Best moments of 2013 for me

Tourists enjoying Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 160, ƒ/5.6, 1/1000]

What a year it has been. I have really had a great year of moments and feel extremely blessed.

Lili’uokalani Park, Hilo, Hawaii. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 250, ƒ/7.1, 1/60]

Each year starts with me in the Georgia Dome covering the Chick-fil-A Bowl. This year will be no different. Dorie, my wife, will be celebrating her 20th year working the press box.

Tom Butler, Kona Coffee Grower [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/10, 1/200]
I am returning to Kona, Hawaii to teach lighting and business practices to Youth With A Mission Photography School 1.  I love meeting these students every year that are from all over the world. I learn from them if not more than I probably teach to them.
Anacleto Rapping on the far left and Joanna Pinneo on the far right review a student’s portfolio at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference. [Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 1600, ƒ2.8, 1/30]

This year I am also working with the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, TX. This takes place the first weekend in March.  

Bill Bangham, Eugene Richards and Stanley Leary at the SWPJC. [Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 1600, ƒ2.8, 1/60]

Dave Black looks at a person’s portfolio at the SWPJC.  [Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 1600, ƒ2.8, 1/50]
During Spring break we took our daughter Chelle to Los Angeles for her first visit. We visited all of her uncle’s friends.
Pam Goldsmith is a world renowned violist who was Richard Zvonar’s partner for more than 20 years. This is our daughter’s uncle. Pam took some time out to help Chelle who has also taken up the viola. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/9, 1/60]

Chelle visits with Richard Bugg who works with Meyer Sound. Their sound system is what was used in the Beijing Olympics and other major productions throughout the world. Richard Bug is another one of Richard Zvonar business associates. Together they built this sound design system.  [Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 400, ƒ2.8, 1/6]

Dorie and Chelle in front of the Chick-fil-A in Hollywood, CA. We stopped here for lunch while seeing the sights of Hollywood one day. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 100, ƒ/3.5, 1/800]

Dorie, Stanley and Chelle Paradise Cove in Malibu, California. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/200]

Another friend of Richard Zvonar is Ronan Chris Murphy who has a recording studio in Santa Monica where we visited him. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/6.3, 1/25]

Chelle and Dorie in front of the Hollywood sign. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 280, ƒ/29, 1/60]
Now you really don’t have to go to Hollywood to meet the stars. Many live near us in Roswell, GA. 
Chelle met Pip, is an American singer who participated in season 2 of The Voice as part of Team Adam Levine while she was a model in show with Pure Fashion.  [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1600, ƒ/5.6, 1/125]
I get to live out much of my life through my kids. Her school had Mark Wood come and do a workshop with the orchestra. Wood was one of the violinists and an original member of the symphonic rock group Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which he left in 2009. He has also played with Celine Dion, Billy Joel, Steve Vai, Westworld, and Lenny Kravitz. As a solo performer he has released seven CDs featuring his own versions of popular rock songs. On these CDs he is accompanied by “The Mark Wood Band” consisting of one member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, several other musicians, as well as his wife Laura Kaye.  
Chelle got to even sing with him on stage.
Mark Wood leading the workshop. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

Chelle is performing on her Viola with Mark Wood. [Nikon D4, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sigma, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/320]

Chelle is singing with Mark Wood. [Nikon D4, 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 Sigma, ISO 12800, ƒ/4, 1/320]
As you can see photography is helping me remember and share my moments with you and the world. 
1st Lt. Nelson Lalli came home this past summer after serving our country in Afghanistan for 9 months. We were so thankful he returned home. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 10000, ƒ/8, 1/60]
While there are many other moments that were special I will close out this past year with my coverage in Mexico. I was so thrilled to cover a coffee cooperative that is turning not just the farmer’s lives around, but their communities as well.
David Cifuentes Velazquez, coffee grower and member of the Just Coffee Cooperative, enjoys sharing with a visiting group how coffee is grown. The joy on his face and family captured how their family has been restored to the community because of the coffee cooperative. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/80]
Remember everyone has a story and I would love to help tell your story as well. Give me a call if you need any help.

Be sure and check out my latest package I had translated into English from my coverage of coffee cooperative in Mexico below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_xryLb6Buzs]

Fuji X E-2 16M is it enough megapixels?

Fuji X E-2, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/50 handheld

Can the Fuji X E-2 16M sensor do the job for a working pro?

As you can see in the photo above the quality is there for available light shooting full frame, but when people are asking about if 16M sensor is good enough they want to see the photo at 100%.

100% view of the image above

This is low light situation the way many street photographers and photojournalist would capture their images. If you are shooting a commercial job then you would most likely be shooting with a low ISO.

Fuji X E-2, ISO 200, ƒ/18, 1/180

Here is a portrait of my daughter shot with the Fuji X E-2.  Again the question is what about at 100%.

100% view of the photo above.

From my perspective it would be a rare moment that any of my clients would ever need anything with more megapixels than this camera gives me.

Now when my lab is telling me that if your camera is an 6M size sensor and they can make any size print from this file size then it would appear that 16M is more than sufficient.

PPRPix Tips

So I wasn’t surprised to hear from Hiroshi Kawahara, Fujifilm’s Operations Manager also say that 16M was enough.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gGsoBUIFrM]
If the other camera manufacturer’s do not learn from what Fuji is doing they will be crushed by them. What is important to listen to in the interview is how even while they think 16M is enough, they still listen to the customer and are researching to improve the megapixels.

One of the coolest things about Fujifilm is there firmware upgrades for all their cameras. They continue to upgrade their cameras because they are listening to the customer. The firmware upgrades for the cameras make them even better.  For the most part if you want the latest design for a camera with other manufacturers they you must buy they latest camera. While you might think this could hurt sales, it is doing just the opposite for Fuji.

Conclusion: The Fuji X E-2 exceeds the needs of my clients right now. It is a camera I am shooting now for corporate jobs.

Photography helping preserve Holiday traditions

This is the time of year we celebrate with family and friends. It is a tradition and photography can help everyone enjoy them more for the years to come, but for that to happen someone will have to take some photos.

I have been enjoying my wife’s family tradition of Forget Me Not cookies.

Recipe FORGET Me Not – MERINGUE COOKIES

My sister makes rainbow cookies every year as well as a few other special cookies. As you can see you can easily photograph many of these family traditions, add the family recipes and then maybe create a book of the family memories and traditions for everyone in the family to get a copy.

Most of my friends have a party mix of some kind made with Chex cereal.  Well in our family we call it Scrabble. This is what my Nana “B” called it. She was my grandmother. Maybe it is they ate a lot of it when they played scrabble.

Here are a few tips that will improve these holiday photos for you this year.

First be sure and remove all the photos from your camera’s memory card and put them in a safe place. I would have at least one more memory card. There are a few reasons for you having a second memory card. Of course if you fill up one you want a second, but believe it or not these things can fail and having a second card with you is important to capture those fleeting moments with family.

Our family tradition the past six years has been to go to the Fellowship of Christian Athlete breakfast at the Chick-fil-A Bowl each year. Here is my daughter and her friend with Dan Cathy.

Second, charge your multiple camera batteries. For the same reason you need a second memory card you need a second camera battery.

Third keep that camera with you all the time through the holidays. Take lots of photos.

Fourth use available light as much as you can. Do you best to custom white balance your photos.  I carry the ExpoDisc and get custom white balance every chance I can to get the best possible color in every situation.  I wrote about using this over presets in the camera in an earlier blog [click here]

Fifth buy a tripod and actually use it. This is most likely the one thing that will improve people’s photos the most over anything else. The reason is camera shake is the number one reason for poor photos. There is motion in the image making the subject look soft and out of focus. They are not so much out of focus as the camera is moving while the camera is taking the photo. I wrote on how I use a tripod to photograph the ornaments on the tree [click here] in an earlier blog post.

Sixth think about everything you are doing this holiday before you do anything. Take a moment and reminisce about the years gone by. What are the traditions that you look forward to each year.  Take a moment and write out an outline.  I wrote an earlier blog to help you with this if you need some tips. [click here]

Be prepared this Christmas to document some of the family traditions you have and help capture not only the visuals but the reasons these are traditions in writing. put together a photo book after the holidays and share this with your family and friends.  Maybe include some of those family recipes with photos of the cooks as they are making them.

Here is a great place to make that book for about $30 or more if you have a lot to include. Check out Blurb.

Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

What’s the key ingredient to successful business?

Young boy in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico

Most of us think that when you are doing everything right you will be successful. The problem is the best companies make mistakes and are not perfect, so how do the rise for the ashes.

Take a moment and see what you can learn from a coffee cooperative in Mexico. See if there is something for you to take away from their story that can make your business brand stronger and more profitable.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55jjIbVwx50]
Last month I traveled to Mexico and Guatemala covering Coffee Farmers of the coffee cooperative Just Coffee. You may not realize it but coffee is the number 2 commodity traded in the world, right behind oil.

Commodity

The problem the farmers were having problems before they formed in 2000 was the price for the coffee. You see the buyers were exploiting the small farmer.  Most of the coffee farmers around the world have a two acre farm.

What had happened in Mexico and much of the world was the exploitation of the farmers was putting them out of business. This is why some of the coffee growers like Edmundo Ballinas Domínguez crossed the US border illegally. He worked on the golf courses here where I live in Atlanta.

As you hear in the video due to the changes the cooperative brought about he is sending his two daughters to nursing school and was able to get healthcare for his family. Prior to the cooperative his daughters would not have gone off to school and he would be in debt to save his family due to lack of healthcare insurance.

Migrant Workers

A migrant worker is someone who pursues work. They are not people that look for entitlements without work.

One thing I have come to realize is that many people around the world are forced to migrate. Due to their race alone many people are forced from their land and many become illegal immigrants.

Fair Wage

What I am realizing more and more is that many people who buy services do not care about the people they are purchasing those services from. They just want the lowest price. People are not treated with honor, dignity and respect.

What I also have discovered is when people are treated fairly then they will work harder and even go that second mile for being treated honorably.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bf6nN_psUA]
Listen to Carmina Sanchez talk about how not just being paid a fair wage, but being flexible so she can be a good mother is what is important to her.

Everyone has a story

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HHFAHnJkBc]
Listen to how Adrián González talks about not just how Just Coffee is blessing him, but he is excited to be apart of something that cares for others.

THE Key Ingredient

Robert McKee, the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer, believes that executives can engage listeners on a whole new level if they toss their PowerPoint slides and learn to tell good stories instead.

What is a story? It tells why and how a person’s life has been changed. Here are some key things you must have in a story for it to grasp the audience.

First you need to have a crisis of some sort. Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need talks about how you need something to overcome in the story. Then you help your subject overcome the crisis.

What makes you like your protagonist is how believable they are. I often see how screenwriters will have a crisis that the actors are to overcome and then they have thrown into the mix a flaw in their character. To overcome their crisis they must also overcome their flaw.

Some of the best storytelling I have read is in the Bible. King David is a great example of a lovable character with many flaws.

What is key to the great Bible stories is GRACE. This is where a character is given a second chance. The importance of this second chance is that they truly don’t deserve it.

What is THE key ingredient to successful business–GRACE.  When you are known as being gracious you know that you are working from being humble and appreciative. You don’t take people for granted.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4QNgR9t7Qo]
Listen to how Joshua Ediger was so moved by the stories of the coffee growers that he is now telling their story. This is what they call word of mouth advertising.

So you want to be a photographer

On a regular basis I am asked advice on how to become a photographer. I average doing this about three to four times a month.  I decided I needed to write a blog to help people with some of the advice that I provide everyone. Much of my comments come from my Christian perspective.

First I think I need to try and talk you out of being a photographer, but I wrote on this earlier HERE. Be sure and read it as well.

What do you like to photograph?

I am surprised how often when I ask this question people are pausing and having to think about this question. If you are unsure this is a great indication you love the process of photography and really have no clue that photography is about a subject, not the gear.

Subjects people like to photograph [there are more than here]
People
Animals
Still life
Nature
Sports

Who buys these kinds of photographs?

Again I am surprised that many folks do not know who buys photos. Photography is a business and it provides a service to some market. How will your photographs help this market place? Why do people need your photos?

What kind of lifestyle do you want?

You would be surprised as to how many people want to be a war photographer and also have a family. I think of my friend Tom Kennedy, former director of photography for National Geographic, who was constantly talking with his photographers as they went through divorces.

Even the Apostle Paul talked about lifestyle choices.

1 Corinthians 7:8 (NIV)
Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.

Match your subject to your lifestyle choice

Take the time to explore all the kinds of photography you could do and then look for ways this can dovetail with your lifestyle desires. It is easier to have narrowed this to something realistic than to continue to dream without some reality.

Not always logical

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV) That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

One would be surprised to hear that I suffer from Asperger’s Syndrome.  Asperger’s is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication. I bring this up because spending a lifetime struggling with Asperger’s syndrome has sensitized me and made me a better communicator. I had to really think about situations and try and understand them more than most just to communicate what I needed.

This weakness became my strength. People with Asperger syndrome often display intense interests like I have in photography.

I played to my strengths to help overcome many of my weaknesses. I learned quickly that I did something better than many others because of the way I am wired.

I believe every person has strengths and weaknesses. How this applies to your profession like photography is to really look at what it takes to be successful in that profession.

If you are like most folks you will notice you have some weaknesses that are required to be successful. You will also discover you have some natural talents that help you excel.  Learn to play to your strengths. Don’t ignore your weaknesses, rather acknowledge them and find people to help you.

Maybe you will outsource marketing to someone so you can concentrate on what you do best. To be successful, you still must market yourself. You just don’t have to do all this all yourself.  That is the key to success. Know your weaknesses and strengths. Know what you need to do in your chosen field to be successful and be sure you excel, even if that means getting some help.

Fuji X E2 vs Nikon D4 Low Light Test

This is a comparison of the two cameras with just the light from a Christmas tree in the room.  Custom white balance using the ExpoDisc with both cameras.

Downloadable high resolution files links are below some of the photos so you can compare at 100%.

This is the setup

Comparison of ISO 6400 ƒ/4 and ƒ/5

[Figure 1] Fuji X E2, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/7

Crop of Figure 1
[Figure 2] Nikon D4, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/2.5 28-300mm

Crop of Figure 2

6400 @ ƒ/8

[Figure 3] Fuji X E2, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 2.3 [high resolution file]
[Figure 4] Nikon D4, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/1.2, 28-300mm [high resolution file]

ISO 12800 @ ƒ/8

[Figure 5] Fuji X E2, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1.0 [high resolution file]
[Figure 6] Nikon D4, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/3, 28-300mm [high resolution file]

ISO 25600 @ ƒ/8

[Figure 7] Fuji X E2, ISO 25600, ƒ/8, 1/2 [high resolution file]
[Figure 8] Nikon D4, ISO 25600, ƒ/8, 1/4, 28-300mm [high resolution file]

Conclusion

They are different camera chips.  The one on the left is the traditional and the one on the right is in the Fuji X E2.

You have a different look and not like comparing similar chip designs.

I think the Fuji X E2 rocks and the main reason I wanted it was to be able to take photos in low light when I didn’t want to carry the Nikon D4.  I think it works just fine.

I do not think the Fuji will replace the Nikon D4, especially when it comes to shooting sports, but for many of the situations I work in it can replace it.

Christmas Trees and Cameras have something in common

Fuji X E2 with the 18-55mm on a ProMaster XC525 Tripod

Both Christmas trees and cameras do better with tripods that support them and hold them steady.

Now for the past few weeks I have been testing the Fujifilm X E2 camera. Lately I was taking Christmas tree ornaments and enjoying using the Wifi to help upload the JPEGs quickly through my iPad using the Camera App you can download.

I also was taking portraits which I posted on the blog earlier. What I noticed right away was my pictures were not as sharp with the Christmas tree ornaments as compared to the studio. Well of course the ƒ-stop was greater, but really the sharpness issue was with camera motion.

Sure the Fuji camera has vibration reduction, but even when this is flawless a camera on a tripod cannot be beaten.

ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/35

Once I started taking photos with a good tripod the photos looked so much better.  It wasn’t camera error, it was operator error that was causing my photos to not appear as sharp as they could.

ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/10

The other thing I was able to do by shooting on a tripod was vary my depth-of-field since the camera movement at a slower ƒ-stop wouldn’t affect the sharpness of the photos.

ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/9

ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/30

While the photos were definitely sharper there is another benefit with shooting on a tripod, composition.

While these photos don’t win a pulitzer for composition, I was able to keep the camera still, which is hard to do when you are focusing as close as the camera will do on such small ornaments.

ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/7

Some of the ornaments like this of Snow White were tricky to shoot if you shot them wide open and that would be ƒ/4 on this camera and lens. I stopped the lens down to ƒ/10. How did I know that is what I wanted?

Fuji X E2 Feature Bonus

On the Fuji X E2 when you push the shutter release half way down the camera aperture closes to the setting you have and the viewfinder automatically adjusts in brightness so you can see your depth-of-field as it will look when you take the photo. On a traditional DSLR you have to wait for your eye to adjust to see the DOF. This is one of the really cool things about this new camera.

Now all these photos are using the existing light in the room, which was primarily the lights on the tree. By getting so close on all the ornaments the depth of field was pretty shallow and helped to pop them out from the tree and the background was cleaned up in the process.

My suggestion for any photographer who has a Christmas tree and a tripod is to take time and record some of your ornaments and maybe just post them to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest account.  I have gotten more comments about these than many other posts I have done.

Maybe the reason is the ornaments is something many of us collect and understand.

At our house you are just as likely to see The Citadel ornaments, photography ornaments in addition to what the season is all about, those that remind us of Jesus.

Go get your tripod and let it slow you down this season to take the time to remember the reason for the season.

Taking photos mindlessly will result in an image that is worthless

Dr Linda Henkel, conducted a study at Fairfield University in Connecticut where they led a group of students around a museum and asked them to either photograph or try to remember certain works of art and historical exhibits.  She said: “People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly.”

What many writers are taking away from this is “photographs STOPS our brains remembering what happened.” Just Google “photography doesn’t help you remember” and you will see the articles all quoting research.

I think the research got it right and even Dr. Henkel clarified her comments, but what do writers want you to hear? I think they are tired of hearing “a photograph is worth 1,000 words.”

Photos that are worth the category of a 1,000 word story are not where the photographer just pulls out their camera and snaps a quick photo.  I think if we look at how Norman Rockwell used photography to come up with a great illustrations. Rockwell would have many different photos for him to pull from to create his masterpiece.

When a photo is going to not just help you remember, but tell a story to those who were not there with the photographers then the perspective the photographer chooses and the moment can help capture a story.

Too many people just pull out their phones today and because it is with them they are even more careless than when they had to think to remember to bring a camera. Since it is with them all the time and they are not having to buy film and pay for each shot–they cheapen the moment by mindlessly just clicking the photo.

“Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them,” said Dr. Henkel.

Photographs that tell stories require the photographer to think before pressing the shutter release. What should they be thinking about to have photos that will later tell the story?

  1. Why am I taking this photo?
  2. What is the story?
  3. What do I want those who see the photo to do after they see it?
  4. How do I feel about this story?
  5. What can I do to help convey my emotions about the story in the photograph?
  6. What must be “Within The Frame” of the photograph?
  7. What will be left out of the frame of the photograph?
  8. Where do I want everyone to look first?
  9. How can I compose this photo so that the secondary is secondary, but still relevant.
In the photo above of the gift of a viola to a young man you can see the lady, who is his mother, looking on and conveying pleasure. The son is thrilled not just for himself, but for his mother.
The story is that this single mother works several jobs to put food on the table and roof over her family. They do not really have the money for her son to be playing a viola, but the viola may just be his ticket to college and a career.
I wanted to capture this moment of telling the story of why this gift was such a big deal. I don’t think you will think I just pulled out my phone and took this photo. You can tell it is more than a memory jogger. Because I thought about it not only will I remember the moment–my photo will help others who were not there to know the story.

Custom White Balance vs Presets

Custom White Balance using ExpoDisc

Today I shot the Wreaths Across America Day event at Roswell Presbyterian Cemetery.

While shooting this I realized many folks assume those presets for white balance will give good enough results. Well sometimes they do. They will put you in the ballpark for each type of situation.

Auto White Balance 

Now you maybe satisfied with Auto White Balance. The point here is notice it is different than the custom white balance above.

It was raining and they really don’t have a rainy preset.

Cloudy Preset

While the cloudy preset is closer I think it is a little too orange.

Daylight Preset

Even the Daylight preset is different.

Shade Preset

I think the Shade Preset is the closest, but still some minor differences.

The latest version of the ExpoDisc 2.0 comes with warming filters. They are slightly a cyan color of different densities to let you pick how much you want to warm up your image. So without them you get a pure 18% grey and by adding these you warm up the photo just a bit.

You just put the warming gel in the front of the ExpoDisc and then take your reading. This way you can keep a consistent warming to all your photos.

So what should you do?  I would advise always doing custom. You can always change it later using Adobe Lightroom if you shot it RAW.

To the left here is the pull down menu that is available to you in Adobe Lightroom if you shot it RAW. These are very similar to the presets on your camera.

Sometimes the perfect custom white balance maybe not your preference in the end.

Just click on the link below to see more of the photos from Wreaths Across America Day at Roswell Presbyterian Cemetery.

Loving the Fuji X E2 for Portraits

I am really loving the Fuji X E2 with the 18-55mm kit lens for shooting portraits.

The first time I was shooting in the studio on manual I discovered a problem with the default setting is the screen will be black when shooting in a studio with say settings of ISO 200, 1/180 and ƒ/11. I was talking with my friend Gibbs Frazeur who had bought the Fuji X100S and he called me up after I complained and told me to go to the manual on page 40.

You can change the preview exposure in manual mode to off so you can see what you are photographing with the available light. Then when the camera takes the photo it will capture the settings you have set on the camera.

What I really like with the camera is how sharp the photos are from the camera.  Here is a closeup of the eyes from the photo above.

Here is another photo of my daughter and then a closeup as well in that photo.

Closeup of the photo above.