Cindy Drako: Blog en-us (C) Cindy Drako [email protected] (Cindy Drako) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:35:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:35:00 GMT Cindy Drako: Blog 120 96 All Grown Up at 6 Months Old So Part 2 of my double feature last weekend included tons of baby kisses and squishes with Larith.

And while I've been known to receive a photo of this little bugger taken somewhere in my home, the last time I had the pleasure of lovin' on him was when I did his newborn session at just 7 days old.


Let's just start with a photo from back then.  I've taken the opportunity to make some new edits so what do you think?  A total heartbreaker right?

After getting sufficient baby smooches we got down to work.

So, what went wrong

  1. While taking the time to set up my backdrop near the window with the best morning light it, the light was still all wrong bright on one side and dark on the other.
  2. Tried adding light to fill the other size but didn't do so well.
  3. Because of the above, I kept moving Larith to different positions that were providing awkward  and messy backdrops.
  4. Also caused me to forgot my beloved 50mm for my 28-135 so I had enough room to maneuver.

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I got to the point where I was so frustrated I let Larith's father and grandmother know that I wasn't so sure I was going to get any keepers at all.

What went right?

  1. A totally happy baby.  This kid is just so cool, he didn't care how we dressed him or move him around.
  2. Having a few props and outfits to choose from helped to get a bunch of different shots.
  3. Dad and Grandma who enjoy the process, help when needed but don't interfere and trust me to do what I do.
  4. Due to the backdrop mess I got to practice a little Photoshop skills. Went a little nuts with the skin smoothing but it overall turned out cute:

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Luckily, I am starting a new 4 week session with The Denver School of Photography tomorrow and it promised to include lighting!!!

In the end I actually wound up with a bunch of really cute shots.

Here is one final one that will capture your heart..

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[email protected] (Cindy Drako) Castle Rock Photographer Family and Children Portraits Newborn Photography The Denver School Of Photography Tue, 12 Nov 2013 03:13:04 GMT
The Matzke & Espino Family Engagement Session So last weekend I was lucky enough to have a double feature!!  First the Matzke & Espino Family Engagement Session, following by cutie pie Larith coming in for his 6 month session.

I am totally looking forward to the Matzke/Espino wedding in May, but in the mean time it was so much fun getting to hang out with them and their boys.  I work with both the future Bride and Groom so I knew what great people they were, what was so endearing is that their kids are just as great as they are.

This session also gave me the opportunity to head down to the Springs to scout out locations and I was able to find a couple that were just perfect.

We started out at America the Beautiful Park.  This beautiful park has green grass, beautiful fountain (which was turned off for the season), some natural areas and beautiful foliage.

So went wrong:

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  1. Watch the corners and pay attention to stray light.  It was about 2 hours before sunset and it was still fairly bright.  We found some great shady spots with stunning red trees, but as you see in this photo, I should have positioned the family better, the bright spots to the left of the foliage draw your eye right to them instead of to those beautiful faces.
  1. Still need way more work on my exposure.
  2. Still need way more poses on my list.
  3. Leave the park before the bums come home.

What went right.

  1. Continued with my 50mm 1.4 on manual exposure.
  2. Kept stray legs and awkward poses at bay.
  3. Kids ran out extra energy prior to session.
  4. Everyone, including the kids, was totally into it.
  5. Found a completely kick-ass urban location that perfectly fit how very cool this family is.

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[email protected] (Cindy Drako) Castle Rock Photographer Colorado Springs Engagement Portraits Family and Children Portraits Tue, 12 Nov 2013 01:50:36 GMT
Third Times a Charm - The Coppin Family Well maybe not a charm but definitely on the road there...

This past weekend I had the awesome opportunity to meet the Coppin family.  They are just stunning, every square inch of them. Whitney, I meant it when I said you need more kids, you and Cam make beautiful babies!!!

Whitney selected a location that I was so excited about.  I noticed it only a couple of weeks before when the fall leaves started singing with all their glory.  Luckily we still had lots of color and it provided the perfect fall backdrop.

What I changed up this time:

  • My Confidence - I knew that while I still made huge mistakes with the McCrackens, I also made great strides.  I knew what I was doing wrong and was able to course correct.
  • My Lens - Portrait photographers usually have 3-4 favorite lenses for their sessions.  35mm 1.4, 85mm 1.2, the favorite 24-70mm 2.8and sometimes a 50mm.  Well with the exception of the 50, these lenses can run between $1K and $2K each.  So... I've been using my wide angle 28-135mm because it encompassed all of the above in focal lengths and was a zoom, but decided to give my 50mm 1.4 a try.  It does not have some of the creative options of the 85mm but it's a great lens and I actually have it!!
  • Manual Exposure Setting - Getting back to my roots, and setting my camera back to manual exposure offers total control.  In other semi control settings AV and TV, you set either the Aperture or Shutter speed respectively, and the camera will automatically select the other to give your proper exposure.  Based upon learnings at workshops with local landscape artists I've gotten lazy and into the habit of keeping my exposure setting on AV and letting the camera decide the appropriate shutter speed for me.
  • I was taught using manual mode and I should have stayed there.  If you would like to know more about where I learned see the following post I wrote about my life-changing experience with Jeffrey Rupp and the Denver School of Photography in my very first post.. I start a new class with Jeffrey in a couple of weeks, can't wait write about it!

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What I still need to work on:

  • I absolutely still need to work, work, work on nailing my exposure.  I promised myself that I would try to look at the histogram when I checked a photo on the back of my screen just to let me know if I was in the ballpark but I got too caught up in the moment.
  • I also promised myself I would zoom in to the max and check the clarity/focus of the picture and again, caught up in the moment of the session, I didn't.
  • Composition - Have to learn to really look at the picture I'm taking to make sure the scene is as good as it can be.  There there isn't stuff lying around, odd positions or their aren't weird things going on, like in the 2 photos below where we have trees growing out of people's heads.
  • And I still need a bunch more poses, but the ones we used for this shoot worked well.

At the end of the day, at 2 dozen or so, I was able to provide them with double the photos that I was able to give the last 2 families.

Now my confidence level is even higher and I'm beginning to think I may not have to stay in IT for the rest of my career.. I may have options ;)


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[email protected] (Cindy Drako) The Denver School Of Photography Castle Rock Photographer Family and Children Portraits Wed, 30 Oct 2013 20:13:09 GMT
The McCracken Family So My second family portrait shoot I was able to leverage some of the things I learned the first time around.  It also afforded the opportunity to make new mistakes ;)

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Lighting is everything.. and this was a big factor with my first shoot. Here is an example of where why dappled light may be beautiful in many circumstances, and a favorite for me in scenics, is not very optimal for portraits. 

This example also shows that a photographer needs to understand arrangement and posing.  Legs everywhere on a white blanket?? Looks like I just called "Left Leg, Yellow".  What was I thinking?   And the poor baby.. definately time for a Patrick Swayze "No one puts baby in the corner" moment.

While I was still stressed from my previous shoot, getting together with the McCracken was so totally fun.  They are so down to earth and easy to be with and the boys were great and brought me back to my boys at that age.

So... What went right this time around...


  • A simple setting.  When Krista suggested this location I panicked.  It had great natural grasses, but really nothing else.  I worried that being surrounded by trees would cause dappled light problems again.  When I shot the Martin's the week prior, I thought I needed to find a location that had all sorts of options.  Maybe that will be handy later on when I have a better grip on my technical skills, but for now, this simple location was perfect!
  • The light, that I was completely worried about, I kept checking each hour prior to the shoot.  This was easy to do as it was around the corner from my home.  It was probably a little darker than I would have liked but it was even and beautiful and soft.
  • Had a handful of selected poses in mind, with mental notes that reminded me of things like how to position legs, keep the group dynamic and interesting and not in a straight line like birds on a wire. 
  • Grandparents coming along was AWESOME!!  It is a total plus to have someone the kids know, standing behind you, doing silly things that turn their frowns into fits of laughter.  I only wish that they were prepared to have me shoot a portrait of them.  They were wonderful people.
  • Like the location, I kept it minimal.  With my first shoot I brought all sorts of props, bubbles, balls, books, doll etc and it only distracted the kids in a way I didn't know how to control.  I also brought just about every piece of equipment I could think of.  With this shoot, the McCracken's brought a super red wagon which was great to sit the boys in, but other than that nothing.  I even kept my equipment to a single messenger style camera bag.

Because of this I was able to get some nicely composed shots.  We still had kids who didn't necessarily want their picture taken but they weren't running amok.  I controlled the shoot much better.

Now.. what went wrong...really wrong. 2013-10-07 4532013-10-07 453

  • My exposure was totally off.  It was dusk, the sun still had about an hour before it set, but we were surrounded by trees which made it a bit darker.  This, and the fact that I've gotten lazy and taken the advice of some of our more prolific Colorado landscape photogs, and have been shooting in AV mode instead of manual.  This caused my to not pay attention to my ISO which would not have happened if I had payed attention to my shutter speed.  But being one that normally shoots with my camera on a tripod, I never pay attention to shutter speed.

Now luckily I shoot in raw, so adjusting a bad exposure to lighten or darken it a little is usually a snap.  But... not paying attention to shutter caused all of the photos to be blurry. UGH!!!  They looked so good on the little display on the back of my camera!!  I was so excited until I put them up on my computer screen. then.... I was completely deflated.  Imagine looking at a thumbnail and squealing "Yes!! That is so Dang Cute!!!" to "OMG.. what did I do, he has 2 noses"  (See cute picture of Max to the right)

I did have my flash on, but in looking at the pics, it only seemed to flash every so often, and those pics were then bright and blurry. Let me express one more time .. UGH!!!

And.. what went wrong.. but I was OK with.

  • Could have used a few more poses.  
  • Could have gotten a few more angles out of the poses I did use.  

Either of these would have provided me with a much, much larger selection of photos to provide to my clients.  But that's OK.. Let me nail the few that I'm learning now before I add more to think about to the mix.

In both of these shoots I was able to provide about a dozen halfway decent shots to the families.  Only this time I was actually able to give them a family shot!!

Here are a couple of those from this shoot - exposure still off a bit but salvageable.

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[email protected] (Cindy Drako) Castle Rock Photographer Family and Children Portraits Sun, 27 Oct 2013 20:56:40 GMT
What's in My Camera Bag? Hey Y'all,

Since this always the ever popular question I just wanted to write a bit about what I use.  

Right off the bat I'll tell you that I'm a Canon girl.  Can't say why other than that's what I started with and I love it.  I'm not a hater, you Nikon lovers are awesome, I've just never used one so I can't comment.  With my Canon everything has always been set up intuitive to how I would use it, just feels right.

Do I get gear envy?? You bet I do, we all do, but unless I win the lottery there will always be some piece of equipment that makes me drool and pine for.  But in reality I love what I'm using and I'm comfortable with it. 

Now a HUGE thank you needs to go out to my very supportive, sweet and sexy better half, Kevin.  He bought me my Rebel XT probably close to 10 years ago now, and this year, for my birthday, upgraded me to my 60D YAY!!!  He's also taken advantage of the last couple of holidays to start upgrading my lenses.  Yes, he loves me, yes, he is awesome, and I hope we grow old to be Lee and Morty Kaufman who at 90 years old are now finding stardom in Swiffer commercials.

So now you know what camera bodies I'm using (the rebel remains my backup) what about lenses?

  • Canon EF 28-135 3.5-5.6 - This is my go-to lens most of my landscapes and multi-person portraits have been taken with this lens
  • Canon 10-22 3.5-4.5 - great wide angle for vast scenics.. also good for capturing the whole room at an event.
  • Canon Prime 50mm 1.4 - Headshots and babies are taken with my beloved 50mm - my only fast glass, for now and gives great bokeh.
  • My wishlist:  
  • 24-70 2.8
  • 35mm 1.4
  • 85mm 1.2
  • 70-200 2.8 IS - I rent this lens when I do events.

Lighting:  I've still got so much to learn about lighting...

Flash - Canon 430 EX II

Strobe - Hubby gifted me, for Mother's day, the following Studio Set-Up which I have to admit I have't yet had too much opportunity to practice with.









Think Tank CityWalker 20 -

     Great for events, holds everything you need, including tablet or iPad, without getting too bulky.








Lowepro Versapack 200 Backpack -

     This backpack is great for hiking.  Plenty of room for all the gear I need to take with me, room in the top section for snacks, water bottle on the side, rain cover and holds my tripod!









Other stuff...

Tri-pod - Vanguard Alta 263AGH -
       I love, love, love this tripod.. I love the pistol grip and easy to adjust head.





 Elle Strap for Women -

       Great for when my camera is off the tripod.  Very comfortable, keeps your camera at your hip

32" 5-in-1 Promaster Reflector -

       I love that the cover/case has an 18% grey panel on one side.


Well that's it for now... Please tell me what is some of your favorite gear and what works well for you!

[email protected] (Cindy Drako) Gear Tue, 15 Oct 2013 02:13:22 GMT
Yikes....My First Family Portrait Session For a while now I've been developing my skills in landscape photography.  I love it, it inspires me and if I can occasionally capture just a glimpse of the stunning vistas before me then I consider it a success.

Photographing people however scares me to death.. With landscapes there is no need to pose anything or "create" the shot, no need to hush a crying child or figure out how to get him to laugh, no need to chase anyone around or get them to sit sit for just a moment.   I just find the view points that fascinate me and start shooting, and shoot and shoot for hours on end. Landscapes are forgiving, they will never be disappointed if I don't get a good shot and never complain when I return over and over to keep trying

My Very Favorite Perry Park BarnCan't tell you how many times I've photographed this barn on Perry Park Road. I only know that it's been a lot, every season, different times of day etc. It was even a subject for me this morning as I tried to capture some fall color round the red.

I can't tell you how many times I've photographed this barn on Perry Park Road.  I only know that it's been a lot, every season, different times of day etc.  It was even a subject for me this morning as I tried to capture some fall color round the red.

But if I expect to call myself a photographer and really mean it then I need to learn.  Time to pull up my big girl pants and get over my fears.. So, I put out the call for volunteers ..neighbors, co-workers, friends and friends of friends to sit for portraits.

In steps the Martin Family...

This beautiful family contacts me feeling a bit guilty, as we as moms all do, that they had gads of photos of their first child, a bunch of their second and hardly any of their youngest. They should know that this is not uncommon and it happens to the best of us.  It was decided then that 17 month old Baby Hadley would be our focus.

The day before our shoot, Mom called a bit concerned that H had an ear infection, something neither of the boys had ever gone through.  While their pediatrician assured her that with antibiotics and Advil/Motrin sweet Hdley would be feeling good in no time, she was skeptical.  I let her know that in my experience, both my boys had a habit of getting ear infections, her doctor was spot on, but let’s just see how they are feeling the next day.

Saturday afternoon comes and it seems everyone is feeling OK so we meet on the pretty quiet back side of one of our neighborhood pretty parks.  I was nervous but feeling pretty confident that I had prepared myself fairly well.   

What a great family!!! I am, very quickly, feeling much more at ease just because they make it so easy to be around them.  That said, I can tell that while the baby is feeling a bit better, no one is feeling their best, runny noses everywhere and even poor dad has glazed eyes.  

So we ran around chasing the kids, tried to put H down, bribed them to sit and smile for just a minute, all at the same time, and did an awful lot of laughing.  

So.... what did I learn?

1)  That I need to watch my composition... Most of the portraits I've done to date have been headshots and I kept cutting the legs off of this wonderful family.

2)  I need to learn how to position and pose.  Setting up 5 people for a family shot where legs are everywhere doesn't come across very well in a photo.

3)  I really been practicing an eye for light and how it transforms your subject, in a landscape.  Light on people is much more difficult.  Dappled light in a forest can be stunning, not so much across the faces of a family.

4)  I need to learn to control the shoot, from beginning to end.

5)  'Cheese Its' can be PhotoShopped out of a child's mouth with moderate to fair success.

In the end I did get some sweet close ups of the kids but really didn't get suitable family shots.  I've offered to shoot them again and am happy to report that they have happily agreed to be victims sit for me once again!

Thank you Martin Family for allowing me to get to know you all while I kept poking my camera in your faces.

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[email protected] (Cindy Drako) Castle Rock Photographer Family and Children Portraits Sun, 13 Oct 2013 16:19:24 GMT
Hello and thanks for stopping by! Since moving to Colorado 5 years go I've been completely in awe of how beautiful it is.  Everywhere you go you see something different and more stunning than the day before.  I just want to take it all in, I want to capture just that perfect moment in time.

This led to the idea that I should learn to use my camera, REALLY, use my camera..  I've tried to do this, unsuccessfully, on and off over the years.  Frustrated because I'm usually a very good independent learner, books and the internet as teaching tools are generally intuitive for me, but not this time.  I just couldn't get it, how shutter affects aperture affects ISO, and visa versa, etc. This led me to finally break down and look for a decent photography class.

Enter Jeffrey Rupp and The Denver School of Photography (TDSOP) (

For around $250 I would set aside 2 hours a week for the next 4 Tuesday evenings, OK.. I could handle that and if it doesn't work, well not too much lost.  I was ready.

The first Tuesday night, after getting lost on my way to the gallery... dang construction at 6th and I25 that never seems to be completed, I finally make it to Denver's Art District.  I'm nervous... should I bring my gear? just my camera? will it be hands on or more like a presentation?  Will everyone be experienced as I sit there clueless and dumbstruck?

Entering TDSOP I see it really is a quaint gallery with some stunning artwork on display.  Still feeling intimidated, I'm glad to see that there are only enough chairs set out for 8-10 people so I hopefully won't be just a number in a sea of students.  I take a seat in the front row with a couple of other students, keep my head down and keep quiet.

Then Jeffrey comes over and introduces himself, so cool, casual, and with a smile that lights up the room.  He shows us around the gallery, identifies the restroom, points to the fridge and says help yourselves, and then tells us about his own journey in photography and how he came to teach.  There is absolutely no arrogance or pretense to this man, he is just completely genuine.  I start to relax.

This is Week One, Depth of Field and Aperture, don't worry about Shutter speed, or ISO, don't worry about how they are connected, just understand and practice this one concept and come back next week and we'll review our homework, 3 examples of Depth of Field.  Over the next 4 weeks Jeffrey laid it out for us in the simplest of terms how photography works, and something clicked, I got it, I finally got it!!

And so my obsession began.  Get up early on the weekend, 2am, 3am, 4am, whatever needed to get somewhere before sunrise.  Get in the car and just explore.  I love it!

Now It's been a little over a year and I'm still getting the hang of it, still learning, still getting better.  I can see my photos getting better over time and I've actually had a few framed and printed and they are proudly displayed in my home and, super excited to say, the homes of a couple of my friends.

Now lets see if we can add people to the mix... 

I wasn't really sure I wanted to shoot people, that's REALLY hard.  They require posing, avoidance of a forced smile, and they certainly don't want to be out at 6 am when the light is just amazing.  Then I found Jasmine Star, I just love her work, so natural, so beautiful and her photographic stories are inspiring so I was inspired to at least give it a shot.

So this blog is inspired by Jasmine's magazine, Exposed, where she lays it all out, the good, the bad and the ugly of when, why and how she first picked up a camera in 2005 and how she got to be one of the top international wedding and portrait photographers in the world.

This is my journey, what i did, how I did it, what worked and more importantly what didn't.  I'll tell you about my portrait sessions, my landscape adventures and a bit about me.

Feel free to leave comments and ask questions, maybe we can figure this out together.

Thanks again for stopping by!


[email protected] (Cindy Drako) The Denver School Of Photography Welcome Sun, 13 Oct 2013 16:15:17 GMT