Sunday, December 19, 2010

2011 Help Portrait

This year I participated in the nationwide event called the Help Portrait Project. For years I had heard about the annual event where photographers give back to people in need. For a day, volunteer photographers set up studios at charities and churches that help the poor, the sick and the homeless. Here is the promo video below.

We spent time with the families, take their portrait and give them each a framed 8x10 photo before Christmas. It may not sound like much to give someone a portrait of themselves, but many of the participating families do not have any pictures of themselves. I am told that some of the people never had photos taken before and it can have a powerful effect.

One the surface, this might sound like a lot of sad people showed up to get their photo taken, but that is not what I experienced. The people that I met were warm and friendly... even fun. Some of the children were the cutest hams and had us all laughing.

I will not be showing any of the photos we took that day since there are confidentiality promises in place, and the event was not about any particular photographer getting a great portrait for his portfolio. It was about connecting with everyday people and giving them a simple gift of compassion.

As a side note, Chik-Fila was kind enough to supply the Atlanta area locations with lunch. Here is a photo of me in front of a mountain of chicken sandwiches before they were distributed. I am glad they did not fall on me... I would have had to eat my way to the surface. Darn!

Moving Away from Internet Flash

Flash sites don't work on mobile devices
image from 
We tell our clients, a lot can happen in a couple of years on the internet. Standards change, new browsers are released, new trends appear. All of these elements can date a web site quickly.

One of the biggest trends going right now is the movement away from Adobe Flash to create web sites. In the past, our clients requested Flash-based animated splash screens or whole web sites created using this technology. The big problem is that Flash sites are not easily indexed by search engines... I call them "stealth sites" because they can often fly under the radar of most search engines.

Some of the Flash sites required more bandwidth and faster processors to play smoothly. This was not usually a problem on desktop computers, but now more consumers are becoming dependent on smart phones to browse the internet. Flash is not currently supported on some popular devices such as iPhones, iPads and a number of other mobile device platforms. When one realizes the millions of mobile devices, the Flash problem is hard to ignore.

What happens when these web sites appear on these non-Flash enabled smart phones depends on how the site is built. In some cases, the user is redirected to an alternate non-flash site that has been optimized for smart phone use. In other cases where the issue has not been addressed, the user sees blank holes in the web site design or nothing at all.

Web designers are embracing non-Flash technology such as HTML5 which plays internet video natively without additional plugins. We are also using clever custom code to restore animation and graphic effects back to web sites. The upside of this is that these technologies will also work on smart phone browsers.

I personally believe that market share wars are being fought on the internet with many competing companies vying for control of our computing devices. Control equals dollars at the end of the day. Just look how far Google has embedded itself into our daily lives. Can you imagine the web without them? Didn't think so.

Apple has famously drawn the line by not supporting Flash on their iPhones and iPads. Steve Jobs claims that this is because Flash web sites can require extreme band width and processing power which can put a strain on networks and drain phone batteries quickly. These are valid points, but really, it all might come down to control of market share and user experience.

Apple has its own platform for applications that it sells on its "App" Store, iTunes. If a competing technology such as Flash was allowed to run on Apple devices, Apple would lose the money it makes through the sale of Apps because consumers would have an alternate source for Apps. Hundreds of Flash App stores would pop up... guaranteed. Just as important to Apple, they might lose control over the user experience. For example, Apple does not allow pornography or obscene products to be sold in their store. They would not be able to control that with Flash Apps. Also, buggy or unsafe software  could cause stability issues.

While I have complained in the past about the lack of Flash support on iPhones, I applaud Apple for following their own path to give their consumers the best possible experience possible on their devices. Web designers and consumers can find creative alternative and life after Flash.

For non-Flash web site design, contact me at

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Racing Video Project Using the Canon 5D Mark 2

A few months ago took some raw video footage for my friend David Struve and his Pro Cup Karting League at Andretti Speed Lab in Alpharetta, Georgia. (See my previous story about Racing by Candlelight). The race track is kinda dark and it was tough to shoot video, but I was able to get some usable footage. David wanted to make a movie trailer-style web ad for the Karting League, and he was able to mix my footage with some of his on-board helmet cam clips. Below is the result. Pretty cool I think!

David is a talented graphic designer and my coworker at my 9-5 job at Graphic Works. Check out his freelance design web site at

Head Shot Portraits for an Atlanta Law Firm

This week at Graphic Works I had the opportunity to take head shot portraits of 12 lawyers of a local Atlanta law firm. They are going to use the photos for their web site profiles and for publications when needed.

I love making these kind of photos because it gives me a chance to connect with people one-on-one. I also like delivering photos that the subject will be happy to use... even ones who inform me that they "hate to have their picture taken". My goal is to win those people over and make them change their mind about having a portrait made... or at least to make the process seem painless.

The mood during my portrait sessions is laid back and fun. I will adjust my shooting style based on the particular person sitting in front of me, but I always want my subjects to feel at ease because that makes the best portraits.

My typical workflow for corporate portraits involves setup on in the client's office or in our studio. Then I schedule about 15 minutes per person to shoot, review and pick the final image. I shoot with my camera tethered to a computer so that we can make an "on-the-spot" review and choose the final photo. We discuss any retouching requests at that time too. Clients love seeing the photo that they will get and it saves me from their second guessing later. Everyone is happy this way.

Check out my business photography portfolio at

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Graphic Works Atlanta Launches a New Portfolio Web Site

They say that a cobbler's children have no shoes. In the case of our web site at Graphic Works, we just had "old shoes". After months of collecting new samples of our recent graphic design projects, web site designs and photography we were finally ready to unleash our promotional web site.

We designed this web site to be Flash-free and to work natively on Apple iPhones, iPads and other mobile devices that do not support Adobe Flash.

View the new Graphic Works web site at

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Watching Fall Leaves

Have you ever wondered how leaves change their colors? We all have seen trees that go from green to gold to brown in a matter of days, but how do the individual leaves actually make that transition? That was what I was wondering when I set up a little experiment using a scanner and some leaves collected in the yard.

My process was to scan the leaves daily and then make a time-lapse movie of the transformation. If I was being totally scientific, I would have scanned them at exact intervals of time. I got busy during the week and skipped a day or two, but one can clearly see the amazing transformation.

Each leaf represents a specific kind of tree and each changes differently from the others. All of them seem to lose moisture and dry up. Some whither a little and others a lot. One even seems to rot pretty quickly. If I was a scientist I would be interested in the structure of the leaf, the water content, bacteria or microbes present etc. Since I am not, I'll just marvel at nature's beauty.

Where My Designs End Up...

One of my favorite Graphic Works clients, EES, was kind enough to send me a snapshot of her (Linda)  at a trade show. Rarely do I get to see where some of my designs end up so this was a treat for me. I have been working with EES for over 10 years and they fantastic people with innovative cleaning and odor control products for industrial in institutional use. They also have a retail division that sells the wildly successful BugBand insect repellents made with Geraniol. From humble beginnings, BugBand is now sold in huge retail chains and even in different countries around the world. That stuff works wonders at keeping insects away from you. 

I have created package designs, displays, retail signs catalogs and web sites for BugBand and EES so I have a lot of interest in their continued success. Thanks EES for being such great clients and friends.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Employee Video Made with Canon 5D Mark 2

One of our long-time clients asked up to film a welcome speech aimed at new employees. We created a portable set in an office with noisy AC vents and interstate 285 within viewing distance. This room was our only option so we went with it. High ambient noise can cause issues when trying to capture clean sound, even with good mikes. Our solution was to shoot the speech and then record some ambient dead space on the tape. Then we filtered out the AC unit and traffic noises in post production by isolating the sound waveforms.The film was created using a Canon 5D Mark 2.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Web Site Launched for Atlanta Business Photography

After weeks of sorting, editing and writing, I am finally able to launch ... a portfolio of photography, illustration and retouching. Some of you are already familiar with my photography services for personal portraits and events seen at, but I needed another portfolio for just business-related photography and illustration services.

I built this site for Graphic Works, aka the "day-job" that I have held since 1992. While most of the photography on it is mine, the site is meant to represent the work of 3 other photographers and artists that  are employed at Graphic Works. We have been producing more photography and video content over the past year and needed a way to share this with our clients. Give it a look...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Facebook Page Launched for Masqueman Photography & Design

I have finally embraced Facebook for self promotion. If I ignore the Gangster Wars and the Farmville games, I actually find it a very useful and tool to keep in touch with people. Heck, 500,000,000 members can't all be wrong, can they?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Family Photos

Last summer got to go back to Virginia for a nice long family visit. I only get to visit my childhood home about twice a year now so and I really enjoy spending time with my family and all my nieces and nephews (who seem to be growing like weeds).

It was my parent's 50th wedding anniversary, and it was kind of mind-blowing that they had been together so long. They have been married 10 times longer than I have. I started so late that I will never catch up.

We have not had a family photo in 20 or 30 years, so when all the planets aligned and we jumped in for a few shots. Their next door neighbor did the clicking, and all of us were amazed at how fat we look, that is why I am only showing head shots. I can only say this since it is family and they would agree.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Summer Spiders

One thing that has always signaled the end of summer for me is the appearance of huge spiders in my doorway. They have gorged themselves all summer long on moths and mosquitoes and they are spinning their last webs of the year. Where do they go after the first frost? Who knows, but they always return next year.

This fine fellow was hanging a web in my parent's porch in Virginia.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Newborn Photos of Baby Joshusa

Joshusa was born a few weeks early so he was a tiny fellow when I first met him. It hard to get my mind around how small each of us are when we first come into the world.

The mom told me this smiling is a result of "extra gas"... I thought he was smiling for the camera.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Wedding of Angie and Eric

The big wedding day had finally come for Angie & Eric Scissom. I had met these two earlier in the year when I took their engagement photos. Now we were back in the same exact place for their wedding ceremony and reception.

Click to view Angie and Eric's Wedding Gallery Web Site

It was an outside wedding, and the temperatures were anything but typical for mid September. It seems that summer wanted to hang out like a drunk who doesn't know when to leave your house party. It was over 90 degrees that day and extremely humid. I soaked 3 shirts, and I felt a few pounds lighter when I got home. I was hoping not to get heat exhaustion.

I tend to go into high gear when working a wedding especially if I do not have a second shooter with me, and I try to be everywhere at once. To make  a long story short, the wedding went beautifully, the reception was wonderful and the spirits of everyone involved were high. Here are a few of my favorite photographs from that day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Colors of Fall 2010

Every year I make a habit of enjoying the incredible fall colors of Atlanta. I am amazed at the combination of hues that come and go in just a few weeks. Here are a few photos taken right behind the studio.

This last one was taken with my iphone which exaggerated the blue in the asphalt.

Office Halloween Costume Contest

The law firm down the hall works hard, but they try to let off a little steam on special occasions... like Halloween. This gave them the excuse to act silly for a costume contest. Again, me and my office mates were asked to be judges to choose the SCARIEST COSTUME, the FUNNIEST COSTUME and the MOST ORIGINAL COSTUME. It was a tough call but we all agreed the ribbons were handed out. After the contest we invited the participants back to the studio for a quick costume portrait. Here are a few of them.

These brave women chose to impersonate their bosses. Luckily they have a good sense of humor.

This gal claimed to work at "King Burger". She said I could have it my way... but don't get crazy. Think lots of ghetto attitude and you can imagine what she sounded like. The hair and nails are fakes. She had everyone laughing so she won the FUNNIEST COSTUME award.

This mummy won the scariest costume award, but really we thought she was pretty cute.

Aftert this chamber maid had her portrait maid, I asked her id she could do a little dusting.

This "lady" had more chest hair than me, and her husband would not kiss her goodbye. 

This contestant had a bewitching classic costume. We can't wait to see what they do next year.

Awesome Halloween Pumpkin Carvings

Last week I was asked to be one of the judges at Halloween Pumpkin carving and contest. Only a few people entered, but a lot of effort went into carving these little works of art.

The one above was an instant favorite. The man who carved this pumpkin is a gifted wood carver and it took him 90 minutes to make this face in the pumpkin.

I asked if I could take a few photos in the studio so that the winners would have something to remember long after the pumpkin rotted away.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Secret Forest of Charles Hughes

I made this book about my father last year, but never wrote about it in this blog. Some of you may already know the book or own it, but for anyone else stumbling upon this, these are the actual page spreads. You can view The Sceret Forest of Charles Hughes as a PDF file here.

This is cover and introduction page.
On a trip back to Virginia, my father, Charles Hughes, took me to see his classroom at the Maritime School in Norfolk, Virginia. My father has spent a majority of his life teaching children and young adults of all ages.

His classroom is very unique and you likely will never see another room like it. There are scientific treasures everywhere that you look. Most of them collected and preserved by Charles himself.

You could easily be looking at exhibits from a science museum with strange collected creatures and live animals in aquariums.

Behind the school, the teaching continues in a unique outdoor classroom under a single pine tree. A circular bench was constructed where whole classes of children could be taken and taught about nature.

Beyond this point, behind an unassuming chain link fence is a truly magical place... the place that I call the "Secret Forest of Charles Hughes".

The forest is rare to the east coast of Virginia because it contains extremely old and large live oaks that could be hundreds of years old.

Many of these forests were destroyed for fuel or building materials so the fact that this one survived in such a populated area is surprising.

Though the forest is protected now by a fence, it was not always so. The community came together to run off vagrants and remove thousands of pounds of trash from the forest. Some of the damage can still be seen like these huge fire pits.

My father and others realized the important ecosystem that was a few hundred yards from the school and the fantastic opportunity to save a unique place for future generations.

I took photos in the classrooms and forest so I could make a book about it as a present of appreciation for my father. I know that he liked it and so did many of his friends. The library of his school asked for a copy so the kids would know more about it.

This project is the closest one to my heart and tries to capture the dedication of a man who has taught over 50 years, and a genius who has inspired  generations of students into knowing that not all knowledge comes from a book.... some of it has to be discovered for yourself.