Thursday, April 28, 2011

Things have been hoppin'!

This past weekend saw a flood of Easter activity from my neighborhood Easter celebration to one my church sponsored at a local elementary school. It saw a ton (tonne for you Aussies and Brits) of cute and brightly colored eggs and outfits with kids running to eggs and beating candy drops out of pinatas. I'm not sure where the pinata thing came from but then again, bunnies and eggs don't have much to do with Easter either so I'm not judging.

Last year I'd donned the Easter Bunny costume and character and nearly hopped into a heat stroke. I also learned firsthand that being in a costume often opens you up to a certain amount of abuse from kids although thankfully, aside from the heat that was affecting me, the only thing that really was in danger was the costume itself. In any case, this year I got a reprieve and just ate hot dogs and took photos. Much more relaxing.

The party did remind me of the difficulties of shooting underneath spotty shade. For those who don't immediately understand the challenge, lets just say that whenever there is a high contrast of sun and shade, it is very tough to get good detail in both areas. It gets easier if you're focusing in close on a face or single small person but when zoomed out and covering a larger area, you get spots blown out or in deep shadow and it tends not to capture the feel of the moment very well. This of course speaks to the amazing apparatus that is our brain and it's visual arm, the eyes. Well anyhow, the area where the party was at was filled with changing  spots of light in various patterns and levels of diffusion. I was still able to pull out some decent images but it was a good challenge.

The next day saw a larger scale egg hunt at a local elementary school and that was a whole other level of crazy! There where open fields in Texas green (golden and tan that is) where children sprinted across picking up candy-filled eggs with veracity and determination. This was of course while having a blast and you could just see in their eyes what they were thinking, which is what I'd be thinking too if I were one of those kids, "candy.... candy... I'm gonna have SO much candy and it's gonna be AWESOME!!!!"

That was a big chunk of my weekend and now I'm looking forward to some proper portraits and possible business work! Here are some more photos from the weekend, enjoy!

If you zoom in on this image, specifically on the frisbee, you'll notice an uncanny resemblance...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Camera lust and photog fellowship

This morning I got to hang out with a whole bunch of photographers for a breakfast meeting up near my old stomping grounds in North Austin. It was organized by Elizabeth Jayne, a photographer friend who I hadn't seen in a while but have kept up with thanks to social media. Being the rebel that I am, I decided to get french toast at the pancake place. Take that pancakes.

Anyhow, besides the food I met a couple fellow Nikon shooters, Nadine and Anne who were quite gracious in sharing a bit about what they do and how they do it. The downside was that I walked away longing for a new camera based on some high recommendations. The reason this was a downer was simply that it is certainly priced beyond my current budget. But there is an upside and that is that I can still take some pretty decent photos with what I've got. At least that's what I've been told.

The question this highlighted for me was the ever-challenging "what technology is worth it and what is mostly hype?"

You can search the web for reviews on the latest lenses and cameras, the best lighting systems and modifiers, and the best software to enhance those photos and you'll get all sorts of answers. A good rule in my experience has been "go with glass" when facing the question of whether to invest in lenses or camera bodies. A good lens can make a huge difference in the quality of the pictures you can make, especially if you know how to use it.

With the advent of cheaper digital cameras that are more available to enthusiasts and hobbyists, I've been wondering what helps really separate the full-on professionals from the rest? First there is the knowledge and experience, then the creative eye, and then the equipment. There are cameras that will cost you up to $1700 for the body (no lens) and then there are the lenses that truly test your devotion to (or reliance on) photography that start at $2600. That's a bit of separation for ya.

The question is whether or not it's necessary.

For some things it sounds like it is. The more expensive cameras have significant performance advantages in low light situations especially and for pros who tend to wind up doing weddings can attest to, low light is an all-too-common occurrence. In order to work in that industry on the higher tier, some photographers and clients demand that versatility and I can see why from my own personal experience dealing with the low light in post-production. Although I can get good results, it requires a lot more time and effort when adjusting in that post production. Time is money I've been told.

So maybe it is necessary but then there is the budget issue. I've been trying to start up this photography business without loans or debt. So far so good with the notable caveat being a very low personal salary which is not a sustainable situation. So I suppose this camera upgrade issue is now even more incentive to get out there and see if I can't drum up some more business. Considering the amount of pro-bono work I've been doing, I'll probably need to prioritize paying gigs more.

I also need to thank all those who have let me work with them or simply hang around and capture moments of their lives. I am horrible about writing notes but it needs to be done because I do appreciate all you who have and continue to support me and my work. Thank you!

So yes, this morning was a great time to talk, learn, and share with some of the vibrant photographic community here in Austin. I also noticed that there was a steep percentage of ladies to gentlemen in the the group which means I'm a minority. That being said, there are also a high number of Erics in the male photographer ranks so I'm back to a majority... within the minority anyways.

...and that is what I learned and pondered today, the end.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What a weekend

It's amazing how packed this weekend was! There was a rocket run to Houston for a friend's wedding and then some drumming action followed by photographing a church event at Austin's Barton Springs. It was a load of driving, not much sleep, and tons of photos. As such, this is going to be a photo-heavy blog... just keep scrollin'...

I was reminded of how much I love taking photos during a normal course of events in a day. No flashes, no photographic reflectors, no posing. It was all real and all good. People are often amazed at the shots that come out of these situations but they need not be. That's part of what I see and enjoy about photography, the amazing images that are our daily lives. There are special moments every day that are every bit as intriguing as some posed shots with special lighting. I appreciate being able to make and shape light to exact specifications too, but there's a certain satisfaction that comes from using what is present at any given moment. It helps preserve the feel and reality of a moment and that's a big part of what I want to photograph much of the time.