2016 Year in Review

It's en vogue to trash on 2016 right now.  A spat of celebrity deaths to end the year, plus numerous notable deaths throughout, along with an unsavory American presidential election have lead to dozens of trending hashtags declaring 2016 to be the worst ever.  And while 2016 has put me through some of my more devastating hardships, it hasn't passed without awarding me my greatest triumphs.

The triumphs would not be possible without some people in my life.  I experienced possibly the worst financial troubles I've ever had to face and I have had to rely on the love and charity of others to get me through.  My gratitude has reached levels nearing shame for having to rely so heavily on my loved ones.  I shall keep them nameless as their acts were not done for public recognition but were done out of the kindness of their hearts.  Much of my adult life was spent believing myself to be lonely and unloved, my shame derives from being proven wrong.  I am not lonely nor am I unloved.  I am humbled and eternally grateful.  My goal for 2017 is to be more like the people around me showing me their love.  I can't continue to live in the darkness.  I have to live by their example and carry the light.

2016 saw the end of my freelance career.  Well, full time freelance at least.  I took a full time job photographing jewelry.  In an age where the staff photographer position is hard to come by, I lept at the opportunity to fulfill that role.  Photographing jewelry was something I had no experience doing but I somehow weaseled my way in to the gig.  I struggled at first, but now I am proud of the work I do there.  While it's a small family run operation some of our clients include Sears, David's Bridal, and a number of other major retail chains throughout the US.  Using my experience there I applied for my dream job at a big name company in the online box subscription world.  I was confident in how I interviewed and my inside man told me they loved me.  In the phone interview they even talked about salary and benefits, which to me was a clue they had me pegged as a candidate.  I was right, but they didn't pick me.  Unfortunately, they selected a candidate who had interviewed before me.  Not because they liked them more, and not because they didn't like me enough, it was simply because they wanted to go with their first instinct.  While I was devastated I go on knowing I am capable of working for larger companies.  I have taken this confidence and I am putting more effort in my current job.  I hope to leave massive shoes to fill once I move on.

In 2015 I attended an NYCFC game and wondered how I get on the pitch to photograph a game.  So, I set a goal - photograph an NYCFC game.  But I had no idea how to do that.  Then one day I saw an ad posted on CraigsList - Wanted: photographer for local amateur soccer league.  Perfect!  I can build a portfolio of amateur soccer and use it to get myself a job photographing the pro game.  I managed to land the gig and began shooting.  Soccer is a lot more difficult to photograph than I imagined, especially when kickoff isn't until 10pm.  I needed the power of the sun to pull off what I truly wanted.  But, as it turns out, proving I could do it at night is exactly what I needed.  I answered another ad looking sports photographers.  Turns out they recently got credential approval for MLS and I could start shooting the 2016 season with the NYCFC pre-season press conference on Thursday followed by game 1 on Saturday.  Strangely, my first day of my new day job was Wednesday.  I found out I got both of these gigs on the very same day.  I had also met my girlfriend's parents earlier in the week and they seemed to like me too so overall, March 2016 was a great month.

2016 has set a high bar for 2017.  I hope my worst financial crises are behind me and I hope my greatest achievements are ahead of me.  I am gearing up to launch my e-commerce page to start selling prints.  I plan on shooting more weddings, as I've done two in 2016 and feel great about them.  I will shoot more amateur and pro soccer.  I will continue doing my best at my day job but will keep my eyes out for bigger fish to fry.  

Say what you want about 2016 but I'd do the whole thing all over again.

It's Been a While

Last June, I entered the world of freelance, leaving my job to pursue whatever this is.  It turned out to be the single decision that has caused me more stress, grief, pain, depression, financial turmoil, and fear, than I had at any other point in my entire life.

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Shooting digital is all about "how do I manipulate my settings to get the shot I want?"  Film is more about "how do I manipulate my settings to get the shot that works."

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What Does Instagram Like?

I decided last year I should push my exposure on social media.  Instagram seemed like the obvious choice - I'm a photographer and Instagram is photo based.  I had been using Instagram for a while but mostly as just a way to see pictures of my friends.  I never really used hashtags, unless I was posting pictures of board games, in which case I'd use hashtags like #boardgamegeek or something like that.  But then I realized I could post pictures that I take with my camera and use Instagram as a platform for exposure, so I started to post using every photography related hashtag I could think of.  Some of my posts would get maybe 15-20 likes.  Sometimes they'd get upwards of 70.  I could't tell what people on Instagram liked and didn't like.  It seemed like my taste and the general taste of Instagram users were pretty different.  I did non scientific experiment with 4 pictures.  Two I really liked, and two I thought were pretty cool but pretty cliche.  Here are my findings.

                                                                                           1/2000 sec f/8.0 ISO 800

I love this picture.  I was so proud of it when I was finished, I was certain I'd blow up my Instagram with this single image.  To me, it looks like something I'd find in National Geographic.  You can see detail in the eye, through the wings, it's an almost perfect profile shot, time is frozen but you can still see movement, especially in the angle of how the bird is flying.  I have a hard time believing I took this picture and not someone else.  I didn't go crazy with editing on this one either.  I brushed the background so it would be blue again, but that's pretty much it as far as fancy tricks go.  Pretty happy with it!

                                                                                                   1/8000 f/7.1 ISO 100

This picture is kinda boring to me.  I mean, it looks cool I guess, but there's not a lot going on.  I didn't think about this one too much much when I shot it.  I saw a flock of pigeons flying horizontally in front of me, about to cross the sun, so I quickly put my camera in to almost random settings and began firing, hoping something would be in focus.  Then when I put it in my computer it looked like garbage.  So I did what I always do when a picture I take isn't what I want it to be - I made it black and white.  I cranked up contrast and clarity almost all the way up and brought the highlights almost all the way down so you could see the shape of the sun.  In hindsight, I kinda wish I had kept the sun just a big bright wash in the middle, rather than bringing the highlights down so you could see the circle of the sun.

Picture 1 got 35 likes.  Pretty respectable for my account.  The black and white one got almost double that with 66 likes.  I did a test with a similar set of images, both posted around the same time.

                                                                                                1/2000 sec f/8.0 ISO 800

This is actually the same bird from the first picture, so the settings are the same.  Again, I love this because it's sharp, you can see loads of detail in the bird, it shows motion but it's not blurry.  I think it's great.

                                                                                                   1/8000 f/7.1 ISO 100

This is one of the test shots I did before the flock of pigeons came by.  Same settings on my camera, almost same editing done here.  The only difference is I didn't bother taking out that little splotch just to the right of my watermark!

Again, picture 1 got a respectable 41 likes.  But picture two got 56 likes!  From what I can tell, my most successful pictures are insanely high contrast black and white photos.  Also, if I ever post an HDR image, I can guarantee at least 50 likes on that.  My favorite shots of animals barely break 25/35.  

Getting Instagram likes and followers isn't incredibly important to me.  I just noticed a trend in how my images are responded to.  What do you think of these pictures?  Do you prefer the black and white or the color images?

New Year

The New Year is used as a time to look forward and plan for the future.  Resolutions for how you're going to change your life.  But I did that back in June.  I think every day should be an assessment of what you're doing and how you're improving yourself.

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Client Expectations vs Reality

I've run in to a number of situations where after a gig someone will ask if I got a specific shot.  So specific, I wonder why they didn't ask for exactly that before I started taking pictures or even while I was working.

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You Know What You Should Get?

Photography is one of those things that is a hobby for most and a job for few.  Much like playing a musical instrument, the majority do it for the fun of it and the minority get paid to do it.  But nothing is stopping hobbyists from buying the pro stuff, it's available to all as long as you have the money.

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The Live Show and the LED Nightmare

When I was a kid, lighting wasn't a thing.  I went to a lot of shows in basements or in crummy, low-budget venues, where the lights were literally an exposed bulb hanging from the ceiling, or work lights.  Pro lighting equipment is expensive!  Even amateur show lights are expensive!  Until now...

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Dog Portraits

For many years I worked as a dog walker and it was during that time that I started getting interested in photography.  My background is in cinematography, but after working on a few bad crews the whole idea of working in film and video lost its luster and I was sorta lost as to what to do next. 

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