A Balancing Act in the Dominican Republic: Finding Time to Photograph the Island and Be a Bridesmaid

I was thrilled to escape the early signs of the harsh Toronto weather and bask in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic sun in early November. My primary reason for vacationing in the Caribbean was to attend one of my girlfriend’s wedding.  Visiting someplace new is always an exciting opportunity for me to be able to add more photos to my travel portfolio.  It also allows me the opportunity to improve the images I wasn’t happy with the last time I visited a similar destination as well as capture things I did not have the chance to photograph in previous trips.

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Also, this holiday gave me the opportunity to shoot with my new Sony A7 for the second time.  I am accustomed to traveling with my Canon 70D,  lugging around a massive backpack and two tripods. When I switched to the Sony A7 I was able to downsize my camera bag to something that would not break my back.

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The Beautiful Greek Model Maya Vulgaropulos

The right model makes or breaks a photo. As I have mentioned before, I believe 75% of the final image comes from the model, 20% from the concept/lighting/makeup (and post processing), and 5% is actually from the photographer. It’s our job as the photographer to not screw up that last 5%. Our responsibility is especially important when shooting a stunning model. I like the way Jonathan Kos-Read puts it when he was shooting a beautiful Ukrainian actress, he said:

I’d had a bit of trouble photographing her – she’s so pretty that it’s difficult to find your place as a photographer, anything you shoot looks great because she looks great, not because you did anything special.

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Maya Vulgaropulos is an Aston model, an extra on AMC’s Mad Men and pursuing a career in film/television production.  I had the pleasure of working with her a few weeks ago in continuation for our Annie Leibovitz series. We shot in a beautiful studio in downtown LA, she wore a gorgeous red dress, and I’m very happy with the results. iLHP had a chance to sit down and talk with her.

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The True King of Bokeh – the Minolta/Sony 135mm f/2.8 Smooth Transition Focus (T/4.5)

When I first heard about this lens, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It’s a long 135mm portrait prime with not a particularly large aperture (f/2.8), even lower light transmission (T4.5), and manual focus selling for $1400. Yikes. No wonder I haven’t heard about this lens. It must be an overpriced dud. Or is it?

A picture of my Zeiss taken with a Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 12,800. Just look at that creamy bokeh! No additional blurring in post.
A picture of my Zeiss taken with a Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 12,800. Just look at that creamy bokeh! No additional blurring in post.

What really caught my attention was its image quality. Expectedly, the lens is razor sharp since it’s a portrait prime. Unexpectedly, the lens is absolutely bokeh-licious. I mean, just look at the shot above taken at ISO 12,800. This lens produces the coveted creamy bokeh we talked about last week and that high-end modern lenses strive for. However, it was introduced way back in 1999 by Minolta, before Sony bought the company, and it is still in Sony’s lens lineup today alongside another heavy-hitter, the Zeiss 135mm f/1.8.

This unassuming lens, though it looks like it’s made out of the same crinkly plastic we are used to from Canon or Nikon, is actually entirely metal. It feels as solid as a cannon ball.

This exotic twin-apertured lens is the Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 STF (T/4.5). It has some sort of cult status, inspiring fans to spawn dedicated websites. My favorite lens testing site, the meticulously German Photozone.de, also gave this lens 4.5 stars out of 5 in Optical Quality, Mechanical Quality, and Price/Performance categories, earning it the rare “Highly Recommended Green Thumb’s Up“. This is the best portrait lens you’ve never heard of. Just what makes this lens the True King of Bokeh?

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My 10 Favorite Instagramers in 2014

I attribute most of my successes as a photographer to photo-sharing on Instagram.  It was Instagram that inspired me to begin taking photos and share them with like-minded individuals while I was living in Paris.  Instagram helped me grow as a photographer and inspired me to want to take better photos.  When I look back to my earlier pictures I have to laugh at the images I posted and the ridiculous way I chose to edit them.  Many are overly saturated, processed with multiple filter overlays and covered in highly unrealistic effects.  I have often thought about going back and deleting my earlier photos due to embarrassment.  However, I always opt not to,  so I can look back to see how far I have come since my first Instagram post roughly two years ago.

It was through this growing process that just over a year ago, I purchased my first DSLR with the intention of learning how to correctly use it.  Unlike other of my past cameras, where I shot solely in automatic.

It was through Instagram where I have met many fantastic photographers from Toronto.  Some with similar interests and others that have inspired me to try and explore new genres.  My fellow local Instagramers have taught me new photography skills and been supportive since we have become acquainted.

I have continued to use Instagram as a photo sharing outlet as well as expanded to other social networking sites.  I owe my successes such as writing for iILP, showcasing my works at exhibitions, having my work published and selling my images to photography enthusiasts whom wish to hang my photos on their walls all to Instagram.

Here are my top 10 favorite Instagramers in no particular order:

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Cinemagraphs for the Upcoming Feature Film, “Devils in Disguise”

Cinemagraphs blend still photographs with an element of motion, adding a touch of the extraordinary while holding true to its ageless medium. These are not videos or video GIFs. They are photographs with a spark of life.

Click for the full size version.

First featured in the mainstream during the 20th cycle of America’s Next Top Model and, of course, the memorable Harry Potter movie series, the company Flixel has made creating cinemagraphs easier than ever. I’ve done it the hard way through Photoshop but Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro app makes the whole process so seamless that I’ve decided to forego our usual How-To’s because all you need to do is buy their software and watch this video. It’s that easy. Take our word for it, because iLHP is not sponsored by Flixel even though we totally should be by now. 😉


With our new digital tools, we collaborated with director, actor, model, and writer extraordinaire Guillaume Campanacci to take promo shots for his upcoming movie “Devils in Disguise,” starring the lovingly talented Magen Mattox and Montanna Leigh Gillis.

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