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