Jewelry Photography and a Hot Rock

Stack focusing of jewelry photography results in sharper images throughout

It seems that lately I’ve written a fair amount about how much I like jewelry photography. It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite photographic subjects. The detail in the metals, the exquisite gem stones, the unadulterated beauty of fine jewelry…these appeal to me as sculptural art in miniature.

At some point in human pre-history, a sharp observer noticed that some stones used in making a fire pit actually melted, and that what was left after cooling could be bent or pounded into other shapes. Probably the first uses were in the making of weapons, but I imagine that soon after weapons, came ornaments. Brass, bronze, gold and silver armbands, rings, earrings, headpieces and buttons go back to ancient times.

Probably even before that occurred, other humans had found certain stones in streams that were in fact, very pretty when polished.

Perhaps it was the artisans who made arrow heads, spear heads and flint knives by chipping at them until sharp who found that some stones did not chip in ways useful for weapons. Instead, these chipped off in ways that revealed beautiful reflections, refractions and colors.

Inevitably someone – perhaps one of the craftsmen making weapons, perhaps a chieftain seeking something special to emphasize his importance or impress someone important to him – thought to combine the metal with the pretty stone, and jewelry was born.

Today, we have the culmination of thousands of years experience blending metal and stone into beautiful fine jewelry. I have found a certain reverence for the earliest attempts at this craft that informs my love for photographing today’s efforts.

Jeff Behm Photography is a Frederick, MD. based commercial and advertising photographic service, traveling nationwide in pursuit of client’s needs. We specialize in product photography, especially jewelry and food, plus corporate headshots and executive portraiture. To reach Jeff, please call 724-730-8513 or email

Silver pendant with colored stones
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Military Officers Association of America and Robert Priest

Robert Priest, Mind Scriptor

A few months ago, I got a call from a publication of which I’d been unaware until that moment, MOAA, which stands for Military Officers Association of America. Its purpose is to provide retired military officers with information and many of the skills necessary to manage their retirement in good order.

MOAA’s magazine was requesting that I photograph one of their members in a way that might demonstrate how he was using his talents in his second career.

“Love to. What career is that?” I asked.

“He’s a mind reader,” they replied.

“Uhmmm, sure.” Meanwhile, I’m suffering a total brain cramp.

Regardless, I said yes, we negotiated a fee, they provided me with the requirements to meet the needs of the page layout and put me in touch with Robert Priest, the mind reader.

Speaking of “reading” you can read his take on his profession and his self determined job title in the photo, but even he agrees that “mind reader” is the quickest way to make the point.

One of the magazine’s suggestions was a theatrical stage setting. Not having a stage myself, nor access to one without additional rental fees beyond the budget, I determined to create a stage-like set in my rental space, with a 20 foot wide black muslin stretched between multiple background stands. It provided the common look of many a stage with black curtains and gave Robert some space in which to act out his routine while I photographed from a tripod using a wide lens. That way I could create as much width as they might need to lay down copy, with him on the left. It was not determined at that time whether the photo would be a one page or two page spread, so I had to provide the width, from which they could crop as needed.

Robert Priest is a pleasant and charming guy, and was most cooperative with the many different movements and refinements I requested of him as we worked our way through his routine, seeking the image that, to him, best represented his persona. We had immediately dismissed the hackneyed “fingers to the temple, eyes closed, as if contemplating the beyond”. In fact, we never took one photograph like that, because we both felt it was just as hackneyed as the phrase describes, and in no way was it what he wanted to present.

The attached tear sheet was sent to me by Robert with his thanks, a much appreciated gesture. And my additional thanks to Robert and MOAA for the opportunity.

A few of the other frames from the many we created for Robert.

At Jeff Behm Photography, we consider ourselves to be image consultants and troubleshooters. How do you present yourself to your market? Call us at Jeff Behm Photography, 724-730-8513 or email

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Project Management and Photography

There have been many interesting assignments arising out of my work in commercial and advertising photography. 

During my 35 years at this, big projects have been part and parcel of what I seek.  That includes having built 6 foot wide by 20 feet long running water streams in my studio, constructing and painting sets,  receiving and sorting hundreds of ice cream cones in search of the perfect cone for each of a half dozen types for packaging for Joy Cones; check your grocer’s shelves. Plus, there are so many more!

  • Military contractors/manufacturers 
  • Medical implement manufacturers
  • Advanced scientific experiments designed to rid the US of VX nerve gas 
  • Intimate looks at how railroad cars are built 
  • Sailboats for Snark, the world’s largest maker of sailboats, for use in the Sears catalog
  • Ice cream cones
  • Restaurant chains
  • Beauty shots and documentary photography of the creation of the Galveston Island Trolleys (a 6 month project)
Our subjects include medical equipment, food, trolleys and so much more

Among the most interesting has been a recent four day photography session that took place earlier in 2019 for Rooster Bio, a world leader in products for growth of Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells and Extracellular Vesicles for the regenerative medicine field.

The Rooster Bio project was a complex assignment.  Before we could begin photography, it required several meetings over a period of weeks in order to plan and schedule everything necessary for a successful completion of the project.  

Founder, Jon Rowley, PhD.
Jon Rowley with Alan Key quote
Margot Connor
CEO Margot Connor in office

With the guidance of the RBI marketing team including, Bryce Goodman, Tom Curtis, and Sandy Applebee we essentially storyboarded every aspect of more than a half dozen facets to the project, which ranged from executive portraits to headshots in a number of different milieus, to facilities photos, lab technology, products, procedures, researchers, executive and administrative team interactions to rotating turntable photography with as many as 45 fames each in order to create 360 degree GIFs.  Once we had a framework for the project, we were able to see that it would require 4 days of photography and a team of 4 to 5 in order to accomplish everything, plus a makeup artist for 2.5 days.  Many thanks to the team of Sam, Jessica, Chrissy and Sarah, plus hair and makeup, Julia.

“Jeff paid careful attention to planning and to his work to ensure the success of our project.  He is particularly adept in the use of specialized lighting techniques.  We enjoyed working with the team at Jeff Behm Photography.”

-Tom Curtis, Director of Marketing

Margot and Jon brainstorming
Jon Rowley presentation
A presentation in the Commons and meeting space
The Rooster Bio meeting space
Overview of the Rooster Bio Common Area and meeting space

It’s projects like these that lead me to think of what we do at Jeff Behm Photography as ‘corporate imaging problem solving’.   I love it!

Does your firm have a project requiring top quality images?  Call Jeff Behm Photography at 724-730-8513 or email

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Combat Photography, Gettysburg to Afghanistan

Yesterday, Sunday Aug 11, I missed photographing the flowers at my daughter’s farm market booth, which I almost never miss.  Why did I? Because this event was taking place in Gettysburg. As a professional photographer and a student of American history, I can’t express how much I appreciated it.  War Photography has evolved radically since the Civil War, as has warfare.

War Photography at the time of the Civil War

First up on the battlefield was Dave Wilson, of Victorian Photography Studio in Gettysburg.  Dave’s original period view camera and portable darkroom were extremely interesting to me, having started my career with a 4×5 view camera, film and a darkroom.  But what I did in 1985 was about as far from what photography was like in the 1860’s as digital photography is now from when I started.  Dave showed and explained his period appropriate tintype photos, then discussed the advances up to glass plate negatives.    Below is Dave’s portable tintype darkroom.

The portable darkroom was usually an enclosed wagon.

Then Louie Palu took over to discuss what he has experienced as a combat photographer in Afghanistan, Mexico, Guantanamo and many other locales.

Below, I’ll attach a few images from Dave and Louie’s presentation.  If you wish to see more of his work, there is an outdoor art installation of huge images in the woods behind the Visitor’s Center at Gettysburg National Battlefield.

The Kevlar vest: bare minimum for safety

That 16+ pound flak jacket

Louie and the 16 pound+ flak jacket that is essential gear for combat photographers and soldiers.  Hopefully the “Press” is helpful to safe travels, but it’s not a sure thing.

Below, we see a demonstration of the tourniquet Louie carries (two of them) plus the additional medical supplies in the small kit on Chloe’s stomach.  This is a much smaller kit than actually carried in the field, attached to the Kevlar vest.  All in all, with camera gear, medical kit, backpack and water plus helmet, it’s not unusual to have 80-100 pounds of gear on one’s person in the field, in 100-120 degree temperatures.

Tourniquets are two per person, due to landmines and multiple limb injuries

In the foreground (above) are a video camera and the white “gun”.  As you can see, it would be impossible to tell which was which, especially since the guns are never white like this one (which was selected in order to not be alarming to other visitors to the Park).

(BTW, in training for medical use in the field, you have to learn to apply your own tourniquet with one hand.  Think about why.)

IEDs may not be bright yellow, but are often seemingly harmless for a reason

A few samples of potential IED (improvised explosive device) type containers, meant to lull soldiers into making mistakes.

Landmine warning

In war torn parts of the world, especially developing nations, its necessary to warn people away from land mines, often without the sophisticated signage put up by western armies.  The indigenous population uses such simple tools as rocks to surround known mines.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t others undiscovered nearby, however.

Is that a shooter or a photographer?

The dilemma created by aiming a camera in a combat zone: To a soldier, usually much further away than this, the question becomes “Is that a camera or a gun?” Can you tell?  This happens to be a “gun” (with orange tape on it to prevent frightening park visitors) as well as making it visible enough to lull a soldier into a fatal oversight.  Combat photographers must be aware of the dangers of pointing a camera at a soldier who may shoot first and ask questions later.

A mile walk in Hell

And, as I leave the presentation, looking back over my shoulder, I see Dave Wilson, still talking with visitors.  He’s standing on the ridge that is  the “high water mark” of the Confederacy, where on July 3rd Pickett’s Charge came closest to breaking the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge, which might well have resulted in a defeat sufficient to divide the United States into two nations.

On the far right side of this photo is the 28 foot tall statue of Robert E Lee.  The deceptive distance between that stature and where I stand to take the photo is 1 mile.  The attackers walked that entire mile under a constant barrage of canon fire, until they drew close enough for Union rifle fire to be effective; plus of course, canister (think huge shotgun shell, fired from canons).  Of the roughly 12,500 Rebel soldiers taking part, 5100 were killed or wounded and 3700 were captured.   That took place in about 45 minutes to an hour.  Do the math.

Commercial and advertising photographer, Jeff Behm, is also an enthusiastic student of American history, and can frequently be found at historic landmarks and parks throughout the United States.  See “” for an account of his visit on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Call Jeff at 724-730-8513 (cell) or email to discuss your advertising or corporate event coverage.  Be sure to visit to review his portfolio.

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Yep, I’m admitting it…

Soooo….as some of you may have noticed, I am totally enamored of Sony DSLR cameras, but I don’t mean the A7 series and their E mount lens system.

I’ve become a total fanboy of the A mount a850 and a99, both of which I have and use.   I might, one day, also become a fan of the a99II.

Both of my Sonys use Sony branded lenses (no surprise there), Sony-Zeiss lenses and – oh happy day – Minolta AF mounts from the Maxxum cameras.  I have to say, with the exception of some lens coating improvements, the Minolta glass is essentially the same design as the Sony brand lenses.  But – and it’s a big but – Minolta’s go for pennies on the dollar.  Cuz they’re old.  So they can’t be good, right?  Wrong!

There, the big secret re: A mount Sony bodies is out – and may be the reason Sony is now pushing E mount bodies.  They can sell more lenses!   Because with all the great Minolta glass that’s out there, I’ve been sucking up whatever I need.  In fact, I sold a highly prized Sony-Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 because the Minolta 24-105 I also own, cost 1/8 as much, performed every bit as well or better, and weighs about 1/10 as much.  It is slower, however, having a variable  max aperture of f3.5-4.5.  But since nearly all my Sony shooting is in-studio with studio strobes for product work and usually at f6.3 to f11, I’m not often impacted by the slower lens.  

Anyway, I told you that so I could tell you this.  After the Minoltas, the only Sony lens I have now is the incredible 70-400 f4-5.6.  And I mean INCREDIBLE!  It’s sharp, it’s fast focusing, it has enormous zoom range and performs marvelously.  In one of the rare instances in which I took a Sony out of the studio…cuz, let’s face it… where are you going to need 400mm inside?  I took the a99 and the 70-400 to my brother’s farm on 4th of July, just to play a little.  It’s new and I had done nothing with it, and NEEDED to.

As it turns out, I shot nothing of much interest to you all.  I took some photos of family and friends while we were talking and hanging out on the 4th of July at the farm.

The only thing I got that I even remotely like is a photograph of a sparrow, wa-a-ay across the pond from where I sat in the boathouse.  As you can see, he was beyond even the reach of 400mm!

Sony DSLR Love

But then, LOOK AT THE CROP!  Given that I focused on the fence post, so not exactly on yon sparrow…and that the shot was handheld…and that the cropped portion is a tiny part of the frame, not bad.  Look at it! How great is that?  I want more use out of it now!

No…this isn’t winning any prizes, and I’m not going into wildlife photography now.  This isn’t anything Grayson Smith would publish.  Heck, maybe I’m taking a chance of turning off an advertising prospect by even showing it, I don’t know.  It shouldn’t, but people are funny and stranger things have happened.  Mainly I just love what the gear is capable of doing, even in less than ideal conditions.  Makes some parts of my job easier, for sure.  And I love, love, love, photography – any way I slice it.

If you wish to read up on the Sony 70-400, see Kurt Munger’s review, here.

[Edit: 7-29-19]  Another reason I love Sony’s a850 and a99 so much is the tremendous advantages of In Body Image Stabilization.  Whether I’m using Sony’s lenses or Minolta’s (they’re really about 95% the same) I know that camera shake is reduced to manageable levels, even when hand holding at incredibly slow shutter speeds.  For example, the image below was made at 1/40 second, f4.5 with the 105mm extension of the 24-105 Minolta.  Technically, I should be taking this at least at 1/125th of a second to reduce camera shake, but the IBIS system has provided 2.5 extra stops of stability in this sample, which is shown full frame, then with a 200% crop of that same image.

Jeff Behm Photography.  Local to Frederick, MD and serving the eastern US since 1984.  Call 724-730-8513 or email for a free consultation.  Let’s see what we can do for you.

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