22 May 2015

Finally Getting Down with Instagram

The inside of a chicken bus. On the way to I forget where.
"Technology has eliminated the basement darkroom and the whole notion of photography as an intense labor of love for obsessives and replaced them with a sense of immediacy and instant gratification."
~ Joe McNally

I've been meaning to jump on the Instagram bandwagon for years and simply didn't do it. I was one of those photogs that resisted Instagram in the beginning. I was bent on not getting hung up on every single new social media app that reared its ugly head. But over the years, I began to learn more about Instagram and see some of the benefits. However, meaning to jump on the bandwagon and actually doing it are two different things.

You can now follow me and see my activities at @photoanthems on Instagram. My friend @shmercier, got me to thinking about Instagram differently more than a year ago. I already had it on my mind to set up an account, but I didn't see it as anything more than a FB alternative/complement. She doesn't use Facebook at all and connects with all her friends via Instagram instead. Her reasoning intrigued me at a time when I was becoming more and more frustrated with FB. For no reason in particular, I still procrastinated on the issue until I met another young Canadian girl, @jessicaaeburke, in El Salvador, who got me refocused again and thereby causing me to make Instagram a priority. It still took me another two weeks, but I'm now active on Instagram.

Various spots in Central America Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

Along with FB, I've had to become accustomed to the immediacy of photos. Gone is the patient wait for my return back stateside to edit photos. No longer is there the time to formulate my images into a viable presentation to that may heighten one's appreciation for my art. Nope. Demand is for now...quick, fast, and in a hurry. People want to see what you're up to, what it looks like where you are, and to vicariously join you in your adventure...as it happens. Or at the latest, within hours of the event.

The desire to fill said demand, makes one compromise to some extent. Without adequate editing tools, its necessary to post images on this blog and social media in a much larger format than I would otherwise normally do. I also fail to watermark the images, as my normal workflow would insist. I work around this by choosing images that satisfy the demand without sufficient compromise as to make me lose sleep. I'll choose images that may not be the best ones that I know I'll save for editing later. They still satisfy two needs of my followers. They see good images, (while I save my best ones for later) and they still get a sense of where I am, what I'm doing, and how things are going. So...basically, I just have to manage the trade-off.

Various spots in Central America Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

What my hope is, however, is that photographers in general do not become so dependent on social media that they mismanage that trade-off. A couple of things can happen as of a result of this. One is that the art suffers. Less work is done in camera and the art side of photo is traded for Instagram filters. When this happens, less attention is given to craftsmanship. Photogs no longer worry about knowing their equipment or understanding light. Less attention is given to presentation, the print, or the art. In addition, photogs may have a tendency to give away their best work. In their exuberance to post quickly, filters become the new edit, and their best stuff gets published for free. Instead of hanging on a wall, the farthest potential a great shot might achieve is a 72dpi square screen-size image on a profile wall.

Various spots in Central America Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

Most of the great photogs you probably already know of don't fall into this trap or tendency. They know better. However the aspiring, up and coming, new blood into the trade are more susceptible to such falloff. But you know who you are. And you know your tendencies. Ask yourself what's more important. Likes and Followers or good business and a commitment to the trade?

Now you'll excuse me while I search through my current travel archives to find some images for this post. Oh yeah...we're presently in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

03 May 2015

Midway Through...

Art Model, Covenant, El Salvador, Unedited, iPhone 6 Plus, Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

"Sometimes all you can do is all you can do."
~ Art Model, Covenant

Present location? El Salvador. Or more precisely, I'm at La Tortuga Verde in El Cuco, El Salvador. I've got another couple days here and then it's off to Nicaragua, or more precisely, La Tortuga Booluda in Leon, Nicaragua. [Actually, by the time of posting, I'm already in Leon.]

So we are probably mid-way through on this adventure. The mist that has been hindering some of my projects here has caught up with me in El Sal and after two months of travel, the rainy season is about to get under way here. I seriously want to challenge myself to improvise and return stateside with work that rivals my initial vision. I can't say I'm there just yet though I have accumulate a bunch of marvelous shots...just not the shots that I feel rival my initial vision. So, I'm working on that.

Last week, we held up at a really nice spot in Juayua (pronounced "WHY-YOU-AH) called Hotel Anahuac. Well, while shooting Art Model, Covenant in some waterfalls there, I took a nasty slip and cut my right hand wide open just below the first knuckle of my thumb. Of seven waterfalls we were to visit, this incident happens just after the second one. That just about ended my shooting until I got the bleeding under control and kept my thumb compressed against my hand til the last waterfall, where I risked burning off a few more shots. Apparently, the thumb is quite an essential digit when it comes to holding things. I count myself fortunate that I didn't drop my camera in the water, but I still got some shots.

Doc stitched me up!
Thanks Doc!

So after 2 more hours of hiking, I made it back and went to see a doctor at the local public health clinic. Doc had me sewn up in no time and they didn't charge a thing. I got stitches, waited a week and then took my knife and some scissors and took them out. Now I just gotta take care not to open the blasted thing up again. Its not easy NOT using your thumb...especially on your dominant hand. Keeping it clean and infection free has been the utmost priority. I wash it every day because this spot is right on a Pacific coast beach. Sand can be a pain in the butt in a wound and is notorious for carrying infection when trapped under a bandage and left unchecked. So between the regular cleaning and my antibiotic, I think I'm doing well.

Art Model, Covenant, Unedited, Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

I've still been shooting Art Model, Covenant on a regular basis. This being her first time out of country, she's thrilled at the thought of being naked in a foreign land and doesn't a problem shooting anywhere I get a hankering to point my camera. This is an excellent proposition because not everywhere I need to shoot is private. We've had the occasional spectator of course, but we've also had tour guests and guides privy to our endeavors. Covenant has a nice way of letting them know what we're doing and so far nobody has objected to a woman coming up and asking if its okay if she has her boobs out or takes off her clothes.

So like I said, here for a few more days and then we'll ferry around to Nica. Ferry? Yes, ferry. Its 6 to 7 hours by bus at a cost of about $45. Its Two and a HALF hours by boat for $75. I'm doing the boat for $30 more bucks. Actually, we do have to take another bus after that for about an hour to Leon, but I can handle that. [It was 2 and a half hours to Leon and there was no bus at the port, so we ended up taking a shuttle who had recently dropped off a group for $40. He wanted $60.] Three days in Leon, and then we're off on a flight back to the Caribbean coast of Nica to Big Corn Island and then a half hour boat ride to Little Corn for a week's stay at Farm Peace and Love. Hippy? Well, more like Hippy-sounding. Far as I know, we'll be by ourselves on the Northeast corner of the island in a little cottage. By mid-May, we have no clue.

Art Model, Covenant, El Salvador Unedited,
Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley
There are currently no exact plans, reservations, deadlines, or anything beyond mid-May. I know we want to make our way down back to my old stopping grounds in San Juan del Sur. If you recall, I almost got myself killed there a year ago scouting a coastline of cliffs and let the tide get high on me before I could make it all the way back. But there are some other stops I'd like to make as well. I didn't get to make it to Granada or Isla de Ometepe in the South, nor Esteli or Somoto Canyon in the North. So the precarious situation I find myself in now is to decide how long I want to spend in Nicaragua.

With funds getting tight, the temptation is to spend these last two months in Nica, rather than head on down to Costa Rica and Panama where things are more expensive. Money definitely goes further in Nica. In addition to that, its usually cheaper to fly out of Managua, Nicaragua, than from either of the airports in Costa Rica or Panama. So the thought is to come back and finish CR and Panama later this year, and THEN proceed on further South into Columbia and down western South America to Argentina.

Art Model, Covenant,  Belize Unedited, Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley
Another option is to take a break from Latin America and visit Southeast Asia. I really have no idea. All I know is that I suck at video. Like that transition? That was another one of my objectives here...get used to and do better video. I do learn from my mistakes though. Recently, I tried shooting with a more narrow the field of view. After an hour and a half of footage, I think I got my subject in the frame maybe 40% of the time. That's working with the GoPro. The Sony mirrorless don't have that issue since I can see what I'm shooting on the back of the LCD screen. I can even use the wireless feature on my Sony Action Cam to see my perspective on my iPhone. I guess I should have picked up the LCD back for the GoPro, but those things use up battery even faster than it already does. So yeah...more work to be done there. No worries. Not giving up.

BTW, its been almost 2 weeks since the cut on my hand. All's well and healing just fine. No more bandages, but still sensitive. I should be good to go in the next week or so. Next stop...Little Corn Island and Farm Peace and Love!

16 April 2015

Trials and Tribulations, Central America 2015

Art Model, Covenant, Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley, unedited
"We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment."
~ Hilaire Belloc

I don't think I've gone a full month without a blog post in a while, but hey...stuff happens.

So, Its been about 6 weeks since my last post and that is the amount of time I have been traveling through Central America with Art Model, Covenant. We flew into Guatemala City and stayed over night before catching the next plane out heading north to Flores. So we spent our first 10 days or so in Flores and El Remate at opposite ends of Lake Peten. From there it was on to Belize. 4 days on Tobacco Caye, 3 days in Hopkins, and 4 days in Punta Gorda. We left Belize and re-entered Guatemala in the little river town of Livingston for 5 days before doing a 10 hour chicken bus ride to Copan Ruinas, Honduras. The goal was to head to Gracias, Honduras,  but we ended up getting stuck in Copan. That turned out to be a good thing,  but I'll get into that a bit in a future post, maybe. Five days in Copan ended in a 6 hour bus ride BACK to Guatemala, where we stayed in Antigua for four days. I am presently at a hotel on Lake Atitlan getting ready to leave after a one week stay. Tomorrow I head back to Antigua and then another spot nearby to live in a tree house for a few days before heading to El Salvador.

Art Model, Covenant, Jungle Resort Punta Gorda, Belize
Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley

So that's how things have gone travel-wise. We have hit some budget spots for the most part. Some of these budget spots have been better experiences than the more upscale properties. I think the way we are traveling suits us just fine. We've made plans to economize everything with the exception of one really nice location per month. Its definitely good to take a break and treat yourself to some of the better places. But at the same time, you will also learn that some of these so-called budget places can be just as accommodating as the bigger places. I'm definitely a fan of Chaltunha located on the peninsula from the lake island of Flores. Its a 5 minute lancha ride for under a dollar. Trust you me, I have a lot of good things to say about Casa del Mundo here at Lake Atitlan, but for 9 times the amount I spent at Chaltunha, I can't say that the stay was 9 times the experience.

Art Model, Covenant Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley
I've also run into some difficulties here that have posed significant challenges to my photo plans while I've been here. This is an excellent time of year to travel. But I'm starting to see that many of the spots have not been as ideal as I would have imagined for photography. Don't get me wrong. I still have made some great shots, but some of my primary objectives for night time work have still been elusive. The skies have been quite cloudy so far on this venture. Its been either that or light pollution has been problematic when I need total darkness. I'm currently on the north end of Lake Atitlan facing south which is exactly where I need to be positioned to shoot the Milky Way. However, there is so much mist and cloud cover, I can't even see the volcanoes on the other side of the lake.

But no worries. Chances are, El Salvador will be a bit better for photo work in terms of what I need. And it will be later in the season so I expect the skies to clear up. Other than being here, I'm not sure there are any books, or reference materials that could have prepared me for that. There aren't any "best time of year to shoot Central America" books out there, that I know of and even if there were, it will still depend on what conditions you need for a specific purpose or subject. There's not anything I ever read that said this time of year would be cloudy and misty in this region of the world. But thankfully, I'm not even close to half way though this trip! So I definitely have time to make up what I've missed thus far. So I'm not worried. For the time being, I'm planning different shots and working with what I have. Mistakes...? Well aside from not being able to anticipate the environmental aspects that have hindered me, I think the only think I'd have wished to change would be NOT forgetting sensor cleaning kits and here's why:

Me and Art Model, Covenant, Tobacco Caye, Belize Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley
As you already know, I've switched from DSLR to full mirrorless systems, namely the Sony A7s and the newer A7MarkII. Excellent cameras to be sure and I'm getting great stuff with them. Granted, I've somehow cracked the LCD screen on the MKII somehow, but its minor. Nonetheless, these systems, speaking with reference to Mirrorless, not just Sony Mirrorless, operate from an open shutter. This means that when you take the lens off, you are staring at the sensor. There is no mirror in front of it, nor a closed shutter to protect it as you change lenses. So switching lenses in the open air can lead to crap getting on the sensor fairly easily. So basically, you just have to be extra careful when making a lens change. Where it still factors in with me is that I spent a lot of time on the Caribbean coastline. Sea salt is in the air! And of course salt is NEVER a friend to an image sensor. So yeah, I'm wishing I hadn't forgotten to pick up a sensor cleaning kit, just to be safe.

Misty day at Atitlan Copyright 2015 Terrell Neasley
One thing I'm glad I did pick up were extra batteries! Good grief! These cameras will suck some juice! But when you consider that EVERYTHING on this camera is electronic and no matter what you do, it requires a block of energy, its no wonder that this will be a trade-off. I have 3 batteries per camera and I picked up an extra charger for the A7MarkII. The A7s came with an external charger already, plus an extra battery. Thanks Sony for that foresight. All in all, the duplicity of travel is that yes...I'm glad I still have 3 or 4 more months left. But at the same time, I suuuure want to get back and edit!!

28 February 2015

Three Objectives for Central America

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley, A7MkII
"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship."
~ Louisa May Alcott

Some of what I'll be doing for all this time that I'll be spending down in Central America will obviously focus on taking fine art photos, portraiture, and street work. This is what I usually end up coming back with the most. But I'll also be doing a few other things while I'm away, as well. I'll have a lot of down time to catch up on reading and also doing some writing. But here are some other goals and objectives (among several) that I'll share with you right now.
Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
You always know I always strive to be a better photographer and teacher, so lets start there. If you didn't already suspect or know me, I shoot nudes. That's not all I shoot, but its a definitely a passion of mine. I want to begin there. I want to do a better job of it. Yes. Believe it or not, I have more to learn in that genre. Many of you will probably believe the greater fact is that I ADMIT to needing to learn more. I do not know, as of yet HOW I will approach this objective. I can do my own study and research, but I think I will learn best by consulting with some mentors like Dave Rudin or Dave Levingston. Should I take a class of some sort? Maybe do a workshop that has a direct focus on photographing the nude? Something I have thought of doing for years has been to visit Prague. I find that many photographic artists from just east of Germany and on into Russia have been inspirations to me. I find them to be more in tune with my style or of a such that I aspire to.

In addition to that, I need to make a more concerted effort to actually do more of something with my art nude work. I have terabytes of work that no one has really seen. You've probably only seen maybe a tenth of all the work I've done with Panda. Some of my best work with Emma was never made available for about 8 months before anyone saw it. Kristi C has been a most prolific model for me over the last year. Again, most of it unseen. So big, big focus towards exhibition and a consistent venue to show my art nude work will be a major focus upon my return. I'll likely come out of hiatus on photo competitions and do some of those again, but that's an aside. Exhibition will be a more primary focus when I get back. My work needs to be on walls. This is why I do it...nudes or otherwise. I make my stuff to be viewed in person upon a physical medium.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over."
~ Richard Branson

Let's see...what else? Oh yeah...again, photographically speaking, I want to do better teaching. I'm limiting myself to 10 students a year, doing one-on-one, two-week courses. I used to conduct workshops when I first came to Vegas with my Las Vegas Art Models Group. A max attendance would be 12 photogs. Now I teach one-on-one and I want to do it better. The goal is to make it more fun, better information, and less taxing on myself. I just did two students back to back this month. I don't know how teachers do it every day like that...ALL friggin' year!! My friend, Howard suggested doing tours where I take people on some of my travel excursions. I can see that. I've already been asking family and friends to come visit me for a few days while I'm away. Meet me in El Salvador or Lake Atitlan in Guatemala for a few days. We can do some photowalks or just chill with me sippin' Cuba Libres. I need more and better teaching props. Some concepts I have in my head simply don't exist! I need to find somebody to fabricate some of this stuff for me. I don't want to rely on videos to make my point. Hands on physical props would serve a better purpose. So yes, I want to contemplate how I will do this.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Video! That's another one. I want to get as good with vids and I am with photowork. I have the A7s, which is excellent for video work. I'll need to get the Atomos Shogun external output monitor/harddrive to do 4K work, since you can't shoot 4K straight to the SD card. But for the time being, 1080p should suffice just nicely. Editing video will also be a key factor, which means I'll also need to bump my subscription to Adobe CC 2014 back to the full version. I downgraded it last Nov to just the Photoshop/Lightroom version. I'll need Adobe Premier Pro back again, in particular. I should also dust off my audio gear. I'll take with me a shotgun mic and maybe my Zoom H4n external audio recorder. My goal is to just make short clips, starting with time-lapse, some slow motion work, and then just build from there. So we'll see. 

25 February 2015

Going Forward with Sony

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."
~ John D. Rockefeller

Okay. So I've already mentioned that I've made a switch in my gear, from Nikon and the D800e to Sony and both the A7s and the A7MarkII. And that's the way I'll be for a while. I have no doubt Sony will come out with a successor to the A7r and there's a significant likelihood that I will reach out for that one too. 

So here's what I like about the Sony system.

I did a post a while back on why I went with Fuji a year ago over Sony. I was highly impressed with the Fuji system for 3 reasons. They have damn excellent lenses and already had a plethora of glass when Sony had maybe 3 at the time for full frame cams. Second, they have an excellent reputation for doing firmware upgrades that actually improve your cameras as opposed to just fixing bugs and adding new languages. Also, Fuji listens to their customer base better than any other camera manufacture that I've seen or heard of.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
But Sony is still head and shoulders above them all right now. As far as camera systems go, there is only one company in the business that comes to mind when you think of innovation. Its as if they are willing to listen to any crazy idea, throw money at it, develop it, and see what happens. Granted, they are not as haphazard as that, I'm sure. Canon has used the term "game-changer" with reference to their 70D in their marketing campaigns. I'm here to tell you that Sony is definitely changing the business model of the photographic industry. The top camera manufactures make camera models in varying grades of features, quality, and durability. Sony's top mirrorless system makes one pro camera system and then varies the model based on NEED. If you need a general pro-level system, get the A7MarkII. If you need high resolution, get the A7r. Low-light sensitivity? Get the A7s. A photog can effectively have a need for all 3 systems. Not so, with Nikon or Canon. If you want a second body, you either get a duplicate camera to the main system, or get one of lower quality and ability. So what makes Sony's mirrorless system different from the standard DSLR?

First, there's no need for a mirror. DSLR's are going to have to change. There's no getting around that. I've even said before that somebody is going to make a shutterless system at some point which will take the top off the speed limit of 1/8000ths of a second. Sensor tech is such that turning it on and off will suffice. Shutter speed will become a historic title much the same as how we still call a shutter beyond 30 seconds, "bulb" mode. In a few years, shutter speeds will rival the effective shutter speeds of flash at its shortest duration which is 1/40,000ths of a second with several of today's speedlites. Or at least half that, for now.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
Taking out the mirror has the advantage of making the overall camera smaller and lighter. This has been the trend for the last decade and is probably the number one or possibly the second largest catalyst for more female photographers into the industry. I experienced this the first time I took my D800e to Guatemala for a month. The weight of the camera and lenses was a bit more than I preferred. Presently, I can take two Sony bodies and 3 lenses and not even feel it. Do I sacrifice quality or durability. No. Speed? Not at all. I can do whatever a DSLR does plus some, with the exception of shoot 14 frames/second like Canon's 1Dx. I can match Nikon's 11 fps or Canon's 7DMarkII with Sony's a6000, even though it is a crop sensor camera.

Right now, my work and camera needs demand smaller sizes, superior low-light performances, and an all around general use system. The A7s will do natively, ISO 50-409,600. But its not always about high ISO's. People may balk at the low pixel count, but I can attest to how over-rated people can depend on that stat. The A7s gives me the ability to shoot at the lowest ISO's in the dark and still freeze people moving around. My Nikon D800e or the Fuji XE-2 could do low light photography, but my subject would have to be absolutely still and I'd need higher ISO's. I can now get 1/30th of a shutter at low ISO's whereas I'd be using a half second shutter at high ISO's with either my Nikon or Fuji. That's the benefit of the larger full-frame pixels and Sony's Bionz-X processor.

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
~ C. S. Lewis

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s

Weaknesses? Well, yeah. Every camera system will have compromises, and Sony is no different. From the short time I've been shooting, I know that I won't use my A7s as much where lots of detail is necessary or doing environmental portraits from a distance. I may be a bit biased in this regard because I am used to the 36MP sensor detail of the Nikon D800e. I've also noticed that my sensor is already in need of cleaning on the A7MkII after a recent shoot in the desert during inclement weather conditions and lens changes. Mirrorless systems operate from an open shutter position, which means as soon as you pull off the lens, the sensor is RIGHT there, 17mm back from the lens. This just means you have to be a bit more careful when removing and switching lenses. Battery life is also going to be a compromise. EVERYTHING about Sony Mirrorless systems use juice if the camera is on. Even if you don't use the LCD to compose, the viewfinder is electronic, so you're still using juice for that. The solution, buy friggin more batteries! It takes me all of 4 seconds to replace a battery. Problem solved.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
Finally, as far as this post is concerned... the price-point is superb! I can't really find a good reason to spend what I used to on DSLRs when I have another option in what I feel to be a better camera anyway. I'll put my A7MarkII up against a Canon 5DMarkIII any day for pure picture quality. And this is what I'm saying. If you're getting just as good a shot in a smaller package for a lower price, why would you not do that? Having a hard time letting go of all that Canon or Nikon glass? Guess what, get a Metabones adapter and keep it to use with the Sony. Boom. I just made your world better.
***Drops Mic to the floor***

10 February 2015

The Muse and the Model - Panda's Influence

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley

“I never refused when he wanted to take a picture,” said Eleanor Callahan, the 91-year-old widow of the photographer Harry Callahan. “I never complained, whatever I was doing. If he said: ‘Come quick, Eleanor — there’s a good light,’ I was right there." - New York Times "The Artist's Wife: A Constant Muse Who Never Said No"

So I looked up the definition of a muse. All where fairly consistent in referring to either the mythological daughters of Zeus, to think about something intently, or someone who is a source of inspiration an artist. As artistic endeavors go, I think a muse is a bit more than that. The word even sounds beautiful, "....MUYOOOZ". There are models and then there are muses.

Most all artists who sculpt, paint, draw, or photography the human form need models. As a photographer, I need models in my life constantly. I can't do what I do without models. Sometimes I need a certain shape, style, or hair for a certain project. I can search around and find someone who meets those specs or has the desired characteristics to complete my project. So I'll say a model is project oriented as a requirement to complete a desired goal.

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley
A muse on the other hand goes a bit further. A muse can start as a model, but then develop into more. In more cases than not, this relationship is derived from a familiarity developed over successive modeling sessions. Then you also have those special cases where a muse pops into your life like magic and bestows gifts that allow you to develop as an artist. So I'll say a muse is craft-oriented as an option to complete a desired evolution in a model/artist relationship. Yeah...that's it.

"I'm not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work."
~ Ray Bradbury

To date, I haven't spent more time shooting any one person more than I have with the phenomenon you all know as Panda. She hasn't lived in Vegas since almost a year now and I gotta say I miss me some Panda. Its not easy to simply find or hire a muse as any artist will attest to. Every now and again, you get a few that stick with you, inspire you, and inevitably make you evolve your style, your craft, and your self as a person. Having one, must less two at any given time is tough. If the chemistry ain't there with the non-verbal cues, then that muse relationship may not develop. You don't identify a muse by her name badge. She doesn't answer a craigslist ad looking for a muse. That relationship isn't usually established right off the bat, but some are and it was my honor to have that with Panda. 

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley
Now don't get me wrong. Cuz I can definitely see some of ya'll's minds going there. This isn't to say, the artist and muse has to establish a relationship beyond the artistic confines that birthed it. So get your minds out of the gutter. Panda is married with a kid and at no time did I (or will I) disrespect that. In fact, it can be a challenge for some artists to handle that, but for me, the muse relationship was not worth the sacrifice to ever find out. But then some of the most meaningful relationships have indeed sprung from the model/artist relationship. Case in point...my fave photographer and muse combo, Edward Weston and Charis Wilson. A mentor of mine just got married a year or so ago. Same thing. So I'm not say a photog should NEVER get involved with a model, but the situation and timing has to be right. And most of all its gotta be mutual, of course.

It starts with the attitude. And then, the connection, followed by respect. Suddenly...POOF! You've found your muse. Panda, starting out had the right attitude that fit my work. Understandably, this will be different from one artist to the next, but for me her willingness to pose nude and to fully explore my vision with me, cinched it. Granted, not all muses need to go to the extreme she does. If I could envision it, she was pretty much game. Much like the quote above says, she was a model who didn't say no. And its not so much the fact that she hasn't to day told me "no". I think it speaks more to the kind of relationship that we have wherein she simply trusts me AND that our ideals are so in line that she doesn't NEED to say no. She cares about the art as much as I do. Dunking herself in the frigid Colorado River, AFTER she had already gotten out of it is above and beyond the call of duty. I saw a better spot for a shot only minutes after she dried off and for the sake of the shot, she got back in that water again. 

Art Model, Panda © 2012 Terrell Neasley

We connected quickly. In fact, I would even say we connected prior to actual shooting. I initially didn't believe she was actually sincere about modeling for me the Friday night we met, til she called me again EARLY that next SATURDAY morning to confirm. I knew I had something special on my hands. Her quirky style and those big eyes lent itself to my art like the perfect match. From the start, she listened intently as I described the goals for the upcoming session. Now a good muse will help you figure out your project, but not take over the project. Panda's gift is her ability to sense and anticipate what I'm going to ask for. That's the connection. She can see my non-verbal cues and very accurately and consistently predict what I'm going to ask for her and she simply moves or repositions herself prior to me completing the thought in my head much less getting the words out of my mouth.

Art Model, Panda © 2013 Terrell Neasley

The mutual respect comes by recognizing each others time, effort, and boundaries. Of the 21 shoots we did, non of them were ever quick. Panda doesn't schedule a shoot unless she knows she has the time to give me. This allows things to flow much easier since there is no rushing about. I can take my time and get the shot or let things develop. I try to be conscious of her efforts to deliver for me and try to understand that that level of energy to put up with me is not easily maintained for extended periods of time. And I'm also conscious of the fact that I don't EVER want to piss off her husband by keeping her out too late. I'm not trying to do anything that could result in my work being PandaLESS, so I'm respecting her husband in this relationship as well. And trust me, this dude is as cool as they come. 

I don't know when I will get to shoot her again. I've made an attempt to not discuss her in past tense, as if my shooting days with her is done. She could come back to Vegas or I could go to where she is. Or we could even meet up at some spot in a totally different state (or country!) and shoot there. I'm willing to bet she'll be in front of my lens again. I know you all remain hopeful! 

Art Model, Panda © 2013 Terrell Neasley

21 January 2015

What's in Central America That Keeps Me Going Back

Tikal, Guatemala

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I get asked that question a lot these days as I prepare for my next adventure down South. And the basic answer is that I'm not done with the place yet. THIS particular excursion will take me to all 7 countries revisiting a few spots, but mainly checking out new ones. I'll visit the Caribbean and Pacific sides of just about every country I visit. Belize only has a Caribbean side, but I'll be working my way around both sides of it, nonetheless. Most of my time will be spent in Guatemala and Nicaragua, two countries I am already familiar with. So why the affinity for such places in the world...? Well, I'll tell you.

First, its because of Panama. I spent some time there while in the military. Twice, for jungle training and we got sent down there on another occasion. It was the first place in the world that was absolutely totally different from all I had known. I grew up in Texas and RARELY left the state and hardly traveled more than 200 miles from home. Germany was my first duty station after my enlistment. Germany was different, yes. But I still understood the urban landscape, about catching a cab, the weather was a bit cooler most times, and the people were not entirely different from my home with the exception of the language.

Seven Altars, Livingston, Guatemala
The first time I got off the plane in Panama, I could barely breathe! The humidity in East Texas can get pretty damn muggy. The humidity in Panama required GILLS! And the HEAT! Training was restricted to mornings and afternoons. It was forbidden to do anything requiring exertion  in the middle of the day. I could eat a brat from anywhere in Germany. The first time I burst open a coconut in Panama, I had the runs for two days. EVERYTHING took acclamation.

But it was BEAUTIFUL!!

I recall being on patrol once and as lead element, I halted the formation upon coming to a clearing of the biggest tree I had ever laid eyes on. I had seen taller trees before, but this one was bigger around than a house. A few hundred meters of more machete bush-wacking and I rolled up on another one TWICE as big. One tree you DIDN'T want to have a close encounter with was Black Palm. This tree is the inevitable offspring between a palm tree and a porcupine. The spines that stick out will penetrate damn near anything, but break off with the slightest upward or downward pressure. And then there were also things in the jungle that could kill you. Simply by the grace of God, I avoided a face strike by the countries deadliest snake, the Fer-de-Lance, with its neurotoxic venom. Had it been the more aggressive bushmaster, I'd likely be dead. And oh my God, the last thing you would ever want would be to get held up in the jungle after sunset. We had a squad that was so unfortunate as to experience this. I did not get their story. But I saw the evidence in their demurred stature and swollen/bumpy bodies. I didn't need to know anything else. I simply wasn't going to have my ass in the jungle at night.

Hostel Dorm, Livingston, Guatemala

“Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” – Maya Angelou

A few times, we got opportunities to visit the nearby city. I stayed close to the base (on one of my visits) at Fort Sherman's Jungle Operations Training Center, but some of us spent time getting into trouble in Colon. I rarely went further than the closest place to get food or see a movie. The times I did get out and about, what I recall most are the women and what I now know were "chicken" buses. If you are an ass-man, you will love Panama. And these buses reminded me of how the homies did their cars with a lot of custom flashy work, but just in a more colorful fashion. I promised myself that I would come back and visit this country again as a civilian without the restrictions I had as a soldier.

Typical Nica breakfast prepared by my host, Dona Lucia!
Another reason is that its CHEAP! Good gracious! My ticket to Guatemala City was listed at $202 one-way. I did some seat upgrades that brought it up to almost twice that, but a round trip ticket can be had for $365 to several places in Central America. I usually have to fly one-way because I'm never certain when I start a trip, when or from where I'll return. Accommodations are also inexpensive. Sure you can pay $100 or more a night in plenty of places. But you can also stay for $20 a night and do VERY well, in some of the most gorgeous spots on the planet. Food can be had for $10 a day and you get FULL. Catch a bus for an 8-hour road trip for $10. If I wasn't moving around so much, I'd probably just rent a residence for a few months for a few hundred or maybe house-sit for nothing. Deals abound! I'll be in at least 20 spots staying in one place for no longer than 4 or 5 days in most cases. I'll be on Little Corn Island for a week in Nicaragua in my own little cottage on the beach. I will even be in a dog-gone treehouse with a queen size bed and hot water shower in Guatemala!

But its also the experiences that keep me returning. I get to better understand new and various cultures. They may be of the same ethnicity, but highland people do it differently than those by the coast. And the Garifuna do it differently than everybody.  Then there are the fellow travelers who come from all over the world just to cross your path. I made many new friends that I still talk to today. And some, not so much. The pics I come back with are some of my best artwork and they make me money. That should be reason enough. And I get better every time I go there. I always come back with great stories. Okay, so I almost got killed a couple times on my last visit. BUT I DIDN'T DIE! And it was mainly my fault. I'll def be more careful this time around. My girl with be with me on this trip so I know I can't take chances like I did on the last one. I love the people. I love the land. What can I say? It keeps me coming back.

Tobacco Caye, Belize

What's next? Well that all depends. I could get a wild hair and keep on after Panama into Colombia and keep skirting South down the Pacific. I'll do that then or on my next excursion, but South America may as well be the next itinerary item, mainly Columbia, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. I can break it up and do Brazil and Argentina later. If I don't do South America right off, then Southeast Asia will be the next priority. Now, I'm talking extended visits for the most part. I still want to make my way over to Iceland for a few weeks, but I'm not counting that in my "gone for a while" excursions. I estimate 3 months for this trip in March, but its looking more like a few weeks more if not right at 4. So who knows? Tomorrow is not promised to me. I'll stay focused on the event ahead of me for now.

04 January 2015

Still in Awe of Photography

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I've been in this game for a while now. At least since 2005 on a serious level. At any given time, its easy to get bored, burned out, or just simply tired of a profession, industry, or business of some sort. Its normal. Things stagnate from time to time. Monotony often sets in and you have to look for a little change in routine or maybe take a break to step away from your profession from time to time. In the Army, as well as all the Armed Services, we were all encouraged to take some R&R to blow off steam on a regular basis. Getting burned out could cause lapses in inspections of equipment or result in attention to detail issues.

I can't say this has been the case with me in photography. I am just as excited about it now as when I saw my first print come to life as it sat in a fresh batch of Kodak D-76 developer. And that was something in and of itself that you just couldn't get tired of. It was like magic. After careful exposure, and burning and dodging in a darkroom, a blank sheet of Ilford Fiber-based Variable Contrast Multigrade IV paper, suddenly came to live with the image you previously captured on film. I'll confess, though. I had my doubts when I switched to digital in 2007. I was a film purist because I felt digital took out the craftsmanship in which I made that print with my hands, manipulating light and shadow to make the final print. Photoshop seemed too much bits and bytes, and not enough of a man-made feel. I got over that the more I realized, its not so much the hands, but more the mind that creates and manipulates the light and shadow.

Art Model, Emma ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I can't say its like this for every photog you meet. I have met quite a few who's camera is more of a job than a creative outlet. They work, earn money, and that's it. No personal projects, just take the money and put the camera down til its time to earn money again. I don't begrudge them. That's their choice. As for me, I think I am still in love with photo for a few reasons.

1. First and foremost, I shoot what I like. You gotta pay me a lot of money to make me shoot something I don't really want to shoot. I learned that when I first got to Vegas and got a gig shooting furniture for a business in the World Market Center here in Vegas for showroom ads. Shooting a white couch under 3 different kinds of light on the showcase floor sucked. Granted, I still didn't know near as much as I do now, but I did it for the money. HATED IT! I learned that early on and it was a blessing. Shoot what you love.

2. I have an inherent desire to be good at whatever I spend the most time in. I study my ass off in most anything I want to know about. But for something I absolutely love, my study habits kick into overdrive. Its not always in a desire to be better. Most times, its because I have something on my brain that I want to create and have to learn how to do it. So I am in a constant state of learning to improve and hone my craft. Additionally, I don't stay on the same thing for too long. One day my thing may be landscape. Another day, its portraits. And then I want to kick it up and do extended exposure. Lastly, I simply hate not knowing. The better you get, the more people you attract. I get other photographers who ask me questions about settings or maybe how to shoot something. Often times I act as a forensic scientist to detect what was wrong or troubleshoot an issue with a camera or image. What's that thick black line that goes all the way across the bottom of your picture? Its a result of using a shutter speed high than the sync speed of your camera when using flash. How do I know that? I didn't want to be afraid of using artificial light, so I studied flash. So study your ass off.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” 
― W.B. Yeats

3. I associate with a other photographers and learn from mentors. I started the very first Meetup.com photography group here in Las Vegas. It was the Las Vegas Art Models Group mainly for helping photographers learn to work with the nude model as well as helping nude models get hired by photographers. I then assisted one of the attendees of my group, Garrett Winslow, organize another group, the Las Vegas Photographic Society made for photographers to help them network and grow their craft. Over the years, I developed a good reputation, but sharing my knowledge, but also from increasing my knowledge with mentors like Dave Rudin and Dave Proctor, just to name a few. I have also stayed active in online groups to share my work, get feedback, and offer help to others. So don't become an island.

4. I started working in a camera shop. B&C Camera, owned by my good friend and accomplished photographer Joe Dumic. He bought this camera shop when ever other one was failing, turned it around and this store not only survives, but thrives. He's spearheading his third expansion project for B&C Camera in just 4 years. Joe has helped me immensely in my own business operations. However working in a camera store gives me the ability to tap into a knowledge base you won't find anywhere else. I am there only two days a week, but I get to learn about every new camera system that comes out. Technology is changing all the time. Most industries can't say that. A hammer hasn't changed much since its invention. Devices to capture a still image or record one moving, and all the accessories that are invented on a daily basis are improved every day. I get to try out these new systems and get help from the best gurus from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, and also LYTRO! Just today I got an email from Joe inviting me to an exclusive Canon event. Anther great aspect is the customers I meet. I stay on my toes to help those beginner photographers get the right camera, fix their problems, and get ideas on lighting set-ups. But I also meet professional people coming in to get gear as well. Just a couple of days ago, Adan Van Dam, Las Vegas based film producer/director visited the store and I got to learn about his 4K BlackMagic full frame rig. So don't restrict your universe to just the gear you know. And surround yourself with and learn from other great talent.

Art Model, Faerie ©2012 Terrell Neasley

5. I like to experiment and take chances. I know that every endeavor I take won't pan out. I'm okay with that. Sometimes I lose money. Sometimes, all my efforts are wasted; but are they really? Every time I do something that doesn't pan out, its really a learning experience. I can honestly say, I learn some valuable lessons when I get screwed over, lose an opportunity, or otherwise fail. I learn how to be wiser with my selections on who I deal with, prepare better, and thus protect myself better from unfortunate events. Learning these lessons early on help keep the ripples from these mistakes small. I don't mind small mistakes. And catching them early keeps the big ones at bay. So learn to play and don't be afraid to fail.

I could list several more, but this post is getting long. To add 3 more, persistence despite rough times, doing your own personal projects, constantly looking at other great work, teaching photography, and traveling would be key elements that definitely aid in my ability to stay locked in on photo. In all these years, photo has never been a dried up concept for me. And you know...another great motivator is that if you're good enough, people will pay you to keep doing what you do. So.... Amazing, isn't it?

29 December 2014

Adding a Little Bit [More] of Crazy

Street work, Managua, Nicaragua © 2014 Terrell Neasley
There are definitely some aspects about 2014 that I'm much rather forget. As the holiday season comes to a close, its customary to look back at what you've done and make plans on the new year. I still can't say I have any regrets for this past year. You have to take the good with the bad. I've definitely had some crazy in my life. But here's my new motto for the 2015 seasons ahead...

"No Great Mind has Ever Existed without a Touch of Madness" 
~ Aristotle 

Volcanic Mountains, Antigua, Guatemala ©2012 Terrell Neasley
So I'mma go with the flow and embrace a little bit of crazy. I know...I know, to most of you, I'm already a little bit off my rocker. Granted. But I'm not talking normal standards of insanity. I'm speaking relatively to the effect of crazy to somebody who is already crazy. Know what I mean.

I already operate off the beaten path, so to speak. So I'll embrace a little bit more crazy and see what happens. Kind of like the mad scientist that takes a sip of his own diabolical concoction or devious potion and then just wait to see what happens. So if my nose hairs start growing profusely, just ignore it. You'll know I'm trying out some strange mix. Hopefully I won't lose my mind. Any further. I want to take my photography up a few notches (As I always do. No comfort zones for me!) and this time I'm gonna do so unbounded. I'm going to just try things and then just wait to see what happens. Whatever comes to mind, I'm going to just let it loose. When I'm not actively engaged on a project, I'll keep shooting until something else nutty inspires me.

Caribbean Island of Tobacco Caye, Belize ©2012 Terrell Neasley
But I'm starting off the year with another trip to Central America. Well, maybe not literally start the year, as I did last year. I won't head out til March, but it'll begin there, methinks. I'm going to cut my classes and private instruction time to concentrate on other endeavors for the year. I'll still take on students after I get back, but not near so many as this past year. I'll do 5 slots for January and February, first come first serve. Then I'm going on hiatus from teaching for a bit. I expect this trip to take me into the middle of June, but I will likely not do any teaching gigs til the fall. Yep...trying to make summer plans as well. Don't even get me started on the art nude shoots I refuse to let get by me this summer. So lotta work.

Southern Coast of Nicaragua, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
While in Central America, I'll concentrate on my fine art and comeback with some amazing work for you to buy! I'll be working more night time projects, which is why I picked up this Sony A7s. This thing is awesome and has been the best pick camera on many a camera reviewer sites. I'll likely get one more camera, probably the A7MarkII and one more lens. I already have the full-frame 35mm, and 55mm, but I still need a wide-angle lens. I've already done agreements to shoot some of the properties I'll be staying at during my journey. I'll be in roughly 25 different hotels, hostels, resorts, and getaways. It will definitely be cool to get some interior, property, and staff work done in exchange for a free stay for my girlfriend and I. So I'll definitely need either the Rokinon 14mm, (as I used with my Nikon D800E before I sold it), or the Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm sweetness in a glass lens made for Sony. I've been doing all primes with Fuji and Sony, but that 16-35 is a piece of art. I might have to bend a little bit. My hotel clients will really appreciate either, because they both do excellent work. And its a fun thing for me cuz I like shooting nice interiors.

Outside of all that, lets just see where my head takes me over the next three hundred or so days. And if you want to pick up any of my work, let me know and we can hammer something out. I've got plenty to choose from on my website. Just keep in mind, while I currently don't shoot large format, my prints, however, are! I don't like my art displayed small. So if you love being at 16x20 or larger, feel free to give me a shout! I won't say I'm cheap, but you'll love it. I print on the good stuff. I certainly hope to come back with more artwork that you love to look at. Stay tuned in. Can't wait for March!

04 December 2014

Another New Paradigm - The Sony A7s

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” ― Frank Zappa

Its happened. I've made another major change in my photographic evolution. For the first time in my photographic life, I'm DSLR-less. Or more commonly stated. I've gone Mirrorless. So this makes the third time I've made a metamorphosis like this. It first started when I chose to leave film and jump into the digital world in the fall of 2007. I was already a Canon user and felt no real reason to NOT be Canon just because I no longer used film and darkroom techniques to create my images. That was a hard switch, but I felt the Canon 40D did the job as about as good as I could get in film and stay within a budget. I think I paid about $1500 or so and got some speedlites and umbrellas to put on stands for my lighting gear. That's how I started. I used the Canon ST-E2 Infrared transmitters to trigger my 430EXII Speedlights. I quickly learned its limitations and rented the Canon 5DMarkII full frame system and fell in love with it. I paired it with a 7D and felt unstoppable. I eventually acquired a full line-up of Canon L-Series lenses, to include the 24mm Tilt-Shift (which made me money by simply having the lens ON my camera. It got attention and got me gigs), as well as my favorite the 85mm 1.2. The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II was by far my sharpest and fastest lens to focus with, but the shallow depth of field of the 85mm 1.2 held my heart.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
And so it came, as all things must, the end of my fellowship with Canon. My desire to travel quickly became a priority and my intention was to go medium format. And then Nikon came out with the D800/D800E. I was disappointed in the Canon 5DMarkIII. It just didn't have the resolution and detail I desired for my artwork. A friend of mine showed me what the D800E could do and I quickly noted that what I saw was exactly what went on in my head. Oddly enough I paired it with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 image stabilized lens and it served me far better than Nikon's own 24-70. I took it to Guatemala and Belize in 2012 and got exactly what I wanted. Match made in Heaven, right. Well, kinda...

The D800E fit my hands well. The size and weight were great for what I do here in the US...but abroad? Not so much. I thought I could carry fewer lenses by packing the 28-300mm and the 50mm 1.4. The 50mm did work. The 28-300mm did as well, but not quite as well. I began to see extensive Chromatic Aberation problems with the lens when the lighting conditions were higher in contrast such as the bright sun coming through the trees. This meant that I could no longer cut corners and would have to bring out the good stuff and carry more and more costly lenses on my next trip. But this notion did not appeal to me. I backpack. I don't have roller bags when I travel. Carrying all that heavy gear in Guatemala, the D800E and the 2 lenses were already bothersome. I just couldn't imagine carrying even more gear.

So then I got the Fujifilm X-E2 for my next trip to Central America. Right before I left, I picked up the camera kit, which came with the metal barrel 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and aperture ring, along with the 35mm 1.4. Fuji has an excellent line-up of cameras and especially lenses. I came back after almost 3 months in Nicaragua with EXCELLENT work. I even took it on a pro gig in L.A. on my way back to Las Vegas. The Fujifilm X-E2 is the first mirrorless camera that I purchased, but I still worked with my D800E in and around Vegas.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
But now, that's all changed since I'm doing more work with low-light, nighttime, and astronomy...particularly with shooting nudes in these settings. This is where Sony has solved this problem. There's not another camera on the planet that have these attributes better than the A7s. Its another learning curve to get used to, but frankly, I like it. As of last week, I made my 3rd evolution and ventured into the little-known world of Mirrorless Interchangeble Lens Cameras as my sole system of choice. I still have the APS-C sensor Fujifilm X-E2, but I no longer have my Nikon D800E. I am 100% Mirrorless. My needs have changed and I had no problem with making the adjustment...again. I needed lighter weight systems and I needed the ability to shoot better in lower light. Usually, all that's necessary is a tripod, a cable-release and some patience. But sometimes the elements in my composition would move, such as the clouds, and I needed much shorter shutter times. And then there are a few other reasons I won't get into at the moment, but suffice to say, I think this is special. The full-frame A7s simply gives me what I need in order to get what's in my head to in front of my eyes. I've had a few people speak negatively on my decisions in this regard, but I'll save that for another post.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
For now, I'll have images edited before long and I'll continue to test and learn this new system. I still have another body, another lens, and a couple more things to get to prepare me for my next adventure. I think that'll be the new A7MarkII or a new Fujifilm system. I'm pretty sure, that'll be it. I picked up the 35mm 2.8 yesterday and still need the 55mm 1.8, along with at least 1 Rokinon lens, but maybe two. Over the past few months, you've seen me blog about what I thought were shortcomings in the lack of innovation of Canon and Nikon. Well, now I've put my money with my words and made that change.

15 November 2014


Art Model and Performer, Mercy ©2011 Terrell Neasley. Men's Room.
Sometimes you just have to get off your ass and go. I'm still harping on the Bringing Back the Passion that I started earlier this month. I followed that post up with a post on Flash and then again with Ambient (light) as some easy alternatives to help you blow on those embers that could ignite your photo passions again. So LOCATION is what I wanna cover at the moment. Why? Cuz its easy. You simply get your ass up out of the house and go someplace with the explicit and direct intent to photograph something.

Sometimes people will tell you to start in your own back yard. Nah. Not good enough. You are still too comfortable in your own house and yard. I don't see that as "blowing on any embers". To fan the flame, you have to go beyond, but you still need a place to start. Downtown is good enough as a beginning point if you like. I live in Vegas, so downtown here is the Las Vegas strip. Or so you might believe. Actually, downtown is FREEMONT STREET! Its a little different but yet similar to the Strip. A different kind of folk walk those streets and a many of characters will present themselves for your photographic pleasure.

Art Model and Blogger, Wonderhussy ©2008 Terrell Neasley
Erotic Heritage Museum
But there are still other urban areas in Vegas and you have them where you live too. Well, unless you're living out in the sticks, in which case you might have a further drive than most. But Street Photography can be the thing you need to rejuvenate and get a fresh start in photo again. Look up some examples of popular street photo work. Not to necessarily copy or emulate, but rather to just see what the possibilities are. Walk around first before you even pull your camera out. Observe. Listen. Smell. See the potential scenes that lie before you. In the Army, as we'd begin our patrols, we would stop a few hundred meters in, take a knee and become familiar with the sights, sound, and smells, of the environment we were about to immerse ourselves in. We called it SLLS, or sills. Its the same thing here. In this case, it can help you see and anticipate events that might be developing and thus better prepare you to capture that decisive moment. This can make the difference between THAT shot and JUST ANY OLD shot.

You can pick a theme to help you focus and look for something. Shooting the homeless has been very popular, but I find that to be a tough one sometimes, personally. You may want to concentrate on signs or door knobs. I've done newspaper wracks and stands. Shooting bus stops might be an option as well as photographing street vendors. You can also change your perspective a little. Everything doesn't have to be done from an eye level perspective! Get down! I mean it. Get low to the ground and see the world how a dog might view it. Or change it up and shoot from above and get a bird's eye view of things. Just change it up so things don't get predictable or boring. You may do photo for yourself, but you still want others to see it. Show them something fresh.

Out and About in Nature
I can dig some urban, but now we're getting into my scene! The woods! The desert! The mountains! As well as the BEACH! Natural surroundings appeal to me most. Especially spots where I have to get off the beaten path a bit. Seeing new things in God's creation can heat up the coldest of passions and make it blaze. I've been to spots that make you want to put down the camera and just keep it to yourself. If you can, bring a friend along whose company you enjoy OR somebody who knows the area and can be a guide of sorts. Its not always fun to get lost ( though sometimes it can be!). I can't tell you how many people I've taken out into the boonies...who have lived nearby all their lives...and yet had never previously seen the beauties that Red Rock has to offer. Or Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, or either of the hot springs near Hoover Dam at Goldstrike and Arizona. All these areas are within a hour of Vegas.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley. Nevada desert
You'll have to find out what appeals to you in these natural settings. For me, I can say a good, unique landscape vista is what I find most captivating. On the other hand, you may be more interested in the wildlife or birds. Photographing big horn sheep will be vastly different than photographing humming birds or egrets, mainly in the lens choices. You'll need some telephoto action, but you don't have to have as fast of a lens as you might with hummingbirds. Flowers are highly popular to shoot. Again, lens choices come into play. If you like to shoot a field of wild flowers, a normal zoom or better yet a wide-angle lens would work. However if you're wanting to get close enough to depict the petals and stamen of the Angel Trumpet flower, then a macro lens is your best business. You may also need to be on a tripod in many cases using a remote switch/cable release.

Book a Flight
Now this requires just a bit more dedication than most people have the stomach for, but hear me out. It doesn't take as much as you think to hop on a plane and go somewhere. You can sign up on some of these websites such as Hitlist (an app, actually) or OneTravel and get updates on cheap flights for places you have let them know you're interested in. I routinely get limited time offers for $100 flights. A flight to San Pedro Sula in Honduras will only run you $350. You can use these opportunities to head to Seattle for the weekend. I already hear what you're saying..."But then you have to find a place to stay!" True. Which is where CouchSurfing.org comes into play. There are people out there that offer their homes to travelers for free. I've meet some great people doing this. Sign up, check it out. Sometimes its short notice. Other times its planned months in advance. So you may have to rent a car, but if you're going to bitch about how expensive that is, then photo may not be for you. I mean, there are deals left and right. YES, you will spend money.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
You're not gonna do photo without spending money. So either come to terms with that notion or take up treasure hunting with a metal detector on the beach. Some people find that very soothing and quite rewarding. Ain't no shame in that. Photo may not be the thing for you. Me...? I just want you to be happy. Get a camera, take some pics. If it's not for you, take up dance lessons. But my purpose is to holla at you about photo, so that's what I'm about. Its all about choices and what you choose to prioritize. You can make getting that new car stereo for $600 your priority if you so choose. You can also get a new wide-angle lens for your crop-sensor camera for even less than that. Book at trip to El Salvador for that same $600. Whichever will be the more rewarding experience...that's what I want you to go for. Now get to it.