The Orlando Eye

Getting out to shoot has been pretty sparse lately. My efforts to get the Photo Synthesis plugin launched have been taking a significant amount of time.

However, I have managed to get out to shoot a new piece of Orlando fun…the Orlando Eye. It’s a ferris wheel that’s over 400 feet tall, towering over the other International Drive attractions (at least until the Skyplex’s new roller coaster, the Skyscraper, takes its riders to over 500 ft. heights).

The Orlando Eye won’t be operational until May, but all the cars are now on it. You can see the wheel, photographed early in the morning before the first car went on, and now with all the cars in place.

Festival of Speed

There are a lot of great festivals in the world. Wine festivals. Music festivals. Film festivals. Cherry festivals. Ghost festivals (or so says Wikipedia). I’m always down for a great festival, and nothing makes me more festive than a celebration of speed.

I fully expect that one day scientists will discover a genetic predisposition to speed. I expect to have that gene. Maybe even some mutated version that causes endorphins to flow with the extension of my right foot. So a $10 ticket to see/touch/sit in some of the finest and rarest automobiles to ever grace the planet is a no-brainer. From good ol’ American muscle exotic cars to 100 year old V16 monsters that strained to reach 100 mph, they’re all found at the Festival of Speed…and so am I.

This year, I drew my wife’s cousin’s stepson (what does that make us? absolutely nothing…which is what you are about to become) in the Christmas gift exchange. Ethan was 11 when we met a few years ago and we talked cars for quite a long time. Brooke suggested that I bring him along for to the FoS and I thought it was a smashing idea. So, too, did Craig, his stepdad. In fact, although he’s going to be painting and installing floors in the house he just bought that weekend, he had no qualms with ditching out for a Sunday among these stunning automobiles.

It was one second away from raining all day last year when I went to the show. It never actually did, but it was heavy cloud cover and made for some poor light and backgrounds for the photos. This year promises to be sunny. Maybe even too sunny. The forecast is for no cloud cover at all, which will be nice in the morning and evening, but can make for some harsh light and hard reflections of the chrome and glass of all these cars. I’m hoping a few clouds might spread themselves about to give me a little easy shooting light.

Either way, I’ll be happy to be there. Great photos are nice, but just seeing these cars, some of which might have only 2-3 examples left in the world, and getting to talk with their passionate owners and other car geeks makes it time well spent. I hope to get around to the other four FoS events this year, too. I’ve heard great things about the Amelia Island event.

Small Business Saturday

This Saturday is Small Business Saturday. While those of us with small businesses cannot compete with the uber-discounts on name brand stuff that big retailers offer this upcoming weekend, we do have something they don’t…a piece of ourselves.

Each small business owner has blood, sweat, and tears invested…and more hours than the financials will ever show. We love what we do, and we think you will, too. I have prints and canvases in many homes, even in Europe, and the feedback has always been “I love this piece!”

So…while it may not be me who gets your patronage this coming Saturday, please do consider purchase from businesses for whom this is more than a bottom line.

For my part, I’ve got a 25% discount code for everything I’m currently selling. It’s good today through 11/30/2014. Just enter “BBZDVF” and you’ll receive that discount. The discount does not count toward the printing company’s fees, so if you order something for $100 and it only drops by $15, I’m sorry about that. I’d love to make it an even $25 but that’s how this system works.

Again, coupon code “BBZDVF”

Nathan Heldman @ Fine Art America


It’s been a couple of months since I put anything down here in writing. I’ve been busy (aren’t we all?) but not just busy. BUSY!

Since we last chatted, my wife and I switched banks, internet and cable providers, cell phone companies, bought a lot, and started a new company. Well, the company is just me and I can’t get into the details too much yet…gotta wait for the product to be developed. But that meant incorporating, opening business bank and credit accounts, applying for a small business loan, finding a developer, a mentor (who had done something big in the same arena), and finding industry backing. Those are all done now and the development work has begun. It will probably be another 3-4 months until we have a working product, and that makes this like waiting for Christmas, my wedding day, Guffman, and Godot.

It’s meant a lot of time away from my camera, which I don’t like, but the next six weeks bring three new car shows to shoot. I shot the Winter Park Concours D’Elegance last year, seemingly just after we arrived in FL, as well as the Orlando Festival of Speed. sunday’s Veterans Day Car Show will be my first there, so I’m not sure what to expect. It’s at a funeral home/cemetery (where my wife works), but that funeral home has a Starbucks inside, so cars/Starbucks vs cemetery…hmmmm

Squiggly on Sale!

Until the ecommerce part of this site is finished (probably a few more months), my photos are sold at The normal price for a 20×24 canvas of this print is $350, but FAA has a great promotion going right now on their site. That makes the 20×24 Squiggly (the Studio Gang Pavilion at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo) 44% off through the end of the month!

Watch for other promotions each month. I’ll post here every time a new one goes up. And thanks for stopping by Nathan Heldman Photography. I really do appreciate all your kindnesses and support!

Click here for the promo.

Holy Giant Leica Lenses, Batman!!!

Leica lenses are great, but this is ridiculous. As reported in my world by, Leica has built a lens (and a prototype) that was commissioned by a sheik from Qatar that cost almost $2.1 million dollars. The 1600 5.6 lens should be enough to photograph anywhere in Qatar from the center (I kid…sort of. It’s a small country and this is a BIG LONG lens) and may have the distinction of being the first lens that will be photographed more often than it’s used to photograph.

It’s rumored that Mercedes-Benz and Brooks Brothers have been tasked, respectively, with constructing a padded moving van, and a backpack capable of being worn by four able-bodied men simultaneously…total cost $167.4 million. Qatar’s Public Works are currently installing permanent concrete-reinforced monopods with rotating lens cradles at every picturesque point in the country.

For the wealthy in Qatar, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani is now booking portrait sessions at $150,000/hr. His main selling point is that he and his clients can both be at home for the shoot as long as there is a clean light of sight. I’m wondering if his marketing campaign “I’ll shoot you from here” is going to be effective.

Free Wine? Bring It ON!

Who doesn’t like free wine? I mean, even if you don’t like wine, you probably like free wine. You can always sell it on Craigslist or Ebay and turn that free money into new red oven mitts or a plastic cactus (that needs even less watering than the original).

Right now, if you purchase any of my photography prints from Fine Art America, you’ll receive a $100 gift certificate for free wine. Really. You don’t have to spend $100. You can buy the smallest print available and you’ll still get the deal.

If you go here ( you can read all about the promotion. Then, buy a print and you’re in. I did it last night and put together my free wine order today (didn’t click “Buy” yet because I must run it past my darling wife).

So…art work. Free wine. A very nice little package deal. But you must hurry. The deal disappears from the interwebs at the end of July. Spend a little time mulling over which print you’d like and you can spend a little time mulling wine when autumn arrives.

I Dream of Jeannie

I cannot hear about Cocoa Beach, Florida without thinking of Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman in I Dream of Jeannie. The genie/astronaut based romp took place in Cocoa Beach as Major Nelson’s job kept him soaring out of, then, Cape Canaveral. I loved that show as a kid, although I did often wonder how a genie who had lived for thousands of years could be so naive, especially about her own evil twin…Jeannie (yes, they had the same name).

Well, I got to see Cocoa Beach with my own eyes this past weekend. My friend, Eric, decided to have his birthday party out there on Saturday, so I thought it might be an opportunity to do a little photo making. I googled the area for the places not to miss and the very first one was the Cocoa Beach pier. Well, I love the ocean and a good pier so that piqued my interest, but it crossed my mind that sunrise with a pier might be pretty nice. Of course, sunrise an hour away would mean waking at 4:30. I don’t really do that. So…

It turned out that Brooke had to work until around midnight on Friday and then be back at work on Saturday at 8 am. No MI-5 time for us that night so I looked into a cheap hotel room. Man, did I find one. Fortunately it was inexpensive, too. I made the drive out straight after work on Friday since I’m already on the east side of Orlando. I drove straight to the pier to see what was what…you know, get the lay of the sand… (sorry) As it turns out, and unbeknownst to me, good friends from Orlando were having dinner on the pier at the very time I was walking out to the end. “Missed it by that much.” (Get Smart…from the same era as I Dream of Jeannie).

I went to bed around 11 as I still needed to be up by 5:30 in Cocoa Beach. Still not my favorite. I recall nearly rolling over and going back to sleep the second time an alarm went off. The second time was my alarm, btw. The first was the room alarm clock which some joker decided to set for midnight. May he survive the curses I brought down upon his house.

By 5:40, when I was out the door, there was already some light in the eastern sky and I thought I might have waited too long. Sunrise was at 6:30 and I’d thought a half hour would be enough time to catch the early illumination. Fortunately it was just barely starting when I arrived…still almost fully dark, or as fully dark as it could be with that super moon going down in the west.

In the pier parking lot was another photographer with his tripod set up, capturing that super moon. We did a silent nod to each other and I headed for the beach. I ducked under the closest end of the pier and crossed to the north side of it. A couple was out snapping each other with a smartphone, barely able to make each other out in the dim skies. Between them and me was a good sized heron, trying to pick up a fish and eat it. For whatever reason it took several tries for him to finally pick it up and get it into its gullet. People didn’t seem to bother it at all. The couple were almost taking photos with it and I eventually got within about 8 feet to snap a few myself.

A few small fishing boats started to cross within maybe 200 yards of shore and, well out toward the horizon, a cruise ship was heading into Port Canaveral. The fishing boats were most just outlines, but the cruise ship’s lights made it hard to miss.

Off to the south and north, some color and light began to work into the clouds. There was a large storm directly offshore to the east so it was probably a little thick there for the light to penetrate. Flashes of lightning kept erupting from the storm but I never seemed to be able to capture it. Make sense. By the time it registers on my eyeballs, heads to my brain, and a signal is sent to my finger to press the shutter button, that flash of lightning is long gone. Still, the skies were brightening and more color started pushing into those horizon ends.

I took a lot of photos during that time. I was experimenting like crazy with shutter speeds, apertures, and ISOs. The slow changes to the sky let me try multiple ways to capture the same thing. Some worked well. Some, not so much.

By now there were starting to be a few joggers on out with us. Fishermen began collecting on the pier. Birds came hungry from their nests and began to circle the pier, looking for scraps. I moved under the pier and started to shoot out through the pilings. Great colorful clouds lent themselves as contrast to the dark wood and shadowed water. There were too many scenes to shoot, but I ran through another set of changes, wide/close, dark/light. I could have shot under there for a while, but one of those hungry birds apparently found enough to eat that he relieved himself on my shoulder. Blerg…but at least it wasn’t my head or camera.

The heron was still out on the north side of the pier so I went back out to photograph it more. It was pretty compliant for an untrained wild bird and I was able to get a few photos I think I’ll like when I get to editing them. The thunderheads to the east were starting to break up a bit and some color began pushing through there. The skies above were turning more toward their daytime hues and let me start shooting with a more closed aperture for depth of focus.

I headed down to the south side of the pier and started shooting the length of it stretching from shore into the sunrise. I’d just been there a few minutes when a yellow-orange orb began forcing itself through breaks in the offshore storm clouds. As the sun was rising a little to the north of the pier, I was glad I’d decided to get this vantage point. By now things were getting quite bright, and the colors went from the midnight blues and deep oranges to the sky blues and bright yellows. I was now in the company of dozens of joggers, bikers, photographers, and one guy with his metal detector.

I’ve only gotten to a few of the photos so far, and I know that many of the experiments didn’t work out, but it was another chance to get out and make pictures and I got to capture some of my favorite things. The ocean. Piers and docks. Sunrise (actually sunset is my favorite because it happens at a Godly hour rather than an ungodly one). And I got to visit the real city of the imaginary I Dream of Jeannie.

Oddly, about 5 hours later and 5 miles south, on another stretch of beach, I saw that same metal detector guy sweeping the area. I wonder if he’s ever found a jewel encrusted gold bottle…

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What My Friends Think I Do…

In my last post, Road Trippin, I shared an amazing day of driving (maybe my favorite activity on earth to do alone), making photos (right up there with driving), listening to the recently reinstated 40’s on 4 Sirius XM station, and consuming copious amounts of Dunkin Donuts coffee. That’s about as restorative as it gets for me, and it was so very welcomed after the past few months of work/house hunting/not sleeping/work/house hunting/not sleeping.

Ahhhh…if the days could all be like that, right? Restorative. Restful. Relaxing. But, if we have designs to be anything of reasonable quality, the days are more often constructive (as in being built into something new) at best and destructive at worst. They lack rest and cram 36 hours of life into 24…or 12. Anything but relaxing. There’s learning and practicing and failing and trying and falling and reaching and holding on…all just on the normal days. I suppose there wouldn’t be a need for restoration if it weren’t for all those other things.

Since Road Tripping, I’ve spent a number of hours on this website. The effort isn’t really visible, as it’s a lot of work on the print sales portion that’s not yet launched, but it’s there. The e-commerce plugins available on WordPress are the exact reasons I point my e-commerce clients to different platforms. On the surface it looks great. In reality, it’s a hair removal process.

I’ve spent a number of hours editing…or not editing. Learning to leave a great photo alone…or not. I do like the editing process as it helps me see what I might try next time or might have learned since last time. Still, when I come home with 1200 photos from a day of shooting…

I’ve had this discussion with my wife on several occasions. That the creative part of a creative job, at least when working for one’s self, is about 10% creative and 90% doing all the work required to get back to spending some time in the 10% zone again. Maybe that’s the cycle. Construction/destruction until we can’t take it, and then restoration. Maybe each time a little more construction stays and a little less destruction is necessary.

In pursuit of reasonable quality, good quality, and then excellence, we all have cycles like this and I think we all believe nobody else understands what we do in the 90% time. That’s probably why the “What My Friends Think I Do” memes swept across the web for a couple of years. I imagine you can find one for just about every occupation out there. In fact, I found about 40 different ones for photographers. There’s probably a bit of truth in each of the six panes. We’re all seen from different angles in life. Few get the whole picture…and that’s if we even ever get our own full picture. Still, there are the truths about what we do that end up in the lower right pane because only those who share that title with us will really get it

This week has been constructive/destructive as I work to build my business and my abilities. I’m glad there was a road trip just a week ago, and that there will be another on the journey. And I’m glad that what my friends think i do is definitely a part of the process.

Road Trippin’

Yesterday (Sunday) I drove Brooke to the airport as she was headed to Chicago for some voice-over work. I grabbed my camera and figured I’d take a day to unwind after a long Saturday/week/month/year (shout out to my in-laws who took care of Kaney for the day!). I looked at the map before we left and figured south was about the only direction I hadn’t gone since moving to Orlando. ┬áSo, south it was.

There are no main highways that go straight south. They either head for Miami or Ft. Myers, so it was two lane roads for me all day…which I love. I stopped and got the requisite XL decaf with two creams from DD and headed off.

I got as far as Lake Okeechobee…with a number of stops on the way. Side roads called my name like sirens and I obliged them, looking for everything and nothing, content to drive but hoping for opportunities…and the opportunities came. Along the course of the day I photographed flowers, lakes, sunsets, rusty rims for sale, an old Royal Enfield motorcycle, the Sebring racetrack Corvette pace car, piers, lily pads, fields, forests, horses, and trains. I drove through a torrential rainstorm, may or may not have tested my car’s upper limit, and saw the two overtime periods and penalty kicks as Costa Rica bested Greece, while down a man for nearly 60 minutes.

It was the kind of day I love. Nowhere to go. Nowhere to be. Nothing not worth photographing. Side roads. Little traffic, if any. Small towns. And three of those XL decafs. Road trippin’ at its best.