Monday, September 28, 2009

Exchanging Camera Gear

Back in February,
I purchased a 50 mm f/1.4D Nikorr lens from a local camera shop. Several months later, I noticed a small chip in the middle of the glass behind the rear element. I need the lens as it's my main indoor glass, but know that the store has a 30-day exchange policy. I was able to get a new lens exchange the next day. Here's 9 steps to consider if you need to do the same:

  1. Try to arrive on a weekday, before the lunchtime rush. This way, If negotiations don’t go so well, you’ll have an audience that may play in your favor in case you have to raise your voice.
  2. Be courteous and understanding. Listen to the policy and ask clarifying questions so that they know they’ve been heard.
  3. Follow the procedures. If they want you to talk to a repair person, do so, but don’t loose sight of your goal.
  4. Ask for a manager. Many times, associate level employees have no power to bend the rules.
  5. Point out that you are a "good customer" and you want to “remain a good customer”. You also want to “continue to support local businesses”
  6. Ask the all important question: “Under what circumstances could the product be exchanged” This gets them to think of creative ways of helping you out.
  7. Point out that you were “sold a defective product” and that the store has been “enjoying your money” since the purchase date. Pause, don't speak. Let the pressure build.
  8. Be flexible. Understand that they still may not be able to grant you a replacement, but ask for a loaner while yours is being repaired.
  9. Be appreciative of their time and effort. If things play out to your advantage, buy something to show that you were serious about point #5 above.
I hope these are helpful suggestions for you. Please comment and add to the list If you have experience with other tips.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Strong Lines

When you look at a photograph, what makes it special to you? Have you ever stopped to figure out why the image is pleasing?

One element
of composition that works well in photographs is strong lines. We humans like to see things in straight lines. Our eyes naturally follow those lines and take our minds along with them. We take a little trip to see where the lines end up. If there's something of interest at the end of those lines, we get a little reward for our journey.

In the photo above,
the wooded fence, with its pattern of dark and light, work well to create strong lines. The small easel at the end of the pathway is bathed in bright light, which illustrates the point.

Lines can come from your subject as well. A well placed arm extending toward the camera lens will naturally take the viewer right to her face. With proper lighting (e.g. off camera flash) the composition will pop.

The next time
you are out and about, try looking for strong lines. Arms, legs, fences, and pathways all can work toward building a well composed image. Try placing your subject as a reward where the lines converge for an added bonus.

Give it a try, Pixels are free!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Where are you going with all of this?

Lately I've been pushing really hard to try and carve out a name for myself as a Photographer. I see the amazing work done by others in the field and aspire to be that good. I'm finding that it doesn't come easy.

I've racked
over 10,000 images in less than 9 months on my Nikon D90. I listen to podcasts, attend workshops, blog, and tweet. I have so far to go, and there are so many directions to turn. Its like Ive been driving in a hurry down a dark road and have no idea where I'm going. Some days, I think I know; Others, I have no idea....

A while ago I'd gotten in over my head. I had just finished a location shoot and an outdoor model shoot and spent way too many hours in Photoshop, neglecting my family. I was tired and excited all the same. My wife stopped me and asked a question that made me slam on the brakes hard:

"Where are you going with all of this?"

The question
took a few days to sink in. I felt the blackness of self doubt creeping up from below. Where am I going? Is this a phase? What do I want? Who do I want to be? Why?

I looked at the garage,
I have light stands, diffusers, reflectors, gaff tape on the floor. Hell, I even have a 9 foot long roll of white paper. Where am I going with all of this?

I look at the images
I've uploaded on iStock and Shutterstock. To date I've made $15.57. I had dreams of making enough to buy a new lens; to have a hobby that pays for itself. Wouldn't that be cool? New lens, new camera body, maybe even a Mac some day! But $15.57? Sheesh!??!!

I exchanged emails
with a Photographer who makes a living selling microstock images. She was very gracious in telling me that very few make what I make at my "day job". Photography is hard work, it would take years to reach that level because of the competition, and I'm kinda used to living in a nice neighborhood in the Bay Area. The voice inside of me whispers:

"Don't quit your day job"...

So this entry
is about readjustment. Its about a realization that its a hobby for me, not a vocation. Reflecting on what makes me happy leads me back home, to my lovely wife and great kids. I won't quit my day job. I like what I do!

I like taking pictures too. I like watching people when they see an image that touches them. I feel great inside. I'm slowly earning respect and admiration. I also like the way that the camera brings me closer to people; the way an image can make a friend.

For now,
I'm at peace with myself. I've realized that I'll never be the next McNally, DuChemin or even Arias. I'll never make a million selling my images, but....

I enjoy the learning! I know how to take a good picture now, how to compose, how an f/stop can say so much. I know how to approach a stranger for a photo, I know how to sell a microstock license, hell, I might even see one of my pictures in print someday.

I'll keep shooting. I'll keep pushing and driving. I still have no idea where I'm going, but...

I'll slow down and enjoy the journey and keep my family in focus too!


Friday, September 4, 2009


Patience and timing
are important elements in photography. My drive home from work usually takes me past rolling hills in the afternoon sun. One day, in early summer, I took a detour mainly to look for a nice sweeping vista to photograph. As I crested the hill, I saw this small neighborhood grape vineyard covered by bird netting. The glimmering leaves on the vines caught my eye so I slowed down and parked.

I scouted out the vines to see if there was a shot or two I could compose. There was this little pocket where the light was just right. Framed by branches and spiderwebs these lovely globes of light seemed to call to me.

I walked back
to my car to get the camera and made a few images. I was surprised that the bird netting wasn't all that detrimental to the shot. There is something to be said for having good glass in your lens. One thing to keep in mind is that sunlight changes quickly near the end of the day. If you take too long, you may end up with a nasty shadow in the way. Work fast!

Back at home, I spent some time in Photoshop cleaning up the image, removing some of the distracting elements. The "healing tool" works wonders for spiderwebs! I dodged (brightened) the center of the grapes to add interest; The eye is always drawn to the brightest thing in the frame.

Given that
it was early spring, these grapes are young and green. I was happy with the image, but wondered what it would be like as they ripened. I stopped by several times throughout the summer to have a look at how they were progressing.

In late August,
the time had come. Some of the bunches had already begun to turn to raisins. Harvest time was near. In this shot the grapes are translucent and glow yellow as they bask in the afternoon sun. This one makes my mouth water!

I'll close this entry by asking you to look around; Try a different road. See what you can see at that time, but imagine how things would change at different times of day, or at different time of the year. You'll often be surprised at what you find!