Going Pro….

Over on my Flickr stream a regular commentator…. um….. commented that a pro photographer is someone who gets paid for their work. A rather simplistic viewpoint, but one that is probably a cornerstone of importance and I’m rather confident he did not intend for it to be the sole criteria by which we define “pro”.

Naturally his comment got me to thinking about what it means to really be a professional photographer. Certainly being paid for such… making a living via photography… should be a requisite for being called professional, but I have a hard time believing that it is nothing more than the exchange of cash for images that represents the sum total of professional photography.

But when I think hard upon the subject of how do we define a professional there are a number of typical responses that come to mind: education; experience; accreditation; membership in supporting organizations; and, of course, getting paid for the work. Not necessarily a comprehensive list, but I have to start somewhere.

And so it comes to be that I, yes I, have been asked to do some photography work. For money. And let me assure you that the word “pro” or “professional” would never, ever pass these lips (or fingers as I type) when it comes to describing me and photography.

Yet here I am.

I have entered into a tentative agreement to photograph some five to ten landscape projects for a local landscaping company in exchange for cash. The whole thing is rather surreal to be frank.

It came about quite by accident (as these things often do) as a neighbor and close friend was having some landscaping work done to their back garden. During the job the landscape company owner made an off-hand comment to her how he would like to start taking pictures of his work for the website he had recently put up and while he could do it himself he didn’t feel up to the task.

Now this friend and neighbor knows very well about my photography habit and has had me do some minor photography related things for her and her family, so she immediately put my name and phone number into his hands.

He eventually contacted me about photographing my friend’s back garden after he had completed the work, which I did. I snapped pics, processed and got them off to him right away. In my e-mail I discussed how the pictures could have been better were I to have availed myself to sunlight found earlier or much later in the day, but that my intent was to get something into his hand right away such that he could determine which views looked best to him. I even offered to reshoot those particular views at better times of the day if he wished.

I further explained a handful of issues regarding landscape photography that I have picked up over the past two years and was adamant that he understand I’ve never done this sort of work before, but here is how I would tackle such.

Apparently my e-mail was enough to impress him such that he has asked for me to put together a proposal on what I would charge for the work. Oddly enough I’m more worked up about the pricing than I am the actual work.

Taking the pictures will be something new and different, but I have no doubt I will be able to handle it. This is all part of the new and improved Forkboy, brimming with confidence and a can-do attitude. However, I have zero ideas about how to price such a gig. Less than zero actually. And this is proving to be frustrating.

I clearly do not want to do the work too cheaply as that simply isn’t fair to me because I do bring to the table some knowledge and skill. Neither do I wish to charge something that is unreasonable because that isn’t the way I work. But without any prior experience upon which to base a decision I find myself completely confused.

And I doubt a paid pro should be confused.

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Photography and Online Learning

Been pondering a fair bit lately. Or maybe it’s mulling (to borrow the word from a certain Internet chum). Whatever it is, I’ve been doing it. And it’s a good thing as well.

With a clearer mind over the past couple of months I have made some decisions regarding this photography caper. Lark. Endeavor. I’ve decided that I like being an amateur photographer. I enjoy relaxing with the camera in hand. I’m even learning to enjoy being in front of the computer doing the editing and decision-making stuff. But more importantly I have decided that if I’m going to enjoy this caper. This lark. This endeavor. Then I had better get better acquainted with it.

I’m talking about learning.

Now before you go off half-cocked (or fully-cocked… whatever suits your pleasure) and tell me that education and learning are hardly necessary if you’re only looking to enjoy taking some snaps ‘ere and there, just let me explain.

I really, really enjoy a handful of things: socio-economic-political things, consumer electronic things and photography things. To those ends I have a fairly voracious appetite for reading. The more I read the better informed I hope I become and subsequently the better I might enjoy these capers. These larks. These endeavors. But unlike socio-economic-thingys and consumer electronics there are things one can learn to physically and mentally do to make oneself a better photographer.

Now what exactly is a “better” photographer in this instance? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest it is one who better understands their camera, their other photographic equipment and the various concepts that are integral to taking pictures that are technically correct. Or proper. And I make the distinction between technically correct/proper and Artistic because at this time I am not looking to learn about the latter, but focus upon the former. This is due, in no small part, to the fact I don’t believe I’m particularly creative (“artistic” if you will) and as such I should first focus on mastering the intricacies of everything else.

I don’t know if this is the best route. Or the correct route. But it is a route. It is me getting off my behind and doing something positive and that in itself is a marked change in direction.

And so it was that not too long ago I enrolled at my local camera shop in a five-week course (meeting once a week), which discussed the very basics of modern digital photography. And starting this coming Saturday I will be enrolled in the second five-week course they offer, where we will be taking bigger and deeper steps into the world of photography.

In addition, I have picked up a three-volume set of books by the renowned photographer Scott Kelby. I haven’t yet started them, instead waiting to finish my second course with the local camera store. No particular reason.

But more recently I came across yet another educational opportunity that looked quite exciting. Exciting because it was online. Live. And free. Let me repeat that last part: FREE!!

Say hello to John Greengo’s Fundamentals of Digital Photography via http://www.creativelive.com.

creativelive.com is actually the brain-child of photographer Chase Jarvis and was explained on http://www.photographybay.com as “…a new online learning resource for photographers and other imaging professionals…” The site hosts live video instruction covering various topics, many of which are above my head and outside the scope of my needs. However, John Greengo is offering a 10-week course (2-hours each, Wednesdays from 1400-1600 -5UTC) covering much of the basics of digital photography. I was able to watch the first session as a recording on the website, but it was really a Welcome to What We’re Doing thing. The second course, broadcast this Wednesday past, concerned the camera itself and the various types of cameras, sensor sizes, settings, etc. Next Wednesday we move on to lenses and so on and so forth.

Granted it means planting my butt in front of a computer for two-solid hours each Wednesday, but I take copious notes while he instructs and there is an opportunity to ask questions via a live chat feature. In addition, if one decides they would like to have the entire 10-week series for their very own, they can download the series for USD79 while the 10-week courses are being offered, afterwards it’s USD129.

But hey…. it’s free. It’s educational. And even if they cover tonnes of things I already know I am very certain they will also cover stuff I don’t know or offer a new twist on things I already do. I have to tell you….. I’m very excited about all of it. I enjoy taking pictures. But I’d like to enjoy taking better pictures. Smarter pictures. And the only real way to get better is to both practice and to learn.

And I think I’m getting the learning part covered these days.

Barefoot and Pregnant…

For those unfamiliar with the subject line for this blog it is an expression common in the southern states here in the good ‘ol U. S. of A. It is meant to convey a certain type of position in which certain mindsets believe women should find themselves. It is meant to convey that a woman’s place is… in the home. Having and rearing children.

Not very 2010, is it? (hell…. it’s never been particularly progressive, eh?)

But this expression popped into my head when I last visited Cox Arboretum and found myself surrounded almost exclusively by women brandishing cameras. Seriously…. there were three of us males and easily twenty-five or more women with cameras in hand, snapping away merrily at all sorts of things. And it got me to thinking “When did this happen?”

See….. growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I saw that snapping pictures was clearly the domain of men. Fathers took pictures of the family. Men took pictures for advertising. Men took pictures for publications. Were there women who snapped pics? Of course, but they were, by and large, far and few between. But this is clearly no longer the case. ‘Bout time too. So I pondered why it is that women can be found behind so many cameras these days. For my thinking there are two primary reasons: the Women’s Movement (primarily of the 70’s) and the introduction of the digital camera.

Clearly the Women’s Movement did much to empower women to believe (and subsequently to act) they could do and be anything that men were. It unshackled them from the position of home-maker and child-rearer and brought them forward to being a true partner in marriage and business. Is there still room for improvement? Of course. But most certainly things have changed dramatically over the past 40-years. Today, being a June Cleaver is a choice and not an expectation (except in certain households which maintain a certain religious viewpoint of the position of women in the household).

But what of digital photography?

Now please do not think this sexist, but I firmly believe that women of 30, 40 and more years ago would have eschewed film-based, 35mm SLR photography as being too “complicated” for them. It was the doman of men because it was “technical” and that wasn’t the arena for women. Of course, this sort of thinking was firmly established in their collective mindset because our culture had created distinctly separate roles for men and women and matters “technical” were the doman of men. It wasn’t correct, but it is what we had.

So mix in the Women’s Movement and we still didn’t see an explosive growth in women behind the camera. For whatever reason it appeared to remain the domain of men by and large. But along came digital and more importantly inexpensive digital. I’m thinking the tiny point-n-shoots and more recently the entry-level dSLRs (like the Rebel series from Canon or the D3000 and D5000 from Nikon). And regardless of the fact there were available so many fully automatic film-based cameras it just seemed that women didn’t make the leap to being behind the camera until digital became commonplace.

Maybe it is because folks assume (erroneously) that digital is “easier” than film when both cameras are set to full automatic? I don’t know. But I can’t help but think there is a very direct connection between the introduction of reasonably priced digital cameras and the proliferation of women behind the camera. For whatever reason, in the collective mind-set of women, digital is a form of photography that could be embraced, while film was something left to others.

A quick review of my Blog Roll here on WordPress reveals that eight of the eleven blogs I follow, which are completely or mostly photography related, belong to women. I think that’s awesome. A clear indication that things are markedly different today than when I grew up.

So… am I missing something? Am I completely off-base? Have I lost my mind for even bringing up such a subject? I’d love to hear from the women out there.

It Felt So Good It Actually Stung A Bit…

Was it really Friday? Just two days ago? That’s so strange because it feels like it was no later than Wednesday last when I made my way to downtown Dayton and then on to Cox Arboretum further south.

My original intent was to grab a few pictures for a photography class project from both locations and return home to go through them. But what is often said of the best laid plans?

Still, I’ve no complaints.

The trip downtown provided me the chance to grab my handful of shots, however none of them ‘worked’ and I pretty much knew this from the moment I saw them on my camera’s LCD screen. I’m usually one to not discount a picture until I’ve seen it upon the much larger computer monitor, but these were so far off-base it was tempting to simply delete them in camera. And yet I didn’t follow this thought to its conclusion and actually wound up keeping one of the images for my own amusement.

But the trip to Cox Arboretum was far more productive and much more exciting.

What started as a search for a few pictures where I could fiddle with a very shallow depth of field (DoF) turned into a three-hour adventure in photography with overly warm, spring-time sun and the enjoyment that can come from being surrounded by fellow humans who were out enjoying the weather and park. The arboretum was jam packed with visitors, all there with what appeared to be a specific purpose. Some had come round to enjoy a midday lunch in the grass or at many of the tables setup around one of the ponds. Others had opted to take advantage of the reasonably strong winds to send kites soaring into the cloudless blue. Others, not unlike me, had arrived to snap photos of flora or children. There were a number of moms and grandmothers ushering about no small numbers of children and/or grandchildren, hoping to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather for photographic purposes. All in all, it was a glorious day.

Normally I don’t bother to photograph folks, but I came across the two young ladies above as they sat next to a field of particularly handsome daffodils. I was polite and kind enough to ask if they would mind being in any of my shots to which they were quite agreeable. Perhaps I lingered just a bit too long as one of the girls, perhaps sensing my question, explained they were looking for four-leaved clover. To each their own, eh?

The only down-side to the day, if I may call it such, was that I managed to get a bit too much sun and upon returning home found myself rather red across the face, back of the neck and arms. It seems I forget this sort of thing every Spring upon my first long-term exposure to the bright orb of the sky. At least this time I only managed a bit of a sting for the next 24-hours after liberally applying lotion to those over-exposed locations. But I think it was well worth it in the end.

Some days it doesn’t pay to get out of bed…

Let me just start by quoting a Tweet I posted a few hours ago:

Why o why is the universe fucking me so hard today? And not even some lube…

Yes; it’s been that sort of day.

Let me set the stage for this afternoon’s photography-related, head up my ass, where’s my fucking brain, could I get any dumber, does my life insurance policy exclude payout because of suicide moment. This morning the service technician came round to perform the annual preventive maintenance upon our heat pump (for those of you not in the know, a heat pump is the device by which we cool and heat our home). Only he couldn’t get the damn thing to turn on, which was odd because I knew it had been running.

Notice the emphasis on the word “knew”? No? Well please go back and notice it because it’s important.

So instead of performing the usual PM stuff he goes into diagnostic mode (which means I’m suddenly paying him for the service because the PM is covered by our protection plan) and after some hours comes to the conclusion that the compressor is dead. Like Elvis. Or Michael Jackson. Take your pick.

Sigh.

It was installed almost precisely 10-years, 6-months and 2-days ago. It’s warranty expired at 10-years. Can I get a “Bloody fucking hell,” from the audience? Ah yes…. thank you. To just replace the compressor is almost USD1,900 (that’s GBP1,242 for those of you across the pond). And that would mean placing a brand new compressor into a unit that is already 10+ years old. So all the wiring, electronics, tubing, etc. will still be 10+ years old. And there is silly ol’ me thinking the damn thing had been running just fine, when I stopped to think about it for a few seconds….. No. I guess I haven’t really seen the damn fan thingy spinning round in a few days, but who would have noticed? We haven’t had need to turn on either the air conditioning or heat because the weather has been so glorious.

Joy.

But this is the cheapest route as to replace the entire outside unit (the box in which the compressor sits with all the other electronics, tubing, etc). would be around USD3,500 (GBP2,289) and to replace the entire system, which means the outside unit as well as the unit indoors (called the air handler) would run from around USD10,000 to USD14,000 (GBP6,540 to GBP9,155) depending upon which system we selected (good, better, best).

Keep in mind I continue to be unemployed.

So that was my morning. Nice one, eh? Loads of expenses with nary two dollars to rub together in the ol’ bank account. But life goes on, right? As part of my new way…. my new plan… I’m not going to let this get me down. I have a roof over my head. Access to the series of tubes we call the Internet. Plenty of food. Friends (ahem). And as such I elect to try and bolster my mood by grabbing my camera and driving back to downtown Dayton, Ohio, so that I can re-shoot a shot I did the other day that did not come out as I needed it to do. It is a shot for my photography class and the result with which I returned Monday morning was simply awful.

Mind you, it is about an hour drive round trip just to re-do this shot, which I really didn’t have to do seeing how I had plenty of other pictures for this particular project. It was just that I really liked this particular idea and thought it would be the best of my choices were I to get it right and I could use the mental diversion, and so I took off….

I arrive downtown. I obtain a spot to park just feet away from where I will take my shot and begin the process of getting my camera out of the bag, putting on the correct lens and turning the camera on. And that is when I noticed this unusual icon appearing in the status/settings screen of my Canon 40D. “What’s this then?” I ask myself and suddenly I’m struck dumb. As if an anvil had dropped upon my head and heart. There was no compact flash card in my camera.

Ohhhhh……. fuck me.

I had taken it out of the camera last night to download the latest batch of pictures to my computer and had not placed the card back into the camera. But wait! I keep a spare 2GB card in the camera bag!! I’m saved… I’m saved!!

Oh fuck me again.

I had ‘borrowed’ said card for my other camera the other day and as such it was still in that camera and not in my camera bag.

For a few moments I had this incredibly overwhelming urge to walk into the oncoming traffic. The authorities would probably rule it an accident (not knowing about my morning’s issues or the missing compact flash card) and my wife would come into all sorts of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of life insurance.

A win-win if you ask me.

But you know what’s really funny about all this? And I mean “funny” in that awkward, deja vu sort of way? Wednesday morning I went out to a local park in hopes of getting shots of some local juvenile bald eagles, who feed along the Stillwater River valley at this time of the year. While the eagles were not out I ran into a nice guy taking pictures of some blue heron and we got to talking about photography equipment and such. During this conversation he mentioned the irritation of occasionally forgetting to have a media card in his camera and I suggested…. I suggested to him that he should buy an inexpensive and small card and keep it in his car’s glove box.

You know….just in case.