Wednesday, November 1, 2017


Tierra Osorno above Baby Falls at the peak of fall color in the Cherokee National Forest
Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 125, f/13, 0.4 seconds, 24mm

  This past weekend I believe I took my best portrait, or at least best senior portrait, ever. In the very least it is my favorite that I have taken. Not only is the picture just visually stunning in my opinion (helps to have a beautiful young lady like Tierra in the frame kick that stunning part up) but I had actually had a plan for the shot and the plan included a bit of experimentation in taking the picture that worked out perfectly.
  Something I've always wanted to try was combining a long shutter speed from a landscape image such as a waterfall with a portrait to try and use flash to expose the model and also to freeze their action but not have to have them completely freeze to allow for the long shutter speed.
  With doing Tierra Osorno's senior pictures on this past Sunday, I felt we had the perfect opportunity because we were going to be at Baby Falls in the Cherokee National Forest for part of the shoot. We got incredibly lucky because in addition to that the forest was at peak fall color as well.
   My thought process for this shot wasn't really any different than what I normally do for any of my portraits. I would let the camera expose for the background and then let lighting expose my model, Tierra, in the foreground. To expose for the background I approached it the same way I would if Tierra wasn't there. I used Live View to frame up the shot with the camera on a tripod. After setting my focus on her, I turned off the autofocus and then moved my focus square in Live View over the white water of the waterfall. This allowed me to keep my focal point but expose for the water, or the brightest part of the scene. If I had exposed for the foreground, the water would have had blown out highlights.
  I used a small aperture in order to get a really large depth of field in focus but also to get a longer shutter speed. I settled in at f/13 because this gave me plenty of the scene in focus and put my shutter speed right at 0.4 seconds, which is a good target for silky smooth water with just enough detail in it if there is a lot of water flow, which there was. My ISO was set at 125 mainly because it was completely overcast so it helped bump the light of the scene up just a touch. Below is what the frame looked like before adding any lighting:

    Then came the lighting setup. For standard portrait sessions I use a tri-flash setup of Godox TT600 speed lights. The lights are run from camera with a X1T-C Remote Trigger mounted on the hot shoe of my Canon 5D Mark III. I usually use a 47" Godox Octa Umbrella in tandem with the speed lights for portraits but with the day being a bit windy, I chose to leave the umbrella off so it didn't become a large sail and instead use a Neewer 31" x 47" Translucent Reflector which was held by Tierra's boyfriend, Troy, over the lights. This softened and spread out the lights so they wouldn't be so hard and sharp like they would be if they were uncovered.
  I had been using the lights at 1/8 power and zoomed to 50mm the entire shoot until we reached here. With having to place them on a hill they were a pretty good distance from Tierra so I bumped the power up to 1/4 plus 2/3 after experimenting with them a bit.
The lighting layout looks something like this:

   The shot worked exactly like I had hoped it would and post processing was pretty easy. In Photoshop I separated Tierra away from the background with the selection tool to make sure that I could edit her like a portrait and the background like a landscape photo. I also used the separation to even out the exposure by bumping the background up a bit and getting some more saturation out of the awesome fall foliage behind Tierra. I also did some dodging and burning on the rocks the water was falling over because I didn't have a polarizer filter for my 24mm lens to get rid of some of that glare on them.
  So there you have it. The deconstruction of what is right now my favorite portrait that I've taken. Hope it was helpful and informative.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


  When I posted this image of Kassidy Kenny the other day someone commented (actually in her mom's post when she reshared it on Facebook) "who took this and how did they do it?". Well I thought I would briefly show how this image was created.
  Just to give a quick background, this is not an original pose. I saw an image like browsing through images in a Google search. I loved the image and when I knew I was going to take Kassidy's pics and her being a catcher I was going to use it.
  Now here is a general layout of how I took the picture:
  As you can tell from the final image, I was laying on the ground right in front of home plate as low as I could get and still comfortably hold my camera.  I shot in manual mode so I could sync my flashes with the camera sync speed of 1/250 of a second. I used a hatchet lighting setup that is my normal setup for an athlete. This includes a single flash almost directly over my head as the key light with a  32" Octo-Umbrella with layer of diffusion to soften the light on her face and spread the light over her entire body. I didn't record the flash power it was set on but it was about 50-60% power if I remember correctly. I then have a flash on either side and slightly behind her pointing directly at her shoulders. These are uncovered to create a harder light along each side of her. These also create hard shadows as well which really add contrast and drama to the shot.  These were set at a lesser power than the key light but once again, didn't record the levels.

My original shot out of camera
  To get the deep blue sky and darken the background I used a relatively small aperture to underexpose it. Although I had a wide angle lens, I cropped it down to 20mm to get rid of stuff that may distract from my subject. My settings were ISO 200, f/8, 1/250, 20mm
  After importing into Adobe Lightroom I did some initial processing that involved slight Contrast, Clarity, Vibrance, and Sharpening. I also cropped the image to center up Kassidy and the plate in the image.
  Then I sent the file to Photoshop to do some more advanced editing. I use a high pass filter for sharpening. Then I used the dodging and burning tools to really pull the accents out in the highlights and shadows the rim lights created. The next step is to use luminosity masks to darken the background without changing the foreground. A Gaussien Blur was applied to make the colors pop.
  Then I noticed that I really didn't like the blue sky and stairs visible on the right of the image. I used a rectangle marquis tool to copy and paste the section of the brick wall on the building in the background and moved it over to cover up the distracting sky and stairs.
  Once back in Lightroom, I added a bit more Clarity and then applied a John G Moore Classic Colour Lightroom Preset called Nostalgia. It darkened the background even more and slightly de-saturated the ground but still allowed great color on the reds and blues in her uniform. This gave it that gritty look that I wanted and really set Kassidy out away from the background and put the finishing touches on the image.
  Hope this was helpful and gave some insight to what goes through my head both pre and post processing of an image.

Sunday, December 7, 2014


UT's Josh Richardson glides in for the wide open layup
   Wow, been a while since I've used the blog. But I thought it would be a great way to reach some people and explain how I choose and post sports photographs like basketball.  I was told by a good friend of mine that professional photographers only show their best work. This really hit home with me. After watching Scott Kelby's Tips For Shooting Sports Photography a few years ago combined with thinking of that statement, it really has changed first of all what sports pics I will keep and especially which ones I will post. At events like basketball and football games at the University of Tennessee, there are a bunch of photographers there and getting something unique is both hard and key.
  First, the picture MUST be in focus!!! There is no wiggle room here. Even if the picture is slightly over or under exposed you can usually save that in post processing but a shot out of focus cannot be helped and made in focus in post. I will zoom up real close and make sure the image is in focus and have trashed shots that would have made incredible action shots had they not been fuzzy and out of focus.
  Next I will not post an action image if the ball is not visible in the shot. Granted you may be able to catch a decent shot of guys blocking out for a rebound, and I posted one like that this week in a high school game, but I usually only take that low hanging fruit if I have a request to make sure and get a shot of a player that doesn't play much. Otherwise you really don't have an action shot without the ball.
UT's Kevin Punter #0 applies physical full court pressure on Kansas State's Jevon Thomas #1

  The next thing I look for is if I can see at least one eye, and even more so the entire face of the player I'm shooting. If all I have is the back of their head forget it. The only time you will see something like that from me is if they are celebrating the play and the crowd is visible in front of them. Side shots of the head where I can see the player's eyes are fine as long as one of them is visible.
  So let's recap, the shot must be in focus. The ball has to be in the action shot. And the player's face must be visible in the action shot. Check!  Now everything after this is personal preference but very important to me.
  I really love the conflict of a sporting event. So shots that have physical contact are by far my favorites to capture. The first shot in this post of UT's Josh Richardson is a sweet shot but I haven't posted to the web due to him being by himself gliding toward the basket. Nothing wrong with the shot but more than likely 10 other guys have the same shot from the game.
  Now the shot just above of UT's Kevin Punter bumping K-State's Jevon Thomas is one that I really like even though others may not. You have the struggle of Thomas trying to beat the full court pressure of Punter and even though there is plenty of contact on the play there wasn't a foul called. Now the viewer of this picture doesn't know that but you can see the worry on Thomas' face and Punter's expression is of working hard in that he is letting out a huge breath of air. In focus, the ball, both players' faces, and physical contact. My kind of shot.
UT's Detrick Mostella #15 thinks about his next move
  Now the picture above of UT's Detrick Mostella is a bit different but no less compelling. All of the main rules apply, in focus, ball, face. Even though there isn't any contact or even true action in the shot, his facial expression and stance give the potential for action. You can actually see the wheels turning as he looks to make his move against the K-State defender. Almost a desperate look to his face and worried what to do. These type of facial expressions are another way of capturing the emotion of the competition and almost a personal shot.
UT Head Coach Donnie Tyndall and his bench celebrate a UT play
  The last type of picture is not necessarily a unique image but is one that I am absolutely obsessed with capturing. The emotions of the game. Both celebration and dejection. In this case the entire UT bench is excited and stand up celebrating a great play on the court. The way to capture these shots are to either keep following a player after he/she makes a great play or when the play happens turn to the bench. If you have an animated coaching staff you will get gold like the fist pump of Donnie Tyndall in this shot. These celebration shots tend to capture the viewer and mean more than the standard action shots as well.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


  Last evening I had a phone conversation with my brother Jim. Now if you know me, you know that this is not a rare occurrence. Jim and I talk all the time, especially since we both share the same passion for photography. I usually call Jim when I have been somewhere neat or got an opportunity to do some unique photography and we share techniques, thoughts on equipment and other photography related things.
  Last night's conversation was a bit different, however. Granted, it started like most of our calls, but took a turn when I started talking to him about something that had happened to me over the past few days
  For the first time in a very  long time I was experiencing happiness. Most friends and family who are close to me know that the last year has been pretty rough for me. Due to multiple circumstances, that I won't delve into, the happy times have been few and far between and definitely didn't experience a long term engagement.
  Photography over that year has been a valuable outlet over this time and has provided tremendous relief and up until the past few days, I thought great reward. I had sold prints, started a business, taken portraits for individuals, teams, leagues, etc. I even rediscovered my first true love of photography in Sports Photography which was kicked off by getting a couple of games down on the field at the University of Tennessee football games. I have made it a goal of mine to get into the sports photography business with either a wire service, newspaper, web site, etc. and am going to try and achieve this in the next 2-3 years. Pretty exciting.
  As I explained to Jim on Tuesday night, though, 2 great experiences over the last few days have completely changed my outlook on what is truly rewarding about photography.
  Sunday morning I posted the image you see above on both my Facebook and Google+ streams title "ELATION". It was my favorite shot from a day of just casual shooting at Hiwassee College's Homecoming basketball games. I was excited about the shot because I captured an emotional part of the Lady Tigers' close win on the day. I got 45 likes on FB and that is a good day for one of my pics but it was nothing compared to what happened that evening.
  A young lady named Nikki Dean reshared my image with a headline that read:
"Precious Memories. Thank You Jerry Denham". You see Nikki is the young lady #10 with her back to me in the shot catching/embracing the other girl in the shot. She considered the picture a "precious memory". Never has one of my sports images been called anything like that before.
  A few minutes later, another young lady named Haylee Morrow reshared the same image with this as her heading:  
"My favorite picture from all the years of playing basketball! I just love this and Nikki! Thank you to Jerry Denham for this awesome picture"
  Haylee Morrow just happened to be the other girl in the picture that Nikki Dean was embracing. What I didn't realize I had done was capture a powerful, emotional moment between these two girls that lifted my picture from being a good image to being something completely special to these two girls. 
  What an incredible feeling. 
  The very next night I captured this image:
     Now I happen to know #32 Caston Moses here in this picture and his family. He goes to school with my daughter and she is a cheer leader for Caston's Vonore Middle School basketball team. 
  He had just had a fantastic individual game as well as his team outlasting their opponent in 3 overtimes for a victory. As close as this game was I definitely wanted to capture some emotion on the Vonore team whether it was dejection from a loss or jubilation from a hard fought win. Luckily, it was latter. When the game finished Caston walked away from the huddle and let out this big yell and I just happened to have the camera pointed at him to capture it.
  Like the shot of the girls from the Hiwassee game, I was excited about this shot because of the situation and capturing that decisive moment of victory for Caston.
  That night, when I posted my pictures from the game, I singled out this one and tagged his dad, Greg.  Although I had captured a really good shot of Caston early in the game taking a jump shot, Greg made the emotional attachment to this image because it anchored a somewhat breakout game for Caston and one that Caston was caught up in emotionally as well. Greg messaged me and thanked me in the same way that the young ladies from Hiwassee had done the night before.
  So when I was talking with Jim on Tuesday the happiness I was feeling was not from making a sale, getting tons of "likes" or +1's, or awesome comments. What it turned out to be was that my happiness was a bi-product of making other people happy. It felt and still feels tremendous and has carried over til today. I have been a new high that I haven't experienced in a long time. 
  Now I know that the true reward of being a photographer is not only capturing the moment but capturing a moment where someone can see the picture as something more than just a picture.
  Gosh what a feeling.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


ISO 200, f/16, 1/6 second, 10mm
After patiently waiting through complete cloud cover the skies opened up and gave us some awesome light and rays over Round Bald.


ISO 100, f/20, 2.5 seconds, 10mm
  Wednesday's sunrise was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. It is primarily due to the view we were looking at on Round Bald in the Roan Highlands.
  One of the neat things about Round Bald was the long grass that was covered and highlighted by the heavy dew. I was completely soaked within 5 minutes from walking around in it. That was the only drawback. When the sun started to crest the mountains on the far horizon, that dew started catching that light and created some magical highlights against the green grass. It was just awesome.
  I positioned myself next to this group of rocks that were engulfed by the grass and the rocks captured that same light as well. It was just a complete epic light show in the sky and on the ground. With the fog-covered valley separating the two, I don't think it could have gotten any better.

Friday, June 21, 2013


ISO 200, f/16, 1/6, -0.3EV, 10mm

  Our last destination on Richard Bernabe's Roane Highlands First Bloom Workshop was just up the Appallacian Trail from Round Bald on a gathering of rocks that made for some neat compositions looking to the north, south, and especially looking back west toward Round Bald from where we had hiked from.
  We were on these rocks for at least 3 hours watching nature do it's thing. When we first arrived, the cloud formations toward the west for sunset were incredible and we were expecting epic light. Somewhere around 7:00-7:30 the gray clouds we watched approach for an hour or so finally overcame the scene and we were completely engulfed in cloud cover giving us doubt of seeing that epic light.
  The 4 women our group of 11 gave up on sunset and started their way back to the parking area. About 20 minutes after they left the clouds parted like Moses parting the Red Sea. Just in time for us to see the ladies hiking their way up to Round Bald. Richard let out a couple of large WOO-HOO's and we could hear the ladies laughing across the way.
  Our patience paid off. We ended up seeing some terrific light and cloud formations directly over Round Bald and the setting sun.
  The entire time we were on these rocks I found my favorite composition in front of these few rocks that seem to all be pointing in the direction of the sunset and Round Bald with Rhododendron blooming just the other side of them. I made sure and rushed back over and capture this sunset in this spot and luck should have it that right above it everything seemed to converge right where these rocks were pointing.