20 April 2017

Return of the Panda


Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley
"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
~ Nelson Mandela

If you haven't seen it or heard the news, Sony just announced the much awaited and rumored Sony a9 system. Its a beast of a system, at that. You can see the details of the camera on the Sony website. The thing has almost 700 phase detect AF points which now practically covers the entire sensor and can shoot continuously at 20fps WITH AF/AE on each shot. Its got dual SD card slots now. I really miss that from my Nikon and Canon days. The battery life has doubled. It can shoot silently with a shutter topping out at 1/32,000 of a second. This thing definitely set new standards of what can be done in photography.

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley

But its not for me. Its designed for sports, but I'd love to have it for my own purposes as well, mind you. However, it still doesn't suite me better than the Sony a7rII. I still love that camera and if I need speed, I have the fully capable Sony a6300. Yeah, its the same one I bought for my girlfriend, but I traded her my full-frame a7II AND my beautiful 55mm 1.8. On the surface, its a dumb trade. I'd have to be entirely stupid to make this trade with anybody else. The operative word here is "girlfriend". So that makes it a good deal, albeit selectively. But that's okay. I lost the 2nd best lens available for the a7rII. There's only one lens better and that's the Sony G Master 85mm 1.4. And I just picked it up. So don't cry for me... I'm good.

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley
"I'm a storyteller; that's what exploration really is all about. Going to places where others haven't been and returning to tell a story they haven't heard before." 
~ James Cameron

And then guess who came back to town for a visit. I'm sure you figured that out from the pics. If you've followed me for more than a few years, you'd know that Panda was the one model I had photographed most. (Now Tracie...er...Art Model, Covenant holds that honor.) As an artist, she's one of the few among hundreds who has allowed me to get better as a photographer. That's the actual function of a muse. I might have 5 like that in my life right now. I always want to tell a story with my camera and she's aided me in my own self-exploration and expression. She was on her way to Peru and knew she needed a new camera system to make some great pics on her journey. She gave me the specs on what was most important to her and the Sony a6000 fit the bill. Am I a bit biased towards Sony gear. Nope. If Sony is the best for the job, then I'm just truthful, wouldn't you agree?

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley

So she picked up the camera and then flew back in to Vegas for me to train her on it. Remember...I teach One on One photo classes for YOUR specific camera system.  She stayed with me for a week and of course between training sessions we got to do some shooting. Its been 3 years since Panda moved away with her family. So it was a pleasure to see her again and shoot. What's changed about her in 3 years? Well, she's got "mom" all over her now. She's had another daughter since I last saw her who's about 2 years old now. Herding TWO girls, two years apart has stained that mommyhood varnish over her in a double thick coat. Nonetheless, we practically picked up where we left off except this time, I also explained a lot of what I was doing while shooting her.

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley
Seeing how this time around, shooting her was also a teaching session, we shot A LOT! 3 different shoots and 3 different locations. For a 5-day class session, the first two days are in-house going over the camera on day 1 and then general photography principles and fundamentals on day 2. The remaining 3 days are spent out in the field and/or studio. I hated having to see her go...again...BUT, its likely her hunny bun might be getting a job out this way this summer. So who knows...

Art Model, Panda ©2017 Terrell Neasley



27 March 2017

Where To Next?



I'm long overdue for one of my Epic/Adventure/Experience the World trips and its time to get back to those considerations. So the question is now, "WHERE?". I have no problem whatsoever heading back to Central America, but it'll be hitting rainy season there soon which can be tough on photography gear. Shooting in general can be tough with all the humidity hanging in the air which takes away from the nice deep depth of field landscape shots.

So what are some other options that can afford scenic, but off the beaten path shots that won't break the bank if you stay there a while? Well, there's always South America with regions for all seasons year round. Depending on where you go, you can avoid the humid areas, but heading up in the the Andes. It still gets cold up in the mountains practically any time of the year. Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia are definite considerations. Possibly even Bolivia.


Some of the lesser traveled and less popular islands of the South Pacific can be destination alternatives as well. Everybody knows about Fiji and Tahiti. You don't hear about Tonga, or Rarotonga as much though. Each of these archipelago island countries has hundreds of smaller islets of which many are not even populated. Getting to them can be a bit tricky though. Its not so cheap to fly out to them. If I had my wish, I'd find someone sailing throughout the South Pacific and join them. That would be a grand adventure to spend 6 months or so sailing and exploring these Polynesian island nations.

Outside of these, I'm not sure. Western Europe? Eastern Europe? Continental Africa? Asia? I'm open to ideas and opportunities. That much, I can say for sure. No one place has an advantage of selection right now. My options are open for opportunities. The chance to see, shoot, and experience more cultures takes precedence. So if you are sitting on a catamaran contemplating an idea to sail the open seas with a need for a photog to document the experience, call me. We should definitely talk about this.


I could also ask the same question of you, dear reader. "Where to next, for you?" Do you have your passport in hand and updated? When do you next plan to get some new stamps on some of those blank passport pages? Granted, its not all about getting stamps, mind you. You can hop from one place to the next, stamp collecting and you'll not be any more enriched had you taken a through a Wal-Mart parking lot on the good side of town. Traveling entails getting to know life from the local's point of view in the country you are visiting. And I don't think you'll see much fulfillment if you just visit Cancun and never leave the resort.


But maybe that's exactly what you need...who know's. Sometimes its just a break from your normal routine that does the trick. This is not what I'm talking about though. To each his own. I understand that. But you're not broadening out your humanity by simply taking a vacation. Vacations are useful to help you reset...like the weekend break from your normal 9 to 5 work week. Traveling and experiencing new cultures and God's creation helps you learn a little bit more about humankind, and thereby you learn about yourself. Not just the superficial you, but rather the deeper self, that you may rarely get to connect with. Okay, that's it. I'm doing a blog post about Traveling vs Vacationing real soon.

10 March 2017

Ladies and Gentleman.... Chloe Ann

Art Model, Chloe Ann ©2017 Terrell Neasley

I got introduced to Chloe Ann by the highly regarded and a notable photo colleague, Dave Levingston about a month and some weeks ago. I didn't know her, but when DaveL shouts out a model you pay attention. So right off the bat, I'm making a few assumptions. If she's working with Dave Levingston, she's good to go. AND if she's a friend of his, then she's automatically cool with me.

Art Model, Chloe Ann ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Chloe Ann is from Maine on an adventure trip, driving coast to coast from one corner of this great country to the opposite shore. From the shores of Maine to the shores of San Diego, CEE-AY, she and her fiance set out on a trek. She got to spend considerable time here in Las Vegas, and we did our best to make due with that time. Having never seen this part of the U.S., it was tough to narrow the sites down to only a few. I asked them what were the most important spots they wanted to visit, and that's where we shot.

Art Model, Chloe Ann ©2017 Terrell Neasley

We got in 3 good days of shooting and it was phenomenal. I took the betrothed burlesque couple out to some of my stomping grounds where I knew we could avoid crowds and inquisitive eyes. Oh...did I say burlesque...you're still caught up with that description. Well, allow me, if you will, to digress for a bit and introduce you to the creative burlesque duo, Mr. and Mrs. F*cksmart. Here's one of their performances, CREEP. Funny, right? Okay. As I was saying... avoiding inquisitive eyes. Yes. From their pick of places to visit, I chose the appropriate spots to get in some great sight-seeing, beautiful hikes, and of course, great spots to shoot naked people.

Art Model, Chloe Ann ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Apart from the smile, the charm, and the figure, I'd have to say I enjoyed her attitude the most. She's definitely more comfortable being nude than clothed and her bubbly personality makes her easy to work with. She's hardy as well. Coming from Maine, she's experienced with a little cold and she had to endure some cold here in Vegas because all 3 days we shot, the temps were in the 50's. And that's not just regular cold temp 50, but 50 with wind that make it seem more like 10! I did my best to keep her nude as little as possible, but art nude photogs aren't that great at that. Hiking out to these spots, it would seem I was asking her to drop-trow every 40 feet it seemed. There's just so much gorgeousness around here! Its hard not to see a spot and not want to improve it with a nude. That's just my pain I have to endure. Its not easy to resist the lure.

Art Model, Chloe Ann ©2017 Terrell Neasley

In 3 days we got in 4 locations of some of Nevada's finest landscapes, locations, and scenic hot spots. I added some promo work for their burlesque shows, and when it was all said and done, I had a body of work I was quite pleased with. Contact her via her Model Mayhem page and schedule some time with this fabulous muse and rest assured her time in your work will be money well spent. You can catch any of her burlesque performances by keeping tabs on the announcements on her Facebook page. Great girl to work with. You'll see.

Art Model, Chloe Ann, @theFsmarts ©2017 Terrell Neasley



18 January 2017

A Butterfly Emerges: How One Woman Came to Redefined Her Life

Jungles of El Salvador 2015 touring waterfalls
I'm way past due on doing my photo books. 2012 was my last book that I did, an annual of all the nudes I shot earlier that year. I've done books for other people since then (travel, bereavement, and commissions), but not any of my own books for my own art work. So I've put my mind to three projects and this is the first one.


This is my latest art project, an intimate, sensual, and even explicit pictorial narrative of a woman's transformation from a stifled life to one of her own will and exploration. She's made life changes after a divorce that now prioritize travel, exploration, and being much more positive about her body. There are over 230 full-spread images in this book and two editions are available. Both are hard back and large format. However the higher priced of the two editions is printed on the best quality heavy paper the publisher has to offer. The other has a dust jacket and printed on premium paper, but not the heaviest stock.


This is the largest book I've done to date, primarily because of the volume of accumulated work over about three years. Trying to curate these edits down to the maximum allowable by the publisher was quite the daunting task. I could have easily added another 500 images to this collection and I am considering a separate volume with nothing but cell phone images...easily another 1,000!



I titled this art piece, "A Butterfly Emerges, How One Woman Came to Redefine Her Life", because its very appropriately describes her life's journey to this date. I won't get into specifics, but suffice to say she has come to terms with where her life has brought her and has chosen to live much more liberated going forward. She's my personal muse, companion, and soul mate and we've chosen to share our adventures in this series of work with more to come.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras 2015


The butterfly honestly embodies who this model is on several levels. A delicate creature, emerging from her past to find her wings and fly skyward. Fitting with this analogy is the story of transition and transformation. Often when you hear of butterfly used as a verb, as in "to butterfly a fillet", its often describing the act or splitting something apart, almost in two and then spreading it open. As you will see in the pages to follow, we've chosen to not shy away from exhibiting this model's natural tendency to be seated with knees high and spread open. She truly relaxes and is most comfortable with her legs "butterflied", if you will.



And for my part, I photograph the nude. All of it. I do not shoot to miss, cover, or hide genitalia. I use discretion in some cases and then again not in others. I know I run the risk of over-saturating your senses with pussy shots (and even penis images in some spots), but again, I remind you of my volume dilemma. We have photographed in and around our home and studio, but our journey has also taken us on travels throughout Nevada, Utah, California, the Outer Banks in North Carolina, and three months in Central America (Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.) We enjoy camping, backpacking, and day trips.

El Salvador. Yes, sometimes it got THAT hot!
Therefore I ask for you, the viewer, to try to see these images and my art as the way it was intended; as a real-life depiction of a woman's emergence into a will of her own and shared by myself. It is intimate, provocative, and yes, explicit. However, I have faith that you can see through all of that and see the journey for what it is and enjoy my artwork.



You can see previews of this journey on my Blurb bookstore site. I must tell you the edition with the highest quality, heavy stock paper is damn sure worth your investment. I will generally sell a single piece of my art for 5 times that amount and in this case, you get more than 230. Its more than a book of a hard binder and pages. My hope is that I have been successful in my attempt to stimulate your senses and bring you into our experience. Click on this link. Buy my book. I know you will enjoy it.

Thank you.


08 December 2016

Alternatives for Shooting When it Gets Cold

Art Model Covenant, "Baby its Cold Outside..." ©2015 Terrell Neasley


The temps dropping fast here in Las Vegas. I can only imagine what things are like in New England or the Midwest. Actually, I don't even want to imagine it. I'm having my own difficulties handling these frigid temps where its hovering around the mid-40's at night. (Don't judge me.) But the more important question is this:

What's a photographer to do when she/he is used to shooting outdoors and is partial to late evening and night time shoots?

Good question.
Art Model, Franki Dame Hotel in Las Vegas, ©2016 Terrell Neasley
Well, you're going to have to get smart about it. As well as get out of your comfort zone. You can't stop shooting. Let's get that established as priority one. Photogs don't go into hibernation until the spring. If you try that, you'll start the spring off with some major suckage...and nobody wants to suck that bad. So don't get out of practice.

Instead, when things get cold outside, you bring all your business inside. I know...that likely means studio and you're going to throw out the "natural light" card. Well, if you want to be a shooter, you're going to have to learn ARTIFICIAL LIGHT. Okay, so the first thing you're going to need is artificial light, obviously. Take a look at some flash options. You're either going the speedlight(lite) route or studio (mono) lights. And then you're going to need some space to shoot in, which is the easiest part. You can temporarily move your furniture around to get that needed space.

Art Model, Christina. Working in my studio ©2016 Terrell Neasley
Lighting might be tougher. First it depends on your budget. Well, actually it all depends on your budget. You can buy what you need or rent the lights you need. Fortunately, you can do both at B&C Camera here in Las Vegas on West Sahara. They've got some excellent beginner kits as well as some advanced 2-light kits that'll get you started. Here is the top flash monolight kit I recommend:

The Promaster SM300 Digital Display 2-Light Studio Kit for about $450.

You may need to purchase some additional softboxes, but you can get that later if you want. It comes with flash sync trigger that attaches to your camera's hot shoe, as well as light stands, reflectors, and a carrying bag. I've recommended this kit to several of my clients and gave instructions on their use. They are very simple and easy to use. This is a middle ground beginner kit at 300 watt-seconds which should satisfy the majority of everything you'll need. While it may be easier to go with LED lights, which are constant light sources, but your best options are going to be with flash.

Art Model, Leslie my living room couch ©2016 Terrell Neasley
You can purchase speedlights for your specific camera brand, (Canon/Nikon/etc.), or you can go with some manual flashes, also by Promaster which are way less expensive. You can also rent studio lighting from B&C as well. Check out their rental options for your needs online or visit the store and let one of the associates help you determine your best option for what you are looking for. Anyone up there can help you figure out exactly what will do the job for your budget.

Art Model, Justine. Still cold, Late February ©2013 Terrell Neasley

Another option you have at your disposal is hotel rooms. I've done this plenty of times. Sometimes its actually too hot outside or your model doesn't want to be around nature. I've packed up studio gear and rented a room in several of these hotels in and around Las Vegas. The best option is to shoot during the low occupancy times of the week, like Monday through Wednesday. Thursday begins to pick up in business which is reflected in the room prices. You can literally pay $20 a night on a Tuesday and that same room will go for $120 a night by Saturday. At the very least, use the opportunity to explore options for your own stay-cations or to help with recommendations when your friends/family come to Las Vegas and you don't want them staying with you! Try to use discount sites like Travelocity, Priceline, or Booking.com rather than the actual hotel website.

Art Model Covenant, close crop, wide aperture, shallow DoF ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Shoot in your OWN house or apartment. You'll be surprised what natural settings can do that don't have to look like a 4-star hotel. If need be, use a lenses with really wide apertures. Prime lens with f/1.8 or f/1.4 apertures are excellent for this. They give you the shallow depth of field that blur out clutter in your background. Shoot compositions that are tightly cropped in to your subject or model to further reduce clutter in your background.
Panda, my kitchen with a wide aperture ©2011 Terrell Neasley
Finally, go get yourself a hardy model who can handle a little bit of cold. Pack some warm blankets, a thermos of hot chocolate/coffee/tea, and keep the car running with the heat on close by. I have actually done ALL of this. I've had some great models who braved that cold and sacrificed comfort for the sake of art, including getting in cold water! Yes. This is true. Be smart. Always stay conscious of the risk. Often times, I'll brave that water WITH my model, just so I'm aware of what my model is experiencing so that I don't ask them to be wet too long. Model safety is priority one at all times. Always stay conscious of your model's comfort and health. Outside of that, keep shooting!

Super Trooper Art Model, Covenant February. Pretty damn cold ©2015 Terrell Neasley

22 November 2016

Sometimes Bad Things Happen.... Helping Out Kristi C.

**Helping out Art Model Kristi C. **
Limited Time Only: 
  • Get any print 16x20 on this page for Donations of $300-$400. 
  • Get any print 16x20 of Kristi on this entire blog for Donations between $400 and $500. 
  • Get any print 16x20 of any model on this entire blog for Donations $500 and over.

All proceeds go to help Kristi replace her stolen camera gear and equipment. 

Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley

Most of us if not all of us have been there. Life is happening in a cool fashion and then out of nowhere...BAM! Life throws an uppercut that catches you by surprise. Who's not experienced this? That's life. Good ol' Frank said it best:

"That's life (that's life) that's what people say
You're riding high in April
Shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune
When I'm back on top, back on top in June"
Frank Sinatra "That's Life", 1966
Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley
I love to look at the work of models who shoot. Almost as much as I love shooting them. Okay, maybe not THAT much, but I can appreciate a woman who balances out life in front of the camera as well as behind one. You all know my work with the fascinating Kristi C. and how much I enjoy shooting her. Well, recently calamity struck in the form of a no good thief who got into her car and took Kristi's camera gear. I'm sure you can empathize a bit and understand how much that blows. I know some will ask why it was left in the car in the first place or maybe why it wasn't secured better. Yeah, you can ask that question, but it does not take away the suck factor from this situation. The fact of the matter is that my girl, need some more gear. I'm sure she has learned a valuable life lesson, JUST AS YOU DID AT SOME POINT IN YOUR LIFE!

Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley
So what's going on here? Well, we're asking for you, yes you, to help out a fellow artist by contributing to her GO FUND ME page. After 5 years of rocking the age-old Canon 60D, its probably time to upgrade anyway. As far as I know, she wants to stay Canon, and that's likely going to be a Canon 80D, or maybe she's thinking full frame. Evan a used Canon 5D Mark III would be cool. But she lost more than just a camera body. She's got to replace, lenses, SD cards, and filters. Personally, I'd much rather see her in the newly announced Sony a6500 that comes out around the first week of next month with a couple lenses to start her off, like an 18-105mm and a 70-300mm. You can go to my store (with the new website!) at B&C Camera to learn more about this gear. But you know Sony lenses don't come cheap. I'm saying this is what she needs and that's the story I'm sticking to.

I'm sure you can agree she's been a contributer to the arts. I'm definitely helping out as I have benefited from her talents and you should too. Who hasn't admired this woman's dedication to the craft and to the trade? Art modeling for artists is not the easiest thing and trust me, I have not made it easy on her to bring you these bad ass shots that you've come to appreciate. So please help me support Kristi C. so she can continue her passion from behind the lens. Donate on her Go Fund Me page. Comment at the bottom of this blog post to let me know you have done so and your image selection. You can see more of her own work as an artist in both photography, drawing, and painting at her new Facebook site.

Thank you.

Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley

Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley


Art Model, Kristi C. © Terrell Neasley

04 October 2016

Silent Films...A Forgotten Art

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley

"The Czech Republic had the largest collection of American silent films found outside the United States." News from the Library of Congress, 04 Dec 2013

Kris Krainock is a friend of mine. Esoteric savant might be one way to describe the kid, and I say kid, 'cuz he's only a kid on the exterior. You know how some people might characterize a young person as an old soul? Well, generally they are describing the "spirit" of an individual usually attributed to them because of an affinity they have for music from well before their time. To describe Kris as an old soul would fallibly miss the mark. Though "spirit" may be on the right track, saying the he is possessed by an actual OLD SOUL would be ultraprecise. I'd nickname him IMBd, but it just doesn't roll off the tongue so well.

I've met few who has the well of information about their craft as this young film-producer does. I have yet to deduce how he's been able to be so familiar with so many films in the years he's been alive. I could be wrong, but I did the math and it says he must have started sometime between 10 and 15 years prior to being born...which is an impossibility, I know, but  he's seen everything! I'm talking every-friggin' THING! Ask him about a French director from the '50's...he can give you a life history of the guy. Give him an actor and a brief synopsis of a movie and he can tell you the perfectionist British director, the Aussie leading lady who became his 5th, but not final wife, and renowned but alcoholic genius who wrote the musical score for the film. There's not a notable film to exist, independent or otherwise, that the kid isn't already familiar with and I daresay, owns. He's buys hard-to-find copies of notable films from all over the world. Definitely a deviant from the norm for anyone 5 years either way of his age, his unorthodox tendencies has even sucked his girlfriend, Ashley into his black hole obsessiveness. She's just like him and like her, I've fallen into orbit around his gravity.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
So I figure I will exploit his brain a bit as I delve into some of the old classics. He teaches me about oldies but goodies that I might not have otherwise come across. Back when I had my 2nd knee surgery, (that hadn't worked out so much as intended) I had a plenty of time on my hands and Netflix then became my friend. But it occurred to me, that from a cultural perspective, I was missing out on some of the great artistic films of a bygone age. I wasn't raised on "Gone with the Wind", or "Casablanca" and I didn't know a single black kid growing up with me who did. If any did, they didn't talk about it. There simply wasn't that sort of appeal.

There also wasn't the exposure either. I didn't realize I like classical music til I was in the Army doing a tour of duty in Germany. I found out I liked The Doors, as well at that time...all, because of exposure. To miss out on all these great films and music is a of tragedy of omission. Kris is committed to his craft, but he also spends time supporting it by helping to bring it back to life and and promoting it so that my dumb ass can learn something. Many artists get caught up in their own creations that they don't have time to give back. Kris, on the other hand, has been working tirelessly building his Krainockian Pictures film company, filming a TV series called, "The Idiot". However he still gives back. He sponsors and promotes his venture, CineMondays every friggin' week with a group of friends. Its every Monday, if you hadn't already guessed that and he's been doing for SIX years.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
September was Silent September for CineMondays, in which every Monday in September showcased a silent film. I visited for the first time mid-September and saw my first complete silent movie, the 1927 film by F.W. Murnau, "Sunrise". I'm 48 and had yet to see a silent movie in its entirety. Last week, I visited again. "City Lights", a Charlie Chaplin film took me by surprise. This silent film had me laughing hysterically, amazed at all the choreography, pissed that he lost the fight, and then tearing up in the end. Such a gamut of emotions and yet, not a single word spoken.

"Martin Scorsese’s "Hugo" and Michael Hazanavicius’ "The Artist" were cinematic tributes to the bygone era of silent films. Moviegoers, however, may not realize that 70 percent of feature-length silent films made in America have been completely lost to time and neglect." News from the Library of Congress, 04 Dec 2013

Besides my surprise for this film, what I found most amazing was the comedic timing. The sidewalk storefront window scene was absolutely incredible. You don't see that sense of perfection in today's films. Maybe you do and the film's appeal hasn't quite settled in me yet because its so fresh in my mind. But you don't see it that often, I'll say that. I think you can stand to learn much from the old ways as you do the new. I believe if you want to be a differentiating artist, you'll learn more of the trade and be more wholly inspired from the old greats, than the new. It would be a grave mistake to resolve that these films won't translate to the new audiences. Seriously, how many remakes are done every year?

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
There is a wealth of inventory out there and yet, this lost art continues to disappear from our current reality. So I say to you, take advantage now. Spend a little time reading, listening to, and watching classic literature, music, and film. Revisit the museums that you hadn't thought about since your 2rd grade field trip with Mrs. Shaw and familiarize yourself with the painters and sculptors that shaped our culture. Photography is still relatively new as an art form, but very similar in age to film, just not widely accepted as art until maybe the 40's, thanks to Ansel Adams and other pioneer photographers.

Support the arts. I'd like to see our education system reformed to put more emphasis on it. Its just as, if not even more important, as all the math and science. Imagination is what fuels academic achievement, regardless of disciplinary subject. And art proves to be the most combustible catalyst for the brain to achieve its most prolific imaginative heights.


28 August 2016

First Time Shooting the Leica M Monochrom


Up and Over
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley
For a long time, I've pined over the Leica system. I often describe it as magic. I know to a lot of people, it will never make sense to spend $8,000... just for a camera body. That does NOT include the lens. The lens is a whole'nother world of expense on its own. And language, I might add. I got to shoot with the 35mm f/2.0, which based on that speed, you call it a 35mm Summicron. If it was a f/1.4, you'd call it a Summilux. The difference? The Summicon will put you out $3K and the Summilux edition will push you to $5K. I prefer the Summilux, but that's me. Nobody makes glass like Leica. In fact, I'd like to play with a 35 Summilux on my Sony A7RII. But that's not this story.

Getting up in the morning
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

This story is on my shot at the Leica M Monochrom Typ 246 and the 35mm Summicron for the weekend. So my girl and I headed up north to camp out and play in Utah for a bit. We pulled out the tent and loaded up the car and took off. I originally picked up the Fujifilm X-E2 a few years ago to help me prepare for this experience. At that time, I had a project that I thought was going to have me owning two Lecia bodies and 3 lenses. Tht didn't work out. I know the two cameras don't really compare, but the Fuji still has the rangefinder look. Or so I thought. Nothing about owning a Fuji could have prepared me for the Leica M-series.

The Fuji LOOKS like a rangefinder in style only. I should have known better. Don't get me wrong. I LOVED that Fuji. Highly, highly recommend it. But with respects to preparing me for a Leica...No. In particular, two things right off the bat should have told me that wouldn't be the case. The Fuji has an electronic viewfinder. If there is one and only one thing I could have used some prior experience with is Leica's split screen manual focus system. For that, I could have used a film rangefinder to help me. You are still looking from a vantage point of the lens in the Fuji. No so, with the Leica. You still have the potential for parallax in Leica cameras, as is the case when you have any camera system that has differentiated viewing systems...one for the lens which is separate from your's.

Hiking topfree,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

The second thing is that Fuji is waaaaay lighter (350g) than Leica cameras (700g) AND smaller. You can practically palm a Fuji with one hand and it goes no where. You had better maintain positive control with all fingers around that Leica with the camera strap around your neck, else you can easily waste, $11 grand. In fact, its MUCH more advantageous to invest in the body or thumb grip accessories on this thing. There is much more of a presence of mind with the Leica. You know where it is at all times. Its not like you phone or your keys, that you may not immediately recall where you sat it down. You know, in a moment's recall, where your Leica camera is.

I would have liked to have had more time with the camera. Compared to my Sony A7RII, I was much slower with the Leica. I was a lot more deliberate. I already shoot slow and usually come back with a third of the shots that most of my peers do. Over a weekend, I may come back with 300 shots normally. I didn't even clear 100 with the Leica. Chances are, that was a learning curve issue. I've shot with a Leica before, but this was my first time having it out to shoot as my sole camera. Granted, I got some initial night shots with the Sony when I first got to my camp site. All after, I was exclusively Leica.

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

I was most engaged on achieving and maintaining a sharp focus. Utilizing the split screen, especially in lower lighting conditions can be tough. Its been quite a while since I had to do that regularly. Actually, it was a first because my film Canon used a circular focus screen instead of the square one used in the Leica. There is no autofocus, so it was all on me to achieve tack-sharp focus. I was able to do this on practically every shot, but it took a minute for each one with much concentration. I chose not to rely on focus peaking to assist me. I waned the viewfinder experience. News and war correspondents made a living without focus peaking and were quick with the shot. I want to learn the same.

I was a little off on exposures as well. In any other camera system, I am pretty decent at determining my initial exposure quite easily. I always seemed to be underexposing a bit, as if my exposure value compensation was a minus 2. This was easily corrected and eventually, I began to apply a little "Kentucky Windage". I adjusted at least one stop brighter than whatever I thought it might be.

A break while I figure out something on the camera,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Another thing that took me some time was the fact that the camera had already been used by several people. It would have been smart for me had I RESET everything on the camera prior to use, but I didn't notice each of the changes right off. And even afterwards, during post processing, I couldn't get any of my Plugins to read Leica's RAW files. I updated Adobe and tried a myriad of changes. It took me a whole day before I realized the camera was set to a grayscale color profile while I was shooting. A simple fix was to reset my Camera RAW converter to import all the files into Photoshop as AdobeRGB. That sped up my workflow.

I need more practice. I want to eventually own this camera as well as its color counterpart, The Leica M Typ 240. There is also an M-D version that has no LCD screen on the back, despite being a digital camera. I might consider it. Its purely for photo, so there's no video capabilities. Yeah, I have some other priorities first, but I plan to make the Leica system part of my family of cameras.

Checking under the rocks like a good model should,
Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

04 August 2016

A Mildly Complex View of a Few Things You Can Do LESS of to Get MORE


"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." 
 –Bruce Lee
Check this out. I wanna cover a few details of some things of note that I think can help transform you into a better shooter. It may not make sense right off the bat, but stick with me. I think this can help. So do LESS of these things:

Ignore TV Less
What you see on TV is the final product of someone's content creation efforts. You can learn a plethora of information by observing what images made the final cut. Check out all the lighting schemes, posing,  and editing that you see. How effective do you think they are? What message do they convey and how successful do you feel they were at getting your attention and evoking an emotion in you to act on whatever they were selling, promoting, or how they were entertaining you.

We often times get left in the dust with recent trends. TV gives you an idea of what some of the latest technology is doing and how its being creatively implemented. You succeed when you can begin to backwards engineer what you see, figure out how its done, get ideas on what techniques or best practices you can employ in your own work. At the very least, you can see what the latest trends are and how you might differentiate yourself. Know what's happening around you and do something different. You don't always have to follow what the latest favorite is doing. In fact, I highly recommend it.


Watch TV LESS
All to often, the thing that can hamper us most is the Television. We'll have at least 3 TV's in the house to keep us updated on our favorite shows, like the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Dragonball Super. People can go nuts over these programs. Sheesh.... Back Away From the Idiot Box, people! I say that in jest, cuz I'm not missing a GOT or Dragonball episode for nothing you can give me.

I digress... If you can back away from some of the ad-laced content for a while, maybe you can pick up a book on photo for a change. Learn about some new night shooting techniques. Go watch an education video on Lynda.com on Lightroom. That's sorta like TV, if it will help you with your fix. Study and read up on things that will help you move forward with your camera. Amazon has some great material on that new camera you bought last year that you've only used twice in full auto.


Study LESS
Here's a new one. Get your head out of the books and go SHOOT! Study long...Study wrong is what my uncle used to tell me when playing basketball. The more you contemplate your shot, the more likely you're gonna miss it. Never more true. Paralysis by Analysis. There's only so much you can fill your brain with at one time. Most of the time, what you really need is to put the books down and go pick up the camera and just shoot! Experiment. Who learned to ride a bike with a book? What person researched the mechanics of swimming before jumping in the water?

Yes, Some research, study, reading, and observation is good for us. But at some point, you have to put it all down and let your mind and muscles work together with repetition and effort to finally learn something new. Go shoot! I can't emphasis that enough. Studying something too long is a huge contributor to procrastination. I know for fact this is speaking to some of you out there. Its time now to put to practice some of the brilliant things you've learned. Go for it.


"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful." 
–John Maeda

Shoot LESS
You got that right. Shoot friggin' a whole lot less! Now this isn't for a few of you. I've worked with some students that I tell to shoot MORE. The vast majority of you, however, should shoot LESS. This is one case where LESS is truly MORE. The spray and pray concept of photography is only applicable in sports and other shots where you need to specifically freeze the action to capture a series of moving events. Shooting at 14 frames per second to capture the money shot of Russell Wilson escaping the clutches of a NFC West defender showing the look on the guy's face as that split second passes where he KNEW he had the sack, then nothing but air. Yeah...you can't try to time that shot and expect to get anything. No way. You select the drive mode for Hi-Continuous and you roll like Rambo.

That's not the typical scenario for most people though. When you come back with 30,000 images from a weekend camping trip, just know that you have a problem. Stop friggin' shooting so much! If you want to immediately have an impact on better photography, shoot less! Limit yourself and become more selective about what you are taking a picture of. And there's no need to get 12 versions of the same shot. All you're really looking for are a few good shots that tell the story or deliver the message. Personally, I'm a 10%er. It roughly averages out to editing a tenth of whatever I shoot. I come back from a gig with 300 images...I'm netting about 30 edited shots. I believe I usually shoot about 100 shots an hour when I'm doing constant shooting. That means I'm on a gig or have a photographic purpose in mind and when I'm finished shooting, I go home. So that's different from going on a day trip with my girlfriend and we're on the road for 15 hours. I may only come home with 200 images total because we are shooting, but we're also hiking and exploring and shooting between locations.


It saves you some time having to cull a million shots, but more importantly, WE DON'T WANT TO, NOR DO WE HAVE TIME TO LOOK AT EVERY-FRIGGIN' SHOT YOU TOOK! So just calm down a bit. Play the roll of a sniper instead of Machine Gun Freddie. Take some time to look at your composition and understand what makes it a good shot vs a snapshot by a tourist. You didn't buy that expensive camera to come back with the same kind of shots you've always been taking. Get to know the camera. Take if off automatic and get creative with it. Shoot less, but maybe more often. How's that for a compromise. Now I got a proposal to finish writing. And you now have some things to mull over. Get to it.