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

Edgewater Media Is Going Mobile – And It’s a Good Thing!

It’s with mixed feelings that I make this announcement, even though it has been a decision that has been contemplated, shot down, revived, prayed over, accepted, and rejected over the past few months.  Now I’m ready and, although nervous, I am excited about the future.

I opened Edgewater Media’s doors a little over three years ago with the intention of serving the community with great portraits and wedding photography, with a central location for customers to view and order their pictures.  Prior to opening the studio, I concentrated mostly on my artwork, which is still my #1 passion in the photographic realm.  I thought that opening the studio would help me concentrate more on my artwork as well as take portraits and other every-day images, but it actually did the opposite.  Over the past three years, it would be a stretch to even say my art is on a backburner.  It’s more fitting to say 99% of it is sitting back in 2007, waiting for me to come back and get it.

The main problem with having a full time studio in a small town is the massive overhead to keep it going.  Added to the fact that I am the sole employee and that means that if I’m not at the studio, it’s not open. Hence this shift to a more mobile platform.

My passion is outside, back in my element, where most of my artwork is focused.  I like to meet somewhere that means something to my client, or to choose a location that will create individualized portraits that they are proud to show off.  A photographer friend once told me that “You have the eye for the scenery, now just put people in the picture.”

So What’s Going To Change?

November will be the last month of the studio as a physical location.  I will be shutting it down around Thanksgiving. I plan on having a big yard sale / fixture sale on Nov. 20th from 7am until.  I have a wedding that evening, so come buy up everything really quick! After the studio closes, I will continue to take portraits and weddings as I have been, but any meetings will be by-appointment versus drop-in.  I plan on taking a regular job again, and shifting the photography to weekends and evenings for now.

What about my work that you have already? Will you still do VHS transfers, Business Cards, etc?

I do still have a few video conversion jobs that are open and I will complete them all.  Hopefully I will have them all completed before the studio is closed. I will continue to transfer VHS and 8mm to DVD, although the VHS conversion will most likely shift to a third party as the 8mm film has already.

As far as business cards and other marketing materials, I will continue to serve existing customers who just need changes, and I will continue to serve my larger commercial and political customers. I will no longer do the small quantity cards, at least not at this time.

So, what’s next?

I will continue to strive to provide excellent images for my clients, and I believe the removed stress and overhead of the studio will help me to be more relaxed and creative versus trying to keep the lights turned on.  I hope in the future to shift my photography towards a more commercial market, and I believe this is the first step in that shift.  I am excited with the upcoming changes, I appreciate all of the patronage at the studio over the years, and I will still have previous portraits on file for any future ordering.

As far as “Edgewater Media” in the future, the name will probably drop and I will be shifting to something more like JDavidson Photography.  I previously registered to differentiate my artwork from my portraits, so it is very likely that there will be a new web address for my portraits as well. Since my focus is shifting away from the marketing material, there is no reason to call myself Edgewater Media. As far as the phone number 478-934-7800, I will continue to use it until the end of November.  After that, I will turn off the phone (it’s routed to a cell phone) and leave a voicemail stating to either call my cell at 478-954-3112 or email me at

So we’ll see what is to come, and I hope you will continue to follow me on my blog and Facebook, and I’d love to take portraits for you or your family, or even capture your wedding day for you.

The future is brighter than ever!

Thank you again!
-James Davidson

“Do What You Like, Like What You Do!” – Life is Good