About Stephen Elliot

I make a living taking pictures. I come alive making films.

It’s Go Time

Sunset in London on the first of three flights.

Sunset in London on the first of three flights.

At last! The hardest part is behind me. Now that I’m done packing all that’s left to do is shoot twenty portraits across three cities in a foreign country.

At the moment I’m hovering somewhere over Africa on the longest flight of my life. So far I’ve done precisely zero work for this project, yet I feel relieved now that my bags are packed and I’m en route. Very soon I will be on the ground with an aggressive shot list and whatever gear survived three international flights. It’s the challenge of a demanding shoot that gets my blood pumping. On the other hand I become a nervous wreck when it comes to packing. The endless procession of questions, “what ifs,” and Plan B’s eat at me constantly. Yet, when I pick up my camera all of those worries blur out of focus. Continue reading

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The Verge of a Great Adventure

My new passport should be here any day now, but there aren’t many days left before my flight takes off. It’s always the pre-planning stuff that eats at my nerves. As soon as I get a camera in my hands I’m fine. Heck you can give me a poorly lit room with ugly beige walls and I’ll pump out interesting photographs all day long, but if you ask me to pack for ten days I’ll be covered in a cold sweat.

But I digress. Anyway…

A couple friends of mine were crazy enough to ask me to do a photo shoot for their organization, which at first doesn’t sound crazy because I do that kind of stuff all the time. The thing that makes this one crazy is the fact that it’s happening in South Africa.

I had the privilege of meeting Jedd and Janelle several years ago as they were planning to launch their organization. I was blown away by the fact that these two people knew exactly what they wanted to do and they were charging at it full steam ahead. Shortly thereafter they moved to South Africa with a desire to help people get out of poverty. They began teaching the locals how to start and run a small business, and in the process they have witnessed the transformative power of entrepreneurship. Over the years they have trained thousands of entrepreneurs in every major city in South Africa, and now we want to tell those stories.

Our hope is to shed light on both the people and places that have known poverty firsthand. In September we are going to be traveling to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban to capture the stories of several entrepreneurs who have worked their way out of poverty. Those stories will then be compiled into a photo book designed to inspire future entrepreneurs.

South Africa has been on my bucket list for quite some time, so I’m thrilled to be a part of this project! As you can imagine there is a substantial cost involved with a project like this, so we are asking for your support. You can find more information and make a donation here:

Most of my time will be spent shooting photos for the book, but I will have some time to soak up some adventure in Cape Town. You can be sure I’ll have plenty of photos to share, but in the mean time, here’s a rendering of what I imagine it will be like:

 
Stay tuned, my friends! This is gonna be rad.

The Making of Leviathan

Who can tame the sea beast Leviathan?
There is nothing on earth quite like him.
To meet him is to dance with death.
Even angels run for cover when he surfaces.

Maybe it was the long hours spent playing Final Fantasy as a kid, or maybe my fascination with mythical creatures is more simple than that. Whatever the reason I have often wondered about the sea beast Leviathan…

No one knows exactly what he looked liked –some speculate it was a crocodile, others say it was a whale, some say he never existed– and the problem is complicated by the fact that much of the description in the Bible is metaphorical. For better or worse I’ve been intrigued and determined to take him captive in my sketchbook for some time now.

Honestly I was intimidated by the challenge. Drawing from imagination does not come easily for me, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had to try. I’ve never created a character before, much less one described as an omnipotent beast at the top of the food chain. I was afraid I wouldn’t do it justice, and for about a year and a half that fear kept me from even trying.

Even now I don’t feel like my attempt is sufficient. There are several things I want to change, and ultimately I think he’s best suited for a different medium. But the thing I realized after wrestling with him for a couple weeks is that it’s time to set him free. We both need to spread our wings a bit.

Some day I will encounter him again, and hopefully then I’ll be better suited to bring him to life. Until then I offer this interpretation:

Film Review: Noah

Like most Christians my curiosity was piqued months ago when I first saw the trailer for Noah. You could almost hear the collective “Hallelujah!” as many were excited at the mere thought of Hollywood producing a Bible story. Finally! We’ll have something to watch other than the Passion of the Christ.

Then the controversy started which, by the way, will always exist; that’s why we have denominations after all. Apparently some people weren’t so excited about a non-Christian telling a Bible story. Some say it promotes evolution. Some say Darren Aronofsky is an atheist or agnostic. Some boycotted the film (without seeing it) for any number of personal, religious convictions. Personally I was even more intrigued and eager to see it because of the controversy. After all, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

A note to my Christian friends: If you plan to see it, go this weekend. There is no other factor that influences Hollywood more than the success or failure of a film’s opening weekend. Hollywood is not interested in your opinion; they’re interested in your money. Vote with your wallet and tell them there is a huge market willing to see more films like this.

To those who are opposed to the film I respect you for sticking to your convictions, yet I challenge you to follow the advice of Michelangelo: “Criticize by creating.” Perhaps then you’ll understand why Noah is a film to be celebrated for it’s accomplishments, rather than degraded for it’s shortcomings.

SPOILER ALERT: Everybody dies.

More details after the jump… Continue reading

The Season Finale of the Appendix Saga

AppendixTimeline

What began as a normal day in late July quickly turned into one of the roughest seasons of my life. I had no idea I would still be dealing with it three months later, but at last the end is in sight. Tomorrow, November 1st, I’m finally getting my appendix removed, so I can close this chapter for good and get on with life.

I made the timeline above to graph my progress on the Awesome scale at key moments along the way. If you’re curious you can find the full story here. Continue reading

What to Wear: Photographer’s Edition

PhotographerFashionIn a word: black.

Black shirt.
Black pants.
Black shoes.
Black socks.
Black belt. Continue reading

Uncommon Yet Essential Items For Your Gear Bag

EssentialItems_BannerThere are some things you won’t read about in a photography book, they won’t teach you in photo school, and they don’t even sell at camera stores; yet I feel lost if I don’t have them at a shoot. Stash these goodies in your bag and you’ll be set for anything. Continue reading

Work Smarter Automatically

Defaults_BannerAre we in control of our own decisions? That’s the question posed by behavioral psychologist Dan Ariely, and his research yields some very surprising results. I won’t go into all the details, but instead I’ll jump right to the heart of it and give you some practical examples. Continue reading

Batteries Batteries Batteries

Batteries_Banner-It’s crazy to think that photography and electronics haven’t always been the same thing. Photographers today live on batteries, so it’s important that we consider what is powering our cameras and lights. In this post I am specifically talking about batteries for speed lights and small strobes. Here’s a look at what I recommend and why, plus a few tips to stay organized. Continue reading

Four Reasons Why I Prefer SD Cards

SD_Reasons-I’ve recently done a 180 degree turnaround regarding photo storage. I used to swear by CF cards feeling that they were somehow superior as the professionals choice. However I’m beginning to re-think the whole notion of “professional photography” altogether…

When I first got my D7000 I was annoyed by the fact that it only used SD cards. After using that camera exclusively for several months now I’ve gained some perspective that makes me appreciate a few unique advantages of SD cards: Continue reading