29 December 2014

Adding a Little Bit [More] of Crazy

Street work, Managua, Nicaragua © 2014 Terrell Neasley
There are definitely some aspects about 2014 that I'm much rather forget. As the holiday season comes to a close, its customary to look back at what you've done and make plans on the new year. I still can't say I have any regrets for this past year. You have to take the good with the bad. I've definitely had some crazy in my life. But here's my new motto for the 2015 seasons ahead...

"No Great Mind has Ever Existed without a Touch of Madness" 
~ Aristotle 

Volcanic Mountains, Antigua, Guatemala ©2012 Terrell Neasley
So I'mma go with the flow and embrace a little bit of crazy. I know...I know, to most of you, I'm already a little bit off my rocker. Granted. But I'm not talking normal standards of insanity. I'm speaking relatively to the effect of crazy to somebody who is already crazy. Know what I mean.

I already operate off the beaten path, so to speak. So I'll embrace a little bit more crazy and see what happens. Kind of like the mad scientist that takes a sip of his own diabolical concoction or devious potion and then just wait to see what happens. So if my nose hairs start growing profusely, just ignore it. You'll know I'm trying out some strange mix. Hopefully I won't lose my mind. Any further. I want to take my photography up a few notches (As I always do. No comfort zones for me!) and this time I'm gonna do so unbounded. I'm going to just try things and then just wait to see what happens. Whatever comes to mind, I'm going to just let it loose. When I'm not actively engaged on a project, I'll keep shooting until something else nutty inspires me.

Caribbean Island of Tobacco Caye, Belize ©2012 Terrell Neasley
But I'm starting off the year with another trip to Central America. Well, maybe not literally start the year, as I did last year. I won't head out til March, but it'll begin there, methinks. I'm going to cut my classes and private instruction time to concentrate on other endeavors for the year. I'll still take on students after I get back, but not near so many as this past year. I'll do 5 slots for January and February, first come first serve. Then I'm going on hiatus from teaching for a bit. I expect this trip to take me into the middle of June, but I will likely not do any teaching gigs til the fall. Yep...trying to make summer plans as well. Don't even get me started on the art nude shoots I refuse to let get by me this summer. So lotta work.

Southern Coast of Nicaragua, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
While in Central America, I'll concentrate on my fine art and comeback with some amazing work for you to buy! I'll be working more night time projects, which is why I picked up this Sony A7s. This thing is awesome and has been the best pick camera on many a camera reviewer sites. I'll likely get one more camera, probably the A7MarkII and one more lens. I already have the full-frame 35mm, and 55mm, but I still need a wide-angle lens. I've already done agreements to shoot some of the properties I'll be staying at during my journey. I'll be in roughly 25 different hotels, hostels, resorts, and getaways. It will definitely be cool to get some interior, property, and staff work done in exchange for a free stay for my girlfriend and I. So I'll definitely need either the Rokinon 14mm, (as I used with my Nikon D800E before I sold it), or the Sony/Zeiss 16-35mm sweetness in a glass lens made for Sony. I've been doing all primes with Fuji and Sony, but that 16-35 is a piece of art. I might have to bend a little bit. My hotel clients will really appreciate either, because they both do excellent work. And its a fun thing for me cuz I like shooting nice interiors.

Outside of all that, lets just see where my head takes me over the next three hundred or so days. And if you want to pick up any of my work, let me know and we can hammer something out. I've got plenty to choose from on my website. Just keep in mind, while I currently don't shoot large format, my prints, however, are! I don't like my art displayed small. So if you love being at 16x20 or larger, feel free to give me a shout! I won't say I'm cheap, but you'll love it. I print on the good stuff. I certainly hope to come back with more artwork that you love to look at. Stay tuned in. Can't wait for March!

04 December 2014

Another New Paradigm - The Sony A7s

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” ― Frank Zappa

Its happened. I've made another major change in my photographic evolution. For the first time in my photographic life, I'm DSLR-less. Or more commonly stated. I've gone Mirrorless. So this makes the third time I've made a metamorphosis like this. It first started when I chose to leave film and jump into the digital world in the fall of 2007. I was already a Canon user and felt no real reason to NOT be Canon just because I no longer used film and darkroom techniques to create my images. That was a hard switch, but I felt the Canon 40D did the job as about as good as I could get in film and stay within a budget. I think I paid about $1500 or so and got some speedlites and umbrellas to put on stands for my lighting gear. That's how I started. I used the Canon ST-E2 Infrared transmitters to trigger my 430EXII Speedlights. I quickly learned its limitations and rented the Canon 5DMarkII full frame system and fell in love with it. I paired it with a 7D and felt unstoppable. I eventually acquired a full line-up of Canon L-Series lenses, to include the 24mm Tilt-Shift (which made me money by simply having the lens ON my camera. It got attention and got me gigs), as well as my favorite the 85mm 1.2. The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II was by far my sharpest and fastest lens to focus with, but the shallow depth of field of the 85mm 1.2 held my heart.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
And so it came, as all things must, the end of my fellowship with Canon. My desire to travel quickly became a priority and my intention was to go medium format. And then Nikon came out with the D800/D800E. I was disappointed in the Canon 5DMarkIII. It just didn't have the resolution and detail I desired for my artwork. A friend of mine showed me what the D800E could do and I quickly noted that what I saw was exactly what went on in my head. Oddly enough I paired it with a Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 image stabilized lens and it served me far better than Nikon's own 24-70. I took it to Guatemala and Belize in 2012 and got exactly what I wanted. Match made in Heaven, right. Well, kinda...

The D800E fit my hands well. The size and weight were great for what I do here in the US...but abroad? Not so much. I thought I could carry fewer lenses by packing the 28-300mm and the 50mm 1.4. The 50mm did work. The 28-300mm did as well, but not quite as well. I began to see extensive Chromatic Aberation problems with the lens when the lighting conditions were higher in contrast such as the bright sun coming through the trees. This meant that I could no longer cut corners and would have to bring out the good stuff and carry more and more costly lenses on my next trip. But this notion did not appeal to me. I backpack. I don't have roller bags when I travel. Carrying all that heavy gear in Guatemala, the D800E and the 2 lenses were already bothersome. I just couldn't imagine carrying even more gear.

So then I got the Fujifilm X-E2 for my next trip to Central America. Right before I left, I picked up the camera kit, which came with the metal barrel 18-55mm f/2.8-4 and aperture ring, along with the 35mm 1.4. Fuji has an excellent line-up of cameras and especially lenses. I came back after almost 3 months in Nicaragua with EXCELLENT work. I even took it on a pro gig in L.A. on my way back to Las Vegas. The Fujifilm X-E2 is the first mirrorless camera that I purchased, but I still worked with my D800E in and around Vegas.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
But now, that's all changed since I'm doing more work with low-light, nighttime, and astronomy...particularly with shooting nudes in these settings. This is where Sony has solved this problem. There's not another camera on the planet that have these attributes better than the A7s. Its another learning curve to get used to, but frankly, I like it. As of last week, I made my 3rd evolution and ventured into the little-known world of Mirrorless Interchangeble Lens Cameras as my sole system of choice. I still have the APS-C sensor Fujifilm X-E2, but I no longer have my Nikon D800E. I am 100% Mirrorless. My needs have changed and I had no problem with making the adjustment...again. I needed lighter weight systems and I needed the ability to shoot better in lower light. Usually, all that's necessary is a tripod, a cable-release and some patience. But sometimes the elements in my composition would move, such as the clouds, and I needed much shorter shutter times. And then there are a few other reasons I won't get into at the moment, but suffice to say, I think this is special. The full-frame A7s simply gives me what I need in order to get what's in my head to in front of my eyes. I've had a few people speak negatively on my decisions in this regard, but I'll save that for another post.

Art Model, Kristi C ©2014 Terrell Neasley
For now, I'll have images edited before long and I'll continue to test and learn this new system. I still have another body, another lens, and a couple more things to get to prepare me for my next adventure. I think that'll be the new A7MarkII or a new Fujifilm system. I'm pretty sure, that'll be it. I picked up the 35mm 2.8 yesterday and still need the 55mm 1.8, along with at least 1 Rokinon lens, but maybe two. Over the past few months, you've seen me blog about what I thought were shortcomings in the lack of innovation of Canon and Nikon. Well, now I've put my money with my words and made that change.

15 November 2014


Art Model and Performer, Mercy ©2011 Terrell Neasley. Men's Room.
Sometimes you just have to get off your ass and go. I'm still harping on the Bringing Back the Passion that I started earlier this month. I followed that post up with a post on Flash and then again with Ambient (light) as some easy alternatives to help you blow on those embers that could ignite your photo passions again. So LOCATION is what I wanna cover at the moment. Why? Cuz its easy. You simply get your ass up out of the house and go someplace with the explicit and direct intent to photograph something.

Sometimes people will tell you to start in your own back yard. Nah. Not good enough. You are still too comfortable in your own house and yard. I don't see that as "blowing on any embers". To fan the flame, you have to go beyond, but you still need a place to start. Downtown is good enough as a beginning point if you like. I live in Vegas, so downtown here is the Las Vegas strip. Or so you might believe. Actually, downtown is FREMONT STREET! Its a little different but yet similar to the Strip. A different kind of folk walk those streets and a many of characters will present themselves for your photographic pleasure.

Art Model and Blogger, Wonderhussy ©2008 Terrell Neasley
Erotic Heritage Museum
But there are still other urban areas in Vegas and you have them where you live too. Well, unless you're living out in the sticks, in which case you might have a further drive than most. But Street Photography can be the thing you need to rejuvenate and get a fresh start in photo again. Look up some examples of popular street photo work. Not to necessarily copy or emulate, but rather to just see what the possibilities are. Walk around first before you even pull your camera out. Observe. Listen. Smell. See the potential scenes that lie before you. In the Army, as we'd begin our patrols, we would stop a few hundred meters in, take a knee and become familiar with the sights, sound, and smells, of the environment we were about to immerse ourselves in. We called it SLLS, or sills. Its the same thing here. In this case, it can help you see and anticipate events that might be developing and thus better prepare you to capture that decisive moment. This can make the difference between THAT shot and JUST ANY OLD shot.

You can pick a theme to help you focus and look for something. Shooting the homeless has been very popular, but I find that to be a tough one sometimes, personally. You may want to concentrate on signs or door knobs. I've done newspaper wracks and stands. Shooting bus stops might be an option as well as photographing street vendors. You can also change your perspective a little. Everything doesn't have to be done from an eye level perspective! Get down! I mean it. Get low to the ground and see the world how a dog might view it. Or change it up and shoot from above and get a bird's eye view of things. Just change it up so things don't get predictable or boring. You may do photo for yourself, but you still want others to see it. Show them something fresh.

Out and About in Nature
I can dig some urban, but now we're getting into my scene! The woods! The desert! The mountains! As well as the BEACH! Natural surroundings appeal to me most. Especially spots where I have to get off the beaten path a bit. Seeing new things in God's creation can heat up the coldest of passions and make it blaze. I've been to spots that make you want to put down the camera and just keep it to yourself. If you can, bring a friend along whose company you enjoy OR somebody who knows the area and can be a guide of sorts. Its not always fun to get lost ( though sometimes it can be!). I can't tell you how many people I've taken out into the boonies...who have lived nearby all their lives...and yet had never previously seen the beauties that Red Rock has to offer. Or Lake Mead, Valley of Fire, or either of the hot springs near Hoover Dam at Goldstrike and Arizona. All these areas are within a hour of Vegas.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley. Nevada desert
You'll have to find out what appeals to you in these natural settings. For me, I can say a good, unique landscape vista is what I find most captivating. On the other hand, you may be more interested in the wildlife or birds. Photographing big horn sheep will be vastly different than photographing humming birds or egrets, mainly in the lens choices. You'll need some telephoto action, but you don't have to have as fast of a lens as you might with hummingbirds. Flowers are highly popular to shoot. Again, lens choices come into play. If you like to shoot a field of wild flowers, a normal zoom or better yet a wide-angle lens would work. However if you're wanting to get close enough to depict the petals and stamen of the Angel Trumpet flower, then a macro lens is your best business. You may also need to be on a tripod in many cases using a remote switch/cable release.

Book a Flight
Now this requires just a bit more dedication than most people have the stomach for, but hear me out. It doesn't take as much as you think to hop on a plane and go somewhere. You can sign up on some of these websites such as Hitlist (an app, actually) or OneTravel and get updates on cheap flights for places you have let them know you're interested in. I routinely get limited time offers for $100 flights. A flight to San Pedro Sula in Honduras will only run you $350. You can use these opportunities to head to Seattle for the weekend. I already hear what you're saying..."But then you have to find a place to stay!" True. Which is where CouchSurfing.org comes into play. There are people out there that offer their homes to travelers for free. I've meet some great people doing this. Sign up, check it out. Sometimes its short notice. Other times its planned months in advance. So you may have to rent a car, but if you're going to bitch about how expensive that is, then photo may not be for you. I mean, there are deals left and right. YES, you will spend money.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua
You're not gonna do photo without spending money. So either come to terms with that notion or take up treasure hunting with a metal detector on the beach. Some people find that very soothing and quite rewarding. Ain't no shame in that. Photo may not be the thing for you. Me...? I just want you to be happy. Get a camera, take some pics. If it's not for you, take up dance lessons. But my purpose is to holla at you about photo, so that's what I'm about. Its all about choices and what you choose to prioritize. You can make getting that new car stereo for $600 your priority if you so choose. You can also get a new wide-angle lens for your crop-sensor camera for even less than that. Book at trip to El Salvador for that same $600. Whichever will be the more rewarding experience...that's what I want you to go for. Now get to it.

12 November 2014


Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley Lit by small outdoor lamp and laptop computer. Handheld high ISO

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.”
~ Alfred Stieglitz

Ambient light or constant light is light that's not turning off. It just stays on. It doesn't have to be daylight from the sun. It can be the light on in your house or the light that comes on to illuminate your licence plate when it gets dark. By definition, ambient light is simply the light in your immediate surroundings whether it be artificial or natural. If you are in a dark room lit by a candle, that flicker on the wicker is your ambient light. And that's the cool stuff that I'll be discussing in this post. The natural light photogs can get a little something out of this. Anyone can take a photo in the daylight when all the settings are done in Full Auto or "P"-mode. Just let the camera do all the work and you're good to go. So in bringing back that passion, try this: work with ambient light in the darker settings and use any available light that you can come up with. I've used light from a cell phone held close to a model's face. I've used the moon on a 8 second exposure. Or better yet, work with a Neutral Density filter (which I'll be talking about in another upcoming blog post in more detail).

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit by small outdoor lamp and laptop computer. Handheld high ISO
But here are a few things you're gonna need in order to get busy with this concept. In the last post, I set you up with flash and triggers for under $200. In this case, I'm gonna stay in that same neighborhood. I'll begin with a good tripod. I've worked with several new and aspiring photogs who make a dubious mistake in my opinion. And when I say, "in my opinion", it's just that. I'm not quoting law and regulations. Its my perspective that when I see someone spend a grand or more on a good camera and then come into the camera shop looking for a $25 tripod, I'm just gonna say no. And usually the cheapest I get them out of the door with is a $170 Promaster system that will take care of their support and stabilization needs. You simply don't trust a thousand dollars on twenty dollar legs. Just don't do it.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit by moonlight about 8 seconds (which blurred clouds) on Tripod
Now you can definitely go way more than what Promaster has to offer. I use a carbon fiber Promaster tripod system for my quick travel work here around the country. Its strong, but smaller and more compact to travel with. But for my main work, I use a bigger, but medium sized Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Tripod with Ball Head Q2 carbon fiber unit that is the most beautiful system out there. Aesthetics usually don't count, but I fell in love with this thing and its gorgeous as well as strong. However, before I venture off to Central America again, I'm picking up another Promaster that's tough, but even smaller than the carbon fiber one I have now. Good sturdy legs are key. Next is having a ball head that can support the weight of your camera when its tilted vertical. I like mine to be extra strong in this regard. When a camera is tilted vertically, its actually off of the tripod's center of gravity. I never use the extended neck on these tripods for that very reason, but sometimes the vertical perspective is necessary.

"What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time."
~ John Berger

You can definitely pick up a used tripod system somewhere. There are super easy to test out and confirm it's serviceability prior to you trusting it with your camera out in the field. If you can get a good one for cheap, go for it. I like mine new and simply won't go for a used support system. That's just me. Every manufacturer will make tripods of various qualities, sizes, max weights, and different price points. Carbon fiber will usually run you double what an aluminum will cost. I like carbon fiber a lot. Find what suits you best in the budget you choose.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit by flashlight 2 seconds. Tripod,
but high ISO exposing for stars
The next most important item is going to be a cable release or remote shutter release system that plugs into your camera and allows you to actuate the shutter release without having to touch the camera itself and thus causing camera shake. For my Nikon D800E I have the MC-36A Multifuction Remote Cord, which is basically an intervalometer and a shutter release cable in one. But for my Fujifilm XE-2, I use an old style plunger-type threaded cable release. Promaster makes several for just about every camera system and when I do my one-on-one trainings, I'll generally have my students pick up one for $20 to $30, depending on what cameras system they have.

Next all you need is a still subject and the proficiency to shoot them giving the lighting challenges and the uniqueness or limitations of your camera. If you have a Sony A7s (stay tuned), then you don't really have any camera limitations. If you're working with a camera with ISO deficiencies, then yes, you'll have to work within that. But generally speaking, you'll be on a tripod so ISO 100 will usually be the best bet. I say generally, because if you're doing astro work, then max ISO is where you'll be. In either case doing a portrait in single-sourced low light can be both fun and challenging, but its sure to pay off with some good work.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley Lit by small outdoor lamp and laptop computer. Handheld high ISO
You can easily get started by using the obvious sources of light around you. The lamp on your light stand; the light coming off the TV or computer monitor, an overhead patio light. Get creative with it a bit. Try using the refrigerator light, a match, a headlamp, a night light. You can even play with different LED lights you might find in the toy section or automotive departments. Experiment! That's the main aim here. Experimentation and just play. Use a lowest ISO setting on your camera unless you are NOT using a tripod. In which case you want to use the lowest ISO you can get away with. Target an ISO that will allow for a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second, but cheat a little if you can. Go to 1/30th or even 1/15th and boost the Exposure Value Compensation up by a stop or two. Have your model be as still as possible. If you are not using a model and are doing night time/low light landscape, well, look to see if the wind is blowing the trees or tall grass and let that determine what your shutter should be. Just go out there and shoot and see what happens.

09 November 2014


Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Studio lighting - Einstein E640 mono-light mounted with a soft box to model's right and Nikon SB-700 with Gary Fong Lightsphere diffuser to the left rear
"In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated."
~ August Sander

In my last post, I mentioned one way to expand your efforts to get excited about photo again was to start using flash in your work. Now, granted...this post won't be necessarily for everybody. Some of you togs already have a great grip on this thing and its not your weakness by any stretch of the imagination. If that's the case, then just enjoy the pictures. However, if you do NOT have an acute aptitude for the ambient and artificial arts, then lets start small and follow me a little ways down the rabbit hole.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with a Maglight for 2 seconds
First things first. Can't be scared of light. As I mentioned in previously, most photog won't use it cuz they're scared of it. Ignorance of a thing is not a reason to fear a thing. Also, light is cheap. Yes, you can go pick up the high end flash by Nikon or Canon and pay skyward of $500 if you want to but come on, its a pop of light. Now speaking mainstream, I like either the Canon 430EX II, which I used for years (along with the 580EX II). With Nikon being my main system, I blast with the Nikon SB-700. Both of these are in the $300 range and that's a good start. These flashes give you lots of latitude and features that eliminate most every possible excuse you may have. You won't outgrow them and they will probably wear out from use long before they become obsolete.

But even if you can't or don't want to swing $300 at the moment, you still have options. First, you can find something used for a hundred or so. Second, you can rent for a weekend for $20 bucks. Third, you can go off-brand with several makers, most notably Yongnuo brands that will be under a $100. Second, you're gonna need some radio triggers. This gives you the ability to take the flash off of the camera, which brings me to my third thing which is a light stand, for something to put the flash on. I'll also add in there to pick up an umbrella holder so the flash can be mounted on something that can allow it to bend and point in any direction. But back to the triggers. This is also too easy. Phottix makes a set for $55, that are great and can be used with any flash system because its manual. There's no TTL setting. All it does is pop when you tell it too. At B&C Camera, you can go to either of the store's two locations in Las Vegas and get a quick run down on how to use them. Easy-Peasy.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with flash from model's right side
"Essentially what photography is is life lit up."
~ Sam Abell

I could throw in one more accessory, which is a flash diffuser of some kind. Is it necessary? Yeah, kinda. I don't really use a flash without something diffusing the light a bit, but I've seen plenty and have done it bare bulb too. Its kind of like a saddle on a horse. You don't HAVE to use one, but if you don't, just know its gonna be a hard ride. Okay, screw it...pick up an umbrella while you're at the camera shop. Now, back to my main thing. For about $200 you can practice and get a better grip on flash and really step up your work. Flash is cool because its lightweight and portable. All you need is some double-A's and you're off and running. Keep in mind. Flash isn't just used for night time shots! The question I get most often is, "Why would you use flash during the day?" Simple... Cuz the sun can cause harsh shadows. Using flash as some fill light is an excellent solution. No your model doesn't have to squint because the sun is in her/his eyes. And you can face the model away from the sun without their faces going into shadow. Oh yeah. Try exposing for that beautiful sunset AND your model without using flash and you'd better be good at composite work. Flash isn't just for studio. I take it with me just about everywhere.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Lit with Einstein E640 mono-light with mounted soft box from front

Do yourself a huge favor and just run through the manual. It may look thick but that's just cuz its also in several different languages. Know how to turn it on and set power levels for starters and then go shoot. I'm not often shooting at 1/1, which is the full power setting. I'm usually at 1/8th power or below. Set the flash up about 45 degrees left or right of your subject. Now chances are, you'll have to manually adjust the power settings, but even with that, once you get it within a tolerable range, you can adjust your aperture to control the flash. Big Tip: Shutter Speed controls ambient/constant light (daylight or lighting that stays on). Aperture controls Flash. Opening up the aperture increases the flash's intensity, while closing down does the opposite. So within a certain range of exposure, you can use the aperture settings (shooting in Manual or Aperture Priority Mode) to control the flash output.

Play with this in varying degrees of light as well in different locations. Trust me. It will bring the fun back. If you're going to be in the Las Vegas area or live here, get with me. I do one-on-one training for this stuff. Give me at least a week and you'll be up and running in no time with an excellent understanding of exposure control and flash. And when I talk to you next, we'll get a little bit more into locations.

08 November 2014

Bringing Back the Passion

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
"If you are not passionately devoted to an idea, you can make very pleasant pictures but they won't make you cry." 

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
I get to teach, learn from, socialize with, and mentor several local photographers, both professional and amateur, here in the Las Vegas area. I come across various skill levels most every week. I try to either impart or take away some knowledge at each encounter. And sometimes, its just great to be in good company. Some of those I come into contact with for the first time may find my perspective and demeanor somewhat... let's just say impassioned. If you can't tell that I am a little "off" when it comes to the talk, discussion, or debate on photo matters, then you clearly are not listening. I understand that not everyone will be inflamed or such as I. And that's cool (did you note that pun...inflamed/cool?). In either case, all wish to become better. I like the above quote by Ruth Bernhard. Everybody wants their photography to be moving. But I have heard few that desire to make their viewers cry. 

And here is the difference. Being moving can be slightly ambiguous. There is no real level or degree to be attached to being moved. No clear intensity can be quantified by simply being moved. I can be moved slightly as well as spurred into action. I can be moved by your work for a second and then forget about it upon seeing the work of another who's images can also be moving. So what is the measure for success when the objective is to simply move your audience? With no clear objective, the attempt can be lacking, misguided, and totally miss the mark. The only moving affect you have on your audience is that they are compelled to move-on to something more interesting. But there is only one connotation when you wish to make someone cry over your work. To cry is to remember. To cry is to have an emotion that becomes attached to your work and there-by giving your work life in someone's mind. 

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
However as the quote states, "...you can make pleasant pictures, but they won't make YOU cry." Now that's an very interesting part to question. Do tears go into your own work? That should be the first measure of how well your audience might receive your images. Now if you shoot like me, you'll tax your tear ducts too much on a yearly basis. But the idea is rather a question of your passion to what you do. Maybe not specifically toward a particular photo, or even a project. But for sure, it begs to ask whether or not you are passionate toward your craft. I'm not talking about the business of your craft as it speaks to what efforts are involved to generate profit. I speak more towards the devotion to the spirit of the craft itself and the devotion and commitment toward producing better images. Its hard to expect the sort of moving reaction you desire from your public when no such reactions are elicited from you in the capture, design, and presentation of said composition. 

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
Step up your game. Get out of your comfort zone. I'll even give you a hint. Lighting. Lighting is often one aspect of photography that is many times overlooked, especially artificial light or flash. You'll often hear, "I'm a natural light photographer". No disrespect, but in more cases than not, most of those who utter that phrase simply do not know how to use flash. But with some simple practice, you can make good with it after understanding a few principles and with steady practice. Then there are some who have a good understanding of lighting, yet never deviate from their signature look/style. Never going beyond a key light and a fill. Here is a thought. Rent some new equipment such as monolights instead of working with your speedlights. Try using radio triggers for you flash. Check out some new diffusers or a beauty dish...maybe a ring light. Just try something new. I recently went back to studio work instead of my on-location work and will do so again soon (once I get this friggin' boom fixed!). 

Art Model, Kristi C. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
Devote some time to you work. Change it up a bit. Shoot what interests you most and let the embers of your passions awake there! You can't move anyone else unless you are moved by your own work. Appreciate yourself by getting out and putting out something extraordinary. And if you can't find the extraordinary, then by Odin's Beard, shoot the ordinary, extra well! Many, many thanks to art model extraordinaire, Kristi C for coming out of her modeling hiatus to help me out with this project. 

24 October 2014

Travel Plans - Back to Central America

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving."
~ Lao Tzu

Its about that time again. As most travelers know, its hard to stay OFF the road for any given time. I think my mother has always hated my tendency to keep staying further and further away from home. I grew up with woods behind my house in Terrell, Texas. Yes...Same name. No, I wasn't named after the city I grew up in. As I were... I've always been an explorer at heart and its tough to not wonder whats around the bend, over that hill, around that corner, or beyond that horizon. I'd wander further and further back into those woods and explore more ground and become familiar with the area. Sometimes I'd use the excuse that I was hunting. I'd take a gun but never come back with any game. I moved away from home just after high school and lived on the other side of the tracks, but still in Terrell. Then I moved closer to Dallas. Two years after graduating high school, I found myself enlisted in the Army and assigned to my first duty station in Germany. I had hardly been 200 miles away from home at any given time. Now I was on the other side of the Atlantic in Europe.

Art Model, Leslie
©2013 Terrell Neasley

Art Model, Leslie
©2013 Terrell Neasley
Its gonna be back to Central America around the first part of the year. This is the plan anyways. The goal is to hit every country, starting up north in either Flores, Guatemala (and then traveling across into Belize), or just heading straight to Belize City and beginning my exploration there. Having been down that way before, I have the majority of this trip planned out, but El Salvador and Honduras in particular still elude me in terms of what I wish to do there. I'll be spending the majority of time in Guatemala and Nicaragua. I still have to make plans for Costa Rica and Panama, but I don't see that being a difficult task. Mainly, I just need to get a general plan secured just to have better cost estimates. Nothing will be written in stone or have schedules and deadlines, or strict itineraries. I like to travel slow, get to know a place, and leave when I wish. If I like a place, I want to be able to stay longer. If I don't, then I'm out sooner than expected. I'll have to schedule a flight in advance while in Nicaragua, but only by a week or so. As I get down to Managua, I'll fly over to Little Corn Island for a spell and then return to Managua to continue my trip.

So I could definitely use some suggestions as to El Salvador and Honduras. And any other spots any of you might know of in Central America that would be appealing. So far, I'm weighing options on the Caribbean Islands off the coast of Honduras and maybe its capital city. Part of the fun though, might be in just waiting til I get there and just checking things out and not finalizing plans til a week or two away. Or maybe be like some friend travelers I've meet on the trail who just show up! I'm not as great as Heather Rae Murphy with planning these things. And I usually have to budget more than what I estimate I'll need. So I'll probably never do a blog post on saving money on these trips. I can do better with sharing with you my mistakes though which can be just as equally beneficial to you. And trust me, that can add up to a lot of friggin' information.

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley
But back to the matter at hand, I'd like to get all this worked out by the end of this month, which doesn't leave me much time. But if I recall correctly, it was this time last year was when I decided on an extended stay in Nicaragua. So maybe I'm right on schedule. I'm very much looking forward to this. What's next after this trip you ask. I'll push on to South America, of course. Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia! The western and southern coastal countries in South America interest me most. Here's another tid bit for you. If you don't already have it, download Google Earth. Just zoom in and have a bird's eye view look around. Its a good start.

22 September 2014

A Look at The Canon 7D Mark II and the Nikon D750

Art Model, Panda ©2014 Terrell Neasley
A few months ago, Nikon announced the D810. I shoot with the 2-year old D800E and I gave my 2 cents on it. Last week, we got introduced to two new cameras. Canon finally brought out the well-anticipated successor to one of my most favorite cameras, the 7D... the 7D Mark II. I was really glad they kept the name and went with a MK II instead of the 8D. Nikon also brought out another full-frame system with the D750. I'll come clean with my views on the Canon first.

The Canon EOS 7D Mark II

I bought my original 7D in 2010 to pair with my 5D Mark II. Between the two systems, I found the 7D much easier to use and was more user friendly. I think the 7D Mark II will garner the same appreciations.

Art Model, Alethea ©2013 Terrell Neasley
What I Like
This is still a heavy, solid camera. It weighs in at an ounce and a half under the full-frame 5D Mark II. I like the feel of it in my hands. As for features...well, at 10 frames per second, its now the fastest system out there for sports that is under $6800 with an AF system to boot. Dual Pixel AF is added in like what first appeared in the 70D. This is keeping with the tradition of the original 7D which got you 8 fps. Along with that tradition, it keeps dual processors! Two Digic 6 processors, allowing for faster signal processing, metering, increased buffering, and since you have 2 processors sharing the heat load, that's less noise at higher ISO's. And speaking of ISO, it peaks out natively at 16,000 which is about a third stop over the usual high of 12,800. Dual card slots for SD and CF is cool. That's a first in Canon's APS-C systems. I would give heavy consideration to this over even the 5D Mark II.

What I Wish it Had
There's not a lot on this camera that you can add to it. If I compared it to Nikon, I'd say it would be cool to adopt some of Nikon's ideas with the removal of the anti-alias filter and add in a articulating LCD. The solid aluminum body adds weight and messes things up for built-in WIFI. Nikon was cool enough to minimize the aluminum to just the top and bottom and made the front side of it with carbon fiber AND built-in WIFI. I wouldn't really expect 4K video in this thing. Its still a prosumer system after all, but 120 fps at 720p would have been cool for some serious slow-mo action.

Anonymous Art Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
What I Don't Like
There's not much to dislike about this thing. If anything, my concern goes toward the manufacturer. I think this would have been a good time for them to take the lead and experiment a bit. These features were still traditional and conventional improvements. But I've posted before on what I think the future pro cameras will look like and feature. I don't like that Canon, the biggest camera manufacturer out there, is not taking chances. How about REALLY boosting that speed and making it a game-changer with an electronic shutter or something...at least the front curtain. I was also a little surprised at the price-point of $1800. The original 7D stayed at $1500 or so. Now it's priced within a hundred bucks of a full-frame 6D on rebate. Is that wise?

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
The Nikon D750

I can't say I was as impressed with Nikon's newest baby. I'm actually a little confused with it. Basically, they updated the D610 which JUST came out last year. The price point is just a few hundred more than the D610, so who's gonna buy a 610 now? A new seven hundred series camera was speculated to be the successor to the highly popular D700. I thought it would be faster than 6 1/2 frames per second. Most of the increases are 1-stop improvements, although there is a jump with the new processor and AF system. Is it a good camera? Hell, yes it is. No denying that. But again, my argument persists on Nikon's tendency to fade to traditional. Will the D610 be discontinued? Photography Life blog posted a comparison a few weeks ago that illustrate these differences very well. I'll give it credit for being the first full-frame digital with a flip LCD screen and built-in WIFI. After that, we'll have to wait and see what this company does and how it positions itself against the competition. Google the reviews and tell me what you think. I could be way off base here.

Both these systems can be pre-ordered at BandCCamera.com.

21 September 2014

Almost Three Months Left for 2014! How Will You Use the Time?

 More Re-edits. This time from 2011 model session. Art Model, Enyo. ©2014 Terrell Neasley 
"There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation - veneer isn't worth anything."
~ George Washington Carver

In a few short days, there will be only one-quarter of the year left. My, where has the time gone. Pretty soon the year will be over. So here's a challenge for you. How much can you get done in 3 months? What significant achievement can you accomplish before the end of the year? You can measure that in money, as in how much can you make, but I think a focus on the cash is a mistake for a lot of people. Tis' better to focus on the goals you have to be better and the money will follow. Never chase the dollar. But that's just my take. Better yet, how many doors can you figuratively knock on to get more photo projects under your belt before year's end? You have 3 months. What else can you learn in your expertise that can expand your business services?

Here's why I'm asking. I write the contents of this blog, not from the vantage of having mastered all these concepts myself, but rather they are realizations I make for me that I know are common to many other photographers. Every one of us usually enters a new year, thinking about what we hope to accomplish, resolutions, and where we want to be. And then that year closes and we're wondering where the time went so fast. Well, here shortly, it will be 2015 and you're gonna be surprised that 2014 has already gone. All those goals and ambitions are just going to have to be reiterated in January and you promise to redouble your efforts. But lets be honest with ourselves. Didn't we say the same thing when 2013 ended?

Art Model, Enyo. ©2014 Terrell Neasley
So here are a few things you can spend these last 3 months of 2014 doing that might help you break even or possibly get the jump on 2015.

1. Do the things you know you need to do today. Start the project and then see it through. I've been talking about redoing my website since forever. I've let that project get old and stale. So for me, that's on my daily list until completion. But every day, I gotta work on it, even if I just spend an hour on it. Have you done your back-ups? Mine are automated, but I've recently talked to a guy who's not backed up his work in months. Register your copyrights. Scout some new locations. Stay abreast of the latest photo news and developments. Read a book, for crying out loud. Read something to help yourself. Invest time and money in lighting workshops, photo conventions, or classes. Do an online tutorial on how to do lighting for sports photography. Network! Place yourself in a position to be made aware of where the gigs are coming from. If you don't know how to do that, ASK SOMEBODY who does! And then make sure you are doing the things that make you qualified to be considered for those gigs.

Art Model, Enyo. ©2014 Terrell Neasley
2. Make each decision you choose take you closer to your goals. You can ask yourself... "How does another trip to Zion National Park help my portfolio?" "How does shooting this project for free add to my business?" You may in fact, realize that Zion shots are everywhere and it could be that shooting in the Mojave National Reserve could be a fresher look for you. OR, maybe you can shoot Zion from a different perspective that renews people's interest in your work. It might be more beneficial for you to decline free projects. Exposure and Photo Credits, do not pay the bills. However, if its a volunteer project and you deem there is a high propensity to be introduced to a new demographic of clientele, it could be worth it.

3. Train up on something you know will be useful later. Here's an example. I spent time in Nicaragua living with a local family to learn Spanish. I got a good foundation but I have a long way to go. I plan to go back before long and it will be MOST EXCELLENT if I'm a bit more proficient for when I return. Sooo... I gotta stick with my notes and study regularly. I'm not planning on being back there any time soon, but that just gives me more opportunity and time to learn. I also know I can better my photo business by being more proficient in video. All my cameras do video. I need to be as proficient in it as I am with photography. But unlike photo, I have to add learning audio. I need to learn the gear as well. We just got classes on Canon's new XA-20/25 and the XA-200/205. I am much more interested in learning the professional aspects of video after that class. I sold my first XA-20 just last week and it was quite the experience speaking on it to my customer. Its a good piece of gear. I think I need one. The better I get, the more I can offer to my clientele.

Art Model, Enyo. ©2014 Terrell Neasley
All this to say that opportunities come you way most every day. But if you are not in a position to take advantage of them, fear not...someone else will. Time...you only have so much of it. Wasted time - its worse than wasted money, wasted food, or wasted anything else you can think of. Everything else, you can make up for it. Opportunities that came along for which you were not prepared for are simply lost. I've heard it said that Fortune Favors the Prepared. I believe this to be true. Be smart. Do the right things now. I believe this is a key factor that separates the successful from the "busy".

13 September 2014

Reworking Old Images

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."
~ Aristotle

Anonymous Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
I won't say this will work for every blast from the past photo session you do. But sometimes its cool to look at some of your older work and just play with it. It becomes interesting to revisit prior work with some of the new tools you have today. Its can also be beneficial to just see how much you have grown, changed, or expanded your own knowledge-base and see what decisions you might make on edits five years old.

I recently took a look at some of my shots from mid-September 2008 session in which the model and I hiked out several hours up a canyon outside Vegas. We had a blast and the memories of that shoot are some of my most fond memories working with a model. We went out before the sun came up and didn't get out of that canyon until after the sun was down. We were running out of water, which wasn't great at all. Still, we were about as safe as we could have been. We got what we needed done, explored even more, and came away with some great shots.

Anonymous Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

I was shooting with my 10MP Canon 40D at the time. I bought the camera maybe a year before that. I was well familiar with the camera, but hadn't mastered photoshop. I, at least, had the presence of mind to shoot RAW and that gave me enough data with which to work. I probably used Photoshop 7 at the time, which is the version I was initially introduced to, or maybe, quite possible CS2. I very little layering at that time. Masking was still unknown to me. I had yet to see the significance of brushes. I was not a "smart object", to say the least. My primary tools were the dodge, burn, and clone tools. I slowly taught myself through trial and error...more emphasis on error.

Anonymous Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Today, I utilize Photoshop CC 2014 and a plethora of plugins, to include Nik and Topaz, for starters. We have Content-Aware Fill. I enjoy doing composite work, which was the last thing I left off on when I was doing darkroom work using film, chemicals, and fiber-based paper. Jerry Ulesmann was a huge inspiration on me in those days before I switched to digital. I work on a Dell workstation with a high-end 30-inch monitor. I think I have a set up that gets me what I need and yet, I am still updating it with new and bigger tech. I am no different with my camera choices. I have since switched to Nikon with my 36MP D800E. I teach photography now in one-on-one sessions with a special emphasis on critical thinking. I created the very first Photography meet-up group here in Vegas and co-operated another. My group met every month for 3 years helping photogs learn how to interact with and hire models. I regularly attend WPPI and Photoshop World conventions annually when they come to Vegas. I work at B&C Camera 2 days a week. All this gives me exposure to other like-minded creatives to cultivate ideas, learn new processes and skills, and turn out and deliver a better grade of product.

Anonymous Model, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
So with six more years of experience, knowledge, more and better equipment, and wider exposure to the deeper creative aspects of my trade, I think it can be an interesting thing to go back to old work and see how you might look at the same thing differently. And given better technology and software, what improvements might be made to shots that you once thought were lost or otherwise not worth the edit. I was able to bring back blown out highlights that were at one point lost to me using the newer version of Camera Raw that comes with Photoshop CC. Images shot with lower megapixels and less detail were livened up using  the Detail Enhancer in Nik Color Efex Pro 4. For the moment, I've only edited 4 new images from this 2008 photoshoot, but I will go back and do more for sure. And I didn't do any deep or complicated edits as of yet...just some black and white conversions, but I like them and this is fun. I fully encourage you to dust off some of those oldies but goodies and see what fresh new ideas you can breath into them.

31 August 2014

Sometimes a Trip Doesn't Pan Out - Searching for My Shot in the Outer Banks

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."
~ Robin Williams

Currituck Beach Lighthouse, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
I usually like to be on some sort of excursion or at least gone from home on my birthday month, which has for more than 40 years, always occurred in August. That was a mild attempt at a humorous opening. I give it a 4 out of 10. Anyway, this month was no different. Instead of leaving the country, I decided to follow up on a friend's suggestion, (thanks, Susan!) and spend a little more than 3 weeks on the East Coast in the Outer Banks just off the coast of North Carolina. I figured it would be cool to get some lighthouse shots, shoot a model, and just explore a little.

Whalehead in historic Corolla, ©2014 Terrell Neasley

Hurricane Bertha had other plans, as it were. The incessant rain kept me at bay for quite a number of days. I had hoped to get some dramatic skies, but such was not my fortune. The skies were simply cloudy, grey, featureless, and bleak. Not stormy, just rainy. But as soon as the weather broke, I headed out to the north end of The Outer Banks, near Currituck to see what I could get. Not knowing what to expect, I found out that getting a uniqueness of shot was REALLY hard to come by. I still wanted to give it a try and just see what I could come away with.. Its almost like trying to get a unique shot of the Statue of Liberty. You never know til you go. And it was still worth seeing and experiencing, nonetheless. I waited til the end of the day when most tourist were done and tried my best. I did this with three other lighthouses and only missed Cape Lookout, the southernmost lighthouse in the Outer Banks. That was mainly because I camped out on the Atlantic side of Shackleford Banks, right near Cape Lookout. I stayed up all night. By morning, catching a ferry back to the mainland and then another ferry to Cape Lookout was no longer on my list of priorities. Between Currituck, Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke Lighthouses...I was good to go.

Art Model, Covenant ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Things won't always go as planned and some excursions won't be as successful as others. Right now, I've gone through my shots and edited what I thought were the best ones. I came away with 18 edits. And you know what? I'm cool with that. Surprised? Sure. But I understand that this is the game sometimes. I always chalk it up to the cost of doing business. I'm a photographer. I tried something and it wasn't as epic as I had hoped or thought it would be. Sometimes its Mother Nature. Sometimes, its misfortunes on the road that are out of your control. I had one experience that put a really bad taste in my mouth and I let it get to me, but in the end, if you can't understand that stuff like that will occasionally happen, then you may want to try a new line of work. I spent a lot of money on this trip. But you know what, its still worth it. Now I know. I know what to expect if I want to do this again.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
Some places I know I'll likely return to. Chances are, I'll still get Cape Lookout. Just not today. There are other spots that I now know aren't as cracked up to be as I initially thought. The lessons I take away from this trip is that you can't let other people or bad experiences dissuade you from finding your shot or fulfilling your visions/goals/ambitions of what that might be. I met some great people along the way. I got to see how other people live out that way and it is entirely different from my own. From the food they eat, to the way they talk, it was experiencing a new culture in my own country. And while getting good shots is a priority when I travel, its the experiencing of new cultures that is the reason I do it. So in that, my mission was fulfilled. Maybe that's why Star Trek is on of my favorite shows"...to seek out new life and new civilizations...To boldly go where no one has gone before"!

Wild Horses at Shackleford Banks, ©2014 Terrell Neasley
What's next? Well, I've had a major project that was supposed to happen after Christmas, but now I'm a little uncertain of it. So I'm still thinking South America, namely the Northern and Pacific coastlines and Bolivia. I'd really love to accompany one of my mentors, Dave Rudin on one of his Icelandic adventures next summer and then go back during the off-season again for another project. That's the goal anyways.

26 July 2014

Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Manual Focus Lens Initial Review

I've been getting used to my first manual focus lens this past week and its been a fun process. I picked up the Rokinon 14mm T3.1 Cine Lens and took off into Utah to scout some new locations and play with it a before I head out on my next excursion soon. This was a trip to familiarize myself with the lens prior to putting it to real tasking. Its definitely easier to do this with a wide-angle lens as opposed to something longer than a 50mm lens. There are definitely ways to check your focus with manual focus lenses so that you are tack sharp. I'm still getting used to the lens, but I think I've got it figured out well enough. I had to tweek a little chromatic aberration as well as guard against unwanted vignetting, but not really any more than you see in most wide-angles.

This is not a fish-eye, so there is minimal distortion and practically no barreling when shooting straight on. That's pretty good for a 14. This is a lens that's designed primarily for video work and therefore has knobby aperture and focus rings to better grip the follow focus knobs that may be used when the camera is mounted on a shoulder rig. Since is a cinema lens, it also utilizes T-stops as opposed to the F-stop you might be familiar with, but this is very close to the same thing. F-stops are derived from a calculated equations which is determined based on a given focal length, but T-stops are actually measurements of light used by cinematographers and are actually a bit more accurate than the f-stop, but just by a bit. Overall, this is an inexpensive, VERY well-made, and I might add...ATTRACTIVE lens from the makers of Rokinon.

Here are some of the initial shots I've been playing with. And at the end is an embedded YouTube vid by Matt Granger, who gives an EXCELLENT description on the difference between F&T Stops. He drops some interesting knowledge about the true light transmissions on some of the most expensive lenses by Canon and Nikon compared to, say a Tamron. Check out his YouTube Channel for more video knowledge!

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley

©2014 Terrell Neasley