What's up in the world of Steely Joe

adventures in photography and other stuff

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Professional Headshots and Fall Mini-Sessions at USF!








I am so excited to be partnering with the Geology Graduate Student Organization to offer TWO great events. On November 1st, we will be in the Marshall Center offering Professional Headshots for just $10 per image! For those looking for something gift-worthy, we are also booking outdoor mini-sessions on the beautiful University of South Florida campus on Friday November 15th. The mini-sessions include a 20 minute session, and 10 high-res digital images with full printing rights for ONLY $60! This is a great offer and a fraction of what an outdoor session would typically cost. Images will be delivered in time for the holidays – what a great gift idea!  headshot_promo_web

Proceeds will go towards establishing a travel fund to help offset the cost of field research and conferences for graduate students in the Geosciences department.  Many times the cost of traveling to do geologic research or present findings at a conference are primarily absorbed by the student. This can create a significant financial barrier to a young scientist’s career. So come on out to support a good cause and get some great photography!

If you are an individual, couple, family or group who would like some great images while supporting a good cause, this event is for you.

No reservations required for the Professional Headshot event – just drop by “dressed for success”.

Due to the limited  number of spaces available for the mini-sessions,, a 50% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your spot. Contact me to book or if you have questions, but hurry – these sessions will fill up fast!


Learn more about GGSO at: http://shell.cas.usf.edu/geograd/, or follow them on Twitter @USF_GeoGrads.

My main Photography website is at: www.steelyjoestudio.com, or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Steely-Joe-Studio-Photography/122281166420


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Playing with Fire: Steel wool and light painting Photography

I have been admiring the cool images created by other photographers by burning steel wool – just a quick Google search of “steel wool photography” gives you some amazing results! I studied up and decided that I would celebrate Labor Day by treating myself to an awesome session of throwing fire around. It’s easy enough to find directions on how to create the sparks, Photojojo has a nice simple tutorial. But since you can do this with a nice long shutter speed, why not add in some traditional light-painting as well?

Finding people to help with this when you are friends with a bunch of volcanologists turned out to be really easy (surprising, I know). The most difficult part of this project was finding a place where we could do it. People tend to freak out and call the cops if you try this kind of thing in a public area. It took a bit of scouting, but we found a great location with a big stretch of wet sand well away from anything that might catch on fire.

Three light sources:

Three light sources in this image are the spinning steel wool, a headlamp held in the models hand, and red and blue light wands held together to paint the swirls. Awesome! It looks like some kind of magic yoga.

3 light sources give this picture its unique look: the spinning steel wool, a Chinese lantern and a blue light wand for "painting" the ground.

3 light sources give this picture its unique look: the spinning steel wool, a Chinese lantern and a blue light wand for “painting” the ground. Amazing image right out of the camera!

Another 3-source image: the spinning steel wool fire, a Chinese lantern, and a green headlamp light. The model has to hold very still for this kind of result, which can be a challenge when sparks are flying around you. But look at the epic results!

 Want to see more? I posted some more from this session on my Facebook page: Steely Joe Studio on Facebook.

I am sure this will not be my last attempt at this style of photography. I see this more as a warm-up run for even more amazing creations in the future!

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Venus Setting over Clearwater Beach Florida

A long exposure from the southern end of Clearwater Beach looking west shows Venus rising over the last bits of a beautiful sunset.

A long exposure from the southern end of Clearwater Beach looking west shows Venus setting over the last bits of a beautiful sunset.

Sometimes there is nothing better to unwind at the end of a week than to pack up the camera and tripod and head to the shore. I have several favorite spots depending on what I’m in the mood to shoot.  Clearwater beach can be very crowded compared to other beaches, and even after dark it can have a surprising number of people milling around. I have learned not to gripe about that (like some landscape photographers do) and take it in stride. Sometimes the people end up being an interesting element in the photograph, like in these images:

The rock pile at the southern end of Clearwater Beach. I really like what the silhouetted mad brings to this image.

The rock pile at the southern end of Clearwater Beach. I really like what the silhouetted man brings to this image.


In a long exposure image, objects standing still will be sharp, moving objects are blurred. I like how the one guy taking a video with his cell phone is sharp and all the others are blurred.

 Hope everyone out there has a great week!

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Surf’s up in Clearwater!

We went out to shoot the sunset and found surfers enjoying the waves. It’s not everyday you get waves big enough to surf in Clearwater, so even if its chilly and very windy, it won’t keep them away! These were taken out at Sand Key Park, and we had a truly spectacular sunset!

Amazing sunset at Sand Key Park, Clearwater Florida

Amazing sunset at Sand Key Park, Clearwater Florida

Surfing in the sunset.

Surfing in the sunset.


lost in the surf.

cold day to surf

The surfers added a really nice element to these landscape shots. Really love the tiny people in the vastness of the sunset and surf.


Surfers in the sandstorm. About dusk, a really ferocious sand storm started up. Good thing I had a filter on my lens so I could shoot into the blowing sand!


At one point I wondered if the surfers realized what an amazing show they were missing in the sky behind them. But I got my answer. At the best part of the sunset, when a huge orange beam poured through the clouds, all the surfers on the beach, without speaking to each other, turned to face the sun. It was a strange and beautiful thing to watch.

Surfers watching the sunset

Surfers watching the sunset

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Tampa Bay Portrait and Wedding Photographers: Modeling portfolio session on the beach

We are so happy that we have found some fun photography Meetup groups here in Tampa. It has really given us a chance to meet photographers in the area, see the sights, and make some great images. One of the groups focuses on bringing photographers and together for creative group sessions focused around a theme. The theme of last month’s session was sunset on the beach. We had 2 beautiful sisters as models, and a truly spectacular sunset at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs.

Modeling session at Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs, Florida. This was the kind of photography setting I had in mind when we moved to Florida!

Sand dunes with black-eyed-susans – what a great place to take pictures 🙂

A few more favorites from our “day-time” session before the sun started setting.

We did some fun action shots towards the end of the session. It’s always great to work with models that aren’t afraid to get completely soaked to get a fun image! The picture on the right is a silhouette of the model’s mother, who we sweet talked into getting in front of the camera for a few shots. What a cool mom!

Want to see what the other photographers got from this session? They really worth checking out! They brought battery-powered strobes, and many years of experience with models and made some really beautiful images. You can see the pictures here. I learned some great tips for modeling photography (which is very different from portrait photography), and hope to keep using these meetup sessions to really hone my skills. We will be doing a sports, fitness and dance themed session soon, so check back in a few weeks to see the results. Its gonna be so much fun!

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Tampa Bay Wedding and Portrait Photographers: Visit to the Florida Aquarium Tampa Bay

seahorse at the tampa bay aquarium

I loved the seahorse exhibit, even though the sea-dragon display was closed when we came through. Seahorses have always fascinated me – they are so weird!

Being new to the area, Ed and I are really enjoying “playing tourist” around Tampa. Recently, we saw an ad for half-price admission to the Tampa Bay Aquarium and couldn’t resist! It may not be the largest aquarium, but its got some nice exhibits and some fun things you usually don’t see at these types of facilities like an outdoor bar with live music and a view of the bay, and a cool splash park for kids. The atrium-style upper floor gives people a chance to get really close to a variety of birds (which are free to fly around without enclosures), turtles, and fish.

octopus and seahorse at tampa  bay aquarium

owl and alligator at the aquarium

On the upper floor, you can see lots of animals without glass between you and them. I was just a few feet from this owl. Thankfully, there is glass around the gator pond. This is as close to a gator encounter as I want to get!

Apparently, the Aquarium is also a popular Tampa Bay wedding venue as well, and I can see why! I would love  to photograph a wedding at the aquarium, as photo ops abound both inside and out. I have been working on establishing some network connections within the wedding vendor community in the area, so maybe I can make it happen! The hardest thing about the move from Arkansas to Florida was not booking any weddings this summer – I am totally going through withdrawals!

shark at Tampa Bay Aquarium


Is it just me, or does this jellyfish look like some kind of Star Wars vehicle?

By far what caught my attention the most were the mermaids – yes I said mermaids. In what I consider a pretty smart marketing move, the aquarium has performances at set times by their in-house mermaids. Using small air hoses, and cleverly designed fins, they are able to do swim routines, and interact with the kids on the other side of the glass by waiving and blowing kisses. One of the girls has even figured out how to shape a heart out of the bubbles from her air hose (mermaids are very clever creatures, you know). They perform in a tank full of fish, rays, and sea turtles. I for one would have absolutely loved to have this job when I was younger. Hey, I’d love to have the job now except that I’d have to wear a bikini top in public!

mermaids at Tampa Bay Aquarium

Some of the mermaids at Tampa Bay Aquarium.

We have also enjoyed going on photo-walks with the Florida Center for Creative Photography group, and I will posting some images from some of our outings with them shortly. We will also be doing a modeling photography session this weekend on the beach and I am really looking forward to that!

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Goodbye Arkansas, Hello Florida!

Our first sunset after our move to Florida. This is a walkway to Indian Rocks Beach in St. Petersburg.

This post is bittersweet. I have lived in Northwest Arkansas since my freshman year at the U of A way back in 1997. As an army brat, I never got to live anywhere for more than a few years, so it’s the closest I’ve ever come to having a hometown.  I have built my photography business up from scratch into something I am very proud of, and have made lots of connections, acquaintances, and friends in the process. I will miss Arkansas a lot!

Many of you know that I have the privilege of doing two things I really love for a living – photography and teaching geology. Steely Joe Studio was started as a way of “supporting the teaching habit” as a part-time community college gig certainly won’t pay the bills! But its grown far more than I ever expected, and I was facing the decision of which I would rather have as my primary focus, and which I would let take the backseat (the idea of quitting either all together was never a thought). So after a lot of soul-searching, I decided to get back on the path I had been so abruptly knocked off of in 2005 when a drunk driver nearly killed me (see the Story of Steely Joe). What is that path? I would love to be a faculty member at a university where I can teach something other than just the intro level geology class, and be able to do some research that makes a positive impact on the world.

This spring, an incredible opportunity presented itself. I have been offered a full tuition waiver and a teaching assistant position at the University of South Florida in Tampa starting in the fall of 2012. I will be working on a PhD in Geology, which is the next step towards my goal. I will certainly move the photography business with me, albeit a bit scaled back (or as my hubby likes to say, “more exclusive”). I am looking forward to photographing some beautiful beach weddings and finding some great portrait locales around Tampa. For all my awesome past photography clients in NWA, look me up if you are vacationing or planning a destination wedding in the Tampa Bay area, or even Orlando (which is only an hour away). I would love to do some portraits for you while you are here!

P.S. –  I will still be posting great photography on this blog, but if you would like to follow along with my big new adventure, I have started a new blog called Baking Soda Volcano to write about it all, so go check it out! 

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Northwest Arkansas Model Portfolio Photographer – Fun with FIA

Well, so much for my new-year’s resolution to blog more often – it’s already June and this is only the 4th post for the year! In my defense, it’s been a pretty crazy year so far with events leading up to a big move to Tampa Florida coming in July (more on that in a later post). Some of the most fun I had over the winter was photographing the talent at Faces in Agencies (FIA) in Springdale, Arkansas. The agency organized several sessions where a number of photographers met up with models, singers, and actors at fun locations for some portfolio building photography. These sessions were a great change-up from the typical mid-winter photography slump. And they gave me a chance to practice portfolio photography, an area I have always been interested in but haven’t had much of a chance to try.

Some of the lovely ladies represented by FIA at the December session at the Jones Center swimming pool in Springdale. It was so fun to do swimsuit pictures in the middle of the winter!

It was cold and drizzling when we did this session, but these guys handled it like pros.

FIA also represents quite a few children. They are lots of fun to work with because lets face it – its hard to get bad pictures of kids this cute!

You can see more from these sessions in the Facebook galleries here and here.

If you would like to know more about FIA, you can connect and network with actors, models, musicians, photographers, film makers, and many more through the newly launched NWA Talent Society in Springdale, Arkansas.

Steely Joe Studio’s main website with galleries, rates and more is at www.steelyjoestudio.com


NWA Senior Portrait Photographer – Jessie’s cool country session

Wow – can you believe graduation is only a few months away? For those of you who were holding out for a spring senior portrait session – now is the time! When the rain finally dries up here in Northwest Arkansas, it is going to be a beautiful spring. I decided to save doing a blog post on this session till the spring portrait season to schedule a session for your grad before it’s too late.

Jessie was so much fun to work with (and yes, I would think that even if she wasn’t my cousin), and we took the opportunity to shoot her senior portraits after the annual family golf tournament. Don’t ask how I did – it isn’t worth talking about – hehe! Jessie, on the other hand is a gifted golfer who has been making her high school proud as a member of the golf team. The family golf tournament was held in Antlers; a small town in rural Southeastern Oklahoma. We came in from Fayetteville and Jessie drove from Dallas, so a little scouting was in order to find some cool locations. Luckily, my dad grew up in Antlers and had some good tips on where we might look. We found some fabulous locations and had a blast doing these portraits, even though it kind of makes me feel old that my little cousin is graduating high school!

The "downtown" area of Antlers (and I use that term loosely) had some great older buildings that made wonderful backgrounds. The only problem was getting the local guys to quit driving around the block whistling and hooting!

The town also has a historic depot with an old train parked next to it. Too bad we didn't have some cute vintage luggage to use as props - that would have been even cooler.

I tried my hand at a few Banners for Facebook Timeline using images from this session. Although I am not a fan of how the Timeline is laid out, it is fun to have that big space at the top for images. Here are the results:

I put this Facebook banner together with some of the fun senior portraits we did on the train tracks using off-camera flash. What a great look!

Jessie may be from the big city of Dallas, but she is a country girl at heart. We used an old pickup parked next door to my grandma's house for these shots. It was practically buried in pine needles, and the licence plate in front said "Jim's Jem" - it doesn't get more country than that 😉

This old roofless building was so crazy cool, I want to pick it up and drop it somewhere in Northwest Arkansas! It was graffiti and vine-covered and had all these great door and window openings. I love the way these turned out!

To end the session we went down to the river for some sun flare and in-the-water pictures as the sun was sinking. Wow - can you say supermodel!? LOVE the image on the right.

Like I said earlier we had tons of fun doing these images. Jessie – you are a beautiful lady inside and out, and we wish you all the best as you start your college adventures! Thanks for letting us be a part of your senior year experience. 🙂

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Erin and Dan’s Country Manor Chapel wedding in Rogers AR

Erin and Dan were married December 28th at Country Manor Chapel in Rogers, Arkansas. It was an intimate celebration with just a few close family and friends. I had never heard of this pretty little wedding venue before (which is actually part of a private residence) and the owners say they intentionally book just a handful of weddings each year. Although it was December, I could tell that the gardens must be really nice in the spring and summer! Erin’s colors were red, white and pink using roses and lilies as the primary flowers. The chapel’s tall windows were left uncovered to let in the late afternoon light, and made the ceremony really beautiful. The reception was held at the Holiday Inn and Suites in Springdale, Arkansas.

Some of the details from Erin and Dan's winter wedding at Country Manor.

The smiling bride moves upstairs before the ceremony. Erin's mom helps a flower girl with finishing touches.

Some beautiful moments from the ceremony.

Detail shot during the ring exchange.

Heading outside for portraits after the ceremony. I love the candid shot of the bride looking over her shoulder through the door. The little girl peering over her chair was just too cute 🙂

The reception was held at the Holiday Inn of Springdale Arkansas. Left image: the happy couple call the groom's grandma. Right image: the first dance.

Best wishes to Erin and Dan!

Wedding Venue: Country Manor Chapel, Rogers AR

Reception Venue: Holiday Inn and Suites, Springdale, AR

Photography main website: Steely Joe Studio