Madeira Beach Florida Sunset Beach Portraits with Paula & Family

All smiles for this family on Madeira Beach during their sunset portrait session in Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 & SB-600 @ 1/2 powerIt had been awhile since I had a sunset family beach portrait session on Madeira Beach, so it was good to meet Paula and family there recently, although once facing the Gulf of Mexico, pretty much every beach on the Pinellas peninsula looks the same!  The family-in-a-row was a new style photograph for me.  I am always looking for new ways to photograph families on the beach and adding as much variety to a family's set of shots as possible.  I like this in-a-row composition and will definitely be adding it to my already existing set of shots.

Sisters all stacked up on Madeira Beach during a fun family beach portraits session - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/640th - natural lightAll three sisters stacked themselves up and were bookended by their parents.  I encourage families to physically interact as much as possible to add a natural and fun look to shots.  The more you come into physical contact, the better the results is typically how it goes.  Just standing stiffly side-by-side is something I try to avoid at all costs.

Family togetherness on Madeira Beach in Florida during a sunset portrait session - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/500th - natural lightI wonder if in 20 years these sisters will remember what they were laughing about in this moment.  I hope they can.  That is the potential power of a still photograph.

A beautiful sunset on Madeira Beach Florida for family portraits - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th - Strobist: SB-800 & SB-600 @ 1/2 powerFor me personally (and as a photographer), I prefer there to be some clouds along the horizon and in the sky in general for sunset portraits.

Sisters jumping on Madeira Beach during a family beach sunset portrait session in Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/7.1 ISO 200 1/200th - Strobist: SB-800 & SB-600 @ 1/2 powerI think these three sisters jumped the highest I have ever seen for a jumping photograph of this nature.  Madeira Beach and mother nature provided a very nice backdrop for this family beach sunset portrait session.

Christmas Card Portraits Treasure Island Florida Three Sisters

Holiday photo card portrait with three sisters wrapped in Christmas lights - Nikon D4 Nikkor 24-70mm @ f/5.6 ISO 100 2.5 sec tripod mounted - Strobist: SB-800 in 43" brolly frame rightLong time DSLR photography student Stacy invited me to her home to photograph her daughters for their family Christmas card.  She said I could bring Kiki along as well (more about this below).  This was an unusual shoot as Stacy worked with me to learn how to make portraits and I used much of her own photography gear (note the use of a Nikon D4 for all these shots!).  I had shown her my wedding couple wrapped in Christmas lights shot before, which we did with the three sisters for the above image.  

Christmas Photo Card portrait three sisters in front of their Christmas Tree - Nikon D4 Nikkor 24-70m @ f/4 ISO 100 1/200th - Strobist: SB-900 to frame right in 43" brollyWhen editing this black & white image I wanted mainly the lights of the tree to be visible in the background framing the girls.

Smiling in front of Christmas tree bokeh for holiday portrait in Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D4 Nikkor 70-200mm with 2x teleconverter @ f/5.6 ISO 6400 1/60th - natural lightUsing the new 2x teleconverter Stacy recently got, I took advantage of an effective 400mm focal length to create extreme bokeh in the background of the above shot of the same Christmas tree lights used in the B&W shot.  

Holiday Photo Card Portrait before the fireplace in Florida - Nikon D4 Nikkor 24-70mm @ f/6.3 ISO 100 1/4th tripod mounted - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-900 to frame rightA more formal shot before the lit fireplace, which made things pretty hot for the girls, but throughout our shoot they were great and knew how to get into proper positions unprompted!  It was like working with professional models!

In all the shots Kiki was lying near the girls! It was my first time to bring her on a portrait shoot. Now when I try to photograph Kiki she is never happy about it and ends up looking like a sad puppy (see here).  However, she was all too willing to get into every photo with the girls and smile!  For the piano shot we let a sleeping dog lie and framed the portrait around her.  She just wanted to participate and be involved!

It was a fun shoot and a chance for me to try a few new things shooting inside someone's home, as I most often shoot outside on location.  I look forward to seeing the photos in print on Stacy's family Christmas card!

Madeira Beach St Petersburg Candid Portrait 3 Generations Family Photography at Sunset

Father holds his baby girl in the air at Madeira Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/6.3 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power beside camera & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame rightI returned to Madeira Beach Florida last week for a family beach portrait session at sunset with a three generation family.  There has been very unpredictable rain this July here in Florida, but two early day rain showers allowed for a nice clear sky with plenty of clouds for an ideal backdrop.  I made use of that great sunset in the above photo of a father holding his baby girl high up in the air.  I have made this kind of shot a few times before (see here), but I tried a new strobist lighting position that produced the best results yet.

Black & White family beach portrait on Madeira Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/9 ISO 200 1/100th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame rightI like clouds in the sky for a beach portrait session, and all the ones in the above shot in my view add drama to the overall family portrait.  I framed this shot very carefully, so that the viewer would have no idea of the line of hotels just outside the left edge nor all the people walking down the beach just outside the right edge.

Baby Girl at sunset on Madeira Beach Florida candid beach portraits - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th - Strobist: SB-800 & SB-600 somewhere near the baby as she was roving aroundToward the end of the session we let the baby loose for some truly candid shots, as she never even looked my way once.  That was actually fine with me because I like the results of her looking perhaps at her own reflection in the water or maybe just the sparkle of the setting sun?

Gathered around sunset family beach portrait Madeira Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50m @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/200th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame rightThis is a new-ish pose I like for a group of five adults (plus baby ok too) with one person anchoring the entire pose and everyone wrapped around.  Just lining people up like a picket fence makes for a mundane beach portrait to me, so I am always trying to not take the easy way out and encourage the clients to get in the sand and of course interact with each other to produce more personal beach portraits.

Sisters sunset portrait on Madeira Beach Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/8 ISO 200 1/250th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame rightThe same for this shot above of two sisters.  They were just going to stand next to each other, until I used the trusty Posing App to suggest a more sisterly bonding look for the photo.  When this photo is looked at by the sisters twenty years from now, if they were just standing side-by-side, that would evoke no physical feeling, where this photo in contrast will hopefully make them remember what it felt like to hold their sister in their arms.

Sunset Vistas Treasure Island Florida Family Portraits February 2013

Sisters having fun on Treasure Island Sunset Beach Florida in this candid portrait - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/11 ISO 200 1/160th - Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/4 power to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/4 power to frame rightTwo families were coming to Florida for a warm winter vacation from their homes in Pennsylvania and contacted me about getting family beach portraits.  They were staying at Sunset Vistas on Treasure Island, Florida and wanted to use the beach their as the backdrop for their family portraits.  I had never been on that stretch of beach before, but I pretty much knew what to expect as virtually all beaches on Treasure Island look the same.  The biggest variable was the weather, but we were pretty lucky.  The day before the shoot was all day rain.  The day after the shoot was arctic and super windy.  Our shoot day was perfectly sunny with only a slight chill in the air.  Lucky!

The above shot was my favorite of the session, featuring two sisters doing as I suggested, just be sisters.  It may end up in my top ten images of 2013 as my favorite candid portrait, we shall see.

All hands on dad in this family sunset portrait on Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/6.3 ISO 200 1/160th - Strobist: SB-800 to frame left & SB-600 to frame rightSince there were two families in this hour portrait session, I had to work twice as fast.  There were several group shots with everyone, but otherwise I setup a shot with one family and then quickly had to get the next in place for their turn, all of course with the sun providing its own countdown timer!

Two families watching the sunset on Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/100th - Stobist: SB-800 @ 1/1 power frame left & SB-600 @ 1/1 power frame rightThis was my first time to make this type of shot with so many people.  I had to use both speedlights at max power and a relatively large aperture of f/5.6 to light everyone with the sun that low.  

Another great Florida sunset at Treasure Island backlights this family portrait - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th - Strobist: SB-800 to front frame left & SB-600 to rear frame rightEven though each family had four members and were photographed in the same spot and time was ticking away, I still tried to add as much variety between shots as possible, in the case above using a different pose and moving one of the speedlights behind the family.  Compare this shot to the second photo from the top to see how the light changes at sunset time in just 3 minutes.

Family Beach Portraits at Sunset Beach Treasure Island Florida - Stanton Family

Visiting from Alabama the Stanton Family on Sunset Beach Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D80 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 200 1/125th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame rightAll day it was overcast.  Then at 5:30pm it rained.  However, by our family beach portrait session time of 7:50pm the skies were clear and the sun emerged providing an excellent backdrop for the Stanton Family's photographs on Sunset Beach, Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, Florida.  I have mostly been pretty lucky with weather regarding sunset photo shoots.  The streak continued yesterday.

Sisters having fun on Sunset Beach, Treasure Island - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50mm @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th Strobist: SB-800 to frame left @ 1/2 power & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame rightI do not think I have ever seen kids remain as dry as the sisters above did when so close to the water's edge!  They were fun to photograph as they readily showed their sibling affection for each other.  I had my speedlights set in place to light them and dialed in the best shutter speed to pull in the remaining light from the sunset sky.

Father and daughters on Sunset Beach Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame rightTheir father joined them for a sunset portrait of their own.  He did a good job of corraling them as there were starting to become more active!  I just made sure no one jumped in front of the setting sun as I was composing the shot.

Mother and daughters on Sunset Beach Treasure Island Florida - Nikon D300 Tamron 17-50 @ f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th Strobist: SB-800 @ 1/2 power to frame left & SB-600 @ 1/2 power to frame rightOf course mom had to get in for a photograph of her own with her daughters.  With the setting sun as a constant deadline, it is important to have your lighting and camera settings dialed in so that you can quickly and easily move in new people for the next shot when shooting a sunset portrait session.  You can note that I used exactly the same settings for the above three shots:  f/5.6 ISO 200 1/160th and the same strobist settings as well.  I believe I did not even change the speedlight positions either since both the mother and father got to the same eye level as their daughters.

It was a very fun family beach portrait session that went as smoothly as any I have ever photographed before and it was good to continue my lucky streak of avoiding rain!

DSLR Photography Lesson with sisters Shanna & Heather & their Nikon D3100's

Heather & Shanna, sisters, both have the new Nikon D3100 seen here in Vinoy ParkIt is very rare that I teach anything but 1-on-1 DSLR Photography Lessons, but thanks to a Christmas present gift certificate given to both, sisters Heather & Shanna took their lesson together.  Since the both had the same DSLR, the new Nikon D3100, things were greatly simplified and they were also pretty fast on the uptake for learning how to change the basic settings for aperture, ISO, white balance and focus mode.  If yesterday morning's weather was nice, then todays's was fabulous.  It was very nice to be outside and along the St. Petersburg waterfront talking about photography.

Each sister had the same photography knowledge level (eager beginner), but had done some good prep reading of Rick Sammon's great book, "Digital Photography Secrets."  I highly recommend that book to anyone starting out in digital photography.  I own it myself.  

After showing the sisters how to use aperture and focal length settings to create bokeh using their 55-200mm lenses, we made our way over to Vinoy Park stopping to photograph a grey heron along the way.  In the park we finished the lesson with a little landscape photography practice making use of the rule of thirds to best place the horizon.

I look forward to future lessons with both Shanna and Heather. 

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  • Three young sisters candid portraits in Vinoy Park

    Big sister hugs everyone in Vinoy Park for their candid portrait session

    When Carter, Maggie and Abigail stepped out of their family's van, I was immediately impressed with their fancy dresses and knew that our candid portrait session would be a stylish one.  I donated a candid photography package to a friend's charity auction last month, and the girls' family were the winners.  

    Maggie at age four was surprisingly articulate, often asking interesting questions about houseboats, manatees and the cleanliness of Tampa Bay.  Carter seemed to be quite energetic and expressive (see below).  Abigail, being only one year old, seemed good with everything happening.

    Carter showing off her great sense of balanceThe large jacaranda tree beside the Museum of Fine Arts in downtown St. Petersburg seems quite picturesque and to be a great place for portraits, but in my experience I find it to be quite tricky to make a good portrait near.  This time I focused just on one of its huge roots for the most part.  I have been wanting to make portraits lately with the subjects arms up in the air, and if possible leg in the air too.  Carter (above) was able to make my vision come true the best of anyone recently. 

    Maggie was actually doing this standing on just one leg, skillsIt was Maggie's turn for her solo shots next and she had no trouble balancing on the tree root as well.  It seemed like Maggie is a natural ballerina in the making.  Hopefully, she can see a manatee soon as we were unlucky this time and saw none around Vinoy Park.

    Baby Abigail did not get up on the root, but shows off her balancing skills nonetheless

    Having seen her two big sisters have their root time, Abigail was ready for her moment.  She did very well delicately touching the root and still managing to smile at the lens.  Like many babies, she seemed a bit transfixed by the look of the Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G VR Micro lens.  Her dad did a great job in the background keeping her attention so I was able to take all the shots I wanted without Abigail's attention going elsewhere, not that it would!

    One of Carter's numerous unique smiles she displayed during our candid portrait sessionOldest sister Carter was the only one willing to brave a perch upon the higher branches of the jacaranda tree.  I cannot say this is the first portrait of this kind I have made.  If you browse through my portrait portfolio, you will see at least two other ladies like this eyes crossed smile as well!

    It was a fun time for me and I hope to some day get to photograph the sisters again.