20 November 2019

Two Years of Travel- Final Stretch of My Americas Tour.


Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” 

On 08 January 2018, I set out on a dynamic, ever-changing journey to backpack around the world. My endeavor began with tumultuous life events that got worse the next year. It has taken considerable effort and time to center myself and in truth, I should say it's an ongoing process even now. I have marked objectives I need to achieve, but I still have yet to wrap it into a specific purpose and I try to be patient with that process. Right now, all I can do is simply keep moving and figure it out along the way.

In less than a week, I will complete my tour of Central and South America albeit this is not the last I intend to see of this place. I am grateful to have visited Nicaragua, Colombia, and Peru twice yet I have more to see in each of these places. In a few days, I will have spent 5 weeks in Ushuaia, Argentina at the bottom of the world. I have done more writing than photography. I was not able to make it to Antarctica. My plans changed from desiring to see Chile and more of Patagonia. Instead, I elected to stay in one place longer which has been true to my habit. Now I have an excuse to return here again.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
My next leg will take me further away, although I have not made up my mind 100 percent. It will either be French Polynesia (Tahiti) or I will skip the South Pacific and go straight to Australia. If at all possible, I would love to sail around the South Pacific Islands with someone who could use a photographer aboard or at least a good friend. But maybe I will have to be cool with doing Tahiti, Fiji, and Tonga by air and THEN fly to Australia.

I'm working on a complete restructure of my photography business that will incorporate and consist primarily of LANDSCAPE, PORTRAITURE, and NUDE photography. This will include a new website, a new blog, and a few other options that will consist of LESS social media. I'm not an Instagram fan and I don't believe it should kill me that I'm not. I hope you don't hold that against me, either.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I wish I could have finished out this year the same way I started. Coming out here alone would have been much tougher when I left in January 2018. Kayci.Lee chose to join me for a month and that steadied me. I've mentioned in previous posts that Oct/Nov 2017 was a wreck for me. And oddly, then again the same exact months for 2018. But when we left that Dallas Airport 8 Jan 2018, I was in a much better state of mind to do this journey.

There's a good chance I would have canceled the whole thing in less than a month, otherwise, had I been alone. Shooting her gave me something to do... something to focus on. My brain was occupied on something that had to be completed instead of dwelling on past events. After she left, well... then I had work to do. I still had mess to deal with, of course, but I was dealing with it from a much better perspective. I would have loved to have her here with me in Ushuaia.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I sincerely hope I don't have to go such long stretches between my nude shoots. Having somebody traveling with me is definitely preferred, but this is not an easy option for 99% of people in the world. I confess travel life would be much easier if I didn't have an absolute need to shoot nudes. The places I will visit over the next year... man! They're gonna be expensive and this will likely be the case until I get to Southeast Asia... probably another year away. But who knows.

I have learned a lot about Latin America, though admittedly I can't say I understand it all. Positives? The diversity of all the forms of beautiful country you'll run into from the tropics to the cold spots and from sea level to 12K feet up. On the negative, damn... I have run into some of the same racial biases that we have in the US, between indigenous people, referred to as locals, Indians, or natives and those of European descent.

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, and her photography, @K.clayphoto ©2018 Terrell Neasley
I have so many reasons yet to revisit Central and South America. I've been to Nicaragua and Guatemala 4 times each and I'm still not done. There are still places to see and I have friends there to visit. It's the same in South America. I need to get a better feel for Ecuador as I was only there for 3 weeks and all that time was spent grieving my brother. If you have any questions about making a trip to any of these places, please feel free to ask me. I want to encourage you to spend a little time out of your familiarities and travel outside your comfortable element. You won't regret doing so.

Thank you for following along with me this year. A new one awaits and I hope you'll be with me on the other side of the world next year.

I tried, but there's no way I could end a post of her with NO nudes. I was kidding myself and cheating you. Apologies. Let me correct that egregious error now...








14 November 2019

Giving Back - Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary


Athena Demos - Model, Extraordinaire 
"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another."
~ Charles Dickens

Altruism and Philanthropy are two concepts I want to ensure I incorporate into my life with everything I do. Along with, of course, being nice to people and treating others with respect the same way you should insist people treat you. I've tried to make it a point to pick up a cause and support it, but I've neglected this over the last two or three years, particularly since I've been gone on this journey. This is why I am choosing to begin my monthly support of the Cchocahuasi Animal Sanctuary.

Athena Demos holding Eagle feathers at Cchocahuasi Animal Sanctuary
I grew up learning about giving. Mama taught us about that in church. You gave during Sunday School and then at least twice during the morning worship. As an adult, I think the first time I actively gave a monthly donation to a cause was the United Negro College Fund as a soldier. As an artist, I donated my pay as a live nude model back to the Murry Art Guild, who hired me to pose. I also volunteered on Fridays to work at the reception desk and to fix their computers. I was a nude model for 12 years in total, but most of that time was with Austin Peay State University where I got my undergrad degree in Business.

Athena Demos, posing with an Andean Condor
But the last giving back project I did was volunteering my time for families for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I did portrait artwork for families whose child was dying or may have been stillborn. I did everything at my expense and in most cases, I was able to do enough photography to make a photo book for the family all at my expense.

But I haven't had another Give Back cause that I felt led to help until late this past September when I accepted Athena Demos' invitation to accompany her to the Ccochahuasi Animal Sanctuary. I didn't think much of it at first. I didn't know what to think really. But let me set a few things straight. Two things, specifically. There is a difference between a ZOO and a SANCTUARY.

Finishing up construction on a new clean water reservoir 
I am not particularly fond of zoos. I'm just not. But my point is not to bash zoos, here. I just want you to know the difference. The animals at this Sanctuary were not captured and brought here for your amusement to make money. These are animals that have been injured or abandoned and are how receiving humane care and rehabilitation. The people there are individuals who are animal lovers who care about the welfare of the animals in their keep. I got to see this first hand with my friend, Athena who volunteered there and was returning for a visit. So she has first-hand knowledge of this place. She didn't just donate her time and sweat-equity, but she put her money behind her dedication and commitment to this sanctuary.

I read several of the reviews and many people lauded the care and attention given to the animals there. However, there were also some reviews that were sprinkled in there accusing the sanctuary of being a zoo intimating that they never release these animals. And this is the second item I wanted to make clear. I got the chance to see the entire sanctuary and was introduced to the many habitats. I saw a hawk who I was told would never be released. It had one eye and permanent injuries. It would never make it out in the wild again. There are also animals who were abandoned at an early age and raised there that, as orphans, were never taught to survive on their own. They won't leave either.

Yeah, I wasn't getting in with her. 
However, some of these animals have treatable wounds, injuries, or illnesses that are actually released back into the wild. How do I know? As a photographer, I was invited to attend, film and photograph a condor release in the next two days and they were quite excited about it. I couldn't attend, unfortunately. I was leaving Cusco before then and could not make it back out there. But you can see the video on their => facebook page <=.

So, SANCTUARY... vs ZOO. There is a difference. And these guys depend on the donations and the entrance fees they get by inviting people to come out and visit. Part of what they have to do is showmanship. I read where some fool complained that they make the condors fly down over people's heads. Hell yeah, they do!! I got so see it multiple times! It was fascinating! What else are they supposed to do? They put on a show and then teach you something about them. I didn't know they were so friggin' BIG! And I didn't know they don't really fly, they soar! They soared down over our heads and landed. Then they WALKED back up to their habitats! If they do fly, it's for really short distances to "jump" more or less.

Andean Condors, female in the foreground, Male in back.

Right now, they are doing everything they can to have larger enclosures to make the animals more comfortable. I was there when they had just added on to a monkey habitat and then knocked a hole in the adjoining wall so they could enter the new place. I got to sit and talk with the guys who work there. It's not easy to come up with solutions. They are in Cusco and they told me about attempts to acquire solar panels to heat some of the enclosures when it gets cold during the winter. They are not just looking for money, but rather also donated items! But yes. It takes money to feed the animals. It takes money to build more and larger enclosures. And it takes money to provide medicine and vet care for the wounded and sick. This is a first-rate sanctuary.

Andean Speckled Bears 
If you are in Peru, I most definitely recommend you take a flight to Cusco and visit Cchocohuasi Animal Sanctuary. And if you can't get there, then join me in helping them with your donation. Tell your friends who are looking at opportunities to go volunteer in Peru or they can donate as well. If you think what I'm doing is cool, Follow Athena Demos on her Instagram to keep up with her amazing adventures. She's a world traveler, as well and is documenting her journey as she goes.

Thank you for your generosity!


23 October 2019

Entry-Level Camera Options and Possibilities

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
I was recently asked about options for a beginner-level camera from someone looking at the Canon 4000D camera bundle for under $400 on Amazon. Is it a good camera? Will it work? Easy Answer: It'll work. But we're not here for the easy answer, because the more accurate answer is: It depends... and there are better options out there available to you.

Okay, let's talk about the Canon 4000D. First, it's a Europen edition. The North America equivalent is the Canon Rebel T100. Same thing, just different nomenclature. You may want to check out warranty issues with it. It's about as bare-bones as you can get and still call it a camera. It's an 18-megapixel respectable sensor. It launched in early 2018. It's got 9 Auto Focus points. ISO can natively reaches100 to 6400.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Can you do work with this system? I can not tell a lie. Yes, you can. I'll say that conditioned that you couple it with a 50mm f/1.8 lens. The one it comes with is not a particular favorite of mine. In fact, when I worked at the camera store, I sold not a single Canon 18-55mm lens. So if yours broke and you came in to get a new one, I'd sell you a Tamron equivalent for less money OR, if you insisted on the same lens, I'd refer you to another sales associate.

As far as the bundle of stuff it comes with, keep the SD card, toss the rest of it. The two auxiliary lenses (the teleconverter and the wide-angle), you can toss those. Those things are trash. That cheap-ass tripod. Toss that too. That flimsy thing should not be trusted to hold anything over $50 on it. The colored filters, you'll never use them toss that too. Keep the bag and the SD card. Toss the rest. Those are throw-away items that are usually so cheap, their true worth is not in selling them, but rather giving them away to help sell other products.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
So back to my initial thoughts on better options.

The DSLR is on its way out. I'll start with that. The Canon 4000D is a DSLR camera whose technology has been superseded by Mirrorless tech. Demand for sales has SIGNIFICANTLY DROPPED for these types of cameras and thus the prices have dropped. Smartphones have been responsible for the biggest chunk of this decline. But they still do work and if you still need a cheap one, I'd say the Nikon D5300 is a much better option than this Canon Rebel. Just to begin with, it's 24MP. It's an older camera, but still out-performs this one with 39 Auto Focus points and ISO capabilities of 100 to 12,800. If you can swing the D5600, that one comes with an LCD screen that swivels around which is great for selfie video or YouTube work. You may have to google and search for one. With respect to entry-level systems, Nikon is the better option. So, if you want to stick with the DSLR, this is my recommendation.

Here's what I like. Mirrorless camera sales are on the rise. Mirrorless is a much better option than the DSLR. I have shot on Mirrorless cameras for close to 5 years now and have not looked back. So what Mirrorless system do I like?

 “Mirrorless over the last two years has gone from about 20 percent of the overall market to almost 40 percent,” Lev Peker, chief marketing officer at New York-based photo retailer Adorama, told Digital Trends. “This has been due to tremendous innovation by Sony which has benefited the most from this increase and, according to [consumer behavior research group] NPD, became the second largest camera seller last year.”
Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Compare Panasonic G7 vs Canon 4000D. 
I'm going to go with two in particular. The Panasonic G7 is the first fave of mine. This camera employs the smaller Micro Four-Thirds size sensor at 16MP, but is such an amazing camera that will do 4K video as well. In the above link, you can get this for $500 WITH an additional lens with the INSTANT REBATE. I owned this camera until I went with Sony systems that also did 4K. It's got so many great features that it's hard to NOT get your shot.

Compare Canon 4000D vs Sony a6000.
The overall best you can get would be the Sony a6000, for $600, which is likely the most successful camera ever made. It came out about 5 years ago. The camera has been upgraded 4 times and yet is still currently available for sale on the Sony site. It's small, 24MP, shoots 11 frames per second, 179 Phase-detect Auto Focus points, (compared to the Canon 4000D's 9!), an ISO range of 100 to 25,600 natively, and a tilting LCD screen. AND you can control this camera with your iPhone and use the iPhone as an LCD Monitor for the camera. I got this for my ex-girlfriend then upgraded her to the a6300. I currently shoot with the a6500 as a complementary camera to my Sony a7RII, which is 4 years old. I'm considering upgrading BOTH cameras at the end of the year to the Sony a7R4 and the a6600.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
Beyond that, there are soooo many more advantages to a mirrorless over the DSLR. You will learn more and have more capabilities with Mirrorless. These links will help explain DSLR vs Mirrorless.

1. What is a Mirrorless Camera?
2. What are the advantages of Mirrorless over DSLR? (17 min video)

If you can hold off for Black Friday deals, or Cyber Monday discounts... wait and see what you can get these cameras for. Or maybe Christmas deals. In addition to that, I STILL recommend additional lenses, at least ONE that has an f-stop of 1.8 or 1.4. I like the Sony FE 50mm 1.8 ($200) for the Sony system, but for the Panasonic, you'll need the 25mm 1.7, for $150.

The additional lenses I recommend will give you the ability to photograph in lower light, but more importantly, it extends your creativity with better shallow depth of field capabilities and these are the least expensive ways of doing it. There are more options available, but can be more costly. And again, see about the holiday deals that will come up soon.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

15 October 2019

What Is a True Muse? Let Me Show You


Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley
 "All aspects of photography interest me and I feel for the female body the same curiosity and the same love as for a landscape, a face or anything else which interests me. In any case, the nude is a form of landscape. There are no reasons for my photographs, nor any rules; all depends on the mood of the moment, on the mood of the model."
~ JEANLOUP SIEFF, Photographer, b. 1930, Paris, d. 2001, Paris.
It's been slightly unsettling to me that I don't get to shoot art nudes that much in the almost 2 years that I have been traveling. I went a few weeks short of an entire year between nude shoots at one point. But I understand or at least try to, that it's not the cultural thing to do for the conservative catholic countries I've been traveling through. I tend to not be in places with a lot of tourists and local women in the Central and South American countries are simply not used to such a thing.

That being said, I've learned to be grateful and appreciative of the opportunities I do get. I was grateful when @Kayci.Lee came with me for my first month. I was appreciative when @JennyPoses4u_2 joined me in Peru for three whole weeks. And then there are those entirely unexpected little blessings that come unlooked for.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

My good friend, Susan and I were conversing and she brought up the name of a woman she thought was quite impressive whom she wished I could meet and possibly shoot with. She said the woman was in Santiago, Chile. I was in Lima, Peru, so I did not put that much stock in ever meeting her. However, as it turns out, Susan was mistaken. The woman was in Cusco, Peru. I STILL didn't think much of this happening, but this was my friend Susan. Sometimes, you need to shut your brain off and listen to your friends.

Cusco is an hour and a half flight from Lima, so I booked a flight and made the trip and it turned out to be the best spontaneous decision I've made in quite a while. I knew I was going to meet an experienced nude model. What I didn't expect was to meet a true muse. There are models that will get naked for you and there are true muses, whom I often call Godsends, whose purpose in life is to inspire people like me. What I mean by that is this. Her passion to inspire is equivalent to my passion to create. And this woman delivers. This is Athena Demos.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Now understand me. I was only in Lima because it was cheaper to Argentina from there than it was to fly direct from the US to Argentina. On a whim, I decided to spend a little time in Lima to get back to the book I'm writing. I'd written 369 pages over the summer, but for the 3 weeks I was stateside, I wrote 3. So I wanted to play catch up in a quiet spot in Lima for a bit. I lengthened my time by an additional week in Peru in order to fly to Cusco and meet Athena. I was not constrained by a flight to Argentina because I had not yet purchased a ticket. Why I had not done so, I cannot tell you, but this gave me the leeway to spend that week in Cusco.

The gift that Athena gave me was more than just her musings in front of my lens. She had an added-benefit effect on my overall experience in Cusco when she became my tour guide, by inviting me into her world there. She'd already spent months in Cusco. She took me around to the San Blas Mercado (market) and showed me places to eat that got me full on good food that cost me $1.30. Just the day before, my dumbass was eating a single meal that I had waited almost an hour and a half for, paying $25 for the privilege. I walked a half hour to that place when the Mercado was 6 minutes from me.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

The people in the Mercado greeted her like a sister or a friend. It was the same as we walked down the street back to where she rented an apartment. Let me give you the perfect analogy. SHE was Crocodile Dundee and I was Sue getting the backcountry tour. Oh... I can tell you why that's such an apropos analogy. She didn't have to do it, but she invited me out to the Animal Sanctuary where she'd previously volunteered. I'll talk more about this later, but the Cchocahuasi Animal Sanctuary was amazing. Because I was with her, I was admitted into some of the enclosures with these gorgeous animals. I had never been up close to an Andean Condor and now there were 6 of them around me. I wasn't getting into the monkey house with her, but I watched HER do it.

And then at the end of it, we stopped off at the sanctuary cafe there and I had some Capis Coffee. If you are not familiar with that, it is made from coffee beans extracted from the poop of the Coati... a little raccoon-looking animal in Peru. It eats the coffee beans which get processed in the Coati digestive enzymes and is the beans are extracted from its poop, cleaned, and roasted. The enzymes are able to lessen the bitterness that occurs naturally in coffee. Look it up. It's actually a fine, smooth tasting coffee.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

The images I was able to capture of Athena were more her doing than my own. In some aspects, I knew what I wanted to do, how I wanted to shoot, and how I would edit. However, the location selection was hers and I had to depend on her muse-guidance to help me do my best work. What I mean by that is this. We'd never worked together before and given that I shoot nudes very infrequently now, I was more inclined to let her dictate the flow. Two years ago, I shot nudes practically every day. Now I begin this blog post about learning how to be grateful for any chance I get.

I did the shoot knowing that she'd be moving on after our shoot. It can be difficult to enjoy a meal when you have no clue when or where your next meal will come from. You just eat. But maybe you save a little bit for later. Maybe you even pass up a larger portion because you know your system isn't used to it and can't handle it. Does it sound like I'm starving? Well, aren't we all in some regard. So in light of these unfamiliarities and uncertainties, it was better to take what was given and direct her within those parameters.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Getting back to being grateful, though. This is what I've come to understand. Timing has been one essential element in all my shoots, grand experiences, and great adventures on this trip. And they've had one common theme each time. They've been JUST what I've needed for THAT specific time, in THAT specific moment. God has put people like Athena, Jenny, Kristi, Osmany in Nicaragua, Cristina in Ecuador, Rosa in Lima, Javier in Argentina, Carola in Guatemala, and several others along the way to help me, guide me, counsel me, and sometimes just be there. So yeah, these have been humbling times.


17 September 2019

What to Do If You Can't Upgrade Your Camera Right Now


Art Model, Covenant
New Cameras are coming out every single year. Your camera model will have an upgrade likely every 2 to 3 years, particularly for the higher end and professional models. Sometimes these upgrades will be incremental or marginal. Other times, they will be a huge overhaul with a new sensor and a completely different look. More power. More megapixel. Faster autofocus and it will come in either a bigger or smaller package. That's chiefly about how it goes. Then they'll promote the secondary features to pull in the video audience, like 4K video or 4k video at 60/120 fps. Maybe a flip-out screen, or improved ergonomics for a more natural feel in your hands.

Art Model, Covenant
That's just the way it goes. Advertisers, Marketers, Engineers, and Sales Teams all get their ducks in a row to sell you a product... year after year. It's what they do in order to keep their jobs. You likely do the same thing in a different field.

But what happens when that 61MP or that 100MP, or that 20-frame per second burst mode shooting beast comes out and, well... shoot. It's just not the best time for you to upgrade. You watch your peers put in their pre-orders. You hear about how fast-selling the camera sells out making everyone think they MUST get theirs now or they'll all be gone. How can you compete now that everyone else has the brand-spanking newest, latest and greatest, state of the art, system that has that one new feature?

Well, the first thing to do is chill. It has all happened before and will happen again. Then ask yourself how you were doing before the new camera system was announced. If you were doing quite well, chances are that you will continue to do quite well. It might be wise anyway to let the dust settle and see if the camera has any bugs or defects that need to be dealt with. Let everybody else find this out for you BEFORE you make that investment.

But if it's already been six months since the camera's release and you find that your work needs improvement, here are THREE things you can do to UP your game if you can't UPGRADE your camera.

Art Model, Covenant
1. RENT

I have known photographers who DO NOT OWN A CAMERA!! That's correct. You did not misread this. I have known a few like this. THEY DON'T OWN A CAMERA! I mean, if you think about it, it's perfect. They don't have any brand affiliation. When they get a gig, they ascertain what they need in order to fill that order. Then RENT the gear and space they need and then bill their client for the rental fee and everything else! They return the camera... keep all the money!

These are pro shooters. They already know how to shoot. If you are a developing photo, then you need to go buy a damn camera to have on hand so you can practice, practice, practice. However, even if that's the case, you can still rent a high-end camera to practice on. Or maybe you want to rent new gear and test it out before you buy it. But if that new camera comes out and you can't get it yet, but feel you need it, RENT IT! If you are flying into Las Vegas, you can check out B&C Camera Rental for cameras, lenses, lights, tripods, sliders, or whatever you need. Otherwise, take a look at LensRentals.com. Can't upgrade your camera, RENT IT!

Art Model, Covenant

2. To UP Your Game... CHANGE Your Game

Change yourself - This is one of the best things you can do for yourself, even more so than upgrading your gear. You can upgrade YOU! I may have to do a blog post just on this topic alone. Improve on your own skillset and you can start with the same thing you're doing now. If you do pet photography, do it better! Learn how to shoot pets better. Get out of the studio and maybe get the pet outdoors. Catch the pet in motion or doing the things it loves or shooting it in its natural environment. Try a pet night shoot. Introduce water. You can even concentrate on the business of pet photography instead of just the shooting of pet photography.

Ever think of learning to edit better. That's likely the next best thing you can do after better shooting skills. I don't care who you are, you likely do not know everything in Photoshop. And I'm not talking about just learning IG filters. I'm talking about actual editing a photo. Learning how to use layers. Learning blend modes. How to make a selection and editing non-destructively. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade yourself!

Change your gear accessories - Upgrade by implementing a slider. Introduce timelapse to your game. Use a friggin' tripod for a change. I don't know how photogs travel and they don't bring a tripod. I broke mine and wasted no time replacing it. Get a cable release and do some long exposure work. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade your gear accessories!

Change your light - If you are still using only on-camera flash and you're not doing macro or red carpet work, think about taking the flash off the camera. I'm referring to utilizing OFF-Camera flash, by using a remote trigger and either speedlight flashes or monolights hooked to receivers. Test out some modifiers. My fave for speedlights is the Gary Fong Lightsphere. Can't upgrade your camera, upgrade your lights!

Art Model, Covenant

3. The Manual

I've made a lil' bit of money teaching photography to people who hate to read. I mean, they may actually like to read, but not camera manuals. And that's cool. I'm can take you places your manual can't go. That being said, I'll wager there are features your camera has that you never even suspected. Let me invite you to go pick up your manual and just read it. It's not as much as you think. Only read the English part of the section that is written in your language. The manual is thick because its the same thing in 5 different languages! So it's not as bad as you think.

Okay, tell you what, if that's not working out for you, do this. YouTube! First, check out YouTube and search for reviews on your camera model. Check out a few of them as YouTubers will often cover cameras differently. They will go over features on your camera that you likely either forgot about or never knew about. Maybe you hate the fact that to change a setting on your camera you always waste time drilling through the menu. But then you find out you can assign a button to that specific setting and WHA-LA! You got yourself a new camera. It's USED, but now it's NEW to YOU!

Do you even NEED a new camera? I've worked in a camera store. My job may have been to sell you a camera, but I worked at B&C Camera They let me prioritize the customer experience over just sell... sell... sell... which is why I still support and promote them now. I'd often get someone who might complain about their camera's autofocus and blurry images. I take a look at it, change a setting, BOOM. New Camera! Sometimes all it takes is a different focus setting. Sometimes it is a matter of changing the diopter setting. This is true and on many occasions, all I did was set the diopter back to zero. BOOM! New Camera! So yeah... Can't upgrade your camera, READ THE MANUAL!

Art Model, Covenant


13 September 2019

Three Reasons to Upgrade Your Gear

Art Model, Panda
There is some really nice new gear out there right now! I mean, well first off... it's about that time of year for it, so many manufacturers are due for upgrade announcements and the holidays are coming up. Nonetheless, there is a ton of stuff already out there. Yeah, I'm looking at you Sony. You too, Fujifilm!

Now I've talked about this before and as a photog, I'm routinely asked about the latest and greatest. Personally, things are a bit different for me as I'm trekking the globe. My priorities aren't solely with the camera anymore. Backpacking comes with its own unique requirements, between expenses dealing directly with travel as well as gear unrelated to photography. Plane tickets, car rentals, accommodations, food... those are all things I need to plan for on a weekly or monthly basis. I recently had to drop a cool grand on cold-weather gear. And it came right at $1,000. I'd much rather spend that on camera gear!

Art Model, Panda
I'm currently back in Peru, but in a few weeks, I will be headed waaay down south to Ushuaia, Argentina. I just saw a video of that city, present-day, and there's a friggin' snowstorm. I know nothing about the place. I have a feeling that everything I've done to research and prepare will not be enough. Which just means I'll have to make adjustments on the spot. Somehow. So my immediate concerns may not be like everyone else's when they are trying to decide when to upgrade.

Back to my point... This is when you upgrade.

1. WHEN YOU NEED TO!

Over the years, as I developed my skills and my business, my needs in photography changed. That meant that I had specific standards and requirements that my current line up of camera bodies and/or lenses no longer met. My very first ever set up was with the Canon 40D. It was a very capable system. I paid $1500 for it 2008. Loved it! Why? Because it was the first digital camera system that I felt matched what I was doing in film.

A problem arose when I shot a wedding with the camera in limited lighting capabilities. I had to push the ISO too much and it showed, thereby affecting my standards on the quality of my print jobs. I kept the camera, but I upgraded to the Canon 5DII, arguably one of the most revolutionary cameras ever. No more problems like that! AND... I paired it with a Canon 7D and I rolled like that for years. That set up was great for my business for what I did.

Art Model, Panda
By 2012, I began venturing away from photography as a shooter and more oriented myself with photography as an artist. My standards changed. I was shooting more fine art prints and I wanted to more heavily concentrate on printing and I wanted to only print large images. No more 8x10s for me. The full-frame 5DII did the job... to an extent. It took me a bit to figure out what my frustration was as a photographer. I could still print a 30 x 40, but my work had no depth. I needed resolution! To me, that meant medium format which at the time had a steep barrier to entry with a $25k price tag just to get a camera and a body.

Nikon came out around that same month with a 36mp full-frame system for $3300 that became available a week before I was to head to Nicaragua. If you bought all my Canon gear new, you'd spend over $20K. I sold it ALL for Nikon. I did not care about price. Availability was all that mattered and I got the Nikon D800e and it got me what I needed. But the weight!! Back home, no problem. But when you travel and everything is on your back, it matters! Two years later, I was in Sony which gave me resolution, in a much smaller package and I have not looked back.

Art Model, Panda
2. WHEN IT MAKES SENSE TO!

This one is easy. After I bought my Sony A7RII, the most significant camera I have ever owned, they eventually came out with another version, the A7RIII. The similarities between the cameras were NOT significant enough for me to upgrade. Yes, I could have used the bigger battery and the two card slots. Other than that, the increases in performance, speed, etc., was negligible. In addition, I shoot with an a6500 crop-sensor camera as well. Had I upgraded, I'd have to pack and deal with two different battery types. Basically, when I DO upgrade my a7RII, I will upgrade the crop-sensor as well. So presently, it made no sense for me to upgrade.

Conversely, if I damaged my a7RII, then it's all a different story. Yes, you COULD buy another duplicate camera. The a7RII is still available for sale, at a much more decent price, at that. But if you have to buy a camera anyway, get the best one available! So in effect, it MAKES SENSE to upgrade your camera. That's perfectly justifiable. And in my case, I'd upgrade both my camera systems.

Art Model, Panda
3. WHEN THERE IS NO GOOD REASON OTHER THAN YOU WANT TO!

And finally, I've chosen this option as well. I'm much more streamlined now, mainly because of my traveling. But there was a point in which I had so much friggin' useless gear, it was ridiculous. I'd upgrade for no other reason than it damn well pleased me to do so. And it is primarily for this reason, that I will not hate on you if you chose to do so. Go on, with your bad self. If you got the cash, spend it! Now if you don't have the cash and are using rent money to upgrade, I'm gonna talk about how your Mama didn't raise you with common sense. Other than that, ENJOY!!

Confession...
I do not need it, but I have my eye on that Sony a7R4 for the end of the year! Can it make my work better? Well, yeah. It's 61MP with pixel shift muli-shooting capabilities to boost resolution even further! Can I still kill with my current gear... yes...

So, that would put me in category 3 if I upgraded. See where I'm going with this? At any given time, you can be in any spot. Hence, No hatin' from me.

Peace! Mo' Power and Mo' Resolution to ya!

Art Model, Panda


30 August 2019

Five Problems with Social Media and Photographers

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley

"Popularity isn't just something that happens. 
You have to give something in exchange for it, and that's the dangerous part of the process."
~ Robert Bringhurst

I know only a few people who are not on social media at all. I don't know anyone who is a photographer and NOT on, at least, one social media platform. I no longer have an IG account, mainly because of my art nude work and how I feel about the company. Even as I first opened my account, I had concerns. As a whole, I've never been sure how I have liked the term "influencer" for social media stars. The connotation sounded almost sinister to me. You might more accurately call them "manipulators", or "puppeteers". Regardless, this post should be taken into consideration for people who are creatives, artists, but specifically photographers.

Here are FIVE things to be careful of:

1. Social Media can dictate how you shoot

SM eliminates differentiation by homogenizing all of your work. How is this done? Because now, LIKES and FOLLOWERS become the most important thing to you and your popularity takes precedence over your originality. Instead of trying to come up with an original concept, it's far to easy to copy the trend. You become beholden to the influencers and the followers who like them in order to get those likes and followers, yourself. In effect, by letting them dictate WHAT you shoot or HOW you edit your work begins to look like someone else's and when the multitudes do this, your art is homogenized, or assimilated if you like that better.

This might equate to shooting a ton of extreme shallow depths of fields for your portraits because you see that's what people are clicking the like-button most for. Maybe you start trending your work to B&W, doing more burning wool shots or becoming a documentary-style wedding shooter. All that's fine if you want to go there, but consider the impetus that puts you on that path. Is it YOUR idea or a social media trend?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley
There is even a profitable market out there to BUY followers, instead of producing excellent work and earning them. I guess nobody has time for that! Just click on one of the ads that promise to add 1000, 5000, or 10,000 followers! Problems solved, right! And it doesn't make any difference if these are fake accounts! Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Maybe I'm just ranting again. But, feel free to be honest with yourself. You don't even have to tell anybody. Ask yourself what is most important to you as an artist and what that translates into. What do likes actually do for you? Does it put your art on a wall? Can you eat "likes"? Can you show the power company your IG profile of 1000 followers instead of catching up on that light bill?

2. Social Media can dictate how you sell

Getting your work out there, sharing your adventures, art, and ideals, are all reasons to market yourself on a social media platform. Traditional or Conventional Marketing concepts get abandoned with newer social media trends. Traditional Marketing is based more on gathering information and using that information to show you where to spend your marketing and advertising dollars to optimize your bottom line. Social Media, however, is consistently about maximizing popularity while "thinking" it might translate into money. That is the illusion. It's akin to basing your retirement plan on your success at the slot machines.

How you sell should be based on identifying your market, knowing the correct value of your work, knowing your competition and competing effectively, and then devising a strategy that provides a product or service that optimizes your money based on these factors. Social Media is supposed to be only a single part of a good marketing promotional campaign. That is what determines how you sell. So, is it?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley
3. Social Media can dictate how you feel about your work

Comparisons are the enemy of a whole lot of the psychology of how we feel about ourselves. It's just an opinion, but I think there is a high percentage of cases of depression and anxiety that would be effectively eliminated if we ceased to compare ourselves with other people and/or stopped giving a damn about what other people think of us. I know I'm guilty of this. I won't even go in-depth on this, but I will let you answer for yourself. Do you spend any amount of your time looking at other people's work/likes/followers and then have a negative feeling about your own?

4. Social Media often offers a false sense of achievement

There is not a lot to say about this either. You can ask yourself a similar question. Are you popular on social media and if so, how has it changed your quality of life, relationships, financial freedom, etc. If you are celebrating sitting on 50K FOLLOWERS, but not a damn thing has changed in your life for the better... well, maybe that sense of achievement is misplaced. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but you can evaluate things on your own. How much of your SM life is honestly reflected in your actual life? Are you truly as happy as your profile seems to imply? If you are not, how much effort does it take to keep up the charade and what does it cost you to maintain the lie?

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley
5. Social Media can distract from real goals

And this is the culmination of everything above. If it's not being used effectively as a part of a valid promotional/marketing strategy, then it is negatively dictating how you shoot, how you sell, how you feel about your work, and can easily give you a false sense of achievement if you are, in fact, popular.

So then what are your real goals? Have you sat down and given this some thought? Have you written down these goals and where are you now on that path towards them? I think, used properly, social media can be an excellent platform to get your work out there, be noticed, make money, and have fun. I think the question becomes "WHO CONTROLS WHO?" So what is the driving force behind your motivations and behaviors on social media? Is it a tool or has it become the master? If you are not on the path to those goals, then regroup and refocus. Plot out that path again. If your current social media methods yield only marginal results, it's only wise to put those resources of time, energy, and money to better use with other possibilities.

First Nude in the desert. Art Model, Patti from neg scans. ©2006 Terrell Neasley


03 August 2019

Can You Travel Around the World?

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley
“Don’t listen to what they say. Go see! Forget about pictures in a book. Put your own eyes on it!”

I'm going to say, short answer, YES! Of course, that's what I'll say. I've been advocating travel for years. Can everybody honestly do it? No, but for various reasons. Most won't out of fear. Others won't because they simply don't have the interest. You may have health issues or concerns. People ask me this question many times over the course of my travels. Traveling around the world is not always about money. How you want to travel is also an important factor and that has to do with your specific tolerances and expectations. Stay open-minded and weigh these considerations in your plans:

How you travel

Intercity, Regional, or International...this is likely the most important factor in everything and a large determinant on the money. I am a backpacker trying to travel around the world. I have everything on my back and I try to find the cheapest means to get from one place to another. I may not always CHOOSE the cheapest means, but I always want to know what it is. I'm guilty of taking a cab or an Uber when public transportation will save me a fraction of the cost. In Guatemala, I could spend $20 on a cab from my apartment to downtown or literally spend only 30¢ to do the same thing on the public shuttle buses. You just have to deal with the crowds, may have to stand, and make sure you hear and understand the name of your stop so you know when to get off.

I will also confess that sometimes I'll fly when I don't need to, but usually, I will take a bus. I save more money on the bus and at this point, that's becoming more and more important. You save time by flying, of course. But taking the bus can mean more experience and for me, time isn't that pressing of an issue. I've been at this for 18 months with 5 more years, (I'm guessing) to go. Buses should be more of a priority for me unless I find a regional flight that costs no more than bus fare. That was the case from Quito, Ecuador to the coasts in Esmarelda. The flight was $80 and was 45 mins. The bus was $20, but 7 hours. I gladly hopped that flight.

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley

When you travel

This is also a very important one. WHEN you travel can make the difference between an expensive experience or not. It can make the difference between a miserable experience or a good one. For a photographer, it can mean getting the shot or not.

For any place you go there is usually a high season and a low season. The high season is going to be more expensive. You find the deals in the low season. And that's high and low in terms of volume of tourists that visit the same place. Just be careful, there may be a reason people visit at certain times. It could be weather-related and simply coincide with vacation times.

Weather-related considerations can make a miserable experience. It's always hot in the Amazon, so you can go any time of the year. But there is a dry and a wet season. You may not always enjoy being rained on every day. Mosquitos are also out in mass during that time of the year. At this very moment, I am in Nicaragua because I didn't want to be cold in Argentina right now. Summer for me is Winter below the equator which is something you need to remember. But even in Nicaragua, I was burning up in Granada and it was SO humid! I was there for two weeks before coming further north to Esteli where I am now. Far cooler and less rain in the mountains here!

And there are other factors that photographers need to consider. I was in Guatemala during the summer one year. I got some great shots of Lake Atitlan. However, when I returned another year during the Spring for something similar, I could not get it. The weather was great! But clouds settled on the far side of the lake and obscured the mountains and volcanoes I wanted in my shot! I could not capture any stars either!

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley
Where you travel

Of course, where you go will be a big part of your decision process. Go to Paris, France and you will, without a doubt, pay a ton more than you will in Nicaragua. Iceland will be much more expensive than Central America. For me, I am starting to get to the more expensive areas on my route. So far, it has been cheap traveling in Central American countries. Then I was in Colombia and Ecuador and it was still relatively inexpensive. Peru was a different story. Going further south, the cost of travel begins to climb. From Dallas or Las Vegas, I can fly south to just about anywhere for $300, but once I want to fly past Lima, Peru, all that changes.

Are you healthy to travel

You can't really do anything in life without checking to see if you can physically do it. Even advertisements to join a gym will throw in a caveat at the end telling you to consult your doctor before beginning any physical activities at the gym. Likewise, you have to know if you can travel abroad, or anywhere really. This is especially the case if you have medication that you need or if you have physical limitations. Many countries in the world do not have regulatory adaptions for people with physical disabilities, like ramps or braille elevator buttons.  You might think age would be a factor. In my experience, I can't include this. The only real factor is just physical strength. I watch an 80-year old man from the US live here in Nica alone and he travels around at will.

What will you bring when you travel

What do you need to bring with you and how will you pack it around? I carry everything on my back. I do not depend on porters or anyone for help. I try to keep my physical carrying weight to about 65 pounds or 30 kilograms. That is split between my camera bag and my backpack. Camera gear and accessories are more important than clothes for me. I could likely get away with under 30 pounds total if I wasn't traveling as a photographer.

You might need luggage with wheels and a handle. For urban spots, that won't be much of a problem. Try doing that in the jungle and you're going to have issues. Some places will have people to help you and others will not.

Earlier work with good friend, Art Model, Dana © 2007 Terrell Neasley
Travel Alone or With Someone

It won't be the same for you, but for me, I NEED SOMEBODY TO SHOOT on a regular basis! That's MY biggest hang-up. However, in general, I can't say which is better in this case. I know I've traveled with someone and there were moments I looked for solidarity. There have been moments while I'm traveling alone and wished I had company... and not just somebody to shoot, but real company to enjoy a tour or scenery with you or something. There are nonetheless, benefits to both. Even if you are with someone, especially for long periods, it's good to split up for a bit and do your own thing. You can easily crowd each other after a while, especially in small confines when you're trying to be cheap. Don't fear a split for a week to go in different directions and meet up again later.

Traveling alone has been a blessing for me in more ways than it sucks. I invite people all the time to come out and visit. But I have to confess, there have been much in terms of emotional turmoil that has sent me into a tailspin. A break-up and the death of a good friend of mine is one reason I'm traveling like this now. Then the death of my younger brother AND grandfather in the same month a year later smacked me on the back end of recovering from everything the year before! I'm honestly not sure how great company I was to @kayci.lee who actually come out with me for that first month. These are life shake-ups that everybody deals with. But overall, traveling alone has taught me so much. I recommend it. Don't be afraid of it.

So yeah, it can be done. It depends on your attitude, money, and your expectations. The more flexible you can be, the better. Do your research and find out as much as you can about the area and region of the world you wish to see. If you can block out 3 weeks out of your schedule somehow, and do at least half a decent job at planning, you'll have the experience of your life. But even when things go wrong, just remember. Nobody's perfect and NOTHING goes exactly to plan...if you're lucky!

Travel Safe!