Helping companies tell what they're doing – visually

On-location photography

Charlotte Dragon Boat Race and Asian Festival

Teams of Charlotte dragon boat racers steady their boats at the starting line.

On your mark… Get set… ROW!

Thousands of spectators poured out May 5 for the annual Charlotte Asian Festival and Dragon Boat Races, held on Lake Norman at Ramsey Creek Park. Organized by the Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce (CAACC), Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation and the Charlotte Dragon Boat Association, the annual event celebrates Asian culture and traditions locally.

Dragon Boat racers paddle toward the end of the 500-meter course.

I’ve photographed the event a few times in previous years. What caught my attention this year were the number of corporations participating as a team-building exercise for employees. I believe two boats were powered by cancer survivors. Elsewhere in the park, Asian performers danced, sang and entertained the crowds.

Asian dancers in colorful costumes perform during the annual Charlotte Asian Festival held in Ramsey Creek Huntersville.

Dragon Boat racing is an important part of Chinese tradition. Originating more than 2,300 years ago in southern China, races now take place in communities around the globe. The Lake Norman races began in 2006.

An onboard drummer helps dragon boat competitors paddle in sync along Lake Norman.

Athletes paddle in sync to a rhythm pounded by an onboard drummer. The competing teams try to power their 40-foot-long canoe-shaped vessels across the finish line first.

Photo of the colorful face of a dragon boat ready to race in the Charlotte Dragon Boat races on Lake Norman.

Both the race and on-stage festivities make the community event a must-see activity. The event is also fun to photograph. The colorful costumes and brightly painted boats make nice photos.

A young performer fiddles with her costume before going on stage at the Charlotte Asian Festival 2012 event.

A young performer fiddles with her costume before going on stage at the Charlotte Asian Festival 2012 event.

Dragon Boat racers in the 2012 Charlotte Dragon Boat Races.

Teams power their dragon boats toward the starting line during the 2012 Dragon Boat Races in Charlotte NC.

The head of a dragon boat with competitors walking along the dock behind.

A young boy plays on the shoreline of Lake Norman during the 2012 Charlotte Dragon Boat Races.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a young boy playing on the shoreline of Lake Norman while a dragon boat floats by on the water.

Two Asian dancers perform on stage at the 2012 Charlotte Asian Festival, held May 5, 2012 in Ramsey Creek State Park in Huntersville, NC.


Hats, Horses and Hounds mark 2012 Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

Photo of boys thoroughbred horses clearing a jump and water feature at the 2012 Charlotte Queen's Cup Steeplechase.

There are horse races, and there are dog shows, and there are fancy-hat gatherings. And then there’s the Queen’s Cup Steeplechase, which has more than a bit of it all. The annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase took place earlier this month just down the road in Mineral Springs, NC.
Photo of boy with a brimmed hat decorated for the Queen's Cup horse race event.

An estimated 13,000 people came to the event, which is organized by the Charlotte Steeplechase Association Inc., a non-profit managed by Bill and Carrington Price. Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and Western North Carolina was the beneficiary of the 2012 event.

The day-long festivities included a bit of everything, including people watching (or should that be hat watching), food, friends, Jack Russell Terrier races, and of course, the horses.

Photo of crazy hat shaped like a horse at the Queen's Cup Steeplechase event near Charlotte.

If you didn’t make it to this year’s event, here is a taste of what took place. The 2013 Queen’s Cup Steeplechase event is already scheduled, for April 27, 2013.

Photo of fox and hound riders.

Event photography from Queen's Cup Steeplechase event.

Photography of steeplechase horses clearing hurdle and water jump.

Photo of girl sharing a moment with her horse.

Horses racing on a grass course at Steeplechase.

Photo of woman wearing colorful hat at Charlotte Queen's Cup event.

Photo Charlotte Hunt Club.

Photo of a rider participating in the Queen's Cup Steeplechase near Charlotte NC.

Places to see: Charlotte 7th Street Public Market

As first glance, Charlotte’s 7th Street Public Market looks like any other farmer’s market offering locally grown food. Then one notices the bakery confections, and the coffee bar and the market’s many other offerings that make it so much more.

Still in its infancy after just opening in December 2011, the market is intended to be a business incubator where food entrepreneurs and culinary artisans can set up shop and hope their offerings take root.

It’s definitely worth a visit. Here are just a few of the images we created while checking out the market earlier this month. Even though the market, located at 224 E. 7th Street, isn’t in our daily stomping grounds, we’ll definitely stop by again as the harvest season hits full force. Enjoy the photos. The market was like visual eye candy and a photographer’s dream. Plus it’s yet another cool addition to the long list of cool things to see and do in Charlotte NC.

(Thanks to operations manager Jacqueline Venner Senske for being a model in the environmental portrait above.)

Coffee creations at the Not Just Coffee shop located in the market.

Ashlee Cuddy of Bond Street Wines was a good sport allowing me to create an environmental portrait of her also.

Peter Herr of Herr Fresh Flowers (above).

Michael LaVecchia of the Meat & Fish Co. has a clever business model with his delivery-by-bike service.

Erica Baez-Hortob is the food artist and owner of Cloud 9 Confections and Bakery.

Charlotte Taste of the Nation 2012: Great food – Great cause

More than 60 restaurants, chefs, mixologists and sponsors came together last week (April 11, 2012) to raise funds for and awareness of childhood hunger. Held at the Wells Fargo Atrium in uptown Charlotte, the annual event is a great chance to see — and taste — the culinary arts taking place around Charlotte.

Congratulations to the winners of the Best of Charlotte awards, sponsored by the American Culinary Federation.

Best Cold Dish:

– Amelie’s French Bakery – Peanut Butter Petit Four
– Fern Restaurant – Sweet Potato Meringue

Best Hot Dish:

– Enso Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar – Wagyu Taco
– Mimosa Grill – Benton’s County Ham Wrapped Shrimp

Best Table Display:

– Gallery at Ballantyne Hotel
– e2 emeril’s eatery

Rock-like religion: Charlotte’s Elevation Church

Church goers of all ages are making Charlotte’s Elevation Church one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States. We stopped by recently to see what all the excitement was about. Excitement indeed.

Hearing the buzz about Elevation, I made arrangements to visit and photograph the Blakeney location. As the photos below show, it was a lot like attending a religious rock concert with a conservative theological message. This wasn’t like any church I’ve visited or photographed previously. These images are from a recent Friday night service.

According to the church’s website, Elevation Church began in 2006 in the atrium of Providence High School. About 121 people were in attendance that day. Today, the church has six locations around Charlotte; 10,000 people attend regularly.

Steven Furtick (above) is the energetic paster of Elevation Church.

Creatives: Get involved with Flashes of Hope


Flashes of Hope multimedia video from Joshua Stilwell on Vimeo.

Several times each year, photographers and stylists volunteer their time and talents bringing bright moments to families and children battling with cancer. The cause: Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating powerful, uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. View the Flashes of Hope site.

I got involved with the Charlotte NC chapter several years ago, and it continues to be one of the most-rewarding ways I can give back. It’s so different from the corporate photography I’m usually doing. The Queen City is fortunate to have a large number of Charlotte photographers who volunteer their time for the cause. We’re aided by volunteer teams of stylists (hair stylists, makeup artists, etc.) and Charlotte organizer Kelly Patterson. I believe Flashes of Hope operates in about 40 cities right now, and it’s hoping to expand. So colleagues, please consider getting involved.

During our March 2012 Flashes of Hope photo shoot at Charlotte’s Presbyterian Hospital, multimedia photographer Josh Stilwell videoed the shoots and created the multimedia show that’s at the top of this blog. The goal is to help creatives and prospective donors understand the workings and benefits of Flashes of Hope so they’ll get involved and will help the program grow.

Enjoy Josh’s hard work and I hope you like some of the portraits I had the pleasure of being able to create during our most-recent photo shoot.

Museum photography for Discovery Place, Charlotte NC

Charlotte’s Discovery Place science museum hired us to create new marketing images of its many offerings. We spent a Saturday this month photographing the cool hands-on exhibits Discovery Place offers. The goal was to show actual visitors enjoying themselves throughout the museum. Discovery Place asked us to apply our photojournalistic approach order to create photographic images that tell visual stories about what visitors to Discovery Place can expect to experience.

A few friends showed up to help during the shoot — in case we needed families/kids to help fill out some of the scenes. Turns out the museum was so popular that Saturday (and so many visitors were agreeable to letting us take their photos and sign model releases) that we hardly needed our stand ins after all.

We photographed the museum from open until close (about 10 hours) and Discovery Place’s marketing team walked away with about 80 production-ready images.

Here are a few of the scenes:

I’m not a snake lover. In fact, they really freak me out. So I wasn’t thrilled when one of our first shoots of the day was of this monster (top photo). Isaac, the guy holding the snake, was a good sport in the photos and clearly didn’t have the snake aversion that I do. Isaac was equally great with the iguana (below).

Parents and kids both enjoyed getting to touch sea creatures in Discovery Place’s touch tank.

As a photographer, it’s always great getting to photograph behind-the-scenes actions, like this scuba diver cleaning the glass on the inside of the aquariums.

This overhead shot (below) was a bit challenging to get… especially since we took it in the afternoon when the museum was pretty crowded. We got the image by mounting a camera to a pole, and then lifting the camera about 15 feet in the air. I focused and fired the camera using my computer. We also strategically placed four flashes throughout the scene to help brighten dark areas and highlight visitors’ faces.

This museum scene is particularly difficult to photograph since, without that overhead context, there is no reason to think the photo was taken in a science museum.

Here is the same scene closer in (had to stand on a chair to get this angle). Having the various strobes still strategically placed around the area really helps the camera capture the features on everyone’s faces. The strobes also helped brighten the entire space and allow the colors throughout the scene really pop. (Thanks to Quinn and Kendall, the two teenage “models” in front who jumped in to help in this scene).

I like the pure delight on her face as she plays in Discovery Place’s water area.