28 February 2015

Three Objectives for Central America

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley, A7MkII
"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship."
~ Louisa May Alcott

Some of what I'll be doing for all this time that I'll be spending down in Central America will obviously focus on taking fine art photos, portraiture, and street work. This is what I usually end up coming back with the most. But I'll also be doing a few other things while I'm away, as well. I'll have a lot of down time to catch up on reading and also doing some writing. But here are some other goals and objectives (among several) that I'll share with you right now.
Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
You always know I always strive to be a better photographer and teacher, so lets start there. If you didn't already suspect or know me, I shoot nudes. That's not all I shoot, but its a definitely a passion of mine. I want to begin there. I want to do a better job of it. Yes. Believe it or not, I have more to learn in that genre. Many of you will probably believe the greater fact is that I ADMIT to needing to learn more. I do not know, as of yet HOW I will approach this objective. I can do my own study and research, but I think I will learn best by consulting with some mentors like Dave Rudin or Dave Levingston. Should I take a class of some sort? Maybe do a workshop that has a direct focus on photographing the nude? Something I have thought of doing for years has been to visit Prague. I find that many photographic artists from just east of Germany and on into Russia have been inspirations to me. I find them to be more in tune with my style or of a such that I aspire to.

In addition to that, I need to make a more concerted effort to actually do more of something with my art nude work. I have terabytes of work that no one has really seen. You've probably only seen maybe a tenth of all the work I've done with Panda. Some of my best work with Emma was never made available for about 8 months before anyone saw it. Kristi C has been a most prolific model for me over the last year. Again, most of it unseen. So big, big focus towards exhibition and a consistent venue to show my art nude work will be a major focus upon my return. I'll likely come out of hiatus on photo competitions and do some of those again, but that's an aside. Exhibition will be a more primary focus when I get back. My work needs to be on walls. This is why I do it...nudes or otherwise. I make my stuff to be viewed in person upon a physical medium.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over."
~ Richard Branson

Let's see...what else? Oh yeah...again, photographically speaking, I want to do better teaching. I'm limiting myself to 10 students a year, doing one-on-one, two-week courses. I used to conduct workshops when I first came to Vegas with my Las Vegas Art Models Group. A max attendance would be 12 photogs. Now I teach one-on-one and I want to do it better. The goal is to make it more fun, better information, and less taxing on myself. I just did two students back to back this month. I don't know how teachers do it every day like that...ALL friggin' year!! My friend, Howard suggested doing tours where I take people on some of my travel excursions. I can see that. I've already been asking family and friends to come visit me for a few days while I'm away. Meet me in El Salvador or Lake Atitlan in Guatemala for a few days. We can do some photowalks or just chill with me sippin' Cuba Libres. I need more and better teaching props. Some concepts I have in my head simply don't exist! I need to find somebody to fabricate some of this stuff for me. I don't want to rely on videos to make my point. Hands on physical props would serve a better purpose. So yes, I want to contemplate how I will do this.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
Video! That's another one. I want to get as good with vids and I am with photowork. I have the A7s, which is excellent for video work. I'll need to get the Atomos Shogun external output monitor/harddrive to do 4K work, since you can't shoot 4K straight to the SD card. But for the time being, 1080p should suffice just nicely. Editing video will also be a key factor, which means I'll also need to bump my subscription to Adobe CC 2014 back to the full version. I downgraded it last Nov to just the Photoshop/Lightroom version. I'll need Adobe Premier Pro back again, in particular. I should also dust off my audio gear. I'll take with me a shotgun mic and maybe my Zoom H4n external audio recorder. My goal is to just make short clips, starting with time-lapse, some slow motion work, and then just build from there. So we'll see. 

25 February 2015

Going Forward with Sony

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
"If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success."
~ John D. Rockefeller

Okay. So I've already mentioned that I've made a switch in my gear, from Nikon and the D800e to Sony and both the A7s and the A7MarkII. And that's the way I'll be for a while. I have no doubt Sony will come out with a successor to the A7r and there's a significant likelihood that I will reach out for that one too. 

So here's what I like about the Sony system.

I did a post a while back on why I went with Fuji a year ago over Sony. I was highly impressed with the Fuji system for 3 reasons. They have damn excellent lenses and already had a plethora of glass when Sony had maybe 3 at the time for full frame cams. Second, they have an excellent reputation for doing firmware upgrades that actually improve your cameras as opposed to just fixing bugs and adding new languages. Also, Fuji listens to their customer base better than any other camera manufacture that I've seen or heard of.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
But Sony is still head and shoulders above them all right now. As far as camera systems go, there is only one company in the business that comes to mind when you think of innovation. Its as if they are willing to listen to any crazy idea, throw money at it, develop it, and see what happens. Granted, they are not as haphazard as that, I'm sure. Canon has used the term "game-changer" with reference to their 70D in their marketing campaigns. I'm here to tell you that Sony is definitely changing the business model of the photographic industry. The top camera manufactures make camera models in varying grades of features, quality, and durability. Sony's top mirrorless system makes one pro camera system and then varies the model based on NEED. If you need a general pro-level system, get the A7MarkII. If you need high resolution, get the A7r. Low-light sensitivity? Get the A7s. A photog can effectively have a need for all 3 systems. Not so, with Nikon or Canon. If you want a second body, you either get a duplicate camera to the main system, or get one of lower quality and ability. So what makes Sony's mirrorless system different from the standard DSLR?

First, there's no need for a mirror. DSLR's are going to have to change. There's no getting around that. I've even said before that somebody is going to make a shutterless system at some point which will take the top off the speed limit of 1/8000ths of a second. Sensor tech is such that turning it on and off will suffice. Shutter speed will become a historic title much the same as how we still call a shutter beyond 30 seconds, "bulb" mode. In a few years, shutter speeds will rival the effective shutter speeds of flash at its shortest duration which is 1/40,000ths of a second with several of today's speedlites. Or at least half that, for now.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
Taking out the mirror has the advantage of making the overall camera smaller and lighter. This has been the trend for the last decade and is probably the number one or possibly the second largest catalyst for more female photographers into the industry. I experienced this the first time I took my D800e to Guatemala for a month. The weight of the camera and lenses was a bit more than I preferred. Presently, I can take two Sony bodies and 3 lenses and not even feel it. Do I sacrifice quality or durability. No. Speed? Not at all. I can do whatever a DSLR does plus some, with the exception of shoot 14 frames/second like Canon's 1Dx. I can match Nikon's 11 fps or Canon's 7DMarkII with Sony's a6000, even though it is a crop sensor camera.

Right now, my work and camera needs demand smaller sizes, superior low-light performances, and an all around general use system. The A7s will do natively, ISO 50-409,600. But its not always about high ISO's. People may balk at the low pixel count, but I can attest to how over-rated people can depend on that stat. The A7s gives me the ability to shoot at the lowest ISO's in the dark and still freeze people moving around. My Nikon D800e or the Fuji XE-2 could do low light photography, but my subject would have to be absolutely still and I'd need higher ISO's. I can now get 1/30th of a shutter at low ISO's whereas I'd be using a half second shutter at high ISO's with either my Nikon or Fuji. That's the benefit of the larger full-frame pixels and Sony's Bionz-X processor.

"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
~ C. S. Lewis

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s

Weaknesses? Well, yeah. Every camera system will have compromises, and Sony is no different. From the short time I've been shooting, I know that I won't use my A7s as much where lots of detail is necessary or doing environmental portraits from a distance. I may be a bit biased in this regard because I am used to the 36MP sensor detail of the Nikon D800e. I've also noticed that my sensor is already in need of cleaning on the A7MkII after a recent shoot in the desert during inclement weather conditions and lens changes. Mirrorless systems operate from an open shutter position, which means as soon as you pull off the lens, the sensor is RIGHT there, 17mm back from the lens. This just means you have to be a bit more careful when removing and switching lenses. Battery life is also going to be a compromise. EVERYTHING about Sony Mirrorless systems use juice if the camera is on. Even if you don't use the LCD to compose, the viewfinder is electronic, so you're still using juice for that. The solution, buy friggin more batteries! It takes me all of 4 seconds to replace a battery. Problem solved.

Art Model Kristi C. ©2015 Terrell Neasley Sony A7s
Finally, as far as this post is concerned... the price-point is superb! I can't really find a good reason to spend what I used to on DSLRs when I have another option in what I feel to be a better camera anyway. I'll put my A7MarkII up against a Canon 5DMarkIII any day for pure picture quality. And this is what I'm saying. If you're getting just as good a shot in a smaller package for a lower price, why would you not do that? Having a hard time letting go of all that Canon or Nikon glass? Guess what, get a Metabones adapter and keep it to use with the Sony. Boom. I just made your world better.
***Drops Mic to the floor***

10 February 2015

The Muse and the Model - Panda's Influence

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley

“I never refused when he wanted to take a picture,” said Eleanor Callahan, the 91-year-old widow of the photographer Harry Callahan. “I never complained, whatever I was doing. If he said: ‘Come quick, Eleanor — there’s a good light,’ I was right there." - New York Times "The Artist's Wife: A Constant Muse Who Never Said No"

So I looked up the definition of a muse. All where fairly consistent in referring to either the mythological daughters of Zeus, to think about something intently, or someone who is a source of inspiration an artist. As artistic endeavors go, I think a muse is a bit more than that. The word even sounds beautiful, "....MUYOOOZ". There are models and then there are muses.

Most all artists who sculpt, paint, draw, or photography the human form need models. As a photographer, I need models in my life constantly. I can't do what I do without models. Sometimes I need a certain shape, style, or hair for a certain project. I can search around and find someone who meets those specs or has the desired characteristics to complete my project. So I'll say a model is project oriented as a requirement to complete a desired goal.

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley
A muse on the other hand goes a bit further. A muse can start as a model, but then develop into more. In more cases than not, this relationship is derived from a familiarity developed over successive modeling sessions. Then you also have those special cases where a muse pops into your life like magic and bestows gifts that allow you to develop as an artist. So I'll say a muse is craft-oriented as an option to complete a desired evolution in a model/artist relationship. Yeah...that's it.

"I'm not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work."
~ Ray Bradbury

To date, I haven't spent more time shooting any one person more than I have with the phenomenon you all know as Panda. She hasn't lived in Vegas since almost a year now and I gotta say I miss me some Panda. Its not easy to simply find or hire a muse as any artist will attest to. Every now and again, you get a few that stick with you, inspire you, and inevitably make you evolve your style, your craft, and your self as a person. Having one, must less two at any given time is tough. If the chemistry ain't there with the non-verbal cues, then that muse relationship may not develop. You don't identify a muse by her name badge. She doesn't answer a craigslist ad looking for a muse. That relationship isn't usually established right off the bat, but some are and it was my honor to have that with Panda. 

Art Model, Panda © 2014 Terrell Neasley
Now don't get me wrong. Cuz I can definitely see some of ya'll's minds going there. This isn't to say, the artist and muse has to establish a relationship beyond the artistic confines that birthed it. So get your minds out of the gutter. Panda is married with a kid and at no time did I (or will I) disrespect that. In fact, it can be a challenge for some artists to handle that, but for me, the muse relationship was not worth the sacrifice to ever find out. But then some of the most meaningful relationships have indeed sprung from the model/artist relationship. Case in point...my fave photographer and muse combo, Edward Weston and Charis Wilson. A mentor of mine just got married a year or so ago. Same thing. So I'm not say a photog should NEVER get involved with a model, but the situation and timing has to be right. And most of all its gotta be mutual, of course.

It starts with the attitude. And then, the connection, followed by respect. Suddenly...POOF! You've found your muse. Panda, starting out had the right attitude that fit my work. Understandably, this will be different from one artist to the next, but for me her willingness to pose nude and to fully explore my vision with me, cinched it. Granted, not all muses need to go to the extreme she does. If I could envision it, she was pretty much game. Much like the quote above says, she was a model who didn't say no. And its not so much the fact that she hasn't to day told me "no". I think it speaks more to the kind of relationship that we have wherein she simply trusts me AND that our ideals are so in line that she doesn't NEED to say no. She cares about the art as much as I do. Dunking herself in the frigid Colorado River, AFTER she had already gotten out of it is above and beyond the call of duty. I saw a better spot for a shot only minutes after she dried off and for the sake of the shot, she got back in that water again. 

Art Model, Panda © 2012 Terrell Neasley

We connected quickly. In fact, I would even say we connected prior to actual shooting. I initially didn't believe she was actually sincere about modeling for me the Friday night we met, til she called me again EARLY that next SATURDAY morning to confirm. I knew I had something special on my hands. Her quirky style and those big eyes lent itself to my art like the perfect match. From the start, she listened intently as I described the goals for the upcoming session. Now a good muse will help you figure out your project, but not take over the project. Panda's gift is her ability to sense and anticipate what I'm going to ask for. That's the connection. She can see my non-verbal cues and very accurately and consistently predict what I'm going to ask for her and she simply moves or repositions herself prior to me completing the thought in my head much less getting the words out of my mouth.

Art Model, Panda © 2013 Terrell Neasley

The mutual respect comes by recognizing each others time, effort, and boundaries. Of the 21 shoots we did, non of them were ever quick. Panda doesn't schedule a shoot unless she knows she has the time to give me. This allows things to flow much easier since there is no rushing about. I can take my time and get the shot or let things develop. I try to be conscious of her efforts to deliver for me and try to understand that that level of energy to put up with me is not easily maintained for extended periods of time. And I'm also conscious of the fact that I don't EVER want to piss off her husband by keeping her out too late. I'm not trying to do anything that could result in my work being PandaLESS, so I'm respecting her husband in this relationship as well. And trust me, this dude is as cool as they come. 

I don't know when I will get to shoot her again. I've made an attempt to not discuss her in past tense, as if my shooting days with her is done. She could come back to Vegas or I could go to where she is. Or we could even meet up at some spot in a totally different state (or country!) and shoot there. I'm willing to bet she'll be in front of my lens again. I know you all remain hopeful! 

Art Model, Panda © 2013 Terrell Neasley