Friday, December 31, 2010

Landscape Crazy

In an effort to come up with a desktop background worthy to kick off the new year, I went a little nuts.

The following are choices for January 2011 desktop backgrounds.

I shot them all with my brand new 35mm f/1.8 lens! It was nice to get out, go for a few walks with the dog and get some nature-ish photos. 

This is my last blog post for 2010. My next post will likely discuss my revamped plan for 2011 and beyond. What I hope to accomplish and how I hope to make it all happen.

Until next year,

-Matt Beaty

Monday, December 27, 2010

Army Girls

It's been a while since I was in highschool, but a fair few of my friends and acquaintances have joined the army since then.

I try to be fairly open about my views on the military. I don't like that we fight wars and I tend to lean toward pacifism - but I wholeheartedly support the men and women who fight to make it happen. It is because of what they do that you and I can live in comfort and safety, especially compared to the rest of the world. I can't really get a handle on the sacrifices that they make, but I understand that I will never have to make those kinds of sacrifices. I have an immense amount of respect for these people. As such, I do whatever I can to help out anyone in the armed forces.

Tasha and Louise expressed interested in getting some portraits done. I enthusiastically agreed.



Tasha and Louise

I photographed each of them in civilian clothes and in a more relaxed position first. Then they dressed up and we did a more strict, upright, military picture.

I love the way the individual shots came out, though I don't like the group shots nearly as much. If I had to pick a favorite, I'd choose the top photo of Tasha on lying on the couch.

I'm in the market for more military personnel for the same genre of photoshoot. One shot civilian, one shot military. Anyone interested in modeling?

Thank you to Tasha and Louise, and to everyone fighting to make this country safe for wimps like me. If there is ever anything I can do, please let me know. I'm here for you.

Friday, December 24, 2010


Saturday's post on Asymptotical Creativity was the most popular post in the history of this blog, so I assume that something in that post resonated with people. At least, I'd like to think so.

You know, I find it kind of funny that the posts that I like the most tend to get very little attention. Conversely, the posts where I'm kind of thinking out loud about something tend to get a bunch of hits. According to my stat counter, I had people coming in all weekend to learn about Asymptotes. Perhaps math should be a reoccurring theme on the Vault Blog?

Pssch. Yeah right.

I hate math.

Luckily for me and for all my readers, I write this blog mainly for myself - to help me get my thoughts into some kind of order. To help me make sense of the things I'm doing in my own life. Sure, There are 40 people or so who regularly read what I have to say - but I don't really know who you all are and I'm not necessarily catering this message to you. I don't mean to demean your importance - I love all my readers and I would definitely not write this blog as often if I knew nobody was reading it. Still - I have different priorities than many bloggers out there.

IE - I'm not trying to be popular.

I don't really care how many hits I get (average of 50/day on this blog), how many Facebook friends I have (about 460) or how many followers I have on Twitter (about 320).

None of that really matters because in the end, my goal is to simply add to the wealth of information on the Internet, and to get my own head straight every once in a while.

Aaaaaanyway.... Here are a couple shots from my last mismatched upload.

Power lines along the highway from Flagstaff to Boulder

My buddy Scott

The trees outside my porch in Flagstaff

Scott's Honda Rebel 

I actually really like how the shot of the Rebel came out. It's two shots combined, all in camera of course, via the "Multiple Exposure" feature in the D300 and D300s. One shot is really out of focus, while the second shot is sharp as a tack. The resulting combination is kind of dreamy and, I think, quite unique.

With any luck, blogging will pick back up in the next week as I drag out the camera and start shooting again.

I hope you, my loyal readers, have a great holiday season!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Asymptotical creativity

I'm sitting in front of the fireplace - It's raining/snowing outside - The Fray is oozing out of the speakers while the TV displays the screen saver of my new home media server. I had pumpkin pie for breakfast. Honestly, it doesn't get much better than this.

To top it all off, I'm re-reading VisionMongers by David duChemin. This is my third time through the book, but my first since taking an Intro to Marketing class. Now that I understand some of the marketing stuff he's talking about, and where he's coming from - I'm enjoying the book more than I thought possible.
Instead of blazing through it like I have in the past, I'm taking time to absorb the concepts he is discussing and I'm applying them to my own small business.

One concept David touches on in the chapter titled "Work work work" is the question that all creatives should constantly ask themselves: "Am I Good Enough?"

Simply put, the answer should always be "No."

I've heard this from successful photographers and photo professors alike - the moment you think you've mastered photography, you should quit. There is always something else to learn, some new mistake to make. If you fail to recognize that, some new young hot-shot will steal the spotlight and you will be left to stagnate while your creativity rots into nonexistence. It sounds dramatic, but it happens all the time. The only way to avoid such a painful creative death is to realize that you can never master your craft 100%. You may get very close, but there is always something left to learn. You can never be perfect.

This illustration is an attempt to show what I'm talking about. The mathematical function is called an Asymptote. The idea is that the line (representing your skill level) never actually touches either axis. It gets closer and closer, but even all the way out to infinity, it never touches. You can never reach Perfection - and theoretically, you can't truly achieve Total Suckage either.

You'll notice there is a period of significant (exponential) improvement right in the middle of the graph. This represents the time period things start to "click" for you as a photographer and as a creative. You understand your color wheel, reciprocity, shutter speeds, f-stops, and ISOs. All the technical stuff that you need to understand on a very basic level. At the same time, you also start to figure out what you want to photograph, what drives you, what you love and what inspires you. While these things may take years to learn, they are still a relatively short period of time on the graph that is your creative career.

We are quickly approaching a new year and a new decade. In the U.S., that means it is time for New Years Resolutions - here are a few questions you might ask yourself while you search for your resolutions.

Where are you on that graph?
What can you do to keep learning, discovering and creating at a higher level?
Do you push yourself to constantly improve?
What are you best at?
What needs the most work?
Where can you find new sources of inspiration?

I know I'm looking forward to spending much of the next week on this introspective thought process, working on my business plan for the next year and reading VisionMongers as a catalyst.

Blog lite will probably continue around here until I get settled back in Colorado for Winter break. See you around!

Monday, December 13, 2010

How to Avoid Getting HACKED!

image courtesy of

Staying secure on the Interwebs can be difficult. There are a lot of people out there who know a LOT more about computers than I do, but since I'm paranoid about getting hacked, I figured I would share my 2 cents worth about keeping your information secure online.

Step 1) Have a STRONG password. This is where most people fail and it is hands-down the biggest threat to anyone getting hacked. A Brute Force attack on your password becomes completely unnecessary when the hacker can simply guess your password.

Here's a list of common passwords from Lifehacker.

image courtesy of

If you have a password like one of these, you will be hacked if you haven't been already. I highly recommend Password Meter as a basic tool to figure out where your current password stands. 

image courtesy of

Above is a screen shot of an example of a fairly strong password - I'm not worried that you can see how many characters it is, or even how many of certain types there are, because it scored 95%. It's that good. The original password scored 100% - unfortunately, many websites don't accept passwords with special characters like !@#$& so I wrote this password without them.

How many different characters should you include? How long should it be?
Again from Lifehacker, here is a table showing how long a Brute Force attack on your password would take, depending on the size and complexity of your password.

image courtesy of

As mentioned in the article, "Adding just one capital letter and one asterisk would change the processing time for an 8 character password from 2.4 days to 2.1 centuries."

Once you've assessed the strength of your password, you have a difficult decision to make.

Step 2) Decide how many passwords you can keep track of.

Ideally, you should have a different password for each website you log in to. Of course, that gets ridiculous and there is no way you'll be able to remember all those seemingly random combinations of numbers and letters. 

I evenly distribute my online presence over 3 master passwords. They're all practically un-hackable - as far as I know. Because I know I'm liable to get confused, I keep a list of passwords in a secure location, much like KeePass - except mine is a locally managed encrypted file on my already encrypted hard drive. To top it off, the file and folder are both "hidden" and only I know the filepath.

Step 3) Change your passwords every 6 months.

Have you ever been part of a computer network or a website that required you to change your password every 6 months? Every year? It seems like a huge inconvenience and most people just add a number to the beginning or the end. Bad idea. The IT gurus that run these networks and websites make you change your password for a reason;  it's a damn good idea. That's all. Instead of just adding a number - pull up Password Meter and write a brand new password. Add it to your KeePass vault. Then go and change all the other sites where you use that password.

Some quick ideas for good password security: 

A) Don't use words in your first language. If you have to - don't spell them correctly. I have had passwords in German, Spanish, English and Russian. 
B) Use "leetspeak" - Instead of writing with all letters, replace occasional letters with numbers and symbols: Password becomes P455w0rD, Hello becomes |-|31lo
C) Come up with a meaning for your password. Incorporate the numbers into this meaning will make your password much easier to remember.
D) Use several different passwords and change them often.

Step 4) Use secure connections whenever possible. If you use a VPN or if your website offers a secure (HTTPS instead of HTTP) connection, use it. Your speed may suffer a little, but the added security is well worth the effort.

Step 5) Routinely check your computer for viruses and other malware. If you find any nasty programs on your computer, change your password ASAP. Many of these malicious programs contain keystroke loggers that record your user name/password combos. You don't want that information floating around.

Step 6) Don't ever tell anyone your passwords! No respectable company will ask for your password online - so don't be fooled by Phishing scams. You haven't won the lottery, you don't need to verify your account, and some random dude isn't going to give you a bunch of free money if you send him a check today. Steer clear of these!

What tips/tricks do you have? What mistakes have you made in the past? What do your passwords score on the Password Meter?

Any questions or comments can be left in the "Comments" section below.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

One Light: Alexandra

Man, what a heckuva week!

I ended up getting two photo shoots in - one of which I'm fairly proud of.


Really simple setup. One 20 degree grid above her and just a tad camera right. I used the door in the studio as a backdrop in an attempt to mix things up from the usual black or white walls. 

I believe Alexandra said she has been modeling since she was 16 - I look forward to working with her in the future!

This week is finals - I probably won't take any pictures at all until Thursday afternoon. Enjoy the blog light for now because once I'm back in Boulder for winter break, I expect to do a lot of shooting.

Monday, December 6, 2010


This is the first month in over a year that I haven't had any kind of background to offer my loyal readers. I simply didn't shoot any background-worthy photographs this month. I'll definitely have something for January.

This week is "reading week," so everyone on campus is drinking studying like crazy for finals next week. Unfortunately, this includes me, so Blog Lite will continue around here for another week or two.

If I find anything interesting during the course of my studies, I'll be sure to share it. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Have a great Monday!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Help Portrait 2010 : Summary


Yesterday was a seriously amazing day. The Flagstaff Help Portrait group photographed nearly 120 people over the course of 8 hours. Most of the crew showed up at 7:30am, and we didn't leave until nearly 8:00pm. It was a great day of laughing, crying, photographing and photoshopping.

Blogger is too stupid to auto-resize the YouTube video, so here's a link: VIDEO

I put this video together this morning with some of the best photos we took of ourselves, and of the people who showed up to be photographed.

The stories we heard from participants were simply phenomenal. One family lost their home to a flood in Tennessee. They are stranded in Flagstaff and stopped by with their kids to get photographed. Many of the families we photographed yesterday had never had any kind of formal portrait done. Their gratitude was overwhelming, and passing out images to each group quickly became a highly coveted privilege among the volunteers.

We learned a lot this year about what works well and what doesn't. Out of nearly 40 groups, we only had two screw-ups that involved re-printing or re-sending images. That being said, we had only one printer working at a time, so the wait time from getting photographed to receiving the print was between 20 and 40 minutes nearly all day. Occasionally it was longer.

Next year, I hope to have two printers working, four computer techs, and six photographers. Plus a whole host of other volunteers. I'm also planning on getting a few BIG banners printed, because we heard from many participants that finding the event was difficult. On several occasions, volunteers had to guide in participants via cell phone.

I have to shout out to all the volunteers who made everything possible. The photographers, computer gurus, runners, meeters and greeters, print cutters and stuffers. I couldn't have done it without the people that came and made this event what it was. THANK YOU ALL!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Takin' a break

Apparently, it has been a week since I last blogged.

A week ago today I left Flagstaff to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I had copious amounts of seriously good food and I didn't do anything even remotely resembling work.

I am now settled back in Flag, it is -3 degrees outside and I'm working on a whole bunch of stuff.

This week I'm doing two shoots for my tabletop studio class. I have two group presentations and one individual presentation to finish up and Saturday is Help-Portrait, so I'm scrambling all over the place to get the workflow, volunteers, printer, food and everything else set up.

Long story short, this week is busy for me and I probably won't be blogging a whole lot.

See you on the other side, assuming I survive it all!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Creepy portraits with Christie

I did my first shoot alone with Christie last week. We had fun and I got to try out a new style of lighting.

These first two were a blast. I set up my Einstein outside with a 7" reflector and nuked it through the blinds at full power. I was going for the whole "someone is breaking into my house at night" feel, and I think I got it across, more or less. It was actually 1:30 in the afternoon and the sun was shining bright.

I've had this shot in my head for a while now. I keep a punching bag and some gloves around because it is far healthier to punch a bag than to punch other people. Setup is pretty simple - again I have the Einstein out, but now it has a 20 degree grid on it. Still full power or close to it - The camera is at f/22, 1/250sec and ISO 100. I had to darken it a little in post production, but not much.

Here we went for a more emotional, sad, dispairing sort of mood. No gun anymore, and I kept the color balance on this more or less the way I shot it.

I have more plans for miss Christie, and I look forward to working with her in the future.

My new Einstein arrived, so now I have a working strobe, a softbox, a reflector (which it doesn't come with) and a 20 degree spot grid. Next in my shopping cart is the Vagabond Mini Lithium battery that will let me move my setup out into the world for location shoots.

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Flagstaff Guide to Winter Driving

During my walk to and from school this morning, I observed a list of rules that drivers in Flagstaff seem to be adhering to after the first snow of the season. I wrote them down for you!

1) Snow is the scariest shit ever. Avoid contact with it at all costs.
2) Snow tires are stupid, especially for two-wheel drive vehicles. Your chromed rims are all that matter.
3) Scraping ice off your windshield is a waste of time and thus, money. Don't bother. If you must, scrape a hole about the size of an infant's fist and keep your head really close to the windshield
4) Ice scrapers are expensive. Just use your fingernails to scrape the ice off your car.
5) If your vehicle is not accelerating fast enough, repeatedly mash the accelerator. To the floor.
6) If your vehicle is not moving at all, push the accelerator to the floor and keep it there. Eventually, your tires will melt a hole through the ice and catch pavement.
7) Aftermarket body kits are designed to function as snow plows.
8) Drive at speeds less than 15 mph or greater than 45 mph to ensure traction.
9) The faster you go, the better traction you have.
10) The only surefire way to stop your vehicle is to roll it. Multiple times. Brakes are overrated.
11) Talking on your cell phone while driving is the only way to make sure that you will be able to call 911 when you adhere to Rule #10.
12) Sharp yanks on the wheel are more effective than slow turning motions. They also help with rule #10.
13) Never ever ever scrape the rear window. Nothing happening behind you could possibly be of any importance.
14) The laws of physics do not apply to you.
15) The laws of physics do not apply to other drivers.
16) Don't worry about stopping distance - all vehicles regardless of weight and speed stop in the same distance on dry roads and on ice.
17) Your front bumper is a great place to hook tow cables.
18) Cops don't go out in the snow - you won't get pulled over for driving like a moron or for crashing into someone else.
19) Snow plows will yield to your puny compact car. Every time.
20) Just because the car in front of you spins out on the ice, it doesn't mean the roads are slick.

Just off the top of my head. I'm sure I'll think up a few more...

Feel free to add via the comments section below!

Portrait: Noelle again

Noelle was kind enough to model for my and sport my ghetto-veil during class on Thursday.
This first image is my favorite, though I like the other two of her a lot as well.
Light setup was fairly simple - one beauty dish more or less on axis (a little to camera right, if I'm being honest) and a 20 degree spot grid camera left and behind Noelle

I was lucky enough to have two lovely assistants to help figure out the veil, which is actually the mesh bag that enclosed a bunch of clamps I purchased recently. Worked out fairly well, I think.

While I had the lights set up, I figured I'd get one more shot in.

Suffice it to say, she wasn't very enthused about modeling for me. A fun portrait nonetheless.

It is a cold and snowy morning in Flagstaff. The roads are icy, so I'm hiking to school - a 50 minute walk that takes me about 10 minutes on a bicycle.

Have a great Monday!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Important announcements!

The moment you've all been waiting for...

1) The Flagstaff Help Portrait event has a way for you to donate online via PayPal! CLICK HERE!

I'm pleased Help Portrait is making this happen and annoyed at the hoops we have to jump through to get the money. If you don't care about the tax-deductible part of your donation, it's easier for all of us if you send the funds directly to me. All the donations I receive will be spent solely on Help Portrait items. This year, we need between $100 and $200 to purchase photo paper. As far as I know, everything else is being donated. If you feel the need, you could just buy the paper and ship it to me, as long as it gets here before Dec 3, which is our setup date. I'm guessing we'll need 3 rolls, which would allow us to print up to 450 portraits at 8x10. Any paper that isn't used this year will be rolled over (couldn't resist) and used next year.

2) My 80-200mm f/2.8 push/pull lens is on eBay - the auction ends NOV 28 at 5:00pm PST

My padre is selling it with his account since I can't be bothered to mess around on eBay. I promise, it's the same lens.

To set the mood right for Friday, here's a food shot I did yesterday in my tabletop studio class.

I'll be doing a couple shoots outside the studio this afternoon. I also have a portrait from yesterday to show off in the near future. Stick around!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Help Portrait 2010: update

Hello world!

Here's what I know so far regarding this year's Help Portrait event in Flagstaff, AZ

Things are starting to come along. We have six photographers signed up, with room for four more. We still need three more runners and one more person to handle the front table. We still need more people! If you are considering volunteering, please know that you do NOT have to be photographically inclined to volunteer! There are plenty of jobs that we don't need photographers for.

The process to get the event catered has begun. We are looking for donations totaling $200 to pay for the paper we are using to print as well as miscellaneous supplies. Help Portrait is a non-profit organization and donations are tax deductible. A link to donate online will be posted shortly!

The advertising gurus have been up to their neck in the processes of making things happen. We've put out info to the local shelters and schools, newspapers and radio stations, assisted living facilities and of course NAU. In fact, I'm going to be on TV tonight for a short interview with the NAZ Today crew at 6pm.

If you want to volunteer or donate, please comment below or email me!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Portrait: Debra

I've shot with Deb before - she was the zombie last spring.

This weekend, we decided to do something a little less morbid

Not quite a glamour/beauty shot, but definitely different. Right as I was getting into my groove for this shoot, the softbox fell off my broken Einstein and we had to quit for the day.

I'll probably see if I can make it up to her by doing another shoot in the near future. Hopefully without anything falling on her.

Looks like my new flash will be here on the 18th. I've got two portrait shoots this weekend, so hopefully I'll put it through its paces and come up with some non-studio shots.

Have a lovely Monday!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ugh. The Studio

I've figured out why I haven't been happy (or creative) with much of my work recently. I'm sick of the studio. The same white and black walls week in and week out have taken their toll. I need to get my butt out into the real world to take pictures.

I have a few ideas for shoots that don't involve a studio, and I'm psyched to get things rolling.

My new Einstein unit is scheduled to arrive the 15th. With a new flash and some new modifier combinations, I expect to have some serious fun.

Here's my favorite from my quick (less than 50 frames) studio shoot yesterday.

Tianna has agreed to work with me in the future. I'm really excited to work with her and to get my butt into gear and catch up to my goal. I have less than a month to do more than 20 portraits.

More to come...

Friday, November 12, 2010

My broken Einstein 640

Let me state for the record that I did not break this piece of equipment. 

It broke itself.

I am usually happy to admit when I break something - that just means it isn't tough enough for the job. This time, though, I didn't do it. Honest.

A little explanation: Paul C Buff inc knows they are having issues with the Einstein 640 unit. The first version didn't work with some outlets and didn't sync properly with PocketWizards. This is the second version, and the cam system (what holds light modifiers on the strobe) is weak. This issue comes in two flavors. One is common, while the other seems to be unique to me.



The common issue involves the spring in the lever (photo 2) which isn't strong enough to hold larger modifiers (like my 5' softbox). Paul C Buff inc is having new units worked on and will ship upgrades (for free) to every Einstein user in December or January.

The second issue involves the fingers (photo 1). One of them has managed to detach from its fellows, meaning that it no longer moves as instructed. Because of this, my 5' softbox fell on my model yesterday. Nobody was hurt, but it is the kind of incident I cannot have repeated. In addition to the potential for serious injury, it totally ruins the mood of the shoot.

I called headquarters in TN and was promptly directed to Joe in customer support. Joe is a tech who works on the units. After I explained my issue, he agreed to have a new unit shipped to me as soon as he could get his hands on one. I expect it late next week. They are also going to pay for the return shipping on my broken unit. No questions asked - just an apology for the issue and the assurance that they will make it right. THAT is how customers should be treated. The whole company is doing a great job in making sure that its customers are satisfied and that their product (the new flagship) works just like it should.

Because of the quality of service I received, I asked to be transferred to sales. I bought a 7" reflector and a 20 degree spot grid to show the company that I'm going to stick with them and that I have faith they're going to get it right. Plus, I need a reflector and a 20 degree grid.

Yesterday, I also made a very necessary modification to the Einstein unit.
The 5' softbox is so heavy that maneuvering the strobe with the softbox attached is nearly impossible. Going side to side is OK, but angling the head up and down takes a lot of muscle.

You'll notice both Elinchrom and Profoto have handles of some kind. The Einstein does not. With a cheap modification, however, I've discovered something that works.

Profoto - handle on bottom

Elinchrom - handle on top

Einstein - ghetto handle on top

I was at Home Depot buying supplies to hang a backdrop in my room/studio when I saw a set of Husky screwdrivers with pretty gnarly handles. It turns out, this particular set has a few members that fit right into the umbrella slot in the top of the flash. By tightening the screw and angling the tool/handle the right way, I can get much more leverage on the unit. Sure, it looks ridiculous, but I can't be blamed for Paul C Buff not putting a handle on the damn thing. Now I always have a screwdriver on set AND I can maneuver my strobe without excessive grunting.

I'm halfway through with the necessary modifications to my room/studio in order to hang a permanent backdrop. I'll post that solution when I finish with it. 

TGIF! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thank you Veterans!

This post is dedicated to the men and women who have served in the United States armed forces.

NAU Army ROTC 2009

To those who lost their lives.
To those who survived.
To those still serving.

Thank you for the sacrifices you have made and continue to make for our freedom.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Portrait: Noelle

Another portrait of Noelle from photo class. Still nothing great, but definitely something different. It's nice to get out of my usual style with funky monochromes and duotones.

Got a couple more coming later this week.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portrait: Ozzy

I asked my buddy Ozzy to come into the studio last week in his fancy suit.
For some reason he agreed and we managed the following portraits.

Two lights.  Strip light at camera right (hey, that rhymes!) and a grid behind him at camera left. Done and done.

Really wish I could see his other eye in the top image, but I couldn't save it in post and I wasn't paying attention in the studio. Still, not a terrible portrait session.
Of course, when I finished with him, the rest of my class went nuts about having a new model. I think five or six photographers got ahold of him during our class, but I'm not exactly sure.

Hoping to get a few more this week - I still have a lot of catching up to do.

Have a great day!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Exasperated Students

Hello World.

I managed to give myself a break from blogging over the weekend. It's nice to be back to see all your smiling faces :-)

You may recall I spent a little time last week making a series that I'm calling Exasperated Students.
I told my models to sit and give me whatever pose they generally adopted when their professor is rambling at the front of the lecture hall.

Here is the resulting ten image series.

Quick and fairly easy. I probably should have made them a little brighter, but it was more for fun than for showing off to the world.

I do have a new portrait or two. I'll try and get those up fairly soon.