Happy July friends! Up here in Washington State it is the beginning of summer and we are thoroughly enjoying the warmer and longer days. I was just out shooting pictures of summer softball games a couple days ago and was thinking about how much fun it is to photograph during the summer. While taking pictures, my son noticed a little spider web in the chain link fence. The spider was absolutely tiny and the web was correspondingly small. I had to take a pic! The joy of photography for me is always finding new things in my environment that might otherwise be missed. Photography keeps me on my toes and makes me much more aware of my surroundings.
Progress on our new book titled �Digital Asset Management for the Rest of Us� is going well. I�m hoping to have the book ready for sale by the end of September. This new book will be an excellent guide for those of you who want to create a simple, easy to use digital image filing system. There are so many options and software packages out there designed to �help� you that it is sometimes overwhelming trying to figure out what works best. That�s the purpose of this new book; to help you navigate the sea of software and finally arrive at a method that works for you.
The focus of the book will be on non-professional photographers who don�t necessarily have a need for submitting images to clients. I�ll be focusing on people who use their images for family events, high school football games, travels to Europe and everyday life. People who want to be able to get back to images and use them for their own purposes. This book will be written in a way that directly helps you organize your digital life!
June GOAL Assignment: Serve Someone with Your Images
(see images to the left) Last month I asked you to spend some time serving other people with your images. We all have the ability to spend a few hours a month sharing our talents and skills with other people and organizations. Little do we know how much little acts of service will ultimately inspire others and bring them joy.
As a businessman, I am continually focused on the bottom line. I know that I have to pay the bills and keep revenue coming into my bank account in order to pay the mortgage each month. I am often torn between my desire to make a buck and my desire to donate my time. Like most of you, I watch the clock like a hawk and frequently think about the next opportunity that might come down the pike. However, I can say without a doubt that the time I have spent serving has been returned in blessings ten-fold. Each and every moment I spend giving has been repaid to me time and again in goodwill, rewards and joy.
Should service be part of your business plan? Yes! In fact, I say that service should be a part of your life plan. We are directly called to serve others and we have a responsibility to assist those in need.
So in this month�s GOAL review, I thought I�d share with you some of my recent service adventures and hopefully inspire you to get out and serve on your own.
Over the last month I participated in one major service project and a few minor service projects. The major project was a trip to a small Alaskan village called Unalakleet. The minor projects were serving food to the homeless in Tacoma, Washington and also loading up a shipping container filled with humanitarian supplies that is headed for Uganda.
The trip to Alaska was for a summer camp (www.cyak.org) that is located in a remote corner of Norton Sound on the West coast of Alaska. Unalakleet is a fairly large village of about 700 people and is home to mostly Eskimo families. Years ago, a wise group of people decided to start a youth camp about 10 miles from town on the Alaskan tundra next to the North River.
The youth camp�s purpose is to bring in kids from other places throughout Alaska and just show them love for a week out of their lives. Alaska is a tough place to grow up if you are young. There are terrible stories of physical abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse and depression. The camp shows these kids that there are people who love and care for them; people who want to help them succeed.
I attended the High School and Jr. High weeks of the camp. My purpose was to take photos and video that the camp leadership could use for promotional purposes. As with most camps across the world, resources are tight and finding money in a budget for �media services� is a tough sell. So, I donated my time and am putting together slide shows, videos, web galleries and other media that they can use for fund raising.
For the trip, I took my �small� Think Tank Speed Racer camera bag loaded to the gills with gear. I brought along a Nikon D2X, Nikon D80, 12-24mm, 28-75mm, 70-200mm, 50mm, 1.4xTC, 2.0xTC, SB-800 flash, Gitzo tripod, batteries, 20 GB of memory cards, two battery operated hard drives, polarizer, Graduated ND filter and a Canon HV-10 High Def video camera. All of the gear worked flawlessly and never faltered once!
As is usually the case when you volunteer, you come away with more from the experience than you give. I was struck at how lives are changed. I was struck at how pain can be turned to joy. I was amazed at the selflessness of the fifty volunteers who cooked, cleaned, counseled, supported, talked and led during these weeks. I can�t wait to go back next year and lend a helping hand again.
A second service project I participated in last month was to head into downtown Tacoma, Washington and serve meals to the homeless. This was part of a weekly ministry called the Tacoma Street Ministry, put on by the Christian Biker Tabernacle (www.christianbikertabernacle.org) and is called �Friday Night Feed�. My goal for helping out was two-fold. First, I wanted to serve food! Second, I wanted to take photographs so the organizations that help out at this weekly event could use them on their websites and brochures.
I have two children and feel strongly that they should also be involved in service. So, they helped with preparing the food in our house and also serving the food downtown. We spent that afternoon preparing ham and cheese sandwiches and baking cookies. Later that evening, we met up with some friends of ours underneath a highway overpass and set up tables to serve the food.
At 8pm, the line starts moving and we hand out food to folks who need food. Other people hand out clothes and blankets. Others hand out hugs and smiles. Others assist with dental care. Others just walk around and talk. It is a simple way to help those who need to eat.
For this service project I took my D2X, 70-200, 12-24mm and 28-75 lenses in my Think Tank Speed Racer camera bag. I didn�t bring a tripod or any lighting equipment just because I wanted to be fairly portable. Most of my shots were at higher ISOs and wide open apertures so I could hand-hold without motion blur.
Finally, on July 3rd (a couple days ago) my family and I volunteered with Children of the Nations (www.cotni.org) to fill up a shipping container with food, clothes, shoes and soccer balls for a village in Uganda. A few months ago over 1,000 volunteers gathered in Silverdale, Washington to make up 285,000 meals for starving children in Uganda, Africa. Yes, two hundred and eighty five thousand meals! After the meals were prepared, we needed to load them onto cargo containers so they could be shipped to Africa. A group of about 30 people loaded up the container (in two hours!) and then sent it on its two-month journey through container yards, ships, trucks, customs, roads, dirt and rain.
Again, my purpose was to help load the container, but also donate a bunch of photographs that they can use on their website and in their newsletters. My camera gear here consisted of a D80 camera and small 28-75mm f2.8 lens. I kept it in a little fanny pack so that I could swing it around back while lifting boxes and then swing it around front when I wanted to take some photographs.
What are you doing on this summer vacation? On your next trip to the Grand Canyon, put some thought into how you might serve someone while on your trip. How about on your drive home from work? Why don�t you take the next exit by the YMCA and photograph their evening swimming program so they can use it in their monthly newsletter. What about this Friday night? How about going downtown and photographing the Street Feeding program so they can put some images on their website?
July 2007 GOAL Assignment: Getting Sharp Action Photos
This month, I�d like to challenge you to take a series of photos of something moving rapidly towards you or away from you. For example, a baseball player, a dog, a motorcycle, a bus, an airplane, a bird, a bride. I�d like you to try and get a full series of in-focus action sequence photographs. You�d be surprised at how many questions I get each month around this very topic!
In August�s newsletter, I�ll provide some answers and tutorials on how to get sharp action/motion photographs from your camera. I�ll include mistakes, successes, tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your camera�s autofocus system. So, get out there and learn.
Photo Techniques: What Kind of Tripod Should I Buy?
(note: see images to the left)
One of the most frequent questions I get is �what kind of tripod should I buy?� The answer is easy for me to give, but very difficult for others to hear! Why? Because my recommendation will cost you a lot of money!
When people go searching for tripods, they are always looking for the lowest cost tripod that will do the job. Unfortunately, it isn�t until after the purchase that photographers realize they made a big mistake.
For example, how many of you have gone out and bought a big aluminum behemoth because a salesman told you that it was �the sturdiest tripod out there.� Obviously, we all need a sturdy tripod! Seriously, we do. So you brought that tripod home, opened the box and set it up in your living room. You took a photo of the kitchen. You took a photo of the deck. You took a photo in the backyard. Life was good.
Or was it? Life was good until you decided to take that tripod out on a photo adventure! Trying to pack along that big aluminum behemoth was a sweaty, arduous event! After about 15 minutes lugging it around, your left shoulder started to hurt, then your right shoulder started to hurt and then your back hurt and then your fingers hurt and then you realize that you bought the wrong tripod. Your brain hurts!
Here�s what I tell people about buying tripods: go to the bank and take out $1,200. Now go buy the nicest Gitzo carbon fiber legs you can find for $650. Next, go buy the nicest ball head you can get for $400. Next, buy mounting plates for your cameras and lenses with the remaining money. Now, you have a tripod and head that will work just about anywhere and that you will actually take with you everywhere you go.
Personally, I currently own a couple of older Gitzo carbon fiber tripods (1127 and 1327). I consider these to be some of the best photographic purchases I have ever made. They are durable, light weight and easy to use. They have lifetime warrantees, but you�ll never need to use the warranty because they just don�t break. I�ve dropped mine on rocks, taken them climbing, used them in salt water and dragged them from one side of terra firma to the other! The best models now are the Gitzo 6X models with the G-Lock legs and they are just awesome.
If you can swing it, I recommend having at least two tripods; one very small model and one heavy duty model. I like to have a small tripod for when I need to travel really light. For this, I use the Gitzo 1127 with the Markins Q3 head since the combination is so small. I carry it when I go on overnight hikes, when I�m mountaineering and anytime I have to be fast on my feet. The 1127 tripod is now discontinued, but the replacement is the 1530 6X model.
This setup will only really carry a smaller camera like a Nikon D80/D40 with a smaller lens. In a pinch, I�ve used this setup with a D2X and a 70-200 f2.8, but I had to use a cable release and be extremely careful not to cause any vibration. The truth is that this smaller tripod just won�t cut it for a professional size camera and larger f2.8 glass.
For my heavier duty tripod, I use the Gitzo 1327 with the Markins M20 head whenever I need more stability for bigger cameras/lens combinations. I also use it when I photograph places and I�m based out of an automobile. The stability that the stiffer tripod affords is dramatic when compared to smaller models! The current replacement for the Gitzo 1327 is the Gitzo 3530 and it uses the newer 6X carbon fiber legs for even more rigidity. In my experience, this setup will adequately hold a professional size camera (Nikon D2X, Canon Mk III) and a 300mm f2.8. If you are really careful, you can squeak by when shooting with a 400mm f2.8, but really if you want to use larger lenses than a 300mm or 400mm f2.8 , I recommend the Gitzo GT5540LS.
I think the head is more important than the legs and is absolutely critical to getting the best image possible. I personally use the Markins M20 on my Gitzo 1327 legs and a Markins Q3 on my Gitzo 1127 legs. I bought them from www.photoproshop.com. You�ll need to get a plate for each camera body you own as well as a plate for any lens that has a mounting foot. I use the Markins heads because their build quality is superb and also because they behave exactly as I expect them to behave: perfect! When I aim my camera at something and lock down the ball head, it doesn�t creep or shift. It stays right where I aim it. That�s what we should expect from a high end ballhead.
The problem with skimping on a head and purchasing a low end model is that they creep, shift, stick and bind. At critical moments or in extreme weather, they always seem to fail. Like you, I�ve used my fair share of them and will never go back!
There are two other ballhead companies I recommend. The first is Kirk Enterprises (www.kirkphoto.com). They make the BH-1 for larger camera/lenses and the BH-3 for smaller setups. The second company I recommend is Really Right Stuff (www.reallyrightstuff.com). They make three heads; the BH-55, BH-40 and BH-25. Both Kirk and RRS manufacture incredible products and come highly recommended.
So, the long and the short of it is this � don�t skimp on your tripod. Buy the nicest tripod and ballhead you can afford and you�ll never regret it. I guarantee your Gitzo carbon fiber tripod will last a lifetime.
My hope is that you use this month�s information to motivate yourself into action as well as to take great images. Now get out and take some photographs!
Out There Images, Inc. – “Get Out And Learn!”
PO Box 1966
Gig Harbor, WA 98335