to work much better. I use Nik’s Silver Efex Pro for most of my b&w conversions. Everything is run through Lightroom for raw processing and data management – but that is another topic… I do very little processing in Photoshop. Settings: f/3.2, ISO 400, 1/100, 200mm.

For any questions or constructive criticisms, please feel free to drop me an email or stop by my blog. I hope that I was able to give some insights and inspiration to folks and you will do the same for someone else in the future!

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  1. Excellent commentary and great photos!

  2. Great set of photos, but that last shot with the three cowboys really hit home. Very powerful and moving image!

  3. Excellent work! Guess I have to follow another blog :-)

  4. Thanks all for the kind comments!

    It’s just all about getting out there and getting some shutter time. The more you spend looking through a view finder, the better things will start to look…

    Cheers- jeff

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