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Black, Dramatic Lighting

The other day my friend Randy was over at the house since I needed a model for some lighting techniques I wanted to try.  Leif (my oh-so-helpful husband) refused to model, and as us photographers know, it's hard to set up lighting and get the focusing correct if you're the model, so that left Randy.  He had no problems coming to help me.

I had seen this particular lighting technique several times before.  First was at Photoshop World, second was in Scott Kelby's Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it seminar, and thirdly (and the one that reminded me I wanted to try it), was on an old post at Glyn Dewis' blog.

Roughly, and using my notes from all those sources, this is the setup I used.

The background doesn't matter since the light isn't pointed at it at all, and by having your subject look right into the light, they'll get the most light on their face, with it slowly falling off.  I've seen a bunch of people do black and white conversions for this type of photo, but I kind of like the color version.

It took several (several....) tests of strobe power, distance of subject from light, etc to get it right, but in the end, this is the result I got.

Always Bring Your Credential Approval

We live in a technology age where everything is done via email, social media, and other technological means.  Our email archives are chock full because we can easily search (well, if you use anything other than MacOS X Lion Mail, but that's a different story) to find what we're looking for.

So when I tell you what Alan Hess told me, which is to always print out your concert credential approval, a lot of you are going to laugh and say "well I can always get it on my phone if needed."  However, I ran across a time last week where I did need it, and it was helpful to not have to search for it on my phone.

I had emailed back and forth with the Sister Hazel publicist a few weeks ago, and had filed away the email where she had given me approval to shoot, and printed it out while getting my gear ready for the concert.  On Wednesday evening, I showed up to the venue. The venue manager was in the box office, and was completely confused when I said I was picking up a photo credential.  There was no list, he didn't know I had prior approval, and definitely wasn't going to just randomly let me in with all my gear.  

At that point I reached into my pocket, and whipped out the approval email from the publicist.  He took it (see, another reason you want to print it out - so random manager doesn't take your phone) and went to contact the tour manager backstage.  I'll note that it was about 30 degrees outside, and I was wearing a thin sweatshirt since I normally leave my jacket in the car so I don't have to deal with it (another reason to print it out - so you don't have to stand in the cold searching for that email).  

A few minutes later he comes back and has made up a photo wristband and instructed the door guys and security at the front to let me shoot.  Apparently the tour manager also thought I was a random person just showing up, and said "no," but once the venue manager showed him the email from the publicist, he had no problems with letting me in.  I thanked the venue manager for his help, went in, shot the standard three songs per band (two openers and the main) from the side like I always do at this venue, and went about my merry way.

Always have a printout, it just makes things much easier.

It's Not Just About the Big Tricks

I absolutely love watching extreme sports, especially skiing, snowboarding, and motocross.  And I'm not talking about races, I'm talking about tricks.  I love watching Moto-X even though I'm convinced those guys are all going to kill themselves, I love watching Shaun White get big air,and I love watching ski jumping.

However each of those events isn't just about the big tricks.  It's about the emotion of the riders, the falls, the minor details that we all forget about.  I posted a big air trick in my last post, but I want to use this post to show something different.

As I was watching the Winter Dew Tour Men's Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifiers, I noticed this one landing that a lot of the riders were having problems with.  I don't know if it was icy or what, but a lot of them were botching the landing by either falling or putting a hand down.  I also noticed that whenever they'd do one of the former, you'd get a nice spray of snow, so I spent some time trying to compose a picture with that landing.

Look around when you're shooting an event like this. Big tricks and big air are great, but look for other details as well.

Don't Forget - This is Supposed to Be Fun

I was reading an article recently on the Going Pro blog, and this one section caught my eye, and I found myself nodding profusely at it:

"So, for those of you who stay awake at night worrying about your business or wondering when the Success Fairy is going to tap you on the shoulder – relax and just keep working hard. Keep building your network. Keep fine tuning your skills. Stay focused on your marketing…but stop worrying about success."

I've been very guilty lately of overstressing about everything.  "When is this going to happen?"  "Why are these people getting paid for this when all their photos are blurry?" "Am I wasting my time doing this?"  We can't live our lives worrying about other people, and stressing about everything.  Not only is it going to drive us nuts, but it's going to drive the people around us nuts as well.  I don't know about you guys, but my life is much better when I'm not overly worried about everything, because honestly, I do have much more important stuff in my life that I could worry about (and I do, but it's just not at the forefront all the time).

The big question though I finally found myself asking after reading this was, "am I working my hardest at this," and when I found the answer was "no", I resolved to take it to that next level, and push myself to do the best that I can do.  After that, I just have to shrug my shoulders and see what happens next.

I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing, step it up some more, and attempt to sit back and relax, and just enjoy shooting!


Followup: Where to Find Contact Info for Publicists

I wanted to do a quick addendum to the post I did about a month ago on finding out publicist contact info.  That was dedicated to finding the publicist for a band. But there's a key person I completely left out. While I like contacting the publicist directly, what if you can't find them?  What do you do?  Well, contact the promoter of the show!  They'll have direct access to the publicists and can help you get a photo credential.  

So that begs the question, how do you find out the promoter?  Around here, it's a lot by venue, and there's only two main promoters (AEG or Livenation).  Call up the venue, ask them who's promoting a particular show, and more often than not, you'll get a phone number.  Then you have a direct line to the promoter to phrase your request.  Call the number, they'll probably give you an email address.  For the local AEG affiliate, they even said I can email any of the promoters in the office (there's apparently only three), and they'll forward it to the correct one, assuming it's an AEG show.

The downside I've found with this is that the promoter will normally not find out until the day before or the day of the show if they can get you a photo pass, so you need to be willing to move at a moment's notice. I haven't had that experience with the publicists - I've known normally a couple weeks in advance.  But the two times I've contacted a show's promoter I've found out that day if I got cleared or not.

It's Not Always All About Photography

I absolutely love photography, as I'm sure many others of you do too.  I love shooting sports and concerts, and love looking at what cool photos I got from each event. I enjoy learning how I could take certain shots better, and what shots worked that I should make sure to get the next time I do a similar event.

With that being said, no matter what type of photography (or job) you do, don't forget that life isn't just all about that!  Take some time out every once in awhile to do something completely different. I'm not just talking about spending time with your family, since you should be doing that anyways, I'm talking about another hobby that you may have, or something else that you want to learn about, without worrying about ISO or depth of field.

Today I went dirt biking with my friend Randy. I'm a much worse rider than he is (I just started late last year), but it's something I've been trying to get better at, yet I haven't had a whole lot of free time to do. He took me to Rampart Range and was very patient with my quirks about hills, and how slow I was riding.  He helped me become a better rider, even in just the few hours we were out there.  I had a lot of fun, even without my camera.

It's not always all about photography.

(photo from 2010)

Tags: tips

Meeting People at Photoshop World

When I tell people I know now that I used to be the quiet one when I was a kid, nobody believes me.  It's completely true!  I don't know when I made the transition from "don't talk to anybody" to "talk to everybody", but I think it was sometime in college.  Having just come back from my third Photoshop World, and hearing people tell me, "wow, you know everybody,"  makes me happy. Also hearing from people "I went to Photoshop World by myself, didn't know anybody, and had a horrible time," made me realize I should share what how I got to this point. 

When I went to my first Photoshop World a year ago, I didn't know ANYBODY. Not kidding. I went by myself.  I knew one person's name from the NAPP forum, but didn't run into him until later in the week.  A year later, I had so many people I wanted to see, I had the two days before the conference even started planned.

Photo by Erik Valind

Stop Caring So Much What Other People Think
A lot of people are so worried if someone else will or will not like them, that they won't even take the chance to go talk to them. Well, you're not talking to them now, so if they don't like you and don't want to talk to you in the future, you're not any worse off.  And seriously, are you happy just sitting there miserable not talking to anybody?

A quick story. I had just walked into the tweetup with my friend Bill, and walked by a table with random people sitting at it. As we walked by, I smiled at them. One of them jumped up and said, "hi, I'm Matt, this is my first PSW." I talked to him for a few minutes, and also throughout the tweetup.  Later in the week, I was participating in one of those vendor expo hall "be the first 5 people to X booth and you'll win Y" things. I had been standing next to the booth, so was the first one there.  Three others showed up quickly.  I saw Matt talking to someone on the other side of the booth, and they were pointing him over to us.  I yelled his name, he heard me, ran over, and became the 5th person.  I had met him at the tweetup, so was able to help him later in the week win a cool bag.

Jump in to a Conversation
Obviously not every venue is easy to do this in, but at PSW, where you're going to have something in common with most everybody, jump into a conversation. Now you don't have to talk immediately, but honestly I've found a lot of times it's as easy as going up to a group, listening to what they're saying, jump in when possible, and introduce yourself. A simple, "hi, I'm so-and-so - I don't know you" usually works.  I've never found a group of people that didn't want to meet other new people.  The Tweetup on Tuesday night is a great place to do this.

Talk to People in Your Classes
Don't get to a class session late, and don't sit by yourself. Get there early, sit around other people, and try and engage them in conversation.  If they brush you off, so what. If they don't, you'll know somebody.  I've met several people at PSW that way that I talk to constantly.

Photo by Trish Logan

Don't Do Non-PSW Things Unless It's With Other People
Stay in the expo hall until it closes - get to know the vendors that you're interested in.  Don't hang by yourself at the pool.  You're at Photoshop World, you can hang by a pool anywhere.  Hear about an unofficial gathering which is open to everyone such as a photowalk? Do it!  I saw a bunch of photowalks being planned on the NAPP forums and the #psw hashtag.  It's a great way to meet people.

Get to Know the Vendors
While this might not work all the time depending on how crowded their booth it, don't just watch the software demo, actually talk to the vendor.  Ask questions about the product, tell them how you're planning on using it.  

Don't Be a Fanboi to the Instructors
All the instructors are normal people who just happen to be really good at something. I'm sure if asked, they'd prefer it if people didn't freak out when they saw them.  Obviously it's ok to say "hi, I really enjoyed your class" if you see them outside of class, or ask them a question, but don't do the "OMG OMG OMG You're (insert random instructor here)!!!! You're AWESOME! I LUV YOU!!!".  Bonus tip: if you see them at the bar, offer to buy them a drink. 

Get on Social Media
Many, many, MANY attendees of PSW are on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.  Twitter even has the #psw hashtag.  There are also the NAPP forums if you're a member.   Find some of these people beforehand, start following them, comment on their posts, and trust me, they'll be happy to see a familiar name at PSW.  I was waiting for an onOne Software demo to start, when somebody tapped me on the shoulder and said he recognized my name from Google Plus.

Find Something in Common
Everybody has a PSW nametag on. See somebody from the same state? Same city? Like someone's t-shirt?  Like someone's camera?  Tell them! It's an immediate conversation starter.  I've so far only had 1 person not be open to this.  It actually happened on this PSW.  I saw someone with a nametag from Winter Park, CO, so I said, "I'm from Colorado and go to Winter Park all the time, where about do you live there?" He replied, "good for you."  So I left.  And that goes back to my "stop caring what other people think" above. He obviously wasn't open to conversation, so move on to the next person.

For a lot of people, all of this will definitely be out of your comfort zone, but it's a great way to meet new people in an unfamiliar setting.

Where to Find Contact Info for Publicists

The other day I wrote a post about Finding Out About Events.  So now that you've found out a specific event you want to cover, how do you figure out the person to contact?

I've had a much easier time finding out the publicist for sporting events (National motocross, drag racing, etc...) than for bands.

1) Event or band website

For big sporting events, a lot of times you can go specifically to the website set up for the event, and find a media contact.  Sometimes it's under the "Contact" section, sometimes there's a particular media section where you can locate an email address. Other times it's listed in their calendar section when they list specific dates.  When in doubt, send a general email to any "info" address listed asking who to contact for press credentials.

Bowling for Soup, Jaret Reddick, music, concert

2) Facebook Fan Page

Believe it or not, this has become a great source of figuring out the publicist for bands.  For certain bands that just don't have it listed anywhere on the website, a lot of times if you go to their Facebook Fan Page, and click on the Info tab, they'll have the publicist name. Sometimes you'll get lucky and the email address will also be listed. If not, that's what web searches are for.

3) Call the Venue

The venue where the event is booked most likely has a media contact on file. They obviously have to talk to somebody if there's a problem.  Call the venue, explain who you are, and what you want, and see if they can get you an email address or phone number.  

4) Performer forums

Some of the performer websites will have their own forums.  In some cases, somebody in the past has asked who the publicist is, and hopefully gotten an answer. If not, create an account, and just ask the question.  The really big fans of that performer will, for some reason, know the contact.

5) Good 'ol Fashioned Web Search

Sometimes doing a search for "Band X publicist" will yield something. Just be careful and make sure the results are current. Bands will sometimes switch publicists, so you don't want to contact somebody old.  Current press releases will have information sometimes.

Colorado Skysox, baseball

6) When in Doubt, Contact the Twitter Account or Facebook Page

This has only worked for me once, but then again, I've only had to use it once. It's basically a crapshoot since the event/band/group Twitter account can get flooded.  If all else fails, and you absolutely can't figure out a contact, drop a tell to their Twitter account, or post on their Facebook Fan Page.  I've used it once (for the Metal Mulisha, and I think I got lucky in getting a response as timely as I did), so I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

In many cases, the first person I've contacted has actually not been the correct one. For whatever reason, the information I've gotten has just been *slightly* out of date.  In every case however, that person has forwarded my email to the correct one.  Usually it's just a case of somebody else in their media company taking over publicity duties.

What do you do if you absolutely can't find a contact? Move on to something else! It's not the end of the world!