Only One Thing Stands between Thinking About It and Getting it Done... by Scott Cook

I heard someone say the other day the only thing that stands between thinking about doing it and getting it done is doing it.

Procrastination is easy, and I have a black belt in it. For example, over the years I've always said to myself "one of these days I'm going to get me a website." That day came when I finally bit the bullet, decided I'd start a photography website, and also blog about what I learn (and photography related stuff that interests me) so that maybe someone else can learn too.

When I began to search for domain names I found that all the normal ways of using my name, and my name + "photo" or "photography" .com were already grabbed up (albeit by much better photographers). So I'm stuck with ScottDASHCook. My bride is an artist, and the offspring is getting into photography, so after learning three things:

  1. Domains are cheap; and,
  2. Groovy names go fast; and,
  3. If you snooze you lose.

I decided to go ahead and get other domains in standby in the event we do a website as a family (and yes, all the good ones were already taken, but one was for sale for $4,000).

And yet another example: I put off shooting because, as I said, I'm a black belt in procrastination. I'll tell myself the light/sky/whatever will be better tomorrow, I don't feel like dealing with traffic, nothing interesting to shoot and so forth. But my best excuse to date is that I had to re-certify my paramedic certification. That's 140 hours of learning and testing right there. Now I don't have time to shoot because I have to get that done ASAP.

Why do I need to get done ASAP?

It expires at the end of October and I procrastinated... 

I have to stop. 

It Doesn't Cost that Much to Make Good Portrait with Off Camera Lighting by Scott Cook

That's what I learned this week. Off camera lighting does cost, but not that much. I made this picture of our daughter Sarah using:

Sarah_Blue_Hour.jpg
  • an el-cheapo reflector umbrella and stand (cost $42 new)
  • an  SB800 flash that I bought years ago, but a $75 YongNuo would work just fine and will be my next purchase as a second flash
  • remote flash triggers, I've upgraded but started with this $32 trigger set.

I don't have any illusions that the cheap umbrella and flash triggers are in it for the long haul. But they will last a year or so and give me enough run time to decide if I like the concept and decide if you want to make a bigger investment. In my case, I do and as I said, the flash triggers have already been replaced by Pocket Wizard PlusX's with the allowance I've saved up.

YouTube has plenty of instructional videos to get you stated with the basics on the set up, and you'll be on your way. 

Settings for this photograph:

  • Shutter: 1/15sec. 
  • 100ISO
  • f8
  • Flash at 1/2 power with omni bounce and reflected out of the umbrella
  • Flash zoom 24mm
  • Flash aperture f2.8
  • Light stand set about 45-degrees to the left, 4-feet from subject, and extended about 7-feet high.

The Peril of NOT Paying Attention by Scott Cook

I finally decided to go make a photograph of a groovy old barn you can see great from the highway (but not so great from the bar ditch), on E HWY 377 here in Granbury. Pulled out the D7000, a tripod, and a wired remote. At 6:15am I shot the 5 pics to make the HDR image below (unedited other than the HDR merge, disregard the halo): 

5 shot HDR (0EV, +/-1EV and +/-2EV) and merged in HDR Efex Pro 2 with the Structurized 2 preset, otherwise unedited.

5 shot HDR (0EV, +/-1EV and +/-2EV) and merged in HDR Efex Pro 2 with the Structurized 2 preset, otherwise unedited.

Then I walked back to the truck and decided to shoot above the gate and take another 5 shots at 6:21am for the below HDR:

5 shot HDR (0EV, +/-1EV and +/-2EV) and merged in HDR Efex Pro 2 with the Structurized 2 preset, otherwise unedited.

5 shot HDR (0EV, +/-1EV and +/-2EV) and merged in HDR Efex Pro 2 with the Structurized 2 preset, otherwise unedited.

What I didn't notice that something had brushed my lens during the walk back to the truck. Never even crossed my mind to look, and the result is I blew that HDR, and the subsequent photographs... 

Lessons learned: 

  1. Lens cap when moving through tall grass.
  2. Always check/clean the lens after moving when walking through tall vegetation.
  3. Shoot just the sky for a dust reference photo so clean up is easier. In this case, to me it just isn't worth it. I can shoot this again sometime when the sky is more interesting.

It's Just a Hobby for Me, but I Strive for Continuous Improvement by Scott Cook

Photography is one of my hobbies.

DSC00319_small.jpg

That's it.

I'm learning more every day, and probably spend too much time on it than I should. (I need to get out and go fishing too, but the lake is way low. Plus it is hot during the day, real hot. It's 100+ degree, cloudless days here in north central Texas.)

All I want is to improve my photography. I have ZERO aspirations of a career in photography, but I do want to improve my skills.

I took photography my senior year in high school, shooting a Canon AE1 in the early 80's ('82/'83 to be exact). Then didn't pick up a camera until roughly 1997 when I contracted with Fire Rescue Magazine to write feature and print articles. I needed photos like this for my articles. I didn't really plan them out, in fact my wife shot most of the early photographs on film at my request and direction.

So I bought an N70 and shot crappy film shots. Like these:

204-304_small.jpg

Then I bought a small Sony digital, which was really expensive at the time, but I saved money on processing.

Then I bought a D40, trashed it taking pictures in smoke, same with the D50 and D70. I took better care of the D80 and traded it in on the D7000 that I currently shoot. I switched from shooting 50/50 JPG/RAW to 99.9% RAW.

I've also upgraded from MS Paint through the free versions of preloaded graphics software to LightRoom and PS.  I've got all of my digital pictures I can find sorted and easily viewable in LR now. It's easy to see the improvements when I look at a 2003 file against a 2013 file. Much harder to notice when I look at the pics in order - baby step improvements are hard to see.

And in 2012 I decided to educate myself. The internet is a trove of information whereas way back when, all I had was access to a small town public library and the occasional bookstore.

In any case, it's just a hobby. As I said, I currently have ZERO aspirations to try to make a living in photography (but every photograph I make is for sale).


 

New Computer by Scott Cook

Well, Sheri and I bit the bullet and sprang for a new laptop to replace the two year old low budget, absolutely not upgradable (big, HUGE purchasing mistake) laptop. That thing just could not reasonably run LightRoom and Photoshop, grinding to a halt on a my first relatively big HDR processing job (a simple HDR panorama of the Oklahoma City National Memorial I quickly shot but planned badly). It was also starting to crash daily and generally slow for a W7 machine with 8gigs of RAM (ran MS Office just fine though).

Murrah_Panorama_01_HDR.jpg

That's a 24 total shot panorama where the average individual file size is 73megs in PSD format. The final 3 pano images merged to make the HDR average 587megs (again, in PSD format). I made the picture as follows:

  1. Shot right to left. 
  2. Three shots at each pan, one shot at metered exposure (0EV), one shot -2 and one shot +2
  3. Eight panned shots were maken, each one overlapping the last.
  4. Merged the eight shots made at 0EV into one pano and saved as a PSD.
  5. Merged the eight shots made at -2EV into one pano and saved as a PSD.
  6. Merged the eight shots made at +2EV into one pano and saved as a PSD.
  7. Merged the three PSD panos to an HDR using NIK HDR EFEX Pro 2.

The response from the old laptop was the dreaded "blue screen of death."

So we bought an ASUS GS750JW that had 8gigs of RAM and had 8 more gigs of RAM added to it.

It.

Screams.

The ASUS took all of 5 minutes to process the HDR. 

Anyways...I've got close to 400gigs of data to transfer plus the programs and such so I thought I'd try one of those software/hardware packages with the dedicated Ethernet connection that does all of this for you. Spent the $50 on that, started it at about 7pm at night, and when I woke up at 5am the next morning, a whopping 16gigs had transferred. 10 hours, 16gigs = 1.6gig/hr. Not an ideal situation, doing that math it's going to take another 10 days to get it all moved.

I had thought about pulling the hard drive from the old laptop and sticking it in the open drive bay of the ASUS, but instead I found a little use 1TB portable drive and all of the old software disks.

After killing and rolling back the data transfer, I started loading and updating software while the portable drive ground away. I was done in less than 8 hours...