Monday, March 24, 2008

Photo Forums in Decline?

Is it just me? Or does participation on many photography forums seem to be in decline?

I have no (scientific) empirical evidence to support my opinion but, it seems to me, photography forums have generally become less popular than they once were. Sure, the onset of Spring and the improved weather that comes with it might account for some people devoting less of their leisure time to things like surfing (and participating on) photo forums but, at the same time and as an example, I don't see a decline in traffic coming to this site. Besides, the decline in participation on photo forums seems to have been going on for quite some time now.

I suppose I should qualify my perceptions regarding this: I have no idea if traffic has declined at all the many photography forums that populate the internet, i.e., a significant drop-off in the number of surfers visiting these sites. I certainly don't have access to those sites' statistics and I don't visit enough different photo forums to know if my perceptions potentially represents a universal trend. But of the forums I generally visit, participation is noticeably down. By "participation," I'm referring to those visitors who actually post something on these forums, e.g., images, critiques, comments, or anything meaningful (or non-meaningful) beyond simply showing up and being a passive visitor, lurker, or looky-loo.

It's possible that participation on forums are cyclical and we're simply in one of those less-active cycles. I know I've been contributing less than I once did. There's no real reason (that I can think of) for my slow-down as an actively contributing member of more than a few forums. For whatever reasons, I've been less inclined to spend time sharing my thoughts and opinions. Maybe it's a case of photo-forum burnout? I really don't know.

Oh well. Things change. I have no idea if this is a permanent trend or a temporary one. It's just an observation. Time will tell.

The pretty girl at the top is Sunny Leone, 2003's Penthouse "Pet of the Year." The image is from a location shoot at an art gallery a few weeks ago. Sunny was a peach to work with. I lit her with two lights: A mainlight modified with a large, 4' Photoflex umbrella and a backlight using a small umbrella. I also used a Westcott 5-in-1 reflector, silver side out, to bounce in some front-fill. MUA was Melissa.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Back From Vegas: My WPPI Report

Leesa and I returned from our trip to Las Vegas last night. It was a fun and relaxing getaway. We stayed at the Meridian Luxury Suites and I can't say enough good things about that place! Our luxury suite, nestled within Meridian's gated resort, was a spacious, 1-bedroom condo outfitted with designer furnishings, marble floors, cathedral ceilings, fireplace, HD flat screens, complimentary internet, a balcony with a view and more! Unless you're the type who just has to stay in a hotel where the gambling is a mere elevator ride away, I recommend you make Meridian -- located just a couple of blocks off the strip -- your next home-away-from-home when visiting Las Vegas.

As I mentioned in my last update, we planned to attend the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) trade show and convention while in Vegas and we did. It was the first time I've attended WPPI and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so. I don't know how many people usually attend WPPI's events, but there were quite a few people, thousands of them, who showed up for this event.

Many manufacturers were exhibiting. The largest number of exhibitors were companies providing printing services and album and photo-book services. In fact, I'd say these companies made up between a third to a half of all the exhibitors attending. The balance of exhibitors were camera, lighting, software, and accessories manufacturers. Photo equipment retailers, e.g., B&H, Samy's, Calumet, and Adorama, were also in attendance. To my knowledge, none of the big manufacturers, like Canon, Nikon, Adobe, or others, made any notable announcements about new products.

I stopped by the Novatron booth which, I'll admit, wasn't attracting an abundance of interest... leastwise, while I was nearby. I introduced myself as a loyal Novatron user and the guy in the booth immediately hugged me. No. It wasn't *that* kind of a hug! It was a strictly platonic hug. Anyway, if you didn't know, I use Novatron's monolights for most of my stuff.

My new, platonic, Novatron friend showed me their latest product: a small, 150ws monolight. I'm pretty sure he told me the product hasn't yet made it to their catalogue. This unit is quite compact and sports all the usual functions. It has a digital display on the back, allowing users to see the adjustments they're making in tenth-of-a-stop increments and this new monolight automatically discharges power as you reduce the output. Best of all, these nifty units will be sold for about $200 each! As such, for the price of a single light from a few other manufacturers whose names I won't mention, I could buy a litter of these puppies and use them in all kinds of cool ways-- Especially for shooting glamour!

Anyway, I'm totally aware that Novatron's lighting products aren't as sexy as some of those other, high-priced units... like those from Hensel and others. (Even though Novatron's products, while not as sleek and sassy looking as some other brands, are reliable, built with quality, recycle fast, and maintain color temp just like the sexy, high-priced units.) But then, I'm not as sexy as many of those other pretty girl photographers... like those who shoot for Maxim and FHM and others. In fact, sometime later while I was loitering around the Hensel booth, I wondered out loud to a Hensel rep who had just quoted me a mind-boggling, sticker-shock, price-tag for one (1) of their portable kits: "You guys are good, there's no denying that," I told him. "But unless I'm asleep at the wheel, I don't think you're making gear that produces some new kind of X-File photon or uses one of those Back to the Future flux-capacitors to enhance the power, are you?"

I also spent some time (where else?) at the Canon booth. There, I chatted a bit with one of Canon's marketing guys. I told him I'm a web journalist and, after rolling his eyes a few times, he told me he's been with Canon for 27 years and has spoken with all kinds of journalists about Canon's products. With 27 years under his belt, I figured he must be knowledgeable enough for me to ask the tough questions-- Tougher questions than I'd ask, for instance, some young Canon kid who looks like he just graduated High School a few years ago.

Anyway, I figured I'd first stick with the crowd (to get his defenses down) by asking an obvious question in a round-about way: I asked him what other people, i.e., the majority of people, were mostly asking about. The 27-year Canon guy told me the most-asked question at the show was whether Canon is coming out with a new camera that will replace the 5D. (It's such an obvious question, right? That's why I made like it wasn't *ME* asking.) This, of course, turns out to be a question they don't give a straight answer to. In fact, they don't give any answer at all. All you get is a shrug and a smirk. Finally, after I pressed on a bit, he suggested I make plans to travel to Germany this fall to attend Photokina if I really want to find out the answer.

"Okay, smart guy," I thought to myself. "What else are people asking about?" I asked out loud.

He told me many people were hoping such a camera, i.e., a follow-on to the 5D, would include the self-cleaning sensor technology that comes aboard the 40D. Feeling a bit ballsy I told him that, in my opinion, the seals on the 5D truly suck (yeah, I used the word "suck") and that I also own a 20D and a 10D and, with those cameras, I've only had to clean the sensors once or twice each in all the time I've had them. But with the 5D and its sucky seals, sensor cleaning is a regular and often-required chore. He didn't respond to that one. Instead, he segued to some market research about what some of their big corporate clients are looking for in a next-generation camera.

Apparently, and this has nothing to do with sucky seals or sensor cleaning, the big corporate buyers -- especially companies like Reuters and others in the news-gathering fields -- are looking for a high-end, digital SLR that also has the ability to capture high-end, digital, video clips. (This probably amounts to an expansion, or next-generation, of Canon's "Live View" technology.)


If that happens, I think photographers and videographers, that is those who are hooked up with news bureaus... make that news bureaus who have a big online presence... are going to either be out of a job or, more likely and at the very least, they ought to think about doing some cross-training into each others' fields if they want to keep their jobs. It's simple math, right? If it takes two people with two different kinds of cameras to shoot stills and video for news reporting and then, suddenly, you can do both with one camera, it's only going to take on person to do that.

One company at the show hawking (what I thought) are some unique and innovative products and services is a company called, Digineg. What Digineg does is take digital images and converts them to film negatives and then stores the negatives in environmentally-controlled film vaults. Neat, huh? They claim their archiving solution provides a life-span of hundreds of years for the images!

Ya know, I might use these guys for some of my stuff. Only, of course, so that future generations will be able to see the genius in my pictures of pretty, naked, ladies. Is that considerate of me or what?

Well, in a nutshell, that was our trip to Sin City . As mentioned, it was fun and relaxing. Best of all -- since Leesa won this trip in a contest -- it was nearly free! Except, of course, for food, beverages, and the money we lost to the one-armed bandits.

The pretty girl at the top is Vivid girl, Monique Alexander, from... OMG! About three years ago! Damn. Time flies.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Becoming Less of a Photographer?

A few days ago, Rob Haggart (A Photo Editor) published an illuminating interview he titled, Interview with a *Big Shot* Art Buyer.

Haggart's title pretty much says it all: He, Haggart, asks questions and she, the "*Big Shot* Art Buyer," answers them. BTW, the occupation of "Art Buyer" might be a bit misleading to some of you. To clarify, Haggart didn't interview someone who buys paintings and sculptures for the Louvre or the Getty museums. He spoke with someone from the world of advertising, i.e., an advertising art buyer who, simply put, buys or contracts for art to be used in advertising, in this case, photographers and their art.

One of the questions Haggart asks in the interview really set me to thinking. Leastwise, the *Big Shot* art buyer's answer got me thinking. Haggart asks, "How important is photo-compositing in advertising photography and do you hire photographers who shoot everything “in camera” to work on campaigns that will need load of retouching?"

The *Big Shot* art buyer responds, "You should ask a photographer this question... they are the ones that are becoming less of a photographer and more of a computer tech person."


But you know what? She's right. She's absolutely right.

Like the *Big Shot* art buyer, I also think that photographers of all skill levels (and all levels of success) are becoming, or have become, less a photographer and more of a computer tech person.

Some of you might ask, "Yeah. So what? Is that a bad thing?"

Honestly, I don't know.

From a photography purist's point-of-view -- and I'm not saying I'm a purist -- it probably is a bad thing. But for those who look at this as an evolutionary change, it's simply the way things are-- In fact, these days, it's a requirement that photographers become computer savvy whether they are professionals or serious hobbyists.

So what is the *Big Shot* art buyer's bias concerning this issue? Is she a purist with a bad attitude towards it or simply an observer commenting on change? Again, I don't know. But I do detect a 'tude that doesn't seem like it includes a whole lot of admiration for this photography trend. But, I could be wrong.

Anyway, I'm heading out to Vegas in the morning. I'll let you know how the WPPI show was.

The gratuitous eye candy at the top is Carly from this past week.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Anyone Going to WPPI?

One of the things my partner in crime, Leesa J, enjoys doing is entering online sweepstakes and contests. It appears she has the Luck of the Irish!

Leesa recently won a St. Patty's Day contest that includes a couple of nights (for two) in Sin City at a posh resort. It's not a hotel, although this resort is located just a block off the strip, but one of those swanky places where you stay in a luxury bungalow or condo with plenty of amenities. Also included is a St. Patrick's Day evening where we'll be whisked away in grand style (by limo) to an authentic Irish Pub for dinner, drinks, and to enjoy the Gaelic festivities! So, this coming Sunday, Leesa and I will be heading up to Las Vegas for some fun.

Coincidentally, WPPI (the Wedding & Portrait Photographers International Convention and Tradeshow) is taking place while we'll be in Vegas. Serendipity anyone? Guess what we're going to check out while we're there?

If any of you PGS readers are also planning to attend WPPI, drop me a line (if you're so inclined) and maybe we can meet at the show and say "Hi!" to each other.

If you're not planning to attend the show, I'll be writing some reportage about it after we get back. Maybe we'll snap a pic or two to post along with that report.

Speaking of snapping pics, the pretty girl at the top is one from a bunch of pics I snapped just today. She's Ms. Sunny Leone, 2003 Penthouse "Pet of the Year."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Brits On the Lookout For "Odd" Photographers

Are you a photographer? Do you carry a camera? Are you odd? Do you and your camera pose a threat to national security? (i.e., British national security or, for that matter, anyone's national security?) Or are you simply a criminal with a camera?

These and other questions weigh heavily on the minds of the United Kingdom's law enforcement personnel.

Last week, as reported in an article in Amateur Photographer, a UK online magazine, British police defended their anti-terror photo campaign: A campaign which targets odd people or people acting odd or maybe odd people acting odd (I'm really not sure which) who also happen to be carrying cameras. The graphical artwork at the top--which seems more than slightly Orwellian to me--is part of the Brits' aggressive media campaign.

The UK, BTW, boasts one of the highest populations of crime-preventing CCTV surveillance cameras in the world! And it seems British police are especially concerned, as part of their anti-terror photo campaign, about (odd) people with cameras taking pictures of... well, of other cameras: Cameras, in this case, being of the CCTV variety. I'm pretty sure all those UK-based, crime-preventing, CCTV cameras have done a really bang-up job of capturing images of the crimes they didn't manage to prevent as well as pics of the (apparently) unpreventable criminals who were not prevented from committing said crimes. So, I can see why the Brits are concerned about, amongst other things, cameras capturing images of the cameras which are capturing images of.... well, of the (odd) people with cameras who are capturing images of the cameras that are capturing images of them-- the odd photographers themselves. (As well as the unpreventable criminals [and terrorists] who, I suppose, the odd photographers might be working with.) Whew! That gets confusing!

It's been my observation that many Americans could give a royal shite less about what goes on, as they say, "across the pond." (Whoever "they" are?) But being the ever-vigilant paranoid that I often am, I get concerned about some of this kind of crap happening here, on this side of the pond. Please remember that George Orwell was a Brit. (See the connection?) And a few of Orwell's books (e.g., "1984," and "Animal Farm") are required reading for many high schoolers here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave. (Leastwise, they were when I went to H.S. back during the last Ice Age.) And while most people understand that Orwell's tales are cautionary, these days it seems like a few of Georgie's cautionary visions have (or might) come to pass.

I think I'm making a point somewhere in this entry, perhaps a cautionary one, and one that is also photography related... or maybe not? If I did (make a point, that is) it's one you'll probably have to determine for yourself. And just so no one feels cheated by me posting a (possibly) pointless update with only that bit of British, police-state, poster art to accompany it, here's a sexy pic of my good friend, Kori Rae, I snapped sometime back. I decided on using this particular image of Kori because I thought the color of her negligee almost matches the background color of the British, anti-odd-photographer-criminal/terrorist, warning poster.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Some Glamour Lighting Diagrams

Kenn Ellis, of Kenn Ellis Photographics, sent along a link to a site,, that has some effective lighting schemes explained and diagrammed. As employed by the photographer, they have an obvious emphasis on glamour but are very usable for other types of portraiture.

I'm always interested in seeing these kinds of lighting diagrams, especially when they include an image of a hot model and, in addition to the lighting diagram, some tech info regarding the image. The images employ one, two, or three light sources and are quite simple to duplicate yet very effective in their results.

Thanks Kenn! I'm sure more than a few PGS readers will appreciate the heads-up on this link.

The pretty girl straddling that sign (or whatever it is) and accompanying this update is Alexa from a few months ago.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Career Connundrums

For some time now, I've felt like I'm at a crossroads or an impasse or some turning point in my photography career. With more and more intensity, I feel the need to venture forth and boldly go, photographically, where I haven't gone before. I'm not referring to the artistic or stylistic aspects of my work, whatever they might be, it's more about the career itself. Make that, it's more about money. I suppose I'm getting materialistic in my old age. And to get more of what I want, I think I'm going to have to move into a whole different area of photography.

It's true I make my living photographing pretty girls in varying stages of dress and undress. Sometimes I feel like I make a fairly decent living doing this. Other times I feel like my career is in the toilet. It's been real up and down that way. And lately, it's been more down than up. It probably has more than a little to do with me: I simply don't go out of my way to hustle the work like I once did. Lazy? Maybe. Bored? Certainly to some degree.

I know there's a lot of shooters who would love to be making their livings doing what I'm doing. After all, when I get up to go to work it means heading off to some location where someone's going to pay me to photograph a sexy young lady in her birthday suit. I'm not complaining about that. I love having sexy young ladies strutting their stuff for me in their birthday suits. I just feel I've gone about as far as I'm likely to go in the business of shooting sexy, naked, pretty girls.

So what to do? Where should I focus? What genre of photography should I pursue?

I've thought a lot about this and, recently, I've tried my hand at a few different things. For instance, I've shot some family and event photography. But I'm not really sold on the financial future of doing so. These days, it seems like everyone has a friend or a relative with a digital SLR who is willing to shoot their wedding or children for little or no pay. I've written before about the bar being lowered--the quality bar--and nothing, in my mind, has changed regarding my opinion that fewer and fewer consumers these days seem able to recognize the difference between good photography and mediocre snapshots, albeit properly exposed and focused mediocre snapshots. (Mostly due to advances in camera technologies, thank you very much.) Or maybe they can see the difference and they just don't care as long as the price is right? (Right being cheap or free.)

Fashion is one area I'd love to pursue but breaking into that industry seems almost insurmountable for a guy my age. (Anyone who doesn't believe ageism is alive and well, especially in a youth-driven market like fashion, is probably someone who would vote for George Bush--assuming George could run for President again--because they believe he and his cronies are doing a first class job leading this country into the 21st Century.)

I'm fairly sure I'm also too old to become a photo-journalist. The entry-level positions in that industry are hotly pursued by a new batch of recent college grads every year. Besides, I have very little personal interest in photo-journalism as a career for myself.

Two areas of photography I'd like to pursue are editorial and commercial. (Both of which I have some experience with and a fair amount of interest in doing.)

Commercial photography seems the easier of the two to break into. The kind of commercial photography I think I'm going to go after is corporate work. I've done a fair amount of corporate media work over the years and I know something about how that game is played. And it still seems to be an area of photography where excellence is valued. A fair amount of corporate work is portrait photography (both environmental and traditional) and I think I have a good eye for that kind of stuff. My lighting skills will be a great asset there as well.

Editorial is another matter and it presents far greater challenges in terms of scoring gigs. But frankly, if I can get a few photo editors to look at my work--and they like it--I think I could realistically take a shot at it.

Anyway, that's what I've been thinking a lot about these days. It doesn't mean I'm suddenly going to quit what I'm doing. I ain't stupid and I still got some mouths that count on me for feed, my own included. I think it's going to be a transitory process where I continue shooting pretty girls while, at the same time, I actively pursue both my editorial and corporate photography goals. Hopefully, the latter two will slowly become the mainstay of my income and the former will continue to fill in the gaps, if that makes sense. In a nutshell, I'm looking at options and searching for opportunities and I'll go wherever the yellow brick road takes me and the almighty buck beckons me.

The pretty girl at the top is Lorena from a shoot last fall. She had some clothes on when we started shooting but all of sudden... BAM! She was nekkid! Go figure. (If I was paying more attention, I would have had her take that thing off her wrist. 20/20 hindsight and all that.)

Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm Back!


AT&T came through and installed the phone line with DSL. Actually, they only brought it to the outside of the house. Fortunately, my son-in-law is quite clever and handy and he completed the installation. Handy son-in-laws can be quite handy that way.

Yep! I'm back in communication with the world at large! It feels great. And even though my cell phone barely works where I'm now living--I don't know where the nearest tower might be--I can now, at least, call forward it to my land-line phone when I'm home and, well, all is now well.

It was totally weird (and quite disconcerting) having my communications capabilities severely limited for the past week or two. It's amazing how we take all this for granted. I guess you never know how much you might miss some of these technologies until they're suddenly gone or seriously limited. I don't think I'd make much of a hermit. Not only do I need to be around people, I need to be in touch with them too! Leastwise, I need to know I can be in touch with them if I want or need to be.

Anyway, I'll be getting back to the oh-so-serious subject of photographing pretty girls in my next update... which will be imminently and quickly forthcoming.

The sexy lady at the top is Paola from a shoot late last year. Somehow, her panties seemed to have slipped off her shapely bottom! Now how'd that happen?