04 October 2016

Silent Films...A Forgotten Art

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley

"The Czech Republic had the largest collection of American silent films found outside the United States." News from the Library of Congress, 04 Dec 2013

Kris Krainock is a friend of mine. Esoteric savant might be one way to describe the kid, and I say kid, 'cuz he's only a kid on the exterior. You know how some people might characterize a young person as an old soul? Well, generally they are describing the "spirit" of an individual usually attributed to them because of an affinity they have for music from well before their time. To describe Kris as an old soul would fallibly miss the mark. Though "spirit" may be on the right track, saying the he is possessed by an actual OLD SOUL would be ultraprecise. I'd nickname him IMBd, but it just doesn't roll off the tongue so well.

I've met few who has the well of information about their craft as this young film-producer does. I have yet to deduce how he's been able to be so familiar with so many films in the years he's been alive. I could be wrong, but I did the math and it says he must have started sometime between 10 and 15 years prior to being born...which is an impossibility, I know, but  he's seen everything! I'm talking every-friggin' THING! Ask him about a French director from the '50's...he can give you a life history of the guy. Give him an actor and a brief synopsis of a movie and he can tell you the perfectionist British director, the Aussie leading lady who became his 5th, but not final wife, and renowned but alcoholic genius who wrote the musical score for the film. There's not a notable film to exist, independent or otherwise, that the kid isn't already familiar with and I daresay, owns. He's buys hard-to-find copies of notable films from all over the world. Definitely a deviant from the norm for anyone 5 years either way of his age, his unorthodox tendencies has even sucked his girlfriend, Ashley into his black hole obsessiveness. She's just like him and like her, I've fallen into orbit around his gravity.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
So I figure I will exploit his brain a bit as I delve into some of the old classics. He teaches me about oldies but goodies that I might not have otherwise come across. Back when I had my 2nd knee surgery, (that hadn't worked out so much as intended) I had a plenty of time on my hands and Netflix then became my friend. But it occurred to me, that from a cultural perspective, I was missing out on some of the great artistic films of a bygone age. I wasn't raised on "Gone with the Wind", or "Casablanca" and I didn't know a single black kid growing up with me who did. If any did, they didn't talk about it. There simply wasn't that sort of appeal.

There also wasn't the exposure either. I didn't realize I like classical music til I was in the Army doing a tour of duty in Germany. I found out I liked The Doors, as well at that time...all, because of exposure. To miss out on all these great films and music is a of tragedy of omission. Kris is committed to his craft, but he also spends time supporting it by helping to bring it back to life and and promoting it so that my dumb ass can learn something. Many artists get caught up in their own creations that they don't have time to give back. Kris, on the other hand, has been working tirelessly building his Krainockian Pictures film company, filming a TV series called, "The Idiot". However he still gives back. He sponsors and promotes his venture, CineMondays every friggin' week with a group of friends. Its every Monday, if you hadn't already guessed that and he's been doing for SIX years.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
September was Silent September for CineMondays, in which every Monday in September showcased a silent film. I visited for the first time mid-September and saw my first complete silent movie, the 1927 film by F.W. Murnau, "Sunrise". I'm 48 and had yet to see a silent movie in its entirety. Last week, I visited again. "City Lights", a Charlie Chaplin film took me by surprise. This silent film had me laughing hysterically, amazed at all the choreography, pissed that he lost the fight, and then tearing up in the end. Such a gamut of emotions and yet, not a single word spoken.

"Martin Scorsese’s "Hugo" and Michael Hazanavicius’ "The Artist" were cinematic tributes to the bygone era of silent films. Moviegoers, however, may not realize that 70 percent of feature-length silent films made in America have been completely lost to time and neglect." News from the Library of Congress, 04 Dec 2013

Besides my surprise for this film, what I found most amazing was the comedic timing. The sidewalk storefront window scene was absolutely incredible. You don't see that sense of perfection in today's films. Maybe you do and the film's appeal hasn't quite settled in me yet because its so fresh in my mind. But you don't see it that often, I'll say that. I think you can stand to learn much from the old ways as you do the new. I believe if you want to be a differentiating artist, you'll learn more of the trade and be more wholly inspired from the old greats, than the new. It would be a grave mistake to resolve that these films won't translate to the new audiences. Seriously, how many remakes are done every year?

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
There is a wealth of inventory out there and yet, this lost art continues to disappear from our current reality. So I say to you, take advantage now. Spend a little time reading, listening to, and watching classic literature, music, and film. Revisit the museums that you hadn't thought about since your 2rd grade field trip with Mrs. Shaw and familiarize yourself with the painters and sculptors that shaped our culture. Photography is still relatively new as an art form, but very similar in age to film, just not widely accepted as art until maybe the 40's, thanks to Ansel Adams and other pioneer photographers.

Support the arts. I'd like to see our education system reformed to put more emphasis on it. Its just as, if not even more important, as all the math and science. Imagination is what fuels academic achievement, regardless of disciplinary subject. And art proves to be the most combustible catalyst for the brain to achieve its most prolific imaginative heights.

28 August 2016

First Time Shooting the Leica M Monochrom

Up and Over
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley
For a long time, I've pined over the Leica system. I often describe it as magic. I know to a lot of people, it will never make sense to spend $8,000... just for a camera body. That does NOT include the lens. The lens is a whole'nother world of expense on its own. And language, I might add. I got to shoot with the 35mm f/2.0, which based on that speed, you call it a 35mm Summicron. If it was a f/1.4, you'd call it a Summilux. The difference? The Summicon will put you out $3K and the Summilux edition will push you to $5K. I prefer the Summilux, but that's me. Nobody makes glass like Leica. In fact, I'd like to play with a 35 Summilux on my Sony A7RII. But that's not this story.

Getting up in the morning
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

This story is on my shot at the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 and the 35mm Summicron for the weekend. So my girl and I headed up north to camp out and play in Utah for a bit. We pulled out the tent and loaded up the car and took off. I originally picked up the Fujifilm X-E2 a few years ago to help me prepare for this experience. At that time, I had a project that I thought was going to have me owning two Lecia bodies and 3 lenses. Tht didn't work out. I know the two cameras don't really compare, but the Fuji still has the rangefinder look. Or so I thought. Nothing about owning a Fuji could have prepared me for the Leica M-series.

The Fuji LOOKS like a rangefinder in style only. I should have known better. Don't get me wrong. I LOVED that Fuji. Highly, highly recommend it. But with respects to preparing me for a Leica...No. In particular, two things right off the bat should have told me that wouldn't be the case. The Fuji has an electronic viewfinder. If there is one and only one thing I could have used some prior experience with is Leica's split screen manual focus system. For that, I could have used a film rangefinder to help me. You are still looking from a vantage point of the lens in the Fuji. No so, with the Leica. You still have the potential for parallax in Leica cameras, as is the case when you have any camera system that has differentiated viewing systems...one for the lens which is separate from your's.

Hiking topfree,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

The second thing is that Fuji is waaaaay lighter (350g) than Leica cameras (700g) AND smaller. You can practically palm a Fuji with one hand and it goes no where. You had better maintain positive control with all fingers around that Leica with the camera strap around your neck, else you can easily waste, $11 grand. In fact, its MUCH more advantageous to invest in the body or thumb grip accessories on this thing. There is much more of a presence of mind with the Leica. You know where it is at all times. Its not like you phone or your keys, that you may not immediately recall where you sat it down. You know, in a moment's recall, where your Leica camera is.

I would have liked to have had more time with the camera. Compared to my Sony A7RII, I was much slower with the Leica. I was a lot more deliberate. I already shoot slow and usually come back with a third of the shots that most of my peers do. Over a weekend, I may come back with 300 shots normally. I didn't even clear 100 with the Leica. Chances are, that was a learning curve issue. I've shot with a Leica before, but this was my first time having it out to shoot as my sole camera. Granted, I got some initial night shots with the Sony when I first got to my camp site. All after, I was exclusively Leica.

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

I was most engaged on achieving and maintaining a sharp focus. Utilizing the split screen, especially in lower lighting conditions can be tough. Its been quite a while since I had to do that regularly. Actually, it was a first because my film Canon used a circular focus screen instead of the square one used in the Leica. There is no autofocus, so it was all on me to achieve tack-sharp focus. I was able to do this on practically every shot, but it took a minute for each one with much concentration. I chose not to rely on focus peaking to assist me. I waned the viewfinder experience. News and war correspondents made a living without focus peaking and were quick with the shot. I want to learn the same.

I was a little off on exposures as well. In any other camera system, I am pretty decent at determining my initial exposure quite easily. I always seemed to be underexposing a bit, as if my exposure value compensation was a minus 2. This was easily corrected and eventually, I began to apply a little "Kentucky Windage". I adjusted at least one stop brighter than whatever I thought it might be.

A break while I figure out something on the camera,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Another thing that took me some time was the fact that the camera had already been used by several people. It would have been smart for me had I RESET everything on the camera prior to use, but I didn't notice each of the changes right off. And even afterwards, during post processing, I couldn't get any of my Plugins to read Leica's RAW files. I updated Adobe and tried a myriad of changes. It took me a whole day before I realized the camera was set to a grayscale color profile while I was shooting. A simple fix was to reset my Camera RAW converter to import all the files into Photoshop as AdobeRGB. That sped up my workflow.

I need more practice. I want to eventually own this camera as well as its color counterpart, The Leica M Typ 240. There is also an M-D version that has no LCD screen on the back, despite being a digital camera. I might consider it. Its purely for photo, so there's no video capabilities. Yeah, I have some other priorities first, but I plan to make the Leica system part of my family of cameras.

Checking under the rocks like a good model should,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

04 August 2016

A Mildly Complex View of a Few Things You Can Do LESS of to Get MORE

"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." 
 –Bruce Lee
Check this out. I wanna cover a few details of some things of note that I think can help transform you into a better shooter. It may not make sense right off the bat, but stick with me. I think this can help. So do LESS of these things:

Ignore TV Less
What you see on TV is the final product of someone's content creation efforts. You can learn a plethora of information by observing what images made the final cut. Check out all the lighting schemes, posing,  and editing that you see. How effective do you think they are? What message do they convey and how successful do you feel they were at getting your attention and evoking an emotion in you to act on whatever they were selling, promoting, or how they were entertaining you.

We often times get left in the dust with recent trends. TV gives you an idea of what some of the latest technology is doing and how its being creatively implemented. You succeed when you can begin to backwards engineer what you see, figure out how its done, get ideas on what techniques or best practices you can employ in your own work. At the very least, you can see what the latest trends are and how you might differentiate yourself. Know what's happening around you and do something different. You don't always have to follow what the latest favorite is doing. In fact, I highly recommend it.

All to often, the thing that can hamper us most is the Television. We'll have at least 3 TV's in the house to keep us updated on our favorite shows, like the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Dragonball Super. People can go nuts over these programs. Sheesh.... Back Away From the Idiot Box, people! I say that in jest, cuz I'm not missing a GOT or Dragonball episode for nothing you can give me.

I digress... If you can back away from some of the ad-laced content for a while, maybe you can pick up a book on photo for a change. Learn about some new night shooting techniques. Go watch an education video on Lynda.com on Lightroom. That's sorta like TV, if it will help you with your fix. Study and read up on things that will help you move forward with your camera. Amazon has some great material on that new camera you bought last year that you've only used twice in full auto.

Study LESS
Here's a new one. Get your head out of the books and go SHOOT! Study long...Study wrong is what my uncle used to tell me when playing basketball. The more you contemplate your shot, the more likely you're gonna miss it. Never more true. Paralysis by Analysis. There's only so much you can fill your brain with at one time. Most of the time, what you really need is to put the books down and go pick up the camera and just shoot! Experiment. Who learned to ride a bike with a book? What person researched the mechanics of swimming before jumping in the water?

Yes, Some research, study, reading, and observation is good for us. But at some point, you have to put it all down and let your mind and muscles work together with repetition and effort to finally learn something new. Go shoot! I can't emphasis that enough. Studying something too long is a huge contributor to procrastination. I know for fact this is speaking to some of you out there. Its time now to put to practice some of the brilliant things you've learned. Go for it.

"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful." 
–John Maeda

Shoot LESS
You got that right. Shoot friggin' a whole lot less! Now this isn't for a few of you. I've worked with some students that I tell to shoot MORE. The vast majority of you, however, should shoot LESS. This is one case where LESS is truly MORE. The spray and pray concept of photography is only applicable in sports and other shots where you need to specifically freeze the action to capture a series of moving events. Shooting at 14 frames per second to capture the money shot of Russell Wilson escaping the clutches of a NFC West defender showing the look on the guy's face as that split second passes where he KNEW he had the sack, then nothing but air. Yeah...you can't try to time that shot and expect to get anything. No way. You select the drive mode for Hi-Continuous and you roll like Rambo.

That's not the typical scenario for most people though. When you come back with 30,000 images from a weekend camping trip, just know that you have a problem. Stop friggin' shooting so much! If you want to immediately have an impact on better photography, shoot less! Limit yourself and become more selective about what you are taking a picture of. And there's no need to get 12 versions of the same shot. All you're really looking for are a few good shots that tell the story or deliver the message. Personally, I'm a 10%er. It roughly averages out to editing a tenth of whatever I shoot. I come back from a gig with 300 images...I'm netting about 30 edited shots. I believe I usually shoot about 100 shots an hour when I'm doing constant shooting. That means I'm on a gig or have a photographic purpose in mind and when I'm finished shooting, I go home. So that's different from going on a day trip with my girlfriend and we're on the road for 15 hours. I may only come home with 200 images total because we are shooting, but we're also hiking and exploring and shooting between locations.

It saves you some time having to cull a million shots, but more importantly, WE DON'T WANT TO, NOR DO WE HAVE TIME TO LOOK AT EVERY-FRIGGIN' SHOT YOU TOOK! So just calm down a bit. Play the roll of a sniper instead of Machine Gun Freddie. Take some time to look at your composition and understand what makes it a good shot vs a snapshot by a tourist. You didn't buy that expensive camera to come back with the same kind of shots you've always been taking. Get to know the camera. Take if off automatic and get creative with it. Shoot less, but maybe more often. How's that for a compromise. Now I got a proposal to finish writing. And you now have some things to mull over. Get to it.

28 July 2016

Scouting Nevada, my Third Visit on the Subject

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand." 
~ Gordon Parks

This is my 10th Summer here in Las Vegas even though I have only lived here for 9 years. The summer before I moved here, I visited for the entire summer of 2006 and got a job working as temp help with MGM Grand. When I moved here, there were my first employers as a project manager.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

My initial visit here was in 2001, but that was as a tourist and my entire time was spent on the Strip. However, during my stay in 2006, my friend Paula took me out to the Valley of Fire with a model. It was a complete awaking from any other terrain and outdoors that I knew. Moving here in 2007, I immediately revisited Valley of Fire and broadened out my scope to more areas around Las Vegas. I joined a hiking group, Vegas Hikers when there were only 300 members. Today, there are over 13,000 members. That group helped me get familiar with more areas and hiking trails in and around the Las Vegas Valley.

Through more photography associations, I met more people who invited me out to areas further outside Las Vegas as well as the borders of Nevada. With four-wheel drive trucks, we got to thoroughly explore rarely utilized trails, valleys, mountains, lakes, rivers, hotsprings, and abandoned structures. From there, I went out on my own at times and visited other parks in Utah, Arizona, and California. I now have a National Park pass and will soon get one of State parks, as well.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

But I must admit, I got complacent and stopped exploring, primarily attributed to knee surgery and rehabilitation. I've reconnected some, but now that I'm getting back out on the trails, several of the places I initially visited are no longer available unless you want to be cited for trespassing. My friend, Garrett informed me a while back that the stomping grounds he showed me at Cold Creek has been closed off to private property now. Anniversary Narrows at Lake Mead is now closed off to hikes now. Another cold spring water spot is fenced off. As much as I want to travel abroad, I also need to travel here at home. I need to scout Nevada again! I've already written about "scouting Nevada" twice before. And I'm doing it again.

"The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed."
~ Gordon Parks

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Occasionally, I take out visiting photogs to areas around here to shoot. Its FUN! I love getting out there with new guys and helping them get their shots either by teaching them or just helping them with locations. Yeah, its fun, but I do charge. So, if I want to do that more, then I'd better get my butt back out there and scout more trails to meet their need and imaginations. Some clients can hike, other's can't or don't want to do so. I've had a few that had to stay out of the sun, therefore my locations required trees and shade which isn't easy in the desert!

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Other queries require water sources, night time work, or less photographed locations. Everybody doesn't want to just head to Red Rock. They want the road less traveled and I can definitely respect that and relate. My job is to accommodate. And I have to get myself a 4x4 truck. A white Jeep Grand Cherokee, specifically. That's what I'm after, anyways. So its on the list and that list is looooong. I am such a GEAR HEAD. I always need so many things. Gotta get the truck. My computer is 4 years old. I still have several places abroad to visit RIGHT AWAY. And of course... I need more cameras...at least one more (Until the new Sony A9 series comes out next year...then 2 more). More lenses... at least 2 more, possibly 3. I'll get that under control with counseling, I promise.

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley
So yeah, I got work to do. Man's gotta have goals, right? I think I have more than my share, but they all gotta happen. So watch me work!

08 July 2016

On the Question of Greatness

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Let me just break convention here and start right off with my premise that staying in your comfort zone will preclude you from being better in your photo work. At least that's what I believe. I'm unconvinced that you can do the same thing over time and improve your overall skill set. You may not want to be great. In fact, to my recollection, I don't think I've ever heard anybody say they wanted to be great at photography. Its always "I want to be better". Either way, I'm going to say I'm certain you won't do so by simply "shooting the things you love"...without stretching yourself.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Let me get a little deeper with that. I shoot the things I love. I shoot the things that make me feel good about what I produce. However stagnation occurs in photography when you ONLY shoot the thing you are most comfortable with the same way you've always shot it. You don't grow and you don't expand your horizons to Betterland. I don't care what it is that you shoot, you can always add a little twist to it. Do the same thing but utilize a more involved process. Want to shoot landscape? Cool. But how about getting out more than just 20 miles from home? How about doing it at night? Pull out the tripod and cable release and get some stars involved. Ever head out when every body else is heading in from inclement weather? Maybe some light painting. Get creative. What else can you do at night. Leave the steel wool alone for a while though. In full disclosure, I've used it to some great achievements. But I'm sure as hell tired of dumb butts not being safe with it and stupidly destroying landmarks and local monuments.

How about a different lens perspective? You do portraits? Okay, well maybe stop shooting wide open on that 85mm f/1.2 and utilize a wide-angle lens intead. Switch it up to some environmental portraiture. Get out of the studio and bring in the subjects surroundings that may tell a story of where they live. I mean, after all...are we not trying to tell stories with our pictures? Ever try light painting? Maybe some figure work utilizing a slow shutter and dragging your flash? What about seeing how to implement that stroboscopic feature on your Canon flash (Repeating Flash for Nikons) and seeing how you can creatively incorporate it into your favorite genre of work.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley

I mentioned that I don't hear many photographers ascribing to be great...only better. I can't say I know why that is. And I would imagine there are different definitions to the concept of "greatness" and maybe most photogs only aspire to be the best they can be as opposed to being recognized as the best in their field. And then I guess you'd have to find a way to measure greatness. Is it an attribution to how well-known you are? How popular you are? How much money you make or what you drive? And then can you define it by their greatness in photography or maybe their greatness in business. There are certainly those who are great at photography education. As well as those who are excellent in photography marketing. Do these go down in the annals of great photographers.

Peter Lik has sold the most expensive photographic work to date at $6.5 million. The New York Times makes the case that he is more of a businessman (to paraphrase mildly) who does photography in that despite selling an estimated $400 million in fine art sales, his work rarely fetches the original sales prices on the secondary market. So then those who buy his work as investors are purportedly in for a shock should they choose to reappraise their investments in the future. Don't get me wrong. I ain't hating on the guy. I'd love to have his business model. I can't fault it by a single shot.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
"Arguably, the person best versed in Peter Lik comparables is David Hulme, a fine-art valuer based in Australia for a company called Auctionata. For years, he has been getting calls from Lik owners around the world, and he finds the calls depressing.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I’ve been in touch with the gallery, and they say my photograph is now selling for $150,000 a copy,’ ” he says. “So they want to know what they can sell theirs for.” 
A tiny fraction of that sum is the answer. A subscription service called Artnet — which bills itself as the most comprehensive database of its kind — captures the resale value of Lik photographs by cataloging auction results, and the most anyone has ever paid for one his photographs is $15,860, for a copy of an image called “Ghost,” in 2008. (It’s a color version of “Phantom.”) After that, it’s a long slide down, to $3,000 for a copy of “Eternal Beauty (Antelope County, Arizona)” in 2014. Fifteen images have sold for between $1,000 and $2,500, and four have sold for between $400 and $1,000. Another handful failed to sell. And that’s it."

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
So does he go down as a great photographer? You can't deny the man makes bad ass imagery. The only real question is is it worth what its selling for. I can't give you any advice on how to be great. I'm for damn sure not great, myself. I can tell you and teach you how to be better. I can do that. I can also define who I believe are great to me. Well, let me at least say who my favorites are. Everybody agrees Ansel Adams is the Michael Jordan of photography. Particularly for me, greatness is epitomized in Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Gordon Parks, Sally Mann, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Carrie Mae Weems, Diane Arbus, Jerry Ulesmann, Spencer Tunick, Helmut Newton, and Imogen Cunninham.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Of those, my personal faves are Weston, Callihan, Mann, and Parks. Of course, there are other photographers I like and many more who have taken iconic images, but I can't say I follow their overall work. I'm not a Steve McCurry fan, but who can not be a fan of "Afghan Girl". Of my aforementioned list, (of which, is not exhaustive nor comprehensive), only Spencer Tunnick is of a more recent ilk. For me, I think greatness is defined over the career of the photographer/artist, although I do include Mr. Tunnick as an exception.

Who knows? I guess if you're always striving to be better then greatness will take care of itself. At the very least, I think any photog owes it to themselves...NAY, even to US...the viewing public, to put out their best work. Anything less is cheating yourself and ME!

02 July 2016

Protection: MACK Extended Warranties for Camera Gear

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
Continuing my reviews on the question of protection, I think extended warranties are another good one to cover. So what's an extended warranty? Most of the items you buy will come with some form of guarantee that the product will function and operate as specified. They will usually offer this guarantee for a year with most newly purchased electronics. That's not too bad when you consider that if the product makes it that long, chances are it will perform similarly over the next few years with proper maintenance and care. At least, that's the usual case unless you are one of those people who's products last until the month AFTER their warranty expires.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
An Extended Warranty can do a couple more things. It can extend this same level of guarantee by a third party, other than the manufacturer, OR it can also add more coverage not provided by the manufacturer warranty. For instance, in addition to the manufacturer's warranty, an extended warranty might also add ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE, which means the product is covered if it malfunctions for some reason, but ALSO the product is covered for repair/replacement if YOU damage it. So in this case, if you happen to be out shooting your camera and you damage if by dropping it, running it over in your car, (I have seen this), or because your inconsiderate numb-skull friend decided it would be funny to give you a shove while you were taking pics by the pool (seen that too).

So should you buy or risk it?

I'll say it depends. If you already have insurance for professionals on your gear, then maybe not. However, if you DO have pro insurance and don't want to pay the deductible if there is damage AND don't want your rates to increase...buy the extended warranty. I would be extremely leery of using homeowner's insurance. Just last week, I had a gentleman explain to me that he initially thought his camera gear was covered, however the insurance company denied his claim for the camera gear, insisting that he used it commercially. It didn't matter that he made no money at it. The gear he lost was of professional quality. Had he tried to recover damage on a $599 Canon Rebel T3i, maybe his insurance would have covered it. But with a Canon 5DMarkIII, 2 more bodies, lights, etc...they said no.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
If you know you are prone to mishandling gear, get the insurance. When you know you have a history of knocking things off the table or dropping things onto the floor, save yourself the heartache and spend the few extra bucks to protect yourself.

It also depends on what you are getting the extended warranty for. For an item that does not get handled much or carried around, I may not be as inclined to purchase it. A camera or a lens, yes indeed, I am in favor of it. Because like my last post about UV filters, it has to do with who's handling the warranty claim as well as how responsive is the warranty issuer. B&C Camera has at least two people at all times who submit and monitor MACK extended warranties.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
I've seen worried consumers come in the store with busted gear. Maybe they don't have the receipt, but they can look up your gear by serial number and find out if you are covered. When these guys realize they we can reproduce their proof of purchase, well, you should witness the sense of relief in their faces. They chose to purchase the 3-Year MACK Diamond Extended Warranty when it was offered. These are the ones that the B&C Camera owner chooses to use because it's most beneficial to the customers and it makes the most sense.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
The warranty doesn't protect against loss or theft. They can't help you if your gear has been in a fire. The warranty is for manufacturer malfunction and accidental damage. A lady drove over her camera and crushed it. She brought all the pieces back that identified the camera make, model, and serial number. She got a new camera as it was not repairable. Same model...brand new. How happy do you think she was? What happens if your camera is not repairable and has been discontinued for the upgraded model? You get that upgrade. Here is an excerpt from the MACK website:

Diamond warranties include standard coverage as well coverage for malfunctions due to accidental damage from handling (ADH).
This includes malfunctions due to liquid damage that were the result of an accident. All types of accidental damage, including liquid damage, will be covered at the discretion of Mack Worldwide Warranty.
  • Impact Damage
  • Manufacturer Defects
  • Sand/Grit Damage
  • Accidental Damage and Unintentional Abuse
  • Mechanical Malfunctions
  • Normal and Abnormal Wear and Tear
  • Lemon Protection
  • 2 Free CCD Cleaning for the life of the warranty (USA Only)
Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
See there? That's 2 free sensor cleanings over the life of the warranty. That's anywhere from $120 to $200 in cleaning right there. B&C Camera charges $60 per sensor cleaning, BTW and its done right there in the store by a specialist, named Kris. Depending on the value of your camera that's either the full cost of the insurance or at least half of it in most cases. So is the peace of mind worth it? I think it is. A one-time payment and you're protected for 3 years. That's a good deal. Do it.

30 June 2016

Protection: The Age Old UV Filter Debate

It was cool to have KristiC visiting Las Vegas again for a spell earlier this June. So we got to shoot a few times before she left. ©2016 Terrell Neasley
Most photographic accessories are designed to aid you in your photographic endeavors in terms of improving or increasing your ability to take a photo. Protection measures are implemented in order that you may continue your photographic endeavors or at least compensate you when you suddenly can not do so.

So lets start with an ongoing argument on the polarizing viewpoints of the UV filter. Should you put a piece of glass that was not originally factored into the lens' design over the manufacturer's precision-ground and chemically-coated lens elements? Good question.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Exactly what is a UV filter anyway? UV stands for Ultraviolet. This is the radiation from the sun that makes you need sunscreen when you're outside for extended periods of time. Its the same stuff from the sun that you soak up to get a tan. However for cameras, its a little different. The ultraviolet rays from the sun could indeed affect the chemical composition in film from the film camera days. In some cases, UV radiation could cause slight color shifts, as well as affect the overall quality of the image as it hit the exposed areas of film while you're taking a picture. You can see why this might be a problem for pro photogs who shoot film.

Well, most of us don't use film in our cameras. So why is there still some who insist on UV filters for digital cameras? Okay, let me admit. There are several reasons why. First let me say I am a proponent of UV filters. All my glass has them. But this question as to "why" has been severely distorted over the years by two main factors.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

During the early age of digital photography, this was still a means of making money for camera store owners. These owners don't make a lot of margin on cameras and lenses. Some of that margin could be made up in photography accessories and UV filters were part of it. So you had camera store owners pushing these filters onto consumers.

The next part of the mix-up has to do with manufacturers. Profits are still the name of the game. And when you can stamp out cheap circles of glass at varying diameters and sell them to new and unsuspecting consumers who need cameras, well it can set a bad precedence for the industry. They called it PROTECTION. You need to protect that brand new lens you just bought (or that comes with your camera).

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

To be honest, there is actually some elements of truth to what store owners and manufacturers think in this regard. However the answer to this protection question was NOT to make cheap glass stamp-outs and put them on the front of your lens. The real fact is that even the cheapest lens out there currently is still likely a good lens. They still channel light down to a specific point on the sensor with accurate precision. Cheap and inferior UV filters affect how light passes through them and hit the actual lens. A defect in the in poor quality UV filters can result in poor light refraction that can cause light rays to hit the front element of the lens at bad angles, striking the sensor in a way not designed or intended. Next thing you know, you're searching Google for a photoshop technique to quickly remove chromatic aberrations and lens flare.

So here's the deal via my experience as a pro shooter AND from working in a camera shop with an owner who's more interested in making profits the RIGHT way moreso than BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

B&C Camera in Las Vegas, Nevada has a plethora of UV filters. Some of them are inexpensive but NONE of them are poor quality. But even with that said, here's the deal. You don't go all in on high end lens gear and then use the least expensive UV protective filter. And nobody there is going to talk you into ceramic UV filters when you buy an entry level camera that comes with a $200 lens. Neither of those cases make much sense and an educated consumer paired with a knowledgeable salesperson, at a camera store run by a fair-minded owner will equal out to more satisfied customers who come back for more gear later.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

I see a lot of broken UV filters come through the store. I also see many lenses coming in for repair from drops. Every last one of the customers coming in with a busted UV filter is MORE than happy to let the guys behind the counter use special tools and expertise to remove a UV filter that's busted, bent, and won't come off by traditional means after a serious drop. You should see the look on these guys' faces when the lens is revealed to be okay. They buy another UV filter and leave the store much happier than when they came in.

My advice? Get a high quality UV filter. Spend $70 to $120 on a good one comparable to the lens you are placing it on. Again, you don't buy a high end sports car and go to Wal-Mart looking for the cheapest tires you can find. I absolutely love the HGX UV filters by Promaster. These come in a red case and are guaranteed against scratches. That's how hard these things are. Special coatings on on these filters, front and back, made from hardened glass, with a flat black coating on the barrel ring to absorb stray light so it isn't reflected into your lens at bad angles. I have high end Sony glass and all my lenses have the Promaster HGX UV filters on them with zero color shift.

They also make other UV filters of varying quality. If you have an entry level lens, feel free to get the green-case multi-coated UV filter. A mid-range lens would benefit from the orange-case Digital UV filter. If you're paying a $1000 or more then get the red-case HGX UV filter with the guarantee. Scratch it...bring it in and get a new one. Simple as that.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Indeed you will hear about those who have had their lenses for YEARS and have never dropped, banged up, or had an accident that resulted in sending in a lens for repair. That's good for them. I personally, don't like taking the chance when a simple, but QUALITY UV filter can extend the life of the lens. They may not break the lens, but I can assure you that over time, that glass will get pitted from sand, grit, and acidic elements in the air that will degrade the coatings on that lens. So to me, its worth it to protect my good glass, especially when there is ZERO quality loss in the process.

15 April 2016

Why the Camera You Already Have May Be Better Than You Think

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

[For my wonderful friend and muse, Leslie. Girl, I think you are happiest when you are shooting! Am I right??] 

I'm a Sony shooter. I started out years ago with Canon. And when Canon no longer suited my needs, I sold about $25K in Canon gear...all of it...and switched to Nikon. Three years after that, (#switchhappens) I made the plunge again  into the Sony line of camera systems and will likely be here a while. I welcome the moniker, "gear-head", but I can objectively say I made all my changes based on need. When Canon's next line of cameras came out and it didn't give me what I needed, I had no qualms about dropping that line and investing in another. Nikon's switch had more to do with dropping the DSLR line because I was sold on mirrorless systems, namely Sony, but originally Fujifilm (XE-2, remember...).

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

But here's the deal. Not everyone wants to drop camera lines like that, especially if you have a huge investment in the lenses. Or, getting another camera simply isn't in the budget at the moment. Its sorta like my car. I've put so much effort, money, and time into traveling and photography that I've neglected my need for a new car. So for the moment, I've gotta get the most I can out of the car I have. I think it might help a few of you to know that the camera you have right now, is probably better than you think. You may not have the same photo demands or feature needs as I do and if you don't require all that then here are a few things you can look into.

If you have purchased a camera in the last 6 years, namely a DSLR, then chances are, its actually a really good system for general purpose use. I've met PLENTY of people complaining that they can't get a good picture from their camera, when in fact, all they need is a little bit of knowledge on how the camera works. Take a look at Auto Focus. I think this is likely the most frequent issue I encounter. Blurry Images are next in line. This may sound like the same thing, but bear with me.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

With the Auto Focus situation, its usually a case where the camera is set to full auto. So in this setting, its automatic everything. The problem here is that sometimes the camera will automatically focus lock on the object closest to the camera or to a subject that is moving. The camera operator has an image with SOME things in focus, but not the thing or subject that they wanted to take a picture of. So in this case, taking the camera out of Full Auto mode should be the first step. If anything put the camera in Program or "P" mode. Then take out your manual (download it from the net if need be) and look up info on your camera's  Autofocus, and Continuous Autofocus. If you're brave enough, check out Manual Focus. Camera manufacturers my call each thing something different. Canon is AF-Single and AI Servo/AI Servo-Continuous. Nikon is AF-S, or AF-C. Then they may go into autofocus zones or groupings in some way.

The Blurring I mentioned is when the subject is blurred or the entire picture is blurred. This has more to do with the shutter speed setting than autofocus. There are two things that determine this. First could be the shutter speed itself. If the camera perceives that it doesn't have enough light, it will extend the amount of time the shutter is open and expose the sensor to light for a little longer period of time. Well, unless everything is absolutely still, there will be blurring. A single second is actually a LONG time when we're talking photography. Its nigh impossible to hold your camera still that long and not get blur just from camera shake, much less have your subject be still enough. Try shooting a baby with a one-second shutter speed.

Art Model, Leslie ©2015 Terrell Neasley

If this is the case, look to your ISO speed and raise it til you are at least 1/60th of a second on shutter speed. You'll usually have this issue when it begins to get dark and you're still trying to shoot pics of the kids outdoors. Sometimes, if you're in full auto, the flash will pop up and blast everything with light and that doesn't look good in most cases where you want to get a wide area in your shot. Raise that ISO to 800 or maybe even 1600 and try again. Go higher if need be. But there is a catch! The higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy the image looks.

This is when I had to make my first camera upgrade from the Canon 40D (2007) to the full frame 5D MarkII (2008). I required better low-light performance. The 5D MarkII had a bigger sensor which means bigger light-gathering pixels. It also had the ability to handle higher ISO much better resulting in high-ISO images, but with less noise in the image. Today, I work in much darker situations that still require speed and I can reach ISOs of over 100,000 and still look clean in my Sony systems.

Art Model, Leslie ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Sometimes, a better lens can be your limitation. If you still rock with the kit lens your camera came with, its likely not going to be the best quality and is likely not fast glass. If you're Canon, try the Nifty Fifty, the 50mm f/1.8 lens for a little over $100. And for zoom lenses, I absolutely love Tamron's line-up whether you are Canon or Nikon. Tamron makes a 17-50mm f/2.8 (for crop sensor cameras) or a 28-75mm f/2.8 (for full frame or crop sensor cameras) of which both are excellent pieces of fast glass. Those lenses have wide maximum apertures that help let in more light. If you have newer cameras, I'd even suggest the all in one Tamron 16-300mm lens (not made for full frame cameras). Just make sure you get the Tamron lens specific for your camera, either Canon or Nikon.

In any case, learning a little bit more about your camera outside of the full auto mode can work to your favor and get you better shots. When your demands surpass the camera's capabilities, THEN look to a better system. Getting a camera with numerous Phase-Detect Auto focus points because you often shoot moving subjects is a reason to upgrade. Having a system with superior low-light performance because you do a lot of low-light work is a reason to upgrade. Or maybe convenience features like built-in WIFI for the ability to control the camera or download your images from your camera straight to your smart phone, swivel the LCD screen around for selfies, have a touch-screen LCD, you have a 4K TV and want to shoot 4K video, or you want to be able to continuously autofocus while doing video. It could be that you like your friend's ability to autofocus using Face-detect/Smile-detect/Eye-detect. Or you love shooting manual focus and heard how cool the Sony system can use Focus Peak to assist with manual focus. These are all reasons to upgrade. If your camera is simply not taking good pics, then chances are you could benefit from reading the manual, because cameras these days are actually bad ass.

Art Model, Leslie ©2015 Terrell Neasley

You can definitely consider taking my One-on-One week-long photography course. We'll go over your camera, its capabilities, and how to use it in a variety of settings, indoor and out, as well as covering light with speedlights and studio lights. Not from Las Vegas, not a problem. Give me a week, and you'll go home a better shooter. Want me to come to you, we can talk about that too. Think it over. Give me a hollar!

23 March 2016

Don't Be Afraid

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." 
~ Nelson Mandela

Don't be afraid.

You know I can honestly leave this post at just those 3 words, but anybody who knows me, knows I am never that succinct. I like to use my words, so let me articulate my meaning here. Elocution would serve better, but since I have not as of yet published my work via podcasts, the written word will suffice. As a former Staff Sergeant in the Army, my voice can deliver the intended affect with inflection and tone that deliver my meaning more accurately, but I will try to get my point across, nonetheless. Maybe one day I'll do a speech on the matter. For now...the written word.

Art Model, Samantha ©2011 Terrell Neasley

We all fear. Its inevitable that something will arise that will cause fear at some point in our lives. However, as you may already know, its how we respond to the fear that makes the difference. As a kid, I used to get my ass kicked just about daily, until I decided to make some changes. Since I was already taking a beating, how would striking back and defending myself make matters worse? So I learned to hit back...hard. Interestingly enough, the beatings stopped. Correlation? You tell me.

Today, I live differently. I don't have to fight like that so much. There are other things in life that make me afraid, but those early years, along with some military refining has helped me control fears better, (but not eliminate them, however). Now, I almost have fun with it. Fear lets me take on life challenges that can be rewarding times ten more when you overcome them. I tend to run towards things I fear, which may not be wise at times, but I'm not altogether stupid either.

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid of the opinion of others. This is especially so, concerning those who should have little influence on your well-being, income, or health.

Don't be afraid of being the only one. It can be lonely to go it alone but you will find out more about yourself, your capabilities, and thereby boosting your confidence. Not everyone has your vision or wants to do what you want to do. That doesn't mean you have to flow with the status quo. Do you.

"Don't be afraid to go out on a limb. It's where all the fruit is." 
~Shirley MacLaine

Don't be afraid to lose things, people, or money. It's bound to happen and you'll have to accept that fact. Its supposed to be that way when you think about it. People will come and go, but that's not always a bad thing. Things are temporary and you'll always be getting more stuff.

Don't be afraid to try new things. This is how you learn and experience the world.

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to fail. I've heard is said, "Failure is not the opposite of Success. It is PART of it." You'll make mistakes. Get up and learn from it.

Don't be afraid of the unknown. You don't know everything. In fact, you know very little. Hence, most of the universe is unknown to you. Think about how much you didn't know 5 years ago. The things you know today were unknown to you then. You don't always need to play it safe. Be smart. Get outside the lines a little bit. You'll thank me.

Don't be afraid to start that adventure. Old people don't brag about how many overtime hours they spent at the office. That shit doesn't make for good stories.

Art Model Emese, ©2011 Terrell Neasley

"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
~ Langston Hughes

Don't be afraid to be hated. Not everyone will like you, especially when you start getting good and succeeding. That's just a fact. It means you're likely enjoying yourself. Don't sabotage your own happiness worrying about somebody hating on you.

Don't be afraid of bad circumstances. It happens. Its going to happen again. How you respond to bad circumstances is what makes the bad circumstances permanent or not. And if they are not permanent...why worry?

Don't be afraid to trust yourself. In all actuality, you can't trust yourself, but you should. You're going to fail. You're going to let yourself down. However all that matters is the fact that you still control you. You 100% can't control anyone else. You CAN control you. So that makes you the most trustworthy person alive. Having some self control issues? Well, stop that shit.

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid to keep learning...from anybody. I learn as much from an 80 year old as I can from an 18 year old. I can't say what I might learn from an 8 year old, but I'm sure its possible, somehow. You won't know it all. Ever. So keep soaking up information and tidbits of wisdom where you find it. Keep your mind open because you'll likely come across it in some of the most unlikely places. Age, social status, economic class, race... if you limit where you can accept learning because of these dividing lines, you limit the potential you can evolve to. Cut that shit out.

Now go handle your business.

Art Model, KristiC ©2016 Terrell Neasley