Saturday, December 31, 2016

Shooting Daily

In order to be good at something you must practice. I cannot tell you the number of hours spent swimming up and down the pool. Or the number of flip turns, starts and finishes I did so I could be better than the rest. It was engaged practice day in and day out that propelled me to the top of swimming. So why would it be any different with photography?  

Besides swimming, photography has been the only thing I felt I excelled in. I believe I had the eye for composition and the ability to pick subjects that most overlook. So when I was young I spent time taking photographs of everything I could, well as long as I could afford it. See back in the days of my youth photography was of chemistry, film and paper. It was more intense but it was also more expensive so experimenting was limited by your finances and not your ideas. 

Now that digital has arrived other than the initial cost, digital photography cost almost nothing when it comes to experimenting. Instead of waiting until the next day to see if your images had come out, with digital you can see instantly. Then if the image is not to your expectation then you make your changes and try again. So why wouldn't anyone spend the time practicing and learning to get it right in the camera?

Well there is no reason in my life that should hold me back from taking photographs on a daily basis, but the reason I haven't is because I'm lazy which I will change this year. I started today by creating photos were texture compelled the image I captured. I walked around looking for subjects of texture and I wasn't disappointed. I started with my neighbors fence and ended with a tree. Every image I created grabbed me but not all 40ish images survived the editing process and that was ok. Not everything I shoot will come out to be a work of art. 

The first image I was attracted to the highlights of some golf the leaves against the darker decaying leaves. It reminds me of the underlying hope of what could happen among the decay that surrounds us. 


The second image was really not about texture but the lack of it. Sometimes it is the negative space or the subtraction of light that gives the image it's power. For me that is what this is about. 


The last is about the texture of the metal lock against the weathering of the wood it is attached to. 


My goal is to do create photos daily and if they are interesting enough I will post them from time to time. My mission is not to create masterpieces each time I take a picture but to be able to see and create a photograph better on the projects I am putting my energy into. To be a master of my craft I should practice, don't you think? 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Taking Invantory

Recently I have been moved to build a portfolio of my work and put it out online. I have always wanted to start one but only upon completion of a project with the idea that commerce is incorporated to the website. After the “Art In The Park” show as well as events in my professional life, I looked for somewhere to host a free portfolio site. I need to get my work out there and let people see it and maybe get some work out of it. I need to get out of my quagmire that is my career and move out to the real world where real money is made.

I found a host for my photography that is free and has a professional look and feel of someone who knows their craft. Now came the time to put my work out there and that is when I realized I did not have a real commercial look to my work. A lot of art photography like my iphone work but nothing of commercial work to speak of. How disappointing, I want and need to put my work out there and I have been shooting a large quantity but the variety is not there. So now what do you do?

Well first  you don’t put yourself in this situation like I have. I think it is easy for a photographer. Like myself, to be so focused on a project or subject that they lose sight of the bigger picture, which is variety. I wanted to be able to present at least three types of photography I can do. First one is portraits; not the typical run of the mill, but something with grunge to a stoic look to it. Maybe some with a stock look to it. Second was my architecture work which I now realize I have only two photos that deserve the light of day. The third is going to be food. I have nothing to show for this category yet but this year I was going to work on it. Then I was thinking of my projects like the iPhone work, City and Landscapes not to mention I have a blog element I can exploit on this site. Yea after looking over my work, I have nothing.

I point I am trying to make it that if you’re goal is to be a professional, and I mean one who drives most if not all their income from creating photographs, then you must find at least three photographic interests. For the portrait photographer this could be Weddings, Seniors and Families. For me it is Portraits, Architecture, and Food which I have not spent a lot of time doing. I have lost sight of this and instead creating photographs with my iPhone. Now I must create photographic situations that will build my portfolio and give me the presents I need to get the jobs I would like. This means a lot of horse trading and bartering for opportunities to shoot. I have to say I think I have a good hand full of ideas and people to talk to but they might not pan out completely.

Here is my plan of attack. In order to get me out of this situation I must shoot like a mad man. I know I will not achieve a complete body of work over night, in a month or even by the end of the year but I must get shooting. My goal is to spend time shooting two things at the same time. I think I will be doing portrait work first along with architecture work. I figure as long as the weather is warm I can shoot all the buildings that move me then when the cold forces me in I will start on food. As my images grow I will add and change them around to keep things fresh. By the end of August I hope to have enough to show and start pumping the site. I think that will get me going fast but it will be a lot of work. I just hope I can keep it up.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

First Shot

Last Saturday I went out and picked up a book called "Food Photography; From Snapshots to Great Shots" by Nicole S. Young. Now I did not randomly pick a food photographer to buy a book from but instead I had been following her work for sometime. I love the natural look of the light, food and what surrounds it. When I decided that I would try food photography it was an easy decision to find her book and pick it up. Right now I am half way through it but when I finish I will  blog on what I thought of the book. So far I love it. 

Today was a taco breakfast day. My wife works a third shift so her dinner is my breakfast. She had been looking forward to this for three days so I wasn't going to disappoint her. Because it was so early my mind was not in the mode of photography. But when I finished putting my two delicious tacos together I could not help but take a photograph. At this point in the book I had just passed the part on lighting so I was eager to try a quick shot. I did not want to pull the camera out so I used my iPhone. I used two windows; the main light was a north facing window and the fill was an eastern window. It was early so the sun was shining in on the east but not directly on the food. The north light back lit the food so well and the eastern light filled in perfectly and helped with creating the texture I was looking for. I took 5 or so photographs in the square format and then processed them using Filterstorm and Snapseed. This was the best of the 5. Apart from the stylizing I think it came out great for a first attempt.   


The next section I am working on is food stylizing. This section and work is one I think I may be working a lot with. The problem is that I know what looks good but not sure how to create it. It is similar to when I learned to ballroom dance. I know the steps to the waltz or tango but to freestyle it, making it look good and fun for my wife? That is a struggle. I guess I will have to try and see. Luckily I have a lot of cook books to look over and help me along the way. 

My plan for this new skill is to plan a meal once a week so I can shoot it. This way I can get the ingredient and garnishes that day and they will look fresh for the photograph. I plan to keep it simple with the food stylizing and do the best with the background stuff. You know the bowls, silverware, glasses and the rest. I don't have much of a budget and will have to slowly pick stuff up. As I do start this I will blog about it. This way I can keep a record of what worked and what didn't, where I pick up stuff, while trying to keep the one or two people entertained. 

There you have it, my first photo officially of my food photography. I am sure it will get better. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Project Next

If you have not checked out my 90 day photographic project by now please do so, but until then I am planning a new project. This project is one that will take a longer set time and will incorporate the use of my bike, specifically the mountain bike.  It is one that I had been contemplating for a while but felt that I could not accomplish it but after completing the ninety day project I think I can pull this one off. My project is to take photographs of Iowa off the back of my bike, sorta.

Right now I need to fix the bike up, to do what is an equivalent transmission change for it. Then when spring, summer and fall are in swing I will take short rides around the county scouting and shooting the landscape. I plan to use my Nikon, iPhone, and a panoramic style Vivatar 35mm film camera. I believe that 2 or 3 years will be long enough to shoot enough photographs for a show or a book or maybe both.

My goal is to capture Iowa and why I love to live in this state. I know that it doesn't have mountains or great canyons but the landscape and all that it is in it are worthy of capturing and preserving it. I plan to do it in black and white but I maybe open to either throw a few color ones in the mix or have them with a side project. As I am photographing the landscape, towns and people I plan to write about on the blog and eventually incorporate them in a show and or book.

So for now I will start off with this photograph I did this morning. Because the temps were as low as -13 degrees the steam off the river created a fog in and around Mays Island in downtown Cedar Rapids. These were taken with my iPhone and processed in Lightroom and PhotoShop.

My next step is fixing the bike which I will document in this blog. It is all part of the story so why not include it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Food Adventure

So I have been thinking about what I could do with my photography that would replace my current job. I could do just my "Art" and try to scrape by but we all know the saying; "A Starving Artist." I like the thought of architecture but right now it is a little cold and snowy so maybe not a good time to start. So what about food, food photography? That could be good.

Earlier this year I looked at the local  restaurant's website and for the most part the food looks poor. It looks like food but it doesn't appetizing. I think I could do better but until I try I will not be sure. After six or seven websites I thought I would see if there were any food photographers in the area. Too my surprise I did not find any that specialize or dabbled in food photography.  I find that a plus.

This past week I set up a spot in the basement and began to shoot. Now my goal right now is to come up with lighting setups that look good so food stylizing is not impotent. I have shot two subjects and I feel that both came out very well. A little still life like but again I am interested in lighting and creating common looks for food. I figure as I get more comfortable with the process then I can invent more with lighting. So here are the three photos so far.

I am planing to post a lot about my food photos and my other project that incorporates my bike. My goal is to tell stories and show photos and keep the technical stuff down. It isn't that I don't want to share information, I would be happy to answer questions, but I really want to talk more to the stories.

So after a long absents from this blog I am back and looking to show off some new stuff.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area

Today was the first day I explored area 1 which is the first pull in spot on Amana Road. After putting on boots I walked down the small hill and in to the grass plan. The open area is mainly grass but as you go towards the river you run into colored branches growing out of the grass bed. As I moved close to the river the flatten grass becomes wet and bog like, good thing I put on boots. I moved west along the bank crossing soft bog like grass until I found a muddy gap to cross. There was a bit of trepidation that passed through my mind but I went for it anyway.  About half way through the crossing I lost my balance only to catch myself with my hands, which in the left one was my camera. I quickly wiped the chunks off and moved forward.

I arrived on the bank and waited for the birds to calm down. Most of the birds I saw were Ring Billed Gulls which were easily spooked unlike the Sea Gulls that mob us if we have food around. Their body is predominantly white with grey wings tipped in black. Eyes yellow as well as the bill that has a black ring around the front portion. With my 500mm I got many shots but only a few I believe were worth the trek across the mud. I placed my camera in the bag and made my way back only to lose my balance once more. The mud wanted to keep my boots but I found if I open the hole my boot made by tipping my foot forward, I was able to extract my boot easier. By the time I reached solid ground I was carrying at least 4 pounds of mud on each boot.

I spied birds about a mile or so east, which with the amount of mud I had on each boot, this could be fruitful.
As I moved along I came across scat that could be
coyote. I am not a biologist so I am not completely certain of this but the scat was the size of my dog’s poop.  I made my way to my target area trying to not spook the birds but to no avail. I must work on this skill or I will never get a great close shot. Jim makes it look so easy. As I drew closer I stumbled upon a mallard decoy stuck butt first in the mud. I pulled it out and laid it out for the rising waters to take with it. Maybe it will be a friend to a lonely duck someday.

I finely arrived at a spot that was mostly dry and sat for a spell. Most of the gulls had moved on but a few hung around at somewhat of a distance. I waited to see if some of them would return to a closer position and in that wait I saw a flock of American White Pelican flying over head. Mostly white with black on the back half of the wings they flew south against the strong wind. A few flew close but moved slowly on and for a while I thought I had missed out. After 20 minutes passed I noticed another group of same kind of Pelicans flying over. They were closer and bunched up closer together in formation which lend to some great group shots. Once they passed one more group came over once again or I think it was another group but who cares it was another chance to get more shots.

After the fly over I decided that the gulls were not coming and it was time to move on. Almost 3 hours has
passed since my arrival and I had shot over 100 frames. Half way to my car I noticed how the sun lit up an area of small tree like stems. Some of them were red and some yellow and against the blue sky it created something I hadn’t seen before. As I moved to get the shot I noticed the skeletal remains of a large fish probably eat by coyote due to the lack of trees nearby for birds of prey to eat on.  A few shots of the carnal mess and back to my landscape I originally set out to photograph.

By now thin wispy clouds were forming in the sky and with the red of the twigs I could not ask for a better set up for this time of day. I made several exposures with the sky being in the majority of the frame leaving the land in the bottom quarter portion. Once I was satisfied with the shot I packed up and headed to the car. It was a long enough day and I wanted to get back to see what I really had.

I am not done with this area and will most likely go down there at twilight to take more photos. Not sure if this area lends itself to long exposure black and white shots but with further exploration I may find something yet. This place has a hold on my attention.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Does it pay anymore?

I am not sure if anyone caught this report on ABC News during a segment called Real Money aired on March 5th 2014, but I did. The segment is on how to make money with your smart phone photos you have taken. You don’t need to be a professional photographer if you sign up with Foap and sell your photographs to Corporate America who is dying to underpay you for the photos you shoot. Yes because of the amount of images being uploaded on to the web it seems to be easier to pay pennies to the dollar for someone’s snap shot rather than pay a pro to make a great image. Sorry I know I am sounding a bit negative but I am just a little frustrated at where the photographic industry is heading.  

Let’s look at the big picture as it stands today. At no time in history since the introduction of the Eastman Kodak’s Brownie Camera has photography been obtainable to the masses. We have cameras everywhere and we constantly take and upload snapshots to the web. Unlike the Brownie, we can see the photograph instantly and decide whether to delete and take it again or keep it. Because there are so many images out there everyone fancies themselves as a photographer. They can shoot anything, portraits, landscapes, weddings whatever people want for either really cheap or free. This is starting to and will kill the professional photography industry. No there will be a need for real pros out there but the amount of money for the real pros will get smaller and smaller until it will not pay to be one.

Right now if you are a professional photographer (where you drive most or all of your income from photography) you are most likely supplementing your income with classes or educational material. That was not heard of 15 years ago. And there is nothing wrong with having an education element in your business model but that aspect is starting to get saturated and then what?  Unless you can draw on a large cliental for your living, the education aspect will dry up and you are going to have to come up with something different.

Speaking of professional photography, I would have to say I am one. All of my income comes from taking photographs of clothing for a (remain nameless) online store. Not to complain but I don’t make a whole hell of a lot. It is in the ballpark of a better part of a starting wage. But that is the point. The person believes that what they are paying is what that job is worth. Yes it helps them sell the item, yes the photos are the first thing they look at, but they believe that anyone can do it. In fact they set it up so that anyone can do it. It is just that easy to do so.

So what is the solution? I am not sure but the path professional photography is taking is the same path graphic design has been on. The mentality of most people is if I can push a button, throw it through some effects and have it turn out good, they why pay a professional? Corprate America is on that road, the regular consumer has been going down that path for awhile now. If someone told me that they wanted to be a professional photographer I would tell them this; get a business major or marketing major, hell any major that works with data or microbiology. Do that and shoot on the side for fun because there is not a lot of money out there to make a living.

Something will have to change. We must show value to the images created. The path of photography has to change direction or it will not pay to take photographs.  Read the article, watch the clip and tell me that I am wrong. I would like to be convinced I am wrong.