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!

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:

new site

New look for edzstudios… cleaner and more minimalistic… also galleries changed to a jquery based setup rather than flash (hey gotta be iPad compatible right?)  If you are reading this through rss, click on through and check out the new site design.   Will be going through a few tweaks in the next few days, but pretty happy with things overall.

the solution to the elinchrom quadra umbrella mount

When I was looking at reviews of the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra, one of the most common complaints people seemed to have was the fact that they couldn’t mount standard umbrellas on it (Elinchrom uses a 7mm umbrella shaft, while most others in the US use an 8mm shaft).

Now this seemed kind of silly to me – first off, the Quadra head is extremely small and lightweight – hanging anything larger than a *tiny* umbrella off it just seems like a recipe for disaster.   Secondly I thought to myself “I mount umbrellas on speedlights all the time and they have no umbrella holder whatsoever – why is the quadra any different?”  The solution:

The plain ol’ vanilla Umbrella Swivel.  Beloved of “Strobists” everywhere, it provides a secure slot/mount for the umbrella, placing the weight & torque on itself rather than the strobe head.  Screw in a post on top, plop the Quadra head on that and good to go.  You can even still use the angle of the quadra head itself to hit the sweet spot of the umbrella.

Personally this is just fine for me.  works great for my umbrellas, Apollo softboxes and Softliters…but let’s say you need the light more “on axis” with the umbrella shaft (maybe to fit the hole in one of the new PLM diffusion screens for instance…)  I found the easiest thing is to simply take a second swivel, and use it to “hang” the head off the umbrella shaft itself.  The head is light enough that it doesn’t put undue strain on the shaft (or the swivel).

Kinda kludgy but it works.  Personally I don’t bother – mounting it on the swivel itself is quick, easy and gets the job done with hardware that I’m already carrying anyway for my speedlights.

So there you have it:  Mounting umbrellas on the Quadra made easy!

Negotiating for photographers

One of the issues that always comes up for emerging photographers is dealing with contracts and negotiation.  Let’s face it – most of us are more “artist” than “businessman”.  we just want to make pictures and leave the legalese to someone else. 

Of course the reality is that to be a successful *artist* you must be a successful *businessman* as well. 

Go to any photography forum on the web and you will invariably find questions such as “how do I make a contract/terms for such and such a job?” or “the client sent me this crazy contract to sign, what do I do?”

In this piece, Bill Cramer of Wonderful Machine, Inc shows an actual contract negotiation he had with an editorial client, including exchanges, contracts and revisions.   This is a fantastic read for any photographer and a perfect example of how to do it right.  In particular, notice how he responds to the disagreement in contract terms – guiding the exchange to a mutually satisfactory agreement, rather than stonewalling and confronting. 

This is great stuff folks!


Shooting in the Snow

For years now, I’ve had this concept of a shoot at night, under the streetlamps with snow coming down… dramatic light and environment… the whole nine yards

Unfortunately I live in Philly, and the only “snow” we get here is usually slush, rain, and more slush…

Course this week was different… practically couldn’t have asked for better conditions.   It was coming down pretty hard, and I think I put the weather sealing on my gear to the test (watching piles of snow accumulate on your lights is a little disconcerting…)  By the time we finished my camera bag on the ground was merely a small white lump.  Luckily no gear casualties though, and some great shots came out…

snowshoot (1 of 7) snowshoot (2 of 7) snowshoot (3 of 7) snowshoot (4 of 7) snowshoot (5 of 7) snowshoot (6 of 7) snowshoot (7 of 7)

San Francisco and Sonoma

This year for the birthday, did a fantastic 2 week trip to San Francisco and Sonoma.  Lots of touristy stuff, lots of wine drinking, and lots of photos… Cameras were the GF1 and a Holga – this was my my first “real” outing with the GF1 and it absolutely lived up to my expectations.  Was able to carry the body with kit lens and 20/1.7 in the corner of my daybag with room for the rest of my assorted junk.  Never missed carrying the big SLR one bit!