Milestones and contest submissions.

I know it isn’t much relative to the internet world, but yesterday I reached 10,000 unique page views! And this is without advertising to my friends and family! I am trying to keep this world segregated from my real world and get feedback from strangers. My friends are usually too nice. I have alerted some co-workers of this site but no one I work directly with. My company has tens of thousands of employees, so I still remain relatively anonymous. Our Photographers distribution list has over a thousand members alone.

In other news, I bit the bullet and submitted another photo to i-shot-it.com. A couple months back I wrote about Ryan, a co-worker of mine. Last week our team of geographically distributed misfits met in Seattle as we do twice a year. I make it a point to shoot candid shots of everyone I can except for the women who just don’t like anyone to. I tried to be stealth and shoot this shot of Ryan, which I converted to black and white for submission to i-shot-it.com.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.5, ISO 3200, 1/250s

I really liked the shot in color, but I wanted to try black and white out. I learned a lesson a second ago, though. With the white backdrop of my blogging tool, there is a small gray blob in the lower left hand corner. I didn’t notice with the gray backdrop in Lightroom. Oh well! I like the shot nonetheless. Plus it is a great showcase of the A99 ISO 3200 setting. Here is the original color version with zero post-processing after applying the Camera Standard color calibration in Lightroom. (Notice no gray blob!)

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I don’t think Ryan ever shows up in a bad photograph. Nice problem to have.

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Spring could come sooner… Right?

A side effect of this little digital photography adventure is EXIF data. I know where I was and what time it was when I took a specific photograph. So I can go back to Lightroom and look at February 27, 2012 or 2011 and see what I was shooting at the time. Looking at 2011, the first two flowers I got were two small columbines in my yard. They are featured in this post. Their first photo appearance is February 26, 2011 if you want me to be accurate. 2012 seemed different. I got a ton of daffodils first. I have photos of fully-bloomed daffodils from as early as February 18, 2012 but I also have the same two columbines. I just remember the daffodils showing up quite early.

This 2013 spring just seems to be later than other springs. I have gotten one daffodil, which has been fairly weak. And today I found one of the two columbines hiding amongst tall grass. The other had been damaged, probably eaten by one of my cats.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 125, 1/250s

I didn’t have much grass in the area before, but it is absolutely out of control this year. This should provide some perspective as to why I didn’t discover the columbine before.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/400s

So I need to trim my grass, and I need to get out more. That is a fact. I also need to tell my daffodils to hurry up! The columbines, however, seem to be hiding out and right on schedule!

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/640s

OT: Redecorating my boss’s office

It only took two weeks!

On the 31st of January while I was in Washington State, some work teammates of mine and I raised some money to purchase a number of “effects” to redecorate my boss’s office to celebrate the birth of his first child.

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I wrapped his electronic equipment with clear plastic wrap for protection and threw confetti all over the office. Below is the main desk “in progress”.

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I also blew up over 200 balloons, 50 of which I equipped with diapers and hung from the ceiling.

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The end resulted in his entire floor being covered in confetti and balloons, and his ceiling had streamers and streamer paper and the remaining ribbon.

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Hopefully when I visit again (next week) I won’t be a target for revenge.

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Though I certainly deserve it.

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My biggest regret is not having my 24mm lens for a video. I only had my 85mm lens and my 200mm lens. These were taken mostly with an A900 with exception of the shot with the door opening, which was taken with an A99. 

I’m hoping to post the stuff I promised I would post, but I am having a hard time pulling away.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction

When the availability opened up to purchase memberships to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in late 2009 I jumped on the opportunity as the benefits seemed to outweigh the costs. Being a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, one of my benefits of the level of membership I have purchased is I receive tickets to the Induction Ceremony.

The Induction Ceremony is televised live on the Speed Network and there is coverage on ESPN and local networks, so there is a host of local celebrities as well as some known nationally. I arrived with my A99 and my Minolta 200mm f/2.8 High Speed APO G as well as the 85mm f/1.4 ZA and I did my best paparazzo impression. Among the Inductees was Rusty Wallace (below on his phone), who was working hard for ESPN on the biggest day of his post-career before the actual ceremony.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 800, 1/60s

Many of the current race car drivers as well as retired drivers were at the ceremony, either in the audience, or to speak at the ceremony. Below is Clint Bowyer, driver of the #15 Five-Hour Energy Toyota.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 1600, 1/125s

One of the drivers speaking on stage was Carl Edwards, driver of the #99 Aflac Ford. He would not stop for a pose as he was on his way to rehearsal, but was gracious enough to smile for me.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/3.5, ISO 1600, 1/40s

I am happy with the shot above even though it wasn’t as sharp as I would like, with the shutter speed low and the moving subject. Fortunately, Michael Waltrip, owner of the #15, #55, and #56 Toyotas (and driver of the #30 Toyota in this year’s Daytona 500) was not moving when he posed for me.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 2000, 1/100s

The Induction Ceremony was held in the Charlotte Convention Center and the lighting was for a television stage, including steam machines and lights and all sorts of things making the behavior of Auto White Balance become unpredictable and metering was difficult as well. Autofocus was not predictable with the colored strobe lights and the steam machines. I shot most of the ceremony itself in manual focus and using Auto ISO from 100 to 3200. Most of the shots in the auditorium had strange light. Needless to say, I had a lot of post-processing work to do.

This is Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 winner and driver of the #21 Motorcraft Ford (and #6 Cargill Ford in the NASCAR Nationwide Series).

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 3200, 1/80s

And here’s Mark Martin, driver of the #55 Aaron’s Toyota.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/100s

I got a number of candid shots, in general. In this one Mark Martin was having a conversation with Rusty Wallace, just before his formal induction.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.2, ISO 3200, 1/100s

This is “The King”, Hall of Famer Richard Petty, winner of seven series Championships and 200 races. Albeit a tad blurry, but the subject is not lost in my lack of correct settings. I tried to be a bit aggressive with ISO and got too low a shutter speed.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/3.2, ISO 800, 1/10s

This is Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, probably posing for someone else.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4.5, ISO 1600, 1/125s

Once the ceremony kicked off, I was constrained to my assigned seat, where I looked to get a couple of shots you wouldn’t see if you were watching the ceremony on TV. This is Trevor Bayne backstage with Brad Keselowski, 2012 Sprint Cup Champion and driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 3200, 1/250s

This gives you an idea of the adverse lighting situation I was dealing with. This is Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett among greenish-yellow and red strobes with steam machines.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 3200, 1/30s

My view of the main stage from my seat was a profile view. The light was a little better for metering purposes as long as I spot metered from the center. This is Jeff Gordon, 4 time Champion and driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 800, 1/250s

The podium was my only adversary in getting this final shot, which is the view of the television broadcast alongside the video camera that was shooting. This was an interview after Rusty Wallace’s acceptance speech.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200 f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 3200, 1/250s

In all, I had a good time and I am still figuring out how much I actually learned about shooting in adverse lighting.

BTW, I know I still owe the conclusion of the book shelf test. I hope to finish it this weekend.

Give the Internet a Prettier Face! (Part II: Offenders)

I didn’t want to do this. OK, maybe I did. My last post, I ranted about my biggest pet peeve and my mission to make the electronic world better. I took the liberty of downloading and then censoring a few samples of classic offenders. All of these are people I know and I didn’t ask permission. If you’re reading this, you know who you are and you can ask to be removed.

The first offender, we’ll call him Jim. Jim is a former co-worker of mine who is a professional photographer. He does weddings almost every weekend.

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As you can see, Jim is a very sharp dresser and he has a very nice bathtub and bedroom furniture. He also has an iPhone. What you don’t know is Jim also has a Nikon D800, a remote and a tripod. If you’re going to dress nice and you want to show the internet, take an extra 5 minutes and set up your gear.

Another bathroom offender here. We’ll call him John. John is a high school basketball coach, so I presume this is a bathroom at the gym.

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I give John a little more lenience as he does not have the luxuries Jim has, he also has a full team of kids who can hold his phone. I will say, with the watch, bracelet, necklace, and leather jacket, I don’t suppose it would be difficult to get someone to take the photo for you. Plus John is about 6’4” and 250-280 pounds.

Our third mirror offender we’ll call her Stacy. Stacy is a young, single woman with career and dating aspirations.

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She just got her hair cut and styled. I am sure that is expensive. I am also sure the stylist is proud enough of their work, they can hold the phone and take the picture.

Our next offender is Joe. Joe has one thing going for him, other than his fancy equipment. He had enough sense to reverse the photo.

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Joe is actually me. I just wanted to ease the tension. Plus I never used this as a Facebook profile photo. I actually use shots I took using a remote or PC remote control.

Our next offender, we’ll call her Sandy. Sandy is a very pretty mother of two little girls. Sandy is very attractive right now, in 2013. I am certain her husband of nearly 15 years thinks so. But she certainly looks different day-to-day than she did 15 years ago, when this was taken.

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This is Sandy’s fallback Facebook profile photo. The one she reverts to every few months. She looked great in ‘98. She doesn’t look bad now.

Finally, this woman is easily the example for which my pet peeve is derived. We’ll call her Jennifer. Jennifer is a beautiful girl, and a new mother I know through my wife and her sorority. She does everything I absolutely hate when it comes to profile photos, which is really a shame as she is very pretty, has a ton of personality, and she could easily have me or my wife, or one of the many people we know with decent equipment take her photograph.

This is what I like to call the torch shot. This is when you raise your phone high above your head and take a self-portrait.

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This is another example of the torch. Still Jennifer.

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The torch is rivaled in my hate by the kissy face. Jennifer loves to post photos of herself doing the kissy face.

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Here’s one she had someone else take, with the kissy face.

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So how does that conversation transpire? “Hey, I want you to take a picture of me making a kissy face… OK, that’s great. I’m using it as my Facebook profile photo.”

And finally, our friend Jennifer doing the Torch+Kissy combo. The only thing imaginable worse than that would be a torch-kissy-bathroom mirror combo with a medium format camera taken a decade ago.

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To her credit, she has only posted self-shot photos with her newborn child, taken with her cell phone lately. Which is horrible, but not necessarily as bad as the torch. At least there is a baby in the shot. I hope to turn her to the good side this year. I don’t know how, but I will.

Give the Internet a Prettier Face!

SLACKER ALERT!

I know I owe everyone the final piece of the Book Shelf test. This week is easily the busiest week my family has endured in quite some time. Lame excuse I know, but I am pairing the final Book Shelf post with the 85mm f/1.4 ZA and 200mm f/2.8 comparisons and it will really be two posts in one (and I really should split it into two posts). I also want to test the A77 before and after the latest firmware update and see if there is an improvement in IQ. My future is outlined for me, the time is yet to be clear. This being a photography blog, I’ll post a photo of a flower on a bush in my yard. Spring is coming and my daffodils will be flowering soon.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/2.8, ISO 400, 1/80s

I’ve wanted to dump my thoughts on a topic I am completely bothered about and I hope to be able to make my own small impression on the world. Right now there are two dominant forces on the internet and a handful of others which have changed what we consume on a day to day basis. Facebook and Twitter. I am not going to lie, I use them both quite frequently myself. Beyond those two, there are a slew of other Social Media outlets; LinkedIn, Google Plus, and a host of other places. But the simple fact is, the two most dominant are Facebook and Twitter. It was only five or six years ago, it was all about MySpace. Now I know a handful of folks who are thinking about bailing on Facebook and doing Twitter only. I don’t post comments to Facebook, I use Twitter and they magically synchronize. The only thing keeping me on Facebook is my extended family. They wouldn’t get updates about my kids without it.

MY BIGGEST INTERNET PET PEEVE: FRAMING THE ARGUMENT

I have a giant pet peeve when it comes to the internet, but first I feel compelled to frame the argument before I explain it.

More than half of the people in the United States have a Facebook profile and over a billion people worldwide, representing around 15% of the world’s population. Facebook is the way those people communicate outside of talking in person, talking on the phone, and e-mail. I’d venture to say of those four mediums, Facebook is probably 2nd or 3rd for a lot of people and First for more people than I can realize. I know people who live their lives logged on to Facebook. They read their feed, “Like” everything, comment on stuff, play all the games, send instant messages; rinse, wash, repeat.

This is only the beginning When you go to other web sites to search, read news, shop, or perform other internet routines, the Facebook applet shows up. “Grandma Jill liked this page” or “John Doe and 15,437 people liked this”.

With every Facebook profile, there are two immediate differentiators for every person: The Profile Photo and the Cover Photo. Using the default settings, the Facebook Profile Photo is available to the entire internet using world. Even if you choke the profile down, there are ways for the little thumbnail to make its way around the internet. I know a person who has turned nearly every privacy feature on, you can’t search for them using Google, Bing, or Yahoo, or even on Facebook. However, they associated their Facebook Profile with a Blog site, so the little icon shows up on their Blog. So much for staying hidden.

For the sake of framing my argument let’s say there is a statistically significant, overwhelming, “closer to 100 than not 100%” chance your Facebook profile photo is searchable by the entire world. And for the sake of framing my argument, let’s apply the same principals to Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and other places where you use a photograph or thumbnail to represent yourself. I did a search of my real name in Bing on a clean browser and I got little photo from my LinkedIn, my Facebook Profile, and from Twitter in the first five search entries.

SO WHAT’S THE POINT?

If you’re risking the entire world seeing your photo, why would you post a photo that was anything less than a fair representation of yourself? Potential employers look at Facebook first. If you were up for consideration for a big job, going up against a candidate with identical credentials, what kind of first impression do you want to make? If you are hoping to get engaged to the girl of your dreams, but first have to ask her parents, what is the first thing you want them to see when they put your name into a search engine?

There are too many crappy profile photos on the internet.

There. I said it. And it really disturbs me to the point to where I want to do something about it.

I try to keep my Facebook profile around 300 “friends” at any given time. At one point I had nearly 1000, and I decided it wasn’t worth looking at all the garbage many of them were posting, nor was it worth the time to maintain the list of people I didn’t want to see updates from. Right now I have about every family member over 13 under my grandparents, including my living grandparents, a handful of people I went to elementary school, middle school or high school with, people from my college fraternity, a handful of people I work with, a handful of my customers, some of my wife’s friends, and some of my own outside of the parameters above. In December, I could proudly say I had taken around 5% of their Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn profile photos (or all three). I wish I could say it was closer to 75. 

I went through the exercise of counting the ones I had taken and came to the realization I was skipping over five times as many which were just garbage. I would post samples but the unfortunate side of all of this is I actually like most of these people.

THE PHOTOS I HATE

There are a few things in common with the ones I didn’t like. The first thing is most of them were taken using a cellular phone, an iPad or Tablet camera, or a web camera. The pose bothering me the most is usually taken by a woman, holding a cellular phone in the air like a torch, making a kissy face. I try to get in the head of someone who is making those decisions. “I need to update my profile photo… Let’s see, why don’t I hold my phone in the air like a torch, make a kissy face, and see how it turns out.” Nevermind the IQ is usually terrible, the white balance is usually off, and the noise is out of control. The pose would look terrible using medium format.

Then you have the person who has decent equipment, either a high end point and shoot, an ILC or a DSLR/SLT. They have really expensive glass on a really expensive camera body and they take photographs of themselves in front of a $25 bathroom mirror. Hopefully they decorate well, have a clean hallway, and used a little Windex on the mirror beforehand. It is bad enough when the person with the cell phone does this. Worse when they make the kissy face.

I could go on and on, but the final person I want to harp on is the person who has a perfectly normal, perfectly good profile photo. Taken six, seven, twelve, fifteen years ago!! We know you looked awesome in your wedding dress. In 1998. You’d probably look awesome now in 2013 if you’d let me take your picture. And no kissy faces allowed.

So begins my journey. I hope to make a small venture of this, one profile photo at a time. Right now I can claim 14 in my list as my own.