30 November 2013

Getting Better - Okay, A SEVENTH Thing...

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
 “ Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop."
 – Ansel Adams

In the last post, I talked about SIX things you can do RIGHT NOW to greatly improve your photography skills, mainly aimed at the beginner-level photo enthusiast. I'm going to throw in one more idea that I picked up from listening to one of the latest episodes of TWIP. To me, this tip was fitting because I'm already so familiar with it from shooting film for so long. I can also attribute it to some of my days in the military as an expert marksman. And technically, this tip is an add-on to Number TWO from the last post, which was just to get out there and start SHOOTING! Pick up the camera, get out of the house and just go shoot something. Anything. Go for a drive. End up somewhere and start banging on the shutter release button. But now I want you to curb your appetite a bit. Instead of going out to spray and pray, I want you to:

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo
© 2013 Terrell Neasley

TIP SEVEN - Limit it to 36 for the day!

Yeah, that's right. I want you to be more deliberate in your shot selection, your composition, and your subject matter. This works better when you already know what you're going out to shoot rather than having no clue, ending up somewhere, and shooting willy-nilly. So basically, on a day when you know you're headed out for a specific reason, to a special place, to get some nice pictures, ONLY take 36 shots. You can even pull out one of those 512MB SD cards that you never use anymore from back in the day. Take a look at that again...that's Megabyte, not GIGAbyte. I know you've got one lying around there somewhere. Pop that baby in that new 24MP camera of yours and see how many max shots you get. For perspective, if I put a 512MB card in my old Canon 40D shooting RAW (which actually took CF cards), I could about 70 pics. On my Canon 7D (also CF Cards), I might get about 30 shots if that helps put things into better perspective. If I put that same card in my Nikon D800E (takes both SD and CF), I would max out after TEN PICS.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
"Its not the caliber of the rifle that matters, but the caliber of the shooter."
- Unknown

So here's the mind set behind limiting yourself. The number 36 is not an arbitrary number I pulled out of thing air. That's typically how many exposures you would have on a roll of professional grade film. The consumer stuff you'd by at Walgreens would typically only give you 24. Pro rolls were mainly 36 exposures of "full-frame" madness! My fave brand of film was the Kodak TMAX 400. I'd use 100 when I needed to but 400 was more versatile to me, since the TMAX had a T-Grain emulsion that was quite fine...really close to 100 ISO on other film brands, and I had the latitude to push or pull it to whatever I wanted in the darkroom. But enough digressive darkroom talk. Back to topic, you only got 36 shots per roll. Now granted, you could take as many rolls of 36 as you felt you needed, but here's the thing. I only expected to get 3 or 4 shots out of each roll worthy of printing. Of course I would have damn near all of them, technically correct as to exposure, focus, etc. But I'd still be looking for my best 4.

Art Model, Panda and Kiddo © 2013 Terrell Neasley
If you want to get better, slow down. Don't come back home with 1,384 jpeg images on a friggin' card that you now have to download and look through. Slow down...be a bit more deliberate. Look at your settings on your camera, compose correctly for each shot. When its right, take the shot. Think of it as hunting with bolt-action rifle. You wouldn't hunt with a machine gun, would you? Bring a tripod. Even in broad daylight. Maybe even a remote shutter release. Not the wireless kind, but rather the one that plugs into the camera. Or try taking it off the tripod and getting on the ground. Not just kneeling, but lay down on the dog gone ground. Get low. Take your time. See the settings in the bottom of the viewfinder as you are looking at your subject. Make sure they are right and know WHY you are shooting in Aperture Priority rather than Shutter Priority. Know WHY you choose to drop the Exposure Value Compensator. Understand the value of bracketing the shot and how to do it manually when your camera doesn't have the BKT-function. My one-on-one students know this. You can, too. Try to make each one meaningful and purposeful. Know that each shot came out the way it did because you "meant to do that". You'll be better for it.

25 November 2013

Getting Better - Six Photography Things You Can Do Right Now

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
"Day by day in every way I’m getting better and better."
- Emile Coue

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
Lots of people who own cameras bigger than a point 'n shoot, talk about wanting to be better shooters or take better pictures. Many don't know where to start. Or they think they need to enroll in expensive college courses, safari adventures in Africa (where everybody knows the good pictures are), or workshops that you have to take a plane, book a hotel/rental car and then pay for a ticket to get in and sit for 5 hours listening to a speaker tell you about the latest and greatest photographic techniques guaranteed to improve your pictures. Well, I'm here to tell you that you can do those things if you want to, but there are convenient options for you right where you are that cost you nothing. And by no means is this list all comprehensive. There's always more. But to start, 

1. Pull out the manual for your camera. I know. Its dry as hell, but do you wanna get better or not?? The manual is free and it came WITH your camera. If by chance you bought it used, you can still go online and Google the manual for a free download. And if its just too hard to read it, check out Amazon and get a Dummies guide to help. When I teach my two-week one on one lessons, I pick up one for whatever camera system my client is using. Its easier to read than the manual and has added info to help you understand. And the reason is this: You need to know the capabilities of your camera. Its as simple as that. You will be a better shooter if you understand how to utilize the tools that you are trying to use. Automatic mode can do a great job a lot of the time, but you said you wanted to be better. So take the controls and learn how to use them.

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
2. Shoot. Its as simple as that. Get out there and shoot. I don't want to say as often as possible, because your definition of "as possible" is likely different from my definition. So get up now and dedicate some time every day to picking up the camera and experiment with different settings. Try shooting in Aperture or Shutter Priority (which you will understand AFTER you go through the manual). Find out what subject matter interests you, but don't restrict yourself to it. Actually it may also be beneficial to find out what you absolutely DON'T like to shoot as well. As you continue to explore, you may discover that you absolutely hate shooting people. This is different from finding out what you are not good at. If you are not good at shooting people, its far from not LIKING to shoot people. Avoid the things you absolutely dislike, but not necessarily the things you presently suck at. You may get better at those things if you try.

3. Test the limits of your camera. All systems are different as well as people's opinions. Don't just rely on what reviews have said or what you've heard. Try it out for yourself. What is the maximum ISO your camera can reasonably make a presentable shot at? Do you know? Try shooting at max ISO in some low-light situation. Try it at the maximum and then start backing off of that til you're back around ISO 800. Then go get those shot printed! It doesn't even have to be high quality prints...just some reasonable 11x14s to see how things look. Compare your camera's RAW to its JPEG. Test the bracketing features. Set your Auto Focus to the various settings and see how this performs. I did the same thing with my kids when I taught them how to drive. I wanted them to see how a car reacts when you hit the breaks at high speed. (Don't judge me, dammit...)

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley
4. Play with flash. How well do you understand your flash's sync speed? Try it out! See why that matters through practical application. Test out the stroboscopic mode (Canon), or the repeating flash (Nikon) and see how to calculate the needed shutter speed given the number of times the flash is to pop vs the frequency. Play with it and see when that might come in handy. Or put to use REAR CURTAIN SYNC! I've seen plenty of photos that could have been improved upon had the user correctly employed this feature. You can also practice lighting techniques using a bare bulb, a flashlight, or your iPhone light to illuminate the face of a model. Many bounce light from above (ceiling), but how many will bounce from below to reduce the shadows under the eyes, nose, and neck...or for perhaps when the subject is wearing a ball cap.

5. Look at a lot of pictures. 500px.com or Flickr.com are ripe for perusing through and getting a feel for what's possible. Find shots you like and try to figure out why you like them or what qualities make them exceptional to you. Break the shots down and look at the way it was composed and lit. Emulate those qualities in your own work. Don't put as much credence in the exposure info. Its good to know if you want to see what settings gave them the shot THEY took, but that does not mean you can set your camera to the same thing and get the same results. Its more important to see what sort of depth of field they got with f/11 or f/1.2 to better understand the mechanics of their shot. But don't expect to now go outside with your camera set the same thinking you'll achieve similar results. They may have taken their shot on a severely overcast day with a wide open aperture and longer exposure to add lots more light. You go out an try it on a sunny day will only result in confusion, frustration, and eventually feeling of self-loathing, inadequacies, and depression. Well, maybe that's a bit far, but the point is don't start thinking like that.

6. Commit. Make up your mind to jump on board and do whatever it takes to be better. Don't worry about gear. Get a basic camera and a cheap 50mm 1.8 lens. Just shoot. That's the main thing. Be serious about the craft and just go shoot. But at the same time don't be too serious that you get frustrated and put down the camera. Be serious enough to study on your own, but if you're not getting it, find a teacher or mentor. Don't get so serious as to take the fun out of it. Learn to love this and do it because you WANT to be better. If you find it isn't for you, no worries. You can back off anytime. But for now. Go For It!

Art Model, Enyo ©2011 Terrell Neasley

22 November 2013

Mind Set: Why I'm Opting for Fuji Over Sony Right Now

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
“I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” 
― Mark Twain

I already teach, mentor, and coach photography and sometimes its cool to let people into my thinking process on what decisions I might make concerning photo related matters. In light of my recent post on the break-out game-changers in the soon to be released Sony A7 and A7R, I have chosen (after a few agonizing weeks) to curb my excitement on that system for a bit. Am I waiting to see what bugs they might need to work out? Not at all. This Sony system is the first camera that I have been totally convinced, sight-unseen, that I want in my bag. I've been waiting on it since Sony introduced the RX-1 and also, I've seen enough sample images to know I don't need to "try it out" first. The price point for both cameras are definitely doable considering the A7R is a thousand dollars less than my 36MP D800E when it first retailed and Sony also makes the sensor for it.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

But here's where I had to hold my horses for a bit. I'm particular in how I shoot and my style dictates a priority on wide-angle and wide-aperture. So for now, lenses are the main reason I'm holding off. Sony has 2 lenses that will debut with the cameras in December and another one in Feb '15. The 35mm 2.8, the 55mm 1.8, and the 24-70 f/4. While the focal lengths are right up my alley, none of them give me the 1.4 that I so crave. Depth of field has been a signature and fave of mine for quite some time. I've already had to lament the sale of my Canon 85 1.2 last year, which I am still trying to get over. Nikon gives me 1.4 glass and I've been happy with that. Dammit, I'm not going 1.8 for my fastest glass. I'm not giving up any more aperture real estate for anybody. I'm a 1.4-man and that's just my prerogative. You dig? I know 1.8 is close to a 1.4. We are still talking a 2/3rds stop less. Not even a whole stop, I know. But I ain't doing it. I'm not giving up any more depth of field. Just ain't happening. I like my 1.4 glass and that's that.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

I'm wanting to go small for my next excursion which I'll get into later on. When I choose gear, I'm making my choices against traveling criterion. Love my D800E, but this is an experiment. My next trip will be more documentary in nature than just fine art, (which I think I'll still be able to accomplish without as much resolution). The Sony system would be perfect with the right glass. In their defense, I would be able to use my current Nikon glass with an adapter. They handle Canon lenses with an adapter a little better than Nikon lenses, but I'm not up for adapters so much. Well, I make that statement with one exception, and that's Leica glass. Give me a 50 Summilux and a 35 Summicron and I'd be good with that on a A7R. Sony will support just about any lens manufacturer's glass with the right adapter. But NAH...I'll wait. If the 24-70 was at least 2.8, I'd probably still jump. But nope. It ain't. So I'm gonna practice patience and wait for what I want...the right Full Frame E-Mount glass or Leica glass.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what am I opting for instead? Fujifilm...(which I have no clue why they don't drop the "film" part and just go with FUJI!) just released a new system themselves. The X-E2 was released yesterday and is a slight step up from its predecessor the X-E1. I like the rangefinder feel, which is going to make me more comfortable with the Leica M when I finally get it. I like the faster Auto Focus and despite the DX sensor size, I'm excited about Fuji's new X-Trans Sensor upgrade. For what I'm looking for, this will suite me. I'm getting it as a kit with the 18-55. Yes...anybody who knows me believes I hate that format, but this is not true. That's a nice focal range, though I might prefer a 16-50mm zoom. What I hate is Canon's 18-55mm crap plastic lens. The Fuji is a metal barreled marvel with a max f/stop of 2.8 to 4 on the far end. I can deal with that quality and speed. On top of that, I'm getting the 35mm 1.4 and with that, I can breath. So initially, I had resolved to just go with my 24-70 Tamron and my Nikon 50mm 1.4. Well, these two Fuji lenses give me that same format for a DX sensor camera. And I'm cool with that. I get a much smaller package, less expense than risking my big stuff, same focal range and speed, in a bad ass camera system. What more could I ask?

10 November 2013

The Answer for Procrastination

“Procrastination is like masturbation. At first it feels good, but in the end you’re only screwing yourself.”
~ Unknown

I know many of us declared at the beginning of this year that you were going to finally get to that "Dream" project that you've been putting off for a few years so far. Well! You're in luck. There's still plenty of time left in the year to get your butt in gear and get to working on that gig so you can start some new promises for 2014. So yeah, this is a reminder that you now have about 40 days left on the table to get busy and get hot on that project. I know you have to work. I know the holidays are coming up. Busy, Busy, Busy, as a little bee. That's cool. Everybody's busy. But honestly. How long does it take to conceptualize your dream, plan it out, secure a location/model/prop/equipment and get it in the books? The answer is not long once you commit to the idea.

Let me help you out a bit. Start here: Tell yourself, "No matter what, I WILL get this project done!". Then sit down for a minute. Got no time? Sure you do. You're human. That means you require food and water. At some point you're gonna have to go to spend a little time in the bathroom...a few minutes at least. Sooo, can you see where I'm going with this. No? Fine, I'll spell it out. Take a pad and pen into the bathroom with you the next time you have to "spend some quality time" in there. While you are sitting down for a few minutes, this is an excellent time to conceptualize, write down ideas, and think about how you're going to pull this thing off and what you'll need. You don't need to spend a whole day in the bathroom, just enough time to get pen to paper and get those ideas out before your legs go to sleep.

See, that's a guaranteed few minutes every day! You don't need much more than that. And once you've got it written down, you can commit some time while you go about your regular day. On your way home from work, you can call up that fave model of your's and ask about her availability. Gotta pick up groceries from the store? Great. Stop by the hardware store right next to it and get the materials for the set you have to build. Or maybe its as simple as getting some gear. B&C Camera has a bunch of cameras, lenses, and lights you can rent for the weekend. You can easily reserve what you need ahead of time, pick it up Friday (after 3pm) and return it Monday (before 3pm) and only have to pay ONE day's rental fee! How cool is that. So if you require a macro lens, they got it. Prefer a wide-angle lens instead...they got it. What about some lighting? They got a 2-light Elinchrom wireless trigger kit complete with softboxes and stands that you can get for about $40 for the entire weekend. If you're not in Vegas, check out some online rentals like LensRentals.com or BorrowLenses.com.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
~ Walt Disney

Need some ideas? Okay. Do that thing you normally do, but this time shoot it at night. Just try some long exposure stuff for a change. Add some light painting. Take that flash off TTL and use some of its other functions. Ever drag the shutter with it? Ever do any high-speed sync work on it? How about some stroboscopic techniques? Ever do that? Try some macro work. Do something in that remote location that you came across while hiking last year, next to that goofy looking tree your friend took a picture of you in. Work on that self-portrait project you've been saying you were going to do. Try to emulate a lighting style you saw in that movie poster your girl/boyfriend likes so much. Here's another one. Freeze the action on a quick-moving subject. Like a dancer spinning around, where you capture every single strand of hair frozen in space with no blurring. You now have 40 days left to get your project done. Don't procrastinate any longer than you already have. If you think I'm speaking to you, I am. Get started. No more excuses. Go Shoot.

26 October 2013

The Right Tool... The Gear Loyalty Debate

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera."
~ Dorothea Lange

Yesterday, I was at B&C Camera listening to my buddy Rob, talk to a customer about cameras when presented with an inquiry about Canon cameras and Nikon gear. BTW, Rob spends more time at the camera shop than I do, so if you're lucky enough to catch him, he'll steer you right. Anyhoo... What was Rob's reply? "I don't concern myself with those questions. The cameras are tools. I primarily shoot Nikon, but my brother shoots Canon. But I will also shoot Canon, or Sony, or whatever I think I need to get the shot I want. I don't have an loyalties like that." Part of that is paraphrased, but that's the gist of his point as I can recall.

There are die-hard Chevy and Ford owners here in America. I'm sure you've been driving down the road at some point and see a Chevy truck with a sticker of a "Calvin"-looking figure urinating on a Ford logo (Right, Taylor!)...or vis versa. Ninety-Five percent of photographers are the same exact way. BUT MUCH WORSE! And to an extent, I understand there's a bona fide reason for it. Unlike auto owners, there's a significant investment in their gear that makes it difficult to switch brands. Yes, a car is a significant purchase. However, if you got tired of your Hyundai and wanted to switch to a Toyota, its a matter of choice for the next time you are ready to buy a car. Photographers have an additional consideration when the thought crosses their mind to switch camera manufacturers... Compatibility.

Anonymous model,
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Buying a camera is not the most significant purchase you will make. Its where it all begins, sure. But lenses are where the magic happens. On average, I would bet that a photog will spend about 3 times as much in lenses as they do a camera, especially if you are full-frame. On the flip side, you will spend more upgrading cameras then you probably will spend upgrading lenses. While I was Canon, my 5D MkII and my 7D bodies were maybe $3500 combined and that represented about a quarter of the value of my lenses. And this is where the hard part comes in. I made the decision to switch brands because my needs changed and the Nikon D800E served my purposes better than the upgrade to the MkII, the new 5D MkIII. Canon makes excellent products, so don't get me wrong. I was Canon for about 10 years. Love 'em. But what did that mean for me? I had to dump my significant investment in Canon lenses because they were not compatible with the Nikon body. I couldn't take my Canon lenses and use them on my new Nikon D800E. Not only that, my peripheral gear didn't work either. I had 5 Canon flashes. I had a Canon Intervalometer. I had radio triggers that only fit Canon gear. That gave me a new challenge. I had to find a way to sell my Canon gear for Nikon equivalents which aren't always doable. My Canon 85mm f/1.2L was the love of my life. Nikon doesn't make a 85 f/1.2! And then I found out AFTER I bought it that I didn't need the Nikon intervalometer, because the D800E has one BUILT-IN! So now I have an over-priced cable release. 

Art Models, Alethea and Emma
©2013 Terrell Neasley
“People, there's no such thing as, THE BEST CAMERA BRAND, but yes there will always be THE BEST CAMERA AT ANY GIVEN TIME. Technology will change, but not art.” 
― Ashraf Saharudin

So what's my point in all this? Well, its simple. The camera is a TOOL! Lenses and other camera accessories are tools as well. Unless you own stock in your camera brand, or they are paying you to use their gear, or you are dating/married to the daughter/son of a brand executive, why limit yourself? The right tool for the right job. Most guys have heard that said before who have grown up with their dads working the family car or adding the fixing a hole in the roof. And that's the same belief I carry with my gear. Yes, I own and work primarily with a Nikon camera and system. Last year, I was a 10-year Canon veteran. But as I mentioned in my last post about Sony, the A7R might be better suited for my travel work. And if I have a job tomorrow that requires low-light work, I might rent a Canon 5D Mark III because of its superior abilities in shooting at night. THAT's an option. Yes, the Nikon D4 is likely the best possible option out there for that, but its also a larger system and maybe I don't wanna be concerned with the extra weight. Regardless, its an option. I like options. 

Art Model, Panda ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So here's the deal. Pick the right tool out of your tool box for the job, based on the results you are trying to achieve. I've talked before on picking your system of choice. Well, let me add this, if I didn't speak on it already. Make your selection based on the features that will best deliver the results you wish to achieve. That's how you choose a camera. There is no such thing as a "starter camera". Get what you need that will accomplish the job and fit your budget and make the system with will accommodate 60% of your work your primary system. Then rent the rest. I've even known some who refuse to commit either way. They don't own anything. When they get a gig, they rent what they need for that assignment. Now granted, this individual shoots primarily medium format high resolution images. So rather than invest $50 grand into a system, he just rents what he needs, adds the rental cost into the invoice, and pockets the profits. I'm not that extreme. I have to have something on hand at all times. Even if its just a point and shoot. I've done a pro gig for a client with a Canon Powershot S100, which shoots RAW. It was the right piece of gear for the job. And that's what's key. 

22 October 2013

Game Changer...The Newest Sony Line

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley

In my last post, I discussed some concepts in the evolution of photography and the transitions to come. This is another aspect of that change. Anyone who's paid attention to camera gear has, by now heard of the new Sony A7 & the A7R. These are the latest Mirrorless Cameras to be introduced and the first ones outside of Leica to incorporate Full Frame sensors. What's the significance of all this, you might ask? Well, its like this...

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
To date, camera manufacturers have integrated large and heavy camera bodies into their lines every since the first Single Lens Reflex or SLR was introduced in 1948. All this means is that your eye in the viewfinder was seeing exactly what the lens is seeing. Prior to this, it was impossible as the viewfinder was located either just above the lens (Twin Lens Reflex) or to the side of the lens (rangefinders). So there was no way to view the subject the same way it was being captured on the film. While there have been medium format SLRs, the SLR has been primarily the purview of the 35mm format systems. To be an SLR, there has to be only one optical view for both the lens and the viewfinder, which is accomplished with two revolutionary features built into cameras...a mirror that pops up and down, and a penta-prism (penta-mirror in some cases). However there was a trade-off. Incorporating those two engineered components required an increase in the size of the camera. This increase also added to the weight. Weight was considered a viable trade-off because of the added stability when the camera is hand-held as well as the camera becoming more durable with stronger housings and shells.

And this has been the case for years. If you want the best of images, the SLR was your answer. As of the last 15 years, the Digital SLR, or DSLR has been king. At of the turn of the century, as more digital cameras were becoming lighter, we saw more and more female photographers entering the industry. The best cameras used to be suited for the large hands of men who also had the stamina to handle the weight. Aluminum alloys became the norm for frames. Polycarbonate shells (thermoplastic polymers) added reasonable strength without the weight for many of the consumer model cameras. Weight became less problematic to a degree, but you still had to contend with the large mirror box housing which has a tendency to be noisy, cause vibrations (requiring the mirror lock-up feature), as well as putting restrictions on frame rate. Sony was first to come up with the SLT, Single Lens Translucent mirror design, but it never really became the game-changer.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
There have been several new technologies that have come on the market in the last few years, which is another sign that the industry is ready for a new paradigm. Canon's Dual-Pixel Auto Focus system introduced in the EOS 70D was called a game-changer. Sony has introduced a lens to take pics without the camera with their QX system! But even Sony hasn't been the leader in mirrorless tech. That would instead be Olympus and Panasonic who have opted to combine technologies with their Mico Four-Thirds system sensors. And good Lord, they have caught on. The Olympus OMD-EM-5 hit the market to great fanfare just last year. A few months ago the introduced the OMD-EM-1. Nikon entered the market about 18 months ago with the Nikon 1 system. They havn't been as successful as Olympus who has chosen to forego their large DSLR line and put all their bank on the 4/3rds system. Canon was the industry lagger in this field and basically chose to BS with the EOS-M, which has really tanked. Rumor as it that they will try to make a comeback with a new version. Fujifilm is the other favorite contender with the X-series and the fixed lens X100s model.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Sony has come out blazing with 3 additional lines not including its DSLRs. The NEX-system has been absolutely killer. With several models, they all include DX-size sensors like what you have in the Nikon D7000 DSLR. Then they came out with a fixed lens Cybershot R-Line which introduced their first full frame sensor in a compact camera. And now they have announced the A7 and the A7R which comes out this December. The A7 is 24MP and the A7R is 36MP...just like my Nikon D800E, and it has the Antialias filter removed... just like my Nikon D800E, but at HALF the weight. And guess who made the sensor for my 36MP Nikon D800E... Yes, Sony.

Gorgeous Art Model, Jessica
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Game changer? Yeah, I'd say so. I don't see Olympus abandoning their Micro 4/3rds systems in the near future, but I'm of the impression that Canon and Nikon are giving some serious looks to their R&D department heads. Is the Sony A7/A7R a DSLR-killer? Not quite yet. There are still necessities the mirrorless systems can't quite accommodate just yet. If you're a sports guy and need the frames per second, the DSLR is for you. If you're an avid outdoorsman needing the zoom beyond 300mm...DSLR. Or if you work much in extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions...DSLR. Wanna shoot WIDE open, like f/1.4...DSLR. But I would imagine those lenses are coming for the mirrorless systems. I'm sure speed will pick up. And the A7R is already weather sealed. Outside of those things, you can stay traditional, or give mirrorless a look, because it can pretty much hold its own in anything else. I know getting the Leica gear I want isn't as practical for my travel purposes at the moment. The A7R, however just might meet that need for now, however. Do I leave my D800E at home? I'm still thinking on that one.

20 October 2013

Embrace the Pain... State of the Industry 2013

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory."
~ W. Edwards Deming

One of the benefits of subscribing to Rangefinder Magazine is the end of year report they do on the State of the Industry, (sourced by  IBISWorld), usually in the October or November issues. One thing that remains consistent with trends from last year is the steady decline of customer's need for pro photogs for various reasons. One is the re-prioritizing of disposable income where photo services may not be as important as other things on people's financial agendas. Wedding, Portrait, and Commercial genres still hold the vast majority of need for new clients and are the largest sectors of the photo industry as a whole. However, even in those sectors of the industry, customers are still scaling back. And commercial budgets have been cut as managers are seeking more ways to slash expenses. People will still need memories and documentation of their events. Companies will still need images to entice us with their new product lines; just less of it. The digital prints that stay on e-magazines, websites, Facebook, Flickr, or the hard drive has become more important than physical prints that go in paper magazines, hang on the walls or sit on the mantle.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
So what's this mean for the pro photog? Demand is declining much like the water levels in Lake Mead. If you drive out to Hoover Dam in Boulder City, you'll notice a broad ring around the canyon walls where the water level has significantly dropped. Those rings are about 100 feet high.Touring the northern end and you can now drive out on larges sections of land that used to be underwater. The nature of photography is definitely evolving, changing, and morphing into something slightly different. Picture production at its core has remained fundamentally the same. We need it. We actually need more of it! But how its done and what we do with the results are entirely different than even when I was a kid. I'm living in a good time. My generation gets to see and recognize the transition. The generation after ours was born into this and don't know anything different. To me, it's actually exciting to witness history!

I call this the Commoditization of Photography (Or maybe its already been called that before.) And like any other commodity, a market has to exist for it. And if a market exists for any given commodity, equilibrium is an essential requirement. And by equilibrium, I mean supply and demand which is governed by that "invisible hand". Think about it. At one point in the life of photography, Supply was limited with a high demand. Photographers were paid well for their services because barriers to entry were relatively high. Cameras were expensive and the skill required to manipulate the camera to achieve a proper exposure and focus was a slow and arduous task made achievable with years of training in both the field AND in the darkroom.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger."
~ Frank Lloyd Wright 

And then technology happened. Significant advancements started to chip away at those barriers to entry. Leica introduced the first Auto Focus system in a camera. 1959 saw the first production of Varifocal or "Zoom" Lenses. Advancements in film chemistry also contributed to less complexity and skill needed for photography. Smaller sizes, Polaroid film, disposable cameras all inflamed the interest in consumer models. But as we all know, it was the advent of digital technology that ushered in the exponential changes in photography. Highter ISO's. More Megapixels. Dual Pixel Autofocus and CMOS sensors! Those barriers began to break open like the Berlin Wall. "EVERBODY'S GETTIN' INTO THE ACT!!", so to speak. But as I said, all markets require equilibrium. Supply has outpaced demand at a time when demand was beginning to dwindle anyway from other economic pressures. I'm sure you recall your ECON 101. What happens when supply outpaces demand? Prices fall. Things even out again.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
Thank technology for all this. We love it, but its got a mean streak too that we have to also embrace. The trick is being one of the survivors during the photographic market correction and learning to utilize all this new tech to your advantage. And trust me, skill and complexity is on the rise again. More time spent in training is becoming essential. Differentiation is absolutely necessary. You have to stand out from the pack. Photographers are having to learn video, Photoshop, Digital Asset Management, etc, to be better. Clients have higher and higher expectations and when we don't OVER-deliver, we fail them. Its making it so that if you don't love this thing, you're gonna hate it and get out. Then everybody that got into photo for a quick buck starts to look elsewhere because photo has become "too hard".

Embrace pain. The world is so much easier when you do.

Dang! Somebody else used the term, "Commoditization of Photography" just earlier this year!!

15 October 2013

On Black and Minority Photographers

Anonymous Art Model, © 2012 Terrell Neasley
“Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without. ” 

To my knowledge, this is the first time I've come to address this topic on this blog. I've attempted to keep this blog mainly about photo-related issues, concerns, happenings and personal stories on my escapades. Conversely, I've avoided controversial topics and leave it to the others to debate those issues. There are certainly enough who do this. I've spent a good chunk of my life being an advocate of bringing to light the plight of African-Americans and the challenges we face on having an equal footing on this planet. I've always tried to be an ambassador for people of color and minorities in general, regardless of color. I have frequently found myself in positions where I have been the sole minority on a team, department, platoon, class, or group. In those situations I've wanted to not only represent myself in a way as to demonstrate that my Mama taught me manners, but also to fulfill that ambassador role for minorities to people that might not otherwise be able to relate. It was even one of my secondary duties in the military as I was trained and certified to teach and be the Equal Opportunity Representative for soldiers in my company or battalion and adviser for my commanders.

Photography is another area that I find myself in a similar light. In my undergrad years, I was the only black male student in the Finance department. My graduate time was much the same. Today in photography, I certainly notice the difference in the minority representation in the field that I so love. I've talked about it amongst peers on a few occasions. I've discussed it more often with black peers and we might often joke at the predicament we find ourselves in.

Art Model, VikiVegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley
In the military, I had a battalion commander who asked me why there was such a shortage of black Army Rangers, not only in the battalion, but also in the division. I brought this fact to his attention when he helped me get past my own company commander's attempts to place challenges in my way to stall my admittance into Ranger School. Everybody else who wanted to attend Ranger school got automatic blessings to attend simply based on their courage to subject themselves to such a strenuous tasking. Me? I had to prove I was worthy, through a series of tests and evaluations. When my Battalion commander, who I had once worked for, caught wind of this, he made an immediate phone call and I was put in the very next class for the Division Pre-Ranger course. I was one of the 14 who passed that two-week course out of the 64 who started. I was subsequently slotted into the next Army Ranger School class from my division. I graduated as one of two black Rangers in a class of 94. It was the most physically challenging thing I've done in my life. I reported back to my battalion commander as to what I found out regarding why there were so few black Rangers.

So why are there so few black photographers? Its definitely a challenge to try to ascertain exactly why this is. Ranger school and being an Army Ranger was still a finite universe in which I was able to interview people and pull the statistics that allowed me to extrapolate interesting points to draw conclusions based on empirical data. Photography is way too broad a field to use the same methodology. So how do you find out why this is?

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

I've been involved with many photographers in Las Vegas since I've been here. I had my own group, the Las Vegas Art Model's Group that helped photographers work with models and advance the art nude genre. Concurrently, I helped run the Las Vegas Photographic Society with my buddy Garret Winslow. Every one of our monthly meetings I spoke in front of the group and made myself available for advice and consult to photographers who took advantage of that fact often, both during and between meet-ups. During this time, I've met few black photogs and even FEWER who were on the professional level.

Allen Murabayashi, just did a blog post on the Photoshelter Blog site, "Photography’s Old White Guy Problem". In it, he gives thumbnail images of the major photographers who train us from Canon's Explorers of Light, Nikon's Ambassadors, and X-Rite's Colorati. The same goes for some of the major photo conventions such as WPPI speakers and Photoshop World instructors, which I attend on a regular basis. I see two black guys on a regular basis, Terry White and Matthew Jordan Smith. I invite you to take a look at that blog post.

Art Model, SuzN ©2013 Terrell Neasley
And let me also add another point that Murabayashi may have missed. "Old White Guy" has given way to "Young White Lady" over the years. The percentage of professional photographers who are women has greatly increased, along with couple-based photography. Laura Matthews also discussed this on Photofocus as a guest contributor earlier this year. So this is at least one step in the right direction. In many fields, such as maybe journalism, this trend was reversed for a long time. The field of journalism began to embrace more diversity, but the female representation was still yet to come. And this is just speculation on my part, but in photography more young and attractive female photographers have been selected to hit the circuit for training conventions. First selection or choice consideration for gigs, promotion, advancement and recognition doesn't seem to be as equally distributed among the black and minority photographers. I can't pull up any stats since gov't sites are currently shut down, but Lee Morris at FStoppers has stated this very well in his blog post, "Photography: Is It Still A Man’s World?:

"...However, the actual numbers state that 42.8% of all professional photographers are female. Not so bad, right? But the report goes on to clarify something I’d already suspected: While almost 60% of professional photographers are men, 60% of photographers under 35 are women. The majority of veteran, successful photographers are, in fact, men."

Art Model, Dominique ©2011 Terrell Neasley
So why do we care? Why should anyone give a dam? Its been like this for years. Its the status quo. Who gives a shit. I'll give you two reasons why this oversight is significant and should be more closely monitored. First, show me one program, business, project, or concept that hasn't benefited from diversity. I'll shut the hell up right now, if you can point to something that was irreparably damaged because it embraced diversity. Second. If you're a photog of any nationality, YOU WANT me to have more opportunities in photo. The short-sighted and stupid will look at me as taking a job that you could have otherwise acquired if I had not been given the opportunity. That's just asinine and ignorant. But instead, take a look at Tiger Woods and golf. The presence of a Tiger Woods on a course greatly increased the purses of everybody who participated. Why? Because the value of the sport increased. Minorities represent a huge percentage of the population in the US. Money that would otherwise not be streaming into something else began to flow into golf because minorities began to participate with viewership and interest on the course. There was a demand increase in Golf and such can be the case for photography.

I'm not saying I'm on the Tiger Woods scale of photo, but hear me out. Bringing in a different perspective will only enhance the quality of photo. And placing more people of color in the visible forefront encourages more minority kids, amateurs, and pro to step up their game. I can assure you...it might not make a difference to some people, but when you see somebody esteemed who looks like you, who can relate to you, and who has a sincere empathy on where you come from, its way more encouraging than listening to another white guy tell me, "Hey! You can do it". Think of it as inspiring black youths by giving them people they can inspire to be like. And by no means do I imply blacks and minorities should be "given" anything. But as I look at the faces of these Nikon Ambassadors and Canon Explorers of Light, am I supposed to infer that these photographers and trainers were the obvious choices because there were no minorities good enough to speak, train, or inspire fellow photographers as well as them?

19 September 2013

Sticking With it

Art Model, Emese © 2013 Terrell Neasley
“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
~ Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

There are a lot of things we can do to be better at photography. And sometimes it can get overwhelming to learn it all. It can be intimidating to see some masters at work and reach a conclusion that you can never achieve that sort of greatness. I know I've looked at some artist's work and felt that way before. Even today, I am amazed at some of the artwork being put out by some of these newcomers to the game. They tend to see things differently. They were born into technology and are not afraid to try new things that get introduced in the market. They take new tech and re-purpose it for something entirely different and create gold with it. It can be depressing to have a concept that would seem simple to everybody else, yet Chinese arithmetic to you...assuming you are not Chinese, of course. In which case if you are, you still get my point.

Art Model, Emese © 2013 Terrell Neasley
But here's two assumptions I'm going to make based on my own experiences:

1. With the exceptions of the true pioneers in this trade (and any other, for that matter), everybody you come to idolize and drool over started out just the same way, doing the same thing. Nobody starts out understanding an f/stop or stroboscopic flash. Granted some may learn quicker than others, but we all start out at ground zero. This is not a race at all. Just because someone crosses the finish line in front of you, doesn't mean you lose. Just keep running. Cross the finish line and continue to run!

Art Model, Emese © 2013 Terrell Neasley
2. Many of the great ones are not as good as what you might think! I'm telling you. I've been sort of amazed at this. Even at this latest Photoshop World, I recently blogged about one such situation. I could not understand how the instructor's work became significant. Then there are other times, its not the photographer that works the magic, but rather his team of people that make them look good. I hope I'm not sounding too cynical, but there is truth to what I say. There are some photographic geniuses out there. Had you been at Photoshop World, you'd have met a whole host of them. They also exist in some of your own peers! Study your trade. Pull out your camera and just go shoot. Keep researching the web. If you want, for starters, just follow my lead... Get up on PhotoFocus, with Richard Harrington and TWIP, with Frederick Van Johnson. Then stay tuned with Lynda.com., FStoppers.com, SLRLounge, Strobist, and Luminous-Landscape. You can learn from anybody! Never think you own photography, else she will, at some most inopportune time, bite you in the ass. Be open to be educated from anybody anywhere. The better you become, I tell you for certain, some of the very people you look up to will look to you for guidance, advice, and consult.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

~ Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

But here is my point.

Art Model, Emese © 2013 Terrell Neasley
Don't be afraid. Don't be afraid to learn. Don't be afraid to ask. Don't be afraid to look stupid. Some of my most valuable lessons have come from looking stupid. Don't be afraid of new technology. And above all...Don't be afraid of anybody else's work. Never downplay your own work. I've got work that I don't show right now because I'm not ready. If it doesn't meet my own standards of satisfaction, then I acknowledge that and keep trying. I do my own landscape art. But Bjorn Burton...DANG! That kid is bad ass with his landscape and fine art. I can't touch it. I can try. But I'm not into making mine look like his. And I've got my own style that has been successful. So instead, I've learned to appreciate his work without feeling negative about my own. Okay, I just revisited his site and can understand how some people may feel bad about their own work. I don't condone that, but I UNDERSTAND! Kidding...kind of...

And lastly, keep this in mind. Its never too late! No matter how slow you get it or how little time you can put into it at once, stick with it. Start early, start late. Just do it. I'm very happy to see so many people picking up a camera again at a later age in life. When I'm in the camera store, whether working or not, there is always a elderly gentleman or lady who comes in with a film camera wanting to get it cleaned or getting advice on a new one so they can get back into photography. I tell you it does my heart well. Its never too late to do what you love...whether photography or modeling. This is what I love about Art Model, Emese who chose to model for me. Who cares when you start, just start! And she has. Looking forward to more work with this new art model.

06 September 2013

Photoshop World, Day 3 - Finale

Art Model, Enyo © 2011 Terrell Neasley
"Photoshop is not a verb. It is a noun. It is the means to an end, not the end itself."
- Vincent Versace

All good things must come to an end, as its been said. And such is the way with Photoshop World 2013. Overall, I give this year's convention an A-. Today's classes were much like yesterday's results. Lots of good lessons and one that wasn't as great as I had hoped. Today covered my first introduction to video editing. I've done some video, but have not been involved in video production. I've sourced that out opting to stick with photo in the past, but the more I think about it, nobody's got my vision the way I have it. I no longer want to surrender that artistic control.

Art Model, Enyo
© 2011 Terrell Neasley
This was my second Richard Harrington class and he made video editing seem so simple. I got to talk to him afterwards. The guy has been a stalwart in this industry for years yet all you get from him is a sincere desire to help everybody else. He's not elitist in any sense of the word, despite his accomplishments and saying he's approachable is an egregious understatement. It was cool to talk to him after the class, but he came by the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep booth on the expo floor and we talked again briefly about NILMDTS and the new look of the PhotoFocus blog. This is how I know Richard has no high-horse! For a brief moment, you could could see it in his face that we switch roles for a second. He asked for my input about the new look of the blog, but he did so with the look of a little kid seeking approval from a teacher on a new drawing he did! The guy is so on our level, but he's actually trying to get under us to boost us up. I love it. I know I've beat this point up but there was simply no air of superiority in him.

Art Model, Enyo © 2011 Terrell Neasley
I also got my first Scott Kelby class today covering portrait retouching. Scott Kelby is the king of photog education and is the one responsible for the umbrella of proven photo professionals who come to bless us with insight and inspiration. He's a master educator and is the genius behind Photoshop World. I finished up the day with a class on system back-ups which I didn't feel was as beneficial to me. I was convinced to give DNG more consideration and will likely change my workflow because of the class, but I disagreed with his back-up strategy and did not feel like I took away anything that would make me alter my own in the slightest.

So my overall grade of A- reflects the grade A, top of the line, quality education, but I subtract a bit for the two classes that I felt were not so beneficial to me. I do not think an hour per class is enough time. In college, some of our classes were an hour and 15 mins. There was simply not enough time. Every one of my classes had to rush the end of the presentation, but I'm not sure there is an answer for that. I would have loved a class on photographing the nude! I would have loved to seen some experts on a higher level demonstrate their techniques. I totally MISSED the Light Painting class. I simply didn't see it. Light painting is something I am endeavoring to do more of and master. I wish I had not missed the opportunity to learn.

Art Model, Enyo © 2011 Terrell Neasley
I think I will make Photoshop World an annual event from this point forward. My experiences were very positive. I was even interviewed by some of Scott Borne's people on my Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep work. And one of the other unmentioned benefits is the camaraderie you have meeting with your peers and better yet making new ones. I met three women in particular who were simply a joy to talk to, each whom I hope to stay in touch with. Photoshop World is not just about learning more photo stuff so you can make more money. Its also about growing the industry and improving the strength of the trade as a whole through a community enrichment effort.

Photoshop World, Day 2

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"You see something happening and you bang away at it. Either you get what you saw or you get something else--and whichever is better you print." 

Day 2 started of much like its predecessor...An Early Morning! I learned some interesting techniques and completely new Photoshop applications working in video and animation. Corey Barker taught Creating Motion Graphics in Photoshop CC and it was a blast. Not saying I mastered ANY of it, but I know its available to me now, so that's cool. My next class, which I won't name, was a dud for me. I mean, utterly and complete. I then went on to some more masterful techniques in Compositing with Joel Grimes. This guy is definitely a guru in artistic composite work. Most of his is simple portrait on a blended background, which is the way he likes it. I think I'd like to push it a bit more. The guy is a masterful educator. I ended up taking another class with him that I finished my day with.

Art Model, Leslie
©2013 Terrell Neasley
But then there was the next class for me which was sort of duddish. I got nothing. I tried to sit through it more out of respect and appreciation that he came to help us improve our work, but I think I got 40 mins and simply had enough. That happens sometimes. You just don't gel with an instructor. However the surprising element to me was that I did not enjoy his work! We saw some of the images he's made over the years and it was boring to me and almost unimaginative. This guy has made a lot of money in his career and has been hailed and lauded for his vision. I just couldn't see it. But that leaves me questioning what that says about me. Granted, I know what I like. I know what inspires me. His and he did not, I'm sad to say.

But then came redemption. My next class was with Richard Harrington and he covered Digital Publishing. Excellent, excellent work. He told it like it is and entertained us as well. I thoroughly enjoyed his class. If that name sounds familiar to you then you've taken my previous advice and subscribed to the Photofocus podcast, which he now hosts. I've described the Photofocus blog and podcasts as must-do sites to visit a couple times on this blog. But let me just reiterate. If you are a photographer and do not have that blog faved or have subscribed to that podcast, you are wrong...plain and simple.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"You have a lifetime to learn technique. But I can teach you what is more important than technique, how to see; learn that and all you have to do afterwards is press the shutter." 

At this point we broke off into the Expo session which lasted all afternoon. Vendors and sponsors show and demonstrate their latest wares that help you in various aspects of your photographic trade. You can come by and visit me and my crew at the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep booth #237.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
But the day got even better. Get this... my next class was Pricing, Negotiation, and Selling with, who else but Scott Borne. Scott Borne is the celebrated local photographer here in Las Vegas. I'm pretty sure he's the biggest name here and he is responsible for starting Photofocus in the first place. This was my first time to actually get to meet and talk to him and after listening to his voice practically every week and checking out every blog post, the man in the flesh did not disappoint. He was hilarious, but had some of the most practical advice I've ever had. Some of it was a reminder. One thing he asked us to do is read any and every Zig Ziglar book we could find. I've read several and need to reread them. Its been quite some time. Zig Ziglar came to my high school one year and I was impressed beyond belief. No doubt, I benefited most with his class and as I mentioned previously, I finished the day with one more Joel Grimes class on Photoshop techniques. Great day.

05 September 2013

Photoshop World 2013

Art Model, Emily © 2013 Terrell Neasley
"I want the viewer to look into my images and see a new world with new rules."

I don't think I've ever posted about my convention or trade show attendences. I've only ever done WPPI and Photoshop World on a regular basis. Today is day one and it was a good day, complete with one learning from one of my favorite instructors, Julianne Kost who is the most brilliant mind/guru of Photoshop and Lightroom I've ever seen. Her dry, yet witty humor keeps you entertained as you unconsciously learn something of value. Before you know it, she's having to cut things short because she's running out of time. I try to get at least one of her classes as a rule. Brooke Shaden spoke during the opening keynote. While Julianne Kost was the most entertaining, I gotta give props to Brooke Shaden for being most inspirational. This little bitty spitfire got up on stage and in a soft, but spirited voice and laid down an air of possibilities that left you wondering what you could do if you cast aside fear and conforming rules (sound familiar) and did what you wanted to do.

Art Model, Emily
© 2013 Terrell Neasley
It was sort of a toss up this time. There are two things I usually want to focus on when I come to these trade shows. One is Photoshop techniques. I had to start out learning Photoshop on my own with a bootleg old copy of PS7 that was given to me when I first came to Vegas, while I was still doing film. It was strictly trial and error. I mean, STRICTLY trial and error. There weren't as much in terms of tutorials on the web as there are today. But it was quite the trick to learn the different tools and what layers were. I eventually got a book to help me.

Art Model, Emily
© 2013 Terrell Neasley
“If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up." 
~ Garry Winogrand

My breakthough came from my first Photoshop World convention. I only attended the free trade show, but when I saw an exhibition of the Nik Silver Efx, I was hooked. Why? I had seen other black and white plug-ins at this point. And I could convert to B&W in Photoshop too. What made Silver Efx so special? Well, I'll tell you. It was the first piece of software that I had ever seen that came so close to the actual darkroom. It aided me in my conversion to digital photography. Before Silver Efx, I just couldn't get the rich black tones that I had with silver-halides in photographic paper brought out by chemicals. It was simply unmatched. The burn and dodge techniques were not mimicked in any other software so well. Masking, which I sucked at in Photoshop at the time, was made more simple with Nik's U-point technology. And on top of all that, Silver Efx, was also the best at simulating the different brands of pro-grade B&W film I used...principally, Kodak TMax 100 & 400.

Art Model, Emily
© 2013 Terrell Neasley
To learn that Nik had several more editions such as Color Efx, Dfine, and Sharpen only cinched it for me. But I learned all this at my very first Photoshop World and its always been a blessing for me every since. Sometimes its learning of a new vendor to process my photos. Sometimes its learning a new post-processing workflow that is much more efficient and effective. Other times, I get educated on a better business practice, such as back-up techniques or copyrights management. One thing I don't really go to Photoshop World as much for is photographic techniques. They have some great lighting specialists here for sure and other tips on improving your photography. I think they are great, but its much easier for me to get photo tips. I can manage that from anywhere.

This year, my focus has been more on the Photoshop end of things instead of the business side. So these are the classes I've been taking as of day 1: Compositing with Julianne Kost, Smart Objects with Dave Cross, and Commercial Post Processing with Jim DiVitale. Days 2 and 3 are a bit more tricky as to my choices, but I will figure it out. Photoshop and post-processing classes have the priority and I can choose 6. Thursday is the longest day and we finish up on Friday. Should be good days ahead.