31 August 2013

Speaking on Prints and Conformity

Incredible Art Model, Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself."

Incredible Art Model, Panda
©2013 Terrell Neasley
I've advocated the print for some time on this blog and it is still a big point of contention for me as a photographer. I love the print and believe it to be the end all to all ends. It should be the final culmination to an effort of composition and capture. Its been estimated that humans have taken roughly 3.8 trillion photos throughout all of photographic history. Since the advent and proliferation of digital cameras, prints have declined. Most images never even leave the computer and of those that do, Facebook, Flickr, web portfolios and other online media have been the last port of call to most of all images taken these days. How many actually get printed...couldn't find the stats on that.

What am I talking about when I say, the print? Essentially, it's hard copies of the images you take with your camera. Photo sharing is the mainstream now and most devices available to us are not built for the print. Everybody, including their mama's mama has a cell phone, just about. Nobody's taking these shots to create images to frame and hang on a wall. They are not shot to sell to a magazine, (unless of course you work for the Chicago Sun Times.)

Incredible Art Model, Panda
©2013 Terrell Neasley
And what is the standard for images when they do become hard copies? If you go to Wal-Mart, you can pick up frames in sizes of 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, or 16x20. But what happens when a print is irregular? What do you do? Crop to fit? Maybe. Sometimes I do crop an image to fit these standardizations. More often than not, I'm cropping with the image in mind. I'll compose and take the shot. During my editing, I use my eyes to judge the crop and lately I've been favoring an almost panoramic perspective such as 9x19 and it might not even be exact. It could be 8.72x19.04. The fact is that I like to let my eyes tell the tale and make my crops with the image in mind, rather than the frame. You can always custom build a frame yourself, or take it somewhere to have it done. I love helping clients with the print/framing/mounting decisions.

“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

Incredible Art Model, Panda
©2013 Terrell Neasley
I try to use the same principles in my life, but then again, often I'm not trying...its just the way I am. I've been called "different" all my life. It used to bug the hell out of me and I'd do what I could to try to fit in. But all that did was cause me stress because I was so busy trying to conform to what everybody else thought I should be and do. I think the world is more interesting to me now as I learned over the years that my differences in preferences and thinking made me much happier. Its not always a bed of roses, but I embrace it and take the good with the bad. Normality and Conformity are two words of enmity to me. Conform to the norm? Hate it. I don't fit in that life mold.

Incredible Art Model, Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I know for fact, this is one reason I like shooting Panda so much. Nothing about this girl says normal or conforming. She's a young mom who loves her kid and husband, that's about it. She got married and has had a kid. That's about as traditional as you'll find her. She's easily top 5 of all the models I've shot and I'm pretty sure I've shot her more times than anybody else. I was very fortuitous to even meet her. Just before Trixie, who was my very first muse here in Vegas, moved away, she threw a going away party. I almost didn't go because I was so tired from working, but how could I miss Trixie's last day. That's where I met Panda, who was a friend of a friend who also got invited. One muse leaves....another one falls in my lap. I had no idea Panda was serious when she first expressed a desire to work with me. She gave me a call that very next morning...early, I might add, and the rest is history. Good girl. Expect to see more of her!

23 August 2013

Tumblr Contemplation

Amazing Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"I revel in my ability to still be inspired by the young! It's like stealing wisdom."
~ Terrell Neasley

I met a girl. [Isn't that how a lot of great stories begin?] I meet a lot of girls. I think you all know that by now. I run into people all the time, both male and female, but today, everything centered around this one chick and she was inspiring. Every now and again, I meet somebody like that and it totally makes my day, despite whatever crap I've been hit with.

Amazing Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So, this is one of my days in the camera store and in walks a girl, then another girl, then a family. She's got on a busy, but cool looking orange and white outfit, very attractive, and she's carrying a camera bag. I know she needs her camera fixed. I'm with another customer at the moment who's asking a lot of questions about some gear he's not going to buy. I'm partially glancing over at the first girl carrying the bag as she pulls out her gear. I notice she's got a Nikon film camera and I'm intrigued. This is a young girl and she's strolling in with film business. I'm impressed. I'm not proud of myself, but I'm wishing this guy asking all the questions would just stop and enjoy his weekend.

So I finally get a chance to see what the fuss is all about, because she's pulling out several sleeves of negatives that the store repairman is mulling through. I can't help myself and have to investigate as well. If you hadn't followed me for long, you may not know or recall that I still have a deep affinity for film work. Black and White was my specialty and my licence plate is an homage to my favorite brand and choice of film...the Kodak TMax. I haven't looked at negatives in quite some time. I used to develop my own negatives and prints. I didn't like developing negatives as much. It was a necessary process that had little latitude for artistic expression. Granted, you can push or pull your fill...maybe develop it at non-standard temperatures, or even cross-process it. But I never liked to destroy or alter the film. Prints, yes. Film, no. To me, the creative process would begin and end with the print! I miss those days. I've often said..."Nothing like the smell of FIXER in the morning!"

Amazing Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So far...I'm just looking at a pretty girl who happens to do film. What gets me, though are the next few things I learn about her. First, and probably foremost, she's a traveler! She gave me some tips on NGO work and had just returned from Pakistan. You know I love me some travelers. "Get gone" has become a mantra of mine. That's how I feel quite often...like I just need to get gone, sometimes. Okay, pretty girl, shooting film, she's a traveler, too...so what else? She doing AMAZING work! Listen, you'd have been inspired, too. I'm not just tripping off of a cute girl. I'd have been the same way if she had a face like (insert well-know not so cute celebrity). The fact remains. She's an avid traveling film photog who happens to be pretty as hell.

And I guess I better say something about Tumblr, otherwise my title wouldn't make any sense. The little lady also gave me a few tips on Tumblr and recommended it. I told her I already had a blog, but she thinks I can still benefit from and enjoy Tumblr. I've contemplated doing a Tumblr as well, but have left the notion in perpetual hang-time in an abstract section of my head. Now its before my eyes again after a long hiatus of consideration and I mull over the idea again. Have I not discussed some alternate means of exhibition of my work? I have, but the intention was to get it off line and in a gallery line. So I'll continue to excogitate this notion with a bit more vigor.

Amazing Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I hope Lil' Miss continues with her emulsion compulsion and keeps posing her work. You can see (and follow) her at Speirs.Tumblr.com. I think you'll appreciate her style and vision. Her tumblr says she's 99% film and her most recently posted shot, Skinnydipping in Dubai is amazing. My most fave of what I've seen of her work has got to be, her Fishing the Old School Way as well as her creative self portrait, Bad Hair Day. There are so may candid and introspective imagery on her site. You'd think they were shot by an old soul, but such is not the case. I'm sure she's not over 25, but it begs to question where she evolved this style from. What were her influences? Granted she's a travels, but these are the shots I would expect from someone with much more experience in life in general.

And last but not least...I gotta give props to my girl, Panda. I'm not sure its possible to get bored shooting her. I think I've shot her more times than any model I've done to date and I still look forward to the next time. Thank you, my Panda muse.

16 August 2013

Leica...You Want what You Want

"Shooting with a LEICA is like a long tender kiss, like firing an automatic pistol, like an hour on the analyst's couch."  
~ Henri Cartier-Bresson


I know I just did a blog post lauding the Sony systems. I dare say, in all likelihood, the Sony Rx-1r and the NEX-6 will be near future purchases for me. They feel right for me and are very close to the requirements I think I need for my work. They fit well with my future endeavors and can probably handle my needs adequately enough...actually, more than adequately in fact. With a few exceptions, they would be the perfect compliment to my current photographic tools I employ right now.


Not long after I did that last post, I had to come to a realization that irks me ever so slightly. You see, I've tried to make it a personal policy, especially where it comes to photography, to not compromise quality and what I want, for the sake of money. If the gear or tool that I really feel will best do the job costs more money, then so what? Make that money back in profitable gigs and earnings. And in no case do you ever settle on the cheaper or economical substitute to that quality. And to be honest, the aforementioned Sony complimentary platforms are just that...a more economical substitute in lieu of what I really want. And what I really want... is the LEICA rangefinder system.

Let me tell you why.

I mentioned in a previous blog posting that everyone needs to, at some point in their lives, fly first class, drive a luxury car on a road trip, and own a Leica. Life is too short not to experience these things at some point. Leica actually makes it difficult to be a Leica owner. There cameras are Hand-Crafted! So it takes longer to fulfill orders. Right now, most all of their digital systems are on back-order! You can't find any of their cameras anywhere right now! (With the exception of the Leica M Monochrome, currently In-Stock at B&C Camera!) But nonetheless, I got's to git it! And I understand, I could be totally wrong in this. There could be a chance that after I am a Leica owner (someday) that I won't be as impressed or might feel differently after a year's results in my work, but I don't think that is going to happen and I'm willing to take that risk. I'm still nostalgic over film, but the images I see made with the Leica have that unique aesthetic artistic appeal closer to how I felt when I used film. This needs to happen. And I blame travel for my obsession.

I didn't feel so inclined to be a Leica owner before I started serious travel considerations, which began last year while I was laid up for 4 months on crutches after my knee surgery. I had time to think about several things and dream about a even few more. Sailing was paramount. I need to get on the open seas and circumnavigate. Doing so with a Leica became the next priority, which has now worked its way up to the more immediate goal, especially after Central America last year. My focus became to return to Central America with Leica systems like the days of old when a photojournalist or explorer might have on his person a single Leica camera, a 35mm lens, and a bunch of pro-grade black and white film. They rocked with this single prime lens and returned with some of the most spectacular images you could imagine.

Today, Leica has two systems that have my perfect attention. Yes, I said two. Not just one, but two!! The Leica M Monochrome which, obviously enough, only shoots Black and White is one of my choices. I do wish it was 24mp with a CMOS sensor instead of a 18mp CCD. But where it comes up short, I'm willing to look the other way...something that's hard to say about any other camera. I didn't switch from film to digital until my standards were met. I switched from Canon to Nikon when Nikon better suited my needs. My point being, I was patient to wait for the right camera and did not jump into anything simply didn't feel right.

The other system from Leica that I am a tad bit more desperate for is the new flagship, Leica M Typ 240 and its what really brought my attention to the Leica brand. Before this, I couldn't really conceive of paying $7,000 for a camera body that wasn't even a DSLR body. But this Leica M had me at hello. It IS 24MP and is the first of the Leica brand to use CMOS sensors. Its also the first model to incorporate 1080p video, but that would not be my priority. This would be the Leica I would start with. I can always convert images to Black and White as I do now. Before the M Monochrome, I would never allow myself to shoot B&W straight out of camera. I don't want the camera making tonality decisions for me. This Leica, however, I would let order food for me in a restaurant.

Lenses are also pretty steep for Leica, but here is where I don't mind making a compromise. Zeiss makes excellent glass for the Leica rangefinder systems and many are half what the Leica dedicated lenses run. A Zeiss 35mm f/2 would run me $1100 as opposed to a Leica 35mm f/2 for $3200. I think I'd prefer one Leica lens and that's the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux for $4000. I can throw it up for grabs on a good wide-angle prime and a good telephoto prime as to what lens I would top off my lens quiver with.

So in other words, I would be out around $20 Grand to get both these cameras and lenses. Is that worth it when I could get into a comparable Sony system under $6K? Will my images be $14 thousand dollars better with the Leica cameras than Sony? Wouldn't it be just as easy to just buy another DSLR that complements the one I already have? You know what? I'm not trying to answer those questions. I only know what the hell I want and the only question that leaves me with is "How do I get my Leicas?"

This is the former flagship model, the Leica M9-P. Check out this video on how its made. I wish they did a promotion piece like this for what I really want... the NEW flagship model Leica M Typ 240.

The Making of the Leica M9-P »Edition Hermès« – Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas from Leica Camera on Vimeo.

13 August 2013

The Evolving Photographer

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"It's evolve or die, really, you have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant."
~ Craig Charles 

None of us can remain stagnant in any of the different professions we work in. It used to be that you could work the same job or within the same company, at least until you were ready to retire and then the employer would take care of you throughout your golden years. That paradigm concluded when the industrial age gave way to the information age and the information age has been getting exponentially faster at an ever accelerating rate. I would wager that Moore's Law has even been halved, as well.

This has never been more true than in the photography trade. The former barriers to entry of the high price of gear and years of apprenticeship have given way to cheaper cameras and a flood of entrants that prefer full auto to learning the trade. Technology has not only leveled the playing field, but dropped it below sea level behind a dam that has cracks. 

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what do we do now, fellow photographers? We change, that's what. We don't acquiesce to clients like the photogs who panic and start giving away their work for free. We don't abandon the print in favor of handing over Hi-Res images. But we do change. And that starts with CREATIVITY! Creativity brings back the craftsmanship to photography that we've dearly lost. This is no different of a time than when Polaroid came out with instant film. There was the same level of ire from "true" photogs towards instant film. It was the same with disposable cameras. Well, this is the digital age and its no different. Our clients and the general public are looking for the next evolution in the digital realm to see what we come up with next and its already happening when you look at the inspiring work of Benjamin Wong or Chase Jarvis

So how do you begin to make that next evolutionary step? You keep learning and stay open-minded. I learn from different sources, one of which are podcasts. Chances are, whenever I'm driving, I've got my earbuds in listening to TWIP (This Week in Photography), hosted by Frederick Van Johnson. Let me just focus on him for a second. Frederick Van Johnson is the owner of MediaBytes, a marketing and consulting firm and he hosts a varying panel of photographers and photo experts who discuss photography news and photo topics of interests. Lately, he has given a lot of focus to the Mirrorless genre, such as his latest episode, "Reflecting on Mirrorless". I've listened to it FIVE times now and I have to say, it's been very timely for me and here's why.

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"What's dangerous is not to evolve."
~ Jeff Bezos 

For myself, it began last Summer with my switch from Canon to Nikon. I used to carry two large camera bodies and just about every L-Series lens out there. But after switching to Nikon AND reorganizing my business more towards travel work, I felt the need to carry less gear. The Nikon D800E solved my needs for high resolution for fine art, but I could not invest in a second body at the time because I could not find a suitable complement from Nikon for my D800E. Today, the closest is the new D7100. I feel like I would love that camera, but I am still hesitant. 

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
My real interest has been with the Sony RX-1r, the only compact full-frame camera on the market, which also has eliminated the anti-alias filter over the sensor like my D800E. Ideally, the Leica M Type 240 mated with a Summicron-M 35mm f/2 lens would be my choice, but I can't see shelling out $11K on that just yet. And the more I think about it, the Sony NEX-6 would also serve me well in the field. Both of those platforms have some features yet to be included that would make my choices more concrete. However if not for my need for the high resolution, I could potentially travel with just the Sony systems.

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So I have to change! I can't hold onto the idea of big DSLRs and heavy lenses. I'm not getting rid of my Nikon, but it will share time with Sony very soon, (and the Leica if God truly decides to bless me!) And I've got to step up my work. I've got to offer more. I've got to give my client something they haven't seen. Is this hard? Yes and no. I've already subscribed to the fact that my services are not for everyone. If you hire me, its because you want MY talents and are comfortable with my fees. Price-conscious clientele are probably not going to be as cool with me and I understand that. My creativity comes at a premium and I am not afraid to recognize that or ask for the sale. So as long as you know your market, you can stop wasting time outside of it.

So what about you? What are you doing to differentiate, evolve, and become more creative? That question needs to be answered every morning you get up. I know because I face it every day and do not always like to answer that question. But face it I must. Move on to the next gig and focus on the goals at hand.

Here is a Von Wong installment for your enjoyment: