Thursday, May 31, 2012

Throwback Thursdays

One of my first digital forays into concert photography: The Iguanas at Cafe Nine in New Haven, 2005. I thought I would follow up my post about music and inspiration with a photo that I'm not entirely proud of. I think it shows growth and it's always a good reminder to see how far you've come. This is where I was 7 years ago as a photographer.

It was taken with a Canon G4, the only camera I've ever actually hated with a passion. To this day, I won't buy Canon point and shoot cameras. In case you're wondering, I recommend Panasonic Lumix for point and shoots. I do shoot Canon for my SLR, so it's not all hate. It's just that the G4 was slow, grainy and the lag on it was so bad, you had to take the picture before it happened. I let my nephew use it these days.

This concert was an absolute riot. Vanessa and I found a table at the back of the bar, which ended up being next to the Red Stripe promotional girls. We got tons of free Red Stripe swag and they gave us full beers they were supposed to be distributing to the audience. If you're ever at a show and you're waiting for the band to start, don't go outside and complain about the band not starting unless you know what all of the band members look like. Turns out Vanessa and I were being quite verbal in front of the bass player.

This is also the concert where Vanessa and I were deemed "The Girls in the Back" by the band. Cafe Nine is really small. At the end of their set, The Iguanas left the stage and walked to the back, right by our table. We cheered and shouted our brains out and Joe, the lead tenor sax player dedicated the encore to us. Amazing experiences tend to follow Vanessa and myself at concerts.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

5 Decisions Away

I want to talk about inspiration today. Sources of inspiration can vary wildly, and one of my favorites comes from a very different outlet: Hoarders. In particular, Extreme Cleaning Specialist, Matt Paxton. I'm a member of the Possum Posse, a snarky group of fans of the show that light up facebook Monday nights when the show is aired on A&E. People comment in real time and it really has taken on a life of its own. I enjoy the Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque shout outs more than the show. (You might recognize me as the bright green box.) The lead picture is some fabulously bad Photo Shopping by yours truly that I shared with the Posse around Christmas time.

Anywho, back to Matt Paxton. He and fellow Clutter Cleaner, Cabell Hatchett, have a podcast called 5 Decisions Away. Check out the link and it's also available for free download on iTunes. While it can get a bit raunchy at times, the prevailing theme is one of second chances. The podcast might not be for everyone, but I really do find inspiration in the life stories Matt and Cabell share, along with some of their amazing guests.

Last week, the guys sat down and talked music. (episode 31 if you'd like to take a listen) By far, it was my favorite episode. For those that have been following my blog, you know music is a big part of my life. For those that are new, thanks for checking this out! I'm a photographer/graphic designer for a local weekly newspaper with a passion for concert photography. I'm still figuring out my path to be able to do what I love and make a living out of it. I'm not there yet, but I've been making some pretty strong steps in the right direction. I know that it's a struggle and takes a lot of guts, and that's why I enjoy listening to 5 Decisions Away. I'm able to listen to other people tell their story and it pushes me to keep going, to keep trying, to keep taking chances.

I could talk music all day, but I thought it would be fun to pick out my Top 5 songs and share them with you. Matt and Cabell talked about the power of music, how it can bring you to a different place just by listening, and I couldn't agree more. The five songs I selected are the songs that mean the most to me and inspire me. A more detailed explanation is below. The playlist can be found over on the music player on the top right of the blog. If you've reached this post a little later in the game, other songs might have crept up above them, so here is a separate link where you can listen.

1. Girl Waiting by Hotel Lights from Girl Graffiti: My readers know how much I adore Hotel Lights. Darren Jessee, the drummer from Ben Folds Five, is the front man/songwriter. He crafts hauntingly beautiful songs, and this one paints such a vivid story. The line: "She feels so free when the record's playing" really speaks to me and I think hits the point that Matt and Cabell were trying to make about music taking you to another place.

I've been fortunate enough to bring my camera along to two Hotel Lights shows. I want everyone to know this band, they are truly talented.

2. P.S. You Rock My World by Eels from Electro-Shock Blues: This entire album is a brilliant masterpiece. It chronicles the tragic loss of E's entire family, really delves into his pain and longing, yet still manages to find the bright spots in all of this. That alone is an inspiring story. Whenever I'm down or in a bad place, I will put this album on, feel my pain and let it go. The line: "How a careful man tries to dodge the bullet, while a happy man takes a walk" kills me. Every. Single. Time.

The Eels will always be one of my top bands and I was amazingly fortunate to snag some great shots on their tour last year.

3. It's My Job by Jimmy Buffett from Coconut Telegraph: Matt Paxton, you have excellent taste in music! He's spoken before about Jimmy Buffett, and although he didn't play any in his selection of songs, I'm taking care of you. Bubba was one of my first loves in music and was the reason I wanted to become a concert photographer. I've always found inspiration in this song: "It's my job to be different than the rest, and that's enough reason to go for me...It's my job to be better than the best." And to Matt, I think the lyrics: "It's my job to be cleaning up this mess" all but screams you! Say what you will, but Jimmy Buffett has a pretty good philosophy to life and it still hits home for me.

4. The Only Way by Gotye from Like Drawing Blood: This one is purely personal for me. Every time I hear this song, I will think of the picture I took. I felt like with the previous bands I had shot, I had great position, but for this concert, I was stuck shooting between some tall people. Wally has an amazing energy in his live performance, and I really latched on to that. This is exactly why I go to live shows and want to do this. I live for moments like the one below.

Sharing that picture and a few others with the band and fans was an absolute pleasure for me. It was really a defining moment that made me realize: even in a bad position, with a wrist injury and not my best equipment, I could still get amazing shots. Gotye's been getting a TON of airplay for that other song, but he has an impressive catologue of music. You're going to be hearing a lot from him.

5. In Your Own Time by Keane from Strangeland: Keane is my concert for the month of June. Their latest album has been growing on me slowly, and it has some amazing stand outs. This song is one of them. It's my current inspiration. I'd quote lines from it, but the whole thing is perfect. Keane has a knack for writing epic anthems. I can't wait to sing along with the rest of the crowd at the Beacon. Two more weeks!

So there you have it. Let me know what you think; I love comments! Come up with your own set of songs and feel free to share them with me. Be sure to check out the rest of my blog for more concert pictures, photos of the week, a fun series of macro eye pictures and whatever else happens in my life. Thanks for stopping bye!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Photo of the Week: Week 21

I've been taking a lot of pictures of kids lately. This one of Mia is a particular favorite. When I first started shooting, she gave me the usual cheesy smile all kids have. After a few frames she stopped and I got this little smirk which is so much more her personality.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Don't think my cat is that sophisticated. She just really likes to annoy me when I'm trying to write. It starts off all cute, sitting next to me, asking to be pet, then it turns into her sitting on my notebook so I can't use it any more. She brought along her mouse to be that much more annoying.

You win this round, Addy...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Throwback Thursdays

This is an old print taken at the Bronx Zoo.

Just before the seals killed the baby duck.

It's a long story...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Apparently, May is National Photo Month

When there's a month or day for everything under the sun, you tend to ignore them. Need I remind you of National Velociraptor Awareness Day or the upcoming Cheer up Keanu Day? Seeing how this is a photography blog, I'd feel remiss if I didn't post something about National Photo Month. I found this list of 100 Tips from a Professional Photographer and thought I'd share and add my insight. Photos are all mine, the tips come from Eric Kimp. My thoughts are added in bold under them.

1. Just because someone has an expensive camera doesn't mean that they're a good photographer.
My own camera is 5 years old. I tend to invest my money on lenses.
2. Always shoot in RAW. Always.
3. Prime lenses help you learn to be a better photographer.
They force you to recompose your shot and move yourself instead of zooming.
4. Photo editing is an art in itself

 Knowing how to use programs to improve your images is key.

5. The rule of thirds works 99% of the time.
6. Macro photography isn't for everybody.

But it sure is for me!

7. UV filters work just as well as lens caps.
Always, always, ALWAYS have some kind of filter on your lens. It's much cheaper to replace a cracked filter than a busted lens.
8. Go outside & shoot photos rather than spending hours a day on photography forums.
9. Capture the beauty in the mundane and you have a winning photograph.
10. Film isn't better than digital.
11. Digital isn't better than film.
12. There is no "magic" camera or lens.
13. Better lenses don't give you better photos.
Not automatically, but after you've been taking photos for a while and know your gear, more expensive lenses will give you sharper images.
14. Spend less time looking at other people's work and more time shooting your own.
15. Don't take your DSLR to parties.

 But do take your point and shoot! Party pictures always crack me up.

16. Girls dig photographers.
I hope guys dig them too!
17. Making your photos b/w doesn't automatically make them "artsy"
18. People will always discredit your work if you tell them you "photoshop" your images. Rather, tell them that you process them in the "digital darkroom".
I worked as a specialty lab tech at a camera shop. When you brought your film to a good lab, we would enhance your photos. Photoshop to a point is the same thing.
19. You don't need to take a photo of everything.
20. Have at least 2 backups of all your images. Like they say in war, two is one, one is none.
Right now I have 3, but I've been traumatized because I lost thousands of files from not backing them up.
21. Ditch the neck strap and get a handstrap.
I prefer my Black Rapid strap. My camera hangs at my hip when I'm not using it and it saves your neck and back when shooting a long day.
22. Get closer when taking your photos, they often turn out better.
23. Be a part of a scene while taking a photo; not a voyeur.
24. Taking a photo crouched often make your photos look more interesting.
And getting low gives you a whole new perspective.
25. Worry less about technical aspects and focus more on compositional aspects of photography.
When I started getting serious about photography, my coworkers always told me I had a great eye. You have to make people want to look at your work. (Thanks for all the encouragement, guys!)
26. Tape up any logos on your camera with black gaffers tape- it brings a lot less attention to you.
I've never had this problem, but I know other people that do this.
27. Always underexpose by 2/3rds of a stop when shooting in broad daylight.
Your camera meter will often lie. Know your gear and know what result you'll get without thinking.
28. The more photos you take, the better you get.

The top image is from 2005, the bottom from 2010, same subject. I've been shooting and learning for many years. You really will improve over time. Stick with it. Ask questions when you don't get the result you're looking for.

29. Don't be afraid to take several photos of the same scene at different exposures, angles, or apertures.
30. Only show your best photos.
31. A point-and-shoot is still a camera.

And when you know how to use it, what a camera it can be! Yes, this photo was taken with a point and shoot camera.

32. Join an online photography forum.
33. Critique the works of others.
34. Think before you shoot.
I've learned to like to shoot on the fly, but going in with an idea of images you want to get before hand is always good. I'm a planner; it's the Virgo in me.
35. A good photo shouldn't require explanation (although background information often adds to an image).
I just said this in a recent post!
36. Alcohol and photography do not mix well.


37. Draw inspiration from other photographers but never worship them.
38. Grain is beautiful.

I often used to push process my black and white film to INCREASE the grain.

39. Ditch the photo backpack and get a messenger bag. It makes getting your lenses and camera a whole lot easier.

 I love my Think Tank messenger!

40. Simplicity is key.
41. The definition of photography is: "painting with light." Use light in your favor.
Learn to see light and you will become a great photographer. I'm still working on this. I don't think I'll ever stop.
42. Find your style of photography and stick with it.
Shoot what you love as much as you can. It doesn't matter what that is. If you love taking pictures of garbage cans, do it. Become the best garbage can photographer you can be!
43. Having a second monitor is the best thing ever for photo processing.
LCD screens lie! Process on a CRT monitor!
44. Silver EFEX pro is the best b/w converter.
45. Carry your camera with you everywhere. Everywhere.

Even if it isn't your DSLR, have something on you or you will miss out on some amazing moments.

46. Never let photography get in the way of enjoying life.
47. Don't pamper your camera. Use and abuse it.
But if you're about to take a fall, protect your camera! At all costs!
48. Take straight photos.
I actually have a problem with leaving too much space on the right side of my frame. I don't know why and I don't see it when I'm shooting unless I tell myself to slow down and really look. I blame my special eyes.
49. Shoot with confidence.
This used to be a big problem for me. When I first started at the paper, I used to get really worried and stressed over every shoot. It takes time, but you'll get over it the more you shoot.
50. Photography and juxtaposition are best friends.
51. Print out your photos big. They will make you happy.
52. Give your photos to friends.
53. Give them to strangers.
I'm not that weird...
54. Don't forget to frame them.
55. Costco prints are cheap and look great.
When in a pinch, I don't mind Walgreens, but real photo labs are worth it.
56. Go out and take photos with (a) friend(s).

Even if their style of photography isn't yours. You might end up taking an amazing picture. (Thanks for dragging me along, Dennis!)

57. Join a photo club or start one for yourself.
58. Photos make great presents.
Moms love photos of kids and grandkids. 
59. Taking photos of strangers is thrilling.
60. Candid>Posed.
Let your subjects be natural. I'm horrible at posing people.
61. Natural light is the best light.
I hate using my flash.
62. 35mm (on full frame) is the best "walk-around" focal length.
63. Don't be afraid to bump up your ISO when necessary.
64. You don't need to always bring a tripod with you everywhere you go (hell, I don't even own one).

I do own a tripod, but in this shot, I actually left it in my car. You can always improvise. I used a rock wall to brace the camera and in the past I've utilized chairs, tables, even stacked books. Just make sure your camera isn't going to plummet.

65. It is always better to underexpose than overexpose.
66. Shooting photos of homeless people in an attempt to be "artsy" is exploitation.
67. You will find the best photo opportunities in the least likely situations.
68. Photos are always more interesting with the human element included.

Kids enjoying a sunset on the beach > a sunset on the beach

69. You can't "photoshop" bad images into good ones.
70. Nowadays everybody is a photographer.
71. You don't need to fly to Paris to get good photos; the best photo opportunities are in your backyard.
72. People with DSLRS who shoot portraits with their grip pointed downwards look like morons.
73. Cameras as tools, not toys.
74. In terms of composition, photography and painting aren't much different.
75. Photography isn't a hobby- it's a lifestyle.
76. Make photos, not excuses.
77. Be original in your photography. Don't try to copy the style of others.

Even if that makes you look weird. I love my shoe shots!

78. The best photographs tell stories that begs the viewer for more.
79. Any cameras but black ones draw too much attention.
80. The more gear you carry around with you the less you will enjoy photography.

I went hiking in Montana and had a huge camera backpack. Not only did it add a good 30 pounds and make me exhausted, I hardly took any pictures because I was in such a foul mood. After that I learned to carry 1-2 lenses at a time on vacation. I try to change them up every day so I'm not always using a telephoto.

81. Good self-portraits are harder to take than they seem.

And they don't have to be taken in a mirror.

82. Laughter always draws out peoples' true character in a photograph.

Always be prepared for these moments. I think above all else, I have an incredible sense of timing. That comes from lots of people watching.

83. Don't look suspicious when taking photos- blend in with the environment.
84. Landscape photography can become dull after a while.
85. Have fun while taking photos.
86. Never delete any of your photos.

They might not be what you wanted, but end up being really cool.

87. Be respectful when taking photos of people or places.
88. When taking candid photos of people in the street, it is easier to use a wide-angle than a telephoto lens.
89. Travel and photography are the perfect pair.

Taken in Hawaii. Add compositional elements to frame your subject. It adds depth.

90. Learn how to read a histogram.
91. A noisy photo is better than a blurry one.
92. Don't be afraid to take photos in the rain.

But always keep a plastic bag and rubber bands in your camera bag to protect your camera. 

93. Learn how to enjoy the moment, rather than relentlessly trying to capture the perfect picture of it.
94. Never take photos on an empty stomach.
95. You will discover a lot about yourself through your photography.
96. Never hoard your photographic insight- share it with the world.
97. Never stop taking photos

And never stop experimenting. This was taken at a parade with a slow shutter speed while I panned. I'd never done it before myself and wanted to prove that I could.

98. Photography is more than simply taking photos, it is a philosophy of life
99. Capture the decisive moment

Take chances. I hate when I'm surrounded by other photographers, especially at sporting events. Even though the ball was a good 30 yards from the end zone, I stood behind it and was ready for the diving touch down. I was the only photographer in this position, so I was the only one who got this shot.

100. Write your own list.
Yeah, I'll get on that for next year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wrapping Paper Part Two

I made an elephant stamp over the weekend, then some simple shapes. It's definitely easier to stamp before you wrap!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Photo of the Week: Week 20

I like how eager all the other kids are as they select their cupcakes and how Tristan decided to go with the plain. He does look a little weary of the rest of the hands.

A quick note, as my cousin Brad pointed out today, I give myself until Sunday to shoot. I started the photo of the week on a Sunday, and in the case of this week, I really hadn't taken many pictures until today. I'm going to work harder on that, but the procrastinator in me still likes to push it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


This is Addy's idea of a lazy Caturday morning.

Sorry about the quality; it was taken with my cell phone. You can't really tell from this, but she is draped across my leg. I don't think my cat has bones.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Throwback Thursdays

Have you ever Googled your name? I did it the other day and there's a post that still pops up pretty early on. I felt it was time to address this.

Because I really don't want people to get the wrong idea.

In 2001, I recorded a couple trumpet tracks with my friend's band, SiMent. Four years after the release, the band played at Toad's Place in New Haven and they asked me to play with them. That's right, not only do I photograph bands, I've been on stage with one! It was a crazy experience. I couldn't see a thing because the stage lights were so bright and I was completely nervous, but I would do it over again in a heart beat.

I just squirm a little when you search for my name and a video from YouTube pops up named Porn Star.

Here's the video. The brass takes the stage, unannounced about three minutes in, to a roar from the crowd. Pretty darn cool.

So there you have it: Audra Napolitano, Porn Star.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Family Picnic

Grace and Aria playing

I got to spend a lot of time with family over the past couple of weeks, which culminated in a picnic on Saturday. Here are some of the highlights.

Aria hanging out with Grandma

Grace being her usual carefree self, throwing her body around. Good thing Dad was there to catch her.

Tristan playing with the Fisher Price popper

James refueling with Momma

Hailey has amazing eyes

Grace with Grandma

Tristan was all about giving hugs

Grace plotting something

And finally, a picture of me with Grace, thanks to my brother snagging my camera. I call this Grace's AUDRA! point. I don't think I've ever seen someone so excited to take a picture with me.