Tag Archives: tips

Back that… Pic up?

brokenhddPass the Pepto

I remember the sick feeling I had. I remember nearly vomiting from the anxiety that followed the “click, click, click”. I was twenty-seven years old and as an IT guy with a Photography habit, I was very familiar with the hallmark noise a hard drive makes when it has spun it’s last bit, byte or gig of data. This time however, the data in question was twenty-five hundred pictures from a wedding I had shot three weeks prior. My knee-jerk reaction was that I had lost everything from a very important day in someone’s life for which I was responsible  (and paid to) memorialize. When my heart dipped below 160 bpm, I realized there was a good chance all the data was still on the card’s I’d shot with.

I had only been accepting money for my photography for a short time before this incident. Although I had been shooting for many years and even selling my print work to various area restaurants, hotels and coffee shops, it had always been on my terms. If I lost something, I lost it. I had also only recently transitioned from film to digital. My career in IT left me no excuse for not backing up my data and going forward that is exactly what I did. I have over 700 shoots backed up these days in three different locations including an “offsite” backup location (more on that below).

Whether you are technically savvy or not, there are some very easy ways to make sure you never have to experience the pit-of-your-stomach-loathing that is losing someone’s work. Even if you are not a professional photographer or a photographer at all, backing up what is important to you should be… Important to you.

Local Backup

The phrase “Local Backup” is a fancy term for keeping a copy of your data in the same place where it actually lives, in the case of my photography, it lives in my studio. This can be as in depth as a RAID based NAS file-server like I use (If you aren’t technical, that is gibberish) or simply another hard drive with an exact replica  of your primary photography work drive. There are also many programs out there which allow easy backups of directories on a schedule so you never have to worry about whether you remembered to back up.  OSX (Apple’s Operating System) includes “Time Machine” which is invaluable to the non-computer-geek photographer. Other applications also mimic this functionality and a quick search on Google for “Backup Utilities” will generate hundreds of websites that provide software for local backup scenarios on both Windows and OSX. If you are a photographer who uses Lightroom (and why wouldn’t you), during import you can simply check a box to “Make a Second Copy” to a location, that being your second hard drive.  Should your primary drive fail, you now have your backup to copy all of your work from once you restore your primary, buy a new computer, etc.

Remote Backup

Remote backups refer to backups that do not live where your primary data lives. This means if your computer is stolen or an earthquake swallows your home where your local and primary backup are, your data is still safe. There are many ways to do this including an example of a photographer I know who keeps a second backup drive in a safe deposit box and updates it once a week. That is a bit extreme and there are easier examples. Data storage is cheap these days and there are several companies that offer remote backups for less than $10 a month. CrashPlan and Backblaze are two. I use the former. You simply install a client, tell it what directories you want to back up and it begins it’s initial backup. As things change on your drive, it uploads them. Simple and a cheap piece of mind.

Tips on Ice Driving in Dallas – From a Displaced Yankee

helpAs I was driving on the partially sanded, ice packed bridges to work this morning after what the Dallas Observer is dubbing “Winter Storm Cleon” (Click the link, it’s hilarious.), I was struck by how many locals just don’t know how to handle driving in this crap.

Thus I bring you:

How to drive in Dallas when it’s icing.

  1. Don’t be an asshole – This speaks for itself.
  2. Stay Home – You suck at driving in anything under 60 degrees. Get some Oreos, turn on Netflix and put on your comfy pants.
  3. Don’t ride my ass – It is you, me and some 87 year old great grandfather out here on I-35. There is no need for you to crawl up my tail-pipe. If I have to stop suddenly, which I might do anyway just to piss you off, you’ll slide right into me and I left my nice car at home just so I could let you.
  4.  Learn to Engine Break – If you drive a manual, congratulations, you are a badass. Even if you don’t, you can engine break to slow down on icy bridges if you are tailgating like an ass-hat (see #2). Down shift or in your automatic, click it down into “2” or “1”. Slamming on your breaks on an iced bridge is about as efficient as eating an ice-cream cone in hell.
  5. Don’t stop on a hill (or park on one) - Gravity sucks. Literally. And it’s trying to suck your car down that hill/ Normally that is not a problem but when there is three inches of ice on the road, all you are going to do is spin. Be conscious of where you park. Once you have some momentum going, moving up-hill becomes easier.
  6. Keep your speed consistent - You think you are better than everyone you are passing but every time you come to a bridge, your sphincter clenches up and you slow down. Stop it. You are impeding the natural flow of traffic. Keep a consistent speed and coast (that means letting off the gas, genius) over areas of ice. When you are applying energy to your wheels and hit a patch of ice, you are going to lose control. Coasting allows you to maintain control.

Communication Dynamics in the Online Community

social.media_If you know me or you have kept up with my old relationship blog,  you know I make mention of communication quite often. I believe it is the heart and soul of any relationship from friendship to marriage.  Today, our need for instant gratification through the Internet, cellular phones and other media outlets has in my opinion both stymied and accelerated our use of communication. As with anything else, advancements come with a price and in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Global news outlets pushing feeds to your phone, that price has often been lack of research in favor of pushing information to the masses quickly.

Communication within relationships has not escaped this trend. You do not have to look hard to find someone on your Facebook news-feed complaining about their boyfriend or girlfriend or asking advice for a situation concerning their marriage. In other cases all out arguments are taking place in cyberspace. In my opinion this is no more acceptable than opening up all the windows and doors in your house and having a knock-down-drag-out fight with your spouse. It is not classy and it is a terrible way to seek attention.

What gives?

So what has caused this uptrend in open air arguments on the world’s public websites? I believe at least part of the responsibility goes to the ease in which we are able to access Social Media. Twenty years ago, we were forced to “think about it “. We did not know our significant other was out at the club with his or her friends until someone called us on the wall phone or we found out through the grapevine. When we found they had been lying to us about their whereabouts, we could not just pick up the iPad and immediately splatter Facebook with anger and hate over the deceit. We had time to think about it, time to prepare our argument and in that time we also naturally cooled down which allowed us to think more rationally. Today we simply pick up our smart phone, iDevice, log onto a computer or text a friend instantly. No time to think about our response, no time to rationalize what we will say. In this, we have become children, un-thinking in our words, lashing out with knee-jerk reactions to situations that might otherwise be handled like adults.

Facebook Official

Another area where communication utterly fails is in courting. If you don’t know what “courting” means, you should look it up. When I was nineteen I had a crush on a girl within my group of friends. I didn’t have her phone number, there were no cell phones, text messages, Facebook or Twitter. Instead, I talked to her friends, found out where she worked and asked her out while she was checking out customers at the grocery store. In person. Face to face. We spent time with each other and we talked on the phone; the kind that screwed into a wall or sat on a table with a cord attached. When we had an argument and one of us hung up as teenagers do, I couldn’t text her to apologize, I couldn’t run to Twitter to spew 160 characters of anger. I had to wait until the next day. When we were “going steady” it was official because we decided it was, not because my relationship status changed on Facebook. Social Media, online dating, etc has become the go-to for beginning and ending romances with the unfortunate consequence of pushing courting to the curb.

Growing up Connected

Our teenagers have grown up with the internet and most do not have any concept of life without instant access. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does change the social dynamic  quite a bit. Our kids no longer have to gather in the library together to study. They do it online. They no longer get together after school to hang out and gossip. All of this happens online and at times with tragic consequences. Bullying has bled out of the hallways and lunchrooms and into the chat room and more importantly, into the private bedrooms and living rooms of the victims. Where once bullying lived in the lunchroom where faculty and friends could witness and thereby stop or offer support, it has now been relegated to the victim’s private computer where parents might go unaware until tragedy strikes. It is absolutely the duty of every parent to understand what their kids are doing online until which time said child is recognized as developed enough to deal with the everyday pressures of the online community. The internet is not a babysitter and should never be used as one.

What can be done?

Our instant everything way of life isn’t going away, so what can we do to adapt? This is where communication must alter. There are extreme measures people have gone to such as swearing off social media. This won’t work for everyone. Open communication is still my favorite reprisal when someone comes to me for relationship advice. I’ve made plenty of mistakes both online and offline and I don’t consider myself an authority on relationships but for whatever reason, my friends are drawn to me with questions of “what to do”. Some of the advice I have given follows.

  • Talk. In person. – Body language and eye contact can never be replaced with text messages and Facebook statuses. The quality of conversation in person is drastically altered when you are making eye contact with someone you have an issue with.
  • Be understanding of a snap reaction. – They called you out online. In front of your friends and theirs. You are mad and your gut reaction is to retaliate. Online. Instead, contact them and ask them to speak to you over the phone or in person. There is absolutely no need to air the dispute in a public forum. Your friends do not need to be put in the awkward position of taking sides. If they refuse requests to talk in private and insist on using social media, perhaps it’s time to consider whether this person is mature enough to be in your life. Delete the status. If it persists, it’s time to block them until they cool down or come to you to discuss.
  • Don’t end relationships online if you can help it. – If it’s time to part ways with a friend or significant other and they are willing to speak with you offline, it is your duty to extend them the respect of communication. No one likes to wonder “why”. There are extenuating circumstances to this of course and you’ll make the judgement on those.
  • Plan “disconnects” – Something that some of my friends do from time to time is get together for dinner and when we sit down we place our phones in a pile in the middle of the table. The first one to pick their phone up gets the check. This can be done in a variety of ways and if you are dealing with social media issues involving your kids it can be something you do at home. You’ll be surprised at the amount of conversation spawned when everyone isn’t nose deep in their phones.
  • Utilize your online time to build offline relationships. – Social media, forums and chat rooms are amazing ways to meet people  and cultivate friendships, dating relationships, etc but they are nothing without face to face interaction. Get your online friends together for a meet and greet and get to know them offline.

There are many ways to positively utilize our online presence. The online community, just like any big city, has it’s beautiful parks and dark alleys. Navigating them in a way that brings the most positive experience to your life is something that only you can do. Trial and error are your friends here and finding your comfort zone between your online life and your offline reality can be tricky but it is achievable.

Why I’m not on the PS4 train… yet.

ps4-250x250On Friday at midnight, Sony launched it’s PS4 gaming console to droves of people waiting in lines all over the US. I was not one of them and as news pours in from new owners, I’m happy I didn’t pitch a tent at my local Game Stop.

I’ve been a fan of the PlayStation since it’s inception. I’m not a hardcore gamer like many of my friends but I enjoy an occasional game and I really love the PS3’s ability to be a media center.

Initial Release Jitters

There are throngs of people who follow the line of thinking which states: “Never buy the first year model of a new car line”. The idea around this is that “new things” including cars (and gaming consoles) are rushed to market without a thorough quality assurance test. While this may or may not be true in some, or all instances, the theory does hold some water. The news has already reported several issues regarding the PS4 and there are others to be found in comments on Amazon, etc.

Blue Light of Death

To be fair, it seems so far that the  “Blue Light of Death” is affecting only a handful of people. However, in the age of instant everything, a handful can start the ball rolling with unprecedented speed. Within a few days of release, Sony released a troubleshooting guide which includes the old stand by of “reboot it”. No word on whether the issue is user-serviceable or something that will have to be fixed by Sony.

Taking the media out of the media center

These days, everything from TV’s to phones have the ability to stream content, be it music or video. My Television, AppleTV, Phone, iPad, and my PS3 can all stream video and music from various places to my TV.

Why then did Sony take out the support for MP3 and DLNA (Streaming Video) on the PS4? Sony says it was “shocked by the passionate response” from people who learned that DLNA and MP3 was no longer supported. For the non-geeks out there let me quickly explain. DLNA is a protocol that allows you to stream video from a server on your local network. For example, I have a server which has hundreds of movies I’ve ripped from my personal Blu-Ray and DVD collection. If I want to watch something, I simply power up my PS3, look through the categories I set up and choose a movie. Simple as that. The movie streams from my little server and life is good. This was not included in the PS4, it is the biggest reason why I opted out of the pre-order and I’m not alone according to the masses. Sony says it will include it at some point and was surprised at the number of people who canceled pre-orders so I expect they will be adding it soon.

No more free online play

The one thing the PS3 always had over the XBox was that there was no charge for online play. For me this is big because I don’t game enough to justify paying a monthly fee for the “privilege” of using my own internet connection but the games I do play are all online with other live people all over the world. I’m also technical enough to know that Sony uses none, or very little of it’s infrastructure to host online gaming. When you boot up your Battlefield 4 or any other number of online games, you are connected to a central server. In the case of BF4, a server owned by EA Games. Where is Sony’s chip in this? No where except the development code that allows you a point-to-point connection to EA’s server. It’s pure profit. Long before consoles went online, we were playing first person shooters with our friends across the city without a monthly charge. Going back to the BF4 example, the PC based version still plays online without a charge.

Other things that might matter to you

There are a few other things that might sway decisions on whether to purchase a PS4.

  • No backward compatibility. This makes sense to me as a developer and would drive the price up but might influence a decision if you had hoped to play your PS3 games on the PS4
  • In order to stand vertical, you’ll need to buy a stand (available in December). This might not be a big deal to you but to an OCD guy like me, it matters. :)
  • It doesn’t support 4K. If you don’t know what this means, it probably doesn’t matter to you.
  • No wireless stereo headset support.

The Good, the Bad, The Ugly – A sum of all things

The good: The PS4 is a great offering for the gamer willing to pay for online play. The new Dualshock4 controllers are supposed to be superb and are getting amazing reviews. The PS4 is more “PC Like” as opposed to the PS3’s cell processor technology which was a PITA for game developers. Sony is embracing the Indie game designers and allowing their titles to be played without too much drama. It’s powerful. It’s pretty.

The bad: The online pay-to-play reminds us that the PS4 comes from a super-corporation who’s goal is to make money. The lack of DLNA and MP3 support along with the “shocked” response from Sony tells me that little R&D into the community was done.

The Ugly: So far the only “ugly” is the the Blue Light of Death. If I’d waited hours in line, I’d be upset too. The potential negative press from issues like this could drive down sales but in reality probably will have little effect as long as more issues don’t crop up.

 

 

 

Miley’s tongue

344-rolling-stones-tongue-vector-freeWhy is a nearly 40-year-old-man posting about Miley’s Cyrus’ tongue you ask? It’s a valid question, read on!

If you have kids or even if you don’t, you are probably familiar with Miley’s “tongue face” from her recent press coverage. While reading Rolling Stone recently, I came across this little article which explains why she sticks out her tongue for pictures and *shocker*, I can relate.

Excuses, Excuses…

I’ve been interested in photography since the eighth grade and a somewhat professional photographer since I figured out I could make a little spending money on it. For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard people yelling over a camera at me; “Kevin, stop using your fake smile!” and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been replying with “This is why I stay BEHIND the camera !”  –   I can’t smile. I just can’t. It’s awkward and more often then not I just end up making a funny face instead of trying to “smile for the camera”. It’s not that I DON’T smile. I do. Often. It’s just that as soon as someone sticks a camera in my face, I start over-compensating because I know I don’t have a good “photo smile”. I never spent time in the mirror perfecting my smile. I have to smile with my lips and face because my teeth are completely jacked up due to a bad chain of events (being corrected slowly but surely). The result is often a sneer or even a look of anger or boredom. I have figured out a few “smiles” that work for me which are not really smiles at all.

Do as I say, not as I do.

As a “somewhat professional” photographer, I often have to give advice to kids, models, clients, etc on what to do with their hands, arms and of course their faces. Being someone who has trouble smiling, this might seem ironic. Some of the worst offenders of the “fake smile” are kids. This is understandable to me because an awkward kid is exactly what I feel like when someone sticks a camera in my face. Adults have issues too as not all of us are blessed with that movie-star-grin. An old friend of mine who I’ve shot as a boudoir model, mom model and family model has the fake smile syndrome too. In her boudoir work I usually showcased her lines rather than straight on face shots because she, like myself, just goes completely jelly when faced with a camera. (She is now a photographer as well and probably deals with the same thing!) – Her natural smile is absolutely radiant but as soon as someone sticks a camera in her face…

Over the years, I’ve figured out a few ways to get subjects to relax and smile naturally on set (some of these work for me as well.)

  • Breathe through your nose. People of the females persuasion rarely have issues with this but we mouth-breathing-males spend a lot of time neglecting our nose for breathing. This also keeps your cheeks against your cheek bones which helps with your smile.
  • Set your shoulders back. In these days of computer chairs and terrible posture, people are used to being slumped over. Keep your back straight and your face and neck will follow.
  • Jut out your chin very slightly. This pulls the skin of your neck and jaw tight and makes your smile look more natural. You see all those pre-teen girls taking bathroom mirror shots on Facebook from an angle above them? This is why, it makes the face look slimmer and lips more prominent
  • Keep your lips moisturized. Chapped lips draw attention away from your smile and even after airbrushing, don’t look as natural as moisturized lips.
  • Don’t tense your jaw. I have this habit. It makes you look uncomfortable and angry.

There are many other little tricks I’ve come across or heard from other PhotoG’s but these are the most useful I’ve found that work. At the end of the day, the more relaxed you are during a shoot, the better the finished product will be. Photographers and Photo Editors are magicians with camera and software but we cannot make you look comfortable if you just aren’t!