Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Tale of Fixin' the Old and Bringin' in the New

Jennifer, Chilinic, and his Mama, Flickinic.
Last Monday, I was shooting some personal project stuff with my friend, Diana, performing the modeling chores. We had trekked to a cool location I spotted a few weeks earlier while driving back from another friend's place. My other friend is Jennifer and she has a small horse ranch not too far from my home.

One of Jennifer's horses had recently given birth and Jenn had asked me to shoot some pics she could use to register her new colt, Chili, a.k.a., Chilinic, with the official quarter horse registry.  I'm no cowboy, that's for sure, but I am a camera-slinging Paladin -- Have Camera Will Travel -- so I was happy to oblige... Ma'am.

Diana and I had just gotten started shooting our theme-based, personal-project pics when my camera suddenly went bonkers. I was shooting with a Lensbaby (for the first time ever) and, at first, I thought the Lensbaby had messed up. That's because I had won the Lensbaby in an eBay auction but the seller broke it while packing it for shipping so he returned my money and sent it to me anyway, free of charge.  My son-in-law, however, got his hands on it and was able to fix my new and broken novelty lens by completely disassembling it, applying a bit of crazy glue to the internal part that was broken, and putting it back together. Free Lensbaby! Gotta love that. And it works perfectly!

Snapped with the Lensbaby before my camera broke.
I pulled the Lensbaby off my Canon 5D classic, thinking it was the problem, but instead discovered the mirror had fallen off inside my camera. Bummer! To make matters worse, before heading out to shoot with Diana I had moved some gear around from bag to bag and, as a result, managed to head out to the somewhat remote location, like a dumb-ass, without a backup camera. (Insert hard face-palm slap.) So, not only was my 5Dc toast, but so was the shoot. Again, bummer.  (Note: If you might think some of my personal photography is a bit weird, you may be right. I prefer to think of it as "experimenting." I can still competently snap a pretty girl pic or two -- and more -- without the "weird" factor attached, and I can do so consistently and on demand. Just bragging... I mean saying.)

After I arrived back home, I shared my misfortunes with a few people online. One of them told me Canon would repair my camera for free! Say what??? Yep. It seems the mirror issue is a long-known problem with that camera model. I called Canon the next day and, sure enough, even though my 5D is about 7 years old with hundreds of thousands of shutter actuations, they'll fix it gratis, including paying for the shipping back and forth from me to Canon. (Canon just renewed my long-time, 30-year-plus, brand loyalty.)  The friend who told me about the free repair said it happened to him as well and, not only did Canon repair the problem, when his camera came back it had undergone something of a transformation: They had given it a complete cleaning, inside and out, including inside the view finder, and it suddenly looked and acted like a new camera again. 

But the story gets better. Way better!

Rear view glam snap. Click to enlarge.
Another friend, someone I've met once and who is a long-time reader of this blog, contacted me after seeing my Facebook stuff regarding what happened with my camera. Because of my camera mirror misfortune, he asked if I might be interested in purchasing his backup camera, a gently used Canon 5DmkII.  Buying a new camera body wasn't on my radar -- except maybe for a Fuji XT-1 which I'd love to have but still don't have immediate plans to purchase -- but I still asked him how much? You know, out of curiosity and courtesy if little else. In response, he said he was gonna make me an offer I could not refuse.

When he told me the offer, I immediately realized it was, indeed, one I could not refuse! I told him his offer was nearly too good to be true but he replied that I've helped him much with his photography over the years, via the blog and more, and as a result he feels he owes me. I assured him he didn't owe me anything but he insisted his offer was genuine and sincere. He also told me to shut up and suggested I accept his offer in the spirit it was being extended.

Well, since he put it that way... plus me not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, my friend Jennifer's horses notwithstanding, I accepted his kind offer and immediately PayPal'd him the incredibly kind (and relatively paltry) amount he was asking for the camera.  According to USPS tracking, my new (to me) Canon 5DmkII will arrive today!  I'm stoked!  I'll be shipping my broken 5DmkI to Canon on Monday and, when it comes back, freshly cleaned and newly mirrored, it will be relegated to backup/2nd-cam camera status. (Not that I don't still love my 5D classic. I do!) And I still want a Fuji XT-1, but that's another story.

My photography and blogging karma it seems, is in the green! Yep!. Apparently, it's intact with a balance on the plus side of the column. Thank you so much! (You know who you are.) As requested, I'm respecting your request for anonymity.

By the way, this is my 999th update. Thought I'd mention that because that means my next update will be my 1000th post to this blog!  One thousand updates! Talk about milestones!  (Patting myself on the back while high-fiving myself... which is tricky since, like most people, I only have two arms and two hands.) I'll be posting number 1000 on the 4th of July which also happens to be the Pretty Girl Shooter blog's 8th anniversary! Nice how it works out that way. Even those who aren't particularly impressed with my writing or my photography must, at least, give me credit for persistence if nothing else.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Striving for Technical Perfection

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If there's one thing I've learned from shooting pretty girls for a lot of years, it's that the more time and effort I spend striving to achieve technical perfection in my photos, the overall worse my photos are likely to be.

Not only was Andreas Feininger perfectly correct when he observed that technically perfect photos can be the most boring photos, I think he understated his comment.  Personally, I think many technically perfect or near-perfect photos -- due to the time, effort, and attention to the tech stuff they often require, often at the expense of time, effort, and attention to the models -- can produce not only boring photos but worse: photos that suck. Photos that have little to no spark of life in them. Photos nearly void of human emotions. Decidedly unmemorable photos.

If I were, say, a landscape photographer, I would probably spend much more time paying attention to the technical aspects of my photography.  After all, while there's plenty of life depicted in many landscape images, the life we mostly see in them isn't about emotions and attitudes. It's simply about beauty and other elements that may appeal to viewers. The only emotions produced in most landscape photos are the emotions produced in the minds of their viewers. And landscape photographers don't ordinarily photograph their images' viewers as they're looking at the photos.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the tech stuff isn't important. It is. But for most portraiture, it's not *the* most important element. When it comes to the technical aspects of many, if not most portraits, good enough is, well good enough.  What is good enough? Sorry. I can't define it perfectly. But I know it when I see it. It's somewhere between generally good and perfect.

More than a few photo forums and it's members seem way too focused on the technical details of their images and the images of others. I'll take a stab at a ratio and guess that technical comments outpace comments aimed at the emotional content of any given portrait by about two or three to one.  Perhaps even more.

Photographers who are starting out or who haven't developed their technical skills to a "good enough" level, should be fairly focused on the tech stuff. That is, until they reach that "good enough" stage and then their focus should shift, mainly to the other stuff. The soft skills stuff. The emotional projection stuff.

I could, of course, be wrong about this. But I don't think I am. Regardless, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

"A beautiful thing is rarely perfect." ~Egyptian proverb.

The pretty girl at the top is Coco. The image isn't perfect. But from a technical standpoint, it's good enough.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Getting in Touch with Our Inner Photographers

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I've been a glamour shooter for a lot of years. I truly love shooting glam, nude, tease, that stuff. Probably, because I love being around beautiful, sexy, women who, more often than not, end up being beautiful, sexy, naked women in front of my camera. What's not to love about that? (Short of being a gay guy or something.) But gay-guy shooters probably love being around handsome, sexy, naked men for the same reasons I love being around their models' female counterparts. What a surprise! Not.

If you've been checking out my blog lately, you may have noticed I've been shooting some decidedly non-glamour stuff. It's personal stuff but it's still my work and I love shooting it. In fact, lately I've been loving shooting those sorts of pics -- editorial like pics -- more so than shooting beautiful, sexy, naked pretty girl pics. Go figure.

And go figure is what I've been trying to do. I've been trying to figure out why that is? (You know, beyond it simply representing a change and being different from what I've mostly been shooting for the last many years.) As you may have already guessed, I've decided on a few possible reasons other than this new stuff is new... to me. And different... for me.

As silly or psycho-babble-ish as it sounds, I think what I've done is gotten in touch with my inner photographer. I think I've done that without realizing that's what I've been trying to do. Until now, that is.

It's easy to ignore your inner photographer while you're shooting stuff, for pay, that may or may not be part of you inner photographer's true-calling photography. That's because, of course, you're getting paid to shoot it. You don't question your motives for shooting it because your primary motive is simply making a living and we all have to make a living, whether it's with cameras in our hands or doing something else.

That's not to say my inner photographer isn't 'into' shooting beautiful, sexy, naked women, it is... but here's what (sorta) makes me think, at least in part, that my inner photographer isn't all that into shooting those sorts of models: I almost never, and I mean nearly never, do anything at all, spend any time at all, arranging or trying to arrange personal shoots with beautiful, sexy, (will be naked during the shoot) models.   Instead, the personal shoots I set up are anything but glamour photography shoots.

That might simply be a product of pretty girl overkill in my photographic life. I've shot a bazillion beautiful, sexy, naked women and it may be that I'm simply over it in some ways. Well, perhaps not over it but that it has lost much of its allure, luster, and appeal in some ways. Or, it simply could be because shooting beautiful, sexy, naked women is work -- as pleasurable as that work may often be -- and shooting other stuff isn't. Isn't work, that is.

So which is it?  Is shooting this new stuff a product of my true inner photographer? Or, is it simply because it represents shooting pics that aren't part of my usual and customary repertoire? Work repertoire at that. I'm leaning towards the inner photographer thing. I'm not sure why, but I am. And I certainly could be wrong. Completely wrong.

Here's my advice to other photographers, not just those who are at the "just starting out" points with their photography, but many more of you: Shoot what you love shooting. That's not to say you shouldn't shoot other things but shoot what something inside you, your inner photographer for lack of a better name, is trying to tell you to shoot.  Don't feel obliged to follow the herd. You don't need to prove you can shoot a pretty model as well as others can shoot them simply because you have some some gear or learned a few techniques to help you do that.  That gear and those techniques can likely be applied to shooting plenty of other things and many other genres besides pretty models, naked or otherwise.

I may never be a professional editorial photographer even if I'm currently thinking that's who my inner photographer might actually be. Or, maybe my inner photographer is some other sort of other photographer? I'm not 100% sure about it, one way or another. Not yet. Perhaps never. But I think I'm going to try to find out even if, in the end, I don't truly find out. Who knows? Ultimately, I may find that my inner photographer actually is a pretty girl shooter. One never knows, do one? (But I'm going to try and find out anyway.)

My inner photographer told my inner blogger to still post a pretty girl pic at the top of this update in spite of my ramblings today so...

The pretty girl at the top is Ally. I know it's merely a head shot but she is beautiful, sexy, and naked! (Even if her nakedness isn't revealed in the photo.)

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Shooting Outside My Box (Again)

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My box is a comfortable place. Well, to me it is. It's not everyone's box. It's mine and I know my way around it from all the corners, up and down its walls, and across it's ceiling and floor.  I've written about this before. The notion of shooting "outside the box" doesn't reflect some universal box. There is no one-size-fits-all box that reflects an imaginary and metaphorical photographic "box" that shooters either capture their photos from within or without. Instead, there are boxes and there are boxes. They're not all the same. My personal box is unlike many others' boxes while being similar to the boxes of some. My box represents a small percentage of some overall "box" that might, somehow, represent the entire world of photo-shooting boxes. (Assuming such a universal box exists, which I doubt it does.)

50mm prime on 5D classic w/Pro Mist 3. Click to Enlarge.
Last Sunday, I went out again with my friend, Diana, to shoot some "outside Jimmy's box" photos. Our goal wasn't for me to shoot outside my box even if that was what I was mostly doing. Our goals, Diana's and mine, were to shoot some cool pics, as vague as that sounds. We weren't trying to shoot outside any box. We weren't going for "edgy." I suppose we were going for "different," in an editorial style, but "different" is an entirely vague term as well, much like "edgy." As important as shooting something different was for us, we were (most of all) intent on having a good time shooting while exercising our creative minds which, in itself, is often a good time. Leastwise, for creative people who, I'm pretty sure, we both qualify as being.

Diana took care of the wardrobe and the modeling and I picked the location (Vasquez Rocks, in Agua Dulce, CA) and performed camera duty. We had discussed those things and more, quite a bit in fact, prior to shooting. So, it wasn't like Diana showed up with clothing that was a big surprise to me or I began snapping pictures of the sort that were a surprise to her.  We had our themes and goals and more pretty much nailed down before the shoot, including the props we intended to use.

Photographically, there were a couple of things I wanted to do. First, I wanted to shoot some of it with my cheap, plastic, Holga lens I had ordered from China... and I did. Using the Holga represented mounting a $16 piece of molded plastic -- plastic optics and all -- on a high-tech, $3600, camera body.  Low-tech meets high-tech as it were.  Personally, I'm a fan of low-fi, Lomo-like images. Often enough, the results are surprising. Surprising in good ways, that is.

Both Snapped with the Holga Lens. Click to Enlarge
Second, I wanted to use a couple of Pro Mist filters.  I had bought the Pro Mist filters years back but I had originally purchased them for shooting video, not stills.  Recently, I came across those filters stored in a box -- I had bought three of them, Pro Mist 1, 2, 3, but seem to have lost the Pro Mist 2 somewhere along the way -- and decided to get a couple of adapter rings so I could screw the filters onto my Canon "nifty-fifty" 50mm f/1.8 lens and another lens. (The "nifty-fifty" is another cheap, mostly plastic lens. But it's one that's eons ahead of the Holga in terms of the traditional quality of the images it produces; images every bit as good, if not better, than many lenses costing hundreds of dollar more.)

Captured with Pro Mist filter on my Canon "nifty-fifty." Click to Enlarge.

Of course I also shot without the filters-- with my "nifty-fifty" as well as my Canon 85mm f/1.8 and my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8.

Tamron 28-75, ISO 200, f/5.6 at 75mm. No filter. Click to Enlarge.
In all, it was lots of fun! The shoot was refreshing (for me) and creatively invigorating (for both of us.)  Yep! I was shooting outside my personal box and loving it! (As most of you probably know, my personal box is glamour.)

Here's one more of Diana below. It was shot with my Canon 85mm, f/1.8 prime with a Pro Mist filter screwed on. When Diana saw this photo, she said, "Wow! I wouldn't want to mess with me!"  Diana and I are already planning our next shoot. Should be fun again! In fact, I'm sure it will be. We have a completely different theme and location planned.   For you techies and gear heads, I should mention I recently purchased a Yongnuo YN568EX II speedlite and I used it, off-camera, as a fill light for many (if not most) of these photos, including the Holga images.  So far, I'm fairly impressed with that flash, more so considering its modest price.

Canon 85mm f/1.8 prime with Pro Mist filter. Click to Enlarge.