Skip to content

New location

September 29, 2009

The site you are looking for (the new home of the blog) is here –>


Fear of Public Speaking

September 23, 2009

This isn’t really photography related, per se. The other day I was teaching a photography workshop. There were 33 people there, which is a pretty good showing. As I understand it, fear of public speaking is one of the most common phobias around. I just don’t get it. I don’t mean to be unsympathetic, I simply don’t understand it.

I guess mostly because I have the exact opposite reaction. I love speaking before large crowds! I’ve been doing live photography workshops for nearly two years. Before that, I’ve done volunteer work teaching lectures on topics ranging from economics to recycling to hazardous waste disposal. I’ve always enjoyed being in front of crowds.

In my photography workshops, I’ve presented to groups as small as a single person (more than once, I’m sad to say) to well over 50. More important than the size of the crowd in absolute numbers is the relative “crowdedness” of the space we are in. The presentation I gave Monday had 33 people in a circular room approximately 30′ in diameter. It was well packed without feeling uncomfortably crowded. It was perfect.

Fifty people in a room designed to hold 150 would not feel as good. Although there is clearly a certain intimacy to be found in very small gatherings (one-on-one or me presenting to just two or three people), I really do prefer the dynamic that comes from interacting with a larger group.

Once you get more than fifteen or twenty people together, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll find one or two bold enough to ask questions or make comments. That usually emboldens several others who might otherwise be too timid to be the first to speak. On the whole, I think everyone benefits from having these people among them.

When it’s just me speaking, with no feedback to guide me as to the interests or concerns of the audience, the information I present may come off as somewhat random. I always feel that more value is conveyed when people tell me what it is they want to learn.


September 22, 2009

Over this past weekend, I went out shooting. As is common for me lately, I took more than one camera. Normally, I like for each of the pictures I take to stand on its own merit. Most often, my photos are auto-sorted by file name when I look at them on my computer. Once I’ve graded them, they are sorted by ranking (best ones first) and sub-sorted by file name.

When you are using multiple cameras, even if they are the same brand and use the same naming convention, the files names will never mesh. Nor would you want them to. If you had duplicate file names, you run the risk of your files overwriting each other. This would cause you to lose pictures.

So your files will be clustered in groups, based on which camera they came from. The problem is, if you switch back and forth between cameras during an event and then later want to sort your photos in chronological order, it can’t be done sorting by file name. You would have to sort them by time stamp. (Based on the time and date when the pictures were taken.)

As I already said, I generally like for each of my photos to stand on its own so it’s rare that I even bother with trying to sort them chronologically. This weekend was one of those rare exceptions. It’s also when I learned a hard lesson that I now wish to impart to you.

The clocks on my cameras were not synchronized. Depending on the nature of the event, sometimes even a few minutes difference can throw the sequence completely off. In my case, one camera was set for daylight savings time while the other was not. In addition to that, they were also off by a few minutes. So one camera’s clock was about an hour and 12 minutes faster than the other’s.

Through a fair amount of effort and some fancy batch processing, I was able to get them all synchronized but I learned a lesson from this and immediately synchronized the clocks on my cameras. You should do the same.

Interesting use of tax dollars

September 21, 2009

Flickr is a hodge podge of photographic presentation. There are some good photos, some mind-blowingly amazing photos, many truly bad photos and more than a few profane photos. One really interesting and terrific use of our tax dollars is that the Library of Congress has begun taking photos from its archives, digitizing them and posting them online. They may be available in places other than Flickr but that’s where I usually look at what they post.

Many of the photos they post are obscure but they provide a wonderful window into what American life was like in past eras. To check out the Library of Congress‘ Flickr stream, click here.

The “good enough” trap

September 16, 2009

For me, this summer has been a photo extravaganza. I’ve managed to fill my summer with many short little day trips to interesting and photogenic places and events. (I have even more planned for the remainder of the year.) In most respects, this is a good thing.

As of this morning, I had well over 1,000 photos in my “to be processed” queue. I’ve taken many more than that. Generally speaking, I’m pretty quick to evaluate and grade my photos. At least a first pass. I am diligent about deleting the lousy ones right away so, with each successive pass, I have fewer (and better) ones to focus on.

Here is my problem: although I don’t always come back from an outing with great photos, I seem to come back with an extraordinary number of good photos. Certainly far more than I think I have a right to expect. I teach that, realistically, only around 10% of your photos will actually be good enough to show off. I firmly believe that to be true. However I have hit 30% so often this summer it’s almost freakish.

So now I have this huge backlog of decent photos that I need to spend time with. Worse, many of them, good as each one might be on its own, are duplicative of one another. This morning I started the emotionally wrenching task of killing off some of my babies.

It’s too easy to look at a photo, think it’s good and leave it in queue. (After all, I’ve already gotten rid of all the bad ones.) Instead, I must look at groups of similar photos in succession and determine two things:

  • Which ones are unique enough that they don’t really belong in the set.
  • Which is the very best one of the set.

Those meeting the first criteria are removed from the set, but not deleted. (They may belong in a different set.) Those meeting the second criteria are removed from the set so that they are spared. Everything that remains gets deleted, no matter how good it may be. Also note that there can be only one best photo in each set.

I’m not always diligent about doing this. Sometimes I fall into the “good enough” trap. I’ll convince myself that if it’s good enough to not be embarassed showing it off, I should show it off. That way lies mediocrity. So just this morning I rededicated myself to properly grading and culling my photos.

Wish me luck!

Leaked Plans

September 10, 2009

I’m going to let the cat out of the bag a little bit here. Mostly because I’m so excited to finally be working on the front end of the new web site. (Up to now, all our work has been on the back end just getting the server configured and all the necessary software installed. Now we’re building out the new user interface and developing some of the early content for the site.)

The new site is going to be about much more than just a place to learn photography. Our goal is to eventually create a whole online university of sorts for recreational pursuits of all types. The first “wing” of this new university will be the one which teaches photography. That will be followed up by other interests, already in development: music, sewing, stained glass making, woodworking and a host of others. It may take a long time for the site to be fully developed but the plans and the infrastructure are already there. Once we have it refined and unveiled, adding new topics will be as simple as posting new content.

Our goal will be to keep it fresh, always adding new content. We’ll be contracting experts in a number of different fields to help us develop that content.

The first things to be unveiled (once I’m completely satisfied with the user experience of the new site) will be our weekly newsletter and this blog. Both will be moved from their current locations and brought into the new interface. Stay tuned!

Virtual Photo Walk

September 8, 2009

Lately I’ve been thinking about a concept that a friend first suggested to me. I’m not even sure if he realizes that he suggested it. It was just an off-hand comment he made that triggered a cascade of ideas that eventually led to this: a virtual photo-walk.

A real photo-walk is where a bunch of photographers get together at a designated time and place and all go walking around together. They socialize and take pictures and generally enjoy themselves. Afterward, they usually all post some of their pictures online in some common place where they can all view and compare how differently they each saw the event. It can be a good tool for learning more about about photography and especially for stimulating creativity.

Photo contests are a different, though also quite common, thing among photographers. A theme is announced. Themes can range from the tangible — cars, vegetables, housepets, etc. — to the conceptual — friendship, summertime, love, etc. The big thing about a photo contest is that all entrants are exercising their vision and shooting around some point of commonality, just like in a photo-walk, but they are not necessarily doing it together nor even all at the same time. Some photographers avoid contests either because they don’t like competing or feel they aren’t good enough or for whatever reason. Contests are also generally limited in terms of number of entries a given person may have.

So I came upon the idea of a hybrid wherein some theme is set and users go out on their own to take photos but where the photos all center around some point of commonality and are all shared so users can see one another’s vision. In a way, this is one of the things Flickr already does on a grand scale.

I haven’t decided whether or not I’d actually like to organize or participate in a virtual photo-walk. I’m just sharing the concept and giving light to my idea at the moment. Perhaps it will sprout.