Monday, September 21, 2015

Creative Pokes (Part Two)

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For about 15 years, I worked for a rather large corporation: Lear Siegler.  At the division where I worked, I was their in-house video production guy, a job which also also included a fair amount of product photography. Example-- sometimes being their video and photography guy included hanging out the side of a single-engine Cesna (tethered with the passenger door removed) as I video recorded and photographed one of their products, an experimental reconnaissance drone, during test flights over the Mojave Desert. (And you thought all I've ever professionally shot has been pretty girls. Fellow photographers, please.)

Lear Siegler Inc. was comprised of many divisions all over the country.  (For a time, LSI even owned Smith & Wesson.)  I worked, primarily, in Santa Monica, CA, at their Astronics division. I also sometimes worked at their Developmental Sciences division, which was located in Ontario, CA.

 Primarily, Lear Astronics designed and manufactured flight control systems for military aircraft-- from the F-16 to the Tomahawk cruise missile and on to the stealth fighter and stealth bomber, Astronics was a major player in military flight control technologies and more.

The original Lear Corp., prior to merging with the Siegler Corp., was founded by Bill Lear. Bill Lear is most famous for giving the world the Lear Jet. Bill was an inventor, creator, and technology developer extraordinaire. Example: The "Lear Jet Stereo 8" cartridge audio device was soon marketed to consumers as -- yep, you guessed it --  the 8-Track stereo tape player. Interestingly, Bill's most famous (and possibly most successful) endeavor, the Lear Jet, is the reason Bill resigned from the board of Lear Siegler and sold his shares in the company. You see, the board thought Bill's idea to develop and produce a small commercial jet was a really bad idea and (probably driving that notion) a too-costly idea. So, they nixed it. Bill, in turn, said sayonarra to Lear Sielger and went his own way to develop and manufacture the aircraft without them. That aspect of Bill's life and legacy is a notable part of aviation history.

Because of Bill Lear's creativity influence on Lear Siegler, and even more so on the Astronics division (where I worked) because that's where Bill himself once worked, ideas were always very encouraged. (We still had a few employees at the division who once worked directly with Bill.) The Astronics division instituted some robust internal programs which actively encouraged and fostered employees -- from engineers to assembly line workers -- to share their ideas. And they rewarded them for ideas which were, ultimately, implemented!  Those rewards also included the company sharing ownership of any patents or trademarks which might result from an employee's idea. Astronics regularly held "brainstorming" sessions among groups of it's employees. (On company time, of course.)  The prime directive of those sessions was: There is no such thing as a bad idea!

"There is no such thing as a bad idea" gets me back to what I'm writing about, i.e., creative pokes. If you treat all your ideas as good or bad, you will probably leave your self-described "bad ideas" in the dust. Potentially, those "bad ideas" might have led to some really good ideas but you'll never know that because you kicked your "bad ideas" to the curb.

You see, with some added work, brainstorming, developing, pokes, whatever you want to call it, all your ideas, good or bad, are worthy of pursuing to some degree, at least at first and for a time. I guarantee if you do so, you will either A) turn your ho-hum, not-so-great, possibly lackluster or even turd of an idea into an idea worth pursuing, one with luster. less turd-like, and more or B) it will often lead you to another idea, perhaps one completely different, that is worth pursuing. That's how many people's creative minds work.

When it comes to ideas, we are often our own worst enemies because we too often eighty-six them before we give them a chance to bloom into something worth developing more. Course, your not-so-great idea might remain a not-so-good idea but you'll never truly know that unless you give it, at the very least, a half a chance to bloom or to morph into something else, i.e. a good idea. Sometimes, a truly stellar idea!

The gratuitous eye-candy at the top is Jennifer. Pic was snapped at a location house in the Silverlake District of Los Angeles. I used a 5' Photoflex Octo for my main, pretty much on-axis with the model, plus a small, shoot-through, umbrella, camera-left, to the rear of the model for an accent light. The French windows provided the balance of the light for the image.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Two Birds, One Stone

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It's not often I get to knock off two (metaphorical) birds with a single (also metaphorical) stone but I did it. Leastwise, today I did.

My good buddy, Dan Hostettler, of Studio Prague, asked me to write an article  (of sorts)  for his web site. It's the same sort of thing I might author for the Pretty Girl Shooter blog, only Dan posted more pretty girl pics along with my words than I would have.

I've started working on Part Two of my most recent blog update but I don't think I'm going to get it done for a few days or so.  So, in the interim, perhaps you'd be interested in reading the article I wrote for Dan?

CLICK HERE to read my Studio Prague ramblings. I titled it, "Spray-n-Pray?  Quality Before Quantity!"

The pretty girl at the top is Sarah. It's a one-light portrait  -- I forget which modifier I used but probably something on the larger side rather than the smaller, perhaps my 5' Photoflex Octo. I snapped it at a practical location (a condo) in the hills above Warner Bros. in Burbank, CA.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Creative Pokes (Part One)

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As photographers, we often come up with new ideas regarding what we want to shoot, how we want to shoot, where and when we want to shoot, that sort of stuff. Sometimes, our ideas slowly materialize in our photographic consciousness. Other times, they hit us suddenly, like thunderbolts and seemingly out of nowhere!

So where do our shooting ideas come from? Both the slowly appearing ideas as well as the suddenly-out-of-nowhere ideas?  Obviously, they come from within and without.  Sometimes, they seem to arrive purely from within-- regardless of whether that's 100% accurate or true -- while other times, they poke us from without. When they poke us from without, the pokes act like sparks or catalysts for spontaneous shooting ideas suddenly appearing from within, albeit prompted from without... if that makes sense.
There are some people who believe in "Divine Inspiration."  I'm guessing some photographers also believe in that notion. You know, that some creative ideas are "God-given."  Me? I don't believe in divine inspiration. Not even a little bit. In my mind, anyone waiting for divine inspiration for shooting ideas (or any other sorts of creative ideas) has a long wait in store for themselves.

Michelangelo, in my mind, was not divinely inspired to paint the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. Instead, I'm confident it was the patronage of a pope that gave him the idea, at least in part, and motivated him with more earthly rewards.  Yeah, some of you might disagree -- in whole or in part -- but that's my opinion and I'm sticking with it.  I also don't believe God inspired Mikey to sculpt the Pietà. The Pietà is an extraordinary work of art, for sure. In fact, I once saw the Pietà when it was on display at the 1964 World's Fair in NY --  I'm that old, although I was quite young then -- and to this day I vividly remember it. But was it divinely inspired? Not in my book. IMO, any artist who claims their work is divinely inspired simply has a hyper-inflated sense of self-importance. There's probably a psycho-babble term for that, one with the word "syndrome" or "disorder" attached to the end of it, but I don't know what that term might be. I'm a photographer, dammit. Not a psycho-analyst.

Back to those non-divine sparks and catalysts for ideas that sometimes poke us: Do they accidentally poke? Are they lucky pokes? Does serendipity play a poking part? Do we need to be in the right places at the right times to be creatively and spontaneously poked?

Occasionally, I suppose, all those notions might be true. More often than not, though, I'm pretty sure we have to purposely look to be poked, i.e., we need to go a bit out of our way to make ourselves available for poking. You know, make ourselves open to pokes. Search them out. Being open to those often-elusive, inspirational, idea-generating pokes means putting ourselves in places, not just physical places (although certainly those too) but mental places where the creative pokes have a better chance of, well, poking us in ways that spark creative ideas.

And here's how you do it, leastwise, how I think it's done:

Step One: Hopefully, you already realize there's no such thing as a  bad creative idea. There are only creative ideas. Creative ideas, especially at first, aren't necessarily good or bad because those ideas come in a variety of degrees of completeness. What one person might think of as a bad idea another might perceive as being merely an incomplete idea or simply the germ of an idea. They're much like stepping-stone ideas. You know, creative ideas that might not seem like great ideas at first, on their own, but are still ideas that lead us to other ideas or bigger and better ideas... like a path or, well, like stepping stones.

Here's an uber-simple example: Your new idea is to shoot landscapes. Well gee! That's great. Isn't that special? Bonne idée, homme!  But as good an idea as that might sound, at least initially, it's an entirely incomplete idea. Generically, landscapes cover a lot of terrain. (Pun intended.)  Besides, to have the idea to begin shooting landscapes is, frankly, an idea about a gazillion other photographers have already had and a gazillion more will have. You see, your idea to shoot landscapes is only a good idea in terms of it being (sort of a ) stepping-stone idea. A poke, if you will.

To make your germ of an idea even better, how about narrowing things down a bit? How about shooting landscapes which feature beautiful rolling hills in the countryside? Okay. That might be a better idea. Not particularly original or seldom-seen but, at the very least, a little more complete.   So how about photographing rolling hills in the countryside all captured around dawn or dusk?  What if your dawn or dusk images of rolling hills in the countryside also include old abandoned barns, farmhouses, or other abandoned structures as thematic elements?  Now we're talking a more complete creative idea, a more narrowly focused idea. Perhaps even a better idea even if it's one we've all seen before. You get where I'm going with this?

Well, if not (or if so) I'll be back soon to expand on this subject a bit more. I'm still narrowing my focus for my follow-on update about being creatively poked and, as a result of such pokes, developing creative ideas that lead to creative images.

The gratuitous eye candy at the top is Devin. I snapped it in a residential house. It's a combination of a single strobe -- a monobloc modified with a 5' Photoflex Octo -- ambient, and window light. (Coming from a bank of overhead windows, framed out of the shot.)  ISO 100, f/3.5 @ 125th with a Canon 5D (classic) and an 85mm prime.