December 2, 2009

I love you!!..I hate you!!

I was reading Kelby's "Guest Blog Wednesday".  Cool guy, Eric Ryan Anderson.  Out of nowhere a statement he wrote hit me like a ton of bricks.  And I had to respond.  Here's a recap of my response....

…”and am rarely happy with my images for more than a week.” I count my happy days in hours…does this value go longer as you get better?

Look, I seem to make people happy in what I deliver and I guess that counts for something.  But how many times, as I aspire in my photography, do I look at my stuff and just want to cry!.. telling myself I need to give up this foolish ambition. For the love of pete, I’m 40 with three kids and a wife and a day job and then trying to run a small photography business on the side with stars in my eyes of likes of Kelby, Zarias, Jarvis and McNally…god do I lament not ever having had the opportunity for internship/apprenticeship! Sometimes I actually get on ebay and start figuring out the starting bid for listing my equipment as the thoughts of my elders ring in my head “Don’t quit your day job!”

I’m in a passionate love relationship with photography that’s as out of control as an Irish Catholic groom marrying a feisty Italian bride. What can I say.

Look, for all those out there who know me, I'm not going to quite my day job.  I love my family and my day job puts food on the table very well.  But the creative side of me didn't emerge until my mid thirties...not an easy time to follow your heart when you already have a family depending on you.  And as much as I HATE that I'm not as good a photographer as I'd like to be, I love photography more.  It's a creative outlet that I just cannot ignore.

Later,

Mike

November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Diane and I wish all of our readers a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.  For our non-US friends we still wish you a happy day of Thanksgiving for reading our site and being a part of our virtual family.

Later,

Mike

November 20, 2009

Lens AF Alignment..a couple ways.

If you want to go about checking your Auto Focus accuracy with your particular Camera/Lens, here are a couple ways to go about it.  One is free and one is not.

If your camera has LiveView go to http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/cameras/1ds3_af_micoadjustment.html#AF_test_image and download the test image on his page,  then follow his instructions...the page is a little messy to follow, so I copy and pasted the section of his site I followed.  I suggest you still look at the whole post he has, as he shows you what the moire pattern should look like focused and lots of other tidbits there.  He is a Canon shooter, but the instructions work just fine for Nikon bodies.

...[The principle is that you display the square GIF image (at 100% full size) and focus on the computer screen, using liveview (zoomed if need be) and maximise the appearance of Moire interference patterns.

You will need to have the camera mounted on a tripod and directly facing the computer screen. Take some care to get the screen square on and lined up with the camera.

The interference patterns come about from the interaction between the image pixels on your screen and the pixels of your sensor. They may not look exactly the same as in the examples below, but you should notice a distinct peak in the amount of detail visible - that is the focus point.

You then switch off liveview and part press the shutter button to activate AF.

Look carefully at the lens distance indicator as you do this ... if the lens and camera combination is spot on, then there will will be no movement of the lens focusing ring and the image will not change.]...

If you are more technical and don't trust the above you can purchase or rent the LensAlign pro kit.  Visit the company's website for more information on this method. If you have used the LensAlign products, let us all know about it here!

Happy micro-adjusting!

Later,

Mike

November 16, 2009

Creativity – Reinvention or Style?

@zarias..my photog equivalent of the ghosts of Christmas present/future...About 29 days ago, one of my fab 4 photogs (Zack Arias) seemed to be in the middle of a twittering introspect on creativity.....

"Is there anything that hasn't already been shot?" - "Nope." Gotta take what's done and flip it. Somehow."

"I can hire 50 photographers to shoot that picture. Why am I going to hire you?" - Me to myself in my head.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everyone can shoot that. What do you have that's different?" - Me to myself in my head.

Can't reinvent the wheel on every shoot. Heck, at times we aren't supposed to reinvent the wheel. But the personal work. That needs a twist.

Of my fab 4, Zack seems to haunt me the most into an introspective look at my path in photography.  In a way he is my combined ghost of Christmas present and future.  With Zack I seem to be more "brought to cause" by his imprint in my life than the other 3.  So as I read those tweets, the title of this blog came to mind and I jotted it and the tweets down for an expounding on at a later date.

As the days have passed,  I have found myself vacillating back and forth on what creativity means to me as a photographer...The antisepticated definition of creativity from dictionary.com:

"The ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts."

Creativity...Inspired?...New?...Certainly not copycat?...Style?  How the hell do you attain it?  Are you born with it?  Is it like singing?  Can you learn it, or do you have to already have the talent in order to build it?  Some seem to have it already pre-built, while others have to nurture it, and other just flat don't have it.

As I think about the topic, I find a possible four step progression of the creative newb to the master....Study, Style, Reinvention, and Invention, the last of which is the BFG of creativity, in my mind.  This is the level one frickin CREATES creativity the likes of which all other levels are a mimic of in one manner or another.

STUDY:   Here is where the newb study's the work of others and learns the technical foundation of the art to which they are aspiring to master.  In photography it's studying professional photogs, learning composition, exposure, lighting, texture, weight, lines. etc.  You mimic to create as you build on the foundations of technical proficiency.

STYLE:  If you are lucky and you truly have the creative in you, you get to this level.  Here again, I find myself haunted by something Zack has stated in the past.  A photographer reaches a new level when finally the photog can apply a unique style to the photographic process that pins itself to the solid foundations of exposure and composition.

Reinvention:  Now your reaching the master level.  Here you are transcending the traditional ideas, rules, patterns and the like.  Here you are able to manipulate the foundations and infuse the style to something original and progressive.

Invention:  You've reached bad-ass now.  You lay a new foundation for others to study, stylize and mold.

Am I happy where I'm at today as a photog?  Yup.  I love photography and I'm happiest whilst in the midst of a shoot.  Am I content with where I'm at today as a photog? Nope.  Still trying to figure out the style part.  I'm disgusted.  I want to break free of my study and begin to style.  But without apprenticeship or formal study, I'm stuck with the self study and it's a slow frickin' road.

Later,

Mike

November 5, 2009

Critique is Like Confession…Never Say “But…”

So as some of you know, I got the Clubber Lang knock out on a website critique of my website yesterday.  And like when Rocky got his butt kicked in the first match with Clubber (my Clubber happened to be the lovely Zack and Meghan..please Meghan, don't think I think you look like Clubber Lang!), I'm having to think hard and long about the critique and comments flowing in as a result of that life moment.   Don't get me wrong, the critique was self-induced.  I asked Zack and Meghan to critique my website.  And I'm already starting the rework of the site...but what about the content?

Examination of Conscience.

Asking for critique is like going to confession.  Prior to confession, Catholics have a truthful self Examination of Conscience prior to entering the confessional.  If during the confession one feels compelled to use a word like "but" in the confession, then the confessor really hasn't come to the table prepared for confession and the Examination of Conscience falls a little short. For example, "Forgive me father, for I have sinned..Last week I blahbidy blah blahed...but I was in a bad mood".  Sure, the confessor confessed the blahbidy blah blah action.  However, the confessor took the accountability away from the action and blamed it on being in a bad mood.

In C&C (comment and critique) sessions, it's really no different.  One must truly come to the table prepared to listen to the critique and honestly digest it rather than try to justify or get defensive about the item being critiqued.  Just be careful WHO you ask to critique your work...Ask critique from non family/friends you trust...

And like the Catholic that is in a constant up and down pursuit to live a life as Christ-like as possible, there’s no rest in my photographic pursuit of a unique style and creativity that rests on a solid foundation of composition and exposure (sorry to steal that from you Zack). Yeah, it would be nice to accelerate that pursuit by studying under my beloved 4(who rock in that ability in their careers right now).  Oohh to have the opportunity to just spend one day standing in the background watching, learning, and taking notes on a photo shoot with the likes of Joe, Zack, Chase, or Scott…THAT would be priceless…but this homeboy’s MasterCard is maxed out!

So as I listened to what Zack and Meghan were saying about my website and content, it's funny how my mind kept going back to the initial headrush of shock when I read the email from Zack stating my website was in this week's critique session.  The first whispered words out of my mouth upon reading that fateful email; "Oh god...".

As I rode my motorcycle home at lunch to view the critique, it was all I could do to keep my concentration on the road instead of letting my mind wander playing out the emotion and feelings I was about to try and justify in this battle of critique I was about to witness on my creation.  I was about to enter that confessional and it scared the crap out of me.  How was I going to handle it...was I going to start babbling a bunch of "buts" during the critique, or was I going to take notes and start a self examination of work and start trying to align the critique to the reality of the world I work in.

Wait... "align the critique to the reality of the world I work in"?  Isn't that like saying "but"?  Zack and Meghan state very clearly on the critiques, the "Rules".  I won't regurgitate them here, but they are honest and caring rules.  So when I say "align the critique to the reality of the world I work in", it means I need to align the critique to things like my clientele, business model, and what kind of photographer am I trying to be....

And that last one is what hit me the most.  What kind of photographer am I trying to be?  Regardless of my clientele or business model, my photography will fall into one or two categories that sometimes must co-exist; Artistry and Function.

Am I the artist of the likes who creates art for no-one but themselves?   Or am I the hired artist at a photo shoot that dances the fine line of attempting to create a photographic piece of art for a client that encapsulates what the client finds "cool" and important with what I bring to the table in creativity and style.  And sans apprenticeship, do I sweat at the chicken and the egg paradox of having that creativity and style resting on solid foundation of composition and exposure I've been having to learn on my own?

True, my clientele is of a much different nature than say, Zack Arias, Joe McNally, Chase Jarvis, or Scott Kelby. But who cares!  I still have a burning desire to deliver a product to a parent that shouts of professionalism, creativity, and style that makes the parent hug you after they reviewed the portraits you took of their child!  And yes!  I do  want to experience the same someday in the world that Zack, Joe, Chase, and Scott work in…just as long as it’s not for some self absorbed hunt for fame BUT instead for the love of the shoot.

Let's face it....if I’m lucky enough to survive parenthood, I REALLY want someday to go learn under one or more of my beloved 4…be it workshops or sitting down to a cup of coffee.   But right now, my life doesn’t hold those cards.  Yeah, that may cause me a prolonged growth in the composition and exposure foundation, BUT the love of my family, and the fun and friendship I experience along the way of developing a creativity and style for the clientele I have here is truly priceless.

Later…Mike

November 4, 2009

Step It Up Man!….Just call me Ross…

Holy crap!  I got obliterated in a website critique today.  And thank god for it.

Check it out...It's good stuff , and to say the least, I feel like Ross in Friends when he got his synthesizer...thinking I'm all cool with my website....uugghhhh....I'm the second website to get critiqued in this session....aaahhh....the inside of my head feels like my brain is spinning around, but my body is still.  Whooosh....

Much to digest and more to come on what the hell I'm gonna a do to step up the game....this is by far one of the hardest things I've put myself through, but well needed.

Later...Mike

October 29, 2009

Ryan Schude Photography - A "whoa!/hmmm..." experience

No no no...not a ho-hum experience...a "Whoa!--hmmm" (stroke your chin while you say hmmm) experience.

I was reading Scott Kelby's blog today and decided to take a look at a link for Ryan Shude Photography that Scott suggested his readers check out.

Go look at this picture of his and come back here and tell me you didn't have a "what the heck" first reaction with a follow up of "...hmmm, that's actually cool" and then went to look at more.

http://www.ryanschude.com/#/two/two/1

Later...Mike

October 20, 2009

Thank you gadget/techno maker PEOPLE (Canon EOS-1D Mark IV)

I was up late last night at my day job (hmm...that might qualify for an oxymoron) and I was following the Canon announcement of their new Canon EOS-1D Mark IV.  Right after the announcement of the Nikon D3s; wow, the photography world is getting real treats this week!

When I read the specs of the D3s when they came out, my heart pounded a little faster, and I felt a little rush as the blood rushed to my head.  But when I read the specs of the Mark IV, my heart raced and I was immediately trying to figure out how to buy one of these with the rush and intensity of techno/gadget junkie jonesing for a fix.  If the specs prove out, this is going to be a one hell of a camera!

Personally, I like to think of myself as a purist gadget junkie.  I couldn't care less which company creates a cool gadget or piece of technology.  I just feel blessed to be able to engage with it.  Hence I do not care to get myself into the Nikon vs Canon, Apple vs PC, Ford vs Chevy crap fests.  I have found no inner calling or need to find myself a champion for any business or group of corporate shareholders.  If a company puts out an awesome piece of gadgetry or technology, I embrace the essence of that which drives my adrenaline levels...not the brand.

I must admit, however, that I'm in complete awe of the PEOPLE behind the creation of the gadget or technology.  So if the specs prove out on the Mark IV, my sincere congratulations and a heartfelt techno junkie fix set of hugs to the PEOPLE that made the Mark IV, and a honorary congrats to Canon for putting the money and corporate framework in place to allow those talented PEOPLE to follow their dreams by creating a pipeline to which they can push their creativity and skills through to me the end consumer.

If I am lucky, I will not "switch" from Nikon to Canon, but be able to purchase a Canon and some lenses to serve a higher purpose in my creative pursuits as a photographer.  This is a WOW! moment for me in photography.  My heart races at the announcement of the Mark IV like it raced when I saw the Transformers trailer years ago.  My soul rejoices to the PEOPLE that made the Mark IV and Transformers movie a reality for my person to feast upon.

Here are a few links of information I found interesting on the Mark IV....take a close look at Vincent Laforet's recent blog post on the Mark IV's video capabilities...just think of what a couple of PEOPLE did to make this particular blog post and video review a reality as you read...the human spirit and drive is quite impressive!

http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0910/09102001canon1d4.asp

These are truly happy days fellow photogs!

EOS-1D Mark IV at B&H Photo Video

Later...Mike

ps...“Throughout the EOS-1D Mark IV’s development, we’ve carefully studied feedback from our photographers and developed a camera to meet their specific requirements” said Mr. Shinbori, Senior General Manager of Camera Development Center, Canon Inc.

From what I read from Thom Hogan, Nikon could stand to follow Canon's lead on Mr. Shinbori's statement.

October 16, 2009

New Nikon D3s

Cannot wait to get my hands on this one!

Here's a blurb from the Calumet Photo storefront:

"What would you do if the laws of photography changed? With the introduction of the new Nikon D3S, professional photographers around the world will reconsider this question entirely, and re-examine the power, potential and reach that photography can now achieve. The D3S's abilities are so evolutionary that photographers will experience an entirely new level of performance and reativity, pushing them further into the uncharted waters of possibility. Standing on the shoulders of the incredibly fast and versatile D3, the new D3S makes spectacular improvements that will enable you to think and shoot in ways you never thought possible: commercial-quality low-noise images as high as ISO 12800, the ability to shoot HD movies at high ISOs with stereo sound, saving a selected frame from D-Movie as a JPEG for immediate print and web publication, light sensitivity beyond what your own eyes can see clearly, and the consistent accuracy and reliability that Nikon is known for. All of these things are now at your command. The new Nikon flagship will quite literally make you see things differently, and help you approach your next assignment with a new sense of excitement. It's time to redefine the true power of photography and the future of imaging. What could you accomplish if you could redraw the boundaries of photography? Find out, with the D3S."

Nikon brochure.

Adorama D3s

B&H D3s

Calumet Photo D3s

Later...Mike

October 8, 2009

Who says you need the right tools?...I do!

Photo by Michael P. Young
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs
 Creative Commons.
For the love of pete, will I ever learn?  They always say the right tools make a job go faster and easier.

In they heyday of my poorboy days, I did almost all of my automotive work myself.  And over the years I was able to assemble a meager tool kit.  For a while the toolkit grew exponentially as compared to previous years due to my working at a hardware store.  So, as you can guess, I was like a kid WORKING in a candy store.  Eee...my paychecks exponentially shrunk as the greedy little payroll trolls in the back accounting office robbed my Peter to pay their Paul as related to my store credit account!

However, there were certain jobs in working on my automobiles where I just plain had to get creative in using what tools I had to get a job done.  And somewhere in the atmosphere above that hot, gravely, black asphalt parking lot of the lowly  apartment complex to which I called home, hangs a tapestry of expletives suspended in a dark black cloud of angst that received it's first breath of life when I crushed my first knuckle on a job where I didn't have the right tool.

In my photographic career, I have often found myself, again, without the right tools to make the job "easy".  Unlike the "omg, I hope this frickin' wrench doesn't slip and sever my finger" fear of automotive repair, when faced with a photographic assignment where I don't have the right equipment (yes, still being plagued by the lack of money thing) , I can usually scrounge around and apply a little creativity to accomplish my shoot with only a bruised and sheepish ego.

And that's exactly what happened with my first low-key photo shoot.  All I had was a 42" white shoot through umbrella, and two small softboxes.  The small softboxes were too small for a full length, so they got relegated to one fill light camera left, and the other a hair light.  The shoot through umbrella would have to be my main light.  But krikey, it spilled light like a stuck pig.  To add salt to the wound, my available distance from the beautiful model to the black seemless paper was fixed and shallow (welcome to on-location, in-home photo shoots!).

So, I needed to find a way to "feather" and flag the light from the fill light and that piggy umbrella.  So I went out to the truck and got my window shades..you know...the ones that you have to fold into a circle in such a way that if you "think" while you fold the damn things, they just keep popping you in the face....but if you just wiggle and wave your hands around like a hula dancer, they just circle up real nice?  One of those did the trick to flag off the spill from the main light hitting the black seemless background.

Now, the fill light. Well, since the fill light was a softbox, I was able to "feather" the light onto the subject at an angle and direction that kept the light from spilling onto the black seemless.  Unfortunately, the fill light was too bright and I didn't have anymore room to move the light back to take advantage of that inverse square law crap related to light intensity.  Nor did I have any ND filters for the flash...remember the poorboy thing here.

I tried using the silver side of the second sun shade to "reflect" light for fill, but I was totally not liking the look.

I did, however,  have access to some ivory sheer material and a portable clothes hanging stand.  I tripled folded up the sheer material, placed the portable clothes hanging thingy in front of the fill light, and draped the triple folded sheer over the clothes hanger and viola....I got my look.
Photo by Michael P. Young – Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons.
So, you might ask:  Is there a new tapestry of curse words hanging over the poor house in which I shot this?  Actually, no...I've learned to control my anger towards inanimate objects (though I till think they try to taunt me!).

Later...Mike