Summer in London

I am fortunate enough that I get to travel internationally for work.  And that includes some pretty wonderful places, Sydney, Paris, London, Dubai.  When I can, I try and go in a day before my meetings start to get acclimated and to enjoy the city. 

In London I typically stay up around St. Paul's and captured this image on a trip last summer.  Not bad for an IPhone 5 image.

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour Is Huge

Space Shuttle Endeavour
In 2013 I visited Los Angeles and one of the highlights was seeing the Space Shuttle Endeavour in its temporary home.  Endeavour was built as a replacement for the Challenger shuttle. 

 

As I joined all the other guests in the Hall I wanted to try and capture something unique about the shuttle while isolating the huge machine from the people and exhibit.  I thought this image of the exhaust did just that.  What do you think?

How I go From Snapshots to Storytelling with Three Simple Questions Part 1

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Photographic storytelling is what we all aspire to achieve.  Our photographic journey seems to begin with snapshots, maybe even a little spray and pray, and then ultimately getting to telling a story.  So what exactly is storytelling. Storytelling has been described as the effective use of  

"Mood, Emotion, Narrative, Idea and Message"

For me this definition really struck a chord with what I was trying to achieve with my photography.

As I progress down the path towards storytelling, I use three simple, but powerful questions.  Using these questions gives me the best chance of increasing my success rate of capturing the feeling and story rather than just a snapshot.  I try to always ask these questions:

  1. How do I feel right now?
  2. What do I want the viewer to feel?
  3. How can I capture that emotion?

How do I Feel Right Now?

When I come to a photo shoot, a location or just get ready for a Saturday morning photo excursion I'm feeling something.  When I first see or experience a location I have a feeling or at the very least a reaction.  Just taking a second to formally ask myself what I'm feeling helps me formalize and identify the feeling.

Once I have the feeling identified I can now focus on how to convey that feeling.  Just understanding the feeling and knowing what it is helps me work on expressing that feeling with a two dimensional medium.  Does the location, or shoot make me feel excited, down, optimistic, pessimistic?  No emotion is right or wrong but rather valid and should be explored.  I try not to fight the emotion but rather identify it and immediately ask myself the next empowering question.

 

What do I want my viewer to feel?

Hopefully the answer to this question mirrors my answer to the first question, but maybe not.  If it does then I move right on to Question #3.  If not then I have a quick little internal debate to decide what answer is more compelling or important, and why they would be different.  If they are different then I tend to lean towards what I am feeling.  I find if I shoot for myself I have a better chance of succeeding and producing quality art.  If the answer is the same then this just helps reinforce the answer as I go into Question #3.

 

How can I capture that emotion?

For me, just the exercise of asking, and answering this question, gets me focused and provides a single purpose to pursue with the image.  For me limiting the alternatives is always best.   With this one thought I then bring the camera to my eye and start capturing.  I am able to also decide, will this convey the message better in black and white?  Do I need HDR?  What do I include or exclude from the frame?  This is when the tough, and exciting part begins.

Another quick benefit - 

An ancillary benefit I have gotten out of this is when I go back and cull my images down in Lightroom I am able to ask myself the same general questions to see if I was successful, and just as important, what could I have done to be more successful.

Summary

Like any muscle, exercising this thought process with these questions, helps improve the answers I get.  For every question you ask yourself you will get an answer, the key is to get good, positive, productive answers.

Do I get it right each time? Absolutely not but I think my success rate has increased since I have started this quick pre-planning processing.  To give myself the electronic slap in the face I have these three questions on my IPhone in the Notes app.  This is what I try to do and hopefully is helpful for you as well.

 

In Part 2 I will offer a practical example of how I use this approach on a travel location shoot.

 

Here is How I combine a Business Trip With Photography

 

Here is how I combine a business trip with photography.  For many of us photography is not our full-time paying gig so we need to be creative to satisfy our photo bug while on business trips.  You think it is hard to photograph with your spouse in tow, or harder yet your twelve year old; try doing it with two or three work colleagues with you. 

Packing

Just like any photo shoot, planning your packing is key.  It is no different on a travel photography outing / trip.  I typically plan on what I am going to shoot and either take my Tamron 28-75 and my Tokina 11 -16 or my Nikon 1.4 50.  If I am doing something different on the trip then I go to Lens Rental and rent what I need.  The guys are great over at Lens Rental and I just let them know where the lens will be traveling with me and they are great about getting it to me.

Bag

Either I pack everything in my briefcase or split items between my briefcase and carry on luggage bag.  The inner laptop compartment makes a great soft location for my D300s and lens.  As I almost always carry on my luggage, a lens wrapped tightly around a tee-shirt travels well.

 
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Instead of my normal briefcase I sometimes travel with my Tenba Messenger bag.  What I like about this bag is that it looks like a brief case and when I arrive at the work location I can leave the padded insert in the room and back what I need for the office in the bag.  I take advantage of the in-room safe for my gear.  After I have images downloaded I always carry the external drive with me and keep my MacBook Pro and spent SD cards in the safe.

I also travel with 10 – 15 16-gig SD cards and a backup drive. 

Workflow on the road

 My workflow on the road doesn't differ much from my normal travel workflow.  I take enough SD cards to have 2 for each day so I don't have to format and reuse any of the cards.  On a nightly basis I copy the images from the cards onto a temporary folder on my MacBook Pro and also copy the files onto my external drive and to Dropbox.  

The hotels I stay in typically have an in-room safe which is where I put my SD cards and I always carry the small 500GB hard drive with me to the office or in my suit jacket.

Traveling for business can be difficult so combining photography with the trip makes the trips much more enjoyable.  

Please feel free to share your tips and ideas below in the comments se 

 

Painted Wall Personal Project-Stanislaw Lem Krakow

Stanislaw Lem Krkaow Painted Wall in Jewish Ghetto Krakow Poland

On my last visit to Krakow Poland I took one of the many cart tours of the Jewish Ghetto area.  I captured this image as part of my personal project to capture painted walls.  As you can imagine these tours are both somber and interested.  The atrocities that took place are almost unimaginable, and being right where it happened is interesting and sobering.  Something we never should forget.  

What Mom Never Told You About Photography Gear

What if gear did matter? From David duChemin, and his gear is good vision is better philosophy to other pro’s that downplay the importance gear, we hear that gear doesn't matter. But what if it does? I would argue that depending where you are on this spectrum of "beginner to Expert" photographer, gear does matter and its relative importance is based on where you are on this spectrum. I like these descriptors rather than Amateur - Professional. These are better descriptions of your use of photography rather than skill set. (Do you use your photography to buy your shoes! to borrow a phrase from David Sparks).

Success in any endeavor, including photography, is based on three facets. Confidence, Skill / Vision development, and Experience. I think gear fits in as a component of confidence. I would also include view of self and what others think of us as factors in developing and increasing our confidence.

Confidence, for people starting out on the photographic journey, I would say is probably just as important as vision, and builds with experience. Obviously all the factors I am talking about are not mutually exclusive. As with anything in life the ability to bring confidence to bear is key, and the less of it you have the more this is important. How much do you think having adequate gear plays to improved or even generating confidence? I think it plays a big piece. I equate this to fake it till you make it.

Walking into a situation be it a client shoot, a portrait session, photo walk or even a personal project, with reasonable gear will help improve you confidence. Not having to think about (read - worry about) if your gear is inadequate is big. This will allow you to use that energy to focus on developing your vision, building your experience; and all that builds confidence. It will help to alleviate the negative energy in the situation. If you don't have the confidence then you will really benefit from the gear.

When I say gear I am talking about reasonable gear, do we all need the D4 - no. With reasonable gear then you can build upon the confidence through training and experience.

Do we need to worry about gear?

Now is there a chance that the the gear facet gets out of balance with everything else and turns into an obsession? Absolutely; I think when you are starting the journey you need to commit to evaluating what is necessary to get you to the point of not worrying about gear. For everyone this is a different point but could include a reasonable DSLR and a fast 50, for others it could be a full frame DSLR and a 70-200 2.8. This is something you need to honestly evaluate. Decide what is enough gear to stop the negative energy of not having enough. The key is when enough gear is enough?

With gear out of the way you can continue to work on your experience, and vision development. In the end these will be more important to your long-term success than gear. As your “amount” of experience and vision grow, the importance on gear will diminish.

In Summary Gear is important, but needs to be kept in balance. Success in any endeavor is built on confidence, skill / vision and experience. and in photography I would say that gear plays a part in that success.

Introducing Photography to a Child

For those of us who love photography, this risk is that we are overzealous in trying to get our children to like it as much as we do.  

I consider myself extremely lucky in that all of my children have an interest in photography; and with my older son it started with film.  What I want to share with you here are the techniques I have used to make sure my youngest son enjoys the experience and doesn't' feel the least bit pressured.  My goal is to make everything about photography positive for him.

 

Gear

Camera

Luckily my wife has an old Nikon D60 that she doesn't use much so I was able to give this camera to my son.  With the two kit lenses he is able to cover anything that he might want to photograph.  Now he feels it is his, takes care of it, and most importantly stores it in HIS room!  This camera is more than a point and shoot and in his eyes is "just like dad's".  

Camera Settings

Just like "P" is for professional, in the hands of a child I consider "P" to mean Perfect.  I set his camera up on program mode, and bump the ISO up to 800.  For now we keep these settings in tact.  I feel this gives him the best chance of producing sharp images.

Tripod

I have him use one of my tripods and I think this is a great idea.  Not only does it force him to slow down a bit and have to adjust the tripod, compose the image, and then shoot; it also provides a little bit more security against the camera getting dropped.  I have a small travel tripod that is just the perfect size and weight for him.  

A small thing I do that I think makes a difference, is that I always carry my tripod when he has his.

Outings / Photowalk

ust has important as providing him with reasonable gear is the approach.

The weekends are when I do the majority of my photography so that is when I suggest we head out for a photowalk.  It is entirely up to him as to whether he goes or not.  I never force it.  For me if he goes half the time, I consider that a success.

Never Force it / They are In Charge

When he does go with me, this is how I approach it.  

For each outing we go on I make sure that I don't set any expectations on what I am going to accomplish or achieve.  I make sure the outing is all about my son's experience, and as soon as he says he's had enough or wants to go home,  then we immediately head home.  Of course making sure we stop for a doughnut or bagel!  I want to make sure that he doesn't feel like he needs to stay out or feels trapped by the outing.  He is in charge and when he wants to head home we do.

I also make sure that I am photographing as well.  I never hover over his shoulder and "help" him.  I always make sure that I am capturing images and allowing him to freely explore and capture.  I think this also helps reduce or eliminate any pressure.  Obviously I am right there if he has any questions. 

Print It

Depending on how he feels there are some days when we get home and immediately import his images into Lightroom together and some days he just goes off and does something different.  For each outing after we get his images imported I always try to have him pick one that he likes and I print it out for him.  Doesn't matter what it is we always make a print. 

n the end the way I view it, if he likes photography or not we have spend some excellent time together, he is creating something and spending less time with the Xbox.  All of these, I consider to be successes. 

I hope you can you some of these ideas and maybe successfully introduce photography to a child you know.