50 Faces: Brys Scotland

Beginning the 50 Faces project (which I wrote about in another blog) this time I told myself I wanted to do more than 50 photos of faces but rather 50 different individuals. It makes the project larger in scope while also implying there is one that stands out above the rest in all the photos I might take of that person. This means that there will be at least 50 blog posts featuring faces, and in the end you will see many more than 50 photos, but I will do a few blog posts at the end that identify 50 favorites for different reasons, 1 per person... if I can stick to that.

To start the 50 faces project I took a photo of my co-worker and friend, Brys Scotland, before she moved from MA back to Colorado. I didn't have much time, it was her last day at work, so I grabbed my camera and brought it to the mall with us on lunch. On the way back to the office I noticed some trees covered in vines by the mall and stopped to shoot a few photos at that location really quickly. This photos was unplanned, not conceptual in nature, and intended to be a simple portrait. While shooting I moved her around the area a bit until at the end I found the spot I liked and caught a moment where the wind gave her hair some movement and her expression was natural.


I was very happy to start the project off with this picture especially given that we only worked on it for 10-15 minutes. It was a simple portrait but a successful one. I was happy with the composition and scenery, her expression, and the movement in the image.


Portrait of Carlos at sunset

CDIA: 50 Faces Project

When I started the part time photography certificate program at CDIA in Waltham one of the first projects they assigned us was to shoot 50 faces. It was an assignment created to help us get comfortable shooting portraits and start to learn what to look for. We learned even if you captured the right emotion if the lighting was off it wasn't a good photo, that if you didn't connect with the subject there was no emotion, how distracting your background could be, ways to adjust the lighting with simple props, and so much more.

Here are a few of my more successful images, several of which were taken after the project was completed because I knew more about how to take a successful portrait.

Portrait of Danny taken on a sail boat
Portrait taken on a sail boat

The above photos are of my brother and my mother taken on a sail boat several summers ago. They worked well as a pair. When you are shooting  candids sometimes you can't avoid some technical errors because you aren't setting the scene. These family photos were candid and a boat limits your movement. The photo of my brother has some lighting on his face that is a bit off, it would have been best if it was completely in shadow like my mothers. Both images also include glasses which can cause reflection issues and also obscure the eyes, which as human indicate emotion. In my mothers photo it would have been best to move the "lifesling" guide that was behind her, it can be distracting especially because as humans we try to read text when we see it. But over all these images work well as a pair, both individuals are wearing sunglasses, hats, and grey sweaters and clearing on a boat; they both appear happy, relaxed, and to be enjoying a vacation. Sometimes you can't get the perfect image technically but doesn't mean  you can't take a good photo.

Portrait of Carlos at sunset

The above photo is of my friend Carlos. When I first started the 50 face project my classmates and teachers remarked upon the quality of my photos of men being greater than those of women. This confused me a bit as I didn't think I had many male friends or an affinity for those images. Trying to see what my classmates saw I realized a few things about my work. I would overlook technical quality if the expression was right and men looked more at ease, weren't trying as hard in my photos than a woman. I was better at shooting the photos of men while having a random conversation and putting them at ease, while a woman was cognizant of the camera the whole time and I wasn't as good at distracting them. This photo was a favorite of mine because it is such a candid moment and had a beautiful soft rim light from the sunset.

During this time in the 50 faces projects, because it was so intensive and we just had to shoot 50 faces, I was just asking people if I could photograph them and doing it when they had free time. It was done without much thought as the best time of day or location for an image. I just happened to be leaving my house with my friend and stop him to take this photo. Doing this project the way we did made us evaluate why some photos worked and some didn't but forced us to work with the time we had and see what we could do.

Portrait of Cassandra

As we worked through the project we were also learning in class. The above image of my friend Cassandra was taken in my drive way during a bright sunny day. By this time I had learned way to deal with that sun. We had her back to the sun and she used some white foam core to bounce light back into her face so it was not too dark.

Portrait of Ian in some old foundation

The above photo was taken much later in the project of my friend Ian. He knew of an old foundation in the woods we could visit and use for a shoot. This was more intentional and planned than the initial 50 faces. We gave thought to the surroundings, time of day, and lighting more than before.

This project was a great learning experience and forced us to quickly learn how to deal with people and different situations while shooting. I highly recommend this project and hope to come back and post another 50 faces project in the near future.

Photographer Michael Thompson

I love color photography and because of this I often don’t give black and white photography much credit. Alternatively, you might say I give it too much credit, I hold it to such a high standard that cannot reasonably be lived up to. I feel that black and white editing is over used and is often done as more of an after thought than done purposefully.

I believe black and white photography should support the story of an image when color distracts from this purpose. Black and white photos should focus heavily on the lighting of scene and subject. A shoot should be planned with black and white in mind. The photos shouldn’t just be high contrast images that become literally be black and white but rather be filled with beautiful shades of grey.

My favorite example of successful black and white images are photographer Michael Thompson’s editorial images of Kate Beckinsdale. View them here on one of my Pinterest boards. Michael Thompson often shoots portraits in black and white but this series in particular spoke to what I love about the use of lighting in black and white photography.

These photos embody what I believe black and white photography should be. They purposefully use lighting and shades of grey to tell you about these moments in time. The black and white draws your attention to the lighting and sets a mood. These images perfectly evoke a mood and a story that could not be achieved in color. They portray the private moments of a woman awakening in the morning sunlight, moments spent in deep thought. In particular I love the image where she holds her hand up to shade her face from the sun, appearing to search out into the day to see what it might hold. The beautiful catch lights in her eyes and natural shape of the shadow on her face highlighting it are beautiful. The stripes of her shirt add dimension and subtly suggest lighting that is actually just the stripes.

My challenge to myself is to try to create portraits that do this just as well as Michael Thompson’s do. To create a series of portraits of one person or of different individuals that use lighting and shades of grey to tell their story.


Mickey my neighbors little Shitzu as a puppy, he has a cute over bite and a bump on his nose.

First Photography "Portfolio"

At the end of the two week photography summer class I took at CDIA before my junior  year of high school (which I mentioned in an earlier post) we put together our favorite images from the class in a portfolio and learned a bit about printing as well. My favorite photos included mostly flowers and animals, not a surprise as that is what I loved and was easy to find, some others also included favorites from vacations.



Most of opportunities for taking photos while in this short class came from being outside in my neighborhood and from field trips we took in class. The flower photos were all taken in my mother's many gardens (10 or more!), while the frog I found in my neighbors man-made Coy Pond. I have always loved nature and being outside so it was natural to try to capture what I saw.

Mickey my neighbors little Shitzu as a puppy, he has a cute over bite and a bump on his nose.

I also took some photos of my neighbors new puppy, a little Shitzu they named Mickey because they love disney. I snapped this shot of the cute little bump on his nose and his overbite while he was play with my 85 lb dog, Buddy! They were an odd match but quickly became fast friends, to this day Mickey will run up to my parents house looking for Buddy though he has been gone for several  years.

Boats in Edgartown Harbor Martha's Vineyard.

Rock Balancing on the beach at Martha's Vineyard.

Later in the summer I added a few new photos from our yearly vacation to Martha's Vineyard to my portfolio. When I was younger we visited Martha's Vineyard every year for 1-2 weeks and stayed at my uncles house in Edgartown. I took many photos photos but I especially liked the photo of the sail boats in Edgartown harbor and rock balancing I found on the beach. I can't remember if this photo was taken in the sand dunes by where we went cohoging or near Chappaquiddick while driving on the dunes before the sand bar connecting it to Martha's Vineyard was destroyed. I also took many photos of the ginger bread cottages and of course the miniature horses I mentioned before.

Blue Gingerbread cottage in Oak Bluffs Martha's Vineyard

White and Pink Gingerbread cottage in Oak Bluffs Martha's Vineyard


Bunny on woodchips

Definitions & Identity

I am a graphic designer full time so from time to time I may post design related content as well. For my first design post I may try to be profound and struggle to be a bit definitive and it may become inherently vague with philosophical tendencies, as definitions merely attempt to bring additional words together to impose a vision or intuitive understanding of a concept. As with my own explanation, the process of defining words and concepts is often quite circular. But I feel that I must string words together in an attempt to define what it is I do because there are many who will not stop to consider what design actually means and do not realize it's significance. We are so desensitized and hurried in our daily lives we do not always stop to think about the things we see, because they are a part of our daily lives we accept them without considering their importance.

Identity as defined in the dictionary is: the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.

Identity has become inextricably intertwined with our understanding of both design and photography but it’s meaning to each is elusive and every changing. As designers identity is born from our work. We are problem solvers who are tasked with bringing things to life by creating tangible and recognizable identities that represent information and concept. Identity for a designer is a series of visual devices that, when brought together within a set of constraints, construct a thing‑that define it. In photography we capture intangible moments in time within a limited field-of-view and define that ever passing moment, that location, that individual. The viewers perception of this elusive second of life is created by the photographer. The photographer shapes your perspective and creates a unique identity of that moment, within a single frame that gives it everlasting life.

Designers & Photographers create identity, bringing visual cues and elements together to represent the fact of who or what a person or thing is. We build your recognition of a thing. We alter your perception of a moment. We are the reason you define something the way you do.

Me in high school playing on the playground.

Summer Photography Class in High School

By the time I was in high school my interest in photography was evident and my parents offered to send me to a two week summer program for photography in Waltham, at the CDIA of BU (at the time). They got me a low level DSLR, a Nikon D40, with two lenses, and I took the class. I learned more about composition and lighting, I started learning Lightroom 2 and Photography CS2. That’s when I began to think more about how to make a good photo instead of just capturing the moment.

Sculpture in the DeCordova Sculpture Park.

Greg shooting me shooting him in a tree.

It was a fun class, and I don't use the word fun randomly, one of our teachers would say "That's so fun" to every photo we took, she was very enthusiastic. We spent the two weeks both in the class room and exploring the immediate area. We shot on Moody St., at theDeCordova Sculpture Park, Walden Pond, and other locations. We tried studio lighting out for the first time and more.

Police Horses at Walden Pond.

Police Horses at Walden Pond.

Police Horses at Walden Pond.

We got silly with the Police horses at Walden Pond; yes I was in high school and still just as obsessed with horses.

I took another photography class in my high school, but my school was a bit behind in the programs and last minute the photography teacher was unavailable teach our class. A first time teacher with a background in ceramics ended up filling in as our photography teacher for the year. It was an interesting dynamic as she had a different perspective on the work and little knowledge of photoshop. It was a unique class seeing how photography critique worked from more traditional background. I also had the opportunity to help many other students who had no previous experience with a camera and the Adobe programs.

Sunset at the playground with tix tac toe.

Playing with aperture on the playground in high school.

Playing with composition on the playground in high school.

I took these photos on the playground while in high school when I was learning more about composition and aperture. And... in case I made you curious, yes, I was still trying to get the perfect picture of a chipmunk, that is just as silly as when I was younger.


Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Getting Wolfy in the Arnold Arboretum

My friend Natalie and I came up with this fun idea to play with doing a sexy wolf photoshoot where she was the wolf. On a brisk winter day we decided to drag ourselves down to the Arnold Arboretum and look for somewhere fun to shoot. We soon came upon what we affectionately referred to as a human size bonsai tree, I know we could have looked at the actual name of the tree, since we were in the Arboretum, but to us that was a what it looked like and that’s all that mattered. It was a low growing tree with lots of beautiful twisted branches. At this point we had only walked feet from the entrance we came in and decided we should probably see more options before we stopped so we kept walking.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.
Starting to get silly and figure out how to make a human sexy wolf pose in the woods.

The next place we came to we decided to play with some shots, it was already 2:30 and sun set was as early as 4:15 as it was early January in Boston. We found some cool jagged rocks and started playing around. The lighting was difficult to work with as it didn’t hit her face and while I love the rim lighting on her spirit hood, which highlighted the wolf well, it was easily blown out so I had to shoot dark and use a reflector and tree branches to hold it up. We used a stool to help exaggerate the size of her body and draped her fur vest over it. Here we got silly and played around with what worked and was wolfy but still human. It was a learning experience and we may repeat this shoot in different seasons… so stay tuned.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

After we played by the rocks for a while we headed back towards the entrance and our bonsai tree. Natalie took a quick climb into the tree and found the one opening with beautiful lighting from the setting sun streaming through and I began working my way steadily up and down the hill by the tree as well as around the tree to get the shot from every angle I could. Playing with the composition of the shot with the different twisted tree limbs while she remained in a very similar position. When I had to chose my favorite photos it was a bit of a struggle as the lighting on her face was so beautiful. So I apologize if there are many similar shots :D

Natalie modeling as a wolf in the woods.

More photos on my facebook page: facebook.com/mswphoto

Danny with a porcupine stuffed animal

From Age 6

I decided to start this blog to embody all the things I loved to do starting from a young age. I want to recapture the pure curiosity for the world that a child has and spend more time experiencing the world around me.

Some of the things I loved most as a child were taking photos, exploring the world around me, reading and writing so here goes!

I started taking photos at a young age. My parents handed me a film point and shoot camera at age 6 and I took these silly photos of my brother, Danny, and our toys. If I could remember this moment better maybe I'd exclaim over the camera feeling just right in my hands and being life changing, but I was only 6 and I don't remember.

I then proceeded to constantly borrow their camera. I became obsessed with animals, and like many children wanted to be a vet when I grew up. I was especially enamored of birds, so, I spent much of my time with the camera trying to take photos of birds on the bird feeder. Of course the camera was just a film point and shoot and I was standing in the kitchen shooting through a window or on the porch, so these are ridiculous photos but my parents let me take them anyways.

Then when I was in 8th grade my Uncle Mike, who is a photography enthusiast himself, I got me my own digital point and shoot. From that point forward I then proceeded to take photos of everything, my dog, my family, my friends, my moms plants in her many gardens, I’d stand in front of a tree for over an hour waiting for a chipmunk to reemerge just so I could get a closer shot.

The camera focused my attention on different things than I might have naturally taken too. I had to think about what would make a good picture and what I wanted to keep a photo of, it altered my behavior. I wouldn't normally, even at that age, stay in front of a tree for an extended period of time just to see a chipmunk again, but my camera gave me a reason to do this. I lived those moments because of my camera, because I wanted to get the shot. I hope to reignite this effect so that shooting isn't about just about retaining a moment, or capturing what is there, but is the very reason that moment comes to be a part of my life.