Vanishing Cochran – Now available on

It took me a while, but it has always been in the plan to offer Vanishing Cochran through Well, the time has come and you can purchase the soft cover edition from Amazon.  The hardcover has been retired; it had an excellent run, but production costs make it hard to keep a batch on hand.  Likewise, the current batch of 100 soft covers is likely to be the last of the book altogether.  It may swap to a print-on-demand option later, but that remains to be seen.

I am still working on a digital eBook edition.  The entire book has to be reformatted to make it worth your time.  As-is, the photos are too small to view properly.

So, if you want to purchase a copy of Vanishing Cochran, head on over to Amazon.Vanishing Cochran

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Shoot what you love, Show what you are proud of, and the rest will fall into place.

Shoot what you love, Show what you are proud of, and the rest will fall into place.


That is my new motto.


Most photographers follow other photographers in this socially-connected world. Whether via tweets, G+, Facebook or blogs, we always want to know what those “up the chain” are doing, thinking, or having for dinner.

There are reasons the “Pros” are Pros:

  1. 1.      They have mastered their craft & equipment.
  2. 2.      They know their vision and how they interpret and dissect life.
  3. 3.      They are constantly improving and challenging themselves.

A combination of a lack of the above, along with factors such as shooting just to stay busy or keep the lights on is the reason that several of us do not make it to our goal.  When I had the studio, I had to take almost every photo shoot that was presented to me (those within my moral bounds at least).  One of the freeing things about going back to a regular job was being able to pick and choose what I shoot, as well as work on personal projects.

When you work on subjects that interest you, it shows in your resulting images.  When you have no passion about the subject you are shooting, the same is true.  Someone who shoots car shows does not want to take newborn photos, and vice versa.

I love the outdoors, and I love historic buildings, or really anything old.  I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I am shifting in that direction as I try to “go pro” again. I was recently contacted by Top Producer Magazine to shoot a story on a local peanut farmer.  I will post more on that once the photos are published.

The other great opportunity I had recently, which is still ongoing is working with the Hay House in Macon, GA.  I am working with them to redo their postcards and prints that are for sale in their gift shop.  This partnership resulted from a very random chain of events.

In 2008, I helped another photographer at a Gala event at the Hay House.  As I waited for him to arrive, I toured the house with one of the workers and took photographs of some of the various rooms and scenes in this beautiful mansion.  Tour guests are not allowed to take photos, but photography is allowed in correlation to events – galas, weddings, etc.  I wasn’t sure what I could do with my images now that I had them, I knew places like the Biltmore could not be sold etc due to copyright issues. So, I just put a few of them up on my Flickr site for the occasional viewing.

Almost 3 years later, I receive an email from one of the managers for the Hay House.  She found my images through a random popup that led her to my Flickr photos and loved them. She wanted to know if the Hay House could use them for some of their marketing and PR needs.  Now keep in mind, I sell my artwork as prints, note cards, etc, and I have always wanted to have my work for sale at historic sites and state parks.  We worked a deal and now I am in the process of preparing these images to replace the current stock of postcards and other items for sale in the gift shop.  I loved taking photos the first time in the Hay House, and those afforded me the opportunity to really take my time with the house and produce some stunning images.  I love it, and I think it shows in the photos. It all goes back to the new motto – Shoot what you love and show what you are proud of, now everything else will continue to fall in place.


 Whole set can be seen here:





Vintage Kodak Brownie Reflex iPhone Dock

I had this idea for an old camera as a docking station after my wife showed me a dock on Etsy made out of old books.  I told her I could make her one (because I was not paying someone $50 to razor blade some pages out of a book they got at Goodwill), and while brainstorming, decided to try to make one from one of my old cameras.  Total cost for her docking station – $0.30 for 2 old books.  Total for mine – free.

The Process:

I chose the Brownie Reflex for a few reasons. The main reason is because it was a barn find that a friend gave me. When it was given to me, there was also a petrified mouse in the camera box, so the camera was due for a cleaning; if I broke it in the process, I wouldn’t be as heartbroken as some of the others I have collected here and there.  Before cleaning the camera, Mr. Jingles was laid to rest in the back yard, although it appears he went to the cheese slice in the sky decades earlier. I then examined the camera, and dissected it to clean the parts individually. I chose the twin reflex style camera, because i wanted something to support the iPhone from rocking back and forth when inserting or removing it from the dock.  I thought I might be able to reverse the viewfinder on this particular model due to its symmetry, and I was right!

I disassembled the camera and washed all of the pieces individually. I was surprised at how well it shined up except for a few spots on the mirror.

Ready for Cleaning

Sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the interior modifications, mainly because it was trial and error with a lot of back and forth trimming.  The only tools I used were a screwdriver for dis-assembly and a  Dremel tool with various attachments to drill, grind, and cut a channel for the iPhone’s wire to travel.  There was just enough space in front of the viewfinder glass to fit the cable’s connector. I carved out a space for it and Gorilla Glue’d it to the camera.  The metal flange added additional support in holding it in place.  Then the cable was routed to one side, around the mirror to retain normal function of the viewfinder without seeing a white cable in the middle of the view.  A small hole was drilled in the back to allow the cable to pass through.

That paragraph makes it sound like a quick one hour job, but it was spread over a week or so of piddling before i was happy with the result.  If anyone is interested in one, I have thought about making more, so please contact me. Pricing would be around $120 for the time involved and finding a camera if you didn’t have one.

Creating the Product shot for this post:

I wanted to create an antique feel for the “official shot” of my dock vs just a quick snap of it on a bedside table.  So I went over to my parents house to borrow their parlor room and various antiques.  I placed the camera on a tiered table, amid family bibles, eye glasses, and other random trinkets. 

The main light was an Alienbee B800 with a gridded beauty dish on the lowest power. It was set as close as possible to the right side of the table.  With the grid, the light falls off rather sharply, and the left side was basically black due to a lack of ambient light.  I then brought in an Alienbee B1600 in a PCB Octabank, but I left the octa collapsed.  I just “fluffed” it a little to get the desired light output for fill.  The B1600 was on mid power, as the folds in the octabank killed a lot of the output.

Camera settings were f4 at 1/30th to burn in the face of the phone. The app running is called Antique Clock Lite.

Below are more images of different angles and details.

I wanted to keep the camera as “stock” looking as possible.

Here you can see how the cord exits the back. When the film cartridge is removed, the wire can be snapped up into the slot that was drilled.

At one point, I wanted to put a working clock into the face of the flash reflector, but I never found a clock I liked enough to try.

Here is a closeup of the docking area. You can see the brown spots on the mirror from age, but I was careful to ensure you would not see the white cable.

Here you can see how the viewfinder was reversed and how I trimmed the front edges to make room for the phone and to add support.

This is the interior of the camera and the film canister. You can see how the back is notched for the wire.

Overall, I am very pleased with the way it turne……………….

For the record, here is the one I made for my wife.  No creepy dolls attacked me with this one…

Find me on Twitter – @jdphoto
My site:

Doug Kitchens for Strobist Boot Camp 3 Assignment #1

This month, David Hobby launched Boot Camp 3 over at  It has been 2 years since the last boot camp which consists of several assignments geared towards pushing you to try new experiments and to further your knowledge and execution of lighting. I never participated in the first two boot camps, but I hope to enter into all 5 of the Boot Camp 3 assignments as they are opened.  This Boot Camp will be loosely based on DH’s personal project, HOCO 360 which is a separate blog that focuses on his local community of Howard County, MD.

The first assignment was to choose and photograph someone who was important, well-known, or who makes a difference in your community. I am fortunate to live in a small, close-knit community where everyone is fairly accessible and willing to help someone.  After brainstorming with my wife, we threw several names back and forth, and she suggested Doug Kitchen.

Doug Kitchens is the owner of Scott’s BBQ in Cochran, GA. After working in the restaurant for several years, he took over from his father-in-law. Scott’s is a staple in the community, and if the parking lot isn’t full, then they are probably closed. Scott’s is a tradition for almost every citizen in Bleckley County, and a highly recommended eatery for any “outsider” who visits the area. Locals know the best times to go, because an ill-timed visit may cause you to wait for a table, but no one seems to mind. Known for great BBQ and wonderfully sweet tea over crushed ice, the real winner of Scott’s BBQ is the cheeseburger. Scott’s has lasted through the trials and tribulations of a poor economy, and is Cochran’s longest running restaurant.

The Idea, the Shot:

I visit Scott’s occasionally in the mornings to deliver copies of my book, Vanishing Cochran, which they sell for me. I love the morning light as it streams into the smokehouse. I planned to take this one morning, as they smoke meat on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Well, the pit wasn’t going yet by the time I had to leave for work, so I returned at 6:30 that evening hoping the sun would be coming through the opposite side. But the rays were gone. I had another session at 7:15, so I had to work quickly and I couldn’t wait for the sun to set. However, just as I had my lights dialed in, the sun started to peek between the roofline of the building. I waited about five minutes and got this great ray of light streaming directly into the pit. It was perfect!

This was the first of several takes, but turned out the best. The ham was fresh off the rack, so he couldn’t hold it long before it started burning his hand.

 I tweaked the color temperature and exposure a little, but did not alter the image otherwise. This image was actually blown out since I was finalizing my lights, but I was able to save it from the RAW file. I did not see anything that I wanted to change, and even if I did, I was not going to try to re-shoot if I blew the shot.

I was pleased to see that I was chosen as a top pick by David Hobby, although I did not win.  My photo was still shown on the Strobist blog and is now my second most viewed image on Flickr.

I look forward to seeing what Assignment 2 will bring, and hope to make it back to the top again.


Strobist Info: Handheld Canon 580 EX II to camera right with Lumiquest SBIII, manually dialed to about 1/8 power, Alienbee b800 in rear left corner with gridded beauty dish (I used the AB only because I do not have a way to mount my speedlite to the BD yet), lowest power, to light back wall. Both flashes fired with PocketWizard Plus II’s Camera settings – ISO 400, F3.2, 1/160th

Atlanta – From the Hip

Last week, I was in Atlanta for training.  For those who don’t know, I took a job at the Carl Vinson Medical Center as a Purchasing Agent. This job allows me to get back to the roots of my photography, repair or replace outdated gear, and to enjoy shooting again.  Plus, there is a photography position here I have my eyes on, more on that later.

I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to walk around and shoot, as I was commuting to Atlanta daily.  I took my old Canon Rebel XT that is converted for Infrared. I love the uncertainty of this camera, and I do not use it enough.  I only took a few photos, and of those, even fewer were in focus or interesting.  I took them while I was driving, just point, shoot, hope for the best.  The top image is my favorite.  I love the building fading into the morning fog, as well as the overall composition, even the car passing below.  It was nice to “shoot for myself” even though they were quick and dirty photos.

Taking a Stab at…The Strange Moments in Life

What is the strangest thing to ever happen to you, good or bad, in life, at work, or wherever?  Life is a perplexing and wonderful experience, and we all have our separate journeys with alternate paths and endings.  It’s what makes for good conversation over coffee at the Huddle House or McDonald’s when we are 90.  The following aren’t all photography related, but they document the strange and memorable moments in my life thus far.

1)Wedding Sword Fights – It’s inevitable, at some point during the day of a wedding, someone will say to me, “You didn’t know what you were getting into” or “I bet you think we’re all crazy” etc.  But I tell them all, until they top my most memorable wedding story, which I hope they don’t, then I still have them beat.

At a previous wedding, the groom gave his groomsmen nice automatic pocketknives, but they should have waited until after the partying.  After a few drinks, two of the groomsmen started to sword fight with their new toys.  One thing led to another, and one of them stabbed the other in the arm!  They rushed him to the ER, saying he got cut slicing limes or something like that.  They tried to glue him together, but the alcohol was preventing the blood from clotting!  They spent most of the night there, finally getting him back together.  I arrive the next day to hear the story, and they show me the still partially bloody knife and a program with a few spots of blood as proof. It was the first wedding I had to look for smiles and ensure no one sprung a leak at the same time!

2) Near Death Experience – There was a fender bender on a small bridge in the country, and police were alternating traffic through the one open lane.  I was sitting in line, on my way to take a family’s christmas portraits. I was the last in the line of cars on our side.  Looking around, I see a large dump truck / tree chipper barrel around the corner behind me.  I had nowhere to go, so I pressed the brake as hard as I could, hoping to not hit too many cars in front of me, and I pressed my body and head as hard as I could into my seat.  I didn’t watch the mirror, because I didn’t want to see it hit.  I just waited.  Then I heard the screeching. The truck swerved into a church parking lot, and the chipper went airborne.  I saw the shadow go over my truck.  The momentum kept the truck from making the turn, so it ran head on into the curb and flipped upside down and immediately caught on fire.  The guys inside kicked out the windshield and got out cussin’ up a storm.  I was praying thanks, and thinking to myself, they should be doing the same! The cop came over and extinguished the fire, and I went on to take the photos; miraculously, I was still on time!  Coincidentally, I photographed a wedding at that very church a few years later.  The skid marks were still across the entrance and curb.  God is Good!

3) The ‘Truck Story” – Quite possibly the most over-told story I have experienced in my 29 years of life occurred in 1997 when I was a freshman at Bleckley County High School. During Cross Country practice, I was tired of running the “Triple Threat” which is a triangle of dirt roads.  An old redneck pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride.  We said sure, planning to get off before reaching the group running in front of us.  We held on to the tailgate, crouching on the bumper  to remain unseen.  We had to jump off because the driver wouldn’t stop.  The other 2 guys made it off relatively unharmed, just a scrape or two.  Then it was my time.  Brand new spiked shoes did not fit into this equation very well at all. I jumped and started “running in air” but the spikes caught the dried Georgia clay and slammed my eyebrow into the bumper before momentum continued to drag my face down the road at whatever speed we were going.  My legs ended up flipping over my head, effectively flipping me over onto my back as I skidded to a stop.


All I could see was blue, no clouds, nothing.  I thought I was dead. I waited for an angel to lean over and tell me I was an idiot, but I realized I was still alive and i sat up. I was not in pain, so i just smiled and stood up, i had a scrape on my knee and i was filthy, but so what.  Then I looked at my friends and their faces dropped.  I touched my face and my entire left side was gone, nothing but road rash in its place.  Oh crap, what am I going to tell coach??!!  I was also worried about getting blood on my Florida State shirt..I really liked that shirt!  We headed back and coach thought i had berries smeared all over my face.  When I got closer, I told him my devised story, i tripped and fell into the ditch onto some glass.  He bought it!!  Needless to say I was done running for the day.  I was picked up and went home. I spent 3 days at home with a very swollen face and it took several weeks to heal. I managed to scare plenty of people at school who would see my “normal” side and then, like the Phantom of the Opera, they see the bad side.  I took most of it in strides and just laughed.  What else could I do?

I finally healed with no scarring to my face, which was a miracle! I don’t jump off of (moving) trucks anymore, and now I have a great story for the kids one day; if only I would have let someone take a picture of it back then! Not long after, coach asked me “Hitched any rides lately?”  I guess I didn’t fool him after all!

If you’re actually still reading, what events have shaped your life?

Although not an official “Truck Story” photo, my self-made Halloween costume from 1994 was strangely foreshadowing how I would look a few years later.

Jared & Kayla

In April I had the honor of photographing Kayla Sewell & Jared Darsey’s wedding.  It was at Pea Ridge, a beautiful homestead I have been privileged to photograph on several occasions.  I was fresh off of the Flash Bus Tour with David Hobby ( and Joe McNally ( I was refreshed photographically, and I had some new goodies to try out – more on that later.

The day was perfect, warm, but that is Georgia weather.  The biggest worry is always rain, and two of the other weddings I photographed at Pea Ridge included rain.  One was moved into the barn, the other trucked along right through the rain, laughing all the way!  That is part of what I love about wedding photography, you never know what situation you will walk into, and there is always something that needs adapting.

The day went off without a hitch, everyone had a great time.  I used a good bit of off-camera flash, a Canon 580 EX II with a Lumiquest LQ-119 Softbox III, triggered by Pocketwizards.  I usually haul around an Alienbee and Vagabond with a PCB Octabox, but I wanted to go lighter for the portraits since we were traveling around.  It did good, the light is harsher than an octa, so I will try a Westcott 2331 28-Inch Apollo Flash Kit next for a wider throw and softer edges.

The only sad note of the day – I was swapping my flash, and my brand new Speed Strap that I got from the Flash Bus tour, slipped off of the flash head…time slowed down as it flew into the air.  I tried to catch it, but alas, it found its way into the hole of a giant wire spool that was being used as a table.  I tried to retrieve it discreetly.  I did not want to flip this spool over in the middle of the reception!  My reaching and shaking was to no avail, and i went back to covering the last bits of the wedding.  I’ll get that strap back one day….maybe!

A few more images.  I love Southern Weddings!  (view more of my photography in my Flickr Stream –


Vanishing Cochran – Featured on Channel 13 WMAZ

I was working on my truck about two weeks ago when I get a call saying that I was recommended  as an “Interesting Person” in Bleckley County and the reporter, Eleanor Lissitzyn, wanted to do an interview.  I was caught off guard and I’m never the one with a laundry list of accomplishments just waiting for someone to ask me about myself.  So i stuttered through a few of the projects I could think of, and Eleanor said she would call me back to schedule the interview. The day came and it went great, the whole process took maybe a couple of hours, between the interview, showing some of the images from the book, and then taking Eleanor to an abandoned house as part of my next book project.  The only part I wish I had video is when the wind slammed a window shut upstairs in the old house and Eleanor almost ran out the door!  It was great!


Here is the link to the article and video, I will try to upload the video to YouTube later.

2010 in review

Here’s to better blogging in 2011, thanks for a great 2010!



The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times


In 2010, there were 5 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 41 posts. There were 4 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 12mb.

The busiest day of the year was April 11th with 26 views. The most popular post that day was Vanishing Cochran – A Year and a Half in the Making.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for vanishing cochran, mullis howard house, gully branch,, and mullis-howard house.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Vanishing Cochran – A Year and a Half in the Making April 2010


Howard House Demolition May 2008


About Me February 2008
1 comment


Edgewater Media Is Going Mobile – And It’s a Good Thing! November 2010
1 comment


An Adventure in Creative Marketing July 2010
1 comment