Estimates Require Bottom Up Thinking

Bottomup thinking is said to take place through a process of taking in details and building up from there. The fragmented bits and pieces are structured and categorized, and then an induction is made—a process that brings rise to something.

Topdown processing, on the other hand, refers to perception that is driven by cognition.

I find that in the best of situations that those who are asking for estimates are often in management and the key to the success of the project is when they realize estimates require conversation.

This past week I have worked on four very intense and convoluted projects. The client is coming to me with a project that they often are trying to get done. Most of the time the management has already set a budget in place. When this is the case we spend time going back and forth to see what we can do within their budget.

I have one client that came to me looking for the Bottom-Up approach. They are in the budgeting phase for a major project. I helped them with a similar project in another part of the country. They are basically asking me to duplicate that in a new location.

The problem is that the person asking for the Estimate was not involved in all the parts of the last project. I am having to educate them on the parts of the estimate that are much more involved than what they think was involved.

Honduras Outreach Estabian Olancho

When most people see a video that is of an interview and it is under a minute they think that is all it took to get that interview. This is one of the parts of the estimate I had to explain to the client.

Here is the gist of my education on the topic of a video interview.

While you may see a 30 to 90 second interview, most all the ones you saw that we produced took about 3 too 4 hours of time to shoot. That includes the time to setup the cameras, lights, microphone and also to take it down. the actually time we interview was about 30 minutes.

I then take those interviews for a first rough cut. I take out all the questions and major pauses and create a video that is often first reviewed by another person on the team. That person is often the writer/editor. Then they send back time codes and we put together the first real edit. This includes the lower third graphics. Then this is shown to another person up the chain before we show it to the main client.

By the time the client sees it and makes then their changes the video has gone through usually about 4 to 5 revisions. This is usually about 8 to 10 hours of editing and reposting this online for the team to review.

Purpose of all this is to help explain why what they think is just a quick few minutes will actually be a couple days of work and that is why the estimate must reflect the behind the scene work they often do not see.

This is the Bottom-Up thinking.

The problem with those who do not understand the importance of the Bottom-Up thinkers working with Top-Down thinkers is you get the American Automobile decline during the 1960s till almost the 1980s. Meanwhile Japan overtook the market around 1970 with the help of Dr. William Edward Deming.

William Edwards Deming (1900-1993) is widely acknowledged as the leading management thinker in the field of quality. He was a statistician and business consultant whose methods helped hasten Japan’s recovery after the Second World War and beyond. He taught that by adopting appropriate principles of management, organizations can increase quality and simultaneously reduce costs (by reducing waste, rework, staff attrition and litigation while increasing customer loyalty).

Today most people know his work at Total Quality Management and link this to Toyota rather than Deming who created it. He broke it down into a cycle.

The Deming Cycle, or PDCA Cycle (also known as PDSA Cycle), is a continuous quality improvement model consisting out of a logical sequence of four repetitive steps for continuous improvement and learning: Plan, Do, Check (Study) and Act.

Estimates are only as good as the information given to the person creating the estimate. Deming understood that as you work on something like a car, it is often the front line worker who will first see a problem. They need the power to stop the assembly line for the purpose of being sure the customer gets the best product.

Estimates are needed for Ex Nihilo [out of nothing] work. This is where something is needed to be created versus buying something already in existence.

Bottom Line Take Away

Working on estimates can be quite frustrating to everyone. The key reason they are so frustrating is for the customer asking for the estimate they cannot go forward with the project if they don’t know what they are getting and the cost of it. For the one writing the estimate they need all the information to create the estimate, but most of the time the customer doesn’t know all they need to know–thus this is why they are asking for an estimate.

Customers need to be realistic about the process of creating an estimate. They should never think that they can continue to ask for revisions without compensating for this work.

The one doing the estimating is doing some of the work you need done to go to your bosses to give them the feedback they need for budgeting and to make decisions.

If you are the one creating estimates, I believe there comes a point in the process of revisions that you are perfectly entitled to compensation. You are doing all the heavy lifting and the client can then take all your work and then just shop for someone to implement your estimate for a lower rate.

Most of the time it is the one doing the estimating, that is doing the most creative work for a project. They need to be compensated. Also don’t forget that people are not going to pay for your first estimate. There will be some give and take, but at some point the client needs to compensate for all those revisions if they want more clarity in the estimate.

Civil Twilight

At the beginning of civil twilight, just after sunset, the colors of the sky change most rapidly. Clouds in the west are illuminated by orange-red sunlight, while the ones in the east remain in blue and indigo. Generally speaking, civil twilight lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the season and latitude.

While Civil Twilight is technically 20 to 30 minutes the best possible moment to get that perfect balance of the city lights with the night sky is more of a “Twinkling of the Eye.”

52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:52
Seattle Skyline

As you can see that all the way back to even biblical times people understood that some of those things we see are like a shooting star and happen so briefly that if you are not paying attention they will disappear.

Considered to be an icon of the city and the Pacific Northwest, it has been designated a Seattle landmark. Located in the Lower Queen Anne neighborhood, it was built in the Seattle Center for the 1962 World’s Fair, which drew over 2.3 million visitors. [NIKON D4, 70.0-200.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/6, ƒ/8, (35mm = 95)]

I believe that the Civil Twilight is the best time to photograph architecture. The second best time is “Civil Dawn” which happens at Sunrise.

The Gateway Arch is a 630-foot monument in St. Louis, Missouri, United States. Clad in stainless steel and built in the form of a weighted catenary arch, it is the world’s tallest arch, the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere, and Missouri’s tallest accessible building.  [NIKON D750, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 20, ƒ/16, (35mm = 40)]

What you quickly realize is that during these few minutes of Civil Twilight is that the light values that are man made come into the same exposure range as the sky. Anything doesn’t have light on it will slowly go to a silouette.

Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People is a cable-stayed bridge across the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon, United States. It was designed by TriMet, the Portland metropolitan area’s regional transit authority, for its MAX Orange Line light rail passenger trains. [NIKON D750, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 13, ƒ/8, (35mm = 35)]

To get the best photos of Civil Twilight really requires a tripod. The best photos are normally taken with the lowest ISO. This makes your exposure time for the shutter speed to take seconds and not fraction of seconds as you can during daylight.

Pier at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina during Civil Twilight [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/11, (35mm = 105)]

When you use these longer exposure times of like 30 seconds as I did in photographing the Pier at Ocean Isle Beach the water turns into a foam.

Pier at Night Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. Leary Family Vacation [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24-105mm F4 DG OS HSM, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/8, (35mm = 52)]Pier at Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina. [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 30, ƒ/8, (35mm = 52)]

What happens as the light from the sky becomes darker the light fixtures are no longer distinguishable, you just see the light emitting from the fixture.

Fireworks 4th of July Ocean Isle Beach, NC [NIKON D4, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Manual, ISO 200, 30, ƒ/8, (35mm = 14)]

Now the other popular thing to photograph is fireworks, but these always happen after Civil Twilight. They want the fireworks to standout in the night sky.

4th of July Fireworks at Roswell High School [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 4, ƒ/11, (35mm = 24)]

Most everything becomes at best a silhouette and difficult to make out what is on the ground.

4th of July Fireworks at Roswell High School [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 100, 4, ƒ/11, (35mm = 24)]

I worked on this photo in Lightroom to open up the shadows to reveal some of the night time sky, but it introduces a lot of noise in the process.

Portland Skyline [NIKON D750, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 8, ƒ/8, (35mm = 24)]

Tips for Twilight Photography

  • Sunrise or Sunset ~ Before even thinking of going try and determine if this is better as a photo. Do I want some of the sun as it sets shining on the front or back? Some locations the sun will be to the side and not in front or back.
  • Pack Tripod & Bug Spray ~ My friend Morris Abernathy and I went one evening to capture the Fort Worth Skyline and the best location was where we were eaten up by mosquitos. You need a sturdy tripod for the camera and lens you plan to use.
  • Arrive Early ~ Civil dawn is the moment when the geometric center of the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon in the morning and Civil dusk is the moment when the geometrical center of the Sun is 6 degrees below the horizon in the evening. That is the 20 minutes after sunset and 20 minutes before sunset. So whatever the time is for Sunrise or Sunset you need to be in place with your tripod and camera setup at least 15 to 30 minutes prior.
  • Stay Late ~ I recommend planning for about 45 minutes past the time of Sunrise or Sunset.
  • Take lots of photos ~ don’t just shoot those few minutes of the best light. Shoot some with the sun still up and when it is pitch black sky. Sometimes these are also great photos.
  • Second or Third Camera ~ Some locations you may want to compose differently. Rather than miss a great shot, if you have extra cameras, tripods and lenses, make use of them.
  • Cable Release or Radio Transmitter ~ To get the sharpest photos use a cable release. If you are shooting on a DSLR, locking up the mirror will help as sell. If you are using multiple cameras, using a radio transmitter can help you trigger multiple cameras at the same time.
Portland Skyline [NIKON D750, , Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 4, ƒ/8, (35mm = 35)]

There are many times that daylight will reveal things like mountains in the distant that dusk or dawn can hide.

Portland, Oregon [NIKON D4, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/400, ƒ/8, (35mm = 200)]

The More You Learn, The More You Earn

James Dockery teaching Adobe Premier Pro during the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Lima, Peru. [X-E3, XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS, ISO 4000, ƒ/4.5, 1/100, Focal Length = 29]

I am just wired to learn more and more. Once I find a subject, I then end up going down that rabbit hole. I want to know more and more.

Here are some of the major changes in my career that required me to learn more or earn less.

  • Learning to shoot Transparency film like Kodachrome
  • Learning how to use hotshoe flash
  • Learning how to use studio strobes
  • Learning how to create audio/transparency slide show
  • Learning how to control my strobes by understanding all the light modifiers
  • Switching from Film to Digital
  • Learning PhotoShop
  • Learning about Metadata
  • Learning how to create Database
  • Learning how to create Website
  • Learning how to create a blog
  • Learning how to create digital audio slide shows
  • Learning how to shoot video with my DSLR
  • Learning about mirrorless cameras
  • Learning how to use Sliders & Gimbals
  • Learning how to fly drone and become a FAA Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot
Photo By Gibbs Frazeur

Only 15% of hiring managers say most job seekers have the skills their company is looking for.* If you want increase your chances of getting a good job, you want to be in that 15%. Which means you want to take the time to acquire the skills employers are looking for. 

This is also true for those doing Gig Work. [The term “gig” is jargon for “temporary job.” You’ve likely heard it used conversationally, especially when freelancers say, “I’ve booked a gig.” Additionally, you’ve probably heard of a “gig economy,” which means a free market system in which businesses use independent contractors—for short periods of time—to handle.]

There are two ways to decide what you need to tackle next. You can be on the Bleeding Edge, which is a little more risky way to go. Now if you pick the right “New Trend” then you could easily get a lot of work. However, often when you try and guess what is the next big thing is being too early.

When I switched to digital from film I did it when it was a little more economical and the technology had come closer to giving me a similar quality with my film. That was the year 2002. I paid $1,999. The year earlier a similar Kodak back for the Nikon F5 went for $16,000. The year prior to that it was $25,000. I was not making enough money in those years to ever recover the cost of those cameras.

St John’s Baptist Church in Connelly Springs, North Carolina. [DJI Air 2S, Mode = Normal, ISO 100, 1/50, ƒ/2.8, (35mm = 24)]

In 2013 DJI introduced their first Phantom Drone. This drone began the modern camera-equipped drone craze. Within just a few years, DJI would hold a commanding position in the consumer drone market, with almost 80% of consumer drones in operation manufactured by DJI or one of their subsidiaries.

I had bought a couple toy drones and could barely fly them without crashing. So, I was waiting until the technology was solid enough that I stepped into the drone world this February when I studied for and passed my FAA Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot test. I bought my first drone just a few days before I took my test.

While we all know about the “Learning Curve” and think it will be like this one above, it is really more like this one.

William S. Burroughs is credited with the quote, “When you stop growing you start dying.” I think this is the best possible way to think of the alternative to becoming a Lifelong Learner.

Here is one more way to understand why you want to also “Learn More, To Earn More”. The odds of you increasing your income from one year to the next is directly related to what new things you have added to your skill base. Now I am not saying you should be chasing money, but just to stay at similar income, the cost of living will go up. The only way to keep up with this is to produce more and more content, or to produce better content that is worth more.


This photo above was taken by Dorie Griggs, my wife, last year during my time interviewing Dr. Charlie Weiss.

This past week my daughter said her friend liked that I was direct with conversation. They used the gaming term “Speedrun”.

So with some research I found this about Speedruns.

Speedruns are artistry. Not only do they demonstrate complete mastery over a game, but they also poke away at the edges of what a game intends you to do. Watching a perfect speedrun is similar, I imagine, to watching good gymnastics, but they’re more than just skill-based. They’re borne of a curiosity about the edges of games: the things we’re not meant to see and the things we aren’t supposed to do.

There’s a whole science behind speedruns. Players spend weeks and sometimes years chiselling a perfect path through a game. They exploit minor traversal bugs to gain speed, they tap away at the outer limits of a game world in search of hidden routes, and then they move to execute all these tricks in one graceful swoop. There’s a strong collaborative spirit among speedrun communities, because in the end, it’s all about what’s possible, not who wins.

These are some of the strengths I have as one with Asperger’s. For each of these there is an equally opposite trait. You will find many with Asperger’s are direct.

Before I am sitting down to interview someone on camera, I have done lots of research and prepared for the path I need to take to get what I have as content needs to tell the story. I have done many informal interviews before I sit down.

I become focused just like a kid on an Easter Egg hunt. I know what I am looking for and I go for it.

Professor of Math at Georgia Tech works with his student Gary Clark Alexander on a math problem.

It is very important at times for you to have this kind of focus like the “Speedrunner”, however, there are times you need to slow down.

This little boy shepherd is part of the Fulani tribe which is known for being herdsmen and is working in the village of Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso on October 15, 2005. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young boy cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso.

One of the times I slowed down was in my first time in Burkina Faso, West Africa with a writer. African time or Africa time is the perceived cultural tendency, in parts of Africa and the Caribbean toward a more relaxed attitude to time.

I knew what we needed, but realized very quickly that over three weeks there we had the time to get our content and even more. So, I learned to look around while the writer was interviewing and just observed.

Chelle’s “Hip Hop” dance class invited the parents to photograph and see her work the last 15 minutes of the class time.

The one thing that helped me to observe even more was having children. I would take my camera and just enjoy seeing them take in the world and grow up in front of my eyes.

Taylor during a T-Ball baseball game

Speedrun vs Taking in the Roses

My mentor and friend Don Rutledge took me on many assignments that he self-assigned himself. I did this with Don for many, many years. We traveled around the country doing some of these stories.

John Howard Griffin & Don Rutledge –– This is a photo of Don from 1955 when he worked with John Howard Griffin on the book “Black Like Me”.

When I asked Don why he did so many of these smaller self-assigned stories he said he liked it when he was able to take his time. Sometimes he would go back over a few days to work getting everything he could think of to make a strong visual story as well as the written story he also would craft.

He said these stories let him really master his craft at a slower speed so that when he was working on stories where the time was limited, he like the “Speedrunner” was able to make the most of his time.

Pam Goldsmith, world renowned violist and sister-in-law to our family

Most professional musicians like Pam Goldsmith, who sits first chair on many of the movies you see in Hollywood, must practice for hours each day. Most professional musicians practice 6 to 8 hours a day, 6 out of 7 days a week.

When Pam goes in to play on the latest movie, she and all the other studio musicians have never seen the music before. It has never been played by an orchestra. They take a moment to look it over. They may make a note or two, like bowing motions and then they play it. By the way they record it that first time as well. Then they are done. Seldom do they go back and redo something.

When they do go back it is because the composer may see they made a mistake and need to change something.

Asperger’s also are processing a lot before they are “Speedrunning”.

This may sound contradictory, but it is what I do. Time is such a precious commodity in life. It is the most important thing you can give to anyone. So in order to make the most of my time with people I must know when to ”Speedrun” and when to just “Chill”.

Actors Gotta Act

I think the best tips I have for getting your headshot is to take some tips from singers.

  1. Yawn-sigh Technique. For this quick vocal exercise, simply yawn (take in air) with your mouth closed. …
  2. Humming warmupS. …
  3. Vocal Straw Exercise. …
  4. Lip buzz Vocal warmup. …
  5. Tongue trill exercise. …
  6. Jaw Loosening ExerciseS. …
  7. Two-octave pitch glide WarmUp. …
  8. Vocal Sirens Exercise.
  9. Vocal Slides Technique

You see singers are stretching their vocal cords. In a way they are actually calibrating their voices.

A few years ago I thought while photographing some actors, wouldn’t they love to just perform. That was when I was just trying to get them to enjoy themselves. I accidentally discovered that after they have been going through different type of characters the expressions that follow are more relaxed and engaging.

Have fun in your headshot session. Keep the lighting simple and spend all the time getting a variety of expressions.

Most of the time when we an actor comes to me for their headshot they are a little reluctant at first.

photo by Dorie Griggs

This past Saturday I setup a studio in the lobby at Riverside Theatre Complex – Columbus State University.

My daughter, Chelle Leary, is a student in the Theatre program at Columbus State University and was helping me. She would help coach some of the actors by asking them to imitate professors and students in the program. Ronald Walker was getting into the roles once he had some ideas to play with.

Ronald Walker

After playing with some characters I would just get a few natural moments and then move onto another character. I continued to shoot these so they can later use them for fun with Social Media.

I think the actors love seeing the results of the different characters they created.

photo by Dorie Griggs
Gabrielle Solomon

I like to think of taking these variety of expressions is a way of calibrating the face. You need to push or stretch beyond the best expression for any mood you are trying to achieve to make the one that is dialed back just a little look natural.

Here are some more tips for you in a downloadable PDF

Now fully vaccinated I am ready to take on clients once again. Call me and lets setup a portrait session for you.

Drone 360º Panoramic

The photo at the top is the same photo as you see here moving. You need to have special software installed on your website to make them come alive.

Put your mouse on the photo and pull up and down. Go side to side to see how you can control the experience. Pinch the screen and spread your 2 fingers on the screen to zoom in and out.

Shot with Drone – Chatham’s Greenway Neighborhood @ Bent Grass Drive & Putting Green Intersection

I have been shooting 360º panoramics for many years, but from the ground. I was excited to see I can do this with my drone.

You can see more examples of my Panoramic 360 on my main website. Go Here To See Them

I love being able to put the audience into the scene.