Saturday, July 9, 2011

Self Promotion

Something we all have to do as photographers is sell ourselves along with our services.One of the latest marketing tools for photographers is the promotional slideshow video. Here's my first attempt:

For now this is just a training exercise and I limited it to what can be done in a free 30 second video. To make longer videos you have to "Upgrade" to a paid account.

Animoto is located here:

I was not thrilled with Animoto's process. You select a theme, upload your images, select some music and Animoto creates their video. You have no creative control. You get what Animoto decides you should get. How long each image is displayed, and how many images is controlled by Animoto and depending on the music you have selected Animoto may or may not display all of the images you uploaded for your free 30 second video.

The interface is kludgy.

There is no preview function. The only way to find out what your slideshow will include is to wait for the video to render and watch the playback. It takes several minutes to render the video before you can see what you are going to get.

If all of the images are not there, the only thing you can do is rebuild the slideshow using fewer images. Once you have made your changes, you again have to wait for Animoto to render the video before you can see whether it is going to work.

Animoto says a 30 second video will use 12 - 20 images depending upon the music selected. I started with 18 images, but there are only 14 images in this slideshow. That's all Animoto would render into the 30 second video. Theoretically, you can add titles and text, but I was not able to do so. For each title I wanted to add, I would have to remove one of the remaining 14 images.

This 30 second video took over 6 hours to produce. I had to start over twice and re-render it a dozen times before I could get a marginally acceptable result. I want tools that give me more control over the creative process while taking much less time and energy. I want to be able to add titles and text without having to sacrifice images.

From my experience creating a "free" 30 second video, I'm not confident Animoto will give me those tools.

Every step of the way I was badgered to "upgrade" to a pro account. I'm not sure I will upgrade.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rockets Red Glare

I had an idea for the fourth of July. I was going to find a small town and photograph the spectators at their annual parade.

No small town fourth of July parades this year. Bad economy. Budget cuts. Oh well, Plan B.

Asheboro, NC, where I go to school, is a mid-size town. They didn't have a parade this year, but they had the next best thing ... a baseball game and fireworks.

Mother nature added some fireworks of her own. Fortunately far enough away to not affect the game. There was a short rain, but the thunderstorms passed far to the north and east.

The sunset was worth waiting for.

For the technically inclined, it's a 4 shot panorama - Pentax K20D, Tokina ATX-Pro 28-70 f/2.8 zoom @ 28mm, ISO 800,  f/5.0 @ 1/50 sec. It's lit using a Vivitar 285HV at full power through a Photoflex Q39 softbox. All handheld. Manual mode. Pre-focused to hyper-focal distance. In camera JPEG High.

The fireworks are ISO 100, f/16 @ bulb on a tripod.

It's a funny thing.

A year ago I was going to every Copperheads home game photographing baseball for my small format class. My images of game play are not much to write home about. I'm not much of a sports photographer. My first photographic love is nature photography. I'm going to school to learn to be a good people photographer.

One image of Copperhead fans watching the game against another sunset stands out from all the images I made last summer.

Shot with almost exactly the same equipment, from almost exactly the same spot.

This was likely the last Copperheads baseball game I will attend. I graduate at the end of this month and head back to the big city for the rest of my life. Unless ...

I know I'm going to be a professional photographer when I grow up. But maybe not in the big city.

If things work out, I'll find another mid-size town somewhere and relocate. And maybe they'll have a home town baseball team. It won't be Asheboro, there's too much competition here. I need a place that doesn't have one of the best photography schools in the world.

But, if I do find a new home town, and if they do have a team, I'll see you at the game. I'll be easy to recognize. I'll be watching the fans watch the game. If there's a beautiful sunset, smile for the camera.

And, if you ever find yourself in Asheboro, NC on the fourth of July with nothing to do, head on out to McCrary Park and take in the game and the fireworks show.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Idée fixe

I have this idea for an image. I can see it when I close my eyes. And it's not really that great of an idea; a cliche actually, almost kitsch.

It's producing an acceptable image I can see when my eyes are open that's proving to be the problem. If I can ever get it right, I can get it out of my head.

Right now it's not working ... not even close.

I'll have to put it away and come back to it later. Maybe then I can get some work done in the meantime.

The last time this happened I had 20 years of failure before I finally got the image I wanted. I don't think I've got that much time for this one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On The Road Again

One of the ideas suggested by Mollie Isaacs of Awake The Light at the Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography weekend was a technique for producing motion blurred images. She suggested that you have your partner drive down the road slowly while you hand-hold your camera and shoot through the windshield using a slow shutter speed.

Mary Lindhjem suggested a speed of no more than 5 mph.

Pentax K-20D, Tokina ATX-Pro 80-200 zoom @ 80mm, ISO 100, f/11 @ 1/2 second

I wanted to give it a try, but not having a partner to drive for me, I had to improvise.

I started by securely strapping my tripod in the passenger seat and mounting the camera to it. I connected my remote shutter release to the camera.

The camera was set to aperture priority auto-exposure with +1/3 stop exposure compensation at f/11; manual focus, focused as close to the Hyperfocal Distance as I could manage. For this particular lens at f/11, that gives a D.O.F. stretching from about 10 feet to infinity.

I left the in camera shake reduction turned on.

The road I chose is the main road in William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, NC. This is the eastern section off of Glenwood Ave (US Hwy 70). This road already has a low speed limit at 25mph, so there was less risk for me driving it at 5 mph.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend

The 2011 Grandfather Mountain Nature Photography Weekend is history.

My first love is nature and wildlife photography. That's where the two lanes lead me to. I didn't think I'd get the chance to attend this year's program, but the opportunity came up at the last minute, so I grabbed it.

The Nature Photography Weekend is an annual photography event at Grandfather Mountain. Along with the chance to meet and compare notes with others who share an interest in nature photography the weekend includes evening presentations from some top nature photographers. This year's speakers included:

Tony Sweet

Tony spent 20 years as a professional jazz musician before switching to photography. Tony's images show the influence of his jazz career. He's the master of photoshop improvisation.

Take a Tony Sweet workshop and you'll be talking about it years later.

Bill Fortney

Bill a Nikon Professional Services tech rep for the southern US, and amateur pilot. Bill is the author of America From 500 Feet, a runaway best seller of aerial nature photography.

Bill Lea

Bill Lea is a perfectionist at finding "just the right light." He's the go to guy for photography in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Vinnie Coluci

Vinnie, along with his partner Melissa Southern hosts Next Step Photography Workshops. This year at Grandfather mountain his presentation was on how to get zoo photos that appear to have been taken in the wild.

Mollie Isaacs & Mary Lindhjem

The final presentation was "Work It, Baby" by Mollie Isaacs & Mary Lindhjem of Awake The Light. Find the scene, find the scene within the scene and WORK IT!

And then there's the contest, with the Mark and Doug show. The contest offers the chance for attendees at the to photograph on the mountain and show their skills.

All I can say about the contest is to repeat THE PLEDGE: "I will not take the contest too seriously."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Memorial Day

I'm a little late with this, but I wanted remember my friend Nathan.

I think I was in my first year of high school when Nathan's parents moved into the house behind ours. Nathan was their second child. He was a bit wild and frequently in trouble at school. Not a bad person, he just didn't like school and he wasn't shy about saying so; more of a cut up than a real trouble maker.

He was four years younger than me, and always hanging around. Kind of like having a second little brother to bug you. He and my brother became best friends.

I moved away to go to college while they were in junior high school, and only saw him a few times after that. But I heard about him from time to time from my brother .

He dropped out of school at 17 when his mama signed the papers for him to join the Marines. He grew up there. He was proud of his service and proud of his uniform. I don't know why he chose to end his own life.

I go see him a couple times a year. We all miss him.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Where you been so long?

I been a-havin'some hard travelin',
I thought you knowed.
I been a-havin'some hard travelin',
Way down the road.
            Woody Guthrie.

I started this blog as an assignment for a class I was taking for my course in Photo Studio Management at Randolph Community College. That class is over but the blog remains. In the meantime I've had some bumps along the way.

I was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer just about the time I started this blog back in August 2010. I've been undergoing treatment - radical surgery & radiation treatments - while trying to keep up with my school work, including an internship during spring semester. I'm back in school now for my final semester.

But there have been some good things too.

Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Hong Kong, China
At the end fall semester, between cancer treatments, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a trip to China.

I was pretty sick at the time, but I couldn't let the opportunity get past me, so I just sucked it up and went. I'm not real impressed with my photography from that trip. I really wasn't at the top of my game. But ... vini, vidi, vinci!