Friday, February 29, 2008

Wedding Day

Wedding Kit, originally uploaded by cycle61.

No studio pictures, websites, attempted graphic design, or one-eyed storytellers tonight. I'm going to bed early, can't stay up for the blogging hour (3am according to Strobist) because my first wedding is tomorrow. I've got everything laid out and packed, batteries charged, cards formatted, sensors cleaned, and address Googled and programmed into the GPS.

I'm borrowing a second camera and lens, another D200 (with one shooting bank set up identically to my camera) and an 85/1.8, which I've used quite a bit in the past. The only thing I haven't used much are the Demb diffusers, but I'm going to try and minimize on-camera flash as much as possible.

Additionally, I gave my gallery page on Zenfolio a serious makeover, it looks more professional now. I'm probably going to be using it to host the wedding pics, as it's clean and powerful enough to act as a frontend for a while. I had hoped to use my PhotoShelter Archive for this, but it's going to be some time before I get the interface figured out.

Tomorrow, by the way, will be my first officially paid job as a photographer. I've sold a few prints here and there, but Friday, February 29, 2008 marks a new beginning for me as well as for the happy couple, Bryce and Danielle.

Wish me luck, and I'll try to have a better looking picture up here tomorrow!

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Portrait. And more wedding practice.

Portrait of an intense child, originally uploaded by cycle61.

Quick portrait of my oldest daughter, shot while trying out my new softbox. Bedroom studio, but that's OK when your model is 9 and your assistant is 6. A bit of Photoshop work to enhance the contrast and add some tone.

Strobist: Nikon SB-800 in tiny softbox, camera left. 1/4 power, F/8 ISO 200, 1/250th to kill the ambient light.

Just picked up the softbox, a Photoflex LiteDome Q3 this afternoon. I'm hoping to be able to use it at the wedding on Friday. I realized after some experimentation that there's absolutely no way I'm going to wield an umbrella one-handed, and I don't want to go bare flash if I can help it. This seems like a good solution for now. If I get it in fairly close, it actually makes very nice light. I'd love to try this one on the end of a monopod with a TTL sync cord as well...

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Business card rev. 2

Phase II of my card design process. Throw something out there and see if it sticks. Kinda like making spaghetti. Adjusted per some helpful suggestions. Is this better looking than the first version?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ever closer to reality

The graphic you see above is my new business card, roughly life size, which is crawling out of my printer as I type these words. Cycle 61 Photography may not officially exist yet, but we do have business cards! Okay, I admit, in the grand scheme of things, this is pretty darn small news. However, it's a first for me, and even though it's made up on Office Depot's snap-apart clean edge card blanks on my inkjet printer at home, it is a real card. I am definitely not going to do it this way again, the time and ink I wasted getting the darn thing to line up right probably cost me more than professional printing, but at least I know that I have them available to hand out on Friday at the wedding.
Other options I looked at were any number of online printing places, which offered quality, customization, speed, and good prices (pick any two), and even better would have been MooCards through Flickr. The Moo Cards are very nicely done, bigger than regular business cards, and have excellent print quality, but they happen to ship from the U.K., so getting them here on Friday wasn't gonna happen.

I'm hiding this after the jump, so technically I admitted it but most of you won't get this far. The design above was made in Photoshop. My regular readers (Hi mom!) know that my copy of Photoshop isn't exactly, um, registered. Okay,okay, it's pirated. I've been using Lightroom for the last month, and have resolved that I won't use PS for professional work until I pay for a copy. Doing my business cards on it doesn't sit right with me. I'm saving my pennies for a Mac right now (see the little countdown thingy in the sidebar) and buying PS now would push that back quite a ways. I swear it's my next purchase after the iMac is safely parked on the desktop.
Oh, and Anna, the Mac decision is, of course, pending your approval. It's our tax refund.(I don't think she reads this, but better safe than sorry!)

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Pre-Wedding lighting practice

Hey, it's a photography business, I've got to justify shooting picture of my kids somehow, right? This is my youngest, Blake, and his buddy Evan playing around in the front yard. The bosses (my wife and Evan's mom) assigned me to go out and take pictures of the boys in their hats and scarves, so I grabbed the camera and the "Strobist Starter Kit" (SB-800 with Pocket Wizard, cable, and ball bungee [this will have to be the subject of a future post]) and we went outside to have fun.
The sun cooperated nicely, giving me a decent rim light and a 1-1.5 stop under background at ISO 100, f/8 and 1/250th of a second. Set the SB at 1/4 power, keep the kids within three or four feet, hold the camera low and the flash high, and shoot away.
Wish I had wider than 18mm on a 1.5x crop body, I could have gone really dramatic with these guys. You have to get within about six inches of the dirt to make four year olds look like this, but they (and the moms)love it when you do. More from this set on my Flickr stream.

With the first official wedding coming up on Friday, I'm going to try to get a few more chances to do some shooting like this, fast-paced and informal but still well-lit and well-balanced. I'm also going to see if I can set up an umbrella combo I can handle with my left hand and really make some sweet mobile light, but it may prove too unwieldy. A small softbox would be perfect here. That's it for now. Goodnight, and good shooting!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Would you hire these guys to design your website?

Nope, me neither. But I did hire somebody with almost as much web design experience as my buddies here, the "Pirates of Santa Cruz." They hang out down by the boardwalk on cold foggy mornings, watching the early beach volleyball players and trying to assemble enough money for breakfast (Or so they said) By the way, if you meet these gentlemen, tell them I said hi, and ask the dude missing an eye about the Baltimore Orioles. He's got some stories to tell. Well worth the $5 I gave him after half an hour or so. Who knows, maybe one of these fellas is actually an IT castaway, left over from the Dotcom bust in '99-'01, and he just decided that living on the beach in Santa Cruz sounded better than day after day in a soulless Silicon Valley Cubicle. But I digress. Back to my clueless web designer guy, after the jump.

Oh, and film lives! This is Kodak Portra 160 with the 17-35 on my Nikon F4. I'm at 17mm, practically underneath the brim of the guy's hat shooting this portrait.

My clueless web guy, if you hadn't guessed, is me. I don't know why, as photographers, we go on and on about why you need a professional, trained, geared, and with years of experience, to produce excellent quality photographs, and then we all think that because we read "HTML for Dummies" that suddenly we're web designers. After several frustrating hours bouncing around in GoDaddy's WebSite Tonite! interface, this is what I came up with. This is the web equivalent of somebody who's trying to figure out which end of the camera to point at the pretty flower. Please feel free to click through to the larger image, and when you're done laughing, come on back...

Okay, are you done?


I'm not even going to start on my PhotoShelter Archive interface, suffice to say that it's far more powerful and customizable than the kiddie pool at GoDaddy, and I basically drowned there.

If you click the PhotoShelter link above, what you'll see it their absolutely unmodified template. I'm leaving it alone until I know what I'm doing.

I'm sure there are many of you out there who have mastered the twin arts of photography and web design, but until I join your ranks, I'll stick to my camera and let a professional (or at least an advanced amateur) handle the HTML.

Had it not been for the fact that my computer pretty much spent the whole weekend uploading images to the Archive, I'd pretty much have to count the whole thing as a loss. But at least my important pictures from December through this week are now stored on an industrial, geographically redundant server, thanks to PhotoShelter. Now I've just got to get my modem to go over 45.5kbps upstream....

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Friday, February 22, 2008

San Jose group shot is on Strobist!

IMG_3500, originally uploaded by ecphoto.

Our group shot from the San Jose meetup just got posted on Strobist for all the world to see. Awesome for the group, it's like winning the lottery (except without all the money). One of the responding comments, however, leads me to ponder a few things....

One commenter, who chose to remain anonymous so he could be vicious and ignorant all at the same time, decided to jump in and attack our picture, our meetup, and Strobist in general, saying
Here's what I'd like to see: Frame after frame after frame to see how the recycle went down with an approximate recycle time. Next I'd like to see the image at least 6 inches wide, 1200 pixels maybe, so I could see how this could be used by someone for a printed piece, you know resolution , apparent depth of field, for that degree of enlargement. Here is my point: awesome job on the firing of the strobes and I'm assuming you didn't pop any heads for the final image from others, but beyond the web how usable is a dinky picture? David mixes in photo shoots from uber shooters and I think my greatest fear is that people will read what they want about how simple it is to knock out a great website images and then promote themselves as working photographers in some sort of editorial or corporate manner and fail miserably when it comes to the non web world of off set printing. I don't shoot in burst but when I have attorneys or high paid people in front of me, especially groups of them it's just not kosher to hope that I get one frame where everything fired on schedule after waiting for ever for the recycle on my miniature strobes. As far as 1200 pixels wide I meant at a higher ppi, and btw when I pulled off the file from the group shot it came up to 500 wide at 72ppi. I'm not arguing that one can't have fun enjoying any hobby, but that hobby has turned into pseudo professional careers for lots of folks and I'm trying to clarify that when David mixes Annie and Platon with you guys some folks may not really know the difference other than opportunity. And as far as what mr green shirt was holding , it was in jest, it looks like he's holding something other than a camera. Have fun but don't quit your day job. Also thanks for buying gear it helps solve lots of issues that would previously taken for ever to resolve in the past world of pros testing gear.

I'm sorry, but where is this guy coming from? Sounds to me like a frightened and semi-uneducated "Pro" who is feeling threatened by a bunch of us amateurs with our toy flashes. Somebody please slap me if I ever sound that way.

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Not taking a break, it just looks that way...

There seems to have been a bit of concern that I've been asleep at the wheel here at Cycle 61 Photography (everybody who knows me personally is giggling right now) but I want to assure you this is not the case. I've been pushing forward with my business building with every minute that my schedule allows. There hasn't been any huge news, but Rome wasn't built in a day, right? How things are going, after the jump.

In keeping with one of my business building goals (#8 here) I've got two jobs scheduled for next weekend. The first is a wedding for the niece of one of my wife's good friends. I'm doing this for them as a favor, but mostly to get some experience for myself. Please understand this is not my permanent business model.

The second is for my cousin's theater group, which is a collective of the drama departments of two great high schools. I shot one of their shows last year, using only my 18-135 and available darkness stage lighting, and came up with images like the one here. Certainly not ideal, but several people asked for copies and apparently it was good enough to get me invited back.

This year I'm hoping to do a much better job for them. I'm going to go up next Sunday, ahead of opening night, and shoot during a dress rehearsal, which will allow me to use some off-camera flash instead of being limited to the minimal stage lighting. I also plan to do a cast group shots and some portraits of the leads. Edit: Looks like I'm going to do individual shots for everybody, should be fun! I still want to do a few lead shots for a poster, like Bogart and Bacall in Cascablanca Money has yet to be negotiated, but as this performance is put on by a school I'm asking them to cover my costs for prints, etc and call the rest a charitable donation for the amount of my day rate (which I still need to determine).

I know, of course, that this isn't earth-shattering news for any of you guys who shoot on assignment all the time, but I'm getting there.

I'm still working on getting my landlord's signature on the business papers to file with the city, he was going to take them to his lawyer friend yesterday so that should be taken care of pretty quickly. Once I've got his blessing, I can go ahead and make my business a real entity.

Speaking of which, I've got to get some business cards to hand out at the wedding and to the theater guys. I was going to wait until the business was legitimate, but I guess I don't have that long. Thanks Mike, for the reminder.

I'm also continuing to build my stock collection at Photoshelter, and I'm going to be setting up a Personal Archive account with them this week, to replace Zenfolio for event images, print sales, direct downloads, etc. Zen's very pretty, but seems a bit limited in their fulfillment options and customization.

So, although it's been a slow news week, things are happening!

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Got a better picture with my cell phone...

My remote timelapse of the evening sky and the moon transit was unfortunately interrupted when my battery died midway through the eclipse, mostly due to an ESO fault(*). Left the backlight on for the top LCD. Pretty much cuts the battery life in half. Ah well. One more for the excuse list. The video came out alright, however, all five seconds of it. Amazing how fast three hours go by at 25 fps.

* ESO=Equipment Smarter than Operator

*EDIT* Removed link to really poor quality sunset video. You want to see some cool time-lapse stuff, check out Time Lapse Crane.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The moon!

The moon has just risen over the top of Mission Peak, quite a bit further to the north than I was expecting. This actually means I've got it framed perfectly on my remote camera, and should be able to capture the whole transit without any problem
Read more: Full post and comments here.

Waiting for the eclipse

I'm writing this from my cell phone, as my camera sits and waits for the partially eclipsed moon to rise. The camera is set up in a safe location, and it's been taking pictures on the timer every minute for the last two hours or so, and will continue until the eclipse is complete or the battery dies.
The cloud cover seems light enough to spot the full moon through, although at totality it may be a different issue. I'm planning to put together a composite image, a time-lapse video, or both from the pictures it's capturing right now.
Hopefully I'll come up with something presentable, and if not, oh well.
Oh and please file this post under excuse-busting, just because I'm diligently working doesn't mean my camera can't be hard at work somewhere else, shooting an eclipse.
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Excuses, Excuses

There are, by any reasonable estimation, about seven zillion reasons why I can't start a photography business. I was planning on using one of them today, but I decided that to save everybody time, I'll just get them all out of the way in one post. After this, with any luck, you won't have to hear any of them again. And if you do, at least I warned you in advance.
I'll continue to grow this list with any suggestions you may have. I plan to refer back to this post any time I feel like quitting, and then I can rise above the aggregate total of all the excuses you're about to see...

Nick's Reasons Not to Succeed in Photography:

  1. I can't
  2. I won't
  3. My boss won't let me
  4. My wife won't let me
  5. M kids won't let me
  6. My schedule won't let me
  7. There's too many great pros out there already
  8. I don't have time
  9. With digital, now everybody's a pro
  10. There's no money in it
  11. Photography isn't art anymore with digital
  12. I'll fix it in photoshop
  13. Microstock is the way of the future
  14. Nobody buys prints anymore
  15. The amateurs are taking over
  16. Every MWAC is advertising $350 weddings on Craigslist
  17. My dog ate my homework
  18. My dog ate my guinea pig *sniff* :-(
  19. I don't know how to light
  20. All that gear is too expensive
  21. The market is saturated
  22. My taxes will be too complicated
  23. I lost the keys to my car and now I have to ride everywhere on my motorcycle (No, really!)
  24. My kids won't let me take their picture anymore
  25. Everybody else takes better pictures than me
  26. Nobody likes my website
  27. I have no place for a studio
  28. I'm not as good as _________ (Your name here)
  29. My landlord won't sign the stupid paper letting me run a business out of my home
  30. My first wedding is next week and despite the fact that it's a civil ceremony with a justice of the peace and a 7-month pregnant bride, I'm still nervous...
  31. I have to get the kids ready for school
  32. No, really. See #31. Gotta go.
  33. I have to move some furniture
  34. My battery died
And that's all I've got for now. Suggestions welcome.
Read more: Full post and comments here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lighting 102 Assignment 5.2

Double Duty Light

Okay, pop quiz. How many lights were used to create the image you see below? It was created for the Strobist assignment outlined here. Go check it out, I'll wait.

Are you back? On with the discussion...

The challenge is to illustrate a concept while getting as much mileage as possible out of a single light. This is sometimes necessary because you may have only one light, but if you have three and need ten (although I can't imagine why) the same principles apply, just on a larger scale. It certainly takes a bit more work and planning to light a sweep and spotlight three separate objects in four different colors with one light source, but to watch it all come together, check out the video (1:30)

One Nikon SB-800 camera right, with a lasagna box snoot so only a small feathered edge of light falls on the material below the objects, and three small mirror fragments stuck into a piece of styrofoam just off-camera left, and some gels from a sample pack. Now I just have to get the bedsheet off the kitchen table before the boss gets home :-)

Oh, and the concept? Financial Planning. Target usage, a finance blog called "Get Rich Slowly"

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

One of the parts of building my business that will require a significant financial investment, and soon, is a new computer system. My current machine, a 5 year old Dell, has just about reached the end of it's theoretical lifespan. The starter crank on the back keeps rusting out, and vacuum tubes are getting tough to come by these days...
But seriously, it's gonna be new computer time soon. I can take comfort in knowing that this time around, my ~$2k investment will be tax-deductible, which eases the sting a bit, but it's a few months out and I have some other computer related things that aren't going to wait that long. The two major categories are (big surprise here!) photography and business.
On the photographic side, my workflow has been evolving in fits and starts over the last 18 months or so. I started with Picasa, a free organizer and basic editor from Google, which served us quite well in our P&S photography days. I then ventured into the free Nikon View and Nikon Transfer software, which have proven to be worth every penny I paid. The only advantage they have over Picasa is that they can handle .NEF files without attempting to auto-correct them. This trait of Picasa's has been a deal-breaker for me since I started shooting raw last spring. I tried Photoshop Elements for a week or so, Nikon Capture NX for about two days, and up until last week my workflow was:

  1. Manual Import (yep, drag and drop)->
  2. View NX ->
  3. Adobe DNG Converter ->
  4. Adobe Camera Raw ->
  5. Photoshop CS ->
  6. Export as necessary.
  7. Yeah.
  8. That sucks.
I am currently 19 days into a 30-day trial of Adobe's Lightroom, which works far better now that my machine has a full 2GB of RAM. LR replaces the first four steps of my old workflow, and replaces the fifth step about 95% of the time. I could theoretically live without Photoshop for quite a while given the power that LR has. Another huge advantage is it's non-destructive, always preserving the sanctity of your original files. be they raw or jpeg. Adobe supports both PC and Mac with the same program, so this one is not a problem for me. I can pay for the PC version now, and when I upgrade to a Mac in a few months, I simply download the Mac version, transfer my library and index file, and keep on going.
I have an old copy of Photoshop CS, (caution, ugly secrets ahead) which is not registered or even paid for. I got it from Kazaa in between viruses about three years ago (before they went legal). Using this program has been a moral weight for me recently, and I currently rationalize it with the argument that I haven't made any money from it yet, and when I do, I'll pay for CS3. Yes, that's very, very weak. If somebody was stealing MY intellectual property, and rationalizing it likewise, I'd be irritated. This is another one that I could easily port over to a Mac if I buy it before my PC expires. However, buying Photoshop could put quite a dent in my new computer budget, so I'm stuck operating on a pirated copy for now. I am NOT happy about this. I may actually quit cold turkey, and from here on any potentially paid work shall not be touched by Photoshop. Or, if I activate my 30-day trial of CS3, that buys me a month to re-evaluate my position here. I think that sounds like a plan.

The other bit of software I will be needing soon is some type of accounting/financial management package. I've been looking around quite a bit today, and I really don't have any answers. Intuit's QuickBooks seems like a popular option, John Harrington (who definitely knows his way around a photography business) has recommended it, and it seems to be pretty close to an industry standard. However, there seem to be huge differences in the Mac and PC versions, to the point that it's like two totally different software packages. Quicken Home & Business seems simpler still, and may be easier to carry over, but it lacks some features I think I'd want fairly soon.
Other contenders are the MYOB (Mind your own Business) products, which seem fairly robust for Mac, Peachtree, which is probably much more accounting than I need, and Microsoft's Office-integrated Small Business.

Quick summary if you've made it this far: I'm switching to Mac in a few months, and I need a business accounting software package that I can set up now and bring with me when I make the jump.

And I need to find all my receipts from January.


Read more: Full post and comments here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Rest in Peace, Buttercup

Today's business building has been interrupted by a death in the family. Buttercup, my oldest daughter's guinea pig (on the right in the above picture), was killed in an unfortunate encounter with our large and apparently hungry German Shepherd, Bruno. Honey, the critter on the left, escaped unharmed but certainly frightened, and Bruno is permanently located outside until further notice. Life throws tough lessons at little kids sometimes. Losing a pet is bad enough, but to have it eaten by another one of the family has been rough on the kids. They're doing OK now, and although we'll be feeling this one for a while, life goes on.

In business news, I sent an email to my cousin regarding the shoot for his theater group, reminded my landlord that I need his signature on the papers to operate a business out of my (his) house, and have been going through some of my pictures from the last week or so for potential stock material. I'm having a hard time deciding, as I thought some of the pictures they kicked back last week were really good, and I don't want my "rejected" percentage to get any higher than it already is. I'll finish that tomorrow, it's been an emotional afternoon around here.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Forward Progress

This last week has been one of starting the ball rolling on many of the small tasks that all aim towards the launch of a business. There's been nothing exciting or earth-shattering here, just the beginning steps of a journey. To mix a metaphor, the first step in building a skyscraper is digging a big hole in the ground, so here I go with my shovel...

Paperwork to operate a business within the City of Dublin: Done, but not filed. Need to get landlord's signature on form for business use of a rented residential property. He's already verbally agreed, and the city has no issues with me using my own house as a base of operations. One autograph, $50, and this one's in the bag.

Resellers permit: Paperwork complete, to be filed after city application is complete. Business must exist prior to this permit being issued. No fee.

Fictitious business name: Not complete. Once the city confirms that Cycle 61 Photography is not taken already (if it is, I can't find it. Check Google)

Monthly learning event: Feb 9th Strobist meetup counts for this, as does reading Joe McNally's "The Moment it Clicks" and Scott Kelby's "Digital Photography Book, Volume II" I'm also trying to get together with Kent Johnson to learn some lighting and help him refine some teaching stuff he's putting together.

Network, Network, Network: Been corresponding with some of the folks at PhotoShelter regarding their ads, local events, and stock photography business in general. Working on building ties through my friend Paul's video production business, as well as meeting up and shooting with a number of local photographers at the Strobist meet. I set up my profile on LinkedIn, a professional networking site, and have already found some people I did not expect. (If you have a LinkedIn account, I'd love to hear from you!)

Tell friends and family: In Progress. My mom found the website (Hi mom!) and I've told a number of friends at work about what I'm doing here. I've told my wife, who seems mildly disinterested. I don't think she quite believes me. I haven't spammed my friends and relatives en masse yet, but I may do that soon.

Have a job scheduled: Currently a blank slate. There's been a standing offer from a co-worker to do some senior portraits for her daughter, but the date keeps slipping away. Time to nail that one down. The other tentative job is shooting cast pictures for my cousins' theater group, which would have to be done long enough before March 6th, their opening night, to get some nice posted put together for the lobby walls. And hopefully I can shoot a dress rehearsal with some flash too, my ISO 3200 shots at the performance last year weren't great.

Upload my best material onto PhotoShelter: In progress, but I got disappointing results from my last batch. Most of the shots that include people (predominantly my kids) were rejected for unspecified reasons, leaving my portfolio still landscape-heavy. I still need to go through this weekend's shoots and pull some photos to upload.

Taxes: Need to confirm more positively, but I pretty much missed the boat for 2007 deductions. I may, however, be able to use my existing equipment and deduct it as a "startup expense" from my 2008 business taxes. Looks like 2007 taxes are going to be a ten minute job again.

So that's where I'm at today. There are many more items on my lists that I haven't even gotten started on, and the "To-do" list actually seems to have grown by several entries in the last few days. Item #1 on the new list is to develop a financial tracking system, and fast. I have a pocketful of receipts and mileage notes, already totaling a few hundred $$$, and if I don't get them all organized ASAP I'm going to start losing things.

Thanks for reading and as always, let me know what you think!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunset at the Firefalls

Last light on Horsetail Falls

I've got to get back to reality one of these days, but I had so much fun in the snow this weekend that my car accidentally made a left turn yesterday morning and whaddaya know, all of a sudden I'm in Yosemite...

What is this you see above? Glad you asked. Answers after the jump.

Last light on Horsetail Falls

Every February in Yosemite, the last rays of the setting sun crawl across the face of El Capitan, leaving the granite wall darkened except for a glorious light show on Horsetail falls. The only thing predictable about this event is the week or so that it might happen, as the falls are fed only by snowmelt, and the combination of heavy snow, warm weather, and clear evening must be perfect to ignite the falls as seen here.

I honestly had no idea that this was going to be happening until about an hour before sunset. I had kinda bounced around the valley for most of the afternoon, shooting a bit and trying to find a good spot for sunset, when I remembered Galen Rowell's description of the firefalls in his book "Mountain Light" He had said that the conditions were unpredictable, but it happens mid-February if it's going to happen at all. Hey, look at that, it's mid-February! Found a couple of people with long glass, looking like they were going somewhere purposeful, and sure enough, they're headed to the south bank of the Merced river to shoot the falls. I tag along, set up on the snowy river bank, and watch the magic for a half hour or so.

Truly one of nature's wonders. I'm blessed to have been able to witness it.

If you like this kind of stuff, definitely check out the Little Red Tent blog, written by photographer Edie Howe, a nice gal who just happens to live in the park...

More business building to come tomorrow. I have been busy working on my action steps, I promise.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

All work and no play...

Nothing official today, just some images from our trip up to the mountains this weekend. I took the kids, loaded up all our coats and sleds, headed out around 8am, and by 11 we were up Highway 80 in ten feet of snow. The weather was very warm, almost 50 degrees (!) which initially was quite nice, but everybody rapidly got soaked and went through two sets of clothes in three hours. We all head a great time, and came back with some fun pictures as well. Enjoy!

Blake sets up for a run down the hill.

Kati hauls her sled back to the top of the slope.

Flying down the hill, snow spraying everywhere.

The girls catch air off a bump during a fast run.

Bethanie slides safely to a stop. Love the light on this one.

And of course, the sunset over the highway as we begin our long drive home.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

San Jose Strobist Meetup

Strobist San Jose-3

Met up with a bunch of Bay Area Strobists today, we took over a church gym graciously procured by one of the members, and proceeded to shoot pretty much everything in sight. The group convened about 10am, and after a few introductory words by Allan Chen, (Kaiyen) the group spread out and built several very cool lighting setups. Click through for more shots and details.

One of the coolest, in my opinion, was an elaborate still-life setup for Greg's black, almost perfectly reflective guitar, with white trim and brass metalwork and details. Overall lighting was achieved with a 300ws head into a 3'x4' softbox overhead, a huge reflector panel opposite, a snooted SB with a deep purple gel for the background, and a snooted SB gelled yellow to bring out some color in the brass. Controlling reflections on this guitar was quite a challenge, as it's basically a big contorted multi-colored mirror. Greg's selling it on eBay if anybody's interested.

Setup #2 started out simple enough, a basic little softbox overhead.
Strobist San Jose-1
Then we added some rim lights. Then colored the background blue with another gelled flash. Then a reflector below. Then we switched from blue to orange on the B/G. Then we added about five more CTO's,because one just made it look puke-y and cranked up the B/G flash. Then switched the softbox for a shoot through umbrella, moved in closer, added an assistant holding another Vivitar 285 on a boom for a hairlight, and shot the whole thing with the 70-200 from about 30 feet away through an 18" gap under the umbrella. Simple, really. Five separate strobes, four lightstands, a boom, a reflector, and an assistant. Everybody's got that in their camera bag, right? Several others used the setup, with different colors and adjustments, to good effect.

It was decided we needed a group photo, of course, and Evan (ECPhoto), my unfortunate model above, proposed a truly nuclear setup, essentially utilizing EVERY SINGLE LIGHT we had in attendance. I'm pretty sure the total was somewhere around 40 speedlights, and a couple of 300 w/s heads. We were running in the vicinity of f/22 on the main lights, and my eyebrows are still smoking...It came out looking like this:

IMG_3500, originally uploaded by ecphoto.

Of course, with that much light to throw around, we couldn't let it go to waste, so Allan (Kaiyen) kindly offered to jump off a chair repeatedly while doing his best "Guitar Hero" pose until a moment before he landed. But enough words. Here's Allan Chen, lookin' like a rockstar!
Strobist San Jose-7
Had a great time all. We're definitely going to be doing this one again. See ya soon!

And thanks to Bill (StockPhotoJourney), who registered for us! It just links to the Flickr page for the group right now, but how cool to have our own URL. Plus it's a lot easier to type than

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Alamy rejection part II

Alamy has officially irritated me now. I'm starting to think they aren't going to be a big part of my business plan at this point. After the first rejection, when I had submitted ten images and they rejected the whole batch on account of one, I basically assumed the other 9 were going to be OK. So I picked four of those, and re-submitted the images in strict accordance with their guidelines. And now it turns out that two of those four aren't going to cut it for them. Here are the failed images, with Alamy's explanation. Click on the pictures to see them 1000 pix wide in a new window.

Image #1: DSC_9883.jpg
Soft or lacking definition

It's supposed to be a little soft. It's a kid running on the beach in the fog, for crying out loud. It sharpens up nicely, but y'all said NOT to do that.

Image #2: Lighthouse and beach.jpg
Interpolation artifacts

Interpolation artifacts my ass. It's a frickin' film scan, there is no interpolation going on here!

Seriously, if my initial ten pics had come back with six rejected, I certainly wouldn't have re-submitted any of those six. Instead, they only listed one failure, then slammed me with two more on the second attempt. I'm sorely tempted to submit the two images they accepted this time, along with two more, and see how many rejects they come up with.

There may be a third chapter to this soon. Depends on how funny this all seems in the morning.

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cycle 61 Photography, action step #1

Dropping the bomb...

This afternoon I took what is the first significant action step on my way to building Cycle 61 into a real, live photography business. I’ve needed to make some significant changes to my life for quite a while now, and although I’ve been waffling about doing this for several months, I now find that I have adequate motivation to do so. What I did today should free up many hours of my week, and many brain cycles that are currently absorbed by the stress of my job.

I have previously mentioned my day job, and not in glowing terms. I work for a major Toyota supplier in California, and early last year I accepted a "Promotion" to a supervisory position, overseeing a maintenance group. The net effect on my life was an increase in my workload of 15-20 hours per week, the loss of any predictability in my schedule or shift assignment, and a significantly elevated stress level. Oh, and they paid me about $1.20 an hour more, but I lost my Christmas bonus, or most of it.

The only reason I held on this long was that I have a deep-seated aversion to failure, and to drop the position would have felt like a failure to me. But now, I'm working towards something, not running away from something. So in the interest of my family, and my business, I dropped the above letter on my boss' desk this afternoon.
Wish me luck.

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Photography and Copyright in the internet age

Today I'm going to break from my normal stream of thought and switch channels to somebody else's. Kevin Kelly, author of the Technium blog, has written a very thought-provoking essay "Better Than Free" on what value creative content has in an environment where anything that can be seen or heard can be copied, stored, and redistributed nearly instantaneously. His post, including the image above, is protected under a "Creative Commons" license, which in this case permits free distribution so long as the original creator is credited, and no further restrictions are placed on the work by distributors. He summarizes:

"When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied."

What those things, which he refers to as generatives, might be, after the jump.
Kevin continues his thinking, asking
"We can start with a simple user question: why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free? When anyone buys a version of something they could get for free, what are they purchasing?

From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free."

Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset.

Personalization -- As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can't copy the personalization that a relationship represents.

Interpretation -- As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it's no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that.

Authenticity -- You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don't need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You'll pay for authenticity.

Accessibility -- Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you.

Embodiment --Nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.

Patronage -- It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something.

Findability -- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.

These eight qualities require a new skill set...these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can't be replicated with a click of the mouse.

Please note, this is not anywhere near a transcript of the full essay, I'm merely skipping along the tips of the icebergs here. Please take a few minutes to head over to his site and read the whole thing, if you're in the business you can't afford not to.

Read more: Full post and comments here.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Business building news from PhotoShelter

A huge part of building a photography business is visibility. People have to know about you somehow. Although I've not decided what my specialty will be, I know that one part of my business is going to be stock sales. And along those lines, Photoshelter has just given me a huge boost off my launch pad. The image you see above is the banner ad they launched today on the design site, using one of my images! More details after I catch my breath...

I was contacted earlier this week by Andrew Fingerman, VP of Marketing at PhotoShelter, who wrote:

I came across your Cycle 61 blog a few days ago... love your mission and the story you're sharing. You're exactly the type of new fresh photographer that is helping make our collection diverse and appealing to buyers. Naturally, after I saw the blog I went to check out your images in the collection. One of your images stood out as PERFECT for a new set of banner ads we're doing to raise awareness among buyers....I am working on the next round of ads for a designer site called, and I would love the opportunity to feature your image. This is one of the ways we are able to play an advocate role for independent, up and coming photographers. I figured it would be a nice boost as you kickoff your mission. As a best practice, we always ask permission from the photographer to use their image, recognizing that it also helps us raise awareness for the Collection. The credit would obviously be loud and clear "Nick Davis has some of the coolest images you've never seen..."

Of course I wrote back as quickly as I could that I would love to have my image be part of their campaign, and now it's live on, hardly 48 hours after our initial contact.

Thanks Andrew, for picking this up and helping support the little guys like me. I think the real story here is far larger than any one image or ad on a website. This kind of action shows me that you guys are building something that has the power to really turn the industry around. Should be an interesting ride. I'm all in. Let's help bring some self-respect back to the artists, stop selling ourselves out, and see what we can do.

When you see somebody going places, grab hold and hang on tight. I'm white-knuckle here, and I love every second of it.
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Alamy update: 90% Success = 100% Failure

Quick update here. I got an email from Alamy this morning regarding my images I submitted for QC. They completed their review much more quickly than I had expected, only taking a week instead of the stated 25 days. Of the ten images I submitted (I was only supposed to submit four)nine passed QC. Unfortunately, 90% isn't good enough for them. The one that failed was the shot of the kid's sandals on a ramp down into the water with a pair of feet wading in the background. Their stated reasons for failing the image were "Interpolation artifacts" and "Soft or lacking definition" Pictures and thoughts after the jump.

Although I knew their policies going in, this seems a bit silly to me. I'm undecided as to whether I want to re-upload four of the images, leaving out the failed one, or just take a pass on the whole thing and stick to one agency for now. PhotoShelter has been very good for me so far, I'm thinking that using them exclusively for a while might be a good plan.

Read more: Full post and comments here.

More business building steps

Today we continue with some more action steps, some building blocks to get my business out of the ethereal realm of "I wish" and into the concrete reality of "I am." The things I'm writing today are things that I am doing. I haven't done them all, or even started them all, but they are all tasks I must accomplish, processes to be completed. Many are simple daily things like keeping up with my contacts, as outlined yesterday, and many are far more involved and complex. I'll try to keep the descriptions brief, because I'm developing this on the fly and I tend to get wordy when I do that. Let's see how many things I can think of, right off the top of my head. Start counting, after the jump.

  1. I need to talk to a tax person, regarding my 2007 expenditures, and whether my hobby already may count as a Sole proprietorship in California. From an article on "Sole proprietorships are so easy to set up and maintain that you may already own one without knowing it."
  2. Write an actual business plan. This one will spawn about a hundred more of it's own little action steps, so it will definitely warrant a post or two by itself. I am again using as one of my resources, thanks StanfordPhoto for the link.
  3. Obtain the necessary paperwork from the City of Dublin (in California, where I live) to officialize my business. (My word processor doesn't think officialize is a word, but I say it is.) I remember looking into this before for a different business idea, and the process was going to total about three months and around $800. Time to get going on this.
  4. Thoroughly investigate the commercial viability of several different genres of photography, and cross-check this to what I enjoy doing, and what I am capable of doing at a professional level. If these lists don't line up, I need to either focus on my skills in a viable area of photography, or find a way to make a niche all my own. I personally prefer a combination of both.
  5. Develop some type of physical marketing media that I can carry with me and hand out to people as I have the opportunity. (Like, maybe a business card?) Yes, but I'm thinking something a bit more eye-catching. Photography is all visual, after all, and a 3"x5" promo card with some contact info on the back would catch my eye much more than another business card. Something like what Paul Treacy has here. I may need a few different versions, depending on who's getting them.
  6. Tie my online presence together much more cohesively. Right now I have this blog, my gallery site at Zenfolio, and a bunch of pictures on Flickr. I'm looking into moving to Photoshelter for my gallery hosting, they're much more customizable as far as integration, but I don't really have a website to integrate into. Maybe I'm putting the cart before the horse here, but I'm expecting a LOT of traffic in a couple of days. More on that in a day or so.
  7. Canvas the people and organizations I'm in contact with every day for possible leads or assignments. I can sell myself to a stranger, but it's more difficult when talking to family or friends. The kids' school may want staff pictures. My cousin is in a semi-professional theater group, I shot for them last year and may get to again next month. The wife of one of my co-workers' shoots weddings professionally. I need to pursue these.
  8. Tell the people who are close to me what I'm doing. This sounds silly, but as of right now, I'm only really accountable to you, mostly a bunch of strangers. I could give up, walk away, and pretty much never hear about it again. But I won't. Very few of my co-workers know about this whole thing yet. Most of my family doesn't know either. My wife, whose life may be profoundly affected by this, is only vaguely aware. My boss probably won't know until I tell him that I'm stepping down from the supervisor position he got me into last year, because it takes too many hours out of my week.
  9. Keep getting my name out there. I need your support to make this happen. In just the last week, traffic here has taken off, and I've gotten messages from several people I never would have expected to hear from. This is part of grassroots marketing, viral marketing, word of mouth, whatever. If we launch this blog onto Google's first search page for "Photography business" because a ton of you think this is inspiring, and link to my site, that's going to be awesome.
  10. Craigslist. I'm going to start advertising on Craigslist regularly. It's free, it's incredibly well-trafficked, and people use it for everything. I wrecked a car and then blew up the motor as well. Sold it to a buddy, he's rebuilding it with about 90% CL parts, and will probably turn a decent profit when he sells. High end businesses use CL because they know that's where people look. My brother in law has a moving company up in Seattle that's grown into a $500k per year operation on 2 factors: Consistent CL advertising, and excellent customer service.
Okay, my mind's spinning free now, and I'm about out of coherent ideas that relate to business building for now. More stuff tomorrow, topic to be determined by the events of the next 23 hours...
Read more: Full post and comments here.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cycle 61 Photography: Baby steps

After outlining my goals over the last two days, today I'm going to lay down a couple of action steps that need to happen in order to get the ball rolling towards reaching those goals. These are my baby steps. No point trying to leap tall buildings right out of the gate (I'll get to that soon enough), let's try walking a bit first. A few of the little things I'm going to be working on, after the jump. And apologies to my son for the picture above, he's four now and I don't have a good recent picture that could illustrate "Baby steps"
The first step, and one that will be a continual challenge for me, is keeping up with the volume of correspondence and communication that any business generates. Already, a number of people have spoken up in the comments, and I intend to keep in touch with you guys. StockPhoto, I will definitely be in touch about the tax guy. I think I'm too late for 2007, but if so, I'm going to find out why and what I could have done differently. Paul Treacy, yes, let's keep tabs. I'd be interested in hearing more about your experiences over the last 15 years, and I'll be digging into your website more soon. Sean, thanks again for the post, sometimes I'm more about passion than brains, but I usually figure it out in the end. I read your business plan post from last year, and there's a lot of things in there that I need to explore. Aczyzyk, thanks for the support. I'm following a dream here, maybe I can inspire a few others to do the same.
And Mom, I know you left a comment but I can't seem to find it anywhere. I love you!
Baby step #2 is that I need to get a lot of my good material onto Photoshelter, and very quickly. Something big is about to happen. I'm so excited about it I'm bubbling, but I'll have to keep the cat in the bag for another few days. Stay tuned...
And speaking of baby steps, today the Strobist goes way back to basics, with a cool reader-submitted video that's Pre-Lighting 101 for those who aren't yet comfortable with the basics. It's a very good place to begin if you're just starting to explore off-camera lighting. I hope David keeps it in a prominent spot in his site.

Today is Super Tuesday. Get out and vote! That's where I'm headed to right now.

Tomorrow: More action steps, and maybe some big news!

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Sunday, February 3, 2008

Goals and Objectives, Part II

So yesterday, I laid out a few of my big picture goals. Noting too crazy, just replacing my overtime income, quitting my job, and total world domination. Wait, scratch that last part. I'll settle for North America. But the reality is that while these are great points on the horizon, I'm going to need a few intermediate steps, some things I can work on directly. They will build towards my long term plans, of course, but they're concrete, achievable things that I can plan for. No world domination today, instead, some nuts and bolts after the jump.
Okay, here comes some real-world, more meaningful, short term targets. The goals from here on out are also nowhere near sequential. Remember, stream of consciousness.

Goal #3 is to decide on a genre of photography in which I will focus my efforts. Yep, that's right, I don't even have a specialty yet. But I will. I have to. Being a "landscape and kids" guy isn't going to cut it. I'll recap a conversation I had with David Hobby, of Strobist. I had mentioned stock photography, asked about his thoughts on the future of stock as a business model, and mentioned that I had a hard drive full of images that look "just like the ones I see on all the stock websites" He answered simply "Then you're in trouble" I rant in detail about the subject in my earlier post here.

Goal #4 is to make Cycle 61 Photography a legal and legitimate entity, without breaking the bank. My taxes this year are agonizingly simple. One income, standard deductions, three kids an a wife. Bam. Done in about 15 minutes, literally. A quick look at what I've spent on and about my hobby in 2007 reveals that had I been able to deduct these expenses, I would have saved in taxes far more than the few hundred bucks it would have cost to go through the paperwork to launch a sole proprietorship here in California. Any significant financial outlay in pursuit of my business goals needs to be deductible, and soon. I've already spent several hundred $ this year that could all have been tax deductible. Also, I'm working on a business card, and I would feel really fake printing a business card when technically I don't have a business.

Goal #5 is simple. Draw clients by being very, very good at what I do, and relying on word of mouth and low level marketing. There won't be any billboards in my near future, but a window sign on the back of the van is a distinct possibility. Maybe one on the Jag, too. I drive that heap slowly enough that everybody could read it. A friend who does weddings and events gets almost all her customers through word of mouth, and maybe one or two a year through her ridiculously expensive 1/4 page ad in the Yellow Pages.

Goal #6 Build my photographic knowledge by taking a class, seminar, lesson, shooting with a pro, or just reading a good book or two every month. I've currently got on order from Amazon a copy of Joe McNally's "The moment it clicks" and Scott Kelby's "The Digital Photography Book, Volume II" I've been meaning to check out Joe's book, but the review tonight on Strobist put me over the edge.

Goal #7 Network, network, network. This one is natural, but also very difficult, because it always looks to an outsider like "talking on the phone" or "checking my email" or worst of all "screwing around on the internet" I've been working on this diligently, building contacts with the photography groups in the area, helping to arrange and set up meetups, and taking any chance I can to rub shoulders with photographers in the area. There's a local Strobist group meeting in Santa Clara next weekend, details are here if you're interested.

Goal #8 Always have a job scheduled. This may be anything, from an upcoming shoot, to a day as an assistant, to a personal project that could yield paying stock images, anything. This is key for me, as it will force me to keep actively building my contacts, clients, and opportunities. Talk about stream of consciousness, that first line was on screen before I knew how it was going to end. Goal #8 is officially my favorite. My next job: Before the strobist meetup on 2/9, I will do some early morning street photography in San Jose with the purpose of developing a dozen or so "Urban" images for my stock portfolio.

Tomorrow: Baby steps

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Cycle 61 Photography: Goals and Objectives

Welcome back to the very first steps of building a photography business from nothing into a viable, enjoyable, and sustainable entity. (Accidental alliteration) (Twice) Yesterday I outlined where I am in the process, and in what form the business currently exists. Today I'm going to hammer out some goals, and see where I want to direct my efforts over the next several months. This may come out rather "stream of consciousness" as I'm basically developing these ideas a few moments before they hit the keyboard. I'm naked here. Mentally. Read on, if you dare, after the jump.

I realize already I'm going to have to start at the top and work down. So for today, here's the big ones:

My first, and most over-arching goal, is simply to have Cycle 61 Photography replace my current job. This is a huge, and daunting vision unto itself. My job, although it sucks the very life out of my soul, offers a steady and decent paycheck, enough to cover the cost of a family of five living a modest lifestyle in the San Francisco bay area, one of the country's most expensive regions. To do this will mean playing in the big leagues of the photographic industry. This goal may be a few years off, but it's the pinnacle towards which all other efforts shall point. Chase Jarvis is my inspiration here. When he was done being a ski bum with a camera, he took all his shots, assembled a portfolio, and said to himself "How can I make the most possible money off of my images." So he sold them (and himself) to REI. From nothing to big-league commercial/advertising in about a month. Chase, you rock!

The second, and slightly more attainable goal, it to replace the overtime income I currently earn. My employer frequently permits us to work, 60, 70, 80 hours a week, and most of us jump at the chance. I simply can't cover my bills on 40 hours pay (see, I told you there would be ugly, raw spots here) and I want to not be at work any more than I have to. This is not so lofty as goal #1, but will still be a major accomplishment. Over 40% of my 2007 income was overtime. I've got three kids that are growing up right under my nose, and I'm missing it, because I'm always at work.

This is the long range stuff. --RANT ON-- I've said this already, but I don't want to be just another landscape photographer, another wedding or headshot or whatever guy. I'm willing to work through that, but I'm going to find a niche, dig it out with an axe, make it viable, and absolutely own it. I want everybody who shoots in my field to have the thought, nagging in the back of their mind, that if they do a kick-ass job then everybody will think they're copying Nick Davis. Why? Because I'm Nick Davis. And although I'm a really nice guy, I'm arrogant, tenacious, and crazy enough to launch a photography business and know that I can make it fly. --RANT OFF-- Whew. That feels good to get those words out. Okay, let's make that rant be goal #0. Even more fundamental that replacing my income, is building something amazing, and powerful, and truly, uniquely mine. Today was big picture. More nuts and bolts tomorrow. See ya!

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Welcome to Cycle 61 Photography

Good morning, and welcome to Cycle 61 Photography (It's morning somewhere, so no nitpicking yet.)

It's Saturday, February 2, 2008 as I write this.

My name is Nick Davis, I'm an amateur photographer with professional aspirations, and I have committed to building the entity known to me as Cycle 61 Photography into a real, legitimate, licensed, legal, profitable, and above all, sustainable business. In keeping with the wonderful open-source, open book, free sharing mindset that has developed in the photographic community in the internet age, this process is going to be open for all to follow along the way.
Over the next year or so, you will watch a photography business grow from the ground up. There will be pitfalls, setbacks and triumph, challenges and conquests, anguish, stress, beauty, and light. Always light. Photography is about light, after all.
The next few days will be about where I'm at, where I want to go with this thing, and how I'm going to get there. Read on after the jump.

My current position, just to establish a solid baseline, is as follows.

  • I have a website, with my own domain name. The website is, it's galleries are hosted via a Premium account on ($120 per year) which allows me unlimited storage and the ability to sell prints of my images directly from the website. The domain name itself was purchased from for about $45 for two years. If you're reading this in November 2009, please send me an email and remind me to renew!
  • Cycle 61 is a nerdy joke from my electrician days. Normal US electricity being 60hz, or cycles per second, "Cycle 61" would be something extra, something more than what was expected. Yes, I'm a dork. Somewhere in Europe, there's got to be somebody running "Cycle 51" for the same reason.
  • I have been accepted at Photoshelter, a newly launched stock agency, and a very progressive, non-predatory one in terms of how they treat their creative contributors. Check them out, and if you're a microstock photographer, please reconsider how you're valuing your work. I have, at this moment, around 50 images fully processed and live on their system, with about that many in the approval pipeline as well. My total sales so far are $0.00, but I've only been live with them about a week, and my keywording needs refinement.
  • I have photographed precisely one event under the guise of a semi-professional, that event being the talent show at my kids' elementary school. I was running a Nikon D200, a rented 70-200/2.8 lens, a set of Pocket Wizards and two flashes set off-camera. After the third or fourth person who asked if I was shooting for the school, I started answering yes. Pictures were downloaded, processed, sorted, and uploaded to a dedicated gallery on my Zenfolio site by 8am the next day. The school secretary sent out an email with the relevant info to all the parents later that afternoon. In the first 24 hours I've had about 60 hits on the site, but no sales as yet.
  • I have a passionate, burning desire to be a photographer. I know and understand that the realities of any job are different than the outsider perceives them to be. I do not expect this to be easy. I can, and will, bust my butt to make this thing real.
  • I have been establishing a network of contacts in the photography business over the last several months. I am continuing to build and develop this network daily, and Ive begun to see an exponential growth in the number of people I find myself in contact with. I'm also starting to run into the same people through different paths, which tells me I'm doing something right. I have been active in a couple of photography group arranged over various internet forums, notably DPReview and Strobist. I've met some full-time professionals, and a lot of people like myself, who would like to be pro and probably have the photographic talent to pull it off. The differences between these groups, between those who do and those who could but don't, are fascinating to me.
Quick recap. I will build my avocation into a legitimate photography business. I've got nothing to hide, and everything to gain, by being open an accountable to all. This may not always be pretty, but I guarantee it will never be boring. If you are a pro, follow along and drop me a line if you see something I need to fix. If you're not, but you ever wanted to do what's about to happen on this site, keep reading and maybe I can save you a pitfall or two.

Control is an illusion, but you can always enjoy the ride.

Next: My photographic and business goals.
Read more: Full post and comments here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Some flashy stuff

Kid with guitar, originally uploaded by cycle61.

One of my personal favorite images from this evening's talent show at the kids' elementary school. The gym is far too dark for ambient action shooting without a D3, so some creative Strobist work is a necessity. More after the jump.
I set up two SB's, one on either side of the room, pointing towards the stage, both set at maximum zoom, 1/4 power, and triggered by my Pocket Wizards. This served me well for most of the acts, but towards the end, I knew I had enough good shots in the can to keep the school happy, so I started playing around. Several times, I walked up the right side of the room, shutting off my flash on the way by, and shooting across the stage at the now backlit performers. I will definitely be doing this more in the future.

Oh, and I'm shooting with a rented Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 VR lens. It's mine for two weeks. Unless I decide to flee to Canada or something. It's that good.

Read more: Full post and comments here.