Geekoto X25 Defender Review

When the folks at Geekoto approached me about testing a tripod, at first I was flattered. However, later I was actually a little scared because I wondered what I would do if it just wasn‚Äôt very good?  Then what?  I decided that if it wasn’t very good I’d send it back with a polite, “thanks but no thanks.”  Fortunately, that wasn‚Äôt the case as this tripod was quickly a pleasant surprise!  Out of the box, the Geekoto X25 Defender tripod appeared to be a very sturdy aluminum alloy construction and surprisingly well-built considering it cost much less than my currentScreen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.48.13 tripod.  I had everything needed to get started including a tripod plate, an allen wrench to tighten down parts, and even a decent carrying bag.  Immediately, everything on the X25 Defender was easy to understand; if you‚Äôve used any name brand tripod you‚Äôll understand every feature instantly from the leveling bubble to securing the legs; everything makes sense.  My attention was draw to features and quality that scream this thing should cost more than $150!  All the moving parts are smooth and everything locks down well with no drift in the ball head when you clamp it down for a shot.  Even the plastic on X25 doesn‚Äôt seem cheaply built!  While I‚Äôve only had it for a few weeks, it does look like it will stand the test of time.  These are just my initial observations, everything about this tripod looks very promising. 

When I took it out shooting I noticed that my height of 5 foot 9 inches tall, this thing extends beyond my height out to 75 inches.  That said, like any tripod, the higher you extend it the less stable it becomes.  This tripod does as well as any other here, possibly better.  However, it‚Äôs more stable if Geeketo 2you extend the thinner legs last and go as high you can without raising the center.  On this day I wanted to see if the X25 Defender could handle a heavier load so I put a Tamron 150-600 G2 lens on my Canon 6D for a weight of about 6 pounds and extended everything out and it was surprisingly sturdy (photo at left)!  I wouldn’t recommend using this setup in extreme wind, but the point is that for every day use this tripod does a great job, but it can handle more.  If it can handle this bulky setup, I think it proves one aspect of its versatility.  One other feature worth discussing, the X25 Defender converts to a monopod as well!  When shooting I sometimes consider whether to bring a tripod or not, at times a monopod is just more practical so I then have decide tripod or monopod?  With this Geekoto tripod both options are readily available, very cool indeed! 

In my opinion, this Geekoto tripod is much better than most travel tripods I‚Äôve owned.  When I‚Äôm at home I carry my carbon fiber tripod as it‚Äôs much more stable, however, it takes up way too much space when flying.  This tripod is somewhere between that tripod you have at home but can‚Äôt carry and the travel tripod you pack on trips because it fits in your luggage.Geeketo 1  The important item here, there‚Äôs not much compromising with this tripod, oh and it’s rated to hold 22 pounds!   This is a great entry-level tripod or an excellent travel tripod and frankly, I‚Äôve paid more money for travel tripods that weren‚Äôt as nice as this one!  All in all, the Geekoto X25 Defender packs a lot of punch with a 360 degree panoramic ball joint combined with a center tube that also swivels 360 degrees allowing you to set this tripod up in just about any conceivable angle.  At the bottom of the center tube is a clip to hang a weight such as a camera bag, something my big name tripod doesn’t even have! Oh did I mention it has a monopod build in?  That’s bang for the bucks!

Like camera bags, no tripod is perfect, there were a couple of minor things that I personally wish were different but nothing that would be a deal break.  For instance, I prefer lever locks on the legs, it’s easier to visualize if they’re locked or not.  Also, the lockdown nut for the center tube at the base of the tripod, I’d prefer a screw type mechanism.  Neither of these are the end of the world, just a personal thing…  All in all I beleive this tripod should last a long time if properly cared for and not abused.  You can purchase your Geekoto Defender at Geekoto.com or Amazon.com for just $149.98, that’s about one quarter of what I spent my current tripod.  The Geekoto X25 Defender is a great bargain and solid tripod, I would gladly recommend this to anyone not wanting to spend a fortune yet wanting quality.  My plan is to keep using if for a while and maybe write more in the future.  Everything about using this tripod was a positive experience and I look forward to seeing Geekoto’s future offerings.  Thank you Geekoto for this great opportunity!

* Photos of me were taken by my daughters Amanda and Melinda Chizek.Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 18.21.20

iPhone Photography 2

Back in May 2017 I wrote about how much fun it had been shooting with the iPhone. ¬†I still use it, probably more than before and especially while out shooting with a DSLR and posting live about shoots, it is incredibly handy. ¬†There seems to be more of a response to¬†Hakuna Matataposting live on Instagram than posting photos at times. ¬†I have¬†even created an¬†iPhoneography gallery at my website, there are links to most of these photos here as well. ¬†I have two daughters and don’t always carry a camera, but just about always carry an iPhone. ¬†This is similar to that adage for people who carry a concealed weapon; if you ever need it, that small gun you’re carrying will do you more good than the big gun locked in the safe at home, same thing here. ¬†I’ve been fortunate to capture so many of life special moments that would have simply been forgotten. ¬†In the photo at the left, while walking to school one morning my daughter just started belting out the song Hakuna Matata at 8AM, seemed like a good name for the photo too. ¬†Like most things she does, there was no reason for it, she just felt like singing that song while wearing her bunny ear muffs. ¬†My camera was at home but fortunately the iPhone was in my pocket to capture this gem. ¬†Later, after re-look at this photo I realized that although my daughter’s¬†White House Christmassinging was the reason for the photo, there was something else that made it special, it was my other daughter’s reaction! ¬†Another time, Memorial Day 2018, we went to a national cemetery in Virginia, down the road from where our house so I could shoot some stock shots. ¬†Since we were going just a few minute away, I grabbed my camera only, something I rarely do. ¬†When we arrived at the cemetery, it was with a dead battery… ¬†but a fully charged iPhone. ¬† My wife suggested I take some photos with my iPhone, reluctantly, that’s what I did. ¬†Some of those iPhone shots were accepted as stock and have actually sold! ¬†The photo at right, called White House Christmas, was taken on a trip to DC where we unexpectedly took a short cut by 1600 PA Ave, I didn’t bring my camera and White House was decked out for Christmas. ¬†I could have kicked myself for not having my DSLR but at least I got a cool iPhone shot. ¬†The iPhone is perfect for capturing these types of moments and considering it was pitch dark out, this isn’t too bad.

There are a couple of apps and features some folks don’t know about, especially with the iPhone 7 Plus and its two lenses. ¬†Within the iPhone’s Camera App are a few cool things that can make your photos much nicer ¬†If you’re in to video, check out the TIME-LAPS and SLO-MO modes for some other neat effects. ¬†However, video isn’t my thing so the two functions here that I use are the PANO and PORTRAIT modes. Ball TimeThe photo at the top of this page, called Winter Pool, was taken using the iPhone’s PANO or panoramic mode. ¬†It’s very easy to use, open PANO mode and you’ll see a mini screen in the middle with a white arrow. ¬†Simply press the white button and move in the direction of the arrow, press the button again when you’re done. ¬†If you want or need to change the direction of the arrow, just click it. ¬†Very easy to get those panoramic shots that won’t fit in to one photo. ¬†The PORTRAIT mode is exceptional in my opinion and I use it often. ¬†Nothing to explain here other than you may need to back up a little from your subject. ¬†The photo at left is our four-legged¬†family member, Casey, in a photo called Ball Time. ¬†Another moment that was just a typical morning, I had taken my girls to school and was walking back with¬†The GirlsCasey and she spotted the baseball. ¬†She was holding it up in to the sun; subject, moment, lighting, check! ¬†Camera? At home, except for the iPhone in my pocket, again the iPhone in my pocket did more good than the DSLR at home in the bag. ¬†The photo of our daughters at right, The Girls, was a deliberate shot as I had been hearing about the portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. ¬†It was taken at The Wade House in Greenbush, Wisconsin. ¬†This photo was the game changer for me, it proved that the iPhone 7 Plus could be a decent photographic tool if my main camera was not handy. ¬†The edit mode at the bottom is decent as well, you can fix lighting and color issues on the spot and quickly. ¬†Also, cropping is super easy here too! ¬†Again, it’s better than the camera you don’t have with you. ¬†Will it replace your DSLR, not likely, but I really do enjoy shooting with it.

Upfront, I want to state that I do not receive any compensation nor am I affiliated with the below mentioned apps and the opinions below are solely mine, so take that! ¬†First up is¬†FX Photo Studio Pro¬†by MacPhun, a great app for making your photos look more professional while in the field and want to add a little vignette or touch up. ¬†It has color lenses, IMG_2066artistic overlays, vignettes, and many other effects to add to an iPhone shot. ¬†I’ve been using MacPhun software on my Mac for a couple of years now and they make a great product. ¬†The interface, seen at left, is very straightforward and easy to use. ¬†However, the BIG downside is that it’s a pricey app coming in at $7.99 and while it comes with a few of filters, most have to be purchased as add ons. ¬†So even though it’s a great app, if you don’t shoot with an iPhone often there may not be enough here for you to shell out $8… ¬†Next up, to make up for that really pricey last app is one that everyone should have on their phone,¬†Google Photos, and it’s FREE!! ¬†Picture the most simplistic backup of every photo or video on your iPhone, again for FREE!!¬†¬†An extremely simple interface,IMG_2065 you tell it whether or not to back up on cellular data or wifi, and it goes to work whenever you open the app. ¬†This way it won’t be slowing your phone down while you’re doing important stuff like watching cats startled by cucumbers on YouTube. ¬†While the initial backup takes quite a while, after that it only backs up when you open the app. ¬†I’m currently living in Japan where I no long have unlimited data so I just open the app at night when I go to bed and let it upload with wifi. ¬†It chronologically stores ALL your photos and videos, if you need a photo from five years ago you simply pull down the screen and a slider appears (see at right), go to the month and year you believe your photo was taken and, easier than Bill Clinton at an office party, you’re in! ¬†THE BEST PART, you can now safely delete all of your photos and videos from your phone and get the memory back!! ¬†When my iPhone 6 started malfunctioning the first thing I did was make sure my backup was current. ¬†When I got my new phone, I downloaded the Google Photos app and retrieved my photos, it’s unbelievable that this app is still FREE!!¬† That’s right, if you ever retrieve a photo it’s done by the same process you use to save a photo to your iPhone. ¬†It’s the best app on my phone by far! ¬†Get this app now and free up space on your phone! ¬†Get a new phone? ¬†Lose your phone or old phone breaks, just reinstall the app… ¬†Did I mention it was FREE??

The last app that I find absolutely incredible is Focos by Xiaodong Wang. ¬†It’s only for use with photos taken in the iPhone’s Portrait Mode. ¬†In the below middle photo you’ll see the original photo of my daughter holding our new puppy last year. ¬†On the left, the focus has been changed to my daughter’s eyes. ¬†On the right, the puppy is in focus and everything else is blurred! ¬†That’s right, Focos allows you to re-focus you photos after they’ve been taken, how cool is that? ¬†It gets better, this little gem is also FREE, as in total cost to you: NADA! ¬†While I know there are tons of other apps out there for getting the most out of your iPhone when taking photos, these are my go-to apps that I love to use almost daily. ¬†I use them because they work, they’re simple, and with the exception of FX Photo Studio Pro, they’re free. ¬†I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tour in to my geeky world.

ūüėé

Camera bag advice…

This isn’t going to be a “here’s my bag and why I like it” post or telling you what I think is the best bag. ¬†Like most people carrying camera gear, I’ve been through quite a few bags and backpacks over the years. ¬†Just ask my wife… ¬†It was as if the next bag in a magazine would be better than the one currently in use. ¬†However, one lesson learned about finding the perfect camera bag is that there isn’t one. ¬†While the latest bags always promise to be the last bag you’ll ever need, there’s always compromises; after the novelty wears off you’ll realize what you’ve settled for. ¬†The best thing I’ve learned about camera bags, and coming from someone who has had back surgery, DON’T ORDER WITHOUT TRYING. ¬†That was my mistake for years, I would see advertising for a bag or spot one online and order it. ¬†Why? In my mind this was the last bag purchase so it was money well spent, right? ¬†I had used a lot of bags, but mostly¬†Lowepro and¬†Kata¬†bags stand out from 2008-2015, they’re both great companies with excellent bags. ¬†However, after using each new purchase for some months, there would be things I didn’t like, things I wanted from earlier bags, or worst of all, they just hurt after a while. ¬†Then I’d spot another bag, and the cycle continued with the exception of three years.

For those three years or so, I used Peak Design camera bags, and they’re very good bags (pictured at the bottom). ¬†I’ve written about their products many times on this blog, Peak Design’s exceptional gear is well-built by people who really care about photography. ¬†They make other products that I’ve used since 2012 and can’t seem to do without! ¬†Nothing beats PD’s Capture & Clip system for belt or backpack carry and going straight to the tripod! ¬†oI never change a plate or anything on my camera bottom and haven’t for years. ¬†Whoah!!! Squirrel!!! ¬†Whoops, back to camera bags… ¬†Everything changed while living in Virginia after visiting¬†Ace Photo in Ashburn, VA. ¬†They have an entire room of all the big name bags, when you walk in you actually hear angels in high voices singing “aaaaahhhhh” (see photo at left).¬† Not really, but I kind of felt that. ¬†They actually let you try on bags in the store and had no problem with bringing in my current bag to compare it to theirs! ¬†I took out all my stuff and put it in their bags, several of them actually, and put them on my back, game changer! ¬†That’s when I ended up buying a couple of ¬†ThinkTank bags! ¬†It made me realize that while I loved Peak Design bags, it was because they hurt my back less than the others. ¬†PD’s bags are great bags as are ThinkTank’s. ¬†It was at this point I decided that I’d never buy another bag without trying it first – EVER, lesson learned. ¬†Most times my bag is something that I work out of, I’ll leave it somewhere safe and put the camera on a strap. ¬†This also limits the desire to constantly swap lenses, I’ve gotten better shots by taking one lens and just shooting. ¬†I learned this at Ken Rockwell’s site a few years ago on his page Assembling a System ~ or ~ What to Bring¬†where he said, “Attempting to prepare yourself for everything ensures that you will be prepared for nothing.”

 

So in the last 1+ year there have been no new camera bags and it’s been done by asking myself three questions whenever the ‘next bag’ itch comes around:

  1. First, does this have features that my current bag doesn’t? ¬†This has to be a substantial upgrade, a game changer, to ditch the current setup that I know works. ¬†If this is a yes, move on to the next question.
  2. Second, can the current bag be modified to do what the perspective bag does? ¬†So far, in most cases the answer has been yes, done! ¬†It’s usually by reorganizing, which I hate doing because it’s nice knowing where everything is when in the dark. ¬†However, when the answer has been no, back to Question 1, just how substantial is this again? ¬†So far, it’s never been worth ditching the current system that works.
  3. Third, can a try it somewhere first? ¬†To this date, I haven’t gotten to this question. ¬†If Questions 1 and 2 lead to number 3 and there’s no place to try out the bag, I’m not buying it, period. ¬†Again, I’m never buying another bag without putting everything in it and trying it!

I’ve come to believe that most of the features that new bags offer tend to be the ability to conveniently pack more gear. ¬†There’s nothing wrong with that, some people need this and more. ¬†For this guy, more weight in the bag equates to back pain. ¬†Another thing that’s worked to curb buying bags, and while this might seem a bit extreme, is removing labels. ¬†Screen Shot 2019-02-14 at 09.03.30While this was originally for anti-theft purposes, a savvy thief could¬†understand that high-end camera bag labels likely protect high end camera gear. ¬†However, this has also makes it a little more difficult selling a bag online. ¬†People want to know it’s an original when they buy it, good luck selling them now, with no label right? ¬†I’ve cut up a military style gear tag, in orange like the one at the right, and placed it over the main label with epoxy. ¬†It’s not coming off anytime soon… ¬†Not only does it cover the label, it makes the bag stick out slightly so it would be very easy to spot if someone grabbed it in a crowd (photo at the top). ¬†Again, it’s worked for me.

So that’s the advice, I’ve had three bags that have worked perfectly for over a year and have been carried extensively, that’s not changing anytime soon. ¬†The brand of my bags doesn’t matter, they work for me, you might not like them and that’s life. ¬†There are so many quality camera bags and backpacks to choose from, but it really does require trying them out to find one that’s right for you. ¬†Remember, there is no perfect bag, you will have make concessions in some way. ¬†Just get one that does most of what you need and you’ll be happy.

 

sling2

Third time‚Äôs a charm…

For those of you who don’t know, when it comes to photography I’m what you might call a late starter.  I became interested in photography after joining the US Navy in 1981 and my first camera, the Canon AE1 Program (left) cost half of my monthly salary.canon_ae_1_program_35mm_slr_305135  I was living in Italy and shooting with film was crazy expensive, plus I was a really crappy shooter.  To save money, I sent my film to a company in California, they would develop the film as slides and send them back; it was cheap.  Then I could pick out the keepers, send back the slides, and they would return the slides with prints. Why all this?  Well, it prevented paying for multiple blurry photos shot with different settings (the crappy shooter thing) but it also took weeks to get prints.  At just twenty years old, living in Italy, I wisely chose sell the camera gear and spend the extra cash on Napolitan pizza, pasta, and European beer.  In the last years of my Navy career, I took up photography again with a little Sony DSC-W7 digital camera
Morning Bluesand eventually moved to DSLR’s. This photo of Mount Vesuvius, at right called Morning Blues was taken with that camera.  Retiring in 2011 after 30 years as a US Navy Musician, my remained on active duty.  By 2014, photography was getting to be a serious hobby so I began blogging, it was a way to post what I was doing as well as talk about my photos.  I currently hold the titles of military retiree, military dependent, and stay at home dad which is WAY harder than it sounds.  In the summer of 2017, my wife transferred and we moved from Coronado, CA to the Washington, DC area.  I couldn’t have been happier, my love of photography is paralleled by my love of history!  My wife’s transfer put us smack in the middle of everything I loved!  I was so floored by everything around us in the northern Virginia/DC area that I completely let the blog fall by the wayside…

By the summer of 2017, the blog was a memory, not intentionally, there was just so much to do and see near our new home.  I didn’t leave the house without a camera it seemed.  We lived thirtyDiving Duck minutes from a half dozen Civil War battlefields, the Smithsonian Museums, near the colonial city of Alexandria, and everything that comes with Washington, DC!  The last blog post in September 2017 was The Old Switch-a-roo detailing my recent switch from a Sony a7R II back to the Canon 6d Mark II, a move I don’t regret to this day.  I had also been a user of Peak Design bags for a couple of years and loved them. However, after moving to DC, there was another company that I loved, more on that later – maybe a future post?  I was selling stock photography at this point for about six months and was making a few bucks.  screen shot 2018-02-20 at 10.29.51 Since then it has taken off in a big way, it has become a small business.  Stock photography is tricky and it’s difficult to know where photos are used unless I search or someone tells me.  By the time the blog died in September, I discovered one of my photos had been used on the cover of National Geographic India’s Road Trip Edition the previous April.  My car photo, The Fifties, was used as a composite image where another photographer’s photo was used in the hubcap (right).  I couldn’t have been happier, especially when credited for the photo inside the cover!  It seems every photographer’s dream is to end up in NatGeo any way possible, that was simply amazing.  Since then, my stock photos have been used many times, pretty happy about that too; click [HERE] to view them.

After a little more than a year in DC, my wife was transferred again; this time to Japan where this post is being banged out.  While I hated leaving DC, at least it was for a place as cool as this.  However, I recently pondered the mistake of not blogging while in DC and decided not to make that mistake again.  I went back to WordPress, reactivated the old account, and quicker that jack rabbits making love – everything was sitting there just as I left it.  It was as if Congress was asked to do something with it, nothing happened at all!  Everything was there, even the previous followers!  The goal now is to post something thought out, or as much as this brain can manage, every two weeks.  In between those posts I’ll post live from wherever I happen to be shooting from, something for which I currently use Instagram (@ BillChizekPhotography).  If you’re checking this out for the first time, THANK YOU!  You can follow or subscribe on the right side of this blog to receive notifications for new posts.  If you’ve returned, welcome back and thank you as well!  I’m really looking forward to this blog and future feedback, hope to hear from you!

Bill

Fuji 1 My first time shooting Mount Fuji as seen from across Sagami Bay near Hayama, Japan.

 

Coming back soon…

In 2017 we moved to the DC area from Coronado, CA and I didn’t keep this blog going. I’m starting again, my initial goal is two posts a month plus postings while out shooting. The blog is now running with all the old posts and I’ll start posting again soon. Sign up for updates on the right side and get notifications when I post.

Thanks!

Bill

#photoblog #photoblogger #travelphotoblog #travelpictures #stockphotography #travelpics #stockphoto

The Old Switch-a-roo

Last November I made the switch to Sony leaving my beloved Canon 6D for a Sony A7R. ¬†In my blog post entitled “Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______ ” from November 2016 I spelled out why I went to a Sony mirrorless system and closed with, “While I‚Äôve moved to Sony for the moment, I‚Äôm still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.” ¬†My eleven months with Sony was not what I had hoped for, I missed my old 6D almost from the minute I sold it. ¬†As I mentioned back then, the menu system was flat out strange and illogical but I found two issues I just couldn’t overcome. ¬†First, much of my stock photography almost immediately was rejected for being blurry, something not previously encountered. ¬†Second, shooting any action was almost too much for the Sony to handle, sharp images with any movement were hard to come by.

Something I didn’t mention in my blog was that I hated the A7R so much that I sold it and upgraded to the A7Rii. ¬†Problem solved? ¬†Well… ¬†I was happy at first because when it did focus, it was very good. ¬†However, I found that unless I manually focused, there were still issues with the auto-focus. ¬†While less of my stock photography was being kicked back, it was still an issue. ¬†Taking the A7Rii out to a Red Bull Air Race, I thought even though it was out of its element, I still might get a couple of decent action shots by spending the day concentrating on shooting action with this Sony, w-r-o-n-g. ¬†This A7Rii was a far superior camera when compared to my 4-year-old Canon 6D, yet the 6D NEVER had a focus issue. ¬†I missed picking up my 6D and just shooting, a couple of presets and a decent auto-focus system made me feel like I was better prepared to capture whatever unfolded in front of me. ¬†Not to mention, with Canon my life didn’t literally revolve around battery life. ¬†When you shoot any action with a Sony mirrorless, it drinks batteries quicker than a DC politician at happy hour! ¬†Whether shooting the A7R or the A7Rii in continious-hi, continious-lo, or the sports setting, nothing produced consistently crisp images, but I could depend on the battery getting drained quickly. ¬†Finally, I was on vacation this summer and went to shoot a friend’s car, 3 out of 51 photos were decent and the rest were not crisp. ¬†I felt that auto-focus shouldn’t even have been an issue for a camera costing just under $3k! ¬†After 10 months, I decided it was time to end my Sony experiment. ¬†I know there are plenty of people who swear by Sony mirrorless, it just didn’t work for me.

Deciding to get a new Canon was easy, however my reasons for leaving Canon hadn’t changed, the Sony system was lighter and easier on my back (after surgery). ¬†I knew going back to my familiar Canon turf would mean some sort of compromise, meaning carrying less weight (lenses). ¬†The Canon options I looked at were my old EOS 6D because I truly missed it, but also the 6D Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV were up for consideration. ¬†It came down to this, while I loved the original 6D, is already outdated. ¬†The 5D Mark IV was about $1k more than I wanted to spend, that left the 6D Mark II as serious choice for me. ¬†While I’ve only had the new camera for a few weeks, I do love it and it feels very familiar after having the original 6D. ¬†I bought the Canon¬†EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM¬†to use as my main lens, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for low light, but not an everyday carry. ¬†However, I also bought one lens I used to own, the Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. ¬†I actually liked this lens so much that I wrote about it here in September 2016, see Diffractive what? for more. ¬†I’ll write more later about the Canon 6D Mark II, once I’ve got more shooting time under my belt. ¬†I will say this, picking up the 6D Mark II was like saying hello to an old friend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons

Life revolves around batteries

Patriotic Homes of Coronado

Flags 1Selling stock photos has been going well this year. ¬†However, while most photos for my website make it to the stock sites with logos and trademarks removed, the reverse isn’t true as many stock photos don’t make it to BillChizekPhotography.com. ¬†These can range from the texture of a wall, grass with morning dew, or a piece of wood; subjects that allow copy space for advertisers to insert text, nothing appealing for a photography website. ¬†That said, I try to post a variety of photos about five days a week to my website and all the stock photos taken that week. ¬†Posting one photo daily ensures website traffic, if I posted thirty photos most visitors would just look at them one time and move on. ¬†Posting as many stock photos weekly as possible is important because they don’t make money sitting on a hard drive. ¬†However, this year I decided to post nothing but patriotic stock photos for the long Fourth of July weekend. ¬†For this, I used stock photos of flags flying in the yards near where we live in Coronado, California. ¬†Not surprising to anyone living in Coronado, but many homes here fly the flag year round. In fact, only the photo at the top of this post was taken on the actual Fourth of July weekend (click HERE for original photo). ¬†Yes, you’d be hard pressed to find a more patriotic community west of the Mississippi!

This is largely due Coronado having a unique military history, a good portion of Coronado’s land is occupied by Naval Air Station North Island. ¬†Almost since the beginning of Naval Aviation, many Naval Aviators have relocated to Coronado at various points in their careers.Flags 6¬† Many homes proudly display blue yard signs reading “Home of a Naval Aviator” and these are everywhere. ¬†To say this little town is kind of proud of the US Navy is like saying that little town back in Wisconsin is kind of proud of their Packers. ¬†That’s why most of these photos were shot months ago in anticipation that advertisers would be looking for patriotic photos for their Independence Day deadlines. ¬†Coronado was the perfect location for this because with flags flying year round, my patriotic stock photo search was mostly complete last May. ¬†This photo to the left may look like it’s been set up for an upcoming holiday, but this street looks like this practically for 365 days of the year! ¬†Yes, even with the white picket fences.

Flags 2

Coronado is home to many active duty and retired military, plus it’s the home of the US Navy SEAL’s who train here. ¬†Since 2007, Coronado has been home to our family for about seven years. ¬†It’s where I, like many others, retired from the military. ¬†It’s probably because Coronado is just one of those places that’s comfortable to military people because being retired military here isn’t a novelty. ¬†This is probably another the reason that flags fly year round here. ¬†Shooting stock photography here couldn’t have been easier, if I liked a particular photo but felt it was missing something, I didn’t have to spend hours in Photoshop doctoring the pic to get it right nor did I need to seek new locations. ¬†All that was needed was to return to the same location at a different time of day! ¬†The differences between morning and evening lighting, seasons, and weather all ensured a variety of photo settings.

Flags 3The photo location for this shot at left didn’t work the few times I tried, it was always lacking something. ¬†However, returning one morning and catching the sun behind the flag seemed to make it click. ¬†As a photographer, that’s one of the nice things about living somewhere that others travel to for vacation, if you don’t get a photo the way you want it you can just return later. ¬†While I’ve loved living here, my wife a service member and it’s our time to roll to the next place to call home for a while. ¬†Fortunately we’re moving to another incredible place that should prove interesting not only for photography but for our family as well, Virginia. ¬†As a former adjunct history professor and lifelong history buff/nerd/geek, I can’t think of another place I’d rather be located other than at my own house in Texas. ¬†Coronado has been a great place to raise our daughters, who have loved the beaches and learning to swim at the rec center, leaving friends and Coronado will be tough. ¬†While moving an entire house every three years or so can be draining, once settled at the new location this nomadic lifestyle can be rewarding. ¬†Since taking up photography, military transfers seem to recharge the creative batteries. ¬†In Coronado, even the below photo of springtime and blooming flowers came out patriotic, ya… it’s just that kind of place.

Nado Spring

 

 

Memorial Day 2017

I shoot stock photography, like the above photo, and there is always a demand for patriotic photos during this time of the year with Armed Forces, Memorial, Independence, and Veterans Days all within a few months of each other. ¬†The night before Memorial Day is a great opportunity to photograph as the flags have been put in place, there are cemetery workers present but the property is generally empty, so I know I’m not bothering anyone visiting graves. ¬†This is from my Facebook page, written about my experience this year, the night before Memorial Day:

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† “Last night I took my girls to Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery here in San Diego. ¬†Rosecrans will be packed today so we are going to the ceremony in Coronado. ¬†I do this because I want my girls growing up with, and understanding, Memorial Day and not being part of a generation who doesn‚Äôt seem to care for, or appreciate, these things. ¬†While shooting these photos, I saw a lady sitting on a blanket over a grave, drinking a glass of wine, and wiping tears away. ¬†I decided to talk to her but warned my girls that she may want to be left alone and that no matter her reaction, it was ok. ¬†If she had told me to go away I would have said, ‚ÄúI’m sorry ma‚Äôam‚ÄĚ and left. ¬†Well, I walked up, extended my hand and said, ‚ÄúI don’t want to bother you, but I just want to say thank you for your family’s sacrifice.” ¬†She said thank you, told me it was nice to hear that. ¬†She began telling me about her husband, a Navy Senior Chief and one of the SEAL‚Äôs killed during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan (2005). ¬†He was in the helicopter that was shot down trying to rescue Marcus Luttrell (the Lone Survivor), Michael Murphy and their two fellow SEAL‚Äôs.* ¬†The helicopter going down was the single greatest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. ¬†We talked about her husband and Navy life, how he wanted to be a Master Chief, and then about us and Raquel (my wife) being at sea. ¬†While wiping tears away she assured my girls that ‚Äúmommy will be home soon.” ¬†I almost cried myself at that point, I told her that I’ve gotten to know some SEAL wives where I live and it makes me realize how blessed I’ve been because of their community and what they do; how her husband, and people like him, aren’t forgotten. ¬†Afterwards, my daughter Amanda commented on how her husband was killed 12 years ago and she‚Äôs still crying… ¬† While I could have taken an incredible photo of this lady with the sun going down behind her as she sat on a blanket and an American flag pillow over her husbands grave, our conversation was better than any photo I could have taken.”

From a photography standpoint, I learned that just because you have a camera in hand doesn’t mean you should take a photo. ¬†While I was talking to her, I had my camera the entire time and I never once thought of using it. ¬†This moment was bigger than a photo opportunity; I cautiously entered her space, at a very private moment, and she graciously allowed me to stay. ¬†This experience left an impression not only on myself, but my oldest daughter as well. ¬†I think it’s as close¬†as an eight year old girl can come to understanding¬†that time sometimes¬†doesn’t heal all wounds; that hurt can sometimes¬†last a lifetime. ¬†Fortunately, I didn’t just drive by this lady but¬†took a minute to talk with her and learned about her husband, but mostly their sacrifice. ¬†These families endure more than any of us will ever know, I’d imagine most of these service members will tell you that they’re just doing their jobs. ¬†I think they’re bigger than that and so are their families. ¬†This incredible woman shared a very private part of her life with me and it was an honor to meet her and be in her presence.

 

*Danny Dietz and Matthew Axelson.

Stock Photography

Last January a friend suggested I try selling my photos as stock photography and suggested a few sites.  I thought about it and decided to give it a shot.  Like I do before I leap in to something, I sought advice from my close personal friend Рthe internet.  There was so much information, contradictory opinions, and legal speak that I walked away with a list of questions I needed to answer before I could dive in the deep end.  The first hurdle was whether I was going to post my photos with exclusive or non-exclusive rights? In all honesty I had NO idea what this meant but it was important because everyone had an opinion and wrote about it like I should care.  So first, what was it?  Second, how did it apply to me if at all?  As for the first question, exclusive rights means that once you post your photo at a website for licensing or sale, you are not allowed to post anywhere else to make money.  Non-exclusive means you are free to sell your photos at as many non-exclusive sites as you like.  Is one option better than the other?  It seems everyone differs on this but I hope to share my experiences with posting non-exclusively.

So, why couldn’t I just join a stock photo site and start posting? ¬†I could, but not knowing the in and outs of exclusive vs. non-exclusive meant I’d be flying blind. ¬†When posting exclusively at one site, the ability to make more money per photo is greater. ¬†However, I thought it was better to post at many sites non-exclusively and make less money per photo in hopes of making a larger profit in the bigger picture. ¬†The disadvantage, as I read, would mean I’d be competing with myself because if a buyer wanted my photo they could shop around and purchase¬†it at the lower price as all these sites differ in their pricing. ¬†The other disadvantage is that posting at multiple sites obviously requires more time; time to key word, time to upload, and some sites are just more user-friendly than others. ¬†All this time keywording and uploading means¬†less time you’ll spend¬†shooting. ¬†So I was settled on going non-exclusive, now I could find the sites and start posting? ¬†Well, sure, sort of…

Sundown

Aside from exclusive and non-exclusive licensing, there are also two types of stock photography – commercial and editorial. ¬†Huh? I don’t shoot editorial, but as I understand it, the key wording¬†is much different and sanitizing logos/trademarks isn’t necessary, but the photo basically needs to represent a newsworthy factual event and shouldn’t¬†be edited. ¬†Again, this is my understanding as I don’t really shoot editorial photos. ¬†Commercial licensing, on the other hand, means¬†sanitizing your photos; removing any trademarks, logos, branding, any information that can identify the item. ¬†If you submit a photo and it is refused for “visible trademark” or something similar, enlarge your image and hunt for it, it’s there. ¬†When you find it you can blur or clone it from the photo. ¬†The photo at the top of this page, Sundown, contains numerous items that would prohibit¬†commercial use. ¬†First, the Wells-Fargo building needed to have the name removed as well as the red number celebrating the 150th anniversary of a law firm located inside the building. ¬†Next, all the advertising and logos needed to be edited out, most of it was next to the freeway but it was everywhere in this photo. ¬†Finally, you probably wouldn’t think of this and I certainly didn’t, but all of the graffiti in the neighborhoods and on the trains needed to be edited out. ¬†Yes, even graffiti because it’s a touchy area and is generally considered the intellectual property of the artist. ¬†Yes, they deface public and private property but¬†we can’t have it in commercial¬†photos without crediting them or getting a property release from the owner! ¬†See the same photo,¬†above, for the sanitized version from a stock website.

TranstarEven shapes or designs are trademarked if the design uniquely belongs to a company. ¬†Also, just because a company went out of business doesn’t mean someone or somebody doesn’t own the rights. ¬†I once created¬†a car¬†calendar with this photo of a Studebaker Transtar pickup truck grill (right). ¬†Studebaker has been out of business for fifty years, my logic was that there was no way someone still held the rights to that. ¬†I was wrong, I received a nasty-gram telling me that the Studebaker Museum still owned the rights to the defunct company and my photo had been deleted, end of discussion and lesson learned. ¬†Well, there went a month from my car calendar… ¬†So just removing logos and trademarks might not be the only thing needed to make your photo legal, if you have people in your photo you’ll need model releases for them as well. ¬†I use an app called Easy Release that lets me do it right from my phone, the model can sign with their finger, and I can send it completed to myself making a model release easy and possible on the spot. ¬†Getting a model release after the fact can be problematic as you’ll need¬†their information, then later send the documents to them so they can print, sign, scan, and send back to you. ¬†If the model has no scanner or printer, then what? ¬†So now you’ve got a model release on your phone, you have the model’s information and consent, so you can commercially license your photo right? ¬†Again, sure, sort of..

Jennifer Moon

The photo at left is the reason I began using Easy Release. ¬†I was walking around a car show in San Diego a few years ago and a man came up to me and asked me to take a photo of a woman (Jennifer Moon) in front of his car. ¬†I generally don’t shoot portraits, but here I was, “Mr. I don’t do portraits,” with this woman standing in front of a car. ¬†After the shot, the three of us exchanged information and went our separate ways. ¬†Everything was fine until I went to license my new photo and needed a model release. ¬†However, fast forward to 5 months ago when I decided to give stock photography a shot; my issue was no longer a model release but her tattoos. ¬†Just as a graffiti artist’s work is intellectual property, each of the model’s tattoos were the intellectual property of EACH tattoo artist! ¬†If you’re shooting models or street photography, you may want to consider having model releases readily available.

Once I organized¬†a couple of hundred photos that were able to be licensed commercially, I researched the sites I would try first using¬†non-exclusive licensing. ¬†Some required a simple sign-up, one¬†required an exam regarding the above information, and most required samples of my work. ¬†After getting accepted, all of them required a contract and my tax information. ¬†All of this was just to get started, now I needed to upload hundreds of photos at five or six sites, after time some websites panned out with sales and some didn’t. ¬†However, the point made earlier about “competing with myself” didn’t really occur¬†because many sites didn’t want certain photos, so my inventory varies slightly from site to site. ¬†That brings me to this, if you have a thin skin, I don’t suggest stock photography because you will¬†be rejected. ¬†You’ve spent your time working on a photo, making it just right, then have it rejected. ¬†My experience has been something like this; I shoot a photo that I think will be accepted at all of the sites and is really going to sell, and it doesn’t. ¬†Yet, a photo I think might have a chance at getting accepted¬†does, and actually sells well and I never saw it coming! ¬†Only if I submit a photo and it is¬†universally rejected will I re-edit to make it acceptable and try again. ¬†If it’s already on the other sites, I’m cool with being rejected at a few sites because it actually gives my photos variety at individual sites.

Lastly, getting serious about shooting stock has changed what/how I’ve been shooting. ¬†I used to go out shooting for my website, capturing whatever caught my eye or maybe shoot some local event, but all driven by my website. ¬†However, now I’m looking at¬†upcoming holidays and go out hunting for specific¬†subjects. ¬†For example, in addition to¬†seasonal photos, after Easter I’ve been on the lookout for patriotic subjects (such as flags, cemeteries, etc.) for the upcoming Memorial, Independence, and Veterans holidays. ¬†At the end of September I’ll be looking for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas themes to build up a repertoire to get larger each year. In stock photography, you¬†sign a contract, why not treat it like a business? ¬†Searching for stock photo shots has actually help me put more photos on my website, and kept me busy shooting. ¬†Remember, selling exclusively means you can sell at multiple sites and sell the same photo many times. ¬†It’s like taking the time to build something you intend to sell and being able to resell it without having to rebuild the item each time. ¬†Stock photography has been very promising, last month I received a $120 deposit to my PayPal account. ¬†Not bad getting paid for photos that would have otherwise sat on my hard drive unnoticed.

Coronado, CA

I had the good fortune of living in the coastal city of Coronado, California from 2007-2011, courtesy of the US Navy. ¬†Photography was reentering my life as I had not taken many photos in over 25 years. ¬†I found myself in the land of sunsets, beaches, ocean views, and I loved it. ¬†When I found out in 2014 that I would be returning to Coronado, I was a happy camper! ¬†I began searching online for photos of Coronado to see what other photographers were shooting, something I often do to get ideas. ¬†I found sunset photos, the Hotel Del Coronado, sunsets, the beach, the bridge, the boathouse, and even sunsets! ¬†I made a decision right then and there to take photos of Coronado, the city; sure I’d shoot the San Diego skyline, the bridge, boathouse, and yes, the legendary Pacific coast sunsets; but I hoped to capture¬†something different. ¬†Let me say upfront, there are many amazing photographers in Coronado who I respect, they shoot everything including the incredible sunsets, and I love checking out their amazing photos! ¬†However, I hoped¬†to do something else and wanted¬†to catch another side of Coronado while I was here. ¬†The photo at the top of the page was taken¬†at the Fiddler’s Cove Marina when the¬†sun was just starting to burn through the morning fog.

Super Moon    Fog

The main marina in Coronado makes for an excellent photo subject just about 24/7 (above left). ¬†I hoped to show that there is life in this marina, even at night, because¬†many people live aboard their boats. ¬†This was the night of the “super moon” and while this isn’t a spectacular super moon photo compared to others, I think it captures the vibe of this marina at night with the calm waters and reflection of the moon. ¬†Since sailing and boating are a major activities in Coronado, it’s not difficult finding sailboats virtually everywhere. ¬†The above right photo was taken from Tidelands Park which is a great location to shoot sunrises as well. ¬†You might be able to¬†tell by this photo, and the one at the top of this page, I LOVE fog! ¬†When it comes to photography, I find that while blue skies are amazing to the naked eye, they just do nothing for me with my camera. ¬†I’ve found the trick to shooting fog in Coronado is to have the camera bag ready to go at all times, the fog can appear and disappear quickly here. ¬†Unlike the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin where I grew up, the sun can literally burn off solid fog in minutes, and in both of these photos the fog was gone within 10 minutes¬†after snapping these.

Chillaxin'    Spreckels Christmas

Capturing everyday scenes in Coronado has been interesting because common events¬†we do daily are set in front of an incredible backdrop. ¬†In the above left photo, a bird dives in to the water for a fish while a guy is relaxing with¬†his hands behind head checking out the view. ¬†Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up, Coronado is¬†really like this at times! ¬†The above right photo was taken at the Spreckel’s Park gazebo after my daughters had their Girl Scout meeting there. ¬†The below middle sunrise photo was also taken at Spreckel’s Park, if there is a hub for Coronado, in my opinion it is this park because concerts, flower shows, playtime with the kids, and even craft shows on Sunday mornings happen at this park. ¬†Below left are two VW vans that I drive by practically every day, and for over a year I meant to shoot them. ¬†There’s nothing fancy here, I just thought it looked cool as a typical street scene with these classic vans. ¬†Finally, the shot below on the right is a front yard swing, it could be Anywhere USA, which was the point of this photo; there are many times when¬†Coronado feels like any other small town I’ve visited, I mean that in the best possible way!

V-Dubs  Spreckles  Swingin'

Coronado has a rich military history as both the US Army and US Navy maintained a presence here until the late 1930’s. ¬†However, it has been the Navy that remained and Coronado has been the major training location for the US Navy SEAL’s for decades. ¬†In 2016, Coronado erected a statue honoring all maritime commandos called the “Naked Warrior” sculpted by artist J. Seward Johnson Jr. (below). ¬†These ‘naked warriors’ would later evolve in to the Navy SEAL’s of today. ¬†For a great book on this, check out¬†The Naked Warriors: The Elite Fighting Force that became the Navy SEAL’s by CDR Francis Fane. ¬†While I was shooting this photo, a young man actually slowly passed by the statue on his beach cruiser bike, fist bumped his heart and flashed a peace sign to the statue in respect, this is Coronado. ¬†While I love the ocean, beaches, and sunsets, I think there is more to Coronado. ¬†While it’s a place of seaside mansions and a major travel desination, if you peel back it’s layers you’ll find a simple coastal village and military town rich in history. ¬†Look past the streets filled with tourists and you’ll see¬†swings hanging from trees, VW’s parked on the¬†streets in front of simple cottages, and quiet neighborhoods like most other little towns. ¬†Oh, and if you wait till the evening, you might even experience¬†an incredible sunset.

Naked Warrior 2

Again?

Ok…¬†Gurushots.com¬†is gettin’ a little carried away… ¬†My pic, Hand in Hand, made #2 on a new¬†list of¬†“32 Photographs With Negative Space Proving That Less Can Be More.” ¬†I took this at White Sands National Monument on June 23, 2017 with my¬†Canon EOS 6D and¬†EF 24-105mm f/4L IS lens. ¬†Thank you Gurushots!

 

Original photo is at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-N7m7WFH/A

 

Hand in Hand
Taken at White Sands National Monument, my daughters were walking ahead of me singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen because the white sand reminded them of snow.

My pic made the list!

I think someone at Gurushots.com likes me… ¬†I made their¬†list of “34 Vertigo Inducing Shots Of The Some Of The Tallest Skyscrapers In The World” with¬†mine, Summer Night, at 20! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow. ¬†This photo of the San Diego skyline was taken on August 20, 2015 at Centennial Park in Coronado, CA.

Original photo is at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-Pngnh2z

Summer Night
A summer view of San Diego at night from Coronado, CA.

Euro History 1

Since writing an earlier¬†blog entry about photographing US history locations, the subject of European history and some of my older photos entered my mind. ¬†Again, history combined with photography is my personal perfect storm. ¬†European history is so much more far reaching than that of the US simply because their cities existed when the United States was nothing more than trails and villages from the Pacific to the Atlantic. ¬†To put it in to perspective, numerous European cities are well over a thousand years old, literally these are everywhere. ¬†However, if something is¬†a hundred years old in the USA, we hang a plaque on it… ¬†I mean, comparatively speaking, the ink was still wet on our Declaration of Independence when¬†European history was almost completely¬†written. ¬†Admittedly, I’m nowhere near as handy¬†with European history as I am with good ole’ US history. ¬†This blog page will be more about photos I took in some pretty cool places. ¬†For example, the below photo was taken at the location for the portrait at top of this page entitled Rain by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. ¬†This photo was taken at Edvard Munch’s house in¬†√Ösg√•rdstrand, Norway. ¬†Munch’s most famous painting, called The Scream,¬†sold for almost 120 million dollars in 2012! ¬†Many artists, especially Impressionists painters, went to Norway for the long sunrises and sunsets that allowed for them to paint much longer than the sun would allow in other parts of Europe. ¬†√Ösg√•rdstrand is¬†truly a beautiful place worth seeing.

Munch

The VillaWhile living in Italy it was impossible to not notice the history that surrounded me practically everywhere. ¬†There is so much that it is very easy to not notice it sometimes, one can actually become immune to it. ¬†It’s like when you meet someone from Washington DC who has never visited the White House or gone to the Smithsonian… ¬†There would be something like this villa on a lake at left, you’d make a note and look it up when you got home and then understood what it is. ¬†This little villa sits on Lago Fusaro¬†near Naples, Italy and is called¬†Casina Vanvitelliana;¬†it was the royal hunting lodge for the Bourbon Kings of Naples and even had famous musical guests like Mozart and Rossini. ¬†This photo is called The Villa¬†(at left).¬† Also near Naples is a great find for Greek history buffs, it’s the ruins of a Greek city called Paestum that date back to about 500 BC!¬† If you’d like more, I wrote a separate blog post back in February 2014 called The Temples of Paestum. ¬†One thing to consider in some parts of Europe when shooting photos, many locations¬†aren’t fond of tripods. ¬†I was chewed out here in Paestum for using a monopod. ¬†Most churches and archeological site forbid tripods and I’ve heard various reasons. ¬†The temple below is believed to honor Poseidon.
Temple of NeptuneNaples is very unique as it’s not uncommon to see recent history from World War Two standing next to history that is thousands of years old. ¬†Below is a photo of the Abbey at Monte Cassino¬†which has stood here for centuries. ¬†The original building¬†was sacked and destroyed many times in its history and to put European history in to perspective, the first time it was sacked was 700 years before Columbus sailed for the New World and 1700 years before the days of the US Declaration of Independence! ¬†The last time it was sacked was during Allied bombings in 1944. ¬†The abbey, like Europe, has stood the test of time and will leave you with your mouth open should you ever have the chance to visit. ¬†Living in Italy was an incredible experience, I would go back in a minute too. ¬†I would return not just for the incredible history, but the people and the way of life as well.

Abbazia di Montecassino

My Pic @ The Daily Beast!

A photo I submitted to Getty Images was used by The Daily Beast on March 14, 2017.

Read the article at:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/15/why-marines-might-get-away-with-sharing-nude-photos.html

Original photo:
http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-FTLHHKz/A

 

Parade Rest
A Marine Corps color guard on Memorial Day in Coronado, California.

Number 14!

Gurushots.com’s list of the¬†“30 Photographs Of Motion That Will Get Your Heart Pumping And Your Face Smiling” has my photo, Chutes, is¬†at number 14! ¬†The photo was taken at the 2015 Miramar Airshow.

Original photo is at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-Vgzt5Ks/A

 

Chutes
Shockwave, the world’s fastest truch deploys it’s parachutes to stop after hitting over 340 mph at the 2015 Miramar Air Show. http://flashfirejettrucks.com

iPhone Photography

Surfer GuyWhile living in Europe, I purchased a very nice Sony DSC-TX20 pocket camera for the nights I didn’t want to carry my camera bag going out to dinner.  I worked out well, it took great photos and had an excellent wide angle view.  However, I didn’t own an iPhone then.  When I came back to the US and got my first iPhone I was kind of excited by the prospect of instantly sharing photos but hadn’t truly realized its potential.  The process of getting to my photos and actually using them was now much simpler.  Whether I was using my Canon DSLR or my Sony pocket camera, the process was the same;  get back from my trip and take the card out of the camera, place it in the computer to download the images, erase or reformat the card, put the camera away and recharge batteries.  Then I’d email or post the photos…  The iPhone changed all that, now I could take a photo of decent quality and instantly send it where I wanted or post it to social media, all the other steps were gone.  My Sony pocket camera instantly became a dinosaurer.  The photo at left was taken at Imperial Beach, California as I was setting my tripod up to do some sunset photography.  It was this photo that made me realize the potential of the iPhones 6’s camera.  While it’s not DSLR quality, it’s not that bad either!

iphone3Many times, while setting up for a photo or just out shooting, I’ll take a photo and post to social media and this has been the best thing.  I can actually post real time photos of the little photo trips I make.  For instance, while I was shooting at the marina in Coronado, California, I decided to shoot a photo with the iPhone.  That photo is at the top of this page and was taken using the iPhone 6’s Pano setting for panoramic photos (click HERE to view original).  Many times when I’m on foot to another location, I’ll shoot iPhone photos along the way and later some of those photos will make me go back later and shoot with my DSLR.  One of the best things about the iPhone’s camera is that it’s usually with you.  There have been times with my kids that I’ve captured a cool moments where there was no simply no time to grab my camera.  Bear ClawIn the above right photo, my daughters were playing and I was throwing a ball with the dog.  I looked and saw my girls and thought, this is one of those really cool moments in life.  I knew if I went in the house my girls would either stop and follow me, or move on to something else while I went inside.  I pulled out my iPhone and got the shot!  The same goes for this photo taken at the San Diego Zoo at left.  We were at the zoo early, when the polar bears play, the first thing in the morning.  The bear put his paw on the glass, my daughter said, “look daddy, he’s giving me a high-five.”  I quickly got my iPhone and got the shot.  This certainly would have been a better shot with my DSLR, but I had no idea how long that bear would stay put.  Fortunately, he stayed just long enough.  That’s the point here, while I would have loved to capture better versions of these photos with my DSLR, it just wasn’t goign to happen!  Better to capture these precious moments with my iPone than to not have them at all.

Lastly, there are some pretty cool effects packages available now at Apple’s App Store.  The effects app I really like is Macphun’s FX PhotoStudio.  Not only can you make some pretty cool effects, it’s incredibly simple to use.  The above photo of my daughter on the trampoline had the sun rings added with FX PhotoStudio and the water drops were added to the below photo as well.  As far as apps go, it’s expensive at $7.99, but it’s worth every penny because it works as advertised and has a ton of features.  Below is the pier at Imperial Beach, California and this is another example of the iPhone saving the day because I wasn’t even out shooting photos this day, I was just driving by and thought it looked like it could make a nice photo!

Iphone in IB

 

My Pic is #17!

Gurushots.com just published¬†a list of photos¬†called “32 Delicious Examples Of Food Photography. Guaranteed To Inspire And Make Your Tummy Rumble.” ¬†My photo, called Strawberry Slices, just made #17 and I couldn’t be happier! ¬†The strange thing is that I took this photo exactly one year ago today! ¬†It was shot with my old Canon 6D and a 24-105mm lens in my garage.

The original photo can be found at:

http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-BJQGtrG/A

Strawberry Slices
Cut strawberries with other fruits on a cutting board.

Puzzles?

puzzle1A few years ago I began to test selling photos in other venues and putting my photography on items such as mouse pads, cutting boards, cups, and various merchandise.  Overall, it was  quite a bit of work for something that I had no way of knowing if it would pan out.  Well… most of it didn’t, other than a couple of sales at Christmas (yes folks, it’s Christmas) but there wasn’t much to speak of for a while.  About a year ago I just stop working on it but kept the store active.  Fast forward to last week, I received an email regarding recent sales and apparently there were other messages that went to my junk mail folder.  Ah, the junk folder, or what I call the “select all and delete forever folder” because that IS what I do.  I apologize up front if you’ve been trying to contact me and are in fact a prince from a west African nation in search of a US bank account to temporarilly store your ten million dollars so little Timmy can get a new kidney after a bizzare tiger mauling while on safari, because your email went to my junk mail folder and was deleted.  Anyway, squirrel!!  Um…  oh ya, apparently I had sales; it wasn’t a lot, about $70 but I had done literally nothing but post my photos.  It appeared that one item gave me a trickle of income and, combining that with other trickles from photo downloads, started to give me a little more than beer money.  The above left puzzle was taken in a construction area that exposed an old wall with advertising.

puzzle3Puzzles, yes puzzles, who knew?  I apologize again, seriously this time, for the photo quality as these photos are all screen captures of the actual puzzles at my store front.  I noticed that some puzzles sold and others weren’t even viewed and it made me take a look at what was going on.  I asked myself, what make a puzzle fun and what makes you not want to even do a particular puzzle?  I realized that many of my puzzles were good photos but lousy puzzles!  While a sunset might make for a decent photo, it also can have much of the same colors in one large area making it very difficult.  So the goal became to use only photos with enough detail to become a good puzzle, difficult but not impossible to put together.  There needed to be clues in practically every piece, something that would at least guide the puzzle maker to the correct area.  At right is a barber pole at a Coronado, California barber shop on a rainy day.

puzzle5While I am concentrating on using more photos for making puzzles, the puzzles themselves in no way drive my photo subjects.  Puzzles have sold well so I’m concentrating there for the moment.  I stopped selling many other items because merchandise options are now available directly from my website at BillChizekPhotography.com when purchasing photos.  Howver, puzzles are located in my Puzzles Collection in my Zazzle Store.   The puzzle at left is of a big old Newfoundland who would have absolutely NOTHING to do with me.  He makes for an interesting puzzle as does the below photo taken at the marina in Coronado, California.  I’m hopefull that the puzzles will catch on, maybe it will turn in to more that beer money!

ūüėé

 

puzzle4

 

MIA Photo Fair!

My photo, Hand in Hand, was selected for the digital exposition in Minimalism at the MIA Photo Fair at The Mall – Porta Nuova in Milan, Italy from March 10-13, 2017!

https://gurushots.com/challenge/minimalism/winners/exhibit-digital  (8th row up from the bottom)

The Everyday Sling, Continued…

In this post¬†I wanted to follow up on my original review of Peak Design’s Everyday Sling back in September 2016 (see The Everyday Sling¬†blog post). ¬†Back then I stated,¬†“if you have a mirrorless system and want to travel light, THIS IS YOUR BAG! ¬†People who use¬†mirrorless systems are usually trying to keep the load¬†light.” ¬†I went on to say that if I had a mirrorless camera, “this would be my bag 24/7!” ¬†Well, I meant it, and after writing that post I actually ended up purchasing a Sony A7R mirrorless camera a month later and decided to give the Everyday Sling a¬†shot as my every day bag. ¬†There were two reasons for doing this; first, I switched to a mirrorless to lighten the load due to ongoing back issues resulting from surgery in 2010. ¬†Second, the folks at¬†Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†and¬†Peak Design¬†had given me a courtesy Everyday Sling and I felt I needed to give it a shot. ¬†Plus, since I shot my mouth off about how great it was, I needed to do this! ¬†Let me say upfront that the switch was easy and I’m very happy.

bcpnet2When I received my Everyday Sling, I used it on days I wanted to travel light, usually¬†taking¬†my Canon 6D and another lens only to head out somewhere on my bike or walking. ¬†For the most part, the rest of the bag really didn’t have much in the pockets. ¬†Using the Sling now as my every day carry means that it’s obviously heavier because I now¬†carry many of the items I used to carry in the Everyday Messenger. ¬†Heavier? Yes, but still very manageble and in no way is it uncomfortable. ¬†The bag is designed to expand out and away from your body as you add contents, making it still comfortable to carry. ¬†I also find myself usuing the adjustable strap more than I did with the Everyday Messenger. ¬†The Sling seems to feel better when I wear it high on my back, so when I need the camera I rotate the bag and lower it¬†to get in. ¬†Because of the way this bag’s strap is designed it’s almost one smooth movement and takes no extra time. ¬†So what are the drawbacks? ¬†Well, if you tried this as your main bag and carried something bigger than a mirrorless, or carried 2 or 3 lenses, I don’t think it would fare well. ¬†Strapping a tripod to the bottom seems like it could be a it of a pain as well. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, this little bag will do it, I just don’t know how comfortable it would be weighing it down so much. ¬†Frankly, if you were carrying a regular size DSLR and a couple of lenses, the Everyday Messenger is the better choice anyway.

bcpnetAfter four months of carrying the Everyday Sling, I’m comfortable recomending it to mirroress camera owners who are looking for a protective bag for their camera that is full of features. ¬†While I still love my Everyday Messenger Bag¬†(or EDM), my former every day carry, that bag is now for when I’m going to travel and need to bring along extras. ¬†When I wrote about the Everyday Messenger in my post “Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?” in May 2016 I truly believed I had found the perfect bag and never thought I’d switch cameras. ¬†For what I used to carry, a Canon 6D with a lens attached and two more in the bag, the Everyday Messenger¬†was perfect. ¬†However, since switching¬†to the Sony A7R, the Everyday Sling seemed a better fit, and this is true because of the lighter camera body and less lenses. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I still love the EDM and it’s still the best bag I’ve ever owned, but it’s now my travel bag. ¬†At 54 years old I still learn something new almost every day and the lesson learned here is this; if someone asks if you’d like to try a product, you might want to take them up on it. ¬†When originally contacted about trying out a bag, I told them I was plenty happy with my Everyday Messenger, fortunately they still sent me a bag. ¬†I say this because had¬†Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†not contacted me I definitely would NOT¬†have bought the Everyday Sling, I was completely content with the EDM. ¬†Again, a HUGE thank you to Purple Orange Brand Communictions and the wizards at Peak Design for giving me the opportunity to use the Everyday Sling!

sling1

My Two Photo Lessons…

I’m just a retired vet who likes to take photos, a hobbyist with some free time. ¬†The actual photography business doesn’t appeal because, after 30 years in the military, I know what I like. ¬†The idea of having a boss or agent, deadlines, an office, clients, obligations beyond my control, and paying for child care just to have these things I don’t want, is not appealing. ¬†When I was a musician I almost always¬†played¬†what people wanted to hear, not necessarily what I wanted to play. ¬†That’s what I imagine the photography business to be, taking photos of what other people want or need for business, not necessarily¬†what I like¬†to shoot. ¬†I love fitting photography in to my ‘Mr. Mom’ days with my kids and the¬†six Saturdays and a Sunday lifestyle. ¬†I also try to see the world as easy to break down when it comes to our abilities, no matter what level we’re at in life. ¬†All of us are better than some folks at things, not as good as¬†others, and if we’re smart we know our place. ¬†When I was a musician I saw¬†myself as just that, better than some and not as good as many others. ¬†The same is true with photography; if you want¬†a jolt of reality just go to Smugmug or 500px, search a subject you’ve shot and think you understand, then get ready to be humbled! ¬†If you really want to be brought down a few rungs on the ego ladder, search for your camera model and see photography that has been shot with your camera. ¬†This¬†will leave you wondering how other people¬†can get these incredible images, but you can’t.

Practicing

As I’ve said many times, there are similarities between a music lesson and one in photography. ¬†A lesson is just a starting point, what you do with the information taught is what matters. ¬†While I’ve had only two photography lessons, I have had many music lessons and have also given them. ¬†In both photography and music, there are incredible people who are simply gifted and willing to share their knowledge when asked. ¬†These ‘good people’ propel their craft by example and having¬†humble nature about their abilities. ¬†There are also the other kind, the people I don’t understand… ¬†These types of photographers/musicians seem to see everyone as a potential threat, competition¬†to their livelihood, as if there were no room for others in their line of work. ¬†Photographers and musicians with this attitude seem to be¬†out for themselves and are people I see as thin-skinned. ¬†The point is that if you run in to these kind of folks as I have, don’t be discouraged because there are plenty ‘good people’ out there to make up for it. ¬†Two of photographers I’ve met, the ‘good people’, are Will and Ed; who were both generous to share their talents with me. ¬†Here’s a summary of what I learned in the¬†two photo lessons of my life.

LESSON ONE

We were¬†living in Italy around 2012¬†and I had recently upgraded to a new DSLR. ¬†This was only my second DSLR, a Canon Rebel T3i and¬†a major leap. ¬†While it made photography more fun, poking around the camera menu left me wondering if I had bit off more than I could chew. ¬†Was I up for this? ¬†Honestly, I didn’t know because my photos weren’t any better with the T3i and I was still letting the camera call all the shots. ¬†The auto mode was my buddy, the camera did everything and I began to wonder why I didn’t just stay with my old camera if I was just going to¬†shoot in auto mode anyway. ¬†I tried shooting in the other modes but had no idea what I was doing. ¬†It was apparent that I was in over my head and just taking bad photos. ¬†I had heard through friends that a photographer was giving a free lesson on the weekend and it was for people of all levels. ¬†Count me in! ¬†When I got there, we were all in a room with Will, a very accomplished photographer and someone with a knack for breaking stuff down so people like me can understand. ¬†He started off by asking us individually what we hoped to gain¬†from his lesson? ¬†What did we want to learn? ¬†I said that I needed to get unchained from the auto mode, if I didn’t it would mean more crappy photos. ¬†In about 10 minutes Will broke down everything I had misunderstood about shooting modes, f-stops, ISO and everything that goes with it. ¬†He put everything in to “ga-ga goo-goo” words which I could wrap my head around, and that was the last day I shot in auto mode. ¬†Thanks to Will, I have been shooting in aperture priority mode ever since; however, I also shoot shutter priority and even full-out manual mode for night photography. ¬†That one lesson from Will came at the perfect time because I was asking myself if shooting with a DSLR¬†was really for me. ¬†I was convinced that I was never going to undertand DSLR’s and shoot anything better than crappy photos.

The long-term take away from Will’s lesson?¬† Will told us that when you want to learn about your camera and your abilities, shoot in your house. ¬†Your house is real world, it has no specially lit rooms, no special set ups, nada; if you practice in your house and get decent results you’ll fare much better in the real world! ¬†Whenever I’ve purchased a new camera I shoot in my house and see where I stand. ¬†THANK YOU WILL!

Pile of Horns

LESSON TWO

After Italy we moved to San Diego, one day we were out wine tasting¬†and I had my camera with me, totally by chance we ran in to Ed. ¬†He asked if I was a pro or amateur, “amateur” I stated and he began to show me a couple of books he had of his photography. ¬†Ed is a pro photographer, he knows his stuff, and also likes music so we sat and talked a lot about Cuban music; one of his loves in addition to photography. ¬†Ed is also a musician who plays the congas and understands both music and photography. ¬†He agreed to let me come back and see him the following week. ¬†When I arrived, just as Will had done, Ed basically asked what was it I wanted¬†to learn from him? ¬†This time, five years later, my response¬†was different. ¬†I explained to¬†Ed¬†that I wanted to learn how take¬†that creativity I knew with music,¬†process it through¬†my eyes, and ultimately have it show in a¬†photograph. ¬†In some ways this didn’t even make sense to me but it was the only way I could explain¬†it. ¬†Since he is both a musician and photographer, he understood what I meant. ¬†There was no “you need to _____” type answer, he talked about how photographers engage visually and the rest of the day was really the long answer to my short question.

Stolen MomentsI was also amazed at Ed’s lack of gear, the man literally has one camera and a couple of lenses, that’s it. ¬†Here I was, a much newer camera toting¬†a backpack full of¬†lenses, and my photography couldn’t compare. ¬†I realized I was a user of many lenses and master of none. ¬†The old lightbulb went off, it’s not the gear buddy.. It’s possible to take great photos with an iPhone and crappy photos with top of the line gear! ¬†Later, Ed¬†took me to his computer and showed me how to do a few things. ¬†It was a lot to take in. ¬†He wasn’t giving¬†“this is how you do this” advice, it was “this is what works for me” and take what you can from it. ¬†My chance meeting with Ed was almost a year ago and his tips¬†still pop up when I’m working on photos! ¬†Ed was in the business for many years, long before Photoshop, he had paid his dues. ¬†He showed me many of the photos he had taken over the years and¬†I couldn’t believe what he showed me! ¬†I was now amazed at how humble this man was about his abilities. ¬†I was looking at some iconic photos of the eighties that were all Ed’s work. ¬†He also introduced¬†me to the concept of light painting, something I had never heard of and am now just beginning to grasp. ¬†All of the photos on this page were done with light painting, a technique of using a dark room and lights to shine on¬†a subject in the dark. ¬†Before I left, we had lunch and talked about how he is constantly looking, even hunting, for things to shoot that are in plain sight. ¬†I realized that photography¬†is just that, a hunt. ¬†The chances of actually stumbling on to an incredible photo scene are not likely, but if you’re constantly looking for something and have your camera handy,¬†the probability increases.

The long-term take away from day with Ed?¬† Always be on the lookout for things hiding in plain sight. ¬†However, the most important tip Ed shared was¬†to always ask, “what am I not seeing here?” ¬†Whenever I find something promising to shoot, I always as this and I look from a low angle, high angle, or try something different with the camera itself to find that one thing I’m not seeing. ¬†Now when I’m researching a place I want to shoot, I go to Google, 500px, and Smugmug to look at the location and see the popular images; then I look for something different when I get there. ¬†With a little luck I’ll see something they didn’t. ¬†I also take my camera everywhere and I’ve gotten photos that I would have otherwise missed.

What did these lessons actually cost me? ¬†The costs of Will’s lesson was my time, nothing more. ¬†The return has been immeasurable because I’ve haven’t shot in auto mode since and his lesson gave me the confidence to learn aperture & shutter priority shooting and manual as well. ¬†Not to mention, it came at a time when I considered giving up on DSLR’s in general. ¬†At that moment, I could have gone to pocket camera and moved on. ¬†Ed’s lesson cost was time, a little gas money, and a couple of bucks for a great catfish lunch where I learned as much as I did back at¬†his computer. ¬†Long term,¬†I learned how to better use Photoshop and how to look, actually LOOK for subjects to shoot. ¬†I attempt to search for the ‘not so obvious’ when I’m out, hunting. ¬†I learned that people like Will and Ed exists, they are educators and masters of their craft, who are willing to share if you ask. ¬†But more importantly, the life lesson learned is that don’t be too big to share with others if asked and to remember that it just makes photography better.

Melody

This photo is #1 of 31 photos featured at Gurushots.com!

One of my photos, taken¬†almost four years ago, was featured¬†today by the Gurushots.com¬†website! ¬†The article is called “A Curved Line is the Lovliest Distance Between Two Points” and this photo is #1 of 31 photos on their list! This is a fairly common location for photographers, even #16 and #28 on this list were shot here (how #16 made the list with a finger in the photo is beyond me). ¬†When I took this¬†photo, I wanted to shoot it differently. ¬†However, once standing there I couldn’t resist taking the same photo as everyone else… ¬†This was shot with a Canon Rebel T3i¬†with an EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM lens on March 18, 2013 at the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy (Vatican City).

The original shot is at my website at: http://www.billchizekphotography.com/Archive/i-nxJzkVZ/A