Ethanol Summit of the Americas in Houston

Photographing the inaugural Ethanol Summit of the Americas at The Westin Oaks in Houston, TX, was a real honor for me. I owe a HUGE Thank You to the US Grains Council for this assignment!

Industry and government officials from more than 15 countries in the Western Hemisphere met a few weeks ago at the Ethanol Summit of the Americas to discuss current and future opportunities for ethanol in the region.

The event was sponsored by the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), Growth Energy, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. These organizations and others in the U.S. agriculture and renewable fuels industries work together to promote the global use of ethanol and U.S. ethanol exports.

This Summit brought together recognized scientists and ethanol experts to engage with policymakers and provide information on the economic and environmental benefits of ethanol-blended fuel. The Summit also served as a launching point for expanded regional engagement markets in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

“Increasing cooperation between ethanol industries supports economic growth for all countries involved,” said Tom Sleight, USGC president and chief executive officer. “Collaborative efforts like the meetings this week enable a greater understanding of the policy climate surrounding ethanol and help pave the way for expanded ethanol use throughout the region.”

The Summit highlighted the use of ethanol in transportation fuels to help meet a number of economic and environmental challenges, including improving air quality, extending the current fuel supply and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The U.S. ethanol industry’s efforts, including conferences like the Ethanol Summit of the Americas, are helping successfully establish the United States as a reliable and affordable source of fuel.

Here are a few of my favorite images from this fantastic 2-day conference!!!

Amelia’s Senior Portraits

We’ve been best friends with Byron & Kathleen for a looong time. We don’t want to date ourselves, but we’ve known them since the BAE…”Before Amelia Era”!!! 😉

As you can imagine, it’s been a real joy of ours to watch Amelia grow from adorable baby, to cute little girl, and now into the beautiful young lady she’s become! We couldn’t be more proud of the amazing, kind, and giving human being she’s grown into!!!

For something fun and different, Byron, Kathleen, and Amelia joined us for a weekend get-away in Maggie Valley to photograph Amelia’s Senior Portraits. True to the White/Smith tradition, IT RAINED! You see, the number of camping trips and expeditions we’ve been on together, it’s astounding how often it rains. It was only fitting that it rain on this one too. But we don’t think of it as a curse. We think of it as an adventure!

And so, with an ADVENTURE in mind, we forged ahead with our plans to meet in picturesque Cataloochee Valley to photograph Amelia. As a bonus, we got to see a herd of elk grazing in one of the fields. But the real thrill was hanging out with this wonderful family, and capturing beautiful images of their amazing daughter!!!

Thanks for another great expedition, Byron, Kathleen, and Amelia. We can’t wait to see what great things God has in store for you, Amelia! We are so proud of you.

Kiawah Cottage for Solaris Inc.

One of my favorite parts about my job is that no two assignments are ever the same!

I photograph a lot of “people” assignments where juggling personalities is a large part of the equation. Balancing those assignments with the more cerebral ones like architecture and interior photography is always a nice change of pace. Houses don’t talk. To capture their “good side” involves carefully calculating the best lighting, angles, and perspectives.

One of my favorite architecture clients is Solaris, Inc. They create such BEAUTIFUL houses with such unique character! They pay attention to the fine details.  Every little piece of the puzzle is considered to ensure it belongs in the design.

Here is one of their amazing projects on Kiawah Island that I had the honor of photographing recently!  Kudos to Steve on another brilliant home.  And Thanks to Julie for always being so great to work with.

Wild at Wingswood Gala

Photographing the annual Wild at Wingswood gala for the Charleston Center for Birds of Prey is one of my most anticipated events of the year!

It’s a very unique fundraiser, where live raptors, owls, and other beautiful birds soar through the air, gliding silently over guests and attendees under the big tent!
The Avian Conservation Center and the Center for Birds of Prey are doing AMAZING things for our natural world. If you’ve never been, they are open to the public on most Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. You’ve GOT to check this cool place out and see for yourself why nature lovers from all over the country speak so highly of this gem, located just a few miles outside of Charleston!

Check them out at

D850 vs D500

When my good friend and AMAZING wildlife photographer, David Archer, invited me to play with his new D850, I jumped at the chance! Thanks again, David!!!

I’ve read all the reviews, and seen all the stats. But what I wanted to know was how well it would stand up in those dim conference rooms and dark churches I frequently deal with when covering corporate events and weddings. The flagship Nikon D5 is my main camera. The D500 is my secondary. My question was, would the D850 beat the D500 in low light?!?

In my opinion, for what I shoot, the “Pixel Race” ended a LOOOONG time ago! Huge enlargements from any modern camera with a 20-24MP sensor will turn out gorgeous. So the D850’s huge 47MP sensor has no appeal to me. In most situations, I would probably shoot it in the Medium RAW setting, which is approximately 25MP. The REAL challenge that remains, is dealing with shooting in low-light conditions. I have yet to see a real-world comparison in this situation between Nikon’s latest work-horses, the D5, D500, and D850.

I already knew my D5 would be superior to both the D850 and the D500 at high-iso settings. Still, I brought it along and incorporated it in the test. There wasn’t even a comparison!!! And since my goal was to determine if the D850 would be a better secondary-camera than my D500, I simplified the comparison to just those two bodies.

David and I met for lunch at the delicious Ti-Ney Bangkok Thai restaurant in Summerville. I mounted my 70-200 f2.8 to a tripod. Because the D850 is so new, I knew I couldn’t open the RAW files in Lightroom. So all cameras were set to JPG. I mounted each camera to the lens and took 3 shots…ISO 1600, ISO 3200, and ISO 6400. That was it! That’s all I cared about!

Back at the work station, I imported all the images. Next, the D850 files were normalized to be the same size as the D500 files, bringing them both to approximately 21MP. Downsizing the 47MP file to 21MP surely helped improve the grain characteristics of that camera. But again, this was a “real world” type of test. In other words, if I’m faced with a difficult lighting situation, what’s the BEST low-light performance I can get out of each camera? No adjustments were made to noise reduction or sharpness in post-processing. Next to each high-resolution image, I also outputed a 100% crop. So the images go as follows:

D850 @ 1600
D850 @1600 100% crop
D850 @ 3200
D850 @ 3200 100% crop
D850 @ 6400
D850 @ 6400 100% crop
D500 @ 1600
D500 @1600 100% crop
D500 @ 3200
D500 @ 3200 100% crop
D500 @ 6400
D500 @ 6400 100% crop

One thing I did note was that the D850 files look softer than the D500 files. That may have been partly due to the JPG settings in that camera. Unfortunately I didn’t check to make sure both JPG profiles were the same. It also might be due to the fact that my 70-200 lens is calibrated to my D500 body and not to the D850. So the focus might have been off a little. But regardless, I’m very impressed with the D850!!!

What do you think?

Rogers Family at Hampton Park

It’s been 5 years since I last had the honor of photographing the Rogers Family. My oh my have Lucas & Tessa grown!!!

We met up for a fun family session at Hampton Park. It was a beautiful afternoon with gorgeous light and perfect temperatures. We had SO MUCH FUN!!!

I’m thrilled to be able to share some of my favorite shots from my time this adorable family. 🙂

Jaime & Brian’s Hampton Park Engagement Session

Earlier this summer I got this really sweet email from Jaime:

“Hey Chris! I recently just got engaged and wanted to talk to you. You did my best friends wedding a few years ago and the pictures were so beautiful…”

I’ve had so much fun getting to know Jaime over the past few months. Finally, I got to meet this very special couple over the weekend when they came to Charleston for their engagement session. Jaime is the sweetest, kindest, most beautiful person you could ever meet! Plus, Brian and I hit it off immediately because we share the same quirky sense of humor. We all had a BLAST exploring the picturesque Hampton Park, capturing their excitement and energy along the way.

I’d like to send a HUGE BEAR HUG to Melissa & Kevin, who’s gorgeous wedding I photographed at Middleton Place, for re-connecting Jaime and I after all these years. 🙂  I can’t wait to photograph Jaime & Brian’s amazing celebration in Woodstock, GA next year!!!

Elizabeth & Jamie’s Rock Hill Wedding

Five years ago, I had the priviledge of photographing a beautiful wedding in Rock Hill. Elizabeth was a bridesmaid in that wedding! When Elizabeth got engaged to her boyfriend Jamie last year, she reached out to her friend to get my name. I can’t thank Ashley & Brit enough for their kind referral!!!  🙂

Elizabeth loves working with young people and is a youth minister at a church in Pawley’s Island. Jamie works for US Food, keeping restaurants stocked with the best products. They met at Super Bowl Party last year, and started dating soon after.  A few months later, Jamie asked Elizabeth to be his bride. Isn’t that awesome?!?

Fast forward to LAST weekend, when it was Elizabeth & Jamie’s turn to finally tie the knot! Father Pat drove all the way up from Elizabeth & Jamie’s church in Pawley’s Island to joined Father Fabio at St. Anne Catholic Church, where they joined these two lovebirds in holy matrimony. Elizabeth grew up at St. Anne’s, where her mom has worked for 30 years. It was a very special place for them to exchange their wedding vows!

Many thanks to Steve, my good friend and amazing photographer, for helping capture all the special moments of this wonderful celebration!

After the ceremony, a joyful reception followed at the Rock Hill Country Club. Delicious food, heart-felt toasts, and lively music kept the party rocking all night long! Alas, eventually the beautiful couple was given an enthusiastic send-off with cheers and farewells echoing into the night.

CONGRATULATIONS Elizabeth & Jamie! May God bless you as you embark on your new adventure together!!!

Ally & Matt’s Surprise Proposal at Magnolia Plantation

I woke up this morning before the alarm…butterflies in my stomach…excitement in my veins. It wasn’t for me. The anticipation of being a part of Matt’s Surprise Proposal to his beautiful girlfriend, Ally, had my adrenaline pumping before my feet hit the floor. It’s hard to believe that 9 years of dating had finally led these two soulmates to this perfect moment!

Matt and I have been secretly corresponding for weeks…planning out every detail of this AMAZING day! We selected a gorgeous avenue of oaks at the picturesque Magnolia Plantation & Gardens. Arriving early, I got all set up and settled into my hiding spot. A small group of tourists walked by and, hesitant at first, asked me why I was hiding in the bushes. After I explained my situation, the men wandered off slightly bemused, while the ladies burst into smiles and giggles, chattering among themselves as they strolled on: “isn’t that the sweetest thing you’ve ever heard of?!?”

Matt and Ally arrived right on cue! The first shot of them walking towards “the spot” cracks me up. You can see Matt’s brain is on high alert as he scans the brush to get a bead on my location. But more importantly, I LOVE ALLY’S REACTION when Matt dropped to his knee and asked her to be his wife!!! 🙂

After she said “Yes”, the three of us enjoyed a wonderful stroll around the plantation, stopping to photograph authentic Engagement Photos along the way. It was a beautiful morning with perfect fall temperatures and gorgeous southern light.  We had a BLAST!!!

CONGRATULATIONS Ally & Matt! You guys are a very special couple. I am truly honored to be forever linked to this beautiful day in your lives!!!

Summerville Cuties

Last night I had the pleasure of photographing portraits for my good friend, and amazing photographer, Frank!

We created a natureal portrait studio in his back yard with the beautiful woods as the backdrop and an elegant earth-tone chair for posing. I used the Nikon D5 with the Nikkor 70-200 f2.8 on a Manfrotto Carbon Fiber tripod. For lighting, one SB-5000 was fired through a 24″ Lastolite EZY Box on camera left, and a bare SB-5000 with 1/2 CTO gel on it was fired from behind the chair to camera right. Since it was such an overcast day, this gave a little character and warmth to mimic a setting sun. Both were triggered with the new Nikon AWL system using the WR-10 transmitter.

Thanks for a great evening, Frank!

Center for Birds of Prey

Last weekend I had the privilege of photographing a group of children involved in an immersive learning experience at the Center for Birds of Prey.

Thank you Kara for the wonderful opportunity to see the wonder and awe in these young people’s faces as they learned about these beautiful creatures!

And a special thank you to Audrey, Meghan, and Natalie for leading the wonderful program!