Oak Tree Photography bio picture

Self-Portrait

tom

So. Every now and then, the photographer needs to get in front of the camera. Not that I’m shy about being photographed: I’m not one of those photographers who are neurotic about their own appearance. I’ve always been more or less comfortable with who I am and how I look. That being said, since I’m so oftentimes behind the camera rather than in front of it, I don’t appear in that many pictures. But here’s one of myself that I took at the tail end of an unusually long and lingering fall in Claremore, Oklahoma. Most of my portrait sessions were wrapped up for the season, and I wanted one more image with those gorgeous fall colors in the background. So, I supplied the foreground, and a colorful dogwood supplied the background. That’s my ever-trusty light meter hanging around my neck: it’s my best friend in measuring light to create the most gorgeous portraits imaginable. (And, in the interests of complete factual accuracy, this isn’t a true self-portrait. Yes, I set up the scene, chose the background, metered the light, focused the camera, and tweaked the pose, but it was my son Taylor, along for the ride, who actually tripped the shutter. I could have tripped the shutter with a wireless remote, but my son is such good company that it made the portrait process so much more enjoyable. Hats off to you, Taylor!)

Tom Launius, CPP
Oak Tree Photography
918.729.0500

What It’s All About

You know, maybe a photographer shouldn’t admit this on his own web site, but being a photographer is not so easy. Creating a portrait for someone involves so much: knowing the technical aspects of your camera, understanding and controlling light, and then you have the person themselves: How to pose them to bring out their best? How to draw just the right expression from them? And though few photographers would want to admit this but, try as you might, you can never know in advance what a person is going to like or not, so being a photographer is a chancy business: you can bring your A-game to the shoot, and they still may not like what you have created for them. And that isn’t even beginning to detail all of the headaches that come with managing the finances of your business, keeping up with your equipment, staying on top of your sales and, hardest of all, marketing your business to draw in new clients. Now, I’m sure you didn’t visit my web site to read about my pity-party. After all, your life has more than its share of challenges, too. So what keeps me going in photography? Well, taking Brook Walker’s portrait is the kind of thing that keeps me going. I took her portrait on Mother’s Day weekend at the Broadmoor in Tulsa. She was a regal lady, everything about her exuded style and class. I took superb portraits, she declared them the best she had ever had taken. She placed a generous order,  mentioning that it had been decades since her last portrait. Then, while I was processing her order the next week, I received a heart-stopping call from her son in Arizona: Brook had died suddenly. They had no picture for her obituary. Could I email them the one I had taken? Of course I could, grateful that I had been in Brook’s life, even if but for a brief moment, to take a lovely portrait by which her family could treasure her memory by. Rest in peace, Brook, you are a class act—for people like you, and the privilege of knowing them, I’m glad to be a photographer.

Tom Launius
tom@oaktree.pro
918.729.0500

Something Completely Different

As you can tell from visiting this web site, the vast majority of my photography work is portraiture. But every now and again a photography assignment drops in my lap that is more commercial in nature. Recently, I’ve been photographing completed projects designed by a local landscape architect. The locations in Tulsa have been absolutely gorgeous, and the work has given me an opportunity to do some HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography. HDR photography is when a photographer takes a series of images of the same scene at different exposure levels, some lighter, some darker, some in between, then combines those images using computer software to create the best possible image. HDR photography can look surreal when overdone, but when used judiciously, HDR can produce stunning results. At the most recent landscape shoot, just as the sun had gone done and dusk had arrived, I was captivated by a small waterfall, and took a series of exposures that, when processed later on the computer, turned into the image you see above. I love the waterfall slipping over the stones, the warm light outlining the trunk of the Japanese maple, and the vivid colors of the leaves. At the risk of ending this post with a cliché, I would simply say that, as we have the eyes to see, beauty is all around us!

Tom Launius
tom@oaktree.pro
918.729.0500

Bandit!

 

Morkie. That’s what Bandit is—a Morkie. A Morkie is a “Designer breed” made, in this case, by crossing a Maltese with a Yorkshire Terrier. Bandit’s family, the Harrell’s, met me at my outdoor studio garden on the grounds of the Milam-Clark estate in Claremore. Bandit had personality plus! He was a great addition to the whole portrait shoot, because he was clearly such a vital part of the family. We took a lot of great family portraits with Bandit, in a more formal style. And then, as the sun was getting low and the light became dramatic, I looked at the family and said, “Time for some fun!” I popped a long, fast lens on my camera, had several members stand on either side of me (the “finish line”) and several other family members take Bandit about 25 yards away (the “starting line”) The family members with Bandit “let him go”, the family members on either side of me called for him…and did he ever fly! I tracked him with my camera’s auto-focus and reeled off the pictures, much like the photographers on the sidelines at NFL games do. Did we ever get superb action shots! The family loved them, and my favorite was also their favorite, the image you see on the right. I love the sense that Bandit is flying, full of life. The Mom with her expression and the daughter with her running to catch Bandit all make for a perfectly balanced composition. I love dogs, and I love incorporating them into portraits: they add so much, all of it wonderful!

Tom Launius, CPP
tom@oaktree.pro
918.729.0500

One…two…three…four…five…SIX!

Posing people for portraits is an art form that is steeped in tradition. This is because there are a finite number of poses that a person or group persons can assume that will look pleasing when depicted in a representational form, and all of these poses have been known and used, literally from antiquity, by painters and sculptors. In more modern days, photographers have borrowed from these artists when it comes to posing people for photographs. So it is with yours truly: when I work with individuals and families, I give them clear directions as to how to arrange themselves so they will be happy later with their portraits. To be sure, I keep things light and fun as we do this, but, at the same time, I make no bones about “being in charge”. All this being said, no photographer, myself included, can be as creative and inventive with our posing as we would like to be, and there are always possibilities for posing that go unexplored in a portrait session. But not so much anymore—not since I’ve been using a little trick! I learned this trick from a fine photographer up Minnesota way, and ever since I have used it, this trick has worked every time! More or less, here’s how it worked with the Koehler family, who met me recently at my Claremore outdoor studio garden: I had directed the family through a series of poses, and we were capturing great images. But as the session was nearing an hour in length, I could tell the energy was sagging in the family, especially their son, Adam. We had just finished a pose around a bench, so I clapped my hands and said to them, “Let’s have some fun: I’ll count, loud and slow, from one to six. When I start counting, you jump up from wherever you are and march around the bench. When I get to the number six, you stop where you are and strike a pose!” I’ve never had a family refuse the fun, and neither did the Koehler’s. Their eyes lit up, they laughed and danced as they moved around the bench, and when the count got to six, they struck a fun and playful pose together, on and around the bench. As you can imagine, many of the poses were kinda zany, but one of the poses had a classic beauty to it, so much so that I told the family, “Wait!” I tweaked the pose, and created the portrait you see below, the portrait they chose to put on their wall. To be honest, as much as I have studied posing, this pose for this family would never have occurred to me. But when they struck the pose on their own, I recognized how well the pose worked and immediately took a great portrait with it. Now, believe it or not, every time I use this trick, the family, after three or four times of my counting to six, will place themselves in an amazing pose that would never have occurred to me but which is perfect for this family. My job is to watch for it to come, and to recognize it when it does—wonderful!

Tom Launius, CPP
tom@oaktree.pro
918.729.0500