|A few people have asked me how I put video on my blog, so I recorded this short video to show anyone how to do it.|
If you're looking for the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to put your videos online, Google Video and a blog is definitely the way to go. This short tutorial will show you how it's done. I also show how to put video on a website.
One of the great benefits of using Google's free video hosting service is that your video (and accompanying text) is indexed by the most popular search engine in the world. Since I use Blogger (Google's free blog service), I get the added benefit of having my blog entries indexed on Blogger's search engine, as well as Google.com. This all adds up to more people finding you.
I made the video brief to get people started with vlogging (video blogging) fast. If you have any questions, just post a comment and I'll be happy to help.
A resource a highly recommend for those interested in web video is Ken McCarthy's video blog. Ken has had his finger on the pulse of the internet since before it began, and he focuses on how businesses can benefit from internet trends like web video. I recently did some camera work for a video that Ken produced for his System Seminar. This highly respected seminar teaches business owners the most effective strategies in internet marketing. You can watch the video here.
Since it was early in the year, I was bummed to be missing the Northern Lights. But thanks to a random google search I did this morning, I just discovered that the Northern Lights are closer to home than I realized. From SpaceWeather.com: "Contrary to popular belief, you can photograph auroras in places like California and Florida about once a year. The trick is knowing when to look. (2) September, October and November are consistently the best months to see auroras. Why? It's a bit of a mystery."
We've all said it at one time or another - "I wish I had my camera!" Lord knows I've said it more times than I care to admit. Hockey champion Wayne Gretzky said it best - "You miss 100% of the shots you never take."
Making a point of carrying a camera with you doesn't just make it possible to capture an important photo opportunity, it also trains your subconscious mind to be on the lookout for opportunities. Many people carry cameraphones with them everywhere, but I think a person still needs to use it regularly as a camera in order to train their mind to be vigilant for photo ops. When I make a point of carrying a camera with me, I'm often rewarded with photos that I would never have thought to seek out, such as the surreal image of the campfire above. The opposite is also true. If you think that carrying around a camera is too much of a bother, you're instructing your subconscious mind to ignore photo opportunities.
Many people have told me that I have a good eye, but in my opinion, all I've done is take a fledgling interest in photography and turn it into an ongoing practice of looking for and capitalizing on the many opportunities that surround us. Anyone can develop an eye for good photos if they want to.
Many of my best pictures were taken with a compact camera, so if anyone tells you that you need pro equipment to shoot great pictures, don't believe it. Terry Richardson is a pro photographer who gets paid very well to shoot famous celebrities and models. Terry's camera of choice? Cheap snapshot and disposable cameras! Terry says "You can't give your photograph soul with technique. I want my photos to be fresh and urgent. A good photograph should be a call to arms. It should say, 'Now.' The time is ripe. Come on."
The opening statement of this blog is 100% true - taking the time to create meaningful photos is an investment that appreciates with time. After all, have you ever heard of someone who looked back over their life and had regret for taking too many pictures?
Real Photos From a Psychic Photographer
I am a calm, easy-going local family and event photographer known for my beautiful, spontaneous shots of very personal life events. In 2005 this work awakened a psychic ability whose focus makes subtle, extremely different portraits and documentary of children, toddlers and the hard-to-photograph. Intuitive and psychic energy readings are also available by appointment.
Wow. That IS extremely different!
I'm familiar with some unusual areas of photography. I've heard of ghost photography (I posted a ghost photo in a previous entry). I've even heard of aura photography. But I'd never heard of psychic photography before now. After reading Dorothy's ad, I wondered if she used her psychic ability to photograph things that children see in their imagination. My own imagination conjured images of children dancing with leprechauns and Sasquatch, so it was with some disappointment that I only found beautiful portraits of babies and children. Still, I think Dorothy should offer aura photography as an option.
You'll notice the eyes look like they're either closed or looking down. Also interesting is the fact that you can see several small question marks near the center of the photo. This has a logical explanation (hand-holding the camera for about 1 second), but it's strangely appropriate considering the mysterious face. If you can help me figure out how this may have happened, I'd be grateful. And if you can show me how to do it intentionally, maybe I can give Dorothy some competition in the untapped psychic photography market!
[My poking fun at Dorothy isn't in any way intended as a personal slight. We're both freelance photographers trying to make a name for ourselves, and I wish her much success. I told her about this blog entry and she had a great sense of humor about it. You can see her photos here.]
I think we all learn a lot about photography by looking at how the people around us use cameras. My parents weren't into taking pictures, but whenever we went on vacation, I noticed when adults pulled out their cameras and what sort of things they took pictures of. Whenever I looked at a relative's photo album, I noticed they usually put a lot of background and a lot of headroom in their photos of people. The classic example is taking a vacation picture next to a scenic landscape or famous landmark that is much larger than the person in the picture, effectively dwarfing them. To make matters worse, the subject invariably stands far away from the camera which makes them look even smaller.
The average size of cameras with a zoom lens has been shrinking for many years, so I assume that zoom lenses have become the norm. This is important for several reasons. If a person has a zoom lens, they usually use it (if you think I'm wrong about this, please reply). That means people are now used to cropping their photos in-camera.
Another reason why cameras with a zoom lens are important is because they help to overcome a cultural handicap - the personal bubble. Something we rarely think about is the space around us that we feel comfortable in. The size of the space is different for every culture and depends largely on the relationship you have with the people in close proximity to you. When your personal space is breached by a person uninvited, discomfort sets in. You may remember a time when you entered someone's personal bubble and they backed away even though you had minty-fresh breath.
There's a fascinating online dialogue that puts the American bubble at 2-3 feet. That may not seem like a lot when you're talking about snapping someone's picture, but if your camera has a wide angle lens, it can make your subject look like they're twice as far from you. Add a lot of distracting background and frame the person's head in the center of the picture (or lower), and you've probably got a photo with very little impact.
Back in college when I made my own prints in the darkroom, I was often criticized for cropping my photos. But for me, the decision to crop simply comes from wanting to emphasize the most interesting part of a photograph. Here's an example from a Chinese New Year parade:
What's the most interesting part of this photograph? The crowd? They're too far away. The drummers? Probably not, since you can't see their face. I think the most dynamic part of this photo is the drum and the drumstick.
Everyone was marching by quickly, but I knew I had to take another photo. By moving in and focusing on the drummer's hands and sticks, I cropped out everything that wasn't important (in this rare instance, it was the people), I created a photo with greater visual impact than the mish-mash of the previous photo.
Now that digital camera sales have surpassed film camera sales, the imaging software market has become very lucrative and competitive. While doing research for this blog entry, I came across a Microsoft research paper that details the work being done to create software that actually crops a photo based on where in the picture a person gazes most intently. Andy Warhol was nearly right with his famous prediction. In the future, we won't all be famous, but we will be great artists...so long as we have the right software!
Do you remember those anti-drug public service announcements on TV that encouraged teenagers to substitute drugs with music or skateboarding or underwater basket weaving? Well for me, photography is the anti-drug. The reason is simple. I've always been fascinated by light. Even before I got into taking pictures, I would notice changes in the light wherever I was. I think I'm more sensitive to light than most people because I notice things that I rarely hear people comment on.
When I was 19, I worked at Sears. The whole place had dim flourescent lights that made me feel depressed all the time. I had to quit after a couple months of it. A few years ago, I had an office job that required me to work at a computer all day. The CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor gave me headaches and made my left eye twitch for weeks, so I bought an LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor and the problems immediately went away.
On the positive side, I'm also aware of the constantly changing color and quality of natural light. I remember marveling at the white sunlight during my first trip to Disney World in the mid-'80s. After seeing the same color of light in places like the Canadian Rockies, Alaska, and even Chicago after a really good snowstorm, I wonder if the different color of sunlight is influenced by the pollution level. If you have some insight into that, please reply to this post.
My point in mentioning all this is to emphasize the importance of looking at light. When you think about it, most of what we look at is light bouncing off of objects. Songsforteaching.com has a fun little song that explains light propogation in more detail. Paying attention to the little differences in how light bounces off of everything will improve your photography more than anything else. For an easy example of this, take a picture of someone on an overcast day or in daylight when the sun is overhead. Now move to a shaded area and take another picture (if it's overcast, you'll have to go underneath something to really tell a difference). Which photo is more flattering?
Many photographers fail to notice the "racoon eyes" that a subject gets when they're photographed under the noon sun or an overcast sky. Compare this to the diffused lighting that a shady area provides. This desirable look can also be achieved by photographing your subject near a bright window. I typically bounce my flash off of ceilings or walls to get a similar result. This makes a world of diffence compared to firing a flash straight ahead, which is what every built-in flash does.
Bounced light maintains dimensionality (your subject looks 3D), but direct flash has a flattening effect that makes everything look two-dimensional- not always the best choice. If you do all of your shooting with a camera that only has a built-in flash but would like to benefit from bounced lighting, you can get a slave flash with bounce capability that will fire at the same time your built-in flash fires. Get pro results without the expense (or weight) of pro equipment. It really is a great time to be a photographer!
I spent the weekend at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago. My buddy Randy was the grand prize winner in a Sony Playstation music video contest, so he got free passes to the festival for him and his friends. Lollapalooza didn't allow cameras with changeable lenses, but they did allow compact cameras, so I brought my trusty Nikon Coolpix 8700. The 8700 ended up being the best choice because it has 8x zoom and the option of shooting video. I ended up shooting more video than photos. If you saw a moment like the one above, which one would you choose?
If you've never put a video online, don't worry, this is very doable. I went to videos.google.com, created an account and uploaded the video. Once it's uploaded and has a page on google video, click the blue button that says "Email-Blog-Post to MySpace." A link will pop up just underneath it that says "Embed HTML." Just copy that html code and paste it into any website. Easy peezy lemon squeezy. I don't know html (which is why I love blogging), so I was happily surprised that I could handle this. Looks like I'll be doing some video blogging!
To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures. Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters.
I have a special treat for you. My friend Thom Ayres is an unusually talented singer who also has a knack for finding creative gems that most people don't know about. He really outdid himself when he suggested I check out a website called ashesandsnow.org. I strongly suggest you do the same, but only when you have a good long chunk of uninterrupted time to spend exploring a website that transcends any photography website you've ever seen. When I went there, I was so enthralled that I lost track of time.
After spending time at that website, I was completely on fire for making pictures. If you have the same response, and would like to share that fire with others, I'd like to share a great resource I recently came across. Meetup.com is a website that connects people with a wide range interests. I went to photo.meetup.com, typed in my zip code and found an active group of Chicago area photographers with whom I can pursue my passion for making pictures. Don't you just love the internet?
My buddy Randy and I go way back. We spent high school making lip synch music videos to Christian rock bands, recording improv psychedelic beatboxing, and interviewing a porterhouse steak that wore John Lennon sunglasses. With that in mind, it's no surprise that Randy and I enjoy a unique perspective.
Randy went on to become an accomplished video producer, but he also has an abiding passion for photography. His photos consistently wow me with the ability to find new perspectives in ordinary places. One of the things Randy excels at is transforming ordinary things into extraordinary images by shooting low to the ground, as exemplified by the gorgeous daffodil above.
Actually I take that back. The daffodil photo is gorgeous, but the image that I think exemplifies the power of shooting from a low angle is this photo:
I can’t stop smiling whenever I look at this photo. It’s obviously a special moment, especially the part about Lily smearing cake all over her face and in her eye, but Randy photographed this in a way that I bet you’ve never seen before. I call it the “cake cam.” The most interesting thing about Randy’s uncanny ability to find the gems hidden in low angles is that he’s 6 foot 8 inches tall!
I love shooting low angle portraits. I think it's often more flattering than shooting eye level or higher. I often come home sore from a wedding shoot because I’ve been in a squatting position for a good chunk of the day, but if someone as tall as Randy can get down low for a great shot, there’s no reason why we can’t give it a try.
The fact of the matter is that you have a treasure trove of fascinating photos waiting for you to discover them, and the great thing is that you can find many of them by just walking around your neighborhood. The above photo from Teresita de la Torre is the best example that comes to mind. When I look at that photo, I feel like I'm watching one of those giant insect movies from the 1950s. Can't you almost hear the dramatic voiceover?
It's a tender moment between a husband and his wife. Sadly, the tenderness is short-lived as uncaring humans encroach on their happy abode, forcing them to desperate measures.
Here's a fun idea, take close-up photos and ask people to guess what they are. You can throw them off the scent by offering alternate guesses. I'll go first:
Is it a 4th of July smokebomb? Is it dry ice pouring out from under a black hockey puck? Did I put a piece of glass over some chemistry project? Maybe it's one of NASA's new black hole photos?
It's never been easier or more inexpensive to create fascinating photos, so if you don't know how to engage the macro mode on your digital camera, I encourage you to pull that manual out and start shooting! If you want a good resource for making big prints of your little creations, check out mpix.com. You can upload your digital files and they'll mail your masterpiece in glorious color or black and white.