28 July 2016

Scouting Nevada, my Third Visit on the Subject

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley
"I suffered evils, but without allowing them to rob me of the freedom to expand." 
~ Gordon Parks

This is my 10th Summer here in Las Vegas even though I have only lived here for 9 years. The summer before I moved here, I visited for the entire summer of 2006 and got a job working as temp help with MGM Grand. When I moved here, there were my first employers as a project manager.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

My initial visit here was in 2001, but that was as a tourist and my entire time was spent on the Strip. However, during my stay in 2006, my friend Paula took me out to the Valley of Fire with a model. It was a complete awaking from any other terrain and outdoors that I knew. Moving here in 2007, I immediately revisited Valley of Fire and broadened out my scope to more areas around Las Vegas. I joined a hiking group, Vegas Hikers when there were only 300 members. Today, there are over 13,000 members. That group helped me get familiar with more areas and hiking trails in and around the Las Vegas Valley.

Through more photography associations, I met more people who invited me out to areas further outside Las Vegas as well as the borders of Nevada. With four-wheel drive trucks, we got to thoroughly explore rarely utilized trails, valleys, mountains, lakes, rivers, hotsprings, and abandoned structures. From there, I went out on my own at times and visited other parks in Utah, Arizona, and California. I now have a National Park pass and will soon get one of State parks, as well.

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

But I must admit, I got complacent and stopped exploring, primarily attributed to knee surgery and rehabilitation. I've reconnected some, but now that I'm getting back out on the trails, several of the places I initially visited are no longer available unless you want to be cited for trespassing. My friend, Garrett informed me a while back that the stomping grounds he showed me at Cold Creek has been closed off to private property now. Anniversary Narrows at Lake Mead is now closed off to hikes now. Another cold spring water spot is fenced off. As much as I want to travel abroad, I also need to travel here at home. I need to scout Nevada again! I've already written about "scouting Nevada" twice before. And I'm doing it again.

"The guy who takes a chance, who walks the line between the known and unknown, who is unafraid of failure, will succeed."
~ Gordon Parks

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Occasionally, I take out visiting photogs to areas around here to shoot. Its FUN! I love getting out there with new guys and helping them get their shots either by teaching them or just helping them with locations. Yeah, its fun, but I do charge. So, if I want to do that more, then I'd better get my butt back out there and scout more trails to meet their need and imaginations. Some clients can hike, other's can't or don't want to do so. I've had a few that had to stay out of the sun, therefore my locations required trees and shade which isn't easy in the desert!

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley

Other queries require water sources, night time work, or less photographed locations. Everybody doesn't want to just head to Red Rock. They want the road less traveled and I can definitely respect that and relate. My job is to accommodate. And I have to get myself a 4x4 truck. A white Jeep Grand Cherokee, specifically. That's what I'm after, anyways. So its on the list and that list is looooong. I am such a GEAR HEAD. I always need so many things. Gotta get the truck. My computer is 4 years old. I still have several places abroad to visit RIGHT AWAY. And of course... I need more cameras...at least one more (Until the new Sony A9 series comes out next year...then 2 more). More lenses... at least 2 more, possibly 3. I'll get that under control with counseling, I promise.

Art Model, Covenant ©2016 Terrell Neasley
So yeah, I got work to do. Man's gotta have goals, right? I think I have more than my share, but they all gotta happen. So watch me work!

08 July 2016

On the Question of Greatness

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Let me just break convention here and start right off with my premise that staying in your comfort zone will preclude you from being better in your photo work. At least that's what I believe. I'm unconvinced that you can do the same thing over time and improve your overall skill set. You may not want to be great. In fact, to my recollection, I don't think I've ever heard anybody say they wanted to be great at photography. Its always "I want to be better". Either way, I'm going to say I'm certain you won't do so by simply "shooting the things you love"...without stretching yourself.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Let me get a little deeper with that. I shoot the things I love. I shoot the things that make me feel good about what I produce. However stagnation occurs in photography when you ONLY shoot the thing you are most comfortable with the same way you've always shot it. You don't grow and you don't expand your horizons to Betterland. I don't care what it is that you shoot, you can always add a little twist to it. Do the same thing but utilize a more involved process. Want to shoot landscape? Cool. But how about getting out more than just 20 miles from home? How about doing it at night? Pull out the tripod and cable release and get some stars involved. Ever head out when every body else is heading in from inclement weather? Maybe some light painting. Get creative. What else can you do at night. Leave the steel wool alone for a while though. In full disclosure, I've used it to some great achievements. But I'm sure as hell tired of dumb butts not being safe with it and stupidly destroying landmarks and local monuments.

How about a different lens perspective? You do portraits? Okay, well maybe stop shooting wide open on that 85mm f/1.2 and utilize a wide-angle lens intead. Switch it up to some environmental portraiture. Get out of the studio and bring in the subjects surroundings that may tell a story of where they live. I mean, after all...are we not trying to tell stories with our pictures? Ever try light painting? Maybe some figure work utilizing a slow shutter and dragging your flash? What about seeing how to implement that stroboscopic feature on your Canon flash (Repeating Flash for Nikons) and seeing how you can creatively incorporate it into your favorite genre of work.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley

I mentioned that I don't hear many photographers ascribing to be great...only better. I can't say I know why that is. And I would imagine there are different definitions to the concept of "greatness" and maybe most photogs only aspire to be the best they can be as opposed to being recognized as the best in their field. And then I guess you'd have to find a way to measure greatness. Is it an attribution to how well-known you are? How popular you are? How much money you make or what you drive? And then can you define it by their greatness in photography or maybe their greatness in business. There are certainly those who are great at photography education. As well as those who are excellent in photography marketing. Do these go down in the annals of great photographers.

Peter Lik has sold the most expensive photographic work to date at $6.5 million. The New York Times makes the case that he is more of a businessman (to paraphrase mildly) who does photography in that despite selling an estimated $400 million in fine art sales, his work rarely fetches the original sales prices on the secondary market. So then those who buy his work as investors are purportedly in for a shock should they choose to reappraise their investments in the future. Don't get me wrong. I ain't hating on the guy. I'd love to have his business model. I can't fault it by a single shot.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
"Arguably, the person best versed in Peter Lik comparables is David Hulme, a fine-art valuer based in Australia for a company called Auctionata. For years, he has been getting calls from Lik owners around the world, and he finds the calls depressing.
“People tell me all the time, ‘I’ve been in touch with the gallery, and they say my photograph is now selling for $150,000 a copy,’ ” he says. “So they want to know what they can sell theirs for.” 
A tiny fraction of that sum is the answer. A subscription service called Artnet — which bills itself as the most comprehensive database of its kind — captures the resale value of Lik photographs by cataloging auction results, and the most anyone has ever paid for one his photographs is $15,860, for a copy of an image called “Ghost,” in 2008. (It’s a color version of “Phantom.”) After that, it’s a long slide down, to $3,000 for a copy of “Eternal Beauty (Antelope County, Arizona)” in 2014. Fifteen images have sold for between $1,000 and $2,500, and four have sold for between $400 and $1,000. Another handful failed to sell. And that’s it."

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
So does he go down as a great photographer? You can't deny the man makes bad ass imagery. The only real question is is it worth what its selling for. I can't give you any advice on how to be great. I'm for damn sure not great, myself. I can tell you and teach you how to be better. I can do that. I can also define who I believe are great to me. Well, let me at least say who my favorites are. Everybody agrees Ansel Adams is the Michael Jordan of photography. Particularly for me, greatness is epitomized in Edward Weston, Harry Callahan, Gordon Parks, Sally Mann, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Carrie Mae Weems, Diane Arbus, Jerry Ulesmann, Spencer Tunick, Helmut Newton, and Imogen Cunninham.

Art Model, Covenant © 2016 Terrell Neasley
Of those, my personal faves are Weston, Callihan, Mann, and Parks. Of course, there are other photographers I like and many more who have taken iconic images, but I can't say I follow their overall work. I'm not a Steve McCurry fan, but who can not be a fan of "Afghan Girl". Of my aforementioned list, (of which, is not exhaustive nor comprehensive), only Spencer Tunnick is of a more recent ilk. For me, I think greatness is defined over the career of the photographer/artist, although I do include Mr. Tunnick as an exception.

Who knows? I guess if you're always striving to be better then greatness will take care of itself. At the very least, I think any photog owes it to themselves...NAY, even to US...the viewing public, to put out their best work. Anything less is cheating yourself and ME!

02 July 2016

Protection: MACK Extended Warranties for Camera Gear

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
Continuing my reviews on the question of protection, I think extended warranties are another good one to cover. So what's an extended warranty? Most of the items you buy will come with some form of guarantee that the product will function and operate as specified. They will usually offer this guarantee for a year with most newly purchased electronics. That's not too bad when you consider that if the product makes it that long, chances are it will perform similarly over the next few years with proper maintenance and care. At least, that's the usual case unless you are one of those people who's products last until the month AFTER their warranty expires.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
An Extended Warranty can do a couple more things. It can extend this same level of guarantee by a third party, other than the manufacturer, OR it can also add more coverage not provided by the manufacturer warranty. For instance, in addition to the manufacturer's warranty, an extended warranty might also add ACCIDENTAL DAMAGE, which means the product is covered if it malfunctions for some reason, but ALSO the product is covered for repair/replacement if YOU damage it. So in this case, if you happen to be out shooting your camera and you damage if by dropping it, running it over in your car, (I have seen this), or because your inconsiderate numb-skull friend decided it would be funny to give you a shove while you were taking pics by the pool (seen that too).

So should you buy or risk it?

I'll say it depends. If you already have insurance for professionals on your gear, then maybe not. However, if you DO have pro insurance and don't want to pay the deductible if there is damage AND don't want your rates to increase...buy the extended warranty. I would be extremely leery of using homeowner's insurance. Just last week, I had a gentleman explain to me that he initially thought his camera gear was covered, however the insurance company denied his claim for the camera gear, insisting that he used it commercially. It didn't matter that he made no money at it. The gear he lost was of professional quality. Had he tried to recover damage on a $599 Canon Rebel T3i, maybe his insurance would have covered it. But with a Canon 5DMarkIII, 2 more bodies, lights, etc...they said no.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
If you know you are prone to mishandling gear, get the insurance. When you know you have a history of knocking things off the table or dropping things onto the floor, save yourself the heartache and spend the few extra bucks to protect yourself.

It also depends on what you are getting the extended warranty for. For an item that does not get handled much or carried around, I may not be as inclined to purchase it. A camera or a lens, yes indeed, I am in favor of it. Because like my last post about UV filters, it has to do with who's handling the warranty claim as well as how responsive is the warranty issuer. B&C Camera has at least two people at all times who submit and monitor MACK extended warranties.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
I've seen worried consumers come in the store with busted gear. Maybe they don't have the receipt, but they can look up your gear by serial number and find out if you are covered. When these guys realize they we can reproduce their proof of purchase, well, you should witness the sense of relief in their faces. They chose to purchase the 3-Year MACK Diamond Extended Warranty when it was offered. These are the ones that the B&C Camera owner chooses to use because it's most beneficial to the customers and it makes the most sense.

Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
The warranty doesn't protect against loss or theft. They can't help you if your gear has been in a fire. The warranty is for manufacturer malfunction and accidental damage. A lady drove over her camera and crushed it. She brought all the pieces back that identified the camera make, model, and serial number. She got a new camera as it was not repairable. Same model...brand new. How happy do you think she was? What happens if your camera is not repairable and has been discontinued for the upgraded model? You get that upgrade. Here is an excerpt from the MACK website:

Diamond warranties include standard coverage as well coverage for malfunctions due to accidental damage from handling (ADH).
This includes malfunctions due to liquid damage that were the result of an accident. All types of accidental damage, including liquid damage, will be covered at the discretion of Mack Worldwide Warranty.
  • Impact Damage
  • Manufacturer Defects
  • Sand/Grit Damage
  • Accidental Damage and Unintentional Abuse
  • Mechanical Malfunctions
  • Normal and Abnormal Wear and Tear
  • Lemon Protection
  • 2 Free CCD Cleaning for the life of the warranty (USA Only)
Art Model, Anon 3 ©2012 Terrell Neasley
See there? That's 2 free sensor cleanings over the life of the warranty. That's anywhere from $120 to $200 in cleaning right there. B&C Camera charges $60 per sensor cleaning, BTW and its done right there in the store by a specialist, named Kris. Depending on the value of your camera that's either the full cost of the insurance or at least half of it in most cases. So is the peace of mind worth it? I think it is. A one-time payment and you're protected for 3 years. That's a good deal. Do it.