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The Keys {Spring 2011 Lifestyle Session}

Yesterday at church we had the pleasure to host Mark Prater, a pastor from Covenant Fellowship church in Glen Mills, PA. He began the message recalling watching his three daughters grow up. Every few months he would stand them next to the door opening & mark their height. Although he didn’t “see” them grow everyday, whenever it was time for a new mark, he could see how much they’d grown.

For Micki & Brian Key, I imagine the feelings are similar. Although you know your kids grow fast, you don’t always “see” it. It’s only when you look back do you see how much. I love how privileged I am to provide these photos as markers of the growth of their two boys, Lucas & Sullivan. As a family, they will have tangible memories of one of the most wonderful times in their lives & I can’t wait to continue to watch them grow. Less than a year ago I was in their home photographing Micki’s maternity session. Then, several weeks later I saw their family double in number & photographed their newborn session. Next, I was able to capture their first Christmas.

And now, we’ve come to Spring & it’s amazing how much these little boys have grown. They are simply beautiful! We met up at the lovely campus of Tennessee Wesleyan College.

undefinedMicki & her mini-me, Lucas.
undefinedBrian & his little duplicate, Sullivan.
undefinedundefinedThey’re sitting up quite well!
undefinedundefinedundefinedExcuse me, but I’m pretty sure I’d like to adopt these guys.
undefinedundefinedundefinedEverything’s good in Sully’s world… a laid back little fella.
undefinedundefinedAnd the joyful & content little Lucas.
undefinedundefinedundefinedLove these pics of Micki & Sullivan; it’s such a pleasure to see friends enjoy their kiddos.
undefinedundefinedI can’t wait to take this same picture when they turn 18! Ha. Thanks again Key family. Enjoy!
undefined

  1. Micki Key / Ooooo, Ben!!! Simply perfect!!! I can't believe how grown up my lil' boys are!!! You always seem to capture the absolute most beautiful pics of our family! Such talent! Thank you!4.18.11 / 2:11 pm
  2. Jan Lee / The pictures of the twins are unbelieveable. They have grown so much. Ben you did a great job but you also had a beautiful family to work with. Love them all!!! Jan4.23.11 / 2:01 pm
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AACC Dept. of Tourism {Guide Design}

I’ve been eager to show this brochure I’ve been working on for the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce’s Department of Tourism. The Chamber approached me in 2010 to plan for the upcoming 2011 launch of the Athens Area Dept. of Tourism. We decided to develop a promotional brochure highlighting some of the area’s attractions. It was a pleasure to provide the design work, photography, & some copywriting. I think this will be an excellent opportunity to bring awareness to our wonderful town. Athens is nestled in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains & Cherokee National Forest, resting just between Chattanooga & Knoxville. If you’re heading toward the East TN Valley, you should definitely consider stopping here for a few days. When you head this way, feel free to give me a ring & I’ll show you around. Or, the Dept. of Tourism is now located off Exit #49 of I-75 in one of the incredible gallery homes of Tennessee Log Homes. They’d love for you to stop by.

Check out the brochure & let me know what you think:

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  1. lillian / bravo ben!4.15.11 / 2:25 pm
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Gear Guide & Recommendations {Part 2: Lenses}

Weeks ago was my first in a series, Gear Guide & Recommendations {Part 1: Camera Bodies}. Yet, today’s post may be even more fitting as I hope to recommend lenses for any level photographer, from Beginning to Amateur, Advanced Amateur to Professional.

It used to be the case that I’d recommend investing most of your money into lenses & still, in some cases, I’d say the same. However with the advancement of camera body sensors, autofocus & more, you have to consider the body too. That stated, buy as nice of lenses as you can afford; it makes a big difference. Most of the questions I receive from other photographers has to do more with the lens & it’s capabilities than it does the camera body. And, depending on what you want the image to look like, often depends primarily upon the robustness of the lens.

Today I want to offer recommendations on a variety of fixed focal length lenses. Most, with the exception of just a few, I’ve used numerous times & feel confident recommending. All have limits to their abilities, however, there are a few that seem to do everything I ask them to. I don’t own all of these lenses but I will differentiate the ones that I do (*) & regularly use. As well, I’ll try to offer a less expensive alternative when possible. As a note, about 1.5 years ago I made a decision to shoot primarily fixed length (prime) lenses. I found myself desiring to grow as a photographer & was eager for the extra image clarity when shooting with fixed glass. Although it requires more effort, it’s worth the labor. As I often say, I zoom with my feet! It’s proved a tremendous decision. I’ll begin this 3-part series with Part 1: Fixed-focal length lenses, followed by Part 2: Zoom Lenses & Part 3: Specialty Lenses. Further, I’ll look to find the equivalent for those Nikon users out there.

Lenses Part 1: Fixed Focal Length Lenses

Canon 24mm f/1.4L II*
I love so much about this lens. It’s tremendously fast; probably the fastest focusing lens I own. And, it will allow you to photograph with almost two more stops of light than most zooms. Aside from the 35mm 1/4, it may be one of the most ideal photojournalism lenses. I use it often for photographing architecture & interiors, children & families when indoor & restricted by space, & wedding receptions. You’ll notice some slight distortion on the edges if you’re not careful but it is easily manageable for my preferences. If you’re a Nikon shooter, you’ll want to check out the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G ED.

Description (from Canon USA): Professional wide-angle lens with an ultra-large maximum aperture of f/1.4. This is the first EF lens to employ both a replicated Aspherical lens element to suppress distortion and spherical aberration, and a UD lens element to correct lateral chromatic aberration. Thanks to the floating construction, excellent corner-to-corner delineation is attained from 10 in. (25 cm) to infinity.

A variety of pics I’ve taken with the 24mm f/1.4L II:

undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined Canon 24mm f/2.8
A less expensive alternative. From Canon, the 24mm f/2.8 is a highly popular wide-angle lens featuring a large aperture. Good for casual snapshots as well as perspective shots. Floating rear focusing system corrects astigmatism and gives high contrast and sharp delineation. The Nikon equivalent is the Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D.

Canon 28mm f/1.8
I’ve found it appropriate to recommend this lens on several occasions. I prefer the build quality over the 24mm f/2.8 plus you get 2 extra stops of light… yes! And, it’s a little tighter than the 24mm, but not as much as the 35mm. If I were a beginner or amateur & could own three relatively inexpensive but robust lenses, it would include the 28mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4 & 85mm f/1.8. For the Nikon user, consider the Nikkor 28mm f/2.8.

From Canon, with the large maximum aperture, excellent background blur is possible with fast shutter speeds using the Canon 28mm f/1.8. The aspherical lens element makes the lens compact and corrects spherical aberrations. The image is sharp even at the edges.

Canon  35mm f/1.4
This is one desirable lens. As Henri Cartier Bresson stated, “The 35mm is THE CLASSIC Photojournalism lens.” The 35mm will likely be my next lens purchase. You could spend most of your career with this lens, coupled by the 50 f/1.2. I love the story-telling feel of this lens; I highly recommend it. In fact, if I had not bought the 24mm beforehand, I sometimes wonder if I would have ever purchased it. Nikon has an exceptional lens in their Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G.

Description (from Canon USA): L-series professional f/1.4 wide-angle lens with an Aspherical lens element to correct aberrations. The floating system enables high picture quality to be obtained over the entire focusing range. Autofocusing is quick and quiet with rear focusing and ring USM. Full-time manual focusing is also possible.

Canon 35mm f/2
A nice alternative to the Canon 35mm f/1.4. From Canon, this fast wide-angle lens with a minimum focusing distance of only 0.8′ allows you to approach the subject closer and still obtain a more natural wide-angle effect. Excellent background blur for portraits is obtainable. The Nikon equivalent is the Nikkor 35mm f/2D.

Canon 50mm f/1.2*
Let’s just say that I shoot with this lens 75% of the time; it’s my favorite. Until I recently purchased the 85mm f/1/2, the percentage would’ve been even higher. There are some things that I wish would improve with this lens, such as faster focusing & sharper images wide-open. However, when shooting at f/1.8 or f/2, it is somewhat unrivaled in color, clarity & bokeh (background blur). Plus, it fits my style nicely as it can convey an editorial/fashion feel. It is only limited by it’s focal length & therefore, I use it to shoot anything & everything.

Description (from Canon USA): The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is a peerless new standard lens featuring an ultra-large aperture for a narrow depth of field and soft background blur so loved by photographers everywhere. The EF 50mm f/1.2L USM is suitable for any shooting situation; its lens coating and construction are optimized to minimize the ghosting and flare that frequently occurs when lenses are used with digital cameras. This high-performance, weather-resistant lens delivers all the superb image resolution and contrast you expect in a Canon L Series Lens.

A few examples of images taken with the 50mm f/1.2:

undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined Canon 50mm f/1.4
If all you had available was around $500 for a lens, without reservation, I’d point you here. It’s normally my first recommendation for beginners & amateurs alike. However, many professionals still keep it in the bag. This lens has most of the features of the 50mm f/1.2 yet at a fraction of the cost. It will look it’s best when shooting at around f/2, allowing you to shoot in less than ideal lighting environments. If you don’t have a 50mm, buy this now! From Canon, the 50mm f/1.4 is a standard lens featuring superb quality and portability. Two high-refraction lens elements and new Gaussian optics eliminate astigmatism and suppress astigmatic difference. Crisp images with little flare are obtained even at the maximum aperture. All Nikon shooters, check out the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G.

Canon 50mm f/1.8
If you only had around $150, this is your lens. Although the build quality seems rather cheap, you get much more than you pay for. Compared to other lenses, it’s light as a feather. From Canon, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Autofocus Lens is a lightweight lens at a mere 4.6 oz (113.5 g). This compact and high-performance, standard lens features Gaussian optics that provide sharp delineation from near to far focusing distances. The color balance is excellent for a standard lens. The Nikon equivalent is the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D. Canon 85mm f/1.2*
I love this lens. It has quickly become a competitor to my 50mm f/1.2. This lens produces the highest quality images I’ve been able to achieve. It is certainly costly & a bit of an indulgence but it will produce stunning portraits of your children or family & wonderful professional headshots. I use it throughout wedding days, especially bridal portraits & low-light ceremonies. It effortlessly pulls your subject off it’s background creating the most wonderful bokeh you’ve ever witnessed.  I’m pretty sure I’d sell my car before parting with this bad-boy. Nikon has a really nice alternative in the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF.

Description (from Canon USA): Retaining the impressive optical performance and large aperture of the original EF 85mm f/1.2L USM, this new medium telephoto lens uses a Ring-type USM, high-speed CPU and optimized algorithms to achieve an autofocus speed approximately 1.8x faster than the original. The high-speed AF and circular aperture create a shallow depth-of-field that brings attention to the subject and blurs the background, which is ideal for portraits and weddings. The floating optical system, which includes an aspherical lens element, suppresses aberrations and ensures excellent imaging performance.

Stay tuned for examples of images taken with the 85mm f/1.2.

Canon 85mm f/1.8
If you’re a man or woman of practicality, this is your lens. An excellent alternative to the pricey 85mm f/1.2. Affordable, fast-focusing & strong build-quality are just a few of it’s strengths. From Canon, the Canon 85mm f/1.8 USM Autofocus Lens is a highly practical medium telephoto lens with superb delineation and portability. Images are sharp and clear at all apertures. Through computer simulations, the lens has been designed to give beautiful background blur. Since the front lens group does not rotate during focusing, special filter effects are not affected. Nikon makes the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS*
My goodness this lens is sharp! I was looking for a somewhat wide-aperture mid-telephoto lens, coupled with IS (Image Stabilization), when I ran across this lens. Plus, the Macro feature is hard to beat for ring shots, flowers, & the tiniest of details. When I began shooting it, I really couldn’t believe how sharp the images. Now, for most wedding ceremonies, you’ll find it in use. And, for the price, it’s quite affordable. To my knowledge, Nikon doesn’t manufacture a comparable lens.

Description (from Canon USA): Canon’s newest “L” series lens is its first mid-telephoto macro lens to include Canon’s sophisticated Image Stabilization. With the highest quality optics available, combined with near-silent Ultrasonic focusing and life-size close-up capabilities without an adapter, the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is simply unrivaled. The Nikon user should consider the Nikkor-Micro 105mm f/2.8 VR.

A few examples of images taken with the 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS:

undefinedundefinedundefinedundefinedundefined Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Since I own the IS version of this lens, I haven’t had a need for this lens, although I hear wonderful things about it. Many friends owned this lens before they came out with the IS version mentioned above. From Canon, the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens will focus over the full range from infinity down to life size (1:1 reproduction ratio). This lens will impress any serious photographer with its combination of versatility, image quality and superb handling. A high-performance ring type Ultrasonic Motor provides fast and silent AF throughout its focus range, and even more significantly, allows full-time manual focusing permitting the close-up or macro shooter to instantly override the AF whenever necessary. For the Nikon user, check out the Nikkor Micro 105mm f/2.8 VR or consider the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 Macro.

Canon 135mm f/2
This is a really fantastic lens. I owned it for a season & now regret selling it, often day-dreaming about it while on shoots. It is certainly on queue to be purchased again in the near future. You can easily shoot at f/2 pretty much exclusively & it happens to be one of the sharpest lenses Canon makes. This is a lens that is optically stunning and it’s focus is much faster than the 85mm f/1.2. I miss it! Nikon makes an equivalent, Nikkor 135mm f/2D.

Description (from Canon USA): The fastest 135mm telephoto lens in its class. Ideal for indoor sports and portraits with background blur. Two UD-glass elements correct secondary spectrum for outstanding sharpness and color. Compatible with Extender EF 1.4x II, 1.4x III and 2x II.

Canon 200mm f/2L IS
Everyone has the right to dream don’t they!? If I could afford a luxury lens, this would be my jewel. Coupled with a low aperture of f/2 & Image Stabilization, gives plenty of reason to spend more cash on this lens than my first vehicle. It’s ideal for indoor sports, theater work, fashion, and candids at events. Just consider the wedding ceremony images this lens could capture… wow! Nikon is well matched with their Nikkor 200mm f/2 G ED VR II.

Description (from Canon USA): This ultra-fast telephoto, a new member of Canon legendary L-series lenses, has totally new optics to provide better image quality. It uses fluorite and UD lens elements for excellent chromatic aberration correction and consists of 17 elements in 12 groups. The built-in Optical Image Stabilizer gives it up to 4 stops of stabilization correction. The inner USM and optimized AF algorithms result in fast and quiet autofocusing, and the circular aperture can even produce beautiful out-of-focus images. This ultra-high-performance lens also improves its durability – better dust- and water-proofing. The EF 200mm f/2L IS USM is outstanding for many available-light applications, including indoor sports, theater work, fashion, and candids at events.

Canon 200mm f/2.8
Back to reality now, the 200mm f/2.8 is a nice length with a fairly wide aperture. For my style, I find any lens that isn’t a f/2.8 or wider is too dark. Because I consistently find myself in low-light situations, I don’t own anything except f/2.8 or faster. I may consider adding this lens on down the road due to it’s focal length, affordability, & somewhat wide-aperture. Nikon boasts their Nikkor 200mm f/2.8 D ED-IF.

Description (from Canon USA): The EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM employs Canon’s famous rear-focus telephoto optical design that delivers outstanding picture quality throughout its entire focusing range. Like its high-end siblings, this lens also uses two ultra-low dispersion glass elements to ensure maximum image sharpness and accurate color fidelity. Canon’s advanced ultrasonic focusing motor & rear focusing design give silent, high speed autofocusing. It is perfectly suited for Canon’s EOS system cameras, placing special emphasis on manual focusing capabilities.

Conclusion:
You may be asking, “Is 200mm as wide as you’re going?” As of right now, yes. Because I’m primarily a wedding, lifestyle & editorial photographer, I don’t usually find myself beyond these focal lengths. As you can see, there is no paucity in options. Lenses can be very expensive & in some cases, only worth the extra cash if you’ll have a return on the investment or can afford the nicer equipment. I’m a firm believer to buy the best lenses you can afford. If not, as you grow as a photographer you may find yourself frustrated with the limits of your lenses. When I started investing in fast, high-quality lenses, I was set free from many limits & only rarely find myself prohibited except by my imagination. In the near future I’ll share Part 2: Zoom Lenses. It will be particularly helpful for the majority of my readers who would rather invest in one or two all-purpose lenses. I’ll be glad to recommend my favorites! Stay tuned. Was this helpful? If so, let me know. Thanks!

  1. Jared Wilson Photography / We have very similar tastes. :)4.05.11 / 4:30 pm
  2. DeAnn / Thanks for the recommendations! My friend Heather McElligott introduced me to your blog. I have a Canon 5D Mark II and recently purchased an 85/1.2. I like it alot, but I seem to have difficulty mastering the focus. Any recommendations (other than practice)?4.05.11 / 5:01 pm
  3. Alan Brock / Nice post with good information! Everyone should own a 50mm of some sort.4.05.11 / 6:00 pm
  4. Tommy Botello / A 50mm is a definite must for anyone beginning in photography. Even if it's an inexpensive f1.8, it's great to learn with. In regards to a comparable Nikon Macro lens, Nikon has the 105mm f2.8. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/424744-USA/Nikon_2160_105mm_f_2_8G_ED_IF_AF_S.html4.06.11 / 12:39 pm
  5. Ben Finch / @Jared, thanks my friend, that means I'm in good company! @DeAnn, I just sent you a message, hope it helps! @Alan, thanks, I agree, the 50mm is a staple for me! @Tommy, absolutely... the 50mm is my 1st recommendation & thanks for the link for the 105, I updated it in the post. I appreciate your Nikon knowledge... keep me updated!4.06.11 / 1:15 pm
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Trip to the Zoo {Chattanooga, TN}

Although I generally feel like we live in a zoo, yesterday we ventured out to the Chattanooga Zoo. For the past week plus, Brennan & Knox have been sick with RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus). Although they seem to be feeling much better, we didn’t think it would be a good idea to take them to church & have them be around other kiddos. We have no idea if they are still contagious. But, the weather has been wonderful the last few days & we wanted to get the kids out of the house. I couldn’t bear the thought of us being inside all day. So, we jumped in the Honda & went to Chattanooga for the morning. Here are some pics from the day.

We arrived before many of larger animals decided to venture outside; it looked like the Chimpanzees could use a cup of coffee.

undefinedMy hair looks quite similar when I wake up.
undefinedI almost didn’t post the picture of the Cobra Snake but decided to pair it with the hawk, imagining that the hawk was about to swoop down & snatch it up. Take that cobra!
undefinedThere’s a striking resemblance between our dog, Bailey, & this raccoon. That might explain some things. On another note, when I was younger I wanted a pet monkey. Now, unless it can get a job, I’ll pass.
undefinedundefinedundefinedThis pic was taken just prior to the boys escaping their stroller; it was like a wild goose chase from then on. The boys had a great time, although they didn’t quite understand why they couldn’t pet all the animals.
undefinedI like camels almost as much as I like llamas… that’s saying a lot because I LOVE llamas! If we let him alone for a second, we caught Knox trying to climb into the cages.
undefinedBrennan is a bit more reserved, choosing rather to stick only his arm inside. Thankfully, the goats weren’t too enticed by the rocks he was trying to feed them.
undefinedundefinedThe peacock was strutting his stuff; he followed me around for several minutes. Reminds me of my mother-in-law’s stories of growing up with a pet peacock. Apparently, she had one as a little girl & it would follow her around like a dog. Sounds like fun to me! Can you imagine having friends over for dinner… “And this is our pet peacock!”
undefinedundefinedLazy cat… aren’t they all!
undefinedCan’t you just hear him?! “Daddy… OUT!!!”
undefinedundefinedundefinedProbably my favorite of all the animals at the zoo; it’s a bit unnerving to see it lock it’s eyes on you.
undefinedWhoa!
undefinedWe ended the morning with a family picnic at Renaissance Park. It was a great day indeed! What are your favorite things to do as a family? Where are some places we should visit?
undefined

  1. Khloe Williams / Go to Cades Cove!! Early morning (around 8a) offers some of the best photos!!3.21.11 / 5:41 pm
  2. Alison Nation / These photos are great! The peacock photos are awesome! We've been wanting to go to the zoo but was unsure of the one in Chattanooga. But after seeing all the animals you guys got to see, it looks pretty fun!3.22.11 / 9:39 pm
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All Things New

About this time every year I’m filled with anticipation. For one, I anticipate a new season. I don’t know about you but I’m affected by the weather. Every February I find myself in the “funk”. I’m tired of the rain, the cold, the deadness & I’m ready for new life, a new season, new things. Where’s the sun for crying out loud!?

Second, I’m hopeful for personal growth. It seems the Lord uses Spring to remind me of His work in my life, to plant new dreams in my soul, & to again inspire me to pursue the things of God. I’m encouraged!

Third, I anticipate new adventures, new challenges, new work. Over the past year I’ve been privileged to shoot on behalf of some outstanding clients & friends. I love my job! Just last week I was on assignment in Chattanooga for a 4-day shoot & had a fantastic time photographing that incredible city. We were focused on downtown for most of the week & I was reminded at how much I’m drawn to downtown living. I’m deeply inspired by the city life & Chattanooga boasts one of the best I’ve seen. I’m quite certain that if they had an Ikea, the population would increase 10%… who’s with me?

But most of all, I anticipate the birth of our 3rd child. I can’t tell you how excited I am to welcome another little Finch. As I can’t imagine life without either of our boys, I know I’ll feel the same about our next. And as of around 1:20pm today, I found out that I better start getting used to little sundresses, painted toenails, tea-parties & more… we’re having a girl!!! I can only imagine how this is going to change our lives; I can’t wait for the days ahead. She already has my heart!!

  1. Kristine Neeley / Ah!!! HOW WONDERFUL!!!!!3.15.11 / 10:06 pm
  2. Wendy Uhlman / YEAH!!! I am so excited for ya'll. You definatley need a little girl to spice things up a little. There is nothing like them :O) Love Ya'll!!!3.16.11 / 2:36 pm
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