Friday, March 27, 2015

Chick-fil-A App – No Skymiles Needed

While this may not seem to be about photography, it is about saving some time when ordering your breakfast, lunch or dinner. As we know today the most precious commodity we have is our time.

One of my favorite Apps and programs that I am apart of is the Delta Skymiles program. The loyalty program is great and two main perks I love the most. The best part of the program is boarding early on all flights.

Having camera gear I need to be sure this is on the plane and I am handling it and not the baggage guys.

The second thing I like is accruing mileage to use towards future trips.

I now have another App that is saving me lots of time and giving me perks similar to the Delta App–Chick-fil-A's new mobile ordering app.

I love a three things about it: 1) Order accuracy; 2) jumping to the front of the line and 3) No need to be a long time user of Chick-fil-A to benefit.

The first thing you will do when you use the App is find those Chick-fil-A restaurants near you that are participating. Over the next year they are rolling this out in different markets. Lucky for me in the Atlanta market I can use the App. Chick-fil-A doesn't expect to make mobile ordering available nationwide until 2016.

You tell them if you are going to pickup the meal: 1) Curbside, 2) Dine In or 3) Carry Out.

Next the app has you on the Menu page. Similar to the menu in the restaurant. You can pick a meal or à la carte.

Once you have ordered you can then save this order as a favorite. This is great for those customizations where you want more pickles or none at all for example. Once you have that complicated order or just typical order you can just add that to your order.

Maybe you pick up for your family member as well as you and you both have a standard order–this can save you time in the future.

There is the combination meals and once you pick one you can then change the size of the drink or side item like Waffle Fries.

Here you can customize your order as well.

Once you have the meal it pops up and then you can review it. You can also see the Nutrition or Allergens by scrolling down.

Occasionally Chick-fil-A Cows might pop in with a suggestion like they did here with me.

Just like Amazon you put your credit card information into the App for easy paying. This really speeds up the process.

You can also put money into the app. This is great for parents with kids and need to keep them on a budget.

The last step is when you arrive you click the button to tell them you are here and they start your order. Don't want those Waffle Fries just sitting around getting cold, so this keeps everything hot for you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Emotion Trumps Technique

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 12800, ƒ/1.8, 1/250
The other night I was watching the TV Show The Voice. Nate Ruess was a guest advisor to all the contestants. I remember one comment that stood out the most for me, “Emotion trumps technique every time.”

Christina Aguilera often advises the other coaches, "Go with your heart!" when they are trying to make a decision.

Here are a few quotes from famous photographers also talking about the power of emotion and the heart of photos:
“A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective.”
Irving Penn 
“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.”
Yousuf Karsh 
“I think that emotional content is an image’s most important element, regardless of the photographic technique. Much of the work I see these days lacks the emotional impact to draw a reaction from viewers, or remain in their hearts.”
Anne Geddes 
“If it makes you laugh, if it makes you cry, if it rips out your heart, that's a good picture.” — Eddie Adams
Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/20
Those who capture emotion by accident will struggle to do it again, but those photographers who are in touch with their own feelings in a moment and in touch to those around them are more likely to anticipate these moments. They are able to constantly deliver great photos because they are emotionally aware of themselves and their surroundings.

Emotion, or a feeling, is what can bring a snapshot out of obscurity and make it shine. Sometimes an expression on the face can help bring this to the photograph. Often the direction of light or color of the light can influence the emotions.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 100, ƒ/4.5, 1/500
Sometimes you need to eliminate things from the photo to strengthen it.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/60
You can add light as I did here on the Hawaiian Fire Dancer. I used a Alienbees B1600 with a CTO gel and 30º grid to light up the guy. The cool sky helped create a mood. So in this situation I "created" the mood.

Sometimes you just need to put down the cameras and sit for a few minutes until you start to feel the mood. Then you need to figure out what are the visual cues triggering the mood.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/6
Sometimes like here at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–Diagon Alley at Universal Studios the costuming and surroundings help create the mood.

In this photo I feel like I am in the World of Harry Potter. 

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/8, 1/500
Now here because of what all is included around my daughter I know I am in a theme park and not in a scene of Harry Potter. 

What you include and exclude can change the whole feeling/mood of the image. 

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 1250, ƒ/5.6, 1/125

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/40–pop up flash at -1EV
You may remember these two photos I showed in an earlier post. Remember even the time of day will change the mood.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What time is it on your camera?

Sunday, March 8th Daylight Savings time happened. We lost an hour of time. Did you move all your clocks forward?

Now if you have only one camera this is important, but it is critical if you have more than one camera on a photo shoot.

Go through your menu and set the camera for the correct time zone. This is great to use if you travel to be sure you are set on the local time using the correct time zone.

I like using Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2 $179.95 to set the time on the cameras to the computer, which is set to the internet time.

I synchronize the camera date and time to the PC as you see here I did with my Nikon D4.

Here I plugged the camera into the computer using the USB port and calibrated the Nikon D750. Now all three cameras are synchronized.

This helps when editing that I can get all the photos shot at the same time together. This makes it so easy when in Adobe Lightroom to organize the photos by Capture Time.

Now if you changed white balance situations then this can be crucial when trying to group all the same photos in the same light together.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Backstage Tour of ESPN-U studios in Charlotte, NC

Here I am on the set of Sports Center with photo assistant David White. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/100]
This past Tuesday I called my friend James Dockery who will be helping teach the Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Romania with Jeff Raymond and I to let him know I was going to be near him the next day in Charlotte, NC.

The next thing I am hearing is an invitation to stop by for a tour of the ESPN studios there in Charlotte. This is the home of the ESPN U and a few other programs.

James Dockery is a coordinating editor for ESPN and is here finishing up some edits at the end of his shift. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/60]
James is showing David White what he is working on. The software they use primarily is Quantel IQ's which has been customized for ESPN.  They are basically editing off of servers live rather than downloading files then editing them and the uploading them. They are editing so quickly that replays are showing up seconds after they were captured with graphics.

[Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/30]
One of the best things to learn editing from someone who works at a place like ESPN is they have created digital workflow so that as one person leaves and the next editor comes behind them they can pick up where the other editor stopped and finish a project. Now you cannot do this if you have your own way of doing things.

One of the best things that I learned from James Dockery was file structures. We learned on our workshop in Lisbon last year that you need to first create the folders for a project first before you even start working. Here is how we setup our project folder for our "Portugal Project"

Create Project Folder
  • 01_Portugal Photo Files
  • 02_Portugal Video Files
  • 03_Portugal Audio Files
  • 04_Portugal Graphic Files
  • 05_Portugal Premier Edits [We were teaching using Adobe Premier]
  • 06_Portugal Scratch Disk
  • 07_ Portugal Output Render Files
  • 08_Portugal Preview Files
In the 05_Portugal Premier Edits folder each time we reopened the project to start we created a new version. This way if we had problem we could go back a version and not have to recreate all the work we have done. The brackets were not part of the file name, just here to tell you what was in those edits.

05_Portugal Premier Edits [Inside the folder]
  • Portugal Edit_001 [Day 1]
  • Portugal Edit_001 [Day 2]
This is the moving graphics edit suite at ESPN. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/125]
The other things that James was able to give advice on was your camera settings. Have all your cameras set the same way so editing goes much smoother. For ESPN they broadcast in 720p and so anything above this is just a lot a wasted space on the servers. 

He recommended shooting everything in 720 60 FPS.  Second choice was 720 30 FPS which depended on your camera's capabilities.

David White had fun putting on Auburn helmet his favorite football team–Go War Eagles! [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/7.1, 1/200] 
Seeing all the helmets reminded me of how you can never have enough "B" roll. I can tell you from my experience and so can James that you just cannot have enough "B" roll. So for those coming with us to Romania this summer be prepared to hear this over and over again. 

Here we are in one of the master control rooms for a live show. There is still another room off behind me which is the sound guy's room. [Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/80]
This summer Jeff Raymond, James Dockery and I will be teaching students about how to create a video package that uses still images, video, audio and graphics to help tell a story. 

There is still time to join us in Romania. Here is the link 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ever wonder what happened to your camera???

Just the other day I was trying to take photos with my Nikon D4 and it would just not focus. There was a delay when I pushed the shutter until the camera fired.

I looked to see if the timer was set. It wasn't set. Now I am saying to myself, what the &#%!@?!?

I had put the Pocketwizard TT1 on the camera and was attempting to fire off camera flash. 

Well I can report this took a couple days for me to figure out. Not proud of how long this took.

The problem was the flash control on the Nikon D4 was set to Red-eye reduction. To change those settings you push the flash button on the top of the camera and turn the main command dial. See illustration here.

Here are the choices on the camera for you.

I do not remember ever changing this so, this is why I had a really hard time isolating this problem.

Quick solution 

Most all cameras have a way to reset the camera to factory settings. The time it takes to figure out what setting on the camera got changed may take longer than just doing a very quick reset.

On the Nikon D4 you find the two buttons with the green . You can find them by the ISO and WB buttons on the back of the camera.

Just push these two buttons and most likely this will solve most of your problems.

One more way on the Nikon D4 camera [most cameras have this function] is to find all your recent settings and just change that one item.

I am writing this blog as much for myself as anyone else.  

Here is an interesting factoid: When you take good notes you will remember things well enough that you rarely end up having to look at their notes again.

In fact, it seems that writing anything down makes us remember it better. On the other hand, not writing things down is just asking to forget. It’s a kind of mental Catch-22: the only way not to have to write things down is to write them down so you remember them well enough not to have written them down.

Now you may know another reason I do a blog. It helps me to go through the process of writing something down and in the process I have discovered I remember more things. Another thing is I now have an online database of topics that I can find later when I am having trouble remembering or I want to share with someone who asks me a question.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rim light can be critical in portraits

Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 100, ƒ/9, 1/200

My friend contacted me and wanted me to reshoot their son's senior photo, but match the background. Here is one of the photos from the session. Below is the lighting diagram and settings for the photo.

The softbox on the right of the camera is -2 EV compared the the main light on the left. Depending on which way the subject faced I would alter the set up so the one he is facing was the main light and the other light was acting like a fill.

To make this photo work I believe the hair light behind the subject helped to rim light the subject just enough to separate him from the background. Without it the tux would have blended with the background and created a near merger.

My preference is a muted background which for me helps to separate the person from the background.  I just changed the background and added a light to the background.  Below is the lighting diagram for you.

Your goal should be that the background compliments the subject and doesn't do anything to distract from the subject. You also want to be sure your subject doesn't blend into the background. As with all rules there are times to break them.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Transitioning From Photographer to Storyteller

photo courtesy of Knolan Benfield, Jr.

One of my earliest memories with our family is my grandfather, whom I called Daddy “B”, with his slide projector sharing his latest trip with all the family. The photo above is with my Daddy “B”, Nana “B”, my mother, sister and me wearing an indian hat watching a slideshow.

Once I started shooting myself I also got a slide projector and would have similar shows in our home.

In my second job with the International Mission Board I helped missionaries know how to construct a slideshow so that it told a story. I also was producing slideshows to music. This was in the late 1980’s.

Here is one I produced showing Don Rutledge’s coverage of Russia:

I was taught how to shoot “Photo Stories.” Here is what I was taught to capture:
  1. Opener: Sets the scene for the story
  2. Decisive moment: The one moment that can by itself tell the story
  3. Details: Besides being like visual candy to the story, help often with transitions--especially in multimedia packages
  4. Sequences: give a little variety to a situation
  5. High overall shot: Gives a good perspective to how the elements all fit together
  6. Closer: Besides the classic shot of the cowboy riding off into the sunset there are other visual ways to help bring the story to a close
  7. Portraits: These photos are great for introducing the characters of the story

I was always working with a writer who captured the story as text and together our packages were produced in magazines or newspapers.

Looking back I would say I was getting elements of the story and really not responsible for the complete package.

In 2006 I bought a digital audio recorder, which changed my career trajectory. I produced my first package that I was responsible for all the parts to help tell a story. My friend Susan Shaw had started a business combining her art with love of farm animals.

Here is that first effort of mine to capture a story in 2006:

I was learning the craft of the storyline. Up until this point I was focusing on capturing the HOW? and WHAT? of the story and now I am laser focused on the WHY?.

One of my favorite stories where I could see some of the changes taking place was my first coverage of the Daddy Daughter Date Night at Chick-fil-A. Here is this story package I did in 2008:

Today I am producing on somewhat regular basis small two to three minute packages that are small stories.

Here is one of the latest stories I did recently for Honduras Outreach Inc.:

Here is what they have as their mission statement on their website:
HOI is a Christ-centered short-term mission organization working alongside people of developing countries who desire to implement sustainable development partnerships. We organize mission trips to Honduras and Nicaragua. 
HOI’s vision is to create life-changing relationships between the people of developing countries and North Americans, while promoting community directed and integrated spiritual, physical, educational and economic development of men, women and children in the developing world through the promotion of dignity, mutual cooperation and self-sufficiency.
My goal with the package was to help communicate the emotions and the heart of HOI.

This process has taken me more than thirty years to learn. Twenty of those years were learning how to produce compelling photo stories and the last ten have been executive producing storytelling packages.

I want to invite you to go with me to Romania to learn how to do this in just two weeks. We still have some slots open. Here is the link to that workshop

If that doesn’t work for your calendar give me a call and let’s plan a personal workshop or group one for you.

Friday, March 13, 2015

When being prepared isn't enough

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 250, ƒ/8, 1/250
This week I have been covering the grand opening of the brand new Chick-fil-A in Birmingham, Alabama.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/80 ***4:13 a.m. EST***
One of the fun and yet not so fun things is waking up to capture Dan Cathy playing Reveille, which is a bugle call, trumpet call or pipes call most often associated with the military; it is chiefly used to wake military personnel at sunrise. It was used to wakeup all the First 100 overnight campers.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5, 1/20
People lined up 24 hours earlier and then because there were so many they had a raffle drawing to pick the first 100 customers.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 3200, ƒ/5, 1/60—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. 
People played all types of games to fill the time. Here some are playing corn hole.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/25
Most everyone at some time took their selfie with the Chick-fil-A Cow. 

My gear for this event:
  • 2 – Nikon D4 Cameras
  • 1 – Nikon D750
  • AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, Nikon D750
  • AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR
  • Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G
  • Sigma APO 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM
  • Nikon SB800
  • Nikon SB900
  • Pocketwizard kit, TT1, AC3, 2–TT5
  • 2 – Interfit Metal Umbrella Bracket with Adjustable Flash Shoe
  • 2 – Manfrotto 5001B Nano Black Light Stand - 6.2' (1.9m)
  • 2 – CowboyStudio 43-Inch Black and White Umbrella for Photography and Video Lighting Reflective
  • Røde Video Pro microphone
  • Shure FP15/83 Lavalier Wireless System
  • ExpoDisc
  • Eneloop XX batteries
  • Gitzo GT-0531 Mountaineer 6X Carbon Fiber tripod
  • ProMaster XC525 Tripod
  • ThinkTank Airport Security™ V 2.0 Rolling Camera Bag
  • Zacuto Z-Finder, Gorilla Plate V2, and Z-Finder 3.2” Mounting Frame for Tall DSLR Bodies
  • Beats by Dr. Dre Solo HD On-Ear Compact Folding Headphones
Nikon D750, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.8G, ISO 720, ƒ/1.8, 1/250
Some Tips:

This is event photography. Generally speaking, you don’t need a ton of fancy equipment to do event photography. I use two DSLR cameras as a bare minimum (Nikon D4), a wide angle lens (14-24mm f/2.8), a general zoom lens (28-300mm f/3.5-5.6), and external flash units (Nikon SB800 & SB900). I am able to have two cameras by my side, eliminating the need to pause and change lenses.

I was carrying more gear than many since I was also shooting video and creating a multimedia package.

Be Prepared – Do your best to get the run of the show. The run of show is a timeline of what is happening next. Most event planners have one and you should ask for it. By the way two times someone needed a pocket knife and like a good boy scout, which I was, I had one for them to use.

Ask Questions – Be sure to ask the even planner are their any planned surprises. You would be surprised how often this happens and it just isn't included in the official run of show just in case it fell into the wrong hands. If they are doing something for someone's birthday you need to know.

Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Slow down and remain calm – "Hey photographer can you come and capture this for us?" is asked so often at events that this is what I call planning for the unexpected.

This is when being prepared is still not enough. It isn't on the run of show and requires you to adjust. Be sure you are fully aware of the timeline and your main objective. Be sure that by getting this quick grab shot doesn't risk meeting the primary objective.

The single most thing that gets under my skin the most is the unexpected. The reason is pretty simple. The difference between good and bad photography lies in the preparation.

What often happens is I am in the middle of setting up for something that requires me to put my cameras into special setup. The best example is doing video with my Nikon D4 cameras. There are so many setting changes that I have them now memorized and saved in the Shooting Memory Bank as VIDEO.

I am in manual mode and the autofocus is changed to manual are two things I can think of right away that is not how I would shoot stills.  Cameras have microphones on them and they are on tripods. If someone were to ask me to shoot something right in the middle of this setup I have to explain it will take me a good five minutes to be ready and then I will need more time to set up once again for the video interview I am doing.

Most of the time when this happens it isn't the client but someone else who thinks I am there to capture everything anyone will want.

"I would love to get that photo for you, can you give me just one minute to make some changes with my gear?" I typically try to say when asked for the unexpected. I am only saying this when I do need a moment to make some changes to the gear. "I am sorry but I need to be getting what I am working on right now for _____________ [insert client's name] that I was contracted to do for them. I have a shot list I am working on and will miss some of those to capture that for you." is also just as appropriate.

If you are hiring a photographer give them a shot list before you sign the contract. Remember that when you ask for those last minute photos the professional photographer needs some time to adjust–this is why you hired them remember. If it were that easy then your smart phone would have sufficed.

Now back to the photographer. Be sure when you are saying no that the reason is that you cannot meet your primary objective versus just being unwilling to be inconvenienced.  Do this too much and you will not appear to be there doing all you can to help the client.

My third camera is often setup for quick reaction to just about anything. Auto White Balance, Auto ISO and auto focus settings for face recognition. I typically use the Nikon D750 for this camera. It has a popup flash just in case I need it.

Remember when people ask you do something at the spur of the moment do your best to accommodate them, but also let them know you may need a moment to get ready.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Nikon D750 Settings

I was asked what my settings were for the Nikon D750. Here are most of those settings, but I want to be sure you know up front these are not what I use every time. I do modify these based on situations.

However this is how I generally leave the camera set.

  • Aperture Priority
  • Slow Flash Sync
  • Auto Focus - Single
  • Auto Focus - Auto set to find faces
  • White Balance A1
  • RAW
  • Matrix Metering
  • Auto ISO
    • Lowest ISO 100
    • Highest ISO 12800
    • Shutter Speed 1/500

I am post processing all images through Adobe Lightroom 5.7.

The number one thing I am changing first on these settings is White Balance. I will Custom White balance most of the time using the ExpoDisc.

The second thing I am changing is the Auto Focus. I will choose single point using the 51 pts to move the small box around the viewfinder where I put it most of the time on the subject's eyes.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cross Culture experience is similar to a night at the Opera

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/20
This is a photo of my wife Dorie with 1991 graduate of The Citadel, and opera stand out, Morris Robinson. We were able to go backstage after seeing Rigoletto due to invitation by Morris and meet some of the cast.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/10, 1/25
Here Dorie is with Todd Thomas who played the lead role of Rigoletto.

The opera Rigoletto was sung entirely in Italian with subtitles in English above the stage. I quickly realized that the opera was so similar to my overseas coverages when I am working in a language that I do not speak.

The first few minutes is difficult because I am not quite getting the story due to the translation taking a while.

You find yourself relying more and more on the acting and the music to help bring you into the mood of the moment. I find I am also relying heavily on the body language and visual cues when I am shooting overseas.

When people look at my photos the photos don't have audio or text for the most part. If the opera was relying heavily on the words to tell the story I was more or less not getting it very well. Hard to read subtitles and pay attention to the acting at the same time.

This helped to remind me of who words and pictures do need each other. Many times the visuals will do a much better job telling the story and other times the words must carry the heavily load of the storytelling.

Neither one alone did a great job without the other.

I recommend going to an opera for visual storytellers, especially if you don't know the language. You will be forced to see how much visuals can do and also see the limits and how important words are as well to the complete package.