Friday, July 31, 2009

Backgrounds!

This has been planned for some time, and today I am excited to announce I'll be loading one full resolution file at the beginning of every month for you to use as your desktop background image!

The image for August is my top pick from the Estes Park Photowalk, and has actually been my desktop background since I shot it.

I'm loading it today because tomorrow is going to be a fairly busy day for me, and I likely won't have a bunch of time to blog.

 
 On each image I will include a small-ish calendar, so you can keep track of how the month looks simply by glancing at your desktop.
Credit where it is due: David duChemin of PixelatedImage has been doing this since before I was born for a while now and since I have personal problems with using a desktop image that I didn't take, I figured I would do the same. David even uploaded the many-layered PSD file that is the calendar such that anyone with photoshop and the desire could add a little calendar to their photos. David is one of my favorite photographers and he's definitely on the top of my morning blog-reading list.
The full size file (click to enlarge and download) is 2650x1700 pixels, so it should fit comfortably on pretty much every desktop.
Enjoy!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Makeover

Well hello there!

You may have noticed, it looks a little different around here. I did some direct comparisons between Wordpress and Blogger, and decided that it was in my best interest to leave everything here on Blogger and hope that Google directs its engineers to re-think a few things eventually.

I'll be adding a hit counter so I can keep track of how many people visit this blog... but other than that and the facelift I just did, everything should stay just about the same :-)

Thank you for reading!

Cell Phone

Oh I do love cell phone photography.
I've been avoiding my D300 recently, trying to take a bit of a vacation from hauling around big gear and just using my cell phone for the odd picture or two that I find needs taking.

I shot these over the last couple of days, pulled them into Photoshop, increased the image size, reduced the noise and added an artistic filter to cover the crappy-ness and make them feel a little more... artsy.

Here you are:

(3 minutes, 50 seconds)

click test

I imported all the posts from this blog over to Wordpress. In addition to failing to bring over the high-res versions of each photo (which Google keeps on a server somewhere with obscure links only Blogger knows), Wordpress also fails tragically at a very simple task: click-to-enlarge photos.

It takes me 11+ clicks to make an image click-to-enlarge the way that Blogger does with just 4 clicks. The whole reason I am considering switching is to make things easier on myself... but doubling my work-per-photo is not likely do that in any way!

To to see how it really compares to Wordpress I loaded the photo below on both blogs.

The enlarged version (click above) on Blogger is MUCH bigger than on Wordpress, and the in-post version is smaller, which I like.
On the other hand, in Wordpress the image is placed in its final destination on the post, rather than the top of the post, where I almost never want it.

I'm currently going back and forth on whether I really want to switch.
Check out the new Wordpress version of the blog here: http://vaultblog.wordpress.com/
and feel free to comment on either blog.

Should I switch?

Curiosity

I think the reason I enjoy photographing kids so much, other than their innocence and willingness to cooperate with the camera, is that they're always so curious.This little girl was wandering Pearl Street with her parents. I had parked myself in front of this fountain and little kids just flocked to it, to play with the water and see where it comes from (top of a 15' rock) and where it goes. Watching these kids placing their hands on the rock and playing with the water was a lot of fun, and it helps bring out the curiosity and little-kid in me :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

(Google) Blogger fail

I know just a little HTML coding.
In my recent post titled "Why Pay?" I used the [strike] tag to get a strikethrough on a few words for humor. Blogger, in its infinite wisdom, decided it would help me out and add a bunch MORE strike tags...
Effectively striking out entire paragraphs and requiring me to go into HTML editor and delete scores of unneeded strike tags.
Blogger also adds each picture I post to the top of the page. Very annoying as I usually write what I have to say, then add the pictures. Doing so, I am forced to drag each picture through all the text (usually not very much) to its rightful place.

Things like this (the little things) are why I would consider moving this blog to Wordpress (as David duChemin of Pixelated image suggested I do ages ago).

I figure, perhaps if I get the word out and complain a little, Blogger (and subsequently Google) would consider giving blogger a little makeover.

If they were to do this, I would ask for just a few features:
  1. The ability to edit posts full-screen, like in Wordpress
  2. Load photos where I place my cursor before loading, (like in Wordpress) instead of the top of the post
  3. Don't insert unneeded tags, after I've done the HTML correctly in the first place
  4. Give us an underline as well as the bold and italic buttons on the editing bar (like in Wordpress)
Addressing little things like that would make me MUCH more content with blogger and my blogging experience... especially because the major competitor already has them. I've already got so much invested in blogger (250+posts and photos) that it would be a real shame to switch over entirely...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Pay?


This is a topic that has been dominating my thoughts recently. Why on earth should anyone pay to get a professional portrait session? Digital cameras are cheaper than dirt. For the same $200 that buys you a family portrait from an experienced professional photographer, you can buy a point and show (P&S) camera and a tripod, set the camera on a timer, and take the pictures yourself! Not only that, but you get to keep the camera and take pictures in the future, instead of hiring a photographer again at graduation, or heck, even the wedding! This solution is WAY cheaper over time!

BUT...

One of my favorite sayings is "Everyone can buy a camera and take pictures. NOT everyone can take GREAT pictures (and take great pictures consistently)." This is pretty much all that professional photographers have going for them these days. We take pictures that are considerably better than what Joe Schmo comes out with on his P&S. Sure, our cameras are higher quality, but any REAL photographer, professional or not can take the same amazing picture with a disposable 35mm film camera as with the $5000 DSLR. The difference is that the $5000 DSLR makes it easier, faster, and more convenient for everyone involved. In the end, it isn't the camera that makes the picture, but the photographer who knows how to compose a great image and press the shutter at the right time.

What it really comes down to, is how much YOU (as the person in need of pictures) value quality. If you don't really care about how your pictures look and you just want to prove that you do in fact have a family, then grab the cheapest POS P&S you can find and take the picture yourself. IF, however, you value high quality pictures that not only prove that you have a family, but show how you interact together, and provide a glimpse into each person, then you need a photographer who knows how to make that happen. Yes, it is more expensive, but the quality (and thus value) of the pictures you get from the photographer is MUCH higher (on average) than those your take yourself .

To answer my own question, i suppose the only reason anyone should ever pay for a professional photographer is: to get great pictures.

1 reason? That's terrible.

Looking at the pros (getting great pictures) and the cons (scheduling issues, costs in time and money) I'm not convinced.

Let's think a little harder though. Sure, everyone wants great pictures... but WHY? So you can print them and display them in your home. So you can send them to grandma and grandpa. So you can send them out in your holiday letters... But that isn't it.
The real value in great photographs isn't how many pixels they have or how big you can print them, it is how they capture a moment in time, a memory, and save it forever.

Memories, I think, are some of the most valuable (and undervalued) things around. When I look at a picture from my childhood, I say "Wow! I was so fat cute!" But the important part comes after that, as I try to remember the moment the picture was taken, and the surrounding time period. A photograph can bring back powerful memories, and every time you look at the image, your memories come rushing back. I submit that the best reason to get a great photographer is so you can save memories. This makes the most sense with an event like a wedding. Duh, hire a photographer (or 2 or 3) to capture every moment of your wonderful day. Wedding photography (in my opinion) describes best the true value of images as memory-holders, as well as the true monetary value of photography; established wedding photographers make serious $$$. But something as simple as a family portrait isn't done nearly as often, and isn't valued nearly as highly by many. I'd suggest getting a professional family portrait once every year, or at most every 2 years... but the sad reality is that most people end up being photographed by a pro maybe 3 or 4 times in their life.

  1. Baby photos!
  2. High school senior photo
  3. Wedding
  4. A family portrait somewhere in there
In the clients that I deal with, a straight up photoshoot is a very rare experience. I think that explains why people are often so nervous and uncomfortable in front of a camera; they have no practice.
Just think what would happen if you were photographed once a year with your family. You would become increasingly comfortable in front of the lens, and (assuming you hired the same photographer) you would also become more and more used to the photographer. That would allow you to loosen up, have more fun and thus improve the general quality of your photos! You would probably stray from the usual "Stand here, face here, smile!" portrait and end up doing fun things with your photo shoots and creating memories and photographs at the same time.

So... again to the beginning: Why Pay?
  1. Save and create memories

  2. Get GREAT pictures to show off to family and friends

  3. Improve the quality of future photos

There are the Pros, lets look at the Cons
  • Costly in time and money (30 min - 1 hour, and around $200 depending on the photographer)
  • .....

Hmm. Looks to me like the Pros outweigh the Cons.

What do you think? Why should (or shouldn't) you hire a photographer?
Comments are welcome!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cute Cousin

Ok, so... technically Kelsey is my first cousin once removed... but cousin works fine for me.
I shot these at a family get together while she played with my dad. The two of them were as cute as can be :-)

(those are my dad's humongous blue Crocs adding such great color to the picture)

I'm spending some time relaxing and doing nothing while house-sitting for some friends. Expecting to get some more photo gigs in the near-ish future :-)

Also, voting ends Sunday at midnight for the Summer Shutterbug Contest over on Emily Murdock's blog (link). If you haven't gone over and voted yet, please do so!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jade




I did a photoshoot with the fantastic Jade Davies. She found herself in need of a senior portrait and I was oh-so-happy to oblige.

We got a couple really good shots:




She and I both LOVE black and white, but the one color photo in this series is too fantastic for me to pass up. One of the reasons I love it so much is that Jade wears glasses.... all the time. When she took them off, her eyes just sparkled. Photographing those eyes was a true privilege.
Jade is also (when she has a camera) a fantastic photographer. Some of her best work is her self-portraiture so I was honored that she let me photograph her (rather than doing it herself). Because I like her style so much, I decided to shoot (and process) a little outside of my usual realm of comfort to better match her style and vision. This explains the more-contrasty feel of these photos.

To come: I have no idea. I've given up predicting what i'll be posting here.

another random photo

This is from the photowalk in Estes Park.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Photo Contest!

Woohoo!

One of my photos was chosen as a finalist in the Summer Shutterbug contest over on Emily Murdock's blog

The winner will be chosen by votes, so please head over and vote for your favorite picture. (especially if mine is your favorite!)

http://emilymurdockphotography.wordpress.com/

Flower

Shot this yesterday in my mom's garden.

Done taking pictures and sitting in front of the computer for a bit. Time to go read something on paper.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

'78 Trans Am

First off, I stand corrected. 'Twas a 1978 (not 79) Trans Am.

*Drool*

It is truly an amazing car. Roni Gibson, the model of the evening, was fantastic.

Here are my top 4 picks from the evening. (They look even better em-biggened)




Notice, it has a custom bird.

I really should start doing setup shots... not that anyone who reads this blog cares about how I lit the car/model.

My car kit now includes 4 hotlights. 2 on stands, 2 that sit on the ground. Total of about 800 watts. + my SB600 strobe for the model.
I did my research between strobes and hotlights, and decided to go with hotlights simply because they are SO much cheaper, and because the car isn't going anywhere while I'm shooting it. The camera rests on a tripod, the model is told not to move, and I have room for long exposures. Most of these were between 1/60 and 1 second. Quite the range, but when we showed up and parked the car at 7:30 yesterday, I had a bunch of sunlight left, so at F8, and ISO 200, I still had plenty of room for 1/60 or 1/100. 2 hours later as we were finishing up shooting, I we had nearly no sunlight, so at F8 and ISO 200 i was about 1/3 or so.

I'll probably buy one more light for the kit, as well as another extension cord... That way I'll be able to spare lights for the little details.

Looking forward to getting more cars in front of the lens. Next up (hopefully) a 1967 Mustang that is still in fairly good condition!

TTFN!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Simplicity


Rather than torturing you, my faithful readers, by posting one or two images each day from the photowalk, I uploaded all of them to Flickr (using the AMAZINGly easy Flickr Uploader) so that you as well as everyone else who went on the photowalk can see them!

Here's the link!

(For the record, I am now a huge fan of using the Flickr destop uploader. It is a drag-and-drop super-easy-to-use application. If you use flickr, give it a try! You can even drag photos from applications like iPhoto!)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Photowalk : Estes Park, CO

I was able to take part in Scott Kelby's worldwide photo walk yesterday, at the walk in Estes Park.

It was quite enjoyable, watching 40-some other photographers wander around downtown taking pictures.

At first I didn't think I had anything worth looking at. It wasn't really my day. Upon further reflection (and going through the photos), I realize I have a couple decent shots.

Here are photos 1, 2 (we're only allowed to submit 2) and then my runner up:
1

2

Runner-up

Overall, I'm really glad I went!

To come: a shoot with Roni and a gold '79 Trans Am, as well as a few more shots from the photowalk.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bag Success!

For $12 at walmart, I got a huge piece of foam that happens to fit perfectly in the huge hard suitcase that I discovered in the basement! I was planning on glueing it in, but it stays just fine by being pushed real hard.
For another $12, I got a 100' extension cord to go with it.

Here's a look!
The case measures about 2.5' x 2.5'

Instead of spending $150+ on a pelican or other commercial case, I spent $24 on this setup (+ the gracious donation by my dad of a dust-covered suitcase that hadn't been used in years)! I love DIY solutions that come together nicely :-)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Something Useful...

I have a bag fetish.

Not like the man-purse sort of bag.

But the kind of bag that carries around my (large amounts of) photography gear.

I've been settled (very happily) into my LowePro CompuTrekker AW for the last year and I have absolutely NO intention of changing that.

What I do intend to change is how I transport my 2 tungsten floodlights and spotlight, and keep them safe from harm. The commercially-available solutions are expensive. I'm sure they're expensive for a reason, most likely that they will keep my lights safe from whatever I throw at them.... (Pelican cases being "indestructible") but I don't expect to put these lights into much of harm's way. I want to be able to pack them up, roll them to a location, unpack them and plug them in. I don't have any need to throw them off my roof into a truck and from the truck into a river 50' deep. My current thoughts are fixed on taking a piece of rolling luggage and filling it with foam of some kind. Hopefully I can get this done before my photoshoot this-coming Monday, at which time I will need to transport my lights as well as power them.

I figured out one of those issues today: power.
I have a battery charger for my En-EL3 batteries that go in my camera.
I have 2 chargers for my copious amounts of AA batteries that run my camera and/or flash
I will soon have a charger for my En-EL4 batteries.
I have a charger for my weirdo C123 batteries that I use in my N80 camera and that go in the wireless remote for my D300.
Lots of chargers and lots of things that require power.
Previously, they have been strewn about my room in a haphazard sort of way, plugged into wherever they will fit.

Now:I have my no-name hard-case with a total of 12 electrical outlets. I have room for another power strip if I need it. This way all my battery and power-related things live in the same place. This way, I turn on one switch, and everything charges at once. This way, I can close the lid while everything charges and the lights don't shine all over the place! AND, I now have up to 12 outlets for when I'm working on location and need to power some lights (as I lack big powerful strobes).

Tomorrow I'll be taking part in the World Wide Photo Walk. My particular walk will be through Downtown Estes Park. It has been a while since I've been up there, so I think I'll be having a lot of fun :-)

Cheerio!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Changing it up: soccer

I shot the Canada vs U.S. women's under-20 soccer game today. It was fun!

I'll post one (my favorite) picture here.
To see the rest you can check out the gallery here
USA won 2-1. I have a feeling I will be missing light like this (even harsh direct sunlight) when I am shooting soccer at NAU in the pitch black of night at 3200+ ISO on a 200mm lens that barely gets me 50' onto the field. I used my (cheap) 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom for the game. It did pretty well, although I still had to wait until the players were on my half of the field.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Whew!

Today was awesome!

Got lots done, including an amazing shoot with a gorgeous Nissan 350 Z and the ever-wonderful Roni Gibson, who models for me with some frequency these days.




Once again, they look great in color, but I LOVE black and white :-)
The car is black anyway and I'm working with ORANGE lights + my blue strobe (don't have gels yet!) so black and white seems to do the best job.

I also posted the gallery of 129 images from the Fashion Show (by J. Wakeen of Unique Styles) over on Facebook.
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=125246&id=684636755&l=6f2280b01e

I think that's all for now.... More later

[I keep saving up good images for a rainy day when I have nothing new to post, but I've had so much new stuff that my "to-blog" folder just keeps growing!]

Mountains

I had a request for some mountains, so here are my top 4 mountain shots.



(then in color)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Busy busy busy!

Man, this is great! The busier I get, the more I have to blog about, but the less time I have to actually post stuff! Fear not, for I am dedicated to you, my loyal readers.

I am currently burning CDs of my fashion shots from Friday night. I'll be meeting with my client tomorrow to hand over the CDs and go over what went well and what went... not so well.

I also did one of my FREE photoshoots today with someone who picked up my ad on Craigslist in June. I spent an hour today with Brett, who not only was casual and relaxed in front of the camera, but looks great too!



These are my top 3 picks. Although I prefer them in black and white, I'll be giving Brett color versions of them as well.

I'll be going over the fashion show paperwork tomorrow evening, then doing a car/model shoot at sunset. Hopefully I'll get around to posting some fun photos (either fashion or car-related) on Facebook and/or here by around midnight tomorrow.

Gear... (a rant)

A little more serious followup to my video the other day: this post is gear-centric and will likely make almost no sense to non-photographers.

I, of course, own a BUNCH more gear than that little Canon Powershot i showed in my parody video. In fact, I haven't used that little thing in years. It's 3.2 megapixels, and my phone is 2 megapixels. It records video without sound, my phone records sound and video. I carry my phone everywhere, so I'm not carrying anything extra. If I had something along the lines of a Nikon Coolpix, I would probably carry it around and not use the camera on my phone... but I don't, so my phone works just fine.

The problem with gear, is that there is always just one more *insert hugely expensive item* that we must buy. The thing is... we never really need it!

I followed a link from Twitter the other day that took me to a feature on Nikon's website called "My Camera Bag" where you select one of the new DSLRs (D60, D90, D5000), then select from Nikon's huge assortment of lenses depending on what you want to shoot. There are scores of options to choose from.

My primary job these days is photojournalism. I shoot sports, speakers and assorted concerts/events. With that in mind, I came up with MY dream camera bag:
  • 10.5mm Nikkor Fisheye f/2.8
  • 17-55mm Nikkor Zoom f/2.8
  • 70-200mm VR Nikkor Zoom f/2.8
  • 2x D300 Body w/ grip and En-El4 batteries
With those three lenses, I can easily cover 95% of everything I need to shoot.
For my second camera body (still DX, because I LOVE the crop factor) I'd take the
  • 200-400 Nikkor Zoom f/4
Nikon (intelligently) does NOT show the prices for these items, but I'll break it down for you.

D300's -- $1800 ea.
10.5mm -- $500
17-55mm -- $1300
70-200mm -- $2000

optional 200-400mm -- $6300

Even without the (drool-worthy) long glass, I'm still at $7,300

Could I be totally content with this setup? No way! I also want:
  • 50mm f/1.4 ($500)
  • 35mm f/1.8 ($200)
And then there are the camera bodies and lenses that Nikon hasn't even thought up yet!

Then, of course, you need CompactFlash cards to store your files on. I'd settle for 2x 4gb Lexar 300x professional cards... but those run $90/ea on a good day.

From your cards, you need to get your files onto your computer. If I was buying new now, I'd get the 13" macbook, 'cause it has better stats than my current macbookpro and costs only $1200

You're never safe with just 2gb of ram, so I'd have to push it to 4 or 6gb of ram. Then 2 external Hard Drives of at least 750gb/ea (one for on-site, one somewhere else in case the house burns down). Those run about $100/ea.

Then there's the fact that a single 13" monitor is nowhere near enough desktop real estate, so I'd have to get at least 1 more monitor, 22" or larger. ($200)

Photography is insanely expensive!

The funny thing is, I can shoot without nearly all of the above gear.
I already have:
  • D300 body
  • the ancient 80-200mm f/2.8 push/pull zoom
  • a 50mm f/1.8
  • my E series (manual focus) 28mm f/2.8.
When I grab my PJ belt, that is what I grab.
I shoot to 2x 4gb SanDisk cards that run $35 if you look in the right places. They take FOREVER to load to my Hard Drive, but i've usually got nothing better to do but wait anyway. I catch up on Twitter and Facebook while they load.
My Macbookpro was expensive, but I got it as a gift and it was purchased refurbished. It wants another 2gb of ram, but that's fairly cheap these days.

If someone walked up to me and handed me $8,000...
I would get the 17-55, a second D300 body and the 70-200.
I'd be out $5,200

If nobody handed me any money....
The 17-55 is probably still my next purchase as I don't have wide, fast, autofocus glass.
It would be nice to keep that 17-55 on a second camera body... but I've gotten fast enough switching lenses on the fly that I won't miss a whole bunch. Those few shots that are possible while I'm switching lenses are not worth $1800 of my hard-earned $$$.

There you are. My thoughts on gear. It's great. I love talking about it, I'd love to buy a lot if I had unlimited funds. But I only have so much money... so I make do with the gear that I have, and that's what makes photography so much fun: the challenge of making do with what you have.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Last set of car shots

Well, 2 days ago I promised I'd load the best of my camera-phone car shots.
I got sidetracked doing yesterdays parody poking fun at Chase Jarvis, so the car shots were postponed to today.

Here ye are!




And to finish it off, an empty fountain and a black cat, both also taken during my jaunt around Heatherwood.


To come: Shots from my (ridiculous) fashion shoot.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Poking fun at Chase Jarvis

This morning Chase Jarvis posted a video detailing what he carries "way out on location" in a "paired down" set of gear. Of course, this includes gear worth more than the average photog even owns (like both a D3x and a D3 body +lighting gear). So i put together this spoof/parody.

Enjoy!

video

Recorded with my BlackBerry Curve in my garage.

Thursday, July 9, 2009