Monday, November 22, 2010

Special: Holiday 2010 Portrait Mini-Session, $199

Serving Denver, CO and the surrounding suburbs this offer includes:

- 30 minute mini-session, 1-2 poses
- 50 4x8 flat or 25 5x7 folded cards
- Low-resolution digital images

Call 303-335-0348 to make your appointment today!


- Package includes low-resolution copies of all final images,suitable for e-mailing, Facebook, etc. High resolution digital copies suitable for printing, and other printed options are also available.

Offer expires December 07, 2010

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Here's this year's pumpkin, Jack Skellington:

Pumpkin Carving Party 2010

And last year's carved by my friend and graphic designer, Drew Lager (who created my logo):

Setting up your own business is scary.

Post a link to yours!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Updates on my Facebook Fan Page

Hello, dear readers! I apologise for not keeping up with the blog, while I'm not closing it down any time soon I do recommend also following my latest updates over on my Facebook Fan Page, which I update on a much more frequent basis. Here's how to follow Calanan Photography on Facebook:

Thanks for following this blog! If you don't use Facebook don't fret, I will continue to post updates here.

- mike

Monday, August 9, 2010

My first attempt at photographing lightning

My first attempt at photographing lightning

View larger...

Taken in Denver, CO.

Camera: Nikon D700
Exposure: 4 seconds
Aperture: f/11.0
Focal Length: 24 mm (Tokina 12-24mm f/4)
ISO Speed: 200

I don't know why I haven't tried this before, to start with it was actually pretty easy to dial in exposure settings. There was quite a bit of ambient city light (orange sodium vapor streetlights) so I ended up keeping the shutter/aperture low enough to knock down the ambient yet just long enough to catch some full bolts of lightning.

Once exposure was set, I locked in the view I wanted with my wide angle zoom, locked the tripod down and took sequences of 4-second-long shots and crossed my fingers that I caught lightning.

Have you captured lightning on film? Share your links (and tips) in the comments!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Pinhole view of The Tetons

Pinhole view of The Tetons

The Tetons, as seen through my homemade pinhole lens
Grand Teton National Park
Jackson Hole, WY

Nikon D700

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Family photography: A day at the Denver Zoo

I recently photographed the McDermott family at the Denver Zoo, where they spent a couple of hours viewing the animals while I tagged along and took candid "day in the life of" photos of their adventures. At the end of their visit took a series of formal portraits against a backdrop of greenery and flowers.

I love this combination of candid photojournalistic photography and posed, on-location portraiture as it takes advantage of my ability to capture those special moments while challenging me to think fast to compose photos in a way that tell a story. My work as an editorial assignment photographer in the magazine industry taught me how to find interesting portrait locations, and to make the best of natural lighting and portable artificial lighting (like small SLR flash units). Likewise, I also learned how to quickly build a rapport with strangers to try to make them feel comfortable so that their natural expressions show through in their photographs.

If you're in the Denver area and would like to book me for a "day in the life of" session please contact me for details and booking at or 303 335 0348. Mention this blog post and I'll discount your session by 10%!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wedding Teaser: Sarah Czajka and Eric Mitchell

Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing the marriage of a wonderful couple in a stunning location in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

On June 5th, Sarah Czajka and Eric Mitchell wed at The Secret Garden Bed & Breakfast in Ouray, Colorado. Ouray is billed as "The Switzerland of America" and this bold claim is certainly not without merit. The town is located just shy of 8000' elevation and is situated in a bowl encircled with beautiful mountain peaks rising 2000'+ above it.

Here's a photo of Sarah, taken at an overlook just a few miles out of town while we were scouting for a location for her posed wedding photos:

Sarah's bouquet was one of the prettiest I'd ever seen:

Finally, here's a group photo taken at Sarah and Eric's rehearsal BBQ at Angel Ridge Ranch B&B and Equine Sanctuary near Ridgway, Colorado.

Congratulations, Sarah and Eric. More photos soon!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Recent portrait session with Dene

I recently had a portrait session with an elderly client named Dene who wanted a set of wallet-sized photos to mail to his family and friends. I found this so endearing, that in an age of digital photography (be it digital SLRs or even cellphone cameras), e-mail, Facebook, etc., Dene wished to invest in an in-home portrait session so that he could have physical prints of himself to give to others.

Dene hadn't had a portrait taken in many years, in fact as he gave me a tour of the memorabilia in his gorgeous Craftsman-style home the most recent professional portrait he has was one taken of him in his 20's!

After spending some time talking with Dene to both get to know him and to determine the look he was after, I set up my equipment in his living room and posed him in front of his Grandmother's antique - and still working - Seth Thomas mantel clock.

Here's the portrait that Dene selected:

And here is one of his alternate takes... well as a more relaxed portrait that we made before he donned his colorful, giraffe-print bow tie and suit coat:

Technical info:

Nikon D700
Nikkor 85mm f/1.8
Nikon SB-800 + 43" Westcott white umbrella, 1/2 power
Nikon SB-600 + grid spot, 1/16 power
(Speedlights triggered by Nikon CLS)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Great Balls of Fire

Yesterday evening the Xcel Power Substation several doors down from our house exploded in a fireball that shot up 70-100 feet into the stifling Denver sky.

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

I was in my house when I heard the first of two booms, and ran to the window to see what happened as I saw my neighbors (who had been gardening) looking towards the explosion with horrified faces. As I could only see their reactions from my vantage point I had no idea what happened and wondered if a plane had crashed.

My neighbors then screamed and immediately started running down the block in the opposite direction so I ran out to my porch to look in the direction they'd been looking when I heard the second boom and saw a 70-80 foot mushrooming fireball looming over my house. Just moments later I was hit by a wave of heat.

I was frozen, for a moment wondering when the fireball would stop growing, wondering if it was going to consume me.

As the flames burned off the thick, black column of smoke continued to rise I ran back into the house, grabbed my camera and headed towards the burning substation.

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

Despite the raging fire, the growing heat and possibility of further explosions I moved closer to the substation and took photos from across the street until the heat became just too intense.

As I moved back, the smoke and particles triggered a localised rain of wet, black deposits (which I hope were carbon and not PCBs).

I ran back in to my house, washed off what I could and headed back out to continue photographing and to assess what might happen next.

Just then remembered that I had my cellphone and, after what felt like an eternity, forced my shaking hands to activate the video capture and shot this short video:

At first only a few people ventured outside...

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

...but eventually a flood of onlookers, fire trucks, and media filled our street as chaos reassembled into some sense of normalcy.

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

Neighbors were interviewed...

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

...and remnants of the substation rained down on lawns...

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

...and on cars.

Xcel Power Substation Explosion

Power was eventually restored by about 1 AM, which I thought was amazingly quick, I assumed we'd be without power for at least a day. My hat is off to those Xcel workers who made that happen. I couldn't fall asleep so I headed back out to take some last photos of the event. Here, the substation continued to smolder into the night...

Xcel Power Substation Explosion workers continued the cleanup process.

Xcel Power Substation Explosion


Story | Denver | Colorado's Online News Leader | Power outages possible as crews fix Xcel substation

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Salty Reunion

From a recent visit to Salt Lake City, UT for work and to visit friends.

The hills are alive and they are scared for their life
"The hills are alive and they are scared for their life"

Hope the Tripod
"Hope the Tripod"
- adopted by the maniac above from the SLC Pit Crew pit bull rescue center.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dog and pony...I mean cat show

Just a couple of snapshots of our pets with my favorite lens, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4. I'm using this lens (designed for crop-sensored cameras) on my backup Nikon D200 while I wait for my D700 to be repaired by Nikon.



Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Announcing: Gallery Show, Los Angeles, CA - May 2010

Gallery Show, Los Angeles, CA - May 2010 - more info soon...

Photo above: "By then, penitence comes so easily" (2006) from my "Drive-By Shootings" taken-while-driving street photography series.

I'll be there for the opening, 1 May 2010. If you're in the area please stop by!

2020 N. Main St., Suite 222, Los Angeles, CA

More info

"The Del*te Me! Uncensored (DMU) photography collaboration is highly original. Its stylised sense of humour and biting bitchiness is forming its own movement, a performance art environment within the wider photography world that revolves around a central premise of a brutal game.

The DMU collaborators submit their best photographs to an online gauntlet of unbridled, at times personally insulting, critique. Ten saved votes gets you into the portfolio. Ten delete votes and the image is unceremoniously deleted.


DEL*TE ME! Uncensored on Facebook

Promo videos:

Other Flickr photographs in the sh*w

Other promo posters

Friday, March 5, 2010

Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

A good friend from back east visited us here in Denver last week, it was his first time out west and the first time he'd been above 5000' (without being in an airplane). In addition to showing him Denver we took him to beautiful Winter Park Ski Resort for some skiing and ended his vacation with a trip to glorious Rocky Mountain National Park (Estes Park, CO) for some phenomenal snowshoeing.

James snowshoeing


Manray and James snowshoeing Manray snowshoeing

Manray and James at Bear Lake

Sunday, February 21, 2010

This Dulcolax ad left me unrelieved (a lesson in Photoshoppery)

In the spirit of the hilarious blog, Photoshop Disasters ("Have you seen a truly awful piece of Photoshop work? Clumsy manipulation, senseless comping, lazy cloning and thoughtless retouching are our bread and butter..."), I spotted these disasters in a commercial for Dulcolax Balance during the Olympics.

(click for larger)

As you can see, rather than flipping the image the "artist" turned it 180 degrees before pasting it, also seen again in the screen capture below. And I'm no specialist in optics but the reflection of the bottle in the glass of water didn't look right to me so I tested the concept with a glass of water and a box of Triscuits. The only way I could come close to duplicating that image is by placing the glass quite a distance in front of and to the left of the box and even then the refracted image of the box in the left side of the glass is reversed.

(click for larger)

Check out some more reflection disasters at Photoshop Disasters and let me know if you find any!

Update: Admittedly, upon further - ahem, reflection - the image wasn't simply turned 180 degrees otherwise the little glass would be located more to the right on the Balance bottle (below).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Transferring editorial skills to advertising

Sheridan and Suzette
Sheridan and Suzette
Hip and Humble
9th & 9th Neighborhood
Salt Lake City, UT

I first met sisters Sheridan and Suzette at their Salt Lake City boutique, Hip and Humble, during an editorial assignment for Wasatch Woman Magazine about sisterhood (see "Sisters with Style"). Not only was the store an amazing setting with its collection of interesting items and bright colors but Sheridan and Suzette both bubbled with an infectious enthusiasm that made for a fun-filled shoot!

A month or so after that shoot I received a call from Suzette to hire me to return and take more photos for their own advertising. Suzette told me that Delta Sky Magazine wanted to profile their boutique and she thought it would be good to also have an archive of photos to use for future advertising. Seeing as we shot mainly editorial portraits for the Wasatch Woman article, we decided this time to take more photos of the store itself as well as some candids of Sheridan and Suzette at work.

An interesting part of that conversation was hearing that Suzette had a hard time finding photographers who specialised in advertising photography for small businesses. After exhausting the Salt Lake phone book/web searching she decided to ask me if I did that sort of work on the side. Until that time I had not but this really got me thinking about a niche that wasn't being filled. Unfortunately we relocated to Denver not long after and I wasn't able to capitalise on it there but now that we've settled in here in Colorado I'm going to give this another try, as I see an opportunity in this same niche market.

Shh, don't tell my competitors. ;)

Have any other photographers recently shifted their *ahem* focus? I'd love to hear about your experiences, especially any editorial photographs who may be looking to supplement their magazine work with private work as magazines either cut back or close down.

Anyway, here are some of my favorites from the series:

Sheridan of Hip and Humble Suzette of Hip and Humble

Hip and Humble Sheridan and Suzette of Hip and Humble

Technical info
Nikon D700 and various lenses

Natural light did most of the heavy lifting in these photos but I also shaped it using Nikon SB-800 and Nikon SB-600 Speedlights for fill and accenting. All Speedlights were triggered with the Nikon D700's pop-up flash using the Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS).

Finally, the Wasatch Woman Magazine cover (May/June 2009)


And a slideshow of the whole series