23 September 2017

Three Companies that Excel in Customer Service Part III: ProMaster


Sunrise at Bodie Island Lighthouse (Nags Head)
©2014 Terrell Neasley
"Exceed your customer's expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want - and a little more." 
~ Sam Walton

Continuing this series with another great photography-related company, I wanted to round things out with another company servicing a different aspect of photo. In Part I, I covered a camera manufacturer. Part II looked at details of one of the best run lighting companies out there. This time around, I wanted to focus on the next arena photographers seek to fulfill the remainder of their photographic wants. After you have your camera and lenses and you've taken care of all your lighting requirements, the next thing you look for are camera accessories.


ProMaster (Photographic Research Organization) has been around for almost 60 years as a privately held cooperative. That's right. Its owned by member retailers, like B&C Camera instead of being a single entity incorporated business. And one of the great benefits to being served by a company like this is that the "shareholders" are more than just a bunch of investors who sit back and stare at the bottom line. A business structure like this means its managed and owned by expert business retailers who actually know the markets they serve. Uniting together like this allows them to capitalize on the collective buying power that help influence the market and get us these great prices.

Mossy Oaks Next to Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley
So what is it about ProMaster that I like? Well, for starters, focusing on the accessories market has pulled some attention away from the big name manufacturers in the photography industry. Maybe back in the day, a solid argument could be made that a better product could be had from buying original equipment manufacturer items, parts, and accessories. A Canon lens hood was designed exclusively for Canon lenses and a "knock-off" lens hood would "never do" as a replacement. But that meant you also paid a premium for branded equipment.

Well, that was in the past. Today, technology has leveled the playing field in two specific areas. One is in the material. Polycarbonate plastics have come a long way. Polymers and synthetics have advanced to improve engineering designs making them light-weight, durable, and inexpensive. Along with the materials, Computer-aided Design and Manufacturing  allows a company to quickly and efficiently use these new materials to manufacture products and shorten the time from sketch to a finished good. When you can now make a product that's as great a quality as what the big name manufacturer can do, then the only thing extra you pay for is the brand name and goodwill.

Looking out from Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley
So that's where the buying power comes in. Presently, ProMaster can command quality and reasonable prices and truly compete with "Big Brands". When I need a cable release to do time-lapse, I can get a Canon for $180. OR, I can pick up the ProMaster Multi-Function RF Timer Remote for $100 and also do it wirelessly. See what I'm saying? Or if I don't need the timer feature, I can just get the Wired Remote Shutter Release Cable for $20 and it works! You can even buy just the cable attachment for it specific for your camera. As a photography instructor, I keep several Nikon, Canon, and Sony cable attachments just because students forget them. You'll pay $70 for the Canon RS-80. Ever lose that thing? What's it feel like to shell out another $70 bucks when you want to do some astrophotography and can't find it?

These guys have thousands of SKU's in their inventory under a plethora of product categories. They sell everything from SD card holders to bags, light stands, full studio lighting kits, filters, tripods, batteries for everything, battery grips, lens accessories, extension tubes...(with contacts to AF), and... tell you what...it'll be easier to just let you name something and play the odds. Chances are, they have it. But guess what! If they don't. Easy-Peasy! Because they are a private collective, they don't have the red-tape and politics of having to go through miles of paperwork and approvals to bring a new product to market. If they want it, they'll buy it or design fabricate it. Too easy.

Then you mix in the fact that ProMaster has no middlemen. Nope. Everything goes straight to the member retailers. Your in-store salespeople become the knowledgeable "reps" that bring you up to speed on your choices based on your individual need. All I'm saying is with ProMaster in the mix, you now have viable options. I don't know. You may not be like me, but for myself, I like options. With no middle men, having to take a piece of the pie, that means lower costs for you. Us. Er'body!

Tracie and I, sole occupants, spending the night on Shackleford Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley
Now, here is the nitty-gritty, though. They've got this pledge thing they call the "ProMaster Promise", which is a one-year unconditional warranty. And it goes a little something like this:

"Our promise of satisfaction; 
We want you to be 100% satisfied with our ProMaster products. If for any reason, your ProMaster product fails within one year of date of purchase, return the item to your ProMaster dealer and it will be exchanged for you at no charge."


Now tell me. Who does a guarantee like that? Show me someone else who does it and I'll show you a badass in the field of customer service. In most cases that warranty will hold up for 30 days...max, with other companies. These guys just said ONE YEAR...UNCONDITIONAL!! Let me break it down for you. Picture this: Ten months after you buy it, your tripod snaps. Okay, cool. Bring it back and get another one. There's no waiting period to conduct an investigation and maybe you'll get another one in six to eight weeks. Bring it in. They check it out at the store. They take the broke one to the back and come back with another new one in the box and say, "Have a nice day. Now get your butt back out there and shoot." How do I know this...because I own the carbon fiber XC-525c and that actually happened. I like carbon fiber. If you don't want to spring for CF, then go for the aluminum XC525 and pick your color.

And if you're in a member store like B&C Camera, just make sure they log your name and email address onto your receipt at time of purchase. 10 months down the road, you may not have kept up with your receipt. At B&C Camera, you can take it up there anyway and just have them look up your name and email and they can find everything you bought, reprint your receipt, and you're good to go. That promise goes for everything.

Inside Currituck Beach Lighthouse (Corolla)
©2014 Terrell Neasley
I've been most impressed with their tripods, LED and studio light kits, bags, and the HGX filters. I switched from B+W's and made all my UV filters HGX, or as we call them at the store, the Reds, because they come in a red case. I've lost a lens cap and just never bothered with a buying another one because I had the HGX filter on the front of it. If you ever scratch it, they'll replace it. They are THAT good and worth the extra cheese if you are putting it on a nice lens.

I've consulted for different businesses that need a studio set up to do product photography, portrait work, etc. I also do One on One Photography classes and toward the end of my week-long course, several students want an all-in-one lighting set up. Having the studio light kits that already include everything you need in one travel bag has proven essential. They make things easy, quick, and simple for both studio flash and LED lighting that adjusts both in power and color temperature. If you want, you can even RENT some ProMaster Light kits to try them out first.

I can't tell the difference between my Sony batteries and my ProMaster batteries at roughly half the cost. However, I did indeed notice a stark difference when we were out of both Sony AND ProMaster batteries. I went down the street and bought a no-name brand. The difference was strikingly different. I chucked it and waited on my ProMaster.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley
So yeah, I'm a fan. But just like you, I've had questions from time to time, which is why I think I'll start recording videos of head to head tests of different ProMaster brand products. I'll be testing durability, accuracy, and the overall results I get from what ProMaster produces vs. the bigger name brand products. This will be done in "lab" fashion as well as actual results in the field. I plan to get back to my 3-month Southeast Asia plans soon and I think that'll be a good time for some field work...hopefully towards the end of November! I'll let you know what ProMaster gear I take with me.

And that's the series on Customer Service delivering more than they promise in genres of photography while serving the same people, like you and I. I hope you give these different companies your consideration and hopefully patronage. I am certain you will not find your trust misplaced.

Tracie and I, sole occupants, spending the night on Shackleford Banks, NC
©2014 Terrell Neasley


16 September 2017

Three Companies that Excel in Customer Service Part II: Paul C. Buff, INC


Beard Project, Jon R., ©2016 Terrell Neasley
Two Einstein 640's 

"You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want."
~ Zig Ziglar

In this 3-part series, I'm covering photo companies that, in my opinion and experience, excel at customer service and have general policies that put the customer ahead of the dollar. Now don't get me wrong. I am not so naive as to not understand that companies are in business to make a profit. A big heart can make you bankrupt. That being understood, I can still appreciate businesses that make it their goal to make that profit by giving the customer what they want and then treating them with respect. In the last post, I covered a camera manufacturer. In this post, I'm going in on the next most important thing photographers have to be most aware of.

Art Model, Justine @2015 Terrell Neasley
Single overhead Einstein 640


And that would be lighting. Paul C. Buff is legendary in the field of lighting. Located in Nashville, TN, they've been serving the photographic community since 1982. Driven to provide great service and a quality product at a reasonable price, this "small" company put the big guys on notice. The competition from them brought costs down and opened the door to people like you and me to own high-end lights at much more reasonable prices. 

I own a couple of Einstein 640's and a White Lightning X3200, (both Paul C. Buff products) along with some of their soft boxes. This is what I can tell you. You can't make me switch to another light system. I'll never be without my Paul C. Buff gear. The Einsteins are so superbly made, any further improvements are inconsequential and imperceptible, although they've been recently upgraded. More on that in a bit. These things give me 640 watt-seconds and can still tone it down to 2.5ws on its lowest setting when you need that quick splash for minimal flash duration.

I sorta wish I had 3 Einsteins instead of the White Lightning, but I can't argue having a studio light pushing 1320 watt-seconds when you need it, but I don't use it as much. Okay, so I'll get a 3rd Einstein, because I would indeed use that. I tell you they are unbeatable. Yeah, you can get some battery-powered or TTL lights from other suppliers. I get that. But I've got 3 Vagabonds that give me all the power I need and I do NOT shoot TTL on my studio lights. 

Art Model, Trixie, ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Single Einstein 640 in Large Octobox
But they are more than just great product. I'm sold on these guys because I can call them up in Nashville and they answer the phone. Like...a human. You've heard me talk about a friend of mine who was out in the desert with a large soft box on his Einstein. Well, the wind can pick up unexpectedly when you live in a desert surrounded by mountains on all sided. It blew over his light and busted it. My friend called them up to get it fixed. They just replaced it even though it was out of warranty. 

As for me, well, I worked the hell out of one of my Einsteins and blew the fan in it. I had a jewelry gig that had me blasting this thing day and night for four months shooting a company's entire inventory. So of course, I called them up for instructions on sending it in and asked how much. Listen to this. They charged me $45, plus $15 for shipping to "fix it". The reason I put that in quotes, is because technically, they did fix it...because they rebuilt the whole thing. 

Ring Jewelry, ©2015 Terrell Neasley
One Einstein 640 overhead, Three Speedlites towards front and sides
Apparently the Einsteins have been upgraded since I bought mine FIVE years prior. So instead of just changing out the fan, they put in new circuits, cams, the fan, and everything to meet the new updated modifications, including a stronger and better sealed outer housing! That meant I got a new serial number as well. In all actuality, I'm really not so sure they truly "fixed" it. If you want my honest opinion, I think they just gave me a completely new Einstein for $60! I can't prove that, but I think it stands to reason to just replace the whole dam thing rather than to a complete rebuild. But that's me. At any rate, they dam sure excel at customer service.

Me ©2016 Terrell Neasley
One Einstein 640 on large soft box upper right side


13 September 2017

Three Companies that Excel in Customer Service Part I: Fujifilm


Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

"Always render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be." 


No matter the industry, there are companies in each that make a good product and suck at customer service. Often times its because of their product demand, like the iPhone or the size of the company like Bank of America. Canon and Nikon are the most well-known photography company brands and that brand is also factored into their product pricing models.

Right now, I'm going to give props to three photography related companies that I feel do an excellent job at delivering a great product and STILL provides a great customer experience to the consumers who purchase their products. First, in this Part I, I'm going to go all in a camera manufacturer.

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

I first picked up a Fujifilm X-E2 a few years back and took off to Nicaragua for about 3 months. I had become a fan of mirrorless tech and I started with them before eventually making Sony my main system. At the time, Sony had the full-frame mirrorless experience, but lacked the lens line-up that I needed. I did not expect much and bought the camera strictly for street photography work, but I learned it was capable of much more. After less than a week in country...I had a rather rough experience with ocean waves, large rocks, and a cliff. My poor Fuji spent hours in and out of the Pacific as I attempted to save my life.

I don't know of ANY camera system that can come back from that. It wasn't even weather-proof, yet after 5 days in a plastic bag full of rice, (and eventually ants), the camera came back to full functioning operation capability. both camera AND lens. Upon my return to the US, I stopped in Los Angeles to shoot the Black College Expo AND models in fashion apparel for a non-profit. I rented an X100S to pair with my X-E2. Upon returning home to Las Vegas and beginning my edits, I quickly realized there was absolutely no added benefit had I used my Nikon D800e. That's a 16mp crop sensor versus a 36mp full frame. No added benefit!

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

On top of that, I have to say that of all the camera manufacturers out there, Fujifilm is the one that listens to its customer base the most. They are firm believers in the Japanese philosophy of the Kaizen continuous improvement model. They'll usually add firmware to update your current camera, whereas other manufacturers will only add the more demanded features in subsequent models. The Fujifilm X-T1 came out only a few months after I bought my X-E2. It was more rugged and more frames per second. Fujifilm eliminated any buyer's remorse I might have acquired by issuing a firmware update that gave me almost the exact same features as the X-T1. Later on, they added more firmware upgrades that effectively gave me a brand new camera. When have you ever had a camera that had more functionality spec-wise three years after you bought it than at the time of purchase? Only Fujifilm has done this.

If you bought the X-Pro2 when it came out last summer, you bought yourself a good rangefinder-style mirrorless camera. Its the papa of the X-E series. Guess what, they've now just announced a firmware upgrade to make your camera do 4K video. See what I'm talking about? Can you feel me now? Most camera companies will use a firmware upgrade to fix a bug OR to make the camera more compatible with a new product from the same manufacturer. A camera maker might release a new lens and then do a firmware update on older cameras to accommodate said lens. Who the hell is dropping 4K functionality into a pre-existing system. Canon isn't doing that. Nikon isn't doing that. If Canon or Nikon had the X-Pro2 and wanted to add 4K video, they'd sit on that firmware upgrade for a year and then introduce the X-Pro3!

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2,
©2014 Terrell Neasley
Fujifilm is definitely not paying me to say any of this. And like I mentioned, I shoot primarily with the Sony Alpha system and I love it. That full frame tech with the high ISO system (a7sII) along with the high resolution system (a7rII) is bad ass. Fujifilm only has APS-C senors in their mirrorless system. I've been full-on Canon. I've been full-on Nikon. I'm full-on Sony right now, but I am not above shooting two systems. In fact, I've got my eye on the Fujifilm X-T2, even though I'm also likely to upgrade my Sony a6300 to the a6500.

On top of that, if you didn't know before, then you know now. Fujifilm is in the medium format business. The Fujifilm GFX 50s is a 50MP medium format mirrorless camera system. Right now, its not where I need it to be to dive into it. Personally, I think there were a few missteps with this first attempt, but I have no doubt the next generation will be a hit. A leaf shutter, faster sync speed, and I definitely want to be able to shoot in bulb mode for longer than 60mins. I think I can adjust to a mechanical shutter that tops out at 1/4000th, but why? That, along with a deeper lens line-up, and I can easily see myself rocking dual systems. I see the GFX in my life moreso than the Sony a9 and I'm very likely to pull the trigger on the next version of this camera. They just released a new 120mm macro!  That makes 6 lenses in the line-up. A new wide prime is one thing I'm waiting for. They have a 23mm f/4, but can it get faster in medium format? Maybe I'm still thinking in full frame perspective.

Anonymous Model in Nicaragua, Shot on Fujifilm X-E2, ©2014 Terrell Neasley


04 September 2017

Last Call for the Milky Way


"This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments?"
~ Henry David Thoreau

Quick shot, 6 mins before moonrise, ©2016 Terrell Neasley

And just like that, summer is almost over and "Game of Thrones" is another year's wait. So much has been going on over the last few months, but that's another story. Right now, its all about getting that hustle and getting more gigs. So much to do for the remainder of the year. Can you believe its already September? Not many days in the year left. So if you want to shoot the Milky Way, you'd better get on it and do it now. Here's why:

Art Model Covenant, ©2016 Terrell Neasley

You can't shoot the Milky Way year around. You can shoot stars all year. And you can even shoot the Milky Way looking out away from the core. But you won't be shooting the core itself in about 5 weeks time and here's why.

Relative to the Milky Way, our solar system rotates on a different axis. The axis of the all the planets rotating around the sun is about 60 degrees relative to the Milky Way. During the winter months, we can't see the interior of the galactic core which is the largest concentration of stars that zoom around the super gigantic black hole in the center of our galaxy. The sun blocks the view because the earth is on the opposite side of it.

Art Model Covenant, ©2016 Terrell Neasley
So by mid to the 3rd week in October, all the way through til March, we can't see the galactic core of the Milky Way...at least not in the Northern Hemisphere. If you're in the Southern Hemisphere then you can begin to see it again by February. All that means by mid-October, you'd better have all your galactic core shots done.

Don't wait til the last minute on this. Do it as early as possible here in September. You'll need a tripod, a shutter release cable helps, and most importantly...fast glass. Ideally, you'd be better off using a wide-angle lens with a very large maximum aperture, such as a 24mm f/1.4 lens. You can get by with a lens that has a max aperture of f/2.8, but your exposure time will be longer. If the exposure time is too long, you'll get star trails in your Milky Way because of the rotation of the earth. Typically, I get my best exposure times at about 15 to 25 seconds depending on your camera's high ISO performance.

Art Model Covenant, ©2016 Terrell Neasley
A good camera that performs well at the higher ISOs will allow for a f/2.8 lens much better. The lower performance cameras will have to be helped out with faster glass. That's the trade off, but with a good camera AND fast glass, I've had exposures of only 10 seconds.

As I mentioned, you'll need a tripod for sure, however I said a shutter release cable would help. Since your exposure will typically be under 30 seconds, you don't technically need a shutter release cable because you can set the camera mode to shutter priority. You won't have to use the BULB mode for this. I still recommend a shutter release cable for the stability factor. Because you don't have to touch your camera you avoid the probability of introducing camera shake into your shot.

All that being said, get out and shoot some Milky Way shots before you have to wait another half year! Its Labor Day, so here are some Labor Day camping and Milky Way shots from on and around Labor Day of last year. Enjoy!

Art Model Covenant, ©2016 Terrell Neasley



08 July 2017

How to Keep Shooting Despite the Hot Weather


Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
"If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?"
~ Steven Wright

I don't know where you live, but Las Vegas was 115°F yesterday. That's 46°Celsius for those of you who relate more to that temp scale. Here in the desert during the summer months we come to expect that, but it doesn't mean we are comfortable with it. I call it vampire heat because just being in the sunlight can turn you into an ash replica of yourself. And also because my mom says the heat can suck the life right out of you. So does this mean that you need to suspend all outdoor shooting for the next 3 months? Are you now restricted to solely studio work during this time? Well, lets see...

Both Mirrorless cameras and DSLR's have a standard operating temperature max of about 104°F. So at 115°, that sensor is cooking. Cameras that don't have weather sealing will have a tougher time in these temps, especially where humidity is a factor. And don't even think about doing video at these temps. Try to do 4K and your goose is cooked. And by goose, I'm not referring to the relatively large well-known waterfowl. I'm talking about your camera over heating with permanent damage.

So let me share with you FIVE good options on how to keep shooting despite the hot weather.

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
1. The most obvious thing is to keep the camera out of direct sunlight. Just shielding your camera with your own body or covering it with a towel can go a long way. Keeping the sunlight off of it is the culinary equivalent of simply taking a boiling pot off the fire. Yeah, it might still be hot, but the boil suddenly stops. SHADE is your friend. And while I'm at it, remember this tip. Treat your camera like you would your kid. DO NOT leave your camera gear sitting in the car while you go grab something out of the grocery store. It doesn't matter if you'll only be in there a minute. Take your gear with you. On this matter, it has less to do with preventing theft.

In Vegas heat, the plastic molding of your camera body can actually melt inside a car as the interior temperature rises to 180°F. You can actually ruin the lubricants inside your camera as well as causing seals to expand beyond the factory specifications. Then you are left wondering why your lens has such a rough feel when you zoom out. Or why your shutter assembly suddenly fails. The heat affects your sensor big time. The reason you get noise when shooting at high ISOs is because of the heat produced at that level. Well you can be at ISO 100 and still get noise like that in high heat environments.

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
2. I've done model shoots at practically all hours of the day even in this desert heat. What I do is simple. I seek out shaded areas in the two C's of Shade. Canopies and Canyons. Its not that hard to find trees that afford enough cover from the sun. You can Google Map it and find adequate locations to help you. When I first moved to Las Vegas, I ran my art nude workshops in the shade. Some participants were a bit out of shape to handle too much heat. I had some who's age required less strenuous environments. I even had an actor who performed in "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Venetian. Getting a really dark tan was not in the script! Finding a strip of trees will be easiest in places that still get water such as in the low grounds of canyons. But canyons themselves can also serve shade just due to the steepness of the rocks. As long as the sun is not directly overhead, there'll be shadows coming from one side or the other.

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
3. In Vegas, its coolest earlier in the morning. So schedule shoots to be completed BEFORE 9am. By 10, the temp is already in the high 90's if not already 100. Its going to stay in the 100 range until 5 or 6pm before it begins to cool. I've seen it to be over 100°F after 9pm on the Strip. People don't realize how much glass, steel, and asphalt are collecting heat during the day and giving it back off at night. So schedule shoots early in the morning. Oh, and don't forget extra batteries. Heat can really tax the battery power. In fact, don't leave batteries in your camera when you are not shooting. Take them out of your camera. The last thing you want is for a battery to explode INSIDE your camera. You're welcome.

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
4. Along with early morning shoots, try your hand at some night time shooting. You can get adventurous and paint with light or use the full moon as your only light source. You might also consider speedlights or on-location studio lights with Vagabond battery packs. B&C Camera has some 500ws Phottix Indra500 TTL Battery Powered Studio Lights that also have High Speed Sync up to 1/8000th of a second. You can buy them for about $1300 or you can simply RENT them from the B&C Camera Rental Department. See...Too Easy!

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
5. Or you can get the hell out of Vegas! Do a day trip to Mt Zion National Park. Its still high 90's there, but compared to temps in the 100-teens, 90° feels a bit nippy. Actually, you don't even have to do that far. Wanna know what the forecast is this week for Mt. Charleston? MID-80's!! So the name of the game is elevation. But let me even keep you even a bit closer to Vegas. Check out ICE BOX CANYON! You can expect anywhere from a 10 to 15° temperature drop back in that canyon and in some cases 20. Again, Google Maps some of these areas and go scout them out during the time of the day that you'd like to conduct your photo shoot. So there you go. 5 good tips to keep shooting despite the hot weather. Be smart, but most of all, be safe. Happy Shooting!

Art Model, Chloe Ann © 2017 Terrell Neasley
Bonus Tip: Consider keeping a ice pack or cooler handy. You can even put a frozen water bottle in your camera bag just to keep the temperature down. You don't need to put the bottle right up against the camera though. Be careful because the sudden temperature change from the cooler to the ambient air can cause condensation. If that happens, let the camera sit in the ambient air for a bit til the condensation evaporates. And be sure to take care of yourself as well. Sunscreen. A wide-brim hat. Light-weight clothing covering exposed skin. And most importantly... HYDRATE!!! Even if you are not thirsty, drink water anyway.

03 July 2017

Its Going to Be Southeast Asia


Its now July and after much deliberation, I've decided Southeast Asia is going to be my next travel adventure location. Primarily, I'll be concentrating on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia this time around. Why? I love Central America (and will likely be there next year), but this time I want to see something completely new. I'll be focused on getting more fine art landscape, especially at night, and scouting possibilities for future workshops. When? Well that's a good question and I'm so glad you asked because that's where YOU come in.

I'm looking at a 3-month excursion doing one big loop that'll have me tromping through the length of each country starting in Hanoi and playing around Northern Vietnam. I'll then travel to Laos and fiddle-faddle in the northern region before making my way south and into Cambodia. I haven't made specifics with Cambodia as much, but from there, I'll likely make my way to Southern Vietnam and back up to Hanoi again. Could be 4 months...I don't know. Flights are so much less during the fall.

However, with this undertaking, funding is paramount and I want your help. Over the next three months into September, I want to be working my ass off to cover my trip expenses for an October start date. So the more I get help from you guys, the faster I get gone and the faster you get to see all my interesting and highly intriguing pics of the glorious Southeast Asia region. I want a huge focus on the Mekong Delta!


You want to help? Okay:

1. Keep me in mind when you need your next photography service. This is what I do, after all. No, I'm not cheap, but I'm damn good and right now is the best time to catch me while I'm willing to negotiate a bit more given this high volume of service traffic you guys will be bestowing upon me. You already know I like to travel, so if you're out of state, I certainly welcome that. I love seeing new places! And don't act like you hadn't seen my portraiture work, especially with the beard series. You know you love it. Its time for you to get some new pics. Mine are made for the wall in your home and not just the wall on your FB page.


2. Keep me in mind when you hear of someone needing photography services. I do a 10% kickback on contracts for gigs that you recommend to me under $2000. Recommend a gig that results in $1000 service, you get $100 back from me immediately upon receipt of payment. I'll do 15% for any contracts $2000 and over. Do the math. That's $300 and up. So as long as the contract books and payment is made...you get paid.


3. You've seen my fine art work. (I hope you've been paying attention to more than just my art nude work.) Well, here's your chance to own some and virtually everything is for sale. Check out my website at PhotoAnthems.com (or even this blog) and see what you like. Yes, I still hold some pieces off the market for the time being, but if you have something you're interested in, let me know. I print big. The smallest would be a 16x20 or something at least 300sq inches.


4. Photo Classes - I do One-on-One week-long photography classes that are intense and in-depth. I cover information on your specific camera before getting into the fine nuances of photography. My classes are customized to you and your needs. Nobody really gets the same class because each of you are so different with different needs and learning styles. I don't teach one generic class that everybody gets in cookie-cutter format. Nope. You tell me what you need and I tailor it specific to you for 5 days with a minimum of 4 hours and we do a whole lot of shooting, both in studio and on-location...daytime and night...covering speedlights and studio lights, and so much more.

So email me for more information at my Gmail account, using PhotoAnthems in front of the @ symbol. You'll be helping me get started sooner on my journey.


26 June 2017

B&C Camera Rentals

Art Model, Faerie
“A camera is a SAVE button for the mind’s eye.”
~ Roger Kingston

In Part II of my Photographer's Block series, "Get Some Gear" was Tip #5 and that covered renting photo/video gear as an option to help you break free of Photographer's Block. I thought it might be a good idea to cover that in a little bit more depth.

B&C Camera is an independently owned brick and mortar camera store, owned by German photographer, Joe Dumic. It is one of the fastest growing stores in the western U.S. and is steadily evolving. The Camera Rental department is what I'll obviously focus on in this post. Joe continues to add more and more camera gear to the rental inventory. You can now get the newly released Sony A9 to rent if you want to try it out before you buy it. Testing gear is one thing. Businesses and professional shooters will rent out a lot of gear at one time. I remember when Matt Damon came to Las Vegas to film his latest "Jason Bourne" movie last year. You'd think those guys would have brought everything they needed, but nope. They came to B&C Camera for gear.

Art Model, Faerie
If I had to guess, I'd say film crews need more lighting gear than anything. Especially out-of-towners who don't want to pay the extra airline baggage fees for lighting equipment. Locals will spend more on camera and lens gear when they get a gig which calls for an upgrade on what they may currently already own, particularly lenses. You can get anything from 8mm to up to 600mm glass. Special events come to Las Vegas all the time. That's when you see the 70-200s of all brands began to disappear off the shelves. The Super moons will make demands of the Tamron 150-600 for both Canon and Nikon models. And its all easy as pie to rent. So how do you get some gear? Glad you asked.

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”
~ Robert Frank

The first thing you have to understand is that B&C Camera is a retail camera store who happens to do rentals. So Joe has to secure his inventory with credit card deposits usually for the replacement cost of the rental. We get plenty of people who come in with cash deposits as well. They may need an extra speedlight and will do a cash deposit of $400 or so. You you'll need a credit card and you ID. But first, you online and choose some gear! You can reserve it right there on the spot for the date you need it for. Be smart and make your reservations as soon as you know you'll need the gear. There are multiple availabilities on a lot of rental gear, but not for everything. There's only one A9 at the moment, for instance. So reserve it before some other smart photog beats you to the punch.

Art Model, Faerie
You can see how much the deposit is when you make your reservation. You don't pay anything at the time of reservation. All that's done at the store when you go pick up your rental. So make the reservation online. One the day of pick-up, bring your ID and credit card. The credit hold will go on the credit card. Debit cards are not advisable and they won't usually take them for deposits. For whatever reason, banks don't release the deposit hold very quickly. It can take up to 30 days and that will usually piss some people off. Coming up to the store to complain won't help. Its got nothing to do with the store. Its a bank issue. So bring a credit card.

Art Model, Faerie
You'll usually get an email notification alerting you that your rental is ready for pick-up. Someone will test out the gear you are renting, make sure the battery is charged, and bag everything up, making the process more efficient. All you have to do is sign all the rental paperwork. At this point, they'll run your card for the deposit authorization which will then put a hold on those funds. So if you're renting a camera and a lens, the total deposit might be $2000. You need to have at least that amount on your credit card available to you. Lets say you have $2500 available on your credit card. When they run your deposit, $2000 will be held on that card and you will then only have $500 available to you until you bring back the camera gear and the hold falls off. It may take another day or two for the bank to release that hold, but in any case, you are not charged anything. It won't even show up on your statement.

After that, you simply pay the daily rental fee up front. You rent for 3 days at $50 per day, then you'll be charged $150 right there on the spot. But get this... Saturday, Sunday, and Monday count as ONE day... a weekend rate. So if you reserve it for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, you only pay for ONE day, not 3. Just have it back on Monday before 7pm. So make your reservation online, bring in your credit card and ID, and sign all the paperwork. After all that, you're walking out with your gear with high expectations! Some things to keep in mind, though. You may need to also rent some extra batteries. And if you're getting a high resolution camera, you just might need some extra SD cards. The Sony A7rII is a 42-megapixel beast with large file sizes. I shoot with 32Gb cards. Maybe you'll want 64Gbs. So keep all that in mind. Happy Shooting!

Art Model, Faerie

20 June 2017

10 Tips on Photographer's Block Part III

Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
"The thing that's important to know is that you never know. You're always sort of feeling your way." 
~ Diane Arbus

I broke this series up into three parts for a reason. I wanted to use my first post to drive home the fact that those 4 realization points were imperative before any benefits from any tips could come to fruition. The next post dealt mainly with elements that involved a more direct focus on photography. However, this last post of the series has a bit more focus on the issue of mental health, itself. When you look at creative blocks, its your mental ability to cognitively contribute that's impeded. So, let me dive on into this.

Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
Tip #6 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Get a medical check up (and some rest)

If its been a while since you've had your last doctor's visit, maybe it's a good time to make an appointment. Getting a clean bill of health can be mentally comforting all on its own. At the least, you can get a doctor's recommendation to help you deal with stress, know what vitamin/mineral deficiencies you might be suffering from, or find out in advance if there is something more serious which can be caught in early stages. 



Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
If you can't do that, then at the very least, get some rest. Spend a day or weekend doing absolutely nothing. And when I say nothing...I'm talking about getting up to eat, bathe, or go to the bathroom and that's it. Take a chill weekend. Prep for it. Prior to your do nothing day, get errands done, pay bills, and arrange for a baby-sitter if necessary. Me and my girl did a staycation at the Artisan earlier this year just to get away for a bit. I let her go on her own for a few days and then joined her for another 2 days after upgrading our room to a huge suite. Netflix and chill.

Tip #7 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Spend some time with family/friends


Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
Sometimes hiding away or going solo is not the better option. It can be just as important to remember why certain people are important to you and then treat them as such. Call them up and arrange some hang out time. Do the phone only if there are miles and miles of separation that makes eye to eye a bit challenging. Invite a friend (some friends) over and get some pizza and beer. Hang out on the back patio and just talk. Its not necessary to have to spend a bunch of money or make a big to-do about the matter. Relax


"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Tip #8 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Take a day trip 150 miles away

Now this one is more of a task or assignment, but it definitely belongs here. Look at a map from where you live and plot out a sight, place, city, or landmark that is 150 miles away from you or the closest to it. Pick a date within the next week and go. You don't have to even bring your camera but at least have your charged cell phone. Nothing at 150 miles...do 200 miles. But now you've got 3 hours one-way to kill and beyond that gets into more than a trip you can make in a day. Here out West in Southern Nevada, I'm grateful that I can travel in any direction and see wondrous landscape of all kinds. I can head up further into Nevada, head south into Arizona, southwest into California, or Northeast into Utah. Any direction I go I can find a major State AND National park to visit. 


Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
Tip #9 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Have sex (or at least exercise)

I wouldn't think it necessary to go into details on the benefits sex has on your life, but you'd be surprised. And I'm not talking about meaningless sex for the sake of simply having sex. For the purposes of this post, lets assume intimate relationship sex. But regardless, who's going to argue with me on this one? The health benefits are too staggering to ignore. You want to freshen your mind with a splash of creativity? Get with your partner and become awash in the dopamine and endorphins that will rest your body and heal your mental incontinence. Its relieves stress, helps you sleep better, helps reduce depression, and more. At least, that's some of the stuff I read in this recent Medical News Today article. But do you really need an article to tell you this...


Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
Tip #10 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Grab your camera and go shoot something

And finally, when it comes down to it, do the things that you can do. You don't have control over everything. You DO have control over somethings, though. And when you can't do the things you want to do, do the things you can. You may be blocked, but you CAN still pick up your camera and press the shutter release. You CAN get in your car and drive 150 miles to a location and explore it. You can tell your mother you love her and go pay her a visit. You CAN actually do a lot of things. Go. Volunteer. And if its taskings you need or assignments, I have that too and I'd love to share them when requested of me.


Art Model, Elizabeth ©2007 Terrell Neasley 
* BONUS Tip on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Pray

And sometimes you have absolutely no control what so ever. Sometimes any and everything you can think of crashes down like a house of cards set aflame. I had a school project due in a photographic final presentation. I was to photograph a couple in their mid-50's and it was to be a great project. For whatever reason, they bailed on me for our shoot. I could come up with nothing else and time was running out. At the end of my rope, I prayed about my predicament and honestly didn't really expect much. On my way back to my dorm room, I ran into Elizabeth sitting on a bench, whom you see featured in this blog post. I hadn't seen her in a year and even before that I didn't really know her. We had mutual friends, only. 

We talked briefly and said our cordial, "Hello...long time no see" to each other. As despondent as I was, I just wanted to get back to my dorm... Until she asked about my photography and did I have any need for any models. She turned out to be one of the best I have had the privilege to ever work with. Answer to prayer? Yes. Directly, so. The girl was a God-send, because I had no control, no power, and no idea how I was going to get any of it done. So yeah...Prayer.

17 June 2017

10 Tips on Photographer's Block Part II

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.” — Pablo Picasso

Now that you have given close and careful consideration to the Four previously posted Realization Points, let's get into some of those actual tips on dealing with Photographer's Block. There are a myriad of different taskings you can assign yourself. I have written more than a hundred just for the explicit purpose of speaking or writing on this before. But I want to challenge you just a wee bit differently here in this post. The goal isn't so much to just give you all the answers and have you mimic programmed robots that execute commands. The objective is two-fold, but they run together. I want to prime your pumps, so to speak, and get you into the habit of thinking. In the majority of these examples I give, it still leaves open room for your input, creativity, and values that are important to you. Here are the first FIVE, I'll challenge you with in this post. You can let these digest a bit before I do the last FIVE later on.

Tip #1 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Volunteer

One of the best cures for dealing with your own troubles is to help someone else out of theirs. Find a "Give Back" project and open yourself to it as much as you dare to. I won't tell you what to do and it doesn't even have to be in a photographic capacity. Volunteer somewhere that you feel is meaningful and that you know you can make a contribution. The specifics don't matter so much. Photography doesn't matter that much either. The reward should be purely intrinsic and your intentions completely altruistic. Start there and spend some time in this endeavor. When you are ready, pick up the camera and consider documenting this cause, but only when you begin to see the story in it.

I've spoken regularly about my efforts to help out NowILayMeDownToSleep.org which offers remembrance photography services primarily for little babies that don't make it long after birth. These are professional portraits done that mark a child's time on this planet much better than a birth/death certificate can do. Its likely the only portraits that will ever be done. I reached my limit with this program after about 5 years. Trust me. Its good to know your limitations. Now this is a give-back program that already involves a camera. However, there have been several more causes that I've taken up whereby I brought the camera in later. So you search yourself and look for opportunities to give back.

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Tip #2 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Act like there is no block

Yes, it sounds crazy, but think about it for a minute. First, staying positive about the situation is the absolute best thing you can do for yourself. Second, conducting yourself and your affairs as if there IS NO block is the ultimate in self affirmations that will help you actually BELIEVE there is no block. But lets take those two points of fact out of the picture for a minute. The third reason is that you can easily FORGET that you are blocked by allowing yourself some distractions. When you take the pressure off, you can bring in some much needed reprieve by catching a movie or spending some time with someone important to you. Before you know it, you're not blocked. See? Not so crazy.


"When I am stuck … I just search for excitement, but not too hard. It is when I find myself playing more than trying that I find my way out of a block." - Aris Moore

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Tip #3 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Get Desperate

Right. I know what you're going to say. This sounds like the opposite of Tip #2. Well, that's chiefly because it is. These are not systematic tips that you are supposed to methodically utilize one right after the other. If only one of these tips helps you, then that's all you need. Getting desperate is a trick I used to play on myself during my military days. When a task seemed insurmountable, but absolutely had to get done, I'd change the stakes. Which is to say that I'd imagine much more dire consequences if I failed at my mission. Failure became an unacceptable option simply because the mission perspective changed. I'd do the same thing in high school. I may have an assignment due for which I procrastinated til the last minute. Getting my ass whooped by my mom became the unacceptable option that made me desperate enough to put something on some paper and get an assignment turned in. You'd be much surprised to learn that many of my final grades on last minute projects where over a B. So if you have to, Get Desperate!

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Tip #4 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Get a mentor

As self-promoting as this may be, you need somebody like me. I'm an ass-kicker. I'm going to be in your face and I will hold you accountable. That's not to say I go all out drill sergeant on you, but think of me like that big brother that honestly cares about your success and well-being. Because, I do. Finding a mentor like that is priceless. Well, let me not say priceless, because I do sometimes have quite a specific price. But once you got me, you got me. I've got several students that have paid me to teach them photography in my week long one-on-one courses. Its a rare thing to never hear back from them again and some have become very close to me. I'll get a call back from any one of them asking about advice and counsel and it doesn't have to even be photo related. Get a mentor like me.

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Tip #5 on Dealing with Photographer's Block: Get some gear

I work at B&C Camera on an on-call basis...maybe a day or two a month. We have a Rental department that is absolutely exceptional. I spent the first part of the day yesterday prepping rental equipment by getting people's rental reservation gear tested and ready to be picked up. Its been a while since I had worked there and there have been a plethora of new additions in all sorts of cameras, lenses, LED lighting, audio and video equipment, action cameras, you name it.

You can reserve 135mm Zeiss Batis glass which is perfect for those indoor sports gigs, the Hasselblad X1D-50s, Rode or Sennheiser Wireless Mics, Profoto studio lights, a DJI Osmo X3, or a million different items in the Canon, Nikon, Sony, line-up. And there's plenty of  the latest Tamron and Sigma lenses to even mention. So I'm not even saying you have to go out and buy your own gear. Just go online and reserve it, then pick it up at the store. Wanna play with a Nikon Tilt-Shift lens? Reserve it. Go get it. And see what it looks like. Then see what you can do with it! Get some gear!!

Art Model, Covenant ©2017 Terrell Neasley