Friday, April 30, 2010

Shooting crap

Everybody has an off day once in a while. All photographers pro and amateur alike shoot crap. Lots of crap.

Over the last month I shot pretty much an entire crap-roll on expired C-41 process Black and White film.

I dont know if it was the gear or if I just wasn't paying attention, but most of my photos turned out blown out, blurry and just crappy in general. Some were partially salvageable, but looking through these photos was a fantastically humbling experience. It actually feels good to shoot crap once in a while, as long as there's no client to be disappointed.

Here are the three that don't hurt (too bad) to look at, after some considerable work in PS and Aperture.

Easily my favorite

botched the focus...


I overexposed a solid 75% of the roll, screwed the focus on about 20%, and generally got terrible pictures. Granted, I shot using expired film, but that's no excuse - I've gotten great results out of ancient film before.

Luckily I didn't pay much for either the film or the development/processing. I guess I paid $4 for a few rolls of film. Processing and 26mb scans at Sams Club was a whopping $2.78. Those are monster scans for super cheap. Especially compared to what Mike's Camera, the shop I *used* to go to in Boulder, charges for the same thing (minimum $15).

That's all for now! Sorry about the Blog Lite around here - finals are approaching quickly and I only have so many hours in a day to procrastinate study...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Aperture 3

I've been using Aperture 3 for a couple weeks now. It has its ups and downs but overall I am very pleased with it.

First some background on my machine. I'm using a Macbook Pro, 2.2ghz with just 2gb of ram. It lives connected to an external 22" monitor.

I've used all three versions of Aperture that have been out, and third time appears to be the charm.

While I didn't mind using either of the previous versions, they lacked some features of Lightroom and Bridge that I *really* like. Aperture 3 makes up for these shortcomings for the most part.

So, you fire up Aperture 3 and load your library and here's what you get:

An alphabetical listing of the projects and folders in your library. Not bad.

Most everything remains unchanged from previous versions. I turned off the Face Recognition because I keyword all my images with the people who are in them. I turned off the feature that shares the Aperture library info with the rest of iLife because its worthless and because it adds a minute or so to the shut-down time of the software. Now when I tell Aperture to quit, it quits. Instantly. No screwing around.

For the most part, Aperture 3 is snappier than previous versions. Open and shut down are quicker, moving from Full Screen to Normal viewing modes is faster. Bringing up the HUD and Keyword windows are faster as well. It's worth mentioning that NONE of my images are stored in the Aperture Library. I am far too much of a control freak for that. My photos live in neatly stacked folders that I organize - Aperture references them. The first thing I did upon loading Aperture 3 was to re-link all my referenced images. In Aperture 2, this had to be done folder by folder. In the new version I could do it a year at a time. I just clicked the "reconnect all" button and watched thousands of photos get re-linked. Awesome!

The new brushes are pretty cool, and definitely worth the upgrade. If you goal is to avoid pushing images into Photoshop though, you're in for a rude awakening. The brushes will do great up until a certain point, after which you need Photoshop. The skin healing tools do a better job than in Aperture 2, though they are still slower than CS4 by a long shot. If you mess up, undo takes FOREVER by comparison. Props to Adobe and shame on Apple.

I muchly prefer using the adjustments sliders in Aperture to the adjustment layers in CS4 though. 
Generally I will get a photo as close as I can while still in Aperture before moving into Photoshop.

Example: I got from left (original) to right (nearly finished) all inside Aperture.

Of course, after that I wanted to do some dodging and burning. Aperture did a terrible job of it so I launched into Photoshop and finished the image there. This is all well and good because all my finished pass through photoshop and DR. Browns 1-2-3 process anyway. It isn't a question of whether I will launch PS, but a question of how far I can get in Aperture before I do it. Often the only reason I open PS is to run Dr. Brown through his paces to convert into print and web-ready.

Keywording is a breeze, and Aperture 3 got rid of the bug that would randomly duplicate sub-keywords outside of their keyword group. That annoyed the heck out of me in version 2.

Speaking of Version 2, Aperture 3 still adds a "- version 2" to each of the images you edit. I find this supremely annoying, but my other option is to not create a new version at all. I like being able to see where the photo started while I'm working on it, so stacked "versions" right next to each other is the lesser of two evils. What I would really like to be able to do is choose what text is appended to new versions. I would add a "-1" or "-2" which are part of my file-naming scheme as outlined in THIS post on my workflow. Unfortunately, that is not an option. Oh well. 

Overall, I'm very pleased with Aperture 3. The upgrade was $99 with free (fast) shipping from Amazon. Well worth it.

If you have any questions about the software or how I use it, feel free to drop me a comment below!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smoking gun...

Shot these the other day with the M4 and my buddy Case.

The original plan had us using his smoke machine, but he was out of fog juice and nobody in Flagstaff carries it during non-halloween season. So we fired up the hookah and I served as the fog machine whilst sucking back far too much Strawberry Margarita shisha.

Light was super simple - one bare SB600 on a stand and the light on the gun just for show.
Next time I'll use the real fog machine... it didn't take long for me to start shaking due to nicotine intake and/or lack of oxygen. Some people have to learn things the hard way, I guess.

I used this shoot as a comparison between Aperture 3 and Photoshop CS4 in terms of in-depth editing capabilities. In short - Photoshop still takes the gold by a long shot. I'll elaborate a bit more on that in an upcoming post detailing Aperture 3 and what I think about it, hopefully later this week.

I say hopefully because it is "reading week" here on NAU campus, which means we are all drinking studying like crazy to prepare for finals in the first week of May. I have a few finals I expect to be rather difficult and as such we may experience some Blog Lite around here in the coming weeks. Bare with me and hopefully I can get some good content up the weekend following finals.

Have a fantastic Monday!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jewelry take 2

Final jewelry projects:

silver and brass



The last cross is the cutout from the bracelet showcased Here

Light setup was the same as last time - the pizza softbox as my only light source and a piece of paper as my seamless backdrop. Photographing small things involves much less production than photographing people.
The bracelet at top is the one commissioned for a paying client - I'm very happy with how it turned out and I had a blast making it - using two or three acetylene torches at the same time is an absolute blast.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To Write Love on Her Arms

Check this site :

Write "Love" on your arms to show support of those suffering from depression.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

M4 + Amanda

Amanda is one of my roommates and infrequent models. Regular readers of this blog have seen her before - most recently in this post.

On Sunday she put on a bit of a different look than usual and since I happened to have an M4 sitting around, we decided we might as well do a photoshoot with it!

I used the same AB800 lights as the zombie shoot. One in a big softbox and one nuking the white wall behind her. My "studio" is essentially a white cube, with textured white walls and a fairly low ceiling. The light bounced everywhere. I gave up having any control and just went with it.

Not a whole lot of post production on these - a little bit of dirt cleanup on the gun and some light dodging/burning in the shadows.

Little Sadie was wandering around so we dragged her in to model for us as well

I plan on doing another shoot with the M4 this week before it goes back to its owner.

In other news - Wednesday is my birthday (20!) and I will likely take the day off from the blog. I'll be photographing some marketing BS for the sports department in the morning and then going to classes just like any other day.

Have a great Tuesday!

For the record - the subject matter of this post is in no way related to the 4/20/1999 Columbine Shootings, which were an absolute tragedy. 11 years later, Columbine high school still closes on 4/20 - the day that two students chose to murder 12 students and a teacher, wounding 21 others before committing suicide.

Monday, April 19, 2010

iPad: professional tool?

When I first posted about the iPad a couple weeks back, I got a message on Twitter from Darren (@copelandhouse) asking my opinion about the device as a photography business tool.

My answer is that it could be a decent tool, depending on your photography business.

If you live in the studio and want to keep your clients amused - it'll do that
If you want to have your portfolio with you to show potential clients - it'll do that
If you need an instant model release - there's an app for that
If you want to play a slideshow of your photos - it'll do that too

Overall, if I worked in a studio full time, or perhaps if I was a wedding photographer who wanted to be able to whip out a recent wedding or two to show potential clients, I would probably pay the $500 for the 16gb version.

That, unfortunately, is pretty much the extent of what I think the iPad can do as business tool. I prefer writing emails on my blackberry simply because I can stand up and move around while I do it.

If you are a photojournalist or you work a lot on location outside of your studio, I think the iPad won't do a whole bunch for you... but that's just my opinion.

Photogs out there - what has your experience been with the iPad? Did I miss anything huge?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Friday afternoon was chosen as the day for the long-awaited zombie shoot. I shall regale you with the tale in chronological order.

Makeup started around 1:30pm after all of us were out of class for the day.

The lovely and supremely talented Angelica Olmedo finished both models in just over an hour.

Sarah's look was the same as last time

and we added Debra the zombie to the mix

Dahlia and I went out to the location to set up the lights while makeup was finished. The models met us just as we were finalizing everything. Moments later we started shooting. I filled my 4gb CF card in about an hour. A few hours of postproduction later and viola:

Postproduction stuff:
The photoshop work was much more intensive than my usual shoot, mainly because I had to turn a daylight background into a moonlight background. There are several layers of curves, levels and color adjustments that got me somewhere close to light I think could come from a clear night with a full moon. Then there's the obligatory skin adjustments and a little extra to bring out the red in Debra's dress and the blood in her makeup. I spent about 60 minutes on each of these two images, which is several times my usual.

Camera/light stuff:
I shot at F13, ISO 100, 1/160 sec. Two light setup, one in a softbox for our heroin and one in a reflector on the very hungry zombie. Both were set to full power which allowed me to minimize the affect of the ambient sunlight. Dahlia is holding the softbox to keep it from blowing in the persistent Flagstaff breeze.
Both lights are AB800 - the same ones I've been using for the last month or so with such great success. Friday was my first time using a Vagabond II battery pack, which held up beautifully even with both lights at full power.

After we finished up I had Angelica pose with her makeup artistry.

Overall things went very smoothly and I am pleased with the results. The eventual goal is to have 5 zombies rushing Sarah, who will get weapon upgrade. Unfortunately with 4 more zombies I need 4 more lights. For more lights I need another battery/generator. Of course each of those zombies needs to get hair/makeup done, which takes at least an hour per model. 
In total I'm going to need a minimum of 3 makeup artists, 6 lights and some way to power all that light. Not to mention the fact that I don't currently pay myself, my assistants, models or makeup artists. I have to find people to do all this for FREE. 

The resulting images would be seriously epic... but I just don't have the resources at this point.

If you have any suggestions about any of the above topics, let me know!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Final review: The iPad for college?

Well. I have finally made up my mind about the iPad and how useful it really is for college students.

If you haven't read my two previous posts on this topic here and here, please do so!

After my difficulties last week, I have been using the iPad a lot less. I became a bit disenchanted with it. The novelty wore off and I was left with a semi-functional computer-ish device; far less capability than my MacBook Pro (which recently had a clean OSX install) and far more capable than my iPhone.
As such, I've taken to leaving the iPad wherever I think I will want the ability to search the internet but where I don't want to bring my laptop. Bed is one place. The living room is another. The man-cave where my roommates and I smoke hookah and hang out is another. I was browsing the web in one of these locations yesterday when I came across the following:

I actually broke out laughing as the animation played through, showing me that my WINDOWS machine was being hacked into and that my personal information was in serious danger! One would think whoever wrote the virus would be smart enough to check which browser the client was using. Mobile Safari is definitely not a browser that many Windows machines run. The iPad then informed me courteously that the file type that had been automatically downloaded was not supported. Duh. I closed the browser window and that was the end of it. The iPad is (of course) is still functioning flawlessly and I've no reason to believe that will change. On the other hand, I spent a solid 2 hours removing this virus from a Windows XP box a few weeks ago.

One evening I was cruising through the App store and I came across the CourseSmart app, redesigned specifically for the iPad. I downloaded it without paying a cent, entered my credentials and it immediately showed me the textbooks I have available! Suddenly inspired to do homework (a miracle, I assure you) I opened my Managerial Accounting textbook and went at it.

Overall it wasn't a terrible experience. It appears that they rushed the app a bit, so the search function doesn't do very well and navigation can be a bit of a pain... But, it was much better than reading it off my laptop because I could pick up up, zoom in and out, and generally manipulate it as I saw fit. I expected the responsiveness of the experience to dwindle a bit, but zooming and panning was just as pleasant as ever.

If all my textbooks were available from CourseSmart, and if I actually read my textbooks, this would persuade me to keep the device. Unfortunately, CourseSmart only offers a limited selection of 10,000 books and I rarely find cause to read my books anyway. Before you say it, I know - I should read my textbooks. There are a lot of things I should do that I don't. Welcome to college.

So. It's decision time. Is the iPad worth it?
That depends on what you want to do with it. As a textbook reader, it fails mainly due to lack of selection. Apple needs to get together with publishers and offer electronic textbooks in the iBooks store. Third party apps are always going to be less satisfying than the original iBooks experience.

Speaking of iBooks - I love it. I spend all my free time looking at computer screens anyway, so reading from a portable one has no affect on me. I read Sherlock Holmes and am nearing the end of Peter Pan. The built in dictionary is great and the variable screen brightness is enough for me about 90% of the time, as I mostly read in the evening when not in direct sunlight.

As long as you aren't in direct sunlight, looking at photos or even watching a movie is pretty good. The more black in the photo or movie, the more of your own reflection you see. This device was clearly designed for the narcissistically inclined.

Using the internet is way better than the iPhone and far more portable than a laptop, especially because my laptop lives connected to a bunch of hard drives and a second monitor. Typing takes some getting used to, but after a solid week or so of use, typing mistakes diminish drastically.

I give the iPad an 8/10 as a device overall. Keep in mind that I'm fairly demanding of my technology.
I give it a 4/10 for textbook reader.

That 4/10 is why I have decided to sell my iPad.
If I'm going to pay $500 for a device like this, I want my textbooks. All of them. Easily.

Here's the deal. I could sell this puppy for $650 on eBay and make a little money no problem. BUT I'd like to offer this iPad to one of my readers, and I'm happy to just break even.
I have here a receipt for $541.42 from BestBuy, which is exactly that I paid to walk out the store with it. If you read this blog or you know somebody who wants an iPad for less than the eBay markup, let me know. I'll sell it to you for $541.42 plus the cost of shipping. If you're in Flagstaff, AZ, I'll happily hand-deliver it to you.


16gb wi-fi only iPad in perfect condition.

  • I have used this device for two weeks. It has lived in the padded compartment of my backpack since I bought it and it is still in 100% perfect shape.
  • All the original packaging materials are included. I have not used the charger or the sync cord, instead using the materials I already had on hand for my iPhone (which work wonderfully, btw).
  • I will restore it to original factory conditions before putting it in the box, which will delete all my personal info, music, and all the apps I've downloaded.

If you want it and are prepared to pay CASH or PAYPAL (cummon, who uses personal checks anymore?) then

drop me an email :
give me a call: (928) 600-3360

This money will go to furnishing me with a set of AB800 strobes. If you've got two AB800 or better strobes sitting around, I'll be happy to make that trade as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Suicide: Debra

If you haven't read yesterday's post about art appreciation and dealing with sensitive topics in art, please do so!

I got the idea for this shoot a really long time ago. As I was looking through my sketchbook I discovered it and decided that now was the appropriate time to get it done.

The weapon is a Tanfoglio Witness CO2 BB gun. It was not loaded, there was no CO2, and the safety was on. There was no way this was going to hurt her in any way.

Pizza box softbox on an SB600. 

Pizza box softbox on an SB600. 

Bare SB600 zoomed all the way to 85mm

This was my first time working with Debra, who despite her feelings about guns did an absolutely wonderful job! I usually prefer to work with a model a few times before I embark on a project as dark as this one, but we had fun cracking up between bursts of photos and I hope to have Debra in front of my lens again in the near future.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Art Appreciation: suicide, guns, smoking, etc.

A lot of the photographs that I create are edgy, dark, or morbid. They deal with topics that we as a society are used to avoiding or hushing up. Suicide is one of my favorite topics, not because I (or my models) have any suicidal tendencies, but because it is a very real issue for a lot of people. Some of my strongest memories from middle school involve people attempting suicide.

I never really knew why people refused to talk about it, so I guess taking pictures that clearly depict suicide is my way of forcing the topic to the surface. My goal as an artist is not to give you happy, cute, comfortable images, but rather to elicit emotional responses to my imagery. With this particular type of photograph I could care less if you are comfortable viewing it. I want to engage you with the photo. I want you to stop and think about it. I want you to care about the subject, the topic, the fact that suicide, though unpleasant, is a topic that people of all ages deal with.

A partially parallel topic is guns. I find that a lot of people like to pretend guns don't exist, while others see them as another tool, just like a knife or a bottle opener - part of everyday life. The fact is that guns exist. They can be used for good, for evil, for homicide and suicide alike. 

Another of my favorite topics is smoking. Not as intense as suicide by a long shot, but still a topic that I find fascinating. In the US we are constantly pushing for more legislation restricting smoking - we educate (as I think we should) kids from a young age to tell them that smoking is bad. Because of this negative association, many of the photographs I take that involve smoke are dark, contrasty and decidedly negative-feeling.
 In contrast, many cultures throughout the world use smoking as the social activity, much like the british and their tea. When you meet someone in India and you want to get to know them,  you might share a shisha and talk. This cultural contrast is something I find endlessly fascinating. 

The goal of this post? To inform you as viewers what the art community expects of you.
When you see a photograph you disagree with - that you think is distasteful or morbid - stop and think about what influences your opinions. Take a moment to consider WHY you find that image so offensive... chances are the artist finds it equally as offensive as you do - otherwise he or she wouldn't bother showing you!

This post also serves as a warning: some of the content on this blog is Not Safe For Work - containing partial nudity and sensitive topics like suicide. If you find the images distasteful, by all means drop me a comment and let me know - but tell my WHY you think that - and consider the possibility that I agree with you.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Looking lonely: Sarah

Sarah and I did this shoot over the weekend. I wasn't really sure what my goal was going into it. I knew the idea I wanted to get across was loneliness, I knew they were going to be b&w, and I knew we were going to use a few smoking-related props... Other than that I made it up as we went along.

I think each of them gets the point across in its own way... though I am not sure which does it best.

All but the last photo was lit with a bare SB600.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lesson learned: more light!

My friends Birgit and Gina decided they wanted to volunteer for a photoshoot.
I made cookies, we got together and decided to do our own version of a rather classic poster. Perhaps you have seen it at your local Spencer's store.

What we got looks nothing like it. Not in a unique and fun way, but in a way that tells me I needed to have a different lens on, a legit bed, a much taller room, and MUCH more light.

Such as they are, they don't suck so terribly I won't look at them... but they are not quite what I had hoped.

I lit the whole series with one SB600 flash pushed through a sheet, held up by the two armchairs in the living room. It was a huge light source... but it was very one-sided. Another light/sheet setup on the other side would have been perfect... maybe with some on-axis fill for good measure.

Two more shoots to come - both rather dark/morbid.

The ultimate showdown: a man against his mac

Regardless of your operating system, you've probably heard of the Blue Screen of Death.

I have had more than enough experience with the BSoD on Windows machines, from Win95 through Vista (though I have not played with Windows7 yet).

To my great surprise, my 3 year old Macbook Pro gave me a blue screen and rotating gear upon shutdown last week. I let it run for about 5 minutes before giving up and shutting it down hard by holding the power button.

It has been running poorly since then, not allowing me to use Spotlight, Finder crashing randomly, etc. It all culminated today when, whist running Aperture 3, it locked. Hardcore. No response.
I told it to shut down. After 10 minutes of thinking about it, the shutdown sequence started, which was immediately followed by the BSoD, where it remained for 15 minutes at which point I gave up and hard-rebooted again.

The problems with spotlight continued, as did shutdown time. I gave up and popped in my Snow Leopard install disc. It took about an hour to re-install the operating system, plus a solid 30 minutes for the reboot that should have taken 30 seconds tops.

Once the operating system had been installed, the machine rebooted itself. Shutdown time: 8 seconds. Much better.

I am currently backing up the 7.98gb of changes to Time Machine, at which point I will continue where I left off editing my photoshoot from this afternoon.

If all is well, I expect to load the three photoshoots from this weekend over the course of the next couple days... though originally I had hoped to get them all up today - it doesn't look like that is going to happen.

Have a great Monday!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

iPad: one week

This is another fairly long post, all about the iPad, still from a college student's perspective. If you've had enough of the freaking iPad already, I won't be offended if you continue on with your life without reading this post. If you're curious - by all means read on!
If you haven't already read my first impressions, please do so!

I have now had the iPad for one week. For the last week I have carried it everywhere and taken any excuse to use it. Though I am used to people talking about me (I generally wear a kilt in public), I have heard many more people than usual whispering or mutter to one another as I pass by with my iPad... apparently everyone knows what it is but they are all too shy to come talk to me about it.

First and foremost - the Textbook issue: It appears that some of the e-book publishers are hoping to get on board and offer textbooks for the iPad. CourseSmart, a company that I already buy my electronic textbooks from, has an app for the iPhone and has one for the iPad in the works. Though I attempted to contact them to talk specifics about the new app, I got no response. IF they can get an app that works well and really offers me access to the books I buy from them, I expect my textbook issue would be 50% solved. CourseSmart only offers 10,000 textbooks, which might seem like a bunch but if the one specific book I am looking for is one they do not offer, the app becomes useless to me.

Outside of that, I have topics about general iPad use to discuss:

After using it constantly for the first weekend, I found that the iPad needed to recharge. My iPhone battery charges in two hours solid, so I admit I was hoping for a really quick charge time. Unfortunately, because the iPad has such a larger battery, it takes much longer to charge - about 4.5 hours from 20% to 100%. Additionally, it has to be plugged into a wall outlet to charge at that rate. Depending on the power of your USB port, it *might* be able to charge as long as it is asleep, though the charge rate is much slower.

Once I had it recharged, I loaded a few movies onto it and sat on my couch to enjoy The Dark Knight.
This is really where the glossy screen on the iPad made me want to throw it across the room. As long as there is any ambient light where you are trying to watch a movie, you get a lot of reflection. I spent half the time of the Dark Knight trying to convince my eyes to focus on the movie rather than my own reflection. Watching movies outside in the sun as I tried to do on one particularly nice day is impossible. I saw very little of the movie and a LOT of the grass, the sky, and the people wandering campus behind me. Overall, a fairly miserable experience with movies.

The direct sunlight was less of a problem when reading, though it definitely made it less enjoyable than with a real book. I found that I had to face a certain direction (into the sun) and that I had to remove my sunglasses to read. Doing so with a hat or cap is no big deal, but without one it gets fairly miserable.
I was able to finish The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes while getting my tan sunburn started and i'd give the overal reading experience an 8/10, because it performs wonderfully in low-light and almost acceptably in sunlight.

One of the things I hoped to do was to take the e-books I already have (nearly all of them are by David duChemin) and convert them from PDF to ePub. I downloaded Calibre, a free program for your real computer that converts a host of formats to the iPad-compatible ePub format. It works like a charm and I now have Mr. duChemin's photos and writing at my fingertips whenever I like, thought it does mess with the intended format - some landscape photos that ran full spreads are divided and put a few pages apart to make room for text.

A lot of people have been having issues with the iPad's wifi. I have been connected to my internet constantly at home and the only problem I have had is when the device suddenly decided I had the wrong password for my network. It prompts me to re-enter the password and then lets me right back onto the net. I expect Apple with have a fix out for this fairly soon.

One of the biggest things about the iPad is that it has a host of apps available. When i'm not doing anything I've taken to perusing the free section of the App Store and downloading apps that look good. One I very much enjoy is the NY Times Editors Choice app. It's free, and pays the NY times by showing you an add every once in a while. You get the option to "Skip this ad" and continue to the story, though I figure wasting another 15 seconds of my life to help out the NY Times can't hurt too much, so I watch the animated adds that Chase Bank has to offer me.
Here is a list of the FREE apps that I use:

PCalc Lite (because the iPad does NOT come with a calculator app built in)
Feeddler RSS
iBooks (duh)
GoSkyWatchP (I'm in an astronomy class this semester)
Twitterrific (doesn't allow for "old" retweet style)
Tweetdeck (doesn't allow clicking links in landscape)
The Weather Channel MAX+
Editors' Choice (NY Times)
Pandora (duh)
Adobe Ideas

I've decided not to pay for any Apps until I know whether or not I'll be keeping the iPad. At this point, I'm about 50/50 on it. I plan to watch CourseSmart to see how their app works for reading textbooks, and of course I have to watch my bank account, as I significantly decreased my available funds when I decided to review this sucker.

On a closing note, I am now nearly proficient at typing on the iPad. I make much fewer mistakes than I did a week ago and I can comfortably sit and compose an email of pretty much any length without too much pain or gnashing of teeth.

I shall continue diligently using the iPad for all I can think of - attempting to find reasons to save it or sell it. I will know by the end of April whether I will be keeping or selling mine.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I shot this during a walk through Downtown Flagstaff the other day. The photos in the post have nothing to do with the topic of discussion...

It seems to me there are two major camps among photographers: Those who jealously guard their secrets, their clients and their time, sit in one camp. Across the river sit those who freely give away everything they know, who refer clients to other photographers, and who aren't afraid to sit down with young photographers looking to start their way into the world.

One of these camps has a future. The other does not.

It seems to me that in the current "tough economy" we are all so familiar with, a lot of people have been temporarily moving from one camp to the other. When asked about their reasoning, they cite tough competition as their primary motivation to defect. You know what? The competition really isn't that big.

IF you are looking to get any old picture from anyone who owns a camera, the competition is fierce. Everybody is a photographer these days. Everyone has a camera. 99% of the population is smart enough to look at a screen and press a button a few hundred times. Most people can download Picasa or even Photoshop and apply some generic actions to make some photos look decent. Because there are so many of these people out there, competition for this quality of work is insane.

IF, however, you are looking for quality photos from someone who really knows photography, the competition isn't that huge. Sure, there are gazillions of wedding photographers out there. But not all of those photographers have a style that appeals to me, and what appeals to me doesn't necessarily appeal to you.

Shot at sunset in the alleys downtown.

Lets take 100 photographers in the same industry - weddings. They all live in the same city, own the same expensive camera gear, and are all available to photograph your wedding. The only differences are the prices they charge and the portfolios they display.

You as a client need to first look at their style, and then the prices they charge.
If you don't like the style of photography they put in their portfolio, the bottom line is that you aren't going to hire them regardless of their price. If you find a few whose style you like, you'll chose either the cheapest, or the one that you think gives you the most VALUE.

The one thing every photographer has that is unique to them is their style. Their gear, website, techniques, client list, whatever. All of that comes down to nothing because photography isn't about all that. The end picture depends entirely upon the VISION that the photographer has.

So, why the hell would I as a photographer keep any secrets? There is no way you or anyone else can copy my style. If you buy the same gear I have, use the same software, even the same photoshop actions, my pictures are still going to be MY pictures! Clients will hire me because they like the way I SEE the world around me, because of how I interact with them while I'm shooting, because I'm professional and fun to work with at the same time.
As such, I am more than happy to share everything I know about photography. It's why the big name photogs out there are happy to do the same thing. Chase Jarvis gets a bazillion hits every day not necessarily from paying clients, but from photographers who want to see how he does things. The more people that know about you, the better off you are! Chase knows that so he attracts gazillions of people to his website, flickr, facebook, twitter, etc. Lots of people want to copy his style but they CAN'T!
David duChemin: same thing. Joe McNally: same.

These are some of the photographers who have "made it." And they made it big. You would think that these people would be the ones sitting alone on the other side of the river, guarding everything they know about photography. Instead, they give it out! They write books (to make a little $$$ on the side), they write blogs for free, do behind the scenes videos, show off their entire workflow sequence because they understand that the competition for high-level photography is minimal - nobody is going to steal their clients! Nobody two people have the same vision - so who cares if their technique is ripped off somebody else? If you aren't original, nobody is going to want your work.

When it all is said and done, if you know your photography and your business skills, the competition you face from other photographers is so INSIGNIFICANT compared to what you can teach them, and most importantly, what you can LEARN from them. If we can keep the doors of education open inside the industry, it gives all of us a chance to continue growing and learning (and making more money).

That's my rant for the day. What do you think? Comments are always appreciated - I love a good discussion!

One Light: Molly

I realize it has been a while since I posted last. I realize it has been even longer since I posted any real photography (though I do like my iPhone shot of the iPad and headphones).

To make up for that, at least in some small part, I give you Molly: an outstanding photographer and a great model, though she might not admit to the latter.

I was sleeping sitting in class when the wheels of cognition and creativity finally and very suddenly started turning again. Jess was rambling on about the business side of photography, which got a whole bunch of thoughts cranking through my head in a very short period of time. In my endeavor to write these thoughts down (on my phone, naturally) I noticed Molly sitting across from me with a super-awesome scarf-thing. I immediately hopped on Facebook so as to message her whilst sitting only feet away (in order to avoid disrupting class, of course). For some reason she agreed to be photographed and as soon as class ended, we headed out to the studio. 

I grabbed one Profoto head and one large diffuser, just to see the light quality vs. a traditional softbox.
The light is blasting into the diffuser from just below Molly's face height. The diffuser is large enough to light her "tip to tail," as Jess would say, and it did a great job with the light. The spill onto the background was a bit of a pain, but nothing that a quick flag/reflector couldn't handle.

In addition to the B&W shots above, I got some color versions that I am quite partial to.

Not a huge amount of post processing to these, at least as compared to what we do in the Advanced Digital Workflow class that I enjoy every Wednesday evening.
Contrast, black point, saturation adjustments. Then just a little blemish removal and skin softening. Add a vignette and some sharpening and you have a finished product.

It felt GREAT to finally get some photos, put on the headphones and work some photos for a few hours.

With any luck I'll have another shoot on Friday, another post about the iPad over the weekend, and something to say about the business and/or social media aspects of photography in the next week.

For now, have a great Thursday!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

iPad for college students?

What follows is my perspective on the Apple iPad. I'm a sophomore in college at NAU and I'm looking at this device purely from a college student's perspective.

I caved yesterday morning and bought an iPad.

Writing this post (90%) on the iPad while listening to music

My original intention was to go to the campus bookstore so I could get my hands on one and to see which, if any, textbook publishers had signed on with apples iBooks program. My eventual goal is to use the iPad primarily as a textbook reader, though in order for that to be a viable option I need the various textbook publishers to get together with apple to provide iPad-compatible versions of their books. As it turns out, the staff af the bookstore didn't have a clue about what would be available and couldn't get into the iBooks store to check it out for me. My only option was to buy one and give it a test drive myself.

Looking through the iBooks store, it doesn't appear there are any textbooks available. Though there is a reference section, that's about as close as it gets for now. Much of the hype I have seen from the press proclaims the iPad as something geared very much towards college students. While it is definitely cool and easy to use, the current lack of textbook options, combined with the relatively high price (at least in terms of the percentage of a college student's budget) make it much less appealing.

I'm going to be using my iPad for pretty much everything I can think of for the next month while I try to figure out if it's really worth the $$$. For now, all I have are my first impressions:

First off, it is heavier than I expected. It feels very solidly put together (unlike some netbooks i have toyed with), which is a huge plus for me, as I tend to beat on everything I own. Holding it for long periods of time does tend to get difficult, especially because its so darn slippery. I've taken to putting it in my lap or between my knees whilst browsing or reading. A rubber case like the one I have for my iPhone would make this much easier.

The first thing I did was to open Safari and hit a few websites. NY times, CNN, Facebook. They look amazing on the iPad's monster screen and require very little of the zooming and panning that iPhone and iPod touch users are so familiar with.

In order to get to the websites mentioned above, I couldn't help but use the virtual keyboard. It is a surprisingly simple experience. The iPad autocorrects just like the iPhone to assist those users who aren't familiar with a keyboard that provides no tactical feedback. The iPad defaults to make a little click sound every time a key is pressed. I don't like that so I turned it off. I don't experience any real difference as long as I'm watching the screen to see what I'm typing.
I find that I need to be sitting down to type, which is just fine for me.

Overall, typing takes just a little adjustment from a physical keyboard. I am used to resting my fingers on the keys while I think about what to type next. That does not fly with the iPad, so I have to keep my fingers elevated. The keys are spaced fairly well in the portrait orientation, and while I do find myself hitting "delete" more often than usual, I am confident that with a few weeks of use I could eliminate many of my typing errors on the iPad.

While I'm cruising the web, I usually like to listen to music. Depending on how I have the device oriented, the built in speakers can get covered up by my hand or buried in my lap. The speakers are surprisingly loud, and though they predictably don't provide much base, they do get the point across fairly well. When you really want to listen to music, you can take your headphones and plug em in. The headphone jack on the iPad is not recessed, so any pair of headphones will do, though it does not come with a pair of the apple earbuds we all hate. Thank you Apple. I plugged in my Sennheiser HD 202 cans to hear what the iPad had to offer. Unsurprisingly, the sound quality offered is fairly mediocre. I find it comparable to the sound offered by an iPod, which is considerably weaker than that offered by my MacBook Pro. The EQ is also similar to that of an iPod, with a tendency to clip bass notes and without the custom tweaking available on a standard computer.
Though I was surprised about the lack of cover-flow, I don't miss it.

Moving on, I explored the iBooks selection - after all, that's really what I want this device is for!
The iBooks store doesn't have a whole bunch to offer at the present time... it looks to me like the NY Times bestseller list is pretty much it. There are 50 free books available, all what my english teachers in high school would call "classics." Austen, Thoreau, Shakespeare, etc. Of course, there is a version of the Bible for free download as well. After enjoying a few samples of paid books, I chose The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (free) to read. The reading experience is great. After adjusting the font size and the screen brightness I was ready to rock. I read for a solid hour in very minimal light with no eye strain at all. I particularly enjoy the built-in dictionary, which allows me to increase my vocabulary without switching to the dictionary app (also free), let alone picking up a hardcover dictionary - I'm not sure I'd know how to use one anymore!
Showcasing the dictionary and how dark the screen gets - I was able to read comfortably with no other light in the room.

A lot of people have been saying the wi-fi only option is worthless, because only with 3G can you get the internet *everywhere* you go. That's a bunch of baloney, at least if you're in college.
As a college student, everywhere I go already has free wi-fi! My campus, like pretty much every college campus, has wireless that covers every single building. The coffee and sandwich shops that cater to college students know they need free wi-fi to get our business as well. Everywhere I go has wireless, so why on earth would I pay $30/month out of my already-limited beer money budget for 3G service from AT&T, a company that can't handle the number of iPhones on its network already!!!
Even if campus didn't have internet everywhere, I wouldn't pay for the service from AT&T because their service in Flagstaff is absolutely horrid.

So, after my first impressions, what do I think?
Its cool. Undoubtedly cool. BUT, it won't be worth the minimum $500 price tag until Apple gets the major textbook publishers on board. Even then, the price of these books is going to be have to be around 50% of the printed version for the savings to justify the purchase of the iPad for large numbers of students. I already buy the electronic or online versions of my books, which takes my average book spending per semester from $800 to $350 or so. Unfortunately, because these books are stored in a variety of formats either online or on my hard drive, I often forget which book is where, which program I need to use to read which book, etc. If they were all in one place, Apple and textbook publishers could stand to make some serious bank.

Once again, this is just my first impression. I'm going to give the iPad a fair chance to impress me over the next month. At that point if I'm not happy with it, I'll sell it.

Is there anything you want to know about the iPad? Anything I should try or elaborate on? Drop a comment below to let me know!