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 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;

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 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 )

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 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, 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). 
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 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 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" 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+" 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" 

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 ...
* Photographers, Get On Google Plus---by Craig Ferguson
* Photographers on Google+--- by Seven By Five Photoblog
* How to turn Google+ into an online photography portfolio--- by  Nancy Messieh
*Google+ May Not Kill Facebook But Flickr Should Be Worried--- by Photography @ The Photo Arcade Photoblog

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+ 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.