Sunday, August 30, 2009

Corvette Caravan

Yesterday I got suckered into shooting a speaker by my boss who just didn't want to shoot it. As it turns out, the speaker was mildly interesting (as speakers go), discussing what civilians should do in the event of a terrorist attack on [insert your city]. In addition to a decent presentation, I got FOOD!

(shot on my phone so I could text it to my editor and tell him what he was missing)

I was told to show up at 1pm and that the festivities would start shortly thereafter. I showed up at 1 on the nose and the whole group of 150 people was munching on lunch. I lurked in a corner in the back with some coffee until one of the leaders of the group found me, sat me in his seat, and demanded I eat some lunch. The cheesecake was particularly good :-) If every speaker I shot was like this, I wouldn't need to get paid!

After I got the frames I wanted, I snuck out the back (again with coffee, I'm getting addicted) and as I was leaving the hotel lobby I saw a 2006 Corvette in a gorgeous orange parked in the loading/unloading area.
I'm going to be honest, I'm not a huge fan of corvettes. They produced way too many icky bodies in the 80's and 90's to be really high on my list of awesome cars. With that said though, I love the corvettes from 2005 on. LOVE them! As I walked to admire the car, its owner came out and notified me that approximate 250 MORE corvettes would be joining him in about 2 hours! If I had made any plans for that afternoon, I would have cancelled them. As it was, I didn't have any plans, so I drove home, edited the shoot I had just done, formatted my card and went back out to the hotel.

Here's a crappy camera-phone shot of corvettes as far as the eye could see. As soon as we hit the back parking lot (where the parking spaces were wider), it was nothing but corvettes from every era. Most of them were '98 and newer, but there were a few older models as well.

Of all the ones I saw (and I did my best to see all of them), I only found 2 that were supercharged. The car above had absolutely monstrous rear tires. I have never ever seen tires that big on a sports car, easily 18" wide (though I didn't measure them).The hardest part about shooting all these cars was getting an angle that didn't include a bunch of noise in the background, and that excluded all the other cars. There was no uniformity in the way they were parked, so a pattern was out of the question. Most of the cars had their owners shining, cleaning and polishing them (which it appears they do every time they park). It felt great to see people who really care about their vehicles, but they did get in the way a bit. Now that I think of it, it probably would have been cool to get a few shots of the owner/car combo... but it didn't occur to me at the time and most of the gentlemen (and they were mostly older men) were too absorbed in their cleaning rituals to pose for pictures.

Overall, saving my editor's butt turned out to be a huge win :-D

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Black Rapid strap review

(all photos copyright Black Rapid Inc)

So, if you haven't been paying attention or have just joined the audience, Black Rapid held a contest recently where it asked users to make their own awesome straps. They promised the winner a brand new RS-5 strap. There were only a few entries into the contest so they decided that everybody was getting a strap. They gave me a "nod of the head" due to my innovative (and slightly ridiculous) storage/pocket system, and sent me the RS-5 (whereas I believe the rest of the participants received the RS-4).

I received my strap yesterday just in time to put it on and run out the door for a shoot of NAU's Women's Soccer team. Overall, I like it, but I'm going to discuss some of the pieces in detail below.

1) The magnets. I applaud Black Rapid for this. Shooting photojournalism, the goal is usually to be as quiet as possible. Rather than ripping Velcro all over the place (my cheap-o solution on my DIY strap), I simply pull on a part of the strap to get to whatever I need. The magnets are totally silent and strong enough to hold the pockets closed.

2) The pockets. There are a total of 3 pockets on the RS-5. The one on the exterior is clearly designed for a cell phone. My cell phone lives in a holster on my hip along with my knife, lenses and notepad, so I keep extra En-EL3 batteries in this pocket. If I had the En-EL4's, I'd keep one there as well.
The other two pockets are inside the strap. One runs the length of the strap and one is shorter due to the space needed for the cell phone pocket. They are kept hidden via the magnets mentioned above. One is mesh and clearly designed for memory cards. I carry 2 spare 4gb cards in the mesh pocket along with the R-Fastener that came with the strap. Because I use a monopod with some frequency these days, I keep my quick-release head on the camera and hook the strap to that. It works just as well as the R-Fastener, though it doesn't look nearly as pretty. The larger internal pocket is big enough to hold batteries, more memories cards, business cards and lens cloths. With nothing else in it, it is big enough to hold a granola bar. The zippers on these pockets are also fairly quiet when used quietly... O_o
3) Hardware. The end of the strap has a mini locking carabiner (side note: Blogger's spellchecker doesn't know how to spell carabiner). I find the locking part fairly superfluous; it gets in the way from quickly attaching and detaching the camera from the strap. Assuming the biner is unlocked, it is a very effective and easy system. It is small enough to attach to the ring on the bottom of a quick-release plate for a tripod/monopod head but it still feels beefy enough I'm not worried about my rig (regardless of size) falling off. The R-Fastener would be useful if I didn't have my quick-release plate and is definitely small enough to stay out of the way when shooting on the vertical grip (as I usually do).

My only real issue with the strap is:
The makeup of the part of the strap that rests on my shoulder. On the DIY strap I mailed Black Rapid today, the inside of the strap is a fairly sticky rubber that just doesn't move. This strap, especially when loaded with batteries and memory cards, has a tendency to sliiiiiiiiiide around on my shoulder. Granted, the reason the strap is made with the material it has is to make it "breathable." I'd much rather the strap stay put on my shoulder, but that might just be me.
It stays put fairly well when it has a camera w/ some weight attached to it... but when I take my camera off the strap and stick it on the monopod, I end up with the pocketed part of the strap hanging at my waist instead of staying put on my shoulder.

Other than that, the only thing I would add to this strap is a convenient place on the front to keep a pen or two. Overall, I like it and I will definitely be using it for the foreseeable future. It certainly feels more solidly constructed than the DIY strap I used for the past month!

Check out Black Rapid at

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Linkage...

It has been a while.

Now that I am back working for The Lumberjack (NAU's weekly student newspaper), I am going to resume my Thursday link post where I point you to photos I have had published.

The website is under new (less experienced) management, and is thus having some issues... but here are the 2 shots I'm getting paid for [LINK] and [LINK]

and the 2 shots I'm not getting paid for apparently didn't make it to the website... but my editor chose them from a set I submitted of images I shot over the summer and they printed in black and white in the physical paper.

I learned today that Black Rapid has shipped the RS-5 strap I won by participating in their online contest, so I'll be sure to write a bit of a review about it when I get it!

Shooting girls soccer in the evening tomorrow... It should be a great opportunity to give my monopod a workout.

(photo copyright David duChemin)
Also, I purchased David duChemin's new e-book today and gave it a quick once over. As usual, he has a lot to say and it is (unlike some photo books) very much worth reading (as opposed to looking at for just the pretty pictures). The image links to his blog post where you can see why he wrote it and get the link to LuLu to buy it. The quick once-over I gave it was nowhere near enough, so like his other book Within the Frame, I'm going to read it a few times.

That's what I got for now!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hard Drive update

Whew. I came home today to find that my drives had finished fighting and that my new 500gb WesternDigital hard drive has everything stored on it just like it should. The computer recognized it as a bootable disk, booted from it and has been running like a charm since. My only issue was Aperture (I'm still running the original) realized that although I changed the name on the new HDD to be the same as the old, it was a new drive. Thus, it didn't know where to look for my files. Luckily for me I only had room for 2 months of photos on my old drive, so going through and "managing referenced files" was fairly quick.

My current workflow is in need of a desperate overhaul. I'm taking a class this semester called "Into to digital imaging workflow" so I will likely learn oodles about that and then refine my process along the way. I expect to start shooting in RAW on occasion (I know, I still shoot JPG because I'm a caveman or whatever). We shall see.

Upgrades coming my way include Aperture2, Snow Leopard, and iPod Touch OS3.0.
It looks like I'm done upgrading hardware for now, with my new 500gb internal drive and a 500gb external to mirror it (via Time Machine). I also received my 4gb Lexar Media CompactFlash card today... so it is time to get out and get shooting.

That's all for now!

Hard drives and headphones....

I suppose i'll start with the bad news... I spent yesterday evening taking apart my MacBook Pro, carefully prying out the internal HDD (with a capacity of 120gb) and installing my new internal HDD (capacity 500gb). That all went fairly well. Took me about 40 minutes start to finish (LOTS of little screws!)

My plan was to pop in an OSX Leopard recovery disc (not mine), reload the operating system, and then use a Time Machine backup to restore the information and settings from my old drive.

Plan Fail.

Turns out the Recovery Disc I have refuses to install OSX onto my system. Reading through some forums, I learned that you have to have the correct recovery disc, not just any old OSX disc you find lying around. My girlfriend has restored her machine several times with this same disc, but I don't get to.

Revised plan: use the Disk Utility to restore my old HDD (hooked to my computer via a USB2.0-->SATA cable) to the new one. I'm not optimistic... but I'm going to give it all day to try just in case it actually works. There does appear to be some progress... but the time Estimated Time fluctuates between 3 and 6 hours, so I'm not really sure how much progress is being made at any given time.

The good news: I found myself in need of a pair of decent-sounding, comfortable (lightweight) and isolating headphones. I own some decent Sony earbuds, but for use at home I wanted something a bit more comfortable and with better sound. After some research, I came down to 3 possibilities.
1) Skullcandy Hesh. I was really hoping these would sound as good as the look... but I was sorely disappointed. The isolation was terrible despite the extremely tight fit, so not only were they uncomfortable to wear for more than an hour, but they didn't isolate me from the outside world (dogs, people, birds, etc). The sound quality wasn't terrible... but because I could still hear everything going on around me and they sucked to wear, I returned them for a full refund of $54.21
2) Bose. The price tag on these is insane. Even on sale at Target they run $125+tax. Granted, they are on display so prospective buyers can "try it before you buy it." Unfortunately, you don't get to try them with your own audio source. Instead you listen to the (creepy) Bose demo with its jazz music and (attractive-sounding) female announcing everything the headset does well.
3) Sennheiser HD201. I've never owned a pair of Sennheisers before... but the reviews at places like and (two very different sites) lead me to believe these were a great place to start. They are great. I paid all of $26 for them brand new from I also got a $5 credit toward music off amazon's vast MP3 selection. They have a great big 10' cord (perfect for my room, terrible for the outside world), they're really lightweight and exert only enough pressure to keep me sealed off from the world around me. The sound is fantastic and in a totally different class from the Skullcandy cans I tried. I haven't yet hooked them up to my external headphone amp, but I'm sure that when I do I'll be even more impressed.

Assuming these headphones can handle all I throw at them, which isn't much because they'll be living in my room full time, I will have them around for quite some time to come. 

At the moment, my computer is back at the 3 hour mark until all 103.2gb is transferred from the old HDD to the new... I suppose I'll go have breakfast, go to class, and maybe do a little homework. Hopefully by the end of the day I'll have a functioning machine.
If you've got Twitter, or are just curious about what all the fuss is about, follow me: @mattbeaty. I'll be tweeting (the correct verb, as opposed to twittering or twitting) about my headphones, computer issues, and all sorts of things all day, whenever I have access to the Internet.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More free pictures!

Motivated by Zack Arias' post [link], I am going to put out my offer for free portrait sessions again.

This time instead of 5 I'm giving away up to 3 portrait sessions + CDs, to people local in Flagstaff, AZ.

Here's the post I stuck on Craigslist:

Hey there.

During the month of September, I will be giving away up to 3 professional portrait sessions, and a CD of the resulting high-res images.
That's right, absolutely free. No strings attached. You get your pictures, and you can do whatever you want with them.

"What's the catch? There's no such thing as a free lunch...."
You need to write me an email, telling me why YOU deserve a free portrait session. Tell me about your family, about what you do for a living, about how much you love photography, whatever. Convince me to give you one of these sessions however you think will work.
To let you know this isn't a scam and I really do intend on giving these sessions away, I will reply to your email letting you know I have received your plea. At the end of September I will send emails to the winners notifying them, and we will negotiate doing our photoshoot sometime in early October.

"Why are you doing this?"
Because I can and I want to help people out. I've been shooting for 5 years, running a business for 4. The economy sucks and nobody wants to pay through the nose for pictures. My goal is to help people however I can. Right now, my photography skills and my time are pretty much all I have to offer, so that's what I offer. You can use your pictures for your business cards, on a business website, on a networking site like Facebook... However you please. This is my little way of making the world better, just the tiniest bit.

Send me an email telling me why you deserve a free portrait session. You've got nothing to lose except the time it takes you to write the email.

"Where can I see examples of your photography?"
Thanks for asking! You can see my work at I believe in choosing a photographer based on their particular style, so if you like how I take pictures, drop me a line!

We'll see if I get any bites....
Here's a totally random picture for you.
Taken on the lake in Indiana on a particularly foggy morning.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Background stuff

While I was in Indiana on vacation, I found that nearly all of the non-action stuff I was shooting was geared towards desktop backgrounds. I would look at something and think "Hey, that'd look great as my desktop." The theme for all these shots boils down to simplicity. There isn't very much going on in any of these pictures, which is why I think they'd work well as desktops.
Here are a few examples (none of them are the upcoming September desktop though, I don't want to ruin the surprise).

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who needs 12MP?

First, some sad news. My shoot with the Ferrari got killed by the weather. Me, my model and a buddy who wanted to see a Ferrari in person assistant showed up on location on schedule 30 min before the shoot was to start. The weather looked ominous, but hoping that it would pass over us, I decided to run my extension cords, hook up my power (a 1000 Watt power inverter on my car) and set up all my light stands, keeping the lights in their case until I was sure the weather wouldn't turn nasty. Naturally, 5 minutes after getting everything set up, it started to sprinkle and then rain, and eventually pour. My assistant and I got everything taken down and safely in the warm and dry car, but it was clear that the shoot wasn't going to happen. We ended up meeting with the guy and seeing his Ferrari 360 Spider, and BMW M5. Amazing cars. Apparently he and his business partners have plans to move everything from Parker, CO down to Scottsdale, AZ, so I may yet get a chance to photograph these cars.

Here's another set of shots from my 2 megapixel camera phone. As always these get more photoshop treatment than the majority of my photos.
My process for camera phone images:
1) Select the pictures that don't totally suck
2) Pull the non-sucky pictures straight into PS
3) Double the resolution (From native 72dpi to 150)
4) Run the Noise reduction filter at least once.
5) Play around in the filter gallery until I find something that doesn't hurt to look at
6) Play with curves, levels, saturation until the image looks passable
7) (optional) Run the Noise reduction filter again
8) Crop as needed
9) Post to blog

That's how it goes.

I am now back in Flagstaff, AZ for school. I'll be back at NAU starting Monday where I shoot sports for the university, am a photo editor for the school newspaper, and am double majoring in Marketing and Photography.

That's all for now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Contest win!

Woohoo! I submitted this photo to Lexar Media's Summer Photo Contest and it won!

They're shipping me a 4gb 300x pro CF card for free!
This is perfect timing, as I'll be shooting nothing but sports for the next 8 months, so it should be great.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Action shots

Whew! This is an image-rich blog post.

In no particular order, below are some of the decent action shots that I got from the various water-sports during my vacation.

First off: My dad slaloming on a perfectly calm lake. Check out his reflection in the water!

Next up, some wakeboarding!

My buddy Sean showing me how it's done.
Sean could land some epic jumps, but his dismount at the end of a run was always a spectacular jump and biff, thus he is not holding onto the rope.The epitome of cool.

I can't take credit for these 3 shots (which Sean shot with my rig), but you didn't think I'd go and NOT get on the wakeboard, did you? My epic biff was not directly after this jump (which I landed wonderfully: shot 2), but a couple jumps later.
My epic biff! This fall actually tore out the ball in my captive earring, so I had to buy another earring when I got back home.
We then took turns riding the WaveRunner. I shot from the same boat that we were wakeboarding/waterskiing behind, while the waverunner had fun in our wake.

I really like this silhouette sort of shot.

Sean *ahem* Mark getting it all the way out of the water, although not for very long.

That's that!

Off to pack my stuff for college (yay!) and double check my gear for a couple shoots this afternoon/evening.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging...


Just got back from an awesome family vacation in La Grange, IN.
We have some property on a lake (Oliver Lake, if you're interested) and so we go out there for a week every summer and play in the water and relax.

I shot this on my camera phone whilst sitting and enjoying the view:

And then I took some real pictures with my big camera.

The above shot is actually a pano of 4 images stitched together. At full resolution it stretches some 135" wide, though the lens flare I got is stopping me from printing it...

This is edited a bit in Aperture, just to push the colors where I wanted them to be and get the extreme crop.

This is one of my favorites from the trip... and I can't quite figure out why...

I got a bunch of photos that I'm looking at for use as desktop backgrounds for next month. Also am working on a few shots from my phone that need some post-processing. I'll also post some of the action shots from Indiana (boating/wakeboarding/skiing), as well as some shots from the Ferrari 360 Spider that I'm shooting tomorrow evening.

Lots of fun stuff coming up, so stay tuned (or stick me in your RSS reader by clicking the "subscribe" link at the bottom of the page)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Impending blog lite

The other decent pano that I did a while back. Totally unrelated to today's topic.

I'm going on vacation for the next week or so, so it will likely become blog lite around here.
Fear not though, your patience will be rewarded when I come back and have oodles of great photos to post from Oliver lake in Northern Indiana.

Have a great week!

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Macro photography has never really been my thing. Sure, its cool to get a close up look at something that you don't see too often... i guess, but its usually not my favorite way to shoot.

The other day, I discovered this little bugger hanging out on my window. He had managed to weave his web into the hole in the background, so whenever I opened the window (though it destroyed his web) he could safely retreat inside the hole.
I tried a whole bunch of things before I realized the easiest way to get him would be with a flash.
I grabbed my decrepit Tamron 70-300mm, flipped the focus mode to macro and got as close as I could to him at 300mm. I tried a few flash angles, but the one that worked best was nearly head-on, with the flash sitting on my windowsill :

You can see how tiny the spider really is in this shot... almost nothing to him.

I got a lot of crappy, soft images at first. It took me about 20 minutes to realize i had to stop way down (F/22+) to get anything in any kind of focus. In contrast, I started a F/5.6. I'm sure I learned somewhere, at some point, that I stopping way down is a macro-must... but because i hardly shoot macro, I got to re-learn it.

Overall i'm fairly pleased with the shot. It's a fairly heavy crop of the original, but my lens is nowhere near 1:1, even in macro-focusing-mode so I didn't have much of a choice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


I decided to go out on a limb and try a little sepia-ish toning on a few of the images I took for a client today.
Here's my favorite!

and my second favorite:
Of course, there are a bunch of pictures where you can see his face... but I kinda like these more, and I don't know why. Don't get me wrong, he's cute as can be...

Oh, and here's one of his older brother, also in sepia.

That's it for now.... I'm off to the pool!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Just a little busy...

Holy cow! This was definitely the most productive weekend I've had in a long time.
Lets see... Did a super-cute photoshoot with a family I know from church, updated my for-fun photo site,
made over 6 dozen Monster Cookies (4-5" cookies w/ oatmeal, peanut butter, M&Ms and chocolate chips),
took some nice panorama photos

finished house-sitting for one friend, started dog/cat sitting for another friend, (no interesting photos there), bought a brand new beautiful mountain bike,
started and finished my DIY R-Strap for the contest by BlackRapid [link: my submission also includes how I made the strap and a video of me using it...]

sat in the back of a car for an hour driving around the hills of way-north-boulder taking pictures of my buddy's Nissan 350z in motion.... I think that's all... The one thing I should have gotten done that I didn't: cleaning my room! I should also start packing sometime soon... going on vacation for a week then promptly leaving for college a day after getting back.

That's my life recently...