26 July 2014

Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Manual Focus Lens Initial Review

I've been getting used to my first manual focus lens this past week and its been a fun process. I picked up the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens and took off into Utah to scout some new locations and play with it a before I head out on my next excursion soon. This was a trip to familiarize myself with the lens prior to putting it to real tasking. Its definitely easier to do this with a wide-angle lens as opposed to something longer than a 50mm lens. There are definitely ways to check your focus with manual focus lenses so that you are tack sharp. I'm still getting used to the lens, but I think I've got it figured out well enough. I had to tweek a little chromatic aberration as well as guard against unwanted vignetting, but not really any more than you see in most wide-angles.

This is not a fish-eye, so there is minimal distortion and practically no barreling when shooting straight on. That's pretty good for a 14. This is a lens that's designed primarily for video work and therefore has knobby aperture and focus rings to better grip the follow focus knobs that may be used when the camera is mounted on a shoulder rig. Since is a cinema lens, it also utilizes T-stops as opposed to the F-stop you might be familiar with, but this is very close to the same thing. F-stops are derived from a calculated equations which is determined based on a given focal length, but T-stops are actually measurements of light used by cinematographers and are actually a bit more accurate than the f-stop, but just by a bit. Overall, this is an inexpensive, VERY well-made, and I might add...ATTRACTIVE lens from the makers of Rokinon.

Here are some of the initial shots I've been playing with. And at the end is an embedded YouTube vid by Matt Granger, who gives an EXCELLENT description on the difference between F&T Stops. He drops some interesting knowledge about the true light transmissions on some of the most expensive lenses by Canon and Nikon compared to, say a Tamron. Check out his YouTube Channel for more video knowledge!

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley

21 July 2014

Not Upgrading to the New Nikon D810

"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse."
~ Winston Churchill

Art Model, Covenant  ©2014 Terrell Neasley

The Nikon D810 has just arrived in stores this past week and the reviews are very positive for this new camera system. I have to admit, its pretty dog gone stunning and a very desirable piece of equipment. I own the D800E and several people have asked me if I will upgrade. The easy answer is, No. Not right now anyways. And I'll tell you why. I've got several other priorities before I make that move. While I am a gear head, I don't feel the immediate draw to ditch my 800E for it. I might feel otherwise had I bought the D800 (non-E version). But the fact of the matter is that I'm happy with the E. And I haven't been wishing for the upgrades that appear in the 810.

Art Model, Covenant  ©2014 Terrell Neasley
I can't say that a little later down the line, I won't make that jump. But if I do, its because my priorities have been fulfilled and the upgrade is allowable. Right now, I've been upgrading my Dell T5500 computer workstation which is entering its 3rd year this fall. I've added an external hard drive and 16GBs more RAM, giving me close to 30 now. This system is still good enough that a tune-up will suffice rather than an overhaul. I'm still trying to determine which graphics card upgrade I'll get and chances are I'm going also beef up my internal hard drives again along with my back-up external drives before year's end. To me, this is more important that the D810 right now.

What I Like
Make no mistake. The D810 is bad ass. Several features make me wanna jump on it. One of the things that gets my attention on the camera the quiet nature of it. Its got an electronic front curtain shutter and is now whisper quiet. I'm big on that, but its not as if my current system is blaring in my ears. But let me back up to the sensor. Its a misnomer to state that the E has the AA filter removed. Its actually simply negated by another piece of glass on the sensor. The 810 actually has it removed. Its simply not there. But this could be a negligible improvement to the naked eye. As a fine art specialist, I gotta give cred to the native 64 ISO. So far, you see all the rage on the extended high ISO. If there is a low ISO, its a system edit moreso than a specifically designed sensor capability. They'll call it L1 and L2. Same with the high ISO. Once it reaches its max, manufacturers like to boast extended H1, or H2. A natural ISO of 64 means even more fine quality shots about a stop lower than the native 100 ISO of most cameras. I like the new 4-digit counter instead of 3-digit. That means time-lapse shots can go to 9,999 in stead of 999. In fact, I'll likely make the switch as video and time-lapse become more prominent in my work, as opposed to occasional. The exposure smoothing option is key here. This is the only time Auto-ISO becomes important to me. I like the AF and Metering systems that come courtesy of the D4S. Beautiful.

Art Model, Covenant  ©2014 Terrell Neasley
What I don't Care About
Frame rate isn't that important to me. And unless you are doing sports, chances are, you don't benefit from it as much either. The D800 has never been a sports camera. So the single frame rate addition is a marginal benefit in my opinion. I personally don't need the added stop of ISO on the high end. Nice feature, allowable with the new processor, no doubt. But its not a huge jump. I have rarely ever shot above 3200 much less blasting at 6400.

What I WISH it Had
Now here's the tricky part. As I mentioned in a previous post, both Nikon and Canon are missing the proverbial boat here by remaining conventional and traditional. Ask Kodak how that worked out for them. But its tricky in that the features I want to mention aren't necessarily ones I really "need" per se. But shaking things up a bit, surprising us a bit, getting outside the same old predictable would have set the D810 apart. A touch screen for instance. Nikon has absolutely no touch screen systems what so ever despite that almost every display we have starting to trend that way. So why not? Why not give us built-in WiFi/GPS? Canon has this and touch screen in two of their systems already. And every other camera manufacture has already implemented it as well. What Nikon could have done to really throw it in Canon's face would have been 4K video to challenge the Canon 5DMk3 (and its successor), even if it meant having an external output like the Sony A7S. Focus Peaking or Split Screen Focus would have made me immediately sell my D800E for that feature alone. How about some aps on the thing? What else...? I can't think of anything else at the moment. Wait...that's it!! Give me something that I haven't even thought about! Or show us a video of someone using a water hose on the camera and that it still functions perfectly. Forget the High ISO and megapixel war that has been raging since the dawn of the Digital Age. Give me voice command...or something! I just want to feel like innovation is important to the company. Just about every last one of the new features on this camera were predictable.

Art Model, Covenant  ©2014 Terrell Neasley
And I can be further impressed if they do firmware upgrades that make the D800/D800E better cameras. What? Would that cannibalize 810 sales? Fuji does it all the time and its called brand loyalty and consumer support. Do a firmware upgrade on a Fujifilm camera two years after the fact and its almost like you just downloaded a new camera. But hey...maybe Nikon has some things in the pipe I/We aren't aware of that will be featured in the D900. But I live in Vegas. Chances are, the next upgrade will be a D820 while Sony introduces a curved 50MP medium format sensor that fits in the palm of your hand.

08 June 2014

What Will the Future Pro Camera (DSLR) Look Like?

Art Model Katherine and Hades, ©2008 Terrell Neasley
"Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
~ George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the debates that spawn rumors about the demise of the DSLR. Every since the Mirrorless systems have been on the market and gaining steam, the question has been on whether or not the DSLR will survive. But I pose a different question... WHY do we CARE??

I guess the people who care most about this question will be the DSLR loyalists who can't make the transition to something new. These will be the Canon or Nikon users who swear by their larger full frame systems and large fast glass. The DSLR has been around since the mid-1930's and has been successful since the '60's as the go-to system over the rangefinder. Its transition to digital in the early 90's has spawned an out of control evolution, dare I say REVOLUTION in the field of photography. But the main feature of the DSLR, which gives it its TTL benefits, is the MIRROR. The mirror sits in a mirror box and reflects the image the camera sees into a pentaprism that bounces the image up to be seen through the viewfinder. This mirror box accounts for the size of the DSLR, even though technology has allowed many of them to be smaller than the cameras they replace.

But here are a few things I think the pro camera will have in the next 6 years and the DSLR will go the way of the twin lens reflex. Sure it'll be around, but it will not be mainstream.

Art Model, Mary ©2006 Terrell Neasley
1. No Mirror Box
Well, I think this is first and most obvious. Current mirrorless systems are gaining ground fast. 3 things that kept DSLRs above the Mirrorless systems this same time last year were Speed WITH auto focus AND metering between shots, full frame resolution, and again with speed with respects to frames per second. Well, we now have full frame mirrorless systems with the Sony A7/A7R systems. The A7R boasts a sensor pretty much the same as what's in Nikon's 36MP D800E. In fact, Sony MAKES the sensor for the D800's. They are also gaining in frames per second since the Olympus OM-D EM-1 will shoot at 10fps, but the problem is that is can only do this at a locked AF and exposure. Trust me, somebody's gonna be promoting that feature within the year. By proving the mirror box as an antiquated system, I predict most cameras being sold in 6 years will not have one.

2. No Shutter
I think this too will disappear before long as tech improves. Cameras are quickly becoming computers that take pictures. Firmware updates come as about as frequently as ones for your desktop, (although not quite as much for iPhones). So how will we take pics? Simple...the sensor will soon easily turn on and off in blinding speeds and eliminate the restrictions of an 1/8000 shutter speed. You'll be able to get 1/128,000 shutter speed on your new pro camera and stop a bullet in flight as it is discharged from a firearm, provided you had enough light. But who's shooting above 1/8000th of a second shutter anyway? The main gig the faster shutter will be used for shall be frames per second. With a sensor that cuts on and off with blinding speed, you be looking at sports photographers who'll be able to shoot 100 frames a second. Yeah, media capacity will have to increase as well.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2006 Terrell Neasley
3. Video Capture will be much more common
Every single camera made these days will do 1080p video. Well, except for Nikon's Df. The Canon 70D has features more attuned and designed for video use even more than photo. Video quality will improve and in 6 years, pro-level cameras will likely shoot 6K video. It might just be easier to shoot video instead of attempting to capture that decisive moment photographically and then pulling a single hi-res image from the video file. But I still believe video is gaining in popularity. Therefore more people will want to learn video capture the same way people are flocking to cameras and photo. Technology has made it easier to capture, edit, and share images. Vids will be no different.

4. Lytro Tech in Mid-Level Systems and Above
If you hadn't at least heard of the Lytro system, you're wrong. Lytro uses revolutionary tech to allow post capture focus points. Basically, with shallow depth of field compositions, you can elect to change the point of focus and chose something in the foreground or change it something in the background AFTER you've already taken the shot and are editing it in your post work. I'll let you read up on it instead of getting into a bunch of details when all I want is a paragraph for this post. But suffice to say, the company just announce its latest version of its light field capture camera. But I have a feeling that a major manufacturer will buy the company out and integrate its tech into its own systems. [Just came across this article about an MIT team using this same technique for cell phones.] Nikon hasn't shown this type of innovation in recent years and Canon tries to play it to safe stay traditional. I see Sony picking up this company in the next few years and integrating it into their mirrorless systems. Watch and see what I tell you.

Art Model Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley
5. More Wireless Options
Wireless options will be the norm for any new camera coming out in about 3 years. Pro level systems will be no different. It will be a standard feature, but they will do more. Your camera will essentially be a phone that takes pictures instead of making calls with a 4G, LTE, or whatever they may be calling it in a few years. Simply put, it will have its own IP address and be able to connect to internet at will with wireless speeds that will be able to transmit directly to the cloud no matter the file size. Wireless capabilities will, before long, reach speeds and capabilities that far outpace the camera files sizes and it will be seemingly instant. Cameras will likely still have high capacity media cards, SD or otherwise, but images will have the ability to download straight to a cloud storage source instead of just to your phone or tablet.

Art Model, Tiffany ©2008 Terrell Neasley
6. Cameras with Apps and Touch Screen Functions
Menus are being simplified big time. Sony and Fujifilm have camera controls that are becoming more similar to App controls and it will continue. The Leica T is probably leading the pack in this regard. Our Leica rep for B&C Camera came by to update us on some Leica training. He introduced us to the Leica T system that has just hit the shelves. There are FOUR buttons on this thing. Everything else is operated via touch screen and app functions. In fact, let me just say that this system is probably the prototype for the rest of its systems. Likely the M-series will be modeled after this same tech in a few years. Its been Samsung who has been the spearhead in this regard, though. They started it with the Galaxy point and shoot cameras which has not evolved into their NX systems. The NX-30 is, in all likelihood, the camera that will most likely meet all of my predictions if they don't falter or get knocked out by competition...again, I'm thinking Sony.

In any case, I don't see the DSLR being in the picture in its present form anyway. But back to my original question. Why do we care? Cameras and photography has been in a constant state of evolution. The DSLR replaced the Film-based SLR. They are still around, but less and less people are shooting with them and manufacturers aren't producing them any longer. Prior to the SLR, pro photogs used entirely different systems. This link depicts early sport photography cameras that weighed in at 120 pounds. The thing looks like a howitzer. But my point is that technology drives change and cameras cannot stay the same. So why do we care whether or not the DSLR will still be here in 6 years. The DSLR is a tool in order to do photography. IMHO, its the photography that matters. How its captured, doesn't concern me as much as long as its good quality per my standards and looks like what I imagined it to.

02 June 2014

Fujifilm's X-E2, Better Results Than I Thought

Masaya, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

A little while back I did a post about my lowered expectations for the image results from my Nicaragua trip working with the Fuji. Not low expectations for the X-E2 in general, but rather for MY X-E2 in particular. I detailed how my specific camera got dunked in the Pacific while it was in a cloth material camera bag as I got caught between 300 meters of hard rock cliff and a fast rising tide. The Fuji got submerged several times along with my iPhone and a few other things. I was able to revive the camera by leaving it tied up in a bag filled with rice for a week (until the ants found it). Slowly the functions began to come back on, but all the buttons were mixed up. The PLAYBACK button became the DRIVE button and the DRIVE button function were now accessed via the AE button. And all those buttons would change again periodically. My last statement in that post was "I'm not sure what can be done with it just yet. Salt usually means death to a camera system. So we'll see." 

Well, now YOU can see too.

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
The function mix-up... I could deal with all that. What I found particularly challenging was the fact that the Auto Focus system became very sporadic. I could be 5 feet away from my subject, fill the frame with a face, have plenty of light and still miss. And that was even with the 35mm 1.4, which is probably Fuji's sharpest lens, and which did not get wet at all. I didn't have it with me at the time. The 18-55mm is what was on the camera at the time it was submerged repeatedly and then promptly got stolen a few weeks later along with my iPhone. However, even the Auto Focus has been coming back. I've been testing it since I've returned to Vegas and it seems to be back on par. On the other hand, the truth remains that I can't trust it. At least not on another assignment. I thought about it and reached the conclusion that I can't take the risk that a salt crystal might be sitting on a circuit that erodes through when I need it most. Had it been fresh water, maybe so, but not sea water.

Anonymous Art Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

Leon, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
So as sporadic as it performed, this is what I did learn. When it did hit, it was dead on! I've just now finished all the edits I think I'll do from that trip. Lots of missed shots. Some, that I'm quite pissed to have missed. The ones I did get on the other hand were exceptional. I even did a professional shoot with it on my way back from Nicaragua. I stopped off in LA to help a friend who asked me about shooting for a business working at the Black College Expo. Some of that was doing convention capture, but then later that day it was fashion work for a clothing line. I got to work with about six models who were excellent. Since I don't like doing a pro gig with one camera, especially a potentially faulty one, I also rented a Fujifilm X100s to give me some wide-angle aspects since all I had was the 35mm which looks like a 50mm due to Fuji's APS-C sensor (Crop factor of 1.5). The X100s has a fixed 23mm f/2 lens, which looks like a 35mm due to its APS-C sensor as well. I had it shipped ahead to the hotel where I was staying. 

2014 Black College Expo, Los Angeles,
Even Actor/Comedian Michael Colyar dropped by

I got everything I needed and was able to deliver the goods. The file sizes were still around 33MB in RAW form, so I had plenty of information for editing. I still wish I had my 36MP D800E for fashion work, but this crop-sensor Fuji delivered for the purposes intended. And now that I've completed edits from all my shots in Nicaragua, I've still amassed about 80 edited images out of the 965 I came back with, which is closer than I expected to my normal rate as a 10%'er. Even back in my film days, I was still relatively and consistently editing 10% of all my shots.

Models Left to Right,
 Nathan Rachinski, Kevante Wickliffe, Dina Shestacova, Matthew Rice Franklin, Elise Puritz, and Cadwell Samuels
Given all that, I will try my next excursion with the Fujifilm X-T1, which has added weather-sealing. I'm really loving this X-Trans II CMOS sensor. Coupled with the addition of the 23mm f/1.4 and the 56mm f/1.2 to go with my 35, I'll have everything I need. Well, I think I might just indulge myself a bit further. I'm also waiting on the Rokinon 10mm f/2.8 ED AS NCS CS Lens for the Fuji mount to be released. Rok makes some budget lenses but they've been really pulling out the stops on several new additions. So, if I'm gonna try it, its gonna be on one with expected distortion. I just wish I could hurry up and finalize all my travel plans and itinerary!

28 May 2014

"Implied Nudes"? No..Not So Much

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley
Nude — adj
1. completely unclothed; undressed
2. having no covering; bare; exposed

So this latest few series of blog posts have gotten a little attention. First, I started out with Why I don't do nudes for money. I followed it up explaining how I'm waiting on the right time, venue, and circumstances. I then covered details about my private sessions because I do charge for those. And after this I got a few questions regarding implied nudes, but presently I felt it necessary to decline those requests. Work for hire gets you whatever you want, of course. But integrating it into my regular artistic nude work for no charge is not as doable for me at this time.

Art Model, SuzN © 2013 Terrell Neasley

Implied nudes are just what it sounds like. These are images of women taken that give the appearance the the model is nude, however they are still covered...just not with clothing. This can take the form of using the hands to help cover the goods or strategic angles to keep everything hidden. Sometimes models might use a boa, fabric material, or any type of prop that can be used to cover the breasts and genitalia. I've seen some great work from several photographers who do implied nudes. They are Facebook friendly and can be used in more widely acceptable venues. They can still be considered adult in nature, so placement should still be a consideration. You can see this all over the Las Vegas strip and downtown area, but you'd be less likely to see it on a billboard next to a school.

Art Model, Christina © 2013 Terrell Neasley
I just choose not to do it. At least not for free as I might my other art nude work. I shoot the nude. I have a dislike for hiding or censoring my work. I started out doing this with my own work and it was actually a model, Sara, one of my original art nude models, who practically scolded me for my own self-censoring practices. She articulated to me that there will be enough people in the world who will do this for me that I need not add to their efforts. She reminded me that I am an artistic nude photographer and that is where my passion lies. So why then should I take pictures whereby the elements that qualify a work as art nude are eliminated from the composition?

“It’s the invention of clothes, not nature, that made “private parts” private.” 
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

Over the years, I have received negative feedback and foul opinions for my work. I like to think that I respect people and their opinions about me. Sometimes I take it personally. In some cases, people may criticize my art, which is fine. Other times, they take it a step further and form an opinion about me personally because I am the author of what they feel to be obscene, improper for moral consumption, and otherwise simply disgusting. At times, I can't say I blame them. Artists have historically pushed and challenged the ideals that society hold dear. I have been disgusted myself by some expressions of artists who use the "art" moniker very loosely. Who am I to define loose, though? Some of my work is way more explicit that what many would be comfortable with despite my artistic editing techniques.

Art Model, Emily © 2013 Terrell Neasley
However here is my deal. We are talking about the human body. I have never understood why society needs "protection" from depictions of a penis, a vagina, or breasts especially when these depictions are non-sexualized. Our most famous art pieces and artists we consider to be masters utilized the nude form as the norm in their work and kids can see this in a museum anywhere. I take issue to the fact that we can be subjected to advertisements that imply nudity or are sexually sensationalized, but breasts in art are morally unlawful. Since when did boobs become taboo? I don't want to use this blog as a soapbox to debate why America would be better off if we were not afraid of the naked body. That's not even the purpose of this post. But I feel like I've addressed well enough on my particulars on why implieds are of less interest to me. I mislike the notion of being afraid of the nude. And if I have any last issue with the implied nude, it is simply the fact that I enjoy shooting the nude...the whole you. The nude you. I would much rather be inclined to shoot a clothed model than an implied nude.

23 May 2014

Private Sessions and What They Might Entail

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
"Nothing is more dangerous than a friend without discretion; even a prudent enemy is preferable."
~ Jean de La Fontaine

This series of posts has a bit more depth to it than I thought. I was asked by someone who read the original post about my private sessions and I thought I'd go into a bit more detail regarding them. So in that post, I was referencing moments when I do indeed take money for my artistic nude work and I explained it like this:
"But before I go into details, let me clarify. I DO charge for my art nude work and sessions under certain conditions. Two, in fact. There are times that I simply cannot turn down a paying gig in order to shoot model nudes. So in those cases, when I need to be about my business, shooting nudes will also have to be rolled into my revenue-generating efforts. The second reason is when said model chooses not to allow me to display the created work for my own artistic purposes. In these cases, the model becomes a client and monetary compensation is necessary since this becomes a work for hire agreement. If I can't use the images for my artwork, then I can only participate in the requested session for hire."

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Enough people have seen my work and form their own opinions about it and me. I was having breakfast with a good buddy of mine just the other day and he mentioned a lady who spoke disparagingly about my work. Understood. I totally get it. Its not for everyone and these people have their own reasons. So that's understood and I can respect and appreciate that. I try not to take it personally. I don't always succeed, but that's cool too. I always get over it. No biggie.

From time to time, word gets out to someone who appreciates what I do. Whether from curiosity or a longing desire to be seen as an art nude model, I get calls and requests for my services as a photographer to assist in bringing these visions to fruition. I am reminded of one such mother who sought me out. She had already worked with two photographers in as many years to little satisfaction. Her efforts had only resulted in pictures of herself naked, but not artistic. She wanted to give it one last time and found me on a Google search looking for art nude photographers in Las Vegas. When she saw my work, it just seemed to fit. However she had one simple request. The images needed to be her's and her's alone. They were not for me to use for my own work. They were not for public consumption. And she needed assurances that her confidence would be honored. Thankfully, after meeting me, she felt comfortable enough to do this after I described to her how I worked. Her previous sessions were a few hundred dollar gigs with photogs whom she believed lacked the skill she believed she required. After hearing my fees, she briefly considered allowing me to use her images in my art just to avoid the costs (as many often do!), but quickly dismissed that notion and elected to delay her session for two months until she was able to accommodate my fees in her budget.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley

She was very pleased with the results. For my fee, we did 3 different sessions over 3 different days that took about a two weeks to shoot. Two of those days were day long road trips to locations but each were distinct from one another. I took enough images to edit 100 shots for a hard-bound photo book and it was then that she realized she had gotten her money's worth. I have never used her images. No one has seen them, unless she herself has shown them. I have no model release authorizing my use of her recognizable work. Her confidence and her business is her's alone and I'll not betray it. She modeled in poses that started out ultra conservative, but which became explicit by the second session. I didn't judge her. My job was to place her in situations and poses that reflected her mood which became emboldened as time wore on. I asked and she gave. I advised and she relented. All that came through trust.

"Every man has a certain sphere of discretion which he has a right to expect shall not be infringed by his neighbors. This right flows from the very nature of man."
~ William Godwin

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
To date, I think I've done private sessions for reasons that no longer surprise or catch me off guard. A wife taking striptease lessons for her deployed soldier husband (non-nude...just pole dancing). A mother wanting to build confidence in her own body. A lady with 4 kids wanting to give her man a Christmas present. A woman with unique physical features for which she desires to see in a more positive light with hope that my artistic view of things can help her achieve that. More commonly, its someone who sees and loves my work and wants to be a part of my art. But because of certain community standards or employment risks, they need their confidence protected. Some have elected to pose with non-recognizable anonymous poses just to be sure and more confident. Then later ask me post their work on my blog, unidentified, just to see themselves discretely published on the web. I love getting these requests from friends of long ago that reconnect with me via Facebook or who come across my name on a Google search. I once shot a girl who, who last I saw her, was TEN years old, but is now an adult. She did a Google search for my son, saw my name and work, and contacted me. After finally reaching an agreement (and convincing me to do it), I drove 5 hours to shoot her. I'll travel anywhere on the planet.

I shoot a variety of sizes, shapes and ages of women. Two of my best shoots last year were of women in their 50's. Having a perfect body is not a requirement. A good attitude, however is. Telling me you want to work with me when you lose weight is almost a "never happen". Rarely has that ever worked out. I'm an "as is" and "natural as possible" photog when I'm at my best. Glammed up, boudoir, sexy and alluring poses are not my specialty. I don't need a lot of hair and make-up. Just come as you are and take off your clothes. Let me see you. Let me find my angles, spots, and looks. Then pay me and let me go to work. That's how many of my private sessions go. If you have more questions contact me and lets talk. [PhotoAnthems (AT) Gmail (DOT) com] We'll discuss availability, your interests, possible solutions, and fees. BTW, twice I've had someone speak ill of my work and then within the same year, discretely request my private sessions. So I do honestly try to never take it personally. You just never know what their objection are or when they might overcome them. Had I retaliated, I'd have never gotten the business and more importantly, not have these two good friends.

22 May 2014

The Right Time

Art Model, Viki Vegas, ©2011 Terrell Neasley
"Success is simple. Do what's right, the right way, at the right time."
~ Arnold H. Glasow

I think I've went into enough details on my last blog post about why I don't make money on my nudes. But I'll open up just a little bit more regarding things I've thought about over the last two years and what may change in the near future. Its sort of been a waiting game where I'm looking for the right deal for my work. There are simply ways I wish to conduct my affairs when dealing with my art work. Its personal. And in that regard, with as much as I know about business, I prefer to take myself out of that equation and let more objective people do it for me. At least for now, that is. I recognize my weakness. I've worked various jobs in finance, management, and marketing. I have an MBA. I also have a MS in Telecommunications Systems Management which was heavy on the SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT part and that included business applications. So I'm not saying my weakness is in handling the business end of all this.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
I'm just being honest with myself in recognizing that my artwork compromises my ability to remain impartial to the decisions and judgements that may be necessary for this particular moment in time, specifically these initial steps. I know the constraints and conditions as an artist that I'd place on how my work is produced, presented, and promoted. I had turned down two artist's agents in the last 3 years, but now I think I could benefit from the consultation of a professional. So there you have it. In the meantime, I don't want to do any more contests, despite some that are tempting. Exhibition is my main focus for the immediate time going forward. I have so much work that I've accumulated over the years that nobody has ever even seen. Panda remains my most prolific model. I shot her 21 times over the last 3 years. I'll bet less than 20 of her images have even been used or otherwise displayed. So we'll see.

In other news....

I think I'm about settled on Peru for the summer. I still have lots to figure out as to the specifics of the trip, fly dates, and what I want to do in South America. I'll give Central America a break for now and make Panama and El Salvador my priorities next. So at the moment, I'm researching Peru for options and have found a few good things and even met a beautiful Peruvian woman at Valley of Fire last weekend who was hiking with her accomplished photographer husband. It was really inspiring.

Anonymous ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I'm going back there with a new Fujifilm camera, the X-T1 along a few of the latest prime lenses. I'm going Fuji-PRIME! I'll have all f/1.4 or faster glass in the 3 main primary perspective formats (for full-frame), the 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. I'd still much rather take a model with me, but I'm going to be fortunate to just squeak by taking my own self there on this trip. And as usual, I have no clue how long I'll be gone or where I'll come back from just yet, so all that's still open. Man, I need help on so many levels. Pitiful. I don't have too many travel buddies to talk to here in Vegas. I say "too many" as if I really mean more than one. HA! Yeah, I only have one.

So lots of work to do in June to be ready for July.

27 April 2014

Shoot for Yourself First

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
"The man who has no imagination has no wings."
~Muhammad Ali

One of the long-standing principles to personal financial stability and wealth creation is the notion of "Paying Yourself First." I like it. It basically speaks to saving money or putting some aside for retirement before you start paying bills or anything else and in doing so, the rest of your business will take care of itself. Developing the habit of paying yourself first is a good discipline that also builds into it the habit of being responsible and taking of everything else as well. Let me give you three good reasons to shoot for yourself first.

Cultivating the Imagination
When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I remember playing at my friend William's house just down the road from where I live. We were playing football in his backyard. William shouted out that he was Walter Payton. Being a Dallas Cowboy fan, it was clear who I was going to pretend to be, but before I could get the name out of my mouth, William's big brother Jesse claimed TONY DORSETT! I exclaimed very loudly that I wanted to be Dorsett, but Jesse did not dismiss his claim just to appease me. The rule on the street is that first to call gets dibs. I understood this, but it bothered the hell out of me.

Now understand me. This is just pretend. All I had to do was name another running back, but as far as I was concerned, there was none other in the league much less BETTER than Tony Dorsett. So I chose no one. I almost didn't want to play, but I didn't want to give Jesse the satisfaction. I was enraged over a pretend game that I was someone else. My point is that I wonder today how many of us has the type of imagination that we can get enraged over. At what point in our lives did imagination become too much child's play. As photographers when we shoot for other people's vision, we are often times creating what's in THEIR imagination. Granted, you may have to be creative to bring their vision to a reality, but it's still not your's. Shooting for yourself gives you that opportunity to bring your own visions to past which will in turn bring in more clientele when they see your continuously putting out new and exciting work. Be an innovator.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Time is always of the essence it seems. You get a client gig and the expectation is to produce and render those results now. When do you ever have time to experiment, try new things, or sometimes shoot just to see what happens? You become stagnant when all you do is the same old, same old. You never know where you will find your new treasure. Venture out into new areas and genres of photo and just see what you can do. This doesn't mean you have to jump into subject matter you hate...just something different. If you don't like shooting sports, or fashion, then don't. But you can rent a new lens and play with some macro work. Find a friend who can borrow a light modifier from and play with it in new ways that maybe it was never intended for. Or better yet, see if you can create your OWN lighting. I did that last year and make my own light wand with red and white light.

These are things you can bring back to the table when you are in negotiations with a client and he or she's looking for that new "fresh" look! That thing that no one else has. Something they've never seen before. But more importantly, think about the sense of fulfillment that you'll garner when you surprise even yourself by discovering that new thing almost by accident. Odds are, you will not make these discoveries shooting for someone else. No one can push your imagination like YOU can. Slow things down by limiting yourself to 50 shots or less. Shoot from a single focal length like a 50mm prime. Change your angles and shoot from either a high or low perspective. Regardless, change it up. Work outside the norm and the comfortable.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Counter Burnout
Don't lie to yourself. You get tired of working for someone else, sometimes don't you. Ever want to just escape photography all together... even just for a little while. Personally, I don't understand it but I know in other jobs I've had, sometimes you just need a break. In photo, that should never happen but I can see how it might come to pass. You spend all your time shooting for others that you simply get burned out. This is less likely to come about if you spend sufficient amount of time shooting for yourself. Make your own work the priority over shooting for someone else. Pay yourself first. Shoot for yourself first. Much like they tell you in the airline safety message, in the even of a decrease in pressure, put your own mask on first BEFORE you help someone else.

Anonymous Model, Nicaragua ©2014 Terrell Neasley

Keep yourself healthy and in good shape and do the same for your photographic mind. Keep it sharp and exercised with new activities and fresh ideas. You, therein serve yourself AND your clients by staying fresh. You'll definitely be able to see better when your mind is renewed on a continuous basis. Mental fatigue is murder to the mind of a creative. Stave off that fatigue by doing your own projects. I could as easily add a fourth good reason: PROFITS! The better you get a feel for the industry, your trade, and your capabilities the better you know how to create your own projects and then market them via social media to your own benefit. This can be work that you eventually sell, or use it as an opportunity to showcase your wares. Either way, you can make money if that is something that is important to you. In any case your limits are self-imposed. Lack of gear does not create a ceiling for you. Its not the absence of promotion of exposure that shackle your ability to grow. You are bound to this world today by gravity, but it is your imagination that allows you to reach escape velocity and venture to the stars.

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.