Struggles of a Prime Shooter

     Greetings once again to the blog. This week's post? Less of a tutorial and more of a confession. Like most art forms, there are tools that help us improve our craft. Be it newer/faster lenses, cameras, lights, microphones etc. Unfortunately, most of us (like myself) aren't fortunate enough to be able to purchase said gear. For the past year, I have been shooting with two lenses primarily. The Rokinon 14mm T/3.1 Cine and the Canon 40mm F/2.8 specifically. They're both fantastically sharp and perform pretty well in low light as well (being both are at F/2.8). However, just using these two lenses haven't been to my advantage.

One of my favorite shots with my 14mm prime. Yes, it's manual focus. Yes, it can be used at a location for amazing photos and video.

     Recently, I was assisting a photoshoot with a photographer and noticed one thing about my work... I HAVE to have the two lenses! There's no escaping it. I have to bring the 40mm and the 14mm lens. For slower events, this is no big deal. However, I wasn't assisting a slow event. I was moving around, and fast. I sometimes didn't even bring one of the lenses only because I feared dropping it while shooting. That would have rendered me literally "fixed."

     However, even with this hinderance I was still shooting in this system. Why? These lenses are sharp. Period. Nothing comes close to the 14mm at this price, and the 40mm has a legend all its own. But I know this can't last, especially since I'm going to be doing more shoots involving high action and a fast pace. I needed a new lens. That is why I recently picked up the Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 Macro. After using it for a month, I can absolutely say it's my favorite walk-around lens.

This was taken with the Sigma 17-70 @ 17mm & f/3.5.

     Expect a full review on this lens once I get to know it better. Until then, this has been your dose of the Tem.Teen Studios blog post. I will see you back next time for a whole new post. Take care everyone!

Finding the Flaw: A Lesson in Being Thorough About Backing Up

     Working with media on a regular basis means you have to have storage for them. In the good old days of film, the type of storage used were cabinets. Instead of cabinets, we use HDD's & SSD's. Unfortunately, unlike cabinets, HDD's can fail. And even though it's less likely, their motionless cousins SSD's can fail too. Fortunately, we backup our data... right? Well for the longest time, for me the answer was no. And this last weekend, I suffered the consequences.

My portable setup to counteract the problem I had.

My portable setup to counteract the problem I had.

     A couple days ago, my computer wouldn't turn on. After several failed attempts to restart, I took my old HDD out and booted externally off of that. This time, the computer booted up just fine. This led me to believe that the internal SSD itself was the issue. And after running some diagnostics, it only confirmed my suspicions. Fortunately, it appeared to be a logic failure. This meant that I could reformat the drive, and it will be working properly once again. Unfortunately... my most recent backups were from February... and I had just shot a band the week prior. If I reformatted the drive, I would have lost the shots. But if I did format the drive, my computer would be up and running again. So... I decided to bite the bullet and go through the process.

     I reformatted the drive, reinstalled OS X Yosemite, and recovered what I could. But after getting the computer running for 12hrs, it shut down again. To be honest, I was angry that it didn't work. However, this time I had the idea of reading the SSD OUTSIDE the computer. And something happened... It turned on! This meant that either the SATA connection is bad, or the motherboard wasn't reading the drive. Unfortunately... this also meant I reformatted for nothing. I could have pulled the drive out and docked it externally. Oh well... the next time this happens I'll know what to do.

     After this incident, I'm going to be more careful about backups. And now, I implement some new techniques in my backup routine:

My internal structure for Lightroom. Now all I have to do is re-log into my account if I lose them ever again.

My internal structure for Lightroom. Now all I have to do is re-log into my account if I lose them ever again.

  1. I link my photos directly into a Box account. When I import my photos into Lightroom, they are immediately synced to the cloud, along with all the changes I made to the photos.
  2. I clone my internal drive on a regular basis with Carbon Copy Cloner. This is to ensure I have a completely bootable backup incase it actually brakes on me.

     These two techniques are to make sure I never lose my data. Of course, something will go wrong. But when it does, I hope to be prepared.

It's not the camera! Part 2

This is the second installment in this two-part series. To read the first article, you can do so by clicking this sentence.

     As promised last week, I'll be telling you the funny story about gear. This happened in March of 2013. I was a novice photographer at the time. I knew how to use Manual mode, and knew what each aspect of the exposure triangle did. So keep that in mind when reading.

     I went to go see some family who were staying at the Marriott in San Diego. While they were talking, I went around and took some photographs of the hotel. Now there was a flower in a vase that wasn't the most interesting thing on earth. I decided to drag the shutter while using the pop-up flash, and with these results:

     While I was taking the pictures, this lady came up and decided to take photos of the same flower. And what was she using to take the photos? Just the CANON 5D MARK III AND THE CANON EF 50MM F/1.2 LENS (total price of the setup... $5,000)! I'm thinking to myself, "Oh man, she's going to whip my butt..." But after about five minutes of us looking at each other, I decided to show her the back of my camera... and her jaw dropped at what I was taking. She was asking me "how I did it," "how can she do it," and (my favorite question of that day) "can you use my camera to shoot that"... How could I pass up an offer to use that setup?!

     She hands me the camera and I hit the playback button to see what the previous photos were taken at. And she was shooting at f/16, 1/200 shutter speed, and around 6400 ISO.... If you know anything about photography, you would know immediately her settings were WAY OFF. After calling that to her attention, I explained to her how to expose properly indoors and how to get nicer images. I then proceeded to show her how to look for the right composition and make the photos more interesting. After that, she thanked me and went on her way.

     What's the moral of this story? For me, it made me realize that... even though she had the better gear, I was taking better photos. It really IS the photographer taking the photograph.

     I hope this series has motivated you to go out and shoot/learn what you can with what you have. And once you make the money upgrade, you'll know what to use and how to use it.

And as always, there will be a new post up next week. Until then, thanks for reading.

It's not the camera! Part 1

     Time for another gear related rant. You can check out my last one here on The Ethics of Photoshop.

     The other day I was showing someone my portfolio and the first comment he said was, "You must have a really nice camera." And my face went blank. Why did my face go blank? Because, for a photographer, that's the biggest insult you can get.

     I'm first going to preface and say yes, the gear does matter a lot. Take a look at these two photos of the Blood Moon this last month:

T1i with a 300mm lens

T1i with a 300mm lens

iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S

     As you can obviously see, the photo on the left looks much better than the photo on the right. That IS because of the gear I used for the first one. But that is also because I know what I'm doing.

     The idea of, "if I only had the (insert camera company and model), I would be a great photographer!" is just nonsense. That's like saying, "if I only have this pot and that spice, I'll be able to cook like Emeril Lagasse!" or "if I only had these paints and brushes, I could paint like Pablo Picaso!" Do these last two statements make sense? Not at all! So why would a new camera make you a better photographer?

     It's like any skill that has to be taught. You can't just pick up a camera and expect to be Jerry Ghionis. And to prove it, here is one of my first images back in 2011:

     Don't think they'll win any awards in Popular Photography. But I kept at it and practiced my craft until I took this photo a few months ago:

     And the fun bit is... these are the same camera. Now... I'm not saying that a newer camera won't make a difference. What I am saying is that, like any trade, the camera is only as good as the person taking the photo. And I have a funny story about that, but I'll save it for the part two of this post.

     That's it for now. Tune in next week for It's not about the camera! Part 2. Until then... ¡Hasta la vista! Baby!

The Ethics of Photoshop

     Welcome back to the Tem.Teen Studios blog! Today's post is going to be... a little bit of a rant on... not so much Photoshop (and software similar to it) per say... but on what people think you can do with it.

     Most of us photographers sometimes say, or at least heard someone say, "Just fix it in Photoshop." And in most circles, you can fix some things in Photoshop. If the image is over exposed, you can fix it. If there are a few blemishes on the skin, you can fix it. If there's a person that shouldn't be in the photo, you can fix it. And that's... where I have the issue.

     Lately I've had friends ask me to remove people from their images. Be it from photobombs, or they just don't like them in the photo. If they're photobombs, I generally will fix them. But if they come to me with, "Can you remove this person from the photo? I don't like that he's/she's in it." I respond and respectfully tell them, "Sorry, but no." Not because I can't remove them, which most of the time I can. But because I don't feel that that's right, for a number of reasons.

     The first reason is because: It makes you lazy. Let's say you're taking street photos, and your mentality is to "fix it in Photoshop." You could take a photograph with 10 people, and remove them until there's just one or two left. You don't have to wait for the good shot. While it is a lot of work to remove people from an image, to me it's just lazy. You could have waited say, 10 minutes, and waited for eight of those people to have walked away. That leaves just the two people. Now you take the picture, and you don't need to do as much work on it. To me, this is a lot better than "fixing" it. It also saves time. Which is the second issue I have with the "fix it in Photoshop" mentality.

To get this shot, I had to wait. I took at least 30 images, and spent 20 minutes before this one. But, as you can see, it certainly payed off.

To get this shot, I had to wait. I took at least 30 images, and spent 20 minutes before this one. But, as you can see, it certainly payed off.

     The second reason being: It takes time. I don't know if anyone out there reading this has removed a person from an image with Photoshop, but it's not "click & drag." You have to go through layers, copy parts off the image, re-insert them over the person, blend them to mesh together... you get the idea. And usually It takes me about 20 minutes to remove someone (and make it look convincing). Taking our example from earlier and removing 8 people, that's two hours and 40 minutes. Imagine if you waited 10 minutes while taking the photos, you wouldn't have to waste almost three hours "fixing" it.

Nikolai is in the top photograph, but not in the bottom one.

Nikolai is in the top photograph, but not in the bottom one.

     The third reason is: It promotes the ideals of Joseph Stalin and Communist Russia in the 1940s. Just bear with me, it'll make sense. During the 1930s - 40s, Russia was under the rule of Joseph Stalin. Under his rule, a lot of things happened, some good but mostly bad. And anyone who opposed him... met their quick and fatal demise. But that wasn't enough for Stalin. He wanted that person wiped out of existence. And in the case of Nikolai Yezhov, that happened. The top picture was taken in the 1930s, when he and Stalin were on good terms with each other. But he slowly lost that favor, and in 1939, he was arrested. And in 1940, executed. Later in the same decade, the bottom photo was published. With Nikolai Yezhov removed completely.

     How does this pertain to the "fix it in Photoshop" mentality? Because Joseph Stalin removed people he didn't want in the photographs. That to me is like saying, "These people shouldn't be there, and they don't matter." I can't come to terms with that mentality. Every person matters, be it in a photobomb, or if they're just there to enjoy the shade of the tree at the park.

     And finally, the last reason I don't agree with this mentality is because: I pride myself as an archivist. To me, if a photo isn't how I saw it, it's altered. And sometimes that isn't bad. I do use Photoshop (and similar software) constantly. But my philosophy with editing stems from the ideals of Robert Rodriguez Jr. He says he tries to edit in such a way where no one sees the changes. Similarly, I try to keep my edits as minimalistic and as simple as possible. To me, if you don't notice my edits, it means I did an excellent job at them, and I can pat myself on the back.

     Just to clarify things... I DO remove things from backgrounds. Be it trash, belongings, and yes, sometimes people. If I'm taking a photo of someone's surfboard for example,  and their foot is photobombing, I remove it. But I take all my rules into account. I ask myself, could I go back and reshoot the photo? Would it take to long to remove it? Would I be erasing that person from existence? And would it make the little archivist in me cringe? If everything checks out, I go and do it. But if it's just a man sitting on the bench minding his own business, I don't dare remove him from the image... unless he asked to be out of it of course. :-)

There were some people on the beach in the original photo, but you could hardly see them. Therefore I decided to remove them without cringing.

There were some people on the beach in the original photo, but you could hardly see them. Therefore I decided to remove them without cringing.

If you want to continue reading about this topic, check out the post done by Jeff Cable: Are we Photographers... or Plastic Surgeons?

That's all for now. If you've read all the way through to the end, I want to say thank you. Until next time...

George is outta here! :-D