Many of the photographers I work with capture remarkable images that are certainly worthy of the "professional quality" label. Some of these clients have considered changing careers to follow their passion, but are missing one key ingredient to do so. This important element is something you won't read about in a photography magazine, or see on a forum. It's not a fast lens, or a clever camera strap. No, these are all superficial elements that anyone with a credit card can buy. The secret for a successful photography career all boils down to one thing, confidence. If there is a technique that scares you, now is the time to learn it. With the roadblock pushed aside, you can see your goals more clearly and continue the path ahead.
I recently put out a request for your questions under the premise that no inquiry was too basic or advanced. Here are three which I thought would be helpful for everyone to read.
Q: No matter what I do I can't seem to get close-ups of birds, from my patio to a hill in backyard about 20 feet away. I have a Nikon D40X with a 100-300m lens.
A: I do a great deal of bird photography and you are correct, it's not easy. Birds are skittish, and you often need to use a lens of 400mm or longer mounted to a tripod. Like most wildlife photography, it's helpful to remain patient and wait for the right moments while observing quietly through the viewfinder. You may also want to consider looking into a portable blind. This will allow you to get closer without scaring them away. Finally, be sure to wear muted colors, and refrain from making any sudden movements. Once the birds understand you are not a threat, you'll have a better chance of photographing their natural behavior.
Q: I recently got an umbrella but don't know where to find the right brackets to attach it to a stand.
A: The piece you are looking for is called an "Umbrella Bracket Adapter". It will fit on almost any light stand, tilts and swivels to make aiming the light or flash easy. At just under $20, it's an inexpensive, but extremely helpful accessory. Here's a link for your convenience.
Q: I have a quick question. Do you have any suggestions for factors to consider when selecting compact flash cards? Are some brands more reliable or better quality than others?
A: Memory cards are an important consideration as it's essentially your "film", and needs to be 100% reliable. I have always used Lexar, and haven’t had a single issue so I only purchase their cards. Several photographers I know also speak very highly of SanDisk. Any other brand is a gamble. Considering how the price of memory has come down dramatically in the last 12-24 months, you are much better off with the name brands I mentioned. Also, I prefer the 32GB and 64GB sized cards, but don't usually recommend anything larger. Remember the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. If a card should get damaged, lost or stolen, you won’t lose all of your work.
One of the great things about living near Manhattan is the never ending array of surprises that pop up on a daily basis. This was a rather large street fair that spanned over 10 blocks down Madison Avenue.
Imagine my surprise when six days of un-received email flooded my phone in a furious moment of notification chimes and vibrations. One after the other they trickled from GoDaddy's taxed servers and splashed across my screen. Thirty plus emails I had yet to see, and worst of all, angry customers who thought I was ignoring them.
The first dozen messages started as basic inquiries, but the tone eventually changed to one of concern with "are you OK?, this isn't like you to not respond". I was embarrassed, and the issue had prevented me from scheduling several jobs, a major inconvenience for everyone involved.
I pride myself on great customer service, and this was clearly unacceptable.
Before making any rash decisions, I wanted to find out what caused the problem and called GoDaddy. An automated message immediately announced that there were "known issues" with the email servers and they were "working on it". I then looked on Twitter, and saw a landslide of frustrated posts from other businesses who were also waiting on a resolution. Even after GoDaddy announced it was fixed on 11/19, more users were affected on 11/20.
To be fair, I never had issues such as these before this incident. Yet, considering it appears to be ongoing, I've quickly lost all confidence in their services, and therefore decided to find a more stable solution.
Thankfully, it didn't take long to locate the instructions of how to switch from a GoDaddy email account to Google Apps for business. The entire process took a few minutes and emails hit the account almost instantaneously.
Today, as the airwaves and newspapers are flooded with ads, I wanted to share a photo taken eight years ago in November, 2005. It's one of my favorite Autumn scenes that came at the end of a long quiet hike on a wooded trail in Caumsett State Park.
The camera I used to capture it was a six megapixel Canon 10D that now retails for about $100. It didn't have Live View, or a swivel out screen. There was no built in HDR or video mode. Yet, as you can see, it was absolutely capable of recording details in the shadow of the tree, and the brilliant colors of the foliage with wonderful clarity in the lake's reflection.
This Black Friday, don't let the camera stores trick you into thinking a more expensive camera will translate into better photos.
As I reflect on what I'm grateful for this Thanksgiving, it's not the Black Friday specials or midnight madness door-buster sales. Its been said "the best things in life are not things" and even the fanciest DSLR can't change that. Instead, Sue and I will be catching up with family and friends, trying new twists on traditional recipes, and discussing the many blessings we've enjoyed this year.
I'd especially like to thank you for tuning in each day, joining me at workshops, sharing the videos, and interacting on the various social networks. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my passion for photography with you.
As temperatures across the country fall, a reporter in Colorado has seen one too many viewer submissions featuring snow covered patio furniture. What follows is a spirited rant, and a plea for a more creative approach to winter photography.
So Mr. Clark, this winter shot is for you, photographed at Harriman State Park on a frigid morning. I converted it to B&W and added the scratches and sloppy border using Exposure 5 from Alien Skin.
By the way, if you want to save 10% on their excellent software, use my special code at checkout: "CCP1321". Please note this special savings is only good until the end of November.
Caught an earlier train this evening, the 4:09 from New York which the Conductor said is new, only starting on Monday. "Don't tell anyone about it" one woman commented, before noting how quiet it was. A few minutes later we emerged from the dark tunnel, and I observed the rich tones of sunset falling on the unremarkable warehouses that rest in front of the unparalleled Manhattan skyline with the shapely Art Deco Chrysler building and the boxy, but nonetheless impressive Empire State.
It'll be nice to get home before it's completely dark, at least today that is. Most times, I can't even make this train as it requires everything to work out ever so precisely including but not limited to how many elevator stops it takes to get out of my building, how long it takes before the cross town subway arrives, and then the duration that passes before the downtown train arrives. Of course I always have to fight my way across Penn Station, never an easy task at any time of day, let alone rush hour.
With all of this careful maneuvering and precise timing, I opt for a more calculated approach to my listening selection. No random shuffle from Pandora, but rather a mix of John Mayer songs spanning four entire albums. I smirk at the irony of the first title, "Stop This Train". It's actually one of my favorites, with the songwriter sharing a personal anecdote about aging, and the conversations between him and his father. I can relate, and it makes me think of my own Dad, and his passing.
I change gears, reading an article with advice from Hemingway who often provided insights on how to be a better writer. One of his tips is to really pay attention to the way everyone reacts to things that happen around you. The small details are essential, and we must truly listen and observe. I am inspired by the passage and rather than moving to the other articles I've saved, I want to start writing. This is what came out.
Hemingway's advice was directed to writers, but it absolutely applies to visual arts like photography as well. The idea is to be fully present, taking in the entire experience with your eyes and ears before turning to the viewfinder.
Read the full piece here.
In order to backup all important business data, I recommend a redundant system of external hard drives. Not only will these protect your files in case of catastrophic computer failure, but they offer an extension on your hard drive storage space. These drives are quite reasonably priced and typically plug directly into the extra USB ports on the computer.
They are compatible with a desktop and laptop to protect all of your files and are small enough to be portable should you decide to bring them on a business trip. The specific model I recommend is the Western Digital “My Passport” with two terabytes of storage space at just $139.
In addition to these external drives, you will also want to add a selection of important documents to the cloud using Dropbox. This service allows you to access uploaded files from any computer with internet access, and also has a mobile app for the phone. You can share documents with clients this way, or just use it for extra protection in case all of your hard drives were damaged or stolen. It is quite secure with 256-bit AES encryption and two-step verification & mobile passcodes. This cloud service is reasonably priced at $99 per year for 100GB of online storage.