Book Cover
Take Your Photography to the Next Level: From Inspiration to Image, by George Barr, is a collection of the most helpful postings from his blog over the past few years. I rank this book right up there with the works of Bryan Peterson in terms of it’s importance to photographers in general. In fact, I would declare this a must read.

Mr. Barr has taken the liberty (well advised in my mind) of editing his prior posts so that they are more current or relevant for this book. I had never heard of him before, but the author is very impressive in terms of how he is able to “see” a great photo in what seem like ordinary or common objects. I do believe that, in the course of my learning to take better pictures, this is the hardest thing to do.

One of the more impressive things about this book is how the editor, author, and Rocky Nook were able to take the blog postings and meld them into a cohesive book. It follows a fairly structured order, and includes excellent photographic examples along the way. I also particularly like how the author intentionally stayed away from mentioning specific settings and (most of the time) gear used to make certain images. In a few sections of the book, it is pointed out clearly that it is the person taking the photos that is more important than the gear being used, and I agree completely (he does cover the gear he uses at the back of the book).

One other very useful sections is how to deal with rejection and criticism and the whole mindset of taking pictures. I know a few people that could apply the principles of that section (did I mention Barr is a doctor) in their photography or other aspects of their life. Very good stuff, and just another example of how Barr is able to relate to the casual and serious photographer alike.

I could go on and on about this book, but you really should get a copy for yourself. It is outstanding!

Look for the shapes

Never Ending Circles Shapes are all around this. I know this from watching a certain episode of “Bear in the Big Blue House” with my 3 year old. The fun thing for me though is when I can find those shapes to be in alignment, as in this photo. This is a view looking up in one of the rooms of the George Eastman house in Rochester, New York. Just before you get to one of the grand staircases, there is this hole in the ceiling (I am sure there is an architectural term, but I don’t know what it is), and one above it. Almost felt like a mirror effect, where it kept going and going. The convergence of similar shapes certainly makes for an interesting photo.

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Review: The HDRI Handbook

Book CoverHDR (high dynamic range) images are starting to take the photography world by storm (at the time of this writing, the HDR Flickr group has over 18,000 members). If you ask a room full of people what HDR is, you get a wide range of answers, and typically they are all partly correct. Simply put however, HDR imaging is the process of creating an image that encompasses a wide range of exposure values. This allows the resultant image to be nearly all encompassing in every detail. HDR Imaging has, until very recently, been the purvey of Hollywood graphic and special effects artists. “The HDRI Handbook” by Christian Bloch helps bring this exciting arena to everyone else.


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Don’t pigeon-hole me

Cactus I have been reading more than a few books on the subject of photography lately. Also been hanging around some interesting conversations that have made me think (never a bad thing). Some of what I am seeing and hearing is this: specialize so that you will be known in that area. Presumably this would be true also because it would allow you to hone your skills in that area.

But I like to be different. And the last thing I like is to be pigeon-holed.

My photographic interests have evolved over the years. My current “collection” of interests is as eclectic as my taste in music. For me it is more a matter of inspiration than anything else. If I feel inspired, I’ll take a picture of whatever it is that made me feel that way. Could be a padlock, a surfer walking on a beach, a solitary cactus, or my family. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It just happens, and I hope I was smart enough to bring my camera.

Sure, it could be that I don’t make the absolute best image for that “category”, but if it is pleasing to me, isn’t that enough? Some people I know are too kind and tell me that I have “the eye” for certain types of photography, and ask why I don’t do it full time. The answers are fairly simple.

  1. I have a day job that I really enjoy
  2. I make a good living at said day job
  3. I have turned a hobby into a profession before, and I started to burn out

Family photo So instead I choose to keep this low-key, taking pictures at events I am part of, doing our family portrait or pics of the kids, and basically keep this fun. Does this mean that I can’t try to sell my photos? Of course not.

I can make this fun, and maybe make some side money from it too. More importantly, I have the freedom to expand my horizons. I love landscapes and flower macros and think I do well with them. I don’t do well with people (I am a computer geek after all), so that is what I want to work on next. But I can also take a time out and have fun making a stock photo when conditions warrant. I can be whoever I want, because I don’t have responsibilities around it, nor the trappings that come with that responsibility. If some images sell along the way, that’s great. But if I enjoy the pictures I take, then that is all I need. Just don’t tell me who I should be. My portfolio will tell you who I am.

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P8082018-flickr888 Yesterday I talked about part of a conversation I observed recently. This is how the second part of it went.

The altruistic one starting to talk about stock photography and what it takes to get accepted, etc. as she is having problems getting accepted. The veteran then started on about how microstock is killing the industry, and that, by taking part in it, submitters to microstock sites are thereby killing the industry.

Being someone who has photos available on microstock sites, I cannot say that I agree with him.

I saw part of an interview with Moby the other day. He said several things I agreed with (bear with me, I am getting to the point). One was a response to a question about commercializing music (putting it out there in the equivalent of stock photography for anyone to use as they see fit). The response was one that I have thought in regards to my own attempts at microstock – it is far easier for new artists (and photographers are artists) to get noticed on sites like this than for the traditional methods.

I don’t know any art directors, I barely even know anyone at an ad agency. I also know that a lot of businesses out there don’t use an ad agency, and microstock sites are an effective means for them to get images for advertising, websites, brochures, etc. Heck, we use art from microstock sites where I work for my day job. My microstock budget for the whole year would be destroyed if I paid for one or two pictures the traditional way. That just isn’t going to work.

I am happy to go the microstock route for images that fit into the “stock” category. That said, I have other images that I consider to not be stock. These would be more in the vein of “fine art” types of images. These are the ones I will put into my “Prints for Sale” category and hope that someone buys one. Or perhaps I’ll print a collection of them and see about having them put on display in a local coffee shop. They are my images, and I can market them as I see fit. I have never been one to follow the norm anyway.

One last thought from that Moby interview. Someone asked how he feels about non-Vegans. His answer might sound PC, but I think it was genuine. He essentially said that being Vegan works for him, but he recognizes it doesn’t work for everyone. I think this debate about microstock really is the same. Can’t we all get along?

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What to charge

P8082035-flickr888 Was mostly an observer to an interesting conversation the other day. It centered around what your time is worth and then evolved into a quick discussion about microstock. In this case, it related to photography, but I can see how it applies to most anything we do. On one end was an altruistic sort who wanted to work for cheap. On the other was a seasoned veteran. Neither is a full time photographer at the moment.

The altruistic one was lamenting how to bring a quality product to the less fortunate, and yet still make a profit. It’s a noble thought, and one I have had where senior pictures are concerned. I think the real, underlying concern though was how do you cater to this market, and still get called for the high end shoots. If you put your pricing out there online, it’s pretty static, and one or the other demographic isn’t going to find it acceptable for their needs.

The veteran was pretty straightforward. Charge what you think your time is worth, and also charge for the demo you are targeting. You can’t target both and be respected by either was the gist of it I think. I tend to agree. Of course, I have my web consulting experience to fall back on. Charge low, and you get low-end customers who don’t have as big of aspirations (or budgets). Charge high, and the clients may be fewer and farther in between. Certainly a fine line to walk.

Come back tomorrow for the discussion about microstock.

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Product photos

For whatever reason, I enjoy taking pictures of products. At my day job, we sometimes need to take photos of travel items to appear in magazine ads. This lock was one such instance. I guess I like the challenge of situating the item just right, playing with the lighting, and producing an image that doesn’t look like the same old (in this case) luggage lock you see in every other luggage lock ad.

Certainly this image could have been better, but overall I am pleased with how it came out.

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Great things happen when you aren’t ready

Crazy Weather

Originally uploaded by Chester Bullock

I was at Dairy Queen earlier this summer, getting ice cream with the kids. I didn’t have my camera with me. So naturally the weather did something fantastic. As you can see in this terrible cellphone photo, a massive thunderhead bloomed to the east of us (always the case, Aurora gets rain, Lakewood gets nothing). The Dairy Queen is situated right across the street from an old bank building. Not sure when it was built, but I am thinking 70’s because it is round and unusual. The way the cloud was forming, it looked like it was boiling over from within the building, almost like a nuclear cooling tower or something. It was awesome to see in person. Would have been great to have had my “real” camera with me. But I didn’t. Drat. So much for my Boy Scout past – I clearly wasn’t prepared.

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Review: RoboGeo

Cathedral Immaculate Conception

Cathedral Immaculate Conception, originally uploaded by Chester Bullock.

Geotagging is becoming more popular, but there is still a large number of people that don’t geotag their pictures. For me personally, I do it in case I capture an image of something people want to see when they come to Colorado, or in one of the other places I might go for fun or business. I know it helps me to know what the opportunities are when I go to a new place.

Geotagging used to be hard work. You would have to make note of shooting locations as a waypoint in a GPS (which I don’t have), place them on a map in something like Flickr, or go through a program like Google Earth and make note of where each shot was taken. Luckily, there is a new crop of geotagging software coming out that is taking the pain out of this task.

For my most recent round of photos, shot near downtown Denver on February 13, I turned to RoboGeo from Pretek, Inc. RoboGeo truly takes the pain out of geotagging your images. If you have a GPS, you can load your GPS log into the program, and it will match timestamps from the log with timestamps in your images, automatically inserting the appropriate coordinates.

Since I don’t have a GPS, I opted to use one of the other options – geotagging via Google Earth. I loaded the images into RoboGeo, and then selected the Google Earth icon. This launches Google Earth (assuming you have it installed), and overlays a small dialog box on top of the program. You go to the location you took the photo, center the cursor as close as you can to either your vantage point or the object itself, and then hit the “Geotag” button in the dialog box. Once you do this, the next image (in order of filename) appears. You repeat the process until you have tagged them all. Close the dialog box, and RoboGeo comes back to the forefront. From here you tell it to add the location info into the EXIF headers of your files and save them. At this point you can overwrite the originals, or save to an alternate location. Once you have saved, you can also choose to upload into your Flickr account. I did this once, and the process was as painless as using Flickr Uploader or any other tool. For this specific batch of photos, I had other things to do first, so I uploaded via Flickr Uploader later.

RoboGeo was exceptionally easy to use, particularly for a relative geotagging newbie such as myself. At $40 for a non-commercial personal copy, this is well worth it for anyone who takes a lot of pictures. Don’t take my word for it though. Download the demo version (after you see what the limitations are) and give it a try.

Even if RoboGeo isn’t right for you, do everyone a favor and start geotagging your photos. The next time you need to find a specific location, you’ll be glad someone did.

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