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!