I Did It! (…not just sit on a porch smoking cigarettes and posting countless selfies. )

So I guess it is official… As of today I am a web entrepreneur. I received my first payment from my Amazon Associates account. I opened my associates account well over 10 years ago and never did anything with it. Actually at the time I had no idea what to do with it, but I knew one day I would find something or someway to make it work.

I started a blog several years back to complement my photography website. Why? Because that is what someone (who is a whole lot smarter than me) told me was the right thing to do. They also told me that if I ever wanted to have a chance at making any money from the web in any way form or fashion that I needed to learn how to use social media and not just sit on a porch smoking cigarettes and posting countless selfies. She also told me to stay on top of social media with it ever changing tide. So I did.

I also started blogging for a second reason and that was to better my typing skills and work on my writing and composition skills. I have to say my typing has become somewhat faster, composition is better as well as grammar. I said “better” not perfect.

I proclaim that I am the world’s worst blogger and I would never recommend anyone ever to follow my blog, but somehow almost 200 people from around the world subscribe and actually read what I write. I never wanted to fill my blog with advertisements because I feel that it makes your content seem forced, like your writing stuff just to get people to click on it so you can get a few pennies for the click. After all this is where fake news comes from… people who write bullshit just so other people will click on it. Over half of the people on my Facebook friends list are bait clickers. There other half on my friends list seem to know what click bait is and stay away. The bait clickers are also the ones who have a ton of malware in their computers and their phones lol. Either way as of now my photography blog will remain ad-free other than posting links on where to buy or review a product that are photography related.

My soon to start up BBQ blog will also remain for the most part ad-free other than product links. This blog will support my catering business website.

My photography YouTube channel is where my Amazon revenue is generated. The power of vlogging is awesome if you know how to do it. I started off with making instructional videos for beginning photographers to learn how to navigate Adobe Lightroom. Three years ago I placed the videos on Vimeo where they were ad-free and made me no money at all. Then I placed those same videos on YouTube and monetized them. I also started making new Lightroom videos. Then I started actually vlogging, but on a very amateur and sporadic level, not to make money, but to have video content to edit… so I could learn how to edit. However while making the video content I thought it would be nice to make something meaningful such as review the gloves I wear when using a camera in the winter time. This would give me a video that I can link to a product on Amazon and also give me content I can use to learn how to edit using Adobe Premiere Pro. This in-turn lead to making little short videos that let me work on camera technique and storytelling. I received a lot of positive feedback from my short video “Autumn Day at the Temple (4:35) https://vimeo.com/144312373 . It was actually very easy to make because I had a 100% vision of what I wanted and I shot the whole thing myself with no help at all. If only everything I did was that easy. But before Autumn Day at the Temple, came the behind the scenes video of a photo shoot I did with Kendall. I shot a few of the opening scenes and the rest was shot by Kendall’s mother Cheryl. I handed her my camera and asked if she would shoot while I worked. She did and I edited it, put it all together and it again became a huge hit with young girls. Nearly every young lady (16 to 25) I meet who has seen that video wants to be the girl in the video (Kendall). Why? Because Kendall looks like she is having so much fun and truly she was. I was having fun too, but truth be told here for the first time… I was actually dying that day. I had a high fever and walking pneumonia, I knew it, I had been sick for a week leading up to that shoot, but wanted to keep going because we had postponed it once or twice already. I just kept telling everybody my voice was messed up because I had allergies. After it was posted not much happened, but as time passed and girls seen the video I started to get more and more calls. Just the other day I had a girl ask me “can I hire you to do a shoot like the girl in the chair in a field?” https://vimeo.com/143212998

I also follow other bloggers and vloggers. Casey Niestat is all the rage for the past few years and I do follow Casey. I feel a lot can be learned from how he works and his style, I feel he is one of the greatest creators of our time. However I would never try to duplicate him as tens of thousands are doing at this very moment. But the big thing I learned from Casey is that you can make money from placing product links in your video description.

Instagram… oh how I love thee. I only have just fewer than 600 followers but they are a rock solid core group. From them are several people who are actual fans of my photography and they really like what I do. They are people from all over the world from all walks of life. Some are school kids, movie stars, news reporters, champion cyclists, journalists, moms, dads, book writers, doctors and a few friends thrown in along the way. At the same time I follow and interact some of the most interesting people… like a surgeon who takes us on his journey to the make-shift operating room in a third world nation while he saves young children’s lives and then photographs the stars at night. Very powerful photography! Or seeing the strongest teenager in the USA set a weightlifting record. Or my friend in Africa who cares for wild animals. Yeah I love my Instagram, very little drama and very little click bait.

So will I get rich & wealthy from the web? Most likely not, but if I can make $26.59 cents in 4 months I know I can make more. Funny thing is anybody can do it. It is a true testament of how easy it is to make money with a video camera and a little creativity.

Color Grading (…while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market.)

Model Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 88mm Color Graded

Color grading has been around for a very long time, used both in photography and cinematography. The names have changed as time and technology advance. What some refer to now as “color grading” was on once called “color timing” during the film era and was accomplished in a laboratory or darkroom by adjusting the exposure process during the developing stage of the film. Mostly used for color correction and not so much as an artistic tool. In the cinematography world it was primarily for color correction although the process was a lot more complex, requiring vast knowledge in dealing with correcting color for television tube screens. So todays “color correcting” has become a lot easier and nearly all is performed digitally making life a lot easier. I do color correcting using the X-Rite Color Checker and correct everything from camera to the monitor I use for editing. So what I now refer to as “color grading” is more of an artistic tool rather than a correcting tool.

So why color grade? Because it can lend an artistic value to your images or video work. Both photographers and videographers like to use color grading as a way to give an image or a video scene a certain vibe, feel or mood. Color grading is important because it could be what sets you apart from the crowd when it comes to editing. It is very common in movies to create a “look” for the overall movie that in-turn creates a “feel” or “mood” for the whole feature and individual scenes will vary from the main look based on the lighting, color, time of day ect… Examples are movies like Manchester by the Sea that has a rather soft and somber vibe due to the nature of the plot dealing with a lost loved one. As opposed to Hacksaw Ridge that has a very “high contrast” look do to the fact that most of the scenes take place on a battle field during intense fire fights.

So let’s step back a few years to when I was a beginning photographer and like most I was obsessed with “trying to make my images look professional” and could not figure out why I was failing. First let’s describe “professional” because a nice fashion shot certainly has a different look than say a nice sport shot. For me it was fashion photography. I would look at a magazine (remember them?) ad or editorial and fall in love with the image’s vibe. Not so much the content of the image, but more so with the way the image looked… the feel. Sure the image may contain a nice looking person in wondrous wardrobe (or lack of wardrobe) or it could be an advertisement with just a wrist watch. Either way I would sit and wonder what they did to make the image look the way it did. So when Photoshop found its way into my photography I already had several things in my mind I wanted to learn how to do. Sure basic editing comes first, along with just figuring out how to navigate through the universe that is Adobe Photoshop. But soon I was trying my hand at color grading although I had no clue what I was doing. Then I started asking other photographers their techniques and ideas on color grading. …of course as always the case with photography some photographers are more than willing to share while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market. Then of course there is the “oh just go to my website and download my tutorial” for a mere $99. So I basically continued on my own and bought a $10 automated (prerecorded) Photoshop Action or two along the way. I would analyze the layers of the action and it soon became apparent that I was doing it that way all along. But I had other ways to color grade that were sometimes so much easier than creating layer after layer in Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom has some really nice tools for creating awesome color grades and saving them as presets. This of course leads to photographers and websites selling Lightroom and Camera RAW presets, and this is fine, but I would suggest finding free downloads over paying for them.

So for my workflow I always start in Lightroom and if needed I head over to Photoshop and I finish back in Lightroom. I would say for me; 80% of the images I color grade I do in Lightroom, the rest are done in Photoshop. Also with the power of having Adobe Camera RAW as a filter in Photoshop I could technically do everything in Photoshop; however I like to save my master file without a color grade and make a separate file with the color grade.

So day we still see color grading as a strong artistic tool in both photography and cinematography. It was always said that “Instagram is for photographers” and nothing could be truer with all the filter choices IG has to offer. After all the IG filters are nothing more than preset color grades. And now that drone video is getting easier for the average person and vlogging is all the rage we start to see the color grading moving in to the mainstream. Not only do the top vloggers create trends with how they hold their camera or their scene transitions they also create trends of everybody wanting to color grade their video content to look like they’re favorite vlogger. With all this said color grading isn’t always as easy as an Instagram filter. There truly is an art to it, and in video what looks good in one scene looks horrible in another. Photos can be a lot easier to color grade, however I find that when editing a series of photos it can at times be challenging when the series contains images from different looks of light. Look for a vlog post in a few days where I will walk through a few of my techniques on color grading.

 

Thanks for reading.

A Creative Morning (The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else…)

I haven’t really created anything new and interesting in Photoshop lately. Sure I work in Photoshop almost every day, but it is just that… work! I haven’t had the time to create anything fun or new. However I have always wanted to try this double exposure, illustrative photo look. This was my first attempt and I don’t think it looks to horrible. I actually had a job lined up last year to do three of this style for a client who is a musician and the job was cancelled before it even got started. The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else, they both started fighting and before I knew it the client’s agent cancelled the job. Story of my life, some jobs die before they fly. But if the job did fly, I was to shoot three specific skyline shots of Philadelphia and then the talent was to come in studio and shoot the portrait part. The rest of course would be finished in Photoshop. All three “would-be” images were going to be part of an album release.

So anyway… cut to today. I woke up and went on an early morning walk with the dogs. A nice quiet, peaceful walk along the river. I kept looking at the trees in the early morning spring time sunlight. And then all of a sudden I just got that “I have got to sit a create something today” kind of feeling and so I did just that. I sat down and said to myself “it has to be something you have never done before.” I thought of Whan, the model in the image and I never really created a nice illustration of her. Sure I have lots of great images of her, but nothing illustrative. I just sent it off to her as I started typing this post and I’m happy to report that she loves it.

So with that said I think I will work on some more of this style in the near future. This is a rather generic one and using the trees has been done a lot. 500px.com has many of this style. So next I will try a cityscape (another generic style) then I’ll move on to more creative overlays.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Freedom of Creativity (Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”)

By The Sea

I have never before created an image that drew so much criticism and also at the same time was liked by so many others. This is a two element composite that I created in the very beginning of 2017. Actually the image of the model was captured on the last day of 2016 in a studio. Many times when shooting a model session I will have some sort of prop that I will pull out at the very end of the shoot, sort of a surprise. In the past I have used fake hand grenades, fake cigars, and gas masks ect… On this day I had a feathered headdress that closely resembles the kind of headdresses worn by the indigenous tribes of the North American Plains or as many would call them today “Native Americans.” The headdress was purchased online from a dealer in Indonesia where the headdress is made. The headdress is fabricated from duck feathers and either painted or dyed with various colors for decoration. The rest of the material is mostly cheap felt, string, thread and plastic beads. I was actually quite disappointed when I received the headdress because the feathers were rather narrow and distorted due to the painting or dying process. For this reason I did not use it right away and I was looking for a better one. I soon lost interest and the prop was packed away. I then relocated and the prop was in storage for most of the year. I came across the headdress while sifting through my props and model wardrobe and thought “I might as well use it” after all I did pay $60 for this thing. So I brought it to the shoot, pulled it out at the very end, asked the model if she wanted to wear it and she (like me) though it would be nice and rather “Avant Garde” with the juxtaposition of the fitness attire she had on. After all I did know while shooting her on a gray background I would clip her out and use another outdoor background thus creating a “Photoshop composite” as I am so known for doing.

Why? I liked it. It was creative decision based on the look and color of the feathers and the overall feel it would bring to the image. In my years as a photographer I have designed and created my own headdress for models to wear as well as purchasing pre-made items. I have seen headdresses made from everything possible (or so it seems).  Just the other day I saw a headdress with biplanes in it. One was the plane of the famous Eddie Rickenbacker and the other Baron Von Richthofen or as many know him “The Red Baron.” I thought it to be rather funny and odd all at the same time. Some headdresses I do not get at all, such as ram horns, dead sticks, plastic garbage bags ect… But “hey” beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art, fashion and beauty are all “subjective” so while I may look at a model with sticks and deer antlers as a headpiece and think it is idiotic, others could find it artistic.

Now I am fully aware that no matter what I write in the following sentences will be justifiable in the minds of some people. I might add that I am not looking to justify anything nor am I trying to win over the opinion of a naysayer. All I am saying is “there is (in my opinion) no way possible that a model and a photographer standing in a studio and deciding to place a feathered headdress on one’s head and photographing it could bring harm to anyone”… period. The model is dressed in current day fitness attire that in no way depicts her and as a Native American. Upon close examination the headdress craftsmanship shows no possible comparison to the craftsmanship of a “Plains Native” war bonnet. Other than shape and color there is very little that could be comparable between a headdress of a Native American and the headdress that is in my image. There is nothing about the way that my image was created nor in the way the image is being presented that could be contrived as someone or anybody trying to demean or disparage indigenous people of North America who whore feathered headdresses. Now with that said there are still people whom are highly offended and for several reasons. The first thing that comes to my mind is “some people just like to be offended.” There’s no two ways to look at that, they just like being offended, its life. Then there are those who are offended because they have a vested interest.  I know that sounds rather idiotic, but it is true as true can be.

Most of us have experienced bullies growing up, every class had one or more. And if it wasn’t in the class room, it was at the park or on the school bus or somewhere in our life. You didn’t have to provoke a bully, just the mere fact that you woke up that morning and now standing in close range you were going to feel the wrath of the bully. Be it physical or verbal you were going to feel the wrath. Myself personally I felt the wrath of a few bullies and I found that the biggest way to combat a bully was to fight back. But not to fight back it the way the bully fought against me, in some cases just ignoring the bully was good enough. However most effective was a flat-out “take’em out quickly and as mercilessly as possible. It could be done verbally or physically, whatever way worked best. Now cut to forty years later we are to play patty-cakes and give blue ribbons and have an after party at Panera Bread or Starbucks. Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”

So what happened on social media? Ok here is the time line of my image. It was initially created a few days after the photo shoot. I sat on it for about a week as I made various changes to the overall color and sharpness. I made test prints and used it as an image to compare different print method. Then after about two weeks it was posted to my blog. There was very little reaction. It had been keyworded with headdress, fitness, feathered and so on. Then after a few months I decided to put the image on Instagram. It was received very well, but no more than other images of comparable quality. Then it received the first comment “this is the dumbest pic I’ve ever seen.” The man was a Native American and I waited about 12 hours and asked back “what is it about the image that you do not like? His answer said “well thank you for asking, as a native it is always disappointing to see models wearing headdresses thereby the stereotype continues, women don’t wear them, it’s disrespectful to us, but people continue to misuse our culture, thanks again for asking, most people don’t care to ask.”  I did not reply and left it at that. Then there were people hash tagging it and those I deleted. The random hash tagger is the modern-day bully whom you really can do nothing about.

While I do understand a little bit of what this gentleman is saying when it comes to native women not wearing headdresses, so I guess to him it would be like me seeing a man wearing a dress. I get that and I can live with that. But this whole “stereotype” thing is a bunch of crap. I literally have no idea what so ever of what stereotype I am keeping alive and how I am misusing anyone’s culture. So I set off and a three-day research binge to try and find what I was doing wrong and how my actions could have brought harm upon this man or anyone else. Yes for three days I spent every free moment reading and researching how the Native Americans feel and their current position in society today.

Here are my findings:

Nearly every single article I could find written on the subject of downtrodden Native Americans was on blogs, and very few were on actual creditable news sites. The articles posted to these blogs were very scathing and dramatic. While most of the facts were correct about the history of the settlers pushing out the indigenous people, the articles are clearly written to be used as “click bait” and it was easy to see why. Every single one of these blog sites were filled with pop up after pop up as well as every pixel of extra space taken up by affiliate advertisements. Essentially these were all “pay per click” sites that generate revenue each time the site is clicked upon. Are they “Fake News?” No I didn’t really see anything fake about them; however they clearly have an agenda to write articles that are jaded to drawing the reader to a predetermined conclusion rather than letting the reader draw their own conclusion.

So now I leave the blogs and head off to message boards where there is no “pay per click” and it is just everyday people talking about everyday stuff. I find that about 75% of the Native Americans who I actually questioned did not care at all about my image or any other involving non-native people wearing a feathered headdress. In fact one man said that the only people who are going to be offended are people who have something to gain by being offended. And I think he’s right. The other 25% really didn’t have bad things to say, they just thought it best to not offend anybody about anything. So let me get that right… you’re not really offended by the feathered headdress being worn by a model… but I still shouldn’t do it. Ok.

So after all the research and questioning, still no one can tell me what stereotype I am keeping alive or how what I have done has brought (or will bring) harm or doom to an indigenous person/s. My conclusion is that the biggest criers are the writers who are posting to “pay-per-click” sites. This is actually the case with a lot of social topics today. While the world is now bogged down with this increasing blight of “Fake News” we are also being bogged down with one-sided dramatic opinions that are being contrived as “facts” and it is all in the name of pay-per-click advertising. For all I know the blogs that I visited may have not been run by Native Americans at all, there really is no way to know. After all you yourself could write a post on any topic, make it as dramatic as possible and post it to your pay per click site and start making money.

For now my image will remain online. People are free to comment although they have to keep comments realistic and on topic.

Bored Senseless (But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress…)

1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm

So I am often asked many questions about a photo after I post it or someone sees it when I’m showing a slide show. If it is a slide show the comment starts with “whoa can you go back to that photo” but there are many other questions that follow, such as; “where was this shot, how did you get this shot” and many more. Many times people who were with me at the time I captured the image ask the same questions. And when they find out it was captured while they were there perplexes them because they have no memory of me taking the photograph nor do they remember the subject in the photograph. Case in point is this image of the man bushing the bicycle in the streets of the village Hua Ngua, Kalasin Province, Thailand. My wife was there however she has no recollection of me capturing the image.

So the back story is I was bored senseless as many a husband is while waiting for your wife to shop. The day started with me going somewhere to have fun with photography, traveling to local temples and other places just to have fun shooting. But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress in a small village mattress shop. Of course I had the camera in hand and I just stood along the side of the street shooting whatever went by. It was that easy. Main thing is “always have your cameras with you and ready.” Now that does not mean to walk around bothering people with a camera, in this case I had the camera in the vehicle and because I was bored out of my wits I grabbed the camera in hopes of shooting something… anything. I was at a mattress shop and that was about as exciting and as fun as a heart attack. Matter-of-fact I started by saying to myself that “there has to be something interesting to shoot in the mattress shop… there wasn’t… I tried. Now if I cannot get at least one interesting shot then I think it’s fair to say… well I think you can see by now how bored I was. Bored enough to photograph a farmer pushing a bicycle carrying what looks like weeds up a street. However it is an interesting photo or at least I think so. At I think it is least interesting enough to put in my book of street photography from Thailand.

Now for all the camera geeks the technical info; Shot on a Canon 6D with a 24-105mm f/4L 1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm. Edited in Photoshop CC 2017 using a “multiply” layer on top of a normal layer, converted to a smart object, shadows brightened with a camera raw filter and then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 adding Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and then back to Lightroom for a small amount of sharpening and watermark applied. Output to JEPG.

 

 

Winter Video Project (So there is collateral fun to this project ) Part 1

Part:1

So my latest ongoing project is video editing. This project is a little different from my photography projects in the sense that it is not planned out in detail. However the purpose of the project is to create a small amount of video content each weekend that I can then use to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. The end purpose is to better my editing skill and become more familiar with Premiere Pro. Each weekend my wife and I take the dogs (Pixie & Jake) and head out on day trips. We try to go on both Saturday & Sunday however weather is the main dictator as to whether or not we can get out on both days. Either way I bring along my Canon EOS M3 as my main video camera and I will fill in with my mobile phone if needed.

This now leads me to answer the question that most people have been asking me; Why does you video look strange or different? And the answer is because I have been trying different things that I am very unfamiliar with. See in the past most of my video content was edited in Adobe Photoshop. Yes, you can edit video quite well in Photoshop, however it is a very different way to edit and with very different options as opposed to Premiere Pro. So as I push forward with vlogging I feel the need to expand my video editing abilities, not to mention the fact that if a customer requires a specific kind of video with specific kind of feel I would be able to achieve the task. At this time photography, Photoshop and Lightroom are my strong points, but I would like to add Premiere Pro to that list as well.

So there is collateral fun to this project and that is getting out and having fun with my wife and the dogs. Getting out of the house for an extended time in the winter is not always easy, but this project has given purpose and my wife loves it too.

Ringing Rocks Park (…others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes… )

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3

1/8 sec at f/16 ISO 100 18mm EOS M3

 

Part: 2

So I have to talk a little bit about the Ringing Rocks Park trip because I was asked many questions about it. Let me start for those who do not know Ringing Rocks Park is a county park in Bucks County PA. I first visited the park while on a class trip in school many years ago. The park is not all that big and other than a very small parking lot and a disgusting porta-john there is just two main things to see. First is the boulder field and second the waterfalls.

The boulder field is interesting because if you bring a small hammer, steel rod or pipe with you, you can strike the boulders and they will produce a ringing sound. Some produce a better sound than others and only the boulders that lay out in the open boulder field have this quality. If you notice in my video the boulders in the open area have a reddish cast to them. This color is not always seen, it depends on the light or lack of. So after about 10 minutes of whacking a pipe on a stone it’s like “ok___ now what?” So then most people will head to the waterfalls. And this is the area where many have met with problems. To access the falls or I should say the bottom of the falls one must navigate another boulder area that leads to the bottom or I should say “to the creek.” These boulders are a little more challenging because they lay at a very steep angle. Also if there is a lot of water flowing in the creek bed there is no “shore line” to walk along.

So what happens here is many people want to see the waterfalls. You know… it’s that age-old thing of the natural beauty of nature mixed with a little bit of romanticism that draws people to waterfalls. Again… not much to do here but watch water fall over some rocks, however it is nicer than smacking a stone with a piece of metal. But the boulders have large gaps and holes between them. Many times what looks like solid footing is just dead leaves laying on top of twigs and when you step down you fall between the boulders. How hard is it to navigate? Not hard at all for the average outdoor hiker that is wearing good hiking shoes and has limber legs. But if you are the weekend warrior that likes to walk the flat easy-going trails you might want to proceed with caution. While I was there this time we were the only people at the falls, but as we were hiking back to the parking lot the crowd was pouring in, most were first time visitors and were asking “where’s the waterfalls?” Some had small children and others were the “bearded hipsters” with their “girly-man” shoes and I would just point them on to the direction of the waterfalls.

Still all in all a fun place to visit, just go early and leave early to avoid the hipster crowd.