2K17 Goals (I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration,)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 24mm

So last year I had set a goal to create portfolio quality images with “impact.” Now I felt (at the time) I had some great images in my portfolio, however the goal is always to add more. Now with that said; you cannot just keep adding, if you put something in you have to take something out and my personal preference is to keep the portfolio around 20 images and no more. After looking at ten images, a person is either going to interested or not. If they’re really interested they will look at ten more and that is why I feel the number 20 works. So creating new images that are portfolio quality is a daunting task because I am actually competing against myself. I have to make something good enough to knock something I already love out of the portfolio. This is like killing a child to make way for another. A horrible comparison I know, but I love the images I create and I don’t want to see them leave and go to the “back-shelf” so-to-speak.

I knew going into this that if I could come out with three great images I would consider myself lucky, two great images and I would feel accomplished, and one great image I would be happy.

Well let me tell you “happy” came quickly, Saturday January 16, 2016 to be exact. That is the day that a young lion named Nixlot Dameus walked into the studio. Just a mere 17 years old this amazing young man not only looked amazing he embodies “overcoming the odds.” Soft spoken and serious as a heart attack about what we were there for, Nixlot was focused and serious and that made me feel confident that what I had planned would actually come to be. The image you see posted here is “exactly” what I had envisioned. To have a seventeen year old kid whom I never met before and who is not a model walk into the studio and do exactly what I say is not only amazing, but also very gratifying. This image came at the very end of the shoot as is almost always the case with my shoots. I knew when I left the studio I had a “keeper” and I hadn’t even downloaded the images yet.

LaydeeFly Reyes

LaydeeFly Reyes

Now meanwhile I should say that this goal started on January 1, 2016, yes that’s right on New Year’s Day I was out shooting the cold and windy streets of Bethlehem PA with a local model LaydeeFly. The shoot was fun and it was cold, but the fun outweighed the cold. There were a few amazing images that came from her shoot, the one of her sitting on the street corner was a favorite of mine for sure.

Mina Santiago

Mina Santiago

Then the very next day with teen model Mina I was shooting of a forest in Tinicum Township PA and it was even colder than the day before. I did make one creative edit from that shoot that actually got a lot of attention on social media. Still I was looking for another good image, the year was young, but I wanted something to happen.

 

 

Ice_Princess-4802Instagram

The “Ice Princess” shoot with Kendall seemed promising, however due to time constraints the shoot did not last as long as I would have liked. But there was still a great shoots that came from that shoot. The portrait shots were awesome and I had one creative edit that I really liked and I felt was decent enough to put in the portfolio. So up until now I had the stellar image of Nixlot and then spring gave way to summer and I was getting worried because I had nothing in the works that would seem to yield a great image. Sure I was working doing paid shoots, but they never yield stellar shots.

 

ryan_5_15-6591-edit-2

Model Ryan McNally

Then came Ryan McNally and again I gained a stellar image that got good reception on social media. But… Now my two best images of the year were in the same genre of male fitness and I want diversity, something with a punch. I needed to kick in an afterburner or something, I wanted… I couldn’t think anymore and it was eating at me, day in and day out. I didn’t talk about it much, hell I didn’t even blog about it. It was almost like writer’s block or something. I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration, I looked on Pinterest till my eyes were ready to bleed. Inspiration!  I need you so bad and I cannot find you. Then it happened, just like finding love when you least expect it and in the least likely of places. On

 

 

 

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Assistant Makeup Jordan Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Facebook I see a post about entertainment news and I see the image of the “new” Pennywise the clown, the villain from the Stephen King Novel “IT.” THAT’S IT! A clown and I had been thinking about a clown “crawling on a floor” (strange I know) but this would be even better. Now with all this said; I did not want to just create a duplicate of the new Pennywise, but rather I wanted to take that concept of a… I don’t even know what to call it… “Evil clown” no that sounds to generic. “Sinister Clown” sounds more like it. So I wanted to take this so-called sinister clown look to another level, same as they have with Pennywise. They made the new Pennywise look more like a doll with his wardrobe, like and old doll from the renaissance or Victorian era. So hey why not shoot my Sinister Clown in a renaissance context, such as was done with the Super Heroes by French photographer Sacha Goldberge.

And so it was to be, but this look would take a whole lot more than a model and a makeup artist. This would be a lot of work. So how to you climb a mountain? “One step at a time” and that is what we did. The clown images were stellar and I was satisfied. I would now put myself in that extremely “Lucky” category and I can now say I accomplished that goal. That my friend, is a great feeling.

So here we are in 2017 and what are my goals? I have set a goal for just two stellar images this year, concepts are in the works and who knows maybe more than two will come, but I will be satisfied with two. More-so the bigger goal is to get more content on the YouTube channel and to increase subscribers. So in-order to do that I need to improve my vlogging skills and I started working on that at the end of last year. Along with vlogging skills a drone will be needed and it may be time to update the DSLR… we’ll see. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

Soul Searching for Goals (Now I know every click of the shutter cannot be a winner)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Soul searching… Something that I do about this time every year, however this year is a little different because I will be traveling to Thailand. The trip to Southeast Asia is something I would like to do every year but between jobs, plastic people and a budget I can only go every other year and that really hurts. I have family there now, a family I deeply love and if you were to imagine only ever being able to actually be with them every two years… well that hurts.

So why the soul searching? Truth be told it is not all about family, but rather this is the time of year I start to think about my goals for next year. Now if you have followed this blog (I know that is hard because I am the world’s worst blogger) you know I do not make New Year resolutions. Why? Because resolutions fail, but goals lead to dreams. I set goals for many things in my life, I didn’t always do this because I did not know how to or even why to set a goal. However, through the help of a wonderful friend who really took the time to care about me many years ago and explained and showed me how to work at goals, needless to say I cannot thank him enough. Not just for sharing his wisdom, but just for caring about me… priceless.

So because this blog is for the most part about my photography and all other things “creative” in my life I will share a little bit of my creative goal setting with you. And I will not share my deep personal goals… the messy things in my life like “to stop eating peanut butter out of the jar” or “my plans to over throw the world.”

Let’s look at 2015’s goals. The main creative goal I had set was to “create images with impact.” And what that meant was to create an image/s that would just make people stop and look, hopefully a “wow factor” kicking in. Now I know every click of the shutter cannot be a winner, but I wanted to really get three to four awesome images in a style unlike any of the images I currently had in my portfolio. Well… I did it and it wasn’t easy, it just took a lot of planning. I think the Image of Nixlot Dameus was killer as was the Sinister Clown. I had other great images too and I really do feel that by setting a goal and putting importance to it really allowed me to reach up and accomplish the task I sought.

So on the years I go to Thailand I have a long and peaceful talk with myself, no distractions and with my mind at ease I look at the new year coming and contemplate what I would like to do. I can tell you this year my creative goals will take a different direction. Yes, I will continue with my photography (that is a given), but I think that next year’s goal is to focus on the YouTube Channel and my vlogging skills. I know another area of my life that will see a change in direction is my catering business. After 20 years I am so fucking bored to death mere words could not express the trauma that is created when I have to think about dealing with a catering customer. It’s like wearing the same pair of shoes for 20 years and that is all I have to say about that. However something happened last year that changed me and that was when I put together a small fundraiser for a man and his family. It was a challenge and it was emotional for me on the inside and that might just have saved me from throwing the catering business to the lions. …we’ll see.

So in two days I set forth on a trip to Southeast Asia to visit family and heal my mind. All the while thinking about and setting my goals for 2017.

Thank you so much for reading.

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Creative Fun (Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls.)

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

I guess I’m kind of forced to talk about this image due to the amount of feedback I received from it soon after it hit Instagram. I do not have a massive amount of followers but I do have some really cool and interesting followers. I have several professional photographers from various parts of the world who hail from different genres and styles, from fashion to fine art to commercial print. Then I have followers who are in the entertainment industry in Hollywood & NYC. With that said… I also have a lot of cool everyday people from all walks of life who see my images and I see theirs too.

For this image I received four direct (private) messages asking how did you take the image and what filter did you use? One question was from a young lady who is a singer, song writer in Hollywood and the others were from photographers in the UK and Russia.

First I want to say this is just a fun image and is not mean to be a portfolio quality photo. However what comes into play here that makes the image stand out are a few different, but really not so different things. So let’s look a little deeper and I’ll talk about what was going on and how the image came to be.

First and foremost is the subject, my beautiful niece Alyssa and I were walking the dogs at the lake up the street from my house and I had the camera… I always have the camera.

Second and I think most important element here is the camera… no not a $20,000 Hasselblad, not even a flagship Nikon or Canon. The camera I used is my (new to me) Canon EOS-M3. What made this image achievable is the fact that I was able to capture the photo from an angle and perspective that would not be possible looking through a viewfinder. Unless of course I was to kneel down next to or in front of the subject and ask her to stop and pose. In this image I had been walking next to her as I captured video and when I had the clip I wanted I quickly switched to Av (aperture priority) and had previously set the camera to ISO 100 and f/11. So given the extreme back lighting from the sun over her shoulder I instantly flicked the “flash release” to allow the tiny on camera flash to give some much-needed “fill flash.” Without the fill flash Alyssa would be nothing more than a dark shadow. Also know the f/11 setting helped create the “star” effect coming from the sun. And of course the sun flare is because the camera is looking into the sun. Then there is the “wide angle” factor; shooting close to the subject at 18mm (wide zoom) makes things look a little “off.” Her extended arm and distortion on her lower torso is not very noticeable, but enough to give a creative effect.

So the big thing here is that I composed the image from the screen on the back of the camera and not a viewfinder (the M3 does not come with a view finder). The screen articulates and I was able to hold the camera low, but still angle the screen up toward me. I am actually very familiar with this technique because my old 2005-06 Canon A640 point & shoot had an articulating screen and I loved, loved, loved that camera for just that reason. And I must note that this is one of the three main reasons I purchased the M3. The articulating screen screams creativity… so why doesn’t an EOS-5D Mark IV or the EOS-1D X Mark II have articulating screens? Here is the secret… ready for it… Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls. These are people or beings that have not a creative molecule in their being. While they can make something that can auto focus and face detect and face track within milliseconds they could never understand creativity. So they rely on the outside world to tell them what creativity is and how to incorporate it into a product. The have stopped putting articulating screens in cheaper cameras because they want you to but the more expensive camera and I get that part of the equation… it’s about $$$. Even the geekiest of geeks wants to make money. “But let’s not make our $4000+ plus cameras with creative features like articulating screens because that would make us look like we have common sense.” And everybody knows geeks, nerds and troll have no common sense. Right!

Ok so after that rant we come to;

The third thing and that is the edit. So it is a little tweaking in Lightroom, about all of 30 seconds and then it’s off to Photoshop for about 2 minutes and I use a Nik Color Efex Pro 3 filter recipe that was created by me (yay me, I’m not a geek I can create). Also there is the use of Photoshop blending modes; in this case “multiply” was used. Then back to Lightroom and whala… done.

So in conclusion the real game changer is the camera with the articulating screen. It did not have to be the Canon M3, it could be any camera with a pop out screen. It allowed me to capture the “up angle” perspective and the candid expression all at the same time without stopping to pose the subject. And last, but not least… No you’re not gonna get this image with your iPhone. Sure you could capture the image with a phone camera, but it would be the same as using any other camera with a view finder. So put your iPhone away you little Apple worm and go get a real camera.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

 

Drifting Away (…the “joy” of autumn is drifting away.)

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

Autumn 2016 is starting to wane here in New Jersey. While out for my bicycle ride today the weather was nice, certainly sunny and not too chilly. I was testing my new camera and trying to enjoy what I know is inevitable… While autumn season is not truly over until December 21, I have always found that by mid to late November the “joy” of autumn is drifting away. Like a small boat that has come detached from its mooring and starts to ever so slowly drift with the current, drifting till it is further and further downstream. At some point you look away and when you gaze back the boat is gone.

We will have our nice days and we’ll have our rainy days. The rainy days are the times we look away and when the sun shines again… the days are colder, shorter and less color till soon we enter the “grey days” of late November early December. The only cheer at that time is to look forward to the Christmas  and New Year season.

I will leave for Thailand the day before Thanksgiving and miss the whole Thanksgiving holiday. 40 straight hours of hell as I travel from my home in Linvale, NJ to Ko Chang (Chang Island). That is 40 hours with no bed, just a plane seat and or an airport floor or bench to sleep on. Yes I will have fun in Thailand… I sure hope so after 40 hours of travel. But when I return back home to the USA autumn 2016 will be of just a memory.

Photo taken with the Canon EOS-M3 with the 18-55mm lens and I did apply my personal Photoshop recipe. Camera settings were 1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm.

Only a Year Late (So being a guitar player in another lifetime I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat…)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm
Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

It has taken me well over a year to complete this “behind the scenes” video of a shoot I did with model Nicole Gallagher. Why? Because I am stubborn and when I want something to be a certain way… well I want it that way. Childish? Maybe. So the problem was… ok so here is where you can laugh, smack my head and call me crazy. I couldn’t get the music right. I wanted a certain piece of music, I wanted Santana/Everlast “Put Your Lights On” and while I have that version done, it was done two days after the shoot, I could not get it uploaded. And rightfully (pardon the pun) so because Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook all threatened to ban my accounts if I tried to upload it again. What a bitch and I really can’t complain because I know the copyright laws very well when it comes to intellectual property, after all I’m the guy that makes everybody sign a model release to protect my images.

But then I had an idea… ahhh… what if I record the song myself. All I wanted was the music and not the vocals. So being a guitar player in another life time I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat and fires up my GK amp and laid down a fairly decent instrumental version of  “Put Your Lights On” and edited it using Adobe Audition CC (which by the way I love Audition CC). But still no luck, YouTube slammed me with even nastier emails. …oh well I tried.

So then I got discussed and I set the project aside. I revisited the project no less than 8 times since June of 2014 and to no avail. So my last attempt was the other day and like all the other attempts I crashed & burned after an 2 hours of sifting through clip after clip of “royalty free” music. However tonight I hit on a song that I liked and the video has been uploaded. Did I win?.. hell no, but I do like the song “Hey Girl” and it seems to work. Check it out and hit “Like” if you would please, you can also subscribe to the Channel too.

 

Good But Not What I Wanted (realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter)

Nicole Smoke Dress Final

I would like to talk a little about this image that I recently created… well maybe talk a lot about it and what it really is. Ok so the truth be told it is not at all what I wanted to create. What you see here is the “second draft” so-to-speak, but there were four of five more versions and I tossed them all out of frustration. It was like back in the day when a writer would sit at a typewriter trying to make something happen and half way through the page realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter, crushing and crumpling and tossing it into garbage can in the corner. The garbage can that is overflowing with dozens of other half written pages. I saw something that inspired me and it gave be a vision and an idea for a really cool image… well at least I thought it would be cool. So I headed into my stockpile of images and I knew exactly where to look. But when I found the images I was thinking of, the wardrobe was all wrong. I wanted to create an image of a model with a rather “moonscape” like background, but I wanted her dress to be blowing away in the wind and turning to smoke. Similar to the piece I did back in 2013 called “Shattered” where the motocross racer’s helmet was shattering and blowing away.

I just could not get it to happen and keep it looking like a dress. Why? Because in this particular image the model is not actually wearing a dress, she is wearing a shirt and a skirt. So now after two nights of working I end up going back to the second version that I created in about 30 minutes and I said “done.” Done, but not at all satisfied. While many people love this image and I received good feedback across all platforms of social media, I myself am not satisfied. Not satisfied because I wanted something very different. With all that said… this is a good image. Model Nicole Gallagher is striking a stellar pose as she can so easily do and I have blogged in the past about her eyes and her talent of “posing with her eyes.’ This is a perfect example, I mean all we see here of the model is her arms and her face and her eyes. And for me the eyes say it all in this pose. So to recap, there is nothing wrong with the model or the pose, but the wardrobe is not right to complete my vision. So we know what that means… “project shoot!” If I am going to complete this vision I have in my mind I need to shoot the model correctly with the correct wardrobe. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

People with Cameras (“Millennial Digital Era” has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them)

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

“Everybody is a photographer!” In this day and time of digital photography we hear it all the time. I hear many of my photographer friends say the phrase all the time and most times it is in a venomous tone because they’re angry. I too at one time was guilty of this opinion, but have really learned to just let it go because it truly is a “false” statement.

Sure today cameras are everywhere and everyone has a camera… it’s almost as if the younger generations are born with a mobile device in their hand that has a camera lol. But seriously if in fact “you are a photographer” you are a creative person working with a vision and a set of rules. Rules that you learned, concepts that you have crafted and skills you have honed to a razor’s edge. You know when to follow the rules, when to break the rules and at the end of the day you’re a “photographer.”

So what are the labels are there for all the other humans walking around with these soul capturing devices? Of course this is just my opinion, but let’s looks a little closer; I think it’s safe to say the majority of images on social media are “snapshots” or documentary style; they have no creativity attached to them in any way. Selfies, food shots, the dog or cat, the baby smiling, these are just aiming the camera and snapping the shutter. All the pictures of your vacation just document that you stood on that spot in the world on that day at that time. Now of course I know that statement will make a lot of “selfie” shooters angry because they spend hours perfecting their facial and butt selfies. Perfecting a facial selfie or butt shot is not creativity, all it does is say “hey I’m a millennial, I have an iPhone and a lot of time on my hands… oh an I love my own butt and you should too.” I have seen people in restaurants spending 10 minutes on a food shot of their beautiful meal, all the while the meal is getting cold. More “insane” then a photographer if you ask me. “Yes” I love to take a photo of a meal and share it on social media with family and friends; however I fall short of believing I just captured a work of art. So again, I think it is safe to say “most people are taking snapshots” and that is very similar to what people did in the 70’s with their little Kodak 110 Instamatics, but without the facial and butt shots lol. In the film days we had albums and shoe boxes full of senseless photos that nobody ever seen unless we wanted to torture them. With that said; those images are important on a personal level because they are our memories, but most times mean very little to anyone else.

Now we look at the guy/gal with the DSLR and we can’t be too critical here, because if in-fact you are a photographer you had to start somewhere, we all start somewhere. But there is a big difference here because this new “Millennial Digital Era” (as I like to call it) has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them to the likes of something we have never seen. I say “people who capture” rather than use the term “photographer” because this species is anything but a “photographer” although they are not taking snapshots. This species utilizes a DSLR or higher end point & shoot along with various software and social media to create (for lack of a better word) “crap” as in shitty garbage. I have heard Scott Kelby (along with many others) say “Instagram is for photographers” and while that may partially be true, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Instagram is for people want to be photographers.” The very nature of Instagram with its “one click” filters offers a feeling that the person uploading the image actually created something special… ok if you say so lol. Vimeo does a similar thing giving the ability to add effects to uploaded videos.

I think it is really fair to say that when people hear the word “photographer” it gives them a sense of someone who knows how to capture a good likeable image. If they hear the term “professional photographer” it most times conjures up the thought of someone who makes money with a camera. So why then are professional photographers venomous about this genre of “people with cameras?” I think it is because “people with cameras” sometimes steal paid work from the professionals. This is where I stand strong on who I am and my confidence as a photographer. Sure professional photography has changed immensely with the coming of the “digital age” and it has made what was not an easy craft a whole lot harder and that is life. A guy gets into a car accident and loses a leg or arm or both. Terrible situation without a doubt and he is now forced to face major decisions; do I give up on life or do I use what I have to keep going? Kind of a harsh metaphor I know, but life does not come with a guarantee, it never did and it never will. Nobody gave a film photographer back in the day a guarantee that “hey learn this craft, learn it well and things will always be ok.” So to be a successful professional photographer today you need to first make a choice of “is this what I want and if I want it, it will never be easy.” Like all businesses you need to keep up with technology, keep learning, learn to diversify as time changes the world around you and somehow keep it fun. Or go sit in the corner and boo hoo lol.

Thanks for reading.