Saturday, June 30, 2007

WiFi = Office

For every summer of the past eight years, I have been working from the North Sea village of Knokke, Belgium. (My wife was born and raised in Belgium so we stay with family). While my kids play all summer, my time here is justified only by my ability to shoot, process images and deliver them to clients, most of who are back in the U.S.

My important equipment (lenses, camera bodies and some accessories) fits in a rolling backpack that is airline carry-on friendly. I keep a tripod here in the house and can shoot any possible assignment. On two separate occoasions, I flew from Brussels to do shoots for Crystal Cruises in the Mediterranean (Lisbon>Sorrento and Monaco>Portofino) and they loved the fact that my airfare was only 199 euros round-trip.

The icing on this cake is digital technology. Since 2004, I have processed my RAW files here in Belgium and delivered finished images to my American clients via CD and FedEx. If there are one or two files that need to get there immediately, I upload them to my .Mac server and my client can download them directly onto their hard drives in minutes. If there's a question, they can call my local Florida office number and it will ring into my Skype on the laptop here in Belgium where we can talk for hours, for free.

For invoicing, I used to just shut down my accounting software for a few months and send invoices when I got back to Florida. Now, since I've installed Parallels, I can run dreaded Windows (and therefore dreaded QuickBooks) on my beloved Mac! The full circle is almost complete except I need to find a way to make bank deposits into my U.S. account while here in Europe. Other than that, I am literally running my company from a laptop.

So far for Summer 2007, everything is seamless. While here in Belgium, I've delivered two jobs (roughly 120 images) and have another 200 images to process in the coming weeks. Working here is just like working in Florida except I'm wearing a sweater and jeans in July. Oh, and the bread...and the chocolate...

Modern Architecture Circa 1200

We just got back from a hotel shoot in Xcaret, Mexico in the area known as "Riviera Maya" (about an hour south of Cancun). Lot's of Mayan ruins scattered around, especially in the former port city of Tulum. I was struck by the minimalist architecture of these 800-year-old buildings. The Mayans obviously understood the power of good design. Today, we design to win awards, get magazine covers, impress our neighbors and make a profit but the Mayans were designing to impress a higher authority.

Friday, June 29, 2007

America's Tallest Building

Please don't tell anyone but the Sears Tower is the tallest building in the U.S. (Click here for a cool-but-awkward satellite image of the top.) I had the pleasure of capturing this amazing structure on a recent shoot in Chicago. (I'd love to say I was hired to photograph the tower but the truth is we were shooting an old building nearby on Clinton Street.) Anyway, this "making of" shot was taken by photographer Jeff Herron who assisted me on the shoot.

Copyright and wrong

I would like to announce here and now that I am pro-copyright.

As people become more familiar with digital technology, I sense a growing disrespect for copyright protection of music, photography, artwork and anything else people can get their hands on. It seems that just because people are easily able to steal someone's property (yes, images, songs and other intangibles are property), this justifies the act. If I didn't lock my door at night, does that give someone the right to come in my house and steal?

I am of the philosophy that if you create it, you own it. You also have the freedom of charging whatever you want for it. If someone feels that you are overcharging for it then they have the freedom not to buy it.

I hope some young enterprising kid is working on a software solution to digital theft. As one photographer, I might pay up to $1,500 to license a piece of software that protects my images. Sounds like a ridiculous price to pay for a piece of software but I reckon I've lost many times that with digital theft of my images. Unfortunately the amazing leap in imaging technology has not included advances in image security. Even Adobe's Photoshop sets the default copyright status to "Unknown" in an image's metadata until it is manually changed by the photographer. Who are they serving by doing this? They know as well as anyone that an image is copyright-protected the moment the photographer presses the shutter button.

Photographer Shoots People. News at 11.

This is a model named Lenore in a kayak in the Hyatt Regency Kauai's salt water lagoon. When I am hired to shoot architecture, I often get asked to shoot something non-architectural during the job. Sometimes it's people, sometimes food. I have yet to post many of these images to my portfolio site so this is a lazy attempt to show them here.

What a large pixel you have!

I shot this image of the Hyatt Regency Bali back in 2004 with a Canon 1Ds (11mp). My client's ad agency cropped in about 50% and blew it up to about 6' for this billboard inside Chicago's O'Hare airport. (That's me, the 5' 11" dark shadow, standing next to it.) It looked good from about 3 feet away and looked great from 5 feet or more. Kudos to Cramer-Krasselt for knowing what to do with this one.

If you're an amateur photographer, you know how important megapixels are. If you're a professional photographer, you know how the chip, lens, aperture, tripod, RAW file processing and color space all play a more important role in the quality of the image. Once you've got a decent amount of pixels to start with, the rest is up to the skill of the Photoshopper.

My point is, that if you know what you're doing with an image, size (megapixels) doesn't matter as much as other things. Some might argue that film was better because you can just do a larger scan. Not true. Film also had a finite amount of resolution and after about 80mb, a scan would only show more grain, not more image quality.

I started a blog

Welcome to the first post in my blog. I wanted to share behind-the-scenes photos and thoughts about my photography business.

At the current time, I am 39 years old and about eight years into my second career as a photographer. My first career as an advertising account executive ended when my boss-at-the-time bravely told me what I had known for about a year: I had become burnt out and it was time for me to find another line of work.

Like most advertising professionals, I was a decent writer with a solid command of spelling, grammar and all other areas of written communication. (Before I fell in love with advertising, I thought I was going to be a journalist.) But, now that my main trade tools are a camera, Photoshop and the right side of my brain, my left side has dulled a bit. Like other skills, writing is something that needs to be practiced in order to remain sharp.

I'm also doing this blog to promote my business. I am lucky that I have been able to support myself and my family with a job that I honestly love to do. I'm so lucky to have found photography and every day feels like my first day in my new career. Since I get to travel often, I have documented some interesting people and places around the world. This blog will be where I share those images and stories, showing potential clients what it's like to work with us.

Another reason I wanted to do this blog is I wanted some sort of growing documentation of my career, as it moves along. You could say that my images themselves provide enough of a documentation of what I do and I now have about 1.5TB (that's terrabytes or 1,500,000 megabytes) of images on my hard drives. But, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I don't want my kids to have to open up each 160mb file to see what their father did for a living.

From week-to-week, I will try to take the time to post but please forgive me if there are large gaps between postings. Feel free to leave comments and let me know what you think.

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