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Category : Things to ponder

28 Mar 2020

My COVID-19 RinseKit+

Update April 2 2020

The company RinseKit recently placed my post on their Media page. I really hope this helps others.

In the fall of 2019 my home water heater malfunctioned. I have personally replaced and installed more water heaters than I care to remember. But in this case it was under warranty. So since the part had to be ordered and would take 10 days I had no home hot water. I have a camping hot water heater that is basically a large metal sprayer which is heated with a one pound propane tank. Fine for camping and I used it to take a hot shower at home while I waited for the repair. 

So I decided to start researching alternatives to my camping water heater and found the RinseKit  that was invented by a surfer. Like all surfers who take off their wetsuits and want to rinse off their bodies he invented something better than a one gallon jug to hold over your head. His site can tell you all about how it works.

Being a Boy Scout I decided to purchase his medium size unit along with accessories like the electric heater, air pump and other various bits that came with the accessory kit. Of course the most important one to me was the heating rod. And I will say it does not work that well. It takes forever to heat cold water, but works well if I fill my unit with warm water and use it to just keep the water warm.

With the current COVID-19 pandemic I had developed an inexpensive and, according to the CDC and WHO a more effective method of keeping viruses off of my hands other than wipes and sprays. Which are tough to find as well as expensive due to hoarding.

So I decided to replace my homemade hand washing kit in our primary car with my RinseKit outfitted with soap, a small spray bottle of isopropyl alcohol, two micro fiber towels, two pairs of nitrite gloves and two hospital vomit bags. The whole kit is kept in the trunk of the car.

So here’s my protocol:

  1. After I go shopping for food I open the back of the car
  2. I then place my groceries in the trunk
  3. Open the RinseKit
  4. Take out the squeeze bottle of soap and alcohol spray
  5. Use the sprayer to wet my hands
  6. Squeeze soap into my hands and wash them per the CDC guidelines
  7. Rinse off my hands with the RinseKit
  8. Dry them with a microfiber towel
  9. Use the little sprayer with alcohol to spray the RinseKit spray handle, the latch and the soap squeeze bottle and the car’s rear latch
  10. Place the used towel into one of the vomit bags

My COVID-19 hand washing kit. The blue plastic thing in the lower left are the hospital vomit bags.

The small alcohol sprayer and the squeeze bottle for hand soap.

The RinseKit automatically pressurizes itself when you fill it from a hose or house faucet and it is supposed to maintain its pressure for about a month. The RinseKit+ I bought came with a hand pump (as well as other accessories) that replaces one of the plugs (Like the one on the right) with a pump. This way if for some reason the unit loses pressure I can simply pump it up.

My feeling is now when I open my car door, use the buttons, the steering wheel, etc. I’m not transferring potential viruses to those surfaces. Plus I am now using my RinseKit more often than before. Believe me though I’m looking forward to the day I can hug my friends without worrying or using the kit.

Stay healthy and I hope this helps others who may own one.

25 Mar 2020

How I Protect Myself Against Coronavirus

Whenever I go out for food I was wearing gloves, using hand sanitizer, etc. but found a more effective way for me to stay healthy. Wipes are scarce as is hand sanitizer. The CDC and WHO tell us that hand washing is the most effective method of preventing transmission. I don’t know about you, but trying to not touch my face is tough and many times a completely unconscious act.

So now what I do is this:

  1. I fill two disposable water bottles (You know the kind the hoarders think they need 5,000 bottles of) One is filled with simple dish washing soap or liquid hand soap. The other filled with plain tap water.
  2. When I get to my car I open the truck, put in my groceries and take out the bottle with the soap and squeeze just a bit into my hand.
  3. I then close that bottle and open up the one with water and put some in the palm of my hand. I then do my hand washing and rinse my hands off with the water.
  4. I use a paper towel to dry my hands and put that into a small disposable bag.

Now I’m not touching my door handle, steering wheel, etc. with hands that are unwashed. Up to you, but it prevents me from having to use or find hand sanitizer or wipes when those items are just not common right now. And yes I wash my hands once again when I get home.

I refined my system by purchasing the following off of Amazon

Sports Squeeze Water Bottle 2 Pack $9.99

One for each of our vehicles

Beveetio Travel Bottles $11.99

Although I don’t need that many I now have some for our bikes too. The squeeze bottles work really well instead of having soap in a disposable water bottle.

I just keep a supply of paper towels in the cars or on the bikes.

If you’re going to ask me about water in a parking lot, it’s such a small amount that I really don’t think it impedes or causes an issue. And if you don’t want to do this, of course it’s no big deal to me.

Anyway I wanted to pass this along because it works for me in keeping my hands clean while I’m out getting food. Stay healthy!

14 Mar 2020

Coronavirus 0 – Community 1

The news about the new coronavirus or COVID-19 constantly surrounds us, permeates our thoughts and constantly and insidiously encourages us to fear.  Fear human contact, fear human interaction, fear our normal lives.

Because I photograph the arts – theatre, dance and music, my entire world along with those who I know and cherish has been disrupted like no other time in my memory. The 1963 Kennedy assassination, the AIDS discovery in 1983, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake or September 11 2001 attack.

Businesses were disrupted during those times and rightfully so. But what makes the current climate so different is the fear proliferating in society. Social media as we know it today did not exist in those times. Hoarding of toilet paper or other non-essential items illustrates to me an aspect of humanity for which I’m ashamed. Certainly with any new and unknown virus governments are wise to use an abundance of caution to ensure society is safe. But not to instill fear. Human nature fears all that is unknown.

When society allows fear to supersede all other factors, events like what happened to my own parents and relatives occurs. Place all Japanese American citizens into prison camps (what they termed ‘internment camps’ a bullshit whitewashed name) because of the fear we were all spies and plotting against the United States. FEAR

Today it’s about people avoiding and in some instances being outright hostile to Asians simply because the epidemic began in Wuhan China. FEAR, FEAR and more FEAR can make a nation not only fearful and in the case of COVID-19 isolated. Unlike the prior crises where humans could gather to support, or entertain and soften the blow of a tragedy, the coronavirus and resulting laws prevent those important healing events to occur. Today the answer to ‘stay safe’ is doing all things electronically, something I believe we did too much of even before coronavirus with our “I love me” cell phones.

I believe that precautions should be taken – hand washing (good grief your mother should have taught you that anyway!), sanitation of public places observed, as well as not going to work if you’re ill or suspect you are. But unlike the AIDS epidemic in 1983 which almost certainly meant an ugly and painful death, COVID-19 does not mean the same.  Not even close as outlined by a 42 year old woman who got and recovered from the coronavirus.

So as all theatres were ordered to close their doors due to government regulations – Dan, my local client and close friend who is the Artistic Director for the theatre in my hometown let me know that his current show, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor” was closing before opening night, the night we had planned on attending the show. As he spoke his voice began to crack and his sadness was palpable through the phone.

The comedic timing of this cast is impeccable. The direction by Jeffery Lo is amazing.

After ending the call my partner Tracy said “I’d like to do something for Dan. I can’t donate money to the theatre (we are out of work as a result of all theatres closing), but we can do something else. Let’s film the performance. That way the cast can have all they’ve worked for on film.” So we got in contact with Dan and presented the idea. At first he was unsure of attempting to put on the performance since he had just notified the cast and crew that Opening Night was cancelled as well as the entire run of the show.

Tracy set up and ready to film the performance.

After contacting everyone he let us know that it was a go for Opening Night filming. Tracy then mentioned that we would need an audience to have authenticity in the film with laughter and applause. So Dan then contacted friends and family being careful to keep within the limits of what the government set about limiting public gatherings to 100 or less. As people gathered into the theatre and the cast and crew began their performance I had an epiphany.  I have and still work with many levels of theatres. Some are professional pre-Broadway shops and some community theatres. As tends to be human nature some pre-Broadway company staff members tend to be a bit snooty when referring to other theatres as ‘a community theatre’ the insinuation being a lower level of performance and professionalism. Lower budgets, less skilled talent, blah blah blah. Lower budgets yes, less skilled is like saying all Japanese fellas are quiet and docile….then you have not met me in person!

An Opening Night party which is one I shall always remember. It was the most special one I’ve experienced to date.

My epiphany was realizing that my hometown community theatre put aside fear and allowed us to interact as humans, as common souls. Unlike 9/11, the 89 Quake, the recent Camp Fires where humans support one another by gathering, sharing feelings with eye to eye contact and yes EVEN HUGS, the fear of coronavirus has prevented it. NO ONE at the theatre showed any reticence in exchanging hugs with one another. As a matter of fact, even though theatre folks hug all the time, the ones I gave and received last night were more tight and embraces seemed longer than usual as if we all know that we must band together to endure this crisis. I was never more proud of my community theatre and what it represents in my own life as well as the lives of so many others.

Because it was such a special evening I asked if the audience could be part of the Cast and Crew photo. This is the wonderful result.

I’m NOT naïve enough to think that a small gathering is going to solve everything. Almost everyone in the theatre last night is out of work. Meaning OUT OF WORK, no paid time off, no paid by employer health benefits, etc. That includes me and my partner. The coronavirus crisis has affected everyone, domestically and internationally. But what I learned last night and will forever cherish is this: Human contact, human face to face interaction conquers fear, the true virus of humanity.

10 Mar 2020

Instagram Ads – Cell Phone Holster

Berry Hoo Cell Phone Wallet

Photo in their Instagram ad

I am sometimes (often) reeled in by Instagram ads. Shame on me. To be fair though I have had great luck with many and about a handful where I was disappointed. This is a case of the latter. I had ordered the cell phone holster and never heard a thing for about a month. Then I left a message on their Instagram account and guess what?! Immediate response. I filed a complaint with PayPal over the issue. Granted 31.00 is not a ton of money, but it was the principle of the matter.

The ‘owner’ then wrote to me, his email name is Juli Chic from Berry Hoo. He was very pleasant in his email to me and explained that my holster was shipped and requested I be patient about its arrival. I wrote back to state that unless the item was delivered by the time PayPal allowed me to escalate the case I would take the matter further with them.

On March 9, 2020 I received the leather holster in the mail. The leather is of a nice quality as is the stitching. But the design of the holster is such that if I cinch my belt down enough to hold my pants up (the purpose of a belt right?) it’s impossible to remove or insert my Samsung S10+ into the holster.

My S10+ between my current holster and the Berry Hoo one

The leather is a nice quality but very thin which may be the issue that causes the problem.

Seems fine when the phone is NOT on my belt.

I’m happy to report that the item arrived. I’m sorry that it took filing a claim with PayPal and bitching on Instagram about it. More sorry that the design prevents its usage. Lesson learned.

Here are the two website which seem to sell the same items:

And here is their current Instagram Ad

 

15 Feb 2020

Flashpoint FV150 – Hybrid LED/Flash Combo – 2-15-20

February 15 2020

My photography partner and I have been creating hand painted backdrops for ourselves. So it was a perfect time to use the incredibly bright constant LED light and then do a quick test of the strobe feature to see how the backdrop looks in an actual photo.

The lighting in the room where the backdrops were painted is awful! So having the FV150 turned up to 100% and modified through a lantern softbox was perfect!

Nighttime with the FV150 LED at 100% through a lantern modifier. As a reference the backdrops are 10’x9′ in size.

This is the scene before using the FV150 during the daytime with the door and windows open.

Nighttime with the FV150 LED at 100% through a lantern modifier. Just before doing some test shots in strobe mode.

Here are some quick test shots of actors and the director who just happened to be working in the theatre that day. So during a break I grabbed them for some quick shots using the strobe feature of the FV150. The modifier I used was a Glow 41″ EZ Lock Deep Umbrella. I just grabbed what was convenient before heading over to do the job. Pentax 645Z with my 45-85mm f4.5 lens.

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

1/80th f5.6 ISO 400. FV150 at 1/2 power

Again the FV150’s strobe feature does not rival a normal bulb strobe. BUT the possibilities of its uses are endless and I have yet to even scratch the surface of what I can do creatively with this light. Stay tuned.

January 27 2020

Today I was able to test the FV150 on a human! LOL

Jenn was here for a headshot and I talked her into indulging me with a test of the FV in both LED and strobe mode. I used the CLAR Slim 10″ Round Bi-Color LED as a hair rim light. Key light modifier was my Parabolix 35D with the FV150 in mid focused position. Modifier was camera right 4 feet from Jenn pointed completely away from her face. This is my normal configuration when using that modifier. Camera is my Pentax 645Z.

Here you can see the FV150 in mid focused position in the Parabolix 35D

So this was a two light shot test of constant lights. I’m NOT accustomed to using constant lights and for a time it felt a bit like well, cheating. WYSIWYG 

Shot #1 ISO 160 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Constant Light LED mode, 70% power

Shot #2 ISO 160 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Constant Light LED mode, 70% power

Shot #3 ISO 100 1/80th shutter speed, f2.8 Strobe mode, 50% power

I’m just about ready to put the FV150 into production after one more test. It’s a remarkable tool for the right job.

January 21 2020

I wanted to test several more aspects of this light. First if I can effectively use it in my focusing rod modifiers. Second to test the use of my Aputure Spotlight for gobos with the flash feature and then with the constant light feature.

Here is my initial setup. I am using the Chopstick Reflective Focusing System MKII. I have found this to be the best general focusing rod for my use. Versatile, well made and very sturdy. At 160.00 USD a very good value. For all of the  following images I used one of my favorite modifiers, an Elinchrom 39″ Rotalux Deep Octabox which I use with and without the focusing rod.

Camera is the Pentax 645Z using a 45-85mm f4.5 lens.

This first shot is when the FV150 is full flooded in the modifier

Very impressive that the Cheetahstand focusing rod does NOT bow under the weight of 7.2 pounds even when extended.

1/125th shutter speed, f4.5 ISO 200 FV150 at full power

Fully flooded 1/125th f4.5 ISO 200 full power strobe.

Setup for my fully focused test shot.

Fully focused 1/125th f4.5 ISO 200 full power strobe.

The FV150 in strobe mode projects the same quality of light characteristic as my bulb strobes with a focusing rod.

Next was using my Aputure Spotlight with the FV150 alone without my Saberstrip v2.0 turned on for fill.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

Set up for the strip of light shot.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200. With the Saberstrip for fill set to 1/128th power

Testing various gobos with the Aputure Spotlight and the FV150 set to full power in strobe mode.

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

1/400th which is HSS for a Pentax 645Z (1/125th is normal sync speed) f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power ISO 200

Next I wanted to test using the FV150 as a strobe and compare it to using the LED constant light mode through a gobo and the Aputure.

1/400th f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power constant light ISO 200

1/400th f4.5, FV150 strobe set to full power strobe mode ISO 200

So as I go about this and more testing I’m finding that like all things you don’t get something for nothing. I have been using battery powered and remote head conversion strobes for the past three years. Moving back to an AC only plug in system seems to be a bit of a pain. BUT the versatility of combining a powerful constant light AND a usable strobe in one light takes the sting out of an AC only light. I’d only tend to use this in studio, not because of the AC only aspect since I can use a generator or inverter out in the field. Nope it’s because the strobe is not strong enough to overpower the sun. At least in my view at this point even though I have not tested it in full sun.

One of my lighting mentors has been using constant LED lights outdoors so I will try this as well. One thing is so apparent to me right now; LED lights are the future of lighting, at least to me.

January 17 2020

Seriously?! OK so I just had to test HSS with my Canon 1DXII shooting 14 frames per second just to see the performance in HSS…..

How I set up Bob for the test. Glow octa with both diffusion panels installed.

FV150 set at 1/4 power, ISO 800 f2.8 1/320th shutter speed.

FV150 set to full power 1:1 ISO 500 1/400th shutter speed.

No matter how long I kept the shutter depressed, NOT ONE MISFIRE OR SKIP in the flash mode! Holy crap. More testing needs to be done of course, but so far my mind is exploding with the new possibilities of this light. A constant LED AND strobe with this kind of performance? Holy shit man!

January 13 2020

I recently received and am testing what I consider to be a very exciting light the Flashpoint FV150 Hybrid R2 Continuous LED Light and HSS Flash (Godox FV150). Please note that this post is only my initial examination and testing of this light. Because I am in the height of my shooting season I have little time to fully test this light until later in the month. BUT I was SO INTRIGUED by its possibilities I sandwiched my initial evaluation between client sessions. For me this new instrument’s possibilities are mind bending!

Right off the bat a huge plus for this unit is its ability to natively attach to my Aputure Spotlight without my DIY adapter. For anyone who has tried to mount an AD600/400/etc. to the Aputure, you know that the bulb fouls against the inner lens of the Aputure unit. Not so with the FV150 since it is a flat LED light. SCORE! Plus I can now use the Aputure/FV150 combination in video with gobos. Excellent!

Yup the FV150 attaches natively to the Aputure Spotlight, no adapter needed. And man is it bright in LED mode too!

The LED unit with the supplied 7″ cone which I used in my power testing.

The rear of the unit in LED constant light mode. It’s supplied with a remote control to change the settings while in constant light mode.

The light in ‘strobe’ mode. The lowest setting for the strobe is 1/8th power.

So here are my power test results:

I have several Westcott Skylux LED lights so I tested the FV150 against them. As you can see the FV150 is twice the brightness of the Skylux. For the strobe test I compared the FV150 to the Flashpoint XPLOR 600 HSS TTL Battery-Powered Monolight. It’s safe to say that the FV150 is about 25% the power of the 600. So in my testing I’d place it in the 150WS category.

There are a TON of features in this light I have not even examined. I will just say that my mind is exploding with concepts that I may be able to accomplish with this light that would have been much more difficult in the past to perform. For those that are thinking “Gosh isn’t this just a low powered, plug in strobe with a fancy modeling light?” I’d suggest you move along…..

For those who may see new possibilities, stay tuned – MUCH more to follow!

04 Jan 2020

Learning with Light

I am constantly searching for new ways to use light and shadow. Much of my work revolves around dance and although I’ve been happy with most of my work, I’m always thinking my next shot will be my best shot. I study lots of dance photographers, Lois Greenfield is just one of my favorites. Her creations for movement are delicious. After spending time in nature and watching movies I’ve become inspired to try to recreate some of the concepts I see in my dance imagery. So for my first concept I wanted to create a wall of light and a ceiling and floor of light. I determined that the most effective way for me to accomplish this task was to use my Aputure Spotlight and the Leko follow spot I converted into a strobe. Both use blades to shape and focus the light with or without a gobo. If you’re not familiar with blades in follow spots, just do some Google searching.

Foreground is the Aputure Spotlight and the instrument on the right is my Leko follow spot.

Prior to attempting my wall/floor/ceiling concept I wanted to try using the blades on the spotlight for more static poses dancers often perform. The next two images were created using the instruments above. The dancers I asked to help me understood that the shoot this time was not about them. Not about the desire for perfect feet, hands, etc. but about the light. I was blessed that they understood the intent for this shoot.

I then filled the room with haze so the light rays would be visible.

I have switched to a non heat oil hazer. No it does not leave oily residue on the floor and the particulate is much finer than my prior heated hazer.

Test shots for walls and then floor ceiling of light.

Walls

Floor/ceiling

And here are three of my light test shots.

Walls

Ceiling/floor

An “X” of light

So I will continue to chase new light, sometimes it works, sometimes it does not….at least not initially. But experimenting is the only way I’ve found to break out of my norm.

28 Dec 2019

Captured or Created?

I had posted a dance photo I created a few seasons ago on Instagram. A close friend left a comment, “And the shots you capture are perfection.” Her comment was certainly well intended, yet it gave me pause. There are photos I take which I feel are ‘captured‘ but in this case the image was created. I will explain….

A year before I created this image of Kaitlin, a professional ballerina, I was hired to shoot the original Soluna Festival for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. One of the venues I covered was the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas. Upon arriving I noticed an art sculpture in the main patio entrance of the center. I was completely captivated by the texture and structure and immediately felt it would be delicious for a dance shoot. Even though I had none planned at the time.

A year later a local ballet company hired me to shoot in and around the Dallas area and that is when I used the structure for one of the images. (You can view the BTS video of that session here.) 

The Latino Cultural Center structure.

Setting up the strobes for the shoot. It was at dusk.

The smoke was NOT added in post, but done in camera. Always my preference.

So in this image or any of the images I create for a client, my personal view is it is not captured but created.

For relaxation I do capture images, images in nature…. During the 2019 Christmas holiday I went to Joshua Tree National Park to camp for four nights. And it was there I captured images in nature. Sure I guess technically one can say I am creating images, but my view is the scene is found and captured not created. Who really knows and for most it does not matter. Yet the distinction means much to me.

Infrared photography for this image.

 

16 Nov 2019

Death by a Thousand Cuts

November 16 2019

Last night, November 15 2019 was the service for Toby Weir. Like any memorial service it is never something to look forward to and this was no exception. It was a celebration of his life, but what struck me the most were his mother and father; Aly and Bix Weir. In the past during the tragic deaths of children I have never witnessed parents delivering eulogies like theirs. Heartfelt – completely and utterly honest, Aly’s accounts of her feelings took more courage than I could ever imagine from any human soul. Her words to other young people in the audience were honest, sincere and profound. We are all blessed to know souls like Aly and Bix. To have our lives intersect in this way is something I would never wish upon anyone. Yet to have our lives come together at all – I now view as a blessing to my own life.

They both changed how I view my life. Thank you.

November 7 2019

If you are looking for a photography review here, please move along. This post is about suicide.

All living things be they mammals, reptiles, aquatic, or fill in the blank, does all it can to avoid pain. It’s part of the natural survival instinct. Humans avoid pain through a litany of methods. Many are chemical, loads are through behavior. Pick your poison; drinking, drugs, sex, spending, working, who we hang with, what we focus on.

So when the choice of self-inflicted death is an option that is less painful than life – the tragedy rests on all of us as humans.

I have often felt that suicide is death by a thousand cuts. Small seemingly insignificant minor hurtful comments, being ignored, feeling invisible, not good enough are just some of the the lacerations that eventually end up making the decision to end one’s life.  It can be as simple as never having a text responded to by your own children or parent. Looking at the pretend lives plastered every day on social media about peers whose lives seem so perfect. Comparing ourselves to how we feel we should be, rather than how we are.

For the past several years I have photographed for the Oakland School for the Arts Dance Emphasis. As a freshman a young man named Toby appeared before my lens. Shy, skinny and unsure of his place in the dance world his improvement over the years was remarkable. As a senior he was asked to join the Savage Jazz Dance Company which is an elite group of dancers. After the last night of the troupe’s performance he committed suicide.

I often say to people “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” when they tell me that they ‘meant’ to do say or act on anything. My point is how many opportunities have been neglected by each of us to say a kind or complimentary word to another person – DIRECTLY? Sure it’s common to bitch about someone, but seldom do I hear people compliment a person to their face, at the moment they appreciated an act, a word, an intent they found kind or helpful. Or something they admire about the person at that moment.

“I know I must have told her/him how much I admire/loved/appreciated them. Didn’t I? Gosh I know I thought it but maybe I never said it, but they must have known.”

Often those individuals who appear accomplished, sure of themselves are the ones often overlooked for compliments. “Oh they MUST KNOW how good/skilled/honored/etc. they are!”  Then there are those who feel invisible, because they are treated that way. No eye contact, no smile finds its way to their eyes. No conversations initiated toward their ears.

We so often ask ourselves “Why” after someone we love, adore or know commits suicide. In some cases the person tells us why in their last note, but in others we will never know.  Tomorrow is promised to no one, but I pledge to not contribute to a death by a thousand cuts to my fellow humans. I will say with both kindness and affection how I feel toward someone NOW. Not tomorrow, not to someone else, but to them.

Rest in peace Toby. I miss you. I miss your smile when I told you how special you were.

October 18 2019

October 18 2019

 

15 Aug 2019

Creating Art

Original Post August 15 2019

Twenty four months ago a close friend of mine was told that he might have throat cancer during a routine dentist appointment. After visiting his doctor it was confirmed. As can be expected it was a devastating piece of news. Even more so since his profession is as a full time singer. Thankfully he has fully recovered after his treatments and rehabilitation which were both difficult and long. When visiting him at his home I was curious about ‘this thing’ in his music room. It appeared to be a fiberglass mold of someone’s head and shoulders. When he returned to the room he told me that it was the mask made of him and used during his throat radiation treatments. 

He explained that the mask was made for him to prevent him from any movement as his neck was precision blasted with radiation. His head and shoulders were bolted to a metal table under the mask. I had a visceral reaction to that story. It was at that very moment when I knew emotionally that I wanted to create an image of both the horrors of his cancer and his recovery. I asked him if I could take the mask to do a proof of concept before embarking on the full project. He agreed.

I took his mask to a pile of black rocks along with a small AD200 strobe. I wanted to see if I could create light rays coming out of the throat area if I threw dust into the air for particulate. It worked.

My concept was to have him stand next to the mask, having light emanating from the throat area with birds flying away from his torso. I had scouted a location where the vegetation was barren after it had been mowed down. I wanted the landscape to reflect the wasteland that is the news of cancer. I had planned that with a sharp sound the birds would fly away representing cancer leaving his body. But like all things organic, that did not work out. The day was VERY windy and late in the day. So the birds could not be coerced, even with food placed into the area.

So I paid to download an image from Shutterstock, a crow disintegrating which would represent the cancer. I normally NEVER use Photoshop in my commercial work, but this was not for a client, nor was it for my friend. It was for me. And that really is my point of this post. There are times when I feel or more accurately I am emotionally COMPELLED to create a piece. Two things happened when I showed both a virtual friend and my friend whose trauma of cancer this entailed.

I told my virtual friend the backstory of the image. Once he knew his comment was “And shoot is a lot of emotion but not sure it works if you don’t know the back story.” I can completely understand his reasoning, but like all things art, what truly matters is what the creator of the piece feels. Remember that in your own work. I miss the days of LP cover art. Some of my favorite album covers which you may or may not recognize:

Know the backstory of each of these? No? Yes? What each element represents? My point is the artist who created these knows the story of the image. If an image makes anyone stop, think and wonder, then for me that’s an accomplishment. Perhaps they will figure out the meaning, perhaps not. But to capture one’s imagination for a moment and in the best of times, for a while or ultimately years later is all that really matters. Art was never meant to be literal, its purpose is to spark the imagination, to awaken an emotion.

When my friend who overcame cancer saw the image he said “I laughed because at first I thought it was a chicken! Then I thought I’d like you to make it a Phoenix and I like the one with no clouds, can you remove the clouds?” 

Keep in mind that I did NOT create any of these images FOR HIM. They are most certainly ABOUT HIM, but how I FEEL about what he had to endure. And thankfully in the end, how the wonders of his treatment and his physical therapy relieved him of cancer.

As you create your own art, others may or may not offer the approval you seek. The trick is not to seek approval, but to be emotionally satisfied with what you have created. Art is not created by committee. Its genesis is emotion. And its birth begins through your hands.

22 Apr 2019

The Worst Job in the USA

I’m really happy I didn’t read an article like this before I decided to turn pro! SO MANY things left out of this article, but hey if it was easy then everyone could do it right? My advice, be wary of “articles” that dissuade you from what you want to do. Takes loads of hard work and tenacity, but the alternative is horrifying to me.

‘Photographer’ Named One of the 25 Worst Jobs in the US

11 Mar 2019

The Death of Customer Service – Updated 3-11-19

Update 3-11-19

INCREDIBLE! AT&T actually published my negative review on their site! Perhaps there is hope for the world!

Original Post March 10 2019

RIP

First of all this has nothing to do with photography. Nothing. Yet it has everything to do with what the world is witnessing in the decline of brick and mortar stores. Like many others of my generation (Baby Boomers) it saddens me. Institutions that were once retail icons, Montgomery Ward, JC Penny, Sears, Kmart now only exist either in history books (meaning on a Kindle now) or are about to become history. As a young man I was so fortunate to work for Mervin Morris of Mervyn’s Department Stores. Throughout my life he has been my Gold Standard for both leadership and customer service. “Nothing happens without a sale.” was just one of the many values he instilled in his employees. I was with Merv 11 years, even after he sold the company to the Dayton Hudson Corp which is now Target Corp.

I like to keep my ‘things’ for longer than most. My cars generally live with me for 20 years. I like to pay cash for things as I deplore payments. Five years before I know I will need a car, I make a monthly car payment ‘to myself’ placing it in a savings account. Then when I’m ready to buy, I purchase the car cash. It’s just how I roll.

So when I knew it was time to purchase a new cell phone I waited for the Samsung Galaxy S10+. My S7 Edge was getting long in the tooth, or more specifically short in the battery life. I had normally purchased or upgraded my phones at AT&T stores. But having passed the wireless sales booth at my beloved Costco for so long I decided to purchase it there.

So on February 26, 2018 I went in and preordered my S10+ and was happy to discover that those who pre ordered their phones would receive Samsung Buds free, a $130.00 value! Without going into all the gory details here was the comedy of errors caused by the salesperson “Jack” who is NOT a Costco employee, but an employee of the in store Costco vendor, Wireless Advocates:

The email I received to confirm my preorder came to my email address, but the name of the addressee was “Jack.”

  1. I went back the next day and he corrected the name. I asked him at that time if my prepaid AT&T plan would be accepted, he assured me it would be.
  2. The day before picking up the phone, which was also the LAST DAY one could quality for the Buds was 3-7-19, the day I was there. I had not received the last two of the three emails specified on the handout I was given, and I got worried. I again went back to Costco, spoke to Jack’s manager and he assured me that they received enough AT&T phones, so not to worry.
  3. On 3-8-19 at 10am I went in to buy my new phone and guess what? The manager told me he could not sell me the phone because I was on a prepaid plan. I left without a new phone and could no longer qualify for the complimentary Samsung Buds.

I was PISSED. I came home and wrote a two page letter about my horrible experience, printed it out along with all my supporting documentation and hand carried it to the Costco assistant manager. She was incredible. Her listening skills were right out of Merv’s handbook. She was GENUINELY empathetic and kind. She let me know that she would let the store manager know as well as the staff at Wireless Advocates. Merv would be proud of her for sure!

So my girlfriend, bless her heart said “Let’s go to the AT&T store right by the house Honey. You can get your phone there, OK?” So off we went and I told the clerk I wanted to buy the S10+. When I told him I had a prepaid plan he then said “Oh, I’m sorry we can’t sell you a phone for a prepaid plan.” “Wait so you’re telling me I want to pay cash for the phone, I’m with AT&T and I can’t buy a phone?” “No you cannot, AT&T does not do that. But if you go to Target or Best Buy you can buy one.” WTF. So Target is in the same center so off we went. When we found the lone clerk in the “Tech Department” I said I’d like to buy a S10+. He said the phone salesman just went to lunch, I’ll call him. So he did and then told us “He will be back in 30 minutes.” WTF? So if the ONE phone salesperson is not there, NO ONE can sell a phone? So the next time you need an ambulance and the guy is out to lunch, he will pick you up in 30 minutes!

So we left….

By this time I was more than pissed, I was completely disgusted by the total lack of customer service by brick and mortar locations. So I got online and looked up AT&T, called the Hillsdale location only to be met with voicemail jail. Round and round and round until I finally hung up. Then I got on the AT&T chat line with an agent named “Steve” and who really knows where he works. I asked him two specific questions:

Me: “Does the Hillsdale location at Zip code 94403 have any S10+’s?”

Steve: “Yes they have ten in various colors.”

Me: “Will they accept a prepaid plan for the S10+?”

Steve: “Yes they will.”

I printed out the entire chat conversation and put it in my jacket.

Once I arrived at that location the sales person Jayson A approached me. At that time I stated that I wanted to purchase an S10+. He immediately told me he was sorry, but they were all out of stock. I then produced the print out of the chat conversation I had with Steve 10 minutes earlier. He called over his manager who said “We have some in stock, only white though.” I told Jayson A that was the color I wanted and I was glad to have not taken his word on the stock in the store.

He then went to get the unit and once he came back he asked “Do you need help setting it up?” I replied, “I just need to put my SIM card into the unit to see if it works.” He then told me that the S10+ comes with its own SIM and he had activated it. Uh the box was still sealed and unless technology has changed one MUST remove the SIM from the credit card size holder and PLACE IT INTO THE PHONE. When I told him of that fact, he sighed, opened the package, removed the SIM card from the holder and placed it into the phone. It took time to activate.

I believe that since I was paying cash for the phone, did not want a postpaid plan like he asked me about even though I was SPECIFIC about keeping my current plan he wasn’t making a commission. I understand that but his level of service was so poor, so uninterested it will be of no surprise if he no longer works there much longer. Or even worse, he is the ‘new customer service normal.’

The series of poor customer service situations I experienced was not confined to a specific retailer. Wireless Advocates, Target, two different AT&T locations just did not want me to buy a $1,000.00 phone. And in a time when cell phone sales are on the decline it’s even more shocking. I literally had to be tenacious in my quest to spend the money. Based on yesterday I cannot wait for all brick and mortar stores to go the way of Montgomery Ward. Well except for Costco, REI and Nordstrom, those few locations in my experience who embody the Baby Boomer’s definition of customer service, you know service and knowledge.

 

28 Feb 2019

March 7 2011

In a few days I will be entering my eighth year as a full time professional photographer. I was called into my boss’s office on March 7, 2011 under the auspices of meeting with her to review a PowerPoint presentation for an upcoming meeting. When I entered her office, one of the HR representatives was there so I knew that something was up. Jean, my boss who happens to be the absolute worst supervisor I’ve ever had to endure during my corporate life began by saying “Mark, we’ve determined that your position is no longer needed. Tracy’s here to explain your severance package.” I then said “OK, well then you have no need to be here so why don’t you leave?” And at that point she lowered her head, grabbed her purse and left.

Tracy, the HR representative then went on to explain the rules of my severance package and told me, “After leaving this office you cannot return to your office or speak to any other employees. I asked Jean to have this separate meeting with you rather than in the conference room with the other people being laid off today. Now you can pursue your little photography business. Any questions?” I told her that I didn’t need to return to my office because months ago I had decided that the company was a horrible place to work so I had taken my personal affects home. I had been looking for a new job.

I’ve always believed in Karma. I heard months later that Jean was laid off, Sally the VP of HR was laid off, and years later Glenn the SVP of Operations was laid off too. All of whom I didn’t respect and felt their skills and demeanor was so poor compared to the other executives I had worked with in my 38 years in corporate America.

My partner sent me a link today of an article she read in the NY Times Magazine, “The Future of Work, Wealthy, Successful and Miserable.” As I read through the article (you may not be able to see it if you are not a NYT subscriber…sorry) I was reminded of the misery that prompted me to embark on this wonderful journey as a full time pro. The day after I was laid off I began to sit at my computer to look on Monster for jobs. It was then I asked myself a hard question: “Mark do you really want to submit your resume, go on interviews with 30 somethings, be asked ‘What is your five year plan?’ and reply ‘Fuck you’ which would not be conducive to being hired? Or do you want to man up and take all of the business development experience you have and start your own ‘little photography business’?”

Quite a few of the people who write to me here want to talk about gear. I can understand that because prior to doing this full time, I too was primarily interested in the latest and greatest gear what people used and why. But now I’m interested in concepts, light and the story. The reasons? My job of course is to produce imagery that helps market a service or concept. Yet ALL of the imagery I create involves people; people who are either performing or fine artists. My first desire is to create and capture their souls through a lens. I want them to see themselves in the way I see them, not how they so critically view themselves in the mirror. I truly feel that how someone feels about themselves in the moment we are together comes through in a photograph. I derive the most pleasure out of showing someone the beauty they radiate when they believe in who they are. I have recently decided to not photograph people who are incredibly critical of themselves. Because no matter how much effort is put forth, they will never be satisfied with how they look, simply because they are not happy with themselves. And that comes through on film. My intent is to always portray someone’s beauty, but I’m not in the business of long term projects with an individual I only have in front of me for ten minutes.

So as I read the NYT Mag article, I was struck how I could relate to the ‘high salaries, miserable at work’ mentality in the article. Prior to giving up my Direct Deposits, paid vacation and PTO time, medical and dental benefits, retirement accounts blah blah blah, I ALWAYS had a backup plan, Always. I had a ‘go bag’ in the event I was laid off, meaning a backup plan. Yet as a full time pro shooter with no safety net like having a spouse who is working with benefits I have none, NONE. No direct deposit, no paid benefits or vacation, no matching retirement accounts, no blah blah blah.

And I could not feel more secure and happy. Why? Because even given all of the things I thought I’d given up what I gained is the ability to create and meet with an incredible number of people is well worth the risk. Am I struggling financially, no I’m not. Reducing my personal expenses was key to much of that with the added benefit of financial freedom – and not through an increase in a salary. I recall photographing a theatre performance “Auctioning the Ainsleys” where one of the lines in the play ‘when the stuff you own begins to own you’ has always stayed with me. It’s so true.

Of course there are days/times when the person I have to photograph is difficult. But I get to CHOOSE if I want to continue and work with that person again. I get to weigh whether or not I can give up that income. Thankfully those instances have been very, very rare. But having the power to choose is enlightening. I have had an incredible number of people who support my efforts and work, something for which I will always be grateful.

A few excerpts from the NYT Mag article:

“What’s interesting, however, is that once you can provide financially for yourself and your family, according to studies, additional salary and benefits don’t reliably contribute to worker satisfaction. Much more important are things like whether a job provides a sense of autonomy — the ability to control your time and the authority to act on your unique expertise. People want to work alongside others whom they respect (and, optimally, enjoy spending time with) and who seem to respect them in return.

And finally, workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. “You don’t have to be curing cancer,” says Barry Schwartz, a visiting professor of management at the University of California, Berkeley. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product at the grocery store. “You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

As the airwaves heat up in anticipation of the 2020 election, Americans are likely to hear a lot of competing views about what a “good job” entails. Some will celebrate billionaires as examples of this nation’s greatness, while others will pillory them as evidence of an economy gone astray. Through all of that, it’s worth keeping in mind that the concept of a “good job” is inherently complicated, because ultimately it’s a conversation about what we value, whether individually or collectively. Even for Americans who live frighteningly close to the bone, like the janitors studied by Wrzesniewski and Dutton, a job is usually more than just a means to a paycheck. It’s a source of purpose and meaning, a place in the world.”

I’ve said many times that my camera is simply my excuse to meet people. It’s so true and if I had stayed in corporate America I would have missed all that I have experienced. Glad I ‘man’d up’

14 Nov 2018

How forums  can stunt your growth

I was recently reading a blog post about the new Flashpoint eVOLV 200 Round Flash Head – Godox H200R. I had purchased one and find it another remarkable innovation and improvement from Godox which translates to Flashpoint in the USA. I really like the protected covered strobe bulb that I can leave on my AD200 during airline transport. Prior to this head I would encase my bare bulbs in plastic or aluminum sleeves which I would carry in my camera bag. And yes I will be conducting some tests of the output of the unit. I also appreciate the yet to be purchased gel/grid/snoot combo pack designed for the new head. Incredible innovation and flexibility by Godox/Flashpoint continues.

What struck me about the back and forth the inane pie hole ad nauseam conversations were over is about  the shape of the bulb in the new round head. NOT ONE OF THE PIE HOLES had a link to their work. Why? Because most people who like to pontificate (meaning see their talking in text) on their perception of the technical aspects of anything don’t consider what actually happens in real life. Let’s see your body of work. Let’s see how you’ve used the light in question. Let’s SEE something you’ve created.

I post this to warn those of you who linger much too long on forums, sites, etc. Analysis paralysis stunts your creative growth. Instead of reading the bovine back and forth of those who produce NOTHING, go out and create.

“When it’s new you have so many people they don’t see, they don’t have the vision. They don’t understand, they don’t want to understand. Why change something? Ah you think it’s impossible. We will show you the opposite. “ – LOFT: The Jetman Story

27 Aug 2018

Testing Before Using

I know that I often state whenever I get a new modifier/strobe/etc. I ALWAYS test them BEFORE putting them into my workflow. I’ve had a suggestion arise lately about showing them in a group in addition to in each of my modifier/strobe posts. Sounded like a good idea so here we go, but I have no plans to make this post comprehensive for all of my tests. Just a few. The first covers the Saberstrip v2.0 that utilizes the Flashpoint eVOLV200s.

Saberstrip v2.0

Sometimes I use them in a triangle, sometimes just two parallel to the ground. Replicates a ring light, but with the ability to back away using a long lens to compress the talent.

Test using a triangle configuration.

Test using them in a pair.

The Glow EZ Lock

Test setup.

Mole Richardson Fresnel Conversion

Bought this 1965 MGM Studios MR 412 Fresnel and converted it from a 1000 watt constant tungsten light into a strobe Fresnel. The following images were all shot AS TESTS prior to putting the Fresnel into my workflow.

Parabolix 35D

Elinchrom 39″ Deep Rotalux 

 

I NEVER place anything into my toolkit unless I’ve tested it previously. Too many unexpected situations come up in any session. Being unprepared with things you KNOW about is not wise.

22 Jul 2018

Teaching High School Kids About Photography

Jamie Smith, a man who I met in 2010 while attending a week long class by Greg Gorman has remained in contact and become my friend. Jamie worked with the famous Jay Maisel for over 10 years in NYC and now runs Social Fabric Collective“Social Fabric Collective is a non-profit organization that provides professional photography equipment, education and inspiration to high school students who are as diverse as they are dynamic.”

Earlier in 2018 Jamie asked if I would be interested in speaking to his class of young high school students about my view of photography. Prior to becoming a full time pro I was in the field of training at the corporate level. Even back then I HATED/LOATHED/WAS DISGUSTED by PowerPoint or rather how people attempt  to utilize PP. So I opted to do my hour long lesson old school, with paper that students read and actual photographs they could hold and view. As a training professional I know that a self paced lesson lends itself to much more retention. I know that so many people today like video because ‘it’s easy’ meaning it’s passive. And it’s NOT self paced, especially in a classroom environment.

So I thought I would post what I presented in the event it helps others pick and choose parts of my syllabus to teach others. The first part was handing out a printed form of this:

“July 17 2018 – Palo Alto CA

Hi my name is Mark and I’m a full time professional photographer. Prior to this life I was a trainer for Sony Playstation, a 3D animator and back then some of my clients included Johns Hopkins University, Estee Lauder, Nike, Bausch and Lomb, and DHL.

Photography tends to be a solitary activity and although I have no idea why you decided to enter this course I will assume that you have in interest in creating imagery. The type of imagery everyone wants to create is as varied as the number of people in the world. Today, everyone is a photographer, whether we’re talking about the ever present ‘selfies’ (ugh) or taking photos with whatever you have at the time. Photography is a satisfying pursuit, and I have found it is my lifelong endeavor. My preference is photographing people – dancers, actors and musicians. In reality I use a camera just to meet people.

It’s kind of easy to get into the ‘tech trap’ wondering what is the best camera, the best lens, the best light, the best camera bag. You get the picture. My personal view is to not allow myself to get hung up on that aspect of this life. It’s easy to see if you peruse photography forums, heck forums of any kind. There are always haters, boasters, see ME! types. Always discussing gear, what is the BEST, blah blah blah. But what is so apparent are the haters seldom if EVER post photos they’ve created other than silly test shots. Buying expensive things does not make an expert or an artist.

It’s also easy (and in most cases necessary) to focus solely on the technical aspects of photography. F stops, depth of field, shutter speed, sync speed, ISO noise, blah blah blah blah blah. But there are literally TONS of sites and Google searches we can do to find that info. And yes those elements are important but what I want to try to pass on to all of you today is what took me a long time to learn for myself….the art of seeing.

My epiphany happened when I was watching an Argentine Tango performance and became captivated by the light, the movement and the shadow. Those elements didn’t need a camera to be appreciated and were not the elements that made me a photographer. Nope, it was all about looking at the world in a way I had not encountered before. Instead of just looking – I would view a scene, a person, an object as a story. As I looked upon a sunset, a sunrise, a beautiful scene, an interesting or beautiful face, a tragedy, an object of any kind, my mind would begin to formulate a story about what I was viewing. I’d identify the feeling I’d emote while looking at the person, object or scene. I’d notice the light, how it fell upon the scene/person/object and how the light made me feel, how the shadows played against the light. The EMOTIONS I was feeling as I focused my gaze.

It went even further. I began to associate imagery with senses not normally associated with a picture. The smell of a sunset, the taste of a rock, the music I would hear in an expression. It was then that I began to notice that my photographs turned into much more than just a ‘pretty picture.’ Without a story, without feeling, a nice photograph is just a pretty picture. Some of my favorite imagery by artists I admire are underexposed, overexposed or blurry. But it’s the FEELING and STORY of the image that moves it from nice to fantastic to memorable.

Immerse yourself in the moment. I found that looking at the back of my camera while I’m out and about often meant that the truly GREAT shot was missed because I was paying attention to the wrong thing, the past, not the moment. There’s plenty of time to appreciate or loathe the image you shot…..later.

All art is about FEELING and STORY. Focus on the elements that don’t depend upon a camera so that when you have one in your hand, you will create something incredible. Be patient and watch. Observe, listen, smell, taste and touch. It will make your work rich beyond what you could have imagined.

Welcome to a different world. Welcome to Seeing

When you’re done reading this, but more importantly understand what I’m saying, raise your hand.”

Once each student was done reading the handout, I gave them an envelop with 10 photos and 10 index cards with these instructions:

Instructions

In this pack are ten images along with ten index cards. The images have a number written on the back of them. On the index card I would like you to

  1. Write the image number you are viewing on the index card
  2. Write a title for the image
  3. Write the Feeling you get when viewing the image
  4. Turn the card over
  5. Write your story of the image

Do this for each image, so in the end you should have ten index cards with a Title, Story and Feeling

When you are done, raise your hand

Here are the ten images that were contained in the envelop:

I then had all ten of the images posted at the front of the class with the corresponding numbers on envelops below each image. I asked each student to place their corresponding index card into those envelops. I asked each student to read all of the other cards to see how people view images differently. Unless you go to galleries with others or those who have also attended it’s tough to hear what others think of the very same image. What that does is it allows people to understand that everyone brings their own bias or experience in viewing any image or painting. It ‘opens your eyes’ to the view of others.

I also asked each student to text me their favorite photo. It didn’t need to be taken with their phones, but they must select one favorite image. I printed out each of the photos and made a lanyard so they could hang their favorite image around their neck….backwards. Each student sat in front of the class facing the whiteboard while the other students voiced how they each felt about the photo and what the story was for the image. The student who took the photo just listened, no feedback was allowed be it verbal or physical in nature. This allows each student to hear other people’s impression of their work. It gives them a window into how people perceive what they’ve created. That is an important part of learning in the creative arts. For the two students who didn’t send a photo I believe they missed an opportunity not often offered.

 

And finally I had a Q/A session where each of the students could ask me questions about photography.

And of course, a lit class photo.

13 Jun 2018

Seeing Light and Shadow

I get quite a few questions about light. Specifically questions about strobe brands, what I feel is the best modifier, focusing rods, octabanks, blah blah blah. I get it; I want to know about things like that as well. But on a recent trip to a client’s location I was asked to photograph a group of 2800 high school students as they attended the 5th Avenue Theatre’s Annual High School Musical Awards. It’s a huge event equivalent to the Tony Awards for High School students.

Almost all of the imagery I create at this annual event is ‘non lit’ meaning no strobes or modifiers, only available light. I’m not speaking of available ‘natural light’ from the sun. Nope it’s all unnatural light either from stage lighting or very dark back stage or street lighting. If you’ve never been in the wings of a live theatre just imagine the illumination of a strip club bar and you get the idea of what it’s like.

The real visual story action happens in the alley behind the theatre. It’s where the kids are collected to go backstage before their school performances of the productions for which they’ve been nominated. Obviously the energy is very high. Combine adolescent hormones with a very exciting event and you get a small picture of the energy!

The lighting in the alley is what you’d expect. The illumination is to prevent crime, light the trash bin areas and the HVAC equipment. Anything BUT something conducive to creating any type of portrait photography! But I decided to grab a few groups of students to use what light I had to create some portraiture. I wanted to test my own theories and when people ask me how to use light I simply say “study light.”

So the alley has about eight tungsten lights, the kind you see in the back of any retail establishment near the loading dock or employee entrances. Covered in an industrial plastic, they’re hearty to resist breakage as well as being damn bright. Each light is about 15 feet high on the brick walls and spaced about 25 feet apart running the length of the alley.

So I placed the groups of kids so that the light that fell on them created shadows I wanted and lit their faces in the manner I wanted for the mood of each shot. How I did that is something I won’t go into and I didn’t use any reflective materials or trash to fill in the shadows. Nope this was completely ad hoc shooting with the light I had from those alley lights. My point here is rather than concentrating on what brand, how many watt seconds, whether the modifier you’re lusting after is ‘truly parabolic’ study light and shadow. In my view it’s what will elevate your lighting beyond elevating your credit card balance with little actual yield.

Just a small view of the insanity that occurs in the alley. You can see that it’s dusk and one of the lights is just coming on.

“Light” (LOL) camera right 15 feet above the talent. How you position people is key in this sort of situation. The light is unmovable, but the people are not!

Same thing light camera right, but purposely overexposed to ensure the shadow detail is retained. I brought down the exposure in post. A whole different look than the image above this one for a different feel.

This group is directly across from my other two groups. I wanted a more broad light across their faces for this shot.

30 May 2018

DJI Mavic Pro Updated 5-30-18

UPDATE 5-30-18

Earlier this month while was using my Mavic to both film and photograph for a client, I was flying sideways and ended up crashing into a tree! Total user error and thankfully it was at the very end of the sessions! LUCKILY I had purchased DJI Care Refresh (Mavic Pro) when I bought the drone. They allow you to purchase the coverage within the first 48 hours of purchase. For 99.00 on a 1k item it’s a great value. But just like all insurance the REAL TEST comes when you make a claim. Any company will gladly take your premiums, but filing a claim is a different story. So I got onto the site, filled out the form and guess what? They emailed me a FedEx label! That’s right, they pay for shipping to and from! Incredible. The cost for my ‘repair’ was 79.00. And IF I crash again it will be 129.00! Now this does not cover things like theft, losing your drone, etc. Makes perfect sense. But in my case I could not be happier and DJI has a loyal customer for life.

A brand new Mavic arrived at my home to replace my crashed unit. Total time: 8 days. And no the more quiet props were not included. BUT they DID include a set of regular props even though I didn’t send in any.

UPDATE November 11 2017

Still practicing and boy to get cinematic film ain’t easy. But hey if it was everyone could do it! It sure is fun to learn though. Using ND filters really helps.

It’s also nice to know that the Mavic can take RAW stills in the form of the DNG format. Granted not as high res as my MF camera, but still good! What I did learn though is when I set my shutter speed at a low number, usually around 1/125th or lower when I take stills that have motion I get motion blur. Makes perfect sense, I’m just not accustomed to switching from film to stills. Learnings…..

Original Post

Yep, it was time. Time to try something new, to feel uncomfortable and out of my comfort zone. Film, stills, creativity from a new perspective. How does anyone expect to grow simply by being ‘safe?’ FAA certification is on tap. Using light and motion….

….stay tuned.

20 May 2018

Surviving a Stroke

Today, May 20 2018 is my second anniversary as a stroke survivor. It occurred exactly 22 days after my Mom’s death and for the three years preceding that event it was both stressful and heart wrenching to watch her health decline. I didn’t have grandparents long, they passed when I was a young toddler. So experiencing the declining health of an elder was a new experience for me. Something only experience can show you and in reality nothing actually prepares anyone for that inevitable time.

I was photographing for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra on that day in 2016. I was on the balcony level when it happened. I knew that if I fell I would not only kill myself, but someone below me. So I made my way to the emergency exit stairwell and laid down on the floor. I heard the final notes, the applause and just as that ended, a white male, about 50-55 years old, 6-1 190lbs with a blue blazer and grey slacks entered the stairwell. (If you’re wondering about my description I was an investigator for 8 years) He looked directly at me and paused for just a second and then continued walking. Not a word, no offer of help. I will always remember his face and if I ever see him again we will share an experience we will both remember.

The doctors told me I was lucky when I finally went to the hospital three days later. Yes I did EVERYTHING wrong by not going to the ER right away, waiting until I flew back home to go to the ER AFTER I went to sleep that night when I arrived home. I’ve always been the type who does what I want to do…given my life’s limitations. I raised two kids, put one through college, paid for her education and supported a family of four. So during those times I had self imposed limitations, kids, a family to support and that’s what I chose to do.

But even then I would seldom listen to people who made little sense or seemed to only like the sound of their own voice. But that day in the stairwell in Dallas marked an even more profound change in my attitude about choices. I no longer choose to do, say or think things in life I don’t agree with. And perhaps most important, I choose to disassociate from, avoid or confront those who are rude, mean spirited or simply ignorant. I chose to save, to lead a 1099 life and now I’m blessed to have made those choices and have been lucky. Only an arrogant person ever believes that the entire benefits of life are totally self made. It’s the same as a victim mentality, always believing it’s someone else’s fault.

It’s one of the small reasons I maintain this blog, to help others, to offer my views of things I’ve used, my experiences with them. It’s why I have an especially jaded view of trolls of any type.

My two goals in life are to live an honorable life and to help others, that’s it.

20 Mar 2018

Fucking Trolls

Long ago I gave up participating on forums. Why? Because like ex-girlfriends who just had to be right, I cannot stand people who talk, bitch and produce nothing. Or sadly feel their work is good! I do frequent a few sites, the-digital-picture where Bryan and Sean take their time and review camera gear with integrity. Flashhavoc is where I learn about new lighting items. And I recently started frequenting Lighting Rumours which also talks about new lighting gear but have reviews of some of the items. Markus Klinko a shooter whose body of work I admire, also posts some interesting information about gear he uses on that site. He’s a commercial photographer who has a link to his work in his articles which is very well done. One of the aspects of how he approaches gear is that the brand/cost is irrelevant to his decisions. He states he uses Elinchrom, Broncolor, Cheetahstand among others. He looks at the performance of a product, not the brand or price point. I admire that as I tend to do the very same thing in my own selections.

Most if not all fucking trolls NEVER have links to their work, EVER. Why? Well because they really don’t know how to shoot well yet love to hear themselves talk about gear. Their photos ‘may’ be ‘nice’ (my mentor’s word for shit work) but instead they like to bitch about anything and sharp shoot those who are expressing their views.

Working photographers who post reviews of gear they’ve used are people I truly respect. Trolls are the bottom feeders of any craft.

Here are examples of the comments relating the Markus’ quick personal review of the Elinchrom Indirect Litemotiv Octa 190cm. Not all are trolls, but you will be able to immediately identify those who fit that category:

 

Markus thanks for your personal assessments on Lighting Rumours. It takes time to write these things, I know that first hand. And thanks for supporting the craft of photography.

This article by Ilona isn’t about photography, but it is about fucking trolls. “Ever since the dawn of the internet, there have been trolls. These broken, deeply insecure people love nothing more than to bring others down to their level by preying on their insecurities.” What’s great though is if you’re not insecure it don’t mean shit.

07 Mar 2018

Manning Up – Updated March 7 2018

UPDATED March 7 2018

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my departure from corporate America. Having been a small business for seven years has been both rewarding as well as remarkable. I so appreciate the tenacity and grit it takes to be a small business owner and collaborate with other small businesses. I have found that the intelligence and business acumen of those who run their own small businesses eclipse those I worked with in corporate America for over 38 years. It’s not for everyone, but for those who have always aspired to ‘be their own boss‘ be prepared to do it all, and to enjoy the rewards. If I can do it in the most expensive part of the country, the Bay Area, so can you.

Original Post

March 7 2011 was the day I was laid off from my last corporate job. Unlike most of my colleagues who move to different companies, but remain within the same industry; I have been in a wide variety of industries. Law enforcement, security, retail, insurance, broking, energy, sales, marketing and finally software. My titles ranged from individual contributor to Senior Vice President, then COO of a Fortune 100 company. Company cars, paid monthly parking in downtown San Francisco, expense accounts first class travel you name it I had it. I was a suit…..

No matter what my job or company I always had my ‘back up plan’ just in case my day job went south. Those plans included skills in woodworking, fabrication, computer repair and finally photography. It seems I never felt fully secure in any company even though I received continual accolades and promotions. Nope it always occurred to me that it could all be ‘taken away’ at a moment’s notice. So when my last job at PlayStation ended when the HR person and my boss (the worst boss of any of my 38 years in corporate America. The worst part is the executives knew she was horrible, yet did nothing) let me know ”Your job has been eliminated” I was both relieved and surprised. You see my boss had told me that the meeting was about a “Powerpoint” presentation she wanted me to review with her.

When I heard their words I looked at my now former boss and said “Gosh then there is no need for you to be here. Why don’t you go find something else to do?!” And she quietly got up from her desk grabbed her purse and left. Tracy, the HR person went over my severance package, told me I was not allowed to go back to my office or talk with anyone. She asked to write down anything in my office that are personal items I wanted returned. I said “No need. Two months ago I took all of my personal possessions home.” She asked why and if I was sure. “Yes and I have hated how I’ve been treated here for six years so there was no need to have anything personal in my office.” She then said smugly “So now you can pursue your little photography business.”

I had been moonlighting as a part time (what some people call ‘semi pro’) photographer for two local theatre companies. My girlfriend and I were partners in those shoots. Since I had a highly paying day job there was no need for her to have full or part time employment. She did some graphic and website design from home to earn money. So when I went home that day at noon, and told her the news, she seemed shocked.

As I began a search online the next week for new ‘jobs’ I thought to myself, “Mark, it’s time you man up. Do you really want to invest time and your dignity into going on interviews with thirtysomethings and be asked questions like ‘What is your five year plan?’ and then responding with ‘Fuck you!’” It just would not be conducive to being hired or worse being hired. So with 30 years of business development, management, finance, sale, marketing experience and a love for photography I decided it was time to man up and pursue my dream.

My finance mind went to work right away since unlike others I didn’t have the safety net of a working spouse with benefits. So I tightened down my expenses and calculated what I would need to survive those first five years of being self-employed. And then the biz dev side of me took over. Little by little I obtained more clients. I never did any advertising so all of my new client work was through word of mouth. Several key people were instrumental in helping me grow the business by recommending me to others. For that I will always be grateful. I’m also not arrogant enough to not believe that luck and timing has much to do with a person’s success. One of the advantages of having a varied corporate background is most people simply consider me as just a photographer. I seldom if ever discuss my background, but it’s such an advantage.

And along the way I noticed something I had never done in my entire previous working life….I didn’t have or want a backup plan, no Plan B, no nothing! I was all in and discovered that doing what one loves to do automatically eliminated the desire for a Plan B. Sure the money was much less in the beginning, but the people I encountered and have befriended on this journey along with the experiences make everything else pale in comparison. The quality of my life is beyond what I would have ever imagined. And it all has to do with my love for what I do. It’s the people, it’s the rich experiences that I so adore.