Monday, February 25, 2013

The Shots That Are "Not Obvious"

Laguna Beach Ice House

Q: I see you promoting the Laguna Workshop and, as always, you've caught my attention. That said, you've now had the pleasure of my company for a couple of workshops. Hopefully gotten a sense of who I am as well as a sense as to where I am with my photography. Is the Laguna workshop something that I should be interested in attending or should I be considering something from you that is more tailored to me?

No right or wrong answer here, but I figured that the educator in you would have an interesting perspective.

A: So this is a good opportunity for me to evaluate you and for you to evaluate yourself without the knowledge of the content of the class (just yet).

And no worries, I won't cheat and tailor the group content to you :) I've already decided what the subject matters are.

With that said, the topics for my group workshops are typically broadish and appeal to the masses. It's just the nature of the beast. Kind of like a fortune cookie giving you something everyone can relate to :)

But please tell me what you need to work on?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Is Your "Super-Power"? Part II

Simplicity at its best.

Honestly, I don't know.

(As an aside, I love disclaiming that I don't know because honestly I so often do not know!)

Mine (I wonder) could be an ability to reduce things to it's most basic form and to make things utterly transparent?

Whether it's being able to ask basic questions to really understand what drives people? Drivers that most people aren't even aware they're governed by.

Whether it's being to pull off the mask of society and explain exactly what pretenses we live under?

Or whether it's my own relentless honesty that I reveal myself to people on a regular basis? The same relentless honesty that holds me to the standards I have to live up to.

It's even in my photography. I run a no frills enterprise. I don't use elaborate props, setups, makeup, wardrobe.

That's all I could think of lying in bed. I have this undying curiosity to understand things and what makes things tick. Whether it's people, places, situations, expectations, etc. It's not exactly a thirst for knowledge as much as it is a desire to connect on a more fundamental level. I just like seeing what's behind the curtain and what's really going on behind it all...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What is your "Super-Power"?

What is your "super-power"?

One of my workshop photographers asked me this question and I wanted to share with you his original article. While I have a response to this question I wanted to direct you guys to his original post so you "get the full effect" before I dilute the question with my own answer.

As you guys know, I'm a huge advocate of self-discovery. I believe that questions like this are critical to our success or lack thereof. I behoove you all to think about your own "super-power"!

Props to Oliver for writing this masterpiece!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Death is Life's change agent

As I'm thinking about life, change, and death I suddenly remember Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement speech,

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

Listen to Steve.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Q/A Analog Retouching versus Lighting?

Oceans Away II

Q: I am wondering if you are planning to touch on lighting and how it affects how you retouch a photo in this workshop. In our prior email Q&A, you stated that a photographer needs to think about he is going to retouch an image when he sets up his lighting, so I'm hoping to get some more insight on this relationship.

A: Fantastic question.

The short answer is no, and I'll explain why.

When I look at my entire workflow, as an artist I do not differentiate between the beginning and the end. My workflow takes all things into consideration somewhat simultaneously. It's vertically-integrated but non-linear. It does not define boundaries between where one consideration starts and another ends. For example, when I retouch a shot like the image above I don't think in terms of step 1: cleanup/fix, step 2: balance the image, step 3: enhance. Instead, I experiment. Originally I thought this would fare better in B&W. But with the couch colors and the skin tones, I felt that I lost more than I gained by going B&W. And with the color processing, I still wanted to emphasize contrast but I didn't want the over-the-top contrast that screams "I used a digital camera and processed the hell out of it in Photoshop". So throughout my processing I went back-and-forth between layers. I'd try something, then adjust another layer, then go back and adjust the original one, then add a new one and rebalance the whole equation. The final product was the result of a lot of "negotiation".

And this works as an artist. But it doesn't work as an educator because no one can understand what the hell you're doing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


Location Scouting. One of the many perks of being a photographer.

This is not a post about improving skill sets.

This is not a post about being more efficient in any function of photography.

This post is about how we as human beings are either "efficient" or "inefficient" in our chosen professions and how that translates into rewards, whether those rewards are monetary, status, or something abstract like happiness.

Q/A Model Direction and Lighting

Q: The biggest issue I have is giving direction to models. Experienced models are not a problem, but communicating the poses and expressions I'm looking for to inexperienced models is kinda a challenge.

The next issue is lighting with strobes. I have a bit of a background in video so I'm confident working with tungsten lighting and gels. Strobe lighting on the other hand is kicking my ass. The link I sent is from a shoot where I shoot over a thousand pictures. I shoot that many mainly because of trial and error when working with spots, flat lighting, dull colors, so on.

A: The first issue you raise is an abstract issue. That's like asking, "How do I make my unmotivated employees more productive?" There are THOUSANDS of books on that topic and there is no "right" answer.

And likewise, all I can do is show you how I do it! I have a bag of tips and tricks and many suggestions to aid you in this endeavor. I have shot my fair share of "newbies" on my journey. But I'll be the first to admit, I'd rather shoot an experienced model any day!

Strobes. That's a technical question. This is more right versus wrong. I do believe that there are definitive answers for this subject matter.

Let me first suggest (and please don't take offense) that perhaps your understanding of lighting via your video work is not as solid as you might believe and thus creates the challenges you are experiencing. For example, I know many a wedding photographer that thinks he/she knows "lighting". Yet their solution for any shot is to find shade and hope for an overcast day and NEVER shoot at noon. False, false and false.

Being good at lighting means being able to articulate what makes good light and what makes bad light. This (verbal) articulation gives us grounds to make the light "better". The problem is that most people can not verbally describe the difference between good and bad light. To most people it's a "gut feeling". They'll say, "this picture just looks better than the other". But they can't explain why. Which is fine for ordinary folk but that's not good enough for us as photographers. We have to alter the light to make it "better". But it should only be trial and error for a few test shots. It should not be an ongoing experiment with no end.

Hot spots, flat lighting, uneven exposure, etc. are all symptoms but the real source of the issue is the understanding of light.

This I can help you with as well!