26 July 2015

Looking Ahead - For Gallery and Exhibition Opportunities

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

"The entertainment is in the presentation."

This past week is the first real fresh week for me since returning from Central America in June. I'm just now getting back into the swing of things and I'm eager about it. I teach One-on-One Photography Classes with independent clients and my schedule has just now opened up to where I can get back on that. They are week long intensive, but at your pace foundation instruction classes to begin with, but I give clients an option for a second week at more advanced principles of understanding light as well as working with the absence of it. I can travel to anywhere in the United States, but my best work will be here in Las Vegas. I definitely encourage potential clients outside Nevada to travel to Las Vegas, secure accommodations, transportation, and give me a week of your time. My last student was at the end of February and I left for Guatemala City just days after that. Its now MID-JULY and I'm just getting things to where I can start it back up.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

I can now also concentrate on accepting clients for more Photography Projects, as well. That's the principle part of my photography business which is shooting of course. I will continue my main line of portraiture and event work for clients, but at this point, I'm also looking to step it up a bit and operate outside the traditional fare with more Food and Interior Design Photography. But my Portraiture Photography work will be focusing instead on that particular client that needs something new, fresh, and different from the norm that involves a bit more of my artistic side with the creative liberties to push the envelop.

Market Square, Antigua, Guatemala ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Market Square, Antigua, Guatemala ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Lets see, what else? Oh yeah, the 3rd principle element. Photo Sales! I don't traditionally print small. I used to, but I'm more happier concentrating on work that goes on walls, not just sitting on coffee tables. I have books for that. 30x20 and larger is the realm of reality where you'll find me. I make images that are made for books and walls. Display and presentation are key concepts that help define what happens to my images and artwork. Shoot, Edit, Print, AND THEN PRESENT is the final step of the process. It does not end with the print. A print can never make it out of the portfolio. A print on its own will be appreciated by the small circle of its creator. However if said print is destined to be viewed by the world, Presentation is key.

Of course you have the web, web portfolios, web galleries, and archives that can store photos and make them available for viewing. My argument is that seeing a shot that will be viewed upon various screen size resolutions and color shifts does nothing for the image. It does not serve the creator nor the viewer the way a printed piece commands respect. As opposed to sitting transfixed in front of a small screen browsing away at the speed of your scroll wheel, an exhibited piece of art demands the viewer to work a little bit. Engage a little bit. Spend a little bit. Invest a little bit. It requires the viewer to leave home, jump in a car, and arrive at a predetermined destination. It insists that the viewer forgo an alternative form of leisure or other investment of time and trade this opportunity for the cost of being present and standing before my work of art.

Street Corner, Matagalpa, Nicaragua ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Now my job is to make this investment of time worth the price of admission and elicit such an emotional or calculated response as to implore the viewer to take this work of art home before a rival buyer might make this choice. That's my job. And if I can do my job successfully, this process will repeat itself again and again perpetually. I understand that some pieces will not be successful. I understand that some pieces I have emotional ties with may fail with you and you make wish to take home an image that I would never have believed to ever garner attention. This has happened before. The work that I so loved, sat while another image sold quickly.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
I haven't bothered with exhibition to much in the past. Now its a focus. I now have preparatory work to do in terms of finding exhibition opportunities, selecting pieces for display, and having those pieces made available in the right form of presentation. This in and of itself is not a cheap process, especially with the way I choose to present and have my work hung. I make it especially more challenging on myself, because I have to insist that my nude work is part of this process and some spaces may have difficulty honoring this due to various policies. Nonetheless, it is a must. If I'm not showing my art nudes, then what's the point. In some instances, that is the main concentration and exhibit focus. And that's where you can come in. In changing tactics like this, I definitely need some insight. Having seen my work, if you think you know of exhibition opportunities that can accommodate me, then please message me the details. I'd love to hear from you!

17 July 2015

Why Traveling (Internationally) Seems So Hard

Couple traveling in 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 often about why I travel, what its like, and how I do it more times than I'd care to count. I'm amazed at how mysterious so many people think it is. But then again, I'm reminded of the fact that I used to be the exact same way. It's not easy when you can't speak the language. Its too expensive. I have kids or a job that won't let me take the time off. Trust me. I had the exact same thoughts and had a few events and people in my life not helped me change that mentality, I'd still be in the same mindset.

German Art Model traveling through out Central and South America
For me, the military set the ball in motion. My first duty assignment was in Germany. I hail from Texas where being 200 miles or more from home was a rarity and most of those times I exceeded 200 miles, I was still in Texas. I turned 20 in Germany if memory serves. It was a wake-up call and was the first thing or event in my life that let me know people did things differently. During time off, I got to travel around Europe. Eventually other assignments took me to more places and I learned to be in the habit of moving a lot.

German Art Model traveling through out Central and South America
Towards the end of my military career, I stabilized in the city of my last duty station in Tennessee which is where my kids call home. I got to travel from there to Lake Tahoe with a former friend of mine who travels domestically often. I got to see that its not as expensive as I had been lead to believe to arrange flights, hotels, and car rentals if you do it wisely. The advent of the internet and online booking options really aided me in those efforts. And yet, I gradually lost the calling to seek out new life and civilizations. I got bogged down in work and making money. Through some hiking associations, I met fellow traveler, @Heather Rae Murphy of In Search of Squid.com who took off on her own to Southeast Asia for two months one summer. I couldn't wait til she got back to talk to her about her trip. It was at this point that I realized a few things. Excuses were just that...excuses. I had already been through enough life events to realize I wasn't going out of this life with thoughts of making more money for my employer. I was on the road WITH Heather that next following Summer in Guatemala and Belize. There was one thing in particular that I had to change in my life in order to make these things happen.

Art Model Covenant on Little Corn Island traveling throughout Central America 

Yes. Prioritizing travel was all it took really. Just making the decision to go. Go anywhere! But don't be deluded. You ain't going anywhere til you get that ticket. All the plans you make. All the good intentions and mean-wells do you absolutely no good until you GET THAT TICKET! So booking the flight is first. Well at some point before you go, you're gonna have to get a passport if you don't already have one. Plan a trip that is several months away to give yourself some time to make the arrangements. Central America has been the perfect proving grounds. One, its close. Two, its cheap. Three, it eliminates any and every excuse you might have to not travel. As many times as you've flown across the US for the holidays or other family events, you'll pay less in many cases flying internationally to the Central America. So what you can't speak the language. I'm still alive after several trips of being down there. My Spanish is getting better. But I didn't remember much of anything outside of counting to twenty-nine in EspaƱol. Don't be scared of that. I'd wager that 80% of all the travelers I meet do not speak the native language and yet you don't hear of news reports of people dying because of it. But chances are your priorities are probably getting those new J's on your feet. Or maybe trying to find a way to keep those $500 a month car payments up. Or its probably more important to have your Starbucks in the morning. You spend your money on what you are about most. If you cared about traveling, odds are you would be or will soon be traveling.

Art Model Covenant on Little Corn Island
traveling throughout Central America 
"There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million."
~ Walt Streightiff

So you got kids

Children playing in Belize ©2012 Terrell Neasley
Yeah, my kids are grown. Is that an advantage? I won't lie. Yes it is. However... So what?? Bring the kids!! Why not raise 'em on a good wholesome diet of culture variety? You can't tell me how this would be a bad thing unless you are planning a trip to Syria. More likely than not, your kids will also become travelers. Why? Because they'll be used to it and will ALREADY have passports. Many people stay put because they have never applied for a passport. I see kids on the road with their families all the time. Many get raised on sailboats with parents who circumnavigate the world. You know who I meet on the road from other countries traveling by themselves? 18 to 23 year old kids doing extended travel for a few months before they get locked down in jobs and careers. Do you think your 18 year old is ready to cross the Pacific on their own? Well they would be if you took them there before they leave home.

Is it the job?

This is probably a tough one. But then I gotta ask. How important is traveling to you? If your job doesn't understand your need to be off more than a week a year, then...damn. I don't want to tell you you need to find a new job. YOU need to tell you that you need to find a new job. America is one of the few countries that still don't understand the value of time off and burn-out prevention. Traveling or not, a well-rounded lifestyle is more beneficial to your health and longevity. Expense reports are not. But honestly, who can tell you to change careers. I follow travel blogs all the time and often hear about husbands/wives, or single people quitting their jobs to follow their hearts.

All I'm saying is this: There are options out there if you look. Plenty of them. But none of them will do you a bit of good until you make the call to prioritize travel with your money and your time. Get the ticket!

Locals in Antigua, Guatemala ©2014 Terrell Neasley

30 June 2015

June: All About the Editing & Open to Suggestions

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"Do what you love. Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still."
~ Henry David Thoreau

I have a love/hate relationship with traveling. Okay, maybe that's a little strong way to put it at the expense of dramatic effect, so let me be a bit more plain. I absolutely love to travel and come back with all the great pics. However, this is the only time I really don't enjoy editing as much. Don't get me wrong. I love editing photos. But not when I have to cull through FIVE THOUSAND! I know its got to be done those and all this month, that's been the deal. ALL this month. Usually, I'm spending a week, (max two!) editing a project and then its on to the next gig. Its been all month and I think I'm maybe half way through at best....maybe...

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Sting Rays
But that's cool. Its got to be done. And it's hard to complain about SO MANY GREAT SHOTS. This is just the other side of the coin and I'll do well enough by pacing myself. In the meantime, I'm already shooting again with those edits on the back-burner and more models to schedule for July. The trick though is shooting in Las Vegas in JULY, is to beat the heat. Which isn't easy. I just got off the phone a few minutes ago discussing some possible options to shoot in the next few weeks. So somehow, we need to get to some sites nearby that will not melt your face. So I have some serious scouting to do coming up in addition to editing. I'm basically caught up on all the movies I missed. Game of Thrones has ended the season. So no more distractions. Except for all the chatter about whether or not Jon Snow is really dead. I'll leave you to your own theories and research about that, though.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."
~ Steve Jobs

If you have been following my Instagram, @PhotoAnthems, (and if you haven't been, you should), you'll see that I've definitely been mixing my art nude work with my travel and street photos. Initially, I felt the need to keep these two genres separate, but I honestly don't think I'm being true to myself when I do so. The two best loves about what I do right now are traveling and shooting nudes. So its sort of like the next greatest merger of all time for people who like chocolate and peanut butter. I just have to find a way to put them both together and make them work. Do what you love. Well, those two are it, primarily. If I had all the resources I needed to simply Travel and Shoot Nudes, that's all I'd be doing. I'd live on a boat and circumnavigate the planet stopping at interesting locations to visit, make new experiences and friends, shoot, and tell stories about. 

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
And that leaves me with with the task of finding my real audience. Plenty of people are interested in travel photography, visiting places around the world, and living vicariously through those that do in the form of instant access social media. That demographic is easy. A smaller portion of that demographic is interested in seeing a nipple exposed anywhere near a waterfall landscape composition. And even less want a full frontal nude body littering, what would have otherwise been appropriate imagery to hang on a family wall. I can be a bit obstinate, I know. Because the easy solution is to just stick to the travel landscape and make everybody happy. And that would be great, but it would come at the cost of my own happiness. And I can not do that. 

Open to suggestions!

10 June 2015

Back Again... And 5 Good Things About Traveling

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
“Unless you photograph what you love, you are not going to make good art.”

Three months is a long time to be gone from home as a traveler or tourist. I did the same thing last year dividing my time between Nicaragua (mostly) and Mexico. And much in the same fashion as then, today is much to do about catching up. Pouring over all the missed mail, unpacking all my things, doing a data dump of a half terabyte worth of imagery, and getting your house back in order takes a little bit of time. Then there's catching up with friends and family. I got to see good friend, Pierre-Luc and his girlfriend, Katie at the theater today briefly while standing in line for movie tickets. Yes. Lot's of movies to catch up on.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
But I must say this was a most interesting trip. True to form, I can't seem to come away from these things unscathed. You saw the stitches in my thumb in my "Midway Through" post, which occurred in April. May saw me with my wrist wrapped up from some sort of pinched nerve or carpel tunnel thingie. It hurt far worse than my thumb did and I still suffer from it to-date, though not as intensely as before. It prompted an early return by about two weeks. With my wrist in so much pain, it was useless to continue on further north in Nicaragua. The plan was to head upwards to the Northern border and hike Somoto Canyon. We had already decided to forego our journey further south. The heat was really pouring on and we were not going to do Costa Rica or Panama. Since I had already been in the south, the cooler north made sense. We stayed in Matagalpa for a full two weeks. After my wrist showed no signs of getting better, we checked online for ticket prices and found that ticket prices didn't really change at any point during the month. So we booked our flight for the next available which was two days later.

And now we're back in Vegas! I didn't get all the shots I wanted on this trip, but I still came back with lots of goodies. It can be a bit overwhelming looking at all these shots I need to go through. Fortunately, I'm starting my edits with shots of some properties I did work for during my journey. My first gig has been waiting since the first day I arrived in country, so I need to get hot on their shots. But I still hold all the memories fresh in my head. I had dinner with some good friends today and they cooked with coconut oil. The house smelled just like the cottage we stayed in on Little Corn Island where we cooked with coconut oil as well. We ate the hell out of coconut, had fresh baked coconut bread delivered to us by our hosts, and made fruit salad, mainly of star fruit and mangoes, from the trees around the property. We spent less than $30 in total on food for a whole week! I can't wait to get back to Little Corn and our spot on the northern end.

It feels good coming home, but I'm already missing Central America. You learn so much when you travel that I feel it definitely elevates you as a human being. I've had lots of people, over the years, ask what I get out of leaving my own country so much. I'll give you 5 good reasons why you should endeavor to priorities overseas travel in your life.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
1. Learn New Ways of Doing Things - One way to expand your horizons is to understand the American way ain't the only way. Other people have ideas too. If there is one thing that I learned for certain is that you don't need as much as you think you need in order to be happy. I've seen it with my own eyes! If you take a look at all the things you've accumulated in life...all the stuff...what does it do for you? Trim down the clutter in your life. Start valuing and accumulating life experiences instead of stuff. This will teach you how to be flexible when life throws you a curve ball. These experiences help you to see different solutions. Travel teaches you so much about life.

2. Tolerance for Humanity - When I travel outside the U.S., I see a different culture that has adapted to their environment, established communities, and care for one another. It may be a little different than the way we do things, but you begin to understand your fellow man a little better when you see where he has come from. When you visit his or her home and you see how important hospitality is to them, you want to do the same when they come to your country. Seeing how they live helps establish a deeper connection. And when you understand we are all connected, humanity is enriched. And don't forget about the other people from other parts of the world you meet while traveling. You won't learn only from the country you visit. I have standing relationships with people from all over the world. Again...we are all connected.

3. Better Appreciation of How Well You Actually Live - America has long been called the Land of Opportunity. And I believe this is so. But believing this and taking advantage of it are two different things. If you spend your days bitching about how hard life is and how little you make and have, let me take you to a few spots in Guatemala where guys go to work every morning to clear fields with machetes and get pennies for it. But then go home to their families proud to put food on the table. Go ahead, bitch about you car or how bad your feet hurt after work. Those boys down there do work!

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
4. Better Appreciation for the Planet - You also get to see areas of what your planet used to look like before it was deforested and cultivated for urban sale. Want to see something beautiful? Western United States has got plenty sites. But if you wanna see something different, follow me to El Salvador and take a look at some jungle waterfalls! Let me take you out into the Caribbean and swim in some of the clearest waters you'll find along with sting ray and barracuda! And while we're out there, I'll show you the dead reef areas where it has been killed off by irresponsible tourists. You will begin to understand conservation a bit better. Its like throwing garbage in your own home.

5. Broadens Out Your Scope of What's Actually Possible - But when you visit these places, especially ones not so flourishing as the U.S., you get a chance to witness what these local people do and what they can accomplish with only a fraction of what you have. You just might return home and see possibilities in areas that looked void of hope before. You may even bring back some of those new ideas and cultivate a new attitude that inevitably serves you well at home. You want a boost in self-confidence. Hit the road. Its not near as scary as you've been lead to believe.

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