Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I don't know about you, but when actually start to study a topic I already know something about, I often see the baby flying out in a large splash of bathwater before I pull it back in. Or less terribly-worded, I jump into the new ideas, ignoring what I already know, but eventually find the right combination of new and old experience.

Politics - what's the old saying? You're a democrat until the government takes your money, and then you go republican. I'd like to think that as we become more exposed to life, the intelligent among us start to see the subtleties and realities that we missed in our younger rose-coloured days. We find what we're passionate about, or what makes sense to us, and follow that path. Some eschew all materialism and build a cabin the woods to live off the land while giving all their possessions to an orphanage. Others become birthers who move to a cabin in the woods afraid the gubmint is gonna take their teeth. Most find a happy medium where they develop an opinion about stuff and continue on with their daily lives, adjusting as needed.

Poker? Read Harrington, or Negreanu, go through a thread on a forum about small ball, and our game changes overnight. Suddenly we're playing crap for small bets or checking M constantly to determine if our JTo is push-worthy. Inevitably, sticking "to the book" results in being very easy to read and control. Good players adapt and find some combination of lessons that fits their situation. Changing gears and all that.

We read about someone who took their own path and found a life model that made them rich and successful. Suddenly, what they did is what we're going to do, with no consideration for the differences in our situations. You can't invent a second pet rock and expect it to sell as well as the first.

No, eventually the excitement of our "discovery" of new methodologies wanes, and our old practices start to reassert themselves. These former rivals often find a means of melding into a new outlook that often works better, for us, than either did by themselves.

I'm slowly coming to that stage in photography. I find I'm swinging wildly between old habits and new lessons. I long ago started filtering the information being fed to me through a screen of care/don't care, but now I'm starting to see what's left behind.

We covered portraits a few weeks back, something I've never really done. I learned something - I hate portraits. I can't help but think that a couple pieces of advice from the teacher might have changed that mindset a bit. Even so, posing someone, checking lighting while the subject is in flux, and trying to make a living, breathing, feeling person look good is a collection of things I don't like. If you take a bad picture of a landscape, the landscape isn't going to care, and it will still be where you left it. The whole class was me trying to apply the various points of instruction from the previous week. I was a bit stressed, and fairly unhappy by the end. I looked at the hundreds of shots I took during that session, and was glad I only had to find 5-10, since I dislike most of them. I had applied none of the things I've learned in the past, and my shots look like those of a raw newbie. I'll see what I can fix in post.

But then we did black and white photography - another area I have zero experience in. This time, I had much more fun. I can look back and see various reasons - subjects that don't move or care what their picture looks like, more real-time advice from the instructor, and a bit more comfort in the studio after the portraiture session. But I think the key change was me tossing aside some of the opinions that had been pressed on us and going with what I knew. My tripod was out early and my camera stayed on it. My Promote Control was attached and I was bracketing shots for HDR use later. I switched between prime and zoom lenses as needed (although I pretty much stuck with my macro by the end). I went back into a comfort zone I've known for years and found the right amount of new education to bring in. Looking through the, again, hundreds of images from that session, I loved most of them. I'm in the process of whittling down the count to a displayable number, some HDR, some not.

I think my favourite part of that session was when the teacher was talking to my group towards the end. I had my camera 6ft in the air on the tripod, control in my hand, and I fired off 9 bracketed shots. The "what the hell is he doing?" look crossed the teacher's face, which one of my partners graciously responded to with "HDR" in a tone that said, "he's been doing this all class." El instructo thought for a second, said, "Black and white HDR?" thought some more, and then said "That could be really interesting."

Considering HDR is all about light and texture, the same areas that B&W focuses on, I had thought the same thing.

Favourite shot from the session so far:


Friday, March 18, 2011

Why You're Failing

It isn't, as you say, because there's so much competition in the business. Or because everyone has the basic technology at home and don't want pros to do it. Hell, it might not even because you're an arrogant douchebag.

Actually, that last one is probably why.

Here's the thing. You started the class by telling the teacher, who has decades of experience and seems to make a pretty good living doing his thing, that you had all the latest brand-name gear because your clients always asked what brands you used. He replied that he's never been asked that, and uses supplies from hardware and dollar stores.

You told him your camera didn't have a very basic setting that every camera has. He told you that you had to be wrong. You disagreed. You were.

We were told to bring in at MOST 50 pictures to the assignment review. Most people brought 25-50. You brought 300, claiming you read every line of the assignments and took a "scientific approach" to them. You obviously missed the lines that told you how many shots to bring in. You also failed to apply the science of "gee, will anybody in the class dedicate the time to look at 300 pictures? How could I possibly display that many?". Everybody tuned out when you tried to show stuff, most of us laughed about it.

The class has preached simplicity in lighting. Direct quotes from the guy you said "it is an honour to learn from" - "You don't need more than 1, maybe 2 lights and reflectors." "Learn how to use one light before using two." "The biggest mistake I see in lighting is people pulling out more and more lights to control shadows instead of using only a couple properly". So what do you do on the lighting class? Pull out 5 lights, 2 reflectors, and 4 partitions to light your model. Why? Because you know what you're doing of course. The fact most of the class lined up to take pictures of your model had little to do with your lighting skill and more to do with your model and the fact most of the class are sheep. Some of us didn't climb your stepladder to get the shot, and the person grading you sat against the wall chatting with those who weren't dazzled by your bullshit.

When asked why you're taking the class, you replied "so I can get my degree, because I've been doing commercial photography for years now but can't get some jobs without paper to back it up." I'm pretty sure the teacher rolled his eyes.

There's more, but my brain hurts every time you speak.

No, your business is getting tougher not because of outside factors, but because you're too fucking arrogant to figure out what an unpleasant moron you are. It's hard because you've spent your money on time on things you don't need and for advice you don't take. You give off an aura of "who the fuck is this asshole?" the minute you open your trap. Eventually you'll be holding hand puppets at the Sears portrait studio and blaming the Internet for your lot in life... while people who stopped looking for excuses and started fixing their own issues will still be doing what they love, and getting paid by your former clients.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

On Post-Processing

Years ago I bought my first digital camera. A Pentax Optio 555 point-and-shoot. I loved that little beast. It went to Key West, Banff, and Israel with me along with anywhere else I went. At the time, I was newly transitioned from using film cameras, and didn't do anything in the way of post-processing. I like the pictures well enough, but looking back years later, I've realized what an important part of the process a little editing is.

Case in point, a shot from my trip to Banff in 2006:

An odd white balance, too much boring sky, lots of white, and what I saw vs what I shot are worlds apart.

The other day I started with picture #1 in my Lightroom catalogue and started working forwards. This may have been the most striking change so far:

And the changes weren't major - the white balance was corrected to give a colder tone, the contast increased, noise reduced, and most importantly, the image was cropped to focus on what I was attempting to make the subject in the first place - the line of the fence. Being a slave to the 2x3 aspect ratio that most cameras have (so you can get nice tidy 4x6 photos) results in so much wasted space.

Too much contrast? Too sharp? Too blue? Maybe, but those things are easily changed and tweaked.

When I stopped being afraid of changing what came out of my camera, and when I finally learned how to use something other than Photoshop for adjustments, I started feeling a lot better about the pictures I produce.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Poker? Here?

Another month goes by, so I should post again. Plus, I've somehow managed a few links from other blogs today it seems. Best to use that traffic, right?

There's always plenty rattling around this head o' mine, but I obviously have been sending it out in snippets on Twitter more than the long-form this area is better suited for.

So let's talk Poker. After all, this is, nominally at least, a poker blog.

(I feel I should link the word Poker to some site... how about this one)?

I played in the Mookank (Dankie? Daokankie?) last night, I believe my first appearance since this Donkey Island Survivor Poker thing started. Not that I'm part of either team or in any way involved (unless I am Julius Goat, in which case I'm chin deep in it). But hey, more people playing! More fun! And also, I kind of miss poker, even though I've sucked HARD at it the few times I've played the past few months.

So I signed up and kicked ass. Right up until Bam Bam left the rail and I got my 3rd pocket rockets - except this time they didn't hold up and went down in flames to a rivered set of Jacks. Out 14th. But before that, I was bluffing, and trapping, and catching, and playing like a jerk and winning, and all that fun stuff I do so love about the game. Still, I have informed the Bammer that he has been exiled from the province of Ontario (he can still visit) and must now spend his days in sunny Saskatchewan, where an eye can be kept on him from a safe distance. That's right, jinx me at the online felt by leaving to get a scotch and you'll find yourself in the corn field.

If nothing else, it primed the pump for Poker Stars' $5 mill anniversary game this Sunday. As Drizz pointed out - how often does a Lambo get to park in my garage? (Answer: not often). The $1 mil wouldn't be too shabby either, if not exactly enough to retire on. I should just have to navigate 50,000 other donkeys or so and I'll be just fine. Maybe I should take Monday off now so I can rest after my epic run ending in my 49,936th place finish. 200-some dollars well spent for sure.

Back to Donkey Survivor - congrats to Goat on a well-executed concept. For now at least, our wee little group has seem revitalized. With nothing particularly serious on the line, the trash-talk, blog posts, and general fun of our online meetings has grown again. Thanks to Buddydank too for keeping the home fires burning as the Mookiedank dwindled to a 2-table home game. Let's hope the yeoman work he and the rest of the BDR crew put in every week pays off with people sticking around again this time. Oh, and while I'm at - good on Hoyazo for keeping the pot stirred during all this. Even after getting KO'd early on, he's posting novellas about the games and so-called strategy coming into play. Now if we could only get the synopses back up...