Do you feel adrift? Time to take some action

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/4.5, 1/60 [President of Honduras talks with Maria Saporta]

Do you feel like you are working hard, but just are not getting any traction? You might even feel adrift in this world.

Here is a good indicator you are struggling and not getting traction to move forward in your life. Look at your calendar and see if you can see things on it that you put there that are different than what you had on your calendar last week, last month or even last year. If things look the same all the time then you are in a rut.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5000, ƒ/6.3, 1/30 [Vince Dooley talks with the President of Honduras. They are building a soccer field in the Agalta Valley that will be named Vince Dooley field]

Once you are in motion on a bicycle the spinning of the wheel helps to stabilize you due to angular momentum. You may remember a physics teaching taking a bicycle wheel and then spinning it at a high speed and maybe sitting in a chair and having a student move it and watch how it moved them.

Watch this video if you need a refresher course on the concept.

Using this principle of angular momentum you will not move as long as no change is made. If the bicycle wheel spins and you do not turn the handlebars you will remain going straight.


The largest obstacle to your life getting better is your willingness to change your routine.

While I do not recommend just doing something different today than you have in the past, it will change your life. Why not just do anything different, well that will likely result in you turning your bicycle into a ditch.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

The other day I was in the Delta Airlines corporate offices board room. This room was magnificent and where the airlines board meets. This room is where change happens for Delta.

Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 5000, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

While my board room is our kitchen table changes happen around here that affect our family just as much as discussions around the board room tables changes.

Here a few tips to help you steer your life in a new direction:

  1. Brainstorm–Take some time and just dream.
  2. Pick the best ideas
  3. Be SMART
    1. S–Specific
    2. M–Measurable
    3. A–Achievable
    4. R–Relevant
    5. T–Trackable over time
Since many who read my blog are photographers you might have goals in several areas:
  • Portfolio–You may want to grow artistically and add new images to your present portfolio or even completely change it
  • Financial/Career–You may want to achieve working for certain media or corporations. You may also want to have a certain income 
  • Lifestyle–This can be family goals of marriage, children or moving to a new place
  • Attitude–You may just want to be more positive and not as negative
  • Health–Maybe you want to lose weight or get into better shape
  • Volunteer–Maybe you are wanting to give back and find an organization you can plug into to do more public service
I can tell you from my own life two types of changes have had profound effects on my life. 
First are those accidents or things that were from more outside forces. Car wrecks, layoffs, health emergencies and you get the idea, but all of these had dramatic impact on my life.
Second are those things where I made conscious decisions. Marrying my wife was one of the most profound and life changing things I could have ever done. Having a child was life changing. Going to college and later to seminary changed my life.
Here is my challenge to you. Take some time and just sit still and ponder where you are and if this is where you want to be in life. Then if there are things that are not where you want to be then brainstorm for what could be. 
Be realistic in your thoughts. Your plan that you come up with will be very similar to you planning a vacation abroad somewhere. You will have to had picked your destination and what all you want to see and do. Then you will put aside the money and then make all the plans to make it happen.
You can easily set a goal that age 35 to retire and many have done this. I recommend a goal that all those who reach that goal then put into place. Setting a goal that gives your life meaning and purpose. This way everyday you are much happier and satisfied than having a goal that eventually you realize was empty.

Storytellers know thy purpose

The shortest distance isn’t always the best route

Know Thyself

“He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.”
― Lao Tzu

We are familiar with the saying to “Know Thyself” because through understanding yourself you are able to accomplish so much more. You learn your strengths and limits which will help you navigate life.

Storytellers need to know the purpose of a story. Why were you hired to tell a story?

I have been driving many times in the Atlanta traffic when all of a sudden my GPS will alert me to traffic and alternative route to my destination.

Knowing your destination the GPS helps you navigate and get you to your location in the quickest amount of time.

Great Teachers

One of the best examples I experienced over and over growing up was when a student would ask my teacher a question. The teachers I have the fondest memories are the ones who could take almost any question and use it to engage the class on the subject. My worst memories are the teachers who like in the top illustration use that red line approach to everything. They somewhat answer the question, but are quick to say something like “now lets get back to …” and in the process shut down the class.

The difference is the great teachers know their subject well and know their lesson plan. They know the goal and purpose for the lesson that day. They are willing to take a question and like the GPS use this alternative route, which is better than proceeding into what will be a traffic jam.

Great Storytellers are Great Listeners

I have traveled with some of the best writers and loved learning from them. These were all journalists and we were working together on stories. I was capturing the still images and video while they were responsible for the text.

I have also watched too many writers who are so self absorbed with where they think the story should go that they kill the story. I remember more than once with more than one writer where they asked a question and didn’t listen either with their ears or eyes and missed the traffic jam taking place and hearing the subject helping to redirect them to an alternative route.

Chick-fil-A Cow out on Marietta Street in front of the new restaurant that is adjacent to the College Football Hall of Fame. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 800, ƒ/8, 1/800—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900.  The Flash is on the Pocketwizard TT5 and being triggered by the Mini TT1 on the Camera with the AC3 to control the output of the flash]

Today I am sent by news outlets and corporations to capture stories for their audiences. Just this week I was covering the grand opening of the Chick-fil-A at The College Football Hall of Fame. My audience was the internal staff and franchise owners. The Associated Press photographer was there covering the story and his audience was the public.

Associated Press photographer, Dan Goldberg, interviews a couple. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/6.4, 1/140]

How does the new Chick-fil-A restaurant impact those audiences was my assignment? The AP Photographer and I both are covering the same subject, but because we knew our purpose we were able to adjust throughout the story as the subjects in the story helped to inform us of new content that was relevant to the story.

My primary concern in all my storytelling is the subject. I know that if I aim to please the subject that they would be pleased with the story then the accuracy is much greater than if I was focused on what someone else told me the story was all about.

Just like the teacher who knows the purpose of their lesson plan is able to adjust to bring the class along, I too must adjust to be sure I capture how this new restaurant will impact my audience.

Dan Cathy with one of the staff members from the College Football Hall of Fame reading the story of “A Better Way Ministries” person who built the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/8, 1/200]

As you can see in this photo I was thrown a curveball when Dan Cathy, the president of Chick-fil-A crawled under a table and then started to talk to everyone from under the table. Just like when the teacher gets a question from a student which can help engage the classroom even more into the story, this was my question moment.

Plaque on top of the table tells about the story of the table. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 1000, ƒ/5.6, 1/160]

You can read about the table in the photo above. Dan Cathy talked about how this partnership with A Better Way Ministries was also being done with their new coffee company Thrive Farmers. The process of picking Thrive Farmers was the realization there was a story there of the farmers. The artisans who made the table have a story and they were asked by Chick-fil-A to take a Sharpie and write their story under the table.

The artisan’s story. [Fuji X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/500]

This unexpected detour actually helped me get to my destination better than without the detour. You see the story of how Chick-fil-A was interested in impacting the lives of the artisans and coffee growers by buying their products is how they were impacting those communities. It did a great job of setting up the story of how this restaurant will impact the community near the College Football Hall of Fame.

Highways vs Back Roads

Great storytellers know that those detours are like comparing the interstate highway to the back roads. Interstate highways are like the straight line from point A to point B, but rarely are they as scenic as the backroads.

I know that when I am the passenger on a drive on the interstate I am much more likely to take a nap than when I am on the backroads.

The lesson here is simple. If you know why you are doing the story, then you will know how to navigate and take advantage of the opportunities the subjects give to you which make your story a success.

Fujifilm X-E2: Using only available light for meeting

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.5, 1/90


I walked into the room and along one side of the room was a wall with handprints. It was lighted and the brightest spot in the room.

The problem as you can see in the first photo is this was the background for the speakers. They might have been standing in front of window with sunlight coming in.  There were not lights on the speakers except for the room lights, which were of course much darker than the wall.

This is the first thing I do in any situation—look around and see where the light is and isn’t. I then pay attention to the type of light that is in the room.

I am assessing the direction and the quality of the light in the room.

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.4, 1/70

As long as I wasn’t photographing the speakers, the rest of the room really didn’t present the same issues of the backlit speakers.

Custom white balance

To get the best possible color in any situation I rely first on the ExpoDisc.  I bought the original version in the 77mm size. I just hold this in front of the lens to set the white balance.

The new version you can get filters that you put over the ExpoDisc which let you warm up or cool down your color temperature.

If you use a slightly blue filter then your camera will add the opposite color, which is yellow to try and color correct the image. This process will warm up your photos.

If you used a slightly yellow filter the camera will add blue and therefore make your photos cooler.

Since the ExpoDisc is going over the lens and capturing the light as it hits the filter this is giving you an incident light reading.

A general rule is an incident light reading is more accurate than a reflective reading because it is not influenced by the object the light is hitting. It just reads what the amount of light is hitting or the color of the light.

The camera set the Kelvin to 3650 and added 30+ magenta for my photos.

Since I was under a fluorescent/sodium vapor type of lights I had to use a shutter speed slower than 1/100 to avoid getting color banding in the photo.

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.6, 1/70

Exposure Value Adjustment

I shot the photos using the aperture priority mode on the Fujifilm X-E2.  I picked the A for the shutter-speed and then I shot wide open with the aperture.  I am using the MULTI metering mode for the Fujifilm X-E2.

I had the camera set to use AUTO ISO. The low end ISO was set to ISO 100 and the high end to ISO 6400. The shutter speed was set to 1/100 since I didn’t want to go above this due to the fluorescent/sodium vapor lights.

I am using the electronic viewfinder (EVF) while shooting. This gave me a great advantage over my DSRL because I am seeing what I will get later. The minute I put the camera on the speaker all that backlight was silhouetting my speaker.

To get the correct exposure on the speaker I just adjusted the EV dial by +2.7 and the result is what you see above.

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/50 [focal length 200mm & 35mm equivalent 300mm]

I am handholding the Fujifilm X-E2 with the XF 55-200mm. In this photo of the speaker the lens is equivalent to a 300mm lens on my full-framed DSLR. So shooting at 1/50 shouldn’t be this sharp. The reason is the lens has optical image stabilization (O.I.S.).  The image stabilization function allows the use of shutter speeds 4.5 stops slower. As you can see the photo looks pretty sharp for 1/50.

O.I.S. cannot help you if the subject moves a lot while you are taking the photo. It just helps keep your camera steady.

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.7, 1/30 [RAW image processed through Adobe Lightroom]

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.7, 1/30 [JPEG from camera no Adobe Lightroom]

Why not ISO 12800 or 24600?

Frankly I am not that thrilled with the way the Fujifilm X-E2 handles skin tones. They tend to come out just a little waxy for my taste. To use an ISO greater than ISO 6400 on the Fujifilm cameras you must shoot JPEGs and not RAW.

If the photos were not working I would have shot at a higher ISO and lived with the trade out of the waxy skin tones verses not so sharp of photos.

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/75

For Comparison

Nikon D4, 28-300mm. ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

The one thing I still like about the Nikon D4 over the Fujifilm X-E2 is shooting raw at even higher ISO settings. Here the photo above is shot available light just like the Fuji and the lens also has image stabilization to help with camera motion.

How about strobes?

Nikon D4, 28-300mm. ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 [2 Alienbees B1600 lights bounced on 1/32 power]

I also shot photos using two Alienbees B1600 lights with Pocketwizard Plus II on the lights receiving the radio signal from the Pocketwizard MiniTT1 Transmitter on the Nikon D4.

Obviously the flashes helped a great deal with the quality of the image, but at what sacrifice? They announced to everyone in the room when I was taking a photo. It made the people too aware and less relaxed.

No question that you get better quality light with strobes, but unless you are dealing with professional actors/actresses you are not going to get the best expressions over the course of a meeting. Sure you will get some, but I believe available light is the way to go—if possible.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm. ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/200 [2 Alienbees B1600 lights bounced on 1/32 power]

Couple more photos for you

Fujifilm X-E2, XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.6, 1/110

Nikon D4, 28-300mm. ISO 6400, ƒ/5.6, 1/160 [2 Alienbees B1600 lights bounced on 1/32 power]

Hair bit nicer color with the flashes, but if I am getting the photo with the Fujifilm X-E2 that looks this good without flash, why use flash?

Comparing “Bokeh” on Nikon, Sigma and Fuji lenses

Which camera and lens took this first photo?  Here are the choices

  1. Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-D [Lens $969]
  2. Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM [Lens $1249]
  3. Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM [Lens $2500]
  4. Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, with Sigma 1.4 converter [converter $249]
  5. Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR [Lens $897]
  6. Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS [Lens $699]
  7. Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS Zoom [Lens $694]
It might surprise you. For this exercise I shot each lens wide open and at the longest focal length and the closest distance that the lens would focus. Now there is a slight focus issue due to my skills of placing the tripod and subject, but you can see for yourself and pick the photo that matches the above photo.
Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-D
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300 mm f/2.8 DG EX APO IF HSM, with Sigma 1.4 converter
Nikon D4, Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 EX DG APO OS HSM
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS Zoom Lens
Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens
If you had a hard time figuring out the top photo it is the Fujifilm X-E2 with the FUJINON XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Lens.
When I photograph people for portraits I love the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AF-D.  While I can get closer with many other lenses as you can see above, any closer with the 85mm you are too close.
I hope this exercise also points out that using a longer lens can give great “BOKEH” if you back up a little and zoom in all the way.
The one lens that really wasn’t all that great was the FUJINON XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS Zoom because zoomed all the way in at 55mm the ƒ/4 is just too much depth of field.  I think if I had the Fujinon XF 55mm ƒ/1.2 then I would see something similar to the 85mm ƒ/1.4.
The lesson I hope is that you might try some longer lenses for portraits to get some smooth silky “Bokeh”.