I think most “creatives” can relate:

A great quote from Sebastian Marshall:

I don’t differentiate between work and play. I think my time is spent in either excellent, good, okay, or bad fashion. If too much of my time is just “okay” or “bad” – I’m doing something wrong

I think most freelance photographers, painters, writer, and pretty much anyone in a non-“standard” 9-5 job can relate.  Kinda reframes the whole “wasting time” thing – instead of trying to stop wasting time, just aim to increase the amount of time spent in excellent fashion!

My new evaluation criteria for my portfolio work…

From the inimitable “Burns Auto Parts Blog”



So here’s my challenge to you: look at your work on your site. Do you love it–all of it? Does it make you smile/get you excited/make you want to do more of it? Be honest–don’t look at it from its technical side and definitely do not ask “Do I think buyers will want this?” If you do, then look at your marketing.

If you don’t, then get off your creative butt and start making the work that you make out of love and that weird compulsion that makes you do this and not be a 9-5 “normal” person.



Words of wisdom indeed.  I have been working on a major portfolio overhaul, with just this in mind.  You know the saying… Show what you wanna shoot!



Sonoma, Redux

I am quickly becoming a big fan of Northern California. I first went out last year for my birthday, had a blast, drank lots of wine. This was my second trip up to SF/Sonoma – Hung out for a day or two in the city, then drove up to the wine country. Only carried my GF1, but it served me well. (although my buddy who isn’t a photographer himself had an old Hasselblad 503cw from his dad, which we took out for some shots!) Early winter seems the perfect time to go as well – the countryside was a rainbow of reds and yellows… the vine covered hillsides were shockingly bright, especially when viewed from afar – the highly maicured vines created an almost solid carpet of color across the rolling hills.

Lots of pictures, lots of wine… what more could you ask for? (slideshow below)


Editing down a portfolio with Don Giannatti and yours truly – LIVE Webcast

This Sunday 8/4/2010 at 9pm EST (6pm pacific) Don Giannatti has been kind enough to do a live portfolio review with me on the air.  We’ll be talking about making the final cut of images, and finalizing a portfolio.  Maybe a bit about design and branding and style as well.  Should be fun – tune in at:


see y’all there!

lighting essentials advanced workshop – a brief review

For those not familiar, Lighting Essentials are a series of workshops put on by Don Giannatti (you may know him as “Wizwow” on flickr).   I am a big fan of Don, not only is he an excellent photographer, with years of commercial experience under his belt, but he is also a fantastic teacher – which is just as difficult a skill unto itself.  He’s also a really down to earth guy with a low tolerance for BS and fools, which I find refreshing, particularly in the online photo community which can often turn into a bit of a hive-mind circle-jerk at times (you know what I’m talking about)…

Anyway, I got to go to his workshop in Philly in ’08 and it was awesome – definitely kicked my work up a couple of notches.   At the time I was already somewhat experienced with lighting, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was blown away; it was amazing to watch Don demonstrate things that I already “knew” lighting wise, and still be able to pick up something new – a new way of thinking about it, new ways of analyzing and constructing and deconstructing light.

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to attend the advanced lighting essentials ‘shop down in Baltimore.  Different than the standard workshop, this one assumed a baseline familiarity with lighting to begin with – getting a baseline exposure, balatncing flash/ambient, ratios etc… This was fantastic, as we were able to jump right into working with little “catch up” required.  The format was well done. Don split us up into groups, with various assignments/challenges – in the morning we worked “in studio” talking about and working on precision lighting techniques for still life/objects.  I gained a whole new respect for product photographers – it’s a lot more difficult than you’d think.  One light, and lots of carefully placed white/black cards/diffusers etc…  I particularly appreciated this as it  really made you focus on analyzing and constructing light carefully rather than the “throw some strobes on it till it looks good” approach which many lighting novices seem to take.

In the afternoons we worked with models,  but instead of the standard “how to light/balance” we focused more on creating a mood or complex lighting schemes – sometimes using 4, 5 or more lights – little accents and subtleties to construct a meaningful lighting scheme.   Now I tend to be more minimalist in terms of my own lighting (I tend to favor zero, one or two lights – rarely more) but even so it was valuable to concentrate on the subtleties of the lighting scheme as a whole.

One of the things I like the best about Don’s workshops is that it’s all hands-on.  There’s no “sit around and listen to the instructor talk about how great he is” for 6 hours, as is the case with many “workshops” – Don has everyone jumping right in and shooting right off the bat.  It’s simply “talk about technique -> apply technique”.   Good stuff.   We also spent quite a bit of time talking business.  Don has been a full time photographer as well as designer and creative director for many years, so he has a fantastic amount of the experience in the industry and shares freely.  There are few things more valuable for a new photographer than the lessons of experience from someone who has “been there and done that”.   It’s like going through the school of hard knocks without having to take the knocks.

To sum up, aka the TL;DR version:  if you get a chance to attend one of Don’s workshops, go for it – it’s worth every penny.  What boggles my mind is that folks who will drop thousands on a new camera body or lens, are so hesitant to spend money on education or workshops.  I can say without reservation that the couple of hundred bucks for the LE workshops improved my work far more than any gear purchase I have made (and yeah, I’m also guilty of chasing the latest and greatest toys when it comes to gear).

finally some shots from the ‘shop:

what I’ve been working on

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Tons of shooting, Punta Cana for vacation, more shooting, lighting workshop, working on a painting commission… whew…

Had a fantastic time at Don Giannatti’s workshop in Baltimore, we had some great brainstorming on a portfolio revamp. So that’s my next project! (more on the workshop in a separate post)

Now it’s just a matter of wrapping everything up, finishing up some processing and getting ready to start all over again! Oh, and round 2 of my 1×120 project will be starting up as well!

Without further ado, here are a few images from the past couple of weeks (in no particular order)

Ilford 120 film packaging turns into a camera

From the dieline, a design/packaging blog I read regularly.

A student designed a package for ilford 120 rollfilm, that can be folded into a pinhole camera for said film.  Supercool, although it wasn’t clear whether this was an actual product or just a design concept.  Check the link for more images and info on the project.

an ode to the normals

Ah, the humble normal lens… in a day and age where all the glory goes to the 70-200/2.8s and the ultrawides, it is easy to overlook the humble elegance of the unassuming normal.  Traditionally the 50mm in 35mm terms, but may vary depending on format.

The normal is small, light, fast, sharp and versatile.

It does portraits, it does landscapes, it does street, event, low light…

Need to get in closer? take a step forward.  Need to get  wider? take a step back.   Unlike many other focal lengths the normal is almost chameleon-like in it’s ability to adapt itself to different situations, rendering tightly framed shots as well as “wider” with equal aplomb.  (yes I know the actual focal length and field of view don’t change, I refer only to it’s apparent versatility in framing).

In fact, I would estimate probably 75% of my shots overall are taken with a normal lens (50mm on my Nikon, 20mm on my gf1, 75mm on my Mamiya).

The normal lens has a long and influential life in the history of photography.  Many of the seminal images of the 20th century were made with the 50mm.

There is a kind of “Zen Like” simplicity to shooting with a normal as well – maybe it has something to do with the fact that it approximates the normal human field of view, but previsualizing the shot becomes almost unconscious.  As if one of the barriers between concept and image just falls away…

And then there’s the beautiful, beautiful depth of field.  Opening up to f/1.4 (or more!) just creates a whole new world of depth of field effects.

Of course the normal is not a *replacement* for your zoom – especially a telephoto or ultrawide, but if you’re a zoom shooter primarily, give it a shot – spend a couple of weeks with just a normal on your camera.  You might just find it addictive…