09 April 2014

The Fujifilm XE-2 in Nicaragua

Me, standing in Lake Nicaragua with one of the two
volcano mountains of Ometepe Island in the background
I'm all about trying new things. So when Fuji came out with the XE-2, I was hooked and bought one a week after the thing was released. I bought it, not just because I'm a gear-head, but because of solid conclusive reasoning. First, I REALLY didn't want to take me huge Nikon D800E on the road with the added weight of the lenses as well. Second, my goal for Nicaragua wasn't fine art, so I didn't need the 36MP full frame resolution. And third, I liked the rangefinder format of this system to hopefully better acquaint me with Leica gear that I want to be vested in very soon. Those are the 3 main reasons I got the camera. I bought the kit with the metal barrel 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens along with a 35mm 1.4. This was a good combination because it was basically equivalent to the 24-70 f/2.8 and the 50mm 1.4 lenses I would have brought with me had I used the Nikon. 

Cathedral San Pedro, Rivas, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
While being so lightweight, small, and manageable, I have yet to mention how beautiful the camera is. You can get one that's all black, but I got the XE-2 Silver edition where the top 3rd of the camera is silver. All black would have been less conspicuous, but the thing is small so its already less conspicuous and an all black one isn't really any less likely to be noticed anyway. So I went with aesthetics and got the one I liked best. But I can't say that I got a good test run out of the camera. I wish I could make this blog post into a review of my experience with the camera, but I wouldn't be able to fairly assess it due to my "situation" when I got caught in the tide on just my second day in San Juan del Sur. So that's seawater in the camera. After I removed mySELF from the sea, I was able to remover the battery from the camera and eventually get the camera in a bag of rice (along with my iPhone) and left it there for almost a week.

Local fare at the market in Rivas, Nicaragua
I can review the images I took with the camera. This is supposed to be the world's fastest autofocus system. Is it fast? Sure. Did I clock it at the .08 seconds the specs says it should do? Not so much. It uses phase detection in addition to conventional contrast detection and when its on point, it was on point. What I did notice was less accuracy in low light situations. But to be fair, that could have been just me getting used to the camera, however I still think it should have worked better. The system got progressively worse over the days after the rice bath, but only to a point and I believe I know why...Salt. A few days AFTER the camera had dried out, the AF system was really hit and miss. Some up close, easy portraits that could have been taken by my grandkid were missed and had to be reshot. The worse was when it BARELY missed. That meant that it looked okay on my 3-inch LCD screen on the back of the monitor. But when I'm at home looking at it on a 30-inch monitor, the eyes are not in perfect focus. I'm not sure what can be done with it just yet. Salt usually means death to a camera system. So we'll see.

I still ran into another issue and that dealt with the RAW files taken by the Fuji. I'm surprised there wasn't more info on the web that could have aided me, but I finally figured out a solution. Adobe Bridge and Photoshop had a tendency to crash when working with Fuji Raw files with the .raf file extensions. Initially the problem was that my Adobe Creative Cloud programs just needed to be updated. I did this and was able to view some of the files. The big problem came when I tried to append my metadata template to the images. It would crash the system without fail. My solution was to convert the files to DNG and the problem was solved. But I don't think this is a fault, per se of Fuji. They use an entirely different sensor technology from most other camera manufactures. The X-Trans system doesn't utilize the standard Bayer filter array as most systems use. The X-Trans is evolutionary. I like it, but its literally in a class by itself. DXO Mark doesn't even rate it due to the fact that their techniques used to rate sensors can't fairly apply across the board to it. Converting to DNG is a good solution to use with Adobe.

Surf gear, Playa Hermosa (Beautiful Beach), near San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
So the question for me is whether I get the camera service or just do an insurance claim. I'm not sure how I want this affecting my policy. I'd rather save my claims for more expensive gear. Currently, if I don't do anything I'm out $1400 for the body and lens. Servicing might be a few hundred IF and that's a big IF they can clean it, get out all the salt, and restore it to factory specs. I'll talk to my insurance first. If this goes well, Fuji has a wide-angle 10-24mm lens I want! They also have a 56mm 1.2 that I drool over, but I might stay content with my 35mm 1.4. So I guess we'll see. Calling the insurance peeps tomorrow. Nonetheless, given the same options tomorrow, I'd still go with the Fuji. So I'm hoping I get this situation resolved and soon.

27 March 2014

There and Back Again. A Photobbits Tale

Art Model, Emma Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

Ha! I like that title. Thought of it myself. Yep. Just came to me.

So I'm back. The name of the game now is CATCH-UP! I clocked about 3 months on the road this time, yet I'm still amazed at the perpetual travelers who are gone for a year or more. I read about travel bloggers who have been at this for a decade and can only marvel at how they organize their lives. I feel slightly overwhelmed at being back, catching up on mail and home responsibilities. My situation was slightly exasperated in the fact that I relocated only a week prior to hitting the road, so upon returning, I came back to my new home with all my things still boxed up. Things were made a bit easier....well, I should say a whole lot easier in the fact that my new landlords are friends of mine. It would have taken me weeks to get settled in, yet Susan had completely unpacked and put away my things in a few hours, while I helped Jerry install some new appliances and do a few adjustments to the place which now feels like a home. Thanks Susan.

I had been back for two weeks and then headed out to Mexico for a week. I just got back from there two days ago and now I can better concentrate on getting pics edited. I still need to get my high speed internet installed next week and set up my computer network again. I'm sure there are some updates to Adobe that I need to install to handle all the RAW shots I did using the new Fujifilm XE-2 camera that I bought just prior to leaving and the updates were not available then. Right now, I can see the images, but cannot get metadata appended to the new Fuji RAW format. Hopefully that issue will be resolved when I get internet and get my home network set up again.

Art Model, Emma Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley
So yeah. I'm finally back and the priorities are getting back to work, finding new and interesting photography gigs, lining up more one on one teaching projects (for my 2-week training course), and pushing myself to the next level in my art nudes. My goal in that regard is conceptual work that is new and original. When I say push myself, that's entirely what I mean. I want my art nudes to develop and evolve into something different and I think my approach will be more provocative and bold and less conservative. I want to be less concerned with societal norms and just play "what if". So I'll be looking to work with models and women who are less inhibited and are willing to give me creative liberties the freedom to explore, experiment, and push myself. This will also push the model as well, but I still want collaborative relationship. There will be times when I have something specific in mind, of course, but most models who work with me understand I like to shoot what is given to me and value model input. And when I say models, I'm also welcoming first-timers and women who have never done anything like this before. I don't want someone reading this who might have ideas, but then keep it to themselves because they don't consider themselves to be a "model". A large percentage of the women I work with every year are have never been naked in front of a photographer before. I've been criticized about promoting first-times/non-pro models before, but those people can go kick rocks. I like working with who I like working with.

So I'll still be shooting nudes that have been consistent with what I've always been doing, but I will definitely be on the lookout for 5 or 6 models this year that have some of the same goals in mind as I do. I can't even articulate as to the specifics just yet. I'm still searching this thing out. Now that I'm back, I can start thinking about how I want this new conceptual style to develop and am open to any ideas you guys might be willing to throw at me, especially potential models who have had something cooking in the back of their minds but just have been too...I don't wanna use the word "afraid", but it does seem to fit.... to do. Or maybe not "afraid", but rather simply have't had the right circumstances or photographer to pull it off. I'll be looking for different body types or body features in models. I like "different". I embrace it. I've been called different all my life. I never enjoyed that term growing up, but I hug it like a lover now.

Art Model, Emma Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley
My next travel plans/goals aren't til the summer. I'd like to head to South America this time and catch up with a model I shot in Nicaragua. She's still traveling right now and should be in Peru and Bolivia by July. It might be cool to catch up with her there and finish what we started a few months ago. I'm also contemplating on bringing a model with me. I'd so love to do that, but its not so easy and I'm not sure my money will allow it. I just learned this week that I might be expected in Tennessee and Texas soon and I have some other considerations that might make traveling with a model on my dime tougher. An ideal situation would be coordinating with another traveler who wants to be travel buddies and doesn't mind getting naked along the way either. How cool would that be! Or better yet, a client contracting me to follow them around with a camera doing nudes in South America! Hey...I can dream, can't I? I definitely want to do more travel work with clients and if they wanna get naked as well, I'm game. But in the meantime, I got lots to figure out and catch up on, yet still keep it in mind that we're only talking about this being 3 months away. I can't let time slip on me and next thing I know, we're in mid-August and I suddenly remember I forgot about everything. That would not be good.

19 February 2014

My Take on UV Filters, Short Answer - Use Them!

Panda Portrait,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley

I've spent the last 4 days trying to write about some challenges I have here in Nicaragua with my final days looming near. I've rewritten it each time and conclude that I just need to blog about something else. And the next big thing that keeps nagging at me to talk about is UV filters. I have heard no end to opinions on the pros and cons of the use of UV filters. I know they shall persist even after this post. So yeah. Here is my spin on UV filters and whether or not you need one on your lenses or not.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
Back in the days of film, images could sometimes be affected by ultraviolet light that might cause images to either look hazy or maybe add a blueish hue. That's mainly because blue colors are more affected by UV than red or green.While UV light is invisible to the eye, the chemicals in the film emulsion could still be sensitive to it. This effect was more pronounced in higher altitudes, where I learned about this in Colorado, or maybe in places where the effects of the sun are strongest. Maybe like a desert (Vegas), or on a beach or in snow, where light is reflected and thereby amplifying the affects. UV filters where made to block as much UV light as possible, if not all of it, to reduce or eliminate this effect.

Today's digital sensors are less sensitive to UV light. So why do we still need them? I've heard it said that the only purpose they serve today are to line the pockets of camera store owners who want to "push" them as protection for lenses. I've heard some say that it is a needless carryover from the film days and that only the old guys use them today. I've also heard that lenses are so sharp and have their own coatings that its pure folly to add an EXTRA piece of glass in front of a lens designed with such precision and technology. I hear all that. All the time.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley

Alright, let me predicate this point with a few facts. One, I love photography. If I was homeless in the streets, with only one thing of value to own, it would be a camera. Two, outside of being a pro, I don't let anything compromise the quality of my images. This is my art and I want the best quality I can get for the project I'm shooting. With that said, I can now address this point. During my film days, I did not use UV filters...(I know...when I needed them most). I didn't use them until a friend of mine banged the front element of a $2000 lens into the corner of a metal cabinet. I put filters on all my lenses after that, but I didn't have many at the time, but that made me start researching UV filters.

Soon after, I began work part time at my local camera store, for my good friend, Joe Dumic of B&C Camera in Las Vegas. In the two days per week that I worked there, I watched people pile in with busted cameras and lenses, mainly from drops. But here is the difference, many of the ones with no filters became paperweights. Conversely, UV filters saved many of these lenses. The UV filter would be busted, but the lens itself tested fine. Impact protection? Yes. This is the first reason I put UV filters on my lenses.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
But I also learned that all UV filters were not made the same. Joe would not let me put cheap UV filters on my lenses, especially after I started getting better glass. Putting bad glass on top of good glass is stupid. No getting around that. Buy a lens for $1500 or more and then put a $20 UV filter on it, and I will talk bad about you for the rest of your days. I started out using good B+W filters on my gear. Its some of the best made, there's no getting around that. Today, I use Promaster HGX series in the red box. Promaster gear is known for its generic or off-brand quality. They have a reputation of making photographic accessories at cheaper prices, but not so much camera body and lenses, but just about everything else. Recently, they outdid themselves with UV filters when they came out with a series rated by the color of the packaging. The HGX series in the red box is the best and to me, its even better than B+W. So much so, that I no longer have B+W filters.

Promaster filters back in the day were no different from some of the other cheaper filters on the market. Trust me, they've re-branded. I own several of their products because of the increase in quality AND the guarantee they put behind them. Working in a camera shop gives me the advantage of better insight in this matter. I get to see products first-hand and how they hold up over time. Why switch to the HGX series from an already great B+W product? Well first it started when I was switching over from Canon gear to Nikon gear. I sold many of the Canon lenses with the filters as a bonus. The Promaster HGX series came out at about the same time or not long after. They have three things I like. I a lifetime guarantee. A coating on both sides of the filter that REPELS dirt, grime, and debris. That's right, its like a wax job on your car. Nothing sticks to it and everything wipes right off. And three, the ring has another black coating on it that helps absorb stray light coming into the lens, thus reducing the possibility of flare.

Panda,  © 2012 Terrell Neasley
I live in a desert. There is dust fly around all the time. Right now, I'm in Nicaragua. the winds are high on the coast and shit is flying around all the time in the inner city as well. My lens cap was in my bag when it was stolen a few weeks ago. If I had not bought this HGX filter for my 35mm f/1.4 lens, I might be a little worried, but I'm using my shirt to wipe the front of it all the time. You DO NOT wanna be doing that on the front element of the lens itself. I like my glass and I want to keep my lenses for a long time, or at least be able to sell them in good condition. I don't care who you are or how good care you take of your lenses. If you do not use a good UV filter, your lenses lifespan is reduced. So unless you plan on keeping and using your lenses in one of those vacuum, dust-free rooms NASA uses, get a friggin' filter. And don't be cheap about it. Ugy, (pronounced OO-GEE) at B&C West store does an excellent job of explaining the benefits of UV filters and can show you the Promaster line and why they are so friggin' cool. If you're on the East side of Vegas, Tony can show you th ropes. Both are managers of their prospective stores. Ugy...Tony...got that. Remember them. The only other filters I might use on my lenses would be circular polarizers and Neutral Density filters. More on that later. Check out this good read as well, UV Filters by Bjorn Peterson, B&H Article.

03 February 2014

Second Month in Nicaragua

Cultural Night in Masaya, Nicaragua

San Juan del Sur has definitely been an adventure. Spanish classes are still kicking my butt, but I am learning, albeit slowly. I love my host family with Doña Lucia and her large family. They help me learn outside of the school, at Spanish Ya. My teacher is prob the best of a sufficiently large crew of teachers, if not at least the best for me. Principally, because of her patience and ability to stay with my pace without become frustrated at me. I think it helps that I keep her laughing, but she doesn't try to move on to the next subject before I understand the present task. She's tough enough to keep giving me homework, I tell you that. At possibly under 5 foot, and outweighing her by more than double, I hate disappointing her.

You can see the cave in the distance. The challenge was walking back over these rocks with waves pushing you up against the side of that wall there...and not get tumbled back into said rocks. Nice, huh?

But yes, an adventure, nonetheless. On just my second day here, I devolved into a 5 year old child with no supervision. I walked down the coastline and got curious when I saw a cave about a 700 meters in the distance. I HAD to check it out. Would have been really great had I paid attention to the tide coming in on the return trip. I got bashed into the cliff walls and all the boulders and rocks embedded in the shallows. I told people, I know what its like to be in a washing machine. Trying to keep my camera and phone out of the water wasn't a success. They stayed in rice for almost a week and held up nicely. I made my way to a bar and the bar owner, who was having dinner thought I had been beaten and robbed. I didn't even realize my leg was all bloody. 

A view of my room. 

I was able to find a great model while here as well. We've done 3 shoots so far. I got robbed on my second outing with her. Some sneaky bastard made off with my bag when we weren't looking. My fault. Didn't think anyone was around. Let my shit unguarded. Lost a lens, cash, my iPhone, and a few other peripheries. Hated loosing all of it, but I wish I could get back my spare battery and the pics off my phone. The bastards also took our water, meaning we had a long up and downhill walk back for a good hour and a half. Fortunately, some Canadians along the route back had a house up in the hills. They helped us with water and juice and then gave us a ride back to town. We would not have made it back as late as it was without water. And I do feel fortunate, they did not take my model's clothes. That would have been a bitch, because that would have meant I would have had to give up my clothes and walk back naked for at least 2 miles to the Canadian's place. So there's an upside to everything, I guess.

Main Street into San Juan del Sur

I'm finishing up my last week here in San Juan del Sur, but I've still got a bit more traveling to do. I'll stay here in Nicaragua trying to find my shot instead of heading further South into Costa Rica and Panama. I got to see my college buddy, Bruce who just left the Army and is riding a motorcycle from North Carolina to as far South in Argentina as he can get. It was so great to hang out with him again. As long as I have been here, there has been a trio of myself, Marlene...an Italian/Austrian girl who was here one week less than myself. She just left this past weekend. And there there's Simone, a tall Czech Republic youngster who should probably be modeling somewhere. He's here for another week longer than me. I have to keep him from putting drinks in my hand when we're out. Its so cheap to drink here, its dangerous. Rumor has it that cokes are more expensive than the rum, but it ain't so. That Flor de Caña, the 7-year, is some smooth stuff and a half liter of it is only $8. You can't get a single Rum & Coke for that in Vegas. 

And I can't forget the two German friends who arrived a couple weeks after Simone and I. Lena and Roy are two friends traveling together for about 7 or 8 months. Wow. I'm tempted to go home, make some more money and meet up with them again in South America where they will finish up in Peru before heading back to Germany. I'll get to see them twice more on this trip as our itineraries coincide for practically the rest of this month over 2 of the 3 locations I plan to visit. And there are so many more I've met along the way. You make friends from all over. I don't think there is anyone in Holland right now. They are all over here! Canadians are coming here in droves. Several Swiss travels have been through. And I know there are some I am forgetting at the moment. I love being around travelers. Sometimes they simply get it and other times they can be quite inspiring.

Most of the pics will be up and posted after I get back and have edited them. These are some shots I've already posted on Facebook. The newer ones I had ready for this blog post are gone now that my phone got stolen. Bastards. Be back soon.

10 January 2014

Whirl Wind Year End and Back on the Road Again!

© 2014 Terrell Neasley

For the first time since I started this blog in 2007, I went a whole month without a post. I would say that from mid-November til the end of the year was a blur. And by blur, I mean, as in the interior of a tornado. I simply could not keep up and looking back, I needed help so many times and should have gotten some. But I didn't. My bad. Things were actually supposed to slow down around the 1st of December. BUT, I ended up getting ill, was on my back for the good part of a work week, and then was like a walking, coughing zombie for the next week. Despite that, I had put in notice, a month earlier, on the apartment where I lived and ended up moving as soon as I could get out of bed. I moved myself since I didn't want to get anyone else sick.

Bus stop in Rivas. Just pullin' in. © 2014 Terrell Neasley
I hit the road mid-December, but I was simply not fully prepared to leave. When you have a flight reservation, you leave anyway. So I flew around to a few cities visiting family and friends for the holidays before finally leaving again for Nicaragua just before New Year's which I spent in Managua, the capital city. I was able to book a late reservation at El Gueguense Hotel for a 3-night stay. I had no clue what to expect when I got there. But let me back up for a second. I flew into the Augusto Cesar Sandino International Airport which is the main airport located in Managua. My experience in the airport was not so bad. I made it through customs with no issues. I had previously been warned about flying with one-way tickets, but so far no custom agents have given me a problem. My main issue is when you get OUT of the airport. I had made no prior arrangements for transportation and I wish I had.

Bus stop in Managua. Roberto Humbres Marcado.
© 2014 Terrell Neasley 

Maybe its just me, but I would think a place promoting national tourism would make things as easy as possible for foreigners to get to their destinations safely. Specifically, I would have appreciated better signs directing me where to go as you exit the airport. Maybe in information desk could be helpful. But most importantly, a way to make things easier and safer to select a taxi. There were people all over the airport exit soliciting taxi services. But you really don't know who is really a taxi driver or not. I was approached by one taxi driver and was offered a ride for $20, but I wanted to wait and kept walking. I settled on another ride for $12 after his series of offers and my counter-offers. After we settled, his car wasn't on the curb lined up with other taxis. Nope. I followed him across the street and into another business parking lot where he said it was cheaper parking. But all was well. He was helpful in informing me about places of interests and precautions as we drove maybe 20 minutes to my hotel.

Managua. Locals on New Year's Eve  © 2014 Terrell Neasley
I selected El Gueguense using Hotels.com for two reasons. One was the room availability (so close to NYE). The next was the reviews it got on a few sites I checked. I liked that it was billed to be in a quiet secure neighborhood. The reason for that is the fact that just across the street is where the nation's President lives. So yeah, police and military units all around the place, but its not obtrusive. I read some of the other reviews that pointed out that there wasn't much to do around the hotel. You can still find what you need relatively close and take a taxi for $3 or $4. And on top of that, there is a REALLY nice restaurant, Eskimo's about 2 blocks around the corner. One part is fine dinning. Another area is a cafe, and then they also have an ice cream bar in another room.

I spent my New Year's Eve with some locals I met on a corner down the street. The plan had been to visit a local club I had been told was a good spot to get pics of the celebrating. I stepped outside and saw some fireworks in the distance just a few blocks away. So I delayed the call for a taxi and checked it out. I was able to ingratiate myself with the family and friends who were celebrating. NOBODY spoke English, but they insisted I take their pictures and I did. I decided to stay with them instead of heading to the club and it was a great choice. So instead of celebrating with champagne, I was toasting the New Year drinking a coke out of a sandwich bag with a straw tied off at the top of it. It was a good evening.

Luis y Laura, Your Friends at Hotel El Gueguense  © 2014 Terrell Neasley
The managers at El Gueguense is probably what makes the place rock. Its a family owned business and they go all out to help you enjoy your stay. Luis and his wife Laura were both great at helping me get situated and continue on with my trip. The rooms were what you might expect for a bed and breakfast, but I would not call it a hostel. My room was simple but I had a wide-screen TV and AC. As long as it was clean was the main thing I cared about. And the complimentary breakfast is not just toast, jelly, and coffee. You get a breakfast meal prepared whenever you get up and desire it. When I got ready to leave, Luis drove me to the bus station at Roberto Huembes Mercado. It was not a short trip and there was no charge. The man just wanted to see me off safely to my next destination.

So now I am in San Juan del Sur and will be here for a while learning Spanish. I just completed my first week in school. I'll tell you about my day two near death experience next time.

30 November 2013

Getting Better - Okay, A SEVENTH Thing...

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
 “ Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."
 – Ansel Adams

In the last post, I talked about SIX things you can do RIGHT NOW to greatly improve your photography skills, mainly aimed at the beginner-level photo enthusiast. I'm going to throw in one more idea that I picked up from listening to one of the latest episodes of TWIP. To me, this tip was fitting because I'm already so familiar with it from shooting film for so long. I can also attribute it to some of my days in the military as an expert marksman. And technically, this tip is an add-on to Number TWO from the last post, which was just to get out there and start SHOOTING! Pick up the camera, get out of the house and just go shoot something. Anything. Go for a drive. End up somewhere and start banging on the shutter release button. But now I want you to curb your appetite a bit. Instead of going out to spray and pray, I want you to:

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo
© 2013 Terrell Neasley

TIP SEVEN - Limit it to 36 for the day!

Yeah, that's right. I want you to be more deliberate in your shot selection, your composition, and your subject matter. This works better when you already know what you're going out to shoot rather than having no clue, ending up somewhere, and shooting willy-nilly. So basically, on a day when you know you're headed out for a specific reason, to a special place, to get some nice pictures, ONLY take 36 shots. You can even pull out one of those 512MB SD cards that you never use anymore from back in the day. Take a look at that again...that's Megabyte, not GIGAbyte. I know you've got one lying around there somewhere. Pop that baby in that new 24MP camera of yours and see how many max shots you get. For perspective, if I put a 512MB card in my old Canon 40D shooting RAW (which actually took CF cards), I could about 70 pics. On my Canon 7D (also CF Cards), I might get about 30 shots if that helps put things into better perspective. If I put that same card in my Nikon D800E (takes both SD and CF), I would max out after TEN PICS.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
"Its not the caliber of the rifle that matters, but the caliber of the shooter."
- Unknown

So here's the mind set behind limiting yourself. The number 36 is not an arbitrary number I pulled out of thing air. That's typically how many exposures you would have on a roll of professional grade film. The consumer stuff you'd by at Walgreens would typically only give you 24. Pro rolls were mainly 36 exposures of "full-frame" madness! My fave brand of film was the Kodak TMAX 400. I'd use 100 when I needed to but 400 was more versatile to me, since the TMAX had a T-Grain emulsion that was quite fine...really close to 100 ISO on other film brands, and I had the latitude to push or pull it to whatever I wanted in the darkroom. But enough digressive darkroom talk. Back to topic, you only got 36 shots per roll. Now granted, you could take as many rolls of 36 as you felt you needed, but here's the thing. I only expected to get 3 or 4 shots out of each roll worthy of printing. Of course I would have damn near all of them, technically correct as to exposure, focus, etc. But I'd still be looking for my best 4.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
If you want to get better, slow down. Don't come back home with 1,384 jpeg images on a friggin' card that you now have to download and look through. Slow down...be a bit more deliberate. Look at your settings on your camera, compose correctly for each shot. When its right, take the shot. Think of it as hunting with bolt-action rifle. You wouldn't hunt with a machine gun, would you? Bring a tripod. Even in broad daylight. Maybe even a remote shutter release. Not the wireless kind, but rather the one that plugs into the camera. Or try taking it off the tripod and getting on the ground. Not just kneeling, but lay down on the dog gone ground. Get low. Take your time. See the settings in the bottom of the viewfinder as you are looking at your subject. Make sure they are right and know WHY you are shooting in Aperture Priority rather than Shutter Priority. Know WHY you choose to drop the Exposure Value Compensator. Understand the value of bracketing the shot and how to do it manually when your camera doesn't have the BKT-function. My one-on-one students know this. You can, too. Try to make each one meaningful and purposeful. Know that each shot came out the way it did because you "meant to do that". You'll be better for it.

25 November 2013

Getting Better - Six Photography Things You Can Do Right Now

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
"Day by day in every way I’m getting better and better."
- Emile Coue

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
Lots of people who own cameras bigger than a point 'n shoot, talk about wanting to be better shooters or take better pictures. Many don't know where to start. Or they think they need to enroll in expensive college courses, safari adventures in Africa (where everybody knows the good pictures are), or workshops that you have to take a plane, book a hotel/rental car and then pay for a ticket to get in and sit for 5 hours listening to a speaker tell you about the latest and greatest photographic techniques guaranteed to improve your pictures. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can do those things if you want to, but there are convenient options for you right where you are that cost you nothing. And by no means is this list all comprehensive. There's always more. But to start, 

1. Pull out the manual for your camera. I know. Its dry as hell, but do you wanna get better or not?? The manual is free and it came WITH your camera. If by chance you bought it used, you can still go online and Google the manual for a free download. And if its just too hard to read it, check out Amazon and get a Dummies guide to help. When I teach my two-week one on one lessons, I pick up one for whatever camera system my client is using. Its easier to read than the manual and has added info to help you understand. And the reason is this: You need to know the capabilities of your camera. Its as simple as that. You will be a better shooter if you understand how to utilize the tools that you are trying to use. Automatic mode can do a great job a lot of the time, but you said you wanted to be better. So take the controls and learn how to use them.

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
2. Shoot. Its as simple as that. Get out there and shoot. I don't want to say as often as possible, because your definition of "as possible" is likely different from my definition. So get up now and dedicate some time every day to picking up the camera and experiment with different settings. Try shooting in Aperture or Shutter Priority (which you will understand AFTER you go through the manual). Find out what subject matter interests you, but don't restrict yourself to it. Actually it may also be beneficial to find out what you absolutely DON'T like to shoot as well. As you continue to explore, you may discover that you absolutely hate shooting people. This is different from finding out what you are not good at. If you are not good at shooting people, its far from not LIKING to shoot people. Avoid the things you absolutely dislike, but not necessarily the things you presently suck at. You may get better at those things if you try.

3. Test the limits of your camera. All systems are different as well as people's opinions. Don't just rely on what reviews have said or what you've heard. Try it out for yourself. What is the maximum ISO your camera can reasonably make a presentable shot at? Do you know? Try shooting at max ISO in some low-light situation. Try it at the maximum and then start backing off of that til you're back around ISO 800. Then go get those shot printed! It doesn't even have to be high quality prints...just some reasonable 11x14s to see how things look. Compare your camera's RAW to its JPEG. Test the bracketing features. Set your Auto Focus to the various settings and see how this performs. I did the same thing with my kids when I taught them how to drive. I wanted them to see how a car reacts when you hit the breaks at high speed. (Don't judge me, dammit...)

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
4. Play with flash. How well do you understand your flash's sync speed? Try it out! See why that matters through practical application. Test out the stroboscopic mode (Canon), or the repeating flash (Nikon) and see how to calculate the needed shutter speed given the number of times the flash is to pop vs the frequency. Play with it and see when that might come in handy. Or put to use REAR CURTAIN SYNC! I've seen plenty of photos that could have been improved upon had the user correctly employed this feature. You can also practice lighting techniques using a bare bulb, a flashlight, or your iPhone light to illuminate the face of a model. Many bounce light from above (ceiling), but how many will bounce from below to reduce the shadows under the eyes, nose, and neck...or for perhaps when the subject is wearing a ball cap.

5. Look at a lot of pictures. 500px.com or Flickr.com are ripe for perusing through and getting a feel for what's possible. Find shots you like and try to figure out why you like them or what qualities make them exceptional to you. Break the shots down and look at the way it was composed and lit. Emulate those qualities in your own work. Don't put as much credence in the exposure info. Its good to know if you want to see what settings gave them the shot THEY took, but that does not mean you can set your camera to the same thing and get the same results. Its more important to see what sort of depth of field they got with f/11 or f/1.2 to better understand the mechanics of their shot. But don't expect to now go outside with your camera set the same thinking you'll achieve similar results. They may have taken their shot on a severely overcast day with a wide open aperture and longer exposure to add lots more light. You go out an try it on a sunny day will only result in confusion, frustration, and eventually feeling of self-loathing, inadequacies, and depression. Well, maybe that's a bit far, but the point is don't start thinking like that.

6. Commit. Make up your mind to jump on board and do whatever it takes to be better. Don't worry about gear. Get a basic camera and a cheap 50mm 1.8 lens. Just shoot. That's the main thing. Be serious about the craft and just go shoot. But at the same time don't be too serious that you get frustrated and put down the camera. Be serious enough to study on your own, but if you're not getting it, find a teacher or mentor. Don't get so serious as to take the fun out of it. Learn to love this and do it because you WANT to be better. If you find it isn't for you, no worries. You can back off anytime. But for now. Go For It!

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley

22 November 2013

Mind Set: Why I'm Opting for Fuji Over Sony Right Now

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
“I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” 
― Mark Twain

I already teach, mentor, and coach photography and sometimes its cool to let people into my thinking process on what decisions I might make concerning photo related matters. In light of my recent post on the break-out game-changers in the soon to be released Sony A7 and A7R, I have chosen (after a few agonizing weeks) to curb my excitement on that system for a bit. Am I waiting to see what bugs they might need to work out? Not at all. This Sony system is the first camera that I have been totally convinced, sight-unseen, that I want in my bag. I've been waiting on it since Sony introduced the RX-1 and also, I've seen enough sample images to know I don't need to "try it out" first. The price point for both cameras are definitely doable considering the A7R is a thousand dollars less than my 36MP D800E when it first retailed and Sony also makes the sensor for it.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

But here's where I had to hold my horses for a bit. I'm particular in how I shoot and my style dictates a priority on wide-angle and wide-aperture. So for now, lenses are the main reason I'm holding off. Sony has 2 lenses that will debut with the cameras in December and another one in Feb '15. The 35mm 2.8, the 55mm 1.8, and the 24-70 f/4. While the focal lengths are right up my alley, none of them give me the 1.4 that I so crave. Depth of field has been a signature and fave of mine for quite some time. I've already had to lament the sale of my Canon 85 1.2 last year, which I am still trying to get over. Nikon gives me 1.4 glass and I've been happy with that. Dammit, I'm not going 1.8 for my fastest glass. I'm not giving up any more aperture real estate for anybody. I'm a 1.4-man and that's just my prerogative. You dig? I know 1.8 is close to a 1.4. We are still talking a 2/3rds stop less. Not even a whole stop, I know. But I ain't doing it. I'm not giving up any more depth of field. Just ain't happening. I like my 1.4 glass and that's that.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

I'm wanting to go small for my next excursion which I'll get into later on. When I choose gear, I'm making my choices against traveling criterion. Love my D800E, but this is an experiment. My next trip will be more documentary in nature than just fine art, (which I think I'll still be able to accomplish without as much resolution). The Sony system would be perfect with the right glass. In their defense, I would be able to use my current Nikon glass with an adapter. They handle Canon lenses with an adapter a little better than Nikon lenses, but I'm not up for adapters so much. Well, I make that statement with one exception, and that's Leica glass. Give me a 50 Summilux and a 35 Summicron and I'd be good with that on a A7R. Sony will support just about any lens manufacturer's glass with the right adapter. But NAH...I'll wait. If the 24-70 was at least 2.8, I'd probably still jump. But nope. It ain't. So I'm gonna practice patience and wait for what I want...the right Full Frame E-Mount glass or Leica glass.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what am I opting for instead? Fujifilm...(which I have no clue why they don't drop the "film" part and just go with FUJI!) just released a new system themselves. The X-E2 was released yesterday and is a slight step up from its predecessor the X-E1. I like the rangefinder feel, which is going to make me more comfortable with the Leica M when I finally get it. I like the faster Auto Focus and despite the DX sensor size, I'm excited about Fuji's new X-Trans Sensor upgrade. For what I'm looking for, this will suite me. I'm getting it as a kit with the 18-55. Yes...anybody who knows me believes I hate that format, but this is not true. That's a nice focal range, though I might prefer a 16-50mm zoom. What I hate is Canon's 18-55mm crap plastic lens. The Fuji is a metal barreled marvel with a max f/stop of 2.8 to 4 on the far end. I can deal with that quality and speed. On top of that, I'm getting the 35mm 1.4 and with that, I can breath. So initially, I had resolved to just go with my 24-70 Tamron and my Nikon 50mm 1.4. Well, these two Fuji lenses give me that same format for a DX sensor camera. And I'm cool with that. I get a much smaller package, less expense than risking my big stuff, same focal range and speed, in a bad ass camera system. What more could I ask?

10 November 2013

The Answer for Procrastination

“Procrastination is like masturbation. At first it feels good, but in the end you’re only screwing yourself.”
~ Unknown

I know many of us declared at the beginning of this year that you were going to finally get to that "Dream" project that you've been putting off for a few years so far. Well! You're in luck. There's still plenty of time left in the year to get your butt in gear and get to working on that gig so you can start some new promises for 2014. So yeah, this is a reminder that you now have about 40 days left on the table to get busy and get hot on that project. I know you have to work. I know the holidays are coming up. Busy, Busy, Busy, as a little bee. That's cool. Everybody's busy. But honestly. How long does it take to conceptualize your dream, plan it out, secure a location/model/prop/equipment and get it in the books? The answer is not long once you commit to the idea.

Let me help you out a bit. Start here: Tell yourself, "No matter what, I WILL get this project done!". Then sit down for a minute. Got no time? Sure you do. You're human. That means you require food and water. At some point you're gonna have to go to spend a little time in the bathroom...a few minutes at least. Sooo, can you see where I'm going with this. No? Fine, I'll spell it out. Take a pad and pen into the bathroom with you the next time you have to "spend some quality time" in there. While you are sitting down for a few minutes, this is an excellent time to conceptualize, write down ideas, and think about how you're going to pull this thing off and what you'll need. You don't need to spend a whole day in the bathroom, just enough time to get pen to paper and get those ideas out before your legs go to sleep.

See, that's a guaranteed few minutes every day! You don't need much more than that. And once you've got it written down, you can commit some time while you go about your regular day. On your way home from work, you can call up that fave model of your's and ask about her availability. Gotta pick up groceries from the store? Great. Stop by the hardware store right next to it and get the materials for the set you have to build. Or maybe its as simple as getting some gear. B&C Camera has a bunch of cameras, lenses, and lights you can rent for the weekend. You can easily reserve what you need ahead of time, pick it up Friday (after 3pm) and return it Monday (before 3pm) and only have to pay ONE day's rental fee! How cool is that. So if you require a macro lens, they got it. Prefer a wide-angle lens instead...they got it. What about some lighting? They got a 2-light Elinchrom wireless trigger kit complete with softboxes and stands that you can get for about $40 for the entire weekend. If you're not in Vegas, check out some online rentals like LensRentals.com or BorrowLenses.com.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
~ Walt Disney

Need some ideas? Okay. Do that thing you normally do, but this time shoot it at night. Just try some long exposure stuff for a change. Add some light painting. Take that flash off TTL and use some of its other functions. Ever drag the shutter with it? Ever do any high-speed sync work on it? How about some stroboscopic techniques? Ever do that? Try some macro work. Do something in that remote location that you came across while hiking last year, next to that goofy looking tree your friend took a picture of you in. Work on that self-portrait project you've been saying you were going to do. Try to emulate a lighting style you saw in that movie poster your girl/boyfriend likes so much. Here's another one. Freeze the action on a quick-moving subject. Like a dancer spinning around, where you capture every single strand of hair frozen in space with no blurring. You now have 40 days left to get your project done. Don't procrastinate any longer than you already have. If you think I'm speaking to you, I am. Get started. No more excuses. Go Shoot.

26 October 2013

The Right Tool... The Gear Loyalty Debate

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera."
~ Dorothea Lange

Yesterday, I was at B&C Camera listening to my buddy Rob, talk to a customer about cameras when presented with an inquiry about Canon cameras and Nikon gear. BTW, Rob spends more time at the camera shop than I do, so if you're lucky enough to catch him, he'll steer you right. Anyhoo... What was Rob's reply? "I don't concern myself with those questions. The cameras are tools. I primarily shoot Nikon, but my brother shoots Canon. But I will also shoot Canon, or Sony, or whatever I think I need to get the shot I want. I don't have an loyalties like that." Part of that is paraphrased, but that's the gist of his point as I can recall.

There are die-hard Chevy and Ford owners here in America. I'm sure you've been driving down the road at some point and see a Chevy truck with a sticker of a "Calvin"-looking figure urinating on a Ford logo (Right, Taylor!)...or vis versa. Ninety-Five percent of photographers are the same exact way. BUT MUCH WORSE! And to an extent, I understand there's a bona fide reason for it. Unlike auto owners, there's a significant investment in their gear that makes it difficult to switch brands. Yes, a car is a significant purchase. However, if you got tired of your Hyundai and wanted to switch to a Toyota, its a matter of choice for the next time you are ready to buy a car. Photographers have an additional consideration when the thought crosses their mind to switch camera manufacturers... Compatibility.

Anonymous model,
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Buying a camera is not the most significant purchase you will make. Its where it all begins, sure. But lenses are where the magic happens. On average, I would bet that a photog will spend about 3 times as much in lenses as they do a camera, especially if you are full-frame. On the flip side, you will spend more upgrading cameras then you probably will spend upgrading lenses. While I was Canon, my 5D MkII and my 7D bodies were maybe $3500 combined and that represented about a quarter of the value of my lenses. And this is where the hard part comes in. I made the decision to switch brands because my needs changed and the Nikon D800E served my purposes better than the upgrade to the MkII, the new 5D MkIII. Canon makes excellent products, so don't get me wrong. I was Canon for about 10 years. Love 'em. But what did that mean for me? I had to dump my significant investment in Canon lenses because they were not compatible with the Nikon body. I couldn't take my Canon lenses and use them on my new Nikon D800E. Not only that, my peripheral gear didn't work either. I had 5 Canon flashes. I had a Canon Intervalometer. I had radio triggers that only fit Canon gear. That gave me a new challenge. I had to find a way to sell my Canon gear for Nikon equivalents which aren't always doable. My Canon 85mm f/1.2L was the love of my life. Nikon doesn't make a 85 f/1.2! And then I found out AFTER I bought it that I didn't need the Nikon intervalometer, because the D800E has one BUILT-IN! So now I have an over-priced cable release. 

Art Models, Alethea and Emma
©2013 Terrell Neasley
“People, there's no such thing as, THE BEST CAMERA BRAND, but yes there will always be THE BEST CAMERA AT ANY GIVEN TIME. Technology will change, but not art.” 
― Ashraf Saharudin

So what's my point in all this? Well, its simple. The camera is a TOOL! Lenses and other camera accessories are tools as well. Unless you own stock in your camera brand, or they are paying you to use their gear, or you are dating/married to the daughter/son of a brand executive, why limit yourself? The right tool for the right job. Most guys have heard that said before who have grown up with their dads working the family car or adding the fixing a hole in the roof. And that's the same belief I carry with my gear. Yes, I own and work primarily with a Nikon camera and system. Last year, I was a 10-year Canon veteran. But as I mentioned in my last post about Sony, the A7R might be better suited for my travel work. And if I have a job tomorrow that requires low-light work, I might rent a Canon 5D Mark III because of its superior abilities in shooting at night. THAT's an option. Yes, the Nikon D4 is likely the best possible option out there for that, but its also a larger system and maybe I don't wanna be concerned with the extra weight. Regardless, its an option. I like options. 

Art Model, Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So here's the deal. Pick the right tool out of your tool box for the job, based on the results you are trying to achieve. I've talked before on picking your system of choice. Well, let me add this, if I didn't speak on it already. Make your selection based on the features that will best deliver the results you wish to achieve. That's how you choose a camera. There is no such thing as a "starter camera". Get what you need that will accomplish the job and fit your budget and make the system with will accommodate 60% of your work your primary system. Then rent the rest. I've even known some who refuse to commit either way. They don't own anything. When they get a gig, they rent what they need for that assignment. Now granted, this individual shoots primarily medium format high resolution images. So rather than invest $50 grand into a system, he just rents what he needs, adds the rental cost into the invoice, and pockets the profits. I'm not that extreme. I have to have something on hand at all times. Even if its just a point and shoot. I've done a pro gig for a client with a Canon Powershot S100, which shoots RAW. It was the right piece of gear for the job. And that's what's key. 

22 October 2013

Game Changer...The Newest Sony Line

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley

In my last post, I discussed some concepts in the evolution of photography and the transitions to come. This is another aspect of that change. Anyone who's paid attention to camera gear has, by now heard of the new Sony A7 & the A7R. These are the latest Mirrorless Cameras to be introduced and the first ones outside of Leica to incorporate Full Frame sensors. What's the significance of all this, you might ask? Well, its like this...

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
To date, camera manufacturers have integrated large and heavy camera bodies into their lines every since the first Single Lens Reflex or SLR was introduced in 1948. All this means is that your eye in the viewfinder was seeing exactly what the lens is seeing. Prior to this, it was impossible as the viewfinder was located either just above the lens (Twin Lens Reflex) or to the side of the lens (rangefinders). So there was no way to view the subject the same way it was being captured on the film. While there have been medium format SLRs, the SLR has been primarily the purview of the 35mm format systems. To be an SLR, there has to be only one optical view for both the lens and the viewfinder, which is accomplished with two revolutionary features built into cameras...a mirror that pops up and down, and a penta-prism (penta-mirror in some cases). However there was a trade-off. Incorporating those two engineered components required an increase in the size of the camera. This increase also added to the weight. Weight was considered a viable trade-off because of the added stability when the camera is hand-held as well as the camera becoming more durable with stronger housings and shells.

And this has been the case for years. If you want the best of images, the SLR was your answer. As of the last 15 years, the Digital SLR, or DSLR has been king. At of the turn of the century, as more digital cameras were becoming lighter, we saw more and more female photographers entering the industry. The best cameras used to be suited for the large hands of men who also had the stamina to handle the weight. Aluminum alloys became the norm for frames. Polycarbonate shells (thermoplastic polymers) added reasonable strength without the weight for many of the consumer model cameras. Weight became less problematic to a degree, but you still had to contend with the large mirror box housing which has a tendency to be noisy, cause vibrations (requiring the mirror lock-up feature), as well as putting restrictions on frame rate. Sony was first to come up with the SLT, Single Lens Translucent mirror design, but it never really became the game-changer.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
There have been several new technologies that have come on the market in the last few years, which is another sign that the industry is ready for a new paradigm. Canon's Dual-Pixel Auto Focus system introduced in the EOS 70D was called a game-changer. Sony has introduced a lens to take pics without the camera with their QX system! But even Sony hasn't been the leader in mirrorless tech. That would instead be Olympus and Panasonic who have opted to combine technologies with their Mico Four-Thirds system sensors. And good Lord, they have caught on. The Olympus OMD-EM-5 hit the market to great fanfare just last year. A few months ago the introduced the OMD-EM-1. Nikon entered the market about 18 months ago with the Nikon 1 system. They havn't been as successful as Olympus who has chosen to forego their large DSLR line and put all their bank on the 4/3rds system. Canon was the industry lagger in this field and basically chose to BS with the EOS-M, which has really tanked. Rumor as it that they will try to make a comeback with a new version. Fujifilm is the other favorite contender with the X-series and the fixed lens X100s model.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Sony has come out blazing with 3 additional lines not including its DSLRs. The NEX-system has been absolutely killer. With several models, they all include DX-size sensors like what you have in the Nikon D7000 DSLR. Then they came out with a fixed lens Cybershot R-Line which introduced their first full frame sensor in a compact camera. And now they have announced the A7 and the A7R which comes out this December. The A7 is 24MP and the A7R is 36MP...just like my Nikon D800E, and it has the Antialias filter removed... just like my Nikon D800E, but at HALF the weight. And guess who made the sensor for my 36MP Nikon D800E... Yes, Sony.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Game changer? Yeah, I'd say so. I don't see Olympus abandoning their Micro 4/3rds systems in the near future, but I'm of the impression that Canon and Nikon are giving some serious looks to their R&D department heads. Is the Sony A7/A7R a DSLR-killer? Not quite yet. There are still necessities the mirrorless systems can't quite accommodate just yet. If you're a sports guy and need the frames per second, the DSLR is for you. If you're an avid outdoorsman needing the zoom beyond 300mm...DSLR. Or if you work much in extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions...DSLR. Wanna shoot WIDE open, like f/1.4...DSLR. But I would imagine those lenses are coming for the mirrorless systems. I'm sure speed will pick up. And the A7R is already weather sealed. Outside of those things, you can stay traditional, or give mirrorless a look, because it can pretty much hold its own in anything else. I know getting the Leica gear I want isn't as practical for my travel purposes at the moment. The A7R, however just might meet that need for now, however. Do I leave my D800E at home? I'm still thinking on that one.

20 October 2013

Embrace the Pain... State of the Industry 2013

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
~ W. Edwards Deming

One of the benefits of subscribing to Rangefinder Magazine is the end of year report they do on the State of the Industry, (sourced by  IBISWorld), usually in the October or November issues. One thing that remains consistent with trends from last year is the steady decline of customer's need for pro photogs for various reasons. One is the re-prioritizing of disposable income where photo services may not be as important as other things on people's financial agendas. Wedding, Portrait, and Commercial genres still hold the vast majority of need for new clients and are the largest sectors of the photo industry as a whole. However, even in those sectors of the industry, customers are still scaling back. And commercial budgets have been cut as managers are seeking more ways to slash expenses. People will still need memories and documentation of their events. Companies will still need images to entice us with their new product lines; just less of it. The digital prints that stay on e-magazines, websites, Facebook, Flickr, or the hard drive has become more important than physical prints that go in paper magazines, hang on the walls or sit on the mantle.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what's this mean for the pro photog? Demand is declining much like the water levels in Lake Mead. If you drive out to Hoover Dam in Boulder City, you'll notice a broad ring around the canyon walls where the water level has significantly dropped. Those rings are about 100 feet high.Touring the northern end and you can now drive out on larges sections of land that used to be underwater. The nature of photography is definitely evolving, changing, and morphing into something slightly different. Picture production at its core has remained fundamentally the same. We need it. We actually need more of it! But how its done and what we do with the results are entirely different than even when I was a kid. I'm living in a good time. My generation gets to see and recognize the transition. The generation after ours was born into this and don't know anything different. To me, it's actually exciting to witness history!

I call this the Commoditization of Photography (Or maybe its already been called that before.) And like any other commodity, a market has to exist for it. And if a market exists for any given commodity, equilibrium is an essential requirement. And by equilibrium, I mean supply and demand which is governed by that "invisible hand". Think about it. At one point in the life of photography, Supply was limited with a high demand. Photographers were paid well for their services because barriers to entry were relatively high. Cameras were expensive and the skill required to manipulate the camera to achieve a proper exposure and focus was a slow and arduous task made achievable with years of training in both the field AND in the darkroom.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger."
~ Frank Lloyd Wright 

And then technology happened. Significant advancements started to chip away at those barriers to entry. Leica introduced the first Auto Focus system in a camera. 1959 saw the first production of Varifocal or "Zoom" Lenses. Advancements in film chemistry also contributed to less complexity and skill needed for photography. Smaller sizes, Polaroid film, disposable cameras all inflamed the interest in consumer models. But as we all know, it was the advent of digital technology that ushered in the exponential changes in photography. Highter ISO's. More Megapixels. Dual Pixel Autofocus and CMOS sensors! Those barriers began to break open like the Berlin Wall. "EVERBODY'S GETTIN' INTO THE ACT!!", so to speak. But as I said, all markets require equilibrium. Supply has outpaced demand at a time when demand was beginning to dwindle anyway from other economic pressures. I'm sure you recall your ECON 101. What happens when supply outpaces demand? Prices fall. Things even out again.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Thank technology for all this. We love it, but its got a mean streak too that we have to also embrace. The trick is being one of the survivors during the photographic market correction and learning to utilize all this new tech to your advantage. And trust me, skill and complexity is on the rise again. More time spent in training is becoming essential. Differentiation is absolutely necessary. You have to stand out from the pack. Photographers are having to learn video, Photoshop, Digital Asset Management, etc, to be better. Clients have higher and higher expectations and when we don't OVER-deliver, we fail them. Its making it so that if you don't love this thing, you're gonna hate it and get out. Then everybody that got into photo for a quick buck starts to look elsewhere because photo has become "too hard".

Embrace pain. The world is so much easier when you do.

Dang! Somebody else used the term, "Commoditization of Photography" just earlier this year!!