Jun 2014 17

This week we focus on the second most common mistake photographers make. It is the tilted horizon. If you’re like me, unless it’s on a tripod sometimes it’s hard to get it right in camera.

However, there are always little ways you can improve your photography with little to no money. One of my favorite gadges is the hot shoe bubble level. For only $5.95 you can leave the tripod at home and still be confident in getting a level image. They come in a various shapes and start as low as $6.00.


For those times you don’t have a tripod or a bubble level, then you’ll need to do some post production. Courtney Slazinik of Click it Up a Notch gives us some advice on the second most common mistake photographers make.




Jun 2014 15

When people think of photo books, they often think of weddings and babies. There is more to photo books, a lot more. They can tell stories, help heal, provide inspiration and so much more.

Each month we will turn the spotlight on one storyteller and go beyond the pages of their photo book. We promise you these are real page turners.

Real People. Real Stories. Real Inspiration.

This  month we meet member Jeff Knowles and find out about his journey, his healing and his photo book that tells a story of survival.

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My name is Jeff Knowles, and I live near Annapolis, Maryland with my wife Sharon and two teenage daughters, Maddie and Ali.  I grew up in Connecticut, but moved down here just after college in the late 1980’s for a civilian job with the Defense Department. I’ve enjoyed a challenging and varied government career that “pays the bills”, but my passion has been in the creative arts realm – particularly photography, writing, and videography

My cancer struck aggressively and strangely, starting mid-May 2013. I remember thinking in early May: “jeez I turn 50 this fall, but that’s OK because I actually feel healthier than ever!” Then I started having fevers, chills, body aches – like the feeling when the flu is coming on, but without other symptoms. It would come and go weirdly, within the space of days or even hours. My doctor was thorough, but we were not even talking cancer. There were no indicators in blood work or other tests, and we were working through tests for Lyme Disease and various other tricky infections.

photo book

photo book

In late June, antibiotics seemed to be helping so I decided to go ahead with a trip to Mexico with my daughters. By fortunate accident, one of my daughters’ passport was lost on the way and we were kicked back to the U.S. I couldn’t believe that freak mistake….but it probably saved my life. While ‘trapped’ in Florida four days trying to get a flight back, I started getting sicker. The day we finally got back to Maryland I was admitted to a hospital for testing.

In retrospect, it was just in time. We know now that by then the lymphoma had “quietly” destroyed much of my marrow, though it would be another week or two to get to a solid diagnosis. My body was crashing even as they worked to stabilize me – my immune system was shot, I was fighting pneumonia and other infections, and multiple organs were failing.

It was jarring to go from “healthiest ever” to nearly dead in the CCU 5 or 6 weeks later, especially knowing my body had essentially done this to itself. Yet for a long time, I was just aware enough to be frustrated that I couldn’t even process all that. For quite a while I was too weak to even lift my head off the pillow, nor think clearly.

Despite my unusual presentation of the disease, diagnosis was reached soon enough to do decide on emergency chemotherapy in the hospital. That, and other treatment like spinal injections to keep the cancer out of my brain and spine, contained and then gradually turned the cancer back. The chemotherapy presents its own challenges, including fatigue and a sort of daze people sometimes call “chemo fog”. But it was working.


The physical effects of cancer and treatment of course were not fun – ranging from deep fatigue to vein damage and blood clotting. But you don’t typically hear as much about the mental and spiritual damage, and to be honest I found those just as hard. I had to fight to regain hope that I’d ever again have the energy, clarity, and focus to do things like enjoy my daughter’s graduation, or be productive at work, or create a beautiful portrait for someone.

During the months of treatment and recovery, as I got a little strength back I had a strong urge to do something creative and expressive – especially as I began to fully realize what a close call it had been and my future was still uncertain. I wrestled with ideas relating to photography, but did not have the energy or free time to do much with that yet.


I’m also a writer, so I began jotting down words or short phrases that were like little verbal snapshots from the experience that I had had and was still having.  I did these in 3 balanced groups:  body, mind, spirit/emotions.  I’ve always been intrigued by the challenge of combining photography with narrative storytelling, which was the main feature of my fantasy novel Telaria River.  But I still could not think how to speak out visually about cancer.

Then I discovered that a henna and body paint artist I’d met previously, Christalene Karaiskakis, had a project she called “Healing Through Body Art” – something she’d started before my cancer appeared. What a creative match! We brainstormed ways to combine words with visual aspects of body art.


During the months of chemo, while I was still quite weak and had lost my hair, she did two beautiful designs on my head reflecting where I was at the time. The first was like a labyrinth at a time my life seemed like a maze, and the second a tree of life at the time I was emerging from treatment.

The experience of having the beautiful henna designs applied was therapeutic, and Christalene and I agreed to up the game further with a more elaborate full body design featuring some of the phrases I’d written. Part of the idea for this was personal expression, but part was to see if we could create some imagery that other people coping with cancer might relate to.

This Spring we went for it.  I helped set up the lighting and such, and as the design was done both Christalene and a talented local photographer Robyn Harold made the images. I was not used to being on the other side of the camera, so that was an experience! The painting was a lengthy process, but the result was inspiring really said a lot about what cancer ‘is’ and what it meant for me.


I had thought of doing a small book with just a few images from that last big body paint design. But when I explored various printing options and found the design flexibility and quality of the Adoramapix books, it got me thinking how I really could tell a whole story this way.  I set to work combining ALL of my phrases with a lot of the imagery from the full body design, wrote my ‘letter to cancer’ intro, and added some earlier photos.  Features of the software and printing gave me a lot of flexibility to group and layer things, and I was extremely pleased with the result.


I am fortunate to be remission, and apart from periodic monitoring I have gradually returned fully to life, art, and work. Now a year after it all started, I still struggle to “catch up” from all that time and it is still a bit surreal looking back on it now with greater awareness. Completing the book was a great way to vent and share some of my story creatively. It was kind of a release.  It also gives me a way to share my story with friends, family, other survivors, or anyone interested without just repeating a narrative.  It will be a personal and family keepsake of a very crazy year, and hopefully a visually inspiring and thought-provoking reminder of how we can be so strong and fragile at the same time.

 Thank you Jeff for sharing trusting your story to Adoramapix and sharing your story with us. We hope by sharing your photo book it will reach those who may be struggling as well. You can click on any of the images to see his full photo book or you can click HERE. 


Jun 2014 11

Thank you to everyone who participated in the YBS 2013 Best Shot Contest. This was the most difficult year yet. The top 12 finalists were all astounding and each one of those images told a story. That is what we were looking for, images that tell a story. With that said, the winner of the YBS 2013 contest is Justin Hofman. His whale shot was a once in a lifetime shot. He explains:This was a life-altering event and one that I hope to repeat but feel will never happen again. The wind, water, and whales came together in perfect synchronicity. I had only 2 hours to make this shoot happen and since Peninsula Valdez is one of the windiest places on the planet, I was not confident it would happen. Six months of stress, logistics, permits, and planning went into this encounter and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. (for those of you who question if this was photoshopped or not, we do have the raw file and can verify it was not) Thank you to everyone. Keep clickin’ for YBS 2014 next year!Top12 (2)

We’ll have a more in-depth interview with Justin and this photograph shortly. Stay tuned.


Jun 2014 10

Welcome to the Adoramapix Photography Boot Camp. Over the month of June, we will be dissecting the 5 biggest mistakes photographers make.  Thanks to all of the feedback we received, this mini boot camp course will hopefully educate and inspire photographers to avoid these common pitfalls and focus on their vision instead.

 Number 1. White Balance

This is perhaps one of the trickiest steps to learn. But you’ll see after some testing and experimenting, you’ll soon be able to white balance instantly without second guessing yourself. Most professional dslr’s come with pre-determined white balance settings. Here is a general break down of what you can expect from each turn of the dial.


  • Auto – This will normally be the first stop on the white balance dial. It is the safest and generally pretty accurate.  Your camera makes a best guess on each click under various lighting situations.  You’ll find it works pretty well, but it may not be the best for trickier lighting.


  • Tungsten –  This setting is usually symbolized with a little bulb and is for shooting indoors, especially under incandescent lighting. It generally cools down the colors in photos. (2850-3200K)


  • Fluorescent – This compensates for the ‘cool’ light of fluorescent light and will warm up your shots. Although it’s warmer than tungsten, it is still quite cool. (3800-4000K)
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  • Daylight/Sunny – This is the white balance option for when the sun is at its brightest and you are outside. It adds warm tones to the image to combat the very high color temperature.


  • Cloudy – This setting generally warms things up a touch more than daylight mode. (6000-6500K)


  • Flash – The flash of a camera can be quite a cool light so in this mode you’ll find it warms up your shots a touch.(5200-5500K)


  • Shade – The light in shade is generally cooler  than shooting in direct sunlight so this mode will warm things up a little.(7000-7500K)


You may have noticed there are numbers and the letter “K” after each setting mentioned above. This shows the range of Kelvin temperatures for each mode. Below, Courtney Slazinik of Click it Up a Notch explains what Kelvin means and how to get off manual white balance settings for good.

Thank you Courtney. Tune in next week when we share the second most common mistake photographers make. Can you guess what it is?

Jun 2014 06

Father’s Day is just around the corner and if you haven’t already started, now is the time to get your favorite memories of your dad off your hard drives and into something that will last for generations.

According to, “Father’s Day started in Spokane, Washington in 1910. It did not become an official holiday in the United States until 1972, and it is always celebrated on the third Sunday in June.”

Since celebrating Father’s Day for more than 40 years gifts have come a long way. Ties, aftershave and bar-b-q items may be the norm, but now days kids and moms are getting more savvy with celebrating how dad makes them feel loved.

Pictures capture a moment in time that you were with your father. What better way to showcase dad than with an AdoramaPix photo book. We have a few designs dedicated solely to father’s day.


However, if you look around under our inspiration area under general  you’ll fine some amazing themes. For instance, why not try the timeline?  You can add all those special moments dad helped you move, taught you how to ride a bike, went on vacation, etc.


Of course let’s not forget first time father’s. What better way to showcase the new dad than with our canvas prints.

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Our metal prints are the perfect way to display bright and beautiful landscapes. So grab those outdoor photos of dad with the kids and hang it on the wall.unnamed (2)

And finally, give him a gift that lasts all year around. Our calendars are the perfect fit for daily reminders of what a great dad he is throughout the year.


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