Jun 29, 2012

Mostly on my other page* these days...

*I still hate the word "blog" with a passion. Ugh. I'm gonna find that guy, I swear!

So here's the thing...
No, I haven't been writing here much.
Yes, I've been writing elsewhere.

A good photo-friend of mine suggested that I put more emphasis on client-based blog entries. Prospective clients, he reminded me, are really big on seeing what you've been shooting lately, to get a sense of your vision. I have to agree. (The blog you're reading is kind of my go-to for photographer-based rants and other flotsam.)

So, from here on, you're going to see less here and more there; although I will be be throwing some stuff up here when I feel the call.

Again, here is the link. Hope you like it.

(If you're really hard up, you can peruse my articles in Chill magazine, but I really hope you have better reading material this summer!)

Mar 15, 2012

Why I cancelled my D800.

My wife likes to mock me because I once said that my D70s was "the last camera I'd ever need". Now, I did say this... but was giddy with insurance-settlement glee, having been abruptly parted from my Nikon 601 by a thief.

But I certainly never uttered those words when I got my D700. Mock me once...

Having "toughed it out" with this amazing full-frame camera for three whole years, I kindasorta felt that I was due. After all, I had bought it used. How ghetto is that? Might as well have a D1.

Then they announced the D800. They skipped the whole D700s, D700x bull and moved into a whole new field. Sure the frame-rate was worse, but, HD1080... awesome! Dual card slots... yay! Face-recognition exposure settings... um, great... I guess.

But, 36 megapixels... Hell, that's practically medium-format.

In fact, bearing witness to Zack Arias and David Hobby going to the dark side (Phase One) I was starting to drink the megapixel Kool-Aid, even though I routinely mock the pixel-peepers who never print bigger than 5x7—if at all.

[Note: there is a silly reference in Arias's article about "when you show up with a medium format rig your clients take notice". Yeah, I suppose, but... seriously?]

So anyway, I checked in on my dedicated camera fund, got a bead on the market price of a D700, and pulled the trigger on the 800. Bam! Bought and paid for, just a matter of waiting now.

Then something unexpected happened. Buyers remorse kicked in. Which is pretty hilarious, considering the product didn't even exist yet.

So why, exactly, did I spend $3200 on a D800? I re-played my initial reasoning.

  1. HD1080. Hmm. Do I even shoot video? Well, yeah... occasionally with my GoPros and even my iPhone. I mean, it would be nice to shoot some slick stuff with my good lenses once in a while. I'm a good editor... but damn, I barely have time to shoot stills. Long story short, I have no market for video at this time.
  2. Dual card slots. To be honest, I reeeally wanted this... mostly for file redundancy, but also to shoot EyeFi tethered to my iPad... whole other post. Still, not necessary.
  3. Face-recognition. Cool idea, but not a deal-breaker, since it never occurred to me that it was desirable before now.
  4. 36 megapixels? This was both the initial siren song and the breaking point on which all decisions should have, and eventually did, hinge.
No doubt about it, 36MP is a nice image to crop from; and faces in a big group can get a little sketchy even with the best lens, but holy cow. That's going to be a biiiiiig file once it chugs its way into Lightroom. Then you have to process.

So, with increasing anxiety, I trawled for more opinion: Facebook, photo sites, email. I practically begged photographers to punch holes in my logic. And damn them all, they did—even the non-Canon guys. They reiterated everything I knew was wrong for me about the D800.

[Did I mention the vertical grip? Yeah, the MB-D12 is going to cost about $450. No built-in wifi, no built-in Pocket Wizard, no built-in cappuccino-on-demand. That's pure greed, guys.]

But what finally made me pick up the phone and ask for a refund was this... the most immutable law of photographic gear:

If it makes no difference to your final image... if your clients don't see something more amazing in their hands when it's all done... if it doesn't improve your workflow dramatically (may actually impede it, truth be told) why on earth would you spend your money on it?

So I called my camera place, cancelled the order, renewed my vows with my D700, and now I'm happy again. Relieved, actually.

The D800, remarkable tool that it is, as gorgeous and enviable a piece of gear as it will prove to be... has no place in my camera bag.

Feb 27, 2012

Why I shoot for free*.

* if you're a client of mine, put down the phone. This will make all sense soon. 

I had fun with some beginners photo tips recently. And by "recently", I mean "around the time Sarah Palin was a contender". The best part was that I re-learned a few things that I had either forgotten, or taken for granted along the way.  Here is one—I don't know, intermediate?— tip I've been meaning to throw out there. Some wouldn't call this a "tip", they might call it "heresy".

Shoot for free. Whenever you can.

I quietly applaud when I read that free and cheap photography is (still) killing the business. Well, yeah... Canon Rebels and eleventy-terabyte SD cards have certainly put a fork in the old business. But, boycotting the new paradigm isn't a solution, and prosumer technology hasn't hurt business for those who have kept busy... and fresh.

Haters gonna hate, shooters gonna shoot. 

It's quite easy to take a good shot now—give my Mom a D3 with an 85mm f/1.4 and sooner or later, she'll have one in the bag. So, if it's easy to shoot good, you gotta get serious about shooting great. And turning up your nose at shooting something great just because it doesn't pay is worse than snobby, it's foolish.
Seventh St. School Dance Party
When electric bread-makers hit the shelves in the 80's, crappy bakers probably shook their floury fists at the sky. "How will we sell zees bagettes now?" The great bakers? They rejoiced, because customers now had a hands-on opportunity to find out how amazing the bread they had been buying actually was. "Long live West Bend," they shouted.

If you're regularly shooting for cash, and business slows down to a crawl, you have some options:
  1. Quit the whole scene.  There's a time and a place to do just that, by the way.
  2. Shoot as a hobbyist only. Nothing wrong with that.
  3. Bag your camera and wait it out. There are always people who will pay top dollar because you "deserve" it. Besides, you went to film school and you have decades of experience, right?
  4. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Even if it's "for free".
Help-Portrait 2011
Writers don't stop writing just because their last story didn't sell. They slip on a Starbucks apron, and do what they were born to do after their shift. And if they're smart, they put their unappreciated writing skills to use, maybe helping on a friend's blog or juicing up their own C.V.

Landscape photographers don't stop shooting because Outdoor isn't returning their emails. Food photographers don't stop lacquering up fake pizza because iStockphoto "killed their business". So why would a portrait photographer think he's above the odd freebie?

Find some people and shoot them. Help-Portrait doesn't have to be once a year. Start your own Free Photo Day whenever you want!

Party in the Park

Unlike Viv Savage, I don't have one particular motto, but here's a maxim of mine: "Buy it or not, I'm still shooting it". It's worked for me. I love the opportunity to shoot gratis... under certain conditions, of course:
  1. It's gotta be win-win.
  2. I call the shots. (re: Piper v. He Who Pays Piper)
  3. I meet new people. (by far, the most important of the three.)
Yes, I do have the luxury of a full-time job right now—knock on wood. But even if I were a full-time portrait shooter, I'd have to keep the rust at bay when times were slow. When no one calls (hello, winter) I get off my ass and shoot something—anything—preferably something challenging which will broaden my horizons. 

Note: this does not mean setting up my gear and shooting a bloody Macbeth chart or a garden gnome at different apertures and lighting angles. Go shoot something new; something that scares you—rabid dogs at a clown night-school, perhaps?

Depending on where you live, there are likely three or four places within range of a good Pocket Wizard, just dying for your talents. Schools, community-centers, arts groups... Be a hero, and give something to your community. The smiles you generate are worth it.

Help-Portrait 2010

And, not for nothing, you throw around some spiffy photos, on the house, guess whose name is going to come up when an actual paid gig is on the table? (Hint: it's not the guy with the mint-condition Leica, who's been waiting for his Google Adsense to start paying off.)

Love to hear your comments. They, too, are free.

P.S. Here's a fantastic book on "free"(that you can get at the library... if you're okay with destroying the whole publishing industry as we know it).

Jan 13, 2012

Son of the Bride of 'Reintarnation'

I thought I posted these a long time ago. Um, I was wrong. 
Thanks to all participants!

fratulence (n) odour, often rank, emanating from a large dwelling occupied by men aged 18-22.
-Ken Murray

incomsistent (-adj) lacking good cell phone coverage
plotsam (-n) load of books floating in the water
casserolo (-n) dish consisting of combination of chocolate treats
gallivent (-v) to run around freely complaining
-David Henderson

cointing: the process of slowing down a line at a retail store by paying with exact change.
agreenment: consensus on which activities are deemed 'good for the environment'.-Wendy Macpherson

bittersweat: perspiration that you know isn't actually reducing your weight in any long term manner‬
-Charlie T. via Wendy

spilunker‬:‪ a) one who spills your beer regularly by bumping the table underneath with his knee‬
‪ b) one who spills your beer by getting underneath patio tables and trying to make them more stable by using sugar packets and broken coasters under the table feet, in fact making the table less stable,
see Douchasaurus Rex‬
-CorinaS. via Wendy

non sequiturl: a forwarded link that has nothing to do with email it was sent in response to.
vacilities: found in any large organization, this department is responsible wavering and indecision
backteria: filth that accumulates on that spot you just can't quite reach in the shower. 

commutity: a collection of identical suburban dwellings on small clear-cut lots, connected by a network of streets named after trees.
-John Rose

preboot: (n.) a remake that discards all canon from a series that hasn't even been created yet.
tilapidated: The condition of fish that has been clumsily scraped from a baking sheet. 

abjective (n.) an extremely unpleasant describing word.
portfoolio: (n.) 1. a pilfered collection of images, designed to improve your photography. 2. a legitimate collection of original art that proves your utter lack of skill
pantioxidant: (n.) chemical in certain dark vegetables that releases inhibitions in a vegan.
savant garde: (adj.) experimental or innovative art that—uh oh... fifteen minutes to Wapner!