Je t’aime, France

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”― Mark Twain

 

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We travel. We explore. We adventure. We experience.

Even better, we take our children. Every time I’m on another flight, or someone hears that we are traveling AGAIN and comments to me about it, I constantly remind myself how lucky we are. Garrett and I made a decision a long time ago that we would live a life of adventure and that our kids would go along for the ride.

I can’t tell you how many times I told my students that they needed to travel. I would have a bulletin board in my classroom, dedicated to my travel photos. I would print, laminate and label them and the kids would always look at them and then ask me: Mrs. Lewis, have you been to all of these places? Always, with a smile on my face, I would say: YES, and they are some of the best experiences of my life!! Then I would tell them: start saving now! Save your birthday money, your holiday money…whatever you get, save it and travel….you will never regret it. Forego the bigger house, the newest gadgets or $175 shoes….TRAVEL! I would like to think that some of them took that to heart.

Garrett and I traveled before Graham and Ellis were a part of us, but when our 15 year anniversary came around, we decided to go to Prague. This was our first time to the Czech Republic and it was Garrett’s first time to Europe. He loved it. The travel bug got him and it hasn’t let up.

In fact…I’m sitting here, at DFW airport writing this blog post. We just got off a 10 hour flight from Paris and are still feeling the effects of dizziness, foggy brain and vertigo. HAHA But I wanted to share while the memories were fresh.

A lot of people ask me for travel advice. I guess I qualify for that? LOL Not sure. But I will tell you that we are budget travelers. We subscribe to Scott’s Emails for deals on flights (we got this Paris flight from Fort Smith for $480 *reg nearly $2000* and will be going to Maui in August out of OKC for $320), we stay in Airbnb’s and we always shop at local markets, wherever we are. We don’t have “extravagant vacations” per say, but we do have fun ones!

This time, we took Graham with us for the week and he had an awesome time. Truly. Last night, as we were packing our suitcases, in our small apartment, in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, he said: “I miss Ellis, but I don’t want to go, I’ll miss Paris. I’ll miss this place, I love it here.” He’s 6 and he’ll remember this week and the experiences he had and that makes my heart so happy.

Below, are some photos I took. If you don’t know by now, I quit teaching after 13 years and decided to go with photography full time. People call me a professional photographer, but I don’t know if I’ve reached that status yet.

Nevertheless, here are some photos from our time in France. I’ll label below them so you’ll know where they were taken.

These are all from Paris. Eiffel Tower, River Seine, Notre Dame, Sacre-Coeur, The Louvre and the infamous Arc de Triumph. We also went to the Palace of Versailles, but it was so cold, I don’t have many photos from there LOL

We stayed in the southern part of the city, near the University. It was a lovely neighborhood with great restaurants and bakeries and the metro was only one block from our apartment, which made for easy access to the rest of the city.

These photos are from the small town of Bayeux. It’s a town of about 14,000 people and sits in the region of Normandy. We took a high speed train to get here. The train ride was about 2 hours and we were able to spend nearly an entire day. We had to take a taxi to the American Cemetery and Omaha Beach, which was an additional 20 minutes.

I believe this was my favorite part of the trip. Bayeux, itself, was such a charming town. Cobblestone streets and traditional French flair. It was amazing. We decided we would stay in Bayeux a couple of days, when we go back.

It was the first town liberated by the Allies, after they regained control of the beaches of Normandy, from the Germans. Nearly 18,000 French civilians from this area gave their lives to stop the German’s from progressing even further. Their efforts were shown by the preservation of the town.

The American Cemetery was a beautiful tribute to those lost in the battle against the Nazi regime. Garrett and I could not contain our tears and Graham looked at us, inquiringly, and asked: why are you crying so much?

It was a great lesson for him and the sacrifice that was made by a lot of people during this time in history. We hiked down to Omaha Beach and were able to see Nazi bunkers that were dug into the side of the hill and zig-zag trenches that were still in the grass as part of their defense. I would highly recommend making the trip to this area. It was so beautiful and moving.

These are my photos, taken and edited by me and are owned by AB Lewis Photography. Please don’t use them without my permission. Feel free to comment or even shoot me an email if you have travel questions. I love to help plan, give recommendations and just offer up traveling advice! ablewisphotography@gmail.com

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” -Gustav Flaubert

Unconventional Shoot

Most of the time, my shoots are aimed at styled and street. When Kaitlyn messaged me, she had an outfit in mind and knew exactly how she wanted her hair and makeup. You see, she was one of the original girls that I took to New York City for our first Destination Session and she knew exactly what her shoot needed.

So when we met that morning, on shooting day, I simply mentioned to her that I had read a blog post about a photographer who took the challenge to shoot in a home improvement store and that I wanted to do something along those lines with her shoot and she immediately said yes.

Now, am I the first photographer in history to shoot in these places? Probably not. But it’s VERY rare that a client is excited about a shoot of this nature. So, thanks Kaitlyn….what a fun day!! I hope these images inspire you to do something different as an artist or suggest something to your photographer the next time you book a session with them!

As always, comments and questions are always welcome. You can email me at: ablewisphotography@gmail.com

Follow me on Instagram: ablewisphoto and DM me to collaborate or shoot!

We started off in Harp’s Grocery:

Then, onto Lowe’s Home Improvement:

The Party Place

Downtown

(specifically, in locations I had NEVER shot)

Blacktop Backdrop

This blog post was originally written for the Click Society.

There’s this notion that street photography is strictly for those who don’t really want to interact with the subject or for landscape/architecture photography. I guess that can be true for some, but really, it’s taking any type of session into the streets and making the magic happen. Whether it be a complete stranger, stand out architecture or a styled shoot with a model….shooting in the streets can be really eye-opening.

Other photographers (professional, just starting out and hobby) ask me a lot of questions when they see my street shots. Most of these questions are:

 

  • How do you frame up the shot?
  • What kind of lighting do you use?
  • How do you style your shots?
  • Where do you go to shoot?

 

So today I’m going to share with you the 4 best tips that I’ve learned over the years and hopefully they will also help you!

I think the first time I was ever really proud of one of my shots was when I saw an image of the Eiffel Tower on my upload screen and from that, a love for photography was born.

It was a simple photo. I snapped it with my point and shoot digital camera as I was walking through the streets of Paris and saw the famous structure for the first time. I know, you’re thinking: uh, duh, it’s Paris, but I honestly never thought about composition or framing or lighting or any of those things before that very specific moment, looking at my screen.

For thirteen years I was a teacher in the classroom and I guess you could say that these photos are like the students I taught. Doing the same thing every single year, but seeing things in a new and different way.

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It wasn’t until seven years later that I knew what type of photography I wanted to create. Street Photography. I’ve always been a city girl at heart and I’ve always loved the look of the streets and the people in it. I wanted to approach my photography, the way I approached teaching: You don’t know what you don’t know and I was determined to learn more about capturing the moments as they happen. Natural moments. Happy moments. Sad moments. Moments without the artificial. Non-posed moments. In a phrase…I wanted to capture life as it happened. Unscripted and not staged. So I did a lot of research and contacted a few photographers in New York City and I finally settled on the professional I felt would be able to truly show me how to shoot in that way.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We walked all over Manhattan and I was taught how to look for the perfect shot, how to frame up what I wanted to capture and how to make it authentic and not seem awkward.

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  • How To Frame Your Shot

 

The biggest advantage you have in street photography is the abundance of material you can shoot; buildings, unsuspecting humans, animals and/or your client/model. But you have to be patient, especially if you’re wanting the shot that perfectly screams your style.

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I always try to frame my shots up in a way that leaves something for the eye to look at in every corner. In this photo, take notice of the statue to the far right and the gate behind her. I intentionally put those in the shot so that the eye doesn’t stop, it keeps going. If you make things interesting in the image, people are more likely to find it pleasing or thought provoking and will remember it. I could have certainly cropped the statue out, but to me, it made the image more interesting.

Depending on what the image is conveying, I’ll use the “Rule of Thirds” or “negative space” in the shot to add more interest and/or depth, but once again, this goes back to your particular style. If you’re unsure of these terms and their meaning, there are great articles out there. I encourage you to do some research on these photography fundamentals. It seems simple, but will have dramatic results.

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In this landscape image, framing it up to where there are multiple points of interest was my goal. The bridge, the fish market, the graffiti, all of it is in one frame to keep the eye moving and interested. Like I said before, this is my style…everyone shoots differently, but hopefully this will be a good jumping off point for you when you’re walking around and see something that’s a street-worthy shot.

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In the image above, I was simply looking over a balcony and saw a flash mob dancing and thought it was interesting.

  1. Finding The Best Light

With indoor photography, there’s this frustration of “finding good light,” but with street photography, the light is there and there’s a lot of it. I always try to shoot 45min after sunrise or 45min before sunset, that usually produces that “golden hour” glow and pretty lighting. However, if it’s overcast, then your shooting day just got easier and if you’re in a big city (like NYC), then the buildings offer great light bounce and you’re not in direct sunlight.  

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Here, I used the buildings as my natural light bouncers and made sure to find some color that would pop in the photo. I didn’t use flash or any type of reflector, just the natural light of the good ol’ outdoors.

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In this photo, we were shooting in Times Square and luckily, even at 11:00 at night, there was plenty of light from the screens so that I didn’t need to use a flash. I know this isn’t always the case, but I felt it was enough.

  1. Styling The Shot

Framing a shot up interestingly is style. Sitting in a spot for however long it takes to get a person to interact with that one location, for that perfect shot, is style. Having your model in certain clothing, their hair and makeup a specific way to tell the story is by definition style. Sometimes, I can head out for the day, with my camera in hand and just people watch. I may not have a particular type of “style or theme” in my head, but when I see it, I know it. Other times, I’ll have a very specific style in my head and the only way to get it out of my brain is to see it come to life on a person. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate. Editing your street photos a particular way is also style. How you crop it, if you desaturate it or up the contrast…all of these elements portray your street style.

Some photographers like to use props. I approach my style a little differently. I like to start with that street, that canvas and let the story write itself. Let the world be your studio. The elements of a great photo are already out there, it may just take some new insight with a new sense of adventure and curiosity to capture it on screen.

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  1. Finding A Location

I trained in NYC and go back there frequently; all of the example photos in this post were taken in the streets of Manhattan. For instance, this one was in Chinatown. However, finding a location to shoot street style really isn’t that difficult because hopefully there’s a street somewhere around you with people walking or has interesting architecture, just look for lines and pops of color. Local farmers markets are good places to shoot street style, a pretty busy location in your downtown area or state/county fairs, outdoor concerts. All of these events/locations lend themselves to lots of interesting people, buildings with character, pretty lighting and lots of color. This type of scouting can work with unplanned shoots and planned, specifically styled, and model shoots.

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If you haven’t dabbled in any form of street photography, I encourage you to just walk around with your camera one day and click away! Or, take that next step and find you a model, style their hair, makeup and clothing. Take them into the streets for a session they’ll never forget! It’s a lot of fun and hopefully you’ll learn more about your shooting style. Don’t worry about the other people who make it into the shot (like in this image above, with the produce-picking man). Remember, street photography isn’t just for the non-interactive or landscape artist, it can be a new adventure for you stylistically and hopefully offer a different sense of adventure in the process.

If your wheels are turning right now and you have a question, email me! ablewisphotography@gmail.com

I would love to hear from you!

Gearing UP

Bar and Lounge Logo

So, AB Lewis Photography is gearing up for our first Destination Session and it’s going to be in the best city: New York! The entire team is super excited and I can’t wait to shoot at some iconic locations in the Big Apple. I always have a lot of people ask me what gear I use, so I thought I would blog about it!

THE BAG

Let’s take a look into my camera bag and give you an inside peek into what I use for on-location shooting. First off, I just received this kamertte backpack from Australia and it is phenomenal! So chic and functional. There are so many compartments, it’s amazing. They offer two styles, but I opted for the backpack.

THE CAMERA

I shoot with a full-frame, Nikon D750 and in my opinion, produces beyond beautiful images. I always carry a backup camera, which is currently a Nikon D7100, that I can always grab for additional shots if needed. It’s a lot easier to mount two different lenses to two, different camera bodies…rather that switching out. Saves time and profanity.

THE GLASS

Nowadays, I mostly shoot with a 70-200mm/2.8 lens. It’s perfect for fashion photography because my model can stay in one place AND I can stay in one place and get three different shots with just the adjustment of the lens. I also shoot regularly with what I call the “prime lens trinity” and they are the: 35mm, 50mm and 85mm. They produce that beautiful blur in the background (bokeh) and are great in low-light situations. If you want something wider and offers more space in your scene, choose the 35. But, of course, I find that all three are great to have for different shooting situations. I use the 35 a lot when I do hospital visits to photograph newborns because I can fit most of the room in my shot. I use the 50 and 85 for portraits because they are sharp and lightweight. The 70-200 is HEAVY, but it produces magnificent images. Like I said before, I use it for a lot of fashion shots, editorial…etc. However, it’s also great for family shoots because it allows me to keep my distance from the young kiddos and still get the shot.

THE BRAIN

The oh-so lightweight, 13″ MacBook Pro with the new touch bar technology is in my backpack and always ready to go. It runs my editing software (Adobe Lightroom) flawlessly and allows me to work in any space. Life is so much easier with it.

THE CUBE

I carry this cute, little, Polaroid cube with me. It’s magnetic and is mostly used for video, but I can get still shots from it as well. It’s great because it’s small, it can stick to metal and it has a great lens. This can fit in my pocket. It’s awesome for capturing on-location work to post on social media or to create promotional videos.

THE LIGHT

I use this small, but mighty, flash called a LumeCube when extra light is needed. It’s so small, it’s LED and I can literally place it anywhere to bounce light in a portrait. For me, it’s better than a huge flash because it’s lightweight and can travel in my pocket.

THE OTHER

Other stuff you’ll find in my backpack: a camera cleaning kit, multiple SD cards (in a cute, little, zip-up, storage sleeve), multiple chargers, extra batteries and business cards. Even with all of THAT packed in, there’s still room for other things.

So, if you’re wondering if this backpack will be my carryon? Absolutely. It (along with all the gear + accessories) will be used in NYC this weekend for fashion and Denver next weekend for engagement photos. Then it will go with me to California later summer and to Europe in the fall. I can’t wait for you to see all the wonderful images from my adventures. If you’re curious about any of the items I mentioned here, I added a few links within the reading. If you want to learn more about the gear you currently have, shoot me a message and we’ll go shoot!

Make sure to follow me on IG/Snapchat/Twitter: @ablewisphoto and Facebook: AB Lewis Photography for updates and most current work! Go on an adventure guys, life is short.

I Love You.{I Know.}

I love unique. I love it when I’m asked to do something different. It’s challenging, it’s fun and I feel like I can be EVEN MORE creative. It pushes the boundaries.

Samantha contacted me recently to set up an engagement session and had mentioned they wanted the shoot at our local, public library. During our exchange of emails and getting details together, I asked her: “why the library?” and this was her response:

[I’m thinking of a thumbing-through-the-stacks-looking-for-love type thing. I’m an English teacher with a writing degree, so my whole life is pen and paper. I read fiction, and John reads nonfiction. We compliment each other in that way. One of the first things we ever did was exchange Harry Potter books. Our whole lives are built around the things that we love together, and libraries are the places where that happens. So, it’s less about The Library and more about the idea behind it.]

It was perfect. And I couldn’t wait! These are the pictures of their story. As we were walking through the genealogy department, a huge-impossible to miss, stained glass window scaled the east wall. John said: “When they built this library, they had local students create pieces of art for this stained glass window. My brother and I were some of those students, look….here’s our artwork.”

You don’t get more personal than that! Congrats Samantha and John….she loves you and you know….

 

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Randy + Laura = Madison Grace

Randy and Laura, I met them for the first time while shooting their maternity session. They were so cute, so laid-back and SO in love.

Then, I was lucky enough to be at the hospital minutes after the birth of their child. I love the stories that shape people’s lives and being able to put pictures with that story is my absolute favorite. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love and freeze memories for people forever. Here’s a little excerpt of their story:

[Randy and I met in an evening Spanish class at UAFS in Aug of 2013 (that neither one of us really wanted to take). Every time I looked at him, he was already looking at me and vice versa. After a few weeks of class, we decided to study together before our first test. Three years later with a baby on the way and it feels as if we’ve never not been together.
We are anxious and excited to begin our journey as parents together! Hopefully Madison Grace will find her Prince Charming one day like I’ve found mine. Until then, I’m sure her Daddy will be her Prince Charming.] 

Here’s to a happy life Randy and Laura! Can’t wait to watch your family, your daughter and your love grow!

 

Honor & Integrity

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.” –Winston Churchill

Most people probably don’t start out their day thinking “I better give that extra hug or special love you, I may not make it back home tonight.” Is it being realistic? Is it making every moment count? Is it treating today like it’s the last day of your life? Is it healthy?

It’s safe to say that we all have a 100% mortality rate and we would be delusional to think that every day is promised, but I don’t wake up in the morning thinking those things.

I’m a realist for sure, ask any of my closest friends and they’ll tell you I don’t sugarcoat life, yet….I don’t leave my house thinking “I may not live until the end of the day.”

Sadly, a lot of people do and right now, those thoughts are constantly on the minds of police officers and those who love them. Believe me, I’m not trying to take away from any life that has been taken during these controversial times, but I am focusing on law enforcement because of what has taken place near me.

We are living in a volatile time. It’s unsettling, saddening, angering, frustrating and horrifying.

It has become a race issue, political issue, gender issue, power issue, hashtag issue and truth issue.

It has managed to steal away the very spirit of the United States and turned us into the “Untied” States. It is unravelling. It is heartbreaking. It is in need of change.

This month has been sad where I live. A local police chief and county sheriff began their day by responding to a domestic dispute and wound up fighting for their lives.

The police chief was wounded, but alive. The deputy was killed. He died later that day from complications, the bullet had severed his spinal cord.

The man who shot them “hated cops” and instead of respecting the law (with all of it’s flaws), he decided to go the violent route. Now a man, who was loved by his community, is gone.

He didn’t go back home that night, he didn’t say his love you’s or give the extra hug.

I went to a memorial a few nights ago. The photos at the end of this post give a visual of what I saw. I didn’t know the murdered deputy, I had never met him, but the story affected us all. I’m not a sheltered person, but for some reason, the bullet holes in the vehicle shocked me.

I couldn’t believe how the metal was mangled and frayed. I could literally see through the hood of the cruiser. I could smell the dirt all over the paint. It left a pit in my stomach.

They hadn’t even gotten out of their vehicle. They were ambushed.

I guess the silver lining to all of this is that the K9 officer, Kina, was found. She was shot twice; the bullet fragments still lodged within the shots to her neck and back. Incredibly, she is expected to make a full recovery, even after wandering the woods for over 24 hours in 100 degree weather, all with her bulletproof vest on. Although Kina isn’t human, she’s an officer. They all are.

I can’t blanket all law enforcement officers as people with “honor and integrity,” just as you cannot blanket all people as “good.” But I can say, the deputy that died eximplified both of those attributes:

Honor and Integrity.

It’s evident in how people have celebrated his life. I can say that the officers who were injured, and lived, also eximplified these attributes, it was evident in the way they handled the situation and the aftermath.

I guess in today’s society, it’s tough to find people who show honor and integrity….that’s sad to me. So, how about we don’t just hold certain people to those standards, how about we all have honor and integrity and make sure that when we wake up every day we venture out with them in our hearts. Because we never know what the day will bring.

 

All Tucked In

“When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.” –Rose Kennedy

If I said that I get tired of going to hospitals and photographing newborns, I would be fibbing. The crazy thing is, I never cared for anything like that…until I became a parent myself. What a beautiful thing it is to see a new child’s first interactions with the voices it had heard for so many weeks before. I had the privilege of photographing this new member of the B family recently and I just LOVED going through the gallery….over and over and over again. Baby Tucker’s face is so sweet and to be able to capture this moment, freeze it and give his parents the gift of remembrance is so exciting for me. Tucker is a lucky boy. He has an older brother who he’ll be able to play baseball with and two parents who have very selfless jobs as educators. He is now part of a wonderful family of 4 that have great hearts, simply said. I’m so happy for you Tucker and I count out thousands of wishes for you and your dreams.

 

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A Crazy Kind Of Life

“What I love most about this crazy life is the adventure of it.”– Juliette Binoche

Here I am, focusing the lens, about to hit the shutter and the guy in my photo session gets down on one knee. Did I know about this? No. Did she know about this? No. We were totally shocked and if I said I didn’t cry, as I was shooting, I would be lying. It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever been a part of. Now, I must disclose: she is one of my closest friends and I’m biased….but it was wonderful being there.

Shanda and Chase have a crazy life. They dated for years, broke up a couple times, moved away from one another a few times and yet, found themselves back together….in the same state….at the same time. What do people call this? Oh yeah, “meant to be.”

They knew they wanted to get married. She had just taken a new job in Arkansas and he had just graduated from pharmacy school. They bought a house and began their new journey together. About 6 weeks after they had moved in, I met Shanda for lunch. I was planning on talking about wedding plans, but she had something else she had to tell me.

Let me step back a bit. Shanda was basically told most of her adult life that she would probably never have children of her own. Without going into all of her medical history, it’s as simple as this: her chances were slim, very slim and Chase knew this and he was okay with it.

Fast forward to our lunch date. She sits down, looks at me and says: “I’m pregnant. It’s REALLY early, like we just found out. But I’m pregnant. I’m really pregnant.” I sat there, stunned and then I cried. It was such wonderful news, but not without reservations.

So, right there, over lunch, we planned on pictures for the spring. These are those pictures. These are the images of her, Chase and their unborn baby, Henry. These are the images of her becoming a fiancé. These are the images of undeniable happiness. These are the images of a new chapter in her crazy life.

Henry was born April 30th as a very healthy baby boy. I haven’t had the opportunity to photograph him yet, but you better believe that will be happening as soon as possible. Now Chase and Shanda’s life is even crazier than before, but I do believe they wouldn’t have it any other way.