Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Schedule for week 2 of the Colorado Fall photo meetup!

Friday 9/30/2011 ----Meet at Moraine Valley Visitors Center in RMNP at 6:30am

This is located along Bear Lake Road. When entering from the west side Estes Park entrance, after you come through the ranger station, you will go left on Bear Lake Road. It is approximately 250 feet after the ranger station entrance, so it comes up very quick. Follow this all the way down in to the valley and the very first left you can make will lead you up in to the parking lot of the Moraine Valley visitors center. I have gone ahead and screen capped a google earth map of it and posted it here http://postimage.org/image/30l8v9o4k/full/
From here we will decide which direction to go. The lower valley that will below us and is viewable from our position is usually home to some of the best Elk rut action of Fall. I highly advise arriving before scheduled time of 630 especially for those who have never experienced the rut before. There is just something totally magical about hearing Elk bugle before sunrise that will send chills up your spine. As it stands now, some of us I am sure will shoot the rut while others may go hiking, it is all up to you.
We will try to rendezvous back up at around 5pm at an area I have to decide yet. I won’t know this until this weekend when I can see what is a good spot that isn’t packed with people. From here, depending on how everything is going with the rut, we may decide to head to Brainard Lake to try and photograph Moose in the evening hours and stay to photograph the sunset. It is very dark at this area as well and provides excellent star trail photography as well.

Saturday 10/1/2011---Meet at Copeland Lake at Wild Basin area of RMNP at 6:30am

This area is totally separated from the main part of RMNP and is absolutely stunning for nature photography. See screen cap of map. This is kind of a ways outside of Estes Park along Hwy 7. It is shortly after you pass St Malo cathedral (the epic church which looks like this http://jdebordphoto.zenfolio.com/img/v19/p1001566707.jpg and will be on your right side) It is approximately 10-15 miles outside of Estes so you all know. When approaching from Estes watch close for signs, it comes up fast, and you will turn right. Keep following it back as the entrance is set back a bit. Upon entering follow the road to the first lake you come upon and that is Copeland Lake. Getting here early is a good thing as it can get busy with the locals (this is a spot that not many tourists know of) It offers excellent hiking for those of you who wish to and great Aspen stands.
From here after shooting, we will head back over to the main part of RMNP. We will decide before hand where to meet but it is looking like the Fall River Visitors Center right now. For those of you who wish to shoot the rut, I suggest leaving no later than 8-830am from Wild Basin.
A side note—PLEASE be aware of Bears in your surroundings here!
Afternoon evenings we will try to get down to Fern Valley and Old Fall River Road if it is open depending on construction to shoot the Aspen ...afterwards possibly Horseshoe Park for the Elk rut if it is happening there in that area of RMNP.

Sunday 10/2/2011 --- Meet at Lake Estes for sunrise at 630am

Please see attached map here http://postimage.org/image/2vemz8n0k/ The lake right now is very full and provides some excellent shots at sunrise. Shortly after sunrise, we will meet back up at Moraine Valley Visitors Center. (again link posted above with map) From here we will shoot the Elk rut in good light and after, providing it is indeed open, will head to Trail Ridge Road to photograph Pika and Marmots. PLEASE dress VERY warm for Trail ridge and bring a LOT of fluids. This is 12,000 feet high and o2 is minimal, however the elements are certainly anything but! It will be downright freezing cold and the wind will be very strong. If Trail Ridge is indeed open, we can venture over to the west side of the park right after to see if we can photograph Moose. For those of you driving on this day, make 100% sure your gas tank is filled.
Evening is still up in the air right now at this point but I am thinking more than likely it will be spent in the Horseshoe Park area of RMNP. Not 100% sure yet though. We will probably have to wait and see how the day plays out before making a final decision on it. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The schedule for week 1 of the annual Colorado Fall photo meetup & workshop!

Ok folks, here it be in all it’s glory. The schedule for week 1. Please see attached images for maps and directions and times.
Soooo away we go! Make sure you read it ALL please!

First week schedule:

Friday 9/23/2011---- Meet at 6:30am on shores of Lake Estes
(see attached map for exact meeting point as illustrated and also the map on Google to get directions http://g.co/maps/sq46h ) ....sunrise is at 6:48am so I wouldn't be any later than 6:30 at all. In fact, I would highly suggest arrving before that in order to get set up. Please be advised that the turn off to the right in to the Lake area comes up quite fast and quick after crossing the bridge heading west on 36/66.

Depart Lake Estes no later than 730am head for Moraine Valley in RMNP---- This is the prime area for the Elk rut (along with Horseshoe) We will scope out the artists in residence cabins area first as that is usually one of the best places to see action going on. See attached map with route outlined. This is entering from the west entrance in Estes Park. (FYI possible fast stop at Donut Haus on the way....because they have the best donuts you have ever had in your life I kid not! Real German deal..and refills on coffee) Please be rather quiet when down around the cabins as people will be asleep. From here on out we will adjust plans as needed on the fly.

The rest of the day is up to you. From 11ish to about 3pm tourist traffic picks up and then dies off. I would pay very close attention to the area around Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes for Elk rut action in the evening. It gets very packed with many photographers so it may be wise to park your car there and hitch a ride for the day with someone else. This assures a spot for you in the evening. We can decide on the fly where to meet as it is dependent upon where the rutting action is taking place and we won't know until the day we are there.

Also during tourist times is usually a good time to shoot the changing Aspen trees or go up on Trail Ridge Road as most are there to see the Elk battle it out. Areas such as Bear lake Road and Old Fall River Road are incredible with their Aspen stands.

Saturday 9/24/2011--- Meet at 630am at Lily Lake

(see attached map and also link on Google maps here http://g.co/maps/c6r5w ) This is along HWY 7 heading out of Estes Park on the west side of the highway. It comes up rather fast on the right (when heading from Estes) once you get to the top of the ridge so be aware. The parking lot here is very small also. So again i suggest arriving early. The views of the continental divide here are stunning and you can walk entirely around the lake...alpenglow is always a real treat here at daybreak. Across the other side of HWY7 are incredible Aspen stands....these trees always grab my attention and are something else to shoot.

Depart 730am head for RMNP---meet at Moraine Valley Visitor Center--- (see attached map "Moraine" ) From here we will decide on the fly where to shoot as far as Elk go. Also, this is a free day in RMNP so it will be VERY packed. I am deciding now what to do and need to talk with a few other people but we may head out in the afternoon and hit Lake Brainard for evening for Moose and sunset which I already have planned for Sunday AM anyhow.

SUNDAY 9/25/2011
Sunday 9/25/2011 ---Meet at 630am at Brainard Lake State Recreation Area (or where Bunnies go to die! lol don't ask)

Please note that Brainard requires a separate fee of $9 to get in. It is $9 well spent. We will shoot the sunrise along the shores of Brainard facing the Indian Peaks and hopefully photograph Moose as well. Please see directions I have outlined in Google maps from Estes Park to Brainard Lake http://g.co/maps/ddr9n it is a tad tricky. Allow yourself ample time. We will meet along the shores of Brainard so you know at the pulloff just before the bridge on the left side. It is easy to find.

Depart Brainard for RMNP 8ish depending upon Moose--- Moose dependent we will depart Brainard for RMNP 8ish, naturally if we see Moose that goes out the window. We will meet back at RMNP at Moraine Visitor center 9ish where we will go and photograph the Elk rut.

Possibly meet back up at 230 after lunch where I would like to hold an Aspen workshop with photographing the stands in a more intimate environment in Endo Valley. I am awaiting to hear from RMNP rangers right now if Old Fall River River Road will be opened or closed before deciding where and what times first.

*Details.---PLEASE READ!

*Maps of RMNP---- These can be downloaded in full PDF format from the RMNP website at http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/maps.htm

*Keeping up to date on conditions--- Please note that the Rangers in RMNP can be found by keeping an update on their twitter and facebook feeds . These include http://twitter.com/#!/rmnpofficial and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rocky-Mountain-National-Park/191384267547522

* Carpooling before RMNP enterance---It may be wise to carpool with someone before we enter RMNP, this saves on entry cost not to mention gasoline. If this is inded the case that you wish to do this, please let people on the email list know asap. There is a Safeway where your car will be more than safe just outside the park.

*Dress warm but also dress for summer. --- Temps vary and swing wildly in fall just as the weather can and often does in the mountains. Bring a change of clothes with you. Mornings will be bitterly cold so things like a warm coat and gloves aren't just recommended, they are essential. Pack plenty of bottled water and packing a lunch is a good idea as lines to get back in to the park can be very long. Bring clothes to change in to late morning that are cooler...it can get to the middle 20s in the AM while in teh late morning it can get to the 70s which may not sound warm but when you are at 10,000 feet, it is cooking hot with the sun. Sunscreen is mandatory.

*Be aware. Be safe.--- Keep a safe distance away from the Elk. Don't be a tourist and don't be a victim. Elk this time of the year are absolutely insane animals and they WILL attack you without provocation and charge. Know your surroundings at all times. Please do not go walking out in the meadows at any time, you will see tourists do this and know that they are risking their lives in doing so. Also, if we see Moose at Brainard, do NOT under any circumstance even consider approaching them. They are not nice animals at all. The same can be said if you decide to go over Trail Ridge on to the west side of RMNP and see Moose, never approach them, keep a safe distance.

*A word of caution about lightning--- If you are in the alpine tundra areas of RMNP and a storm comes up, you NEED to get to lower ground as fast as you can if you are walking around (please stay on the trails, don't trapse on the Alpine, it is very fragile and each footstep takes 10,000 years to regenerate) or at least back in your car. Lightning is a killer and often you ARE the tallest object. If you decide to hike, please familiarize yourself with lightning shelter locations.

*If you see a problem, report it asap to a Ranger--- Last year we reported a mother who was risking the life of not only herself but her baby by walking out to the Elk in a meadow. the same bull who charged Leasha and I earlier that morning. If you see something like this, please report it asap, you may wind up saving someone’s life.

Now, let the party begin!!!!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Getting the most out of G+ for your photography experience

Yesterday I posted a thread over on my G+ ( which is here by the way http://gplus.to/jdebordphoto )  about how G+ has literally become my photography home. Colby Brown (who wrote the incredible article "Google+: The Survival Guide for a Photographers Paradise" http://www.colbybrownphotography.com/blog/google-the-survival-guide-for-a-photographers-paradise/ ) chimed in with a comment which made me stop and think. He said in this thread here https://plus.google.com/103586615087663445665/posts/NvKbbMUBLMa was;

"What it comes down to is quality interactions. That is one of the reasons that stagnent magazine ads are dying. Peoples attention span is way to short and the cost is way to high. When you look at FB or Twitter, we all may get a decent amount of people commenting on our photo posts, blog posts or marketing ploys...the amount and type of interaction, atleast in my experience, is far worse outside of G+. I will take 10 real conversations from a post on G+ then 300 people "Liking" a post of FB. This of course also depends on our business models. For me, putting people in workshops is my main source of revenue, with contract work a close second and print sales a distant 3rd. I make a very good living, but mostly because I am so active in engaging with people, both locally, on the job and in social media. That has helped build my brand and create a desire to take a part of some of the educational services I offer.

Those that I see struggling with G+ are the ones that try to treat it like Twitter or FB. I also so alot of us "pros" going about social marketing in the COMPLETELY wrong way (just my opinion). No one wants a sales pitch or to only see posts of a workshop you are teaching, a webinar you are offering or an ebook you are selling (and others). I look at some of the big names in the industry, posting direct sales pitches and wondering why they get 5 +1s and 3 comments. There is an art to marketing and it starts with engaging people at a personal level :) "

So I thought that I would take a few minutes this morning and sort of expand some on that and run with it. Colby is certainly right, that many do struggle with G+ and see it as a sort of facebook, when in fact it is anything BUT facebook. I see quite a few people saying something along the lines of "no one comments on my images, no one sees my work". Do you want to know why that is? The answer is quite simple; IT IS NOT ABOUT YOUR WORK.

See, people treat G+ like it is any other other social site, facebook, twitter, flickr....that whole deal, but where the power of G+ lies is in the conversation itself. Be engaged and enter in to dialogue with your fellow photographers. each and every day I see photographers posting topics for discussion, how many of you are entering in to that "coffee shop atmosphere" and engaging with like minded people? It is that very train of thought which I have likened G+ to, a coffee shop with beautiful and stunning photography hanging on the walls.

So let's get on with it and how you can make G+ absolutely beam for you as a photographer!

*You ARE your content!--- Literally, you are your content. The first thing to be mindful of is if you are there to interact with your fellow photographers (which I suspect you are or you wouldn't be currently reading this) post stuff which is relevant. Leave the facebook junk on facebook and post stuff that will have your fellow photographers intrigued, curious and interested. No one likes a spammer, and posting animated gifs and endless youtube videos of music is a sure fire bet that you just shot yourself in the head and committed G+ suicide. You will drop off peoples circles faster than you can say "terminal velocity". Don't do it, leave that junk to that "other" site. Post content in to your circles which is relative.

*Easy does it!--- As a rule of thumb, don't upload more than maybe one shot a day, that is unless you are just starting out and getting your galleries going on G+ (that is a different story entirely) remember, it isn't so much about the images you post, but rather the relationships that you make and the conversation which you carry. Keep that train of thought and you will find that you suddenly have your G+ experience hitting the level of awesome.

*Ask questions--- Yes, you read right. Ask questions. G+ is a different world than most every other site and people love to help others, especially with questions when it comes to photography. No question is to big or to small, and G+ is made up of many professional and seasoned amateurs who can help on short notice. If you are having a hard time understanding how exposure works, ask away. If you are wondering about a lens, ask away. If you are wondering what you should charge for something, ask away. Everyone is ready to help!

*Be yourself--- Be you. Treat others how you would in real life, as example. I haven't especially come upon any trolls since my first week of joining G+ and came upon some guy who wasn't to fond of one well known photographer and posted saying as much. He disappeared after being berated for being unprofessional. This may be the internet, but G+ is where the adults in the room tend to hang out. It is the place where friendships happen and education is a daily occurrence.

These are just a few of the things that you can do to make G+ work for you as a photographer. The key to it all is the conversation and I think everyone should remember that, along with posting content that is relative. I don't think that G+ would work if you are the shy type and just like to lurk, you have to be proactive on here and that is pretty easy to do. Look around and read updates, join lists such as those on http://www.group.as/ and there are a TON for photographers, from landscape shooters to critique circles.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained....now go get it done! The best awaits for you!


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oils or Acrylic?

It's all a question of brushwork.
I have always been of the opinion that you use whatever tools you have your disposal to get the shot and you get it the dang best you can. I was never loyal to a paint company when I would do Oils on huge 5 foor canvases...Liquitex, Windor & Newton, Grunbacher...I used whatever I had at my disposal. I guess that is one reason why I have never really understand the whole 'brand wars' thing. People are so fierce in what they shoot, always of the belief that whatever system they have in their hands is the absolute best. Always knowing that this little voice is whispering inside their head and in their ears saying "psst relaity check, it isn't the camera you donut!"

If you frequent sites like dpreview in their forums then you have surely seen it. All the 'my camera camp is best' kinds of posts. Maybe I have moved on some, or maybe I just outgrew it all, I am not sure, but one thing sis for sure and that is these days I seem to be more focused (no pun intended) on the making of the image itself. The whole technique of photography, the ability to catch the light whne it is at it's finest and best. Sure, new cameras excite me, I won't ever deny that, but it all seems so secondary these days. I want to know the best locations in Colorado to shoot, go there, experience them with the gear I do own instead of worrying if the latest camera takes great high iso images nicely.

Speaking of dpreview, I was recently reading the Sony dslr forums and saw some complaints about how the upcoming a77's jpeg images at high iso are not to good and I kind of sat there for a moment and just shook my head. Thinking why on earth would someone spend basically $2,000 on a new camera and lens and then turn around and shoot jpeg images with it? Maybe I don't get it...but if it was up to me, I would eliminate jpegs all together on entry level pro camera to begin with so they only shoot RAW. It made me kind of wonder, and I think it is that which maybe seperates the boys from the men, or in this case, the serious photographer from the occasional hobbyist. Jpeg is the devil and shooting with it is like taking your wedding photos to 1hr photo to be processed. To each their own though.

Gear. Who cares what you shoot. WHo cares what brand you shoot. As long as you are happy and getting what you need out of it, is all that matters. It's all secondary when you are standing in the middle of an amazing landscape, doing what you love to do and living out the experience itself. It's all about "brushwork". So, oils or acrylic?

"The Sunworshiper"-From a recent photoshoot of the Colorado sunflower fields on the eastern plains

Monday, August 1, 2011

Don't be a lazy shooter!



They are forever hard to break. They are especially hard to break when it comes to photography. 


One of the reasons I decided to go with Minolta/Sony gear (this was when Minolta just started making dslr's) was because of the in body A/S. (VR or IS as it is often referred to) No other company at the time had in body anti-shake (in fact, it was Minolta who invented it) I never really wanted to carry my tripod around with me and the tripod I had back then was some cheap thing built for point and shoots. I also couldn't really hike much as it was when I started toi get really sick and my lungs were very fried (yes I have a lung disease I would later find out) so I would shoot a lot from the car with no support, relying on my cameras ability to get sharp shots at 1/10th a second. Sometimes I did, other times, I didn't. Of course not having the steadiest of hands doesn't help either. 


In some ways I think I still have this habit of being a lazy shooter at times, knowing all well I should be using my tripod to get the shot I want, but my mind goes in to hyperdrive and often times I get so excited by the scene I am looking at that I want to do nothing but shoot it, fearing that it won't look the same 1 minute later. Last Fall I set on a personal quest to rid myself of this habit as best as possible, determined to do the very best I can do with using the gear which I have and to make every shot count. It is still rather hard at times as my oxygen level dramatically drops when I stand for more than 1 minute, but I am getting better with it all, and in it, I am finding that I am getting the shots I have always wanted to. 


Last Fall I also invested in what I can only describe as the best $29 I have ever spend on photography equipment; a Puffin Pad Basically it is a beanbag alternative and comes in very handy as a full support that latches on to the car window. I use it a lot on my wildlife photography with my 400. I have also found it to be really worth wild for long and slow shutter exposures as well. This past December it came in especially handy when shooting the sunrise in the mountains. We were in the outflow of a powerful snowstorm with winds gusting to 60mpg at times. Not especially the kind of stuff you want to be outside in with bitter cold temps and wind. Tripods are known to be not exactly the warmest things on the planet, so I went ahead and decided to try my Puffin Pad out for the shot, using the car as a sort of shield from the elements. This is the shot I was able to take using it;


"Dawn At St Malo" (click for larger image)


One of the best pieces of advice I can tell anyone when I am asked the question of "how can I be a better photographer? How can I get better looking pictures" is "don't be a lazt shooter, use what you have and use it to it's full extent. It will show in your images directly otherwise. If you need new equipment, things like filters, don't put it off, get some, even the cheap ones will help you versus nothing at all." 


It has been interesting this year, with really poutting my foot forward, and it times it hasn't been physically easy for me, but the payoff has been rather priceless. I used to think a few years ago, that the sheer number of shots you got meant something. These days, I am finding that it is the number of GOOD shots that you get which means something. Quality over quantity. If you take your time and actually evaluate the scene, you will find that you can indeed get the shot that you want, just don't leave the tripod in the back seat (sans shooting at mid day...but who does that anyhow?) If you don't have one, buy one. 


Here are a few shots taken this past Saturday night along Boreas Pass outside of Breckenridge, where the thought of "don't be a lazy shooter" kept running through my head as I stood here with my tripod about to pass out from lack of o2 lol The pay off though was worth it. 




"Boreas Pass" (click for larger image)


"Road To The Sky" (click for larger image) 


"Alpine Sunflower Meadows" (click for larger image)



Thursday, July 28, 2011

Announcing our annual Colorado fall photography workshop/meetup!

Announcing The Annual Colorado Fall Photo Meetup!

It is that time of the year again, and Fall is just around the corner! Once again we are holding our annual Fall photo meetup! And this is the official announcement of that. 
If you have ever wanted to see Colorado at it's most spectacular time, this is it! There is no where else like it, with the hillsides completely alive in sheer blankets of golden color from the Aspens...If you have ever wanted to get a hands on experience with photography, this is also your chance to do so by photographing with some great nature photographers! 
Our annual workshop/photomeet/throwing Texans to the crazy Bull Elk during the rut/photography adventure lasts over 2 weekends, and the choice is yours which one you would like to attend, or stay the whole time!

Dates 1st weekend: Friday, September 23-Sunday, September 25.  2nd weekend: Friday, September 30-Sunday, October 2nd. You would want to fly in on a Thursday and depart a Monday. (sans coming a few days early or staying later to photograph other areas...like...Boreas Pass)

Details/Location Rocky Mountain National Park will be our main host as it is every year. between the Elk rut and the incredible landscape, it will fill your day with endless photography opportunities. Be prepared, dress winter for the early mornings (we meet before sunrise) and dress for summer during the day. The weather can change 40-50 degrees in temperature throughout the day. We will also be taking side trips to Brainard Lake State Recreation area to photograph Moose, and I am sure that some of the guys will want to take a group to hike and photograph the higher elevations in RMNP (Bear lake..etc) In the weeks to come, specific times and locations will be posted.

Lodging/Accomidations  There is a plethora of motels/hotels/cabins/camp sites between Denver and Estes Park (where RMNP is located) Please, do not take any accommodation on the west side of the park, as weather can change in a heartbeat and close Trailridge Road, thus pretty much meaning you are SOL (you could drive around but that would be incredibly far out of the way) In the weeks to come I will be posting some more info on lodging and accommodations, where, how much, etc. Look for it!

Gear  Naturally things like a Tripod are pretty much standard affair, but what about lenses? For wildlife, having anything larger than a 300m is a safe bet. There are many places out there which you can rent lenses from for quite cheap. Some of these are;

Cameralensrentals.com http://www.cameralensrentals.com/

Our email list  We have an email list that is through Google Groups that we use for all communication and planning. If you are interested in joining us, please note me your email address and I can add you to the list. This is a great way to meet everyone who will be joining us ahead of time. We also will be communicating formally through that, with coordinating everything.

What you can expect   A GREAT time! If you have never been to Colorado before, you are in for a treat, with a LOT of wildlife. Estes Park gets rather crazy with the Elk, and there is nothing like standing in the middle of no where, watching the sunrise over the mountains, and hearing the bugle of Elk. It is, a magical experience. This is what you can expect http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOaJ-wbMoRM Along with a lot of fun with link minded people.

Safety  I can not stress this enough. Elk during rutting season are completely insane animals, and every year we see idiots who think they are the family dog with walking up to them, risking their own lives in the process. They will charge and attack you. For this reason we ask that you are 18 year of age minimum, unless accompanies by a legal guardian.

If you are interested or thinking of joining us  Then let us know. Leave a comment here on my blog with your email address.

So start making your plans, 2 months and counting is all until it all starts!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Art Of Community Competition

Originally written in my journal on deviantART 5/1/2100 and updated 7/24/2011, it is geared for deviantART but can really be used on many websites that are community based photography sites.

Preface to set the stage, the lights are dim--It is honestly a rat race..(deviantART) ....and I certainly don't miss it either. In some ways I lost my focus, concentrating more on DA than photography itself. Becoming a gallery moderator, interacting with so many people, striving to have my work faved bt as many people possible and finally waking up and realizing that all of this is where I didn't want to be, and that it was indeed taking away what it was that I truely saught; to become a better photographer. All for the pursuit of what exactly? A pat on the back and seeing my image on the front page of a website? I would wake up every morning, get my coffee, sit at the pc for literally hours on end and not move. Doing nothing but concentrating on deviantART. (sad isn't it? I mean really, it is. It is even sadder to think that thousands, perhaps even millions do the zombie shuffle each and every single day as I once did too) 

Yes it is addictive for many, if not most. The thing is, it isn't really the website itself which is addictive, but rather the interaction that is. The compliments, the dicussion (and that can encompass a LOT, 98% of which is not photography related) the arguments and the real possibility of becoming famous on a very large website. It is that addiction and the way which it is done that is exploited to it's fullest extent. And then you wake up......

The art of community competition--- Have you seen it? I am sure that you have. The whole "DDs I have suggested", "I have 1732662553 pageviews", "OMG I got a thousand favs" and "I now have 20,000 watchers!". What is this all about? Honestly.  (for those of you who don't know, "DD" refers to "Daily Deviation", these are picks from gallery moderators on deviantART and are showcased on the front page of deviantART. Always shrouded in controversy it seems. Today's selection is here http://today.deviantart.com/dds/ )

There was once a time that I was of the same train of thought, where I would correlate how many favs, comments, if something made the front page of this website then it must be Godly, just like a lot do around here. I think in a lot ways we get tricked in to thinking that if something has so many favs and such, then it equates to a great image. When in actuality it simply means you have a lot of watchers and having a lot of watchers doesn't mean your work is necessarily good either, it simply means you are active on this website. 

This is why so many people think DA is addictive. However once you really start to see things as they are, presented clearly, it really isn't. The only thing anyone is addicted to is the competition itself. the whole competition of getting your ego inflated by making the front page, favs, comments, all that jazz. that little pat on the back, that says "you are doing great", but really are you? 

Take a step back for a second and examine the whole entire situation. Ask yourself if you really are doing good, or are you simply appeasing those within this realm itself, many of whom feel privileged to fav for fav, comment for comment and being a member of the "mutual admiration society"? (not all, but let's be honest here and call it for what it is, we all know how it is) The good old competition to one up those who you feel get more attention than you do and we all know, attention equals success, right? Not. 

It is like a haze that covers an otherwise perfect clear view of things. We get excited when a group features our shot, we get excited when our work appears on DA's most popular page and we get excited when people add our images to their favs. But why? To appease our ego and our self worth as artists? To seek an answer in the age old question "is my work any good?" 

Breaking The Chains--- So how do we break the cycle and see things for what they are? How do we break the train of thought of allowing the superficial ego inflating train of thought of "holy cow my work is on the DA front page, I must be really good"? How do we break the cycle of addiction & competition among fellow artists of getting more favs, comments and pageviews?

The answer to this is quite simple my friends.

If you REALLY want to better yourself as an artist and I mean REALLY learn things like technique, the medium, bettering yourself as a photographer, and not worry about the things which I mentioned above, there are a few places you can go to do this. 

Fred Miranda 

There are several others as well, but these 3 are 100% free and I thought of them first. Granted, a lot of you may find find these sites very intimidating but I can ensure you that you will learn, a lot. A whole lot. The people are very nice and the knowledge gained is worth it's weight in gold. I will be straight up though (and I am using this as an example) Most of those zoo shots you see on DA on the most popular page would be absolutely destroyed on sites like these. Cute Wolf = cute Wolf, it doesn't equal to a great photograph at all. (then again on said sites, zoo shots aren't considered nature photography, nor should they ever be to begin with.) 

We need to remember what DA is, a social network, and nothing more. A platform for communication. If you notice, it is getting referred to as that a lot more these days, even with it being compared to facebook by some of those in a administrative position. It is what it is.

However, if you honestly want to be good, and know where you stand, take a step forward for yourself and venture out there. Learn everything you can about photography. In the end it isn't about a competition between artists on some website for favs, comments, pageviews, it is about doing what you love, experiencing it first hand, and doing it first and foremost because you love it! 

Now go out and shoot something!


Below are a few recent shots from recent outings. 

Indiana Creek captured along Boreas Pass, Colorado

Eastern Kingbird, Chatfield State Park, Colorado

Spring Aspen textures, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Google+ The cure all for photographers

I have been playing around on G+ the last week to 10 days or so and I have to say Google has finally done it. I have always said and basically thought "why doesn't Google do something that could rival flickr, facebook, deviantart....something...anything!!??!?" Something where artists from all walks of life could get together in an atmosphere that THEY essentially pick and choose. It isn't like Google doesn't have the power to change things up in the game after all. 
I am here today to tell you that they have. Drastically. 
I think in many ways G+ is what I have personally been longing for and seeking all along, though until recently it just never existed. Facebook is great, but it's image quality issues with photos has always bothered me, and honestly the whole interface is just dated and clunky. Flickr? Flickr rocks but I don't especially want to spend another $30 a year on a site. DA? Well....I think everyone reading this already knows what my issues are with DA, and quite frankly this isn't what this post is all about. G+ on the other hand makes it possible to network in a way that never really before existed...it is like twitter in a way but much more personal and much more intense. The only way I can really think to describe it would be similar to how the message center in DA works with the ability to communicate directly. 
The whole thing works on what are called "circles" which are very similar to twitter "lists". With one click you can switch on the fly from your "photographers circle" to "friends circle" and so forth. It is utterly streamlined like no other social site currently is today. There is also no character limit that I have seen with status updates, unlike facebook. The control is pretty amazing, too...you choose who you want to watch and assign them accordingly to whatever circle you wish to. 

However what really got me is the photography aspect. 

For photographers G+ is like the invention of electricity. The quality of the images is simply just outstanding and the way you communicate and network with other photographers is nothing short of amazing. The way photos are presented is done really well, and unlike on DA when you have to click all these different things when you wish to edit the artists description, on G+ it is one click and done, done in one single editing box under the photo itself. (similar to how flickr works in that sense) Also in the gallery view, you see a balloon on the thumbnail telling you how many comments each photo has...also you have the ability to see EXIF and Histogram information. 

Click for larger image, this is how photos appear in the gallery view on G+
Click for larger image

What Google has done with Picasa is nothing short of amazing. Once again Picasa is relevant, and the Picasa web albums...fully integrated with G+ and is now essentially unlimited
"While Picasa Web Albums offer 1GB of free storage for photos and videos, files under certain size limits won’t count towards this free storage limit. If you’re a Google+ user, photos up to 2048×2048 pixels and videos up to 15 minutes won’t eat up your storage space. For non-Google+ users, the photo size limit is smaller: 800×800 pixels" (videos are also under 15 minutes). http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/07/picasa-offers-virtually-unlimited-storage-brings-google-tagging/ 
How they integrated with G+ is downright silly slick. I will say that, and makes G+ a legitimate full on flickr contender. In fact, Picasa is going to be getting renamed to Google Photos.  Chrome integration...it is really neat with how you simply add a bookmark for G+ to your bookmarks bar and it notifies you live of any activity. However it goes even much farther....
Imagine for one sec, one site that has it all...social networking, portfolios, blogging, email...all. Something where you can handle every aspect of your photography. From getting critiques on your images to the ability to be emailed and contacted from someone who is interested in purchasing a print, to a place that is "family safe" to send people to see your work and not having to worry about people leaving rude comments on images. This is what is called the "Homebase" aspect of G+. Every aspect will be getting incorporated in to G+ that Google currently owns. Say you have a photoblog on Blogger for instance, you are about to be able to witness a makeover soon that integrates your blog fully in to G+. Gmail? Full on compatibility with G+. Even Google Talk itself, with being able to hold "huddles" live with other like minded individuals using G+. It is hard to say in words how much of a game changer G+ is, but for us who are artists, it really is, big time. 

There was a kind of "push the panic" button recently when photographer Scott Bourne penned an article on his very popular "PhotoFocus" blog titled "Google Plus – Read the Fine Print BEFORE You Sign Up" http://photofocus.com/2011/07/06/google-plus-read-the-fine-print-before-you-sign-up/ which lead to many other well known photographers like Jim Goldstein writing an article on his blog basically countering everything which Scott said (personally I listen to Jim a LOT more than I do Scott, Jim knows his stuff!)  with "How I Evaluate Terms of Service for Social Media Web Sites – Google+" http://www.jmg-galleries.com/blog/2011/07/08/how-i-evaluate-terms-of-service-for-social-media-web-sites-google/#ixzz1S032TlIa The PetaPixel Photoblog also took on Scott's claims too, and wrote an article on their blog titled "FUD Over Google+’s Terms of Service" http://www.petapixel.com/2011/07/12/fud-over-googles-terms-of-service/ 

There are some really excellent links I have found that basically say what I have been saying here which are very much geared for photographers ...
*GOOGLE+ VS. FLICKR VS. FACEBOOK VS. 500PX VS. TWITTER-- by Thomas Hawk http://thomashawk.com/2011/07/google-vs-flickr-vs-facebook-vs-500px-vs-twitter.html
* TOP 10 TIPS ON GOOGLE+ FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS---by Thomas Hawk  http://thomashawk.com/2011/07/top-10-tips-on-google-for-photographers.html
* Photographers, Get On Google Plus---by Craig Ferguson http://www.craigfergusonimages.com/2011/07/photographers-get-on-google-plus/
* Photographers on Google+--- by Seven By Five Photoblog http://www.sevenbyfive.net/capture/photographers-on-google/
* How to turn Google+ into an online photography portfolio--- by  Nancy Messieh http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/07/03/how-to-turn-google-into-an-online-photography-portfolio/
*Google+ May Not Kill Facebook But Flickr Should Be Worried--- by Photography @ The Photo Arcade Photoblog http://blogs.thephotoarcade.com/?p=816

All in all, G+ is the start of something new and something brilliant. I just wish it had come out 2 years ago or so instead of just now. I recently read though that G+ has been in development over the last 5 years almost. After being on here, I can understand why. Google set out to seriously change things in a very big way, and they have. Right now it is safe to say that there is no other site like it for photographers, absolutely none. 

 I can be found here on G+  http://gplus.to/jdebord Though Google+ is still in closed beta,  I have a few invites left, not many however. If you would like one, please comment in my journal and I will see what I can do, no promises however. Also you will need a Gmail account, it is required. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Your photos aren't real!"

Recently I had a rather "interesting" discussion shall we say with someone, and also came upon this blog post titled "Are your colors manipulated" (a fantastic read by the way) from photographer Jay Patel http://www.photographybyvarina.com/photography/tutorials/are-your-colors-manipulated The discussion I had was kind of heated at times, and centered around one of my photos specifically and how about this person was there with me and how this scene didn't look anything like it does in the photo itself. This is quite an interesting take on things I thought, because I have never really wanted to captured a scene "exactly" how it looks. If I wanted to do that, I would use an instamatic camera and simply point and shoot. Wildlife photography aside, when it comes to landscapes or lifestyle images of the rural and country, all that especially matters in the end is the image, not if the colors are exactly the same as they were when you were standing at the scene photographing it. 


It is not to say that I feel that such things are wrong and indeed there are many photographers who try to emulate and capture the scene just as how it looked. Heck, now and then I do that as well, too. It is all up to myself and how I want to portray things. Creative expression is good, and sometimes if by using a Tobacco filter in front of my lens to warm it up looks better than the actual scene, I will go for it. The same can be said for using ND filters to slow down the motion of the water to give it a more silky look and feel, or using custom white balance to bring out colors more. I often do this during Autumn to capture the vivid greens and golds and often also shoot on a white balance setting of "sunset" in camera when I am photographing them (an old trick I learned years ago). 


What I find really intriguing is a recent quote I came across that seems to fit things perfectly; 


‎"I am not interested in showing my work to photographers any more, but to people outside the photo-clique. My pictures are not escapes from reality,

but a contemplation of reality, so that I can experience life in a deeper way." - Bruce Davidson


Now I think that really has a tendecny to hit home on the situation here, big time. In much of my work I strive to add a deep sense of feeling and emotion in to them. I am not in this to market to other photographers but to to the general public with an image that they can relate to. Something that gives a person a sense of bonding and tie in, something that they can feel from past experience. Not other photographers. The thing is, I like my own work and I am happy with it most of the time. Isn't that what many strive to do, simply be happy in their own creative endevours? The thing is, you are only allowed to see what the photographers lets you see and that is all. So it goes, that first shouldn't we see the image for what it is and not look at it under a microscope, evaluating it on it's technical merits, and instead enjoy what the photographer is presenting us? Photography has the ability to transfer you in to a whole other world, an escapism for just a second, to see things in place you would never get to see, to feel things like you have never felt, but first we need to take off the glasses of cynicism to experience that all. 


Who cares if I "warm up" an image, who cares if I crop something for better composition, who cares....really. Other photographers generally care, are they buying my work and hanging it on their walls? Nope. It isn't to say that you shouldn't listen to your fellow photographers as they are a key instrument in helping you become better and grow as an artist, but just know that you being happy in your own photography is where success lays at. You acheive that and you are well on your way. Keep in mind as always, that every photograph you see has been "worked over" in some way, shape or form. Whether it is old skool burning and dodging in the wet darkroom, printed on different papers to bring more color out, or if it a newer shot of a gorgeous landscape, shot with Grad NDs and processed inside Lightroom, everything is worked over. In the end all that matters is the image, you being happy with a photo which you took and how it is presented to the viewer. From Velvia to Lightroom presets, you only see the artistic vision presented before you, for if we all shot the same, life would be rather boring, not to mention photography itself. A world would be rather vanilla flavored if we had no sense of vision or artistic style. 


For the record, this is the image in question, ironically one of my most popular photographs I have ever taken, a larger version can be seen on my website here http://jdebordphoto.zenfolio.com/p164385492/h1b3bb2cf#h1b3bb2cf and prints of it are available for sale on my site on redbubble http://www.redbubble.com/people/kkart/art/7058586-old-fords-and-farms-hdr


Old Fords And Farms-HDR


Thursday, June 2, 2011

"The Feeling" of Photography

Originally written in my journal on deviantART Tue Oct 12, 2010, 4:29 PM

This is going to be deep so you have been warned.

I wonder how much others really think I do, that is if they do at all. I am sure maybe one or 2 of you do, but how many more do I am not sure of. There are a very select few who know this about me, and I mean few, as in I can maybe count them on one hand on DA.

So what is it I am talking about? Ok….

I wonder how many others have this secret meaning with their photography, an emotional attachment to many of the images which they post, which convey a greater sense of feeling and meaning within them? I remember when I first started on DA I used to be so excited to upload my latest shots that I had just taken, to share with everyone. Somewhere along the way, many many MANY moons ago, that changed. While 85% of the shots I do upload are fresh from the latest photo shoot, there are many which are not. I think this started changing several years ago when I started to become enamored by images which contain a sense of feeling within them. Images which many traditional photographers would probably frown down upon because they have been processed, sometimes rather heavy handed.

I wonder if my feelings are so often seen by what it is I upload on here…how I felt, what I experienced, how I thought at that very moment. I for one am not so sure but I do hope so. I wonder if people upload images mainly in this same manner, images which they hold deep to their heart that hold a much deeper meaning in them than what most viewers see?

Take for example the shot, while everyone was chasing a Bear around behind me, I was alone about 15 minutes by myself, just watching the sunlight come upon the peaks, watching the color change as the sun broke the horizon, and I felt like I completely belonged in this moment, with the soft echoes of some unknown soft song coming out of the car radio. It was in the background but it fit the entire scene as a whole. It isn’t so much the beauty of the landscape itself I was trying to represent, but the feeling I had whilst being there. What it is that I experienced.


"Morning Light Of The Mountain"-Lake Copeland, RMNP, Colorado



Truthfully I have a lot of photographs like this, but most will never be uploaded on here…stuff shot in cemeteries and the like. I don’t upload it because I don’t think many would be remotely interested in seeing it. Some of it is very heavy though I will say that, and probably very unlike what you would expect from me.

Sometimes when life is being a PITA I am of a two tiered train of thought, one is just to go and get lost somewhere with my camera in nature, and the other is just to kind of go crawl under my covers and sleep, because I don’t have the desire to shoot. Luckily the latter happens very rarely.

Honestly the next images you see from me, well, I am trying to decide what I should post honestly but in it lies a deeper story than what you see, within that very image. Wildlife images are usually an exception to this rule, but generally everything else has this quality about it. Considering the last 2 weeks have been enormously hard at times, it may very well show up in my photos, who knows.

In the end, I hope that my images remain long after I am gone on this face of this earth, and I hope that maybe they touched someone along the way. that is the solstice which I would have in knowing that they did this. If they are able to do that, then I must be doing something right.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Variations---How to get a different look & feeling in a photograph

Fun. I think that is really the core reason why so many of us photograph. Let's face it, it is a downright blast, right!? We get to see things that other people never get a chance to, and often times only dream of seeing the things we do. We are lucky, very lucky my friends. It all comes back to the core belief though that we all do this to have fun, and one of the ways I like to enjoy that 'fun' it to be rather experimental when I am processing. It is honestly amazing the different thought provoking/emotional stimulating kind of photographs you can get from using different techniques in post work.

If you want to take a joyride sometime, try processing the scene not as you just saw it, but also work it. Convert it to B&W, add in a little softness, split tone the image, do some creative cropping, dodge and burn, all of which will give a very different look, feel and emotional appeal to the viewer. This is one thing I dearly love using Lightroom 3 for, it is honestly made for stuff like this with the built in split tone settings, the ability to color shift a precise exactness, the ability to soften exact parts of a photograph using the clarify settings.

To have a better understanding of exactly what I am talking about, see the shots below. Just remember, have some fun, be creative, and most of all enjoy yourself! After all, it is what it's all about, right?


, , , , , , ,

Friday, April 1, 2011

deviantART vs. RedBubble vs. flickr

First off a disclaimer;

I am not going to be biased at all in this, but will take a very hard look and compare all 3 sites, as I have been a member on all 3 for some time now. Each site has it's good and it's bad sides, and I wish to explore and examine those as best as I can. This is aimed at the serious photographer 25+ in age, please keep that in mind when reading this.

Let's face it, as photographers we all want a place to show and post our work. Our own little place on the internet that is easy to get to that we can call home. Often times these are in community atmospheres where we meet other like minded individuals, where we share our thoughts and our art. Today I would like to take a look at 3 of these which are perhaps the largest of their kind. deviantART redbubble and of course, flickr This post has been a LONG time coming and for he last few days I have been busy gathering information for it, to compare all 3 sites, and to draw conclusions. I want to examine the good, the bad, and the downright horribly ugly of each. You may be rather shocked at what you find within the article, so let's move on.

Homepage Presentation

flickr-- If simplicity is award winning then they would probably win it. It is set up completely straight forward with no glitz at all. I like this, it allows for a very easy approach with knowing what you are getting yourself in to before you even really browse the site to begin with. There only seems to be one ad that I can see with all ad blocking off, and oddly enough it an ad for a camera. Imagine that on site to host photos!

redbubble--- As the motto states on the front of their page; "Living Art: Share It, Wear It, Hang It." I like that, I like that a lot. Absolutely no advertising at all from outside sources, I like that too. There is of course what some would call adverts for "buy wall art" and "buy T-shirts". However that is the point of RedBubble to begin with, a community marketplace where artists can sell their work. (more about that later)

deviantART-- One trip to the homepage here and it tells me it is different than the others, with quite a wide array of art shown. It does seem odd to me when compared to the other sites, that there are several images which obviously contain adult content and are greyed out with a lock. There is some in house advertising, nothing huge. The Llama keychain has me intrigued and makes me wonder what that is about on an art site? It certainly doesn't fit the front page at all. Then again either does a Llama T-shirt? It seems fairly nice from a navigation standpoint but also much more intense than flickr and redbubble, as there is no splash page at all.

--- This is tough, I certainly wouldn't give it to deviantART though, but rather a toss up between RedBubble and Flickr. DeviantART seems different than the others with a wide focus on everything art. Not so much about photography, per say. RedBubble on the other hand is also a very diverse community, but it doesn't overwhelm you with the splash page and showcases what seem to be features of the day, slowly rotating 1 by 1 with a certain theme, today seems to be trains as example. Flickr is just one simple image which seems to be taken from their explore section (popular photos)

The winner--RedBubble.

Image presentation

This is a very interesting comparison here as all 3 sites have a VERY different way of showing images. Let's take a look at these.

deviantart--- First thing that comes to my mind is the image that I posted below some time ago on my own personal deviantART account (click for larger image)  which is a comparison between DA and my website host zenfolio. Zenfolio is geared just for photographers so I thought this would be a very interesting comparison. The first thing you notice is that the image on DA is VERY soft and there is loss of detail and sharpness when compared to the image hosted on zenfolio. This is bad, this is VERY bad. As photographers we are as anal as it gets about how our images appear, especially sharpened. There isn't another form of art who's artists are so worried about this, than photographers. Oddly enough it seems to affect jpegs more than it does png files from my personal experience. Also about DA is that you never really seem to know what you are getting when you click an image, if the thing is going to be 9000px on the longest side or 300px on the longest side. There is absolutely no uniformity at all. Is that good or bad? It would depend on how you want to look at it. I am on the fence with that one myself, I can see it going both ways. I do like that there are 'share this' features enabled, that is very handy, and those which are shared on twitter actually show a thumbnail of the image itself on twitter. Handy. Kudos on that. Same with facebook as well.

One thing that I think really does DA in badly other than this with the re-size issue and quality, is just how encased peoples artwork is in adverts. Honestly, is the showcase the art or the adverts itself? From schools to cell phone, to ads that flash....this is the big downfall. Without question, THIS is not only bad, it is God forsaken awful. Case in point, see the screen cap below to see what it is I am talking about and please click it for a larger size. However it gets worse....

There is something that I personally find VERY unethical going on here...and by that I mean extremely. Sadly many on deviantART are not even aware it is happening, I would say 99.5% percent aren't from my experiences. I am not quite sure what gives deviantART the right to think that they can make money off my images and use them as a lead in for a reseller program to amazon.com but that is exactly what they are doing with each and every single photograph that is put up on deviantART that contains EXIF info. This is downright sleazy. Shouldn't *I* as an artist say how my images are being used within a commercial environment? You had better believe it. It is, after all, MY intellectual property. They could have went the way of flickr and actually done it correctly, where clicking on a images exif info takes you to basically a search feature within flickr to find others who are using the exact same camera as you are. Did they? Of course not. As an example of what flickr does, see here and click on where it says "Nikon D90". You come to the flickr camera finder. Pretty sweet if you ask me.


redbubble--- Good old RB has a few issues from what I have heard though I must admit I haven't really experienced anything myself. Basically some say that RB over-sharpens images. The way RB works is that you upload the largest file possible (as you would want to do as you make prints and certain items like greeting cards available for sale, which need high resolution images) You basically then have 2 sizes which are displayed, a smaller version which can be clicked on to show a larger version. Both naturally have been auto re-sized down to a certain size which is implemented site wide for uniformity. The pages themselves are VERY clean with no adverts at all in them to speak of. I like that, that is a huge plus. There is the ocassional group banner saying someone has been featured in a group, which can be deleted (not hidden!) if the artist wishes to. Again, nice that RB allows for such a function. One thing that can be good or it can be bad depending on how you look at it. RB does not support EXIF at all, so when you upload an image, there is nothing saying what kind of camera the shot was taken with, what f-stop, iso, etc. I guess that would be a bummer if you really were interested in that (you could always 'bubblemail' the person and ask) or if you are of the frame of mind where the image is the only thing which really matters. Share features which can be automatic the very second you upload something, which will post on your facebook wall. Share features to twitter as well, however no thumbnails show up which is kind of a bummer.

Below is the screen cap of how art appears on RB, quite clean and quite easy to understand. Again, please click for a larger size image.

flickr--- Flickr is rather neat with how it displays images. There are several things which really stand out. I really like the fact that you are able to view a slideshow of the images, one that is seemingly lag free too and very easy to navigate. It is actually on par with the slideshow I have through zenfolio. Very straight forward approach with only the bare essentials, including the ability grab a long url to an image or a short url. Very nice. I like the ease of which it is to navigate within sets and collections, everything is at my fingertips. Thumbnail integration to facebook and flickr, very nice. A selected few images have advertsing in the form of a Casio camera ad, odd that it seems to be hit or miss though. Overall, very nice and very simple! I enjoy that!

Conclusion--- Again, DA loses the battle here as well with it's incredible amount of advertising bordering on perversion. Ads take away from the art, and do so in a very drastic way, especially when they flash and are anything BUT related to the image at hand (seriously, The Vanguard Group?? Which is an investment firm??) Stuff like this reminds of the days of AOL in the mid-90s. I guess some companies haven't learned yet by the mistakes which others have made have they? RedBubble is good, really good, actually. Very clean, simple to navigate, and just easy. My choice though for this one goes to Flickr. I like that everything is perfectly easy to get to, all within a mouse gesture away. It's navigation is easy and minimal. Then again though this is flickr, the very site which has built it's reputation on ease of use.

The winner--flickr

Features among sites.

Now let's dig in and get to where the getting is good! All 3 sites offer a very unique user experience. Bare with me here as this is going to be especially long, but it will give you a good inside look into each specific one.

There are good sides to it and very bad sides to it. The good is very good while the bad is...well....awful. Basically DA prides itself on having what they call the best community around essentially. I find that to be a yes and a no. There was once a time when DA was the only site around that really had what they have...an awesome sense of community where people feel like family. That is still true in a sense, but it is NOT the only site which is like that these days (enter RedBubble here as example) The community itself is awesome, I will make no bones about that, and it is one of the very best. It is also one of the very worst at the same time, too. People on the website get trolled all day long (as an example, let us look at this group here  ) Now if this woul dhappen on flickr or RedBubble it would be deleted faster than you can say "What's a polarizer??!" There is so much leniency on DA that half the time it seems like the rules are made up as they go along, disregarded completely, or just overlooked. DA relies on features that puts the power in peoples hands with the ability to block people. This however doesn't solve the problem, but rather is like painting over rust on a car. They are free to go on and troll and bully others...on and on. If we look at a comparison between DA and say RedBubble with their user agreement which is found here for inappropriate conduct you will see it reads;

RedBubble does not manually screen content before it is displayed on
the website so occasionally members may inadvertently or deliberately
submit and display content that breaches this agreement.

Inappropriate content includes, but is not limited to, content that
infringes the copyright or other intellectual property rights of any
person or company, or that defames or vilifies any person, people,
races, religion or religious group, is obscene, pornographic, indecent,
harassing, threatening, harmful, invasive of privacy or publicity
rights, abusive, inflammatory or otherwise objectionable.

Please help us by letting us know straight away about any
inappropriate, or potentially inappropriate, content you see on the

You can do this by clicking the "report this work as inappropriate" link that will be displayed beside each piece of art.

If you believe your copyright or other intellectual property rights
are being infringed, you are able to make a formal complaint, or request
an agent to make a complaint on your behalf, by using the 'report a
concern' button displayed with each work.

In other words, RB deletes and bans people right away for anything which is deemed offensive. Including things of say a Nazi nature which is all find and dandy to upload to DA as long as it doesn't say something along the lines of kill people of a certain race. Also notice the word "inflammatory" in that too? Food for thought. But I do believe that DA is to understaffed and not stringent enough on things.

This being said....if you try to simply concentrate on the art and communication itself, DA can be wonderful. Most of the people I have come across on DA are wonderful and very supporting. I have met some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life on DA, and I have made many a very close personal friend on there. For me, it seems like there are really 2 DA's...the people who support you as an artist and the way it is ran. And they are VERY different. DA and the way that is ran is one thing I will openly admit I have a huge problem with, especially how everything is a gigantic money grab...from "needs premium mmebership" to the outright refusal to let artists sell their artwork on things like T-Shirts because it would interfere with sales of devwear (T-shirts which feature the deviantart brand) That alone tells me that they are more concerned with that than actually helping artists. (again insert, "meanwhile on redbubble" here..) The people though that make up the site are first class, mostly. The age group is very wide, ranging from 13 to 133 (probably) and with that comes it's good and it's bad. However just be prepared for anything from incredible landscapes to sketches done in Crayon of Sonic on notepad paper. They offer a critique system (sadly you have to be a paid "premium member" to really utilize) and free members are basically given the advert laden version of the site with limited browsing abilities and features. They offer groups as well. But honestly, out of all 3 sites, they are the worst when it comes to having such a feature. Flickr and RedBubble bother offer groups for free and so does DA, but DA also has a "super group" option that allows for things like custom CSS and the ability to display thumbnails in the 'blog' of the group. However that cost is ridiculously steep at $59.95 a year (launch price, after that it goes up to a $100 give or take)  Now to me that is just insane. Sorry but it is. Group messages also clog ones message center completely, and actually takes away from personal interaction on the site. There is the ability to disable that, but then why be in a group to begin with? RedBubble and Flickr very much have the groups thing figured out. Flickr more so with them often being a complete wealth of knowledge. It is like they have taken every photography forum out there and made them groups. Look at this as example as discussions go. RedBubble offers something very similar too. DA offers nothing like it with teh ability to communicate with members and for members to ask questions, for that they must ask in a blog post...awkward and very redundant.

The one side up that DA really does on everywhere else is the ability to communicate, Direct communication at that too. Currently no other site offers this like DA does with direct commenting and the ability to respond in page to someones comments. They honestly have the whole communication platform nailed to a tea. And maybe that is why DA is now referring to themselves along with others as a Social Network these days and not an art site so much.

DA also has a news section, which really isn't news that much of the time but rather a bunch of spam featuring images. It has it's good and it's bad, depending on how you look at it. Neither flickr or RB have such a thing.

Getting help when you do have a problem on DA is not the easiest thing to do. There once was a help forum, but that was taken offline awhile back. Now you have to send in a "help desk ticket" which can often take weeks to get a reply or in some cases, months. By way of contrast, help on RB is one simple post in the forums and within 24 hours you have a response from the admins, this can also be done via email on RB, and the time is often even quicker. Flickr is a tad slower than RB, but still better than DA. For copyright concerns, it can often take a LONG time to hear anything back, and there is a lot of art floating around on DA which is theft, but is not taken down because DA needs to hear from the original copyright holder. RB by way of example has a 0 zero tolerance policy that if it is not yours you have 0 business posting that. I like that. I like that a lot. Flickr is kind of similar to DA in a sense but much faster. 

Professionalism between the sites is day and night. Flickr has had it's issues with suddenly deleting content with no warning at all ...this is not good. Bad, very bad. DA on the other hand...it is more a respect factor than anything and immaturity factor with often times language of a sexual nature being used in comments on photos and from the staff itself. Case in point, this here and the link contained within. Cute huh? Language on flickr and RB is not an issue that I ever seen, ever. Maybe it has something to do with the large age range, I am not sure. Possible? 

DA also seems to be geared towards the kiddies the most, with things like Llama badges and such, something which makes no sense to me on an art site other than another money grab to buy little cute accessories to dress your little Llama badge up with. Flickr is a mix of professional and amateur, but does not cater to a specific age range at all, rather they cater to everyone. RedBubble? The most serious of the 3 sites without question.

Selling your art is an interesting contrast between the 3 sites. Flickt forbids any commercial anything at all (bad...bad on them) where as DA charges for a premium prints account to actually make anything substantial, otherwise they keep most of the profits. RedBubble, they get my nod for selling on. The site itself is completely 100% free and it costs nothing to sell on there. RB gets a 50s% take in any sales you make and you can sell at whatever royalty % you wish to. My profits on RB are about 7-10x the amount of sales which I get on DA. again blame it on the age factor I suspect. Flcikr relies heavily not so much on flickr but the outward reach of the site itself, the ability to use your images on external websites such as a gallery or on photoblogs. DA and RB really offer no such functionality with their API. There are more Greasemonkey scripts for flickr than you can even begin to imagine. 

The winner--none, each has it's strengths and weaknesses.

Final verdict---

Honestly for the serious photographer, DA is NOT the way to go. It is to encased with adverts to really show your images looking at their absolute best. To get the full function of the site, you have to buy a membership. Heaven knows also what kinds of comments you will have on your images too...and the last thing you want is someone dropping the F bomb when you go to show your grandma your photos, or worse yet, an art director/publisher. These are 2 of the reason why I personally quit sending people to my DA site. These days I send them to RedBubble or my personal website. Many professional photographers use flickr, and it is easy to understand why also. There is no commitment to 'play the game' to comment for comment, or fav for fav BS going on. Perhaps it explains why so many publishers (American Photo as example) have a flickr stream. The ability to upload images straight from Lightroom with all metadata such as keywords intact and cell phone capability with browsing, blows everything else out of the water. It is great for showing your photos, but it is awful for selling as it is against flickr's TOS. And then we come to RedBubble....

RedBubble is like taking the best things from DA and some of flickr and improving upon that in terms of functionality. What DA gives you a taste of (groups) RB does perfectly. It is a perfect blend of end user functionality mixed with the tools to sell fine art prints. For a website itself as a host, RB takes the cake, For outside functionality, nothing will touch flickr. RedBubble has a killer community and one where you have no worries about being trolled or having awful language posted on a photo you upload. People are very nice and respectful and are always encouraging. I have always said that if I could take those on DA that I have become friends with and move them to RB, I would do so in a heartbeat. Who knows, maybe after they read this, they will take those steps themselves. Because in my opinion, RB is what DA SHOULD be.

It all comes down to what you want in a site. If you want to talk to other people and meet friends, then DA is your place. If you want feedback on your work of an honest nature, that is a toss up between all 3. If you want to REALLY sell your work, RB is the place to go. It all comes down to you in the end.

Winners--Flickr and RB for the serious photographer.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Seeing in a new light

Seeing in a new light. A play on words maybe but at the same time it is kind of amazing how myself and maybe you find yourself doing this as well, turn to your photography when times get a little rocky and such. I know I have been doing that a lot the last 6 weeks as life has certainly thrown some very large punches at me, major stuff at that too.

When I was younger I would get lost in art, drawing for a long time. Later on when I was studing illustration in art college, I would retreat to my art with drawing and painting, put a low light on and turn on some music and get lost in the zone. It took me a long while to adjust that experience to my photography but I somehow managed to do it. It isn't just about getting lost in processing though, creating images that are more of an artistic nature, but also about the entire experience of being out in nature and shooting itself.I always find myself breathing a lot deeper, staring a little longer, and taking in the tranquility of everything a little more. Well, ok, a lot more especially lately.


Shooting can be very therapeutic for me, I have always said that there is nothing like shooting a waterfall nestled among the wildflowers, or during Autumn. The scent, the scene, the sound of the water....tranquility especially for the mind and soul. In fact a recent study even shows that being out in nature itself is healthy as this blog from the National Wildlife Federation suggests. Amazing to think that "Exposure to natural settings may be widely effective in reducing ADHD symptoms".


So when life gets a tad hectic, turn to your creative side to find some self medicating solutions. Nature is all around us and it's healing benefits are amazing! The shots below were taken outside of Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Colorado, on a day when I needed to get out and shoot and experience a little tranquility.