Don’t Overlook This Reason To Attend A Photo Workshop


The image at the top of this post is one of the main reasons my wife and I attend as many photo workshops as we can. Sure, we need the instruction that comes with signing up. And we need the practice shooting in all sorts of conditions. And we enjoy learning the differences and nuances that each instructor brings to the photographic table. But, take a look at the photo posted today one more time. What you see is a group of sometimes strangers that come together to end up as friends. That is a very special feeling and a special reason to attend a workshop.

We all were standing up on Grandfather Mountain in western North Carolina well before dawn. It was brisk, with the wind blowing pretty good that high up (think one mile high). But as we stood there the light began to break over in the east, signaling the start of another new day. We had already set up for the most part, so we could relax and share the beauty of the place and the time together. We could joke and laugh and share, getting to truly know one another. We were privileged to see all the wonder that God has provided us … not alone, but in the company of others who shared the awe locations like that inspire. I would have enjoyed being there with my camera alone, but sharing the sheer beauty of Grandfather Mountain with new friends and old was very special. It really is the main reason we get out to these types of events.

I have repeatedly urged you to sign up for a workshop. And there are plenty of photographic reasons to do so. But don’t overlook one of the most enjoyable reasons … the chance to spend time in the company of others who love this country and world of ours as much as we do. I may or may not come home with images that will stand the test of time. I never have come home without memories that will last a lifetime. If you haven’t been to a workshop for a while (or ever), make a resolution to do so when you can. You won’t regret it.

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All’s Well That Ends Well: Thank you, Selective Insurance. The Snake Tips Are Back. The Hoodie Lens Cap By Lens Coat.

Check out this this great new accessory from LensCoat.

A happy followup to my post about an unexpected bath while shooting in North Carolina: it turned out to be quite easy to make a report to the insurance company … and for them to settle my loss in record time. Monday afternoon I spoke with a senior claims adjuster with Selective Insurance, the company writing my Inland Marine policy. Amber emailed me a claim number and asked me to respond with the items damaged (I earlier had told her what happened over the telephone). She didn’t need any information on who I was shooting with, although I volunteered it. She didn’t need photos or any other kind of report. Yesterday afternoon she emailed me to say she was cutting a check for the full amount of all the equipment, and it was a figure for more than I had added up in my mind. It was a surprise and a delight! I recommend Selective Insurance (out of London, Kentucky) most highly. And I want to emphasize again – if you do not have such a policy on your photo equipment today, get one tomorrow. You never will regret doing so.

Then a reminder that good friend John “Snake” Barrett still runs a great website, The Snake Tips. Snake does gentle, but to-the-point critiques on his site on images sent in by readers. There haven’t been too many photos sent in lately, but that is about to change. There were some really great photographers with us out in North Carolina, and they are preparing to send in shots from there as we speak. It should make for some very interesting viewing in the coming days. And you don’t have to be a workshop participant to join in; just send your images to Snake and receive valuable advice on making the photo better … free of charge. I check in with Snake regularly. Even if you don’t send in a photo of your own, there is a lot to be gained by seeing those of other photographers and how they can be improved. Check out Snake’s site by using this link.

And finally for today, a new product that most of us could find most useful (also discovered and recommended by Snake Barrett). My wife uses a step up ring to mount her Variable ND filter and circular polarizer on her Fuji lenses. Those rings mean not having to shell out big bucks for a different size filter for each lens. But she also likes to protect those filters, and she can’t use her regular lens caps to do so when the filters are attached. Constantly taking the filter on and off was tiresome, so she resorted to wrapping a cleaning cloth around the lens and keeping it in place with a rubber band (hardly high-tech or convenient). But Snake showed us the perfect product to cover the lens and filter in those situations. It is the Hoodie Lens Cap by Lens Coat. Soft, elastic for a snug yet easy fit, equipped with a substantial cap at the end … the Hoodie Lens Cap is a reasonably-priced accessory that solved her problem. Easy on; easy off. Soft, but durable. It even comes in various colors … and of course in various sizes to exactly fit your lens of choice. Sue received hers yesterday from Amazon; I am ordering my own today. Check out this valuable new accessory by using this link. I think you’ll like it.

Have a great Thursday. And don’t forget about that insurance policy.

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Insure Your Camera And Photo Gear: A Lesson Learned

Jim GF

Minutes before I disappeared from this scene, as shot by my buddy Jim Begley.

I shared in yesterday’s post that Sue and I are back home from a wonderful workshop with Bill Fortney and many friends (old and new) in the Grandfather Mountain area of North Carolina. The photo in that post (taken by good friend Lynn Rogers) showed some of the beauty of the mountain itself … and me trying to very carefully work myself into position to capture part of it. The photo at the top of today’s post was taken by my very good friend Jim Begley, not long before I and my gear disappeared briefly from view. It was an intense few minutes.

Allow me to first state the lesson of the day: insure your camera gear! With a good policy other than your regular homeowner’s policy. With one that offers full replacement cost for your precious equipment. Preferably with no or a low deductible. What I am referring to is commonly referred to as an Inland Marine policy, and it could be the annual investment that saves your photographic life one day. This is a policy in which you list all your gear that you figure it would be expensive to replace should it be lost or significantly damaged (I leave off the littler stuff like third party batteries, cleaning stuff, and inexpensive bags. Remember, the policy will cost you based on what you list; no need to sweat the really small stuff). Then you make sure you keep original receipts and you make sure you keep the list of gear current and in the hands of your insurance company. Hopefully, you are buying peace of mind. At it’s worst you are replacing gear that you spent a whole lot of money on, equipment that is either still expensive or even more expensive. You wouldn’t think of not insuring your home for that possible catastrophe, even if it hopefully never occurs. Treat your expensive camera gear the same way.

I knew all the above because good friends advised me long ago to make sure I had a separate policy for my equipment. And I purchased a complete replacement policy for loss or damage, making sure I kept it current. Fortunately! On our second day of the workshop a small group of us went to a park area in Banner Elk (our workshop headquarters) to shoot rushing water and rapids. Sue and I had visited the area a couple of days earlier, and I knew it had potential for some nice blurred water effects. We were there for a while in the late morning and were getting ready to head out. I had worked my way downstream across some boulders and smaller rocks to attempt a shot more toward the middle of the stream. Some of the rocks were wet and a bit slippery, so I was taking my time and being careful. As you can see from Jim’s shot above I made it out to a small rock and crouched down to set up my shot. I actually took a series before I began to stand up (the old knees couldn’t stay in that crouching position forever). And as soon as I began to stand I slipped backward and was instantly in water over my head. There was something like a hole in the more still water behind me, and it was deep! I got back to the surface and was able to hang onto the nearby rocks to haul myself back up to dry land. And that’s when I looked where my tripod and camera had been … emphasis on ‘had been’. Because they no longer were anywhere to be seen.

I caught my breath and looked up and down stream; then all around the other large rocks. Nothing to be seen. Then I looked behind me again, downstream about ten yards or so. And barely sticking up above the white water, maybe a foot or so, was one section of black Really Right Stuff tripod leg. It was sheer luck, because otherwise the gear would have just vanished, never to be seen again by me on this trip! I tested the water and found it was about waist deep at that point and that I could get close enough in the moving water to grab that leg with one hand. Lynn Rogers was nearby, and she had seen me emerge from the water. She called for help and Miles Smith and Snake Barrett and Jim Begley helped me get the equipment out of the water (and get me out, also). I was safe; my equipment wasn’t nearly as fortunate.

The Nikon D810 had water pouring out of every nook and cranny. We got the battery and card out right away, hoping to salvage something. The new 80-400 zoom was filled inside with water; you could look in the business end and actually see water sloshing around inside (as a footnote: it still is in there as of this morning). The camera had a couple of small chunks taken out of it around the eyepiece, and the RRS L plate is aa bit nicked up, also. I had a Singh-Ray variable ND filter (the 8 stop one) on the lens, and it had water between the two rings (the water has disappeared, but it left spots inside on the glass that I can’t get to). The camera had a battery grip attached, and it is dead, also. Really Right Stuff is aptly named; the ballhead appears unharmed (although I am doing some more testing on it). The tripod looks good, except for one section of one leg that won’t release. But given the water and the current and all the rocks, it is a tripod that is very well made indeed.

So, yesterday the filter was sent off to Singh-Ray for examination. They told me via phone to send it in; sometimes they can fix them and sometimes they can’t. The tripod is on its was to RRS for re-conditioning; I’m sure it will be fine. The camera? Bill was a Nikon rep for a lot of years and a Nikon shooter for a lot more. His verdict was to forget it. Same with the lens … dead on arrival. I contacted my insurance agent yesterday morning, and she was quite understanding. She started an event and notified the Inland Marine adjuster. I will have to fill out a detailed report and furnish them with receipts (if possible) and the age of everything. They will guide me through the rest. But I have no deductible, and the gear gets replaced with either the same piece or whatever is current (both of these are still the current versions). So, long story short: it can happen. I would be looking at a loss of about $6,500 dollars or more if i hadn’t had insurance. And I wasn’t being crazy reckless or wild when I went into the water. Accidents (and thefts and fires and floods) can happen. My advice is the same that all my friends told me long ago: buy a good policy and keep it current. If you never need it, consider yourself lucky and be content with he peace of mind afforded you. If you do ever need it, consider it money much better than well spent. Consider it a wise investment in your photographic journey. I know. First hand.

Safe and sound and home and filled with great memories of a beautiful location and fellowship with wonderful friends. The excitement of the time spent in the water is long forgotten; the loss of the camera gear will be but momentary. Insurance companies often get a bad rap, but trust me on this one. They are your best friend when photo disasters take place. Call your agent today if you haven’t already.

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Grandfather Mountain Workshop: We’re Back!

GF Lynn
A photo of me on Grandfather Mountain taken by my dear friend, Lynn Rogers.

The image at the top of the post was taken and sent to me by a dear friend, Lynn Rogers of Dallas, Texas. Lynn was one of several very close friends who spent last week on North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain with Sue and me … and Bill Fortney and a whole bunch of other great photographers. Sue and I drove there from Bloomington last Tuesday, and we arrived home yesterday late in the afternoon. The iPhone shot Lynn sent was me very carefully working my way down part of the mountain for a shot I wanted to take. And I emphasize ‘carefully’ because I had an experience earlier in the week that heightened my sense of vulnerability in some of the shooting situations we find ourselves in (more on that later this week, after we get settled in here at home). But we are now safely home, filled with good memories of our time in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

I have yet to download most of the photos I took on our trip. And there are all kinds of chores to attend to today and this week here in Bloomington. But let me just say that Bill Fortney did it again with his warm and generous spirit and his teaching skills. This was a small workshop, but our group bonded together immediately and completely. The fellowship was outstanding, with new friends melding in with old to make one cohesive group. I know I repeat myself … but Bill Fortney and Jim Begley’s His Light workshops are an experience you will enjoy and remember and cherish for a long time. Give some thought to attending one yourself. And stay tuned for news on what happened to me (and some of my equipment) last week.

It’s good to be home. But I’m already thinking about that next photo trip ………

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Cuba Through The Eyes (And Heart) Of Vincent Versace: Photos

Some of you may have seen this Vincent Versace slideshow already. If so, no apologies. It is a beautiful presentation, worth seeing again. Vincent captured the beauty of Cuba, many of the emotions of Cuba, at least part of the soul of Cuba. He always has been a very fine photographer; in this slideshow he showcases a bit of himself, also, I believe. He gives us a glimpse at how he sees, what he loves and appreciates. Vincent also always has been a master at processing. These images are an amalgam of styles and techniques, captivating both visually and technically. I’ve seen quite a bit of his work in the past. This production outdoes all the rest.

Now, Vincent always has had a bit of a different streak in him. Sort of a weirdness, as in a Weird Al Yankovich kind of personality. I’ve tried to follow all that he says in some interviews and books and articles … and every time he goes off in some direction that I can’t follow. He explains and demonstrates and I am lost, lost until we get to the beautiful final result, anyway. He is good. He knows photography. He knows processing. He just is a bit different, if you will. But I mean that as a compliment, not as a negative. And that difference, that way of seeing and thinking, comes through in this slideshow. It is a tour de force, touching and beautiful. It is a chance for the rest of us to see Cuba, a real part of Cuba.

Watch the slideshow and be prepared to be swept away with Vincent’s skills and artistry. If you have seen it already, watch it again and concentrate on how he uses light and gesture, form and texture, color and line. Spend time deconstructing what he saw and how he captured it. We all can learn from this one. Thank you, Vincent Versace!

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Casey Says It Just Right … But We Do Have a Fountain.

The new fountain … a reminder of the good life we are blessed with.

Apologies to my good friends who have not heard from me the past two days. Sometimes this world closes in and takes up all the time and effort there is to muster up. I won’t give you all the details … just know the past two days haven’t gone well. That happens to each and everyone of us; we are guaranteed trials in this life. Our faith is designed and intended to get us through those trials, not to make them go away or to guarantee that they never may return. It also helps to be reminded that we are not alone in the days that aren’t the ones we look forward to, the ones we wouldn’t choose if we had a choice. My good friend Casey Malone posted over on his blog yesterday that he, too, can have a day like that. And he wrote beautifully about it (and added beautiful illustrations, also). His sentiments and his writing and his faith helped cheer me up. I want to give you a link and urge you to take a look at what he wrote, also. If not everything is going smoothly for you, perhaps Casey’s words will remind that all is not lost. In fact, with the right attitude, we always have so much to gain.

Casey’s post can be seen here. Thank you, good friend.

And yesterday also was punctuated with a great deal of work in the yard. We purchased a new fountain to grace a sitting area in the backyard. Sue found a very nice one, but one that required “some assembly.” And refitting the old one that was being replaced. Let’s just say it was a real relief to be able to say that we have a fountain … still. The iPhone photo at the top of the post shows the new one, almost done. Sue is going to add a final layer of contrasting decorative stone around the base to add some more eye appeal. And then we shall just sit a bit and thank the Lord for all His grace and goodness. Something I need to remember on those not-so-good days.

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Free Lightroom Presets: Matt Kloskowski And More

It’s free preset day, including some from Mattie Matt Kloskowski.

Today some FREE Lightroom presets for you to peruse and download. They are offered via the good folks over at onOne Software (where Matt currently resides), but they were developed by a variety of artists. There are presets for black-and-white, for vintage looks, for several different effects. The collections say they were made for Lightroom 5, but I tried them out in Lightroom CC (Lightroom 6) and they work just fine.

Now, none of uses the same preset (or any preset at all) on each of our photos. But it is nice to have at your fingertips an arsenal of looks and effects when you are searching for that just-right finishing touch. Or, you can start out with a preset to instantly get you into the neighborhood you wish to visit, and then finish it off to your individual taste. In wither case, these collections are free; what harm can it do to see if one or more suit your tastes?

Click here to visit onOne and their FREE Lightroom presets. Download instructions are included, and one of these looks could be the cheery-on-top of your masterpiece!

It’s Monday; welcome back.

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And We Are Live With The MacBook Pro. And Still Running Windows.

Go ahead; make my day and switch to Apple.

This post was brought to you entirely and completely with the new MacBook Pro. We are up and running and live as an official part of the Apple family (well, as official as it gets around here). And, yes, we also still are a part of the Windows family; sort of a blended family, if you will. For the time being.

In addition to making the switch to a MacBook Pro for several reasons, I wanted to keep using my larger NEC monitor. I received great advice from several friends (thank you, Raymond!), and I also got in touch with the good folks at NEC. I was double-checking what I wanted to do, and they turned me on to a feature I was not aware of (reminder to self: read the user’s guide for the products I buy). NEC said I could easily attach the Mac to my monitor. And I could leave the PC attached, also (if I was tentative in making sure I had every file transferred and every T crossed). All I had to do was cycle through the Input button on my monitor and it would switch between each system automatically. Cool beans! I had the luxury of keeping the old system running as a safety net while I used the Mac exclusively. Who knew!!!

I hooked up the monitor and the Mac screen showed up just as promised. I hit the Input button and I could instantly switch between systems. Now I can use the Mac, making sure I have access to all my old files and programs and emails if I ever discover I need one and didn’t transfer it over. Sort of like the guy who wears a belt with his suspenders, i guess. Think of it as a good, solid Midwest sort of thing. Think of it as a peace of mind thing.

The MacBook Pro so far is what I hoped it would be. All my friends and my lovely wife said to give the switch two weeks. And that is just about right. I am comfortable with the new system, able to do most things I want rather reflexively now. When I run into something I need or want to do that I haven’t figured out I just look for it on the internet. And it still is amazing what you can find there … absolutely amazing! I still have one book I checked out from our local library, and I use it at times when I need a specific answer to one little process. But mostly I just try doing something and mostly it just works. And I truly am looking forward to taking this thing on the road and being able to do the processing i want to do in the field. Sue had been telling me for about two years to make the switch. Another note to self: keep listening to her.

For any of you out there who are considering the switch from a PC … don’t be afraid to do so. The toughest part of the entire process is making sure you have all your files transferred over. The learning part? Turns out to be pretty simple. As my good friend Richard Small repeatedly advised me: don’t overthink things. It was spot on advice. I was a PC guy forever. I am no technical kind of person by and stretch of the imagination. If I can do this and be happy, you certainly can, also. I would just advise you: don’t wait as long as I did if you want to switch. Come on in; the water is fine.

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If You Love Action Photos, Watch This Slideshow! Richard Small Highlights,

53 Plymouth
Not a race car, but a photo Richard Small taught me how to make.

I’m sure that 99.999% of this site’s readers love photography (the other .001% is just lost and got here by accident). So, do I have a treat for all of us photographers – a new slideshow from my dear friend Richard Small. But not just any slideshow. It’s a collection of action shots of vehicles of all kinds … exotic vehicles, beautiful vehicles, smoking vehicles, racing vehicles, speeding vehicles, vehicles of all shapes and sizes. The common denominator is that they all are moving; they all are in action of some kind. Now, they are fascinating if you have only a passing interest in cars. But when you love great photography like we all do … then, wow! This is photography at its best. And you will appreciate the skill that went into capturing these shots – the panning, the exposures, the timing. It is a tour de force of techniques and skill and artistry. I guarantee it will capture your eye and captivate your imagination.

Richard knows cars of all kinds. He knows photography. Put those two together and you get the slideshow featured today. Find a bit of relaxation time today to sit back and be transported to the racetracks and raceways of our great country. I promise you will enjoy the visit.

Click here to visit Richard’s Smugmug site and get in on the action. And thank you, Richard!

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Focus Stacking In Photoshop For Beginners (Not Dummies)

Moats macro
A focus-stacked image made during a Mike Moats workshop.

During a recent conversation with members of the Bloomington Photography Club’s macro focus group the conversation turned to depth of field. Several members were struggling with getting what they wanted to be in focus, finding that macro work often meant very shallow depth of field. When we mentioned focus stacking to solve that problem, the question asked next was: what is focus stacking? And, how do you do that? There was a basic unfamiliarity with the term and the process.

Yesterday I ran across a YouTube video over on a site I check regularly (Imaging Resources). The YouTube is a primer on what focus stacking is and how to learn the basics in Photoshop. It is not too lengthy; it is easy-to-understand. It doesn’t explain every little detail of the process, but it covers all the bases. It is a foundational video, if you will.

Take a looK:

If you didn’t know what focus stacking is, now you do. If you want to learn more (and try this out for yourself), now you have the tools to do so. Thank you, good folks over at Phlearn.

I mostly use a program called Helicon Focus for my focus stacking. It isn’t free, but it has all kinds of features that take the process to a bit higher level. If you do much closeup and macro photography you might want to check it out (just use this link).

Most of you readers probably are aware of the elements of focus stacking. For those who weren’t, take time to watch the video and make some time to try the process for yourself. It’s a whole new world out there for us macro shooters. A very fine and very productive one.

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Ryan And Raymond Jabola: Like Father, Like Son. A Good Thing.

Like father, like son. Ryan Jabola and Katy.

If you meet and spend time with Raymond Jabola you will love him. Certainly Sue and I and all the His Light gang do. Raymond is just one of those great friends you make and cherish and look forward to spending time with. He is so warm and generous that we don’t even hate him for being such an exceptional photographer and artist (and that is saying something in the photo world)!

Raymond and Devi’s son Ryan is a junior in high school. Saturday night was his first prom, and Raymond was kind enough to send a photo of Ryan and his date, Katy. So the image at the top of this post is for all the His Light family, a chance to see what a handsome young man Ryan is (and to appreciate how long we now have known Raymond). I look at Ryan and see a younger Raymond. And if Ryan continues to develop into the man his father is, he will a fine man, indeed.

And, for the photographer in all of us – check out the photo, even at this size. Raymond said he hasn’t been shooting for a while, but he never loses his master’s touch. He got the Cliff Mauntner rim light with the sun to the couple’s backs. He shot with the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 wide open, giving that lovely bokeh. And his processing touch gives just the right balance of vibrance and color and naturalness. Beautiful work, Raymond!

Today’s photo is for the His Light family, a chance to catch up with Raymond and his immediate family. I am feeling a bit old right now, but very, very happy for them. Life is so good.

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The Most Versatile Tripod: Hair Dryer Stand Deluxe

Tripod dryer
Aaaah, the tripod! Handy, versatile and at hand!

Thanks to all of you who continue to send prayers and best wishes for Sue. Wednesday was a painful day for her for some reason, perhaps the change of weather we experienced. But she is taking care not to use that wrist, giving it rest and time to heal. We go back to the surgeon’s office next Thursday for another checkup; more great news to follow, we hope.

In the meantime she has been learning to do a lot of chores and maneuvers with her left hand. It is awkward, but she is trying hard to be as independent as possible. We bought a pair of left-handed scissors to facilitate cutting, and I try to take over for her with as much as I can. But yesterday she was preparing to have lunch with some good friends when I discovered how resourceful she (and many photographers) can be.

The photo at the top of the post is a mid-weight Alta Pro tripod of Sue’s, topped by an Acratech ballhead. What is velcro-ed to the ballhead is her hair dryer – an ingenious way to position the dryer exactly where she wants the air stream! The entire gadget sits on the sink countertop next to her. She turns on the dryer, positions the air stream and then uses her good hand to wield her brush. Voila! Beauty and independence all in one!

Who says photographers are not masters of solving problems (be they photographic or not)? The creativity that comes from solving difficulties while shooting in the field works equally as well at home. Hats off to photographers … and to my lovely wife.

Aah … the weekend is at hand. Enjoy the great weather and the great outdoors. Camera in hand.

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Photographer Rights From Public Property: Stand Your Ground

Camp flowers
Shots taken from public roadways, like this one, are perfectly legal.

Countries and cultures around the world are under attack, sometimes violent attack. We are understandably more nervous about things-that-can-go-wrong-in-a-hurry than we have been in a long time. Sometimes that is expressed in over-nervousness, heavy-handed attempts to protect selves and property. Many photographers throughout the world have discovered this while shooting innocuous subjects from public locations. They have been ordered to cease shooting, threatened with all sorts of actions, quoted non-existent laws and rules, and hassled verbally. And most of the time these actions have come at the hand of uninformed, private actors who either have no knowledge of real laws or who simply intend to bully their way forward. It is most important, therefore, to all of us photographers to know our rights, to be able to stand up for ourselves and for others who may follow behind us.

Watch this video that my friend James Keller of our Bloomington Photography Club found. It is actually rather appalling to see what these innocent, law-abiding photographers were subjected to on London’s city streets. And this was a while back; things are seemingly just as bad or worse today. Then we will discuss some lessons from this most valuable video lesson.

Wow! And this in a cosmopolitan, allegedly sophisticated Western capital. The video actually is rather chilling in portraying the attitudes and actions of so many erstwhile security personnel. Let me just add here: thank you, law enforcement officers! My thought several times during these episodes was to actually insist that the police do be called! The laws in these types of situations are on our side. Threaten me with calling the police? Please, allow me to do it for you!

Okay, let’s extract some principles for photographers who are out shooting in public places for our future use:

Be familiar with your rights as a photographer shooting from public locations (not from private property you do not control). We don’t have to be law school graduates, but we do need to be conversant with our rights so we can engage in constructive dialogue when necessary.

Stay calm; be polite; keep yourself under control. Discussions can turn into confrontations pretty quickly when demands are made and voices are raised and threats are bandied about. And you can be confronted rather forcefully at times. Stay calm and state your position politely. Don’t become the bad guy in the situation if law enforcement does ultimately become involved.

Be persistent (when possible). Stand your ground and insist that your rights be respected. Don’t give in to those who are misguided and mistaken only because they try to talk over you or keep repeating the same (illegal) arguments. Note: be logical here. Don’t jeopardize your physical safety or risk your equipment in the face of physical threats or imminent physical danger. The photo isn’t worth it. Discretion is the better part of valor here; you can safely retreat and then notify law enforcement or just find another place to photograph. Use common sense here. Stay safe.

Law enforcement is our friend most times in these situations. Call them if you really need to; stay around to explain your position if the other party does so. Most law enforcement officers either know the applicable laws or will take the time to contact someone in the department who does. They don’t like complaints against themselves, especially over constitutional rights questions.

There are places you cannot photograph. Since 911 some federal and state facilities may be deemed sensitive enough that there are actually rules against photographing them. I can’t give you specific examples for all areas of the country (or around the world). But if you run into a situation like this, discretion definitely is the order of the day. You can ask for reference to laws or rules from whomever you deal with, but it will help to do so in a polite and cooperative manner.

Keep your major objectives in mind while shooting. Let’s say you are a tourist and you want to take home great photos of your trip (or just want to document where you went). If you have a finite amount of time to shoot you may not want to spend a large chunk of it arguing with security personnel over a building or location that is less than a killer shot. That is not to give in on principle, just to optimize your shooting time. If you really want or need that shot, stand your ground. If it was a more casual situation or shot and you aren’t really wed to it, maybe you maximize your time by shooting something else. Have a plan of sorts for what you are shooting and why.

Go into sneaky mode. If you have an idea that where you want to shoot will end up in a discussion or confrontation with security, plan your shot and approach from the very beginning. Get in, set up, grab some shots. By the time you are hassled you may have all you wanted. It’s not giving in to leave an area and go on to the next location once you have your shots. We do that all the time as a normal part of our shooting.

Copy a brief set of photographers’ rights onto your smart phone or tablet. If you find an applicable set that you feel sums up what you would emphasize to those who would deny you those rights, it might carry some weight to show them that reference. There is something official about the printed word, especially if it mentions sections of laws, that seems more important, more official than your words alone. It can’t hurt.

Thanks to those photographers who produced this video. Most instructive. Thanks to those who have worked to ensure our rights to shoot from public locations. Thanks to all of you who calmly and politely and respectfully demonstrate daily why no one has anything to fear from our photographic efforts and why we deserve to have those rights preserved.

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Bill Fortney At Nelson Ghost Town: Live On KelbyOne

A scene from Bodie, CA. Wait till you see the ones from Nelson with Bill Fortney!

This is an unabashed, whole-hearted endorsement of Bill Fortney’s latest video over on KelbyOne (the training site). The instruction is first-rate, Bill at his best in demonstrating what makes up an eye-catching, attention-holding photo. He is warm and folksy and genuine while handing out important tip after important tip. I felt the entire time that I was there beside him; it was as if he was talking directly to me as we walked the deserted streets of Nelson (and Nelson is one great place to find photo opportunities). I urge you to make time to watch Bill in this latest of Kelby instructional videos.

And I am posting this because I am a bit puzzled. In the past new instructional videos were announced over on Scott Kelby’s site and emails also were sent out to subscribers. Bill’s video was up for a couple of days before most of us knew about it. Even Bill found out when a His Light friend saw it and let him know. I’m not sure what is going on over at KelbyOne, but they kind of missed the boat on this one. it is a really good video; they should be getting the word out as fast and as loud as possible instead of letting us discover this gem on our own.

If you are a KelbyOne subscriber head over there right now and check out what Bill has for us. I promise you a treat. If you are not a subscriber, perhaps you know a friend who is, someone with whom you could sit down and share a great (and valuable) hour or so. You’ll both be glad you did.

And to my friends over at KelbyOne … you dropped the ball on this one, but there still is time to get out the word. Viewers all over the world will thank you for doing so.

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PC To MacBook Pro Advice

Making this switch often has me on pins and needles!

Day whatever of the switch from PC to MacBook Pro. It’s coming along, but it’s not coming easily. There is a learning curve here; no matter how intuitive a Mac system may be for the artists out there, we long-time PC users are going to struggle. Count on it if you are considering a switch. Don’t give up before beginning, but consider what you are doing carefully.

First, right now, before you even believe you will ever want to make a change, do some basic groundwork. Organize your photos into plainly- and clearly-labeled subfolders. Place all those folders into one master folder. Decide now if you are going to want to import all your raw photos from each subfolder into the new machine, or if you only want to import the processed ones to reside on the Mac (you always can go over to the external drive the raw ones are stored on to import them as needed). You’ll take up less space on the Mac if you don’t import all the raw files, ones that you don’t need to get to all the time or very quickly. If you can put the processed ones into a separate subfolder from the raw ones for each shoot (or however you divide folders) it will make the import job much easier and faster later (you don’t want to use up precious Mac hard drive space with photos you never look at anymore). Do it now, as you process shoots or projects. Trust me; this is the best advice I am going to give you.

Make a very good list of all the programs you own that you want on your new machine: name, where to find them for future downloads, and (especially) your serial numbers. I had to search for some of the older ones, and that slowed down considerably setting up the new computer. Give some realistic thought to what programs you want to import. You may find you have some you rarely (if ever) use anymore; your workflow or needs may have changed a lot over the years. Don’t import everything just because you can or because you paid for it some time ago. Chances are you got your money back out of the use you had over the years. Know you can retrieve it if you ever really need to; otherwise keep your Mac as clean as you can for as long as you can.

When you download presets for various programs, especially if you paid for those presets, know where to find them and how to re-install them. You’ll find that much easier than trying to copy them and figure out where to put them on the Mac (while you still are in the throes of learning how the Apple machine works at all). All this is going to take plenty of time, also. Don’t get frustrated; you can find them and you can re-install them. Don’t try to do it all in one day; you’ll wear yourself out and end up making mistakes. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or spend some time learning what you are doing instead of just being frustrated because things don’t work the way you might suspect. I’ve gotten so frustrated in the past few days! I had to learn to take a break and figure out how to do something before going back and trying all over again. And, I’m getting there.

Go through your PC and make backups of everything (actually, anything) that you think you possibly may need down the road. Don’t skimp here. It may be months before you discover you need that one file or number or email or whatever. But when you need it, you really are going to need it. Buy yourself a reliable, large capacity external drive and put all your PC stuff on it for good. Keep it handy. Go overboard, rather than skimping.

Don’t neglect those archived emails. It’s a painstaking task … but a necessary one. Go through each of them. Throw out what obviously is outdated and of no further value. What may be of value in the future (records of purchases, download sites, contacts, etc.) save somewhere. I went though my archives carefully; then I forwarded the ones I needed to have down the road to myself. I took those and archived them on the MacBook Pro. It was a quick and fairly easy way to keep a record of what I had on the PC over on the Mac. Take some time with this project; once those old emails are gone, they are gone.

If you can, work on the new machine next to the old one while it still if operational. All your files will be somewhere close at hand. You can use the old machine to get on the internet to search for answers to your questions, the how-to stuff. And I do recommend those searches most highly. I checked out a book, a recent version, from our local library. It is pretty dry, even with lots of illustrations. And it was a bit complicated to go back and forth from the topic I wanted to find to the index to the computer when a lot of steps or questions were involved in what I was trying to do. The internet is an incredible source of specific answers to specific questions – try there first.

During this process you also need to attempt not to think everything through in terms of how you used to do it on the PC. You will find the two systems really are structurally different. You’ll drive yourself crazy looking for file structures and folders and system trees from the PC over on the Mac. Devote your time to learning the basics and getting the programs you use everyday imported so you can keep working. For example, get your photos imported and Lightroom and Photoshop set up. That’s what we photographers use and do all the time. Be able to get your work done, then spend time on the littler things that you don’t do as often. I have had trouble remembering that, and I have paid for it in frustration and lost time. Start at the top with the big stuff; work your way down the ladder as you go.

Okay, back to importing and learning (no, I am kinda far from finished. Still). But consider what I have been seeing and learning as you consider if you want to make a switch … or how to make that switch. I have to admit it is difficult. But it is far from un-doable. Even for me.

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