Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Gift Cards Suck!

As the holiday (and gifting) season approaches, I figure I'll take some time to tell you why everyone hates gift cards.

There are really only a few reasons:

1) They can't be used everywhere, so a person is limited to using your gift to where you think they want to use it... it's a guessing game where both parties usually lose. For instance, you're a thoughtful friend, and you want to get me a gift! I appreciate that! You want to get me music, but you aren't really sure which music I'd like, so you get me an iTunes gift card. Unfortunately, I get my music from Amazon (because all their music is DRM-free and most of it is cheaper). By getting me an iTunes gift card, you're limiting my choice, and supporting the evil monster that is DRM! (don't get me wrong, I'm all about protection of intangible assets... I just hate the implimentation of DRM through iTunes) However, if you gave me cash, I could spend it on the music I want, from the store I want!

2) They have implications. Bad ones. A gift card says "I don't want to give you cash because I think you'll buy beer or strippers... but I don't know what to give you, so here's a less convenient, restricted form of cash, so I know you aren't buying beer or strippers."
Cash also says "I don't know what to get you," but it's up front and says it honestly. It also implies that you don't think I'll use the money you're giving me to buy beer and strippers, which is good... 'cause I wont.

3) Companies go out of business. If I'd had a gift card for Circuit City when it went under, I'd be out of luck. If you'd given me cash instead, I could go to Best Buy to fulfill my electronic wishes.

The moral of the story is: Don't give people gift cards. Cash is a universal gift card, and everyone likes being able to choose!

Thursday, yet again

Today is usually the day where I would show off all my photos in The Lumberjack.
However, it looks like I didn't shoot anything for the newspaper this week, and as such I have no journalism to show you. Feel free to check out the stories at, or follow the paper on Twitter @jackcentral

Instead, here are a couple of my iPhone pics from the last week or so.

All taken and processed on the iPhone using the Best Camera app (by Chase Jarvis and crew).

Now I'm off to find a way to school. It's 20 degrees, the roads are super icy, but we have no noticable snow accumulation. Might drive to school for the first time this year (assuming my car will start).

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

On a dark and stormy night...

Well... it wasn't quite stormy... but it was dark, and night, and cold.

Sarah, my ever-faithful model sported heels, a dress and little more in 30 degrees to go take pictures with me this week.

My goal was to get a dark/creepy set of images with a mix of different lighting. The streetlights throughout Flagstaff are a really (I mean really) deep orange. At a manual White Balance of 2500 K they still looked REALLY orange.

So, I spent some time in Aperture and some more time in Photoshop, and came up with the following images.

This first one is my favorite from the series. 

Same shot in color. The 2500 K white balance led to the flash looking super blue, which I kept to add to the creepy-factor. (inspired by THIS photo and THIS one, made by one of the students in my PHO 282 class). I shot this as two seperate images and brought them together in Photoshop. I'm really glad I did, because the trees were really blue and needed a lot of color correction.

Again with the creepy. Sarah does that look really well, even while freezing. Kept her eyes in color as a reference to the Underworld posters featuring Kate Beckinsale's eyes.


I really wish I had a fog machine for this. The light coming from behind the tree is one of the orange streetlights, but if I could spread out the light a little, make the background nice and orange with a couple shafts of light streaming through the trees, it would be a much stronger photo.

As always, I welcome critique and constructive criticism.
(as always, there is no spellchecker!)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A little investigative photojournalism...

Yesterday was a long day. I managed to end up with a fun photoshoot (photos to come), some pizza, hanging out out with my buddies and smoking hookah. Somewhere in there I was driving through downtown Flagstaff when a cop came hurtling past me, easily doing 75mph on Milton, where us mere mortals travel at 35mph. The cop slid into the Chevron gas station at the corner of Milton and Route 66, where he joined two of his comrades who were already on scene. Shortly thereafter he was joined by an Ambulance and Flagstaff Fire Department in Engine 1.
I was on a mission to drop off my model after our shoot, so instead of grabbing my camera (as I should have done) and stopped right there, I continued merrily on my way.

On my way home however, I stopped to see what was going on.

 Flagstaff Fire Department's Engine 1 preparing to leave the Chevron gas station at the corner of Milton and Route 66

As I pulled up, the ambulance was leaving carrying a Native American gentleman who had been on the receiving end of a few stab wounds just moments earlier.

According to "Jay," an EMT studen at NAU who at the Chevron, the man stumbled several blocks from where he was stabbed to the gas station, where he entered bleeding from several apparent knife wounds. Jay called 911 and the victim was taken non-emergent from the gas station to the hospital. His condition is currently unknown.

The ambulance on its way to Flagstaff Medical Center, carrying the victim of multiple knife wounds.

After talking to Jay, I hopped back in my car with every intention of going home, but on the way saw three police vehicles stopped (light's flashing) down on Riordan rd.

I stopped to take a look and discovered two suspects in cuffs and an overturned shopping cart, its (alcoholic) contents spilled all over the sidewalk.

Flagstaff Police Officers arresting two suspects near where the fight may have taken place, approximately three blocks from the Chevron where the victim was discovered.

The Police removed the two suspects around 12:20am. I was tired, didn't have my press pass, and didn't feel like dealing with the police, so I went home.

That's what I got for today. Remember: I'm not a journalist. I don't have three sources (I have one, but he didn't want to give me his last name, or be in any pictures).

(STILL no spellcheck. Come on Blogger!)

Monday, October 26, 2009


It's been a while since I got an image I really liked whilst shooting football.
I almost never get the pictures I imagine in my head (think NFL posters) of the actual football action, likely due to a combination of poor light, lacking gear (no 200-400mm or fixed 300mm lens) and a lacking muse after standing around for 3 hours with a bunch of smelly football players.

This week, I managed to get a shoot that I like, though it isn't of football, it was taken at the football game.
Here for your enjoyment: the image before any digital darkroom work, and then two shots showing how I visualized the image two different ways when I shot it.

Before: color balance is off, not enough contrast.

Visualized image 1

Visualized image 2

It was a fairly simple process to get from the original shot to something that doesn't hurt to look at. Here's a look at the process:

Notice: I brought up the black point rather than decreasing the exposure. I increased the brightness and the contrast to get those whites in the flag to really be white, and then increased Vibrance to bring out the reds and blues. I used the dropper tool to auto-fix the white balance.

I also added some sharpening (heavily masked as well) and of course, the vignette. I did all of this in Camera Raw, so no Photoshop was needed.

For the second visualized image, I brought the finished file from Camera Raw into Photoshop, added a Black and White adjustments layer, and then using a mask painted away the black and white with a 12% brush to add just a hint of color.

That's what I got for today! I don't expect this will ever become a how-to blog, but its fun once in a while to show how I got from a picture that really sucks to one that doesn't suck quite so much.

Enjoy your Monday (i know, it's hard)!

(still no spellchecker in the blogger UI)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Late Newspaper post!

My apologies!
I totally spaced blogging this morning, and then managed to kill my laptop battery whilst editing the November background image (so cool!).
 - I only get an hour of battery life when running such programs as Photoshop and Aperture. Time to buy a new battery? I think so!

Today was actually a good day for me in terms of getting published: 5 of my images ran, + I got Photo of the Week (which I get with some regularity, mostly due to the fact that nobody else submits fun pictures every week).

Cover of the paper: Back of some dude's shirt = crappy picture. No idea how it ran cover
2 shots for a bunch of climate-crazed bikers
1 of 4 images in a sports collage
A football Profile
Photo of the week: swimmer

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I finally have an iPhone. One of my (very awesome) friends decided he didn't need his old one (due to an upgrade to the 3gs) so he straight-up gave me his 1st gen 16gb iPhone.

Unfortunately, the AT&T service (like so many places) is terrible in Flagstaff. It is so terrible that I switched to Sprint when I moved out here last year. So, instead of using the iPhone as a phone, I use it as a super-awesome iPod with a camera and wifi. The best part: The Best Camera App (courtesy of Chase Jarvis). I'm working on a project where I will shoot and process a bunch of images using only the iPhone and the applications available for it. Here's a teaser for you!

It has a white border, which you can't see on here on the blog, but that adds a nice touch to it.
Right now it looks like I'll be using the same filters for all the images to get a nice cohesive feel out of the series. I'll publish it somewhere at sometime in the future.

In other news: i'm thinking about taking a break from Facebook and Twitter during the month of November. Instead of wasting my life away in front of the computer, I would read, study, and otherwise be productive. No real consensus on that yet, though it is a definitely possibility.
If I do take a break, I'll still be blogging. Since my blog is automatically published to Facebook, those of you that get my posts there will not be affected :-)

Have a wonderful day, take some pictures, give someone a hug!
(still no spellchecker)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


If I have one major flaw in my photography, its that I get bored easily. I'll be shooting volleyball an all of a sudden I'll see a cute little girl smiling up at her dad, or I'll be shooting swimming and I'll have the brilliant idea to do a compilation shot of a diver doing a 1.5 front flip.

Spent about 70 frames getting a series that I like, then spent 30 minutes in photoshop to get a decent compilation. I know, it's nothing like what Chase Jarvis recently produced on his SanDisk shoot, but I had fun doing it, and that's what counts!

I did one of these a couple years back (man, I'm getting old!) for the dominant photo in my highschool yearbook of boy's basketball...

This was the first compilation that I ever did... before I knew anything about photoshop.
I don't consider myself an expert now, but this image took me 1.5 hours to process as opposed to 30 minutes. You can see part of my setup too: all the hotlights I could wrangle all moved as close to him as could be. The overhead sodium vapor lights are on as well, which is where my green/purple tinges are coming from. You make do with what you have...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Artsy / Rant

Black and White.

This first shot was made from 8' underwater in the NAU pool. I was shooting the swim and dive team with my friend's underwater camera, housing and flash. I got about 50 or 60 frames off before the flash stopped working. This image is one of the throw-aways from that shoot (after I was deprived of the flash)... but the minute I saw it I knew it could be something different. It's a very abstract, moody, dark sort of image, which is probably why I like it so much.

#2 here was done with my cell phone. My phone starts at 2mp, but in order to get the frame I wanted, I had to do a 3x digital crop in-camera. That translates to this image being absolutely tiny. So instead of just throwing it out, I tried a technique I've never tried before and I really like the results!

This photo was also made with my cell phone. With some upsampling and filters in photoshop, you'd never know. The final version is 5.9mb large and will happily print at 11x14.

Two of these images were made with my blackberry camera phone (and some photoshop). The third was made with a D40x (and some photoshop). All were captured in JPG.

You know what that tells me? The kind of camera you have has absolutely no bearing on how your pictures turn out. If you know what you want your photo to look like, you can make it happen.

I could have shot these on 400 ISO black and white film in a disposable camera ($6), or I could have shot them on the D3x ($8,000), and they would still turn out more or less the same because the end result would still be the image I visualized in my head at the time of capture.
Don't get me wrong, I love gear as much as the next guy... (using an underwater setup is gear heaven),  BUT it appears to me that simplification is the key.

Something I'm fond of saying with the proliferation of DSLR cameras is: "Everyone's a photographer, but not everyone is a great photographer."
People think that buying a thousand-dollar camera will make their pictures better. It wont. Some of my best pictures have been made on an old Nikon N80 (35mm film) that I paid $100 for off eBay, and I've made some pretty good photographs using 2 megapixel cell phone cameras. The reason almost all my best images are made with a thousand-dollar camera: that's the camera I carry around most. If I carried the N80 around all the time, most of my portfolio would be black and white film images.

Don't be afraid to experiment, take pictures that suck, use your cell phone camera, shoot film... Having fun with photography is what it's all about. If you're enjoying yourself, your images will reflect that.

(there's still no spellcheck in the blogger composer... so please excuse my early-morning spelling)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free hugs!

Hugs are underrated.
Go to middle schools and all you can see through the drama and teenage-angst is hugging. It gets to the point where middle school officials try to BAN hugging (actually, the Connecticut school banned all physical contact including high-fives)... but what good could possibly come of that? During middle school, I was a prolific hugger myself and I know a hug is a fantastic way to brighten your day. It will also brighten the day of the other people you hug. Heck, for all I know hugging is the only way kids get through middle school with its internal conflicts, physical changes, not to mention the external conflicts (you've seen Mean Girls, right?).
It seems to me that after middle school and maybe the first year of highschool, hugging becomes less common. Upon arriving in college (and the real world) people greet with firm handshakes (don't forget to look into his eyes!) and handshakes only. This world needs more hugs, at least, that's what Christie Faldwin told me.

I photographed a profile a while back on Christie Faldwin, AKA. NAU's Free Hugs guy.
He stands outside the Student Union every tuesday/thursday from noon to 4 holding his sign and giving hugs to all who ask.

He said he doesn't count the number of people who actually hug him, but in the 35 minutes I was there, I think he got something like 15 hugs.

The photo that I like the most didn't run, mainly because it isn't as sharp as my editor likes my stuff. Luckily for me, I have this blog and can publish stuff on my own! This image also conveys a totally different feeling than the one above. Here, it looks like nobody is hugging him, wheras above you get to see his hugs in action.

To get this last image I was at ISO 100 (as low as my camera goes), F22 (as high as my lens goes) and 1/6 sec. I added a polarizer to darken things a little more and to pop the sky (since I knew my goal was A&E dominant in The Lumberjack).

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Boy oh boy, do I have a treat for you today!

First, let me congratulate myself: this is my 300th blog post. I love writing this blog and I love even more those (very few) of you who leave comments. Any of the images I post here are subject to any critique however you want to give it to me. I appreciate knowing which images you like, why you like them, as well as those that you don't like and why. If something strikes you as great or horrible, tell me and then tell me why!

On to today's business: The Lumberjack.

I am extremely happy with how my images turned out today. I am also (I can't believe I'm saying this) pleased with how the website actually ran a multitude of pictures with the stories that got shot well.

First (and most importantly) my shoot of the Shangri-La Chinese Acrobats performing on Campus in the newly renovated Prochnow Auditorium.

Second: a bunch of color during the Coming out day event (much paint involved)

Coming up: I spent an hour with fins and a snorkel yesterday in NAU's Wall Aquatic Center photographing the Swim and Dive team.... from underwater. It was my first experience shooting underwater and overall I'm extremely happy with how it went... Not because the images are great (they aren't) but because I had an absolute blast doing something new and I relish challenges, especially those that involve new gear, battery acid and oxygen deprivation. More on that (as Joe McNally would say) To Come.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Color: for your consideration

As promised, here are the two color landscape images that I don't hate.
Let me know if you prefer the color or the black and white by posting a comment below. I have to choose which of these suckers to print and submit for the assignment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Flagstaff Landscapes

As I've said before, I like taking pictures with people in them.
Fruit, Landscapes, Still life... it's all so tragically boring, at least compared to a photo with a person or an animal.

Having said that, here are my three black and white finalists for a landscape assignment in my Intermediate Photography class.

(re-edit of 1st image since original post)

Maybe if you're good and you eat your vegetables, I'll post my color finalists tomorrow. The color really is great in these (after some serious post-processing), but I will always like black and white better. I envisioned these photos in black and white, so I'll probably print them that way.

Speaking of printing, I opened a Sams Club account yesterday and had a print made of the strawberry from a couple posts ago. They did a phenominal job. I will definitely be printing everything there from now on, especially because Walgreens got a new printer and didn't get it calibrated correctly, so black and white images end up green, blues go purple, reds go orange, etc. Not to mention Sams Club's prints are half the price and I can choose matte or glossy (I always choose matte), whereas Walgreens gave me glossy and I had to pay 12 cents extra for matte.

(more on the new blogger editor: The photo uploader has one big flaw in that I can upload several images at a time to their server, but I cannot select multiple images to be published at one time, so I have to click the image (once it's uploaded) hit ok, click the photo icon again, click the other image, hit ok, and repeat as necessary. It gets old. Also, still no spelllcheck)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Kids, soccer, blog editing!

First thing is first, I am now using the new online composer for Blogger and so far (After my first 15 words) I like what I see. If Google/Blogger has finally figured things out, making and publishing this blog post should be oodles easier than it has been in the past.

On to the real content: I shot about 110 frames of the NAU-Portland State soccer game... and I also shot 70 frames of this adorable little boy during halftime.

(update: Blogger has finally figured out how to have my images load where my cursor is! This is huge news! The image loader UI has also been updated)

About the images... I was part of a group of five photographers taking a break during halftime just lounging in the sun when I noticed this little tike toodling around with his dad. As they walked past the throng of phtographers, he noticed a couple of soccer balls lying around and decided he wanted to play soccer too. He pulled away from his dad, grabbed a ball, carried it onto the field and started throwing it, kicking it and generally amusing himself and all those photographers and soccer fans in attendance.
All the photographers grabbed their cameras and went at it, much to the amusement of this boy's parents. I made sure to stay after the game and give the parents my card and tell them I'd be happy to furnish them with photos for free, which made them happy.

(update: Usually at the end of my post I use the in-editor spellchecker to make sure I haven't made any hugely embarrasing spelling errors... but now I can't find the spellcheck tool! Apparently Blogger giveth, and Blogger taketh away.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Still life strawberry

For the most part I don't like taking pictures of anything that doesn't include people. But, part of the fun of being a photographer is enjoying the challenge that comes with shooting something that you don't particularly like.

My Into to Digital Workflow class assignment was to shoot still life: fruits/vegetables.
I actually groaned out loud when I read the assignment... but I'm glad I did it.
I know precisely what the photos of all my peers are going to look like... just google "fruit" and look through the images. That's gonna be my entire class.

Looking to get something a little different, I decided to do just one piece of fruit, simple black background. Whereas most of my classmates could set up their photos on their own, the shot below required three people to make. Me at the camera, one of my group members holding the strawberry and one pouring water from a Nalgene bottle.

It's a simple one-light setup using a White Lightning flash camera-left and behind the subject through a 3' or 4' diffuser. The flash had some serious power to it: I was shooting at 1/250 and F14 ISO 100. I usually despise selective color, but I feel that it works really well with this image, so I'll keep it.

Also new for these images: double border and a new logo that I'm trying out. I sign my prints with a simple M inside a B and then the year of the print, so I made it into a logo. During this year's redesign of my website (whenever that happens) the images will likely get these borders with the logo. This shot will definitely be in my edited portfolio.

It feels really good to add something to my portfolio, something I haven't done in a couple months.

Off to shoot some landscapes of the gorgeous aspen colors changing in Flagstaff this evening... I hope to post something either tomorrow or Monday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Underwater... (?)

Before you read on, take a minute to decide: Are these goggles actually underwater? Click to enlarge, and take a good look. No cheating! For the record, I do have an underwater housing at my disposal.

As it turns out, they are NOT underwater.
But I did try pretty hard to make it look like they were.

Here's how:
1) Grabbed a blue fabric background and stretched it as tight as possible.
2) Added light behind the blue background blasting straight at it.
3) Added reflector on the table behind the background to bounce more light into the blue
4) Placed weird net object (the bag that came with the mask) such that it looks like a net
5) Placed goggles as high as possible on the stretched background (to keep it stretched, I used a 5lb sandbag)
6) Take 2-exposure image at f/2.2, 1 second, ISO 200, one way out of focus and one focused on the lettering on the strap

I would show you what it looked like with normal light... but the images sucked so bad I already deleted them.

In other news, I'm in The Lumberjack a few times today. Feel free to click through the paper and see which ones are mine!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Photo booth

I love photo booth.
It uses a horrible 1.3 megapixel camera in often horrible light... but whenever I'm at a computer I know I have some sort of camera.

Yesterday I used photo booth to take a self portrait. Of course it looked horrible straight out of camera, so I brought it into photoshop and played around a little.
I'm really digging the borders on these images... It's super easy to do and it can really improve an image, especially when displaying a mostly-white image on a white background (as I am here).

I did a couple shoots yesterday for various publications and will be posting one or two of those shots in the near future!

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wading through the archives...

I pulled this shot out of July of 2007 as I was meandering through my archives yesterday.
It's one of the more adorable photos I have from 2007, if not in my entire collection. I added the borders in photoshop and a bit of sharpening in Aperture, other than that, it's as-shot.

Depending on how much I want to avoid doing homework this week, I may meander a bit further into my archives and see if I can come up with any other good shots from back in the day...

Monday, October 5, 2009


Spent some time this morning searching for insipiration in my Cheerios...

All but the last one are multiple exposures done in-camera. I really like the dreamy look I get by doing 2 exposures, one in focus and one out of focus. Pushing it monochrom with an orange filter, increasing the contrast and de-brightening it made it a bunch more interesting.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Video Rebuttle

What timing...

Here's a link to Scott Bourne's blog post from this morning: why we should be interested in shooting video.

He apparently thinks we should all shoot video... or at least learn a bit about it.
I see his point of view, I just don't like it.

Friday, October 2, 2009


As I have ranted on this blog and the blogs of others: I am not happy with the photographer-videographer lines merging. I prefer to have someone who thinks exclusively in still images and one who visualizes in video... but alas, the world doesn't seem to care much about what I think.

As such, in the interest of staying competitive and having a little bit more fun with life, I will do my best to shoot video once in a while.

Over the summer, my buddy Sean and I used our cell phones to record our friend Kitt longboarding down the street, flying a butterfly kite. During our car ride to vacation in Indiana, we collaberated our video clips and each created a different version of the same event. I finally got around to posting mine on YouTube, so check it out:

(if you don't see it, click HERE)

I plan on keeping this project fairly simple. No fancy video cameras, at least, not until I figure out what I'm doing. For now it will just be the 2mp camera on my cell phone, recording video at
tragically small resolutions, like 240x176.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

October Background!

What a shame. I still really like the image from September's background! But, a new month means a new background. In the same vein as September, October's image is also a multiple exposure. Also done in-camera, this is a series of the clouds in Flagstaff, AZ on a particularly gorgeous day. I believe it was three overlapping images... but it may have been five.

First, the version I'm using with the October calendar.

Second, the image without the calendar.

Both are plenty big for background use, so click, right click and enjoy!


I have a folder on my desktop called "To-blog." In this folder I put all the photos from a shoot that I am considering featuring here. I have a bit of a backlog right now, so in lieu of a photograph that's new to me, I'm posting this shot, which is new to you!

It's 22 degrees in Flagstaff this morning, and while I shot this in Boulder, CO it still seems appropriate given the weather here.

For those of you savvy readers who think you might recognize this, you're sort of right! It is one of the images that didn't make it into THIS panorama (now the header image of this blog) a while back.

My plan is to continue posting the backlog until it runs out or I shoot something new :-)

Have a great Thursday!