Wednesday
Aug
2012
29

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Michael Clark!

by Brad Moore  |  19 Comments


Image by Eric Barth

“Embrace risk. That is the key to improving at anything. Without the willingness to go down the uncharted path, you will not learn, you will not improve, and you will not grow. This might sound a little preachy, but it is a life lesson I have learned again and again as a climber, a mountaineer, and a freelance photographer. Safety is an illusion. Get over it. You cannot control everything in this world. I have learned to learn from my mistakes because I learn more from my mistakes than I do from my successes. When I make a mistake I own up to it, and then plot how to avoid making that mistake again. Making a mistake is just part of the learning experience. It makes me aware of certain possibilities and outcomes. Sometimes it is only by making a mistake that you stumble onto an unexpected result, or image in this case, and by analyzing that mistake, you can create a whole new look.

Creative people need risk to “break on through” to the next level; here I am making a reference to one of The Doors’ most popular songs. The musical group creatively pushed the envelope, were unconventional (in the extreme), and took chances with their music and lyrics. I use the band as an example only to make the point that if you can’t embrace risk, your images will never be more than mediocre. And that is a sure way to underachieve.


Red Bull is a company that embraces risk and asks their photographers to do the same. I had only nine seconds total to capture the action for this B.A.S.E. jumping assignment. In this image, Jon DeVore of the Red Bull Air Force Team, is leaping off a 3,200-foot cliff in southwestern Utah in his wingsuit. I was hanging over the edge of the cliff just next to Jon as he jumped. I wore a climbing harness and was attached to three small bushes that might have held my weight but I never fully committed my weight on the rope.

As a climber, a mountaineer, and an adventurer, I implore you to get out and experience your own adventures. They might just be the best motivator for your photography. Stepping out of your comfort zone provides everyone with a chance to grow. The next step is to take the knowledge you have learned and put it into practice repeatedly and as often as possible. Dare to fail. Aim high. Dream up an image you want to create and then go out and try to create it. If you don’t get the result you want, try again and again until you do. Practice makes perfect, or at least in photography it makes your images better. Get inspired, get motivated, and get moving. That is the key to photography.”

The three paragraphs above are from my most recent book, Exposed: Inside the Life and Images of a Pro Photographer. They sum up my credo as an adventure sports photographer. Over the last sixteen years, I have pursued my craft—and my profession—with a fervent passion. I have also been fortunate to work with clients such as Nikon, Apple, Adobe, Red Bull, National Geographic, Outside, Men’s Journal, and Sports Illustrated. I have crafted an adventurous lifestyle that has allowed me to witness and document some truly remarkable feats of physical prowess.


The cover of my latest book, “Exposed: Inside the Life and Images of a Pro Photographer”

In this blog post, I want to encourage you to ‘embrace risk’ and invite adventure into your life and your photography. I am not advising that anyone take huge risks physically, but a ‘willingness to go down the uncharted path’ and explore those things that make you uncomfortable will open up a whole new world. As an example, I will share a bit of my story and how taking on a new sport changed my life in a way I never could have imagined.

In my last year of studying physics at the University of Texas at Austin, I took a weekend rock climbing course through the outdoor recreation program. I was a shy kid. I lacked self-confidence—and I was a little afraid of the risks involved in rock climbing. But I had—and still have—an inclination to run headlong into situations I find challenging. Little did I know at the time, but that rock climbing course would be the start of a whole new career.

Over the next few years I became obsessed with climbing in all its forms: rock climbing, ice climbing and mountaineering. As I gained confidence in my skills as a climber I also gained confidence in myself. When I was a teenager I had explored photography as part of my art studies. It was climbing that brought me back to photography and it was the confidence I gained through climbing that gave me the courage to pursue a career as an adventure sports photographer. I started out shooting rock climbing, then branched out into just about every other adventure sport.


In this image, Chris Sharma is hanging from the biggest hold on this very difficult climb while “Deep Water Soloing” in Mallorca, Spain. This image was shot early on in my career while on assignment for Men’s Journal. And yes, he is not wearing a harness or a rope. Deep Water Soloing is a form of rock climbing where you climb solo without a rope and if you fall the water catches you. I am hanging next to Sharma on a rope to get the shot.

In the beginning, I shot everything “on spec,” meaning I went out and created the images and then licensed them to various magazines and climbing companies after the fact. This was, and still is, a risky way of doing business. I never knew where my next paycheck was coming from or when it would show up. My first big break was an assignment for Men’s Journal shooting rock climbing in Mallorca, Spain. That came to me about five years into my career. My second big break was an assignment to shoot freeriding (a cousin of mountain biking) for the first version of Adobe Lightroom. After that assignment, advertising and editorial assignments started to come more frequently and with increasing regularity.

I don’t want to give the impression that my career was a joyride on easy street—just the opposite, it was a constant struggle to make it work. Working as a freelance photographer involves an insane amount of hard work, stress and risk. For me, that risk was both physical, as an adventure photographer, and financial. Many of my early climbing trips were sponsored by VISA and MASTERCARD, both of which were stored safely in my wallet. It took me years to pay off those climbing trips and my camera gear but to this day I don’t regret it one bit. I certainly don’t recommend using your credit cards to fund your business adventure but at the time I had no other options.


Above is an image of YouTube superstar Danny MacAskill that was shot for Red Bull. Working with Danny was a supreme pleasure and his story is incredibly inspiring. His story is a perfect example of a motivated, and extremely talented individual, showing what they are capable of and reaping the benefits of being able to show that to the world, via YouTube.

Even now, sixteen years later, I can’t tell you exactly where my income will come from six or more months from now. I have to have faith that, like the last sixteen years, the assignments and the work will come to me. This certainly isn’t the job for anyone that wants some vestige of financial security in the form of a steady job. But for me, the rewards of this job are that I am able to see and create images of stupendous feats of bravery in the outdoors. My life of risk has also allowed me to follow my passions to places I never thought I would ever visit and being able to share these adventures with the world, through my clients, is a great pleasure.

It is only by pursuing risk on a continual basis that my career has grown, and blossomed into what it is today. I still seek out challenging assignments, new sports and even new genres of photography. I still long for that next adventure. If I don’t have an adventure on the horizon—something to look forward to—I start to get a little stir-crazy. I am not an adrenaline junkie, as so many “extreme” athletes are labeled. I am just addicted to having adventures.


One of my latest passions is capturing the dynamic sport of surfing. This image of pro-surfer Dylan Longbottom surfing a barrel at Teahupo’o was shot in Tahiti specifically for my book Exposed.

When I wrote Exposed last year, I had serious doubts about the topics covered in the book and if they would be of interest to anyone at all. The idea to write about the realities of working as a professional photographer, the stories behind the images and detailing how a handful of my images were created was hashed out prior to starting the book with Ted Waitt, an editor at Peachpit. I wanted to be extremely open and honest about my experiences as a pro photographer including all of the embarrassing moments so that the reader could see how I got from A to B to C.


As an example of hard work, creating this image of professional rock climber Timy Fairfield involved lugging over 200-pounds of lighting gear and equipment up into the cave in 98-degree heat—not to mention that fact that Timy still had to climb this difficult route in very tough conditions.

When the first few reviews of Exposed came in a few months ago I was amazed. The reviews were well beyond anything I had imagined. Yet again, taking a risk paid off.

It is my hope that this blog post will at the very least make you sit up and think about how you can add some adventure to your life and inspire your photography. Embracing risk may not be easy, and it may not be pleasant, but it will certainly make life interesting—and interesting often makes for phenomenal photographs.


While shooting an assignment for Men’s Fitness with the Henry 1 Search and Rescue team in Santa Rosa, California, I saw the opportunity for this image and had only twenty minutes to create it. This image was only possible because of the digital preview available on the rear LCD of my Nikon camera, which allowed me to refine the lighting in a matter of minutes.

Thank you to Scott, Brad and the gang at Kelby Media for asking me to write a guest blog post. It is a great honor to be included among the wonderful photographers here on Scott’s blog. And thank you for taking the time to read this guest blog post.

If you would like to read more about the adventures behind my images and how they were created please check out my book, Exposed: Inside the Life and Images of a Pro Photographer.

You can see more of Michael’s work at MichaelClarkPhoto.com, keep up with him on his blog, and find him on Facebook and Twitter. Michael also produces a quarterly newsletter, which is a mini PDF-magazine that details his latest adventures, and includes news updates, equipment reviews and other articles on various topics related to the photo industry. If you would like to sign up to receive the newsletter send him an email. You can check out back issues of the Newsletter on his website here.

You can also get 35% off Michael’s book by using the code KMCLARK at the Peachpit Store!

Tuesday
Aug
2012
28

Some Shots From My Preseason Shoots

by Scott Kelby  |  35 Comments

Here’s a few of my favorites from my two pre-season shoots:

Camera Info:
I shot the game with my usual set-up; Two camera bodies: A Nikon D4 with a 400mm f/2.8 lens (mounted on a Gitzo monopod), but I put a 1.4 tele-extender on for the entire game, which turned my 400mm into around a 550mm lens, but you lose a stop of light so I could only shoot at f/4. Shooting at f/4 with that lens means I had to crank my ISO up between 3,200 and 4,000 depending on where they were on the field due to changes in lighting. My 2nd body was a Nikon D3s and I tried (again) using a 24-70mm but I’m going back to my 70-200mm from here on out — the 24-70mm just has such limited use — the players have to be literally right in front of you).

I shot both cameras wide open (at f/2.8 or f/4 because of the tele-extender). I shot in JPEG (for more shots in burst mode). My shutter speeds were around 1/1000 of a second and higher. Since I was able to shoot at f/2.8 with the 2nd body, I only had to crank the ISO on my 2nd body to around 1,600 to 2,000 (that’s the difference one stop of light makes —- from shooting at 1,600 to having to shot at 4,000).

OK, onto the photos (they look MUCH better larger, so be sure to click on them for a bigger view.

Hope you guys have a Super Tuesday (and don’t forget to scroll down one more post to my Photo Walk update, ’cause things are getting crazy!!! :=)

 

Tuesday
Aug
2012
28

Quick Update on the “Worldwide Photo Walk”

by Scott Kelby  |  3 Comments

OK folks, we are off to an amazing start!!!! It is just blowin’ up — whoo hooo!!! (Above: that’s the group photo for my walk in downtown Tampa, Florida last year). 

Here we are just two weeks after the official announcement and we already have:

Photo Walks: 827 Walks

Walkers signed-up: Nearly 12,000!

If you haven’t signed up for a walk near you (it’s free), here’s the link. If there’s not a walk in a city near you, maybe you should lead one. :)

If you want one of the official Worldwide Photo Walk t-shirts (with 100% of the profits going to the Springs of Hope Orphanage), here’s that link. 

 

Monday
Aug
2012
27

I Switched My Portfolio Over to SmugMug

by Scott Kelby  |  93 Comments

OK, here’s why I wanted to switch:
(1) I wanted to maintain my portfolio myself
In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have my buddy RC design and maintain my port, but if I want to delete, add, or rearrange my portfolio, I had to contact RC and ask him to do it. RC is incredibly gracious about things like this, but I always felt bad about having to bug him every time I wanted a little tweak, so I wound up not updating and tweaking it very often out of sheer guilt.

(2) Smugmug is designed so you can sell your work
Although I don’t have any prints for sale yet, I get asked about it all the time, and I have a good reason to sell prints (raising money for the Springs of Hope Orphanage).

What Got Me To Pull The Trigger
I’ve been wanting to make the switch for a while now, and I was on some Web site a few weeks back where I saw a SmugMug banner add where they had a free 14-day trial offer, so I thought, “What the heck” and I signed up. That same night I uploaded  my first gallery and it was a breeze, and shortly thereafter I  went from 14-day trial guy to Pro Account guy.

Once I created different galleries (Sports, Football, Fashion, Travel, People, and Landscapes) then I had one of their designers set-up a custom layout for me (they use a network of freelance designers who work directly with you to create your Smugmug layout — I worked with Charles Chung of CreativeSoda and he was absolutely fantastic. Very responsive, easy to work with, and he made the whole process a breeze. If anybody from Smugmug reads this — Charles is awesome!!! Give him a raise/bonus/lexus, etc.).

What I Was Looking For:
A year or so ago, I had a portfolio layout I really liked — one where you can scroll horizontally through the images. The reason I like this layout is that horizontal and vertical images get the same amount of attention (whereas usually only horizontal images get any “juice” in an online port because of their width, and the tall images get lost). The layout let you scroll through the images at the speed you wanted, but the problem was — it was flash-based so if you looked at it on an iPad, it switched to an html version which….well…it wasn’t as elegant (ahem) as the flash one. Then, when they updated my WordPress Blog, for some reason it broke that plug-in RC was using and they had to change it to a layout I didn’t like nearly as much (thought it did kinda scroll).

It works on Tablets, too!
I wanted a portfolio that looked decent on a tablet, and the new SmugMug works really well there (although it does lose the scroll-ability — you have to tap the screen for it to move to the next image) at least you can see it pretty much like it does on a desktop.

What I like best, is…..
The fact that the back-end of my SmugMug site looks like a regular ol’ smugmug default account (see below), but when I add a photo or change the order, it updates the custom layout without me having to tweak stuff I don’t even want to know about (HTML, CSS, STP, ADD, LSD, or any of that stuff).

So, give it a whirl
If you click on the Portfolio link at the top right of this blog, you can take it for a spin. I know the right-scrolling this isn’t for everyone, but after looking at lots of their templates (and other sites), it’s the one I like best, so that’s what I’m going with (also, if you resize the browser it resizes the images).

Thanks to Charles (and Creativesoda) and to the folks at Smugmug for giving me control of my port. Right now I’m gathering shots of cats, people on railroad tracks, and flowers shot in a harsh direct light for uploading. ;-)

P.S. One of the guys that turned me on to SmugMug in the first place was my photo assistant Brad Moore — check out his site, which they customized for him (he’s a kick-butt pro concert photographer). Here’s the link. 

Monday
Aug
2012
27

Come Spend The Day With Me Wednesday in Denver

by Scott Kelby  |  2 Comments

I’m in Denver Wednesday for my “Photoshop for Photographers” full-day live seminar (well, as long as that hurricane stays away, and it looks like it’s staying away from Tampa), and if you want to come out for a day that is likely to curve your spine, you can join me by clicking this link.

If you read this blog and you’re going to be there, make sure you come up and say “hi.” Cheers and we’ll see you in Denver soon! :)

P.S. The next stop for the tour is in Arlington, Texas on September 14th, where RC Concepcion will be the instructor, and then I’m back teaching the seminar in Los Angeles on October, 3rd, then RC is back in Minneapolis on Oct 17th, and then I’m in DC on the 29th. Hope to catch you on the road! :)

 

Friday
Aug
2012
24

Here’s what I’m teaching at the “Photoshop World Conference and Expo”

by Scott Kelby  |  16 Comments

If you’re going to Photoshop World in Vegas next month (Sept 5- 7), I hope you’ll check out one of my classes. I’m teaching three sessions in the conference track this year, and I’m doing a retouching session at Wacom’s booth on the Expo floor:

Wednesday: Light it, Shoot it, Retouch it
I start with an empty stage, set up the lighting and then light a live model to show you three different looks (from one light) and after the shoot I take those images in Lightroom and Photoshop to show the start-to-finish retouch. That way, you see the entire process from start to finish, and you learning the lighting, shooting and retouching.

Thursday: Tips & Tricks for Shooting Sports
I’ve had so many people ask me to do a class on shooting sports, and this class includes lots of tips on everything from gear to shooting techniques, insights and advice, and lots of helpful pointers from a ton of my own research and shooting in the field. If you’re into shooting sports (or you want to shoot sports), you’ll totally dig this presentation.

Friday Morning: Portrait Retouching Secrets [Wacom Booth]
In this session, taught in Wacom’s presentation theater on the expo floor, I’m going to share some of my very favorite portrait retouching techniques along with how I use a tablet in my retouching work (I could not retouch without one. Well, I’ve had to on occasion, but it’s brutal). Lots to share in this 30-minute session.

Friday: Lightroom Killer Tips
This is an updated version of my popular class on the Lightroom track, with some cool stuff for Lightroom 4. I learned a bunch of new stuff since last time, so I updated the class to add these new techniques, and this is another one of those classes that I can’t wait to teach.

Anyway, if you’re going, I’d love to see you in one of my sessions, so I hope you’ll drop by. If you haven’t planned on going, why not? Here’s the link—come and spend a few days taking your career, and your skills, up a big notch (warning: if you go even once, you’ll want to go every year. Ask anyone that’s been to one). See you in Vegas in just a few weeks!

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