Mark of Excellence

I know I still owe you all some Austria posts. I’ve been on the road without access to the files to post. I am back now so I should have something this week. I have other news…

I didn’t have a single entry win the I-Shot-It 200 competition. Lesson learned. I need to submit better work. A consolation prize appeared in my inbox today. I received the I-Shot-It Mark of Excellence for the Week 34 free competition.

This is for a composition of five photos I took in Styria, Austria. My mentor, Christian graciously gave me a tour of Austria and took me to this lake and we parked alongside a side road and walked 200 meters (or so Winking smile ) in the rain to this spot.

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SLT-A99V, 24mm f/2 SSM ZA

This photo was post-processed using Lightroom 5 and HDR Efex Pro 2. 

Catch Up Post #2: Kayden

A few weeks back I talked about “Jennifer”, the world’s number one offender of the “kissy face” or “duck face” pose on Facebook. She had asked the Facebook audience what their recommendations on a camera was. I told her I would bring a couple of mine over, shoot a couple of shots of her baby, Kayden, and we’d discuss. My secret agenda was to get her to put one of my shots up as her Facebook Profile photo. I almost accomplished the agenda, as she used this one as her cover photo instead.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/2.5, ISO 50, 1/1250s

It was a sunny day but windy. And it was a cool wind, which is not a great thing for a three month old. So we got as many shots as we could. I learned more about shooting the little one outside than I had bargained for.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/250s, +1EV

I also realized I may be post-processing these shots with a little too much Cyan. I am generally happy with them, though. I also had some issues with the shadows in the park, so I had to improvise on a couple, including this one which I could not get rid of the sun. Next time I’ll bring an umbrella or a sheet of cardboard.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 200, 1/250s, +1EV

And the A77 made it out of the bag for a few shots as well. It was good to have this old friend back.

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SLT-A77V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 50, 1/1250s

Which will lead me nicely into my post regarding the NIK suite, which I cannot wait to attempt to post-process some of Kayden’s shots with. I just haven’t gotten that far yet!

Catch-Up Post #0: Prologue

OK, I have a ton to catch up on and I need to get it all out. So I figure I will get it out in chunks but I want to outline it first and today seems like a wonderful day to do it.

Topics:

1. Going Pro: If there was a day to start a business, it would be today. The way North Carolina works, if you establish an LLC, you have to file papers on April 15th of every year. So I am on the clock if I want to file that paperwork at this point. I am probably going to today. I also have to figure out advertising, print business cards, all that other stuff and I am hoping to get a handle on it all this week.

2. Kayden: A while back I posted about “Jennifer”. She was public offender #1. Well, I am happy to say I was able to at least change her Facebook cover photo for a week or so as I did a shoot with her little one, Kayden. Unfortunately, “Jennifer” decided it would be a good idea to put another Kissy Face or Duck Face profile shot up WITH Kayden. You can’t win them all, I guess.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/4, ISO 50, 1/320s

3. Spring (Finally!!): It is officially Spring in North Carolina, after waiting a long time. Now, personally I am tempted to cut Claritin into lines at this point as the pollen is out of control, I can handle a little bit of sneezing and coughing to get a million photos. And a million photos I may have gotten at the end of the day.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 400, 1/250s, +1EV

4. NIK Suite: I HATE Google. With a passion. And there is a good story behind it. Before Google acquired Nik Software I was entertaining getting their Silver Efex software if the price was right. It didn’t seem to be quite where I wanted it for $200. Then they offered the entire suite (Silver Efex, Color Efex, Viveza, HDR Efex Pro, Sharpener Pro, etc.) for less than $150. Sold. Effin’ Google! Now I am addicted. I have literally gone back into my vast library and tried to enhance many photos. Of course, I am pressed for time so I will show an enhanced version of the one I just posted.

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Same as above, post processing with Lightroom 4 and NIK Color Efex 2

5. Austria trip:  I’m going to have a neat little trip to Austria via Germany this summer! I’m pretty excited about it, really. I’m going to meet up with another Sony enthusiast, Christian, who has been a really good mentor without me asking and I truly hope to learn from him while I am there. He has been gracious enough to agree to show me where to go to shoot. Christian has a unique set of lenses and I hope to try some of them as well as see what he can do with anything I have to bring. All I know is I may have to bring an extra memory card or two and maybe a hard drive. I ordered the Rosetta Stone and I hope to learn enough German to be able to ask to go to the bathroom.

6. Other random stuff: I have plenty of stuff to talk about so if anything else comes up I’ll put it in a random post. I have had some luck with the cardinals and other birds in my yard. I’m now trying to get the Hawks and Owls, who have proven to be elusive.

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SLT-A99V, Minolta 200mm f/2.8 HS APO G @ f/4, ISO 160, 1/250s

As for right now, when I am home my wife and I take turns taking the kids to school. Today is my turn and I need to make sure lunches are made, teeth are brushed, and all of the important stuff in between.

I’m “Popular” today!

Okay, first things first. I haven’t posted in a while. I have a ton to post about. With Spring coming, flowers blooming, and some of the portrait work I am doing as well, I have plenty to talk about. I plan on clearing the backlog this week as I am wife and kid free Monday through Wednesday.

I posted a photo to 500px.com and it just reached “Popular”

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/5.6, ISO 100. 1/320s

I have plenty to post later.

Portfolio shoot tomorrow + Addicted

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to do some engagement photos for a couple in graduate school as a mutual favor. They understand I am trying to go into doing this whole photography business as a side-job and I need to bolster my portfolio to help obtain business. As a result, they are getting free engagement photos.

I did a lot of research online and saw a ton of engagement photo ideas, which I have harvested to a certain degree and I plan to put a unique touch to some of the standard shots and I have one or two unique ideas of my own which I am hopeful will be executed successfully and ideally, the couple will like their results. They’re not getting married until October 2014, so if I screw this up, they will have plenty of time to hire someone better. Hopefully I won’t screw it up.

In other news, I think I may be addicted. When I went to college, I studied Mathematics. I once heard a quote which has stuck with me ever since I heard it. “Lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math”. I bought my first and only lottery ticket on my 18th birthday, and won 40 dollars. I quit while I was ahead. I have gambled since, but typically I try to gamble in situations where the odds are stacked a little more in my favor. My problem is I am rarely in a place where this type of gambling is legal and usually when I am I don’t have disposable capital to risk it. Somewhere in the middle is my new addiction of submitting to i-shot-it.com. I can’t say it is much better than the lottery as the first contest I entered, “Cat Photo Competition 1 2013” had 521 entries. But I do control my own destiny to a certain degree. If I don’t submit my best work, I have no chance. I guess at the end of the day I am paying a tax for being bad at taking pictures if I don’t win. And I can always dream. I paid 3 dollars and I may win $600+ and a $800 point and shoot camera. My entry into the “Black and White Photo Competition 1 2013” cost me $20 and right now the prize is close to $5000 and a $8000 camera. I definitely can dream.

My online friend Christian in Austria, who entered a competition and won a pretty good chunk of change and some nice binoculars on his first try!

So I guess no one’s perfect, except for Christian. Hopefully he quit while he was ahead. I spent another $6 on the “Child Photo Competition 1 2013”. I love this shot. It really violates a ton of the “rules” and I frankly don’t care.

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SLT-A99V, 85mm f/1.4 ZA @ f/1.4, ISO 100, 1/800s.

According to depth of field calculation, I had about four centimeters to work with at f/1.4 or less. I doubt I was a full two meters away. Kyle’s eye is slightly soft, but sharp enough. the true sharp parts of the photo are his shoulder leading into the trains, specifically what he is focused on. Everything else is a blur, which I imagine is how he is playing with his trains.

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.