Monday, July 21, 2014

Protecting and help retain the value of lenses

Not long after I bought my first Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 I invested in the LensCoat Neoprene Cover for the lens.

On the most basic level it prevents cosmetic blemishes on the surface of the lens and helped retain value of the lens. Your lens will still depreciate. Take a look here at KEH's guide and you will see how much depreciation is cosmetic.

KEH grades:

NEWAs packaged by manufacturer complete with manufacturer's USA warranty. Not previously owned or used by a consumer. *You have probably seen the words "NEW" or "LOWER PRICE" listed online or in our catalog where prices usually appear. Due to certain manufacturer's minimum pricing requirements, we are not permitted to publish the price if we sell it less than the manufacturer's Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). While these listings may seem inconvenient, it is our way of letting you know that when you call or click-through on the website, you will be quoted the lowest pricing anywhere for comparable items.
DEMOAs packaged by manufacturer complete with manufacturer's USA warranty. Never owned by a consumer but used for demonstration.
LN"Like New" Includes original box and instructions.
LN-"Like New Minus" Extremely slight wear only seen upon very close inspection. Box and accessories usually not included. Glass perfect*.
EX+"Excellent Plus" Exceptionally nice. May have slight wear on finish but visible only under close inspection. Glass very clean*.
EX"Excellent" Shows moderate wear. May have small dents and/or dings and slight finish wear. Glass may have slight marks and/or blemishes that will not affect picture quality*.
BGN"Bargain" Shows more than average wear. May have dents, dings and/or brassing and finish loss. Glass may have marks and/or blemishes that should not affect picture quality*.
UG"Ugly" Very rough looking. Multiple impressions in metal, excessive finish loss and brassing. Glass will have marks, fungus and/or haze which will affect picture quality.
AI"As-Is" Usually to be used for parts only. All equipment sold in As-Is category carries no warranty nor return privileges. The equipment most likely doesn't work and may have missing pieces. Defects will include, but are not limited to the problems listed on the description.

Here you can see the lens without the lens coating and that is how I hope I can keep it looking for a long time.

A great feature includes a clear, flexible UV-PVC window over the AF/IS/VR controls and the distance-scale window. This also helps you from accidentally bumping and changing those settings.

LensCoat® Lens Covers are manufactured from 100% closed-cell neoprene, offering protection from bumps, jars and nicks, with a camouflage-pattern fabric cover. LensCoat® Lens Covers also provide a thermal barrier, protecting your hands from cold lenses in lower temperatures. They are easy to install and remove, sliding on like a sleeve, leaving no residue on the lens. And LensCoat® lens covers are waterproof, providing protection in harsh conditions.

If the LensCoat performs as well on this lens as the last one I had on my older 120-300mm then I will recover the cost of the $89.

Here is a video explaining their product that was produced by LensCoat.

LensCoat Lens Covers from LensCoat on Vimeo.

Photographers need repetition to grow

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/7.1, 1/125, EV -1.7
My bird feeders are teaching me a great deal these days. The feeder doesn't change day to day but the light and the birds do.

This past weekend I observed we had a lot of fledglings. Fledge is the stage in a young bird's life when the feathers and wing muscles are sufficiently developed for flight. It also describes the act of a chick's parents raising it to a fully grown state.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4.8, 1/420, EV -1.3
Here I watched the House Finch feeding the Fledgling. It was just fun watching this take place and so I decided I would pull out the cameras and photograph them. The combining of one interest with another really enhances the experience.

When I started the photos were horribly over exposing. I was shooting in aperture mode. I had Auto ISO chosen with a minimum shutter speed setting of 1/500.  I compensated the exposure by turning the EV to -1.7 and would fine tune it here and there based on the histogram.

The Fujinon XF 55-200mm was pretty slow with a ƒ/3.5-4.8 aperture. I was getting pretty good results, but we had rain coming down most of the weekend and I thought this was a great time to test the new Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens, ISO 4000, ƒ/6.3, 1/320 EV 0
With the Red Bellied Woodpecker I was not having to use the exposure value compensation and got wonderful detail in the feathers.

Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens + Sigma 1.4 converter, ISO 4500, ƒ/6.3, 1/500 EV -1.3
However when the darker Downy Woodpecker visited the feeder I had to compensate the EV -1.3.

I was having fun and the thing is while I was having fun I was also learning how to check the exposure from bird to bird because that will affect the exposure. I could have tried the manual exposure, but the light was changing as the sun would peek through a little and then disappear.

I also enjoyed shooting with the faster ƒ/2.8. I was able to add the Sigma 1.4 converter when I photographed the Downy Woodpecker and get just a little closer to 420mm.

I was also learning about the birds. I downloaded the Peterson's guide to my iPad and enjoyed finding out the names of the birds. At first I thought I had a Hairy Woodpecker, but that is a bigger bird with a longer bill.

Taking photographs allowed me to have the time to zoom in and really examine the bird in detail. Too often they come and go on the bird feeder too quickly for me to study.

Now you know why so many birders are also photographers.

Do you have something you can photograph this regularly and see how your camera reacts in different light and also help you grow? If not I really recommend you look. I found mine in my backyard.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Process for buying a lens

While I reviewed this lens a year ago, I am just now buying the Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 DG OS HSM Lens for the Nikon mount. Here it is on my Nikon D4.

This was more of an upgrade. This would be like selling your older car after getting 12 years of use of it and then buying a new one.

Up until last night I owned the original Sigma 120-300mm.

This is a screen grab of the ebay listing I did to sell the lens. Sold it in less than 24 hours. I didn't list it until I had the other lens.

I listed the lens for sale using 11 photos with this one being the main photo. Most people want to see what all is included.

One thing I did different this time was include photos taken with the lens.

These are all the photos I put up to sell the lens. Two of the four photos I posted taken with the lens were ones published in Sports Illustrated. I really think this helped to sell the lens.

You see too many people think that if it isn't a Nikon or Canon lens Sports Illustrated will not use it. I even had one photographer say this to me standing next to me at a football game trying to put down my lens. I laughed out loud to him and said that is funny because look at this weeks SI and you can see the photo. Then he started back peddling and asked how big it ran.

Here is that photo.

All this is to say the lens I bought twelve years ago was a great lens and did an excellent job through the years. The reason I was replacing it was the newer technology that has come along making it possible to get even sharper photos.

Sigma introduced a USB docking station that only works with their "Global Lenses" and the 120-300mm is one of those lenses. Micro-adjust settings clearly change the focus position bias and provides lots of interesting options for photographers who like to tinker with their equipment to get best results. I am one of those photographers.

I do not have the funds to buy all the lenses now available in this focal length and test them. By the way when I bought the first lens there was no other options except fixed lenses.

I highly recommend always going to DXOMark website and look at their test results on the lenses you are interested in buying. This is what I did when I wanted to see if I should buy the Nikon 200-400mm or get the newer Sigma 120-300.

This is the side by side comparison on a Nikon D4. That is another cool thing is you can check the results on your camera if they tested it.

I was also just a little curious about the Canon 200-400mm and how it measured up to it. So I compared it.

You can click on this comparison to see it larger. The bottom line is for sharpness it was pretty equal.

Price Comparison:
  • Sigma    $3,599
  • Nikon    $6,749
  • Canon    $11,749
Even after tossing in the USB Dock [$59] to calibrate the lens based on price alone it was a no brainer. 

you get what you pay for 
In commercial transactions, the quality of goods and services increases as the prices increase, i.e., the more one pays, the better the merchandise. 
Well the test results on these lenses and my past experience with the Sigma lenses was proving the old english proverb wasn't always correct.

If you buy the lens then be sure and buy the USB Dock and calibrate the lens.  Here is a blog post I did about this process.

After I did all this research I just looked for who had the lens and could get it to me at the best price. This was more about who offered free shipping because the price was pretty much the same no matter where you looked.

Stay tuned in the future and I will be sure to post many photos from this lens.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Your photography gets better when you synthesize

Teaching in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]
Synthesizing is the combining of two things for something completely new. I have discovered through the years some things that by combining things in teaching is making my photography better.


I have discovered that as I came to understand Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey as a framework for telling stories, I could not only analyze a project and make it better I am also able to apply this storyline to my own life and make changes.

Studying the concept of the storyline helped me to then do a better job throughout the storytelling process. I was able to do a better job for pre-planning and in the midst of the shooting of the story adjust more quickly and improve the storytelling due to understanding of the power of the myth of The Hero's Journey.

Steve Johnson did a great job a few years ago talking about how synthesis takes place in ideas.


I really have enjoyed teaching a lot more than I thought I ever would. I was terrified at first, but over time learned to thrive.

Teaching students in the Storytelling workshop in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]
I have shared in many of my past blog posts about how teaching is the highest form of the learning process.

Combining photography, video, audio and writing I have been able to tell stories more effectively than when I was just doing photography.

When I started to teach I was perfecting my storytelling skills. I was having to connect the subject with the audience. Often that audience is just one person. I would have to understand enough about the audience to know how to choose the right metaphors to engage them and to teach different complex concepts.

[photo by Jeff Raymond]
One thing I noticed is that when I showed the audience something the understanding increased over just talking about it. I was synthesizing [combining] the visual and the spoken word to create a more meaningful and understandable presentation.

I have had many "Aha moments" where what many might consider a failure was a calibrating moment. You try a metaphor and realize this did not work with that audience. You may use it later, but then you must come up with another way to connect with the audience the subject you are trying to teach.

When pros take photos their first pictures they make in a studio, for example, is to check the exposure, white balance and often checking a composition. They then look at the photo and analyze it. Does it need to be lighter or darker? Is it too green or magenta? Do I need to do a custom white balance to fix it?

Teaching storytelling has me teaching a variety of subjects. Here are some of the topics I am teaching for example:
  • Software like Adobe Lightroom, PhotoShop, Adobe Premier or Final Cut
  • Lighting— Hot shoe flashes, studio strobes, radio remotes, flash metering, custom white balance, high speed sync, slow speed sync
  • Camera — ƒ-stops, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, EV, White Balance, composition, lens choices
  • Subjects — Sports, Fashion, Portraiture, Science, Features, Photo Stories, Environmental Portraits, 360º Panoramics, Landscape
  • Audio — microphones, setting levels, natural sound, voice over
  • Video/motion — formats, audio, story boarding, scripts
There are more topics, but you can see when I start to teach multimedia storytelling I am synthesizing all of this into the class. You cannot teach a subject effectively if you do not know it inside and out. The reason is once the student starts to ask questions on thing you haven't thought about you must be able process the question and pull upon all this information to help formulate a response.

When you are able to answer the students questions and help everyone learn you get invited to teach more and more. You then get exposed to more and more questions which often may have you saying let me get back to you on that question. I then might find myself with a camera and working on a solution to the student's question.

You see when you teach you will synthesize the material and through the process of combining the content you create new content. You will start to CREATE new IDEAS. These new creations are what will make your portfolio stronger and help you get more work.

Since I don't always have a class to teach I use the blog as a way to help me continue to synthesize content and improve my skills. This is how you build a better portfolio—combining ideas.

How are you getting better?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Better bird feeder pictures with off camera flash

Fujifilm X-E2, 55-200mm ƒ/3.5-4.8, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/180
I love our birdfeeders. We have two of the Brome 1015 Squirrel Buster Classic feeders. They keep the squirrels from eating the seed and the birds enjoy it.

When you start taking photos of the birds visiting outside the window, well you often have to open up the ƒ-stop by 1 or 2 stops since the house is on the shade side of the bird. This can often blow out the background.

The solution is to add a flash, but I didn't want an on camera flash for a few reasons. Having it on the camera and shooting through the glass would just give me a be glare.

I put the flash down out another window and I shot through another one. the result is what you see above.

I shot this with the Neewer TT850 flash [$104.95] and the Neewer 433MHz Wireless 16 Channel Flash Remote Trigger [$27]. This is a photo of the system above.

While not a TTL solution, I find it works just fine. Even the TTL solutions have to be tweaked so often that I really wonder if they are worth the extra money.

If the flash is too bright or dark I just adjust the EV up or down on the radio remote then push [SET] and it sets the flash. The flash must be on the same channel, but what is cool about this system is I can control up to 16 different channels. I have never shot anything with 16 flashes that I set at different power, but I guess I can if I want to.

Try this solution for yourself and by the way the solution will work on any camera that has a hot shoe flash mount.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

When you travel with Super Stars you need off camera flash to make them look good

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 1/250—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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. 
I am traveling with the famous Chick-fil-A Cow Mascots this week. They are traveling around promoting Cow Appreciation Day this Friday.

Click here to learn more
Dress head to hoof as they like to say at Chick-fil-A and get a free meal. Wear some Cow Attire and get a free entree.

Now let me tell you how I made the top photo. I had two VALS holding the two hot shoe flashes on either side of me. [VALS stands for Voice Activated Light Stand]

Without the flashes the cows would have been somewhat silhouetted and by adding the off camera flash I was able to keep the color temperature on them daylight and then also keep them bright enough to keep the rich colors in the background.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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. 
Very similar lighting setup, just I am have a subject close to me blocking the light to the left. I dragged the shutter to 1/4 to be sure you saw the photo he was making on his phone.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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. 
Here you can see one of my VALS holding the hot shoe flash. The other VALS is behind me pointing at the cow. If you look at the Cows eyes you can see the reflections of the two flashes. Notice the shadows on the concrete. This tells you they were all backlighted and the flashes made a huge difference.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 100, ƒ/6.3, 1/4—Off camera fill-flash using the Nikon SB-900 & SB800.  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. 
Here I am behind the flashes and you can see the other VALS here in the foreground. The other VALS is further to the left in the photo.

I don't generally use these last two photos where you can see the flashes, but kept them to show to you so you can see how simple this is to do.

Monday, July 07, 2014

The best photo is often the difference is as clear as Night and Day

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 400, ƒ/7.1, 1/600 [3 images stitched together in PhotoShop CS6] Hand held
It is a Night and Day difference between these photos. Maybe we need to remember that saying next time we travel.

I just find that few photos from the middle of the day stand up to dusk and night time photos.

Fuji X-E2, 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1/5 seconds [three images stitched and the photo was shot on tripod with a 2 second delay to eliminate camera shake]
Major difference to me between the two photos.

Couple of quick tips for shooting the night time shot.

  • Use Tripod
  • Use cable release or shoot on delay [I used a 2 second delay]
  • Shooting ƒ/22 will give you a star effect around the lights. I shot at ƒ/11
  • Also this is a great way to eliminate many of those pesty power lines

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Cosmic Bowling & Off Camera Flash

Panasonic DMC-TZ5. ISO 1600, ƒ/3.3, 1/30
This was a photo I took with a point and shoot Panasonic DMC-TZ5. I love the camera and it had a great Zeiss lens. ISO was limiting up to about 1600.

This is the type of photo most people will get at the bowling alley during cosmic bowling without a flash.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, ƒ/2.8, 1/4 with off camera flash
I shot this of my daughter bowling a few years ago with the Nikon 14-24mm lens at 14mm. So I am pretty close and the flash is really close to being straight on to her face or about 45º to my left. I panned and the shutter was dragging.

The camera was set on Aperture priority and the flash was set to slow-sync to pick up on all the ambient light. The panning action created the streaks you see across the image.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/15 with off camera flash
Now because the flash is so close to the subject and being controlled by TTL [Through The Lens] metering it shuts off and is just winking a light. The camera shutter remains open picking up the available light in the background so it doesn't go black.

Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/2.8, 1/15 with off camera flash
The cool thing about using Slow Sync on the flash is I am capturing the atmosphere of the room and the flash is putting light on the subjects face.  Just look at that first photo here and you will be reminded they would be silhouetted without the flash.

My suggestion is to go and try this with your friends. Go to a Cosmic Bowling Night and have some fun. I can tell you will enjoy the images for years to come.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Favorite 4th of July Photos

Nikon D100, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 200, ƒ/8, 19 seconds [Emerald Isle, NC 2004]
I just wanted to share a few of my 4th of July photos through the years. I hope you enjoy them and also go out and make some photos for you to cherish through the years.

Settings and gear are below the images.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 19 seconds [The Fourth of July Fireworks over Lake Mohawk on July 3, 2005 in Sparta, New Jersey.]

Nikon D2X, Sigma 15-30mm, ISO 100, ƒ/8, 40 seconds [The Fourth of July Fireworks over Lake Mohawk on July 3, 2005 in Sparta, New Jersey.]
Nikon D3, 24-120mm VR, ISO 100, ƒ/16, 14 seconds [The Fourth of July Fireworks over Panama City, Florida, July 4, 2008]
Nikon D3, 24-120mm VR, ISO 100, ƒ/16, 11 seconds [The Fourth of July Fireworks over Panama City, Florida, July 4, 2008]

Tripod and Cable Release

I recommend using a tripod and a cable release.  This will keep the camera as still as possible during a long exposure.
This is the Nikon MC-30 that I have used for years on different Nikon Cameras.

Camera Settings
  • Manual
  • White Balance - Daylight
  • ISO 100
  • ƒ/8
  • Bulb Shutter-speed and keep open for two bursts of fireworks using cable release
My exposures were from 6 seconds to about 12 seconds on average. I typically might shoot 75 to 100 photos and only really like about 10 of those shots.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

You may need a new camera before a new lens

Nikon D60 announced in January 2008
You may have a wonderful camera that isn't all that old. This Nikon D60 was a great camera in January 2008.

It was a 10.2 megapixel camera and had an ISO range of 100—1600 and you could push it to 3200.

What prompted this blog post was a class I taught today to a group of photographers. After helping them a couple weeks with settings, one student went out shooting and was still having problems taking photos inside without a flash. All the photos had a great deal of motion blur.

The camera settings were ISO 1600, ƒ/3.5 & 1/2 sec.

Sigma 17—50mm ƒ/2.8 $519

Lens Solution

The first thought by many was to get a faster lens. The kit lens was 18-55mm ƒ/3.5—5.6.  We looked at replacing it with a Sigma 17—50mm ƒ/2.8. This would only give her about a little less than a stop at 17mm and at 50mm 2 stops.

So she could have shot only at 1/4 second verses from 1/2 second.

Nikon D3300 Introduced April 2014 $599.95
Camera Solution

I started doing the math in my head.  What if instead we look at today's newer cameras with higher ISOs.

If we buy a camera with a top ISO 12800 we would gain 3—stops. So instead of shoot ISO 1600, ƒ/3.5 & 1/2 sec, we could now shoot ISO 12800, ƒ/3.5 & 1/15.

Ultimate Solution

Buy the camera and the lens. However, if you are on a budget buy the camera first. It will upgrade all your lenses by 3—stops.  I remember going from the Nikon D2Xs to the Nikon D3.  The D2Xs ISO 100—800, but the Nikon D3 ISO 200—6400. Those 4—stops was making all of the lenses in my bag increase by 4—stops.

All my ƒ/5.6 lenses were equivalent in how much light they let in on the D3 as a ƒ/1.4 was doing on my D2Xs.

I can tell you from my personal experience the jump of 4—stops was the biggest game changer I had gone through in all of my gear upgrades in my career.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Photojournalism is a great way to develop social skills

photo by Jeff Raymond
Being a visual storyteller requires you to capture a wide range of information and distilling it down to the essential elements to capture an audience's attention and inform them about a subject.

When starting out in this profession you learn a great deal from your mistakes those first few years. One of the first things most newspaper photographers fail to do early on is getting all the information necessary to write a caption. You cannot do this job like a tourist who just snaps photos as they travel. You must interact with the people you photograph and get some basic information necessary to the story.

Born with Asperger's Syndrome and an Introvert

I am an introvert and also have Asperger's.
An INTROVERT is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. Being introspective, though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk. Introverts make up about 60% of the gifted population but only about 25-40% of the general population.
Asperger’s Syndrome is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.
Introverts are drained by talking to people about subjects they don't have an interest in. People with Asperger's struggle with verbalizing their thoughts.

The most difficult thing that I continue to struggle with even today is empathy. True empathy is the ability to be aware of one’s own feelings and thoughts at the same time you are aware of another person’s feelings and thoughts (or several other persons’). It means having the wherewithal to speak about this awareness. It also means creating mutual understanding and a sense of caring for one another.

I had to learn that I had very little empathy. This took until my 30's to start to deal with this flaw. Since I am not wired to naturally observe other's feelings I needed to work on this skill.

This is where photography became an asset. To make my photos better I had to get better at analyzing situations and seeing those visual clues to pick up on the emotions of people. DING! DING! Eureka moments started to take place once I had training in body language. I first started really studying body language in Social Work, but it was my time with Don Rutledge, my photo mentor, who really taught me to see emotions.

It would take years before I could take what I was being taught and actually start to capture it with my camera.

photo by Ken Touchton
I had to learn I needed to stop expecting that my grasp of the facts should rule. This was a trait that I share with many who have Asperger's.

I couldn't continue to say I was the arbiter of truth and protected by the second amendment when working for all my clients. Social skills had to be developed to navigate the intricate path to gain access and cooperation to tell stories and to get the assignments as well.

photo by Jeff Raymond

Journalist Questions

The formula for getting the complete story on a subject starts with answering the Five Ws.

  • Who is it about?
  • What happened?
  • Where did it take place?
  • When did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?
  • How did it happen?
Curiously none of the answers to these questions is a simple "yes" or "no".  My first experience was shooting for the East Carolinian, the East Carolina University student paper. I remember editors looking at my photos and loving them and then saying they couldn't use them because I didn't have the names of the people.

I learned quickly that if I wanted to get published and paid I had to have the Five Ws. 

I loved doing photography so much that I would do anything to keep doing it—even talk to people about subjects I wasn't interested in at first. What I started to learn through the years was that everyone has a story and that by just spending some time listening and asking questions I found out I was interested in a lot more subjects than before I started as a journalist.

I am critiquing students work with Morris Abernathy and Warren Johnson

Photo Critique Sessions

I went to experts in photography to have them review my work. Each time I learned things that I could do to improve my photos. Then I would work on these recommendations and then come back to those people and ask how did I do in implementing their suggestions.

I did this for a good twenty years with Don Rutledge and never did he not have something that I could work on to improve. I went to the Maine Photographic Workshop and studied with Steve McCurry and took that time to work on other aspects of my storytelling. Over time I got my work in front of the industry leaders. Each time I learned something else that if I tweaked would make my images better at storytelling.

I remember the first time I shared my images with Tom Kennedy. At the time he was the director of photography for National Geographic Magazine. I was terrified. He complimented me about it being solid professional work and then he said that I needed surprises. He expected to see the level of work I was doing, but to grab Tom's attention for National Geographic Magazine I needed to surprise him. It would take a good ten years to really understand all that he meant with that statement and where I started to shoot for a unique and different photo.

I learned that when I started mentoring and critiquing other's work that I started to grow even more. To teach photography means you must understand the subject at a much higher level.

Teaching Photojournalism—Icing on the Cake

What photojournalism taught me was how to listen to subjects and really do a better job of understanding them and helped me to tell their story. When the subjects would contact me and thank me was when I started feeling like I was finally doing a good job.

Teaching made me really start to understand the audience more than I had done before. I could communicate something to them, but unless the message was received and understood then the story would fail.

When students didn't get a concept then I had to think of another way to get the message across. Do this a lot and you start to understand how to do a better job starting off. You start to learn how to do a better job of presenting the subject in the first place.

What I also learned is that no matter how well I do my job sometimes those messages that are really important may need different stories told to reach more of your audience.

Everything to make your photos better with storytelling are all the things that will improve your social skills. One of the best examples is the quote from the famous photographer Robert Capa, "If your photos are not good enough, you are not close enough."