Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bettis 2015 Holiday Party

The first year I did these photos was 1983.  I worked at Bettis at the time, the Holiday Party was something new, and they decided it would be nice if every family would get a 4x6 print of their photo with Santa.  Since I was shooting film, my biggest concern was keeping track of which photos went to which employees.  I had a whole system of name cards, roll and frame numbers, and notations to keep things straight.  I needed two assistants just to keep the paperwork straight.  That first year, Santa and I were set up in one corner of the room.  About two hours into the day, I turned around and was shocked to see that the line of families waiting to see Santa wound around all four sides of the room, and almost back to where I was standing.  In the following years we added a numbering system to the name cards, with the numbers being announced in groups of 10, so no one had to stand in line too long.

Although there was a period when I took some time off, this is easily the longest running assignment I've had.  Long enough that for some of the children I'm photographing now, I also photographed their parents 20 or 30 years ago when THEY were kids.  For the last 13 years I've shot this with digital equipment.  With the advent of online galleries and social media, we no longer supply prints, but rather provide a digital file that parents can use as they wish.  They are in an online gallery for the parent to download, so it is no longer necessary to track the individual photos.  Overall, things are much more streamlined now.

I decided to try a few new wrinkles this year.  Rather than my previous years' setup of an on-camera flash mounted on a flash bracket, I decided to have two flashes firing into 33-inch white umbrellas, using the wireless trigger mounted on the camera.  The wireless trigger was the key to making this work, because I didn't want wires dangling where a child running around might trip on them.  This setup worked like a charm.  The lighting was very even, and the resulting images were very consistent, requiring a minimal amount of exposure correction from image to image.

The second change this year was to use the EyeFi card in the camera to send images directly to my iPad, so parents could get an idea what the images looked like.  This proved to be quite popular with parents, and gave them confidence that their kids looked good in the photos (other than the occasional screaming and crying toddler, of course...).

The photos can be found HERE.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ryan and Georgia's Elopement Wedding

Over the 30-plus years that I have been photographing weddings, I've seen all sizes of weddings.  From a small group crammed into an car on the Duquesne Incline, to St. Paul's Cathedral, and everything in between.

A growing trend in weddings are  "Elopement Weddings".  Now, these aren't the "sneaking out the bedroom window in the middle of the night" elopements I used to think of.  These days, "Elopement Weddings" refer to much smaller weddings, usually held in beautiful locations.  Elopement weddings are less costly and less stressful than a standard big-budget wedding, but at the same time they are often more meaningful to the couple.  Social media also plays a role in this, because you get some great photos taken and you can share them with all your friends who weren't there.

Georgia and Ryan contacted me to shoot their elopement ceremony.  There were only going to be 5 people in attendance:  the couple, their five-year-old son, their mothers, and the officiant, Reverend Dina McGee.  I don't offer a separate "Elopement Package" (since I don't have packages), so I gave them a custom quote that met their needs.  The location that Georgia and Ryan chose is the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, in Oakdale, Pennsylvania. It only opened this year, and it is AMAZING.  I arrived early to scout out the best angles and settings.  The Lotus Pond includes a footbridge, a wooden dock, and a set of stepping stones across one end of the pond.  The photographic possibilities are endless.

Shooting an elopement ceremony is different than a regular wedding.  Other than the 20 minute ceremony, the rest of our time was spent taking photos, and I had complete freedom.  In some ways, it is much more like photographing an engagement session than a wedding.  The couple (and their incredibly cute son) were a joy to work with, and we got some great shots.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Samantha's Bat Mitzvah

Last weekend I photographed Samantha's Bat Mitzvah at the Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.  Samantha's a tiny thing, and even the Rabbi joked that the Torah was as tall as she was.

The party was at Green Oaks Country Club.  A great place with a first-rate staff.  Music and entertainment was provided by The Party Crew from Soundtastic Enterprises, who have proven very popular with many of the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs that I have photographed this year.  Much of the decorating was done by one of Samantha's grandmothers, who did an incredible job with the centerpieces.

One of the things that was new for me was the use of the EverSnap app to share photos.  Samantha's parents set up an online album for Samantha's photos, and guests were given the name and password for the album.  They could then download the app (available for both iOS and Android) to upload photos from their phones.  There was a projector behind the DJ running a slideshow of the photos from the online album, updated in real time as new photos were uploaded.  In essence, this is the digital version of the film-era disposable cameras people would put on guest tables.  A cool idea, and I uploaded a few images from the Friday night and Saturday morning services, which got a lot of compliments.  There were a few issues with it.  Some folks apparently had a little trouble with the app, and accidentally uploaded other photos from their phones.  So there were some vacation photos and non-party selfies in the slide show.  These had all been deleted by the next day.  In addition, the plan was to set up a special wifi network at the party, to make it easier for people to upload photos, and there were problems getting that running.  Even when it was running, the signal was so weak that I couldn't upload from where my laptop was located.  Finally, the app allows people to order prints of any photo in the gallery.  I have an issue with this, because I own the copyright on all my images.  The solution was to upload low-res versions of the photos (800 pixels on the long edge), which is great for online viewing, but won't give you a good print.  This is what I do for any social media use of my images, and it worked out great in this case.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Carolina's Sweet 16 Party

Sweet 16 parties are not something we have often in the Pittsburgh area.  This was only the second Sweet 16 that I've shot, the first being Carolina's older sister's party a couple of years ago.  The party was at the Treesdale Country Club in Gibsonia, which is a wonderful venue with an awesome staff.

Cara was stunning in a white dress.  The weather was great, and before the party started I had a chance to take her out on the balcony for some quick portraits.

One think that was different for this event was that I set up my backdrop and flash umbrellas as a sort of photo booth.  As I shot the images, they were automatically transferred to my laptop via my Eye-Fi card and displayed as a slide show.  We had a table of props for the kids, and they had a lot of fun hamming it up in front of my camera.

Photos from the event can be found HERE.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Something Old, Something New

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography: Hosting &emdash; In the land of Nikon, we are blessed with the option of using old classic Nikon lenses with our shiny new DSLRs. For grins I decided to put my first Nikon lens (a manual-focus 50mm/1.8 AIS lens purchased new in 1983) with my newest body (a D800E). This is one of the resulting images. Using one of these lenses just feels different. These old lenses are all-metal, and focusing is very smooth. When you use one, you definitely feel you are using a finely crafted tool. The manual focusing also makes you slow down some, because there is no way you can focus as quickly as an autofocus lens. It is hard to believe that this simple lens was my go-to wedding lens (and just about everything else I shot) for 17 years. Now I depend on a quick autofocus wunder-zoom, but it is nice to break out this classic now and again.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

2015 PIIN Celebration Banquet

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography: Hosting &emdash; The 2015 Celebration Banquet for the Pennsylvania Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN) was held Sunday, May 3, at the Westin Convention Center Hotel.  This is my third year photographing the event.  PIIN is an alliance of religious groups, organized labor, and others engaged in social activism.  When you watch the local news, and you see clergy being arrested outside UPMC during a protest, or protests for a living wage, you're seeing PIIN in action.

Photos from the event can be found HERE.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Olivia's Bat Mitzvah

Olivia's Bat Mitzvah was my second one for 2015, and was also at my "home base" of Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.  One of the hardest things to photograph during the service is to get people actually looking up, instead of looking down at what they are reading.  Olivia made it easy for me.  She would notice me at the back of the sanctuary, and she made it a point to look at the camera and smile, making for the perfect "Kodak Moment".

We lucked out in that this was the nicest weekend of the year to that point.  Plenty of sunshine, and a high temperature in the low 70s.  Because I can do formal and family photos quickly when I have to, we had enough time after the photos in the sanctuary to head to the rose garden behind Temple Sinai to shoot some great stuff.  There weren't any roses yet, but the sunshine, combined with the dark walls in the background, made for some wonderful shots.

Olivia didn't want your typical Bat Mitzvah party, so instead of the usual locations, her family rented out the BRGR restaurant in East Liberty.  The kids were upstairs on the top balcony, while the adults were underneath in the main restaurant area.  Entertainment was provided by Vincient the Magician, who provided amazing performances that wowed both the adults and the kids.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mara's Bat Mitzvah

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography: Hosting &emdash; I had photographed Mara's older sister's Bat Mitzvah a couple of years ago, so I was excited when her family contacted me for Mara's.  The ceremony was at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill, and the party was at the Longue Vue Country Club in Verona.  Mara's theme for her party was "Masquerade", so all of the kids had decorative masks to wear.  DJ Vanessa had plenty of music, balloons, and games to keep the party going.

Photos from Mara's big day can be found HERE.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Easter Portraits at the Playground

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography: Hosting &emdash; Late last year I did a series of "Photos at the Playground" sessions over at the Swisshelm Park Playground, where parents could bring their kids for photos in a relaxed, kid-friendly environment. There was a small shooting fee, and parents can then order prints and enlargements online. We were able to have three session in the late fall before it finally got too cold and nasty

After laying low for the winter, I was looking forward to bring the concept back this spring.  Easter Sunday seemed like a perfect fit, even though it came early this year.  Unfortunately, in early April there aren't a lot of flowers in bloom, and the grass is more brown than green.  I needed to come up with something that would say "Spring".  I had a colorful blanket to start with, which would also help if the ground was wet.  A quick trip to local stores produced some nice bright flower decorations and some oversized eggs which added color to the scene and made great props.  Perfect!

Sunday, March 1, 2015


Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography &emdash; So, it is still February, and the weather, in a word, STINKS! there's too much cold (and the kids have been home from school too much), and too much snow. Not the best conditions to be outside doing portraits, to say the least! So, (sometimes) crazy person that I am, that's exactly what I did! I've recently purchased a new camera (a Nikon D800E, for those of you who care about such things), and my cats were getting tired of me sticking a lens in their faces to try the camera out. I wanted to use the camera for portrait session, so I could get a better feel for the camera in a working situation. Savi was one of the kids I photographed last fall during my "Pictures at the Playground" sessions. She's a natural in front of the camera, and I was waiting for an opportunity to photograph her again. Savi loves to go sledding, so we headed out to one of the better sledding hills in the area, known to the locals as Blue Slide Park (Officially it is the Frick Park Parklet on Beechwood Blvd.). One other thing I was able to test was wirelessly transmitting the files to my iPad Mini so they could be previewed on a larger screen. I'm using an Eye-Fi card in my D800E to accomplish this, and I'm pleased to say that it worked like a champ. Savi's mom was able to preview the images almost as quickly as I shot them, without having to look over my shoulder. As an added benefit, after we were finished shooting, Savi was able to review all her photos on the iPad while we warmed up with hot chocolate at the nearby Dunkin' Donuts.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cupids Undie Run

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography &emdash; Pittsburghers will do some CRAZY stuff when it is for a good cause!  This past Saturday I helped photograph the "Cupid's Undie Run" for fellow photographer Wendy Hacker and Clicks for a Cause.

The event was hosted by the Buckhead Saloon at Station Square.   Many of the runners showed up an hour prior to the run, to make sure they consumed enough, ahem, "antifreeze" prior to going outside.  The run itself didn't go very far, basically through Station Square, across the Smithfield Street Bridge, then crossing Smithfield Street and returning over the bridge.

The runners were actually VERY lucky, because weather conditions weren't too bad during the race itself.  The snow from earlier in the day had stopped, and winds were minimal (Other than when they crossed the Mon on the Smithfield Street Bridge!).  The snow and high winds (as shown in the photo) didn't start until 5 minutes after the last runner had finished and everybody was back inside Buckhead's.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Eye-Fi Card (Part 1)

Paul Richard Wossidlo Photography &emdash; Eye-Fi cards are a neat technology that's been around for several years now.  An Eye-Fi card is an SD (Secure Digital) memory card (typically found in most non-professional digital cameras) that has both memory for storing the image files as well as a wi-fi chip that allows the files to be automatically sent to either one of the internet photo-sharing sites or transmitted to your laptop or tablet/smartphone.

My recent upgrade to the Nikon D800E camera opened the possibility of my using an Eye-Fi card.  The D800E is my first camera that includes two memory card slots.  One is a standard Compact Flash card (the standard memory card for most professional photographers) and one SD slot.  With this kind of configuration, many photographers will use a CF card for their primary photo storage, and use an Eye-Fi card in the SD slot to transmit the files.

For the kinds of things I do, there are several ways I envision using this technology:

1)  Currently I set up my laptop at a wedding reception.  Periodically I will copy photos of the wedding  from my memory cards onto the laptop (which means the files are backed up).  I'll then run a slide show so guests can see the photos from earlier in the day.  Besides providing a service to the client, it is also effective advertising for me.  With an Eye-Fi card, I can set it up so the files are automatically transmitted from the camera to the laptop, and automatically added to the slideshow.  Guests will be able to see the photos almost as quickly as I shoot them, and I don't need to spend time at the laptop loading the photos.

2)  I sometimes get asked to photograph events where they want printing done during the event.  The Eye-Fi card can send files to my laptop, where the clients can preview them prior to sending them to the printer.

3)  When I'm on location, shooting a portrait session or a modeling session, I can have the Eye-Fi card send the files to my iPad, so the client can get a preview of the photos prior to my posting them online.

With the D800E, the first thing I had to consider was the size of the files.  When shooting at the full 36MP resolution of the camera, each image file is approximately 50 MB.  A wifi connection isn't fast enough to send that file quickly.  What other D800 users do is shoot "RAW + JPG" (which creates two files), with the JPEG file size set to "Small" (about 9MP).  The RAW files are saved to the CF card for future use, while the JPG is saved to the Eye-Fi card for transmission.  The small JPG files transfer quickly.  It is interesting to note that what is considered "Small" on the D800E has a resolution of 3600x2400 pixels, which is larger than what I got from my original D70 dSLR (3000x2000 pixels), and is more than enough for printing up to 8x10 prints.

In Part 2, I'll discuss setting up the Eye-Fi card and how well it meets my needs.