Coney Island

Today I'd like to share a series of images I rediscovered recently. These were shot last year on our Canon G11. These are some favorite snaps from an afternoon spent with good friends at Coney Island. I'd wanted to visit Coney for a long time because one of my favorite bands wrote a song about it. Click here and listen to it (it's what I listened to while going through the images and it might create an interesting soundtrack to your viewing experience). The afternoon was a blast and Coney had a charming feel to it. It was almost as if we were stuck in an old movie. The images tell the story better than my words:  

Sabbatical Part 3: Grand Canyon

After 2 weeks in Vegas we were ready to get the heck out of the city and back home to Iowa. We loaded Bob (our car) and hit the road with one last sight to see on our checklist: the Grand Canyon. Jim Dale made our drive a lot more fun with his audio recording of Harry Potter 7 which we listened to in preparation for the big movie this Summer. We arrived at the Grand Canyon just in time for sunset, which gave us 30 minutes to capture the first image below before it got too dark to shoot. Our initial plan was to keep driving, but after catching a glimpse of the Canyon we changed our plans and spent the night so we could have a little more time to gawk in the morning. We woke up early to hit the trail for a sunrise hike and a few more photos before hitting the road again. Despite the shortness of the stop, it was well worth the detour. The Canyon is so epically huge that photos can't possibly do it justice (despite our best efforts) and it's something you should make a note to see in your lifetime. Please enjoy our photos and leave your feedback in the comments!

AD:Vegas Composite Class

I had the pleasure of teaching a photo compositing class at After Dark: Vegas, and I wanted to share a quick breakdown of what we did. Compositing is a technique we use for commercial projects that require a complex idealized reality beyond what can be captured in a single image. To do it effectively it requires a lot of patience, planning, and attention to detail. For the After Dark composite I shot the crashed plane background in the morning and photographed the model on a white backdrop in-studio during the late-night class, blending the two together in Photoshop. The resulting image is striking and powerful (see below). I'll be teaching the composite class again at After Dark: Cincinnati in May, and I'll go into full detail about the entire process. If you come to the event, use our code "MAC" during registration to receive $50 off your registration. Here's the breakdown:



Sabbatical Part 2: Utah

Salutations! After our stint in Colorado we spent a couple days driving through Utah. We've been working on expanding our fine art portfolio and had the opportunity to photograph some breathtaking landscapes. The neat thing about Utah in the Winter is we were literally all alone pretty much everywhere we went (in the Summertime the parks are packed). Our first stop was Arches National Park, where we made a sunrise hike and kicked things off with a self portrait:Delicate Arch:Windows: Intermission: After Arches we spent an afternoon at Zion National Park where we embarked on literally the most beautiful hike of our lives. It was relatively steep and treacherous near the end, but the view was worth it: Here's a peek at the trail, which drops off on either side: We'll wrap things up with a nighttime self portrait from Zion (30 second exposure):

We shot way more than we've had time to edit on the road, so keep your eyes peeled for some more images in the future. If you ever get a chance to drive through Utah, we highly recommend it. Stay tuned for Sabbatical Part 3: Las Vegas!


Sabbatical Part 1: Colorado

Hello! In case you haven't heard, we recently embarked upon 2011 McClanahan Studio Winter Sabbatical. According to definition, a sabbatical is the following: "A period of time when a faculty member is not working , but concentrating on his/her own education or research."

We are taking an epic road trip intertwined with work and play (all educational, of course). We loaded up our 1995 Ford Contour, "Bob," and hit the road immediately following the PPI conference mentioned in the previous blog post. Here's us and Bob, tearing up the asphalt in style:

We started our trip with play...Over the weekend we met up with Alex's brother Josh + his wife Steph + our friend Jess at Copper Mountain in Colorado for some epic snowboarding. Here's the whole crew:

Somehow we got talked into taking a snowcat and hiking to the top of the toughest slope at the resort (where no lifts go, because it's where all the fresh powder was) and somehow managed to avoid death. Here's proof:

And some more random snaps (all taken with our Droid X, which has a surprisingly good camera)

From Colorado we drove to Utah to spend a couple days hiking in the wilderness and photographing landscapes (where we are currently). Tomorrow we drive to Vegas to teach at After Dark: Vegas and hang out at WPPI. You won't want to miss our next Sabbatical post – we've been fortunate to witness some breathtaking stuff the last couple days and we're pumped out of our minds to get some shots edited so we can share them! Gotta give a shout out to Peter and Kathy Holcombe (check out their web site) for helping us map out our route through Utah and letting us spend the night at their place on the first leg of our drive! They'll also be teaching at After Dark :)

More soon...

PPI 2011 Print Competiton

We just returned from the winter Professional Photographers of Iowa conference (it lasted from Friday through today) and WOW did we have fun! Great speakers, great friends, great food. We got to teach a lighting class with our good friends from Gehman Photography and had a great turnout. Last night was a formal banquet concluding with an awards ceremony. Dan entered three prints and a wedding album in competition (a person can make up to four total entries) and we're blessed and humbled by the results. To give a little explanation to the process, this year there were over 400 entries all judged anonymously by a panel of nationally acclaimed photographers from other states. Entries are scored on a scale from 0-100. Scores are then tallied and awards are given to the top scoring entries from several categories (wedding, commercial, children, etc). Competition is intense and it's very exciting to see the culmination of everybody's best work from the previous year (the competition concludes with a gallery display of the entries)

Here's a rundown of our results:

–First Place Wedding Album (for the album we designed for Jill and John's wedding) First Place for Commercial Photography (for an image from our shoot with Clarke University) First Place for Illustrative Photography (for a brand new image entitled "Never Trust A Woman," see below) 3 Distinguished Print Awards (for Clarke, the wedding album and "Never Trust A Woman") 1 Honorable Mention (for a personal image of New York City - to be posted soon) Judges Choice Award for best in show ("Never Trust A Woman" was the only entry from the entire competition to score a perfect 100) The Don Knop Memorial Award presented in recognition of excellence in the art of wedding photography (for the wedding album) Fuji Masterpiece Award (for the wedding album) Kodak Gallery Award for Photographic Excellence (for "Never Trust A Woman") Top 10 Photographer Award (given to the 10 photographers with highest 4-score totals)

Here's "Never Trust A Woman" (FYI – Alex came up with the title so don't be mad at Dan!):

We're very thankful to all of our friends, family and clients that helped make 2010 an amazing year for us! We honestly had no expectation of performing this well in competition and we couldn't have done it without you :)

If you're an Iowa Photographer reading this and you're not in PPI, join! Seriously. Right now. It's one the best things you'll ever do.

The After Dark Experience

*If you're planning on attending After Dark: Vegas, use promo code "MAC" to get a $50 discount!!! The scene is organized chaos. 10 fully-stocked studio bays engulfing an entire hotel ballroom, each bay being used by one of the best photographers in the industry to demonstrate their area of expertise. All the photographic information you could possibly comprehend wanting to absorb is in one room.

Imagine Lori Nordstrom working with a newborn and explaining step-by-step how she captures stunning images. To her left is Chuck Arlund showing the intricate details of posing a fashion model. To her right is Cody Clinton and Mike Fulton from TriCoast teaching people how to master off camera flash techniques. Now imagine 7 additional (and completely different) photoshoots taking place all around you.

Oh, and don't forget the 10 small group work pods where master businessmen explain pricing and marketing in a comprehensible language and photoshop gurus show off their entire workflow on live projection screens. And there's also the locations sessions – watching internationally acclaimed wedding photographers conduct live Trash The Dress sessions on the street. Remember, this is all going on at THE SAME TIME! From morning until... well, the next morning! Doesn't it make your brain hurt just thinking about it?!

In our photographic career, never have we experienced an educational event as effective or enjoyable as After Dark Education.

We've been blessed with the privilege of teaching at After Dark: Portland and After Dark: New Orleans, and next month we'll be doing it again at After Dark: Vegas. In light of the seemingly overwhelming amount of awesomeness that takes place at After Dark, we want to give you a preview of what we're going to be teaching in Vegas to help you determine whether or not you should come listen to us or one of the many top-shelf instructors (and FYI – we don't take offense if you choose them – you really can't make a bad decision). Here's a rundown of our scheduled classes. We welcome any questions or comments you have regarding them (leave a comment!):

Millennial Marketing: We are BIG advocates of social media. We've built our entire business from the ground up without paying a dime for traditional advertising and we take a personal approach to connecting with people via free internet tools. Both of us teach this class and will discuss things like branding (your brand > your photography, and we'll tell you why) effective facebooking (how to turn every session into a viral way to attain new fans and new business), and creative marketing (the kind that's REALLY fun and gets everybody talking – take our annual Christmas Card for example). We will welcome questions and like to dedicate a portion of this pod to Q/A and discussion. This has been probably our most well received class and is applicable whether you're a total noob or an old pro in your 34th year of business!

Photo-realistic Compositing: Dan will explain how to light and photograph a subject in-studio to be superimposed onto an idealized background. He'll also be demonstrating how to blend composited images in photoshop to add realism. This technique is becoming more common in commercial photography when it isn't possible to actually photograph on location or when you want to create idealized reality. Here's an example of some recent covers we produced using this technique:

Also, here's a composite we photographed on location at After Dark: Portland:

Product Design and Design Principles: Well designed products are an aesthetically powerful way to showcase your images. Our design is no doubt one of the reasons we stand out from the other photographers in our saturated market (we design all of our products in-house). Design is oftentimes avoided by photographers because it seems more intimidating than it actually is. Alex will be teaching basic design principles that you can use to create one-of-a-kind products for your studio. She'll be demonstrating  photoshop techniques and fielding your questions.

Marketing and Design Critique: During critique night (the first night of After Dark) Alex will be available to critique the design of your products and marketing pieces. Please bring anything you'd like input on! Physical pieces preferred, but digital pieces will work too (bring them on a flash drive).

Rockstar Photography: We photograph a lot of musicians for publications. It's fun because it's acceptable to literally break every rule you've ever been taught, resulting in highly creative images. Dan will be photographing a group of musicians on location and discussing experimental lighting and posing (He'll probably use a lot of off-camera lighting). The purpose of this session is to shake things up and get you thinking outside the box (which all photographers know is a very difficult thing to do). The techniques from this session can be applied to wedding parties, family portraits, etc. Here's an image from the Rockstar Photography class we taught in New Orleans (for more examples, check out the commercial gallery on our web site):

Sales Tips For The Beginner: For photographers, creating is natural - but we quickly become uncomfortable when it comes to selling our work. In this class, Alex will teach you how to take confidence in your work and teach you how to help your clients decorate their homes using projection sales. This method will give you happier clients (with awesome artwork on their walls) and better sales, so you can spend more time capturing stunning images and less time figuring out how you're going to pay rent.

Locations Senior: Dan will hit the streets of Vegas with a high school senior and photograph McClanahan style! He'll show how to find flattering natural light and how to use artificial light when necessary. Our goal with seniors is to capture creative images that are mom friendly and senior approved. Here are a few sample images from previous AD's (check out the senior gallery on our web site for a wider sampling):

Lastly, here's all the information you need to know about After Dark:

Jeff Dunn explains what After Dark is all about:

registration (Use discount code "MAC" to receive $50 off):

Hotel booking (Those registered and staying at the Hilton will be welcome Tuesday night from 8pm - midnight for bonus sessions presented by 5 different mentors.):

We can't wait to see you in Vegas!!!

Favorite Music: 2010

This post is a slight deviation from our normal posting of photos and a result of our goal to include more personal posts on the blog. Let us know what you think! As you may know, our studio is located in a giant old loft that gets a little too quiet (like, creepy quiet) unless we blast music at all times. Like any young, devoted business owners we spend entirely too much time in the office. As a result we buy a lot of new music to keep our eardrums fed with fresh vibrations (an essential part of our workflow that helps us retain our sanity.) Here's a rundown of our favorite albums from 2010. Each hyperlink will take you to iTunes where you can sample the albums and buy them if you feel inclined. We also included a video from each albums to give you a chance to listen to full songs (Thanks, Youtube!) Feel free to disagree with our choices - that's what makes music so darn cool. It's subjective, just like photography, and we think we can safely say that the music we listen to is a subconscious influence in our photography. Our selection includes a few albums that are on every major music publications "best of 2010" list, and a few albums that land themselves on the more obscure end of the musical spectrum. Whatever your tastes, we hope you find something you enjoy. You're welcome to leave your feedback in the comments!

(click "view full post" and let the fun begin)

Phantogram: Eyelid Movies

This two member band (guy/girl - both sing) write insatiable riffs backed with techno blips and bloops that we haven't been able to get enough of. It sort of satisfies our unfulfilled longing for new music from The Postal Service, but with a unique charm of its own. Here's a taste:

Motion City Soundtrack: My Dinosaur Life
We've been fans of MCS since our Freshman year of college and have ventured to see them perform multiple times. This album is easily their best yet. They've managed to create an audio representation of the mental state of our young over-caffinated/anxious/ADD/OCD generation. Plus the singer has wicked cool hair:

Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
This is one of those albums that was relatively unexciting upon first listen, but multiple listens surprised us with the growing charm of its beautiful (and simplistic) instrumentation. It's probably the most critically acclaimed album on this list, which is the reason we bought it (and it lives up to the hype):

Lissie: Catching a Tiger
Raw, energetic, talented songwriting that is incredibly refreshing when contrasted against the overproduced music currently saturating the mainstream. And she's from the Quad Cities (where Alex is from)!

Stars: The Five Ghosts

These guys have a way with crafting songs that are hauntingly beautiful and dancey at the same time. Every album they've ever made is great, and this one is no exception:

Jonsi: Go
The first solo album from the lead singer of Icelandic genius's Sigur Ros. Most of the record is sung in Icelandic so we have absolutely no idea what he's saying, but his song-writing prowess is both musically brilliant and highly emotional. It sounds like nothing you've ever heard (unless you're a Sigur Ros fan), and that's what's awesome about it. We dare you to listen to this song all the way through without feeling warm and fuzzy inside:

Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene's You Forgot it in People (2002) was a genre-forging masterpiece. We haven't really liked anything they're produced since. That is until we heard this album. Forgiveness Rock Record features complex layered instrumentals that musicians will dig into. It's also extremely catchy for the casual listener. Every time this song comes on Alex starts dancing:

Broken Bells: Broken Bells

The unlikely union of Danger Mouse + the singer from The Shins resulted in an album that surprisingly works really well. If you're a fan of either artist separately, you'll enjoy Broken Bells. If you're not ... enjoy Broken Bells anyway:

The Almost: Monster Monster

This is our straight up rock record of choice for 2010. Singer Aaron Gillespie (formerly of Underoath) has a unique approach to writing heavy songs that we thoroughly enjoy:

Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz

If you've never heard of Sufjan, you should probably buy his entire discography (he wrote the best Christmas album ever.) His new disc is very experimental (a far cry from his previous creations) with lots of electronics and layering. Most of the disc is probably far too weird for the casual listener to enjoy, but it contains a depth that's addicting and rewarding for those up to the challenge. Here's a track from the album that's universally enjoyable (prepare to give it your full attention):

Sleigh Bells: Treats

According to an interview we read, this duo chose their name because their music sounds like santa's sleigh on fire. It's a pretty accurate description. The sound is happy bubblegum pop infused with metal guitars and blown out dance beats. We put it on at around 2:30 in the afternoon when our coffee has worn off and we need a pick-me-up (which usually results in dancing):

Matt & Kim: Sidewalks

First, do yourself a favor and look these guys up on YouTube! Their music videos are wildly creative (like OK GO on a smaller budget.) Kim Drums and Matt keys and sings with a wailing voice that by traditional musical standards should be intolerable, but for some reason it fills you with happiness until you burst.  They don't have any music videos yet for the new album, but here's the audio of our favorite track:

What are your favorite albums from 2010?

Yard Sale!

This post is for Photographers. We're fortunate to be upgrading some of our equipment, which means we no longer have use for some of the older stuff and we need to ensure that it finds nurturing new owners to care for it! Here's some of the goodness:

We came up with these prices from current Ebay listings (notice they all have an OBO appendment). All of this equipment has been lovingly cared for and most of it still has the original packaging.

Canon 430ex Flash- !SOLD! (works amazing with Canon's TTL system, as demonstrated in the above photo) Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 - !SOLD! ("The Professional's Workhorse" Factory checked and cleaned by Canon last week) Canon 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS - $275 OBO (our very first lens upgrade, great for beginners) Canon 50mm f/1.8 II - !SOLD! (The "Plastic Fantastic" - most of the close-ups on our website were shot with it) Vivitar 285HV - !SOLD! - Great for lighting enthusiasts on a budget

Please email with serious inquiries only! We will likely have a couple camera bodies going for cheap sometime in the not-too-distant future, so keep tabs on us if that's up your alley.

PTVBYD: Tom Thumb

Welcome to our first installment of PTVBYD: Places To Visit Before You Die! In our line of work we do a lot of driving through the middle of nowhere, and a lot of times the stuff you find in the middle of nowhere is fantastically awesome. This past weekend we drove to Okaboji, IA for a wedding and stumbled upon an incredible gem of a place called Tom Thumb Hamburgers in Fort Dodge, IA. Walking into it was like walking into an idealized painting of 1960's Americana. The employees were genuinely super friendly and the food was old school with a taste and charm that is lost in modern day fast food. We snapped some photos on our Droid to show you the charm of the interior:

The best part? A huge selection of homemade pie! Huge slices at a reasonable price. We decided if we lived in Fort Dodge we'd eat here everyday and become morbidly obese. Like eating grandma's home cooking whenever you feel like it.

It's hard to describe flavor through a terrible cell-phone photo, but our food had a taste above and beyond that of a normal hamburger. It's like our burgers were laced with liquid love. Here's a look at our food:

And the Best Part (I know I already said the best part is the pie, but I think this trumps it)?!?! $0.25 mustache machine! We only had one quarter and our mustache came out blonde, but was surprisingly high quality considering the price:

It would be worth driving to Fort Dodge with a sack full of quarters just to clean out this machine and have disguises for every occasion. If your travels ever take you down Highway 20, save a little extra time to make a stop at this place. It will be more than worth it. With utmost sincerity, we give Tom Thumb a "Thumbs Up":


Two years ago Alex and I got married on a beautiful Summer evening at Snus Hill Winery and everything was perfect. It was the best Summer ever – the last Summer of freedom we’d ever have before having to conform to “adulthood.” We’d camp, grill, take leisurely bike rides, play guitar, climb trees (until we got booted from our parent’s health insurance) and lived it up! Marriage was enjoyment of life beyond anything I’d ever experienced (and continues to be). Not to be a complete sappity sappster, but that preface is necessary to lay the foundation for the following images. A few months after our wedding I decided I wanted to capture the spirit of my new bride through photographs, and after lots of coaxing (and probably lots of doing household chores without being asked, etc) Alex agreed to let me photograph her. The images are becoming more and more meaningful to me as time passes (as they should), and I want to share a few with you:

Harry Potter Party

Long story short, we had a party prior to the Harry Potter premier Tuesday night! Polyjuice potion was drank, every flavored beans were consumed and good times were had by all. Requirement for entry was a top-knotch costume, and we took photos of all the costumes. There will be more posted later, but here are a few to make your head spin while you’re still caught up in the heat of the Harry Potter release:

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