04 January 2015

Still in Awe of Photography

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I've been in this game for a while now. At least since 2005 on a serious level. At any given time, its easy to get bored, burned out, or just simply tired of a profession, industry, or business of some sort. Its normal. Things stagnate from time to time. Monotony often sets in and you have to look for a little change in routine or maybe take a break to step away from your profession from time to time. In the Army, as well as all the Armed Services, we were all encouraged to take some R&R to blow off steam on a regular basis. Getting burned out could cause lapses in inspections of equipment or result in attention to detail issues.

I can't say this has been the case with me in photography. I am just as excited about it now as when I saw my first print come to life as it sat in a fresh batch of Kodak D-76 developer. And that was something in and of itself that you just couldn't get tired of. It was like magic. After careful exposure, and burning and dodging in a darkroom, a blank sheet of Ilford Fiber-based Variable Contrast Multigrade IV paper, suddenly came to live with the image you previously captured on film. I'll confess, though. I had my doubts when I switched to digital in 2007. I was a film purist because I felt digital took out the craftsmanship in which I made that print with my hands, manipulating light and shadow to make the final print. Photoshop seemed too much bits and bytes, and not enough of a man-made feel. I got over that the more I realized, its not so much the hands, but more the mind that creates and manipulates the light and shadow.

Art Model, Emma ©2013 Terrell Neasley
I can't say its like this for every photog you meet. I have met quite a few who's camera is more of a job than a creative outlet. They work, earn money, and that's it. No personal projects, just take the money and put the camera down til its time to earn money again. I don't begrudge them. That's their choice. As for me, I think I am still in love with photo for a few reasons.

1. First and foremost, I shoot what I like. You gotta pay me a lot of money to make me shoot something I don't really want to shoot. I learned that when I first got to Vegas and got a gig shooting furniture for a business in the World Market Center here in Vegas for showroom ads. Shooting a white couch under 3 different kinds of light on the showcase floor sucked. Granted, I still didn't know near as much as I do now, but I did it for the money. HATED IT! I learned that early on and it was a blessing. Shoot what you love.

2. I have an inherent desire to be good at whatever I spend the most time in. I study my ass off in most anything I want to know about. But for something I absolutely love, my study habits kick into overdrive. Its not always in a desire to be better. Most times, its because I have something on my brain that I want to create and have to learn how to do it. So I am in a constant state of learning to improve and hone my craft. Additionally, I don't stay on the same thing for too long. One day my thing may be landscape. Another day, its portraits. And then I want to kick it up and do extended exposure. Lastly, I simply hate not knowing. The better you get, the more people you attract. I get other photographers who ask me questions about settings or maybe how to shoot something. Often times I act as a forensic scientist to detect what was wrong or troubleshoot an issue with a camera or image. What's that thick black line that goes all the way across the bottom of your picture? Its a result of using a shutter speed high than the sync speed of your camera when using flash. How do I know that? I didn't want to be afraid of using artificial light, so I studied flash. So study your ass off.


Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” 
― W.B. Yeats

3. I associate with a other photographers and learn from mentors. I started the very first Meetup.com photography group here in Las Vegas. It was the Las Vegas Art Models Group mainly for helping photographers learn to work with the nude model as well as helping nude models get hired by photographers. I then assisted one of the attendees of my group, Garrett Winslow, organize another group, the Las Vegas Photographic Society made for photographers to help them network and grow their craft. Over the years, I developed a good reputation, but sharing my knowledge, but also from increasing my knowledge with mentors like Dave Rudin and Dave Proctor, just to name a few. I have also stayed active in online groups to share my work, get feedback, and offer help to others. So don't become an island.

4. I started working in a camera shop. B&C Camera, owned by my good friend and accomplished photographer Joe Dumic. He bought this camera shop when ever other one was failing, turned it around and this store not only survives, but thrives. He's spearheading his third expansion project for B&C Camera in just 4 years. Joe has helped me immensely in my own business operations. However working in a camera store gives me the ability to tap into a knowledge base you won't find anywhere else. I am there only two days a week, but I get to learn about every new camera system that comes out. Technology is changing all the time. Most industries can't say that. A hammer hasn't changed much since its invention. Devices to capture a still image or record one moving, and all the accessories that are invented on a daily basis are improved every day. I get to try out these new systems and get help from the best gurus from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, and also LYTRO! Just today I got an email from Joe inviting me to an exclusive Canon event. Anther great aspect is the customers I meet. I stay on my toes to help those beginner photographers get the right camera, fix their problems, and get ideas on lighting set-ups. But I also meet professional people coming in to get gear as well. Just a couple of days ago, Adan Van Dam, Las Vegas based film producer/director visited the store and I got to learn about his 4K BlackMagic full frame rig. So don't restrict your universe to just the gear you know. And surround yourself with and learn from other great talent.


Art Model, Faerie ©2012 Terrell Neasley

5. I like to experiment and take chances. I know that every endeavor I take won't pan out. I'm okay with that. Sometimes I lose money. Sometimes, all my efforts are wasted; but are they really? Every time I do something that doesn't pan out, its really a learning experience. I can honestly say, I learn some valuable lessons when I get screwed over, lose an opportunity, or otherwise fail. I learn how to be wiser with my selections on who I deal with, prepare better, and thus protect myself better from unfortunate events. Learning these lessons early on help keep the ripples from these mistakes small. I don't mind small mistakes. And catching them early keeps the big ones at bay. So learn to play and don't be afraid to fail.

I could list several more, but this post is getting long. To add 3 more, persistence despite rough times, doing your own personal projects, constantly looking at other great work, teaching photography, and traveling would be key elements that definitely aid in my ability to stay locked in on photo. In all these years, photo has never been a dried up concept for me. And you know...another great motivator is that if you're good enough, people will pay you to keep doing what you do. So.... Amazing, isn't it?


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