Dare to Be Different (Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format)

Dare to Be Different

“Dare to be different” we have all heard this statement before. I think the first time I heard it was when I was about 13 years old and there was this weird kid at school. He moved in from another district and he dressed differently, talked differently and was just a little weird until you got to know him. His name was “Taz,” or at least that’s what he wanted to be called. He was a good student, never started trouble, but he would sure end it if it came to him. He was only in our school for about a month and then he left, it was that parents going through divorce thing.

I remember when people troubled him about the way he dressed, talked or music he listened to, he would always smile and say “dare to be different.” He even said it to a teacher once and I think that was the day it really stuck in my head. Of course, since then I have heard the saying many times, but I always remember where I first heard it.

In terms of photography I have heard it over and over to the point it is more or less a giant cliché and I jokingly loathe photography clichés. I loathe them because most often they are coming from a photographer who is trying to sound so prolific. There are thousands of YouTube videos with photographers boasting about photography lighting and say things like “I see light in f/ stops” or I love this one “its all about the light.” And then every so often the “dare to be different” comes flying out (audience gasping and bowing to the higher power of this photographer). Somehow a when a cliché is released it is supposed to be akin to a wizard releasing a ball of fire, he just conjured up out of thin air.

Now with all that said; If we are told as photographers “Dare to Be Different” and the word coming from some great photographer who is greater than us… Why the hell do they want you to have your website look like the next guys website? Apparently when it comes to photography websites, we are supposed to follow a format and this great format will bring you all the fames & fortunes you desire. However, this whole bag of hogwash comes with a discount code followed by “just follow the link below and head on over to” Squarespace or whatever the latest flavor of hosting is that month.

Of course, I am being a little cynical here, but I am also being serious. If an artistic field where “dare to be different” is the mantra and I really whole heartedly think we should try to be different to some degree or another, why should all the websites have this formula-based rule for appearance?

I designed my own website from scratch and I have no formal education in web design. I did however sit down and spend some time reading and watching videos about the do’s & don’ts of creating a website. I also looked at many other photographers websites. I took notes on the things I liked and the things I didn’t like. I decided “I can do this” and the biggest reason I can do this is because I like to create… and it would be cheaper than having someone else design it lol. But the feeling of creating it myself I think is what had me most excited.

I didn’t follow a lot of website building rules, and unlike the rules of photography; website design rules are always changing. However, the very first rule I did follow was, to ask myself “what do I want my website to do or say?” “What is the core purpose of this website?” After thinking about that for a while I decided that my website would be just a simple place for me to convey that “yes I am a photographer and here is what I do.” That is all I really need, although the powers to be say differently.

I think a lot of it is common sense, things like, use a good easy to read font, use colors that are easy on the eye and don’t clutter up the space with unnecessary graphics and other distractions. Put up content that really describes who you are and what you do. Most important is: all the content should be you and nobody else’s unless it was a collaborative project, definitely no stock photography. Also, you should most certainly have your own photo on the site as well as links to your favorite flavors of social media.

I say you should have a photo of yourself and I think this is really only for anyone who wants to be hired as a photographer. If your photography is strictly a hobby then a photo of you is optional. This was one of the things that bothered me when I was looking at photography websites and it still bothers me, that many so called “working photographers” have a website and they have no photo of themselves. You are a photographer and you don’t have a photo of yourself? I think anyone who is a working professional in a service or craft that deals with people up close and personal should always have a headshot or photo that represents them. This advice goes for medical professionals, insurance agents, attorneys and yes, photographers.

Creating my website was a lot of fun because I turned it into a personal photography project. I have posted here in the past that I truly believe in the power of personal unpaid projects. As long as you treat them as if they are a real paying job. Put importance on the project and a deadline. After the layout for the site was completed, I now had to decide on content. Again, all I wanted this website to do was let people know who I am and what I do. But I also wanted decent content. I had some decent content, but I wanted more. So that then became an ongoing never-ending project in and of itself, to come up with new and fresh content.

This image of Nicole was my flagship photo when my site first loaded. I love this image, it is a little over processed, however that is the look I was going for. I started the website in 2014 and kept this image up for almost two years. Then came the day I realized that I cannot keep the photo up forever and I need to create something new. So now I try to create something new every six months or so.

My opening home page has a gallery of about 12-14 of my most favorite images that I feel is a great representation of what I do. For the most part I mostly photograph people and I do a fair amount of compositing in Photoshop, so the opening gallery is just that, people and only people. I also have it set so you can advance to the next photo by using left & right arrow keys and it will default to a slideshow on its own.

Recklesspixel

I have a direct link to my Instagram that is very visible in the upper right of the slideshow and no other social media icons on the home page. I want people to know IG is where I like to hangout. But I do have one whole page of the website dedicated to my all my social media accounts and it is simply titled “Social.”

My “about me” page was very hard to write because I didn’t want it to come off too corny, so I had a good friend write the page and I really feel this was the best way to go for me. Maybe not for everybody, but for me it works. I have a wonderful photo of my wife and I and I am holding my camera. The photo was actually shot by a friend using her mobile phone and I really loved the photo, it works.

I try to keep the site clean and to the point, if you land on the home page and you’re ready to advance, from left to right at the top of the page is “Portfolio.” This page is simple with a gallery that has 42 of my nicest images and just below is a small gallery of the most recent wedding I shot. I update the wedding gallery with every wedding I shoot. I do not advertise to shoot weddings; however, I do shoot three to four wedding every year. Not too bad for somebody who doesn’t advertise to photograph weddings lol.

Next is the “About” page, then the “Contact” page. I feel this would be the most logical order if someone came to my page to hire me or at least contact me.

I land on the home page and I see the gallery of images, it has captured my interest so I will now click on the portfolio. I scroll through the portfolio page and now I think it would be time to see who this guy is and I click on the about page. There is a photo of the photographer and there is a very short statement in my own words. Then there is a more detailed statement about me, but not too long. If I were a viewer of my site and I was still interested then next logical move would be the “contact” page and if I was just browsing and wanted to poke around, well, then I have all the other stuff like a link to this blog, another gallery page, video page ect…

I do have a page dedicated to my copyright policy, here again is something nobody ever really talks about. Posting your copyright policy in not required as far as I know, but it sure can’t hurt. I think it would be extremely helpful if your images are ripped of and you end up in court to recover damages that are certainly due to you. After all I have all my copyright data embedded in the meta data of my images. In that meta data there is a web address that leads to my website.

When I look at my website, I truly feel it has everything I need to convey about what it is I do. I test this every so often by asking a friend or an acquaintance to go to my site and see if it does what it is supposed to do. Most often I get great feedback and sometimes I get constructive criticism and that is ok too.

I think the most people who come to my site are people who have received my business card. I know when I receive a business card from someone I want to go to there website and see what they do. I find this very interesting because I come from a time before the internet. In the old days someone gave you a business card and all you could do was save it and call them later. However today I feel as a photographer your website should directly relate to your business card. I even use the flagship image of the home page on the back of my business cards. In this day of “everybody is a photographer” I want people to know I am a serious photographer and I have put thought into what I do and how I am perceived.

While your website is a place to find out who you are and what you do, it is also an important piece of the many pieces that make up your brand and for this reason you do want to put some thought into the overall message your website is saying to the viewer. Your website is your digital ambassador of sorts and as we know first impressions are lasting ones. Another thing you need to be mindful of is “how fast your website loads” because nobody like to type in a web address and then have to sit and wait for the site to load.

I keep a constant check of my website, but in a subtle way. I use Chrome for my browser and I have my website set to be one of the opening tabs when my browser first opens. Once I see it, I know everything is good and I move on. Also, every few months or so I will run through the site to make sure all pages and images are loading properly and I will check that there are no broken links.

I use a Google Voice number so I never worry about having my phone number on the web. I have used this number for years and have never had a problem.

So, in closing; again, I would like to “dare to be different” make your site yourself. Think about it, but don’t overthink it. Keep it simple and to the point.

Where Will Your Camera Take You? (Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together.)

Koh Chang, Thailand

Where Will Your Camera Take You?

Most photographers never really think about where their camera will take them. I can honestly say “my camera has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d ever go to.” When I make this statement, many readers may think I have traveled the world over and have been to exotic places. In some ways this is partially true, but you don’t have to go around the world to see amazing things and meet wonderful people. There may be an amazing place right up the street from where you live or amazing people in your community that you haven’t met yet.

My camera and my love of photography has taken me to places 10,000 miles away and it has taken me into the fields and forest behind my house. My wife is from Thailand and while my photography played a very small part in meeting her, it has played a huge roll in my life when I travel to Thailand. I can say without a doubt that there are places I would have never seen and people I would have never met if it wasn’t for the fact that I am a photographer. This sounds so prolific when you put the “10,000 miles away” statement in the paragraph. It makes me sound so worldly, I can also honestly make that same statement about the area where I live right here in the USA.

I live on the west side of New Jersey not for from the Delaware River that divides New Jersey & Pennsylvania. As my photography grew, I wanted more and more out of it. I didn’t want to just take photos of my dog anymore and I never was that great of a landscape photographer, however I did like product & food photography. I like my own product photography, I would sell stuff on eBay and I knew that the better the images of the product or item I was selling, the higher the bids would go. I sold everything on eBay from a postage stamp to a Caterpillar bulldozer. With that I was hired several times to photograph moderate to high dollar items such as antiques and cars.

Organic Pumpkin Doughnuts with pecans and maple glaze. 1/60 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 50mm

 

Still I wanted much more from my photography. I would photograph events, just for the fun of it. Many times, I would be at a public event and think to myself “If not for photography, I would most likely not be at this event.” Some events I chose just because I wanted the challenge of photographing fast-moving things, so I would go to an airshow. Parades are always nice, but again I still wanted something more.

As my photography progressed, so did my editing skills. Learning Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom were a bit of a challenge at first, but like riding a bike it comes quickly if you keep at it. Around this time, I decided I really liked photographing people and I wanted to pursue it. I had always liked photographing people, however one day I sat thinking long and hard and came to the realization how much I liked it. The reason I had not pursued it I think was mostly due to lack of confidence and lack of equipment. One, being a mental thing and the other being obviously a money thing. So, I soon set off on a journey to acquire what I needed to photograph people. In time came better lenses and then onto building an arsenal of lighting equipment.

As for the confidence; it too came in an ebb & flow kind of way. It wasn’t like one day I woke up and “hey today I can photograph anybody.” I think what happened was, I realized I had the skill all along, all I needed to do was talk. I am not an “up front in your face kind of person” when I fist meet someone, however I found a long time ago that I have the ability to strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It doesn’t matter really who it is, but I usually find something to talk about. This is nothing new of course, we have all heard or read that we can start a conversation if we can find a “common ground” topic. So, using my gift of talking to people I found photographing people easier to do if I could talk as I worked.

Shooting portraits is something I really like to do because for one, I can make money doing it and two, it is a way to network into other areas of photography. Think about how much easier is it to get a wedding gig when I have already met the person/s. Business headshots is another way to network and get some good commercial work. I love photography and I love it more when it makes me money.

So as time went on my photography allowed me to meet more people, some of which I have become very good friends with and other who have become regular customers over the years. As I look back at all the places, I have been just because of my knowing how to work a camera and edit a digital image is really amazing to me. I might add it is not all about working a camera and editing an image in Photoshop. Just take for instance an engagement shoot I did at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, I have done many engagement shoots and most times the couple wants to go to a rather quiet place, a somewhat peaceful place, but not these guys. The location is the Art Museum on a rather cold Saturday in January. It is a nice day, but cold and there is a lot of people and my job is to get good images of this couple and include the scenery of the outside of the museum all while not getting people into their photos. And if that is not bad enough there is not a cloud in the sky so the sunlight is as about as harsh as it gets. Also, I would guess about half the people walking around are also photographers on some level or another.

A little bit of a challenge it was. Just getting to the museum and parking was enough to make me want to go back home lol. Then there was the cold air and wind, the bright sunlight and all the people. All this is going on and at one point, for just a moment I think to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” If not for the money I was making I don’t think I would have any reason to hangout one the steps of the Philly Art Museum on a cold windy day in January. The images of that day turned out great, the couple loved them and they pay for the job was very good.

 

“Look where my camera has taken me today” is something I actually think to myself a lot. Sometimes I will say it out loud even if I am all alone. I think the first time I really thought about it and actually said it to myself was in 2012 while I was in Thailand at a Buddhist temple on top of a mountain. We had driven to a parking area located nearly at the top of the mountain. Then we walked and we walked, uphill of course. “Don’t stop walking now we’re almost there” said my wife’s niece. It is very hot and humid, and I am carrying 30 lbs. of camera gear and a tripod. I am dying as we reach the steps. As I reach the top step and walk through the gate, I feel this wonderfully strong breeze blowing through the doorway. So, I step into the shade of the round roof & walkway that surrounds the temple and I stay right there. The breeze was heavenly and I drink two bottles of water in a about a minute.

As I was cooling down, I was taking in the beauty of the temple grounds, with all the amazing flowers, trees and walkways. Under the circular roof there were an endless line of gold monk busts. Then I looked toward the temple itself and it was nine stories tall and still under construction. As I walked across the courtyard into the bright sun, I was anticipating the coolness I knew would be inside the temple. I take off my shoes quickly and enter and “yes” it is cool, a nice breeze is blowing through. But nothing like the breeze that was blowing at the gate.

Okay, so there are nine floors to this temple and I will photograph my way to the top. Sadly, the elevator was still not finished and I had to climb the steep stairs. Each floor was hotter than the previous and there was no more breeze. Also, I was on my last bottle of water. So, I did make it all the way to the top and out to the open balcony. The view was breathtaking, I could see for miles. There was a slight breeze, but there was also midday sun beating down. While at the top I did take photos of the view and of the family and then back inside. After heading down the stairs, floor by floor I made it to the second floor and it was cool enough that I just wanted to sit. As I was resting, I seen a very nice scene I wanted to photograph. I was sitting on the floor preparing the camera on the tripod and then I stopped and waited as people were moving though my scene.

During this waiting for people to move and me recovering from the heat is when it hit me. I sat there thinking to myself; “look at me… I am here on this mountain top at this beautiful temple… me a country boy from 10,000 miles away” and then I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Sure, it was my wife’s idea to come to this temple, but only because she knew it would be an awesome place for me to photograph. If not for that reason I would have never been there. So, I just waited for the people to move and soon they did. I shot a series of HDR photos and moved on. But not before letting it really sink in that this camera, I am holding is really changing my life.

I have since returned to that temple once more on another trip to Thailand and I was better prepared. The second visit was well thought out and I annoyed the shit out of everybody traveling with me as I took my good ole time photographing all the stuff, I missed on the first trip lol.

Jimmy was dying and Charon wanted me to photograph the two of them together. Charon was a friend of mine who I had met on Facebook by way of her daughter who had done some amateur modeling. Charon had met Jimmy and they fell in love, I had never seen her so happy. I mean she was just so happy to have found Jimmy and he loved her too, they were an awesome couple. Charon said “I want you to shoot us, a couples shoot and it’s a paid gig, not a freebie.”

We all meet up at Smithville Park a very popular wedding and engagement shoot location in New Jersey. This was my first-time meeting Jimmy and he seemed a little “off.” I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but he seemed just a little weird. Then Jimmy said he had just had brain surgery a week or so earlier. When Jimmy left to use the restroom, Charon told me the bad news. Jimmy had brain cancer and he only had a few months live, maybe more. I continued shooting and never missed a beat. We all kept joking and moving around to the different locations at the park. We had stopped at a gazebo, it was shady and cool, I could see Jimmy was tiring and Charon was getting a phone call. So, I stepped back and let them have some private time together while I looked through my camera at the images.

I was really hurting inside. I was hurting for Jimmy who I had just met, but more so I was hurting for Charon. She is such a wonderful human being and her fulltime job is taking care of dying people. She met Jimmy because she was caring for his dying mother. They met, they fell in love and now just months later Jimmy was dying… and I am photographing the last good day of his life. And it was at that moment I said to myself “look where my camera has taken me today.” Not 10,000 miles away and not some exotic location, but to a place where I am capturing the end days of a man’s life with a woman he loves so much. After the job was done, I just sat in my car and after Charon & Jimmy left I cried.

I sat in the car just thinking about what had just happened. I was watching another couple with their photographer as she was photographing them in the park and thinking “they look just a happy as Jimmy & Charon, but I bet he’s not dying” and I laughed a little bit. I drove and got a cup of coffee to clear my head and then as I drove the hour or so back home, I ran though my mind all the places my camera had taken me. I thought about all the people I had met. It was one of those drives where I arrived at my driveway and don’t remember anything about the ride because my mind was so far away in thought.

Jimmy passed away four months later and left a hole in Charon’s heart that truly may never heal. I know they say “time heals all” and I truly believe that, but sometimes there are just not enough years in our life for time to do its good deed.

Sorry to end on such a sad note, but that is just how life is sometimes, that’s how it was for Jimmy & Charon.

Thanks for stopping by and reading.

 

 

 

No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2) (The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere…)

No Justice in Black & White (part 2 of 2)

Early on the morning of October 31, 2009 Munn’s brother-in-law arrives with his pickup truck to take us to her village. It will be a 9-hour ride although we will stop for a roadside lunch. Needless to say, I was really excited about this trip. I love road trips in the USA because it usually means I get to see new and different places and now, I get to experience Thailand by “road trip.” As a photographer; is there any better joy than that? But of course, I was still a novice photographer by all means. By October 2009 I had been into photography for several years, but now I had my first DSLR, a Canon T1i with two lenses.

At this time, I was still shooting in JPEG (mostly). I knew what RAW was, actually let me restate that. I thought I knew what RAW was. Either way, I was riding in the front passenger seat of the pickup truck and loving every minute of it. I would anticipate our next restroom or fuel stop, so I could get out and walk around and explore a little before it was time to hit the road and be back on our way.

1/320 sec at f/5.0 ISO 100 82mm

As we headed north, I notice a little change in architecture of the buildings and other things such as farmland. Farmland really excited me just as much as city life. I couldn’t wait to get out in the countryside and see Thai nature. Sadly, with the short days of October and nine plus hours of travel, it meant the last leg of the road trip would be in the dark. We rolled into Kalasin City in the early evening and we had to stop by the market to get food for the next day. I say “market” however it was not a store. It was more like a central marketplace for the whole city of Kalasin. It was big, there was fresh everything, from fresh fish to fruits and vegetables and of course there was a lot of prepared food in the way of barbequed chicken & fish, soups and so much more.

After a day of traveling in the car and fighting an intense case of jet lag, the smells of the market were really getting to me. I wanted to capture photos, but I was really hitting a wall of fatigue. We rolled into the village under the cover of darkness and that was actually a good thing, although I did not realize it until the next day.

Okay, so as a little side note here; Thai people are very friendly, Thai village people are even more friendly. Friendly to the point you need to prepare yourself for it. When you’re new to a village (in most cases) everybody wants to know you, they want to say “hi” and bring you food and beer and just talk… even if you can’t understand them, they still want to talk lol. I found this all out the next day, as the word spread though the village that there was a big white American guy in the village.

I woke at 5:00am the first morning, Munn was up and gone at 4:00am. She would walk to the nearby temple to cook for the monk and would return, but not before I woke up. Upon waking I hear voices in the distance, some laughing and other just talking. I could hear occasional footsteps outside the house in the street as someone was walking by. Every so often there was a dog bark and not too far away I heard two dogs fighting for about five seconds, then a lady yelling to break them up. I could smell a rather pungent smoke in the air as it lightly drifted in the open window. For me it was like Christmas morning, I wanted to see the village in the daylight, but was only predawn. I used the restroom put on shorts and a t-shirt and out the door I went. Actually, now that I was outside, I was afraid to go very far because I spoke very little Thai and Munn was no where in sight. I soon learned the pungent smell was coming from small piles of trash burning in the middle of the street. I seen a few neighbors raking dead leaves, paper, sticks and other debris that had gathered in front of their homes. They would rake it to a small pile in the middle of the street and burn it, the smoke would hang in the heavy morning air.

As I looked up and down the peaceful empty village streets there was an early morning haze or fog of sorts. The haze was a mix of the humidity and smoke, the temperature was about 70°F and it felt great to me. The scene was so surreal with banana and papaya trees everywhere, chickens coming down from their roost and an occasional dog walking down the street by himself, heading somewhere with a plan just like a person would. The streets were mostly concrete but covered with red dust from the local dirt. I stood there taking the whole scene in and just processing it.

It wasn’t long before the sun was up and the village came to life. Gone was the smoke and haze of the predawn hours and now I could smell food cooking, tractors and motorbikes filled the streets with an occasional car or pickup truck. Most of the motorbikes were people starting their daily commute to work or school. Small children crying, neighbors yelling to each other from five houses away, just so much activity, I loved every minute of it and of course my DSLR never left my hand. I was always looking for that something to make an interesting photo. Years later I would soon learn that I needed to be looking for the “moment” as most photographers will call it, especially wedding photographers.

Before I knew to look for the “moment” I did know that I needed to find “interesting,” oddly enough sometimes the interesting moment will find you. All you have to do is be prepared for it, have your camera at hand and be ready. It was fun and memorable, to be able to capture so much at every turn of my head. After the morning past I headed out to the country side on the back of a motorbike. Yes, the back of a motorbike so I could have my hands free to shoot as we traveled. But that story is for another post.

In conclusion; the whole trip was awesome and I have returned many times. Munn and I were married and that is an amazing story by itself. Two people 10,000 miles apart, meet as 100% cold contacts, no dating websites or couples’ services, just me pulling a name out of the Skype world directory. Just looking for a chat friend, not knowing if they were male or female. It is actually hilarious every time I think about it.

From this trip my love of photography intensified ten-fold and I eventually grew to be a commercial photographer. Thailand was special for so many reasons, but one is; this is where I found how it is very hard to create black & white photos of a place that is so beautifully rich with color. I have edited some black & whites from Thailand and people have liked them, but for me I see the color and it is so much more beautiful.

Thank you for reading and have a great day.

Read part one.

No Justice in Black & White (Welcome to the land of smiles… and lots of color)

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

No Justice in Black & White (part 1 of 2)

I love black & white photography. What I love most about B&W is that I have to convert it over from a color image to B&W. Of course, today there is more ways to convert to B&W that you can shake a stick at, but my favorites are Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Most of the time I use Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. It is a lot of fun to run a photo though this process and it is certainly altogether different form the days of film where all we had to do was put black & white film in the camera.

1/125 sec at f/4.5 ISO 100 70mm

Okay, with all that said; B&W photography is, like all things in photography, very subjective. After all some photographers shoot exclusively in B&W and others reserve it for certain situations or genres. I know photographers who will shoot color most all the time but reserve B&W for landscapes. Then there are those who feel “street photography” should always be shot in B&W. While I too feel street photography looks great in B&W, I tend to totally break away from that rule while traveling to Thailand. Thailand like other Asian countries is so vibrant with color that it is hard to capture an image and look at all the colors and say “ok this needs to be a black & white photo.”

Thai Snorkel Boat Koh Chang

It is obviously the culture; Thai people love vibrant color and use it in a way they we usually do not see here in the USA. I travel to Thailand for a month every year or so because my wife is Thai and we go to visit family, travel around and basically enjoy Thailand. Now I am using Thailand in my example, however other Asian countries have a lot of color too, it’s just that I’m partial to Thailand, my second home.

On my first trip to Thailand my plane arrived just before midnight October 27, 2009. My arrival was not at a jetway, but rather the old-style mobile stairs that roll up to the aircraft’s door. So, after all most 30 hours of travel I was perplexed to see this and then I was stunned when my face hit the 92°F (33°C) humid and pungent air of Bangkok. Having left the USA where it was very cold with rain & ice, I met up with my girlfriend (now wife), headed to the taxi line and off to the hotel located in Pattaya about an hour away along the water front.

At the airport I did not notice any change in color, maybe I was too tired. During the midnight taxi ride I was looking out the window the during the whole ride. My girlfriend Munn was very tied from her bus ride to meet me at the airport so she quickly fell asleep in the taxi.

I am in a new country, a new land and I want to take it all in, but the night view was just highway scenery with giant billboards. I mean like the biggest billboards I have ever seen in my life. As the taxi hummed on through the night, blazing down the highway that had very little traffic, I just stared out into the night and was mesmerized at how all yellowish-orangish everything looked from the highway lighting. There was also an almost full moon with ominous dark clouds around it, everything looking so surreal.

Soon the taxi starts to slow a bit and I know we’re close. I have to explain for those who may not know Pattaya is a party city that practically never sleeps. It is a mix of beer bars, restaurants, night clubs, hotels and everything else that tourist come to enjoy. Munn chose this destination as a place for us to layover for a few days before traveling to her village. Why? I have no idea whatsoever. Munn is a very traditional country girl, she worked just outside of Bangkok for several years, but would often spend weekends back at her village. She wanted me to see Pattaya, however this is not really my style either, but for photography this place is awesome.

1/800 sec at f/4.0 10.835mm Canon A640

After only a few hours sleep I was awake and eager to get out and see Thailand in the daylight. A quick trip to the breakfast buffet and then out into the day. Again, it is a new experience for me, Thai culture, food everywhere and motorbikes… The motorbikes were just everywhere I turned. The air was hot and humid, but I was embracing it. As Munn and I walked along and I am taking in all this new “everything” all of the sudden it hit me as to “how colorful everything looks.” The motorbikes, the people on the motorbikes, the signs, the buildings, the boats, just everything seemed to have more color than I would see anywhere I had ever been in the USA. Well, anywhere in the USA except for Chinatown. So again, it is an Asian culture thing… I guess. But I love it!

1/320 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

After a morning of walking along the waterfront and other streets I start to get tired, the heat is taking its toll. I retreat to the hotel room where I am eager to look at my bounty of photos I have captured. As I start to go through the images again, I realize even more how much color I see. It was at this time I started to come to the realization that I do not think black & white edits can do justice to any of my photos. Here again some photographers would argue the point that “street photography” should always be black & white because it strips the image down to just looking at the scene for what it is and blah, blah, blah… Whatever. For me, to edit a photo into black & white is more of a creative decision, rather that following a rule.

So, after a few days it is time to head 9 hours north by car to Munn’s village in the Kalasin province.

See part two.

That Teal & Orange Thingy Has To Go (just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.”)

International Model Zhan. Location Javitz Center NYC Very lite Teal & Orange LUT applied.

That Teal Orange Thing

Happy New Year to everybody and with a new year we hope for new and better things in our lives. We wish everybody from family, friends and colleges joy and happiness in the new year. We set goals and overall it is a time to “throw away the old and bring in the new.”

Now there are many things I would love to throw away from 2K18 and wish to see very little of in 2K19. As for photography; That putrid “teal orange” bullshit has got to go. Most of you know what I’m talking about and I would guess there are others who have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll elaborate.

Beit a filter or a LUT the teal to orange look has inundated the photography world, particularly on social media. It is akin to the horrible “HDR look” that took place several years back and still happens to day when a new photographer very first discovers HDR. He/she will jump into Photoshop and create the horrid mess on an image with halos and virtually no shadows and think they “really have something here” and then they run off and post it on Flickr and elsewhere.

However, hopefully this photographer has a good enough friend who will pick up a big stick (not just any stick, but a big solid stick) and just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.” Kind of like teaching your dog not to poop on the kitchen floor. Now to be honest I would never hit a dog in the head with a stick, but I would whack a photographer who creates bad HDR. Why? Because it is that bad.

Same goes for this teal orange thing. So where did the teal orange thing come from? Legend has it there was this German photographer named Berger Meister, Meister Berger that hated other photographers so much that he… Ok so of course I’m pulling your leg there but here is my opinion on where the teal orange tide came from.

Instagram or IG for short has filters for your photos. I think by now everybody knows what IG is and how it works. So, some IG filters are more popular than others and people love applying the filters because it gives them a quick way to edit a photo into something a little more interesting than the color profile their phone assigned to the photo as it was shot. Essentially everybody wants to be a better photographer but without doing a lot of work. I don’t say that as a bad thing really, its just human nature. Who doesn’t want to have a beautiful physically fit body without going to the gym?

So, IG is only part of the equation, there is more to the teal orange tide than just IG. Ig is in my opinion what spawned the everyday photographer the ability and desire to apply filters and again this is not in and of its self a bad thing.

I feel LUTs are maybe a bigger culprit than IG. LUT is short for Color Look Up Table. I’m not going to go into all the details of LUTs because what a LUT actually is and how it “really” works is a topic as about as vast as the Iceberg that the Titanic hit. But here is the short answer; LUTs are generally used to color grade video because they have the power to change one color to another and a LUT can just overall enhance a scene by conveying a look and feel to the viewer that enhances the movie, video or photo. In a nut shell it helps to tell the story the creator wanted to tell.

At this time more and more creators are shooting video on cameras that record in logarithmic format or “log” for short. Log format is a very flat looking style that is void of color saturation however this in-turn allows the camera to capture video in a higher dynamic range, essentially meaning more editable information in the shadows & highlights.

Log format is not new, it was reserved for very high-end expensive cameras, but now it is readily available on many prosumer cameras. Many vloggers shoot in log format everyday and using a LUT or more than one LUT allows the editor to put color back in to the video footage I a creative way.

At this point you may be asking “how does this log video thingy relate to photography?” It relates because of a few reasons, but mostly because most DSLR cameras are hybrids that capture both video and still images. I honestly don’t know who started using LUTs on digital images, but I first heard about them from a British photographer when he did a tutorial about them on his YouTube channel. He showed how you could stack them and blend them using Adobe Photoshop (he did not use teal & orange). I found this very interesting and I’m always exploring new editing techniques for my photography. Around this same time a realized LUTs were used in Adobe Premiere Pro and I also stared using them to edit my video. I downloaded free LUTs from the internet and they were horrible, they did not enhance my images at all, in-fact were not usable at all. The reason for this problem was because the LUTs I downloaded were for log format and my images and video were shot in standard format using whatever camera profile that was in my camera.

Now with all that said I find that there are many photographers that us LUTs to an extreme much the same way that photographers over used HDR editing a few years back. So, for whatever reason the “teal & orange” look seems to be the hot flavor that has risen above the rest, with the teal color (or some variation thereof) being more common than the orange. I will admit it looks good on some images and I have used it myself… on some images. But I have seen some photographer using it on every single image they post to their IG or other social media. I mean like every single image on the IG for the past two years, almost as if that is their signature thing or their style. If this is your style; what happens next year when this fad passes? What happens to your style when the teal & orange tide recedes and your left holding the bag (so to speak).

Maybe I’m just ranting, however I really do feel it is a look that is very over used. I will be the first to admit I’m not a color grading expert but do as much as I can to learn more about it and about using LUTs.

So, let’s hope 2019 is the year the teal & orange look recedes.

Happy 2019!

Rain Perspective (And we sat in the car looking at the rain… and then got out and started shooting. )

1/100 sec at f/3.5, ISO 160, 70 mm

Shooting in the rain… Who the hell wants to stand out in the rain with a camera and capture photos? Why would you even want to do that?

Ok, so let me jump right to it and say that I learned a vital lesson several years back. “Photos have to be interesting” and if they are not interesting… well they may just be what is referred to as a “snapshot” and while snapshots may hold a lot of love, memories and meaningfulness to the people who are associated with the snapshot. However if we are trying to create something other than a snapshot, we must do something that will in some way capture the viewer’s attention enough to look at our image. We know photography is subjective, like art, music, dance, food and beauty, it is all subjective. But let’s set aside the fact of Subjectiveness and focus on being interesting.

Some subjects are photographed all the time and not every photo of that subject, whether it be a person, place or thing is interesting. Iconic landmarks are photographed everyday all day long, the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower are just three that come to mind. However many of the photos are nothing more than a snapshot, they all look exactly the same. Even people… let’s take a sports star for example. He/she we see their photographs all the time as they kick a soccer ball, swing a tennis racket or a golf club. Maybe it is a photo of them scoring a winning shot and for today and a few days later the photo is interesting. And next week they score another winning shot and last week’s photo is not all that interesting anymore. But if we take them out of their normal setting and place them in a setting that creates juxtaposition… well, now we have changed it up and maybe create an interesting image of this person.

One day I captured the local steam engine as it chugged down the tracks. I see it coming, I have my camera on the tripod and just as the train gets closer the rain increases from a very lite drizzle to a steady heavy rain. Not quite a downpour, but enough to ruin the series of photos I was about to take. Sure I still clicked the shutter… I don’t know why, but at the time I thought “why not” I’m here, the camera is set up and… Ok, so I pack up and go home and when I look at the photos I see the rain doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Also I notice that the rain is creating steam to rise from the boiler of the engine creating a more dramatic scene. So I chose one photo and I edit out the power lines and road signs as I always do and then post it on-line. I should also mention the train had a Christmas wreath on the front because it was the Christmas season.

Original edit for print and Historical Flemington website.

So, later that year I am contacted and asked if the image of the train can be used in a holiday tourism campaign and for a local website. The art director seen many images of that old steam engine, but none that had the look & feel of my image.

Lesson Learned. Changing perspective can make a photo more interesting, this I already knew. So let’s use rain as a change of perspective.

I had an outdoor photo shoot scheduled with a model and of course it turned out to be a rainy day. The model, Tiffany is very determined and is not at all bothered by the rain. Like a true professional she decided to “roll with the flow” and make the best of it. We found some roof overhangs and tried to stay as dry as possible. In the end we had some really nice images. However we both decided to reschedule the shoot for a few weeks later so we could work with some nice weather.

A few weeks later…

The rain was harder than last time. And we sat in the car looking at the rain, made a few comments about the rain and then got out and started shooting. Needless to say I have good gear so I’m not at all worried about the water. So here again we find ourselves in the rain, even harder than last time and no roof overhangs. Just two people in the rain, but two people who could care less because I for one know that “right or wrong” the images we are creating will be… shall we say different. Tiffany on the other hand, is a small little girl with enough determination and enthusiasm that would make anybody happy to be in the rain.

In the end it is about two things: 1. Are you happy about what you have created and 2. Was it interesting?

Instagram is my latest flavor of social media; I can get a “half decent feel” of how interesting photos are by the response I get. It is not so much the amount of “Likes or Hearts” but more so it is about knowing your followers and knowing what compels them to take the time to leave a comment. Also knowing who never really comments on anything, however today they were moved to take the time to leave a heartfelt comment. Or even better, they take the time to send a direct message with a comment.

So yes shooting with Tiffany in the rain generated some interest. Shooting with Tiffany in the rain again two weeks later generated even more interest. I would have thought that it would have not been so interesting because it was so similar. I was wrong… again, but wrong in a good way.

One more thing to mention and truly a key component to any photo shoot… rain or no rain, is have an interesting subject.

 

Out THe Door Without A Plan ( Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana.)

1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I started the day by getting up early grabbing the camera bag, the drone bag and heading out the door before sunrise. My goal was to capture a scene that would convey “Thanksgiving in The Country.” Or something close to that, however I knew going out the door without a plan is a horrible idea. And it was.

But not all was lost, because being out early on the empty roads was like therapy. It gave me time to think. For whatever reason driving for me is relaxing and driving when you’re the only one on the road is like heaven. Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana. After a while I could care less about capturing my Thanksgiving photo. I was driving along the Delaware River and I started thinking about the upcoming Christmas season and that thought lead to the “New Year” coming and that thought lead to “what are my goals” and then I… well let’s just say “I was lost,” like literally lost for a moment. Not really lost, but more like “hey I need to turn back” and head home because I do have a holiday dinner to prepare lol.

So I did just that and as I was heading back I kept taking roads that lead towards home, but just not the usual roads. And then I came across this scene with the horses and the farm in the distance. I actually turned the car around so I could shoot without getting out of the car (I’m lazy lol). First I sat and marveled the scene and took it all in. It was about 25°F so the air was crisp; the sun was on the rise and not a cloud in the sky. The foreground was still in dark shadow so this in my opinion made it “not” the perfect shot, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I’m not a “horse” person per say, but I love to see them grazing, I love the fences and farms are part of me because I grew up on a dairy farm. Farms are beautiful and here in my part of New Jersey they are getting far and few between.

So there it is, my Thanksgiving Day photo and the day was more productive than I first though because I started planning out my goal for 2018. I have more thought to put into them before I solidify them and write them down. I truly want 2018 to be a great year in my life and as for my photography and videography… it’s going to the next level.

Photo notes: 1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm. Then I edited in Photoshop and applied a few LUTs.