I edited and just love you so much, Chris! 10/27 930am
Provide us with a brief biography of yourself and your photography studio.*
I have been a photographer since I was a kid! I have always thought photographs were of the most important treasures in our lives, second only to experiences and relationships. I am one of those people who have nightmares that my house burning down while I am inside trying to rescue all my photos and negatives. Thank goodness for fast scanners and digital backups these days!
I learned 35mm on my mom's Canon AE-1 back in the mid-1980s, a camera she passed on to me a few years ago. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I was a second photographer for a few weddings. I loved it. But my early career took me into engineering and management with NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), working on the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and lastly the Orion and Artemis Programs. In 2018, I took an early retirement to pursue a second career as a Professional Photographer.
Currently, I am sole proprietor of Comstock Photography (www.comstockphotography.net) and have been a legitimate business (collect and pay sales tax, have insurances, etc.) since 2013. Just prior to the COVID pandemic I had established a brick-n-mortar studio in South Cocoa Beach. That long-time dream of mine was put on pause when I had to close my doors only a few months later. I am now back to looking for a space to rent again. I have unique requirements as I do a lot of Dance photography and need high ceilings to capture all the amazing movements and leaps.
Since retirement as an engineer, I have also fulfilled another bucket list item of mine…teaching. I became a professor of portraiture and photography at Eastern Florida State College. I absolutely love it. I love instilling a sense of value in what photographer’s do for others… helping people feel good about themselves, capturing moments for history and heirlooms, bringing beauty into the world. I love the technical side photography as well… I guess the engineer in me! I am currently in my third semester and plan to keep teaching!
Although nearing my ‘retirement’ with the department, I have been a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician with Canaveral Fire Rescue (City of Cape Canaveral and Port Canaveral) since 1993. I have been Chairman on the Board of Directors for more years than I can remember. Being a firefighter has been a profession I have loved and one in which I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people that do it every day. I have enjoyed providing portrait sessions for fellow firefighters over the years, one of those few focus areas that will always be a part of my photography.
On a more personal note, I am a stay-at-home dad. My wife stayed home with our kids for about 11 years, and then as I retired from NASA and moved into photography -a profession I could manage on my own time and at a pace I had control over- she went back to graduate school. She just graduated with her Masters. I am so proud of her! We have three boys ages 14, 12, and 6. We home-schooled up until last year and are all adjusting well to a new way of life with our sons in school, my wife working towards a professional career, and me expanding my photography business.
What attracted you to professional photography?*
As mentioned above, I have always thought of photographs as some of the most important treasures in our lives. I have always wanted to be a photographer as a profession, but as a young man heading off to college, I found myself following in my father’s footsteps in engineering, and signing up to serve in the US Air Force. I do not regret heading down that path. I feel fortunate to have had a wonderful career with the space program. But through the years I began to feel a lack of personal connection with the people around me.
I sometimes reflected on my high school and college years when I worked at Walt Disney World in Operations, Guest Relations, and Lifeguarding. I realized just how much I loved working with people… having a positive impact on their lives, seeing them smile, etc. I missed it! So, in my last few years at NASA, I decided to pick up the camera again and try to make a difference in peoples’ lives in a very direct and personal way. It was a breath of fresh air - working with clients, helping them feel their best, giving them treasures to last generations. It was also a bit magical to get that check in my hand after providing a service. Even though it was not nearly what I was getting paid as an engineer, it seemed to feel more real and gratifying. Although working in the space program was impactful in a global sense, I found that it is the personal connections with everyday people that really fulfills me.
How do you anticipate Imaging USA will benefit your studio?*
I have attended two ImagingUSA conferences. The skill building aspects of these conferences has helped my understanding and approach. I still refer to the notes I took during these conferences. In fact, one particular presentation about photographing in dance studios (Adrian Henson) transformed the way I do my entire studio setup. It has made a huge difference in my work, and in how happy my clients are. Beyond the knowledge gain, I want to emphasize that it is the inspiration and motivation I get from everyone who attends and teaches that really lifts me up. I am energized and excited by the network of participants. If I can find a way to afford a little more, I will try to get to some of the pre-conference activities. At the moment, I am planning to attend the main conference only.
How will a pre-convention class scholarship transform your studio?*
If I make it to the pre-convention classes, I think the difficult part is deciding which classes to attend. I believe I am at a cross-roads with my business… I am technically proficient with my photography and my business is moving along in low gear. I am ready now to step up my business process (marketing, in-person sales, etc.) to achieve a more boutique operation. The “Business Intensive for Portrait Photographers” is a terrific opportunity to force myself to address all those areas of my business that need attention! Of course, “Selling Wall Portraits” and “Fine Art of Portraiture” would also really help me focus in on two areas of my business that I want to hone! There area few other classes I am interested…. Seniors, Pursue Your Degree, Sky is Never the Limit… just so much to want to take in! I know I will walk away from any of these classes with a set of actionable goals to take my business to the next level!
With my two "assistants"
Most importantly, and where my heart is, I am a father of two terrific boys and husband to the most wonderful wife. I'm an engineer and business analyst, proudly working at the Kennedy Space Center for over twenty years. I am also a firefighter/EMT, volunteering for the city and port in Cape Canaveral for over twenty years. All these things keep me busy. Yet, I find the time to pursue a passion I have had since I had my first 35mm camera back in the 1980s... taking pictures.
I love living in the Southeast, growing up in Orlando back when springtime brought the smell of those intoxicating orange blossoms and where I spent my summers working on Main Street, U.S.A (do you know where that is?). I attended Auburn University as an undergrad, the University of Florida for graduate school, and received a business certificate from Rollins College and a Mousters from Disney University. I've sailed and surfed the lakes and coastal waters of Central and East Florida since elementary school, and love to call Cocoa Beach home. My wife and I met in Paraguay... a wonderful story of finding my soul mate. Ask me about it sometime.
My inspiration for photography came from my mom. I have watched her take terrific pictures for years, and learned to appreciate her love of sharing and cherishing images of both people and places. It's funny how we are both so uptight about keeping backups of our digital images and working to digitize all our film days. Nothing seems more precious to us than the pictures we have taken over the years. And I think that is why I take my photography services for others so seriously, because I know how important it can be for my clients. In the 1990s, I partnered with one of my best friends to shoot weddings. Those days planted a seed in me, and ever since then I jump at opportunities to get behind the camera to capture special moments for others. I continued to shoot with 35mm film until the digital revolution took hold and completely transformed the way images are captured and developed. I still believe in using the camera, rather than computers, to create composition and style. I believe that software and digital manipulation should be used to enhance image quality in such areas as exposure, color, sharpness, lens correction, and white balance. This is the developing process of digital imagery and, along with good composition and style, it is what sets the professionals apart from all others. I do not believe in digital manipulation to change a person's appearance, except minor and temporary imperfections; so please don't ask me to do this. A good photographer is one who can set a subject at ease and bring out true beauty... whether it is a wedding or studio portrait, children on a playground, or a live event. I believe everyone is beautiful and should feel that way about themselves. When I am behind the lens I feel it is my job to capture that beauty for a brief moment in time for the purpose of holding that moment forever.
As a photographer, I consider myself a self-taught professional. Over the past few years I have taken additional training on-line and at Eastern Florida State Collage. I primarily use Canon digital cameras and equipment, along with various types of studio lighting. I am jumping back into 35mm and medium format film cameras, and this option is available upon request. Studio setup - Merritt Island Studio I develop my images in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I enjoy taking pictures as much as I enjoy teaching others how to take pictures (another future service maybe?). I also enjoy partnering on jobs and events with other photographers; I truly believe networking and sharing among other photographers can only improve my abilities and will create a more positive community among my peers. My favorite partner lately has been my older son: he's six years old and I can already see he has an eye for creative composition. Commercial photography gives me the chance to be creative... whether it's a product, an interior space, or an event. Individual and family portraits... well, it's just a pleasure and an honor to provide lasting moments for people. And weddings... who doesn't enjoy a big celebration? I always have so much fun interacting with wedding couples and their families and friends.
Studio Setup - Cocoa Beach Studio
What do I use in my work?
- Canon 5D Mark II, 50D, 20D, 10D (all EF Lenses - primes and zooms)
- Fuji X10
Film cameras - 35mm Canon, medium format Mamiya and Bronica
- Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop - image developing and editing
- Photomatix - High Dynamic Range (HDR) imagery (HDR also created in Adobe Photoshop)
- Datacolor Spyder - high resolution monitor color calibration (ensures accurate color of images)
- Microsoft Excel and VBA coding - documents and business management (ok... I admit I'm bit of a data geek!)
Studio and Outdoor
- Lighting - multiple strobes and on/off camera flashes
- Constant/continuous lighting (spotlights, Fresnel, ...)
- Portable backgrounds
- Softboxes, reflective and shoot-thru umbrellas, reflectors
- Radio transmitters (between camera and strobes)
- Generators (high intensity lighting on-location)
Creative Composition Techniques
Technical Knowledge of Imagery/Light and Equipment (built upon a foundation of years in my Engineering Career)
Enthusiasm, Energy, Respect, Integrity, Customer Focus