Friday, August 29, 2008

Inspiring Images

I would love to say that inspiration for images comes naturally to me but truth be told, I think all of us need a little push every now and then to extend ourselves beyond the boundaries that we unintentionally set for ourselves. There are several sources that I look to for inspiration and I'll post these on a regular basis. Here are a few to start. I hope you are awed as much as I am and they help you elevate your photography to new levels.

Erik Almas
Erik's work is nothing short of incredible and he does it all - portrait, fashion, landscapes, lifestyle - with a signature style that rocks. His work defines what I feel is the true art of modern photography, photographs that capture an image as it is perceived by the artist. The viewer can feel the cool wind pushing the sailboat or the warmth of the tropical sun on an island. It is amazing that he can even make a photo of cows in a rough hewn field somehow romantic.

Chris Orwig
Some of you know Chris from Photoshop and Lightroom training videos but have you taken the opportunity to checkout his photography work? It is awesome. The sepia series of famous surfers is some of the best portrait work that I have seen for matching the subjects to the environment in which you would imagine them. In his video's, Chris often gives a small window into his creative thinking. It definitely shows in his work.

Miss Aniela
Since the advent of photography, artist and average Joe's with a camera alike have at some point played with multiple exposures. The digital revolution has expanded the possibilities to unbelievable lengths. The best I have seen by far are the Anielas, multiple clones of Miss Aniela. I'm simply blown away by how amazing her images are. The photography is exceptional and the post processing is perfect. It is hard to believe that any of these images are not a single photograph.

Well that's it for this evening. I have to go back to stressing over the fact that in less than 48 hours I somehow have to run 13 miles. Hopefully sometime during this weekend I'll get the chance to click the shutter a couple of times before I am unable to walk! :-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lesson Learned: The Value of Being Prepared

Before heading down to the oceanfront this past weekend to photograph the East Coast Surfing Championships, I went through the usual ritual of checking my equipment and ensuring that I had everything that I needed. On a previous venture, I got burned when I got down to the beach and realized that I left all of my memory cards at home. There wasn't even one in the camera! I ended up making a quick trip to the nearest Office Depot and shelled out $100 for a 4 gb card. To say that I triple check everything now is an understatement.

With all of the contestants, their families, locals, and the regular tourists in town; beach parking was at a premium. Anyone who knows Virginia Beach knows that finding reasonable parking during the tourist season is a bit tough but I have Buster. Yes my beach cruiser's name is Buster. :-) It is even painted on the side. I'm not making this up. I guess the crew at Haro thought it was a personal touch to individually name the bikes they built. Better yet, it has a note painted on it that I am a Zimzala, someone that is happiest with their toes in the sand. How they knew that I have no clue! Anyway, I added a basket to the back of Buster that is perfect for carrying my camera bag, enabling me to grab a parking space at the Convention Center on 19th and bike down to the beach thus avoiding the bumper to bumper traffic.

What I didn't count on is that the new Bigma lens mounted on the Nikon D300 was too large to fit in my current camera bag. I made the hasty decision to leave my bag behind and just take the camera and a pouch of CF cards. It was a minimalist approach but really all I needed for day, or so I thought. The first lesson hit me when a proud father came up and said that he would purchase every photo of his son surfing the Quicksilver grom competition that I shot. I reached into my pocket for my business card only to realize that I had packed them in my camera bag. I seriously doubt that he remembered my website name so I left a fairly large sale on the sand that morning.

The second lesson came from an incredibly nice woman that ordered a couple photos of her husband surfing the open event. After she placed the order, she emailed me inquiring on whether or not I had any photos of him on the award stand. It was definitely a proud moment and having the image to keep the moment alive forever would have been a great thing. While shooting on Sunday, I briefly considered shooting a couple photos of each of the award presentations but not being the "official photographer" of the event, I figured I was better off catching the ongoing action shoots while the rest of the photographers were distracted with the podium. Another opportunity buried in sand and saltwater that day.

So the point is that being prepared doesn't stop with ensuring that your equipment is ready and your gear is packed. It is being able to foresee the potential opportunities and ensuring that you are ready to make the most of the opportunity. For the lack of a $.10 business card and 5 minutes every hour shooting trophy presentations, I probably cost myself a couple hundred dollars. I've added it to my lessons learned for the next upcoming event. You can be sure that there will photos of trophies as well as the action!

Monday, August 25, 2008

2008 ECSC Weekend

To say that I was looking forward to this year's East Coast Surfing Championships is an understatement to say the least. This the first chance that I have gotten to attend since I moved back to the area after being out of state for the last 13 years. It is amazing how much this event continues to grow. In addition to the pro/am surfing, there was a skate/bmx demos, pro/am volleyball, pro/am skimboarding, multiple concerts, the Miss ECSC bikini contests, and the Beach Cornhole Championships. The VB Jaycees once again put on a great event.

Friday night we caught the Smithereens (yes, they are still recording/touring) at the 5th St. stage and I was shocked at good they sounded, possibly better than 15 years ago. I guess somethings do improve with age. Saturday and Sunday were spent shooting photos of the surfing/skimboarding action and the Miss ECSC contest. To lighten the load, I biked down with just my camera and single lens - the monster Bigma - so I opted to forego the volleyball and skate photos and concentrate on the surfing. It definitely helped that mother ocean decided to play nice this year providing the contestents with ragged 3-footers on Saturday that cleaned up fairly nice on Sunday, leading to some of the best action that I heard they've had in years.

One shoutout - The band Jack Move played on Sunday. I never heard of them before but they absolutely rocked with a ska/punk sound (think Tweed Sneakers or mighty Mighty Bosstones). Awesome show.

The Sigma 50-500mm is heavy but exceptionally sharp for a lens with that much zoom range. I absolutely love it! Initially I was nervous that the focus wouldn't track fast enough to keep up with the speeding riders but I used it a couple of weeks ago to shoot hydroplane racing and it proved to track just fine. If it can handle boats at 150 mph, then it should manage surfers. Once I loaded the memory cards to Lightroom, I was estatic at how well they images turned out. Very little processing was needed other than rejecting the misses and converting the RAW files to DNGs before then adjusting the contrast, highlights, shadows, and saturation. For the most part, I was able to do this by processing the first image in a set and then syncing the rest.

The images can be seen in the following gallery. Please feel free to comment on them as you please.

The Rock-N-Roll Half Marathon and the Neptune Festival are next two big events in line. I'm going to be running/limping/crawling in the RnR so no photos this year but I'm looking forward to the Neptune Classic surf competition. Later.