There are times when I am shooting when I am in complete control of the situation. Well, at least as much control as the world lets me think I am capable of.
And there are times when I am not taking a photograph, but in fact taking a capture to allow me to make a photograph. Later.
This is one of those examples. I was in Maine with my bud Charles and we were simply driving around the peninsulas looking for places that were not where we live. Charles lives in Houston and I live in Phoenix.
If you have been to either, you would know that neither look like the Maine Coast.
In fact nowhere looks like the Maine Coast. I love it.
This small harbor we found at the end of a long drive to the tip of one of the Peninsulas, and it just captivated me.
The weather was cool, windy and gray. Not much happening in the sky in a capture, but so much more when I was there in person.
I walked the edge of the little bay looking for the shot. I knew there was one there, but sometimes the images hide in plain sight while we try to force other shots we have seen onto the canvas before us.
That doesn’t work. Ever.
My way of working is try to open myself visually to what is there, and begin to see like my lenses. It isn’t hard, it just takes practice.
What would this shot look like with a wide angle lens? What would be left out with a tele? How will the parts of the image look when they are compressed with a tele? Would a very wide angle push the background too far back? Or just enough?
I decided on the medium wide lens so it would pull the harbor shape to me, while not pushing the background too far back as to not be seen.
I knew that the scattered boats was the ‘hook’ of the shot, and that the sky and water would frame them and present an image that looked painterly in design.
So I took a bracket set of images slightly above and slightly below the exposure I chose. No, not for HDR, but for an image that starts out in an exposure point that I know I can work with. I do not like to work with images that are too dark.
This is the image I took at slightly above the ‘exposure’ – about 1/2 stop over exposed.
This is the image that I ended up with 20 minutes later:
This image has the same emotional tone as I saw standing on the shore. I took some romantic liberties with the color pallet, choosing to add some warmth and a feeling of disquieting weather. Where the original image had soft, blanket like clouds, I pulled out the texture and heightened the feeling of storm.
When you are working like this you have to think as an illustrator would, or a painter. Sure the sky is light… but wouldn’t that also lighten the ocean where the reflection would be? And how do we handle the reflective nature of the choppy sea?
Where do our shadows increase and where should the fall back?
Here is the post processing from opening it in Lightroom to finishing it off in Photoshop.
Thanks for coming along on this little tutorial.
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I plugged it in, turned it on, set it up and went to work
Took about 2 minutes. Tops.
Wait… you may not know what a Pogoplug is.
Now this thing is cool. Think of it as a network drive / personal cloud sort of thing. With a very cool set of tools that let you actually USE the thing. Keep your photographs on there securely, and pull them up as a slideshow from your iOS or Android. Keep your music on a drive and access it to play from any device. Share files with clients and family. Automatically backup your files or photos.
And they have an online cloud for additional, easy storage.
The device is very small, taking nearly no space at all. And that is a big deal for me. My router is in the living room and having too many devices taking up too much room can create wifely harrassment.
The device hooks into your router, and you hook a hard drive mechanism to the device in one of many ways. In fact, you can hook multiple devices up to the Pogoplug and have different ways to store and share files.
You can see the footprint here as well as the USB drive in position next to my router and Network Drive. These things make working away from home or office a far less painful experience.
You can use a 2.5″ HD, a USB HD, a Flash Card, or any kind of memory that can hook into a device. I chose a 500GB USB Drive that I had for backing up my music. It has lots of room left, so I hooked it into my Pogoplug and started moving files around. I first set it to automatically copy over my iPhone/iPad files and images so I don’t have to even think about it.
I then downloaded the iPad/iPhone apps and logged in. Don’t worry, they are free. The files then began downloading to my Pogoplug. I can play my music from my devices, or my laptop, or use the Pogoplug for sharing files with clients that may be too large for email.
And… it worked right out of the box, right away. Simple, easy and totally simple application. (Well done, Pogoplug guys…)
I have a couple of extra Pogoplug units for you, the readers of this blog. I haven’t decided yet how we will give them away. I am sure some sort of contest will be forthcoming, so watch for it.
I am thrilled with this thing, and some of the cool things I have already identified some important business uses for it.
Sometimes photographers have to shoot shiny stuff. Lighting works very differently on things that are shiny compared to how light works on more diffused subject matter. The shinier the object, the more it will be reflecting the light sources – both main and secondary.
Controlling these ‘specular’ parts of the light – as it is reflected from the subject – can be the greatest challenge.
Highlights give clues to our subjects. They tell us if the surface is smooth or not, and they can aid in showing us the dimension and shape of the object or subject.
The P52′ers had a blast with a “Shoot Something Shiny” assignment, and here is what they came up with.
Eliot Carter was my favorite contemporary composer. It was his first and second string quartets that opened my mind to the possibilities of linear melody/rhythm and the transformative nature of time. I discovered his music in my second year of music school and have listened to something of his every week since.
Eliot Carter passed last Monday, November 5, 2012. He was 103 years old.
Elliott Carter, the American composer whose kaleidoscopic, rigorously organized works established him as one of the most important and enduring voices in contemporary music, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 103 and had continued to compose into his 11th decade, completing his last piece in August.
The String Quartets, of which there are five, are some of my earliest loves. The first time I heard String Quartet #1 was in the music building at Arizona State University. The room was quite cool, and the musicians were there to share their new repertoire, and some works that had been commissioned for them.
They decided to share the first movement of the first quartet, and I was simply blown away. I can only compare it to the first time I heard Coltrane… and my life changed forever.
Many of the other music students there were aghast… where was the ‘melody’, why was the music so jarring. For the life of me, I had no idea what they had heard… but it wasn’t what I had heard.
I have nearly every recording made of the quartets, including a couple of imports. I even have the scores to both the first and second quartet.
Photography and music are two drivers of who I am. The polytonality and rhythmic challenges of Carter’s pieces fed my brain its much needed challenges, and it led to other discoveries, both in my music and my photography.
Mr. Carter’s music is not easy to listen to at first, especially for those who are not aware of the 20th century musical progression. But it is a challenge worth taking, in my opinion. Although, the meters and extreme difficulty of the performance of many of his mid-period works led to lots of angst among those who decided to take up that challenge, those who did found themselves quite transformed.
I performed his piece, Eight Pieces for Four Tympani, and it left me exhausted. And, exhilarated. The tempos ‘modulate’ through time as though it were a flexible substance rather than a temporal imperative. Damned difficult, and no, I could not play it today… heh.
Shifting meters, rhythm that was both polyphonic and amorphous, melodies that stretched over others with seemingly no relation… it was demanding stuff. And it made demands on the listeners that some were not willing to do. His music was not something most people would leave the theater humming to themselves.
As Mr. Carter’s centenary neared, the frequency with which his music could be heard only increased, making it clear that for at least two generations of young performers, even his thorniest works held little terror. In the summer of 2008, for example, the entire Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center was devoted to Mr. Carter’s work, with performances of dozens of pieces from every stage of his career (including several premieres). Mr. Carter attended most of the concerts. There were many such tributes that year, and the attention unnerved him, he said.
“It’s a little bit frightening, because I’m not used to being appreciated,” he said in an onstage interview at Zankel Hall the night after a celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “So when I am, I think I’ve made a mistake.”
“Eventually Carter realised that all the accumulated baggage of his music – the neoclassicism, the madrigalian references, the Greek texts, the Americana – would have to go. In the Piano Sonata of 1945, written the year he moved with his wife into the brownstone apartment he would live in for the rest of his life, Carter retains the massive rhetoric of the American sublime. But the cyclic form, the startling use of piano resonances and rhythmic flexibility mark a huge step forward. The Cello Sonata of 1948 is another leap towards a really radical conception of form. The piece at the end seems to loop back to its opening, in a way that recalls Stéphane Mallarmé’s conception of a book that one can begin at any point. At the beginning, a strict metronomic “ticking” in the piano is combined with a rhapsodically unfolding line in the cello. Nothing quite like this joining of two radically opposed worlds moving at different speeds had been heard in music before.
But it was in the First String Quartet of 1951 that Carter’s new conception of independent musical layers, sometimes co-operating, sometimes clashing in purposeful disunity, came fully into focus. To achieve it, Carter cut himself off from his usual surroundings and moved to the Arizona desert for several months. What survives from his old manner is a heroic rhetoric of wide intervals, as if the American sublime has been sublimated and purged of anything local.”
This music, so utterly grounded in a complex, and for me, an almost visual experience, made my journey into music both a fascinating and joyful adventure, and a disquieting and elusively disconnected vision of what I wanted to do. Both with music and photography.
It is that air of conundrum that drives me today as well.
“In many ways, Carter was cut from the same cloth as the Founders. Crossing back and forth across the Atlantic with his father, a lace importer, Carter spoke French before he spoke English. At Harvard, he initially spurned music, opting instead for Greek and mathematics and philosophy. He recapitulated some of the background of the aristocrats who founded the United States: a classical education with a French flair. He was a modernist equipped with the intellectual tool kit of the Enlightenment.
He came to be a composer in deliberate fashion; he was well into his 30s before he wrote music he thought worth keeping. It would be another decade before he began to realize his own style. The decisive break came in his first two string quartets, dating from 1951 and 1959, where the four players become strikingly individual characters, with their own motives, articulations, and even tempi, an intricately managed clash of temperaments. Almost all of his subsequent music would similarly straddle the line Thomas Paine drew between society and government: “The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.” Carter’s goal was to give every instrument in the ensemble its own individuality within the piece’s entirety. ‘‘This seems to me a very dramatic thing in a democratic society,’’ he said. In honor of the American Bicentennial, Elliott Carter even split the orchestra asunder, composing “A Symphony for Three Orchestras,” a work that, indeed, divides that ensemble into three distinct and often disputatious groups. It might have been only a coincidence that the onetime revolutionaries who assembled for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 came up with a similar model for the federal government.”
“Mr. Carter experimented most notably with meter, or rhythm, and challenged audiences to follow multiple instruments that played simultaneously to different beats.
“A piano accelerates to a flickering tremolo as a harpsichord slows to silence,” wrote composer and musicologist David Schiff, describing Mr. Carter’s music. “Second violin and viola, half of a quartet, sound cold, mechanical pulses, while first violin and cello, the remaining duo, play with intense expressive passion. Two, three or four orchestras superimpose clashing, unrelated sounds. A bass lyrically declaims classical Greek against a mezzo-soprano’s American patter.”
Mr. Carter said that his music presented society as he hoped it would be: “A lot of individuals dealing with each other, sensitive to each other, cooperating and yet not losing their own individuality.””
Yes… controlled cacophony. Distilled life sounds played out in a chamber or orchestral setting. Music to live by, think by… create by. Rhythms that seem disconnected from each other are found to have deep relationships after careful listening.
And this music is made for careful listening. It is not Mozart for background string melodies. Nor is it the driving, pulsating, deeply spiritual John Coltrane.
It is music for listening to as an action in itself, for involving ones self within each bar and linear melody. It is for “active” engagement, not background filler.
Perhaps that is what I found so totally and honestly engaging about Carter’s music. It demanded that you listen to it, not daydream or dance or plan the next vacation while it was on. LISTEN to each sound and melody and rhythm – and feel the complexity slide away to reveal simple, intimate truths.
Individuality of spirit is ensconced deeply into his works, and that wondrous spirit was a gift to us all.
If we take the time to listen for it.
I wondered how I would feel when I heard of his death. I know now.
“The American master, seemingly inextinguishable, died this afternoon, at the age of 103. An entire world of culture dies with him — a landscape of memory that included Stravinsky, Nadia Boulanger, Ives, Gershwin, even Gustav Holst.”
(from a recent forum post where a new blogger was talking about ‘getting out there and doing it… going pro.)
I just looked at your blog and I have a few questions.
Who are you trying to reach with the blog?
Or other photographers?
Clients would be a good focus, as they will actually hire you. Clients will want to get in touch for a photograph if you inspire them.
Other photographers maybe not so much.
Other photographers are never gonna pay you for your photography.
Posting about gear is photographer centric stuff that your clients do not care about. Posting that you are just starting out is great for other photographers to ‘share in the adventure’ – but as a client, I don’t really want to be a part of that early, uncharted course.
I’ll wait until you are sure of what you are doing.
Posting that you are running out of money means you are not a pro, or someone that someone else is hiring, and I am not having any of it.
The people who may be interested in this information, ie; other photographers thinking about making the jump, will never ever be a part of your bottom line.
I am not sure how to proceed.
I have cool stuff.
I am in serious financial straights.
Please hire me before I drown in debt and my kids hate me.”
This is not, I repeat NOT a marketing strategy. It will shut you down before you even stand up.
In addition, you call it a “Photographic Diary” and yet there are no photographs, it has no visual identity, and the information is more about the business you do not have rather than talking about the cool stuff you do. In addition, the theme you have chosen is, well, boring and not interesting at all to look at.
We are in the visual business, and something boring is NOT gonna let people know how good you are with visuals… right? Get a new theme and make it something interesting to see.
Then do these things…
1. Talk to your clients. Blog stuff that makes seniors want to shoot with you or brides just die to meet you (or whatever your niche is). Talk about how you solved this challenge or how much fun it was to shoot with that subject, or how you find locations… stuff to make clients take notice.
NOTE: They do not give a crock of shit about how fast your zoom is.
2. Photographs on every post. Post about photographs, not photography. Posts on subjects, not lenses. Make people think that all you ever do is make photographs. Cool photographs. Even, ahem, ‘awesome’ photographs.
3. Become an expert in what you do, in the language of who you do it for instead of your competition. Don’t speak photographer speak, use real people speak. The real people that may think you make great pictures cause of your cool camera speak. They are not the enemy, nor clueless idiots, they are your clients. LOVE them.
For instance: “I love working with people of all ages, and can take a few years off your portrait if you would like…”
“I use layers in Photoshop to soften the separate channels of color and texture, and then blend them back in with masks to make the lines around the eyes softer.”
Trust me. Telling a forty year old woman how you are gonna use all that technical wizardry to make her look younger is not of any interest to her. That you CAN make her look a shade over 34 IS.
And lastly… never never never complain. Complaining sounds suspiciously like whining to a lot of people. When things are down, show your most lively photographs. Look more busy than you really are, and convey the fact that you are really busy because people love your work and wouldn’t it be cool if the reader could have an opportunity to have such a blast with you and get some incredible photographs.
You didn’t ask for a critique, and I broke my rule about never doing it without being asked, but since I am waiting for the mac to do some video rendering I felt… oh what the hell, why not.
The advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I would ask you to consider my concerns as I have a real affinity for people who actually DO shit over those who stand on the sidelines throwing stones.
Some shining examples of food shooting and shooting to layout from the Project 52 group.
The assignment: Your assignment is to do a very interesting sandwich shot that fairly reeks of “high end cuisine sandwich” – and for this you will have a layout. The designer has already created two other brochures for the client, so the placement is pretty much set. He hired a photographer to do it, but unfortunately that photographer had never worked on any of the Project 52 stuff (probably didn’t have my book either) and totally, unconditionally failed to deliver the image.
Anyway – you guys are up next. What will you do to make this shot so freeking awesome that people will want, no – NEED to buy a sandwich from his restaurant – and make the designer and client ecstatic.
The layout was given to them as a layered PSD, and these are terrific examples of what the photographers did with it.
These are simple ideas, built to do quickly or without being in a rush. Do at least five of them every day.
1. Have you checked in with past clients? Have you kept up with them? And more importantly, have you kept them up to date on what you are doing? Past clients are one of the best ways to keep cash flowing through your business. It takes so much longer to get a client than to keep a client.
2. Have you shot something for your portfolio lately? Have you post-processed any images from a recent shoot and added them to your portfolio? I cannot tell you how many consultations start with “what have you added recently” are answered with “I have been too busy to get any new work up.”
Great… if you are too busy to put up new work, why are getting a consult on getting more clients? What?
3. Personal note, message, call or Amazon Gift Card to someone who has been a supporter or evangelist for your work. The folks who love you are your best advocates. Treat them like gold… no, treat them like diamonds.
4. Put together a set of goals for the week? For the month? Just make sure they dovetail into your master goal set.
… … You do have a master goal set, right?
5. Check your business plan. How is it going? Do you need to change it one way or another?
Most people make the business plan and then never look at it or modify it. You must modify it, and you must continuously look at it and review it. Otherwise, what was the point of the exercise you went through to create it? It is a living document that needs your input and nourishment to be effective.
6. If you don’t have a business plan, grab a napkin an sketch one out. Seriously… do not do this on a computer. Write it down on something that is quickly modified. Use charts and boxes and lines and squigglies to get what you want to make sense.
A good mini-business plan for a photographer should be about 2 pages… max. This is not a bigass business plan, this is a short, to the point, no bullshit mini business plan.
7. Contact a mentor. if you don’t have one, find one. Then get in touch with them and ask them for guidance. Asking for help is not a bad thing, it is a damn good thing to do. If you are struggling, there are people out there who have struggled the same way and found pathways out.
No, finding a mentor is not easy. It shouldn’t be. If it were it would be of little value. Did you ever notice that the most highly valued things and positions are the hardest ones to attain? Almost like it was planned that way.
8. Brainstorm like crazy to find new and exciting ways of presenting your work, ideas, photographs, methods, and style to those who want to hire you. Work on that presentation. Work really hard on that presentation.
9. Think about what you have and if there is any way those skills or assets could be used to create new income streams. Do you shoot stock? Should you? Are you able to do a few seminars or workshops? Can you do something else with the downtime at your studio?
Maybe you don’t need the extra income, but thinking about ways to make money with what you already have is a great thought exercise that will probably lead to something new.
10. Breathe. Take some time to focus on your own person. Take in a ballgame, go for a roadtrip, or simply read a book in that great old chair in the lawn. Sometimes it is so important to step away from the everyday struggles of business, and let the fires burn in the background. Don’t worry, your self conscience is still at work looking for ideas and filtering out that which will not play out.
So even if it seems counter productive to step back, it can actually be one of the most important tactics to use. And you aren’t leaving for a week… just a few hours or a half day is what you need.
In these crazy days of marketing fatigue and social media burnout, it is a good thing to remember there are other ways to recharge and regroup.
Steve Collins has been a friend for several years. We met at a workshop, and he has been a huge part of Project 52. Steve is building his business one client at a time in Fredericksburg, VA (a small town outside of Washington, DC).
I have watched his work grow steadily, and am very proud of this new book – and Steve.
Rock on, Steve… this is pretty cool.
From the Press Release:
“Fredericksburg resident and business owner Steve Collins of SJ Collins Photography debuts his documentary photo book at The Griffin Bookshop and Coffee Bar on Friday. The book release reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.
Fredericksburg Today, the title of Collins’ book, features photos of contemporary Fredericksburg. Those who purchase of a copy of the book on Nov. 2 will be entered to win a one night’s stay (double occupancy) at The Kenmore Inn, according to Collins.
A long time visitor to Fredericksburg, Collins relocated to the city in June 2011 from Prince William County. “I immediately fell in love with our town’s history, buildings, people and the sense of community only a city like Fredericksburg can offer,” said Collins.
A photographer, Collins began a personal project to capture contemporary Fredericksburg. The book is the culmination of this project.”
Recently I had an opportunity to sit and chat (over delicious Mexican food) with two very good photographers. Dave and Steve are both well seasoned, and full on commercial photographers here in Phoenix.
As things do, we began discussing gigs and some of the war stories we all love to bring up at these sort of little social events.
What emerged were three incredible stories of how unprepared photographers have screwed up big gigs, and themselves as well.
I bring them to you with the hope that they may inspire you to not make the same mistakes.
Fiasco Number One.
A client of nearly ten years has been doing quarterly updates to their national and regional advertising. The images run in several regional publications, newspapers and in-store Point of Purchase displays. The photographer that has been shooting the work for them was charging $12,000 per shoot based on the usage.
This rate had stayed fairly steady for nearly 8 years. Mostly because the photographer was doing a lot of work for them and kept this price steady as a favor and so that they could budget without getting bids each time.
The last quarter he did not get the gig. A new photographer had pitched them and told them he was happy to shoot it for $3000.
This photographer could probably have gotten the gig at $10,000 and made $7000 more if his work was good. The interloper, having no idea at all what the gig was worth, just screwed himself out of at least $7000, maybe more.
He also set the new bar at $2500… which is unrealistic in the commercial world with that kind of usage.
Why would he do it for so little? I can imagine that he had no idea of what the value of commercial photography is set at, nor is he aware of usage and how usage is priced. Look, this is a billion + a year client, and these images are very important to their marketing.
(Solution: Know the industry. Know the market. Get involved with that part of the industry, and get help on shoots that are for national clients. There are consultants and websites that can help. Wonderful Machine has people who can help with bidding on a per bid basis, and fotoQuote has a service that will help you put together something that makes sense.)
Fiasco Number Two
The client is a national ad agency with regional offices. Their client is a celebrity.
The gig involved the celebrity and an endorsement of a beauty product. The shoot was a buyout, with everything from national advertising to electronic media. Three shots of the celebrity with and without the beauty product and one shot of the product itself.
The bid was created using standard bidding and buyout parameters. And the photographer actually wanted the gig so the bid was modified (down a little) to a rate of $40,000.
All was set and agreed to… then… nothing.
The photographer received a phone call from a photographer looking to rent a studio for a ‘celebrity’ shoot. Turned out that they had looked at another photographer and had decided to go with her.
She was shocked that the rental was $300 for the day. She had bid only $2500 for the job and felt that if she spent $300 on the rental studio, she would not make enough.
How about craft services? This is a celebrity, her entourage, the ad agency entourage, MUA, hair stylist, stylist, and wardrobe person. Food alone could easily be $600. And of course, the photographer had no liability insurance, which is insane with that many people on set.
In the end, the agency lost the account. Why they would have even thought that someone quoting $2500 for a gig of this magnitude would have a freaking clue about what the real world brings is beyond my understanding.
(Solution: Get educated on licensing, why rights matter, and how much a shoot of this size and usage requirements would be. The above resources are important, but there are professional sites on line as well as the peers in your town that may help you work this out. And if they are not willing to help, they are totally assholes. Find someone else to help. Dig, research, dig some more.)
Fiasco Number Three.
A photographer was called to bid on a job involving widgets… lots of little widgets. The bid was for simple “drop and pop” shots of 450 items.
When the time came to begin the planning for the shoot, the client informs him that there will actually be three shots per widget.
At the same price as negotiated… but the new shots involve different angles.
The photographer tried in vain to explain how the light was different and how having 1350 shots meant much, MUCH, more time.
But to no avail.
What should have been a 2 day gig stretched into 6 days of blinding quick shooting and upset clients (it should not have taken this long) and more.
It was a disaster for both the client and the photographer.
(Solution: Actually, I told a fib above. The photographer was me. And when I was told that there were far more images than expected, I rebid the gig. And when they said it was too much, I politely declined the gig. They found someone to do it though… and there ya go.
That photographer is happily (or whatever) shooting boring, monotonous widgets at $3 a piece. By the time he is done, he will have worked for over a week for a rate that should have been one day.
I have the experience, both in the bidding and understanding of how the process goes, to make decisions that will not harm myself or my industry.)
Not much else to say here. I understand that there are a lot of new people in this business. That is a good thing.
That there are so many who haven’t or will not take the time to actually learn about the business they are in is not a good thing.
Don’t get caught on the outs… get educated in how it all works.
BTW – our photographers at Project 52 are learning all about the industry including bidding, shooting to layout, creating promotional pieces and building a portfolio. And that is a free site for interested photographers who don’t like being clueless.
Glad you dropped by. This is my love and my muse. We talk about photography here, as well as the folks who make images. I am very focused on commercial and fine art photography, and we don't really spend all that much time on weddings and such. I have written 5 books - two I give away here, and two are for sale at Amazon, and the 5th one is being edited and designed right now! Thanks for visiting, leave a comment or join me the social networks...