Archive for 'General'

Happy New Year Photo

Portrait by Luca Ragogna

Well, that’s the end of 2012 I suppose, eh?

Not a bad year, really.  We had some great events in the first half of the year – Fighting Cancer at the sugar shack in early spring and the Pet Event at the OSPCA’s Walk-a-thon in June.  Met some fabulous families as we created some really beautiful portraits for them. Some of these portraits have already been featured, some are still waiting for the final reveals to the families and some are withheld out of respect of the privacy wishes of our clients.

We also had some huge fun working on some mountain biking portraiture, most notably working with the fabulous crew at ProAction Mountain Biking Club.  I’m already looking forward to working with them again this year when biking season opens up again.

So, what’s on tap for 2013?

We have a huge list of ideas in the concept stage. From a Sugarbush Pet Calendar and Book Project to really getting deep with sports portraiture. (Hint, if you know a teen athlete who’d like to model for us, let us know as we’re seeking models to get this thing kicked off.) We’ve opened the conversation with Team Hardwood to help them with their fund raising efforts for the Nordic Ski team there. Planning for some more OSPCA fund raising events and I’m quite sure we’ll be back at the Sugar Shack again this year for some more fun and laughs – thinking about how we can mix that up for something really different this time.

Oh and lest I forget, Jen’s good friend Ruth Blanchet of Arbee Designs has double dog dared us to take on 365 Day Challenges. What’s that? Well, Jen has committed to blog on her Quilts by Jen site every day of 2013!

And me? Well, I’ve made two 365 day commitments (what on earth am I thinking!!!). First? I’m going to post a photo everyday for the next 365. Not necessarily a new photo, this isn’t a “take a photo-a-day” challenge, instead my challenge is to review my archive and every day highlight a photo that hasn’t seen the light of day since it was taken. For some of you, that means, yes, finally I will be presenting images from our fabulous photo trip to Ecuador! Yay!  At the end of the year, I’m going to print a book of all 365 photos. Fun. I need to decide in the next 11h and 45min if I’m going to do this chronologically or just go archive-diving each day. Hmmm. Chaos or system?

Second? A couple days ago, I discovered Cubeecraft. Cubeecraft is a website that presents folding paper crafts and in particular, cube shaped characters from pop culture (video games, movies, etc) like this one of R2D2:

R2D2 Cubeecraft

R2D2 Cubeecraft

For some crazy reason I decided that I would print, cut, fold, photograph and present a new Cubeecraft every day. Oh dear! Anyway, I’m not going to clog this blog with those images every day. Instead I’ll be starting up a Tumblr feed for them, so stay tuned for the link.


Cincinnati Portrait of three young men

A couple of months ago I had the honour of being invited to assist David Ziser with one of his mega-wedding events.   The wedding was a large Jewish affair, at least a quarter mill, maybe a half – spectacular doesn’t begin to describe it.  It was my first exposure to a Jewish ceremony, and lemme just say – what a wonderful ceremony and celebration.

But that’s not what this story is about.  Seeing as the last time I was in Cincinnati, this past spring for David’s week long Master Class on portrait photography, I didn’t get much of a chance to see any of Cincinnati, I decided to go a couple of days before the wedding and do a little exploring.

I nearly didn’t get to do that, as I tried to kill myself on the Friday when I got there.  Well, not intentionally, but that was the effect.  A very o’dark early wake up, breakfast, drive to the airport, fly to Cinci, skip lunch, not much to drink through the day, decided to go for a 10k run at 5pm, 30+ degrees and 85% humidity.  Can you see the disaster coming here?  Yeah, heart rate monitor was through the roof for the whole run, couldn’t get heart rate under control, then suddenly noticed that I was starting to shiver and was covered in goose bumps….  uh oh – heat stroke coming on fast.  Managed to drag myself back to the hotel, guzzled a whole lot of water and then warmed up in the jacuzzi…

Anyway, that’s not what this story is about either.  Ha.  Really building up to this one.

So, Saturday morning I hopped on Google and searched for some walking routes of downtown Cinci.  Found an interesting looking one, loaded it into my iPhone and headed into town.  My walk took me past many very interesting buildings and parks and at one point I found myself in area a bit more run down, crossing a vacant lot when I was hailed by three young men.  “Hey mister, can you take our picture?”

Uh oh, I thought.  I’ve had the camera out seeing as I was photo-walking my way around down town, I hope I haven’t just been targeted to get jacked.  We’ll just be cool here.  The lads came in close and we started chatting about creating a portrait of them.

Sure enough, one of Cincinnati’s finest rolled by in her squad car, stopped in the middle of the street and called out “everything fine here?”.  “yeah, no worries, we’re all good” I called back.  She didn’t look too convinced.  Stayed stopped there in the middle of the street for a bit looking at me questioningly.  “sure sure, I’m fine” as I waved her on.

As she rolled away one of the guys grumbled “friggin’ racial profiling right there”.  I gotta say, I felt bad for the guys.  Is this what they have to put up with on a regular basis?  Every time they stop to talk to someone, the authorities stop to see if everything’s on the up-and-up?  Then I realised that I had profiled them when they approached me in the first place.  Though my concern was more to do with being approached by three young men fanned out across the street approaching me because I had the camera out, than that they were black.

Moving right along, I quickly scanned the street and identified an interesting building with some stairs up to the front door and most importantly, in the shade.  I arranged the guys on the stairs, asked them to throw some signs and created the portrait in this post.  We exchanged emails and went on our way.

Cool guys.  Cool Portrait.  I decided to process it a bit more heavily than I would in my usual portrait style.  Unfortunately, the email address they gave me bounced so I haven’t been able to deliver this portrait.  And that’s too bad, because I really like how this one turned out.

Right o then, we’ll catch up with you all again soon enough!


Child Portrait in Field of Flowers

Hey Everyone,

Pretty excited today to announce that I was invited to submit a few portraits to an installation being created in Minnesota.  A photographer friend of mine whom I met at a workshop several years ago is curating a exhibition of environmental portraits from around the world to display near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

To say that I was thrilled by this invitation would be something of an understatement. After the initial glow wore off I was left with the task of selecting just three images. Selecting 25 images was pretty easy.  With much soul searching I was able to whittle the selection down to 12.  At about that point I sent my friend a note asking if I couldn’t please send more than 3 images.  She laughed, naturally, and said “No, now comes the hard part!”  It took me all evening to get down to the three images you see here.

In the end I was able to add 3 countries (Canada, Australia and Ecuador) to the gallery’s exhibit of international environment portraits.

The curator’s reaction to my submission?  I’ll let you be the judge:

I can’t stand it! These are just stunning Michael! You blew me away friend! The images are absolutely stunning and I am grateful to have them in the exhibit! Thank you for taking the time to do this! Really, these are an amazing addition to the exhibit – thank you! In addition to the visual scrumptiousness, they represent three additional countries!




Oh my, I appear to be repeating myself.  But seriously… wow!  Drat, did it again.  Unusual for me, but I’m actually at a loss for superlatives to describe just how awesome my weekend with Jules Bianchi and Joy BianchiBrown was.

First, perhaps a bit of back story, eh?

After I got back from a fantastic Master Class with David Ziser in Cincinatti (yeah, I still owe you a blog post about that experience!) I saw an email in my inbox from CreativeLive reminding me that there was still time to submit a promo video for Jules’ and Joy’s Marketing to Moms workshop in Seattle.  “Ah, I’ll never win that!” I thought.

A couple days later though, I noticed it was the last day to submit a video so I clicked on my iSight camera, blah blah blah-ed for 60s about why Jules and Joy should pick me to attend their workshop, saved and uploaded it before I had a chance to think twice about it.  (And, just for the record, NO – I’m not going to link to that video!  Far too much of my inner-dork shows through on that one. haha!)

Anyway, short story shorter – they picked me along with 5 other sensational photographers from the US to attend their workshop as it was being recorded and broadcast live on the Internet.

So, to Seattle I went.  There I met some fabulous photographers (Julie Pergitone Croff, Joni James, Dan Troutman, Kristin Tetuán and Christiana Sloop Childers) with whom I would be sharing the workshop experience.

It’s interesting you know.  Words like marketing and sales so often strike fear into the hearts of artists such as ourselves while at the same time they leave a sense of distrust in the minds of our clients.  So, I sort of feel almost dirty telling people that I was at a workshop on marketing and sales.  Here’s the thing though – marketing is simply the process of letting people know that we exist and what our service is – and done well the message reaches people that are interested in and value our service.  And sales (almost a four letter word for some people) is simply the process of determining what our clients desire and then delivering it to them.  Pure and simple.  No ugly monsters.  No scary ghosts.

Phew, well I’m glad that I got that off my chest.  LOL.  Yeah, so, that’s what we spent 3 days learning – how to find and engage people that will be interested in and value our services and then how to determine just what it is they want and delivering it to them.

Okay, yeah, I’m simplifying things a bit, but I totally learned a heap from this workshop and we’ve already started changing how we approach things at Houlden Studios.

So stay tuned for some pretty cool stuff coming up in the next little while!

Oh, and I can barely wait to tell you about how we met Riley and Abby and ended up photographing their engagement in real-time…. but that’s another story and you’ll be reading about that soon enough.

Hit the jump to leave a comment…

Read the rest of this entry …


Wow.  What an incredible day.  We started off the day with a 3 hour critique session where each of the Master Class participants submitted 6 images for critique and discussion from David and LaDawn Ziser.  Great feedback and a lot of discussion on both what worked and what could be improved in all of our images.  Considering there are 11 of us in the course, well, 66 critiques is pretty resourceful learning.

After a quick lunch we headed out for Ault Park in Cincinatti.  What a gorgeous park.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves for most of the afternoon, then just as we were wrapping up for the day, it became flooded with people out to enjoy the park and more than a few out having portraits made.

Just like yesterday we worked in three different areas and with each of the coaches separately so that we had a chance to work in a variety of settings and situations.  Each location had unique opportunities and its own set of challenges, too.

Once we were all packed up, we drove back into Covington to experience some of Cincinatti’s world famous chili at Skyline Chili.  WOW!  I perhaps overdid it a bit ordering both an Extreme Cheese Conoy and a 4 way.  The four way was just absolutely magic.  It starts out with spaggetti on the bottom, then a layer of chili with incredibly fine-ground meat. On top of that is a layer of beans and it’s all topped off with a mountain of cheddar cheese.  Yumm-o to the extreme.  No kidding.  Skyline Chili is reason itself to come back to Cincinatti, I tell ya.

After dinner we drove around the block to the Ohio River with the Cincinnati Skyline across the river to create some more portraits with city lights and darkening sky after sunset.  We sure had a lot of fun during this last shooting session of the workshop.  Tomorrow and Friday it’s back to the class room.

Anyway, you know folks?  It’s getting pretty seriously late here, my eyelids are barely open, but I did promise you yesterday that I would post a selection of images from today’s shoot, so here you go.  I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed creating them.


Hey there everyone,

What a day it’s been.  It is hard for me to believe that this is only day 2 of 5 days of Master Class on lighting and composition.  My brain is full and I just can’t wait to get to bed to recharge for tomorrow.   It boggles my mind that just this morning I logged a personal best pace on an 8.6km run.  I finally broke the 5min/km barrier.  Wohoo!

But, this post isn’t about running, as exciting as that may be to some.  No, today’s post is about the some of the things I’ve learned and experienced these last two days in Kentucky.

Yesterday was a classroom day with David Ziser talking with us about how he goes about lighting and composing his portrait images.  Really facinatating discussion, part review and a whole lot of a-ha going on.

Today was all shooting, all day.  We started off the morning with David demonstrating his technique in the unbelievably gorgeous Mother of God church in Cincinatti.  Built in the 1800s, this church has the most incredible stained glass and painted frescoes on the walls and ceilings.  Stunning.  Truly.  I captured a quick series for an HDR conversion when I get back home and I’ll put that up next week so you can see these frescoes.

After a wicked lunch of BLFGT sanga – that’s a Bacon Lettuce & Fried Green Tomato (YUM!!!!!!!!) sandwich – we worked in small groups in various locations of the church swapping locations, models and coaches whilst creating some fabulous portraits with a trio of truly lovely ladies.  As you can see from the images, today clearly had a wedding theme.  Tomorrow, after having our images critiqued by David and LaDawn, we’re off to the park for a more casual experience.

With that, I’ll leave you with these images from today’s sessions and bid you a good night!