Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gabrielle and Grant - The Twins

On Sunday, I spent a couple of hours shooting photos of my friends Sarah and Richard's 4-month old twins. This was definitely a change from the haunting image I did a week ago!

Iso 200, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/750 sec

How on earth can something so small and seemingly immobile make you work that hard to keep up? As expected, most of the time one would be cranky and the other happy and then they would switch roles. Patience may just be one of the most important attributes that a photographer may possess.

Iso 200, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/750 sec

I did learn a very valuable lesson - do not use a new lens for the first time in shoot! I just purchased a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 specifically for portrait work. Sunday morning, I took a few shots with it to see the depth of field but only viewed them on my LCD and did not download them to my computer for viewing. In hindsight I should of because it would have clearly showed me just how razor thin the depth-of-field was going to be. The result is that a few of my favorite compositions found their way to the recylcle bin for being out of focus. Although I really wanted a shallow DOF, I should have opened up a bit more and shot f/2.0 - 2.5.

Iso 200, 50mm, f/1.8, 1/750 sec

I am happy with the collection of photos that were keepers. The photos were processed in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. A few variations in processing were thrown in including a couple cross-processed and monotones. I'm looking forward to sharing these with the clients and getting their feedback.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Team In Training - Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

I'm excited to say that I am embarking on one of the more important, maybe the most important, activities that I have committed to in my life. I have joined the Team In Training (TNT) for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). TNT was founded 20-years ago to raise money to help victims of blood cancers with the ultimate goal being to help find a cure. In exchange for training assistance for endurance sports such as marathons, bike races, and triathlons; athletes commit to raising a certain amount of dollars in donations to support LLS programs.

On March 22 I will be running in the Yuengling Shamrock Half-Marathon at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. My pledge between now and then is to raise $1900 for LLS. My goal is to exceed that mark. The decision to take on this challenge was not a light one. It seems that everyday we are bombarded by one organization or another asking for donations. I wanted to put my support behind an organization that has made a real difference and has proven that it will continue to do so in the future.

Please take a moment to visit my Team In Training web page. In addition to links to information on TNT and LLS, it contains a journal of my related activities, gifts that are being offered for donations, and a place for you to provide a donation if you are inclined. I look forward to you becoming a member of the team!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Mother's Nightmare: The Baby Collector

Okay, I openly admit that this is one of the most disturbing photos that I have taken and to believe that it came on a day that I walked in a benefit for ALS survivors is almost as scary. The catalyst was the latest round of the Digital Grin competition series with the subject being the interpretation of a Edgar Allen Poe poem about a nightmarish dream. As soon as I read it, I formulated the the image in my mind.

Getting the image was another story unto itself. I planned to do it last weekend but was unable to get around to it. I figured I had plenty of time and I would do it the following Saturday. The only problem is that while I had the skies I wanted, the winds were blowing at gale force last night. This may not have been an issue had it not been for the fact that I couldn't find a model to pose for me. So instead I spent yesterday running around getting costumes and creating custom flash brackets for the job, knowing full well that I would get one shot at this photo.

ISO 200, f/3.5, 1.5s, 18mm

After the ALS Walk post-party, I headed over to Nimmo church off of General Booth and Princess Anne. It provided the exact setup that I needed - an old fashioned graveyard backed by a church. The winds were still blowing at 15 knots which meant that the light stand with the Nikon SB-900 and Softlighter II took a tumble multiple times, even with two sandbags weighing them down. To complicate matters, I got to play both photographer and model, meaning that I had to don a three layer costume and work the camera. Can you say fun???

The idea was to create the image of Death taking a child. Maybe I listen to The Smiths "Suffer Little Children" far too much but as upsetting as the image was to create, it fit the assignment that I was shooting. I really thought this was a failed attempt until I saw the results and it sent a shiver down my spine. Regardless of how I do in the competition, I'm happy with how this image turned out.

Monday, October 6, 2008

2 Days in a Row with a Miss - Tough Weekend

Having botched Saturday evening’s shoot for a photo to enter in Digital Grin’s DSS 9 competition, I drove out late yesterday afternoon to Lynnhaven Inlet. The image that I was looking for was a silhouette of one of the local fisherman throwing a cast net backlit by the setting sun. First glitch occurred when I got down to the northern bank of the inlet, a place usually teaming with net fishermen, only to find that there were none. Looking across the inlet, I saw 3 men throwing their big nets repeatedly. It then occurred to me that not only was I on the wrong side in terms of subjects; I was also on the wrong side in order to shoot into the setting sun. There wasn’t enough time left for to drive to the other side of the inlet, find parking, and get my equipment down to the beach before I lost the light I needed.

Iso 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec, 200mm

I decided to work with what I had on my side the inlet and ended up with a couple of shots that were decent but in no way good enough to place in the top-10 of the competition. After much debate, I decided to enter the above shot anyway just to get feedback. I liked the colors in the landscape image below but it just didn’t have strong subject to standout.

Iso 200, f/3.5, 1/30 sec, 18mm

DSS 10 began this morning and it looks even more difficult. The theme is “Illustrating Text” with the interpretation being left wide open. This should be interesting.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

So what happens when things don't come together the way you planned?

OMG, this is inevitable! You plan out a shoot as meticulously as you can. Every detail is scoped - time of day, direction of light, flash units, white balance, models, on and on and on. Then the time comes and everything falls apart.

Iso 200, f/6.3, 1/60 sec, 62mm, Nikon SB900 + Vivitar 285HV for fill

The sun is setting on the opposite side of the field than you expected (oh yea, go check out the site a couple of days in advance at sunset). The 5 volunteers you requested turn out to be twenty 14 year olds on a short break from a birthday party that have to return within 15 minutes. Your cornfield turns out to be a mudfield. You go to set your flash to tungsten and see there is no tungsten setting. Who knew that incandescent is the same thing? You have to shoot 30 minutes before the light is in the sweet zone. And for some reason, the sky is absolutely void of clouds!

Iso 200, f/6.3, 1/60 sec, 31mm, Nikon SB900 + Vivitar 285HV for fill

This was the scenario that I ran into last night while shooting a photo for the latest Digital Grin competition. This round is especially difficult because the photos cannot have any post processing, everything has to be straight out of camera and shot at sunset or sunrise. I had been viewing the entries posted throughout the week and out of the first 50, the majority were some variation of the sun rising or setting. I decided that I needed something a bit more action based with a story behind it in order to be a front runner. The plan was to create an image of people stealing potatoes from a field at twilight. I know it sounds strange but in my mind, it played out pretty cool.

It would have been awesome; however, everything went wrong from the start. The thing that did work was my brother-in-law playing the part of the king of thieves. Even though I knew at the time that the image wasn't going to come together, I went ahead and shot several frames. When I uploaded them, my suspicions were confirmed. The sky was colorless. The depth was off. The "models" were all over the place. What is the next step? Salvage what's left.

Iso 200, f/6.3, 1/60 sec, 44mm, Nikon SB900 + Vivitar 285HV for fill

I dropped the idea of entering any of the images in the contest and decided to play around with them as composite portraits. Amazingly, I was really happy with how these came out after working them in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS3. The bottom line is that I missed my contest photo for the evening but came up with some personal images that were far better than I imagined!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stealing or Free Marketing: Business on the Web

Lately I have been reading complaints on various message boards about people downloading photos from the photographers’ websites and using them on their own personal websites. The main target of the rants has been kids downloading photos and posting them to their MySpace or Facebook pages. I didn’t really give it much thought until last night.

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/2500 sec, 112mm

Over the weekend I did an extensive shoot of surfers at the VB oceanfront and posted the images to my website after several hours of processing. During the shoots, I gave out my cards to several surfers and parents alike so that they could view and potentially purchase some of the photos. This is nothing different than I have done in the past to much success. Sunday night I received an email from one of the surfers complimenting the shots and requesting if I would be willing to send him a few for his MySpace page. He said he would give me full credit for the shots. My initial thought was to give him the “that is what the personal download sale item is for” response. Instead, I saw it is an opportunity to reach more people that normally would never know that my site existed. The next day I emailed him a set of photos optimized for the web and requested that he caption each with my name and site address. Also I requested that he send me his MySpace address so that I could verify it looked correct.

The next day I received an email back thanking me for the photos and a link to his account. I checked his page and everything looked cool and the fact that he set one of my photos as his primary picture was somewhat self-satisfying. Then another photo caught my eye. For those not familiar with MySpace, other users are allowed to post messages to your main page. Each message is marked with an avatar, a small picture representing the person that posted the message. One of the messages displayed another one of my photos of a different surfer as the avatar.

I take the normal precautions to protect my photos. My galleries are locked for downloading so that if someone attempts to right-click the gallery to choose “save photo”, they will receive a message saying that the photos are copyrighted and protected by law. Each photo is also marked with my copyright and website address. I do not, however, place a big watermark across the entire photo because I’d rather the public and perspective clients to be able to view the image in its entirety prior to purchasing. Anyone with any computer knowledge knows that there are a plethora of applications out there that enable users to take screen shots of images without physically downloading the image from the site. In doing so, the user knows that they are doing something wrong and more than likely illegal.

So what was my response? Initially I was steamed and began to contact the initial requestor to help me track down this individual so I could demand the images removal and threaten any sort of legal action. Instead I clicked through the link to the posters site and into his photo gallery and saw that under each photo, he also provided my name and website information. Here is where each of us has a choice to make in what is in the best interest of our business. I could make a fuss and loose several potential future sales or leverage these sites for their marketing value. I guarantee that each site probably receives 100 times more hits than mine, especially from people that share the same interests. If just a few of those hits account for a few sales in the future, then it is a benefit to me.

I can understand photographers getting upset at photos being taken from their sites without their permission or purchase. Several measures can be taken to make it difficult to do so but with technology advancing, we will never be able to stop it from happening. I’ve had a few friends in the business (especially high school and little league sports) go as far as to take down their galleries and conduct only in person showings. To me this only limits the audience of potential buyers as well as increasing workflow time better spent shooting more events. Doesn’t it make more sense to find a way to positively use these sites as a vehicle to increasing future business?