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I Hate Daylight Savings Time

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I Hate Daylight Savings Time

 The 15 clocks I changed for Daylight Savings Time.

The 15 clocks I changed for Daylight Savings Time.

Changing 17 clocks is a drag. Twice a year when daylight savings time starts or ends, I've got to adjust numerous clocks.

And I need to re-adjust my internal clock. I don't understand why we still have this system. If I were king, I would keep the clocks the same all year long.

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God Made A Farmer

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God Made A Farmer

With the Super Bowl, watching the ads can be as entertaining as the game itself. The Chrysler ad for their trucks really stood out for me because it uses still images and no live motion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMpZ0TGjbWE

The advertising world is shifting toward using more video and less stills. The number of ad pages in print magazines is shrinking. On the competitive advertising stage of the Super Bowl, ads with big budgets compete using lots of computer generated high powered imagery, and big stars. So this simple TV spot grabbed my attention because it was different.

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With the authoritative voice of Paul Harvey laid over nostalgic imagery of farmers and farms, it's a very soft sell. The product, Dodge trucks, doesn't even appear until halfway into the spot.

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The ad shows a wide range of people in its salute to the hard working lives of farmers. Farmers who will use Dodge trucks in their selfless pursuit of growing our food.

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Janus

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Janus

 Lee and Laurence Tamaccio.

Lee and Laurence Tamaccio.

We’d like to think that things from 2000 years ago don’t impact our modern technological world, but they do. The calendar on my iPhone reads January, named after the Roman god, Janus, a two-headed god who looks forward and backward. Janus was the god of  transitions, beginnings and endings.

In the spirit of Janus, I have been looking back at 2012 and forward to 2013.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to photograph twins, who I have known for many years--Lee and Laurence Tamaccio. They are both architects and I have worked with them each separately, Laurence at Design Destinations, and Lee at Buckl Architects, but I had never been with the two of them at the same time.

 Laurence and Lee Tamaccio.

Laurence and Lee Tamaccio.

Having seen and spoken to each of them separately, in my mind, Lee and Laurence were as identical as two people could be. When I got together with both of them for a photo shoot in Center City Philadelphia, I suddenly realized how different they were from each other.

January is the month of new beginnings and New Year’s resolutions. It is a time for reflection on the past, and a time for optimism about the future. While many resolutions are doomed to fail, some will succeed. Good luck in your New Year.

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Hollywood Photo

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Hollywood Photo

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While photographing an apartment building in Philadelphia we encountered the Hollywood Photo truck. I imagine the owner of the Hollywood Photo truck makes his/her living photographing at events where every-day-mortals fantasize about being Hollywood stars.

In that spirit, I had to pose like the silhouetted photographer on the truck.

Thanks to my intern Mark Karrer for snapping this shot of me.

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School vs Work

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School vs Work

A reader has posted a question on one of my earlier blog posts,

TJ Swafford Says: Question: I’m currently involved in a speeeeeeeeeendy photography degree at SCAD, Do I even NEED this degree to be successful? Or would I be better served by hooking up with an established photographer and glean what I can from him/her?

TJ,

Do you stay in school and get a degree or leave art school to learn from a photographer?

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There is no easy answer to your question. I am a big believer in education. Yet a Bachelor’s degree in Art is no guarantee of anything. For that matter, a Bachelor’s degree in many fields is no guarantee of anything.

Yes, education is expensive. Developing your mind and expanding your thinking is very valuable.

Everyone’s path is different. If you want to be a commercial or fine artist there is no straight path for your career. Unlike becoming a lawyer or doctor there is not a prescribed way to become an artist. The most successful artists have always blazed their own unique paths.

I know a corporate lawyer who told me that when he was in high school, his father said to him, “You can be a lawyer or a doctor. You choose.” He has ultimately pursued one of the two options dictated by his father.

You do have the power to choose your own path, wherever it may lead. Just by choosing to go to art school you have picked a path off the main stream.

To be an artist, you will need to have a passion and perseverance. You will need to figure out how to pay your bills.

Clients have never asked to see my diploma when they were considering hiring me. Instead they want to see my photographs. But my degree in History of Art and an education in the liberal arts have given me a conceptual framework to see and understand the world. I can discuss architecture with architects. I know what a cap rate is when I talk with a commercial realtor.

It is important to learn how to learn. I do feel that my liberal arts education boosted my ability to learn things on my own, which is an important skill in our dynamic changing world.

I did not take a digital photograph until 2001. Since then I have taught myself many things about digital photography, software and computers.

In the beginning of the digital photography revolution, I imagined I was climbing a mountain of knowledge, learning new technology. Yet as I hiked upward towards the acquisition of more knowledge, the mountain has kept growing and changing. The goal of reaching the top and completely mastering digital photo technology feels perpetually out of reach because the mountain of knowledge is always growing and morphing.

I also feel this way with using and understanding the internet and social media. There will be more changes in the future. So learning how to learn is important.

You will have to make your own decision as far as whether to continue and finish your degree. I don’t know your financial circumstances. If you are piling up student loan debt and school is a huge financial burden, it could make sense to take time off to work in your field and get the perspective of working with a real world photographer.

There are limited opportunities for paid work with photographers. Many commercial photographers are operating with fewer paid staff than before. The freelance model of hiring people is common. And unpaid internships are common, too.

If you leave school and enter the marketplace to find work with a photographer, you will be competing with people who do have degrees in your field. That’s not to say you won’t succeed, it’s just that if fifty people apply for a job, having a degree and experience could move your resume higher up the stack.

Good luck. Whether or not you ultimately finish school–keep learning and keep taking photos.

Keep in mind, one upside to getting a degree, especially a graduate degree, is that you get to wear a crazy hat.

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Boys vs Girls in Toy Ads

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Boys vs Girls in Toy Ads

The blog, The Achilles Effect, has a post showing the frequency of words that are used in TV ads for toys marketed to boys vs. those  for girls. The author, Crystal Smith, took the word frequency lists and ran them through Wordle, a web site and app that makes a graphic out of a word frequency list.

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Link to Wordle page for this graphic.

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Link to Wordle page for this graphic.

The debate over nature vs nurture when it comes to raising boys and girls will never be settled completely. There are obvious differences between the genders, and society steers each gender in different ways.

When I played with GI Joe figures as a kid, was I playing with dolls, or acting out the power struggles of war? Probably both.

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April Fools' Snow

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April Fools' Snow

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This week I have been trying to dream up a humorous and believable April Fool's Day blog post, but I haven't come up with one. Instead Mother Nature has provided the perfect April Fool's event, snow. Here it is April and it's snowing in Philadelphia. The snow isn't sticking but it is keeping Spring at bay.

As a kid I always loved April Fool's Day pranks. One year when I was about ten years old, I woke up early and switched the contents of the sugar bowl and the salt shaker. My dad proceeded to put salt in his coffee and sugar on his eggs. My younger brother spooned salt onto his cereal. Salty coffee and cereal taste terrible. My parents were not amused, but I sure was.

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Lightroom to WordPress Plugin

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Lightroom to WordPress Plugin

It has been barely more than a full year since we migrated our blog from Blogger to WordPress. The experience has been overall positive (with the expected growing pains and hiccups in between). I think it is appropriate to celebrate with a quick tip about how to streamline the workflow of adding images to your own blog entries. Luc Renambot's plugin Dossier de Presse works by giving Lightroom the ability to automatically upload exported images to your WordPress blog. Lightroom has an excellent Export function that allows for saving presets and the real power comes in combining the power of these presets with the Dossier de Presse plugin.

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Once Dossier de Presse is installed in Lightroom you can create a new Export Preset using the plugin. First set the "Export To" dropdown to "Dossier de Presse" and then fill out the rest of the export parameters to set the size, compression, and sharpening of the image to export. The final panel requires entering the address of the blog and then a valid login and password.

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Selecting multiple images and then choosing the correct Export Preset makes very quick work of uploading images directly to the WordPress Media Library. You can skip the steps of exporting the images to some temporary folder, navigating through the WordPress web interface to the Media Library, finding the export folder through the upload dialogue, etc. With Dossier de Presse the images will be comfortably waiting in the Media Library ready to be inserted into your next blog entry.

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Business and Creativity

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Business and Creativity

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This weekend I am attending ASMP's Strictly Business 3 series of talks and seminars for professional photographers. In this time of immense change in technology and in the economics of the photography industry, these events have been a positive catalyst for me. It is clear that the world needs images.  While there are forces at work that are reducing prices at the low end of the photography market (think micro stock and cell phone news photos), there is still a need for experienced commercial image makers.

This weekend I have met many other photographers, both younger and older. I'm 52. While it has been fun to engage in nostalgic reminiscences with photographers my age, I am energized by the enthusiasm of many of the younger photographers. It is encouraging to see people in their twenties starting their photo businesses. It has always been a leap of faith to start a photography business--I started my full time business in 1982.

Yesterday one of the four workshops I ended up in was called the Artist Lost and Found taught by Sean Kernan. I entered the wrong hotel meeting room and ended up in Sean's session by accident. The previous sessions during the day on licensing, web sites and marketing were helpful and informative, but by after lunch my brain was filled to the top with prescriptive things I should start doing. Sean focused  on having working commercial photographers re-connect with the wonder and thrill with photography that animated them when they were new photographers.

Sean had the group of about sixteen people do group exercises to open up perception and let go of inhibition. I felt like I was in a theater class.

We stood in a circle and Sean tossed an imaginary potato to someone across the circle. That person mimed tossing to another person and then the imaginary potato became a basketball and then an orange. While doing a child like game the brain had to move into another sphere of imagining and reacting instead of rational thinking. We played another circle game with changing music. One person would move across the circle to touch the next player. Each person had to move to the type of music being played. A formal minuet, hip hop, monks chanting, tribal drum music followed in quick succession as each person improvised movement to that music.

What's the connection with photography? Every creative endeavor needs to tap into intuition and gut decision making. Being open to the new is a crucial part of being creative.

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Sun

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Sun

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Sitting at breakfast I noticed the backlit bottles on our window sill, seen through the window blind. The sun is the supreme light source. As a pinpoint spotlight it's unrivaled. Sunlight moves quickly. Five minutes later this light had moved on.

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New Media Still Needs Good Photographs

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New Media Still Needs Good Photographs

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The New York Times' Bits blog ran an entry showcasing a recent finding by Jakob Nielsen that web users completely ignore "generic" looking images. Nielsen, a Danish researcher, has been studying usability on the web since before anyone seemed to care or have noticed that the user experience affects the success of a website.

Using eye tracking technology to measure the amount of time the user spends looking at various parts of the screen, Nielsen has managed to show that stock images go largely ignored. The Times concentrates on what this means to e-commerce sellers like Amazon and Pottery Barn, but it affects the impact and value of images on any website.

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Female Scientific Research Team Using Microscopes in a Laborator

Nielsen sums up his findings simply:

“Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your Web site’s business value.”

Stock photography carries a very low cost, but it also brings a very low value. And THIS is a scientifically proven fact.

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Persistent Marketing

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Persistent Marketing

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We market to our prospective and existing client base in a variety of ways. A combination of a web presence, mailers, and phone calls helps us accomplish our marketing goals. We advertise daily on the web, make phone calls and send customized portfolio pieces on a weekly basis, send e-promos on a monthly basis, and mail postcards of our work four times a year.

We continually evolve our marketing strategies to tweak the techniques work for us. Some months we don't have any new clients from our efforts, and some we have several, but the key to success is persistence.

Our persistent efforts are managed with a cloud computing program called Salesforce.com. We can set up everything from phone appointments, scheduled tasks, and view a history of communication with each contact. A program called Maildrop allows us to save emails into each contact's folder. Salesforce.com allows us to generate customized reports and fields specific to our marketing needs.

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No Spam with Google Apps

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No Spam with Google Apps

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I love my iPhone that I started using in July 2009. As a location photographer, having email and the web in my pocket is a big plus. However, checking email on an iPhone and a desktop meant weeding through as many as 50 spams per day on each device.

Enter Google Apps for domain names. I was able to configure my email with Google's gmail servers and still keep my gregbenson.com domain name in my email. I set up my iPhone, my desktop and laptop computers for IMAP email. Now I see virtually no spam and if I read an email on my desktop, my mobile phone shows it as already being read. Not having to scroll and delete interminable spam emails saves me time and aggravation.

To use Google Apps you can sign up here.

There are many productive apps for small businesses. Cloudwards has a list of 30.

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Death and Taxes

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Death and Taxes

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Today, Tax Day, April 15 found me in the capital of New Jersey, Trenton, photographing an office building. As coincidence would have it, the state Taxation Building was nearby.

Down the street at the New Jersey State House, tea party protesters gathered to protest taxes.

I don't know anyone who loves taxes, but as Ben Franklin said, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes."

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Pressed into WordPress

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Pressed into WordPress

Observant visitors might notice that there have been a few minor changes to the blog's layout, and that the blog has also gained a search feature (see right sidebar). Blogger's recent announcement that it would stop supporting publishing blogs via ftp forced us to scramble to re-set up the blog using WordPress. The happy news is that this change adds more functionality (the blog is now fully searchable), and we are no longer at the mercy of our blog service pulling the proverbial rug from under our proverbial feet.

All direct links to blog entries should be the same as they were before the change, so bookmarks and external links should not be broken. As with all changes there might be some minor things that we will be continuing to tweak over the coming weeks, please let us know if anything seems odd or is broken.

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Happy Birthday Photoshop

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Happy Birthday Photoshop

Webdesigner Depot is toasting Photoshop on it's 20th anniversary with a wonderful trip down memory lane that traces each of the many versions leading up to the current CS4.

Greg can fondly remember version 2.0 that came on a floppy disk and ran on a Mac with an 80MB hard drive.

For me the journey starts in 1998 with Photoshop 5 and 5.5 which was released just a year later and included the new "Save for Web" feature. This all coincided with my first year at Drexel University.

I had never owned my own computer until that time and Drexel's policy required all students to have one of their own. I jumped in headfirst and stumbled through many clumsy attempts at webdesign, inescapably leading to Photoshop, image slices, and the "Save for Web" function.

"Save for Web" was also part of ImageReady, a companion program to Photoshop that has since been absorbed by Photoshop itself. At that time it never would have occurred to me that my new passions would eventually lead me back to my childhood love of photography.

One fun thing that Webdesigner Depot does not cover is that each of the more recent version of Photoshop have shipped with the "About" screen Adobe used in-house during the development of that version. This easter egg can be seen if you hold Command+Option+Shift while clicking on "About Photoshop" in the menu (substitute Control for Command on a Windows machine). My favorite was always Venus in Furs from Photoshop 6. A short history of these hidden splash screens can be found here. The current version, Photoshop CS4, has the above Stonehenge hidden screen.

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Google Books: Ancient Photo of Jesus Found

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Google Books: Ancient Photo of Jesus Found

While reading news about Google Books proposed copyright settlement, I decided to check out Google Books. On their home page are covers of various books and magazines including the tabloid, Weekly World News. That prompted me to recall a Weekly World News headline from the past, "Actual Photo of Jesus Found". Searching Google Books with the phrase, "actual photo of Jesus Weekly World News", bingo I found it.

The article claims that a photograph of Jesus had been found that was taken by a primitive Roman "camera obscura."

Since it is established that the first known photograph was taken in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, it is a pure hoax to report that a photograph exists from Roman times. However the tabloid Weekly World News has never let facts stand in the way of a good story.

Just to see if Google Books could find high-minded material as well as low brow tabloid material, I searched for Eisenstein's Special Theory of Relativity and found the 1921 English translation of his work.

While writers and publishers debate the pros and cons of Google capturing and distributing their content, for the end user, Google Books provides a treasure trove of low and high culture to rummage through.

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Autumn Ginkgos

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Autumn Ginkgos

Fall is upon us. Leaves are changing colors and dropping to the ground. While wandering the narrow streets of Center City Philadelphia near 11th and Spruce Streets, I shot these autumn ginkgo trees. Ginkgos are one of my favorite trees.

They are descended from very ancient trees and are one of the oldest types of deciduous trees. Their simple fan-like leaves have a simpler vein pattern than oaks or maples. Resistant to pollution, disease and insects, they thrive in urban environments. More information can be found at Wikipedia.

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Recycling the Past

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Recycling the Past

Two weekends ago while visiting friends at the New Jersey shore, my wife and I paid a visit to an architectural salvage yard, called Recycling the Past, located in Barnegat, NJ. Their enormous lot is a treasure trove of building pieces. As a fan of buildings I was in heaven. There are Victorian mantelpieces, signs from 1950s amusement parks, terra cotta decoration from 1920s buildings, 15-foot stone columns from a closed state mental hospital and on and on.

Recycling is in vogue. We recycle cans, paper and glass at curbside to minimize trash put into landfills. The reason to recycle buildings is more complex.

In America buildings often have short life spans. A thirty-year baseball stadium is obsolete, whereas in southern France I visited a Roman stadium 2000 years old that is still used for bullfights and rock concerts.

When a house or commercial building is deemed too expensive to renovate or unsuited to its site's next use, then it's knocked down. Pre-World War II buildings often have a level of craftsmanship and quality of materials that current buildings frequently lack. This makes the well-crafted fragments of older buildings valuable to buyers who can appreciate and afford them.

My emotions ranged from delight and wonder at seeing beautiful salvaged objects that may find new homes to sadness and melancholy contemplating the decay and destruction that led to these objects being orphaned from their original settings.

Enough claw footed bathtubs to shoot lots of Cialis TV ads.

Detail of copper panels from an old Atlantic City school.

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New Images: People Portfolio

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New Images: People Portfolio

After poring over many hundreds of photographs we have finished selecting images for our Portraits section. Because there were so many interesting images we wanted to share on the web we chose to not only update the galleries but also to expand them from one to three pages.

In these photographs you can see that as an aid in making the final selections we printed small "thumbnail" prints that we pasted to boards with correction tape. This makes it possible to group images, slide them around a table, regroup them, and keep making quick changes during the selection process.

Much of photography as a discipline is about selection. What subject to photograph? What parts of the scene are left in or out of the frame? Which images from the day's take are shown? When the final shot is chosen, does it then also get cropped to simplify the message?

Choosing images to show in a portfolio applies the art of selection to yet another end. Please take a look at the images we selected, we hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

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