Infusing confusion into the fuzzy frames of taking aim at becoming popular …


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Being a photographer is an interesting business.

There are very few other professions in which your friends, colleagues, family and clients are all looking over your shoulder at what you do, how you do it and the path you’re taking.

Imagine if people posted copies of a legal deposition onto Facebook hoping for hundreds of likes.

Imagine if a teacher posted her lesson plans.

Or a mechanic posted a list of cars he worked on today.

But I can look back over the year and formulate a timeline of not only my output photographs but I have photos of me doing my craft. I have documentation in ways that most people don’t. The above photo is from a test Tina and I did back in 2012. It’s so weird to see how far I’ve come and the trajectory that I’m in.

It’s images like this that give me a bit of pause, but also a reference point. I imagine a person who cleans homes doesn’t have this kind of visual documentation of the homes they’ve worked in.

The path to becoming a rockstar photographer is high on my inspiration board. The more, let’s say, celebrity a photographer becomes, the more value to his work and creativity for hire.

Insert a photo of me looking at other photographers’ work. 

In my relationship with Tina, I don’t find myself to be a jealous person. But one of the biggest demons I fight is looking at other people’s work and fighting off jealousy in highly emotional and nauseating ways.

I hate other photographers who post too much. Or they post stuff that makes them out to be better than their work. And then I grow insecure and think, “Others must hate that about me.” Or, “I’m probably a shittier photographer than I make myself out to be.”

I saw this fStoppers article this morning of a list that B&H Photo in New York put together of 14 influential photographers from 2014. My first response is, “Damn! When do I get to be on that list?”

I get it. I’m not good enough yet. I haven’t found the celebrity status within the community that these guys have. And that keeps  me out.

I look at some of these photographers and I realize they’re working another full-time gig doing self promotion. Or they have other people doing it.

And that kind of thing makes me jealous as well. I want their status, and I want more hours in my day to do it.

How about a 2015 todo list to get this year started right. 

So I’m going to make a list of things I hope to do in 2015 to land my name in the echelons of photographic celebrity.

  • Hire other photographers often to collaborate with on large projects.
  • Do more personal projects
  • Volunteer my time to schools and mentorship
  • Hire more interns to mentor and help our workflow.
  • Focus on Interiors and portraits, in motion and still, instead of taking almost any job that presents itself.
  • Encourage the photographers whom I become jealous of.
  • Take aim at undaunted creativity, searching for growth opportunities
  • Get my portfolio professionally printed and reviewed by others.

Let’s see how this 8-thing list does when we reach December 2015.

Only a month late: December self portrait … this time it’s a group shot with the other photographer


As you may know, another photographer Sunny Lee and I have been doing a 12-month self portrait challenge.

Our tentative plan was to get together over the Christmas holiday and do a shot together. Sunny lives in North Carolina and I live in Illinois. She lives about an hour and a half from my parents so it may have worked out if there were time.

But it didn’t.

So plan B was to composite a shot. Sunny chose to shoot a few shots of her with her palm out and I had to come up with what I’d be doing as a mini-me in her palm.

I finished three quick composites and I’m hoping you … yes you … will weigh in on which cheese-ball image you like the most.

Keep in mind, Sunny is Korean so one of them below is particularly funny … :)

You can refer to them in order as photo one, two or three. Thanks!

 

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Sometimes it’s all about experimenting and testing


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Just before the holidays, we worked with an aspiring model named Jessica Connelly to create a few images to give her portfolio a boost.

We’ve worked with her before to create a series of fun sports-themed photos. I saw the request as an opportunity to experiment with some ideas, as testing often sharpens skills and allows for some creativity that professionally commissioned shoots don’t always allow.

Testing also gives new and current clients the opportunity to see ideas that they might like to use in their own way as well.

Traditionally, I define my work as very clean and sharp. I tend to shoot low ISOs and often disregard images that aren’t, what I consider, perfect. Tina is the yin to my yang, though, and she’ll often art direct something to be an image, something to stop and admire for different reasons except that it’s not a technically perfect photo. These are the kinds of photos that are often found in the pages of style magazines. I see them and wonder who the hell hires these photographers who submit shots of beautiful models and celebrities that are out of focus.

I mean, seriously.

Lately I’ve been challenging myself on my own aesthetic and I’m trying to alter my views on always shooting low ISOs and always leaning toward the crisp and focused image. There’s two shots in this series of Jessica that I shot high ISO, the one laying on her stomach on the bench and the one with our dog Talulah.

The one with Talulah came in at a whooping ISO 2000. The one on the bench is not as drastic, as it’s only ISO 400, but it’s not typical for me to shoot upwards of ISO 50 to 200.

I know that might not sound crazy to you, but it’s different for me.

Another experiment on this shoot came in the form of long exposures and painting with light. The image with the light streaks below was a 39 second exposure. The one above and the one second to last were 1.5 and 2.5 second exposures. I had Tina open the shutter, I popped a flash with a beauty dish modifier on Jessica and then asked Tina to close the shutter. I loved how the blacks were so black. I loved how it felt the light was a paint stroke rather a splatter. It felt like it had more purpose

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Way late too the party, has everyone gone home? My thoughts on Final Cut Pro X


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I admit. I’ve been very resistant to upgrading my workflow to Final Cut Pro X.

I finally took the upgrade plunge midway through this year and decided to force myself to edit using the program.

For the first three or four 1.5 to 2 minute promos I completed, I found myself struggling and wanting to take a knife and stab it to its brutal demise.

I forced myself from rushing back and firing up FCP 7 and abandon the program that came out in 2011-ish. When it first came to the market place, I remember criticisms that it was too much like iMovie and that professional editors wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon.

I downloaded a trial twice as I’ve had two new computers since then. Each time, I didn’t get it. I hated what I saw. It didn’t feel intuitive. I couldn’t do what I do very, very quickly in FCP 7 and I didn’t have time to sit with a brand new interface and workflow.

Besides, I bought one of the first copies of FCP, version 1.0, in 1999. I love editing in it. I’m fast. Really fast. It was good enough. And that’s all that mattered.

The learning curve for FCPX seemed to steep.

There isn’t an editing session that goes by in which I can avoid googling how to do something. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a key command for something I can’t find or even changing the font color on title overlay. Sometimes the answer is smack dab in front of me. Other times, it’s not so obvious.

I can say that after about 6 months, I’m 65% glad I made the upgrade/switch. I’m still struggling with speed of editing. And if I am making a google search or two an editing session, it’s preventing me from a level of productivity that I once enjoyed.

Although, some things are so awesome that I can’t imagine going back. I love keywording. I love editing while my playhead is moving. I love audition.

I love that it seems to work well as I move things in and it snaps everything back into place if something is removed. I love that I can use Canon 5D Mark III footage straight after transferring it to my hard drive.

I love to edit by watching the wave forms, and can identify “Ums” by staring at an interview and take them out almost without listening.

I don’t know if I like how it edits sound, though, but I’m learning. Often times, I’m record audio using two different tracks of audio on the right and left channels, and I don’t know if there’s an easy way to designate, say, the left track as both the right and left, deleting the right track. This is a question for google.

Thankfully, so many of the questions I have, so many people have created how-to videos for. So I have to pat myself on the back, because I waited until enough people had the same problems as many of these videos have thousands and thousands of views. #GoMe.

There seems to be a lot more learning to do. And I’d like to get my happiness level up closer to 85% to 90%.

Like all programs, I manage to crash FCPX quite a bit. When I do it in FCP7, I realize what I did wrong 9 times out of 10. I don’t know the nuances of FCP X yet.

I liken the process to what it must feel like to break up with a loved one, and struggle with getting in bed with a new lover. Every time you get her going, you get insecure or miss the old love enough to consider running back.

FCP X is my video editing rebound.

I’m hoping not to breakup with the rebound lover and rush over to Adobe or maybe someone hotter.

Meow.

 

My extremely frustrating experience with Hasselblad USA: a review


Before Christmas, I was photographing tabletop with my Hasselblad H3DII-31 when I noticed something on my computer monitor. It showed me that there was something on the sensor. This is a common occurrence with medium format (MF) shooting, and one of the reasons why you should try to tether when shooting MF.

You spend more time cleaning dust and stuff off the sensor than with a DSLR.

When I removed the back to blow it with air, I noticed that the mark wasn’t the usual hair or fuzz, but a somewhat long scratch on the surface of the IR filter.

“SHIT,” I said.

I have owned my MF camera for over two years, and read often that it’s advised to send in the cameras for maintenance and repair. Thinking I need to take care of my baby; I mean, investment — I contacted Hasselblad repair in New Jersey to let them know I’m sending it in.

You must fill out a form and have it accompany your camera, stating the problem, your address, phone number, etc.

Seeing it was before Christmas and the turnaround time is around 2 weeks, I thought it would be an okay time to send her in hoping to have her back in early January.

I tracked the camera and it arrived around December 17 to their offices. I received no word that they had it. When I followed up, a woman named Maryann Murphy responded on December 22 and said they are having the camera reviewed and they’ll send me a report and invoice.

On December 23, they day I spent driving down to North Carolina, I received an invoice. The jargon on the invoice was confusing. I googled a few of the things they said they wanted to fix. I couldn’t find answers. So I responded and said thank you for the invoice, but can you clarify these points: “What is an “ACC door modification”? “What are zoom rollers and why do I need 6 of them?”

I got no response.

I followed with other emails.

Nothing.

I gave Maryann Murphy the benefit of the doubt. It was the holidays after all. Maybe she was out of the office even though I received no “out of office” replies.

On January 6, I reached out to my Hasselblad rep and told him what was up. He said he would call and have Maryann call me back. He called January 7 and she STILL didn’t follow up with me. He said he talked to her.

I called a few times, but only left one voicemail, as I didn’t want to stalk Maryann, but fuck, I should have.

Finally on January 8, well over twelve business days since they received the camera, Maryann responds with:

I’m sorry I have had no messages from you nor did anyone call or email checking on your repair.  I sent you the estimate and have been
waiting for your approval.  You can give me your phone # I will call you for your credit card or you can call me at the phone # below or
you can send it in  an email.

I responded angrily that it was (A) ridiculous and (B) that she should have my information on file and to use her information to call me! I mean, after this awful customer service, maybe try to do something right!

And the phone call. The phone CALL! Do you wanna know how it went down?

My phone rang. It was from New Jersey. I picked up, “This is Jeremy.”

“This is Maryann from Hasselblad. I’m calling to get your credit card.”

Frustrated, I told her the card, the number, the expiration.

“We’ll get your camera repaired as soon as possible,” she said.

She hung up.

Huh. The Ferrari of Camera companies doesn’t have enough customer service experience for a genuine voiced apology on behalf of the company? She can’t have a conversation with a disgruntled customer?

Maryann must be a robot.

You think that with a name and reputation as lofty and lauded as Hasselblad, they would go out of their way to make their customers and fans feel like a million bucks … because the price tags on these things are more than many cars, and the leases — if you’ve seen them — are so high.

This experience has changed the way I view Hasselblad … for the worse. And while I wanted to stay brand loyal and I was starting negotiations to upgrade my camera for a more recent model, I’ve decided to stop negotiations and explore other upgrades.

I think Hasselblad owes me an apology. But who am I?

Namely PhaseOne. But have you seen those Pentax 645Zs? I mean wow. If it weren’t for the sync speed on those guys, wow.