Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rock Concert... More expedition ideas.. and PhotoPlus

Wow another new post from me... I am usually not this verbose when it comes to blogs.. don't worry it won't last long.

All my client work up to this point is done... (just need to order some prints).. so it is back to portfolio work for a week or so. (yay!) I am committing myself to publishing my Facebook page and my personal site by the end of Oct.

Yesterday I was asked to shoot the Little Kids Rock concert in NYC as I had done last year. It was a great experience (and photographic challenge), and I loved doing it so I quickly said yes.. last year Liberty Devito was there (drummer for Billy Joel) along with Clarance Clemons (sax player for Bruce Springsteen). This year it will be the 2009 American Idol winner and Vanilla Fudge.. along with all sorts of music industry celebrities and some kids playing rock music.

The only issue was it fell on a day that was going to be during my schedule work trip to AZ.. so I had to do some juggling. Oct is going to be CRAZY busy with a ton of photo stuff and work stuff and weddings and so on and so on.. LOL. I love being busy.

(BTW if you are curious my shots from last year are HERE on the LKR web site... rather I should say the handful that they picked to display as I gave them more then 100 to work with)

Speaking of AZ.. I likely will be going back again in Nov (and probably in Dec too) for another week. I am going to try to stay a few more days to visit the Grand Canyon and do some more photography. I don't know how many more opportunities I will have with these work sponsored trips so I need to take advantage. Unlike last time my personal days will be on my own dime but at least the flight will be covered... Between now and then I need to do a lot of research and some planning.. thinking about doing a guided hike of some kind.

Another idea that popped into my mind yesterday was doing a trip up to Mount Washington in NH. Some friends were there and said it was a great experience to hike up.. and I've seen some great photo work done there... so it might be a thing to do. It isn't an easy hike (but I should be able to handle it).. not sure who I would go with since going alone is not really advisable. I have time to sort it out as this will have to wait till next spring due to weather conditions there.

In Oct we will be going to our yearly trip to the Photo Plus Expo in NYC. Normally we just go to the trade show and get ideas for products, equipment and etc. However after a few years we really don't need to see anything new (and my equipment shopping list is quite bare I have to say). We are thinking of doing some seminars instead this time around. There are a ton of "classes" offered all three days. The only issue is that they are kinda expensive (in my opinion). Not sure how much we will really get out of them. They have this nice digital dark room track that focuses on post processing and workflow that I am really interested in. There also are a handful of lighting and creativity classes that I would benifit from. Patti has a whole slate of classes as well picked out. But without some prior experience I have no idea if these are just rah-rah sessions or book infomercials rather then a real learning experience... more thinking on this topic needs to be done.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fall shoot planning.. and smugmug..

Fall is here.. been waiting all summer for the leaves to change so I can go back to Bushkill Falls.. I keep looking at the pictures from my last time there (in April) and just something seems wrong.. maybe the lighting.. or maybe I processed them too contrasty.. not sure.. hoping that having more colorful leaves will improve things as the shots I have currently are slightly in the state of suckage. I also want to do some long exposure shots to get that "white sheet" look with the water... I didn't do that last time.

So making some plans now.. October is VERY busy with all sorts of things so I don't know how much non CDP photography I am going to do. I did want to also go to NYC as well but that may have to wait till early Nov. I actually have several trips to NYC in mind..

On to more good news.. I worked hard the last week and was able to finish up the mega client order I had.. nearly 40 images fully retouched (25% with more then one face...). That's at least 10 min per image, 400 minutes total.. nearly 7 hours of work if I was a machine and could do it straight. Sometimes I wonder if my clients really appreciate the kind of work that goes into their prints....

So now that the mega order is done (At least it went to the client for approval.. hopefully off to the printer soon) I already got in a new order for my client I had on Saturday. A nice low key pregnancy shoot... only 4 images to retouch and I plan to get that done tonight (4 images x 10min each = 40 min... crossing fingers...)

The next few days are going to be busy with non photography things.. and then its back to pounding away at the portfolio. I also have a handful of Callie shots we did weeks back that need to be finalized... the Cindy Lobster shoot as we call it.. :)

Seriously.. if I were to calculate how much time I actually spend taking pictures, and compare it with how much time I spend post-processing, I wonder what the ratio would be. I mean this is expected since if it were with film I would be working in a darkroom instead.. Ansel Adams spent GINORMOUS amounts of time in the darkroom... It is kinda frustrating to a point as I would rather be out and about taking pictures, and displaying them. But I guess that is like doing step 1, step 3, and skipping the all important step 2.

So other news... I have the initial setup on SmugMug done with what I have so far. I like it so far but still needs to be refined a bit (And obviously more content added). I think I like SM enough that I will get an account.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Seminars and Galleries

I went to a seminar tonight at Unique Photo titled Advanced Landscape Photography. It was taught by Rick Berk. He covered a whole variety of topics.. focusing on things that would bring your work to "the next level" as they say. I would say it was quite informative.. and I have a few new ideas to try out in the field when the opportunities arise...

I may have to go out and get myself a ND filter.. I have some graduated ones but not a full ND.

Can't wait to attend more of these seminars there... It is just a matter of having the time to go. I may go back on Sunday to listen to a rep from NIK software..

After class I spent a few hours setting up my new smug mug account and building the web site... certainly not done but it is mostly there. I also still have to do some things like point my domain name to it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Back from Az...

Well I am back from AZ.. 9 days is just too long to be away from home.

My preliminary look at my work from Sedona is mostly positive.. However I do see in quite a few of the shots that the overly bright sun created a haze.. I'll have to do some ACR magic to do some correction (The clarity slider is one of my best friends). It is going to take some time to go through the 400 shots and pick out what I want to use. I shot the same thing multiple times from multiple places (at multiple different times per day) so that will be the hardest task.

Another thing is I did do some bracketed exposure shots with the intention of doing some HDR.. Rather then spend time in Adobe HDR Pro I may try to get the new NIK HDR software that just came out.. supposedly it blows away everything else.

Of course before all that I have nearly 40 images from a previous client shoot to retouch.. and two shoots this weekend... so the Sedona work may be taking a backseat for a while (Along with the rest of my portfolio work). The busy season for my portraiture is approaching. I had wanted to be done with my portfolio by now but that didn't happen.. I am getting impatient so I might start putting up sections of it....

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The great camera upgrade conundrum...

Nikon just announced their latest camera.. the D7000... some early reviews are saying things like "the most capible camera of its class ever.. beating out the Canon 60D by miles.." etc etc.. So what to do? Do we all just run out and buy it because it is the most amazing camera "of its class" ever?


Seriously.. the only people who win in the Great Camera Arms Race are the manufacturers and retailers.

Case in point.. I got the Canon 40D in 2007.. had to have it.. got it right when it came out.. of course for me it was a huge upgrade. I had been using the XT for three years and it was just time. Here we are three years later and I still use it. (as a side note I still use the XT occasionally as well) While I moved up to full frame with the 5DmkII the 40D still has a place for me in my tool box.. I do all my studio shoots with it.. and when I need that extra telephoto range I put my 70-200 on it and shoot away. My wife uses it as her primary. Do I have any real motivation to upgrade it to the 60D? Or even the 7D? No.. it suits me fine as is. There just arn't enough feature/performance upgrades to warrent spending the money... and I could care less about having an "outdated" camera.

(well.. since the 5DmkII is my primary at the moment I really don't have that "outdated" issue anyway.. but it really is in a completely different class)

I have always felt that photography is more about the photographer then the equipment. (yes I know this isn't a new thought) Give a good photographer any camera, regardless of capability, and he should turn out something with it.. give a bad photographer a good camera and they may not even know how to get 25% of the capability out of it.

Yes.. higher performance and more features may allow you to do things you were not able to do before.. example: getting cleaner images at higher ISOs allowing you to get better shots at lower light... or faster continuous shooting for moving targets.. but in most cases only a knowledgeable photographer will be able to take advantage of them to the fullest. A better camera does not improve your composition ability.. nor does it improve your eye... or give you better judgment to tweak your exposure ever so slightly based on your subject...

We just have to accept the fact that every year or so Canon/Nikon/etc are going to come out with a new version of their cameras.. Unless you are rich you can't (shouldn't) really keep up with that. There is no point. there will always be something out that has higher megapixel.. or faster shooting rate.. or some new fancy video capability.. but none of that is a guarantee that you will improve as a photographer just by using your credit card.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Yesterday I spent the entire day exploring Red Rock Country which surrounds Sedona, AZ. To say the views were awe inspiring is an understatement. You just can't put it into words.. you have to actually go there and see it yourself.

After stopping at the ranger station to purchase a park parking permit (allowing me to park at any of the trail heads etc), and get some information, I headed out to my first stop: Bell Rock. I parked at a trail head which seemed to be quite popular with the bus-tour crowd. I took some pictures of the surrounding rock formations and then had the urge to do the actual 2 mile hike to the actual rock face.. So I went.. "Why not?" i figured. The hike was wonderful and easy. I took with me my Camera and used the 24-105 lens. The black rapid strap was fantastic..

On the way I found some neat trees to shoot... I have a thing for wacky looking trees shot against a blue sky.

One thing I knew I was going to have to deal with was the position of the sun as it changed throughout the day. The changing angle of light lit up the rock formations differently depending on the time of day. Worst case the formation would be back lit.. or unfavorable shadows cast across it. Optimally one would do some kind of analysis that would tell you what time of day was best for shooting particular formations from various locations.. maybe next time I will do that. This time I just started from the south and worked my way upward around the area. Whatever it was it was.

After the bell rock hike I made my way to one side of Castle Rock where there was another trail head. The trail description said the hike was "strenuous"... Again I said "why not.." and set out again. Let me say that I now understand what the park service means by the word strenuous. It wasn't so much of a hike rather a climb over impassible terrain. Most of the time there was little to indicate where the trail actually was. I found myself looking for periodic foot prints (which I did find). Eventually I hit a point where the way was blocked by multiple downed trees. I believe the expectation was to climb over it.. but i was not prepared for that kind of maneuvering given the clothes I wore for the day (jeans short and a light weight shirt). I turned around, partially got lost on the way back, but still managed to get some shots somewhat up close.

After that I wanted something a little easier.. so I headed to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is another touristy spot but still a good place to get some key shots. The chapel itself has been shot to death (For good reason, it is a marvel). However once you get there and climb up to the actual church you are also rewarded with a wonderful view of the surrounding rock formations. So I again took some time there to do some work.

So after that it was mid day and I was getting a bit hungry. So I went into the actual town of Sedona. It is nothing more then an upscale tourist trap (in my opinion). I skipped all the shops and other garbage and found a BBQ place. It was ok.. nothing worth writing home about.

The next actual photographic stop was another trail which was near Sedona airport. This is apparently one of the most used spots for photography in the area. I can see why. The hike took me to two different locations. Both of which were very high up and slightly dangerous (at least it seemed to me). At one point I was on a maybe three foot wide uneven trail which circled round the mountain that the airport was on... nothing preventing me from slipping and falling about 4000 feet to the bottom. But one does what one has to do to get that shot I suppose.. LOL. I again did a whole mess of work here, and made plans that I would return later in the day for sunset.

At this point it was around 2pm and I figured i would kill some time by going to Red Rock Crossing. It is a "day park" which has a stream and some well shot views of the other side of Castle Rock. However on the way I caught sight of another trail head and again figured a stop was warranted (Why not?). There was no marking, just a marker for the start of the trail (with no info on it). So I went on for a while and found myself literally in the middle of nowhere on a flat desert type area surrounded by the rock formations. I have never been to a location which was so "still" and "quiet". The lack of human noise was shocking.. no airplanes.. no cars... nothing. No wind noise... nothing. If one could visit mars on a calm day this is likely what it would be like.

So a bit later on I made it to the park.. and decided to hike up to the other side of Castle Rock (since my first attempt went wonderfully.. not). This time I brought my new backpack loaded with my tripod and all my other lenses. I am not sure how long the hike was.. but it was pretty long. I found one great spot slightly off the beaten path and set up my camera on the tripod for a variety of shots. I even did some HDR exposure bracketing.

At this point I was pretty tired so I took it easy for a bit to kill some more time. Eventually I left and headed back to the airport area. People were already gathering for the sunset. I packed up my stuff in the backpack and hiked up to the highest point. This was a high bluff which had a clear view There already were two photographers there. One was, like me, setting up for some sunset action. The other was doing some work with two models dressed in wedding dresses. He had them on the edge and was using a portable strobe.

So I setup and did some work while the sun was still up. More people gathered.. The show started... and maybe a hour later it was over and time to go. Packed up and found out how difficult it would be to hike down in the dark (wasn't that bad actually).

All in all it was an amazing experience. I have looked at the material on my netbook and I think I've got some things worthy of my portfolio.. I just need to put them through the developing process. I had the urge to go there again today but my body just can't take it (can you say sore? LOL).

Equipment wise.. I managed to use all three of the lenses I brought with me.. especially during the sunset light show. The 24-105 continues to be my lens of choice for most situations. I am surprised how rare i need to get down to 17mm. The black rapid strap continues to be one of the best purchases I have made of late. I was also impressed how easy it was to hike with the Tamrac Expedition x6 pack on my back.. fully loaded with about 25lbs of gear and a tripod.. weight was nicely distributed to my legs and off my lower back..

Anyway.. so that about sums up Sedona...

Friday, September 10, 2010


Well right now I am sitting in Scottsdale, AZ. My business trip was confirmed and things fell into place for me to stay over the weekend. This place is a scenic photographer's paradise (of course that means most things have been shot to death.. but i digress). My plans for tomorrow (Sat) include heading up into Sedona and doing a self driving tour with my camera. I had earlier thought about doing the Grand Canyon as well.. but I think that is too much for two days. I may relax on Sunday.. or do something local to Phoenix.. or head out east/west/south for two hours and see where that takes me...

I'll be here through the end of next week. Hopefully will get some chances for sunrise/sunsets in the area since my hours are shifted to EST still (I get up at like 4am).

Monday, September 6, 2010

Phase 1 complete!

After working most of the summer I have finally completed "phase 1" of my portfolio work... Back in July I went through all my work up to that point and decided upon nearly 100 photos I wanted to include from the last 10 years.. Since then I have been going through them and re-retouching them to my current standards. (as I previously said I was going to do).

This took a lot longer then I thought it would.. Mostly due to basic human engineering.. but that is to be expected.

Now on to phase 2.... which for me is to go through the photos I have taken since July, pick my choices for the portfolio, and then prepare them. I have some HDR work I did at a local castle.. a hiking trip in the Meadowlands.. and a whole bunch of things from the annual lake trip.. much to go through..

Another thing I am working on is building my my new facebook presence.. and thinking about rebuilding the web site...